Vol. 1, Issue 1, April 7, 2020

The Remote Instruction Issue

Welcome to the inaugural issue of CEETL CIRCLES—a newsletter launched by the Center for Equity & Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CEETL) to help foster and support Pedagogies for Inclusive Excellence (we call these PIE) at SF State and beyond. 

Screenshot of gallery view in zoom meeting
The CEETL Teaching & Learning Community, "Elevating the First-Year Experience: First-Year Seminar Teaching with a Peer Mentor," is undeterred by the need to maintain physical distance. 

Welcome Message 
"Today we are all trying our best—and will succeed by supporting ourselves and one another with compassion and generosity."

Jennifer Summit
Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs
Provost Summit welcomes the first issue of CEETL Circles and expresses gratitude to SF State faculty and staff for their exceptional work during this difficult time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the most difficult and important job in the university—teaching our students—and made it even more difficult, and—given the challenges facing our students, communities, and world—more important than ever. With hardly a warning, our faculty redesigned their classes and found new ways to support students who were traumatized by the sudden upending of their own lives. The social distancing mandate was no less disruptive for our staff, who maintained crucial support services for our faculty and students, mostly from remote settings. At the same time, many had to balance this work with caregiving responsibilities in their families and communities. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the commitment, ingenuity, and resilience that our academic community have shown and are showing every day in meeting today’s truly extraordinary challenges.
This newsletter reaffirms the values and vision that have long made San Francisco State’s teaching culture uniquely powerful—its commitment to student learning in a spirit of inclusion, equity, and encouragement, and its emphasis on the importance of faculty community in support of student success. Our current shift to remote modalities does not change those core commitments. Digital technologies and tools allow learning to continue across social distancing—but they do so by confirming, not displacing, the teacher’s critical role in supporting student learning.
Today we are all trying our best—and will succeed by supporting ourselves and one another with compassion and generosity. Experienced classroom teachers may find the shift to online teaching to be frustrating and even overwhelming. Even those who have taught online will find it challenging in an age of social distancing. But through CEETL there is a community of faculty support and guidance at the ready. We will learn together and from one another how to bring the best of San Francisco State to our students in whatever modality, because our best is our people and the values that drive them—and these are undiminished.

CEETL Is *HERE* for You
"What's on your teaching & learning antennae?"

Meet our mascot, the CEETL Beetle!
Schedule a virtual one-on-one consultation, review online videos and resources, and register for live webinars on timely topics related to remote teaching. 

Register here for an upcoming webinar!

Zoom: Polling & Breakout Groups Webinar
Live demos of Polling and Breakout Rooms in Zoom, with Q&A.
Wednesday, April 8 from 10-11am

Academic Integrity by Design: Options for Remote Instruction
A faculty-led webinar that highlights culturally inclusive assessment strategies that promote academic integrity during remote instruction.
Friday, April 10 from 10-11am

To review slides and recordings from these and previous webinars, visit the CEETL Keep Teaching Resources webpage..

Social Approximating!
CEETL Virtual Happy Hour!

Wednesday, April 15, 4-5 p.m.
How can you socially approximate while physically distancing? Join CEETL for a virtual happy hour! Introduce your colleagues to your pets, your partners, your kids, or your virtual zoom backgrounds. Bring your own beverage of choice, obviously. Register Here!

Our Partners in Teaching
"It's beautiful hard work."

Grace Yoo
Faculty Director
First Year Experience

What types of extra support do first-year students need during times of remote instruction? We know you are doing everything you can to reassure your first-year students and help them maintain a sense of community at SF State. Those of you teaching first-year experience courses are working with the students who may not have developed on-campus support systems yet. Checking in with your students often can help them stay connected with you; and it is also important to find ways to teach them how to use remote modalities to best communicate with each other. How can they give supportive feedback using chat during a Zoom session? How do they avoid accidentally causing offense? If you know students who live in the resident halls who have left for home and want to stay updated, please visit the Housing website.If you know of a student that needs access to food, shelter, laptops and wifi, storage, a car rental, or facilities to shower, check the Basic Needs Initiative website. Also, many services for students have now gone online including tutoring and advising. As you come back from Spring Break, I want to acknowledge that this work is so hard, and I appreciate the gift you are giving to your students by returning some normalcy to their lives. You have been so amazing and seeing what you are doing has made me reflect on the crises faced by past generations. Our faculty have risen up to support our first-year students and to give them their dream of a college education. It’s beautiful hard work.

