As the semester winds down at LaGuardia, we took stock during the English department hybrid showcase last week, thinking about our work over the past year. With a mini-grant we received from our Center for Teaching and Learning (previously mentioned here), we’ve been developing our program and our individual classes; what began as a course development plan has morphed into a full-on training/certification program. There are some ongoing questions for consideration that came out of the hybrid mini-grant workshops: both in the interdisciplinary faculty planning meetings with the Center for Teaching and Learning, and on a departmental level. This list includes several other items I’ve been thinking about as well.
- How is the time spent online better than what we could do with that time in a face-to-face setting?
- Does the tool or platform fit individual needs, the course objectives, and our project aims? This seems particularly important, as we sometimes have platforms/LMS thrust upon us by administration, or have a burning desire to tinker with something we have just stumbled across – but it might not be the best thing for everyone’s needs.
- Will the tool or platform be useful for students in the future? For me, this means: is this something they could list on their resume, and that might actually be of use in their future academic/professional careers?
- Are we making sure that we aren’t using the tools as a substitute for actual teaching and learning?
- Are we using the time and digital spaces to have students make, create, and challenge themselves (and each other)? Or are we using these times/spaces for busy work and a way to mark attendance? (This goes back to some of the issues raised by Jesse Stommel and Sean Michael Morris, explored in more depth here)
- How are we scaffolding tech use and our academic content/skills? Are we exploring intersections between these two to enhance the course?
- How are we training students to use these tools? Can they hack/modify the tools/platforms on their own in the future?
- How are we factoring universal design principles into our materials? How can we be proactive rather than reactive when considering accessibility?
- How are we preparing students for the hybrid experience?
- This is something we need to consider institutionally, on a department-level, and for our own classes. Right now, our course registration system has a semi-buried clarification that the class is hybrid (don’t even get me started on the evil that is CUNYFirst), and we have developed a department contract, which we send to students before classes start; however, still half the students in our classes arrived without knowing they had registered for a hybrid, or what this entails exactly.
- How are student identities and privacies protected (or not!) depending on the tools we use?
- How are we confronting the realities about accessibility to technology? Many of our students might not have computers at home, or reliable wi-fi: how do we factor that into our design and planning?
- How are we creating collaborative and community spaces for students?
- How are we creating collaborative and community spaces for each other, as colleagues?
- How do we give students ownership and agency?
- On a related note: how do we de-center, or trouble, authority – including our own?
- Are we remaining flexible and reflective? If a tool, plan, or design fails – for us or the students – do we have ways to support each other and acknowledge what we’ve learned from the experience?
Colleagues on the mini-grant team claimed that the intervisitations we established – informal visits to each other’s classes, attending a class in person and having access to their virtual platform for the same week – were especially helpful. These will be central to our hybrid development in the future. This program will also make it possible for adjuncts to teach hybrid classes in our department; of course, many adjuncts and full-time faculty have taught hybrid or online classes at other institutions, and will bring their experiences to the program as well.
We have begun a repository of syllabi, prompts, and other materials on a CUNY Commons site, Hybrid & Digital Pedagogy. The department mini-grant team was amazing, and they shared a lot of great ideas and resources here. Materials will be added regularly in the future. Looking forward to seeing how others are approaching hybrid teaching – both here, on the Commons site, and in future iterations of the program.