The Course Innovation Grant (CIG) is an eight week professional development program to support technology-based enhancements for existing undergraduate and graduate courses. The program was first piloted in summer 2015. Faculty whose proposals are accepted receive a stipend to work weekly with Steinhardt's academic technology team to develop high-fidelity solutions for content delivery, collaborative learning environments, evaluation and assessment, and physical classroom/learning environments. To learn more, visit https://steinhardt.nyu.edu/technology/course_innovation

The recipients for 2016 represent a diverse cross-section of the many disciples at Steinhardt. Recipients are:

  • Smita Rao & Kevin Weaver: Physical Therapy
  • Jessica Hamlin: Art and Art Professions
  • Frances Stage: Administration, Leadership and Technology
  • Darlene Monda: Communicative Science and Disorders
  • Beth McDonald: Teaching and Learning
  • Elisabeth King: Humanities & Social Sciences in the Professions

Below are two project profiles from this year’s grant:

Profile #1 Inquiries into Teaching & Learning

Beth McDonald: Clinical Assistant Professor, Teaching and Learning

Level: Undergraduate and Graduate required introductory level course

  • 7 sections - 3 grad and 4 undergrad (about 180 students)
  • Each section has an NYU faculty instructor and a DOE teaching partner who:
    • organizes visits to their respective schools
    • conduct debrief lessons on-site in response to classroom observation experiences

Questions CIG addressed:

  • How can we scale back DOE teaching partners’ contact hours using the affordances of an online instructional platform while still promoting a rich and meaningful experience for students?
  • How can we maintain fidelity to pre-established course-wide expectations, while giving individual professors some degree of flexibility?


By the completion of the grant program, Beth had a comprehensive NYU Classes course site that she completed herself. The site included organized Lesson pages which held the class agenda, all readings (which were mainly online, open educational resources), videos, forum topics, etc.. This course site was then copied 7 times and was used by all sections simultaneously throughout the Fall semester.

In order to maintain the integrity and meaningful experience that the DOE teachers brought to the class, a communication tool called Slack was used to foster online communication between students, professors, and these DOE teachers. Teachers and students would use Slack to debrief about classroom observations which occurred several times throughout the semester. Students could also use Slack to directly communicate with DOE teachers to ask questions or to ask for feedback regarding their end-of-semester projects.

Further, due to this decrease in DOE contact hours, ATLAS was used as a cost-reduction supplement to in-person classroom observations (which had been the previous norm). ATLAS is a robust video database created by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; videos submitted to the database are of candidates for NBPTS certification and serve as examples of the certification process.

Beth’s Testimony:beth's_course.png

I noticed that my frustration tolerance when working with technology in general has improved somewhat.  Being assured that I can't "break" anything (thanks Elana!) helped.  I also knew that I signed on for this project and had to persist rather than giving up and retreating back into the familiar.  And knowing I could always ask for...and get...assistance from my trusty and competent team of Elana and Kelsey gave me faith that the new design could come to fruition.

I didn't understand...a LOT at first.  I had to watch and do some relatively basic things for myself over and over.  I still don't quite how we'll be using Slack and I still might mess things up when trying to add content to my site.

Overall, I think -- as I said in my 'mid-term - that there is no going back to a more low tech syllabus design.  I have new tools and skills at my disposal.  And I will keep in mind the strong reminders we got in the beginning and throughout-- that it's not "tech for tech's sake" but wise choices about what supports learning that matter most.

Before working with the team, I thought I was making pretty good use of NYU Classes and I could incorporate a relevant TedTalk or demo a website occasionally.  Now I am able and wanting to take advantage of many more tools in Classes and resources beyond those I was accessing before the CIG.

And as for now [October 2016], I can say that feedback from my own section has been overwhelmingly positive with regard to the Classes site and the accessibility and variety of course content.

Profile #2: Physical Therapy Examination of the Musculoskeletal System

Smita Rao: Associate Professor, Physical Therapy

Kevin Weaver: Clinical Assistant Professor, Physical Therapy

Level: Graduate Course

  • Course meets once a week for four hours, includes hands-on experiential learning and demonstrations of physical therapy techniques 

Questions CIG addressed:

  • Need to create “more time” in class to fully address physical therapy techniques and demonstrationn
  • Improve in-class demonstrations by implementing new technology solution for displaying demonstrations within classroom 


  1. Designed and created a ‘blended’ class framework in order to shift some lecture content online and allow for more meaningful participatory activities in class (hands-on demonstrations, student-created videos)

  2. Researched, prototyped and implemented new video system utilizing a GoPro and wireless HDMI transmitter that allows instructors greater flexibility in terms of demonstration location and better viewpoints. 

Smita's Testimony

  • I noticed how diverse we are, in terms of our course offerings, our students' personas, and our own working styles
  • I was struck by how well the CIG process works - messy, creative and productive!
  • I learned to revisit my course with fresh eyes :-)
  • Overall, I think I learned a lot and got a lot from working with Kevin, Francesca and Jillian,
  • Complete this sentence: Before working with the team I thought/felt scattered, distracted and intimidated about technology in my course, but now I think/feel more coherent.

In this course, Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students learn how to perform a physical therapy examination, relevant to the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, muscles, tendons). This course is well-received, both the course and instructors have received extremely positive course evaluations over the years. However, as the scope of the profession has grown, course content has grown exponentially. Our goals were three-fold: 1) To provide our students with a user-friendly and organized way to access course materials, 2) To help our students do and feel examination techniques, and reflect on their abilities, 3) To create in-class and asynchronous opportunities for engagement and discussion. Through the CIG, we revised our course materials extensively to make them accessible via Google apps. We added curated video links into our slides and incorporated real time GoPro demonstrations in class. We have recruited alumni as online mentors to facilitate discussions on NYU Classes.

It's about six weeks into the semester and it's amazing to see how intuitive the re-designed course is to our students! We sought informal feedback around our midterm exam and 72% responded. They love the GoPro - they get to see exactly what the clinician / instructor is seeing. The course redesign has also made for better time management. Adding pre-class videos has freed up some in-class time which we’re using to do Case Studies. Each student takes on a role during these Case Studies (eg patient, physical therapist, scribe, supervisor). They create short videos of their cases. We’ve been reviewing and sharing these within NYU Classes. Overall, this re-design has been very powerful in terms of improving the quality of interaction and providing more opportunities for reflection and feedback. 

 By Kelsey Buttendorfread my other news articles and Francesca Socolick , read my other news articles