My 1 Year Anniversary!

July 31st, 2014

by Karen Nichols

Greetings! I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for this incredible first year in CAT as Xavier’s Distance Education Coordinator. I have learned so much and feel so privileged to be part of such an extraordinary team. CAT has an exciting calendar of events and workshops for the upcoming academic year and I’m looking forward to presenting a few as well as participating in them.

It would be easy to look back at this past year or to look around at the current state of distance education at Xavier, but I prefer to use the opportunity to look beyond our campus instead. My professional reading has led me to a positive report on the state of distance education in Africa.

The eLearning Africa Report 2014 contains several interesting articles, from a retrospective of Nelson Mandela’s contributions in the field of education to a focus on distance education in three arenas–agriculture, health and tourism. 55 countries in Africa are included in the various data analyses. I highly recommend the editorial at the beginning in order to give you an idea of the scope and fairly optimistic tone of the report.

With the beginning of the fall semester right around the corner, I’m busily making preparations for our faculty and students but I’m glad that I took the time to learn about our distance education colleagues in Africa and the hope and vision they have for the future and their students. I believe I’ll celebrate my future anniversaries by “looking outward” as well.

Using technology for teaching … or not

July 17th, 2014

by Karen Nichols

Faculty Focus just released the results of a poll of instructors which included asking them if they used technology in their classes this past year. 75% said they did. While discussing this percentage yesterday in a meeting, our Director was thinking that number was rather low. I mean, everyone uses technology these days, right?

Well, actually, there are some professors who don’t wish to have technology invade and take over their face to face classes where they are bonding with their students. They prefer for their classroom discussions to be organic without the clutter of gadgets and digital distractions. I can’t fault them for that.

In my own discipline of world languages, technology has greatly enhanced our ability to provide students with authentic experiences. We can take virtual tours of museums, skype with a partner class on another continent and perfect our skills using recordings and videos. But I can also remember experiencing a class on learning Bantu via the Peace Corps method of the 1960’s. Just a few students and instructor and only the target language and gestures. It was intense but 25 years later, I still remember a few words and that experience helps me to empathize with how our students may feel when they approach second language learning.

So technology or no technology? That’s a decision best left up to the instructor and the material. I do believe one should keep abreast of what’s available in order to make an informed decision that will ultimately provide the best experience for the students.

More information on Dartmouth and the Peace Corps

3 Megatrends Influencing Distance Education

July 6th, 2014

by Karen Nichols

One interesting session I attended at this year’s Distance Learning Administration conference was a presentation by Dr. Connie Reimers-Hild called Future-Focused Leadership: Three Mega-Trends Influencing Distance Learning. To paraphrase her three trends, Dr. Reimers-Hild discusses the rise of the “Gig Economy”, the fact that more people are choosing to live with purpose and the global marketplace becoming de-centralized.

I was not familiar with the “Gig Economy” but having learned more, I can see numerous examples here in New Orleans. In fact, there’s a group of gypsy adjuncts in the city who have created a social network to promote their skills, inform each one of potential employment and support each other during these difficult economic times. How this phenomenon affects distance learning is far-reaching in that we must offer support in the way of courses, advisement and training programs to assist this burgeoning sector of the workforce.

We must also prepare our students for a de-centralized global marketplace. In addition to offering appropriate courses, all of the course offerings can be designed to promote higher order critical thinking skills and include projects in which students use and develop tools they will need to be able to survive and thrive in this environment. Distance learning providers must also consider these economic conditions in their strategic planning.

Finally, I found it interesting that “living with purpose” is a mega trend. CAT has worked a great deal with contemplative pedagogy. For distance learning, I have been researching ways to include contemplative aspects in online courses. For me personally, living with purpose and meaning is a necessity. In fact, I have posted in my office a quote I found from Dr. Vicki Zakrzewski, director of the Greater Good Science Center:

“Helping students find a path to purpose is one of the noblest aspects of teaching.” This is my mantra whether I’m teaching a face to face class or online.

Geocaching: A Real Life Scavenger Hunt!

June 19th, 2014

by Karen Nichols

I’ve just returned from a Distance Learning Administration conference on Jekyll Island in Georgia. It’s a small island that is part of the Golden Isles group and very green, ecofriendly and easily navigable on foot or bike. I discovered there were over a hundred “geocaches” just on that small island and many of them were environment, nature and/or ecology-themed. Until recently, I didn’t know about geocaching even though it’s been in existence since 2000.

