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Midweek Mentor Blog

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Creating Transparent Assignments

By Dr. Lynn Bartels (Psychology)

February 20, 2019

Do your students express frustration when working on your assignments?  Do they say things like “I didn’t know what you were looking for” or “I had no idea how to even get started?”  If so, then your assignments may be in need of some transparency.  Mary Ann Winklemes of University of Nevada Las Vegas has developed a simple, but effective technique for creating transparent assignments to make them clearer and more mea...

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How to Motivate Students to Come Prepared for Class?

By Dr. Chaya Gopalan

January 21, 2019

The flipped classroom is a teaching method where the first exposure to the subject occurs in an individual learning space and time and the application of content is practiced in an interactive guided group space. Freeing up class time by shifting traditional lecture outside of class allows the instructor more time for student-centered activities and formative assessments which are beneficial to students. The flipped teaching model has been shown to benefit students as it allows self-pacing, enco...

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Creating Highly Effective Educational Videos

By Niki Glick, Jodie Nehrt, and Tori Reany

November 25, 2018

In last week’s Midweek Mentor What are the Secrets to Making Highly Effective Education Videos, we discussed designing and recording more engaging videos with a focus on images and audio rather than bulleted lists and paragraphs of text. The Faculty Center for Learning Development at the University of Hartford created an information guide on 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning that elaborates on best-practices for designing effective presentations. So how do you implement these principles...

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How Do I Establish an Engaging Atmosphere in my Online Classroom?

By Emily K. Keener (Instructional Design & Learning Technologies)

October 22, 2018

Watch for These Online Engagement Crushers

In last week’s MidWeek Mentor session on creating engaging online classrooms, Deidre Price explained how to keep online classrooms warm and welcoming, well-oiled, and worth repeating. Price described what you can do to avoid a sterile online atmosphere that functions more like an informational website than a learning community, and how to transform your online classroom into lively space that students want to revisit again and again. (H...

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How do I design innovative assignments to foster learning in the online classroom?

By Jennifer Albat (Instructional Design & Learning Technologies)

September 18, 2018

Last week’s Midweek Mentor session featured a video called “How do I design innovative assignments to foster learning in the online classroom?” by Dr. B. Jean Mandernach, Executive Direction or the Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching at Grand Canyon University. Not only was this video helpful for online, but for hybrid or face-to-face courses as well. No matter the format of the course, designing holistic learning experiences increases the students’ ability to ...

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Maintaining Academic Rigor in the Classroom

By Gary R. Hicks (Professor, Mass Communications)

September 14, 2018

Maintaining academic rigor in the classroom is an issue that is – or at least should be – on the minds of university instructors from the beginning of their careers to well after their days at the academy are over. Just how likely this is to occur depends on many factors, including whether the instructor received any kind of training in pedagogy in graduate school (highly unlikely), pressures of the tenure track (usually very high, given what is sometimes the inordinate importance at...

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Engaging Videos for Teaching

By Suman Mishra (Associate Professor, Mass Communications)

July 18, 2018

We are living in an era where an enormous amount of high quality videos is being produced and consumed. Most of our “digital native” students are watching videos on a daily basis through social media or other web-based platforms to learn something new or to just entertain themselves.

Videos (short clips, full length feature films, and documentaries) can be a highly effective pedagogical tool when used appropriately. Incorporating videos into lectures and courses can help address nee...

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Engaging Generation C

By Niki Glick (Instructional Design & Learning Technologies)

April 02, 2018

We’ve all heard of the Millennial generation, but have you heard of “Generation C”? Unlike most cohorts, Generation C is not an age-based demographic. It’s actually anyone who is constantly connected. Most likely, this demographic encompasses you, your students, your kids, and some of our parents and grandparents.

Being constantly connected is not necessarily a bad thing. Being connected means we have access to a wealth of information whenever we need it. It also provide...

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Strategies for Online Engagement: A Conversation with Dr. Melissa Thomeczek

By Matt Schmitz

March 22, 2018

Thank you to everyone who attended last week's MidWeek Mentor session "What Three Things Should I Do Each Week to Engage Online Students?" Dr. Melissa Thomeczek, faculty in the School of Education, Health, and Human Behavior's Educational Leadership department, was one of the moderators for the session. Melissa has also taught online at SIUE for many years so I asked her about personal experience engaging with students in the online environment.

Matt Schmitz: During the MidWeek Mentor video, Je...

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Asking Students for Feedback

By Jennifer Albat (Instructional Design & Learning Technologies)

February 22, 2018

How’s It Going? No, that’s not a question for you. Is that a question you ever ask your students? Are they finding assignment instructions to be clear enough? Are the course materials aligned with the exams? Is there anything you can do to improve the course? Other than formal end-of-semester evaluations, do we really take the time to ensure that our students are okay with the design of the course?

Course design is hard work, especially the first time. You may have really good inten...

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Student Preparation for Flipped Classroom

By Dr. Chaya Gopalan

January 30, 2018

Flipped teaching is a hybrid educational format that shifts lectures out of the classroom to transform class time as a time for student-centered active learning. Essentially, typical classwork (the lecture) is now done elsewhere via lecture videos and other study materials, and typical homework (problem solving and practice) is done in class under the guidance of the faculty member. This new teaching strategy has gained enormous attention in recent years as it not only allows active participat...

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How to Get Started with Community Engagement

By Michelle Catalano (Department of Philosophy)

November 27, 2017

  How Do We Do It?
“What was your favorite assignment in college?”
The presenter asked this question to a group of higher education professionals at a session called “Awakening learning through community engagement activities: An easy 6-step method” at the Teaching Professor Conference that I attended this past summer.  All the responses to this question had a common theme: they involved words such as “doing” and “making” and &#8...

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Providing Meaningful Feedback

By Tori Reany (Instructional Design & Learning Technologies)

November 01, 2017

Do you ever feel like your students are not taking your advice?  Do you get frustrated at all the hours you put into grading just to have students seemingly ignore your comments?

Perhaps students are reading your feedback, but they don't know what to do with it.

You can take key steps to make your feedback more meaningful to students and increase the chances that the work you have put into grading will be put to use.

First, we want to make sure that feedback...

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Online Discussions - Interview with Dr. Wrobbel

By Emily Keener (Instructional Design & Learning Technologies)

October 17, 2017

Last week’s Midweek Mentor topic was on effective questioning strategies for online discussions. Dr. Jean Mandernach of the Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching at Grand Canyon University suggested several components that lead to good online discussions: meaningful prompts, effective facilitation, and an organized classroom environment. (If you haven’t watched Jean’s 20-minute mentor video, be sure to check it out in the Mentor Commons!)

For faculty just getting star...

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Adding Interactivity to Your Online Content

By Jennifer Albat and Wayne Nelson (Instructional Design & Learning Technologies)

September 21, 2017

Interactivity is an important aspect of the learning process for online students. There are many ways to assure effective learning interactions, including online discussions, intermittent checks for understanding (e.g., quizzes or polls), and strategies for making video or audio “lectures” interactive. Any effective interaction strategy helps learners encode information from working memory in order to store it in long-term memory. Without such strategies, information will not be read...

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Engaging Students in the Diverse Classroom

By Sonia Zamanou-Erickson (Applied Communication Studies)

August 22, 2017

Student engagement is an important contributor to motivation and learning in the classroom. Students who are engaged are more curious, attentive, interested, and passionate about what they are learning and they ultimately perform better.  Even though some students are consistently engaged and thrive in the college environment, not all students share that experience. How to increase engagement of all students in a diverse classroom remains a challenge for many professors. Two ideas that may ...

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Tips for Making Online Course Material Accessible

By Emily Keener (Instructional Design & Learning Technologies)

April 12, 2017

At last week's faculty development workshop on online course accessibility, we covered several formatting issues with online content that could pose an accessibility issue for students. We also talked about some solutions to these problems (and got a little into the principles of Universal Design for Learning), which are summarized below. We hope you find these useful as you continue to prepare, edit, and revise your course materials. If you have any additional tips for making your online course...

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Reduce Student Apathy and Increase Motivation

By Tori Reany (Instructional Design & Learning Technologies)

March 15, 2017

We've all been there. You are in the front of the class teaching the day's lesson when you look out and see a student sleeping in the back row, someone working on assignments from another course, or a student pretending to pay attention while holding their phone under the desk to text. At this point, you have two options: continue with your lesson as planned or stop to evaluate how you can regain the students' attention. But let's back up a step. How did we get in this situation in the first pla...

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Making Online Groups More Effective

By Emily Keener

November 03, 2016

Group work is messy, especially in the online classroom where project details need to be impeccable and students need to be self-motivated. Yet, each semester, brave SIUE faculty design collaborative projects across a variety of disciplines, including music, engineering, instructional technology, and mathematics. What is it about group projects that makes them worth the effort?

