Mobile, TLT

How to make a paper towel tripod: DIY tutorial

Need help filming yourself? No budget for a tripod? Kentucky artist and film teacher Kathleen Lolley and TLT’s Alea McKinley co-created a tutorial to teach you how to make a tripod for your cell phone using a paper towel roll. Safe, social-distancing was practiced during the collaboration.

PLC Applications are now open
Collaboration, Pedagogy

Professional Learning Club Applications are OPEN!

The Professional Learning Club (PLC) applications are now open and will close on July 15th so APPLY TODAY!

A Professional Learning Club is a group of faculty that meets to collaboratively reflect on and improve their teaching practices. These learning clubs will consist of 4-6 faculty who will take the year to explore, implement, and reflect on specific, empirically-grounded instructional strategies.

The next round of PLCs take place during the 2019-2020 academic yearThe clubs will meet for the first time in late August and then every two weeks after that, throughout the entire academic year.  Applications close July 15 so don’t delay!

  • Combining Science, Technology, English, Art and Math
  • Flip the classroom with highly effective problem based learning
  • Process Oriented Guided Inquiry (POGIL)
  • Service Learning
  • Practicing the Science of Successful Learning
  • Focus on Assessment
  • Best Practices Through Teaching Observation

For a full description of the topics visit PLC Topic Descriptions (2019-2020)



Magnifying glass over a finger print
Assessment, Collaboration, Mobile

Digital scavenger hunts for building class community

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Scavenger hunts are a great way to get your students working together for a common goal.  This is a wonderful way for them to bond as a class or to gel as a group project team.   These types of hunts can be used for assessment as well but I want to focus mainly on team and community building.

For interaction, successful group work, and/or great discussion to occur in your class there needs to be trust.  Students need to trust the instructor but more importantly, they need to trust their classmates.  This trust is what allows the students to speak their minds, voice their opinions, or contradict an instructor or a classmate.  Without this all you get is superficiality.

While building trust within a classroom is another topic in and of itself, the first step to establishing this type of environment is to get the students familiar with one another and to have them experience working as a team.  A scavenger hunt is a fun way to do this.

Check out Goose Chase scavenger hunt creator.  First, a special shout out to Melissa Negreiros from Philip Simmons Elementary who introduced me to this application.  It’s a free (mostly) digital scavenger hunt application and here are the details:

  • Free
    • Regular account allows for 3 groups in a hunt and one hunt at a time.
    • Educator account allows for 5 groups in a hunt and one hunt at a time.
    • Educator paid is <$50/yr.
  • Online
  • Built-in list of possible activities from which to choose
  • Can create your own activities customized to your students, organization, or content
  • Can set a duration for the hunt
  • Can easily invite students with a class code, no accounts required
  • Can password protect it

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  • Group community building
  • Class community building
  • Icebreakers
  • Content assessment
  • Field trip engagement
  • Brain break
  • Learn about campus resources

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Collaboration, Productivity

Guest Blog Post | ORGA: The On-Campus Resource that Makes Grant Applications and Grant Management Easier!

This post was written and submitted by the Office of Research and Grants Administration. If your office or department would like us to share updates, information, and/or resources with faculty, as part of our new holistic development focus, please contact Chris Meshanko.

We all know that applying for grants can be a real pain. We often hear that few people actually enjoy applying for grants, because they perceive that grant applications take up a lot of the time that they could spend on their projects. But, applying for grants is also an important way to get the resources you need to conduct projects. And, there are plenty of grants out there, not only for research projects, but for many other types of projects—such as curriculum development, community outreach and public service, instruction-related projects, equipment, and planning.

The Office of Research and Grants Administration (ORGA), at the College of Charleston, can help you with several steps in your grant application. ORGA assists in finding grants that are specific to your interests and offers support for preparation of your grant application, such as composing a budget and budget justification. Our staff also works to makes sure that the grant application is submitted on time.

Once a grant is awarded, ORGA staff, together with Grants Accountant staff in the Controller’s Office, help manage the grant. In general, ORGA acts as liaison with funding agencies, coordinating everything from the timely submission of financial and technical reports to applying for no-cost extensions and potential supplements. In addition, our office also handles research protections and compliance. Through education and the implementation of federal, state, local, and College of Charleston policies and procedures, ORGA promotes the responsible conduct of research.

So, if you are working on a project, developing a new curriculum, conducting research, or if you have an idea in mind and do not know where to start, come to our office and talk to us about it. We will help you find answers to your questions, and refer you to other faculty or staff who work on projects related to your interests. We are happy to meet with you and to discuss strategies for grant applications.

We also offer a variety of workshops for faculty and students on campus. In the past, we have successfully provided faculty workshops on grant proposal writing and student workshops on research protections and compliance, budgeting, and grant proposal writing. Please feel free to contact us regarding requests for grantsmanship workshops, as well as for other support.

Team-based Learning: a quick guide to understanding
Assessment, Best Practices, Collaboration, Innovative Instruction, Pedagogy

Team-Based Learning Quick Guide

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What is Team-Based Learning?

“Team-Based Learning is an evidence-based collaborative learning teaching strategy designed around units of instruction, known as “modules,” that are taught in a three-step cycle: preparation, in-class readiness assurance testing, and application-focused exercise. A class typically includes one module.” 1

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Why incorporate Team-based Learning?

TBL covers all types of learning:

  • rote and concept learning tested by the individual assurance testing (iRAT)
  • collaborative learning when discussing and coming to consensus on the team readiness assurance test (gRAT/tRAT)
  • application and creative learning during the team case portion

In addition, it also encourages additional skills necessary to succeed in work/life today, such as:

  • problem-solving
  • teamwork
  • consensus
  • cooperation
  • leadership
  • listening skills
  • collaboration


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When should you incorporate Team-based Learning?

TBL is most successful when used on a consistent basis throughout the semester.  This is because the critical component to TBL is the ongoing, consistent team!  CIEL at Vancouver University states, “Groups are collections of individuals. Teams are groups who have developed a shared purpose and sense of collective responsibility. Groups evolve into teams when an instructor creates the proper conditions for effective collaboration.” 2  In order for these teams to gel and be successful they need to meet and work together on a regular basis otherwise, it’s just in class group work.

TBL can be used in any discipline so don’t shy away from the idea because you don’t immediately see how this will work for you.   A little web research will show you many case studies and problems that you can use to teach your concepts.  When choosing a case or problem remember, the teamwork is most effective “when used with assignments where students are asked to converge their diverse thinking in making a single, collective decision, much like a deliberative body.”2

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Creating the Teams

The teams are the most important part of TBL.  Here are a few rules to follow when making the groups:

  1. never use student-selected teams
  2. create diverse teams (balanced intellectual and personality resources)
  3. make the selection process transparent
  4. 5-7 students per team
  5. decide what criteria are important to the groups in your class, as well as detrimental.  Ex. had previous courses in the program.
  6. prioritize your criteria (good and bad)
  7. call out the first criteria and allow the students to self-determine if they meet the criteria or not

Learn more about creating your teams at Team Formation for TBL.

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The Process

Taught in modules (usually one per class) in three-step cycles: preparation, in-class readiness assurance testing, and application focused exercise.  

  • Student Preparation:
    • must be done before the class – watching, reading, completing a worksheet, etc.
    • some give a reading/watching guide of things to look for and vocab to know.
  • In-class Readiness Assessment Test (RAT):

Step 1:  Students complete an individual RAT (5-20 questions) and submit it (this is not on the if-at) a.k.a. iRAT
These questions are based on the reading(s) and shouldn’t be an easy yes/no answer.  They are multiple choice but should require some thought and application.

Step 2: Students get into their teams and take the same RAT together (uses if-at) a.k.a. tRAT or gRAT
All answers must be agreed upon by the entire team so if there is a discrepancy, the students have to try to convince the other students on the team until they come to a consensus.  This is the same test they took earlier as an individual.  

Team reads the question and discusses it.
They then scratch off the answer they agree upon on the If-At scratch-off.
If it is correct they see a star and get full points.
If it is incorrect they have to discuss again and give it another go.
They continue to scratch answers until they receive the correct one.  Their points decrease every time they incorrectly scratch.

Step 3: Teams are given the opportunity to appeal answers they got incorrect.  This is a formal process in writing where they state their Argument then provide Evidence with page numbers from the readings that back their argument.

Step 4: Professor conducts a clarifying lecture of what the students didn’t grasp, based on the RAT scores.

  • Application Exercise:
    • students are given a problem or challenge and they must come to a team consensus to choose the “best” solution.  These problems do not have one right answer.
    • the teams discuss their findings and solution with the class.

The application-based exercises are very case-based and should include the following:

  • Significant: demonstrates a concepts usefulness.
  • Specific choice: based on course concepts.  Ex which procedure is BEST to use and why.
  • Same problem: all teams receive the same problem.
  • Simultaneous report to the class in a discussion.


