Keep Teaching: July 30

Dear Colleagues,

July is almost over, and we all know that once August hits, already the fall semester is upon us in many ways.  Many of you have been thoughtfully preparing your fall courses for some time, conceptualizing large-scale design and instructional approaches tailored to best promote learning in our challenging circumstances.

Challenging circumstances indeed… I won’t mention them, or any one of them, today.  They tempt the mind toward worrying, fretting about how to deal with them.  I went running this morning in the cooler air before the sun really got going, and I decided to go along one of the busier streets for a bit.  One of the stores I passed had a sign out front, a modest one, yard-sign size, declaring: Worry Is A Misuse Of Imagination.

Imagination!  It’s a wonderful word, one that we don’t rely on often enough to describe what we do at the university.  We talk research, discovery, entrepreneurship, innovation, learning, teaching, engaging – but at the core of all of that is a desire, and an ability, to see the promise that lives within our students, and to dream beyond the possible.

You’ve been doing that in our near-complete re-thinking of our curriculum, striving to worry less and imagine more, crafting our current reality into one filled with promise and possibility.  Maybe we should start calling the place an Imaginatorium rather than a University; we’ve never needed our imagination more.

The main purpose of these notes have been to provide some practical tips; today, to marry large-scale conceptual approaches with tactics for effective implementation.  One that I particularly want to draw your attention to, for those of you teaching in hybrid or HyFlex modes, is to divide your Canvas course into manually created sections based on the day of the week each student group will attend in person, rather than virtually. Doing so will allow you to communicate with groups based on their weekly attendance day. (To provide clarity and a consistent structure for students, use the same day of the week for in-person attendance for each group. That is, the group that attends F2F on Monday in week #1 should attend on Monday all semester.) Manually creating sections will also enable you to adjust assignment due dates for each group, should you wish to ensure that each group attends an in-person class meeting with you before submitting an assignment. Importantly, this approach will allow you to communicate with each student group the week before classes begin which day of the week they should attend in person and which activities they should complete online in your Canvas course. Creating sections manually within your course will make communication more efficient for you, enabling you to provide timely messages and tailored information to students.

I especially encourage you to engage students by implementing active learning strategies by instructional modality. Those of you teaching hybrid or HyFlex courses may be particularly interested in the right-hand column of the document linked in the preceding sentence, as it lists approaches for using active learning in the physically distanced classroom. You might consider reserving F2F class time for activities that cannot be completed virtually and delivering content in mini-lectures (10 minutes or fewer) posted in your Canvas course. To make this approach manageable, you can use the same set of activities in each F2F session you teach in a given week, rotating assignment due dates by each group’s attendance day if needed.

While the work involved may be daunting at moments, this stage is exciting because it showcases one of CSU’s distinctive strengths – synthesizing conceptual and practical knowledge to create highly effective innovations. This strength has characterized our response to the pandemic this spring and summer, as well as many of your individual achievements and CSU’s signature activities for many years. Seeing it so abundantly in evidence in recent months assures me that whatever challenges emerge in the coming academic year, together we’ll do what we’ve always done – realize promising possibilities in creative solutions.

A final couple of notes.  I want to take a moment to thank Gwen Gorzelsky for partnering with me on these Keep Teaching messages.  She and her team at TILT, and colleagues from CSU-Online and others across campus, have been working tirelessly to set us all up for success this year, and the materials and tips that I’ve been able to send along are entirely their doing.  I do want you to know that I cannot blame Gwen for any of the bad jokes.

In closing, thank you for all you are doing and all you have done to promote our mission of access and academic excellence. As you know, my tenure as Provost and Executive Vice President will conclude this weekend. It has been an honor to serve you and to serve CSU, and I am proud of your work and commitment to our students and their success.  I’ve referred to running on and off in these messages, and over the nearly dozen years when I get together with other Provosts from around the country we joke about whether the job is more like a sprint, or a marathon – and we usually end up concluding that it’s both.  This year I’ve realized it’s neither: it’s a relay race.  I leave you in the very capable hands and exceptional expertise of Mary Pedersen, who begins her tenure here at CSU as our new Provost and Executive Vice President starting this weekend.  I’ve gotten to know her some over the past month as we’ve been discussing the baton hand-off, and I’m looking forward to her leadership in the coming years.  Indeed, I’m imagining a wonderful future for Colorado State – I trust you all are too.

-Rick

 

Rick Miranda

Provost and Executive Vice President

Colorado State University

April 28: Keep Teaching

Dear Colleagues,

Flexibility has been one of the keys for all of us who have worked through the transitions this spring semester. The endeavor has also required a laser focus on the immediate demands, and that focus is helping us wrap up the semester well.  It’s a bit of a paradox – we don’t often think of flexibility and focus as coming together so well!

I was going to make a joke here about flexibility, but I thought it would be too much of a stretch.

We’re already starting to pivot to next fall’s scenarios, and we’ll want to consider how what we’ve learned this semester should inform our teaching going forward. Our sudden flip to remote learning using educational technologies was not ideal, but it has given us the opportunity to experience new modalities that can also be profitably used with in-person instruction. Our next challenge is to harness that potential so we can leverage all of its educational benefits to strengthen instruction, prompt more effective study behaviors, and better assess students’ learning.

We are also anticipating needing to serve more remote students, even if we return to some version of ‘normal’ next semester here. We’ll have international students who can’t come to Fort Collins yet; we may have immune-compromised students that will choose to keep their distance; if social-distancing expectations require us to use classrooms differently, we may need to move some instruction online to free up spaces for appropriate in-person interactions.

What then are the practical steps we need to take, in order to both profit from our COVID19 experiences this semester to improve our in-person teaching, and to enable us to serve remote students as needed? Relying on the instructional design principles and tools that are used when creating online courses, CSU Online and TILT recently created a do-it-yourself  course development toolkit that will be posted soon on the Keep Teaching website.

This toolkit includes three resources:.

