How I’m Using My Summer to Set Myself Up for the Fall

How I’m Using My Summer to Set Myself Up for the Fall

By Dr. Laura E. Sponsler, Morgridge College of Education

Many people in academia talk about faculty taking the summer off or “leaving” campus for summer.  “Let’s work all summer long!” said no professor ever. As most faculty would attest, we do use our summers to rest and recharge but we also spend our “downtime” to advance our research and scholarship, to finally read the articles we’ve been meaning to all year, and to refresh or even completely redesign our courses.  This year, I’m asking myself the question, “What can I do NOW to set myself up for a more successful fall quarter?”

I ask myself this question knowing that there is a great deal of unknowns for Fall quarter (See Li, 2020).  There is uncertainty around what modality we will use for our Fall term – institutions are proposing face-to-face (F2F), HyFlex (hybrid flexible), hybrid, or online.  What are the ways we can create inclusive, engaging learning experiences in a classroom and/or on a learning management system (LMS)?  How should faculty prepare for one or all of these options?  These are some of the questions are keeping me up at night, and I bet that many of the faculty reading this post might be having the same anxieties. 

In this blog post, I wanted to share a bit about my thinking and planning for one of my fall courses – Introduction to Higher Education.  This is an introductory class designed for our first year masters’ students in Higher Education as the first of their six required courses.  Last summer, I redesigned this course as part of the Course Design Institute through OTL and created a Three Column Table with my learning outcomes, delivery methods, and assessment techniques.  I loved teaching this class and am really proud of its design.

So for consistency (and my sanity), I’ve decided that I’m going to do as much of the same things as I can and I have a plan for how to do it.  I’m keeping the three column table and am adding an additional column – modality.  Can my activity be completed in person, over Zoom, through a LMS, or other digital platform?  What are different ways that I can deliver content and information that support student learning and still create an inclusive learning environment for my students?

In my mind, I’m hoping to keep as many of my activities (that I already have plans for and have road-tested) and will allow me to adapt the activities to the teaching modality as best I see fit and that is available to me at that time. I am also going to try to make more courses more “fun” (See Santhanam, 2020).

See how I’m imagining organizing my four column table.

4 column outcomes table

As I look through my learning outcomes, one of the key outcomes for the course is around building community amongst our first year students.  I need to consider how to potentially develop that community in other formats than F2F – HyFlex or perhaps in online format or even in a blended situation.  And given that HyFlex formats are intended to give students ultimate choice and agency to decide how they want to engage in learning, faculty need to be prepared for any scenario.  In my conversations with faculty, building community online is one the main concerns with teaching in a format different than F2F (See O’Malley, 2017; Hulett, 2019).

I’ve adapted my learning outcomes related to community and the human dimension of learning in an updated table.

Outcomes Table 2

I wish I had a crystal ball and could know exactly what my Fall courses will look like (and whether or not my children will be in school!).  So my summer is going to be a busy one – I’ll be reading the articles and books I’ve been saving; I’m hoping to make a dent in some of my writing projects and I’m going to work on my courses.  I do not plan to re-design my course – rather, I’m using my four column table to help me be ready for a multitude of options.  I don’t know what modality I will be using from week to week but I do know, with a little planning and organizing, I’ll feel more confident and prepared to meet the challenges moving forward and create an inclusive, learning-centered, fun course for my students.

Editor’s note:

The OTL has blank alignment tables that you can use as you design your courses, no matter what modality you may be preparing for:

Hybrid Alignment Table

Hyflex Alignment Table

Online Alignment Table

Please visit our Teaching Tool Kit for more handouts, worksheets, and resources.

This summer Dr. Virginia Pitts will be facilitating two sections of a Hyflex version of the Course Design institute. Please register for the Hyflex Course Design Institute if you are interested in joining us!


Fegely, A.,Cherner, T. S. 2017. Digitalizing gallery walks: a method for student-centered feedback and engagement. In Chen, B., deNoyelles, A., & Thompson, K. (Eds.), Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning. Retrieved May 28, 2020 from

Hulett, K.H. (2019, March 27). Community from a distance: Building a sense of belonging in an online classroom. The Scholarly Teacher. Retrieved May 28, 2020:

Johnson, S. (2020, March 25). Developing online assessments of student learning in a hurry.  Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching.  Retrieved May 28, 2020:

O’Malley, S. (2017, July 26). Professors share ideas for building community in online courses. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved May 28, 2020:

Santhanam, S. (2020, April 29). A reflection on the sudden transition: Ideas to make your synchronous online classes more fun. Faculty Focus. Retrieved May 28, 2020: