IST faculty tips for post-pandemic instruction appear in EDUCAUSE Review

Jessica Hallman
April 06, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In March 2020, COVID-19 caused the launch of the largest-ever, non-traditional teaching experiment among faculty and students.

Remote teaching and learning abruptly replaced traditional classroom instruction, and with it came innovations and adaptations that could be considered to continue in post-pandemic education, according to experts from the Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology.

In a recent article published in EDUCAUSE Review, the authors examine technology-based teaching practices that have emerged in higher education during the pandemic and have been shown to improve student engagement. Five of these initiatives could permanently be implemented to further engage students, they suggest in the article.

“There have been some positives from the COVID experience, and my concern was that they are going to be lost or forgotten in a hurried return back to the way things used to be,” said Ed Glantz, teaching professor of information sciences and technology and one of the article’s authors. “This work is a recognition that we should always evaluate what’s happening, because even in crisis mode, there can be lessons that we want to retain and maintain.”

The five teaching enhancements recommended by the authors for continued consideration post-pandemic include:

  • Collaborative technologies for sense-making, which make possible shared notetaking and allow students and instructors to view the work of all participating groups.
  • Student experts for learning and technology support, through the use of learning assistants who can assist faculty in facilitating hybrid and remote instruction and in learning new technologies that could enhance student engagement while also supporting their peers’ learning needs.
  • Back channels for information communication, such as the Zoom chat feature, which provide an informal but familiar way for text-savvy students to interact with ideas, the instructor and other students.
  • Digital breakout rooms for collaborative learning, which offer students opportunities to engage in a smaller, less-intensive environment, and ultimately lead to more meaningful activities and deeper learning.
  • Supplemental recordings for expanded learning space, capturing the class lecture and session for students who would like to re-engage with course content or who need to miss class due to an illness or a scheduling conflict, such as a job interview or conference attendance.

Glantz, who earned a Teaching and Learning with Technology Fellowship in 2019 for his novel idea to record his lectures and make them available to absent students, found himself well-prepared to tackle the remote instruction challenges that many instructors faced at the start of the pandemic. Supported by resources offered through the College of Information Sciences and Technology’s Office of Learning Design and Office of Teaching, Learning and Assessment, Glantz has felt empowered to develop and deliver courses and experiences that encourage deep, meaningful, long-term learning long before the pandemic began.

That’s why he authored this article, along with College of IST colleagues Chris Gamrat, instructional designer; Lisa Lenze, director of the Office of Teaching, Learning and Assessment; and Jeffrey Bardzell, professor and associate dean of undergraduate and graduate studies.

“Our hope was to have that reflective practice go across the teaching and learning community for other things, because we’re kind of unique in our situation (at Penn State),” said Glantz. “But we’re also kind of a flagship, because we tend to do a lot of things that other institutions don’t do but they could be doing. So we have a leadership responsibility.”

Added Gamrat, “I think a lot about the value of understanding those experiences and being able to present really impactful lessons learned to come out of it. Because otherwise, everybody is out there really kind of figuring it out for themselves.”

The article was selected for inclusion in the EDUCAUSE Review Showcase series, launched April 5. The series spotlights the most urgent issues in higher education, with this month’s focus on engaging students by design.

Last Updated April 06, 2021