Adapt, Evolve or Transform?

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Man writing on white board.

With vaccine distribution plans underway, I am certain you are eager to return to our new normal. I know the stress and uncertainty that the pandemic has created will remain with us for a while. It remains imperative that we continue to follow safety protocols this spring. However, it is also time for us to identify lessons learned and dream of what comes next. While many changes we made over the past year addressed immediate needs and allowed us to teach or serve at the moment, others can have long-lasting impact on teaching and learning for years to come.

As we look back, many of our initial adjustments helped us adapt to the pandemic. In the spring and summer of 2020, we found ways to convey educational content to our students or to handle routine business processes while working remotely. Zoom and eLC usage soared, and “WFH” entered everyday lingo.

With the pandemic continuing through the summer and fall, many of our conventional practices evolved to address the needs faced by our students, staff, and faculty. I have heard impressive stories about faculty modifying their teaching to suit different modalities. Whether segmenting classes into pods, creatively using technology, or utilizing PLAdawgs (peer learning assistants), UGA faculty have pioneered new learning techniques that will carry on beyond the pandemic. An innovative teaching mindset will keep us relevant as we teach in the post-pandemic world.

So how can we take what we’ve learned and consider potential transformational changes across all of our instructional efforts? While COVID-19 may soon become manageable, what changes have been successful and should remain? What should we do now to ensure that our teaching, curriculum, various support services, and workplace continue to raise the bar for higher education? Here are some examples:

  • We have invested in technology in more than 140 classrooms, making many large classrooms effective for videoconferencing. People across the globe are now quite comfortable teaching and learning remotely. How can we take advantage of these changes in our curriculum? Is there a way to get more global perspectives in our classes and curriculum using these tools?
  • Based on feedback from students and advisors, academic advising over zoom has been a great success. Many students prefer to engage with their advisors through video chats. How can we use this to make advising more accessible and “just-in-time” for our students? How can other student support services – whether tutoring, financial aid, career advice, coaching and mentoring, or others – can take advantage of what we have learned over the last year?
  • With greater adoption of remote work, increasing digital-collaboration, and greater dependency on technology, the nature of the workplace is certain to change over the next several years. What new skills and competencies would our students need for long term success? How do we build those in our academic programs and experiential learning offerings? What kinds of training or support would our instructors need to take advantage of these changes?
  • Speaking about dependency on technology, what does this mean for our students and employees who have limited access to technology? How does this impact our efforts on equity and inclusion? What steps should we take now to ensure that the gap between the haves and have-nots can be narrowed?
  • How do we need to modify our curriculum or general education requirements? What new degree programs, Double Dawg pathways, or other credentials should we develop as we look to the future?

I encourage you to have such conversations amongst yourselves. Set aside some time to discuss these in your faculty and staff meetings. Seek out ideas and identify emerging trends amongst your professional associations and disciplinary discussions. Ask your students. Talk to your alumni. Share the major themes you discover with us and help shape the future for our students and for the University. As you discover new ideas, please share these with us by completing the short questionnaire here. We will try to identify some of these to evaluate and adopt.

Despite the pandemic, your hard work and planning have resulted in a successful start to the spring semester. It is now important for us to take what we are learning throughout this pandemic and use the best innovations we’ve discovered to enhance the teaching and learning environment at UGA. As you look toward the future, please share your feedback and suggestions. As always, you can reach me at ovpi@uga.edu.

Sincerely,

Rahul Shrivastav
Vice President of Instruction