College of Health and Human Performance

UF HHP Embraces "No Walls Teaching" (#NWT)

Students in the online course taught by Joslyn Ahlgren, PhD, participate in fully immersive activities where students, guided by Dr. Ahlgren, dissect a fetal pig, a sheep brain and a sheep heart.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, college learning has shifted away from in-person courses. At the College of Health & Human Performance (HHP), our faculty remain committed to excellence in education, even from a distance. HHP has had online courses for more than nine years and has embraced instruction that extends beyond the confines of a traditional classroom or the glare of a computer screen.

By Kyle Chambers | July 23, 2020

Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology assistant professor Diba Mani, Ph.D., did not let the sudden transition interrupt her early morning physiology classes. Dr. Mani said that the switch to online classes in spring semester went smoothly and students in her 7:25 a.m. Neuromuscular Aspects of Exercise course were able to deliver live presentations, conduct interviews with researchers and earn participation points remotely. Students kept up with lectures and class activities by watching recorded sessions on their own time which helped the entire section stay in sync.

According to Mani, switching to an online format allowed for opportunities that had previously not been possible in an in-person format.

“We had a few of the researchers who the students had interviewed join us for lecture.” she said. “This included one researcher originating from Switzerland and another from Australia.”

To prepare for the upcoming fall semester, Mani is working to create engineering kits and simulations for online learning. She hopes that future opportunities provide unique and interactive activities to students within a virtual classroom environment.

“Hopefully, I still get the prosthetic and a manual dexterity test we were seeking to purchase in the spring; that'll add a neat lesson to a couple of the (fall) courses,” Mani said.

Faculty in HHP have joined the #NoWallsTeaching movement – an approach to teaching and learning that cultivates a sense of community among students and fosters connections between students and instructors.

In the Department of Sports Management, Randall Penn, adjunct lecturer, was nationally recognized for his commitment to excellence in online course design.

Penn received the bronze award from the Association of Natural Resource Extension, a national organization for professionals working in environmental education, fisheries, forestry and related disciplines. His environmental sport management course was praised for its innovative interdisciplinary approach and use of educational technology.

Through case studies, in-class discussions and practical exercises, all from a distance, students were introduced to environmental management in the sports industry. Conservation programs, such as water conservation efforts implemented in arenas and sporting leagues, were discussed by students in open forums.

Penn said the main course highlights included professional interviews with individuals such as sustainability coordinator for the US Open. Students were required to select a sports organization or business for their final project and interview a member of the organization about sustainable practices and complete a video report.

Faculty in the Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management (THEM) used the online format to completely flip the concept of traditional classroom discussion on its head.

Although his classes were taught from a distance, Gary Deel, Ph.D., adjunct lecturer, said he took an innovative approach to keep students involved and asking questions about critical issues. Open forums or debates were included in all of his online courses.

In the first week of each of his classes, Deel divides students and assigns a discussion topic, such as corporate social responsibility. Then he assigns each half of the class to defend the pro or con side of an argument relating to the topic, regardless if they personally agree with each opinion

“I’m a big fan of this approach,” said Clifford Bussard, a graduate student in THEM. “A particular benefit is the ability to hear perspectives from students with industry experience and get a ‘real world’ feel for certain topics.”

Deel said that students found this online class format engaging and more preferable than the traditional classroom experience. Discussions about issues directly relevant to post-graduate careers kept class conversations dynamic and allowed for in-depth analysis.

“I really enjoy this style of discussion because it allows you to think outside of the box,” said Victoria Pawlas. "As a senior, I have done my fair share of discussion posts and I have to say that this format is the best.”

Amanda Emanuel, Ph.D., lecturer in the Department of Health Education and Behavior said she does whatever she can to create an exciting online environment for students.

In her Planning Health Program course, students make their own Adobe Spark pages for a health program as an alternative to a paper. For instance, Jessica Rueth, a rising health education and behavior senior, created "Moving Moms of Martin County"  on Adobe Spark which allows readers to scroll through the various sections of her health program.

At the end of the semester, 80 percent of students who completed evaluations rated their level of participation in the course as ‘high’ or ‘very high’.

“I really like how her class is designed,” an anonymous course evaluation said. “Dr. Emanuel goes above and beyond and has provided a great learning environment and engaging coursework.”

The University of Florida remains committed to ensuring a safe and successful fall semester. Classes will begin August 31. 

Read more about the Fall 2020 Reopening Plan.

Learn more about the "No Walls Teaching" movement by visiting

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