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

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student engagement

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
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BbWorld15: Blackboard Collaborate Road Map – Session Blog

Speakers:

David Hastie Sr. Dir. Product Management
Carl Marrelli Sr. Product Manager


**Some these are forward thinking statement and may or may not end up being in the final product.

Collaborate Ultra has been out for a couple of months and the initial feedback has been super positive!

3 objectives in Collaborate redesign:

  • Simple – easy entry into sessions, browser based, sleek intuitive interface
  • Modern – Cutting edge media technology, accessible, Mobile
  • Focused – Designed for education, varied instructional strategies/methods, Deeply integrated with the LMS

Highest level of quality and innovation – enhancements andmaintenance more quickly released with zero downtime

Key Benefits

  • HD Video & Audio Puts you right in the Center
  • A world class user experience to encourage use
  • Supporting Asynchronous learning models, native mp4 recording and playback
  • Web-Based – get started immediately no need for java or downloading launchers.

Available no in all regions and in 26 languages.  Application is responsive adjusts based upon the format of device that you are viewing it on! Also adaptive based on type of content.

Current use Cases:

  • office hours
  • group collaboration
  • teaching & learning

Learn 9.1 – If you use you can use new Collaborate Ultra with B2. New Collaborate B2 Supports session in old and new collaborate experience. Allows for piloting while still using old system.

Chat panels pop out when in use!

Sharing file interface is simple and easy to add and annotate! Several annotation tools with several colors.  Either on top of images or files like powerpoint, pdf, jpg.  Sharing Browser instances as well.  Things you share are easily identifiable.

Records whatever is being actively shared + Audio. Conference members can live-caption or translate a session!

Mobile: Collaborate is directly integrated into Bb Student. Is currently in Beta. Should be available soon.

Collaborate functionality allows for students to be presenters. Moderator can make student presenters as well! Application sharing is so much better.  Moderators can easily stop student sharing.

Future Capabilities:

If you need the alternative to be better than the status quo from the start, you’ll never begin!

  • Mobile experience
  • Polling
  • Feedback Mechanism
  • Breakout Rooms
  • Phone Conferencing – telephony integration
  • Moodlerooms Integration

Course Banners are NOT just for Course Landing Pages

Since the early days of Blackboard and other Learning Management Systems in the field, Course Banners have been a great way to personalize the online or web-enhanced learning environment. Instructors could differentiate any course by starting it out with a graphic or photo of their own choice/making. Course Banners have been used far and wide since then to add flare and personalize the online and blended environment.

Course with Banner ScreenshotFor years, instructors who used Blackboard have been operating under the assumption that a Course Banner could only be used on the landing page of a Blackboard course.  Well guess what?  Course Banners can be placed almost anywhere in an online/web-enhanced course. Check out this before and after photo of a Blackboard content area, in this case Lesson 1:

Before and After - Adding BannersWith just the addition of a few graphics, a theme change and a Banner image, we can add continuity to the course as well as make it more engaging.

How do you do it?

Show Text OnlyFirst, you will want to give yourself more real estate in the Content Area where you will be placing the Course Banner.  You do this by changing your page options to show text only.

  • Ensure your Edit Mode is on.
  • Click the contextual menu next to your page title and select Page Options.
  • Click Show Text Only.

This gives you more space for your graphic to live in the content area where you place it, by removing the icon that shows up next to your content title.

Note: It is also a good idea to make your Course Banners in the subsequent course content areas a little bit smaller. This cuts down on load time as well as screen resolution issues.

Add ImageNext, add/edit a Content Item on your page and add an image to the top.

  • Add/Edit a Content Item.
  • Click the Add Image button.
  • Browse and Attach your Banner.
  • Click Submit.

You will now have a content item with a banner graphic that is placed at the beginning of the content area, folder or module of your choice:

Adjusted Content Item ExampleThis practice will add a layer of continuity and engagement to your course. If your students feel like they are in a familiar place and are engaged while browsing, their satisfaction levels will increase. Consider adding more Course Banners to your online/web-enhanced courses today!

BbWorld14 Session Blog: Beyond the Discussion Board – Implementing Blackboard Tools to Increase Engagement

Murano 3301
Cheryl Boncuore | Academic Director, Kendall College
Ken Sadowski | SLATE

Session explores student and faculty experiences form a variety of institutions using traditional discussion boards in online, hybrid and campus-based classes.  It takes a deeper dive with an institution that implemented blogs, journals, wikis and video everywhere in order to increase engagement. Results and Reaction will be discussed.

