The Pivot Game: Guiding the Process of Agile Teaching Strategies with Technology in the COVID-19 World While Fostering and Maintaining Human Connections

Concurrent Session 4

Brief Abstract

In this “Pivot Game” session, attendees will be arranged in small groups to redesign a residential learning activity given a challenging scenario, learning objectives, and a randomized set of variable constraints. The learning activity must pivot to an online or blended learning activity while fostering or maintaining human connections.


Dr. Tawnya Means is the Assistant Dean for Educational Innovation and Chief Learning Officer in the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Prior to this role, Tawnya served as the Assistant Dean and Director of the Teaching and Learning Center for the College of Business at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Director of the Teaching and Learning Center at the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida, leading teaching and learning support and providing faculty development programs and resources for instructional innovation and adoption of pedagogical best practices. With 20 years of experience in higher education, course design, and educational consulting, Tawnya has also taught courses in entrepreneurship, strategy, technology, and leadership in remote teams. Dr. Means received her B.S. in Education, M.S. in Educational Technology, and Ph.D. in Information Science and Learning Technologies with an emphasis on learning systems design, all from the University of Missouri. She completed the AACSB Post-doctoral bridge program in Management and Entrepreneurship at the University of Florida. Her research interests are in online and blended learning, active learning, learning space design, technology for teaching, access to digital learning resources, and faculty preparation to teach. She has long been a leader in campus initiatives and committees and actively presents at conferences and other institutions and organizations on technology-enhanced learning.

Extended Abstract

The Covid-19 pandemic (still ongoing) has prompted higher education to increase focus on and recognize the need to establish and improve quality in the intersection of learning pedagogies and technology. Not only is technology more important, but studies reveal that human connection remains paramount regardless of the educational mode-face-to-face, hybrid, or remote. A 2015 Gallup poll revealed that learners correlated human connection with the value of their educational experience (Busteed, “Is College Worth It? That Depends“,  2015). Now that the world finds itself in the long tail of the Covid-19 pandemic, higher education has already begun to speculate, study, and hypothesize about the long-term effects of the pandemic. Recent studies show that faculty  and students long to return to face-to-face  learning experiences, but that both groups have expectations concerning the role and centrality of technology that are at odds. The challenges to providing high-quality and effective learning experiences that successfully incorporate technology to create quality learning experiences are not new. But even with current challenges, there are many opportunities to shape the future of learning. A number of key questions should guide universities and individual instructors as they navigate the Covid-19 and post-Covid-19 world: 

  • How can administrators provide the right resources so that faculty can maintain the continuity of students’ educational experiences while maintaining human connections? 

  • How can faculty and administrators respond appropriately to technology needs when budgets are restrictive? 

  • How can the current experiences of faculty moving suddenly to remote teaching help to overcome the longstanding culture of traditional residential institutions where faculty have historically been suspicious of social and community-building possibilities afforded by technology? 

  • How can instructors and instructional designers leverage the resources they have available to foster and maintain human connections in times when there are so many difficult challenges being felt by students and instructors alike in the residential-turned-remote classroom? 

  • How can instructors prepare to be agile in a new situation and flexible when there are so many unknowns and there is an expectation that the delivery of learning may need to pivot again in the future?

  • How can instructors pivot to online and blended learning in ways that engage students and create effective, high-quality learning experiences? 

  • How can administrators and instructors turn disruption into opportunities for learning and growth--not just for students, but also for all stakeholders in higher education--faculty, administrators, and support staff alike?


While these questions will not be specifically answered in this session, the presenters will highlight ways in which engaging in an experiential process (playing the “Pivot Game”) can provide opportunities to discuss how to resolve these questions at an institutional level.


Level of Participation:

In this highly interactive and competitive setting, we (the presenters) introduce “The Pivot Game.” In this gamified session attendees will be arranged in small groups whose purpose is to design a learning activity connected to a given scenario with a specific domain of knowledge or topic that must be adapted, or needs to pivot, from residential to an online and blended learning activity. Attendees will be given learning objectives and outcomes for a learning situation and a randomized set of variable constraints (e.g., limited technology choices, challenges to student access, enrollment size of the class, etc.). In these small groups, attendees will design an online and blended learning experience that meets learning objectives and accommodates all of their hypothetical student profiles that will foster and maintain human connections. Groups will develop a set of slides in a shared Google file to outline the alignment of the learning objectives with the activity, the instructions for the activity, and the engagement expectations for the students. The point of the game is not necessarily the problem of creating new pedagogies with technology (old hat for instructional designers) but rather the game itself--a novel way of communicating to faculty and administrators the unique challenges of taking residential classes online. In addition, it will highlight opportune timing for administrators to address fundamentally deeper questions of cultural, budgetary, and technological infrastructure constraints at their institution in light of the context of pivoting course redesigns.


Session Goals:

Individuals attending this session will leave with access to a shared document with all the groups’ learning activities, ideas for various approaches to moving a residential learning activity to online or blended learning, and specific strategies for fostering and maintaining the human connections (student to student and student to instructor) so important for learning. They will also be able to replicate the Pivot Game with stakeholders at their home institutions with variable constraints localized to help spark innovation and create new opportunities specific to their local contexts.

Intended audience: The primary audience for this session will be higher education instructors and instructional designers who would like to increase their repertoire of learning design strategies under constraints commonly experienced. Higher education administrators and instructional design leaders will also learn much about the constraints, challenges, and opportunities faced while moving from residential to online and blended learning.