CUNY Digital History Archive

CUNY Digital History Archive

A participatory project to collect and preserve the histories of the City University of New York — A work in progress
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Teaching and Learning During the Time of Covid-19

The CDLA’s Teaching and Learning Collection features an array of personal and institutional documentation, community resources, class projects, and digital media related to CUNY’s remote teaching and learning practices in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The collection brings these items into conversation with one another in the interest of centering the lived experiences of CUNY students, faculty, and staff during this pivotal moment in the history of the largest urban public-university system in the United States. In an effort to help preserve the university’s institutional memory, users of this collection are invited to explore these artifacts in order to reflect on what it was like to teach and learn at CUNY during the Spring 2020 onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.


With confirmed cases of COVID-19 soon to spread across the New York City area, CUNY colleges began to triage the outbreak by preparing campus-based guidance for faculty to employ in the event of a university-wide shift to distance learning formats. Collected by the Graduate Center's Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) days before the closure of onset university facilities, these documents address emergent concerns surrounding the practice of online teaching and learning during a public health crisis. These resources urge CUNY faculty to rethink their role as educators by accounting for issues ranging from course communications and instructional design, to accessibility and assistive technology, to testing and assessment policies, to the precarious health and wellbeing of their students. CUNY faculty associated with the group “Rank and File Action” likewise circulated a proposal for transitioning to distance learning, stressing the need for educators to “give up on normal,” strategically adopt tech platforms, and consider asynchronous modes of instruction, among other recommendations.


Items from this collection also foreground the submerged perspectives of CUNY students as they struggled to keep pace with distance learning. In the case of student Reddit posts, these items document the self-represented concerns of CUNY students engaged in conversation with one another around the problematics of learning during the pandemic. In particular, these posts found students at odds with the assessment protocol, communication practices, and rigorous workloads of the distance learning process. Critically, they also paid credence to the essential labor practices and emotional toll of CUNY students as they intersected with the stresses of online coursework. 


Reddit Thread I'm Tired of These Professors


CUNY educators came to highlight the urgent need for instructors to responsively design and teach their online courses in response to the social and emotional burdens of learners. In one HASTAC blog post on the pedagogical conditions of the pandemic, for instance, Graduate Center faculty member Cathy Davidson adopted a critical perspective on instructional design for instructors to consider as they prepared for the Fall 2020 semester, urging them to not only to do no harm but also to acknowledge that harm has already been done unto students in this time of untold crisis.


Teaching and Learning Center's Twitter Thread About Trauma-Informed Pedagogy

Crowdsourced submissions to the collection also included academic projects by CUNY students that focus on the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on minority communities in NYC. Related items in the collection included honors theses and digital capstone projects documenting individual and collective struggles during the time of the pandemic. 


From CUNY senior administrators to student Redditors, the value of this collection lies in its potential to inform and integrate our historical memory as a public institution of higher education. Working from the top-down, bottom-up, and middle-out, the CDLA Teaching and Learning Collection aims to render these educational experiences more legible, making visible multiple scales of the teaching and learning experience across the CUNY system. Users of this collection are thus invited to engage with these artifacts in ways that continue to protect the memory of this difficult moment going forward. It is ultimately through such acts of institutional remembrance that the embodied strife and collective resilience of this public crisis may live on unencumbered by any one dominant voice.


This collection is part of the CUNY Distance Learning Archive (CDLA), a group project developed as part of Matthew K. Gold’s Spring 2020 “Knowledge Infrastructures” seminar in the Ph.D. Program in English at The Graduate Center, CUNY, in partnership with The Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate Program. All CDLA collections on the CUNY Digital History Archive website were co-curated by Travis Bartley, Nicole Cote, Zach Muhlbauer, and Stefano Morello (Project Manager).

Go to all 32 Items in collection.

5 Featured Items:

"Online classes = more work"

Posted on September 28, 2020, this Reddit thread featured a discussion among City University of New York (CUNY) students about how instructors have disproportionately compensated for the limitations of distance learning by increasing the rigor and [...]

John Jay College of Criminal Justice Law and Society Class Project: COVID-19 at CUNY

Developed at CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice during the Spring 2020 semester, this Law and Society class project documented the ongoing relationship of student contributors and the broader City University of New York (CUNY) [...]

"Having a breakdown falling behind in online classes"

In this Reddit thread, posted on April 2, 2020, one student wrote about their experience of falling behind in their coursework, leading to "having a breakdown" during the Covid-19 pandemic. The student attributed their problem to the lack [...]

Petition in Opposition to Turnitin for Plagiarism Detection Software

This petition – opposing the CUNY Central administration's resolution to approve a contract with Turnitin for Plagiarism Detection Software – was crafted by Lisa Rhody, Luke Waltzer, and Roxanne Shirazi and circulated on December 3, 2020, [...]

Considerations for Instructional Continuity

Distributed in March 2020, the Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) at The Graduate Center compiled this preemptive guide on navigating the midstream shift to distance learning, along with associated forms of campus-based guidance from other City [...]

Go to all 32 Items in collection.

Teaching and Learning During the Time of Covid-19