Design Your Course Backwards

The Cheshire Cat told Alice in Wonderland that if she didn’t know where she wanted to go, then it didn’t matter which path to take. Getting somewhere specific requires knowing the destination. This same concept (starting with the end goal in mind) applies to creating or modifying a course. In the book, Understanding by Designthe authors suggest three steps for creating a course using Backwards Design (i.e. designing from back to front – see model below). Note that determining what to actually teach is the final step.

  • Identify the desired results. Determine what students should know and be able to do by the end of the course (i.e. the course objectives). Consider national, institutional, or department standards and clearly define the desired outcomes.
  • Determine acceptable evidence. Determine how you will know when, and to what degree, students achieve these results by using formal and informal assessments (e.g. written work, demonstration, community project, dialogues, exams, etc). With clear results in mind, consider what facts/principles/skills/characteristics students need to demonstrate to you so that you can assess, and then grade, their learning.
  • Plan learning experiences and instruction. Determine what learning experiences will best equip students to achieve the desired results. What will need to be taught, and in what order, throughout the semester? Build materials and gather resources needed to accomplish these goals (e.g. lesson plans, PPT slides, active-learning projects, field trips, labs).

If you want help designing courses (face-to-face, online, or hybrid), the Technology & Learning Program has instructional design consultants available to assist you. Click here to request a consultation.

Listen to a Voicemail from Your E-mail

It is now possible to receive voicemail in your e-mail inbox. Chico State just launched a new technology called “Unified Messaging” (UM) that automatically e-mails you an audio file of a voicemail left on your office line. The e-mail will include either an attached audio file or a play button right in the text (see screenshot below). Once you listen to the voicemail in your e-mail inbox, the red light on your phone will stop blinking since the voicemail is no longer considered new. If you delete the e-mail, it automatically deletes the voicemail from the message center.  This feature is particularly useful if you want your voicemail and e-mail communications in the same place, if you share an office phone with colleagues, or if you just rarely notice that blinking voicemail light on your landline. You can still retrieve voicemails the usual way by dialing 898-4400.

If you’re interested in setting up Unified Messaging, click here to open the UM page and then click on “Request Service.”

Text Students Without Giving Out Your Cell Number

If you want to use this popular communication format to help students learn but don’t want to give out your cell phone number, there’s an app for that. In fact, there are several apps for texting in an educational setting. One of the most frequently used is Remind. It’s easy to set up, free to use, works with either a web-interface or a smartphone app, and keeps cell numbers private for both sender and receiver. Other features include audio texting, attaching files, and translating text messages into various languages. Students can choose whether or not they wish to receive your text messages, so this could be a supplemental and optional form of communication to help those students who feel they could benefit from it. You could text students a last-minute change in classroom location, an upcoming due date reminder, or anything else related to your course content, protocols, or assessments.

If you’re more comfortable using e-mail or making announcements in class to communicate with students, that is perfectly fine. Software such as “Remind” may be helpful if you’re searching for an effective tool to communicate with your students on a platform with which they are familiar, comfortable, and competent.

Design a Sensational Syllabus

Welcome to the Fall ’18 semester!

I hope this e-mail catches you while you’re developing or revising your syllabi this week. This document can be one of your most effective communication tools. A syllabus sets the tone for your course (Harnish & Bridges, 2011) so be mindful about what tone you wish to set as you create it. Here are three tips to ensure your syllabus effectively communicates what you want it to.

  1. Make it Inclusive  – Scan your syllabi for content that could potentially be exclusive, and thus perhaps inaccessible, to some student groups (e.g. first-gen, low-income, international, certain genders, athletes etc.). Consider a reading list that includes diverse authors. Consider allowing students to purchase previous (and thus cheaper and more accessible) versions of a textbook. Consider allowing students to vote on the sequence of some parts of the curriculum as suggested in the book Why Students Resist Learning. Most importantly, be sure that all sections of your syllabus meet accessibility requirements (see attached tips and contact info for assistance)?
  2.  Introduce Yourself –Sure, office location and e-mail address are important to mention, but consider including a photo of yourself along with a few sentences about your hobbies, where you’re from, something unique about you, etc. Academic achievement is linked to student-teacher connection (Konishi, Hymel, Zumbo, & Li, 2010) so anything you can do to strengthen that connection is a solid investment in your students.
  3. Be Aware of Bloat – Is your syllabus more like a novel? It can be tempting to include every bit of information a student could possibly need along with a series of disclaimers addressing any and all possible scenarios. A syllabus shouldn’t read like a smartphone’s Terms & Conditions that few people ever read. If a syllabus is long enough to discourage reading, then it ceases to be a communication tool. Aim for the sweet spot of including adequate and relevant information without overloading students.

Have a wonderful first week of classes!

Last Tuesday Tip of 2017-18

From all of us in FDEV and TLP, we wish you a restful, enjoyable, and productive summer. Since this is the last week that faculty are on contract, this will be the final Tuesday Tip until August. If you want to look back at any past Tuesday Tips, we have them all archived here on the FDEV website.

As a reminder, this Friday (May 25) is the deadline to apply for 2018-19 FLCs including Improve your Teaching Practice, Article in 12 Weeks, and Quality Learning & Teaching.

Final tip of the year…stay physically active, wear sunscreen, and spread loving kindness all summer long!

Acknowledge an Inspirational Colleague

In the early 20th century, educator John Dewey said “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” With another academic year nearing completion, it’s an opportune moment to reflect on life including the people who inspire us. If you have an inspirational colleague who is a leader or innovator in the classroom, consider nominating them for the Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award. One faculty member will be awarded from each CSU campus and will receive a $5,000 cash award and $10,000 to be allocated to their academic department for travel, teaching load reduction, teaching equipment, etc. Yes, nominations are time-consuming but they are also one of the most authentic ways to show a colleague how appreciated they truly are. The deadline is June 29 so there’s no rush.

As a reminder, May 25 is the deadline to apply for 2018-19 FLCs including Improve your Teaching Practice, Article in 12 Weeks, and Quality Learning & Teaching.

Also, the Grading Oasis (MLIB 459) is open with free coffee and snacks for the rest of this week from 8am-5pm for faculty to drop in and grade, write, read, or just escape for a while.

Make it a great week!

Grading Oasis Starts Today!

Based on your feedback, the Grading Oasis will begin early this semester! Starting now and ending May 18, MLIB 459 will be open to all faculty to stop by and grade, write, read, or just relax Monday through Friday 8am-5pm. We stocked up on snacks, coffee, and hot tea that will be available to you. Also, FDEV student assistant, Ariana, will be available some of the time to help grade, alphabetize papers, or whatever you need (as long as she doesn’t see names with grades).

Have a productive and fun rest of the semester!

Save On Hotels

Looking to save a few dollars on conference trips? Next time you travel on state business, be sure to ask the hotel front desk if they will waive the city tax since you’re a state employee. Some hotels honor this and some do not, but it’s always worth asking. Provide the hotel with a signed copy of the attached tax waiver and show your faculty ID. In some cases, hotels may honor the tax waiver as long as you sign their in-house form. For hotels that honor the discount, it will save you around 10-20%. More info on lodging expenses through Chico State can be found here.

-Josh

Staying Well in April

April is one of the most lively, engaging, and hectic times of year for faculty. Projects need to be graded, final exams begin in 3 weeks, and commencement is right around the corner. Our devotion to (and love for) our work can unsettle the work/life balance. Stress, which we all experience and a 2014 study suggests can be particularly prevalent among lecturers, can be detrimental unless managed effectively. A 2016  study found that as the stress of teachers increased, the academic achievement of students decreased. Thus, an argument could be made that faculty wellness is both a health issue and a pedagogical issue. If wellness can improve your quality of life and positively impact student learning, it is worth investing in.

If you do all you can to manage stress (sleep 8-9 hours per night, eat healthy, meditate, limit caffeine and alcohol, stay physically active, etc.) but still need additional help, consider using MyLifeMatters Services (see attached for more info). It is a free counseling service to Chico State employees and their dependents that can help with depression, anxiety, addictions, and many other aspects of wellness. You can call them 24/7 at 1-800-367-7474 and even arrange for up to three free counseling sessions if you choose. If you’re asked for a passcode, it is “csuchico”.

FDEV wishes you a happy, healthy, productive, and enjoyable remainder of the semester.

How Our Students Get Jobs

A common, and very important, question among faculty is “How do we help students secure employment after graduation?” Knowing what employers need for the modern workforce is part of the answer.

A survey conducted for the AAC&U asked employers what they seek when hiring college graduates. Over 80% reported that they valued the following broad-based skills even more than a college graduate’s specific major: oral and written communication, ethical judgement and decision-making, the ability to work in teams, critical and analytical reasoning, and the ability to apply learning to real-world settings.

Helping students learn discipline-specific knowledge and skill is, of course, critical for progress towards graduation and preparation for professional employment. However, guiding them to develop a well-rounded and broad-based skillset necessary for the modern work environment may be just as important. Implementing collaborative group work, active learning techniques, and civic engagement are classroom strategies that could accomplish both simultaneously.