Positive takeaways from the recent shift to remote instruction

With the unexpected shift to remote learning this spring comes several positive lessons learned for instructors and course developers. Michelle Miller, a professor and the author of Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology, offers five takeaways gleaned from the past few months of teaching. If you have other takeaways or would like to share your experience, please email

1) The unexpected benefits of synchronous Zoom lessons. Planned course sessions in combination with video conferencing software can provide a way for students and faculty to come together and interact socially. This creates a supportive environment and a group dynamic—aspects missing from asynchronous online activities.

2) Having to make a backup plan. The need to have plans for in-person and remote options of course delivery allows instructors and course developers to figure out various methods to deliver course content, shaking up the status quo in positive ways.

3) A reexamination on student goals. It is easy to get bogged down by the minutiae of teaching and to lose some perspective on students’ goals for taking a class. Whether they need the requirement for a degree program or are interested in a specialization, getting input directly from your students can help you frame your course materials in a way that is most beneficial for them.

4) Shifting away from high-stakes assessments. A move to a different instructional method forces faculty to reexamine the way in which they measure student learning. Not only are academic integrity issues more concerning in an online environment but they also only one way to evaluate student work. A shift to multiple low-stakes tasks or assessments as well as alternative grading strategies might prove to be more beneficial for measuring student achievement of your course objectives.

5) Instructors consider the mental health of their students. Now more than ever, teaching with compassion and care is important. Public health education needs to be trauma-informed and willing to allow flexibility to help with student anxiety.

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