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The intensity of major events often leads us to remember minute details of where we were and what we were doing when they occurred: what we wore as we watched the towers fall on September 11, 2001; the faces of our classmates when the space shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986; the smell in the air when we lived through a major earthquake, fire, or other personal tragedy. Similarly, faculty, staff, and students will remember the series of moments that led to the closure of their schools and universities as the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic spread throughout the world--the timeline varies, but on the East Coast of America, this occurred in early March. Unprecedented became the word of the year in our emails and texts and Zoom calls. We adjusted our expectations; we pivoted our planning, instruction, and interactions; and we continue to do so.


This text includes chapters from instructional designers, university faculty and staff, and undergraduate and graduate students, and the text has been divided into three sections to reflect these varied perspectives. Each section begins with research-based perspectives, but also contains more personal narratives at the end. While the context of most of the chapters is the United States, there are also chapters with a Canadian context. It is also important to note that, as of the first half of 2021, the pandemic rages on, and mentions of COVID-19 in the following chapters will be reflective of the state of affairs in North America in the spring and fall of 2020.

Publisher Statement

Open-access publishing is crucial for sharing relevant and timely findings with the public in accessible ways. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major economic impact on universities and on scholars’ research productivity; it is our hope that by sharing this text in an open access format that there will be no financial barrier such as a paywall to prevent others’ learning from the lessons shared in these chapters.

Lessons from the Pivot: Higher Education’s Response to the Pandemic © 2021 by Janine Davis & Christy Irish is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International. To view a copy of this license, visit