CURRENT ARTICLE • January 5th tips to help online faculty avoid burnout

What Online Faculty Can Do to Avoid Burnout

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With the increase in online classes being offered by higher education institutions and the convenience and flexibility it affords (particularly for adult learners), it is important that institutions hire, train, and retain high-quality, student-centric online faculty. Just like on-ground students, online students need instructors who are passionate, organized, creative, and manage the (virtual) classroom effectively. Unfortunately, from time to time, online faculty can struggle with burnout, which may make them less effective instructors.

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student writing January 4

Write with Your Students to Promote Writing-as-Thinking

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The single greatest strategy that I know to stimulate classroom learning is to write with students at the beginning of class.

Consider your own pre-class ritual to see if writing with your students might profit you and them. In my classes, students funnel in to reach their seats. At the start of some classes, students yell, tease one another, and laugh about subjects unconnected to the class. One complains to another about a different class, “Well, I said to her it sounds like you’re telling me to rewrite the paper!” They both laugh.

In another class, students shuffle in quietly. Some place their heads on their desks. Some just stare out the window. Still others fidget. Another is worried about her sick cat back home.

Of course, I’m overgeneralizing. Often our classes exist in the spaces between these two extremes. But what’s common to all—I don’t think this constitutes overgeneralizing either—is that students don’t consider pre-class as the time to prepare for class. Instead, they tend to use it exclusively for out-of-the-classroom experiences, sending a few texts, checking the score to last night’s game, maybe studying for an examination. They don’t see the need for transitioning into learning.

I remember for a long time feeling powerless to get students “in the mood” to think about the subjects of the class when they arrive: to take out their ear buds, open their books, have their pens at the ready. Even worse, I empathized! I could understand why they see this opening time as theirs; only the final tock of the clock signals class starts and the inevitable, “I’m yours for just one hour” or however long the class lasts.

As teaching professors, I think we can forfeit those settling moments before class officially begins by providing something greater: showing students how we, as professors, need to think when class starts. But thinking is very hard to do. The brain may need retraining to begin thinking in different contexts (Oakley, 2014, p. 25).

Therefore, the best way to engineer “opening thinking” is to bring it in unawares: to show it by example so the intellectual gears start moving in the right direction as class begins, all without undue introductions, syllabus corrections, and directions. That trio deadens classroom enthusiasm quickly and leads us away from prolific writing.

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course design and planning January 4

Creating a Course Calendar that Aligns to the Rhythms of the Semester

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Do you have a system or standard process for prepping a course you’ve taught before? Where do you start? Early in my career, “one chapter per week” described my course outline. It wasn’t an effective system. Poor planning left my students and me burnt out at the end of most terms. For some, planning revolves around syllabus revision, closing loopholes, and adjusting dates. When time’s abundant, some teachers read books like Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design, a thoughtful, research-based system. I highly recommend their work.

But as I write this article in mid-December, the reality is there are papers and projects to grade, events to attend, holidays to celebrate, and a short break before spring courses commence. Few of us will be able to work through a comprehensive system at this time of year.

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Maryellen Weimer January 3

How Can I Gain Valuable Insight from Course Evaluations?

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Course evaluations may provide some value, but they often lack the details that help faculty improve and reach their full potential as teachers. Led by Maryellen Weimer, this program explores the problem candidly, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of current evaluation techniques.

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Professor smiling, students hands raised January 3

Harness the Power of Emotions to Help Your Students Learn

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I’ve been thinking a lot about emotional presence in our online and face-to-face classes. There seems to be an enduring sense that emotions have no place in the lofty halls of academia. Our pursuit of knowledge should be rational, detached, unaffected by such trivialities as our emotions.

But I don’t think that’s right. Our emotions are a central part of our humanity. To deny them is to deny the essence of who we are.


group work activity January 2

Strategies for Designing More Effective Group Work Assignments

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Group work is one of those areas that some business and engineering faculty think is essential because that’s what those students will be doing in the workplace. I don’t want to undermine that view, but I do want to say that there is more to group work than just getting ready for the working world. We learn better when we share our ideas with others. When we have to articulate those ideas, have others bounce those ideas back to us, and try to justify claims or statements that we’re making, even in the hard sciences, there are many benefits that arise from working in a group.

If one student doesn’t understand something, another student may be able to help the struggling student look at a concept in a slightly different way. Hearing different ways of thinking about information, in each of our courses, is critically important. Group work can completely change the dynamic of your class. Without spending a lot of time on the theory, I do want to encourage you to try group work.

The teacher in a group class is no longer the central person. Students will still look to you for guidance and grades, but they will start to build up positive interdependence. In other words, they start to trust each other and they start to rely on each other to help learn the information. When their gaze focuses on classmates instead of you, it can be a little discouraging because the students seem to learn without your direct assistance. But what you’re doing is facilitating the effective functioning of groups. If you’re teaching groups, one of the best ways to know whether you’ve created a great assignment is to see what happens when the students get to work. If the volume level rises, you know that students are starting to learn from each other and you’ve done a great job.

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top teaching and learning articles of 2017 December 15, 2017

Top 17 of 2017: Our Most Popular Teaching and Learning Articles

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As another year draws to a close, the editorial team at Faculty Focus looks back on some of the most popular articles of the year. Throughout 2017, we published more than 200 articles, covering a wide range of teaching and learning topics, including assignment strategies, cell phone policies, course design, flipped classrooms, online discussions, study strategies, and grading policies.

In this, our last post of the year, we reveal the top 17 articles for 2017. Each article’s ranking is based on a combination of factors, including e-newsletter open and click rates, social shares, reader comments, web traffic, reprint requests, and other reader engagement metrics.


UDL- student with tablet December 15, 2017

UDL: How to Improve Satisfaction and Retention for Students at All Learning Levels [Transcript]

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Universal Design for Learning (UDL) isn’t just for students with disabilities, it can help all students be better learners.

The increased (and increasing) diversity of students at colleges and universities means learning needs to be flexible enough to accommodate that diversity. A one-size-fits-all approach to teaching doesn’t take students with different abilities or learning styles into consideration. But that’s where UDL comes in.

Universal Design for Learning provides students with more choices about and control over how, and even when, they learn. Whether it’s choosing the way they get the information you offer, having options for staying engaged, or choosing how they show just how well they learn, UDL gives all students a better chance to be successful.

This transcript, based on an online seminar by Thomas J. Tobin, will help you:

  • Improve interactions with students by using UDL
  • Implement campus-wide UDL at your college or university
  • Use UDL to increase access for students on mobile devices
  • Create interactions that will encourage students to stick with a course and return next semester
  • Structure your courses to include at least one alternative way of learning
  • Advocate for the adoption of UDL at the administrative level of your institution
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December 14, 2017

Current Member Discounts

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Members of Faculty Focus Premium get exclusive discounts on online seminars, 20-Minute Mentors, newsletters, conferences, including the always-popular Teaching Professor Conference, and much more.

Discounts are only available for a limited time, so be sure to check back regularly to see the current specials and to access the members-only coupon codes.

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professor and student meet December 13, 2017

Priceless Gift Exchanges between Faculty and Students

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Teachers and students can give each other priceless gifts. “Professor Jones changed my life!” The comment is usually followed by the story of a teacher in love with content, students, and learning. How many times have I told the story of my advisor who was the first person to suggest I could be a college professor? We love to hear and tell these stories because they are remarkable and inspiring. A student and a teacher connect during one small segment of the student’s life, yet through that tiny window of time can blow a gust strong enough to change the direction of that life.