This week’s e-mail will be mercifully short, but filled with some key information.
I know the uncertainty of the fall is frustrating. Will we be in the classroom or virtual? Will our students be virtual, face-to-face, or a blend of the two? How do we manage all of this without (further) exhausting ourselves?
It would make me very happy if I could offer all of you the perfect solution for your individual courses, but of course there isn’t one. That said, I do want to point you to some resources:
First of all, Helen MacDermott passed along the following tips for teaching courses with students BOTH in the room AND online. It’s a short but smart list, including my new favorite technique: “Tepid Calling.” You’ll have to read the article to find out what that’s all about.
Another useful piece on the concurrent or hyflex classroom comes from Derek Bruff, of Vanderbilt. Bruff breaks down a variety of options for engaging students in virtual and face-to-face configurations. Because he foresees issues with having in-class students engage online, he focuses on other methods, including polls, online written group-work, and back-channel conversations.
Second, for those of you who are more inclined to dive into the source material and develop your own methods, please give this essay by Sarah Rose Cavanagh a read. It provides a “syllabus” of summer reading for anyone exploring blended instruction. (Worth noting: the first book Cavanagh mentions–Flower Darby’s SMALL TEACHING ONLINE–is available in e-book form from our library!)
Finally, a few online conferences/workshop series are coming up in the next few weeks:
- The Associated Colleges of the South has organized a series of online workshops aimed at advancing the particular pedagogies of liberal arts colleges in an age of uncertainty. Individual workshops cover a range of topics and disciplines, including teaching virtual or blended courses in language, mathematics, and STEM. These workshops start this week and extend through July.
- Wiley (the publisher, not the coyote) is hosting a free online conference starting on 7 July. The speaker for the opening plenary isn’t half as funny as he thinks he is, but other than that, the conference provides an opportunity to hear from a variety of speakers in a variety of fields, about the challenges of teaching in virtual or blended environments.
Well, th-th-that’s all folks!
Sorry. I couldn’t resist.
Be well, friends.
I hope this finds everyone well, and finding something to enjoy in the cooler weather and all the rain. Lots and lots and lots of rain. On a related note, please know that if you or your family are looking for a quiet place to swim, my basement is available.
Moving right along . . .
The bulk of this newsletter will focus on various Summer Academy events, plus a few extras:
First and foremost, if you missed last week’s session on lessons learned from the sudden pivot to virtual instruction, you can view a video of that session. Opening with thoughts from Drs. Brian Alexander, Nadia Ayoub, and Sarah Horowitz, the session featured lots of tips on making the virtual classroom a productive learning environment for our students. Among the ideas that were mentioned:
- Using debates to engage students and enliven discussion
- Embedding short videos in the quiz function of Canvas with pre- and post-questions (sometimes graded, sometimes not), to ensure students receive crucial course content
- Allowing opportunities for students to process the pandemic in the context of your course content
- Requiring that each student attend at least one online office hour
- Flipping the classroom, so that asynchronous videos cover course content and synchronous meetings are used to work through the nuances of more complex materials and problems
- Encouraging students to take screen shots of discussion prompts before sending them into breakout rooms
Again, the video for that session is available at summeracademy.academic.wlu.edu, along with all other recorded videos from Summer Academy.
By the way: be sure to check out the chat for several of these sessions, particularly the one on lessons learned. Once you’ve started the video you’ll see several icons in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Just to the right of the CC icon is a small item that looks like a tablet. Click on that, click on Resources, and then click on the item labeled GMT. This will allow you to save the chat to a selected folder.
Second, just a reminder about upcoming sessions:
- Tomorrow, Thursday 18 June, from 12-1:30, Dr. Pamela Tracy will be leading a session on effective communication in a virtual environment. Though communication may seem like a simple task, even in the best of times ensuring that students understand what’s expected of them and can negotiate the terrain of our courses can be challenging. Dr. Tracy has a degree in Communications and twenty years of experience teaching in a virtual environment. Her talk will frame the issues for us, and offer some practical tips. To sign up, go to go.wlu.edu/summeracademy.
