CELT Notes


This page features weekly CELT Notes sent out to Luther College faculty members.


7. January 2022

Good morning!

We made it to Friday! Students seem to have made the transition to online intact. Not sure about you all, but those who I have talked to seem okay, not awesome, but fine. I miss the pool, but I was grateful for my basement treadmill this morning when the temperature was -15 outside. I am also crowd-sourcing recommendations for my next Netflix series binge. Send them my way.


For the next couple of CELT Notes - I am going to divide them in two parts. The first section will be just-in-time teaching tips for J-term Faculty. The second will be geared to those of us teaching in the Spring Semester.


Notes for J-term Faculty


Do everything the same, but do it differently

Sorry, gallows humor again. J-term is always a marathon sprint, but this year it is going to be more tricky. 

Fluid and Flexible needs to be our motto as we consider this, perhaps temporary, pivot, which is functioning more like a circuit-breaker. We may be back in person next week, maybe the week after, maybe that last week. We may have a few days in person and pivot back online for an additional circuit-breaker.


For some of us, a couple days in person would be wonderful (and, let's remember, that includes the majority of our students). But let's not pretend that it also won't be again disruptive to our teaching.


My best advice to you all is to use caution and carefully consider any course modifications you might want to make given our current online status. Adapt what you can for a temporary move online, but don't throw your whole class out. One, you don't have time to redesign your course right now. Two, we might be back in person and you'll have to pivot back.


It's probably best to think that assignments can migrate to an online modality for the term, but not classes. Again, it's hard to make any sweeping generalizations, so please reach out if you'd like to talk modifications through. 

Online teaching and Online learning Requires a Different-level of Energy.


I know that for most of you, this isn't your first time at the online teaching rodeo, but I was talking with a professor last night who commented that she forgot how exhausting teaching online is and that everything takes more time. Yep. I forgot too. 


I'm resharing some advice we sent out in October of 2020 when we were preparing for Q2. It's still relevant. 


Tip 1: Three hours (or even 2) is a LONG time to teach - break it up for you and for them.
Most of us are not used to these long class blocks. It's hard to be engaging for that long. Here are some student-centered ways for you to make the most of your time with students (Thanks to the RIT staff).

  • Chunk your class period into small time periods, changing activity every 15 to 30 minutes. For example, if you  have a lecture that requires 45 to 50 minutes, you could ask a short, relevant question mid-way through that students can discuss in pairs. Research shows that shifting the attention after 25 to 30 minutes can increase students' attention.
  • Stretch breaks. Sounds peculiar but actually they are super effective!
  • Make an agenda for your class and share it with the students at the start of the period, so they know what to expect (and know there are breaks coming!)
  • Use the last 15 minutes for knowledge break - one sentence summaries, teach backs, or other classroom assessment techniques (CAT).
  • Consider using class time to work on long-term projects. This has the added benefit of modeling research skills, writing techniques, etc.

Tip 2: Three hours (or even 2) is a LONG time to learn - break it up for you and them

No, this isn't a typo, I just wanted to stress the idea that the normal j-term sprint is exacerbated in the online environment. We need to plan for ways to break our longer classes into sections to maximize student learning (and not overly exhaust ourselves). Even building in two, ten minute "bio breaks" can make a huge difference. 


Remember, asynchronous time doesn't have to be homework time. If you were going to watch a 20 minute youtube clip in class, consider having them do that on their own during the first half hour of class and then meeting up after for your discussion. 


One of my favorite strategies is pararrel work time. Have the class hop on a Zoom call and everyone works on their individual projects. Maybe they are pulling resources for their next presentation, maybe they are individually working on a piece of code, maybe they are editing their draft. The beauty here is that everyone can work with mics and cameras off, but if anyone needs help or has a question you are right there to assist and the rest of the class can hear your answer too. 

What do we do with our presentations now that we are online?

Many of you 185 professors are asking this very good question. I asked Derek Sweet, Professor of Communication Studies, this question earlier in j-term when a pivot was looking likely. In short, Derek makes no change to his Public Address assignments for the online modality. The learning goals remain the same, and as he said "Online or f2f, good eye contact fosters a connection with the audience."

Derek's critique sheet is linked here with additional crowd-sourced presentation rubrics. What I really like about how Derek sets up his evaluation tool is that he uses it during student workshops too. Each student is given the critique sheet in advance, they are encouraged to use it to offer feedback to peers. The other thing I appreciate is that he is not assigning numbers to those categories, as you might with a traditional rubric, but a plus, check, minus system. This might help solve the problem of students "bean counting" their point tallies on an assignment. For some of you, this might be a more effective way to grade. The checks and minus give overall feedback, you offer some constructive comments on the evaluation sheet, and then assign a letter grade to the final project. For those of you who are more interested in a rubric, there are two great examples included. Feel free to copy and edit for your own purposes. Scholarly courtesy asks that you credit Derek if you use his critique sheet.


Your First Years might not know what Online Teaching in College is Different from High School, dare we say it...it is better?


One of the striking things I've heard from faculty and my own students is that students report "enjoying" classes online in college much more than they did in highschool. Of course, not every student. 


In my conversations with faculty this week, several have expressed that their first-year students made the transition to the online classroom seamlessly and that engagement stayed the same. Of course, not every student. 


We're actually pretty good at this, friends. Just a couple of reminders that you can pass along to your students. 

  • Because they were asked to stay on campus, everyone should have a strong enough internet that allows them to join class. If they don't seem to have a laptop that allows them to join class, please reach out to me. 
  • If roomates or dorm noise affect their ability to participate, remind them that they are allowed to attend class from areas outside their dorm rooms, including the library, study lounges etc. 
  • Encourage cameras, but make space for students to opt out. This one in particular seems to be a difference between high school and college. You might need to mention that to your 185 classes to help them understand the difference between their high school experience and college. 
  • Consider leveraging the chat as a valued mode of participation. (I could talk forever about this one if you'd like to know more about why this is important) 
  • We are asking students to conduct their public lives (class) from their private spaces (their dorm rooms). Students should be aware of what can be seen in their backgrounds, remind them that virtual backgrounds are an option, as are neutral public spaces like study lounges.


How can my students in quarantine get library materials?

A lot of you have research-heavy courses over j-term. Students can still complete research while in quarantine. To check out physical materials, use the "Place Hold" button in the online catalog. In the "comments" field at the bottom of the request form, list the person who will pick up the item for you. You, as the requester, will receive an email when the item is available at the Circulation Desk.


Notes as we look ahead to Spring semester


Last Call on J-term Conversations Groups


If you are sitting there, thanking your lucky stars that you aren't teaching this j-term, I've got two suggestions for you. One: Buy one of your colleagues a cup of coffee :) Two: Sign up for a J-term Conversation Group, which will now be virtual! Registration will close this SUNDAY at noon - so I can arrange meeting times. 


These informal, topic based conversations groups are designed to allow interested faculty to do a deeper dive on pedagogical topics of their choosing. Topics include:

  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL) 
  • Active Learning in the Classroom
  • Infusing Writing in Your Class
  • Helping Foster Critical Reading Skills
  • Handling Difficult Topics in the Classroom
  • Supporting Student Mental Health in the Classroom


We'll meet one or twice a week as schedules allow. Please sign up for whatever topic you are interested in. If you have time, you are welcome to sign up for more than one. The sign up for can be found here. 

With gratitude for all that you do,