60 seconds to success

60 Seconds to Student Success

This 60 Seconds to Success! is about PLANNING A SUCCESSFUL SEMESTER.  We are at the beginning of the semester and students should planning how they are going to run their semester to be sure they are successful

Partnering with the CofC Center for Student Learning, we’ve made some little tidbits that you can easily share with your students to increase academic success.  These are items that you can either share via an OAKS announcement or take a minute at the beginning of your class to discuss.   It’s just another way to get the great resources provided to the students.  I’ve included several methods you can use to get the information to your students should you wish.

LINK: https://spark.adobe.com/page/kUCfqOkgXXxCM/

Planning a Successful Semester

Assessment, Innovative Instruction, instructional technology, Video

Lumen 5 – Great tool to recommend to your students for their video projects

I love video projects.  I think they are one of the best ways to get students to let loose their creativity and focus on delivering information in a succinct manner.  In addition, creating a video forces the students to plan and to spend more time with the material than writing a paper.  Lastly, communicating via video is a digital literacy skill that all students should have.  My favorite video projects require the students to deliver information in a short amount of time (1-4 min) as most people don’t want to watch a video much longer than that.  These projects can be public service announcements, commercials, video infographics, presentations, etc.

However, I know that many of you aren’t comfortable assigning a project like this because you don’t want to put the students in a position where they have to learn a complicated program to create these.  This is where Lumen5 comes in!

I wish I could remember which faculty member told me about this tool but I want to thank them.  Lumen5 is a semi-free video creation tool that is perfect for video projects or asynchronous presentations.

What’s the Cost?

Let’s get this out of the way first.  From what I can tell, it’s free, as long as you don’t need more than 3 videos a month.  If students are using this for a project then this probably won’t be an issue.
Screenshot of the pricing from the Lumen website

How Does It Work?

It’s so easy.

  1. Create a free login
  2. Click Create
  3. Choose how you want to create your video.  Either Start with a URL, a script, or your own material OR scroll down and use one of the templates
    screenshot of start page
    screenshot of the templates pageOR  Choose via the format you wantscreenshot of the Sizes page OR  Choose the theme you want
    screenshot of the theme page

Next, Start Creating!

Screenshot of the initial screen with the storyboard to the right and the tools to the left
Lumens5 provides free layouts, videos, images and music.  You can also change your layout and theme at any time.

In addition, you can upload your own videos or images and do voiceovers.

When finished, click Publish and your video will download to your computer.


I made a quick video from a blog post and couldn’t believe how easy it was!  I just added the blog post url and it did the rest.



Check out Lumen5 Today and Share it With Your Students!


Incorporating frequent quizzing encourages students to practice memory retrieval, which results in deeper, long-term learning.
Assessment, Best Practices, Small Teaching Tip, Teaching Advice

Small Teaching Tip #6: The Benefits of Frequent Quizzing

In a previous post, I discussed the important role memory retrieval plays in learning.  To briefly review: each time we recall a piece of information, we strengthen the neural pathways that move the information from our long-term memories to our working memories.  So the more times we retrieve the information, the more deeply we learn it.  This is known as the “testing effect.”

There are numerous ways to encourage students to practice memory retrieval, but one of the best strategies is frequent quizzing.

Tips for Frequent Quizzing

While quizzing is an effective method to practice memory retrieval, not all quizzes are created equal.  There are a few empirically-tested stipulations that must be considered:

  • First, make the quizzes count towards the course grade.  While we would love our students to complete quizzes simply for the joy of learning, most require extra incentive.  That being said, the quizzes should be relatively low-stakes.  The purpose of these quizzes is to practice retrieval, not to have an anxiety attack each week.
  • Second, avoid the pop quiz.  Pop quizzes are only effective at intimidating students into coming to class.  For most students, they do not encourage actual learning.  But quizzes that students know about in advance do.  Rest assured, these assessments do not need to be lengthy or require labor-intensive grading (there are countless instructional technologies that can help facilitate this process).
  • Third, design quizzes to be at least partially cumulative.  This requires students to reach back to concepts covered earlier in the term, developing deeper understanding and more complex mental models.  Remember: greater retrieval efforts equal greater learning (note the emphasis on the word effort).
  • Fourth, include question types that will be similar to what students can expect on exams.  This allows students to familiarize themselves with those formats so the exam is a test of knowledge instead of exam-taking ability.
  • Finally, occasionally assign quizzes that students complete before they learn new material.  This may seem strange, but a pre-quiz encourages students to consult their previous knowledge to help them grapple with new ideas.

If you don’t have enough class time to devote to frequent quizzes, consider using online quizzes through OAKS.  Most textbook publishers provide gigantic test banks that provide more than enough questions to create multiple quizzes throughout the semester. These banks are designed to be quickly imported into OAKS and quizzes can be automatically-graded, making quiz creation and administration simple.  But to ensure students are practicing retrieval, restrict the time limit so they don’t have the leeway to look up every answer in their notes or book (20-50 seconds per multiple choice question is advisable).

