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Best Practices

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!

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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 – 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 – Building student connections when teaching high enrollment online courses.

student_connectionsVenetian H
Tuesday 7/12 @ 1-1:50pm

Jody Lester, Associate Professor
Boise State University

Connect students with course and the online environment
Week Zero: Do not assume students will already know how to learn online.  Welcome them to the experience.  Create a warm, supportive environment where they can learn.

  • Direct them to Blackboard Help Documentation for students
  • Send an introductory e-mail through blackboard before class begins.
  • Include a short 5 minute or less video introduction that introduces you and the class, setting a positive tone.
  • Let students know when the course will open (first day of class) and when their first assignment will be posted/due.

Make the course site easy to navigate:

  • Keep the navigation elements simple
  • Use sub-header and divider elements to visually organize the course menu items
  • Use a course banner

Establish predictable patterns: For the student, an established pattern of course activities allows for planning and management of other non-course activities around their online activities.  For the instructor, establishing and communicating a course schedule and pattern of work serves to define the boundaries between the online class and the rest of life.

  • Clearly label content areas, folders and identify the reasons for assignments
  • Provide a checklist for each assignment so that students can clearly identify whether they have completed all the required work (rubric)

Connect the instructor to the students and students to the instructor
Create a “we are in this together” atmosphere:

  • Thank students for questions/suggestions, empower them to help improve the online experience in the course (maybe a survey)
  • Acknowledge that life happens and consider awarding one “late pass” over the semester.
  • Include “what’s in it for me” information in the introductory e-mail.

Get to know students individually and recognize them individually:

  • Have students post about themselves in discussion board/blog posts/introductory activity.
  • Post personal feedback to each student after their introduction.
  • Create a “goes by” interesting tidbits column in the gradebook
  • Keep notes that help you remember each learner’s interests, experience.
  • Construct answer keys/feedback documents that use student answers
  • Name Names: publicly praise exemplary work.  Send personal e-mails, recognizing great work or offering support
  • Sort the “last access” column in the gradebook and send out “I see you working” or “I wonder what’s up” emails
  • One on one communication – individual feedback
  • Sort using ascending and descending feature in Bb Gradebook to send out “I bet you didn’t earn the grade you expected” or “Way to go!” e-mails.
  • Use the “grade questions” option in the gradebook – grade and create feedback/answer key
  • Use “grade history” option to re-use common statements
  • Keep a record of individual contacts-column in the gradebook

Let students get to know you

  • Set the tone with your personal intro
  •  Use video – let them see you
  • Keep it real-we are fallible.  Don’t spend hours re-recording videos if there are minor errors.
  • Post interesting info about your University and your community.

Connect students to other students:

  • Form small groups to build a sense of community
  • Have a clear purpose for group projects
  • Use group tools such as file share, collaborate, email, discussion board
  • Be creative – journal club or group meetings using collaborate

Connect students to the content:

  • Really think about how the Bb assignment and test tools can be used and about how assignments can be modified when used with high enrollment courses.
  • Have Bb grade when possible but consider using at least one instructor graded item for each assignment.
  • Create relevant assignments (focus on learning, not superficial (busy work) activities: Strive to create effective and efficient teaching and learning experiences.
  • Create rubrics for assignments – student can then use rubric as checklist to ensure that assignment is complete and in some cases determine their grade.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel, link to quality resources.  Encourage students to send you links to sites/material they found helpful.
  • Re-use where possible.  Use the “copy” options to copy assignments from one course to another
  • Teach students (video or screen capture) how to see if their assignment was received and how they can view feedback.
  • Post video instructions for various assignments to increase engagement – discuss the previous week, discuss the current assignment and include tips for success.
  • Streamline feedback – use audio/video feedback group answer keys, encourage personal responsibility for checking grades.  Set and publish thresholds for receiving individual feedback.  Use feedback templates.
  • Use the feedback sections in tests to provide feedback – consider including occasional extra credit points
  • Change it up but don’t add several new things at once – remember predictable patterns help
  • Save examples of excellent student work from a previous semester (get their permission to use) so students can see what the assignment might look like.

