Increasing Student Engagement With Regular and Substantive Interaction

How many days do you log into Canvas and interact with the students? How quickly do you give helpful feedback on activities and assessments? Do you set your students’ expectations by including an email/discussion response statement in your syllabus?

Why do we pose these questions? Frequent interaction and purposeful engagement with students are a hallmark of excellence in teaching and learning. It looks different depending on whether you are teaching in-person, hybrid/blended, or online.  We ask students in our in-person courses to log into Canvas every day to see announcements, their grades and feedback, and content. This provides opportunities to increase engagement with students outside of the scheduled classroom time. For hybrid and online faculty, we can use best practices to increase engagement with students who may be residential or remote.

decorative image of regular and substantive interaction

Faculty who teach online regularly or occasionally should be aware of Regular & Substantive Interaction (RSI), a regulation from the Department of Education that went into effect July 2021. RSI is a determination of whether an online course is a correspondence course (which doesn’t qualify for Federal financial aid) or a distance education course. These recommendations also apply to in-person teaching.

Fortunately, we have resources like the Quality Scorecard from the Online Learning Consortium to help us identify how we are meeting RSI and areas where we may need to improve our efforts. Over the next few months, we will share the criteria with suggestions on how to put them into practice.

The scorecard is divided into 6 sections: Course Overview and Information, Course Technology and Tools, Design and Layout, Content and Activities, Interaction, and Assessment and Feedback.

Let’s look at the first two sections.

Course Overview and Information:

  • The course includes a welcome and how to get started, as well as an overall orientation. Content is organized in Modules.
  • Module overviews make content, activities, assignments, due dates, interactions, and assessments transparent, predictable and easy to find. *A suggested best practice is to include an overview page as the first page of each module.
  • Course outcomes are observable and measurable, and congruent with the assessments and assignments.
  • Include the online learner success resources and contact information for the department and program, in addition to instructor information.

Course Technology and Tools:

  • It is extremely important to use Canvas, WCU’s approved and supported LMS.
  • Include information on how to contact the IT HelpDesk in a prominent place so students can find it when they need it.

Remember, these RSI standards are useful in increasing student engagement in any modality!

Next up in this series: 

Designing for Student Engagement using RSI

The CFC would love to partner with you to design, redesign, or make improvements to your Canvas course.  Let us know what you need through our Consultations Scheduling Page.


Source: Regular and Substantive Interaction, SUNYOnline –

Questions about WCU IRB? We Are Here to Help!

Guest Blogger: Dr. Mallory Ball, Director, Research Compliance & Integrity

If you are interested in research, it is likely you have heard about the IRB.  The acronym “IRB” stands for “Institutional Review Board” and is a committee established to review and approve applications for research projects involving human subjects, regardless of funding source. The IRB reviews all projects conducted at or under the auspices of WCU by WCU personnel.

Per Federal Requirements: Before participants are recruited or data is collected, the IRB must review and approve all research conducted by WCU faculty, staff, or students, regardless of funding source. Research may not begin until an approval or exemption letter is received from the IRB.

The IRB process can be somewhat intimidating when navigating it for the first time. However, the Research Compliance Office is here to help!  We have recently been updating our website to include additional options for availability as well as adding new and improved educational documents to bring clarity to this process.

Some of these updates can be seen below:

    • The Office of Research Administration hosts virtual office hours to assist investigators in answering questions related to developing and preparing IRB submissions for review from 1:00 – 2:00 pm on the first Thursday of every month. No formal appointments are necessary, just join the meeting at the scheduled time. For other days and times, please reach out to us to set up individual appointments.

For those new to the process, we have also added a Flowchart on our FAQ page to help you determine if your study falls under IRB jurisdiction (Human Subjects Research).

Please note: If you find that your research activity may not be subject to IRB approval, it is a best practice to confirm with us and obtain an official determination letter for documentation purposes.

An Image that shows the IRB process at WCU. Links to a PDF document.,

Click on Image above to open full Infographic.

Remember: WCU’s IRB uses InfoEd for all IRB submissions and the review process. Please visit the InfoEd training page for more information.

We look forward to working with you on your research endeavors and hope that you find these resources helpful, but we are always striving to improve this process for you and will always welcome your feedback! You can contact us by emailing or calling 828.227.2921.

5 Ways to Manage Burnout

No matter your status — staff, faculty, or student — if you work and you are human, you are at risk for burnout.  

