Sid Palmer speaking.
One of BYU-Idaho’s strategic priorities is to foster a culture where faculty can actively engage in inspired inquiry, innovation, and collaboration with one another.

“This initiative is driven by the nature of who we are as an institution,” said Sid Palmer, Associate Academic Vice President for Learning and Teaching. “In ‘A Steady, Upward Course,’ President Henry B. Eyring identified BYU-Idaho as a permanent ‘place of educational innovation.’ This focus has been a consistent pattern throughout BYU-Idaho’s history and has become one of our hallmarks.”

All goals and plans within this strategic priority are designed to help faculty further achieve this vision. Plans include trainings on how to use annual faculty interviews more effectively, refining the Progressive Teacher course, creating a learning and teaching digital library, and community for faculty. Many of these objectives were adapted and made possible despite COVID-19 limitations.

“In many places, 2020 would have become a time to retrench or go into survival mode,” Palmer said. “For us, it was a catalyst. We propelled forward in areas we only experimented in before, such as remote learning or teaching through a flex environment. We also initially planned to roll out the new Learning & Teaching website in the Fall 2020 Semester, but we were able to move that launch up to the spring.”

The Learning & Teaching website is a place where faculty members can share resources and best practices. The digital platform also makes collaboration possible for faculty to discuss issues such as how to help more students succeed without lowering the academic bar.

“This community has turned out to be a powerful tool to make the necessary conversions to remote, flex, and blended courses,” Palmer said.

2021 will focus on these and additional goals, including an emphasis on reviving the spiritual principles underlying the Learning Model.

“We have distilled the Learning Model into three simple steps: 1) Prepare, 2) Teach One Another, and 3) Ponder and Prove,” Palmer said. “They’re short and easy for students to remember, but the Learning Model is just as much about exercising and acting in faith and relying on the spiritual side of learning. Those aspects often get overlooked.”

After a drastically different academic year due to COVID-19 modifications, in 2021 Palmer says the university will also prioritize evaluating the quality and utility of the new course options.

“We need to be able to identify what has gone well and what needs to be improved, and above all, we want to do things intentionally,” Palmer said. “For example, at a glance, it’s obvious that Zoom classes may be more convenient, but we are striving for more than convenience. If we continue offering these options, we need to make certain that they are just as effective as traditional face-to-face classes. Whatever options we adopt, we want to make sure we are adopting them for their power to bless and enhance the lives of students.”