Teaching Tips

You can find all of our Teaching Tips here. Use the links below to scroll by category, browse the recent Tips on the sidebar, or just look at all of them at once by going here

Recent

How to advertise your course

Teaching a new class next semester and want to attract students or need to boost enrollment? This is the perfect time to start marketing your course! This practical Teaching Tip will give you some pointers on how to get the word out about your upcoming course.

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Three courses embracing distance students

Nov. 5-9, 2018, is celebrated as National Distance Learning Week. UAF instructors employ a variety of ways to not only include non-local students but to actually use their differing locations to enhance a course. These three classes, in particular, are strengthened by students outside of Fairbanks:

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Use streaming video with Kanopy

The UAF Rasmuson Library has made 20,000 films available through Kanopy, a deep well of curated, high-quality content. It has a friendly interface with a watchlist and recommendations to help instructors find films that align with course content.

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Should You Use WordPress?

WordPress is a publishing platform that provides flexibility for course materials, facilitates open teaching practice, and serves as a public platform for student work. The flexibility of WordPress is one of its strengths, but it also means that the learning curve may feel steep for those using it for the first time. Is it right for your course?

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Introducing Blackboard Ally, a new accessibility tool

Blackboard Ally is a new accessibility tool coming to UAF Blackboard on October 6, 2018. It is integrated software that automatically scans your uploaded course files and materials, looking for common accessibility issues. It provides insight into the course’s level of accessibility and feedback on how the content can be improved for better quality and usability for everyone. It will also generate alternative formats on demand using machine learning algorithms. Read on in this Teaching Tip to familiarize yourself with Blackboard Ally.

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Make your Google Docs accessible

If you use Google Docs in your online course or share them electronically with your face-to-face students make sure they are readable. Some students use a screen reader to assist them. Here are three tips with the needed steps to make your Google Docs more usable.

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Best Practices

Three courses embracing distance students

Nov. 5-9, 2018, is celebrated as National Distance Learning Week. UAF instructors employ a variety of ways to not only include non-local students but to actually use their differing locations to enhance a course. These three classes, in particular, are strengthened by students outside of Fairbanks:

Apply Universal Design to your course

Universal Design is a collection of principles for making an experience inclusive for a range of users with consideration to age, ability, size and any other condition that causes them to be more or less successful interacting with the world. It is an approach to design that intentionally means to benefit many individuals and it can be applied to course design.

Previous teaching can power current course modifications

The first day of fall semester is right around the corner. This is the first in a series of four Teaching Tips that provide ideas on readying your course for opening day and covers items that require a longer time for planning and communicating to your incoming roster of students.

Improve your course with help from a review rubric

As a new semester approaches you should be thinking about making some improvements to your course. There are many review rubric resources available that will help prompt you into making revisions that will better support your students. This week’s tip will share information about some of these helpful resources.

Three ways to set up your course more efficiently

Teaching online since 2011, Janene McMahan has learned some things along the way. In this tip she shares three ideas for making the best use of your time: set expectations, set up your workspace for good flow, and prep a layout once then replicate it.

Creating a communication plan for engaging students

The summer semester is short. Keeping students engaged and thinking about your course can be helped by creating a regular plan for communication at the beginning of the semester. In this Teaching Tip, we’ll discuss how to create a plan and provide considerations for using Blackboard Announcements to push your notifications out to students.

Improve your online course with Quality Matters

Two online workshops are available in April and June to instructors with existing courses online. The training introduces a subset of the Quality Matters rubric standards which have the greatest impact on course design. Faculty decide and prioritize which sections of their course to improve.

Hello? Use phone calls to connect with students

We’re at a point in the semester when energy gets low. Students have gotten quiet on discussion boards, you’ve got grading to last you the rest of winter and winter isn’t near over yet. It can be hard to keep everyone engaged in your work together, but making a simple phone call could make a big difference.

