From CAT: Moving from Spring to Summer

This message to all faculty, deans, directors, and department heads has been approved by Dr. Sally McRorie, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.

As the last week of classes approaches, we would ordinarily suggest wrap-up activities to help consolidate your students’ memories of the most important learning they did in your courses. But in future years, when students look back at this semester, it seems likely that they will remember the disruptions and the emotions most of all. We hope they remember us for our compassion and our mentorship.

There’s no one best method to acknowledge the end of such a semester, but we hope you and your students find a meaningful way to mark that you made it through, together.

We’re all to be congratulated for making things work during this tumultuous spring term, and we all deserve a break from the incredible juggling acts we’ve had to undertake. We hope that summer will bring some relief for many of us, and provide an opportunity to regroup.

Those of us who are teaching this summer have probably already begun to consider what teaching remotely might be like for a six- or twelve-week course. Some of us are old hands at online teaching, but many of us have never before planned and facilitated a fully online class. Since we know going in that summer will be remote, we have an opportunity to think more intentionally about the format.

As with any course design, we’ll need to begin by examining our goals. What do we want students to know or be able to do because of this learning experience? This part of planning can be fun: It’s often pleasurable to revisit our aspirations for student development. Maybe your students should be able to describe the nature of gravity or the essential components of dance movement. Maybe they should be able to discuss and order food, or introduce themselves and others, in a new language. Maybe they should learn to apply legal and ethical knowledge to real-life situations, or come to value the natural environment in new ways. These big-picture goals can and should address a variety of learning dimensions.

Once you’re satisfied with a list of goals, the next step is to divide the online course into a sequence of modules and develop module-level objectives to move students methodically toward those larger ideals. This step is more challenging, and also more critical when we’re teaching remotely than it may seem when we’re face to face. We have to set up the scaffolding students will need in order to build knowledge and skills over time. Where do they need to start? What must they practice next? Students need more, and more explicit, structure when they’re learning remotely since they’re probably only just developing as self-regulating learners.

An important part of identifying the module-level goals and objectives is identifying the kinds of thinking our students need to be doing at each stage: We can then consider how best to provide well-aligned opportunities for them to practice. If you’d like some support as you set reasonable goals and priorities for an online summer course, or if you’d like to discuss approaches to helping students achieve those goals through a logical sequence of modules, please contact us. We look forward to working with you.