Audio & Podcasting Projects: Getting Started with Tech and Assignment Design

Student wearing headphones with laptop displaying powerpoint presentation

Student wearing headphones with laptop displaying powerpoint presentation

Student wearing headphones with laptop displaying powerpoint presentation

On Thursday, March 28th from 12:00 – 1:00pm, online via Zoom, CNDLS is pleased to continue our Digital Learning Webinar Series with Audio & Podcasting Projects: Getting Started with Tech and Assignment Design.

Two of our Learning Design Specialists will demonstrate unique ways to incorporate podcasts and audio assignments into your course design.

Join us on remotely via Zoom to learn how audio projects provide unique opportunities for student engagement and creativity, and learn approaches to designing and implementing these assessment techniques into your curriculum.

We invite you to register for this webinar today!  Can’t make it? Don’t worry – the presentation portion of the webinar will be recorded and made available on the CNDLS website.

This is the fifth installment of our Digital Learning Webinar Series, exploring the use of different technologies that enhance teaching and learning.

We hope you’ll continue to join us this semester for our final webinar of the academic year:

April 25: Canvas and Learning Analytics

We look forward to engaging with you! In the meantime, feel free to reach out to us with any questions.

Teach the Speech: David Molk (Performing Arts) Uses Dr. King’s Speech to Teach Music Sampling with a Social Justice Lens

MLK, Jr.

MLK, Jr.

Photo Credit: Blue Moonbeam Studio

David Molk (Performing Arts) recently published his insights on why it’s important for academia to engage students in social justice work in and out of the classroom in his article, “Ghosts in the Machine: Sampling Dr. King,” published in Sounding Out!. In the article, Molk shares how he incorporated selected speeches by Dr. King in his classroom as part of Georgetown’s Let Freedom Ring! Initiative, and the CNDLS/CSJ collaboration “Teach the Speech.” As a music professor, Molk believes “Abstract music theory is important, but music theory combined with a social awareness is vital.” Last year, for example, Molk welcomed discussion about the lack of representation for women and people of color in the music industry, and the social media movement of #GrammysSoWhite that resulted.

This past year, Molk used Dr. King’s speech as a framework for teaching students sample-based composition, and provided space for students to engage in critical discussion and to ask questions about the relationships among music, moral dilemmas, and society. He shared how he  used a recording of Dr. King delivering “I Have Been to The Mountaintop” as part of a model on sampling for his “DJing and Production” course and asked students to be creative in dissecting parts of Dr. King’s speech to create their music. The result was a deeper engagement with what Molk refers to as “crucial lines of moral inquiry,”—or, when students push beyond the surface of a particular discipline or topic and begin to consider social and cultural implications within a social justice lens. It’s work that Molk believes we all must do, particularly in academia.

You can read the rest of Molk’s article here, and also learn more about the Teach the Speech event from this January on our blog. Additionally, on Saturday, February 23 from 6:00-8:00pm in the Copley Formal Lounge, join The Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service for the MLK Evening of Hope and Resistance.

Announcing the Spring 2019 CNDLS TEL Colloquium Cohort

TEL Instructor

CNDLS is pleased to announce the Spring 2019 CNDLS TEL Colloquium cohort, “Designing for Context: Approaches to Blended Learning.” Thirteen faculty and one librarian from 12 departments and five different schools (Georgetown College, Walsh School of Foreign Service, McCourt School of Public Policy, School of Continuing Studies, and School of Medicine) are participating in the cohort. The Colloquium participants began meeting in February to explore topics in technology-enhanced learning (TEL), and they will continue to meet for the next six months as they design and develop individual projects centered on blended learning. Congratulations to this impressive group!

Spring 2019 CNDLS TEL Colloquium Cohort:

Ifedapo Adeleye | Human Resource Management
Ghayda Al Ali | Arabic and Islamic Studies
Kasey Christopher | Biology
Francesco Ciabattoni | Italian
Robert Glazer | Oncology and Pharmacology
Linda Green | Biology
Topher Lawton | University Library
Bokyung Mun | East Asian Languages and Culture
Rebecca Patterson | Security Studies
Mark Rom | Government
Phil Sandick | English
Kumi Sato | East Asian Languages and Culture
Fr. Christian Wagner | School of Foreign Service
Holly Wise | Global Human Development

Digital Learning Webinar Series Continues: Tips and Tricks for Managing Canvas

On Thursday, February 28th from 12:00 – 1:00pm, online via Zoom, CNDLS is pleased to continue our Digital Learning Webinar Series with our spring kickoff, Tips and Tricks for Managing Canvas & Enhancing Your Course.

Are you an existing Canvas user that’s looking for ways to navigate the platform more efficiently?  Or are you interested in finding new ways to engage your students? Our facilitators will walk you through some of Canvas’ hidden features, highlighting options to enhance students’ learning experience and make online course management a breeze.  

We invite you to register for this webinar today!  Can’t make it? Don’t worry – the presentation portion of the webinar will be recorded and made available on the CNDLS website.

This is the fourth installment of our Digital Learning Webinar Series, exploring the use of different technologies that enhance teaching and learning.

We hope you’ll continue to join us throughout the spring semester for our final two webinars of the year:

  • March 28: Audio and Podcasting Projects: Getting Started with Tech and Assignment Design
  • April 25: Canvas and Learning Analytics

We hope that you will join us! In the meantime, feel free to reach out to us with any questions.


Biology Faculty Continue PODS Work with Project Fostering Quantitative Literacy in Biology Majors

The 2019 PODS call for participants is currently open.

The 2019 PODS call for participants is currently open.

The 2019 PODS call for participants is currently open.

In the summer of 2018, Georgetown’s Biology Department found the roots of quantitative aptitude in a potentially surprising place: writing aptitude.

That summer, members of the Biology department convened a Productive Open Design Space (PODS) group, led by Teaching Professor Manus Patten, as part of CNDLS’ annual Teaching, Learning & Innovation Summer Institute (TLISI). They aren’t alone in their pursuits; each year multiple groups of faculty and staff apply to form PODS teams to pursue projects that can more easily come together with concentrated time and collective effort. The goal of the Biology faculty in this group was to design a framework for fostering quantitative literacy in biology majors—or, as they called it, Quantitative Reasoning in the Discipline (QuID). PODS and TLISI gave them the space and time to do it.

A few years prior to the creation of PODS, a number of Biology faculty, including Patten, who were concerned about the quality of writing they were seeing in graduating student theses, had come together to articulate guidelines for Writing in the Discipline (WID). In Patten’s words, they “tried to inject [a focus on writing and writing instruction] at certain places in the curriculum, tried to say what we expect at each level.” That, in turn, led to faculty paying more attention to writing and approaching it more intentionally, with learning goals in mind, “and after that point we saw an improvement in student writing.”

When Biology faculty came together again for TLISI 2018 with an analogous concern—problems with quantitative/mathematical literacy in student theses—the hope was that they could successfully use the same approach to this issue that they did with writing. The first task of the group during the intensive PODS week was clarification: “We spent all morning over coffee and snacks provided by CNDLS deciding this particular thing….It took a couple of days to figure out exactly what QuID looks like.” After some discussion the group outlined four competencies they wanted to foster in their students: Basic Skills of Numeracy, Calculation, and Visualization; Computation; Statistics and Data Analysis; and Modeling and Abstraction. Then, in another step analogous to what they did when tackling writing, they articulated, for each competency, three levels of increasing mastery, with the goal of guiding students through these levels during their time in the major. For example, one skill under the umbrella of the Computation competency involves databases. Students are expected first to be familiar with databases and to practice extracting data from them; next they need to become “an intelligent consumer” of databases; and, finally, they are expected to be able to create their own.

The first expectations fall on the faculty, of course. This work, according to Patten, “helped us when we were figuring out how to revamp our Foundations course, our sophomore-level courses….People in the intro and mid-level courses will be a little more thoughtful about what they can do, what they should do.” And the effects of the PODS experience have gone beyond being more deliberate about teaching quantitative reasoning in Biology. “It’s fun to get the faculty together to focus on teaching for a little while,” Patten says. “We have a shared task and we’re trying to do that, but we’re also doing other things. You end up learning things you wouldn’t have known.”

The effects of this QuID pedagogical project are still unfolding, and will be for some time. Patten’s view: “It’ll take two or three years, but I hope we’ll see senior theses and we’ll say, ‘Hey, that was pretty sophisticated quantitative reasoning.”

This year’s PODS will take place at TLISI May 20 – 23, 2019. Our applications for PODS are now open, and we invite all faculty and staff at Georgetown to consider applying. For more information, please visit the TLISI website.

