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Top Teaching Practices to Continue on Campus

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Our experiences in remote teaching provide a head start to many effective strategies in blended instruction. This list is informed by the lessons learned and experience gained by instructors who taught courses remotely during the COVID-19 shutdown.

1. Course organization

During the months of online learning, many instructors reported their classes benefitting from the increased focus required for organizing class meetings and instructional materials for remote instruction. As we return to on-campus instruction, the energy invested in online course organization can continue to yield rewards. In particular, a thoughtfully designed, clear course outline on Canvas helps students to structure their own thinking and planning for the class.

2. Focus on student well-being

Students learn best where they feel safe and supported. The harsh conditions of the pandemic brought the importance of student well-being into stark relief, with instructors across Stanford finding ways to check in with and help students. Whether this means extending understanding on deadlines, connecting students to campus resources, or simply taking some time to listen to student concerns, focusing on student well-being is critical as we all adapt to the altered circumstances of 2021-22.

3. Build Community

Community building is one of the most powerful strategies for improving student and instructor well-being. Throughout the pandemic, instructors around the world developed innovative methods to nurture learning communities in remote environments. As we move to re-establish in-person learning communities, these strategies will remain crucial. For a few places to start, you might consult our Building Inclusive Community page, or CTL’s Creating Community Online guide.

4. Get feedback from your students

The unique context for blended teaching as we go into Fall 2021 is like nothing any of us have experienced before, so it is especially important to check in with students, learn how they are experiencing your class, and gather their ideas for how to best support their learning. CTL offers many means for doing this - we especially recommend midterm feedback.

5. Use low-stakes assessments

Low stakes assessments—assignments and tests with relatively small individual impact on student grades—were widely used in higher education during the pandemic. In many courses, these assessments entirely replaced traditional high-stakes assessments such as final exams and projects. While these changes were largely driven by a concern for student wellness, there has been mounting evidence in the scholarship of instruction that low-stakes assessments are generally more effective for increasing learning, providing more frequent feedback to students, and emphasizing grasp of material over grades. If you switched over to low-stakes assessments during the pandemic, you may very well want to carry this practice forward into future terms!

6. Use asynchronous materials

Remote learning prompted many instructors to create new asynchronous resources, such as pre-recorded lecture videos, online activities, and class forums. These can continue to be powerful teaching tools as we return to on-campus teaching. For instance, it can be extremely helpful to assign a pre-recorded lecture for homework, and use class time for interactive practice.

7. Leverage online tools

While technology fatigue was a prime feature of teaching during COVID, there were also many technologies that yielded unexpected benefits, such as new ways for engaging with students, and for students to learn from one another. Slack, Google Workspace, Zoom chat, and Poll Everywhere are just a few of the most widely adopted tools. If you found a technology that worked well for your teaching during the pandemic, there is probably a good way to integrate it into a blended course.

8. Reflect on what worked for your situation

Above all, think about what you learned as an instructor during the pandemic. What worked well in remote classes? What adaptations seemed to create benefits? Talk to colleagues who teach similar courses—what was most effective for them? Blended environments can provide an opportunity to carry forward many of the most important strategies that we all developed into the “new normal” of on-campus teaching.