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Over the past year or two I've become increasingly interested in the idea of contemplative pedagogy. This is the notion that we can foster a more thoughtful way of living and learning in our students and in ourselves by cultivating reflective and meditative practices in our teaching.

To this end, I've relished the opportunity to engage in a series of discussions on this topic with faculty, and I've challenged myself to incorporate contemplative practices into these sessions whenever appropriate.

Most recently I had the opportunity to lead a short discussion with participants in the Faculty Communities of Teaching Scholars. Our theme this year is "Promoting Critical Thinking and Self-Authorship in the First Two Years." Contemplative practices seem like a perfect fit for developing self-authorship, and so once again I attempted to teach by example. As we were thinking so intensely about our students' needs and capacities, I decided to conduct a loving-kindness meditation. Also known as Metta Bhavana, this is an ancient practice from the Buddhist tradition. I modified the typical practice to focus specifically on our students.

In some ways, I may have been overreaching. I am not a practicing Buddhist, and more to the point I had never done Metta Bhavana before. Nevertheless, I went forward with it. I even went so far as to rearrange our classroom into a configuration more conducive to the practice.

I was fairly pleased with the results. Certainly I did get some good feedback from the participants, with at least one person saying she repeated the practice later on her own time. That's wonderful.

All the same, in some ways I consider the exercise at least a partial failure. The problem was not the practice itself, I think, so much as what followed. I was so intent on preparing for the Metta Bhavana itself that I did not attend to the context. I failed to make a strong connection between the meditative practice and the larger conversations that had been emerging in the classroom over the previous days. That left some participants wondering what to make of it all.

But if this was a failure, at least it was an educational and perhaps necessary one. I learned a valuable lesson. Several in fact. Always attend the context. Always make the connection. When trying something new, don't neglect these important basics.

In the event of an emergency that disrupts the University’s ability to have classes on campus for an extended period of time, you can be ready to continue your classes online. Here are some things you can do to be prepared should the need arise.

  • Understanding and Building Your Course
    • Getting Started with Course Environment (Video) (PDF)
    • Getting Started with Course Content (PDF)
  • Utilize Blackboard’s Communication Tools
  • Collecting Student Work
    • Getting Started with Assignments (PDF)
  • Utilize Blackboard’s Collaboration Tools
    • Blogs, Wikis, Journals, & Discussion Boards Explained (PDF)
  • Posting Grades
    • Getting Started with the Grade Center (PDF)

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions are available [PDFs] as well as
on-demand videos.
Signup for Blackboard workshops or request one-on-one help.
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

7

Blackboard has a Section Merge Tool that allows faculty to combine two or more courses into a single course. Previously you had to request ITC merge courses for you. Now you can merge courses yourself.

Using the Section Merge Tool to combine courses can be useful when you are teaching multiple sections of the same course or when you are teaching a course that is cross-listed. Merging courses allows you to have all the students in a single Blackboard course which can be useful for collaborative work. Merging courses reduces the number of courses an instructor has to manage within Blackboard, especially when each section has identical content.

Once you’ve merged courses you can upload your course content and assignments into the merged course; communicate with the students in the merged course; setup collaborative course work; and have one gradebook for the merged course. You can create groups within your merged course that correspond to the original course sections. This way you can target a particular course section (group) of students for specific things (e.g. send email to a specific group, make content available to specific group, enter/view gradebook entries for a specific group, etc.)

NOTE: Merging of courses is typically done at the start of the semester before content is added and before students submit course work. You should wait to merge courses if there is a possibility that there will be last minute changes to instructor course section assignments. You should carefully consider whether merging courses is right for you. Some disadvantages to merging courses are:

  • Course enrollments for the merged courses will be combined which can make grading student work a challenge. You can use smartviews to make grading easier.
  • If you decide you want to unmerge courses after students have submitted course work, student work and grades will be lost. Only student enrollments are retained when you unmerge courses.

Follow these steps to do it.
In order to merge courses you must be listed as the instructor for each of the courses. Login to Blackboard and click on the [Section Merge] tab. Click on [Click Here to Create and Manage Merged Courses] on the Section Merge Tool page. Click on [Setup New Merged Course] on the Manage Merged Courses page. Carefully select ALL courses you want to be merged (combined) from the list and click [Submit]. On the Select Existing Course page, select the course you want to be the merged (combined) course (i.e. the course where you want all enrolled students to be and where you want to upload course contents). Click [Submit]. You should see a green confirmation bar indicating the merge was successful. Only the merged course name will appear in the list of courses for both the instructor and enrolled students. 

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

3

You do not have to start from scratch when creating content for your course. If you created content in one course you can copy that content into another course. For example, if you are teaching multiple sections of a course, you can create all the content in one course section and then copy the content into the other sections. Copying course content is particularly useful at the start of a semester as it allows you to copy content from a previous semester to a newly created empty course. Course content for the previous three semesters will remain in Blackboard before it is removed.

Follow these steps to do it.

  1. Go to the [Control Panel] of the course in which has the content you want to copy.
  2. Click on [Packages and Utilities] to expand it and then select [Course Copy].
  3. Choose [Copy Course Materials into an Existing Course] for the Select Copy type.
  4. Click on the [Browse…] button next to the [Destination Course ID] field. This will bring up a window containing a list of all available courses. Select the appropriate destination course from the list by clicking on appropriate radio button for the destination course and then click [Submit]. The [Destination Course ID] field will be filled in with the destination course you selected.
  5. Choose which portions of the course will be copied by clicking on the appropriate content section(s). You can select other course materials like [Announcements], [Grade Center Columns and Settings], [Staff Information], and [Tests, Surveys, and Pools] to copy as well by selecting the appropriate boxes for the items you want to copy.
  6. Use Manage Package Contents to choose which course files to include in the copy.
  7. Click the [Submit] button when you are done. You should receive a message telling you that the course copy has been queued and that you will get an email when the process is complete.

Note: Double-check to make sure the correct destination course is selected. There is no way to reverse this process once the wrong course is selected and the copy request is submitted.

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

Here's an excellent video that's must-viewing for anyone who uses tools like, say, Google, in research or teaching. The phenomenon described is also something to be aware of as our students use these tools for class research. The overall consequences for civil society seem potentially significant as well.

The speaker, Eli Pariser, is one of the brains behind MoveOn.org, and he's got a new book out called, appropriately enough, The Filter Bubble.

Student access to courses is removed two weeks after the end of a semester. During this process all grade book records are deleted. You should download your gradebook to your local computer after you submit your final grades.

Follow these steps to do it.
In order to download (export) the gradebook for a course, you should goto the [Control Panel] for that course and click on the [Grade Center] link to expand it. Click on [Full Grade Center]. Once you are inside the Grade Center you should move your mouse over the [Work Offline] button on the menu bar and then click on the [Download] link. Under [Data] section, select the [Full Grade Center] option, under the [Options] section, select [Tab] as the delimiter type and [Yes] to include hidden information. In the [Save Location] section, choose [My Computer] and then click on the [Submit] button at the bottom of the page. On the next page click on the [Download] button. You should get a dialog box with a request to save the file. Save the file to a location where you can find it later. The file you saved can be opened with Microsoft Excel.

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

When you login to Blackboard you will see your course list. You can change the order your courses are listed as well as hide courses from view. To change the order of your course list follow the steps below. Refer to Bb tip # 36 to hide courses from view.

Follow these steps to do it.
To change the course list order, click on the small manage my course module settings icon located on top right corner of the [My Courses] section. Using the arrows on the left of the course name, click and drag the course to the new position. Click [Submit] to save the changes.

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

Here's a great resource from ACS for those who teach Chemistry and want to learn about incorporating Service-Learning into their curriculum.

4

Announcements provide timely information for your students about class activities. Announcements are the ideal way to post time-sensitive material. The announcement area can be used to remind students of assignment and/or test dates, post changes to the course, announce upcoming events (such as a guest speaker), etc. You may direct students to a particular section of your course from an announcement. You also have the option to broadcast announcements to your students' email. You may create multiple announcements when setting up your course and time them to be released separately by choosing staggered future display dates. For example, you know now that you want to post an announcement about the midterm exam and another about the final. Create both announcements now, but set the midterm announcement to display the week before the midterm and the final exam announcement to display a week before the final. Students will not be able to view either announcement until their assigned display dates.

Follow these steps to do it.
To create an announcement, go to the [Control Panel] of the course in question. The Control Panel is located under the Course Management menu. Click on the [Course Tools] link to expand it. Click on [Announcements] and then click the [Create Announcement] button. Type a subject and message for your announcement. Select the duration/date restrictions for the announcement. If you want to email the announcement to the students in the course, you should check the box next to [Override User Notification Settings]. 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

The Course Menu may be hidden to increase the viewable area of the main content frame within your course. This feature may be helpful when accessing areas of a course where you need a larger viewable area to see the content (e.g., Grade Center, Discussion Board forums, Blogs, Journals, etc.). Once hidden, the course menu can be shown again at any time.

Follow these steps to do it.
To show/hide the course menu, click on the show/hide course menu (arrow) button on the middle right-hand side of the main content frame. This button acts like a toggle. Click on it once to hide the course menu. Click on the show/hide course menu button a second time to show the course menu again.

Note: Hiding and showing the course menu is course and user specific. Individuals can hide a course menu within any given course, while still being able to view the course menu within other courses.

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