Category Archives: Frequently Asked Questions

Setting expectations in the college classroom

There’s a popular saying among K-12 teachers: “Don’t smile until Christmas.” It’s not to be taken literally (although we all have memories of teachers who didn’t even smile after Christmas). It is meant as a comment on the importance of setting expectations in the classroom.

K-12 teachers devote a lot of time and effort to classroom management. As they should. Children, unformed and irrational as they are, need rules to follow. Those of us who teach in institutions of higher learning tend to give less thought to such things. By the time those wild children get to our classrooms, they have been tamed. They are self-directed, self-motivated, self-aware, and self-disciplined. Or are they?

We know that not all children are wild, and not all adults are tame. But that’s beside the point. Students of any age and any level of domesticity need solid structure and clear expectations in the classroom. The system you have developed for your classes might make perfect sense to you, but you can’t assume that it will make sense to your students. What are your expectations for class discussion? Would you like students to turn off their mobile phones in the classroom? What is your attendance policy? How do you want students to address you? How should they structure an email that they write to you? What file formats are acceptable for assignments? If you are teaching online, how do you want students to communicate with you and each other? There is a myriad of possible behaviors in a classroom. You need to tell your students exactly what you want from them. Micromanagement is not the goal. Rather it is to create a clear structure in which students can learn without uncertainty or confusion.

Following are a few simple guidelines for setting expectations in the college classroom, be it face-to-face or online.

First things first. The first day or first week of class, not later, is the time to communicate expectations.

Put it in writing. A syllabus is a contract that establishes roles and responsibilities for teacher and student. If you want students to do or know something, put it in the syllabus.

Don’t smile until … If you start strict, you can be lenient later, but it can be challenging the other way around. Students tend to perceive the imposition of new rules as unfair, and they may not accept them. This also holds true for grading and feedback. If you are tough at the beginning of the semester, you give students room for improvement. Not so if the first assignment is an easy A.

Don’t let it fester. If there is a problem, deal with it as soon as possible. Minor issues can become disastrous if they are allowed to develop.

An example is worth a thousand words. Give students examples of what you want and don’t want, and explain your reasons.

Of course, there is much more to it. This is a brief and simplistic treatment of a complex topic. You’ll find more details if you follow the links below. We also invite you to visit us at the Office of Instructional Consulting if you’d like to discuss strategies for setting expectations in the college classroom.

Things to consider before the first day of class from IU’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning:

Guidelines for dealing with disruptive students from the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning:

Practical solutions for specific problem behaviors:

Online teaching presents its own challenges. Tips for online class managment:

Guidelines for establishing standards of etiquette in the classroom and suggestions for syllabus items from UC Davis:


“Flipping the Class” in Higher Education

Lately, there has been a lot of interest in the topic of “flipping the classroom” in  the field of higher education, particularly due to the popularity and success of the Khan Academy (e.g., read CBS 60 Minutes – Khan Academy: The Future of Education). In addition, advances in technology, especially making video production more user-friendly and less expensive, allow instructors to quickly record narrated and annotated videos (i.e. screencast) which

can then be shared with students through various video-streaming websites. According to proponents, “flipped classrooms” engage students with content more deeply, provide opportunities to personalize learning, and can result in overall higher learning outcomes.

What is “flipping the class”?

The Flipped Classroom Infographic

The Flipped Classroom Infographic
– click on image

Compared to traditional classrooms, where an instructor exposes students to new content during class time while students then apply the newly-learned material in their homework, so-called “flipped classrooms” rotate this sequence. Here, the instructor prepares short lectures of the to-be-learned material, often in the form of online videos, and makes them available to students before class. Then during class, students complete activities or projects that require them to apply the material from the lectures. The idea behind this method is that more of the actual class time is spent on higher order thinking (Bloom’s Taxonomy: Application, Analysis, etc.) while more basic tasks (Bloom’s Taxonomy: Recognition, Understanding) are completed independently before class.

What is the advantage?

Posting a brief online lecture in video format offers several advantages. First, the video is available 24/7 allowing students to review material at a convenient time and location (e.g., local coffee shop). Furthermore, students can stop the video anytime, replay important parts, or watch the complete video multiple times. This is especially useful when using the “mastery learning” approach where students can only move to the next activities if he or she has mastered the previous step(s).

With students exploring new content outside of class, the actual class time can now be used to further engage students with the material applying higher-order thinking skills. Depending on topics and subjects, students can now conduct experiments, solve complex math problems, or work on projects with the instructor being present and providing guidance. In addition, class time can also be used for students to work on activities that match individual interests or academic needs; thus, offering the possibility to provide more personalized learning.

Wait, aren’t we doing this already?

Taking a close look at the concepts behind and the principles of a “flipped class”, one might wonder whether the idea is really that new or whether it has been around and is just becoming popular. At least since the turn of the century, faculty and instructors in higher education have been exploring blended learning that combines traditional face-to-face classes with additional Internet-based activities or resources. Similarly, in online education, it is often necessary, if not unavoidable, for individual students to learn content on their own “outside the class” and then apply this content in another form (e.g., discussion forum, individual paper).

While the practice of incorporating Internet-based resources into education might not be new, the benefit of using those rests within the opportunity to gain valuable class time for other educational purposes. For example, by shifting some activities outside the regular class period, the actual class might be used for students to complete projects where they need to apply newly learned material and higher- order learning skills. Nevertheless to ensure student learning, any “flipping of classes” or use of Internet-based resources should be done in pedagogically sound ways. Too easily, one could fall back to the “sage on the stage” model where instead of having a person providing content by standing in front of the class, it is now done through online videos. Thus, it takes a delicate effort by the teacher/facilitator, even in a student-centered classroom, to guide students and make learning meaningful.

For more information developing successful “flipped classes”, see recommendations by Jon Bergmann, Jerry Overmyer and Brett Wilie.


Additional Resources

Enjoy a Better Grading Experience!

Holiday season is just around the corner! Yeah!!!

But wait, are you still supposed to grade the final papers and exams? Hmm…

Grading can definitely bring gratification, joy, and reflection, but only having several days to grade before the submission deadline may still cause stress and pressure.  Are there some tips one could use to make the grading experience easier? What particular things does one need to pay attention to while grading? Our IC Office sincerely hopes the tips we gleaned in this blog post may answer some of your questions.

Question 1: So, this dauntingly big stack of papers is staring at me, where should I start?

The time at the end of the semester can often be very stressful due to numerous deadlines and last-minute changes. To avoid that this stress potentially influences grading, one could first find a supportive environment where it is peaceful and comfortable enough to concentrate.

Instead of jumping into grading right away, spend some time on preparation and plan on grading strategy so that consistency and fairness can be maintained throughout. For example, to avoid potential biases, consider the order of papers. Papers may be arranged alphabetically, randomly, or with names covered. Experiment and find out what works best for the habit, energy, and mood.

Additionally, reading five or six papers before grading helps one to get an idea of the average time spent on and the range of quality of each paper.  Estimating the time spent on grading each paper gives one a better understanding of how much or how little time on a particular paper.  Furthermore, stop grading if you feel tired, irritable, or bored. When starting again, read over the last couple of graded papers for review and consistency.

Question 2: How do I approach grading?

While additional techniques exist, there are two universally used grading methods: point score method which means points are broken down according to content sections or criteria, and holistic method which means a grade is based on the overall quality. Some people who prefer the former may grade based on criteria, such as analytical substance, argument structure, use of supporting material, quality of writing, persuasiveness, overall clarity, and internal consistency to name a few. In this case, one may find it necessary to create a rubric. A rubric offers the advantage to assess the quality of a student’s work based on different criteria.  Furthermore, each criterion is broken down into levels of competency. When using rubrics, it is good practice to share it beforehand with students so that students are aware of assessment criteria for the specific assignment. An online tool called iRubric is available to assist faculty and instructor in the School of Education on the Bloomington campus with rubric development, assessment and sharing. One can find many free rubrics in the database and customize them for personal use. (Click here to refer to more information on iRubric)

However, in some cases holistic grading approach is preferred because rubrics do not cover all situations. For instance, when an assignment or project is left open for students to be creative in presenting forms (e.g., a drawing, a poem, a picture), more subjectivity will be involved in judging the overall quality and unique rationale of the work. Please keep in mind that students often desire a certain level of transparency regarding assessment methods, so it is suggested to record the rationale for any grade.

Question 3: How could I best use my teaching assistant in the grading process?

There are several ways to involve teaching assistants in the grading process. The instructor could discuss grading policies and standards to get their opinions and make adjustments as needed. If the teaching assistants are grading, the instructor should discuss the expectations about facets of grading and adopt appropriate group grading strategy. To ensure consistency, each section of an exam could be graded by the same teaching assistant. Another way is to  work at the same time in the same place so teaching assistants can compare their grading policies and reach consensus when disputes arise.

If, as an IU instructor, you have to leave for a conference around the grade submission date, one and more grade proxies could be assigned through IU OneStart system.  Grade proxies have the authorization to submit final grades for you without revealing your passwords to them. (Please click here if you want more information on assigning grade proxy)

Question 4: How could I minimize my students’ complains about grading?

