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.

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 (clarkm1@star.lcc.edu), 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 deinest@star.lcc.edu or stop by the CTE, TLC 324. 

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Three Tips for Protecting Students' Privacy

by Meg Elias 

When I was taking college biology in 1989, my professor motivated us by posting our exam grades on the classroom door with first and last names attached. We would rush up to the list of 300 and look for our names, ranked from highest score at the top, to lowest at the bottom. It may have been an effective motivator for some students, but it’s not considered an acceptable practice in 2016. When discussing or distributing graded items in the classroom, instructors should be mindful of students’ privacy. These three tips can help you avoid divulging information about an individual’s grades: 

  1. Place written grades on the second page of an assignment or test. As you pass out graded homework or exams, other students should not be able to see an individual’s grade on the front of the document. Placing the grade on the second page allows the student to choose whether or not to show their score to their classmates. 
  2. Have a pen and paper handy to write down a grade when a student asks during class time. Sometimes a student will approach the teaching station and ask you to look up a grade on Desire2Learn. Instead of stating the score verbally, write it down and hand the paper to the student. You can also jot down your office hours so that the student can follow up after class. Never allow the student to look at the gradebook screen if other students’ grades are visible. 
  3. Rehearse a standard reply to student inquiries that might violate another student’s privacy. If a student makes a comparison between their grade and a peer’s grade, you can reply with, “I cannot discuss any other student’s grades with you, but I would be glad to discuss your score during my office hours.” 
Remember that students have the right to share as much or as little as they wish about their scores, whether they are at the top or the bottom of the class. 

If you have more suggestions or if you would like to discuss teaching tips, email Meg Elias (clarkm1@star.lcc.edu), or stop by the Center for Teaching Excellence, TLC 324.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Teaching Tip - Branching Scenarios in PowerPoint

by Meg Elias

I was asked recently about creating branching scenarios for online learning, where students make choices and are guided to different screens based on their answers. One fairly simple option is to build the scenario in PowerPoint, publish it in iSpring (available at the CTE), and then share it with students in D2L. The result is an interactive learning activity that can take the form of a role play or even a multiple choice quiz.

Process Outline
Step 1: Create a map of your scenario on paper. Planning is key, here, to save time later. Below is a sample plan for a simple branching presentation: 

Step 2: Create a PowerPoint containing the text from the scenario. In the example above, I would create: 
  • An introductory or title slide 
  • One slide with the scenario and the three answers 
  • One slide with the “Sorry” message 
  • One slide with the “That is correct” message 
  • One slide with the Perfect Policy Award 
Step 3: Add the “branching.” Right click on one of the “Answer” boxes and select Insert Hyperlink. Under the Link to panel, select Place in this Document, and select the slide that has the result that corresponds to that choice. For example, in the “Answer 1” box, create a link to the “Sorry” slide. 

Step 4: Save the presentation and publish it in iSpring as an HTML5 file, and upload it to D2L. Click the presentation below to see the finished product using the methods outlined above. 

CTE Staff are available to help with this process. Email Meg Elias at clarkm1@star.lcc.edu, or visit our technology room in TLC 324 for assistance.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Teaching Tip - Effective Use of Videos

by Leslie Johnson 

I recently participated in a Webinar led by Zac Woolfitt, a lecturer at Inholland University in The Netherlands, who has researched the effectiveness of using video in higher education. Based on his research, Woolfit made some recommendations that made a great deal of sense to me. 

First, he noted that videos should not be very long—10 minutes at the very most. Woolfitt believes that 3-5 or 5-7 minutes, depending on the topic, is optimal. Take much longer topics and break them up into smaller chunks that will keep students’ attention and allow them to easily digest the main point of each video. 

Woolfit especially promoted what he referred to as the “theory of constructive alignment.” Simply put, develop a clear student learning outcome for each video you make and connect some type of assessment to that video. He suggested that the main point of each video should become a question on an exam or quiz. 

