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Humanized learning increases the relevance of course content and improves students' motivation to log-in to your course week-after-week. Whether you are teaching a face-to-face, hybrid, or online course, humanizing and personalizing your Brightspace course can go a long way to providing an inviting space for your students.

One of the ways you can humanize your Brightspace courses is to add a profile picture. By default, when you do not setup your profile picture it will appear as a blank avatar in the Brightspace system. Rather than having this faceless image, faculty and students can upload a profile picture to represent them throughout the Brightspace system.

profile picture

You can only have one profile picture at a time to be used throughout the entire Brightspace system. The recommended pixel size for a profile picture is 150 by 150. Larger images should be clipped.

NOTE: The University has the following policy regarding profile pictures:

Users may not send, display or receive pictures or other media which are copyrighted, abusive, obscene, sexually inappropriate, threatening, racially offensive, or considered harassment or offensive to human dignity.

Faculty should include this statement about what is not an acceptable profile picture when they ask students to upload a profile picture.

Follow these steps to do it.

To upload a profile picture:

  1. Click your name in the Brightspace minibar and then select Profile from the dropdown menu.
  2. Click Change Picture.
  3. Navigate to find the image you want to use as your profile picture.
  4. Click on the Save and Close button when you are done.

Want more information?

You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit the Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Individuals lined up to form the letters NDLW

November 6-10, 2017 is National Distance Learning Week (NDLW). In association with NDLW, the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) is offering free webinars on a variety of topics related to online teaching and learning. A few other organizations are offering free webinars during NDLW as well.

For more information on the activities and to register for the webinars visit NDLW 2017.

Brightspace @ XULA logo

Brightspace (formerly called Desire2Learn or D2L) will replace Blackboard as our learning management system (LMS) starting spring 2018.

Brightspace training sessions start next week (the week of October 16th). Now is the time to sign-up for training sessions. You can sign-up for trainings on our events page.

Sandbox courses will be used in the Brightspace training sessions. Fill out the Brightspace sandbox course request form to request a sandbox course.

Additionally, our Brightspace Migration FAQs have been updated. Please review the updated FAQs, they should be able to answer your questions about our migration plan.

Want more information?

Brightspace Migration FAQs
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions

Download Conversation #62

A conversation with Moustapha Diack of Southern University on open educational resources.

Professor Moustapha Diack is the Assistant Vice President for Online Services of the Southern University System as well as Chair of the Doctoral Program in Science/Mathematics Education (SMED) and interim Director of Online Learning and Professional Development for Southern University Baton Rouge. His research interests at Southern University are in the areas of Instructional Design, cognitive theory of multimedia learning and the strategic planning and deployment of online learning systems to enhance student learning outcomes. Dr. Diack has extensive experience in the areas of online learning design and delivery and has played a global leadership role in the areas of Open Education and Open Access. He was the recipient of the International MERLOT eLearning Innovation Award in 2009. He is a member of the MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching) Faculty Development Editorial Board and Co-Founding Director of the MERLOT Africa Network (MAN), a network of African higher education institutions and digital scholars engaged in the research, development and implementation of open education. At the Southern University System, Dr. Diack oversees the development and implementation of integrated digital library services, the Southern University Online Library for Education (SUOL4ed), to facilitate quality online programs development and college affordability through the adoption of open education resources and open textbook. Dr. Diack is a member of the Louisiana Board of Regents Task Force On Electronic Learning and Past President 2003-2006 of the Louisiana Academy of Science.

Links for this episode:

...continue reading "Conversation #62: Moustapha Diack on Open Educational Resources"

Many teachers have been using YouTube to share videos with their classes, and for good reason. YouTube offers a lot of conveniences that make it a very attractive platform for delivering video content.

However, most teachers with whom I've spoken do not want to be YouTube superstars. In fact, most of them don't want anyone watching their videos — except, of course, their students.

For this reason, I've recommended setting the privacy of such videos to "unlisted." An unlisted video is essentially invisible to anyone who doesn't have that gnarly and convoluted direct YouTube link. The only other options are "public" and "private," neither of which would seem to do the job — at least, not at first glance.

