Syllabus Panic? CNDLS Can Help!

This fall, we’ll be using the CNDLS blog to highlight the Teaching Commonsa compilation of resources and case studies designed to help faculty revitalize their courses and gain insights into practical issues in pedagogy at Georgetown. As a living resource, the site continually evolves to encompass new scholarship in teaching and learning, as well as technological innovations that are changing and enhancing the current teaching landscape. To help you explore all that the Commons has to offer, we’ll showcase tools and other information on a semi-weekly basis, guiding you through the semester in real time. Missed the other posts? Check out our takes on starting the semester, leading discussions, evaluating learning, designing assignments, and active learning, then hear from fellow faculty in our interview highlights.


If you’re like a lot of professors, you may be starting to experience the common malady known as syllabus panic: the fall semester is approaching fast, and you still have syllabi to write! Maybe you’re teaching something new and starting from scratch, or perhaps you’re returning to something you’ve taught before and dusting off an old syllabus that needs some revising. Either way, the work of syllabus building is (or ought to be) more than an administrative exercise—this is an opportunity to create a written first impression for your students of the excellent semester you’re hoping will follow.

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Don’t worry, CNDLS has you covered. Check out Creating Your Syllabus on the Teaching Commons for ideas on what to include and where to find other resources, including samples of Georgetown professors’ syllabi in a variety of disciplines. While you’re there, you can explore other pages to help you think through the elements of your course, from teaching assistants, classroom space, and Georgetown University policies to getting ready for potentially difficult discussions and promoting active learning.

And remember: if you need help or advice on anything related to your teaching, CNDLS is here!

Experimenting with Digital Identities: Georgetown Domains and Beyond

For almost a year, CNDLS has been working with UIS and Reclaim Hosting on Georgetown Domains, an effort to give students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to claim a web hosting environment and personal domain name free of cost. Launched this past fall, Domains is part of the larger Domain of One’s Own effort on campuses nationwide aimed at helping students understand, develop, and curate digital identities through their own website. About 250 Georgetown faculty and students are already exploring Domains, including those in the fall 2015 ITEL cohort, “Student-Centered Learning through A Domain of One’s Own.”

CNDLS has partnered with several groups on campus to work on Domains, including The Red House and GU Women Coders (GUWWC), a campus group whose mission is to demystify code, build digital literacy, and raise the odds that women will consider careers in technology. Several Domains were the result of a workshop during a March GUWWC coding party wherein CNDLS staff introduced students, faculty, and staff to the project, sharing step-by-step instructions on building their own website and using WordPress, Omeka, and a slew of other applications meant to make good use out of the university-sponsored web space. During TLISI, CNDLS reached a wider audience with the Domains and Digital Identities Lab and Showcase, a session introducing faculty and staff to three unique Domains created by Erika Bullock (COL ‘17), Nandini Mullaji (SFS ‘17), and Alex Luta (COL ‘16).

Using these events as inspiration, CNDLS hopes to find additional opportunities to support student and faculty experimentation with digital technologies like Domains. At the University of Mary Washington, this type of space exists in their Digital Knowledge Center, which provides peer tutoring on digital projects and assignments, as well as general support for systems like UMW Blogs, akin to Georgetown Commons. Working alongside other studio environments like those provided by Gelardin New Media Center, a Georgetown version of this space would allow students and faculty alike to workshop digital projects while thinking through pedagogical implications with CNDLS team members.

In the meantime, faculty interested in learning more about implementing digital tools in the classroom, including Georgetown Domains, are encouraged to visit Teaching and Learning Technologies or to reach out to CNDLS for recommendations and support. We’re here to help!

Bringing Theory to Practice Case Study on the Engelhard Project

The Engelhard Project for Connecting Life and Learning was recently featured in a series of case studies commissioned by the Bringing Theory to Practice (BTtoP) Project, the group which provided funding for Engelhard from 2005 to 2015, when it was permanently endowed by the Charles Engelhard Foundation. Highlighting BTtoP programming at California State University, ChicoDickinson CollegeKingsborough Community College & CUNY Graduate CenterSt. Lawrence UniversitySchool of the Art Institute of Chicago, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln alongside Georgetown, these studies offer the opportunity for learning and reflection on the intersections of student learning, civic engagement, and well-being on college campuses.

We encourage you to read more about the case studies, including the note on reading case studies provided by L. Lee Knefelkamp, BTtoP Senior Scholar and Professor Emerita of Psychology and Education at Colombia University. Stressing that each study has a context—an institutional history, a cultural climate, a programmatic precedent—Knefelkamp presents a series of questions to help guide your reading.

› What has been learned about students or about shaping campus culture in the case study?
› How can the information gleaned inform what is happening on your own campus?
› What does the data say? What data should have been collected?
› How can the learning from the case be adapted to your own campus (or classroom)?
› What are the core learnings from the case, both in terms of who students are and how campuses can be responsive?
› What pragmatic plans can your campus make and what is the realistic scope and timelines for such an intervention?
› What are the characteristics of the team that would design and implement a new program?

Many thanks to Bringing Theory to Practice for your continued support of the Engelhard Project! We look forward to learning more about the success of BTtoP programs at partner campuses, and encourage the Georgetown community to do the same.

The Engelhard Project for Connecting Life and Learning focuses on teaching to the whole student by helping Georgetown faculty link academic course content to health and well-being topics relevant to student lives. By incorporating health and well-being issues into the classroom, the Project fosters academic learning and encourages students to reflect on their own attitudes and behaviors. Learn more about faculty stories or contact engelhardproject@georgetown.edu for more information.

CNDLS Hosts US Department of Education for “Reimagining Higher Education”

On June 30, the US Department of Education invited more than 100 college and university administrators and experts, faculty and researchers, policy makers, and funders to “Reimagining Higher Education,” hosted jointly by CNDLS and The Red House. Aimed at bringing together thinkers and doers, this convening focused on designing equity in and access to higher education, with an emphasis on innovation serving low-income and first generation students.

In his opening remarks for the event, CNDLS Executive Director Eddie Maloney spoke of “disruption,” defining it as the entrance of non-university entities into conversations about higher education. Admitting the term was “so 2012,” he called back to fears that the advent of online education would negatively impact traditional education models, then noted that this disruption instead expanded our understanding of the higher education “ecosystem” as one that includes several components—both public and private, institution and industry—interested in improving experiences and outcomes for all students. Maloney then introduced Ajita Menon, Special Assistant to the President for Higher Education, who spoke of White House efforts to sprint to the finish of the current administration, working to lay a strong foundation for education policy before 2017. These efforts were echoed by Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell in announcing a fall convening by the Department of Education designed to spotlight some of the best work being done in higher education and identify the kinds of practices that are showing promise so others in the ecosystem can evaluate and build on them. Of particular note was Mitchell’s call for an attention to the voices and contributors in the room, the experiences they bring to the table, and the critical need to continually ensure that the people building this ecosystem represent the communities for which we’re building.

Under Secretary Mitchell was followed by a virtual panel of students with a varied set of experiences within higher education. Asked to identify the grand challenge facing those in the room, Samuel Chavez, a University of Texas Rio Grande Valley student addressed the barriers to education for illegal immigrants, noting that many in his community have decided that, “if I’m not going to college, why should I even go to school?” David Shibley, a computer programmer who worked toward a college degree before opting into the workforce, talked about discovering the benefits of self-paced, self-directed education when he was introduced to MOOCs, and then his ultimate success in a programming bootcamp once he discovered a field he enjoyed. His advice for the room was to celebrate MOOCs for their flexibility and create programming that is less reliant on general education and more targeted toward student skills and interests. Coni Pasch, a Fortune 500 employee and Capella University graduate, echoed the need for flexible programs that allow students to save both money and time, but also requested credentialing for work experience, not just coursework. Jason Webb, an Air Force veteran and part-time student just two courses shy of a degree at University of Maryland University College, closed out the panel by stating that he never imagined himself as a “fancy person with a college degree,” but now regularly encourages cadets to seek out higher education. His challenge, then, is to change the perception of who can and should pursue higher education, from the affluent to all.

Programming continued with in-person panels on new models for higher education, credentialing, and broader questions of teaching and learning outside of traditional spaces. The first group, comprised of Jake Schwartz (General Assembly), David Quigley (Boston College), Bonny Simi (JetBlue), and Paul Freedman (Entangled Ventures), discussed work being done both on campus and in the workplace to help students match what they’re learning with what the market will ask—or is asking—of them. The second, led by Holly Zanville (Lumina Foundation), Jonathan Finkelstein (Credly), Jason Tyzko (US Chamber of Commerce Foundation), and Carol Quillen (Davidson College), touched on the value of credentials including and beyond the typical four-year degree. The final panel of Craig Roberts (Duke University), Lou Pugliese (Arizona State University), John Mott (Learning Objects), and Melina Uncapher (Stanford) examined the role of universities within a shifting framework of higher education.

The afternoon brought collaborative brainstorming about future educational innovation led by Joseph South and Sharon Leu of the Office of Educational Technology. Groups worked together to provide feedback on the 2016 National Education Technology Plan (NETP), the flagship educational technology policy document for the United States, as well as concrete ideas for the 2017 document. Conversations about the five elements of the NETP—teaching, learning, assessment, infrastructure, and leadership—as well as new models for access and affordability took place in small groups. The day concluded with a sharing out of ideas, as well as closing remarks from Provost Robert Groves, who praised the work being done by all in attendance.

CNDLS is honored to have co-hosted this meeting with the Red House, and is ready to face the coming academic year with a renewed sense of inspiration and excitement about the future of higher education. We’re excited to see these conversations continued at the fall convening!

CNDLS Partners with American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to Create Online Training Module

The Learning Design team at CNDLS recently completed a unique project in partnership with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), creating a maternal and family interview training module for the National Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Program (NFIMR). It was the first time CNDLS took on an external-to-Georgetown online module development project, and we sat down with NFIMR Director Dr. Jodi Shaefer to understand the impact this online module has had on the program.

The Fetal and Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) is an action-oriented community process that continually assesses, monitors, and works to improve service systems and community resources for women, infants, and families. The National Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Program (NFIMR) began as a collaborative effort between ACOG and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, part of the Health Resources and Services Administration under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These organizations have worked together since 1990 to refine and promote the FIMR process by developing resources that support the work of FIMR.

In her role as Director of NFIMR, Shaefer often visits FIMR program offices throughout the US to understand and troubleshoot any issues they may be facing. Through her visits, Shaefer noted several programs struggling with shared challenges, such as locating mothers following the death of a baby, securing consent from mothers to participate in an interview, and navigating difficult conversations with bereaved parents. She also noted several programs that were successful in these areas, and began to compile “best practices”—an undertaking that presented its own set of challenges. With the goal of gathering and sharing these strategies nationwide on a modest budget, Shaefer drew on her experiences in online development to imagine an efficient, cost-effective online tool that could disseminate this information across the country.

At the recommendation of a Georgetown colleague, Shaefer connected with CNDLS Director of Learning Design and Research Yianna Vovides to bring this project—taking shape as an online training module—to life.

“People exposed to the module love it. Having all of that information in one module that they can access is so helpful. It is truly an aggregate of information from the field, and not just one person’s perspective. We talked to people in the field about what they needed–and what would be helpful–and engaged in discussions with a number of FIMR programs across the country. That’s the key for success with things like this. You really need to hear from the user what they need. It look a little longer than expected, but the results are great.”

Vovides assembled a team of instructional designers, technologists, and visual and media designers to carry out the project. Together, they worked closely with Shaefer throughout the learning design process, defining objectives and goals for each module, creating a storyboard, and developing the module with interactive elements and technological integrations using Articulate Storyline. Of particular importance was the need to accurately represent the population that FIMR works with in the design of the module.

“The graphics were really great. We have to be very careful that anyone looking at the module really has a broad sense of the diversity within the population. The graphics were effective and inclusive, and the responsiveness to detail was excellent.”

The result is a comprehensive, accessible tool that captures a range of strategies to doing the work of FIMR. This project has given CNDLS a new range, allowing us to better understand how to support training in a professional development capacity. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with ACOG on this important project and look forward to a continued partnership!

HowToCollege: Mentoring API for Higher Ed Students

In March 2016, CNDLS Executive Director Eddie Maloney took part in the Indie EdTech Data Summit, co-hosted alongside Kristen Eshleman, Director of Digital Learning Research & Design (dLRN) and Director of Academic Technology at Davidson College, and Adam Croom, Director of Digital Learning at the University of Oklahoma. Sparked by a joint presentation on indie music and ed tech by Croom and Jim Groom, co-founder of Reclaim Hosting, the company supporting Georgetown Domains, the gathering brought together faculty, staff, students, and ed tech thought leaders to discuss the idea of “indie ed tech”—commercial-grade, real world technology available to students for creative use, much like the digital recording technology available to independent musicians in lieu of pricey studios.

The gathering had a particular focus on personal APIs, which build on the general concept of APIs—application programming interfaces that determine how, for instance, applications talk to one another and share data—and consider how individuals can create their own rules for how their digital footprint is accessed and shared. According to Groom, previously the executive director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at the University of Mary Washington, personal APIs in a higher education setting can give students autonomy in controlling how their own information—class assignments, blogs, financial aid information—is shared with digital applications and services, helping them to develop and manage their digital identities at the university and beyond. Marie Selvanadin, Associate Director for Application Development and Systems Integration at CNDLS, discusses APIs in teaching and learning as part of A Case for Open & Interconnected Systems in Universities, a white paper making the case for open data in universities.

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In small groups, participants worked together to design an application that would meet a specific college student need. Maloney and Croom partnered with Audrey Watters, the writer behind Hack Education, Alan Levine, Vice President Community & CTO at New Media Consortium, and students Erika Bullock (COL’17) and Gage Holloway (Davidson) to consider the role of mentorship in the undergraduate experience. How do we help students who struggle to find a mentor—a peer, a professor—as they navigate their higher ed experience? Their answer was “HowToCollege,” an application that combines the question-and-answer forum of sites like Quora with the skill-sharing community of sites like Skillshare. Excited by the concept and eager to prototype, Eddie, Kristen, Adam, and Erika joined CNDLS developers Marie, Bill Garr, and Yong Lee earlier this month for a design sprint. Over the course of a week, the CNDLS team put incredible effort into developing a series of prototypes for student feedback, with positive results.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out this post on the Data Jam from Bullock and this post detailing the design sprint from the development team, courtesy of Lee. Both blogs are hosted by Georgetown Domains, so take this opportunity to see what it has to offer!

Georgetown Slavery Archive: Domains and Digital History

For some time, students and faculty at Georgetown have sought to record and respond to the university’s historical relationship with slavery, most notably an 1838 slave sale authorized by then President Rev. Thomas F. Mulledy, S.J. to fund continued operations. This year, the university has attracted considerable media attention for its institution-wide focus on this history, most recently through an historic meeting between President DeGioia and Patricia Bayonne-Johnson, a descendent of Nace and Biby Butler, two of the 272 enslaved individuals sold nearly two centuries ago.

During the meeting with DeGioia, Bayonne-Johnson stressed the importance of university archival records detailing not only the sale but the lives of the individuals sold, records that are now available online through the university. Their home, the Georgetown Slavery Archive, is the result of the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, convened in September with the aim of examining, interpreting, and guiding institutional acknowledgment of Georgetown’s historical relationship with slavery. Led by Adam Rothman (History), Marcia Chatelain (History), and Matthew Quallen (SFS ’16), the archive serves as a digital repository of materials relating to slavery and slave life on Maryland Jesuit plantations, including the Georgetown campus.

All of this information is powered by Omeka, a web publishing platform designed for collections-based research, and hosted on Georgetown Domains, which gives students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to claim a hosting environment, personal domain name, and blog space free of cost. Launched this past fall, Georgetown Domains is part of the larger Domain of One’s Own effort on campuses nationwide aimed at helping students understand, develop, and curate digital identities through their own website. About 250 Georgetown faculty and students are already exploring Domains, including those in the fall 2015 ITEL cohort, “Student-Centered Learning through A Domain of One’s Own”. Those interested in claiming a page can visit the Domains page on Teaching and Learning Technologies for more information.


“Being able to mount an Omeka site on my own Domain was crucial to the success of the project. We were able to get it up and running quickly with help from CNDLS. Graduate and undergraduate students have been working collaboratively on it, doing everything from digitizing archival material to transcribing documents to providing analysis and interpretation. The digital platform has made it possible for the public to access these significant documents; journalists, scholars, and genealogists have made use of it, and it has been helpful, above all, to the discovery of descendants of the people who were sold to Louisiana in 1838. We look forward to continuing to expand and improve upon it.” — Adam Rothman


The digital archive helps the students who’ve worked on it, too, as well as those who might be involved in its continuation. Those involved in this project have the benefit of the archive as a high-impact learning practice (HIPs). In April, we blogged about the traits of HIPs, as well as the affordances offered by digital and multimodal projects within that category, and the archive hits them all. By extending learning well beyond the classroom, asking students to engage collaboratively in tough intellectual processes, and sharpening digital literacy skills, the Georgetown Slavery Archive is a great example of using technology to create meaningful learning experiences.

Faculty interested in learning about other digital tools available for their classroom—including ePortfolios, wikis, blogs, and film—can visit Teaching and Learning Technologies or reach out to CNDLS for recommendations and support. Below, we’ve compiled a list of recent coverage of the history of slavery at Georgetown, including the Georgetown Slavery Archive.

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Revisiting, Reimagining, and Remixing Space: The Pilgrimage Project

On April 22, students from the Communication, Culture & Technology (CCT), English, and Art and Museum Studies programs invited the campus community to play, learn, and reflect as part of a site-specific installation in Old North, the oldest standing academic building on campus.

The product of a Round 5 ITEL project led by JR Osborn (CCT), Gretchen Henderson (English), Lisa Strong (Art and Museum Studies), and Evan Barba (CCT), the Pilgrimage Project aimed to rediscover and re­engage space and place on campus. In the fall of 2015, students from four undergraduate and graduate courses worked together to excavate and build an archive of work around Old North, including architectural and art history research, creative writing pieces, and multimedia productions. In the following spring, two CCT courses “reimagined, remixed, and activated” the archive, drawing on it as an inspiration for the resulting physical installation at Old North. Across the six classes, a total of 68 students collaborated on the project. The fruits of these collaborative projects included an interactive timeline of Old North on a Microsoft Surface Table, an M.C. Escher-inspired virtual reality video game featuring the building’s central staircase, and a window programmed to capture and play back video of each of its viewers, amongst others. A digital repository of these exhibits and the research behind them can be found at oldnorth.georgetown.domains.

Shot and edited by Nathan Danskey for the Pilgrimage Project.

As the archive explains, the Pilgrimage Project drew its name from the interfaith tradition of reflective journeys, aiming to cultivate a spirit of contemplation at Georgetown. In doing so, students interrogated both visible and invisible aspects of Old North, a space steeped in history both good and bad, remembered and overlooked—an exercise that feels particular resonant as it happens alongside work being done by the Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation. By putting the results of this interrogation online and bringing it to life in a public exhibition, the Pilgrimage Project event presents a strong example of students as creators, not just consumers, of knowledge. For one visitor to the installation, a student completing his first year at CCT, the augmented reality game was a particularly impressive illustration of student creativity and expertise: “I hadn’t anticipated that people in CCT would be able to pull something like this off. It tells me that maybe I can also do something this impressive. This is by people who I hang out with all the time, and they’re the people who’ve done this, not professional gamers.”

This sort of impact is exactly what the ITEL program was designed to achieve—facilitating new forms of teaching and learning through technology—and CNDLS is proud to have supported this work. Congratulations to all on the first round of the Pilgrimage Project—we can’t wait to see what’s next!

“Awesome, Enlightening, and Challenging”: A Week with PODS

Throughout TLISI 2016, eight groups of professors, staff, students, and researchers started their mornings at the Productive Open Design Space (PODS). In its second year, PODS offers teams the opportunity to work on a project related to teaching and learning in a flexible studio environment as part of TLISI. In 2015, teams produced a wide variety of projects including curricular assessment plans, curriculum redesigns, a proposal for a new graduate program, a digital edition of a medieval text, and a digital capstone assignment.

This year, the projects included: (1) promoting well-being on campus through the creation of a self-care program, (2) developing ways to substitute research papers for editing Wikipedia pages, (3) creating a humanities PhD, (4) disseminating resources and materials for faculty and peer advisors, (5) implementing virtual patient simulations in the School of Medicine, (6) creating an assessment for the humanities, (7) alleviating the “sophomore slump,” and (8) advocating for experiential learning at Georgetown.

Although most of the work took place in separate groups, each PODS session began with activities that brought all of the groups together. On the first day, Dawan Stanford, Design Strategy and Operations Director at the Education Design Lab, gave a talk on the process of project development and the essential questions for determining where you are in any given project. After each group introduced themselves and their projects, the session convened for an activity in which participants were asked to draw a vase, and then to draw the best possible experience of flowers. In so doing, the activity revealed the importance of how we frame questions and activities.

Then came out the sticky notes. Dawan encouraged each group to write down their top three priorities and attach them to their respective poster boards, provided to facilitate the mapping of ideas. Over the course of TLISI, the sticky notes accumulated and the boards overflowed with ideas.

The second day began with discussion around the issue of ambiguity and resisting the desire to immediately rush to solutions. As part of this discussion, each group presented their biggest difficulty thus far in the project development process. Problems ranged from management of scale to complexity, from choosing platforms to approaches, from practical details of fostering collaboration to transcending current limitations and imagining different realities.

For the third day, Dawan presented on “Visualization and Working Larger,” encouraging participants to sketch out ideas and concepts in order to aid memory, facilitate group interaction, and engage pattern recognition. During this session, participants were also offered the opportunity to describe their projects and PODS experiences in one-on-one video interviews.

On the final day, each group had the opportunity to pose one question to everyone, the responses to which were provided on notecards and collected for future reference. “What is the best way to market a self-care program at Georgetown?” “What do the humanities currently offer Georgetown?” “How can we start an interdepartmental dialogue?” “How can we sustain student interest in our program?” These questions and more resounded through the Productive Open Design Space, revealing the deep commitment of all participants to the Georgetown community in particular, as well as academia in general.

In approaching large-scale projects, the first difficulties that come to mind revolve around the project itself: What needs to be done? Who’s going to do it? Who’s going to fund it? These questions often overshadow the most basic, yet no less important, difficulty: finding a time and place for all participants to plan. PODS resolves this logistical concern, enabling participants to focus on their projects, rather than their overloaded work calendars. As Assistant Dean Erin Force puts it, the PODS program provides “a real opportunity to slow down [and] to step back a little bit within the luxury of these few days. Instead of just taking the materials and plopping them in one spot, we’re conceptualizing and visualizing and thinking about what’s larger than the project itself: who are the people, what do they need, and what do we want them to be able to do?”

Inclusive Pedagogy Take-Aways

The final gathering of the Doyle IPC offered participants the chance to use the full day to think through what they had learned and experienced throughout the week. The day began with a discussion of how participants are atypical and how they are surprising practitioners in their field. This discussion provided some groundwork for the next activity, which was an opportunity for attendees to share with a partner their drafted revisions to syllabi learning goals for an upcoming course, consisting of both their personal goals for the success of the course and their expectations for student outcomes through course completion. As faculty came from a diversity of departments to participate in this workshop, course goals presented were themselves diverse, yet all displayed an underlying theme of inclusive pedagogy.

In the middle of the day, previous Doyle faculty fellows presented their courses as examples of how to implement new techniques and considerations learned over the week. These fellows included Erika Seamon (American Studies), Deb Sevigny (Performing Arts), Mark Giordano (STIA), Charles McNelis (Classics), and Sabrina Wesley-Nero (EDIJ). The question period that allowed the attendees to further converse with the former Doyle fellows brought up such issues as how to measure the success of this an undertaking, which is still in many cases a work in progress.

The rest of the afternoon allowed participants to share with the Doyle IPC facilitators their feedback from the week of sessions and included additional team-building exercises that encouraged attendees to think about the role of inclusive pedagogy in institutional and cultural change, strategies and skills for action, and the intersection of social and professional identities.