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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:

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 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!

Some big news for sustainability at UVM: on Monday, March 9th, UVM’s Faculty Senate passed the resolution to require all undergraduate students entering UVM in Fall 2015 to meet the General Education Sustainability Learning Outcomes (SLO).  While this is a significant accomplishment, there is still much work to be done to ensure its success.

The Sustainability Curriculum Review Committee (SCRC), the faculty sub-committee charged with developing a plan for the SLO university-wide implementation, has been tasked with articulating a process for soliciting, reviewing, and approving proposals to fulfill the sustainability requirement. Part of this work is to help faculty understand the “Sustainability Course (SU)” designation process. Completion of an SU course is one of three pathways in which a student can fulfill the requirement. (Please refer to GenEd-Sustainability sitefor information on all the pathways and the course process.)

To that end, all interested faculty are invited to attend “Introduction to UVM’s General Education Sustainability Learning Outcomes Course Proposal” workshop on Friday, March 20, 9:00 – 11:00 AM, Bailey Howe 303. This workshop walks faculty through the proposal development process and, for those who are ready, provides instruction on proposal writing.

For more information and to register for this workshop, please see CTL Events.

More sessions will be offered in the late spring.

In addition, the upcoming “Educating for Sustainability Webinar Series,” hosted by the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, provides information and resources on best practices for sustainability education in higher education:

Strategies for Institutionalizing Sustainability in the Curriculum
Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM, Bailey Howe 303

Strategies for Redesigning your Course to Integrate Sustainability
Wednesday, April 8, 2015; 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM, Bailey Howe 303

To register for these events, please visit the CTL events calendar.

Recently, a new faculty member asked me about how David Kolb’s Learning Styles, that developed out of his Experiential Learning Theory, and the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) intersect or relate to course design. Why and when would you use one or the other when designing instruction? It took me some time to think about this question. This is because I don’t totally agree with the concept of specific learning styles as Kolb describes them, however I do think that most people have learning preferences. David Kolb developed an Experiential Learning Cycle and then developed four learning styles based on preference of learners working within this learning cycle.

In contrast, UDL is a way to think about designing a learning environment for all learners and all learning preferences. UDL is based on research in Neuroscience and the principles of Universal Design in architecture. More information about UDL can be found at the CAST website. The UDL model proposes a series of principles based on three brain networks used for learning. These brain networks, called Recognition, Strategic, and Affective, are each correlated to a set of practices that teachers can use to design instruction and learning environments. These practices are described in the UDL guidelines.  Read more about each of the practices here.

One way to identify your learning style, as defined by Kolb, is by taking an inventory. A learning style inventory asks a series of questions about how you prefer to work or learn. Upon completion of the inventory, you total the points to have an idea of what your own learning style is according to the assessment instrument. I think taking a learning style inventory as a group can be helpful, when working on a team. Each member completes the inventory and then the group intentionally discusses how each person prefers to learn and to work. This activity gives the team a common vocabulary to use when discussing each person’s results and preferences. It is also a way of creating team expectations and norms, as everyone discusses and reflects on their own preferences and how that relates to the whole group.

(Kolb’s website, has inventories available for purchase.)

When discussing learning styles/preferences, it’s important to keep in mind that a person’s preferences are not necessarily fixed; they can change over time or be expanded upon. The process of experiential learning that Kolb discusses is one of experience, reflection, and experimentation. This learning cycle takes into consideration many of the ideas in UDL. Learning by reflection and using critical thinking are key parts of the strategic brain network. As are the ideas and new experiments that come from reflection.

Here are the Stages of Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle as cited from McLeod (2010):

  1. Concrete Experience – (a new experience or situation is encountered, or a reinterpretation of an existing experience).
  2. Reflective Observation (of the new experience. Any inconsistencies between experience and understanding are particularly important).
  3. Abstract Conceptualization (Reflection gives rise to a new idea, or a modification of an existing abstract concept).
  4. Active Experimentation (the learner applies new ideas and modifications to the world around them to see what results happen).

Jim Julius, an education blogger, writes about learning styles in this post, on his blog, Education Everywhere. He brings up the idea that students can also use learning styles as a crutch or an excuse.  I recommend reviewing the comment section on this post.  Quite a few commenters on the post bring up UDL as a method they like when designing instruction.

The good thing about Kolb’s model and UDL is that both are getting educators to think about the learners in the classroom and how to design a positive learning experience for them.


Julius, J. (2012). Time for a Learning Styles Post. Retrieved from: . Retrieved: 2/26/15.

