What Teaching Modifications Should We Keep After the Pandemic? Ask Your Students!

Contributed by Allison Anacker
Psychological Science, CTL Faculty Associate

As we near the end of this unprecedented academic year, with the promise of something resembling “normal” in the fall, it’s a good time for reflection. We’ve made monumental changes in our approaches to teaching, and we need to decide if we want to continue some of these new practices in the future. There’s no better time than now to reflect on this, while everything is fresh in our minds and while we still have direct interactions with students.

In the higher-ed blogosphere, some writers have made recommendations (see post on The Conversation) about which teaching practices are worth keeping, such as recording lectures (see Chronicle article), and also which pre-pandemic teaching strategies we should leave behind.

I’m trying to apply these questions to my own specific course changes. In one course this past year, my co-instructors and I made a huge shift away from traditional tests to a series of homework assignments and low-stakes quizzes. The changes worked well, overall, for our current conditions, but I wasn’t convinced that they improved learning compared to the traditional route. I wasn’t sure how to approach next year… that is, until I talked to my students.

For this relatively large class, I was lucky to have six undergraduate TAs, four of whom had taken the course in the “before times” with traditional tests and two who took the homework-focused course last fall. This spring, I asked them to consider the current course (in which they are TAs) in comparison to previous experiences in either this course or other courses, and tell me what parts they thought worked best, focusing on learning as well as overall well-being.

Their responses were clear and unanimous: the traditional testing model was not optimal for learning because it encouraged cramming and purging. They felt that the assignment-heavier format engaged students more than the exam-heavier format did. It should be noted that these TAs are high-achieving, independent, and motivated students who excelled in the course themselves, so their responses are unlikely to simply reflect a desire for easier work. That said, the method they prefer is not, in fact, easier, because students likely spent much more time on the homework assignments than they would have on studying for and taking exams!

I now feel confident that my approach of engaging students through homework assignments, rather than studying for exams, is worth continuing.

The point is not to advocate for the same changes in your course design, but rather to encourage you to talk to your students about what’s working now that could continue to be helpful for students who take the course in the future.

Here are some suggestions for how to go about that:

  • If you have TAs, have a targeted discussion on this topic with them.
  • If you have a chatty class where you can reasonably expect that most students will participate, have a discussion with them to reflect together and ask:
    • What’s worked best to help your learning in this course?
    • What helped or what was difficult about “new approach X”?
    • If things were back to ‘normal’ in the fall, do you think “new approach X” or “old approach Y” (which you’ve experienced in past courses) would work best for your learning?
    • How do you feel about the learning you’ll carry with you from the course – do you think it would it be different if we had done “old approach Y”?
  • Ask for student feedback by anonymous survey on Blackboard (encourage participation with the offer of extra credit). You can use questions like those above but also add more specific questions in this format, including true/false, multiple choice, or ranking style questions for results that are easy to analyze
  • Finally, don’t depend on your course evaluations to give you these perspectives because the questions don’t typically elicit feedback on the specific aspects of courses that you may be most interested in, and they certainly won’t get at comparisons with another possible course structure.

I hope you’ll take the opportunity to reflect with your students, and get their perspective on what’s working for you to continue in the future!

Posted in Pedagogy, Teaching | Comments Off on What Teaching Modifications Should We Keep After the Pandemic? Ask Your Students!

Four Ways to Cultivate Community & Connection in Pandemic Classrooms: Insights from a Student Research Project

Contributed by Kelly Hamshaw
Community Development & Applied Economics, CTL Faculty Associate

With the Fall 2020 semester in our collective rearview mirror and with preparations for the Spring 2021 semester ahead of us, we have an opportunity to reflect upon what worked well and what could be improved in our pandemic classrooms. Regardless of teaching modality, COVID-19 significantly impacted our standard practices of engaging and connecting with our students. Personally, I have missed the energy generated during a spontaneous popcorn-style discussion, brainstorming with small groups of students as they navigate a challenge in their service-learning project, and the post-class “walk and chats” on my way to back to Morrill Hall. These activities helped foster community and connection in our classrooms in the “before times”. Yet cultivating community and connection matter as much now, and perhaps even more, during these uncertain times.