However, he also suggested using other types of classroom assessment techniques to reinforce the content. For instance, instructors can have students teach the main point of an assigned video. In a hybrid or “flipped” classroom, break the students into pairs; assign each student a separate video and have them teach the main concept to their partner. In a purely online class, students can be assigned to summarize the video in a discussion forum. 

Woolfit advocated requiring students to ask a follow-up question about each video they watch. Whether it’s done as part of a discussion forum, through email, or during a face-to-face meeting, students can ask for clarification or more information and receive participation points. 

As far as production goes, Woolfit recommends trying to create most videos in just one take. Have a script prepared so that errors can be kept to a minimum. He also advises instructors to keep post-production editing to a minimum. Just like our face-to-face lectures, content (or how we present it) will probably need to be changed on an ongoing basis, so instructors don’t get a great deal of return on crafting perfect videos every time—and students certainly aren’t expecting videos every time. 

Finally, Woolfit recommends a variety of videos. Sometimes, you might want to do a simple screen capture; at others, you may want to record your PowerPoint slides with you speaking over them. For certain lessons, you may want to actually have yourself filmed presenting a lecture to a live audience. 

At LCC, instructors have several resources to help them produce class videos. Kaltura screen capture is available within Desire2Learn. You can create more complex and fully edit screen captures using iSpring and Camtasia, which are available in the CTE’s technology support room (TLC 324). Media Services also has a Podcasting suite, which allows for better quality sound and video capture. In the Teaching Technology Sandbox, faculty can have a lecture recorded as they deliver it to an actual class. 

Please feel free to stop by the CTE during open hours for assistance using Kaltura, iSpring, or Camtasia. If you are interested in using the Podcasting suite or the Teaching Technology Sandbox for Faculty, contact LCC’s Media Services.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Teaching Tip: A Guide to Critical Reading

By Guest Blogger, Tammy Root

Are you looking for ways to help your students get more out of assigned readings? Here are five easy reading strategies that can be used in a variety of disciplines. 

1. Turn and Teach: This strategy can be used in two different ways. A). Give students a topic and have them turn and talk about it; this is a great way to activate prior knowledge. B). Have students read an article, or chapter, and have them turn to each other and teach one another what they just learned. How simple is this strategy? 

2. Reading with a Question in Mind: Have students turn the title, and each subtitle, of a chapter into a question (using who, what, when, why, or how). The students will then read the text and answer their questions. This strategy allows students to become “detectives” while reading and stay focused! 

3. Sketching Through the Text: Not every student learns through reading and writing, some students are more visual. This strategy allows those visual students a chance to put words into their own language through pictures! Have students read a section of a chapter or article then have them draw what they just read. This strategy can be used in place of summaries. This is also a great way to review material when studying for a test. 

4. Quote Mingle: Take a copied version of a chapter or article and cut out different quotes. Have the students read the quotes and come up with a title for the chapter or article. After students read the text, see how close their title was to the actual title. This gives students a focus while reading. 

5. Text Coding: Text coding is a short-hand version of text annotating. Below is a link with examples of codes for students to use while taking notes as they read. I also encourage students to make up their own codes. 


If you would like to know more reading strategies I use in my classes, please email me at roott3@lcc.edu; I will send you an example! 

Daniels, Harvey, and Nancy Steineke. Texts and Lessons for Content-area Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2011. Print.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The World Classroom: Experience of Learning at LCC, Part 1

Last night I caught a vision of what experiential, hands-on education can look like. For three hours, in the Centre for Engage Inclusion, I met with Patty Ayers, Kamar Hamilton, Paul Hernandez, Anne Heutsche, and Kali Mujamdar, and we learned how effective student learning happens through a Service Learning paradigm and application. 

Service Learning is not new, but it remains a unique pedagogy that uses student community involvement and activity to achieve specific learning objectives in a given academic course. While it may appear similar to community service, Service Learning is not simply about helping people and communities in need, important as that may be. Rather, it’s about learning how to integrate and translate traditionally classroom-bound academic study into the broader social, political, and economic environment. 

Ayers, Heutsche, and Mujamdar have been teaching and talking about Service Learning for a while now. With the arrival of Paul Hernandez, LCC’s Chief Diversity Officer, new blood is reinvigorating old efforts. Hernandez has a history of working with at-risk K-12 populations, inspiring them to imagine themselves succeeding in college and university contexts, and teaching them practical skills that can turn higher-education aspirations into reality. 

As I write, Service Learning is gaining precious momentum at LCC and in the broader Lansing area. We are cultivating connections with Eastern, Grand Ledge, and Eaton Rapids High Schools, for example, by training our sociology and history students to work with at-risk students at those schools. Our students develop the skills they need in Service Learning workshops to communicate effectively with Eastern students about the possibilities of their academic careers beyond high school. The high school students, in turn, provide important information that the LCC students can use to further their research activities—ethnographies and local histories, e.g. 

When I expressed some reservations that perhaps my writing and literature courses were not quite right for Service Learning, interested though I was, Hernandez reassured me that “Service Learning is for everybody.” There is not an academic discipline imaginable that can’t be turned in the direction of Service Learning. Neither does such pedagogy need only deal with other educational institutions. When it comes to Service Learning, the world is our oyster, and the only limits lie in the imagination itself. 

In future blogs, we will continue to explore advantages of ‘experiential’, active education, and how it can be used to advance higher education here at LCC and beyond. 

If you would like to discuss Service Learning, contact Tim Deines at deinest@star.lcc.edu or stop by the CTE, TLC Room 324.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Teaching Tip - Mid-Semester Feedback

As part of the review of instruction here at Lansing Community College, all sections are given IDEA surveys during the last quarter of the semester. The objective of these student evaluations is to give us information to inform our teaching, but by the time we hear this feedback, the students who gave it are long gone. 

The IDEA surveys are required, but we also have the opportunity to ask our current students what they need while there is still time to implement changes. The mid-point of the semester is a good time to regroup and ask students what’s going well and what needs improvement. 

The Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning at Brown University has some suggested questions for soliciting input mid-semester: 
  • What aspects of the course have been especially helpful in terms of your learning?
  • What aspects of the course could be improved?
    • What changes could the instructor make to improve the learning environment?
    • What changes could you make to improve your own learning/studying in this course? 
These questions could be answered during a five minute break in lecture or in a D2L survey. After you look over the results, hold a short debrief addressing any student concerns. Concentrate on one or two changes you can make, and try to keep a positive atmosphere. If students have made suggestions that you cannot (or choose not to) implement, I suggest addressing this with the group. Give clear explanations without being defensive … remember that you did ask them for feedback. Students will appreciate being heard, and you may have the chance to close the circle. 

If you need help setting up a D2L survey or would like to discuss mid-semester feedback, contact Meg Elias at clarkm1@star.lcc.edu or stop by the CTE, TLC Room 324.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

T5 - Customizing Widget Backgrounds in D2L

D2L has added a new feature to the Customize Widget Style dialog window.

About half-way down the dialog listing, there is a Widget Background section.  Its only control is a check box with the word Transparent next to it.

Checking this box makes the Widget Background transparent and greatly improves the appearance of widget-based banners and other items.  Previously, banner widgets were surrounded by a white border, which detracted from their appearance.  Setting the widget background to transparent eliminates the border and greatly improves the appearance of banners.

If you'd like to talk more about customizing your D2L site, visit the CTE or contact John Thommen at thommej@star.lcc.edu.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Inside the Teaching Professor - Teaching Beyond the Discipline

Recently while driving around town I heard on the radio an interview with the classicist Mary Beard. In the interview she talked about her now 10-year-old blog, A Don’s Life. It sounded interesting, so I checked it out. 

Turns out that Beard writes on all kinds of subjects in A Don’s Life, not only or even primarily on ancient Western topics. She tackles the Cecil Rhodes controversy at Oxford, for instance, how we handle disagreement today, her vacation to Iceland, and more, ten years more. Some of it I liked!

The more I browsed, the more it came home to me how important it is that academics remain interested in the world beyond our limited disciplines. It may even be that our intellectual peregrinations are crucial to our continued disciplinary relevance. 

This is part of Pamela Reese’s underlying point in “The Classic Movies Come to Class” in the January edition of The Teaching Professor. Reese wants all of us, in every discipline, to work ‘classic’ movies into our curriculum. By experiencing such films, according to Reese, students “can have thrilling revelations that bridge directly to what they are studying.” By a slight change of focus and medium, the desired learning objective can be attained. Reese provides a nice list of films to consider, too! 

By reminding us that our disciplines exist in broader contexts and relations, Beard and Reese encourage us to bring all of our intellectual interests and creativity to bear on our teaching.

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 deinest@star.lcc.edu or stop by the CTE, TLC 324.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Gamify Your Content with BINGO!

In planning my calendar each semester, I schedule time for in-class exam review.  I find that even a short review session can relieve some of the anxiety students face come test time.  In addition, it's a chance for me to sneak in a low-risk assessment before the "real thing."  Instead of repeating my lecture material, I try to create activities that push the students to be active in their learning.

In cases where students need to master new terminology for an exam, I create custom Bingo cards at Print-Bingo.com.  With 24 terms (plus the FREE center square), Print-Bingo will generate 10 unique cards in a downloadable .pdf file.  For a large class, I either generate multiple sets or just print several copies of one set ... I'm okay with multiple winners.  Students choose a card and they have 5 minutes to look over the terms and ask questions.

When we're ready to play, I read one definition at a time in random order, and the students have to cross-out the corresponding term on their Bingo cards.  When a student gets BINGO, I give them the chance to drop one 2-point question on the exam.  We play until roughly half the class wins.  

For the students who struggle to match definitions to the terms, the game is a wake-up call.  For me, it helps identify students who might need some extra help or even a referral to the Learning Commons.  Yes, there's an element of chance involved in winning (which card you pick), but the risk and the reward are so small that students don't complain.

If you'd like to talk more about using games for test review, visit the CTE or contact Meg Elias at clarkm1@star.lcc.edu.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Teaching Tip - Video Feedback for Students

For the last few semesters, I have required my Composition II students to complete a public writing project. Since their final work is published on the web, I couldn’t provide them with the type of feedback that I normally do using Microsoft Word: in-text comments throughout their essay and some narrative comments at the end. 

Since I still want to point out specific features within the text as well as provide some summary comments, I use Video Feedback—and I actually receive positive reviews from the students about the videos. The process is relatively quick and easy (once I got the hang of the technology), and it can be used by any instructor who wants to provide some personalized feedback on their students’ work. It doesn’t just have to be a writing assignment; it would work well for any type of digital submission required of students. 

Using Screen Capture, I use the mouse to indicate specific areas within the essay I want to discuss with my students. I simply move my cursor arrow around the general area, or highlight specific parts of the text while I tell the student what I want to say about his/her work. Then, I am able to move my cursor to the next section I wish to discuss. 

To create Video Feedback, you will need a computer equipped with a microphone and a simple Screen Capture program. I used Jing, a program available for FREE download. Now, Kaltura, an easy Screen Capture program, is already available within Desire2Learn (D2L). The advantage of Kaltura is that the video files are easily saved within the “My Media” area within D2L, which makes sharing those videos with students even simpler. As for a microphone, I recommend one of the external headset microphones; they make for much better sound quality. 

 Try these basic steps for giving Video Feedback: 
  1. Read and review student’s work first, taking notes on what you wish to say. Organize your thoughts a bit before you begin recording. 
  2. Call up the student’s work on your computer screen, then open Jing or Kaltura whichever you prefer. Set the screen capture area to record just the student’s work, not your entire computer screen. 
  3. Begin recording, making sure to talk slowly and clearly. Begin with some overall thoughts, especially something positive. Then spend time pointing out interesting ideas or possible areas for improvement. 
  4. If you need to discuss grammar/mechanics errors that overwhelm a student’s writing, do so in a general statement about the problem. Don’t try to point out each and every error; instead, choose one or two examples that are indicative of the patterns you are observing. 
  5. Keep the videos under five minutes. 
  6. Upload the videos to each student using a D2L dropbox. If the students did not submit the work to a dropbox, create one in D2L anyway. In the Folder Submissions view, select Users without submissions then click on the search icon; you will then be able to see all of the students, enter their grades, and upload the Video Feedback for each one. 

If you would like assistance getting started on providing Video Feedback to your students, email Leslie Johnson at farrisl@star.lcc.edu or stop by the CTE in TLC 324 during our open hours. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

T5 - Excel Shortcuts

When using Excel there are two quick key combinations that I consider “massively useful.” 

The first copies the contents of the cell above into the current cell. This action is activated by pressing the <Ctrl> + “ (quote key next to the Enter key). Press this combination and the contents of the cell above is copied into the cell below. 

The second quick key combination is used to enter the current date into the selected cell. To enter the present date, press the <Ctrl> + ; (semicolon key) combination and the date appears in the current cell. 

For more information, visit us in the CTE or email John Thommen at thommej@lcc.edu.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tech Tip - Windows Snipping Tool

I use a lot of screen shots in emails to students, especially when I’m explaining how to use a piece of technology. Microsoft Windows has a very easy way to capture all or a portion of your visible screen and copy it to an email or save it to your hard drive. 

The Windows Snipping Tool is found under the Accessories Tab in the Start Menu. When you open the Tool, you can choose how much (and what shape) to snip. This is an advantage over the windows Print Screen (prt sc) button, which requires you to crop the image if you want anything less than the full screen. 

The following video gives a useful set of instructions for finding and using the Snipping Tool in Windows 7.

If you have another version of Windows, or you want to learn more tech tips, contact Meg Elias at clarkm1@star.lcc.edu or visit the CTE.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Coddling Students...Continuing the Discussion

During our Professional Development Days in January, I enjoyed the rare opportunity to sit with my colleagues and talk about teaching.  The discussion in the afternoon session on coddling students brought up deep emotions related to my own teaching practices.  I’ve wondered for some time whether I “do too much” for students.

In my early years teaching at LCC, I had overly strict polices with no room for negotiation, and the language in my syllabus was harsh and condescending.  There were lots of capital letters and bold fonts, with phrases like, “IN CASE YOU WERE THINKING OF COMING IN LATE...JUST STAY HOME!”  One semester I stuck to my “locked door” policy during lecture, and continued the lesson even as an irate student pounded on the door and shouted at me from the hallway.

My teaching philosophy had the underlying premise that students who were not ready for college would learn by failing.  I would not remind them about assignments or exam dates (it’s on the syllabus), because keeping an up-to-date personal calendar is a skill they should have been taught in high school.  If a student forgot to attend an exam, I recorded a zero and moved on.

I can’t remember exactly when my attitude shifted, but somewhere along the way I quit blaming students for being unprepared for higher education.  My current policies are not lenient, really, but I dropped the confrontational tone (and the bold type), and started teaching the skills that students were lacking.  At the beginning of every face-to-face class, for example, I write an agenda on the board, and I keep an up-to-date calendar in Desire2Learn.  Sometimes I even send out an email reminder before a high-stakes assignment is due.  There is no such thing as, “I didn’t know the test was Thursday.”

Because there are clear expectations, I don’t accept any late work.  But I still wonder whether reminding students of upcoming due dates is “helicopter teaching.”  Maybe I need to move my students toward independence by showing them how to use Google Calendar, and decreasing the number of reminders as the semester progresses.

Even if I do too much, I’d rather create an atmosphere of empathy and patience than one of hostility.  I will never again lock a student out of my classroom, or shout at them in my section syllabus.  I will set reasonable expectations, and teach the students how to achieve them.

If you'd like to talk more about classroom management, visit the CTE or contact Meg Elias at clarkm1@star.lcc.edu.