CILT Teaching Tips

Dear Colleagues,

From the Chronicle of Higher Education is a 3-minute video – – entitled “Three Minutes Before Class.”

Take a few minutes to watch this video and glean some excellent ideas for improving your teaching.

Questions or comments?

Jim O’Connor Ph.D.

Canvas Tech Tip of the Week! Peer Review

Canvas has a Peer Review tool that is great for individual assignments such as a written paper where you would like other students to critique the assignment. You can also use the Peer Review for group assignments by clicking on the box “Allow intra-group peer reviews”. Peer reviews can be manually assigned or automatically assigned by Canvas. I would recommend the second option. The peer review option can be found under any Assignment’s properties when in Edit mode.

Debbie Millican

An Interesting Use of Canvas – TP Msg. #1672 Making Online Ed Personal

The Tomorrow’s Professor eNewsletter is a weekly faculty development e-mail provided by the Office of the Vice Provost of Teaching and Learning at Stanford University.  It covers issues ranging from assessment to instructional design to various pedagogical topics to issues of research.

In this issue, Carolyn Gentle-Genitty – an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at Indiana University – discusses how she uses Canvas to make her online course material and interactions with students more personal in an effort to increase her social presence in the online course and make students feel less isolated (if you’d really like to dig into social presence theory I would recommend this book chapter).  Many of the strategies that she touches upon can also be incorporated into the online resources and interactions that we have with students in our face-to-face classes.

I have copied and pasted the complete eNewsletter below, but you can also view this edition of the eNewsletter online by clicking here.

To subscribe to the eNewsletter, click here.

Michael Barbour

“I want them to understand that a three-credit course may translate into more than nine hours of work per week. If they know exactly when, on what weekday, we discuss their papers, they can become very efficient at structuring their own time. Structure is liberating.”


Making Online Ed Personal


The posting below looks at ways to use the popular Canvas Learning Management System to make online learning more personal.  It is by Carolyn Gentle-Genitty, PhD, associate professor in the School of Social Work and assistant vice president for University Academic Policy, director University Transfer Office at Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN. Her blogs can be found at: Copyright © 2018 The Trustees of Indiana University. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Rick Reis

UP NEXT: Every Semester Needs a Plan

Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning

———- 712 words ———-

Making Online Ed Personal

IU Online Newsletter, August 30, 2018

“Social work is all about connecting with people,” says School of Social Work Professor Dr. Carolyn Gentle-Genitty. “The same is true of effective online teaching.” Named IUPUI’s [Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis] first Faculty Fellow in Online Education in 2016, Gentle-Genitty has a passion for blending the best of face-to-face and online teaching in “unique and breathtaking ways.”

Gentle-Genitty wants her students to experience the full depth and enjoyment of online learning. To that end, she builds a framework inside Canvas that helps students understand the logistics and culture of the online setting. She anticipates the questions that students (especially those new to online learning) might have and explains logistical issues like how to navigate a course site, how to interact with other students, how and when to interact with her, and what it means to “be present” in a course.

Since students who choose online learning often have multiple other commitments, Gentle-Genitty makes very clear how much time students can expect to invest preparing for class, listening to lectures, doing homework, and taking part in chat rooms. “Very specific information gives students a realistic picture of the commitment they’re making,” says Gentle-Genitty. “I want them to understand that a three-credit course may translate into more than nine hours of work per week. If they know exactly when, on what weekday, we discuss their papers, they can become very efficient at structuring their own time. Structure is liberating.”

Her course framework enables students to be organized and connected. It comprises a teaching presence, a cognitive space where students interact with content, and a social presence—online discussion forums and chat rooms—where she and her students interact, build personal connections, form teams, and work in small groups. Students see the course syllabus, learning objectives, reading materials, announcements, videos, and hyperlinked modules. Each module spells out learning expectations and outcomes.

Gentle-Genitty makes Canvas her ally in effective online teaching. She explains, “It can be more effective to teach online because of the data and analytics in Canvas. You can measure student comprehension. Canvas can create grids and pie charts that provide more detailed, personal, and multidimensional insights into student performance than traditional teaching allows. You can measure other, more subtle kinds of competencies, like diversity. I spell out what I mean by diversity, assign it a rubric, and it automatically loads when I’m grading an assignment. I can observe student activity—what course materials they used, how often, and how much time they spent. I combine this with performance data to learn where I may need to adjust the way I deliver content to aid comprehension. If a student who is doing well looked at a certain file 25 times in a given week, that could signal I need to clarify something.”

Some students hesitate to take online courses because they assume support will be scant, their questions won’t receive timely answers, and they’ll miss having a community of students to talk to. As a proponent of Quality Matters, Gentle-Genitty believes in the power of “regular and substantive interaction” with her online students. Along with regular online discussions and chat rooms, Gentle-Genitty uses Canvas data on student performance and comprehension as springboards for individual email connections with students. She may recognize the depth of someone’s insight, highlight another’s strengths, or offer help in an area that someone finds challenging. Gentle-Genitty finds that students love earning badges and are motivated by being singled out. So she links certain learning outcomes to badges. One student earns a “Critical Thinking” badge. Another earns the “Ready to Teach” badge and is paired with a student who needs a hand. All this builds connections and community.

Effective online learning also involves human behavior and civil discourse. Those steeped in today’s 280-character, rapid-fire tweet culture sometimes need refreshers on the etiquette of email. Gentle-Genitty prepares her students to be responsible online citizens, including using salutations and closings, avoiding boldface and caps, and writing clear subject lines. These are life lessons that facilitate communication beyond the classroom.

The preparation that goes into teaching online pays off. Students find Gentle-Genitty’s practice and enthusiasm infectious. An initially hesitant online learner commented, “I have never been engaged in a course—face-to-face or online—where I felt so connected. I learned a lot. I earned ‘Student of the Week.’”

To read more about Gentle-Genitty’s practice, check out her blogs and her “12 Tips for Teaching Online.”

A Technique For Increasing Deeper Learning And Higher Order Thinking: “Today I Learned”

Dear Colleagues,

“The research on how people learn continues to show the value in helping students make meaning and learn through reflection. The process of reflection helps students take a step back to carefully consider that they learned, absorb the information, and process what it means to them. Fortunately, fostering reflection in the classroom can be relatively quick and easy.” In the post below from The Higher Ed Professor, a simple, but powerful reflection activity, “Today I Learned” is described.

Questions or comments?

Jim O’Connor Ph.D.

Creating A Syllabus

Dear Colleagues,

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an excellent guide to creating effective course syllabi.

As you transition to Canvas, take the time to upgrade your syllabus using some of these ideas.

Let us know how we can assist you.

Comments? Questions?

Jim O’Connor

Additional Canvas Training

I wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of the fact that the TCUS Canvas Team have added more Canvas training session to their Canvas training calendar.  To see the training topics and when these sessions are offered, go to the main Touro Canvas website at and click on the TRAINING CALENDAR button (the direct link is:  Some of the topics that have been listed include:
  • General Canvas Training Sessions
  • Canvas Course Usability Testing
  • Canvas Rubrics
  • Turn-it-in plagiarism checker
Additional sessions will be added.  Remember that all sessions are offered via Zoom.
Previous topics have included:
  • Discussion Forums
  • Assignments and the Gradebook
  • Quizzes, and Question Banks
  • Canvas Outcomes
  • Student Group Assignments
  • Peer Review Assignments
Finally, a reminder that the transition website for the Western Division and TUC is available at  This site contains a variety of items, including how to videos and hand-outs for both faculty and students.  We are adding to these faculty and student resources every few days.
As always, if you have any questions please let Jim or myself know.
Michael K. Barbour

Canvas Tech Tip of the Week! Finding Dead Links

Dead links can be a nuisance to end users of your course. To avoid this, you should validate your links about once a week.

