PROJECT Online Teaching Institute Highlights
PROJECT Online Teaching Institute Highlights avatar

Hello, Letters colleagues!

I’d like to introduce myself as curry’s humble substitute for our department’s Technology Coordinator as he goes on sabbatical for the fall. If you’re like me, you’re spending a lot of your summer prepping for an online fall semester in our COVID-19 world, so I wanted to reach out to you now with some Letters-relevant highlights from this week’s PROJECT Online Teaching Institute. You can self-enroll in the PROJECT Canvas course for extensive resources, including recordings of all the Zoom sessions. 

The worldwide protests seeking justice in the names of George Floyd and countless other people of color have no doubt been at the forefront of our hearts and minds, and this ongoing conversation will inevitably enrich what, how, and why we teach. In that spirit, social justice, equity, and our community college system-wide call to action were the center of PROJECT’s institute. 

As Ibram X. Kendi writes in How to Be An Antiracist,  “What we say about race, what we do about race, in each moment, determines what–not who–we are. […] [B]eing an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination” (10, 23). 

So let’s get to work.

If you learn best through audio/video, enjoy my quarantine hair in this recap. If you’re a reader and hyperlink clicker, keep reading!

Choose the adventure that meets you where you’re at:

  • If you’re still feeling fledgling in online education and issues of equity, start by exploring…
    • Unit 0 in PROJECT’s Canvas course for the basics of online instruction. For composition instructors in particular, the embedded videos about Zoom annotations are useful for critical reading exercises and peer review activities, and the breakout rooms are also great for group discussions and activities.
  • How the institute suspended synchronous sessions on June 10th to demonstrate solidarity with the #shutdownacademia movement. Click the hashtag for necessary reading. 
  • If you’re already writing/revising syllabi and assignments centered on social justice and equity, work with…
    • Five Tips for Equitable Syllabus (Unit 1.B4 in the Canvas course)
  • Religious Studies colleague Chase Way’s talk on active learning strategies in the context of social justice and equity, inspired by the work of Paulo Freire and Civil Rights activist Septima Clark, both of whom championed treating students with love and support so they could see themselves as capable. Chase provides concrete examples of how to design discussion boards, quizzes embedded within Canvas Studio videos, Work-Based Learning assignments, and ePortfolios.  

Lastly, check out our Letters Department online resources page that will go live on Monday, the 15th. Here, you will find tons of resources to help you (re)shape your online courses to best support our wonderful students through these challenging times. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions:  jhidle@miracosta.edu

In solidarity,

Jade Hidle

Culturally Relevant Group Discussions with Google Docs and Zoom Breakout Rooms
Culturally Relevant Group Discussions with Google Docs and Zoom Breakout Rooms avatar

Colleagues,

Inspired by the activism in the worldwide George Floyd protests, I used an image from the peaceful demonstrations as a culturally relevant text for students to practice critical reading skills. In this short video, I’ll show you how I use Google docs and Zoom breakout rooms to create a collaborative communication, reading, and writing group activity centered on a culturally relevant text. I’ve found that this strategy gets all students involved and creates a useful scaffolding exercise/document for bigger papers and projects.

First Impressions and Setting Students Up for Success
Mary Gross

In this series of vids, I provide an overview of how I will share resources with you all and then move into into some early communication with students to help them access Canvas and our course successfully.

In this video, I share my initial email communication with students and preview three student videos that are sent pre-semester to welcome, engage, and connect with students.

Here is a link to the video I send to students in the pre-semester email which guides them to logging on the Canvas and provides a basic overview of our course design/layout. 

This is the video which provides some tips and guidance once students are in our Canvas Course how to approach the content for each week and navigate the course more easily.

Finally, this is a video that shows students how to use some of the most basic but useful tools when viewing Studio videos.

Progress-monitoring and Intrusive Practices
curry mitchell

Since attending the Center for Urban Education Equity-minded Teaching Institute in 2018, I have explored methods for monitoring student progress and invested in high-touch, just-in-time interventions during the first 3 Weeks of the semester.

There are pros and cons to using Canvas’ analytics and progress monitoring tools, like the Notes and “Message Students Who…” features, just as there are pros and cons for developing your own informal techniques for monitoring your students’ engagement with the course. I share 3 approaches I have explored in the video above.

The following questions frame my evaluation of how I monitor student progress:

  • What system fits best with my workflow for preparation, interaction, and assessment?
  • Do these systems allow for a macro and micro-level view of individual student progress and the emerging class community we are forming?
  • How am I able to observe and document affective elements?
  • How am I able to apply race-conscious, gender-conscious, and other intersectional lenses to my students’ engagement with the course?

By documenting this information, I am finding more opportunities to intervene in my students’ learning experiences, especially during the first 3 weeks of the semester.

CUE places a significant emphasis on the first 3 weeks of a semester as the time in which habits for learning are formed, relationships are established, and a class culture takes shape. During these first three weeks,

  • I invite students to consider and then commit to the class
  • I target and equip reading and writing processes
  • I schedule synchronous/asynchronous opportunities for collaboration

I describe my progress-monitoring techniques and intrusive practices during this time in the video above.

As I continue to reflect on and evaluate these practices, I find I’m returning to these considerations:

  • Once I have the information about a students’ progress, what will I do? For whom? Why?
  • Do these intervention practices increase confidence, a sense of belonging, and agency in my classes?
  • Which students or student groups emerge as active contributors and community leaders because of these practices?

Here are a few resources to explore further

Engaging with Students in SpeedGrader
curry mitchell

The tools and features in Canvas’ SpeedGrader allow students to respond to instructor comments. This creates the possibility for one-on-one conversations with students about their writing and about our feedback on their writing.

Here is a simple, additional requirement I have added to the major essay assignments in my ENGL 100 class that promotes the potential for these conversations.

To meet this additional requirement, students must complete three steps. Here’s the language I use:


Respond to Instructor Feedback

After your essay has been graded, review the feedback you received and write or record a response that identifies 1) one comment you found helpful, 2) one comment you plan to work on or that you found unclear, and 3) please state if you plan to revise or move on to the next project.


The additional 10 point I assign to this requirement amounts to 3% of the total course grade, which means a student who chooses not to complete this additional step is not penalized and can still earn an ‘A’ in the course overall. 

I discuss the major benefits of this assignment in the video above. In addition to these, I also find that I am

  • leading students directly to my feedback in Canvas with instruction on how to use Canvas’ tools
  • dialoging with my students about their writing and my feedback in the same space their essay drafts reside
  • understanding who in the class is really benefiting from my feedback and who is not accessing my feedback, which helps me to be more effective in my intrusive practices and to use my time more efficiently

For tutorials on SpeedGrader, check out

Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy Online: 3 Examples
Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy Online:  3 Examples avatar

Hi, colleagues!

As you consider how to develop Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies (CSP) on top of (re)building your online classes, remember that the internet can be a helper rather than a hindrance. What students use the internet for reveals a lot about their multifaceted, intersectional cultural identities; as such, it can be a great inspiration of assignments and activities that engage and empower student voices. Check out my video about three examples of my ongoing work with CSP.

Start Designing Your Online Class
curry mitchell

When I first started redesigning my ENGL 100 class for the online space, I found myself trying to mostly migrate my two-day per week lesson plans into an online, asynchronous rhythm. Instead of talking in class, we’d post to a discussion board. Instead of writing on the board, I’d create a slide-deck presentation and screencast it. Instead of modeling close reading with a doc cam, I’d snap a bunch of pics of my annotations, and set these in montage to some smooth Julian Casablancas tunes.

For the most part that worked, but after reading my first semester student evaluations, I found I was overwhelming my students with 2 lectures a week, 2 discussions a week, 2 workshops a week…in other words, the direct migration of my onsite curriculum into the online space needed tweaking. There’s something about the dynamic, synchronous class meeting that affords one set of active engagement with content and something about the interactive, asynchronous space that affords another.

One way to consider the redesign possibilities of your curriculum is to step back and consider the big picture and the minutia of your course: a backwards design approach.

I’ve created a worksheet–based on materials I received in an @One course on Course Design–which encourages this approach. Click the image above or access the worksheet to make a copy here.

This worksheet moves from the big picture of course curriculum to the particulars of how this curriculum scaffolds over the semester’s schedule. Next, this worksheet moves from thinking about the tools and practices developed for a scheduled, onsite class to thinking about what these tools and practices might look like in a mostly asynchronous, digital space.

I’ve started to use this worksheet to think about how I will redesign my ENGL 202 class as an online course with one scheduled meeting per week in Zoom. So far, I find myself moving back and forth from big picture to details as I think about the course as it currently exist. I also found the SLO’s for ENGL 202 very helpful as a source of orientation for designing a recursive reading, “arguing,” and writing experiences. I’m pretty sure I will use this pattern to organize and assign content week by week.

Finally, I’m starting to think about what Canvas will eventually look like when I build ENGL 202 online. I will take some elements from my current Canvas design for ENGL 202 onsite, some elements from this season of using Canvas, Zoom, and Google docs to teach ENGL 202 remotely, and some elements of my ENGL 40 course design, a sentence crafting class I’ve been teaching online for a couple years now.

My approach certainly is only one way to think about online course design. I hope we can all share our breakthroughs and work with one another to troubleshoot challenges. I’m looking forward to collaborating with you all!

Join WritingwithMachines and Post to our Blog
curry mitchell

WritingwithMachines is a community based on collaboration. If you would like to join us as a contributor to this blog, please email Jim Sullivan (jimsullivan@miracosta.edu) while curry is on sabbatical. Once you have been added as an Author, you will be able to share in our exchange of research and effective practices. We look forward to it!

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