Take Notes: Over the semester, note what worked well, what needs changes and identify “time drains”; plan ways for dealing with these.  Refining course management should be a continual work in progress.

Packing your Bags for BbWorld16?

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 2016.

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 Freemont. Let me speak from experience, walking the strip + the hotel can cause blisters in the wrong shoes!

Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Experience BbWorld 2016 From Your Office!

Each year, I count myself fortunate to attend the penultimate elearning event, Blackboard World.  If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you will know that the sharing of information from the cognitive surplus that is the BbWorld community is the high point of my year.

Sharing is Caring

Each year I share out my experience by blogging about the sessions I’ve attended, the latest news from Blackboard and what our industry leaders and forward thinkers are saying.  Well hold on to your hats folks, cause I have some news for you:

You can be a part of Blackboard World without leaving the comfort of your home sate, city, office or couch!  Yes, that’s right, you can be a part of BbWorld Live 2016.  Blackboard world will live stream sessions from the world’s largest elearning event over the course of three days!

bbworld_live

Visit the BbWorld Live website to signup for the day that lines up with your track! In the Higher Education track alone, you can choose to live stream 8 sessions!  Between every session, Blackboard will be hosting interactive Q&A with speakers, facilitating live-chats in the discussion forum, taking polls, and giving away prizes.  You can even register to win an iPad!

The catch to all of this?   There is no catch!! It is free!  So do yourself a favor, signup for BbWorld Live today, and be a part of elearning’s biggest event of the year!

Blackboard Tip – Find Courses Quickly by Customizing the “My Courses” Module

waldo_coursesIf you’ve been teaching with the Blackboard LMS for any length of time, you will know how annoying it can be to find your courses quickly when you take a look at your “My Courses” module upon logging in.  Finding your current semester course can be like a game of Where’s Waldo if you aren’t careful.

It doesn’t have to be that way! Did you know that you can streamline the “My Courses” module by sorting how the courses are arranged and limiting the amount of courses that are displayed?

Getting to the Personalize: My Courses page:

  • Place your mouse over the top right hand corner of the My Courses module header and click the gear bb_gear that appears.
    bb_mycourses_header

Customization Options:

You will be able to change the following options to streamline how your My Courses module appears:

  • Group By Term: Selecting this will allow you to organize your courses by term.
    • Show Term: Selecting this checkbox will show the term.
    • Expand Term: Selecting this checkbox will expand the term when displayed (Note: in the image below Summer 1 2016 S1 Online is checked and No Term Assigned is not.
  • Reorder: Click the reorder_arrowsicon to reorder your courses.  Drag the move_arrows icon to bring your courses to their new spot.
  • Course Name: Deselecting this checkbox will hide the course.
  • Course ID: This checkbox (when selected) allows for the display of the Course ID before the course name.
  • Instructors: This checkbox (when selected) will display all of the instructors for the course.
  • Announcements: This checkbox (when selected) will show course-specific announcements below the course name.
  • Tasks: When this checkbox is selected, course-specific tasks will appear below the course name.

My Courses (Customized) Preview
bb_mycoures_full

*Note: You can also link to courses you teach in other Learning Management Systems by placing the Course Name and URL in the Course # Name and URL boxes that display at the bottom of the Personalize: My Courses page.

Online Course Weight Loss Plan

Online Course Weight Loss Plan Banner

There are many good reasons to keep your course from growing too big for its own britches. A large course could impact your student’s learning experience because:

  • The size of course intimidates your students.
  • The same document in multiple places takes up space and clutters the course.
  • Large images take forever to load and..
  • Take up valuable visual real estate on handheld devices.
  • The more items in your course and LMS, the slower it operates.

Keeping these things in mind there are steps you can take to manage your online courses so they don’t become overwhelming, unnavigable, burdensome and out of control.

