Neat tools we heard about at CHEP

Last week, Julie and Brandon attended the 12th Annual Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy (CHEP), hosted by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Virginia Tech. The conference showcases the best pedagogical practice and research in higher education. Sessions address disciplinary and interdisciplinary instructional strategies, outcomes, and research.

The following are just a few handy resources they came across …

Simple, and low-tech way to get quick feedback or check understanding without the need to have students use devices or even paper and pencil. Each student is assigned a unique Plickers card with a black and white image similar to a QR code. The letters A, B, C, and D are written in small print around the edge of the image, with one letter on each side of the card. Instructors display a multiple-choice or true-false question and students rotate and hold up their Plickers to indicate their answer. Using the Plickers app on a mobile device, all Plicker cards are scanned so you can instantly see student responses and assessment data. FREE!

A video discussion platform that gives all students a voice with the creation of videos around prompts or discussion questions and uploading of those videos for sharing and feedback. Instructors create a “grid” — an online meeting place — that includes a question or prompt. Students record short response using their smartphone, tablet, or computer to share with others. FREE!

Interested in getting your novel, memoir, poetry collection, or other project in eBook and print-ready formats? Or what publishing student work or group projects? Pressbooks is an online book publishing platform that allows users to create professional-quality eTexts, which can be viewed through a web browser, downloaded as a print-ready PDF, or exported as another digital-ready format (such as EPUB). Pressbooks also offers the ability to work with collaborators such as editors, co-authors, and publishers. FREE!

Quizzing yourself is a highly effective study technique. Known for its digital version of traditional paper flashcards, Quizlet adds to the studying and knowledge-retention process through its interactive learning activities. Students can create their own study sets or use study sets created by others, including their peers, to test their knowledge. FREE!

A super minimalist and easy-to-use note-taking app you can use on your computer or smartphone that simplifies the process of sharing ideas across multiple devices. FREE!

  • If you rely heavily on Gmail, Google Drive, or Google Docs, you can easily share items in Keep between platforms, from inside the Keep app or through a Google program that supports Keep.
  • Items in your Keep app can be shared directly with other users without having to go through the typical share menu you may see in other programs. Select a note or image you wish to share and choose the person icon. You will then be able to add a user’s email address or their name from your contacts.
  • With the Google Keep app, you can dictate a note into your device, and the recording will be transcribed into a searchable, editable note.

Interested in trying out any of these tools? Have questions about how you might make use of them? Let us know what you think! We are here to help.

Round 2 of Migration of Sakai Course Content to Canvas begins TODAY!

Beginning now and continuing through Feb 17, 2020, you may request to have up to 10 course or project sites migrated from Sakai into Canvas

Visit to request up to 10 course or project sites migrated from Sakai into Canvas.

After migration, you must check your courses to ensure that they are set up properly.  While the migration pathway from Sakai to Canvas is robust for Resources, Assignments, Forums, Tests & Quizzes, and Lessons, there are a number of items and settings that will not migrate over and will require positive action on your part in Canvas to correct or address.  

You are also welcome to migrate your own course content from Sakai into Canvas at any time.  The first step is creating a sandbox course in Canvas to host your migrated content.  After that, you may follow these detailed migration instructions.  

As always, Academic Technologies staff will also be available at any time for one-on-one faculty training, migration requests, and support sessions.  Please contact Brandon or Helen directly ( or x8651; or x4561) or via to ask any Canvas questions or to request personal training.

Lastly, if you are totally unfamiliar with Canvas and need to get up to speed, mark your calendar for Canvas Academy, a special edition of Spring Academy focused entirely on Canvas, April 13-16, 2020. Get ready to say goodbye to Sakai and prepared to design and deliver your course in Canvas. All sessions meet in Parmly 302, but feel free to bring your laptop. 

Upcoming Pedagogical Conversations!

All of the following events are co-sponsored by the Center for Academic Resources and Pedagogical Excellence (CARPE) and yours truly (Academic Technologies).

Winter Term


OBSERVATION CIRCLES: Developing Our Teaching through Constructive Observation Practices

Curious about how other faculty create dynamic lectures, facilitate effective discussions, or enact powerful active learning? Or trying something new yourself, and looking for thoughtful, confidential feedback?

Observation circles are very simple: faculty are put into teams of three, coordinating a series of visits to each other’s classroom. The goal is to provide each other with confidential, formative feedback on how we can make our classes and our teaching more effective. Previous participants have found Observation Circles to be a stress-free way to improve their work and to deepen collegiality.

Interested? E-mail, subject line “Observation Circles.” Be sure to include your department and your schedule for winter term.

Winter Term

Dates: TBD

Location: TBD


“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”—Angela Y. Davis

As educators, we need to ask: what it does it mean to be truly inclusive and where does one start? Anti-racism is continuous work, requiring active seeking and questioning of society and of ourselves, at times leading us to places of discomfort and frustration. However, through that engagement, productive conversation and curricular changes occur that truly promote a more inclusive environment. In this group, we will read and discuss works that engage with anti-racism and connect those messages and methodologies to pedagogy, thereby modeling ways to integrate anti-racism into the classroom and our daily lives. Readings will be manageable lengths (15-20 pages— however the content may take time to digest.

Interested? E-mail Dr. Adrienne Merritt at

Winter Term



  • 1/14/20
  • 2/4/20
  • 2/18/20
  • 3/10/20
  • 3/31/20

4:30-6:00 PM

Ruscio Center for Global Learning 123


What is SMALL TEACHING: EVERYDAY LESSONS FROM THE SCIENCE OF LEARNING? It’s a book by James Lang, a leading voice in the scholarship of teaching and learning, using the best science on classroom techniques to argue that we don’t have to make huge changes in our classes to deepen student learning.

What is the “Small Teaching Seminar”? It’s CARPE’s inaugural dinner/book club, a series of five linked sessions built around a tasty dinner and Lang’s book, designed to allow any professor in any discipline to strengthen long-term learning. Everyone who signs up for the seminar will receive a copy of Lang’s book.

Though we recognize that not all enrollees will be able to attend every session, attendees are encouraged to make space for as many of the dinners as possible, recognizing the power of collaboration and community to strengthen both our learning and our practice. 

Interested? Sign up at

26 February

8:30 AM –
4:00 PM

Ruscio Center for Global Learning 114

POGIL TRAINING SEMINAR—Strengthening Student Learning through a Proven Classroom Approach

POGIL is an acronym for Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning. Because POGIL is a student-centered instructional approach, in a typical POGIL classroom or laboratory students work in small teams with the instructor acting as a facilitator. The student teams use specially designed activities that generally follow a learning cycle paradigm. Developed in Chemistry before expanding to fields throughout the disciplines, the POGIL approach has two broad aims: to develop content mastery through student construction of their own understanding, and to develop and improve important learning skills such as information processing, communication, critical thinking, problem solving and metacognition and assessment. 

Interested in learning more? Faculty from all disciplines are invited to attend this comprehensive, full-day workshop over winter break led by experienced POGIL facilitator and Professor of Chemistry Gail Webster of Guilford College.

Sign up at

17 March

4:30-5:30 PM 

Northen Auditorium

James G. Leyburn Library


As faculty struggle with the problem of distracted students on our campuses and in our classes, they have become increasingly frustrated by the ways in which digital devices can interfere with student learning. But are students today more distracted than they were in the past? Has technology reduced their ability to focus and think deeply, as some popular books have argued? Drawing upon scholarship from history, neuroscience, and education, this lecture explores productive new pathways for faculty to understand the distractible nature of the human brain, work with students to moderate the effects of distraction in their learning, and even leverage the distractible nature of our minds for new forms of connected and creative thinking.

James M. Lang is a Professor of English and the Director of the D’Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College in Worcester, MA.  He is the author of five books, the most recent of which is Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (Jossey-Bass, 2016). Lang writes a monthly column on teaching and learning for The Chronicle of Higher Education and has conducted workshops on teaching for faculty at more than a hundred colleges and universities in the US and abroad.

Interested? Sign up at

18 March

8:00-9:30 AM or 12:00-
1:30 PM

Science Addition 202A (8:00 AM) or Hillel House
(12:00 PM)



Research from the learning sciences and from a variety of educational settings suggests that a small number of key principles can improve learning in almost any type of college or university course, from traditional lectures to flipped classrooms.  This workshop—offered at two different times and locations—will introduce some of those principles, offer practical suggestions for how they might foster positive change in higher education teaching and learning, and guide faculty participants to consider how these principles might manifest themselves in their current and upcoming courses.

James M. Lang is a Professor of English and the Director of the D’Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College in Worcester, MA.  He is the author of five books, the most recent of which is Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (Jossey-Bass, 2016). Lang writes a monthly column on teaching and learning for The Chronicle of Higher Education and has conducted workshops on teaching for faculty at more than a hundred colleges and universities in the US and abroad.

Interested? Sign up at

 Late arrivals and early departures welcome.

Questions? E-mail Dr. Paul Hanstedt at

Save the Dates!

Top-to-Bottom Course Design Workshop
June 10-12, 2019

Got a new course you’re creating? Or an old course that needs to be refreshed? This workshop is an opportunity to get a jump-start on that process, and to learn from and share ideas with colleagues. Stay tuned for more details!

New Year, New Look to Digication!

On January 1, 2020, Digication is changing its look! The  look is different—a bit more jazzy—but all of your content is still there! 

While the core-functionality will remain the same, this update gives the following areas of the platform a look and feel that matches New Digication ePortfolios:

  • The Dashboard
  • Featured ePortfolios and ePortfolio Directory
  • User Profile and User Directory
  • The Login Screen
  • Course Set-Up

Questions? Want a preview? Contact Julie Knudson ( or Helen MacDermott ( in Academic Technologies.

Meanwhile, continue reading below if you want to know what will look different!

Navigation Menu

The navigation menu is located on the left side of the page and includes the following options:

  1. Home
  2. People
  3. Courses
  4. ePortfolios
  5. Subscriptions 
  6. Administration
  7. Administration Beta
  8. Reports
  9. Help
  10. Logout


My ePortfolios

At the top of your dashboard, you will find the My ePortfolios section, displaying the six most recently updated ePortfolios to which you have access.  Click the filter button (1) to change which ePortfolios you see in the list. To create a new ePortfolio, click the blue Create button (2).  The Show more button (3) will reveal an additional fifteen ePortfolios.


Hovering over the User icon (4) will display the name of the ePortfolio owner and those with admin access to the ePortfolio.


Courses/Communities/Assessment Groups

Below My ePortfolios, you will find your Courses, Assessment Groups, and Communities.  You can filter by type by using the toggles at the top of the window (1).  Six Courses, etc., will be displayed by default; however, if you have access to more than six, they can be accessed by clicking the Show more button (2). To create a new Course, Assessment Group or Community, click the blue Create button (3).  Further information regarding course creation can be found in the following article: Creating a Course


The dropdown menu (4) will allow you to choose between displaying Current, Archived, and Future Courses, Communities, and Assessment Groups.  These categories are determined by the dates that the Course, Community, or Assessment Group is available, as defined in the Course settings.


Hovering over the User icons in the Course thumbnail (5) will display the names of the Course faculty.


How do I make an online tutorial in PowerPoint accessible?

Happy Monday! ITS Academic Technologies recently received an email from a student in search of help with PowerPoint:

“HELP! I am tasked with creating an online tutorial to help train individuals. I created a PowerPoint presentation, but was told this is not the preferred method, as it is not fully accessible. What should I do now?”

Wondering why web accessibility is important? “When ignoring web accessibility you’re potentially alienating one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, who experience some form of disability, whether auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical or visual.” (source)

Here’s the advice we shared:

“There are a couple of things you can do. It’s good practice to provide more than one format.

  1. Keep the PowerPoint format because it’s more engaging and memorable for the majority of people, but you can take steps to make it accessible with Microsoft built-in tools.
  2.  Save the PowerPoint as a PDF.  Open the PDF file in Adobe Acrobat and  follow the steps listed at JAN’s “Converting a PowerPoint file to PDF” to ensure it’s accessible
  3. You can also save the PowerPoint as a rich text file, open it in Word, format it, and save it as a .docx file.
  4. For the ultimate in accessibility, you could narrate the PowerPoint and save it as an MP4 file. This would provide an additional avenue for people with limited vision to interact with the content.”

Digication will NOT be available on Friday, Nov 22nd from 3-6 am EST!

