Becoming A Better Online Instructor

Dear Colleagues,

According to Flower Darby, a senior instructional designer at Northern Arizona University, in a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

“Whether you’ve taught online a lot or a little, chances are you didn’t enjoy it as much as teaching in person. Maybe you didn’t experience that fizz after a particularly invigorating face-to-face class. Indeed, according to a 2017 Educause survey, only 9 percent of academics prefer to teach “in a completely online environment.” That means a whopping 91 percent of us don’t. And I suspect that a good majority of that 91 percent would prefer to teach anywhere but online.

Clearly, many academics don’t see the value of online courses. Almost none of us set out to be great online teachers when we decided to go to graduate school. We’ve spent years in campus classrooms, but we don’t have the same depth and breadth of experience in the online classroom, as either students or teachers. Most of us don’t know how to teach online or how to get better at it — and we may not be motivated to learn. Even more likely, we may not feel like we have time to learn.

For all of those reasons, you may not feel fully invested in your online teaching practice. Yet it can be just as rewarding as teaching in a bricks-and-mortar classroom, if in different ways. Good teaching is good teaching.”

This article is full of great advice for making online teaching more effective, engaging and satisfying.

See the entire article at:

Questions or comments?

Jim O’Connor Ph.D.

TC SHS – Summer 2019 Workshop Offerings via Zoom


Summer 2019 Workshop Offerings

Registration Instructions: Please click on the date and time for the webinar(s) for which you would like to register, and then complete the registration form. You will be sent a confirmation email following completion of the registration form. All webinars will take place using Zoom, unless otherwise noted. If you have any questions or concerns, please email Holly Owens at

The Best-Kept Canvas Secret: A Look at the Commons

Description: One of the best-kept secrets about Canvas is the Commons. The Commons is a learning object repository that enables educators to find, import, and share resources. A digital library full of educational content, Commons allows Canvas users to share learning resources with other users as well as import learning resources into a Canvas course, eliminating the need to “reinventing the wheel.” Register for this session to learn more about the Canvas Commons.

Following this session, participants will be able to:

  • Identify how to access the Commons
  • Discuss how to search and filter Commons info
  • Identify the steps to importing resources from the Commons in your course(s)
  • Identify how to share content on the Commons

Dates/Times Offered:

The New, and Improved, Canvas Gradebook

Description: The New Gradebook is a feature enabled by instructors that allows them to view an improved version of the Gradebook. This feature makes grading more flexible and intuitive and elevates the Gradebook user experience. Improved features that will be discussed during this workshop include creating a late policy, filter options, and status information.

Following this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Describe how to enable the New Gradebook in their course(s)
  • Identify how to set up the parameters of the late submission policy
  • Discuss gradebook statuses and filter options

Dates/Times Offered:

What is Universal Design for Learning?

Description: Are you looking for ways to engage all students? Do you notice how students learn in different ways, but are not sure how to address all of their needs? Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that can help you plan activities that meet the needs of all of your students. Based on brain research, UDL will help you meet the needs of diverse learners by planning lessons that consider the wide variability among learners.

Following this session, participants will be able to:

  • Define Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
  • Discuss the three principles of UDL
  • Identify common ways to implement UDL principles in Canvas courses
  • Identify UDL resources available for faculty

Dates/Times Offered:

Taking My Teaching to a Whole New Level – Johnny Rider, TUN

Dear Colleagues,

Below is the latest blog entry from Johnny Rider, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy in the College of Health and Human Services at Touro University Nevada. Johnny is currently enrolled in the ACUE course Effective Teaching in Higher Education.

Jim O’Connor Ph.D.

ACUE has taken my teaching to a whole new level. As a new assistant professor, I did not have much experience teaching in a classroom. I did not have a specific method for designing my courses. I took what I learned as a clinical educator and tried to apply it to a classroom of students. I was receiving good reviews from my students, but I knew there was room for improvement, however, I was unsure of where to begin. I was fortunate to be a part of ACUE early on in my career. ACUE has provided me with evidence-based strategies to develop my courses and improve student achievement. ACUE has guided me through a process of discovery and refinement as an educator.

ACUE has given me the tools to develop powerful course outcomes and design engaging lesson plans. I now have a clear vision of what I want my students to learn from my courses and I know exactly what steps I need to take as an instructor to help my students meet course objectives. As I progressed through the ACUE course and implemented the many innovative strategies provided, I saw positive changes in the courses I was teaching and my confidence as an instructor. Fewer students asked for clarification on my rubrics and assignments after revising them based on ACUE’s recommendations. I incorporated new methods of obtaining student achievement and feedback during the semester and was able to adjust my lessons to improve student motivation and engage under prepared students. I learned how to utilize in-class and out-of-class time more effectively with more engaging class discussions and active learning techniques. I refined assignments to be better aligned with course outcomes and learned how to provide more valuable feedback to help students become more self-directed learners.

Thanks to ACUE, I now see my responsibilities and opportunities as an educator with a different lens. I recognize the abundant evidence that I can implement to become a more effective instructor. I have also been inspired to look for ways to conduct research in my own classroom. ACUE has positively impacted every aspect of my teaching and guided me on a path of professional development that will shape the rest of my career.

Johnny Rider, MS, OTR/L, CEAS, CPAM
Assistant Professor
School of Occupational Therapy
College of Health and Human Services

Touro Faculty Innovation Grant

I am not sure if you paid much attention to the email that came to your inbox from the Office of the Provost on Monday, April 8, 2019. Sometimes, there are just too many emails to filter through!


The Touro College Office of the Provost, Graduate and Professional Divisions, announces a new faculty innovation grant program. These grants are intended to promote student success and excellence in teaching through the development of innovative instructional methods, new methods of assessing learning or the redesign of courses using technology. All full-time, part-time and adjunct faculty from the undergraduate, graduate and professional schools are eligible to apply. Application deadline is April 15, 2019. For the full description and application, please visit the Office of the Provost website.

Take a look! Grant monies are free monies!

Jim O’Connor Ph.D.

Canvas Tech Tip!

If you would like to use the New Gradebook in Canvas, go to your Canvas course and then down to Settings on the course menu. Click on the Feature Options tab, and turn on New Gradebook as shown below.

There are many great options added to the new gradebook and are explained at the website below.

Debbie Millican

Congratualtions to Rolly Kali-Rai

Congratulations to Dr. Rolly Kali-Rai MBA, PharmD,
Assistant Dean for Student Services and Assistant Professor Social, Behavioral, Administrative Sciences in the College of Pharmacy.

Rolly is the first TUC faculty member to complete the ACUE (Association of College and University Educators) course on Effective Teaching in Higher Education.

Recently, Rolly wrote a blog for CILT describing how this course has transformed his teaching (see Rethinking My Teaching).

Way to go Rolly, this will impact the lives of hundreds of your future students!

Free Teaching Tools From Carnegie Mellon U.

Dear Colleagues,

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education (see

Carnegie Mellon University announced last week that it will begin making some of its many ed-tech tools, software, and content openly available over the coming year. The result of about $100 million in research and development, the tools are designed for use by instructors in both higher education and K-12 institutions. They include a collection of adaptive learning courses available through Open Learning Initiative. The difference now is that Carnegie Mellon will also provide the underlying code for these tools, meaning that instructors will have a better sense of how they work compared with the products offered by some commercial vendors. The release is being led by the Simon Initiative, a Carnegie Mellon project dedicated to improving learning outcomes through research and technology, and the Empirical Educator Project, a collaboration among colleges and ed-tech vendors.

Here is the actual link to Carnegie-Mellon’s announcement:

Questions or comments?

Jim O’Connor Ph.D.

Final Countdown: End of Blackboard Use @ Touro

We are about 90 days away from the end of Blackboard use at Touro. This means that after June 30, 2019, you will no longer be able to access your Blackboard courses. Although all your course content will be saved by the TCUS IT in a secure location, these files will only be accessed in extreme academic situations (e.g., grade challenges). It is highly recommended that if you would like to save (i.e., export) your course content that you do so as soon as possible.

A series of webinars will be offered via Zoom on how to export and save your content on Mondays (starting April 22-June 3) from 11 AM to 11:15 AM and Tuesdays (starting April 23-June 4) from 7 AM to 7:15 AM. You should register to attend one of these sessions if you would like to learn how to export your course content and save it in a secure location. Registration links have been provided below to register for a Monday or Tuesday session based on your availability.

For on-demand, self-paced options please review the following Blackboard help link:

Finally, we have created short videos that show how to export content from Blackboard and import it into Canvas. They are available at:

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know. You can view the Blackboard countdown in the TouroOne portal or by going to the TCUS transition website at or the Western Division’s transition website at I look forward to working with you as we take the final step in transitioning from Blackboard to Canvas.

Rethinking My Teaching

Hello, I am Rolly Kali-Rai, MBA PharmD. I am the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy. I currently am also a member of Touro Western Division’s “Cohort A”. We are the TUC/TUN inaugural cohort of the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE)’s yearlong online course, “Effective Teaching Practices”. When Dr. O’Connor came to a faculty and staff meeting of the COP to speak about his online course I was ecstatic. I had been waiting for such a course. I am new to academia and welcomed formal training and development. The ACUE course has been amazing. It does require a fair amount of time outside of work however it has been so rewarding. The course has provided me usable tips and techniques that I are readily integrated both inside and out of the class room.

One of my favorite modules of learning changed how I fundamentally look at teaching in general. I started out as a Clinical Pharmacist by training however became a hospital administrator as my career path changed. For the last 14 years I have been focused on efficiency, management, and customer service. Recently a course module titled, “Using student achievement and feedback to improve teaching”, made me rethink what I thought I knew about teaching. I learned about really listening to my customers and how their feedback changed the way I delivered my product to them and what that product looked like and how it fulfilled their needs. Teaching was more than me standing in front of a class of “eager” learners, depending on their intrinsic abilities and or desires to learn content. It was about me delivering content that was valued in a way that was received by each student and made their own. It was about empowering them with skills and knowledge while they headed down a career path that I personally love. Teaching was dynamic and it was a two way interaction. Who knew, student achievement was not a test of what they know but also a reflection of how well the message was delivered, received and incorporated into usable knowledge of their own.

The entire course has been full of gems such as the module on student feedback. Each module I walk away feeling more confidant and empowered to make change. I know when I came to Touro it was to give back but I never thought I would receive so much more in return. If you get the chance please do take the course and spend some time with Dr. O’Connor, the two together have been priceless for me. Well time to focus on next week’s module. Who knew, lifelong learning could be fun.

One of My Best Professional Decisions

Participating in this course has be one of the best professional decisions I have made since coming to Touro…

I am Cathy West, MD, DrPH. I am an assistant professor in the COM and a member of Touro Western Division’s “Cohort A”. We are the TUC/TUN inaugural cohort of the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE)’s year long online course, “Effective Teaching Practices”.

For some background: There are about ten TUC faculty participating in the course, from COP, COM, and the PA program. Our course director and mentor is Jim O’Connor. There are four blocks comprising 25 modules, which are all completed online. Modules cover teaching in both the classroom and in online courses. We met up in person initially for a course launch and also have quarterly face-to-face meetings with Jim and our “classmate” colleagues.

Now to the heart of it: This ACUE course continues to inspire me and has revitalized my teaching. Preparing my learning activities has become a much more creative and informed task for me. The course itself is terrific: well-organized, relevant, and engaging. Since this is a course for educators created by expert educators, the strategies and techniques that are taught are evident in the organization and presentation of the course material itself.

I’ll walk you through one of my recent modules. We are in Block 3: Promoting Higher Order Thinking and Assessing Learning. The topic for this module is Checking for Understanding. The modules all have the same structure, which makes time management much more efficient.

Each module is organized into “chunks”; the first is Engage. It consists of an introductory video of one to two minutes that grabs your attention. Next comes the list of learning objectives. It is introduced with a sentence stating the evidence-based rationale for the module topic. The objectives list clearly introduces the specific techniques we will be learning in the module. Then we are put to work on an opening questionnaire that assesses our current understanding and experience with the techniques.

In the second “chunk”, Listen, Watch & Learn, we see the techniques in action in a classroom demonstration video of six to eight minutes. In the videos, the main points appear in the lower part of the screen as concise phrases in bold lettering. The next video is the Technique Talk, a “cartoon” style moving hand drawing each technique interspersed with faculty giving the evidence for the technique. For this module, the main point of the Technique Talk is “How you know your students are ACTUALLY learning”. Note to self—the use of short videos to introduce new material is key! We all have short attention spans when it comes to listening to a speaker…avoid the pitfall of straight lecturing for an hour! This section wraps up with the Instructor Resources, literally a treasure trove of how-to documents, specific techniques, samples, and links to articles.

In the next chunk, Deepen Thinking, we review Common Challenges and Misconceptions (a single page with succinct drop downs) and, in Observe and Analyze I, we assess (with a short quiz with the answers immediately available) a brief simulation in which an instructor tries out some of the techniques. We then watch another simulation and all address a question posted on a discussion board.

In the Practice and Reflect “chunk” we try out a new technique ourselves and write about our experience: why we chose the specific technique, successes and challenges in its implementation, the impact on student learning and engagement, and how we might modify it the next time around. We also contribute final thoughts in another discussion board and give feedback on what we learned in a brief reflection survey.

Finally, to Close Strong, we watch a one to two minute closing summary and receive a list of the references for the module.

Truth be told, this has been a lot of work. Completing each module takes longer than I expected and I have gotten behind a few times. The course is also designed primarily for university instructors who teach a course themselves, who begin and end the course with the students, and have regular frequent contact with them during the course of the semester. I may be more like those instructors than some of my colleagues because I teach many more large and small group learning activities and am a Course Coordinator. However, like many of my colleagues, because of the nature of teaching in our program, I would often not have a learning activity with students during a particular module and had to make a plan to implement a technique rather than being able to actually try it out.

Despite those few caveats, I am really enjoying the course and how it is making this such a stimulating year for me as an educator. In fact, this past week, I felt almost giddy with success in creating and implementing a new learning activity for the second year COM students. Because of my work in the ACUE course, I have so many new concepts and techniques in my teaching armamentarium and I knew I was using them every step of the way as I put this lab together.

I was able to set the students up for success in this new lab first by giving them the opportunity to choose a topic in advance of the lab (one of six sensitive/difficult conversation situations), then read an article about it and come to lab prepared to discuss that topic. I had chosen a jigsaw format to increase their engagement through student-student teaching, so to make use of the time efficiently with a lot of moving parts, I had to develop clear instructions.

Each of the six different Doctoring Groups contributed a student to each of the topic groups. The six topic groups met separately and each created a concept map and action plan, each of those on a giant Post-It that was stuck to the walls of the lecture hall. Doctoring Groups then reformed and rotated around the lecture hall together, spending ten minutes with each concept map and action plan, which was explained by their very own “expert” on the topic.

One other facilitator and I moved around the lecture hall during both parts of the lab, asking questions to help groups that were stuck and answering questions as needed. I handed out index cards to each Doctoring Group and asked students to give me feedback that would be both anonymous and voluntary. I mentioned examples such as whether they felt more confident about having these conversations on the rotations they will soon begin, whether they felt the structure of the lab was effective, and if nothing else, at least whether they thought we needed more faculty facilitators.

One third of the class did this activity each day over three days (about 45 students per session). The really good news was that I had those three tries to succeed with the lab, and I needed them!

My feedback?

Day 1: Nine index cards returned, helpful feedback about instructions (which I used to amend them for Day 2), and several very positive comments such as “The split group combining into one group was excellent”, “This was a great lab! My favorite part was the active learning aspect”.

Day 2: Nine index cards returned, mixed responses about having more preceptors, and more positive comments such as “Marvelous exercise with great topics”, “Lab was enjoyable and informative”.

Day 3: By the third day I had it right. I got back 29 index cards! A few students commented only that they preferred having only a few preceptors so that it could be student-led but nearly all the cards were very positive about what they learned (even “I liked having the opportunity to work on my public speaking skills”) and the structure of the lab (“great” and “loved it” with specific details appeared on many cards).

To finish up, If I hadn’t already been convinced of the value of the ACUE course, after this week, I can state unequivocally that participating in this course has be one of the best professional decisions I have made since coming to Touro. I am a better educator and hope to be a resource for others. I highly recommend this course to any faculty who are looking to improve the learning experiences of their students, and to increase their own sense of satisfaction and engagement in this wonderful profession of teaching.