Join the Team

April 24th, 2015


Since 2010, CAT has actively promoted contemplative pedagogy through presentations, workshops, travel grants, meditation sessions, and other diverse means. The formation of a Contemplative Inquiry Team, supported by a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, is the latest iteration of these ongoing efforts.

We invite you to join the Contemplative Inquiry Team. We will meet regularly over the course of the 2015-2016 academic year and provide support for each member’s personal practice, contemplative pedagogy, and related research. The team will be participant-driven, meaning that the specific agenda and activities of the group will be determined by the team members, with guidance from CAT staff.

Download the call for participation and apply today.

Sharing from OLC’s Emerging Technologies Conference

April 24th, 2015

by Karen Nichols

Actually, the above chart is an indirect find while researching, on my own, an item that came up during a few of the conference presentations I’ve attended virtually from the Online Learning Consortium’s Emerging Technologies Conference. I hadn’t thought about Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s) as such but am now realizing just how much our learning landscape (Personal Learning Environment) has changed due to technology and social media. We’re now learning from myriad sources that didn’t exist when I was a child.

Just think of all of the interactions users of social media have with each other on a daily basis and all of the information that is shared.  Of course we can classify what we’ve “learned” into several different categories.  I place what my Facebook friend Marie had for lunch (fried shrimp, complete with photo) on a very low level, but found it very interesting and useful to learn what my Facebook friend who is a horticulturalist had to say about gerber daisies. (They release their oxygen at night unlike most plants so having gerber daisies in your bedroom may help you sleep better.)

In conjunction with creating your own PLN which will probably include various social networks, here are a few key points from conference sessions attended that I would like to share with you.

Bonnie Stewart (University of Prince Edward Island, CA) explained and explored the concept of many-to-many communication.  To visually illustrate the impact of using social media like Twitter to share information, she first asked us to think of our favorite color.  She then had each of us speaking to different people and those people would pass on what we shared.  While doing this, she asked us to imagine our flow of conversation as our favorite color and then to imagine all of the flows of conversation using everyone’s favorite color.  She contrasted this form of learning with the old “sage on the stage” model still being used by some professors in academe.

Heutagogy or self-determined learning was the topic presented by Vickie Cook (University of Illinois Springfield, USA).  She discussed the increase in student use of mobile devices for learning and how we as educators can adapt.  In fact, here is a test sponsored by Google to determine if your website is responsive or mobile-friendly.

Much work has been done using Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy.  Keeping this in mind, Ghania Zgheib (George Mason University, USA) shared with us several social media learning activities as well as the results of the student feedback.  She made extensive use of Facebook and Twitter and actually encouraged students to interact with people outside of their class.  A few audience members expressed concern about using such open social media and said they preferred more closed opportunities for sharing such as discussion boards.

So now I’m more aware of the Personal Learning Environment and the Personal Learning Network I’ve created for myself.  I’m paying more attention to the original source of a piece of information and the people who passed it on and on until it arrived on my desktop.  Since I’ll be teaching online French again this summer, I’m thinking about my students’ PLN’s and hoping the social media activities I’m planning for their learning will be well-received.  I’m not quite sure if they are aware of the power they have over their own learning.  I believe we should each assess our PLN and see if there’s room for improvement!

Bb Tip #135: End of Semester Tasks

April 23rd, 2015

image showing classroom with empty chairs

As we approach the end of the semester there are a few things you can do in Blackboard to wrap up for the semester.

Download your gradebook

Student access to courses is removed two weeks after the end of a semester. During this process all grade book records are deleted. You should download your gradebook to your local computer after you submit your final grades.

Create a master copy of your course

Courses remain on the Blackboard system for three semesters before they are removed. You can request a Master Course Shell that you can use to develop and maintain your course materials. Master Course Shells will not be removed from the Blackboard system.

Hide old courses from view

When you login to Blackboard you will see your courses for previous semesters listed along with the courses you are currently teaching on the Xavier University and Courses tabs. If you do not want to see older courses in the list, you can hide them from view.

Follow these steps to do it.

Instructions are available in previous Bb tips for downloading your grade book, requesting master course shells, and hiding old courses from view.

Want more information?

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.

Humanize Your Online Courses

April 22nd, 2015

by Janice Florent

image of student giving thumbs up

Many online courses still rely heavily on text-based information and lack the rich visual context and warm human interactions that the social web offers.

In a Faculty Focus article, Rob Kelly states,

Taking an online course can be an isolating experience, but it doesn’t have to be. There are several key techniques you can employ to humanize your online courses and thus improve the learning experience as well as success and retention rates.

Rob suggests the following as ways to humanize your online courses:

  • Create an inviting space
  • Include your personality
  • Personalize the discussion forum
  • Provide ways for students to make the course their own

You can read more in his “Tips for Humanizing Your Online Course” article. Also, checkout this excellent infographic on How to Humanize Your Online Class.

Moving from In-Person to Online Teaching

April 20th, 2015

by Janice Florent

image of keyboard with teach online key

Are you thinking about moving a face-to-face course to online? A recent Faculty Focus article suggests five steps to quickly transition your in-person curriculum into a creative and successful online course. Those steps are:

Start by Chunking: Simplify your content by breaking it up into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Decide on Overall Structure: Course design is a critical element to any course. A consistent and clear structure allows students to successfully engage with the material and meet expectations.
Select your tools: Face-to-face content can easily transition to the online classroom if you select the right tools.
Trades and Edits: Another colleague may have developed content that they are willing to share with you. Additionally, have another pair of eyes look at your online course. Feedback about your online course can prove to be invaluable.
Stay Current and Journal: Keep a journal as the class progresses. Journaling can help you to see where changes need to be made. For example, if there are a lot of student questions on the same topic or assignment, your directions probably need to be expanded or redefined.

