How Universities Are Preparing Their Faculties for Whatever Is Coming Next

Second Wave Series 20 / August 23, 2020

Universities have shifted from making a rapid transition to online learning to upskilling faculty for the new normal and preparing to reopen for next term. We talked with an international panel of directors of centers for teaching and learning and asked them to share what they are doing to get their faculties ready for whatever comes next.

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This panel discussion was part of the 2020 Second Wave Summit.  The second wave refers to the looming threat of the return of COVID-19 in the fall that may drive another round of school closures and remote learning. It also refers to the second round of contingency planning and preparation we all now need to do to prepare for the uncertainty of whatever is coming next. Watch the full panel discussion or read the transcript below.

 

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Second Wave Summit

The Academy of Active Learning Arts and Sciences brought together educators and administrators who embraced the Flipped Learning framework (and those who didn’t) to share, prepare, and plan for the future of education in a post-COVID-19 world.

Source: Academy of Active Learning Arts and Sciences 2020

Errol St.Clair Smith:

We’ve all had to make a rapid transition to online learning. I know that, for the most part, that’s what most of us have been consumed with. However, as of late, we’ve had to pivot, and we’re now beginning to look at what’s going to be involved in re-opening schools. What are the most valuable insights that you’ve gleaned from the two months or so that you’ve made that rapid transition to online learning that you think will be helpful as you begin to move forward and deal with the issues in higher ed? Christopher, let’s start with you.

Dr. Christopher Heard:

Well, thank you, Errol. No pressure there, being first. Of course, everything I share will just have to be anecdotal from my perspective, and what I’ve seen here locally. But what I’ve seen here locally is the great importance of the faculty-student connection. Those of my colleagues who have had a strong connection with their students either because they already had two months with them before we pivoted to online in early March or because they are able to spend time with them in synchronous and asynchronous ways in their fully online classes in the summer even though none of us here, at my institution, were trained really for online teaching. Those faculty members who have been able to build those connections with the students and reported the greatest degree of satisfaction for themselves and the greatest degree of positive response from their students. So in addition to all the techniques and tools that we talk about that has emerged in my conversations with my colleagues, here is probably the most important thing to making these classes work, and I think that’s probably going to remain true in the fall.

Dr. Caroline Kurban:

I certainly agree with Christopher about the faculty-student connection. I think we were lucky this time around moving online so quickly because, in my example, I’d already got to know my students in the classroom, we already had that connection, and I think it made it a lot easier when we moved online. So if things start fully online in the next semester, that is a really important point to start with, is really building that relationship first. Another thing that we’ve come across is assessment. Now assessment… we moved away from mid-term and final exams a couple of years ago we’ve really been trying to move towards semester-long project-based assessment, and when we moved online, this worked so well. And I think if online teaching and learning continue, we need to be looking at these student-centered semester-long project-based assessments, not mid-term and final exams.

Dr. Diana Galindo Sontheimer:

Well, I think we’d had very many challenges and that we’ve also learned many lessons. And I think one of the most important lessons that we’ve learned and that has to do with what Chris and Caroline were saying is that if we don’t want to start losing students this fall, we really need to just find a way to make digital environments enhance the value of our classes and programs. We need to have this connection with our students. That’s the only way that things will go on as they should. What happened this last semester is I think both faculty and students were incredibly generous. Faculty just, we just did everything that we could to make our classes go on and to try and keep this connection with our students, but I don’t know if everyone was able to do that, and we need to manage it if we want everything to go on as it should next fall.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

I see. And again, thank you, Diana. You there are also doing very pioneering work down in Mexico City. We’ll get to talk a little bit about that later. Let’s go onto another pioneer at Anahuac University. Chaya, what did you learn, what did you take away from your group from the last two months of doing remote learning?

