Faculty spotlight: Tom Devall, Industrial and Systems Engineering

By Karen Hunley

Published: Nov 13, 2020 9:00:00 AM

Tom Devall, director of Automotive Manufacturing Initiatives and instructor


Q: What online classes do you teach?
A: INSY 6806- Lean Manufacturing (focuses on manufacturing system design based on a strategy of linked cells that provide a continuous flow of materials; evaluation strategies and analysis tools are studied).

Q: How long have you been teaching to online students, and if it’s been a long time, how have your online tools and resources changed?
A: Eleven years. Several years ago I added video of our Lego Lab activity in an effort to give online students a virtual experience in our lab.

Q: What is the best thing, from your perspective, about teaching online classes?
A: The experiences that the students bring to the class. Online students have an easier time relating to the topic of lean, as most work within organizations that can benefit from the material. They also provide valuable insight from their work experience.

Q: And what is the most challenging part?
A: Providing online students the same experience as on-campus students.

Q: How has your class format changed due to the pandemic? Are all your classes offered online now?
A: Lean is the only course I teach online. Essentially all students, on-campus and distance, receive the same recorded lectures. I have also added a weekly review summary of the prior week’s material via Zoom (for both online and traditional students). This has provided added benefit by giving students an opportunity to ask questions, provide insights, and clarify as we progress. I will keep this feature after the pandemic as it allows for better engagement with all students.

Q: How has your instruction evolved to provide the same quality learning experience for online students that Auburn is renowned for in traditional classroom spaces?
A: Video of our lab “production runs” help bring distance students into the Lego Lab. And again, the weekly Zoom meetings to review lecture material and discuss topics has helped with student engagement.

Q: What is the most important thing students can do to ensure their success in an online course?
A: Attend the weekly Zoom review meetings. If they are too shy to ask questions, the Zoom feature allowing for chat provides a way to ask questions anonymously. The questions students ask during the weekly reviews are beneficial to their fellow students and help clarify key points in the material.

Media Contact: Karen Hunley, kam0003@auburn.edu, 334.844.2224

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