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November 7 – 11, 2022 is National Distance Learning Week (NDLW). This is the 15th Anniversary of 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 2022.

hand holding pencil over a bubble answer sheet with some answers bubbled in

Traditional testing relies on multiple choice, true/false, and written response type questions. In authentic assessments, students apply concepts to real world situations by completing meaningful task-based assessments. This type of assessment engages a variety of skills and effectively measures higher levels of learning than traditional assessment.

Authentic assessments are widely viewed as pedagogically superior, yet multiple-choice assessments are often preferable to instructors and students alike.

In an Inside Higher Ed opinion piece, Eric Loepp challenges instructors to rethink the premise that multiple-choice questions cannot meet the standards of authentic assessment. He argues that there are situations where higher-order multiple-choice questions can be used for assessment. If this has piqued your interest, you can read more in his “The Benefits of Higher-Order Multiple-Choice Tests” opinion piece for more information.

Image credit: Exam by Alberto G. licensed under CC BY 2.0

clipart of iPad screen with an online assessment

A common question in online learning is “How do we keep students from cheating in online exams?” A shift from traditional means of assessment (quizzes, tests, exams) to authentic and alternative assessments is critical in virtual settings.

If faculty try to assess their students the same way they did in a face-to-face setting, they will most likely find themselves frustrated, as well as frustrating their students.

In a Faculty Focus article, Laura McLaughlin, EdD, and Joanne Ricevuto, EdD, provided some recommendations to improve the use of assessments in virtual environments and decrease concerns regarding cheating. Their recommendations are:

  1. Allow choice in assessments: Let students decide how they will demonstrate their learning.
  2. Authentic and stackable assessments: Students should be told why they are assigned a particular assessment, and why it is relevant to their learning.
  3. Trust students: Provide alternative assessments (not quizzes and tests) where the concern of cheating is off the table.
  4. Frequent feedback and communication: Provide feedback that helps learners improve their learning.

Teaching in a virtual environment creates an opportunity to rethink your practices, try something new, and embrace deeper and more engaging ways of assessing students without using lockdown browsers or worrying about students cheating.

If this has piqued your interest, you can read more in this Assessments in a Virtual Environment: You Won’t need that Lockdown Browser! article.

Did you miss our (Re)Thinking Exams workshop? If you want to learn about ways you can challenge your students to demonstrate what they've learned while teaching in an online environment, watch this (Re)Thinking Exams workshop recording. In this workshop, Dr. Elizabeth Yost Hammer and Dr. Jay Todd discussed and demonstrated ways that focused active learning activities can be used in place of more traditional methods of assessment like quizzes and tests.

The sudden shift to remote learning led to concerns about new opportunities for students to engage in unauthorized shortcuts. During spring 2021, three academic integrity and STEM professionals from the University of Maryland Global Campus, a primarily online institution, shared research on academic integrity in online courses, strategies for promoting integrity in remote learning environments, and examples of how content learning is achieved in any setting designed for online education. ICYMI, here's a link to the Proactive Approaches for Academic Integrity in Remote and Online Learning workshop recording.

Image credit: "online assessment" by jflorent is dedicated to the public domain under CC0 and is a derativie of image by coffeebeanworks and image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

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How & Why to Humanize Your Online Class

Ready to learn some grammar? How's about something on optional modifiers?

OK, so maybe you're not studying grammar right now, but the point is the technique. This movie was produced by Dr. Jason Todd (English) in our Camtasia studio using our brand-new Lightboard.

How does it work? According to Dr. Todd (and I quote):

Writing big letters and wearing dark clothes is key to getting this look.

He also asserts that our Røde microphone is "awesome."

Please don't be mystified by all this technical jargon. The Lightboard is just a way of doing old-fashioned chalkboard-lectures. Except without the chalk. If you want to make a video like this, don't be shy. Get in touch. We'll help you. We're learning along with you.

  • Learn more at lightboard.info, and be sure to check out the section on "best practices."

Many thanks to Dean Kathleen Kennedy for making this available to Xavier faculty through the College of Pharmacy's Center of Excellence grant.

students typing on laptop keyboard

As we start this semester, you may find yourself shifting to remote teaching due to the surge of the COVID-19 omicron variant. In an Intentional College Teaching blog post, Dr. Bridget Arend suggests that if you are shifting to remote teaching, it is beneficial to do thoughtful planning about how to use the first few remote/online weeks and sessions intentionally. She provided some tips for educators who are starting the semester teaching remotely. Consider your goals for the first few days/weeks of class. What is important? What additional aspects may be necessary due to the current circumstances? Use the answers to these questions to focus your efforts.

