From the Instructional Support and Innovation Committee
As we plan for teaching in Winter Quarter, the Instructional Support + Innovation committee (IS+I) wanted to share some observations and advice for structuring your courses to keep some of the advantages of flexibility while ensuring that our students are motivated to take full advantage of being back on campus and instruction being in person.
COVID Caveat: These suggestions are based on current public health advice and campus COVID response. We are all keenly watching the Omicron variant and understand that we may need to make adjustments to our teaching plans.
In person lectures: Given how successful UC Davis has been at controlling COVID-19, students should be attending lectures in person at close-to-normal levels. You should continue making recordings of your lectures available for students who cannot attend (e.g., because they are quarantining or do not pass the daily symptom survey), but we recommend incentivizing students to attend in person (e.g., with clicker questions, extra credit, etc.).
Exams: In-person exams are unpopular but often serve an important role in motivating students to learn the material well. If you schedule in-person exams, you will likely need to give more makeup exams than usual, so you should plan accordingly. If you set remote exams, be sure that they are appropriately incentivizing and assessing student learning.
Distressed and distressing students: If a student is distressed or distressing, instructors or TAs should refer them to the Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs. OSSJA has case managers on staff and can coordinate campus resources for each student.
Office hours: Zoom works great for office hours. In-person options can be unmasked in an outdoor location or masked in your office.
Communication: Expect a larger-than-usual volume of emails and requests, especially from students who will miss class because they fail the symptom survey even though they don’t have COVID.
Context and Details:In person lectures Bottom line: Students should be attending lectures in person at close-to-normal levels.
Issue: Balance educational engagement with COVID safety
Details: Though there was some nervousness about abandoning social distancing, our COVID rates on campus have remained very low. There has been very high compliance with the vaccine mandate, the mask mandate, and the daily symptom survey (DSS). Attendance at lectures seems to be a safe activity. We are concerned that educational quality and engagement suffers if the students are not encouraged to attend lectures regularly. We are concerned that struggling students are particularly vulnerable to disengagement if attendance is not incentivized. We encourage you to plan for and incentivize normal attendance in Winter Quarter.
Many faculty delivered highly flexible courses for Fall Quarter (e.g., simulcast on Zoom or posting lecture videos through Lecture Capture.) Lecture attendance was very variable, being close-to-normal in some classes and drastically low in others. Zoom simulcast is feasible, but can pose technical headaches and does not provide an equivalent learning experience. Lecture Capture (where the recording is automatically posted to Canvas after lecture) is available in many rooms, but the quality of the recordings can be quite poor. Even when the quality is good, watching a recording or a remote simulcast is much less engaging than attending in person.
- Provide incentive for attendance with some flexibility (e.g., attendance credit with 5 ’skip days’ built in; participation credit with alternate ways of demonstrating participation; extra credit for attendance)
- Everyone should follow the daily symptom survey (DSS). If students contact instructors and TAs and ask their opinion on attendance due to exposure or symptoms then refer them to their DSS.
- Sign up for Lecture Capture if it is available in your classroom, but encourage students not to completely rely on it (or make it available only to students who have an excuse for missing class).
Issue: Motivate and assess student learning with high academic integrity without increasing COVID risks or disadvantaging students who fall ill.
Details: While remote exams are appropriate for some knowledge assessment, in-person exams are also a useful tool and were delivered with high success in Fall Quarter. The students overwhelmingly request and applaud remote exams. Remote exams reduce stress primarily because they are open-note / open-google, are not necessarily at a single time, and allow each student to be in their own environment. However, if it is easy to cheat on a remote exam, students will not be incentivized to learn the material well.
In-person exams tend to have high academic integrity, test students on their memory and comprehension (rather than their ability to search or identify), and can serve to build confidence.
For extra time accommodations, the Student Disability Center is running a testing service which is available to faculty with large classes or with large numbers of students needing extra time accommodations.
- Schedule in-person exams during lecture time if you want to test students memory and comprehension and incentivize learning by minimizing cheating.
- Schedule remote exams (with the option to take the exam during lecture time) if you want to ask questions that can not be easily found on Chegg or CourseHero and you have a mechanism to prevent students from collaborating during the exam.
- Schedule multiple exams to give students an opportunity to practice and improve.
- Plan for in-person make ups. To minimize TA burden in large classes, schedule a few fixed makeup times rather than individually scheduling the time with each student. Alternatively (or in addition), you may organize the course so that students do not need to complete all the exams (e.g., drop the lowest score or add an optional final project.)
- Allow students to bring a ‘cheat sheet’ (one page of notes) with them to the exam. This reduces student stress, can help structure study time, and incentivizes the instructor to ask questions that go beyond rote memorization.
