Feed on

To be honest, I wasn’t planning on writing an “end of the semester reflection.” But as we wrap up this semester, I find myself more reflective than usual. This year has been challenging for me as an instructor, both logistically (to teach in dual-mode in non-traditional classrooms) and emotionally (to foster community amongst students in an unprecedented time). And while I, like everyone else, am looking forward to a return to “normalcy,” I’d first like to look back. 

In particular, I’d like us all to reflect on what went well. What piece of technology are you now proficient in using? What new pedagogical practice did you incorporate effectively? What changes did you make that you want to keep in your course design? What will you bring forward?

I have lots of answers to these questions. Here are just a few.

Supplemental resources

Every day, I uploaded class recordings and lecture notes. My intended audience was students who had missed class, but many other students took advantage of these resources. Since I was already uploading my material, I would often upload Open Educational Resources (videos, interactive graphing tools, etc) as well. Providing supplemental resources can both support and motivate students. For example, I had a student ask me “Where does the Harmonic Series get its name?” and so I uploaded this chapter from music theory about the wavelengths of the overtones of a vibrating string. This content is not covered in Calculus II, but reveals one of the many connections between mathematics, physics, and music.

Flexibility of online interaction

I love teaching in person. But the flexibility of having Office Hours online in Zoom is a game-changer. Students can pop in for a quick question without having to walk across campus. I can meet with students after dinner from my living room. I primarily used synchronous online office hours, but there are asynchronous options for online interaction (e.g. discussion boards) as well.


This year gave many instructors the freedom to experiment with assessments and grading. For exams, my department implemented frequent, low-stakes assessments (which can decrease student anxiety) and mastery-based grading (which can improve student learning through a growth-mindset approach). For assignments, I incorporated specifications grading for projects to give students the opportunity to revise their work based on feedback. Overall, we designed assignments and assessments to better match our learning goals and the student response was positive.

  • “I liked having weekly quizzes versus the exam, it allowed me to absorb the information better.”
  • “The standards-based grading system was so great. It definitely helped alleviate some stress and I also feel like I learned better because of it.”
  • “The pass/fail projects were extremely helpful in furthering my understanding of the material… Having to explain the process of solving something made sure I knew what I was talking about and knew what I was doing. ” 

The comments above come from last semester’s CIF reports. If you’re interested in the student perspective on your course, read through the comments on “What activities or features of the course would you recommend the instructor continue using in the future?” in your Course Instructor Feedback. 

From this feedback and my conversations with students and faculty, there are many strategies to continue using and advocating for (inclusive teaching, Universal Design for Learning, encouraging student well-being, effectively using the LMS, etc.) So as we look forward to a more “normal” fall semester, I encourage you to bring your success stories with you and to continue to try new things!

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