The bottle-filling station is here!

September 19th, 2014

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching has been part of Xavier’s culture for 20 years. Therefore we have selected sustainability as the theme for our 20th anniversary year – teaching sustainability in our disciplines, providing offerings to sustain faculty in their professional development, and engaging in sustainable practices of our own – all to promote Xavier’s mission of creating a more just and humane society.

water2

In line with our sustainability theme, we are no longer serving bottled water. With the support of Academic Affairs, we’ve installed a bottle-filling station on the fifth floor of the library. Please remember to bring your water bottle when you come to CAT!

Bb Tip #106: Working with Groups

September 18th, 2014

image showing a someone drawing light bulbs on a  blackboard

Online groups can enrich class discussion and provide a virtual environment for sharing information. The Groups tool allows instructors to form virtual groups of students to support peer collaboration. Groups can be easily created one at a time or in sets. Groups can be designated as Self-Enroll (allows students to add themselves to a Group), Manual Enroll (instructor assigns students to Groups), or Random Enroll (Blackboard system distributes students equally into Groups). Once created, each Group has its own space in the course which allows the students to work together. The instructor can enable an assortment of tools for the Groups (i.e., blogs, wikis, journals, discussion boards, file exchange) to help students collaborate. Students can belong to multiple Groups simultaneously, so an instructor might assign students to different Groups for different assignments or projects.

Follow these steps to do it.

To create a group and assign students to the group you should:

  1. In the [Control Panel], click on [Users and Groups] to expand it, and then select [Groups].
  2. Click on [Create Single Group] and select [Manual Enroll].
  3. Select whether the new group is available to students.
  4. Select the collaboration tools to make available to the group. Select the grading option if the Group Blog, Group Journal, or Group Wiki contributions will be graded and type points possible. Once the grade setting is made, it cannot be reversed.
  5. Select whether to allow members to add modules to the group home page. Only the person who added the modules can view them.
  6. Select members by moving them from the Items to Select box to the Selected Items box using the right-pointing arrow.
  7. Click [Submit].

To create a group set and assign students to the groups you should:

  1. In the [Control Panel], click on [Users and Groups] to expand it, and then select [Groups].
  2. Click on [Create Group Set] on the action bar to access the drop-down list.
  3. Select the type of group set you want to create (i.e., Manual Enroll, Self-Enroll, or Random Enroll).
  4. Choose your Group options. The options presented are dependent on type of group set you are creating.
  5. Click [Submit].

Want more information?

Getting Started with Groups (pdf)
Working with Course Groups
Create Single Group Video [00:03:39]
Create Group Sets Video [00:02:28]
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.

CAT News: September 2014

September 17th, 2014

CAT XX 1994-2014 Sustainability

This fall, the Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT) is marking its 20th anniversary. Since its inception in 1994, CAT has existed to fulfill its mission “to advance the art and science of teaching and learning” and has enjoyed broad faculty participation in its services and activities. In celebration of its 20th anniversary, CAT staff have planned a series of special events, beginning with a Kick-Off Social Hour which was held on Thursday, September 4th. and only slightly upstaged by the Dr. Francis’ retirement announcement earlier in the day.

CAT has been able to sustain its initiatives and offerings over two decades by evolving with the times to meet faculty needs. And this year, CAT staff have organized their offerings around the theme of Sustainability — exploring issues related to sustainability in the curriculum as well as sustaining the whole faculty member across all areas of responsibility.

In celebration of its 20th year, CAT is exploring ways to expand its services (and ultimately its mission) in supporting the faculty member in all areas of responsibility – Teaching, Scholarship, and Service – utilizing a teacher-scholar model based on comprehensive faculty development. To this end, CAT is in the process of putting together a team from its faculty advisory board to explore an expansion of its mission/values/programs (already affectionately called the MVPs) that takes a holistic approach to developing the faculty member.

In addition, at New Faculty Orientation we welcomed twelve new faculty members to Xavier University. We hosted a day and a half orientation to introduce faculty to Xavier resources. Throughout the academic year, we will host monthly brown bags for this group, discussing topics such as teaching at an HBCU, getting grants, and creating effective assignments. The New Faculty mentoring program is also underway.

P.S. Our 2014 Annual Report is now available.

Bb Tip #105: Add Test Student in Courses

September 17th, 2014

Instructors can see their courses as a student would by turning edit mode off. However, instructors do not get the true experience of navigating the course like a student when edit mode is turned off.

