Using Rubrics in Your Course Assessments

Close up look at A Plus on paper with red pen

Assessment of student work can be difficult, especially if there is a subjective nature to the grade you are giving.  Making grading clearer is one way that rubrics can help both you, and your students.  

If you are unsure of how a rubric works, I wanted to share with you this 8-1/2 minute video from the University of Alberta Centre for Teaching and Learning.  This video does a very good job explaining rubrics and gives you an understanding of the following:

  • What is a rubric? (00:52)
  • What types of rubrics exist (1:08)
  • Creating an effective rubric (3:13)
  • Creating rubric criteria (4:47), and
  • When should students interact with the rubric? (6:02)

Now that you know more about rubrics, let’s look at how to add a rubric to your Blackboard course. 

The format that Blackboard defaults to is an Analytic Rubric.  If you would rather use a Holistic Rubric, you can easily make this change by deleting two of the three columns in the default Blackboard rubric.  Some students prefer a Holistic Rubric, because it describes what needs to be achieved in the assignment.

Create a Rubric in Blackboard

Here is a 1 minute video on how to create a rubric in Blackboard:

Adding a Rubric to Graded Course Work

Here is a 1 minute, 30 second video showing how to link your rubric to your course’s gradable content items (assignments, discussion forums, journals, blogs, or wikis).  When you set up your rubric, remember to make the rubric visible before the students start their work.  (The default is to have it hidden).

Grade Using a Rubric

Once you have the Rubric associated with a graded item, you can actually use it for grading.  The following one minute video shows you how to grade student work using the rubric you created.

As you can see, using a rubric in your course can really help you in evaluating and grading your student’s work.  Just make sure that your descriptions are specific and measurable!!

A huge advantage with using rubrics is that, prior to starting the assignment, your students know exactly what they need to do to achieve the outcomes you are looking for.  The rubric is something they can refer back to, giving them the best chance at success.  Attaching a rubric eliminates guess work by the student, and should also reduce questions you might receive as students work on the graded item.  Rubrics give students a clear learning target!

Also, If you pay attention to your course objectives while creating your rubrics, this also ensures that these objectives are met and that you have not gotten off track.  

I hope you will consider using rubrics (if you are not already doing so).  Thank you for reading the Faculty Learning Corner, and have a great weekend!

For Your Students – Recording a PowerPoint Presentation as a Course Assignment!

When it comes to course assignments, there may be times when you want to have your students record a PowerPoint video and submit it.  This can easily be done by students using Zoom.

In this seven minute video I have provided information that is very basic, giving them information on how to submit a video assignment.  This video shows your student, step by step, how to record a PowerPoint Presentation in Zoom, and then submit it to a Blackboard Learn course.  

Here is a link you can add to your course for students:

Today’s FLC was short and sweet, but stay tuned… there is more to come next Friday!

Have a great weekend, and thank you for reading he Faculty Learning Corner!

Creating Great Course Videos

Making low cost, or no cost videos for your course may seem daunting, but with a few tips on creating video, I hope you will feel more comfortable taking this on.  Here is an 11 minute video that gives you information on how to shoot a successful course video.  

In the next video (below), I give you tips on how to shoot a video with just your cell phone.

Zoom logo

You can also use Zoom for a lecture video. You can start a meeting that only you attend, and then hit record…. it’s that easy. You will have use of the whiteboard, and can share your screen if you want to add visuals that are on the internet or your computer. When you are done you will have a recording that you can download as an mp4.

Create a Video With Just Your Cell Phone

The Alaska Folk Festival had a Virtual Festival in 2020, and they sent this video on how to make a video using a cell phone.  All the tips in this outstanding  three and a half minute video can be used by you in creating a educational video for your course.

Putting Your Finished Video On YouTube

Once you’ve created your video, how do your students watch it?  One solution is to place the video on YouTube.  This doesn’t take any room on University servers, and makes your video easy to find.  It also places all your videos in your YouTube Studio which are easy to find (Click on your profile picture and in the pop-up menu scroll to YouTube Studio).   If you’ve never placed an mp4 video on YouTube, here is a quick 3 minute 20 second video that gives you the basics.

Blackboard Logo

When adding your YouTube video to a course, use the “Web Link” option in “Build Content.”  You can use the “YouTube Video Mashup” option, but only if your video is saved as “Public.”

I hope you found these tips to be helpful.  Have a great weekend and I’ll see you next Friday!!

Student Learning Loss

Teacher online as seen when looking at a computer screen.

With Covid19 came a huge faculty transition, with those who had never taught on-line forced to make a sudden and unexpected shift to distance teaching.  The transition focused on shifting course content online quickly, with speed of transition as the main goal.

Because of that, and because of the multiple layers of stress (including stress outside the classroom – Do I have enough toilet paper?) students find themselves feeling as if they did not get the best education.  The words I hear most often from everyone (Faculty, Staff, and Students), when looking back at the last year and a half are “unmotivated” and “distracted.”  It is estimated that 500,000 students did not enroll in college this Fall in the U.S., partly because students are tired of the disruptions in the education they are getting.  We see that drop in numbers here in Alaska as well.

As we transition back into in-person courses, we need to remember that all students have been affected by the last couple of years.

Masked students who are socially distanced in a lecture hall
  • Freshman – High school is a different experience than college, but when you factor in how their High School careers ended, this is going to be a bigger transition. We need to help these students understand the expectations of engaging and learning in a University environment.
  • Sophomores – These students are stepping on campus for the first time! Do they also need a “new student” orientation?  Sure, they have a year of College under their belt, but there is still a lot that is new!
  • Juniors – These students had one semester before everything went sideways on them. This has been a surreal experience.  They probably have a mixed relationship with the University, so we need to reorient and reconnect with them. 
  • Seniors – Like the Juniors, these students got a good year and a half of a real college experience. These students have stuck it out and have shown resilience through the pandemic, but how do we make them life-long learners?  We need them to know that their experience is not normal, that education is worth the effort, and that the hurdles they have overcome make them a very special class of student.


We are back on campus, but does that mean we are back to normal?  We need to listen very closely to students, and make them partners in our process of identifying issues and developing solutions.

Here are some approaches you can take as an instructor to help students:

Still shot from movie War Games with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy sitting in front of a computer
  • Formative Assessments – The concentration should be on Formative Assessments and less on Summative Assessment. If your student assessment consists of a mid-term and a Final exam, you will need to look at ways you can evaluate and give frequent feedback to students.
  • Take a “developmental” approach with your assessments, and not a “gotcha” approach. Using the method of trying to catch students getting something incorrect will not motivate them to their best work.
  • Collaborate and get to know your students! “The presence and quality of our relationships may have more impact on learning and development than any other factor.” (The Science of Learning and Development Alliance, May 2020)
  • Make learning relevant to the students. For example, a reference to the movie War Games may seem appropriate, but your students probably have never heard of the movie.  (A 19 year old student was born in 2002, so to catch pop culture references since they turned 13 would start in 2015!!!!!  Wow, do I feel old!!)  Again, know your students.  A course full of non-traditional 30+ year olds will be different than a class of 18 and 19 year olds.
  • Focus on the needs of the students. With the last couple years in mind, you made need to help students find learning resources, like the UAS Learning Center in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Sitka.
  • Also, use the EAB system to help students who might be falling behind. Watch for students who are not logging in to your course, as well as those not getting work in (or are having trouble with the work they do turn in).  Students may not seek help on their own, so give them a hand to find the resources to help them.

One More Thing

The impact of Covid19 on students has been intense, and this is especially true of students of color and lower income students.  That does not mean you need to lower your standards for these students…actually the opposite.  Use the steps I outlined above, and make sure that expectations are clear.  Again (and I can’t emphasis this enough) build a relationship with your students.

Sign that says, "Building relationships with students is by far the most important thing a teacher can do.  Without a solid foundation and relationships built on trust and respect, no quality learning will happen."

I hope you find this post helpful.  Have a great weekend and I’ll see you next Friday!

Helping Students

I have a couple items to share with you today!

Getting Started GIF

Are you finding that your students are not clicking on your “Get Started” page?   You would think this is obvious, but sometimes students need a little nudge to get them where you want them.  

Susie Feero at the Sitka campus has created a GIF that you can embed in your course to help students find your “Getting Started” page.  Contact Susie if you need a custom GIF for your course.

You can get the following GIF by clicking on the “getting started” Download link below. 

Here’s how you add this GIF into your course:

Once you have it downloaded, in Blackboard go to Announcements, click on “Create Announcement.” Then find the upload button to add media (circle with the plus sign in it – In the old toolbar it was called “Mashups”):

Once you’ve clicked the upload button click on “Insert Local Files.”

Add the downloaded file and you’ll see it as an announcement in your course.  Move it to the top, and it will remind students to click Getting Started – and includes motion to really grab your students attention!

Student Orientation

I also wanted to share the orientation video made by the Sitka campus.  It’s really important that students feel a connection to the university, and this video personalizes the services by giving a face to the different areas that students will need to navigate.

Sitka Student Orientation – 44 Minutes

I also wanted to make sure that you know about the UAS Orientation page, in case you come across students who seem lost in the “how-to” of college life beyond their coursework.  Students may be worrying about Financial Aid, wondering if there is a way to get extra help (Student Success Center), or figuring out how to access their student accounts.  When they worry about these things, they lose some of the cognitive resources needed for their actual coursework!

Here is the UAS Orientation Page, with information for all three campuses and a section for e-learners!  Give these resources to any student who you think needs them.

I hope your year has gotten off to a good start.  If you need help, contact an instructional designer or the CELT office (  Have a great weekend and I’ll see you next Friday!

Welcome Back UAS Faculty – 2021-2022 School Year

Welcome back!  I hope everyone had a great Summer.

I wanted to update you on a few items so you get off to a good start this Fall.


VoiceThread has a new Assignment Builder, so if you use this tool, you will want to watch this 45 minute video that outlines all the new features and how they work.  (If you watch on YouTube, you will see that this video is segmented, so you can skip to the parts that you want to review.)


I wanted to make sure you have the latest version of Zoom.  If you haven’t updated for a while you might be missing out on some features, such as a “blur” background.  Just watch this two minute video to see how to update to the latest version of Zoom.


If you use Respondus for test creation, you will need to update the password.  A note was sent to all UAS Faculty on Monday August 2nd (at 9:59 AM), so check your email if you didn’t see this.  The email gives you all the links and instructions on updating.   Contact your campus instructional designer if you need the note re-sent.

Blackboard Ultra Based Navigation

UAS will be putting a new Blackboard navigation system in place in the Spring 2022 semester.  This navigation page will replace the page.  Ultra-Based Navigation (UBN) will give features that Faculty and Students are going to love, without making any changes to your courses.  Testing on this system will begin on September 7th  (on the Blackboard test site), and you will have the opportunity to check this out.  See the migration schedule by clicking on the link below.

Here is a 10 minute video to introduce you to UBN:

A question about Ultra Based Navigation is if it is going to change your course.  The answer to that is no!!!  Ultra Based Navigation is only a page (replacing and will have no effect on any of your courses. 

The December 17th date was picked because this date is after the semester, and after grades are turned in.  This change does not affect when you can start working on your Spring courses. 

Thank you for reading the Faculty Learning Corner.

Am I A Procrastinator?

Well, I can answer that question for me, as you can probably answer for yourself.  Today I wanted to share a Ted Talk that is both funny and insightful.  For example, did know that there are two types of procrastination?  There is the deadline based procrastination, but there is also long term procrastination.

Watch this 14 minute video to meet the speaker Tim Urban, as well as the Rational Decision Maker, the Instant Gratification Monkey, and the Panic Monster!

Sorry It’s been a couple weeks since my last post. Was I procrastinating???

Thanks for reading the Faculty Learning Corner, and have a great summer! I’ll see you in the Fall!

Zoom – How to Update, and How to Personalize a Powerpoint Presentation

We have been using Zoom for a while now, but when is the last time you updated Zoom?  New updates are coming out every month (and sometimes weekly) and you may be missing out on features if you haven’t updated.  One of these features is a personalized Powerpoint presentation, which I will show you below.

But first, let’s update your Zoom.

Now that you have the latest version of Zoom you now have all the latest Zoom tools. One of the newer tools that Zoom has added is the ability to put your live picture into one of your Powerpoint presentations.

The ability to do this will give you a more personalized way to do a Powerpoint presentation, whether it is in a live class situation, or if you are recording a presentation to be embedded.

If you want to embed a recorded Zoom presentation, all you have to do is start the presentation, use the steps in the video below, and record the session. Once you are done, you can download the recording and add that video to your course content.

I hope you enjoyed these Zoom tips. Thanks for reading the Faculty Learning Corner!

Creating Course Recordings with Your Smartphone

As we do more teaching online, I receive many questions about creating video content. In an effort to help answer this question, I wanted to let you know that your Smart Phone can do a pretty awesome job of creating a personalized recording.

In the video below, the Alaska Folk Festival gives tips on how to create a high quality recording. Their video is meant for recording music, but the concepts are the same for your course recordings.

Pick a Quiet Uncluttered Location

  • Find a quiet and comfortable spot at home or in a quiet area where you can minimize distractions and outside noises. If you are doing your video outdoors, be aware of wind noise. 
  • Look at your background. Is there anything that you don’t want students to see? Is there anything that might be distracting? You want your students attention on the lesson you are delivering, and not on the background.

Lighting is Important

  • A $40 webcam with good lighting will create a higher quality video than a $1200 webcam with bad lighting.  Don’t record in a dim room, and avoid having a bright window or light behind you.  If it can be avoided, try to not have your only light source directly over-head. 
  • What you want is indirect light from a window in front of you or slightly off to either side.  This will illuminate your face while the camera is pointed at you.  If you have a lamp, place it behind your recording device. 
Computer set up with lighting behind the computer

Framing Your Shot

  • Having your video properly framed will make it look more professional and will enhance student engagement.
  • Make sure your camera is at eye level. An inexpensive way to do that is to put your camera on top of a stack of books. A good “eye-line” is important to help students feel comfortable watching the video.
  • Make sure you fit nicely in the picture. You don’t want the bottom of your face or top of your head to be cut off. Again, look at your background. Is there a plant that looks like it’s growing out of your head?


  • Audio is more important than video. A bad picture with great audio isn’t the best, but is better than bad audio with a good picture. A good picture with bad audio is going to be unwatchable every time.
  • Use an external microphone if possible. They do make microphones that can be plugged directly into a smartphone. Recording with a headset microphone is also a great choice.
  • If you are recording with a webcam or built-in camera microphone, be careful about background noise. Often wind and other sounds will be amplified through your microphone. 

Pre-recording Steps

  • Think about how you are dressed. Pajamas might be comfortable, but do they present the right image to your students?
  • Do a quick test prior to doing the actual recording. This will help tell you if the background is OK, if you are centered on the screen, and if the audio is working.
  • Look at the camera. This is your way of making “eye-contact” with the class. Relax and use mannerisms as if you were presenting a live lecture. This personalization will be appreciated by your students.
  • Have a script – know what you are going to say. Winging it through multiple takes could take a long time. It’s best to prepare what you are going to say prior to stepping in front of the camera. Plus if you have a script, this can be used as a transcript for students who need it.

I hope this was helpful as we continue to offer online courses.  Thanks for reading the FLC and I hope you have a great weekend!

How to Stay Sane While Isolating

It’s been a year since this pandemic started here in the US, and we are not quite done yet. It appears we will be isolating and working from home for a few more months, if not through the end of 2021. So how do we stay sane? Here is a video from the BBC with some tips.

With a drop in COVID19 cases, and vaccinations now available, we are getting closer to being “back to normal.” I put that in quotes, because who knows what “normal” will look like after the pandemic is over. But there is a light at the end of he tunnel.

Stay safe, get vaccinated, remember to social distance, and keep wearing your mask. We’re getting through this!! Have a great weekend!