- Coming next week, Academic Technologies is running several useful sessions:
- “Crafting and Grading Quizzes, Assignments, and Discussions in Canvas,” Tuesday, June 23, 10-11:30
- “Effective Online Course Design with Canvas,” Thursday, June 25, 10-11:30
- “Canvas Basics,” Friday, June 26, 10-11:30
- Also next week (Weds, June 24, 1-2:30), Dr. Mays Imad will be holding a session on trauma-based pedagogy. Dr. Imad, a geneticist and bio-ethicist, will talk about the biological implications of trauma for student learning, as well as offering some advice on how we can adjust our teaching to counter these challenges. If you’re interested in knowing more about Dr. Imad’s work, here’s a short recent piece she wrote. If you’re interested in signing up for her event, please visit go.wlu.edu/summeracademy.
Third, something to have on your radar: Flower Darby, who co-authored “Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes“, will be giving a workshop, sponsored by CICV (Counsel for Independent College in Virginia) on Friday, June 26th, at 10:00 a.m. In her talk, she’ll distill eight key points to enrich learning in a virtual environment. Sign up for the workshop – registration deadline is June 25th at 5:00 PM. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Also, read this recent piece by Darby on low-tech ways to communicate in a virtual course.
Please let me know if you have any questions regarding any of these events. And please be well.
I’d like to begin by thanking you for all of your astounding work this past Winter and Spring. The way everyone pivoted on a dime and shifted their classes to virtual mode was testimony to how deeply you care about our students and their learning. Without exaggeration, I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite so inspiring in my decades in high ed.
I hope the coming weeks offer everyone an opportunity to breathe a little, to dive into your research, spend some time with family and friends, read some books for fun, catch up on your favorite series. I understand, of course, that the last thing anyone wants to think about is the uncertainty surrounding next fall, but I did want to let everyone know about a number of events CARPE and Academic Technologies have planned over the course of the summer to allow us to process our recent experiences, and to strengthen our abilities to implement Fall courses that are both responsive to the current crisis, and that adhere to the best traditions of the liberal arts.
Descriptions are below. If you have any questions, please let me know. And if you’d like to sign up, you may do so by going to https://go.wlu.edu/summeracademy.
One final note: I’ve received several e-mails about glitches in the survey we sent out earlier this week, namely, that people seemed to be getting timed out of particular questions, and that their answers are not saved when this happens. We’re very very sorry about this. We’ve made some adjustments to allow more time for each question, and Kristy Crickenberger actually got on the phone to speak with the Qualtrics people about the problem. They’ve assured us that everyone should have up to 30 minutes to answer each question. At this point, though, we’re struggling to confirm that the system is working the way they say it should. This in mind, please simply do your best, keeping your answers relatively short if need be, and sending additional thoughts along to me or Kristy if there’s further feedback you feel comfortable sharing with us. Again, we apologize for these glitches, and simply ask you to do your best.
Many thanks, all. Please get some rest.
Summer Academy Sessions
- Wednesday, June 10th, 12-1:30 pm EST: What Worked, What Didn’t, What I’ll Carry Forward.March, April, and May were about coping: given the sudden shift to distance education, how do we make sure that our students still learn what we need them to learn. Summer gives us the opportunity to pause, reflect and deliberate: what did this upheaval reveal to us about our courses? About our role as teachers? About our students? About learning? About our mission as advocates for the liberal arts? This session will begin with reflections from three colleagues, then open up for broader conversation, collaboration, and problem-solving.
Panelists: Dr. Brian Alexander, Dr. Nadia Ayoub, & Dr. Sarah Horowitz
- Thursday, June 18th, 12-1:30 pm EST: Transparent and Effective Communication in the Virtual ClassroomAs educators, we seek to create learning environments that foster community, encourage persistence, promote collaboration, and motivate student engagement. Achieving these goals in a virtual classroom requires well-planned communication practices that emphasize relational components of learning and make visible significant learning processes. In this workshop, we will explore communication strategies to enhance learning for all students within the context of one of your courses.
Dr. Pamela Tracy is the Director of the Center for Faculty Enrichment (CAFE) and Professor of Communication Studies at Longwood University. In her 18 years at Longwood, she has created and taught courses in face-to-face, hybrid, and online environments. Her faculty development work on course and assignment design, core curriculum, and new faculty programs has been published in a variety of journals. Dr. Tracy is a Quality Matters course reviewer and a certified Seven Habits facilitator.
- Wednesday, June 24th, 1-2:30 pm EST: Beyond Imagination: Trauma-Based Pedagogies and the Fierce Urgency to Reclaim the Heart of EducationThis workshop will interrogate what it means to teach for purpose and empowerment. How do we leverage the neuroscience of now to help our students learn and thrive in times of trauma?
