College of Liberal Arts faculty spend the summer preparing for fall

Jeff Dodge speaking to his copyediting class on Zoom
Journalism instructor Jeff Dodge meeting his copyediting students on Zoom the first week of classes, Fall 2020.

The new normal we live in has required many of us to tackle that infamous concept of “thinking outside the box.” And many faculty in the College of Liberal Arts have taken the challenge to heart: evaluating, revamping, and adjusting their courses to address the multiple teaching modalities required of education today. 

With the support of trainings from TILT and guidance from CSU Online, our faculty developed or updated courses that speak to today’s subject matter in a way that is relevant, inclusive, and approachable in a hybrid or online context. “The entire CSU campus responded with generosity and invention to the challenges Covid-19 presented. I’m particularly moved by the remarkable efforts of the faculty in CLA, across all departments and all ranks, to take action to meet the needs of students,” says Benjamin C. Withers, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. 

Making the Changes 

Over the summer, some CLA faculty took advantage of professional development funds from the provost’s office to support collaboration and course enhancement among instructors of multi-section courses of the All-University Core Curriculum (AUCC). 

With two things in mind – serving our students better and creating exciting, forward-looking, collaborative pedagogy – faculty enhanced courses across the curriculum, from Music Appreciation (MU100) to Composition (CO150), Social Problems (SOC 105) to Podcasting (JMC 346). 

The faculty’s summer efforts included creating a unified syllabus across nine or more sections of a class; redesigning writing assignments; increasing student engagement for asynchronous learning; and building best practices for online learning (including learning how to better use Canvas and Echo360) 

CSU Dance students dancing in the CSU Annual Trial Gardens
Directory of Dance Emily Morgan hosting classes outside the University Center for the Arts to keep her students socially distanced.

Others took the time to assess entry level and capstone level courses and provide content directly about the pandemic. For example, Economics 101 is typically taught in spring and covers a variety of social issues, but the faculty moved the course to fall and changed the content to focus specifically on COVID-19. This online class has eight different faculty each teaching for two weeks about a particular economic impact of the disease, providing students with a wide variety of perspectives, information, and teaching styles. 

One particularly ambitious and impactful project, Composition Forward from the English department, directly responded to needs articulated by CSU students and instructors in support of composition courses. The Composition Forward Team—12 faculty from rhetoric/composition, creative writing, linguistics, and literature—synthesized resources on the University’s Keep Teaching pages and created meaningful content, strategies, and instructions specifically aligned with composition course objectives and overall department goals. Materials include information for faculty as well as resources for students that can be directly imported into CSU writing courses.  

“We all greatly appreciated the mobilization of technical and financial support across campus in support of preparation for fall teaching. I think it will allow us to do a more robust job of teaching in multiple modalities during this unprecedented fall. I think the technical and financial support also had a not insignificant positive impact on morale, as it went a long way to helping CSU colleagues in the classroom feel supported by their institution at the same time as a great deal was being asked of them.”

– Greg Luft, Department Chair, Journalism and Media Communication

Impact on Students

We’ll know the results of these sometimes Herculean efforts at the end of the fall semester and well beyond: these collective efforts will impact thousands of students at CSU who take courses in the AUCC. 

“These efforts, made possible by the investment of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs Kelly Long and others across campus, are in direct response to what we heard students tell us in Spring about their experiences after we all had to quickly pivot to online instruction: they wanted more consistency across courses in terms of platforms and expectations, and they wanted more synchronous instruction, even in remote modalities,” says Roze Hentschell, associate dean for academic programs for the College of Liberal Arts. “I am in credibly impressed with the dedication of our faculty and their willingness to embrace the crucial idea that teachers are always learning.”  

Hear From Our Faculty

Todd Mitchell

“The face-to-face class advanced fiction workshop (E412A) has 18 students. It is centered around student writing, producing work, and giving students detailed responses to their work. Once our workshops start, students will be working in two smaller, intensive workshop groups of 9 students each (conducted while maintaining physical distance and facilitated by either myself or the TA).”

Todd Mitchell, Associate Professor of English

Emily Morgan

This fall, the dance program was able to repurpose a Lilla B. Morgan grant we received to bring in a guest artist. Instead of one guest artist, we’re bringing in ten different guest artists (virtually) with a focus on dancers/choreographers of color who offer our students something beyond the Eurocentric forms of ballet and modern dance that our program currently focuses on. In addition, one guest artist is offering two dance for film classes. Instead of making in-person dances, students are making dances for film. The faculty will select some for inclusion in a February dance for film concert.

 – Emily Morgan, Director of Dance 

It Takes a Team 

We couldn’t have done such major work to prepare for the fall semester without the help of other colleagues around campus. Here are a few thank-yous for our campus partners from the College of Liberal Arts. 

CSU Online 

The team at CSU Online took on a huge task of adding capacity to course development, and managing a massive effort in conjunction with TILT to offer workshops in online course design and development. With their help, JMC was able to put more than 30 courses in the queue for course refreshes, re-development, or new development from spring to fall.  The team also pushed a Certificate in Communication Technology into the flow in the midst of all of the extra summer work, and provided training workshops for 26 JMC faculty who were hungry to know more about how to be effective online instructors, as well as helping to enroll and manage more than a thousand students for online undergraduate courses and courses in the Master’s in Communication and Media Management. 

Jeff Dodge, PR 

Jeff was instrumental in helping our department to improve and communicate special departmental efforts related to Covid-19 classes and operations.  Their dedication to high quality communication efforts is unrelenting.  

 Jeff Dodge is super helpful in supporting ACT and getting the word out. He’s written several press releases for us and he’s dedicated, professional, and helpful – always willing to step up.   

I am so grateful for Jeff’s partnership in helping to tell CLA’s story. 

Mike Brake, Collaborative for Student Achievement 

I would like to recognize Mike Brake from the Collaborative for Student Achievement. He was amazing during orientation. He worked out all the kinks with Zoom and the advising dashboard and made Virtual Orientation possible. He rocks!  

Mike Brake basically “does it all” for our advising tech world, but this summer he created an online platform for virtual orientation for thousands of new students. He reorganized the Advising Dashboard and students’ Canvas for orientation and set us all (70+ advisors) up with Zoom meetings and appointments. Not only that, but he was seemingly available constantly to trouble shoot and respond immediately. 

Beth Klaisner, Academic and Room Scheduling 

BETH IS AMAZING. Beth is ALWAYS unbelievably patient, accommodating, and courteous with our requests. She is absolutely essential to the success of our department and we are beyond grateful for all her hard work on our behalf.   

Beth  [and Julia] from Room Scheduling probably had the most complicated job of the summer, and did the work tirelessly.  Even at the end of the summer, and beginning of fall, Beth was especially helpful in making classroom adjustments – often providing multiple options within minutes of a request and making the changes with incredible efficiency.  

Beth has been so thoughtful, gracious, and diligent to meet our (and I’m sure larger CLA) room scheduling needs. She’s been beyond understanding at the ever-fluctuating nature of instructor/student needs for the fall, and has just been incredibly responsive and helpful from major overhauls to the most minute details. She is an absolute angel/rock star combo and we’re downright spoiled to have her support.