This summer, college and university faculty across the country planned for a fall like no other. After the rapid and unprecedented movement to emergency remote teaching this spring, faculty were collectively exhausted. Yet they started to prepare for a fall that they expected to include a combination of online and hybrid modalities while awaiting guidance from their institutions about whether, and to what extent, campuses would reopen.
We in the field of higher education monitored daily announcements from institutional leaders that proposed opening scenarios ranging from fully online, to highly flexible, to modified hybrid, to fully in-person campus returns. Amid this environment of uncertainty, faculty adjusted curricula, redesigned courses, and adopted new digital tools and practices at unprecedented rates in order to address concerns that had surfaced in the spring term. Notably, faculty sought to ensure access, improve engagement, and provide sufficient feedback to students as well as convert content into more flexible formats that move easily across modalities.
This is the second report in an ongoing series designed to understand the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on teaching and learning in higher education; it serves as a follow-up to our first report, Time for Class – A National Survey of Faculty During COVID-19, which was released in early July. The current report aims to surface the challenges and concerns of faculty as they prepared their courses for the fall term and gauge their attitudes toward institutional policies and support. Specifically, it focuses on pedagogy, digital learning tool adoption, and views on student equity. The overarching goal of this special research series is to capture, amplify, and contribute to the stories of the faculty population. More than 3,500 faculty at over 1,500 higher education institutions nationwide have thoughtfully shared their experiences though survey responses and targeted focus group discussions.
Attitudes about the potential of digital learning are shifting to be more positive as increasing numbers of faculty are exposed to new digital learning tools and techniques. Institutions have elevated the extent to which they are investing in scaled digital learning infrastructure and supporting faculty and students, with 2-year institutions and their focus on teaching and learning leading the way across several measures of faculty sentiment. However, as we collectively navigate a “new normal” in higher education, it is imperative that we continue to monitor the impact of this grand digital learning experiment and its impact on students so we can ensure that every student everywhere is able to learn.