Bringing Sign Language to the World of MOOCs

Ted Supalla (Neurology) teaching the MOOC, "Sign Language Structure, Learning, and Change"

Ted Supalla (Neurology) teaching the MOOC, "Sign Language Structure, Learning, and Change"

Ted Supalla (Neurology) teaching the MOOC, "Sign Language Structure, Learning, and Change"

Conceptualized and created by lead instructor Ted Supalla (Neurology), the GeorgetownX MOOC Sign Language Structure, Learning, and Change explores the history of sign language, how sign languages are structured, and how people learn sign languages, as well as the evolution of the language over time. It is the only course on edX that is taught bilingually in American Sign Language (ASL) and English. Supalla explains the challenges and surprising outcomes of designing a MOOC that is focused on ASL.

What challenges were you trying to address with the MOOC?
The linguistic structure and the historical change of American Sign Language are complex and rich. There is a range of research, including my NIH and NSF grants and related research, which are occurring in many places. The objective was to develop a sophisticated course which helps centralize and provide open access to the kind of research going on in the field.

Has this challenge evolved since you began work on the course?
One of biggest challenges, we realized, was related to a better understanding of our audience. There are people who do not know sign language; some of them are deaf. To deal with this challenge, we made the course accessible to both signing and non-signing individuals. This was done by offering lecture videos taught in ASL, synchronized transcripts, and voiceovers by professional interpreters. By making the MOOC accessible to non-signers, my hope is that it will expose this audience to the breadth and depth of discussions happening in ASL.

How did you decide on the four topics that comprise this MOOC?
In the first module, we start with disseminating basic information on the structure, processing, variation, and change in signed languages as well as the culture and literature of the signing community.

With the second module, we delve into the linguistic principles of language change as shown in ASL. Some of the topics covered include derivation and inflection among signs in sentences, the role of movement and facial expressions in ASL, how knowledge of ASL grammar has been sustained throughout its history, and how the structure of the language has changed through time.

The main audience of the third module is the “signing public.” There are easily over a million people in this country who fall into this target audience, which includes deaf and hearing people from signing families as well as the interpreter community. There is a tremendous need for a basic and accessible course that is sophisticated enough to introduce signers to the science of their own language. Moreover, since it is also accessible to non-signers, it exposes this audience to the breadth and depth of discussions occurring in ASL in the fields of language acquisition, neurolinguistics, and the cognitive sciences.

The fourth module integrates historical approaches with language change in the contemporary field of emerging signed languages studies. An understanding of how languages are the same, how they differ, and how they come to be acts as a catalyst for understanding, giving us important insights into the nature of the human mind and brain.

What considerations were at the forefront as you were designing this MOOC?
Our primary consideration was the audience. Students of different ages and backgrounds will have the opportunity to directly observe and utilize cognitive and linguistic processing in the sign language medium.

What significant results were achieved?
At present, the MOOC is being accessed by 12,000 students from 160 countries around the world, with 1,200 students closely working their way through the first module of lectures, homework, and quizzes. While the course was live, 350 students completed the entire sequence of four modules and received verified certificates through edX for their successful completion of the course.

What do you credit with some of the course’s achievements?
This online course allowed me to bring my years of teaching on universal language design principles to a vastly wider audience than would be possible as part of a typical classroom course.

There were also two important decisions that were crucial to the success of the course. The first was to have a team of fluent signers for video recording and editing of my lectures, which I present in sign language. The second was to have hearing CODAs (Children of Deaf Adults) as interpreters for optimal translation and synchronization for the voice-over and captioning. The media team at CNDLS worked with the interpreter during the post-production process, recording and synchronizing the audio of interpreter’s voice-over. My team is also responsible for feeding English and ASL contents for the tutorials, homework, and quizzes to the edX Studio.

Were there any results you did not expect when the MOOC became live?
There were a significant number of students who were not familiar with the epistemology of sign language. This meant that some students in the MOOC needed additional time to go through each module. Nevertheless, most students seemed happy and kept saying that they learned something new every day, regardless of how much time they spent on the modules.

The universal design approach built into this MOOC enables professors and students to access and adopt particular modules to their existing curricula. These modules are comprehensive, thus making it easy for reuse in Linguistics, Cognitive Science, Language & Culture Studies, Language Teaching, Speech, and Hearing Sciences and Medical Humanities, as well as Special Education and Parent Education. In order to provide added value for educators taking the MOOC, we added a new section to the introductory module entitled the “Teacher’s Guide.”

Are there key takeaways from this experience?
The visual aspect of the MOOC is very significant. While hearing people can rely on both visual and auditory inputs to communicate, deaf people rely solely on visual inputs. This means that the team had to think twice not only about how information was presented, but also about the entire process of building a MOOC. For example, graphics that are usually added to the videos in the post-production process had to be present already during filming.