  • Instructors can give a worksheet to the teams that teach them to think through a problem by walking them through the process, how to dissect a statement and make an argument.

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Student to Student feedback at midterm and final

This feedback is critical to the success of a long-term team so these evaluations are an important part of the process.  The feedback should be positive and constructive.  Here are some ideas for questions:

  • One thing they appreciate about this team member
  • One thing they request of this team member
  • Distribute points among the members
    • Look at Preparation, Contribution, Gatekeeping, Flexibility
  • Also, include what they appreciate/request about the instructor

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Sample Case Repositories

Public Health

Exercise Science



COFC ONLY – Does this seem at all interesting?  If so, contact me and I’ll give you the IF-AT scratch-off cards to use in your class.  They include instructions and a test-maker!  This offer is first come, first serve so don’t wait!  Email using your CofC email to let me know you want them.

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Team-Based Learning Collaborative

Team-Based Learning Video

Yale Center for Teaching and Learning: Team-based Learning

What is Team-Based Learning? from the Center for Innovation and Excellence in Learning






Flashcards? Yes!

Here are two flashcard creation tools as well as information supporting the use of flashcards and their effectiveness.

Recommendation 1: Quizlet

Quizlet offers both free and paid version of its web-based tools and is also available on the App Store and Google Play.

To learn more about this tool go to

And also check out Quizlet Live a free in-class game where students work in teams to learn study sets on Quizlet.  Teams work together to correctly match the terms and definitions in a study set.

Recommendation 2: Brainscape

Brainscape also has free and paid versions. To learn more about this tool go to

And here is what Brainscape has to say about flashcards:

Why Flashcards Help Us Learn

1. Flashcards engage “active recall”

When you look at the front side of a flashcard and think of the answer, you are engaging a mental faculty known as active recall. In other words, you are attempting to remember the concept from scratch rather than simply staring at the passage in your textbook or recognizing it on a multiple choice quiz. Active recall has been proven to create stronger neuron connections for that memory trace. And because flashcards can so easily facilitate repetition, they are the best way to create multiple memory-enhancing recall events.

2. Flashcards utilize your metacognitive faculties

When you reveal the answer side of a flashcard to assess your correctness, you are essentially asking yourself “How did my answer compare to this correct answer?” and “How well did I know (or not know) it?” This act of self-reflection is known as metacognition. Research shows that applying metacognition tends to ingrain memories deeper into your knowledge.

3. Flashcards allow for confidence-based repetition

Because flashcards exist loosely, rather than tied to a book or document, you are able to separate them into piles based on whether (or how often) you need to study them again. This practice of confidence-based repetition is proven by decades of research to be the most scientifically optimized way to improve memory performance.

Of course, where possible, you should always try to learn new concepts using project-based learning, or by asking your own questions. But when it comes to studying or reviewing concepts in the most effective way possible, nothing comes close to flashcards. Especially adaptive learning flashcards.

Taken from Cohen, A. (July 25, 2017) The Top 3 Reasons Why Flashcards Are So Effective. Retrieved from


Small Teaching Tip 13 Building Stronger Learning Communities
Best Practices, Small Teaching Tip, Teaching Advice

Small Teaching Tip #13: Building Stronger Learning Communities

In higher education, teaching is often perceived simply as the transmission of knowledge and that can contribute to our focus on content delivery at the expense of other elements of effective teaching.  Educational philosopher John Dewey argued that effective teachers do more than deliver content to their students.  They also value learning by doing rather than simply listening, giving students the freedom to explore and create their own meaning, and encouraging the application of knowledge to their lived experiences.

In order for these values to flourish in the college classroom, students and professors must build a safe, supportive learning community.  After all, the goal of teaching is not simply to build knowledge and competencies, but also to grow a network in which learners feel comfortable sharing perspectives, challenging one another’s world views, and stretching their thinking.  So the following are a few simple ideas to build greater community in your own classes.

  • Add clear statements to your syllabus that explain expectations regarding community and communication (and discuss them during the first week of class). Consider including topics such as:
    • The roles of students and instructor (e.g.  the instructor may initiate discussion, but students are responsible for facilitating).
    • How you want students to communicate with you and with each other (e.g. behavioral expectations, technology tools, etc.)
    • If you’ll be incorporating online interaction, include a section on netiquette.
    • What students can expect from you in terms of communication (e.g. response time to emails, making appointments, etc.)
    • Your expectations for quality participation (e.g. what “counts” as contributions to class discussion).
    • How students can get support and help when they need it (e.g. your office hours, Center for Student Learning, Helpdesk, etc.)