Dr. Chaya Gopalan:

Yes, I have been very thankful for using flip teaching. It was already a hybrid teaching method, and it was an easy way to switch over. I’m a big proponent of group activities, team-based learning types of in-class activities and Zoom allowed me to quickly switch over to breakout rooms where students can share the document, discuss this in a small group setting. And my students, because I was also connected with them in the face-to-face setup, it was an easy transition for us to keep the same type of pattern. It was a synchronous activity where students came to class at the time we all met and then did the activities that we always did. So it was just very smooth sailing. And then now I’m doing some more synchronous online teaching. I have not changed a bit of whatever I was doing in class. But that is technology that I am familiar with, and I was able to pick up whatever extra bit I had to learn. And I have been flexible, and we should be flexible moving forward to allow students to adjust to technology as quickly as they can. And I strongly suggest that we need to depend on the instructional technology staff. They are a big component here in the sense without them, students can’t go to anybody, and I can’t be teaching everything to everybody. So they brought up the speed, IT department is important and as long as you’re flexible things can be done.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

IT departments, absolutely essential, I agree with you, a good point. Let’s go on over to Lauren Rosen, University of Wisconsin-Madison. What say, you, Lauren?

Lauren Rosen:

I agree with everything that’s been said so far and the other piece that is really a silver lining; it’s unfortunate that it took a pandemic for this to happen, but it really forced instructors to look at what they’re teaching and how they’re doing it. And it forced them to plan more specifically to identify what is peripheral and what is necessary, what are the essential elements? And really redesign things. So there’s no more just walking in the classroom on a given day and just talking about whatever the topic is. You really have to think through it, and spend more time noticing what did your students actually get from it, and what can they do with that. And so I think it really shook up a lot of educators who weren’t, for example, already flipping their lessons, who just had been doing the same thing for a very very long time. And I think that was a really good thing to see.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

Lauren, your group had they been flipping prior to going online?

Lauren Rosen:

About 50 percent of the people I work with are flipping and 50 percent haven’t, and I can say those who had already, their transition was significantly easier both for them as educators and for their students. And the students’ experience having had even some of their classes as flipped, helped them manage some of their other classes where the educators were struggling a bit more to be able to manage all of the technological environment they were suddenly dropped into.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

Thank you, Lauren. Bonni, I have not met you before, but I have been to Vanguard University. You actually are right around the corner from me in Costa Mesa. I am here in Irvine, so I have been to your university; wonderful school, thank you again for joining us, what say you? What have you learned over the last couple of months?

Dr. Bonni Stachowiak:

What I learned isn’t necessarily something new to me, but it’s just that it was amplified. I teach at a Hispanic Serving Institution, a minority-serving institution, and we of course were not surprised by this; neither would be any of you, but pandemics have a disproportionately negative impact on students of color. And as I look forward to the fall and beyond, it’s really the challenge to all of us to be putting our students at the center. We tend to be an institution that while we have some summer school programs, they’re relatively small, and add to that, the vast majority of them have gone online; it’s more difficult at this particular moment in time to be engaging with our students as much as we would like to. But we just know that’s going to be crucial to success, just taking an approach that’s from another institution may not fit well with what our students need, and we need to have them right at the center.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

Now I know that most universities are planning to return with some form of social distancing, what are you doing to test, simulate and experience the social distancing and what it might look like in your university? We’ll come back to you with that, Christopher?

Dr. Christopher Heard:

We’re just really at the beginning of that whole process right now, Errol. I’m sad to say we’re still at the drawing circles on floor plans stage with that. Part of the issue there is we can’t actually legally get people together in the sizes that we’re expecting just yet. So we’re still on the transition, or on the cusp, I’m not sure exactly where everything stands with LA County, but I don’t know if we could even bring together a group of 20 students to try a test run right now. Our classrooms are not ready, our facilities people have made plans but those plans haven’t been carried out yet. So everything for us right now is sort of thought experiments and theoretical, and that’s just where we are right now. We’ve cascaded to the point where the colleges within our university now know what the university’s plans are, so the colleges and the individual faculties can start making a little bit more specific plans, but we haven’t gotten very far at this stage.

Dr. Caroline Kurban:

What we’re doing at the moment with MEF, as you know, we won an accolade in Turkey recently. We were voted number one, top of the private universities out of about 70 in Turkey of students’ satisfaction for transitioning to online learning, so we’re extremely happy about that. That means if we need to, we’re already ready and set up because of Flipped Learning to do that in the fall. But what we’re doing at the moment is we have just finished this semester, and we’re gathering data from our learning management system. We’re running a survey this week with our students about their specific courses, we’re running a survey with the instructors, we’re going to gather all the data and then sort of reverse engineer and work out which courses or which departments work well online that we can keep well online, which particular courses or departments need more of a face to face aspect; for example, engineering needs to use the labs. And then when we have all that data in place, I think we’re going to have a hybrid model where we put as many courses possible online, and those that need face-to-face time, we can then timetable smaller groups for those students to come to the university. So that’s where we’re at, at the moment.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

Makes sense. Is anyone else doing anything with testing, social distancing prior to actually going into it. Anyone?

Dr. Caroline Kurban:

No.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

No one not yet; okay, is that a concern for you at all, or is it pretty much wing it, and we’ll see what happens?

Lauren Rosen:

I would say it’s not only a concern but in some cases, as Caroline mentioned, it’s discipline-specific. So imagine you’re trying to learn a language, right? And everybody’s wearing face masks, you can’t see people’s mouths move, you can’t see how to pronounce different things, and then on top of it think about all or any students that have a hearing disability at any level and everybody around them is wearing a mask, and they can’t read lips, so there are those kinds of things that I hope are part of the consideration, in terms of which classes are still available online so that there is a complete array to address all of those issues. And I do deal quite a bit with language instructors, most of whom have told me that they would prefer to be in some sort of online environment because of that and because of the whole…even social distancing had me do peer work and small group work to practice interpersonal communication when you have to have people spread out so far. I have heard of some institutions as far as lectures go, putting all of the lectures online and then trying to do the discussion groups locally, but again, if students can’t really sit in small groups to discuss something, it sort of could take away from that. So I will in some ways be curious to see how all of that plays out.

Dr. Bonni Stachowiak:

I’ve been emphasizing at my institution for us to try not to think about going online versus being in person like an on or off switch. That’s kind of a paradigm that it’s natural for people to go into in their minds especially if they haven’t taught online before, and it’s a little bit of an alien concept to them. So for me instead I’ve been trying to think about these problems and also to help other people put this analogy in their minds of a dimmer switch. And that dimmer switch is something that Lauren said earlier, it’s easier if you have that in your teaching approaches if you’ve done some in-person synchronous, you’ve done some in-person asynchronous, and if you’ve done some online, both of those approaches, time-based and not, to just adjust as circumstances change. And to me, I haven’t spent quite as much of an emphasis on is it six feet or is it 20 feet, not to say that those plans are not underway at my institution, but as my leadership role, I am more interested in that dimmer switch than I am in various scenarios.

Even though I can’t say that we’re not planning for them, but I’m just putting a lot of emphases, how can we equip ourselves to be more nimble. Because we’re trying to plan for something, we can’t quite plan for so that’s something that I’ve been trying to do. That same dimmer switch analogy goes back to something that was said earlier around our students, so if we have students who are immunocompromised if we have students who a family member is diagnosed they need to be there to care, how can we provide approaches for them where they can have their own dimmer switch, or they can come if there are in-person opportunities that they’d like to engage in, they can participate in those, but at a moment’s notice also have an online equivalency. So there’s a lot of talk lately about HyFlex learning. There’s also, by the way, a lot of misunderstandings about it, I happen to have a colleague who just finished his dissertation, his doctoral dissertation on a topic so I feel very excited that I have an opportunity to work with such an expert, so well versed…

Errol St.Clair Smith:

Bonni, let me interrupt you for a second. For those of us who are not familiar with HyFlex and what it means, can you just give us 30 seconds tops, what is it? How does it work? How is it different from other things we’re talking about?

