Teaching with Technology Faculty Showcase, Spring 2015

This year the first Teaching with Technology Faculty Showcase was on March 19, 2015. It is organized by ATIG as a biannual event – every fall and spring semester the showcase features faculty courses and projects that are innovative, interesting, and illustrate not only best practices in the use of academic technologies, but best pedagogical application of teaching and learning principles.

Format of the showcase: The event starts with several faculty showcasing informally their ECLearn courses or current educational projects for about 45 minutes. Each professor has a table with a computer and a big monitor and discusses their work with any interested guests who stop by at their table. All Emmanuel College faculty is invited to attend the showcase. Then, there are usually two or three mini presentations, followed by another 45-minute session of a second set of informal faculty presenters. The Academic Technology and Innovation Group and Emmanuel College Library have tables and presentations as well. Beverages and snacks are provided and there are gifts, prizes, and contests. Last fall, for example, the winner of the Best ECLearn Course was awarded a mini iPad.

Mid-hour Presentations:

  • Prof. Clare Mehta (Psychology Dept.) presented “Snow day? Snow problem! The benefit of online classes in the Spring semester” showcasing her online course structure and organization and inviting her students to provide feedback on their experience.
  • Then, Prof. R. Bryan Sears (Chemistry Dept.) presented “Flipping Out: Success and Pitfalls to Using a Hybrid Course Mode” where he outlined what worked for him and his students in regard to creating recorded lecture materials and designing corresponding in-class activities.

Table Presentations: 

  • Prof. Jen Wade presented “Peer Review and Alternative Assessment Tools” showcasing how she uses Teammates.
  • Prof. Tom Wall talked about “Socratic Questioning: Can It Be Flipped?” in his blended course.
  • Prof. Rebecca Moryl discussed best practices in her “Principles of Microeconomics as a Hybrid Course.”
  • Prof. Allen Price shared how he uses the Explain Everything app: “Using Explain Everything on the iPad and YouTube for online lectures.”
  • Prof. Fiona McDonnell displayed her current work on ““What do you notice?” Preservice Teachers View Videotaped Episodes of Learning in Action.”
  • Prof. Kim Sofronas showed how she and her students are using “iPads in the College Classroom” for their study projects. In the fall showcase, she will present again explaining lessons learned from the experience.
  • ATIG offered a first look at Canvas learning management system new feature:  “Introducing ECLearn Commons – Canvas repository for shared course items.”
  • The Library showcased and even scheduled trainings on “New Primary Documents Collections.”

Every Emmanuel professor is welcome to participate in the showcase. This is a great way to bring faculty from different disciplines together to share their educational experience. If you would like to partake in the next event, just let ATIG know: at@emmanuel.edu.


To check out upcoming events, organized by the Academic Technology and Innovation Group, visit: Emmanuel College Calendar. ATIG’s next event is The Learning Brain: A Brown Bag Lunch Series – faculty presenting on the practical implications of research on how students learn. The first talk is on Thursday, March 26th, 12:15pm at 110 Wilkens Science Center.

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Faculty Spotlight: Podcast Panels with Dr. Lenore Martin

Instructor: Lenore Martin, PhD., Professor of Political Science

Lenore Martin is the chair of the Political Science Department; she is also an Associate of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University and serves as an Associate at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, also at Harvard. Dr. Martin has extensive experience in International Relations having taken many trips to Turkey and the Middle East. She has written three books.

Courses: POLSC 1401 – Introduction to International Relations

Intro to International Relations is designed to give perspective Political Science or International Studies students an inside look into the highlights of the study of International Relations.

About the Project/Idea/Tool: Podcast Panels

Dr. Martin divides the class into groups and each takes on a specific political conflict scenario such as for example, “What is the best response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine?” Each group consists of a host and officials from different countries: Russia, Ukraine, and the United States. “Ukrainian rebels” and “journalists” – the rest of the class – ask questions of the students that represent different interests.

