Center helps faculty prepare for a mostly remote Fall semester

CEETL programs boost remote instruction skills and equity

More than 1,000 San Francisco State University faculty members prepared for Fall semester by doing exactly what they’ll be asking of their students: learning online. Thanks to an ambitious slate of faculty development offerings from the University’s Center for Equity and Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CEETL), San Francisco State professors, lecturers and teaching associates have been rethinking their approach to remote instruction before welcoming their students (albeit virtually) back to school.

“I learned so much that will work far better for many more students — more asynchronous work, many low-stakes assignments, devoting most of synchronous Zoom meetings to breakout groups’ collaborating to solve problems and creating short video lectures for students to watch before Zoom meetings,” said Professor of Communication Studies Gerianne Merrigan. “I also had a lot of fun and reconnected with the experience of being a learner, which will help me identify with the students in my classes this fall.”

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most of SF State’s Fall classes will be taught remotely. Whereas most faculty needed to switch quickly to remote instruction in the Spring semester as the virus spread across the U.S., they have had more time to prepare for the Fall semester. That’s one reason Merrigan and a record number of her colleagues — 1,215 at last count — enrolled in Online Teaching Labs and other CEETL offerings this spring and summer.

“I fortuitously participated in a CEETL Online Hybrid Courses workshop right before SF State went remote this spring and found the guidelines and suggestions for using Zoom and iLearn so helpful in the mad rush to convert everything to online,” said Asian American Studies Lecturer Kira A. Donnell, speaking of the University’s video conferencing and online learning management platforms.

This summer Donnell took part in an Online Teaching Lab as well as a new CEETL program: the JEDI Institute — for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion — which reinforces anti-racist teaching methods.

“Both these programs have helped me immensely as I prepare my courses for online instruction in the fall,” Donnell said. “The modules have helped me make my course a good balance of synchronous and asynchronous class sessions and have helped me organize my iLearn layout and course content in ways that will hopefully be equitable and accessible for students who may be facing barriers to learning online.”

Founded in 2017, CEETL has drawn from multiple areas of the University to assemble a highly collaborative team of staff, faculty and administrators who are experts in equity-minded teaching, learning, faculty development and the development of instructional materials in all teaching modalities. Now, three years after its launch, CEETL’s mission couldn’t be more timely given the increased need for effective remote instruction and recent protests calling for an end to longstanding inequities.

“Having shared collaborative leadership among faculty and professional development experts with expertise in teaching and learning with technology — all with a focus on equity —makes CEETL uniquely positioned in this moment to have a profound positive impact on our students and faculty,” said Professor and Chair of Communication Studies Amy Kilgard, who served as CEETL’s founding faculty director.

Among CEETL’s other current faculty development options:

  • An Online Teaching PIE (Pedagogies for Inclusive Excellence) certificate
  • Online Teaching Squares, which gather four faculty members to share inclusive teaching practices and learn from each other throughout the Fall semester
  • High-impact course redesign grants encouraging teams of faculty to work together to redesign especially impactful courses

With the support of one of those grants, Merrigan and a Communication Studies team are revamping COMM 150: Fundamentals of Oral Communication, one of their department’s core classes. The goal: make teaching the course online more equitable and more effective while incorporating lesson plans that build students’ skills as anti-racism advocates.

“SF State faculty take great pride in teaching effectively,” Merrigan said. “I personally will do cartwheels if I think it will help a student learn. In this case, many faculty [members] are working really hard to ensure that we create top-notch teaching and learning with our students during Fall 2020.”

“It’s not surprising to see such dedication from our faculty,” Assistant Vice President for Teaching and Learning Maggie Beers said. “Our faculty communicate the value of lifelong learning to our students, and here they are demonstrating their own commitment to lifelong learning about teaching.”

“I’m very proud of our faculty for their passion and dedication to spend so much time and energy doing the very hard work of making their online courses equitable and accessible,” added Professor of Asian American Studies Wei Ming Dariotis, CEETL’s faculty director. “I’m particularly impressed with the level of engagement in — and, frankly, passion for — our JEDI PIE Institute. This demonstrates what we are really all about: social justice and anti-racism.”