Course Design and Management

Integrating technology into the classroom will require you to reconsider some aspects of your course design. Certain techniques that worked well for you in a traditional classroom may not be as effective in CIC. Conversely, CIC offers you a vast new array of options to explore. This section of the guide has two objectives. First, it provides an overview of the differences between a traditional and a computer-integrated classroom. Second, it suggests some of the ways you can use the different technologies to develop innovative approaches to teaching.

Course Activities: Lab vs. Seminar Room

Unlike a traditional class, in a computer-integrated course you and your students will be moving between two different classroom environments. For this reason, CIC courses tend to develop an alternating "rhythm." Each classroom has its own assets, and in designing daily activities you will often find yourself looking for ways to make the most of the advantages each environment offers.

Differences Between the Classrooms

The lab classrooms are, fundamentally, de-centered spaces. There is no official place where the instructor stands, and therefore there is no single focus for your students' attention. Instead of facing you, students tend to face terminals or their fellow students. Although such a configuration can be initially unsettling, it often also tends to be liberating--for both instructors and students.

The physical structure of the LAN classrooms also enables students to alternate their modes of work efficiently. Without moving from their desks, they can either work privately at their terminals or work in a collaborative space with other students. Each workstation is equipped with one computer for each student, but by swiveling their chairs and angling the monitors, students may easily work in collaborative groups. Moreover, there is ample shared desk space that connects each group of terminals, making collaboration on paper or work on a shared text possible. In effect, the design of our workstations affords students multiple composing and collaborative learning options.

Since there is no instructor's desk and no official "teaching position" in the CIC computer classrooms, instructors also tend to circulate freely among their students. Attention is dispersed, so students are able to focus more on each other than they do in a traditional classroom environment. This frees the CIC instructor to move about during the class period, focusing on students one-on-one or in small-group settings, dramatically increasing the amount of contact between the instructor and individual students. Combined with the low-level buzz of the computer terminals and students at work typing, the pedagogical space in the computer classrooms is constructed so that "authority" often works very differently here than it does in a conventional classroom. The seminar-style classrooms, although more conventional in design, offer opportunities for collaborative work on course readings and student writing. With the projector and laptop, instructors can project passages for students to collectively annotate or lead a group brainstorming activity that can be recorded and saved in Word.

The seminar-style classroom also allows for whole-class discussion without the sometimes distracting presence of the monitors. Although individual instructors will find different advantages in each environment, the chart below summarizes what experienced instructors have said about the kinds of activities that work best in each CIC classroom. In most cases, making an exercise work effectively is simply a matter of finding creative ways to use the advantages of each environment.

Suggested Lab and Seminar Room Activities

Activity Seminar Room Lab
Class Discussion (oral)  
Class Discussion (online)  
Small Group Work
Independent Writing  
Collaborative Writing  
Workshop Activities


Transitioning to Two-Hour Class Periods

Unlike most other 100-level courses taught by graduate student instructors in the English Department, CIC classes meet twice a week. Making the transition to a two-hour class period and to this new schedule may require some initial adjustments to your course plan. We suggest that you keep the following factors in mind:

  • Vary the activities.
    Two-hours is too long to do the same thing. Consider alternating between private work and a collaborative task to strike a balance between students' need for face-to-face contact and their need to work alone.
  • Remember to break.
    Students will appreciate a short break sometime during the class session, and you will find their attention and energy renewed by a bit of fresh air.
  • Think about links and transitions.
    Students will forget a good deal between class meetings when you only meet twice a week. Don't expect that they will be able to pick up on a discussion from the session before, but design short activities at the beginning of class that will remind and focus everyone.

Managing the Lab Classroom

"Where do I stand?" is a question that most instructors have rarely--or at least not literally--considered. While it's common to think about whether you are going to sit on the instructor's desk or to pace in front of the class, it's usually assumed that there is a "teaching position" somewhere at the front of the room and that, for the most part, students are positioned facing that focal point. Whether it's an amphitheater lecture hall or a small seminar room, the physical spaces of all classrooms contain various apparatuses that work unnoticeably to consolidate the instructor's position of authority--a chalkboard and instructor's desk define the "front" of the classroom. Students typically sit in arranged desks while watching the instructor, who is free to stand, walk, sit, or roam. Although these features serve a particular pedagogical function, they many not be the most conducive arrangement for a writing class based on the process method or any course that emphasizes collaborative critical inquiry.

