Save the Date: Panel on Course Placement, November 18

Good morning, everyone!

Do you know how students qualify to take your classes?

How does the placement process work, anyways?

Are there ways that we can improve this process to increase student success rates and reduce the opportunity gap?

Even though we often think of placement testing in relation to the subjects of the tests—English, Reading, and Math—course placement affects everyone on campus. For example, if you have a reading or writing prerequisite on your class, changes to the reading or writing placement process will affect the students in your course. Course placement also affects students’ persistence, retention, and completion, how much advising they might need, what they spend their financial aid on, and more. Because of the wide-reaching effects of course placement, it is important that we as a campus understand the process, how it affects our students, and what changes might be made to the process.

To help faculty and staff better understand the placement process, the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Multiple Measures team, and the Developmental Education and Placement Testing Committee (DEEPT-C) are hosting a panel of students, staff, and faculty on Monday, November 18 from 3-4 pm. You will have an opportunity to ask questions and hear more about the following:

  • the placement process from students themselves
  • the upcoming changes to this process
  • the options we have regarding these changes
  • decisions that we will need to make

The panel will be held in S2325—we hope many of you will be able to attend!

Here are a few other things of interest today:

  • The Minnesota Star Symposium, a virtual conference celebrating excellence in teaching and learning, will be held on Friday, February 28th from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. More information can be found on this flyer or at the Star Symposium website.
  • This article from Dan Berrett at The Chronicle of Higher Education talks about the benefits that come from making the purpose of assignments more transparent.

Last but not least, do you have an article, conference, or something else related to teaching and learning that you’d like to share with your colleagues? Send your material to Jen Miller ( and we’ll share it with the campus here on this blog!

Have a great week, everyone 🙂

Student Stress, Course Placement, D2L Training, Learning Styles, and the Danger of Seamless Lectures

Happy Monday, everyone!

Today, we would like highlight two upcoming events that can help faculty learn about how to best meet student needs here at Normandale.

First, the Normandale Community College Psychology Department’s annual Distinguished Psychology Lecture will feature Dr. Pat Frazier, who will be discussing research about stress, trauma, and coping among college students. This lecture will take place on Wednesday, November 6th from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. in the Lorenz Fine Arts Auditorium.

Dr. Frazier will address questions such as:

  • How common are stress and trauma in college students, including at Normandale?
  • How do stress and trauma influence college students’ lives, including their mental health and academic performance?
  • What distinguishes those who cope more or less effectively with stress and trauma?
  • What kinds of interventions could be done to help students be happier, resilient to stress, and more likely to succeed in college?

Dr. Frazier is a nationally recognized researcher in the field of stress, trauma, and coping, and has been researching these topics for over 30 years. She holds the McKnight Distinguished University Professorship at the University of Minnesota and her research has received awards from the American Psychological Association, the John Templeton Foundation, and the National Institute of Health.

This is a great opportunity to learn more about how to help our students as finals begin to loom on the horizon!

Second, please mark your calendars for Monday, November 18 from 3-4 pm–several groups on campus are sponsoring a student panel and discussion on course placement at Normandale. CTL, along with the Developmental Education and Placement Testing Committee (DEEPT-C), the Multiple Measures team, and the Admissions team, are bringing together students, faculty, and staff involved in the placement process to help faculty understand what students experience and what changes are happening with this process.

  • Do you know how students are placed into classes at Normandale?
  • Do you know how placement testing affects who is eligible for the classes that you teach? Do you know how placement relates to student success?
  • What changes are coming to the placement process? What might these changes mean for you?

Come hear from students themselves about their placement experiences, and have the opportunity to ask questions of both students and those involved in the placement process. The panel will take place in S2325. We hope to see you there!

Here are this week’s training opportunities through Minnesota State:

Just a reminder that you can also find information about these trainings on our CTL calendar!

Also, this week’s Friday Coffee Fix is about Intelligent Agents in D2L. Stop by L1735 between 8:30-10:30am to learn more about this useful D2L tool. Click here for more info.

