Happy New Year from Your CTSI Programming Team

2015 is off to a running start here, as we’ve kicked off our winter programming series and are looking forward to our summer offerings and beyond. The spring (if we may be so bold to dream of spring in January!) brings with it the chance to get a head start on thinking about your summer research projects or course design goals. Today we’re profiling two initiatives dedicated to teaching, learning and building a community around innovating in these fields: the Course Design Institute and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Institute, open to faculty members.

Course Design Institute (CDI)
2015 marks the 5th anniversary of the CTSI Course Design Institute, running this year from May 20-21. This annual institute introduces the principles of course design to faculty members who are either developing a new course, or who would like to refresh courses they’ve already taught and refine their course design skills. Over two days of sessions, you will learn how to re-work or create your course in order to enrich students’ learning experiences. Through the knowledgeable guidance of CTSI and external facilitators and collaborators, you will explore the steps of the design process and leave with a useable framework for your own course, including an outline, an assessment scheme and a lesson plan. To get a taste of what the CDI can offer you, take a look at these comments from 2014 participants:

“I learned a lot and had a wonderful time learning in such a short time. Most importantly, I am able to apply (or at least consider applying) everything we have talked about in CDI. Very practical!”

“The material and information was great. I honestly loved talking to faculty from other departments. It is great to have an opportunity to share experiences and ideas with people who are not in your field, who have questions that you would never think about or who have tried some engagement activity and can let you know how it worked or did not work for them.”

2013 Course Design Institute

2013 Course Design Institute

Watch this space and the CTSI newsletter for more detailed information on this year’s iteration of the CDI, as registration will be open shortly. You can view more testimonials from past CDIs at the following links: 2013, 2012, and 2011.

Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL) Institute
The CTSI SoTL Institute is a June two-day intensive event (June 3-4) for faculty interested in innovating or studying effective teaching and assessment at the University of Toronto. This year’s institute marks the 3rd offering of this event, in which participants are introduced to the principles of designing, implementing and disseminating research studies focused on teaching in higher education. Guided by facilitators from CTSI, the Institute combines various presentations by University of Toronto SoTL researchers and Liaison Librarians with activities to support diverse SoTL interests.  As with many CTSI workshops and events, participants appreciate the multidisciplinary discussions and cross-pollination of pedagogical ideas, an inspiring way to kick off summer reading and perhaps to pursue research collaborations with colleagues:

“I really liked the group interaction. The most valuable thing overall was talking to other people working on SoTL projects. The content of the curriculum just gave a context to those conversations”

“This was a highlight of my professional development here at U of T. It was great to have two days to focus on pedagogical research, especially with colleagues from across the disciplines and across the university, many of whom are knowledgeable.”

CTSI scholarship of teaching and learning

Working together at the SoTL Institute

Participant feedback has been an integral component in our yearly Institute planning, and we have acted upon the myriad suggestions to increase opportunities for SoTL discussions at U of T. A key development has been the creation of the SoTL Network, a regular series of events that connect members of our teaching and learning community (http://www.teaching.utoronto.ca/teaching/sotl.htm). To receive email notices of these SoTL events at CTSI and within the broader U of T SoTL community, please subscribe to the SoTL list-serv by emailing Kathleen: k.olmstead@utoronto.ca. For more information on SoTL activities at U of T please contact Cora McCloy, PhD, Faculty Liaison and Research Officer, CTSI (cora.mccloy@utoronto.ca).

Registration for the Course Design and SoTL Institutes is announced via various CTSI communication channels, including our newsletter, list-serv and website. Registration for both institutes will open in the coming months. Consider joining us for these annual institutes, get a head start for your fall courses and think about your teaching process from an innovative perspective! Feel free to contact Erin Macnab, Programs Coordinator (erin.macnab@utoronto.ca) with any questions you might have.

How to make instructional videos

By Maryam Shafiei, ACT Support Assistant

You have probably heard the mantras, “Show, don’t tell” or “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember”. Visually illustrating a new skill is now a significant element of multi-modal instruction and a frequently used tool in instructional design. You can find training videos everywhere – from how to bake a cake to how to use a computer application or how to use an online service. Users can watch videos/tutorials over again, if needed, and work at their own pace. This post will focus on some strategies for using a computer screen recording application to create instructional videos. If you would like to make videos an important component of your teaching, here are a few tips on how to make them engaging for your students.

