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eLearning Frenzy

eLearning is like a sewer, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

“Intuitive” is in the eye of the beholder.

intuitive_cropped

So I felt the need to compose a blog that reflected on an experience that we just had at our office and how it relates to how we approach our jobs supporting online/face-to-face/hybrid students and faculty. Our office recently relocated to a “new-to-us” location.  We really love the location and appreciate the way it improved our “esprit de corps”.  We did however notice one issue that had us perplexed.

You see, we couldn’t figure out how to lock our inner-office doors.  There was a door knob, and a place to fit our keys to unlock our office doors, but we couldn’t lock the door using our keys.  We tried it with our individual keys, with our office master-key and even tried it on different doors, but to no avail.  We couldn’t figure it out.  Finally we just decided that the locks must be broken.  After all, why give us keys and a key hole, but no way to lock the doors that these key holes belong to.  Confident in our assumptions, we put in a ticket with facilities and asked them to come fix our problem.

Well later that day a gentleman from facilities showed up and check out the doors.   He took one look at our “broken door-locks” and asked, “Did you push the button?”  The button?  We couldn’t find any button and we told him so.  Finally, he directed us to where the latch comes out of the door and told us to press in what we thought was part of the latch and low and behold, the doors locked!  Who would think to look for a locking mechanism on the side of the door, rather than make it part of the knob?

What was intuitive for the facilities employee was NOT intuitive for us.  Now, in the moment, we all laughed and rejoiced in our new found ability to lock our inner-office doors.  A few hours later as I was sitting at my work desk, I realized that this situation related well to our jobs as instructional technology guides, helpers, trainers and designers.  What do we think is intuitive?  The learning activity, proctoring software or the LMS?  We live and breathe this stuff day in and day out, while our students and faculty may be experiencing it for the first time.

We should be putting all of our documentation, course work, and interactions into this context.  Are we we forgetting the mechanical instructions when we design learning activities and just putting in the academic?  Do we design technology how-to documentation with an assumed level of experience?  Would taking this into consideration change how we approach support calls from students or faculty?  I think it would.

 

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Importance of the Virtual Office

virtual_office_infographic

In face-to-face courses, students have the luxury of benefiting from questions asked while in the classroom or the ability to stop by your office to discuss an issue they might be having.  In both cases they get the chance to interact with you and possibly some of their fellow classmates.

Sometimes, students find it challenging to find that same connection in an online, hybrid or web-enhanced environment.  The good news is that with Blackboard and other learning management systems, you can create a virtual space where your students can experience the same kind of connection and feedback they receive in their brick-and-mortar classrooms.

Using a virtual office in your online/hybrid/web-enhanced courses provides many benefits. For the purpose of this blog post, we will focus on three.  Using a virtual office:

  • puts the instructor in the course
  • cleans up email inboxes
  • promotes the use of Blackboard (the LMS or Learning Management System)

The virtual office puts the instructor in the course

Placing a photo of yourself, your contact information and a little biographical info can go a long way toward helping your student see you as a person and not some synthetic-robot version of yourself.   If you want to go the extra mile, replace the photo with a quick Intro or Welcome video that can bring out your personality and help the students get to know you.

By subscribing to your own virtual office discussion forum you will receive prompts when questions are posted.  These prompts will help you engage with your students in a timely fashion and make the students feel like you are in the course.

The virtual office cleans up e-mail inboxes

Let’s face it, we all “misplace” e-mail.  For some of us, our inbox receives a hundred new messages or more each day.  Why not make life easier on you and your students by reserving course-oriented email for things of a personal or private nature.  Have your students post general course questions to the virtual office discussion forumWhen you answer questions via e-mail the only people that see that correspondence are you and the student. If a question is answered in a public space like the virtual office, everyone benefits.

You may have to use the first week of the course as a “training week” where you ensure you point your students to the virtual office for answers to course questions.  Make it a requirement in your syllabus, an expectation on your course expectations page and a question on your Syllabus quiz to ensure students know where to go.

BONUS:  The virtual office builds a course FAQ over the course of a semester that you can then use as part of your next semester’s course.

The virtual office promotes the use of Blackboard (the LMS)

The more time a student is spending in your course, the more connected they are to what is happening.  When your students establish the habit of checking the course regularly, they will be more engaged and more successful.

Encouraging your students to check the virtual office daily will get them in your course and connect them to the information and activities they need to conquer course objectives.