New Box View replaces Crocodoc for inline grading

As of this month when your students turn in programming code and graphics inside of Blackboard you can use the New Box View inline grading tool to view the code and add comments to the images. If you previously used Crocodoc to quickly view spreadsheets or papers inside of the Blackboard Grade Center, you’ll find the expanded list of supported file types a breath of fresh air!

Students communicate strategies and pitfalls

During National Distance Learning Week UAF eCampus conversed with students via Facebook. Here’s a light read on student strategies to stay on task as well as a few shared challenges we all face. Read on; it might spark a small change to make in your course as a result.

Blackboard

To total or not to total – Blackboard Grade Center

Every teacher has goals to be effective and efficient. Knowing more about the tools and features in Blackboard’s Grade Center can help you reach your potential. This week’s tip concentrates on different kinds of Total columns you might use in your course to organize and compute final grades. There is a lot of capability and might be the perfect feature for you to implement in your course.

Blackboard adds new features

New features have been updated in Blackboard Learn relating to assignment submissions. Teachers and students are now able to add attachments via drag and drop. There are also new features that allow tracking of quiz attempts and assignment submissions. Read this week’s Teaching Tip to learn how the new features are giving both students and instructors more power in Blackboard Learn.

Providing feedback in Blackboard two ways

Building a rubric can help you determine how—or if—an assignment aligns to your course objectives. Once built, you may use it to frame your feedback. Sharing the specifics with students prior to task assignment helps focus their efforts. Your students may not know about the wealth of information provided by clicking on the link, “View Rubric.”

Adapt your course for Blackboard Mobile Learn

More and more students are using mobile devices and an app called Blackboard Mobile Learn to access course content on the go. While students shouldn’t solely rely on smartphones to complete course requirements, there are steps instructors can take to make it a better experience, such as using common file types (like PDFs), keeping titles short and testing links on a variety of devices.

Build game badging options inside of Blackboard Learn

We all spend time playing games. According to vertoanalytics.com, we spend more than a billion hours per month playing mobile games and that doesn’t include games played on laptops, desktops or with game consoles.1 According to the entertainment software association, in 2015, 65% of US households had at least one person who played online games, three hours or more per week.

Building accessibility into online Blackboard courses

Blackboard provides built-in mechanisms to ensure online content adheres to accessibility standards for its static structure. Once content or third party elements like multimedia and links to resources are added, there are steps you take to maintain accessibility. As you begin adding course content in Blackboard, be mindful of what the end result may look like using a screen reader.

Blackboard provides student performance analysis tools

The Blackboard Grade Center offers options for reviewing student performance on your tests and exams and can be a useful mechanism for evaluating the effectiveness of your test questions. A poorly worded question doesn’t mean your students aren’t mastering the content. Look for Attempts Statistics, Download Results, Item Analysis and Column Statistics as options in the column header for your test.

Blackboard – time to reconsider

This time of year we’re all spending a lot of time in Blackboard, yet seldom does one hear its praises sung within our hallowed halls. It may not be the shiniest tool in our toolbox, and some might even say its menus and structures are less than an inspiring home for the learning and cognitive transformations we expect it to facilitate.

Blackboard hints & tricks

If you’re a longtime Windows user, you might be wishing for a visual folder structure view of your course. You may be more familiar with a “tree” structure where you see folders with a “+” sign indicating something in the folder. When you click on the folder icon that is right above the course name, a new window will open that allows you to navigate quickly to a nested tree structure where titles are links. This option is also available for students.

Going mobile

The Blackboard Learn application for iOS has been available for quite a while. The application is very student friendly and is a great option for accessing course material and posting to the discussion board using a mobile device. The Blackboard Grader application is now available (iOS iPad only) and should prove to be a great advantage for instructors.

Blackboard

Having an institutional Learning Management System (LMS) has both advantages and disadvantages. Some of the advantages are that class and student data is automatically created based on the institution’s registration system, students gain familiarity with the LMS’ structure and navigation, there is an online gradebook for teachers and students, and more.

Emerging ideas

Integrating disciplines to help students succeed

Two recent studies from the National Association of Colleges and Employers and the National Academy of Sciences highlight the need to address a more integrative curricular approach to improve competencies desired by employers. In this Teaching Tip, we take a brief look at these two reports and invite faculty to join the discussion on how integration of scientific, technical and liberal arts fields can work to enhance post-graduation success.

Students and learning in the “open”

Turning your course open with Open Education resources, practices, and pedagogy can have profound impacts on how students relate to the materials, to you, to their learning and their positioning relative to that learning. Ready to get started?

Finding and creating Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources (OER) are any type of media that is free and available for educators and students to use, reuse, repurpose, and sometimes modify for educational purposes. OER can help your students save money and can help you think about how you can teach outside typical textbook constraints. But how do you go about finding good OER? In this Teaching Tip, we will discuss methods for locating and evaluating resources.

Emerging trends in online STEM lab design

In the first four parts of our series on online STEM labs, we looked at why online faculty choose to develop an online lab course, the diversity of lab solutions faculty implemented to meet course objectives, how to engage online lab students, and special assessment considerations within the context of online STEM labs. In this fifth and final part of our series, we take a look at some cutting edge efforts to improve teaching and learning in terms of both technical solutions and pedagogical approaches.

Special assessment considerations with online labs

Do online STEM labs present unusually challenging circumstances for assessment? Yes, and no. In this fourth part of our five-part series discussing online STEM labs, we’re taking a look at the special assessment considerations inherent in online labs and how some faculty have tackled the challenge.

Taxonomy of online lab solutions

There are many choices to consider when selecting a particular approach to designing online labs. In this second part of our four-part series on online STEM lab courses, we’re going to take a look at four main categories of online lab experiences and consider their respective strengths and weaknesses. When making design decisions for your online labs, return to and refocus on your intended objectives before tackling the question of how to get there.

Use infographics to build community and critical thinking

Use data from an introductory activity to create an infographic to share cohort information and build community in a course. This can show students how they might use infographics as a method to demonstrate critical thinking skills based on the results of their own research.

Teaching as mentoring

How do you guide your students not only through course material, but through navigating the university, their professional ambitions, a balance between personal and academic lives? This is the work of the teacher-as-mentor.

An Introduction to Open Educational Practices

Open educational practices incorporate Wiley’s 5 Rs of open content – retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute – into ways of teaching that encourage co-creation and sharing amongst learners, teachers, and a community.

A Brief Guide to Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources (OER) are any type of media that is free and publicly available for educators and students to use, reuse, repurpose, and sometimes modify for educational purposes (1, 2). The idea of OER has been around for a while but in the last few years...

Pedagogy

Ideas for customizing the lab experience

We tend to think that lab courses must march students through a well-rehearsed set of steps that include presentation of theoretical background and foundational concepts, safety considerations for the lab at hand, methods and procedures to be followed, measurement and...

Journaling for reflection and critical thinking

Reflective writing can help us carry ourselves through processes of change. Learning is a process of change and research shows that journal writing can support students across disciplines in connecting with and making meaning of their learning.

Bring robust labs to online classes

As we discover, test and improve methods of online teaching, one category of courses, the science laboratory based class, has resisted many efforts to bring lab units to the online realm. But this need not be the case. There are several models, methods and ready made solutions available to instructors or departments who are contemplating this transition. In this Teaching Tip, we cover the range of options available.
Illustration: University of Munich Remotely Controlled Lab on Millikan’s Experiment web interface.

Get students to give feedback beyond “good job”

Let’s not be satisfied with the “feedback sandwich approach” in course discussion. Providing guidance and setting expectations for what good discussion feedback looks like can help move students beyond giving comments that do not prompt further discussion, build on an argument or rethink one’s own stance.

Bring your expertise front and center

Let go of some of the how. How will the student generate the video? How will the student submit his or her paper? Focus on the what and the why. Grab your list of learning objectives and analyze course learning experiences and assessments to determine if they support students progressing toward course outcomes.

