Opportunities for Educational Transformation from COVID-19 Disruption

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

A new research report on emergency remote instruction highlights the power of higher education communities in adapting to pandemic disruption. Session participants will learn how postsecondary institutions can apply pandemic experiences to rethink traditional classroom instruction and embrace sustainable digital transformation for more meaningful, engaged, and inclusive learning.


Cindy is an educator and innovator with over 10 years of experience in higher education. Her current team, the newly-formed Office of the Vice Provost for Digital Education at Stanford University, unites Stanford’s human and technological capabilities in novel ways to seek a more just, equitable and accessible system of education within Stanford and in society more broadly. She started her career in historical libraries and archives, where she assisted scholars in collections research, led digital archives projects, and developed educational programming using archives collections. While receiving a Master's in Library and Information Science (with a focus on information architecture and digital archives) from Simmons College in Boston, she was inducted into Beta Phi Mu, the International Honor Society for Library and Information Science. She also received the Association of Computing in the Humanities Young Scholar Award, Digital Humanities Summer Institute Scholarship, and a Confucius Institute Scholarship. Her experience working with students as a librarian embedded in a First Year Experience program at Emmanuel College inspired her to work more directly impacting the teaching and learning experience. Since then, the focus of her work has been leading complex and innovative education projects, from a large-scale learning management system migration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, to leading the development of custom learning simulations at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Her passion for the power of educational technology has led her to continue her journey as both a learner and instructor in this area: she received a graduate certificate in Learning Design and Technology from the Harvard University Extension School, and teaches an M.Ed. course on innovative educational technology and media.
Before joining the Stanford University Office of the Vice Provost for Digital Education, Lisa served in the Office of the President at Northwestern University from 2013-21, most recently as Assistant Director of Special Projects. A seasoned diversity practitioner, her key priorities included the promotion of undergraduate mentoring in academia and research, fostering diversity in the academy and celebrating secondary and post-secondary teaching and learning. At Northwestern, Lisa directed the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program and the Distinguished Secondary School Teacher Award (DSTA) program. She also provided support for commencement and honors ceremonies, the Presidential Directive on Intercollegiate Athletics and other academic projects and initiatives. She additionally served as a member of the Committee on Athletics and Recreation, Fulbright ETA Program Campus Selection Committee, the One Book One Northwestern Selection Committee and the University Diversity Council. Lisa is also a cofounder of the NU Emerging Leaders program, a staff development program providing individualized career coaching to womxn administrators in higher education. Lisa holds an AB in Philosophy and Brain, Behavior and Cognitive Science (BBCS) from the University of Michigan, an MS in Higher Education Administration and Policy from Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, and an executive graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management from Harvard University. In 2017, she received the Alumnae of Northwestern University Research Award for work advancing the Northwestern Medical Scholars (NMS) program.

Extended Abstract

As higher education institutions emerge from the pandemic, there is an extraordinary opportunity to learn from our experiences - both from promising innovations and from challenges faced - to inform future digital education strategy. The session will focus on the outcomes of our “Report on Opportunities for Educational Progress from our COVID-19 Experience.” This report offers an overview of the impact of the pandemic on online teaching and learning practices at one institution during emergency remote pandemic instruction. The research and resulting report will serve as a catalyst for interactive discussion and reflection in our session. 

This session encourages institutional leaders and all members of the higher education community to identify shared lessons in online teaching and learning from our pandemic experience. We will share our report on the impacts of emergency remote instruction, and invite participants to reflect on their own experiences in response. We will share our methodology and encourage participants to conduct their own research and reflection. Finally, we will seek to establish a community of practice of individuals in higher education seeking to transform education from what we’ve learned during pandemic-caused emergency remote instruction.

Research for this report occurred in two phases: first, an analysis of internal institutional resources and data; following that, we conducted over 50 qualitative interviews of about 60 minutes each with university leaders, faculty, staff and students from across the institution. This research and the resulting report will be deposited in the university’s archives.

Principal report findings reveal that: instructors’ efforts to express empathy were crucial in improving student wellbeing and success; emergency online instruction disrupted institutional identity and culture; the move to remote teaching increased access for some students, but not all; the faculty-student relationship has changed; and staff were critical change agents in rebuilding instruction in the online space. In particular, this report focuses on impacts of emergency remote instruction on student wellbeing, and on the connections between those impacts and larger problems of inequity in education.

Throughout the fall, the researchers will conduct interactive sessions across our institution designed to collaboratively brainstorm a transformative digital education strategy, using the report to inform discussions about what change is needed to meet the post-pandemic future of higher education. We will present the outcomes of that effort at the time of the conference.

By sharing our report and research design, we will invite session participants to reflect on their own pandemic teaching and learning experiences, and how their institutions might benefit from a research project capturing pandemic impacts. We seek to establish a community of practice in pandemic research in higher education. We will share our research model so participants can conduct their own study if interested.

Session participants will be invited to respond and reflect on our research findings in several Poll Everywhere activities throughout the presentation. Following each Poll Everywhere activity, a brief discussion will follow, inviting participants to respond to the poll responses. A fifteen-minute question and answer/discussion period will follow the presentation.