One huge benefit of collaboration is that it gives students an opportunity to hone those essential "soft" skills that ...

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Creating An Inclusive Classroom

By Jessica Harris and Bryan Jack

October 26, 2016

During the 2015-2016 academic year various groups at SIUE took part in conversations around issues of diversity on our campus. At smaller meetings between students and senior level administrators, as well during campus-wide conferences sponsored by the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, members of our community expressed particular concern about ongoing challenges to inclusion in the classroom. Discomfort and fear—students and faculty not having the language or tools to broac...

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Think Small: Explore Microlearning

By Wayne Nelson & Tori Reany

October 05, 2016

In today’s fast-paced world, students are exposed to many competing demands on their time and attention. Even when sitting in classrooms, their concentration wanders. Outside of the classroom, they are inundated with information coming from a variety of sources. In order to combat as well as exploit these characteristics, many people are designing and implementing microlearning approaches to create an alternative learning environment.

Microlearning comes in various forms, but typically in...

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Mindset Matters

By Lynn Bartels

September 23, 2016

What are Fixed vs. Growth Mindsets?

Have you ever been frustrated by a student who told you “I’m just not good at that?”  For example, students may say “I’m not a math person.” This kind of thinking about one’s abilities is called a fixed mindset and it can cripple the learning process (Dweck, 2006).  With a fixed mindset, students believe that performance is determined mainly by innate and unchangeable characteristics.  Students with a f...

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Preventing Cheating

By Matthew Schmitz

September 08, 2016

A question instructional designers are often asked by faculty members is “How can I prevent cheating?” There are a number of long, drawn-out answers but the truth can be found in this simple statement: Reducing opportunities for cheating involves more work – both for faculty members and for their students. However, the increased workload will ideally lead to more rewarding teaching and learning experiences.

There are many reasons why students might cheat, including lack of pre...

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First Day of Class Activities

By Lynn Bartels

August 15, 2016

First Day of Class Activities

There is a lot of pressure to get your class off to a good start on the first day. You may have heard that students’ impressions of you during the first few minutes on the first day are highly correlated with their course evaluations at the end of the semester (Ambady & Rosenthal, 1993).  The three main things I try to accomplish on the first day of class include:  getting to know the students, distributing the syllabus, and creating expectations.


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Online experiential learning: Engaging students through real and virtual activities

By Wayne A. Nelson, Ed. D.

June 02, 2016

Online experiential learning: Engaging students through real and virtual activities

Wayne A. Nelson, Ed. D.
University Fellow for Online Learning and
Coordinator of Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Experiential learning happens when students are engaged in direct experiences and focused reflections within real-world settings and contexts. Also known as learning through action, learning by doing, or learning through discovery, experiential learning can be an important pedagogical tool in...

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Grading Time-Savers

By Lynn Bartels

April 20, 2016

Grading Time-Savers

As we approach the end of the semester, I feel like a grading machine.  I have stacks of research papers, theses, and project reports to grade and I’ll have final exams coming in soon too.  Grading is hard and sometimes mind-numbing work.  Here are a few grading tips to give students the feedback they need without taking up so much of your most scarce resource-time. 


Not everyone is a fan of rubrics, but a good rubric can save you a lot...

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Blog on Assessment: Strategies, Best Practices, and Alternate Forms


March 17, 2016

Let's Talk About Assessment

Assessments are a foundational component of the teaching and learning processes. One of the goals of education is to increase knowledge and assessments allow instructors to gauge the success of learning resources and activities or determine if students require additional assistance. However, although they are an integral part of education, assessments are sometimes viewed in a less than positive light by both students and faculty; students have reported experiencin...

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Communicating with Culturally Diverse Learners

By Mary Konya Weishaar and Phil Weishaar

February 23, 2016

Communicating with Culturally Diverse Learners

Mary Konya Weishaar (Executive Director of International Affairs) and

Phil Weishaar (Associate Professor of Special Education)

International Landscape - SIUE (fall, 2015):

  • 3% of students are international
  • International students come from 51 countries (highest numbers from Nigeria, China, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey)
  • More international students are graduate (267) than undergraduate (150)
  • Most international students study in the School ...

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Disrupting the Discussion Board

By Jonathan Coons

February 10, 2016

Powerful things are often complicated and, in an instructor’s arsenal, the discussion board can be a powerful tool. That doesn’t mean that a discussion board should be difficult to utilize for anyone. However, novel application can increase the quality of learning when learning is being facilitated by technology. As an instructor, disruption may require a bit more time on the drawing board.

Building a Novel Experience

Imagine being in traditional classroom with 20 or more peers....

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Discussion Board Prompts

By Lynn Bartels

January 27, 2016

Discussion Board Prompts


Next week’s Midweek Mentor video is Beyond the Discussion Board:  How Can I Engage Online Students. Discussion boards are frequently used in online or technology-enhanced courses.  Before we discuss alternatives to discussion boards, let’s think about what works in an online discussion.  Here are some ideas for discussion boards prompts. 

1.  Interview Someone in the Field

In this assignment, I ask students to interview s...

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Writing Tips for the New Year

By Sharon James McGee

January 13, 2016

As academics, we often think of the “new year” as the beginning of the academic year, but January is also a good time to start new, productive habits. I find that many faculty, particularly at a teaching-first institution like SIUE, find it difficult to sustain their writing during the semester. After all, having a classroom full of faces staring at you is motivation to prep for class and fielding constant questions about “when will our papers be graded?” encourages us to...

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Rethinking Classroom Lectures

By Wayne Nelson and Jayme Swanke

December 21, 2015

In this time of austerity and uncertainty regarding budgets for higher education, consider this option: remove all podiums and lecterns from classrooms and sell them to offset the budget shortfall. This isn’t just my idea. Chris Buddle made the suggestion earlier this year in a blog post (Buddle, 2015), but I expanded it by suggesting the sale of podiums and lecterns. In fact, my idea doesn’t go as far as one suggested by Joe Redish from the University of Maryland. He says that &#822...

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Blog on Better Assessments Through Blackboard

By Jennifer Albat (IDLT)

October 07, 2015

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and let your students take their quizzes or exams through Blackboard. Congratulations, and welcome to the dark side (cue the wicked laughing). I kid of course. You’re concerned about students sitting side-by-side working together, or even worse – taking pictures with their phone! These are valid concerns, some of which I hope to ease if you agree to keep reading.

There are some simplistic features within the test options that alleviate a...

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Are You Ready for Online?

By Matt Schmitz

September 09, 2015

While online learning continuing to increase and permeate all levels of education, some faculty and students are still reluctant to teach or learn in the medium. Often their concern is based on lack of comfort with various forms of technology but their apprehension frequently stems from an unfamiliarity with pedagogical and behavioral approaches.

Unlike traditional, face-to-face education, online teaching and learning often requires more individualized activity on the part of the faculty and st...

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Helping Students Succeed in Online and Hybrid Courses

By Emily Keener

September 02, 2015

The MidWeek Mentor session for September 2 is about how we can help students succeed in an online course. Take a look at this survey that highlights the benefits and challenges of flipping the classroom, which often means taking some portion of a face-to-face class into the online realm:
What do you think? Can flipping help your students succeed? Respond in the comments b...

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Teaching Unprepared Students

By Bryan Duckham

April 15, 2015

Some students come to SIUE less prepared for the rigors of college and/or are at-risk for significant failure or struggle. For many of these students, high expectations and high support can buttress their weaknesses and help them build skills. While not every student is willing or able to take advantage of support and meet course expectations, it is important to remember that it is never too late for many students to build skills and become successful. 

The following are important consider...

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Top 5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Teaching Online Classes

By Sarah VanSlette

March 25, 2015

Many professors at SIUE are starting to wonder whether online teaching is right for them. I began asking myself that question about 7 years ago, and now I know, after years of creating and revising online courses at 3 different universities, that teaching online courses offers unique challenges and unique benefits. In no particular order, here are the top 5 lessons I’ve learned from teaching online classes:

1. Professors have to work hard to show positive feedback and emotions.


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Student Multitasking in Class—What to do about it?

By Lynn Bartels

March 18, 2015

If any topic is guaranteed to get faculty riled up, it’s the topic of student multitasking in class. During many classes, students are distracted by their phones and/or laptops.  Student multitasking in class is a common occurrence. In a study of Marketing undergraduates, 94% reported receiving texts during a class, and 86% reported sending texts during class, and about a third of students surveyed believed that they could text and follow along with a lecture (Clayson & Haley, 2013). ...