Dr. Bonni Stachowiak:

So most people know about hybrid learning, some in person, some online. So HyFlex is flexible hybrid learning, and that flexibility can take place at the class level, so I might have some of my sessions, we might decide to have online, some of our sessions we might decide to have in-person or some of the work that we do. But that also can happen at the individual student level or the faculty member level. So if a student needs to miss an in-person session, there would be an equivalent experience of perhaps an asynchronous thing, a case study or a simulation they might go through. And I do want to just say quickly I’ve been using this word equivalency. So this that’s tied to a set of learning outcomes, you might be able to achieve those learning outcomes through this experience or through this. And I’ve been sort of chastised in a good way, I’m very grateful for my personal learning network but they’re saying stop using that word, stop using that word, and here I am using it again with you. I do not mean to say that the experiences are exactly the same, but to me, the definition of equivalency gets to value, and if you can provide someone with the kind of flexibility that they need in their lives at that moment, to me the value that you give them, no it’s not exactly the same as those deep exciting experiences that we’ve had in person. It’s not exactly the same, but to me, you’re offering incredible value to your students at the time when they need it the most.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

Bonni, who has the power of choice in the HyFlex model? Student? Instructor? The school decides? Who’s making that final choice?

Dr. Bonni Stachowiak:

It’s a very student-centered model so students get to have the choice, but there is also an element where faculty get to make choices too if they themselves are immunocompromised they might design their class to have greater fluidity and flexibility for themselves and what they’re able to offer on a given class session or a given week.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

Got it. Here’s a big question that I wanted to put to all of you, it looks like universities are stuck in the horns of a dilemma right now. On one side it’s pretty clear that students and students’ parents want campuses open, they want to get the on-campus experience that they’ve paid for. However, if we’re talking about pandemic learning and social distancing, the campus experience might be so severely compromised that it’s just not going to be as optimal as sticking with online learning. However, universities have been concerned as you well know about enrollment and retention. I read a report recently in Inside Higher Education that said as much as one-third of students say if their school is offering only online learning when they return, they intend to transfer. That same report said that 79 percent believe that if they’re only getting online learning, tuition should be less. So this is a major problem now, we’ve got universities with an existential threat, and at the same time, students want what students want. How are your institutions balancing these conflicting priorities? Who’d like to kick that off? Okay, then I’m going to nominate Caroline.

Dr. Caroline Kurban:

We’ve been thinking a lot about the campus experience. This is something we are going to ask our students about as well. I think the campus experience is most important for new students who need to feel that sense of community, that sense of connection of being in the university building. I think students who’ve been with us longer already have that connection, so I think our focus will be on on-campus face-to-face experience being for those new students coming in and supporting them in that way.

Dr. Diana Galindo Sontheimer:

Yes well, we’re also very very worried about it. It’s part of the philosophy at Anahuac University. The one to one contact and the individualized education, we know every student by name, it’s just who we are. And we’re full of activities all the time, sports, arts, concerts, so we’ve tried as best we can to have those sorts of events and community gatherings online, Zoom. So we’ve had concerts, our graduation ceremonies online, and we’ve even had retreats, you know we’re a catholic university, so we’ve even had retreats online. But we’re very worried about it, and we’re also thinking exactly what Caroline was mentioning. That we might be able to start with our first-year students in certain activities but have them in campus. Now personally, I’m not that convinced that it’s going to work because it won’t be the same thing you know, you just have a few students in the campus, you won’t get that feeling that you usually get when you walk into a university that’s full of noise and students and talking and so, but we’re worried about it too.

