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Here at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, we are pleased to welcome Dr. Stassi DiMaggio (Chemistry) and Mr. Jeremy Tuman (English) as our newly appointed Faculty in Residence.

Dr. DiMaggio is the CAT Faculty in Residence.

The CAT Faculty in Residence has primary responsibility for enhancing and leading programming for first year faculty. Duties include: assisting in the planning and implementation of new faculty orientation; facilitating new faculty mentoring; organizing and implementing the new faculty "brown bag" series; organizing and implementing a coherent set of workshop open to all faculty but focused on new faculty; assisting in grant writing for CAT initiatives related to first year faculty development; and assisting in the assessment of CAT's programs related to first year faculty development.

Need to get in touch? Contact Dr. DiMaggio.

Mr. Tuman is the Faculty in Residence for Service Learning.

The Faculty in Residence for Service Learning at CAT works in close partnership with the Center for Student Leadership and Service to provide services to faculty incorporating the pedagogy of service-learning into the curriculum and promoting civic engagement through meaningful community participation. Duties include: creating and implementing training workshops and program materials; assisting in identifying service-learning faculty and courses; and serving as the co-chair of the service-learning faculty advisory board.

Need to get in touch? Contact Mr. Tuman.


Due dates, availability dates, and adaptive release dates are usually entered when you create assignments, assessments, discussion boards, blogs, wikis, journals, etc. You can use due dates to help keep students on track. Students see the due dates when they go to My Grades to view their grades and when they look at entries in their course Calendars. With the new updated Calendar students can see the due dates for items in their courses. Assignments, assessments, discussion boards, blogs, wikis, journals, etc. with due dates automatically populate into the Calendar.

The new Date Management tool allows you to easily change due dates, availability dates, and adaptive release dates at one time (all on one page). If you have to modify dates for two or more items you should consider using the Date Management tool to adjust the dates. The Date Management tool will save you some time as you will not have to edit each individual item to adjust the dates.

The Date Management tool can be very useful when you use the Course Copy feature. For example, if you created a master copy of a course and copied the content from the master course into a blank course, you can use the Date Management tool to easily adjust dates after the course copy.

Note: You cannot use the Date Management tool to adjust dates of Collaborate sessions, Bb partner integrations or publisher content items (e.g. Turnitin, McGraw Hill, etc.)

Follow these steps to do it.

To adjust content and/or tool due dates, availability dates, and adaptive release dates you should:

  1. Goto the [Control Panel] for the course and click on the [Course Tools] link to expand it. Click on [Date Management].
  2. Choose whether you want the system to automatically adjust dates to new dates or if you want to "List All Dates for Review". The "List All Dates for Review" option allows you to review all dates and manually adjust dates yourself.
  3. Click Refresh to ensure the page is up-to-date.
  4. Review all dates and adjust accordingly. You can filter your review by item type (e.g., assignments, blogs, journals, discussion boards) and date types (e.g., due dates, availability dates, adaptive release dates).
  5. You can adjust dates individually, two or more at one time, or automatically. Use the pencil icon to modify dates for individual items.
  6. Click [Run Date Management Again] to automatically adjust dates.

Note: If you do not see Date Management in your Course Tools, you should verify the Date Management tool is available in your course. To verify, go to the [Control Panel] click on [Customization] to expand it and click on [Tool Availability]. Make sure there is a check mark in the available box for the Date Management tool. Click [Submit] to save the changes.

Want more information?

Step-by-step instructions are available [webpage] [video].
Copy Course Contents into another Course [webpage].
Master Copies of Courses [webpage].
Blackboard Calendar [video].
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.


Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could take our students on a world-wide tour of the greatest museums or laboratories so that they can see original artwork or DNA research being carried out firsthand? With the latest technological advances in 3-D and other apps now so readily available, these same museums and labs have developed and posted online, virtual tours of their treasures. Including these in your online classes or even as a project or enrichment assignment in your face to face classes, can greatly enhance the students' learning experience and have them googling for more.

ABPI (The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry) has actually developed an entire site of tours and activities designed specifically for schools and the virtual tours are user-friendly.

For museums, one of my favorite series of interactive tours is on the site of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. It doesn't hurt that the tour allows you to choose a painting or other piece of art and email it as an ecard to someone. I love to send ecards and what better choice than a specially-chosen work of art for the recipient?

So if you'd like to share with your students a best-loved museum (for me, Musée PIcasso, Antibes) or give them a new and different experience (Alpine Astrovillage AAV Lue-Stailas), spend a few minutes searching the internet and you'll soon find numerous virtual tours that, for a moment, will make your students feel they're on the Riviera or looking up at the stars in the Swiss Alps.

A student solves a mathematics equation at the Mfantsipim Boys School in Cape Coast

More and more professors are using midterm student evaluations, experts say, and more and more colleges are strongly urging their faculty to collect student feedback midway through their courses. (Medina, 2011, Chronicle of Higher Education).

Can you believe midterms are upon us? It's that time of the fall semester that brings tons of grading, Halloween decorations, and of course, midcourse reviews. Midcourse reviews provide feedback that can potentially assist you in fine-tuning your course while it is still underway.  Sometimes called a formative evaluation, the midcourse review is an optional and informal supplement to the end-of-semester summative evaluations.  Interest in these reviews is driven by a desire to see what’s working well in your class and what could be improved to aid student learning.  The advantage of doing these at mid-term is that you are able to make adjustments to your course this semester.

In a midcourse review, a facilitator will ask your students in groups to discuss three questions:

  1. What is working well in the class (i.e., what is helping you learn)?
  2. What is not working well (i.e., what is hindering your learning)?
  3. What suggestions do you have for improvement?

By the end of the 20 minutes, we will have a composite list of student reactions to these issues.  Then, at a mutually convenient time, the facilitator meets with you to confidentially discuss what the students said.  In general you will get an accurate “barometer reading” on how the class is going.

Still on the fence?  Check out this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

If you are interested in scheduling a midcourse review, get in touch now.

Photo Credit: World Bank Photo Collection via Compfight cc


The more diversity we find in all facets of our society, the better off we are as a society. This diversity would not be fully realized without those with disabilities. Consequently, making accommodations for students with disabilities is not just a legal obligation; it is also a social and moral one. Citizens with disabilities continue to be underrepresented in many areas of the American workplace, including positions in the STEM fields. One way that we, as educators, can help to improve the number of people with disabilities in fields where they have been traditionally underrepresented is by supporting them in their pursuit of undergraduate and graduate degrees. Taking steps to make our course content accessible will give all students an equal opportunity to benefit from the pedagogical styles and techniques used in physical and virtual classrooms all over the country.

Disability and Accessibility provides some useful information about students and disabilities, along with some practical approaches to teaching students with learning disabilities. The information focuses on learning disabilities, but the resources provide information about a variety of disabilities. As you review the information in Disability and Accessibility, keep in mind the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. UDL helps us focus on students' abilities rather than their disabilities. Curricular and pedagogical changes can then be made that benefit all students by providing all with an equal opportunity to learn.

Sue Frantz

Today CAT welcomes Sue Frantz who will be showcasing some essential technology in The Academic's Toolbox. We're learning plenty which we'll be sure to share in the weeks and months ahead.

The "@X@user.full_name@X@" template variable allows you to personalize messages for your students inside Blackboard. Use this template variable to create a more personalized learning environment. For example, you can personalize a welcome message and/or honor pledge by including the student’s name.

Follow these steps to do it.

1) Enter "@X@user.full_name@X@" (without the quote marks) in the content editor wherever you want to substitute the student’s name.

1st example – In a welcome message enter:

Hi @X@user.full_name@X@, welcome to the...

Welcome Message Example
Welcome message example

2nd example – For an acknowledgement in an honor pledge enter:

I, @X@user.full_name@X@, acknowledge that...

Honor Pledge Example
Honor pledge example

2) You will see the substitution once you click [Submit] to save the item.

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 email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

I had planned to submit my blog post while at the conference but I was so busy learning and networking that I'm back in the office now.  So here's a quick summary of my experiences.  The Quality Matters organization is comprised of many dedicated professionals and the member institutions are equally concerned with developing and teaching quality online or hybrid courses (QM uses "blended"; we at Xavier use "hybrid") in order to have positive student outcomes. They're also big on "takeaways" so I have literally hundreds of resources now, and will be posting several key ones to CAT's Online Faculty Resource Center (debuting soon). For your information, here are a number of the actual presentations that were posted as well.

My takeaways from the conference are

  1. we can offer workshops for faculty on actually teaching online, which is entirely separate from developing the course
  2. we need to do more to make our courses accessible from the beginning rather than create accommodations after the fact (I also learned that numbers are better than bullets for screen readers so I'll be using numbers from now on)
  3. we don't need to reinvent the wheel--we can partner with other institutions to offer more for our students
  4. size does matter, especially in online language courses
  5. faculty preparation and skills are necessary components for SACS approval of online and hybrid courses/programs

and I could continue, but I think having begun and ended with faculty concerns really shows how important they are to student success and therefore why CAT is dedicated to assisting our faculty in developing and teaching online and hybrid courses for our students at Xavier.


As the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, I get asked about cheating a lot. Instead of focusing on student characteristics related to cheating, I typically encourage faculty (including myself) to look for ways to discourage academic dishonesty through the learning environments we establish.

Dr. James Lang, who writes a regular column for the Chronicle of Higher Education, did a thought-provoking three part series on this topic. In Part 2 he focuses on how our assessments can encourage or discourage cheating. He writes:

Why should I bother to redesign my courses to include more frequent, low-stakes assessments, which will require more time and effort on my part, just to reduce the already small numbers of students who may be cheating in my courses? The short answer: You shouldn't redesign your courses just to reduce cheating. You should redesign them in order to increase learning.

Want to know more? Read his post on Cheating Lessons, Part 2.  If you are dealing with this issues, I  encourage you to check out Part 1 and Part 3 as well.

Photo Credit: albertogp123 via Compfight cc

The science of teaching and learning on math education is crystal clear – there is an undeniable and intimate link between reading comprehension and math achievement. Back in 1998, middle school math teacher, Peter Fuentes, enlightened us to the fact that effective reading, and all of the behaviors that go along with it, is a fundamental skill on the road to success in mathematics.

We must acknowledge that reading in a mathematical context (i.e., word problems, mathematical textbooks) is inherently different than other types of reading. The content presented in a math setting is often information-dense and compact. Additionally, math concepts can be abstract and difficult to concretize. Another complicating factor is the fact that math has its own language that some students may find difficult to master. Some terms are unique and students must become conversant with terms and symbols that are new to them. Some terms are familiar, but used with completely different meanings. In these circumstances, it is not difficult to understand why some students view math as a frightening and mysterious subject that they have little chance of understanding.

Fortunately, the math education literature has provided a variety of instructional techniques to improve students’ math reading comprehension and retention skills. These include math journaling, math-specific vocabulary exercises, and integration of math vocabulary and concepts into other subjects (e.g. language). We can look to a middle school ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher to see one of these techniques in action. In a journal exercise, she provides the students with a list of lesson-related math vocabulary words. Students are then required to write a paragraph using as many as the words as possible. This exercise requires students to demonstrate a level of understanding of targeted concepts sufficient to construct meaningful writings.

The example above is seen in a middle school context, but the idea can be expanded and scaled to any level of math education. It is important to for us to help students to embrace the language of mathematics. With fluency, students can approach math problems (word and otherwise) with an understanding and confidence that leads to improved math performance. The following sources may be useful for a better understanding of the relationship between reading and math.

  • Fuentes, Peter. (1998) Reading Comprehension in Mathematics. The Clearing House, 72(2), 81-88.