Providing frequent opportunities for retrieval will not only help your students remember important information, it will also open the door to higher levels of cognition.  I’ve shared one simple but powerful way to help your students learn that does not require an overwhelming amount of grading or extra preparation. Want more ideas?  Check out the rest of our Small Teaching Tips series!


Roediger, H. L., Agarwal, P. K., McDaniel, M. A., & McDermott, K. (2011). Test-enhanced learning in the classroom: Long-term improvements from quizzing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 17, 382-395.

Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 181-210.

Leeming, F. C. (2002). The exam-a-day procedure improves performance in psychology classes. Teaching of Psychology, 29, 210-212.

Lyle, K. B., & Crawford, N. A. (2011). Retrieving essential material at the end of lectures improves performance on statistics exams. Teaching of Psychology, 38, 94-97.

Richland, L. E., Kornell, N., & Kao, L. S. (2009). The pretesting effect: Do unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhance learning? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 15, 243-257.

This post is part of a series which presents low risk, high reward teaching ideas, inspired by James Lang’s book Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning.

Best Practices, Pedagogy, Teaching Advice

Making the Most of The First Day of Class

The countdown to the fall semester has begun.  I’ll give you a moment to sob or stomp your feet…

Despite our wish for a never-ending summer (perhaps without the humidity), the reality is classes begin soon.  As you work on your syllabi and OAKS courses, give some thought to how you approach the first day of class.  Do you read the syllabus to your students line-by-line?  Do you have students play an icebreaker game that makes them sigh and roll their eyes?  Or do you simply introduce yourself, tell students which textbook to buy, then let them go after 5 minutes?

When I first began teaching, I admit to doing all three of these.  I was young and nervous and awkward.  But in the years since, I’ve learned to embrace the awkwardness of the first day and use that class period to set the tone for the rest of the semester.  So I challenge you to give more thought to what you do on the first day of class to set expectations and start building your classroom culture.

In a previous post, I discussed why you shouldn’t treat your first day as “syllabus day” so I won’t belabor those points here.  But I will offer a few additional suggestions:

Introduce yourself as a human being.  If students are so inclined, they can look up your bio on the department’s webpage.  They can Google you.  So instead of telling your academic story, consider telling a more personal story.  Share your hobbies and passions or something students would never guess based on their first impressions of you.  This is more than being personable; it’s about being authentic.  When I introduce myself to the class, I share quirks and pet peeves.  These usually get a chuckle and make me seem like a human being rather than a lecturing and grading robot.  I once had a professor who played a piece of music he wrote as a way to introduce himself.  I still remember him vividly 12 years later.

Find an icebreaker that isn’t trite.  I know, I know.  Icebreakers are awkward and many of them are incredibly boring.  But there are ways to encourage your students to get to know one another that don’t make them want to gouge their eyes out.  Remember, by the time students get to your class, they could have already suffered three or four terrible icebreakers.  So rather than the usual “let’s go around the room and each person tell us a little about themselves,” spice it up with an activity or game, even something silly.  For example, I have had students engage in “speed dating” where they have 2 minutes to chat before the bell rings and they have to move to the next classmate.  We’ve also played “6 degrees of separation” where they make a list of 5 things they have in common with a classmate, then they have to find someone else in the room who has at least one of those things in common.  Then those two students make a list of 5 similarities and the game continues.  Students may roll their eyes at first, but by the end of class, they are laughing and I notice friendships forming by the next class period.  So try something new this semester to encourage your students to talk to one another, rather than spending the minutes before class begins texting on their phones.

Establish intentions.  Rather than spending time listing policy after policy, consider setting intentions for the semester and involving your students in this process.  What do you hope they accomplish and what do they want to learn?  What do you expect from them and what can they expect from you?  Is there a way both parties can be satisfied?  For example, after I explain a few of the more important policies, I ask students to compile a list of what they would like from me.  Punctuality, availability, and fairness are usually mentioned and these are qualities that I already deem important.  But because students composed the list themselves, it gives them the sense that I’m willing to share my power and that I’m open to their perspectives.  We also spend time establishing a classroom code of conduct.  Some of you may find this infantile, but I believe it’s one of the best and easiest ways to establish a respectful classroom culture.  When students generate the rules, they own them.

Showcase course content.  Some of you may disagree with me on this point as well, but sometimes we have to convince students to buy what we’re selling.  The first day is all about introductions and the course content should be included.  But rather than provide a regurgitation of the course catalog description, pitch the course as something students will find exciting and, yes, applicable to their lives.  And just as important, tell students why this is content you love and why this is a course you want to teach.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  I also recommend you start teaching the first day.  Students may look at you with incredulity, but it communicates that you take the course and their learning seriously.  In contrast, if you let them go after ten minutes, it communicates the course isn’t important.  So use this time to jump in and provide an outline of the fantastic content you’ll be sharing.

The first day of class is ripe with possibilities.  Make the most of it and it will set you up for a successful and enjoyable semester!