Reimagining Classroom Instruction in a Post-Pandemic World
Published on 25 May 2021
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic presented a number of challenges for academic institutions across the world. As students adjusted to new schedules and environments of learning, faculty members quickly adapted their in-person classrooms to remote settings.
"My first fear in moving to online course delivery was that I wouldn't be able to connect with my students," said Jean Escudero, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology at University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis (UHSP). "In class, I can always tell when someone's confused and that cues me to explain the subject more, but when all I can see are initials on a screen, it's a lot harder to tell if a student needs something further explained."
As the months pressed on and campuses slowly reopened to allow for safe, in-person instruction, educators recognized an opportunity to integrate the successes of their 100% remote classes into their hybrid courses during the 2020-21 academic year.
"I use large models of molecules when I teach the organic part of chemistry," said Nawaporn "Ning" Sanguantrakun, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry at UHSP. "It is important for students to have the handheld experience of touching the molecule and understand how it rotates. Because I had both in-person and remote students, I started making video clips of my hands rotating the molecule and embedded it into my PowerPoints so I could pause and explain what was happening in the clip."
Escudero found the flexibility of recorded lectures and online content was particularly well-suited for pharmacy students in their first professional year (P1) taking immunology.
"My P1 immunology students really liked being able to watch the recordings when it was convenient for them, so I decided to switch to a flipped classroom model,” Escudero said. "Now when they come to class, I have PowerPoint slides with Poll Everywhere questions to assess their understanding of the lecture, and we talk about why the answer is right or wrong — all of that is recorded too. Online course instruction also provided new opportunities to connect with my students. I have some student-athletes who can only meet later in the evenings if they have questions. With Microsoft Teams, I'm able to do that. It really has opened up accessibility."
Though the pandemic presented many challenges, faculty at the University have met those challenges with a creativity guided by their commitment to their students. And as the University looks to a post-pandemic world, new approaches to classroom instruction have illuminated opportunities to integrate elements from the online classroom into the in-person classroom setting.
"Taking advantage of this unfortunate situation and getting creative has created more opportunities to appeal to many styles and paces of learning and enrich the learning process," Ning said. "If you can offer a variety of approaches to teaching by integrating some of the online aspects of the past 18 months into classroom resources like Moodle, you have a higher likelihood of reaching a student. When we return to all in-person classes, I will not be teaching my classes the same. I want them to have a better experience than it was before."