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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

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.

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Syllabus Memes – Humor

As we think about what happened during the spring semester and look forward to the summer, here is some food for thought!

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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.

Best Practices For Utilizing TA’s In Your Online Course

Having an Effective TA for Your Online Course

We all know that teaching online requires instructors to think differently about how their course is delivered. While the methodologies of learning are still in play, the online medium requires you to proactively account for multiple learning strategies when putting together, delivering and interacting with your course and students.

Online instructors fortunate enough to work in departments who provide Teaching Assistants, feel like they have a lifeline in this strange “new” online world. However, the fact that you have a Teaching Assistant does not make the stars align, world peace occur and automatically make everyone fall in love with your course. There are some things to consider about utilizing TA’s in your online course that can make the overall experience more successful.

Combat Inferred Digital Nativity – #providehowtosforTAs

Digital Native PhotoWe like to think that the next generation is more “plugged in” and that they “get it” (whatever “it” may be) when it comes to technology. While this may be true for their smart phone (Let’s take a selfie!), it does not guarantee immediate understanding of your institution’s Learning Management System.

This is why it is important to put your TAs/Doctoral Fellows through the same kind of technology “how-to” sessions that are available to you as a faculty member. At Sam Houston State University, TAs/Doctoral Fellows have the option of participating in any of the teaching online certification programs, which provide a strong base for starting out on the right foot, particularly for those who will teach online courses in the future. These technology development efforts help increase course interaction, engagement and ultimately satisfaction for both instructor and student.

Use your TA to Increase Student Engagement – #notjustforgrading

Increase Online Student EngagmentThere are three types of interaction in any good online course:

  • Student/Content
  • Student/Instructor
  • Student/Student

Each one of these plays an important role in student satisfaction as well as student success. With online class size growing, it does become more challenging to engage every learner in the student/instructor interaction more than a few times during the course. TAs can play a very important role in helping to increase student/instructor interaction, as they fall under the “instructor” umbrella in this equation.

You can assign your TA to work on specific discussion forums within the course to provide feedback, answer questions, or to gently nudge students in a particular direction to ensure objectives are met. This ability to flex your teaching assistant is not limited to discussions. They can help out with blogs, wikis, web conferences and more. This can help increase the one-on-one interaction time you provider learners throughout the duration of the course.

Use your TA to Increase Instructor Presence – #untilwefindacloningmachine

Instructor PresenceThere are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week and honestly, there is such a thing as a work/life balance. Leverage your TA to help with office hours, web meetings and other times where you may be spread too thin to be in two places at once. They can also help with answering “virtual office” or “general questions” discussion forums if you are at a conference, out of town or fulfilling research requirements.

Put a Face to your TAs Name – #gettingtoknowsue #orstew

More than likely, you have a place in your course where you introduce yourself to the class. It may be in your Virtual Office area or in some other spot. It probably has a picture, some contact info and a brief bio. This would be a great place to add a second item that introduces your TA to the online students. That way when students see discussion replies, grade book feedback and more, they will know who it is from.

Making the course more personal for your students is always a best practice. Connecting your students to you and your TA will allow the students to feel like that they “know” you and this is especially important when it comes to online feedback.

Use your TA to Unleash your Online Grade Book – #feedbackmachine

Online GradingOnce a course is developed, where is the one place where you may spend most of your time in? The answer is overwhelmingly, the grade book. A well-used grade book or grade center can make the difference for you, as well as for student success and satisfaction.

Gone are the days where students would check the door to the classroom twice a semester (midterms and finals) to figure out how they were doing. Nowadays, students receive updates on their phones when an assignment in their course has been graded, when an exam grade has been posted, or when their group projects have been evaluated.

Leveraging your TA to help with the grade center can help decrease grading turnaround time and increase the amount of times a student receives personal feedback on graded items in the course. Any LMS worth its salt has a Rubric tool that faculty can employ to ensure grading guidelines are followed down to the individual criterion by the teaching assistant. Even if you limit your TAs to a particular number of assignments to grade, it will help with the amount of grading you have to do and the amount of time it takes to get that grade to the students.

TAs add value to what you are already doing in the online course. They are an important supplement and providing them with technology skills, leveraging them to increase student engagement, introducing them to your students, using them to increase instructor presence and empowering them to enhance feedback with your grade book are best practices that can contribute to success and satisfaction for you, your students, and your online course.

NBC Learn on Blackboard – Adding a Media Rich Resource to Your Courses

NBC Learn on Blackboard


One of the best things about the connectedness of the web space is the ability to find media rich content to supplement or enhance course activities and materials.  The beauty of this particular medium is that it is not just left to the instructor to utilize this media.  Students can now liven up online discussions, assignments, projects and more with historical, current or relevant video or audio media.   YouTube has long been a mainstay in this arena, in that it’s API allows for easy integration and everyone is familiar with what it does.  However, there are other vast collections of resources out there that are relatively untapped by the student/faculty population.  One of these curated resources is NBC Learn.

NBC Learn is a rich and unique resource that provides thousands of historic news reports, current event stories, original content, primary source documents, and other digital media specifically designed to teach and engage students.  NBC Learn content can easily be downloaded for offline use or connected to your institution’s Learning Management System, which in my case is Blackboard.

The content is also fully accessible it allows for keyboard navigation, assistive technologies(works with screen readers), support for deaf and hard of hearing.  http://www.nbclearn.com/accessibility

NBC Learn Portal

You can Browse NBC Learn, and see the Collection of all NBC resources within the NBC Learn environment.  You can browse by category that best matches your field of study or just Search NBC Learn via keyword.

Each video has its own CueCard with metadata like source, date, description, keywords, & citation (allows students or faculty to include citation in posting), as well as transcript tab for full transcript.

NBC Learn Cue Card

  • Each video can be saved to your personal playlist within NBC Learn.   You can also print a 2 dimensional version of the CueCard.
  • Download:  You can choose a quality version and save it locally to your computer. (You will need administrative access to your computer as the download will be an executable NBC Learn player)
  • Videos can be sorted for easier searching. (Title, Date, Story Date, Alphabetic, Recently Updated)
  • Don’t see your category? NBC Learn allows users to “contact us” and add comments/suggestions in terms of new categories for the NBC learn site.

NBC Learn on Blackboard


NBC Learn & Blackboard – Working Together

There are a couple of ways to add NBC Learn content to your courses:

  1. Employing the Mashups button anywhere you use the Blackboard text/content editor (items, folders, discussions, etc…)
    Adding NBC Learn to Blackboard

    This particular option allows both you and your students to build context around the video.  Whether you are introducing a unit or your students are adding to a vibrant online discussion, using the Mashups button in the content editor can add rich media throughout your Blackboard course.

  2. Accessing the Mashups area under Build Content and selecting NBC Content (places content directly in content area as it’s own item).NBC Learn Mashup Item

    The beauty of this option is that the media itself becomes a piece of course content.

*Depending upon your institution’s setup, you may be able to leverage a NBC Learn content module that will allow you to display categories of videos like: NBC Learn Science, History, News, Social Studies etc…

NBC Learn and Blackboard have integrated and that is a win for Blackboard instructors and students.  Now course content and contributions can become more rich, relevant and engaging!

BbWorld15: General Session Learner’s Voices (Panel) – Session Blog

Education is not a given in everyone’s life, but it should be!  Change is needed – we have wide-spread acceptance of this fact.  98% of college/university president said that change was needed and 67% said that the change needed to be disruptive, incremental small change is not enough.

What do learners look like today? How do they behave, and what drives them? Our change needs to be based on understanding the people for whom our education systems exits.

The Changing Leaner –
– number is growing (How Many)- increase of diversity/age etc.. (Who they Are)
– expectations change: driven by technology (enhanced interaction, integrations) (What they expect)

Students expectations of education system:

  • learn from peers as much as intructors
  • career ready prior to graduation
  • Networking opportunities with alumni/employers
    Essential part of college experience should be networking with future employers, at least help in getting interview.
  • Value for money
    Value is created differently for every single student (research experience, ability to transfer credits), lecture versus experience in the field. Debt loads/Cost.  Quit being system-centric and start be learner-centric
  • real life application of learned skills
    More than likely students will graduate high school not knowing how to write a check, a resume, invest in stock market.
  • Credit for their prior experiences
  • high use of technology
  • Guidance for next steps
    Adaptability and flexibility of the institution is key!  Taking courses where they are best offered, if your institution can make recommendations based upon student learning styles.
  • Flexible institutions for non-traditional learners
    (military vets) Competency based learning model is a good fit for this!

Today’s Barriers

  • Too Difficult to navigate student support systems
  • Cost of Education and unavoidable debt
    What are you prepared to invest and what will you get out it?  Is it affordable for you?
  • Tough to see big picture across coursework and institutions
  • I don’t know where to go to get help or good feedback
  • My outside experience is not connected to classwork
  • Lack of flexibility in how i engage my courses and teachers
    Unique needs of learners should be met – all types of disabilities, Institutions should provide training for instructors on how to engage.
  • Need to address diverse backgrounds of cultures.  Empathy is key
  • Not enough counselors per student at secondary level.
  • Not every student can afford a device/connectivity problems

Positive Aspects

  • World perspective: learning experiences between cultures
  • Moved from pen to device (use the cloud)
  • After School programs/volunteer opportunities (like Baltimore intersection)  Creating student leaders, encouraging student engagement
  • Half of course grade is “Did you attain goals you set during year” – Reflection paper more critical thinking in learning.
  • In lieu of final three options, presentation – paper – project or if you have anything else (one act play)
  • Pre-course survey: knowing who is in the room. Learning with context
  • Recognition that education is about the students -> starting to be seen more an more.

Looking Ahead

  • We are learning with/from people who half-way across the world.
  • We all need to do a better job of understanding and sharing the educational experience.
  • Some don’t think it will change like it should.
  • More discussions and panels of these types of challenges/barriers.
  • All it takes is one person.
  • We are the change!
  • Teachers becoming facilitators of learning!
  • If you want to learn it you should be able to!

BbWorld15: Drop-In Trainings – A Buffet Approach to Technology Training – Session Blog

Speakers
Christala Smith
Director, Center for Instructional Development & Technology
Southeastern Oklahoma State University


Problem with scheduled training classes is low attendance.

Problem solving:

  • have to attend hour long training for 5 minutes of what they need
  • low attendance at scheduled training classes
  • different expectations
  • Quality delivery mechanisms

Educause Article on Drop-In Training

Wall of different software with handouts for each at the lab.  Go and get the exactly the information you want, right then.  Find experts in tech that wouldn’t mind being available to answer questions for the buffet-style training.

Goals

– Have a Variety of Tools – they come for what they need  (they come wanting to learn thing but end up learning two or more)
– Start: Targeted Training
– Networking Opportunities
– Personalized Hands-on Training
– All Inclusive Technology
– Have food (buffet of tech and buffet of food)

Have floater walking around touching base and asking “Did You Know” questions to direct faculty to appropriate drop-in group.

Have different units there to help with area of expertise:  Trainers, Instructional Designers, Support Desk, Video Team, Web Content specialists, Library etc..)

Send images of software offered in press release and let faculty know that they can think of questions before hand.

Getting the word out:  E-mail, Flyers, Word-of-Mouth

Success:  More served immediately, increased exposure, improve meetings, creating unique solutions, bridge of creativity, positive feedback!

Future:  In Conjunction with faculty symposium, include other trainers/topics, additional space.

BbWorld15: Best Practices for Implementing Blackboard Communities – Session Blog

Speaker
Adam Voyton
Wilmington University

Once you get the license, what do you do with it?  Customize interface to engage students and faculty across your institution.

Customization:

  • Create tabs, sub-tabs, and modules
  • each tab, sub-tab can be configured to appear to users that are assigned to a particular role
  • A module is bascialy a box that can contain: text, video etc..

