When future historians tell the story of 2020 at Duke what will they say? Of course it is too soon to tell. And it’s not up to us, anyway. Or is it?
To me, the most important educational challenges are yet to come. Not the most urgent ones, or the most stressful ones. Those are (hopefully) behind us. But the important ones.
Those will be about learning the lessons of what worked (and what didn’t) in the pandemic and the response to it and using that knowledge to build a more equitable, just and resilient university of the future. We have an opportunity to shape the contours of the story.
To do that we have to pay attention. We have to really understand what happened in the last year. We need to honestly examine the impact of our efforts and share that knowledge openly within our community and beyond it. We have a collective responsibility to ensure Duke’s future strength for the benefit of those who come after us.
This report is our effort at Duke Learning Innovation to foster that reflection and start a campus-wide conversation. We are proud of what we achieved together with our partners across the University but also realistic about the limitations of “emergency remote teaching” and “flexible teaching” and the toll they have taken on our students and faculty.
We share this impact report in a spirit of reflection and desire for a better future, in which we hope you will join.
Associate Vice Provost for Digital Education and Innovation
Faculty Support Requests
The requests for help from faculty in 2020 more than doubled from the previous year, when we responded to 1,430 requests. We managed to respond to every request in roughly 24 hours, helping instructors with problems large and small. Sometimes we were able to quickly answer a question, while other requests required multiple hours of one-on-one support.
To meet the needs of as many faculty as possible, we conducted virtual workshops on topics ranging from assessment to Zoom. Though many of our planned, in-person events for early 2020 were canceled, we were able to reach 740 more instructors than in 2019 due to increased need and reduced barriers (such as having to travel to our off-campus office to attend a workshop).
New Coursera Enrollments
People around the world turned to Coursera for professional development, personal enrichment or even as supplemental materials for their courses. The 63 courses taught by Duke faculty gained over 2.1 million enrollments in 2020.
Conversations in Sakai
As the learning management system for Duke, Sakai provided an important space for asynchronous course interaction. Though Zoom facilitated thousands of synchronous conversations, usage of Sakai forums saw a 77% increase from 2019.
The World Health Organization issued a statement that a novel coronavirus has been identified in Wuhan, China.
Duke Kunshan University postponed classes in all programs until February 17 in response to concern over the novel coronavirus outbreak in China and overseas.
Learning Innovation partnered with DKU’s Center for Teaching and Learning to build a global, online university in three weeks. With 579 undergraduate students and over 100 faculty all scattered across time zones and with varying levels of internet access, Learning Innovation’s expertise in effective teaching practices and developing online learning programs was key to DKU’s successful pivot to remote teaching.
Learning Innovation also leveraged its partnership with Coursera to provide DKU students and faculty access to Coursera’s full catalog to use as supplemental learning materials.
In an effort to assist other colleges and universities as they decided how to proceed with remote teaching, ITHAKA S+R published a case study documenting the decision-making and implementation of DKU’s move to online teaching in a rapidly evolving situation.Read the Case Study
President Price announced that all in-person meetings would be suspended until further notice in an effort to minimize health and safety risks to Duke students, faculty, staff and the larger community. Spring Break was extended to allow students and instructors to transition to emergency remote learning, with classes resuming March 23.
In partnership with OIT, Learning Innovation quickly launched the Keep Teaching website to support instructors in the transition to emergency remote teaching. We were initially influenced by Indiana University’s Keep Teaching and Stanford University’s Teach Anywhere websites. Soon after launching the Keep Teaching website, we began sending Keep Teaching Updates, a regular newsletter to 9,000 faculty and faculty emeriti to share resources, reinforce important updates, and - most importantly - let them know that Learning Innovation was available to help them through email, office hours and workshops.
Due to the success of DKU’s use of Coursera as part of its emergency remote teaching strategy, Coursera announced its Coursera for Campus initiative, providing free access to its course catalog of over 3,800 courses and 400 specializations to any impacted university in the world.The Duke 2020 Access Learning Program
Over 1,000 Duke students enrolled in at least one summer session course in 2020, a significant increase over any prior year. We focused our time helping instructors prepare to teach online, accelerated summer courses.
