Forward Thinking: Less is More

As a technology consultant, I have always been very intentional about the tools I introduce into the classroom, but this past year of blended teaching made me even more selective of the tools I chose to support my course.

I worked hard to limit the number of tools I asked my students to use, because they shared after the 2020 spring semester that platform fatigue was a major problem. This was a challenge because, due to the nature of the blended teaching, technology was often the solution to many of the semester’s problems.

To avoid adding unnecessary elements to my course, I developed a series of questions I asked myself before deploying a tool for the 2020-2021 academic year:

  • Did the tool fill a need that was universal across the semester and would it be consistently used throughout the semester?
  • Was the tool something my students were familiar with and, if not, was it intuitive to use?
  • Did the tool directly support one or more of my course objectives?
  • Could I succinctly communicate to my students why the tool was important for their success in the class?

The result was relying heavily on five tools for all my communication, organizational, and pedagogical needs.

  • Zoom: It was used to facilitate the blended experience for in-person and remote students.
  • Blackboard: All course materials were organized here. All assignments/exams were collected and returned here, and all grades were distributed here.
  • Email and youcanbookme.com: For all out of class conversation and dialog, I either used email or youcanbookme.com to schedule office hours.
  • Google Docs: Collaborative documents were the backbone of all my in-class learning activities – they completely replaced all physical handouts.
  • Perusall: This was something that was new for me. Adding social annotation to my reading assignments gave me insight into students’ understanding of the material but also gave students an opportunity to interact asynchronously with each other in a low stakes way.

The net result of this intentional pairing of tools was clarity both for myself and my students. Working within a constrained toolset can be challenging as there are many great options that can solve specific challenges that arise throughout the semester. That said, as we move to a more traditional semester, I’ll continue to focus on a reduced toolset and investing in making the most of the functionality of the tools I have my students use. There are some efficiencies that I’d like to make in my communication strategy with my students, and I’d love to be able to start using a modern communication tool like Discord or Slack in the fall but, for now, I’m going to stick with the five tools that worked this past spring.

Dr. L. Andrew Bell is a technology consultant in the Teaching and Scholarship Hub at the University of Richmond. He consults with faculty on effective integration of digital tools into their teaching and scholarship. His areas of expertise include data analysis and visualization, digital pedagogy, and neuroscience.  Andrew is also an adjunct instructor at the University of Richmond and teaches courses in neuroscience and data analysis. This past year he taught PSYC359 Data Visualization and Analysis and FYS102 Neuroscience of Photography.

Jan 2021 Faculty Hub Programming

Greetings and happy new year from the Faculty Hub!

Below is a list of our schedule for January – please follow the links for registration information.  Sessions with the same title are duplicate sessions (#1, #2, etc). 

Wed., Jan. 6

Conversation: Student Workload (1st offering)

Across the country, students have expressed concern that the shift to remote learning has coincided with a substantial increase in workload. Is this the case or are instructors simply distributing and assessing coursework differently? If the latter, how can we help students adjust to and manage new or different workflows? Please join faculty from across campus to engage in informal conversation around this topic. Consider reading “The Strange Case of the Exploding Student Workload” prior to joining this session.

Time: 10-10:50 a.m.

Register: Conversation: Student Workload #1

 Panel: Alternative Assessment Methods

Are you planning to use or considering an alternative assessment method such as oral exams, student self-assessments, “ungrading,” or portfolio grading in your spring courses? This 50-min panel will feature short presentations (5-7 min) by Della Dumbaugh (Mathematics), Jan French (Anthropology), and Chris Miller (Political Science) followed by Q&A and open discussion on these alternative assessment methods. This panel will be moderated by Libby Gruner (Faculty Hub Associate, English).

Time: 2-2:50 p.m.

Register: Panel: Alternative Assessment Methods


Thurs., Jan. 7

Conversation: Course Design

Do you want an opportunity to reflect on the alignment between your course objectives, assessments, and course activities? Do you want to get feedback from others as you finalize your course design plans for the spring? Join us for this conversation to receive a few resources related to “backwards course design” and to have an opportunity to engage with faculty colleagues from across campus in an informal conversation about your course design process.

Time: 10-10:50 a.m.

Register: Conversation: Course Design

Morning Blend: Bb Course Organization

Do you have questions about how to organize your course materials in Blackboard? Join the Faculty Hub for Morning Blend on Blackboard Course Organization. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and join us for a short presentation (10-15 minutes), a takeaway document (tip sheet), and an informal discussion on strategies for organizing your course materials in Blackboard.

Time: 1-1:45 p.m.  (yes, this is an afternoon option–it’s morning somewhere!)

Zoom: Morning Blend Zoom room  (No registration required)


Fri., Jan. 8

Morning Blend: Bb Course Organization

We will offer a second session of Morning Blend on Friday morning.

Time: 9-9:45 a.m.

Zoom: Morning Blend Zoom room  (No registration required)

Workshop: Blended Classroom Experience #1

Do you want to experiment with blended learning before the spring semester begins? This workshop is designed to give faculty the opportunity to experience the blended classroom from multiple perspectives: remote learner, in-class learner, and in-class instructor. During this 90-minute session, each instructor will facilitate a brief 15-minute lecture, learning activity, and/or discussion. Then, remote and in-class learners will have the opportunity to provide feedback and reflections on their experiences. While the number of remote learners is not limited, we must cap the number of in-class learners to 10 and in-class instructors to 3.

Note: Priority registration for this initial session will be given to new or returning faculty who did not teach in-person last semester.  This workshop is also offered on January 14 and 15.

Time: 10:30-12 p.m.

Register:  Workshop: Blended Classroom Experience #1

Panel: Alternative Assessment Projects

Are you planning to use or considering an alternative assessment project such as podcasts, digital projects, or group projects? This 50-min panel will feature short presentations (5-7 min) by Dan Chen (Political Science), Melissa Freilich (Theatre & Dance), and Caroline Weist (Language, Literatures & Cultures) followed by Q&A and open discussion on these types of final projects.

Time: 1-1:50 p.m.

Register: Panel: Alternative Assessment Projects


Mon., Jan. 11

Workshop: Inclusive Pedagogy – Transparency

How can we use the concept of transparency to design more inclusive learning environments for our students? In this workshop, we will explore three teaching areas – the learning environment, the design of assignments, and grading practices – through the lens of transparency. Drawing from both research on inclusive teaching and the practical experiences of one another, we will work together to identify concrete strategies and tools for building more transparency into each respective area of our teaching. This 75-minute workshop will include time for participants to get feedback from colleagues on a teaching approach or artifact. Participants are encouraged to come to the workshop with a course policy, assignment description, or a grading approach in mind that they would like to make more transparent.

Time: 11-12:15pm

Register: Workshop: Transparent Teaching

Conversation: Student Workload (2nd offering)

We will offer a second opportunity to engage in dialogue about helping students manage and/or adjust to the workloads associated with remote and blended learning. See description above or click the registration link below for full details.

Time: 1-1:50 p.m.

Register: Conversation: Student Workload #2


Tues., Jan. 12

Panel: Tips for Engaging Students on Zoom

Is it possible to adapt videoconferencing technology to promote student engagement in learning? Having now used Zoom for teaching in online and blended coursed, we have found several ways to promote student engagement and inclusive teaching. Our tips will be shared with plenty of time for participants to ask questions or share their own tips! Panelists include Linda Boland, (Faculty Hub, Biology), Jessica Erickson, (Associate Dean for Faculty Development, Law) and special guest panelist, Claire Howell Major, Professor of Higher Education Administration at the University of Alabama and author of several books, including Teaching Online: A Guide to Theory, Research, and Practice.

Time: 11-11:50 a.m.