  • At the very beginning of the semester, send students a “welcome” video introducing yourself and the course.  Voicethread is a fantastic application to use for this purpose because it combines online discussion with multimedia content delivery.  For example, you could combine Powerpoint slides that contain information about you and the course with a webcam video of you discussing this information.  Then, students can leave audio, video, or text comments to introduce themselves and ask questions.  Creating such a presentation serves multiple purposes:  First, because you can cover typical syllabus information in the video, it frees up the first day of class for icebreakers and discussions.  Second, if you share personal information and use a webcam to record yourself talking, it allows students to get to know your personality better.  Finally, if you use an application like Voicethread, it allows students to engage one another in conversation and start building community.


  • Use the minutes before class starts to get to know your students better.  Many of us arrive to our classrooms without time to spare.  We then concentrate on taking attendance, turning on the computer and projector, and reviewing our lecture notes. Meanwhile, our students sit silently, gazing at their phones.  We may not consider the minutes before class begins as consequential, but they offer a fertile opportunity to get to know our students better and build a more positive classroom environment.   A number of studies suggest that learner satisfaction is related to the social presence and immediacy of the instructor.  So make it a goal to arrive to your classroom early and use those extra few minutes to chat with your students and set the stage for the rest of the class period.


  • Incorporate more opportunities for student collaboration.  Yes, students often grumble about group projects, but there are so many other ways to include collaborative learning in your classes.  Consider including more low-stakes opportunities rather than only culminating projects worth a significant portion of the students’ grades.  Peer teaching is one great option and a significant amount of empirical research indicates that working with peers has a positive influence on students’ psychological wellbeing, including autonomy, environmental mastery, and personal growth.  The research of Eric Mazur, who popularized peer instruction in the hard sciences, demonstrates learning gains frequently double and sometimes triple when peer instruction is integrated into class time.  To get you started, check out this post about peer teaching strategies and this one about facilitating drama-free group projects.


  • Create an online space where students can “hang out.”  This allows students to build community in a less formal way than structured assignments and in-class discussions.  This digital space could be used for students to ask one another questions, form study groups, and provide support.  There are numerous ways this can be accomplished, including using the OAKS discussion board, social media such as Twitter, Google Hangouts chat,, or RealTime Board

These are just a few ideas to start building community in your classes.  What ideas do you have?  Please share in the comments!

This post is part of a series which presents low risk, high reward teaching ideas, inspired by James Lang’s book Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning.

Best Practices, Collaboration, Pedagogy, Small Teaching Tip, Teaching Advice

Small Teaching Tip #11: The Benefits of Peer Teaching

When we ask students to work in groups or turn to their neighbor to discuss course content, many of us wonder whether this kind of collaboration is worthwhile.  Students aren’t experts, so could they be teaching each other incorrect information?  Or perhaps what they discuss is superficial or watered down?  Not to mention the drama and interpersonal conflict that can arise when students try to work together.  Is peer teaching really worth it?

Despite these concerns, and many others, a significant amount of empirical research indicates that there are numerous benefits of peer teaching.  For example, a recent study published in Teaching in Higher Education, found that working with peers has a positive influence on students’ psychological wellbeing, including autonomy, environmental mastery, and personal growth.  The research of Eric Mazur, who popularized peer instruction in the sciences, demonstrates learning gains frequently double and sometimes triple when peer instruction is integrated into class time.

Beyond the research, we must also recognize that peer teaching happens informally all around us.  Maryellen Weimer argues that students instinctually learn from one another.  When they have a question about course content, they often turn to their peers before their instructor.  Students are often intimidated by professors and don’t want to appear “stupid,” so they approach their classmates first.  I can’t tell you how many times I overhear students in the hallways turn to a classmate and say “I have no idea what Dr. so-and-so wants for this assignment. Do you?”  Students are constantly learning from one another, so why not use our classes to cultivate stronger collaboration and communication skills?

Here are a few simple peer teaching strategies to try:

Microteaching:  Students choose or are assigned class periods during which they are responsible for teaching the entire class.  They act as the professor for the day and are charged with developing a lecture, crafting activities, and facilitating discussion.

Think-Pair-Share: The professor poses a complex, challenging, or controversial question and asks students to think about their responses alone.  To encourage deeper thinking, students should write down their thoughts.  Then, ask the students to turn to a neighbor and compare answers.  The students are tasked with reaching a consensus or formulating arguments to support their views.  Finally, students report back to the rest of the class.

