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About Janice Florent

Technology Coordinator in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development at Xavier University of Louisiana

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

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.

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

Often instructors are looking for images to use in their courses because images can liven up the course and help students understand the course material.

magnifying glass clipart

Be careful using a Google search for images. Many of the images that you find in a Google search are copyrighted. Images you use for your courses should be free of any copyright restrictions.

There are several sites that I like to use to find free images that are either in the public domain or covered by licenses that allow you to reuse images under certain restrictions. Those sites are:

You may have found an image you want to use, however, you would like to make changes to it. You can find image editing software suggestions in the Xavier Library Digital Humanities Toolbox. Just make sure the image copyright gives you permission to modify the image.

What’s your favorite site(s) for finding free images? Let us know by leaving a comment on this blog post.

ICYMI, read my blog post on Digital Copyrights for copyright information.

luggage with stickers and caption Brightspace is replacing Blackboard

Brightspace (formerly called Desire2Learn or D2L) will replace Blackboard as our learning management system (LMS) starting spring 2018. Brightspace has an intuitive design that makes it easy to accomplish tasks quickly. There are a number of features that faculty and students will find useful, including drag-and-drop file management, a mobile friendly interface, virtual classrooms, student portfolio tool, end-user support, and built-in analytics. Visit the D2L website for more information about Brightspace.

Brightspace training sessions will be offered starting mid-October. You can sign-up for training sessions on our events page.

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.

pitfall street sign

In my blog post on using gamification in your courses, I wrote about why educators are using gamification in teaching and learning. If you are considering using gamification in your courses, beware of pitfalls.

In a recent eLearning Industry blog post, Srividya Kumar wrote,

When gamification is not thought through and designed well, it can have the exact opposite effect of what was intended.

Srividya indicates that gamification can be like walking a tightrope in order to get it right. She goes on to provide some pitfalls to watch out for. The pitfalls she suggests you avoid are:

1. Superficial Engagement

Having learners fall over themselves to earn goodies, or compete to achieve top position on a leaderboard is great, but if these are the only reasons that spur learners to perform the desired behaviors, then it’s not going to last very long. Extrinsic motivators can only go so far to engage and motivate. Make sure to have more intrinsic motivators than extrinsic motivators.

2. Unintended Consequences

Think long and hard about the motivators, rewards, and consequences. While encouraging and rewarding the right behaviors does definitely motivate people, sometimes unintended, and even undesirable behaviors can be the side effects of a gamification initiative, as evidenced by the cobra effect.

3. Rewarding the Wrong Behaviors

Avoid Kerr’s folly, rewarding A while hoping for B. Your reward structure shouldn’t undermine your goal. You should be clear about the goal and the outcomes you are aiming for. Measure and reward what is important, not what is easy.

4. Rewards That Learners Don’t Find Valuable

You may have received a gift that you really didn’t like or could not find much use for and struggled to tell the person that you did not like or could not use the gift. That’s exactly what would happen if you throw a bunch of worthless badges at learners, without thinking about whether they would find these badges valuable. Avoid this situation by thinking about whether your learners will find your rewards useful/exciting.

I’m sure you can think of other pitfalls to avoid. Please use the comments below to let us know your thoughts on this topic.

If you are interested reading more about these pitfalls, refer to the “4 Gamification Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them” blog post.

Photo Credit: Pitfall Str | CC BY 2.0

One feature missing from Blackboard is the ability to get a word count for discussion board threads, blogs, wikis, and journals. Currently, most professors get a word count by copying text from Blackboard, pasting it into Microsoft Word and then getting a word count inside MS Word. The "Word Count" Add-on for the Firefox web browser skips this whole process and gives you the ability to get a word count for discussion board threads, blogs, wikis, and journals while on the respective page in Blackboard.

image showing word count

Follow these steps to do it.

First download and install the Add-on:
Liberty University Word Count Add-on for Firefox
To get a word count in Blackboard:

When on the Blackboard page (i.e., discussion boards, blogs, wikis, or journals), you will see a button labeled ‘Word Count’ at the top and bottom of the page. Highlight the text you would like to count and click the Word Count button. A count of the number of highlighted words will be displayed in the box next to the Word Count button.

Want more information?

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.