March 22, 2020

Contribution for IHE: Compassion and Connection

I was invited by Doug Lederman at Inside Higher Ed to contribute to a piece he is working on (thank you, Doug!), responding to some great prompts about the teaching landscape and how it's shifting in response to the current crisis. I'm posting my response here, and I'll add a link to the piece when it comes out so you can read responses from the other contributors!

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My school is responding with a lot of compassion for students right now. For example, we've instituted a P/NP policy so students can see their final grades for the Spring semester and opt to take a P grade in any class in which they received a D or better, including classes for their major and other degree requirements. I'm really glad to see that because many students are facing life crises, and we should be doing everything we can to help them make progress towards their degree. But here's the thing: we've always had students whose lives are in crisis, and every semester I see students who should have had that compassionate P/NP option available because of the challenges they face (medical crises, family crises, financial crises, etc.). So, I hope we will keep that P/NP policy on the books. Students who persist in their education through hardship always deserve support in every way we can offer it, not just in this time of global crisis.

Likewise with technology. There are so many ways we can use the Internet to connect with each other, person to person, sharing and learning together, and that applies to all classes at all times, not just in this crisis. The reason I left the classroom to teach fully online was to find more/better ways to connect with students. In the classroom, there were always students I didn't really get to know, students who fell through the cracks. Online, we have more ways to connect with students and more flexible times in which to do that (my courses are 100% asynchronous), and that means I can connect with every student, much more so than when I was limited to the space and pace of the classroom. I would urge everyone to explore different options  — blogs and websites, Twitter and YouTube (make your own channel!), and so on. My school is emphasizing the LMS and Zoom, but I hope faculty will look at other spaces and channels as well, experimenting to see what works best for you and your students. You're not going to figure that out right away, and that's fine. Brainstorm with your students about possible options! If you discover new ways to connect with your students beyond the classroom now, that will help you be a better teacher in the future, no matter what that future holds. 

two cats nuzzling
It feels good to connect.

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