  • What Engagement Means in Online Learning
  • Faculty Favorites
    -examination of faculty responses positive and negative
    -Status Quo Expected mandated
  • Beyond the Discussion Board
    -Other Tools
    -Tools beyond Bb

Assumptions

  • DB has been around for a long time
  • DB is static and students don’t like it
  • Faculty bear with it because they have to
  • Don’t know any other tools
  • Can’t use other tools
  • Forced Responses
  • No real social Interaction

What the Numbers told us?

  • Survey 400 people from 100 insitutions
  • Return rate of 20%
    -84% Faculty
    -12% admin
    -3% staff
    1% Instructional Designers

What LMS do you use?  74% Bb Learn

How do you Primarily Teach? 36% Online, 35% on Ground, 29% equally

Age Group – Nice Mix 25 – 65 and older
How long have you been teaching – 1 – over 20

What tools do your students prefer?

  • Discussion Board 52%
  • Other – 24%
  • Don’t know 15%
  • Blog 2%
  • Journal 1%
  • Facebook 6%

What has happened?

  • Surprised about positive comments for discussion board
  • perceived mediocre yet they use it
  • molded it to what they wanted it to do to fully engage students

Discussion Board got some “new” friends…

Defining Engagement –

  • Connecting all institutional constituents to the activities of teh learning, discovery and the academic topics of study
  • Great Engagement leads to Greater Retention
  • Every class must go beyond institution walls
  • Fits Mission of University

Tools of Engagement

DB – pre-developed online courses, traditional tool, what else is there?

BB Tools – Journals, blogs, wikis, surveys, video everywhere, rubrics

Web Tools – Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Skype, Big Marker(video conferencing tool – web based no java)

Don’t always look for right answer…look for group work, engagement and problem solving process.

What did we learn?

  • Tools that are available to us can be used in interesting ways
  • Faculty use tools that they are comfortable with
  • It’s not the tool, it’s the pedagogy!

What’s Next?

 

 

Promote Student Engagement by ‘Personalizing’ Your Online Course

Personalized Learning

The Glossary of Education Reform defines student engagement as:

the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their learning

Personalized LearningIf the above is true, then there are many ways an online instructor can impact the attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion of students.  This particular blog post deals with how personalizing an online course can increase student engagement.  When an online instructor and students can invest more of themselves in on online course, the satisfaction levels reported by those same students will go up.

This particular view of online course personalization will be broken into 5 areas:


Placing Yourself in the Course

Place Yourself in the CoursePrevious posts on this blog have focused on instructor presence in the online course.  We’ve talked about establishing routines to ensure prompt feedback and instructor availability.  This particular practice revolves around something a little more superficial, but important nonetheless.

Students in an online course like to feel that they know who you are.  A text-based introductory paragraph or post in a “getting to know you” discussion forum may not fully encompass who you are to the student.  Why not take one small step and add a picture of yourself to the course.   You may already be familiar with the best practice of establishing a Virtual Office in your course where you can answer student questions.  Why not add your photo and contact information in this same area and personalize your office.

Here at SHSU, Blackboard allows you to set up a Social Profile that places your picture wherever you interact in a course (discussions, blog & wiki posts, grade center etc..). If your students feel like they “know” you, they are more likely to reach out to you and less likely to drift off into obscurity.

The logical next step in this progression is for you to utilize video to connect yourself to your course and your students, but that is a post for another time.


Allowing Students to Place Themselves in the Course

Online StudentsIn online courses it is easy for students to believe that they operate in a vacuum.  They punch their ticket fulfill obligations, and never get a good look at who is on this learning journey with them.  Allowing students to place themselves in your online course begins to build that learning community that encourages students to be successfully engaged.

Why not have your student find a way to place their image in your course.  Have them attach/upload/insert their picture as part of an introductory activity.  Some Learning Management Systems like Blackboard, allow students to create their own Social Profile that includes an image and biography.  After the profile is created the student’s face appears in the course roster, grade center and course activities (blogs, wikis, discussions, group activities etc..).

Having student/faculty images in your online course allows a more cohesive integration of group activity and shared learning.


Allowing Students to Personalize Their Learning

Personalize We know that student satisfaction goes up when they feel like they have some “skin in the game” when it comes to their learning experience.  The challenge for many online instructors is figuring out how to incorporate student content-building or contributions to the online environment.

A good first step is to find out what they know and what they want to know more about.  You as the instructor will define the boundaries from which they will pick, but a survey or KWL* assignment is a great way to start out a course.

*KWL – What do you know?  What do you want to know?  What have you learned?

