Day 75 Making the Grade

Caught Up

The Blackboard grade center has all sorts of bell and whistles.  I use it primarily to itemize every assignment graded in the course. Some of the grades I manually input into a field I create and other grades are automatically uploaded when tied to Blackboard.  Students can check their grades online 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.  They can see what they are missing if a zero is recorded for an assignment and they can view their percentage and letter grade in the course.  The grades are automatically tallied, which is a great feature for those of us who are numerically challenged.  I have buried all of my paper and pencil grade books and solely use the electronic grade center feature in Blackboard.

For more information about the grade center features Blackboard has to offer, this is from their website:

Access the Grade Center

You access the Grade Center from the Control Panel. Expand the Grade Center section to display the links to the Needs Grading page, the Full Grade Center, and the smart views. Click the right-pointing arrow next to the Grade Center heading to go directly to the Full Grade Center.

The Grade Center resembles a spreadsheet. Each row is populated by a user in your course and each column includes information for an item, such as an assignment, test, graded blog entry, or survey. You can also use columns to calculate grades.

Image illustrating associated text

The Needs Grading link allows you to view individual assignment, group assignment, and test attempts, as well as blog and journal entries, wiki page saves, and discussion posts ready for grading or review. To learn more, see the Needs Grading Page.

The Full Grade Center link displays all columns and rows in the Grade Center and is the default view of the Grade Center.

The smart view links appear as an indented list in the Full Grade Center section. A smart view is a focused look at the Grade Center and shows only the data that matches a set of criteria. You can use smart views to quickly find data when the Grade Center includes a great number of students and columns. For example, the default Tests smart view displays only test columns. You can create customized smart views and remove unneeded smart views. Click a smart view link to open the Grade Center using that view. To learn more, see Smart Views.

You can customize your view of the Grade Center and create grading schemas, grading periods, categories, and columns to present and gather the information you need. To learn more, see Customize the Grade Center.


Day 74 Love the Library!


The College of DuPage Library is outstanding.  I have the privilege of working with our Reference Librarian Jason Ertz, who is a powerhouse of information for our students.  I take my students to the library for an orientation every semester and design an assignment with Jason for students to get to know our campus library system and all it has to offer.  My online students also have several opportunities to use our library virtually.  There is a online chat feature on the library website, electronic databases and assistive technologies for students with special needs.  I have also used Elluminate Live, a web conferencing program to teleconference with students and our reference librarians to discuss topic selection, effective key word searches and using databases for our research writing course English 1102.

I am a big advocate for utilizing our College of DuPage Library and post multiple announcements throughout the semester on the Announcement Board:

Announcement Board Post:

Greetings English 1102 online students.  As we head into Unit 5, many of you have already worked your way around online research.  But just in case you need additional assistance, our College of DuPage Reference Librarians are here to help.

In fact, I just received this recent e-mail from our College of DuPage Library:

we love ‘em! we can’t get enough of ‘em!

Here in the Library, we’re crazy about research, but we know that research often drives students crazy. They don’t get it, or they leave it until the last minute, or they think APA stands for American Pale Ale.  We have loads of Workshops and Webinars to help!

And don’t forget that we’re made of librarians who want to work with students!

Jennifer Kelley

Reference Librarian/Associate Professor

Speech and ESL/ABE/GED Liaison

College of DuPage Library

SRC 3134

630 942-2383

Announcement Board Post:

Greetings English 1102 online students.  Thank you for e-mailing me your topic choices and argumentative thesis statements this week connected to Unit 2 assignments.  We’ve been e-mailing back and forth to tweak and revise — it’s all part of the process.  Once your thesis statement is approved, jump in and start collecting sources. It’s never too early to begin researching for this course since it is a quick 8-weeks.

I wanted to pass along this information from our College of DuPage Library.  The staff run fabulous workshops every semester — they are worthwhile in navigating the rigors of research.  You are not required to attend, but if you’re in the neighborhood, I really encourage you to register (it’s free!) and go to the workshop.  – Dr. Hubbard

Are you new to the College of DuPage Library?  Looking to sharpen your research skills?  Want an introduction to great technology tools in the Library and online?  SOS Workshops and Webinars are just what you need!

SOS Workshops are face-to-face, hands-on sessions designed to provide you with the skills you need to succeed at COD. Whether the workshop focuses on the research process or useful online tools, you can be sure that you will walk away with a tip or technique that will help you with your next paper, speech or presentation.

Our Webinar series, SOS Online, provides the COD community with convenient online learning opportunities in our Adobe Connect virtual classroom. Our interactive webinars are concise introductions to a single tool or strategy and are a great way to learn something new from wherever you are– all you need is some free time and an internet connection!

All SOS Workshops and Webinars are free, non-credit, and open to everyone. The purpose of these sessions is to encourage and teach all members of the College of DuPage community to master the skills necessary to conduct research, explore resources and become independent lifelong learners.

If you can’t wait for a workshop to get help, stop by or call the Reference Desk, (630) 942-3364 or Ask A Librarian online.


Announcement Board Post:

Hello again English 1102 online students.  At this point you SHOULD KNOW what your topic and thesis are because we have “discussed” it via e-mail.  In the last unit I approved your research topic and thesis statements.  Now it’s time to move forward.

As you begin your research, I came across this link about asking Reference Librarians for assistance.  Please remember our College of DuPage Reference Librarians are available both online and in person.  They are a valuable resource as you begin this expeditious research journey.  If you have a question, they can answer it — or find someone who can answer it.  Please rely upon our librarians!

Enjoy the article:



Day 73 Textbook Time


When I talk with students about textbook requirements it usually includes reference to  cash, a credit card or checkbook.  Textbooks are expensive.  Students tell me they generally spend over $700 a semester on books and materials for a full load of classes.  I am price sensitive and budget conscious — I encourage students to rent textbooks or purchase used textbooks if they can. I purposely seek out softcover texts and will maintain a textbook edition as long as possible to keep costs down and more palatable for a college student’s tight budget.

I have tried requiring e-books instead of traditional paper textbooks, but the anecdotal evidence was overwhelming — students preferred paper over digital texts.  Although students carry their smartphones and tablets to class, students in my courses have told me they like to use a highlighter, pen or pencil to annotate the “old school” way. They like writing in the margins and the physical act of turning the pages. The students requesting traditional texts smacks against the movement that big publishing houses like Pearson are moving away from print and into a digital learning and services model.  Even our high school daughters have Chromebooks that were distributed and required for use in all of their high school classes, yet they still have hardcover textbooks they read and study for tests in all of their classes.  Many of their teachers will assign supplemental material using digital interactive tools on the Chromebooks, but the main assessment still comes from the offline textbooks.

College of DuPage recently adopted a new textbook adoption tool, Follett Discover. This new tool is fully integrated into Blackboard, and the link to adopt textbooks can be found in our course shells. According to the flyer sent to us by the College of DuPage Bookstore, the Follett Discover tool provides an easier way to research course materials, share reviews and discuss content with your peers, and to adopt non-traditional materials. Follett Discover allows you to go online from a single destination, discover and research from Follett’s extensive and publisher agnostic library, and instantly adopt them.

  • Log into Black Board
  • Select your Course
  • Click the “Follett Discover” link
  • Choose your course to adopt books
  • Start Discovering


Day 71 Standardized Tests


T-E-S-T is a four letter word.  I don’t like tests.  Students don’t like tests.  But standardized testing has become common in the field of education.  The number of standardized tests administered to students has exploded in the past decade.  Mandated standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, ISAT, CogAT, PLAN and ITBS can promote an academic alphabet soup of fear and judgment.  Cut scores and national norms categorize students, labeling them according to a score on a multiple choice exam.  What value do these tests have?  In a video posted to Facebook by the White House, President Obama pledged to take steps to reduce testing overload.

In “moderation, smart, strategic tests can help us measure our kids’ progress in school, and it can help them learn,” Obama said. “But I also hear from parents who, rightly, worry about too much testing, and from teachers who feel so much pressure to teach to a test that it takes the joy out of teaching and learning, both for them and for the students. I want to fix that.”

Certainly tests can be used to measure a student’s performance and abilities in specific areas.  It is an efficient way to collect data, offer placement and even inform our instruction. Administering and scoring standardized tests online can provide baseline measurements and tracking students at a variety of points throughout their educational journey, but not without controversy or debate.  Even with multiple measures, tests appear to place students into a box.  Is there an opportunity to think outside the box?

In English, we recently adopted ACCUPLACER as a placement test for entry into our sequence of composition and reading courses. We are piloting ACCUPLACER as a replacement for COMPASS, eWrite and ASSET, standardized tests we have used in the past for placing students. Faculty have also developed “home grown” tests like summary tests and essay tests, but not without extra costs and a labor intensive commitment.  We continue to explore best practices in evaluating students.

College of DuPage offers a variety of comprehensive testing services:

The Testing Centers at College of DuPage are dedicated to enhancing student success by providing comprehensive, accessible testing services. All centers adhere to the NCTA Professional Standards & Guidelines, safeguard test integrity and confidentiality, and create an optimal testing environment that will meet the needs of our students, faculty, administrators and community. Our services support course, college and program requirements; identify academic strengths and weaknesses; clarify interests, values and personality traits; and complete specialized testing needs.

National College Testing Association (NCTA) 

The Testing Center at College of DuPage is certified by the National College Testing Association (NCTA)  and is committed to maintaining the NCTA Professional Standards & Guidelines. Since 2010, these Standards and Guidelines have been used in the NCTA Test Center Certification program to ensure that certified centers are following best practices.
This includes delivery of national standardized tests, placement exams, classroom makeup tests, non-standard exam administrations for students with disabilities, certification exams, distance exams, etc.

Day 69 Course Registration

online funny

Planning ahead is a big part of my DNA as a faculty member at College of DuPage.  I am constantly thinking of the next book order, prioritizing goals for a class activity, sequencing curriculum, forecasting projects and making goal lists.  Planning gives me a boost of energy and opens feelings of progress and accomplishment. I consider myself organized, prepared and productive.  Do I have an extra pencil in my backpack?  Did I remember to bring extra Kleenex?  Did I pack lunch the night before?  Check, check, check.  Admittedly, sometimes my uber planning drives my family crazy.  Spontaneity is a difficult concept for me.  I thrive on to-do lists, sticky notes and electronic reminders.

My students are also planners to an extent, but one of their biggest hurdles is thinking a semester or two semesters ahead.  “Designing their life” is difficult as they are peppered with questions like, “What is your major?  What are you good at?  What certificate or degree are you planning to pursue?  What is your dream job?” Sometimes our students are undecided, undeclared and uninterested right now.  They need time.  They need guidance.

I introduce them to our College of DuPage Student Planning Worksheet, a planning tool for students who are interested in finding out about specific general education degree requirements for the Associate of Art, Associate of Science, Associate in Engineering Science, Associate of Applied Science and Associate of General Studies degrees. I work with an adviser from Counseling Services, Michael Duggan, who volunteers to come into my classes each semester to talk with students about their future course schedules, internship opportunities and financial aid packages. We work together to help students plan an academic pathway at College of DuPage and beyond.

This formal planning process takes place right after midterm in preparation for the next semester’s course registration.  Again, students are thrown into choosing classes for the following semester when they aren’t yet finished with the current semester.  It can be confusing and daunting, but we’re here to help.

The College of DuPage website, is a great resource to aid in the course registration process:

Summer 2016

Returning Student Registration begins on March 22 at 8 a.m.

  • 60+ College of DuPage Earned Credits: Tuesday, March 22 or later
  • 50+ College of DuPage Earned Credits: Wednesday, March 23 or later
  • 40+ College of DuPage Earned Credits: Thursday, March 24 or later
  • 20+ College of DuPage Earned Credits: Monday, March 28 or later
  • 10+ College of DuPage Earned Credits: Tuesday, March 29 or later
  • .5+ College of DuPage Earned Credits: Wednesday, March 30 or later
  • New and Returning Students with Zero Earned Credits: Friday, April 1 or later

Priority registration does not include transfer credit or demonstrated competency credit.

To check the number of completed College of DuPage credit hours:

  • Go to
  • Log in to your account
  • Under “Academic Profile” click on “My Profile”.
  • See Institutional Completed Credits

Fall 2016

Returning Student Registration begins on April 7 at 8 a.m.

  • 60+ College of DuPage Earned Credits: Thursday April 7 or later
  • 50+ College of DuPage Earned Credits: Friday, April 8 or later
  • 40+ College of DuPage Earned Credits:  Monday, April 11 or later
  • 20+ College of DuPage Earned Credits: Wednesday, April 13 or later
  • 10+ College of DuPage Earned Credits: Thursday, April 14 or later
  • .5+ College of DuPage Earned Credits: Friday, April 15 or later
  • New and Returning Students with Zero Earned Credits: Friday, April 22 or later

After I register, when is my payment due date?

All students not receiving financial assistance are required to pay their tuition bill at the time of registration. Students who receive employer reimbursements must pay their tuition first to the College, then obtain repayment from their employer. Students may pay by cash, check or credit card. Students unable to pay in full may take advantage of our convenient “Payment Plans”. Students receiving financial assistance will be able to enroll in a deferred-payment plan.

Day 56 Alternative Spring Break


During this Spring Break I am spending time with my family volunteering on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for one week in South Dakota.  The idea for the trip began with my 87-year-old mother in-law Joan, who has made extensive contributions to the Lakota Indians over the years.  She is a great example of altruism and we are making this trip in her honor.  We will be working on a service project building bunk beds, wheelchair ramps and outhouses with an organization called Re-member. Re-member provides access to work experience, exposure to Lakota Indian culture and most importantly, opportunities to build relationships with the Lakota people. We have facilitated a collection drive and are bringing three bins full of soap, toothpaste, shampoo and hair brushes to donate.

My family has participated on alternative spring breaks previously with International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) volunteering in Costa Rica.  Traveling to Central America was an amazing experience. Water was limited, the power went out frequently and supplies were scarce, but we helped build a new bathroom and computer classroom in a local church in Barrio Cuba. Contributing to communities locally and internationally puts life in perspective. Giving doesn’t have to be complicated or grand, but the more I spend time sharing unconditionally, the more joy I feel.  This spring break we’ll take time to open our eyes and our hearts.

One my College of DuPage colleagues, Tom Montgomery-Fate has spent an extensive amount of time on the Pine Ridge Reservation researching and writing for a College of DuPage Field Studies course.  He has written an essay, “Detours of Intention: Lost and Found in the Holy Land” which appeared in Riverteeth (University of NE Press 2016).  He writes:

The Pine Ridge is a hard place to live.  Roughly the size of the state of Connecticut, it is the second largest reservation in the United States and contains the nation’s poorest counties.  The statistics from recent studies are startling.  The average life expectancy — fifty-nine for men and sixty-two for women — is the lowest in the United States and is comparable to sub-Saharan Africa.  The estimated rate of unemployment is the same as the rate of alcoholism:  about eighty percent.  The rate of tuberculosis is eight hundred percent higher than the national average; the rate of cervical cancer is about five hundred percent higher.  The high school drop-out rate is more than fifty percent.  Forty percent of the homes on the reservation have no electricity, and sixty percent lack a telephone.



Day 55 Spring Break Saturday!

Spring Break 2

The College of DuPage academic calendar includes one week of Spring Break.  Classes are not in session, but administrative offices and facilities are are still open.  The campus becomes quiet with most faculty offices and classrooms empty and dark. Spring Break is usually scheduled during the same time every year, around the end of March or early April.  Although many college students spend their Spring Break traveling to tropical destinations like Cancun, Panama City Beach, South Padre Island or Punta Cana to experience parties and beaches, most of my students tell me that they plan on spending the week off from school picking up extra shifts at work, sleeping in or taking care of their families.

Community college students generally have different lifestyles than university students.  College of DuPage is considered a commuter school. We do not have dormitories or on campus housing. This makes it more challenging to get involved, meet new people and make connections. My students work at least one job and have limited time for a social life outside of school and family obligations.  They generally do not have disposable income to spend hundreds of dollars on a week’s vacation with their peers, particularly when many students graduate with a sizable amount of debt and student loans.  One of the last items on their priority list is spending money frivolously on Spring Break. In fact, my students will tell me they are vigilant at saving money and follow a strict budget. But one similarity that community college and university students share is the release from school work or as one of my students exclaimed before Spring Break began, “I’m just going to do a whole lot of nothingness.”  Enjoy!