Point of View Chris Dellarocas

Back to the Classroom, Not Back to the Old Routines

The response of Boston University’s faculty to the COVID emergency could be described as heroic, demonstrating a level of resourcefulness and agility that burst traditional stereotypes regarding educational institutions’ (in)ability to change. Yet this shift to what is now generally referred to as “remote learning” has proven to be no replacement for the campus experience that so many of our students covet.

As a new semester rapidly approaches, and many of us look forward to returning to in-person classrooms with a mixture of anxiety and anticipation, it will no longer be sufficient to simply revert to how we did things before the pandemic. Our returning students, who have been craving for closer interaction, meaningful engagement and support during the pandemic, are going to be comparing what we offer them in the classroom with the standards set during the past year and a half, and they will want to see a clear added value of the residential experience relative to “remote”.

Simply lecturing or leading discussions is no longer sufficient. Our students are looking to us to provide an active learning experience and to help them address the academic challenges, and to a certain extent, the nonacademic difficulties they face.

We have the opportunity, and perhaps the obligation, to rethink:

  • Our content, to make it more inclusive and diverse and to ensure that it addresses current issues.
  • Our pedagogies, to make learning more active and participatory.
  • Our relationship with our students, to be more supportive and nurturing.
  • Our assessments, to make them fairer and ensure that these evaluate both students’ learning and their ability to apply knowledge and skills in diverse contexts.

Digital Learning & Innovation and other BU offices offer several resources to support faculty in these important dimensions. I have put together a selection below.

Inclusive Teaching

Active Pedagogies

Student Wellness

Rethinking Assessments

Beyond Web resources and guides, DL&I’s affiliated Center for Teaching and Learning (ctl@bu.edu) and our Educational Technologies group (askedtech@bu.edu) are standing by to answer questions and provide support in these and any other dimensions of teaching and learning.

Ultimately, everything we do as faculty is about meeting the evolving learning needs of our students, who are coming back to campus after a difficult, and, for some, traumatic experience. I am optimistic that we will all find this semester of reconnection and healing a rewarding one. Have a great start!


BU DL&I Chris DellarocasChris Dellarocas is Boston University’s Associate Provost for Digital Learning & Innovation and Shipley Professor of Management at the Questrom School of Business. As Associate Provost, Dellarocas leads the advancement of activities that enhance education at BU through the strategic use of digital technologies.