Teaching Tip(s) of the Week

More teaching tips

Creating an Academic Integrity Statement for Your Course

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Academic Integrity is an important value to reinforce in students.  This is especially true for engineering students whose professional careers may include decisions with significant impacts on society.  An Academic Integrity statement that clearly elucidates the Academic Integrity rules and expectations as applied to your course should be clearly stated and included in your syllabus or a separate course document where students can refer to it.

The Academic Integrity Statement should have an introductory statement and then specific rules for the class.  Samples are provided that you can mix and match as needed.

Introductory Statement Samples

  • Cornell University requires all students to abide by its Code of Academic Integrity.  To avoid any confusion or misunderstanding of how that applies to this course, specifics for this course are spelled out below.  If you have any questions about this policy, please ask.
  • The College of Engineering requires students to adhere to the Code of Academic Integrity.  Accordingly, this course adopts the following rules:   
  • Engineers are responsible for maintaining a very high degree of professional integrity in their work.  As a student this means adhering to the Cornell Code of Academic Integrity and the specific policies detailed in your courses.  For this course the specific rules are as follows:

Exam statement examples

  • For all exams in this course you are not allowed to use any materials except …………………….  You may not give or receive any form of exam aid to any other student in this course during the exam.  Any questions should be directed to the exam proctor.
  • For exams in this course you are allowed to use a simple calculator that does not store information or programs.  No other aid is permitted during exams.
  • For exams in this course you are allowed to use a discrete calculator that has no web access.  No other aid is permitted during exams.
  • All cell phones must be turned off and put away for the duration of the exam.
  • You are permitted to bring and use >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> during exams.  No other aid is permitted during exams.
  • For each exam you will be provided with a formula and data sheet at the start of the exam.  A sample will be posted 2 days before the exam so that you may familiarize yourself with it.  No other information beside what is in your own brain may be accessed during exams.
  • Please bring your Cornell ID to each exam.  Students may be asked to have it available as part of the exam process.
  • All exam regrades will be handled as follows:
    • Any request for a regrade must be submitted in writing, within one week of the exam return, and must specify exactly where the student believes there is a grading error. The instructor reserves the right to regrade the entire exam during the regrade process. Do not submit regrade requests just hoping for a few more points as a grade could go up or down. 

Homework statement examples

  • Homework is for you to learn the material.  You may use whatever resources you feel will best accomplish this objective.
  • Homework is for you to learn the material.  You may talk with other students and gather information from the web.  However, you are expected to cite all sources of information used beyond your textbook and lecture notes.  This includes (or doesn’t include) citing discussions with a TA.  Make sure that whatever resources you use, you can solve similar, new problems on your own as you will be expected to do so on exams.  You will also be expected to apply what you have learned to completely new problems on exams so don’t bypass the thinking involved in doing the homework.
  • Homework is an important part of learning the material and your course grade.  As such homework is to be done individually and without referring to sources such as solutions manuals, prior solutions, other student’s homework, or other resources that would let you bypass the difficult but rewarding effort of learning the material yourself.    You may talk with other students about the homework, but may not share any written component of yours or another’s work.
  • CS has a very specific set of Academic Integrity guidelines for coursework and code in particular.  See for example: http://www.cs.cornell.edu/courses/cs322/2004sp/AcadInteg.htm

Projects and Papers

  • The course project provides a chance for you to apply the material you are learning in this course to a problem of interest to you (or your group).  You will be using a variety of resources to understand your particular problem and propose a solution.  Be sure to document sources you use as you develop your project. That will make it much easier to properly cite resources and references in your final report.  All material that is not specifically from your textbook or course notes and that isn’t general knowledge should be cited.  For the purposes of this course, general knowledge is considered to be information that can be found from multiple distinct sources, or that a student would have been expected to know/learn from previous or current courses.

Group work

  • All members of your group are considered co-authors of the group’s work.  Thus you do not have to cite discussions between group members.  You must cite contributions by those outside your group.
  • The Cornell code of Academic Integrity is “grounded on the concept of honesty with respect to the intellectual efforts of oneself and others”.In group work this means allowing all group members an opportunity to contribute to and learn from the group’s efforts.  

Examples of consequences for violations that you might want to include:

  • Any violation of the academic integrity policy for this course on an assignment will result in no credit for that assignment.  On exams and depending on the nature of the infraction, penalties will vary from no credit on the specific problem, overall grade reduction on the exam, or a zero on the entire exam. 
  • A first offense of this policy on an assignment will be considered academic misconduct and will result in a warning and no credit for the particular assignment.  All exam violations, and/or a second or further offenses on assignments, will be considered academic integrity violations with penalties that will be assessed following a primary hearing.

Any violations of this Academic Integrity policy will be taken seriously and will result in a primary hearing with the potential of lowering your grade in this course, possibly to an F.  

  1.  Cornell Code of Academic Integrity https://cuinfo.cornell.edu/aic.cfm,  Jan. 28, 2018

Transition from Blackboard to Canvas

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One semester down, a new one to start!

As you are hopefully aware, Blackboard will be replaced over the next few semesters by Canvas.  Canvas offers several enhancements over Blackboard, including a user interface designed for ease and efficiency of use, an open API that enables 3rd party apps, a vastly-improved mobile experience, and an integrated syllabus and calendar that helps students track pending / completed activities across courses.

The Canvas implementation begins next semester (Sp19) with the expectation that all courses will use Canvas by Spring of 2020.   So, whether you are ready or not, it is time be begin planning your own transition.   The University’s Center for Teaching Innovation is providing limited support for the migration.  For faculty who expect to need assistance, they have capacity to engage with ~20 more courses this spring; but others requiring minimal support can consider moving as well.

Who should move this spring?

  • Creating an entirely new course … might as well do it in Canvas rather than later transitioning
  • Faculty taking over an existing course who do not plan to reuse Blackboard content from the previous incarnation
  • Faculty who already have experience with Canvas (previous institution)
  • Faculty who want to leverage new features in Canvas such as better integration with Google Docs (though it is hard to understand why anyone would want that J)

Who should not move this spring?

  • large course that depend on creating sections in their Blackboard courses for grading should wait until Fall when the functionality will be available.

Who should definitely transition in Fa19?

  • All ENGRI 1xxx and ENGRG 1050 courses, as well as course that have significant freshman enrollment, should plan to be fully Canvas transitioned by Fa19.  This will ensure that incoming freshmen only need to learn one Learning Management System (LMS), Canvas.

Who should definitely transition in Sp20?

  • Everyone.  Blackboard will be gone!

Signing up for the Sp19 transition and learning more:

https://it.cornell.edu/canvas is a primary source for information.  You can sign up for Canvas in Sp19 there, as well as access several workshops to assist in the transition.  Resources include:

Specialized Engineering Training

The college will be scheduling specific and intentional training focused on the more commonly used LMS features (repository, announcements, gradebook, etc.) as well as introducing more advanced features.

