Promoting your new college course

The new academic year is starting at almost 4,000 colleges and universities around the country. What will make this a special year for many faculty is offering a new course that they have developed.

Typically when you develop a new course, you are excited about exploring and teaching a new topic and sharing a great learning experience with your students. But that excitement can turn to disappointment when you find that only a few students have registered for the course, and your course is cancelled because it doesn’t have the required minimum number of students.

Let me offer some suggestions for promoting your course based on my own experience in creating new courses and from my experience serving on the University of Florida’s General Education Committee and the College of Journalism and Communications Curriculum Committee.

Don’t count on the course to draw students without your active involvement in promoting the course. Even if you have developed a great course, the first time you offer a course, you are likely to have some difficulty attracting students.

Your new course probably isn’t listed in the university’s catalog and may not be included in your college’s advising materials. So students may not be aware of the course.

Even if they learn about your course, the course is competing with the established courses in the curriculum that students are familiar. Your new course is an unknown.

Develop written descriptions to use in promoting the course – from a one-page flyer to a tweet.
Provide specifics about the course that would appeal to the students. List course objectives, assignments, etc. In addition to the course title and number, include the course meeting time so students will know if the course will fit into their class and work schedules. Explain how the course fits into the major or minor – or why it is a great elective. Include a brief bio of you, and explain how students can obtain more information about the course.

Create a flyer that you can post, distribute and email. Make copies of the flyer to post and distribute. Create a PDF of the flyer to email or link to in social media. Consider the visual appeal of your flyer.

Ask your department chair to send an email to the department’s listserv for students to make them aware of the course. Your department chair will be sending information to the students about drop/add and can include your course as an option.

Use social media to help in your recruitment. Post a promotion on the department’s Facebook page and Twitter account and use your own social media…maybe even record a TikTok.

Talk with academic advisers in your college to make sure they are aware of your new course and ask for their help in promoting the course. Also talk with the academic advisers in other colleges to encourage their students to take your course to fulfill a requirement for a minor or an elective.

The drop/add time period is a crucial time to recruit students for your course. Students are making changes to their schedules. New students will be creating their schedules.

Contact former students of yours and encourage them to take the course. As you know these students, you can explain how the course ties to their career goals or interests.

Send the course description to colleagues and advisers of relevant professional and academic organizations. Ask them to forward the flyer to individual students or student groups. You also can ask them to send you recommendations of students you could contact to invite them to take your course.

Check the roster of the students who are enrolled in for the course and email them to help recruit students for the course. Students registered for the course will know classmates who might be interested in taking your course.

If your course is an upper division undergraduate course, you could talk with the director of graduate studies or dean about the possibility of cross-listing the course as a graduate class. Including undergraduate and graduate students in the same course requires some course management issues, such as designing additional (or alternative) assignments that justify the course awarding graduate credit.

If the school term is about to begin, you won’t have time to try all of these recruitment strategies. Select the ones that seem like the best options for you and your course.

Best wishes in recruiting the students you need so that you can teach your new course!

University of Florida Graduate Student Teacher Award winners for 2021-2022

UF Graduate Student Teaching award winners2021-2022
Graduate Student Teaching Award winners and members of the Selection Committee. Photo by Eric Zamora

Congratulations to the 19 graduate students who were selected as the University of Florida Graduate Student Teaching Award winners for 2021-2022.

Award Winners

Pearis Bellamy – Psychology
Recep Celebi – Mathematics
Savannah Gramze – Astronomy
Joseph Hoft – Sociology and Criminology
Haley Johnson – Theatre and Dance
Lindsay Lloveras – Psychology
Nicolas Macaluso – Chemical Engineering
Ioannis Michaloliakos – Physics
Cristovão Nwachukwu – English
Emily Pappo – Natural Resources and Environment
Anthony Smith – Classics
Ar’Darius Stewart – Theatre and Dance
Nathaniel Strauss – Physics
Nieves Villaseñor III – Music
Anita Walsh – Economics
Lauren Weisberg  – Teaching and Learning
LingQin Xue – Physics

Calvin A. VanderWerf Winners

Leandra Merz – Geography
Hank Samuels – Teaching and Learning

Selection Committee

Connie Shehan, Chair
Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Sharon Difino
Clinical Assistant Professor of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences
College of Public Health and Health Professions

Julie E. Dodd
Professor Emerita of Journalism
College of Journalism and Communications

Ifigeneia Giannadaki
Assistant Professor of Classics
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Martin Gundersen, Jr.
Associate Professor Emeritus of Architecture
College of Design, Construction and Planning

