Expanding Our Scope

July 30th, 2015

by Bart Everson

Spirostar I

Xavier faculty certainly do a lot to advance the University’s mission.

That’s why here at CAT we are excited to be expanding the scope of our support for Xavier’s faculty. Our newly revised mission is focused on “the development of faculty across all career stages and areas of professional responsibility.”

Read our complete statement of Mission, Vision & Values.

Photo credit: “Spirostar I” by Heartlover1717

Podcast Back in the iTunes Store

July 27th, 2015

Somewhere along the way, our podcast fell off the listing of podcasts in the iTunes store. But we’re back!

Accessibility in Education

July 27th, 2015

by Janice Florent

image of ADA 25th Anniversary logo

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law was enacted to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

It is extremely important for students with disabilities to have access to accessible course content. Statistics show that 12.9% of students have a disability. One in twenty-five incoming freshmen have some form of cognitive disability. These students have neurological challenges processing information. *

Forty to sixty percent of undergrads and nine percent of graduate students choose not to report their disability and will just struggle through their courses.*

Chances are you will have a student enrolled in one of your courses that has a disability and has chosen not to disclose that information to you.

The Blackboard Learning Management System (LMS) was designed with accessibility in mind. While Blackboard is accessible to persons with disabilities, uploaded content may not be.

Accessibility image

Instructors should make a conscious effort to make sure content is accessible. Even though you may not have a student with a disability currently enrolled in your course, there are a few things you can do when creating content that will save you time later when you do have a student with a disability. This is not wasted time as you will find some students without disabilities will take advantage of accessible content as well. Additionally, if you usually copy content from one course to another you will be one step ahead because your copied course content will already be accessible.

Also for cognitive disabilities it’s important to build flexibility into your courses. This is done by using many modes of information and creating a clutter-free learning environment.

In an upcoming series of blog posts I will provide information on things you can routinely do when you create content and setup your courses to make it accessible.

*Source: https://help.blackboard.com/en-us/Accessibility/Accessibility_in_Education

The Ultimate Guide to Discussion Boards!

July 23rd, 2015

by Karen Nichols
I know that a few of us in CAT have already posted suggestions and hints for success in using discussion boards. But I just have to share this guide with you from the Teaching Effectiveness Program produced by the Center on Teaching and Learning at the University of Oregon. Licensed to share through Creative Commons Generating and Facilitating Engaging and Effective Online Discussions (choose the discussionboard.pdf) is an 11 page how-to document that is chock-full of information, resources, research and examples. It is the best attempt I’ve seen yet that successfully pulls together the myriad pieces of what makes discussion boards work. A bit overwhelmed when I saw “11 pages,” I soon discovered that it’s actually an easy read. I would love some feedback from you to see if you find this resource as wonderful as I do.

 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike3.0Unported License.

Mix It Up: Strategies for Blended Learning

July 15th, 2015

by Janice Florent

image of a blender with technology tools in it

Blended courses (also known as hybrid courses) are courses where a portion of the traditional face-to-face instruction is replaced by web-based online learning. For blended learning to work well it entails more than simply replacing class time with online course elements.

In a Faculty Focus article, Rob Kelly writes,

When the online and face-to-face components complement each other as integrated activities in each setting, there is a clear purpose and students understand the relevance of both modes.

In the article, Rob goes on to give the following recommendations for how to successfully integrate the online and face-to-face modes of a blended course:

  • Start with the learning goals. Is there something that’s going to support the learning outcome particularly well face-to-face or online or by using some combination of the two?
  • Make careful modality decisions. Select the right mix of modalities (online vs face-to-face). Consider the affordances of each modality and the workload/logistics.
  • Be deliberate in providing opportunities for interaction. Just because a communication tool or technique is available does not mean that you have to use it.
  • Reinforce one modality in the other. Be explicit in making the connections between the two modalities by acknowledging and extending the interaction in each.
image of blended learning - a disruptive innovation

Creating a blended learning course may not be appropriate for all courses or all instructors. The biggest benefit to a well-designed blended course could be a much improved teaching and learning experience.

