Inclusive Online Teaching at Columbia University

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Amanda Irvin, Senior Dir. of Faculty Programs and Services at Columbia University’s Center for Teaching and Learning joined the podcast to discuss their student research from their past year of emergency remote instruction, and how to design more equitable engagement in our online classrooms.

Every opportunity we engage with students is an opportunity to create just a little bit more connection between us and the students, between students and their peers, between students and the content. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect Evu podcast network. I'm Eric Olsen with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Amanda Urban, Senior Director of faculty programs and Services at Columbia University Center for teaching and learning. Amanda, welcome to the show. Thank you so much. I'm happy to be here. Really throw that you're here and here to talk about inclusive online teaching. But before we dig into that, can you give the listeners a little background on both Columbia University and your role there? Absolutely, Columbia University in the city of New York is located in New York City. It's a large research institution with both graduate and undergraduate students, and I am in the center for teaching and Learning, which is a center on campus that serves faculty, Graduate Students, the teaching community and in any capacity that they might need support when they're facilitating learning for Columbia students. And so the Columbia ctl is driven by a foundation of critical practice, inquiry, experimentation reflection. We really promote pedagogy that's inclusive, learner centered, in research based and we love working with the teaching community. I love that background. It's a perfect background to help facilitate and lead and drive this conversation. A man of perhaps the level set this conversation for our listeners today. Do you think that winning the online education game is primarily about translating the very best in person curriculum we can find to an online format? Is that the game? That's such a great question. I would say that the answer is yes and no. And so what I mean by that is, if we're taking the very best in person curriculum, I would assume that that very best is a curriculum that's designed with really solid course design foundations and in my experience, the tenets of solid, effective course design that's learner centered and inclusive translates pretty nicely from in person teaching and learning to online teaching and learning, the principles of backwards design, asking instructors to start with their goals in mind, consider what...

...you would like students to know, value or be able to do by the end of a course, and then working backwards from there, thinking about assignments and assessments and what content you'd need to cover, all in service at those learning goals. I think that approach works really well for both in person and online construction. Where things become a little fuzzier, and this is where I say like yes and no, or yes and maybe, is that if we take an in person curriculum and then try to transfer it full or or whole hog, I'm from the souths, you have to forgive me, to an online format, then we run the risk of ignoring the affordances that online methodologies offer, because we're taking a curriculum that was designed for an in person methodology. It relies on facetoface instruction, in person interactions with students, being in the same physical built space with your students, and relies on technology, of course, but most usually technology that's used a synchronously, so when students are not in the same room with their instructor, or technology that can be implemented in the classroom. So things like protectors or clickers or, Gosh, even a whiteboard or a chalkboard is consider technology. But the online world, as we all learned in a really acute way over the last year and a half, has different, different affordances. The chat function, for example, when I'm working with faculty now, is they think about moving back to in person instruction, they say, but I don't want to give up the chat. There was so much rich engagement from students in the chat. How do I replicate that in a facetoface? Experience or students have certainly said what will you keep recording lectures, because it was so helpful for us to go back and rewatch them when we had questions, and so thinking about what it might mean to design an online course from the get go, knowing that it's going to be online, not something that needs to be adapted. I think we could apply some of those really solid course design principles that I was talking about earlier and also bring in the really exciting innovative things that we might do if we know from the very beginning we're going to have a chat or asynchronous engagement is definitely possible, or recording lecture videos. How can we really use that to our advantage? So you know, yes and no, or yes and yes. When we think about all the different factors that go into a successful classrooms from which we may have under considered when we transitioned, some that you're we're trying to steal from what we learned last year. What was your potentially biggest takeaway from the student response, as you received regarding their remote instruction experiences this...

