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A Professor’s Pandemic Summer Syllabus

Mon Jul 6, 2020 at 07:30 AM

Summer is the season faculty take some much needed breaks, but also a productive time to double down on research, community engagement, and attending to deep teaching work. Summer 2020 is something else, as faculty are told to prepare to teach online, on-campus wearing a mask while students sit six feet apart, to those without reliable internet, to those around the world, and maybe to do all of this at the same time. A tall order. 

Rather than try to chase down every new tech tool and possible teaching strategy, or throw our hands up and decide to wing it come fall, we could fashion a few learning goals to achieve our main purpose: helping students succeed while also maintaining our own well-being. In this spirit, Dr. Sarah Rose Cavanagh shared a summer syllabus for herself in the Chronicle earlier this month. Her article is the heart of this teaching tip, as she provides great reading and listening recommendations in a structure that is feasible and flexible. Creating a similar syllabus for yourself is not necessarily to create more work, but to make sure your work counts, which may even mean less work in preparing for fall.

To complement her advice to our OU context, here are a few recommended resources to help flesh out the syllabus:

Consider Universal Design for Learning.

With all of the attention on HyFlex, resilient teaching, and other teaching styles to promote flexibility and adaptability, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) remains a teaching framework that serves students and instructors well no matter what the learning or life need. We have been cultivating UDL resources to help faculty consider how they can create more flexibility options out of what they already offer.

Find the core purpose in teaching with technology.

Cavanagh’s provides great reading recommendations that explain the “why” of technology. After reflecting on what you want technology to achieve in your courses, e-LIS is ready to work out the “how.” e-LIS has created ways to learn about powerful technology options without chasing down every new innovation. They start you and your students with online teaching guides, which then move toward a self-paced online teaching course. e-LIS’ website gives an overview of main learning opportunities.

e-LIS and CETL have also worked over the years to provide practical and expanded teaching with tech options in the Hybrid Teaching eSpace, which includes examples of some of the tech Cavanagh refers to, such as This may help faculty who have taught online but feel their courses need something more.

Create a self-syllabus from Teaching Resource Collections.

CETL’s Teaching Resource Collections curate ways to learn about specific pedagogical concepts from short articles to load onto your phone, podcasts to take on road trips, books, and more. They will help narrow down how to use social media for teaching and scholarly purposes, how to increase inclusion, how to be creative about reading assignments, and getting strategic about how humans learn. Make a copy of these lists, keep what is most appealing, and forget your own syllabus.

Be well.

Teaching during a pandemic requires endurance and compassion. Being well means building in real breaks in your summer, setting realistic expectations for you and your students, and getting the most out of your time and effort. The same goes for students: faculty and faculty developers are insisting that we should limit the amount of work we give students so that students can focus on the most important learning tasks. 

Since even more communication and professional work will be online, it may be a good time to whip inboxes into shape and manage student communications. More recommendations in our Productivity and Teaching Hacks collection.

See more of our Teaching During COVID-19 Tips.

Save and adapt a Google Doc version of this teaching tip.

Written by Christina Moore, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Oakland University. Others may share and adapt under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC.

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