Distressed or Distressing StudentsBottom line: If a student is distressed or distressing, instructors or TAs should refer them to the Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs. OSSJA has case managers on staff and can coordinate campus support resources for each student.
Details: The pandemic and return to in-person instruction has stressed out our students! OSSJA wants to be our one-stop shop for helping support students. OSSJA found that many students who were being referred for academic integrity concerns were also stressed out and needing support. That office now includes a number of case managers in addition to the judicial officers.
- Anyone can submit a CARE report. You can select from a range of responses: just letting OSSJA know that you are concerned about a student (really helpful if that student is already seeing a case manager), asking for advice on how to cope with the student (they are here to support us, too!), or asking for a case manager to reach out to the student.
- Any major changes to your syllabus (even ones that seem positive) may be stressful. If you need to make changes, try to also allow students to complete the class according to the original syllabus if feasible.
Office hoursBottom line: Zoom works great for office hours. In-person options can be unmasked in an outdoor location or masked in your office.
Issue: Be available to students in a COVID safe way that allows you to communicate effectively. Remember the value of informal chatting that meeting in-person can facilitate.
Details: Feel free to plan in-person or zoom office hours as you choose. Office hours work great on Zoom. Zoom meetings scheduled through Canvas are automatically added to the course calendar (be careful to double check the calendar if you make any changes to the Zoom meetings.)
Alternatively, schedule your office hours in your office (masked) or at an outdoor location, such as outside the lecture hall or at the picnic tables in the covered area outside the MU.
Issue: Respond to student communication in a timely manner.
Advice: Consider using Piazza on Canvas. This is a tool to crowdsource and share answers; students post questions anonymously, peers or the TA/instructor can respond, everyone can read the questions and answers.
Consider assigning a TA to triage all incoming communications.
Possible specific scenarios for exams / assessments:Principles:
Plan for the final to be remote
No remote exams - optional final project
No remote exams - Final counts twice
This is one of those 'doh - how did it take me decades to notice that?!' ideas.
This term, I have the pleasure of guiding 500 students through an introductory research methods course. I am working with 6 graduate student TAs. Each TA is contracted to have 2-3 hours per week of office hours. One of those is spent on administration / email / etc.
In the past, the TAs have each scheduled 2 hours per week of office hours every week. They've let me know that they are an underutilized resource. One or two students would wander in from time to time. Then, after the crickets chirped for weeks, in the last few weeks of the quarter, all of the office hours would be chaos as the students want to review their exams and are facing the clear motivation of the end of term rush. The result being that everyone is frustrated and time was used inefficiently.
2 hours per week for 10 weeks = 4 hours per week for 5 weeks
This term, I asked two of the TAs to bunch their office in the last half of the term. They did no office hours for the first half and are now scheduling 4 hours per week for the second half.
Let's plan together to give the students the help they need WHEN they need it!
With our shift to remote instruction, a real silver lining has been a change in the way we can offer peer tutoring. I have recruited undergraduates to be peer tutors on the instructional team for years. They help with some administrative tasks, help to run exam viewing sessions, and offer peer tutoring. The peer tutoring was never really practical face-to-face. They didn't have a space to offer it. It was awkward.
Enter Zoom and remote instruction - ta dah! - now they have a space to meet and everyone is OK with remote meetings.
Canvas Calendar completes the silver lining, providing an easy way for peer tutors to offer 1-on-1 tutoring appointments and for students to sign up for them.
The nuts and bolts:
Extra credit refers to points that are not required. They benefit the students who complete them but do not hurt the students who do not complete them. There are a number of ways of adding extra credit to student grades in Canvas.
Option 1. Extra credit on existing assignments.
This is a very easy way to grant extra credit. If an assignment is worth 10 points and you want to give an extra credit point, you can simply enter 11 points for the students who earned the extra credit.
Option 2. Create an extra credit assignments.
Create an assignment worth 0 points.
Enter the students earned extra credit as the score. As the denominator is 0, any points will be extra.
Option 3: Extra credit weighted category.
If you are using weighted categories, you can add an extra credit category and set it to be worth x% of the course grade. This will display your course as out of (100% + x%) 10x%. Then add extra credit assignments, worth points and enter the students earned points. If a student does not earn points for an assignment, be sure to enter that as 0.
Caveat – set the extra credit category to be worth 0% until there are graded assignments in all of the other categories. If you do not have graded assignments in the other categories then this category will act like part of the regular grade and will negatively affect the grades of students who have not completed it.
I created this how to video for our campus teaching conference.
I created this short video for our campus teaching conference. I hope it helps!
