This post is contributed by Dr. Ellen McShane, Director of Academic Success Programs at UVM.

Author George D. Kuh (2008) has identified collaborative learning experiences as a “high-impact practice” that allows students to succeed in college. Collaborative learning experiences can include study groups in courses, team-based course assignments, peer tutoring, and cooperative learning projects that include research.

Sierra Kloutz, Class of 2015, tutors a student.

Sierra Kloutz, Class of 2015, tutors a student in the Learning Co-op. Sierra served as the study group leader for Psych 001 in Fall 2014 for CNHS first-year students.
Photo by Paul O. Boisvert

UVM’s Academic Success Programs (ASP) witnesses the impact of collaborative learning on a daily basis through the Learning Co-op’s Tutoring Program. Our statistics show that students who use tutoring services graduate in four years at a higher rate than students who do not use tutoring (Institutional Research, 2014).

Over the last two years, the Learning Co-op and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CNHS) have collaborated to place all first-year CNHS students in peer-tutor-led study groups through the college’s first-year experience course, NH 050.

co-op2

Learning Co-op Tutors and Staff
Photo by Paul O. Boisvert

This year, the entirety of the first-year cohort participated; 246 first-year students were officially scheduled into study groups. Out of that group, 186 of them completed the requirement of attending six total study group sessions throughout the semester.

Of those who fell short, many of them attended four or five sessions. Of the 246 students we scheduled for sessions, only seven of them had zero contacts. In the end, over 97% of first-year CNHS students had at least one point of contact with a tutor this semester, with over 72% spending six or more hours with tutors. Some students chose to spend as much as ten hours in study groups.

We can say with certainty that no other college comes close to that amount of time spent in structured learning environments outside of lectures.

How has the collaboration between the Learning Co-op and CNHS impacted student success and retention? Stay tuned for another blog post next semester. We plan to gather data over the next several months to see how these efforts have impacted retention.

If you are interested in exploring a college-wide or course-specific collaborative learning experience, please contact Keith M. Williams in the Learning Co-op
at 656-7964.

Kuh, George D. High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges & University Publishing, 2008.

As we all know, the end of the semester is a stressful time for both faculty and students. While we can’t eliminate most of the causes of stress, we can mitigate stress’ negative effects on our physical and emotional states by taking care of ourselves. Informing our students about resources to help deal with stress can go a long way towards helping them get through the end of the semester successfully.

The UVM Living Well program provides a smorgasbord of de-stressing events and services for students, such as office hours from Tucker the therapy dog, free massage, and drop-in meditation.

Letting your students know about these and other upcoming events reminds them that UVM recognizes the impact of excessive stress and that we care about their personal well-being.  Making an announcement in Blackboard (directions here) is a simple way to share this information.

Here are some resources you may want to share with your students:

Digital humanities, the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities, has continued to develop as a dynamic field. This week, on November 4th and 5th, there will be several events that bring practitioners of digital humanities to UVM.

Wednesday, Nov. 4th
7:00 pm Billings North Lounge
Leading off is the Burack Lecture Series speaker, Todd Presner, Chair of the UCLA Digital Humanities Program and Professor of Germanic Languages and Comparative Literature. His topic “HyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities” will examine a web-based mapping project that brings cultural and historical information together with physical location. Presner’s talk will show how a “hypercity” is a real city hypercities overlaid with information networks that document the past, catalyze the present, and project future possibilities. He will describe the humanist project of participating and listening that transforms mapping into an ethical undertaking–thick mapping. Moving from Berlin to Los Angeles, Cairo to Sendai, the talk will explore how “thick mapping” in the digital humanities presents new ways to understand, document, and consider historical events, ranging from the destruction of Berlin in WWII to the history of redlining in the US in the 1930s to the 2011 “Arab Spring” and the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.
Thursday, Nov. 5th
LUNCH:
11:30-1:00, in 302 Bailey/Howe
The events continue on Thursday, starting with an informal faculty lunch. Faculty interested in the digital humanities across campus are invited to come, share ideas, discuss projects, and learn more about possibilities.

