Develop Your Teaching Excellence

Develop Your Teaching Excellence

This page provides faculty with options and resources designed to foster rich learning experiences for students. Creating an equitable learning environment with the right tools matters, which is why Merrimack provides all faculty and undergraduate students a common device to keep teaching and learning moving anywhere, anytime.

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Things to Keep in Mind

Faculty Know Their Courses and Students Best

The CETL brings educational design theory and praxis to every consultation, meeting or workshop. The resources here are based on Universal Design for Learning to create maximally inclusive learning experiences that can be tailored to course learning objectives, student needs and the instructor’s pedagogical preferences.

You Are Not Alone

Becoming an excellent instructor takes intention, reflection, and community. The CETL staff and Merrimack faculty and administration are available to assist you. What do you need to do to level-up your teaching and learning in a face to face, synchronous, asynchronous? CETL instructional designers are educators trained in instructional design; they are also web-accessibility certified, so if you have questions on colors, formats or other tech approaches, we are here to help. We are committed to supporting you at every stage of the course design process by providing resources, consultations, feedback and support. Email us

Device Equity

Designing a flexible and resilient learning culture includes technological equity. By issuing faculty and undergraduate students a common device, Merrimack provides countless opportunities to transform student engagement, learning outcomes, collaboration, creativity, accessibility and career readiness. As you consider your pedagogical planning, remember that all undergraduate students have an iPad, Smart Keyboard, and Apple Pencil and all classrooms are equipped with Apple TV.

Practice, Practice, Practice

When using a new pedagogical approach or a new tech tool, build in practice time to increase comfort and confidence. Also, encourage students to do the same. It’s easy to “practice” with students in the new learning environment by adding some low-or-no-stakes assignments for them to turn in.

Design for Equity with UDL

Creating learning experiences that are inclusive to all learners is possible when leveraging Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Using the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines, faculty can design and redesign courses with equity in mind. There are three guiding principles that define the UDL framework: engagement, representation, and action and expression. To begin working with UDL, consider the Why, What and How of UDL and ask the question, “Does my course support…”

Engagement – The “Why” of UDL. Why should students be interested? Why should students sustain their efforts and persist? Why should students self-regulate their activities?

Representation – The “What” of UDL. What content will students interact with? What is perceived? What is comprehended?

Action and Expression – The “How” of UDL. How will something be physically accomplished? How can a student express themselves and communicate? How can we support executive functioning?

Additional Resources

If you’re interested in learning more, here are a few starting points:

Connecting and Engaging With Students

Below are ideas for connecting and engaging students across modalities using UDL informed principles.

Plan for Presence and Knowing your Students

What does your First Day of Class look like in person? When teaching in person, faculty may open the course with a micro-lecture to inspire curiosity and engagement along with a course overview; we may ask students to set intentions, engage in an ice breaker, review syllabi, and do a start-up activity. This physical energy is often lost in the virtual medium, but it doesn’t have to be. A strong faculty presence increases the likelihood of student engagement and persistence and may provide critical emotional support. In the absence of physical proximity, instructors can establish a human presence through check-ins, constructive feedback with positive affirmation and targeted support. While the quantity of student/faculty interactions is important, it is not as critical as consistency in a remote environment. Therefore, instructors should identify specific points in a term to engage with students individually.

Develop Community

Community is one of Merrimack’s superpowers, and we know what this looks and feels like in person. Fostering community that engages all students in all modalities should be central to your course design. According to students, facilitating icebreakers, sharing bios, using question and discussion boards (including a Class Cafe and/or FAQ board), Zoom sessions and other collaboratively-designed activities and tools are vital for fostering peer-to-peer and faculty-to-student engagement. Providing multiple opportunities for interaction promotes learning and social connectedness. Contact with classmates is especially important for vulnerable student groups that are more likely to feel isolated. When living and teaching through a disruptive time, it’s imperative to be flexible and kind with your students and yourself.

Think of the LMS as a Campus

The campus is full of people, offices, guides, maps, and signs to help students navigate their holistic educational experience. Envision this student experience in the course design as you strive to build an intuitive course structure that helps as opposed to hinders student progress. Using the LMS is essential during times of disruption, emergency, and/or faculty illness, as it affords students a familiar structure across classes and allows another faculty member to seamlessly step in and keep learning moving, if needed. Tip: Use the “Student View” feature in Canvas to look at your course from the student perspective.

