Building KU's Teaching and Learning Community

What's Worked Well: Bring Spots from Fall 2020
Fall 2020 Teaching Matters E-Newsletter

Innovation lights up a difficult semester
Andrea Follmer Greenhoot, CTE/Psychology

In the lead up to Fall 2020, KU’s instructors embarked on a collective crash course in online, hybrid, and socially distanced teaching, to prepare for a semester like no other. To give you a sense of the astonishing scale of this endeavor, here are some numbers: 758 faculty members and graduate students participated in one or more of CTE’s summer workshops and programs; 585 instructors took part in workshops or one-on-one consultations offered by the Center for Online and Distance Learning. In total KU instructors spent almost 15,000 hours participating in course development programs in the summer of 2020. And we know most instructors spent many more hours working on their courses on their own. By the summer’s end, our online Guidebook for Flexible Teaching had received over 60,000 page views by almost 3000 unique users, most of whom visited the site multiple times (you can find more summer facts and figures here). The learning and adaptation have continued this fall, as instructors experiment with new teaching strategies and tools for fostering student engagement and learning in challenging circumstances.

Against this backdrop, this newsletter shines a spotlight on the many innovative and inspiring ways in which KU instructors are overcoming the challenges of teaching this fall. We invited faculty and GTAs to share personal accounts of what is working well in their courses this semester: the pleasant surprises, the innovative solutions, and the strategies instructors will continue to use in their post-Covid teaching. The resulting collection of essays provides a rich set of examples of how our colleagues are designing creative approaches to adapt their courses to the needs of their students, their future employers and their communities in this transformed world.

Creating connections in the professions

Connecting with freshmen

Caroline Bennett, Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering

I am teaching 31 students in ARCE 101, Introduction to Architectural Engineering, fully online this semester. I was initially very hesitant to teach it online, because this course is where we form personal connections among students and the department and generate excitement about studying architectural engineering. The new format caused me to reevaluate what I wanted my students to be able to do at the end of the semester, and what sorts of interactions I wanted to foster with this class ... (more)

The kit

Hannah Park, Design

I completed a little experiment with my introductory user experience/user interface design course at the start of the fall semester. To bridge the gap between online and in-person class formats, I made Design Thinking Kits and mailed them to my 38 students. Open this PDF to see what happened when the class ‘unboxed’ the kit I mailed.

Covid-19 inspires innovation in assessment

Kissan Joseph, Marketing

Given testing limitations induced by Covid-19, I introduced a new assessment format in my MBA-level course on Marketing Management this fall: open-book, take-home unit assessments administered every two weeks, Friday 8 AM to Saturday 5 PM, in lieu of examinations. 
     There are three features that distinguish this approach to assessment. First, after discussing a topic, I can now assign a fairly comprehensive reading and gauge understanding and application via a series of reflective questions
 ... (more)

Tech tools that work

Enhancing student-to-student communication

Carl Luchies, Mechanical Engineering

Back in pre-Covid days, I enjoyed using active learning to provide an effective educational experience using Team-Based Learning. Classroom communication happened at: 1. the class level, during which concepts were discussed as a group; and 2. the team level, during which small groups of studentscollaborated to discuss, understand, and master the application of concepts to solve real world engineering problems. Valuable feedback on learning was gained by simply walking around the room to listen to small group discussions and address questions. Good communication at both levels happened organically within this pedagogy.
     This semester, to provide an effective education remotely, I am experimenting with using two communication platforms simultaneously: Zoom and Microsoft Teams ... (more)

Better than expected: Impressive work in an online assignment

Ali Brox, Environmental Studies

This semester’s teaching and learning are not occurring in the ways we might prefer and are accustomed to, and yet there are aspects that are going better than expected, maybe even better than what we have done in our courses previously. For me, I realized the latter about two weeks into my First-Year Seminar, Apocalypse Now? Imagining Environmental Disaster in Cli-fi (climate change fiction). My course is fully online and has at least one synchronous Zoom session each week.
     What I have been most impressed with in terms of the quality of work and critical thinking is an Adobe Spark/VoiceThread assignment that my students completed after reading two short stories ... (more)

Reimagining engagement at the Spencer Museum of Art

Neal Long & Ashley Offill, Spencer Museum of Art

There was a sense of trepidation for all involved as the Spencer Museum of Art began to welcome students back into the galleries in early September. The familiar routines were suddenly no longer in place. Instead, we began to check for masks, direct students to the CVKey kiosk, and dispense hand sanitizer as small groups of students hesitantly walked through our doors. The sheer delight students exhibited as they said hello to their instructors, for many the first time they had seen each other in person, carried us through the awkward steps of a new routine and into the galleries themselves ... (more)

Engaging learners through flexible course design

Cheryl Wright, Curriculum & Teaching

As experienced by colleagues earlier, I found myself pondering ways of how to effectively teach online during the pandemic. Recognizing Zoom would be my platform forsynchronous instruction, one of the resources I referenced was CTE’s Flexible Course Design program. Whether attending summer workshops or reviewing the website’s literature, I focused on pedagogical methods to motivate students and connect online learners in a purposeful way. With adjusting my instruction as a focal point, I reconsidered how I design my Zoom meetings. As a result, I chose “chunking” or “organizing the course into modules” ... (more)

GTA flex design

Making an overwhelming task less stressful

Ángel M. Rañales, Spanish & Portuguese

With the pandemic among us, teaching an advanced language-culture course online (or even hybrid) is daunting, perhaps even more for a GTA. However, the GTA Flex Program equipped us with a set of instrumental practices that made this titanic effort a bit less stressful. Among the strategies that I implemented in my SPAN 346 hybrid course, which focuses on transatlantic Hispanic cultures, I will highlight three:
   1. Design your course to go virtual and adapt it to your in-person sessions ... (more)

Just in time

Juhi Kidwai, Speech-Language-Hearing

I joined the CTE GTA Flex and Online Teachingprogram during the summer, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The program setup was timely, just prior to the fall term when I was developing materials for an online semester with students who possibly were in different time zones ... (more)

KU has created community for teachers

Zach Smith, English

As a first year GTA, I had no idea what to expect going into August. I had never taught a composition course—or any course for that matter—and the thought of attempting to navigate this unknown territory virtually was anxiety-inducing to say the least ... (more)

Building Community

Bonding while masked: Preserving community for Jayhawks during Covid-19

Laura Kirk, Theatre

Acting classes offered by the Department of Theatre and Dance are known for building inclusive community. Risks students don't feel comfortable taking in other courses are encouraged. They get to know themselves and each other, because the skills needed to act include self and public observation, empathy, deep listening and focus. So, what happens when you can't see faces or touch? It becomes even more vital, because in that room or Zoom session a student can be present for that time, while sharing an unprecedented year at KU ... (more)

Better than I expected

Kevin McCannon, Sociology

I don’t often consider myself a creative person, but this semester I think I got a bit clever. I am using Microsoft Teams as a collaborative tool for a project in my undergraduate Principles of Family Sociology course on how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting American family life ... (more)

Restoring facets of a traditional classroom

Anna Neill, English

It is the 6th of October, and I just returned from my first in-person meeting of my First-Year Seminar. Half of us (one “cohort”), nine students and me, met outside in one of those big, empty, grassy tent spaces. I yelled questions and responses to student answers for 75 minutes through my mask and over the weed whackers, and watched time move like treacle because I couldn’t have everyone work in groups or even have students chat in pairs for fear they would scoot up their seats and lower their masks. Although it was nice to see them in person and the weather was beautiful, the experience sharpened my appreciation for everything I’ve been able to do with them online ... (more)

The silent seminar

Katie Rhine, Geography & Atmospheric Sciences

During October 2020, students enrolled in HNRS 195, Global Medicine, have been reading the graphic novel Lissa: A Story about Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution, written by medical anthropologists Sherine Hamdy and Coleman Nye. I selected this book as the focus for this seminar over the summer, as Black Lives Matter protests and Covid-19's stark racial disparities captured news headlines across the country.
    Although I've taught this text many times, Covid-19 presented a unique challenge, as all of my students now join in for discussions on Zoom. In past semesters, I've used an activity called a silent seminar to get students "talking" about difficult materials ... (more)

More connection than ever

Susan Marshall, Psychology

As I reflect on what has gone better than expected with my teaching this fall, what first comes to mind are all the things that have NOT gone well. I think I need to start there. Teaching classes remotely has been a huge challenge. Managing multiple monitors, Zoom class sessions, breakout rooms, online polling systems, and even wireless ear buds has taxed my attentional resources. Staring at a grid of faces and/or names on Zoom offers little feedback as compared to a bustling room with students who are nodding, laughing, conversing, and asking questions ... (more)

Combatting technology restrictions and anonymity online

Shannon Criss, Architecture

It has been challenging teaching sophomores new soft skills (Media Hub, Blackboard and Microsoft Teams) and a robust introduction of other content-related architectural skills. All this is happening remotely on various computer types, some students with poor internet connection and limited background with computers, while others have much experience and all of the benefits of strong internet access. I see three key challenges in our current situation ... (more)

Student engagement in KU Who-Ville

Shannon O'Lear, Environmental Studies/Geography & Atmospheric Sciences

At the beginning of the semester, most of us were braced to expect the worst. Like The Grinch, teetering on top of Mount Crumpet, overlooking Who-Ville with his dog Max, hand to ear expecting sounds of woe in the first light of Christmas morning, we stepped into this semester expecting ... (more)

Reminder: CTE accepting self-nominations for $1200 Course-Level Assessment Innovation Awards

At this year’s Student Learning Symposium—the sixth iteration of this event, which will be fully online—CTE will reward and showcase the assessment work of our colleagues. We are inviting self‐nominations for several $1200 Course‐Level Assessment Innovation Awards. Any tenure‐track faculty, full‐time multi‐term lecturer, teaching specialist, or professor of teaching who has an ongoing role in their home department at KU is eligible to apply. This includes personnel based at both the Lawrence and Edwards campuses. Contact Judy Eddy for the RFP.


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. 

Click here for a list of our current programs

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.