CFDE Thoughts and Advice on Moving Online

We encourage faculty, especially Emory College faculty, to first and foremost begin with their school-specific information and resources to transition to online classes.

View these resources

Rounding the Bend

Monday, April 27, 2020

Eric Weeks, Director of the CFDE and Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Physics

The end of the semester is in sight! Although time is moving slowly. I saw a t-shirt advertised recently that said2020 is an unusual leap year: 29 days in February, 300 days in March. Here are some thoughts for faculty as we approach final exams. These thoughts are prompted by the comments received in an April 17 university-wide student survey.

First, students are experiencing a wide range of home conditions. Some are safe and comfortable. Some are having to work essential jobs. Some are taking care of younger siblings or their own young children. Some have terrible or no internet connection. We faculty are faced with the difficult situation that our students do not all have equal opportunity to study and prepare for final exams.

Second, many students are anxious about studying for final exams under these unusual circumstances. Even those who are safe and comfortable report that nonetheless, they are used to forming study groups in the library or otherwise working closely with peers to finish up the semester. Even our strongest students report an inability to focus.

Third, many students are anxious about taking the final exams. They report that everything takes longer than expected. A normally stressful in-person 2.5-hour exam seems exponentially worse in a remote format. Think about the wide range of home conditions: for some students, finding a 2-hour period of quiet time to focus on an exam is nearly impossible, especially if it’s at a specific time. The Center for Faculty Development and Excellence strongly recommends that faculty who plan to give final exams write an exam that should need no more than 60 minutes of student time. This is not the semester to put your students through a lengthy final exam.

Fourth, a reminder that students have the option to take your class Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory. The CFDE strongly recommends that before classes end, the more you can do to help students understand what grade they are earning in your course, the better. Please update your Canvas gradebooks or otherwise report out to the students how they are doing, so they can make the best decision possible about converting to S/U. The point of the S/U option is to reduce student stress, and if they are uncertain about their status in your class, they are experiencing higher stress.

Finally, students report they miss each other - and they miss you, the faculty! If you have been doing a fully asynchronous class the past few weeks, you should consider adding some optional synchronous office hours. Students greatly enjoy the opportunity to interact in real time with the faculty and one another in an informal office hour setting. Let your students know how much you appreciate them and all their hard work. Speaking personally, I appreciate all of you for your hard work learning how to teach remotely and helping your students during the past 3000 days of the pandemic.

Affirming Community in Remote Learning

Monday, April 13, 2020
Vialla Hartfield-Méndez, Director of Engaged Learning

In these last weeks, you have likely settled into a new normal in remote teaching and learning. Yet online teaching can feel disjointed, especially in contrast to the first half of the semester. How can we make these two parts of the semester feel more coherent and affirm the learning communities that we had been creating together?

First, it is important to recognize that while we have embraced online learning, it has interrupted the thriving student communities physical proximity had engendered. Some students are doing just fine with this challenge; others are struggling. The many diversities in our student communities can become divergences online. Their residential community is fragmented. One place where they are coming together is your class.

Sustaining community is an important part of a student’s educational experience regardless of the delivery method. To bridge the first and second parts of the semester, let’s look at ways you may have built a community of practice in your face-to-face classroom, and consider how to transition that into an online environment.

A few ideas:

  • Normally, we pay attention to our students before and after class. Keep doing that, especially near the end of the semester. You might keep the Zoom class open after class ends, so that students can hang around if they have a question – and stop the recording if you do this.
  • It is that time of the semester when students anxiously show up at office hours. If possible, try to proactively schedule individual or small group meetings with your students. They may not have the bandwidth to make this happen themselves. These meetings can take the place of part of the class time you would have normally had. Use asynchronous learning to free up some synchronous class time. Scheduled Zoom drop-in office hours can also work.
  • Support students to take responsibility for part of class facilitation. Final presentations are an opportunity. As part of the presentation, have them create a discussion board. Find other ways that work for your course for them to take the lead.
  • Find a way to celebrate. It is important to mark the end of the cycle of learning, especially this one! Invite playfulness, and acknowledge the serious work.

Creating community is an ongoing process. Listen to the stories of your students; attend to what they are saying and not saying; encourage them to listen to the stories of others; find a way to reflect together. And know that you will hear from some of these students years from now about learning in the time of the coronavirus.

Additional Resources

Teaching in a Time of Uncertainty

Monday, April 6, 2020

Donna Troka, CFDE Senior Associate Director for Teaching and Pedagogy, and Audrey Henderson, CFDE Dean's Teaching Fellow

In order to help faculty and graduate instructors with their virtual teaching and learning goals through these precarious times, the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence has researched, identified, and gathered resources on topics that will best serve our community.

Please visit the new guide on “Teaching in a Time of Uncertainty,” which aims to help educators navigate through some issues they may encounter during this semester (for example, incorporating trauma-informed strategies into your courses, dealing with your and your students’ emotional reactions, and minimizing the risk of "Zoombombing") through an inclusive and equitable lens. This document includes summary discussions and several links to online resources, articles, and books on trauma-informed teaching strategies, as well as technological advice for preventing unwanted guests in your online courses.

As resources become more available to the general public, weekly updates to this guide will be posted.

View additional new resources for faculty teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic

Should You Be Writing During the Pandemic?

Monday, March 30, 2020
Allison Adams, CFDE Associate Director for Scholarly Writing and Research

Now that Emory’s remote campus experience, social distancing, and staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic is gradually becoming the new normal, at least temporarily, you may be wondering whether and how your scholarly writing practice fits in.

