It’s been complicated, and it’s not getting any simpler.
Last week, TEL hosted its second of six roundtable discussions, inviting higher education administrators to discuss the start of the school year. Designed to be a little bit venting session and a lot of solution sharing, the common theme has been, “it’s complicated.”
Getting faculty on board definitely falls in the “complicated” bucket. Some were ready to embrace the challenge. One administrator who helps with training on instructional design found some faculty members who had been slow to use the LMS “come out from the shadows” and participate in the enhanced training their IT department put together in preparation for the Fall term.
Other schools found faculty buy-in to online courses to be a significant hurdle. One administrator was told, “that’s not the proper way to learn,” by a faculty member. And yet, when that administrator provided a list of non-lecture options that still counted towards instruction time, many of their faculty were surprised at how much flexibility they had.
Grieving the Loss of a Community
Many schools shifted their calendars, had students come back in small groups, and postponed activities. As things change on campus and with state and local ordinances, it seems like nothing is staying the same. And then there are the students.
Many students, at least at the small colleges we talked with at the roundtables, were craving the community and involvement on campus. Those who weren’t able to be on campus or participate in activities felt a sense of loss. One silver lining, according to one administrator, might be a micro-generation of students who understand what a campus experience can provide even with the added convenience of online.
An Interesting Future
During both roundtable discussions, there was still a significant amount of hope and excitement for the future of their students and higher education in general. As one administrator mentioned, if this pandemic had hit just 10 years ago, higher education would have been much less prepared. Faculty and institutions are trying new things, and continuing to prepare students for the world that they are entering — a hybrid world of online and face-to-face.
This also provides institutions a chance to reflect on the agility they showed in the past few months. As one administrator mentioned, this might be the first time they had to shift so quickly between different modalities, but it definitely won’t be the last. Institutions are taking these lessons and integrating them to be prepared and more agile going forward.
A Continuing Conversation
From faculty buy-in to keeping students from being less student-like, administrators across the country are trying to provide the best higher education experience possible with the resources they have. Schools are being forced to try new things and shift in new ways. Which means there are constantly new ways and new ideas to solve these new problems, and some of the old problems as well. The administrators who joined our roundtables shared their challenges and solutions. They also learned a few ideas that might work for them, and they also learned that they weren’t alone in their challenges.
Join us for our next roundtable, held every other Friday through November 20, 2020.