The World Health Organization defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”  

Burnout is an “occupational phenomenon” and not everyone who finds that their job no longer aligns with their values can leave, at least right away. Kira Schabram, an assistant professor of management in the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington offers, “employees who cannot leave and are not getting support can still help themselves.” Here are a few examples of things to try. 

Communicate. Dr. Kim Gorman, Director and Psychologist of WCU’s Counseling and Psychological Services, recommends having a conversation with your supervisor about your burnout concerns. Having a conversation about expectations and solutions may result in a shift where work is not so burdensome. Communicating your struggle with your co-workers is also important. Dr. Gorman and her staff communicate strife and let one another know, “I need grace this week.” That sends the message to everyone that things may not go as smoothly as usual.  

It’s in the best interest of employers to face burnout head-on, since the fallout of unchecked burnout, according to the Mayo Clinic, can include fatigue, excessive stress, sadness, anger or irritability, and serious diseases such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Alcohol and substance abuse are also consequences of job burnout. If you work in a unit where expressing such concerns is unsafe or if you fear retaliation for speaking up, heed that as a red flag. In that case, you likely need to find employment elsewhere sooner rather than later.  

Take your earned leave. Take regularly scheduled time off.  The US Travel Association reported that American workers did not use 768 million of their paid days off, losing more than $65 billon in benefits. No need to travel or spend money on your days off. Schedule regular days off and recharge at home. Watch your favorite movies, take naps, read, do whatever you need to do to recharge. If you have vacation leave hours, schedule vacation time regularly. 

Manage your calendar. Dan Rockwell, experienced leader and creator of the Leadership Freak blog, recommends putting white space on your calendar.  Dan writes, “overcommitment is sprinting into oblivion with your hair of fire.” He also suggests investing your time, energy, and talent in one or two things a day. 

Another recommendation related to calendar management offered by Dr. Kim Gorman is to “chunk out” your work outlook. For example, it may be daunting to look at the whole academic year or even a 16-week semester. Try creating chunks within those long time periods. For example, for a fall semester, this may look something like, “I can make it to Labor Day in September, and I have two vacation days scheduled in October (see take your earned leave above). Next is Thanksgiving with a couple of days off and then on to Winter break. I can make it.” 

Take breaks to do things you like.  Dr. Schabram recommends incorporating things you look forward to into your weekly routine. Make a list of a few small things you can do throughout your day that make you happy and then do them. It can be as simple as applying your favorite hand lotion three times a day, packing one of your favorite meals (here’s a balela/chickpea salad that I love) and eating lunch outdoors, or meeting a friend for a 5-minute walk around your building once or twice a day. 

Show compassion for self and others. Dr. Pope-Ruark writes, “practicing self-compassion, taking the time to regulate and honestly check in with ourselves with the same kindness we would offer others, is necessary to ward off or work through burnout” (p. 125). Dr. Schabram’s research shows that having compassion for yourself and others reduces feelings of burnout. Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor, Educational Psychology Dept., University of Texas at Austin and co-creator of Mindful Self-compassion training program offers several practices including self-compassion exercises. Examples include supportive touch, self-compassion breaks (see take breaks to do things you like above), and self-compassion journaling. 

Consider the questions below.

What are things you would like to incorporate into your weekly routine that brighten your day? 

What calendar management changes can you reasonably try? 

Which self-compassion practices seem doable to you? 




Center for Mindful Self-compassion. 

Mayo Clinic. (2021, June 5). Job burnout: How to spot it and take action. 

Pope-Ruark, R. (2022). Unraveling faculty burnout: Pathways to reckoning and renewal. Johns Hopkins University Press. 

Rockwell, D. (2023, February 24). 4 ways to do less and get more done today. Leadership Freak. 

US Travel Association (2019, August 16). Study: A record 768 million US vacation days went unused in ‘18, opportunity cost in the billions. 

World Health Organization. (2019, May 28). Burnout an “occupational phenomenon”: International classification of diseases. 

Zuckerman, C. (2021, April 30). How to beat Burnout without quitting your job. New York Times. 

Summer Institute for Teaching & Learning (SITL) 2023

Get ready for the Summer Institute for Teaching and Learning 2023! We are excited to invite you as we embark on this journey together to explore the Joy of Learning and Teaching (JOLT).

As educators, we know that teaching and learning are both complex and dynamic processes. They require not only knowledge and skills, but also passion, curiosity, and empathy. At times, however, we may find ourselves so caught up in the day-to-day demands of our jobs that we forget to take a step back and reflect on what truly brings us joy in our profession. This Summer Institute is designed to help us do just that.

On May 18th and 19th, we will have the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions, attend thought-provoking workshops, and collaborate with colleagues from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. We aim to deepen our understanding of being an effective and joyful teacher and learner and explore strategies for creating positive and inclusive learning environments that foster engagement, curiosity, and growth.

One of the key themes of this Institute is the idea that joy is not just a byproduct of effective teaching and learning, but an essential ingredient. When we approach our work joyfully, we are more creative, resilient, and effective at inspiring our students to learn. Joyful teaching and learning also have a ripple effect, creating a positive culture of learning that extends beyond the classroom.

Our draft schedule meeting in Apodaca:

Thursday, May 18, 2023
TIME  Apodaca – Room 201  Apodaca – Room 207 
9:00 – 9:15 


Eli Collins-Brown, Coulter Faculty Commons 

9:15 – 10:15 

Opening Celebration: Cyndy Caravelis 

Criminology & Criminal Justice 

10:15 – 10:30  Break  



General Session 

The Joy of Engaging in the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning 

Lisa Bloom, School of Teaching & Learning; Candy Noltensmeyer, Communication; April C. Tallant, Coulter Faculty Commons 

11:30- 12:30  Lunch with table topics 
12:30 – 1:30 

The Joy of Writing: Crafting Writing Assignments that Writers Want to Write (and You Want to Read) 

Jonathan Bradshaw, English Studies 

Identifying and Responding to Microaggressions in the Learning Environment 

Mariana Da Costa, School of Nursing 

1:30 – 1:45  Break 
1:45 – 2:45  

Career Conversations: Sharing Your Joy with Your Students 

Carrie Hachadurian, Center for Career & Professional Development 

Walking the Line: Finding and Keeping your Joy in Politically Charged Institutional Climates 

Cyndy Caravelis,  

Criminology & Criminal Justice 

2:45 – 3:00  JOLT Jam (Wrap-Up)   


Friday, May 19, 2023
TIME  Apodaca – Room 201  Apodaca – Room 207 
9:00 – 9:15  WELCOME BACK   
9:15 – 10:15 

Developing the Leader Within: An Interactive Exploration of Self-Awareness and Reflection 

Brianne Hudak,  

School of Teaching & Learning 

Creative Joy: Creating Syllabus Infographics 

Stacey C. Zimmerman, Mathematics and Computer Science; and Alesia Jennings, Chemistry and Physics 

10:15 – 10:30  Break 
10:30 – 11:30 

General Session 

Generative AI and the Future of Education 

Ian Selig, Coulter Faculty Commons, Josh Rakower, Undergraduate Experience Librarian, Adam Chandler, Embedded IT Support for College of Arts and Science 

11:30 – 12:15  Lunch  
12:15 – 1:00  

Lightning Rounds (6 minutes) 


Imaginary Ball Game: Bringing Nonverbal Communication and Social Construction of Reality to Life 

Tonya Westbrook, Social Work 


Finding Joy in What Students Know: A Pedagogical Tool 

 Stacey C. Zimmerman, Mathematics & Computer Science  


The Scholarship of Teaching & Learning as Pedagogy 

Chad Hallyburton, Environmental Health Sciences  


Guided Discussions & Brain Boxes to Improve Discussions and Prepare for Exams 

Reggie Cline, Criminology and Criminal Justice 


Community & Engagement in Online Courses 

Larry Fisher, School of Teaching and Learning 

1:05-1:25  JOLT Jam    
1:30 – 3:00   

Reclaiming our Joy of Learning & Teaching  

Cynthia Alby, Georgia College & State University  


Meet the Speakers

Dr. Jonathan Bradshaw is a writing teacher at Western Carolina University. He is currently the Director of the Writing, Rhetoric, & Critical Studies program and will be the new Graduate Director in English Studies beginning Fall 2023. His work has appeared in Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Rhetoric Review, Present Tense, and enculturation. 



