Bb Tip #137: Turnitin – Voice Comments

May 27th, 2015

The ability for an instructor to leave a personal voice comment is a powerful tool for providing feedback to students.

image showing Turnitin voice comments

Turnitin GradeMark has a feature that lets instructors add a voice comment to a student’s paper. With just a few clicks, instructors can quickly record a detailed message of up to 3 minutes in length and attach it to the student’s paper. Instructors can use the orally recorded feedback as a supplement to written comments.

Want more information?

Step-by-step instructions for voice comments are available [Video]
How to use Turnitin GradeMark (PDF) (Interactive Tutorial)
Explore Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center.
Check out help for instructors at
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 #136: Merging Courses

May 25th, 2015

Blackboard has a Section Merge Tool that allows faculty to combine two or more courses into a single course. Faculty do not have to make a request to the Information Technology Center to merge their courses.

image showing why merge sign

Using the Section Merge Tool to combine courses can be useful when you are teaching multiple sections of the same course or when you are teaching a course that is cross-listed. Merging courses allows you to have all the students in a single Blackboard course which can be useful for collaborative work. Merging courses reduces the number of courses an instructor has to manage within Blackboard, especially when each section has identical content.

Once you’ve merged courses you can upload your course content and assignments into the merged course; communicate with the students in the merged course; setup collaborative course work; and have one gradebook for the merged course. You can create groups within your merged course that correspond to the original course sections. This way you can target a particular course section (group) of students for specific things (e.g. send email to a specific group, make content available to specific group, enter/view gradebook entries for a specific group, etc.)

NOTE: Merging of courses is typically done at the start of the semester before content is added and before students submit course work. You should wait to merge courses if there is a possibility that there will be last minute changes to instructor course section assignments. You can request a Master Course Shell to build your course and then transfer the content into your merged course.

You should carefully consider whether merging courses is right for you. Some disadvantages to merging courses are:

  • Course enrollments for the merged courses will be combined which can make grading student work a challenge. You can use Smart Views to make grading easier.
  • If you decide you want to unmerge courses after students have submitted course work, student work and grades will be lost. Only student enrollments are retained when you unmerge courses.

Follow these steps to do it.

In order to merge courses you must be listed as the instructor for each of the courses.

  1. Login to Blackboard and click on the [Section Merge] tab.
  2. Click on [Click Here to Create and Manage Merged Courses] on the Section Merge Tool page.
  3. Click on [Setup New Merged Course] on the Manage Merged Courses page.
  4. Carefully select ALL courses you want to be merged (combined) from the list and click [Submit].
  5. On the Select Existing Course page, select the course you want to be the merged (combined) course (i.e. the course where you want all enrolled students to be and where you want to upload course contents). Click [Submit].
  6. You should see a green confirmation bar indicating the merge was successful. Only the merged course name will appear in the list of courses for both the instructor and enrolled students. 

Want more information?

Step-by-step instructions are available [PDF].
Explore Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center.
Check out help for instructors at
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.

Google Cultural Institute

May 22nd, 2015

by Karen Nichols

In a past blog, Enhance your (online) classes with virtual tours, I provided an overview of ways to take your students on virtual tours along with some sample sites.  Well, in order to help you find just what you’re looking for, Google offers the Cultural Institute and the site has already been curated for you–Art Projects, Historic Moments, World Wonders.  You can also search for works by artist, artwork, collections and gallery.  Or just do a general search on a topic to see what you can find!  At present, the home page is chock full of Asian art exhibits of various media and from a variety of countries and regions.  A personal favorite from China is on Traditional Dress from the North.  But there is also an exhibit from Ford’s Theater in D.C. and one on The History of the Italian Resistance in WWII.

But what is particularly useful, is that you can create your own gallery and then send your students to it.  You can tailor which parts of various museums they see as well as annotate the pieces.  For example, the user Obraza has put together a collection of Greek sculpture from several different museums and provided information on each work.  This collection has been made public for others to use as well.  So, when searching for certain topics, you’ll find not only collections from the museums themselves, but from individuals as well.

