Twitter Cheat Sheet for Educators

February 3rd, 2016

by Janice Florent

Twitter is an excellent tool for consuming and for learning. Twitter has proven itself to be an indispensable tool for many educators venturing into the world of education technology. Some educators are harnessing Twitter as a part of their PLN (personal learning network) to connect, share, and network. If you are interested in using Twitter, here is a Twitter Cheat Sheet for educators to get you up to speed.

Also, follow us (CAT+FD) on Twitter @xulacat.

twitter cheat sheet for educators

Screencasting Feedback to Your Students

January 28th, 2016

by Karen Nichols

Feedback Computer Key In Blue Showing Opinions And Surveys

Faculty Focus, a publication I value a lot, posted an article on January 8, 2016 explaining the benefits of screencasting feedback to students.  Dr. Ron Martinez, the author, talked about his solution to providing students one-to-one feedback about their essays in his oversized class.  He was seeking a way to give the personalization when he could not individually meet with every student about every essay.  Using Screencast-o-matic, he was able to provide that personal touch.

There are multiple screencast apps out there, and we offer Camtasia Studio to our faculty.  However, there’s a bit of a learning curve and faculty have to trek over here to our office and schedule time in advance in order to use it.  I shared this article on screencasting feedback with my colleagues here in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development.

Dr. Jay Todd, our Associate Director, has already experimented with it in his English composition class.  Here’s his feedback about screencasting feedback:

I used Screencast-O-Matic to make a video for my classes yesterday, since I waited until the last minute…. It worked pretty well, although the default quality of the video it posted to YouTube was significantly lower than I prefer. The free version doesn’t allow any editing and includes a watermark, but the Pro version is only $15/year.  It has a much easier learning curve than Camtasia, at least the recording part.

So it seems that reading Dr. Martinez’ article and downloading Screencast-o-matic may be useful, especially if you don’t care to type pages of correction notes.  One caveat from Dr. Martinez is that screencasting your feedback is not necessarily a timesaver. I hope the fact that you can work outside of office hours, does give you more flexibility in how you distribute the time needed to provide such personalized feedback.  Let us know if you decide to try screencasting and what you think of it.

(For more information on various types of helpful feedback, see Janice Florent’s recent blog post:  Give Students Feedback that Helps Them Learn.)

Conversation #39: Robin Runia on Interdisciplinary Team Teaching

January 26th, 2016

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Robin Runia

A conversation with Dr. Robin Runia of Xavier University of Louisiana on teaching, learning, and interdisciplinary team teaching.

My experience of the biology and literature course, especially in the first half of the semester, was very multidisciplinary. First we’ll have some biology content, and then we’ll have some literature content, and then we’ll somehow magically blend them together. I was aware of this challenge and concerned about it from the beginning.

Links for this episode:

Plan for Potential Classroom Disruptions Redux

January 22nd, 2016

by Janice Florent

Snowmageddon 2016 should be a reminder that 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.

It’s not too late to consider developing an instructional continuity plan for your current 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.

Give Students Feedback That Helps Them Learn

January 22nd, 2016

by Janice Florent

hand writing the word feedback

In a recent Teach Thought blog post, Justin Chando writes,

To tell a student “great job” or “this needs work” is a missed opportunity.

Hearing that you did a great job is wonderful. However, the problem with “great job” or “this needs work” is that it is not specific. There is no indication of what was done that was successful, and no information about how to replicate this success in future projects.

In the blog post, Justin goes on to explain Grant Wiggins’ key characteristics of better feedback. Helpful feedback is:

Goal oriented: Goal referenced feedback creates a roadmap for students; it shows them how far they can go in the mastery of a subject or skill by outlining specific places for improvement or highlighting successful behaviors/techniques.

Transparent: A useful feedback system involves not only a clear goal, but transparent and tangible results related to the goal. The feedback needs to be concrete and obvious.

Actionable: Great feedback begs an obvious action/response from a student. It provides a clear course of action for the next time around or outlines a new plan for moving forward.

User-friendly: Feedback is not of much value if the student cannot understand it or is overwhelmed by it. Quality feedback should be accessible to the student, clear and concise, using familiar language from the lesson/course.

Timely: Vital feedback often comes days, weeks, or even months after. Give students timely feedback and opportunities to use it in the course while the attempt and effects are still fresh in their minds.

Ongoing: One of the best ways to give great feedback is to give it often. Ongoing formative feedback helps students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work.

Consistent: Keeping guidance as consistent as possible allows students to hone in what needs to improve in their work and focus on making it better.

For more information on these key characteristics of better feedback including strategies to give better feedback, read Justin’s Teach Thought blog post, How To Give Students Specific Feedback That Actually Helps Them Learn.

Midcourse Reviews for Online and Hybrid Courses

January 21st, 2016

by Karen Nichols


As many of you already know, midcourse reviews are an optional, formative assessment that you can request in order to help you tweak your courses while there is still time to make a difference. CAT+FD offers this service to all of our online instructors during the same period as our face to face ones. In fact, the procedure is quite similar to the face to face midcourse review. We create a questionnaire on Survey Monkey for each instructor who requests the online midcourse review using the following three questions:

1. What is working in the online course (what is helping you to learn)?

2. What is not working(what is keeping you from learning)?

3. What are your suggestions for improvement?

We then send to the instructors the unique link for his or her students, along with a message from CAT+FD explaining what the review is, why the instructor is requesting it and of course, the fact that the survey is completely anonymous.

We keep the survey open for a few days and once it’s closed, we create the midcourse review report which summarizes the student feedback and then delete the survey. We will meet with the online instructor either face to face or via videoconference to discuss the report. Like the face to face midcourse reviews, CAT+FD does not keep copies of the reports.

So, if you’re teaching online this spring, don’t worry! We’ll be sending out notices shortly. Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions about midcourse reviews for online classes– You may also check out this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Bb Tip #152: Quick Links

January 19th, 2016

The Quick Links tool allows users to quickly locate any heading or section within any page in Blackboard and jump directly to the link.

Blackboard Quick Links pop-up window

Quick Links work by pulling all headers and important web page landmarks into an easily accessible screen. This accessibility feature improves Blackboard’s navigation experience for all users, but especially sighted keyboard only users.

Follow these steps to do it.

To access Quick Links:

  1. Click on the Quick Links icon located on the top left near the Home tab (or press the SHIFT + ALT + L keys on the keyboard).
  2. A pop-up window that displays the landmark and navigation links on the page will open. Any available keyboard shortcuts for the page are also displayed.
  3. Press the TAB key to move between the links.
  4. Press the Enter key to go to the highlighted link.

Want more information?

About Quick Links
Quick Links video [01:24]
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 #151: Grade Center – External Grade

January 14th, 2016

An external grade is the grade a student would see in the Blackboard Report Card module, which is a tool we do not currently use.

One column in the Grade Center must be set as the external grade column. The Total column is the external grade by default. If you set another column as the external grade and change your mind, you can simply reset the Total column as the external grade by choosing “Set as External Grade” in the dropdown menu within the column header. Alternatively, you can set any other column to be the external grade.

set as External Grade example

When you view the dropdown menu within the column header for a column that is set to be the external grade, you will not see the “Show/Hide to Users” option. To hide an External Grade column from the students’ view, you should edit the column information and choose “No” for the “Show this Column to Students” option.

Note: Any column that is set as the External Grade cannot be deleted. If you want to delete the column that is set as the External Grade column, you will have to set another column to be the external grade first. Once you do this you will be able to delete the column.

Want more information?

About External Grades
Working with the Grade Center
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 #150: Turnitin – Voice Comments

January 13th, 2016

white noise

Research shows students want specific and detailed feedback from their instructors (Balaji & Chakrabarti, 2010). Sometimes text-based feedback can become white noise to students who often admit they don’t read it. This is not to say that text-based feedback is not valued, however voice is particularly impactful in our text-based world. Audio feedback is an option that saves time, cuts through the noise, and is preferred by students (Ice, Swan, Kupczynski, & Richardson, 2008).

The ability for an instructor to leave a personal voice comment is a powerful tool for providing feedback to students. Turnitin’s GradeMark (online grading) has a feature that lets instructors add a voice comment to a student’s paper. With voice comments students can hear the reasons for a grade or the tone of voice or inflection behind the written feedback.

Turnitin voice comments bar

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?

Instructions for adding voice comments (video) are available.
How to use Turnitin GradeMark (PDF) (GradeMark 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.

Conversation #38: Belle Wheelan on the Future of Higher Education

January 12th, 2016

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Download Conversation #38

Belle Wheelan

A conversation with Dr. Belle Wheelan of SACS/COC on teaching, learning, accreditation and the future of higher education.

The more educated a citizenry is, then the more tolerance we have, the more acceptance we have, because there’s a better understanding, greater chances of world peace. It sounds hokey, but the reality is when we start helping people understand differences rather than fearing them and therefore hating them because we don’t understand them, then I think the world becomes a better place — and it is faculty who do that. Irrespective of the mission of the college, it is still faculty who share that knowledge, impart that knowledge, explain that knowledge, so that people do have a better understanding and are different people than they were when they entered that environment.