Flexible Pedagogy at Bronx EdTech 2021

On May 7, I presented on “Choose Your Own Grading Schema: An Online Learning Experiment” at the 2021 Bronx EdTech Showcase. Keynote speakers at the showcase included Mariana Regalado (Brooklyn College), Maura Smale (City Tech), and Matt Gold (Graduate Center).

You can download my slides with the link below or by clicking on the image of the title slide.

Alt text is in the caption
The title slide of a Powerpoint presentation. Text reads “Choose Your Own Grading Schema: An Online Learning Experiment” Olivia Wood, PhD Candidate in English, CUNY Graduate Center, Graduate Teaching Fellow, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Digital Pedagogy Fellow, City Tech OpenLab

Last semester, after teaching mostly asynchronously with no penalties or cutoffs for late work, the responses I received in students’ end-of-semester reflections were mixed. About half said they were incredibly grateful for the flexibility my class structure offered. The other half said they wished I’d required attendance at the optional Zoom sessions and held them to their deadlines under pain of grade penalty. They recognized that while ideally they would be self-motivated to participate as much as possible, external pressure would have been helpful.

In my presentation, I shared how I revised my syllabus for Spring 2021 to account for both strands of feedback, and how students have responded.

At the beginning of the semester, students chose via Google Form which grading plan they wanted: Structure and Accountability, or Maximum Flexibility. Students on the Structure and Accountability plan were required to attend the weekly Zoom sessions and complete all assignments on the syllabus. Students on the Maximum Flexibility plan were not required to attend Zooms and were only required to complete select assignments marked in bold on the syllabus– unit projects, unit reflections, and a few other smaller tasks– but were still welcome and encouraged to attend class and complete other activities. After each unit, students were given the opportunity to switch grading plans if they wish, after reading an overview of the exact assignment and points breakdown for each plan on the coming unit.

Students responded very positively to this method. About one third chose the Structure and Accountability plan for the first two units, and most students chose the Maximum Flexibility plan for the third unit. Additionally, several students on the flexibility plan also regularly chose to attend the synchronous classes and participate in ungraded activities.

This new system does not appear to have affected the distribution of final grades compared to the Fall 2020 semester, nor was there a clear correlation between the grading plans a student chose for each unit and that student’s success in the course; I have several students making As who chose Structure and Accountability two or more times, but I also have several students making As who chose Maximum Flexibility for all three units.

While the numerical outcomes do not seem to have changed significantly under this new grading system, the students have almost unanimously reported feeling less stressed about the class, feeling trusted and understood, and feeling empowered to make the choices that are best for their own individual lives and situations.

I’m also extremely happy to report that for the first time in my three years of teaching, I don’t have a single student who has withdrawn or “disappeared.” Every student who stopped participating in the course in the middle of the semester has since returned and is turning in work again. While one might assume that no late work penalties will lead to most students leaving the bulk of their work to the last minute (and this is true of a few), most of my students have been turning in their assignments only a few days past the recommended deadlines, and several routinely turn in their assignments early.

After each unit, I asked students to respond to a series of reflection questions, including “What did you do during this unit that helped make you successful?” and “What additional resources/supports do you wish you had had during this unit?” Just as I give them feedback on their writing and ask them to revise, I also asked them for their feedback on my course design that I could use when revising for future semesters.

All but one of my students said that they think I should continue this “multiple-path” grading system in future semesters and wish other professors would do the same. (The other student said they didn’t like the stress of having to choose how they would be graded.)

Take a look through my slides for quotes from my students’ reflections, and if you choose to adapt my system for your own classes, please tell me about it in the comments!

The OpenLab at CUNY IT 2020

Last week, the OpenLab team presented a panel at the 19th Annual CUNY IT Conference. The theme of the conference was “The Next or New Normal?” and in our panel, we discussed some of the initiatives we’ve started since last spring to support City Tech’s faculty, staff, and students during remote learning.

These initiatives include:

  • A new course template designed for remote learning
  • Model courses and/or course hubs for classes in Communication Design, First Year Writing, and Mathematics
  • Self-paced OpenLab training modules for both faculty and students
  • Short OpenLab skills screencasts
  • Setting up a system for online real-time support (office hours and 1:1 appointments with the digital pedagogy fellows)

Check out our slides below!

Click on the image to view our slideshow!

Many members of our team participated in the panel, including OpenLab Co-Directors Jody R. Rosen, M. Genevieve Hitchings, Charlie Edwards, and Jonas Reitz, Senior Instructional Technologist Bree Zuckerman, and Digital Pedagogy Fellow Olivia Wood.

Open Pedagogy Recap: OpenLab at the CUE/OER Showcase!

On Friday, October 30, the OpenLab team along with City Tech librarian Cailean Cooney hosted a digital workshop as part of the 2020 CUE Conference and CUNY OER Showcase.

This conference was originally planned for March 2020, but was rescheduled due to the pandemic. Because so much about our teaching and learning environment has changed since then, we adapted our February Open Pedagogy session to talk with folks about access and accessibility in our current circumstances.

Below are our discussion questions- talked through together via Google Docs instead of on chart paper!- and some highlights from participant comments.

1. What connotations do you have with the word “accommodation”?

people shouldn’t be “accommodated for,’ but instead design should consider the full range of human experience / abilities / dispositions”

“an accommodation is a place to stay…it’s a place at least comfortable, ideally welcoming and friendly, for all of us.”

Requires medical documentation, submission to disability office, approval and recommended “reasonable accommodation” for traditional learning styles”

Flexibility, willingness to make things easier and accessible.”

2. How do OERs help us address equity and access? What does the platform you use to share open course materials with students have to do with access? 

if students can’t get to materials from their available devices, this is a huge barrier to entry! mobile/tablet access is how many CUNY students (and honestly fac/staff) use the web!”

The platform is critical and should not be a secondary consideration. Using proprietary platforms to share open content is (IMO) problematic, and is a reason I’m happy that open solutions like openlab exist.”

Our LMS on campus simply can’t be used on a mobile phone even though the vast majority of my students are using mobile phones”

3. How does our current sociocultural situation affect how we think about access in higher education? What new questions or concerns have come up around using technology to facilitate access?

Access to … food, health care, child care, technology, space to work– it’s all part of the mix. We have to think of “access” in this much larger context.”

I’m thinking much more about how to take time into account in course design, course expectations for students, and for faculty. For instance, the time it will take to do required readings?”

I’ve most of all been thinking about how to make my sites accessible to those with poor internet access. Post-COVID, I realize that I need to redesign sites checking for bandwidth, loadability. I tested my sites with Google Page Speed, and although they seem fast on my internet, they clearly are not easily loadable.

I’ve been using more radical course policies than I have been brave enough to try in the past. I don’t want to go back, even after the pandemic. The current situation is just a more heightened/visible version of a situation that totally already existed.”

FLEXIBLE DUE DATES”

The technology needs to be taught, not just assume everyone knows how.”

4. What are some current strategies you have, or would like to try, to make course content accessible / useful / usable to all students, with shifting and complex needs?

Reflection-based grading: students respond to their own work from a reflective perspective, analyze what they struggled with and did great at, and assign themselves grades based on their work towards each project in the first-year writing/whatever course. (Read Jesse Stommel on ungrading!)”

Check-ins with students”

Lastly, some resources that might be useful in considering accessibility strategies:

CBOX OpenLab at ACH2019

"Cross Pollination" Shibori image by Michelle Griffiths
Cross Pollination by Michelle Griffiths

This past October, The OpenLab at City Tech and Commons in a Box proudly announced the launch of Commons In A Box OpenLab, a partnership that adds a new option to what CBOX offers. OpenLab team members, as representatives of CBOX OpenLab, are part of a demo, “Fostering Open Scholarly Communities with Commons In A Box” at Association for Computers in the Humanities, ACH2019.

CBOX OpenLab Logo

CBOX OpenLab is a platform that brings together work that happens in different aspects of college life: coursework, portfolios, collaborative projects, initiatives, clubs, and administrative, committee, and pedagogical work. The platform’s more defined architecture–for example: courses, projects, clubs, and portfolios, but customizable to any taxonomy–structures college activities to make visible on its homepage, on member profiles, and through browsing, the robust work and life of the college community.

Bringing these different aspects of college life together on one platform benefits the work of the college community. The skills from using the platform for one aspect–coursework, for instance–become invaluable in  another, such as participating in a club. Rather than segmenting OERs or portfolios or isolating coursework from extracurriculars, each into  separate, closed, often proprietary platforms, these resources and activities comingle in one open digital space.

Students benefit from the experiential learning and real audience an open digital space makes possible. The flexibility of the platform also makes it easy to team teach, pair courses for learning communities, foster community across sections of a course, develop informal partnerships, etc.

