by Jackie Huntoon, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
It goes without saying that we are all surrounded by uncertainty right now. Nevertheless, Michigan Tech will continue to offer classes and conduct research no matter what happens.
When Governor Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order was first announced, many of us began to think the fall 2020 semester might be affected. It’s now safe to assume that it will be different from other fall semesters—but we are already moving down a path that will make things feel much the same for students, faculty, and staff.
Our experiences this spring have proven that we can conduct effective remote instruction when we must. While there have been some bumps in the road, we’ve received kudos from the majority of our students and their families. We’re trying hard, and our students appreciate our effort. Some are even sharing their appreciation through song.
Our faculty’s willingness to make enormous changes when necessary gives me confidence that we will only get better at delivering a great Michigan Tech education in new ways as we enter the summer months. Everyone is working hard to support each other. For example, people across campus are sharing challenges, ideas, and stories about their experiences during “Idea Pub” events cohosted by the IDEA Hub and Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). The University Senate, already very active this year, has passed a series of proposals to support faculty and students. The CTL is keeping everyone updated using its Instructional Continuity web page and providing resources to faculty, including equipment, training, workshops, and personalized coaching.
By the end of spring semester, about half of Michigan Tech’s instructional personnel will have completed a professional development program designed to increase their familiarity with technologies and pedagogies that enhance student learning in online and remote instructional environments. Another 200 are signed up to take the training over the summer (thank you, everyone, for doing this). With the support of the CTL and IT, deans, chairs, and individual faculty are planning for every eventuality—even the possibility of having some students in the classroom, while other students participate from a remote location.
I’m very proud of how everyone worked together as we transitioned away from face-to-face instruction. It’s clear that we share a deep commitment to our students because even now that we’re not seeing them in person, we are continuing to support their academic and personal development every day. Agility is not typically associated with higher education, but we’ve just proven that we can be agile when the situation demands. We are also modeling problem-solving, creativity, teaming, and leadership for our students. We’re showing them how important these “soft” or transferrable skills are to success in the real world.
No one knows for certain when we will return to campus, though we all hope it will be sooner rather than later. And, while we don’t know exactly what the fall will bring, we do know we are going to be prepared. Michigan Tech is known for our hands-on, application-oriented approach to education, as well as our focus on real-world problems and issues. We’re proud of these traits—and we will continue to preserve and honor them in our future actions. This spring, we learned how to remain committed to our core values while the world changed around us. We have become more innovative and flexible than ever before.