While the original origin of the phrase is unknown, Plato’s Republic suggests that “our needs will be our real creators.” An 1894 translation by Benjamin Jowett adapts this statement as “The true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention.” The COVID-19 academic continuity necessities of this extraordinary time have spawned the innovative and unique SMUFlex mode of instruction.
At the heart of SMUFlex instruction is the ethic that multiple instructional pedagogies and technologies must combine to enable simultaneous, equitable, multi-modal instruction to both in-person and virtual students enrolled in a single course section. SMUFlex instruction requires creativity, adaptability, a thorough mastery of available technology tools, and an uncompromising willingness to rethink instruction based on the necessity of each moment.
Faculty are encouraged to visit and practice in assigned SMUFlex teaching spaces early and often, as familiarity with what each classroom’s technology systems can (and cannot) do is integral to planning and to modifying delivery of course content. Support partners, Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), have spent the summer preparing and communicating with faculty about SMUFlex technologies and teaching support resources. Faculty should attend or request additional SMUFlex training sessions offered by individual school Academic Technology Services Directors. Faculty are urged to visit the SMU Keep Teaching website frequently for a wealth of resources, guides, and other information about SMUFlex. CTE has developed an outstanding SMUFlex Faculty Guide.
Above all, we encourage faculty to spend time in assigned classrooms to practice and rehearse technical setup and delivery—there should be no surprises. All classroom podium machines will have a guide to the technology in the rooms. No matter the room configuration, all faculty should be familiar with similar beginning and ending steps. Please submit questions and report problems to OIT and to the CTE about any SMUFlex technology and teaching questions as they arise—we’ll be here to help.
These first few weeks of SMUFlex instruction will be an adventure and opportunity for instructional innovation—be sure to experiment, keep things simple with the technology, and remember to extend grace to students and to ask for grace as well—we’re all in this together!