How we can effectively build connection and community as we teach in new ways and with new technologies? How important are community, connection, and caring for creating a sense of belonging and inclusion during pandemic teaching? To address these critical questions, students in Professor David Conner’s CDAE 250: Research Methods course partnered with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) across the Fall 2020 semester. Students worked in small groups to review the academic literature, create and launch an online student survey, and conduct interviews with student and faculty members across campus.

Over 400 current UVM students responded to the survey. Nearly 90% reported that community is an important factor for their satisfaction with their college education to some or a great extent. Yet only 51% of students reported at least some degree of community feeling in their Fall 2020 courses. These findings suggest that there is opportunity for improvement as we look ahead to Spring 2021. Interestingly, most student respondents (nearly 83%) believe that the faculty member holds the primary responsibility for creating a sense of community within the classroom (whether or not we as faculty members agree with this notion, it is important to recognize that students hold this belief). The vast majority of students also acknowledged that the students enrolled in a course play a large role in creating community within the classroom (94% responded that they somewhat or strongly agreed).

Student and faculty responses also provided important insights regarding how faculty can help foster a sense of community and connection with their students while teaching during a pandemic.

The following four suggestions provide concrete strategies to consider for your spring courses.

  1. Get to know your students
    Over three-quarters of student survey respondents (78%) reported that faculty efforts to get to know students within the class has a large positive effect on developing a sense of community. Multiple student interviewees remarked that they appreciated when faculty members built in time to learn about their students’ interests, goals, and experiences—especially in the absence of those informal conversations that typically would occur before or after in-person class sessions. Sixty-four percent of students reported that periodic check-ins initiated by their faculty member had a large positive effect on their experience in the class. Building time into your course to learn about your students as individuals can pay dividends as the semester moves along by enhancing connection, developing rapport, and providing faculty members with valuable insights into who our students are as individuals—something that can be difficult in remote or online courses.

    Things to consider:

    • Create a Blackboard survey to ask students to share about themselves – from what brought them to your class, what their extracurricular interests are, or a positive highlight from their winter break.
    • Encourage students to come to “office hours” early in the semester to establish a personal connection.
    • Hold space for “checking in” with your students on a regular basis and consider making it a regular practice throughout the semester.
  2. Lead with Empathy and Compassion
    COVID-19 has impacted all of us, in tangible and intangible ways, as we navigate balancing learning, working, and taking care of loved ones and ourselves during a pandemic. Acknowledge that students, like faculty members, are learning how to effectively navigate a remote or socially distant classroom in these surreal circumstances. One student shared in an interview, “When a professor acknowledges that you’re busy, it’s good, when they make you feel like they think their class is your only class, it cannot separate you further from a professor.” Keep in mind that students are likely to have courses in different modalities and perhaps using different technologies. Students responded positively to faculty members that shared how they’re coping within the contexts of both class and daily life. More than half of the student survey respondents (52%) reported a large positive effect when faculty members shared personal anecdotes and updates, while 40% reported a small positive effect. “Being real about it all” encourages students to feel more comfortable coming to office hours, asking questions, and reaching out for help.

    Things to consider:

    • Identify class policies that can offer flexibility when students experience pandemic-related challenges.
    • Share some insights into how you’re adapting to the challenges brought by COVID-19.
    • Be available for informal conversations prior to starting or ending class sessions.
    • Invite or incentivize student attendance to office hours.
  3. Share your investment in adapting your course
    Student interviews indicated that students recognize the difficulty of adapting courses for pandemic teaching—along with the challenges of general pandemic life. Many expressed a deep appreciation for faculty members who clearly invested in adapting their classes by learning new technology platforms and re-imagining course assignments. Students shared that they were more invested in those courses to reciprocate their faculty members’ efforts. Conversely, students expressed that when faculty members showed a lack of investment in their learning, they felt a sense of apathy towards the course. Students shared that they appreciated that teaching in a new modality or adjusting to new technology are challenges for faculty members. While we may strive for a seamless experience without any tech glitches, one student noted a positive response to when faculty members are transparent about the bumps or twists along the way, reporting “I feel like I respect them more when they acknowledge mistakes because they’re more real, there’s a new sense of relatability and reality built-in.” Another student echoed how acknowledging the reality of pandemic teaching builds stronger rapport by saying, “I appreciate it when teachers joke about technical difficulties, or express mutual frustration. It’s okay to look human. It’s okay to laugh about the problem as you fix it.”

    Things to consider:

    • Be transparent about your efforts to adapt to pandemic teaching.
    • Choose your technology thoughtfully, practice with it for proficiency, and share your rationale for using it.
    • Acknowledge that technology glitches or mistakes may occur as part of our shared pandemic teaching and learning experience.
    • Evaluate your major course assignments and adjust in ways that make sense for your class modality.
  4. Create Opportunity for Peer-to-Peer Connections
    Students shared a deep sense of loss for missed opportunities to get to know their peers within their classrooms. Whether students selected the “UVM At Home” option or returned to campus, their social interactions were substantively curtailed by COVID-19. Although vitally important to students’ college experiences, these connections can be difficult to build and maintain in remote or online courses. Faculty members can strategically weave in opportunities for peer-to-peer connections that will increase overall class engagement and cultivate a sense of belonging within the pandemic classroom. One student interviewee shared, “To me, I believe that to have a sense of belonging in the class, I have to feel comfortable with most of the students in the classroom and feel a sense that I know them. Whether that is by name, major, just feeling like I’m not talking to strangers!”.

    Students noted that breakout discussion groups and low-stakes group assignments were especially helpful in larger remote courses where students were more likely to have their cameras off and be muted during synchronous meetings. In fact, over 75% of students surveyed felt that opportunities for small group discussions in breakout rooms during class strengthened a sense of community, and approximately 60% reported that group projects led to a positive effect on their experience.

    Things to Consider:

    • Incorporate icebreaker activities in the early weeks of the new semester.
    • Use the Channels or the newly launched Breakout Room features on MS Teams to have TA-led or student-led discussions during synchronous class meetings.
    • YellowDig is now widely available for UVM faculty to use as a discussion board platform that fosters peer engagement.
    • Develop group projects with clear structure and support so that students can create community while practicing collaborative skills.

Of course, community, connection, and engagement will look, sound, and feel different in each class given the modality, faculty teaching style and experience, and disciplinary content, just as they would in a “before times” classroom.

In addition, the convenience sampling methods and other COVID-19-related precautions limited the generalizability of the findings from this project to the whole UVM community. Nevertheless, listening to student voices and experiences offers concrete ideas for increasing a sense of community, connection, and engagement in the spring semester.

Interested in exploring how you might weave some of these community-building insights into your Spring courses? The CTL is offering a month-long series of Support and Community events where you can attend a variety of workshops, office hours, and practice sessions on MS Teams.

CTL Faculty Associates are available throughout January and into the Spring semester for individual consults focused on individual courses and are happy to serve as a sounding board as you consider how these insights on community, connection, and care might apply to your classes.

Special thanks to Professor David Conner and the student researchers in CDAE 250: Research Methods for exploring this important topic during the Fall 2020 semester!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Take-Home Messages from Listening to Students

Contributed by Laura Almstead,
Plant Biology; Nutrition & Food Sciences; CTL Faculty Associate

I was prompted to write this blog piece after reading the responses to a mid-semester survey and reflecting on input I’d received through one-on-one conversations with students.

Listening to our students is a powerful way to answer the all-important question: Is what I’m doing working? Seeking student input is even more important as we all make adjustments, or in some cases monumental shifts, in our courses to navigate the new landscape of COVID-19.

Below is a compilation of take-home messages from my students as well as the students in other CTL Faculty Associates’ courses. These messages come from a range of course sizes and formats, yet the underlying themes are the same. As we look towards spring, hopefully these messages can help inform and guide our course development.

Technical glitches freak students out, and they often blame themselves.

One of my great surprises this semester was how frequently students blamed themselves for technical glitches such as not being able to log into Teams, not being able to type in the chat, etc. Choose your technologies carefully and keep the number of different technologies you use to a minimum. Most importantly, be kind, be patient, be lenient, and constantly reassure students that they’re not to blame for these glitches.

Be yourself, be human – it works.

Students want professors who are “real people.” As we strive to garner the respect of our students, it can also help to let them see our vulnerability. Whether that’s by sharing your love for Schitt’s Creek and the Bachelorette, or introducing your pet in a Teams meeting, it all helps to build community. Even in remote or asynchronous online classes where you may never meet your students, sharing who you are outside the classroom builds connections that make you more than just a face on the screen.

Provide structure to support student learning during stressful times.

Structure is essential component of inclusive teaching under normal conditions, and even more important now in these topsy-turvy times. Set patterns and reminders go a long way towards helping students stay on track. Have a clear, consistent pattern to class activities and assignments, and regularly remind students of due dates via class announcements and emails. Take the time to clearly communicate the details of your course, such as how technologies will be used and how to contact you.

Give students ways to interact during class to promote engagement.

It’s easy for students to “zone out” in class, especially if they’re joining remotely. Keep people engaged by providing frequent, simple ways for them to respond to or interact with class content. Ask a question and have people respond verbally or by typing in the chat, or simply have them write the answer in their notes. Assign “chat buddies” and have people message each other to discuss a question. The remote response system iClicker Reef provides a relatively simple way to incorporate participation as a graded component of the class. Whatever methods you choose, students appreciate and want interactive classes.

Create opportunities for students to build connections with each other.

In these times of social distancing, students crave opportunities to connect and interact with their peers. Encourage students to respond to each other’s answers in the chat during class, promote and support formation of study groups, find ways to incorporate group discussions, and include low-stakes group projects. Consider what’s appropriate for your course, and try to find at least one way to increase student-student interaction.

Be flexible with in-person attendance in mixed and in-person classes.

As much as many students want to attend class in person, some may feel safer joining remotely and others may struggle to navigate the logistics of juggling mixed, remote, and in-person classes. We must also be prepared for students to be in quarantine or isolation. Give students the choice of coming in person or joining remotely in mixed classes. For in-person classes, have a clear plan outlined in your syllabus for students that are unable to attend in person due to health concerns. Remember that what’s important is not how your students join class, but rather that they are easily able to join class in the manner that makes them comfortable and keeps everyone safe.

Posted in Teaching | Comments Off on Take-Home Messages from Listening to Students

Online Proctoring Tools: Balancing Academic Integrity with Student Access and Privacy

By Dianna Murray-Close
With the recent move to remote teaching, faculty have raised questions about how they can ensure academic integrity when students take exams online. Concerns include students taking the exam together, exam questions being broadly shared with future students, and challenges to replicating closed-book exams.

Exam Alternatives:

It may be easier to maintain academic integrity with alternative assessment options, such as multiple low-stakes quizzes or culminating assignments (e.g., portfolios). However, these alternatives may not be feasible in all courses. For instance, in large-enrollment courses, frequent or culminating assignments may create untenable grading demands. In courses where fundamental learning outcomes are tied to performance on high-stakes exams, such as preparation for a professional exam, testing may required. The CTL exam decision tree is a resource to help faculty identify the best option for their courses. When faculty elect to use tests, however, it’s not always clear how to maintain academic integrity when teaching remotely.

Respondus Online Proctoring Tool:

Online proctoring has emerged as a way to alleviate concerns about cheating on exams in Blackboard. UVM provides access to Respondus LockDown Browser, which prevents students from navigating away from Blackboard while taking the exam. However, when students are taking tests at home, this option alone fails to prevent the use of alternative devices to look up answers or consulting a textbook during a closed-book exam. To address these concerns, faculty have the option to add another layer of security: Respondus Monitor.

Respondus Monitor is an online proctoring application that accesses students’ computer microphones and webcams to record them while they take exams, using artificial intelligence to flag exam instances that may require faculty review.

Bear in mind that although the Respondus tools provide deterrents to academic integrity violations, they cannot completely eliminate the chances that such violations will occur. For other strategies, see Encouraging Academic Integrity During Remote Exams.

Should these tools be used?

Remote proctoring tools are generating significant controversy across institutions of higher education. Even prior to COVID-19, some scholars argued that testing practices implemented in face-to-face courses often do not translate well into the online environment.

Concerns Raised about Bias:

The algorithms used in facial recognition in online test monitoring may introduce bias when flagging potential exams of concern, with greater likelihood of flagging students with darker skin tones. Caretaker status, medical conditions, gender identity, and internet connectivity may also relate to the likelihood of being flagged. At a minimum, faculty must be aware that an exam being flagged is not, in and of itself, evidence of academic dishonesty. Flagging may simply reflect difficulty identifying the student in the frame, potentially due to bias in facial recognition and detection algorithms, or other factors deemed “atypical” such as loud noises caused by children or roommates nearby or movements related to medical conditions.

Related articles:

Concerns also include:

  • Technology: Do all students have the technology needed to run the Respondus programs? For instance, are students able to take the exam using a laptop or tablet with a webcam for Respondus Monitor? Do student devices meet the operating system requirements for Respondus LockDown? Do students have high enough internet connectivity to allow video recording through Monitor? You can read more about these requirements on the UVM Knowledge Base pages, linked below.
  • Access: Do students have a private space for taking exams, free from roommates or family members, so that they are not flagged by Respondus Monitor?
  • Compassion: Do these tools compound distress amid a time of significant upheaval? Do the tools move the focus from learning to cheating? Do they interfere with opportunities to infuse compassion into our teaching?
  • Ethics: Do online proctoring tools force students to choose between their privacy and completion of their education? Prior to implementation of Respondus tools, faculty may wish to consider the implications of these tools for student access and privacy, and evaluate whether other potential approaches that encourage academic integrity during remote exams could work for their courses (see the Decision Tree under “I need to give a traditional exam”).

Articles Cited:

Posted in Teaching, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Online Proctoring Tools: Balancing Academic Integrity with Student Access and Privacy

Contemplative Pedagogy for Transformative Education and a Creative Response

By guest contributor, Laura Hill, Plant Biology

Today’s college student is seeking more from their higher education than simply gaining knowledge and skills. They are asking faculty to make the classroom experience more participatory, inclusive, and relevant. College students are searching for life purpose and meaning, according to an extensive survey of first-year students across the U.S conducted by Alexander Astin and colleagues. Students reported preoccupation with life’s big questions such as: “What are my most deeply felt values? Do I have a mission or purpose in my life? What kind of person do I want to become? What sort of world do I want to create?” (Astin et al., 2011).

The Tree of Contemplative Practices
This tree of contemplative practices is intended for illustrative purposes and is not a comprehensive list

UVM’s mission statement underscores our mission to graduate students with a “dedication to the global community” and an “enduring commitment to… ethical conduct,” both of which are touchstones to transformative education. How then are we creating space in the classroom to allow our students to explore their own personal agencies? What classroom activities are we creating to prepare students to cultivate their moral courage to engage in social dilemmas with clarity about their own values along with the capacity to actively listen to others with different values and opinions? (AAC&U, 2007). Economist Daniel Barbezat argues, “somehow we have lost our way in higher education and abandoned our mission to create lives of purpose and strong, ethical, and creative minds” (Barbezat and Bush, 2014).

What can faculty do to facilitate our students’ growing confidence, clarity, knowledge, skills, and values so that they graduate to be creative problem-solvers in our increasingly complicated global society? Without opportunities to inquire deeply, students will likely repeat the past, thus sacrificing the potential for a creative response. Many faculty across the globe are responding to this call with contemplative pedagogy. Contemplation is at the heart of all great scholarship, as it exemplifies profound concentration to a particular topic in a field of study (Barbezat and Bush, 2014).

The essence of contemplative pedagogy is to structure classroom activities to bring students into a first-person experience with the course material. Here, students experience the material in both an abstract, analytical manner (third-person) and deepen their understanding by contemplating their own, first-person experience. Ultimately, students gain empowerment in their learning, in themselves, and in the world.

Contemplative practices vary greatly (Figure 1) but all have an inward (first-person) focus that creates opportunities for greater connection and insight. Contemplative practices include structured activities that focus students to pay attention to the present experience. The critical aspect of all contemplative pedagogy is for students to discover their own internal reactions without having to adopt any specific ideology. Contemplative pedagogy aims to build students’ capacity, deepen understanding, generate compassion and resiliency, and inquire into their human nature (Barbezat and Bush, 2014).

UVM supports professional development in contemplative pedagogy, and there are rich avenues to explore the intersection of contemplation within the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) model (Owen-Smith, 2018).

For more information about contemplative pedagogy, please consider the following upcoming opportunities:

  • Attend the Contemplative Pedagogies talk as part of the New to the Faculty – Brown Bag Sessions hosted by the Office of the Provost, Tuesday, March 17 from 12-1:30PM in the Jost Foundation Room Davis Center 422
  • Request an individual faculty consultation with Laura Hill, CTL Faculty Associate
  • Apply to join the Fall 2020 cohort of the CTL Contemplative Faculty Learning Community. Applications will be solicited from all faculty in late Spring 2020. Email Laura Hill (lhill@uvm.edu) for more information.
  • References:

    Association of American Colleges and Universities. (2007). College Learning for the New Global Century. A Report from the National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America’s Promise. Accessed February 5, 2020 from: https://www.aacu.org/sites/default/files/files/LEAP/GlobalCentury_final.pdf (PDF)
    Association of Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE). The Tree of Contemplative Practices. Accessed February 5, 2020 from: http://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/tree
    Astin, A.W., H.S. Astin, and J.A. Lindholm. (2011). Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students’ Inner Lives. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Barbezat, D. P., & Bush, M. (2014). Contemplative practices in higher education: Powerful methods to transform teaching and learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Owen-Smith, P. (2018). The Contemplative Mind in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Indiana University Press.

Posted in Pedagogy | Comments Off on Contemplative Pedagogy for Transformative Education and a Creative Response

Using the Bb Grade Center? Here’s a must see little tip!

When I mentioned this in the CTL Blackboard Grade Center workshop this week, people were SO grateful that I thought I should post the tip to our blog.

Frustrating Blackboard scenario: when you go to the Full Grade Center, you see the column headers but not the bottom horizontal scrollbar. So you scroll down to see the horizontal scrollbar and then you can’t see the column headers!

Quick Fix: Go to the bottom of the page—just underneath the rows—and click the button “Edit Rows Displayed.” Change the number from 10 to, say, 6 and click Go. Now you should be able to see the column headers when you scroll to the right! (Depending on your screen resolution, you may need to change it to 4.)

Posted in Blackboard Tips | 1 Comment

Career Readiness Modules for Blackboard

Written by guest blogger Sarah Heath, UVM Associate Director of the Career Center

Workforce outcomes (aka: good jobs) are, research confirms, “far and away, the driving motivation for pursuing post-secondary education across all ages, races, and degree types” (D’Amico, 2018). So how can you ensure that your students graduate career-ready, able to put their learning to use for a better tomorrow?

If you’re Assistant Professor Lizzy Pope, you embed ready-made career modules in your Senior Dietetics Seminar.

Week 5 homework for these seniors was to complete the Resume Module and submit a draft resume to the Career Center for personalized feedback. The module (including 2 short videos) covers all the basics of crafting an impactful resume. In just 15-minutes the students gained essential insights on how to best present their skills and experiences.

“It was really nice to have comprehensive information about resumes and building a LinkedIn Profile in one place for students to go to. Thanks for making these modules available to instructors!” – Prof. Pope, Nutrition & Food Sciences.

