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Updates on UCSC’s New SET Platform, Response Rates, and the Importance of Mid-Quarter Feedback

We’ll take good news where we can find it in these times, and there is bona fide good news about SET response rates from the Fall quarter. After having dipped to a low of 19% last Winter, SET response rates rebounded to nearly 50% (48.74% to be exact) in the Fall quarter. That’s the highest response rate since 2017-18. Low response rates mean that we don’t get the student feedback that can help us evolve our teaching practice while potentially exacerbating biases in those responses that we do get back.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what accounts for this notable rise, but we have a few ideas. Starting in Fall 2020, UCSC has adopted a new platform, Blue, which is designed to be more user-friendly than the previous platform.

Blue uses a sophisticated survey interface such that students simply fill out one feedback form for each course in which they are enrolled. The system then splits their responses, sending instructor and course feedback to the instructor of record and TA feedback to the TA. Rather than being prompted to fill out up to ten surveys per end-of-quarter, one for each instructor or TA with whom they have interacted, students just get one form to fill out per course. 

Blue is also well integrated with Canvas. We know that most courses since the onset of remote teaching are hosted in Canvas, and that both instructors and students interact with Canvas much more frequently. Students see reminders to fill out their SETs in Canvas every time they log in, and instructors are prompted to remind students to fill out the SETs. Rather than relying on email reminders that land in overstuffed inboxes, the LMS allows both students and faculty to interact more seamlessly with Blue in the course of their instructional activities.

At the same time, and less obviously, students learning remotely may feel that their primary relationships with the university right now are those they have with their instructors. They may be more focused on the centrality of their coursework to their university experience, and more inclined to give feedback. Furthermore, we know that instructors have spent a great deal of time redesigning their courses, thinking about how best to engage with and support students, and reaching out to their students to learn how students are doing. This kind of consistent communication lets students know that we value their feedback and take it seriously. Students may feel more confidence than they have in the past that filling out these forms is worth their while. Some even use the forms to thank instructors for all the painstaking work they have put into making pandemic teaching work.

At the end of the day, we can’t know what has brought response rates up so significantly, but we hope that it signals more open and responsive channels of communication between students and instructors. CITL and the Senate Committee on Teaching (COT) have been collaborating this Winter to create new resources about how we message to students about the importance of SETs, how to generate higher response rates, and how to help students give useful and respectful feedback. We’ve also created a series of resources about how to get and use mid-quarter feedback–which is one of the things most highly correlated with increased student engagement and response rates at the end of term. 

In the coming months, we’ll be informing the campus about how we can easily use Blue to gather mid-quarter feedback. We’ll pre-load complete surveys and questions that instructors can use, and we’ll let you know how to customize with your own questions. Mid-quarter feedback in Blue will be viewable only by the instructor in question, gathered only for our own use, and will not become part of any personnel file. Look for messaging from COT and CITL on this topic early in the Spring quarter.
– CITL Director Jody Greene, CITL Assistant Faculty Director Robin Dunkin, and COT Chair Maureen Callanan

Upcoming Events on Faculty Disability, NSF Broader Impacts, & Educational Equity

Signs of Disability: Faculty, Accommodations, and Access at Work
with Dr. Stephanie Kerschbaum

Friday, February 19, 2021
Noon - 2:00 pm

Dr. Stephanie Kerschbaum will describe some of the experiences and encounters that disabled faculty have shared in research interviews, published accounts, and surveys. Attendees will have the opportunity to brainstorm and engage in conversation about how these ideas might be informed by specific elements of the UCSC context and culture as well as generate next steps and questions for those interested and invested in creating more broadly inclusive academic environments for all members of the campus community, including faculty.
Register for Signs of Disability here!
Make Your Broader Impacts Shine
a talk by Dr. Brandon Jones, NSF Program Director for Education

Monday, February 22, 2021
Noon - 1:30 pm

Dr. Jones will talk about the value of diversity, inclusiveness, and equity in STEM research, how to incorporate them broadly in grant proposals, and how to craft broader impact statements that are competitive in NSF and other grant competitions.
Register for Broader Impacts here!
Practicing Equity with Fidelity to Racial Justice
with Dr. Estela Bensimon

CITL 2021 Convocation & Five-Year Celebration
Wednesday, April 14 • 5:30 - 8:00 pm

In celebration of CITL's 5th Annual Convocation, CITL and the HSI Initiatives are honored to present a talk by renowned equity pioneer Estela Bensimon. Professor Bensimon will speak about engaging in everyday practices guided by racial equity as corrective justice, anti-racist action, and decentering of whiteness.