Duke Today recognized Learning Innovation’s efforts in their weekly Dedicated Devils column. Kim Bethea, director of the Academic Resource Center, nominated Learning Innovation for the award, saying: “They did a tremendous job helping faculty transition to remote learning for the second half of spring break as well as for the summer. The resources and support they provided to faculty were exceptional.”
Learning Innovation partnered with the Graduate School to offer a series of online workshops to help graduate teaching assistants learn how to teach online. Workshop topics included managing virtual classrooms, getting started with Sakai, using Zoom breakout rooms, facilitating inclusive online discussions and wrapping up the term. Demand for workshops was high enough that the series was offered multiple times and continue to run in early 2021.
The ongoing pandemic made it difficult to predict exactly what the approaching Fall semester would look like, but it was clear that Duke’s approach to remote teaching would need to evolve yet again. Learning Innovation developed Flexible Teaching to help faculty create the most resilient, flexible courses possible. This new website featured a suite of self-service support materials including three flexible teaching guides, blueprints to help faculty envision how flexible teaching could work for their course, and a course design planner to help them work through the site and redesign their course in four weeks. To date, the website has reached over 18,950 unique users and garnered over 63,200 pageviews.
Learning Innovation wanted to recognize Duke instructors for their incredible efforts to transition their courses from classroom to remote delivery. These sneak peeks into their virtual classrooms highlight their empathy, grace and creativity in their endeavors to ensure Duke’s academic continuity during a time of uncertainty.
Though many members of the Duke community were able to return to campus for Fall, it was a semester unlike any other. Learning Innovation continued providing comprehensive support to Duke instructors throughout the Fall semester. As faculty grew more confident in delivering their courses in a variety of ways, Learning Innovation remained and remains available to enable the continuity of Duke’s learning community.
“The students have been absolutely fantastic. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how many of them would feel comfortable participating in this new format. But to their immense credit, soon after we began class, a number of ‘hands’ were in the air and there was widespread participation throughout the class. I’m not surprised, given the caliber of students we have here, but it is heartening to see so many students engaging so thoughtfully with the material and sharing their views even in this new setting, in a difficult time. I could not be prouder of them, or more grateful to be teaching them this semester.”
"How Duke Keeps Teaching" Submission
“The training and support for our great online pivot here has been simply incredible, even exciting. But also, and I think this is important to acknowledge for all of us, this is not what any of us signed up for and there was something missing. At the end of class, despite the fact that it had all gone well, I felt a hole. I missed the buzz of quiet conversation as I entered the classroom, the crinkle of students opening their potato chip bags, and my ability to walk around the room in a way that helped me emphasize a point, clarify a concept or ask a hard question."
"How Duke Keeps Teaching" Submission
“I'm very grateful for your support, and this is really hard. Everything takes much longer than it would, from recording and editing videos to setting up assessments in Sakai to explaining a concept live using a mouse and a virtual whiteboard... But the feedback I'm getting from instructors is that students are overwhelmed, like the rest of us!”
“My students have been amazing. But I am starting to see the effects of not being in the same physical space and teaching synchronously. It is hard not being in the classroom space. I can see screen exhaustion. I also think the pandemic and how they've had to adjust is taking a toll.”
“After reading through Learning Innovation's online materials and participating in a couple of Office Hours sessions… I had a much better sense of what tools are available and got great ideas for some best practices to implement. Overall, I really enjoyed the process of overhauling my class to fit this new delivery model -- everyone could use a little editing, right?”
“I feel that there were a lot of resources provided for us, but students were still sad, depressed, frustrated, stressed, moreso than in other semesters. It felt like there was nothing I could do more to help them feel supported or uplifted. It was agonizing. I tried to be crazily flexible with assignments, paying attention to wellness (and referring where possible), probing individuals during office hours, etc. I didn't know what else to do.”
The Washington Post
Harvard Business Review
Inside Higher Ed
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Out of crises new opportunities and innovations can emerge. In order to sustain the digital learning innovations that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic, we launched Carry the Innovation Forward. Learning Innovation will provide staff support and funding for selected proposals that focus on innovative learning research, new learning technology exploration, re-envisioning a course or program for flexible or online learning, or faculty learning communities. We look forward to working with faculty to help Duke realize its post-pandemic future.
Learn more about what our teams have done this year, what they’re working on now and what they have planned next.See What We're Doing in 2021