Lauren Rosen:

The best that we can do and this is at least where my role has come in, is helping the instructors to be prepared actually to teach online. And the reason I say that is because as we all know who have been flipping lessons, anything that’s created for online learning, only helps and supports face to face. And so if we lean towards that end of things, and we really focus our energy right now on providing courses that are going to be worth taking as opposed to the emergency remote instruction that we did in the Spring, we’ll have something that students may want. I think one of the biggest challenges also in students’ minds and the reason why this question comes up is because their experience wasn’t that great, because there were a lot of instructors that were thrown into a situation that they were completely unprepared to handle. So then the next question is how do we get that message out? That we’ve actually built specifically for this method, different experience and it’s worth it.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

That’s a good point, Lauren. Christopher, what’s happening at Pepperdine?

Dr. Christopher Heard:

Well, our situation is in some ways very similar to what Diana already described. We have decided to start our new student orientation online in July and stretch it out over a number of weeks so that students will slowly become acquainted with different members of our campus community. Like Diana, I teach at a religiously oriented institution, and we have started a series of chapel programs online, connecting faculty with first-year students. So on that side of things, on the student life side of things, there has been some very intentional choices made and some very assertive ways of trying to connect first-year students, entering students with campus community already. We also are blessed in Southern California with weather that is quite mild all the way through the fall semester and so we have lots of outdoor spaces where we can kind of spread out and sort of try to structure spaces where students can socialize, but structure them in such a way that students are encouraged to maintain appropriate physical distancing. So lawn areas that might be landscaped a little bit differently to encourage that physical separation and yet be able to have some social interaction.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

Great nuance, Christopher, great nuance. Chaya, what say you?

Dr. Chaya Gopalan:

Well, I’m not in any of the decision-making processes, so I’m completing this race, I know that there are lots of committees working aggressively to determine what is best for the university, the students, the faculty, the parents, everything. So I’m hoping things will be announced soon.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

Very good. Want to go back to the same thing that Lauren, a little bit earlier, she was talking essentially about, she didn’t use these words but I’m really paraphrasing, never let a crisis go to waste, talking about the fact that the upside of the silver lining of COVID-19 is that some faculty who were resistant to active learning and online learning are now very much interested, and by the way that was one of the things that we found in our surveys in the first two months of March, we surveyed 2,000 educators, and we were surprised by the number of independent university professors who were essentially saying, “Help, I need help, I lecture, I don’t know anything whatsoever about teaching online.” I was blown over by it, and they were quite humble about needing help. So I’m wondering now that we have this window of opportunity, perhaps we could do something that many of you have been hoping and looking to do for a very long time, what are you doing to seize this opportunity, and to really get as much adoption as possible? Let’s start with you, Bonni.

Dr. Bonni Stachowiak:

To me, it starts with the challenge that so many of us as educators ran into. I see a lot of people attempting to solve this problem or seize this opportunity as you said, by talking a lot about it, telling faculty how they can do that, and to me, a lot of this is a problem of imagination. I, by the way, have a problem with imagination too, I’ve never taught wearing a mask, et cetera et cetera, I don’t want to act as if I’m immune from this lack of imagination. But I do have a greater capacity for imagination of what’s possible online that I want to pass on. I know that the way to pass that on though isn’t by talking about it. It’s not even necessarily by showing it although that’s a more helpful approach. To me, the best thing that we could do to expand our collective imagination has to do with experience. Let’s not talk about it, let’s not show it, let’s experience it. And what I have found when I actually do that successfully, which is to say not 100 percent of the time, but when I do it successfully, I discover things I didn’t even know were there. It just opens up this… when you work to expand your collective imagination, you as perhaps an expert, most of us know that we’re not but perhaps you see new things that you never even knew were there and were possible as well. So to me, it’s all about creating shared experiences with the goal being to expand our collective imagination.

