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Online Communication & Learning: A Collection of Instructor Resources

Hello CUNY & non-CUNY scholars alike,

I hope that everyone is well during this very difficult time. As we have seen, COVID-19 has rapidly progressed and disrupted our everyday routines in a multitude of ways. The main disruption that I am going to attempt to aid in via this post is the impact on face-to-face classroom instruction across the nation. Many institutions have been transitioning from meeting in-person to distance learning practices using various digital platforms. Fortunately, members of our community have rushed to aid the thousands upon thousands of people that have been impacted by these heavy shifts.

Below, I am going to provide a list of a few resources with brief descriptions that may be of use to instructors. We must try to understand the social ramifications of these transitions and how they affect our community not only academically, but how their personal lives are affected by these changes and what we can expect of them during a particularly stressful time. The resources I am listing will primarily discuss tools and platforms that are available within the City University of New York system, however, these pieces also address general practices that should be taken up by every teacher as we make this transition as a greater community.

 

Considerations for Instructional Continuity

This is perhaps one of the most thorough guides on the instructional continuity courtesy of the Graduate Center Teaching & Learning Center team. This CUNY Commons site provides lists of various technological resources to be considered for continuing instruction online, as well as:

  • A list of steps to consider taking when moving to a digital tool.
    • Including things such as saving class materials, surveying students for accessibility, testing different platforms, etc.
  • Ways to be mindful of the current happenings and the wide range of accommodations that will need to be met to aid our students.
  • Ways to reevaluate curriculum and think more realistically about what can be accomplished at a distance and how we can meet learning goals asynchronously.
  • Descriptions of tools for teaching online such as Email, the CUNY Academic Commons, Blackboard, Dropbox, WebEx, Microsoft tools, Google tools, Slack, and more.
    • Each description is accompanied by links to more information about the tool and how to use it going forward.
Quick Tips on Transitioning Modes of Instruction from Face-to-Face to Online

This is an additional piece produced by the incredible staff of the Graduate Center Teaching & Learning Center. Complementing the Considerations for Instructional Continuity site, this document offers possible tools depending on your pedagogical approach, along with some tips to help with the transition. This guide includes suggestions for:

  • Giving lectures and presentations using tools such as Zoom, the CUNY Academic Commons, Blackboard, etc.
    • They also touch on various features such as voice-overs on PowerPoint presentations and screen-capturing tools.
  • How to take advantage of interactive discussion boards and platforms for class participation.
  • How to facilitate group work on various Google tools, Slack, the CUNY Academic Commons, and Blackboard.
  • Ways to administer tests/quizzes.
  • Student presentations options through things such as video, Blackboard, and the CUNY Academic Commons.
  • How to facilitate Office Hours.
How to Transition to Online Teaching during these Difficult Times

This document consists of proposals from various CUNY faculty members. It provides some thoughtful perspectives on how to go about this transition, ranging from reassessing course content to accessibility and student wellness. Some more specific topics of insight provided are:

  • Giving up on the normal, expecting turbulence throughout this transition, and how to act with empathy at the forefront.
  • The idea that perhaps we should let go of the strict grading parameters and the power dynamics that come with it. We, as well as our students, are working under extreme, complex circumstances. Let’s consider the conditions in which we are all trying to continue our work.
  • Collectively reassess learning objectives, what are some more realistic expectations to have of our community and what do we have the capacity to contribute?
  • Consider asynchronous instruction, expecting students to attend a synchronous class session via video chat services may exclude more vulnerable students. We need to provide students with options.
  • Make your class accessible, going off of giving students options, consider how you can check in with them regularly and modify your practice to maintain a more equitable online class.
  • Choosing platforms carefully and what to consider when deciding.

This document also includes a plethora of links to other documents and resources to use, worth checking out!

Slack Channel for CUNY Continuity

In addition to the resources above, we also have a Slack workspace, now with nearly 600 members, who are sharing ideas, questions, concerns, and more with one another in regards to transitions from face-to-face learning to online learning. This channel will be active for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester, and it only requires your CUNY email address to join! Some of the more specific topics being discussed in the channel are:

Fordham Course Continuity

Although not a CUNY-based resource, Fordham’s own site on continuity contains some sections that nicely complement the Graduate Center’s continuity points. This site includes suggestions for:

  • A video on how to find the best approach for you and your course.
  • Creating and curating content for online learning.
  • Taking advantage of experiential learning pedagogies for students that generally have requirements that are difficult to replicate in an online space (such as STEM majors that require labs or Theatre Arts majors that rely on in-person experience).
    • How instructors should creatively with their colleagues about whether elements of these activities can be adapted under the circumstances, if there are alternative activities could be offered using virtual tools, or certain activities could be postponed until the campus returns to standard operation.
  • Fostering collaboration between students and instructors.
    • Being very explicit in how collaboration will work under these circumstances (grading, work distribution, etc.).
Distance Learning in the Age of #Corona

Prof. Joe Rosenberg (@JoeRosenbergLaw) of the CUNY School of Law recently wrote this piece outlining what an online course should look like and how it can replicate the full range of social, economic, and cultural interaction. Rosenberg breaks it down into several key features that would be of use for any instructor to consider during this transition: communication, writing, collaboration, feedback, and seamless access to materials. In this piece, Rosenberg also touches on issues such as:

  • Time and notifications in online courses.
    • How often should students check-in, how long activities will take, expected speed of their responses, etc?
  • Participation, shifting from the in-person accountability to an asynchronous diffusion of online collaboration between students, amongst other tactics.
  • Online discussions and how being online fosters a greater ability to create a synthesis of information from a variety of resources.
The Graphic Design for Websites Workshop

This is definitely a more niche topic, but a while back I conducted an interview with Ryan Seslow, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Art & Design at both York College & the Borough of Manhattan Community College (as well as LIU Post and Iona College), for an article called Digital Art & Pedagogy: The Creation of Net-Art. Seslow has dedicated an incredible amount of time contributing to the world of online digital art and graphic design through his website Net-Art on the CUNY Academic Commons.

If you are an instructor of the arts looking for creative, free internet tools to help students express themselves creatively during our transition to distance learning, this page features tons of applications, tools, project ideas, links, and more!

Courses on the Commons

For those of you who are already using the CUNY Academic Commons for teaching, or if you are suddenly relying on it more as a result of our current situation, we have recently been working on further developing a Courses on the Commons page located in our Help Center. This page is dedicated to frequently asked questions on Teaching & Learning through the Commons. This page contains various links to information ranging from students registering to accessibility on the Commons. We have various examples available of teaching, and recently we added quick guides (which may be more desired in our current scenario) on Instructional Continuity on the Commons. Special thanks to Laurie Hurson, an Open Educational Technologist for the Graduate Center Teaching & Learning Center as well as the CUNY Academic Commons, for carefully & quickly putting these pages together.

CUNY Distance Learning Archive

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, this project was founded in March 2020 by faculty and students affiliated with the Spring 2020 Knowledge Infrastructures course at The Graduate Center, CUNY, working in partnership with collaborators from The Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate Program, to document this moment of crisis response from a critical approach to educational technology. Being very new, the members of CDLA are looking for contributions to the archive, as well as for people to join their group on the CUNY Academic Commons. Contributions can take the form of:

  • Personal narratives reflecting on distance learning, especially during the abrupt shift to online education midway through the Spring 2020 semester.
  • Emails and communications discussing moving CUNY resources and teaching online.
  • Administrative instructions regarding teaching.
  • Documentation of online learning experiences (photos, narratives, screenshots).
  • Learning resources developed during the transition.
  • Links to social media threads/hashtags/accounts that capture events in real-time.

You can submit your contributions on their site, their online form, or via email at cunyarchive@gmail.com!

Tips for Students: Distance Learning in the time of COVID-19

On this other side of things, this valuable document was created by Lisa A. Brundage (@lisabrundage) (Macaulay Honors College at CUNY), Lisa Marie Rhody (@lmrhody) (Graduate Center, CUNY), and Katina Rogers (@katinalynn) (Graduate Center, CUNY) for students. This is a guide for our students who are struggling to adjust to managing schoolwork while simultaneously dealing with the extreme discomfort and uncertainty flooding our communities at this moment. Some of the topics this group of fantastic scholars addressed are:

  • Where to get reliable information on CUNY and New York City updates.
  • Suggestions for managing your workload, such as setting daily goals that are result-oriented and time-based, set assignment deadline reminders, break large tasks into smaller ones, finding “accountability buddies,” and more!
  • Suggestions for managing your space, ideas about thinking holistically about your study/workspace and what we can do to improve our productivity (applicable to students and professors!).
  • Ways to manage your distractions, such as silencing/turning off notifications from social media and other applications, as well as pinpointing what point in the day you feel the most focused.
  • Acknowledging that this is an extraordinary scenario and that it is important to practice self-care (and others). This section is thoughtful in how it communicates the importance of communicating constraints, making time for breaks, appreciating your accomplishments, and it provides resources for care.
  • Some tips for video conferencing, providing ways to make the best out of your experience using video conferencing platforms.
  • Accessing materials and support, tips for your specific course to accessing library resources remotely.
  • Finding ways to positively engage with the class from a distance, such as active note-taking and asking questions.
  • And lastly, this guide provides multiple links to services available within our city ranging from internet access to disability services, and to food & housing needs.
Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities

This resource is an open-preview of a curated collection of reusable resources for teaching and research. Edited by Rebecca Frost Davis (@FrostDavis) (Saint Edward’s University), Matthew K. Gold (@mkgold) (Graduate Center, CUNY), Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) (San José State University), Jentery Sayers (@jenterysayers) (University of Victoria), with the help of many scholars curating individual sections from across the globe, this collection is organized by keyword, and each annotated artifact can be saved, shared, and downloaded!  You are able to create an account and curate your own collection of syllabi, assignments, & resources for almost 50 keywords of digital pedagogy! Some examples of keywords that may be of interest right now include:

As our community produces more shareable resources, I will continue to add them to this list. If you are an instructor and would like to add to this growing list, feel free to comment or email me. To reiterate my initial message as well as the reason there was a need to synthesize resources: everyone is being forced to adapt to sudden changes as a result of COVID-19, and it surely is not as easy as we would hope. We are learning how to conduct learning, research, and work, all while carefully monitoring our health as well as the health of others. I hope that we can continue this strong sense of ethos and support each other as we navigate these rough terrains. Be sure to be gentle with yourself and others, until next time.

Best,

Anthony

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