Longer break gives some faculty chance to rest, refocus

With some faculty continuing to instruct during Iowa State's first winter session and others resuming their responsibilities Jan. 11, this represents a unique time before spring semester begins Jan. 25.

Inside checked in with the Center For Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) for suggestions on how faculty could use the extra time to recharge and improve their future instruction.


Starting last March with the transition to virtual learning, a lot has been asked of faculty and staff. This may be the ideal time to turn focus inward.

"Part of what you give back is coming from how much rest you have inside," CELT instructional technology specialist Lesya Hassall said. "Instructors understand that unfortunately, a lot of what was happening last semester is trauma driven. We are teaching students who are one way or the other touched by it. Some might have experienced deep personal tragedies."

Being able to help students begins with instructors taking care of themselves. Taking time away from the computer and technology can be beneficial. For those teaching a hybrid class or completely online, screen time may have been a daily constant.

"I have been digital all this time, so going analog for some time is a very good idea," Hassall said.

CELT has suggestions of activities to help faculty appreciate their downtime:

  • Visit a local attraction like Reiman Gardens.
  • Write thank you notes to those who helped during the fall semester.
  • Freshen up your workspace.
  • Take virtual tours of places of interest.
  • Most of all, it is OK not to be productive during this time.

Celebrate the successes

Instead of rushing to evaluate the fall semester, Hassall suggests focusing on the little things that worked.

"Don't ignore what didn't work, but write down the things that did work and how you can incorporate them going forward," she said.

This time also gives instructors a chance to work on their Canvas course design for the spring semester. It also allows them to consider how they may continue to use Canvas post-pandemic. Working on course design now will help reduce the spring semester workload, and CELT has a checklist to help instructors through the process as well as professional development opportunities on a variety of topics.

"Instead of disassembling everything, I would just look at the sticking points," Hassall said. "Think about how you can amplify what worked and minimize what didn't."

Incremental changes often have a more significant impact for students than big changes, Hassall said.


This is a good time to ask a colleague from your department -- or even from another discipline -- to review Canvas pages, syllabi or assignments.

"Enroll them into your course in Canvas and have them walk in the students' shoes," Hassall said.

Instructors also can reach out to students from their Canvas courses in the fall semester to get their input.

"There is value in connecting with the student and acknowledging that their participation has shaped how the student views the course going forward," Hassall said. "It also helps the instructor understand how they can better forge that connection with students going forward."