To minimize potential students’ complaints about grading procedures, one should announce the grading scale, policies, and standards in the syllabus and avoid modifying them once published. When receiving a complaint, treat it as an important source of feedback which could be used for improving teaching. Please keep in mind that some complaints are more legitimate than others. The basic principle here is to be receptive and sympathetic, yet firm on these occasions since students are expected to show quality work and sound thinking. Be sure to make positive comments on students work and avoid grading by just taking off points instead of giving credit for good answers.

Last but not the least, plagiarism should always be a concern when grading. One handy tool to check writing originality is Turnitin. Students will be required to submit their writings online through, which checks for possible plagiarism by comparing submitted papers to several databases. With this being said, the tool needs to be used with caution because the presumption of guilt may cause negative feelings in some students.


(Grading, Indiana University Teaching Handbook)

Note: You need to copy and paste this link into the browser to make it work

(Tips for Grading, Center for Teaching and Learning, Stanford University, Stanford CA)

(Grading Student Work by the Center for Teaching of Vanderbilt University)

(Collection of examples rubrics from the Office of Instructional Consulting at Indiana University)


The semester is over! What now?

moving box

Archiving your Course

The final exams are scored, papers are graded, and you are ready to enjoy your well-earned break…

Well, before you head out, keep in mind that there is a good chance that you will have to return and teach the same or a similar course again. Considering the time you spent developing the class, it might be a shame to let all your work be forgotten by shelving it in some place that nobody knows about. Instead, think about archiving the course.

If you think there is even the slightest chance that you might teach the course again, the archived version provides ideas and resources for any future installment. Instead of starting from scratch, one has something that is already developed and potentially reusable. Additionally, many universities are now making teaching portfolios a critical component of degree program or tenure requirements. So, why not take a course that is already finished, spend a little time polishing it, and—voilà—completing a significant chunk of a teaching portfolio! Also, if the course is important for accreditation, documenting any experiences now can prevent potential headaches when it is time to assemble a report. Finally, although you might not be teaching the course again, be a good colleague and offer your course materials and any respective insights to the next instructors. People will remember good deeds when you need to call in a favor!

So, instead of “set it and forget it,” here are a few steps that you can do NOW with your course (including potential technologies):

1. Save it!

Review the course resources (e.g., readings, assignments, video clips, tests) and save any electronic files in a permanent storage location (e.g., server, hard drive). Although Course Management Systems (CMS), such as Oncourse, generally keep courses accessible for longer than the duration of the semester, this doesn’t mean resources   are kept for an eternity. When saving course materials, make sure you have access to the files and organize them for easy management in the future.

If you use public websites (e.g., WordPress) for your course, you might want to consider whether you want to make them private now that the semester is over.

Potential Technologies:

  • For files: Portable hard drive, server, CMS, Oncourse Practice Site
  • For URLs: delicious, diigo, Endnote

2. Document your experiences!

When archiving your course, it is a good idea to note your experiences while teaching this course. What worked? What didn’t work? How did students react to various lessons and activities? This kind of reflection is extremely valuable when re-designing a class, but it is hard to remember at a later point in time. Whether you take a few minutes to scribble down notes or compose a full-fledged journal, document your memories.

Potential Technologies:

  • Text editors:      MS Word, Open Office, Google Docs
  • For URLs:             delicious, diigo, Endnote (allow to add notes to URLs)

3. Ask students for permission!

Are you thinking about using your course as part of a teaching portfolio? In order to demonstrate learning among your students, student artifacts are a powerful and helpful resource (especially when combining them with any feedback you provided during the course). Whenever sharing those artifacts with outsiders, ask students for their written permission to address any privacy concerns.

Potential Technologies:

  • Email
  • Signed note

4. Schedule time for updates!

In your course, some topics might require more updating than others. And even if you don’t need to update the content, there are still areas in your course where you might want to adjust or try something else. While memories are still fresh in your mind, schedule some time to explore new ideas, such as courses from other universities. Look for new inspiration while you can, because the next semester (and its commitments) is already looming on the horizon.

Potential Technologies:

  • University courses:         MIT Opencourseware, Open Yale
  • Resources:                          Open Educational Resources (OER), National Repository of Online Courses (NORC), Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT)

For more information and possibilities on archiving and updating your course, check out Dr. Bonk’s video on Ending & Archiving Online Courses or visit the Office of Instructional Consulting.

Sony DCR-SX60: Importing & Editing – what works and what doesn’t…

Recently, the School of Education purchased the Sony DCR-SX60 camcorder for faculty to use in their instruction. As we have seen increased popularity of this product, we have noted several ways that allow for successful importing and editing of footage. Please take the time to review the summary of our findings by operating system:

MAC 10.6 Snow Leopard:

  • camcorder saves video as mpg (mpg2)
  • mounts as USB drive and one can drag/copy mpg video directly off of camcorder onto a computer; however, when using this method the video will not play using Quicktime 10 or 7, but VLC will successfully play the video.

iMovie 08 & 09:

  • recognizes camcorder for importing video directly from camera.  During import, it converts it to .mov files and stores it in the iMove events folder.
  • video editing and sharing all worked fine, and the resulting .m4v video plays in everything on Mac.

iMovie HD6:

  • will not recognize the camcorder, and fails to import mpg videos that were directly copied on to the hard drive from the camcorder. If one really wants to use iMovie HD6, the solution would be to import-export the video through iMovie 09!


PC Windows Vista:

  • camcorder saves video as mpg (mpg2)
  • mounts as USB drive and one can drag/copy mpg video directly off of camcorder onto a computer; plays in VLC and in Windows Media Player (might require additional codec)

Windows Movie Maker:

  • editing with Windows Movie Maker:  Does not import correctly into Movie Maker (audio only)
  • camera Import with Movie Maker:  Movie Maker does not recognize the camcorder for importing!
  • Note: to edit with Windows Movie Maker, use a converter (like Any Video Converter) to convert mpg2 to avi and then work from the .avi file.

Sony Vegas Movie Studio 8:

  • editing and playing worked well in Sony Vegas, Vegas successfully imports and edits the mpg2 files from the drag & drop method.
  • camcorder import with Sony Vegas Studio:  Vegas will not recognize the Camcorder for importing! To import, drag/copy mpg video directly off of camcorder onto computer before importing to Sony Vegas.

Adobe Premiere Elements 8:

  • plays and imports successfully with Premiere Elements 8!

For a step-by-step video tutorial on how to import files from the Sony DCR-SX60 on a Mac, check out our IC Quicktip. If you like check out the Sony DCR-SX60 or additional equipment for instructional use at Indiana University, go to the SoE Instructional Technology Equipment Loan website.

Copyright and Fair Use Scenarios and Resources

Here in the Office of Instructional Consulting (IC), questions regarding copyright and fair use are continually posed in regard to using and repurposing digital video, images, and other online resources for educational purposes.  Although there are lots of checklists and rules available for working within the bounds of copyright and fair use, most lists are only helpful in very cut-and-dry situations and often fail to account for most common instructional scenarios that involve complicated and cloudy situational factors.  Every scenario is different and situational or contextual factors can always cloud the final recommendation.

Having dealt so often with questions of copyright and fair use, We felt it would be useful to share some of the resources that we use in our office on a regular basis to make recommendations.  One type of copyright/fair use resource we find particularly useful that goes beyond a simple fair use checklist, and provides somewhat of a problem-based approach utilizes scenarios and recommendations.  The scenario approach is becoming more popular, but we have our favorite resource, which comes for the University of Minnesota.  We are find these scenarios very helpful not only for the context, but also because most of the scenario recommendations also provide justification and links to additional resources.

Our recommendation to faculty and instructors is to have a look at the copyright scenarios, and to use those in conjunction with a good copyright checklist when conducting their own fair use analysis.  Below are a list of some of the resources we use here in the IC:

Copyright / Fair Use Scenarios:

Copyright & Fair Use Information and Resource Centers:

Also of interest and usefulness for your own work may be alternatives to copyright that are growing in popularity, such as Creative Commons.

Viewing and Importing video clips taken with the JVC Everio HD camcorder (available from TTL)


camcorder_proLet’s say you or your students used one of the new JVC Everio HD camcorders available from the Teaching Technology Lab in the School of Education, you’ve copied the file to your hard drive but your computer does not play the file at all or correctly (i.e., no sound). What’s going on?


JVC uses a proprietary file format called MOD (a mpeg-2 variation) that cannot be played correctly with the standard media players on a PC or Mac.  In order for convert the file to a more common format that is viewable (mp4, mpeg, mpeg2, avi, mov, etc.), you EITHER need to use the proprietary video editing software that comes on a CD with the camcorder (PowerDirector) OR use a different video editing software, such as iMovie ’08 or Sony Vegas Video.

1.     Connect the camcorder to your MAC or PC using the USB.

2.     Open the flip screen of camcorder and select Playback on PC (even when on a Mac).

3.     Your computer should recognize the camcorder as a new hard drive.

4.     Look for the SD_Video folder to find your video clips in MOD format.

5.     Import the file(s) to the video editing software.

After you have imported and edited the clips, you need to export or render them into the desired format.

In our tests, this process was simpler on the Mac with iMovie. Check out this YouTube video for more information:


Note:  For faculty and associate instructors, feel free to stop by Instructional Consulting for more details or help with this issue.