When you Pack Your Bags for BbWorld17…

When we think of thought-leading eLearning conferences that we attend like Blackboard World, we often think of them in terms of things we will come back with. There is good reason for this, as there are so many takeaways that a conference like Blackboard World provides. For the purposes of this blog post however, we will be focusing on what we should bring with us to Blackboard World 2017.

So when you pack your bags for BbWorld….

…..Pack a way to share what you learn:

For every oSharing Gadgetsne of us who are fortunate enough to attend this tremendous eLearning event, there are many, many more of us who cannot be at BbWorld. Since we all know that “sharing is caring,” bring a way to share what you’ve learned with your coworkers back home and your colleagues across the world. Whether you are live tweeting by phone or mobile device, live-blogging from your tablet or laptop, or maybe just taking notes to present, blog, or post later, you will be helping your coworkers at home and your peers across academia benefit from what you are picking up from colleagues, professionals and thought leaders.

…..Pack a charger (Mobile or otherwise):

Portable ChargerIf indeed you are sharing your experience, or just trying to stay in touch with events back at home, you will definitely need a charger. I would suggest bringing one of the mobile chargers that you can keep in your pocket/purse/backpack. During the hectic schedule, you may not get a chance to go back to your room, and you may not find an open plug where you can “juice-up”. *As an addendum to this packing tip, bringing a small power strip is also beneficial as you can share one plug with a number of your peers.

…..Pack a desire to meet people and make connections:

Make ConnectionsPossibly the biggest benefit to being at Blackboard World is the ability to meet your peers and form connections that you will maintain and use throughout your professional career. At your home institution you may be the only person who does what you do, but at Blackboard World you are a small fish in a big pond. There will literally be hundreds of people with your same type of job. What better way to pick up best practices and learn what is working and not working for your colleagues, so that you aren’t stumbling around on your own when it comes to your learning management system or eLearning in general.

…..Pack some tennis shoes or at least comfy dress shoes:

ShoesBbWorld has possibly the largest population of slacks/skirts and Nikes in the eLearning universe. For a conference this large, you may be walking a quarter of a mile just to get to your next session. You also have vendors to see and colleagues to touch base with, so comfortable footwear is a must. Some of you may spend the evening at the French Quarter. Let me speak from experience, walking the French Quarter + the Convention Center can cause blisters in the wrong shoes!

Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Seeing is Believing: Let Students See How Online Tools Work

I have posted previously on the importance of showing students what success looks like in an eLearning environment.   Whether via a rubric or by the example of a previous student submission, letting students see how they can be successful with an assignment or activity in your course is generally a good idea.

This post will help you discover how to utilize a tool that your students will use in their activities by employing it to display course content or provide course communication. That’s right, you are getting two for the price of one!

WikisThe Wiki Tool

The wiki tool can be the most rewarding/frustrating tool in your arsenal of activities that you have in your eLearning courses. Providing students with instructions on how to use the tool is definitely important, but many times they don’t end up using it the way you intended. This may be because they didn’t have an example or the 1 page example didn’t really show how a completed wiki should look.

Example: Use a wiki to display course topic or content.

Let’s say one of your course modules deals with Jean Piaget and Cognitive Development/Learning. Create a Wiki to display the content across multiple wiki pages:

  • Page 1 – Wiki Home – Overall introduction of unit
  • Page 2 – About Piaget – Biographical/historical look complete with picture
  • Page 3 – Cognitive Development: Explainer on Piaget’s theory
  • Page 4 – Cognitive Learning Today: Embedded video and text

Leave one page with places for your student to add their own text to the wiki demonstrating how a wiki should work in practice.

BlogsThe Blog Tool

In today’s day and age it easy to make the assumption that all students know how to use a blog or are familiar with journaling due to social media. However, this is generally not the case as most social media posts are micro-blogs (very short 126 characters or less) and full of emojis, text-speak and hashtags.

Example: Use a Course Blog to summarize the week/topic/module, provide commentary on student performance and provide a look into the next week/unit/topic.

This example allows you to demonstrate how a blog works and allows you to communicate important news and information to your students.

Each week make a blog post that:

  • Summarizes what the students went over
  • Provides kudos for student performance
  • Provides encouragement for student struggles
  • Allows for commentary to point out important details about the course content.
  • Gives students a preview/intro into the next unit.
  • Be sure to use multimedia so that students see what the blog can do.