Register:  Panel: Zoom Pedagogy

 Panel: Social Annotation

Are you planning to use or considering whether to integrate social annotation into your spring courses?  This 50-min panel will feature short presentations (5-10 min) by Kristine Grayson (Faculty Hub Associate, Biology) and Libby Gruner (Faculty Hub Associate, English) followed by Q&A and open discussion. The panelists will discuss how/why they incorporated social annotation into their pedagogy with examples from Perusall and Hypothes.is.

Time: 2-2:50 p.m.

Register: Panel: Social Annotation


Wed., Jan. 13

Faculty Hub Institute: Data Visualizations in R

Click on the registration link to learn more about this multi-session, all-day faculty development opportunity.

Time: All Day

Register: Institute: Data Visualizations in R

Panel:  Making Use of an Imperfect Tool—Using Your SEI Results to Improve Your Teaching

University-administered student evaluations of instruction (SEIs) are imperfect tools.  As instructors, how can we re-frame our SEIs as formative?  Are there strategies for working with SEIs that can make them a useful professional development tool?  This 50-minute panel will feature brief presentations by Carthene Bazemore-Walker (Assistant Dean for Diversity, Inclusivity, and Thriving, A & S), Don Forsyth (Jepson School of Leadership), and Joe Ben Hoyle (Accounting, Robins School of Business), with time for Q & A on how to make use of your SEIs.  Moderated by Linda Boland (Faculty Hub, Biology).

Time:  10-10:50 a.m.

Register: Panel: Making Use of an Imperfect Tool


Thurs., Jan. 14

Panel: Collaborative Documents

Are you planning to use or want to learn more about using collaborative documents to engage students in your blended or remote courses? This 50-min panel will feature short presentations (5-10 min) by Saif Mekhari (Economics) and Fernando Otalora-Luna (Biology) followed by Q&A and open discussion. These panelists will discuss how/why they incorporated collaborative documents into their pedagogy and how their approach impacted student learning.

Time: 10-10:50 a.m.

Register: Panel: Collaborative Documents

Morning Blend: First Day

How do you approach the first day of a blended or remote class? Do you have strategies to share for cultivating community, connection, and curiosity on the first day? Join the Faculty Hub for our next session of Morning Blend: First Day. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and join us for a short presentation (10-15 minutes), a takeaway document (tip sheet), and an informal open discussion on strategies for approaching the first day of class.

Time: 1-1:45 p.m.

Zoom: Morning Blend Zoom room  (No registration required)

Workshop: Blended Classroom Experiences #2

We will offer a second session of the Blended Classroom Experience. See description from January 8 (above) or click the registration link below for full details.

Time: 2-3:30 p.m.

Register:  Blended Classroom Experience #2


Fri., Jan. 15

Morning Blend: First Day

We will offer a second session of Morning Blend on Friday morning (see above for full details).

Time: 9-9:45 a.m.

Zoom: Morning Blend Zoom room  (No registration required)

Faculty Hub Workshop: Blended Classroom Experiences #3

We will offer a third session of the Blended Classroom Experience. See description from January 8 (above) or click the registration link below for full details.

Time: 10:30-noon

Register: Blended Classroom Experience #3

Introducing the Faculty Hub’s Redesigned Website

The Faculty Hub is proud to release our new website this week. We have developed this site to support the goals of the Faculty Hub: to foster excellence in teaching, cultivating cross-disciplinary interactions for scholarly exchange, and promoting professional development for faculty at all career stages. I wanted to share with you some of the features of the new website that we think faculty will love:  

Resource Page: 

Faculty told us that they wanted a resource page with curated guides, weblink, and tip sheets that was filterable for pedagogical and scholarship categories. The new page contains many terrific resources, but it is just our starting point. We will be regularly be adding new resources to the site. We also have links to our Slack page where faculty are encouraged to share their favorite resources and ask the faculty community about specific questions or concerns.  

Program Pages: 

The Faculty Hub is continually adding new opportunities for faculty to engage in. These programs typically have deliverables, applications, and other materials that faculty want immediate access to. Our new program pages have built in archives for easy asynchronous learning. Our Morning Blend program for example is a short 10-15 talk accompanied by a one-page tip sheet. We typically hold these events live on Monday and Thursday mornings but if you cannot make them, we now have a library of the materials on the website. 

