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From the Director

Posted by on Monday, December 7, 2020 in Commentary, Resource.

As I write this, the second strangest semester of my academic career is drawing to a close. The strangest semester was, of course, last spring, but this fall was certainly unusual and full of challenges for both teaching and learning. I am continually impressed at the creative and skillful ways the Vanderbilt teaching community has adapted to the online and hybrid environments we faced this fall.

This year has been challenging, but it’s also been an opportunity to learn and grow as a teacher. Faculty and other instructors have figured out new ways to connect with and engage their students, and adopted technologies and pedagogies they’ll continue to use when the campus returns to something like normal.

The Center for Teaching has helped in that effort. We saw 844 faculty participate in our programs and workshops between May and November, more than double our usual participation. That includes 451 participants in our Online Course Design Institute and various learning communities, more than five times the level of program participation over the previous year.

As we look ahead to another unusual semester in the spring, the Center for Teaching is preparing a number of resources to continue supporting the Vanderbilt teaching community:

  • We’ll host more than a dozen teaching workshops and conversations on teaching in January, addressing such topics as accessibility in course design, online student group work, and active learning in Zoom classes. Plan to join a few sessions between January 4 and 22.

  • Can’t make a workshop or want to get started now on your spring course planning? Visit our Online Course Development Resource site for practical advice on planning, implementing, and assessing your online courses.

  • Our Brightspace support team will be busy responding to requests (, hosting workshops on Brightspace tools, and holding drop-in support hours. See elsewhere in this newsletter for some details.

  • Julaine Fowlin, the CFT’s new assistant director for instructional design, is available to consult with instructors on the design of their online and hybrid courses. Email to learn about this service or schedule a consultation

The extended winter break will be a good time to learn about various educational technologies you might adopt in your spring courses, including Top Hat (enhanced polling tools), GoReact (feedback on student videos), Perusall (collaboratively annotated readings), Proctorio (online exam proctoring), and Gradescope (grading management for teaching teams). Visit or email for more information.

That said, I hope your break is restful! And know that the Center for Teaching will be ready to help as you prepare for spring courses.

-Derek Bruff, Director, Center for Teaching

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