Opportunities and Challenges of Online Teaching

In “What Does Teaching Online Look Like at Georgetown,” faculty who have been experimenting with online teaching tools shared their experience with Canvas, Blackboard, and Moodle through three rotating discussions. The goal of the discussion was to help faculty who are novice or still hesitating about online teaching to achieve better understanding about the affordance and challenges of online education tools available at Georgetown.

Lynn Ross from McCourt School of Public Policy and Meg Cohen from the School of Continuing Studies showcased their courses on Canvas and discussed their successes, challenges, and innovations. In particular, they highlighted Canvas’ usefulness for case studies and group collaboration, as it facilitates automatic group division, collaboration, and task management. Although group collaboration always seems to be a challenge for online education, their experience demonstrates that Canvas is able to simulate face-to-face interactions through functions such as its built-in discussion board, video/slides commenting tool (VoiceThread), and synchronous video conferences (through Big Blue Button), all of which work together to allow both students and teachers to review lectures, discussions, and progress at any time. With the affordance of Canvas, Ross was also able to show a number of taped interviews with policy experts in Washington, through which students got to know how theories learned in class are applied in the real world.

Melody Wilkinson, Joyce Knestrick, Helen Brown, and Kathryn Ellis from the school of Nursing and Health Studies shared their experience with Kiddom, a tool that helps instructors flip their classroom through synchronous video conferencing, screen sharing, instant commenting, and polling. In a flipped classroom, instructors are able to embrace the face-to-face interaction of traditional classrooms, while also making space for distance learning, digital archival, and active learning.

Glenn Williamson and Giovanni Carnaroli from the School of Continuing Studies have been teaching both on campus and online and use their experiences to critically compare campus teaching with online teaching. When discussing challenges faced by faculty when teaching online, Williamson and Carnaroli often find it difficult to use their chosen platform, Blackboard, for facilitating instant feedback, group collaboration, and progress monitoring. However, one of the benefits of online teaching is that such platforms make it easier for faculty to share resources and collaborate. For example, Williamson developed his online course with a team that shared standardized syllabi, assignments, and course materials. In additional, Williamson also discovered that he gave students higher and more consistent scores in his online class, which he attributes to the fact that students felt more obligated to ask for period feedback from him rather than waiting until after grades are assigned, as often happens in face-to-face courses.

Thriving, Struggling, and Suffering in Well-Being

Directly following the plenary talk from Brandon Busteed of Gallup on May 24, his colleague Jade Wood facilitated a workshop around well-being in the higher education context, introduced by Joan Riley as part of the yearlong Engelhard workshop series on Educating the Whole Person. Wood, an expert on implementing holistic approaches to well-being within organizations, intended the workshop to be a continuation of the ideas presented by Busteed and, in particular, how they can be implemented in a university domain.

The workshop began with a question period, with faculty members wondering about how to be better mentors, and bringing up particularly how the role of mentorship in online courses may look different than on campus. There was also concern expressed about how to best guide students who are focused more on traditional indicators of success, such as grades and GPA, to adopt new metrics of success that take well-being into account. Another point of concern broached by multiple faculty was new information about student debt from the Busteed talk indicating that average college tuition is 250% higher than in 1998, and that student loan burden is inversely correlated to a sense of well-being.

Various activities were presented to attendees, who worked in small groups at tables with the goal of articulating their practice domain and their personal and professional role in cultivating well-being. Wood also went deeper into the data on lives well-lived Busteed referred to in his plenary, presenting five natural breaks in the data: purpose (how you occupy time), social (relationships and love), financial (economic security), community (engagement and involvement with area of residence), and physical (health). She suggested that “in the future we may look back on the current unwillingness to have wellness and well-being programs in the workplace as similar to the workplace safety mechanisms that weren’t used during the industrial revolution.”

Wood ended the presentation with her holistic approach to driving organizational well-being, which involves alignment between leadership, values & rituals (unspoken rules), human capital, structure, and performance (behavioral incentives). She stressed the importance of a culture around invitation to well-being rather than a top-down mandate, and suggested that individuals can personally model the well-being change that they wish to see in the organization by answering the question “What is the most doable and impactful action you can take now to enhance well-being in your domain?”

Brandon Busteed: “Making a Hard Case for Soft Measures”

Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Education and Workforce Development at Gallup, joined the second day of TLISI 2016 to present “We Are What We Measure,” a passionate argument for the utility of tracking non-traditional measures of student success after graduation from college, and using these numbers to evaluate student outcomes. The presentation began from the observation that “lifelong learning,” while the number one phrase used in mission statements at colleges and universities, is not quantitatively evaluated in alumni populations.

Big data metrics tend to rely upon traditional economic measures of success, but Busteed argued for the place of what are sometimes understood as behavioral economic measures when evaluating lifelong learning outcomes. While classic economic measures consist of grades, test scores, and graduation rates, behavioral economic measures comprise such concepts as well-being, engagement, and hope. Gallup has discovered how to implement these non-traditional metrics to track student outcomes after graduation, and Busteed spent some time during the presentation pointing out where the information captured under these scales diverges from, or even outpaces, information captured under previous economic measures.

In particular, Busteed noted that many companies see GPA as far too unreliable for use in hiring practices, suggesting that the large emphasis placed on grades by many colleges and universities should perhaps be rethought. Students should be encouraged to understand other measures of success—such as the outcome of a great job and a great life—which Gallup measures through their hope, well-being, and workplace engagement indices.

The breathtaking findings from the Gallup study indicate that a student’s feeling of well-preparedness for life outside of college correlates linearly to such “Big Six” college experiences as mentorship and inversely correlates with how much student loan debt one has upon graduation. Attendees at this plenary, hosted as part of the Engelhard Project “Conversations on Educating the Whole Person” series, came away with a greater understanding of the effect of their own engagement at their jobs on student lifelong learning outcomes and what it means to “thrive” in life after graduation.

Bringing Together Current Experiences and Previous Content with Technology

“Technology-Enhanced Learning: A Step-by-Step Approach to Making an Impactful Change in Your Course” kicked off on Tuesday afternoon with the workshop facilitators getting to know the audience, divided equally between Georgetown faculty and staff members. Jennifer Lubkin Chávez—Program Manager for Technology Enhanced Learning at CNDLS—then asked the audience to consider what sort of learners they wanted to target with technology in the classroom. Before proceeding, she asked how we might formulate teaching tasks based on the many different types of learners we might encounter.

Students, Lubkin Chávez explained, need a link between the previous content they have learned and their current experiences in the world; for many, technology-enhanced learning can be what brings these two fields together. She went on to introduce a variety of tools educators can use in the classroom, including the active learning platform Echo360, and the workshop quickly transitioned into a structured Q&A between participants, Lubkin Chávez, and Brian Boston, Academic Technology and Internet Development Coordinator at CNDLS. Thinking critically of our own classes, we considered the many different ways technology could fit and enhance our individualized instruction.

The remainder of the time was spent as a very helpful workshop, in which participants learned, experimented with, and questioned the different forms of technology available to Georgetown faculty and staff members.

Altering Syllabi for Transparency Around Participation

The first Tuesday IPC sessions, Syllabus Design for Engaging Diversity, was led by Michelle Ohnona from the Office of the Provost and David Ebenbach, Postdoctoral Researcher at CNDLS. Many attendees of the session were particularly interested in whatever information they would be able to obtain surrounding the new Engaging Diversity core requirement slated to come into effect in the fall for all newly matriculating first-year Georgetown undergraduate students. Despite the potential for this to have veered into some rote territory where the diversity requirement and its implementation would simply have been outlined for attending faculty, Ohnona expertly brought in the critical perspective around diversity initiatives suitable to an audience of academics, while also describing her role as an administrator helping to bring about this change.

Both Ohnona and Ebenbach shared personal tips from their syllabi from previous courses, while also encouraging faculty to pose any outstanding questions about the new core curriculum. This being a workshop, the faculty were then encouraged to use Ohnona and Ebenbach’s policies, expectations, and ground rules sections of their respective syllabi to draft some of their own, and to share out in small groups at their tables. The attendees especially latched onto language around participation and strategies for participation. Some faculty who had never incorporated a section on expectations of participation into their course syllabi previously came away from the session with a plan to do so for upcoming courses.

Domains and Digital Identities Lab and Showcase

As the second day of TLISI 2016 kicked off, attendees filled the Herman Room for the Domains and Digital Identities Lab and Showcase to learn of the endless possibilities that come with an individualized online presence. Because of the recent partnership between the University and Reclaim Housing, part of the larger Domain of One’s Own efforts on campuses nationwide, Georgetown students and faculty may now create their own website hosted by the university. Yong Lee, Marie Selvanadin, and Bill Garr—all CNDLS employees—framed their presentation by asking their audience, “What does it mean to have digital presence? What does it mean to have a digital identity? And what does it mean to have a digital webspace?” Then, after a brief history of domains, they let three undergraduate students, fellows with the Red House, showcase the incredible work made possible through georgetown.domains.

The first to show off her domain was rising senior, Erika Bullock (COL’17). As an English major, she explained how with her domain, she was able to make something along the lines of “a visual annotated bibliography.” The best part of having her own domain, she explained, was her ability to personalize and make it her own. When a faculty member asked how having a domain shifted her scholarship, she explained that the backend research that she’d usually forego was now at the forefront of her projects. In her research projects, she asked herself, “How can I take something I really care about, and make it nice to look at while also doing what I want to communicate?” Explore more of her work as an English major along with her scholarship in video games here.

The workshop then transitioned to Nandini Mullaji (SFS’17). She opened her brief presentation by telling us of her interest in urban studies and the lack of opportunities at Georgetown for students interested in this field. Despite the lack of physical resources before her, Georgetown Domains offered Mullaji the opportunity to make a unique portfolio and personalize it to her intended job market. Ultimately, she enjoyed having the freedom to choose what exactly she wanted to publicize, and controlling what people could do on her site. Mullaji concluded by adding that Domains create a completely different experience that goes beyond just reading and writing a paper, which places Georgetown students at a “considerable advantage” when entering the job market.

The final student to show off his digital identity was Alex Luta. He designed his Domain as a combined effort with Carnegie Mellon University. By creating an interactive page of maps, he was able to present a number of different human rights violations around the globe. More about his project can be found here.

After each student presented their incredible scholarship and digital identity through their domains, Garr concluded that once you get students excited about their work, Georgetown Domains is an exciting launchpad for students of all disciplines. Faculty and staff then brainstormed what they would want their own students to display with Domains while Lee helped everyone create their own domain using step-by-step instructions. Attendees saw firsthand the limitlessness of the applications they can install on their domains, and the endless opportunities for far-reaching digital scholarship.

Curricular Innovation Social Hour

The first day of TLISI 2016 came to a close on Monday, May 23rd, with a social hour focused on curricular innovation at Georgetown. In the Healey Family Student Center Great Room, faculty and staff conversed with one another about exciting curricular changes occurring around campus.

Kathryn Temple (English) showcased how the university is rethinking doctoral education in the humanities. Her work, in addition to that presented by seven other faculty, is part of a larger project called “Connected Academics: Preparing Doctoral Students of Language and Literature for a Variety of Careers,” a national program led by the Modern Language Association and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Together with two other institutions—the University of California Humanities Research Institute and Arizona State University—Georgetown is working to prepare language and literature doctoral students for both academic and non-academic careers by expanding their studies beyond the university.

Many professors utilized the social hour to showcase their efforts to dramatically change the humanities at Georgetown. Mary Helen Depree (German), for example, displayed a compelling course new to her department. In “Private Lives/Public VirtuesInterpreting The Long 18th Century,” students attempt to frame new ways of thinking about the complicated distinctions between public and private. While structured with a specific emphasis on the 18th Century, the interdisciplinary course exposes the relationship between cultural norms and individual experiences far beyond a single century.

The Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service (CSJ) and the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access (CMEA) joined Connected Academics in presenting, although their focus was on transforming pedagogy at the undergraduate level. Amanda Munroe, Social Justice Curriculum and Pedagogy Coordinator at the CSJ, talked with attendees about community-based learning (CBL) courses, social justice course infusions, and “UNXD 130 CBL: Social Action,” a one-credit opportunity for students to tie classroom learning to community-based work. Tabling for CMEA, Daviree Velázquez and Leslie Hinkson (Sociology) spoke with faculty about A Different Dialogue, a program aimed at helping students foster positive, meaningful, and sustained cross-group relationships through facilitated dialogue about difference.

CNDLS is thankful to those who contributed to a successful and enlightening social hour, especially to our presenters, who shared their knowledge and time with us.

Intersectionality and Students of Color at Georgetown

In “Who Are Georgetown Students,” led by Daviree Velázquez and Devita Bishundat of the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, what began as an overview of statistics surrounding Georgetown undergraduate students of color, captured through admissions data, was re-illuminated through a lens of critical social theories, supplemented by personal narratives. Populations such as first generation college students and high financial need students were conceptually presented to attendees, with a thorough explanation of intersectionality as an appropriate theoretical framework allowing all facets of an individual student’s identity to affect their experience on campus.

A series of case studies was presented to attendees to work through in groups, comprising anonymized student narratives of concerns having to do with such issues as imposter syndrome, stereotype threat, onlyness, internalized oppression, and microaggressions. As many of the Doyle IPC cohort were in attendance at this workshop, this useful new terminology was taken up by them for much of the remainder of the week in describing their personal goals for inclusive pedagogical practices.

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A Focus on Learning

On day one of TLISI 2016, Georgetown faculty from a diverse array of departments came together for Sherry Linkon’s first session on research-based teaching: “What Do We Want to Know About Student Learning?” Linkon, Faculty Director of Writing Curriculum Initiatives and a member of the Department of English, described Scholarship in Teaching and Learning (SoTL) as trying to understand what “learning” looks like. Professors are facilitators of learning, and this is how they should make decisions about how to teach—a shift from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning.

Sherry indicated that this diverse crowd of professors could all ask critical questions (What’s going on? What works? What if? How does it work?), and that these questions could be solved through research and evidence. She then posed a problem for the professors in attendance to try to solve using these questions. Professors were asked to think about difficulties with getting students to read the required material for their courses. Several professors indicated that they often encounter issues with student participation. Sherry asked everyone across disciplines to partner up and talk about their students’ critical reading. After an animated discussion among the small groups, the professors posted their questions around the walls of the classroom.

This exercise clearly gave the professors plenty to think about. Thank you to Sherry and all the faculty who attended this session! We are excited to know that Georgetown faculty care deeply about student learning and engagement.

Walking Tour on History of Slavery at Georgetown

On Monday, May 23, Matthew Quallen (SFS ’16), a member of the Working Group on Slavery, Memory & Reconciliation, led an historical walking tour of sites on and around campus linked to  the history of slavery at Georgetown. The tour grew out of a project with the John Carroll Scholarship and was offered in April as part of Georgetown’s DC Emancipation Day Symposium.

Quallen first took attendees to Freedom Hall, formerly Thomas Mulledy Hall, which now houses the Spirit of Georgetown Residential Academy. “Events in 1838 link Thomas Mulledy at Georgetown to the sale of slaves to plantations in Louisiana,” he shared.

With limited time due to the rain, the group headed to a few old campus sites and offered history on Father Healy and Thomas Mulledy to contextualize the 1838 events, and ended with Quallen pointing out the Old College Ground just northwest of present day Red Square. This area, a current construction site, was a segregated burial ground used by Holy Trinity Parish. People there were buried based on race and class.

More information about this history can be found at the Georgetown Slavery Archive, a repository of materials relating to the Maryland Jesuits, Georgetown University, and slavery.