Step 1: Keep your course organized.

One of the easiest ways to think about your online course’s health and well being is to keep it organized. Traditionally when we think about our courses being held in an LMS, we think of our course as having large containers that hold different types of content like assignments, tests and course materials.

Course Bucket Organization

This can be an easy way to think about organizing at the beginning, but the end result is that over time, these buckets become catchalls or laundry lists of everything you’ve ever added to your course. This causes your students to suffer from over scrolling and to constantly search for important information and activities. Another side effect of this particular organizational method is that it causes the instructor to have trouble determining whether or not they put “that file” in the course.

Instead of large “buckets of information”, why not think of chunking them across topics, or by time. That way, all of the information and activities that a student will need to interact with during a specific week or around a particular topic is located in the same space.

Course Organization Example - By WeekBy organizing your content, you make it easier for you and your students to find what you are looking for and reduce the ‘laundry list’ effect.

Step 2: Use Course Links to cut down on content cloning.

linkThe next step in our online course weight loss plan covers the use of one particular document in different places throughout your course. Whether it is a special rubric, a project guideline or just something you want available easily for your students, it is natural to just want to add the document where you need it. Over time, you create multiple versions of the same document that just adds extra weight to your course and makes your list of course files hard to deal with from a file management perspective.

Most learning management systems provide a way for you the instructor to “link” to the document in question wherever they are in the course. Here at Sam Houston State University, we use Blackboard and it provides this ability via the Course Links content item. Course Links allows instructors to link to files, content items and course activities anywhere in their course.

This way, an instructor only has to add 1 instance of whatever it is they want to use throughout the course and link to it from other course areas.

Step 3: Reduce the size of images BEFORE placing them in your course.

By now, we are all familiar with the fact that adding contextually relevant images to your course is a best practice. Course images engage your students, stimulate different parts of the brain and break up what would otherwise be an ocean of Times New Roman or Arial text.

Picture of a Graphic Icon on Treadmill

The issue for instructors is that the learning management system does not provide a way to reduce the size and weight of the image prior to placing it in a course. It does not allow you to change the “visual appearance” of an image by resizing how the image looks, but this DOES NOT reduce how much space the image takes up in your course or how long it takes a student on their computer or mobile device to see the image.

The good news is that almost every computer comes with a software that will help you change the size and weight of images before you place them in the course. In most cases, once you are in the software reducing the size of the images automatically reduces how much drive space they takes up. Below we will provide a few links to helpful how-tos on the Internet, but you can always google the topic and find what works for you.

Step 4: Use streaming services and Internet links for videos rather than uploading them directly to your course.

streamingOne of the most effective ways to engage your students online is to employ videos along with learning activities throughout your course. Videos add another dimension to your course that connects with your students and can be viewed on whatever device they may be utilizing.

The best practice for how to leverage videos in your online course is to host them with a streaming service or link to videos already hosted elsewhere. Burdening your LMS with Gigs of video files will have a direct impact on your students, because the way they are hosted/loaded is not ideal for streaming on mobile devices or even computers. Also the more large files you add to your learning management system the more you can affect its performance.

Fortunately, there is a great way for you to utilize video in your online courses while following the best practice. Just use other video hosts and provide links and embeds in your online course. Here at SHSU, Blackboard has the ability to directly embed YouTube videos in your course while leaving them hosted in YouTube. It does this via the YouTube mash-up and the Video Everywhere tool. We also utilize Kaltura for video/lecture capture and screen recording. Blackboard employs a Kaltura mash-up and content building tool to place these videos/screen recordings directly in your course content.

Teaching an online course can be intimidating in its own right. Make it easy on yourself. Keep your course in “eLearning shape” by ensuring your course is properly organized, providing links to course documents you want to use in multiple places, reducing the size of graphics and pictures before you insert them in course content, and using streaming services and internet links rather than uploading heavy video files directly to your course.  These aren’t the only steps you can take, but they are a great place to start.

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