Home » Newsletters » January 2021 Newsletter

January 2021 Newsletter

We made it through 2020! We are hoping that these next couple months will bring about a good change for us all. We are excited to connect with all of you and share what’s happening this quarter with our new national network!

  • In this issue:
  • Quarterly Briefing
  • Working Group Updates
  • Best Practices & Strategy Share
  • Campus Spotlight
  • Staying Connected
Jumping into 2021

Quarterly Briefing

We are looking forward to getting together at our Quarterly Briefing this month! Please join us at this meeting via Zoom on Tuesday, February 23rd (11:00-2:00 ET) at https://collegestar.zoom.us/j/94332225254?pwd=cnovS3JhZEFCSGhnVlYxN2xCa1BKdz09.

Meeting ID: 943 3222 5254
Passcode: CS2020

Working Group Updates

K-12 Team

They determined the Core Group of conference planners for the upcoming 2021 year. These people are Ellen Bunn, Tanner Jones, Emily Johnson, Robin Wright, and Alysha Gray. They discussed a meeting timeline that will be put on people’s calendars for the months leading up to the 2021 conference. (Monthly, then bi-weekly, then weekly) Group Roles were also discussed roles within the core group of conference planners which spurred rich conversation.

Tree of Learning
Data Collection Graphic

Research Team

The Research Working Group discussed the Alumni Survey that is being created for the next research project. Adam has taken the lead on this. We will work together to determine appropriate research questions based on the literature. Adrienne shared materials to help with the process and we will work to create the Alumni Survey once those research questions have been identified. The group also has a timeline for the manuscript for the current student survey and used working group time to work on writing.

Resource Team

In the breakout group, Andrea and Brent focused the discussion on the upcoming newsletter because Andrea is tasked with authoring it. We had our last “College STAR coffee chat” on Thursday, December 3rd at 2:00pm Eastern Time. We are hoping to see you all at our next meeting on Thursday, January 28th.

Join Zoom Meeting

We are looking forward to getting together at our Quarterly Briefing this month! Please join us at this meeting via Zoom on Tuesday, February 23rd (11:00-2:00 ET) at https://collegestar.zoom.us/j/94332225254?pwd=cnovS3JhZEFCSGhnVlYxN2xCa1BKdz09.

Meeting ID: 980 7946 7414
Passcode: Connect


Graphic for Data collection

Best Practices & Strategy Share: Icebreaker Activities for Online College Classes

Source: www.evereducating.com

With the new semester starting soon these tips may prove helpful for getting your students more engaged in individual and group meetings.

Icebreaker 1: “Introduce Yourself” Discussion Forum Post

Want to keep it simple and low-tech? Create a discussion forum topic in your class LMS called “Introduce Yourself.” Have students answer a short list of questions, with prompts like “what’s one strange fact about you?” or “what’s your hometown?” I also have the optional question of “what’re your preferred pronouns,” just in case a student’s pronouns aren’t evident by their name on the roster. I also make the first prompt on the list, “what is your preferred name or nickname?”

Have students fill out this post during the first week of class. I reply with my own information, too, so students can get to know me a bit better right away. For my full list of example prompts, see the video above.

Icebreaker 2: “Introduce Yourself” Flipgrid Post (and Other Posts)

Flipgrid is a video-based tool that allows students to reply to your prompts with short videos, rather than typed text. You can choose the required length of the video responses and students can reply to each other’s videos, as well. Here’s a full video tutorial I’ve created about the tool, which includes different ways to use it in your classroom. It’s great for all types of activities, so it’s a tool you can use to create icebreaker-like activities throughout the semester, rather than just during week one.

Icebreaker 3: Create a Playlist or Soundtrack

Music is such a great way to get students to connect with one another. So, for this icebreaker, have students respond to an icebreaker prompt (in your LMS discussion forum) with a playlist or soundtrack that they’ve created themselves. They can actually create their response using Spotify, for example, or they can just list out the songs in a discussion post that you create in but basically, consider if you want the icebreaker to be really flexible or specifically connected to the class you’re teaching.

So, you might ask students to create a playlist of their 10 favorite songs and then ask them to reply to a few of their peers’ lists with their own thoughts on the songs. Or, you might ask students to create a soundtrack related to your course, with songs tied to the topics they’ll be learning about in it

There are many different prompts you can give for this icebreaker. You might even create a Spotify playlist for the class using the songs they submit in this icebreaker!

Icebreaker 4: Class Bingo with Zoom

I’ve mentioned my favorite icebreaker multiple times on my blog and YouTube channel. Here’s another blog post all about icebreakers, for example. For this version of class bingo, instead of students walking around the classroom and filling out their course-themed bingo card, create a live bingo game on Zoom. You can create the bingo cards on Flippity (here’s a tutorial on using this website) and send them to your students to fill out during the game. Or, you can have them draw their own cards and write out your list of prompts onto their own bingo boards.

For this version of the game, call out one prompt from the list at a time and give students about 30 seconds to write out their answers on their cards. For example, the prompt might be “favorite children’s book.” Your students would find that prompt on their cards and fill out their answers to the prompt. Once they’ve done that, take some time to discuss their answers as a class. Have students volunteer to share their responses and see if anyone else gave the same answer or actually really dislikes that book, etc. After a brief discussion, move on to the next random prompt. Repeat for the rest of the class period.

You can give students a certain shape that equates to “bingo” if you’ve created different versions of the cards for them or had them draw their own while randomizing the prompts on the cards. Or, you can have filling out the whole card as the way to win. If you give students 25 prompts, for example, then make sure the cards are 4×5 or smaller. That way, not everyone will win at the same time.

Icebreaker 5: Create a Meme

This can be a really quick, but fun, icebreaker. Once again, create a discussion forum topic in your LMS site. Ask students to create their own meme or multiple memes tied to a certain prompt. For example, have them create a meme about college or about your course topic or about what they think about X topic. Once they create the meme(s), have students share their responses on the forum post and reply to a few of their peers’ memes, as well. You can also make this the start of a Zoom class discussion later on, if you want to increase the community-building nature of this activity.

I use Canva to create my graphics. It’s a free tool that you can share with your students. It includes a lot of free stock images and other illustrations, so students can create some great memes.

Know of additional resources not listed here? SHARE THEM ON THE FACEBOOK PAGE!

Mercyhurst University: Academic Support and Learning Differences Programs

Pathways to Academic Success for Students (PASS)

The Learning Differences Summer Program is called Pathways to Academic Success for

Students (PASS). It occurs the three (3) weeks prior to Freshmen Move-In.

Who is invited?

This pre-college program is open to all participants in the Learning Differences Program. It provides an opportunity for incoming freshmen to adjust to the rigors of college life.

What can the student expect?

  • Enroll in a 3-credit college course.
  • Learn valuable college study skills to sharpen your academic skills.
  • Connect with other students before the academic year starts.

How much is the cost of the PASS Program?

The cost of the Summer PASS Program is $1,340. It includes the application fee, room, and board and along with the tuition for a three-credit course, is placed on the Fall bill.

There are three goals of the PASS Program experience:

First of all, the PASS Program allows incoming students an opportunity to connect with other program students, administrators and faculty before the entire freshman class impacts the campus.

A second and equally significant goal of the PASS Program is to allow students with learning and/or other disabilities an opportunity to begin recognizing and coping with the added demands that their disability imposes upon college coursework.

A third goal of the PASS Program is to give students a chance to earn three college credits which allows students with learning disabilities to have the flexibility of not having to add a fifth course during the Fall semester of their freshman year.

How do I sign up for the Summer PASS Program?

Please click here in order to register for the Summer PASS Program.

Academic Advantage Program

Students may choose to enroll in a more structured Academic Advantage Program (AAP), which includes intensive academic support and is designed to help with the transition and adjustment to college life. One-on-one personalized assistance will be provided to help students clarify their educational needs, goals and potential. Through this individualized plan, students learn how to acquire more effective and efficient study skills necessary for academic success. These sessions also promote self-awareness and foster independence to increase academic achievement.

The AAP includes a scheduled weekly meeting with a trained academic counselor to develop an individualized academic action plan based on the student’s strengths, abilities and interests. Weekly sessions may include ensuring the timely and proper completion of assignments, fostering effective study skills, and monitoring academic progress. Services may include consultations with parents at mid-term and the end of a semester at the student’s request. There is an additional fee for the AAP, which includes services that go beyond those required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Mercyhurst University: Academic Support And Learning Differences Building
Mercyhurst campus in summer.
Mercyhurst Campus in winter.
Mercyhurst building
College STAR Student Support Summit 2019

Staying Connected

Please mark your calendars for our quarterly full-group meeting opportunities via Zoom:

Tuesday, February 23rd (11:00-2:00 ET) at


Meeting ID: 943 3222 5254
Passcode: CS2020