Center for Teaching and Learning lauds faculty for resiliency
Lott Hill, director of University of the Pacific’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), said 11 days of faculty resilience and creativity helped the university cope with initial academic challenges caused by a global pandemic.
From the day Interim President Maria Pallavicini issued a memo signifying remote learning to the start of those classes (March 23), precious little time was available for faculty on Pacific’s three campuses to remake courses and rethink teaching approaches.
“What the faculty was able to do in that short time period is incredible,” Hill said.
CTL leaders believe that the faculty’s success in its March-to-May challenge will have a longstanding impact on the university.
“By handling the situation the way they did, I truly believe the faculty kept the tapestry of the Pacific campus intact during this difficult time,” said Leslie Bayers, CTL associate director.
The pandemic has caused uncertainty and turmoil at colleges and universities. One top concern: What would happen to the quality of the learning experience if faculty and students worked from living rooms, dens, bedrooms and basements instead of face-to-face?
Hill said it is important to understand the difference between a planned and executed online course versus the emergency approach of the past two-plus months.
“It was impressive how our faculty stepped up to the challenge,” he said. “They came to us immediately and worked on plans to keep the work student-focused. Trust is such an important part of education, and I believe the CTL and faculty have built trust over the years.”
“Faculty was very flexible in such areas as deadlines, assessment, delivery of assignments and more,” Bayers said. “Some aspects of their classroom-based courses just did not apply any more. It was crucial that adaptability happen virtually overnight.”
Art exhibits went from galleries to online. A biology professor is working to have lab kits sent to her students for upcoming classes. Pharmacy students, working with four professors, created a website to debunk coronavirus myths. Music students collaborated via YouTube. Law students tried mock cases before distant judges.
“There is a lot of pride among faculty members about how we handled this,” said Farley Staniec, associate professor of Economics and Benerd College associate dean. “It seemed like, after that first shock, people were inspired by the challenge and there was a real sense of wanting to help each other out so we could focus on students. CTL played a big part in it. They did an incredible job of helping meet specific needs in so many courses.”
The CTL web page has a detailed guide of faculty resources available. There is information on Canvas (Pacific’s learning management system), Webex (virtual meetings), Mediasite (lecture capturing), LinkedIn Learning classes and much more. There also is a robust schedule of training courses and virtual drop-in sessions.
“They help faculty in so many different ways,” said Mark VanNess, professor and chair of Health, Exercise and Sport Science. “They listen and work with you. I have never left CTL unsatisfied.”
Hill said CTL caters to faculty at all levels — “from orientation for new faculty to emeriti.”
“The needs are different for virtually each faculty member,” Hill said. “The amount of specialized knowledge is immense among faculty, and we cannot be experts in all areas. But we can help tailor classroom, online and blended classes.”
Hill expects a “positive carryover” when faculty and students return to campus.
“For faculty across the globe, this is a moment of heightened transparency,” Hill said. “More people are willing to say ‘this is what we do, this is how we teach,’ and share that information.
“I think anyone who is teaching through this pandemic will teach differently when we come out of the other end. We are rethinking what we are doing, and doing so creatively.”
Bayers added there is “constant sharing” of best practices within higher education as a whole.
The CTL leaders said many people and groups contributed to the journey through two difficult months. Benerd College handles a large part of online learning on campus. Staff was essential at so many levels. Hill and Bayers sing the praises of instructional designers and Pacific Technology staff.
“We do not know what is going to happen in the fall, and we cannot be married to one approach,” Bayers said. “Adaptability is going to be crucial. I think we have had a very good start in that regard.”
Do you have distance learning success stories to share? Email Mike Klocke, Community Relations director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.