Create “microlearning” for reinforced learning

Social media is full of short bursts of content pushed out to viewers to be accessed when and where the viewer has time. You can do the same thing with “microLearning:” simple, short and concise learning opportunities that reinforce learning.

What, you think this is funny?

The best kind of joke is the one that forces students to rethink content in a new light and see it from a different perspective. But achieving this can be difficult. Wanzer illustrates the pitfalls in using humor to achieve this end.

Motivating students to connect with course content

Getting the busy student to prepare for class prior to trying to do course work is difficult at best. This tip delves into this problem and provides a few recommendations for faculty to try. Should you feel your students need this type of encouragement, look to a model that places content right at hand to how most students tend to approach learning and participating in a course.

Creating significant learning experiences

Our purpose as instructors is to facilitate new student understandings. But, what are understandings? Are there different kinds? It seems they can be simple, such as remembering the elements of the periodic table, or extremely complex, such as discovering new knowledge about oneself and one’s relationship with the world.

Lying, deceit and effective teaching

The subject of the lie has been pondered, defined and debated over centuries, across cultures and in various situations. Lies come in many forms, some harmless, others pernicious. Is there any place for lies in the classroom? You may wish to consider these examples before reflecting on that.

Make your next field trip virtually good

Research shows that the educational outcomes associated with field trips are not dependent on a face to face visit. Outcomes are instead based on student engagement driven by activities before, during and after visits to a site. This Teaching Tip provides an overview of good practices and a starting point for those considering using field trips in their class.

Tools & How to

How to advertise your course

Teaching a new class next semester and want to attract students or need to boost enrollment? This is the perfect time to start marketing your course! This practical Teaching Tip will give you some pointers on how to get the word out about your upcoming course.

Use streaming video with Kanopy

The UAF Rasmuson Library has made 20,000 films available through Kanopy, a deep well of curated, high-quality content. It has a friendly interface with a watchlist and recommendations to help instructors find films that align with course content.

Three ways to manage WordPress contributions

If you’ve ever used WordPress in your class as a space for student contribution, you’ve likely wondered if there is an optimal way to see what is being published and who is making contributions. This information is vital in an online course where post and comment activity often happens asynchronously. In this Teaching Tip, we’ll discuss strategies that allow you to track student engagement and interaction.

Color code your Blackboard Grade Center

The Blackboard Grade Center can be a powerful tool to manage the grades in your course, and to stay on top of students that may need a little extra help. It can be especially useful in courses with a large number of students. Read this week’s Teaching Tip to learn more.

Go offline with Google Drive Stream

Google has released Drive Stream to help you more efficiently manage your Google Drive files offline. The new features make more intelligent use of space on your computer and help reduce the amount of file syncing over network connections.

Turn your videos into video quizzes

Creating a video for your course is a great way to engage students and clearly explain content. But how do you keep students watching, and how do you make sure they are grasping the concepts you’re explaining? Kaltura’s Video Quiz feature is a low-stakes and easy way to interactively enhance and further break down a video for student understanding.

Google Hangouts becomes Google Meet

In the next few weeks, some faculty may notice a switch from “Google Hangouts” to something called “Google Meet”. The two are nearly identical but the change in interface might be a little confusing, so we’ve summarized some of the changes to help you stay ahead of the game.

Prep your WordPress course site for next semester

Even seasoned WordPress users can learn a new trick. WordPress actively changes as new updates are applied to the main product. Years after I began using WordPress almost daily, a coworker showed me how to edit multiple settings from within one screen! This tip will show you how.

Try Voice-to-text Apps for Audio Transcription

Audio transcription tools enable listeners to give their undivided attention to a speaker and free up hands and eyes from note taking. These apps can help to foster a more engaging group dynamic in the moment and are becoming both more precise and affordable thanks to the advancement of voice-to-text technology.