Reuse and Reimagine Resources

Consider all the resources you already have including pictures, videos, infographics, mobile apps, open educational resources (OER), and digital tools. You may need to digitize a favorite handout and convert it to an accessible format (pdf). Did you know that you can digitize materials from your iPad? What other resources have you yet to incorporate in your teaching? Most agree that students need assistance with digital literacy skills as they move beyond social networks. How can you steer them to resources and tools that inspire curiosity, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking?

Curate Content

Organizing your remote environment in an intuitive and visually appealing way engages students while increasing satisfaction. It connects all the aforementioned principles. Just as students connect to the campus through a well-run orientation or faculty meeting, how do they experience the course shell when they login for the first time? Gather your resources, then “edit” them for your new remote classroom and deploy them in an appealing, organized way (we recommend creating modules by week or theme that mirror your course schedule).

Use Video

You can also source videos to show a topic from varying angles or have students engage with an invited speaker using Zoom. Similarly, students can create videos to introduce themselves, explain information to one another, or to demonstrate their learning in creative formats.

Design Quality Assessments

Most faculty have developed a method of assessment (formative, summative, authentic, and/or alternative) and determining grades that balance motivating students to complete work that is critical to learning the material; assessing how well students have mastered the relevant material and competencies; and preventing and identifying academic dishonesty. Teaching remotely, however, does pose distinct challenges for testing students and requires instructors to be thoughtful about designing assessments that promote both student learning and academic integrity.

Student Wellness and Support 

Faculty can signal their commitment to wellness, diversity, equity and inclusion in a variety of ways. Create a communication plan and share it with your students, check in with them, celebrate their successes, acknowledge difficult times, use their names, model sharing pronouns, review your syllabi statements, course materials, the opening orientation to the course (your virtual First Day of Class), office hours, and how you connect students to campus resources in the remote environment. Most of all, be kind. 

Three Tools for Flexible Instruction

Canvas

Zoom or Panopto

Mobile Technology, including iPad and Smartphone

Steps to Follow: Whether Teaching Face-to-Face or Fully Online

  1. Build your complete course in the LMS.
    • Post your syllabus and important documents AND mirror your syllabus/course schedule in modules, weeks, or themes that include due dates, assignment descriptions, grading practices, etc.
    • Students should not have to toggle between syllabus and content organization.
  2. Practice with your preferred conferencing tool: Blackboard Collaborate or Zoom.
    • Important: Only connect one device to audio.
  3. (Re)familiarize yourself with your iPad and Apple Pencil. Practice whiteboarding with Zoom, Jamboard or Explain Everything.
  4. Consider your modalities (hybrid, remote synchronous, asynchronous) and explain to students how to navigate your course environment.
    • Be explicit in your syllabus and corresponding modules.
  5. Consider how you will connect all students, remote and face-to-face.
    • You could, for example, do an interactive activity either with the whole class or in small groups collaborating on a Google Doc, worksheet, etc. to engage all students and create accountability.
  6. Practice, practice practice.

In addition to the above, if you are teaching face-to-face:

  • Bring your iPad, Apple Pencil (MC login required to view link) and charging device.
  • You may include remote students using Zoom or Collaborate.
  • Every classroom is equipped with a PC or laptop, Apple TV and iPad stand.

Steps to Follow: Whether Teaching Face-to-Face or Fully Online

  1. Build your complete course in the LMS.
    • Post your syllabus and important documents AND mirror your syllabus/course schedule in modules, weeks, or themes that include due dates, assignment descriptions, grading practices, etc.
    • Students should not have to toggle between syllabus and content organization.
  2. Practice with your preferred conferencing tool: Blackboard Collaborate or Zoom.
    • Important: Only connect one device to audio.
  3. (Re)familiarize yourself with your iPad and Apple Pencil. Practice whiteboarding with Zoom, Jamboard or Explain Everything.
  4. Consider your modalities (hybrid, remote synchronous, asynchronous) and explain to students how to navigate your course environment.
    • Be explicit in your syllabus and corresponding modules.
  5. Consider how you will connect all students, remote and face-to-face.
    • You could, for example, do an interactive activity either with the whole class or in small groups collaborating on a Google Doc, worksheet, etc. to engage all students and create accountability.
  6. Practice, practice practice.

In addition to the above, if you are teaching face-to-face:

  • Bring your iPad, Apple Pencil (MC login required to view link) and charging device.
  • You may include remote students using Zoom or Collaborate.
  • Every classroom is equipped with a PC or laptop, Apple TV and iPad stand.