You can read more about blended learning strategies in “Blended Learning: Integrating Online and Face-to-Face Courses” and “Strategies for Teaching Blended Learning Courses, Maybe You (and Your Students) Can Have It All” articles.

Two Ideas to Foster Student Collaboration and Engagement

July 9th, 2015

by Karen Nichols

Sue Frantz just posted two items in her Technology for Academics blog that you may find useful in a variety of settings The first post offers up a great way to foster student collaboration no matter what modality you’re using to deliver your course. Dropbox has a new feature that allows others to deposit files into your Dropbox account via a URL. Sue Franz does a great job explaining the how-to part in the blog, so let’s think of ways we can use this feature called File Requests. If you give your students a group project and they are each responsible for a part of the project, they can then deposit their contribution into the Dropbox of their other group members. Once complete, the group can in turn deposit their final project into your designated Dropbox. I can also see applications for this feature when collaborating with colleagues at a distance.



Sue Frantz’ second post centers on engagement. In this instance, ParticiPoll works in a face-to-face setting when you want to use polls and embed the polls in your Power Point presentations. How cool is that? Again, the Technology for Academics blog post explains the how-to. In addition to using it in class, wouldn’t this be a useful feature to add engagement in a conference presentation? I’ve just attended two conferences back to back plus a virtual one this week and the polling attempts were not 100% successful. I want to experiment with this polling app myself for an upcoming conference, but also to see if we can adapt it to be used virtually or at least via Blackboard Collaborate.



So if you find you have a little free time on your hands this summer, I recommend checking out Dropbox File Request and Participoll. Let us know if you do and what you think of these two tools.

Bb Tip #138: Videos Redux

June 30th, 2015

Video is one of the most powerful, motivating, and visual ways to learn. You can use videos to promote critical thinking and active learning.

There’s a big difference between watching a video and learning something from it.

Emily A. Moore, M.Ed., instructional designer in the online learning office at Texas State Technical College – Harlingen Campus, gives suggestions to help increase the educational effectiveness of an online course video. Read more in her article, “From Passive Viewing to Online Learning: Simple Techniques for Applying Active Learning Strategies to Online Course Videos.”

Video can easily and effectively be incorporated inside your Blackboard courses to provide just-in-time feedback and/or to build in spontaneous interaction.

You can ask students to create videos to demonstrate learning. If you are interested how to use videos to demonstrate learning, read my “Video Assignments” blog post. This blog post also covers how students should go about linking to their videos in Blackboard.

image of PowerPoint slide with video a assignment

There are several ways to add videos to your Blackboard courses. Blackboard supports embedding and/or linking to video from many other systems and solutions. Sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, or other video repositories can be embedded easily by switching to html mode in the Content Editor and then pasting in the embed code.

image showing Embed Video using HTML code

The benefit of embedding video into a course is that it enables the students to stay within the context of the course and within the sequence of instruction, rather than linking out away from course content.

Another way to add video to your course is to upload the video file (i.e., MPEG/AVI, QuickTime, Flash/Shockwave, Microsoft .asf and .wmv formats).

Video files are generally large files. Each Blackboard course has a 1.25 GB maximum course size limit. Your course size is total of your uploaded video files sizes along with the size of all other course content, including content uploaded into your course by your students.

It is a good idea to embed or link to videos rather than uploading video files to your course to help you to stay within the maximum course size limit. You can upload your videos to YouTube, Vimeo, or other media server and then embed or link to the video within the course as explained above. Detailed instructions on recording, uploading, and sharing videos on YouTube can be found in the “Want more information?” section below.

image showing Build Content

When adding video files, it is a good idea to include links to any browser plug-ins or media player files that users will need to view the videos.

Note: Video Everywhere, which previously allowed you to upload YouTube videos directly into the Content Editor, is temporarily unavailable due to a change in the Google authentication process. Blackboard is working on a fix for this. We don’t have any word on when this feature will be available again.

Want more information?

Simple Techniques for Applying Active Learning Strategies to Videos
Best Practices for Posting Video Announcements
Creating Mashups
Embed Videos into Your Course
How to Create Audio, Image, and Video Links
Video Assignments
Record, Upload, and Share Video on YouTube
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.

Vertical Videos

June 26th, 2015

by Karen Nichols

We have been touting the importance of the presence of the instructor in an online class by using videos, audio files, photos, discussions, etc.  The students should feel the teacher’s presence throughout the course.  Many instructors are including videos and while at the Institute for New Faculty Developers last week, one of the presenters shared that they encourage their instructors to post a weekly video of themselves explaining the upcoming week’s activities and assignments.  They use their smartphones with the YouTube app to record the video and upload it, then they link to it inside Blackboard.  What a good idea!  But can you hold your phone vertically to record this video?  Well, there are two sides to this argument as I have discovered in my research.  Vertical video syndrome is defined by the Urban Dictionary as “an affliction of those that record video using an upright mobile phone – as if taking a portrait photograph. My left eye is not in the centre of my forehead, my right eye is not on the tip of my nose. ” When these vertical videos are posted on such sites as YouTube, they are skewed and appear unattractive.  There are even mock PSAs posted against the dreaded vertical video.

But here’s an article from the Washington Post which details apps to help users either avoid vertical videos or make the most use of them with Snapchat or Mindie:

Vertical videos, long scorned, find a niche on smartphones

A recent article published on Litmos, Effective Use of Vertical Video for Training, offers an even more positive view of the vertical video.  Brent Schlenker believes we’ll be seeing more and more of vertical videos in the field of mlearning (mobile learning) and sooner rather than later since mobile devices are becoming so prevalently used in distance education.  Here’s a discussion from April 2015’s International Journalism Festival on vertical vs. horizontal video:

Improve Online Discussions Using ABCs

June 23rd, 2015

by Janice Florent

image of online discussion

In a recent eLearning Industry blog post, Dr. James W. Brown suggests using ABCs of high quality online discussions as a starting point for feedback that impacts student performance.

Acknowledge the student’s input. A quick response by the instructor helps to begin the interaction with the students and keeps them motivated.

Build on students’ ideas by adding content, perspectives, experience, reference to the readings, etc.

Conclude with a focused follow-up question as a way to tie off the conversation with all students. Try using a provocative question that facilitates critical thinking that goes beyond the facts.

It is critically important to encourage conditions and behaviors for successful learning in discussion forums.

Dr. Brown offers these additional suggestions for improving asynchronous discussions in your online course:

  1. Build community in your online course from the start.
  2. Actively contact students who don’t show up online.
  3. Go after the lurkers and engage them.
  4. Pick a hot topic.
  5. Use a light hand and encourage other students to take the lead.
  6. Plan for the unplanned.
  7. Timing is critical.
  8. Quality counts.
  9. Employ a “final thoughts” posting to conclude the discussion.

For more information you can read Dr. Brown’s “The ABCs of High Quality Online Discussions” article.

Digital Storytelling for Teaching and Learning

June 22nd, 2015

by Bart Everson

Many teachers know about the power of storytelling in the college classroom. You might start class with a personal story, which helps you connect with your students, or helps your students connect with the course content. You might even get your students telling stories to one another.

Less well known, perhaps, is the power of digital storytelling — of using digital technology to tell stories. This takes a little more doing, but with today’s tools it’s not as hard as it might seem. Write a script, record your voice, throw in some photos and background music — voilà!

As an an example, I’d like to point you to The Joy of Summer by Lisa Garza.

For teachers, this can be a new avenue for delivering your own stories to your students. It can also be an exciting assignment for your students; properly integrated into the course as a whole and combined with reflection, it can lead to a truly transformative experience.

Of course, there are some great resources to help you get started. The Center for Digital Storytelling is the premier organization that has championed this new form. You’ll also want to check out Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling from the University of Houston.

If you’d like CAT to offer a workshop on this topic, leave a comment.