Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts

Moving Your Course Online

Message from CILA Director Mary Titus 

We are not alone here at St Olaf in our sudden need to consider how we could deliver our courses remotely in the face of COVID-19.  All across the US, colleges and universities are making plans, drawing on technology, and rethinking course content and delivery. My inbox is full of messages from academic teaching and learning centers (TLC) sharing advice about teaching continuity.  Here, for example, are a few words from Stanford University’s center about “offering a student-centered learning experience in a remote or online learning environment.”   “Teaching during times of potential disruption requires creative and flexible thinking about how instructors can support students in achieving essential core course learning objectives . . . . While the process will no doubt feel unfamiliar and at times possibly frustrating, try as much as possible to be patient. There will always be hiccups, but times of disruption are, by their nature, disruptive, and everyone expects that. Be willing to switch tactics if something isn’t working. Above all, stay focused on making sure the students are comfortable, and keep a close eye on the course learning goals–while you might not be able to teach something exactly the way you imagined, as long as you’re still meeting the learning goals of the course, you’re doing fine.”

These are wise words. I would emphasize two points: first that we have to adapt our content and modes of assessment as well as our delivery of our courses.  Step back and think about your desired learning outcomes in the broadest terms, keep them in mind and be willing to set secondary goals aside. Secondly, keep your students at the center of your thoughts. We want our students to have a meaningful learning experience despite the disruption.  Consider ways you can draw on writing, reflection, and self-assessment to enrich their learning; try if possible to relate the social, economic, or global implications of the COVID-19 outbreak to your content; be supportive, flexible, and kind.

The Connecticut College Center for Teaching and Learning (home of the president of the small colleges division of TLC’s national organization) has created an excellent resource for thinking through a sudden shift to remote teaching: “11 Things to Consider When Moving Your Course Online.”

 Note at the close that they offer suggestions for adapting some of the most challenging classes, those with labs or in the performing arts.  Many more excellent resources are available at the Academic Continuity site created by St Olaf’s Instructional Technology.

Next week, CILA will offer two workshop opportunities to introduce technology that supports remote teaching.  The first will be in the form of a regular CILA lunch, on Tuesday, March 17 from 11:45-1:15.  The invitation and rsvp for this workshop has already been sent out on campus email. This workshop will be recorded and will be generally available as soon as possible.  A second workshop, primarily replicating the first, will be offered during community time on March 19.

CILA, the Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts, supports teaching and learning at St Olaf.  If you have questions or concerns about your classroom as we move through this challenging time, I encourage you to contact me at


A campus locus for conversations about learning and teaching in the liberal arts.

Recent decades have brought dramatic changes in the ways we structure knowledge, in what we have come to understand about effective teaching and learning, and in the possibilities afforded by new technologies for improving teaching and learning. The Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts (CILA) was founded in 2000 to provide support for St. Olaf College faculty working to meet the challenges posed by these changes. On the premise that the liberal arts colleges are ideal laboratories for pedagogical innovation and reform, CILA provides time and space for conversations and collaboration among faculty about learning, teaching, and scholarship.

Coming up in CILA

CILA Events Google Calendar

SPRING 2020 CILA Faculty Conversations and WORKSHOPS:

Join faculty and staff colleagues for lunch discussions around interesting topics in teaching and learning. Unless otherwise noted, all CILA Lunch Conversations are in the Valhalla Dining Room, 11:45-1:15. Lunch participants go through the soup and salad line of the Kings’ Room buffet.

SAVE THESE DATES! Conversation descriptions and presenters/facilitators, as well as workshop invitations, are announced by email and will include a request for RSVPs.

Descriptions of Spring 2020 Conversations are linked here. See Conversations from past semesters here.