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COVID-19 and the transition to online-only or hybrid forms of learning and engagement have made navigating voter engagement opportunities extremely difficult, even with months left on the clock. And now, to make student voter engagement feel even more daunting, we’re only a week away from Election Day. You might be asking yourself: “What can I possibly do today that would still make an impact?” Well, we are here to help.

We now know that living with the Covid-19 pandemic means that much of the teaching and learning at colleges and universities that have been at least partially virtual in fall 2020 will continue into winter and spring 2021, affecting millions of students. As virtual learning is increasingly part of the fabric of higher education, what does this mean for how we view quality, and especially what counts as evidence of what students learn? And, what does this mean for accreditation, still the primary means of assuring quality to which thousands of institutions and programs turn?

In my role as a vice president for institutional effectiveness, I was fortunate to lead “Think in Ink,” an institution-wide program to foster students’ analysis, argumentation, and synthesis skills demonstrated through effective writing within various majors. I witnessed how internal partnerships and collaboration among faculty and support staff across campus contributed to deep, meaningful integration of teaching, assessment, and learning.

College and university faculty don’t just teach subjects; we teach people. Our role is not only to present content and test recall in our areas of expertise. Although the study of civics and government has definite disciplinary connections to fields like political science, participation in democracy belongs to us all. We cannot expect our political science colleagues alone to elicit the learning that leads to productive civic behaviors. Helping students make connections between our disciplines and our functions as citizens is a part of a holistic education, and a task that we all collectively share as teachers.

When Brandman University added our first fully online courses about ten years ago, the university experienced—somewhat surprisingly—a strong positive reaction from students, resulting in more and more courses going online. Just before the pandemic struck, the university’s courses were 85 percent online. To get first-hand perspectives on why some students prefer learning in an online environment, I asked twenty-four Brandman students and alumni how it benefitted them. Their answers support my own experiences that online learning, when done well, can increase access for some students, enhance educational quality, and support interpersonal connections with faculty and classmates.

In a year of crisis moments, election day 2020 is now only four weeks away. This high-stakes election is converging with a global pandemic, heightened awareness of social injustice, and financial tumult. With declining enrollments, frozen salaries, and migrations to online learning, the truth is that the 2020 election is damned inconvenient for educators. But, with apologies, I am asking overwhelmed institutional leaders, faculty, and staff to do whatever it takes to prioritize student political learning and participation in democracy for the following few weeks, despite the competing demands on your time. It’s not too late to act.

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