Mays Imad is a neuroscientist and the founding coordinator of the teaching and learning center at Pima Community College where she studies stress and emotions and their effect on students’ learning. Her writing and work during the COVID-19 crisis has garnered her attention from around the world.
- Tuesday & Wednesday, June 30 & July 1, 1-4:00 pm EST: Designing For Agility: Creating Powerful Courses that Flex (Parts I & II).If uncertainty is becoming the new normal, how do we prepare for our courses in the fall? This pair of “bring your own syllabi” interactive sessions is designed to help us rethink our courses in ways that leave us capable of responding to any situation-and ensure that we are able to maintain the level of high quality, liberal-arts community that makes our work at Washington and Lee so rewarding.
Facilitators: Dr. Jeanine Stewart and Dr. Paul Hanstedt
- Tuesday, 7 July, 12-1:30 pm EST: Active Learning and Virtual InstructionActive learning strategies cannot only make face-to-face learning more compelling, they can also make virtual learning more engaging and effective for students. Five professors will discuss their virtual learning experience using student debates, collaborative teamwork, case studies, problem solving, digital stories, breakout discussions, online written discussions, and more.
Presenters: Dr. Elicia Cowins; Dr. Megan Hess; Dr. Diego Millan; Dr. Matt Tuchler; Dr. Julie Youngman
- Tuesday, 14 July, 9 am-12:00 pp EST: Creating Effective VideosCreating short lecture videos for students to view before class is an active learning strategy that frees up valuable class time for students to engage with content and each other. It can also serve as an important resource for students who cannot attend class in person. In this session, we’ll examine strategies for creating and using videos effectively.
Presenter: Dr. Jeff Rahl
I hope this finds you well, particularly those of you who are wrapping up your Spring Term courses. Because this year has already been officially recognized as the longest year in the history of the world (and we’re not even to June yet), I’m going to hit a couple serious topics right away, then move on to a number of lighter items.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Last Day of CARPE Office Hours
- Three Resources Related to Online Instruction
- Three Questions to Ask When Designing Active Learning
- A Call For Student Digital Projects
- David Byrne’s Reasons to Be Cheerful
- McSweeney’s Strikes Again: Lesser Known Privileges of Academic Rank
- A Zoom Performance Review, with Dogs
1) The Last Day of CARPE Office Hours
Today, Thursday, 21 May, will mark the last official CARPE Office Hours for this academic year. Please know, however, that because all of my wonderful summer vacation plans have been wiped out, I will be around all summer, and I’m happy to Zoom with anyone, pretty much anytime. So if there’s something on your mind, something you want help with, something for which you need a sounding board, or if you just want to touch base, let me know. One of the things I miss most about not being on campus is bumping into folks and having random conversation. E-mail me at email@example.com and we’ll set up a meeting. It’ll be nice to see your face and chat a little.
2) Three Resources Related to Online Instruction
While I know the last thing any of us want to think about is the possibility that we might be working virtually come fall semester, it’s never a bad idea to be prepared, particularly as even if we’re face-to-face, it’s likely that some of our students will need to remain virtual. That in mind, three quick resources for you to browse, should you have the need:
First, from Emily Cook, an essay from the Chronicle about innovative ways to find and use sources when virtual instruction makes it difficult to send students to a brick and mortar library. This piece has lots of insider advice–don’t, for instance, give up on fire-walled materials!–and is well worth a read, particularly, again, as we think about course construction and text selection for the fall.
Second, some resources for folks who are finding themselves frustrated by the challenges of leading discussion in a virtual setting. While I do want to point out that this website is designed for K-12 education, I also feel comfortable saying that each of the seven suggestions the author presents works just as well in a university environment. In addition, several colleagues here at W&L have road-tested some of these approaches, with some success.
Third, from Chris Jenney in Cognitive and Behavior Science, a pedagogical repository for teaching online, organized by the University of Central Florida. If you click on Pedagogical Practices, you’ll find resources organized by three categories: Course Content; Interaction; and Assessment. Each area is full of interesting and varied practical approaches–many of which might also be used in face-to-face instruction.
