3.19.20: Remote Teaching and Learning Update

We are now up and running with remote education. I realize this has been a very fast transition, and many of us—myself included—are still in transition as we figure out how to best navigate a remote learning environment for our particular courses. This is no small task, and I thank you for your continued efforts to provide a high-quality academic experience for our students.

Dear Faculty and Instructional Staff, 

We are now up and running with remote education. I realize this has been a very fast transition, and many of us—myself included—are still in transition as we figure out how to best navigate a remote learning environment for our particular courses. This is no small task, and I thank you for your continued efforts to provide a high-quality academic experience for our students.

I have heard from a number of students, all of whom are in transition as well. They have voiced their appreciation for the enormous challenge of this shift to remote education, and have also provided positive feedback about their experiences so far. Your commitment, enthusiasm and willingness to adapt in these new circumstances are central to these positive student experiences, and I commend you for that.

I know many questions about the coming weeks remain. Our team has been hard at work determining key policies and procedures for the remainder of the semester, and will soon be providing statements related to grading, exams and exam proctoring.

As you may know, many other universities have adopted modified grading schemes for this semester. Many Lehigh students have expressed uncertainty about how well they will do in courses with diminished direct faculty contact and the increased challenge of working with other students. Faculty may also be concerned about whether traditional grading schemes will accurately reflect student learning in this remote environment. In addition, a number of faculty have expressed concerns about exams and exam integrity in the online format. There are no simple solutions to this issue, and as we will note, a careful look reveals that in many cases a best approach is not to replicate the live proctored experience, but to rethink assessment of student learning altogether. I ask for your patience as we determine next steps.

As the semester progresses, I encourage you to continue to develop your remote learning pedagogy. I have challenged myself in this area as well. I started off with a Zoom live lecture, choosing the simplest way to get started, and many of you may have done the same. But we shouldn’t stop there. Our students are now in many different time zones, so despite my interest in having them all online at the same time, that approach presents a huge challenge for them. As you get more comfortable with remote learning technology, I encourage you to identify key objectives for your class and select delivery modes that align objectives, needs and outcomes.

As an example, when I need to ‘deliver material,’ a recorded lecture students can watch when they want might be best. When I need or want student-to-student interaction, I might start a blog or allow an online written discussion forum to evolve over the course of a few hours, with students contributing when they can. I know of several faculty who have done that, and required their students to post at least one question and answer at least one of their colleagues’ questions as a way to drive connection. The CITL remote teaching guide has a section on “Interacting with students through online course activities” that includes several approaches you might take to broaden the range of student engagement and tailor online activity to the objectives you have for your students’ learning.

Please keep in mind that showing up prepared for class may not be as easy for some students now as it was when they were on campus. We now rely on individual students and families to provide the necessary workspaces and technology that enable students to connect for coursework. From books and materials they were unable to pick up from their Bethlehem residences, to unreliable home internet connections and lack of access to Lehigh software and equipment, it may be the case that some of your students are not as well-equipped as their classmates. Be as accommodating and understanding as possible for students who might not have the resources they had while on campus and that may be routinely available to the rest of us. CITL and the Digital Media Studio are available to assist you as you co nsider changes to your course.

Again, thank you for your effort and energy on behalf of our students. I realize this abrupt change has been stressful for many of our faculty, as it has been for staff and students. Acknowledging it doesn’t make it easier, but perhaps it helps a bit to know that everyone is struggling with this in some way, alongside individual concerns about health, family and friends. Stay connected and find ways to support each other. Perfection will elude us, but perfection is not the goal. Knowing our faculty, staff and students, I am confident we will do well.

Regards,

Pat Farrell