Event Follow-Up: Students’ Experiences at UWGB via Neurodiverse Viewpoints

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, CATL collaborated with Assistant Vice Chancellor Stacie Christian to host a student panel on neurodiversity. Six student panelists shared their experiences as neurodiverse learners, including common barriers and misconceptions related to neurodiversity. One of the topics the panel discussed was how instructors can support them. A few common themes emerged from students’ responses so we’ve compiled them below, along with resources for ways you might implement these recommendations in your teaching.

Make Assignment Details Transparent

The student panelists shared that they find it extremely helpful when professors explain the purpose of an assignment and provide clear instructions. Their recommendation aligns with the transparency in learning and teaching (TILT) framework, a concept you may be familiar with if you’ve taken LITE 201. The TILT framework is an evidence-based approach to assignment design in which instructors demystify activities by explaining their purpose, detailing the task that students need to complete, and providing concrete grading criteria. Not sure where to start? Check out this checklist for designing transparent assignments from TILT Higher Ed. Or, for a deeper dive into the topic, consider taking a look at this webinar recording on transparent assignment design.

Explicitly Communicate Your Support

One of the “unwritten rules” of college is that students can go to their instructors when they have a question about the course or the need to connect with another institutional resource, such as tutoring or counseling. While this fact may be obvious to some students, it is not to everyone. Whether due to anxiety, trouble picking up on subtext, or unfamiliarity with the norms of higher education, some students may not ask their instructor for help unless they are given explicit permission to do so. Panelists suggested that instructors include a statement in their syllabus to remind students that they can come to the instructor if they have questions or concerns for help and/or referral to the best resource. It’s a small action but adding a statement like this can help reassure students that you care about their success and wellbeing. For more ideas on how to create a welcoming syllabus, check out this post on liquid syllabi and CATL’s liquid syllabus template. If you want to explore other ways of building trust with your students, consider creating a “getting to know you” survey, establishing class norms, or incorporating a name pronunciation activity.

Provide Alternative Formats for Information

Several student panelists emphasized the importance of providing alternate ways of communicating information whenever possible. This recommendation is not only related to “multiple means of representation” from universal design for learning (UDL) theory, but it also aligns with best practices for digital accessibility. Adding alternative means of representation doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, if you include audio or video files in your course, try to pick resources that also provide captions or a transcript. Or, if you use images, make sure you include a caption or alt text when the image is being used to convey information. If you’d like to learn more about accessibility, we encourage you to sign up for LITE 120, a self-paced training course that covers the basics of accessibility in Canvas, as well as SAS’s training course on creating accessible documents (i.e., with Word, PowerPoint, or PDF).

Related Events and Opportunities

Want to learn more about supporting diverse learners? CATL’s “Workshop Wednesday” series this semester has two upcoming sessions that may be of interest to you! First, on Wednesday, Mar. 6, we’ll take a look at how to make course materials more accessible. Then, on Wednesday, Apr. 3, we’ll explore universal design for learning (UDL) and some practical ways to apply UDL concepts in our teaching and learning. Both workshops will be from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. via Zoom. Registration for the March workshop on accessibility is already open. Stay tuned for details on registration for April’s workshop.

As always, CATL also welcomes you to connect with us if you’d like to learn more about any of these topics. Send us an email or request a consultation to get started!

Call for Teaching Enhancement Grant Proposals (Due Apr. 1, 2024)

The Instructional Development Council (IDC) is accepting applications for Teaching Enhancement Grants (TEGs) through support from the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (CATL) and the Office of the Provost. TEGs provide funding for professional development activities related to teaching or for projects that lead to the improvement of teaching skills or the development of innovative teaching strategies.

Faculty and instructional academic staff whose primary responsibility is teaching for the academic year in which the proposed project takes place are strongly encouraged to apply! Click the button below for full details.

Spring 2024 Application Info

Applications are due Monday, Apr. 1, 2024. If you have any questions about the application or TEGs, please email the Instructional Development Council at idc@uwgb.edu.

“Zeroing in” on Canvas Gradebook Accuracy

A major benefit of using the Canvas gradebook to keep your grades is that it gives students a live and continuously updated view of their standing in the course. For better or worse, students trust that the grade shown to them in Canvas is an accurate measure of their current achievement and a predictor of their final grade. Students use the running total grade shown to them in the Canvas gradebook to set goals for upcoming assignments which will help them achieve their desired final grade. Unfortunately, mistakes and instructor misunderstandings about how Canvas calculates total grades may lead to the total grade students see in a course being misleading or inaccurate, and that can have negative effects on a student’s ability to plan for future coursework. Making sure your Canvas gradebook is accurate and up to date throughout the term also helps prevent final grade “surprises” and grade disputes. The Canvas gradebook practice that most frequently leads to students seeing misleading total grade calculations is leaving missing assignments ungraded. This article explains the importance of regularly entering scores of zero in Canvas for missing work, which is a necessary step for making sure your Canvas gradebook is working for students and not against them.

Because of the way Canvas treats assignments with no grade when calculating a student’s total grade, students who have a missing assignment see a higher total grade in Canvas than what they have truly earned until the instructor enters a zero score for the missing assignment. Canvas does not treat ungraded missing assignments (in other words, assignments that show a dash in the gradebook cell) as zeroes when calculating student’s total grades. Instead, Canvas ignores all ungraded assignments when calculating a student’s total grade, even those that are past due. When calculating the total grade percentage for the course and each assignment group, Canvas divides the student’s total earned points by a total number of possible points that does not include possible points from ungraded assignments. To make sure students are aware of the impact that missing work will have on their final grade, instructors should regularly enter a score of zero for students who have not turned in an assignment after its due date.

Here is an example of the impact that leaving missing work ungraded in the Canvas gradebook has on total score calculations: imagine a student who has participated in 5 weekly discussions worth 10 points each, earning all 10 points for each discussion (50 points total). Now imagine that a writing project worth another 50 points is past due, and this student has not submitted that assignment. If those five discussions and the writing project are the only assignments in the course to that point, the student will see their total grade as 100% (50/50 points or an A) until the instructor enters a zero for the missing project. When the instructor enters the zero for the writing project, the student’s total grade calculation will update to 50% (50/100 points or an F). The student will not see the impact of the missing project on their total score in Canvas until the instructor enters the zero; if the instructor waits to enter a zero until the end of the term, the student could go through the rest of the course thinking they are in much better standing than they truly are.

Gradebook Zeros Example

While it is easy to do the total grade calculation of this simple example with mental math because it uses a small number of assignments, real courses have greater complexity in grading. Because total grade calculations are often complex, students will struggle to understand and may underestimate the true impact of missing assignments on their grade if those assignments remain ungraded and therefore not included in the calculation of the total grade shown in Canvas. You can help students by entering zeroes right away or as early as it makes sense for your late policy!

New Submission Icon

If your course policies allow students to submit late work, entering a zero score on a missing assignment will not prevent the student from making a late submission. A zero grade is a big attention getter, and seeing the impact the zero has on the total grade in Canvas can motivate a student to make a late submission. Better late than never! To ensure the zero score is not demotivating, make sure students understand that the zero grade you entered is not final. You can use the “Message Students Who” feature in the Canvas gradebook to efficiently send a message to all students with zeros on an assignment which encourages them to submit late and earn (at least) partial credit. Once the student submits the assignment, the Canvas gradebook will show the new submission icon in the cell and update the cell’s status (color) to “Late” (blue). You can grade the late submission and enter a new score to replace the zero.

Entering zeroes for missing work is a crucial step for keeping an accurate and up-to-date gradebook in Canvas, but many instructors learn this step the hard way after receiving a complaint from a student who saw an inflated total grade in Canvas and then got surprised by their official final grade. While entering zeroes is not the only requirement for keeping accurate grades in Canvas, it is a simple-but-not-always-intuitive step that instructors should not ignore. Make sure to do it regularly—ideally while you grade submissions for an assignment. The sooner a student realizes how a missing assignment impacts their grade, the more time they have to compensate. If you would like Canvas to help you keep up with entering zeroes, applying a Missing Submission policy to the gradebook before the start of a course can automate this task for online submission assignments, but note that you may still need to enter some zeroes manually. If reading this article makes you want to have a deeper discussion on setting up and managing your Canvas gradebook, we encourage you to request a CATL Consultation to set up a meeting with a member of our team!

Workshop Wednesday: Improving Accessibility in Learning Materials (Mar. 6, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.)

Want to make your learning materials more accessible for your students? Meeting certain accessibility standards is not only required for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act but also a way to boost student success and engagement. Join CATL and Assistant Professor of Humanities, Kristopher Purzycki, on March 6th, 2024, from 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. for a workshop on improving the accessibility of your course materials. Attendees will learn how to avoid common accessibility issues when creating and sharing digital content, such as PowerPoint presentations, PDFS, and Canvas materials. Attendees will also hear from experienced colleagues who will share their insights on how to implement accessibility in your syllabus and course design. Don’t miss this opportunity to improve your students’ learning experience through the benefits of accessible design. This workshop will be held virtually via Zoom. Register today to receive an Outlook calendar invitation with the Zoom link.

Upcoming Workshop Wednesdays

On the first Wednesday of February, March, and April, CATL will host a “Workshop Wednesday” event from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.

  • Apr. 3 | 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. | Topic: Universal Design for Learning

Wacky Wednesday: Pop in for Puzzles (Feb. 14, 3 – 4:30 p.m.)

Need a lift this Valentine’s Day? Need a break from the hectic start of the new semester? Join the CATL team for coffee, Valentine’s treats, puzzles, and games! Pop in for a competitive game of Werewolves or Timelines, bring some friends and play one of our other games, or quietly work on a puzzle that has a heart theme.

Faculty and staff are welcome to join this come-and-go activity time in the CATL office on the 4th floor of Cofrin Library between 3:00 and 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 14. Instructors, as an added bonus, you can see the kinds of games that can be incorporated into your classroom if you’ve ever considered adding games to your course. Join us! If you have questions, email CATL@uwgb.edu.

Note: Puzzle work will be saved. Anyone can come by and work on the puzzle and when it’s finished, we will start a new one.

Upcoming Wacky Wednesdays

Take a short break, enjoy snacks and good company, and try games you could use in classes! Join the CATL team for a little fun at these “Wacky Wednesday” events.

  • Mar. 20 | Times and activities TBD
  • Apr. 10 | Times and activities TBD
  • May 8 | Times and activities TBD