You can also provide an element of continuous improvement in your courses by having your students journal each week or at an interval of your choosing.  The journal entry could serve 2 purposes:

  1. Provide a graded assignment where the student reflects upon what they learned during the week.
  2. Allow the student to tell you what the high points and low points were of the previous unit of study.

The journaling activity will allow you to make course corrections (pun intended) during the course rather than finding out where you might have some issues when the course is finished and evaluations are in.

There are other methods for involving your students in this process. The scenarios are numerous, but here are a few ideas:

  • Have your students come up with the academic integrity policy for the course to increase buy-in.  They can use a wiki or discussion board to share ideas around defining plagiarism and academic honesty.
  • Create an assignment dealing with constructing a study guide for the final and allow your students to contribute questions.
  • Use peer evaluation as a method for grading discussions and other assignments.


Feedback Early, Feedback Often

FeedbackProbably the most important way to ensure your students believe that you are personally involved in their learning is to provide prompt and frequent feedback.  Think about how you feel when someone gives you kudos on a job well done or even coaching on a subject where you might need assistance.  You feel like someone took a personal interest in something that you were doing, right?  Students feel the same way about the feedback you provide via the course.

Here are some options:

  • Make feedback part of your daily routine as an online instructor
  • Change up how you provide feedback (text/audio/video)
  • Post a weekly announcement recapping the last week’s activities and previewing the current week.
  • Too many students to reply to discussion posts?  Provide 1 summary post per discussion giving kudos and challenges when needed.
  • Schedule “office hours” where you can provide synchronous feedback a ’la chat or webinar when needed.


Personalization without Confusion

Sometimes in our desire to create a learning environment that is personal and engaging for the learner, we can add a layer of confusion that can separate the student from the learning experience we are trying to create.

So before we go tech-crazy or jump into a fun idea feeding frenzy take the following into account:

  • The Main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.  If the personalization/engagement does not comport to the learning objective, then don’t do it!
  • Keep it simply single. Add one new wrinkle to your experience at a time. Don’t heighten student anxiety by adding lots of tools/tech that they’ve never seen before.
  • Don’t play Hide & Seek with course content and activities.  If you started out putting content and activities in a certain order, stick with it!

Here are some quick and easy ways to provide personalization without confusing the issue:

  • Use images to introduce content/topics and break the monotony of the text monopoly!
  • While keeping the same routine/order of a unit of study, utilize different activities to differentiate the way students interact with the course.
  • Change up how you deliver content to students.  Introduce a discussion activity a ‘la webcam recording or provide an audio introduction with assignment instructions that contain bonus points for those who listen.

These five methods of personalizing the online learning environment don’t have to all be done at once. As with most of the best practices on this blog, we encourage you to take it one step at a time.  Remember if you feel overwhelmed, then odds are your students will too!  Hopefully you will find your students paying more attention, being more curious, showing more interest, bubbling over with optimism and being passionate about their learning.

Embed Twitter Streams/Conversations in Your Blackboard Course

Embedding TwitterThis blog post covers putting your live Twitter feed in Blackboard.  Basically you can place your feed anywhere you can edit text in the Blackboard Learn System.  That means it can go in a discussion, a blog post, a wiki page, a content item, test instructions or anywhere the text editor exists in Blackboard Learn.

Embedding your Twitter feed or a Twitter conversation will drive student engagement by putting information you want students to be familiar with, where they spend the most time.  Students can actively extend class discussions, research topical information and affirm each others posts with Twitter and embedding the feed or #hashtag search can prompt them to do so.

Here are the steps:

Visit Twitter.com and click the Settings wheel at the upper right-hand side of the screen, then click the word Settings.

Twitter Settings

Once on the Twitter Settings page, click the Widgets area on the left-hand side, then click the Create New button.

Twitter Widgets

Under the User Timeline tab be sure your Twitter handle shows up in the Username field.  Select your display options and then click the Create Widget button.

User Timeline Widget

Copy the widget code from the box at the bottom of the Edit Widget page.

Copy embed Code

Next you can Paste the code in HTML view of any Blackboard Text editor.  Start by clicking the HTML button of your content editor in Blackboard (remember this can be within any discussion, blog post, item, folder etc..).

Html Button in Content Editor

Right-click and paste or, CTRL/CMND V and paste the widget code.

Paste into HTML Editor

Click the Update button on the HTML view window and then click Submit.

Update

Your Twitter Feed will now display in Blackboard where you put it:

Embedded Twitter Feed

When you create your widget you can also embed a conversation that your class is having our that is happening in the Twitter-sphere. Simply use the Search tab when creating the widget and search for the #hashtag that you are using in your twitter conversations.