Cyndy Caravelis is a Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Dr. Caravelis is a strong proponent of engaged teaching and experiential learning. She was awarded the Service Learning Outstanding Achievement in Teaching Award and she was a 2019 cohort member of the Faculty Institute on Community Engagement. Additionally, she was the 2021 recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, a 2022 Finalist for the Board of Governor’s Excellence in Teaching Award, and was chosen to represent WCU on the 2022-2023 All So-Con Faculty and Staff Team. Her service to the community includes being a Board Member for the Center for Domestic Peace and as a trained victim advocate, she (along with therapy dog Atlas) escorts victims to court. She currently serves in the role of Principal Research and Policy Consultant for WCUPD.  


Chad Hallyburton is a Teaching Assistant Professor in the Environmental Health Sciences Program at WCU.  He has over 27 years teaching experience with students from Pre-K to university level.    



Dr. Stacey Zimmerman joined Western Carolina’s Mathematics and Computer Science Department in 2022. She has been involved in mathematics education for more than 25 years, spanning both the secondary and post-secondary levels. Recognizing that mathematics can be a gatekeeper to a college degree and/or a lucrative career, Dr. Zimmerman dedicates herself to ensuring that every student becomes a doer and consumer of mathematics. She held previous positions at Virginia Commonwealth University and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Her research focuses on mathematical knowledge for teaching (MKT) and equitable and inclusive mathematical practices. 



Dr. Da Costa started her career at Western Carolina University in 2014 as a mentor for the Nursing Network-Careers and Technology Mentoring Program and became full-time faculty in 2019. Dr. Da Costa is currently an Assistant Professor of Nursing and Program Director for the Traditional BSN program here at WCU. Dr. Da Costa also serves as faculty advisor for the Pathway to equity in Nursing Scholars Program, Association of Nursing Students, and Mujeres Con Proposito; leading efforts related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, as well as community engagement and leadership. Dr. Da Costa is a board member for Kids Advocacy Resource Efforts (KARE), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing evidence-based, community-coordinated response to child abuse, neglect and exploitation in Haywood County through outreach, advocacy, and specialized interventions. She received a Master of Science in Nursing Administration from East Tennessee State University in 2017 and has her Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Duke University. Dr. Da Costa resides in Haywood County with her two daughters, one of whom is a current Catamount. She enjoys yoga, reading, running, traveling, and hiking with her family. Dr. Da Costa strives to educate on how we all thrive when everyone has accessibility to equitable education and healthcare along with an environment that is welcoming and accepting of all. 


Dr. Tonya M. Westbrook has taught in WCU’s Department of Social Work since August 2007 and earned tenure in 2013. She received her BSW from Jacksonville State University, MSW from University of Cincinnati, and PhD in social work from the University of Georgia. She practiced public child welfare social work for over ten years before entering academia. Her areas of expertise include public child welfare professional development, trauma informed social work, and turnover and retention workforce issues in the social work profession. She teaches across the curriculum in both the BSW and MSW programs. She currently serves as the Associate Department Head in the Department of Social Work.  


Dr. Larry B. Fisher is an Assistant Professor in the inclusive education/adaptive curriculum program at Western Carolina University. This is his first year at WCU and fifth year in higher education. He was a Nationally Board-Certified classroom teacher and taught special education in the elementary school setting for 13 years. Dr. Fisher received his undergraduate degree, master’s degree, and post-master’s certificate in school administration from WCU and received his Ph.D. in Special Education from UNC Charlotte. Dr. Fisher’s teaching focus has been on courses related to behavioral and academic interventions for students with extensive support needs. Dr. Fisher’s research interests include antecedent-based interventions based on the principles of applied behavior analysis, teaching communication skills to students with complex communication needs, and teacher evaluation tools for teachers of students with significant disabilities. He is also interested in single-case design methodology.  


Reggie Cline is a WCU alumni form the Criminology and Criminal Justice Department. She received my Master’s degree in Criminology and Public Sociology at UNCW. She served as a Probation/Parole Officer for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety for 6 years in Wilmington, NC. During that time, she specialized as a field training officer and drug court officer on the Community Recovery Court team. Then she transitioned to a new role as a Child Protective Services Investigator for the Department of Social Services. She has been back, teaching at WCU in the CJ department, since August 2022. She is excited to share her practical experience with students. Her research interests include restorative justice, human trafficking, queer criminology and criminal justice reform. She believes in an engaged teaching style and a balance of mixed pedagogical approaches to help meet students’ learning needs. 



Mrs. Brianne Hudak, M.Ed., is passionate about education, driven to help students succeed both academically and socio-emotionally, and enjoys serving her community. She has worked in many roles and sectors of education (public, private and charter) for the past fifteen years including as a certified gifted and talented educator, curriculum specialist, student activities director, theatre arts and STEM teacher, dean of students, assistant principal, educational consultant, adjunct professor and school leader of a K-12 charter school. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in educational leadership with an emphasis on combating underachievement in the gifted population. She is a member of the National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) serving on various committees, the North Carolina Association of the Gifted and Talented (NCAGT), the World Council of Gifted and Talented Children (WCGTC) and Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG) serving as the state liaison.  


Adam Chandler for the last eight-plus years at WCU has tried hard to bring an open and person-focused perspective to the adoption and use of technology in education. In his role as an AV technician and programmer, his goal was to make sure people using our systems did not feel overwhelmed by complexity during daily use while still being able to utilize all the capabilities of the systems when needed. In his current role as a Technical Support Specialist (embedded in the College of Arts and Science), he tries to bring the same approach to emerging technologies that could potentially change the way we work in the future.


Ian Selig is deeply passionate about high-quality education and the mountains of Western North Carolina. Coming from a long line of teachers and adventure seekers, he champions the impact of well-designed instruction and steeping the soul in the peaks, valleys, and rivers of the Appalachian Mountains. Ian works with faculty to design motivational instruction that empowers learners to grow beyond expectation. He engages learners with diversity, equity, and inclusion at the forefront of all his work. With a background in Instructional Technology, Curriculum Design, and Online Learning he partners with faculty to meet their needs and goals. 


Josh Rakower earned his BA in communication, Masters in education, and Masters in library science from the University at Buffalo. He has been a professional librarian for eight years. He has been at WCU since December 2019. Previously he worked as a librarian at Trocaire College and Buffalo State University, and also as a mall Easter Bunny. 



Dr. Lisa Bloom is the former Jay M. Robinson Professor of Instructional Technology at Western Carolina University.  A long-time member of the WCU faculty, she has been involved in teacher preparation and research in several areas, including the scholarship of teaching and learning, problem-based learning, and promoting creative and critical thinking.  She is the author of Classroom Management: Creating Positive Outcomes for All Learners as well as numerous journal articles.   


Dr. Candy NoltensmeyerDr. Candy Noltensmeyer is an Associate Professor of Communication at Western Carolina University.  Her research focuses on communicative dynamics in cultural competence, bias, DEI, pedagogy, feedback, social support, stigma, and sexuality.  Candy teaches a variety of courses in human communication focusing on theory, research methods, health, sexuality, interpersonal and small group concepts. She also conducts professional workshops for a wide range of organizations at varying levels to address communication challenges they may be facing.    

Dr. Noltensmeyer is a big believer in applied learning, especially when it comes to communication. People need spaces to learn, talk through their ideas, then try them out. To foster engaged learning-centered spaces, she uses a variety of activities and focused discussions to engage participants with the material while making space for differences across contexts. Much of Dr. Noltensmeyer’s teaching success can be attributed to engaging in SoTL research, where she is able to experiment with teaching activities and learning strategies.   

April Tallant is a Western Carolina University alumna and native of Cherokee County, North Carolina. She has almost 20 years of higher education experience at WCU as a liberal studies visiting instructor and assistant professor, and a tenure-track assistant professor in the Nutrition and Dietetics Program in the School of Health Sciences. Dr. Tallant earned tenure and Associate Professor status in 2019 in the School of Health Sciences. She served eight years as Associate Dean of Brinson Honors College where she was an administrative leader, established and grew student-centered leadership programs aimed at engagement and retention, served as the curriculum designer and coordinator for USI 101 Honors Forum transition courses, and advised College of Health & Human Sciences Honors students.   

Dr. Tallant enjoys using her higher education experience and leadership skills to support faculty and student success through engaged teaching and learning at Coulter Faculty Commons. She takes a asset-based approach to educational and professional development and uses the principles of evidence-based self-care in her work with faculty and instructional staff. She  strives to bridge faculty and staff partners from across campus, collaborating to develop relevant teaching and learning programs that highlight faculty who use best practices in teaching and learning and high impact educational practices at WCU.    

Dr. Tallant has been recognized with university and college level awards including the Board of Governor’s College of Health and Human Sciences (CHHS), Innovative Teaching Award (two time winner); CHHS Faculty Scholar Award; WCU’s Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning’s Outstanding Achievement for Service Award; WCU’s Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award ; and WCU’s Excellence in Teaching Liberal Studies Award.  

In addition to her excellent teaching and learning record, Dr. Tallant is passionate about supporting and advancing women in higher education. Dr. Tallant is a 2015 graduate of BRIDGES, Academic Leadership for Women, administered by the Friday Center at UNC Chapel Hill. She also serves one of two of the North Carolina American Council on Education (NC ACE) Women’s Network institutional representatives at WCU, appointed by Chancellor Kelli R. Brown in 2019 and was elected to the NC ACE executive board in December 2021. The NC ACE Network seeks to develop programs that identify, develop, encourage, advance, link and support women in higher education careers in NC. Dr. Tallant is first vice-president of the NC Alpha Iota Chapter (includes six western-most counties) Delta Kappa Gamma that promotes professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education.   

Dr. Tallant champions support and advocates for her native western North Carolina contemporaries.  She combines her passion for access to healthy foods and service to the region through research and community engagement.  She is a member of the Board of Directors for Community Table in Sylva, NC, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide nutritious meals to our neighbors in need in a welcoming environment. Her research includes the scholarship of teaching and learning and student engagement. She enjoys designing a learning environment where her students can engage in experiential learning, gain food and nutrition literacy skills, and actively participate in common intellectual experiences.   

Throughout the Institute, we will explore the many dimensions of joyful teaching and learning, from cultivating a growth mindset and creating a sense of belonging for all students, to leveraging technology and using storytelling to make learning more engaging and impactful. We will also have the opportunity to share our own experiences and insights, and to learn from one another.

SITL Registration

As we embark on this journey, we encourage you to approach it with an open mind and a sense of curiosity. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn and connect with your colleagues, and don’t be afraid to share your own perspectives and ideas. Remember that the joy of teaching and learning is not something that can be measured by test scores or evaluations, but rather something that we experience every day in our interactions with our students and with one another.

We hope that this Summer Institute will be an enriching and inspiring experience for all of us, and that it will help us deepen our commitment to creating joyful and effective learning experiences for our students. Welcome, and let’s embrace the Joy of teaching and learning!

Written in conjunction with ChatGPT

Tips for Teaching (AI/ChatGPT Edition)

Artificial Intelligence is not a new concept, but it has recently achieved an ability impressive enough to spook the educational community. ChatGPT is leading the charge as a neural network machine learning model focused on natural language processing. A.K.A. it has some serious power to build text and “construct ideas” in human-sounding language patterns on seemingly limitless topics. The ability to back-and-forth with this AI and further develop responses gives it a unique ability that most haven’t seen in a bot before. There is clear potential for abuse in academic integrity and educational institutions must find ways to coexist with this new technology as it continues to get better and refine its ability to sound and think like us.

If you are willing to give this bot a try (and doing so will really help you understand what it is), you’ll see it can work for you just as well as it works for students. In this example, ChatGPT works as an instructional designer to assist a Physics Professor. Take a look at a productive conversation with ChatGPT about ChatGPT, where Judith Dutill got some great responses about the fundamentals of this AI and examples of how it can be used in Higher Education.

Coulter Faculty Commons is assembling ideas to consider as educators weigh the impact as more powerful AI becomes available. Whether or not you want to give ChatGPT a whirl, many of your students will. We encourage you to have a conversation about this tool with your students and consider updating your syllabus. Being transparent and explicit about your expectations is essential.

ChatGPT even has strategies it suggests you use for educating students on academic integrity: 

  • Clearly communicate your expectations for academic integrity in your course syllabus and throughout the course. This can include outlining the consequences for academic misconduct and the importance of citing sources properly. 
  • Discuss academic integrity with your students early in the course. This can help set a positive tone and establish a culture of academic honesty in your classroom. 
  • Use examples to illustrate the importance of academic integrity. For example, you can discuss real-world examples of academic misconduct or the negative consequences that can result from cheating. 
  • Encourage students to ask questions if they are unsure about what is acceptable. This can help students understand the expectations for academic integrity and avoid unintentional mistakes. 

