It’s been inspirational to see our Wake Forest community come together in a variety of ways over the past week to figure out how to make this massive shift to remote instruction. As we are working on settling into our new “normal”, let’s take a minute to talk about failure and resilience.

One common statement I found myself making while consulting with a number of faculty last week is “we just don’t know what will happen” once the masses shift to remote instruction. Will the technology be able to handle the load? Will students experience barriers to access that disrupt their learning? Will my best laid plans work the way I intend in a virtual environment? We are figuring this all out as we go and while we are doing everything we can to anticipate and mitigate any problems that might arise, there are bound to be failures along the way.

Our pivot to remote instruction happened so quickly and there were a lot of decisions to make. Now that you’re into the first week, it might be helpful to take stock. Is your plan working as intended? If so, great! But what if it’s not? As I sit here and write this blog post, Google is giving us intermittent problems (how will we function without Google??). 

  • Even if you’re relatively satisfied with your new structure, it can be helpful to think through alternative ideas. You may decide as the weeks go on, that you want to change things up or perhaps layer in more engagement or technology. We’ll write more about having a “Plan B” in future posts, but given our trouble today getting onto platforms we had planned to use, such as Zoom or Google Drive, it’s becoming clear that having a backup plan is never a bad idea.
  • Connect with your colleagues! During this time of social distancing, maintaining connections is especially critical. If you’re having a technical or pedagogical struggle, it’s likely others are too. 
    • If you are on Facebook, join our Newly Remote WFU Teachers group and ask your question there. It’s turned into an amazing community in a very short time.
    • Attend one of our Open Lab sessions on Wednesday mornings from 10-12 EST.
    • Schedule an individual consultation with various members of our team as well as our collaborative partners from Academic Technology, Online Education, and ZSR Library.
    • Send us a question using our Ask the CAT form on our blog page.
    • If your department utilizes a listserv or Google group, use it! The same goes for professional associations. I have been immensely grateful for the generosity of my colleagues, locally and internationally, in sharing empathy and resources.
  • Ask your students! Get feedback from them on a regular basis (I would recommend weekly at first). Consider using a simple anonymous ‘Stop, Start, Continue’ survey as a way for them to provide feedback (here’s a link to a sample Google form that you can make a copy of and use). If there’s something specific you’re looking for feedback on, be sure to ask them about it directly.

In many of our conversations at CAT events, faculty often discuss wanting to help students become more comfortable with failure. But are we so different? Perhaps this is our opportunity to model failure and resilience and also to have transparent discussions about how these things might contribute to learning. In my experience, being open with students and engaging them as partners during these struggles buys a lot of goodwill from them. As does communicating our effort and care for them.

I think about resilience in our everyday academic environment, so it’s been especially occupying my mind right now. A simple search of the website will turn up several references to care for the “whole person” and “whole student”. I take this idea to heart and want to acknowledge that all of us (faculty, staff, students) are under extraordinary circumstances right now. So while it’s important that we create good learning experiences for our students, it’s also important that we take care of ourselves and each other.

The American Psychological Association argues that resilience is not a personality trait, but rather a combination of behaviors, thoughts, and actions that we can actively work toward strengthening by focusing on four core components: building connections, fostering wellness, engaging in healthy thinking, and finding meaning (APA, 2020). You can find their recommendations for specific strategies for each of these four categories here. I would also encourage you to think about how you might integrate some of these ideas into your activities with your students in an effort to also help them strengthen their own resilience (here is another resource with wellness ideas created by Kristin A. Kiely, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Francis Marion University that you can use and/or share with your students).

To that end, we have been inspired by the impromptu Zoom happy hours popping up in communities over the last few weeks! As a way to build connections (and strengthen our resilience), we would like to invite you to a CAT-hosted happy hour this Friday, March 27 at 3:00 EST. Let’s connect after a very long week, talk about our success (and failures!), and share funny stories. You can find us here: (use this link to copy the invite to your Google Calendar). 

We advised above that you should have a Plan B. So here’s ours: if the technology isn’t working on Friday afternoon, spend some time fostering your own wellness. Do something you enjoy doing, but don’t always make the time for and post a picture to our Facebook group (or send it to us by email so we can post it for you!). 

In the spirit of resilience, I’m going to get away from this desk and go for that run I’ve been putting off all week. Be well and we hope to see you Friday.

American Psychological Association (2020). Building your resilience.

A Pause for Your Wellness”by Kristin A. Kiely, CC by 4.0



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