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In an Inside Higher Ed blog post, Travis Grandy, PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, writes,

Do you ever feel like you want to get more out of your syllabus? Sure, it plays center-stage during the first day of class, but does it really have to end there? Perhaps it’s a matter of presentation.

He goes on to express his frustration of writing a carefully detailed syllabus only to see his students tuck it away never to be seen again; assuming they read the syllabus in the first place.

After seeing an article on creative approaches to the syllabus, Travis felt his syllabus had a design problem as his syllabus had over the years ballooned to over two thousand words, single-spaced, with a few bullet points.

Travis redesigned his syllabus to not only make the content more useful for his style of teaching, but also easier to use and visually engaging. His revised syllabus ended up being full-color, using illustrations and visual metaphors to convey content, and was intentionally designed help students more easily find the information and get excited about the core purposes of the class. It is important to note that to make his syllabus accessible, Travis made his syllabus available in other formats as well.

Travis’ strategies for a syllabus redesign and ways to better integrate the syllabus into teaching and learning are:

Have Your Syllabus Reflect What You Value Most

Design elements to draw attention to the things about your course that you most want to stick with students. This should not come at the expense of being detailed about your classroom policies or meeting institutional requirements for what should be listed on a syllabus.

Tips for the Design Process

  1. Start from a Template: Templates can include great options like two-column newsletter style or a table of contents to make your syllabus easier to reference. MS Word and Google Docs are easy to intermediate skill level tools you can use to create your redesigned syllabus. A few intermediate to advanced skill level tools you can try are Smore and Populr.me.
  2. Get Visual: A visual doesn’t have to be elaborate, but strategically using images, shapes, or flow-charts can be an equally effective way of drawing attention to the most important parts of your syllabus.
  3. Design with Accessibility in Mind: You want to make sure your syllabus is accessible for all students. This should include providing your syllabus in multiple formats and also using easy to read fonts and high contrast colors.
  4. Build Your Design Knowledge: Educate yourself on effective design practices and visual rhetoric.

Beyond the First Day of Class

Use the syllabus at key moments: A great time to ask students to look at the syllabus is when you transition between major units or assignments of the course. You can turn this into a class activity such as having students write a short reflection about how their work in the previous unit helped them develop competencies or achieve course outcomes.

Reinforce concepts from your syllabus in assignments and grading: Use concepts from your syllabus consistently in other course documents including assignment prompts and grading rubrics.

If you do decide to redesign your syllabus keep in mind that accessibility is very important. Don’t assume that a full-color syllabus is accessible to all students. For accessibility, provide multiple options for students to access the content so they can choose what works best for them. This can include printing in color or black and white, sharing the syllabus as a PDF (with character recognition), and using alt-text and captions for images and diagrams.

For more information read the Inside Higher Ed blog post, Give Your Syllabus an Extreme Redesign for the New Year.

Other great articles on syllbus redesign are Writing Syllabi Worth Reading and the Chronicle of Higher Educations's How to Create a Syllabus: Advice Guide.

Additional resources you may find helpful:

Interactive syllabus examples:

Image credit: "27Apr09 ~ Planning" by grace_kat is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

keyboard with an accessibility key

Although there are legal mandates requiring institutions of higher education to make educational materials accessible (e.g., the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act), accessibility is fundamentally just good design. Content that is accessible is better organized and therefore more usable by all. Accessible content renders properly on a wide variety of devices, it is easier to navigate, and it conveys information in a consistent, logical manner. Moreover, changes in how we view the content are occurring. More and more content is being displayed on mobile devices. For content to appear properly on all devices, it must be well designed.

In my recent series of accessibility tips, I identified some things you can do now to design with accessibility in mind as you are creating content and setting up your courses. Designing with accessibility in mind will save you some time in the event you do have a student with a disability. Remember accessible content is not only for the impaired.

Just in case you missed my accessibility series of blog posts, I provided links to them here:

Image credit: "Accessibility First" by Poakpong is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

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Google Chrome is my preferred web browser. I’m always looking for ways to work smarter and not harder. If you use Google Chrome and are looking for ways to be more efficient with it, check out Rajtilak Bhattacharjee’s Google Chrome tips and tricks to help boost your productivity.

ICYMI, check out my Getting Started with Google Apps, Boost Your Gmail Productivity, and Brightspace Tip #55: Google Apps Integration blog posts.

Image credit: image by geralt from Pixabay

update

D2L (the company that owns Brightspace) uses Continuous Delivery to update our Brightspace system. The Continuous Delivery model gives us regular monthly updates allowing for incremental and easily integrated changes with no downtime required for our Brightspace system.

Our Continuous Delivery update occurs on the 4th Thursday of each month. D2L provides release notes to help users stay up-to-date with the changes.

Here are a few updates in the December 2019/20.19.12 release that were added to our system this month:

1) Assignments – File size information in submission receipt email

File size information now displays next to the file name in the submission receipt email sent to learners upon making a submission to an assignment submission folder.

2) Assignments – Submission ID displays for Learners

A new column that displays Submission ID information is visible to learners on the View Feedback page in Assignments.

Submission ID visible to learners when reviewing Submission Feedback information
Submission ID visible to learners when reviewing Submission Feedback information

3) Content – Sort order changes in Upload / Create menu

When using the Upload / Create menu to add activities to Content, the placement of the New Assignment option has moved. Previously, it appeared between New Discussion and New Quiz. Now, New Assignment appears above New Checklist.

Updated sort order of the Upload / Create menu
Updated sort order of the Upload / Create menu

4) Grades - Synchronization with Assignments and Discussions via API and import options

Grades are now fully synchronized in the Assignments and Discussions tools when grades are added to Brightspace via the existing Import as CSV, Import as Excel, and API entry options. This change builds upon recent grades synchronization updates for Assignments and Discussions.

Note: Synchronization only occurs for new grade entries. Existing grade data for assignment submissions and discussions will not automatically be migrated because of the high impact to all past data and reports.

5) Release Conditions – Learners are notified when a release condition triggers new content

In a course that uses release conditions to unlock additional content, learners previously were not informed when new content became available as a result of a release condition that was satisfied. Because there was no automatic notification or refresh of the table of contents, there was the potential for frustration when learners think they are done a module, and are later informed that there are steps left to be completed.

Now, when release conditions are satisfied, the learner is notified using a pop-up ("toast") message that there are new items available in the course.

6) Release Conditions – Updated ordering of Tools

When adding Release Conditions to activities or content, the View Conditions for, and Condition Type menus now display tools in an updated order.

When browsing for release conditions, Assignments is now at the top of the list of tools

When browsing for release conditions, Assignments is now at the top of the list of tools

When creating new release conditions, Assignments is now at the top of the list of tools

When creating new release conditions, Assignments is now at the top of the list of tools

If you are interested in getting more information about these and all the December Continuous Delivery updates, refer to the Brightspace Platform December 2019/20.19.12 Release Notes.

Additionally, refer to the Brightspace Release Notes for Continuous Delivery Releases, for details about current, past, and to preview upcoming continuous delivery updates.

Want more information?

View current, past, and preview upcoming Continuous Delivery release notes
View all the Brightspace training recaps
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.

Image credit: image by geralt from Pixabay

I find that attending a teaching conference is a great way to get inspiration and new ideas, especially at the beginning of a semester (and a new year and a new decade). And this year we have one right in our own backyard!

The Center for Engaged Learning & Teaching (CELT) at Tulane has a similar mission as CAT+FD, and we support each other when possible. Plus, registration is free!

According to conference chair, Mallory Monaco Caterine, the 2020 Sparking Success Faculty Development Conference is shaping up to be a great event--with already over 150 faculty from around the New Orleans area signed up to collaborate and learn together. The more, the merrier! I know it falls during our registration, but Jay Todd and I are presenting, and we'd love to see you there!

 

keyboard with Help key emphasized

As you work on setting up your courses you may have questions. Here is a list of Brightspace help resources you can use to get answers to your questions.

Live Chat icon

Additionally, if you are having difficulties using any of the course tools, you can get help from D2L. This help is available 24/7 via Email and Live Chat. You will find links for Email Support and Live Chat Support in the Help menu on the NavBar (inside of Brightspace). You must be logged into Brightspace to access the Email and Live Chat Support links.

Help Menu

Want more information?

View all the Brightspace training recaps
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.

Image credit: Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

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

NOTE: If you do not see your spring 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 spring 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.

post it note with to do written on it

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 spring 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 spring 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.

Image credit: Image by 11066063 from Pixabay

two identical windows

A few weeks after the end of the semester, all Fall 2019 courses will be changed to an inactive status. Once the courses are changed to an inactive status, student work and grades will be visible to the instructor but students will no longer have access to the course.

The current policy is that courses will remain on the Brightspace system for three semesters before they are removed. You can request a Brightspace Master Course Shell that you can use to make a copy of your course. Master Course Shells will not be removed from the Brightspace system. If you would like your course content/materials to be available in Brightspace beyond the current retention period of three semesters, you should request a Master Course Shell for the course.

Additionally, instructors who want to build their course before the normal course creation schedule can request a Brightspace Master Course Shell that can be used to develop and maintain their course materials.

A Master Course Shell:

  • Is a course environment an instructor uses to develop and maintain course materials that are used from semester to semester.
  • Is not tied to Banner. Therefore, no students or other users are enrolled into this Shell.
  • Can be used as a "master" where one keeps permanent changes to a course.
  • Faculty may copy content from a Master Course Shell into a Brightspace Course shell as long as they are enrolled as an instructor in both shells.
  • Master Course Shells are not deleted except upon the request of the instructor or when the instructor is no longer employed at Xavier.

Follow these steps to do it.

First, fill out the Brightspace Master Course Request Form.

To copy existing course into a Master Course Shell:

  1. In the NavBar of your Master Course Shell, click on "Course Admin".
  2. Click on the "Import/Export/Copy Components" link.
  3. Click on the "Copy Components from another Org Unit" radio button.
  4. In the Course to Copy option, click the "Search for Offering" button.
  5. Click on the magnifying glass in the "Search for" field.
  6. Click on the radio button to the right of the course you want to make a copy of and then click on "Add Selected".
  7. Verify your selections are correct before proceeding.
  8. At the bottom on the browser window you will click on either "Copy all Components" OR "Select Components" and follow the prompts.

When building a course from scracth:

  1. Add your content and learning activities to your Master Course Shell.
  2. Get into the destination course (the course you want to copy the contents of the Master Course Shell into).
  3. In the NavBar (of the course you want the content copied to), click on "Course Admin".
  4. Click on the "Import/Export/Copy Components" link.
  5. Click on the "Copy Components from another Org Unit" radio button.
  6. In the Course to Copy option, click the "Search for Offering" button.
  7. Click on the magnifying glass in the "Search for" field.
  8. Click on the radio button to the right of your Master Course Shell and then click on "Add Selected".
  9. Verify your selections are correct before proceeding.
  10. At the bottom on the browser window you will click on either "Copy all Components" OR "Select Components" and follow the prompts.

Want more information?

Brightspace Master Course Request Form
Copy Course or Copy Components
Import/Export/Copy - Copy Components video [1:31]
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.

Image credit: image by MartinHarry from Pixabay


The good people at D2L Brightspace are offering a webinar on the use of contemplative pedagogy in an online course. No cost. Details below.

From Mitchell Deleplanque of D2L Brightspace:

According to the Contemplative Pedagogy Network, students can form deeper relationships with their peers, their communities, and the world around them when they are encouraged to connect learning to their own values and sense of meaning.

Don’t miss out! Join us on December 10, 2019, for a webinar featuring Karen Nichols and Bart Everson from Xavier University of Louisiana. Our presenters will share how they are integrating contemplative exercises in their mentor-training program.

Participants will receive a link to exercises, resources, and a bibliography.

Registration Link

A conversation between Anya Kamenetz (NPR) and Bart Everson (XULA) on the future of higher education.

Anya KamenetzAnya is an education correspondent for NPR and the author of several books. She’s contributed to The Village Voice, The New York Times, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Slate, and O, the Oprah Magazine.


Bart Everson is a media artist and creative generalist at Xavier University's Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development. His recent work draws on integrative learning, activism, critical perspectives on technology, and Earth-based spiritual paths.

Links for this episode

Transcript

Coming soon!