McLeod, S. A. (2010). Kolb – Learning Styles. Retrieved from .Retrieved: 2/28/15.

National Center on Universal Design for Learning. (2014) What is UDL? Retrieved from Retrieved: 2/28/15.

National Center on Universal Design for Learning. (2014) What is UDL? Retrieved from Retrieved: 2/28/15.

Smith, M. K. (2001, 2010). ‘David A. Kolb on experiential learning’, the encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from: Retrieved: 2/28/15.



Imagine this… a website where thousands of films are hosted and can be watched for free… where, if you can’t find a film, you can request that it be added with a good chance that you’ll get your wish… where you can choose to embed an entire work in Blackboard (or select clips to embed!)… and where you can make and share playlists…

Well, I have good news: it exists and it’s called Kanopy. The UVM Libraries has a contract with them, so it’s accessible to any affiliate of the university. There are a few things to be aware of:

  • You can watch movies without logging in, but you have to be either on campus – or – off campus while connected to the virtual network (VPN). This is easy: see instructions here or for iPad users, here.
  • You’ll need to create a free account and sign in to save playlists or make clips.
  • If you want to request a film, write to Lori Holiff in the library’s Media Resources department at She is the liaison with Kanopy and may be able to assist you in finding the film elsewhere, if needed.

» Kanopy’s website:
» This link to Kanopy also lives on the CTL site (choose Teaching Resources > Image and Video Repositories).
» Visit the CTL Dr Is In to learn how to embed video in Bb.

This is an interesting read by Clay Shirky, a professor at New York University. “Why I just asked my students to put their laptops away.” Shirky holds a joint appointment as an Associate Arts Professor at the Interactive Telecommunications Program as well as an Associate Professor in the Journalism Department, and he’s a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

We’ve created a new website to help instructors using iClickers in their classes. Check it out here: If you have any suggestions for the site, please contact Inés Berrizbeitia:

Seals sleeping

Photo credit: Rick La Mesa

You put a lot of work into your Blackboard course space. As we move through each semester there are tasks you can do to protect that work. This checklist can help you wrap up the semester and make the transition to a new semester run more smoothly.

Links throughout this post take you to specific “How To” pages at the CTL’s Blackboard Help site at:

At the end of the semester

  • Download the final Backup of your Grade Center to store for your records.
  • Create, download, and store an Archive of your course. An Archive is a compressed file that contains all the information you have built in your course as well as your student grades. It can be used to build a new course and it should be saved as your backup of your grade center and your course materials.

Before the new semester starts

  • Log in to Blackboard and check that your course appears with the correct instructors associated with it. Instructors are added to Blackboard through the Banner system, by departmental staff.
  • Add TAs as soon as possible.
  • Gather your course materials, plan how you will organize them in your course space, create Tests or Surveys, and plan which tools you will use for assignments and course activities. Plan early if you intend to create and incorporate videos.
  • If you are reusing course material from a previous course, Archive the material from the old course, then Import it to the new course. Another way is with Course Copy command.
  • Begin planning your Grade Center. Visit the CTL Dr Is In so our staff can consult with you on strategies for using this tool most effectively and efficiently, especially if you are teaching large enrollment courses. See Dr Is In schedule here.
  • Post your Syllabus.
  • Make the course Available to students when you are ready for them to access it.

During the semester

  • Create and download an Archive of your course frequently throughout the semester. These will be your backup copies in case you need to restore any deleted material to your course.
  • Download and store a Backup of your Grade Center both before and after adding grades.
  • Try Color Coding in your Grade Center to easily see students at risk.

UVM’s Blackboard now has tools that allow instructors to connect their courses to publishers’ online textbook materials and assessments.

Jean Marc Côté, 1899

Jean Marc Côté, 1899

In the past, publishers sometimes offered “course cartridges” to place publisher materials into your Blackboard course space. Recently, however, they’ve been moving away from this method.

What we see most frequently now is that publishers host textbook materials on their own Learning Management Systems and provide a tool in Blackboard for instructors to connect their course spaces directly to the these systems.

You might think of this as the publishers having set up their own Blackboard course spaces for each textbook. When you want to use their online materials, you simply turn on the tool in your course to create the link between your course and theirs.

One advantage is that it streamlines students access—they don’t have to register or enter separate codes because this is handled automatically. They can even take quizzes/tests and use other interactive tools on the publisher’s site, and the results of this activity can be sent back to your Blackboard Grade Center.

UVM currently supports a number of publishers, including Cengage, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Wiley, and Acrobatiq.
Read instructions here on how to add these tools to your course.

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