Finally, here are some articles highlighting recent findings on pedagogy:

  • Do you work to craft highly-polished lectures that seamlessly flow from one concept to the next? Turns out, this strategy might actually hinder student learning by making students think they have learned more than they actually did. You can learn more about this study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, here.
  • I occasionally get requests from faculty asking what the latest research is on various “learning styles” (visual, auditory, reading, and kinesthetic). This recent blog post from The Chronicle was a good reminder that the idea of learning styles is now regarded as a “neuromyth” that can actually get in the way of students being able to learn in a variety of ways. This 2018 article from The Atlantic provides a good summary of the issue, including links to several relevant studies.

Have a great week!

October Odds and Ends

Happy Monday everyone! Hopefully you had a chance to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather over the weekend 🙂

Two reminders to start off today’s post:

  • If you are looking for an easy reminder of upcoming faculty development opportunities, both here at Normandale and around the state, check out our CTL calendar! You can find it here on the right side of Chalk & Pixels, and if you prefer the full-sized version, you can find that here.
  • CTL has funding available for departments to use for their own faculty development needs. Want to host a speaker? Want to send several faculty members to a training? Need to work on assessment? We can help! The funding application form can be found on the CTL D2L page. If you have questions, please email Jen Miller (

Several departments and offices on campus are offering a variety of workshops this week that are of interest to both students and faculty:

  • For the tenth year running, Normandale will host its free annual Writing Festival on Thursday, October 24 from 10 AM to 2 PM, featuring sessions on screenwriting, fiction, poetry, and more. A keynote address by award-winning author Shannon Gibney entitled “Using Fiction to Write Across Chasms: Imagination as Bridge” will be held at Noon in the Garden Room. Sessions will be facilitated by guest writers and writing professionals, along with Normandale faculty. Featured guests include Beth Mayer, Carolyn Holbrook, Frank Bures, and Natalie Fowler. No registration is necessary. All festival events are free and open to the public.
  • The Normandale Economics Institute and Phi Theta Kappa present the 6th Annual Fall Economic Outlook on Tuesday, October 29 from 9:30-10:50 AM. Cameron Macht, Regional Analysis and Outreach Manager, MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) will present “The Future of Work Automation,” and Dr. King Banaian, Dean of the School of Public Affairs, St. Cloud State University will present “The Future of the State Economy.”

Here are several D2L updates and reminders:

  • Notice something new in D2L?

A few updates happened last Thursday, mainly affecting the “Hide” vs “Visible” designations for Content, Quizzes and Discussions. This update makes the tools more consistent with each other in how you release them for students. Click here for the full details of Thursday’s update.

  • Friday Coffee Fix – 8:30-10:30am in L1735

Click here for the remaining fall schedule! Remember – you can stop by or make an appointment Mon-Thurs as well – click here for the full D2L/online learning support information.

  • Powtoon

We still have several education licenses available for Powtoon software – email Kathleen Coate for signup info.

  • Spring courses are now available to request in D2L!

Click here for instructions on requesting combined or early access. Non-requested courses will be available Dec. 24th

  • This week’s D2L webinars, hosted by Minn State:

Mon Oct 21 @ 12 pm Copy Course Materials to a New Course with Ease

Wed Oct 23 @ 10 am Manage Course Dates on a Single Screen

Looking to improve your assessment of student learning in your online classes? In addition to the great resources we have through CTL, you might also be interested in this article which describes the work of faculty in The State University of New York (SUNY) system to develop an online course design rubric and review process. (Thanks to Jack Norton for passing this along!)

Finally, do you ever find yourself lamenting about certain qualities of “students these days”? These complaints generally don’t lead to much productive change, but there are ways to adapt your teaching to better meet the expectations of today’s students, which can go a long way towards alleviating the frustrations of both you and your students. The article “Millennial Perspectives and Priorities” by James Therrell and Staci Dunneback describes some of the key expectations of millennial students and how meeting these expectations can result in improved student performance.

Have a great week everyone!

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!