Chris Dellarocas

COVID19: Collaboration Is Our Strength

On March 16, with less than one week’s notice, 4,000 Boston University faculty and 35,000 Boston University students transitioned to remote teaching and learning. Most faculty had never taught remotely before, and for most students, this was a swift introduction to online learning. The transition wasn’t easy—even nerve-wracking for some. After one of the most eventful spring breaks in campus history, our BU community—faculty, staff, leadership, and students—embarked on an unprecedented journey and resumed (remote) classes on schedule, without missing one day. This post is dedicated to all.

To our faculty: You didn’t hesitate when called to action. Your collective willingness and courage to shift from in-person classes to online teaching has been extraordinary. You are on the front lines of BU’s remote teaching experience and serve as an educational lifeline for students. Your sense of compassion is evident: You are checking in on our students and providing support, offering guidance and direction when needed, and, in many cases, representing stability during these unstable times.

To our students: Your adaptability, ingenuity, and positivity continues to shine bright. Many of you have returned home while others remain close. But through the power of remote teaching and learning, we, too, remain close and connected. And it is our goal to deliver the highest level of education to each and every student. 

To our leadership: Throughout these challenging times, our priority has been to ensure the health and wellbeing of our community; provide resources, training, and support to ensure our students complete their coursework; and safely continue campus operations. Decision-making has been collaborative and well-thought-out, and we continue to bring our best selves forward. Each event—the discontinuation of in-person instruction and more—has been addressed with care. Leadership has remained calm, composed, and effective, and it has been very rewarding to be a member of BU’s leadership team.

To our staff: We would not have been able to implement remote teaching at BU without the close collaboration and hard work of several groups and individuals who truly went above and beyond to ensure a smooth transition.

In order for the remote teaching transition to go smoothly at an institution as large as ours, faculty mentoring and support are needed. For that reason, the Digital Learning & Innovation team called upon every School and College to designate one or more individuals as their Remote Teaching Coordinators (RTCs)—the first line of support for the University’s faculty. Our office, in turn, trained and coordinated the RTCs and helped address issues they could not solve directly.

Remote Teaching BUMost RTCs are faculty and administrators with prior experience in educational technology and distance education, and have proven instrumental in managing and continuing to support the transition to remote teaching. But what set the group apart was the positive and collaborative attitude with which they have embraced the challenge. DL&I offers faculty trainings and guides on remote teaching, Zoom, and Blackboard, but many faculty put in place additional training sessions, office hours, and remote Zoom drop-in sessions. Their positive energy and support to both their faculty and each other were remarkable and largely responsible for BU’s generally smooth transition to remote teaching.

The Educational Technology team within DL&I, in partnership with the Information Services & Technology organization, is playing a central role in coordinating BU’s entire remote teaching operation. They are supporting the RTC community via regular trainings, our always lively and informative daily RTC Zoom check-ins, a vibrant Teams group for exchange of documents and ideas, and expert troubleshooting of problems with technology.

The Center for Teaching & Learning also has stepped forward to help with questions of remote pedagogy, such as how to conduct remote assessments. CTL has produced a number of valuable remote teaching guides and participates in all conversations with the RTCs.

The last few weeks were intense and exhausting for all but ultimately very rewarding. Our faculty and students have approached their fear of the unknown with courage. Our staff and leadership have truly stepped forward with diligence and positivity to make sure that we are serving our students in the best way we can. The list of BU heroes is long and can be found in all departments, Schools, and Colleges across both campuses. In the midst of this unprecedented adversity, I feel proud to be a part of the amazing repository of talent and collegiality that is BU.

BU Voices & ReflectionsRead Boston University’s “Voices & Reflections” series, a collection of insights and experiences shared via video, audio, poetry, and more, from those teaching and learning remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic this spring.