Fun for Fall Break: A New Faculty Focus Interview, D2L Changes, Ways to Increase Equity in the Classroom, and More!

Happy Monday, everyone! We hope you enjoy this short week and have a restful fall break!

If you are looking for faculty development opportunities to fill your days off, we have a few suggestions:

First off, we have this month’s Faculty Focus interview with Hattie Dombrowski, Faculty in Biology and one of last year’s Minnesota State Board of Trustees award winners. Hear what she has to say about how growing up on a farm in Wisconsin influenced her desire to be a biologist, strategies for leading more successful discussions in class, and teaching students to fail. (Note: the interview is audio only, but a blank video screen will show up anyways)

Also, a few D2L updates are coming on Thursday, Oct. 17th!
The changes mainly affect the terminology used for making items “hidden” or “visible,” so that these terms are consistent across all of the tools.

Here’s a quick summary of the update:

  • Quizzes tool: Changing the terms “Active” and “Inactive” to “Hide” and “Make Visible.”
  • Discussions tool: Changing the “Availability” section of Discussions by moving it to the “Restrictions” tab, and adding a checkbox for “Hide”
  • Content: Changing the terms “Draft” and “Publish” to “Hidden” and “Visible”

The update will occur on Thursday, Oct. 17th

If you want to join a webinar hosted by Minnesota State to learn more about these updates, join them today from 12-12:50pm. Click here to RSVP and access the Zoom link.

In other technology news, IT has purchased 60 education licenses for “PowToon.”
PowToon is a Web-based animation software that allows you to quickly and easily create animated presentations for or with your students by manipulating pre-created objects, imported PowerPoints or images, provided music, and user created voice-overs. Click here for an example.

Want a license? Contact Kathleen Coate for a link to sign up.
Want to test it out first? Come to the Friday Coffee Fix from 8:30-10:30am on Oct. 25th for more info and to try out the software. You can also sign up for a free version to test it out, by going to

Queens University has some amazing online resources on developing inclusive pedagogy. They have developed content modules for the following topics:

  • Power, Privilege, and Bias
  • Conversations on Decolonization
  • Navigating Difficult Conversations
  • Inclusive and Responsive Teaching
  • Universal Design for Learning

If you’ve been interested in wondering about culturally responsive pedagogy or looking for resources on discussing challenging material in the classroom, exploring one of these modules over Fall Break might be just the thing! Thanks to Jack Norton for passing along this resource.

If you’re frantically writing midterm exams, you might find these test-question-writing tips to be helpful in making sure that you are really asking the questions you want to. The excerpt is taken from the chapter “Exams: Asking Questions That Provide the Answers You Need,” from the book Meaningful and Manageable Program Assessment: A How-To Guide for Higher Education Faculty by Laura J. Massa and Margaret Kasimatis.

If you’re ahead of the game and thinking beyond Fall Break, you might be interested in considering incorporating experiential education into your classes next semester, and Normandale’s Center for Experiential Education (CEE) can help!  Service-learning integrates course learning outcomes and content with relevant community service to enhance student learning, develop student skills, and benefit the community. It can be required, optional, or extra credit. CEE staff helps you explore possible service-learning formats, connect with existing or new nonprofit partners, and track all student hours. If you would like to explore service-learning for your courses please contact Paige Wheeler at or x9074. More information can be found here.

Finally, you might want to put the STAR Symposium 2020 on your calendars. This virtual one-day conference will consist of presentations that focus on post-secondary pedagogical approaches including delivery via face-to-face, blended, flipped, and online classrooms. Presentation tracks include:

  • Teaching and learning
  • Faculty Development and support
  • Course design and delivery
  • Grading, assessment, and feedback
  • Student engagement
  • Technology integration
  • And more!

The conference takes place online on Friday, February 28th, from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM, and registration is free! Proposals for sessions are being accepted through November 30th. You can find more information about this opportunity here.

Have a great week, everyone! And enjoy the break 🙂

Webinars Galore: Increasing Accessibility, Collaborative Problem Solving, Online Learning Programs, and D2L Brightspace

Happy Monday, everyone! Here’s hoping that today’s sunshine is a sign that the Twins will pull off a win tonight at home and stay alive in the playoffs 🙂

First off, Kathleen Coate would like to share that new D2L templates are here! Specifically designed for D2L “Web pages”, you can now load a template based on the type of information you want to display in your Table of Contents. Click this 3-minute video to learn more!

We also have a whole bunch of webinars (and a few bonus events, as well!) being offered on a variety of topics–there should be something for everyone!

Interested in learning more about digital accessibility and creating online learning environments that are more accessible to all? There are several opportunities being offered through Minnesota State:

  • The Accessing Higher Ground conference will be held virtually from several host sites November 20-22. More information, including host site locations, is coming soon.
  • Several webinars are being offered on various accessibility-related topics, including DIY Digital Accessibility (October 16, 3-4:15 PM), Making the Most of Limited IT Resources (October 30, 11 AM- 12:15 PM), and Evaluating and Repairing Word and PowerPoint files (Part 1: November 13, 3-4:15 PM; Part 2: December 11, 3-4:15 PM).
  • A 3-week short course is being offered in January to give participants the chance to practice making materials that are accessible with a screen reader. The course starts January 27–only 4 spots are left, so sign up today!
  • Finally, a symposium to discuss accessibility awareness and skill development is tentatively scheduled for March 20.

