Thursday, October 20, 2016

D2L Tip - Previewing a Student's Grades

From Thommen's Timely Technology Tip

After setting up or altering a gradebook, instructors often wish to view the grade listing from the student’s perspective. D2L provides this capability. 

1. Click the Grades tab. 

2. Click the Enter Grades link in the Grades Area box (upper left). A list of the student names as hot links appears in the User List window. 

3. Click on the name of the student you want to preview, and the Grade User summary screen will appear. 

4. Click on the Preview link in the upper left portion of the page. A new window will open displaying a summary of the student’s grade information. This window provides an accurate representation of what the students see when they review their grades.

For more D2L tips, contact Meg Elias at or stop by the CTE in TLC 324 during our open hours.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Here Comes Generation Z

By Leslie Johnson

Guess who arrived on the LCC campus this fall? Generation Z, that’s who!

Born roughly between 1998 and 2004, these nearly 70 million young people will never know a time when the Internet didn’t exist. The University of Cincinnati worked with a marketing research firm to create a “culture scan” of this generation to help inform college decision making. What they learned can also help us reach these students as they enter Lansing Community College.

According to Autumn Utley, who led the research team, these upcoming students are not only more diverse and globally aware than previous generations, they are also “independent, passionate, and take an active role in their education.” In fact, when surveyed 72% of Gen Z students said they think colleges should allow them to design their own educational program. They also feel strongly that colleges should offer real-world experience beyond coursework and exams.

As teachers then, we should be seeking ways for students to actively participate in the community to help these students apply what they’re learning in our course for their future employment. If you’re looking for some inspiration on how to connect these students to the community, you might want to watch Doug Klein’s 2016 StarTalk on how he involves his students in the world outside of LCC.

We might think that these students are always connected since they have grown up in the age of the Internet and smartphones. And, they are indeed highly connected. On average, most of them use five different electronic devices every day. Approximately 70% of them watch more than two hours of YouTube content per day. (By the way, they rarely watch broadcast television, nor do they really understand what a newspaper is. Instead, they look to social media to receive their breaking news.)

As a result, the UC report noted that Gen Z considers “technology an extension of self—their source of entertainment, education, and most importantly, their way of gathering, sharing and interpreting information.” As educators, we should remember that they have become the “curation generation.” In other words, since they like to collect and share information, they are developing the ‘neuroplasticity’ to “filter and process enormous amounts of information, efficiently and with purpose.” It is going to become our job, as faculty, to help students navigate out of the echo chamber that social media can create and become good digital citizens.

However, Gen Z also has lots of surprises for us. According to the University of Cincinnati research, 85% of them actually prefer face-to-face time with their friends over electronic interaction. The members of Gen Z also read more books than those older 18 and older—and they read mostly print books. So, while they will definitely want many aspects of their learning experience to be “open and connected” like their experiences with the Internet, they also highly value a human connection with their teacher and they understand the importance of printed and hand-written text.

Finally, Gen Z tends to think of themselves as “hacktivists,” someone who disrupts the system in order to facilitate positive change. In other words, they want to solve personal and social problems. Therefore, including a service learning component in a course is also a good way of reaching these students.
If you have suggestions for blog posts or if you would like to discuss Gen Z, email Leslie Johnson (, or stop by the Center for Teaching Excellence, TLC 324.

Friday, October 7, 2016

D2L Tip - Hiding Your Online Status

When students and instructors access the Classlist in D2L, a green circle to the right of a user's name indicates that the user is currently online.  If you wish to appear offline, you can hide that status in your account settings.

The account settings are found under your profile.

Log in to D2L, and click the down arrow beside your name in the top right corner.  Click Account Settings, and scroll down until you see the section, Signing In.

The choices under the Signing In menu are Appear online and Always appear offline.

Click Always appear offline.  Then click Save and Close.  your status will be hidden from all users in all courses.  You can elect to change your status back to Always appear online at any time.

For more D2L tips, contact Meg Elias at or stop by the CTE in TLC 324 during our open hours.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Teaching Tip: Using Alternate Text for Images

In higher education, there is an increasing expectation that students are able to access course content online, in the form of PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, and even original material added directly to the Course Management System.  When adding images to digital content, it is important to understand that students who require screen readers may be limited if alternative text (alt text) is not added.  Adding appropriately worded alternative text to an online image greatly improves the accessibility of your course content.   

In Microsoft Office products, alt text can be added by clicking on the Format Picture menu.  Type a phrase or short sentence into the description window.

The Format Picture menu in Word has a box for title and a box for description.  

In D2L, when an image is added using the Insert Image icon, you will be prompted to add Alternative Text.  If the image doesn’t add any additional content, you can click, This image is decorative.
 In D2L the user is prompted to provide alternative text.
Your alt text should describe the relevant content that the picture conveys to a sighted person.  As an example, the alternative text for the screenshot on the left might read, “The Format Picture Menu in Microsoft Word has a window to type in a title and a description.”  It is not necessary to use phrases like, “A picture of…” at the start of your text.  

WebAIM has a great article on alt text, that can clarify the purpose and process, and help you decide on the best phrasing to use in different situations.  

Removing barriers to learning is an important concept to embrace in education.  If you would like to discuss more about Universal Design or share your thoughts over a cup of coffee, contact Meg Elias ( or visit the CTE in TLC Room 324.  If you have more in-depth questions about accessibility for deaf and/or hard-of-hearing students, or blind/visually impaired students, please contact the Center for Student Access at 517-483-1924.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tips for First Week Online Engagement

by Tim Deines

I’ve been teaching online at LCC for several years now, and I’m finding that there are some simple things I can do at the beginning of each semester to increase the chances, theoretically at least, that students will have a successful term. For you veteran teachers, some of what follows may seem obvious. In any case, it can’t hurt to reflect on how we invite our students into our classrooms in an online context.

Hopefully, it goes without saying that your syllabus should be up and ready to go. We are required to put them on Concourse now, but it might be a good idea to also have it available to students in Word form for easy printing, etc. I also separate out my reading and assignment schedule from the section syllabus so that students have easier access to those tasks and dates.

In addition to nuts-and-bolts tasks like the syllabus, I think it’s really important that teachers personally reach out to students and invite them to participate fully in the class. Online contexts can be intimidating places, too, and it is the teacher’s responsibility to create a hospitable environment for students.

I do this in two ways at the start of the semester. The first is by posting a simple greeting with the ‘News’ function in D2L, but then also pasting that greeting into a class email. This happens the morning of the first day of class.

The second thing I like to do is set up an ‘Introductions’ forum and require students to introduce themselves to the class. I introduce myself first, talk about my interests, etc. My experience is that students will do this. Those that do not, I send out a gentle email to make sure they want to be in the class and understand my expectation that they actively participate in the course. I often hear back from these students assuring me that indeed they are interested in the course and to please not drop them!

It’s important to not assume that students are automatically going to jump into our courses and wholeheartedly embrace them. Some may need a bit of cajoling, kindly reminders, perhaps even a personal email. In my view, this all falls under the job description of good, caring teaching. Education is an invitation to discovery, and we should be always thinking about ways to welcome students through that door.

If you have suggestions for first-week online activities, future blog posts, or if you would like to share anything else, email Tim Deines (, or stop by the Center for Teaching Excellence, TLC 324.

Friday, September 2, 2016

First Day Confessions

by Meg Elias

At the start of every semester, I plan the perfect first day experience for my students.  I’m organized, ready to rock, agenda and class list in hand … seriously, I’m prepared.  So how is it that the first day is never actually perfect? 

Last Thursday’s mess included:

There were TOO MANY white board markers.  I know it’s hard to believe, but there were at least 35 of them, overflowing on the little marker ledge.  There were so many choices that I couldn’t pick a color, and when I finally grabbed a blue one, I knocked five others to the ground.

I wrote the agenda on the board, then turned on the projector …  and the projector was projecting over my agenda.  I had to erase it and move it to the other side while the students watched quietly.

I made a little name tent for myself to model what I wanted them to do, and it kept sliding off the desk.  I had to do on-the-fly origami to get it to stand up.

Going off script, I think I may have implied that getting a 2.0 was not good enough.  (I know, ouch.)

I kept trying to call a student by his last name, even though his first name was clearly written on his little name tent.

In seventeen years of teaching, I’ve never been able to work that “first day magic” that seems obtainable as I prepare for class.  Yet again, I managed to only achieve some degree of, “Phew, we survived.”  On the positive side, there were a few laughs (mostly at my expense), and almost everyone came back for class on the following Monday.   And that’s just going to have to be good enough.

If you have suggestions for blog posts or if you would like to share your first day confessions, email Meg Elias (, or stop by the Center for Teaching Excellence, TLC 324.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Inside the Teaching Professor - Negotiating Feedback

by Tim Deines

In discussions of evaluation and assessment of writing and other academic work, feedback is held up as a nearly unimpeachable good. Writing teachers, for example, often use marginal and end comments to heavily supplement, if not replace entirely, traditional grammar correction. As long as the feedback is more or less immediate, we often assume, it is preferable to a grading regime that strictly quantifies the final product.

And yet, the translation from feedback to grade can be a difficult one for both student and teacher. As teachers, we’re often not sure if students read and practice the suggestions we make. We might imagine that a valuable exchange of insight and information is happening – especially in online environments – where none actually is. 

From the student point of view, if the student reads feedback, there may be a lack of understanding about how the feedback relates to the grade. Rubrics are one way of confronting this potential disconnect, but that sometimes just introduces one more variable into a messy, vague calculation.

Part of the problem is that today we tend to want to quantify everything that happens in the academy. But everyone knows that writing, for example, is not easily reducible to impersonal, objective numbers. 

In the April edition of “The Teaching Professor,” Cassandra O’Sullivan Sachar discusses all of these issues in a piece called “Making Feedback Matter.” Sachar offers three bits of information that may help writing teachers and others better manage the relationship between feedback and grades

Sachar’s first piece of advice is “separate the grade from the feedback.” The main reason to do this is to remove the stigma of the grade from the writer’s self-perception as a person capable of doing that work. “Many students hold negative perceptions of themselves as writers,” Sachar says. “Removing the threat of bad grades can build confidence and motivate students to complete the assignment” (1). Sachar has found that students respond more positively and productively to feedback when the grade is removed from the assessment criteria. For most of us, this approach cannot be applied to the course as a whole, but there may be wiggle-room inside a course to experiment. 

Sachar also recommends assigning grades “based on student effort and improvement.” The point here is to emphasize writing and thinking processes while placing less weight on the final product, as important as that may be. “I want them to think,” explains Sachar, “not just about the quality of the final product, but the journey to get there.” In this way, feedback is attached to process and product, as opposed to some ideal result students feel may never be attained. 

Finally, Sachar suggests requiring a quick follow-up assignment based on the feedback. This can take any number of forms, and should not be a major undertaking. When students are asked to put the feedback to work in their writing right away, it follows that they will take much more intrinsic interest in the feedback. 

Sachar does us the great service of taking feedback seriously. If we are to rely on such a method in the academy – in writing courses, certainly, but also across the curriculum – it would be a good idea to understand the limits of its effectiveness. 

The Teaching Professor includes summarized articles from various educational publications, as well as original articles from university and college instructors. If you are interested in viewing articles in this and/or other publications, contact Tim Deines at or stop by the CTE, TLC 324. 

Reference: Sachar, Cassandra O. “Making Feedback Matter.” The Teaching Professor 30.4 (2016): 1. Print.