Resilience of Learners in Times of Uncertainty

Three weeks ago I wrote about resilient syllabus design. A chance email exchange with someone I’ve never met caused me to reexamine that post for unconscious assumptions. And yes, I had a few. For example:

A course with numerous low stakes assignments throughout the semester is probably more pedagogically resilient and effective than a course in which the only assessments are a midterm and a final exam. If one of these two exams has to be cancelled for some reason, you’re screwed. But the design assumes students will be able to complete assignments mostly continuously, with perhaps only a brief interruption or two because of weather, contagious disease, or alien invasion.

What happens if people’s homes and workplaces have been destroyed and a significant portion of the population has evacuated? Maybe the campus reopens after electrical power has been restored, but students, wherever they are, might still lack a permanent residence, transportation, employment, internet access, or, in some cases, even an adequate supply of food and water. Euphemistically, they have become the ultimate retention risks.

While there might not be a good solution to this type of worst case scenario, I’m going to be running undergraduate students in my economic development course through some exercises that I hope will get them thinking about “What if?” Just in case the unexpected, or highly unlikely, happens.