Services Pages: 

Our one on one consultations are some of the most impactful services we offer in the Hub and the new website makes scheduling a consultation with Hub staff super easy. Check out the “Schedule” links on side bar in the one on one consultations page, these links take you to each consultant’s calendars and make scheduling meetings super easy.  

We are also very excited about the new Faculty Hub space on the third floor of Boatwright Library. Very soon, you will be able to reserve one of the many multi-use spaces in the Hub for your faculty focused group meetings.  

We encourage you to check out the new site and let us know your thoughts. We are always looking for ways we can best serve our faculty! 

Best,  

Andrew Bell 

Summer 2020 Faculty Development Opportunities and Resources

SPCS Hybrid/Online Teaching Professional Development Course

A three-week, asynchronous faculty development course designed to support online and hybrid teaching. Beginning with the end in mind, faculty will review the course development process, focusing on desired learning outcomes. Teaching best practices will be considered, emphasizing the creation of an active and engaging learning community.

Topics will include: eLearning Theory, Diversified Instruction, Leveraging Blackboard Tools, Assessments and Rubrics, Student Engagement (Discussions, Asynchronous and Synchronous Lectures, Zoom, Feedback), and more

Course Dates: The June and July cohorts have filled, but they may be able to accommodate a few additional participants upon request.

Time Commitment: Approximately 3.5 hours per week to complete activities.

Cohort Size: 25

Questions? Email John Zinn.


Effective Online and Hybrid Teaching

In three linked sessions, this short course will engage instructors in topics important to student and faculty success with online and flexible courses. This course is a collaboration between the Faculty Hub with Dr. Claire Major. Claire Major is a Professor of Higher Education at The University of Alabama. Her teaching and research interests center on instructional approaches and instructional technology. She has authored or co-authored ten books including Interactive Lecturing, Learning Assessment Techniques, Collaborative Learning Techniques, Student Engagement Techniques, and Online Learning: A Guide to Theory, Research, and Practice.

Session 1. Creating an Engaging Course: Strategies for Online and Flexible Course Design

Online and blended courses can provide students with an inviting and engaging learning environment. In this session, participants will learn about practical strategies for designing dynamic online and LMS-supported classes.

Session 2. Learning Together While Apart: Tips for Creating Community Online

Research shows that one of the greatest challenges for students in online environments is the feeling of isolation. Establishing connections with others is key to student success and learning. Participants in this session will learn about strategies for creating community in online and blended courses.

Session 3. Assessment for Learning: Techniques for Promoting Student Learning Through Assessment in Online and Blended Courses

Finding a good balance between low stakes and high stakes assessments can be a challenge in any course, including those that are blended or online. In this session, participants will consider a range of options for assessing student knowledge and skills that simultaneously improve student learning.

Course dates: June 15, 16, 18 (M, T, Th) from 10-11 a.m. (Note: This course is full, but we have added an additional course on June 22, 23, and 25 from 10-11 a.m., with unlimited enrollment.)

Time Commitment:  This is a fully synchronous course in Zoom (one hour per session) with activities and breakout sessions. There will be a short reading and homework due for each session (less than one hour of homework per session). Full participation in all three synchronous sessions will produce the greatest learning gains.

Registration: Registration is now open for the June 22, 23, and 25 sessions: https://urfacultyhub.corsizio.com/c/5ed66383b626a66a1ea36afd.

Questions? Email the Faculty Hub.


Professional Development in Responsive and Flexible Teaching

A three-week online course with synchronous components and the option of participating fully asynchronously. The course will mimic a highly flexible course delivery where faculty experience this from a student’s perspective. This online course will be led by the Faculty Hub and will include sessions with one or more online learning experts.

This course is under development. Anticipated learning goals are:

  • To familiarize faculty with good practices in backward course design for online and highly flexible teaching
  • To introduce faculty to approaches for establishing and maintaining an online learning community
  • To help faculty consider options for assessments in online and highly flexible learning environments
  • To help faculty develop pedagogically sound approaches to synchronous and asynchronous discussion
  • To help faculty develop strategies to address the special challenges of starting a class remotely/online and/or having some of the students face-to-face and others participating asynchronously

Course dates: This will run for three consecutive weeks in July. Specific dates are TBD, we expect to begin on July 6 or July 13.

Time Commitment: Modules will include up to five hours of homework each week including a requirement to participate in discussion in one of several formats.

Cohort size: 25

Registration: Information will be communicated from the Faculty Hub by June 17. Based on interest, a waitlist will be created and the course may be offered again beginning the latter half of July.

Note: The asynchronous components of this course will also be made available as single-use learning sessions for faculty development.

Questions? Email the Faculty Hub.


Additional Offerings from the Faculty Hub in June and/or July – Dates TBD

The Digital Whiteboard: Strategies and Tools for Teaching Equation and Diagram Intensive Courses Online

Workshop participants will:

  • Discuss challenges and opportunities associated with teaching equation- or diagram-based courses online
  • Identify the essential components of a course that require a new tool or approach.
  • Learn tools and workflows that take advantage of a digital whiteboard to optimize these essential components.
  • Develop a new digital whiteboard workflow and receive feedback on that plan within breakout groups
  • Receive tip sheets for all the tools and workflows that we cover during the workshop and an opportunity to join a Slack workspace to share ideas over the course of the coming academic year.

Questions? Email Andrew Bell.

Ready When You Are: Engaging Learners Through Asynchronous Discussion 

Whether utilized within online, hybrid, or face-to-face learning contexts, asynchronous discussions provide opportunities for individual reflection, deep engagement with course content, and collaborative learning. In this workshop, we will consider how discussions can be designed to facilitate three types of online interaction: student-to-self, student-to-content, and student-to-student. After participating in this session, participants will be able to:

  • Design an effective asynchronous discussion assignment
  • Identify and select tools that meet their learning objectives
  • Implement appropriate facilitation and assessment strategies

Questions? Email Ryan Brazell.


Additional Professional Development Opportunities

The Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) will be hosting workshops and working groups to help instructors prepare for teaching in (1) hybrid courses with some remote/online components, (2) fully remote/online courses, and (3) socially distanced face-to-face courses. Some topics are relevant to many disciplines (such as incorporating writing, asynchronous discussion approaches, whiteboard animation), others are relevant to specific disciplines (such as languages, performing arts, science labs, music). All resources will be made available for use by members of the consortium.

ACS faculty and faculty development centers are creating these workshops for delivery in June and July. The sessions will be synchronous, using Zoom, and will include a deliverable/product for participating faculty. We hope to have an initial schedule available in early June.

Questions? Email the Faculty Hub.


Online discussions via a Faculty Hub-hosted Remote Teaching Workspace

Throughout the year, the Faculty Hub will be sharing information via our Slack workspace called Remote Teaching. We encourage faculty and support staff to share resources and seek support via the many different channels within the workspace. If you want to join this workspace, please click here.


Recommended Additional Readings/Activities


1 on 1 Faculty Hub Consultations

The Faculty Hub offers 1-1 support for discussions about pedagogy, including identifying appropriate strategies and tools to help faculty meet their specific pedagogical goals. To schedule a consultation, email the Faculty Hub.

Please note that technical training for Blackboard, Panopto, Zoom and other university-supported software is done by Information Services.  If you need technical support, the HelpDesk is one way to initiate this or click on the button for SpiderTechNet to get started learning about technological tools and software needed for working remotely.

End of Fall 2019 Updates

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

Congratulations on completing another fall semester and best wishes for your winter break.

The Faculty Hub would like to make you aware of our spring term opportunities and highlight some successful programs from fall term. Please see the Faculty Hub website to register for spring programs or email us if you have any questions.