*Use other communication tools in your course (announcements, e-mails, calendar entries) to remind students to check the blog. Be sure to encourage students to comment on your blog posts (a few bonus points for your top 3 commenters across a semester).

Both of these activities will give your students a good idea about how they can use these tools to complete the activities/assignments that you have placed in your course.

This strategy works with multiple types of tools/activities in and outside your LMS. Things like VoiceThread, GoogleDocs, course hashtags and many others are easy to pair with the “Seeing is Believing” idea.

Hopefully, by employing these types of strategies in your online/hybrid/web-enhanced courses, you can reduce student anxiety and increase student success!

New Semester Checklist – Top 5

top5If you teach online in higher ed, then you are familiar with the effort, energy and involvement it takes to engage with your students in that environment.  If you’ve taught online for more than a few semesters, then you know that you do need to put some thought into your transition of teaching a class from semester to semester.  Thought goes into your course materials, learning objectives and how your class is setup in Blackboard or whatever flavor of LMS you use.

Ask any teacher, course builder or instructional designer and they can probably give you an extensive checklist of items to pay attention to before the semester starts.  This blog post however will cover only our take on the Top 5.

  1. Copy/request copy of course.
    In anticipation of the new semester, make copies or request copies be made of the courses you are transitioning.  It is difficult to work on getting ready for a new semester if you do not have a place that you can do so without affecting your current students.

    * For those of you who just use the same course and only the students change, it still might benefit you to have a “sandbox” or “working” course where you can develop outside of the production course.

  2. Check your syllabus.
    Go through your syllabus and check for things like:

    • Is the textbook correct?
    • Is your contact information current?
    • Do you have the same office hours?
    • Change any due dates and scheduled activities (course schedule).
    • Ensure learning objectives/activities match with their counterparts in the course (in case you’ve changed them).
  3. Check Blackboard (LMS) content availability and due dates.
    Nothing can be more frustrating for students than to come to content in your course and find they don’t have access to or can’t see the item or activity that is supposed to be there.  Go through your due dates and availability dates to be sure that they line up with the current semester.  Blackboard provides the Date Management tool that does this all in one place.
  4. Update your welcome message.
    Providing a contextually relevant and current welcome, video, audio and/or paragraph will not only go along way toward connecting you to your students, it will demonstrate that you are actively interested in your students.
  5. Update course announcements.
    During the course of a regular semester, you will send out multiple updates or announcements to your students.  Be sure to remove irrelevant course announcements and update/reschedule announcements so that they reflect the correct date or time of year.

BbWorld16 session blog: SaaS deployment for Blackboard Learn Top 20 Questions

July 14, 2016                                              Trey Buck
1:30 – 2:20pm                                           Product Manager, learn
Venetian J                                                  Blackboard

