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The ACE 
Framework

A guide for decision-making and professional development planning during times of crisis.

ACE Framework

At the Open Learning & Teaching Collaborative at Plymouth State University, we have developed the ACE Framework to guide our decision-making and professional development planning. ACE stands for Adaptability, Connection, and Equity. ACE elevates three characteristics that are clear, context-sensitive, values-driven, and mission-aligned; we can use them to plan assignment-, course-, and institution-level responses to crisis (such as COVID-19) in the areas of our university that are connected to teaching and learning.

Below is a matrix of our ACE-Informed Practices that we have identified to align with Plymouth State’s philosophies around Cluster Learning; these practices are likely applicable to any college or university that values engaged pedagogy, accessibility, and encouraging higher education to be integrated with real-world contexts. We encourage anyone who finds it helpful to use ACE, engage with us, and collaborate to address our common challenges.

Read more about ACE from CoLab Director, Robin DeRosa. 

How to Use the ACE Framework

We've developed supporting materials to help you navigate your path through ACE. Start here at the "How to Use the ACE Framework" page, and decide how much you want or have time to engage.

For administrators, staff, legislators, trustees, or committees, you may wish to begin by looking at the six practices at the "institution" level of ACE.

Adaptability

We have a responsibility to create learning experiences that can adapt for different learners and different learning contexts.

Create assignments that allow you to offer flexibility to students about when they turn things in.
Invite students into the process of designing course goals, assignment details, and overall schedule of work.
Consider how you can plan for courses that are inherently hybrid in nature and use a flexible course structure. This approach can help you be prepared for several different course delivery scenarios, depending upon what happens in the fall.
Reconfigure your overall course schedule and structure around modules that depend upon different needs and delivery formats. Chunk content, assignments, and experiences around themes that work coherently.
Rethink University policies to meet students needs in times of uncertainty and transition: more flexible grading policies (P/NP), acceptance of transfer credits, final exam requirements, synchronous (“seat time” requirements), etc. TALK TO YOUR ACCREDITING AGENCIES ABOUT POLICIES YOU THINK THEY MAY BE CONCERNED WITH.
Avoid adopting and paying for technology solutions that are only focussed on efficiency, scaling, and security/surveillance. Instead, involve your faculty and instructional designers in conversations about how technology can augment and facilitate great teaching.

Connection

Our students are best-served by learning experiences positioned within relationships and real-world contexts.

Think about how you can have students work (safely) on the open Web, interacting with existing online communities, sharing and publishing their own work, and connecting with each other and other students.
Jettison any assignments that have no real value to the world other than you marking it complete. Instead, assign work that encourages students to create or contribute to the world, helping them to feel connected to the knowledge commons.
Focus efforts on deliberately building opportunities for your classroom community to emerge and flourish.
Consider how to sensitively acknowledge and even include current events in your course, particularly if there are authentic ways for students to investigate and reflect upon those events.
Make space/time for and acknowledge the value of thoughtful design practices as faculty transform their teaching.
Create clear pathways (via an online space) for community partners to find and connect with courses and projects that they could both contribute to and benefit from.

Equity

We must strive to reach and teach every student, regardless of barriers they face.

Learn the basics of UDL principles and apply them to assignments as you can; comply with institutional commitments and ADA standards for the short-list of key accessibility best practices.
Use this moment as a time to rethink your notion of fairness in assignments for your classes, focusing more on equity than equality. 
Use Open Educational Resources in place of commercial textbooks when it’s pedagogically appropriate. Aim for No Cost or Lo Cost (under $40) for your learning materials fee.
Add a Basic Needs statement to your syllabus, and be prepared to serve as a resource for students as they navigate challenges related to what you include.
Examine expectations for technology use and create pathways and programs for students who are likely to be alienated, especially by access issues.
Work with local community organizations and agencies to integrate and coordinate services for students around basic needs. Offer PSU as a resource to community members in need wherever possible.

ACE-Informed Practices

Complicating the Conversation

Check out these resources for applying the ACE Framework in particularly challenging teaching contexts.

The ACE Student Guide

We've compiled resources and advice for students dealing with the changing landscape of their courses.