Primary Roles are Students, faculty, staff.

For tabs or modules that have information relevant to students and or faculty in certain department, we set up college-specific institutional roles.

Student/faculty login has generic content and customized content.  Advertising, Marketing, Student Life

Students: Top layer tab has student services tab – links to student service pages, Jobs for Kats as Top Layer Tab
Faculty: (Faculty services tab – centralizes info that was scattered across website)  My media module (Kaltura)

Subtabs – Tech Support/Resources (support desk hours) (clean up My courses video), Kaltura subtab, My media and faculty repository on it along with self-help for Kaltura.  Blackboard Collaborate  subtab(embed the webpage), Blackboard subtab for IM.

Wilmington uses colleges on Top lvl tabs that contain info that they may want behind a login.  Each of these tabs have subtabs with more info   (question, how do you envision having 6 tabs one for each college).  Tabs to other systems

Things to Keep in mind:

*Tabs don’t open up in new browser tab.
*when embedding content use HTTPS*Have rules and policies for what content can go where (Governance)
*Set up a calendar to manage/schedule the content
*keep MY Courses at top right and announcements at top center

Blackboard Organizations

Bulk of orgs are Academic in nature, a fair amount of student orgs, smaller honor societies and departments.

Come up with and keep up with a naming convention.

Implementing Communities  (Organizations Subtab with “My Organizations” module)  Contains video explaining what orgs are and how they work. Including support documentation.  (Have an org catalog), link to a request form.

3 ways to enroll users into orgs: 

  • Self Enrollment – No level of privacy
  • Manual Enrollment – Leader has complete control, but has to do it all themselves.
  • Automatically adding someone who meets a certain criteria (SIS Based), some people may not want to be enrolled. (come up with un-enrollment process – place a default link in orgs with instructions to e-mail leader etc..) come up with code of conduct link for orgs as well.

Tips to Increase Students Use of Organizations (Require leaders to go to training)

– Make registration process simple
– Put out a press release on ORGS (get the word out)
– Videotaping campus events or use collaborate
– have student representatives talk for them

Online Student Association – Blackboard Org  (Engaging Online Students) – automatically add every student taking an online course.

  • Discussion board of the month – “What can we do to engage our online students at homecoming?”  small giftcard or prize of randomly selected participant
  • Online Student of the Semester – (we can use our ads)  Short little bios, students can apply we can focus on them.
  • Introductions Discussion Board (Networking)
  • Have video and webpage about this organization

Remind your constituencies what Blackboard Communities does for them. Press Releases, videos etc…  Target program chairs about Bb Orgs.

Lessons Learned:

– Get Departmental Involvement
– Dedicate a staff member to serve as community admin- Audit content every year
– People that do not have a Bb Login will not be able to access any content in Orgs

BbWorld15: Leveraging Blackboard to Introduce New Faculty to Essential Technologies – Session Blog

Speakers
Kimberly Evans
Joey Robinson
Reynolds Community College

TTS 101 Orientation to Essential Tech is an online orientation designed to streamline the on-boarding process and acclimate newly hired faculty to various technologies and services.  A collection of modules are housed within Blackboard introducing faculty to the wide range of tech resources they will be expected to use.

Upon hire faculty are automatically enrolled and through Blackboard complete each module.  They will remain enrolled for 1 year.  Once completed, deans and chairs are notified and they receive 1.5 hours of professional development.

Information is distributed at faculty orientations, convocation.

Orientation contains:

  • brief video of objectives
  • self-guided activities
  • self-assessment
  • resources

Each of the modules use adaptive release to move faculty on to the next module when they complete the previous one.

Menu: Possibilities: (Start Here, E-mail, Computer account, SIS, LMS etc..)

Exit survey posted at the end of session to measure effectiveness of orientation.  (It is not mandatory to complete training)

Reynolds looked at helpdesk tickets (Logon Concerns, Email, Software) they all decreased over time with implementation of orientation.

Don’t ask, just congratulate when welcoming.  Not “Would you like to participate?”, but “Congratulations, you’ve been enrolled..”

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