Month: February 2016

Administering Mid-Semester Formative Assessments, Feb. 2016

Do you wonder how your students are responding to your course this semester?

Consider administering a formative assessment to gather mid-semester feedback that you can use to improve your teaching while your course is underway.  Formative assessment can help you recognize when your students are struggling and enable you to address problems in the middle of the semester.

Unlike end-of-semester student evaluations of teaching, mid-semester surveys are optional and completely confidential.  They can be administered in class, on HuskyCT through the Survey tool, or through an emailed Qualtrics survey.  Visit the ITL website’s Mid-Semester Formative Evaluations page to review the survey instruments available on Qualtrics.

You can use these formative assessments privately, or you may decide to share them with your department head, along with the resulting course modifications, and include the same in your teaching portfolio.

Results of these surveys can provide you with valuable opportunities for reflection and course improvement, and studies show that when students know that you intend to use the results to improve your course immediately, their response rates are typically high and carefully thought-out.

Visit Mid-Semester Formative Evaluations or contact the Institute for Teaching and Learning if you would like to learn more about formative assessment, request a Qualtrics survey to be emailed to your class or arrange for a consultation.

Assigning Academic Posters, Feb. 2016

Have you considered assigning academic posters to take the place of other, more typical class projects or research reports?  Interesting and interactive, posters are assessment tools that highlight your students’ learning and encourage students to engage with one another and perhaps their campus or greater community as well. Perhaps you could even submit your students’ posters to the UConn Frontiers Program, the annual poster exhibition of student research, scholarship, and creative projects. Frontiers is a chance for students to share their work with the UConn community and with visitors to campus.

They afford students, or groups of students, who have been working on research projects the opportunity to display and share their findings in a clear, concise and accessible fashion.  Posters offer a combination of text and images (graphs, figures, photographs) that often contain the following:

  • Poster Title
  • Author
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods and Materials
  • Results, Conclusions and Implications
  • Acknowledgments & Works Cited

Because the amount of information that can fit on a poster is limited, students are challenged to condense material down to its most basic parts to create an attractive yet rigorous academic product.

By organizing poster sessions within your classroom, as a whole-school or department event, or in the broader community, you can help your students share their learning with others.  When students display their posters at sessions, discussing their work in detail with all who stop by, they become an active part of their academic community.

Students should consider these basic strategies when they present their posters:

  • Greet interested individuals a very brief but practiced talk
  • Elaborate only when asked (genuinely)
  • Don’t read from your poster
  • Look at the people standing in front of you, NOT at your poster
  • Refer viewers to sections of the poster, particularly figures or lists of results

Let’s face it, assessing work as students present their posters with pride can be much more fulfilling than grading a pile of exams that will be thrown away immediately afterward, and rubrics (like this sample Poster Presentation Rubric) can help make grading a breeze.  Refer to the following links for more details on assigning posters and poster presentations:

If you do not have time for a poster session or funds for the materials, consider moving the assignment and resulting session online as a virtual poster sessions; see Maximize In-Class Time: Move Student Presentations Online … for ideas on how to get started.

Using Blackboard Collaborate to Replace a Canceled Class, Feb. 2016

Winter weather has finally made an appearance, and as the snow mounts, it makes sense to plan for class cancellations.  Blackboard Collaborate™ may be the easiest way to do that.  Collaborate is a simple, convenient, and reliable online collaborative learning solution; it’s an excellent vehicle for conducting a virtual class at the last minute (all HuskyCT courses include this tool).

Collaborate has unique in-session tools that enhance engagement and the face-to-face feel of online classes:

  • Online audio/video and dial-in capabilities
  • Recorded lectures
  • Multi-user interactive whiteboard with annotation tools, including text and drawings
  • Real-time application and document sharing with multiple users
  • Real-time polling, hand raising and chat features
  • Web Tour, which allows moderators to launch and navigate an internet browser on participants’ computers
  • Breakout rooms for real-time group/team work
  • Session recording, which allows students who did not attend the virtual session to experience it later

Create a Session—Scheduling and inviting participants to a live session is quick and easy.

  1. Login to HuskyCT (as Instructor)
  2. Under Course Management, navigate to Course Tools -> Blackboard Collaborate
  3. Click the blue Create Session button
  4. Enter the following minimum attributes:
    • Session Name (any name you prefer)
    • Start/End Time (date and time to start/end the session)
  5. Click Save

Students enrolled in the course will automatically be added to the session as participants.

Invite Students—A link to the session can also be added within the course content by accessing the chevron next to the session title (icon is a downward facing arrow inside a gray circle) and clicking Add Link.  The link can also be copied and pasted into a course announcement, email, etc.

Launch the Session—To launch the scheduled session, simply click on the Session Name, then choose Join Room.  For more details, refer to the Collaborate Launcher Quick Reference Guide.

Visit the Blackboard Collaborate™ website for links to documentation, training videos and other helpful information.


Are you ready to give Collaborate a try?  CETL and UITS are offering two hands-on seminars for instructors who are interested in working with the tool (please bring a laptop):

“Collaborate: End-User Essentials,” Feb. 22nd, 1:30-3:30 p.m., Rowe 331E:  This session offers a hands-on tutorial for first time users.  Participants will learn about and experiment with basic features: Moderator/Participant View, Live Audio/Video Setup, Profiles, Chat, Polling, Whiteboard, Recording, and other high-level tools.  Click Collaborate: End-User Essentials to register.

“Collaborate: Beyond the Basics,” Feb. 24th, 9:00-11:00 a.m., Rowe 331E:  Building on the previous session, this one leads participants through experimenting with more advanced Collaborate tools, including Advanced Whiteboard, Application Sharing, Web Tour, Breakout Rooms, and File Transfer.  Click Collaborate: Beyond the Basics to register.

Seating is limited, so register early!

Taking Advantage of Language Consultations, Feb. 2016

CETL has consultants who specialize in dealing with the unique linguistic and cultural challenges faced by instructors and researchers whose first language is not English or who lived most of their lives outside the USA. Language consultations are currently available on the Storrs campus. Consultants are able to help in a variety of areas including:

  • Evaluating pronunciation and listening
  • Working on all aspects of pronunciation, including individual sounds, stress, and intonation
  • Setting up realistic pronunciation goals and a plan to achieve them
  • Surveying cross-cultural differences that might be affecting classroom effectiveness
  • Investigating students’ evaluations to determine what parcel of neutral or negative feedback might be due to pronunciation or cultural issues
  • Developing classroom practices and attitudes that conform to American undergraduate students’ expectations
  • Observing or videotaping classes for feedback
  • Offering guidance on written materials, classroom resources and presentations

Please email to set up an appointment.

Drop-In Hours with CETL language consultant, Cynthia DeRoma
Would you like to learn more about CETL’s language program and resources? Please drop by our Teaching Innovation Room (ROWE 319) on Mondays from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. and Thursdays from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m..  Questions? Email

Assigning Group or Team Work, Feb. 2016

We all know that teamwork in the classroom can be extremely challenging.  The good news is that proper planning can help you avoid problems and lead your students to an enjoyable, authentic and effective experience.  Whether you are interested in incorporating brief group assignments or more formal, semester-long team projects, use these strategies to get started:

Understand the dynamics involved in group and team work:  Scan the links below to get a sense of how to design group and team projects.  These resources offer guidance on every step of the process, from planning through assessment.  Also note that this week’s 20-Minute Mentor video “How do I assign students to groups?” suggests ways to design groups and establish goals and grading policies.  To access this video, visit Monday Morning Mentor and enter the password groups5.  This video is only available through Sunday, February 7, 2016.

Help your students understand what is expected of them:  One way to avoid the problems described above is to create a case study of a dysfunctional group scenario—one in which many of these types of problems occur—and spend class time responding to questions about the situation.  Ideal questions would point out problems and ask students to brainstorm ways that the group could have avoided or confronted the difficulty before it negatively impacted them.  Then, work together to create a contract specifying appropriate problem-solving strategies for your own class.  Taking the time to recognize the problems that can occur within groups and diffuse them immediately will give your students the tools they need to deal with issues as soon as they arise.

Arrange for teams to meet virtually:  Instructors sometimes avoid team or group work because they sense that their students are simply too busy to meet, but with the various meeting and discussion tools available through HuskyCT and GoogleDocs, virtual discussions can occur any time, any place!  Contact the Instructional Resource Center for details on forming groups and creating group discussions in HuskyCT, and consider registering for CETL’s February 12th lunchtime seminar Developing & Facilitating Engaging Online Discussions.

Don’t give up on team work!  It’s such a common part of the working world that students need all the practice they can get.  See the links below for more information on designing successful team or group work.