  • The Canvas Common Cartridge is a basic Canvas template that can be loaded in a Canvas course to help standardize how content is organized. All SUM20 and AY20-21 Canvas courses will include the Canvas Common Cartridge.
  • The UDOIT Validation Tool assesses the accessibility of a Canvas course and offers suggestions to fix issues related to course organization and navigation. All SUM20 and AY20-21 Canvas instructors will have  access to UDOIT.
  • The Quality Matters (QM) DIY Rubric helps instructors review their completed Canvas course to ensure a course has met pre-determined quality standards before being launched. Instructors are encouraged to use the QM DIY Toolkit with all courses except online courses built with CSU Online or TILT, which rely on the full QM Rubric and instructional design support.

Using these tools will help us organize our in-person courses more effectively, and will enable us to take advantage of educational technologies to create hybrid experiences efficiently. It will streamline students’ interface with your Canvas course, maximizing the utility of the LMS; navigation will be quicker for them (and for you). Finally it will form a flexible foundation for remote learning should you find that your course will need to serve some students at a distance, for all or part of the semester. I’ll be sending more information about these tools in upcoming Keep Teaching notes.

I’ve written in previous messages about humility, about life-long learning, about sailing, about engaging with our students, and today I’ll mention flexibility. It’s not something that Universities in general are famous for – we’re large, we’ve got Traditions, and we can be a bit more like highly experienced dogs when presented with new tricks. It’s time to shake that off, and embrace the flexibility that will be needed over the next months – we already have, these past couple of months, and we’ll need more of it. Our goal is, no matter what the circumstances we have to face later this year, to develop our curriculum and learning experiences that will be the envy of every other university in the country. With flexibility, we can do it.

I’ll try to do my part: I’ve already traded in my Honda for a Mercedes Bends.

Stay healthy, stay flexible, and stay tuned, – Rick

 

Rick Miranda
Provost and Executive Vice President
Colorado State University

Keep Teaching April 23

Dear Colleagues,

We’ve been in quarantine now for over a month, and I have to admit that I’ve had more than my share of ice cream sandwiches in these weeks. You know panda bears eat 12 hours every day, and maybe most of us lean that way during these stay-at-home rules. That’s why they call it a pandemic.

I wrote recently about finishing up your spring courses well, and we can see the end from here coming up fast. It’s time now to pivot to thinking about the fall semester. Although we are intending to have as normal a fall as possible, we must plan for alternatives, which will depend on many factors. Most of those factors will remain undetermined by the time you begin pursuing your summer plans: we might well not know by mid-, or even late, May what adjustments we may need to make for fall term courses. I am reminded of the famous saying, “If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders.” We’re not able to see well, due to this gigantic virus….  Therefore, it’s prudent to plan now for the possible scenarios – fall courses fully in person, fully remote, or some combination of the two.

In addition to ensuring higher-quality remote courses if needed, planning early will afford four additional benefits. First, it will eliminate the stress associated with quickly moving a face-to-face course to remote delivery. Second, it will make teaching remotely delivered courses far more efficient (as with all planning!). Third it will provide the foundation for a stronger in-person course that leverages educational technologies effectively both to promote more constructive study behaviors outside class time and to replace some lecture with active learning during class time. Finally, if you draw on the extensive support resources existing and in development, planning your course soon will provide you with material useful for documenting your teaching effectiveness effort.

I wanted to learn about conjunctivitis, so I went to the doctor’s web site – it was a site for sore eyes! However it doesn’t substitute for doing a proper job at remote or hybrid course design.

To maximize efficacy in this planning, it’s useful to draw on information gleaned from students and faculty during this semester’s remote learning experiences and on best practices and resources from fully online courses that translate effectively to remote learning. We’ve read responses from literally thousands of our students to a survey on their experiences and have learned that a few key concerns stand out. First, students perceive that many instructors have increased workload in the move from in-person to remote delivery. Also, students are anxious about their ability to succeed in remote courses and often face increased demands to support family members or address other challenges. Finally, they’re eager for interaction with instructors.

Please keep in mind that more substantive engagement, appropriately spaced and sequenced, supports learning far more effectively than a high workload does.

One adjustment we are likely to make when we return to campus is to no longer require long sleeve shirts in the laboratories.  The students have a right to bare arms, after all.

I’ve encouraged you to pursue alternate forms of assessment, such as using frequent short quizzes to replace cumulative common exams in large-enrollment courses. It’s worth noting that keeping such quizzes short makes it feasible to require them frequently. A few low-stakes questions thoughtfully placed in relation to reading or other assignments can prompt students to reflect meaningfully on the material and so deepen conceptual understanding, whereas a high volume of reading or other work can lead to more superficial engagement unlikely to foster a stronger grasp of key concepts, connections, or implications. See our resources for using the science of learning to prompt effective study behaviors and construct a range of research-based assessments of learning.

Soon I’ll send more information on using a Canvas Common Cartridge to promote more efficient, effective course design for both remote and in-person delivery, as well as information on a more extensive set of professional development resources for designing and teaching effective remote courses.

Speaking of folks coming back to campus, I just heard that every year hundreds of students go off to Mime School – never to be heard from again!

Please take advantage of upcoming professional development opportunities to help you finish this semester successfully and begin designing summer courses:

Thursday, April 23rd from 11 AM-Noon  (Topic: Exam Proctoring) Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

Tuesday, April 28th from 1-2 PM  (Topic: Alternative Assessments) Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

Thursday, April 30th from 10-11 AM  (Topic: Alternative Assessments) Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

Monday, May 4th  from 11 AM-Noon  (Preparing for Summer Session) Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

Thank you all again for all you are doing for our students.  I hope you’ll forgive me sprinkling in some silliness into today’s note; spring seems to be affecting my mood. I’m also sorry that I don’t have all the answers about how our fall semester will develop; as they say, it’s really hard to predict the future before it actually happens. However maybe it’s best to remember that we shouldn’t try so hard to predict the future – we should create it. Let’s start working to create to a great fall semester experience for all.

-Rick

Rick Miranda
Provost and Executive Vice President
Colorado State University

April 19: Keep Teaching

Dear Colleagues,

In these messages, I’ve focused primarily on our efforts to Keep Teaching remotely in ways that promote learning and academic success for students. I’ll address that topic in today’s message, but first I want to stress that at CSU our teaching mission intersects closely with our research mission. To deliver on the promise of what an undergraduate education at an R1 university offers, we draw on – and must pursue – our scholarly commitments as fully as we do our teaching commitments. The connections between teaching and discovery of course include conveying cutting-edge knowledge to undergraduates and involving them substantively in the research enterprise as often and as deeply as we can. Similarly, these connections require that we cultivate what I advocated in my most recent message, namely, students’ passion for disciplinary knowledge – and the means of discovering or producing it. To elicit this passion in students, we must live it out ourselves, pursuing our creative endeavors with the same energy we invest in teaching.  It’s one of the ways in which we live out our dedication to our own life-long learning!

Tacking back to practical advice, earlier we noted that administering a common exam synchronously will be impracticable in large-enrollment courses, given the challenges affecting students in the midst of COVID-19. Consider how you might replace such an exam with a series of quizzes, a group project assignment, a short but substantive writing assignment, or another approach to assessing learning.

Consider the creative suggestions on Alternative Assessments, which are well suited to lower-enrollment courses. For large-enrollment courses, the suggestions below can help protect the academic integrity of a Canvas Quiz given asynchronously:

  • Include the CSU Honor Pledge as the first question, worth 0 points. Research shows that making students aware of an Honor Pledge reduces cheating.
  • Set a time limit. Allow enough time for all students to complete the quiz, but not enough time for them to look up answers. When setting a time limit, balance the amount of time you expect the quiz to take against the recognition that students may be more susceptible to test anxiety than usual, especially if they feel crunched for time.
  • Shuffle the order of answers. For example, answers associated with the letters a, b, c, d can be randomly shuffled from quiz to quiz so that students cannot simply share answers. If you use the shuffle feature, you cannot use choices like “all of the above” or “a and b,” as the answers will be in different orders for different students. Instead, offer a choice like ‘all answers’ and label every answer as a, b, c d, etc.
  • Set the quiz to show one question at a time.
  • Select whether and when you want students to see their responses and/or the correct answers after completing a quiz. Canvas: Let Students See Their Quiz Responses explains the options well.
  • Require a password. Using a password helps deter students from “accidentally” starting a quiz, viewing the questions, and then asking for another quiz attempt. If they sign on with the password, they intentionally started the quiz.
  • Write questions, even multiple-choice questions, that require high-level thinking/problem solving. This approach better simulates real-world situations where students will need to apply their knowledge. To take this approach, design backwards, beginning with the question, “what should students be able to do (instead of know)?”. Craft a few questions that require students to demonstrate the requisite skills. This approach allows for shorter quizzes with more in-depth questions.
  • Provide explicit instructions to students so that they know how much time they’ll have to complete the quiz, how many attempts they’ll have, what types of questions will be posed, etc. For example, knowing that questions will require higher-order thinking should prompt students to study not only to demonstrate recall but also to make connections and show critical thinking. Whatever question types you construct, consider prompting students to use TILT’s online study skills resources and science of learning videos. If you’ll ask students to demonstrate higher-order, critical, or integrative thinking, consider emphasizing that they may benefit from studying through elaboration and strategies for building understanding.

Find more specifics on using Canvas Quizzes:

I noted in the first paragraph above that our scholarly activities are a fundamental part of our professional lives: we do Learning for a living.  It’s one of the main reasons we chose university life as a career.  As I noted, learning and teaching are related – but they are distinct.  You’ve heard the one about the guy who said to his friend, “I taught my dog how to drive the car last week!”.  “Oh wow, that’s impressive – I bet it’s fun to have him drive you around town.”  “Well actually I didn’t say he *learned*….”

We’re starting to talk about finishing up the semester well, but we know that learning can’t stop at the semester boundaries: we’re committed not just to one exam topic, one course, one degree, but to life-long education, for ourselves, and for our students.  Gandhi said to live as if you’ll die tomorrow – but learn as if you’ll live forever.  That may be an overly grim statement as the entire world struggles with the virus; however there are lessons all around us now that illustrate both halves.

This week I heard an interview with an emergency doctor at St. Barnabas’ in the Bronx, not far from where my parents grew up, and where I was born and lived for a bunch of years as a kid.  Dr Patti said that they were beginning to understand more about the tactics of dealing with very sick patients: how to optimally administer the oxygen, how to do the blood testing most efficiently, how to stage the various treatments to be most effective.  He ended the interview by declaring “I’m a life-long student!”, with some pleasure mixed with the awesome gravity of his personal responsibilities.

He was teaching us something with those four words.  It’s something we’ve learned; let’s make sure our students learn it too.

Stay healthy, keep learning, and stay tuned,

-Rick

Rick Miranda
Provost and Executive Vice President
Colorado State University

April 14: Keep Teaching

Dear Colleagues,

We’re entering the final month of the spring semester – what an experience it has been! I want to express to all of you how impressed I’ve been with hearing about the stresses of the virus crisis, and how you are dealing with them – and how you are helping our students deal with their stresses as well.

One most serious aspect of this which I haven’t emphasized before is worth noting. As an employee of the University (faculty or staff), you are considered a Responsible Employee, which holds the obligation to report any information related to students experiencing sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and/or interpersonal violence. You can find additional information regarding your reporting obligations, resources available, and how to make a report to the Office of Title IX Programs at https://titleix.colostate.edu/title-ix/faculty-staff/). Please assist us to continue to protect and support our students; it’s an important companion to our academic mission.

Returning to the academic side, as instructors, we typically use these last several weeks of a course to ensure that students engage with the material holistically and integrate what they’ve learned across the semester. Often, we encourage this type of study and assess students’ achievement through a cumulative final exam administered synchronously across all sections of a course. Our recent move to remote learning makes this approach impracticable this semester. Many students will be unable to take a final at the appointed time, due to changes in life circumstances resulting from COVID-19. It’s likely to be difficult, or impossible, to prevent the questions used on a high-stakes final from circulating among students if the exam is administered to different students at different times.

To address this challenge, focus on your larger goals for students and investigate different approaches to achieving these goals while teaching remotely. For example, rather than lecturing and administering a cumulative final, consider posing holistic questions that ask students to make connections across material covered at different points in the course and administering short quizzes twice a week. Instead of using quizzes to prompt engagement with new or recently introduced material, you might use them to test students’ abilities to make connections across topic areas. You can get some ideas on how to accomplish these goals from colleagues across campus by attending one of the upcoming webinars (click on the link to the Teams meeting with the date):

  • April 14 at 10 a.m. -11 a.m.
    •  Jennifer Neuwald, Ph.D., will share her experience moving a 250+ student in-class exam on-line (without proctoring).
    • Falene Young, CPA, will share group work strategies used in ACT 205 and allows students to work together at a distance to complete a group assignment.
    • Shari Lanning will share her use of timed final exams with no proctors —she tells students they are on the honor system and may not use notes/books and asks them to agree to the Honor Pledge. 
  • April 20 at 11 a.m. -12 p.m.
    •  Jennifer Neuwald, Ph.D., will share her experience incorporating concept checks during on-line lectures using Canvas quizzes (in lieu of iclickers) in a 250+ student class.
    • JTC460, Linnea Ward (Linnea.Sudduth@colostate.edu) will share her expertise on a topic TBA.

These webinars will be recorded and linked on the Keep Teaching site.

I’ll write this coming weekend with some technical suggestions for using tools in Canvas in ways that make such quizzing effective and promote academic honesty.

Start thinking now about how you’ll revise your approach to the last weeks of the term to prompt students to integrate material from across the semester so that they leave your course having achieved its learning outcomes. Once you’ve determined how you’ll revise your typical end-of-semester approach to effectively engage students who are learning remotely, be sure to let them know how you’ll do so. For example, if students are used to quizzes focusing on recently learned material and you’ll move to quizzes that ask them to draw on material from across the semester, notify them in advance and encourage them to study accordingly. You might remind then to use resources for learning online and research-based study approaches and/or to access online campus tutoring services.

Look for ways to lift the students out of the details and technicalities, and give them a sense of the wonder of the subject, the reason they are taking your course in the first place, how the various topics you have introduced both fit together inside the course, and also connect to the wider discipline and their education.  I’ll paraphrase Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the French pilot and writer of The Little Prince, who pointed out that if you want your people to build a ship, do not organize them into work teams, buy the materials required, assign them all the necessary tasks, and measure their progress bit by bit. If you want them to build a ship, do not do all of these specific things – but rather teach them to love and to long for sailing on the vast and endless sea.

Your course is opening up a new intellectual ocean for your students. Don’t forget to teach your students to yearn for sailing on that vast and endless sea.

Stay healthy, and try to enjoy the waves…

– Rick

Rick Miranda
Provost and Executive Vice President
Colorado State University

April 7: Keep Teaching

Dear Colleagues,

It’s humbling, and inspiring, as we approach two weeks of teaching remotely, to witness the work we’re doing as a campus community to develop new ways of delivering course materials and, even more importantly, structuring students’ engagement with those materials.

Students’ capacity to engage is shaped by many larger factors, which right now are increasingly challenging and complex. Research suggests that students learn most effectively when instructors convey a belief in their capacity to succeed, even though students are facing different challenges. This approach entails clearly communicating both the expectation that students can meet high academic standards and how we, as their instructors, are supporting them to do so. This support takes many forms, from how we’ve organized course materials and arranged supplemental resources to making ourselves available through multiple channels to listen, address questions, discuss challenges, and offer advice.

This also requires acknowledging the challenges students are encountering during the crisis, from personal or family members’ illness to limited internet access to living situations that make studying difficult. The potential impact of such challenges, as well as strategies instructors can use to address them, are explained in this blog post from the Student Experience Project, a national initiative of the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities for which CSU is providing leadership. For example, instructors should provide flexibility on assignment, exam, and project completion dates; offer alternate approaches to accessing course materials and instructor feedback for students with limited internet bandwidth or access; and encourage students to use study aids and other resources.

As adversity confronts us all, keep in mind that students from historically under-represented groups, who regularly face systemic inequities, may encounter particularly extreme circumstances. For example, students of Asian descent could be experiencing hostility, and even physical violence, when others scapegoat them as the supposed cause of COVID-19. Similarly, Zoombombing has been used to perpetrate hate speech and harassment targeting people based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and other characteristics. I encourage you to take a proactive approach. Using Microsoft Teams for live lectures and discussions substantially reduces the risk of Zoombombing. If you’re using Zoom, follow these recommendations to diminish risk. Just as importantly, create a mutually respectful online classroom climate by following the Vice President for Diversity’s Inclusive Teaching Tips, which advocate instructional approaches beneficial for all students.

I chose the second word of this message deliberately.  We are all experiencing a large dose of humility now, from different directions.  The virus is giving us a lesson on who is the dominant species on planet earth.  The new lens of teaching remotely is revealing things about how our students learn and how we can reach them effectively that many of us didn’t realize before.  Living under stay-at-home orders is equally instructive for us all, highlighting our foibles and our character in these strange and uncomfortable circumstances.  And in acknowledging the sacrifices we are enduring, we are indeed humbled by the greater sacrifices made by many others.

There is one structural advantage that we have: we are a world-class research university.  One of the fundamental, indispensable characteristics of research *is* humility: we are trained to ask questions, and admitting that we don’t know the answers is one of the cornerstones of research progress.  Staring into the unknown can be a humbling experience, but most of us do that every day of our professional lives.  I’ve been trying to solve a 150-year-old geometry problem for the last twenty years, and although I thought I solved it about four times, it’s never worked out!  I’m still trying…

We can all use this humility, that’s in our DNA as a research university, to good advantage.  We won’t succeed in all our attempts this season, of course not.  But CSU will keep trying.

Stay healthy, stay humble, and stay tuned,

Rick

 

Rick Miranda
Provost and Executive Vice President
Colorado State University

April 1: Keep Teaching, engagingly

Dear Colleagues,

We’ve gone a week now without face-to-face classes, and although there were a variety of transition issues here and there, all in all it’s gone amazingly smoothly.  As I correspond with many of you, it’s clear to me that you’re taking a creative, flexible approach in moving your formerly in-person courses to remote methods. Maintaining an attitude of flexibility with your students as they also struggle through this transition will continue to be important; your positivity, encouragement, and frequent communication will be critical in helping students to be successful this semester.

Because there have been many inquiries about protecting academic honesty in online courses, I’m writing with additional information on academic integrity, proctoring, and related resources. As you continue teaching in the online environment, please see these suggestions on promoting academic integrity in online courses and use the CSU Honor Pledge if appropriate. If possible, I recommend replacing proctored exams with alternate approaches to assessing students’ learning.

If you choose to administer proctored exams, there are two online proctoring platforms available this semester. Both video record students completing exams, are free to students, do not require students to schedule exams in advance, and use artificial intelligence to identify potential incidents of academic dishonesty. Incidents are then flagged for review by the instructor or a designee. The proctoring software provides information to instructors, who decide whether to review potential cheating incidents and determine what action to take based on any incidents deemed potentially problematic – the software takes no action itself! Please communicate with students if you choose to use proctoring software in your course.

For an overview and comparison of the two platforms, please see the proctoring page on the Keep Teaching website. Respondus’ Monitor is the preferred platform, because for the next two months it provides unlimited exam administrations and unlimited attempts by students if the instructor permits. However, for instructors who want students to access multiple browser windows or other tools during exams, ProctorU’s Auto-Launch is available.

Support for these and other Keep Teaching resources is available through open office hours for faculty, staffed by CSU Online and TILT. These group sessions enable you to benefit from hearing your colleagues’ approaches and responses to their questions. (In-depth individual consultations are provided as needed.) To attend a session this week or next, click the Microsoft Teams link during the session you wish to join:

 

Thursday, April 2nd  1  – 2 pm   Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

Tuesday, April 7th 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

Friday April, 10th 9:00 am – 10:00 am  Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

You can also access archived open office hour sessions if desired.

Finally, as you develop approaches to creating an effective online classroom climate, you may find it useful to attend this webinar on Welcoming Students to Your Online Environment (Thursday, April 2nd, at noon MDT).

I like to work in my campus office, and we live close enough that it’s easy for me to pop in either evenings or weekends as needed.  I don’t even have a home computer – when I do need to do things, I use my laptop.  Hence the room in our house that is ‘the office’ had become rather cluttered, dusty, dark, suitable mainly for storing collected books (remember them?) and memorabilia.  In this period where I can’t go in to campus, I’ve had to get reacquainted with the space, and after I managed to clear out a corner to sit and type, it has certainly been interesting finding things I had not seen in decades.

My day is likely similar to many of yours; I mostly am on the laptop in this office, with excursions to the kitchen; and I try in the evenings to watch the news, and occasionally partake of a Guilty Pleasure being streamed.  (I will NOT reveal those, no.)  The news can be consistently disconcerting; but one bright spot for me has been to see Dr. Fauci who has directed the NIH’s efforts on infectious diseases for many years.  It turns out that he went to the College of the Holy Cross in his youth, as I did!  (We didn’t overlap at all; his youth was considerably earlier than my youth…)

I’ve reflected on why seeing Fauci nearly daily is uplifting; it’s certainly the connection to my undergraduate days, reminding me again of how powerful an experience those years were.  It’s that way for all of our students here at Colorado State now, too – this is their time, a time of great change for each of them personally, a time for development, for choices, for friendships, for maturing, and for learning.  Some of that has been denied them this spring; however the COVID19 crisis will offer other opportunities for growth, too.  It’s our job, as their faculty instructors and staff mentors and advisors, to help them maintain the intensity of their college experience, to the greatest extent possible.  Be flexible, communicate often, and reach out proactively whenever you see signs of disengagement.  Decades from now, when our students here this spring see a fellow Ram on whatever will replace tv by then, we want them to swell a little bit and remember how much CSU has meant to them.

Thank you for all you’ve been doing; stay healthy, and stay tuned,

Rick

March 26: Keep Teaching – Remotely Now!

Dear Colleagues,

We’re just one day into the launch of formerly in-person courses to remote learning methods. I’m impressed with, and appreciative of, the substantial effort you’re investing to make it possible for our students to continue learning and to complete the semester successfully.  We’re also under new stay-at-home orders from the County and the Governor, and although they seem to allow us to maintain the level of University operations that we’ve been working with, they will further constrain all of the rest of our lives too.  It’s a dizzying set of changing circumstances, and the overall message to all of us is that a flexible and positive attitude is incredibly important.

As you begin teaching remotely, keep in mind that students who were able to participate in synchronous activities prior to break may not be able to do so now, due to limited internet access or bandwidth, illness, family members’ ill health, job loss and resulting food or housing insecurity, or other challenges. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that students can access all course materials after the fact, including lectures. Many, perhaps most, students will be ill or otherwise unable to participate in course work for a portion of the semester. Recording any synchronous lectures or discussions and making them available after the fact will ensure that make-up work is manageable for students, and for you. Please notify students that you’re archiving these materials and where to find them.

An additional note: we’ll be giving all students the opportunity to choose an S/U grade instead of a traditional letter grade at the end of the semester, and we’ve also relaxed some of the withdrawal deadlines etc.  Please see https://www.acns.colostate.edu/keep-learning/ for more details.  This should not affect how you grade though: give traditional grades as is expected and the students and the registrar will handle any switches.

I want to continue to express my deep gratitude to all of you who are doing so much to help our students succeed.  It’s being said that these are days that History will remember, and we’re living it!  History is serious; but it can also be funny, too.

Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?
(At the bottom.)

Who designed King Arthur’s Round Table?
(Sir Cumference.)

What do Alexander the Great and Ivan the Terrible have in common?
(They have the same middle name.)

Now that I’ve softened you all up, it is true that all of us have a role in what our collective memory will reveal about this period, and about us.  What will we think about 2020 in 2040?  Temporal distance is a funny thing – it can provide clarity, and opacity, at the same time.  I know all of us are working incredibly hard, and in innovative ways, to ensure that when we look back on 2020 from some distance, we will remember clearly that we did our best, and we were successful in helping our wonderful students finish the spring semester strong.  History may be written by others, and will judge us in its way; but the most important judgement will be made by us.  I’m sure we won’t let ourselves down!

Oh, and if 2020 is Historic, and History involves hindsight, then I suppose Hindsight is….2020?

Stay healthy, be historic, and stay tuned, – Rick

Rick Miranda
Provost and Executive Vice President
Colorado State University

March 23: Yet Another Keep Teaching note

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome back from spring break week!  We’re approaching the moment of truth here, with our remote learning protocols starting on Wednesday.  Thank you very much for all of your efforts to prepare for this over the past week; I am well aware of the lift we are all undertaking here.

As you finalize efforts to move your in-person course(s) online, please make a point to revise your syllabus and post the new version by Monday 3/30, or earlier if possible. Doing so will help to alleviate students’ understandable anxieties about learning remotely, as many may feel unprepared for this mode of course delivery. It will also guide them regarding your expectations, thus positioning them to succeed academically.

Please be sure to address the following points, as well as any others important for your course, by explaining:

  • Any changes in the type, number, timing, weight, and frequency of your learning assessments (from weekly quizzes or discussion board posts to major exams)
  • Your expectations for the nature, frequency, and quality of students’ participation
  • Any revisions to the course grading policy and/or weight of any graded component of the course
  • Any changes in other course policies (e.g., regarding make-up work or submission of late assignments)
  • Your expectations for etiquette in online (and other) interactions, e.g., when and how to email you about concerns; expressing respect for others’ views in discussion forums; and grounding rationales in evidence and logic, rather than in personal criticism or dismissal of a group’s experiences or perspectives
  • What steps you’re taking to create an online classroom climate designed to foster learning and inclusion (see overall list for all courses and online-specific list).

Defining your policies and expectations for your course in online mode will help clarify in advance what your response will be to various student circumstances that may arise. Doing so now will save you time (and probably stress) when you need to respond quickly to such situations as they emerge. Sharing these policies and expectations with students soon will provide them with guidance and a clear message that you’re taking a pro-active approach and care about their success.

We all were attracted to working at a residential land grant university because of our love of learning, and of working with motivated and talented students in a community of scholars engaging through shared physical spaces.  That’s not quite what we have here in the second half of our Spring 2020 semester.  We’ll miss that kind of contact with our students, and we’ll try hard to replicate as much of the intimacy of learning as we can in the coming weeks.  I’ve often closed these Keep Learning messages with something light, but instead I’ll draw on another favorite, a Shakespeare sonnet that expresses both sorrow at separation, but also acknowledging the oneness that the relationship offers.  There’s a parallel in the loss of our normal way of engaging with our students, and with each other.

O, how thy worth with manners may I sing,
When thou art all the better part of me?
What can mine own praise to mine own self bring?
And what is’t but mine own when I praise thee?
Even for this let us divided live,
And our dear love lose name of single one,
That by this separation I may give
That due to thee which thou deservest alone.
O absence, what a torment wouldst thou prove,
Were it not thy sour leisure gave sweet leave
To entertain the time with thoughts of love,
Which time and thoughts so sweetly doth deceive,
And that thou teachest how to make one twain,
By praising him here who doth hence remain.

I recommend reciting it out loud once or twice (with an audience of course).

Stay healthy, be poetic, and stay tuned,

– Rick

Rick Miranda
Provost and Executive Vice President
Colorado State University

March 19: Another Keep Teaching note

Dear Colleagues,

I’ve been deeply moved over the past week, hearing from so many of you about your concern for students and commitment to supporting them as part of our collective effort to address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s inspiring to see faculty and staff working creatively and collaboratively to ensure that we’ll be able to provide high-quality courses to students for the rest of the term. Thank you for your initiative, dedication, and focus on prioritizing students’ welfare and success!  I also hope that you are taking some time to care for yourselves.

Because many faculty have written with questions about how to ensure academic integrity during online testing, I want to let you know that proctoring service is now available to all of campus through ProctorU’s auto-launch service. Our subscription covers high-stakes exams only (e.g., mid-terms and finals). You can take advantage of technologies that use low-stakes assessments to enact instructional approaches based in the science of learning.  For instance, this can include using open-book Canvas quizzes to promote spaced practice or alternative assessments (e.g., Canvas discussions, essays, or projects) to encourage elaboration and deeper conceptual understanding. Please note that ProctorU auto-launch serves only in-person courses moving online. Distance courses through CSU Online should continue to use ProctorU’s live-launch service.

As teachers and leaders in and out of the classroom, we ask our students to trust us in so many ways.  I suppose mechanisms that provide oversight of our academic integrity expectations may be seen as us not trusting our students.  We do know that the vast majority of those studying with us are trying their best to be responsible; but our commitment to all of our students’ learning and our need for accountability puts us in the position of Trust But Verify, it seems.  However, let’s try to avoid getting into a mindset of suspicion, and maybe a few silly puns will help:

Don’t trust atoms: they make up everything;

Don’t trust trees: they are kinda shady;

Don’t trust ladders: they are always up to something;

and my favorite:

Don’t trust People with graph paper: they’re plotting something!

(That hit pretty close to home, the mathematician in me loves graph paper.)

Trust can be hard to come by, and it has to be earned.  I hope that we have earned that trust with our students, and with each other.

Stay healthy, be trustworthy, and stay tuned,

– Rick

Rick Miranda
Provost and Executive Vice President
Colorado State University

March 17:  Keep Teaching (simply)

Dear Colleagues,

We’re into our spring break week now, and the campus is typically quiet.  I know that belies the hard work that many of you are doing in preparing for the rest of the semester, which will be all online now.  There is lots of work being done behind the scenes to assist faculty (and students!) for the new reality.  I would encourage you to not wait until early next week to start your preparations in earnest; we know our resources will become strained as next Wednesday approaches and we don’t want to be overwhelmed.  Today’s message is two-fold: start early, and keep it simple.

As you begin designing online versions of your face-to-face courses, it’s important to balance the goal of excellent course design with the goal of supporting students (and yourself) in these challenging circumstances. Over the next several months, some of your students will likely be caring for ill family members as they themselves are ill. Other students will struggle with limited internet access or be experiencing food or housing insecurity due to lost income. A host of different stressors, exacerbated by social distancing, will undoubtedly result in mental health issues. Regardless of how resilient our students are, the next several months will be difficult for them. To help simplify the process of transitioning to online courses, our Keep Teaching team has shared several tips to help you move your face-to-face course content online:

  • Use asynchronous delivery of lectures, discussion boards, and other course content to accommodate students who may not be able to attend a synchronous online lecture.  Recording your lectures so that they can be archived in your online course will also simplify things for you since you won’t have to worry about make-up work for students who can’t attend.
  • Chunk lectures into short components (10 minutes or less–one concept at a time) so that students with limited internet service can more easily access materials. Intersperse lecture components with discussion board questions or noncredit quizzes to improve student engagement.
  • Use consistent weekly due dates/times for the rest of the semester to aid students in keeping track of assignments in the midst of challenging life circumstances. Lean towards more lenient deadlines (e.g., 11:59 pm) to help accommodate students who may be caring for their children during the day.
  • Send regular reminders of due dates, participation requirements, upcoming exams or project deadlines, and the like. Let them know that you’re available to help via email, discussion boards, or virtual office hours. This availability will reinforce your commitment and signals to students that you are eager to support them if they need additional assistance.

Above all, do your best to keep things simple. Although we all wish that we had more time to develop top-notch online courses, the current circumstances require that we do our best to ensure that our expectations for students (and ourselves) are reasonable. We hope that the recommendations listed above are helpful as you spend time over the next several weeks building out your online course.

I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from the office the other day to pick up a few things, and of course noticed many bare shelves.  Several of the other customers in the store seemed dismayed.  I went down one aisle and a couple and two younger children were peering into the freezer section.  One of the kids suddenly exclaimed: “Oh! Mom!  They Have Ice Cream Sandwiches!”

That glass-half-full sentiment brought a smile to my face immediately; and it reminded me of the value of gratitude.  Let’s remember to be thankful for what CSU does have: an incredibly committed faculty and staff who are completely dedicated to making this semester work, for our students.  Thank you all for what you’re doing!

Stay healthy, keep it simple, and stay tuned…

– Rick

PS – I couldn’t resist.  I bought some ice cream sandwiches too.

Rick Miranda
Provost and Executive Vice President
Colorado State University

March 16: Accessibility for students with disabilities

Dear Colleagues:

These past few days of preparing for and responding to a COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the strength and dedication of our incredible faculty and staff. It has shown how deeply committed you are to our students’ success and although we have asked so much of you, you continue to step up to do what you can. We know this is a heavy lift and that in addition to preparing your classes for online instruction, you also have your own self-care to do and family and friends who need you. Thank you for all you are doing to keep us moving forward with our mission of access and excellence amid this challenging event.

I would like to ask your help once again, this time to make sure everything is in place to support our students with disabilities. The Student Disability Center and the Assistive Technology Resource Center offer the following recommendations as you redesign your face-to-face courses for online delivery.  The focus is on accessibility, as well as accommodation for individual needs.  Building in accessibility at the start will enable all students to participate in your course on an equitable level (inclusive pedagogy), while certain accommodations will mitigate the effects of a student’s particular disability.

  • Design for asynchronous delivery.  Students may be accessing your course from different time zones, while students with disabilities may need to work around the effects of their disability.
  • Record your lectures and have them available for a longer period of time (more than two weeks).  Increased access to lectures for all students gives them the opportunity to review points they may have missed when first presented.  It also allows students to use other accommodations, such as sign language interpreters, more effectively.
  • Caption and transcribe recorded lectures.  Students have different strengths in how they learn. Captions and transcripts help those who have stronger visual modes of learning.  They are especially helpful for students with hearing disabilities.
  • Be sure that all content is accessible.  Not all PDF, power points, videos, etc. will be accessible, due either to format or to the limits of specific technologies.  Students may have different types of technology, some of which will make some content difficult to access.  Some content (e.g., PDFs) may not be compatible with assistive technology, such as screen readers, unless the content has been reformatted.  A helpful guide: https://accessibility.colostate.edu/
  • Provide access and accommodation for exams. Many of the students with disabilities simply need extra time for exams due to the effects of their disability.  It’s easy to provide extra time for exams in Canvas.
  • Be able to alert Proctor U of any accommodations needs.  If using Proctor U, faculty will need to request the accommodation for any student, such as extra time, word banks, page of notes, etc. Please be sure that you are aware of the needs of your students with disabilities using the information provided to you through Accommodation Letters from SDC.

The SDC and the ARTC recognize that these recommendations may require a bit more thought and work as you move your face-to-face courses online.  TILT, ACNS and CSU Online are working hard to assist you  with these processes.  The steps for building accessibility will be made explicit on the “Keep Teaching” site. Links to more thorough and robust tutorials are available at https://accessibility.colostate.edu/.

You can submit a ticket for assistance with these aspects through the “Keep Teaching” site.