Dr. Diana Galindo Sontheimer:

But Lauren was asking how to get the message out, and something that I’ve personally just been talking about to anyone who will listen is that universities are always slow. We just take so long to implement any changes. With COVID-19, we learned that we can do it from one week to the next, so the biggest lesson is that transformation is possible, and we just need to keep saying this, transformation is possible. We’ve already managed this transition, but now the next step is to enhance the value of our classes and to give students an added value, give them something else that they won’t get from just watching TED talks and other things. So that was my comment that I wanted to share with-

Errol St.Clair Smith:

Powerful message, back to you.

Dr. Diana Galindo Sontheimer:

Okay, and as far as flip classroom, when was it when our teaching and faculty center turned, it was our 25th anniversary I believe or our 30th anniversary, we invited Jon Bergmann to speak at the university and everyone became quite enthused by it so we got in touch with them afterward, with Errol and started planning on how we could do this on a campus-based, the whole campus and what the best strategy would be. So what we decided to do was to have the deans of each school and faculty choose champions. So we even gave them a set of characteristics that the faculty that were going to take these certification courses had to have, and they had to be open-minded and willing to try new things and they had to be a faculty that had certain experience et cetera, we gave them a whole list. So we got our first-generation going with 30 faculty members. Part of those were instructors for our faculty development center, and the rest were just faculty from all our schools. So we had doctors, engineers, lawyers, because we’re a very widespread university that offers all sorts of disciplines.

So what we did is that we enrolled them, they took the first three lessons online, and then we invited Errol and Tom to come for a workshop, and I’ll let you Errol talk about the reactions of our faculty at that workshop. But it was great and people were just so happy that they started spreading the news, so we started with the second-generation Flip Learning champions, and now we’re going through the third generation of Flip Learning champions although we’ve had to do a COVID-19 change with them because they’re doing all the online courses, the modules first, and when we can we’ll have the one to one present learning workshop. But we don’t know when that will happen. And as I was mentioning a few minutes ago, even if some of our deans weren’t convinced beforehand, which they started getting more convinced with the enthusiasm shown by their own faculty, but now everyone is just on board, so we’re going to have to do these fast-track workshops and then get people enrolled in the certification process for at least the fast-track workshop right now for everyone to get on board the Flip Learning-

Errol St.Clair Smith:

I would highly recommend anyone who’s considering introducing Flip Learning to get in touch with Diana. Their process for selecting candidates is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and Caroline and I had the opportunity to go there together. Caroline, what did you see?

Dr. Caroline Kurban:

The enthusiasm was absolutely incredible. There was such a buzz, there were so many different ideas, and you can see Diana’s system of how you choose the faculty that join this, getting deans in there as well, it was a really positive energizing environment. And we all gained so much from it, I know Errol and I gained as well many new ideas from this sharing of ideas. So I can highly recommend it for any institution.

Dr. Diana Galindo Sontheimer:

Thank you, and an extra something that we got in there is that after the faculty take their online courses and after they have their workshop, they won’t get their certificate until they start putting it in place in their classes. And someone has to go observe what they’re doing in their classes before they get their final certification. So we’ve been pretty strict about it you know, it’s like studying a master’s or something where they have to go through all the musts that they have to do to get the certification.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

Well, we’re out of time so let’s head for the exit. As we prepare to reopen schools, what are the most troubling remaining unknowns you see and how can we prepare for them?

Dr. Chaya Gopalan:

The unknowns, are still unknowns, because the second wave that we are anticipating can be a big unknown. And where do we go then, what do we do next?

Dr. Diana Galindo Sontheimer:

So because I’m working in such a large system, to get anything approved or done, it has to go through legal and it has to go through technical and all of these processes that can take months and months at a time. And so the remote learning really threw us for a loop because we didn’t have the resources that we should have, simply because we can’t just take something and run with it because it’s a good idea and it makes sense. And part of me is hoping that some lessons were learned in that and that we can be a little bit more strategic so that we can be prepared. Anything that we’ve had reserves, both financially, technologically, all of those pieces that were reserves, we had already basically used them up if you will, and we didn’t have anything to fall back on. And so I’m hoping that one of the big lessons that come from this is that there was really a reason why back in the day they had reserves, and they had plans and they were more forward-thinking, and not just figuring everything is going to stay status quo, so we’ll be fine. So in thinking about opening up and really knowing, like maybe in some other countries who’ve already had their students go back to school and then they got a second wave and a few days later they pulled their students again. We have to be more prepared, and we now have the time to actually consider that. And so, I guess that’s kind of my biggest hope is that we do things with more intention.

