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Co-Curricular Engagement and Approaches

Principles

Co-curricular approaches to learning emphasize a holistic view of student learning, making connection an overarching goal: connection to existing professional practices, or connection to other social groups, or connection to communities outside school. What can co-curricular mean in a  Flexible Hybrid Learning Environment (FHLE)?

Expanded Engagement Opportunity: Thinking of FHLE as Opportunity Rather Than Constraint
In the absence of the demands of physical travel, time restrictions of live internship/experiential learning, and the like, well-designed remote engagements expand opportunities for all students, and especially those who might be excluded by the usual face-to-face demands of such engagement. Operationalizing this principle means communicating opportunity to students and faculty, and enlisting them in a broad envisagement of partners of interest and what mode of experiential learning can occur with those partners. Ideally, community partnerships are long-term and can be extended and sustained at the department level. Options include local, regional, and global partnerships, full-course or module/unit level experiences, and variations in between.

Student Interaction: Comparing Experiences to Improve Individual Experiences
Students can be assembled in teams that are assigned to similar (or different) venues/partners, which then compare notes (by audio, video, written text, etc.) in order to determine how these experiences contribute to the learning objectives and personal transformation. Through Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL), teams can also engage their peers at partner institutions around the world. What are the challenges faced and what worked or didn't work? How do/might students and faculty manage their expectations? How are concepts studied in the course realized in the modalities of experience in which students are placed? Are current cultural challenges such as pandemic, social justice, privilege, economic distress reflected in the experience in some way, and does this inflect the course content?

Humanizing: Experience as Embodiment of the Human Element in Education
How does the experiential component highlight the person(s) involved as full human beings? How are the relationships between human beings illustrated in, highlighted, tested, advanced by the placement/learning experience? How is the faculty member brought into the circuit of such humanization and relationship in the experiential setting?

Experimental: Experiential Learning is Emergent at its Core
The feedback loop that emerges through application, sometimes results in unpredictable and complicated situations for both faculty and students. Managing expectations and cultivating flexibility are critical. With this said, embracing an attitude of experimentation is key. With such an attitude, one can instill a sense of compassion if things don’t go as planned and embed learning into subsequent course design experiments.

Practical
Planning, building, managing, and sustaining co-curricular connections through a course can be laborious. Working with a (community/international) partner requires identifying and negotiating shared interests and long-term goals. Acknowledging this is key in both tempering expectations on course design and reflecting on the opportunities to align professional interests and capital (e.g., research productivity) with teaching activities. 

The following recommendations are organized around three axes:

  • Reflecting on purpose of co-curricular connections;
  • Finding and establishing co-curricular connections;
  • Managing co-curricular experiences.

Reflecting on Purpose of Co-Curricular Connections 

There are a variety of reasons why faculty might want to design co-curricular course materials. Provided are some initial considerations that frame the kind of co-curricular exploration and design you might engage in. 

Types of Engagement

  • Personalization: In drawing co-curricular connections, there are often opportunities to draw on the unique surrounding ecologies of individual students (their current neighborhood, family/friends, languages, culture, etc.). The degree to which you allow for more personalization in the learning experience can have implications around how you design assessment, manage co-curricular activities, and outline expectations of any community partners or resources.
  • Scope: While an entire course can be structured around engagement with a community partner, there are a multitude of opportunities to design modules or sub-modules to have co-curricular components. It’s important to consider the scope of any co-curricular course component, and balance it with planning and getting adequate support.  
  • Topical Focus: While there are many different ways to frame co-curricular engagement, some ideas to consider focusing on with community partners are:     
    • Career/Life Experience relevance of module topic;
    • Social Justice perspectives on module;
    • Disciplinary or module topical illustrations of relevance of race, in terms of policy, social dynamics, institutional (Fordham & non-Fordham) implications, human experience, etc.
  • Alignment: Co-curricular design presents many opportunities to leverage existing efforts in ways that benefit student learning. Aligning your co-curricular design efforts with departmental efforts, your own research efforts, collaborations you want to make professionally, etc. are great ways to align course design efforts with other motivations and existing labor.

Departmental-Level Considerations
If a course is part of a major, consider forming lasting external relationships that will be sustainable for a student in a number of courses in the major, and for diverse students in the major: consider having affiliations that will be developed with intention and focus at the Department level.

  • Reflection on the value and outcomes of the experiential learning element will have curricular impacts for the major down the line and may enrich things such as course-sequencing, thesis production, senior seminars, and the like;
  • Consider appointing a Departmental “co-curricular & experiential learning” point person. 