The first step in creating videos is to answer the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of your video? Try to have a clear, SMART goal for your video.
  • Who is your audience? Ask yourself these questions: Who are they? What do they need to learn? How can this be delivered? What are their skill levels?
  • What is the action you want the learners to take? Think about your message and your goals.

Before recording:
1. Organize your content.

  • Lay out your content in sequential order.  This will help the learners organize incoming information and remember the information you provide.
  • Provide an outline of your content. Introduce the subject and tell your audience what they are going to learn. If your video has different sections, provide a title for each section so your audience will be prepared for what they are about to learn.
  • Break up the content of your video into smaller pieces. It will help the learners to quickly find the part they are looking for.
  • Shorter is better. One of the ways to keep learners engaged is to be mindful of video length. Due to limited attention spans, you will need to keep your video short, 2 to 6 minutes if possible. If you need more time to deliver the content, try to break your video into segments or separate videos.
  • Include interactive components in your videos, such as questions, quizzes and customized examples and exercises. It will keep your audience engaged with the video and will reinforce learned concepts.

2. Use a script. Writing out a script in advance, even if it’s just a bullet point list of steps, will help keep your video concise and focused.

  • Keep the steps simple and short so you read the script while also looking at the monitor.
  • Try to keep your narration informal and spontaneous. Use a conversational tone when writing your script.
  • Read it out loud a few times before recording. Ask someone to read it to you so you can can hear how the script flows.

3. Clean up your computer desktop.  Make sure to hide or minimize any distracting items on your desktop, close unused programs and ensure your email notifications are turned off.

Record your video:

  • Record the full screen. Some instructors like to look right at their learners when they are talking. If you would like to create such a connected bond while teaching or if you need to show your audience something other than your computer screen you can always use a webcam or  a camcorder to record videos and integrate them with your screen video later, but for those who are new to recording video an easy route to take is just to record the full screen using a screen recorder application. This ensures you capture everything on screen, which you can edit later if you want. You can scale and crop your video to smaller dimensions, but making it larger later on will cause it to blur.
  • Use a decent microphone. Good audio is a key element for any type of video sharing. If you are using a laptop, please do not use the built-in microphone which picks up a lot of extra noise. You can simply use an inexpensive USB microphone instead.
  • Slow down. Try not to put too many concepts into one video. If your audience is unfamiliar with your video content, take it slow.
  • Control your mouse. When recording, try not to move the mouse around while you talk. Never wiggle your mouse to emphasize a point.

After you record:

  • Choose an editing application. Review the range of free or inexpensive online editing platforms and have a look at their simple guides to start editing.
  • Use callouts. Add callouts where necessary, like when you want to draw attention to some object on the screen. Depending on the program you are using to edit your video there might be different options for callouts to choose from, including arrows to point directly to something specific in your video, spotlight which darkens everything on the screen except for the area you want to focus on, or a blurcallout to hide certain areas of your recording that you do not want everyone to see like login information. (Please see examples below.) Try to keep the callouts, annotations or animations as simple as possible and avoid adding too many callouts because they will increase your video file size.
    Callout - arrow

    Callout - arrow

    Callout - spotlight

    Callout - spotlight

    Callout - blur

    Callout - blur

  • Add a title to your video. Add a title slide to describe the purpose of the video. Fade it out as you fade in the recording.
  • Control the audio. Check the audio levels through both speakers and headphones and adjust the levels if needed. If you are using music, make sure it is just loud enough to be heard but not so loud that it interferes with the narration.
  • Determine the next step. At the end of the video include a specific call to action. Ask yourself what you want your viewers to do when they have finished the video: watch another video? Take a quiz? Go to your website or email you their questions?
  • Share your video. Finally, share your video and make it easily accessible for your viewers so they will be encouraged to use it. Making content available on an online video hosting site or an LMS is an efficient way of increasing accessibility. Provide your learners with the information on how to access your video.

Question: What do Mark Zukerberg, Oprah Winfrey and the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI) have in common?

By Professor Carol Rolheiser, Director, CTSI

Answer: All have established book clubs; mind you, not your average book clubs!

All of us are pretty familiar with Oprah Winfrey’s launching of her book club that was active between 1996 and 2011. Through this club she not only propelled many authors works to bestseller lists, she also succeeded in encouraging large numbers of people to read more literature. Her online version, Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, was launched in 2012 and uses social media to once again engage people in discussing books. In a January 6, 2015 Globe and Mail article by their Book Editor Mark Medley, entitled “Mark Zukerberg on books: Oprah II?”, he noted that Mr. Zukerberg took to his Facebook page early in January 2015 to announce that he will read a new book every other week!  As a result, Facebook has already created a hub, “A Year of Books”, which already has over 253, 000 Likes.

While CTSI cannot boast the reach of Oprah’s or Zukerberg’s book clubs, we are proud of having just completed our second offering of CTSI Page Turners, a four-session book club series.

Book clubs are becoming increasingly popular not only for recreational reading, but also in K-12 and higher education sectors to support educational development (Kooy, 2009), and as a means for teachers “tuning into practice”. Online, hybrid and face-to-face clubs are being initiated in colleges and universities for instructors as a means of enhancing community, reflecting on practice, and inspiring cross-disciplinary discussions and networks.

The model our CTSI team developed is based on the concept of student literature circles (Daniels, 2002; Lin, 2002). While participants in our book club are in charge of their own learning, they are supported by a facilitator who helps establish group norms, and sets the stage to maximize individual accountability and the development of positive interdependence within the group.

Saira Mall, Carol Rolheiser, Cora McCloy

CTSI Book Club Team - Saira Mall, Carol Rolheiser, Cora McCloy

Some of the goals of the CTSI Page Turners include: supporting pedagogical professional development through the examination of educational ideas; reflection on practice; exploration of innovation in teaching; and, discussion of aspirations for student learning.  The structure used for the CTSI book club includes evidence-based design features, such as: 1) the optimal number of participants (e.g., Brabham & Villaume, 2000, suggest that 4-8 participants is an ideal number for a literature circle); 2) determining group norms (e.g., participation and interaction to maximize learning together); 3) building inclusion (e.g., through community-building activities that provide context for each participant’s goals and motivation); and 4) establishing the roles and responsibilities of both participants and facilitator.

The first two offerings of CTSI Page Turners series focused on the book, Student Engagement Techniques by Elizabeth Barkley (2010). The four 2-hour sessions provided an opportunity to explore a conceptual framework for understanding student engagement, while also examining tips and strategies for influencing motivation, promoting active learning, building community, ensuring students are appropriately challenged and promoting holistic learning. As well, instructors analyzed practical student engagement techniques focused on learning outcomes that included knowledge and skills, learner attitudes, values, and self-awareness. While the culminating activity involved each instructor participant sharing a concrete plan for “putting print into practice” in their next course, most of the participants began implementing ideas right away in the courses they were currently teaching!

Book Club Participant Poster

Book Club Participant Poster

Each of the four book club sessions was facilitated through the use of text protocols and other reading/discussion formats (Bennett & Rolheiser, 2001; Lipton & Wellman, 2003). The value of the protocols was expressed often by participants, in terms of how such protocols supported their exploration of the book being studied, but also their use and adaptation of these protocols with their own students. For example, one of the protocols was entitled “The 4 A’s” (adapted from Judith Gray, 2005, National School Reform Faculty, http://www.nsrfharmony.org.)  As participants pre-read the selected chapter they chose an excerpt related to each of the following four A’s, and the subsequent book club session focused on discussing these with their colleagues:

  1. What Assumptions does the author of the text hold?
  2. What do you Agree with in the text?
  3. What parts do you want to Argue with in the text?
  4. What parts of the text do you want to Aspire to?

In the final assessment of the book club one of the participants commented specifically on the value of experiencing the protocols, stating, “I really enjoyed the use of protocols to guide the sessions. It was great to see how these would work in practice.”

Another one of our book club members wrote, “I keep coming back [to CTSI] because I am finding that teaching is a process that requires constant reflection and consideration of the back and forth between talking about how to teach and implementing teaching ideas”.  CTSI Page Turners has been an exciting way to encourage the exploration of teaching research and practical ideas, to reflect on one’s practice, and to work with colleagues in other departments to try out new practices. We are looking forward to our next book club series and the examination of another book –stay tuned to our CTSI newsletter for the announcement of our next Page Turners series.

If you would like to set up your own instructor book club in your department or unit, please feel free to contact us and request a consultation to support you in getting this launched.

Happy reading!

Emanuel Istrate, Institute for Optical Science

Emanuel Istrate, Institute for Optical Science

Heather Buchansky, Student Engagement Librarian, U of T Libraries



Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student engagement techniques. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bennett, B. & Rolheiser, C. (2001).  Beyond Monet: The artful science of instructional integration.  Toronto, ON: Bookation.

Brabham, E.G., & Villaume, S.K. (2000). Questions and answers: Continuing conversations about literature circles. The Reading Teacher, 54(3), 278-280.

Daniels, H. (2002). Literature circles: Voice and choice in book clubs and reading groups (2nd ed.). Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Lin, C-H. (2002). Literature circles. Eric Digest.
file://localhost/Retrieved from http/::www.ericdigests.org:2003-3:circles.htm

Lipton, L. & Wellman, B. (2003). Mentoring matters: A practical guide to learning-focused relationships (2nd Ed). Sherman, CT: Mira Via.

Kooy, M. (2009). Collaborations and conversations in communities of learning: Professional development that matters. In C.C. Craig (Ed.),  The Association of Teacher Educators’ Teacher Education Yearbook XVII: Teacher Learning in Small Group Settings (pp. 5-22). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Publication/Rowan & Littlefield.

New technologies on the horizon – an update from Academic & Collaborative Technologies

Ryan Green, Educational Technology Liaison, Academic & Collaborative Technologies

During the academic calendar year of 2014 Academic & Collaborative Technologies (ACT) and CTSI have been working with a number of development teams to bring some new technologies to our community through our Learning Portal.  A selection of some of our projects are below:

WeBWork is an open source online math homework solution, and currently being used successfully in a small number of courses as part of a closed pilot running both Fall and Winter terms. WeBWork users can author their own questions or choose from a large library with over 25,000 questions, developed by the community of over 800 schools and institutions.

WeBWork is integrated into our Learning Portal via a new (to U of T, at least) standard called Learning Tools Interoptibility (LTI), and is the first of a number of expected tools to use this method. The LTI standard provides for a much simpler process of integrating tools into any compliant Learning Management System (LMS).  Previous to the creation of LTI developers would need to create plugins or building blocks for each LMS, a considerable task especially considering the frequency of updates that LMSs are subject to.

The implementation of WeBWork provided our team with some interesting challenges, most notably, the LTI connection was not completely developed on the WeBWork side, an unfortunate outcome of being open source. Thankfully, the University of British Colombia was able to share a version with us that they had done a considerable amount of work on and thereby completing the LTI. Our amazing development team within ACT, aka Ahalya Rajkumar, was able to finalize the work and get everything up and running.

peerScholar is another tool that is currently being run in a closed pilot, through both Fall and Winter terms.  Developed by Professor Steve Joordens and his team at UTSC, peerScholar provides the ability to manage large scale peer and self assessment/feedback activities.

While peerScholar has been available to faculty at our institution for a short while now, our current pilot has peerScholar integrated into our Learning Portal via a building block. This block manages all enrollments and account management, allowing the instructor and students to focus on the activity. The peerScholar building block was developed through close collaboration between the ACT and peerScholar development teams.  The peerScholar team is also working on a media rich support site that will soon launch to provide all the instruction needed for both faculty and educational technology support staff.

Crowdmark is another tool that was initially developed by a University of Toronto faculty member, Professor James Colliander (now with the University of British Colombia).  Crowdmark was developed to help teaching teams mark tests and exams.  Exam booklets are created by the Crowdmark software with QR codes in the top right-hand corner of each page. Once scanned these exams can be graded online by any member of the teaching team, doing away with the hassle of managing paper exam booklets.

ACT is currently working with the Crowdmark development team to integrate their tool into our Learning Portal using the LTI standard.  Once integrated, instructors will be able to import their student lists from the Portal into Crowdmark, TAs and other marking staff will then be able to access the grading tools, and finally student marks can be exported back into the Portal Grade Center.