Following these recommendations will enable all students, and especially those with disabilities, to have the opportunity to be as successful as possible in your courses.  Both the SDC and the ATRC are here to help you, and we encourage you to reach out if you have any concerns or questions as to how to provide access and accommodation for your courses.

Students will also be encouraged to let us know if they encounter any unanticipated barriers to their participation in your courses.  If they do, you will be contacted by us to help find a way to resolve the barrier.   These are challenging times for all of us, but together we can enable successful learning for all students.

Please feel free visit these websites:

Again, thank you for your dedication. Don’t forget to take care of yourself – stay healthy (and stay tuned…).

– Rick

Rick Miranda
Provost and Executive Vice President
Colorado State University

March 14: Welcome to spring break…

Dear Colleagues,

It’s the first day of our spring break, and I’m sure all of you are combining some needed R&R with planning for the return of our new online world the week after this.

As you move your face-to-face courses online, please reach out to your students as soon as possible to let them know that their face-to-face course will soon be available online. Many of our students are expressing anxiety about their academic futures. By communicating with them now, you can offer guidance and increased stability. Let them know that you’re thinking of them, are planning to move your course online, and will be in touch in the next week or so with more details. Express your concern for their welfare, and encourage them to take care of themselves and each other.

If you need support moving your course online, I encourage you to first seek help from your local College Canvas Coordinator or colleagues in your department who are more experienced with Canvas, Teams, and online teaching.   If you need additional support, ACNS, TILT, and CSU Online have set up the Keep Teaching website, where you can find self-help resources and support contact information.  We’ll be staffing that site this weekend for questions 7am to 8pm.

This morning I eschewed the health club (too many people!) to go for a run along the Spring Creek Trail near our house.  Toward the end of the route I passed a sign posted on a wooden fence for trail users to see, saying “Truth Goodness and Beauty Still Exist”.  I smiled and ran a bit faster (well, for a block or two).

We’re all going to be running a bit faster in the coming weeks.  Remembering our core values, and paying attention to supporting each other in big and small ways, will be important.  Let’s use this moment to make CSU better in the long run; to learn (again) how resilient our community is; and to remember that we’re here for our students, first.

Stay healthy, and stay tuned, – Rick

Rick Miranda
Provost and Executive Vice President
Colorado State University

March 11: Resources for moving your classes to online formats

Dear Colleagues,

I trust by now you have seen President McConnell’s note to campus about the COVID-19 situation, and in particular the need to move our curriculum to online formats after spring break.  Many other universities around the country are also proceeding in a parallel track; we are fortunate that we have almost two weeks to get ready.   Our central IT team, in concert with our TILT and CSU-Online colleagues, have been working hard to establish a robust infrastructure to enable this migration to happen here at CSU.  I’m writing to you now to give you some instructions and links to first-level resources that will help you begin to teach online for the next period.

To prepare to move your on-campus face-to-face courses online, beginning on Wednesday, March 25th, I’m writing to ask you to take the steps listed below by 5 PM Friday March 13th.

  1. Log into your Canvas course(s).
  2. Post the syllabus for each course in that course’s Canvas shell.
  3. Review the self-service website with resources for moving your course online. It is strongly preferred that you use the “Do It Yourself” option.
  4. If you need assistance, first contact your College Canvas Coordinator.
  5. Within the next 24 hours, you will also receive an email with instructions for accessing the Canvas Keep Teaching Support Portal. Use the portal as needed to submit requests for additional support that your college canvas coordinator cannot assist you with.
  6. Plan to attend a training in your college on how to move your course online. You will receive information shortly about these training sessions.

I realize that this effort is in addition to your existing responsibilities. I want to thank you for prioritizing our commitment to continue offering classes while minimizing the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in the larger northern Colorado community.

Rick Miranda
Provost and Executive Vice President
Colorado State University

March 5: Academic instruction and business continuity planning for COVID-19 disruption

Dear colleagues,

As we engage in pandemic planning in response to COVID-19 concerns, we are preparing systems in partnership with the university’s Central Information Technology office to support academic instruction and business continuity through several online systems.

General information about the university’s planning efforts can be found on this new webpage: https://safety.colostate.edu/covid-19-planning/. Additional information also has been added to the university’s primary online resource at www.safety.colostate.edu/coronavirus.

 Information for faculty and instructors

Central IT is currently developing a system for academic instruction that includes:

  • A self-service website that will provide resources for faculty and instructors to keep teaching if the university limits person-to-person contact, or to accommodate instructors and students if the university has not limited contact but they are unable to report to campus.
  • We recommend that faculty and instructors start preparing their courses for potential online instruction. If you have not used Canvas, reach out to your college Canvas coordinators as a first step. Here’s more information about your coordinators: https://canvas.colostate.edu/canvas-coordinators/.
  • Online resources are already available to help faculty and instructors add features like gradebook, communication tools, and online quizzing.

Central IT is also currently working with Canvas to scale online instruction, if that becomes necessary, to accommodate online lectures and other features.

Central IT is partnering with CSU Online and TILT on coordinating these efforts.

Information for staff

 We also are making plans to support staff in business continuity efforts.

If you are not familiar with Microsoft Teams, we encourage you to start learning more about it.

We anticipate that Teams will be an important communication option if the university limits person-to-person contact.

Teams is part of Microsoft and is already available to you. It has video conferencing capabilities, file sharing, collaboration tools, and other features and is a part of our current Microsoft licensing suite.  Training videos can be found here:  Microsoft Teams Training Videos

Every department or unit has a dedicated Microsoft Teams resource coordinator who can assist with creating new Teams. For more information about your department, see http://help.mail.colostate.edu/coord_summary_dept.aspx.

COVID-19 represents a fluid and rapidly evolving situation, and we are working diligently to make decisions about university response and recommendations and share that information with you. Please watch your email and the university’s website (www.safety.colostate.edu/coronavirus) as information evolves in the coming days.

Thank you,

Rick Miranda
Provost and Executive Vice President