Campus-wide efforts that foster scholarly communities can break down disciplinary and hierarchical silos, and extend their reach, visibility, and impact: see Undergraduate Research, the Office of the Provost, Roboquin, and here, Open Pedagogy on the OpenLab. OERs on the OpenLab are a great example of this: not only are they a robust resource and easily findable for both students and instructors, and for members and visitors alike, but OERs are also the subject of scholarly and pedagogical collaboration. On the OpenLab, there are resources for building and adopting OER materials, and OER fellows can communicate with each other as a cohort. Large-scale OERs can develop from activity across the site, such as L4, a crowdsourced library of activites and assignments; Science Fiction at City Tech, with its finding guides for the large science fiction archive; the robust Help documentation; and still in development, the OpenLab Guide to Open Learning, which will share knowledge and resources for members of CBOX OpenLab communities.

[some slides]

CUNY IT Conference 2018

Please see below the invitation to the CUNY IT conference next Thursday and Friday, November 29th and 30th, as well as a link for registering for the conference.

The OpenLab team will be presenting, so come join us: Friday, 9:30am: “Opening Education at CUNY with Commons in A Box OpenLab” and Friday, 1:00pm: “Opening the OpenLab at City Tech: Meeting CUNY’s Challenges.” Reply with a comment to let us know when you’re presenting, too!

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TO:                      The CUNY Community
FROM:               Brian Cohen
DATE:                November 6, 2018
RE:                      Invitation to the 2018 CUNY Instructional/Information Technology Conference

I am delighted to extend to you and your colleagues this invitation to attend the 17th Annual CUNY IT Conference, which will take place this year on Thursday, November 29 and Friday, November 30 at John Jay College. I hope you will join me in attending; registration is free for members of the CUNY community. Please be aware that pre-registration is important as we need to be able to estimate attendance. You will find an overview of the Conference, the full program and the keynotes, and the link to register at www.centerdigitaled.com/events/CUNY-IT-Conference.html

The theme for this year’s conference is “Technology and Education: Challenges and Opportunities,” which will include the following topics:

·         How does technology provide challenges and opportunities for multiple stakeholders at CUNY and across the varied sectors of teaching, learning, research, and administration?

·         How do educators perceive the challenges and opportunities of technology in the classroom? And how do they balance them?

·         How can technology create new opportunities for students? What challenges does technology present that may also be viewed as opportunities for teaching and learning?

As with prior conferences, this year will feature two keynote speakers. The Thursday keynote is the author and NPR lead education reporter Anya Kamenetz, who will offer new ideas on the evolution of education and learning, including reforms and actions necessary to advance workforce training and reduce student debt. The Friday keynote speaker is Professor Stephen Brier from the Graduate Center’s Urban Education PhD program and founder and first coordinator of the Graduate Center’s Interactive Technology and Pedagogy certificate program.

The Conference begins at 12 pm on November 29, followed by two sets of concurrent presentations, Anya Kamenetz’s keynote address at 3:30 pm, and Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz’s Welcome to the Annual CUNY Technology Awards at 4:30 pm. Day 2 (November 30) begins with continental breakfast at 8:30 am, concurrent sessions starting at 9:30 am, Professor Brier’s keynote address at 10:45 am, lunch, two more sets of concurrent sessions, and finally an end-of-day drawing with prizes from the vendors.

I look forward to seeing you there.

 

The OpenLab at the CUNY IT Conference 2015

We had a great time presenting at the CUNY IT Conference last week, where we showcased recent OpenLab community-building innovations, including L4: Living Lab Learning Library, a faculty-generated repository for General Education assignments; Open Educational Resources; The Buzz student blog for discussion and community building among students; and Patrick Corbett’s usability study that surveyed faculty engagement and recommended best practices. Presenters also discussed the OpenLab’s new mobile-friendly design and future initiatives, including cohort-based projects and collaborations across CUNY.

Thanks to everyone who came to our presentation, and to all our excellent presenters!  They were:

  • Jill Belli, Assistant Professor of English/OpenLab Co-Director
  • Cailean Cooney, Instructor, User Services Librarian
  • Patrick Corbett, Assistant Professor of English
  • Charlie Edwards, Living Lab Co-Director
  • Scott Henkle, Senior OpenLab Community Facilitator
  • Anna Matthews, Assistant Professor of Dental Hygiene/L4 Director
  • Andrew McKinney, Senior OpenLab Community Facilitator
  • Jody R. Rosen, Assistant Professor of English/OpenLab Co-Director
  • Laura Westengard, Assistant Professor of English/L4 Director

The presentation slides can be viewed below or downloaded as a PDF.  And, please feel free to leave a comment with any questions or ideas!

Download (PDF, 3.5MB)