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Tip: At the end of each semester you should export your grade book and create a backup of your course content.

Student access to courses is removed two weeks after the end of each semester. During this process all Grade Center (gradebook) records are deleted. You should download your gradebook to your local computer after you submit your final grades. While the course content you created will remain in your Blackboard courses for three semesters before it is removed, it is a good idea to export your course content at the end of the semester so that you will have a backup of it.

Follow these steps to do it.
Instructions are available in previous Bb tips for exporting your grade book and exporting your course content.

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions are available.
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

One of the most talked about issues on college campuses these days seems to be retention. How do we help our students graduate and how do we help them graduate on time? Several studies have concluded that Service-Learning contributes to student retention. In a recent study of Tulane students, Gallini and Moely concluded that students engaged in service-learning not only felt more connected to the university and the community, but also spent more time studying for their service-learning classes and felt they learned more in these classes.

For more studies about how Service-Learning can impact student retention see Campus Compact's article "How Can Engaged Campuses Improve Student Success in College." Several studies are cited in the article which concludes: "These findings complement other researchers' conclusions that high-quality service-learning is effective pedagogy, contributing to the intellectual, social, and civic development of students that, along with persistence to graduation, is a key measure of student success."

Tip: Starting Spring 2011 Blackboard Learn 9.1 will be the version of Blackboard used here at XU. The upgrade to Bb 9.1 will be done during the break between fall and spring semesters. The new version of Blackboard adds exciting new features and a completely redesigned, modern Web 2.0 user interface. This redesigned version allows users to work more efficiently. New features include course files, blogs, journals, wikis, mashups, improved tests and surveys, enhanced assignment tool and group tools. The digital dropbox is no longer available in version 9.1. The assignment tool replaces the digital dropbox.

We have a “New Features in Bb version 9.1” workshop scheduled for November 11th. Please RSVP for this workshop if you would like to see Bb Learn 9.1 in action.

Beginning November 1st, Bb Learn 9.1 sandbox courses will be available to all faculty who want to familiarize themselves with the new Bb Learn 9.1 environment before the upgrade. If you would like a Bb Learn 9.1 sandbox course, you should send an email message with your name, department, extension, and Xavier email address to Janice Florent.

You can view online tutorials about the new and changed features of Bb Learn 9.1 at Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center.

Want more information?
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional Blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

We had a good and passionate discussion Monday afternoon at the first meeting of this year's faculty book club. That was my feeling, and I hope the sentiment was shared. We began by going around the table; each person introduced themselves and explained why they signed up for the book club. Thus we all shared what expectations we brought to our reading. Of the eleven people at the table, three cited Parker Palmer as one of the reasons they were eager to read The Heart of Higher Education.

Next, we followed the authors' advice on page seven, looking at the Wendell Berry quote on page one and asking, "What do you think?" From there we moved on to the concept of integrative learning and the critiques against it.

As the conversation opened up, a number of themes emerged. I will try to summarize the ones that seemed most salient to me, though I'm sure I'm missing plenty.

  • For ourselves as teachers, the need to examine "who we are" rather than technique
  • For our students, the need to focus on inquiry rather than answers
  • The importance of conveying a sense of awe and wonder
  • Holistic perspectives need to be woven into discussions on our campus (one faculty member reported only having such discussions off-campus)
  • One faculty member confessed: We are not connecting with students in our program as we should
  • Our relation to students may have moved from transformational to transactional
  • We may do more integrative learning than big research institutions — but perhaps less than we did twenty years ago

With regard to the first point, I wanted to mention our upcoming discussion session, "Who Are You?" Dr. Miranti's comments in particular bolstered my confidence that this was a good topic to pursue at this time. You can find details on our website.

Thanks to everyone for participating in Monday's conversation, both verbally and through respectful listening. I was struck today by a passage on the "sociology of knowledge" in another book I'm reading, Dark Green Religion by Bron Taylor: "What people perceive and believe is shaped by conversation." Simple and obvious, perhaps, but also profound. It is my hope that our conversations will continue to be just as transformational as the education we hope to offer our students.

Tip: Blackboard Mobile Learn allows you to access your Blackboard courses and organizations using a mobile device (e.g. iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Android). Bb Mobile Learn allows you access to all of your course content in the web interface, with the added ability to access documents in multiple formats, post announcements, create discussion threads and posts, and comment on blogs and journals, all from your mobile device.

Follow these steps to do it.
You can access Blackboard with your iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch devices when they are connected to Wi-Fi. You can access your Android or BlackBerry devices via the Sprint Network (Sprint carrier) using both Wi-Fi and 3G/4G connections. More information about supported mobile devices and how to download the required app for your mobile device can be found here.

Want more information?
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional Blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

I sat next to empty seats on my two flights up to Hartford (changing planes in Charlotte) so I didn't talk to much of anyone until I got on the shuttle I'd reserved. I was sharing the vehicle with three young folks who looked to be in their mid-twenties. As we pulled away from the airport, I said, "Hey, I noticed y'all had instruments. Are you musicians then?"

The reply: "No, we're not, we just enjoy carrying musical instruments with us wherever we go."
...continue reading "Contemplative Academy"

Tip: Blackboard has a useful feature called breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are a "trail" of links that can help you navigate back to different areas in your course. As you move around in your course, Blackboard keeps track of where you are and allows you to jump to any of the pages that you used to get there. The breadcrumbs are found at the top of your course page and indicate the current page that you are on as well as the pages you accessed to get to the current page. Using the Back button in your web browser to return to previously accessed pages within your Blackboard course may have unpredictable results. It is generally better to use the breadcrumb trail to go back because it is more reliable in pointing you back to the desired course page.

Follow these steps to do it.
Locate the breadcrumbs at the top of the course page and click the link to move to a previous page.


In the example above, we are in the ADM.FLORENT (121306) course and are currently on the WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS page. You could return to the DISCUSSION BOARD page, the CONTROL PANEL or the ADM.FLORENT course entry page by simply clicking on the name within the breadcrumb trail.

Want more information?
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional Blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

Tip: You can send email to individual students, groups of students, or all course members within your Blackboard course. Blackboard does not keep copies of the email you send. However, a copy will be sent to your Xavier email address. Within your Xavier emailbox you will be able to save a copy of the email message.

Follow these steps to do it.
To send email, you should click on the [Communication] tool (located on the Course Menu) and then click on [Send Email]. In the Send Email window choose which users you would like to send the email to. Fill in the Email Information form and click Submit.

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions are available [PDF].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional Blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

Earlier this semester, after eleven years working in faculty development, I led my first session that didn't have anything to do with technology.

The subject? A moment of silence.

We began the session with a brief moment of silence, then I asked some questions to prompt a short discussion.

What mindset is most conducive to learning? What mental states might actually obstruct learning? What do we do as teachers that encourages the latter or the former?

We went around the table and talked about these things for a bit.

Then I took us back to the beginning and asked how the prefatory silence shaped the discussion. Did it foster a better mindset? The consensus seemed to be that it did. It provided a transition that allowed people to let go of their previous tasks and focus on the matter at hand.

Then I asked the faculty present to consider if such a technique could work in their classrooms. In fact one person (a Dominican brother) has been doing this for thirty years. Another person tried it for one semester a while ago with seemingly good results. Another has just started practicing a moment of silence this week, inspired by this very session.

After we talked about the potential challenges and pitfalls this technique presents, I distributed copies of the Tree of Contemplative Practices and noted that silence was but one practice of many. At this point I asked if anyone sitting around the table engaged in any sort of contemplative practice that they'd care to share with the group. Interestingly all three faculty who have used silence to open class also are regular practitioners. But the balance of attendees did not seem to engage in any regular practice. Or perhaps they just didn't want to share at this point.

I threw out the phrase "contemplative pedagogy" as a blanket term for using contemplative practices in teaching, which linked with integrative learning seems to be part of a emergent trend in the academy today. I mentioned the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education which I joined this summer. I also hyped the faculty book club which I'll be leading this semester. We're reading The Heart of Higher Education. I also referenced Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry, a book I just finished and am still digesting.

And then I talked about why I think all of this is potentially important to the University and its mission, and asked what the group thought. I also confessed myself remarkably unqualified to be promulgating this topic, since I know so little about it, but I just feel it's so important. And of course I had to mention that contemplation was not just a means to an end, but a worthwhile end to itself — if you can call something inherently transformative an "end."

I let the group know I was interested in collaborating if anyone wanted to study the effects of a moment of silence on classroom learning.

Finally we talked about possible future directions for the conversation which we'd begun. Indeed, the main purpose of this session, to my mind, was to gauge faculty interest in contemplative pedagogy and integrative learning. I hope this is the beginning of a sustained dialog on the topic. I take it as my responsibility to nurture that dialog and expand the circle.

In Bb tip #14, I discussed how to personalize your course by adding a banner. A course banner is an image that appears at the top of the Announcements page of your course. You can use PowerPoint to create a course banner.

Follow these steps to do it.
Using PowerPoint 2010 (Windows), you should open a new PowerPoint file. On the Home tab, select Title Only as the slide layout. On the Design tab, select Page Setup and then choose Banner as the slide size. The default width for a banner is a width of eight inches and height of one inch. Click OK to save the settings. You will be returned to the Design tab. Choose a background for your banner by either selecting a theme or choosing a background style. In the title box, type text for your banner and change the font if necessary. You can insert clip art, pictures, and/or other objects on your banner from the insert menu. Save the file as both a PowerPoint presentation and as a JPEG file. You will be able to edit the PowerPoint file if you need to make changes to your banner. Close PowerPoint and follow the instructions in Bb tip #14 to add the banner to your course.

Note: Step-by-step instructions for Mac users are available.

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions are available [Win-PDF] and [Mac-PDF].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional Blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418