SIP 14.2 Carryovers from Virtual Teaching into the Current Face-to-Face Environment

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?

Students in a classroom listening to a lecturer.We all learned so many things over the past 18 months related to responsiveness to students, our colleagues, ourselves and to our tech savviness. It is time to reflect and reuse some of what we learned. The Early Bird had a story titled “Educators reflect on a year of online learning” by Melissa Cermak, Ph.D. In that story, she asked faculty members nominated by students, “What changes or practices are you considering keeping in place when we transition back to in-person learning?” This SIP reiterates some of what they said and adds a few more ideas as well.

Take a SIP of this: carryovers from virtual teaching into the current face-to-face environment

1. Flexibility as instructors – Last year, we learned flexibility like never before. We learned to be flexible with technology conking out midclass, for our students and ourselves. We learned to ask students to give us their ideas about how to make classes work better. We learned that sometimes we had to step away from a screen and get the work done tomorrow.

Think about what changes you made out of necessity that ended up being better for you and for students. Were you more flexible with grading? Did you use more accessible multimedia to get a point across? Did you send out more reminders for due dates? Did you slow down and throw out some readings or assignments that in the past you thought were essential and find that students got more out of less? What of this can you keep for this semester to help students and yourself.

2. Faculty and staff members supporting and learning from one another – Some departments have always been collaborative. Others learned last year how much we need one another to help improve the student experience and our own instruction. Many people made time to ask others for teaching strategies, how to reduce Zoom fatigue, how to keep doing this important work we do, etc. This collaboration fills us all up.

In what ways can we still make time to learn from and listen to one another? Are there weekly meet-  ups, virtual or in person? Are there departmental repositories of strong instructional ideas or research articles that might be useful across classes?

3. Supports for online teaching and engagement – MSU Denver helps us learn how to pivot to teaching online and back to in-person. Many of us engaged in great trainings offered by the Center for Teaching, Learning and Design and quickly learned how to make Canvas work for all sorts of classes.

Now that many of us are teaching in person, think about what parts of the online experience worked for students and for you. If you have lectures, can you still record them to share with students? Is this still a good way to track attendance? Can you use modules to continue to support chunking student learning material? Can you continue interesting ways to ask students how they feel day-to-day?

4. University supports for the whole student – Many faculty members at MSU Denver learned the importance of compassion and grace to support their students during challenging times. We can remember to highlight supports that help our students access services and normalize that some students need these services.

For example, the University launched the Student Care Center in Fall 2019, a website hub that “provides holistic, nonclinical case-management support to MSU Denver students who are facing challenging life circumstances that may prevent them from otherwise pursuing their educational goals.” You can find case-management help, resources related to the food pantry, student-emergency-retention-fund links, information on the Epic Scholars Program and a Single-Stop Public Benefits screener to make it easier for students to access public benefits.

5. Keep using flexible attendance methods – Although we might all be tired of virtual live instruction, it afforded us and our students the ability to teach and learn when that might not have otherwise been possible. When can Teams or Zoom still be an option in your class? If a student is waiting for COVID test results to come back or is sick but able to function, could that person attend class virtually? When the snow starts to fall and the University has not canceled classes but driving might be dangerous for some, could those students attend virtually for a day? If a student is home caring for a sick parent or child, could that person attend virtually?

Although there are major drawbacks (e.g., to trying to make a single class session function for in-person and remote students, this can be accomplished as a once-in-a-while option when it is the only one short of missing class.

This could be accomplished through asking an in-person student to support a virtual student by engaging with them and the class using an iPad or other device that you provide. The in-person student carries the virtual student around so that person can still hear and see class and engage with other students, too.

6. Respect the tensions – The University is encouraging staff and faculty members and students to feel comfortable coming back to campus. Some of us are thrilled. Some of us are scared. Some of us can still create a flexible work-and-learning schedule while others of us must show up.

How do we continue to acknowledge the risks taken by people who have to show up on campus every day and thank them for their role in helping the student experience? How do we respect and support students who are reticent about coming back to the classroom? Some students are dropping classes because they are on campus, while others want even more aspects of college life back on campus. Not everyone is happy to be face-to-face, and others are thrilled. Continue to engage in ways that respect these tensions using collaboration and gratitude whenever possible.

So much of what we learned in the past 18 months (and before, of course) continues to be useful and relevant today. We made it through unprecedented times, and now we have established new precedents that can carry us through this first semester back on campus and beyond.

Still thirsty?

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