Requirements for students before and after their panel presentations:

  • Along with scholarly sources students may use news magazines, newspapers, internet resources, and information from interest groups.
  • Each participant will submit her or his background notes to the professor at the end of class.
  • Each student will assess their own presentation and submit it within one week of the panel and post the assessment online.

Goals:

The main goals of this learning activity is to engage students in team work, research and collaboration and to have them practice and express orally one’s ideas on international relations clearly. Students learn to critically analyze current international events by discussing how international relations affect people’s lives, and by explaining the perspectives of people from many regions in the world during class presentations.

Technical Requirements:

Podcasts are 45 minutes long and taped. The video presentations are posted, using MediaCore, on the class LMS web site for review and discussion.

Outcomes:

Here is a comment by a student who took the course in Fall 2014:

“These panel podcasts forced my group and I to work together as a team on many different occasions to research our country’s positions and develop questions that we think we could answer that the “journalists” would ask of us. Not only did this assignment give me a chance to research a certain country’s position on issues, but it also forced me to become that country so that I would be able to field any question thrown at me regarding the issue. When we presented these panel podcasts to the class, a student worker from ATIG came up and filmed us and later uploaded our presentation to media core on ECLearn. After presenting, Dr. Martin then asked us to watch ourselves present on media core and analyze our presentation style in an effort to make us better public speakers. Overall, I really enjoyed this assignment because not only did it require a fair amount of teamwork and research, but it also gave us a unique opportunity to scrutinize our own presentation skills.”


For more information on ways to spice up your course, including ECLearn and classroom technology, contact us: at@emmanuel.edu.

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Zaption – the Perfect Combination of Video and Quiz for Creating Engaging Learning

Zaption is a free online learning tool (with basic account). Its educational use is for creating video lectures and presentations in combination with questions. The questions dispersed throughout are designed to engage student minds.


zaption tool snapshot

A snapshot of a Zaption tour


How Does It Work?

Learners are introduced to a topic during which they are prompted to actively participate by answering questions in a quiz format – multiple-choice, open-ended, check-box, etc. If they want, viewers can skip answering the questions. The purpose of this tool for learning is to enhance one’s thinking rather than assessing one’s knowledge like in a real quiz. In addition, the tour creator can provide information in text or image format at key places in order to facilitate viewers’ reflection of the material.

The creation of this kind of learning activity, or “tour” as called by Zaption, is easy. First select a video for your new tour. Videos can be created from scratch or borrowed from YouTube, Vimeo, PBS, TED, and others.


Zaption Video Select

Zaption Video Selection


Second, click at the point in the play bar at the bottom where you want to have a question; then select from the icons lined at the top (each icon represents a type of question,) and drag and drop it onto the video frame or side bar to edit it to your liking.


Inserting a Question

Inserting a Question


Here is a perfect example: Grit is the Key to Success. This is a six-minute video about why some people are better learners than others.


A few important notes:

  • if you want to edit a tour after you publish it, you have to unpublish it but you’ll lose all responses made so far.
  • there is a free app for iPads
  • there is an Analytics tool to download responses and track data such as date, time, duration of views, average scores to questions, and even average rating of a tour.

For more information, ATIG is always here to help: at@emmanuel.edu.

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Canvas Tip: Video Interactions

This week, we were asked what would be the best way for instructors to interact with students remotely. Specifically, this instructor wanted to know how she could supplement her screencast lectures by responding to specific questions with a video chat.

There are lots of options for this! The conference tool built into ECLearn is Big Blue Button, an open-source video conferencing tool. You can share your screen and use a webcam in real time, interacting with your entire class or just a student or two. Here’s some more information on that: http://guides.instructure.com/m/4152/c/23835.

chat

ECLearn’s Conference Tool

You and your students might not be online at the same time. The built-in discussion tool is a great option for asynchronous video chat. ECLearn allows for voice or voice with video to be added to a discussion. It behaves the same as a normal discussion would, with posts and responses, but allows a more human touch to text-based online discussions. Here’s how to directly record video in ECLearn: http://guides.instructure.com/m/4152/l/41509-how-do-i-record-a-video-using-the-rich-content-editor.

