Campuses across the US and Canada are responding to the Coronavirus pandemic by sending students home and moving courses online. This rapid transition to remote learning has tested the patience, good will, and imagination of everyone involved. BVA member universities, like many others, are responding to the challenge by providing resources, training, and mentorship to faculty who are doing their best to support students while shifting gears mid-term from in-person instruction to online.
The sites developed at the University of Kansas and the University of Indiana are good examples of what BVA campuses are doing. KU’s site begins with general guidance—for example, “Be aware of your own reactions and take care of yourself,” “Be compassionate with yourself and others,” “Keep your students in mind and let them know that they are on your mind.” The site also includes first steps to using Blackboard, KU’s course management system, how to map elements of in-person courses to remote replacements, how to best support students during this highly stressful time, a calendar of helpful workshops and events, and a list of “how to resources.” KU has also initiated a mentorship program, where faculty with experience in online teaching are available to colleagues in related disciplinary areas.
Indiana University has developed a similar site with advice for how to “keep teaching during prolonged campus or building closures” using Canvas and other virtual tools. On the “Getting Started” page, there are suggestions like: “Communicate with your students right away,” and “Consider realistic goals for continuing instruction.” On the “Strategies” page, faculty can learn more about a number of essential tasks, like distributing course materials and readings, fostering communication and collaboration among students, and collecting assignments. The “Resource” page includes links to a variety of topics, like accessibility, copyright ownership, and online pedagogy. There are also links to a variety of new and recorded webinars on Canvas, Kaltura, and Zoom.
The BVA recognizes that this is a stressful moment for everyone involved, and that the long-term implications are uncertain. There’s a danger that campuses may suffer a setback in the progress they’ve made with pedagogies that lead to better student learning. But if this transition is done well, it’s also possible that more faculty will become aware of new ways to design courses that engage students more fully with the material and with each other, and that campuses will have developed better ways to support faculty who wish to try it out both in online settings and when face to face instruction begins again.