Faculty, you are not forgotten.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”— Helen Keller
COVID-19 has disrupted the entire higher education community. Students and parents are navigating distance learning and establishing a new routine. Faculty have made crisis adjustments to quickly migrate the classroom to an online format.
Developing lesson plans and making adjustments to fit virtual teaching is not an easy task, let alone creating a virtual classroom environment that attracts and motivates students to participate through a screen.
To ensure the best outcome for students we must develop a better understanding of how to support faculty as they navigate the challenges. Here are some recommendations to make the best of a unique situation that is foreign to us all:
Online teaching is a new modality for many participants. Teaching through a screen can leave faculty wondering if their students fully comprehend the lessons crafted over summer months curating for in-person delivery. One common theme expanded during the mad dash to implement online structures is the strong sense of professional community that has expanded recently.
A strong community creates a chance to express concerns, ask questions, give advice, as well as encourage one another in a difficult situation. Collaboration has powerful benefits. Connectivity serves as a reminder that one is not alone. These reminders aid the mental and emotional aspects of the faculty’s health as well as productivity.
More professional groups are popping up online in various channels to expand these points of connection. Tools like Google Hangouts, Slack, and Facebook groups have allowed departments the opportunity to collaborate from their home office.
Comfort and support now come with emojis, kitten memes, and even photos of colleagues’ cute pets and kids. The online platforms give colleagues space to ask for suggestions, celebrate wins as a team, or even vent frustrations.
Many of the professional memberships that universities participate in are offering free webinars and forums to exchange ideas and best practices. Trust is vital for a productive and engaging community. However faculty choose to connect, the community serves as a safe environment to learn from one another.
Exchange of ideas and experiences: Challenges and solutions for online learning
Teaching and learning are different in the online environment, and hurdles can be challenging to anticipate. Collaboration among faculty through an exchange of ideas based on learned experiences can result in greater teaching success and classroom structure effectiveness.
STEM colleagues share additional challenges and a new frontier with online teaching. For science faculty, simulating a hands-on lab in an online environment is another puzzle to solve. Sharing experiences including successes and failures of varied approaches often results in creative solutions that can benefit the educator community. Many universities are seeking local partnerships with the business community to assist with experiential learning opportunities.
Continuity of faculty representation during online education
As faculty build community and exchange ideas and experiences, they solidify a culture of professionalism and continuity of presence for their students. Students expect consistency in the quality of their faculty and continuity disruptions can lead to less favorable or even negative perception of their overall academic experience. It is impossible to separate the visual perception of the educator from the classroom.
When faculty look for support from their colleagues while navigating this new arena, they mutually benefit by sharing classroom experience and the visual online presence required to be effective educators.
The pandemic, COVID-19, demands that educators embrace and implement immediate change to a digital delivery channel which likely, and should, feel uncomfortable and professionally risky. While faculty strive to maintain and project their individual presence and personality into a digital presentation, they crave interaction with peers and a community to share online teaching experiences that can quickly evolve into online teaching best practices.
Abrupt forced change, continued uncertainty and not yet identifying the “new norm” creates non-productive distraction, high levels of anxiety and deep concern amongst all. We collectively pursue answers to unique problems with sincere intention that result in positive outcomes for all participants. Doing so in a collaborative way while we support faculty will ensure the best results as we stabilize and learn the new rhythm. Remember, “…together we can do so much.”
Learn how you can support the continued development of your faculty here.
Inside Higher Ed: “How Colleges Can Better Help Faculty During the Pandemic”
The Chronicle of Higher Education: “5 Takeaways From My Covid-19 Remote Teaching”