SIP 13.15 Moving Forward in Fall

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?

Students walking across campus in early fall semester.As this unprecedented academic year comes to a close, it is time to start thinking ahead to fall classes. Covid-19 has certainly altered the way we all teach, but are those changes permanent? Will students’ classroom engagement, goals and behavior be irrevocably marred by a year of Zoom, or can we regroup and reenergize in the fall? When it comes to teaching and learning, how can we bring “sexy” back?

Take a SIP of this: Moving Forward in Fall

The exhaustion suffered by students and faculty during this year of remote learning is real. For most, the shine of teaching and learning has dulled substantially. However, we have an amazing opportunity to rejuvenate ourselves and our students when we are back on campus in fall. Before we all walk away from this pandemic academic year, take a minute to reflect upon the best and the worst of remote learning to shed the emotional weight and begin anew in August.

Try these ideas to help you move your teaching and learning practices into a brave new post-Covid-19 space:

  • One of the worst aspects of teaching during the pandemic has been the loss of real-time human interaction with our students. However, we have found workarounds that can be carried forward into our fall classes. For example, we have used Zoom icebreakers to begin each meeting and to set a positive and collegial tone. SIP 12.3 offers many great suggestions for building a strong community in your online classroom from the first day of the semester – and this can be done in person, too. No need to go “back to business as usual” – students will appreciate the continued social-emotional care you delivered during the pandemic as they readjust to campus life (plus, it just makes class more fun!).
  • Zoom fatigue, “languishing” and distracting or challenging home learning environments have created a distance between us and our students, physically and metaphorically. When we are back on campus in fall, celebrate the “togetherness.” While maintaining University-required distancing rules, take advantage of direct eye contact, small-group work, invitations to your office for an after-class chat and other relationship-building strategies to reignite that lost connection.
  • For those of us who had never taught online before Covid-19, one of the worst aspects was learning to do so essentially overnight. However, we have all acquired new skills and methods of organization that can enhance our return to face-to-face teaching in fall. For example, organizing content into digestible modules for Canvas will continue to be useful when we plan our fall syllabi. SIP 13.1 teaches us how to engage students by using the technological platforms that they use. Using short video clips is another good idea – see SIP 13.12 for ideas. Basically, try to imagine how anything you have recently learned how to do to survive remote teaching might be applicable to your face-to-face classroom.
  • Did you decide during this stressful and taxing pandemic year that you simply hate online or remote teaching? Try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater as we move into fall. Covid-19 has pushed society into a new understanding of working and living remotely, and these new practices and behaviors will certainly not just disappear once we are allowed back on campus. Consider replacing your face-to-face class with a Zoom meeting if the weather looks bad or if your students are overwhelmed with midterms or finals. Allow students who are sick to stay home but “remote in” to your class. Additionally, try to imagine a way to continue engaging with your department’s online offerings to best support student demand and enhance your professional development.
  • Don’t forget to look on the bright side! One of the best things we have done as faculty is to become even more aware of our students’ mental health and physical well-being during the pandemic. We can continue to submit CARE Reports more frequently than we did in the “before times,” and we can dedicate ourselves to being more conscious of ongoing student challenges such as food or housing insecurity, financial hardship, etc. We can also continue to consider the classroom policies that either help or hinder our students’ ability to do work – for example, attendance or late-work policies, compassionate grading, encouraging students to communicate their need for help, etc. SIPs 11.1213.3 and 13.5 can offer suggestions for this.
  • Another positive outcome of the semester is that we have all become more tech-savvy. Celebrate the fact that you have learned how to use Kahoot or embed a video into Canvas. While the urgent and forced learning of Covid-19 was not very fun, hopefully it has shown you that you are capable of learning the latest tools and platforms that will make your class even better. SIP 13.11 offers lots of fun tips for continuing to reimagine your teaching practices in an ever-evolving classroom space.
  • Hopefully, we have all learned to practice a little more self-care as well, and we are encouraging that behavior in our students. As SIP 12.10 and SIP 13.8 suggest, we should all keep making self-care a priority to keep our first semester back on campus healthy. Try moving into fall with a renewed sense of “slow teaching” (see SIP 8.15), and consider the fall semester to be a recovery period during which we focus on regaining equilibrium.

Finally, if possible, let go of the difficulties of this past year and set your sights on coming back to a healthy, positive new normal.

Still Thirsty? Take a SIP of This:

Here are some great sites with Zoom icebreakers:

21 Icebreakers To Make Your Zoom Happy Hours Less Awkward

Zoom-Friendly Warmups and Icebreakers

Zoom Icebreakers: 55 Pro Tips to Energize Your Virtual Meetings

An article that I thought would be cool for this SIP: Culbert, Patrick D. “When This Is All Over, Keep Recording Your Lectures: How will the Successes and Failures of Your Online Pivot Change the Way You Teach?” The Chronicle of Higher Education. January 22, 2021,

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