Building KU's Teaching and Learning Community

Engaging Ideas for Flexible Teaching: Preparing for Fall 2020
Summer 2020 Teaching Matters E-Newsletter

Building interactions with/among students: Continued


Here are instructions for Susan Marshall’s Afterthoughts assignment:

A major goal of this class is to make connections between the course content and your everyday life. There will be 5 Afterthoughts assignments during the semester. They are intended to get you to think about course material as you go about your daily routine. Each Afterthought must address one (or both) of the two chapters we have been discussing in the two weeks leading up to that assignment. For example:

  • Take a picture of something that demonstrates a concept we are covering/discussing.
  • Share an article or news story that addresses a topic from those chapters.
  • Describe something that happened to you that shows application of the material.
  • Share something you saw on social media or the Internet that relates to what we are covering.

     Really, anything goes! The point is for it to connect our class content to what you are doing every day. I want you to think about what we are talking about in class and show me and your classmates how it applies to your daily life.

     You have been placed in a small Blackboard discussion group within our class that has approximately 12-15 students. There is a due date by which you must post your own Afterthought to the Group Discussion Board. Group members must then return to the discussion board to check out the other posts and "vote" on which one you think is the best. This will allow you all to make your own contributions and connections between the material and your lives, but also allows your group to decide collectively on which post(s) win each time. Winning posts will receive extra credit on the exam that week! 

     To complete this assignment, go to your discussion group. You will then go to your group's discussion board and click on the "Afterthoughts Assignment" forum. Choose the correct thread to make your post—note that there will be 5 of these throughout the semester. Make sure you post in the correct thread for the chapters we are covering! Follow the instructions for posting your Afterthought. After the posting deadline has passed, you must return to the discussion board to see what your group members have shared. You then need to: 

1. Rate the post that you think is most interesting and/or applicable to the material by giving it high ratings (4 or 5 stars!). You do not need to rate all posts (i.e., you do not need to give lower or negative ratings). You cannot vote on or rate your own post.

2. IMPORTANT: Reply to your favorite post with a quick explanation of why you chose it. You must leave a reply/explanation in order to get credit for the "voting" part of this assignment.

     Your grade for each Afterthoughts assignment is comprised of two parts--your own post (2 points) and your vote/comment (1 point) on your favorite post by a classmate. Make sure you complete both parts to earn full credit!


Here is additional information about Cheryl Wright’s check-ins:

  • The benefit of on-going communication with the expectation that students respond by a certain date (for example, the “check-in” prompt is posted on Monday morning and a reply is expected by Sunday at 11:59 P.M. of that week.)  A pre-determined number of points is assigned to strengthen student participation.
  • A format that offers variety such as sending email that asks how students are doing overall, providing a brief survey to clarify assignments, and instilling guiding questions that are reflective of assignments and link student learning to real world experiences. 
  • A structure for virtual office hours, although I found that most of my students preferred to communicate via email or by conferencing by telephone.
  • A format for trouble-shooting students’ individual concerns, offering constructive feedback, and monitoring attendance.
  • Genuine responses from students indicating what is specifically working for them, in a course, to promote inquiry, inclusion, equity, and relevance.
Creative approaches

Brain imaging online

Rob Fiorentino's undergraduate collaborative poster entitled, "Re-examining Evidence for Phoneme Restoration Effects Using MMN"

Online case study debates

Amy Leyerzapf’s debate assignment used these materials and followed this format:

Materials:        Ch. 1 of Rushworth Kidder’s (2009) How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living

                        Kidder’s Model of Ethical Decision Making handout

                        What/So What/Now What Reflection Guide

                        Case readings, including


Day 1: Understanding Kidder’s Model of Ethical Decision Making

  • Before dismissing, set up the debate for the following meeting.  Students should read the provided case information and may want to investigate the Goldwater Rule on their own to inform their arguments. 
  • Dividing students into groups provides them with additional time to focus on a specific argument, however, asking them to consider arguments from all three perspectives (pro-publication/anti-publication/trilemma) has value as well. 

Day 2:  Debate

  1. Divide students into three groups (pro-publication/anti-publication/trilemma)
  2. Allow 15 minutes for groups to solidify an argument which should be based in and articulated through the language of one of Kidder’s three resolution principles
  3. Allow 30 minutes for debate.  A typical structure would include:
    1. Pro position (5 minutes)
    2. Rebuttals (3 minutes each anti and trilemma = 6 minutes)
    3. Anti position (5 minutes)
    4. Rebuttals (3 minutes each pro and trilemma = 6 minutes)
    5. Trilemma position (5 minutes)
    6. Rebuttals (3 minutes each pro and anti = 6 minutes)
    7. Closing statements (3 minutes each team = 9 minutes)
  4. Use a final 15 minutes as an open forum for discussion of which case was strongest (and why), how the individuals involved did or did not exercise “leadership,” and what other possibilities might exist.
  5. Follow up: Students should complete the What/So What/Now What balcony-level reflection. 

For copies of these materials, contact Amy Leyerzapf at

Virtual ELISA laboratory

Here are the results of Jack Treml’s virtual ELISA laboratory:

Student submitted reagents and protocol were used to generate simulated data. If any of these elements was improper, appropriate data was returned. If the reagents and protocols were suitable to answer the question, data was generated by reverse engineering the known (by the instructor) amounts of material in each sample as a standard curve in Excel, followed by minor randomization (<1%) around the generated value. Values outside of the linear range were estimated based on a range-finding curve to illustrate minimum and maximum readings that would be reported in an actual assay.

The results of this virtual lab were of superior quality to those encountered when performing the actual analogous experiment in terms of accuracy and precision of the first attempt of the experiment (deliverable #2). This suggests that more thought was put into the virtual experiment than its live counterpart. Additionally, the instructor was asked fewer basic questions that could be answered within the text of the laboratory or found online implying greater self-reliance. It is the instructor’s intention to retain the virtual experiment as an introduction to the technique prior to hands-on work.

The ”Unknown Project”

Here is a screenshot of the “Unknown Project” presentation gallery from BB:


Comments from our students in the post-project survey:

  • I honestly think that this was an incredible way to do this lab given the circumstances. An in-person lab is always going to be preferable, but if I had to it online, I don't think there'd be a better way to do it
  • I think based on the circumstances; this was a very good alternative to the normal final project. I learned a lot, and felt I was really able to stay organized. Sometimes, in the lab, I can get a little disorganized when so many tests are being done. In the future, for a similar project, I would probably use a similar table again.
  • I think based on the circumstances; this was a very good alternative to the normal final project. I learned a lot, and felt I was really able to stay organized. Sometimes, in the lab, I can get a little disorganized when so many tests are being done. In the future, for a similar project, I would probably use a similar table again.
  • I thought that the online delivery of the Unknown project actually went over very well. I was impressed with how smoothly it all went and I am glad that it was still implemented into the lab course because it did help to utilize what we learned throughout the semester in a practical sense. Dr. Hotze did a great job adapting to the online format and still working to provide the best possible learning experience for the students. 
  • I am glad that we were still able to do this project in some capacity as it was one of my main motivations for taking this course as my last lab course at KU. All things considered; I think that the online format worked very well.
  • Happy that we were able to do an unknown project regardless of where it was. I looked forward to this final of all things! Much happier that we were able to do it in some form or another rather than a test. You learn so much more from doing the project rather than just studying it. 
  • The online unknown project was well thought out and easy to understand, I just would have preferred to have done it face-to-face as opposed to online.
  • I honestly really enjoyed this project. Every step from identifying the unknowns to making the presentation was really fun; you guys should definitely do it again!
  • I still enjoyed the project. I was really fun deciding what symptoms or infections our patients had. 
  • The GTA's, UTA and professor did an excellent job preparing this project to be conducted online. They were very speedy with replies to questions and in offering help when confused. Of all of my classes this semester they handled the online transition the best.
  • Based on the circumstances and time constraints surrounding the creation of this project I was amazed at how well put together everything was. It all went very smoothly and was not too demanding  of us. However, I do wish the genotyping portion of the project could have been integrated somehow because I was really looking forward to this. 
  • I really appreciate all the work put in to making this project as interactive and engaging and just want to say thank you!
  • Great project, I thought it was pretty fun and stress-free.


Rethinking finals

Making your voice count

Here is Pam’s project description and rubric:

Click Here for PDF or Word Doc

A form provided to students to secure consent for the re-use of their work was adapted, slightly, from the CTE form here:

Collaborative book chapter for future students

Here is more information about Drew Vartia’s collaborative book chapter project:

Four minor assignments were created and gradually deployed around various roles. For the first two assignments, students were assigned a unique topic (35 per assignment.) This helped create a large repository of information students could draw upon for the final project.

Expositor: A two-page background paper about a specified topic, such as “atomic-level explanations of steel strength” or “brick—its chemistry and properties.” Interpretation and commentary on one or more resources was expected. The goal was to create a large and accessible collection of background information.

Curator: An image search with student-written captions for a specified set of pictures, such as “electron micrographs of three kinds of steel” or “plastics and their monomers as atmospheric pollutants.” The goal was to generate a collection of images that would support later text.

Applications specialist: A short (two-page) paper about uses of particular materials in engineering; this was open-ended to allow students to explore on their own and connect chemistry and engineering. It further established relevance by answering “Why do I have to take this course?” and “Why are you asking us to do this?”

Materials researcher: A short one-page description—discovery, chemistry, and uses—of one exotic or in-development material of students’ choice from a list or one they proposed with instructor permission; think “metallic foams,” “artificial spider silks,” “bendable concretes,” etc. This was meant to increase student ownership of their learning by letting them explore something they think is cool. (And with names like those, they’re cool, right?)

For the final project, students assumed a different, larger role.

Editor: For their final projects, students had to select, edit, and supplement information, and then package it into a comprehensive book chapter. As an example of a final project, a student who chose the material class “metals and alloys” for their book chapter may have incorporated material from earlier work by other students on “history of alloys,” “metal defects,” “atomic-level explanation of steel strength,” and “electron micrographs of three kinds of steel,” and “metallic foams,” as well as new information  on practical limits on the sizes of metallic wires and other facets of metals and alloys.

My job? Publisher. It was communicated to students that selected book chapters would go on to benefit future students by providing a resource current students didn't have access to.

This "role" format was a bit hokey, but it seemed to afford an additional layer of structure that I thought could be useful. It's also in line with roles in more formal group work and seemed to help when students were looking for particular kinds of information.

Additional or more detailed information about these assignments can be provided; contact Drew at

Posters and peer review on a Wiki

Here is Megan Greene’s assignment as revised for Blackboard:


  • Upload your poster to this wiki by 11:59 pm on Thursday, April 30.
  • Your file must be either a jpg or a png file. When you upload it, it should only take one box on the wiki.
  • Your poster should outline your topic, articulate your argument, and briefly discuss evidence from at least 3 of your sources and how that evidence relates to your topic.
  • I encourage you to use images as well as text so as to make your poster more visually interesting. Get as creative as you want to, as long as your poster includes the required material.

Peer Review:

  • Provide constructive comments on at least two posters. If you see that a poster has gotten comments from 2 or more people, then please comment on a poster that has not yet gotten comments. The idea is for all posters to get comments from at least 2 peers.
  • Post your comments by 11:59 pm on Sunday, May 3.
  • Your comments should be designed to help your peers as they move from posters to papers. You should consider the following as you review: 
    • Is the argument/thesis clear?
    • Does the evidence the author has provided appear to support the argument?
    • Do you have other suggestions?

Paris memoirs

Click here for (PDF) examples of daily memoirs from Steve Padget’s course and students’ mini-research projects.


News & Notes

CTE Learning Community:  Teaching at a Predominantly White Institution

PWI sessions are held from 12:00 - 12:55 p.m. on alternating Tuesdays, starting Sept. 28th. Please click here to access the full schedule. 

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See how CTE has been helping KU faculty adapt and innovate their teaching.

Visit the Flex Teaching sitewhich provides help for creating flexible courses that can shift between in-person and online.