Dr. Arend shared the following ideas for starting the semester remotely:

  • Build Community – It is important to build a community of learners in your course.
  • Set Participation/Guideline Norms – The added challenge of a new course format, new technologies, and continually changing policies, makes this aspect more necessary.
  • Get Students Excited About the Content – Perhaps you can front-load some of the more engaging or exciting aspects of the content during these first remote weeks.
  • Be Mindful About Logistics – As you develop your first weeks, keep in mind how things will change with a shift back to an on-campus or hybrid format.
  • Address Your Pedagogical Challenge – Each course has something about it that makes it challenging to teach that subject to the students in that course. Address this challenge head-on from day one, no matter what the format.
  • Take Care of Yourself – Set realistic boundaries for yourself and share these with students. Let students know you genuinely care about them and their learning, but you also need to take care of your own family, health, etc.

If this has piqued your interest, you can read more in her Tips for Starting the Semester Teaching Remotely blog post.

Image credit: #WOCinTech Chat / CC BY 2.0

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November 8 – 12, 2021 is National Distance Learning Week (NDLW). This year's theme is "Life in a Hybrid World – Learning How to Flex".

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 2021.

Smart phone with Zoom app on the screen

Many educators found Zoom to be an invaluable tool in being able to continue with teaching and learning this last year. By now, you have probably gotten used to hosting or participating in Zoom meetings. Did you know that the Zoom software is updated periodically to add new features? There are some new Zoom features that you can use in order to provide a more engaging online learning experience for your students. Read on for some new features that may be of interest to you.

NOTE: You must have an up-to-date version of the Zoom client software to test out these features. Here’s some information on how to update Zoom.

1) Share Screen to all Breakout Rooms

If you used breakout rooms before, you may have facilitated a breakout room activity where you wanted to share your screen in all the breakout rooms while the participants are in the breakout rooms. If so, your wish has come true! There is a new “Share to breakout rooms” option available in when you click on the Share Screen button when breakout rooms are open.

share to breakout rooms option
Screen Share to Breakout Rooms

Note: Sharing your screen will interrupt any screen shares that participants may have started in the breakout rooms.

2) Focus Mode

Focus Mode does just that – it helps keep participants focused in a Zoom meeting. This feature was designed with educators in mind. Focus Mode places meeting participants in a view where they are only able to see themselves, the host/co-hosts, and the content they are sharing. In this view, hosts and co-hosts can also choose to view participants in gallery view, enabling them to see all participants simultaneously. This feature can help instructors who facilitate and proctor exams on Zoom. Instructors can require students to be sharing their screens simultaneously while taking an exam, and then the host can review each student’s screen, without the students seeing each other’s screens.

start Focus Mode
Prompt to Start Focus Mode in Zoom meeting

In order to use Focus Mode in a Zoom meeting, you first must go to your settings in your xula.zoom.us account and turn on Focus Mode. More information can be found in this Focus Mode article on the Zoom support site.

3) Vanishing Pen

This new feature in the Annotation toolbar is available when screen sharing or using the Whiteboard. The vanishing pen allows hosts and participants to use a pen tool where the drawings slowly vanish. This is helpful if you want to draw attention to something temporarily. Instead of using the draw tool to make a mark and then using the eraser tool to remove the marking, you can use the Vanishing Pen and the marking will slowly disappear.

You select the Vanishing Pen by clicking on the Spotlight button in the Annotation toolbar, and then selecting Vanishing Pen.

spotlight using vanishing pen
Annotation Tools - Spotlight using Vanishing Pen

4) Share and Play Video Files Directly Into Meeting

This feature allows you to directly choose a video file from your computer to play through screen sharing. Instead of having to share your desktop and bring up the file, or share a specific video playback program, the video file will play directly in Zoom for all meeting participants to watch. This option is located in the Advanced tab of the Share Screen window.

Share screen - share video option
Share Screen Advanced options - Share Video

More information can be found in this Sharing and Playing a Video on the Zoom support site.

5) Reactions - Full Emoji Suite and “Away” Coffee Cup

If you click on the Reactions button in Zoom, you’ll notice that you have a full array of emojis to choose from in order to express your emotions! When an emoji or icon is selected, it will appear in the corner of your video, as well as next to your name in the Participants window. Emoji reactions will disappear after 10 seconds, while raise hand and nonverbal feedback, such as Yes, No, Slow down, and Speed up will be persistent and must be manually removed by the participant or host. Additionally, you will also find the Coffee Cup icon, which will display an “away” status for you. The host and participants can use the Coffee Cup to indicate when they have stepped away from the meeting and then turn the Coffee Cup off when they return.

Zoom reactions
Zoom Reactions

Zoom coffee cup reaction with "I'm away" noted on the screen
Zoom Coffee Cup Reaction

Zoom emojis
Zoom Emojis

6) Immersive View

Zoom Immersive View is a feature that places some or all meeting participants in one virtual background. It helps to simulate the feeling of an in-person meeting or classroom. The feature can accommodate up to 25 people. To enable Immersive View as the host, click the View icon in the upper right corner of a Zoom meeting, and then click “Immersive View.” You’ll be presented with several options for virtual immersive “rooms” for up to 25 participants.

Zoom's View menu with immersive view highlighted
Zoom's View menu with Immersive View highlighted

CAT+FD team in a Zoom meeting using Immersive View
Example of CAT+FD Team in an Immersive View

For more information check out this Introducing Zoom Immersive View blog post. Additional information about Immersive View can be found in the Zoom Help Center.

7) Mute and Video Off When Joining a Recorded/Live Streamed Meeting

When participants join a meeting that is currently being recorded or livestreamed, they will be notified, and their audio and video will automatically be turned off. This will allow them to fully opt into being recorded or not, without their face or voice accidentally being recorded if they do not consent to it.

8) Post-Meeting Survey

Hosts now have the ability to have Zoom prompt participants to take a survey after they leave a Zoom meeting, including through third-party survey tools. After participants leave a Zoom meeting, the survey will automatically load in their browser. Hosts can then review the survey results via the Reports feature in your xula.zoom.us account or through the third-party website.

Zoom survey options
Add a survey to Zoom meeting

To apply a post-meeting survey for a Zoom meeting, you first must go to your xula.zoom.us account settings and turn on Meeting Survey. Then, after scheduling a Zoom meeting, the Survey feature will be available at the bottom of the meeting confirmation page. For more information check out this Post meeting Survey and reporting page on the Zoom support site.

9) Live Transcription

Live speech-to-text transcription, when enabled by the host, allows participants the ability to turn on in order to view live generated subtitles of the meeting’s audio. Participants can click a button to request the live transcription to be turned on. The host is notified of this request and is presented with a button that allows them to enable the transcription immediately. These features are located in the Live Transcript button in a Zoom meeting. Enabling the Live Transcript will make your Zoom classes more accessible!

Closed Captioning Settings
Closed Captioning Settings

Enable live transcription
Enable live transcription in Zoom meeting

Try out these new features and let us know what you think by leaving a comment on this blog post.

ICYMI, you may be interested in these Zoom related CAT FooD blog posts:

As all of you know, the disruption due to hurricane Ida is forcing you to rethink how you will continue with teaching and learning during this disruption. When classes resume next week, many faculty will move to meeting with their classes remotely at the regularly assigned class time.

One question related to teaching remotely that we have been asked is about using Zoom for class meetings. In particular, some faculty want to know if they can use their personal Zoom accounts for class meetings. While there is no university policy that says you cannot, we suggest you use your XULA Zoom account for several reasons.

Zoom link identified in NavBar

If you create a meeting in your personal Zoom account and provide your students with the Zoom link they will be able to attend the class meeting. However, an advantage to setting up the Zoom class meetings inside your course is that this can force your students to login to the course for each class meeting. This is helpful in recording their attendance. To have attendance automatically recorded in Brightspace, students need to access course content from your course for that day. Any activity inside the course is acceptable for recording attendance. It could be a link they click on, submit an assignment, take a quiz, participate in a discussion, etc. Even just clicking on the "Content" menu link in your course will count for attendance.

You must activate your XULA Zoom account in order to use Zoom in Brightspace. Activation is a one-time action on your part.

We have a number of Zoom resources that you may find helpful:

Did you know you can view Zoom usage reports to see the participants who attended the meeting and the amount of time they spent in the meeting? Here’s a link to how-to that explains how to view your Zoom usage reports.

Want More Information?

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Instructors Quick Start Tutorial
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

female students looking at a laptop screen

In a recent Inside Higher Ed blog post, Steven Mintz discusses lessons learned from the pandemic about effective teaching. His lessons learned are:

  • Teaching online is tough work.
  • It’s easy for online students to disengage, self-isolate and fall off track.
  • Social and emotional issues are as important as course content.
  • Coverage and pacing pose a big challenge.

Steven goes on to list eight ethical issues around online learning that will persist after the pandemic. Those ethical issues are:

  1. Equity: How to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity to learn and to fully participate in our online courses.
  2. Learner diversity: How to address the special challenges that e-learning poses.
  3. Support: How to ensure that students have the ready access to the academic, technological, mental health and other supports that they need to succeed.
  4. Feedback and responsiveness: Making sure that students receive the guidance and feedback they need to succeed academically.
  5. Privacy: How to ensure that students’ right to privacy is protected.
  6. Netiquette: How to ensure that all participants in the class behave in a civil, respectful manner.
  7. Assessment: How to maintain academic integrity in an online environment.
  8. Intellectual property: What rules should govern respect for copyright in online classes.

If you are interested in Steven’s strategies for addressing these ethical issues, read his What the Pandemic Should Have Taught Us about Effective Teaching blog post.

Image credit: #WOCinTech Chat / CC BY 2.0