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Xavier instructors, by completing the #LearnEverywhereXULA (#LEX) course, you honed your Brightspace skills and learned some of the better practices for remote and online teaching. Congratulations! You now have the opportunity to expand your horizons even more by becoming #LEX Advanced Certified. How do you achieve that? Keep reading.

Image by Amander Dimmock from Pixabay

You earn this certificate by participating in at least four #LEX Advanced workshops or completing four self-paced #LEX Advanced modules, or any combination of the two as long as you complete four. In these workshops/modules you will learn about using design and automation features available in Brightspace to apply better pedagogical practices within your courses by making them more user-friendly, accessible, and efficient.

Be on the lookout for #LEX Advanced workshops in CAT+FD’s events calendar or check out the #LEX Advanced course in your Brightspace account. Any questions? Contact us at cat@xula.edu.

The opportunity to work at CAT-FD as the Faculty in Residence for new faculty support was really exciting.  That is partly because I had experienced the friendly and caring atmosphere around CAT-FD for a long time myself.  At the beginning, I attended CAT-FD workshops only if I thought I really lacked the knowhow that a workshop would provide and I knew that I badly needed what I would learn there to teach or work with students.  But later, my purpose of coming to CAT-FD was a mix of the drive to learn something new and also the desire to meet and get to know the CAT-FD staff and attendees during those events.  I think the understanding that I will always have a good time at CAT-FD got progressively stronger as my time at Xavier went by.  I am so grateful for the relaxed and mind-clearing experience that the CAT-FD staff impart to me all the time.  CAT-FD welcomes everyone all the time and you will find it home too.  I especially hope that the new faculty would start working with CAT closely from the beginning of their time here.

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How & Why to Humanize Your Online Class

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"Burning My Candle at Both Ends" by gfpeck is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Even in a typical academic year (which this one was not) we tend to burn our candle at both ends as we work our way from August toward graduation. I don’t know if you have felt it, but I have certainly felt the increased pressure of keeping up the past few weeks—letters of recommendation, student advising, and wrapping up goals for the academic year have all made demands on my time.

Adding this pressure to an already-stressful year can increase our risk for burnout. Burnout has become a popular term during COVID, especially for educators who have had to reimagine their teaching. In fact, NPR’s Life Kit podcast just did a timely episode on burnout, complete with tips to avoiding it.

Burnout, a concept studied psychologist Christina Maslach since the 1970s, doesn’t just mean we are overwhelmed and exhausted (though exhaustion is at the core). It also includes becoming cynical about our work, which in higher ed can lead to "phoning it in" to our classes, complaining about our students or colleagues, and disengaging from our institutional missions. (Salvagioni and colleagues provide a thorough, empirical review of the physical and psychological consequences of burnout.)

However, there is recent evidence that what we have called burnout might actually be a form of job-related depression. In a meta-analysis, Renzo Bianchi (University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland) and colleagues looked at evidence from from 12,417 participants in six countries and found that characteristics of burnout were more strongly associated with depression than they were with each other. The implications of this data? Burnout is something that both institutions and faculty should take seriously.

If you are feeling physical or emotional exhaustion or cynicism, I encourage you, in these last fews weeks of the semester, to engage in some of the following that work for you.

  • Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits.
    Give yourself permission to invest in you own good health. Yeah, you have a lot to do, but none of that work is going to get done if you are too ill to do it.
  • Balance work and play.
    Be sure you have downtime and take breaks to do things you find truly joyful. In the academy our work is never truly "done." It's up to us to set some boundaries.
  • Take a daily break from technology.
    Need I say more about this? Take some time each day to completely disconnect and perhaps even look at a tree.

Tentative Title: The Crucial Conversation: Teaching Race and Racism in the Postsecondary Context
Editors: Drs. William T. Hoston, Laurette B. Foster, and Fred A. Bonner II
Abstract Length: 300 to 500 words.
Abstract Proposal Deadline: No later than April 16, 2021.

Objective:

This edited volume will explore the best practices for effective teaching and learning relevant to race and racism in the post-George Floyd era, where American universities and colleges are placing a greater emphasis on fostering educational contexts that address diversity, inclusion, belonging, and race relations. The emphasis on these constructs in our current societal climate, which has led institutions to pledge a commitment to addressing racial injustices, is the foundation for this book.

A lot of faculty at Xavier have found, when they are teaching multiple sections of the same class, that it is helpful to merge those sections on Brightspace. Janice recently posted about the process to get your courses merged, so I won't go into those details. Instead, this post is going to consider the rather unique challenge many of our faculty will face this fall: teaching one section online and one in person.

...continue reading "To Merge or Not to Merge"

Kim Vaz-DevilleToday's guest post is from Kim Vaz-Deville, Professor of Education and Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

  • First you can inquire how the student is doing/coping.
  • Ask if she or he understands the emails that have been coming out from the department/division/dean's office and academic affairs.
  • Many students do not know what to expect for finishing the courses for the end of the semester. Address concerns and if you don’t know that is okay you can follow up with the right sources.
  • Let them know what academic supports are in place. Students can create a virtual meeting space that their group can visit whenever they want to study and they may also join an existing study group. They can also contact the relevant Academic Resource Center Coordinators to request a tutor or SI to work with your newly created study group. For more information, students should check their emails from Dr. Holmes sent on March 27, 2020 titled “XULA Zoom Study Groups”. For assistance from the Academic Resource Centers see the email from Dr. Holmes sent on March 17, 2020 titled “Academic Resource Centers - Online Tutoring, Review Sessions, and Resources”.
  • You can assign pre-work for the meeting -- tell students what they will need to prepare for the advising session.
  • You can reassure them that they are working toward the goals they have set for themselves. No matter what they are hearing or feeling they are moving forward. Though they are learning remotely/online, they are still in a rich educational environment and will learn what is needed for their success. You can remind them how much the faculty care about them.
  • While summer classes will be "on-line", this might be a good time to clarify the difference between "remote learning" and "online learning". Currently, if their class was face to face, it is now being offered remotely it includes an expectation that the student will login during the time the course is offered so their professors know they are there.
  • In planning for the fall semester, take into account what the summer is going to look like for them. Help them have an academic plan because that will reinforce that there is an endpoint/target.
  • If you are using your personal phone and are concerned about maintaining your privacy, you can use Goggle Voice. If you get the app on your phone, you can make work calls from that number.

Sources:

“Best Practices for Serving Students Remotely” Sponsor: eab.com. Thursday, March 26, 2020

“Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste: How the COVID-19 crisis is pushing liberal arts programs to cultural and institutional innovation.” Hosted by Christopher Malone, Founding Dean School of Arts and Sciences, Molloy College. Sponsor: Council of Colleges of Arts & Sciences. March 25, 2020

Reyna Romero, Director, Advising Services. College of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Houston and Crystal Guillory, Assistant Dean in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at UHD meeting with Kim Vaz-Deville, Associate Dean College of Arts and Sciences, Xavier University of Louisiana, March 31, 2020

Thanks to all who attended the recent Service Learning (SL)workshop. Your willingness to take the time out of your busy schedules to learn more about this important endeavor is greatly appreciated. The workshop was entitled Service Learning: A Renewalas we (CAT-FD and CSI [the Center for Student Involvement]) are focused on enhancing SL courses and the SL experience on Xavier’s campus. Along those lines, we have streamlined the process of SL course proposal submission, with proposals now submitted online. The advantage of submitting proposals is an “SL” designation for the respective course on Banner Web. Proposal submission also allows us to anticipate and provide appropriate logistical support for SL courses.

As the Faculty in Residence -SL, I will be working with faculty to ensure that SL courses are pedagogically sound and achieve course learning objectives. I will also focus on whether reflection is integral piece of SL and, with a great deal of help from Ms. Kendra Warren, provide logistical support. The overall goal of proposal submission is not to “accept” or “reject” any given proposal. Rather it is to work with faculty to ensure a sound, effective, and smooth (as possible) SL project.

At the Service Learning: A Renewalworkshop we discussed the importance of developing a SL project with a community partner in mind, as SL consists of collaboration with a community partner; a collaboration from which the community partner clearly benefits. We also focused on the importance of reflection in SL. This reflection can take many forms (e.g., a journal, class discussion, and/or paper assignment), should be a component of the course grade, and occur consistently throughout the semester. In essence SL should be an integral component of the course and course grade. However, that component should not merely consist of attendance at the SL site.

SL can take many forms, ranging from direct SL (e.g., tutoring middle school students) to research-based SL (e.g., writing a guide on available community resources). The form of SL is not necessarily important. Whether SL is consistent with the nature of the course and fosters achievement of learning outcomes is.

I look forward to hearing from and supporting faculty in their SL endeavors. If you have questions, are interested in submitting a SL proposal, or are curious about other upcoming SL activities, please let me know (lschulte@xua.edu).

As I sit in my CAT-FD office I wonder what to focus on for my first blog. An idea finally comes to me – how did I “get here.” Not physically, but what stirred my interest in the Faculty in Residence – Service Learning position. What path did I take?

I start thinking back to how I first became involved in service learning. It was via a FaCTS (Faculty Community of Teaching Scholars) group, the focus of which was sustainability. To be quite honest I don’t know whether my interest in FaCTS stemmed from the stipend offered or an authentic interest in sustainability (or service learning for that matter). In any event I applied, taking what was perceived as a different approach to sustainability. I was teaching Positive Psychology at the time (I am also teaching Positive Psychology this semester) and wondered whether students might be considered a sustainable resource. One could argue that students endure a great deal throughout the semester. There are ups and downs, failures and triumphs, and certainly many challenges. To succeed students must persist, with what could be argued as, dwindling resources. How might students sustain their personal resources and psychological well-being?

In Positive Psychology service learning required students to select an area of themselves that they desired to strengthen, with inspiration coming from the twenty-four character strengths developed by Peterson and Seligman (2004). Students completed the Values in Action (VIA) survey to determine the relative ranking of their 24 strengths and selected a strength to focus on throughout the semester.

How did service learning come into play? Example strengths include optimism, forgiveness, and bravery. Qualities that many senior citizens display. Thus the idea was that senior citizens would serve as role models and mentors for change. The service learning project grew from there, with students visiting senior centers every week – interacting, sharing, and just hanging out with seniors. Reflection was an essential component of the project, with students submitting a weekly service-learning journal consisting of general reflections/observations and requiring students to apply specific course concepts to their experiences and interactions with seniors.

The course and associated service learning project was time consuming, challenging, and required a great deal of monitoring and organization. The results were incredibly rewarding. Meaningful connections were made, in depth discussions occurred, and greater understanding of course concepts facilitated. Thus, while I may not have been initially interested in service learning for service learning sake, through this and subsequent projects I have certainly come to understand the many benefits of service learning, how it enriches student experience, and the importance of creating a service-learning project that is pedagogically sound.

I look forward to serving as the CAT-FD Faculty in Residence – Service Learning. My initial goals include learning more about service learning (at XU, on other campuses, and empirical findings associated with service-learning), ensuring that service learning projects are pedagogically sound, streamlining the process of developing service learning courses and projects, and continued incorporation of service learning in my courses. I anticipate that my goals in this role will evolve, look forward to working with the XU and greater New Orleans community, and am excited to take this journey of discovery.

Reference:

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association; New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press.

The more I learn about eportfolios in theory, the more I think that's not the right attitude to take.

Having an integrated eportfolio platform has become a pretty standard option for learning management systems (LMS) in recent years. At Xavier, we adopted D2L's Brightspace last year, and with it, we gained D2L's rather blandly named ePortfolio system. So when we started discussing the use of eportfolios in the classroom and for other purposes, we focused much of our attention on the system we're already paying for. But the more I learn about eportfolios in theory, the more I think that's not the right attitude to take.

The main thing to realize is that an eportfolio is really just a focused and purposeful web site; therefore, in reality, any system you can use to create a web site, you can use to create an eportfolio. A system like Brightspace ePortfolio has some advantages because it's so integrated into the LMS, but as is so often the case, it also has plenty of disadvantages. In another blog post, we'll take a look at the pros and cons of Brightspace Portfolio.

The better practice I often hear from people who are heavily involved in eportfolios at their schools is that when requiring someone to create an eportfolio, you shouldn't require them to use a specific platform. It's sort of like word processing programs. We don't require student a to use Microsoft Word when writing a paper; rather, we give them the specific requirements they need to meet and tell them to use whatever tool they're moat comfortable with that can meet those requirements. Portfolios are even easier in this regard, as they don't require a specific program to access them -- any web browser should do the trick.

Here are a few of the many options available to someone wanting to create an eportfolio outside of their LMS. All offer free access, although most require a subscription for full features: