Virtual Fall Faculty Conference 2021

Virtual Fall Faculty Conference 2021

This year, just as last year, the Fall Faculty Conference workshop will be hosted virtually due to COVID protocol. Faculty from both the School of Graduate and Professional Programs (SGPP) and The College are invited to participate.

Saturday, September 25, 2021  
8:30am – 9:00am “Coffee Hour” hosted by Across Campus Connections
Like the ACC in car wiring, our purpose is purely to create a space for you to make connections and get to know and enjoy your colleagues so that you can “keep your charge” and conserve your “battery power” for the work you do at SMU. Come as you are, leave with new friends.
Grab your cup of coffee and jump on the Zoom link early! This is an opportunity to gather and start our day on an uplifting note.
9:00am – 12:00pm Fall Faculty Conference led by Dr. Peter Felten. The 3-hour workshop will include a break and the presentation of the Brother Julius Winkler Award



Led by Dr. Peter Felten, executive director of the Center for Engaged Learning, assistant provost for teaching and learning, and professor of history at Elon University, this interactive workshop will explore how to create relationship-rich environments that enhance learning, motivation, and belonging. The first part of the workshop will focus on practical, research-informed approaches to cultivate educationally powerful human interactions in classes — whether face-to-face, online, or blended. The second part of the workshop will focus on the importance and impact of significant conversations among instructors on their teaching. Through these conversations with peers, instructors are able to promote and transform their teaching and ultimately enrich student learning.

The workshop draws from Dr. Felten’s research and his most recent book Relationship-Rich Education: How Human Connections Drive Success in College (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020) by Peter Felten and Leo Lambert.


Learning Objectives

  • Discover the four principles of relationship-rich educational experiences
  • Reflect upon one’s current approaches to creating a class culture
  • Identify how to cultivate classroom environments and teaching communities that enable meaningful relationships
  • Consider how to create conditions that enhance teaching while also fostering a culture that enables transformational and meaningful change


Post-Conference Opportunity to Engage

Following the Fall Faculty Conference, CELT will host a book club dedicated to the book. Consult the CELT events calendar to review Book Club dates and times and to register – coming soon!

Course Processes in Canvas

Course Processes in Canvas

In the move to Canvas, Saint Mary’s now has the ability to automate certain features that did not exist in other systems. One of these features is how courses are created and how content can be added to courses. In this process, we are able to automatically create courses in Canvas that not only have enrollments in them but also content and a similar course structure. What assists in this process are the usage of main course shells. Using main course shells helps to organize content within the LMS, and streamline the course automation process from term to term. Please read through the rest of this to gain a further understanding of this process and what to expect. This document is also attached to this email in an accessible pdf for convenience.

What is a course with a MAIN_ prefix at Saint Mary’s?

“Mains” are the repository of course content. More specifically they are the curated content for a specific course that contains course materials, assignments, and syllabi. One can think of a main course shell as the official repository for a specific course. In many cases currently, a main course in Canvas contains the content that was migrated from Blackboard or Engage. As a course is continually taught the content from the main will be applied to the term version of the course (i.e., FA21). This allows for a course to use similar content term to term.

  • Main courses are identified with the word main in the title (MAIN_EDUC111).

Who updates main courses? Why use main courses?

Depending on the program/department mains can be updated by individual faculty or can be updated by a team of faculty. For programs/departments that may offer multiple sections of a course each term, mains provide a way for each section to have the consistent content to ensure the integrity of the course is maintained. At the end of the term instructors, programs, and departments can request that the content from the term course is copied into the main course to ensure the main course always has the most current content.

  • Additionally, by updating your courses consistently between terms you ensure that your students receive the best overall experience. The Canvas Minimum Usage document outlines a phased approach as the university moves into Canvas.

  • As a clarifying note, students will never be enrolled in main course shells so that instructors have a dedicated place to build and curate content.

What is a term prefixed course at Saint Mary’s?

A term prefixed course is the ‘live’ course running in a specific term. Term prefixed courses are identified with a specific term prefix in the name of the course (i.e., FA21COLLGE_EDUC111, or FA21SGPP_EDUC111). A term course is linked to the Student Information System (SIS–in our case, CAMS) for enrollments and contains content from the corresponding main course.

When do I work in a main course versus a term course?

Instructors, program directors, chairs, and program staff are encouraged to continually curate content in the main course shells up until four (4) weeks prior to the start of a term. At four weeks prior to the term prefixed courses are created that contain enrollments and the content from the main course shells. At that point, any and all further updates should be made in the term course.

  • As a term’s ending approaches, instructors/programs/departments can request that the content from the term prefixed course is copied into the main course shell to ensure the main course shell always has the most current content.

Preparing for Fall 2021 and Pre-Term Actions

At this point in our migration process many courses were migrated from Blackboard/Engage to Canvas. These are in Canvas as main course shells (as described above) and are ready for continual enhancements. For those courses that do not have a main course shell they will be created for you and made available in early July. These newly established main course shells will not have content from Blackboard/Engage but will have the standard Saint Mary’s course template. Based on current fall teaching assignments instructors will be added to the mains. Please work in these main courses until August 2nd. On that date, the content from the main course will be added to the FA21 term courses.

  • If you need content from Blackboard or Engage that was not already migrated please request that by contacting the Help Desk.

Ongoing Pre-Term Actions

  • Eight (8) weeks prior (or more) to the start of a term:

    • Faculty should update main course shells to include the most current content. This may involve collaborations with learning design, instructional technology to help enhance the engagement within a course.

      • If the entire content from a term course is needed, said content can be copied into a main course shell by putting a request into the Help Desk

  • Four (4) weeks prior to the start of a term:

    • Term prefixed courses (i.e., FA21College_EDUC111) are created, and faculty and student enrollments are added (both of these are based upon what is listed in CAMS). Content from identified main course shells are automatically added to the term courses.

      • At this point faculty should halt making updates to main course shells and make any further updates to the term prefixed course.

  • Two (2) weeks prior to the start of a term:

    • Faculty should publish their term prefixed courses so that enrolled students can view syllabi and look at course resources. Please note: Students have a ‘read-only’ access to the courses at this time.

      • Course publishing is part of the Canvas Minimum Usage document and is set to be at two weeks by Phase Three of the rollout of Canvas.

If there are any questions, please reach out to the Saint Mary’s Help Desk at
Summer Book Club on Connected Teaching

Summer Book Club on Connected Teaching

CELT is hosting a summer teaching book club on Harriet Schwartz’s book Connected Teaching, starting at 12pm on Wednesday, June 23rd and meeting every two weeks through the rest of the summer. We will meet on Zoom.

In this (virtual) book club, we will meet to discuss Dr. Harriet Schwartz’s book Connected Teaching. Echoing the Lasallian tradition, this book explores teaching as a relational practice – a practice wherein connection and disconnection with students, power, identity, and emotion shape the teaching and learning endeavor. The author describes moments of energetic deep learning and what makes these powerful moments happen. She calls on readers to be open to and seek relationship, understand their own socio-cultural identity (and how this shapes internal experience and the ways in which they are met in the world), and vigilantly explore and recognize emotion in the teaching endeavor.

The book club sessions will be co-facilitated by Dr. Tracy Lysne and Dr. Adam Potthast. We’d love for you to join us for the conversation about this book that explores the connection between teaching and relationships which is central to Lasallian pedagogy both online and face-to-face. A few of the interesting topics will be:

  • Connected teaching when there isn’t enough time
  • Assessment as a relational practice
  • Setting appropriate boundaries with learners
  • Power and relationships in the classroom

In the past, we’d had to limit participation in the summer book club due to the cost of providing a book to everyone. But this year the library has a license for as many electronic copies as we need, so anyone who wants to can participate!

Here is a link to the book, and see the dates below. If you can come, please RVSP here, where you can also find the first Zoom meeting link.

Book Club Topic Date
Introduction to Relational Cultural Theory
Chapters 1 and 2
June 23, 12pm-1pm (Zoom)
Boundaries and Teaching Relationships

Chapter 3

Dealing with Disruption and Resistance in the Learning Space
Chapter 5

July 7, 12pm-1pm (Zoom)
Relationships and Assessment
Chapter 4
July 21, 12pm-1pm (Zoom)
Power and Position (Exploring Educator Identity)
Chapter 6Emotion and Teaching
Chapter 7
August 4, 12pm-1pm (Zoom)
Disappointment and Failure (When Teaching Breaks Your Heart)
Chapter 8Intellectual Mattering and Conclusion
Chapter 9
August 18, 12pm-1pm (Zoom)
Blackboard Sunset Information

Blackboard Sunset Information

As of June 1, 2021, Blackboard for Saint Mary’s will be fading into the sunset. With courses and organizations migrated to Canvas, we bid a fond farewell to the learning management system that many of our instructors have taught in for years. We have a list of suggestions for faculty and students looking to make final preparations:

And of course, if you need help with our new Canvas LMS, feel free to sign up for one of our many trainings or see this support document to get more focused help.

Saint Mary’s will maintain archive access to Blackboard for another year to ensure a smooth transition.

  • If there is course content needed after June 1st please contact the Help Desk. They will create a ticket to retrieve the necessary items from the archive.
  • If there is a need for student content or grades after June 1st please contact the Help Desk. They will create a ticket to retrieve the necessary items from the archive.
Giving Feedback: What Students Need and Want

Giving Feedback: What Students Need and Want

As we make our way into and through summer courses, students are handing in their first assignments. For an instructor, this can be a daunting time. We subconsciously realize that the marks we put on a physical or digital paper stake out the relationship we have with a student for the rest of the course. So what kind of feedback helps students the most in courses? It may not be the kind of feedback you as an instructor got from your instructors in college. The keys that come up over and over again in the research can be summed up in three words: specific, timely, and personal.

  1. Feedback should be specific. We may be used to comments on papers or assignments that were given to us as students: “unpack”, “expand”, “this doesn’t seem quite right”, and so on. But these turn out to be less helpful to students. Far more helpful is to give them feedback that is specific, with direction about how to improve. For instance, instead of highlighting an underdeveloped thought and saying “expand”, try to explain what more you were looking for. You might write something like this instead: “I was hoping that you would write more about aspect X here. Your audience will be familiar with that aspect of this practice and will wonder if you know what you’re talking about if you leave it out. If you need more information, check out section X in the text or this reference from our course resources: [resource].”
  2. Feedback should be timely. It is a lot of work to get through 20 papers. But we know from research on teaching and learning that the longer we wait after a student has submitted something, the less our feedback makes a difference in future performance. In the worst case scenario, a student might not be prepared for a future assignment that involves feedback from the previous assignment. Instructors are not machines, but the sooner feedback happens (though immediate feedback on longer papers probably isn’t a great idea), the more students connect your feedback with the loose synapses that were firing when they wrote or presented their work.
  3. Feedback should be personal. One of the rougher lessons of teaching can be when two students discover you gave the same comments on both of their work. That’s unavoidable sometimes, but addressing students by name and connecting to individual details you might know about them has a big effect. Even bigger: expressing confidence that you know they can make the improvements you suggest. A little of that can go a long way in motivating them — particularly when they need to bridge a large gap between their work and your expectations.

And I know you’re wondering: doesn’t this all make giving feedback even more difficult as an instructor? It sounds like an awful lot of work, right? Oddly, though, the research has your back. The more feedback you give on a student’s work, the less they actually will be inclined to incorporate it and use it. Best feedback practices suggest that doing between 3-5 pieces of specific, timely, personal feedback generate greater student learning than 10 or more such pieces of feedback that isn’t specific, timely, or personal. But even better, it also suggests that there is such a thing as too much feedback even when it is specific, timely, and personal. So aim for between 3 and 5 of the biggest improvements or compliments you can give. It will be easier on you and your students.

For more on this topic:

(And as a bonus tip, it turns out that correcting all of a student’s grammar, spelling, or usage mistakes also fits this pattern. The more you correct, the less they are likely to remedy those mistakes. But if you stick to 3-5 main patterns of mistakes, they do more to correct those mistakes in the future.)