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  • Boosting Student Motivation Through Connected Reflection

    (from Faculty Focus). Boosting Student Motivation Through Connected Reflection. Universities are mandated to be the ultimate “learning culture,” powered by faculty who embody lifelong learning. We know that reflection is essential to learning; it’s the foundation of “continuous improvement,” that ceaseless cultivation of our skills and spirits as we work in the world. And this year, our reflection comes in time of global crisis—all the more reason to reflect on what matters most in our lives and our students’ lives, in our communities, and in our teaching and learning within our courses. Here are seven ways to facilitate motivation, metacognition, and a learning community.

  • Transforming Midterm Evaluations into a Metacognitive Pause

    (from Faculty Focus). Transforming Midterm Evaluations into a Metacognitive Pause. Midterm evaluations often tip toward students’ (unexamined) likes and dislikes. By leveraging the weight of the midterm pause and inviting students to reflect on their development, midterm evaluations can become more learning-centered. Cued by our language, students can become aware of a distinction—that we’re not asking what they like, but what is helping them learn. This opportunity for students to learn about their learning yields valuable insights that not only inform instructors about the effects of our methods, but also ground students in their own learning processes, deepening their confidence in and commitment to their development in the second half of the course. Many students in this particular evening course were returning learners, and so it felt beneficial to use the natural pause at midterm as an opportunity to grow their confidence by reflecting on the learning process and taking stock of their own development. I therefore tailored my midterm questions with a metacognitive slant that would prompt students to identify and articulate dimensions of and supports for their learning. Learning experts often talk about the necessary “difficulty” and “disorientation” that is part of learning. “Can you share about what has been most challenging for you so far in this course?” (Disorienting even?) “What have you learned from this difficulty? What helped you in overcoming the challenge(s)?”

  • Starter Activities to Begin Any Class

    (from Faculty Focus). Starter Activities to Begin Any Class.  What can you implement in your classes that can review content, establish a foundation for the day’s topic, encourage student participation, and get students prepared for the day’s activities?  Whether you call them starter activities, bell work, or focusing activities, a predictable, formatted, content-based beginning of class activity can be used to achieve these goals.  Beginning of class activities have previously been used to gain student attention, provide accountability, review material, engage with new content, or establish routines. To gain students’ attention, class might begin by using multi-media, hands-on activities, surprising events, humor, or appealing to students’ emotions (Davis, 2009). Or class might start with a repeating set of slides, asking students to sequence steps or sketch a content-related drawing (Honeycutt, 2019). Here are some suggestions

  • When Directions are the Problem

    (from Faculty Focus) When Directions are the Problem. Instructors often experience problems between the directions given for an assignment and the work submitted by a student. Students miss important parts of questions; they may fail to understand the directions; and they produce work which the instructor finds unacceptable. Unfortunately, students may fail to see what the instructor sees for the end product, leading to loss of time and learning. John Hattie (2015) found that instructors who directly teach what is expected, have improved student outcomes with a large effect size (Cohen’s d = 0.77).

    Templating, where instructors explicitly develop, teach, and model expectations, improves learning and reduces time spent trying to implement directions and is rooted in Bandura’s social learning theory by helping students define, interpret, and mimic what was observed (Bandura & Walters, 1977). There are four components to consider: develop a minimum and a maximum for each criteria, give students a laundry list of expectations, use a checklist for the template, and model expectations.

  • First Assignment Helps Establish Expectations

    (From Faculty Focus). First Assignment Helps Establish Expectations. There is a lot to cover on the first day of class. You establish procedures and convey expectations. You review the syllabus and, if you’re teaching a lab, safety protocol. You also spend some time teaching some material. While you might not make an assignment for the first day, you still should use some time on the first day to talk about your expectations for students’ work and how you assign grades. Although you explain grading on the first day, expect to review it again when you return the first assignments, papers, and exams. 

  • 5 Faculty Best Practices Before the First Day of Online Class

    (from Wiley Educational Services). 5 Faculty Best Practices Before the First Day of Online Class. For faculty who teach online, the days leading up to the first week of class are critical for both you and your students. By using this time to prepare your students for what is to come, you can help alleviate student fears and anxieties, as well as limit the number of emails you receive. For example, sending students a few introductory announcements,  and welcoming them into the classroom (e.g., through a video) can help establish a stronger student-teacher relationship. Click here for five simple actions you can take before the first day of class to help prepare yourself to teach online and to make your students feel more comfortable about the upcoming course.

  • Sample Syllabus Quiz Questions

    (from ASU Teach Online). Sample Syllabus Quiz Questions. A syllabus quiz acts as a contract to verify understanding of important elements of the syllabus. The purpose of a syllabus quiz is not only to familiarize students with the syllabus content, but also gives students a chance to reflect on questions that were asked in previous terms. This helps the instructor avoid answering the same questions repeatedly, and a syllabus quiz can ensure that students are responsible for their own learning.

    A syllabus quiz helps to clarify any misconceptions about course content or policies, such as late work. Important procedures can be reviewed and technical issues can be covered. The course structure and where to locate due dates can be included, as well as the instructor’s preferred method of communication. Providing immediate feedback after completing the syllabus quiz will minimize confusion. Here are some sample questions to ask

  • Advice for the First Day of Class: Today We Will

    (From Faculty Focus). Advice for the First Day of Class: Today We Will. The first day of class is critical. What happens on the first day, even in the first moments, sets the tone for the entire course. The impression you make will last the entire semester, and today’s students are not shy about sharing their opinions. Most students will make up their minds about the course and the instructor during that first class period. That is why you must use the first day, the first moments of class, to inspire confidence in your abilities and create a classroom atmosphere where the rules are clear; expectations are high; and yet students feel welcome, comfortable, and engaged.

  • Lessons from Teaching in Fall 2020: What to Keep, What to Ditch, and What to Change

    (from Cynthia Brame, Vanderbilt University – Center for Teaching). Lessons from Teaching in Fall 2020: What to Keep, What to Ditch, and What to Change. This fall, I got the opportunity to teach online for the first time. As with most times, I do something hard for the first time, I found some things that worked, some things that didn’t, and some things that I think had promise but need significant tweaking.  So what worked? (Organization) What didn’t? (Small group discussion boards) What would I tweak? (Small groups in class). And what are challenges that currently have me stumped?  Read on!

  • 11 Steps to Planning a Course You’ve Never Taught Before

    (from Faculty Focus). 11 Steps to Planning a Course You’ve Never Taught Before. You wait with anticipation. You receive the email: Course assignments are posted. You click on your Course Assignment. And—you’re assigned to teach a course that you have never taught before. Maybe you feel excitement, maybe you feel anxiety, or some mixture of the two. Emotion aside, how do you plan a new course? Planning a new course can seem intimidating, even anxiety-provoking, but it doesn’t have to be. You can start planning with confidence and getting your mental energy away from worry and back to the most important thing: teaching and reaching your students. Here are concrete steps you can take to start planning a brand-new course you have never taught before

  • An Effective Syllabus to Reflect Your Course Design

    (from Vanderbilt University and University of Illinois teaching centers). An Effective Syllabus to Reflect Your Course Design. A syllabus serves many functions in a class. In The Course Syllabus: A Learning Centered Approach (2008, 2nd Ed.) Judith Grunert O’Brien, Barbara J. Millis and Margaret W. Cohen identify at least sixteen elements of a learner-centered syllabus. First: a good syllabus relies on thoughtful course design. The strongest syllabi are built on a solid foundation of course design. Here are some steps to create an effective syllabus. In addition, please check out our Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning page on syllabus design.

  • State of Mind in the College Classroom

    (from Faculty Focus) State of Mind in the College Classroom. (NOTE: Even though this article is from 2018, it is even more relevant during these unanticipated times). There’s a mental health crisis on today’s college campuses. According to research conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness: one in four college students have a diagnosable illness, 40 percent do not seek help, 80 percent feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities, and 50 percent have become so anxious that they struggle in school.

    How can faculty support students who are facing these issues? Showing students kindness goes a long way. Creating a classroom environment that exudes kindness and concern for students’ well-being sends a message to students that not only do we care about them, but we support them. Facilitating this type of classroom environment can enable students to take the necessary steps to approach their instructor when they are having a difficult time. A safe and supportive classroom environment helps students begin a conversation about the challenges they are dealing with during the semester. This in turn can lead faculty to assist a student in exploring support services available to them on campus, so they do not have to suffer in silence.

  • Parting Ways: Ending Your Course

    (from Association for Psychological Science). Parting Ways: Ending Your Course. Much emphasis has been placed on the use of activities at the beginning of a course to provide opportunities for introductions, begin to create a comfortable classroom atmosphere to encourage discussion and learning, or develop a sense of community and group identity. In many teaching books (e.g., McKeachie, 1999) there is an entire chapter devoted to getting started and what to do on the first day of a course such as breaking the ice, introducing the teacher and textbook, and allowing time for questions. Much less attention has been given to the equally important task of providing closure at the end of a course or seminar. After a great deal of time developing a sense of comfort and community in the classroom, ignoring class endings seems awkward and abrupt to both students and faculty. Use “parting-ways” techniques such as providing emotional and psychological closure, allowing an opportunity to summarize central ideas and review content, and using strategies that add to students’ entire semester-long experience and sense of accomplishment.

