Everyone knows that the first day of class is the most boring one.
You hear about the syllabus, attendance policies and when office hours are. But imagine logging onto Canvas and hitting play on your first video lecture to see your professor … in a dinosaur costume?
Finance professor Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Badgett brought a “ferocious” start to the semester by kicking off her Intermediate Financial Management class suited up in a Tyrannosaurus rex costume.
The idea was a glimmer of hope to Badgett for a semester that seemed to have none. She planned to have her course be a hybrid model, but she had to improvise after Miami moved all classes online for the first five weeks.
“It was just about keeping my head above water,” Badgett said. “So my students could keep theirs above water.”
She and her husband created her classroom setup overnight.
Her husband, Majors, set up a huge TV to cast her PowerPoint slides on with her iPhone propped up on a selfie stick on her kitchen counter. She even has a whiteboard with wheels on it so she can show students how to solve problems as needed.
He also showed her how to edit, compress and download the video lectures into Dropbox so her students could access them.
But that wasn’t the hardest part.
“After I got the video lectures down pat, it was a matter of making sure I could connect with my students,” Badgett said.
As the first week of classes drew closer and she began to draw up her classroom policies, she realized something.
“I’ve got to make videos,” Badgett said. “I can’t just expect my students to fully get the gist from reading [Canvas].”
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However, she recognized that she couldn’t just stand in front of the camera and recite her classroom policies. She had to do more.
She cycled through ideas like dressing up in a Bob Ross costume or doing something with her cats.
Then a lightbulb went off.
She and her husband had bought two dinosaur costumes off Amazon and had worn them in their last Christmas card.
“[I thought] maybe it’ll make [my students] at least a little bit more excited about these videos that are less than exciting,” Badgett said. “They are filled with more required information than lecture information.”
Junior finance and fashion corporate business major Hannah Matthews was immediately captivated by the costume and showed her friends.
“I was like, ‘whoa,’” Matthews said. “None of my other professors are doing anything like this.”
Matthews understands the immense pressure that professors are under this semester.
“As a professor,” Matthews said, “it’s probably hard to try and teach to a camera, but she gets it. She knows how to mix fun with professionalism while showing her personality.”
Finance department head Dr. Joel Harper acknowledges the heavy weight their performance leaves on the students.
“If we don’t engage the students with us,” Harper said, “they’re not going to engage with the material.”
Matthews said she is definitely engaged in Badgett’s class.
“She stands in front of [the camera] and talks to us,” Matthews said. “She seems genuinely excited and interested in teaching us, and she makes this whole situation feel as normal as possible.”
This is exactly what Badgett was striving for all along: to provide a sense of normalcy in a time that couldn’t be more abnormal.
“We already know that this semester is not going to be typical,” Badgett said. “But maybe it could be atypical in other ways.”
Harper has always noticed that Badgett takes great care into her work as a professor both in and outside the classroom.
“She is one of those professors that when students reach out to her, she will definitely be taking the interest and effort to make sure the students are getting what they need out of the class, but also to do better [than that],” Harper said.
Badgett not only hopes that her students leave her class with learning the contents of the course, but also learning more about themselves.
“I hope they can learn that they’re adaptable,” Badgett said. “They are able to evolve and they can take on challenges. They are a generation of students that has had to go through harder [obstacles to learning] than my generation and the upcoming one.”
Badgett assures that the dinosaur costumes and more surprises could be in store, but that will be for her students to stay tuned in for.
Who said dedication to your job was extinct?