Conversation #34: Well-Being

October 6th, 2015

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Debra Park

A conversation with Debra Park on teaching, learning, and well-being.

We have to help our students learn how to develop healthy habits which will improve not only their academics but of course their mental health in general… If we’re going to teach our students then I believe as teachers we need to develop our own personal well-being habits.

After retiring from teaching high school psychology for 33 years, Debra Park, M.A., “graduated” back to college and has been teaching undergraduate courses at Rutgers University, Camden NJ. As a Part-Time- Lecturer in both the Psychology department and the Institute for Effective Education/Teacher Prep, she has taught Introduction to Psychology, Human Development, Psychology of Happiness and Well –Being and Behavior Management to both traditional and non-traditional students. Debra is past-chair of the Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools, a committee of the American Psychological Association and has served on the Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education and APA’s National Standards Working Group, revising the high school standards for psychology. She served on APA’s Membership Board from 2009 – 2012 and was Division 2, Society for Teaching Psychology Membership Board Chair 2012- 2015.

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Annotate Videos in MoocNote

October 2nd, 2015

by Karen Nichols

Since Inverted Learning is this year’s theme for CAT+FD and we are having workshops and information on flipping, here’s a free, handy tool for annotating videos that you may wish your students to watch in advance of class. MoocNote does require an account but it’s very easy to set up and does not ask for all of your personal information.  Here are the steps to getting started:

1.  Go to the MoocNote homepage and click on Sign Up.

2.  Enter your email and choose a password.  You’re in!

3.  Once you’re inside MoocNote you may import one video or an entire playlist from YouTube by entering the URL.

4.  Assign your video to a group (it can be a group of 1 if you wish).

5.  Begin viewing the video and stop it at key points to use add notes, questions, a resource link, etc.  The textbox and buttons are located directly beneath the video you’re viewing.

Add notes links hotkeys

6.  Once you’ve finished, return to the Dashboard and you will see all of the notes you’ve made on the right side of the screen.  In the center, you will see the option to Share the video with others.

7.  Note that your students or anyone with whom you share the video will need to create a MoocNote account in order to view it.   I’m looking into any plans the company has to make links available in Blackboard to view from there.  Perhaps that will be coming later!

We’ve experimented with this in our ETC (Educational Technology Community) virtual meeting and some of the instructors find this may be a useful tool.  I want to share a video with my French 1020 students to get their feedback as well.  Please let us know if this app is handy for your needs too!

Laudato Si study group

September 30th, 2015

All Xavier faculty are encouraged to participate — and to invite your students!

Laudato Si study group

“Concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society and interior peace.”

These are the themes of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’: On care for our common home, published this summer. World leaders and prominent scientists have praised it as a work of “enormous significance” and an “amazing gift” in the ongoing political struggle over climate change.

Please join our campus-wide study group in which we’ll read and discuss this important work. Participants will receive a copy of the encyclical in book form. This is an interfaith effort, open to people of all faiths or no faith. Open to staff, faculty, and students.

First meeting will take place in UC 201, 4-5:30 PM, Monday, 26 October. We anticipate three meetings over the academic year as interest dictates.

Contact or call 520-5164 to register or for more information.

Sponsored by Campus Ministry, Department of Theology, Department of Political Science, and the Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Metacognition for Effective Online Learning

September 30th, 2015

by Janice Florent

young girl looking deeply at The Thinker statue

Students who succeed academically often rely on being able to think effectively and independently in order to take charge of their learning. They are thinking about their own thinking; mastered the knowledge about their own learning. This is referred to as metacognition. Metacognition is about understanding how to learn effectively, in a limited amount of time, using strategies that are corrected over time.

According to Flavell (1979), metacognitive knowledge involves three key variables:

  1. Self-awareness: The capability to analyze one’s own strong and weak areas of knowledge and how to fulfill the deficiencies.
  2. Task analysis: What do learners know about the task and what they need to do to complete it successfully?
  3. Selection of strategy: Problem solving strategies that enable the learners to understand and comprehend new knowledge.

Incorporating metacognitive strategies into your course design can help to create autonomous and self-starting learners, who are responsible for their own learning and are willing to share the synthesized version of their knowledge with peers.

