As many of us are preparing to return to work, it is important to consider what that return looks like and how we will approach our work differently post pandemic. A recent article in the Harvard Business Publishing Education section prompts higher education institutions to consider a four-step framework for implementing best practices resulting from the COVID era.

  1. Identify which new practices should be sustained--find out from colleagues which practices should be continued. If something did not work, find out why and explore opportunities for improvement.
  2. Reduce the influence of symbols connected to old practices--just because something has been done in a particular way pre-pandemic, such as large in-person lectures, does not mean it is the best practice to resume. Language, use of space, rules, and work systems can trigger old habits. What symbols around your university facilitate reversion to old practices?
  3. Openly discuss and resolve disagreements and misconceptions about new practices--provide opportunities for stakeholders to explore assumptions of new practices and ensure a common understanding as well as associated pros and cons.
  4. Turn new practices into habits--how will you adhere to new practices and avoid falling into old routines? Frequent communication of the benefits of new practices can help sustain change.

While it is easy to fall back into old habits and practices, opportunity for change is ripe. The article authors note six key pandemic-driven changes in higher education worthy of consideration: adoption of digital course formats, use of recorded lectures, ease of access to experts, flexibility of group interactions, alternative ways to evaluate student work, and reconsidering the infrastructure of education that supports the student experience. The authors also note that the pandemic lowered our resistance to change and forced us to step away from outdated practices. Now is the time to continue moving forward.

What new practices are your institution embracing? Comment on the Harvard Macy Community Blog or share your ideas on Twitter using #MedEdPearls.



Jean Bailey, PhD, is an Associate Professor and the Associate Dean for Faculty Development at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. She works with a variety of medical school faculty to provide training focused on teaching and learning, scholarship, leadership, career advancement, and service. Jean can be followed on Twitter or LinkedIn.


#MedEdPearls Team:
Jean Bailey, PhD – Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
Carrie Bowler, EdD, MS, MLSCM (ASCP) – Mayo Clinic
Kristina Dzara, PhD, MMSc (Educators ’16; Assessment ’16; HCE 2.0 ’17) – Saint Louis University School of Medicine
Shanu Gupta, MD – University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital
Jennifer Hillyer, PhD – Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Medicine
Larry Hurtubise, PhD (HCE 2.0 '16) – The Ohio State University
Anna Lama, EdD – West Virginia School of Medicine
Machelle Linsenmeyer, EdD, NAOME (Assessment ’07) – West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine
Rachel Moquin, EdD, MA – Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
Stacey Pylman, PhD – Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
Leah Sheridan, PhD – The Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
Lonika Sood, MBBS, MHPE – Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, Washington State University
Mark Terrell, EdD – Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
Stacey Wahl, PhD – Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine