Reflect on Your Course Structure and Technology Use

Submitted by Mike Meyer, Director of the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning

As we wrap up one term and look to the next, it’s important to reflect both on course structures and classroom technologies.   One of the most interesting reflections I’ve seen regarding getting the technology right is Todd Rose’s TED Talk called  “The Myth ofAverage”. (

In this 18 minute video, Todd – a high school drop-out and now Harvard faculty member – compares the fit of a fighter-pilot in a cockpit to that of an “average” student in a classroom.  He argues that without the ability to “customize”, exactly zero students in our courses will optimize their learning.

The William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning will maintain regular hours through December 22 for further discussion about next term, then re-open on 1/5 to help instructors prepare for the new semester.  For more discussion about your courses, stop bythe William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning ( in theVan Pelt and Opie Library, room 219!

Increasing Response Rates on Evaluations

Submitted by Mike Meyer, Director of the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning

With end-of-term course evaluations under way, many instructors have questions about raising response rates. The UC Berkley Center for Teaching and Learning summarizes the research on this; studies have shown that how the instructor approaches these evaluations can make a big difference in response rate. The key is to go beyond just reminders by explaining to students how their responses will be used by both the instructor and the administration. Asking for feedback about specific aspects of the course (a recent change or something being considered) also seems to increase responses.

Busy students need assurance that the time they take to give feedback isn’t wasted. If you’d like to talk more about how to increase response rates in your class, email or stop by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in Library 219.

Resource Index for Learner-Centered Teaching Methods

Submitted by Mike Meyer, Director of the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning

As instructors move toward more learner-centered teaching methods, the “flipped classroom” has gotten lots of press.  But “flipping” is more than just recording videos.  The expectation is that delivering content outside of class will free up time for more engaged learning in the classroom.

A great topical index of methods, ideas, and articles related to learner-centered teaching methods can be found on the webpage of the the North Central College’s Center for Teaching and Learning (  The index ranges from tips on interactive lecturing to getting students to participate in discussions, but also includes good articles on teaching critical thinking and collaborative (group) techniques.

I encourage you to survey the site and explore one topic or article related to some aspect of your teaching.  If you’d like to discuss it afterwards, e-mail  or feel free to stop by the William G. Jackson Center forTeaching and Learning ( in the Van Pelt and Opie Library, room 219!

Remix-T: Resource for Media Rich Learning

Submitted by Mike Meyer, Director of the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning

If you’re looking for new and different ways for students to interact with content, you will find a tremendous resource in Notre Dame’s  Remix-T.   This resource was created by Chris Clark, the Assistant Director and Learning Technologies Center Coordinator in the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning at Notre Dame University.  His goal is to help instructors explore options for “creating media-rich learning experiences,” either by having instructors create media or assigning projects where students do.

The site has a project gallery with a large number of example projects, including advice and tools for making videos, comics, timelines, a media “scavenger hunt”, and content enriched maps.  Instructors can also find a page full of inexpensive or free media tools that might be helpful in collecting, organizing, or creating media.

If you’d like to dialog about how media might enrich your course, mail  or feel free to stop by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in the Van Pelt and Opie Library, room 219!

PHET Interactive Simulations

Submitted by Mike Meyer, Director of the William G. Jackson CTL

Another simulation site that should be on every science and engineering instructor’s list is PhET.  Founded by Carl Wieman’s Nobel prize winnings, the University of Colorado Boulder has created highly-interactive simulation environments for a wide variety of basic systems, including forces and motion, earth sciences, chemistry, biology, fluids, vibrations, electromagnetism,  AC and DC circuits, thermodynamics, and general mathematics.

PHET sims generally have very low learning curves, so students can “jump in” and experiment with them on their own.  The sims therefore make excellent pre-lab exercises or introductions to topics.   PhET’s extensive educational research has helped focus the sims on addressing common scientific misconceptions held by students, and the site offers materials that guide use of the sims should you wish to provide more structure.

If PhET isn’t already on your radar, I hope you’ll take a look.  For more information about how these sims are being used in various places around campus, mail  or feel free to stop by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in the Van Pelt and Opie Library, room 219!

Concerned about a Student?

This week’s teaching resource is a little closer to home. In addition to academic concerns, students often share struggles and situations of a personal nature with their instructors. When this happens to me, I’m sometimes unsure of how to respond.

Our own Dean of Student’s Office has put together a valuable set of resources “to assist the Michigan Tech community in providing support to students who may face a variety of concerns during their college career.” These include discussions of situations as minor as roommate conflicts and as major as suicide or sexual assault. Each topic includes specific “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to help an instructor make an appropriate response, considering both the student’s best interest and legal issues (like mandatory reporting). The page is indexed to make it easy for busy instructors to find situation-appropriate advice quickly and to connect with other campus resources when more help is needed.

If you’d like to talk more about resources for this other dimension of teaching or share resources you’ve found, email or stop by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in the Van Pelt and Opie Library, room 219.


The William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning schedules events for faculty and instructional staff to provide opportunities to learn new instructional strategies and tools and meet faculty from other departments. 

Lunch and Learn — International Students: How Can We Help Them Succeed in the Classroom? (11/13): International students bring unique skills, perspectives, opportunities, and challenges to our classrooms and programs.  Prior to this blended seminar, you’ll watch video interviews with instructors and administrators who have experience working with international students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Then, you’ll select those facilitators you’d like to engage during a lunchtime discussion. This luncheon is scheduled for Thursday, November 13 from noon-1 p.m. Lunch will be provided to those who register by Monday, November 10.  Click here to register.

Coffee Chat — How Learning Works (11/18): Dr. Susan Ambrose of Northeastern University recently published a book entitled How Learning Works: 7 Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching.    During this coffee chat, we’ll discuss the 7 principles and how best to apply them to create a learner-centered classroom. Prior to the coffee chat, participants are asked to watch a 52-minute webinar, featuring Dr. Ambrose and recorded as part of WEPAN’s Engineering Inclusive Teaching Project, to inform the conversation. This coffee chat event This coffee chat is scheduled for Tuesday, November 18 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Coffee and light refreshments will be provided to those who register by Thursday, November 14.  Click here to register.

Learning Object Repositories

by Mike Meyer, Director of William G. Jackson CTL

Many instructors at Michigan Tech are hard at work building videos, narrated PowerPoints, case studies, problem sets, worksheets and other course materials. Of course, there are hundreds of other institutions with hundreds of other instructors doing the same. The idea of a learning object repository (LOR) is to allow developers to share their creations for other instructor use and save development time. Virtually anyone can contribute learning objects to an LOR or (given permission) use another instructor’s materials.

There have been hundreds of LORs created by universities, private foundations and professional societies. Some require memberships, and some are completely open. As you can imagine, the biggest challenge lies in sorting and ranking contributed learning objects so the best ones can be quickly found in a search. Two organizations that have done this reasonably well with a large body of materials include Merlot and Hippocampus. Instructure (the creators of Canvas) are also planning their own LOR, called Canvas Commons, which will allow the sharing of materials specifically developed within Canvas (quizzes, assignments, etc.)

If you’d like to talk more about learning object repositories or share teaching resources you’ve found, email or stop by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in the Van Pelt and Opie Library, room 219.