Spring 2021 Teaching for Equity Graduate Certificate Program

Are you a graduate student educator who is passionate about promoting equity in higher education? CITL’s Teaching for Equity Graduate Certificate Program is designed to enhance your understanding and implementation of equity-minded teaching practices. Through engaging conversations and structured learning activities, you’ll explore key issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in college classrooms, and you’ll be guided in developing teaching strategies shown to foster equitable learning outcomes.

This learning community of graduate students from across disciplines will meet during Spring 2021 for five Zoom workshops every other Friday at 10am-12pm Pacific Time on the following schedule: April 2, April 16, April 30, May 14, and May 28.

Teaching Online Lab Courses

One of the biggest challenges of remote teaching is sustaining the lab components of classes, not to mention creating an engaging experience. Caitlin Binder, UCSC Chemistry Lecturer and PBSci Course Design Fellow, has created a new page on the Keep Teaching website and is available to work with you to make the most out of your remote labs and even make them fun and engaging.  

Available to you are suggestions for designing choose-your-adventure labs with Google Sites, lovingly called Slugs@home and much more. 

Check out the page and contact Caitlin Binder for a consultation.

New Resources for Instructors on Equity and Engagement & a Book Club

New Downloadable Infographics to Support Equity-Minded Remote Instruction
The remote instruction team has started a series of concise guides on various topics. Access the library here (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Distracted Book Club: Holding Students Attention Amidst Tech Distractions

How can instructors hold students' attention in an era of technological distractions? Renowned education writer James M. Lang's latest book Distracted: Why Students Can't Focus and What You Can Do About It tackles a persistent issue plaguing educators across the disciplines.

Faculty are cordially invited to join the Distracted Book Club, hosted by UCSC lecturers and instructional designers Caitlin Binder (Chemistry) and Megan McNamara (Sociology).

Over three 90-minute meetings, we will share experiences and brainstorm solutions to set our students up for success. The group meets every 3rd Wednesday of Spring quarter at 4-5:30pm on 4/14, 5/5, and 5/26.

Click here for more details or reach out to hosts at or

Institutional Membership to the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity

CP/EVC Kletzer has agreed to fund an institutional membership to the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. CITL has advocated renewing our membership and partnered with the Graduate Division on this funding request. NCFDD is a platform that offers faculty, graduate students, and postdocs on-demand access to mentoring, tools, and support to succeed in the academy. NCFDD resources address everything from how to complete a dissertation to how to plan a path to tenure to how to balance the multiple professional and personal demands academics face in the course of their careers. It is particularly attentive to the inequitable workloads–especially in teaching and mentoring–faced by many BIPOC academics and, in some fields, by non-male faculty members and graduate students. Look for an announcement soon that the campus membership has been initiated.

A Guide for Instructors on Students' Use of Discord

You may not have heard of the message board platform Discord, but many of your students have. Read this guide to learn more about what Discord is, how your students are using it, and what you should and shouldn’t do about it.


A Spike in Cheating Since the Move to Remote Instruction?

Student use of websites like during the period of remote instruction have skyrocketed. Some of those sites are taking actions to limit the effectiveness of their use by students during exams. Chegg, for instance, has introduced Honor Shield (terrible title!) to limit the availability of exam questions/answers during an exam period. Read more about this in a recent article from Inside Higher Education.

Hypothesis Workshops & Resources

Implementing Social Annotation with Hypothesis in your Courses

In this workshop, learn how to create a supportive and scaffolded learning environment for using social annotation. Register via the links below.
Using Hypothesis with Small Groups

In this workshop, learn about options for using Hypothesis in small groups, and how social annotation can be used to create a more collaborative learning environment. Register via the links below.  

Daily Open Office Hours & Instructional Design Help

We love answering your questions about Canvas, YuJa, Zoom, Hypothesis, or any other tools or topics on your mind.

Join us for
drop-in office hours here, 2 pm – 3 pm every day
(passcode is ‘help’).
Are you teaching a course for the first time (or the first time remotely) in the spring?  We’d like to help you!

Contact Online Education via email or Slack to work with an instructional designer on planning, design, and technology for your course.

Spring Course Shells & Piazza Update

Course Shells in Canvas for Spring 2021 - NEW DATES!
Course shells for Spring 2021 are available in Canvas now. If you do not see your course for Spring in the unpublished section of your Canvas dashboard, check in with your department to make sure that the Registrar has been notified of your appointment. Going forward, course shells will be made available on the following schedule:
  • Fall - course shells available April 1
  • Winter - course shells available October 1
  • Spring - course shells available at start of Advising Week
  • Summer - course shells available at start of Advising Week
Piazza Update
The online discussion platform Piazza will remain available through Spring 2021. We will keep you apprised of next steps as we continue to work with Piazza and investigate alternative solutions.
Center for Innovations for Teaching and Learning (CITL) •
Online Education •
Faculty Instructional Technology Center (FITC) •
University of California Santa Cruz

Copyright © 2021 Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning, All rights reserved.

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