This year, CLT Learning Experience Technologist Freddy Angel, with Faculty Lead Miriam Horne, is developing a program called Zero to Go to assist faculty with quickly ramping up their courses. Freddy sat down with Caroline Toy to discuss the rationale and payoffs for Zero to Go.
What is Zero to Go in a nutshell?
Freddy: It’s a way to quickly get a faculty member ready to start the semester. It’s for all faculty, but the focus started with adjuncts, especially those coming in the same week that the course would launch. We were getting more faculty coming in on Wednesday, Thursday, and even Friday, when the course is launched on Monday.
Caroline: So it’s to help people get going very quickly, without a lot of prep time. And often people who don’t have as much teaching experience, is that right?
Freddy: Some of them do not have any teaching experience. Others have teaching experience, but have not used a Learning Management System (like Canvas). Others have been out of the teaching profession for a while, and some are new to the teaching profession. So it becomes kind of interesting not only getting them prepared to be technically ready, with a syllabus that’s up to date as a foundation, but also sharing some of the classroom nuances that they may experience. I often share with them a little bit about how the student has changed. Our students are not of the sit-and-listen model. They’re more interactive. They’re not prone to embracing “because I told you so.” They want to have reasoning, which is also what we’re really asking them to develop.
What does it mean to be at “zero”?
Freddy: Basically, you have nothing more than a blank Canvas shell. My focus is on the output, which is the course. And the faculty could have a great deal of experience. But they just got hired, and what they’re going to see, what the students are going to see, is an empty Canvas shell. Zero doesn’t necessarily reflect the faculty’s status or level, it’s really focused on the output.
What does it mean to be at “go”?
Freddy: It’s an exciting question. We’ve been interviewing students for quite some time, and one of the things that we came up with–and this was all pre-COVID–is that to be a “go,” you’ve now met the standards of the students. Those are that the course needs to have an up-to-date syllabus, grading criteria defined, and the assignments in Canvas so that it populates the calendar, which allows students to effectively prioritize and manage their time. One of the things that I share with faculty is that students say, “please do not dumb things down. We don’t want you to dumb down, we need you to give us more examples. We don’t want hand-holding, we want clarity. And we’re dealing with five courses, we’re multitasking, and we have no guideposts.”
So for Zero to Go the goal is you’ve got your syllabus up to date, it’s got the grading criteria defined, and you’ve got your assignments on Canvas. Students also ask faculty to include just a few sentences that tell them what is really important to the faculty member, for whatever your metrics will be.
Caroline: As I’m listening to you talk about this, it sounds like Canvas is the evidence that you have done the work of articulating your plans and requirements. The point is that students can have clear expectations so that in the first week of classes, they know exactly what they’re getting into.
Freddy: Yes. And one of the things that we share in the beginning of Zero to Go is the shift that we’ve had, with the students and with faculty, the faculty’s shift from “sage on the stage” teaching to now. Their role has changed to a more collaborative learning experience.
The Zero to Go process has five steps. What are they?
Freddy: The first step is your syllabus. We do the basics of the syllabus, and we also never forget the aesthetics and accessibility as part of it. Students are human beings and need to be engaged. In the syllabus, we get step two, your grading criteria. And we make sure the nomenclature for assignments on the syllabus is the same in Canvas. Step three is for each week, identifying your high-level overview or goal. Then step four is assignments. And step five is what you can tell your students about how to enjoy and succeed in this class. We do harp on that–I even have a sign in my office that says “creativity is intelligence having fun”–so we focus on how they can have fun and be successful in the class.
Caroline: It sounds like in some ways, it’s a speedy version of the Backward Design model, in a way that’s accessible to people who have very little time and can’t engage completely with all the steps of that model.
Freddy: Yes. I’m really excited to tell them that we’ve implemented the Zero to Go methodology for a reason, which is that we’re right here on the launchpad and we’ve got to get them up and ready. But the full process starts with looking at curriculum-level outcomes, then passes to the pedagogies that support those types of outcomes. I usually come in as the third phase in a normal process, where I then begin to really engage in the student experience.
What are the payoffs of Zero to Go for faculty?
Freddy: We interviewed some of the faculty, and found that they find confidence in themselves and their ability to create a learning experience that not only supports the students, but their pedagogy.
Caroline: So it’s not just about the course. The reach is broader: the student experience, the faculty experience, and the faculty having confidence to continue to grow as teachers.
Freddy: Yes, because there’s three core components to a good class. One, the content has to be high-quality. Two, it has to be organized in a way that the student can complete it successfully. And three, the instructor has to have the bandwidth to be able to enjoy delivering that content, so that they can engage with the students. The way that we can do that is by using Canvas to take care of all the fundamentals. Then students can actually self-navigate the course so that the things that use their cognitive bandwidth are the content, not the navigation.
What are the payoffs of running this program for you?
Freddy: To see the faculty grow and share with me how they’re enjoying the teaching more from a new perspective, and the knowledge that the students are getting solid opportunities to succeed, are my biggest payoffs. Faculty being more excited about teaching and taking weight off, so they can focus on DEI and that sort of thing, and students clearly knowing that if they want to succeed, they have a solid opportunity. So it’s really a holistic approach.
Caroline: You are really basing a lot of what you do around Bloom’s Taxonomy: strong preparation at the basic level, and then things build up to success at both the faculty and student levels. And that allows them to engage more deeply and more thoughtfully.
Where is Zero to Go headed in the future?
Freddy: We’re hoping that the Zero to Go practice will become an established part of course preparation, especially with new faculty, whether they’re adjunct or full time. We could actually even expand the program so we “ride shotgun” with a faculty member their first full semester. In Zero to Go, the focus–and the flaw–is that it stops basically in week three. I get faculty ready up to week three, and then we really don’t connect unless they come back to us. So we want to create a format where we meet with them multiple times to see how things are going.
Caroline: So Zero to Go is the first component of what you hope will turn into a coaching and check-in program that’s available to all new faculty at Champlain, and also something that returning faculty can ask for?
Freddy: Yes. This is a subset of the full process of course preparation that we use quickly so that the faculty members can be successful. Zero to Go makes you look really good really fast. And now we need to go back and understand why those components were important and how they apply to your particular course in greater detail.
For more information about participating in Zero to Go as you prepare your courses next semester, please reach out to Freddy at email@example.com!