  • Fourteen Simple Strategies to Reduce Cheating in Online Examinations

    (from Faculty Focus). Fourteen Simple Strategies to Reduce Cheating in Online Examinations. The end of the academic term often brings final examinations and cumulative assessments to test students’ knowledge of course materials. With 30% of college students taking online courses (Allen & Segman, 2017), and that number expeditiously increasing, so will the need for administering exams within the online learning environment. Many instructors are hesitant to include exams within their online courses because of the potential of compromising academic integrity. Virtual live proctoring technologies but may be too expensive and not part of the instructor’s institution’s distance education infrastructure. Additionally, having students take exams under the eye of an online proctor may negatively impact student success on the exam (Lieberman, 2018). Even without expensive virtual proctoring tools, there are many ways that instructors can leverage the inherent features within their institution’s Learning Management System (LMS) to decrease cheating during online examinations. Here are 14 ways to do so: from writing questions based on higher-order thinking skills to having students sign an academic integrity contract. 

  • Teaching Higher Levels of Learning at the End of the Semester

    (From Boise State University teaching center).Teaching Higher Levels of Learning at the End of the Semester. Towards the end of the semester, students and instructors alike are often worn out and tempted to take one of two avenues: 1) They may be enticed to turn on cruise control, check out mentally, and start winter break a few weeks early. This first option may be particularly attractive when final class sessions are devoted to student presentations or 2) Students and instructors may be enticed to shift into high gear, to overwork and cram as much as possible. This second option lures students who have been slacking and instructors who have fallen behind schedule. Cramming helps no one.  Here are some effective strategies to implement.


  • A Generation Defined by the Pandemic

    (From Inside Higher Ed). A Generation Defined by the Pandemic. A new survey about student experiences during the fall semester and the coronavirus pandemic found that stress, anxiety and loneliness were their overriding concern. The data are representative of the real-life challenges and uncertainty that students say they face. Uncertainty, instability and self-doubt have been common themes in the lives of college students during 2020 as their education and career plans shift due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

    These were the general feelings expressed by about 450 college students and recent alumni who responded to a small, open-ended survey conducted by a pair of 2020 graduates, and reiterated on a larger scale in a new nationally representative survey of 4,000 undergraduates by the Strada Education Network. The various responses show that heightened stress and anxiety -- whether about achieving academic success, finding future employment or paying for the next meal -- is currently dominating the student psyche. Uncertainty, instability and self-doubt have been common themes in the lives of college students during 2020 as their education and career plans shift due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

  • Cinderella Deadlines: Reconsidering Timelines for Student Work

    (From Faculty Focus). Cinderella Deadlines: Reconsidering Timelines for Student Work.  In preparation for the coming semester, a faculty member recently asked me how to change deadlines on the LMS to midnight on a given day. After helping the professor, I started thinking about why we might need to reconsider this option, both for our own good and for our students. Before electronic submissions for papers were an option, students often had to turn in written assignments for professors during class—a practice some professors still employ. The general idea around these deadlines, whether at the beginning or end of class, largely centers on a shared schedule and the convenience of being in the same place at the same time. However, with more and more professors using electronic communication and accepting work through services like Turnitin, email, drop boxes, and LMS forums, the ease of shared proximity has become less relevant, and the range of possible deadlines has grown. The advent of digital submissions should offer us a chance to think about deadlines in new ways and to reflect on our deadline policies. As Maryellen Weimer points out, “It’s useful to look at the policies as a whole and ask what kind of climate they collectively create. What’s their relationship to learning? How do they promote it, individually and collectively?” There are more questions we could ask ourselves about deadlines.

  • Raising Student Motivation During the Pandemic

    (From Tomorrow’s Professor). Raising Student Motivation During the Pandemic. In spring 2020, faculty across the country stood up to the challenging task of not only transitioning and adapting to online modes of instruction but also multi-tasking through learning new technology, advising, having online office hours, attending official meetings, responding to students who would request Zoom meetings outside of office hours, and much more. Everyone came together with one underlying motive—students’ benefit. Now, as we look forward, we need to make decisions based on a long-term perspective. Student motivation will be a major concern, irrespective of which study model is adopted: online, blended, hybrid, or a myriad variation. For simplicity, I have clubbed all variants of remote/online learning modes and termed them as Pandemic learning modes. This article delves into approaches for constructive student engagement that can help raise student motivation.

  • Want Your Students to Think Creative and Critically? How about Teaching Them?

    (from R. Brent and R. Felder at NC State Univ). Want Your Students to Think Creative and Critically? How about Teaching Them? Two popular targets on the list of Things These Students Can’t Do are creative thinking (coming up with innovative ideas) and critical thinking (making judgments or choices and backing them up with evidence and logic). When our colleagues complain to us that their students can’t do them, after we make appropriate sympathetic noises we ask, “Where were they supposed to learn to do it?” The answers may vary, but one we rarely hear is “In my class.” Through a lot of practice and feedback is how you acquired your skills. You were either given or voluntarily took on tasks, and with someone else’s help or on your own you learned how to do them. The more you did them, the better you got. Unfortunately, creative and critical thinking are not routinely taught in our schools, nor are they activities that students eagerly learn on their own. It shouldn’t surprise us when our students can’t magically do them on our assignments and exams.