...past year? What were the ones that surprised you that you were you were surprised to their importance? Such a great question. I think overwhelmingly, the most influential student response that I heard, and we heard this over and over again, is to trust your students. And the center for teaching and learning has some undergraduate student colleagues. We hire student consultants as our students, as pedagogical partners program and they're available to work with Faculty of Faculty whatever, like an undergraduate to review their syllabus or an undergraduate to observe their teaching. And in talking with some of these undergraduate student colleagues, I was really struck by the emphasis on trust, and I think this came out in a variety of ways. You know, the first was around checking in with students about how online learning is going for them, and we saw that very early in the in the move to this emergency remote teaching, early in the pandemic of where are you, where you located? What do you have a reliable Internet connection? Are you have a space where you can set up for class time, etc? Etc. And believing them when they say, you know, I don't have a reliable connection or I can't get online during class time because I'm in a different time zone now and that's two am for me, and then checking in periodically with them about how things are going. That, the collection of formative feedback from students, is something that we've always advocated for, because you get so much real time information from students about, you know, what's helping their learning, what's maybe impeding their learning, what's going really, really well that they'd like you to keep doing because it's really helping them learn. I do think that we saw the trust issue among students and instructors, or between students and instructors, come to a head around the very large debate that we saw nationally and internationally about proctoring software and students really and faculty alike considering these options and then many ultimately deciding that changing the assessment methods. So it's something that would be just as a reliable assessment of learning but that wouldn't necessarily rely on this type of, for lack of a better term, surveillance. I think the issue of trust really came out there and is something that I think folks will carry forward. And and I just want to say a quick thank you to all of our student consultants in the Columbia Center for teaching and learning because they had such rich conversations with us about these and and just a shout out to my two colleagues, Susannah cloth and Jamie Kim, who oversee this program because without them we wouldn't have any of these extraordinary contributions. You mentioned a couple of these, but I'd love it to be top of mind...

...as we better prepare for this moving forward. Are What are some of those digital and technology and equities in the online classroom that institutions really need to be mindful of? Tech things we need to solve for that we might take for granted that that that of course students have these. We don't have to worry ourselves about this. Such a great question and I know you asked about digital and equities, but I also think of just in equities in general, because in some ways the digital and equities, and I don't want to give the impression that by any means these are easy to solve for, but sometimes the digital and equities are easier to solve for some other things. So issues that immediately came to the forefront where things like a reliable Internet connection, personal devices that students might have that could run the software. There were some students who couldn't run zoom on personal laptops and for a lot of institutions that was the asynchronous method they used to connect. I think one of the digital and equities that surprised people, especially faculty, is that most folks don't have printers in their home anymore, and I'm a fairly late millennial, but I also don't have a printer, so I'm always surprised when someone asks me. But I know that there were students, especially in disciplines where you have to show your work, so you might need to write something by hand, whether it be a formula or whether it be lab notes, and that without the use of a tablet. You know, writing on paper and then scanning and uploading would be or printing it out and then scanning and uploading would be the go to method. But most folks didn't have scanners or printers, so it took some creativity in terms of how to make this work and a lot of think a lot of screenshots and a lot of photos that we took with our phones and turn them into PDF. So definitely, if there were to be a planned move to remote teaching or online learning, these would certainly be things that folks would need to think about in advance. And I do want to say that there are other in equities, things like homespaces or family care or child care, that's are much harder to solve for and sometimes it's not about a solution but rather about a practice of generosity or practice of transparency. Sometimes students need to have their cameras off and it's not because they're not paying attention, but rather because they're managing something really challenging at home, and so those in equities, I think, are more challenging and definitely require our attention in the same way. For sure. Let's talk about being inclusive in regards to community, specifically when we're transitioning in migrating online. What does healthy community facilitation look like?...

Not just making communication channels and tools available, but intentionally facilitating community. What does that look like at its best? I love that you used the word intentionally in your question, because my answer was going to be a needs to be intentional and it needs to be transparent. To your very excellent point, it's not just about creating channels and tools, but rather in taking the time, making the time to facilitate and build community. I think many of us who were facilitating learning online very quickly became aware that you you lose those moments that we had taken for granted in a facetoface classroom or a facetoface learning environment where you're in the room with students and you're just chatting about your weekend or about your day. So you miss the opportunity to check in with students as to human beings. You miss the opportunities sometimes to see their faces if they look upset, and there's not the very easy turn and talk to your partner. Situation that a lot of us who like to encourage students to engage with each other often rely on and so it's important to do it intentionally online, because it's not as though it can't happen, but rather it's not going to just happen on its own. And so I am a big advocate of starting community building at the beginning of a class and then carrying it through the entire semester. We build community with students throughout all sixteen weeks or eight weeks or fourteen weeks, however long you're together, because every opportunity, I have a colleague, Rebecca a TD, who says that every opportunity we engage with students is an opportunity to create just a little bit more connection, yeah, between us and the students, between students and their peers, between students and the content, and so you can either create a little bit of connection or if you miss those opportunities, you can create a lot of distance. And so the work of facilitating these this community building generally happens in three areas, and we have some resources on our website that talk about this, but primarily community building happens in three arenas that are either social. So these are the traditional icebreakers that get students to talk about themselves. What's your name? What's your major? Why did you choose this class? There could even be, you know, other fun icebreakers, like the soundtrack of your life, like what are five to ten songs that represent you? But then they're also Meta cognitive community builders that ask students to think about the ways they learn or debrief after an assignment and talk about what was challenging about it. What would they do differently next time? And then, finally, content based activities, so...

