Jacob Stern

MPA Graduate Student 2021, School of International and Public Affairs 

Jacob Stern shares his experience as a Teaching Assistant managing the transition of a course to an online format.

In April 2020, I began working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the Public Management Innovation course for Professors Eimicke and Buffett at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all learning abruptly shifted online, and the professors tasked me with managing the transition of the course from its traditional, in-person format, to a new online system. The suddenness of the shift was startling for the students, the professors, and myself, creating significant anxiety around whether the course would retain its established reverence. Sensing an opportunity to innovate, and build on past successes, I implemented a flexible teaching model by hosting weekly virtual office hours and offering ad-hoc memo-writing advice sessions to ensure students fully captured the course content and remained engaged. At the semester mid-point, I surveyed the students to understand their level of comfort with the course materials, and address outstanding questions that were roadblocks to learning. The survey was instrumental in altering my teaching styIe with the students. 

Throughout the experience, I was continually struck by the resilience of the students, and the innovative approach to teaching by Professors Eimicke and Buffett. Although COVID-19 represented a serious challenge, the adaptability of the students to an ever-changing situation was inspiring.

Tell your story. Learn from others.

What is it like to teach and learn at Columbia in 2020-2021? Share your hybrid/HyFlex or online teaching and learning experience.