Call for Applications: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Teaching Consultants (Due Fri., May 21, 2021)

Faculty and instructors are invited to apply for the new Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Teaching Consultants Program. Selected participants will develop and evaluate faculty development projects designed to increase the use of equity-minded and inclusive pedagogies or practices by others within their college. They will earn a $5,000 stipend over the course of a calendar year and have the support of CATL, the Director of Inclusive Excellence, and the Pride Center. To learn more about the program and to apply, please see the call here. Please direct questions to Caroline Boswell, Stacie Christian, or Kris Vespia.

Faculty College 2021 Registration Open

In most years, Faculty College requires an application and a commitment to travel for a week’s worth of reflection and professional development. This year, UW-System has opened the experience to all who wish to attend by making it virtual. You do not even need to be faculty to attend; staff are welcome as well, since we all share in the educational mission of the University. Participants may register for one or both of the sessions. The first session—May 24–25, 9:30 a.m.–noon—focuses on equity-minded wellness, and the second—May 26–27, 9:30 a.m.–noon—centers around equity-minded pedagogy. Both bring in nationally recognized speakers who will offer keynote talks and online workshops. To register, or find out more, please see the Faculty College website.

What will you carry forward?

Article by Todd Dresser.

Last spring, we all talked about how the pandemic would re-shape higher education. Now, a year from the beginning of the pandemic, we want to look at how those discussions have evolved. What questions did we ask? How did instructors answer them? What new questions emerged? And what will we carry forward from teaching in the age of COVID as well as the overlapping crises of the past year? Since all politics are local, I spoke with three instructors at UW-Green Bay to get their perspectives.

I spoke with Jillian Jacklin, a lecturer in Democracy and Justice Studies who had the serendipitous experience of starting her journey at UW-Green Bay in the Spring 2020 semester. I spoke with Kiel Nikolakakis, a lecturer in Natural and Applied Sciences who has a broad array of teaching experiences in lab courses, Gateways to Phoenix Success (GPS), as well as in UW Collaborative Programs. And I spoke with Heidi Sherman, Associate Professor of History and Humanities, who has experience as a chair, advisor, and instructor.

The discussion below should provoke thought as to how the last year has changed our teaching practices. It’s not an exhaustive compendium of experiences by any means. In fact, we wish to hear your stories as well, so please see the opportunities to continue this discussion at the bottom of the post.

Blending online and face-to-face strategies

In 2020, “hyflex” was in the air. This term combining hybrid delivery and flexible participation has been around since 2006 but has been a niche format with much of the research on its effectiveness centered on graduate education. Yet, suddenly, higher-ed circulated podcasts and think pieces about its applicability to the pandemic context.

These offerings had two main themes. First, as Brian Beatty put it “a well-designed HyFlex class, with effective alternative participation modes that all lead to the same learning outcomes, can provide meaningful learning opportunities for all students.” Second: “resiliency.” Again, from Brian Beatty, “looking ahead, if it becomes necessary to close campuses again for almost any reason (natural disaster, smoke and fire threats…) students and faculty in HyFlex classes should be able to continue without interruption.” Hyflex held out hope of maintaining quality education resilient against future disasters.

Yet, even the textbook on how to create a hyflex course acknowledges that it takes multiple semesters to develop a truly hyflex course. So how did instructors blend online and face-to-face methods together? How did it go? And what will remain?

Online discussions give all students a voice

Dr. Jacklin teaches two sections of History 206, each capped at 65 students. Stimulating discussion in large classes is challenging face-to-face and often favors those more comfortable expressing their ideas publicly. She noted that in “lecture halls students don’t get to see each other’s ideas. A lot of people talk on Canvas who wouldn’t talk” in a lecture setting. Though she plans to return face-to-face in Fall, she intends to “spark discussions in Canvas” to allow “all students to continue to have a voice.”

Dr. Nikolakakis also found virtual discussions let students gather their thoughts. He had his first-year students prepare PowerPoint slides in response to discussion prompts and describe their ideas in VoiceThread. This exercise led to a “higher degree of engagement” than classroom discussions and “students did a better job” getting into depth on course materials.

Both Drs. Jacklin and Nikolakakis found online discussions alleviated some anxieties of in-class participation and allowed students to express their ideas in a more relaxed way leading to more complicated insights.

Digital spaces for digital faces

Discussions around “synchronous online” also evolved. Dr. Sherman described how the “virtual classroom” allowed students to discuss complex material more comfortably. She noted the virtual environment “alleviates the social anxiety that weighs on you” when trying to unpack primary historical sources in front of peers. She allows students to participate with webcams off, which turns their voices on.

Dr. Jacklin held online “venting” sessions where students decompressed, which were important given that much of the material she covered in her courses overlapped with news events about racial injustice.

Dr. Nikolakakis faced the challenge of preparing students to conduct labs. In a typical semester he would offer an overview lecture prior to the lab, but classroom restrictions meant he could not lecture to everyone at once. Instead, he created mini-lectures students could watch ahead of in-room labs. Many of these lectures will be available for future use.

These are all creative examples of how instructors have adapted and enhanced their synchronous teaching in ways that the prognostications from last summer did not anticipate.

Getting your digital feed beneath you

Both Drs. Jacklin and Nikolakakis developed a rhythm for teaching in distance environments. For Dr. Nikolakakis, Fall semester felt “more chaotic” than Spring 2021. While this feeling of relative ease comes from many sources—practice, for example—he noted creating modules in Canvas mimicking a calendar (so students know what to expect every week) works for him. He found that students use the Canvas calendar as their to do list and has made sure his assignments appear there.

Similarly, Dr. Jacklin noted she has gotten better at “scaffolding” assignments so smaller assignments help students build toward larger ones.

Technology and equity

We never signed up for distance education but found ourselves online, so questions arose about how to serve students ensuring equitable access and ability to complete course materials.

A map of public wi-fi locations helps document a scramble to assist those without robust internet access and conjures the feelings of dislocation and unease which made the map necessary. The ramifications of teaching across the web raised concerns. Bryan Alexander argued in a widely circulated blog post that “students would be better served by dialing back the Zoom and shifting instead to a greater emphasis on asynchronous tech” noting “live video means assuming students have access to infrastructure.” In a world where people were learning from parking lots over public wi-fi, that was not a safe assumption.

Nonetheless, virtual classroom emerged as the most common teaching mode at UW-Green Bay. How did we go from a reluctance to a reliance? And, how has equity fared?

Virtual classroom revealed accommodations I didn’t know I needed

Just ask Heidi Sherman. Dr. Sherman was initially reluctant to teach via virtual classroom out of a concern for student access. Her colleagues relayed they were able to have good conversations with students over web and her experience as an advisor showed many students preferred virtual classroom to other distance modes. So, she took the plunge this Spring.

She found virtual classroom enabled deeper connections with students and course material than even face-to-face allowed. As a historian, Dr. Sherman teaches through primary sources and these sources (in Islamic history and Medieval history) are complicated and difficult to parse. As a someone who is visually impaired, Dr. Sherman notes that she “needs to hold a book close to my face” while helping students unpack the readings.

Virtual classroom alleviated some of tensions felt while teaching face-to-face. The documents are still complicated, but she and the students can do so with webcams off, meaning students do not have to put their struggles on stage and that Dr. Sherman can read in relative comfort. She noted, “when the teacher is comfortable; the students are comfortable” which enables freer and deeper discussions than were possible face-to-face.

Teaching through web conference revealed other troublesome aspects of face-to-face, but she thought she would just “have to deal with.” For example, the “clock in a regular classroom is not easy to see,” which makes it hard to pace a lesson. Similarly, the computer monitors in physical classrooms are small and hard to work with. Also, students in virtual environments are not “distracted by all the social things” that “weigh on you” in a classroom where they struggle more publicly with difficult material.

Betty Friedan famously described “the problem with no name” which arose from a “strange stirring” that many women felt in the 20th century when the world as it was did not match the world as they were told it should be. So too did Dr. Sherman note that virtual classroom revealed “accommodations I didn’t know I needed.” She thought the unease of teaching face-to-face was part of the job. Teaching virtually put a name on a set of accommodations which unlocked teaching as it should be for her and her students.

The conversation about synchronous online teaching began from a concern about equity related to infrastructure. While those issues undoubtedly remain, what emerged is a more complicated relationship between technology and equity. Dr. Sherman notes that the constellation of attributes for virtual classroom align well for her but that it has opened a deeper discussion about how to align “technology with equity” so all people have access to an education (and a workplace) to take advantage of their assets.

Further explorations into technology and equity

Dr. Sherman is not alone, Dr. Jacklin also explored the equity–technology relationship by deepening her relationship with Open Educational Resources (OER). While she uses an open textbook for her class “Who Built America?” because the publisher serendipitously decided to make it open, it has grown into a passion for how OER can alleviate important pressures for students.

Similarly, Dr. Nikolakakis has recorded many mini-lectures for his chemistry courses which extend and reinforce his instruction. He plans to continue to continue using this large outlay of labor for students in the future who need reinforcement or who have planned absences.

What about you?

The Center wants to hear your stories. How did you think last year would go? How did it? How did you manage? What will you carry forth?

Join us synchronously on May 14 at 11 a.m. via Microsoft Teams where CATL and the Center for Civic Engagement will host a discussion on “The Things We’ll Carry.” You’ll even get to talk with Jillian Jacklin herself!

Also, please respond to this survey where we will collect more stories about what people will carry forth from the year and use the responses to help inform future opportunities from CATL and the Center for Civic Engagement.