All of these events are free and are a great way to take an important step toward making our classes welcoming to all our students.

Every month, the Minnesota Learning Commons (MnLC) at the University of Minnesota offers a webinar on professional development. Here are the ones coming up in the next few months:

  • “Think Your Way Out of the Problem,” 10/17, 3-4 PM–This webinar looks at examples of how universities have used faculty collaboration to solve problems on their campuses.
  • “Building Quality Online Experiences: Program Standards, Training, Design,” 12/12, 3-4 PM–This webinar shares the lessons learned from the launch of the Online MBA program at the University of St. Thomas.

Last but not least, there are a host of Minnesota State-hosted D2L Brightspace webinars. Here is what is upcoming in October:

  • Quick Eval Tool: Saving Time on Grading, 10/8, 11-11:50 AM
  • Annotations in Assignment Submissions, 10/10, 2:00 – 2:50 PM
  • What’s New in D2L Brightspace 20.19.10?, 10/14, 12:00 – 12:50 PM
  • Copy Course Materials to a New Course with Ease, 10/21, 12:00 – 12:50 PM
  • Manage Course Dates on a Single Screen, 10/23, 10:00 – 10:50 AM
  • Video Based Assessments for Personalized Feedback, 10/29, 11:00 – 11:50 AM
  • Quiz Creation Strategies & Timesaving Tips, 10/31, 2:00 – 2:50 PM

And again, most of these webinars are free! This link has more information for all the webinars, as well as information about two D2L short courses (one of which starts today!).

Finally, if you like to see the big picture of faculty development here at Normandale, remember that we keep track of all these events that we advertise on our CTL Calendar. Links to registration/webinar hosting information can be found by clicking on the event and viewing the description. Also, the Academic and Student Affairs Division at Minnesota State keeps a calendar that shows all of their professional development offerings as well (many of which we already include on our Normandale calendar)

Enjoy the sunshine, everyone!

Faculty Development Money, Short Courses to Improve Online Teaching, and Internationalizing the Curriculum

Happy Monday, everyone! It’s hard to believe it’s already week 6! The CTL team hopes you all are having a great semester, and if there is anything we can do to help with your teaching and learning needs, please let us know.

Looking for money to fund faculty development? There are two main possibilities:

  • If you are looking for individual faculty development funds, you can apply for funding through the Faculty Development Fund Committee. This funding is often used to travel to and attend conferences and pay for courses necessary for licensure or certification. You can find more information on the “Faculty Development Fund Committee” page on the Intranet; a PowerPoint with an overview of much of the important information is available here. Remember to plan ahead, so that you can get your funding approved before you attend the event. If you have questions, please contact Rob Gronemann (
  • If you are looking to fund an event that would benefit your whole department, you can use CTL Department Funds to help. Maybe your department wants to bring in a speaker, host a book group, attend a local workshop or discipline-related event, or host a retreat to talk about a strategic issue, such as assessment–these are all possibilities for receiving funding! Simply fill out the CTL Department Funding Application and send it to Jen Miller ( before your event. Requests will be reviewed by Team Learning. Questions? Contact Jen Miller for more information.

Put this money to good use–and let the CTL Team know if there is anything we can do to help (find resources, identify speakers, etc.).

Wanting to plan and/or improve your online D2L environment for spring or beyond? Minn State is rolling out free online “short courses” for various D2L topics. Participants should plan to spend about 5-7 hours/week, at their own pace, working with the materials and the course facilitator to improve their online environments in D2L.

Here’s a summary of what’s coming up (click on the class title for more info and to RSVP):

For all courses, you must RSVP at least 1 week before the start date, so that you can be enrolled in the D2L course.

MinnState has more workshops and online webinars scheduled as well–you can find their full schedule here.

In case you haven’t heard, Normandale has a team working on efforts to internationalize the curriculum. You can learn more on their webpage, and you can also attend the Friday Colloquium on October 11 from 11 am – noon in S2325, where they will show several films they helped create to prompt conversation about topics related to the concept of diaspora. There are several additional events related to these internationalization efforts as well:

  • Speak Up! Presented by the Diversity Club, Nov. 19 11am, Garden Room
  • Shannon Gibney, Normandale Writing Festival Keynote speaker: “Using Fiction to Write Across Chasms: Imagination as Bridge,” Oct. 24 12pm, Garden Room (Co-hosted with the English Department)
  • State Demographer Susan Brower will speak on Latinx Demographics in MN, Oct. 30 1-2pm, K1450 (Co-hosted with Latinos United at Normandale in Action (LUNA))

A few other items of interest:

  • CTE Works!, the annual conference on career and technical education in Minnesota, is being held November 5-6 at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park, MN. One highlighted workshop is on fostering equity in a classroom that uses problem-based learning.
  • The next Friday Coffee Fix is this Friday, October 4th from 9 am to noon in L1735. Come learn all about PeerMark integration with D2L!
  • The Twin Cities Book Festival is Saturday, October 12. They are looking for volunteers–this could be a fun extra-credit opportunity for students!

Have a great week, everyone! And remember–please participate in the open forums for the HLC visit today and tomorrow if you are able.

Faculty Development for the First Day of Fall: HLC Site Visit, Spotting Fake News, and Teaching Critical Thinking

Happy Monday, everyone!

The big excitement here at Normandale is that our HLC accreditation site visit is coming up in a week on September 30 and October 1. We have received the schedule from the visiting team, which will be posted on the Intranet shortly, and we would encourage all faculty to attend as many of the open forums as they can. Even if you aren’t an expert in large campus initiatives, you can still speak to what you do in your own classes, and even simply attending these forums shows how engaged faculty at Normandale are. These forums are also a great way to learn more about the initiatives in different areas around campus. We hope to see many of you there!

A quick reminder that Minnesota State is offering two workshops about using virtual reality in the classroom:

  • Friday, October 11 from 9:30 AM-2 PM at St. Cloud State University
  • Friday, October 25 from 9:30 AM-2 PM at Rochester Community and Technical College

Links to register for both these workshops can be found through our CTL events calendar.

Looking to improve student engagement in online discussions? Minnesota State is offering a free webinar this Wednesday, September 25 from 12-12:50!

This online course called “Check, Please!” offers five 30-minute lessons designed to help develop skills in evaluating sources and separating reliable sources from fake ones. These lessons can be incorporated into your courses, or you might even find them useful to develop your own skills of evaluating online sources in the age of Photoshop and fake news. Thanks to Jack Norton for forwarding this resource!

Critical thinking is one of the 10 goals of the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum, and even more importantly, one of the key skills that we hope to instill in our students. But what is critical thinking? And how do we actually teach it? The essay “How to Teach Critical Thinking” by Daniel Willingham of the University of Virginia looks at how educators can be more successful at teaching critical thinking by thinking about what that skill looks like in their specific discipline.

D2L tip of the week: The “Annotations” tool in “Assignments” now will keep your pen settings as a default! This is a really nice update so that when you select the color and size of your “pen” for annotating student assignments, the selection will be saved as your “default” setting.

Have a great week, everyone!

Faculty Focus Interview with Jack Norton, Creating Effective Video Lectures, and More!

Happy Monday, everyone!

We are excited today to bring you the first of this semester’s Faculty Focus interviews! We’re starting off with Jack Norton, chair of the History Department and one of last year’s Minnesota State Board of Trustees award winners. Hear what he has to say about helping students make history, rethinking classroom policies, and more!

This Thursday, Minnesota Learning Commons (MnLC) is offering a free webinar on creating effective video lectures this Thursday, September 19 from 3-4 pm. As the summary of the webinar states, “Research shows us that recording hours of video lectures for online or flipped classes is an ineffective online teaching resource. Studies show that students aren’t watching them. Faculty effort, technical staff and captioning is expensive. What are effective options? This presentation will highlight key research on the types of videos faculty should be creating.” More information, including a link to the webinar, can be found here.

Hopefully, you’ve already seen this information elsewhere, but just in case you haven’t, there will be two upcoming information sessions about sabbaticals:

  • Tuesday, September 17, 2019, from 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM in S2312. (This is the conference room on the second floor of Sciences.)
  • Thursday, October 3, 2019, from 11 AM – Noon in A2570. (This is the conference room on the second floor of Activities.)

Attending one of these sessions is a requirement for anyone planning on applying for a sabbatical.

Thanks to the Culturally Responsive Pedagogy Teaching Circle and others around campus, there has already been a lot of talk about teaching across cultures here at Normandale. If you’re looking for more, check out the book Teaching Across Cultural Strengths by Alicia Fedelina Chavez and Susan Diana Longerbeam. The Tomorrow’s Professor blog provides an excerpt from this book that talks about both the opportunity and the vulnerability of teaching with this attention to the variety of cultural frameworks that students (and we ourselves) bring to the classroom.

Finally, a few technology updates:

  • This Friday’s Coffee Fix is on  the “WeTeach” online class, and other teaching strategies and  trainings opportunities for online and hybrid instructors. Stop by L1735 between 10 and 2, get some coffee, and learn how to update your online instruction!
  • If you are looking for an easy way to get a few computers into your classroom, check out the new baskets of Chromebooks!
  • PeerMark is ready in D2L! What is PeerMark? It is an interactive tool for students to provide feedback on each other’s written assignments – it’s a product of Turnitin, but is not integrated through an Assignment folder the same way that GradeMark and Originality Check are integrated. Refer to this website for instructions on how to set it up, and let Kathleen Coate or Sue Tischendorf know if you have any questions – we’re looking for a few instructors who want to try this and give us feedback!
  • And last but not least, Kathleen Coate will be attending a D2L meeting at the system office this Wednesday, September 18th, so if you are looking for D2L help, please contact the IT helpdesk.

Have a great week, everyone!