We have some professors use Piazza, a tool built for exactly this type of purpose. Some people use it as a live backchannel for discussion during lecture, some use it as a place for students to post questions about homework assignments. Here’s some background about that: http://atig.emmanuel.edu/2012/12/18/tech-tip-facilitating-student-discussions-with-piazza/.

Let ATIG know if you’d like to explore any of these options further!

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Major Considerations When Converting a Face-to-Face Course in Blended Format

Emmanuel College’s “Blended Course Development Program” is an internal project that launched in 2014. Faculty who were interested in developing or redesigning courses in hybrid format went through consultation and training with members of ATIG. The main focus is on creating a new learning environment where students will have the best experience from interacting through technology and live class and out-of-class activities. The following summary outlines major considerations when converting a face-to-face course in blended format and a summary of faculty feedback and student survey data collected by ATIG in the fall semester of 2014.

Major Considerations When Converting a Face-to-Face Course in Blended Format

(Adapted from http://at.simmons.edu/blendedlearning/learnhow/casestudies/teeley/course.php.)

It is critically important for teachers to be comfortable with the notion of Blended Learning. Defining its meaning is a process of individual education and specific preparation for building the pedagogical framework. Teachers realized that time investment and flexibility of mind when creating the flow of course materials and activities are the main components in their course design work.

Another major consideration regards scaffolding of learning experiences: building lessons, modules, or sections while keeping focus on the course as a whole. There is the temptation to add content or assignments to the course to make up for the “lost” face time. It is important to keep the essential lessons and the main learning outcomes while considering the best delivery format.

Faculty (but not always students) are aware that one of the main advantages of hybrid learning is its student-centered orientation. Learners become more active and independent in their study efforts regardless of whether they work on out-of-class assignments or in-class applicational projects. With blending their experience, students are given the opportunity to work on acquiring and memorizing knowledge. Then, with careful facilitation by teachers, they practice what they’ve passively acquired, they analyze, evaluate, or create with their classmates or individually. So, instructional plans have to include how much time should be allocated for class meetings and whether skipping a class session would contribute to improving of student performance.

In the same line, it is critical for professors to know how to use their school learning management system. In their course design, they need to determine what will go online and what should be done in class. Both environments have the same weight in hybrid courses, but oftentimes teachers do not realize that students still account class meetings to be more important. Faculty should built a learning community in the online platform by carefully crafting online learning activities that are interwoven with in-class activities. Usually the higher-end learning or practicing/evaluating soft skills is better done in class as the process requires additional explanation and immediate input by the teacher.

Faculty approach toward managing a course is also part of the learning curve for those new to the hybrid format. Staying atop of online discussions, maintaing presence in both environments, keeping organization simple, and providing timely feedback are essential elements of excellent teaching. This also includes student LMS orientation, introduction to the differences of the format by setting proper expectations for class communication and performance, and providing support for continuous multimodal, multichannel interaction and learning.

Helping students know why and how things work in a blended course from the outset should be part of the course organization. Clarifying structure and processes will help students with their time-management and learning habits. It will make them realize that they are also more responsible for their own success. In general, outlining expectations will help them better prepare for real work environments and will provide them with the opportunities to collaborate, communicate, or just observe different working styles, personalities, and experiences. At the same time, transparency and honesty with students will allow teachers to change things on the fly if necessary and will provide invaluable student feedback for proper revision and modification for the next course iteration.


Student and Faculty Feedback from Fall 2014 Mid-Semester Survey

There were six courses who were redesigned in a hybrid format and run in fall of 2014. In the middle of the semester, students were informally surveyed. The following is the summary of the received feedback.

Majority of students have not taken a blended course before and did not consider the format a major factor in selecting the course. About 85% liked the flexibility of the format. When asked whether they would prefer a hybrid course next semester, the results were mixed:

hybridCourseAgain

  • 9 Strongly Disagree – want more in class time with Professor; more instructions, more guidance, hard to focus with once a week activities, class feel harder due to lack of face-to-face time, prefer to listen to the Professor than learning on their own.
  • 5 Strongly Agree – like doing more work, like the freedom of time, think critically like individuals, information is not lectured “spoonfed,” learning happens at one’s own pace, more time to read and research, different ways of obtaining and retaining new information, more focus.
  • 29 Neither Agree Nor Disagree – format is not important, like both formats, are danger of poor time management skills, e.g. forget online assignments due times.

When students were asked if they preferred online discussions to in-class discussions, the following results indicated that most learners appreciate the option of having a discussion online:

  • 40% agree or strongly agree – prefer online discussions, because of reasons such as shyness, want more time to think, feeling pressured by lack of time, more time to research and prepare, can hear from everyone, can provide opinion without immediate in-face ridicule, easier to explain and understand others and their own thoughts, being nervous in front of many people, enjoy it, it is easier, because they can make references to resources, can learn more, able to go in a greater detail.
  • 28% nether agree nor disagree
  • 33% disagree or strongly disagree – did not provide explanation.

Overall in their Learning Preferences students indicated:

  • 17% believe they are better able to learn in a hybrid course.
  • 33% believe they are better able to learn in a traditional course.
  • 50% believe they are able to learn a traditional equally well in either a traditional or hybrid format.

Best experience so far in the hybrid course:

  • Flexibility – work at one’s own pace, more time, midnight due times free up day schedule, exercise one’s time management skills
  • Online Discussions – expression of thoughts in a stress-free environment, a new creative way for communication, get to hear all voices, different opinions, more learning equals more research
  • Reduced class time, but more motivation to participate in class and get to reiterate the material and apply what’s learned in class
  • Easy online assignment submissions
  • Predictability of course structure, easy routine to follow, encourage focused and independent learning and work
  • Online Games
  • More Office Hours and one-on-one time with the Professor
  • More time for group work 

Most challenging experience so far in the hybrid course:

  • Assignment relevance not communicated clearly
  • Hard to keep up with workload – online due dates (or lack of them) and communication in different environments/interaction channels
  • Time management issues/prioritization skills
  • More individual responsibility and independence results in feeling overwhelmed
  • Professor’s difficulty with technology
  • Lack of clear assessment criteria (no rubrics?) in online assignments
  • Not enough personal communication with Professor
  • Not enough discussion of material impede understanding and learning of it
  • Reduced class time makes the course felt as less significant
  • Class presentations
  • Not a good explanation of course hybrid structure in the beginning of semester

Faculty Input

  • Students do not take seriously out of class assignments and readings in particular, so quizzes may be implemented to ensure students watch the video lectures and read the assigned articles.
  • Better support provided by the instructor regarding time management.
  • Better introduction to ECLearn at the beginning of the course.
  • Hybrid format helps students learn real-life challenges of online group collaboration on a project.
  • Students demand more specific instructions on assignments or the instructions to be repeated/explained by the instructor in class.
  • Students like the extra time working together outside of class.
  • Students in hybrid course outperform students in traditional course.
  • Students find it challenging to work on the online assignments independently.
  • Instructors think student feedback is extremely helpful for modifying their hybrid course pedagogy.

Interested in developing a hybrid course?

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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Laurie Johnston – Best ECLearn Site Award Winner Fall 2014

Dr. Johnston is an Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies and the Director of Fellowships at Emmanuel College. Her special interests are in Christian social ethics, war, peace and religion.

