Important: Resources and Programs to Help with the Transition to Distance Education

To Our SUNY Colleagues:

In the wake of the recent coronavirus closures at SUNY, the SUNY Council on Writing would like to offer our help as courses in Writing and Rhetoric move online across the state.  We on the SUNYCoW Executive Board are thinking hard about how to teach our courses as effectively as possible while adapting to new technologies and circumstances — just as we know all our SUNY colleagues teaching Writing are — and we’d like to offer any help we can to those who feel they need it. 

The main thing we’d suggest as we move online is that we all stick to the basic pedagogical goals we have set for ourselves as teachers of Writing.  We are keenly aware, even concerned, that the need to move courses online at this moment could get mixed up with the larger move to distance learning in ways that might not serve our students well and, at moments, might undermine fundamental pedagogical practices and goals in the field.

Though we recognize that not all teachers are equally prepared to move their courses online, we also think we can find ways to do this that manageably preserve the features of courses in Writing and Rhetoric that we most value, including critical thinking, attentive, reflective reading, peer workshop, drafting, and revision.  In fact, since most courses now being moved online have meeting times to which students are already committed, we believe that some relatively simple, accessible technologies may allow us largely to continue from home what we’ve started in our on-ground classrooms.

So this moment presents a challenge, of course, but we believe that by helping one another as colleagues, we can make this shift effectiv​ely.

Toward that end, the Council would like to (1) recommend some simple resources, and (2) initiate a few new programs in an attempt to offer some collegial help.

The resources:

  • First, of course, begin by consulting the technology services professionals and teaching-learning specialists on your own campus!  Those offices can tell you what technology resources are available on your campus and should be your first line of support as you move online.
  • To simulate a face-to-face classroom, consider using: zoom, google meets, collaborate (available in Blackboard). For many, these platforms may offer a way to simply continue to meet as a group, which many students seem to like.
  • To facilitate peer workshops, consider using: Google Docs, Zoom breakout rooms, and “Groups” on Blackboard.
  • To consider consensus points in the field about online instruction, see CCCC’s web page on Principles and Example Effective Practices for Online Writing Instruction.

The new programs:

  • OPEN DROP-IN HOURS:  Want to talk with a colleague or two who’s been thinking about online instruction and might offer some help?  Either a SUNYCoW Board member or some other colleague from across the state will be available from 1-3 every day for the next week at https://zoom.us/j/690957123 to try to help answer questions.  Just click on the url above (which means that, as an added benefit, you’ll also see Zoom modeled if you’ve never used it).  
  • FACEBOOK: Please join us on our Facebook Group anytime for more interactive conversations, to get to know colleagues with expertise and ask them questions, or to share your experience and resources.  We will also crosspost from our blog and Twitter. 
  • BLOG:  We will be adding resources to our new “SUNY Writes!” blogzine where SUNY writing instructors can share teaching ideas and resources that will be helpful during and beyond this crisis 
  • A WEBINAR: We’re working on an online panel discussion in which SUNY writing educators with experience and expertise will discuss key issues around a few topics, followed by Q&A.  Details to follow. 

We hope SUNYCoW can offer some level of support during these extraordinary times.  We can’t answer all your questions, especially with respect to individual technologies, but we hope that together, as colleagues, we can help one another find ways to continue to offer the sorts of effective, rigorous courses that teachers of writing across the system always have.

Members of the SUNYCoW Executive Board

19 March 2020