Looking Ahead to Spring

Faculty Colleagues:

As we say goodbye to 2020 and begin to look toward Spring semester, I want to thank you all for the care and compassion you’ve shown our students while continuing to provide high-quality instruction in remote format. I have received emails from many of you in which I’ve learned of your creativity, your commitment, and your empathy, and I appreciate you all very much.

Mike Caulfield, Director of Blended and Networked Learning, has put together some great advice related to setting up your remote courses. I know some of you will be thinking about your Spring courses over the coming weeks, so I’m sending this out to you now. For those of you who don’t plan to start on those preparations until after New Year’s, feel free to set this aside for future reference! There are three great ideas here—a way to give your students information before your course is entirely ready to go live; a recommendation for week-by-week organization, and a workload estimator. I hope you find them useful!

Publish your course while you tweak it by adding a “start here” module or folder.

Organize the course for week-by-week clarity.

Double-check student workload.

As the pandemic–and our classes–go on, some thoughts, requests, and resources for our faculty colleages

As we move toward the close of this semester and you begin to plan for your spring semester courses, I want to remind you of this resource, Mike Caulfield’s Blended Content Studio blog, https://emergencyonline.blog/. Topics on this blog include “being a bit more you for the camera,” and a link to the asynchronous workshop he has developed to help faculty with remote instruction.  His suggestions about “instructor presence” are particularly helpful in making your zoom classes as engaging as possible.

At a recent Vancouver Advisory Council meeting a panel of students spoke. One of the things they said is that check-in sessions are “essential.”  We’d like to encourage faculty to do check-in sessions with their students in whatever manner works best for each of you—whether you set aside time to ask how they’re doing, or whether you leave and let them talk with each other, or whatever method you find works best, it’s clear that these check-ins are valuable for students. Also, a practice that the BaCE Academy recommends is to stay on the zoom call, if you can, until the last of your students has left. That gives students an opportunity to connect with you in a way similar to approaching you after class.

We’d also like to recommend this article on trauma-based pedagogy, from Inside Higher Ed: https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2020/06/03/seven-recommendations-helping-students-thrive-times-trauma.  Our students are struggling; an understanding of trauma-based pedagogy may help in keeping them on track in their educations through the pandemic and beyond. There will also be a workshop in spring, on April 1, Trauma-Informed Campus, facilitated by Allison Chambers-Dixson and Felix Braffith. Register for that workshop here: https://www.vancouver.wsu.edu/equity-diversity/bace-workshops-registration#trauma-informed-campus.

The more patience and compassion we can have for our students, and for our colleagues, the more we can all pull together toward our common goal of making it through the hard times to the better times to come.

Renny & Thabiti

Teaching and learning from anywhere?

One of my favorite podcasts is This American life. This week’s episode began with a story about a professor of psychology who got stuck in the elevator in his apartment building ten minutes before his class was to begin. He’d just picked up his kids, and they were stuck in the elevator with him. So, what did he do? He taught the class on zoom (although without video) on his phone, giving his lecture from memory, without his slides. Ira Glass asks him how long it took for that to feel normal, and he says, about 5 minutes.

While This American Life used that story to illustrate how quickly bizarre circumstances can start to feel normal, I’m drawing a different conclusion from this story–and that’s our ongoing need to have compassion for one another, and for our students. The really amazing thing about this psychology professor’s story is that his students were actually engaged in the class, although they could hardly hear him, and his kids stayed quiet while he was teaching. Everyone in the story gave each other grace.

And it is my hope that we will continue to act with compassion. Our colleagues or our students may be trying to work from a stuck elevator, and we might not know that. The more we can react first with compassion and understanding, rather than anger and suspicion, to more we all help one another through.

I have been instructed in my own life by this thought from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That professor made his students feel that they were so important to him that he taught his class from a stuck elevator.

So, let’s try to treat each other with patience and compassion. You might not know that someone is making an extraordinary effort to participate, literally or metaphorically calling in from a stuck elevator.

Mitigating Disruptive Behavior Online

We’ve posted a new resource for faculty, thanks to Dr. Obie Ford III, Associate Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. It can be found under Teaching on Academic Affairs’ faculty resources page: https://www.vancouver.wsu.edu/academic-affairs/faculty-resources

While the majority of our online interactions in classes and meetings is very positive and productive, there may be occasional instances of disruptive behavior, and this guide is meant to help faculty who may have to deal with disruptions. I recommend taking a look. I hope you never need it, but if you do, I hope you find it helpful.

Students Want to Know that We Still Care About Them, Even at a Distance

I sent out a version of this message in early August; I’m re-posting for those who may have missed it during the summer. First, I hope that the first week of classes went really well for all of you and that you and your students are settling in to distance delivery.

Second, I just ask that you keep in mind that all of our students are coping with many challenges as they are working to continue their educations. In July, when we were still planning to have some face-to-face instruction, we surveyed our students. Some of you may have seen the survey results—I just want to highlight things that I think are important takeaways from the voices of our students. While some of the survey results have been superseded by events that have caused us to move to all-remote delivery, some remain very relevant, and many of the comments students included are very poignant. Almost half—48%–of students reported that what they most needed was flexibility. In terms of student preference about content delivery, 44% selected a mix of synchronous and asynchronous instruction and 42% selected fully asynchronous delivery. Only 10% of students preferred fully synchronous delivery.

In responses to a question about what students would like their faculty to know, several themes are widespread.  Students are facing new challenges in caring for children of their own and other family members. They are facing uncertain employment schedules and mental health strain. Many are worried about how these demands will interact with their studies. In connection to this, several asked for flexibility in their courses, not just of delivery method, but in assignment policy and in communication with professors.  Experiences in the spring have alerted these students to vulnerabilities in their own learning experience. They seek assurance that they will have ways to connect with faculty and fellow class-mates. Many also are asking that a clear syllabus and calendar of assignments throughout the semester be made available at the start, so that they can plan out their time. Students want to know that we still care about them, even though we’re at a distance. And students want us to know that they care about their faculty—I was struck by how many students expressed a preference for remote instruction because they want their faculty to be safe, as well as themselves.

One student commented: “I would really like to have as much grace as possible as I will be approaching subjects I have not learned before.” My hope is that we will all give one another grace, as we are all learning how to deal with a worldwide disruption greater than any of us have experienced in our lifetimes. I want to end by quoting one of the student responses, which says very eloquently what I want to express to you all, as well: “No matter what craziness happens this semester, we appreciate how amazingly you guys are adapting to online teaching. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to your students!”

Last, I want to express my deep appreciation to you all–faculty and staff–for your continuing care for our students and desire to provide a high-quality and meaningful educational experience that keeps students engaged and moving forward.

Go VanCougs!

 

Thank you!

As we begin this distance delivery fall semester, I want to thank everyone in the WSU Vancouver community. Everyone has been working hard to get the semester ready to go, AND everyone has been working hard to keep up each other’s spirits as we face these challenges while physically isolated from each other. Here are my thank yous, in no particular order:

Thank you to the Academic Advisors and Success Coaches from the academic departments and from the Student Resource center and to the folks in Admissions for their outreach to help get our students registered. And thanks to Laurel Rea and Felix Braffith for their work on helping our students become or remain our students.

Thank you to Mike Caulfield and the Academic Solutions group in VIT for all the trainings and resources they put together for faculty to develop great pedagogy for distance delivery. Thanks also to the folks at AOI in Pullman for the trainings and workshops they provided. Thanks to Michael Stamper and the rest of his team for technical and material support. And a special shout out to Chris Rhoads, who made all our Town Hall and Student Forum events run smoothly over the summer.

Thank you to all our faculty who have applied their imaginations, their professional expertise, their care and their time to build courses that students will find engaging and effective, and for making it a priority over the summer.

Thank you to Obie Ford III and the BaCE committee and BaCE facilitators for a summer of great workshops, support, and inspiration. #BlackLivesMatter. And thanks to Shameem Rakha and Katherine Rodela for providing a great learning opportunity for the instructors who’ll be teaching our first-year experience course.

Thanks to Holly Beck and Holly Davis–you keep Academic Affairs on track from afar with equal grace as you did in person.

Thanks to the Academic Directors: Jane Cote (Business), Karen Diller (Library) , Linda Eddy (Nursing) Sharon Kruse (Education), Pavithra Narayanan (CAS), Elizabeth Soliday (CAHNRS), Hakan Gurocak (ENCS, outgoing) and Xinghui Zhao (ENCS, incoming), and to Christine Portfors, Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education and Thabiti Lewis, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, for always being such a great team to work with.

Special thank you to our new faculty members for joining us this fall. I’m sure none of you will ever forget what your first semester was like!

Thank you to Elias Cohen, who not only knows all the stats about WSU Vancouver, but also knows that we need to use that information to continually work to make this a more equitable, more meaningful organization.

Thanks to Brenda Alling for always getting the message out!

Thank you to Bill Hooper and all the facilities crew–I know they’re lonely on campus these days! And I also know they’re keeping the place ready for us to (joyfully) return one day.

Thank you!

As we begin this distance delivery fall semester, I want to thank everyone in the WSU Vancouver community. Everyone has been working hard to get the semester ready to go, AND everyone has been working hard to keep up each other’s spirits as we face these challenges while physically isolated from each other. First, I want to acknowledge the peoples in whose homelands WSU Vancouver is located–the Chinookan and Taidnapam peoples and the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, whose ancestors survived the apocalyptic pandemic that killed 90% or more of the indigenous people of North America, an event we all need to recognize and remember.