What is Geocaching?  Geocaching uses GPS-enabled devices to play an outdoor treasure hunting game.  It’s international in scope and easy to play.  Basic membership is free.  Here’s a quick introductory video:

Jekyll Island is a sea turtle sanctuary and is home to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center where the turtles are given medical treatment and the center offers educational exhibits and programming. A few of the geocaches had the sea turtle as the theme.

What a great way to get children excited about discovery and learning! In our Xavier zip code, 70125, there are over 900 geocaches so you can begin exploring today.

This Just In: Reflection Is Good for Learning

June 12th, 2014

the class

Who’d've thought? Teachers have long known that reflection can help students, but now there’s scientific evidence to back that up.

Learning is more effective if a lesson or experience is deliberately coupled with time spent thinking about what was just presented, a new study shows. In “Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance,” a team of researchers from HEC Paris, Harvard Business School, and the University of North Carolina describe what they call the first empirical test of the effect of reflection on learning. By “reflection,” they mean taking time after a lesson to synthesize, abstract, or articulate the important points.

Read the whole article from The Atlantic: You Really Can ‘Work Smarter, Not Harder’. Or, if you prefer your science “straight up” head over to the Social Science Research Network for the paper: Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance.

If you’re in a hurry, here’s the ultimate takehome point for teachers: build a little time for reflection into your lesson plans. If you’re already doing this, consider yourself vindicated.

Photo: the class by hitzi1000

Bb Tip #98: Test Results and Feedback

June 10th, 2014

A recent update to our Blackboard Assessments Building Block changed the functionality of the Show Test Results and Feedback to Students option. The “Score” option has been replaced with the “Score per Question” option. Choosing the “Score per Question” option will show each test question along with the points earned for the question.

Test Results and Feedback Screenshot

If you only want the students to see their overall test score after they submit their tests, then you must make sure the “Score per Question” box is unchecked. Otherwise students will be able to see all their test questions immediately after they submit the test.

Want more information?

Bb Learn 9.1 Test/Survey Enhancements Video [2:07]
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 #97: “Force Completion” Clarified

June 2nd, 2014

“Force Completion” is a setting available when selecting test availability options in Blackboard. The idea behind the “Force Completion” setting is to allow for a one-time entry into a test. However, using the “Force Completion” setting may have some unintended consequences. For example, if the student accidentally closes the browser, or loses the connection to the test, the student cannot continue with the exam unless the instructor intervenes and resets the exam (i.e., clears the attempt). For this reason, using the “Force Completion” setting is not recommended. Instead, use the timer AND enable the Auto-Submit test option.

Test Availability Screenshot

Using the timer/auto-submit options allows students to re-enter the exam and continue where they left off as long as there is time remaining. The timer will continue to record the time from when the student initially entered the exam. If there is no more time left the student will not be able to re-enter the exam. Likewise, if the student is able to re-enter the exam he/she will only have the remaining time to complete the exam.

The timer/auto-submit options accomplish the same goal as Force Completion, without students having to contact the instructor because they lost connectivity or abnormally exited the exam. This should lead to less student frustration with the exam and greatly reduce the number of calls to have the instructor clear test attempts.

Want more information?

Student Guide to Taking Tests in Blackboard
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.

Let’s Make a Movie

May 26th, 2014

Focus Focus

CAT is looking for Xavier faculty to collaborate on a grant proposal to make a movie (or, potentially, some other media project) for a general audience addressing significant figures, events, or ideas and drawing its content from humanities scholarship.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is accepting proposals for Media Projects, due August 13.

Many subjects are possible, but projects that examine connections between the humanities and science and technology are especially encouraged. Projects that engage the power of the humanities to promote understanding of and respect for people with diverse histories, cultures, and perspectives (within the United States and abroad) are also encouraged. Collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches are especially appropriate.

More information on the Media Projects can be found on the NEH website.

Time is of the essence. If you are interested, please contact CAT’s Media Artist, Bart Everson, as soon as possible.

2014 NCF Honorees

May 22nd, 2014

CAT salutes this year’s recipients of the Norman C. Francis Faculty Excellence Awards. The university has produced a short video tribute to each faculty member.

Dr. Sara Al-Dahir from XULA CAT on Vimeo.

Dr. Lisa Schulte-Gipson from XULA CAT on Vimeo.

Dr. Maryam Foroozesh from XULA CAT on Vimeo.

Dr. Syreeta Tilghman from XULA CAT on Vimeo.

Dr. David Lanoue from XULA CAT on Vimeo.

Rising Tide 9 Request for Proposals

May 21st, 2014

Beyond Tourism Beyond Recovery

CONTACT: Rising Tide Programming Committee
WHO: Rising Tide NOLA
WHAT: 9th Annual Rising Tide New Media Conference
WHEN: Saturday, September 13, 2013, 10am – 3pm
WHERE: University Center, Xavier University of Louisiana, 1 Drexel Drive, NOLA, 70125


Rising Tide NOLA, Inc. will present its 9th annual new media conference centered on the recovery and future of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast on Saturday, September 13, 2013 at the University Center of Xavier University of Louisiana.

This year, Rising Tide invites participation from community and university organizations from across New Orleans by issuing this request for proposals for programming, panels, and presentations at the event. The conference is a one day event with programming presented in a variety of formats including ­ but not limited to ­ individual presentations, directed conversations, keynote addresses, and on­stage panel discussions. The space available allows for significant flexibility when it comes to programming proposals.

Successful proposals will address issues relevant to New Orleans and the Gulf South’s ongoing recovery, diverse history, unique culture, or emerging concerns. Additionally, proposals could focus on or incorporate aspects of new or social media, information technology and access, and creative uses of communication. Collaboration between organizations to present programming is encouraged to add multiple and diverse perspectives. While programming is free to address political topics, Rising Tide maintains a strict non­partisan forum, current elected officials and campaigning candidates for political offices are discouraged from participating in programming.


Proposals should include the following: a brief description of the topic being considered, with an indication of the relevance of the topic to local issues and what the audience should take away from the experience; a list of participants/presenters that describes their roles to the presentation and describes their relationship to or expertise on the topic; and a draft facilitation plan for how the programming will be presented to the audience, and how the audience will be involved in the presentation through questions, participation, discussion, etc.

Please email brief (2 page max) proposals in plain text, word documents, or PDF attachments to Jeffrey Bostick, Katy Monnot, and Patrick Armstrong at

PROPOSALS WILL BE ACCEPTED THROUGH JUNE 2, 2014. Acceptance notifications will follow within two weeks.


While hosting the event at the Xavier University Center, attendance has averaged more than 300 attendees, media, and volunteer staff annually. The conference content has been live streamed on the web with over 1000 unique viewers during each event, with archives on our website. For this conference, organizers are hoping to coordinate programming for three separate spaces: a large stage­oriented venue with seating for up to 200; a medium venue with seating for between 30 – 40; and a seminar or group discussion venue for seating around 20. Program length can run from a minimum of 30 minutes for presentations or directed conversations in the smaller venues, to hour and a half panel discussion for the stage­-oriented space.

Last year’s conference featured a keynote address from Lt. General Russel Honore, U.S. Army (ret.), a discussion on Creating Community for Writers of Color by members of the Melanated Writer’s Collective, as well as panel discussions on charter school accountability, tourism in the NOLA economy & recovery, a slate of programs on new media in Tech School, and an “unconference” for fashion and style bloggers. Past conference speakers have included author Lolis Eric Elie, Tulane historial Laurence Powell, Treme and The Wire creator David Simon, geographer Richard Campanella, journalist Mac McClelland, entertainer Harry Shearer, and authors David Zirin, John Barry, Christopher Cooper, and Robert Block. Schedules, list of previous panelists, and descriptions of programming history can be viewed on the Rising Tide website.

More information is available at the Rising Tide website; at the Rising Tide blog; on the Rising Tide Facebook page; and the organization can be followed on Twitter @RisingTide.

Rising Tide 9 is sponsored by The Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Xavier University.

Rising Tide NOLA, Inc. is a non­profit organization formed by New Orleans bloggers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the federally built levees. After the disaster, the internet became a vital connection among dispersed New Orleanians, former New Orleanians, and friends of the city and the Gulf Coast region. A number of new blogs were created, and combined with those that were already online, an online community with a shared interest in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast developed. In the summer of 2006, to mark the anniversary of the flood, the bloggers of New Orleans organized the first Rising Tide Conference, taking their shared interest in technology, the arts, the internet and social media and turning advocacy in the city into action.