Dr. Bonni Stachowiak:

That is definitely a concern, and I specifically want to talk just briefly about preferences. I’m intrigued by the literature for example around something called ‘retrieval practice.’ So cognitive psychologists have looked at what people’s preferences are for learning, you know when I was in college, I’d highlight the textbooks like crazy you’d see all my textbooks and there are just highlights. And of course, the research has shown that I would’ve been better off going to sleep and getting more sleep as a college student than I ever was with my little highlighter, but I was convinced that’s how I learn. That was not how I learned, but that was my preference for learning. So when it comes to the college experience, what does it mean to be a college student, what does it mean to have the campus life?

tttMy concern is, can we actually create a vision and then execute on that vision that has a more expansive vision for what it means to be a college community, what it means to be a college student thriving in an institution of higher learning. And that’s a real concern for me because yes, I am very student-centered, I want to drive our initiatives around preferences but at the same time I also am looking at these studies that say this is what I said was important to me before I took this class, and then after I was done actually this is what was actually important to me. Where I spent my time, where if I had a choice if it was set up in such a way that the student had a choice between watching the video or being there live, our preferences don’t show up as learners in the same way of what we actually value both during the experience and then what actually contributes to our learning. So these are the things that are dancing around in my head at night, and I’m really concerned about.

Dr. Christopher Heard:

I agree with what Chaya said that basically everything we even think we know is really an unknown at this point. I’m a bit concerned that we’re planning for something that we’re going to find we physically can’t do. We’re recording this on June 2nd, 2020, and in the United States for the last several days we have had a lot of people out on the streets expressing very legitimate discontent about the treatment of George Floyd, the killing of George Floyd and other kinds of things related to policing, race relations in the US and so forth. And quite apart from those grievances, one of the things I worry about is that those large gatherings will be breeding grounds for more cases of COVID-19. And as a result that all of the plans that we think we can make right now maybe get straddled. That second wave which the health professionals were telling us might come in the winter and maybe we could kind of skirt it by starting our classes earlier and being out by Thanksgiving and minimizing student travel. That may all come undone because people are gathering in such large numbers. And in other places, people are just sick and tired of being at home, and they’re going out and maybe doing things carelessly, going to the hair salon or whatever. So perhaps one of my biggest concerns is the vast unknown about what this disease trajectory is going to do over the next little while. Also, I’m very concerned about our students in terms of their emotional and mental health. We’ve got the racial tensions, the disputes about policing ad so forth, we’ve got the trauma that our students and most especially our students of color are feeling around that, we’ve got the trauma that pretty much all of our students are feeling around COVID-19 and as Bonni already pointed out that does not impact all students equally. And we’ve got trauma on top of trauma.

Dr. Caroline Kurban:

Unknowns, very similar to what Bonni was saying. I suppose if you think through the eyes of the students at the moment, if you are just graduating high school, would you want to go to university at the moment? I think we’re going to see a lot of students taking that gap year, deferring for a while. They have a choice to do that maybe. What about students who are graduating from university this year? They’re going into a massive unknown with regards to jobs. This is the worst time that they could possibly go into the employment market. What we’re doing at MEF University is we’re really trying to focus on graduating students and to provide masters programs for them so they can continue their education with MEF, where they already know us, where they feel part of the community and with our new awareness of the new normal of what’s going on we can really tailor those programs for what these students need as they come to the end of their education. So that’s our target at the moment, to support those graduating students to continue their studies.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

I got it, but let’s see if we can end on a positive note. What are the possible upsides you see or hope for as we wrap this up?

