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Teaching in the Time of COVID, Part II

By Annette Finley-Croswhite

Randy Bass, vice provost for education and professor of English at Georgetown University, often talks about transformative education that is responsive to the times. For all the challenges he has perceived with regard to higher education in the 21st century, however, COVID-19 was never on his list when he wrote about placing student learning in "unscripted contexts." Well, we've done that now, haven't we! I'm sure this week we've all felt like we've been "building the plane as we fly it." The metaphor emphasizes the need to learn and revise simultaneously. And in this case we've been encumbered by our own anxieties and concern for our students. Many of us, if not most, have learned how to use new technologies, and all of us have had to rethink our classes, syllabi and learning objectives. I have been amazed by the experience of these last days. To see how Information Technology Services, Distance Learning and the Center for Learning and Teaching came together to help us go online quickly was a rewarding experience that built stronger community at Old Dominion University while we accessed the remote teaching tools, strategies and training they provided.

Yet in the midst of the COVID crisis so many people here at Old Dominion University and across the nation and world have realized they must find ways to lessen the psychological burden imposed by the disease and the social distancing it requires. They turn to self-care and personal creativity. I've included a picture here of Dr. Liz Black's homemade bread. The Washington Post actually acknowledges a surge in breadmaking during the coronavirus outbreak. A symbol of life and hospitality, bread brings comfort and warmth. Its smell fresh from the oven fills a kitchen with the aura of happiness, even in sad times, delighting our senses and connecting us to the necessities of life. Other folks focus on their scholarly talents, writing poems, songs, plays and stories or painting pictures to capture these times. Museums offer digital exhibits; online forums create spaces to share; townspeople in Siena, Italy, unanimously open their windows to sing. We search for sociability even as we are hunkered down in our homes. We find new ways to engage, be creative and socialize, even while keeping our distance. Of course, we miss what was and wonder anxiously about the future for ourselves, our friends and our families, but within these moments we also have the opportunity to share and be supportive. We have found new ways to communicate, teach and care.