Simple Answers to Complex Problems?

September 30th, 2014

In discussing what social problems my Freshman Seminar class might like to address for their service learning project, the class leaned heavily toward wanting to do something about crime in New Orleans, particularly the amount of violent crime, which struck them on an emotional level that left some of them unable to articulate much beyond anger. “It’s just terrible,” they said, “and it gets worse and worse all the time and nobody can seem to do anything about it.” These reactions struck me in a number of ways, at once similar to the shocked, grief-stricken reactions of victim’s families that we’ve grown too accustomed to seeing in the news, and at the same time far removed from academic literature on the subject by economists, psychologists, and criminologists, that often frame our discussions and study of violent crime and its effects. What’s most apparent is that these students feel compelled to address this problem, not from a distance of helping out the communities of the less fortunate, but from the perspective of wanting to help their own communities, because the pain of communities ripped apart by violent crime is in fact their own pain.

The discussion then must turn to what causes young people to turn to lives of crime and violence and what can be done to stem these causes. Lack of viable economic opportunity and lack of education are commonly cited by students and experts alike as causes, and of course the two are related. Economists tell us that even a 5% increase in high school graduation rates can save the country billions of dollars in costs of crime, considering the costs of incarceration, policing, and adjudicating, along with the costs of property lost. Figures like these seem cold, and don’t seem to sufficiently target the problem in a way that might issue a stronger call to action. Yet in the face of raw emotions such as those expressed by my students, figures like these sometimes offer the only level of clear thought available. If it seems like absolutely nothing can be done to stop this problem, then perhaps through education, tied to economic opportunity, is the only clear path.

Ed Tech Week Oct 6-10

September 29th, 2014

by Karen Nichols
In celebration of Ed Tech Week next week, a number of companies are offering free webinars, ostensibly to showcase their products, but I read in our POD (Professional and Organizational Development) Network newsletter about Macmillan’s webinars. A few are featuring their products, but some are for the general public and may be of interest to ed tech enthusiasts and online instructors.  Go to Macmillan’s Ed Tech Week webpage to register for any of these and to see all of their offerings.  Let me know if you’re interested in getting a group together to participate in the webinar.  I can see if CAT’s conference room is available.  I’ll also be attending a few sessions myself so please let me know if you’d like to come over and join me.

Monday, October 6th at 3pm EST
Use What Your Students Do Already: Optimizing Students’ Tech Skills for Communicating
Johndan Johnson-Eilola, Clarkson University

Most college students feel comfortable working with information in a variety of technologies (sometimes too comfortable). They spend their lives, it seems, with their hands on keyboards or thumbs on smartphones. But often they (and we) do not think critically about how best to use these technologies to improve our communication practices. In this webinar, we’ll discuss ways of teaching students to more productively use technology in their writing practices across a spectrum of genres and media types.

Tuesday, October 7th at 12pm EST

The Economics of Online Education and the Future of Teaching

Alex Tabarrok, George Mason University

Online education has cost and flexibility advantages over in-class teaching. Online education also has a different cost structure than in-class teaching, namely lower marginal cost but higher and endogenous fixed costs. I discuss how these advantages and differences in cost structure will disrupt and shape the future of higher education.

Thursday, October 9th at 2pm EST

Assessment and Utilization of Non-Cognitives to Support Student Success and Retention

Paul Gore, University of Utah, and Wade Leuwerke, Drake University

This presentation will describe the role of noncognitive factors in student success. Evidence of the role of noncognitives in both academic success and retention will be explored. Methods and assessment tools will be described. Strategies that encourage students to build plans to bolster their noncognitive skills will be described, including online platforms to track and support students’ success plans.

Friday, October 10th at 3pm EST

Innovations in Assignment Design Using Technology

Rob Lue, Harvard University

Technology has transformed the ways we deliver content to our students, both in the classroom and online. Similarly it now provides new ways for us to engage students through assignments that are more collaborative, self-paced and focused on the synthesis of ideas. When these possibilities are coupled with real-time analytics on student performance and behavior, we can develop assignments that are remarkably formative for students while also allowing us to evaluate their performance. I will discuss several approaches to assignment design that take advantage of software environments such as LaunchPad.


Bb Tip #108: Videos

September 24th, 2014

Video is one of the most powerful, motivating, and visual ways to learn. You can use videos to promote critical thinking and active learning.

There’s a big difference between watching a video and learning something from it.

Emily A. Moore, M.Ed., instructional designer in the online learning office at Texas State Technical College – Harlingen Campus, gives suggestions to help increase the educational effectiveness of an online course video. Read more in her article, “From Passive Viewing to Online Learning: Simple Techniques for Applying Active Learning Strategies to Online Course Videos.”

Video can easily and effectively be incorporated inside your Blackboard courses. There are several ways to add videos to your Blackboard courses.

To provide just-in-time feedback or to build in spontaneous interaction, faculty and students can use the Video Everywhere tool to record video directly via their webcam or reuse an already recorded video from their playlist. The Video Everywhere tool allows faculty and students to place video wherever the Content Editor is available, from discussion board posts, to assessment feedback, to blog posts, journals, wikis, and of course in announcements and content areas. Furthermore, by leveraging the power and ease of use of YouTube, the Video Everywhere tool allows you to add rich media into courses quickly and efficiently.

image showing Video Everywhere recording

Blackboard supports embedding and/or linking to video from many other systems and solutions. Sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, or other video repositories can be embedded easily by switching to html mode in the Content Editor and then pasting in the embed code.

image showing Embed Video using HTML code

The benefit of embedding video into a course is that it enables the students to stay within the context of the course and within the sequence of instruction, rather than linking out away from course content.

Another way to add video to your course is to upload the video file (i.e., MPEG/AVI, QuickTime, Flash/Shockwave, Microsoft .asf and .wmv formats).

Video files are generally large files. Your course size is total of your uploaded video files sizes along with the size of all other course content. Each Blackboard course has a 1.25 GB maximum course size limit. It is a good idea to embed or link to videos rather than uploading video files to your course to help you to stay within the maximum course size limit. You can upload your videos to YouTube, Vimeo, or other media server and then embed or link to the video within the course as explained above.

image showing Build Content

When adding video files, it is a good idea to include links to any browser plug-ins or media player files that users will need to view the videos.

Want more information?

Simple Techniques for Applying Active Learning Strategies to Videos
Video Everywhere
Best Practices for Posting Video Announcements
Creating Mashups
Embed Videos into Your Course
How to Create Audio, Image, and Video Links
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 #107: Mashups

September 22nd, 2014

The Blackboard Mashup feature allows you to view and share media content from external websites (i.e., YouTube Video, Flickr Photo, and SlideShare Presentation). A Mashup can be used in a variety of ways within a course. For example, you can encourage discussion about a classic play by creating a Mashup that links to a YouTube video of a scene from the play and a link to a newspaper review of that production.

You can create Mashups as standalone content items in a course area. You can also create them in other places such as test questions, discussion board forums, journals, blogs, and assignments by using the Content Editor.

Mashups will appear in your Blackboard course in the following ways:

  • Embed: The Mashup appears directly on the page.
  • Thumbnail: A small picture of the Mashup appears on the page with controls to launch it.
  • Text Link with Player: A link to the Mashup appears on the page. Click the link to launch the Mashup.

Although fully integrated within the Blackboard course, the Mashup resides on an external website, reducing file space needs within a course.

Students are able to add Mashups wherever they have access to the Content Editor.

Follow these steps to do it.

To add a Mashup in a content area in your course you should:

  1. Get into the course where you want to add a Mashup
  2. Verify Edit Mode is On
  3. On the Course Menu, click Content Area where you want to add the Mashup
  4. In the Content Area window, roll your mouse over [Build Content] and navigate to Mashups (in right hand column) and select a Mashup (i.e., Flickr Photo, SlideShare Presentation, YouTube Video)
  5. Enter your search terms and click [Go]
  6. After the search results have loaded, there is an option to ‘Preview’ or ‘Select’ your Mashup Item
  7. Selecting your Mashup Item will launch a window giving you the opportunity to select options for your Mashup
  8. Select your options and click [Submit]

To add a Mashup using the Content Editor you should:

image showing Mashup dropdown list content editor

  1. Navigate to an Assignment, Journal, Blog, Wiki, Discussion Board, or other course content where the Content Editor is accessible
  2. Once in the Content Editor, place your cursor where you want the Mashup to be inserted
  3. Click on the Mashups button in the Content Editor toolbar and select a Mashup (i.e. Flickr Photo, SlideShare Presentation, YouTube Video)
  4. Enter your search terms and click [Go]
  5. After the search results have loaded, there is an option to ‘Preview’ or ‘Select’ your Mashup Item
  6. Selecting your Mashup Item will launch a window giving you the opportunity to select options for your Mashup
  7. Select your options and click [Submit]

Want more information?

How to Create Mashups in a Content Area
How to Create Mashups Using the Content Editor
Content Editor Explained
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.

The bottle-filling station is here!

September 19th, 2014

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching has been part of Xavier’s culture for 20 years. Therefore we have selected sustainability as the theme for our 20th anniversary year – teaching sustainability in our disciplines, providing offerings to sustain faculty in their professional development, and engaging in sustainable practices of our own – all to promote Xavier’s mission of creating a more just and humane society.


In line with our sustainability theme, we are no longer serving bottled water. With the support of Academic Affairs, we’ve installed a bottle-filling station on the fifth floor of the library. Please remember to bring your water bottle when you come to CAT!

Bb Tip #106: Working with Groups

September 18th, 2014

image showing a someone drawing light bulbs on a  blackboard

Online groups can enrich class discussion and provide a virtual environment for sharing information. The Groups tool allows instructors to form virtual groups of students to support peer collaboration. Groups can be easily created one at a time or in sets. Groups can be designated as Self-Enroll (allows students to add themselves to a Group), Manual Enroll (instructor assigns students to Groups), or Random Enroll (Blackboard system distributes students equally into Groups). Once created, each Group has its own space in the course which allows the students to work together. The instructor can enable an assortment of tools for the Groups (i.e., blogs, wikis, journals, discussion boards, file exchange) to help students collaborate. Students can belong to multiple Groups simultaneously, so an instructor might assign students to different Groups for different assignments or projects.

Follow these steps to do it.

To create a group and assign students to the group you should:

  1. In the [Control Panel], click on [Users and Groups] to expand it, and then select [Groups].
  2. Click on [Create Single Group] and select [Manual Enroll].
  3. Select whether the new group is available to students.
  4. Select the collaboration tools to make available to the group. Select the grading option if the Group Blog, Group Journal, or Group Wiki contributions will be graded and type points possible. Once the grade setting is made, it cannot be reversed.
  5. Select whether to allow members to add modules to the group home page. Only the person who added the modules can view them.
  6. Select members by moving them from the Items to Select box to the Selected Items box using the right-pointing arrow.
  7. Click [Submit].

To create a group set and assign students to the groups you should:

  1. In the [Control Panel], click on [Users and Groups] to expand it, and then select [Groups].
  2. Click on [Create Group Set] on the action bar to access the drop-down list.
  3. Select the type of group set you want to create (i.e., Manual Enroll, Self-Enroll, or Random Enroll).
  4. Choose your Group options. The options presented are dependent on type of group set you are creating.
  5. Click [Submit].

Want more information?

Getting Started with Groups (pdf)
Working with Course Groups
Create Single Group Video [00:03:39]
Create Group Sets Video [00:02:28]
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.

CAT News: September 2014

September 17th, 2014

CAT XX 1994-2014 Sustainability

This fall, the Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT) is marking its 20th anniversary. Since its inception in 1994, CAT has existed to fulfill its mission “to advance the art and science of teaching and learning” and has enjoyed broad faculty participation in its services and activities. In celebration of its 20th anniversary, CAT staff have planned a series of special events, beginning with a Kick-Off Social Hour which was held on Thursday, September 4th. and only slightly upstaged by the Dr. Francis’ retirement announcement earlier in the day.

CAT has been able to sustain its initiatives and offerings over two decades by evolving with the times to meet faculty needs. And this year, CAT staff have organized their offerings around the theme of Sustainability — exploring issues related to sustainability in the curriculum as well as sustaining the whole faculty member across all areas of responsibility.

In celebration of its 20th year, CAT is exploring ways to expand its services (and ultimately its mission) in supporting the faculty member in all areas of responsibility – Teaching, Scholarship, and Service – utilizing a teacher-scholar model based on comprehensive faculty development. To this end, CAT is in the process of putting together a team from its faculty advisory board to explore an expansion of its mission/values/programs (already affectionately called the MVPs) that takes a holistic approach to developing the faculty member.

In addition, at New Faculty Orientation we welcomed twelve new faculty members to Xavier University. We hosted a day and a half orientation to introduce faculty to Xavier resources. Throughout the academic year, we will host monthly brown bags for this group, discussing topics such as teaching at an HBCU, getting grants, and creating effective assignments. The New Faculty mentoring program is also underway.

P.S. Our 2014 Annual Report is now available.

Bb Tip #105: Add Test Student in Courses

September 17th, 2014

Instructors can see their courses as a student would by turning edit mode off. However, instructors do not get the true experience of navigating the course like a student when edit mode is turned off.

The “Add Test Student” course tool allows instructors to add a test student to their course. The instructor can login to the course as the test student and navigate the course exactly as a student would. While logged in as the test student, the instructor is able to complete assignments, tests, surveys, etc. The instructor would also be able to see the “test student” in the Grade Center. The instructor has the option of removing the test student from the course when the test student is no longer needed.

image showing Add Test Student Course Tool

Follow these steps to do it.

In order to add a test student to your course, you should:

  1. Goto the [Control Panel] for the course and click on the [Course Tools] link to expand it. Click on [Add Test Student].
  2. You should see the Create Test Student Account screen. Make a note of the Test Student Account’s username, and then enter a password for the test student account. The “enroll this test student on the current course” option should be checked.
  3. Click on the [Submit] button. You should see a message indicating the test student user was created.
  4. You can now login as the “test student” using the username and password created in step 2.

Want more information?

Step-by-step instructions are available [PDF].
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.

Best Practices for Posting Video Announcements

September 15th, 2014

by Karen Nichols

In the September 8, 2014 issue of Faculty Focus, Amy Erickson and Catz Neset offer in their article “Building Community and Creating Relevance in the Online Classroom,” several best practices for creating video announcements to post in Blackboard (or whatever Learning Management System you may be using).

In addition to your students having more exposure to you as a “real” person speaking to them, video announcements can also be a presentation of material or virtual tour of the week’s lesson, narrated by you.

Here is the authors’ formula for success:

  • Provide an introduction each week and share your availability
  • Give feedback and answer questions from the previous week
  • Showcase exceptional student work from the previous week
  • Highlight the objectives of the coming week and any special preparation or required resources
  • Connect your coursework to relevant current events
  • **I would add to this list:  Keep in mind that students may be using mobile devices to access Blackboard so you’ll want to create your video announcement to be easily viewed on a smartphone or ipad

Video announcements are not limited to strictly online courses. Posting a video announcement in a traditional face to face class can be a timesaver in that you can answer questions from last week and set up the coming week’s agenda before the students arrive in class.

Here’s a video announcement from Xavier’s own Mark Gstohl.  He introduces himself, gives his contact information and tells the students about an upcoming assignment.  He also adds a bit of humor which goes a long way to building a rapport with the students.

Please feel free to share a link to one of your video announcements!

Failure is an Option

September 12th, 2014

by Tiera S. Coston

Better Mistakes

For most of us, the words “mistake” and “failure” conjure up feelings of insecurity, humiliation and anxiety. And if the the words have such a negative effect, then think of how we feel when we actually make a mistake or fail at something. Further complicate the situation by imagining that the person who made the mistake or failed at something is a young college student who is already feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared. I propose a shift in the way we view mistakes and failure. We, as educators, must model to our students a mindset in which mistakes and failure are a natural part of mastering subject matter. We must teach them how to use their mistakes as valuable information that can illuminate their road to mastery. Mistakes are one of the most important things that can happen in the classroom because they have the power to direct students where to focus their efforts. Ultimately, academic success comes from how students feel about and use their mistakes. Helping your students to understand that failure is not only an option, but a necessity, is one of the most important things you will ever teach them. I certainly do not suggest that facilitating this shift in mindset in your classroom will be easy; it will require a great deal of work for both you and the students. However, consistent effort and a willingness to try (and fail at) different approaches will yield students who are in a better position to learn and succeed (master subject matter). Failure is an Option: Helping Your Students Make Their Mistakes Work for Them may help to give you a starting point if you would like to facilitate this type of paradigm shift in your classroom. Also, here is the form if you are interested in using the RAM Strategy.