Sharing What I Find

Instructional Design and Technology in Education

March 27, 2014
by Heidi
4 Comments

Highlights of Blackboard SP 13

UAF’s Blackboard was recently updated to Service Pack 13 (SP13). There are several new features that have been added for increased functionality, as well as solutions to some issues with the previous version. Some features that were added include:

Achievements (certificates or badges)

You create criteria definitions for how students can receive a certificate (to print) or what students need to complete to earn badges (to display through Mozilla Open Backpack). Find Achievements in a content area using Tools –> Achievements or under the Control Panel. You can create achievements for reaching milestones, for completion of the course or for custom achievements particular to your course. If you don’t see Achievements in your Control Panel, you’ll need to activate it by going to Customization -> Tool Availability.

More information:
http://help.blackboard.com/en-us/Learn/9.1_SP_12_and_SP_13/Instructor/000_Product_Updates/Achievements

Date Management

Date Management can be found under the Control Panel, and used to quickly update all of your established due dates from one semester to the next. Change the date by a specific number of days, or review all the dates on one page and make changes accordingly. If you don’t see Date Management in your Control Panel, you’ll need to activate it by going to Customization -> Tool Availability.

More information:
http://help.blackboard.com/en-us/Learn/9.1_SP_12_and_SP_13/Instructor/070_Course_Content/010_Reusing_Content/Date_Management

Groups

Added features to help with the management of groups and group membership, managing tool availability, and creating Grade Center columns for groups, will make working with groups much easier. Bulk action items have been added to make changes quicker. Encourage users to add a profile picture to their overall Blackboard account so pictures can be seen by the group.

Did you know that you can create an assignment or a test for specific groups? Check out Section 6, when you create an Assignment, or Section 3, under Test Options for a specific test.

More information:
http://help.blackboard.com/en-us/Learn/9.1_SP_12_and_SP_13/Instructor/000_Product_Updates/Groups_Management_Building_Block

Inline Grading

This feature isn’t new, but improvements on using Inline Grading have been made under this upgrade. View student submitted attachments directly in the gradebook. Add comments and assign a grade without leaving Blackboard. Limited to specific files types. Useful for, blogs, discussions, journals and wikis is quick access to a feedback and grading box if your blog, discussion, journal or wiki is set up for grading. Caution: if you use a fillable PDF forms some of the question types on the form (like checkboxes) won’t show the answers using Inline Grading, but the attached PDF will be correct.

More information:
http://help.blackboard.com/en-us/Learn/9.1_SP_12_and_SP_13/Instructor/000_Product_Updates/Inline_Grading_Building_Block

Accessibility

Did you notice the link icon in the header right under the UAF logo? If you toggle this icon you’ll get a link for Quick Links. You can use it to see all landmark and navigation links as well as keyboard shortcuts for that specific page. This is especially helpful for sighted only keyboard users.

bb-quicklinks

More information:
http://help.blackboard.com/en-us/Learn/9.1_SP_12_and_SP_13/Instructor/000_Product_Updates/SP12_New_Features/Accessibility_Improvements

A new Math Formula Editor is based on JavaScript which can be read by more browsers. Other improvements to discussion and content areas makes it easier for screen readers and keyboard-only users.

More information:
http://help.blackboard.com/en-us/Learn/9.1_SP_12_and_SP_13/Instructor/000_Product_Updates/SP12_New_Features/Content_Editor

Tests, Surveys, and Pools

Create Test Availability Exceptions so you can make a test available only to certain students (or groups) or give students (or groups) more attempts, adjust the timer for timed tests, as well as make exceptions for forced completion or auto-submitting a test at the end of a specific time.

You now can customize how you want Test Results and Feedback to show for your students. Do you want to hold off showing the correct answers until after the due date? Or give a one-time view of the correct answers until the availability date? You decide how much, and when to release answers and feedback.

More information:
http://help.blackboard.com/en-us/Learn/9.1_SP_12_and_SP_13/Instructor/000_Product_Updates/SP12_New_Features/Test_and_Survey_Options

The option to Export Test Questions has been fixed! You can now export and import from one course to another.

I’m not sure when it happened, but vast improvements have been made to creating answer options for Fill in the Blank questions. You now have the option to select “contains,” “exact match,” or “pattern match” to add increased functionality to auto-graded tests.

More information:
http://help.blackboard.com/en-us/Learn/9.1_SP_12_and_SP_13/Instructor/100_Tests_Surveys_Pools/090_Question_Types/Fill_in_the_Blank_Questions

Gradebook

Through “Attempt” in the gradebook, review Access Log in the Test Information area. See information on time spent per question or if there were network issues which may have caused extended delays.

More information:
http://help.blackboard.com/en-us/Learn/9.1_SP_12_and_SP_13/Instructor/000_Product_Updates/SP13_New_Features/Test_Access_Log

One of the best upgrades to SP 13 is on the student side, where My Grades has been improved to give students more options on how to view their grade book. Students can now view and sort items in the gradebook by submitted, graded, due date, course view (listed as you have the items ordered on your side of the grade book), and more.

Be sure to use the Student View button to see exactly what the options are for students.

Bbstudent-teacherview

March 26, 2014
by Heidi
0 comments

Storytelling in Earth Sciences

I was intrigued by the title of this article and thought it might give some suggestions for how science teachers might engage more students through storytelling practice. I think it has become clear that whatever discipline you are passionate about, in order to relay that passion and excitement, you will be more successful if you’re able to tell that story. Telling stories helps students make connections to concepts. Telling stories makes concepts more personal. Telling stories sells.

“Storytelling in Earth Sciences: The eight basic plots,” by Jonathan Phillips, published in Earth Science Reviews (2012), categorizes how information about earth science topics is often told. Phillips states, “The hope is that Earth scientists recognize—and perhaps even embrace—our role as storytellers, so that we can more effectively use (and evaluate) storytelling to advance our science” (p. 154). This is a good thing. In the past, scientists have often been criticized for not sharing their research with the general public in such a way that is understandable. It seems that in the past 40 years, especially as media opportunities have increased, getting the research results into the general public has vastly improved. More recently, efforts have been made to add art and music to STEM to create STEAM advances and opportunities for students.

Phillips (2012) talks about how it is only recently that there has been a separation in creating art and writing of literature, and the reporting of science. He uses Goethe as an example (p. 155). Others come to mind, DaVinci and Michelangelo, for example. Natural scientists have long been incorporating storytelling techniques into reporting their observations. John Muir, John Audubon, and Richard Nelson are a few examples.

Where I got lost in this article, was in the determination of the basic plots. He provides examples for each of the eight plot areas and has identified examples from his own work. But he doesn’t seem to make the connection of his categories to the plots he references that are used in literature and drama (according to Phillip’s interpretation from Christopher Booker in The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, 2006). Similarities can be seen but it doesn’t seem like he goes back to help make the connections.

I did find the article interesting and now have a starting point for looking for more research and examples that might be better suited to what I was hoping for.

Here is my attempt to fulfill a couple of objectives: a tech-free challenge, experimenting with an augmented reality project, and using images to portray an article.

 

Resources:

Phillips, J. (2012). Storytelling in Earth sciences: The eight basic plots. Earth-Science Reviews, 115(3), 153-162. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2012.09.005

February 7, 2014
by Heidi
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Thoughts on New Horizon Higher Ed 2014 Report

The New Media Consortium Horizon Report 2014 Higher Education Edition was recently released. This is always a good read and I appreciate the depth from which their research reaches. There are several pages of information on the process for conducting the study and how the panel of experts is set up. This report should be read by administrators and those who make policy decisions.

Video Summary

As I read through the trends, challenges, and developments outlined by the report, I thought about the training eLearning has been providing and what faculty who have been working with us have been able to accomplish and how it fits into the schema of things.

Key Trends Accelerating Higher Education Technology Adoption
Fast Trends: Driving changes in higher education over the next one to two years

> Growing Ubiquity of Social Media

Incorporating social media is your class is one way to keep student’s engaged with you, their peers, and with the practitioners.  eLearning has been encouraging the use of social media for years. If teachers aren’t yet ready to use social media with their students, we have encouraged using social media with peers and colleagues to keep up with the trends in one’s industry. eLearning classes are using twitter, google+ communitities, blogs, YouTube, Voicethread and more.

Integrating social media that tie into the currently used LMS would be a great feature that would benefit students who rely on social media for notifications. Along with encouraging the use of social media, some kind of instruction on privacy, social media etiquette, and the impact of your web presence should be discussed. This conversation should be integrated into all of our general education classes or into a digital preparedness class like what LS 101 does for researching.

> Integration of Online, Hybrid, and Collaborative Learning

Since eLearning specializes in online learning pedagogy and technology, we’ve been working most often with teachers who want to integrate more online elements into their face-to-face classes. A big element of creating a great online course includes methods for incorporating Instructor presence, this is similar to preparing “lecture material” for flipped or hybrid classes. eLearning classes use screencasting tools such as Screencast-O-Matic or explain anything on the ipad, video recording through YouTube with a web cam or with use of our video recording room, or audio recording through Soundcloud or Audacity.

Making sure our instructors have up-to-date computer equipment, access to rather inexpensive equipment (microphone or web cam), along with the training and time to create is something that administrators can help with.

Strategies used for engaging students is another element of an online class that can easier be transferred to a hybrid class or even a class in which teachers what to engage their students outside of class time. eLearning courses use discussion boards, commenting on blog posts, or group projects using Google Drive.

Supporting students with technical issues can play a big role in how successful engagement can be. Student help and training is crucial.

Mid-Range Trends: Driving changes in higher education within three to five years
> Rise of Data-Driven Learning and Assessment

Finding patterns in students learning could be very helpful in producing more successful students who are able to spend more time on learning things they don’t understand rather then requiring “busywork” to reach and end goal. As with any data, however, the results can be read in many different ways so a good strategy for implementing the results of analysis should be encouraged. We can already tell when and how often a student clickson a page in an online learning course but we don’t know what else is going on. Maybe the hour that they spent there also included watching a tv show, a walk around the block with the dog, or reading multiple other window tabs in their browser.

> Shift from Students as Consumers to Students as Creators

eLearning has long been encouraging teachers to have students being the creators and contributors of knowledge in online classes, instead of sitting passively reading or watching content being delivered. When learners are distributed, the level of creation is limited to the resources that are in one’s own community. The report talks about Makerspaces which are becoming very popular in some of the larger communities and taking various forms offering hardware and electronic tools like metal-working tools, as well as access to artistic equipment like kilns, and digital equipment like laser cutters or 3-D printers. There are currently many activities on campus that offer opportunities for students to create and build objects for various purposes. Encouraging this practice can only increase critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Offering the benefits of makerspaces to online students is a bit more difficult as we don’t know who may or may not have access to the equipment they need to produce their ideas.

Long-Range Trends: Driving changes in higher education in five or more years
> Agile Approaches to Change

In many eLearning courses, students are asked to seek out experts or practitioners in their community to be interviewed, act as mentors, or be a resource for practical knowledge about a concept being taught. One of the advantages that online courses have is that they often bring together people from several geographical areas and thus provide the opportunity for different perspectives, different strategies for finding success, and different opportunities.

> Evolution of Online Learning

eLearning on one top of the world! or at least close to the top of the world! With a  team of 12 Instructional Designers and a talented and well informed student and program service team ready to support your efforts in moving online…you too could be a part of the evolution! This trends seems to go along with Integration of Online, Hybrid, and Collaborative Learning and the developments of Flipped Classrooms.

Significant Challenges Impeding Higher Education Technology Adoption
Solvable Challenges: Those that we understand and know how to solve
> Low Digital Fluency of Faculty

eLearning is entering its 10th year in offering iTeach workshops for faculty development. We’ve worked with over 290 teachers who have attended our 4- or 5-day intensive training. This doesn’t count the number of teacher’s we’ve worked directly with on course development, the consultations available to any teacher on campus, or the short training sessions we’ve offered.

> Relative Lack of Rewards for Teaching

Receiving financial rewards for developing and integrating new technology or strategies into a class often goes unnoticed and is non-existent in many colleges and schools. Sometimes a workload exchange can be arranged. eLearning does offer some reward for innovation and development – watch for announcements at idesign.uaf.edu. It is also time for academics to reward tenture-track faculty who see teaching as a priority as opposed to research alone. Administrators need to come up with some alternatives to provide financial and time support for being innovative or trying new things.

Difficult Challenges: Those we understand but for which solutions are elusive
> Competition from New Models of Education

eLearning has long been a proponent of making course resources open to the public with assignment feedback being given only to enrolled students. Being able to offer experience, expertise, feedback, and support are advantages that localized online courses offer.Why not take advantage of the content experts at other institutions who are creating content for the masses and incorporating the resource into your own class. UAF should take advantage of its unique expertise and relevance of the Arctic and Indigenous populations. eLearning is currently working on a couple of small-scale MOOCs for the Justice program to see how they are received and to see how they integrate into the curriculum already being offered.

> Scaling Teaching Innovations

eLearning relies on departments and schools and colleges to provide the leadership for organization changes.

Wicked Challenges: Those that are complex to even define, much less address
> Expanding Access

Access to computers and broadband is an on-going issue throughout Alaska. Even in urban areas, connectivity to households is a challenge as internet services aren’t available and aren’t expected to become available in the near future. One should be mindful of these considerations when developing an online course, but shouldn’t totally hold back innovation. Low bandwidth alternatives may be available.

> Keeping Education Relevant

One of the strategies we like to include in online courses is to create a relationship between the student the the community in which they seek a career. Helping students to make that connect can make the learning more meaningful and relevant. Asking students to bring the knowledge that they might have already gained, their life experiences, can be value to the class as to help students make connections to the content.

Important Developments in Educational Technology for Higher Education Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less
> Flipped Classroom

eLearning has helped many instructors create presentations and recorded lectures and lessons to flip their classroom so that precious in-class time can be spent on interaction, group work, discussion, and projects. Often students come to class without having done their pre-reading and aren’t prepared for class time. Flipping your classroom makes the student responsible for being prepared for class activities.

> Learning Analytics

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years
> 3D Printing

Just think of the possibilities if you could print out hard-to-find or replacements parts for equipment or experimental projects. Having access to just equipment at a higher education institution goes along with students are creators, makerspaces, and making education relevant.

> Games and Gamification

Incorporating game theory into your class or program can be very engaging for both your students and for you! eLearning has been working with several instructors who have added gaming elements to their courses including JRN 101.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years
> Quantified Self

eLearning was the first Alaskan institution to be a Google Glass Explorer and we’re currently implementing the glass into several learning projects. Other faculty participating in the CITE Fellows project received wearable wristbands to monitor  activities to learn more about one’s habits. Incorporating such technology into classwork isn’t too far away.

> Virtual Assistant

For now,  you’ll have to accept the assistance of real assistants from eLearning!

December 24, 2013
by Heidi
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SoundingBoard Application

This application seems like a good tool for learning language or increasing vocabulary using your mobile device, currently compatible with iPod,iPhone, or  iPad. Create a collection of items, add images to individual items within the collection, and then record an audio prompt.  You can share soundboards by exporting and importing, but each user has to have the SoundingBoard application installed and the file can only be viewed through SoundingBoard.

soundingboard-ex

You can use images from the SoundingBoard library or you can upload your own images. Each collection can contain 20 items.

SoundingBoard also retains some user data. You can get results about which boards are the most popular (based  on the number of times a board is accessed) as well as which symbols are the most popular.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/soundingboard/id390532167

 

 

December 4, 2013
by Heidi
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InDesign: What,Why, and How

What

http://tv.adobe.com/watch/learn-indesign-cs6/what-is-indesign-cs6/

Why

  • multiple pages layouts
  • projects that require similar text styles are easier to manage
  • integrates with other Adobe products like photoshop, illustrator, and bridge

What is the best Adobe tool to use:

  • Photoshop = raster image editing (photographs) or digital painting (Illustration)
  • Illustrator = Vector artwork (Logos, illustrations, etc.)
  • Indesign = Page layout (books, manuals, brochures, etc.)
  • Dreamweaver = HTML and web code layout and editing
  • Acrobat = PDF creation and editing

Word vs. InDesign

Question: Which is the most painful:

  1. Rappel down a barbed-wire rope in a Speedo
  2. Crawl naked through broken glass
  3. Use Word for layout
  • wrapping text around an image
  • placing multiple images on a page
  • multi-columns
  • color management (important for getting things printed)
  • image management

How

  • Tools
  • Frames
  • Graphics
  • Output

InDesign Resources

Lynda.com

Lynda.com
Everything you need to know. period. 37 how-to videos on InDesign CC and CS6
403 on Graphic Design

Indesign Secrets

http://indesignsecrets.com/

Blog posts and podcast full of help hints, tricks, and strategies. Entertaining and educational! Anything by Anne-Marie Concepcion or David Blatner is brilliant!

Adobe TV

http://tv.adobe.com/product/indesign/
Nice collection of videos created by Adobe professionals

Adobe Help

https://helpx.adobe.com/indesign/topics.html
Technical help for specific features

Creative Market

https://creativemarket.com/
Graphics, templates, themes, fonts add-ons, inspiration FREE stuff every week!

Adobe Press

http://www.adobepress.com/
every Monday they offer an ebook deal for $9.99

Other

Kerning Game - http://type.method.ac/#

What Font Are You? – http://quizilla.teennick.com/quizzes/970830/what-font-are-you-standard-fonts

Font Games – http://www.theendearingdesigner.com/18-creative-typography-games-that-will-max-out-your-font-skills

Create your own font – http://www.myscriptfont.com/

Colors palettes and patterns – http://www.colourlovers.com/

 

idesign-rainbowUAF eLearning & Distance Education

Spring 2014 CIOS classes:

CIOS 233 Desktop Publishing: Adobe InDesign

CIOS 255 Microcomputer Graphics: Adobe Photoshop

 

 

December 2, 2013
by Heidi
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Quality Matters applied to MOOCs

In an Eli Webinar given on Dec 2, 2013, Deb Adair, Quality Matters’ Managing Director and Chief Planning Officer, presented findings on using the Quality Matters Rubric standards on a specific set of MOOCs. As a requirement for accepting some Gates Foundation funding specifically for creating a MOOCs, fourteen different non-credit bearing courses specifically created on introductory and remedial topics were reviewed. This was QM’s first opportunity to apply rubric standards to MOOCs.

The QM’s reviewers decided to use their rubric standards for Continuing and Professional Education course. This rubric was developed for courses without active instructor facilitation or direct student to student content. Courses that are self-paced, non-credit bearing, or have open enrollment fall into this category. There are reduced expectations for interaction between students and instructors and students and students and well as reduced expectations for institutional support: technical, academic, disability, or general student support. But there are enrichments that are expected: high quality student to content interaction, expanded opportunities for self-assessment and automatic feedback, and a thorough collection and directions to accessing additional resources.

The courses that were reviewed where delivered on a variety of platforms, Blackboard, Udacity, Coursea, D2Learn, and EdX. Of the 12 courses that were completed by the review deadline, 3 met the standards after the first review, 1 met the standards after an amendment, and 1 will meet the standards after changes are made. Several courses that did not meet the standards have opted not to make necessary changes to obtain the QM certification.

What was done well:

  • course overview and introdcution
  • assessment & measurement
  • instructional materials (depth and quality seemed really high)
  • technology – navigation was clear and functional

Missed Standards

  • 50% missed: tech skills expectations clearly stated, articulate course support services, uses accessible technologies
  • 42% missed: Learning outcomes clearly stated, module learning objectives measurable, articulate accessibility policies
  • 33% missed course learning objectives measurable, response time clearly stated
  • *it was determined that many of the accessibilities issues were related to the chosen delivery platform, not necessarily an issue with the way the MOOC was developed.

Bottom line:
It seems like these non-credit bearing MOOCs could easily have obtained certification by addressing some basic policy information that should be standard in any course. communication to student (where to find help, what outcome of finishing the course met)

November 25, 2013
by Heidi
7 Comments

Add file attachment to Google Forms

Here’s a third party application that works with Google Forms for added form functionality. One feature that is missing from creating forms is the ability to have viewers upload a file. This is where Forms+ comes in. Tied to your Google account, you can create a form from Google Drive by connecting Forms+ to your account so that it appears as one of the applications. Use Forms+ to create your form using these text options: prepended and appended text  well as a regular text box and larger text area (multiple lines). Selections tools include the option for a drop down menu as well as checkboxes and radio buttons. Forms+ also has inline checkboxes and inline radio buttons so these types of questions don’t take up so much screen real estate. But the best feature is the ability to add a question type where viewers can upload a file. Files that are uploaded are automatically added to your response spreadsheet as well as a new folder in Google Drive.

If you create a form for individual assignments and included a file upload option, all of the assignments uploaded would automatically go into a unique Google Drive folder. How cool is that!

When I first read about this application, I assumed that it wouldn’t work with our UA Google Applications, but it does!

Now for the drawbacks. If you use Form+ to create a form, you don’t get all of the features that you do in Google Forms. For example, there are no themes to distinguish your form from one another. You just get a default form look which is basic and lives on a web page that is populated with Forms+ advertising. On one of the forms I created, I got advertising from backcountry.com featuring a sale on underwear (of which I recently purchased) and the header was from cardstore.com of which probably fit best with an online greeting card service that I use.

Another pretty big difference is in the responses spreadsheet. When you create a form using Form+ you do get an automatic spreadsheet created for collecting the responses but it is missing the Form menu. The big drawback of this omission is that you can’t get a graphical representation of the summary of results. For some form-use, this is critical feature.

Googleform-formmenu

Missing from Form+

  • themes
  • scale, grid, date and time question types
  • adding section headers
  • inserting image or video
  • branching
  • automatic authentication for UA user ids
  • form menu from responses spreadsheet

All of your forms create dwith Form+ go into the same Form+ folder.  You can fix this by adding folders if you use Forms+ for multiple classes or projects.

As the following video suggests, there is a work around for using the File upload option from Form+ and adding it to  your regular Google Form but it is pretty clunky and might not work for every type of user.

Possible Solution:

  • create your form in Google From
  • create a single question in using Form+ that has a file upload question. Save the form and copy the form URL.
  • in your original Google Form, create a section header telling the user to go to the additional site by clicking on the URL to upload their file. A new feature to Google Forms creates clickable links from any full URL added in a form so you don’t have to worry about adding html coding.

It might look something like this:

formplus-fileupload for Gform

So you get an idea of the possible difficulties with this solution: making sure users submit the original form AND go to the link to upload a file on a separate form. Another downside is that with two forms you get two spreadsheets and it might be very hard to align the responses on the Google Form submission with the file upload Form+ without very specific directions.

Here’s a video tutorial to get you started:

There is a lot of potential here…I’ll be keeping an eye out for more on file uploads in Google Forms!

November 21, 2013
by Heidi
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iPad study aid – Quiz Dojo

Create a fill-in-the-blank study aid from any PDF by using an iPad application called Quizdojo. Upload any PDF to Quizdojo and as you read through the content you can use the highlight, underline or strike-out tools to annotate as you might any kind of PDF document when making notes for yourself. You can also use a sticky note to make more detailed notes. QuizDojo summaries all your highlights and underlines and then creates a quiz based on them.

With the free version you can only create a limited number of questions (10) and upload a limited number of PDFs. With the paid version you can share out your quizzes with other QuizDojo users.

How you might use it:

  • create study guide from class notes
  • check reading comprehension
  • have students share quizzes to see what others thought important
  • use questions as discussion prompts

Once you take the quiz, you get a nice summary of the questions you missed, how much you improved, and suggestions for what you might want to review.

With the paid version you can share your quizzes with other users or share as annotated PDFs to evernote, dropbox, or by email.

 

 

 

November 11, 2013
by Heidi
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When is too early?

(http://www.flickr.com/photos/abroudjameur/8416007966/)

There was an interesting conversation going on in the WCET listserve earlier in the fall, asking the question on when to make an institutionally hosted online course available to students. Some argued that the first day of classes was the best time and others argued for an earlier time period.

