While spring semester 2020 ended without our usual pomp and circumstance, from a safe social distance we have reason to celebrate getting through this most challenging academic year. When the campus closed in mid-March, few of our faculty had much experience with online teaching, and perhaps fewer had any interest in moving class into the digital realm. But we did it, with much support from the university’s technology team and patience and flexibility from our students. Students learned about history, while we figured out how to stop Zoom bombers and how to upload a lecture to the cloud that hovers over us all.
Among the most valuable lessons we learned from this experience is affirmation of something we already knew—that there is no real substitute for face-to-face learning. Teaching is a full body exercise, and nothing replaces the way a talented professor can, over the course of a semester, turn a physical classroom into a community of learners. Certainly, students told us that, loud and clear, in their end of course evaluations. They want back on campus.
We want that, too, when it can be done safely. In the meantime, we can look back fondly on those days, not so long ago, when we huddled together in classrooms, so focused on sharing ideas that we never paused to worry about sharing our breath.
By chance, just before the shutdown we asked our favorite photographer, Kelli Guinn, to take pictures of some of our colleagues in action. I love how these images capture the value of embodied education, and the passion of teaching as a physical act. They serve as a wonderful reminder of a world we have lost, temporarily, and will not soon take for granted.
Professor and Head
Department of History