Dr. Lyle Foster, Assistant Professor in Sociology and Anthropology, earns a FCTL Faculty Teaching Award for Inclusive Teaching Practices. Dr. Foster has a passion for inclusive teaching practices that engages and inspires all students to embrace diverse groups, including those that do not share the same opinions. He rigorously teaches courses that focus on diversity, inclusion and equity in our university community. He initiated development of a new Diversity in the US certificate and been a leading figure with the Tough Talk series. The Tough Talk series allows participants to discuss difficult topics related to areas of inclusiveness and diversity. One of his students said that he “has empowered students to think about things in a very different light” and is “improving inclusion each and every day he is on campus.”
Transitioning to move academic programs to online delivery is an initiative the university community embraced some time ago. The process produces its own set of unique challenges and requirements, even without the current pandemic situations. Beginning in the Spring of 2019, the School of Social Work began to meet that challenge by taking advantage of the Online Course Development Boot Camp, offered by the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning. Dr. Michele Day, Director for the School of Social Work, chose a departmental approach in equipping faculty with the necessary tools and knowledge to best fit their course offerings for the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and Master of Social Work (MSW) programs. “As a group we wanted to maintain our interactive methods with students and that can happen, but it takes more effort to learn a new modality and the camp really helped put andragogy first and tech second.” By integrating the Boot Camp with the department faculty meetings, the SSW faculty could work collaboratively to create continuity within their course design. Dr. Day said, “The student-centered approaches that FCTL had in the Boot Camp helped us coordinate and streamline all our separate approaches to digital learning.”
The Boot Camp, facilitated by Instructional Designers Stacy Rice and Eric Taylor, provided core sessions on a variety of crucial topics: Blackboard basics and using the online template structure, using Ally for improving accessibility to all students, and strategies to prevent cheating; to name a few.
Working together, faculty and the FCTL could seek solutions to unique course and program content. “The Boot Camp encouraged our department to have a consistent structure when we develop online courses. I feel that this was the MOST valuable part of this training. When students take a social work course, before opening Blackboard, they know what to expect. This helps alleviate their stress when they are getting started.”, Dr. Amanda Keys.
The collegiate environment of the Boot Camp allowed open discussion on best practices in course design. “The feedback they gave was very specific and thorough. I could tell their end goal was to make sure the course was accessible. This process helped me be a better instructor, in that I was able to find gaps in my course that I had overlooked.”, Dr. Tiffany Havlin.
A key feature of the Boot Camp was exploring the value of using Ally when creating accessible course content. Improving student access to a variety of document options is crucial. Natalie Curry said, “I think the most valuable information for me was about accessibility. As social workers, we strive to be inclusive and promote equal access to resources so knowing some practical ways to make my courses accessible for individuals who may have a disability was really important.” The Boot Camp provided insight for creating media to support student engagement and foster community in the online environment., “We were educated during boot camp about Stream as a program that could add captions to video’s, and I have used that exclusively for my online lectures since then. FCTL also showed us many small “tricks” to make our courses appear professional in terms of formatting which I appreciated.”
When asked about the value of the Boot Camp, Dr. Qiang Chen commented, “After this Camp, I started to develop two online courses, and primarily followed the steps and structure of developing an online course, which I’ve learned from the Boot Camp. For instance, how to plan and record video lecture, how to use different tools to foster student engagement, and how to design course assignments to help students learn online.”
The Online Course Development Boot Camp is designed to be valuable to different teaching experiences, enabling instructors to gain the knowledge and insight needed. “I am a new instructor at MSU and without the Boot Camp I would not have known what to do when I received my shell. “My time with the Boot Camp was very valuable. I felt much more prepared.” Dennette Derezotes.
The Boot Camp was a significant success in preparing the School of Social Work for developing their online programs. “Frankly, we would have been lost if our department head had not had the foresight to make attending this an expectation prior to the pandemic. I felt incredibly confident about going into the Fall semester. When listening to my colleague’s anxiety across campus, I felt guilty because our department was so prepared to face the challenges of moving to a virtual reality because of the training we had already received.”, Dr. Amanda Keys.
Make the Online Boot Camp a prerequisite for your next course or program design activities.
For more information about the Online Course Development Boot Camp, contact the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning at email@example.com.
This is a guest blog post from faculty member Jon Mabee on his recent experience participating in a Mini Diversity workshop:
These workshops are an excellent opportunity to gain some great insight into how we can treat each other better as human beings. As we learn how to appreciate and respect each other in the many ways we’ve separated ourselves through social and cultural constructed differences and diverse backgrounds, we find that we have more in common as human beings than many of us can appreciate on a surface level. Whether that be a difference in gender, race, ethnicity, identity, love, or religion, ultimately, the more we understand about each other, the more likely it is that we’ll be both successful and responsible educators and members of our MSU communities. Dr. Martinez does a great job in tying both academic and practical so to not just think about the issues, but how we can address them in our everyday lives.
I would definitely recommend these workshops; they’re taught in such a way that encourages open dialogue about these issues and our experiences with them, rather than feel as if we’re being lectured to about how these things ‘should be’ perceived. By incorporating our own perspectives into the overall discussion, it also makes it feel as if we’re a part of the conversation, rather than outside of it.
Jon Mabee, Assistant Professor
Media, Journalism and Film