  • How to Make Your Virtual Discussions Engaging, Effective, and Equitable in Eight Steps

    (From Faculty Focus) How to Make Your Virtual Discussions Engaging, Effective, and Equitable in Eight Steps. The perfect class discussion can feel like something of an alchemy. From the instructor’s preparation to the students’ personalities, many ingredients can enable or challenge the social construction of knowledge in a class community. As Jay Howard suggests, quality discussions require a great deal of planning and an understanding of social, emotional, and intellectual dynamics (Howard 2019). In times like this, it’s urgent to consider how we can facilitate meaningful discussions in virtual environments. Challenges are understandable, but with practice there are some ways to reduce silence and uncertainty while bolstering engagement and equity in virtual discussions. If we’re open about trying new strategies, reflecting on them, and trying again, we can transform this moment into an opportunity to motivate and connect with our students. 

  • Listen to and Acknowledge Participants - Essential Abilities of Effective Presenters

    (From Tomorrow’s Professor). Listen to and Acknowledge Participants - Essential Abilities of Effective Presenters. Two deeply human desires are to be listened to and acknowledged. How we listen and acknowledge contributes much to the quality of our relationships, and how we as presenters listen to and acknowledge participants contributes much to the quality of their learning. As we think about participants in a learning environment, two tensions come to mind. First is their internal tension associated with not knowing or discovering that they don’t know. The second is a self-inflicted tension created when what an individual doesn’t know. What is ironic here is that for learning to take place, tension must be present. The key is not to eliminate tension; rather, it is to manage the tension by reframing it from being associated with emotional threat to being associated with cognitive challenge. When well-managed, the cognitive tension is high and the psychological tension is low. The safe learning environment is a state of relaxed alertness.

  • Cameras and Masks: Sustaining Emotional Connections with Your Students in an Age of COVID19 (Part 1 of 2). 

    (From Stanford’s Tomorrow’s Professor) Cameras and Masks: Sustaining Emotional Connections with Your Students in an Age of COVID19 (Part 1 of 2).  This posting, the first of two parts, gives some excellent tips on how to connect effectively with your students both in-person and online. Creating an environment that enhances student learning requires up-to-date content, pedagogy based on the latest research in teaching and learning, and an emotional investment in positive student learning outcomes. Students need to feel that instructors care if they succeed, and they prefer those who demonstrate authenticity in their teaching style. In traditional classes, there are several ways instructors can show their commitment: learning students’ names, revealing personal details about themselves, listening carefully to what students have to say, and so forth. But this well-researched advice has always been premised on a model of in-person face-to-face classes, in which instructors and students are in the same room and can see each other’s full faces. Under our new conditions, what can instructors do to establish and sustain connections with students? Here are some suggestions for adapting to the new realities.

  • Cameras and Masks: Sustaining Emotional Connections with Your Students in an Age of COVID19 (Part 2 of 2)

    (From Stanford’s Tomorrow’s Professor). Cameras and Masks: Sustaining Emotional Connections with Your Students in an Age of COVID19 (Part 2 of 2) Several colleagues mentioned that when they arrive at a point in their synchronous class where they want to have a full class discussion, they request that students turn their cameras on, if they are not on already. They report their participation rates go up when they do this. After the discussion is over, students can turn the cameras off again. But be prepared to lose some participants.

     An instructor told me that he was “struggling somewhat to get more than a couple people to talk during the Zoom sessions. It was suggested that instructors give students the option to turn their cameras off, so I told the students that while I prefer their cameras to be on, they can go dark if it slows their internet too much. After I announced this policy during class, there was a steep drop in the number of students whose faces I can see. The main problem is that it’s now very hard to tell if they’re paying attention unless they speak up, but I’ve also found it somewhat disconcerting. If I were to do it over again, I’d tell them they can let me know if they have a reason they need to have their camera off, but otherwise we learn best when we can see each other.” This comment again highlights the importance of discussing your camera-on/off policies with students at the outset and working toward a collectively-agreed policy. Remember to be flexible and empathetic.

