T4LC Blog to Close the Social Distance

Day One, Remote Teaching for Learning. 03162020

Virtual handshake, high-five, fist bump, hug.

Thank you for checking out this new blog.

Consideration and patience.

Chancellor Cartwright & Provost Ramchand emphasized these two characteristics in their community-wide message, yesterday. How do we practice these virtues and enact them in ways that will bolster our students and colleagues? It seems to me that many of us will be experimenting with ways to bring out our unique strengths as scholar-teachers to enact this pedagogy of care which our leadership is signaling. Here are my musings. Here’s what comes to mind.

Good humor, alone, cannot carry the learning environment. Still, it can enliven it. Humorous stories, memes, cartoons—these are amazing tools for lightening the mood so people can carry on in trying situations. Personally, I don’t have a special talent for telling jokes. Yet, I do enjoy funny. Laughter energizes all of us, and can be a powerful force to close the distance. ?

How comfortable are we with sharing agency with our students at this moment? If you are inclined toward collaborative brainstorming, I suggest tapping your students for ideas and strategies on how to optimize and customize your shared online learning environment. This is a method of Co-Design, which my co-author and I have found to be extremely effective with adult learners. (Our book comes out soon. More on that in a future blogpost.) Yes, as you are comfortable, inquire of your students how they might redesign some assignments in response to this unprecedented situation.

Netiquette. Netiquette is tricky. On the one hand, this Week One soft launch gives us a little more time to see what “guidelines” we want to emphasize. On the other, you may want to establish some community agreements straightaway that could help them tremendously. For example, when your class meets synchronously, you could tell them it is their job to resist urges to multi-task so they are able to engage fully. Most of us are overconfident about our ability to multi-task and still be productive. In the end, it is the depth of engagement and learning that suffers. What helps with this? Turn off computer and email notifications, silence cell phones, even close the doors of the rooms they are in (if that’s possible). You might even poll them to learn how they successfully “tune in,” so they can hear one another’s strategies.

Patience is a form of compassion. We do not know what our students are facing now that they have left campus. We don’t know what it is like for them up in Chicago, down in Texas, or right nearby in St. Louis. The only thing we know for sure is that they are navigating unchartered and unplanned circumstances in during a global pandemic. A calm and reassuring teacher who can be flexible and agile in responding to students’ needs is who we are all called to be, right now, today, on Day One of this bizarre sojourn.

Zoom with us in discussion forums and other helpful sessions via Gateway or by appointment via teaching@missouri.edu. Find your community with us. We’re here to listen. We are here to support you.


Tori Mondelli, Ph.D.