  • Hold Dec. 5 at 1:00-2:00 in Olin 165 (after classes end) for a college wide introduction to Canvas.  The general introduction will be immediately followed by advanced training for the early adopters.

Any additional questions can be raised with Kathy Dimiduk, or by emailing the Center for Teaching Innovation at Canvas@Cornell.edu.

The First Lecture

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It is interesting to observe that research shows students form an opinion of a class in the first 10 minutes, and more importantly that their opinion changes very little through the end of the semester.  And “end of semester survey” at the end of the first lecture is often indistinguishable from the actual end of semester survey.

So use those first few minutes of your first class well.  Don't start your interactions with the students by going through a detailed and “boring” syllabus, and other logistics. Instead, sell the class and sell yourself as the instructor!

  • Why is this class important within their field or future career?
  • How will the course stretch their thinking and ability to function as future engineers?
  • Why are you the right person to teach this course, and show how much you're looking forward to teaching the course
  • What unique and challenging things will the students be doing for the course?

Then you can follow with key information from the syllabus followed by launching into actual content.

And of course, check the classroom and its technology and/or boards before the first lecture.  Bring adapters for your computer; some rooms are HDMI only, others are VGA only, and some have everything.  And maybe even bring your own chalk and/or whiteboard markers

Options to Mitigate Fallout from Travel Challenges for Students This Week

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As detailed by Provost Kotlikoff, there are likely to be a significant number of students who will not be able to make the start of classes.  Indeed, I was in the Midwest over the weekend and my flight back was canceled; American Airlines was accommodating enough and suggested that they might get me to Ithaca as early as Thursday (ended up driving).

Where possible, it would appropriate to record the first lecture (or two).  The recording does not need to be professional or pretty, just have the notes and voice.  There are several quick options for recording:

  1. If you teach in Upson 102, 202, 142, 146, 206, 216 or 222, or Gates G01 or 114, you have a simple option.  Cameras in these rooms are designed to readily record the lecture.  Chose “recording” on the Crestron control panel and follow directions on the room sheets.  Kathy Dimiduk and COECIS IT staff can also help.
  2. If you are familiar with Zoom, you can share your presentation (if doing slides) or just point the laptop’s camera at the screen, and rely on the laptop’s microphone.  A button on the bottom will allow you to record instantly.
  3. Similarly, if you have used Panopto on Blackboard, it can be similarly used to record slides and blackboard content.

Kathy Dimiduk’s office also has a video camera and tripod that can be borrowed for classes (let the TA record).

This first lecture may be a “low risk” opportunity to explore quick and simple lecture recording techniques for the next inevitable winter storm (or slope day).

Students will be highly appreciative of even the effort to help them through this challenge.

Beginning and Ending Lectures

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Ultimately we hope students remember, and are able to use, what we teach!  Two easy ways to help achieve this goal are (1) to start lecture with a brief outline of the material to be covered and (2) end lecture with a summary of the key points or “takeaways” (tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them!) .

At the beginning of lecture, frame the content of the day’s lecture.  For example,

  • Use a “big idea” concept
    • Today’s lecture connects to xyz
  • List specific topics to be covered - with several possible formats
    • Approaches to be used (eg. proof of xyz, case study, examples)
    • Application to specific problem/market/product (be specific)
    • Significance or connections or summary

Outlines should be specific to the day’s lecture, not a generic outline that gets used over multiples weeks. Alternatively, include key points under the specific topic instead of the approach and application.

Similarly, students are more likely to remember material if they are reminded of the “important” points at the end of lecture (see figure 1 below).  Reviews can be a simple summary slide or bullets written on the board.   Note that you have to actually leave time for the summary for it to be of any value.

Effective Retention vs Number of Days graphic showing that having student review at the end of lecture results in much more effective retention compared to no review at all as days progress.
Figure 1

To avoid running late, one timing trick is to have an example about 3/4 of the way through lecture that can be expanded or compressed. 

  • On time - continue example as planned
  • Running late - introduce example and approach but skip details
  • Running early - (does this happen?) show them the level of detail you expect on an exam including written reasoning

Then you will arrive right on time for the review, a few minutes before each class ends.

Alternatively, you can ask students to spend the last few minutes of class writing down the main ideas, and then have them compare answers with a neighbor. This takes longer, but students will likely internalize the content more effectively.

1 Biggs, J., Tang, C. and Biggs, J. (2007). Teaching for quality learning at university. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill/Society for Research into Higher Education & Open UniversityPress. P. 109. [also available as a download from Cornell library.]

Active Learning to Increasing Student Engagement and Retention

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At times even the term “active learning” can be daunting.  But research clearly shows that moving from passive information delivery to any form of engaged classroom has a significant impact on long term student learning and retention. 
Many effective active learning techniques can be readily incorporated into existing class structures.  This week’s tip focuses on the “Think, Pair, Share” concept and I’d ask you to consider giving it a try.
Faculty are very good at asking thoughtful questions in class.  Many students, however, just sit passively and wait for someone else to answer.  “Think, Pair, Share” is a simple approach that engages nearly all students in answering a question.

     1.       Ask a question as usual. 
     2.       Ask students to think about the answer for 30 seconds (or however long you chose).
     3.       Have students pair, turn to a student near them. (10 seconds)
     4.       Students share their answers with each other and improve the answer if they can. (1 – 3 minutes)
     5.       Optional:  Call on one to three pairs to share their answer.

The process does take a little longer than just calling on one of the strong students (the ones who always raise their hands).  In exchange for this time, the entire class engages with the question; it also resets their attention span so they can focus again on the lecture content.
Consider trying a few Think, Pair, Share questions this semester if you aren’t otherwise already using active learning.  This kind of question is most successful if it is not too easy – challenge the students on a conceptually difficult idea or application.
Research shows that active learning approaches such as this increase student engagement, learning and retention of material.  For a good review paper see Michael Prince’s article “Does Active Learning Work?” http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.2168-9830.2004.tb00809.x/epdf

Optimizing Assignments for our Over-Scheduled Students

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Although we may wish that students had only our course to focus on during the semester, reality is that they must juggle multiple courses with multiple overlapping deadlines, extracurricular activities (project teams), and some level of social life. Common concerns in end-of-semester evaluations related to course assignments include (i) continuously shifting deadlines, (ii) last minute modifications, and (iii) assignments poorly times with respect to content delivery (homework before the lecture).

The following suggestions are perhaps obvious, but is good to be reminded of them anyway as the semester begins:

  1. Have an assignment due early in the semester so students build time for your course into their schedules; by week 3, most students have completely filled their schedules with ongoing commitments.
  2. Be sensitive to students' time-management needs. Assignments and projects should be distributed with clear deadlines and with sufficient time to allow students to interleave them with other responsibilities.
  3. Where possible, coordinate homework deadlines with other required courses in the major, and try to avoid known due dates from large common courses (e.g. Math 2940).
  4. Required topics should be covered at least 4-5 days prior to assignment deadlines.
  5. Emphasize that effort needs to be sustained throughout the week and semester, and not just the evening before the deadline or exam.

Homework and assignments are critical to the learning experience, requiring extensive student effort. Part of our responsibility as faculty is to ensure that this effort is effective. 


Improving Classroom Climate Through Acknowledging Student Concerns

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Students feel more engaged in courses that connect to their reality and value them as individuals. Even small connections with student concerns can have significant impacts.

Recent bias incidents are likely on students’ minds. While perhaps not directly relevant to engineering classes, efforts by faculty to acknowledge these cultural challenges will resonate deeply with students.

If you would like to comment on recent issues in your class, here are a few ideas that may help you develop an effective strategy for your class and your personality. Sample slides and resources are attached and are available at the MTEI website.

  1. Simply acknowledge in class what has happened (bias incidents), the impact it has on our community, and on your and the college’s response to such behaviors.
  2. You might encourage students to (i) seek support from each other, campus resources, family and friends, and (ii) provide support to those most impacted.
  3. Post and advertise the "Raising a Concern about Harassment and Discrimination” (PDF), and the slide on campus resources, to your Blackboard or CMS site.
  4. If you want to more actively engage your class, consider these possibilities:
    • Reflect on the “Any Person, Any Study” priority for Cornell. Share your intent to make your class welcoming and inclusive for all students and ask students to make a point of being inclusive in their interactions
    • Acknowledge that not everyone is impacted in the same way. Ask for a “Moment of Reflection” to think about practices they have seen that are inclusive or exclusive and how engineering practice impacts various populations
    • Write-pair-share” exercise: Have students individually reflect, in writing, on the impact to themselves or their friends (3 minutes). Then have them share their responses in small groups (3 minutes). To broaden the impact, consider having students fold their comments and pass them around like “hot potatoes” for some time, followed by small group discussion of ideas that landed in their group

New End-of-Semester Course Evaluations

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Tis the season to be thankful!  And that means end-of-semester course evaluations, which will launch on Tuesday, Nov. 27th** and close on Dec. 7th (just before the first finals).   This is a reminder that you can add your own questions (along with some suggestions), along with a reminder that there will be an entirely new survey starting now.

This semester marks the full deployment of the new evaluation (see attached), with questions grouped by category:

  • course content
  • course delivery
  • resources, assignments and assessment
  • course environment
  • comparison to other courses (old questions 8 and 13)
  • recitations/discussion (if section scheduled)
  • laboratories (if lab scheduled)
  • option to nominate a TA for a teaching award

Feel free to request lab and/or discussion evaluation sections for lecture only courses if relevant. 

You can also request up to four, open-ended questions of your own (as before).  What information might be useful the next time you teach the course?  Did you try something new this semester?  Do want to know what students found most difficult?  Some possible questions are included below. 

Sample “text” format course evaluation questions:

  1. Was there a pre-requisite topic for which students would have found a review video useful?
  2. What is the one thing students would recommend changing in the course?
  3. What topic did you find most confusing in this course?
  4. How effective was [iClickers, group discussions, homework, project] in supporting your learning?
  5. Significant background material for many of the topics in this class is assumed.  Given your background, was there a specific topic where starting at a lower level would have been really helpful?
  6. The textbook for this course is expensive.   Do you think it should continue to be a required text?  Why or why not?
  7. This is the first year that iClickers were used in this course.  Was the time and structure of the iClicker questions effective in helping you understand this material?
  8. This course is suffering from syllabus overload.  What topic would you recommend removing from the class next year?
  9. How often and how extensively did you use the posted lecture notes?
  10. Were there any specific topics in the course where you felt more examples were needed?
  11. The project is a major component of this course.  How much time did you spend on the project, and do you believe that the time was “valuable”?
  12. I’ve been starting every lecture with an engineering motivation.  Was this useful, or did you “just wish the lecture would get started”?   Why?
  13. Imagine you could give one suggestion for the course, and that it would be required reading by the next instructor one or two weeks before class starts.  What would that suggestion be?

**Course Evaluations were launched on Monday, November 26th, not Tuesday, November 27th.

Linking Final Exam Questions to Learning Outcomes

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Good afternoon.

It is that time again, the end of the semester and the bi-annual challenge of writing the final exam.

When writing questions, consider the learning outcomes you defined for your course.  Your learning outcomes capture the key abilities/knowledge that you hope students acquire through the course.  Thus the final exam is a perfect opportunity to measure (assess) one or more of these outcomes.  (Ignore ABET … focus instead on the critical skills you want students to develop.  ABET and/or Middle States will be thrilled with such intentional assessment.)

Consider letting students know you are basing the exam at least partly on the course learning objectives. This encourages students to reflect on what you identify as important and to recognize how far they have come during the semester.  As they study for the exam, it may also help them focus on bigger picture concepts and skills rather than specific problem solving strategies.

Cornell also prides itself on developing engineers who are creative problem solvers who can solve novel, complex problems.  Consider asking questions that allow students to demonstrate a range of knowledge and critical thinking skills from basic knowledge and comprehension through application and analysis up to synthesis and evaluation.   The figure below of Bloom’s Taxonomy offers verbs for each level of learning that might help jump start thinking of new problems at a range of levels.

Other reminders:

  • Reusing old exam questions (or exams) can give unfair advantage to students with access.  A better option may be to distribute last year’s exam to let students know the level and style
  • Proofread the exam carefully – and maybe have TAs actually do the exam beforehand
  • Use a broad range of question difficulty to broaden the score distribution
  • Typically, a person with knowledge of the questions beforehand should be able to complete the exam in 1/3 of the time allocated to students
  • Think intentionally about how/if you will grant partial credit, especially on questions that are dependent on successful completion of earlier sections
  • If using multiple choice, try to avoid questions that focus on obscure details or tricky wording

Bloom's Taxonomy Pyramid: Evaluation (top level): Judges the value of material. Verbs: appraise, assess, criticize, defend, evaluate, justify, support. Synthesis (next level): Formulate new structures from existing knowledge and skills. Verbs: compile, create, develop, generalize, integrate, propose. Analysis (next level): Understand both the content and structure of material. Verbs: analyze, compare, contrast, differentiate. Application (next level): Use learning in new and concrete situations. Verbs: apply, carry out, construct, demonstrate, operate, produce, use. Comprehension (next level): Grasp the meaning of material. Verbs: comprehend, condense, describe, discuss, distinguish, interpret, locate. Knowledge (next level): Remember previously learned material. Verbs: define, describe, identify, label, list, match, name, outline, recall, recognize, reproduce, select, state.

End-of-Semester Last Step-Review

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Dear Faculty,

Congratulations!  You’ve survived another semester … the students have now seen their grades and your course’s materials are filed away in preparation for a relaxing summer.  But there is one last step that you really should consider … writing a note to your future self about the course while the challenges and successes are still fresh in your mind.   This really just requires making a few notes for the next time you teach the course, or maybe for the next instructor.  For example, you might be thinking:

  • How could students have bombed that question on the final so badly?  Was this just a less than stellar exam question, or do the students need more practice on the topic?
  • I’m starting to understand this concept of learning outcomes.  Maybe I should write some specific ones now before I forget what is important for them to learn?
  • How can I avoid the most common student complaints, concerns and issues in the future?
  • What questions or topics came up the most in office hours? 
  • How did I end up having to cover 3 weeks of the course in the last two lectures?
  • Why are we still teaching about vacuum tube circuits in this course?
  • EI had really great fun teaching X, but both the students and I fell asleep covering Y.

The problem with these ideas is that they are usually forgotten by the time you next teach the course, and we often find ourselves facing the same issues over and over.  A Post Course Review, nothing more than writing these thoughts down now, can give you a real advantage next year.

Attached is a template of one possible Post Course Review, along with an annotated version giving a sense of the detail and tone.  Changes you suggest aren’t binding, but it is easier to capture ideas now for future consideration.  This is primarily a document to your future self, but can also be shared with your department curriculum committee to enhance the overall curriculum.

Have a great summer after you complete your Post Course Review.

Time to Update Your Syllabus

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A syllabus is your contract with the students laying out important logistical information and a set of mutual expectations. The larger the course, the more time and headache you can save throughout the semester by distributing a thorough and accurate syllabus at the beginning. Plan to complete your syllabus with time for thorough proof-reading by yourself and the TA.

The MTEI website has several resources and references on writing syllabi, including two excellent short PDFs; samples from various engineering courses; links to academic papers; and a variety of additional links and resources. Listed below are a few non-obvious items you should strongly consider including:

  • An explicit definition of academic integrity in your course with a link to Cornell’s official policy at http://cuinfo.cornell.edu/aic.cfm
  • An explicit statement that all materials are copyrighted by you (so you have a right to have them removed from sites like CourseHero)
  • A note to students with disabilities reminding them that accommodation needs must be documented through the Student Disability Services office (http://sds.cornell.edu); SDS provides sample syllabus text.  Consider requesting prompt notification or even a deadline for notification.
  • Unless you have taught a class multiple times and have good control of the content, or there is another compelling reason such as many guest lectures, it’s probably better to provide students with a general schedule rather than a lecture-by-lecture plan. 
  • A list of available resources is helpful, including reference material on hold at the library and online resources.  Consider also links to Engineering Learning Initiatives, the Learning Strategies Center, or the Math Support Center.

Learning Outcomes and Uploading Syllabi

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As part of both ABET and MiddleStates Accreditation reviews, the university and the college are asking that you add learning outcomes to your syllabi and that you upload syllabi for your fall 2019 and spring 2020 courses to the Class Roster.

Learning Outcomes describe what you expect students to be able to do by the end of the course.  They are not just what is covered in the course, but rather what students should be able to demonstrate or accomplish based on the instruction they received.  Thus learning outcomes normally include action verbs like solve, analyze, select and justify,  design, ……  See the link below or the MTEI website for a list of action verbs that match various levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.  Learning outcomes should be specific and measurable.  The action verbs typically inform how one might measure the student’s ability to meet the learning outcome.  At the course level, there are typically 3-5 Learning Outcomes that cover much of the content of the course.  If you need help thinking about and writing learning outcomes, MTEI will have a Teaching Topics Lunch Discussion on Learning Outcomes on Wednesday, Oct. 16th at noon followed by office hours in Rhodes 195 (please RSVP to klc78 for lunch count), or you can make an appointment with Kathy Dimiduk.

To upload your syllabus, go to classes.cornell.edu and select the correct semester.  Then select Syllabi in the upper right-hand corner and attach the appropriate syllabus to each course.

Various groups have generated good lists of Action Verbs corresponding to the different levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.  This particular list has many verbs that work well for engineering courses. http://www.northeastern.edu/nuolirc/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Blooms-Taxonomy-Handout.pdf

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy Pyramid. Top level is Creating: can the student build on the lower order skills to create a new product or idea that is useful? Next level is Evaluating: can the student justify a stand or decision, exaplain which options are better than others and why? Next level is Analyzing: can the student distinguish between the different parts and understand how they are connected? Next level is Applying: can the student use their knowledge and understanding in a new context? Next level is Understanding: can the student explain the ideas and concepts they have remembered? The bottom leve is Remembering: can the student recall the information?
Anderson, L. W. and Krathwohl, D. R., et al (Eds..) (2001) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Allyn & Bacon. Boston, MA (Pearson Education Group).

Building Students’ Overall Content Framework and Understanding

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Expert colleagues!

As subject experts, we know instinctively how the content of our course is organized, including a clear framework for connecting critical concepts.  We also know multiple approaches for solving problems, including how those approaches link and relate – experience gained over numerous years of writing challenging problems.  And as experts, we can readily integrate new material into our framework, building new strategies to address novel problems.  Unfortunately, at times we forget those years of practice and expect students will be able to develop these same skills by osmosis from our brilliant lectures and discussions.  But, as novices, students see information much more as individual facts and procedures to learn, memorize, and maybe practice.  Our strongest learners (top students), devote the time and effort to piece together the information and develop the mental connections for their own framework.  But, for most students, we need to provide them with that framework explicitly, as a complement to the content, skills, and guided practice that are a part of every course.

This point in the semester is an opportune time to help students develop that robust and integrated mental model of your course.  Consider using part of a lecture to review the content to date at the 30,000 ft level, focusing specifically on how everything fits together.  Your students have likely mastered details, and should be ready to step back to see this bigger picture and the connections.  You can also look ahead to what will be covered and how it builds on and within this framework.  During the last week of class, you might then consider revisiting the framework and adding a few finishing touches.

Now, or in those last lectures, is also an opportunity to explicitly discuss where and how concepts can be applied in the real world, and especially how to recognize those situations (if you haven’t already).  The combination of helping students build a robust framework and understand the application space will help them retain key concepts long term and to apply them in new situations. Cornell students have the intellectual capacity to learn at this level, and developing such deep understanding is a critical skill that we can share with them.

As a final note, this may also be an opportunity to address any lingering organizational issues (before that pesky end-of-semester evaluation).  Many times the difference between a good course and a great course is little more than a clearly articulated organization structure.

Time to Update Your Syllabus (Again)

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Dear Colleagues (and welcome to a new year),

A syllabus is your contract with students laying out important logistical information and mutual expectations. The larger the course, the more time and headaches you can save by initially distributing a thorough and accurate syllabus.  Ideally, there would be time for a thorough proof-reading by yourself and your TA (if any).

First Request: Engineering is not doing very well uploading syllabi to the class roster.  When you finish the syllabus, please upload by clicking on the Syllabi balloon at the top right of the roster webpage https://classes.cornell.edu/syllabi-manage/roster/SP20.

The MTEI website has several resources and references on writing syllabi, including two excellent short PDFs; samples from various engineering courses; links to academic papers; and a variety of additional links and resources.

There are also several not always obvious, but critical items, that you should consider including (specific text that you can cut/paste is included at the end of this message):

  • Academic integrity:  Include both an introductory statement and specifics so there is no confusion if AI violations occur.  Also, with the increasing popularity of course sharing sites, we suggest explicitly including posting of copyrighted material as an AI violation (e.g. CourseHero). 
  • Copyright: If you do not want your course materials on the Web, it is critical to include copyright notices on all notes, exams, slides, homework, solutions, etc.  With a copyright notice, it is much easier to get material removed from sites like CourseHero.
  • Accommodations for students with disabilities:  Let students know that you will work with them on disability requests, but remind them that accommodation needs must be documented (Student Disability Services) and that they need to communicate with you in a timely fashion.
  • Schedule: Unless you have taught a course multiple times and have good control of the content (or compelling reason such as many guest lectures), it’s probably better to provide students with a general schedule rather than a lecture-by-lecture plan. 
  • Policies: Specific policies such as late submission penalties, make up exam requirements, or any attendance requirement should be included in the syllabus.
  • Resources: Include, for example, reference material on hold at the library or online resources.  Also consider including links to the Engineering Learning Initiatives, the Learning Strategies Center, or the Math Support Center.
  • Course Environment: Given the current world situation, we can support all of our students by including a statement about valuing all students and expecting students to treat each other with respect.

Example text follows:

AI language:

MTEI has examples of language (www.engineering.cornell.edu/MTEI/teaching-tips-week/creating-academic-integrity-statement-your-course) and Cornell’s official policy is at theuniversityfaculty.cornell.edu/academic-integrity.

Copyright notice:

All materials distributed in this course are copyrighted and may not be distributed further.  They are intended for your sole use and may not be posted on any public or private website, or by any other sharing method (e.g. fraternity exam files).

SDS language:

Students with Disabilities: Your access in this course is important. Please give course staff your Student Disability Services (SDS) accommodation letter early in the semester so that we have adequate time to arrange your approved academic accommodations. If you need an immediate accommodation, please speak with me after class or send an email message to me and/or SDS. If the need arises for additional accommodations during the semester, please contact SDS.

Course Environment Example: 

Course environment: Students come from many different backgrounds and bring a wide variety of strengths, as well as different approaches to solving problems and viewing the world.  This is a strength of Cornell and we value all of our students, and insist that everyone treat colleagues with respect and consideration.  You are encouraged to learn with, and from, each other in an inclusive manner.

Course Specific Policies Examples:

Examples of late submissions policies:

           o   No late work will be accepted.

           o   Late assignments will be accepted within 24 hours of the due date with a 25% penalty.

           o   No late work will be accepted but one homework grade will be dropped.  Use this wisely and still learn that material.

           o   Each student will be given 1 slip day pass (turn in the assignment one day late without penalty).  This may be attached to any one assignment, except …,. 

Examples of attendance policies:

         o   You are responsible for your own learning.  Lectures and section are designed to help you learn, however, it is your decision whether to attend.

         o   Clickers or other active learning activities will be part of most lectures and sections.  While attendance is not taken directly, failure to participate in these activities misses some of the assigned work and can impact your grade.  To account for occasional reasons you might have to miss class (illness, job interview, team travel, battery died in clicker, etc.) participating in 85% of the questions and activities will count as full credit.

         o   This is an attendance based class.  If you miss more than 2 sessions you will not pass.  If there are extenuating circumstances beyond your control, contact the instructor to discuss your options.

 Gradescope – A New/Modern Way to Grade Assignments

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Since the dawn of time (or at least formal education), grading has been a challenging and seemingly interminable part of teaching.

Several of our Cornell colleagues – in engineering and math – are now using a tool called Gradescope that can indeed simplify and improve the grading process.  It is not necessarily the right solution for every course and instructor, but it is a “rare tool that helps faculty and graduate TAs save time while providing students with better, more timely feedback” (CTI testimonial).   Based on feedback from the engineering and math faculty, the Deans were convinced to fund a university-wide license.  As an added benefit, it integrates into Canvas.

There is a pleasantly short (1:50) YouTube video (https://youtu.be/LhTYHi1GG9c) that gives a nice introduction to the key concepts.

Hadas Ritz (MAE and MTEI) was one of those enthusiastic pathfinders (evangelists), using Gradescope in one of her large classes.  On Monday (Jan. 20), Hadas will hold drop-in hours from noon to 2:00 pm in Rhodes 195 to discuss and help with Gradescope.  Stop by to talk about how it really functions or to get help setting it up for your course.

Some of the key benefits of using Gradescope include:

  • developing and revising rubrics (as you grade) resulting in simpler and more uniform grading
  • reuse of comments for common errors
  • electronic submission of assignments; students receive immediate email confirmation
  • assignment returned from within Gradescope; students quickly see graded work which saves class or section time
  • easy “return” of group assignments to all members of each group
  • digital record of all assignments (for ABET and/or academic integrity purposes)
  • consolidated history of regrade requests
  • responsive and helpful technical support from Gradescope

Since the University is funding the license, we in engineering might as well make use of the tool where appropriate.

How to Foster Success on the First Day of Class

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We all know there is only one opportunity to make a good first impression. And, interestingly, research shows students form their opinion of a class in the first 10 minutes and this opinion changes very little through the semester.  Even if opinions are not closed on the first day, students certainly form a lasting impression of you – and the material – within the first few sessions.

Some ideas for setting the tone for a successful semester are listed below.   (The first three are plagiarized from the Jan. 17, 2020 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.)

  • Humanize yourself.  Humorous asides and occasional self-disclosure can go a long way toward showing that you’re a caring human being
  • Greet as many students as you can.  This is easier in smaller courses than big ones.  But if you can, let students know you’re glad they joined you for the course.
  • Get them comfortable with one another.  This doesn’t have to take the form of a dreaded “icebreaker.”  Just divide students into pairs or small groups, and give them a simple (or challenging) task to complete.
  • Don't start your interactions with details of “boring” syllabus or class logistics. Instead, sell the class and yourself first, and then annoy them with the syllabus.
  • Recognize that your attire can impact the student’s perception and indeed the flow/style of the class.  Professional and more formal attire may help to establish an environment of authority and respect.  This is definitely a personal decision and concept, and some faculty may find that Hawaiian shirts set the appropriate tone.
  • Explain why the class is important within their field, or for their future career.
  • Talk about your goals (education outcomes), especially as it relates to their ability to think and function as a future engineer.
  • Let them know why you are the right person to teach the course, hopefully showing them how much you're looking forward to teaching as they should be to learning

And remember, teaching can be as exciting, rewarding, and fun as research!

Opt-out option for project to develop ML/AI based summary of teaching evaluation comments

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Student evaluations of courses are an important element in our “continuous improvement process”.  While the questions give easily quantified data, the numbers don’t always capture the full breadth of student’s experience.  For that, the comments are commonly far more valuable.

For a small class, it is not difficult to read all the comments and get a reasonably good perspective.  But for large classes, the sheer number of comments can be overwhelming and often there is insufficient time to fully digest the data.

Kathy Dimiduk and Madeleine Udell are exploring development of a supporting tool that would provide a “summary” of the comments, looking for common threads and prioritizing the positives and the concerns.  Ultimately, such a tool might provide a bulleted list of actionable summaries that would facilitate improvements, as well as help guide a more comprehensive reading of the comments.

A group of students this semester will be working to develop first prototypes of this tool.  Past course evaluations, anonymized to remove faculty names and course numbers, will be used as the training data and to assess the effectiveness of the program.  Kathy and I met with the IRB (Institutional Review Board) to confirm that this would not be classified as a “human participatory research” project.

However, there is the potential for some personally identifiable data making it through the anonymizing filters (badly misspelled names for example).  As course evaluations can at times be sensitive issues for faculty, we wanted to give you the opportunity to opt-out and not have your prior evaluations included in the training data.  To opt-out, please fill out the Qualtrics survey at https://cornell.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3Vr8uDkxPpJEOXj

I believe that this project has the potential to be extremely valuable to all of us, providing actionable recommendations from the evaluations, and helping us do our jobs well with less effort.  I hope you agree and are willing to have your data included in the training and evaluation.  We will keep you posted with results of the initial studies.

Follow up: Opt-out of project to develop ML/AI based summary of teaching evaluation comments

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This is a follow-up to last week’s e-mail (included below).  We received a small handful of opt-outs, which was about a handful more than I expected.  Given limitations of e-mail, I feel it is important for me to further explain the project, goals and potential outcomes.

First, I want to emphasize that this is an exploration into new ways to manage and process course evaluation data that we already collect.  Second, there will be no change in the actual course surveys.  Third, if it ultimately proves useful, this will only be an addition to the way survey results are communicated to the faculty.  And finally, it is an exploration that will need careful assessment and evaluation by numerous groups before there is any roll-out.  Ultimately, we just want to develop more effective ways to communicate data in forms that are useful ad actionable to those teaching the courses.

The current work is essentially “re-analysis” of old data in appropriate support of a core academic responsibility of the college.  But being sensitive to individual faculty privacy concerns, we are reaching out to offer the opt-out opportunity (https://cornell.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3Vr8uDkxPpJEOXj) from training and test data that will be used for evaluating the potential and appropriateness of this approach.

We are keenly aware of limitations, biases, participation rates, and other issues related to on-line course evaluations.  But they are data that we need to continue collecting, and the data does have some value to faculty as they continuously improve their teaching.  This is just trying to enable faculty to make more effective use of the data.

Two final notes.  Kathy and Madeleine are working to ensure the data is anonymized as effectively as possible before being shared with a few select students as training data.  And results of this study will only be shared within the MTEI group at this time.

================= Last week’s e-mail =====================

Student evaluations of courses are an important element in our “continuous improvement process”.  While the questions give easily quantified data, the numbers don’t always capture the full breadth of student’s experience.  For that, the comments are commonly far more valuable.

For a small class, it is not difficult to read all the comments and get a reasonably good perspective.  But for large classes, the sheer number of comments can be overwhelming and often there is insufficient time to fully digest the data.

Kathy Dimiduk and Madeleine Udell are exploring development of a supporting tool that would provide a “summary” of the comments, looking for common threads and prioritizing the positives and the concerns.  Ultimately, such a tool might provide a bulleted list of actionable summaries that would facilitate improvements, as well as help guide a more comprehensive reading of the comments.

A group of students this semester will be working to develop first prototypes of this tool.  Past course evaluations, anonymized to remove faculty names and course numbers, will be used as the training data and to assess the effectiveness of the program.  Kathy and I met with the IRB (Institutional Review Board) to confirm that this would not be classified as a “human participatory research” project.

However, there is the potential for some personally identifiable data making it through the anonymizing filters (badly misspelled names for example).  As course evaluations can at times be sensitive issues for faculty, we wanted to give you the opportunity to opt-out and not have your prior evaluations included in the training data.  To opt-out, please fill out the Qualtrics survey at https://cornell.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3Vr8uDkxPpJEOXj

I believe that this project has the potential to be extremely valuable to all of us, providing actionable recommendations from the evaluations, and helping us do our jobs well with less effort.  I hope you agree and are willing to have your data included in the training and evaluation.  We will keep you posted with results of the initial studies.

Tis the Season to Retire Blackboard and Embrace Canvas

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It’s the New Year.  Blackboard is gone – may it rest in peace.  Canvas is here – may we have a long and fruitful time together.

There is one immediate action that you need to consider now:

If you want content from your previous Blackboard sites, you must export the site to Canvas or archive it.  On May 1, 2020, Blackboard will be totally gone from Cornell (along with your data).  Instructions for exporting your site can be found on CTI’s tutorial website here.

All courses this semester will automatically have a Canvas site, and will have students automatically enrolled as they add the course (and removed as they drop).

CTI is here in Engineering, ready willing and able, to help:  Starting Wednesday (Jan 15), CTI will hold Canvas office hours in Rhodes to help faculty with all things Canvas.  Stop by as a novice or expert.

  • When:  Every Wednesday 11:00 am to 1:00 pm
  • Where:  Rhodes 191 conference room
  • Who: CTI Canvas staff

Quick Tips for Effectively Using Canvas:

  • Add your staff: While Canvas will automatically handle student enrollments, you must manually add your TA and other staff.
  • Think Modules:  There is a significant paradigm shift from file-based management in Blackboard (folders and subfolders) to modules in Canvas.  Many of us treated Blackboard as a document repository.  While Canvas can operate this way (awkwardly), it is designed to be organized as tasks, with each task module containing notes, presentations, quizzes and assignments.  This integrates with the Canvas calendar flow (one module per week or topic).  Consider shifting to this paradigm as students find it more effective when using Canvas sites.  Effort put into organizing this way can be reused much more readily in future years (using the publish on/off feature).
  • Accept that navigation is a pain: Everyone is aware the navigation needs work.  Hopefully we will see improvement soon.
  • Save and Publish: Look for a “SAVE” button before navigating to a new page (not all, but most will need you to save first).  Similarly, all content (including the course) has to be published before students will be able to see it.  You can use the “student view” to verify the site configuration.
  • Student Calendars: “Assignments” will be put on the student’s calendar if they have a due date.  If you use due dates, recommend being consistent so they always show up (or never do).
  • Canvas Gradebook unfortunate quirks:  The default gradebook in canvas displays total points (course grade) with no weighting.  There have been several cases where this has given students a false (wildly optimistic) sense of their expected grade.   

                             Solution 1:  Hide the course total “feature” from students

      • In Course navigation (inner toolbar on the left) click on Settings
      • Select more options
      • Then select “Hide totals in student grades summary”
      • Also select “Hide grade distribution graphs from students”
      • Click on Update Course Details

                             Solution 2:  Use multiple “assignment groups” and assign weighting factors to each group

      • Detailed instructions can be found here (canvas tutorial on weighted grading).
      • Note especially options for handling “0”s (both may lead to surprising behavior).
      • Remind students that you, not Canvas, assign final grades.  You may want to try to explain Canvas’s behavior, and as engineers they may even be able to follow the logic.

Canvas resources:

TA use, training and expectations

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First a quick reminder: CTI has drop-in help on CANVAS in 191 Rhodes from 11:00-1:00 today

The Engineering Dean’s Advisory Council (EDAC) met with students and discussed broadly the elements of instruction that are most effective for their learning.  Teaching assistants, both undergraduate and graduate, were identified as one of the strongest and most critical components in the teaching infrastructure.  These tips are for those of you who are fortunate enough to have such TAs.

Suggestions for coordination with TAs to maximize their impact and minimize complaints:

  • Emphasize that TAs are a critical part of the teaching team.  It may help to let TAs discuss their own experiences and identify the most positive characteristics of an effective TA.
  • Be intentional and understand your TAs’ background and teaching experience.  Identify areas where you may need to provide them with additional support.
  • Emphasize the need for a common notation in the class, especially if you use something different from the textbook, or if there are multiple notations in use in the field.  It is fair to require TAs to follow your lead.  Student may ultimately need to deal with multiple notations, but it increases the cognitive load for students learning new material.
  • Remind TAs that questions must be answered professionally both in class, office hours, and online.  In particular, answers should not be being dismissive, judgmental, or condescending.
  • TAs should normally work problems in advance of section and office hours.  Discuss how TAs can reach out for help if they cannot solve problems (you, head TA, etc.).  Students understandably get frustrated when they hear different answers from the professor and TAs. 
  • Discuss homework and grading policies, especially consistency if there are multiple graders.  How can TAs find the most recent (corrected) assignments and how are grading rubrics developed? 
  • Encourage TAs to voice any concerns they might have, and to act as a voice for students in the class.  Students may be more likely to express issues to the TAs and not directly to you. 
  • It goes without saying, but still probably worth being explicit about potential conflicts of interest (same fraternity, boyfriend/girlfriend, same sports team, friends, etc) and about prohibitions on budding relationships with students in the class.
  • Similarly, remind TAs to be proactively inclusive, definitely not showing favoritism to certain groups, races, or genders of students.  These issues commonly show up on course evaluations.
  • Remind TAs of FERPA requirements (e.g. no stacks of graded papers, no grades on the front cover, etc.).
  • Set your expectations for recitations if your TAs formally present.  What is the nature of the interactions you expect, how much problem solving versus content explanations, assisting students in solving problems versus showing solutions, etc.

Have a great semester and enjoy introducing students to the joys and power of the topics you are teaching.

Managing that awkward “topic change” during lecture effectively

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Reminder: CTI has drop-in hours for CANVAS help from 11-1 on Wednesday in 191 Rhodes.  Starting next week, this will change to Mondays from 11-1 in the same location.

The constraint of our 50 (or 75) minute standard meeting times doesn’t always mesh with the time required to complete topics in a course, and some of us are left with the challenge of making a clean transition to a new topic in the middle of lecture.   As instructors, it is only slightly challenging since we know it is coming from that blank section at the end of the notes or the line across the page.  But for students, it can be disconcerting and, in some cases, students may not even notice that the topic has changed.  Even when the shift is clear, there is often a very significant lag in their attention as they “close that folder” and “open a new topic folder”. 

The mind needs a moment to reset, just as we do when shifting tasks.  Last minute thoughts need to be filed away, and the existing clutter reorganized to provide space for the new topic.  Simply adding an intentional transition time can make the change less jarring and keep the students with you.  Here are some suggestions on how transitions might be handled:

  • Take an intentional 2- or 3-minute stretch break.  Let students relax, talk with each other, or finish up their own notes before starting the next topic.
  • Explicitly stop and give students a few minutes to jot down final notes on the topic and ask (or write down) remaining questions.  Set aside a specific amount of time to avoid the awkward “any questions” silence.  During the time, you might also
    • Answer questions from the class or from individuals (wander around)
    • Collect questions to pass on to recitation instructors
    • Collect questions and promise to answer in the next lecture or through Piazza
    • Ask students to bring their questions to office hours or recitation
  • Develop an intentional transition “micro-lecture” that links or compares the old and new topics (how related, why this transition now).  This can simultaneously serve as a summary of the old topic and introduction to the new.
  • Try the think-pair-share.  Ask students to write down several important points about the first topic and then share them with a neighbor.  This helps them mentally summarize and close the topic, while also hopefully internalizing the key takeaways for the topic.

And remember, spring will be back soon … just have patience.

Classroom polling (iClickers or low-tech pseudo-clickers)

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First a quick reminder:  CTI is still holding office hours for Canvas.  The schedule has shifted to Mondays from 11:00-1:00 in Rhodes 191.  As no one has class today, it may be a chance to get that question resolved; feel free also to send your TAs.

A 50- or 75-minute lecture is a long time for students to sit quietly, take notes, ignore text messages, and maintain attention on your engaging words of wisdom.   So, every now and then, it is good to wake them up and an easy way to promote such periodic engagement is through the use of classroom polling methods such as iClickers.

iClickers are a very low-investment, easy to implement active learning strategy. The vast majority of the undergraduates already own iClickers (from freshmen courses), and the on-line version that uses their cell phone (REEF) is relatively cheap (though does have the disadvantage of having cell phones out during lecture).  You can consider experimenting even without having any specific grade consideration.

Carl Wieman’s Science Education Initiative at UBC has written a helpful guide that explains benefits and best practices of iClickers (http://www .cwsei.ubc.ca/resources/files/Clicker_guide_CWSEI_CU-SEI.pdf).  Page 2 has an executive summary, pages 6-11 get into the best practices, pages 20-27 is an FAQ.

Some quickies:

  • Questions can be used to introduce a subject by having students “predict” a result; this gets them invested in understanding the new material.
  • Polling is a great way to uncover common mistakes or misconceptions. After a student commits to an answer, and especially if they get it wrong, they become much more invested and are more likely to retain the correct information.
  • Coming up with tempting wrong answers, based on mistakes you know students tend to make, improves the efficacy of the clicker questions. It’s also helpful for us as faculty to see whether students are “with us” or getting lost.

If you’re thinking of using them in your classroom, faculty at MTEI or staff at CTI can get you started. If you’re not interested in getting new software involved in the middle of the semester, you can use “pseudo-clickers”: ask multiple choice questions and have students vote by holding up different colored index cards, or holding up 1, 2, or 3 fingers. That loses the benefit of instantaneous histograms of their answers but retains the benefit of students committing to an answer.

One … Two … continuing the remote course delivery conversation

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Day two and slowly counting.  The situation remains fluid and guidance is still evolving.  I am meeting almost daily at 8:00 with counterparts in other colleges and with the Provost’s office to think through options and logistics.  I want to keep you informed as quickly as possible, and I apologize up front for not being able to vet and edit these messages as carefully as I would otherwise attempt.  In particular, I may well have overlooked some obvious alternatives solutions and missed key challenges.

Some things are becoming clear.  First … as you think about your courses moving forward, you need to consider two different time windows; (i) options that are viable before spring break while students are expected to still remain local and available for physical classes and (ii) options for post-spring break course delivery.  To help you thinking, below are some considerations.

Pre-spring break:

  • Courses can continue to be taught in conventional formats with sensitivity to students who may be at greater risk due to underlying medical conditions. 
  • It is not appropriate to attempt to compress the remaining semester into the lectures before break.  Other courses continue and students will have numerous distractions / other priorities.  Increasing stress by attempting to compress 6 weeks into 1 week is inappropriate.
  • Synchronous deliver of content via on-line lectures is viable.  Hardware may be challenging since rooms with dedicated equipment for synchronous delivery are likely already scheduled for other classes which may not have gone on-line.
  • Restructuring the syllabus timing to deliver content that is most dependent on synchronous delivery should be prioritized for this period.
  • Labs, in particular, should be thinking of shifting analysis to post-spring break and focusing on experimental work immediately.

Post-spring break:

  • Think about course remote delivery as consisting of two distinct components, with the second absolutely critical
    • Content delivery (lecture, notes, etc.)
    • Substantive interaction – the direct interactions that provide value to the students beyond listening to content
  • Expect that synchronous delivery of course content will be difficult and available to a very small subset of courses
    • Key challenges include the distribution of students across many time zones, including international zones.
      • Normal class times are unlikely to be viable
      • Any shift of class time to accommodate synchronous delivery will need coordination across the University’
    • Hardware is the least of the concerns in this case
    • Please communicate with Kathy Dimiduk if you believe synchronous delivery is critical for your course
  • Asynchronous delivery can take multiple forms and consider many alternatives
    • CTI has notes for several options … see their website for on-line instructions
    • The 50 minute quantum for courses is no longer dictated by the physics of the universe.  Consider smaller chunks and how you will manage them.
  • Think proactively about methods for substantive interaction
    • On-line office hours and discussion sessions
    • Group projects mentored by you and TAs

Research and Project based courses:

  • The best guidance we have at the moment is that undergraduate will not be permitted to continue in any campus based activities post spring break (independent research, projects, etc.).  It is also unlikely – at the moment – that there will even be a petition option to waive this restriction.
  • Think about comparable experiences for students in these classes that can be delivered remotely (literature exploration, designs).

I will continue to send daily updates every morning with the latest information that I have.  Please feel free to contact me directly and I will make every attempt to be much more responsive than in normal circumstances.

We will survive this landing!

ADA Accessibility, Students, Course Planning

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I hope everyone was able to take a break before diving back into planning for fall courses.  As we approach the start of the semester we’d like to share some information and hints that you may find useful.

ADA accessibility for online courses and course components

All courses that are online or have an online component (so all courses) need to take concrete steps to make their courses ADA accessible for anyone, not just students identified through SDS.  Many of the steps will add value for other students as well (e.g. international students needing a bit of help understanding lectures, students who have trouble reading your handwriting, students who find that organized headings help them organize the material…).  Examples of such steps include:

  • Caption posted videos.  This can be done automatically if the correct settings are engaged.  They do not need to be live captioned. 
  • Make documents that are posted online accessible via a screen reader.   Instructions vary by the kind of document.
  • If you post your lecture notes online, also post the lecture recording and refer those in need of an accessible version of the notes to the recorded lecture.
  • If you post hand-written solutions, have a TA (or yourself) record working through the solution and point those needing an accessible version of the solutions to the recording.
  • Post all course materials on your Canvas website rather than publically accessible websites.

Detailed implementation instructions are on the MTEI website at https://www.engineering.cornell.edu/MTEI/course-material-accessibility.  Additional information is available through CTI, https://teaching.cornell.edu/learning-technologies/hybrid-online-learning/accessibility-accommodation-inclusion

Your Students

The class schedule is still being developed and pre-enroll won’t happen until late August.  This will put your students and advisees under a lot of stress due to how late they will be pre-enrolling.   Please consider reaching out proactively to your advisees to express your concern for them and offer some office hours during pre-enrollment. 

Expectations for Fall Classes

We are no longer in an emergency situation like last spring when classes abruptly needed to move online. Though Covid-19 and uncertainty continues to be an issue, faculty have the opportunity to rethink the structure and pedagogy for their class depending on the modality they have chosen: online, hybrid, or in-person with some remote students.   This is an opportunity and challenge to update content and teaching to maintain Cornell’s standard of high quality teaching.  Students will benefit from well thought out plans that are clearly communicated.  Pay special attention to student engagement and interaction with both the teaching team and other students.  Both MTEI and CTI are have information on their websites that may be useful and are available to discuss teaching plans and approaches.

https://www.engineering.cornell.edu/MTEI especially links to

     Faculty Teaching Resources,

     ADA accessibility directions,

     Tips for Teaching, and

     Information for Teaching Remotely

https://teaching.cornell.edu/teaching-resources – CTI’s teaching resources

https://teaching.cornell.edu/programs – CTI programs

Classroom technology

CIT is offering an opportunity for faculty to test out and to get some hands-on experience with typical classroom technology that will be deployed this semester. 

From CIT:

To book an appointment please use the link below (requires a NetID login).  To participate you must be on the essential staff list and wear a face covering when in the building.


Once an appointment is scheduled, you may park in the lot at 120 Maple.  After arrival please call 607-255-5389.  A staff member will then greet you and escort you to the show room.  There is also directional signage for "Classroom Technologies" with the above phone number listed.

Technology available for hands on demonstration includes:

1. A Mini camera tripod for either USB camera or iPhone/Android.

  • When used with a webcam the camera connects to a laptop via USB.
  • When used with an iPhone or Android, the phone joins the Zoom session using the iOS or Android application.  An advantage here is that a second video screen is provided to the students in addition to the laptop camera.
  • The camera or phone can be used to capture lab activities, white boarding, or other activities in the room that the laptop camera is not suited to capture.

2. A USB camera to be used with the above mini camera tripod.

3. A USB document camera.

  • The document camera becomes a video input for the computer and can be shared via Zoom or projected in the classroom. 
  • Instructors can write equations with pen and paper or share other physical content (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlYgvMp1Dbs for example)

4. A Wacom tablet for electronic white boarding and annotation.

  • The tablet once connected is both a screen and a mouse-like input device for a computer. 
  • As an input device the instructor can use the stylus to annotate on content, use white boarding applications, or write equations or other content. As an additional screen the content on the tablet can be shared via Zoom or projected in a room (see https://youtu.be/7e16ahVR2jk for example)

5. A USB speakerphone for use with Zoom.