  • General SaaS Questions
  • How does SaaS apply to Blackboard Learn
  • How do I get to SaaS
  1. What is Blackboard’s experience with SaaS?
    10 years of experience across multiple data centers
  2. What is Blackboard Learn with SaaS Deployment
    -Largest most established integration infrastructure in the LMS business.
    -A Single continuous version.  (code unified across deployments)
    -Flexible deployment option – control your local version
    -Available with original experience and Ultra (nothing is functionally different)
    -You can pilot Ultra with a particular set of courses/departments/colleges etc..
    -Multiple Tiers (SaaS Standard, SaaS Plus, SaaS Advantage.
  3. What does architecture look like?
    – Sophisticated and complex (partnered with AWS and IBM) able to automate and scale on demand
  4. What are the tiers of SaaS deployment mean?
    -Advantage: SLA 99%, Base Storage 1 TB, Interface: Ultra and Original, Continuous flexible deployment, Learning core, learning essentials, learning insight, full building block support, Full LTI web services and rest api, Test instance, staging instance, direct data access, service delivery mgmt
    -Plus – staging instance optional and direct data access optional, no service delivery mgmt
    -Standard – Full LTI’s – Optional, No staging, no direct Data, no service delivery mgmt.
  5. Why SaaS?
    flexibility, elasticity, scalability, resilience, innovation & change mgmt, Big Data
  6. How will my institution benefit from moving to SaaS
    – Enhanced Quality: fixes and maintenance more quickly
    – Rapid Innovation: Enhancements and features more quickly
    – Improved experience: Zero downtime updates
    – Easier Change Mgmt: Smaller, continuous, delivery updates
    – Better Support: Less variety of versions being supported
    – Peace of Mind: Experienced Bb Staff managing operations
  7. Which Critical Factors should I be considering when it comes to managing my online learning environment
    – Physical and Network Security
    – Scalability
    – Data Security
    – People and Processes
    – Redundancy
    – Monitoring Practices
    – Reliability
    – Change Management
  8. What are the main benefits of SaaS Plus & Advantage
    – Full Building Block support (includes custom and homegrown)
    – Flexible deployment options – determine when changes occur to your system
    – Support all learning solutions
    – Additional Services (advantage)
  9. Will all of our existing integrations work with SaaS
    – Building Blocks (all 3, but Ultra has exceptions)
    – SOAP Web Services (not in Ultra, yes in SaaS)
    – IMS LTI 1.2 Yes
    – Partner Cloud and Restful API – Yes
  10. What is continuous delivery and flexible deployment option?
    – Continuous delivery: developing software and releasing in small chunks (like apps on your phone) cadence is approx every 2 weeks (fixes enhancements and new features) default methodology.
    – Flexible delivery: Unique Bb offering: Release Candance – Q2/Q4 release Cadence (once or twice a year is fine) Still have cumulative updates, releases are larger and contain more code changes (optional delivery methodology)
  11. How do you know which is right for your Institution
    – Continuous delivery: less training, benefits of bug fixing (quicker)
    – Flexible deployment: controlling when releases come out (good starting point)
  12. What is Direct Data Access and how does it relate to OpenDB?
    – uses real replica of exact copy of db on production db
    – Direct Data is copied and up to date of productions in minutes..
    – Same schema and queries will work.
    – Security built in
  13. What does move to SaaS entail?
    – Prepare: Plan for Transition
    – Execution of Plan
    – Prepare Data, test migration and integration setup confirmation, final migration and cutover
    – two migration options:
    1. Course Based Migration
    2. Full Data Migration
  14. What is the difference between two migration options?
    Course based – start with a fresh instance and bring over archived courses, limits downtime, configurations and settings would not be brought across
    Full Data Migration – Clone current environment and file system, Restore info to new SaaS instance, Requires downtime, Maintains existing Data, configuration and settings
    For both options Blackboard provides: Project planning, test migration, final production migration, all for no additional charge
  15. Do you have an example of Project Plan?
    (Takes about 5 months on average – migration occurs in a much smaller window)
  16. What is Blackboard’s experience in helping us migration
    lots – 100 migrations a year, been doing it for years have a team that helps
  17. What consulting and training services are available if I’d like more help?
    ATP, Training program development, Building Block Evaluation, SIS Framework mentoring and grades journey services
  18. Does moving to SaaS mean that I have to take ULTRA
    No! you can optional upgrade certain courses etc.. It is an option
  19. So then where does Ultra Experience Fit IN?
    Wherever you want it!
  20. What does Transition to Ultra look like?
    Transition to SaaS Deployment with Original experience, then implement Ultra as needed/wanted.
  21. Why two Milestones?
    Two Words: Change Management!

 

 

BbWorld16 Session Blog – The Blackboard Portfolio Tool

portfolio-iconJuly 14, 2016
9:30 – 10:20am
Titian 2205

Features, Uses and Campus Wide Implementation process

Jason Rhode and Stephanie Richter
Northern Illinois University – Faculty Development & Instructional Design Center

  • Background Info
  • Bb Portfolios: Features and Examples
  • Campus-wide implementation process
  • Portfolio Usage across campus
  • Considerations

Building Portfolios

  • Add artifacts from files or from prior Blackboard assignment submissions
  • Embed media directly in the page
  • customize and preview features
  • Manage multiple portfolios for different purposes
  • Use templates for standardized portfolios

Grading Portfolios

  • Faculty can create an assignment with portfolio submission enabled
  • If Portfolio submission is enabled, student can only submit a portfolio
  • Faculty can grade and provide feedback as usual in the grade center

Sharing Portfolios

  • Share snapshots internally with institution users
  • Share snapshots externally with people outside institution (grad school/employers)
  • Download entire portfolio as a zip file (HTML) for future use and portability

Portfolio Examples

porfolio1

porfolio2.png

Campus-wide Implementation Process

  • Identify key stakeholders
  • Raise Awareness
  • Test Portfolio Tool
  • Develop Support Resources
  • Train Users

Key Stakeholders

  • Provost’s Office
  • Assessment Office
  • IT
  • Faculty Development Center
  • FYE

Raise Awareness

  • ePortfolio symposium
  • University Tech conference
  • e-mail newsletters etc..