In a recent eLearning Industry blog post, Christopher Pappas listed five tips for enhancing metacognition in eLearning. Those tips are:

Integrate a wide range of skills and subjects.

The real world setting offers unpredictable problems that require a range of skills to solve. Students will need to employ their metacognitive capabilities in the real world to solve such multi-faceted problems. Replicate this requirement in the online classroom. Provide problem scenarios that require a broad spectrum of skills to solve.

Model the metacognitive process.

Leading by example is one of the most effective ways to encourage metacognition in your students. Create a tutorial or video presentation that showcases the metacognitive process. State the problem or question in the beginning of the presentation; then guide them through the steps you would use to solve it. Be as detailed as possible and include every mistake they could make along the way, as mistakes can serve as invaluable teaching tools as well.

Give them control.

The freedom of choosing a learning activity is a powerful learning experience. Give your students more control over which modules they can learn first, which projects they can complete first and what activities they can follow first. By doing this, you generate authentic interest, rather than forcing them to master a particular subject. They are also more likely to use their critical thinking, analysis, and creative thinking skills to solve the problem if they were the ones who chose to tackle the problem themselves.

Review, identify and evaluate.

At the end of every eLearning activity, encourage your students to review, identify, and evaluate the process. Ask them to review the eLearning activity, itself, including their personal opinions about it. Then ask them to identify the strategies they utilized and why they chose these strategies, before evaluating their overall performance and assessing their strengths and weaknesses throughout the task.

Encourage learners to differentiate what they know from what they need to know.

The objective of any eLearning activity is to fill the learning gap. Before each eLearning activity encourage the students to determine what they currently know and what they need to learn by the end of the task. This might be developing specific skills or acquiring new information. Once they have completed the task, have them evaluate their original statements in order to determine if they have achieved their individual goals. You can also ask them to modify or add to their statements throughout the eLearning activity if necessary.

You should utilize these tips to enhance metacognition in your course design to benefit your students by facilitating their learning process and helping them to achieve better results.

If you are interested in getting more information about designing your course to enhance metacognition, read Christopher Pappas’ blog post “5 Instructional Design Tips to Enhance Metacognition in eLearning.”

Photo credit: Thinking by Jack Lyons | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

2016 Faculty Update Sheets

September 29th, 2015

So, have you started working on yours?  No?  Really?

Unless you have superhuman time management abilities, odds are you have not.  However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do a few things now that will make that job easier next August (or next first week of September).

We at CAT+FD are NOT a Rank and Tenure advisory entity.  We do not offer suggestions or advice and ALWAYS refer you to your department for the specific culture and model of success they have defined.  And I will not breech that boundary here.  I will, however,  relay some of the points made by the Rank and Tenure committee last May in their open forum that relate to  CAT+FD in general.

CAT workshops were mentioned specifically be name numerous times!! (huzzah!!!) In reference to seeing you progress and develop as an educator, the current committee feels that one of your best resources are the NUMEROUS CAT workshops put on by Elizabeth, Jay, Tiera, Bart, Janice, Karen, and the whole CAT+ staff.  The R and T committee highly encouraged faculty to go to these and learn from them.  You can always find upcoming events here:   More than simply attending, it is important to really think about the workshop ideas and suggestions and, if you choose to incorporate them, reflect on if they were successful or not in your hands.

As the center formerly known as CAT is developing into its new identity as CAT+FD, I am personally very excited to take advantage of all of the programming that will now be geared towards scholarly development as well as balancing all  faculty obligations with each other as well as with life.

So keep track of everything you attend this year and, as always, don’t forget to sign in.  If something strikes you as particularly interesting we here at CAT+FD are more than happy to continue the conversation with you to help you successfully translate that workshop topic to success in the classroom.


Stassi DiMaggio

CAT+FD Faculty in Residence/First Year Faculty Mentor

Bb Accessibility Tip: Lists

September 23rd, 2015

by Janice Florent

This blog post will continue my series of accessibility related tips that are intended to provide you with things you can do now to make your course accessible even before you have a student with a disability.