Typically, UAF eLearning instructors choose when to make their class available to enrolled students based on when the instructor is ready and willing to accept students. Instructors are required to make the course available on the first day of classes. It seems like most instructors tend to open their courses a day before or on the first day of classes.

Potential Problems for Early Open

  • Opening a course early puts waitlisted students at a disadvantage as they do not have access to the course in the LMS. (I’m not sure I agree because, waitlisted students are already at a disadvantage by not purchasing books and materials or being included in any pre-class announcements.)
  • Students expecting to start on Day #1 and enter the course with 50% of the students already participating in an introductory discussion forum, submitting assignments, and/or and divvying up duties on group projects, would likely feel completely behind and at a disadvantage.  As an example, one commenter said, “It would simply remind me of excitedly going to a birthday party as a child only to find out four kids had spent the night before and already had lots of fun before I even got there.”
  • Requiring online instructors to open their online courses early and begin communicating with students is not the same requirement asked of onsite instructors.

From Dr. Margaret (Maggie) O’Hara, Director of E-Learning, at University of North Carolina General Administration Spangler Center:

An interesting (cautionary) result to opening classes early.  During faculty professional development, I always advised faculty to open their classes early if at all possible.  One spring semester, an instructor opened his class on New Year’s Day, with the semester starting around the 10th.  The first assignment (not due until the 17th) was to form a group and choose a project topic from a list provided.  By the time the course officially opened one group had formed and chosen a topic. Another student in the class, who had not logged in until the first day of the semester was furious that the topic he would have chosen was already taken and gave us all a very hard time about how unfair this was.  The instructor ended up making the group choose another topic and deleting the other one from the list of choices.  Amazing how no good deed goes unpunished!

More than One Week

  • Students get access to review the syllabus and any getting started activities, and become oriented to the LMS and the organization of the course. Students have access to orientation courses, and are encouraged to explore the library and campus resources.
  • Instructors must have the following information in place before the course may be opened: Getting Started, Course Syllabus (if the syllabus  is a draft, it needs to be clearly indicated as such) and an announcement about how to get started and when the full course will be made available.
  • Instructors are not required to start “teaching” during this time.
  • Students want to know whether a given course and instructor will be a good “fit” for them.  Providing this information in advance of course start allows students to make an informed decision.  If the student decides to opt out, they can do so without penalty. This also makes the lives of our instructors easier because they can get to a stable roster sooner rather than later.

Good alternatives to Early Open

  • Access to the learning management system to become familiar with how a typical online course might look, such as an online orientation. The course might contain multimedia screencasts that walk students through a course as well as a “sandbox” course shell containing mock content, tests, etc. This would be similar to taking a stroll past their classroom to figure out where it is located before being expected to arrive.
  • Have an open source where faculty who wish to provide information to their online students beforehand can post a syllabus or extended syllabus. I believe our UAF Faculty Senate has mandated that all course syllabi be posted in banner so that academic advisors can better advise students into courses. When this was first proposed, I was hoping that these documents would be posted in an open environment so that potential students could also have access to them.

While I don’t think it is necessarily a good idea to open the course to students before the first day of classes, I do think it’s beneficial to let online students see the course syllabus before classes begin and to communicate with them through email, especially if the course is not synchronous. Giving student an advanced preview allows them to get their books/materials early with confidence and seeing if the class is what they expected beyond reading the brief course description listed in banner or the course catalog.

November 6, 2013
by Heidi
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Auto-Graded Google Form

I think Google Forms are a great course room tool for collecting information. I’ve written about them before in a Teaching Tip called Collecting Information with Google Forms and on iTeachU in the Grow Skills section. Here is a video that shows how to set up your form for auto-grading. When you create a Google form, the respondent’s answers are collected in a spreadsheet. The process for auto-grading those responses uses the “=IF” statement, a common function available in spreadsheets.

The blog post: Quick and Easy IF Formulas for Grading Google Forms explains it all.

Of course, auto-grading really depends on the kind of answers you expect to receive. You have to take into account capitalization and spelling. “january” isn’t the same as “January” or “jan.”  And word order also matters:  “peanut butter and jelly” isn’t the same as “jelly and peanut butter.”

pb&j