The End of an Extraordinary Semester


December 8th, 2020

Contributed by CTL staff

(2 minute read)

What does the last day of class look like in a remote or hybrid Learn from Anywhere class? Many of the strategies that instructors may have used in the past (see this useful, but more traditional, list from UC Berkeley’s Center for Teaching & Learning) don’t map exactly onto the LfA modalities – no chance for physical “gallery walks,” or rotating “elevator pitches,” or other strategies that work well in physical space.

That doesn’t mean the last day (or days) of class can’t be an extra meaningful ending to this extraordinary semester. Here are three ways to help your students, and you, navigate the often anti-climactic feel of the last week of class:

First, create a space for reflection. Encourage students to look back on what they achieved, or what they learned, and how they have met challenges; this provides them with a great opportunity to flex their metacognitive muscles and to consider how to take the lessons of this class and this semester with them into future classes. In the remote and hybrid environment, you can create reflection spaces on Discussion Board to post extended textual reflections or quick videos or use Pronto or even Chat in Zoom (see this quick video from CTL for tips on using Chat) for shorter, focused answers.

One perennial suggestion for multifaceted reflection is to ask students to write a letter to a future student who might be interested in taking the class (see this post for more information on this and other last-day activities). This activity wraps up three useful goals in a short assignment: the student in the class gets to look back on their own learning; the future student gets some tips on the class; and the instructor gets useful feedback that might not come through in more formal evaluations. (For more on metacognition and reflection, see Section 4: The Feedback Loop on the Pedagogical Partnerships Blackboard site.)

Second, create a space for gratitude, a significant secondary aspect of reflection. This is especially important at the end of this very demanding semester. Anecdotal evidence from BU’s students suggests they are grateful for the efforts made by faculty and by the institution as a whole for finding ways of creating learning experiences that gave students flexibility. Gratitude during difficult times should not trivialize the losses that students, and others, may have experienced, but it provides a pause that allows students and instructors to consider what went well – no small feat. Gratitude can be expressed in words, in images, or in some multimodal combination: think memes, infographics, or short videos for expressions of thanks for getting through the semester. They can be simple reflections (a gratitude wall on Padlet, for example) or students may decide to send expressions of gratitude to each other, to students or instructors from other classes, or to others in their communities.

Finally, create a space for connection. Instructors and students alike look forward to the eventual return to the classroom where friendships can be made through learning together in the same space. In the meantime, tools such as Padlet or FlipGrid provide great collaborative spaces for classmates to post digital messages, posters, images, and videos to connect with each other before the semester ends. Google Jamboard is also a space to play host to images and messages that will help students connect with each other at the end of the semester (see Lightning Talks by Amber Navarre and Phillipa Pitts for more on the use of Jamboard; scroll down to find their individual presentations on each page). Or, if everyone in class has the upgraded version of Zoom, you can create a virtual gallery walk for students to visit breakout rooms to look at each other’s posters or messages.

There are more ideas for more ideas on creating significant endings to the semester in this post.