Are there things you wish you had done differently? Why?
Looking back, one thing I would have done differently is represent the MOOC as a new kind of e-book rather than course. Describing it as a book would have set expectations for students more in line with the way I was seeing the MOOC—as a resource to enjoy at one’s own pace rather than as a discussion-focused space.

Furthermore, I realize how the viewing of lectures delivered in American Sign Language will enable the public to gain exposure to the rich language and intellectual capital of the American signing community. I also recognize how the modules in this course are valuable for medical school faculty and students who seek curricular support for communicating with parents of deaf children who are making plans for bilingual education, as well as for policymakers who need further information to better serve the Deaf community members and their families. So I intend to devote effort to build on the MOOC to meet this need.

Engaging Citizen Scientists Through a MOOC

Georgetown Professor Jim Freericks

Georgetown Professor Jim Freericks (Physics) aims to make quantum mechanics understandable—and engaging—for all students despite higher-level math skills through his MOOC "Quantum Mechanics for Everyone."

Georgetown Professor Jim Freericks

Nearly 200 years ago, Michael Faraday, with no formal schooling or even high-level math skills, became one of the most celebrated scientists ever. It could also be argued that his greatest contribution to science was making it accessible to anyone. Faraday’s story asks: what would it take to engage someone with no formal training in the sciences, especially the domains of science that are seen as difficult and exclusive?

Jim Freericks (Physics) has found an answer with his MOOC “Quantum Mechanics for Everyone” that aims to make quantum mechanics understandable even without higher-level math skills. In the MOOC, Freericks tackles topics like the two-slit experiment without compromising the depth of the topic. It has evolved beyond just teaching quantum mechanics to a space for everyone to engage in scientific research, no matter what their background is in science.

Through the MOOC, Freericks connected with students, or citizen scientists, who had shown not only the capacity for engaging deeply with the material but also a high level of creativity. The citizen scientists come from diverse backgrounds and widely varied levels of scientific familiarity, with high school students and a retired poker player among the course enrollees. The enthusiasm visible in the course has led to several partnerships between Freericks and his students. After having a series of dialogues with potential citizen scientists, Freericks matches them with a project he’s working on and the collaboration begins.



Together, Freericks and his students have contributed impressively to scholarly work in the field, writing articles for scholarly journals and collaborating on Freericks’ most recent book-in-progress, an exploration of quantum mechanics that uses only algebra. This is not an easy feat. There are many topics in quantum mechanics that are easier to describe using calculus, so using only basic algebra demonstrates just how well-versed in the topic these students are.

Doing research with his MOOC students has been a very worthwhile experience for both Freericks and his students. Not only has he been able to do more research, but he has also been able to glimpse the world of physics from the eyes of a someone without a science background, and his students have been given a complete research experience—from formulating the problem to preparing a manuscript for publication. Thanks to his interactions with students in the MOOC, Freericks has created authentic and meaningful research opportunities for MOOC students, while increasing the pace of his own work.

So, is it possible to engage an individual with no formal training in the sciences in an online course? The answer is a resounding yes. The secret lies not just in the design of the course, but also in the instructor’s commitment to creatively collaborating with his students. Freericks illustrates how impactful this engagement can be for students taking courses online.

Teaching the Speech in Your Course: “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”

Dr. Braxton at Teach the Speech

Dr. Braxton addresses a crowd at the Teach the Speech event on Jan 8

Dr. Braxton addresses a crowd at the Teach the Speech event on Jan 8

“Where there is no music, the spirit will not come.”

This statement got to the heart of the very quotable keynote presentation by Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton at the Teach the Speech Teach-In on Tuesday, January 8, where Rev. Braxton discussed how to teach the two versions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” speech by investigating what it means to be ready for the revolution and how we can help our students, and ourselves, stay awake. As you think about your own course this semester, we hope you’ll consider incorporating King’s speeches into your curriculum and engaging your students around this important discussion.

Appropriately, the emphasis on a more personal and authentic mode of teaching was Rev. Braxton’s main point, as he shared, “we have bought into ways of teaching… that do not make room for who we fully are.” His approach to these speeches, and his advice for teaching in general, revolved around the truth that “a sermon is never what is written, but what is heard,” and therefore good pedagogy makes room for the more than textual—the auditory, the affective, and the spiritual. This is the power held in the “marvelous musicality” of King’s speeches. It is also why Braxton emphasized the need to remove the hero worship from King, and to place him and his speeches in the context of the historical and ideological irony that is America and how that shaped King’s own personal experiences and actions. This included a call for us and our students to wrestle not just with the “defanged” dreamer King, but also with the socially progressive “dangerous” King, guided by moral radicalism.

