Reimagining the UW Classroom

During the pandemic, professors have creatively adapted to online teaching.

Student wearing face mask works on laptop outside

The pandemic has “forced us to rethink how we work with our students,” says Steve Cramer, vice provost for instructional continuity and academic affairs. Bryce Richter

On the final day of remote classes last fall, students in one of Assistant Professor Mou Banerjee’s history courses surprised her with a gesture that nearly brought her to tears.

One by one, the students held up homemade posters in front of their computer cameras, revealing a series of heartfelt thank-you messages.

“We could all feel how much she was giving to us every single day in class, and we wanted to give something back to her,” says Ellie Asher x’24.

The gesture was one small reflection of how UW–Madison instructors are making strong connections with their students— and the appreciation students feel in return.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic forced many courses online last year, UW instructors have been investing great effort into making their virtual classrooms engaging and inclusive. A campus project is now collecting some of those stories, including Banerjee’s, on the UW’s instructional continuity website. The project provides a forum for instructors to share what has worked for them while spotlighting some of the hard work undertaken by faculty members during a challenging time.

Jason Kwan, an associate professor of pharmacy, plunged himself into learning basic animation skills so that he could convey complicated concepts visually. Wei Dong wanted his students to feel at home in his virtual classroom, so he turned his basement into a teaching studio that mimicked the physical environment of a classroom as much as possible. Dong, a professor of design studies at the School of Human Ecology, painted a wall Badger red, installed studio lighting, and added a giant “W” as a backdrop.

“While we look forward to the end of the global pandemic, it has forced us to rethink how we work with our students,” says Steve Cramer ’79, vice provost for instructional continuity and academic affairs. “As difficult as this time has been for everyone, I truly believe most instructors will come out of it as better and more effective teachers.”

Published in the Summer 2021 issue

Tags: Faculty, Teaching and learning

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