Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Teaching Tip: The Benefits of Student Journals

by Leslie Johnson 

Deborah Starczewski, a child development instructor at Onondaga Community College, promotes the use of reflective journals in the October 2016 issue of The Teaching Professor. She considers them to be “one of the most valuable and least time-consuming assignments” that her students complete.

Starczewski structures the assignment very simply:

  •  Every other week, she poses a question based on the theories, studies, and classroom activities.
  • Students craft a 2-3 paragraph personal response to the question and submit it via their course management system.
  • She emphasizes that there is no right or wrong answer but that correct grammar and complete sentences are necessary.
  • Journals are private, and the instructor only responds if a student requests feedback.
The most important aspect of Starczewski’s system is that the students don’t lose points if they don’t submit a journal. Instead, 5 points are added to their final grade for each response they submit. In that way, participation is voluntary, but she notes students that still choose to participate and actually tell her how much they enjoyed the assignment. For Starczewski, she not only learns what students are thinking—especially those reluctant to participate in class discussion—she also learns how well they understand and can apply the course material.

Moreover, she explains that while some students are initially resistant to the idea of journaling, many actually enjoy the ability to express their thoughts about what they have learned. “It provides a forum via which students can personally respond without fear of being challenged or ridiculed for their ideas,” Starczewski explains. “If we tell students we are interested in their ideas, thoughts, and viewpoints, then we need to not only listen to those who express them in class but also read the responses of those who write,” Starczewski says. 

If you would like to read more classroom ideas, stop by the CTE during open hours and read the current or past issues of The Teaching Professor.

Reference: Starczewski, D.L. (2016). Encouraging students to think beyond the course material: the benefits of using reflective journals. The Teaching Professor, 30(8), 5.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Helping Students Develop Self-Regulated Study Skills

by Leslie Johnson
We know that many students arrive at college with insufficient and ineffective study skills; often they believe that what got them through high school will also get them through college. The October 2016 issue of The Teaching Professor reported how an “authentic” study skills assignment actually helped first-year students improve exam scores.

Students in a first-year experience course were not only taught college-level learning strategies, they were also given an assignment to actually utilize the strategies for an upcoming exam in a course other than the first-year experience. Students created a study game plan that included several parts:

  • Meeting with the instructor about the exam.
  • Using reading review activities.
  • Active note-taking strategies.
  • Implementing their choice of appropriate exam study strategies.
  • Predicting their grade after taking the exam.
  • Reflecting on their preparation and performance after receiving their exam grade.
Study author, H. H. Steiner noted that students need to be provided with such opportunities for “deliberate practice,” actual application of the study skills taught in a way that is meaningful to them. “In order for a person to achieve mastery levels, practice of the skill in an authentic context is necessary,” Steiner writes.

The reflections that the students wrote indicated the effectiveness of an assignment requiring them to use their new study skills. While many were initially reluctant to change their study habits, most students reported an increase in their exam grades. Forty-five percent of the students saw their exam grades improve by one letter grade; another 26 percent saw smaller gains in their grades. The few who reported declines cited “personal circumstances” as interfering with their success. One student even called the project “the most eye opening project of my entire semester.” Importantly, many students noted plans for permanent changes in their exam preparation.

Steiner explained that the project could be easily adapted to any mandatory introductory course students must take or an early course in a major where students need to learn how to study for particular content.

If you would like to read more instructional ideas from the current or past issues of The Teaching Professor, stop by the Center for Teaching Excellence during our open hours. You can even enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while you read!

Reference: Steiner, H.H. (2016). The strategy project: Promoting self-regulated learning through an authentic assignment. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 28(2), 271-282.

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 clarkm1@star.lcc.edu 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 (farrisl@star.lcc.edu), 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 clarkm1@star.lcc.edu 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 (clarkm1@email.lcc.edu) 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 (deinest@star.lcc.edu), or stop by the Center for Teaching Excellence, TLC 324.