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Even if you have extensive teaching experience, the first day of class can create some nervous jitters. So, we’ve collected a few suggestions, tips, and resources here that will help your class get off to a good start.
- One of the most frequent recommendations we hear from faculty is to arrive at the room both early and well-prepared. If you’re using classroom technology, have it connected before the students arrive. (If possible, visit the classroom the day before, to make sure you know how to do that.)
- Susanmarie Harrington (UVM, English) says that conveying your own excitement about the topic of the course can make all the difference. “You only have one chance to make a good first impression, and the best way to help your students feel excited about your class is by being enthusiastic about it yourself.” While it’s common to spend time on preliminaries like going over the syllabus, try to leave time to dive into teaching. This lets your students know that you intend to make every class worthwhile and they leave feeling that they’ve already begun learning.
- As mentioned above, if you like to review the syllabus here are a couple of ideas to make this more meaningful.
- Before the first class meeting, revisit and contemplate your learning objectives and your schedule 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 will be asking them to do.
- Make the syllabus review more engaging by including interesting visual elements, e.g., drawings, concept maps, or funny cartoons. Consider playing music. Helpful links: The CTL syllabus resources developed by the UVM Faculty Senate. Tulane University’s resources for designing an accessible syllabus.
Icebreakers: If you don’t have much time, simply ask students to turn to their neighbors and introduce themselves, but if more involved icebreakers appeal to you, here are 37 Icebreaker Activities from the Center for Teaching & Learning, Lansing Community College.
The following activity can help students understand how their own behaviors contribute to a meaningful class experience. From The Teaching Professor Blog by Maryellen Weimer, PhD:
Best and Worst Classes – I love this quick and easy activity. On one section of the blackboard I write: “The best class I’ve ever had” and underneath it “What the teacher did” and below that “What the students did.” On another section I write “The worst class I’ve ever had” (well, actually I write, “The class from hell”) and then the same two items beneath. I ask students to share their experiences, without naming the course, department or teacher, and I begin filling in the grid based on what they call out. If there’s a lull or not many comments about what the students did in these classes, I add some descriptors based on my experience with some of my best and worst classes. In 10 minutes or less, two very different class portraits emerge. I move to the best class section of the board and tell students that this is the class I want to teach, but I can’t do it alone. Together we have the power to make this one of those “best class” experiences.
If group work is emphasized in your course, an icebreaker similar to the one above may be valuable for preventing some of the common problems that students have when working in groups. Ask students to form casual groups of 4–6 with one person designated as the recorder. Give each group a sheet with 2 columns titled:
“Group behaviors that are helpful”
“Group behaviors that are not helpful”
Have them spend 10 minutes discussing this and listing their ideas in each column. Spend another 15 minutes or so sharing these lists with the whole class.
From: Barkley, E. F. (2010). Tips and Strategies for Promoting Active Learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Here are some links to other Universities’ pages on the topic of the first day of class:
- Off to a Great Start: Stanford Teachers Share Tips for a Successful First Day of Class Stanford University Teaching Commons
- First Day of Class, Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence
- 101 Things You Can Do in the First Three Weeks of Class, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Office of Graduate Studies
If you’ve heard of Lynda.com, you’ll probably be very happy to know that UVM now has a full subscription to the service!
Lynda.com began in 1995 and has since grown to be one of the world’s leading providers of online trainings for creative, business, software, and technology skills.
On the topic of Blackboard, for instance, there are courses with video tutorials on topics such as how to use the course control panel, (note: these links will work after you’ve logged in. See the log in link, below) setting course availability, viewing grade history, weighting grades in the grade center, and test availability and deployment.
Other topics that may be helpful are:
- Using a research database
- Learning to use Powerpoint and Excel
- Annotating videos and maps
- Creating accessible PDFs
» LOG IN: will take you first through the UVM authentication page.
Tips for Using the Site:
This course, titled “How to Use Lynda.com,” is great for learning how to search and navigate the site. (Helpful Tip: Clicking on text in a video’s transcript allows you to skip to that part of the video.)
This post is contributed by Dr. Ellen McShane, Director of Academic Success Programs at UVM
On December 11, 2015, I posted a discussion of peer-to-peer collaborative learning experiences implemented through Academic Success Programs (ASP) at UVM. I promised to share the outcomes of our work, which are below:
The College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CNHS) provided ASP with the impact on Grade Point Averages (GPA) for first-year CNHS students in 2015 who were offered peer-tutor-led study groups. Table One below shows that the peer-tutor-led study group project impacted the number of students who earned a 3.5 GPA or higher.
Outcomes of CNHS Peer-Tutor-Led Study Group Project
|% of FTFY with
3.5 GPA or Higher
In addition, we discovered that our 4-year graduation rate for UVM’s Class of 2015 who received tutoring in their first year at UVM graduated at higher rate than the rest of the class as illustrated in Table Two.
Comparison of 4-Yr Grad Rates for Students Tutored in
the First Year & all FTFY
|Entered 2011||Numbers||4-Year Grad Rate|
For the returning sophomores in 2015 who had tutoring in their first year, we are pleased to add Table Three to demonstrate the power of peer-to peer collaborative learning.
Comparison of 2nd Yr Retention Rates for Students Tutored in the First Year & all FTFY
|Entered 2014||Numbers||2nd Yr Retention Rate|
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.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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
According 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”).
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.
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:
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!