Your impact: Learn from Anywhere, Giving Tuesday

As BU’s fall semester comes to a close, it’s clear that the University’s Learn from Anywhere (LfA) teaching format has helped to keep the campus community safe while providing students with a top-notch BU education.

The flexibility of LfA is key: students choose whether—and when—to attend class in-person or remotely. “The LfA format lets students decide how to take classes, based on their needs and their comfort level,” said President Robert A. Brown, upon launching the program. “BU students now have the option to either be in the classroom in person or to participate remotely from their dorm room or off-campus home, and they can exercise that remote option at any time during the semester.”

Critical to the on-campus arm of the model has been the high-throughput COVID-19 testing facility assembled by a group of BU College of Engineering faculty, staff, and students, and the careful protocols developed for everything from COVID-19 testing and contact tracing to residential life, as detailed in Back2BU. Infections remain extremely low at BU, much lower than for Massachusetts overall. And a public-facing dashboard shows just how things stand, with data updated every day.

Donor support has been critical in helping equip classrooms for synchronous learning, providing technology to students who need it, and reconfiguring everything from furniture to ventilation systems to enhance safety. The on-campus community, in turn, has done its part to follow protocols carefully.

“Our students have been remarkable in the commitment to their education and our academic community, demonstrating resilience by adapting to the very special environment that we created so that campus life could resume and continue,” Brown wrote to the campus community just before Thanksgiving.

Learning while doing

BU’s faculty learned to swim by jumping into the deep end. In March, when the pandemic forced BU to suspend in-person classes, they pivoted to teaching remotely in a matter of days. This fall, they refined their approach, splitting their attention between students in the classroom and those attending virtually. Support from Information Services & Technology helped navigate any bumps. Mark Crovella, a CAS professor of computer science, says he can’t get over the technology that was put in place to make LfA work. “I am blown away by the effort the University went to over the summer to equip classrooms,” he said.

There was, of course, a period of adjustment, and challenges still loom, including how to conduct hands-on labs, connectivity issues, and getting from an actual classroom to a virtual one on time. A new student study app, released in October, has helped resolve the last, enabling students to reserve safe study spaces on the Charles River Campus.

Gratitude for LfA

Saida Grundy, a CAS assistant professor of sociology and of African American studies, says LfA has revealed some “small silver linings.”

“If remote teaching forces us to use platforms of classroom management that we should have been using the whole time, that’s a plus,” she said. “There is no reason we didn’t have direct messaging with students before this. Also, with remote, my students have a digital community that makes working on group projects easy.”

Students are grateful for the effort the University put into making LfA work—and for being given the ability to make their own choices.

“I wasn’t sure coming in how things would work and how I would do with online courses,” said Victoria Keefauver (CAS’24), who is taking a mix of in-person and remote classes. “BU has done an amazing job. I love all my classes. The professors are very engaged and they’ve been very accommodating.”

Zowie Rico (CAS’23) said she loves being able to attend her small hybrid English and classical civilizations class in person—and appreciates the convenience of Zooming into her large Roman civilization lecture class.

“Do I wish my senior year looked different—that it was ‘normal’?” asks Noor Siddiqui (CGS’19, Sargent’21), who returned to campus this fall from Saginaw, Mich. “Obviously. But I feel really lucky to be in a position where I feel this safe and able to be here in person and taking classes.” A human physiology major, Siddiqui is thrilled to be in a gross anatomy lab, with actual cadavers—“to be able to see the actual structure of the human body,” she says. “BU is the gold standard. I have friends in colleges all over Michigan. They don’t have this.”

For an inside look at one student’s perspective on LfA, check out the piece Aaron Hwang (ENG’21) produced for his vlog at the start of the semester.

Your giving matters

Your generous support helps make all of this possible, and is particularly critical during these unprecedented times. LfA, which will continue through the spring semester, is just one example of how BU continues to innovate in education, research, and student support. Your gifts make a real difference in all of those areas.

Current-use funds, which can be given in any amount, can be deployed at a moment’s notice to provide financial aid and emergency assistance to students, expand on BU’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and do so much more. This year’s Giving Tuesday, held on December 1, was devoted to DEI, a cause that alumni, students, and friends made clear was important to them given its overwhelming success. The campaign raised $336,728 from 1,473 donors—an amazing accomplishment and sizable increase over previous years’ totals. You can see all of the results here. We are so grateful!

Not yet a donor? Give now and receive email updates on the impact donors have throughout the year. Visit “Why we give” to read more about the many committed donors to Boston University.