Dr. Chaya Gopalan:

I think we will be coming up with a very innovative flexible method of instruction from all of this. What we believe flip teaching would be the ultimate is going to get a new name of some sort. The new name that I just learned today is HyFlex, similar to that is around the corner, and this is an opportunity like Lauren sad to work with faculty who are interested in becoming the new flippers, new HyFlexers, and see that they are successful.

Dr. Diana Galindo Sontheimer:

I’m actually really excited to see how everything changes and what instructors do with what they’ve learned from this and what they’ve realized they still need to learn and what to learn. I think there’s going to be a different kind of energy, even some of our top lecturers, the ones that they always fill their classes just because they’re really interesting to listen to in their lectures discovered that they weren’t doing enough listening to their own students. And that started to happen when they had a different kind of environment in which they were working and with remote instruction. And so I’m just really excited to see the impact of the experience that we’ve just had because we have the staff and the willingness to teach as many instructors who are wanting to learn new ways of looking at their programs and new ways of looking at how they teach. And so I’m really pretty excited to see that change.

Dr. Bonni Stachowiak:

One of the things that surprises a lot of us when we get into faculty development is how few PhD programs have anything in their curriculum at all about teaching. So one big upside for me are all the conversations that we hopefully are having about teaching and learning. How does learning take place? How does teaching take place and what better way to learn more about teaching than to become a learner? And to become a learner perhaps in a space that you know very little about, and some of the insecurities can show up and sense of lack of self-efficacy and all of those things that so many of our learners struggle with, we get to struggle with a little bit and learn from as teachers.

Dr. Diana Galindo Sontheimer:

Well, on a personal note I just feel really a great deal of satisfaction. I’ve been able to do even a little bit to help people during this situation. I think I achieved a more personal connection with my students during this period than I ever have, and I’ve been teaching for over 30 years. So that makes me feel very happy and hopeful that faculty and universities, in general, will be more open to change from now on. And I also hope that this experience will leave something in every person as far as being more aware of our environment, our planet, social justice, all sorts of things that I think we need to learn out of this experience.

Dr. Caroline Kurban:

I think as Diana’s said it’s really made us all more open to change. One thing that I’ve discovered that was a real positive was this situation pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I now work for the CELT and it is my job to work with flip learning, digital learning, online learning, but the speed at which I was learning was really experiential learning, and I was learning as doing while doing. I was learning from my students. Also while the CELTs has always been kind of an optional drop-in center for instructors who are interested in flipping or interested in doing some online learning, this has gone from optional to absolutely essential. Anyone who wants to continue in education these days needs to develop their online teaching and learning skills. So it’s been a catalyst, it’s pushed it much faster.

Dr. Christopher Heard:

Well, what Caroline just said really resonates with me. Seventy-five percent of my colleagues that are teaching summer courses have done a faculty development workshop this summer, which I have never had anywhere near 75 percent turnout for any other program in the last three years. But for me, as I prepare my own teaching for the fall, with all the uncertainties, my sort of watchword is student agency. I’m leaning more heavily than ever into student agency and giving students control over more and more aspects of the syllabus, more and more aspects of the class, for various philosophical and ethical reasons, but also because of the flexibility that it gives us. If I build a big specific structure for how I want the semester to go or how I expect this semester to go, a list of topics we’re going to discuss this on every single day, the chances that that’s going to be disrupted in the fall are extremely high and so building some modularity, building sort of a minimal structure that students then will flesh out for themselves and that we’ll be able to change as we go along to me is a very important next step in my own teaching.

Errol St.Clair Smith:

What we have heard from this panel will be eye-opening and insightful and it was. Thank you all for taking the time to be with us and being so gracious with sharing with us what you’re doing at your institution to prepare for the future and the new normal. Thank you.

 






Editorial Leam
Editorial Team
This article was written by a collaboration of editors and columnists on the FLR editorial team or guest contributors.




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