"Working from home with a 5-year old in my arms..."

Jolie Goorjian
Faculty Associate Director, Writing Across the Curriculum / Writing In the Discipline

First-year composition course partners with Pomeroy Pals Project to earn CSL hours during remote instruction. My three First-Year Composition courses are unique because they have a 20-hour Community Service Learning (CSL) requirement in partnership with our Institute for Civic and Community Engagement. When classes moved to remote teaching, our CSL partners closed, and students relocated, I decided to suspend this requirement and redesign our course curriculum, which is centered on their CSL work.

However, Cindy Blackstone—the ever so lovely volunteer coordinator of the Pomeroy Recreation and Rehabilitation Center—contacted me, to ask if my students would be willing to write letters to Pomeroy’s participants. These wonderful people live with varying abilities and use the Pomeroy Center to engage, participate and commune, yet like us are now sheltering-in place with their families and in their homes.

After introducing this option to my students, they took a poll that resulted in all except two students wanting to do this. I told them my five-year-old son, my mum and I are going write letters as well. So each week, we draft a letter to a participant, then we give each other feedback during our Tuesday Zoom meeting; for students who are not able to attend Zoom, they do this work on iLearn.

Students revise their work and send their letters to me on Thursday, which I forward on to Cindy who distributes them to participants. Each week, we follow the same cycle. After writing our introductory email, now we write about anything we want to share--what we do, how our life is, what we are learning, what we recommend they try. For instance, I recently made my late grandmother’s bread, so will share that experience, include a snap of the sandwiches we make the bread, and give them recipe, which is written in my Gran’s handwriting.

With this work that we named Pomeroy Pals Project, my students are not only completing their CSL hours but also using writing to engage with others and empower themselves. Through this process, we are learning about one another, writing to a real audience and creating a chronicle of our experiences that we can look back on, and even share.

I am proud of my students for taking this opportunity to give to others, to use words to connect, care and create a community. They are brightness both now and for our future. I am grateful to Cindy for writing me with this idea, and for ICCE for the opportunity to give through CSL.

Tiny Stories of Love and Loss on [Remote] Teaching
"Your face has become a source of comfort for me..."

Geri Merrigan
Communication Studies
A graduating senior reaches out. I received this email from a graduating senior enrolled in a COMM class I teach this semester: "Being as I have been enrolled in your classes for a few semesters in a row, your face has become a source of comfort for me on campus so I just wanted to let you know that you are on my mind and I hope that your headspace is okay during these uncertain/stressful times.” So I sent them this email and photo: "I missed you Monday last, and will continue missing you and all my student contact this week. A Zoom meeting is nice, but not the same at all. Meantime, here's a face. 🙂"
"Your degree will stay with you for the rest of your life."

Sheldon Gen
Associate Professor
School of Public Affairs and Civic Engagement
A student is reassured. I posted to my class on iLearn, "This pandemic will pass. But your degree will stay with you for the rest of your life. So do continue to invest in it. It's worth it." One of my students responded, "You have no idea how much I needed to read this during the early hours." Made my day!
"We must fight for them. For their futures."

Persis M. Karim
Neda Nobari Chair
Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies

Students share their overwhelming stories. Today, 3/19, I taught my third class of Comp Lit "Literary Crossings" on zoom, but because several of my students had emailed me before the class, saying that they might not make it to class due to depression, unemployment (having to apply for benefits as they were laid off), anxiety, and being home with young children who they were challenged to "teach" and entertain--all perfectly understandable reasons not to be able to focus on reading, I decided to give over the entire class period to having them speak and listen--asking them to tell us about their most pressing challenges and worries and to try to find one ray of sunshine on this first day of spring to share with us. 

It's overwhelming to hear how devastating this crisis is for each and every one of them. They are afraid to rejoin their families, for fear of infecting a grandparent, they're afraid they're not going to be able to pay their rent, one student who was addicted to drugs and homeless for over 8 years, and recently got her life together to earn a BA and keep her youngest son with her after losing three other children, feels that all she's worked for including her upcoming graduation seems out of reach. Another student, a Tongan immigrant, has three children and works at night caring for an older couple in their home. Her husband is a truck driver and is suddenly not working as much. One student told me he feels that everything he has worked so hard to have is going down in the drain. Many of them face food insecurity (and had been partially subsidizing their weekly food supply with a pantry on campus, but that seems destined to shut down soon and for many of them, the trek on public transit hardly makes it worthwhile). Another student, an immigrant from Uzbekistan is far from her extended family. Another is an international student from Malaysia, her parents are both doctors, and they want her to come home, but three flights she'd been scheduled to take have been cancelled. Today, she learned that her mother was treating someone who they suspected of having the virus, and now, my student is worried about her mother's health. 

Their feelings and experiences are real, and the tsunami effect of this virus feels especially poignant for these younger people who have already faced considerable challenges in their lives and to become students. I told them, just keep coming, let's build a community, let's learn what it is to be in solidarity. I've decided we'll do some reading, but there is no way I can expect much from them--they're coping with not only the emotional and monetary impact of this virus, but also the deep disappointment that their lives are being altered in ways that are almost impossible to fathom from one day to the next. We must fight for them, for their futures. They are, like my young son, Niko, facing an uncertain future. We are all facing it. I've decided I'll be writing them next week when they're on their spring break--if any of you out there has any good ideas for alternatives to writing papers, let me know. I told them they can document their lives in poetry, spoken word, music, photographs, and that they, like me, must reimagine their future. I am so humbled by their resilience and also anxious for them.

". . . Don't live in the world as if you were renting or here only for the summer, but act as if it was your father's house. . . Believe in seeds, earth, and the sea, but people above all. Love clouds, machines, and books, but people above all." Nazim Hikmet, Turkish Poet-20th Century

-Persis M. Karim

Icon drawing of person in bed on computer with dog
"I didn't think the computer would capture my headshot ... but it did."

Students didn't mention anything until the evaluation. I didn’t think my computer would capture my headshot along with the PowerPoint, but it did. So, unaware, I uploaded the video lectures with my headshot— looking bored and disheveled—for the students to view. I hate watching the video lectures so I didn’t bother to review them. Not until I received my course evaluations at the end of the semester that I learn that the students saw me delivering the lectures with me in pajamas! One complained that I should appear more interested when lecturing. This semester I’m reusing the same videos, but without my headshot.

PIE Bites
Graphic of piece of pie with coffee mug
Pedagogies for Inclusive Excellence in Bite-Size! 
In PIE bites, we offer small ways to engage in inclusive excellence in remote modalities. To paraphrase Isabelle Allende, excellence requires everyone to be in the circle. Consciously practicing inclusivity and excellence in teaching while managing new technologies, at-home distractions, and other crisis-related challenges may seem like too much to think about. Here are some inclusive activities you can use with little effort. 

Names & Inclusivity One of the first ways students experience inclusivity and exclusion in the classroom is on the first day when attendance is called; some names are pronounced easily and are familiar and others are not. Every day is another opportunity to correct pronunciation and emphasize your commitment to inclusivity. At this point in the semester, instructors can increase feelings of inclusivity by affirming the value of students’ names and doing a name origin activity, such as during a synchronous Zoom class. First, ask students to pair up; next, share the story of how they were named and what their name means; and finally you may ask for reports-out verbally, or in the chat of a Zoom.This activity can also be done asynchronously by asking students to share their name story in an iLearn Forum (which they can all read) or in an iLearn Glossary assignment (which can be searched by participants’ names). Another version is to ask students to write a poem about their name, or in which each line starts with a letter from their name and is about themselves.

Providing remote feedback on student writing  Teaching writing—whether in a course completely focused on composition or by emphasizing writing techniques in a component of a course on another subject—often relies on in-the-moment reactions to students’ hand-written writing. How can instructors bring this spontaneity into remote teaching, without developing neck and hand injuries (Don't forget to stretch!!)? Voice-recognition software that is already built into phones, tablets, and computers can help instructors respond to students’ individually submitted work without having to type, but sometimes group instruction can also provide students with useful feedback. This workshop format his can be carried out in a synchronous Zoom session, with students sharing their hand written work on their screens, or copying their typed work into chats. Peer review is another way to get quick feedback to students. SF State has contracted with Eli Review, an online peer review platform that has been integrated into iLearn (check out this online workshop on using Eli Review at SF State). Contact SF State's John Holland for local support in using Eli Review. For more on SF State's Writing Across the Curriculum/ Writing in the Disciplines (WAC/WID) program, please review the WAC/WID website.

When considering pedagogies of inclusive excellence, start with generosity and compassion for yourself; what you are doing is not easy and it is not the same as what you are used to doing--even if you are used to teaching online, it was not under these conditions. For more, explore generosity and compassion and the other ABC’s of Equity-Minded Teaching.

Tech Bytes
Tech Tips in Byte-Size! 
Virtual backgrounds help maintain personal privacy while increasing engagement. Working from home it may be challenging to maintain your and your students’ privacy while using Zoom. The following, “How to upload a virtual background in Zoom meeting and lesson plan,” is adapted from a guide by Jonathan H.X. Lee, professor, Asian American Studies. Zoom provides this video guide with technical details for enabling a virtual background. While a green screen is recommended, it is not really necessary. You will need to have a fairly recent OS and processor to enable this feature. Step 1: On bottom left corner of your screen, select the options on the video icon, using the arrow. Step 2: Select “Choose Virtual Background” Step 3: Click on “+” and select landscape photo from your computer or a stock background from Zoom. Step 4: Select your virtual background and it will appear, preserving your privacy. Here's a virtual background activity for a live Zoom class or meeting: Ask students or participants to upload a landscape photo and ask if anyone wishes to share a story about their image. It can be a place they have traveled to, want to go to, or with which they have strong associations. Or, it can be an image tied to the lesson or activity for that session.

Cal State University News & Resources

"Working to support, connect and amplify the work of CSU Faculty Development Centers."
A curated collection of resources and opportunities from the the CSU Institute for Teaching and Learning and the CSU Faculty Development Council.

Remote Teaching During Disruption Guide An unexpected and rapid switch to teaching remotely during a period of disruption presents a great deal of uncertainty for both the instructor and students. To manage this transition, instructors are encouraged to remain flexible and sensitive to the emotional needs of their students and themselves. This means acknowledging the interruption, focusing on critical course learning outcomes, resetting workload expectations, and emphasizing community and resilience over high stakes testing. The CSU Institute for Teaching and Learning and the CSU Faculty Development Council have prepared this Teaching Remotely During Disruption handout with suggested teaching strategies to facilitate this transition.*

Webcast Recording: Equity-Minded Practices for Remote Teaching The unanticipated transition from face-to-face to remote teaching in response to COVID-19 presents a substantial challenge for many faculty, particularly those who have worked to create a teaching and learning environment that prioritizes equity and equity-mindedness. In this recorded webinar, Drs. Frank Harris III and J. Luke Wood will present some salient trends and issues that complicate the experiences of diverse learners in online courses. Their research demonstrates that students of color are more likely to succeed when an “equity-presence” is created along with social, cognitive, and teaching presences in online environments. They conclude by proposing equity-minded teaching strategies that faculty can implement to keep diverse students connected and learning at this unprecedented time. The webcast was recorded and is archived in the professional development calendar archive.

2020 California State University Faculty Innovation & Leadership Award (FILA) Program. The deadline for nominations is Friday, May 1, 2020.  This program recognizes Faculty contribution to student success via their leadership and innovation. As described in the nomination process, “Nominations must demonstrate how the nominee’s role as a faculty member produced innovative teaching practices, course design, redesign or the development of exemplary supplemental support programs to promote student success.” Tenure-track faculty, tenured faculty and lecturers from all disciplines are eligible for this award. Self-nominations, as are nominations from faculty, staff, students and administrators are encouraged. Twenty-three awards are available with each awardee to receive a $5,000 cash award and $10,000 to be allocated to their academic department to support awardee activities.  Additional details are attached or can be found on the website:

Free Webinars on Online Teaching Several organizations in support of public higher ed institutions (AASCU, APLU, NASH) have partnered with ACUE to offer a series of free webinars on best practices in online teaching during April.  
Resources related to each topic are already available in ACUE’s Online Teaching Toolkit.

Click here for more information and to register:
  • Organizing your Online Courses, Thursday, April 9, 2:00pm ET 
  • Planning and Facilitating Quality Discussions, Tuesday, April 14, 2:00pm ET 
  • Recording Effective Microlectures, Friday, April 17, 2:00pm ET 
  • Engaging Students in Readings and Microlectures, Monday, April 20, 2:00pm ET

Behind the Scenes
Portrait Maggie Beers in Zoom with thought bubble
"We've got this. This is what we do every day."

Maggie Beers
Assistant VP for Teaching & Learning
Faculty Affairs | CEETL
Organizational change within AT and CEETL leads to expanded support services. During its first four years of growth, CEETL was incubated within the organizational infrastructure of Academic Technology, with the entire AT staff and leadership contributing to its ongoing success. Spring 2020 marked our organizational metamorphosis (the CEETL Beetle is our mascot, after all) into two distinct organizational entities. Academic Technology (AT), now under Andrew Roderick's leadership and reporting within Academic Resources, focuses its services on physical and virtual technology support for Academic Affairs. AT’s full service technology support center (iLearn, Classroom, Desktop) is now located on the ground floor of the library (LIB 80) and can be reached at or 415-555-5555.

The Center for Equity & Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CEETL), reports within Faculty Affairs and provides instructional design consultations for face-to-face, hybrid and online courses, faculty development programming in support of pedagogies for inclusive excellence (PIE), instructional videography, and oversight of the Cal State Quality Learning & Teaching, Affordable Learning, and CourseMatch initiatives. CEETL’s full service teaching and learning center is now accessed on the 2nd floor (LIB 240), and schedules the meeting rooms LIB 221, LIB 222, and LIB 286. CEETL can be reached at or 415-555-5550.

Though distinct, CEETL and AT remain united in our support for faculty and student success at SF State. 

CEETL is working remotely to support remote instruction! As local and national news communications made it clear that the community was facing a public health crisis, and campus communications advised us that a temporary campus closure was imminent, the CEETL staff and faculty gathered together to discuss how we could best serve our faculty teaching community as the campus transitioned to remote instruction. We knew that many would be approaching this modality for the first time, others more experienced, but all would be teaching under the profound stress that comes with the unknown. We met with our colleagues in AT and together we agreed upon a shared support model we hoped would meet the increased demand for our services without sacrificing the quality engagements we seek to maintain with the faculty and students we support.

Within CEETL, we quickly prioritized our remote instruction goals to include: supporting the safety and wellness of faculty and staff; helping faculty use iLearn and other digital tools to sustain the continuity of instruction; providing instructional design support on alternative assignments and assessments; adapting existing faculty development programming to support the rapid transition to remote instruction; and providing faculty with support resources for remote instruction. Once we had agreed upon our support strategy, Instructional Designer and Quality Learning & Teaching (QLT) lead, Deb Perry, raised her turmeric tea and assured us, "We've got this. This is what we do every day." We agreed. We packed up our laptops and power cords to reprise our work, this time remotely, in support of our faculty and students in a time of remote instruction.

As expected, the following weeks have presented a significant increase in faculty demand and the CEETL team, in close collaboration with our campus partners Academic Technology (AT), has scaled out support to address these needs with compassion, creativity, and an admirable amount of hard work and dedication. As a team, the CEETL staff and leadership are committed to the mission of SF State, to the transformative power of inclusive pedagogies in all modalities, and consider it a privilege to support our faculty and students during this difficult time.

Closing the Loop
"We celebrate and support you."

Wei Ming Dariotis
Faculty Director
Center for Equity & Excellence in Teaching & Learning
http://How do we maintain our community while we work remotely? The lessons of resilience and life-long-learning that we will gain from supporting each other through this crisis are the primary learning outcomes of this time. We celebrate and support you using remote modalities—in any way that instructors and students are able—while readjusting course expectations to focus on critical learning outcomes. Right now, the most important work we can do as instructors is to support our students and guide them through the end of the semester. 

The goal of this periodic newsletter is to support our SF State teaching and learning communities through communication, camaraderie, and commitment. We at CEETL have been honored and humbled to see the incredible commitment being exhibited by all of you (and our colleagues across the CSU!) to pursue pedagogies of inclusive excellence during this challenging time.

What are you doing to stay connected with yourself and your circles? Personally, I’m having Zoom Happy Hours and also building a fairy garden with my daughter as a break from sitting at the computer.

If there is something you’d like to see in future issues, let us know.

Yours in PIE,
Wei Ming

CEETL Circles invites submissions from members of our SF State Teaching and Learning Communities. Send your suggestions
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