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Update: The Q&A section below has been updated in light of the CRT's 8/2 announcement:

This time of year is always an exciting and challenging time for Lehigh instructors, as we finalize our course plans, put the finishing touches on syllabi, and prepare ourselves for the first day of class. This year, the excitement and the challenges are particularly acute, as many of us--faculty and students alike--have been away from physical classrooms for a long time. With this transition in mind, I am writing to share some information, answer a few questions, and offer some guidance about teaching at Lehigh in fall semester 2021 (the information below summarizes many of the general ideas shared by presenters and participants at last week's CITL Summer Workshop for Lehigh Instructors.)

Additional resources can be found at http://citl.lehigh.edu/resources.  If you have questions about anything listed here or need help from LTS on any of these topics, please start by contacting the Help Desk or submitting a Help Ticket.

First, some observations and reminders
  • With very few exceptions, all courses in fall semester 2021 will be conducted in person.

  • At present, Lehigh policy requires masks be properly worn in all indoor public and common spaces regardless of vaccination status. This includes all classrooms. Check the current mask policy so you are aware of what is permitted in your classorom. (As of 9/2/21, policy prohibits students from removing their masks, even temporaily to take a sip of a drink. Instructors may remove their mask briefly to drink or may use a drinking straw that can be used with a mask on.)

  • Lehigh students followed classroom mask-wearing policies in academic year 20-21, but may need reminders as we get started this semester. Instructors have found that simply pointing at your own mask will suffice if a student forgets.

  • Our students are very excited to start learning once again in our classrooms. They can’t wait to be together with you, connect with each other, and re-engage with our campus community. If you have been on campus this week, you have likely already sensed their excitement and eagerness.

  • They also have some uncertainties. For many, this will be the first time in eighteen months they've been in a physical classroom; for some, it will be their first time in a classroom at Lehigh. This year’s seniors are the only returning undergraduates who have completed a full ‘normal’ year at Lehigh; our juniors left campus after spring break of their freshman year and many were away from campus as sophomores; current sophomores had a very atypical first year at Lehigh; and incoming first-year students are starting college after a year and a half of remote, hyflex, or hybrid high school classes. This all means that the majority of our undergraduates have never experienced a “normal Lehigh,” and so will not have had first-hand experience with campus norms, expectations, traditions, facilities, services, and events.

  • Some of our students will be arriving with general concerns about their health and well being, others with uncertainties about their academic readiness, and some with disabilities or mental health diagnoses. I think we will all start this semester with a heightened awareness of and empathy for the many different challenges our students have faced... and will continue to face in the coming semester.

  • At our recent CITL Summer Workshop, several presenters shared information about our how our students are doing and shared concrete tips for instructors: Professor Lucy Napper (Psychology) and her research team presented the results of their recent study of Lehigh students’ sense of belonging; librarian Jasmine Woodson shared advice on incorporating inclusion through course materials; and CITL’s Greg Skutches facilitated a panel discussion in which six current Lehigh students discussed their recent experiences as learners and their hopes for the coming academic year. If you are looking to deepen your understanding of this topic, I encourage you to view those presentations.

Second, some tips
  • Begin your first class meeting with an honest acknowledgement of the many challenges you and your students have faced since March 2020. Your students appreciate it when you share your thoughts about the realities of the present moment and about ongoing challenges. And they appreciate it even more when you invite them to share their stories, hopes, and concerns. Create time during class for brief check-ins, where students spend the first few minutes of class talking to a partner about some topic. The topic could be general (e.g., “How was your weekend?” “How are you feeling today?”), content-related (e.g., “What was the most interesting or confusing part of the reading/homework?”), or designed to spark their curiosity about the day’s subject. See more suggestions from Lehigh faculty ...or add your own.  (Looking for general advice on your first day? See CITL's "Getting Started Teaching at Lehigh: Ten Tips" or James Lang's Chronicle article, "How to Teach a Good First Day of Class")

  • As an instructor, you may be among the first to notice if a student needs additional support beyond what they are receiving. It is helpful if you give them permission to seek your support, inform them of campus resources, and do your part to help them feel connected to you, their classmates, and their community. Reach out to students by email if you have a concern or if you notice they missed a class or did not complete a required assignment. If you don't hear back, submit a 'Student Concerns' notice so the Dean of Students staff know to reach out to them or, if the matter is already having an impact on their academic performance, submit a Section 3 notice so their advisors know as well.   For more guidance on this topic, see  Promoting Student Well-Being: A Resource Guide for Faculty and Staff

