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Did you know you can get CAT+FD events in your electronic calendar? Use this LINK and you can get workshop listings automatically in your Google Calendar, iCal, or whatever system you prefer.

That might also make it just a little easier to remember that we are continuing our popular mid-week meditation series, now entering its fourth year. It starts this Wednesday, August 21st!

Read on for details... ...continue reading "Put a Little Quiet in Your Calendar"

push pin

The My Courses widget (on the My Home page) uses tile-based images to make finding your courses easier. Users can choose which courses they see in their My Courses widget by pinning and unpinning courses.

  • Pinning a course makes it appear in the My Courses widget.
  • Unpinning a course makes it disappear from the My Courses widget.
  • Pinning a course also makes it rise to the top of the Select a Course list and on the My Courses widget.

Search through all of your courses and manually pin and unpin courses to ensure that your most relevant courses are visible on the My Home page.

Follow these steps to do it.

To pin/unpin a course, you should:

  1. From the Minibar, click Select a course (i.e., the waffle icon).
  2. Select a Course

  3. Type the name of the course that you want to pin or find it by searching in the Search for a course field or scroll down to find the course.
  4. Click the Pin icon beside the course. The pinned course will move to the top of the Select a Course list and to the first position in the My Courses widget.
  5. pin/unpin course

Note: To unpin a course click the Pin icon beside the course.

If you want to completely change the order in which your courses are displayed, unpin all of them and then pin them in the order you want them to appear. The most recently pinned course will always appear first.

Want more information?

Pin courses to the top of the Select a Course list
How to Pin Courses (pdf)
How to Reorder Pinned Courses
View all the Brightspace training recaps
Continuous Delivery release notes
Brightspace Known Issues
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

Orange Room logo

Our new resource, The Orange Room, is a community where instructors can learn from each other about efficient and innovative ways to use Brightspace. The Orange Room is a place where educators can share tips, suggestions, knowledge, and expertise to help colleagues use Brightspace to improve their teaching and to inspire the next generation of learners.

Initial contributions to The Orange Room include Sr. Juliana Haynes' story about how she used Brightspace to automate assignment collection and simplify grading of the assignments using the annotation tools and interactive rubrics. You will also find Brightspace tips from Drs. Tia Smith and Elizabeth Yost Hammer.

screenshot of Sr. Juliana's story in the Orange Room

Are you doing something innovative? Have you discovered a handy tip? We invite you to share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

Want more information?

The Orange Room
View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Infographics are likely a part of your everyday life. Infographics came into the graphic design scene about ten years ago. The increase of free, easy to use tools have made the creation of infographics available to many. They’ve become a staple for communication in classrooms, in the workplace, and across the web. Even if you haven’t jumped on the infographic bandwagon, it is likely that you have seen infographics as you scroll through social media and blogs.

Infographics are colorful and are very attractive to the eye. But what are they exactly, and how could you use them in your classroom? An infographic is a collection of imagery, charts, and minimal text that gives an easy-to-understand overview of a topic. They are more than a fad, infographics are useful tools to represent information in a compact way.

As in the example below, infographics use striking, engaging visuals to communicate information quickly and clearly.

Accessible PDF version of Course Design Zen infographic.

Visuals in an infographic must do more than excite and engage. They must help us understand and remember the content of the infographic. The best infographics have an equal balance of text and visuals.

Why should you use infographics? Infographics are great for making complex information easy to digest. They can be helpful anytime you want to:

  • Provide a quick overview of a topic
  • Explain a complex process
  • Display research findings or survey data
  • Summarize a long blog post or report
  • Compare and contrast multiple options
  • Raise awareness about an issue or cause

There are many options for using infographics that do not include creating them yourself. Found infographics (infographics created by others) can be much easier to integrate within instruction. Original infographics (graphics created by you or your learners) can be an excellent format for educators and students to synthesize complex concepts and data.

If you are interested in creating your own infographics, here are some tools you can try:

Whether you use an original or a found infographic, you should always ensure the infographic is accessible. For accessibility:

When you need to give someone a really quick rundown on something that can be hard to explain in words alone, an infographic is a good way to go. Remember, the best infographics use a combination of text, images, and data to inform and engage.

For more information about using infographics in education refer to this New York Times article: Data Visualized: More on Teaching With Infographics.

* Course Design Zen infographic was created using Canva.
Featured image by rawpixel from Pixabay

Brightspace Pulse is a mobile app that can help learners stay connected and on track with their Brightspace courses. It provides one easy view of course calendars, readings, assignments, evaluations, grades, and announcement items. The app can help learners make better decisions about how to handle their workload, when to submit assignments, and when to prepare for tests. Real-time alerts can let learners know when classes are canceled, class is meeting in an alternate location, or new grades are available. The schedule view and weekly visualization enables learners to quickly at a glance view what is due today, this week, and upcoming across all their courses.

While the Brightspace Pulse app is designed for the learner, instructors can benefit too.

Brightspace Pulse App on iPhone

While the Brightspace Pulse app is designed for the learner, instructors can benefit too. When instructors enter due dates or end dates for assignments and activities the information is populated in the Pulse app enabling learners to stay connected and on track. Thus, instructors can spend less time reminding and more time teaching.

Instructors can make their courses Pulse friendly by including due dates or end dates for assignments and activities. When instructors do not enter due dates or end dates, no associated information is available in the Pulse app.

The Pulse app is great for helping students stay on track in face-to-face classes as well. Instructors can set up their face-to-face assignments and activities as events in the Brightspace course calendar. Students will get those date feeds in the Brightspace Pulse app.

Help keep students on track for success in all their courses by including a due date or end date for assignments and activities.

Want more information?

Brightspace Pulse App
Brightspace Tip #112: Due Dates
Pulse Dates - Set Date Restrictions for Content (video)
Pulse Dates - Set Date Restrictions for an Assignment (video)
Pulse Dates - Set Date Restrictions for a Discussion Topic (video)
Pulse Dates - Set Date Restrictions for a Quiz (video)
Pulse Dates - Set Date Availability for a Calendar Event (video)
Brightspace Tip #74: Manage Dates

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

Brightspace, our Learning Management System (LMS), was designed with accessibility in mind. However, it is the responsibility of the instructor and/or course designer to ensure their course content is formatted using best practices for accessibility; including the use of good heading structure, text formatting, contrast and color, descriptive links, alternative text, tables, lists, etc.

I am writing a series of accessibility related blog posts that will provide suggestions on how you can make small changes when creating course content to make it accessible. This is the seventh tip in my series of accessibility related blog posts and it focuses on tables.

A table is a means of arranging information into rows and columns. Tables are very useful for displaying data in an organized manner. Your course schedule and office hours are examples where formatting this information in a table could make the it more accessible.

Tables should be avoided when you want to simply format other content (i.e., just to line things up neatly.) Using tables just for layout purposes is not the best practice for accessibility and may make it nearly impossible for people who use assistive technologies to access the information. If you do choose to use a table to layout text on the page, make sure you lay it out so it will make sense when read from left to right. Text-to-speech software by default will read the information in a table left to right, cell by cell, and row by row.

This video shows how a screen reader reads information in tables. There is an example of a good and a bad table layout. The video demonstrates how reading order AND the information in the columns are important considerations when creating accessible tables.

In the bad example in the video, the use of the dash and abbreviations for the months can be confusing when read by a screen reader. The abbreviated months would have been less confusing if the year had been included. The use of 1,2,3 in the "Week" column in the bad example can be confusing as well. A better option is to use Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 in the respective column.

When creating tables, read your table left to right, top to bottom (never repeating a cell). Does it make sense? Keep in mind that a screen reader will read tables in this way. If it doesn't make sense, you should reorganize the table so that it makes sense when read left to right, top to bottom without repeating a cell.

