The pandemic has dragged on, prompting colleges to ricochet back and forth on mask mandate policies and rules about holding classes in person versus online. Professors report that students are disengaged, so much so that it’s even hard to get them to take advantage of free support services. Many faculty and staff members say they feel burned out and demoralized. And college enrollments are down overall.
Meanwhile, institutions and instructors have been pushed to try new strategies—some of which seem promising. Shifting practices regarding grades may inspire students to take risks and study for the sake of learning. Recognition that the digital divide prevents academic progress has prompted colleges to do more to connect students with tech tools.
In the midst of these trends, we wanted to hear how academic innovation leaders are thinking and feeling about higher education right now. What are they worried and excited about? What do they believe is working well, and what should change?
Flipping the Classroom
Professors who recorded video lectures for online learning during the pandemic are realizing they have a new resource at their disposal. Some are putting those recordings to use by adopting the “flipped classroom” model of instruction.
Traditional teaching uses class time to introduce students to concepts, which they then engage with on their own through homework. In contrast, flipped learning involves students learning material on their own first, reserving class time for group activities and active learning.
The pandemic prompted more faculty to ask the question, “What do we actually want to use class time for?” says Tyler Roeger, director of the center for the enhancement of teaching and learning at Elgin Community College. And the answer many of them are landing on, he adds, is: “Actual face-to-face time can be dedicated to problem-working, and working in groups together.”
That model requires that students adjust how they spend their time and how they perceive course materials. For example, some students mistakenly assume that recorded lectures are “optional resources” rather than asynchronous assignments, Roeger says.
Flipped learning can be a big adjustment for professors too. So faculty who try it out should be open to evolving as they go, recommends Wendy Schatzberg, director for the center of teaching and learning at Utah Tech University.