Coulter Faculty Commons facilitating a mid-semester course analysis with students.
Faculty may now schedule Coulter Faculty Commons staff for a mid-semester course analysis for a fall course.
The Quick Course Diagnosis (QCD) takes about 20 minutes and helps faculty better understand challenges their students are facing with content, pacing, performance, and student behavior.
All fall 2020 QCDs will be conducted during a regularly scheduled class time which occurs in any video-conferencing software (Bb Collaborate, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom) during the weeks of September 21 – 25, and September 28 – October 3.
For the fall 2020 term, we have capacity to visit 12 classes, and scheduling is first-come, first-serve.
Faculty may schedule through a Qualtrics link.
The process generates student insights about the course, teacher, and student behavior, ranging from observations about testing, reading load, clarity of assignments, accessibility of the professor, and even systematic issues that go beyond the individual classroom. It is no surprise that students usually know more than they let on and are very happy for the chance to contribute to the value of their learning experience. Often their reports align with hunches the professor already had, but now there is real data to work with and the CFC can partner with the faculty to develop creative solutions to learning challenges that are now clearly defined.
This year, the Coulter Faculty Commons developed a video that explains the process more fully; it can shared with students ahead of time prior to the virtual class visit, so students understand what is expected.
To Learn More:
Text-based information about the QCD
Video for sharing with students prior to virtual course visit
To Schedule (first-come, first-serve):
Register for the QCD
Dr. Eli Collins-Brown
Dr. Terry Pollard
Mr. John Hawes
Coulter Faculty Commons
The Coulter Faculty Commons often entertains questions throughout the summer about ideas for fall teaching. Here, we share some of those commonly asked questions and our responses.
Q. Can a shift in the syllabus verbiage encourage a better learning environment?
A. Ken Bain, who conceptualized the term “the promising syllabus,” argues yes, in his book What the Best College Teachers Do. You can find an excerpt – and strategies for incorporating self-determination theory into a course, visual design elements, and more, on the Montclair State University website. You can find his book in the WCU library.
Q. What can I do in the first week of class to keep my students engaged all semester?
A. A professor from the University of New Mexico, Gary Smith, has shared a strategy he used on the first day, after many years of feeling his students were only learning at a surface level.
On the first day of class, he asked his students the following question: “I’d like you to think about your college education and this course in particular. Which of the following is most important to you?
1. Acquiring information (facts, principles, concepts)?
2. Learning how to use information and knowledge in new situations? or…
3. Developing lifelong learning skills?
He writes about the back-and-forth negotiation – and the wonderful outcome it had on his students and his course – in an article entitled First-Day Questions for the Learner-Centered Classroom (Smith, 2008). A highly recommended reading!
Q. Am I required to use the WCU syllabus template?
A. The WCU syllabus template has been offered for many years as a single document/place where institutional policies are maintained and updated. You may also point to students to the Academic Toolbox, where academic resources, technical resources, and campus resources are maintained and linked to. Find the link in the left navigation menu of any Blackboard course.
Q. Is there anything new in the WCU syllabus template for fall 2020?
A. Yes, and they have been substantial. Over the past few months, the Coulter Faculty Commons has been steadily making changes to the university syllabus, based on the impacts brought about by COVID. In May, we included a statement about the use of Respondus Lockdown Browser and Lockdown Monitor, including instructions for students to download the software. In June, we provided the university statement on the wearing of masks (this was revised again in August to include faculty processes when students are non-compliant). In August, we also published an update to the Course Recording and Broadcasting sub-section. The two major changes are 1) the need for faculty to obtain student waivers (to adhere to FERPA), 2) the particular need for waivers if faculty intend to use a video for a governed research project (outside normal class use case), and 3) language in a faculty syllabus if they intend to use Lockdown Browser or Lockdown Monitor.
Q. Have their been recent changes to the CFC Syllabus webpage?
A. Yes. In early August, we added a MWF and TR calendar document for faculty to use and distribute to their students. These are for fall 2020. We also added a link to Rice University’s Course Workload Estimator tool, to help faculty allocate hours and minutes to each activity, assignment, or lecture in an assigned week for a course in development (note: this tool is useful at any week in the term, for what lies ahead in a class). Due to the shift in online and remote teaching, we have had a lot of questions about “how much work is too much?” This tool helps you decide.
Q. Do I need to include all the institutional policies in my syllabus?
A. As stated above, if your syllabus includes a statement pointing to the Academic Toolbox, then you do not need to include those statements in your syllabus.
Q. What technology will be available in my classroom?
A. Upgraded Audio Features in Standard Classrooms
The Instructional Technology Team has been hard at work all summer trying to meet as many of the unprecedented needs of this coming fall as possible. The CFC wanted to highlight a few things for faculty who are just returning to the university to teach hybrid courses.
As part of the preparations for hybrid teaching in WCU classrooms, additional audio connectivity was installed to allow for the use of a personal microphone, as well as to assist in the use of common software tools using the classroom audio system.
These enhancements include:
- Expansion of the feed from the existing wireless lapel microphone to feed into audio recordings in Zoom, Panopto, and Blackboard Collaborate.
- A Standard XLR Microphone Connection
- Handheld XLR Microphones that are being distributed to the departments by the Provost’s office
For more information
The Instructional Technology Team and the Help Desk will have technicians available during the first two weeks of classes to troubleshoot issues.
Q. If I choose to record my classes, what responsibilities do I have? Can students record me without my permission?
Students may make visual or audio recordings (Recording) of any class related content, using any approved recording device (e.g., smart phone, computer, digital recorder, etc.) upon the prior permission of the instructor and subject to the following restriction(s). The Recording, along with the video capture of visible course materials (e.g., visible PowerPoint slides and/or visible lecture notes), shall be limited to the student’s personal, course related, educational use and shall be subject to all applicable copyright laws and institutional policies. The student may not transfer, transmit, or otherwise disseminate the Recording to any third party, including classmates, without the permission of the instructor. Any violation of these restrictions, or any other restriction verbally communicated by the instructor, may subject the student to the provisions of the WCU Academic Integrity Policy, the WCU Code of Student Conduct or both.
Meetings of this course may be broadcast and/or recorded. Broadcasting and recording are intended to complement the classroom experience. Instructors may broadcast and/or record courses for pedagogical use, student reference, to meet the accommodation needs of students with a documented disability, or any other reason deemed appropriate by WCU and/or the instructor.
Any recording of class that includes the image or voice of a student, or reference to the student’s name, would be considered FERPA. Thus, protected. If faculty intend on making the recording available for future viewing (any viewing that is not live) will require a waiver by each student. The waivers may be collected by email or as a Blackboard discussion board post or assignment with the following statement attached: By sending this email (by replying to this discussion board, by completing this electronic form – any use of WCU official identity verification) and typing my name below I acknowledge I have read and fully understand the terms of the VIDEO CONSENT AND RELEASE FORM FOR CLASS RECORDING and hereby release the University as stated in the Form.
If a student refuses to sign the waiver, then their likeness may not be included in any video made available. In other words, they would need to be excluded from video and not allowed to ask questions. If this happens faculty would be able to grade consistent with syllabi. In other words, the faculty member has the right to penalize the student by lowering their grade for not participating. The faculty member is also free to create alternative assignments at his or her discretion.
Course recordings will be available to students registered for the course pursuant to applicable university policy and instructor preference. All broadcasts and recordings are limited to personal, course related, educational use and may not be transmitted, transferred, distributed, sold, or posted on social media outlets without the written permission of the instructor. Unauthorized transmission, transfer, distribution, sale or posting of the broadcast and/or recording for any purpose other than the student’s personal, course related, educational use is not permitted. Students are expected to follow appropriate university policies and maintain the security of passwords used to access recorded materials.
If the Lockdown Browser and Monitor are being used, it is necessary that the instructor have both a syllabus statement and a waiver on file.
Any course recordings for purposes beyond the normal conduct of a course (promotional videos, videos related to a governed research project, etc.) will require an additional waiver and appropriate approval (such as IRB approval).
University Policy 122
For a more detailed version of when a waiver might be needed see:
Policy Considerations of Classroom Technology Use
Q. What are the supported synchronous streaming platforms?
Blackboard Collaborate and Zoom. There is limited support for Microsoft Teams, but it is not recommended for virtual course meetings beyond small groups at this time.
For more information see the Guidelines for Technology Use at WCU
Q. I’ve heard that the CFC isn’t recommending synchronous meetings with students physically present and at a distance? Why is that?
Research and experience guide us to note that trying to hold class with a small group while trying to moderate interaction with students at a distance will lead to an inferior experience for everyone, including the instructor. There are advantages and disadvantages to using synchronous and asynchronous activities in online and hybrid learning; in most cases, asynchronous activities provide the best experiences for students. In our testing scenarios, attempts at synchronous activities using Zoom or Collaborate resulted in less-than-desired experiences, and were not comparable to using Zoom in a private meeting space.
We must recognize that mixing one group with synchronous digital technologies and one group with live synchronous meeting will increase both instructor and student difficulty (i.e., just turning on Zoom for the half of the class who isn’t physically in the classroom).
Consider whether your arrangements and the limitations of the technologies are equitable for all students.Particularly consider whether your activities are appropriate given the computer requirements for students in the university and in your department. Consider the student experience, including their access (or lack thereof) to sufficient broadband speeds.
It’s not too early to start working on your fall courses, particularly this year as we work within the requirements that the pandemic has imposed on us. Social Distancing will drastically reduce the number of students in your classrooms and labs requiring the need to rethink how you will teach. You may be moving totally online or using one of the suggested modalities in the Fall Instruction Plan from the Provost’s office. Without exception, you will not be teaching the way you taught last fall.
This three day online workshop offered by the Coulter Faculty Commons will guide you through a process using the goals and outcomes for your course to design learning experiences that work for both for you and the students. By using best practices in hybrid course design and facilitation, you will discover creative ways to engage your students online. You will also learn which activities and content can be put online for asynchronous access and prioritize what needs to happen in that very precious face-to-face or synchronous online time (Zoom). The goal of this workshop is to provide you with a streamlined process for converting your courses to a hybrid modality.
Each workshop will run from Tuesday through Thursday. We are offering the workshop three times this summer, starting this week.
For more information on the workshop and how to register, see The Fall Blend page on the CFC website, https://affiliate.wcu.edu/cfc/events/fallblend/.
If you have been in your Blackboard courses in June, you may have noticed that there are additional icons that appear in the instructor view and in the student view. We’ve added a tool called “Ally” to Blackboard Learn. This tool gives two different sorts of assistance: one for students; and one for instructors. The instructors can also see and access the student tool. These new tools help us to meet our legal and moral obligations to our students with learning differences.
If you create items natively in Blackboard (with the exceptions of some specialized HTML coding) all of the content is compatible with national and international standards for accessibility and universal design for learning and compliant with the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. If, however, you choose to add items like PowerPoint decks, Word documents, PDFs and videos, it is the responsibility of the instructor, in normal circumstances, to make the additional materials compliant.
We recognize that many of our courses have content that has evolved over time, and so this tool will give instructors the opportunity to review their course content with a new set of “eyes” and to review their current content by today’s accessibility standards. It will also allow students to have a digital assistant that can attempt to correct a number of issues without instructor intervention and in so doing, keep more students on track.
Students do not see the instructor indicators and do not have access to an accessibility report. They only get an indicator beside each item for which Ally can assist, that will give them access to a tool which may be able to help them move forward and have some level of access to the content. If the instructor has also made the recommendations the tool recommends, the student’s options will be significant. If the instructor hasn’t done anything, the tool may still be able to remediate the content to an accessible alternative.
Ally gives instructors tools to audit all added content except audio and video and to see to what degree the documents, presentations, and images in your course are considered compatible by current accessibility standards.
As an instructor, you can work on your course content in two ways, by using the indicators in the course content, and by running your full accessibility report from “Course Tools.”
The indicators give you a fairly intuitive workflow with scoring that is based not on how “bad the problem is” or even how fixable the issue may be but on how a screen reader or other assistive device will encounter, and importantly, navigate, what you’ve given the students.
When you are in your course, you click the symbol and Ally will launch an assistant tool that will give you recommendations and remedies for making the file more accessible. The CFC can help you walk through any confusion or difficulties you have with the tool or you can review our current help document on the tool, watch this short video introduction, or review this use guide.
If you are interested in seeing the status of your whole course you can go to the Course Tools and run an Instructor’s Accessibility Report. You may even take some delight in running the report both before and after you do the work to make it more accessible for more learners.
Three recommendations as a teaching colleague: 1) Don’t be too hard on yourself if you get the red gauge, in many cases it will be a case of a document that you haven’t “tagged” and the tool can assist you by doing the tagging directly from your Word or PowerPoint original; 2) Fix the easy things first; 3) Remember that this is an act of compassion and empathy in addition to helping us meet our legal requirements.
Together we can continue to work to design our Fall 2020 semester so that every learner can succeed in an environment that values equity and difference.
We want to give a huge shout out to all instructors who made the shift to remote instruction with lightning speed so we could finish out the spring semester! As the parent of a graduating senior, I am so appreciative of everything you are doing so all of our students can complete this term. Has it been easy? No! Has it been comfortable? No! Are you making it work? Yes! If you’d had more time to make this move are there some things you would have done differently? Absolutely!
Guess what? We DO have more time to prepare our summer courses that were going to be offered in person, but now need to be moved to remote instruction. And we DO have the workshop to help you do just that!
Moving Rapidly to Remote Instruction (MRRI) will help you rapidly develop your face-to-face course for remote instruction for this summer’s semesters. If you are planning on teaching a summer course that needs to move online quickly, attend this three-week online workshop that will walk you through an intentional course design process and provide the expertise of the Coulter Faculty Commons and experienced WCU online faculty in designing and facilitating remote instruction. This is not the full Online Course Design Institute, which is for online courses that will be taught next Spring. Instead, we have more time to prepare for the summer courses and design them to be more enjoyable by you and your students.
Dates: May 11 – May 31
When: There will be a combination of live Zoom sessions, recorded tutorials, content and assignments/deliverables. You will have the opportunity to have 1:1 conversations with CFC staff and experience online faculty. Expect to commit 8 – 10 hours each of the three weeks to complete this process and be ready to teach.
Where: Fully Online through Blackboard, Zoom, and Teams
Outcome: By the end of May, you will have your online course designed and developed, in Blackboard, with a teaching/facilitation plan in place. You will also have the support of colleagues and the CFC throughout the summer.
The workshop is free and open to all instructors, including adjuncts. Please register, to let us know you are joining us and to allow us to ensure that we have enough facilitators to make this workshop successful!