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Weekly QuickTips

Your friends at the UC Faculty Development Center would like to share a quick tip with you that might make life just a tiny bit smoother. Try this!

Subscribe here to get these Weekly QuickTips delivered to your inbox. Do you have a QuickTip to share? Send it to so we can share it with other faculty.

Last Access - January 29, 2018

Congratulations on making it through your first week of classes! Did all of your students, too? How do you know? If they're distance students, how do you know they've even accessed the course? Is there an easy way to contact them if they're MIA? Of course, there is! Read on....

Find out when your students access Blackboard

The Full Grade Center in Blackboard has a helpful column called "Last Access". This will show the date of the last time the student entered your course. Of course, it won't tell you what they did; that's where reports can come in handy.

A quick way to intervene with at-risk students is to reach out to those who haven't logged into the class yet, or who haven't logged in within the last week. Take a look at this column in your Full Grade Center. Click the title of the column to sort by date and see who hasn't logged in during the past week. If you find a student who has not logged in, you can click the drop down next to the date, and select "Email User". Send them a quick note to let them know you are concerned and ask if they have any questions.

Last Access
Doing this quick intervention for the first three weeks of class can really have an impact on student success and retention.

Retrieval Practice - January 25, 2018

Would you like a quick and easy solution to help improve your own memory and student learning outcomes in your courses? There is a lot of buzz around "retrieval practice" and how it helps in knowledge retention. But, what is it and how can you do it without having to make significant changes to your courses? 

What is Retrieval Practice?

This short video (3:29) will give you a quick overview with some practical examples of retrieval practice.
Click here to see this video:


What are some quick and easy ways you can incorporate retrieval practice into your courses?
  • At the beginning of your live class, give students 3-5 minutes to write about something they learned last class or in their reading assignment for the week.
  • Instead of saying, "last week we talked about...." ask, "how is this related to what we learned last week?"
  • Include more fill-in-the-blank and short answer questions on quizzes and tests.
  • Add multiple choice questions to your lecture videos to check for understanding.
  • Ask students to create their own flashcards with great apps like QuizletFlashcards+, or Cram.

For more great ideas and to learn more, be sure to download the free Retrieval Practice Guide.

Do you have a QuickTip to share? Send it to so we can share it with other faculty.

Getting Started with Blackboard - January 8, 2018

Who you gonna call? No, not Ghostbusters. Call the UC Faculty Development Center at 262-7979 with your Blackboard questions! We've prepared a few resources for you to get started with Blackboard, but we are only a phone call away if you need more help. 

Blackboard QuickStart for Faculty

This short video (5:43) will give you a quick overview of the basics you need to know to get started using Blackboard. It covers:
Click here to see this video:

Teaching & Learning with Blackboard

Another short video (5:30), this time with an overview of the interactive tools in Blackboard that you can use for teaching and learning. It covers:
Click here to see this video:

Calculating Grades - December 4, 2017

It's almost that time of the semester again....time to pull up your Excel spreadsheets, your calculator and red pen, and a box of Kleenex to sop up the tears of frustration from calculating grades manually. Wouldn't it be great if there was a program that calculated all of those assignments and percentages for you? There is!

Blackboard Weighted Total Column

You can use the Weighted Total Column in Blackboard to do all of the math involved with figuring out the final grade for you. You will need to make sure all of the columns in your grade center are in the appropriate category, such as Essays, Reflections, Discussions, Quizzes, etc. If you need help creating categories and categorizing assignments, let us know and we would be happy to help!
Here's how to calculate the final grade:
  1. Go to your course in Blackboard and navigate to the Full Grade Center.
  2. Click the drop down menu next to the Weighted Total Column and select Edit Column Information.
  3. Here you can change the title to something more informative, like Final Grade.
  4. Scroll down to the Select Columns section.
  5. Select a column or category on the left that you want factored into the final grade.
  6. Click the arrow to move it to the Selected Columns section on the right. 
  7. Enter the percent of the final grade for this item or category.
  8. Continue to add columns and categories until the total is 100%.
  9. Click Submit.
The Blackboard grade center can do almost anything you want (except actually grade the student work--darn). It can be a little overwhelming when you get started, so please feel free to contact the UC Faculty Development Center with your questions or for a short lesson. Call us at (207) 262-7979, email, or drop in anytime Monday - Friday 10am-4pm in our zoom room at

Vacation Responder - December 11, 2017

It's not likely that you will be sitting next to your computer over the holiday break, eagerly awaiting every incoming email. It's supposed to be a break, right? Let people know that you are on break and when they can expect to hear back from you by setting an automatic vacation responder in your Gmail. 

Automatic Replies

Every time you receive an email, a reply will automatically be sent with your custom message. It's a good idea to tell people that you are away from the office and let them know when they can expect to hear back from you.
Here's how to set your Vacation responder:
  1. Log into your gmail account.
  2. Click the Settings drop down menu in the top right of the screen and selectSettings.

  3. Scroll down to Vacation responder and select Vacation responder on.
    Inline image 2

  4. Set the date range, Subject line, and Message.
  5. Click Save Changes.
Set your vacation responder ahead of time, and forget about it.
Have a great break and Happy Holidays from all of us at the UC Faculty Development Center! Weekly QuickTips will resume January 8, 2018.

Schedule Appointments - November 27, 2017

Do you schedule appointments with students? Does this come with a string of email messages back and forth as you try to find a common time to meet? Wouldn't it be great if your students could just click a button and reserve a slot in your available time? Google Calendar offers this service!

Google Calendar Appointment Slots

You can reserve a block of time in your schedule where students can just click a button to reserve an appointment slot. You will get an email notification of the appointment and it will be added to your calendar, and no one else can sign up for that slot.
Here's how to do it:
  1. Go to your google calendar and click in a time slot (don't click the New Event button).
  2. In the event window that pops up, choose the Appointment Slots button.
    Inline image 1

  3. Choose the window of time you are available for appointments and how long you want each appointment to last, and then click More Options.
  4. In the Event Details section, copy the link to the Calendar Appointment Page
    Inline image 2

  5. Send this link to your students so they can sign up for appointments. Note: Students will not see your calendar, they will only see the times you have made available.
Use this feature to schedule final presentations in class or private appointments during office hours.

Text Your Class - November 20, 2017

Did the Great Power Outage of 2017 impact your class? Do you wish you could have just texted your students to give them an update so they wouldn't stress about missed classes or submitting assignments on time? The good news is that you can text your students without a phone for free! There are many group text apps available for free (none of which are officially supported by US:IT), but the most popular by far is called Remind.


Visit to learn more about this application or visit your app store on your mobile device to download the app. The program is free to sign up for as an individual instructor.
Here are some of the features:
  • Broadcast one-way messages or choose to send and receive messages for a group discussion
  • Phone numbers stay private
  • Send messages to an individual or to the whole class
  • Schedule announcements to be sent out on a specific date/time
  • Send file attachments, like handouts, photos, or other files
  • See who has received and read your messages 
  • Students opt in with the mode they wish to receive messages (text, app, email)
Do you want to try it as a student? Join our UC FDC Remind class to receive reminders about workshops and events. Visit and sign up to receive alerts!

Blackboard Mobile - November 14, 2017

Do your students use mobile devices? Do they keep asking you for their grades? Wouldn't it be nice if your students were automatically alerted every time you graded an assignment? They can receive these alerts in the Blackboard Mobile App!

Send these instructions to your students. 

Blackboard Mobile

  1. The Blackboard Mobile app is available on most mobile devices and can be downloaded in the App Store, Google Play, or Microsoft Store.
  2. Download and open the App.
  3. Search for University of Maine System.
  4. Use your regular Blackboard username and password in the Web Login.
  5. Enable Notifications for this app.
By default, you will receive a notification for each of the following:
  • Announcement available
  • New content available
  • Item graded
  • Test available
  • Test due
  • Test overdue
These defaults can be customized in Blackboard in the web browser in the Settings section under the global menu.

Visually Differentiated Text - November 6, 2017

Do you read online the same way you read print material? Do you think your students do? Do you find yourself skimming pages with text and then going back to read something important? Did you skim this email before you started reading this paragraph?

How We See Text


 Essay text, traditional


 Visually differentiated text

Which one of these is easier to "digest" at a glance? The text on the right has been formatted to highlight parts of the content, and chunked for easier reading. This is from Jason Ohler's book, Digital Storytelling in the Classroom. Below is an excerpt.

The Seven B's of Visually Differentiated Text

  1. breaks – add white space between lines and paragraphs by adjusting line and paragraph spacing
  2. banners – my word for paragraph titles; introduce paragraphs now and again so that your writing is scannable
  3. bullets – using the bullet command in Word, blog editors, etc.
  4. boldface – boldfacing titles, etc.
  5. beginnings – providing the first paragraph of a longer piece and a link to the entire piece
  6. beyond monochromatic text – use text of a different color, but use it sparingly; avoid being “cartoony”
  7. boxes – easy to do in Word, but usually requires a little programming to do for web page development

VDT is very much the text approach used by many web writers, and should be seen as a direct response to information overload. When readers encounter a wall of text on the web, it seems unscalable. VDT gives them visual toe holds and hand grips.

Change Playback Speed - October 31, 2017

Does your mind every wander when you are watching an instructional video? Do you want to watch a webinar and just can't find the time? Why not bend time to your advantage? You can with playback speed! 

Playback Speed

Many video players let you choose playback speed in the video controls. Both of the video tools supported by the University of Maine System, YouTube and Kaltura, feature this option. You can speed up a video to save time, or make a slow talker more engaging. You can also slow down the speed of a video if you are having difficulty understanding the speaker or if they are moving too fast. This does not distort the speech and is great for English Language Learners!

Here's how:



  1. Move your mouse over the video to see the video controls.
  2. Click the Settings wheel icon.
  3. Click Speed.
  4. Choose a playback speed.
  1. ​Move your mouse over the video to see the video controls.
  2. Click the 1x button.
  3. Choose a playback speed.

​Now, what are you going to do with all that free time??

Remind Students About Missing Assignments - October 23, 2017

Wouldn't it be great if there was a quick way to notify students about a missing assignment? There is!

Send Reminder

In the Full Grade Center, there is an option called Send Reminder in the column menu for each Assignment or Test. Clicking this will send an email to students who do not have a grade or submission reminding them of their missing assignment. 

Here's how to do it:


  1. Go to the Full Grade Center and locate the column with the missing work.
  2. Click the drop down menu button next to the title of the column.
    Inline image 1

  3. Select Send Reminder in the pop up menu.
    Inline image 5
  4. A message will pop up asking if you want to send a reminder. Click OK.Inline image 3

  5. You will see a success notification at the top of the screen.
    Inline image 4

  6. These students will get this message:
    Inline image 6


Switch Windows with your Keyboard - October 16, 2017

How much time do you spend minimizing windows, dragging them out of the way, clicking through the Task Bar or Dock, looking for that other window you want? Wouldn't it be great if there was a quick way to do this? There is! Here's how to use your keyboard to switch windows. 

For Windows Computers

To switch from one window to another, hold down the Alt key on your keyboard and then tap the Tab key. This will bring up a series of thumbnails of the windows that are currently open. You can keep hitting Tab to move through these windows, then let go of the Alt key when you get to the one you want.

You can also use your keyboard to move between open tabs in a browser. Hold down the ctrl key and press Tab. This will take you to the next open Tab. CTRL + SHIFT + TAB will take you to the previous tab.

For Mac Computers

 + TAB
To switch from one application to another, hold down the command key on your keyboard and then tap the Tab key. This will bring up a series of thumbnails of the applications that are currently open. You can keep hitting Tab to move through these applications, then let go of the command key when you get to the one you want. You will need to add the ~ tilde key to switch between windows in one application.

How to Submit a Kaltura Help Desk Ticket - October 10, 2017

Sometimes things go wrong with technology. I'm sure you're not completely surprised! What should you do if you have trouble recording or uploading a video in Kaltura? Follow these steps to get the help you need.

If something goes wrong with your Kaltura videos, there is help available to you! The more information that you provide to the Help Desk, the better they will be able to troubleshoot your problem. Here's how to submit a ticket to the Held Desk when you run into trouble:

  1. Open Kaltura CaptureSpace Desktop Recorder.
  2. Click on the Help tab.
    Help tab
  3. Click the Collect Logs button.
    Collect Logs
  4. In the window that pops up, copy all of the log data. Click the Copy to clipboard button.
    Copy to clipboard
  5. Go to GMail and create a new message to
  6. Indentify your issue in the subject line.
  7. Add details about your issue in the message body.
  8. Paste in the contents of the Log File from the clipboard into the body of the message and Send.


Help is on the way!

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Manage Dates in Blackboard - October 2, 2017

Manage Dates in Blackboard

How many hours have you spent changing dates when you copy a course in Blackboard? Want to get that time back? Try Date Management!


When you copy a course over in Blackboard to a new semester, all of your old dates for assignments and tests are copied, too. Wouldn't it be great if you could just press a button and all those dates updated on their own? There is a button for that, and it's called Date Management.

Here's how to do it:
  1. Go to the Control Panel in your course, click Customization, and Tool Availability.
  2. Scroll through the list until you find Date Management. Make sure this is checked and click Submit.
  3. Go to Course Tools in your course and click Date Management.
  4. On the first screen, you will choose how you want to shift the dates: (a) by assigning a new start date for the course, or (b) adjusting all dates by a specific number of days.
  5. On the next screen, you will see all of the items in your course that have due dates or availability dates. You can edit individual ones by clicking the pencil icon. 
If you have due dates in the text of your items, you will still need to change this manually.

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Collect Threads - September 25, 2017

Collect Threads

Got click fatigue?

Keeping up with a class discussion can generate a lot of extraneous cognitive load. Which threads have I already read? Who is the student replying to? Do I click the Back button or OK? It can be hard to keep all of the threads in your mind when you have to click in and out of so many screens. Wouldn't it be nice to just focus on the conversation?

Have you heard about Collect Threads?
Inline image 2
  • Open a Discussion Forum.
  • Select all of the Threads in the Discussion by clicking the check box at the top of the column.
  • Click the Collect button.
  • All of the threads and posts will open on one screen.
  • Sort by Thread Order Descending to read like a conversation.

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Peek into the Past with Revision History - September 18, 2017

Screenshot of Revision History

Did you know?

Every edit made to a google doc by each user is saved in Revision History (access it under the File menu). Each collaborator is assigned a color in the Version history pane, and edits are highlighted in the document with corresponding time stamps.

So, what does this mean for you?

  • You can revert back to past versions of a document you've been editing.
  • You can see how much each student contributed to a shared document.
  • You can see how a student has incorporated your suggestions into later drafts.
  • You can name older versions to create a copy of those edits.
  • and so much more!

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Error-Free Announcements - September 11, 2017

Which of the following can your students open in their email from a course announcement?

a. a Kaltura video
b. an attachment
c. a web link
d. a course link

If you've never received emails from students saying they can't open your links in your emailed announcements, then you might not know that the correct answer is c. Here is a brief explanation of each:

a: Kaltura videos can only be opened inside Blackboard. At this time, they cannot be shared outside of Blackboard, so if your students try to open a video from an email, they will get an error message. You can still embed your Kaltura videos in your Announcements, but be sure to tell your students that they must go to Blackboard to click on the video.

b: Attachments cannot be viewed outside of Blackboard. If you attach a file to an announcement, your students will receive a log in box when they click on it, but will not be able to execute this. If you wish to send your students an attachment, you should upload the file to Blackboard, then send an announcement with instructions on where to find the file. To make it easy to find the file once the student is logged in, use a course link.

c: Links to the world wide web can easily be opened from an announcement. Feel free to include these any time.

d: Course links can be very helpful for pointing students directly to course content, but since links to Blackboard content (like attachments and Kaltura videos, as discussed above) cannot be viewed outside of Blackboard, the course link does not appear in the email version of the announcement. 


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Re-Order Items in Blackboard - September 5, 2017

Have you tried clicking and dragging items on the screen to re-order them in Blackboard, only to find that you're stuck and you can't drag it any further up or down the screen? Rather than clicking and dragging to move items around the screen, try this quick tip.

  1. At the top of each screen with content (including the menu) look for the up and down arrows. Click this button.
  2. Click the item in the list that you want to move.
  3. Click the up or down arrows below the list to move it to the correct location.
  4. Click the Submit button.
Your items will be re-ordered without clicking and dragging!


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