Event Details from the Spring 2021 Summit

Scroll to learn more details about the structure and activities that took place during the summit.

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On April 30th, 2021, one hundred students and faculty from disciplines across the university came together to discuss one overarching question: what should education at Notre Dame look like, post-pandemic? What are the positive innovations that should be retained from our experience with online and hybrid learning? 

The summit was divided into three parts: reflecting on our experiences with learning both during and pre-pandemic; defining the ideal future state using “How Can We” problem statements; envisioning paths forward where a diverse range of students and faculty have their needs addressed. 

Introduction: Before the first part of the summit, groups were given time to set norms that would foster the most productive discussion possible. To use our diversity of perspectives as an asset, teams were asked to establish norms that enabled them to listen, understand, and show compassion. 

Part 1: Reflecting on our experience with pandemic-learning.

COVID-19 drove massive change and adaptation in academic. As we return to ‘normal’, the question remains, what should we learn from our experience over the past year and a half? Which elements of online learning should we keep and in which circumstances? Attendees answered eight questions, including: What's one aspect of online learning that has positively impacted your education? (See Figure 1 below). 

Figure 1

Before attendees had the opportunity to share their opinions, we used a tool called “Why Ladders” to uncover the core needs underlying their initial opinions. Attendees chose one question that stood out to them to do a “Why Ladder”; the attendee asked themselves, “why did I give this answer?” five times, forming a chain of post-its that showed the reasoning behind their opinions. (See Figures 2 and 3 below, respectively)

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For example, a student initially said “I want to keep the Zoom option” and then worked backwards to the core need of “needing flexibility for when I learn.” Similarly, a faculty member said “Please get rid of the online options!” and worked back to the core sentiment of “wanting students to take my class seriously and to engage.” The debate becomes something beyond whether or not to keep Zoom; it’s about identifying the core needs of students and faculty--which lie underneath initial opinions--and finding new ways altogether to meet those needs. (See figures 4 and 5, respectively). 

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Part 2: “How Can We design a future for education at Notre Dame that…”

Each group then pinpointed areas of tension between the core needs they uncovered, and formulated them into problem statements called ‘How Can We’ statements. For example, the core need for connection in-person with the need for flexibility were translated into “How can we design a future for education at ND that allows for flexibility without sacrificing much-needed connection?”  


To read the how can we statements, click here.


Part Three: The Path Forward

Each group then chose one How Can We statement to ideate solutions for. Faculty and students worked to come up with ideas that addressed the core needs of their statement, looking for solutions with the most mutual gain. For example, a group addressing “How can we create a future at ND that allows for flexibility and connection” said: “recorded and posted lectures, but attendance taken to encourage coming, and everyone has ‘3 mental health days’...”


To read the ideas scroll to the bottom of each insights page, or click here.


After the Summit 

All stickies were placed in envelopes by attendees, labeled with their names and department, and then organized to be coded.