Without relinquishing precious class time or needing career expertise, Professor Pope helped prepare her students to articulate their academic learning as career competencies to future employers. These seniors took it one step further in week 7 and created LinkedIn profiles following completion of that module.

You too can galvanize student learning by incorporating career-readiness in your syllabus. Career modules can be added to any Blackboard site as the first part of a “flipped” assignment (followed by an in-person discussion), a stand-alone homework assignment, or in tandem with a presentation by Career Center Peer Mentors. Every module is fully customizable to your course objectives and can include optional assignments.

Request a module today @ go.uvm.edu/careermodule.

To learn more, join us for a demo of the modules, hear how other faculty are incorporating them, and get access to the modules relevant to your class at the upcoming workshop: Plug & Play Career Readiness Modules: Mon, Nov 25, 9:00am-10:30am.  



D’Amico, C. (2018, February 13). Why go to college? Student perspectives on higher ed. Real Clear Education. www.realcleareducation.com/articles/2018/02/13/student_perspectives_on_the_purpose_of_higher_education_110253.html


Posted in Resources, Teaching | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Career Readiness Modules for Blackboard

Take a Podcast Breather

We welcome you to bring your lunch and listen to some fresh ideas about teaching with us. Our Friday Listening Series Brown Bag is an opportunity to take a break for an hour with colleagues and listen to Bonni Stachowiak’s Teaching in Higher Ed podcasts. She interviews authors and key thinkers on topics “such as excellence in teaching, instructional design, open education, diversity and inclusion, productivity, creativity in teaching, educational technology, and blended learning” (https://teachinginhighered.com/). The podcasts are approximately 30 minutes long and for the rest of the hour we chat about the topic. This series goes all semester, Fridays at noon, and you can read the schedule and register on our website. Coffee, tea, and snacks provided.

Posted in Teaching | Comments Off on Take a Podcast Breather

Date Management Tool Makes it Easier to Update Your Course

While editing a document to change dates from one semester to the next might be the epitome of administrivia, Blackboard, fortunately, has a Date Management tool to help with these updates.

First, bring your old course content into your new Blackboard course shell (using either the Course Copy or Import tools).

Second, use the Date Management tool in your new course to adjust all dates (such as due dates and availability dates) to match the new semester for your copied or imported content. In most cases, choose the “Use Course Start Date” option, and set the first class session as the new course start date. All due dates will then calculate and update accordingly.

You will find the Date Management too in the Control Panel, under Course Tools.

This short video tutorial provides step-by-step instructions:

Posted in Blackboard Tips | Comments Off on Date Management Tool Makes it Easier to Update Your Course

Blackboard Ally: Can I see all the files that Ally has analyzed in my course?

Bb Ally analyzes all your files in Blackboard and rates their level of accessibility so you can fix the files one at a time. But what if you have files spread across many places in your course? Is there an easier way to find and fix them without having to hunt and peck through all the nooks and crannies?


All files you have uploaded to a course are stored in your Content Collection. You can find this list of files by going to the Control Panel, then clicking on Content Collection. Your course ID will appear just below the words Content Collection. (You will also see links to “All Courses Content” and “Institution Content”–just ignore those links for now.) Click the course’s ID and Blackboard will bring up a list of all the files you have uploaded to your course. You can page through these files or click the Show All button at the bottom of the page to get one long list of all the files to scroll through.

If a file has been deployed anywhere in the course–that is, you have attached it to an Item, used the File option to create a link to the file, or embedded a link to it in any Text Editor area–Bb Ally will show you the gauge for that file.

Here’s an example screenshot from my Content Collection list. You will notice some files do not have a gauge. That’s because I have uploaded several files for later use but have not yet deployed them (linked or attached them) to a specific area in my course.

List of files from Content Collection

The gauges work the same way here as they do in any other area of Blackboard. You can click on the gauge, learn about the accessibility issue, then fix and re-upload the file. And looking at the gauges in that screenshot, it appears I have several files that need work!

Posted in Accessibility, Blackboard Ally, Blackboard Tips, Tools | Tagged | Comments Off on Blackboard Ally: Can I see all the files that Ally has analyzed in my course?