Decentered classrooms offer a unique set of advantages and challenges in composition courses. The CIC networked classrooms, with their unique physical layout, calls these strategies of centralized authority into question. This may be initially disconcerting, since instructors sometimes experience a certain loss of control. However, the situation also provides a number of creative possibilities for both students and instructors. You can begin to develop new strategies that ask students to take more responsibility for their own work and for communicating their ideas to each other. Moreover, you can learn a great deal about where authority comes from and is positioned in the classroom, because of course it's not really located at the "front" of any room. Here are a few hints for managing a de-centered classroom environment:

  • State your expectations and requirements.
    Clearly explain, on the first day of class and in your syllabus, what CIC is and what it will require of students. Reassure them that the technology is easy, and describe the extra obligations CIC may bring. For instance, how will students transfer files from lab to home and vice versa? Will they be submitting assignments in electronic form?
  • Emphasize the rules of use.
    The CIC Student Guide sets out the dos and don'ts regarding the lab classrooms, but unless you take time to emphasize these rules, some students will ignore them. Lab rules are in place to ensure smooth operation of our equipment, and it's in everybody's best interests to make sure students understand them.
  • Establish a hands-off rule.
    When anyone addresses the group, hands come off the keyboards. It's distracting and inefficient if students don't pay attention when you give instructions or another student speaks. For longer periods of conversation--group work or whole-class discussion--you may ask students to turn off their monitors. If you implement these simple behaviors early in the class, you won't find yourself vying with the technology for students' attention.
  • Speak up.
    The computers do generate a certain low-level white noise. Project your voice above the activity so that students can hear you. Move around the room when students are speaking to ensure that they can be heard from all sides of the room.
  • Roam.
    Circulate among the workstations as you address the class. Make eye contact with students to keep their attention focused and gauge their responses. If you try to stand (or worse, sit) at the "front" of the computer classrooms, students tend to tune out.
  • Use visuals.
    Project Word documents, write instructions on the whiteboard or post assignments on a "Homework" area on the course web site to keep students from succumbing to the temptation of email or the open web. Visual aids will also help students follow your instructions as you teach a new task or catch up if they fall behind. Along with using visual aids, consider asking students to follow your pace when the class first reviews a task, as rushing ahead of your explanation could lead them to make errors.
  • Provide a simple and consistent system for naming and saving files.
    Stick to a file naming and saving system and students will learn it quickly. Consistency is the key to students being able to quickly search for and find the files they want.
  • Learn basic troubleshooting techniques.
    Although we don't expect you to be a technical genius, we will discuss during training simple techniques that solve most snafus in the computer classrooms and allow the class to quickly get back to work. You'll also learn additional trouble-shooting techniques from the Assistant Directors providing technical support at the term's beginning. When trouble-shooting techniques don't work, call the Assistant Directors, providing as much detail as possible about what happened.
  • Find a rhythm.
    If you can establish a beginning-of-class "routine" in the networked classrooms (e.g. submit work to a student and turn-in folder, locate the class agenda, open GoPost or a blank Word document for a freewrite), students can do more on their own, and you won't have to repeat the instructions to stragglers.
  • Bridge lab and seminar room activities.
    The more you can draw on exercises done in the computer classroom during other class activities, the more integrated the technology will feel to your students. Be explicit, especially during the first few weeks, about what you think students will gain from computer classroom activities and how you are drawing on those activities in when in the seminar room.
  • Adapt whole-class activities.
    Sometimes you will need to use the computer classrooms for whole-class discussion or student presentations. Because these classrooms are designed for computer use and small-group collaboration, you will have to be creative when adapting the space to other uses. For large group discussion, you may ask students to roll their chairs to one part of the room or raise their seats so that they can see each other over the monitors. If you lecture in the lab classrooms, move around the room. Ask student presenters to do the same. Consider breaking up lecture, presentations or whole-class discussion with brief sessions in which students use the computers to summarize lecture or discussion content, evaluate their peer's presentations, or formulate questions in small groups.
  • Be flexible.
    Although rare, problems with the network, wiring, and electricity can occur. If a problem disables the computers, immediately contact the Assistant Directors to report the problem and discuss alternate class activities. Consider backup plans as you design activities for the computer classrooms. Having a backup plan doesn't mean that you prepare two lessons. Rather, it means that you know what you'll do if the technology fails. If you do not have a back-up plan, take a deep breath, joke about the joys of technology, and improvise.

Teaching the Technology

During the first two weeks of the term, your students will need to become familiar with the class network and online resources. We suggest that you incorporate course activities that allow students to become self-sufficient with the course's technology requirements as soon as possible. Occasionally, instructors feel a little disconcerted at the thought of having to “teach”the technology. However, one of the Assistant Directors is always available during the first two weeks of each quarter to serve as an in-class technical assistant. Furthermore, there are a number of things you can do to ensure that your students learn to use the equipment quickly and effectively.

  • Consider four key questions.
    The following questions will help you work through the logistics of preparing and working with electronic course materials:
  1. Where will students access course materials (class directory, online)?
  2. Where will they save materials and how will they name their files ?
  3. Where will students submit completed work (class directory, online, both)?
  4. How will students transfer work between lab and home (flash drive, email attachment, File Manager,FTP)?
  • Be selective.
    You won't be able to use of all the options available to you in the CIC lab classroom. Choose a level of integration that is right for you. Ask yourself what technologies and programs advance your pedagogical goals and focus on using those. We have provided "minimum to maximum" models below to help you decide how much technology you want to use.
  • Practice and be prepared.
    Practice your technical demonstrations before you present them to the class for the first time. Jot down step-by-step instructions that you can refer to as you walk your students through an activity. Consider using handouts or the projector so that students can follow along as you give instructions. You may feel that you are moving too slowly for some of your students, but it is best to use the first weeks of class to make sure all students understand how to perform the basic tasks you will be asking them to repeat throughout the course.
  • Expect proficiency.
    Make your students responsible for learning the basic procedures (logging on, file naming, opening programs, saving, locating the course discussion board, etc.) within the first two weeks of class, and quiz them on the essential information to ensure competency. This will limit the time you spend teaching technology to the first two weeks of the quarter.
  • Build in troubleshooting time early in the quarter.
    Give students experience saving to the network, transferring files between network and home, and converting files early in the term, preferably when your lesson plan doesn't hinge on having electronic versions of documents. Ask students to attend the second lab session with a homework assignment in both electronic and print formats. Set aside ten or fifteen minutes to walk through the process of saving files to the network, helping students with file saving, transfer or conversion problems. If you assist students during the first two weeks, you can expect fewer problems throughout the quarter.
  • Use the CIC Student Guide.
    Ask students to reference the CIC Student Guide when they have problems using the network, a program, or an online tool. It provides instructions for basic computing procedures, all programs installed on CIC computers, and selected Catalyst tools. Whenever possible, remind students that they can use the guide if they forget how to do something demonstrated in class.

Examples: Minimum to Maximum Levels of Computer Integration

While we encourage innovation and experimentation, we also recommend that instructors make sure that they keep the technology portion of their course manageable. The following models should help you decide what technologies to use, how to use them, and how much technology is right for you.

Minimum Computer Integration

This model will allow you to place assignments, peer review guidelines, and in-class exercises on the network. Students will be able to do in-class writing and peer review on their computers; however, they will submit assignments primarily in hard copy. You will have a paper-heavy classroom.

  1. Review with students your class folder organization system and give them instructions for naming and saving files on the network.
  2. Discuss methods for transferring electronic files from home to lab and for saving documents produced at home in a format readable by Word.
  3. Teach students how to make and save personal copies of class Word files before beginning individual or group work.
  4. Show students how to use Word's comment function for electronic peer review.

Moderate Computer Integration

In addition to all the components of the minimum model, this level of integration includes online discussion and research. Students use a web-based class discussion board outside class. They also use search engines, reference tools and electronic documents available via the UW Libraries web site. Class sessions will feature activities that build upon online homework.

  1. Set up a GoPost discussion space, and require students to engage in discussion outside the classroom. Their electronic discussion can count as part of their participation grade or as credit/no credit informal writing. Review postings in class, summarizing and expanding upon key points or interrogating how writers could develop emerging claims.
  2. Consider using the electronic discussion area in class. Students can post group work notes, revise postings after class discussion, or exchange files for peer review.
  3. Show students how to access the UW Libraries web site. Conduct a hands-on research session during which you teach students how to select appropriate databases for their research question, use effective search terms and evaluate sources.

Maximum Computer Integration

This model features all elements of moderate integration, but adds a course web site, online assignment submission, presentations that require visual aids, electronic grading, and use of multiple media for in-class activities or student work.

  1. Set up a class web site using CommonViewSimpleSite or a web-authoring program.
  2. Create an online assignment submission area with Collect It. Use Word's comment feature to grade student work, and return work via Collect It.
  3. Require students to incorporate visual aids (images, PowerPoint slides, video or audio clips) into their presentations. Discuss how to use such aids effectively.
  4. Teach students to effectively search for images, sound and video, and design assignments that ask students to incorporate images, video or sound in their essays or experiment with audio-visual forms of argumentation.
  5. Encourage students to publish work on the class web site or to construct their own sites.

The First Weeks: A Checklist

Preparation Before the Quarter Begins

  • Set up class network folder(s): student folders, assignment folders, daily folders, etc.
  • Prepare "Rules for Computer Use" handout for first day of class in the computer lab. Include:
    • no sitting on desks;
    • no food or drink;
    • no downloading of software (games, instant messengers, etc.);
    • no surfing, typing, chatting, while others are talking;
    • speaking up while in lab so that others can hear;
    • your specific concerns and/or rules.
  • Develop activity to teach students how to name and where to save their files.
  • Prepare CIC-specific syllabus.
  • Set up online tools, if applicable (web site, Collect ItCommonViewGoPostPortfolioGradebook).
  • Request class email list via MyUW (select "Teaching" from left-hand column).
  • Talk to CIC ADs about how they can best be of use in your classroom during the first two weeks of the quarter.
  • Get Husky card scanned in MGH 097; get door code from CIC ADs.
  • Remember to strictly enforce lab rules from day one—you can always loosen up later.

Week One or Two in the Lab: In-Class Activities

  • Give students the "Rules for Computer Use" handout.
  • Demonstrate how to log on and log off lab computers.
  • Tour network folders with students.
  • Demonstrate file naming and saving system via survey or other activity.
  • Troubleshoot electronic file conversions with students by asking them to bring homework or test document to the lab in electronic and print formats.

Weeks One and Two: Preparation for Coming Classes