Faculty Forum 2021 Wrap-Up: A Day of Exploration & Community Engagement
The Digital Learning & Innovation (DL&I) Faculty Forum 2021 welcomed over 200 Boston University educators and staff to the virtual symposium on Monday, May 10. The three-hour event featured DL&I Associate Provost Chris Dellarocas as keynote speaker, 10 parallel sessions, eight EdTech Expert Stations, followed by the Learn from Anywhere (LfA) Creativity & Spirit Awards ceremony.
“BU faculty demonstrated great resourcefulness over the past year and Faculty Forum 2021 was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on important themes, share and celebrate teaching and learning strategies as well as look forward,” said Dr. Deborah Breen, director of BU Center for Teaching & Learning and Faculty Forum 2021 co-chair.
“It was also an honor to celebrate faculty, faculty coaches, graduate students, and student moderators with the LfA Creativity and Spirit Awards,” said Ernie Perez, director of Educational Technology and Faculty Forum 2021 co-chair. “The nominations were inspiring—the strength, courage and ingenuity highlighted left me speechless, teary-eyed, and made me proud to be part of higher ed.”
From COVID to 2030: Serving the Students of Tomorrow
Before a virtual audience, Dellarocas thanked BU faculty for their unwavering commitment to teaching and for supporting students. “Thank you for going above and beyond to serve our students during the extraordinary past 15 months…thanks to your efforts BU has emerged stronger, wiser and ready to continue our path to excellence for the rest of the decade and beyond.”
Dellarocas also reflected on the pandemic’s impact on the student experience and outlined four key areas for further concentration: inclusion and equity, connections and community, student engagement, and a need for increased emphasis on soft skills.
“Our students have emerged from this experience changed…Our students and their parents gained a better appreciation for the value of a residential experience. They became more aware of what parts of the experience we offer them add value relative to remote learning and which ones don’t,” Dellarocas shared. “As we look forward to remaining a world-class institution of higher learning, we need to adapt and evolve to keep up with our students’ changing needs and expectations.”
“Chris’ keynote address was inspiring and challenged us to reflect on the lessons learned from LfA so we could innovatively plan for our return to in-person teaching,” said Karen Jacobs, Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences’ associate dean of Digital Learning & Innovation and a Pedagogical Experimentation with the Digital Incubator session panelist. “In fact, during the panel discussion that I participated in, I referred to many of the points made during the address.”
Exploring Innovations in Teaching & Technology at BU
Faculty Forum 2021 featured over 50 faculty and staff presenters, panelists, and facilitators, all of whom shared their teaching and technology experiences via hands-on/interactive sessions and panel discussions.
Dana Clancy, associate professor of Art with BU College of Fine Arts served as the facilitator for the What We Can Take With Us panel discussion. Clancy said during her time at BU she has made many lasting connections through interdisciplinary meetings or conversations—and the Faculty Forum 2021 is one of those opportunities.
“Our panelists [Caleb Farny, Kristin Leahey, Jon Wisco, Kathryn Spillios, and Peter Smith] are such inspiring scholars,” she said. “I sincerely enjoyed getting to know and appreciate them and their work and it was also nice to get some spontaneous group conversation going.”
Jon Wisco, associate professor with the Department of Anatomy & Neurology with BU School of Medicine and What We Can Take With Us session panelist, described Faculty Forum 2021 as a “lollapalooza of faculty sharing LfA lessons that inform best practices for improving the teaching and learning space of the post-pandemic future.”
“For each panel I attended, I really loved hearing from such a diversity of faculty within that session,” said Wisco. “It was really refreshing to hear so many colleagues in our community speak about lessons learned, particularly with regard to inclusivity and accessibility in their learning spaces.”
Hamid Nawab, professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at BU College of Engineering and panelist in the Applying Inclusion and Equity Principles in the Classroom session, described Faculty Forum 2021 as an “eye-opening experience.”
“It was inspiring and refreshing to see so many BU faculty and staff from across the BU campus interacting with each other on big ideas as well as the nuts and bolts of learning and teaching in the soon-to-be post-pandemic era,” Nawab said. “Most inspiring to me were instances of deeply insightful observations and questions from audience members during the couple of panel sessions I attended. I came away with a reawakened appreciation of the intellectual caliber of BU faculty and staff and their dedication to the educational enterprise.”
Faculty Forum 2021 Flow & Fluidity
The end-of-semester symposium featured a variety of parallel sessions and offered attendees the fluidity to virtually travel from one or more hands-on sessions or panel discussions.
