Congratulations, everyone, on making it through another semester, a particularly sweet victory given the continuing difficulties posed by COVID-19, a different technological landscape, and….well, *waves arms at everything*
I hope everyone is able to find some well-deserved rest, comfort, and joy over the holiday break. That said, many of us are trying to wrap up Spring semester preparations before the end of this week in order to facilitate maximum break-time relaxation. In order to facilitate that work, here are some resources for your syllabus/course prep, as well as some more information about instructional technology matters for the spring.
Syllabus statements regarding masking/covid and attendance policies: Several folks have had questions about effective ways–that is, not harsh or punitive-sounding–to communicate with students regarding things like mask policies in the classroom, or attendance expectations if one were to test positive for COVID. A lot of the answer, of course, depends on your own class context and pedagogical preferences. And, as the Provost’s Office made clear before the beginning of this academic year, as individual faculty we have the ability to set those expectations for our own classrooms. To assist with this process, here are some good resources to use as you think about syllabi, course policies, language, and community:
- This short article from Oakland University’s CETL contains links to some examples of thoughtful syllabus policies and language from instructors at a variety of institutions.
- Elizabeth A. Drummond, from Loyola Marymount University, wrote a blog post describing the ways in which she “hacked my syllabus,” as well as reflections on how COVID-19 accelerated and/or modified some of the pedagogical changes she had already begun.
- Washington University’s Center for Teaching and Learning has a good set of questions to ask ourselves as we put together courses for the Spring, especially for online/hybrid/HyFlex classes.
- Before the Fall semester, Matthew R. Johnson wrote an excellent piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education (“10 Course Policies to Rethink on Your Fall Syllabus”), much of which still applies to this coming semester.
- Finally, it’s not COVID-related, but if you’re looking for a quick way to generate the dates for a course calendar, check out this tool from Caleb McDaniel at Rice University. Simply plug in the start and end dates and day/time your course meets, and it will generate a complete list of dates that you can copy and paste into your syllabus.
Accessibility: As we come to rely more and more on digital platforms and tools (Blackboard, PDFs, videos) in our teaching, we need to remain mindful that some of our students aren’t able to access those materials if we aren’t attentive to the design choices we make as instructors. In particular, we should be incorporating the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to ensure our courses–and our course materials–are accessible for all of our students. We’ve posted some UDL resources on this blog before (see HERE and HERE, for example), but CETL is always happy to support you as you consider ways to make your own course spaces accessible. For example, the course shell templates (both 8- and 16-week) are built to be fully accessible, and we would be happy to import them into your Blackboard course for you–simply contact Kevin or Tiffany to request this (note: the course space that we copy the template into needs to be empty, or else content will be overwritten with the template import). Feel free to contact either Kevin or Tiffany with any specific accessibility-related questions regarding your course space/materials, and we’ll do our best to assist. Remember: inclusive teaching means accessible teaching.
Panopto Update: As the Provost’s Office pointed out last month, our license for Panopto ends this comong June 30. If you are an instructor who’s used Panopto and is wondering how to transition your videos to another platform, you have several options. I am happy to schedule an appointment with either individuals or departments to go over potential solutions in more detail, but here’s a quick list of a few options for those who might want to start tinkering around with them:
- External hard drive. PROS: you can order a 1 TB external hard drive through the GV bookstore for under $90.00, and unless you’ve got the equivalent of the entire run of Cheers on the Panopto server, this should be plenty of storage. CONS: not feasible to share content; this solution is for those who wish to soimply store files until they figure out where else to deploy them.
- YouTube channel. If you have a Google account, you can create a private channel on YouTube, and then upload your Panopto videos to it (perhaps from that external hard drive). PROS: you can configure the sharing settings for your channel a number of ways, including “private,” where it’s not available to the entire web. Also, YouTube videos are easy to link and stream from Blackboard. YouTube does do captioning, which is an important consideration as well. CONS: You would have to download your videos from the Panopto server and then upload them into YouTube, so this option would be time-consuming in its initial phases.
- Microsoft Stream: As part of GV’s Office 365 license, we have access to a video storage and sharing platform called Stream. Some of our colleagues are already using it, as you’ll see if you log into it with your GV credentials. Think of Stream as OneDrive for videos–you can upload onto the platform, and thens imply share a link to provide streaming access to potential viewers. PROS: It’s free, we already have it, and if you’re a Microsoft user, it integrates well with other Office and MS applications. CONS: As with YouTube, the initial process of uploading videos onto Stream can be time-consuming, depending upon the size of your media library. To access Stream, go to office365.com, and log in with your GV credentials. Then, when you are taken to the Office Home page, click on the 9-dot square at the top left of the page. That will take you to a list of all your Office apps, and you’ll see Stream at the bottom.
I know this transition is stressful, and the Technology Strategy Team is continuing to discuss our options with Panopto (which is not cheap) and how we can support faculty and their instructional media. As the semester begins, please feel free to schedule an appointment with me and we can walk through the process and get your questions answered.
Finally, navigating this landscape of uncertainty, anxiety, and loss is different for all of us. If you find yourself trying to figure out what your “normal” will be, but not wanting to pretend the past two years haven’t happened, you might find this blog post on “Looking Back to Look Forward” by Knox College’s Cate Denial to be helpful and generative.
Happy holidays to all of you from CETL. We hope you all have a great break, and we’re looking forward to supporting you and your students in the coming semester!