Back for the fifth iteration—and all virtual for the first time—Northwestern’s TEACHx symposium was held over three days, May 11–13, 2021. Presented by Northwestern IT and the Office of the Provost, this year’s gathering sought answers to a pressing question across higher education—during periods of remote instruction, how do you build and sustain real human connections with students and each other? Presenters conferenced in from across the US to share their experiments, innovation, and successes with a record audience of more than 700 participants.
Session leaders and attendees represented 96 colleges and universities, including 10 of the 14 Big Ten institutions. Presenters shared generously, delving into the practice and theory behind the tools and techniques they have determined to be most useful when engaging with students and colleagues in new ways.
Higher Education’s Humanity Crisis
The conference kicked off May 11 with a keynote address by Jasmine Roberts, strategic communication lecturer at The Ohio State University. Professor Roberts enthused TEACHx attendees with her passionate delivery and practical approaches to infuse the processes, procedures, and traditions of higher education with radical empathy.
One moment in particular resonated powerfully with attendees—evidenced by the number of quote tweets on Twitter—as Professor Roberts asked, “What does it mean to humanize higher education?” “Teaching with mental health in mind. We are teaching students, not content. The content will come. But radical empathy for students and faculty and staff cannot and should not wait.” Professor Roberts’s full remarks are available to watch below.
We are teaching students, not content. The content will come. But radical empathy for students and faculty and staff cannot and should not wait.
Other “Mic Drop” Moments
Beyond the keynote, almost 70 other presentations, panels, and workshops took place at TEACHx 2021. A popular topic at TEACHx centered on the use of digital environments to recreate real-world scenarios where students can take environmental factors into their decision-making process, even when travel to the relevant location is not possible (and, not just because of COVID-19) – looking at you International Space Station!
A trio of instructors from Penn State—Amy Kuntz, Eileen Grodziak, and Kate Morgan—upped the wow-factor with their presentation on how immersive reality can provide “dimensional” learning with 360-degree image and video tours, allowing students to explore a true virtual capture of real environments. As presenter Kate Morgan said, “Developing the digital literacy of students is not just about consuming, it’s about interacting, communicating, and teaching them how to create.”
Developing the digital literacy of students is not just about consuming, it’s about interacting, communicating, and teaching them how to create.
Taking that appeal of immersive reality learning experience one step farther, a pair from Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science—William White and Austin Lopez McDonald—developed video games to test the decision-making logic of budding business managers. These games are built on interactive stories supplemented with video-gaming elements such as color graphics, sound, motion, time pressure, dynamic scoring, and real-time feedback. The presenters noted games of this nature are costly and potentially time-prohibitive to introduce, especially because there is no existing out-of-the-box platform available to create the games. However, they were clear their fall trial using the games in an organizational behavior course demonstrated the overwhelming value of using these tools to connect with students.
Many of this year's TEACHx sessions were pre-recorded for on-demand viewing. In fact, the fourth most popular session was a pre-recorded video from a pair of Northwestern instructors in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Elena Lanza and Reyes Moran detailed their strategic use of Zoom breakout rooms to rave reviews. The session helped instructors to re-image the possibilities of extending student connections around language in layered ways. Watch the session below:
See You Next Year!
TEACHx is set to return next May, and possibly even in a hybrid format to both utilize the well-received elements of the virtual conference and reclaim the interactive nature of an in-person event. Be sure to follow the TEACHx Twitter page for just-in-time updates and supplemental TEACHxperts happenings throughout the year.
Hope to see everyone at #TEACHx22!