“I really liked the flexibility to bounce from panel to panel, catching glimpses of the different work in the BU community,” Wisco added. “Normally at online society conferences I would bounce from one scheduled talk to another scheduled talk, so I was surprised how much I enjoyed jumping in and out of engaging conversations from panel to panel in the Faculty Forum.”
Faculty Forum 2021 session facilitator Thomas Underwood, a master lecturer with the BU College of Arts & Sciences Writing Program and Division of Rhetoric, College of General Studies, said the symposium not only offered a “kaleidoscope of innovative and practical faculty pedagogies” but it spoke to the resiliency of the BU community during a challenging time.
“Faculty working on the cutting edge of remote and hybrid learning demonstrated both their adaptability and their creativity in multiple, exciting — and frequently moving — sessions hosted by the CTL and the DL&I.”
Celebrating Ingenuity, Creativity and Spirit
The move to remote teaching in March 2020 and the transition to the Learn from Anywhere framework in September 2020 called for faculty to adapt to challenging new teaching modalities and methodologies while also dealing with unfamiliar technologies, and the emotional stress many students were experiencing. Yet, despite these challenges, countless faculty utilized this time as an opportunity to make creative use of the new constraints and take advantage of the new possibilities of remote and hybrid LfA teaching.
These faculty’s efforts were supported by faculty coaches and student classroom moderators, all of whom ensured that faculty were well prepared and that class sessions ran smoothly.
The Learn from Anywhere Creativity & Spirit Awards ceremony, held during Faculty Forum 2021, celebrated the creativity and resilient spirit exhibited by BU faculty, graduate student instructors, faculty coaches, and student classroom moderators during the 2020-21 LfA experience.
“I had the privilege of reading through the nominations and I was humbled by the creativity of our faculty, the spirit of service and collegiality of our coaches and moderators,” said Dellarocas, chair of the Remote and Online Working Group. “An overarching spirit of caring for students and caring for one another comes through.”
While each category had specific criteria, nominations were reviewed by the Remote and Online Working Group and awardees were identified based on the impact they had on supporting or creating an enriching student experience amidst great uncertainty.
Members of the Remote and Online Working Group also include Sue Kennedy, senior assistant provost for Academic Affairs and associate provost ad interim for Undergraduate Affairs; David Cotter, assistant provost for Graduate Enrollment; Tanya Zlateva, dean of Metropolitan College; Ernie Perez, director of Educational Technology; Linda Jerrett, director of Learning & Event Technology Services (LETS); Binyomin Abrams, director of General Chemistry and master lecturer, Chemistry; and Kathryn Spilios, director of Instructional Labs; director of the Learning Assistant Program; master lecturer of Biology.
The following is a list of LfA Creativity & Spirit Award recipients and includes individual accomplishments and accolades.
About the Full-time Instructor Remote & Hybrid Awards
For the full-time instructor category, nearly 80 students and faculty nominated instructors whom they saw as making a significant positive contribution to the learning experience of Boston University’s students. Several nominations identified the same instructor as having a strong impact on their learning.
From these nominations, 30 instructors from across all BU campuses completed the submission for the award.
In the remote category, many experiences were highlighted including faculty who invited guest speakers via Zoom; created podcasts and regular newsletters to keep students up-to-date; created animated videos to demonstrate key points; and many others who experimented with student management of assignment deadlines; and a wide-ranging applications of technology including TopHat, Trello, Twine, Jamboard, NearPod, PollEv, FlipGrid and more.
These adventurous approaches were echoed in the submissions for the hybrid category, where instructors designed classes where students created short documentary films in history; participated in international relations simulations; created experiential learning activities that enabled remote students to participate along with in-person students; and many more approaches.
Out of this rich variety, the Remote and Online Working Group identified the following awardees in the remote and hybrid categories.
Remote Teaching Instructor Award Recipient
The Remote and Online Working group recognized BU School of Medicine’s Dr. Thom Field with the LfA Creativity & Spirit Award for teaching in the remote modality.
Dr. Thomas Field's Accomplishments & Accolades
Thom Field was nominated by a student in his graduate Neuroscience for Mental Health counselors’ class. In his nomination the student wrote:
“Dr. Field adapted to online learning with such skill and enthusiasm; he rose to the challenge, incorporating many jokes and “memes” in our lectures to shake up the slides. Additionally, Dr. Field would often take music suggestions from students during zoom breaks, showcasing a variety of students’ music preferences in-class. From his dad jokes, highly spirited demeanor and rocking out to British punk bands or Taylor Swift, he added soul into the virtual atmosphere of our learning.”
In his own materials, Field described how he sought to enhance student collaboration and engagement during the learning process. He used PollEv to do frequent check-ins with the students and varied his approach based on their responses. He also used Theravue, a virtual platform that allowed students to practice giving responses to a series of patient vignettes. Field and students provided in-class feedback and he also used examples in class to highlight effective responses.
At the end of the course, the students reported that the platform was central to their learning. Field also observed that the students had collectively demonstrated greater achievement of the learning objectives than in previous course sections.
“During a semester full of new challenges and adjustments, Dr. Field created a space to look forward to and sought to enrich the lives of his students. He made each and every class a memorable one. He’s a testament to the way professors adapt to best meet the needs of students while providing a space to authentically learn about class material and about ourselves.” — student nominator.
Dr. Thomas Field, Ph.D., LMHC, NCC, CCMHC, ACS
Clinical Associate Professor, Psychiatry
Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine
BU School of Medicine
Hybrid Teaching Instructor Award Recipient
Remote and Online Working group recognized BU College of Arts & Sciences’ Dr. Cheryl Knott’s resourceful and creative approaches with the LfA Creativity & Spirit Award for teaching in the hybrid modality.
Dr. Cheryl Knott's Accomplishments & Accolades
The award for creative and resourceful teaching in the hybrid modality was given to Dr. Cheryl Knott, who taught Methods in Biological Anthropology, a hands-on field and laboratory methods course that typically involves numerous field trips with close student collaboration. To offer this course in the LfA format Knott had to re-invent each of the 13 lab sections, providing two pathways for students to engage in hands-on experiences, whether in person or remote.
One field trip was to the Hammond Pond Forest Reserve to make forest plots and measure and identify trees.
The challenge was to figure out how in-person students would be able to see the demonstration and how remote students would have access to appropriate tools. Knott enlisted family members to help her make instructional videos to show all students the methodology and to explain to remote students how to create the tools they needed. This enabled both the in-person students and the remote students to complete the field work and analysis.
As one of her students shared: “It was a challenging, fun, and engaging introduction for me into the field of biological anthropology. All from a remote setting, I learned how to do forest transects, population surveys, nutritional analysis, hormonal assays and much more all while working on my skills as a collaborator, researcher, and writer.”
Knott’s class has so many interesting elements including students learning to use Image J software to measure bones from photographs of primate skeletons; a field trip to the Franklin Park Zoo to gather data on gorillas and to hear a keeper presentation. Remote students were able to either watch the gorillas over face-time with their in-person group members, or collect data from videos or live-zoo webcams. She also used the Perusall, platform, where students read scientific articles and annotated the same on-line version, responding to each other’s comments. Finally, Knott arranged a behind the scenes virtual tour of the Harvard Herbarium and Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Another student shared these accolades: “Professor Knott’s dedication to maintaining a close community and providing us with COVID-safe activities has been the absolute highlight of my LfA experience in the past year. We used Pronto to maintain a class group chat that served to connect all of us. Through physical field trips to the Zoo, out to the esplanade, or the BU beach, remote students were carried on cell-phone or laptop screens, participating in observations and communicating with in-person classmates. The way Professor Knott created supplementary remote activities actually enriched the overall course experience. And we all still message in Pronto!”
Dr. Cheryl Knott, Ph.D.
Professor of Anthropology, Biology, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Associate Chair and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Biological Anthropology
Director, Gunung Palun Orangutan Project
BU College of Arts & Sciences
Part-time Faculty Award Recipient
The review committee recognizes the special demands on part-time instructors and are grateful for their many contributions to learning experiences at Boston University. For this category, the review committee looked at instructors teaching remote and hybrid classes in one category.
The Remote and Online Working Group recognized Dr. Swati Rani for the LfA Creativity & Spirit Award for her outstanding contribution to teaching and learning in the past year.
Dr. Swati Rani's Accomplishments & Accolades
Dr. Swati’s class “Are Asians People of Color?” frequently met outdoors, providing in-class students with the opportunity to meet with each other, while also allowing remote students to be connected through Zoom. One of Rani’s students shared the following:
“Dr. Rani provided the opportunity for everyone to engage in the class…We used WhatsApp, Facebook, and email to connect with other students and Dr. Rani. She also went out of her way to make sure that we had the support we needed by offering Sunday Zoom Chats,” the student wrote. “On these Sunday Zoom Chats, she listened and conversed with the students. As Dr. Rani’s student, I can confidently say that she has the most creative and engaging approach to students in our learning.”
Dr. Swati Rani, Ph.D.
Lecturer, Writing Program
BU College of Arts & Sciences
About the Student Classroom Moderator Awards
The LfA student classroom moderator role was designed to help faculty engage with students who were participating remotely in an LfA class taught on campus. Over the course of LfA, more than 400 students were hired, trained and scheduled by IS&T to fulfill this important role.
The Remote and Online Working Group recognized Mouhamad Doufesh. Duufesh was nominated by James Uden, Associate Professor, Classical Studies, for his moderator work in the Ancient Medicine course.
Muhamad Doufesh's Accomplishments & Accolades
During the nomination process, Professor Uden wrote the following: “I have four moderators in total this semester for my two courses, but Muhamad has been head and shoulders above the rest in technical competence and reliability. His most remarkable virtue is his preternatural calmness. I was extremely nervous about adapting to the hybrid format but my nerves were calmed whenever it was Muhamad’s day. He helped me troubleshoot every possible tech problem with our classroom, he always turned up for class early to help me set up, and if something went wrong, he helped me deal with it….. In short, Muhamad played a big role in getting me through the semester in one piece. I would love to see his talent and professionalism recognized by this award.”
B.S. Candidate, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology; Minor, Public Health
Biology, BU College of Arts & Sciences
Team: Sofia Oliva & Rana Barakat
The Remote and Online Working Group recognized a team of moderators, nominated by Barbara Schreiber, Associate Professor, Biochemistry, for their work in a large team-taught class that teaches biochemistry to first year Dental students.
Team Award: Sofia Oliva & Rana Barakat's Accomplishments & Accolades
Professor Schreiber shared the following: “Rana and Sofia adapted with ease to each lecture, without a doubt contributing to the class running smoothly. As for the technology, both Rana and Sofia adopted the Zoom technology and were instrumental in helping the professors with the chat function, adapting to each professors’ preferred style e.g. interrupting if a question arose vs. waiting until the professor stopped to ask if anyone had questions. In my lectures, I used Zoom polling and Rana and Sofia ran it for me.
In terms of communication, both moderators were incredibly responsive; any questions/concerns I had were always addressed in a timely manner. In addition, they communicated with one another to develop a schedule so that I was never left without a moderator in this class that meets close to 100 hours over the semester. In summary, the ‘Rana/Sofia team’ is so deserving of this award. Frankly, I couldn’t have done it without them!”
Dentistry, BU School of Dental Medicine
Dentistry, BU School of Dental Medicine
About the Faculty Coach Awards
The Faculty Coach Program has been an indispensable part of the support structure for Learn from Anywhere. Both Chris Dellarocas, and Joe Bizup, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs and Policies in the College of Arts and Sciences, played a significant role in getting the coaching program started, and Dr. Deborah Breen, director of the Center for Teaching & Learning, was instrumental in the development and management of the program. More than 130 coaches worked with the Center for Teaching & Learning, Educational Technology, and Learning and Events Technology Services over the past year.
Faculty Coach Award Recipients
Team: Sue Griffin, M.A. and Alison Carberry, Ph.D.
The Remote and Online Working Group recognized a coaching duo Alison Carberry and Sue Griffin from Romance Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Team Award: Sue Griffin & Alison Carberry's Accomplishments & Accolades
Alison and Sue were nominated by Dr. Amina Shabani, a lecturer in Spanish. In her nomination, Shabani commended her colleagues for their tireless work in supporting all full-time instructors, teaching fellows and part-time faculty in both the Romance Studies and African Studies departments.
As Shabani noted: “Alison and Sue curated a list of resources, tutorials, sample materials and much more in a neatly organized website to guide instructors. They hosted office hours covering a range of topics such as how to create interactive PowerPoints, how to transition from paper handouts to google forms, and how to build a sense of community in the LfA classroom. They also worked with teaching fellows and the Geddes Language Center to create step by step tutorials on how to start an LfA class and how to resolve technological issues.”
Dr. Shabani ends by writing: “For many of us, teaching online was completely new. Thanks to Alison and Sue, we felt more supported, guided and empowered to experiment in the new classroom format. I, like my colleagues, am deeply indebted to their hard work, dedication and commitment to excellence.”
Sue Griffin, M.A.
Acting Assistant Dean & Director of Language Instruction
Master Lecturer in Spanish
Romance Studies, BU College of Arts & Sciences
Alison Carberry, Ph.D.
Master Lecturer in Spanish
Romance Studies, BU College of Arts & Sciences
Faculty Coach Award Recipient
The Remote and Online Working Group recognized Dr. Deborah Jaramillo for her leadership and contributions as a faculty coach.
