Upcoming changes to our teaching and learning environments

8 June 2021
By Wiebke Kuhn
Home office

This last year was a year that many of us do not want to repeat, with its multiple challenges, trauma, and stress.  We have all worked very long hours, we have all learned new tools and skills, to innovate what is happening in courses and across a Carleton campus that was more virtual than not. Now that there appears to be an end to the COVID pandemic in sight, let’s take a moment to reflect, with relief, on what we are willing to let go and what we recognize will remain useful for 21st century equitable teaching and learning, back on campus. 

Looking back:

We have all worked very long hours, we have all learned new tools and skills, to innovate what is happening in courses and across a Carleton campus that was more virtual than not.

  • ITS distributed a lot of new equipment to classrooms, faculty and students, ensuring that faculty can connect easily with students remotely from either a Carleton classroom or their home or lab.  
  • We equipped the 30 largest classrooms with cameras and microphones to connect faculty with remote students, and we distributed iPads to a number of faculty to use with apps like ExplainEverything or Notability for lecturing or annotating student assignments.
  • ITS also consolidated existing computers in such a way that students can connect to them remotely to access specialized software, 24/7, from anywhere in the world. 
We have learned a lot over the last year, with a particular focus on equitable teaching and learning and how technology can help.  Designing equitable learning opportunities can be made easier and more efficient with instructional technologies, and all students will continue to benefit from the increased use of these tools at Carleton.

– Wiebke Kuhn

Looking ahead:

Remote access to course-related software, combined with the effort to give each student who needed a computer such a device, made it clear that moving forward, equitable ubiquitous computing for students is just as important for them as it is for faculty.  

  • For the coming year, the GEER grant will again make it possible that all incoming students will have a laptop in the fall. With all students having laptops, it will make it easier for them to continue using some of the software applications faculty discovered as useful during the last year. 
  • Carleton will continue issuing Zoom Pro licenses to faculty and staff members, while students can either request a Zoom Pro license or use either a basic Zoom license (40 minute-long session, local recording) or Google Meet. 
  • Faculty are interested in continuing Zoom office hours as they have seen more students coming to office hours. Zoom makes this interaction more convenient and less of a hurdle. 
  • Other software faculty want to continue using are:
    • Gradescope — an efficient way to grade student work more consistently, equitably, encouraging deeper feedback; 
    • Hypothes.is — collaborative reading and annotation experiences for students; 
    • Panopto — creating and distributing short recordings;
    • Kahoot! — collecting instant student input.

Some tools faculty and students have been using may no longer be quite as important, and so ITS is stepping back from supporting these applications fully:

  • Gather.town — has been very useful in creating informal interactive spaces online, its need may no longer be burning. ITS will be able to continue answering questions about this tool but will not continue building spaces;
  • ExplainEverything — used to recreate the blackboard experience on an iPad may longer be as important. 

Moodle

We will be working on Moodle over the summer with an eye to increased usability. 

  • We will be upgrading to Moodle 3.9 this summer, which brings with it security, usability and accessibility improvements. More information about Moodle 3.9 is available on the Moodle HQ YouTube Channel. Because of the work we did during Spring break, any updates we make to Moodle will not result in an outage. Look for a notification before Moodle updates are installed and what changes you might expect.  
  • On August 1st, we will again be deleting the oldest courses from the Moodle server. This year those are courses from the 2015-16 Academic Year. If you would like to save a copy of your course materials, we recommend that you create a backup file of your course and download that to your favorite file storage location.  Instructions for how to create a backup file are available in this short video.

As Moodle has become an integral part to so many of Carleton’s courses, we are looking forward to supporting your innovative uses of the tool and sharing your ideas with your colleagues. Many of you have commented on how helpful the quiz feature has been, and we have heard from students how valuable asynchronous access to learning resources is.