An online course with clear structure and considered content will go a long way to support your students.

You can read more on these suggestions for moving your courses from face-to-face to online in the article, “Taking the Leap: Moving from In-Person to Online Courses.”

Trending: #iwishmyteacherknew

April 17th, 2015

by Bart Everson

So a third-grade teacher out in Colorado asked her students to write things they wish she knew about them. She posted some of the responses to Twitter with the hashtag #iwishmyteacherknew. Now people all over the world are talking about making deeper connections between teachers and students. It’s become a news story, a media phenomenon in its own right.

(Read some international coverage.)

It is clear that many of Kyle Schwartz’s third-graders are dealing with some heavy stuff, some big emotional issues.

Is this any less true for our undergraduate students? I don’t think so. In fact, I’d imagine that some of our students are dealing with burdens just as heavy, if not more so.

I want to go to college

That third-grader who wrote “I wish my teacher knew that I want to go to college” — that student is enrolled here now, figuratively speaking.

How much do you know about what is going on in the lives of your students, outside the classroom? With so much content to cover, with such a full academic schedule, how can we maintain the capacity for empathic dialog?

If you asked your students what they wish you knew — what might they tell you?

Organizing and Managing Citations, References and Bibliographies

April 14th, 2015

by Janice Florent

image of Arlo and Janis cartoon where Janis suggest Arlo will take credit for her work

Managing, organizing, and citing references can be challenging especially if you don’t keep up with what and who you cite. Two recent articles from the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning web site suggested a few web tools for organizing, managing and publishing bibliographies, citations and references. Those web tools are,

More information about these web tools is available in the “6 of the Best Web Tools for Organizing and Managing Citations, References and Bibliographies” and “A Very Good Tool for Generating Citations, Reference Lists and Bibliographies” articles.

Watching the Smartwatch for Possible Educational Uses

April 9th, 2015

by Karen Nichols
My iPhone is one of the old 3G versions and serves me just fine so I’m not a person who runs out to buy the latest gadgets. However, I’m intrigued by the possible educational uses of wearable technology and therefore am on the lookout for ways instructors and students may use the Smartwatch.

I’ve mentioned before that the POD (Professional and Organizational Development Network for Higher Education listserv has much useful information including technology discussions. From a recent posting, I discovered that Chris Clark from Notre Dame created a Youtube video to show what possible educational uses the Smartwatch may have:

I love the idea of using the Smartwatch to conduct polls! For more ideas and discussion, check out Chris’ article:

Do you think the Smartwatch will complement or even replace cell phones? Join me in the watch for possible pedagogical uses of the Smarthwatch and other wearable technology.

The NSF STEP Project at the University of South Florida

March 31st, 2015

Dr. Kandethody Ramachandran visited Xavier University of Louisiana to discuss the details and accomplishments of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP) Project at the University of South Florida (USF). Dr. Ramachandran described how methods were instituted that effectively advanced student success in Calculus. The STEP project at USF is based on the premise that success in calculus is the gateway to success in the STEM fields. STEP is aimed at increasing STEM graduates through intervention programs in the Engineering and Life Science Calculus sequences. Through this project, several transportable strategies such as, one stop extended hour tutoring lab (STEM Mart), project-based teaching, and peer leading have been developed and implemented. These multiple strategies have transformed the teaching of calculus at USF and are leading to increased retention and pass rates for students. Also, faculty are enthusiastic in implementing these strategies in their class rooms. STEM Mart is a tutoring center that provides undergraduate students in the STEM disciplines an opportunity to receive free tutoring from other successful undergraduate students selected by the program. In project based teaching, “bridge” projects were introduced into Engineering Calculus II and III and Life Sciences Calculus II. Students work with a faculty member or supervisor in their workplace to define a problem, write and analyze appropriate equations, and write a narrative report – in essence, they write a story problem, and then answer it and write it up as a scientific report. In peer leading, a curriculum of inquiry-based activities was developed that follows the Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning. Undergraduate peer leaders lead weekly, 50-minute guided-inquiry sessions in Engineering and Life Science Calculus I. The curricula developed by faculty and graduate students focus on guiding students to discover concepts of calculus prior to lecture, along with algebra and trigonometry warm-ups. These strategies have proven successful with an overall pass rate that went from about 50-55% before project inception to about 70-73% by the end of six years.

Grade Contracts With Your Students

March 26th, 2015

by Karen Nichols

Have you tried grade contracts? There was a discussion about them in our POD (Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education) listserv. They’ve been around for several years now, but I’ve never tried to use them. I can certainly see pros and cons to having a grade contract, and I’m sure the subject being taught will influence how the contract is set up.

Contract clipart

After reading the recommended articles (links posted at the end), it seems the grade contracts take the essential elements of the syllabus and change the general requirements to more personal goals. So perhaps a grade contract would be an effective way to make sure the students have read and understood these course requirements.

The tricky part of a grade contract is that you are spelling out for the students what they must do in order to earn a “B” (or an “A” or a passing grade) in your course. It seems that a grade contract reinforces the emphasis so many of our students place on the grade earned rather than the material learned and I am not sure I can agree with that.

Having a set of straightforward tasks that must be completed at a certain level of competence in order to earn a specific grade also seems it will remove a great deal of subjectivity from the whole process. To some, I’m sure they would see this more objective measure as a positive, but in my French classes, I often reward effort or take into account other intangible elements so I’m not sure the grade contract would serve the students as well as no contract does.

Even though it seems I’m against the contracts, I’m really curious after reading how students’ grades improved with them.  I may try them in my online French class this summer.  Check out these recommended resources and see if a grade contract may help you and your students, and let us know if you decide to try it!

Sources from the POD listserv
From Psychology:

From Comp/Rhet:

In general: