Distance Education http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance Fri, 24 Apr 2015 20:35:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Did you caption your video? Do you need to? http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/did-you-caption-your-video-do-you-need-to/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/did-you-caption-your-video-do-you-need-to/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 14:29:33 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5091 Faculty are no longer required to caption video for their courses

""Have you heard? Faculty are no longer required to caption/subtitle their self-produced course videos! We heard you loud and clear. And now a system is in place that allows Distance Education and Disability Services to caption all the media in a course within a few business days if an accommodation arises. But we need the help of the faculty to achieve this term after term.

Here’s what faculty can do to help

Please keep track of the videos in your course that don’t have captions/subtitles.

If a student with a captioning accommodation registers for your online course, you will receive a notification from Disability Services and Distance Education. The notification will ask you to promptly provide the titles and locations of all of the videos in your course that are in need of captioning.

Your speedy reply to this request is critical to our ability to fulfill the accommodation quickly. So remember to keep a list of uncaptioned videos used in your course, and please reply promptly when you get a request about an accommodation! We really appreciate it!

And please consider captioned videos first when selecting new media for your course.

See pcc.edu/access for more information about the accessibility of online course content.

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What about Font? http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/what-about-font/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/what-about-font/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 17:02:27 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5058 Let’s face it, even though we strive to add rich media and images to our classes, the majority of content is text. This is an important for several reasons. First, your choice of font should consider what fonts your end user may have resident on their computer. If you choose a “wild” font, and it is not resident on students’ computers, it will be replaced with a more conventional font.

What about font choice?serif-sans

Of the choices available in the D2L HTML editor, notice that Arial is “recommended.” Tahoma is very close to Arial and is also a good choice. Both Arial and Tahoma are sans-serif in style fonts. Georgia, a serif style font (notice the small line attached to the ends of letter strokes.) Georgia was developed in 1993 specifically for displaying on a computer monitor. It, too, is a good choice.

At PCC we offer templates that remove the worry about font style, font color and font size.

What about font size?

To increase font size, the use of “Headings” is the correct approach. It isn’t enough to make headings big and bold.  A student using a screen reader with your content will not benefit by simply increasing the font size for headings. Headings need to be formatted as headings and used in the proper order. Headings will benefit all students by sectioning content into chunks. This makes it easier to read and skim. Watch a short video on How to Add Headings

What about color?

Never use color alone to make a distinction, a comparison or to set something off or apart from the rest of the web page. If you categorize something by color alone, those who are color blind or blind will not benefit from the color distinction.

When using color, sufficient color contrast is important, not just for low vision and colorblind users, but for everyone. I often run across web pages that use very unlikely color combinations. The image below dramatizes this principle.

examples of contrast between text and background

The D2L HTML editor includes a tool that allows you to make good choices when using colored text. d2l color preview indicates contrast ratio

When you highlight text and click the color picker, the pop-up window includes a “Preview” section that displays the foreground and back ground colors together. Below the preview is a built in WCAG AA analyzer. The goal is to choose colors that produce a green check mark and a contrast ratio of 4.5:1.

What is WCAG? Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are developed through the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The goal is to meet the needs of all internet users through international standards.


To learn more about making your course accessible to all students, visit the PCC accessibility web page.





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D2L Mooc for effective practices using the learning environment http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/d2l-mooc-for-effective-practices-using-the-learning-environment/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/d2l-mooc-for-effective-practices-using-the-learning-environment/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 15:23:55 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5077 D2L is offering a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) for instructors wanting to get the most out of the D2L learning environment. The MOOC covers Communication, Release Conditions, Intelligent Agents, and student centered tools. The course actually started yesterday, but there’s still time for those who are interested in learning a little more about using D2L to support their online or hybrid class.

Learn more about the Effective Practices MOOC from D2L.

Oh, and P.S. – D2L has re-branded their LMS as “Brightspace.” We haven’t really adopted that language yet.

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What’s going on in the world of LMSs? http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/whats-going-on-in-the-world-of-lmss/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/whats-going-on-in-the-world-of-lmss/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 17:02:39 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5051 When you are busy teaching online or supporting online teaching, you might not have time to look up from your work and see what’s going on in the world of Learning Management Systems. As PCC approaches the fifth anniversary of its adoption of Desire2Learn, we should be mindful of what’s going on in the larger world of LMSs. After all, what might seem permanent and fixed today could very well change tomorrow, so it’s good to know the landscape.

In September 2014, a group of ed-tech hobbyists published a study on their site, called edutechnica, that tracked the rates of adoption for the various LMSs at higher-ed institutions. Their study identified the following trends in LMS use and adoption:
  • Angel shrinking significantly (Blackboard bought Angel and planned to retire it in 2014);
  • Blackboard also shrinking in real terms, but still retains the largest market share (33%);
  • Canvas growing significantly (from under 5% to around 10% in one year);
  • Desire2Learn steady – not shrinking but also not gaining market share (around 9%);
  • Moodle also steady, and the second-most used platform (20%) after Blackboard;
  • Sakai also steady but with a small market share (around 6%);
  • “Other” LMSs are also growing and now have around 17% of the market.
% change in LMS adoption

Data from edutechnica.com, used under CC BY

After PSU and PCC adopted Desire2Learn in 2009 and 2010, respectively, I thought we’d see many other colleges and universities in the Northwest flocking to D2L. But it hasn’t happened. Instead many institutions of higher ed have adopted a new LMS called Canvas. Momentum has been surprisingly steady:
  • In 2012, the 34 community colleges in Washington State decided to replace Angel with Canvas;
  • In 2014, Oregon State University decided to replace Blackboard with Canvas;
  • In 2015, the University of Oregon decided to replace several LMSs with Canvas.
When I talk with colleagues at other colleges in the Northwest, I keep hearing about Canvas. Since I’m a fast learner, I asked myself, after I’d heard about Canvas for the 53rd time, What the heck is up with Canvas??
Canvas, a relative newcomer to the LMS scene in 2011, was created by a privately held company (D2L is also privately held) called Instructure, based in Salt Lake City. You can read about the history of the company and the LMS on the Instructure web site, but the synopsis is that a company started in 2008 by two grad students now employs over 550 people and serves over 1200 colleges, universities, and school districts. Adoption of Canvas jumped from around 200 in 2014 to over 400 in the spring of 2015. The company now wants to move into the corporate-training market, having launched a training management system called Bridge. Both Canvas and Bridge employ a sleek design with a Cloud-based architecture that makes them reliable and fast – or so says the company’s literature. Certainly our peers at other colleges in the Northwest are finding a lot to like about Canvas. The University of Oregon recently adopted Canvas after faculty and students voted overwhelmingly for it.
In summary, Canvas is one LMS to keep an eye on. And what about LMSs generally? Jim Groom, whom I had the honor of meeting at the Portland NWACC conference a couple years ago, wrote an article with Brian Lamb in 2014 that should be required reading for everyone who teaches online. Their article, called “Reclaiming Innovation,” was published by Educause and challenges us all to think about the ways in which the tools we use promote – and detract from – student learning. Why, the authors ask, is all student work housed within the LMS, invisible to the public and unavailable to students once the course is over? Part of the article, called “Five arguments against the learning management system,” challenges us to think about systems, silos, missed opportunities, costs, and confidence, as they relate to student learning. Also the article is just beautiful to behold, published in a gorgeous font, with embedded tweets and videos. It shows us how well the web can really work – perhaps to reinforce their point about why we should be disappointed in LMSs generally.
No one is saying that the LMS is going away anytime soon, but still it’s good to keep an eye on developments in the world of LMSs. It’s a world that’s constantly evolving, even if we don’t notice right away.
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New Encryption Algorithm for Student Records http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/new-encryption-algorithm-for-student-records/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/new-encryption-algorithm-for-student-records/#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2015 22:43:08 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5063 Distance Education is rolling out a new service to use a new encryption algorithm to protect student records.

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Paperless classroom in 5 easy steps http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/03/paperless-classroom-in-5-easy-steps/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/03/paperless-classroom-in-5-easy-steps/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 18:04:02 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5006 Kathy Casto is working using desk top computer and ipad

Kathy Casto at her Southeast office on SE 82nd street.

Kathy Casto is an English/Reading/Writing instructor based at PCC’s Southeast Campus. Last summer she switched to paperless assignment grading and is using this practice very successfully for her classroom based courses.

Kathy is combining 3 components of technology in her work:

  • Google docs – to collect assignments from students and convert their work to pdf format.
  • Dropbox – to access students files comfortably via iPad
  • iAnnotate (iPad based application) – to provide the feedback for submitted assignments.

Here is how she does it in 5 easy steps.

A screenshot of submitted assignments shared with instructor via Google Docs

Submitted assignments named with a specific code word can be easily searched for and be selected.

Step 1

Kathy asks her students to upload their work on Google docs and share files with her. She asks students to use a specific code to name their work for every assignment they submit.  For example FD3 can be used for Final Draft #3 assignment.








A screen-shoot of downloading pop up window providing an option to download multiple assignments as PDFs via zipped folder.

Google Docs allows to download selected assignments as zipped PDFs on local computer.

Step 2

She performs the search for this code name in Google docs and selects all the files to be downloaded in PDF format. Google docs can convert any format of students submitted work into PDFs  and places the zipped folder in Downloads folder of Kathy’s computer.











The screenshot of the Downloads folder with unzipped assignments that need to be moved to Dropbox folder.

Unzipped files need to be drag-and-dropped into the Dropbox folder

Step 3

Next step is to move the unzipped files from Downloads into Dropbox folder and access them with an iPad.
Dropbox is a free cloud based storage solution, where you can store up to 2GB  worth of data and can access from any computer or mobile device you have.










a screen shot of pad based ianotate application with a students assignment and given feedback.

Iannotate provides a variety of tools to mark up student’s work.

Step 4

In this step Kathy opens the student’s work on her iPad with iAnnotate application.
This program offers a great set of tools such markers, stamps, and text boxes to provide any sort of feedback. You can even leave an audio feedback.Kathy finds very useful a combination of Stamp tool for some recurring or pre-made type of feedback and Comment tool to type more specific and personal comments to student’s work. Also, iAnnotate allows to write on the document with a stylus.
Kathy prefers Jot-Pro Stylus for her work.







screenshot of the email window of iAnnotate application

iAnnotade can send the document back to a student.


Step 5

After the document is annotated, it can be emailed back to a student right from the application. Flattened option is preferred,  as this way the annotation can be viewed but can’t be modified.



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Using small data http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/03/using-small-data/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/03/using-small-data/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 17:00:11 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=4993 I recently attended the ITC eLearning conference in Las Vegas, NV, and, as always, was excited to learn what my colleagues at different colleges are doing to support their online students and faculty. One session that seemed especially applicable to poach for a Best Practice post was on using in-course analytics, or “small data.”

If you spend any time in higher education thinking about technology, you are probably tired of the word “Analytics,” and I don’t blame you. This craze promises to collect massive amounts of data about student learning, patterns of access, engagement and more with promises to help school administrators do everything from push-button program reviews, predict which students will fail which courses, and how many minutes of that video lecture students are actually watching. Real big business stuff.

But that’s where this notion of small data comes in and shakes off all the pretense and provides a few tangible examples that you can use without dropping big dollars or requiring an advanced data science degree to interpret.

Get practical

The learning analytics cycle

Image Credit: Doug Clow, CC-BY

In this post, I still want to focus on the learning analytics cycle, because no matter the size of your data, you can still use the cycle to adapt your course based on what you observe.

None of this is groundbreaking; most educators already do something like this all the time. You observe something (e.g. looks of confusion from a majority of the class) and you try another method of illustrating that concept. This post will hopefully give you an awareness of some of the tools available to you now to learn about your learners since you won’t be seeing confused faces in your online classes.

Practical examples

D2L provides you with a number of paths to observe student activity so that you can harness the small data learning analytics cycle to inform your teaching practices. My favorite place to start is the User Progress tool, which gives you a quick glance at your class to see student activity. It’s a budget “dashboard” that gives you an overview of login history, grades, discussion posts and more that is somewhat customizable for your course. And it’s a very easy way to spot students who are not engaged in the course.

User progress tool showing two students and their course activity

For example, consider these two students. Their login history is relatively similar, but their grade history is quite different. Also, the second students has viewed much more of the content than the first. So what to do with this information? Well, the grade activity and lack of content access might indicate that the student is struggling. The cycle suggest that you apply some intervention. Sometimes that can be as simple as reaching out to the student. Email is great, but sometimes a phone call is warranted. And what do you say? Just check in. Offer information about free online tutoring. Make sure the student knows where they are in the class. And just let them know that you are there and you are interested in their success.

There are lots of practical examples, and this is supposed to be a brief post, so I’ll simply point you to two more examples from our own instructional technology specialists. They provide a great start to knowing more about your students’ activity.

  • Melany shows how to use the quiz statistics to evaluate individual quiz questions. You can use this information to find problematic questions or difficult concepts to address in the content.
  • Jim looks at Content viewing statistics, which you can see where specific items aren’t getting viewed by students.

There is no end to what you do with this topic, and I’m sure many of you have practical examples of your own. Please share them in the comments. If you aren’t sure how this applies, don’t think big. Think small data and small changes. Those too can have meaningful effects on student learning. If you aren’t finding information about a topic or activity you want to learn about, ask us, we might know if it is available.

More information

The session I attended at eLearning was “Using course analytics to inform teaching, learning and assessment” by Janet Latricia King. She’s offering a webinar on the subject on May 12, 2015. Let me know if you are interested in attending.

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More than chicken scratch: the benefits of hand-written work in an online class (and some apps that assist!) http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/03/more-than-chicken-scratch-the-benefits-of-hand-written-work-in-an-online-class-and-some-apps-that-assist/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/03/more-than-chicken-scratch-the-benefits-of-hand-written-work-in-an-online-class-and-some-apps-that-assist/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 18:00:36 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=4961 a hand writing on paper

Image credit: Sevenheads – Pixabay

For the most part, having students use a computer or other electronic device to complete their online coursework suffices quite well. But have you ever felt that it was sometimes limiting or that something was just lacking? As I mentioned in a previous post, when I first started teaching math online it was clear that requiring students to type their assignments was an overwhelming barrier for some students. Those that were naturally tech-inclined caught on quickly and enjoyed it, but others seemed to waste hours (and sometimes tears) every week struggling with an equation editor. Incorporating hand-written work as an option into my online course has had a lot of benefits, many of which were unexpected. Additionally, there are a handful of (free!) apps for tablets and smartphones that make submitting hand-written work in pdf format quite easy.

Benefits of hand-written work

Increased submission rate

This benefit was the one that I expected when I first allowed hand-written work to be submitted. By allowing student to hand-write and scan their work, students submitted higher quality work more often. It removed multiple barriers they were experiencing, from struggling with an equation editor to having infrequent/unreliable computer access.

Increases knowledge retention

A handful of articles and studies cite the benefits of hand-written work over typed work. One advantage is the increased understanding, synthesis, and generalization of knowledge gained when taking notes by hand (as one cannot simply transcribe), as discussed in this Scientific American article. Further more, this Wall Street Journal article refers to the increased cognitive function that handwriting enables, stating that, “For those writing by hand, there was stronger and longer-lasting recognition of the characters’ proper orientation, suggesting that the specific movements memorized when learning how to write aided the visual identification of graphic shapes.” Case in point: I’ve lost count of the number of times an online student has written “In”(as in capital i, lowercase en) instead of “ln”; it’s an abbreviation of logarithmic naturalis…

Reduces plagiarism

When assignments are typed, it can be very challenging to identify plagiarism, particularly anything that is skill-based or fact-based and does not heavily involve creative or deep thinking. I’ve found copying much easier to identify in hand-written work because the process of re-writing causes students to leave strange tell-tale errors/omissions. Plus, it requires more than Ctrl+C. Case in point: I didn’t realize that two students (in different sections) were copying off each other until week 5, when they made their first inexplicable and unique error.

Mirrors in-class assessment

This might be specific to math, where we require two proctored, on-campus exams. Per our CCOGs, these are hand-written, closed note, and closed book. In the course I teach, the CCOG also requires that these exams constitute a minimum of 60% of their grade. Having students complete work and receive feedback in the exact same manner that they will complete their exams—this one just makes sense.

Allows more flexibility in assessment design

Once you open the door to hand-written work, you can simply do more. Want students to demonstrate something with a picture or a graph? You can do it. Want to take a look at the brainstorming that happened before their finished product? You can see it, chicken scratch and all. And the best part of this flexibility? Your tech-savviest students will find a way to do the same thing using technology—in a seriously impressive way.

Free scanning apps for tablets and smartphones

Physical scanners are fine, but students don’t always have access to one. An alternative is to use a scanning app on a smartphone or tablet. Truth be told, these scanners create far better quality documents than most physical scanners a student would have at home or use in a library.

If you Google “scanning app,” you’ll find that there are dozens available for Android and iOS. My favorite scanning app is Scanbot. It’s free and available for Android, iPhone, and iPad, including older versions of each; it creates quality pdfs directly; it allows you to edit/mark up/sign pdfs; it automatically identifies backgrounds and crops/squares images; and it allows immediate uploading to Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud Drive, Box, OneDrive, email, and others. Evernote’s Scannable is a close second, but it wasn’t available to my outdated Android phone or have as versatile of options to immediately upload documents.

Have you incorporated hand-written work into your own courses? Do you have any other apps for scanning that you use? Add these to the discussion below!

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Finding online classes that aren’t full http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/02/finding-online-classes-that-arent-full/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/02/finding-online-classes-that-arent-full/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 00:16:02 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=4946

When you are planning your schedule before the start of a term, you might find the advanced course search very useful. It will let you look up classes based on their instructional method (classroom, online,etc.), date and time, and other important factors. These instructions will show you how to find an online class and determine if there is any space left in the class.

  1. Log in to MyPCC and click on Add or Drop Classes link in the Registration Services channel.
    Add or Drop Classes
  2. Click on Look Up Classes
  3. Select Term Details
    Select the current term (e.g. Winter 2014) from Search by Term and Credit Class from the Class Type of Search field then click the Submit button.
  4. Find online classes
    To specifically find online classes (WEB), click on the Advanced Search button.
  5. Use Advanced Search. The Advanced Search page has many options. This example will show how to find an online Economics class.
    1. Select Course Subject (e.g. Economics).
    2. Click the Selection Search button.
    3. Select the Instructional Method (Web).
    4. Note: You can also select the a specific instructor. In this example, we’ll look at all the options.
  6. View the results. The results will list the courses found based on your search options. In our example, we can see the online Economics classes listed.
  7. Register for a class. After deciding on which class(es) you wish to register for, click on the check box to the left of those class(es). Click the Submit button to register.

Note: After the term starts, you will not be able to register for the course or add yourself to the waitlist. You will need to contact the instructor for an override after the first day of the term.

Do not forget to attend your class in the first day to be sure you are not dropped for No Show.

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A smorgasbord of strategies http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/02/a-smorgasbord-of-strategies/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/02/a-smorgasbord-of-strategies/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 18:00:59 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=4932 Image of smorgasbord of cheese & fruit

Image credit: Zhanna Tretiakova

What a rich knowledge base, a smorgasbord of online teaching strategies we have being shared among online instructors at PCC through the Faculty Learning Communities. Consider a few new strategies to blend into a rich online learning experience. Be sure to check out the upcoming schedule, which will soon include sessions for spring.



Specific strategies shared at a recent FLC sessions

Cool tools & features (SY)

  • Create quiz questions in D2L that use variables, so students get different number values with each quiz attempt. (Erik Dean, Economics)
  • Increase class survey participation be embedding it as a widget right on your course home page. At PCC we have license to use Qualtrics for such surveys. (Rhonda Collier, Economics)
  • Prezi can be used as an alternative to PowerPoint to liven up those presentations and help students make connections. (Rhonda Collier, Economics)

Effective online discussions (CA)

  • Give students a choice of discussion topics and have them interact in small groups to increase their motivation to become engaged and bond with other class members. (Sheila Brown, English)
  • Have a different member of a small group discussion post a comprehensive summary of the group’s findings for each topic. (Elizabeth Bilyeu, Art History)

Create an engaging home page (RC & SE)

  • Add a “Q & A” Discussion widget right on your home page for easy access. Include a good icon with it to direct attention. (Rondi Schei, Economics)
  • Add a “News feed” and/or a “Twitter feed” to your home page to keep it dynamic and engage students. (Alexa Maros, Business, & Rondi Schei, Economics)
  • Use new images with weekly news items as an alert that something new has been posted. (Greg Kaminski, Distance Ed & ESOL)

Time management / How to reduce online instructor workload (SY & SE)

  • As an effective time saver, in “Grades” use “Grade All,” and follow the link to “Details and overall feedback” to offer feedback that applies to the whole class. You can also add personal feedback for each student, and both types show up in student grades. (DeLyse Totten, Business)
  • As a time saver as well as something that benefits the whole class, encourage students to post questions to the “Q & A” discussion instead of emailing the instructor. (Ron Bekey, CAS)
  • Front load the feedback — Intensively grade the early assignments, offering tons of formative feedback. This gives students ideas they can apply early on creates a sense of high expectations. (Phil Seder, Business)
  • Break up a longer assignment into phases to provide early opportunities for feedback. (Lisa Regan-Vienop, ABE/GED)
  • Students discuss topics in small groups and then collaborate on one group post, or a different person from the group posts a summary each week. (from Strategies for Managing Online Discussions, Rob Kelly)
Smorgasbord of canapes & desserts

Image credit: Zhanna Tretiakova

Rubrics (RC)

  • Rubrics help define our expectations for students. Add a rubric to discussions only to show it to students, but since that one doesn’t transfer to the grade book, grade using the rubric in the grade book. (Rondi Schei, Economics)
  • Tell students how to update “Instant Notifications” to be notified when a grade or news item is released. (Rondi Schei, Economics)

Online Rooms (SY & CA)

  • Online Rooms in connection with a tablet provides a great opportunity to meet students to clarify difficult concepts live, e.g. chemical bonding structures. (Kathy Carrigan & Ken Friedrich, Chemistry)
  • Hold “Town Hall” style discussions virtually in Online Rooms. This gives a chance to engage students in dialog to see what they don’t understand. (Doug Jones, CS)

Retention (SE & RC)

  • Front load week 1 to give a realistic picture and to improve retention. Make a number of things due the first Thursday. Friday morning drop those you haven’t hear from. (Samm Erickson, English)
  • Make sure students are reading your feedback by adding a “hidden word” to your feedback. Students tell the instructor the “hidden word” before adding the grade. (Kris Fink, English)
  • Make sure students have a realistic sense of what the course will be like in terms of rigorous expectations. (Carey Larson, Distance Ed)
  • Quiz students on the syllabus and course information. Set a conditional release on content, dependent on completing the syllabus quiz. (Rondi Schei, Economics)

Join the gathering to share expertise at a Faculty Learning Community near you.

Upcoming Faculty Learning Community sessions – Schedule & topic details
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