Moreover, we were challenged to nuance notions of radicalism and what it means to be a prophet, secular or religious, by returning back to the notion of spirit. For Braxton, spirit isn’t a term connected to one religion but defined by the connection between people in a community, and individuals to a cause they are willing to fight for. For Braxton, “there is a deep hunger for spirit” which our students possess and seek to engage with, in and out of the classroom; whether as instructors, religious leaders, or staff in one of Georgetown’s various resource centers, it is our imperative to meet our students where their spirit is and to guide them to understanding and acting upon the duties of a moral person in a moral society. Leading by example, Braxton did just that for those of us in the room, and the resounding applause at the end of his presentation only exemplified what the sing-alongs, verbal confirmations, and occasional bouts of laughter throughout his speech proved all along: when you address your listeners spirits and call them into a community of diverse equals, deeper learning can begin.

From Left to Right: Dr. Chandra Manning (History), Rev. Brandon Harris, and Director of the LGBTQ Resource Center Sivagami (“Shiva”) Subbaraman

The panel discussion following Braxton’s speech continued to engage in an authentic and vulnerable dialogue. Each panelist highlighted the importance of centering King and his speeches to empower our students through a call to investigative, communal, and morally guided learning and action. Each of the three speakers—Dr. Chandra Manning (History), Rev. Brandon Harris, and Director of the LGBTQ Resource Center Sivagami (“Shiva”) Subbaraman—discussed the ways they’ve incorporated past speeches into their pedagogical practices or interactions with students, and the ideas they have for King’s two versions of the “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” speech.

Manning discussed the applicability of King’s speeches to any course, referencing her past experiences using King’s speeches as a means to thematically guide the class through their content and to help students understand the relation between what they’re learning and doing in class to Georgetown’s larger goals and initiatives. Harris explained the ways he’s been able to incorporate the themes and questions from King’s speeches into various small group, inter-religious discussions and one-on-ones; in a larger context, Harris discussed the power of King’s speeches to emphasize the need for any community, though specifically here the Georgetown community, to come together around points of lamentation—situations and moments of suffering and inequality—as the first step towards personal and societal healing. Subbaraman, detailing her history with academia and the Rip Van Winkle tale, ended the panel with an alternative approach to thinking about the two “Remaining Awake” speeches with these thought-provoking questions: Was Rip Van Winkle’s sleep strategic? Who has the privilege of sleeping through a revolution? Is it a privilege to be awake for the revolution?

At the end of this open, energized, and inquisitive teach-in, one question from Braxton reverberated within the minds and hearts of all the attendees, both to ask themselves and their students on a daily basis: “How is your soul today?”

As you think about your course and how you might incorporate teaching King’s speech, know that we’re here to help. Reach out to us at any time!


CNDLS Curriculum Enrichment Grant Supports GOVT 385: The Ethics of Incarceration Sessions at the D.C. Jail

GU students

Georgetown's Nolan Bennett (Government) shares his experience bringing his students to the D.C. Central Treatment Facility with the help of a CNDLS Curriculum Enrichment Grant.

Georgetown undergraduate students visiting the D.C. Department of Corrections

CNDLS is proud to support Georgetown University faculty in their efforts to facilitate learning inside and outside of the classroom. Launched under the auspices of the Georgetown Learning Initiative (GLI), Curriculum Enrichment Grants (CEGs) support course-related activities that strengthen the intellectual climate around introductory level undergraduate courses. They help faculty and students gain access to the larger DC/MD/VA community, bringing the curricular and co-curricular together to give students a richer sense of the broader implications and applications of work in a particular discipline.

In the post below, Nolan Bennett (Government) shares his experience bringing his students to the D.C. Central Treatment Facility with the help of a CNDLS Curriculum Enrichment Grant. Bennett is a political theorist with research and teaching interests in American political thought, incarceration, and literature.


The novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky once remarked that “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” What then could we say of mass imprisonment in the United States, a nation with five percent of the world’s population yet twenty-five percent of its prisoners? How should we understand American democracy if one in twenty-three adults are under some form of state supervision, if one in ten children have had a parent incarcerated, or if one in three black men born today will enter prison at some point?