Twitter Conversation - Hasthtag Stream

Have Students Invest in Academic Integrity in Your Online Course

Academic Integrity WorldeOne of the biggest challenges facing distance learning today is ensuring academic integrity. There are an overwhelming amount of blog posts, scholarly articles and stories in the Chronicle covering this topic. Let’s clear the air now and state that there is no absolute, sure-fire way to eliminate cheating in your online courses, just as there is no way to do it in your face-to-face courses. However, you can educate your students about academic integrity as part of their course activities, thereby ensuring that they understand what expectations you have of them in regards to academic integrity in your online course.

Here are some examples:

  • Have students submit an assignment, blog post or journal entry on how they would define academic integrity.
  • Have students use their own words when describing the course’s academic integrity policy.
  • Provide a discussion assignment where students can discuss the importance of academic integrity in online courses.
  • Have students “sign-off” on the course’s academic integrity policy stating that they understand what the policy means and how it pertains to them.
  • Utilize a course wiki and have students create the academic integrity policy (have specific requirements).

Having students invest in the academic integrity of your course will go along way towards having them make good choices when it comes to academic decisions in the online environment.

#bestpracticemonday 5 “Resolutions” for Online Instructors in the New Year

New Years ResolutionsEach new year brings new growth, new ideas and new commitments for us to do things to make ourselves better personally and professionally.  Whether we are inspired by too much turkey over the holidays or an urge to start with a clean slate, no other time of the year seems more appropriate for these determinations. Perhaps this year, we may consider some New Year’s Resolutions for our online courses!

Let’s face it, online teaching, like too much turkey, can really weigh you down. During a long semester, we can get buried in grading assignments and responding to discussion posts, and the lofty goals we started off with for engaging our students can seem dimly out of reach.

With a holiday break and a start to the new year/semester fast approaching, now is a great time to resolve to adopt a few pedagogically sound teaching and learning best practices for our online courses. While there may be several measures we can adopt to improve the overall quality of our online teaching environments, here are five easy to follow, easy to apply techniques that will make our online courses that much more engaging. Remember you don’t have to do all 5!

1.  Model How the Course will go for Students with a “Getting Started” Unit

Getting StartedA smart move for any online instructor is to implement some kind of ‘orientation unit’ for the online student.  This unit can serve the purpose of introducing the student to his or her online course environment, as well as other important course information.  Expectations, rules of the road, and an operator’s manual are usually communicated within this unit.

It is important to set this unit up just like every other unit in the course.  Model orientation content and activities in such a way as to reflect how the rest of the units will be structured.  The student will not only gain the benefit of understanding how the online course operates, they will get the added practice of going through course units as they would normally throughout the course.

2.  2-4-6-8 it’s Time to Differentiate

Differentiated Instruction GraphicWe would be hard-pressed to negate the notion that are our students are not identical. Each of our learners comes to us with varying degrees of abilities, aptitude levels, interests, learning experiences and needs. While it may not be feasible to get to know each of our students on a personal basis, we can make some general deductions about the learning diversity that is present in every course we teach.

This is where Differentiated Instruction comes in. For those of us in the field, the term refers to the theory that since no two students will learn exactly the same way, instructors have the opportunity to structure and design their teaching environments using a variety of instructional methods that may reach a broader swath of the student body. The online environment really lends itself to this approach. With the advent of various technology tools, we can now choose to diversify our approach to lectures, activities and assessments and more.

If you are wondering how to add more diversity of instruction to your course, start with the following. It’s as easy as A-B-C!

a.      Realize your students are unique, and discover ways to get to know them.

Realistically speaking, we may not get to know our students as well as we would like. But we can implement an activity or two to catch a glimpse into who they are and what their learning approach may be. For instance, at the beginning of your course, introduce an ice-breaker discussion forum and ask your learners what they do in their free time. You will be surprised by what you can learn!

b.      Look critically at your course, and identify a few areas where you can introduce diversity of instructional methodology.

Sit back and consider your students’ learning objectives. Take a look at how you are introducing and enforcing these key concepts at the moment and select an area or two where you may introduce a different approach. Perhaps an audio lecture may be a welcomed alternative to the text-based reading. Or, perhaps you may want to spice up your course with content from the Khan Academy, Ted Talks, or NBC Learn. Often regarded as “mashups” the introduction of external collective knowledge in an online course adds variety, and piques students’ interests.

c.       Consider the Context and Role of the Online Instructor.

The online environment can present us with options we may not have readily used in our face-to-face courses…so make the most it! While having lots of choices may seem daunting, starting with one or two will help keep them manageable. Online Instructors should think differently about their teaching, because in the online environment where rich, educational online resources abound, we become more of a guide on the side, than a sage on the stage.

