April 10, 2018
Volume 2, Number 7
Setting Up Class Blogs for Online Courses: Rationale and Tips
One aspect of online teaching that used to bother me was the high incidence of lackluster student posts on the class discussion boards. It seemed to me that the students were completing the posts much more out of obligation than enjoyment or collaboration. Last spring I decided to abandon linear discussion board activities and opted instead for class blogs. Free website platforms, such as Weebly.com, provide a visually appealing space for students to create content and to get a feel for what blogging is like. Since professionals in their chosen field use blogging to share ideas and to engage in professional activism, the format is a good match for them. 

This semester in my section of ENG 392 ( Teaching Writing in the Middle and Elementary Schools) there are six student websites, each with three or four student members.  The small groups allow them to get to know each other and to share similar teaching interests. On their respective sites, they blog in response to the course readings and create a virtual classroom with sample K-8 writing assignments for their classmates to try and critique. 

I score each blog post with a three-point rubric, so that I can hold the students accountable for writing thoughtful and detailed responses to the readings. When they see their scores each week, they can refer to the short rubric, which defines each possible score with specific criteria. I also respond directly on their blogs, entering the conversations they initiate with their posts. With this response system, I spend less time on grading and more time on interacting with my students about key content.

– Alison Hruby, Teaching Ambassador, Caudill College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Interested in Adding an International Experience to Your Classes?
The Education Abroad office is seeking to grow MSU courses with international experiences! With trips included as part of a course, faculty can teach a current course, or modify, or team-teach a class on their topic. The course includes an international experience, often during spring break, May semester, or winter session. Since the trip is part of a course, this allows students to apply for financial aid to cover the cost. These trips offer faculty the ability to combine classroom and experiential learning and allow students who might not have the ability to participate in longer semester and summer programs abroad the chance to experience the world. 

Interested in learning more? Sign up for the Workshop “Overview of a course based international experience” on Wednesday, April 18th, in Rader 223A at 2:30 
Conference Call - Pedagogicon
Deadline to Register: May 11, 2018
Conference Date: May 18, 2018

This regional conference is sponsored by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. It is held annually at the Richmond campus of Eastern Kentucky University. This year's conference theme is Student-Centered Teaching and Learning. Proposals for group and/or individual presentations are due by February 1 st . For more information, please see their website: http://studio.eku.edu/2018-pedagogicon.
Kentucky Convergence Conference
Save-The-Date: October 17-19, 2018

The 2018 Kentucky Convergence Conference will be held October 17-19 at the University of Louisville Shelby Campus. The call for proposals will be issued in spring 2018. This year’s theme is “The Next Reality: Doing it Farther, Faster, and Better.”

Convergence is the single event that brings together professionals in information technology, academic libraries, online learning, and instructional design from all the public and private colleges and universities in Kentucky and the surrounding states. Sponsored by Kentucky post-secondary institutions and private sector partners, Kentucky Convergence is a conference that emphasizes innovations and best practices in the fastest-growing areas of higher education. For more info: http://kyconvergence.org
Blackboard Buzz
Using the Blackboard Calendar
Did you know that Blackboard has a calendar feature? Blackboard automatically places items on specific course calendars whenever a due date is included with an assignment or exam. This can be a useful tool to help students stay on track, meet deadlines and
succeed in class.

Blackboard Calendar is easy-to-use for both faculty and students. See this YouTube video for details.

Email msuonline@moreheadstate.edu for additional information and on-campus support.
Consortium Article
Managing Difficult Moments
Strategies for managing difficult moments/topics in class and how we can use the time as an opportunity to advance student learning.

  1. Give students some time to gather their thoughts: allow them to write individually about the perspective or topic. You might ask them to connect it to course materials or concepts. You could ask them to consider, “Why is this topic so difficult to discuss?” or “What do you feel like you can’t say aloud right now?” You might use this writing to help you plan for returning to a topic productively the next class.
  2. Where appropriate, seek to clarify student comments that have sparked tension. Often students say the wrong thing when they are genuinely struggling to understand a new perspective or feel the discomfort of having their views challenged. If you think a comment is coming from such a place of struggle, you might give the student a chance to explain the questions or confusions behind their remark (What do you mean by X? OR I heard you saying Y; is that what you meant to say?).
  3. Try to depersonalize insensitive or marginalizing statements. You can model for students how to acknowledge a comment’s potential devaluing of other perspectives in ways that critique the statement and not the speaker. For example, you might speak of the effect of their comment without attributing motive to the speaker (When I hear these words, I respond like this…). You can also depersonalize by acknowledging that it is a widely-held view (Many people share this perspective. What might their reasons be? And why might others disagree or object to this position?).
  4. Provide a basis for common understanding by establishing facts and questions about the topics raised in the tense moment. You can share key information yourself or invite students to do so. You might write categories on the board (what we know, what is disputed, what we want to know more about) and elicit items for each category, either individually or from the whole class. Such a conversation can also be a time to distinguish different sorts of statements-- facts, evaluative comments, personal opinions, assertions, evidence and acknowledge how difficult it can sometimes be to make such distinctions, especially when emotions are running high.
  5. When appropriate, validate student contributions. You might say, “Thank you for raising that perspective. You provide us an opportunity to talk about it and why we’re challenging such a perspective in this class.” Or “You’re clearly thinking very seriously about this topic and raising important questions we need to think carefully about.”
  6. Find a way to connect student comments to course learning goals or skills focus. Does the course focus on writing skills? The moment could be an opportunity to discuss the critical importance of the words we choose or assumptions we make. Does your course focus on the use of evidence to test hypotheses? Perhaps this is a moment to think together about evidence in a different context. 

Submitted by:
Ashley Montgomery, PhD
Director of the Teaching and Learning Collaborative
University of Maine at Farmington
Ambassadors for Excellence in Teaching
Morehead State University