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COVID-19 Digital Support Update, June 30, 2020

Dear faculty and staff,

Greetings again from the IT Digital Support team. This week’s update has six major topics, all of which assume an audience of faculty who are preparing for fall courses:

  • A “heart of the course” pre-planning guide, to get you thinking about your fall course;
  • Our July-August workshop program, available for signup on or after July 2;
  • A new faculty panel series that will run on Wednesdays beginning in July, with Thursday follow up discussion;
  • An update on the course delivery options document circulated last week;
  • A program coming soon to obtain tablet devices; and
  • Our primary supported tools for the fall.

Details are in the corresponding sections below.

As always, please submit help questions via the Request Help link on the digital support site: (Smith login required). Requests that go to individual staff members may take longer to get an initial response and may introduce delays in getting you connected to a person who can help with your specific question.

“Heart of the course” planning guide

This document (Smith login required) was developed to prompt or amplify thinking about the overall learning experience in fall courses. It takes a holistic approach to several key elements you may wish to consider regardless of the specific multimodal approach you choose for your fall courses. This document and the concepts within it will feature prominently in the July-August workshop program.

July-August workshop program 

Sign up on or after July 2nd by selecting “Sign up for a workshop” at (Smith login required)

This program (see corresponding slide deck; Smith login required) launches the week of July 6, and includes workshops focused on holistic course design as well as specific pedagogical approaches and supported tools. On July 2nd, you will be able to sign up for workshops that will be held during the weeks of July 6th and July 13th. We will add more workshops and consultation sessions incrementally throughout the rest of the summer, adjusting and amplifying the program to meet faculty needs. Workshop sessions are taught remotely, require advance registration, and will be recorded to be shared afterwards with members of the Smith community. Sessions that have fewer than three registrants by 5 p.m. the day before the session may be converted to individual consultations. In August, we will add hands-on sessions to practice multimodal teaching from Smith classrooms.

Save the date: new faculty panel series, 2–3 p.m. Wednesdays in July, with Thursday 9–10 a.m. follow on discussion

What does it mean to teach a multimodal course in the midst of a global pandemic? This weekly series of faculty panels, co-sponsored by the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and the Learning, Research and Technology group, will address topics that span pedagogical and technological approaches to the remote classroom. Join us for a follow up discussion on Thursdays 9–10 a.m. to further explore these topics and learn from each other informally. All panels will be recorded and made available, via Smith login, for later viewing. Specific topics will be announced in the coming days.

Envisioning multimodal course delivery, take 2

The June 22nd weekly update included this working overview of a few options (Smith login required), which was written in response to faculty requests for some very specific examples of what multimodal teaching might look like in remote and hybrid mode. This document now has a few footnotes to address some specific questions that came in. Please keep in mind that other examples may be possible, too.

Program coming soon for faculty access to tablet devices

Many faculty have requested tablet devices to make it easier to write during online class sessions. We are very close to having a program in place to enable loans of tablet devices to faculty who do not already have a tablet device funded by the college. Our default tablet will be an iPad Pro, and we may be able to support exceptions in certain conditions. More on this very soon, once we finalize a few final details around funding. At the latest, we’ll have details in next week’s digital support update.

Supported tools

As was the case in the spring, the digital support team will focus on a core set of curated tools, and we will provide training for those tools in our workshop program, beginning the week of July 16. Our toolkit includes a significantly upgraded Moodle, designed for multimodal courses in addition to the more logistical uses for which Moodle was often used in the past. This upgraded Moodle will also have new integrations with Zoom, Slack, and Voicethread. We are also licensing Perusall and CATME. PollEverywhere, Panopto, and other previously adopted tools continue to be available, alongside the many different productivity, media, data analysis, and other software tools already in use for instruction. We will continue to provide remote access to those software packages where our licensing allows us to do so. (Please note that remote access to Adobe software from non-Smith computers may not be possible in the fall, due to decisions made by Adobe. We are looking into this and will keep you posted.)

Thanks to those of you who have read this far. It is certainly a large amount of information, with more to come after the college’s plans for the fall are announced. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be updating our digital support site to make it easier to find the information you need and to provide FAQs that capture answers to the specific questions you are likely to have on these and related matters. Likewise, we’ll continue to provide iterative updates each week on all the various support matters for the fall.


Office of theVice President for Information Technology/Chief Information Officer