Why Use Gamification in your Courses?

July 22nd, 2016

by Janice Florent

Sorry game board

Gamification is making a boring process interesting by using fun elements from games. Gamification is not the same as playing a game. Educators have been using gamification even before there was an official term for it.

Yu-kai Chou (2015) defines gamification as:

The craft of deriving fun and engaging elements found typically in games and thoughtfully applying them to real-world or productive activities.

Why Use Gamification?

Clearly gamification is a motivation tool. So why would you take the time to set-up a gamification component to your courses? In an LearnDash blog post Justin Ferriman lists some benefits of gamification to consider. Those benefits are:

  • Provides Instant Feedback – learners instantly receive feedback on their understanding of the course content which in turn highlights what they need to spend more time reviewing.
  • Prompts Change in Behavior – Certain behaviors are reinforced by granting learners the ability to earn points and badges. This is even more true if these points and badges can be “cashed in” for something tangible or real.
  • Better Learning Experience – Gamification offers the opportunity for learners to engage with the content in various ways.
  • Safe To Fail – Gamification isn’t always about rewards but can also incorporate the “loss” of a reward. This makes it safe for people to fail and to learn from those mistakes.

What is considered as fun in games?

Winning or beating an opponent is an obvious answer. However, pleasure is also derived from activities such as:

  • problem-solving
  • exploring
  • creating
  • imagining
  • collecting
  • role-playing
  • collaborating
  • simply chilling out

What gaming elements can be used in the learning process?

Gamification strategies include elements such as gamifying grading, incentivizing students with rewards and adding competitive elements such as leaderboards. From the non-exhaustive list of gaming components and mechanics, here are a few from a Bright Classroom Ideas blog post by Savas Savides, which can be particularly useful to educators:

  • Narrative – Nothing can beat a well-told captivating story, whether you are a child or an adult. Text, audio, video, cartoon, they all have the same denominator: a storyline.
  • Progression – Learners need to know they are acquiring skills and getting better. Student portfolios and ‘can-do’ statements help them reflect on their own learning.
  • Challenges – Tasks should be easy enough to tackle, but hard enough to challenge and motivate. And, following the previous point on progression, they should have a gradually rising level of difficulty.
  • Competition – Motivates students to perform better. Through competition, students not only do what is required to accomplish the required goals, but also do the best they can do. Competition allows the students to come forward with better ideas and clearly highlight their skills in front of their teacher and classmates. Competition is closely linked to rewards.
  • Cooperation – Apart from competing against each other, students also like working together. Never miss an opportunity to form pairs or groups to work on a project. It is more fun than working alone.
  • Rewards – With tangible rewards there is always the danger that they may substitute for the intrinsic motivation. It is better to use intangible rewards (e.g. points). Remember that the game is ultimately its own reward.
  • Win States – When the outcome is a winner.
  • Achievements – Create tangible things that serve as proof of student achievement. They can be certificates, posters, photos, videos etc.
  • Badges – Another tangible proof of individual achievement. They can be stickers, stamps, even your own drawings on the board.
  • Leaderboards – A classification of all learners-participants according to their performance. A really powerful motivational tool.
  • Points – Instant intangible rewards that help create leaderboards.
  • Teams – Either working with each other in a team or cooperating to beat another team, students can overcome shyness and benefit immensely.

A well-designed gamified course can grab and keep students’ attention, improve students’ knowledge retention, and improve students’ overall success in the course. Gamification may not suit everyone. But for those who use it, the benefits of gamification can be substantial.

10 Things Every Educator Should Know about Their iPad

July 7th, 2016

by Janice Florent


A few years ago we offered an iPads: Possibilities for Teaching and Learning workshop. Since then I have answered a number of questions from faculty about the iPad. I came across Mark Anderson’s Ten Things Every Educator Should Know about Their iPad blog post. I’m sharing the link to his blog post with you as I believe some of these tips may be things you did not know about the iPad and hopefully will help you to get the most out of your iPad.

Additionally, here are 20 iPad Tips and Tricks from the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research at Western Illinois University that you may find helpful as well.

Time Management Strategies for Online Teaching

July 5th, 2016

by Janice Florent

hourglass in the foreground and a clock in the background

Managing your time when teaching an online class can be a bit of a challenge. How do you manage time when there are no set course hours and when the classroom is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week? Online instructors need to develop effective time management behaviors to be efficient and not just busy.

In a Faculty Focus article, Dr. Deborah A. Raines shared ten strategies she uses to manage her time. Those strategies are:

  1. Roll call – Take attendance on the first day. A simple discussion board with a response of “I’m here” alerts you to who has not found the classroom site.
  2. Syllabus quiz – Give a syllabus quiz during the first week. This quiz provides an opportunity for students to experience the online testing environment and provides an incentive for students to read the syllabus and other important information.
  3. Ask the class – Create an “ask the class” discussion area where students can ask general questions and encourages students to respond to each other.
  4. To-do list – Create a to-do list as the first item in each module. This item provides an introduction to and guidelines on how to approach the material in the module.
  5. Establish rules and expectations – Disseminate clear and consistent rules and expectations such as when to turn in assignments, the beginning and ending date of units, turn-around time for responses to questions or feedback on assignments.
  6. Private office – Create a dropbox or private journal function for students to communicate with you on confidential matters.
  7. Roadmap to success – Write a clear and concise document of student expectations, responsibilities and accountability for learning.
  8. Take advantage of tools and technology – Use online tools within the learning management system such as student tracking, testing automation, self-grading or rubrics added to assignment dropboxes, to increase your efficiency. In general, handle each item only once—if you open an item, do something with it, don’t just peek and plan to come back later.
  9. Establish a routine – Set your schedule. Get in the habit of going to your online courses at consistent times and know what you are going to do while at the course site.
  10. Don’t re-invent – Use existing resources. There are a number of quality learning activities available on the web. Using existing resources can reduce the time needed to develop similar materials.

For more information you can read Dr. Raines’ blog post Be Efficient, Not Busy: Time Management Strategies for Online Teaching.

Photo credit: time is money by ewvasquez2001 | CC BY 2.0

Create a User-Friendly eLearning Course

June 29th, 2016

by Janice Florent

arrow going around the outside of a maze

Course designs that are not user-friendly can make it very difficult for students to be successful in a course.

Undoubtedly you spent a great deal of time crafting your course content and perfecting your layout, which is why it’s crucial to focus on usability. Students have a lot going on in their lives and don’t want to go through a maze-like course; click on dead-end links; have to use too many mouse clicks to get to the content; or scroll through long pages of information.

If you want students to be successful in your online/hybrid course, the course should be intuitive, well organized, and easy to navigate.

In a recent eLearning Industry blog post, Christopher Pappas shared eight tips that can help you create a user-friendly eLearning course for your students. Christopher’s tips are:

  • Provide detailed instructions
  • Keep text short and succinct
  • Opt for brief bursts of information
  • Create an effective course menu
  • Test out your course navigation
  • Integrate supplemental links
  • Include optional tips and tricks that can help students to complete the course

If this has piqued your interest, you can read more in Christopher’s 8 Tips Towards Α User-Friendly eLearning Course blog post for more information.

Small Changes = Big Improvements

June 26th, 2016

by Karen Nichols

James Lang’s recent series in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the small changes that faculty can make to their teaching to improve learning in their courses has been compiled and can now be found on a single page of the Chronicle web site: http://chronicle.com/specialreport/Small-Changes-in-Teaching/44.

His tips include how to spend the first and last 5 minutes of class, how to help students connect your course content with the outside world, giving students some control over their learning plus several other tips.  If you like what you read on the Chronicle page, you may want to read James Lang’s book:  Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, was published by Jossey-Bass: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1118944496,miniSiteCd-JBHIGHERED.html.

Finally, the series in the Chronicle ended with an essay, not included on the above page:

Still can’t get enough?  Then join the conversation on Twitter at @LangOnCourse or using the hashtag #SmallTeaching.

Ensuring Student Success in Online Courses

June 20th, 2016

by Janice Florent

students putting together puzzle pieces leading toward success as a goal

Many students enroll in online classes because of the convenience and flexibility. Some students mistakenly believe taking an online course is going to be easier than a face-to-face class. It is important that students understand online courses require greater responsibility/ownership for their own learning.

In a recent Faculty Focus article, Poonam Kumar, EdD and Marilyn Skrocki, listed a few simple strategies and techniques instructors can do at the course level to support students’ success in online classes. Those strategies and techniques are:

  • Clearly communicate expectations
  • Prepare students
  • Course organization and layout
  • Chunk the content and scaffold instruction
  • Humanize the course

Following these strategies and techniques can help students to succeed in online courses. If this has piqued your interest, you can read more in the Ensuring Student Success in Online Courses article.

A Quarter of Quiet

June 14th, 2016

Meditation Room

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development invites you to join us for a regular group meditation. We’ll meet each Thursday afternoon throughout the summer of 2016. Drop in when you can.

What to expect?

As the meditation room is located directly beneath the bell tower, we are using the bells in our meditation. They chime quarterly, so our period of silence begins at 12:30 and ends at 12:45.

But I’ve never done this before!

You needn’t have any experience with meditating; just stop by and give it a try. There’s no commitment and no pressure.

Why meditate?

Meditation has numerous well-documented benefits, including stress management, improved emotional balance, increased focus and awareness and increased responsiveness to student needs.

  • Date: June 8-August 4, 2016
  • Time: 12:30 – 12:45 PM
  • Location: Meditation Room, St. Katharine Drexel Chapel
  • Sponsor: CAT+FD

Photo credit: Bart Everson

No registration necessary; just join us when you can.

Bb Tip #158: Changes to Turnitin are Coming

June 6th, 2016

Turnitin has released a major product upgrade that will soon be available with our Blackboard integration. The new version of the service, called Turnitin Feedback Studio, offers all the functionalities of Turnitin, but with a simplified, more intuitive interface.

Turnitin Feedback Studio logo

Turnitin Feedback Studio’s simplified, more intuitive user experience brings together the grading, feedback, and similarity checking services in one view. Additionally, the contextual marking approach of the iPad app allows educators to click anywhere on the paper and leave a comment, QuickMark Comment, or text comment at any time.

Turnitin Feedback Studio will make it faster and easier than ever to promote academic integrity, provide actionable feedback, and evaluate student learning.

Our version of Turnitin is scheduled to be upgraded to Turnitin Feedback Studio in between the summer and fall semesters. Once upgraded, you can expect to see a new interface when you open up a student’s paper in Turnitin. Your students will also experience this new and improved interface when viewing Similarity Reports and receiving feedback.

Want more information?

Try out an interactive demo
Review the Feedback Studio Instructor Guide
Review the Feedback Studio Student Guide
Explore Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center.
Check out help for instructors at help.blackboard.com.
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 #157: VoiceThread

May 29th, 2016

VoiceThread is powerful learning tool that extends the classroom by allowing users to have conversations or discussions around audio and visual media without scheduling a specific time to meet. VoiceThread humanizes interactions in an online environment. VoiceThread can be used to enhance student engagement and online presence.

VoiceThread conversations in the cloud

VoiceThread adds a more personal element to the online experience when utilizing the features of commenting via voice. By hearing and seeing the instructor and classmates during a VoiceThread, a familiarity develops that feeds deeper participation. Utilizing VoiceThreads can give you and your students a “voice.”

What is VoiceThreading? [01:20]

With VoiceThread, instructors and students can create, share, and comment on media (e.g., images, Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, videos, audio files, documents, PDFs) using a microphone, webcam, text, phone, and audio-file upload.

Additionally, VoiceThread is integrated into our Blackboard system which gives us Single Sign-On authentication and Grade Center integration.

Voicethread is currently available at no cost to Xavier faculty and students.

Want more information?

Explore VoiceThread at XU
Sample VoiceThreads:
Photographs That Changed the World
Visual Thinking
VoiceThread Digital Library
How to Humanize Your Online Class with VoiceThread (free ebook)
Explore Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center.
Check out help for instructors at help.blackboard.com.
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.

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day!

May 19th, 2016

by Karen Nichols

Just a quick note about Global Accessibility Awareness Day.  CAT + has posted often on the topic of accessibility and the importance of design features in our courses that benefit ALL learners.  But I think this organization has really good intentions–“The purpose of GAAD is to get people talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) accessibility and users with different disabilities” so I thought I would share the web address with you.

In 2011 blogger John Devon posted on accessibility issues, especially in technology, and his blog sparked enough interest to create GAAD.

Take a look at their site, join in some of the activities and like them on Facebook if you appreciate their efforts.  Thank you, merci, gracias (their site is not only accessible, but is multi-lingual!).

various accessibility icons