Establishing Co-Curricular Connections 

Faculty who are looking to connect their courses to communities within and beyond Fordham might seek to:

External Connections

  • Set up an appointment with the Fordham Center for Community Engaged Learning. They provide guidance in finding community partners, designing your course, compensating partners, and supporting you through facilitation of the course. Think about what kinds of organizations might connect to your course material/experiences;
  • Use Career Services and Alumni Relations to reach out to alumni for relevant connections that might afford “microinternship” style opportunities for students, domestically or internationally;
  • Invite speakers (e.g., representatives of organizations or professional societies) to class as a way to develop relationships with community partners and scaffold your course design over iterations to be integrated with the community partner over time. Think about ways to leverage existing resources such as the A&S Dean funding to compensate speakers for their labor;
  • Create an online repository of societies and organizations that students can explore, reach out to, and consider working with;
  • Connect with industries, creative outlets, entrepreneurs related to the course or modules in the course;
  • If you have colleagues in your field who work in institutions outside of the US, consider how you may collaborate with them to offer a COIL module (e.g., project, problem set, etc.) to provide a global experience for students. What is COIL?
  • Encourage students to explore how graduate-level study might be inspired by experiential learning components of the course;
  • Ask for professional/network affiliate advice about what kind of post-graduate experience is most appropriate to effective preparation to work in a field or subject area.

Internal Connections

  • Consider how course material/experiences can interface with student clubs or associations (e.g., Social Innovation Collaboratory, Fordham Foundry, etc.). Such connections can not only contextualize course material, but provide opportunities for students to build community outside of class, and sustain relationships beyond the course duration, especially for students that might feel marginalized or isolated and can use structured pathways to building community. For instance:
    • How might these interfaces build on student organizations that are currently making deliberate decisions to increase anti-racist programming and expenditures?
    • How might a given class or module speak to issues, concerns, and interests of the many cultural organizations on campus?
    • Could a class session Zoom in representatives of certain on-campus student organizations to explore these connections and jointly program something that is both a “student activity” and a “curricular enrichment”?
    • Try to connect elements of the course to activities the students are engaged in on-campus or virtually;
    • Volunteer to “show up” to online activities of the connected student clubs;
  • Survey students ahead of time to understand the kinds of non-academic activities they are engaged in and needs they can identify in their respective roles and groups that can interface with course materials. For instance, quick and easy to build Google Forms are useful in taking quick pulse checks around particular topics or finding needs.
  • Parse through community updates (newsletters, emails, etc.) to find new initiatives that you can interface with your course materials in ways that draw our potential collaborations or applied project-based learning experiences. (e.g., green space initiatives, anti-racist initiatives)

Co-Curricular Experiences 

Engaging Partners

  • Consider how asynchronous collaboration spaces can be made to accommodate non-Fordham partners. Special permission needs to be sought for BlackBoard, however there are other tools such as Slack, Google Classroom, etc. that might also facilitate such spaces;
  • Decide which if any elements of asynchronous course elements community/outside partners will have access to and participate in;
    • Develop strategies to leverage such participation into fulfillment of learning objectives;
    • Develop strategies to leverage such participation into lasting, sustainable relationships with outside organizations/individuals, in keeping with current objectives of CCEL;
  • Think about the degree to which communication will occur directly with partners or through a mediated channel;
    • If there is direct communication, be sure that all contact information for community/outside partners is always readily available for students;
    • Consider which languages will be used to communicate with partners;
  • Be sure that students are supported in any tech resources needed to connect virtually with partners.

Engaging Students
Experiential learning at times calls for additional layers of communication as students inevitably need to be reminded about changes to more traditional course experiences, or about issues that emerge from project-based work. Some approaches to consider include:

  • Choose a co-curricular element for the course based on polling of and interaction with students early on, so that students are agents in the decision about what experiential learning will be pursued;
  • Utilize the announcement feature within Blackboard as a consistent location where students can find information about the class;
  • Offer regular Discussion Threads and Polls within Blackboard modules that elicit feedback and interaction between students;
  • Keep in mind that requiring posts and responses to posts is a mixed bag. A more highly recommended use of discussion threads is to focus on prompts that allow for subjective personal reflections;
  • Exploring different form factors like video-based responses might also be worth considering. While some faculty use tools like VoiceThread, others have relied on simpler tools where students can record video responses and submit a link directly to the professor (e.g., Loom);
  • Frequent feedback from students and adjustment of protocols is important for effectively incorporating co-curricular projects and engagements into learning and for enhancing student experience;
  • Build into the course some structured time to engage in smaller groups or individually with students as they move through co-curricular activities. The applied nature of many co-curricular activities required deep reflection which can better occur in more intimate settings at first. Think about how to encourage this early on, and decrease as students gain more comfort;
    • Use a class session to meet in smaller groups for shorter periods of time;
    • Use breakout rooms and structured reflection activities;
  • Think critically about group design if you are breaking students into groups. Some things to consider in breaking out groups:
    • Facilitating grouping so students don’t get left out;
    • Considering the role of out-of-class time constraints;
    • Considering grouping based on roles, expertise or interests.