Universities around the world are considering whether and how to bring students, faculty, and staff back safely in the fall. In the United States, despite an ever-higher Covid-19 case count, models predicting high rates of infections at universities, and evidence of typical campus activities–housing, sports, etc–already being sources of spread, most schools are still planning to hold a substantial number of classes in-person this fall. With new rules in place that require international students to take in-person classes or lose their visa eligibility, schools have an even stronger incentive to offer at least some classes in person.
I’ve previously suggested that faculty should still be preparing for their classes to move online at some point this fall, whether their university is planning to be entirely virtual or not. Unless your school has strong institutional practices in place to minimize spread–that is, testing, contact tracing, enforced mask wearing and social distancing, and protocols for quarantines–there is a strong chance that an outbreak on campus will prompt another sudden move to online.
As a faculty educational developer, I had to figure out how I could best support my faculty as they made the transition to online teaching. In the spring I focused on training faculty to teach online using different platforms (Blackboard, Zoom, Microsoft Teams); consulting and troubleshooting; writing and evaluating surveys of students and faculty; and building and sharing resources on a webpage I put together. What else could I do with our one month break that would provide the biggest rate of return as faculty prepare for a fall that will likely include virtual instruction?
As the title of this post gives away, I’ve decided to go with a faculty learning community. I held a faculty panel discussion right before graduation where faculty who taught in the spring shared their challenges, successes, and insights–but as such panels do, it generated as many questions as answers. Those unanswered questions (and responses to the evolution for the event) guided the choice of topics for this summer-only event.
Here’s the basic model:Continue reading “Preparing for a Fall of Virtual Instruction: An Online Teaching Learning Community”