Skip to content


I recently fielded a question that seemed so basic, so fundamental, that I thought it deserved a blog post.

Many faculty today are cognizant of licensing restrictions. They diligently hunt for content published under Creative Commons, or in the public domain, to use in their courses. That's a good thing: they don't want to infringe anyone's copyright.

Sometimes, though, that perfect piece of content is out there on the open internet, tantalizingly available, but published under plain old-fashioned copyright with all the encumbrances and restrictions that implies.

You don't want to embed a copyrighted video (for example) in your online course materials. But is there a workaround? Can you, perhaps, just share the link, send your students over to YouTube, let them watch the video over there, instead of on your course website or in your LMS?

In a word:


But don't take my word for it. Here's what the "boutique law firm" InfoLawGroup LLP has to say about it.

A recent federal court decision confirms that, without more, merely providing a link to copyrighted content is not direct infringement of the copyright in that content.

For more details, read the full article, "Does Linking to Content Infringe Copyright?"

The distinction, as I understand it, is that embedding a video is like republishing it. You wouldn't republish a copyrighted book without permission, right? But sharing a link is like sending your students to the library to check the book out on their own.

Happy linking!

Photo credit: "Link" by Aarthi Ramamurthy. Licensed under Creative Commons, of course!

Individuals lined up to form the letters NDLW

November 6-10, 2017 is National Distance Learning Week (NDLW). In association with NDLW, the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) is offering free webinars on a variety of topics related to online teaching and learning. A few other organizations are offering free webinars during NDLW as well.

For more information on the activities and to register for the webinars visit NDLW 2017.

Many teachers have been using YouTube to share videos with their classes, and for good reason. YouTube offers a lot of conveniences that make it a very attractive platform for delivering video content.

However, most teachers with whom I've spoken do not want to be YouTube superstars. In fact, most of them don't want anyone watching their videos — except, of course, their students.

For this reason, I've recommended setting the privacy of such videos to "unlisted." An unlisted video is essentially invisible to anyone who doesn't have that gnarly and convoluted direct YouTube link. The only other options are "public" and "private," neither of which would seem to do the job — at least, not at first glance.

But there is another way, which may be better, at least sometimes. Let's take a second look at that "private" setting. A private video can normally be seen only by you.


Click on that "share" button, though, and you open up a new dialog. Here you could enter individual email addresses to allow specific people to view. That's kind of a pain, but (now that Xavier is a Google campus) you also have the option to enable viewing by "everyone at"


You'll still have to share the link with your students, of course. Additionally, your students must be logged into YouTube using their account. If they are logged in with a personal account, they won't be able to view the video.

In most cases, the "unlisted" setting is sufficient, perhaps even preferable. But if you are especially sensitive about who might view your video, this option is worth considering.

(As always, I urge teachers to consider doing the extra work to make your content fully and legally public.)

A tip of the hat to Asem Abdulahad of the Department of Chemistry for this pointer.

Often instructors are looking for images to use in their courses because images can liven up the course and help students understand the course material.

magnifying glass clipart

Be careful using a Google search for images. Many of the images that you find in a Google search are copyrighted. Images you use for your courses should be free of any copyright restrictions.

There are several sites that I like to use to find free images that are either in the public domain or covered by licenses that allow you to reuse images under certain restrictions. Those sites are:

You may have found an image you want to use, however, you would like to make changes to it. You can find image editing software suggestions in the Xavier Library Digital Humanities Toolbox. Just make sure the image copyright gives you permission to modify the image.

What’s your favorite site(s) for finding free images? Let us know by leaving a comment on this blog post.

ICYMI, read my blog post on Digital Copyrights for copyright information.

pitfall street sign

In my blog post on using gamification in your courses, I wrote about why educators are using gamification in teaching and learning. If you are considering using gamification in your courses, beware of pitfalls.

In a recent eLearning Industry blog post, Srividya Kumar wrote,

When gamification is not thought through and designed well, it can have the exact opposite effect of what was intended.

Srividya indicates that gamification can be like walking a tightrope in order to get it right. She goes on to provide some pitfalls to watch out for. The pitfalls she suggests you avoid are:

1. Superficial Engagement

Having learners fall over themselves to earn goodies, or compete to achieve top position on a leaderboard is great, but if these are the only reasons that spur learners to perform the desired behaviors, then it’s not going to last very long. Extrinsic motivators can only go so far to engage and motivate. Make sure to have more intrinsic motivators than extrinsic motivators.

2. Unintended Consequences

Think long and hard about the motivators, rewards, and consequences. While encouraging and rewarding the right behaviors does definitely motivate people, sometimes unintended, and even undesirable behaviors can be the side effects of a gamification initiative, as evidenced by the cobra effect.

3. Rewarding the Wrong Behaviors

Avoid Kerr’s folly, rewarding A while hoping for B. Your reward structure shouldn’t undermine your goal. You should be clear about the goal and the outcomes you are aiming for. Measure and reward what is important, not what is easy.

4. Rewards That Learners Don’t Find Valuable

You may have received a gift that you really didn’t like or could not find much use for and struggled to tell the person that you did not like or could not use the gift. That’s exactly what would happen if you throw a bunch of worthless badges at learners, without thinking about whether they would find these badges valuable. Avoid this situation by thinking about whether your learners will find your rewards useful/exciting.

I’m sure you can think of other pitfalls to avoid. Please use the comments below to let us know your thoughts on this topic.

If you are interested reading more about these pitfalls, refer to the “4 Gamification Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them” blog post.

Photo Credit: Pitfall Str | CC BY 2.0

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


Educators are using Twitter in creative ways to engage students inside and outside of class, to stay on top of education news, and to expand their personal learning network (PLN).

Twitter bird with chalk in wing in front of chalk board

Are you looking for information and ideas about teaching with Twitter? If so, check out these resources:

Please leave us a comment and let us know how you are using Twitter in your teaching and learning. Also, follow us (CAT+FD) on Twitter @xulacat.

Thanks to Janice Florent for her annual post on instructional continuity and disaster preparedness.  Since we'll be nearing the height of hurricane season in a couple of weeks, her post is quite timely.  I would also ask that you keep in mind the practice of "transparency" and perhaps consider tweaking some of the instructions for assignments that you may have to post online in case of disaster, especially if you're currently teaching the course face-to-face.

Many Xavier faculty have already been introduced to "transparency" in CAT+ workshops, and several faculty already practice "transparency" as they build their assignments, but perhaps don't associate what they do with this current initiative.  To learn more about TILT (Transparency in Learning and Teaching) please visit the website:  For now, I would just like to share the following handout which asks instructors questions about their assignments and the accompanying instructions in order to help make it as clear as possible for the students.  For purposes of transferring your course to an online environment in case of a disaster, this worksheet can help you better explain the assignments to students whose faces you can no longer see in a physical classroom, nor whose questions can be quickly answered for all to hear.  Remember also that students will have additional stress during the disaster, so further clarification of assignments would be most helpful.

DRAFT Checklist for Designing a Transparent Assignment

This checklist as well as examples of transparent assignments may be found at the previously mentioned URL.  Please also feel free to contact CAT+ for additional help and information.


Providing students with meaningful feedback can greatly enhance learning and improve student achievement. In an Edutopia blog post, Marianne Stenger, provided five research-based tips for providing students with the kind of feedback that will increase their motivation, build on their existing knowledge, and help them reflect on what they've learned. Marianne’s tips are:

Be as specific as possible. Hearing that you did a great job is wonderful. However, the problem with “great job” or “this needs work” is that it is not specific. Provide students with information on what exactly they did well, and what may still need improvement.

The sooner the better. Feedback is most effective when it is given immediately, rather than a few days, weeks, or months down the line.

Address the learner's advancement toward a goal. When giving feedback, it should be clear to students how the information they are receiving will help them progress toward their final goal.

Present feedback carefully. The way feedback is presented can have an impact on how it is received, which means that sometimes even the most well-meaning feedback can come across the wrong way and reduce a student's motivation.

Involve learners in the process. When students have access to information about their performance, they develop an awareness of their learning, and are more easily able to recognize mistakes and eventually develop strategies for tackling weak points themselves.

If this has piqued your interest, you can read more in this 5 Research-Based Tips for Providing Students with Meaningful Feedback blog post.

by Karen Nichols

Michael Feldstein's recent blogpost on Carnegie Mellon's Simon Initiative caught my attention. He was a media fellow for this project and shared three short videos on Learning Science and its importance to educators. So I thought I'd share them here as well. Perhaps you have a few minutes in the summer to squeeze these in and hopefully they'll pique your interest enough to learn more.

"What is Learning Science from an Educator's Perspective?"

"How can Learning Science Improve Teaching?"

"What Learning Science Tells Us About How to Use Educational Technology"