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This holiday season brings to a close an exceptionally difficult and wrenching year. As we gather with family and friends—whether in person, virtually, or in spirit—let us look together with hope to the new year now before us. From all of us at AAC&U, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

Many students with disabilities face challenges in the transition to online or hybrid learning, as they are removed from the structure of the physical classroom and must now rely solely on technology for their coursework. By creating supportive experiences that help all students in a manner best suited to their unique circumstances, universal design for learning (UDL) guidelines can bolster student motivation, change how they receive and perceive information, and improve their capacity to navigate, organize, and approach a learning task.

This discussion with President Barbara Gellman-Danley from the Higher Learning Commission is the fourth in a series of brief video interviews with leaders of the seven regional accrediting bodies in US higher education. To get an accreditor’s view of assessment, we asked each leader what they have been hearing and thinking about during the pandemic related to two critical areas: the campus climate toward assessment at their member institutions and what expectations the accreditors have for useful evidence of student learning.

A centerpiece of Guttman Community College's first-year experience learning model is the Ethnographies of Work (EOW) course, a required yearlong social science investigation of workplaces that helps students better understand and exercise agency around their future career paths. In a normal semester, our students would be found observing work throughout the city, ethnographically mapping workflow and power structures, talking to New Yorkers about their work experiences, and exploring possible careers. When COVID-19 ravaged through New York in March, we couldn't just take traditional fieldwork pedagogies and put them online. Instead, we needed to redesign our fieldwork experiences so that students could meet the learning outcomes in the virtual world in ways that are equitable, inclusive, and student-centered.

This discussion with President Belle S. Wheelan from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is the third in a series of brief video interviews with leaders of the seven regional accrediting bodies in US higher education. To get an accreditor’s view of assessment, we asked each leader what they have been hearing and thinking about during the pandemic related to two critical areas: the campus climate toward assessment at their member institutions and what expectations the accreditors have for useful evidence of student learning.

The attributes that students need to succeed in college and in their careers are not always neatly bundled as “skill sets” like writing or critical thinking. In addition to students’ academic capacities and physical health, success depends upon qualities like resilience, self-confidence, agency, and empathy. These attributes, often called mindsets, speak to an individual’s personal and interpersonal development and, more globally, their well-being. To discover the impacts on students’ mindsets and skill sets during the pandemic, AAC&U is partnering with Columbia University’s Global Psychiatric Epidemiology Group (GPEG) research team to support the federally funded National COVID-19 Higher Ed Student Impact Study examining the effects of COVID-19 on student well-being, decision-making, and academic and life outcomes.

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