Here are my thank yous, in no particular order:

Thank you to the Academic Advisors and Success Coaches from the academic departments and from the Student Resource center and to the folks in Admissions for their outreach to help get our students registered. And thanks to Laurel Rea and Felix Braffith for their work on this, as well.

Thank you to Mike Caulfield and the Academic Solutions group in VIT for all the trainings and resources they put together for faculty to develop great pedagogy for distance delivery. Thanks also to the folks at AOI in Pullman, in particular Rebecca Vandevoord, for the trainings and workshops they provided. Thanks to Michael Stamper and the rest of his VIT team for technical and material support. And a special shout out to Chris Rhoads, who made all our Town Hall and Student Forum events run smoothly over the summer.

Thank you to all our faculty who have applied their imaginations, their professional expertise, their care and their time to build courses that students will find engaging and effective, and for making it a priority over the summer.

A big thank you to all our student leaders who worked over the summer to keep our students feeling connected–and thanks to our continuing students for sticking with us, and our new students for diving in to pursue their educations undaunted by the most devastating pandemic since 1919.

Thank you to Obie Ford III and the BaCE committee and BaCE facilitators for a summer of great workshops, support, and inspiration, particularly the Wellness Wednesdays programs. #BlackLivesMatter. And thanks to Shameem Rakha and Katherine Rodela for providing a great learning opportunity for the instructors who’ll be teaching our first-year experience course.

Thanks to Holly Beck and Holly Davis–you keep Academic Affairs on track from afar with equal grace as you did in person.

Thanks to the Academic Directors: Jane Cote (Business), Karen Diller (Library) , Linda Eddy (Nursing) Sharon Kruse (Education), Pavithra Narayanan (CAS), Elizabeth Soliday (CAHNRS), Hakan Gurocak (ENCS, outgoing) and Xinghui Zhao (ENCS, incoming), and to Christine Portfors, Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education and Thabiti Lewis, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, for always being such a great team to work with.

Special thank you to our new faculty members for joining us this fall. I’m sure none of you will ever forget what your first semester was like!

Thank you to Elias Cohen, who not only knows all the stats about WSU Vancouver, but also knows that we need to use that information to continually work to make this a more equitable, more meaningful organization.

Thanks to Brenda Alling for always getting the message out!

Thank you to Bill Hooper and all the facilities crew–I know they’re lonely on campus these days! And I also know they’re keeping the place ready for us to (joyfully) return one day.

Thank you to Chancellor Mel Netzhammer for his fierce love of, and advocacy for, WSU Vancouver. Thank you to Lynn Valenter for steering Vancouver’s fiscal ship safely through choppy waters. Thank you to Domanic Thomas, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, for partnering with Academic Affairs to always improve the VanCoug student experience; to Jennifer Miltenberger and Max Ault for building community support for the campus, and to Sherri Bennett, who joined us as Chief of Staff just before we went remote, and has had to learn her way around the organization virtually. And thanks to Julia Getchell, for putting the “human” in Human Resources!

Finally, I wish all our faculty a smooth first week of class, steady internet connections, and lots of excited and engaged students on your screens!

 

 

 

 

Apollo 13’s 50th anniversary and the pandemic

Fifty years ago today, on April 13, 1970, Apollo 13’s oxygen tank ruptured while it was on its way to the moon. Astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise would have been the fifth and sixth humans to walk on the moon. Instead, a catastrophe occurred.

All the Apollo missions were formative events for me in my childhood, from the disastrous landing-pad fire that destroyed Apollo 1 to the night of July 20,1969, when my brother and I ran in and out of the house watching Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon on our little black-and-white TV, and looking up at the moon in the sky, and beyond, all the way to the last Apollo mission in December of 1972 when Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt became the last humans–so far!–to walk on the moon. The moon landings represented the potential of scientific and technical achievement for peaceful ends. They were a powerful vision of hope for me, growing up, as I did, with the announcement of the “body count” in the war in Viet Nam on TV every night, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and so many others, I thought that the world was made up of violence and death. But then there was space.

Apollo 13 has been dramatized for younger generations through the Tom Hanks movie, but I watched it play out in real time. Two days after launch, the catastrophe happened. I remember watching Walter Cronkite explaining the steps that were being taken to return the astronauts to earth. I felt like I was holding my breath until, on April 17, all the jury-rigged CO2 scrubbers and hand-calculated trajectory changes resulted in a successful splashdown.

