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[Published] Why coronavirus conspiracies are thriving

The longer we stay at home and social distance during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the more misinformation and conspiracy seem to thrive. Sure, the supply-side is spraying nonsense in every direction for profit, power, anarchy, or all the above. But the flood of falsehoods exists in part because demand is through the roof. The same measures keeping us safe from coronavirus are making us susceptible to misinformation about it.

It was the Plandemic video that really got my attention. I wasn’t just seeing it shared by my more conspiratorial friends, but by seemingly everyone on my Facebook news feed. So I started digging into what we know of selective exposure and cognitive outcome involvement, paired with early research on coronavirus messaging, to explain why conditions are ripe for conspiracies to travel beyond their usual circles, and what can be done at the state and individual level to combat it.

Read the full story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

See more of my media appearances here.

5 tips from my first week teaching online from home during coronavirus closures

Two days after I published “8 tips for setting up and teaching online classes during coronavirus closures,” my campus transitioned online. Here are some of the lessons I learned from the first week to give those of you about to begin an idea of what to expect.

Two days after I published “8 tips for setting up and teaching online classes during coronavirus closures,” my campus made the decision to transition online due to COVID-19 for the remainder of the semester. After two days of canceled classes and a weekend to prepare (not great, but better than some peer institutions in our state), our first week of online instruction just concluded. Here are some of the lessons I learned to supplement my original tips and give those of you about to begin an idea of what to expect.

1. Explain what’s changing

Students need to know how your course is going to work moving forward. In my original article, I suggested:

It might also be helpful to draft a temporary syllabus, explaining how existing class policies, schedules, and assignments will change during the period of online instruction. In everything, clarity will help.

After making one and talking to students about their other courses, I’d strongly encourage this as something worth the time investment, even as our time is limited. Not only is the syllabus useful to students, but it may also help with grade disputes that arise from any changes you institute.

I created an “Online Transition Update” syllabus, highlighting (literally, in yellow) parts that were changing (e.g., attendance requirements, scheduling of exams), and removing some of the unchanged boilerplate stuff that makes syllabi eight pages long and unreadable.

I did the same for instruction sheets and rubrics for major assignments that changed, such as a service learning project that can no longer include an in-person pitch to our community partner (☹).

In line with Original Tip #1 (“Make it easy to navigate”), I put all of these new documents in an “Online Transition Info” folder and put it right at the top of our online content so it’d be the first thing students see when they log on. In line with Original Tip #2 (“Make it accessible”), that folder also included a video walkthrough of the Blackboard course and links to all the different ways students could contact me and each other.

2. Communicate early and often

The morning my classes went live, I posted an announcement to my course page on Blackboard, which was also emailed to all students. Four quick points:

1. Here’s how to use the course (direct to the “Online Transition Info” folder)

2. Here’s what we’re learning about this week (direct to the week’s learning module)

3. Here’s what’s due this week (direct to the week’s assignment folder)

4. Here are the opportunities to join us live this week if you’re able (include links to live sessions)

Continue reading “5 tips from my first week teaching online from home during coronavirus closures”

8 tips for setting up and teaching online classes during coronavirus closures

Suddenly teaching online because of COVID-19? Learn from me, a Blackboard certified online instructor – or perhaps more relevant – a guy who suddenly got thrown into online teaching with no idea what to do.

Update: Since this post, I’ve transitioned my classes for online delivery, and shared 5 more tips from the first week of working from home.

Universities are closing campuses and moving classes online to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19. Positive cases are on the rise, both because of spread and increased availability of testing.

On that trajectory, it’s likely that many of us will be doing some online teaching in the very near future. And while universities act like this is the simplest transition in the world, it’s not. Online instruction is an entirely different animal, and throwing professors who haven’t done it before into the fire is not going to work.

My first job after completing my doctorate was as a full-time online lecturer, something I had never done before. It was a ton of work, but in the end I found a groove of teaching courses that students enjoyed and I felt like were meeting the course objectives I would have set in a traditional classroom.

So, learn from me, a Blackboard certified online instructor… or, if you prefer… learn from me, a guy who suddenly got thrown into online teaching with no idea what to do. Continue reading “8 tips for setting up and teaching online classes during coronavirus closures”

[Published] How Christianity Today’s anti-Trump piece sparked a battle over social identity

For those questioning whether the church is guilty of worshiping a political idol, consider how defenders of Christian morality and witness must approach Christians as a skeptical, if not hostile, audience.

I’ve been writing about the evangelical dilemma over Donald Trump since the 2016 election (“Donald Trump is dividing the church”). Back then, it wasn’t rare to find church leaders as outspoken critics of the Republican nominee. But those voices have quieted, some even reversing course, through President Trump’s first term.

So it was interesting to see the reaction from the politically religious (or is it religiously political?) Evangelical church when Christianity Today published an editorial calling for Trump to be removed from office.

Touching on findings from my dissertation about dual religious-political identities and research into Christian nationalism by Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry, I take a look at the bigger picture for the church:

It’s at the fusion of this religious and political social identity that Trump finds his most loyal supporters, and why anyone trying to untie that thread is a threat. The messaging by Christianity Today and by Trump and his allies exhibit the state of the church under the gospel of Trump, and a battle over who belongs.

Read the full story in RELEVANT Magazine.

See more of my media appearances here.

Dangerous and disturbed: Media misportrayals of mental illness

How is mental illness depicted in entertainment? In news? What about the healthcare professionals who treat mental illness? And most importantly, do those media depictions influence public perceptions and behaviors?

I synthesized decades of research on the topic from diverse academic disciplines for a chapter in the book, Communicating Mental Health: History, Contexts, and Perspectives (Lexington Books). The findings were troubling: Continue reading “Dangerous and disturbed: Media misportrayals of mental illness”