Want to Help Students Start the Term Off Well? Tell Them About Week Zero

The blessed occasion is almost upon us here at Centralia College.

Start of the term – Yay!

There are some important things you can do as an educator or student services member to help students start the term off well. Having a friendly face, giving clear directions or expectations are a couple of ideas, but the big one I’m talking about is all about that bass. Ok, not that bass, but Week Zero, which is pretty awesome, too.

What the heck is Week Zero?

“Week Zero” has been established at schools around the world  for the past several years – since the advent of eLearning, web-enhanced, hybrid and online courses. It all started with the idea that while the world keeps advancing and moving forward with the latest and greatest technologies, not all students have ever heard of them, let alone used them for school where they’ll get graded for it. So, to put students minds at ease as to what they could expect in the courses, the technology they’d need to use and any potential problems they’d encounter, Week Zero was born.

The idea behind Week Zero is a prep week with no stakes attached to it.

It’s a week where students could look around, familiarize themselves with how to get around the classes, practice submitting things, read the syllabus and ask for help on technology they don’t understand up front while familiarizing themselves with resources.

The research shows that students who have a better understanding of what’s expected of them before the start of the course have a much higher success rate than those who don’t. This is especially crucial for first-time students, online and hybrid students, students returning to school after a long absence and Running Start students. It would be like starting a brand new job and being expected to hit the ground running, having no idea what you’ll be doing, when/where you should show up, what tools you’ll be using, what language you’ll be speaking, what you should wear, or who you should speak to.

GIF of man on the verge of tears, holding his head with caption "This is too much."

too much” from Reaction GIFs, June 24, 2015.

Week Zero at Centralia College

Here at Centralia College, Week Zero started in Angel the week before the term started. All classes were automatically opened to students to start moving around in and there was a course where people could go in and practice submitting assignments, posting in discussion forums, taking quizzes, etc.

Now, with Canvas, instructors are able to publish their courses themselves and can choose whether or not to have them open during Week Zero. We still publicize Week Zero for students and HIGHLY recommend to instructors to publish their courses and have some welcome and introductory material for students because this is so CRUCIAL to student success.

What can you do to support students with this?

If you’re in student services, let students know about this resource when they register, get advised, convey nerves around the start of the quarter, express they’ve been out of school for a while, ask when they can access their courses, express difficulties, etc.

If you’re an instructor, be prepared for Week Zero. Publish your course a week before the term starts. Have a welcome page when students enter your class that greets as well as directs students where to go, what to do, gives expectations, directs to resources, etc. Don’t assume students know everything. You can put some orientation material in the course to have students practice assignments, quizzes and discussion forums, but make sure these are not graded. If you’d like assistance in creating any of these or ideas for what to do, just ask eLearning – we’d be more than happy to help!

***Remember, you can always refer students to eLearning for help and support if they ask you something you’re not sure about or how to do. ***

Walk in support: NW corner of Kirk Library

Email: elearning@centralia.edu

Phone: (360) 736 – 9391 ext. 672

Website: http://www.centralia.edu/elearning/

Remember, sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest impacts. Help your students start the term off successfully with Week Zero.

Congratulations to Faculty/Staff Innovators – TRiO: Student Support Services


We’d like to recognize TRiO Programs – Student Support Services as 2015 Innovators. They are a federally-funded grant program designed to provide additional support, advocacy, and services to students who are first generation (neither parent has a bachelor degree or higher), low income, or have a disability. Basically, these folks  do everything they can to serve at-risk students,  to help them along their college path, and to succeed in their courses and in their college plans.

SSS works with what’s called a more intrusive or proactive model of support like many other colleges and universities have adopted, including WGU.

According to “The History of Intrusive Advising in the General College” by Anthony Albecker,

The intrusive advising model is based on the premise that some students will not take the initiative in resolving their academic concerns, thereby needing the intrusive assistance of assigned advisors. The use of the word “intrusive,” as coined in Walter Earl’s 1987 article, “Intrusive Advising for Freshmen,” is used to describe this model of advising as “action oriented by involving and motivating students to seek help when needed” (p. 24). The intrusive model incorporates the components of prescriptive and developmental advising models, creating a holistic approach that meets a student’s total needs (Earl).

In addition to this TRiO is taking their traditional face-to-face strategies and moving them to the cybersphere.

From Liisa Preslan, Director of TRiO – Support Services at Centralia College:

We are creating a Canvas classroom that students can access PRIOR to beginning at Centralia College. It will have information on their next steps (short videos on financial aid, paying for tuition, getting books, etc.), lists of campus and community resources that will be advantageous to their college experience. It will also have two assessments – one for college readiness and one for financial literacy. This course serves several purposes. 1) Students will have a “one stop” resource for information all new students should know prior to starting college; 2) It will provide a more effective way to communicate with students than through listservs, student email system, or traditional mail; 3) We will be able to connect with them from the time they apply to when they start classes – which can be as long as six-months – allowing us to build relationships earlier to increase retention; and 4) Students will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with Canvas in a no-risk situation before their courses begin. Hopefully, this will minimize the learning curve, particularly for our students with limited technology skills. We have capitalized on several technologies available like Panopto and video features to provide a richer experience for students, but also kept accessibility in mind throughout the design phase. One example is videos of former TRiO Students who share their struggles and offer words of encouragement. Students can access them any time they need motivation.

We are still finalizing content and have not completed the entire site. We want to have a quality product that meets accessibility standards before going live. That process takes a lot of front-loaded effort, but we are certain the benefits for our students, our program, and the campus will be tenfold.

We want to thank Liisa and all the staff at TRiO – Support Services for rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard work it takes to be innovative for the sake of the students’ success, and, ultimately, our campus success.

Congratulations to Faculty/Staff Innovator – Sam Small

Sam Small - Julia Fractal background

Sam Small is one of our recently recognized innovators. He is the Applications Developer for Centralia College and in his own words, he “[serves] up data analysis, software engineering, and anything else related to the software/data side of Computer Science.” In addition to his mad computer coding, Sam  teaches in the Computer Science workforce program, building students’ web application development skill sets.

Around campus, we’ve come to look at Sam as the “answer guy.” If you’re in a meeting anywhere on campus, it’s highly likely part of the conversation will go like this:

– “It would be really great if we could…Is that even possible?…I bet Sam could come up with something.”

Here’s a look at Sam’s innovations in his own words:

I like to use technology to find better ways to do my job.  I look for ways that programming can help enhance our jobs at Centralia College, and more recently – student experiences.  This week I have been working on a low cost prototype attendance system that logs attendance and makes the results available instantly across campus.  Long gone will be the days of manual attendance verifications, and manual attendance taking!  I love innovation, and I particularly love innovation that improves return on investment.

Sometimes innovations come about as a result of a need, other times innovations happen because of a want.  For me, I am looking to innovate daily – improve our lives, our professional and student experiences, and in the end save us money.  My workload has increased a lot because there are a LOT of opportunities for innovation in this arena at Centralia College!  I often find myself thinking about how one innovation/implementation can affect others on campus, and try and find ways to improve the processes.  I hope that everyone’s work will be more focused as a result of new innovations and systems – because this is the real purpose.

Here is a summary of ‘official’ projects Sam is working on, has finished, or will be starting this year:

  • AEW: A modern, easily modified, easily measured system that provides instructional staff a means to report academic indicators to Centralia College support staff.
  • SMART:  A monitoring and reporting system that works with Office 2013 tools including access, and excel.  The purpose is to augment existing HPUX queries and provide staff at CC the ability to do ad-hoc data gathering against our database.
  • MyCC:  Relaunch of the intranet on a SharePoint 2013 environment.  This is the first major system overhaul I completed here at CC.  The success of this project allows us to launch both a Content Management System and Student Portal with much less cost and provide a much more robust, manageable information system.
  • Centralia.Edu CMS project:  Establish a system that facilitates content management on the public centralia.edu website.
  • Centralia College Student Portal:  A proposed project built upon the MyCC Framework to provide a unique student information system for Centralia College students to improve their academic experiences here at Centralia College.
  • CCVote:  An intern developed application to allow students at Centralia College to vote on campus elections.
  • Centralia College Business Intelligence:  Training and development of business intelligence tools including dashboards, pivot tables, and data driven documents.

Essentially, Sam is innovative in how he thinks and that he cares about making people’s lives easier. Thanks for all your amazing work, Sam!


Congratulations to Faculty/Staff Innovator – Dave Peterson

PetersonFamily - edited

Dave Peterson, one of Centralia College’s recognized innovators, teaches Electronics, Robotics and Industrial Automation. Dave says “this includes technical math specifically for electronics, like circuit analysis, graphing and data visualization, and trigonometry applications.”

If you know anything about Dave Peterson, you know he’s no stranger to innovation. He builds robots, for crying out loud. In addition to being one of the youngest instructors to be accepted to tenure track at Centralia College, he helped students of the college’s physics and electronics club launch a “near space vehicle”  90,000 feet into the air carrying data recording equipment during the summer of 2013.

Interestingly enough, he isn’t being recognized for his obvious innovations like those listed above. eLearning is recognizing Dave for his innovations in the classroom that engage students and help them to be even more successful.

In his own words:

The main initiative that we are working on this year is optimizing a lecture capture method tries to best re-create the classroom experience for students who are not able to attend as often. A good percentage of our students have either long commutes or full time jobs which would normally be a huge inconvenience, if not making it altogether impossible to get the training. By making our lectures available online, we can customize the schedules for each person and remove that ‘mandatory confirmation’ to our traditional day or night schedule. Since neither one works for every person.

The main kinds of things we are working on include a heavy integration of Canvas for immediate feedback and thorough description of assignments. Each homework, lab, study guide, etc is outlined in as much detail as possible. The point distribution is also made entirely clear so that time and resource management can be factored in to the right assignments (if something is worth more, they know to budget time accordingly). Also, many students are willing to work ahead as their time allows, and a through use of Canvas assignments allows them to look ahead at future assignments.

Another innovation is whiteboard capturing and recording. The Panopto platform allows simultaneous recording of the computer screen as well as a thumbnail video of the presenter (via a webcam). We use a device called a MimioTeach, which is a magnetic pen tracker that mounts to a standard 8’ whiteboard. The virtual pens are loaded with normal whiteboard markers, so the presenter uses the whiteboard as they normally would. The MimioTeach tracks all motion with a respectable degree of precision, and this is displayed on the PC. Through Panopto, every whiteboard action is recorded alongside the presenter video.

Since they are recorded as opposed to ‘live’ webcasts, the students can then watch at their own leisure, and are free to ask questions through Canvas which can be easily answered the following class period.

In addition to the whiteboard, any PC programs used through the class will also be recorded. In math classes, a heavy emphasis on problem solving through Microsoft Excel is used, including some fairly advanced functions, such as drop-down menus, conditional statements and macros. In Electronics and Robotics, computer simulation software is commonplace, and the screen recording can greatly aid in learning. The video casting features allows students to skip, pause and rewind to review these complicated concepts and try their own variations.

I am always surprised at how little extra work this requires. In the old system, Tegrity, the process allowed a presenter to record right from the desktop application and place the video right into the corresponding Canvas classroom. The same concept is still possible with the Panopto system, and also allows the videos to be either recorded onto the computer, or recorded directly onto the online server.

Students have also reported fewer issues with viewing the videos on Panopto. Since the beginning of Fall 2014, I have only encountered one instance of an incompatible browser plugin, and that was fixed quite easily by following some instructions on the Panopto site. I’m sure there are more reported, but it seems very accessible by the students.

The recordings are imitated with not much more than clicking the “start new recording’ link, providing a descriptive name for the lecture and pressing ‘record’. At the end of the recording after pressing stop, a couple clicks of the mouse sends the video directly to the Canvas page. It couldn’t be much simpler, and I am very impressed with the quality.

There are many variables that affect the performance of a particular class, perhaps nothing more significantly than just the students’ drive and motivation to succeed. But even considering those dynamics, we have observed a dramatic increase in performance through the entire class, with 100% participation and assignment completion in several classes – a landmark that has never been seen before. The students are interacting and participating much more than ever seen before, and I attribute that in large part to our innovations in bringing the classroom home to the students so they have the ability to revisit the day at school whenever they want.

This is definitely just the beginning of Dave’s innovations and we will be looking forward to the wonderful ideas that come from him and his class. Congratulations Dave!

What the What? Word has an MLA Template?

Gif of Amy Poehler saying, "What?"

“What?” Reaction Gifs. Created 25 Mar. 2013. Original video from “Parks and Recreation.”

Seriously, did you know that Word has a template for MLA and APA format? I’m not talking about it setting up your bibliography or Works Cited page for you. I mean an honest-to-goodness (I dare say) fool-proof template. I totally have to give the credit to this find to Associate Professor, Gene Shriver. I knew Word could help you set up your citations and works cited page, but this made my brain explode.

If you’re a student, this is phenomenal because now you don’t have to try and remember all those stupid rules that seem like they don’t make any sense and you won’t get docked points when you feel like the teacher should have been looking at your writing, not the dumb formatting.

If you’re a teacher, this is phenomenal because now students don’t have an excuse for not understanding the formatting rules and you don’t have to continue banging your head up against the wall because you handed them a worksheet, went over lessons, gave them TONS of references and extra help, and yet you still end up repeating yourself over and over and over.

Gif of Charlie Day experiencing a migraine from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

“Tortured” from Reactiongifs.com. Created 3 Sep. 2014. Original video from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”


Everybody wins!

Here’s how:

In Microsoft 2013, you get this awesome prompt when you open a new Word document.

Word 2013 - New Document prompt and search window

Word 2013 – New Document Prompt and Search Window

See that cool search bar at the top? Type MLA or APA and hit enter. Then the magic happens.

MLA Template in Word

MLA Template in Word

Now, you have the wonderfulness. The template even has examples for charts, tables and Works Cited. Bloody brilliant! Goodbye headaches of formatting issues. Hello headaches of content-related issues, my old friend.

MLA Research Paper Template in Word

MLA Research Paper Template in Word

This also works with Word 2010, just a little differently. First off, when you open Word, it automatically opens a document and doesn’t ask you if you’d like to open something else. So, you have to actually go tell it you want something different. You do this by clicking on File>New. Then, it offers you choices.

Word 2010 - New Document

Word 2010 – New Document

And, it still offers you that search bar. Type in MLA (or APA, etc.) and you’ll get your template.

Warning sign

Circle-style-warning by Carelesshx, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA

The 2010 template is different than the 2013 template. The 2013 template is much more accurate and detailed.

Using Announcements in Canvas – Do Students Get These?

Large red speakers saying "Announcement" to a crowd of peole

Adapted from “Speakers” from Pixabay

Do You Use the “Announcement” Feature in Canvas?

Beware: Your Students May Not Be Getting the Messages You Think They Are

Using announcements are easy. You just click on that easy little navigation button on the left side of your class, click +Announcement and boom, you could use pictures, videos, attachments, text, etc. Then, click “Save” and you’re golden, right?…Not necessarily.

It’s entirely possible your students aren’t getting these messages or even know that they exist. The reason is because students have to go into their personal settings, click on notifications and make sure the announcements are coming to an email, phone number, Facebook, or Twitter account that they’ll actually look at. The default email is their student email account. The last statistic I heard about how many students check their student email addresses is less than 5%. Those are not good odds.

Well, does that mean you can’t use this really cool tool? No. It just means if you’re going to use it, you have to tell students to expect that you’ll use it and that they need to set up their notification preferences to get the messages they need, when they need them and where they need them. Here’s a really great tutorial on how to set notification preferences from the Canvas Guides.

And now you know…

Announce Responsibly

Ryan Gosling Approves gif