Hello, everyone!

I hope this finds all of you well and that classes this week have been, if not as productive as they would be under usual circumstances, at least a means of bringing some small degree of routine and normalcy back into your lives. Keep in mind, of course, that a slightly rocky shift to virtual instruction is to be expected. And remember that, always, you have it in your power to change your approach in order to get better results.

I apologize, again, for the length of this e-mail. Since I’m shifting to a semi-daily delivery, information and resources tend to accumulate. Please feel free to skim or use the Table of Contents below for quicker reading.

One quick note: starting next week, I’ll be shifting to two-day-a-week office hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10 a.m. until noon. Please feel free to stop in–but also know that you can contact me to set up a one-on-one appointment at any time.

Thanks, all. Remember to breathe deep. And to go for walks. And to laugh. All three will reduce your anxiety and increase your brain’s capacity to function normally during this peculiar (but finally, finite) moment in our shared history.



  1. CARPE and Academic Technologies Zoom Happy Hour!
  2. Not feeling the energy in your Synchronous Classes? Here’s a tip.
  3. Not feeling the energy in your Asynchronous Classes? Here’s a tip.
  4. Speaking of connectivity in a time of physical distancing . . .
  5. Still wondering what to do about testing and the Honor Code?
  6. Rethinking grading in a time of virtual instruction
  7. YuJa Faux Translations: A Request
  8. Whiskey, Guns, and Sponge Bob: Always Hit “Record”!

1) CARPE and Academic Technologies Zoom Happy Hour!

Yes, yes, this likely is something of a ploy to get around W&L’s rule about alcohol consumption before 5pm, but it is also, very sincerely, an attempt to find out how everyone’s first week went–to vent, to trouble-shoot, to reconnect with colleagues. So, whatever your reason–the chardonnay, or the camaraderie–please join us tomorrow, Friday, 3 April, at 4:00 for this event co-sponsored by CARPE and Academic Technologies.

Oh, and it perhaps goes without saying: BYOB.

Topic: CARPE/Academic Technologies Zoom Happy Hour!
Time: Apr 3, 2020 04:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Meeting ID: 161 033 211

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2) Not feeling the energy in your Synchronous Classes? Here’s a tip.

Teaching synchronous class sessions, but feeling like the energy is a bit low, like students seem to be atypically passive? Part of it, of course, might just be the students getting used to the new format. Particularly in times of crisis, transitions can be difficult.

If you’d like to warm up the (virtual) room, however, adapt this old trick from face-to-face teaching:


  • Pause twenty minutes into your lecture or discussion. Ask students to write about the single most important thing they’ve heard so far–and WHY they think it’s important–OR about a question they have.
  • After giving students 1-2 minutes to do this, use the Zoom breakout rooms function to put them into teams of 2-3. Ask them to share ideas with each other, and take notes on what they’re hearing.
  • Allow them 2-3 minutes to share.
  • Reconvene as a large group, and ask a few teams to share their thinking/questions.
  • Repeat after another 20-30 minutes.

3) Not feeling the energy in your Asynchronous Classes? Here’s a tip.

Feeling disconnected from your students? If you’re teaching asynchronously, this isn’t surprising. Many of us feed off of the energy generated by a room full of students engaged in meaningful intellectual work. Being there, seeing them shift their thinking or encounter an “a-ha” moment is what makes all the hours of prep and grading worthwhile.

If you feel like you need to just reconnect with your students, try this:

  • Send them a collective e-mail or message via Canvas asking them for there feedback on two questions.
  • Question 1: Tell me how you’re doing in general, on a scale of 1-5, 5 being very well, 1 being not-so-good.
  • Question 2: Tell me how you’re feeling as a student and a learner, using the same scale of 1-5. How’s this shift working out for you?
  • Feel free to encourage them to include brief paragraphs of explanation, if they’d like.
  • Feel free to write your own responses, on a scale of 1-5, of how you’re doing in general, and how you’re doing as a member of the professoriate, to share with the students. Do not write separate versions for every student (unless you wish to); just write it once, and share if they request it. Feel free to include brief explanatory paragraphs as well.

4) Speaking of connectivity in a time of physical distancing . . .

. . . here’s an excellent article, passed along by Gene McCabe, about how connectivity is essential to feeling fully human, and about how we can maintain a sense of connection even at this weird moment.

5) Still wondering what to do about testing and the Honor Code?

The issue of testing and the Honor Code has come up several times in conversations I’ve had with faculty. Here’s a very thoughtful take on this issue from the London Time Higher Education supplement. Should you find any of the proposed solutions intriguing, please reach out to me if you want to brainstorm ways to implement.

6) Rethinking grading in a time of virtual instruction

We’ve known for some time that, as much as grading can be a motivating factor for our students, they don’t necessarily help lasting and meaningful learning. Given that reducing the emphasis on grades might also aid our students at a time of high anxiety, now might be a moment to explore some different “ungrading” options. This article, shared by Mackenzie Brooks, is a good place to start, as is this piece by anthropologist Susan Blum, of the University of Notre Dame.

If you find yourself having further questions about this, feel free to contact me. I always find these conversations interesting and productive!

7) Yuja Faux Translations: A Request

Louise Uffelman (luffelma@wlu.edu) has asked that anyone encountering bizarre, funny, or just plain peculiar Yuja closed-caption translations please forward them to her. The best she’s encountered so far? When Yuja translated “a trompe l’oeil painting” into “a Trump lawyer painting.”

Seriously. Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

8) Whiskey, Guns, and Sponge Bob: Always Hit “Record”!

And finally, as weird as things are, a little humor always helps. Here’s a nice piece about UVa’s sometimes rocky, sometimes drunken, sometimes just plain funny transition to virtual instruction. It’s a nice, quick read, with many take-aways, including, very seriously: always always always be sure to hit “Record.”