Ironically, the anniversary celebrations for this mission have been put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. And here’s what I want to say: the Apollo 13 mission suffered a catastrophe, but it was not a disaster. It’s widely regarded as a “successful failure,” because it showed what could be done to recover from a catastrophe. There’s no question that the pandemic is a catastrophe. What happens next depends on all of us. We need to believe the science. Believing the science is what put the Apollo missions into space, and it’s what brought Apollo 13 back to earth. And we all have to be heroic–even if heroism requires inaction, rather than action. Staying home, refusing to participate in the spread of the virus–that’s a far cry from our usual conceptions of heroism, which usually involve a lot of action. When I was thirteen, and dreaming about going to space myself, I could not have pictured a future in which a virus shut down the world, and the best and most important thing I could do is just stay in my house. But here we are. We have to believe the science, we have to follow stay home orders and physical distancing advice. We have to wait. Wait for the science to do its work, to develop a better understanding of this virus.

Jim Lovell and Fred Haise are still alive, ages 92 and 86, respectively. I would like the both to live to be at least 113. For that to happen, we have to fight this pandemic with the only weapons available to most of us right now–patience and compassion.

 

Change Your Class Zoom Settings ASAP

This message went out to faculty today:

We want to express our appreciation for all you’ve been doing to ensure our students are able to continue their educations while we’re all under restrictions required by Gov. Jay Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order.

We also appreciate the continued dedication of our campus community to providing an inclusive learning environment which foregrounds equity, safety and a sense of belonging for all members. To protect that, we want to alert you to potential issues with Zoom classes and meetings, and provide you with the tools to protect your classes and meetings.

Zoom-bombing,” is when outsiders jump into Zoom sessions to disrupt them by sharing porn, racial epithets or other vulgar material. What we are seeing nationally:

  • A bot or a student in a class shares a link to a class on a forum such as Discord, Reddit or 4chan, inviting trolls to disrupt the class.
  • The trolls enter the class with screen-recording software running.
  • They use screen-sharing, annotation and audio to disrupt the class, often with material of a racist or sexist nature.
  • They post a recording of the incident to YouTube and other spaces to mock the reaction of teacher and students. The attacks are sometimes even livestreamed to others.

This isn’t just pranks, but in many cases crimes. The attacks expose our students to an unsafe learning environment, and particularly impact students and faculty from marginalized groups. The attacks are prevalent enough that the FBI has issued guidance on the matter.

We are working to get Zoom video defaults for WSU set to prevent such attacks, a practice that would involve a bit more work for smaller meetings but mitigate some of the worst vulnerabilities. In the meantime, we strongly urge everyone conducting course meetings with Zoom set your settings appropriately. The setting advice varies depending on the size of the gathering and the perceived risk. We bullet point our recommendations here, but you can find descriptions and how-tos in this article on the WSU Knowledge Base and on WSU Vancouver’s Emergency Online Blog.
Smaller classes (where all student names are recognizable to the instructor) should:

  • Create a “waiting room”  where the instructor manually grants permission at the beginning of class to students waiting for entry.
    • Use this if your class is small and all student names are recognizable to you, or can be verified from a roster.
    • If you can verify all students in this way, you do not need additional steps.
    • Be sure to look for notification of late-arriving students and let them in as well.
    • For extra protection, you may wish to add a password.
    • Do not use this option if you will be unable to tell if late arriving students are class members.

Failing this, all classes should:

You may also wish to familiarize yourself with how to manage participants in a meeting, including how to remove participants if necessary. And, as always, consider using Zoom for only the aspects of your class that benefit from real-time video delivery.

If you witness a Zoom-bombing incident:

WSU Vancouver has an unwavering commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. This is a challenging time for all of us, including vulnerable and underrepresented populations, and we have been inspired by the quick action of our faculty in the move to alternative delivery. Thank you again for everything you’re doing for our students. If you have questions regarding Zoom protective practices and Zoom-bombing risks, contact Mike Caulfield.

Sincerely,

Renny Christopher, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Obie Ford III, Associate Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Mike Caulfield, Director of Blended and Networked Learning

 

Celebrating International Transgender Day of Visibility

Our statement to the campus community went out today from Chancellor Mel Netzhammer, Vice Chancellor Domanic Thomas, Associate Vice Chancellor Obie Ford III and me:

International Transgender Day of Visibility was founded in 2009 by transgender activist and organizer Rachel Crandall. International Transgender Day of Visibility occurs annually on March 31 to acknowledge successes and celebrate living members of the transgender community.

WSU Vancouver recognizes International Transgender Day of Visibility. The university is committed to making campus a place where all students, faculty and staff, including transgender and gender-variant individuals, feel encouraged and empowered to live openly and authentically. WSU Vancouver’s dedication to validating the presence and amplifying the voices of historically underrepresented communities ties directly to the strategic imperative to promote an ethical and socially just society through an intentional commitment to inclusion, equity and diversity….To continue reading this statement, follow this link.