5 Things to Know for the Start of the Semester


1. Photo Rosters & More on Faculty/Advisor Tab in myHilltop

New for the Fall 2014 semester, Faculty and Advisors now have a customized page in myHilltop.

From this page, you can access course information, class lists with photos, grade submission, and more for each of your classes each semester. You can find Instructional Technology events and our blog posts here also!

More information about the Faculty/Advisor tab

2. Using Terms to Group Courses by Semester in Blackboard

Tired of searching through the long list of courses in the My Courses module in Blackboard?

You can now use terms in Blackboard to make it easier to find your classes by organizing them by semester. To set up the Terms, click on the gear icon to the left of My Courses.
Course Module with arrow pointing at gear icon in right corner

In the Terms section, click on the box next to “Group by Term” and then select the terms you wish to display.
Checkbox next to term

Click on Submit.  Course terms will now appear in the My Courses list.
Terms listed in separate lines

Travis county Almanac3. Creating a Website/Blog for Yourself, Your Course, Your Students Using CampusPress

Would you like to create a personal, course or research website or start your own blog? All St. Edward’s faculty, staff and students can easily create their own website or blog via Campus Press (formerly EduBlogs) powered by WordPress. You can also create multi-author course blogs where each student is a contributor. You can log in at https://sites.stedwards.edu to get started. If you’d like assistance contact us at instcom@stedwards.edu.

4. One Page for All Student Academic Support Services

Students can now see all the academic support services and solutions available to them on one page. From Advising to the Writing Center all of the options are listed on the Student Academic Support Services Page.  From this page students can sign up for one-on-one appointments with Instructional Technology Training staff, view video tutorials or sign up for workshops or the Innovation Creation Lounge.

5. Making Your Blackboard Courses Available to Students

All courses, instructors and student enrollments are loaded automatically into Blackboard. However, all classes are unavailable to students by default. If you are using Blackboard for your course, please make your course available to students.

• In the Control Panel, select Customization and then Properties.

• In the Set Availability section choose yes to make the course available, then click Submit.

Collaborative Student Assignments Outside the Classroom

On Wednesday, February 12 at noon Instructional Technology hosted a tech snack on collaborative student assignments outside the classroom featuring Kendall Kelly, Assistant Professor of English, Writing, and Rhetoric. Dr. Kelly led a discussion that focused on these questions:

  • How can we get students to interact and collaborate outside of class meetings?
  • What kinds of online assignments engage students and enhance in-class learning?

Blog imageDr. Kelly began by describing how she gets her students to collaborate online using blogs, wikis, and group spaces in Blackboard and shared a handout, “Tips for Using Blogs to Improve Student Outcomes.” These tips underline the importance of structuring the use of blogging assignments so that there are clear expectations for students and that they are rewarded for their effort.  Blackboard allows Dr. Kelly to give private feedback and easily track student blogs and responses, so that this assignment does not impose an inordinate amount of work on the instructor. She says she is able to read 20 student blogs in about 30 minutes before class starts. Dr. Kelly motivates students by noting good blogs in front of the class.

Dr. Kelly uses this blogging assignment to help students read challenging theoretical texts for her freshman level course on technical communication. Her writing prompts guide their reading, and, by reviewing the blogs before class, she can see what students are thinking and where they aren’t understanding the text. These insights in turn lead to a richer in-class discussion.

Blogs offer an alternative to discussion boards, which are a common and long-established mainstay of online learning.  In contrast to the discussion board, blogs seem to inspire greater investment from students. They are more like mini-papers than the conversational interchange of the discussion board, and by being identified with one particular student, blogs allow for more development of a student’s voice.  The focus is on the student rather than the topic, as it might be in a discussion board.  In Dr. Kelly’s class, students compete to be recognized for their unique perspective in class.  For example, a recent class has been vying to see who can come up with the best food analogy to explain the reading.

By using the Blackboard tool for blogs rather than a public blog, Dr. Kelly offers a safe space for student discussion while still applying the pressure of a public class audience.  When asked about whether students resisted sharing their works with others, Dr. Kelly pointed out that collaborating with other students is a listed course objective on the syllabus, so students begin the course with this clear expectation. Overall, blogs allow Dr. Kelly’s students to improve their reading and writing outside of class in such a way that it raises the level of in class interaction.  This instructional design is a good example of effectively linking in- and out-of-class work in a hybrid or blended learning format.

Tips for Using Blogs to Improve Student Outcomes

Blog imageKendall Kelly, Assistant Professor of English, Writing, and Rhetoric, is our guest blogger for this post:

Student blogging can create valuable learning opportunities.  Blogs can provide students the chance to work on particular skills like writing, audience analysis, or critical thinking, or engage a text or project in an asynchronous, low-stakes manner.  They give students a medium to engage classmates and allow the instructor to informally evaluate student comprehension before class begins.  However, to facilitate student learning, instructors need to use blogs properly.  Below I’ve listed some tips to maximize student learning.

  1. Write a prompt for each blog.
  2. Set a due date that gives students time to respond to one another’s blogs.
  3. Require students to respond to one another’s blogs.
  4. Set quality and quantity guidelines i.e. two paragraphs that analyze the salient point with evidence from the text.
  5. Grade every blog, every time. (I usually assign a point value to each blog and student response and just add them up as I go.  And I give extra credit to good blogs. )
  6. Integrate the information from the blogs into your lectures.  (Give a student a shout out for a good blog or even invite him or her to start class discussion.)
  7. Blogs are iterative and essentially collaborative (i.e. everyone’s reading everyone else’s blog), so one or two good bloggers can raise the bar for the class, and one or two bad bloggers can drag the class down.
  8. Use Blackboard for student blogs if possible.
    1. Blackboard allows you to give student grades.  They see their grade go up with each blog which encourages them to write the next blog.
    2. You also have the opportunity to give students private feedback on Blackboard, so if their blogs aren’t quite up to snuff, you can let them know.  Blogs are an iterative process, so if they don’t initially do well, they have the opportunity to improve.
    3. Blackboard will count blogs and comments for you.
    4. Blackboard will keep track of the grade and just put it in the grade sheet, if you set it up properly.
    5. And the blogs will only be available to the class which creates a safe place to write and keeps crazy outsiders from making inappropriate comments or using student information for nefarious purposes.
    6. Blackboard won’t allow students to post video (or at least it hasn’t in the past) or audio files so it may not work for every situation.  SEUfolios will allow multi-modal media and let students manipulate the format, so it might work for those assignments.

Note: WordPress Blogs are also available to St. Edward’s University, faculty, students, and staff through http://sites.stedwards.edu/blogs/ These sites can be set up as individual blogs or a group of blogs can be set up for a class. Contact Instructional Technology for more information.

References: Image available from Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blog_(1).jpg