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eLearning Frenzy

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

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Teaching Online

“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.

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 – Enhancing the Learning Environment Using Technology

Venetian H
July 13, 2016
1:30 – 2:20

*Everyone of college credit courses has a Blackboard component.  Every faculty member must go through rigorous online training on how to use Blackboard.

Overview

  • learning Feedback
  • tool integration
  • avatars
  • interactive learning activities
  • collaborate ultra

Featured Technologies

  • Storyline (Articulate)
  • Powtoon
  • Collaborate
  • elearning brothers

Student Feedback – breaks and used different teaching materials, enjoyed the games, fun experience, method of instruction was good, encourages attendance and learning, interactive activities, content was more like a conversation rather than a bunch of words. games you post are fun and help us to assimilate the reading assignments.

-Use Welcome to Course Storyline instead of just video
-jeopardy and other games for self-assessment competency checks

Collaborate Ultra

  • Personalized profiles
  • Whiteboard
  • Application Share
  • Polling – Brand New for July Update
  • Session Attendance Reports – Brand New for July Update

BbWorld16 Session Blog – Best practices when using video in Blackboard Learn

video.pngJuly 13, 10:30 – 11:30am
Titian 2301 B

Isaac Belcher – Tarleton State University
Justin Carrell – Tarleton State University

Why use Video? – One small step (powerful driver)  How instructors can make themselves known to students.  Making feedback meaningful and personal.

Examples of Impactful videos:

  • Video should be engaging, and real, not overly scripted – authentic (leave the ummm’s in)
  • Video allows instructor to demonstrate complex problem solving (working math problems) Students have ability to watch you work through a problem over and over again…added benefit.
  • Demonstrating how to do something online (taking a test to make students think about the concept faculty was teaching – just demonstrating answering one question from large pool)
  • not just moving a lecture to online environment.

Technical Considerations:

  • Quality – enough to get the job done.  Don’t need lexus when camry will do.
  • Length – students will typically watch a video from 7 – 10 minutes
  • Placement – where do you put it?  (embed)
  • Format – streaming format, not player specific, mobile friendly
  • Storage – on streaming server (kaltura, panapto etc…)

Flipped Classroom – Why Flip (Bloom’s Taxonomy Considerations) Ability to utilize class time for application (Evaluation, synthesis, analysis, application, comprehension, knowledge)

Tools for flipped classroom:

  • Zaption* – affirming knowledge layering quizzing over video(Kaltura has Interactive quizzing that does this) *Zaption is going out of business.
  • NBC Learn
  • Films on Demand
  • Screen captures
  • Bb Collaborate

Stay tuned into your video analytics to make more informed decisions about how to best used media in your online courses.

Studio:

  • Familiar Environment – mimics classroom
  • Computer Considerations – beefy computer to handle video recording and different applications.
  • Audio – boom mic, desk mic, lavalier
  • Lighting
  • Room Design
  • Video Sources

BbWorld16 Session Blog – General Session 1

Unveiling Blackboard’s Latest Developments  Ballroom 3:30 – 5pm

  1. Your Needs challenges and opportunities
  2. Uniquely addressing needs
  3. Committement to fundamentals

Challenges
k12 – engaging families to improve student achievement, different funding models
higher ed – enrollment, retention, ROI, post traditional learner
corporate – addressing skills gap
all of these are different and unique..needs are evolving and changing over time.

Blackboard addressing uniquely – Helping Students Succeed

  • Deliver thoughtful and relavent info across portfolio
  • Breadth and broad reach of portfolio 19k customers, 100 million users, 100 countries
  • Deep insights about world of learner – listening to you, looking at datasets, understanding our users, convert insights into innovations

New Products – Blackboard Planner, Blackboard Advise, Blackboard Predict
Investing 350million dollars into innovation of core teaching and learning products and rest of Blackboard’s Portfolio.

Commitment to Fundamentals

  • Develop and Deliver – established total transparency from scrum teams to Board of Directors (visibility into product development activities), consolidation of strategy, marketing.
  • Support Customers – (operational excellence and improving customer experience).
  • Innovate – investing in innovation at scale…partner that meets your evolving needs
  • Communicate – clear, open and regular communication and that includes listening.

 

Product Strategy

Portfolio capabilities – learner interacts with admin, support staff, counselors, employers, advisors, classmates, teachers/faculty, parents

Core of student success mission is driving learning outcomes.  Core of Blackboard portfolio is Teaching and Learning products.    2 most prevalent LMSs – Blackboard & Moodlerooms.

Embedded learning analytics, world class collaboration and mobile tools are also part of portfolio.

K12 – parental and community involvement is fundamental to drive student success.

Solution Set of student lifecycle services – Student Account Support, Helpdesk support, retention and enrollment services.

Powerful Insights – Community input, data science and empathetic research

Community of Input – that’s us 19k customers a community of practice, surveys, technical previews, customer research groups, innovative teaching series.

Data Science – John Whittmer “Dr. John” -7 tb of learning data, 1,200 institutions, 35m learners and teachers, 7m courses, 2.7billion Lms sessions – Looking at specific research questions and/or broad trends.  Blackboard doesn’t own data…this is our data.

Collaborate Data – Engagement Metric (across, chat, audio, video, app share) Students can get engagement score.  Session engagement timeline.

Empathetic Research – Matt Franks – We are taking a user-centered approach in designing our emergent products.  Understanding what people do and why do they do it?

Activity Stream – entry point for students in Bb Student and Ultra (came from empathetic research of students.

1 Learn, 2 Experiences, 3 Deployments

Shared code, ultra and 9.1, self-hosted, managed hosted, SaaS

Roadmap – Where we are

  • Quality – hundreds of bug fixes, updated tech, unified code and simplified releases
  • Enhancements – CBE
  • Mobile Support – Bb Student available to all customers, expired by ultra experience avialable now

What’s next with Original Experience of Learn

  • Attendance Record (track attendance within learn – optional provide a grade and export)
  • API Dev Portal – Restful APIs available

What’s next with Ultra Experience of Learn

  • Educator Preview (preview.blackboard.com)
  • updates on Ultra
    bbultra
  • granularity of control of ultra adoption

 

 

 

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.

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!

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