Dr. Deborah Jaramillo's Accomplishments & Accolades
Dr. Jaramillo headed up a team of coaches within the College of Communication. This team nominated her for her leadership and her deep knowledge of teaching strategies and nuanced fluency in the technologies. The COM coaching team pointed out many creative and resourceful contributions Jaramillo made throughout her time as a faculty coach including:
- spearheading a total reorganization of COM’s college-wide Blackboard LfA resource site to create a much more user-friendly and accessible site for more than 200 COM faculty and staff;
- creating an LfA Resource Guide; which became a very valuable training tool to support colleagues in LfA concepts and practices, and
- holding one-on-one consultations and keeping in touch with her group via email.
Jaramillo’s colleague Amy Shanler, Associate Professor of Practice, shared the following during the nomination process: “In a chaotic and stressful time, Deb was a beacon of positivity. That’s not to say she sugarcoated anything – in fact, Deb acknowledged the challenge ahead of all of us, but calmly helped move us toward solutions…she is the ultimate coach’s coach.”
Dr. Deborah Jaramillo, Ph.D.
Director, Film and Television Studies Program
Associate Professor of Film and Television
Film and Television, BU College of Communication
About the Graduate Student Instructor Awards
The nominees for graduate student instructor awards came from departments as varied as Anthropology, Archaeology, Biology, Classical Studies, Spanish Language Studies, and several other disciplines represented in Writing Program classes.
Some of the considerations for the graduate student instructor award highlight the following:
- positive impact on the learning experience;
- creativity in working in the remote or hybrid mode, especially if they tried something quite different from face-to-face classes;
- resourcefulness when dealing with teaching questions; and
- use of technology.
Remote Graduate Student Instructor Award Recipient
The Remote and Online Working Group recognized Maya Peters Kostman, PhD candidate in Neurobiology, for her work in teaching a remote class on Genetics.
Maya Peters Kostman's Accomplishments & Accolades
During the nomination process, Professor Peters Kostman’s ingenuity and creativity were noted. “In her role as a graduate student instructor, she took advantage of the Zoom classroom by creating different interactive visual exercises using Clip Studio Paint to demonstrate key principles and for students to interact with. Her quest for creativity prompted the development of a picture of DNA where she had students label the different structures and identify the nucleotides using the annotation feature of Zoom. She also created comparative tables for students to collaboratively complete. In addition, Peters Kostman integrated multimedia resources such as podcasts and videos, which were effective in connecting social topics of race and gender to class material and the lived experiences of students.”
Maya Peters Kostman Ph.D. Candidate, Neurobiology
Biology, BU College of Arts & Sciences
Hybrid Graduate Student Award Recipient
The Remote and Online Working Group recognized Peter Kováčik, a PhD candidate in environmental archaeology with the LfA Creativity & Spirit Award for his outstanding work in teaching in the hybrid modality.
Peter Kováčik's Accomplishments & Accolades
As noted during the nomination process, Professor Kováčik’s priority was to provide an inclusive teaching and active learning opportunity for each student, whether they were accessing the course in person or remotely.
In this role, he utilized such teaching strategies as Think-Pair-Share, Case Studies, and Inquiry-based-learning activities. To provide students with materials for lab activities in different scientific methods, Kováčik photographed numerous objects and shared the images and other materials with students to work on in groups. Each in-person student was paired with one (or two) remote student/s using Zoom breakout rooms. He also paired in-person and remote students was very popular and formed a sense of camaraderie and responsibility, teaching future researchers that cooperation and shared production of knowledge are valuable and indeed necessary skills for their work.
Ph.D. Candidate, Environmental Archaeology
Archaeology, BU College of Arts & Sciences
Following the award ceremony, event co-chairs Breen and Perez shared their deep appreciation to all that brought the Faculty Forum 2021 virtual symposium to life. In honor of the generous contributions of all presenters, panelists, and facilitators, they announced, Digital Learning & Innovation donated $500 to Boston Partners in Education, one of the oldest active nonprofit partners of the Boston Public Schools.
The Faculty Forum 2021 closed with a recorded performance from the BU Inner Strength Gospel Choir. The performance includes current and former choir members–all of whom recorded solo videos from their homes during the pandemic.
“The “Unity Medley” is a blend of “If I Can Help Somebody” by Alma Bazel Androzzo, “You’ve Got a Friend” by Carole King, and “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers. This medley is a “wonderful representation of our BU community and our collective strength and resilience,” Breen said in closing.