Valeria Kleiman
Associate Professor of Chemistry
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Sujata Krishna
Lecturer & Learning Assistant Coordinator of Physics
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Gillian Lord
Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Studies
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Jon Reiskind
Associate Professor Emeritus of Biology
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Lynn E. Sollenberger
Distinguished Professor of Agronomy
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Bradley Walters
Associate Professor of Architecture
College of Design, Construction and Planning

Lorna Dishman
Executive Assistant I
Graduate School


I am honored to serve on the Graduate Student Teaching Awards Committee to promote the importance of teaching excellence. Every semester, I am inspired by the hardworking, creative and caring graduate student instructors I observe.

I appreciate the University of Florida and Dr. Nicole Stedman, Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, for making this award program possible.

Colleagues create textbook during pandemic

Published! Middle Tennessee State University colleagues (from left to right) Dr. Sally Ann Cruikshank, Dr. Keonte Coleman and Dr. Christine Eschenfelder pose with their newly published textbook in the  School of Journalism and Strategic Media’s student news studio. Photo by Dan Eschenfelder

When I received word from Dr. Christine Eschenfelder that she and two of her Middle Tennessee State University colleagues had written a textbook during the pandemic, I wanted to hear how they did it.

Dr. Eschenfelder, Dr. Sally Ann Cruikshank and Dr. Keonte Coleman, all faculty in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media, were motivated to write “A Complete Guide to Television, Field, and Digital Producing” to fill a need in the curriculum in their school and in other communication programs.

During the pandemic, they developed the concept for the book, secured a publisher, and wrote the book, in spite of all the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

I asked the three to share their experiences in writing the book.

Dr. Christine Eschenfelder is an associate professor and recipient of the MTSU Outstanding Teaching Award and broadcast industry awards. Her research focuses on broadcast journalism education, newsroom diversity, and women in broadcasting.
Twitter: @cceschenfelder

What inspired you and your two colleagues to write “A Complete Guide to Television, Field, and Digital Producing”?

We all worked in television news before our careers in academia. I was an on-air reporter and producer. Sally Ann and Keonte were also producers. Television news producers are in great demand. It’s an important and exciting job that many students don’t know about.

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Librarians assist faculty in using Open Education Resources (OER) and library-licensed materials

When you design a new course or update a course you’ve previously taught, consider talking with your librarian to help identify course resources.

April Hines
April Hines encouraged library use during the Student Involvement Fair, held in the courtyard of the College of Journalism and Communications.

I asked April Hines, librarian for the University of Florida College of Journalism and Mass Communications, to share insights about the work of librarians and how librarians can enable faculty to utilize Open Educational Resources (OER) to provide up-to-date, free course materials for students.

Hines is chair of the Education and Behavioral Sciences Section (EBSS) of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). She earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from UF and a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of South Florida.

Faculty often think campus librarians are solely focused on helping students who are in the library. What are some of the ways you are involved in helping faculty? 

April Hines: Much of my work happens beyond the physical library space – especially during COVID-19. Faculty will often ask me to be a guest speaker in their classes (either in person or virtually) to teach specialized research skills or to discuss topics related to information or media literacy.

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Improve class discussions with Bloom’s Taxonomy

So many class discussions could become an improved learning experience for students with a little more guidance from the instructor.

That assessment is based on observing classes as a member of the University of Florida Graduate Student Teaching Awards Committee.

I’ve been listening to class discussions in a wide range of disciplines – psychology, educational technology, acting, kinesiology, history and microbiology to name just some.

Some instructors have led probing insightful discussions, but many discussions remained at a superficial level.

The instructor posed a good opening question that often results with a student providing a very concise “correct answer.” The instructor validates the student’s response but often moves on rather than digging deeper into that correct answer.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a good reference for designing questions to guide small-group or full-class discussions. The taxonomy originally was published in 1956 by a team of University of Chicago cognitive psychologists and named after Benjamin Bloom who was the committee’s chair.

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Teach with Zoom breakout rooms

Zoom breakout rooms are a teaching tool being used more frequently as universities invest in the application and as instructors become more familiar in setting up and using the breakout rooms.

Zoom image

Having students work in breakout rooms can provide a change of pace in class and enable more students to engage actively in class.

As a member of the University of Florida’s Graduate Student Teaching Awards Committee, I have observed graduate students utilizing Zoom breakout rooms in a wide range of subject areas. Whereas instructors typically only make brief visits to breakout rooms during class, I have been able to observe the full time students are in a breakout room.

