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Teaching in the Time of Covid-19

By: Annette Finley-Croswhite


"Social distancing" is a term that has quickly come into popular use over the last few days, emphasizing that an effective measure to prevent the spread of disease is by keeping people separated. Colleges and universities throughout the United States have taken social distancing to heart just as Old Dominion University did on March 11 when President John R. Broderick announced a plan to keep students, faculty and staff safe by extending spring break and moving to online classes. Social distancing may be a new term for most, but in practice people have known for centuries that the best way to prevent getting ill during an epidemic is to avoid being around other people. It's the premise for Giovanni Boccaccio's great work on the Black Death in the city of Florence in 1348, The Decameron, when 10 people decide to leave the city and shelter in an isolated villa to wait out the plague and amuse themselves by telling stories. Medical historians believe that effective use of social distancing and quarantine measures by 1712 explains in part why the bubonic plague essentially disappeared from Europe. Failure to practice social distancing, moreover, during the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu (H1N1) pandemic increased its spread in many cities in the United States. Social distancing is a proven public health measure of great merit and one we will practice now as we finish out our semester.

Online teaching is our new reality as we move away from the in-class setting in the face of COVID-19 and consider the teaching strategies we will need to employ. Faculty and students come to the online experience with a variety of thoughts and ideas about this kind of instruction; many perhaps hold negative views. But there are also opportunities here for creativity and pushing ourselves as instructors to think about teaching in ways that perhaps we have not done before.

At the Center for Faculty Development, we are here to help. What we offer in this special edition of FacSheet are some best practices and advice for teaching in the wake of coronavirus. This information should not replace or supersede instructions from chairs, deans and other experts like those at the Center for Learning and Teaching. Even so, we hope you find what we've assembled of practical use.