I had this quote and these questions in mind when I redesigned my course “The Ethics of Incarceration” this semester to include monthly sessions at the D.C. jail with a cohort of students from the Georgetown Prison Scholars Program. The foundation of the course – our weekly meetings on campus – stayed the same as I’ve taught it before. Students first learn a set of philosophical and sociological arguments on punishment (spanning from retribution to restoration) before we consider a catalog of case studies on problems of penal policy and law, ranging from the Constitutionality of solitary confinement and life sentences to the ethics of prison privatization. The class challenges students to address penal policy from a variety of perspectives both methodological and normative, culminating in an extended research project.

Yet in the first years of teaching the course I felt dissatisfied by the disconnect between those carceral spaces we study and Georgetown’s campus. Reading memoirs, welcoming guest speakers and taking tours to correctional facilities could only do so much. As a fellow in the Doyle Engaging Difference Program, this semester I changed my course so that once a month we joined a cohort of incarcerated students at the D.C. Central Treatment Facility. We were able to achieve this with the help of D.C.’s Department of Corrections, the Director of Education for the Georgetown Prisons Scholars Program Joshua Miller, the Center for Social Justice’s vans, and a Curriculum Enrichment Grant from CNDLS.

Over four Saturday morning sessions we read up on and interrogated issues of rehabilitation, reentry, public safety, reform, and prison abolition. We grappled with big questions: How do we help citizens return if their communities lack the opportunities and conditions they deserve? Is it enough to abolish cash bail—as D.C. has done—or do the systems of pretrial assessment that replace it offer their own issues? How do we shift the language we use to empathize with those who move through the criminal justice system? In the most stirring session, we discussed the tragic and unjust story of Kalief Browder: the young man from the Bronx who was unjustly jailed at Rikers Island for three years without trial. Even in those difficult conversations, there was little voyeuristic or unequal about our Saturday morning sessions: we met not as faculty and students, nor inside and outside citizens but equal participants to learn and collaborate.

Anyone who’s had the opportunity to teach or learn in a correctional facility can tell you of that profound experience. Our Saturday mornings were full of hard questions, vulnerable moments, awkward icebreakers, humility and humor. In our last meeting we assessed Congress’s proposed First Step Act, asking in small groups and then as a collective what we would add to that bill, what we would ourselves do in the future to ensure a more just American society.

In reflecting upon the class and those sessions, one of my students, Shakera Vaughan, offered these words:

“I looked forward to those Saturday mornings when I’d get the chance to talk with real people who have been on the other end of our justice system. Hearing the thoughts, opinions, and views of people who are currently incarcerated allowed me to see the full implications of the struggling and overwhelmed criminal justice system. It’s almost as if a barrier had been broken and a new side of knowledge that typically isn’t accessible to students was now attainable. It expanded our community awareness to include the role we play, as members of society, in incarceration.”

Though they are not all represented in these photographs, I am grateful to the students in the jail and on campus who have shared their experiences and intellect with me. I look forward to our next collaboration.


If you are interested in applying for a Curriculum Enrichment Grant, Doyle Diversity Grant, or Engelhard Enrichment Grant, please visit our Grants page. Grant applications for the Spring 2019 semester will be open through January.

Beyond “Just Getting Through It”: A Guide to Starting the Semester Right

Faculty teaching on the first day of classes

Faculty teaching on the first day of classes

First Day of Classes Spring 2019

Yet again the first day of classes is upon us. But what will we do with it?

“Whatever you do on the first day of class,” writes James Lang, English Professor and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College, “get beyond the goal of just getting through it….Start the semester off by fostering students’ curiosity, supporting their learning, and giving them a preview of how they will be engaging with you and one another, and with the course content, throughout the semester.” In order to do this, Lang suggests in a new online Chronicle of Higher Education Advice Guide, you’ll want to embrace four principles:

  • Curiosity: “Consider the first day as your best opportunity to spark students’ curiosity and invite them into a fascinating intellectual journey.”
  • Community: “The intellectual journey you are taking together comes in the form of a caravan, and while you might be the leader, you want all of them to contribute to the learning experiences you will be creating for them.”
  • Learning: “Set aside a chunk of class time on that first day for students to engage in cognitive work of some kind.”
  • Expectations: “Allot at least some time of Day 1 to outlining the parameters of the course beyond subject matter: materials, assessments, policies, key dates and deadlines.”

The guide is full of good advice to help you launch the semester well, and then to keep that momentum going. Of course, we think about these teaching situations regularly at CNDLS; you can also find ideas and tips on our Starting the Semester page. And don’t hesitate to reach out to us at if we can help.

We hope the semester begins well for you!