The UVM Sustainability Fellows Program invites applications for its sixth year!

“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.”

» Applications are due Oct 3rd – Click here to learn more.

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

[The professor's] only difficulty … was to get [students] to talk at all. He had to devise schemes to find what they were thinking about and induce them to risk criticism from their fellows.

The Education of Henry Adams

The quote on the right is from the 1919 autobiography by Henry Adams, a descendant of the two Presidents.

If the “difficulty” he refers to sounds familiar—if your classroom discussions could benefit from a jolt of energy and inspiration—you are not alone.

Some of the common class discussion challenges instructors face are:

  1. asking the right questions – ones that spark ideas and elicit thoughtful replies
  2. getting the less assertive or shy students to speak up
  3. the sound of nothing but crickets chirping after a question is proffered

We invite you to attend Tips for Great Class Discussion, from our “Sound (Teaching) Bite” series coming up on Wednesday 9/17 at noon. This one-hour event will be led by J. Dickinson, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the CTL. (Registration is appreciated.)

Helpful Resources:

From Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning

From American Astronomical Society Education Office

From Faculty Focus

We welcome your suggestions for more resources on this topic.

Tip #1: Learn names. Jonathan Leonard (CDAE) makes the effort to learn every student’s name, even when he has hundreds of students. His strategy is to open the class roster page in Banner and display the students’ photos and, while studying each face, he speaks their names aloud. Over and over. And over. Occasionally he shifts the page arrangement, by changing the row settings to, for instance, olddesks three across instead of five, and he keeps testing himself. He admits that it takes several practice sessions, but he claims the effort is well worth it. His students are completely astonished when he greets them at the door by first name. A large class it may be, but an indistinct mass of anonymous faces it is not. Individuals are being recognized and this, he says, changes the whole game.

(By the way, Jonathan isn’t the only one to stress the value of learning names. Every year when the CTL holds a panel discussion with the latest winners of the Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award, at least one of the panelists mentions that this practice is vital to their teaching style.)

More resources and techniques:

Tip #2: Get students talking. Sheila Boland-Chira (English) recommends the turn and talk method in any class, but particularly on the first day when anxiety may be running a little high. She asks an evocative question related to the course topic and invites students to turn to their neighbors and talk about it. After a few minutes, she invites volunteers to share their thoughts with the whole group. Not only does the lively buzz change the atmosphere in the room, doing this on the first day lets students know that the class is participatory and that they are going to be challenged to think.

More ideas:

Tip #3 Make personal connections. Char Merhtens (Geology) asks students to come to her office and meet with her individually during the first week or two of the semester, just to say hi and chat for a few minutes. However, because there are 200+ students in one of her classes, visiting with everyone isn’t practicable, so she invites only the first-years and seniors, the two groups she feels would most benefit from this (although, for completely different reasons). Char says that this simple social gesture has paid off in countless ways and many students go out of their way to thank her.

Tip #4: It’s standard practice to review the syllabus on the first day of class, but a few faculty offered tips to make this ritual more meaningful:

  • Before the first class meets, contemplate your schedule again and identify the overarching themes. When you review the syllabus on the first day, share this 10,000-foot view with your students and talk about how the key themes are woven throughout the schedule. This overview provides not only a conceptual map of the course, but a rationale for the work you are going to be asking them to do.
  • Make the syllabus review more engaging by including interesting visual elements, e.g., drawings, concept maps, or a humorous cartoon. Consider playing music.
  • Use Blackboard’s test tool to create a short quiz about the syllabus with multiple-choice type questions (so Blackboard will do the grading for you) and make it a mandatory assignment by the second day of class. Doing this gets them to delve deeper into the syllabus and you can review the stats in Blackboard before the next class, so you can touch upon any murky areas.

Tip #5: Finally, convey enthusiasm! J. Dickinson (Anthropology) offered what might be the most important tip for the first class and every class: that it’s crucial to communicate your excitement about what you teach. Even if you’re not teaching your dream course, you should be able to muster enthusiasm for it. Foundational or introductory-level courses are exciting when you consider the potential for learning and that you just may spark an interest that has a formative effect on someone’s life. Genuine enthusiasm can be infectious.

students standing at top of mountain

I wrote this post a couple of years ago and I want to share it again because the resources are so valuable.

Getting students in gear for learning is really about preparing students to become active agents in their own learning—both engaged in and accountable for the process.

As with creating courses, the course objectives are the first step. Before we go there, here are some guiding questions:

  1. How do you know if your students are understanding, comprehending, and learning their course reading material?
  2. How do you get your students to do the readings?
  3. How do you know your students are learning and absorbing content?
    Guess what? They may not know either!
  4. How do I help students be accountable for their learning process? I propose that with consistent assessment and evaluation deeper learning can happen.

So how do we do this? Remember, as mentioned above:

Evaluation needs to connect to learning objectives.

As you start this process, ask yourself, why are you evaluating?

  • To make sure that students prepare for classroom discussion? (formative)
  • To prepare students to succeed on class exams? (summative)

Here are a few tools for evaluating student learning:

  • Anonymous quizzes for "just in time teaching" (JiTT) – formative assessment
  • Readiness assessment tests (RATs) or online mid-semester and end-of-year survey (ungraded) – formative assessment
  • Pre- and Post- exams (graded) – formative and summative assessment
  • Using iClickers in the classroom – formative assessment

Examples and resources for preparing students to succeed and help them get to know their learning process:

Reader's Guide
http://www.facultyfocus.com/wp-content/uploads/images/readers-guide.pdf
Developed by Tiffany F. Culver, PhD, this reading guide is a great tool that you can adapt and give to students as a road map to help them understand what they’re reading. It’s broken down into three parts: Planning (preparing students to focus), reading (how to read – techniques to help with retention), and evaluating (promoting critical thinking). This 1-page guide (2-sided) is helpful to all students and makes reading accessible and efficient. It also makes me wish I had something like this when I was in college!

Reading Strategies
http://www.mindtools.com/rdstratg.html
In this blog post, MindTools authors provide helpful tips and resources for pulling out the important information when reading (including info on mind-mapping for active reading). What I like about this post is that it breaks down the process of "reading efficiently by reading intelligently" and looks at how reading techniques change based on the type of material that is being studied.

Using Reading Prompts to Encourage Critical Thinking
http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/using-reading-prompts-to-encourage-critical-thinking/
In this article on Faculty Focus, Maryellen Weimer, PhD reviews highlights from Terry Tomasek's book, The Teaching Professor and takes a look at using reading prompts to help students read and write more critically. The prompts in the book are organized into six categories: making connections, interpretation of evidence, challenging assumptions, making application, and mechanics.

Making the Review of Assigned Reading Meaningful
http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/making-the-review-of-assigned-reading-meaningful/
In this article, Sarah K Clark, PHD gives us four strategies to promote meaning-making when reviewing assigned readings. I really appreciate her candid writing about the importance of engaging students. Sarah shares techniques and ideas that have been helpful to her in her class: “the top ten,” secondary sources, journaling, and divide and conquer (for larger size classes)

Key Terms: Assessment
http://blog.bokcenter.harvard.edu/2012/02/08/key-terms-assessment/
In this blog post from the Bok Center at Harvard University, assessment is highlighted and examined. This post offers some assessment-related tips. Here is another from the Bok blog that speaks directly to the question "How Do We Measure Learning?" http://blog.bokcenter.harvard.edu/2012/03/05/how-do-we-measure-learning/

Authentic Learning
A Primer_ Diagnostic, Formative, & Summative Assessment.pdf
Marilyn M. Lombardi talks about the important role of assessment in relation to successful teaching and learning in this Educause Learning Initiative paper – Making the Grade: The Role of Assessment in Authentic Learning.

On-campus Help
And remember the Writing Center at UVM (http://www.uvm.edu/wid/writingcenter/), and the UVM Learning Co-op in Living/Learning (http://www.uvm.edu/learnco/). These are helpful resources on campus to share with your students to help enhance their writing skills and to get assistance with studying.

Next Steps:

If you would like to sit with a member of the CTL to talk about ways to use these tools to assess your students, request an appointment by emailing ctldoc@uvm.edu. If you would like to contact me (Henrie Pazamor) directly, send me a note at hpazamor@uvm.edu.

On May 14th, UVM’s Blackboard will be getting some new features and enhancements.

What’s new?

There are a number of minor cosmetic changes coming. For example, the logout button now looks like a power button, and the Needs Grading icon in the Grade Center is now yellow where once it was green. The Content (Text) Editor, the Discussion Board and Tests are also getting some updates. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.

The Content (Text) Editor has new features that include

  • better pasting from Word
  • easier table editing
  • more control over image placement
  • improved editing of the ‘behind the scenes’ HTML code
  • ability to add CSS styles to your content
  • an updated equation editor.

Also new is Video Everywhere. If your computer has a built-in or connected webcam, you can record video and embed it within the content you create anywhere you use the Content (Text) Editor. You can use this to create video instructions for a blog assignment, give feedback by video, or provide a video introduction to a unit. Video Everywhere is powered by YouTube so you will need a Google and YouTube account. By default, the videos are semi-private: available to those who have the link but not listed or searchable by others.

How you get around Blackboard is changing with the addition of the Global Navigation Menu. Click on your name in the top right corner next to the new Logout button and get one-click access to updates across all your courses. Here you’ll see due dates, and stay up to date on the latest Discussion Board, Blog, Journal or Wiki posts from your courses. Students will be able to see their grades and progress all in one place. Instructors can quickly access another new addition to their toolbox: the Retention Center.

The Retention Center provides an easy way for you to discover which students in your course are at risk. With it, you can track which students have triggered alerts such as missed deadlines, grades, course activity, or access. As you observe their progress and send emails, you can also keep track of this correspondence and make notes about each student from within the Retention Center.

Tests are essentially the same, but have several new improvements:

  • Test Availability Exceptions – This new option lets you apply different deployment criteria for students taking a test. For example, you may set the timer so that some students are required to finish a test in one hour while other students are given two hours to complete it. Other criteria that can be set include date availability, forcing completion, and the number of attempts allowed. These exceptions can be used to provide an accommodation to a disabled student, or provide accommodations for technology and language differences.
  • Progressive Feedback Release – Instructors will have much more control over student access to test feedback, correct answers, and the answers they have submitted. For example, you might want to show students their own answers after they have submitted a test but wait to show them all correct answers until after all tests have been graded.
  • Test Access Log – A source of frustration for students, instructors, and test proctors is the inability to confirm whether students began a test or ran into problems during a test. The access log shows a detailed list of every interaction that students engage in when taking a test. If a student claims to have started a test, the log will show the time the test was started. If a network or internet disruption occurred during the test, for example, the log would show an unusual gap in the time.
  • Item Analysis – You can obtain statistics on overall test performance and on individual test questions using item analysis. You can use this information to improve questions for future tests or to adjust credit on current attempts. Ineffective or misleading questions can be identified easily, corrected in the Test Canvas, and re-graded automatically.
  • Responses to fill in the blank questions no longer need to be an exact match. Instructors can allow a pattern or a partial match as a correct student response.

The Discussion Board has been redesigned to add these features:

  • All posts on one thread page – All of the posts in a thread are now visible at the same time on one page.
  • Role highlighting – Posts made by forum managers and moderators now contain the user’s course role and forum role in thread view.
  • Inline replies – When replying to a post, the editor for writing responses appears on the same thread, in the context of the discussion.
  • Post first – This allows instructors to prevent students from seeing other posts before posting to a forum.

There are more minor features and enhancements coming as well, in addition to a number of long standing bug fixes. Keep an eye on the CTL events calendar for upcoming hands-on preview sessions.

For those who might not be familiar with it, EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology. The EDUCAUSE Annual Conference claims to unite “the best thinking in higher education IT.” EDUCAUSE 2013 was held in mid-October, 2013, and I was there to investigate learning analytics.

Analytics is the use of data, statistical, and quantitative methods, and explanatory and predictive models to allow organizations and individuals to gain insights into and act on complex issues. The use of digital tools, especially Learning Management Systems (LMS), like Blackboard, for academic data and Student Information Systems (SIS) for demographic data, can create mounds of digital data that could be mined for discovering trends or predicting outcomes. Examples:

  • Marist College is developing a predictive model using Banner (SIS) and Sakai (LMS) to deliver intervention notices to identify students unlikely to pass a course. A model was built using grade book data across a broad set of courses. They built their own system out of mostly Open Source tools. They found the most powerful predictor to be student’s GPA. Presentation.pptx [3 MB, Powerpoint slides].
  • University of California Chico built a system from server log files and Excel, Tableau, Stata, and SPSS and looked at one large course (373 students). They found LMS usage to be the best predictor of success (not GPA), using these LMS usage variables: total course website hits; total course “dwell time”; administrative tool hits; assessment tool hits; content tool hits; and engagement tool hits. summary of results [455 KB, PDF]; presentation slides from EDUCAUSE 2013 [3 MB, Powerpoint slides]
  • University of Kentucky uses a hardware “appliance” from SAP (HANA) to look at data in near realtime, push out administrative reports to administrators, and “how am i doing” reports to students via a custom mobile application. Academic advisers get an iPad application that compiles advisees’ data, giving both advisor and student a better idea of where they are and where they are going. Using Groundbreaking Analytics and Fast Data [7 MB, Powerpoint slides]
  • South Orange County Community College District  built the mobile app, “Sherpa,” a recommendation engine similar to Netflix or Amazon that helps students choose courses, services, and get information based on previous enrollments, major/minor declarations, and grades. It pushes out warnings and reminders to students via email or text message. Powerpoint slides.
  • Coppin State University implemented Blackboard Analytics for Learn, providing a slew of dashboards for deans, chairs, faculty, and students using data from the Blackboard Learn LMS alone. Mesa Community College has taken it one step further, using Blackboard Analytics to also ingest SIS data. University of Maryland, Baltimore County is using Blackboard Analytics for Learn to explore the LMS in much finer detail and assess the impact of faculty course redesign training.

Barriers? Sure. Analytics are hard. The people who developed Sherpa called in three outside mathematicians to help design their statistical model. Kentucky hired three PhDs. Analytics require buy-in and many of the presenters were CIOs, provosts, presidents, or vice-this-or-thats. There is a lot of missing data (e.g., classes that don’t use an LMS), and a lot of inconsistent data (e.g, variance in how faculty use LMS gradebooks). Statistical models are still in an early stage of development and proprietary software, like Blackboard Analytics, is expensive.

For more on learning analytics, visit The Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR), an interdisciplinary network of leading international researchers who are exploring the role and impact of analytics on teaching, learning, training, and development.

It’s that time of year when “senioritis” runs rampant and many students are either avoiding the need to search for a job or they’re not sure how to begin. Tomorrow, April 11th, we’re spring blossoms from 2013 offering a workshop in collaboration with the Writing in the Disciplines Program called Writing your Cover Letter or Resume/Vitae.  The two-hour workshop—from 9:30-11:30 in Room 303, Bailey/Howe Library—is open to UVM graduate students and faculty who are interested in these topics.
» Read more here.  

If you are unable to join us tomorrow, but are interested in sharing some resources with your students, then take a look at the UVM Career Center website or, better yet, send your students to the workshops and walk-in hours at the NEW Career HUB at the Davis Center.

The undergraduate/graduate student job search resources are:

Also, a new academic planning tool is available to help with the current round of student advising! The 4 year plan is a wonderful tool on the Career Center site to help faculty advise students throughout their time at UVM and also assist with the plans for a future career.

There is a great set of resources on the Career Center site to help graduate students with their future planning as well.  Example CVs are available and information about searching for an academic career.  

Good luck on your searches and be sure to take advantage of all the great resources available on campus.

 

 

Recently, President Sullivan announced a new award to recognize staff “who exemplify the qualities of the University of Vermont’s Our Common Ground, the statement of aspirations and shared values for the UVM Community.” In part, this new award seeks to make Our Common Ground a living document, relevant to UVM today and in the future.

While this statement of institutional values was endorsed the UVM Board of Trustees in 1998, the current UVM community may not be fully aware of its existence. In honor of the President‘s effort to bring everyone‘s attention back to these values, there is now a menu link to Our Common Ground in the new Blackboard course spaces, as of the Summer session, 2014. Here is the statement in its entirety:

We aspire to be a community that values:

RESPECT. We respect each other. We listen to each other, encourage each other, and care about each other. We are strengthened by our diverse perspectives.

INTEGRITY. We value fairness, straightforward conduct, adherence to the facts, and sincerity. We acknowledge when things have not turned out the way we had hoped. As stewards of the University of Vermont, we are honest and ethical in all responsibilities entrusted to us.

INNOVATION. We want to be at the forefront of change and believe that the best way to lead is to learn from our successes and mistakes and continue to grow. We are forward-looking and break new ground in addressing important community and societal needs.

OPENNESS. We encourage the open exchange of information and ideas from all quarters of the community. We believe that through collaboration and participation, each of us has an important role in determining the direction and well-being of our community.

JUSTICE. As a just community, we unite against all forms of injustice, including, but not limited to, racism. We reject bigotry, oppression, degradation, and harassment, and we challenge injustice toward any member of our community.

RESPONSIBILITY. We are personally and collectively responsible for our words and deeds. We stand together to uphold Our Common Ground.”

See the webpage.

Blackboard Jungle 7 kicked off this week with a keynote by Charlayne Hunter-Gault on Monday and continues this Friday, March 28th, with a day of workshops and presentations. (See schedule)

In support of Blackboard Jungle, the CTL is offering two workshops in collaboration with Writing in the Disciplines.   They’ll take place on April 4th from 9:30am -12:45pm at CTL in room 303 Bailey Howe. Follow the links below to register for one or both of the workshops.

–April 4, 2014, Bailey/Howe 303
Bridging the Gaps: Creating More Inclusive Teaching Environments

Part I

9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
This workshop will cover techniques and strategies on how to create more inclusive physical and virtual teaching environments.
Facilitators: Henrietta “Henrie” Paz-Amor and Holly Buckland Parker
» REGISTER HERE

Part II

11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
This second part will focus on development of curricula for face-to-face and online courses using the principles of Universal Design for Learning with the goal of making learning accessible for ALL students.
Facilitators: Holly Buckland Parker and Susanmarie Harrington
» REGISTER HERE

This May, Blackboard @ UVM will be getting an upgrade that will deliver some brand new features and greatly improve a few of the existing ones. We’ll be posting more about these changes in the coming weeks, but here are a few highlights.

New Features

Test Access Log

The Test Access Log allows instructors to see exactly what students clicked on in an exam. This provides a much clearer view into what happens during an assessment.  

Retention Center

The Retention Center provides an easy way for instructors to discover, track, and communicate with students in their course who are at risk. Here’s an example of what the retention center looks like.  

Updates to Existing Tools

Discussion Board

The Discussion Board tool has been redesigned for an improved experience. Here are a few of the new features:

  • Instructors can require students to post to a discussion before seeing other students’ posts.
  • Posts made by forum managers and moderators will contain the user’s course role and forum role.
  • All of the posts in a thread will be visible at the same time on one page.
  • When replying to a post, the content editor used to write a response appears on the same page, in the context of the discussion.

Here’s a video about the new Discussion Board interface.

Text Editor

This upgrade brings a complete replacement of the text (content) editor—the tool used for writing announcements, items, folder descriptions, etc.—and has many improved features! The new editor presents a simpler interface with a more consistent results. Here’s a sneak peak of the new Content Editor.

Bug Fixes and More

Blackboard will also be receiving a number of bug fixes and small behind-the-scenes improvements. Stay tuned for more information and opportunities to participate in hands-on demonstration sessions.