At the recent “Teaching with Technology Faculty Showcase” in the fall of 2014, she was recognized and awarded the first place for best design of ECLearn site for her online “Exploring Religion” course. It is a fine example of effective utilization of the learning management system for pedagogical purposes. The course is designed with an inviting homepage, modular structure of learning activities, and pages that set students expectations as a part of the syllabus. The Professor has an excellent command of the environment and her students. She creates a welcoming virtual meeting space, provides timely feedback in weekly narrated summaries, and includes out of class activities that help students stay connected with both content and classmates. The course has a learner-centered approach emphasized by student discussions and project work. As Dr. Johnston says in her Emmanuel College profile, she “particularly enjoys debating controversial ethical issues with students, and giving them a chance to explore issues of social justice through service learning courses.”

Following her win, ATIG asked her to share her course design concept as an example and an inspiration to other Emmanuel faculty. The following is her response.

1.  How did you go about designing your course? Did you start with the facts, the trees, or did you introduce the big picture, the forrest, first?

The course closely follows the textbook I use (which is unusual for me, but I feel like an online course needs clearer structure than an in person one.)  We start with a big question – what IS religion?  The first photo discussion is a fun part of that.  What is e difference between an iPad, a super bowl trophy, or a communion host?  Then we move on to talking about the various components of religion.

2.  What are the big ideas for your students upon successfully completing the course?

Big ideas: I want students to grasp the idea that religion is a universal human phenomenon, and examine their own beliefs and practices a bit more deeply in light of that.

3.  Did you have synchronous and asynchronous sessions in the course?
Nothing in the course is synchronous.  I worry about technical difficulties.

4.  The “Site Visit Assignment” is an exploratory activity tied with a paper assignment. How does this assignment connect students’ experience with the concepts they learn throughout the semester?

The site visit requires them to actually observe some of the components of religion that we are discussing in the class. Students usually find it to be the most interesting part of the course, especially because they can choose which kind of religion they want to observe. The students find the site visit paper a challenging assignment because it is different from other kinds of papers. For that reason I have them read and comment on a sample A paper before they submit their first drafts. They also have to complete an Atomic Learning tutorial on writing an MLA paper, so they know what is expected.

5.  What are your lessons learned from the peer review task your students had to do in regard to the site visit assignment?

Peer review can be tricky, especially if some students don’t turn in their assignments on time. ECLearn’s peer review feature works, but it is a little tricky to assign the peer reviews, especially if you need to revise the assignments at all. I have learned that it is important to give guidance on peer reviews, so I use a grading rubric and ask the students to evaluate each other using the rubric. This has the added advantage of forcing them to look at the rubric and think about how it might apply to their own paper as well.

6.  How did you come up with the idea for a weekly audio recap? Have you heard from your students how they like it?

It is hard to give effective feedback in an online course and make sure students are actually absorbing it. The recap is my chance to address/clarify whatever ideas the students appeared to be struggling with in the quizzes and discussions. And then there is a password in it that they need to access the next week’s quiz, so they have to listen to it! I think they find it a bit of a pain to listen to, but ultimately appreciate the human touch.

7.  What are the major technical difficulties you or your students encounter?

GPP students tend to struggle with simple things: how do I post to a discussion? How do I submit a paper? All students sometimes have trouble accessing external resources: Atomic Learning, for example. And at the beginning of the course, there are usually a few students who are added to the course late and have trouble getting access to ECLearn right away.

8.  What can you advise us regarding conducting online discussions – what is your experience and lessons learned?

I think it is important to mix up the discussion boards: sometimes just a written prompt, sometimes images or videos to respond to, etc. One board, I do, requires students to find and post an example of a religious group reciting/singing/performing/re-enacting their scriptures in some way. That is fun because they find neat stuff – everything from Gregorian chant to Katakhali dance.


For any questions regarding ECLearn, Atomic Learning tutorials, course design and pedagogy, email us at AT@emmanuel.edu.

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ECLearn Modular Course Structure

What is a Module?

