The World at a Crossroads
Peter Salovey
Michael Marsland—Yale University
By Peter Salovey, President, Yale University
August 11, 2021 9:39 PM EDT

Universities around the world transitioned rapidly to emergency remote teaching during the pandemic. At Yale, we benefited from our longstanding focus on innovative pedagogical development, and our centralized resource for this work—the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning—enabled us to pivot successfully to remote teaching in March 2020. We have learned a great deal out of necessity since then, but one lesson stands out: the effective use of technology in teaching benefits students while also helping universities build institutional resilience.

The fluid nature of the pandemic demonstrates just how rapidly our lives—and our universities—can be transformed. At Yale, the pandemic has accelerated the familiarity of faculty members with the use of digital resources to improve teaching, stimulate learning, and create new educational models.

As we look forward to a return to our physical classrooms in the fall, many faculty members plan to retain the digital tools they utilized during remote instruction to augment their classes. Some will provide additional office hours or discussion sessions through online platforms. Without having to worry about the time and cost involved in travel, others will invite guest speakers from around the world.

Faculty members are exploring new modalities for teaching as well. Many will repurpose course materials they created for remote teaching, such as recorded lectures, to make the best use of class time with students and provide an expanded set of learning resources. Remote teaching formats that used transcripts, captions, and other digital tools also increase accessibility of course content for all students. In some courses, traditional exam formats are being adapted or replaced by assessments that provide ongoing feedback.

During the pandemic, Yale’s faculty and graduate students continued to contribute new knowledge and solutions for pressing global challenges through groundbreaking research and scholarship, while utilizing digital archives, data sharing methods, and online meeting apps to include undergraduates in their work. Such tools will enhance in-person research for undergraduates once the pandemic is behind us.

This is an exciting moment for Yale faculty as the baseline knowledge of diverse teaching practices is at an all-time high. In the coming years, we will build on the insights gained during remote learning and the unbridled creativity of our faculty. Yale will continue to encourage the development of new teaching formats such as blended course models and educational programs that allow students to take advantage of digital platforms for parts of the semester and still benefit from in-person lectures and interactions with peers on campus.

By force of a global emergency, Yale and many other universities around the world are pursuing our educational missions differently, but with conviction and ingenuity, we continue to teach the next generation of leaders. We have a responsibility to apply what we have learned from this period to create a more resilient future. Although in-person teaching remains central to our educational experience, new technologies help us expand access and blend the best of two worlds: one physical and one virtual.

Peter Salovey is president of Yale University

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