Lessons Learned from the Pandemic – Summer 2021 Newsletter 1

By June 16, 2021April 5th, 2024Smeal Academy Newsletter

Summer 2021 Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

The goal of the Smeal Academy is to equip everyone with best practices and strategies for teaching, learning, and technology to ensure the Smeal community is prepared to respond to the unique teaching challenges of this time. Throughout the summer, we will be sending emails with practical tips and information, providing live sessions, and holding virtual consultations.

This week, we share resources that can help you reflect on the lessons we have learned from teaching through a pandemic.

As pandemic-related rules and restrictions continue to ease in our communities and campuses, we find ourselves needing to make decisions about how to move forward and prepare for the next semester in our classrooms. While we may anticipate the return of some beloved rituals and routines from our “pre-pandemic” practice, it is important to also reflect on all that we have learned over the past year, and how some of those practices may continue to be implemented to invigorate and enliven our return to on-campus teaching! The following are a few examples, as well as links to resources that may support your reflection.

Keep communicating!

Never has the importance of effective communication been more apparent than over the past year. Students will always appreciate clear communication plans and defined expectations around course participation delivered via Canvas. That will never change.

Not only that, but we have all shared in healthy collaboration around teaching and learning across the college, the University, and beyond. That sharing has made us all better educators. Let’s keep the conversations going!

Bring technology back into the classroom with you!

Yes, you can (and should) bring technology back into the classroom with you! Maybe now you manage Zoom breakout rooms like a pro or set up Google Jam boards with the best of them. Leverage that technology expertise to allow for greater flexibility in your classroom! The more ways in which students and instructors can participate in the classroom, contribute to discussions, and share their ideas, the more learning improves.

Focus on what matters most

Many of us found this year that we had to be very intentional about what to include in our classes due to time constraints. Continue to focus on what matters most. That is good guidance for teaching — and life!

Speaking of what matters most…

Our patience and compassion muscles have been majorly tested and strengthened through our pandemic experiences. We may be going back into the classroom and workplace, but we now have much more appreciation for the challenges we all face. Let’s continue to hold that in mind.


If you would like to read more reflections from educators preparing to return to the classroom, you may want to check out one of these articles. Also, join us in July for a Smeal Academy Session focused on what our teaching faculty plan to continue into the next semester.

Darby, F. (2021, May 5). 7 Dos & Don’ts for Post-Pandemic Teaching with Technology. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Glantz, E., Gamrat, C., Lenze, L., & Bardzell, J. (2021, March 16). Improved Student Engagement in Higher Education’s Next Normal. EDUCAUSE Review.

Gooblar, D. (2021, March 24). Our Slimmed-Down Pandemic Pedagogy. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Current News

New Penn State Sign-In

Penn State will replace its WebAccess portal with a new sign-in method starting July 7. For more information, please see this article.

Learning Design Summer Camp

Penn State’s learning design community, including instructional designers, instructional production specialists, librarians, faculty, educational technologists, educational web and multimedia developers, are cordially invited to register for this year’s online version of LDSC. Registration is open now and available until July 12.

This year, LDSC is scheduled for two half-day virtual format sessions on July 19 and 20. As in years past, the camp will be an informal, University-wide effort to explore innovative and creative ways to improve teaching and learning at Penn State. Join us to share what we’ve learned as crucial agents of change through the pandemic, and to explore how we’ll use the lessons we’ve learned.

Upcoming Live Sessions

Inclusive Design Strategies for Mixed Audience Classes

Not all students will be able to return to campus this Fall. Will you be teaching students both in the classroom and online? Come hear some best practices to ensure a great learning experience for all students (while keeping things manageable for you).

Join us Tuesday, June 24 from noon to 1 p.m., via Zoom.

Yes, You Can Keep Doing It! Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

As we prepare for the new normal in teaching and learning, let’s pause to reflect on the lessons we’ve learned over the past year. We will be joined by a panel of Smeal faculty sharing what they plan to carry forward into their teaching next semester.

Join us Wednesday, July 14th from noon to 1 p.m., via Zoom.

NOTE:  Recordings and resources from previous sessions can be found on our eLDIG Website.

Tips of the Week

Tip #1: Collaborative Documents

Did you use collaborative documents like Google Docs or Jam boards to monitor remote synchronous group work? Keep using those in the face-to-face classroom! Collaborative documents are a great way to see what groups are talking about, especially in cases where students may “clam up” when you try to engage them in face-to-face conversation. It is an effective way to determine which groups might need some redirection, as well as capture and record what happens in small groups.

Tip #2: Engaged Classroom Strategy

Continue to make your classroom time active! Consider providing students with short, recorded videos ahead of class so that they come prepared to engage in more active-learning and discussion exercises in class. Note: Remember to make sure that you do not post video recording from prior semesters that include student names/comments/responses. All student images, names, chat, and other data must be deleted.


Helpful Websites


Check out the eLDIG website for more resources and support.

Contact Us

Email us at: course-support@smeal.psu.edu or fill out our Remote Teaching Support form.