3) Three Questions to Ask When Designing Active Learning
Robert Talbert is a respected author and thinker on flipped learning, particularly in the STEM fields (his own background is in mathematics). In this blog post, Talbert lays out three questions we should ask if we hope to approach “active learning” in a productive way. There’s a lot to like about Talbert’s words: the need to be deliberate if we’re to be effective; the ways in which active learning can be productive even in content-driven courses; how all of this translates to virtual instruction. If you’re wary of “assessment-speak,” be warned that there’s some of that to wade through; in the end, though, it might just be worth it.
4) A Call For Student Digital Projects
From Emily Cook, a request of faculty assigning digital work to help W&L record this moment in time:
The student projects created during this unique Spring Term are an important part of our institutional history. To ensure these pieces of history are documented, encourage students to submit applicable projects/scholarship to the Washington and Lee University Digital Archive. The Digital Archive serves to preserve, share, and enhance the use of materials owned or created by WLU and members of its community by making these materials available in a digital format. Students can submit their work through the Student Submissions button on the front page of the Digital Archive.
If you have questions, comments, or problems with the accessibility of this archive’s content, please contact Digital Scholarship Librarian Paula S. Kiser or Digital Services Manager Cindy Morton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5) David Byrne’s Reasons to Be Cheerful
One of my failings as a child of the ’80s–indeed, as a human being–is that I’ve never really been a fan of The Talking Heads. I wanted to like them, really I did. All the cool people liked them. They seemed like a smart group of musicians, the kind of folks a wanna-be-professor should be into. But in the end? That song, “Burning Down the House” was just too hard to dance to . . .
Anyhow: as if his career hasn’t been brilliant enough, David Byrne has had the wisdom to dedicate time in recent years to curating an on-going, evolving collection of “Reasons to be Cheerful.” You should probably bookmark this site. We all probably should.
6) McSweeney’s Strikes Again: Lesser Known Privileges of Academic Rank
This article was making the rounds on social media for a couple days before colleagues started sending it to me, suggesting I share it. Be warned: in true McSweeney’s style, the author takes no prisoners. If you’re feeling defensive about academia in general, or your field in particular, do NOT read this piece! (Of course, now that I’ve said that, you know you’re gonna read it, right?)
7) A Zoom Performance Review, with Dogs
Every crisis has its heroes, and Andrew Cotter, sports announcer for the BBC, is certainly a nominee for the Humor category in the age of COVID. Chances are you’ve seen some of his work on social media, wherein he commentates, Monday Night Football-style, on the antics of Mabel and Olive, his dogs.
Yes, I know it’s a dopey premise. But it works. And even if you’re not particularly interested in the first three scenarios, please be sure to scroll down and click on Episode 4: “The Company Meeting.” Then try and convince yourself that it doesn’t sound familiar . . .
Be well, all.
I hope you’re well, and that you’re finding some way to get out into the garden, or to bake bread, or to paint or to read a really really good novel. Those of you who are teaching Spring Term, have faith! The end (of the term, not the world) is in sight!
Several short items today:
First, just a reminder that if you’re interested in the summer faculty/staff book club exploring Cathy Davidson’s THE NEW EDUCATION, there are still spaces available. Davidson’s book is an excellent opportunity to remind ourselves of why we do the hard work we do, and how the current crisis may give us the chance to make some important changes. My hope is that, rather than feeling like “work,” this book club is a way to refresh ourselves by diving into larger conversations about higher education.
If you’re interested, visit last week’s newsletter here for more information, then e-mail me directly at email@example.com.
Second, the Liberal Arts Collaborative for Digital Innovation–aka, LACOL–is offering an online summer convention consisting of a series of workshops, reading groups, and discussions. Among other things, there will be a discussion of James Lang and Flower Darby’s SMALL TEACHING ONLINE. Since W&L is a member of LACOL (along with other peer institutions), participation is free. Elizabeth Teaff has made electronic copies of Lang and Darby’s book available.
Third, for those of you still thinking about how you’d like to close out your Spring Term courses–or for those of you who are just interested in exploring different ways to do final exams–mathematician Francis Su offers an interesting take in the piece “Seven Exam Questions for a Pandemic (or any other time).” It’s a short and thoughtful read.
Finally, on the lighter side, McSweeney’s has done us all the favor of creating course evaluations for life in the age of COVID. The writers have done a nice job of making sure that every field is represented. Enjoy!
Take care, everyone. Wash your hands!