This post was orginally published on https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2022/09/21/using-online-methods-developed-during-covid-improve-person-classes-opinion
Anita Cheng describes some specific ways college instructors can use online methods developed during the pandemic to enhance classroom teaching and learning.
My calendar has a note on March 19, 2020, that says, “CUNY online model.” On that day, the City University of New York, the largest urban university in the country, with over 250,000 students and 50,000 teachers, canceled all in-person classes and instituted remote learning.
Now, we embark on academic year 2022–23 and a seeming return to normal. Yet we are not the same coming back—there are students who had to finish college online, those who had to start college online and those who have experienced college only online. If last year’s kindergarteners remember their remote year, those memories will be part of the graduating Class of 2039. Faculty members also are not the same, even those of us who teach in art and media fields. The “online model” may have changed our teaching forever—and for the better.
Why Hold On to Online Learning Tools?
Digital and online tools saved our semesters, giving us a way to continue teaching, albeit with some negative social, institutional and individual effects and traumatic associations. And we now have a chance to develop the remote learning tools we used online for the in-seat learning environment.
Returning to the classroom gave me a feeling of renewed purpose and also improvisation. We may find opportunities to put together our recent, hard-won teaching experiences with the computer-assisted tools we already have and improve upon what visionary educators Cathy N. Davidson and Shelly Eversley call “active, engaged, student-centered learning.” During the fall 2021 semester, I participated in their Andrew W. Mellon Foundation–funded initiative, “Transformative Learning in the Humanities,” at CUNY. The group discussions showed how creative, personal and practical the solutions for online teaching had to be for each professor and discipline. That started my thinking about how in the semesters ahead we can continue to incorporate our online methods to improve in-person classes.
Discussion boards, surveys and chats have been available since the 1980s, but they can now become our best in-class allies. Those different tools help me teach different learners in ways I may not have reached them all before. For example, discussion boards are asynchronous, so they are good for students who prefer to answer in their own time. In contrast, chat, which is in real time, is better for students to express instant reactions to class activities and to ask questions before they forget them. Surveys are useful because they can be set up to collect individual, anonymous or group opinions.
Together, these three tools give teachers a new flexibility. The online tools can make it easier to offer validation for students’ knowledge and efforts, encourage their engagement, and help them develop skills to collaborate effectively. However, they will not serve every situation. It is up to each teacher to find their own balance of available tools so that it works for them.