Lunch & Learn Highlights: Classroom Management Techniques

By Judith Dutill, Instructional Design Technologist

Classroom management is a part of teaching that challenges new and seasoned educators alike. On Friday October 21, 2016, a group of 20 faculty members gathered for a roundtable discussion on classroom management techniques.

Lunch & Learn on Classroom Management TEchniques

Topics included handling classroom disruptions, handling classroom conflict, and maintaining student engagement. Here are some of the techniques, thoughts, and resources that were shared:

  • Don’t be static, move around the classroom
  • Let students know when behavior is factored into grading
  • Don’t let students dominate the conversation
  • Be prepared to help students understand the value in what they’re learning
  • Be proactive in managing behaviors that can incite conflict
  • Ask students what they’re interested in
  • Design engaging activities
  • Bring current events and other relevant information
  • Offer students choices
  • Share your personal experience with students

Additional Resources:

Central Penn College’s Lunch & Learn program is an opportunity for faculty to spend time together, share their experiences, and learn from one another. Watch your CPC email for future Lunch & Learn opportunities, we’d love to see you there!

In the meantime, join the conversation by sharing in the comments section; what are your favorite classroom management techniques?

Are You a Networked Educator?

By Judith Dutill, Instructional Design Technologist

I recently heard an interview with Dr. Bonnie Stewart and I became interested in her work on networked identity. Her words made me think deeply about the value of my personal and professional networks and the richness they bring to my world and to my teaching. My strength as an educator and the value that I have to offer my students is thanks in large part to my past experiences and the people that I know and learn from every day. It’s my responsibility as an educator to remember and reflect upon past learning experiences, to cultivate and maintain relationships, and to seek new opportunities for continued growth. I do this for myself, because I care about my relationships and I care about my career; I do this for my students because they are depending on me and I do not want to let them down.

If you are looking for ideas on how to be a more networked educator – start here:

Know who your mentor is…mentorship is for all stages of our careers and throughout our careers we may experience many mentors. If you do not currently have a trusted mentor, it’s time to find one. Mentorship begins with a relationship. Identify people who have achieved the success that you’d like to achieve and network with them, build a relationship, and learn.

Be active in your professional organizations…my favorite professional organization is having its annual conference in Philadelphia this year. When I went to register for the event, I learned that my membership had lapsed. How could this happen? Well, I moved last year! I forgot to change my address with the organization and I missed my renewal notice. If you haven’t interacted with or heard from your professional organization lately, check your membership. If you’re not a member, join. Our participation in these organizations keeps us up to date on the latest research and trends in our academic disciplines. Commit yourself to joining and getting involved with at least one professional organization in your discipline this year.

Join the conversation…Twitter is an excellent forum for networking with the most active professionals in your field. If you are unfamiliar with Twitter, start by following your professional organization. Go to their website and find out what hashtags they use, follow their discussion and, when you’re ready, jump into the conversation.

Engage in peer review…a great way to develop as a teacher is to watch other people teach. Network with a colleague in your discipline and ask if they are open to having you visit their classroom or, better yet, invite yourself into a classroom outside of your academic discipline to expand your perspective.

Record your reflections…commit to a system for keeping track of the people you meet and reflecting on the new things you learn (I use Microsoft OneNote). Build a filing system in Outlook for archiving emailed newsletters and information from your professional organizations and subscriptions. Block a little time on your calendar every week to read articles and catch up on professional development activities.

Share your knowledge…respond to your professional organization’s call for papers and presentations to share your scholarship. Invite your peers to learn from your experiences in the classroom – the CTE is always looking for guest presenters and guest bloggers. Let us know if you are interested!

What do you do to be a networked educator? Share with us in the comments section!

Don’t Forget the Grade Center!

By Judith Dutill, Instructional Design Technologist

There are so many things to keep track of at the start of a new term it can be difficult to know where to begin. Recent research shows us that there is one thing that we definitely do not want to overlook: setting up the Blackboard Grade Center! At Central Penn College we use the Grade Center to maintain a record of student grades. Not only do we associate the College’s grading schema with the Grade Center, we also associate assignments, discussion boards, tests, quizzes and other activities with the Grade Center too. This allows us to use the inline grading features within Blackboard to provide detailed feedback and grades to students.

In a recent Campus Technology article I learned of an analysis conducted by Blackboard to determine the biggest LMS predictor of student achievement. From the Campus Technology article, the analysis shows that the “most successful students” are those who access the gradebook function in Blackboard “most frequently” (para 3).

These results are yet another great reason to take the time to make sure that your Grade Center is set up correctly, now. Students rely on having access to an accurate grade record throughout the term, not just to keep track of their progress, but also as a motivator to achieve academic success.

What can you do today? Check your Grade Center and make sure that you…

Throughout the term you should…

  • Let students know when graded feedback on assignments can be expected and follow-through on these promises.
  • Keep Grade Center records up to date throughout the term.
  • Remind students to check their Grade Centers frequently and to ask questions for clarification right away, especially when new grades are posted.
  • Remind students how to read your detailed feedback and what their grades mean (especially when weighted grades are used).

If you need more information about how your Grade Center should be set up, contact your Program Chair or the LMS Administrator ( Have a great term!

Context is Key: Using Films on Demand’s New Intro Video Feature

By Judith Dutill, Instructional Design Technologist

In online teaching, an important part of successfully using video for educational purposes is framing the video in the context of your lesson and learning goals by using annotations. When you embed a video (or any multimedia element) into an Item in Blackboard, you should include annotations that orient your students to the content of the video.

Effective annotations include:

  1. An overview of the video’s subject-matter
  2. Information on how the video aligns with your weekly or course-level learning objectives
  3. Specific information on what students should pay attention to in the video or an overview of what students should take away from the video
  4. A reminder for students to take notes, if necessary
  5. Insight on any related activities or assessments that will be conducted after viewing


Example Annotation
An Example of Embedded Videos with an Annotation in Blackboard


If you’re looking for high-quality video content for your classes, our library subscribes to Films on Demand, a streaming video platform that specializes in educational videos. Our subscription to Films on Demand can be accessed through the Charles “T” Jones Leadership Library’s Online Resources page.

Films on Demand allow users to bookmark videos, build playlists, and generate share links and embed codes to embed videos in Blackboard. Additionally, Films on Demand has a new feature that allows users to create 2-3 minute intro videos for their playlists.

Click this link to see an example of a Films on Demand Playlist with Intro Video.

Users can use intro videos to build continuity and cohesion into their courses, to provide brief instruction to students, and to put videos in the context of a lesson or learning goal. Using an intro video also adds instructor presence because it allows students to hear from (and see) their course instructor as they set the stage for learning.

If you are interested in learning more about this feature, check out the Films on Demand Support Center. Need help recording your first intro video? Contact the Faculty Support Center:

Are you going to give this feature a try? Let us know how it goes in the comments section!

Lunch & Learn Highlights: Strategies for Using Group Work in the Classroom

By Judith Dutill, Instructional Design Technologist

Sometime today, take a few minutes and type “I hate group work” into YouTube. Your search will return about 144,000 results including many videos created by college students lamenting over their hatred for and the injustices of the group work expectations in their undergraduate courses. One student vlogger shared: “When I die, I want every single person I’ve done a group project with to be at my funeral so when they bury me they can let me down one last time.” Talk about having some very strong feelings!

Teachers know that group work plays an important role in today’s classroom. Group work affords students the opportunity to practice the important soft skills they will need in their careers including collaboration, communication, problem solving, leadership, and organization.

On the other hand, from the student perspective, group work can seem like a frustrating and unnecessary burden. Students’ lives are so busy that coordinating collaborative sessions with team members who have equally busy lives can feel impossible. A commonly shared complaint is, “I don’t like group work because I just wind up doing all of the work myself!”

How can we help students see the value of group collaboration while also equipping them with the skills they need to collaborate successfully with their peers? On Friday August 26, 2016 a group of fourteen faculty members gathered for a roundtable discussion to consider this challenge and to discuss strategies for using group work in the online and on-ground classrooms.

Lunch and Learn August 26

Here are some of the strategies suggested by the group:

  • Students do not always know how to function in a group – scaffold group assignments by providing resources that help students understand how to collaborate. Examples of resources you can share with students include:

Infographics: Tips for Online Students: Successfully working in Teams or Pairs

Videos: Thomas Frank’s YouTube video 5 Tips for Dealing with Lazy Group Project Members

Embedded tutorials: Embed the Learn to Work in Groups Module into the Groups in Blackboard

Reading assignments: eLearners – How to Survive Virtual Group Work

  • Teach students about online collaboration tools such as the Blackboard Groups tools and Microsoft 365
  • Have students negotiate their roles and sign group contracts or submit communication plans
  • Allow group members to evaluate and rank one another (make their peer evaluation part of the assignment grade)
  • Do not prolong group assignments
  • Reframe “group work” as “team work” or something with a more positive connotation
  • Give students the choice to opt out and work independently
  • Help students avoid procrastination by requiring timely check-ins, progress reports, or submission of work periodically throughout the term
  • Use classroom assessment tools such as surveys to check in with groups and to evaluate their learning experience
  • Assign students to groups strategically so students can support and learn from each other
  • Clearly articulate expectations to students and spend class time reviewing the assignment and the way the groups will be graded

How do you use group work in the classroom? What strategies do you employ to set students up for success while working in groups? Tell us about it in the comments section!

Additional Resources:

Every person who attended the Lunch and Learn received a copy of the Faculty Focus Special Report: Effective Group Work Strategies for the College Classroom. Use the link to download your free copy!

The Value of Course Level Assessment

By Judith Dutill, Instructional Design Technologist

Todd Zakrajsek, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Executive Director of the Academy of Educators at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Dr. Zakrajsek is also an accomplished author and presenter in the world of faculty development and teaching excellence in higher education; I’ve had the privilege to hear him speak on numerous occasions. During his talks, Dr. Zakrajsek usually shares a video clip called the Five Minute University:

This video is a humorous riff on a lingering question: Why invest so much time into learning if we are destined to forget most of what we learn? I acknowledge that, as educators, we knowingly view this question as illogical. We are privileged to know that higher education is not just about memorizing facts and figures or checking boxes on a degree matrix; it’s about developing the hard and soft skills that will sustain an individual in their career and for the rest of their life. The real question is: How do we ensure that our courses and curricula are equipping students with the skills they need to be successful? The answer: Assessment.

It is a misnomer that assessment is reserved exclusively for the academic department level, academic school level, or institution level. Assessment belongs at every level, especially the course level. I highly-encourage every educator to find a method of course assessment that works for them and to practice it regularly. The results of this practice are higher-quality courses and an improved student learning experience.

My personal assessment practice begins with course planning: (1) I use the approved course learning objectives as the learning goals for developing my course; (2) I determine what constitutes evidence that these learning objectives are being achieved; (3) I create an outline for my course that aligns my course learning objectives with weekly learning goals and objectives; (4) I develop assignments, activities, and instruction to support the process, capture evidence, and assess learning.

Once the course begins, I monitor overall student performance throughout the term and make note of the needed changes or improvements that become evident right away. Next, I make it a point to check in with my students regularly to hear their thoughts on their experience in my course (eventually I pair this information with my student observation results).

When the term wraps up, I add my final reflections and organize my notes (I use Microsoft OneNote* as my notebook) so they are easily accessible the next time I am scheduled to teach the course. I organize my notes into five categories: (1) things that exceeded my expectations; (2) things that met my expectations; (3) things that need improvement; (4) things that need to be eliminated from the course; (5) things that need to be added to the course.

On a final note, if you ever have the opportunity to hear Dr. Zakrajsek speak (he is the Director of the Lilly Conferences on College and University Teaching), take the opportunity. Dr. Zakrajsek is an inspiring speaker and teacher educator.

Microsoft OneNote Logo

*Microsoft OneNote is a notebook in Microsoft Office that allows you to capture notes, drawings, screen clippings, and audio notes. You can organize your notebook into tabs (I tab mine by course). There is a built-in search tool that makes retrieving notes easy.

What do you do to assess your courses? Tell us about it in the comments section!

How much work is enough?

By Judith Dutill, Instructional Design Technologist

At my undergraduate college orientation, the director of academic advisement took a moment to inform my freshman class that college is more than just attending classes. Nobody in the room look overly surprised by this information, that is until they distributed a chart that further informed the group that for a college freshman taking a full-time course load, there would be between 24-36 hours of out-of-class work per week.

As I progressed through my college education, I learned that the 24-36 hour figure presented at orientation was an estimate that varied widely depending on the course subject and level, my pre-existing knowledge, and the professor’s teaching style. Yet, my freshman year was an eye-opening experience that included many late nights in the library spent reading and writing more pages than I had ever previously attempted in my academic career. Sometimes it felt impossible to keep up with my work, and that was without the responsibilities of a full-time job or family, which so many of today’s college students balance in addition to their studies.

Years later, the tables turned, and I found myself in the role of educator. There I was, looking at the very same chart I received my freshman year, wondering how I would find the right workload for my students. It turns out, I am not alone; I am often brought into conversations with colleagues who feel challenged to find the right balance for their students. It seems many of us feel that this challenge is only compounded by technology and the multitude of teaching modalities that blur the line between time spent in-class and work performed outside-of-class.

As you pursue the right workload for your students, my best advice is to seek input from colleagues both inside and outside of your academic discipline, to talk to your students, and to tune into the research and conversations about student workload that are happening across the landscape of higher education.

A handy tool for gauging your current (or future) student workload is Rice University’s Course Workload Estimator. This is an impressive, research-based tool created to estimate how much time a student can reasonably expect to spend on work outside of your class every week based on  planned weekly reading assignments, writing assignments, exams, and other assignments; I highly recommend checking it out.

What do you do to determine the right workload for your students? Tell us about it in the comments section!

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