Of course, you want to make sure you have the best assignments possible that help students learn and give you an accurate gauge of your students’ understanding, not ChatGPT’s. Here are some strategies that will help you design assignments effectively:

  1. Hyper-customize
    • Writing prompts that make use of class-specific material, such as reference to discussions in class or on Canvas, imagery, or video segments used in the course, and other unique or unusual material.
    • More personalized writing offers an opportunity to get to know students writing style and tone with content that an AI shouldn’t know.
    • Have students explain their thinking or describe the steps in their logic, problem-solving or writing process.
  2. Scaffolding/Iterative writing
    • Breaking major assignments down into smaller pieces creates a stronger end product and students are less likely to cheat.
    • Effective use of peer review requires students to evaluate other students’ work while also refining their own writing making use of AI more difficult.
  3. Alternate Assignments
    • The use of mind maps, organizers, vlogs, podcasts, debates, or interactive techniques provides opportunities for analysis, evaluation, and communication of thinking.
  4. Use ChatGPT
    • Put your prompts into ChatGPT and see what you get. If the response is good, consider revising the prompt or assignment.
    • Use the generated answer to your prompt as material for your students to critique. What does the answer miss? Where does it succeed? What biases are in the response?
    • Ask ChatGPT to refine your prompt, and offer suggestions for assignments that you could use, or that would be hard for students to use an AI chatbot on.
  5. Authentic Activities
    • Collect a diagnostic piece of in-person writing to compare to future essays.
    • Use of authentic assessments that require students to apply what they have learned to a new situation.

These are just suggestions and merely a sample of ideas.

The CFC is staying on top of this ongoing development! Check out our FAQ page on A.I. in Higher Education. We are regularly updating this page to encompass answers, suggestions, and resources for you. 


If you’d like to schedule a consultation the CFC is happy to help with your pedagogical needs.

Small Teaching: Connecting

4th post of 9 in the Small Teaching Series

Small Teaching by J.M. Lang presents methods for making small changes in your teaching practices (hence the name) that can significantly improve your students’ learning. Each chapter provides the research-based evidence behind the practices Lang proposes so you can have confidence that Lang’s ideas work. The Coulter Faculty Commons will be boiling the Small Teaching chapters down into blog posts to provide instructors with concepts they can apply to a lesson, a class, or a course.

Retrieving, Predicting, and Interleaving are all small teaching lessons that offer opportunities to help students acquire Knowledge. The next three lessons will focus on developing students’ Understanding, to help you foster active learning moments in your classroom. This post addresses using Connection to increase student understanding.


Far too often students have knowledge that exists in separate boxes from prior learning. Getting these discrete bits of collective knowledge to have relevance to each other and helping students to find meaning in their relationship is a difficulty for many educators. As an expert in your field, you have a dense network of neural connections between skills, facts, and concepts. It may be easy for you to slot new information into a fully developed network seeing connections with it and “dozens of other things [you] know” (Lang, p. 93). Your novice students may lack the abundance of connections, and consequently comprehension, with information as individual pieces that exist in certain contexts.



“Neurons form new connections with one another with every new experience we have: new sensations, new thoughts, new actions.”

(Lang, p. 94)






Building comprehension consists of helping students build interconnected networks of knowledge with other ideas, concepts, and information. With no ability to force students’ brains to make connections, our role is to create an environment that facilitates the formation of connections. Lang (2016) suggests the following tips to help enhance the connections students make:

  • Solicit Prior knowledge of your students at the beginning of the semester or individual class periods with brief written or oral questions or with whole-class knowledge dumps
  • Ask students to create concept maps that answer questions or solve problems; use concept maps multiple times throughout the semester with different organizational principles
  • Consider providing students with the scaffolding or framework of lecture material before class; let them fill in the framework with their connections.
  • As much as possible, offer examples or cases from everyday or common experience but also-and more importantly-give students the opportunity to provide such examples on their own.
  • Consider using the Minute Thesis or other in-class activities that help students see or create new connections prior to major assignments or exams

To help students “obtain the big picture-view” three principles should be kept in mind.

Provide the Framework – Make the framework/organization of the material visible. Showing how new information fits in regularly.

Facilitate Connections – Be present as the guide and expert in developing student knowledge networks, providing feedback on student discoveries, and correcting courses when they stray away.

Leverage Peer Learning Power – Use collaborative exercises to encourage students to help each other build bridges to disconnected knowledge.

Faculty lead the journey through the land of knowledge. Guiding students along the trails that connect experiences, content and Ideas. Skillfully revealing the mental map that has taken decades to build and crafting lessons that lead students to build their own network of connections.


As always, if you’d like to discuss these or other ideas with the Coulter Faculty Commons you can schedule an appointment at

Lang, J. M. (2016). Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.