In order to assist galleries, museums and archives to put their content online, Google also has created Google Open Gallery.  Here is a video showing how a comic strip gallery in Belgium used the tool:

I find this resource quite exciting and am already searching for exhibits for my French students this summer.  Please share with us ways you are using Google Cultural Institute.

Office Hours Alternative

May 20th, 2015

by Janice Florent

image of people meeting in an alternative space

Faculty often report that most students do not take advantage of office hours. Usually the students who do take advantage of office hours are not the ones who need the most help. Consequently some faculty have come up with alternative offices hours to encourage students to seek help.

In a recent faculty focus article, Dr. Maryellen Weimer wrote about two professors who reformatted their office hours into something they called “course centers.” The course centers are 1-2 hour blocks of time faculty spend in an unoccupied classroom. Students can come and go as they please and work on whatever they want during that time. If students want help, they can ask for assistance. Otherwise the faculty member just floats around the room.

The faculty wanted to create an environment in the course centers in which students felt like they were just spending time studying, rather than explicitly getting help; where students felt welcome getting together with other students for a study session; and where they felt no pressure to have a set of questions ready to ask the instructor.

It is important to note that the “course centers” did not replace traditional office hours, they supplemented them.

Additionally, Dr. Weimer compiled the following suggestions from the comments made in response to her “Why Students Don’t Attend Office Hours” article:

Schedule office hours when they’re convenient – for both the faculty member and the students.
Require a visit, preferably early in the course – one reader shared that she invites each student with a personal note (staggering the notes so she’s not overwhelmed). Those who don’t show for a meeting get a “missed you” note. Students make the choice albeit under conditions that make it harder to not show up.
Reward those who come with points – make the visit worth something; those who use this approach recommend just a small amount of points.
Meet someplace other than the office – suggestions included “student spaces” like the student center or the campus cafeteria.

For more information read Dr. Weimer’s “Office Hours Alternative Resonates with Students” and “Office Hours Redux” articles.

How to Fight Plagiarism in Your Classes

May 18th, 2015

by Janice Florent

plagiarism word cloud image

With the introduction of the internet, copying someone else’s work is a lot easier. How widespread is the problem? A 2011-2012 report published by iParadigms (makers of Turnitin) reported the top ten sites for matched content were social networking & content sharing, paper mills & cheat sites, homework & academic, and Wikipedia.

A Turnitin report of matched sources from the 2014-2015 academic year here at XU shows that of the 2,800 submitted papers, 22% had a match percent of 25% or above.

Though the internet is often a big source for plagiarism, it also offers solutions such as Turnitin and SafeAssign. Neither of which is foolproof.

In a recent edudemic article, Leigh Ann Whittle wrote,

Plagiarism is an ongoing problem in education, but we don’t have to accept it as part of classroom life. Educating ourselves and our students on the perils of plagiarism and carefully designing our assignments can alleviate some issues associated with this ever growing problem.

Leigh Ann goes on to offer the following suggestions to fight plagiarism:

How to detect plagiarism

  1. Detect unusual writing behavior
  2. Do snippet Google searches
  3. Use a plagiarism detection service (like Turnitin and SafeAssign)

How to stop plagiarism

  1. Make assignments that live in the moment
  2. Get creative with assignments
  3. Establish staggered project deadlines
  4. Emphasize the importance of citations

How to prevent plagiarism

  1. Open up a dialogue
  2. Be clear about expectations
  3. Have students examine their own work
  4. Offer support

You can read more in Leigh Ann’s article “How to Fight Plagiarism in Your Classroom.”

We have Turnitin (plagiarism detection tool) here at Xavier. If you are interested in using Turnitin in your classes, consider attending these upcoming workshops.

Blackboard: Using Turnitin (Plagiarism Detection Tool)
Monday, May 25, 10:00 – 11:15 am
Blackboard: Using Turnitin for Peer Review
Monday, May 25, 1:30-3:00 pm

Click on the links for more information about the workshops (including where to RSVP).

Online Group Work

May 13th, 2015

by Janice Florent

image showing unhappy team member

Most students have mixed feelings about group work and usually moan and groan when they find out they are required to work on a group assignment. This is also true for students taking online classes. Group work is more challenging for online students because they may have to work with peers in different time zones, use different technologies for online collaboration, and communicate in ways that can make it difficult to understand someone’s personality or tone.

Many students cite lack of cooperation, work equity and dependency on others as major factors in disliking group work. Ironically, this is precisely why group work is essential for learning.

Online Group Projects — Yikes! You can hear the moans and groans of students echoing through your computer monitors as you start the first week of your online course. The reasons for requiring a group project vary from one discipline to another, but there are educational and career motives for requiring group projects.

Steven Johnson’s “Where good ideas come from” video gives an excellent explanation as to why group work is important.

Successful online group collaborative assignments can be a challenge in an online course. In a recent Faculty Focus article, Gregory Wells, instructional designer at Colorado State University, provided a few suggestions for improving online group work assignments. Those suggestions are:

Define the Project – the project should be integrated into the course objectives and not be viewed as an extra assignment or busy work.
Establish Milestones – the project should include specific milestones during the course.
Use the Learning Management System (Blackboard) – offer private group discussion areas, chat areas, and other collaboration tools that will encourage both communication and participation.
Simplify and Clarify Grading – it is imperative that you establish clear grading expectations for the group project.
Provide Encouragement – it is important to encourage and communicate the specific details of the project. Instructors can not assume students have the knowledge, competencies and skills necessary to engage in group work. They must prepare students for the obstacles they may face.

Following Gregory’s suggestions will not eliminate all of the potential issues that come into play with online group work, but these suggestions will certainly minimize the issues and can turn those moans and groans into excited and energized students that understand the importance of group work.

For more information on Gregory’s suggestions, read his article, “Five Steps to Improving Online Group Work Assignments.”

teamwork word cloud

Additionally, you may find helpful information in these online group work resources:

Tips to Caffeinate Your Presentations

May 12th, 2015

by Janice Florent

image showing we can do it poster by J Howard Miller

In his book “Brain Rules”, John Medina, cognitive psychologist and University of Washington professor, suggests the time limit of an audience before zoning out is about ten minutes. Given this short attention span, what can you do to keep an audience engaged?

To address this problem, some educators are beginning to take this timing to heart, stopping to give students the opportunity to think-pair-share, answer questions, discuss what they just learned or project what’s coming next.

In a recent article, Dr. Lynell Burmark, winner of Stanford University’s prestigious Walter Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching, lists three tips to enhance presentations. One tip is the use of pictures, like the well-known poster above, as a way to ask questions. For example, toward the end of a class period, project the image and then assign as homework to find out everything students can about it, including who the woman was and what she represents in the image.

Another tip is to compare and contrast. Display (and annotate) images side-by-side while small groups of students discuss those similarities and differences.

Lastly, Dr. Burmark suggests you take video breaks. These breaks can be used to show illustrative videos.

For more information, read Dr. Burmark’s article, “3 Tips to Caffeinate Teacher and Student Presentations.”

Conversation #30: Ecology

May 11th, 2015

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Download Conversation #30

John Clark

A conversation with John Clark on teaching, learning and ecology.

What is it that could possibly change people to the point that they would not only vaguely care, but make central to their lives, for instance, the survival of southeast Louisiana, or the survival of the human species, or the protection of the thousands and tens of thousands of species that are going extinct every year? What could create this change? And most of what we call education can’t do it and doesn’t do it.

John Clark is a native of the Island of New Orleans, where his family has lived for twelve generations, and where he and all of his children and grandchildren continue to reside. He works with Common Knowledge: The New Orleans Cooperative Education Exchange and the Institute for the Radical Imagination. He was formerly Gregory F. Curtin Distinguished Professor of Humane Letters and the Professions, Professor of Philosophy, and a member of the Environment Program faculty at Loyola University. He continues to teach in the Loyola Summer Program in Dharamsala, India. His books include Max Stirner’s Egoism, The Philosophical Anarchism of William Godwin, The Anarchist Moment, Anarchy, Geography, Modernity, The Impossible Community: Realizing Communitarian Anarchism, and The Tragedy of Common Sense (forthcoming). He edited Renewing the Earth: The Promise of Social Ecology and Elisée Reclus’ Voyage to New Orleans, and co-edited Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology and Les Français des Etats-Unis. Works under his pseudonym, Max Cafard, include The Surregionalist Manifesto and Other Writings, FLOOD BOOK, Surregional Explorations, and Lightning Storm Mind (forthcoming).  He is at work on a second volume of The Anarchist Moment, Between Earth and Empire, a comprehensive reformulation of the philosophy of social ecology, The Nuclear Thing, an analysis of the radioactive object of the social imagination, The Trail of the Screaming Forehead, a critique of egoism and nihilism, and Bitter Heritage, a historico-philosophical reflection on culture and crisis in nineteenth-century New Orleans, based in part on his translation of four hundred pages of family correspondence from the mid-nineteenth century. He writes a column, “Imagined Ecologies,” for the journal Capitalism Nature Socialism, and edits the cyberjournal Psychic Swamp: The Surregional Review. His interests include dialectical thought, ecological philosophy, environmental ethics, anarchist and libertarian thought, the social imaginary, cultural critique, Buddhist and Daoist philosophy, and the crisis of the Earth. He has long been active in the radical ecology and communitarian anarchist movements. He works on ecological restoration and eco-communitarianism, which he is striving to put into practice on an 87-acre land project on Bayou LaTerre, in the forest of coastal Mississippi. He is a member of the Education Workers’ Union of the Industrial Workers of the World.

Links for this episode:

Synchronous vs Asynchronous eLearning

May 6th, 2015

by Janice Florent

infographic showing difference between synchronous and asynchronous classes

One decision to be made when developing an online course is the method of delivery. The method of delivery can be synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous learning takes place in a real-time environment, while asynchronous learning takes place at the convenience of the learner.

In a recent Architela blog post, the author wrote,

It seems like a logical progression to turn traditional classroom learning into online learning by simply replicating the experience through the use of an online classroom. However reliance on synchronous delivery has advantages but also many limitations and disadvantages.

The author went on to list advantages and disadvantages of both synchronous and asynchronous course delivery and concluded with,

Choosing which mode of delivery to use should be based on the most efficacious activities for promoting learning, which in turn depend on the learning goals and objectives.

Ideally, online courses should include both synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. This allows students to benefit from the different delivery formats regardless of their schedules or preferred learning methods. This approach provides students with access to immediate help if needed, while still giving them the ability to learn at their own pace.

You can read more in the Synchronous versus Asynchronous Learning blog post at

Additionally, if you are interested in offering virtual classes and/or virtual office hours, consider attending these upcoming Blackboard Collaborate workshops:

Blackboard Collaborate: Web Conferencing Basics
Tuesday, May 26, 1:00 – 2:30 pm
Blackboard Collaborate: Beyond the Basics
Friday, May 29, 10:00 – 11:30 am

Click on the links for more information about the workshops (including where to RSVP).

Questions from First-Time Online Instructors

May 4th, 2015

by Janice Florent

word cloud shaped like question mark

Dr. Robin M. Smith, Director of eLearning at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, is typically asked the same questions each time a new instructor begins teaching online. Some of the questions first-time online instructors ask Dr. Smith are:

  • How do I know it’s the learner doing the work?
  • How do I know it’s the learner taking the test?
  • How do I know they aren’t looking at their books during the test?
  • How do I balance effort and points?
  • How do I see the lightbulb turning on or the blank stare?
  • How can I teach online and still have a balanced life?

Dr. Smith’s book, “Conquering the Content: A Blueprint for Online Course Design and Development, Second Edition” is a practical guide to creating online courses. In it she answers these questions.

The publisher’s description of the book states,

Time is of the essence in getting a course online, but it’s important that pedagogy not get lost in the crush of new content. Course design is just as critical as course content when it comes to distance learning outcomes, and Conquering the Content provides a holistic and practical approach to effective online course development.

If you are new to teaching online you may find this book a great resource to help you with your online course. Even if you have taught online before you may find some useful information in this book.

We have this book in our CAT library. Contact Mrs. Olivia Crum, if you are interested in borrowing this book or any other book in the CAT library.

If my blog post has piqued your interest and you want to know how Dr. Smith answers these questions, read an excerpt from Conquering the Content to find out.