Based on my observations, I’m offering a few suggestions for using Zoom breakout rooms.

Develop an effective breakout room assignment.

Creating a good breakout room assignment is like creating a good small group discussion activity for face-to-face classes. Consider what a small group discussion will accomplish in a more productive way than a full-class discussion.

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Covid-19 and teaching advice

I’ve been part of the University of Florida’s orientation for new teaching assistants for a number of years. My topic has been advice for having a successful start to the school year.

Dr. Julie Dodd speaks at UF TA orientation 2019

This was what my presentation looked like at the 2019 orientation for new teaching assistants. Photo by Daniel Brotherton

Prior to this year, the 400 new teaching assistants would meet in a large auditorium for the orientation.

Due to Covid-19, this year’s orientation went online.

Over four days, part of the orientation was held live via Zoom, with about 100 different TAs attending each day.

Dr. Julie Dodd presents at UF TA orientation 2020

This is what my presentation looked like for the 2020 TA orientation. Click on the link at the end of the post to watch the video.

The other portion of the orientation, which included my presentation, were recorded videos. (At the end of this post you can click on a link to watch the video.)

In creating my presentation, I considered what would be helpful advice for starting a school year in a pandemic.

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Improving teaching with technology resources

How can you use technology to improve your teaching and create a better learning experience for your students?

Kortni Alston at NABJ conference

Kortni Alston critiques a resume tape with a student at the National Association of Black Journalists Regional Conference in Dallas.

I talked with Dr. Kortni Alston about that question.

Alston, assistant professor at North Carolina A&T State University, discussed  strategies she uses that have been particularly helpful when she adapted her teaching during the pandemic.

Alston earned her MBA from Morgan State University and her Ph.D. in Communication at the University of Florida, writing her dissertation on positive psychology issues related to job satisfaction.

Prior to teaching in higher ed, Alston was a television reporter, a director of news and public affairs for public radio, and was director of external affairs for the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta.

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Pandemic creates university administrative challenges

What a time in higher education due to COVID-19. The spring semester with the dramatic shift to online classes has ended and virtual graduation ceremonies held. But what plans are being considered for the start of the school year next fall?

I asked Dr. David Bulla, professor and chair of the Department of Communications at Augusta University, to share his outlook from an administrator’s perspective. Bulla, a Civil War historian, taught at Iowa State University and Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates prior to joining the faculty at Augusta University.

by David W. Bulla

The first challenge is the novel coronavirus itself.

David Bulla

David Bulla at Augusta University

Once we return to face-to-face classes, how do we discourage students who exhibit virus symptoms not to attend class? How do we notify the classmates of students who have tested positive? We’re working on that policy right now.

We also have students working on the front lines—students who work in medical centers. After all, Augusta University is the home of the Medical College of Georgia, and quite a few health sciences students take media literacy and health communication classes that my department teaches, and all AU students have to take our public speaking class.

At the same time, while the novel coronavirus has come to dominate all of our waking thoughts and monopolizes the information coming to us from the news media, we really do not know that much about it.

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University of Florida Graduate Student Teaching Award winners

Congratulations to the 20 graduate students selected as the University of Florida Graduate Student Teaching Award winnners for 2019-2020.

The graduate students were nominated by their departments and were evaluated by the Graduate Student Teaching Awards Committee.

Each student submitted a teaching portfolio, including teaching philosophy and teaching evaluations, and was observed by two members of the committee.

2019-2020 Winners

  • Akieba Allen – Theatre and Dance
  • Richard Brust – History
  • Tara Mercurio Counts – Family, Youth and Community Sciences
  • Lisa Emerson – Microbiology and Cell Science
  • Kaitlyn Erhardt – Psychology
  • Melissa Fenton – Family, Youth and Community Sciences
  • Scarlett Godinez – Chemistry
  • Ethan Kutlu – Linguistics
  • Joana Guerrero-Rodriguez – Spanish & Portuguese Studies
  • Keifer MacDonald – Theatre and Dance
  • Alicia McGrew – Natural Resources and Environment
  • Victoria McNeil – Psychology
  • Caroline Parks – Geography
  • Anthony Pastore – Chemistry
  • Moinul Rahat – Physics
  • Gerald Robinson – Applied Physiology and Kinesiology
  • John Streese – Mathematics
  • Ashley Watts – Mathematics

The top two graduate students received the Calvin A. VanderWerf Award:

  • Dina Benbrahim – Art and Art History
  • Kendall Craig – Chemistry

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