Online: Trending Now

Unique biweekly insights and news review
from Ray Schroeder, Senior Fellow at UPCEA

Teaching Online in the COVID Crisis: What We Have Learned

As we prepare to launch another semester mostly online, we are better informed than we were in the spring and fall semesters. From experiences with rapidly applied pedagogies to better understanding of how our students’ radically altered lives impact their learning, we must adapt.

This past spring semester marked a heroic response to the coronavirus that prompted radical change in the mode of delivery of much of higher education — a change that will continue to influence the way learning is accessed from this point forward. So, what did we learn?

First and foremost, we learned that we must be prepared for future pandemics, natural disasters or other breakdowns that disrupt our educational institutions and systems. Further, we learned that, in this instance, we were prepared to launch remote learning initiatives across the country to help protect our students and staff while delivering the curriculum, albeit in some cases in less than optimal presentations. We now have models upon which we must improve and expand to assure continuity of curriculum delivery in cases of disruptions.

Second, we learned that during such a disaster as this one that has claimed more than a quarter of a million lives, and caused massive disruption with mental health effects in the lives of students, faculty and staff, the mental health ramifications continue. They are not fully recognized and reported. They vary widely depending upon family/social bubbles, age and social disposition. A whole host of mental health support sites and referral services are available, but it is unclear if these fully meet the need.

Most effective faculty practices of student engagement, active learning, simulations, compassion and close attention to student well-being have been practiced by experienced online learning faculty members for many years. However, higher education faculty members are not universally grounded in these approaches and practices. Yet, the faculty are now on the front line of monitoring student behaviors that on campus had been observed by resident advisers, campus health services and other professionals who in normal conditions pay attention to student well-being.

We found that most but not all of our students had ready access to at least smartphone broadband access to learning management systems. Nevertheless, expansion of wireless and cable access to meet everyone’s needs is required. Efforts in this area continue with 5G, 10G and the addition of Starlink and other satellite-based systems that are less vulnerable to the challenges that geography and rural population density present.

We know now that faculty and staff members are not immune from the impact of the pandemic. We are poised on a tidal wave of burnout. Faculty and staff have been working extra hours and extra days, nonstop, in preparing first for remote learning, then more robust online learning. As Colleen Flaherty writes in Inside Higher Ed, “Faculty Pandemic Stress Is Chronic Now“:

The early days of the pandemic took a toll on faculty members, but for many, peak stress is now, according to a new study of faculty mental health from Course Hero. Researchers for the study website surveyed hundreds of faculty members on and off the tenure track, across institution types, this fall. The findings suggest that faculty worries about the pandemic have morphed into chronic stress — with serious implications for professors’ mental health, their students and the profession as COVID-19 drags on.

So, we learned that there is a need for stress and mental health support for all in the education process: students, faculty and staff. We must be careful as we enter 2021 to assure that these needs are met.

We now have at least three different vaccines in the pipeline that promise to help protect against the current version of the COVID virus. Traditional treatments are improving with lowered death rates. New antibody treatments have been given emergency approvals for use. Yet the production, deployment and administration of these vaccines and treatments to billions of people worldwide will take a year or more. We still face a remote spring and likely summer ahead for higher education in the U.S.

Is your institution prepared to implement the practices and policies that we learned in this human disaster?

Will you implement training and support for the effective teaching practices we have learned? Will your institution address the brewing mental health issues? In the fall semester and beyond, how will our higher education model have changed? Will HyFlex, blended and online alternatives be offered for those faculty and students who may not feel safe to return to the classroom? Will your institution be prepared for the next natural/human disaster?

This article originally was published in Inside Higher Ed’s Transforming Teaching & Learning blog.

Ray Schroeder 2016 Summit for Online Leadership

Ray Schroeder is Professor Emeritus, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Senior Fellow at UPCEA. Each year, Ray publishes and presents nationally on emerging topics in online and technology-enhanced learning. Ray’s social media publications daily reach more than 12,000 professionals. He is the inaugural recipient of the A. Frank Mayadas Online Leadership Award, recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award, the United States Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame Award, and the American Journal of Distance Education/University of Wisconsin Wedemeyer Excellence in Distance Education Award 2016.

Other UPCEA Updates + Blogs

Nearly Half of Faculty Say Pandemic Changes to Teaching Are Here to Stay (Campus Technology)

In a recent survey, the majority of faculty (71 percent) reported that their teaching in Fall 2020 was “very different” or included a “number of changes” compared to pre-pandemic times. And almost half (47 percent) felt those changes would remain in place post-pandemic. That’s according to Cengage‘s third Digital Learning Pulse Survey, conducted by Bay View Analytics in partnership…

Read More

Policy Matters | American Rescue Plan Act Passes – Includes Significant Relief Dollars to Higher Education (March 2021)

Major Updates  American Rescue Plan Act Passes – Includes Significant Relief Dollars to Higher Education The most recent COVID relief bill, one of America’s largest in terms of dollars spent ($1.9 trillion), and Joe Biden’s first major legislation as President, provided a marked increase in funding to colleges and universities compared to previous bills. While…

Read More

Plan to join us in-person for 2022 events!

I’m pleased to share with you some exciting news: UPCEA’s industry-leading events will be back live and in-person in April 2022! Even better, we are combining the Annual Conference and the Summit for Online Leadership and Administration + Roundtable (SOLA+R), hosting both events in Orlando, FL, at Disney’s Coronado Springs April 11-14, 2022. For the…

Read More

Survey: About Half of Faculty are More Positive About Online Learning Today Than Pre-Pandemic, And Expect to Keep New Teaching Techniques and Digital Materials in Place Post-Pandemic

The Third Digital Learning Pulse Survey, Conducted by Bay View Analytics on Behalf of OLC, WCET, UPCEA, CDLRA and Cengage, Looks at How Higher Education is Changing in the Wake of COVID-19 March 24, 2021—As the pandemic has moved U.S. higher education online, half of faculty (51 percent) are more positive about online learning today…

Read More

[Snap Poll Results] In Pandemic Higher Ed, PCO Gets the Playing Time It Deserves

My world before the pandemic included going to sporting events, and trying my hand at fantasy football and baseball leagues.  These activities fed my inner stats nerd. During the pandemic, however, I found that what I had previously found so important to me and my mental health may not be as essential as I thought. …

Read More

UPCEA Announces 2021 Association Award Recipients

7 Individuals Receive Association’s Highest Honors   WASHINGTON, March 2, 2021 – UPCEA, the leader in professional, continuing, and online education, has announced the recipients of the 2021 Association Awards. The UPCEA Association Awards program includes recognition of both individual and institutional achievement across the UPCEA membership.   Since 1953, UPCEA has recognized its members’…

Read More

Whether you need benchmarking studies, or market research for a new program, UPCEA Consulting is the right choice.

We know you. We know the challenges you face and we have the solutions you need. We speak your language and have been serving leaders like you for more than 100 years. UPCEA consultants are current or former continuing and online higher education professionals who are experts in the industry—put our expertise to work for you.

UPCEA is dedicated to advancing quality online learning at the institutional level. UPCEA is uniquely focused on excellence at the highest levels – leadership, administration, strategy – applying a macro lens to the online teaching and learning enterprise. Its engaged members include the stewards of online learning at most of the leading universities in the nation.

We offers a variety of custom research options through a variable pricing model.

Click here to learn more.

The Nation's Top Universities Choose UPCEA Consulting

Informed decisions. Ideas that work. The data you need. Trusted by the top universities in the nation.