Don’t forget the audio!

December 16th, 2014

by Karen Nichols
A few of our veteran online instructors recently had a panel on the positives of teaching online and hybrid courses. At the last minute, we decided to record the discussion. It worked out very well and we created and disseminated it as a podcast which was helpful to instructors who were unable to attend. Thanks to Bart Everson for helping us at the last minute but having forgotten this option in the beginning really gave me pause.

There are myriad programs and apps to produce amazing visuals and videos which we frequently present and write about. After the above incident, I thought I’d also provide information for the auditory side. eLearning Industry just published an article yesterday, “Audio in eLearning: Top 10 Tips For eLearning Professionals” which contains several best practices.  I’ve chosen three here to give you a sampling of their recommendations:

  • Have your students show their knowledge by creating and submitting an audio presentation.  I have had my French students record themselves reciting a French poem and then discussing certain aspects of it.
  • Provide audio instructions for assignments, especially the more complicated ones.  I have actually included audio files in which I read the instructions for my students.  They will hear me in French as they are reading along.
  • Include a “player” for each sound file so that your students can replay it as often as necessary and also adjust the volume and other aspects of the recording.

How are you using auditory files in your courses?  Do you narrate your power points?  Please share your best practices.  Meanwhile, in celebration of the season, here is an AUDIO FILE for you to enjoy–The Night Before Christmas as read by Louis Armstrong.  Happy Holidays Everyone!

Developing Indicators for What Matters Most in Your Teaching

December 15th, 2014

A webinar with David Sable, Religious Studies, Saint Mary’s University
Tuesday, December 16, 2014, 2:30-3:30pm CST
Free and open to the public


In this interactive presentation, participants will be introduced to a set of mindfulness-based reflective practices for the classroom that were the subject of mixed methods research with university students over five years. The practices apply basic mindfulness principles and guided instruction for individual contemplation, journal writing, listening, inquiry, and dialogue in a student-centered learning format.

Taken together, this set of practices becomes reflective interaction; however the elements are also useful individually or in any combination. These practices and the results of the research were described in the first issue of The Journal of Contemplative Inquiry, published by the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.

The same set of practices will be applied in this interactive webinar to help you develop indicators for what matters most in introducing any contemplative practices in your teaching. Participants will explore their intentions, including what matters most to them as the instructor, what matters most to their students, and how they can know if contemplative pedagogy is effective. Results will be shared online and documented by the recording.

Note: This webinar is being offered by the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education.

Bb Tip #116: Beginning of Semester Tasks

December 15th, 2014


As you prepare for the start of the semester, it is a good time to get started setting up your Blackboard courses. Blackboard courses are automatically created using the course information in Banner a few weeks before the start of the semester. You can post your syllabus, course documents, and announcements to your Blackboard courses. You can also customize your course menu and/or add a course banner.

If you teach a course that is cross listed you will have a Blackboard course for each cross listing. You can combine the cross listed courses into one Blackboard course so that you can post course materials and grades to one combined Blackboard course. Combining courses may also work for you if you are teaching different sections of the same course and would like to have the different sections combined into one Blackboard course so that you can post course documents and grades in the one combined course. The beginning of the semester is the best time to combine your Blackboard courses before you add course material or grades to the courses.

Follow these steps to do it.

Listed below are links with instructions for

  • Merging courses [Web page]
  • Hiding old courses from view [Web page]
  • Getting started with the course environment [PDF] [Video]
  • Course structures and course themes [Web page] [Video]
  • Changing the display name for your course [Web page]
  • Adding a course banner [Web page]
  • Adding items to the course menu [PDF]
  • Adding a test student to your course [Web page]
  • Posting announcements [Web page]
  • Copying content into another course [Web page]
  • Using date management to update dates after course copy [Web page]

Want more information?

Attend a drop-in session to get one-on-one help.
Explore Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center.
Try these Blackboard How-To documents.
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Ngramming Nachhaltigkeit

December 12th, 2014

by Bart Everson

CAT’s XX anniversary newsletter contains an article by yours truly which traces the origin of the word “sustainability” to just around 1980. I came to that conclusion by using the Google Books Ngram Viewer, an online phrase-usage graphing tool.

Sustainability Ngram

I stand by that minor feat of scholarly inquiry. (It took me less than five minutes.) However, I was a little puzzled by these results. Surely the concept is much older than that?

My method had obvious limitations. I was looking at the history of a word, not the idea behind the word.

New research by Jeremy L. Caradonna suggests the roots of the idea go back to late 17th- and early 18th-century Europe, when people started cutting down too much forest and endangering their own way of life. Caradonna points to one Hans Carl von Carlowitz as the one who coined the word “sustainability” in 1713.

How did I miss that? The twist is that since von Carlowitz was German he called it Nachhaltigkeit.

Indeed, the Ngram Viewer yields quite different results when searching for this term in the corpus of German texts. There’s still a major spike in usage over the last several decades, but it doesn’t spring out of nowhere.

The spike is evidence of our contemporary sustainability movement. It’s an expression of burgeoning concern, but it’s also cause for concern in and of itself. As Caradonna notes in a recent interview for the Boston Globe, “If you have a sustainability movement, you know you have a problem.” Hans Carl von Carlowitz started writing about Nachhaltigkeit because of a problem he saw with deforestation. The huge spike in writing about this topic in recent years, in English and German and other languages, is an indication of an even deeper problem.

Sustainability is about coming to terms with our limits — living within our means — and in the modern industrialized West, we have pretended for some time that there are no such limits. This illusion is becoming more difficult to maintain, which is why sustainability is becoming ever more prominent in our discourse, including the college curriculum. Thanks to Caradonna’s research, the history of our current concerns is a little clearer.

Jeremy L. Caradonna’s new book is Sustainability: A History.

Conversation #28: Service Learning

December 9th, 2014

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Download Conversation #28

Jeremy Tuman

A conversation with Jeremy Tuman of Xavier University of Louisiana on teaching, learning and service learning.

Ultimately I think a transformative experience is one in which students internalize the idea that reality is not fixed — that all of these social problems are products, by-products, results of social structures that we as people create. We create them, and we can change them.

Jeremy Tuman teaches composition and literature with an emphasis on bringing basic writers into the larger academic curriculum. His scholarship on the pedagogy of basic writing is influenced by Mike Rose and David Bartholomae, who argue that basic writers must fully engage in exercises of critical thought regardless of their grammatical or mechanical competency. To this approach he incorporates the added charge of Xavier and other HBCUs and Catholic schools to teach a moral and social imperative for critical thought.

Jeremy has designed and led service-learning initiatives with community partners involved in literacy outreach and in post-Katrina rebuilding. Jeremy is a 2012-2013 Mellon FaCTS Fellow, a fellowship to promote social justice and civic engagement in the classroom, and currently serves as Faculty-in-Residence for Service Learning at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Links for this episode:

Plan for Potential Classroom Disruptions

December 9th, 2014

by Janice Florent

Course delivery is vulnerable to unplanned events. Potential interruptions to class activities include but are not limited to natural disasters, widespread illness, acts of violence, planned or unexpected construction-related closures, severe weather conditions, and medical emergencies. Whatever the event, an instructional continuity plan will help you to be ready to continue teaching with minimal interruption.

As you begin preparing for Spring 2015, consider developing an instructional continuity plan for your courses.

For those who missed our workshop and for those who want to learn more about instructional continuity you will find a link to the PowerPoint presentation above. Also, please visit our Instructional Continuity web page, where you will find planning guides, resources, and a recording of the workshop presentation.

image with the wording

Do you have a plan? If so, we would like to hear about it. If you had a classroom disruption and found a way for students to continue to make progress in your course, we encourage you to share it with your colleagues. Please email a brief description of what you did along with your reflections on how it worked for you, and we will post it to our Instructional Continuity web page.

Let’s grow an (Answer) Garden!

December 4th, 2014

What is Answer Garden?
AnswerGarden is a new, free, quick and easy feedback tool. Use it for real time class participation, online brainstorming and feedback. AnswerGarden is standalone and embeddable, and shows hundreds of answers all at once.

How do I create an AnswerGarden?
No logins are necessary. Go to the Create New AnswerGarden page, type in your question and then press the “Create”-button. We recommend that you provide a password for your garden so you can edit it later. You can also choose a few preferences for the number of times a student can respond, etc. Your AnswerGarden is then ready to use!

Here is one of several tutorials created in different languages about using AnswerGarden.

There’s a new free ipad app as well.

Let’s grow our own Garden!  Click to give your answer to “What are your holiday plans?”

Research on Teaching & Learning Summit 2015

December 3rd, 2014

Click on the summit logo above for more information, to submit a proposal or to register for the conference.

Click on the summit logo above for more information, to submit a proposal or to register for the conference.

Looking for a conference that is exciting, collegial and a great value? Consider submitting a proposal to the Research on Teaching and Learning Summit. Formerly known as The Georgia Conference on College & University Teaching, the Research on Teaching and Learning Summit has been renamed to underscore the commitment to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, with an emphasis on research and evidence. Now in its third decade, the Summit is designed to provide college and university faculty the opportunity to discuss and share experiences and innovative teaching techniques. It offers concurrent sessions on cutting-edge issues in pedagogy and higher education in a relaxed, congenial atmosphere. There are also opportunities for participants to network with fellow educators.

The deadline for proposals has been extended to December 12, 2014, and the conference will be held on February 20-21, 2015, at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA.

Xavier Faculty React to Earth in Mind

December 2nd, 2014

Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human ProspectFor our eighth annual Fall Faculty Book Club, we read Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect by David Orr.

At our final meeting, we asked our participating faculty to jot down some thoughts. Here is what they wrote.

For my first faculty book club experience, the selection and discussion were stimulating and provocative. Though written 20 years ago, this is forcing me to think more critically of place, choices and practices, and the connection to other communities. Responsibility needed.

Earth in Mind profiles the gradual annihilation of the planet caused by no-holds-barred economic progress, reliance on fossil fuels, unrestrained technological advancements, and other harmful forces of modernization whose costs are rarely calculated. It should be required reading for everyone, but especially the power brokers of our global society such as politicians, CEOs, financial analysts, education administrators, and scientific researchers.

Earth in Mind is an appropriate name for this collection of essays on the Earth and education. I’m lucky to have received the kind of ecological citizenship training touted by Orr from my family. I believe that it’s not too late to make a united, systematic and sustained effort to educate our children to be biophiles and not biophobes so that they will become advocates for our planet and its inhabitants and pass on the love to future generations.

Excellent book! A must-read about the relationship between economy and ecology! Holistic, wholesome, a reminder of our own connection to Nature!

This book provoked me, worried me and confused me at times. It reinforced ideas but it also required me to rethink my ideals and approach to life.

For me, this book was both a practical and promising guide to how I will live and love in this — the sunset of my life. I loved this book. As a teacher, it will be on my great books list!

Earth in Mind is a great book for inspiring an intentional, genuine focus on environmental issues in higher education. I intended to encourage deeper consideration of the long-term consequences of our lifestyle among my students.

Earth in Mind evokes a feel of urgency to spring to action and take care of Mother Earth.

The author builds the case for incorporating the environment to all disciplines. I think this is a good book for all educators.

This book was a great reminder of our responsibility as higher ed faculty to introduce students to the idea of sustainability. If we don’t get students to critically think about these issues then who will?

CAT thanks Dr. John P. Clark for recommending this book.

Bb Tip #115: End of Semester Tasks

November 30th, 2014

image showing almost there in cutout letters

As we approach the end of the semester there are a few things you can do in Blackboard to wrap up for the semester.

Download your gradebook

Student access to courses is removed two weeks after the end of a semester. During this process all grade book records are deleted. You should download your gradebook to your local computer after you submit your final grades.

Create a master copy of your course

Courses remain on the Blackboard system for three semesters before they are removed. You can request a Master Course Shell that you can use to develop and maintain your course materials. Master Course Shells will not be removed from the Blackboard system.

Hide old courses from view

When you login to Blackboard you will see your courses for previous semesters listed along with the courses you are currently teaching on the Xavier University and Courses tabs. If you do not want to see older courses in the list, you can hide them from view.

Follow these steps to do it.

Instructions are available in previous Bb tips for downloading your grade book, requesting master course shells, and hiding old courses from view.

Want more information?

Explore Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center.
Try these Blackboard How-To documents.
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.