  • Informal Early Feedback (IEF): A Valuable Opportunity for Just-in-Time Feedback

    Informal Early Feedback (IEF): A Valuable Opportunity for Just-in-Time Feedback.  Student evaluations of teaching are an important part of the feedback that instructors receive. This feedback can be especially helpful when it is collected midway in the semester. Our students can tell us if we explain clearly, are well-organized, grade fairly, and more. They may also be able to tell us if the activities we give them are well-aligned with the ways we evaluate their learning. Responding to students’ comments by discussing them in class, and making changes as appropriate, can lead to increased motivation, better learning, and possibly improved end-of-semester student ratings. Here is a description of the Informal Early Process (IEF) process and sample forms for you to adapt.   Also, CITL is offering two workshops this week and next to help you design your own IEF forms.  For more assistance, contact CITL.

  • The Most Crucial Two Minutes of Class

    (From Faculty Focus). The Most Crucial Two Minutes of Class. As an educator, I have an embarrassing confession: When I was younger, I was an incredibly difficult student.

    Read something? … On a good day, maybe I’d do some skimming.   Prepare ahead of time? … Nah, another student will do the talking. Pay attention in class? … What for? Why does this even matter to me?!

    There within that last cringe-worthy question lies the problem. For anyone who has been at the front of a classroom, you know that one of the greatest obstacles to learning is student apathy. To help overcome this barrier, I recommend the “motivation step,” a brief, introductory discussion designed to articulate why the material is significant. Not just because it may be on an exam, but rather because it will have real life, lasting consequences. It is a practice that immediately addresses that elephant in the room: Why the material matters.

  • Remotely Hands-On: Teaching lab sciences and the fine arts during COVID-19.

    (From Inside Higher Ed). Remotely Hands-On: Teaching lab sciences and the fine arts during COVID-19. This is the COVID-19 era, in which instructors who teach fundamentally hands-on courses across fields are finding ways to make remote learning work. McGreal stated, “it’s an exciting chance for us to do some things for an online format that will make our face-to-face classes better than ever before.” Take ice carving. McGreal plans to save the videos he’s made of fish and swan carvings for his students this semester and share them with his classes going forward. That way, he said, students can watch the videos in advance of class and be more prepared to attempt their own sculptures when they meet. “They’re coming into our worlds now instead of a steel, sterile classroom, and it makes you feel more comfortable.”  For STEM: Michelle Stocker, assistant professor of geobiology at Virginia Tech, agreed that “for this semester we can make it work. I wouldn’t necessarily say we like doing this at all, though.” The upper-level course is designed to be challenging and extremely hands-on, with students handling skeletal materials for 2.5 hours at a time. Students can’t interact with the materials as they can in the lab. So Stocker asks them to interact with each other more. Students are encouraged to virtually share bones they found on COVID-19-safe walks in the woods, for example, and the class works to identify the animal and what might have happened to it.  Here is additional information for simulations and the arts.

  • Back to the Basics: Revisiting the ABCs of Teaching Online Courses

    (From Faculty Focus). Back to the Basics: Revisiting the ABCs of Teaching Online Courses. The global pandemic sent higher education institutions into a whirlwind as many faculty members scrambled to make the rapid transition from traditional to online courses. However, COVID-19 revealed the creativity and resilience of our administrators, faculty, and staff. As efforts are implemented to foster a learning environment that engages all students, the challenges of digital access have been magnified, and the steep learning curve for faculty members who are new to the digital space has revealed the need for ongoing training. To equip faculty with best practices for teaching online, understanding the pedagogy of online education is foundational. The following is a summary of the fundamental things online instructors should remember to create an engaging, inclusive, and equitable learning environment for all students.

  • Practical Considerations in Online Learning: Asynchronous and Synchronous Environments.

    (from Tomorrow’s Professor). Practical Considerations in Online Learning: Asynchronous and Synchronous Environments.  Online classes can be conducted either synchronously (real-time virtual classrooms or chat) or asynchronously, meaning that postings are staggered. Our preference, based on our experiences with online teaching, is for the asynchronous environment. It is the creation of community in that environment to which all of our previous discussion relates. The asynchronous environment allows participants to log on to the class or discussion at any time, think about what is being discussed, and post their own responses when they wish. However, recent advances in synchronous technology, as well as increasing skill with its use, are helping us see the benefits of this form of technology in community building and the delivery of an online class.

  • How to Align Your LMS System with The Science of Learning

    (from How to Align Your LMS System with The Science of Learning. The demands of distance learning will make your Learning Management System (LMS) more important than ever this year. Have you thought about how to align your tech with the best research on how students learn? Distance learning has brought many changes to our daily practice and made many of us feel like rookie teachers all over again. One foundational tech tool that’s been a lifeline—a pillar of certainty in an ever-changing school landscape—is my trusty Learning Management System (LMS).  Like any tool we use in the profession, an LMS requires that we match rich, meaningful learning objectives with the appropriate teaching strategy—and that means we should ask ourselves if we’re grounding our choices in the best research on how students learn. So how do we leverage these research insights to use LMSs in the most effective way possible? 

  • Using Breakout Rooms with Less Stress and Better Results.

    (from Faculty Focus). Using Breakout Rooms with Less Stress and Better Results. “What are we supposed to be doing?” (said every student at least once in a breakout room). Small groupwork enables students to “compare their current understandings with those of other team members. . .construct new understandings” (Brame, 2020), builds a learning community, facilitates reflection (Brame, 2020), and mirrors the workplace (Scott, 2011). When our instruction moved online this spring, many instructors found using videoconference breakouts much less effective and efficient than in F2F (Face to Face) classes because: a) students became confused; b) the instructor could not monitor progress quickly for all groups at once; and c) group report-backs were slowed.  Here are ways to structure the group activites in the breakout rooms.

  • Zoom Video Conferencing

    (from CITL)  Zoom Video Conferencing. Zoom is the preferred tool on our campus for live, online course sessions. Sessions using Zoom allow you to deliver online lecture materials in a variety of ways, including using a webcam for live lectures, using screen sharing to display a PowerPoint, and using break-out rooms to foster student collaboration.  Here are a few of the tools available in Zoom to help keep your students engaged.

  • Moving Classes Online Is Hard. Online Discussion Can Help

    (from Inside Higher Ed) Moving Classes Online Is Hard. Online Discussion Can Help. Teaching online requires an intentional, thoughtful approach to instructional design, especially at a time when students are being asked to transition at an unprecedented pace in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Amid the turmoil, it’s troubling -- if not surprising -- that challenges with the move to online learning will have the greatest impact on the students who are most at risk: research suggests that struggling students often have the most trouble succeeding in online programs. A growing body of evidence indicates that the biggest barrier to achieving equivalent success rates in online learning has been tackling the challenge of cultivating the sort of collaboration, engagement and discussion that are often the hallmark of great teaching and learning environments. Thoughtful instructional design and intentional use of technology can help make the most of online discussion to help improve student outcomes. Here are a few tips to navigate to for online programs. 

  • Using Social Media to Retain Contact with Students in the Shift to Online Education.

    (from Faculty Focus). Using Social Media to Retain Contact with Students in the Shift to Online Education. COVID-19 has upended normal social connections that develop between students and professors. We are missing the connections that develop through casual interactions in office hours, pre-class discussions, post-class questions, and any other in-person interaction. These social connections are important for student retention, academic development, diversity, and inclusion. As we thoughtfully shift our courses online, we must also strategically consider how to best replicate or innovate to develop social connections. The purposeful use of social media presents a great opportunity for educators to connect with their students and recreate some of the social connections that are lost due to online education, while also providing new ways of developing connections. We present 10 tips for using social media to maintain and develop social connections.

  • Faculty Interventions Can Help Student Success

    (from Inside Higher Ed). Faculty Interventions Can Help Student Success. A new research paper shows that feedback and interventions from professors can have positive impacts on student success. The paper, "My Professor Cares: Experimental Evidence on the Role of Faculty Engagement," was published this month in the National Bureau of Economic Research. The researchers conducted several experiments, starting with a small pilot on an introductory microeconomics course, according to the brief. The premise was then scaled up to more than 43 classes and 4,000 students at a university. In the experiments, faculty sent "strategically timed" emails to students that included information about how to succeed in the class, the student's current standing and a reminder of when the professor was available. The results from the pilot group were successful.

  • Engaging a Village: Effective Strategies to Reach Every Corner of the Lecture Hall

    (from Faculty Focus). Engaging a Village: Effective Strategies to Reach Every Corner of the Lecture Hall. As educators, we often struggle to provide an effective learning environment for the students who are easily distracted and clamoring for more support. Technology in the classroom has the potential to engage students and allow us to be more hands-on with hundreds of students at a time, making students feel supported while engaging them in the classroom community. Some approaches are to flip the classroom, use problem-based learning, use teaching assistants to lead neighbors within the village and more.

  • Online and Hybrid Courses

    (from Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching) Online and Hybrid Courses.  As we consider these two methods of delivery, here are some helpful strategies. Online courses are those in which at least 80 percent of course content is delivered online. Blended (sometimes called hybrid) instruction has between 30 and 80 percent of the course content delivered online with some face-to-face interaction. Blended and online courses not only change how content is delivered, they also redefine traditional educational roles and provide different opportunities for learning. Making the shift to online learning can increase the potential for learners to take charge of their own learning process and facilitate the development of a sense of community among them. 


  • Six Things Faculty Can Do to Promote Student Engagement

    (from Faculty Focus). Six Things Faculty Can Do to Promote Student Engagement.  Start with redefining participation. For example, let it include more than verbal comments. Invite students to contribute electronically—with an email or post on the course website—with a question they didn’t ask in class, a comment they didn’t get to make, or a thought that came to them after class. Remind students that listening is also part of participation! Model and promote good listening skills. For example: “Did you hear wht Fredric just said? That’s an explanation also belongs in your notes.” Other strategies to promote student engagement include defining what learning is and designing authentic assignments and learning experiences.

  • Equitable Exams During COVID-19

    (from Inside Higher Ed) Equitable Exams During COVID-19. The equitability of online learning was called into question in March when institutions ceased classroom instruction. Educational institutions had to face the disparity of technological access needed to transition students to an online environment. Though recent data from the Pew Research Center show that 73 percent of adults have home broadband internet, the disaggregated data by household income paints a different picture. To mitigate some of the inequity, some institutions moved to pass/fail rather than letter grades, offering more flexibility to students. Now, institutions must consider equitable final exams. Even under normal circumstances, instructors must consider the purpose of an exam. Is it formative or summative? Are we testing for skill acquisition or memorization of knowledge? What is the purpose of the time limit? What is an acceptable deadline? As final exams draw near, instructors must consider how to create, administer and score final exams that are fair and equitable during this pivotal time.

  • Creating and Using Rubrics

    (from Carnegie Mellon University - The Eberly Center) Creating and Using Rubrics. A rubric is a scoring tool that explicitly describes the instructor’s performance expectations for an assignment or piece of work. A rubric identifies: criteria - the aspects of performance (e.g., argument, evidence, clarity) that will be assessed, descriptor - the characteristics associated with each dimension (e.g., argument is demonstrable and original, evidence is diverse and compelling), and the performance levels - a rating scale that identifies students’ level of mastery within each criterion. In addition, rubrics can be used to provide feedback to students on diverse types of assignments, from papers, projects, and oral presentations to artistic performances and group projects. Rubrics provide many benefits for both the instructor and the students.

  • Considerations About Exams When Teaching Remotely

    (from The Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning). Considerations About Exams When Teaching Remotely. Exams remain a popular form of capstone assessment. There are a number of reasons for this, not least of which is their efficiency— for students to review large swaths of the material covered over the entire semester with an eye to synthesis and distillation. By comparison with a research paper or other common forms of end-of-term assessment, final exams ordinarily have the distinct advantage of standing "outside" the term, giving students the impetus to reflect back on the totality of their learning without consuming significant amounts of in- or out-of-class time during the semester itself. With the move to remote teaching the ordinary boundaries between synchronous, in-class work and asynchronous, out of class assessment are already changing, and the extrinsic motivation of grades—on which, admittedly, final exams depend rather more than other, more generative forms of capstone assessment—has decreased significantly. Given these facts, how might you modify your plans for testing students? 

  • Transforming Your Online Teaching From Crisis to Community

    (from Inside Higher Ed) Transforming Your Online Teaching From Crisis to Community. In this current time, it is important to remember that “going online” is not the same as teaching or learning. We must eschew the technocratic utopianism that implies that, simply by teaching remotely, professors are doing their jobs. We need to learn -- quickly -- from the extensive research and experience of professors all over who have done the teaching, research and publishing in this area, and who can advise us on what is most effective.The biggest takeaway from the research on effective teaching online is that we cannot teach the same way online that we would in person: we need to innovate and use the tools available to us to build our class periods differently. Of importance is “engaged” learning: understanding the condition of our students’ lives and finding the best ways of teaching within (rather than in spite of) those conditions.  Here is a simple way to create an engaged learning experience online.

  • Online Teaching: KIS (Keep it Simple)

    (from Alison Yang, Online Teaching@KIS) Online Teaching: KIS (Keep it Simple).  As many of us had to quickly transform our scheduled face-to-face course to unscheduled online courses, we were suddenly faced with a myriad of decisions. Should I teach synchronously or asynchronously? What assignments and quizzes can I keep? And in what format? Here is a handy chart (Do this – Not that) that will help you to make effective, realistic decisions that will benefit both you and your students.

  • What is Using Media to Enhance Teaching and Learning?

    (From SERC at Carlton College). What is Using Media to Enhance Teaching and Learning? The term media was first used to describe newspapers more than two centuries ago. Today media has many different connotations. For instance, there are mass media, print media, visual media and social media. While media can take on many different forms, the purpose of all media is universally the same -- media is a channel of communication. Media can be used in direct instruction, active learning teaching strategies and student projects.  Media can be used in almost any discipline to enhance learning, both in class, and also for out-of-class assignments. Short film and television clips, written articles, and blog postings can be viewed to reinforce concepts and spark discussion. Songs and music videos, especially when the lyrics are made available, can be used to the same effect. 

  • Going Multimodal: 5 Tips for Making the Switch to Multimodal Assignments

    (From Faculty Focus) Going Multimodal: 5 Tips for Making the Switch to Multimodal Assignments. With written communication becoming increasingly multimodal—from newspaper websites to your social media feed to your learning management system’s announcements page—researchers and practitioners alike have made the case for the value of multimodal assignments. While much of this work focuses on the theoretical changes, this article offers practical suggestions for faculty members with limited experience designing multimodal assignments who’d like to convert some of their traditional assignments to multimodal ones. An assignment is multimodal if it invites students to engage in more than one medium of communication, or if it gives students the opportunity to select from several potential media.

  • An Adjusted Humane Syllabus - ‘Nobody Signed Up for This’: One Professor’s Guidelines for an Interrupted Semester.

    An Adjusted Humane Syllabus - ‘Nobody Signed Up for This’: One Professor’s Guidelines for an Interrupted Semester. Brandon L. Bayne was trying to plot out a plan for a disrupted semester when he took a big step back. He was planning to revise the assignments for “Religion in America,” a course with 120 students, predominantly juniors and seniors. But he realized that he first wanted to write out some guiding principles. He came up with five, including “the humane option is the best option” and “we cannot just do the same thing online.” Each principle has several subparts. Though he drafted the list for his own use, Bayne decided to share it with his students — and on social media, where it has resonated with instructors of all kinds who are working to connect with students under the same unprecedented circumstances.

  • Five Ways to Promote Student Autonomy in Online Discussions

    Five Ways to Promote Student Autonomy in Online Discussions. “Write an initial post and then reply to two of your classmates.” These are the standard requirements for students participating in online course discussions. Discussions in an online course play a vital role in creating substantive interactions, aiming to capture the spirit of discourse in face-to-face settings. This, however, can look and feel like busy work, making the purpose of online discussions unclear to students.  The standard blueprint is safe but has been exhausted. “Initial posts” can be counterintuitive—in essence, they require students to complete small writing assignments individually before giving other students feedback on their work (Liberman, 2019). How can we think outside of the box of posting and replying when it comes to these discussions? One way is to use online discussions as an opportunity to promote student autonomy and ask students to be active participants not only in how they respond to class discussions, but how they initiate them. Here are five considerations for promoting student autonomy while also breaking the online discussion mold.

  • Ten Ways to Overcome Barriers to Student Engagement Online

    Ten Ways to Overcome Barriers to Student Engagement Online. Student engagement is a concept often discussed in education and an abundance of research exists on the topic. Student engagement is something instructors want to see and feel in their classrooms. Generally, student engagement tends to be viewed as the level of interest students show towards the topic being taught; their interaction with the content, instructor, and peers; and their motivation to learn and progress through the course. Online learning presents new challenges when compared to a traditional classroom because students are separated from their instructor by a computer screen. How can we engage our students in the content, learning activities, and assessments? How can we prevent feelings of frustration or isolation and keep them motivated? These questions are frequently asked by online instructors looking to maintain the same levels of engagement they see and feel in their face-to-face classrooms. Here are the strategies to try.

  • Organic Online Discussions: Saving Time and Increasing Engagement

    Organic Online Discussions: Saving Time and Increasing Engagement. I used to dread online discussions as much as many students do. However, after implementing a simple change, I was as eager to join my online discussions as I was to talk with my students in classroom conversations. The modification is easy:  I adjusted the structure of my online discussions from students starting threads (you know the drill, post-and-reply-to-two) to the instructor starting them, which creates a more organic discussion structure similar to classroom conversations. This simple modification, along with asking open-ended questions from the deep end of Bloom’s Taxonomy, creates discussions that support student learning and engagement with the material and each other.

  • Advice for how to make grading more equitable (opinion).

    Advice for how to make grading more equitable (opinion). Ask any faculty member about how they grade their students, and they will probably explain the precise weights they give quizzes, tests, papers, labs and other factors -- as well as how they average student results over the term to determine a final grade. Even though the scholarship, technology and pedagogy of postsecondary courses have significantly evolved in the last century, the ways students are graded has remained unchanged. This should come as no surprise, considering that most college and university faculty members receive no training in how to grade, either in graduate school or professional development on the job, and so most typically grade as they were graded. Plus, because faculty members rarely receive support to examine and learn about grading, each professor’s grading policies are filtered through their own individual beliefs about how students learn, how to motivate them and how best to describe student achievement. As a result, grades often vary within a department and even within a course taught by different instructors. Here are improved grading practices.

  • Grading and Performance Rubrics

    Grading and Performance Rubrics. A rubric is a scoring tool that explicitly represents the performance expectations for an assignment or piece of work. A rubric divides the assigned work into component parts and provides clear descriptions of the characteristics of the work associated with each component, at varying levels of mastery. Rubrics can be used for a wide array of assignments: papers, projects, oral presentations, artistic performances, group projects, etc. Rubrics can be used as scoring or grading guides, to provide formative feedback to support and guide ongoing learning efforts, or both.