1.       Open your course, go down to Settings on the Course Menu.

2.       On the right-hand side, you will see a button

3.       Once you open this page, click on Start Link Validation

4.       You will be returned a list of any broken links within the content of your course. Go to the page indicated and correct the broken link.

5.       Run the Link Validator again. Continue this process until you get the message below.

Debbie Millican

Classroom Discussions

Dear Colleagues,

It is heartening to know that many of you are integrating classroom discussions into your course in order to enhance more active student learning.

The Yale Center for Teaching and Learning’s website is an excellent resource for those of you who want to use more classroom discussions.

Some basic recommendations from this website include:

  • Prepare a structure – Because class discussion can be less controlled, instructors should have clear expectations for themselves and for students about topics to cover. Instructors might develop several key big-picture questions to ask at the beginning of class and have groups answer by the end of class. Part of a solid discussion structure also includes explicit details defining participation and grading.
  • Regulate the discussion – Instructors should feel free to insert themselves into conversation in order to keep conversation on track. Students especially appreciate this tactic when a few students monopolize conversation. After ensuring that groups are functioning well, instructors can invite especially talkative students to continue conversation after class or in office hours.
  • Address inequity in participation – Instructors should be aware when students of particular gender, race, class, or abilities are systematically marginalized in class. Instructors can refer to inclusive class climate for strategies to ensure that all students are enable to participate. To this end, instructors can set ground rules for discussion in the syllabus, or invite students to help formulate class rules.
  • Give quieter students time to answer questions – Instructors can consider strategies for ensuring that students have time to formulate answers, and that quieter students have alternative opportunities to enter discussion. In class, instructors can allocate a few minutes for students to think about their answers to a question, and then have them discuss with a partner (see think-pair-share above). Additionally, instructors can email out a worksheet with key ideas which students should be prepared to define or explain in class, or a list of conceptual terms and ideas for students to chew on before and after class.
  • Model active listening – The behavior of an instructor plays a huge role in the tone of a class. Instructors should regularly show appreciation for student comments, substantively responding to them by fleshing out good ideas and pushing back on flawed arguments. Additionally, instructors can encourage students to build on each other’s ideas.

There are excellent links on Yale’s website including:, which is Carnegie Mellon’s Eberly Center Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation.

This website has a particularly good overview of the types of questions to ask during discussions.

If we can assist you with implementing discussions in your class, please feel free to contact me to meet with you by appointment.

Questions or comments?

Jim O’Connor

Canvas Tech Tip of the Week! Using iCal Feed

Would you like to add your Canvas calendar events to a calendar in another web email application such as Google or Outlook? Go to your Calendars in Canvas (found on your global menu) and select the calendar you would like to feed into another application. (see below)

Once the calendar is selected, click on Calendar Feed.

Select and Copy the URL.

Open your Google Calendar. You can do the same with your web-based Outlook. Click on Add a Friend’s Calendar. Select from URL.

Paste the URL as shown below. Do not select the box to make the calendar public.

Click on Add Calendar. You will now see your Canvas event in your Google Calendar.

Debbie Millican

Attachment: Using-iCal-Feed.pdf

Tips for starting the year: Suggestions from CILT

Dear Colleagues,

I found some great suggestions from Stanford’s Teaching Commons website about starting off the year on the “right foot”.

There are some excellent tips in this article including:

  • Learning your students’ names.
  • Diligently vetting your classroom space
  • Arriving early to class
  • Greeting each student as they arrive to class
  • Getting students invested in your topic
  • Setting expectations for students
  • Teaching something important and interesting on the first day
  • Making your class memorable

Please read the article for details.

Questions or comments?

Why are we here? Our students!

Have a great academic year. Let me know how I can assist you in improving your teaching.

Jim O’Connor Ph.D.
Professor and Founding Dean Emeritus of the College of Education and Health Sciences
Director of the Center for Innovative Learning and Teaching, Western Division
Touro University California
1310 Club Drive
Vallejo, CA 94592