First and foremost, it’s important to acknowledge the new and unprecedented level of distraction and anxiety in your life: you may be home-schooling your kids. You may not have sufficient dedicated space in which to write at home. You may be struggling to keep your students engaged while learning new technologies and pedagogies. You may not be able to find simple staples (toilet paper!) for your household. The list of possible scenarios is endless. These challenges are bigger than any of us individually — bigger than the individual will that previously would help empower us. That does not mean, however, that we are powerless. Whether or not you feel you can write right now, there are practical steps that may help you gain a greater measure of control over your days. Think of it as giving yourself a few gifts:

The gift of adjusted expectations – you may not, practically speaking, finish your entire manuscript by the end of April. That is okay. Even the tax deadline got pushed back to July. Your deadlines can get pushed, too. Look at the goals you had set for yourself at the beginning of the semester: which ones were self-imposed? Adjust those first. What about the hard deadlines from publishers and granting agencies? In many cases, organizations are building in some reprieve there, too, so be sure to check it out or ask.

The gift of self-care – Sleep. Eat well. Exercise. Enjoy the gorgeous spring weather. All of these things will help your immune system stay strong, and they will calm your mind. My good friend and academic writing coach Michelle Boyd recommends that you find your ballast – one simple thing you can do to establish stability: a cup of coffee, listening to a favorite song, journaling.

The gift of routine – build a schedule for your days and put reminders on your calendar for everything: family, meals, teaching, exercise, chores. If, after you have added those things to your daily routine, there is time for writing, schedule it in. Even if it is only 15 minutes. Even if it is only 5 minutes. Why? Because right now, taking a moment or two to check in with your project is monumental: it will keep you connected to it and provide you with some continuity and momentum that will make it much, much easier to pick up where you left off when the situation eases up.

Even if these three steps seem just a little too far out of reach for you, we in the CFDE hope you will do what you need to do in order to cope in the healthiest way possible.

View the webinar "Writing and Scholarly Productivity During the Pandemic"

Emory’s Resources for Faculty During COVID-19

National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity webinar on protecting your physical and mental health in turbulent times

The CFDE will present a Zoom webinar on your writing practice during the pandemic on Tuesday, April 7, at noon

Remote Learning Trial By Fire

Monday, March 23, 2020
Liesl Wuest, CFDE Associate Director for Learning Design and Technology

As we enter Week 1 of remote teaching at Emory, we want to take a moment to let you all know how amazing you are to pivot this quickly and support our students during this unique time. We know that in addition to the stress of needing to teach in an environment that is new to most faculty and students, there are many other stressors going on in your lives as well!

So as we jump into this new phase, we want to offer some perspective on what we already know about remote teaching and learning.

The good news: Deep learning happens through repeated practice, interaction with content, recall, feedback, making mistakes, and being able to correct them—and all of these things you can facilitate in an online environment.

The medium news: Yes, and you have to figure out how to do that right now!

First, think about the major learning goals for your course. They could fall into categories like content mastery, skill development, analysis, or theory. Then consider the tools that are readily available. And you don’t have to use them all! Think about which one or two tools most closely meets your educational need, and stick with those.

I’ve highlighted some of the basic tools and the types of learning they can support. Just think, when we come out of this remote learning trial by fire, maybe you will have one more tool in your teaching shed to use in any type of class!

Be Patient, Consider Student Variety, Incorporate Asynchronous Activities, Use Captions

Monday, March 16, 2020
Eric Weeks, Director of the CFDE, and Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Physics

Quick-read summary

  • Be patient with one another.
  • Consider student variety: their access to computers and broadband internet, time zones, family obligations, etc.
  • Incorporate asynchronous activities as much as possible. 
  • Caption all pre-recorded video.

To quote from Jamiella Brooks (UPenn Center for Teaching and Learning), “Students, I’ve never taught a class online before, so please be patient with me as I will be patient with you.” Please feel free to use this sentence when you communicate with your class.

We’re all thinking hard about how to move our face to face classes online. A useful starting point is to consider the variety of students you likely have. Not all of them may have easy access to a computer, or broadband internet. Some may be trying to access your online course materials with only a cell phone on a limited data plan. Some of them will be in different time zones, some may have taken a part-time job. Some may be dealing with ill family members or their own illness.

For these reasons the CFDE recommends considering asynchronous activities for your course as much as possible: activities that can be done whenever the student has time. For example, replacing a timed test with an open-book take-home style exam that has a due date.  If you are teaching a large class, you may want to survey your students to determine how many of them can attend a synchronous Zoom presentation.  Smaller classes may make it easier to manage synchronous activities. And, of course, some courses may require synchronous activities for a variety of reasons. If and when you use Zoom, record the Zoom session and make it available for students who didn’t attend synchronously.

On the other hand, if you do opt for many asynchronous activities, you might consider replacing your regular class time with office hours conducted via Zoom for the students who can attend.

The CFDE also strongly recommends that any pre-recorded video be captioned. Some videos that can be found online are already captioned. Canvas and Zoom have embedded captioning services that can be used. Please do not use any external media that has not been captioned. Captions benefit students who are hearing impaired, students in noisy environments, and those who might have English as their second language.

Emory and other schools are generating a lot of advice about moving your courses online. Here are some of the most useful pages we’re seeing:

All of the above links should be broadly useful to a wide variety of courses.

View some additional links to more specific resources

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