...asking students to think through their favorite course or their favorite discipline, to think through connections between what's happening in this class and what's happening in their major, mapping out concepts that are central to the course. So community building goes way beyond they get to know you. Games that I think we tend to focus on at the very beginning of a semester and can be like baked in to an entire course to provide those moments that are definitely connected to your course content, but also give students an opportunity to connect with each other and with you and the content in a very different way that emphasizes sort of person first engagement. Yeah, let's talk more about this idea of working toward equitable engagement within the online classroom, especially when you're dealing with the class of students potentially on very different sink and asink schedules. It's a great question, and so I think as we look forward to a return to more in person engagement with students, I know many people are thinking about the one or two learners or maybe, at different institutions, half of the class or the majority of the last might be the a zoom. So you're now in a situation where you're in a physical classroom with some of your students and then other students are joining remotely, and so how do you create an equitable experience for these two groups? And I think, quite rightly, step number one is creating community, focusing on that community building, welcoming all learners, setting tone by establishing community agreements that really transparently outline the expectations of both in person and remote students. And if you can do that with your learners, that's even better, because now everyone has buy in into how these courses can work together. The second is a focus on making materials and learning experiences accessible, and so by that I mean sometimes the actual documents we share in our learning management system, making sure that they can be read by screen readers, making sure that things that you might hand out in class are also available online, perhaps continuing class recordings so that folks who are in the room can watch the recording just the same way that folks who might be joining the a zoom can watch the recording. And then, finally, thinking about the ways you engage students during class time, during those synchronous moments, planning activities that are accessible to both, maybe even thinking about ways that the students in the room can connect with the students who are on zoom. So, you know, if you could ask all of your students in the room to bring a device and a headset, they could even be in breakout rooms with students who are joining via zoom, helping just...

...bridge that divide and making it clear that we're all one learning community and trying to get past this idea that folks in the room or having one experience while folks online are having a very different experience. Man a wonderful stuff. Finally, any next steps advice per institutions looking to move to more intentionally inclusive online teaching based on your team's findings and research this past year. Or should they start first? I think that first step depends on where you're starting from, and so my first recommendation is to get a sense of what's already happening on your campus, start a conversation, pull together folks from different disciplines, different offices, different levels of administration coming together, I think, and talking about what is already happening on a campus in terms of inclusive teaching and where you'd like to go. Is, I know from experience, can be a slow process because it requires it requires a lot of partnerships and outreach, but it is so important and it's so worth it. And then the second a thing to keep in mind would be to know that this is a long game, that there are inclusive teaching and inclusive practices in general, a focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and Justice and Higher Education. These are not these are not easy questions, and that we're making commitments that will extend, hopefully for years in the future and that will be adaptable, that they will be able to expand and contract as the world around us changes, as our institutions change. There are lots of resources out there lots of folks in the field of educational development to do work on helping support institutions and instructors this same move towards inclusive teaching. We have a lot of resources on our website. We have the first ever global mook dedicated entirely to inclusive teaching and higher education. So there are resources available to you, but I think the first step is to figure out where are you starting from, where would you like to go, and then making a plan, and I say it is though. It's just as simple as that. Knowing of course, it's one of those things that is a simple but not easy, or easy but not simple, but I think really coming together as a community first is an important firstep. It is. It's a great first step, daunting as it may be. Amanda, thank you so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you or your team with they have any follow up questions? Absolutely ly so. Our website, which is ctl Dot Columbia Dot Edu, has a ton of resources that are totally available to the public. If they'd like to reach out to the center for teaching and learning, we have an email address Columbia, ctl at Columbia Dot Edu and I, of...

...course, would be happy to take any sorts of emails or increased my personal email, which is Amanda Dot Organ at Columbia Dot eedu. Awesome, Amanda, thanks so much for joining us today. Thank you so much for having me. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprize wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (253)