But there is another way, which may be better, at least sometimes. Let's take a second look at that "private" setting. A private video can normally be seen only by you.


Click on that "share" button, though, and you open up a new dialog. Here you could enter individual email addresses to allow specific people to view. That's kind of a pain, but (now that Xavier is a Google campus) you also have the option to enable viewing by "everyone at"


You'll still have to share the link with your students, of course. Additionally, your students must be logged into YouTube using their account. If they are logged in with a personal account, they won't be able to view the video.

In most cases, the "unlisted" setting is sufficient, perhaps even preferable. But if you are especially sensitive about who might view your video, this option is worth considering.

(As always, I urge teachers to consider doing the extra work to make your content fully and legally public.)

A tip of the hat to Asem Abdulahad of the Department of Chemistry for this pointer.

The Grade Center is more than just a way to record students' grades. It's a dynamic and interactive tool, allowing instructors to record data, calculate grades, and monitor student progress. In addition to being able to record grades, instructors can track student work and share private comments and feedback with students throughout the semester.

image showing Grade Center

The Grade Center is integrated with gradable items such as tests, assignments, discussion boards, blogs, journals, wikis, and ungraded items, such as surveys and self-assessments. Instructors can create Grade Center columns for activities and/or requirements done outside of Blackboard, such as exams given on paper, oral presentations, and participation.

Students also benefit when their instructor uses the Grade Center. Students have the opportunity to adjust their approach to learning to improve their performance when they see their grades and instructor feedback.

Follow these steps to do it.

Listed below are links to previous Bb tips on using the Grade Center:

Want more information?

Working with the Grade Center
Try these Blackboard How-To documents
Explore Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center
Visit our Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Meditation Room

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development invites you to join us for a regular group meditation. We'll meet each Wednesday afternoon throughout the 2017-2018 academic year. Drop in when you can.

What to expect?

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

But I've never done this before!

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

Why meditate?

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

  • Date: August 23, 2017 - May 8, 2018 (when classes are in session)
  • Time: 12:30 - 12:45 PM
  • Location: Meditation Room, St. Katharine Drexel Chapel
  • Sponsor: CAT+FD

Photo credit: Bart Everson

One of the most powerful aspects of using Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides is the ability to share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with others, so you can collaboratively edit those documents together in real-time from anywhere in the world.

Collaborators on a document can view, comment on, or even make changes to the document, depending on the permissions you give them. You no longer have to email document attachments or merge edits from multiple copies of a document ever again. Safely share the files instead!

Here's a handy two page guide, from Oxford Brookes University, on how to share Google documents safely.

page one of share documents safely pdf

ICYMI, read Bart Everson’s “Drive Right In” blog post for more information about Xavier’s adoption of G Suite (formerly Google Apps) and sharing files in Google Drive.

Experiment with Brightspace features and functions using your own Sandbox course. A sandbox course is an empty course where you can experiment with Brightspace features and functions without affecting your actual courses. The sandbox course will be your very own, and can be used as a place to experiment without affecting any real students.

Brightspace sandbox course banner

Fill out the Brightspace sandbox course request form to request a sandbox course.

Sandbox courses will be used in the upcoming Brightspace training. You can find more information about the Brightspace training as well as sign-up for the training sessions on our events page.

Want more information?

Brightspace Migration FAQs
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions

Download Conversation #61

A conversation with Joan Middendorf of Indiana University on student learning bottlenecks.

Joan’s specialty lies in leading faculty groups to make disciplinary ways of thinking available to students. With David Pace she developed the “Decoding the Disciplines” approach to define crucial bottlenecks to learning, dissect and model expert thinking, and assess student performance. Joan and the History Learning Project (Pace and Professors Arlene Diaz and Leah Shopkow) were awarded the Menges Research Award from the Professional Development Network in Higher Education and the Maryellen Weimer Scholarly Work on Teaching and Learning Award.

Links for this episode:

...continue reading "Conversation #61: Joan Middendorf on Learning Bottlenecks"