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Free Tools for Education

By Jennifer Albat

February 25, 2015

If you’re into finding the latest and greatest free technology to enhance your students’ learning experiences then you are in the right place. These tools help you flip your classroom, create PowerPoint presentations that are more engaging, and make assessing your students’ knowledge a breeze.  


This app is for receiving instant results on a formative assessment. QR codes are printed on sheets of paper for the students to...

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How to Make Lectures More Participatory

By Cathy Santanello

February 11, 2015

Incorporating a variety of techniques to get students to participate may enhance discussion. Let’s face it - we feel energized after a great lecture/discussion in our classes, right? The following is Twenty Ways to Make a Lecture More Participatory from the Derek Bok Center:

I’d like to comment on some of the things that usually work for me that are addressed in this document. My examples will be from my Microbiology ...

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Innovative Pedagogies for 2015

By Wayne Nelson

January 28, 2015

Is your teaching working the way you want it to?

The landscape of higher education currently features many changes in how and where learning happens. This is occurring for various reasons, including budget pressures as well as student preparation, preferences and goals. Advances in learning technologies also afford new approaches such as hybrid courses (partly online, partly traditional classrooms), social networking tools that support communities of practice, collaborative knowledge-building a...

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Creating Writing Habits for the New Year

By Sharon McGee

January 01, 2015

As academics, we often think of the “new year” as the beginning of the academic year, but January is also a good time to start new, productive habits. I find that many faculty, particularly at a teaching-first institution like SIUE, find it difficult to sustain their writing during the semester. After all, having a classroom full of faces staring at you is motivation to prep for class and fielding constant questions about “when will our papers be graded?” encourages us to...

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Tips to Revive a Class Discussion

By Lynn Bartels

November 12, 2014

Discussion can be an effective teaching strategy. A lively exchange amongst students on the class topic can help students formulate their ideas about the material, learn to share their ideas with others, and respond to others’ ideas. Class discussion can also help you assess how well students understand the material. However, when student participation in the discussion wanes, it can be painful.  If your class discussions are falling flat, here are a few tips to get them going again.


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Turnitin and iThenticate

By Matthew Schmitz

October 29, 2014

Plagiarism is a problem that affects students and faculty. The infographic in this blog (click to enlarge) lists the forms of plagiarism frequently identified in research writing, indicating the commonness and seriousness of each kind. In an effort to prevent academic plagiarism at SIUE, the University has licensed two products, Turnitin and iThenticate, that will ideally help students and faculty avoid those incidents.


As defined on the resource page, “Turnitin is an intellectual prop...

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Can Multiple Choice Tests Measure Higher-level Thinking?

By Lynn Bartels

October 15, 2014

Multiple choice questions are used widely in higher education particularly for large classes where it would be difficult to grade a large number of constructed response tests (e.g., short answer, essays). Despite their widespread use, multiple choice tests are not without their critics.

Testing the Levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy

One of the chief criticisms is that multiple choice questions don’t measure higher-level thinking (Frederiksen, 1984). The cognitive thinking skills of Bloom&#...

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Online Testing: Pros & Cons

By Wayne Nelson

September 30, 2014

Hanging around in the SIUE equivalent of the “teachers’ lounge” over the years (every department has one), I’ve overheard many comments about testing that have included things like:

  • “Well, we have to give tests to make sure our programs have rigor.”
  • “I’m so worried about giving an online test because I know the students will cheat.”
  • “It takes so long for me to grade my essay tests.”
  • “I don’t give objective tests ...

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Too Much Text on Those Slides

By Lynn Bartels

September 16, 2014

The use of PowerPoint or other types of presentation programs is a mainstay of college teaching today. Walk down the halls and look in the classrooms and you will see faculty talking along with a slide show. Last week, we had one of the largest groups registered for the Midweek Mentor session titled “How Can I Improve My PowerPoint Skills?”  Despite their widespread usage, PowerPoint slides are not always an audience favorite. One informal survey called the Latest Annoying Power...

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Introducing the ITS IDLT Center

By Matthew Schmitz

September 03, 2014

Beginning this semester, the format for the MidWeek Mentor series will alter slightly; instead of only offering videos followed by a facilitated conversation, the new format will include blogs, often written as accompaniments to the topics discussed in the MWM videos. The videos and blogs will be alternated each week, with a new installment being offered every Wednesday.

Another new change is that the members of the ITS Instructional Design & Learning Technologies Center will be partnering with...

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