The “chaotic” spring and “challenging” fall of 2020 left us little time for reflection—until now. Our efforts to sustain operations throughout those early storm-clouded days and those that followed have exposed some important silver linings. Despite the serious dangers and monumental challenges, there were also moments of pleasant surprise, ingenuity, fortitude, and adaptation across institutions.

I am an experienced distance educator, currently working with a research team investigating higher education during COVID-19. Our study explores the stories of staff, faculty, and administrators who were thrust into distance operations and who continue to navigate their socially distanced campuses. Though the crisis is not yet over, and its effects will continue into the foreseeable future, we in higher ed have perhaps re-discovered critical truths about ourselves and for ourselves that we can and should celebrate. We have also learned important lessons that can help us continue to improve.

We tapped our creative energies

We learned that we can learn new technologies, we can adapt, and we can do so quickly when agility is needed.

Though many of us are exhausted, we were able to use our ingenuity and energy to resolve tensions between expectations and reality, between availability and responsibility, between setting boundaries and giving ourselves permission to do so. We experienced, in the words of one participant, a period of “forced creativity.”

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About the Author:

Lee Ann Dickerson is a doctoral candidate at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota.