When we return, what follows?

by Eric Royer, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning

In the near future, we hope for a return to regular, or semi-regular, in-person instruction, albeit with some modifications and social distancing guidelines remaining in place. Planning, now, for a shift back to fully in-person teaching is important, yet many of us are exhausted from a year of remote and/or dual-mode teaching during a global health crisis, financial downturn, social unrest, and polarized political climate that fundamentally reshaped not only higher education, but society itself.

While our collective and individual memories are still fresh, consider how this moment represents an opportunity to reflect on all of the tools we’ve learned, teaching “hacks” employed, and progress we’ve made toward creating meaningful learning environments in different formats. Many of us, for example, found ourselves using tools and technologies in ways we never imagined before to communicate with students, assess their learning, and facilitate engagement with content. Many of us, moreover, found new ways to uncover the “deep mysteries” that drew us to our disciplines, and then share them with students through digital learning activities and assignments. For many of us, pandemic teaching was — and remains — a deeply humbling experience, allowing us to show empathy and forcing us to take a deep look at our course learning objectives, learning activities, and the ways in which student learning is assessed.

So, what worked for you? Did Blackboard announcements allow you to better communicate with students? Did online submissions allow you to provide more immediate student feedback? Did the use of online discussion boards lend to deeper, more meaningful student conversations?

The trick is thinking about how all of the new teaching techniques, strategies, and technologies you mastered these past 12-plus months can translate into the physical classroom. If, for example, you found online discussions or blogs useful for engaging students, how could you incorporate these tools into in-person classes moving forward? Despite our collective Zoom fatigue, can you envision using Zoom in your future teaching situation for guest speakers or for student collaboration on course projects?

Jot down and take note of what worked, and what you would like to improve moving forward. Let’s not forget about the progress we have made. Let’s not forget the skills and practices we developed for online teaching. Let’s not forget how pandemic teaching forced many of us to focus on the “how” and “why” of teaching.

What follows for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts, perspectives, and stories. You can leave a comment below or contact the Reinert Center via email at cttl@slu.edu.