Tech Snacks are short, focused professional development sessions covering instructional technology, pedagogical techniques, online learning, and moredelivered in 30-minute chunks. You can download PDF handouts from past Tech Snacks sessions below.

Spring 2022

End of Semester Check-in and Course Checklist

Apr. 29, 2022 — This week, OTLE provided a course checklist for those who want to start working on their Brightspace course shells before the start of the new semesters. We addressed some frequently asked questions about Incompletes, importing course content, editing dates, and organizing your courses. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

The Brightspace Pulse App

Apr. 22, 2022 — The Brightspace Pulse app is a mobile app that is available for both Android and Apple devices. During Brightspace orientation sessions, OTLE strongly encourages students to sign up for Brightspace notifications—either through text messages, emails, or the Pulse app. In our annual Brightspace survey, 67% of students who took the survey found the app helpful or very helpful. But what does it do (and not do)? What do students see? 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Updates from OTLE

Apr. 1, 2022 — As we approach the tail end of the Spring 2022 semester, OTLE has some general updates to share with faculty. We have results from our annual student Brightspace experience survey, some new Brightspace features to brief you on, and a quick overview of the new Brightspace-Banner integration system (IPSIS) and how it will affect faculty. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Formative Assessment

Mar. 25, 2022 — In the world of teaching, it's important to recognize that there are gaps between what we think we're teaching and what is actually being learned in the classroom. The continuous monitoring of these gaps, with the intent of closing them, is referred to as "formative assessment" (or sometimes less formally, "checking for understanding"). Even small formative assessment strategies can make a big difference in student learning.

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

The MSUN Career Center

Mar. 11, 2022 — MSU-Northern's motto is "Education that Works." Career perspectives and skill development are central to our institutional mission. Faculty can do a lot to open up students' exposure to career options and opportunities, but they can't do it all. This is where the MSUN Career Center comes in. From providing resume-building support, to organizing career fairs, to managing the co-op internship process, the Career Center does a lot to make sure that students can pursue their career goals. Lisa Moisey and Jen Henderson from the Career Center joined us to discuss what they do and how they can help you support our students. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Professional Development

Feb. 25, 2022 — Teaching is a profession with a high learning curve. As instructors, we learn every day — through our own experimentation, from our students, and from our fellow teachers. This week, we outlined the professional development funding process at MSUN and some key PD opportunities and resources that MSUN faculty can use to grow into their roles as instructors. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

OERs and Open Textbooks

Feb. 18, 2022 — Last week, we discussed some common barriers students face when purchasing textbooks and course materials. The increasingly high cost of publisher textbooks is an obvious and large barrier. Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Open Textbooks can help bring down the cost of new textbooks while still providing students with robust academic materials. But where do you find them and how do you gauge their quality? 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Textbooks and the MSUN Bookstore with MSUN Bookstore Manager, Sue Solomon

Feb. 11, 2022 — The textbook adoption deadline for next semester comes up quickly and always seems to catch instructors off guard. What aspects of textbook selection should you start considering now and keep thinking about as you plan for future semesters? Sue Solomon, the Bookstore Manager at MSUN, joined us to talk about the textbook adoption process, things to consider when selecting textbooks, and common barriers our students face. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Accessibility — Part 3 with MSUN Director of Accessibility Services, Johnna Antonich

Feb. 4, 2022 — Accessibility resource services and student accommodations can feel like a bit of a black box to instructors. How do students ask for an accommodation? Who decides if an accommodation is reasonable? What services are available to help, and what is the instructor's responsibility in all this? Johnna Antonich, the Accessibility Resource Coordinator at MSUN, joined us to talk about the process and to discuss some common barriers for students with disabilities. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Backward Design

Jan. 28, 2022 — Do you ever feel like you're just marching through the textbook without a great sense of what students are and aren't understanding? Are there times when you feel more like an activity designer or entertainer than a teacher? Backward Design -- based on Wiggins and McTighe's often-cited work Understanding by Design -- is a curriculum building concept that can guide you through some of these common pitfalls and dilemmas. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Your Brightspace Gradebook

Jan. 21, 2022 — Each year, OTLE conducts a Brightspace experience survey, and one of the common themes that students mention is the Brightspace gradebook. Students consider gradebook organization one of the most important aspects of their Brightspace experience. This week, OTLE sat down with faculty to answer questions and provide a list of gradebook tips for keeping the gradebook in tip-top shape.

Click here for a PDF of this handout. 

Fall 2021

Spring 2022 Brightspace Checklist

Dec. 3, 2021 — This week, OTLE provided a course checklist for those who want to get their Brightspace course shells in order before the holidays. We addressed some frequently asked questions about Incompletes, importing course content, editing dates, and organizing your courses. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout. 

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Article Review

Nov. 19, 2021 — Once per semester OTLE provides a synopsis of what's going on in the SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) world. This time around, we discussed some interesting themes we're seeing in SoTL journal articles and reviewed three articles that may have useful tools and strategies for your own teaching.

Click here for a PDF of this handout. 

Accessibility Part 2 — Slideshow Do's and Don'ts

Nov. 5, 2021 — We all have our own habits and pet peeves when it comes to slideshow presentations. Preferences aside, it's important to remember that the features we decide to use (or not use) have accessibility implications for students with disabilities. OTLE has some basic recommendations to help you make your slideshows more accessible for everyone. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

What Faculty Should Know about Student Financial Aid

Oct. 29, 2021 — As academic advising season approaches, it's important to know a bit about how the federal financial aid system for higher education works. There are a number of financial aid implications to consider as students register for classes. Cindy Small, the Director of MSUN's Financial Aid Office, joined us for an overview and a chance for faculty to ask questions.

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Mental Health and Burnout

Oct. 22, 2021 — This semester (and previous semesters) has been challenging for students, faculty and staff for many reasons. This week, we had an open discussion and presentation about mental health and burnout with Amber Spring, our Student Health Counselor on campus and Kalin Amende, a faculty member from the Counselor Education Graduate Program.

There was no handout this week.

Mid-Semester Check-in

Oct. 15, 2021 — This week, OTLE hosted a mid-semester check-in with faculty to discuss any questions or concerns they had regarding Brightspace and e-learning in general. 

There was no handout this week. 

Quiz Settings You Didn't Know About

Oct. 8, 2021 — The Quiz tool is one of the most useful tools in Brightspace, but there are some obscure settings, options, and quirks that you may not be aware of that can help you develop quizzes that best suit your needs.

Click here for a PDF of this handout. 

The Six Facets of Understanding

Oct. 1, 2021 — This semester, OTLE's Faculty Reading Group is reading Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. An important question that this framework poses is: What does it mean to "understand" something? "The Six Facets of Understanding" give us categories that help make it easier to recognize student understanding. Each facet helps enforce the idea that students must use their knowledge to perform effectively in order to prove their understanding of something. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout. 

Microsoft OneDrive

Sept. 24, 2021 — As of April 2022, the MSU campuses will no longer have access to Box, our current cloud-based file-sharing program. Instead, you are encouraged to use OneDrive, which is available through Microsoft Office 365. All students, faculty and staff have free access to Office 365.

Click here for a PDF of this handout. 

Generation Z in the Classroom

Sept. 17, 2021 — Today's traditional-aged college students range from ages 18-23, and they fit into a generational cohort many are calling "Generation Z." Studies have found some interesting trends that set Gen Z apart from previous generations. The purpose of this discussion is not to group students together under their generational stereotypes, but to present some general ideas and realities that many Gen Z students face. These realities have implications for students' learning styles and the ways in which we might teach them and communicate with them. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Accessibility Part 1 — Text, Links, and Videos

Sept. 10, 2021 — Accessibility and universal design are growing concerns in higher education, and they can seem overwhelming for instructors. The easiest way to tackle accessibility is to start with small, actionable changes. To help you out, OTLE has designed an accessibility series that we'll return to several times throughout the year. Each time we'll address a discrete set of topics and provide a step-by-step checklist to support you. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Fall Check-in with OTLE

Sept. 3, 2021 — This week in Tech Snacks, we had a variety of Brightspace updates to show and some announcements about activities that OTLE is planning for the upcoming semester. We also had a check-in with faculty to find out what you all would like to see this semester! 

There was no handout this week.  

Spring 2021

Updates from ITS

Apr. 23, 2021 — Marianne Hoppe from ITS joined us for a brief update on some technology changes on campus, as well as some important security reminders and a short Q&A.

Click here for a PDF of this handout. 

Brightspace Checklist for Summer Courses

Apr. 16, 2021 — Teaching in Summer 2021? This week in Tech Snacks, we provided a checklist for faculty who are preparing for summer courses and we addressed some frequently asked questions about importing course content, editing dates, and organizing your courses. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Article Review

Mar. 26, 2021 — Once per semester OTLE provides a synopsis of the SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) world. This time around we presented some interesting themes we are seeing in SoTL journal articles and gave a quick review of three articles that may have useful insights and tools for your own teaching practice. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout. 

Creating with Canva

Mar. 22, 2021 — Have you ever seen a beautifully designed slideshow or poster and thought to yourself, "Wow, I wish I had the talent and time to make something like that!"? These days, visual design matters a lot, and many of us feel woefully behind the curve. Luckily, there's an online program that was created precisely for those of us who don't have the money or mental bandwidth to invest in complicated graphic design software. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

What Students Think About Brightspace

Mar. 12, 2021 — As part of OTLE's self-assessment process, each year we ask students to complete a Brightspace experience survey about their device usage, Brightspace habits, and open-ended questions about their experiences as Brightspace users. This year we had 78 responses!

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Bringing Choice into Assessments

Feb. 26, 2021 — Tests and papers are common ways to evaluate learning, but they don't always capture what students know and they don't usually motivate students to show you what they have learned, through their own eyes. However, the practice of building opportunity for student choice into your assignments can address some of these problems. This week, we showed a brief presentation by MSUN English faculty member Valerie Guyant about how she has built student choice into her assessments, and how that has generated a lot of high-quality student work. 

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

How to Use the MSUN Library Databases

Feb. 19, 2021 — Have you ever wondered how to optimize your search with the MSUN Library databases? Are you interested in accessing your Montana Library2Go or Interlibrary Loan account? This week in Tech Snacks, we set up a Q&A with our MSUN Instruction/Reference Librarian, Belinda Potter, to help you address questions like these. See the following YouTube videos for a deeper dive into your Library resources.

How to Find a Physical Book in the Library

Searching Opposing Viewpoints

How to Use the Library Databases

Locating and Using Credo Reference (Database of Encyclopedias)

What is Chegg?

Feb. 5, 2021 — Lately, we've seen a lot of media coverage on a company named Chegg, the "$12 Billion Company [...] Getting Rich Off Students Cheating Their Way Through Covid." Originally, Chegg was most broadly known as a digital and physical textbook rental platform for students. However, it has also developed an online tutoring division called Chegg Study, which gives students access to homework help and archives of assignment solutions. While these services may seem harmless at first glance, some of them have opened the door for wide-scale cheating across college campuses.

Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Webex & Zoom Refresher

Jan. 29, 2021 — This week, we took a deep dive into the two main video conferencing tools used at Northern: Webex and Zoom. OTLE has also recently added a Webex Integration with Brightspace that can make scheduling class meetings much easier.

Click here for a PDF of the Webex handout.

Click here for a PDF of the Zoom handout. 

Fall 2020

Spring 2021 Brightspace Checklist

Nov. 13, 2020 — Nearly every time we ask faculty if there's anything we can help with, we hear some iteration of: "I'd love a checklist because I feel like I'm forgetting everything right now." In that spirit, we have come up with a checklist that outlines the steps for rolling over Brightspace course shells and making sure everything is updated in your spring courses.
Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Why You Should Promote the docReader in Brightspace

Nov. 6, 2020 — Have you ever had a student who struggled to stay focused when reading? Or perhaps a student who struggled to process reading assignments but easily remembered every word you said in lecture? The docReader tool is designed to help students with barriers like these by integrating a number of accessibility and study-aid features into Brightspace. Watch this video demonstration.
Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Remote Student Engagement

Oct. 30, 2020 — “Zoom Fatigue” is real, and we’re all feeling it! Getting remote students engaged on the other side of a Zoom or Webex screen can be a challenge, especially this far into the semester. Is there anything we can do to increase remote students’ interest and attention? 
Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Advisor Training Workshop

Oct. 23, 2020 — In lieu of Tech Snacks this week, OTLE facilitated a Faculty Advisor Training workshop. Please consult the Faculty Advisor Resources page.

Brightspace Rubrics (Revisited)

Oct. 9, 2020 — Grading can be an overwhelming task for faculty and a mystifying process for students. How do you maintain objectivity, clearly articulate criteria, and provide feedback in a timely manner? Brightspace rubrics can save time, avoid unintentional bias, and give students clear guidelines for how they’re being assessed.
Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Creating an Attractive Program Webpage

Oct. 2, 2020 — The web presence of academic programs is important now more than ever, as fewer face-to-face recruitment events and campus tours are happening due to Covid-19. What can you do to make your program webpage attractive to prospective students?
Click here for a PDF of this handout.

Managing Self-Paced Learning

Sept. 25, 2020 — Covid-19 has forced us to embrace more flexibility in the classroom, often in terms of pacing. In some cases, students face circumstances that are slowing their progress in class. In others, they’re asking to work ahead in anticipation of future obstacles. But how do you manage a class where students are working on different topics at different times?
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Brightspace's Assignment Tool Upgrade

Sept. 18, 2020 — Brightspace’s Assignment tool upgrade has been released! At this time, users can choose whether to opt in or not. This is a work in progress for Brightspace but there are some nice features that will make creating new Assignments easier and more streamlined.
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

FERPA and More

Sept. 11, 2020 Have you ever had a parent call you to inquire about their child's grades in your class? Have you ever seen a "confidential" flag in DegreeWorks and wondered what exactly it meant? The Registrar addresses some common FERPA scenarios and discusses other registrar-related questions you're wondering about.
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Everything You Need to Know about Zoom

Sept. 4, 2020 — MSU-Northern recently got an institutional license to Zoom: How does it measure up to Webex? Which videoconferencing service best fits your needs? 
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Spring 2020

Curiosity in the Classroom

March 6, 2020 — Curiosity is the desire for new knowledge, information, experiences, or stimulation to resolve gaps in our understanding or to experience the unknown. When genuine curiosity is triggered in students, they’re motivated to fill in their knowledge gap. So how do we generate curiosity in the classroom? What activities or prompts can get students excited about their knowledge gaps?
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Early Feedback & Intervention

February 21, 2020 — With more than a third of the semester behind us already, it’s critical to ensure that struggling students get the feedback and support that they may need. Early feedback and intervention strategies play a critical role in students’ academic success and retention.
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Committee Involvement

February 14, 2020 — Service is an important part of the promotion and tenure process, but where do you even start? What committees exist, and what are their functions? How can you get involved, and what can committees accomplish?
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Identifying plagiarism and getting the most out of TurnItIn

February 7, 2020 — TurnItIn is a powerful tool in Brightspace for detecting plagiarism, checking citations, and identifying sources. But are you using it correctly and to its full potential? 
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Accessibility Accommodations

January 31, 2020 — Accessibility resource services and student accommodations can feel like a bit of a black box to instructors. How do students ask for an accommodation? Who decides if an accommodation is reasonable? What services are available to help, and what is the instructor’s responsibility in all this? Johnna Antonich, the new Accessibility Resource Coordinator at Northern explains the process.
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Student Engagement Technologies

January 24, 2020  In the Office of Teaching & Learning Excellence, we try not to buy into technology hype without clear use cases and learning objectives. So far this year we’ve been playing with a few new tools that we think have a lot of potential for student engagement, both in and out of the classroom.
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Fall 2019 

Burnout

November 22, 2019  Burnout can happen in any occupation, but is most common among social workers, medical professionals, law enforcement officers... and educators. Burnout has both personal and structural factors. This is not a problem we can solve with 15 minutes and a handout, and it’s not something that can be fixed without institutional action. Let's start the conversation!

Serving Veteran Students

Nov. 15, 2019 — Military veteran students face a lot of extra hurdles and challenges that the rest of us may not even be aware of. Josh Gomez from Veterans Services addresses what faculty and staff can do to help veterans succeed at MSU-Northern.
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Classroom Management Tips

Nov. 1, 2019 — Effective classroom management isn’t something that just happens naturally! It requires the intentional use of non-verbal communication, instructor personality, classroom policy, and many other subtle factors. We discuss some specific behaviors and habits that can help.
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Using Cellphone Productively in Class

Oct. 25, 2019 — Smartphones can be powerful productivity tools, and usage among college students is approaching
100%. But they can also be major distractions if used inappropriately. How can we use smartphones inside — and outside — the classroom in ways that enhance learning?
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Advising

Oct. 11, 2019 — Student advising is critical to student success, but it’s not easy. We discuss the advising process and offer a handy reference checklist that covers some of the trickier aspects of advising.
Click here for a link to the current version of this handout.

Cheating & Plagiarism

Sept. 27, 2019 — According to survey data of tens of thousands of college students, about 68% of undergrads and 43% of graduate students admit to cheating on a test or assignment. And cheating doesn’t come out of the blue — In a similar survey, 95% of High School students admitted to cheating. How can instructors catch or prevent cheating? More importantly, how can we cultivate a culture of academic integrity in our own classrooms?
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Making Better Slides

Sept. 20, 2019 — PowerPoint and Google Slides are pretty ubiquitous when it comes to structuring a lecture or presentation. But are you making the most of your presentation? Are your students retaining information and engaging with the content as well as they could be? 
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Spring 2019 

Beyond Gamification

Apr. 12, 2019 — The idea of gamification — using game elements to enhance student motivation and learning — has been heavily discussed and explored over the last decade. But gamification is just one category within a broader field of teaching practices that integrate games and play, called (among other terms) Ludic Pedagogy.
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

High-Impact Practices

Mar. 29, 2019 — Learning experiences outside the traditional classroom setting can have a number of positive impacts on students’ learning. “High-impact practices” (HIPs) like cooperative education, undergraduate research, and global learning can help increase academic engagement and performance, promote a sharper sense of purpose and connectedness, and develop 21st century skills and perspectives among students. 
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Student Survey Results

Mar. 1, 2019 — As part of OTLE’s self-assessment process, each year we ask students to complete a Brightspace experience survey about their device usage, Brightspace habits, overall Brightspace satisfaction, and open-ended questions about how they’d like to see Brightspace improved. Here’s some of what we found this year. 
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Three Cool Tools

Feb. 22, 2019 — Learning technology apps, tools, and websites are constantly being created, updated, closed down, sold off, or bought out. There are some great learning tools available online, but it can be hard to wade through all the confusion to find technology that actually solves a problem. FlipGrid, Webjets, and YoTeach are three promising new tools. 
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Release Conditions & Intelligent Agents

Feb. 15, 2019 — Monitoring and guiding student activity in Brightspace is a daunting task, but there are tools that can help! Release Conditions and Intelligent Agents can automate some of those tasks and provide timely feedback to encourage and motivate students. 
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Brightspace Analytics 

Feb 8, 2019 — Brightspace has multiple analytic tools available to instructors. Knowing how to access this information — and what to do with it — can help you improve your course design, pinpoint trouble areas, identify at-risk students, identify and deter cheating, and more! 
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Dual Enrollment & Class 8

Feb. 1, 2019 — Around 70 high school students take college courses at MSU-Northern for college credit each semester. There are multiple forms of dual enrollment, and lots of potential benefits to the student, your program, and to MSU-Northern. 
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Beyond Powerpoint

Jan. 25, 2019 — Most everyone uses PowerPoint to create a lecture or presentation, but maintaining student engagement can be challenging. Are there ways to enhance the effectiveness and interactivity of PowerPoint presentations? What if we want to turn off the projector and try some “unplugged” activities? 
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.

Creating & Using Rubrics

Jan. 18, 2019 — Assessment and grading can be an overwhelming task for faculty, and a mystifying process to students. How do you maintain objectivity, clearly articulate grading criteria, and provide feedback in a timely manner? Grading rubrics can save time, avoid unintentional bias, and give students clear guidelines for how they’re being assessed. 
Click here for a PDF copy of this handout.