Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, many businesses are having to figure out a work-from-home plan without the luxury of much time or preparation. Fortunately for Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, remote learning is familiar territory.
Over the past decade, FIU's Chaplin School has been moving more courses to online platforms, making for a seamless transition. FIU also has a study-abroad campus in Tianjin, China, as an extension of the hospitality school program, but the university flew all students back stateside in January. The Tianjin campus officially closed February 3, and nearly 1,000 students have been taking their classes online since then.
As a top-ranked hospitality school, Chaplin is known for its ability to give students unique opportunities and hands-on experience, most notably at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival each year. Since the announcement was recently made that all public university classes would remain online through the end of this semester, the Chaplin School is getting creative with how it engages with students and how it promotes remote learning for all of its courses. Dean of the Chaplin School, Michael Cheng, says, "Many of our hospitality courses are more visual and hands-on than other schools within the university."
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Professor John Noble Masi's introductory and advanced food production management courses are an excellent example of how a virtual course can be engaging. Masi, who also oversees the student-run FIU Bistro on campus, which is now closed because of the pandemic, is recording cooking demonstrations by video in the school's demo kitchen. As one of the few faculty members still allowed on campus, he cooks solo in the kitchen while talking students through each step. At the same time, a video director in another room nearby controls the cameras, monitors, and recordings. He then uploads the video to the online class for his students to view and replicate at home. Although Masi usually has an audience in the room while teaching, he says, "I've done hundreds of live cooking demonstrations, but video instruction is new to me." This week, Masi is offering a class on the skill of cooking meat, featuring a beef fajita dish that students can make for their family as an assignment. The added benefit is that everyone in the household can enjoy a well-prepared meal at home.
For first-semester graduate student Cindy Zahnd, who is enrolled in an events management class at Chaplin, her plans to gain real-world experience by training with Ultra Music Festival have been adjusted. Since the announcement of the festival's postponement due to coronavirus concerns, Zahnd and her classmates are learning about public health and safety as it pertains to large-scale events, particularly during an unexpected occurrence such as a pandemic. Zahnd says it's a timely lesson. "As a student studying mega- and large-event management, I think that the current situation brings attention to legal liabilities in contracts. This is definitely a learning experience for me."
The swift adaptability of the Chaplin School has given students more resources that are readily available without halting the curriculum and is also teaching how the hospitality industry is reacting to the pandemic in real time. Plus, all hospitality workers who aren't students at the university can take advantage of one of these resources.
For small-to-medium-size-business owners in the events industry who are losing their livelihood because of the pandemic, the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management will host a Facebook Live and Zoom call Wednesday, March 18, at 11 a.m. EST. Viewers can tune via the school's Facebook page.