Finally, we encourage you to comment below and keep the conversation going!

Webinars: Teaching with MS Teams Meetings (May 13 & 18, 2021)

CATL recommends all summer courses use Microsoft Teams meetings if they require synchronous online sessions, as access to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra will end on June 30, 2021.

CATL is here to help instructors get ready to teach with Microsoft Teams meetings this summer! Join us for a live online training session, “Teaching With Microsoft Teams” on Thursday, May 13 from 3–4 p.m. or on Tuesday, May 18 from 11 a.m.–12 p.m.

This session will cover the following basics for using Teams meetings in your class:

  • Scheduling meetings for your synchronous class sessions
  • Configuring meeting options
  • Sharing Teams meeting links in Canvas
  • Meeting controls
  • Sharing your screen or a PowerPoint
  • Using Breakout Rooms
  • Downloading Attendance Reports
  • Recording meetings
  • Polling

The instructional portion of the session will also be recorded for those who cannot attend.

For specific questions or a quicker refresher on using Teams meetings for instruction, also feel free to drop by CATL’s end-of-semester drop-in hours or schedule a one-on-one consultation.

Click Here to Register for May 13
Click Here to Register for May 18

Didn’t register? No problem! You can also join us with the following links:

Guide: Setting Up MS Teams Meetings For Synchronous Instruction

Scheduling A Recurring Teams Meeting For Class Sessions

Scheduling A Recurring Teams Meeting For Class Sessions

Extensive documentation for scheduling Teams Meetings can be found on the UWGB KnowledgeBase (Links to an external site.). Here are the steps we recommend for setting up Teams meetings for recurring synchronous class sessions.

  1. Open Microsoft Teams and select Calendar from the app bar.
  2. Click the + New Meeting button.
  3. Give your meeting a title in the “Add title” field.
  4. The quickest method to invite all the students who are currently enrolled in your class is to use your course’s email distribution list. You can type in the name of your course distribution list in the “Add required attendees” field, then click the matching result in the search box that appears.
  5. Enter the start and end date and time for the first meeting occurrence (i.e. your first class session).
  6. To create a recurring meeting, change the selected meeting recurrence drop-down menu choice from “Does not repeat” to the desired pattern. For a class that meets multiple times in a week, choose the Custom option, set it to repeat every 1 Week, and select the desired days of the week. Set the end date to the date of your last class meeting. Click Save to add the custom recurrence pattern to your meeting.
    Setting a custom recurrence
  7. (Optional) Enter in any meeting details in the meeting body. You could include welcoming language for your students and/or expectations for student participation in this field.
  8. In the top-right of the New meeting window, click Send to create your meeting and send invitations to the students.

NOTE: Your meeting invitation will not automatically update to include/remove students who add or drop the course. After the meeting has been created, you can edit the meeting series to invite additional students or remove students from the meeting series. To edit a meeting series in Teams, click any occurrence of the meeting in your calendar once, then click Edit > Edit Series.

Configuring Meeting Options

After scheduling your Teams meeting, you can customize the meeting options. Of particular importance for a class meeting is controlling whether or not students can present (i.e. share their screen). For maximum meeting security, we recommend setting the Who can present? meeting option to “Only me.” This setting will allow students to use their mic, camera, and chat during the meeting but will prevent them from sharing their screen, starting a recording, or creating polls.

Whenever a student needs to present in a meeting, you can quickly promote an individual student to the presenter role in the meeting’s participants panel. For more information on setting user roles in a Teams meeting, please see this Microsoft Support guide.

Posting the Meeting Join Link in Canvas

A ready meeting link

Students will be able to join a Teams meeting to which they’ve been invited by finding the meeting in the calendar page of the Teams application. Joining a Teams meeting through the calendar of the Teams app is the easiest way to join a meeting, but you may also wish to post the meeting join link in a Canvas course page or event so that students can join the meeting by clicking a link within your Canvas course.

Once a Teams Meeting has been scheduled, a meeting join link is automatically added to the bottom of the body of the appointment that is added to your Teams (and Outlook) calendar. This link can be freely copied from your calendar and pasted anywhere, including a Canvas course. Each scheduled occurrence of a recurring Teams meeting will use the same join link. Consider pasting the join link for your meeting in any or all of these Canvas course locations:

  • In a page in the introduction module of your course.
  • Add the link as an External URL module item (IMPORTANT: When adding a Teams join link as a module item in Canvas, you must check the Load in a new tab option for the link to work)
  • In a Canvas course calendar event. NOTE: Canvas events do not support custom recurrence patterns; events can be only be duplicated with daily, weekly, or monthly patterns. A separate Canvas event that is duplicated weekly would have to be created for each day of the week your class meets (e.g. one for Monday meetings and one for Wednesday meetings), but you can paste the same Teams meeting join link in each Canvas event.