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Academic Experts Weigh In On How the Pandemic is Shaping Higher Education

By Guest Author, Tyler McCloskey

In October 2021, 32 educators and experts joined the Turnitin Higher Education Americas Summit to discuss compelling topics in education and how the pandemic is shaping higher education. The world learned a lot over the past two years, however understanding how the pandemic will and continues to shape higher education may not be understood for years to come. These 32 experts in education had profound insights into how educators have adjusted their teaching to achieve their goals, engage their students, and positively impact learning despite everchanging classroom environments. What follows are the three most critical themes from their conversations.

  • The power of purposeful data: There has been a striking increase in the amount and quality of data in digital education. How can we leverage that for the greatest teaching and learning outcomes?
  • Fostering authentic learning: Nurturing trust between instructors and students helps to build positive learning environments where academic integrity is a mainstay and everyone can thrive.
  • Adaptability can determine classroom success: Being open to adapt technologies and practices from pandemic times reshapes the way we teach and learn moving forward.
October 2021, 32 educators and experts joined the Turnitin Higher Education Americas Summit to discuss compelling topics in education and how the pandemic is shaping higher education.

Below are detailed comments from the speakers on how to create stronger learning environments for students as well as how to create more resilient teaching communities for educators.

The power of purposeful data:

  • “We’ve transitioned since when I was a student into a culture fueled by academic research that shows that student success really doesn’t need to be these make or break events, but rather it should be a persistent engagement, so we know if the learner is actually benefiting.”
    Jerry Sheehan — Vice President and Chief Information Officer, San Diego State University
  • “We’re also using data to make decisions about our high impact courses where students might be experiencing certain barriers potentially with the summative assessments that are being provided or the lack of a variety of formative and summative combinations. We also are very interested in equity minded practices and culturally affirming training and learning teaching and learning for our students so from the data perspective we’re making decisions about which courses need more potential focus for course redesign.”
    Leslie Kennedy — Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Technology Services, California State University
  • “We’ve been able to show if you actually move your assessments to digital you have all this amazing data on student performance that lets you remediate a subset of students that are missing a concept and reteach a module the class missed. The end result is the licensed pass rate to be a lawyer, to be a nurse, to be a pharmacist goes up markedly because we can move the needle on graduation rate or professional pass rate. Assessments go digital and the data gets analyzed.”
    Chris Caren — CEO, Turnitin

Fostering authentic learning:

  • “When it comes to testing, the type of trust we should be worried about is whether students trust that the assessments they are taking – that we’re giving them – are for their own good. That the purpose of the assessments is to help them get feedback to be better learners, not to hold them back. Effective assessment is about coaching, not policing.” Richard Culatta | CEO, International Society for Technology in Education
  • “I think academic integrity is not only an important part but it’s essential to student success. I think without academic integrity there is no learning or at least is not as it’s stated in learning outcomes.”
    Jean Guerrero-Dib — Director for Culture & Mission, Universidad de Monterrey
  • “One of the provisions of our practices is that faculty are instructed to not use misconduct language with students. …When we understand neuroscience research, we know that when the fear network is activated students are not thinking as clearly, but if we can make learning rewarding, even if we can make corrections rewarding, we have a much better opportunity to make meaningful change.”
    Jen Simonds — Assistant Vice President for Academic Integrity and Accountability, University of Maryland Global Campus
  • “What is most important to me is making sure that people understand that students are so capable of growth and that it’s a learning process. I very strongly believe that academic integrity is not something that you just have, it’s something that you really have to practice. It’s kind of like a muscle, you have to grow it […].’”
    Grace Ranft-Garcia — Undergraduate, Texas A&M

Adaptability can determine classroom success:

  • “Through talking to students through surveys or through feedback loops, I have actually found that if I create a sense of community and belonging for them, especially if they’re learning hard technical subjects, they usually will open up about some of the difficulties that they are facing in learning and also how to innovate from there. So, I think knowing how to adapt, for me, is the key.”
    Eric Khumalo — Founder, Emzini weCode
  • “I think the innovative teachers are saying, ‘Okay, this is going to require a whole new way of thinking about assessment and now all my exams are going to be open book because it’s not so much about memorizing stuff as it is about how to find the information and taking good notes in class.’ You develop critical thinking skills about how to find the information quickly, process it and generate an answer, but that is a conceptual leap from a pedagogical standpoint for so many people.”
    Jonathan Holloway — President, Rutgers University

With a tighter focus on working with more robust data, we can take the best from the past two years of innovation to nurture more authentic learning environments and build a brighter future for our students and our communities. To learn more from the experts, watch their session video recordings.

As part of the summit, educators submitted applications to the Turnitin Awards showcasing individual use cases and the impact that Turnitin technology has had in their teaching & learning. In the coming weeks, these educators will share their stories and the winners will be announced via newsletter (subscribe here).

About the Author
Tyler McCloskey is a Storyteller at Turnitin where he interviews inspiring educators across North America to build awareness and community around best practices and innovative teaching strategies that improve learning outcomes. Beyond Turnitin, Tyler recently finished a book-length project recounting his experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines, is collaborating on two serialized podcasts about public mental health issues, and is the co-founder of storytelling collective Cool Molecules Media. His work can be seen in National Geographic’s Glimpse, TRVL, and Route 30. Tyler resides in Pittsburgh with his wife and daughters.