Heads up! 

Digication will be performing important system maintenance on Friday, November 22nd from 3:00AM to 6:00AM Eastern Time.

During this time, the system will not be available and users will be unable to log in to their Digication accounts. Those logged in to the Digication system when the maintenance window begins will be logged out.

We appreciate your patience during this brief interruption!

Another (good) angle to the lecture/active learning debate by the author of the Chronicle of Higher Ed’s “Pedagogy Unbound” column

David Gooblar is Associate Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Temple University and the author of The Missing Course: Everything They Never Taught You About College Teaching. Since 2013, he’s written a regular column on college teaching for The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Gooblar posits that to grow and improve one’s teaching means adopting the right mindset vs. finding the “right” set of instructional strategies. In “Do Students Really Learn Nothing From a Lecture?“, Gooblar writes,

“A lecture delivered to students you see as fixed quantities — you think some are smart enough to handle the material while others aren’t and never will be — is going to take a certain shape. A lecture designed with the understanding that students can improve with the right combination of practice and feedback will probably look a lot different …

You are more likely to give an effective lecture if you are thinking about how students learn as you prepare it. If you compose and deliver a lecture thinking that you can just pour knowledge into students’ heads, you’re not going to succeed nearly as well. And that’s not because you “lectured.” It’s because you were working off of faulty pedagogical assumptions (and/or couldn’t be bothered to teach more effectively).

Learning works through active engagement by the learner. Only students can do the work of learning; all the instructor can do is try to create the conditions within which students are more likely to do that work.”

Read the entire article at

6 engagement strategies for creating temperament-inclusive classrooms

How to Care for Extroverts, from The Introvert’s Dilemma blogIn every classroom, students offer a mix of temperaments: extroverts, introverts, and ambiverts. Some crave sensory stimulation and are quick to speak up, while others are highly sensitive to noise or visual distractions and prefer conversing one-on-one in a quiet, calm environment. 

In “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, New York Times bestseller author Susan Cain outlines a value system of the “extrovert ideal,” in which individuals that work well in teams, socialize in groups, and prefer action to contemplation are the ideal student.

Embracing the extrovert ideal is a grave mistake, says Cain. Many of the world’s best ideas are fostered by introverts, who fuel their learning with observation and engaging in deliberate practice alone. 

Poll Everywhere recently suggested 6 classroom strategies to reach introverted students:

  • Institute “Think Time”
  • Write Down Responses First
  • Pairs, Small Groups, Singles
  • Offer Different Paths to Complete an Assignment
  • Be Available
  • Perform Anonymous Polling

How to Care for Introverts, from The Introvert’s Dilemma blogIt’s definitely worth a read!

Need a Poll Everywhere account?

No problem! Contact the ITS Information Desk at, call 540-458-4357 (HELP), or stop by the Main Level of Leyburn Library!

Why You Should Always Keep Your Browser Up To Date!

firefox, chrome, opera, safari, IE logos -- for the best experience, keep your browser up to date!

*** We recommend having both Firefox AND Chrome! ***

I know, I know, ensuring that you have the latest version of a web browser is about as exciting as watching paint dry and as important of a task as ironing underwear, BUT updates will make a considerable impact upon your browser experience. How?

Most importantly, outdated versions of web browsers make you vulnerable to serious security flaws that can allow malicious websites to potentially read your files, steal passwords, and infect your computer with viruses, trojans, spyware, adware, or other sorts of malware.  Many browser updates are issued to specifically to combat these critical problems.

Not updating your browser regularly can also lead to technical difficulties or odd behavior with web-based tools like Canvas, Digication, and more.

Every newer generation of a browser improves the speed at which you can explore and use the Internet: web sites can load faster, making the tasks you carry out on those web sites quicker, too.

Another reason to keep your browser up-to-date is to have the best browsing experience otherwise. Web sites built using new technology for their display and features will look as they should and work better.

So, please, please, please, take the time to update your web browsers. If you need assistance, you can always call the ITS Information Desk at 540.458.4357 (HELP), email, or stop by Leyburn Library!

NOTE: While making your browser more secure helps reduce the risk that a hacker will use it to compromise your computer, it is still important to employ safe computing practices!