ITS Kicks Off December Online Teaching and Learning Sessions

Pomona ITS has offered a variety of faculty and staff development opportunities this December in an effort to help faculty enrich online pedagogy in preparation for the spring semester. These opportunities have included technical training on tools such as Zoom, VidGrid, and Slack, as well as pedagogical sessions covering the basics of online teaching. Our pedagogical sessions have highlighted effective strategies and tools for synchronous and asynchronous teaching as well as alternative assessments. Some sessions have also included faculty panelists sharing their experiences and practices with particular technologies.

One of these sessions, “Using Sakai to Enhance Course Design,” was co-presented by two ITS staff members, Susan Pennestri and Nick Weber, along with Biochemistry Laboratory Coordinator Katy Muzikar. Susan emphasized the importance of a well-organized course site and shared good design principles while Professor Muzikar and Nick shared the many ways the Sakai lessons tool can help structure content pages to organize resources, activities, and media.

Professor Muzikar shared several examples of different course site layouts, including some of her own. Her lab course, which typically meets for four hours in-person, needed adjustments to work in an online setting for synchronous and asynchronous class time. She decided to divide the four-hour lab time into what she calls “off-camera time” and “on-camera time” to reduce Zoom time for students while keeping the social aspect intact. Professor Muzikar used the Sakai lessons tool to create in-depth weekly modules for students to access their course materials asynchronously and prepare for synchronous class meetings which were mostly instructor-less. Each module was carefully planned out to include consistent weekly sequences with detailed instructions. This consistency helped students know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Nick closed the session by demonstrating how to enable the lessons tool in Sakai and highlighted the different options and features instructors can choose from to share content with students.

Another event ITS offered was a faculty panel on “Open Pedagogy – Teaching with Pressbooks and” This event was facilitated by Scholarly Communication Librarian Jennifer Beamer and featured two Pomona faculty and one from Pitzer: Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics, Jody Valentine, Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology, Esther Hernández-Medina, and Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies at Pitzer, Barbara Junisbai.

During the panel, Professor Junisbai and Professor Valentine discussed how they used Pressbooks, an open-source e-book platform, to showcase their students' work throughout the semester. Pressbooks allowed Professor Junisbai and Professor Valentine to elevate their students' voices by publishing their own content and expand their audience beyond the Claremont Colleges. The opportunity to publish and share their work helped to motivate students to produce a high quality of work throughout the semester. While Professor Hernández-Medina had hoped to share her student’s work beyond the classroom, students were not as eager to share their work, so their Pressbooks remained private. Nonetheless, Professor Hernández-Medina was impressed by the quality of work her students produced and said that she would use it again in the future.

In addition to making a Pressbook showcase of her students’ work, Professor Valentine used Pressbooks to create her course reader. This allowed her to create an accessible classroom environment where all reading content was located in one central place and students did not have to pay for their readers. Pressbooks is also compatible with, an open-source web-annotation tool. Both Professor Valentine and Junisbai integrated the use of so students could interact with each other by posting feedback while they read their course content.

Jennifer Beamer closed the panel on Pressbooks and with a discussion of her passion for open education. For her, it is exciting to see the passion and enthusiasm that students experience when given the chance to publish and share their work. She emphasized that she is available to help anyone who wants to get started with Pressbooks and You can reach her at ​​.

There’s more to come in January! Check out upcoming ITS sessions on the RITG Events page.