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This year's theme is Designing Equitable Foundations for Open Knowledge. Xavier has events for faculty, staff and students all week. Please refer to the schedule for more information.  RSVP for Wednesday's Faculty Lecture:

Open Access Week Schedule


This summer, I'm on the verge of accomplishing something I've never accomplished before: having all my classes completely planned and plugged into the LMS before the semester even begins. ...continue reading "How Do You Know When Your Course Is Ready?"


When I read this article from Sara Goldrick-Rab "Basic Needs Security and the Syllabus" from August of last year, it really resonated with me, due to several projects I'm currently working on that have somehow converged--it is that time of year when faculty are asking for tips on creating their syllabi or feedback on items they should perhaps add, I'm collaborating on initiatives to try to save students money on textbooks, our office has been working with graduate students since 2017, and of course, we are always conscious of our mission here at XULA.

Professor Goldrick-Rab decided to include the following statement in her syllabus for a Master's higher education course:

Any student who faces challenges securing their food or housing and believes this may affect their performance in the course is urged to contact the Dean of Students for support.  Furthermore, please notify the professor if you are comfortable in doing so.  This will enable her to provide any resources that she may possess.

empty plate between fork and spoon

Professor Goldrick-Rab said that she decided to add this to her graduate syllabus to acknowledge that students face financial challenges that could affect their performance in their courses, to let them know that she cares about them, and to try to point them in the right direction for resources.

It makes me wonder how many of our own students are threatened with basic needs security.  Would you, as an instructor, add similar verbiage to your own syllabus?  Do you know any students who are hungry or homeless?  I don't, but just yesterday, a parent called me to say that they couldn't afford to send their son back to XULA for the fall--it was just too expensive.  She wanted to find out if there were enough online courses offered so that he could continue his studies while they tried to save and perhaps he could attend in person again in the spring.  Many of our students and their families are struggling, and perhaps they would appreciate it if we do acknowledge their challenges, even in a small way, such as adding a statement to our syllabus and providing resources for them.

Photograph of Jose Bove speaking at a conference.
Jose Bove was one of the early proponents of what would come to be called the Slow Food movement.
I'm at an interesting confluence of professional development methodologies. For the Xavier University Faculty Writing Group, the guiding premise is Just Do It™ -- force yourself to write, even if only for 15 minutes a day. Squeeze it in however you can. (I've been pushing myself to do 30 minutes.) This makes sense; it's the same advice I was given as a creative writing graduate student; it's the same advice you get from any successful writer: write every day no matter what. But I'm also in a book club that is currently reading and discussion The Slow Professor by Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber, a book that attempts to embrace the ideals of the Slow movement while living the life of the modern academic. Berg and Seeger, I think, would not agree with the Just Do It™ premise of my writing group.

Berg and Seeger argue for a greater mindfullness of our time, even if they never use that particular language. They argue for faculty to incorporate into their lives what they call "timeless time," sessions that are purposefully (mindfully) organized in order to allow us to focus wholly and completely on an activity... an activity like writing. According to Berg and Seeger, a session of "timeless time" requires several things of us:

  • A period of transition, time to focus our energies on the upcoming activity;
  • The acceptance that we will probably need more time than we think accomplish this activity;
  • A sense of "playfulness"; and
  • A silencing of our inner and outer critics who think that such activity is a waste of time (and money).

So on the one hand, I'm encouraged to squeeze in 15 or 30 minutes to write, no matter what, to be consistent and regimented -- the same 15 or 30 minute every day of the week, while on the other, I'm encouraged to not simply carve out a chunk of time during which to write, but to create an extended session of timelessness -- a meditative, almost spiritual experience.

At first, this seemed contradictory, but they're not. They just need to balance each other. So I'll be trying something new in the next week: I'm still carving out that 30 minutes each day (I've been doing it at 8:30 every night, after I've read to and put my son to bed, because I'm not a morning person (I'm really just not)), but I'll be leaving the first 5, 10, or 15 minutes to prepare myself to write for the rest of that half hour.

The question now is what to do with that "period of transition." I want to say I'll do some kind of focusing meditation; however, I'm guessing that will often be supplanted by a need to review some research before I start writing. A challenge I've found with the write every day model is that you need to be prepared to write -- not psychically prepared, as Berg and Seeger suggest, but prepared with the research in mind. When I do creative writing, that's often not an issue, as it's all in my head. But scholarly writing, but its nature, can't be all in my head. So I've found myself leaving big gaps in my writing these days, notes to myself to "check the literature on this" and "verify this idea." So that transition period may become a literature review period. We'll see.

Note: This post first appeared on the Xavier University Faculty Writing Group's blog.

Gamification is making a boring process interesting by using fun elements from games. Educators have been using gamification even before there was an official term for it.

board game

Gamification gets people excited like no other strategy does, probably because it holds the promise of fun and engagement, and extraordinary results. Research has shown that using gamification in education can increase learner motivation. Incentives, badges, levels, and a spot on a leaderboard are all motivators to learn. They let learners achieve in the short-term by providing visible goals.

A leaderboard that measures progress can motivate learners at all levels. A leaderboard that measures skill can fail the learners who are at the bottom.

Making Knowledge Public Using Educational Technology is the theme for our 2017-18 FaCTS initiative. We decided to add gamification to our week-long FaCTS summer seminar. Unlike past FaCTS initiatives, there were a lot of assignments that had to be completed before the first day of the summer seminar. Additionally, it was important that homework assignments that were due each night of the summer seminar had to be completed to keep us on track.

We setup a friendly EdTech Mage competition between the FaCTS cohort where they could earn XP for completing assignments. Our hope was that the participants would keep up with their assignments, have fun while doing so, and that the competition would give the cohort some ideas about how they might use gamification in their courses.

Because the XP earned by the participants would change often, we wanted an easy way to keep up with the points and have the cohort see the leaderboard rankings. Also, we were not sure how the participants would feel about having their names on the leaderboard, so we asked participants to provide an alias to use instead.

To set up our EdTech Mage leaderboard, I created a self-ranking leaderboard using a pivot table in a Google spreadsheet by following Mariana Garcia’s YouTube video instructions.

Here’s what our EdTech Mage self-ranking leaderboard looks like:

The cohort was provided the following documents related to earning XP:

  • EdTech Mage Ranking System (explains the levels and the points needed to achieve each level)
  • EdTech Mage Points (explains the assignments/activities you can earn points for and the number of points the assignment/activity is worth)

You can see the incentives that were given as levels were achieved in the EdTech Mage Ranking System document. If everyone completed their summer seminar preparation assignments they should have earned enough points to reach the Magician level. Therefore, on day one a prize was given to the first person who had reached the Magician level. As the week progressed, a prize was awarded to the first person to reach Sorcerer level. On the last day of the summer seminar a prize was awarded to the top three participants on the leaderboard.

Overall, we received positive feedback from the cohort about adding gamification to the summer seminar. Those of us who organized the summer seminar felt adding gamification helped to motivate the participants to complete their assignments in a timely manner and helped to keep us on track.

Gamification may not suit everyone and may not work for every situation. But for those who can find a use for it, the benefits of gamification can be substantial.

For more information about gamification read my "Why Use Gamification in your Courses?” blog post.

If you are using gamification in your courses or in faculty development, we would love to hear about it. Please leave us a comment and let us know how you are gamifying your courses or your faculty development efforts.

Photo Credit: Board Game | CCO

CAT+FD is pleased to welcome Dr. Florastina Payton-Stewart for a three-year term as our new Faculty in Residence.


Dr. Payton-Stewart is an Associate Professor in Chemistry, and is very passionate about teaching, mentoring and advising students. She has served as Associate Director for Center of Undergraduate Research and is a member of the American Chemical Society and the National Organization for the Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. She is a 2017 Keystone Fellow and recipient of the HERS Institute Leadership Academy STEM scholarship.

She will work with our new faculty, planning and implementing support throughout their first year.

In addition to supporting CAT+FD activities and initiatives, the CAT+FD 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+FD initiatives related to first year faculty development; and assisting in the assessment of CAT+FD's programs related to first year faculty development.

We are also glad to announce that Mr. Jeremy Tuman is renewing his role as Faculty in Residence for Service Learning for a two-year term.

Megan Osterbur, 2017 FaCTS coordinator

We were honored and thrilled to read this account of our FaCTS summer seminar from Wiki Ed:

For the ninth year, faculty at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) have come together to experiment with new pedagogy in their classrooms. Their group, the Faculty Community of Teaching Scholars (FaCTS), is funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation and provides a stipend for participants to explore that year’s theme. The theme for academic year 2017–18 is “Making knowledge public using educational technology.” Dr. Megan Osterbur, who participates in Wiki Ed’s Classroom Program, helped organize this year’s group of selected applicants and saw a clear alignment with Wikipedia assignments. After all, Wikipedia serves as educational technology for student editors and is as public as knowledge gets in 2017.

Continue reading on the Wiki Education Foundation website.

According to Robert Porter, a faculty member's first grant is often the most difficult one to get funding. "When they are new to the grant game," says Porter, "even scholars with fine publishing records can struggle with proposal writing." To address this often overlooked challenge, in 2015, thanks to the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Xavier's Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development began a new program called "Support for First-Time Grant Writing," as a means of providing Xavier faculty who have never served as the Principal Investigator on a grant the time to develop a strong proposal for an external grant to fund a scholarly project. According to Dr. Elizabeth Yost Hammer, Director of CAT+FD, "By providing release time for faculty to work on and submit that first grant proposal, this program will help faculty members sustain their research and scholarship even in the face of a heavy teaching load."

...continue reading "Grant Writing Success"

A crowd of faculty joined us back in November for Dr. Suzanne Goodney Lea's fascinating workshop on "Engaging Students in Research: Lessons from Collecting Police Use of Deadly Force Data," presented by CAT+FD in partnership with the Center for Undergraduate Research.

If you missed the workshop, or if you'd like to review it, you're in luck, because it's one of the first presentations we've recorded with our shiny new Swivl.


What's that, you ask. Why, it's the latest rotating robotic lecture-capture wonder-gizmo. It's truly slick, and must be seen in action to be fully appreciated.

We don't have the fancy Swivl Pro account which would allow embedding the video right here in our blog, but never fear! It's just a click away:

Note: There were some audio recording problems. We are not sure why the audio recording level dropped midway through. It is still audible but you may need to adjust your speakers. Our stalwart Technology Coordinator is in the process of contacting Swivl Tech Support to find out what they think may have gone wrong.

Many thanks to Dr. Lea for giving her permission to be our guinea pig.

By all means, let us know what you think!

Here is an interesting article in the Washington Post about high achieving high school students who bomb once they get into college. We all know things like socioeconomic class and, to a lesser degree, standardized test scores factor in.  However, this study used personality traits that correlated to academic success in college.

Two categories were created, the thrivers and the divers. The “thrivers” were those who did much better in college than their high school grades would have predicted. The “divers” were those who did much worse.

"What the divers had in common was a tendency toward rashness and disorder. In particular, they lacked a trait that psychologists call “conscientiousness.” Compared with the average student, divers were less likely to describe themselves as organized or detail-oriented, less likely to say that they are prepared, that they follow a schedule or that they get work done right away. Divers were also more likely to say they crammed for exams and more likely to score highly on measures of impatience."

It looks like all of us, especially our students, could benefit from mindfulness and contemplative practices. If only CAT+FD offered resources for those things...

You can read the full article here:

And check out the CAT+FD calendar for the Monday Quarter of Quiet and Contemplative Inquiry Team here: