Knocking it out of the park!

Grand Rapids Community College President Dr. Bill Pink meets with our Speaking of Teaching hosts to discuss leading during a pandemic – keeping the campus community safe while fostering innovation and promoting access to higher education.

“Many of these offerings have opened possibilities for students they didn’t really have before.” – Dr. Pink


You can’t teach French online – or can you?

In our latest Speaking of Teaching podcast episode, French Language Professor, Hillary Haney explains why, with thirty years teaching experience, French cannot be taught online.

“Podcast” CC-BY Mike MacKenzie

That being said, in March of 2020, Professor Haney pivoted her in-person French classes to the virtual classroom. In this episode of Speaking of Teaching she shares with us how her approach to teaching French has evolved over the past year.

“I mean, I redid everything… I’m going to go back into the classroom different!” – Hillery Haney, Professor of Language & Thought, GRCC.

Latest Speaking of Teaching podcast episode…

Episode #4 with Christina McElwee, Associate Professor of English and former Director of the CTE

Professor McElwee describes her experiences leading the Center for Teaching Excellence during the pivot from in-person to remote teaching and how learning technologies can assist with learner engagement and student success in the virtual classroom.

Speaking of Teaching with Christina McElwee, Assistance Professor of English

“I’m trying to make the best use of technologies. But also, this isn’t something that’s going away. Our student need to know how to do these things.” – Professor McElwee

Be inspired! Enjoy another episode of the Speaking of Teaching podcast.

Speaking of Teaching – Episode #3

Episode #3 with Dr. Jenifer Bourcier, Assistant Professor of Biology at Grand Rapids Community College

Dr. Bourcier shares with us her experience pivoting from the on-campus Microbiology Lab to the virtual classroom and the innovative approaches she uses to help her students succeed.

Speaking of Teaching with Dr. Jenifer Bourcier, Assistant Professor of Biology

“My biggest challenge – and I’m still working on it – is to make sure that they feel that there is someone on the other side of that screen – that I’m there with them, doing it with them.” – Dr. Bourcier

Please enjoy another episode of the Speaking of Teaching podcast!

When it comes to remote instruction, online teaching experience matters

Many students and faculty struggled a little more than a year ago when in-person pivoted to remote instruction – some more than others.

Teacher at home setting up for remote instruction
Teaching setup by Glen Beltz on Flickr CC-BY

A working paper, authored by eight faculty from four R1 universities, considered how different aspects of teaching may have impacted student achievement during spring semester 2020 when the COVID -19 pandemic shifted from in-person to remote instruction.

The study looked at three aspects of remote instruction: 1) instructor online teaching experience, 2) student demographics, and 3) course pedagogy. Two of the three aspects were found to correlate with student performance. Both prior experience teaching online and the inclusion of student-to-student interactivity appeared to positively impact student achievement. Test scores for students in classes where peer-interaction was integrated into remote instruction were significantly higher than for for those primarily devoted to lecture alone.

“We find evidence that instructor experience and course pedagogy played important roles in ameliorating the potentially negative effects of the pandemic on learning.” (Orlov et al., 2020).

Prior to March 2020, most of our classroom faculty had little to no experience teaching online. Needless to say, many classroom instructors have since acquired significant experience teaching at a distance – albeit, in a trial-by-fire sort of way. Over the past year we have seen unprecedented increase in the demand for support and professional development focused on the use of instructional technologies and distance learning as well as the largest cohort of instructors enrolled in DLIT’s Online / Hybrid Certification Course in it’s history.

Whether instructors design course activities that provide opportunities for students to interact with one another may also have an impact on student success. Applying classroom techniques such as think-pair-share and small group activities can result in increased student engagement in the virtual classroom.

For more information on integrating student interactivity into the virtual classroom, check out University of Wisconsin’s knowledge-base on “Active Learning in Remote Learning Environments“.


Orlov, G., McKee, D., Berry, J., Boyle, A., DiCiccio, T., Ransom, T., Rees-Jones, A., Stoye, J. (2020). Learning during the COVID-19 pandemic: It’s not who you teach, but how you teach. National Bureau of Economic Research.

University of Wisconsin (2020). Active Learning in Remote Learning Environments. Retrieved from