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What Will Post-Pandemic College Classrooms Look Like For UC Schools?

Michael Dennin is Vice Provost for teaching and learning at UC Irvine.( screenshot UC Regents meeting)
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With a full semester of online learning completed for hundreds of thousands of University of California students, the UC Regents are reviewing how the pandemic will drive reforms and shape the post-pandemic classroom.

“The pandemic, I hate to say this, has been our friend,” Michael Dennin, UC Irvine’s vice provost of teaching and learning, told the Regents Academic and Student Affairs committee on Wednesday. “It's allowed us to experience even deeper: what does it mean to be a UC course?”

Speaking at a committee’s discussion was titled “The Future of Instruction: Designing Equitable Classrooms and Technology-Enhanced Learning at the University of California,” Dennin shared several pandemic takeawaysfrom his campus, including:

  • Students benefit greatly from the flexibility of online learning

  • Faculty banded together to shift to online learning, and the collective effort can help improve post-pandemic teaching

  • Faculty should employ technology such as recording lectures and live online chat rooms more freely than before

Earlier this month, UC President Michael Drake announced that the 10 UC campuses will return to in-person instruction this fall. The much larger California State University system made the same announcement in December. Both systems are likely to issue broad guidance, but the details of safety measures inside and outside classrooms and how classes will be offered will be up to administrators and faculty on each of the campuses.

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“It's likely that we will be in kind of a hybrid situation for a while where activities on campus are ramping up,” said Susannah Scott, divisional chair in UC Santa Barbara’s academic senate, the body that represents professors in matters of teaching.

Some of the key questions for campuses:

  • How large will in-person classes be?
  • What kind of social distance protocols will there be?
  • Will all in-person classes offer enrolled students the option to attend online?
  • Will faculty be entirely responsible for the workload to create in-person and online classes?
  • Will faculty who choose not to return to campus be able to teach entirely online?

The shift to online learning has left a lot of students behind, including students who don’t have access to reliable internet or devices. Faculty, including Scott, said campus administrators are aware of these divides as they create fall classes.

But some online learning practices have closed learning gaps.

“There are some practices that are so great, that I am worried about them becoming optional,” said UC Student Regent Alexis Atsilvsgi Zaragoza, who’s a UC Berkeley undergrad.

One of those practices -- recording lectures so that students could watch them as their schedule permitted -- helped students with disabilities and students who are unable to attend in-person, she said.

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