As a rule, DWR classes should not be regularly canceled. However, there are unavoidable emergencies, such as instructor illness, that sometimes require classes to be cancelled. Occasionally, longer-term disruptions in the academic calendar can occur. In either case, DWR faculty should be prepared to move in-progress courses online, either in part or in their entirety. This guide provides policies, best-practices, and resources to reduce any disruption to student learning that may occur.
- Office Hours
- Google Classroom
- Video Tools
- Best Practices
- Student Tech
- Writing Centers
- Need Help?
This guide provides resources and practices that we thought might be useful. Don't feel like you have to choose a digitally-sophisticated solution to a challenge if it makes you uncomfortable. There are multiple solutions to every problem that comes up when teaching online. Ultimately, your authenticity and transparency matters a lot: if you are discouraged or overwhelmed by a tool or approach, your students will feel the same way. We want teaching online in a pinch to be as painless as possible for you and as non-disruptive for students as possible.
We have included pedagogical best-practices, tools and resources, and subject-matter specific guidelines in this guide. We always welcome revision suggestions or new contributions from faculty.
- Apps such as Google Hangouts and Skype tend to work fairly well for conferencing with students, but we’ve had the best experience with Zoom. Zoom allows instructors to start a meeting with a student by sending that student a link to the meeting via email. Students don’t need to set up Zoom accounts; as long as the instructor has the student’s email address and an account of her own, the meeting link will work. All faculty members in the DWR have UM Zoom accounts. Contact Andrew Davis if you can't access your account.
- During your office hours, log on to whichever conferencing app you’ve chosen. If you’ve chosen Skype or Google Hangouts, any students logged into these apps will see that you’re available. Even if they choose not to contact you during that time, your visibility sends an important message.
- Offer multiple conferencing apps if you can. Both Skype and Zoom, for instance, or both Google Hangouts and Zoom–and remain logged into these apps during your office hours. Some students might already have accounts with one app or another, so offering a range of meeting platforms makes it easier for students to contact you. For some students, mobile apps, such as FaceTime and Duo, may be the only option. Try to be flexible and adjust your expectations for formality if face-to-face conversation is essential.
- If your teaching style involves posting weekly announcements, don’t simply email these announcements as text. Instead, try making a YouTube video of just you narrating the announcements to your students. Often, these announcements merely reiterate what students can find on their weekly schedule or in the syllabus, but having this kind of weekly reminder can help students stay on task, and help keep your face and voice in a very text-heavy environment. You can post links to your YouTube video directly in the course and email it to students. Pair your link to the YouTube announcements with a bullet-point synopsis, and use YouTube’s closed captioning feature. Pairing text with video helps keep this content accessible.
- If a student emails you with a persistent problem, question, or issue, invite them to set up a conference with you, and do so repeatedly. Even if students don’t take you up on this offer–and many tend not to–make it clear that they are welcome to do so. This is the equivalent of keeping your door open during office hours; it also sends the message that, within the time you’ve set aside to teach the class, students are welcome to come meet with you. Not extending this welcome repeatedly and actively can make an online instructor seem aloof and distant.
- And, of course, make it clear when students can’t contact you. If you tell students from the first week that you won’t be able to respond quickly or at all on weekends, most students will be understanding and respectful of this boundary. However, you might want to consider setting aside some late afternoon or evening times during the weekdays, since these times tend to be the most available for online students. Students are often taking online courses because their schedules are otherwise full. While the boundaries on your time need to be clearly stated, a little flexibility can go a long way.
Teachers in the W&R are expected to hold regular office hours for the purpose of supporting the teaching mission through student conferencing. All teachers in the W&R are asked to hold a minimum of one weekly office hour per section taught, but no less than two hours per week. Please submit your office hours, posted on your syllabus, electronically to Glenn Schove no later than three working days prior to the first day of classes each semester.
In order to fulfill the Department’s policy, you will need to maintain between two to four office hours per week (depending on the number of sections you teach). These are times that your students should be able to contact you to discuss their writing. Here are several options that online students tend to favor:
- Continually check email during your posted office hours (remain logged into email account). We have found that most students tend to prefer to communicate through email rather than video conferencing or by phone.
- You can provide students with a phone number to call to discuss their writing during office hours.
- You can leave a video conferencing meeting open in a specified platform, letting students know they can access it at any time during your office hours to conference.
- You can also combine several of these, or offer all of them, depending on your and your students’ preferences. For example, you can leave your email running during your office hours, and let students know they can email to ask questions, or email to request a video conference. At which time, you can send them a link to meet.
Office Hours Scheduling Tools
LecturesNarrate your PowerPoint slides or record a screencast as a way to deliver course content. You may use a computer with a microphone or a tablet to create this type of lecture. Your recording can then be uploaded to Blackboard for student viewing. External materials such as articles, blogs, videos, or websites may also be posted on Blackboard.
- 6 Tips for Creating Engaging Video Lectures
- Record a PowerPoint Slide Show with Narration
- Add Files, Images, Audio, and Video to Blackboard
AssignmentsRegular Assignments are the best assessment option for student writing. To create an Assignment, click Assessments > Assignment in any Blackboard content area. You can customize the assignment's presentation from the setup options. Once the link is created, students will go to it to submit their work. You can then access their submitted work from the Grade Center. See below for more information about the in-line grading tool.
JournalsBlackboard Journals are appropriate for shorter writing activities and classwork. If you aren't concerned with document format or in-line grading, journals can be much quicker to read and grade than traditional assignments. The Journal assessment type allows for multiple separate journal assignments. It's often clearer for students if you create a separate journal assignment for each assigned activity. Journals can be created from any content area by click Assessments > Journals.
Class DiscussionsFor a discussion-based class, create an online discussion board on Blackboard. In any content area, click
Grading Blackboard AssignmentsThe in-line commenting and grading feature in the current version of Blackboard is an essential tool for online teachers. Instead of downloading student essays, marking them up in Word, and reuploading them to Blackboard, instructors can now leave comments directly on student papers inside of Blackboard, post comments, and enter grades, all from one screen. You can find Blackboard's tutorial video for online grading below. Here are some things we have learned about the in-line grading feature and how well it works in writing courses:
- Be conscious of the time-out feature. The inline editor times out after 60 minutes, so if you are in the middle of marking up a paper and you get up to do something else, make sure you click "Save Draft" and exit the in-line editor. You can come back to it later and pick up where you left off. If you leave the editor up and come back to it after an hour, any markup you attempt to add will not "stick." This can also become and issue if you have a sketchy internet connection. Your best bet: Click "Save as draft" often just to be safe.
- If you want to leave styled comments, or use video/audio comments, click the "A" underneath "Feedback to Learner." You'll have the full Blackboard content editor in a popup window.
- Use "Grading Notes" to leave notes to yourself about the paper. These aren't visible to the student, and can be really useful if you're going to conference with a student later.
- The grade center column for the assignment must be visible to students in order for them to see your feedback. If you want to release all your feedback at once, hide the column from student view, complete your feedback, then unhide the column.
- Students can access your feedback from two places:
- Go back to the original assignment link where the essay was submitted. Once the feedback is released, the comments and grade will show up. Until then, the paper the student actually submitted will show up (so they can always check to make sure that their submission "went through" correctly.
- Go to My Grades and click on the actual graded item (the drawback to this method is that they can see the grade here without actually reading the comments.
- You must leave some kind of grade in order for feedback to be visible to students. This can be tricky when you're leaving feedback on drafts. The best rule of thumb here is to be consistent. If points for drafts aren't a part of your grading scheme, make sure that students know that if they see "100/100" as the grade for their draft, it just means that they submitted it and you commented on it, not that they actually received an A+.
- "Point Comments" work most consistently. Some of the other markup tools are more frustrating.
- The in-line editor accepts most common file types (PDF, Doc, Docx, RTF), but not .pages files. See the section on file type naming for more tips about this.
Blackboard Tutorial: Using In-Line Grading
GC is not a full LMS and should not be considered a 1-to-1 replacement for Blackboard. However, for courses that aren't content heavy, like writing classes, its integration with Google Docs makes it more appealing.
Unlike most LMSs, Google Classroom is not hierarchical. Instead, the interface is designed around the feed/timeline metaphor. By default, all your activity shows up in the student's "Stream." You can also post announcements to the course stream that will be distributed to students as email.
You can organize your content in the "Classwork" tab. Instead of folders or learning modules, Google Classroom uses Topics to organize other content. Topics, like all other content on Classroom, are draggable. You can arrange them in whatever order you want. If you use Topics, make sure you select which topic you want something to go in when you create it. If you forget, you can always drag it to the correct position.
The four content types in GC are "Assignment," "Quiz Assignment," "Question," and "Material." Each one of these has its own use cases for your course.
AssignmentAnything you want students to turn in for a grade should be created as an Assignment. The Assignment popup screen allows you to give the assignment a title and add a description and attach any relevant documents or links. If you click "Add" and upload your assignment sheet as a Word document, it will automatically be imported into your courses Google Drive. You can add several other content types this way, or create new Google Docs content by clicking "Create." Google Classroom does have rubric functionality now. Check out this help page if you want to know more. Otherwise, you can assign a point value and due-date for the assignment just like in Blackboard. Be sure to put the assignment in the correct Topic if you use them. Finally, If you don't want students to see the assignment right away, clicking the arrow next to "Assign" will reveal options for "Schedule" and "Draft. Students submit assignments as Google Docs (or Word documents). You'll then provide feedback and a grade in Google Docs as well and return their document to them when you're done with summative comments.
Quiz AssignmentGC quizzes are delivered through Google Forms. The process is pretty straightforward, and if you've ever created a regular Google Form, creating a quiz works exactly the same way.
QuestionQuestions are good replacement for discussion forums. You can create a question thread and allow students to respond in short answer form (and to reply to each other). It isn't as robust as Blackboard's discussion forums, but it's also much easier to use on the student's end. Questions aren't gradable, so if you want to assign a point value to student responses you'll have to keep track of it elsewhere.
MaterialGC "Material" is basically everything else. Whereas Blackboard distinguishes among several different content types, most content can be added to Google Classroom as Material. If you need to add links to readings, PDFs, videos, recorded lectures, etc, just add them as Material and make sure to put them in the correct topic.
Google Classroom is a great option to consider if you hate Blackboard or if you're already comfortable with Google Docs. We've created a very basic WRIT 101 Google Classroom course for you to explore. To add it as a student, go to classroom.google.com and use the code noyclsp to join the class.
To be added to the class as a teacher (to copy it or see the teacher-only features) just contact Andrew Davis.
ZoomAll UM faculty, staff, and students have centrally managed Zoom accounts for video meetings. Please visit Zoom’s Getting Started page for more information about downloading and using Zoom.
When signing in to Zoom, select “Sign in with SSO” and enter the domain “olemiss.” You can also go directly to olemiss.zoom.us. You will be prompted to sign in with your MyOleMiss credentials.
All UM Zoom accounts have Pro licenses for unlimited meetings.
Zoom is a good choice for larger meetings, webinar-style presentations, or open "office hours" style meetings. Zoom also allows the host user to record the meeting to their computer. This is very useful if you're using Zoom for lecture capture. Feel free to contact Andrew Davis if you want to discuss use cases.
Zoom integrates with Blackboard, allowing you to schedule and manage class meetings without leaving your Blackboard Course.
Google Hangouts MeetGoogle Hangouts Meet is the Google Suite video conferencing solution. It integrates with go.olemiss.edu calendars and email. Like Zoom, a user can go directly to meet.google.com, sign in to a go.olemiss.edu account, and initiate a new video meetng. Also like Zoom, a user can generate an access link to send to anyone else who needs to join the meeting (including non-go.olemiss.edu users).
Google Hangouts Meet is an ideal solution for Google Calendar users because it's already integrated. When you go to create a new event in your go.olemiss.edu calendar, you can click "Add Conferencing" to automatically pair a Hangouts Meet link with the event. When you add a student to the event, they'll receive an invitation in their email and it will go on their Google calendar.
For more information about Google Hangouts Meet, visit the Google help pages.
FaceTime, Duo, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etcThere are countless other video chat apps that your students may use. Try to be as flexible as possible with platform if it's really important that you meet a student face-to-face. Video conferencing works best on a laptop with a good broadband connection. For some of our students, that's not realistic for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, a good ole-fashioned phone call is the best way to resolve confusion and technical frustrations.
For managing your students
- Choose one form of communication with your students and stick to it. In focus groups, students said they preferred information to be posted in the announcements section of your Blackboard page, and then sent to them via Blackboard email to their UM email.
- Communicate with your students early and frequently. Cultivating a sense that you are present with the students in a meaningful if non-literal sense is crucial to successful online teaching. Begin the online experience with some kind of very low stakes community-building exercise, deployed as early as possible, to help students feel like they’re part of a community rather than individuals accessing course materials in parallel, isolated from each other.
- Use tools and approaches familiar to you and your students: Try to rely on tools and workflows that are familiar to you and your students, and roll out new tools only when absolutely necessary. If a closure is caused by a local crisis, it may be already taxing everyone’s mental and emotional energy; introducing a lot of new tools and approaches may leave even less energy and attention for learning.
- Contact Andrew Davis if you have a student who is utilizing classroom accommodations so you can be sure to maintain those during periods of academic disruption.
- Be sympathetic and flexible for students in distress, who lack the resources to fully access your class online, or who are unfamiliar with online learning.
- Check in on students working behind or who are not logging into Blackboard during the academic disruption. They may be confused, sick, or distracted by caregiver responsibilities.
For managing your course
- Focus on learning outcomes even if you need to adjust the specific activities that contribute to those outcomes. Keep students moving toward those outcomes. Avoid “busy work.”
- Prioritize course activities and focus on delivering the ones with the most significant impact on learning outcomes. You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, attendance, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.
- Rearrange course activities if needed to delay those activities where face-to-face interaction is most crucial.
- Provide Regular Feedback: Giving students detailed feedback on their writing and/or speaking is extra important when you can only communicate with students virtually. Do your best to return work promptly and maintain constant communication with students about their submitted work. You may want to reconsider your stance on responding to drafts or accepting revisions since your students wont have the in-class support they might have come to expect.
- Browser: Latest version of Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox (AVOID SAFARI when interfacing with Bb).
- For operating system: minimum of Windows 7 or Mac OS X v10.12 ("Sierra"). Computer should meet the minimum hardware requirement for its operating system (see website for Apple or Windows for info).
- For reliable audio-visual sharing: a consistent Internet upload speed of at least 2Mbps. You can check your connection on speedtest.net.
- Processor: 2.0 GHZ or better.
- Memory: 2GB or better.
- External or built-in webcam/microphone/speakers/mouse.
Try to be as flexible as possible with students. It's a good idea to have low-tech alternatives in mind for your assignments that have high-tech requirements.
- Live chat appointments are ideal for getting immediate feedback and answers to questions. The student and writing consultant are able to type messages, share drafts of writing projects, and make changes in real time. This type of appointment requires a consistent internet connection for the length of the appointment. Live chat appointments are best when conducted with a personal computer or laptop rather than a mobile device.
- Correspondence appointments are asynchronous and ideal for getting feedback and answers to questions over a longer period of time. Students provide their draft along with information/requirements for a writing assignment prior to the reserved appointment time. About an hour after the reservation time, the student will receive an email notification that feedback has been uploaded by the writing consultant. These appointments can be completed without a consistent internet connection. A student can upload their paper from any wi-fi connection and return to our scheduler at a later time to download their written feedback.
You can find the most current information on UM’s response to coronavirus at https://olemiss.edu/coronavirus.
Note: In the event of an institution wide closure, please do not require your students to use the WCs as we will likely be operating at a lower staffing capacity. You are welcome to offer extra credit or incentives, but please keep in mind that our online services may be in high demand across all campuses and departments.
Library Building HoursThe library building is open for the time being, from 7am-5pm this week and 7am-7pm for the following weeks. This is subject to change, but you can go to the Library hours page/ for a full up-to-date schedule. All carrels are open, books can be checked out, library computers/printers/scanners are available, and StudioOne is open for filming and reservations.
The IDEALab, Starbucks, and group study rooms are currently closed.
Extended Due DatesAll material currently checked out will be due May 8th. To return items through the mail, contact the library at email@example.com or 662-915-7091 for details.
Interlibrary LoanWe have suspended ILL of physical items, but continue ILL of articles and chapters to the extent that other libraries can supply them. Be prepared for some possible delays.
Scanning Course Materials/ReservesThe Libraries can digitize materials needed for your course; if you have materials on course reserve, or need your course texts available electronically, apply using the digitization request form.
For further information about copyright and fair use in times of crisis, you can read a detailed statement here.
Book OrderingBook ordering is open until April 17, and we're continuing to process book orders until then. If you'd like a physical book, we'll honor the request, but you'll have to come and pick it up as normal.
eBookseBooks are an option as well, and I'm happy to look for multi-user or unlimited-user ebooks for any course materials and get them in place by next week. We also have temporary unlimited access to many ebooks we currently own, so if you'd like to know the status of any ebook in our catalog, let Alex Watson know. Access to ebooks is available through OneSearch or the library catalog, and Alex Watson can get direct links for embedding purposes on request.
Videos, Tutorials, and Virtual PresentationsLibrary presentations are being made available virtually through Zoom, though they will need notice to get an expended/enhanced Zoom account set up in preparation. They also have the ability to make non-interactive tutorials and presentations on request. You can search existing library videos on the library website.
LibGuides for CoursesIf you'd like a special library page with resources for your class, we are in a position to make those for you. Contact me about it with your course information and any specific databases, books, or resources you'd like added to it. The resulting page will have a URL that is easily shared or dropped into Blackboard. Here's the list list of existing guides
Library ChatThe library will be running its standard chat reference service Monday-Friday 11:00-3:00 CST for the time being. Alex Watson will also be personally manning a special chat reference for class-specific and subject-specific questions. If you'd like to make sure he is available to chat with a student or students, feel free to make an appointment via email. Here is the direct chat link.
If you anticipate having student technology concerns that you won't be able to answer, you may add Andrew Davis to your Blackboard course as an Instructor and tell your students to contact him directly with tech-related questions or concerns.
To add an Instructor to a course, click "Users and Groups" and "Users" from your course control panel. Then, click "Find Users to Enroll" on the next page.
On the next page, enter the username "addavis" and select the "Instructor" role, then click "Submit."
Several options include using Google Suite applications, LaunchPad’s Go/React, or Zoom. Below are some reminders about accessing these tools.
- Faculty members must request a Go! account to access the apps. Request an account in MyOleMiss.
- If you signed up for LaunchPad with the Spch 102 book, you have access to Go/React. Contact Heather Halter Kimball (our assigned LaunchPad specialist) or MacMillan Tech Assistance for help getting set up.
- The university has a Zoom contract. See the "Video" tab, above.
AssignmentsPlease use the tutorials offered by Instructor Help on Bb to set up journals, discussions, assignments, etc.
ConsultationsOption 1: Synchronous online meetings using Google Meet or Zoom.
See bullets beneath paragraph two regarding Google app and Zoom.
Option 2: Synchronous phone meetings.
You may want to have students submit work prior to a phone session. If either you or your students are concerned about sharing phone numbers, you can use the phone option on Google Hangouts. All you need is and active Go! account and students go.olemiss.edu addresses to make a Google Hangouts phone call.
LecturesOption 1: Upload slides and lecture scripts to Blackboard.
The option requires the least amount of time for the instructor but provides a read-only level of engagement for students. If your typing speed is slow, you may want to speak the lecture into Google Docs using the Voice Typing tool; HERE’S a quick tutorial. You’ll need to tidy the document before upload.
Option 2: Record slides with narration and embed online.
This asynchronous option requires a moderate amount of time for the instructor to record and render a movie file, but the result provides visual and auditory engagement for students.
- Record the lecture narration with slides using computer’s screen recording abilities (Mac instructions, Windows instructions) or by using an online tool, such as Screencast-o-matic, Apowersoft or Other top ranked free screen recording software.
- Save recording as a movie file on your computer or upload as “unlisted” to your YouTube account (Go! app).
- Embed the file in Bb.
Option 3: Meet synchronously online with students. Meet synchronously, online with your students during the regularly scheduled class time using Google Meet, which provides live captioning. HERE is a video tutorial on how to use Google Meet.
Solo Presentation AssignmentsBefore choosing an option and sharing the assignment with students, consider your requirements for an audience. Define specifically what students must have as an audience and how they will provide evidence of an audience. For example, will they be required to have an audience of [#] people which must be visible during the recording?
Option 1: Students upload taped presentations to Bb.
The option requires the least amount of time for the instructor but may challenge some students’ technical abilities. HERE are step-by-step instructions for students to help them embed a video file in Bb from their YouTube account. They can substitute a file saved to their computer (and skip YouTube steps).
Option 2: Students use Go/React to record their presentations.
Go/React comes with your LaunchPad access. Contact Heather Halter Kimball (our assigned LaunchPad specialist) or MacMillan Tech Assistance for help getting set up.
Option 3: Meet synchronously online with your students.
Use Google Meet or Zoom to allow students to present their work in real time using a virtual connection. If using Google Meet, you will need to have an active “go” account. Contact IT if you need help setting up your Go! account. If you need access to Zoom, contact Andrew Davis.
- Google Meet provides live captioning, which Zoom does not.
- Zoom allows recording, which our Google Meet does not.
- HERE is a tutorial on using Google Meet.
Group PresentationsBefore choosing an option and sharing the assignment with students, consider whether your outcomes focus more on a polished product or on having students share equally in the verbal/visual aspects of the presentation.
Option 1: Meet synchronously online with your students.
The option enhances equal sharing and provides for live Q & A or discussion afterward. You may use Google Meet or Zoom to allow students to present their work in real time using a virtual connection. If using Google Meet, you will need to have an active “go” account. Contact IT if you need help. If you need access to Zoom, contact Andrew Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Google Meet provides live captioning, which Zoom does not.
- Zoom allows recording, which our Google Meet does not.
- HERE is a tutorial on using Google Meet.
Go/React comes with your LaunchPad access. This option allows for the instructor and/or students to view the recording once posted and asynchronously engage in discussion/comments afterward. Contact Heather Halter Kimball (our assigned LaunchPad specialist) or MacMillan Tech Assistance for help getting set up.
Option 3: Students co-ordinate the creation of a kiosk-style presentation.
This option focuses on a polished deliverable for asynchronous delivery. Students may need to coordinate efforts around abilities and access to appropriate software or apps rather than each person taking a section of the presentation. For example, one student may gather each person’s script contributions, then unify the style of the script and ensure verbal citations are well crafted. Another student may gather and unify the style of the slides. Another student (or two) may narrate the presentation. And another student who has excellent skills with PowerPoint and/or Keynote may assemble the presentation and render it as a movie file (then share; see embed instructions).
- HERE is a link to share with students on how to render a PowerPoint as a movie file.
- HERE is a link to share with students on how to render a Keynote as a movie file.
- HERE is a link to share with students on how to render a Google Slide presentation as a video file. The screen recording tool used in the instructions may be substituted with one of the options listed under the Lecture: Option 2.
- HERE are embed instructions for sharing a YouTube video on Bb. Students may also post a video file saved from their computer (and skip the YouTube steps).
For InterviewsOption 1: Set up assignments on Big Interview.
Big Interview is a platform available through the Career Center. *The Career Center prefers you make an appointment to receive instruction on using the platform before creating assignments.*
Option 2: Set up individual telephone interviews with students.
You may use Google Hangouts for “phone calls” to ensure privacy of information. You must activate your “go” account to use Google Hangouts. Students will need the Hangouts app on their cell phone or tablet if they want to receive the call on those devices.
Option 3: Have students interview professionals and provide a transcript of the interview.
Students may interview a professional in person, by email, or over the phone. If in person or over the phone, students should request permission to audio record the interview. To create transcripts with less bother, students may play the recording for Google Voice Typing, then add punctuation and correct errors before submitting.
Below are some resources and guides for both WRIT 100/101 and 102:
- 100/101 Course Guide: https://guides.lib.olemiss.edu/writ101
- 102 Course Guide: https://library.cwr.olemiss.edu/guides/writing/writ102/
- WRIT 102 FASTrack resources guide: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/olemiss-readinganthology/ (this is an excellent open access resource for any aspect of writing instruction)
Library resources and tutorials:Library tutorials: https://guides.lib.olemiss.edu/tutorials (helpful short videos for navigating databases and other library resources)
Contact with students:Conferencing can be done through Blackboard, email, Zoom (or other video/audio sites), or even phone. 102 instructors, please make every effort to conference with your students during the research paper process. Requesting peer review work can be a challenge online; however, peer review can be asynchronous and done through Blackboard, shared Google Docs, or email if you feel like it would be beneficial. Uploading annotated sample papers might be helpful to the students. One idea is to have them do an online activity where they have to read and respond to a sample paper. The Writing Center offers synchronous and asynchronous appointments: https://rhetoric.olemiss.edu/writing-centers/
Fall 2020 Calendar UpdatesThe Fall 2020 semester presents many particular opportunities and challenges, one of which will be a shorter semester. Rather than spend a lot of time re-working sample calendars for what we hope is an anomalous semester, we instead propose some potential solutions that will afford teachers flexibility while still helping students improve as writers, readers, and thinkers and allowing them multiple high-stakes attempts at demonstrating their understanding of and improvement towards the course learning outcomes.
Teachers should consider one of the following modification options if they feel the semester will not allow sufficient time for the normal full curriculum (keep in mind that summer sections of WRIT 101 run over eight-nine weeks and feature the entire curriculum in a condensed timeframe). Whatever direction teachers choose, reflection should be a constant part of WRIT 100/101, including a culminating, substantive reflective assignment—comparable to a “Final Exam” in courses outside the DWR. Also, minor changes to the percentages for grades are at the discretion of teachers with the understanding that students should receive a minimum of five major grades rather than the normal minimum six (Common Reading Text Project, Analysis, Argument, Multimodal, Reflection, Homework). It is understandable if certain percentages are changed slightly based on the emphasis and time spent on an area in any given class. For example, teachers may still utilize six major grades but reduce the percentage of the Multimodal unit based on the first option below:
- Incorporate the Multimodal project into a component of another major assignment. For example, require a multimodal component of the Argument essay or another paper. The multimodal component could be graded separately if teachers choose to do so.
- Combine two major papers into a larger, more comprehensive assignment. For example, a teacher may assign just the Common Reading Text Project and the Argument essay rather than those two and an Analysis paper. If this example is chosen, teachers should ensure that students do ample analysis over the course of the semester. Also, keep in mind that students should engage with the Common Reading Text, do analysis work, and do argument work in the Fall 2020 semester. Thus, if a major paper is skipped, that type of work must be incorporated somewhere else in order to more accurately gauge students’ knowledges and abilities.
- Work in the Common Reading Text as a component of either the Analysis paper or the Argument paper, perhaps even both. Teachers may choose to work with broader structures in the Analysis and/or Argument units but still incorporate parts where students engage with the Common Reading Text. For example, a teacher may assign argument topics dealing with issues from What the Eyes Don’t See (i.e., public health, childhood development, social justice, etc.) and require the book as one of the sources.
Major AssignmentsAt this point in the semester, you presumably are teaching the literature review and preparing to soon transition into the research prospectus unit. Below are suggestions regarding how you may approach the final projects of the semester.
Literature ReviewRegarding the literature review, since students are primarily working with sources they already found, read, and annotated for the second paper, the main new content they are learning is synthesis. The synthesis matrix we regularly assign in WRIT 250 is an excellent resource for helping students understand the goals of synthesis and planning a possible approach to organizing their paper. In addition to assigning the OER reading about the synthesis matrix as well as the synthesis matrix tool itself, you may consider the following options to help students with the third paper:
- Develop a sample synthesis matrix that links to a sample literature review paper you provide, that way students can see the transition from matrix to complete draft. You can work backward from the paper to generate the synthesis matrix (or even just a partial synthesis matrix), providing the kinds of information you would encourage students to include in their own matrices (e.g., short notes about findings, methods, and gaps/limitations). This approach has the added benefit of enabling you to model for students a strong synthesis matrix to encourage them to take a more robust approach to their planning.
- Encourage students to practice synthesis by assigning a short exercise, such as reading three news articles about a topic and synthesizing the sources to explain the main point(s) they have in common, approaches to supporting their ideas, and gaps/limitations of the sources. For example, you may link the exercise to the current situation, providing students three articles about COVID-19 and asking them to synthesize the sources. This approach has the added benefit of ensuring students are reading at least some credible information about the virus and forming opinions that are at least partially grounded in reputable reporting as they practice synthesis.
- Schedule brief, individual conferences with your students to review their synthesis matrix with them. Conferences can be helpful if students are struggling to grasp the concept of synthesis, having difficulty figuring out how to link some of their sources together around a pattern, etc., and can be conducted through videoconferencing tools and/or by phone. Although written feedback on the synthesis matrix is valuable, students sometimes respond better to talking about their work, particularly for the third assignment that can be the most difficult for them.
- Assign students a brief document to complete that includes their tentative thesis for the literature review and a sample synthesized paragraph; this should be done after students submit the synthesis matrix. A brief document including the tentative thesis and a sample synthesized paragraph can be helpful as an in-between step to see how students are transitioning from the synthesis matrix into drafting their literature review paper before they advance too far into the project.
