During the Spring 2020 semester, I was an Instructor of Record for Contemporary Western Civilization (CC) in Columbia University’s Core Curriculum, leading students through critical analyses of texts beginning with Enlightenment classics and stretching through Nietzsche, Arendt, Fanon, and Foucault, among others. After the switch to online/distant learning in March following the shutdown of Columbia’s campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I learned and implemented new skills and activities to ensure all of my students had equal access to our course and equal opportunities for participation. These steps included:
- Learning how to utilize tools in Zoom, including the Raise Hands feature, breaking my class into Groups for more intimate discussions, and recording our sessions for students to asynchronously access at a later time;
- Holding asynchronous sessions with students in time zones more than 3 hours different from Eastern Standard Time to recapitulate and further discuss class materials;
- Reconfiguring assignments including the semester’s final exam to address student accessibility concerns and reflect more directly on the value of our course texts in interpreting and reacting to the pandemic (click here to view this reconfigured exam format in “Sample assignment #1”);
- Participating in events held by the Core Office and other institutions on campus geared towards learning best practices for online teaching;
- Practicing compassionate and communicative authority to ensure all students felt supported to complete their academic work in as non-judgmental and flexible an environment as possible.
Coming soon: pandemic- and online learning-tailored evaluation responses from Spring 2020 students.