  • Your students will benefit when you take time to introduce them to Lehigh classroom norms, policies, and expectations. And they will benefit more from hearing from you about your specific hopes and expectations for the semester. You may find it helpful to address these matters in your syllabus, discuss them in the first week, and share reminders regularly throughout the semester during classroom interactions and course communications. (This advice applies to all aspects of classroom culture; however, if you are looking for specific guidance on creating a culture that promotes academic integrity, consult the following documents: promoting academic integrity in written assignments, in exams, or remotely)

  • Many of us have become used to sharing more about ourselves with our students--we have Zoomed into each other's homes, met pets or family members, and shared how we have been managing daily life during a global pandemic. Many instructors plan to continue this shift in the teacher-student relationship, by continuing to show up for students, by sharing brief stories of our lives beyond Lehigh, and by actively demonstrating concern for student well being through frequent check-ins, offers to help when you can, and reminders of university support resources.

  • As you teach, seek always to connect the following two perspectives on your students: where they actually are right now and where you want them to be by the end of the course. Pre-course surveys or early-semester activities can provide insight into who your students are and can illuminate what work lies ahead for you and for them. And early-semester feedback surveys are a good way to get a sense of how things are going for your students and how they are progressing toward course goals.

  • In-person instruction will not be exactly like it was two years ago. We have all learned a great deal as we redesigned courses, rethought assignments and assessments, adopted new instructional technologies, and developed active, engaged learning strategies to enhance student learning. At the recent CITL Summer Workshop, faculty shared ways they plan to apply these learnings in the coming semester. [View presentations "Building on What We've Learned" "What Stays? What Goes?" and "Universal Design for Learning"]

  • We recommend you continue using a blended learning model, which means using a well-designed Course Site to create a course backbone that includes not only the syllabus, course policies, and course content, but also learning activities and opportunities for interaction, feedback, and assessment. Doing this from the start of the semester will help you create rich, well-structured courses that extend learning and enhance flexibility should circumstances affect our ability to meet in person. You may want to revisit Lehigh's checklist for reviewing remote or blended courses or browse the "Teaching, Learning, and Technology" section of the LTS Knowledge Base.

  • Above all, we hope you will continue to seek ways to create an active, engaged, inclusive classroom. In an age when information and content is nearly ubiquitous, what your students likely most need from you is help understanding which information matters; your expert guidance in how to think and work in your field; and guidance in working with others to solve problems and create knowledge. Spark their curiosity, then help them acquire tools that will enable them to solve problems, develop skills, and gain confidence in their own knowledge, understanding, and abilities. When lecturing, use interactive techniques to engage students; cycle regularly between explanations and active learning approaches; challenge students to apply their knowledge and give them a chance to receive feedback from you or from peers [See CITL's "Structuring Class Meetings" "Inclusive Teaching" and "Active Learning Guide" ]

Finally, some practical Q&A about Fall 2021
  • Which masks are best for in-person teaching?

    • No easy answer here. Start with masks that are appropriate for decreasing risk of Covid transmission, then experiment with what works best for you in the classroom. Some instructors prefer surgical masks. Others prefer the K95 or KN95 masks because they have more structure, which holds them away from your mouth. Others opt for standard cloth masks. There is no single best answer but you will almost certainly find that some masks work better than others when teaching.

  • How can I best project my voice in the classroom when masked?

    • Take good care of your voice as you may find yourself out of practice projecting your voice in a classroom. When speaking through a mask, you may need to speak more slowly, loudly, enunciate more carefully, and pay more attention to your diction. If you are concerned that your voice may not project and need a mic to amplify your voice in the classroom, submit a Classroom Technology LTS Help request ticket at http://help.lehigh.edu

  • What if a student in my class is unable to attend a class meeting due to not feeling well or due to a required period of isolation/quarantine?

    • At present, the general guidance from the Provost's Office's is to treat that student as you would have in pre-pandemic times; that is, make reasonable accommodations to provide them with course materials, assignments, and instructional videos where possible, encourage them to connect with classmates for notes (having a rotating class note-taker can help), and make yourself available for additional help during office hours.

