January 2022

This page features weekly CELT Notes sent out to Luther College faculty members during the academic year 2021 - 2022.


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, 




5. January 2020

Good evening, everyone

It's just 7 pm and I just finished answering emails from the day so I'm sending out a very quick note to add on to the communication from Lynda, Sean, and me this afternoon.


Everyone's j-term class is so different that I hesitate to offer sweeping suggestions on how to manage this pivot online. I would much rather talk with you one on one, so please don't hesitate to reach out. Holly White and I also have another drop in Zoom session tomorrow afternoon. You can register here, and we'll send you the link.


If you haven't already, the one thing that each of you should do is contact your students and tell them how to meet tomorrow on Zoom, or your favorite video conferencing software. Here are some resources on synchronous teaching platforms. 


If you can communicate a sense of calm, that will go a long way. I might just start with an honest, "I hoped I wouldn't have to send you this email, but here we are." It will also be very important to communicate how the structure of the course might change. It's okay to say that you are taking the day to figure things out tomorrow too.

In fact, this might also be a great time to ask students what THEY want to do. Ask them what they liked and didn't like about their last online experience (but remind them this might be temporary!) Consider establish Zoom norms as a class activity. In fact, maybe it would be a good thing to have everyone re-introduce themselves in this new platform. Your quarantined students might be present for the first time. Why not treat tomorrow like a second, first day.


I'm going to drop one more link here -- that offers ideas on how to foster engagement in the online classroom. But that is absolutely enough for today. Specific resources for 185 instructors are coming soon (I too thought I'd have a few more days to pull things together).


In the meantime, thank you. I don't know what else to say.




3. January 2022


Good afternoon everyone!


I'm just warming up after a cold run through campus. There were a lot of cars parked by Main and Valders, so I know that many of you are putting the finishing touches on your j-term courses.


The timing of this Winter Break CELT Notes is tricky. I know many of you are trying valiantly to actually take a break, and an email while you are out of the office is an annoyance. But I also know that many of you are indeed working, prepping for j-term, and the information below may actually be of great use to you, so...if you find it helpful to read this email today, please do. If not, ignore it until you are back in the office.


Today's CELT Notes will be very short -- advice about how to build in a quarantine protocol into your courses given Omicron's rise and a reminder of CELT j-term programming. Look for more from us next week. I am answering emails this holiday weekend - please let me know if you have any questions or want to talk through j-term plans.


Quarantined Students and J-term


I don't have a crystal ball but I assume that we'll have more students in quarantine this j-term and spring semester. Even without Omicron, and really even in "normal" times (anyone remember those?) we all should have a plan on how we plan to help students keep up in our courses should they need to quarantine for illness. 


I'm repeating advice from last winter - but please remember you don't need to REPLICATE the in-class experience. You need to stay in communication with quarantined students and offer them some low-tech solutions to help them keep up.


Here are some ideas:


  • Ask the student to keep up with the assigned reading and to meet with you during a virtual office hour to answer questions about the reading.
  • Encourage the student to ask a classmate to share their notes electronically and then ask the student to meet with you during one of your already scheduled virtual office hours to answer questions.
  • In a discussion course, record any “lecture” material, and ask the student to watch the recording and then to meet with you during a virtual office hour to have an abbreviated version of the discussion that you facilitated in class. If more than one student is absent, invite them to discuss as a small group.
  • Try collaborative note-taking. This involves students rotating note-taking on a Google doc that is accessible to the entire class.
  • Use your already scheduled virtual office hours for small group tutorials.
  • Create pre-recorded materials (such as VoiceThreads, videos, or narrated PowerPoints) that are specifically for students who are ill, quarantined, or isolating. This is an especially good idea of if you have these materials from spring 2020. 
  • Build asynchronous material into the class for all students, thereby reducing the need to create material specifically for students who are ill, quarantined, or isolating.


COVID Alert Levels and Campus Instruction


You should have all received a note from Brad this morning -- which went out to all faculty, students, and parents. As a reminder -- here is the link to our COVID Alert Levels


Right now, we remain at level Green -- next is level Teal, where masks are required in all indoor spaces. This is where we spent much of the second half of fall term. We remain with in person instruction until the next Alert Level Yellow, where we will pivot to online instruction, but students will remain on campus.


There is no indication that we will move to Yellow, but I think it is in all of our best interests to have a back-up plan should that happen this spring. More here in later CELT Notes, but as always I'm happy to be a thought-partner as you develop an online emergency back-up plan.


J-term Conversation Groups


We're piloting a new program this J-term  - January Term Conversation Groups. 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. 


Happy New Year, everyone. More soon.