Peer Instruction using an Audience Response System:  Students are assigned a reading or video lecture prior to class and then quizzed on the more difficult or complex topics using an Audience Response System, such as Poll Everywhere, to submit their answers. Students then form small groups, discuss the quiz question, come to a consensus, and re-submit a group answer. Instructors can then instantaneously see where clarification is needed based on incorrect answers provided by both individuals and groups.

Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique:  This is the low-tech version of the above strategy.  Students are presented with multiple-choice questions that they discuss with group members.  Then, using cards that are similar to scratch-off lottery tickets, students choose their answer by removing the foil covering options A, B, C, or D.  If their choice reveals a star, they know they’ve answered correctly.  If they don’t see a star, they must problem-solve with their classmates and endeavor to determine the correct answer.  If you are interested in this technique, TLT can provide IF-AT cards to try with your students.

IF-AT scratch card used with peer teaching.

The Jigsaw Technique:  In this strategy, the instructor first divides a topic, problem, or assignment into parts.  Next, students are split into “home teams” with one member assigned to each topic.  Working individually, each student learns about his or her topic.  For example, if the content is divided into parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, group one would contain four students and one student would work on part 1, one student on part 2, and so on.  Next, groups are reformed into “expert teams” so that everyone in the group worked on the same topic (e.g. all the ones become a group, all the twos, and so on).  These students share their findings and collaborate to discuss, verify, and synthesize all the information gathered.  Finally, the home teams reconvene and listen to presentations from each member. These final presentations provide students with a better understanding of their own material, as well as the findings that have emerged from other groups.

Jigsaw method
Image via Eliot Aronson


These are just a handful of popular peer teaching strategies that do not require a significant amount of labor on the part of the instructor.  Consider giving one a try.  But remember, it’s important to recognize the benefits of peer teaching do not result from simply putting students together in groups. Group work that promotes learning and other positive outcomes is carefully designed, implemented, and assessed.

This post is part of a series which presents low risk, high reward teaching ideas, inspired by James Lang’s book Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning.

Reference: Hanson, J. M., T.L. Trolian, M.B Paulsen, and E.T. Pascarella. 2016. Evaluating the influence of peer learning on psychological well-being. Teaching in Higher Education 21 (2): 191–206.

Assessment, Best Practices, Collaboration, Distance Ed, Events, Innovative Instruction, Pedagogy, Teaching Advice

DE 2.0 Workshop: Humanizing Your Online Course

“I miss getting to really know my students. It’s just not the same.”

“There’s no way of knowing who is on the other side of the screen.”

Sound familiar? If so then you aren’t alone.

Not only do some instructors feel this way about online learning, but students do as well. Often they feel isolated, disconnected, and insignificant. These feelings of seclusion can often lead to decreased motivation, attention, and engagement. As part of the online learning process, it is vital to intentionally design elements to make sure that that the human connection isn’t lost in the online learning process.


What is Humanizing?

Humanizing your course involves considering the teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence of all participants in order to build community and enhance communication. The ultimate goal of this process is to make online education as personal and individualized as possible while building relationships between your students, the content, and yourself.

About the DE 2.0 Workshop

This 3-week long, self-paced session will take you through some strategies that you can use in your online class to make you and your students feel more connected. While this course is held fully online, it does contain three optional synchronous sessions with experts in humanizing online education from around the world!

You might be interested in this session if:

  • You feel you are not connecting with your students in your online class the way you do in your face-to-face class.
  • You feel like your online class lacks community.
  • You want to make your course more engaging and personal for the students.



Workshop Goals

  • Discover the elements of teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence as it applies to the online learning environment, particularly in the areas of facilitation, learning domains, and course design.
  • Research assessment and engagement strategies, community building/maintaining platforms, and technology tools for increasing the humanized element.
  • Discuss elements of humanized learning with other faculty teaching online at College of Charleston.
  • Ask questions, exchange ideas, and meet other CofC faculty teaching distance education courses.
  • Create engaging content and online activities that foster the elements of teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence.

Learning Outcomes

  • Explore instructional theories that lead to a more humanized online class.
  • Identify areas of your course that can be made learner centered and/or interactive.
  • Revise and/or create course interactions, including social learning experiences, content delivery methods, and assessment of student learning.

Register now on TLT’s DE Readiness Blog!

Applications are open until January 31, 2017!