- Educational Technology Platforms at Baruch
- Anticipating and Resolving Tech Problems
- Minimum Technology Requirements
How do faculty with varying levels of comfort with technology assess their choices? Though hybrid courses don’t require an expert in every technology and platform under the sun, it certainly helps to know what technology best accomplishes learning goals for our courses.
Educational Technology Platforms at Baruch
Here’s a brief overview of the technologies supported at the College, which the CTL can help faculty members integrate into their courses.
Blogs@Baruch is a WordPress platform maintained by the College and used by students, faculty, and staff members to meet a wide range of publishing needs. The system hosts course sites/blogs, sites for special projects or clubs, and student and staff publications. Blogs@Baruch is also running BuddyPress, a social networking suite that allows every member of the community to maintain a profile page where content they’ve published across the system accrues. Blogs@Baruch also offers a “groups” functionality that can facilitate communication and collaborative document editing.
Vocat is a web platform managed by the Center for Teaching and Learning that helps Baruch students become confident, dynamic public speakers. Both a teaching tool and an assessment instrument, VOCAT enables faculty members to document quantitative and qualitative feedback on video recorded student performances. Vocat gives students easy access to their videos and scores from across their academic career, and provides a space to engage in online conversations with instructors about their progress over time.
Blackboard is CUNY’s course management system, and a familiar presence in the lives of all Baruch students. It allows for the posting of course materials, the structuring of assignments, and ease of communication between participants in a course. If you choose to use Blackboard, consider how best to design your Blackboard site to increase learning opportunities for students. Consult the Blackboard support website.
Asynchronous Recording and Sharing Video Lectures
Sharing a video lecture with students is a two-step process. First, faculty will need to create a video, and then it will need to be uploaded to a platform where students might view it.
For more information, follow the instructions for recording in our Zoom Guide—which will work just as well for “room” of just yourself as it would with recording a class session. Make sure to check that your video and (especially) audio look and sound okay before you record.
Blackboard Collaborate Ultra allows faculty to record and upload to a Blackboard course. Instructions are provided on the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra web page.
Vocat – Faculty who have set up a Vocat account may use it to upload video files, including ones recorded with a portable device such as a mobile phone.
An alternative to using video is voice-over narration on a PowerPoint presentation. Microsoft PowerPoint 2016 and later versions provide this function as Record Slide Show. Instructions are available on the Microsoft website.
Videos and PowerPoint presentations can be shared with students via Blackboard, Vocat, or Blogs@Baruch.
Synchronous/Web Conferencing Tools
CUNY licenses the web conferencing tool Zoom for web conferencing or synchronous course meetings. For more information, check out our Zoom Guide.
Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is the web conferencing tool integrated with Blackboard courses. Instructions are provided on the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra web page.
Open Educational Resources (OER) – The College’s OER Guide can help faculty select materials suitable for a class or discipline. The TeachOER site includes sample assignments from Baruch faculty and introduces some digital tools that are free for faculty to use.
The Newman Library’s licensed digital collections offer a wide array of material types that could be incorporated into courses. These include books, business cases, videos, image collections, newspapers, historical archives, music, datasets, and journals and magazines dating back to the 18th century.
Chat Reference – Assistance with using library resources will be provided via the chat reference service available from the Newman Library home page.
For more details on available technology, see blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/ctl/technology.
Anticipating and Resolving Tech Problems
Back-up Your Work
- Just as students can’t always get to campus on time due to events beyond their control, course websites might be unexpectedly unavailable, internet connections might be weak, and computers might crash. When working online, back work up frequently.
- Save files: When composing blog, social media, or discussion board responses, save them in a word processing file (like in Microsoft Word or Google Docs) or text file (like in Text Edit on a Mac or NotePad on Windows).
- Keep consistent track of student work. Save important assignments to a local drive. This also helps with assessment, targeting struggling students, and maintaining engagement.
- Keep your files organized in folders by class, and within those folders by units of the class. Your work will quickly pile up, and establishing a system for easily locating materials you’ve produced for your coursework is immensely valuable.
- Regularly backup your files to an external drive or cloud storage.
- Encourage student support networks:
- Try to spend some time at the beginning of the semester helping students build networks and contacts among others in the class.
- Encourage students to exchange contact information with a few classmates who share their schedules. Ideally, these contacts will have the same schedule (for example, if Jane Doe does most of her work after midnight, then she should try to find peers who will be up at this hour, too).
Prepare for Roadblocks
While we can’t always divine when there will be congestion on the 6 train, we can reasonably expect a slowdown during rush hour. The goal is to try to anticipate when things may go wrong in your online learning environment and circumvent crises before they happen.
For example, imagine a major assignment is due on Blackboard the Friday before a holiday weekend. If the server experiences glitches, or dozens of students submit their work at the same time, the site may crash, causing anxiety in students and a headache for faculty.
- Encourage students to submit their work early. You may even consider offering some incentives for doing this, or staggering due dates by group or individual.
- Have an alternate plan for collecting such assignments in case of tech problems.
- Give students time to learn new technologies. Consider how the technologies you use in the course could be used consistently or with depth, and scaffolded throughout the semester.
- Pay attention to emails from BCTC about scheduled server and site maintenance so that you can work around them.
- Try to be available online when assignments are due to troubleshoot problems. Encourage students to communicate with you via a forum online about difficulties they encounter. Chances are, other students have experienced the same challenges.
Promoting Respect and the Bearcat Commitment
In the following message to all Baruch faculty, Linda Essig, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, recommends some new syllabi language in the form of the “Bearcat Commitment,” intended to explicitly respond to the challenges of online communication and teaching during the pandemic:
The remote environment and the distancing it enforces between people, including between students, have led to an unfortunate increase in inappropriate, uncivil, and even hurtful discourse between students (and even between students and faculty) who meet each other only in the remote and mediated environment of a Zoom room or Blackboard discussion.
As a response to this, the Office of Diversity, Compliance, and Equity Initiatives (ODCEI) in collaboration with the Office of the Provost approached the Faculty Senate Executive Committee for assistance in remediating this problem. During new semester orientations, all students, whether joining us as a first-time student or a transfer student, are introduced to the “Bearcat Commitment,” which affirms that they will act with Integrity, pursue Excellence, Respect others, and Engage productively. The Executive Committee, acting on behalf of the Baruch Faculty Senate, voted to support the recommendation that faculty include the Bearcat Commitment and the additional statement that follows it (both inset in italics below) in their course material for Spring 2022 and beyond.
Baruch College is committed to the values of Integrity, Excellence, Respect, and Engagement. As Baruch College Bearcats, each student commits to these ideals by promising the following at their new student orientation:
- I will dedicate myself to learning and practice personal INTEGRITY and academic honesty;
- I will challenge myself and others to achieve the highest level of academic EXCELLENCE by taking responsibility for my success;
- I will value our culture of diversity, RESPECT those around me, and foster an inclusive community through inquiry, compassion, and celebration;
- I will promote ENGAGEMENT and involvement in our community and beyond through participation, leadership, and service;
- I promise to honor these values and lead by example.
With this Baruch College Bearcat Commitment in mind, please be reminded that Baruch College is committed to policies and practices that promote equality, equity, opportunity, and access in all of its educational programs and activities. Civility in all Baruch College online, hybrid and in-person classes and activities—and respect for the opinions of others—are essential strategies to promoting an academic environment in which everyone can learn and do their best work. In an academic environment, we must learn to disagree without being disagreeable; this means that courteous behavior and respectful discourse are required always in our Baruch College classrooms and in all our related educational programming and activities.
Please include this text in your spring semester syllabi and/or post as an announcement on your Blackboard front page. It is our hope and belief that when students are reminded of this commitment, one that they already made when they joined the Baruch community, they will refrain from the inappropriate discourse that has unfortunately become more prevalent in our remote environment.
—sent Jan. 26, 2022 to all Baruch faculty
What to Do When Things Go Wrong
- The BCTC help desk offers student support for Baruch email, Blackboard, Baruch’s wireless network, CUNYFirst, and printing.
- Email requests to firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s best to send it from your Baruch email and detail your concerns.
- In-person requests: BCTC is located on the 6th floor of the Library and Technology Building at 151 East 25th Street. Have your student ID handy.
- Phone requests: (646) 312-1010. Be prepared to state your Baruch username.
- For help with Blogs@Baruch, contact email@example.com, and for help with Vocat email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Counseling Center provides free and confidential services to anyone who is currently enrolled and registered as an undergraduate or graduate student at Baruch College.
- Additionally, if you are concerned that a student may be in crisis, the Campus Intervention Team offers resources and a confidential report form. Members of the CIT may be emailed at email@example.com or called at 646-312-4570.
Minimum Technology Requirements
Students are told that the following bullet points are the minimum technological requirements necessary to participate in an online or hybrid course. If the technological requirements of your course differ from these, you should clarify this via your course description on CUNYFirst and on your syllabus. You may even want to email students soon after they have registered for your course to ensure they are aware of the technology requirements.
All online, hybrid, partially online, and web-enhanced classes at Baruch College assume that students have:
- A reliable Internet connection.
- Regular access to a laptop or desktop computer with an updated operating system.
- Working knowledge of how to use word processing software and web browsers.
- An active Baruch College webmail account that is checked daily (or forwarded to an email that is checked daily).
- A CUNY Portal account.
- Access to Blackboard.
- A Blogs@Baruch account.
- A CUNYFirst account.
- Off-campus access to the library’s online databases.
Some online or hybrid classes will require students to:
- Have access to a web camera.
- Use social networking sites (including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, and social bookmarking sites).
- Purchase or learn additional applications.