How to accommodate students completing a lower-division course during an impending campus closure in response to COVID-19.
My campus leadership informed students that
Research Methods in Psychology
4 exams with MC and written responses (drop the lowest)
8 homework with MC and written responses
The students had already completed 80% of the graded work; I had plenty of information on their performance. I did not want to add to the campus increased demand for online proctoring. I had no room to increase the workload for TAs - they really do work 20 hours per week over the term.
I wanted to allow all of students who were happy with their grade (already earned an A, taking it P/NP and already earned a P, aiming for a C and already earned a C) to choose to remove themselves for the remainder of the quarter. I wanted to add a take-home test that wouldn’t encourage cheating or intellectual property looting. I wanted to allow the struggling students the same opportunity to drop the lowest exam grade and demonstrate that they have learned this material.
1. I will continue to offer the class normally until I am told not to
2. I allowed students to choose to reduce the number of required exams to 2 (out of 3) rather than 3 (out of 4).
3. I am offering a take-home exam. To reduce cheating, it will be ‘find a recent article and summarize it.’ Easy to assign but a burden to grade.
9% of the class intend to continue per the syllabus
57% are ending now
20% want to sit one more in-person exam (they had already missed an exam or want to raise their grade)
14% are interested in the take-home exam
I am expecting ~30% of the class to sit the midterm. This will mean that there is plenty of space in the classroom and reduce the grading load on the TAs. I am expecting ~20% to submit a take home exam.
Here is how I presented the options to the students
A new instructor called at 8:12am the other morning absolutely beside himself. He had walked into his 8am class with Midterm 3 ready to distribute to the students. All was fine, so far. It was not until he and the TA were handing out the exams that they realized that Version C was printed with the correct answers in bold font.
He realized that
Did he do the right thing?
1. This is now going to completely overshadow any previous nightmares of showing up to SATs in pajamas or showing up to your oral defense and seeing your parents in the front row.
2. His decision certainly eliminated any impact on the students. The students had prepared for this exam and had shown up ready to take it. Some might have been counting on this exam to raise their average from previous exams. By calculating this exam as 100%, every student's grade will be raised. If he had just removed it from the gradebook, the students who were 'counting on' this exam to raise their grade would have been denied the opportunity to raise their grade.
3. As long as he has multiple ways of assessing student learning, needing to abandon an exam (due to a fire alarm, power outage, instructor PDF mishap, TA misplacing exam papers, etc.) should still leave enough information about student content mastery to assign final grades.
Teaching at a competitive state university, I see a lot of freshmen arrive on campus with a 4.0 (or higher!!) grade point average (GPA*) from high school. This has ceased to impress me because so many of them report that they earned that GPA by 'protecting' it. They tell me that they would only enroll in classes when they knew they could earn an A. They tell me that they would drop a class if they were earning anything less than an A.
Did they do well in their classes? Of course. But what have they missed by focusing so intently on protecting that GPA? That strategy was successful in high school and earned them a place in this competitive university. They are often intent on continuing doing what has worked so well in the past, but I beg them to reconsider this strategy at university.
When they have their degree in hand and are applying to a job or a place in grad school, the candidate who reports that they earned a 4.0 in high school and university by not taking any risks is simply not going to be successful. I would hands-down hire the candidate with a battered 3.0 and a compelling narrative about struggling and taking risks and learning from failure. Nobody wants a grad student or employee who will abandon a project that doesn't instantly succeed. We need people with the grit to preserver. And you can't get that grit by protecting a 4.0.
So, call your parents (or call your student) and lay out a plan that will include you enrolling in a class that you are not sure about. Stretch yourself into a topic out of your comfort zone. You may find something that changes your life or you may only find out what it takes to struggle. Bring home a 'C' and bake a cake to celebrate your amazing achievement. Believe me, it will make for far more interesting conversation during a job interview than reciting your strategies for protecting your 4.0.
The Economist had some far more eloquent thoughts on this topic.
*For those who aren't familiar with this system, in a modular high school system, students earn grade points for each unit in each class in each semester. The average of these grades is reported. These are often calculated on a 4.0 scale:
A = 4.0
B = 3.0
C = 2.0
D = 1.0
F = 0.0
Students will graduate with a GPA higher than 4.0 by taking Advanced Placement classes that allow them to earn off-scale points.
Here are some ways to time in class that aren't too gimmicky or obnoxious
1. Three minute break: have students request music and play a song. Announce the genre and name of the student who made the request.
2. Discussion time - use powerpoint animation to move a dot from one place to another.
Department of Psychology
University of California
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
Associate Professor of Teaching Psychology
267 Young Hall