The “Add Test Student” course tool allows instructors to add a test student to their course. The instructor can login to the course as the test student and navigate the course exactly as a student would. While logged in as the test student, the instructor is able to complete assignments, tests, surveys, etc. The instructor would also be able to see the “test student” in the Grade Center. The instructor has the option of removing the test student from the course when the test student is no longer needed.

image showing Add Test Student Course Tool

Follow these steps to do it.

In order to add a test student to your course, you should:

  1. Goto the [Control Panel] for the course and click on the [Course Tools] link to expand it. Click on [Add Test Student].
  2. You should see the Create Test Student Account screen. Make a note of the Test Student Account’s username, and then enter a password for the test student account. The “enroll this test student on the current course” option should be checked.
  3. Click on the [Submit] button. You should see a message indicating the test student user was created.
  4. You can now login as the “test student” using the username and password created in step 2.

Want more information?

Step-by-step instructions are available [PDF].
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.

Best Practices for Posting Video Announcements

September 15th, 2014

by Karen Nichols

In the September 8, 2014 issue of Faculty Focus, Amy Erickson and Catz Neset offer in their article “Building Community and Creating Relevance in the Online Classroom,” several best practices for creating video announcements to post in Blackboard (or whatever Learning Management System you may be using).

In addition to your students having more exposure to you as a “real” person speaking to them, video announcements can also be a presentation of material or virtual tour of the week’s lesson, narrated by you.

Here is the authors’ formula for success:

  • Provide an introduction each week and share your availability
  • Give feedback and answer questions from the previous week
  • Showcase exceptional student work from the previous week
  • Highlight the objectives of the coming week and any special preparation or required resources
  • Connect your coursework to relevant current events
  • **I would add to this list:  Keep in mind that students may be using mobile devices to access Blackboard so you’ll want to create your video announcement to be easily viewed on a smartphone or ipad

Video announcements are not limited to strictly online courses. Posting a video announcement in a traditional face to face class can be a timesaver in that you can answer questions from last week and set up the coming week’s agenda before the students arrive in class.

Here’s a video announcement from Xavier’s own Mark Gstohl.  He introduces himself, gives his contact information and tells the students about an upcoming assignment.  He also adds a bit of humor which goes a long way to building a rapport with the students.

Please feel free to share a link to one of your video announcements!

Failure is an Option

September 12th, 2014

by Tiera S. Coston

Better Mistakes

For most of us, the words “mistake” and “failure” conjure up feelings of insecurity, humiliation and anxiety. And if the the words have such a negative effect, then think of how we feel when we actually make a mistake or fail at something. Further complicate the situation by imagining that the person who made the mistake or failed at something is a young college student who is already feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared. I propose a shift in the way we view mistakes and failure. We, as educators, must model to our students a mindset in which mistakes and failure are a natural part of mastering subject matter. We must teach them how to use their mistakes as valuable information that can illuminate their road to mastery. Mistakes are one of the most important things that can happen in the classroom because they have the power to direct students where to focus their efforts. Ultimately, academic success comes from how students feel about and use their mistakes. Helping your students to understand that failure is not only an option, but a necessity, is one of the most important things you will ever teach them. I certainly do not suggest that facilitating this shift in mindset in your classroom will be easy; it will require a great deal of work for both you and the students. However, consistent effort and a willingness to try (and fail at) different approaches will yield students who are in a better position to learn and succeed (master subject matter). Failure is an Option: Helping Your Students Make Their Mistakes Work for Them may help to give you a starting point if you would like to facilitate this type of paradigm shift in your classroom. Also, here is the form if you are interested in using the RAM Strategy.

Bb Tip #104: Word Count

September 11th, 2014

One feature missing from Blackboard is the ability to get a word count for discussion board threads, blogs, wikis, and journals. Currently, most professors get a word count by copying text from Blackboard, pasting it into Microsoft Word and then getting a word count inside MS Word. The “Word Count” Add-on for the Firefox web browser skips this whole process and gives you the ability to get a word count for discussion board threads, blogs, wikis, and journals while on the respective page in Blackboard.

image showing word count

Follow these steps to do it.

First download and install the Add-on:
Liberty University Word Count Add-on for Firefox
To get a word count in Blackboard:

When on the Blackboard page (i.e., discussion boards, blogs, wikis, or journals), you will see a button labeled ‘Word Count’ at the top and bottom of the page. Highlight the text you would like to count and click the Word Count button. A count of the number of highlighted words will be displayed in the box next to the Word Count button.

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.

Bb Tip #103: Inline Grading for Assignments

September 9th, 2014

Inline Assignment Grading enhances the grading experience for instructors. You can view, comment, and grade student-submitted assignment files without leaving the Grade Assignment page.

image showing assignment grading

When you view a document submitted in an assignment, that document is converted to a format that is viewable inside the web browser. The converted document is displayed in a viewer on the Grade Assignment page. Formatting and embedded images of the original document are preserved in the conversion. Annotation tools enable instructors to provide feedback — comments, highlights, and even drawing — directly on the inline view of the document. Inline grading allows for full screen editing, and brings the sidebar to all gradable items like blogs, wikis, discussions and journals.

Note: Supported document types that can be used with inline grading are Word (doc, docx), PowerPoint (ppt, pptx), Excel (xls, xlsx), and PDF (pdf).

Want more information?

Using Inline Grading for Assignments
Using Inline Grading for Assignments Video [00:05:35]
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.

Bb Tip #102: Content Editor

September 9th, 2014

The newly designed Content Editor vastly improves your experience for adding text and other forms of digital content to your course.

The Content Editor provides instructors and students with content processing tools that help users create text, tables, hyperlinks, embedded multimedia, and file attachments. The Content Editor can be accessed throughout Blackboard to create lesson content, announcements, discussion posts, assignments, test items, and more!

The new Content Editor improves your ability to enter text, paste from Microsoft Word and add content to all areas of your courses and organizations. Gone are the prior formatting problems of cutting and pasting text from Word. The Content Editor retains the formatting of the pasted text.

Video Everywhere is a new feature in the Content Editor that allows instructors and students to record short YouTube videos on the fly using a webcam and seamlessly embed the video into course materials, interactions, and feedback.

Want more information?
Using the Content Editor
Using Video Everywhere
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.

The Common Read, Service Learning, and Social Justice: Forging Connections

August 29th, 2014

There’s a harrowing scene in chapter 1 of this year’s common read, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, in which young, shaloq-weilding Taliban “enforcers” beat a woman in the street for appearing in public without a proper chadri, the full-length garment that covers the head and face. This and other descriptions of the Taliban in the early parts of the book bring to mind images of an oppressive totalitarian regime more similar to 1984 or Farenheit 451 than to the free society in which most of our freshmen have grown up. That is, these images should remind students of the vast gulf between life in the U.S. and that in a strange, far-away place halfway around the globe. Unfortunately, these images instead bring to mind other images that happen to be saturating the news at the start of the semester: those of heavily armed and armored police confronting protestors in Ferguson, Missouri. Timing here proves to be everything, as a poll of my Freshman Seminar students on what they feel are our most pressing social problems reveals police brutality, racial profiling, and racial bias in our law enforcement and criminal justice systems at the top of the list. And with numbers like 1 in 12 black males age 18-64 spending time in prison, compared to 1 in 87 whites, blacks overall incarcerated at a rate of 6 times that of whites, and blacks comprising 40% of the total prison population, while making up 12% of the U.S. population, it’s easy to see why our students are concerned.

In order to work toward social justice, we must first identify where social injustice exists. And with disparities based on race, gender, class, ethnicity existing across the spectrum of our social systems, from education to health care to employment to criminal justice, identifying injustice is as easy now as at any point in our history, and, unfortunately, as easy as idetifying it under systems like the Taliban. But while these gaps are easy to see, to those who simply wish to open their eyes, they also remain equally difficult to address, to reconcile, to alleviate, to end. For every pious organization out on the streets fighting to alleviate suffering, to mend communities, to help people, there are powerful historical realities, political forces, and financial interests at work to keep the status quo in place, to keep reality fixed and unchangeable.

A discussion of life under the Taliban is a perfectly suitable way to begin a dialogue with students about the society in which we are preparing them to inhabit roles of leadership, our own society. And as we move toward our service learning projects in the sping, it’s worth remebering the underlying imbalances at the heart of any attempt to help improve our community. Ultimately, if our service is effective, then we will have eliminated the very need for our services. Those being “served” will inhabit their rightful place as equals in our society, wanting for nothing that others have only because of the conditions of their birth. This type of transformation, both of our society and within the mindset our students, can never come solely from doing, but through thinking as well. Hence, the learning in service learning. Learning comes through teaching, and fortunately for them, that is what we are here to do.

J. Tuman