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Course Design Spa Helps Faculty Create More Effective Classes

Kaysha Corinealdi is just about to start her first semester as an Emerson faculty member, and for her contemporary world history class, she’ll be using a lot of primary source materials. So on Tuesday, August 23, she was getting pointers about finding resources from Iwasaki Library outreach coordinator Cate Hirschbiel.

Corinealdi wasn’t alone. She joined more than 30 faculty members, new and returning, for Emerson’s biannual Course Design Spa, a daylong schedule of information sessions and one-on-one consultations engineered to help faculty design and run their courses more effectively.

“What’s been nice is just getting a feel for this before orientation or anything else,” Corinealdi said. She added, “I definitely have more tools than I had prior to coming and things to work on throughout the week.”

Course Design Spa was started about three years ago by Jenn Stevens, director of the Instructional Technology Group (ITG); Karla Fribley, assistant director of teaching and learning for the Iwasaki Library; and the then-chair of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL).

Staff members from offices across campus—Iwasaki Library, ITG, CITL, Media Services Center, Student Accessibility Services, Emerson Counseling and Psychological Services (ECAPS), Diversity and Inclusion, Student Success, the Lacerte Family Writing and Academic Resource Center (WARC) and more—converge on the library before the start of each semester.

Faculty members can pop into a scheduled session or sign up for a consultation to get advice and tips, not just for technologies and resources they can use to make teaching easier, but services available to their students to help them learn and navigate college life better.

Oh, and there are chair massages, too.

Stevens said the organizers usually have to turn faculty members away for the August session (January is less hectic) and act as “air traffic control people” on the day of the event.

“We’ve never had a broken bone, or even an injury,” she cracked.

Hirschbiel said she told Corinealdi how to go about reserving readings and finding documents online, as well as how to use the Fenway Libraries Online (FLO) consortium, the Commonwealth Catalog of libraries statewide, and interlibrary loans.

She said the Course Design Spa can help staff help faculty in a more proactive and targeted manner.

“It’s really a great way for us to interact with faculty,” Hirschbiel said of the Spa, “because a lot of times, the default interaction is ‘Come to my class and talk to my students.’ Sometimes that’s absolutely what I want to do, but sometimes that’s not needed.”

Jaqi Holland, assistant director of academic support at WARC, works primarily with students throughout the year. But during the Course Design Spas, she uses her insight into the academic challenges that students encounter to guide faculty members who need help clarifying assignments, setting boundaries, and reaching young people.

“That’s always my favorite day of the year, to talk to faculty and hear about their students and what gets them excited,” Holland said.

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