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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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Teaching Online

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.
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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 – 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.

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.

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!

syllabus1


syllabus2


syllabus3


syllabus4


syllabus5


syllabus6

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.

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!

Being Ready for Finals in an Online Course

ReadinessWith finals fast approaching, your students should be dutifully studying up on course materials, completing academic research and course activities that will help them be able to handle the questions and concepts they come across during end-of-semester assessments.   Your course materials have covered topics large and small that will help them make appropriate inferences, connect the dots and generally understand the subject matter they have been interacting with over the course of a semester.

Even when hitting all of your targets academically speaking, your students may have problems when it comes time for finals in an online environment.  We all know that technology failures operate under the “when, not if” principle, but there are strategies and practices that your students can put into place that will help them surmount any obstacle thrown their way.  The following practices will benefit your students when it comes to the end of year exams:

BEFORE STARTING THE EXAM

Power Up!
Plug your laptop into the power outlet unless you are absolutely certain that your laptop has enough battery power to last for the duration of the test.

Tether Up!
If you have the option, turn off your wireless connection and plug your laptop into the nearest available network port or use your desktop computer if available.  Wireless issue can cause your exam to disconnect and your instructor may not be fond of resetting your exam attempt for the umpteenth time.

Go Solo!
Close down any other programs that my distract you from the test or interfere with your network connection.  Having only one active program ensures your computer will be running at its best.

Idle Computers are the Devil’s Playground
Check your laptop idle time to make sure that it will not go into sleep mode prematurely and sabotage your assessment attempt midway through.

Be Up for Pop-Ups!
Disable all pop-up blockers. These blockers come installed in the latest versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox, in third-party toolbars such as Google and Yahoo, and they can come with utility software such the Norton products from Symantec.

Get Patched Up!
Ensure that your laptop has the latest Operating System (e.g., Windows) patches. Automatic updates can disrupt your current browser session or make your laptop very slow.

Are You Compatible?
Use a web browser that is compatible with or certified to work with the current version of your Learning Management System.

Using Special Software?  Practice, Practice, Practice!
If you are using a lockdown browser or special proctoring software, be sure to download and install it BEFORE you take the exam. Your instructor may provide a practice assessment that will let you make sure you are familiar with the special software involved.

DURING THE EXAM

Don’t Get Click Happy!
When beginning the quiz/test, click the quiz link ONLY ONCE and wait at least a minute for the quiz/test to load.. Do not keep clicking on the quiz/test/test link. Clicking on the quiz/test link two or more times may trigger a message saying you already took the quiz/test. If, after clicking once and waiting the full minute nothing happens, contact your instructor or test proctor immediately.

Leave-off of Leaving
Once you have started the quiz, do not leave the quiz/test page for any reason. Using the browser’s back and forward buttons to move to and from the quiz/test will end the quiz prematurely and prevent you from further access until your instructor clears the attempt. If you are permitted to view other online resources during the quiz/test, open a new browser to view them.

Problem?  Reach out and Touch Someone
In case of computer problems during the test notify your instructor as soon as possible. He or she will reset your quiz/exam attempt or authorize a designee to do so. Your instructor may have policies on if they allow you to reattempt the quiz at all.

Sizing it up BEFORE You Begin!
Do not resize or refresh your screen after loading the quiz/test. Make sure the screen is the size you want before going into the quiz/test. Most browsers refresh the page when you resize the screen so the browser will try to reload the quiz/test if you resize/refresh.

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