NEW – Faculty Hub Associates – Deadline for application is January 29, 2020

The Faculty Hub announces a pilot program for faculty to share their areas of expertise related to enhancing excellence in faculty teaching and/or scholarship and creative works. Please see the attached call for applications for the new Faculty Hub Associates program. Questions may be directed to Linda Boland, Director of the Faculty Hub.

Sign up now for Faculty Hub events in January

On January 9, the Faculty Hub welcomes Michael Palmer, Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Virginia, for a workshop on learner-centered syllabi. Registration is required for Creating Syllabi for Courses You’ll Love to Teach and Your Students Will Love to Take. Please join your colleagues for post-new year coffee, tea, and bagels at 9:00 a.m. plus a chance to make a significant change to your teaching in just two hours (9:30-11:30 a.m.). We hope you will join us!

From January-March, we are running a Faculty Hub Book Group to explore how intentional utilization of technology can help students achieve course learning objectives. Two discussion groups are being formed, and we still have some openings in the breakfast group. Please sign up on our events page, and we will send you our guide book Intentional Tech (Derek Bruff, Vanderbilt University).

Other spring term events

The Faculty Hub Talks program got off to a great start in the fall term with two sessions led by Nicole Maurantonio and Doron Samuel-Siegel. In the spring term, we welcome David Wilkins, Chris von Rueden, Corey D. B. Walker, and Rana Dajani. Hub Talks start at 12:12 p.m. with an 18-minute presentation followed by a discussion that outlasts the duration of the talk! Faculty are finding these to be a useful form of community-building and engagement across disciplines. Please register here. We offer lunch, so you can visit, eat, and learn — all in one hour!

We are planning ahead for a faculty professional development event on Wednesday, May 6. We have invited Claire Howell Major, a frequent speaker at faculty development conferences and author of many books on pedagogy. She will be working with us on approaches to active learning and engaging our students — all faculty will find this useful. We are working out the details and registration will be available soon.

NEW – We are working on a concept for a pre-summer Faculty Hub Institute beginning on the Tuesday after Commencement, just before the time period when many faculty re-focus on summer scholarship or creative works. We are brainstorming about short, intense (2-2.5 day) learning experiences that will have immediate impact on faculty scholarship and/or teaching. This year’s focus is Data Visualization Using Tableau. Our approach will be a cross-disciplinary experience to help faculty develop new skills to make data presentations more dynamic, engaging, clear, and interpretable. Likewise, this in-house institute will help establish a community of faculty learners. We aim to rotate the Hub Institute topics annually and may be able to offer a small stipend for participation. Would this type of learning experience benefit your work? Please share your thoughts with Technology Consultant Andrew Bell. Our planning process depends on your input.

Highlights from the fall semester 2019:

  • We ran our first Teaching Squares program to facilitate peer observation and self-reflection about effective teaching across disciplines. Early feedback has been positive, and a January gathering of this cohort will help share the value of faculty participation in the program.
  • We initiated an Early Career Faculty Seminar program; the inaugural cohort focused on inclusive pedagogy in the fall term. We will continue our work together this spring with a focus on small-scale changes to enhance teaching and student learning. All early career faculty are invited to join us. Please contact Linda Boland if you are interested.
  • Other successes this fall included several inclusive pedagogy trainings, one-on-one academic technology consultations, development of video training modules, planning for upcoming space renovations for the new Faculty Hub in Boatwright Library, and other behind-the-scenes development of procedures and plans within the Hub. We are excited to continue to expand and improve programming and opportunities to help faculty grow in their professional development.
  • We developed a Faculty Hub statement about confidentiality with respect to individual faculty consultations; please see our website for details.

The Faculty Hub initiated its work in the fall term of 2019 with the goals of fostering excellence in teaching, cultivating cross-disciplinary interactions for scholarly exchange, and promoting professional development for faculty at all career stages. We encourage faculty to contact us if you have ideas and needs that we might help service, or if we can connect you to campus partners who may also be able to assist you.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy holiday season from the Faculty Hub!