3.  Set Due Dates to Coincide with Support Desk Hours

This resolution is an easy one to keep!  First, learn your Technology Support Desk hours (SHSU Online is 7am – Midnight, Mon-Sat).  Once familiar with Support’s hours of operation, make sure any due dates, tests or technology oriented activities fall when the Support Desk team is available.  This is important because the students will have someone to call when the technology doesn’t work or their interpretation of how the technology should work is different from actually happened.

4.  Set a Schedule for Course Interactions, Be Consistent

SchedulePart of being available in a course, and establishing ever-important instructor presence, is letting your students know when you are available.  A great way to do this is to establish a routine for your course interactions.

  • For starters, you can let them know that you will get back to them on questions posted in your Virtual Office discussion forum a time period you establish at the beginning of the term (usually within 24 – 36 hours)
  • Hold regular “office hours” with the asynchronous chat tool (Skype, Bb Chat or Collaborate, Google Hangout) where you will be available in real-time to answer your students questions if need be.
  • Post an announcement and send it out via e-mail once a week summing up the previous week’s events and highlighting the important aspects of the next week.

By establishing a routine, you form a habit of being available in your course that your students can count on.

5. Have fun!

Remember the excitement of teaching? The opportunities to lead, change, inspire, and innovate? Perhaps you connect with the intrinsic motivation of knowing you are making a real and tangible difference in many impressionable minds. Whatever that original point of motivation is for you, we can all connect with what originally prompted us to teach.

Being an online instructor is the perfect chance to express your teaching philosophies in a number of diverse and effective ways. Make your course as exciting as your teaching. Personalize it. Make it your very own. Let it show your unique teaching style and at the end of the day, resolve to have fun doing what you do best…teach!

#bestpracticemonday – Getting in Sync with Your Online Students

Getting in Sync with your Online Students

Being on the same page with your online students is one of the most important things you can do as an instructor of an online course.  Having a finger on the pulse of your students’ learning experience is key to student engagement and student success.  If students know that you are “right along-side” on their learning journey their anxiety levels decrease and their satisfaction levels increase.  There are a number of ways to get in sync with your online students, here are just a few:

Communicate Expectations Throughout The Course

ExpectationsDue to accreditation requirements, your objectives will show up in your course’s syllabus so the students will be able to find them there.  However, you can really reinforce what the students will be getting out of course units and items by placing Unit and even Content Item level objectives.  Starting out each unit by letting students know what they can expect from it will remind them why they are involved in those activities and reinforce with you the desire to align your curriculum.

If a student knows why they are doing what they are doing, there will be less ambiguity for them and more satisfaction.  Expectations helps the student to “sync up” to the course goals and objectives and thereby connecting them to you and the course on a foundational level.

Ask Your Students How They Are Doing

How is my teaching graphic?A great way for you and your students to “sync up” is to ask them how they are doing. Find ways to reach out to your students and ask them how it’s going.  Part of this you can do just by gauging the types of posts you receive in your “Virtual Office or “Course Q&A” discussion forum.  You can identify trends and problems by perusing the posts that come in and respond to them during the course.   You can also interpret the results you receive in the gradebook for this information.

You can be more proactive and just ask the students.  This may be a novel concept, but it works! Asking your students could take the form of an anonymous survey, or even a weekly reflection assignment that has as one of its goals the identification of high and low points of the week in your course.  You can also poll your students during an informal chat sessions or webinar.  Getting feedback from your students and acting on it (when merited) is a great way to get “in sync” with your online students.

Get Synchronous With Live Conversations

Person talking througth cansIt is easy to get stuck in the rut of a post-reply mentality when it comes to your online course.  Whether it is reading and replying to discussion posts, giving feedback on submitted assignments or just posting an announcement and replying to the subsequent e-mails, falling into the rhythm of asynchronous communication is not hard to do.

Meeting with students in “real-time” plays an important role in any online course.  It provides a sense of community for your students, reassuring them that they are not alone on their learning journey.  The students are able to hear you as a human being and not some depersonalized text on their monitors.   Establishing “office hours” for your course is a great best practice where you can let your students know certain times that you are available to meet synchronously.  These can be conducted via an LMS chat program, Skype or other instant messaging program, a web meeting software (Blackboard Collaborate) or any number of web-based tools.

When you take the time to make yourself available, listen and respond to student concerns, issues or just to let them vent, you are reducing frustration and anxiety, getting the students more comfortable with you and your teaching style and getting “in sync” with their learning journeys.

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