    • [updated 9/2/21] Instructors may, if they choose, shift to remote or hybrid instruction for the week of Sept 6-10.

    • [updated 8/30/21] If the percentage of students in isolation for COVID in a class (section) is greater than 30%, the instructor can move to remote instruction until enough students return from isolation to drop below that number.  

    • As a general rule, Lehigh is not using a Hybrid/Hyflex approach this semester for undergraduates and is expecting the majority of instruction to take place in-classroom; However, in one of the situations described above, you may elect to shift temporarily to a Hybrid/Hyflex approach.  If you do, first review LTS Guidance for Hybrid Teaching: Strategies for Instructors with both In-classroom and Remote Students, which includes not only pedagogical advice but also instructions for using the technology in your classroom, requesting additional technology, selecting alternative approaches, or requesting help.

    • If you have recorded videos from past semesters, you can share them with students who have to miss class (or make them available to students in general) 

  • What if I am unable to attend a class meeting due to not feeling well (but I'm feeling well enough to teach) or due to a required isolation/quarantine or due to travel?

    Whichever of the following options you select, communicate your plans clearly to your students, prepare in advance so that you and your students are ready to make the most of the approach you are taking, and check with your chair, director, or dean’s office if you have any questions about whether this approach is suitable for the course you are teaching,  how frequently this may be done, etc.   

    • Option 1: Shift your course to a remote format. (As in recent semesters, follow Lehigh’s recommended practices from AY 20-21 for teaching remotely--and keep your department chair, program director, or associate dean informed of any significant modifications to your instructional plans, as appropriate.)

    • Option 2: If you are in a HyFlex 1, Hyflex 2, or HyFlex 2A classroom, and you want to give students the option of still meeting as a class, consider assigning a student to log in to the classroom computer and launch the class Zoom. It's up to you if you want to have everyone come to class or if you wish to give students the option to come or meet in Zoom.  Either way, use interactive lecturing techniques/active learning techniques to help students connect to you and to one another.  If you want to use this option but don't have the appropriate technology, submit a classroom technology request and LTS will help if equipment is available.

    • Option 3: For small to mid-size classes where students are active with group work/collaborative learning/active learning, have students come to the classroom, sit in assigned groups, and log onto their laptops (individually or one per group) so they can see you in Zoom-- then after an introduction and some time spent on lecture/instruction, use active learning techniques to get them talking together, working on a course-related question, etc.   If you are teaching fully remotely this semster, you may wish, after a few weeks of these meetings, to ask students (e.g., with a Google Forms survey) if they prefer coming to class or if they'd like to meet on Zoom, then assign them to groups based on their preference, with in-person students coming to class to meet in their groups and remote students meeting in Zoom breakout rooms during the active learning parts of the class. If you are in a HyFlex 1, Hyflex 2 or HyFlex 2A classroom, you can assign a student tolog into the classroom computer and launch the Zoom, with students facing the camera a U shape. From there you can teach be there with them, offer interactive lectures, field questions, put them into groups for active learning, etc.

    • Option 4: Assign students to study groups so they can continue to connect with their classmates. You can make this required, though if you do, first survey them to find out their availability and then make groups that way.  Or, you can survey them to find out if they are interested in joining such a group and then let them work together to find times to meet.  

  • Can I re-use instructional videos I created for my remote teaching?

    • You may have invested hours creating instructional videos and it certainly makes sense for your current students to benefit from them. On the other hand, since students right now may feel burnt out on watching videos, overuse of instructional videos in courses this fall may diminish their in-person learning experience. If you decide to reuse videos or create new ones, follow these tips for ensuring they are of high production quality. Or now might be the time to adopt some ‘flipped learning’ approaches, where students watch brief instructional videos before coming to class, then engage in highly participatory, experiential learning activities during class meetings. If you go this route, please keep the following considerations in mind: (a) instructional videos should be of good production quality and not too long (aim for 12-18 minutes tops); (b) instructional videos alone are not an adequate replacement for in-class meetings; (c) if lecture is replaced by online videos, in-person class meetings should be highly engaging and interactive (i.e., avoid having students watch a recorded lecture before class and then hear more lecture during class); (d) be mindful not to assign an excessive amount of asynchronous coursework outside of classroom meeting times (it's easy to over-assign work when taking this approach).