My fifth tip in this series focuses on lists. A list is a set of items that share a purpose and/or have common characteristics. Lists are great from an accessibility standpoint because they provide structured order to content in a linear fashion.

bulleted list

Properly structured lists help to identify order and hierarchy in documents and web content. Lists that are properly formatted allow all users, especially those using assistive technology, to identify and navigate through a related group of items. List items that are not properly formed or grouped may not be translated properly by assistive technology.

Unordered (bulleted) lists should be used when there is no order of sequence or importance. Ordered (numbered) lists suggest a progression or sequence.

Compound lists contain multiple levels of classification. For example, a compound home improvement list would have items organized by category (e.g. electrical, hardware, flooring, plumbing.) With compound lists, relationships are shown visually using indents and different item markers (i.e., bullets, numbers, letters, etc.).

Compound lists may be difficult for visual users to decipher if the visual cues are insufficient. Also, compound lists may be disorienting for nonvisual users. Use a simple list structure whenever possible.

As with headings, lists should be used correctly and for the right purposes. Lists should never be used for merely indenting or other layout purposes.

When lists are formatted using asterisks, hyphens or images to create the look of bullets in a document, users of assistive technology are not able to detect the hierarchical structure and relationship of the list items. You should never rely on indentation to provide a visual list, use the proper structure instead.

Lists should be created using the built-in tools for ordered (numbered) and unordered (bulleted) lists. Without using these tools, a list is not really a list, which makes the content more difficult for assistive technology users to fully understand.

Creating lists in MS Word and PowerPoint:

  1. Select the text that you want to add bullets or numbering to.
  2. On the Home tab, under Paragraph, select the appropriate bullet from the list.
create list in MS Word

Creating lists in the Content Editor:

  1. In the Content Editor, select the text that you want to add bullets or numbering to.
  2. Select the appropriate bullet from the list.
create list in Content Editor

You will remove significant barriers for users of assistive technology if you take these suggestions into consideration when creating course content. An added bonus is that if you include properly structured lists when creating your course content you will be ahead of the game in the event you do have a student who requires the use of assistive technology.

Additional information about lists can be found at:
Creating bulleted and numbered lists in MS Word and PowerPoint
Working with lists in the Content Editor

Photo Credit: bulleted list by ijustwanttobeperceivedthewayiam / CC BY SA 2.0

A Disconnect in New Orleans

September 22nd, 2015

by Jeremy Tuman

There is a disconnect between the narratives emerging from the recent marking of the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In one narrative thread there is optimism and positivity about the economic direction of the city. In the Times-Picayune of Sunday, September 20, Michael Hecht, president of Greater New Orleans Inc., contributed an opinion piece that exemplifies this optimistic thread. He notes among positive growth markers that “our software sector is No. 2 for absolute job growth” in the U.S., and that the giant new medical complex in the center of our city is “predicted to create more than 30,000 new jobs, at an average salary of $92,000.” Our homegrown industry in water management is also doing well by contracting in New York for post-Sandy work, along with presumably working on pressing local issues of water management.

Stefan Selig, U.S. under secretary of Commerce for international trade, joins Hecht in this narrative in another recent op-ed, in which he notes New Orleans’ rapid growth, new industries, thousands of new jobs, and increasing property values. But the specific focus of his article is the booming export industry of the New Orleans-Metairie area. In an area of which many of us are likely unaware on a daily basis, we exported just under $35 billion in goods in 2014, including things such as petroleum and coal, chemicals, foods, and forestry and mining products. Our “export hub” ranks eighth in the country by this measure of dollar amount exported, ahead of San Francisco, Dallas, and Philadelphia. Foreign investors have taken note of our growth, Selig says, as noted by the Australian commercial explosives and fertilizer manufacturer Incitec Pivot, and their plans to build an $800 million plant in Waggaman. All of this industry and investment and growth supports many jobs, around 170,000 according to Selig.

But not everyone in New Orleans is benefitting.