Consider these examples of accessible tables:

example of accessible tables

The tables, in the examples above, make sense when read left to right, top to bottom, without repeating a cell.

Follow these tips when creating tables to make them accessible:

  • Do not use tabs or spaces to create tables. It may look like a table; however it will not be recognized as a table and can be confusing when read by assistive technologies.
  • Add Row and Column Headers to tables to distinguish the heading text from the data area of the table. Screen readers read simple tables efficiently when the column or row headers are clearly defined.
  • Repeat Row Headers if the table spans more than one page. Tables that are contained on multiple pages should have the header row repeated on each page.
  • When you use tables for the presentation of data, summarize the table to aid reader comprehension. This helps all students to know the high points of a table.
  • Break up complex tables (nested tables and merged or split cells inside of tables) into a series of simple tables. Simple tables are more usable for everyone.
  • The information in each cell should make sense if read without the column heading. For example, instead of entering 1, 2, 3, in a "Chapter" column you should enter Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, in the cells to make it clearer when read by a screen reader.

When applying structure to documents and web content, you should use the appropriate built-in formatting structure tools to do so. Doing so will make content accessible to everyone, including users of assistive technology.

Creating tables in MS Word 2013:

  1. On the Insert tab choose Insert Table and select the appropriate number of rows and columns for your table.
  2. Select the header row in the table and press the right mouse button. A Table Properties window will open.
  3. Select the Row tab and check the box next to Repeat as header row at the top of each page. Press Enter key or Ok button. This header row will be repeated at top of each page.

insert table in MS Word

Creating tables in PowerPoint 2013:

  1. Use the Insert Table function in the Slide layout select the appropriate number of rows and columns for your table.

insert table from placeholder in PowerPoint

You can also insert a table

  1. From the Insert tab, click the Table command.
  2. A drop-down menu containing a grid of squares will appear. Hover the mouse over the grid to select the number of columns and rows in the table.

insert table in PowerPoint

Working with tables in the Brightspace HTML Editor:

To create a table in the HTML Editor:

  1. Click the insert/edit table function and select the appropriate number of rows and columns for your table to begin adding a table in the text area.
HTML Editor - table formatting options
HTML Editor - Table formatting options

To create column headers:

  1. Put your cursor in one of the cells you want to mark up as a table header.
  2. Then click on the drop-down menu next to the Table icon in the toolbar.
  3. Choose Cell Properties. The Cell properties window will pop-up.
  4. In the Cell type field, click on the drop-down list and select Column Header.
  5. Click Update. You will know you have successfully changed the row to table headers because the look of the table cells will change.
  6. Repeat for each cell that is a column header.
create column header in HTML Editor
HTML Editor - Create column header

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 tables 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. Remember a properly structured table is good design and can benefit everyone.

Additional information about tables can be found here:

Brightspace, our Learning Management System (LMS), was designed with accessibility in mind. However, it is the responsibility of the instructor and/or course designer to ensure their course content is formatted using best practices for accessibility; including the use of good heading structure, text formatting, contrast and color, descriptive links, alternative text, tables, lists, etc.

I am writing a series of accessibility related blog posts that will provide suggestions on how you can make small changes when creating course content to make it accessible. This is the sixth tip in my series of accessibility related blog posts and it 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.

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.

bulleted list

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 2013:

  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 Google Docs and Slides:

  1. On your computer, open a document or presentation in Google Docs or Slides
  2. Click a page or slide where you want to add a list
  3. In the toolbar, choose a list type. If you don't see the option, click More ...
  4. Start typing your text for the list

create list in Google Docs

Creating lists in the Brightspace HTML Editor:

  1. In the HTML Editor, select the text that you want to add bullets or numbering to
  2. Select the unordered list or ordered list button

create list in HTML 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 here:
Learn how to create lists in Word 2013
Learn how to create lists in Word 2016
Learn how to create lists in PowerPoint 2013
Learn how to create lists in PowerPoint 2016

carpenter's toolbox

Course Tools are communication and collaboration tools that enhance the interaction between instructors and students in Brightspace courses.

When viewing the tools available in Brightspace you see a number of tools listed there. How do you know which tool is right for the job?

The Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning at Memorial University of Newfoundland developed a guide designed to help you to pick the right Brightspace tool for the job. The guide includes a chart that identifies the tools that align with common scenarios, and a link to further info for each tool.

Want more information?

Which Brightspace tool should I use?
View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

As you prepare to teach this fall, now is a good time to get started setting up your Brightspace courses. According to our Information Technology Center (ITC), the fall courses have been created in Brightspace. If you are listed as the instructor for the fall course in Banner, you should see the course in your My Courses widget in Brightspace.

NOTE: If you do not see your fall courses in your My Courses widget, you should click on the link to "View All Courses" (located at the bottom of the My Courses widget). If your fall courses are listed when you "View All Courses" but are not shown in your My Courses widget, you should pin the course in order to have it appear in the My Courses widget. Follow these instructions for pinning/unpinning courses.

To get started, you can post your syllabus, course documents, announcements, and setup your Grade Book in your Brightspace courses. You can also customize your course homepage and/or course image/banner.

checklist

If you teach a course that is cross listed you will have a Brightspace course for each cross listing. You can combine the cross listed courses into one Brightspace course so that you can post course materials and grades to one combined Brightspace course. Combining courses may also work for you if you are teaching different sections of the same course and would like to have the different sections combined into one Brightspace course so that you can post course documents and grades in the one combined course. The beginning of the semester is the best time to submit a request to merge your Brightspace courses before you add course materials or grades to the courses.

Additionally, if the fall course you are teaching is the same as one of your previous courses you can copy the entire course (or copy components) into your "empty" Brightspace fall course.

Follow these steps to do it.

Listed below are links with instructions to:

Want more information?

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

1

Brightspace, our Learning Management System (LMS), was designed with accessibility in mind. However, it is the responsibility of the instructor and/or course designer to ensure their course content is formatted using best practices for accessibility; including the use of good heading structure, text formatting, contrast and color, descriptive links, alternative text, tables, lists, etc.

I am writing a series of accessibility related blog posts that will provide suggestions on how you can make small changes when creating course content to make it accessible. This is the fifth tip in my series of accessibility related blog posts and it focuses on when alt text (alternative text) is not enough.

Computers can read text on a screen but images, graphs, and charts are meaningless to visually impaired users. Alternative text (alt text) is an alternate method for supplying information about images, graphs, and charts to users who are visually impaired.

example of a infographic

Example of an infographic

Alt text should describe the important contents of an image that a user who cannot see an image would need to know, such as text, numbers, and other data. Describing colors, location of objects, and other visuals is only needed when necessary to understanding the image.

complex images, graphs, and charts require more detailed description than the limited one or two brief sentences that are used in the alt text

Adding alt text to images, graphs, and charts is an important part of making them accessible. Most images, graphs, and charts can be made accessible using alt text descriptions. However, complex images, graphs, and charts require more detailed description than the limited one or two brief sentences that are used in the alt text.

example of a complex data visualization

Example of a complex data visualization

What should you do when you have a complex image, graph, or chart whose meaning cannot be conveyed with alt text alone? There are several ways to handle complex images where a short description is not possible. The best solution is to include a thorough description of the complex image in the content of the page, immediately before or after the image. If you don’t want to add more content to your page, another preferred alternative is to create another web page with the thorough description of the complex image and link to it near the image.

You may be wondering what exactly should you include in the thorough description. The Diagram Center (Digital Image And Graphic Resources for Accessible Materials) is an excellent resource that provides comprehensive guidelines to make it easier for you to make complex images accessible to all learners.

Here are a few additional resources to help you with describing complex images:

It is extremely important for students with disabilities to have access to accessible course content. Describing complex images utilizing these tips is good course design. Even though you may not have a student with a disability currently enrolled in your course, you will find students without disabilities will take advantage of accessible content as well.