Research ProspectusData collection will likely be the most challenging aspect of the final paper for students, and you may consider limiting students’ data collection to the following methods:
- Surveys of each other using the course LMS
- Interviews conducted remotely by phone, videoconferencing, and/or email
- Document/textual analysis
Regarding interviews, many of our students already conduct interviews remotely because their interviewees reside outside of the area. For remote interviews, students can gather their data by phone, Skype or other videoconferencing tools, and/or email. You may use this as an opportunity to address more fully the different ways to prepare for remote interviews in comparison to face-to-face interviews and the potential impacts on data analysis. To help students with sending interview requests by email, it may be useful to provide them with a template, such as the one previously created for the exploratory essay unit.
Finally, document/textual analysis can be a great option for the final paper considering that some of our students are in fields for which this method is typical (e.g., Accountancy), and some students may prefer to gather data through a method that isn’t reliant upon people. Choosing a method such as document/textual analysis will enable students to avoid having to complete the IRB training and paperwork, which may be preferable if the University were to close. Depending on the students’ topic, they may be able to analyze texts such as financial legislation, television shows, films, marketing materials, etc. Although students may need to shift their research questions for document/textual analysis to be applicable, for many of them it is likely that they could complete their project by doing so.
Remember as well SAGE Research Methods, available through the library. Currently, we have access to all of the features of SAGE Research Methods, which includes a project planner tool, sample datasets, etc. You may consider (more thoroughly) integrating SAGE Research Methods into your course since it links incredibly well with our curriculum and provides ready-made resources.
Multimodal ProjectFor the multimodal project, if you normally require students to present their research in class or in-person to you, consider shifting the emphasis to other options such as preparing a poster presentation, infographic, etc. Rather than having students record narration to accompany the visual aid, consider assigning them a script to write. Recorded narration may present problems, particularly for grading, if the audio file is corrupted or otherwise low quality, and especially if you are teaching multiple sections, it will prolong your grading compared to reading scripts.
Many excellent resources to help students design their multimodal project are freely available online, including the following, previously suggested by Andrew Davis:
- Designing Effective Conference Posters
- How to Create a Research Poster: Poster Basics
- Guide to Creating Research Posters
- The Scientist’s Guide to Poster Design
- Designing Conference Posters
- Microsoft Publisher: Conference Poster Sessions
- Making an Academic Research Poster Using PowerPoint
- Canva’s How to Create an Infographic
- Venngage’s How to Make an Infographic in 5 Steps (Guide)
- Venngage’s 20+ Powerful Data Visualizations and Infographics for 2020
Lectures/Class content:Data collection methods and data analysis will likely be the most challenging content to review if we need to transition to online instruction. Many instructors introduce methods in the annotated bibliography unit to help students evaluate sources, in which case the information is not entirely new in the research prospectus unit. If that is the case for your classes, it may be that you need to focus on materials to recap the research methods information and/or focus your time and energy on reviewing data analysis and writing about data. Our OER textbook provides some coverage of these topics, and depending on how you approach the final assignment, you may not need to provide supplemental materials in conjunction with the OER. If you think it would be helpful to assign further resources about data collection and analysis, however, consider the following:
- SAGE Research Methods, especially the Little Green Books, Little Blue Books, and Podcasts
- Thematic Analysis of Qualitative User Research Data
- UW Extension Services’ Analyzing Qualitative Data handout
- UW Extension Services’ Analyzing Quantitative Data handout
Conferences/Peer review:Conferences are not mandatory in WRIT 250, although some instructors choose to require them. Keep in mind that if you must transition your face-to-face class to online delivery, it may be useful to require your students to conference at least once with you before the semester ends. Students in face-to-face classes are accustomed to interacting with their instructors and peers on a regular basis, so conferencing using a videoconferencing tool such as Zoom or Skype, online chat, and/or phone may make the shift to the online format somewhat easier for them. In addition, you may find it more efficient for your workload to schedule 5-10 minute conferences with students to give feedback/answer questions than to communicate solely through writing, given the likelihood of increased emails and the back-and-forth that can ensue.
Regarding peer review, consider requiring students to complete peer review using the course LMS, at least for the remaining written assignments. Peer review is beneficial not only so that students can give/receive feedback on their in-progress work, but also feel a stronger sense of connection to each other. Particularly for classes suddenly shifting to online delivery after weeks of in-person contact, maintaining/encouraging community will be important. With that said, be mindful of giving reasonable deadlines for peer review and potential issues that can arise, such as challenges with file formats (encourage students to upload PDFs to avoid compatibility problems), tone/diction of feedback provided in writing (consider providing a brief set of guidelines regarding how to offer constructive criticism), etc.