Month: November 2014

Working with HuskyCT, Sept 2014

Are you looking for an easy way to make course materials available to your students, post grades, and send announcements?  UConn’s learning management system, “HuskyCT,” which is powered by Blackboard Learn, may be just what you need.  HuskyCT also enables instructors to give quizzes online, receive and grade assignments, use Blogs or a Discussion Board, and deliver library reserve materials.  The use of HuskyCT is so widespread (4000+ course sites already this semester) that students have come to expect that their classes will have HuskyCT sites.

To request a HuskyCT site for a class, instructors use the Student Administration System (PeopleSoft) (https://student.studentadmin.uconn.edu) . Detailed instructions for this process can be found on the Instructional Resource Center (IRC) (irc.uconn.edu) website.  Your HuskyCT site will be created within 12 hours, and your students will be enrolled automatically.  After that, it is just a matter of logging in to HuskyCT with your NetID and password and getting started with posting files or activating tools.

Each HuskyCT site at UConn is unique. Not all instructors use the same features, and all sites are organized to suit the needs of the class.  This flexibility in design and function is beneficial but also presents challenges; the IRC staff are available to help instructors meet those challenges. They specialize in individualized assistance provided in person, on the phone, by email, or in an online session.   Please don’t hesitate to contact the IRC (irchelp@uconn.edu, 860-486-5052) with questions or to set up an appointment. A little guidance in the beginning can prevent complications in the future.

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Teaching Large Classes, Aug 2014

Teaching a large class can be a blast.  It’s extremely exhilarating.  The high energy level created by the number of students demands a high energy level on the part of the instructor.  It’s like a small class on steroids.  Whatever preparation one does for a small class needs to be exaggerated for a large class in terms of both verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as careful advance planning.  What is key is to get the students engaged, and it will take more energy from the instructor to initiate and maintain that level of engagement throughout the semester.

Become familiar with the classroom.  Set up the classroom efficiently; consider the following:

  • Technology—Try everything out
  • Microphone—Get a key if necessary; bring batteries
  • Whiteboard—Bring erasable markers
  • Lighting—Try different settings

Predetermine policies specific to your large class.  Consider the following:

  • Technology abuse—Don’t threaten if you cannot police, which is hard to do in a large class
  • Academic misconduct, which is more likely to happen in large class
  • Emergencies—Getting students out in an orderly fashion, especially if during an exam

In class, deliberately create the desired environment. 

  • Inform students what they should not do that bothers you (e.g., sleep, talk, eat, pack up belongs before you dismiss class).
  • Inform students how to address you.  It may be best to err on the formal side  (Dr. _____).
  • Walk around and talk with students before class to psychologically “shrink” the large class.
  • Keep in mind that effective large-classroom teaching is similar to acting:
    • Be automated and exaggerate verbal and nonverbal communication
    • Make eye contact with students
    • Speak loudly (or use a microphone), clearly, and slowly
    • Avoid distracting mannerisms
  • Do not stand behind physical objects (table, podium) because they are barriers to effective communication.
  • Acknowledge superior performance (e.g., send congratulatory emails to students who have earned A’s on your exams prior to finals.

Plan lectures carefully.  You may find that you need to lecture often in a large class.  If lectures are done well, students are engaged and are learning; it’s good pedagogy:

  • Do not read from prepared notes or from text on the screen (which is boring and disengaging).
  • Use PowerPoint/Keynote screens that support what you say with multimedia rather than bulleted text.
  • Use a remote mouse so you can move about the room.
  • Invite discussion and questions:  Ask, “What questions do you have?” instead of “Are there any questions?”  The former assumes questions exist and is more likely to encourage students to speak.

Determine the logistics of administering and grading exams. 

  • Prepare clear instructions for your Grading/Course Assistant.  See these Sample Grading Instructions.
  • Prepare clear instructions describing passing out and collecting exams for your Proctors.  See these Sample Proctoring Instructions.
  • Do not copy/paste from the spreadsheet provided by UITS’s Test Score Scanning Services, because if one student fills out identification information incorrectly (e.g., first name first, instead of last name first; wrong section number; etc.) all the scores below that person’s name will be incorrect.
  • Upload grades from the UITS Test Score Scanning Services directly to the HuskyCT Grade Center

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Fighting First-Day Anxiety with a Plan, Aug 2014

Are first-day jitters leaving you feeling anxious and under-prepared?  Have you been waking with a jolt at night after dreaming of being locked out of your classroom, unable to turn on the overhead projector, or incapable of getting your students’ attention?

The first day of class is important on many levels:  It affords you the opportunity to introduce yourself and the course, get a sense of your students, and set the tone for the semester.  It also gives students a chance to try the course out—to get a sense of who you are and what your course will be like.  Carefully plan the first class session, so you are sure to cover everything intended.

Use these guidelines to avoid the kinds of last-minute surprises that can ruin even the best teacher’s confidence.

Before you step into the classroom…

  • Know the rules
  • View your class roster
  • Request a HuskyCT site
  • Order your text books and other course materials
  • Order library reserves
  • Visit your classroom

On the first day…

  • Set a goal
  • Introduce yourself
  • Show an interest in getting to know your students
  • Introduce your course
  • Ask questions
  • Save time for student questions

Contact the Institute for Teaching and Learning for UConn-specific suggestions on how to achieve these goals, as well as for contact information and other helpful details, at itl@uconn.edu.