Civic University, A Hack Oregon Project
CivicU embraces a personalized learning model based on competency-based strategies which provide a flexible and engaging learning experience for students. Cost to students, accessibility, flexibility, competency, and community impact is the common theme integrated into the course design process.

Instructors use current and active learning strategies to assess individual progress and build on student contribution to class projects. Courses frame the learning experience for impact around industry competency and the use of civic and open data for projects. The course experience is focused on promoting student agency and flexibility for all levels of learners to achieve success according to their personalized learning plan outlined before they begin class.

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Questions & Challenges

Instructors noted challenges from past teaching experiences with Hack University. We set out to work through each question and develop curriculum and policy to support students & Instructors.

A few of the questions from Instructors:

  • Students in a class end up being on extreme sides of a learning level (in experienced to highly experienced). How do I (as an Instructor) structure curriculum to appropriately challenge every level of student?
  • The subjects being taught require competency and most of the time hours of work and practice in order to achieve even a basic competency. Most students are adult learners and are juggling jobs, families, life. How do I keep students engaged after a long day (classes are help 6-9pm 2x/week)
  • What do I do if a student does not have enough coding background to begin working on exercised in class?
  • How do I work with one student who is struggling with a concept and behind?
  • How do I balance student expectations for the class with what I can provide them with?
  • How do I deal with a student compromising the experience of others?
  • How do I balance curriculum and student progress with ability needed to participate in the Civic project season?

Design & Development

Based on collaborative brainstorming with Instructors, students, and Hack Oregon Leadership, we developed guiding principles for CivicU.

The guiding principles for CivicU include a personalized learning model where instructors write objectives and structure curriculum to promote intellectual and practical skills, deepen personal & social responsibility, and practice integrated and applied learning. CivicU supports student agency where students determine the amount of time they need to dedicate to reach their goals. Courses are commonly challenging, rigorous, and provide opportunities for students to collaborate within a team environment. Formative assessment allows instructors to check-in with student progress and alter/adapt learning resources based on a student or class need. Communication on absences (recommended 3 or less for a passing grade), and a level of dedication outlined in a personal learning plan will determine a passing recommendation from a course. Demonstration of major course competencies must be met before being recommended by instructor to progress to a second or third tier pathway. Volunteering during the Hack Oregon project season is highly recommended.

  • All courses include open data and focus on community impact
  • All courses include project-based work to prepare students for positions on a tech team during a Hack Oregon project Season
  • All students are provided with a personalized learning plan 
  • Instructors write curriculum for adult learners and are centered around a competency level outcome that is flexible for students

Instructors spent time developing teaching statements which helped communicate to students their purpose and intent, speaking towards the student's need for relevancy of Instructor purpose:


Web Development with React, Derek DeMaria

Teaching Philosophy (My approach to teaching)

My teaching approach is to start class with short, guided discussions with slides that introduce a

big topic or idea, then move into an interactive example that puts the topic into practice. After,

you’ll have an exercise or two to solidify your new knowledge. These topics will build toward a

bigger, mid-sized project of your choice, which will be worked on week by week.


Database Foundations, Christopher Moravec

My teaching style is rooted in teamwork; I use a constructivist based approach with guided group discussions and exercises combined with a helping of objectivist lectures to help cover technical details, structure and process.

I also want each of us to expand our professional network during this class, that means when we do assignments, we will work with others from the class, so rotate around and don’t always work with the same person (I will help with this).

In general, this class will be a practical approach to databases, we will not cover a lot of “theory,” but instead will focus on how to make databases in the real world.

This class should be fun and challenging but it will also be rewarding.




what we learned and how we iterated

Instructors found the training component to beneficial in helping them create curriculum


To create a consistent structure and simple admin access to all courses we built in google classroom. We found that the mix was split, some Instructors loved google classroom as a hub. A few instructors did not like google classroom and many built their courses in github. Here are a few samples: