April 2020: From Beth Fisher-Yoshida

Dear SPS Faculty,

Now that you are past the initial emergency phase of reworking of all your classes to be remote, you have entered into the transitioning phase when remote learning is the new norm. With that shift comes chances for you to take a step back and think beyond survival mode to considering ways of how to do what you are doing online, better.

It reminds me of the Japanese word kiki (危機)which is a combination of the words danger and opportunity that can adequately describe what you are experiencing. You use this term in times of crisis and that is often the case in how we experience change and the unknown. Yes, you are in crises of differing degrees depending on your situation and being asked to suddenly shift from in-person instruction to all online is a shock to the system. Plus, you are being asked to do all this in the confines of your homes, amidst other family members and dynamics, and whatever else you are going through beyond teaching, in these pandemic times.

In looking at the double meanings entwined in the word kiki, I would like to focus on the opportunity part because that is when creativity has a chance to reign supreme! One example of this is the thought process I went through in transferring what would have been an in-person, intensive, experiential block week course, into an online course. I had to take a step back and think through the essence of the course, the learning outcomes I wanted students to have, the content and skills I wanted them to master, the modalities available and basic adult learning andragogy. It pushed me to consider the students and many unknowns, such as their learning environment, general mental and physical health and state of mind, their geographic locations and time zones and how best to utilize synchronous class sessions.

It will be interesting to see how this develops and how the course is received. I hope we can share tips and best practices about what is working well in our online learning courses. Please make suggestions on what you would find useful and how you would like to share and learn. SPS does lead the way on this at Columbia so it is our time to feel grateful we have this expertise in-house and to shine.

Thank you,

Beth Fisher-Yoshida