Many IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) senior volunteer leaders, including several former Global Board chairs and the incoming Board chair, are serving on the front lines of higher education. They’re adjusting to the new normal of virtual teaching and the various challenges that go with it. Below, two of these leaders offer their insights and words of wisdom.

Be Ready for Anything
Paul E. Juras, Ph.D., CMA, CPA, incoming IMA Board Chair and professor at Babson College:

At Babson, our IT support center has developed a website titled “Be Ready for Anything,” which offers a tutorial on technology and best practices on delivery and even guidance on hardware selection. Looking at that aspirational goal more broadly, though, here’s what it means to me:

Be resilient – The ability to be adaptable is something we try to instill in our students as we prepare them for successful careers that will include jobs that don’t even exist right now. As faculty members, we can model this virtue of resilience. 

Be passionate – In this time of uncertainty, displays of confidence for what you are teaching can be a positive influence in the lives of your students. Let your passion for the content come through.
Be prepared – Take the time to practice with tools that you might have used infrequently or maybe not at all. For example, while WebEx might be the tool of choice for group interaction, maybe a tool like Zoom will have better connectivity during times of high demand for WebEx bandwidth, or can serve as a backup if WebEx goes down.  

Use multiple paths of engagement – Yes, make use of email and tools like WebEx, but don’t underestimate the impact of using social media channels that students use in their daily lives. For example, a recent article in Strategic Finance discussed how to use Snapchat as a classroom tool.
Be communicative 
– Related to the engagement tools, it’s probably better to over-communicate than under-communicate during this time. Communication with students and fellow faculty may be the bulk of any social interaction many of us will have during these trying times and so frequent communication can help us feel less isolated, feel that we are not alone, and feel that we matter.
Be flexible – We don’t know what obstacles we or our students might face: Maybe it’s technology that freezes up or internet bandwidth that is insufficient because too many people are using it. One idea I came across is to offer each student a “free pass” on one item during the course. Maybe an assignment is late or a student can’t get on a required WebEx – no penalty, the student gets a free pass.   
Be disciplined and structured – This might seem contradictory to my point above, but I’m talking about personal schedules. Get up each morning and get ready just like you would if you were going to campus to teach. Keep regular office hours – they are now simply done virtually instead of face-to-face. Similarly, have a time when you “go home,” just as if you were leaving campus for the day.  
Build a community of peer support – Find a technology buddy to experiment with and to share stories of success and difficulties. It could be a departmental-level website that serves as a repository of ideas or something like Canvas, which can serve as a central point of contact to share ideas and resources.
Finally, keep a positive attitude and a sense of humor. We will get through this, and let your students see that you believe that. This will go a long way toward making this journey more bearable. 

Finding the Silver Lining
Sandra B. Richtermeyer, Ph.D., CMA, CPA (inactive), former IMA Global Board Chair and dean of the Manning School of Business, University of Massachusetts Lowell

In the midst of these challenging times, here are some positives:

New relationships – People are coming together to help each other in new ways. On our campus, often full-time and adjunct faculty don’t have the opportunity to collaborate together, so this has been really positive, and the faculty have grown their network of colleagues.

New technology
– Our campus uses Blackboard as its learning management system, but we’ve seen a significant increase in the use of Zoom. Many of our adjunct faculty who use Zoom in their “day jobs” have jumped right in and offered basic to advanced training to those not as familiar. Plus, those who have taught online for years have offered webinars on basic tips to engage students online, how to launch team projects online, etc. We also realize it’s pretty difficult for students to sit in front of their screen for 4+ hours, so we’re encouraging faculty to (when possible) be flexible and give the students the option of watching recorded class sessions at a later time – not always ideal, but we are emphasizing flexibility. 

New leaders – We often hear the saying “Everyone can lead in their own way,” and I’ve found this to be very true during this crisis. New leaders are emerging from the student and faculty community as everyone is sharing information, finding access to emergency funding and technology, helping with online classes, meetings, etc. People who want to help are showing leadership skills that perhaps their colleagues never knew they had.  

Mental health is important – Before the crisis, student mental health was a top concern for most college campuses. Now, that concern is just as serious, and our students need to be cared for in new ways. We are a JED Campus (, and I have seen many organizations offer webinars for students to help them deal with the stress and uncertainty they face right now. Teletherapy and counseling is becoming more and more important.