The limitations of designing a course that can pivot

For most professors, especially in these early days, putting a course online required them to think carefully about what was most essential and to get creative with how to keep in touch with students.

The pandemic “has moved almost everyone forward, in terms of teaching innovation,” says Lindsay Masland, associate professor of psychology and acting director of faculty professional development at Appalachian State University.

The teaching of the pandemic is now in a different phase, and there is nothing exhilarating about it. Covid cases have reached new heights: even the vaccinated are infected and transmit the virus to others. While some colleges are starting the semester online, many others are moving full speed ahead, locking professors into course modality decisions they made months ago and making modest, if any, adjustments to the schedule. mitigation of covid.

This led some instructors to ask for the flexibility to teach online, at least during times of high transmission, and to return in person when it’s safer.

Creating a course with this kind of flexibility isn’t easy, but it does have its benefits. “Designing for a pivot encourages people to make their courses more accessible,” Masland wrote in a recent Twitter feed. “It’s perfect for the person who previously had ruthless attendance policies, timed in-class exams, lengthy instructor-led lectures. This class will be enhanced if it’s pivotal.

Masland put a lot of thought into designing a flexible course. She wrote a chapter of Resilient pedagogy, an open-access book focused on actionable strategies for instructors. In his mind, the most adjustable course, the least vulnerable to disruption, is the one designed for Zoom.

Create a course for Zoom and teach it in person whenever possible. Then no matter what, your plan will always work. You can put students in small groups, but don’t rely on them to do anything that requires their physical presence or materials they may not have at home.

In her own teaching, Masland has focused on accessibility for years. But now his own lesson plans are in tension with what is feasible given pandemic conditions. “Designing for a pivot,” she wrote in her thread, “creates an upper limit to what you can do in a course.”

This semester, she had hoped to do something really ambitious, teach a revamped version of a course she had taught for more than a decade: “Psychology Applied to Teaching.”

Masland asked to teach the blended course, not because she expected continued disruption, but because she wanted to split her class of 50 into two groups so they could use a learning classroom. deceived asset. She planned to move the class to centers, like those used in early childhood education, some of which would be convenient and one would speak with her. She was excited.

But as semester approached, Masland felt she had to reconsider her plans. She had thought that some students would zoom into the classroom, but she hadn’t considered the possibility that they all had to.

Masland will still be experimenting – this will be his first time fully downgrading an undergraduate course. And she feels lucky to be teaching a blended course at a time when many professors feel pressured to teach entirely in person, whether it makes sense or not.

Yet she feels a real sense of loss. She can teach a good version of this course; she already did. But it will not be the version she dreamed of.

Does Masland’s sadness about his plans being scaled back resonate? How do you feel about this semester? How do you think this compares to past quarters of teaching about the pandemic? Share your thoughts with me at [email protected] and they may be included in a future newsletter.

Join us next week

Talking About Teaching, our new series of virtual events, kicks off next Friday, January 28 with an interactive panel discussion on the evolving teacher/student dynamic. Has emergency distance learning changed the way you think about your students? Are you still figuring out how the past two years have changed you and the way you want to be in the classroom? We hope you’ll join us—and teaching experts Isis Artze-Vega, Regan AR Gurung, and Viji Sathy—to chat, answer your questions, and have the opportunity to find common ground with other instructors. . register here.

Do you have a question you would like our panel to answer on this topic? You can share it now: [email protected] and or [email protected]


  • Students find class attendance policies to be inconsistent, confusing and frustrating. They are right, I report it in my last story.
  • As Covid cases reach new heights on many campuses, instructors are calling for the ability to teach online, at least for a while, report The Chronicleby Sahalie Donaldson and Chelsea Long.
  • What happens if students watch the class recording at double speed? A new paper in Applied Cognitive Psychology shows that this can be an effective study strategy, under the right conditions.

Thanks for reading Teaching. If you have any suggestions or ideas, please feel free to email us at [email protected] Where [email protected].


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