We are in place to have the integration ready for the Winter 2015 term. However, the license between Crowdmark and the University of Toronto is still underway. For updates, please visit: http://www.teaching.utoronto.ca/teaching/essentialinformation/educationaltechnology.htm

Recognizing and Valuing Teaching at UofT

By Pam Gravestock, PhD, Associate Director, CTSI

I recently had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Excellence in Teaching reception, honouring faculty who have received teaching awards over the past year.  Hosted by Vice-President and Provost, Cheryl Regehr, this event recognized the accomplishments of our great teachers – those who have received internal awards, such as the Faculty of Arts & Science Outstanding Teaching Award, the Early Career Teaching Award in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, and the President’s Teaching Award, along with recipients of external awards such as the OCUFA Teaching Awardand the Alan Blizzard. As Provost Regehr noted in her opening remarks to those gathered, “Collectively, you exemplify ongoing innovation in knowledge building and sharing.  You exemplify a passion for helping students expand their horizons and discover new ways of thinking.”

This is something I know first hand. Each and every day, I have the opportunity to learn about the teaching excellence of our faculty and I am constantly amazed at the commitment, care and attention that faculty, at all levels of their careers, put into ensuring our students have meaningful and valuable learning experiences. One of the most enriching aspects of my portfolio involves a focus on teaching awards. For more than a decade, I have been engaged with preparing award nomination files for internal and external awards – giving me a window into the contributions our great teachers have made and continue to make.

At U o fT, our highest honour for teaching is the President’s Teaching Award (PTA). Established in 2006, it recognizes excellence in teaching and educational leadership. Recipients become Teaching Academy members and serve in an advisory capacity to the President, Provost and CTSI.  As of 2014, the Academy includes 35 members from both the tenure and teaching stream, representing a wide range of disciplines, including Chemistry, Computer Science, English, Engineering, History, Education, Pharmacy, Medicine, Women & Gender Studies, Geography, and so on.

Since the inception of the PTA, Academy members have been coming together to collaborate on initiatives such as Large Class Teaching modules, the Teaching Matters articles (published with U of T’s Bulletin), and on pedagogical and educational research.  They have served as ambassadors of great teaching within our institution and beyond – speaking at convocations, recruitment events, and at local, national and international conferences, including U of T’s Teaching & Learning Symposium.

While some have called into question the benefit of teaching awards (Aron, Aucott & Papp, 2000; Chism, 2006; Evans, 2005), arguing that they hinder academic careers, particularly in research-intensive universities, or that they are merely awarded based on popularity – I wholeheartedly disagree. I have seen the evidence from students who speak to the impact that faculty have had on their university experience – the passion that instructors bring to their discipline or the opportunities for engagement in research that has spurred an undergraduate to continue on to graduate school, the mentorship provided to graduate students as they move toward and eventually step into their own professional careers, or the integration of an inclusive teaching approach that helps a student meet their learning goals.

To dismiss the importance of teaching awards devalues the voices of our students who have been the beneficiary of great teaching. Moreover, the absence of such awards can signal that institutions don’t value teaching.  At U of T, we have a wealth of superb teachers and a multitude of ways to acknowledge the significant impact they have in the “classroom” (be it in a room on campus, in an online environment, in a lab, or in the field) and at the leadership level (through innovative course and curricular design, initiatives to support and enhance student learning, and so on).

For me, the existence of the PTA and the Academy signals that teaching is not only recognized at U of T but that it is truly valued at all levels.  As Don Boyes, 2014 PTA recipient notes, “The President’s Teaching Award is an incredible honour but, more than that, it shows just how much teaching is valued at the University of Toronto.  I know that the award gave me something to aspire to, and past winners were great role models and a real inspiration to me.  The Teaching Academy provides great leadership to the teaching community and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to the wonderful work done by its members”.

Don and his colleagues in the Academy work to further not only the conversations about teaching within our institution and beyond, but also actively lead and engage in initiatives that advance teaching at U of T.

Nominations for the 2015 President’s Teaching Award are now open – please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the process or if you have a candidate in mind.


Researching the Inverted Classroom

Earlier this month, over 250 members of the University of Toronto teaching and learning community shared their commitment to developing and enhancing their knowledge of effective teaching practices. The 9th Annual Teaching & Learning Symposium at Hart House explored a wide range of ideas, issues and possibilities related to change.

I was fortunate to both participate and moderate presentations in the “Research on Teaching and Learning” sessions, a first for the Symposium, based in large part on the increased interest in scholarly analysis/enquiry into one’s own teaching. In one of these sessions, Micah Stickel (Electrical & Computer Engineering) and Qin Liu (OISE), disseminated results from their three-year study on students’ perceptions of the inverted classroom approach and the effects of this approach on student learning outcomes. The audience had opportunities to discuss the pros and cons of the inverted vs. the ‘traditional’ approach – our small group discussion, for example, highlighted concerns and questions about student buy-in and their commitment to a pre-lecture 30-minute task. But we also felt students benefitted in ‘learning how to learn’ and engaging in high levels of interactivity within class time. Among several lessons shared from this study, Stickel and Liu emphasized that the inverted classroom approach ultimately rests on strong fundamental educational principles and patience – this is a transition for both the instructor and the student.

In line with the views of several faculty presenters and participants I had discussions with during the Symposium, Stickel noted that “as in previous years, this event provided me with an excellent opportunity to gain valuable perspective on my research through formal and informal discussions with colleagues representing a wide array of programs and educational domains.  One of U of T’s great strengths is our breadth and quality of faculty, and this symposium has always been a wonderful way to connect with both.”

(You can view other presenters discussing the benefits of attending the Symposium.)

In the event you missed Micah and Qin’s presentation, their work will also be shared at the December 10th SoTL Network meeting.

These monthly SoTL events and other SoTL activities offered through CTSI (e.g., the SoTL Journal Club) offer a space for peer to peer discussions on myriad teaching and learning topics and issues similar to the research presented at the Symposium. To subscribe to our SoTL list-serv and learn about upcoming events please email Kathleen: k.olmstead@utoronto.ca. If you would like to present your research ideas, ‘work in progress’ or findings to gain feedback from SoTL Network members, please contact me: cora.mccloy@utoronto.ca.

by Cora McCloy, Research Officer & Faculty Liaison, CTSI


Learn more about U of T’s Centre for Community Partnerships

Did you know that…

  • 94% of student respondents who have taken a community-engaged learning course at the University of Toronto want to take another community-engaged learning course?
  • Community-engaged learning courses have been offered in over 25 disciplines across all three campuses of the University of Toronto including political science, human biology, astronomy, sociology and women and gender studies?
  • University of Toronto faculty who teach community-engaged courses report that, because of their community-engaged approach, their students are more engaged in their learning, better able to understand someone else’s views and are demonstrating enhanced learning through integrating their community experiences with the course material

An Introduction to the Centre for Community Partnerships

If you are an instructor interested in community-engaged teaching and learning, the Centre for Community Partnerships at the University of Toronto can provide you with a wide variety of resources and support. From offering workshops on the fundamental pedagogies and practices of community-engaged learning, to one-on-one meetings focused on course, syllabus and assignment design, to facilitating gatherings of like-minded faculty members, to connecting you with community organizations that may partner with your course, the Centre for Community Partnerships can assist you with developing and running community-engaged courses.

You can read more about our services for instructors on the Centre for Community Partnerships website.

What is community-engaged learning?

The Centre for Community Partnerships understands course-based community-engaged learning as a credit-bearing form of experiential learning where, as part of their enrollment in a course, students are placed in community organizations to undertake work that meets community-identified needs. One goal of community-engaged learning experiences is to allow students to apply the content they are learning in their course, and their discipline-based skills, to practical community-defined projects and to make meaning of these learning experiences through reflective assignments and practices. The approach outlined here is rooted in the pedagogy of academic service-learning, which George Kuh (2008) has identified as a high-impact educational practice [link: http://www.aacu.org/leap/hips]. You can read more about the service-learning approach and how it differs from other forms of experiential learning on the Centre for Community Partnerships’ website.

How can I learn more about community-engaged teaching and learning at the University of Toronto?

  1. Contact us at the Centre for Community Partnerships. We can meet with you to discuss your ideas and questions related to community-engaged learning and connect you with the resources you need to run a successful community-engaged learning course. See the full list of ways that the Centre can support your work on the website.
  2. Join the Centre for Community Partnerships’ newsletter list. The Centre sends out two newsletters each month featuring news and events related to community-engaged teaching and learning.
  3. Attend a faculty workshop or gathering to learn more about community-engaged learning and to meet colleagues interested in community-engaged teaching and learning. This year’s faculty events are available on the Centre for Community Partnerships’ website.

by Jennifer Esmail, Coordinator of Academic Service-Learning and Faculty Development, Centre for Community Partnerships

Tales from the Grade Center

November draws to a close; the snow settles gently outside.  “Has it really been three months since this madness began?” you wonder.  Favourite hot beverage in hand, the Grade Center slowly blinks into being on the screen.

A sample Grade Center view

Figure 1 - A sample Grade Center view. The context menu of "Grade Column" has been opened.

By now you are likely reviewing your grade center and finalizing marks, or are working to get your affairs in order for the coming semester.  Here are a couple of reminders and pointers to help ease you into the Winter break.

Totally Weighted Weighted Totals

If you’re looking at the Grade Center and the numbers don’t look right, it’s often because of confusion about how the Weighted Total column interacts with the marks you’ve given in your Grade, Assignment or Quiz columns.

Grade Center weighted columns

Figure 2- Mr Weighted Total, a Calculated Column, and Mr Grade Column, made using “Create Column”


Keep it simple:

  • Create all of your Manual, Assignment and Quiz columns first.
  • As a general rule, keep the “primary display” of all your Grade columns as “Score” and set the points possible to the number an assignment is going to get marked out of, (e.g. If a perfect score is 20 out of 20, you set this as 20. Simple, right?).
  • When you’re done making your other columns, you can define their syllabus values in the Weighted Total.

What might happen if you’re marking an assignment that’s worth 20% of the final grade out of 20 points possible, you ask?  Nothing is wrong – provided you actually marked it out of 20.  If, for instance, you forgot and decide to give the students a mark out of 100 for that particular assignment, that student who got 90/20 is going to be having a much better day than originally intended.

If your numbers in the Weighted Total column look too high, check the grades given on an assignment against the points possible in the column’s “Edit Column Information” screen.


Grade Center context buttons

Figure 3: Each column has a context button which can provide you information and editing options.

Playing Hide and Seek With Your Columns

Were you setting things up for winter and have a column disappear on you?
Can your students see a grade that you can’t see?  There’s a difference between:

Show/Hide to Users:  Hides the grade data in the column to students.

Show/hide columns

Figure 4 - If a circle with a slash through it exists to the left of a columns name, it cannot be seen by students.


Hide Column – Hides the column from you, the instructor.

Enable and disable column with a click

Enable and disable column with a click

The former can be enabled or disabled  toggled from the column menu, or from “Edit Column Details.”
The latter is accessed from Grade Center >> Manage >> Column Organization.

If your students are seeing something you can’t, there’s a good chance this is part of the problem.

Still Confused?

If you need to get things cleared up before the break, remember to contact us at portal.help@utoronto.ca.  There are Instructor/Staff drop-in hours on Tuesdays and Thursday’s 1-3pm at Robart’s Library in room 4034.  Portal Training sessions are available at the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI) throughout the year.  For more information, and to register for a training session, visit http://uoft.me/portaltraining


Ready-made lists of library resources for your course

Are your students having trouble finding scholarly sources for their assignments?  Not sure where they can turn for help with their research questions?

The library has designed ready-made pages of discipline-specific resources – recommended books & e-books, journals, databases, and other print and online resources – to help your students get started with their research.  If you see missing or incorrect items in the list, liaison librarians can customize these pages for your classes by adding links to specific items within the library catalogue, or external websites.

Screenshot of Library Resources page for INF2012 (Instructor's view)Screenshot of Library Resources page for INF2012 (Instructor’s view)
(Click on image for enlarged view)

The ‘Instructor Links’ section, only visible to instructors, includes additional information pertaining to copyright issues, and course reserve requests.

Library resource pages also include contact information for booking in-person research consultations with a librarian and for chatting virtually via the ‘Ask a Librarian’ IM service.

How to access library resource pages

Does your course have a Portal site?  Students can access the library resources page in the course menu, by clicking on the “Library Resources” link on the left hand side of the page.

Library resources location within the Portal
Library Resources location within the Portal
(Click on image for enlarged view)

If your course doesn’t have a Portal site, or you would like to share a direct link to the Library Resources page with your students, you can do so by searching for your course code using our look-up tool.

For more details, please contact your liaison librarian.

by Partnering for Academic Success (PASS): librarian secondees with CTSI
Rita Vine, Head, Faculty and Student Engagement, U of T Libraries
Mindy Thuna, Science Liaison Librarian, UTM
Monique Flaccavento, Faculty Liaison Library in Education, OISE
Heather Buchansky, Student Engagement Librarian, U of T Libraries