The other strain of narratives emerging from K10 paints a much different picture, equally as eye-opening, but for all the wrong reasons. The number that looms for me over all of the positive growth numbers is 52. According to a 2013 study by Loyola University’s Lindy Boggs Center for Community Literacy, 52% of African American men in New Orleans are unemployed. The study serves as a focal end-cap to a handful of other studies and reports over the last few years that indicate a singular basic truth: Black New Orleans is not better off ten years after Katrina than it was the day after or the day before, and by many measures it is much worse off. A group called the African American Leadership Conference produced a report in 2013 called the Katrina Pain Index, in which it disaggregated by race data produced by the New Orleans Index. Some of the findings of this reports were that African-American households earn on average 50% less than white households, and that 44% of African-American households earn less than $20,000, compared to 18% of white households. Meanwhile a report by the Urban League indicates that the percentage on Black children living in poverty has increased since Katrina, from 44% to a staggering 50.5% in 2013.

Something isn’t adding up. If jobs are growing and industry is growing and New Orleans is doing better than ever, then why is half our population suffering so? I don’t claim to know the answers to why or to how to fix it. In fact I claim not to know. A host of issues come into play when attempting to dissect and analyze this disconnect: education reform, criminal justice reform, deeply rooted racism at once cultural, historic, and systemic. But the bottom line is that if we are all not doing well, then we aren’t doing well. If half of New Orleans is worse off, then New Orleans is worse off, period. The problems associated with this huge racial disparity in economic well-being cannot be ignored. They seep into our quality of life as a whole, whether its by the crime that continues to plague our city, violence that takes away too many of our young men, homelessness, mental health problems, and environmental degradation. This disparity and how to address it lies at the very core of Xavier’s mission to promote a more just and humane society, and service learning is a way for our students and faculty to engage with other stakeholders, the community, to do just that. Service learning is unique as a pedagogy in its ability to produce outcomes of civic engagement and social responsibility. A spirit of volunteerism and of giving back is a valuable and necessary thing for students to have, but an experience in service learning goes well beyond that spirit, to instill the notion that social systems are created by us and can be changed by us, not just from the outside by alleviating the symptoms, but internally through our careers, our professions, our life’s work. This is the world our students will inherit, and they have the power to change things for the better. It’s our mission as service learning teachers to teach them why things must change, why its our responsibility to change things, and as best we can, how to effect change, even if we don’t know all of the answers.

Jeremy Tuman

Faculty-in-Residence for Service Learning

Conversation #33: A Presidential Perspective on Higher Education

September 22nd, 2015

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Reynold Verret

A conversation with Reynold Verret on teaching, learning, and a presidential perspective on higher education.

Our teaching is nourished by our scholarship and our service is an application of our scholarship.

Prior to assuming the office of president this summer, Dr. Verret served as provost and chief academic officer for Savannah State University since 2012. Dr. Verret has also served also as provost at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania and as Dean of the Misher College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Dr. Verret also served on faculty at Tulane University and at Clark Atlanta University, where he was chair of the department of chemistry for many years.

As a scientist, Dr. Verret’s research interests have included the cytotoxicity of immune cells, biosensors and biomarkers. He has published in the fields of biological chemistry and immunology. He has served on many professional organizations and advisory bodies, including those of the National Institutes of Health, the Board of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, and the Georgia Coastal Indicators Coalition.

Dr. Verret received his undergraduate degree cum laude in biochemistry from Columbia University and the Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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7 Deadly Sins of Online Course Design

September 21st, 2015

by Janice Florent

each of the seven deadly sins depicted by an eye that has makeup in a different color to reflect the deadly sin

In an Edvocate article, Daniel Stanford listed his seven deadly sins of online course design from a faculty developer’s perspective. These resonated with me; and I thought I would share Daniel’s seven deadly online course design sins with you.

#1. Overwhelming Discussions

“Post to the discussion board, and then respond to three classmates’ posts.” Sound familiar? These are often the instructions for online discussions even though it would be impossible to replicate this level of participation in a face-to-face class. The result is a massive number of posts that instructors and students dread sorting through.

#2. Lack of Scannable Text

Staring at a computer screen trying to read the information is tiring enough as it is. Don’t make it worse by writing long paragraphs that lack visual interruptions and organizational cues. “Chunk” the content to make it easier to scan through.

#3. No Progress Indicators

Within seconds of entering a course or a specific unit of content, students should know what they’ve completed, what is incomplete, and when the incomplete items are due. The worst nightmare of any online student is to think he or she has met all the course requirements for a given day or week, only to stumble upon additional ones after a critical deadline has passed.

#4. Bad Narration

There are two reasons most instructors create narrated PowerPoints.

  1. They believe it will be faster to deliver a lecture verbally than write it out.
  2. They believe it will be more engaging for students than reading.

Both of these motivations have their pitfalls. First, faculty are often surprised how long it takes to produce an effective narrated presentation. Second, delivering information via audio with no text alternative makes it difficult for students to control the pace of their learning. Also, audio-only approaches to instruction can be challenging for ESL learners (English as a second language) and a deal breaker for students with disabilities.

#5. Buried Leads

Don’t make students read through or listen to several minutes of non-essential fluff before you get to the good stuff. Burying the lead wastes students’ time and hurts your credibility as a curator. As a result, students will struggle to find the part where you finally say something important. Worse yet, they might begin to ignore your emails, readings, or videos altogether.

#6. Digital Hoarding

Face-to-face courses come with limitations that encourage instructors to prioritize what they share with students. Examples include the number of hours in each class meeting and the number of photocopies the instructor has time to print. In online courses, these limitations are removed or relaxed, which makes it tempting to share every interesting reading, video, and website you’ve ever encountered. All too often, the result is a course site that feels like one of the homes on Hoarding: Buried Alive, but with more scholarly journals and fewer cats.

#7. Faceless Professor Syndrome

Online courses provide limited natural opportunities to reinforce that you’re a real human being and help students put a face with your name. Don’t squander these opportunities by obscuring your identity and increasing your anonymity on the discussion board and in your self-introduction. Humanizing your online courses improves the learning experience as well as student success and retention rates.

If you are interested in knowing how Daniel Stanford suggests you atone for these deadly online course design sins, read his Edvocate article “Seven Deadly Sins of Online Course Design.”

Can you Flip an Online Class?

September 18th, 2015

by Janice Florent

The flipped classroom is an active learning strategy that is being used by a number of educators. At its core, the flip means shifting the focus from the instructor to the students. This is done by inverting the design of the course so students engage in activities, apply concepts, and focus on higher-level learning outcomes.

flipped classroom

The flip has moved away from being defined as only something that happens in class versus out of class. Instead, it focuses on what students are doing to construct knowledge, connect with others, and engage in higher levels of critical thinking and analysis. This applies to both the online and face-to-face environment. The real flip is not about where activities take place—it’s about flipping the focus from the instructor to the students.

So, can you flip an online class? The answer is YES! In a Faculty Focus article, Dr. Barbi Honeycutt and Sara Glova suggest three “flipped” strategies that can be integrated into an online class. Those strategies are:

Create a scavenger hunt.

Ask students to locate important course information, announcements, and deadlines. Offer an incentive for the first one to submit the completed scavenger hunt activity. Incentives may include the first choice on presentation topics, the chance to drop a low quiz grade, or the opportunity to gain an extra credit point on the final project.

Why it works: Students are actively locating information and constructing their own mental models of the course rather than just reading the course web site or listening to a video as you describe the structure and organization of the course.

Create a hashtag just for your course.

Encourage students to use the hashtag if they find course-related items in different social media spaces or elsewhere on the web. The hashtag should be unique to your course. Consider reviewing the posts and then sharing an item a week with the entire class.

Why it works: Students are actively contributing to the conversation by sharing resources and information they find rather than just reviewing the content you have collected.

Develop a low stakes assignment to encourage self-reflection and analysis.

Ask students to reflect on their own learning styles or personality in the online environment before beginning the semester. Encouraging students to think about this actively might help them to prepare for the online environment as they analyze their strengths, weaknesses, challenges, etc. Supplement this activity by making it a private forum requirement, then post a global response to students afterward with suggestions on how to succeed in the online environment.

Why it works: Students are asked to analyze and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in regards to a course, activity, or assignment. This can help build students’ capacity to advance towards higher levels of critical thinking.

These are flipped strategies because they shift the focus from the instructor to the students; they encourage active participation from students rather than passive observation; and, they engage students on a higher level by encouraging creativity and evaluation rather than basic knowledge recall. Most importantly, these strategies can work in an online environment.

If this has piqued your interest, you can read more in the Faculty Focus article, “Can You Flip an Online Class?” and my blog post “Look for ‘Flippable’ Moments.”