Better Together: Flexibility, Adaptation, and Innovation Allow Teaching and Learning to Continue

In March 2020, when COVID-19 closed colleges and universities across the country, PSU faculty switched gears in a matter of days to deliver classes remotely. Our digital tools, institutional knowledge, and flexible culture that has historically embraced adaptation and innovation have been key to both that immediate transition and to subsequent pedagogical shifts. 

“Faculty and staff have done amazing, hard work in teaching and working in a unique situation,” says Interim Provost Ann McClellan. “Everyone has invested a great deal of time to make it a safe and productive learning experience for our students.” 

The Spring 2020 semester continued successfully with Information Technology, the Lamson Library, the Writing Center, and the Open CoLab all offering immediate help to faculty, staff, and students at most hours of the day. Student success coaches advised remotely on academic programs, and Career Services did so on internship policies and employment opportunities. These and other offices, including Campus Accessibility Services, PASS, and TRIO, continued to meet critical needs. 

Once the semester ended in May, the CoLab’s Slipper Camp (“like boot camp, only softer and on Zoom”) faculty development series centered on curriculum design while planning for fall contingencies. This was followed by summer participation by more than 100 faculty members in further professional development focused on online and hybrid teaching, through which a number of faculty members earned certifications for best practices in online teaching. 

Additional trainings, tech upgrades, and classroom modifications took place right up to fall’s reopening, when PSU students resumed their studies in various modalities. Traditional, face-to-face classes are complemented by synchronous and asynchronous formats, as well as a hybrid, combined option. 

“PSU is a very student-centered institution and this distinguishes our approach to online education,” adds McClellan. “The University’s pedagogy workshops and classes focus on the human elements involved in adapting to COVID, and we really emphasize incorporating flexibility, kindness, and innovative teaching theories that support students’ basic needs in a time of economic crisis. These augment more standard, practical training such as how to use Zoom cameras and design interactive online teaching modules.”