AFTERNOON:
3:15-4:14, Kalkin 325.
Two afternoon public talks will open with Erin R. Anderson (English, UMASS Boston) on “Ethical Making and the Making of Ethics.” According to Anderson, to call oneself a maker in the digital humanities is often to align oneself with an economy of tool building, text mining, and data visualization. But what are the possibilities for making beyond the tool? How might artistic methods—critically inflected—contribute to our (post-)humanistic engagement with digital culture? Anderson will discuss her creative-critical practice with digital voices and archives, considering the ethical stakes at the heart of such work. Sharing clips from an experimental audio drama titled Our Time is Up, she situates her practice as an intervention into the prevailing “culture of preservation,” which surrounds the audio archive, and as an opening to new, generative forms of ethical and material relations. 

4:30-5:30, Kalkin 325
Isaac Weiner (Religious Studies, Ohio State), will follow with “Soundmapping American Religion.” This talk will introduce the Religious Soundmap Project, a collaborative research initiative of Ohio and Michigan State Universities, which aims to map American religious diversity through sound. Teams of faculty and student researchers are producing high quality field recordings of religion in practice, which will be edited, archived, and integrated, along with photographs, interviews, explanatory texts, and interpretive essays, onto an online mapping platform. This innovative digital project will offer new research and pedagogical tools for scholars, experiential learning opportunities for students, and an interactive resource for the general public. In this talk, he will offer some brief reflections on the opportunities and challenges encountered in their work.

5:45-7:00, Kalkin 325
The day will close with a Rountable Discussion with Todd Presner, Erin Anderson, Isaac Weiner, and moderated by Abby McGowan (History, UVM). We will explore the possibilities and problematics of digital humanities work, and how and where it has offered the panelists new tools as scholars, new modes of presenting and exploring ideas, and new ways of building audiences and communities.

We hope you will join us for any or all events to learn more about the digital humanities.

All events are coordinated by the cross-campus group Visualizing Ideas in the Digital Humanities, with funding from the Lattie Core initiative of the UVM Humanities Center.

GeeseAccording to Dr. Michael Wesch, his new website, myteachingnotebook.com, focuses on “the pursuit of joy in teaching and learning.” I first saw it in August and made a note to myself to share it here in mid-semester, when the geese are flying south and we aren’t sure if it’s getting colder and darker or just cold. And dark. Dr. Wesch’s work has been inspiring us for years now, so take a look his teaching notebook and, for even more of his work—videos, publications, presentations, and blog posts—see his Kansas State University website: Digital Ethnography (formerly “Mediated Cultures”).

Sustainability Faculty Fellows ProgramWe are pleased to announce that we are accepting applications for the 2015-16 cohort of the Sustainability Faculty Fellows Program. Applications are due on October 12, 2015.

From the website:

“This program seeks faculty who are committed to integrating interdisciplinary approaches to sustainability into the UVM curriculum. We seek to develop a learning community – a multidisciplinary cohort engaged in a year-long exploration of sustainability, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and collaboration.”

This year’s program will focus on integrating UVM’s General Education Sustainability Learning Outcomes into course design.

For more information and to apply, please see: http://www.uvm.edu/ctl/sffp.

This program is supported by the Office of the Provost and presented by UVM’s Environmental Program, The Center for Teaching and Learning, The Office of Sustainability, The Greenhouse Residential Learning Community, and in partnership with Shelburne Farms.

Premise: all students want to text in class and will do so surreptitiously if they can, so many faculty feel the only way to keep students focused is to ban mobile device use altogether. Many blog posts and articles on texting, cell phone, or mobile device use in class seem to start with this ereaderspremise.

Responses to the growing use of devices in the classroom have ranged from that of complete control: “Put your device on the table as you enter the classroom. Pick it up when you leave” to the laissez-faire: “Students are paying the tuition. If they want to text during class and not learn, that’s their choice.”

Developing a cogent and workable mobile device policy for the classroom continues to be a challenge. The negative effects of multitasking or auto-switching are well documented and the possibility that students may be distracted by other students’ use of devices is also a consideration.

How to deal with the presence of these devices in the classroom elicits a multiplicity of responses from faculty. A quick search on the terms “cellphone, policy, syllabus” turns up a host of ways faculty are banning or limiting their use. In fact, Cortland has collected a list of mobile device policies from syllabi that might well have been titled “36 Ways to Say No.”

However, as the prevalence of these devices continues to grow many teachers are finding ways to make the use of mobile devices work for their students’ education rather than against it. Not surprisingly, these solutions tend to encourage the integration of inquiry-based or active learning practices.

Karen Eifler suggests that mobile devices can be used to capture, archive, share and use whiteboard work done in class as well as for real-time/just-in-time information gathering. (“Cell Phones in the Classroom: Is It Time to Reconsider Your Policy?”)

John Thayer explains to his students how they will be using their devices for his Geometry class and closes with “we have work to do so please take out your phone.” (“Cell Phone Policy: A Letter to My Students”)

As New York prepares to lift its ban on cellphones in schools, many K-12 teachers will be preparing their students to use these devices responsibly and effectively. John Giambalvo explains that he will be starting slowly, using various apps as appropriate. For example, he’ll be “automating exit tickets — the micro-assessments that ask students to demonstrate their learning at the end of a lesson” using the Exit Ticket app.

Whichever mobile device policy you intend to use, it is most important to communicate it clearly to your students. As the SUNY Brockport policy on use of electronic devices in the classroom warns: “It is advisable for instructors to anticipate that issues with wireless communications and electronic devices may arise and publish any restrictions in their course syllabi.”

More recently, faculty advise having a discussion with students to build the policy together. Having students contribute ideas for a policy, and especially for how infractions should be dealt with, encourages them to consider both their own practice and their role in establishing a respectful and productive classroom for all.

UVM students in lecture hallIt’s that time of year again when faculty are thinking about how to better engage their students in the classroom. The first class meeting can often set the tone for the whole semester, and establishing norms for classroom interactions goes a long way towards creating a more welcoming and respectful learning environment for everyone.

One way you can help students feel more invested in these guidelines is to develop them together in class, and it is helpful to do this early on so that you can fall back on them, if needed, during the course of the semester.

Below are some examples from UVM faculty:

From Helen Read, Mathematics:

CLASSROOM ETIQUETTE: In order that we make the most of our class time, please make every effort to arrive on time and stay until class is dismissed. Please be respectful of the instructor and your fellow students, and refrain from any behavior that would distract from our work. Turn off and put away cell phones, music players, etc., before class begins, and close email, games, and anything else you have running on the computer that is not directly related to what we are doing in class.” H.P. Read – http://www.cems.uvm.edu/~hpread/math022/math022I_syllabus.pdf

Another example from Shirley Gedeon, Economics:

Classroom Etiquette & Policies

In class, address the professor as “Professor Gedeon”
In emails, start off with “Dear Professor Gedeon”

It’s a large auditorium, but I want to answer questions. I will do my very best to move around the room to make it easier to hear your questions. I welcome and respect all political and economic points of view and expect all students to do likewise.

Professor Gedeon writes and grades all exams.You have the right to petition grading on any question on any exam. Protocol for submitting petitions will be discussed in class.

The Teaching Assistant grades all homework. You have the right to petition grading on any homework assignment. Protocol for submitting petitions will be discussed in class.

Shirley Gedeon – http://www.uvm.edu/~econ/documents/Gedeon-EC11Aspring2014.pdf

If you are teaching a class in which a number of sensitive topics will be discussed, it is even more critical to layout a thoughtful approach to classroom etiquette. This following example is from a syllabus for Introduction to Sexuality & Gender Identity Studies taught in 2010 by Reese Kelly:

Classroom Etiquette:

Out of respect for other students and the instructor, you should arrive in class on time and stay until class is over. Coming and going in the middle of a lecture is highly disruptive. Turn off your cell phones while you are in class. To be fair, my rule is that if your cell phone goes off in class, I get to answer it. Likewise, if mine goes off in class, you get to answer it.

If the use of computers or cell phones becomes disruptive to anyone in the class, including yourself, you may be asked to leave class. Recording lectures and using laptops to take notes is allowed as long as these activities are not disruptive.

Eating during lectures is discouraged, but drinks are acceptable.

You must enter the course willing to suspend, challenge, or even change many of your taken-for granted beliefs about gender, race, size, ability, nationality, sex, sexuality, class and so on. This is often difficult because the multiple layers of our identities are so deeply embedded in our daily lives including our sense of self and our intimate relationships.

You will find that being willing to examine multiple perspectives on an issue is your most important and useful tool for understanding the concepts we discuss in class. In this course, we will be covering some sensitive and controversial topics. Some of the issues we discuss may make you feel uncomfortable at times. However, in order for learning to occur, we must act respectfully towards each other, even if there is some disagreement. If, at any time, your behavior is viewed as disruptive to the class, you will be asked to leave. Personal attacks, rude comments, or harassment of any kind (racial, sexual, etc.) will NOT be tolerated! If you experience a personal attack, harassment, or if you feel as though your classmates are spoiling your learning environment, please inform me.

Reese C. Kelly, http://www.uvm.edu/~wmst/documents/Kelly075fall2010syllabus.pdf

A few more to look at:

Brian Ballif, https://www.uvm.edu/~biology/Classes/223/documents/Bio223Syllabus.pdf

Alison Pechenick, http://www.cems.uvm.edu/~amp/cs20sum13/

Larry Kost, http://www.cems.uvm.edu/~lkost/classroom_etiquette.htm

Enjoy the start to the semester!

Conducting research can be a transformative experience for undergraduate students, especially when their research supervisor serves as an effective mentor.

We invite you to join us for a 10-hr faculty seminar, beginning in late August, that examines how faculty can enhance their mentoring skills regardless of career stage. The seminar will use case studies, extensive discussions, reflection, and action plans to help faculty mentor more efficiently, communicate and establish expectations with students, address diversity issues in mentoring, assess student understanding and foster student independence.

For details, see: www.uvm.edu/ctl/stem_mentoring This seminar is sponsored by the Rubenstein School, CTL, and the Provost’s Office EPI grant program.

On May 13, Bb is getting a few important additions.

1. Student Preview (Finally!)

A “true” student preview has been one of the all-time top requested Blackboard features. Instead of just being able to see what content is visible (as is the case with the Edit Mode button), instructors will be able to take exams, submit assignments, and view grades just as a student would.

Entering student preview mode can be done at the click a button. Upon entering this student view, an actual student account is created (visible in the grade center), and the instructor is put in the driver seat of that account.

When leaving the student view, the instructor can choose to keep the account in their course. This allows the instructor to “evaluate” the fake student’s work, enter grades for that account, and then go back in to that account and see the results of their grading.

Alternatively, the student preview account can be deleted when leaving the view, so that it is no longer listed in the grade center.

Instructions and more information about this feature can be found in the How-To’s area.

2. Inline Grading

Currently, assignment files have to be downloaded to the desktop in order to be opened and read for grading. After May 13, the grading process will be streamlined because uploaded assignment documents will display within the browser.

Documents that can be viewed in this manner include Word (.doc, .docx), PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx), Excel (.xls, .xlsx), and PDF. Inline Grading is supported on current versions of Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer. No plug-in or other application is necessary.

Documents can be annotated within the browser and shared with students. (However, the annotations feature is not fully supported: see the link below to read more.)

Find out more about in-line grading in the How-To’s.

3. Single Sign-On

UVM is streamlining its login processes across a number of applications. While those accessing Bb from MyUVM will not see a change, the login page at https://bb.uvm.edu is getting a refresh. As part of this change, existing “cookie” bugs in the process of connecting to MyUVM to Bb will be resolved.

There’s a complaint that we hear frequently this time of the semester:

The weighted column doesn’t come out right.

It’s a common problem caused by that tiny Devil who resides in the details. Very often, the cause is this: a discrepancy between a column’s possible points and those actually entered.  In other words, when you first set up grading on a tool (or on a manually-made column), you might have assigned the highest possible points as something different than what you actually graded for. An example would be, I have entered 30 as possible points on a final paper, but forgetting this weeks later, I used a base of 100 when grading.

This is easy to check by hovering over the top of the column and checking the information that appears just at the top of the grade center area. See figure here:

Screenshot of points discrepancy

 

To fix it, hover and click the small arrow at the top of the erroneous column, choose “Edit Column Information” and change the points possible to 100 (or whatever scale you used for grading).

WORD OF CAUTION:  It’s a good idea to download a backup of your grade center before you begin changing things.  See how to do that here.

When all else fails, we’re always glad to see you at the Dr Is In!

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