Considerations

  • Staffing (support, development technical)
  • Implementation time (1 year)
  • Support Resources (robust and multi-format, samples)
  • Establish policies (who gets template? naming, who approves template format? How long are student accounts active and portfolios accessible?)

Summary

  • Implementing portfolios is a campus wide process involving multiple stakeholders
  • Consider how portfolios will be used for teaching and assessment as you plan your implementation
  • Students will need most support, but faculty need to be comfortable so that students can be successful.

There is a Bb Portfolio Users group on community.blackboard.com

 

 

 

 

 

BbWorld16 Session Blog – Build Online Engagement through a Virtual Student Unions

Bellini 2003
July 14, 2016
8:30 – 9:20

Engagement (Tinto)

  • Academic and Social engagement promotes college succes
  • Social connections lead to social and emotional support
  • Great involvement in educational activities and learning

SACS

  • Provide support program
  • Services
  • Activities
  • Promote student learning and development

The plan a Virtual Student Union

  • Support for successful online learning
  • Easy to find resources
  • Connecting learners to TROY
  • Positive educational experience
  • Social Engagement

*Trojan Cafe shows up as a course for all students.

  • Course entry page is web embed with highlights, dates/calendar and headlines.  Articles that are relevant to students: preparing for grad school, how to budget, dealing with tragedy (orlando)).
  • Online contests and giveaways.
  • Student forums: General chat, textbook exchange, contests and giveaways, military student room, how can we help?
  • Robust Resource site (html again) blackboard tutorials, online writing center, advisor, etc….
  • HTML pages through course to promote engagement (essentially a website within a course)
  • Trojan cafe course pages are HTML Blackboard Content Management System (CMS) Web folder URL.  Blackboard Course Created (URL button added), pages designed in adobe muse, webpaged saved as html

BbWorld16 Session Blog – Student Success in Higher Education: Plan, Predict, Engage

Venetian G
July 13, 2016 4:35 – 5:25

Only 59% graduate from college after 4-6

12.5 Million 20-somethings with some college credits and no degree

Understanding students’ struggles through research – what we learned:

  • Student journey is messy
  • Students feel alone and anxious
  • feel urgency to make decisions
  • lack of connections between short and long-term goals

The average advisor to student ratio – 1:300

Student success is a complex problem, but there are clear ways Blackboard can help.

Our student success philosophy

  • Plan
  • Predict
  • Engage

Blackboard Plan -empowering students to take control of educational journey (exploration, planning, registration) Partnership with Burning Glass

  • Discover careers based on interests (in development) Bb Plan
    Students can self-identify interests and seek careers that align with those interests
  • Explore career and skill demand (is there demand for that profession and if so, where is it?)
  • Learn about jobs first hand – partnership with road-trip nation (video interviews of people in professions) giving students first hand accounts of working in desired profession.  See real job postings that exist today
  • Seek Help from Advisors – making help accessible to students
  • View Degree Progress
  • Conduct “what if” analysis (what if I wanted to that program instead?)
  • Planning a course schedule
  • Register for courses

Blackboard Predict – Humans helping students (enabling those people to do a better job at helping students) Importance of Data, What they are doing with Data

  • Predict takes in 2 data sources SIS (demographic data) and LMS (course activity)
  • Taking that data and predicting (probability that student will pass etc..) which then points to who should I reach out to and who would benefit most from the interaction? for advisor.
  • Knowing more about students, passing the data on through a display that gives advisor more information about you (helps advisor engage with student to build relationship)

Blackboard Engage – The business of being a student needs to be easier (personalized, relevant and focused on student success)

  • Building toward a streaming pathway
  • supporting entire student lifecycle from inquiry to enrollment to student support: Global advisor and coach community, lead nuturing and enrollment mgmt, student support services, and more…
  • Communications need to be customized to where that student is in their lifecycle and who they are.

Improve advising with Blackboard Advise – a web-based advising tool that provides insight into students plans.

  • enable advisors to guide students to success (quickly understand who is on track and who is at-risk
  • Provide proactive guidance and support critical milestones
  • 24/7/365 contact centers (financial aid/enrollment mgmt/registration/advising)

 

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