Modules is a feature in Canvas/ECLearn used for building the main structure of a course. Many teachers, however, use instead the Pages feature, which is just a wiki content page and is not the most efficient way to create internal course organization and navigation. A module (as seen below) can be used to organize a course by weeks, content units, chapters, topics, etc. It displays its components in a table of contents format where each item is a clickable link to an actual course element like an assignment or an external web link. Modules is a better organizational and navigational tool for all course items than the Pages tool, because it can contain not only content pages, but files, discussions, assignments, quizzes, and any other learning materials that one would like to use in their course design.


Module Snapshot

A snapshot of the two modules in an ECLearn course template (copy/paste the following link to access the template – https://eclearn.emmanuel.edu/courses/1546006). Click the image to view it enlarged.


A teacher can easily add items to a module that have already been created in the course, or create new items on the fly within the module. This allows for course re-structure while developing new learning materials.

In addition in Modules, every item has navigational buttons at the bottom – one for the previous and one for the next sequential item.


Page Prev-Next Buttons snapshot

The bottom of the page displays ‘Previous’ and ‘Next’ buttons for sequential navigation within a module. The buttons appear not only for content pages, but for any type of item: quizzes, assignments, discussions, external links, downloadable files, etc. Click the image to view it enlarged.


Tips for Working with Modules:

  • Modules can be accessed by clicking the Modules button in the Course Tool Menu along the left side of any course. One may also choose to have the Modules page as a course Home page.
  • Modules can easily be reordered to fit the flow of the course by simply dragging and dropping. Items within the modules can also be reorganized by dragging and dropping.
  • Modules can be released on specific dates, being locked (hidden) until a future date. If a module is set to release on a specific date, students will be able to see a list of the module’s items, but the list will be grayed out and will remain inaccessible until the release date.
  • One can also set up prerequisites, e.g. a module cannot be accessed until a previous module has been completed (see the example in the first image above).
  • With modules, a teacher can create a one-directional linear flow of what students should do. This way students must complete each item (reading/viewing a page, submitting a paper assignment, making a discussion posting, scoring a specific grade on a quiz) in a sequential order. Consider setting requirements. 
  • Using Text Headers (example below) is a great way to visually distinguish module items by grouping/categorizing them in the module.

text header snapshot

The “3.2 Communication Strategies” and “3.3 Collaboration Strategies” are text headers. Click the image to view it enlarged.


Additional Help Resources:

  • Organize your course by unit, topic, chapter, or week by using Canvas Guides on Modules.
  • The following worksheet can be of a great help in the process of structuring a course online components by aligning learning objectives and learning activities for every module.

For more information on Modules, watch the following videos from Instructure on Vimeo:


Canvas offers a collection of courses as examples of the learning management system. The following link leads to sample courses that have three different type of structures: Types of Canvas courses: Module-based, Page-based, and Self-Guided.

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Faculty Spotlight: Kelly Grant – A Successful Hybrid Course Design Example

Instructor: Kelly Grant, MSIB

Course: Strategic Management, MGMT 4303

The capstone course is designed to demonstrate the connection between Corporate Social Responsibility, Operations, Marketing, Financial Management, and Organizational Structure when formulating a long term business-level or corporate strategy. In order to maintain a high level of rigor, numerous activities are incorporated into the Strategic Management course.  These activities are completed both in and out of the classroom. Here are a couple of examples:

Online Simulation Game

Throughout the term students apply textbook concepts in an online Business Strategy simulation game where they make a variety of decisions on manufacturing plant locations, cross-border trade, utilizing celebrity endorsements for their products, e-commerce, and more.  The simulation game brings out their competitive nature and interest in course content however most students seem to demonstrate passion in their discussion board posts which tend to focus on the correlation between Corporate Social Responsibility, Profitability, and Shareholder Value.

Online Discussions and an End-of-Semester Reflective Paper

There are approximately ten discussion board posts throughout the term where students are asked to create an initial post early in the week and to make at least two engagement posts (commenting on the threads of their peers) by the end of the week.  Students are graded on the timeliness of their posts, their involvement in the threads of their peers, demonstration of critical thinking, application of course concepts, and writing mechanics.  Students are also encouraged to support their opinion with outside resources, which often leads to links to current articles on the discussion topic.

At the end of the term students are asked to complete a reflection paper on the topics of Corporate Social Responsibility, Profitability, and Shareholder Value.  Students often comment that they referred back to the discussion posts while compiling the reflection paper. They feel that the discussion board allowed them to not only participate in a discussion on the assigned topic, but to consider varying perspectives as they read and reflected upon the posts of their peers. The discussion board has been a valuable teaching tool that I highly recommend, particularly in a blended or online environment.


For more information on Hybrid Course Design, contact us: at@emmanuel.edu.

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Faculty Spotlight: Jaime Vidaurrazaga – Collectively Prepared Study Guides Using ECLearn Discussions and Pages

Instructor: 
Jaime Vidaurrazaga, PhD.
Assistant Professor of Theology & Religious Studies

Courses:
THRS1103 Exploring Catholic Theology, THRS 1111 Exploring the Bible, THRS2203 Jesus & Christian Ethics, THRS2213 Latin American Liberation Theology, FYS1101.57 Christian Morality in the Roman World

About the Project/Idea/Tool:
Two seemingly unrelated concerns about more efficacious teaching/learning in Dr. Vidaurrazaga’s class, led him to develop the project he is sharing with Emmanuel College community here:

“1) Different kinds of learners find different learning activities engaging and they excel in different kinds of assessments. For this reason, I like to offer a variety of learning activities in my courses so that different kinds of learners all have a chance to excel and to demonstrate their learning and their effort throughout the semester. Applying this principle to the “participation”/”active engagement” component of my grading, I realized that I needed to offer opportunities for engagement/participation that would be appealing to students who do not necessarily feel comfortable speaking out in front of the whole class. I tried proposing topics for discussion online, but I got very low levels of participation. I then tried to establish mandatory levels of participation in those online discussions, but some of the students (those who more easily speak during class and already participate in that way) found it redundant and a form of “busy work.”

2) Students often assume a more active role in synthesizing the knowledge they have acquired in the class when they are preparing for a quiz or an exam, but that process does not normally take place during class, when they have easy/immediate access to the instructor to clarify anything that is not clear in their notes or anything that they may have missed during class or in their individual reading of the textbook or assigned reading materials. While holding “study sessions” before quizzes and exams would be an effective way to address this issue, this strategy requires all the students to be able to meet at the same time, and the faculty member to be present during that meeting, both of which can lead to a scheduling nightmare.

My idea then was to use the “discussions” feature of ECLearn to hold the equivalent of an ongoing (diachronic) study session involving all the students in the class and me, between the time I post the study guide for the quiz/exam and the night before the quiz/exam takes place. Students are encouraged to post any questions they may have as they prepare for the quiz/exam and to post answers to other students’ questions. All postings count as instances of class participation/active engagement, whether their answers are right on target, incomplete or even wrong (no judgment). My commitment to the students is that I will review periodically their postings and that I will answer any unanswered questions, and edit/correct/complete any of the posted answers that need correcting/completing so they all can fully trust the content of the collectively prepared study guide as they review it the day before their quiz/exam.

Another way to do this in ECLearn is to post the study guide in the “pages” format and allow all students in the class “editing” privileges. The class as a whole then uses the page as a wiki, in which they all post answers to the questions in the study guide, definitions/descriptions of the terminology used, and other such study materials. Once again, all postings right or wrong are credited with participation points, and in this case I do not post answers to any of the questions in the study guide unless someone in the class has at least tried to post an answer (right or wrong) first.

In my personal experience, it is better to use the “discussions” feature in the beginning of the semester and to introduce the “pages” one only later in the semester (I typically use it for the last quiz and for the final exam).  While the “pages” version offers great possibilities for students to formulate and synthesize their knowledge in their postings, it has the possible downside of giving less dutiful and hardworking students the idea that they don’t need to take notes in class because they will have excellent study materials available to them through the hard work of others in the class when time comes to prepare for the test anyways.

Goals:

  • To increase the level of participation in learning activities and engagement with the content of the course.
  • To offer avenues for participation/engagement for students who are not comfortable speaking up in front of the whole class or answering questions on the spot.
  • To encourage cooperation and mutual support within the course.
  • To support the students’ learning in general and preparation for quizzes and exam in particular.
  • To provide the kind of revision and clarification that one could offer in a study session in a way that is accessible to students diachronically and wherever they happen to study more efficiently.

Technology Requirements:
The only technology required is already built into ECLearn in the tools called “discussions” and “pages.”

Outcome:
I have been using these and similar tools is most of the courses I teach for several years now. The previous content management system we used offered a “discussions” tool, and I used to use websites offering free “wikis” for educational purposes to do what I do now with the “pages” feature of ECLearn. For this reason, it is a little hard for me to notice the increase in online participation in my courses and the improvement in students’ performance in quizzes and exams anymore. For this reason, I am very appreciative of Teodora Hristov’s and the rest of the ATIG team’s recognition of the relatively high level of student engagement in online discussions and collaborative work on “pages” in my courses, because their feedback encourages me to continue using these tools in my courses and to search for other means to further engage my students in online collaboration in the work they do preparing for quizzes and exams.

I can also say that many of my students choose to enroll in a second class with me after having had me as a teacher and when they do they often ask on the first day of the semester if I am going to use “discussions” and “pages” for quiz and exam preparation in this course as well. In interpret their interest in asking about this as a sign that the students in general find these initiatives helpful.”

Posted in Classroom Technology, EC Learn, Faculty Spotlight, Innovation, Teaching Tips, Teaching with Technology, Tech Tips | Leave a comment

Tech Tip: Using Etherpad for Student Collaboration

Emmanuel College’s ECLearn (Canvas learning management system) allows for easy integration with external tools.

One application offered under the “Collaborations” tool menu is Etherpad. As described on etherpad.org, this is “a highly customizable open source online editor providing collaborative editing in really real-time.”

Etherpad is a tool similar to a Google Docs document. It opens as a blank wiki page where multiple users can participate at the same time. Once online, each pad contributor can communicate with others via a chat. Each member can be anonymous or identified by their name associated with the colored text they input. The color is automatically assigned, but users can pick their choice if they wish. Just like a wiki page, students can look at previously saved versions of the document.

etherpad snapshotEthepad can be imported and exported as HTML page, plain text, MS Word doc, PDF, ODF, or DokuWIki. An interesting feature is the timer that is a recording of a real-time version of the page editing process. A saved version can be replayed unlimited times to see who did what and when. The pad can be also embedded and shared as a link. This allows for creating collaborative spaces that are web-based, which allows for different users to edit the same version of a document without having to save separate copies of it; possibly, it also avoids the necessity to attribute ownership of the final result, because it is all self-evident.


This Fall semester, ATIG noticed two faculty who implemented Etherpad in their ECLearn courses. In a Business course, the instructor (Kelly Grant) had students brainstorm ideas using the tool on a course level. (For more on this particular professor’s pedagogy and course design, check out Faculty Spotlight section where the faculty member will be featured in December 2014.)

Another teacher – Prof. Ana Otero – used Etherpad differently. In her Biology course, she grouped the students in pairs and gave them the option to select a topic of interest to develop their case study. Students used the tool to collaborate within their group. Each member was tasked to research and contribute to the story, so the end result would be a mixed input illustrating the work of the two participants whose intertwined thoughts are laid out in writing in pre-determined format. Not everyone used the tool as intended. Some worked individually and their work displayed no evidence of mutual effort. Others collaborated in person and delivered a final result posted by one of the two members. And yet others, used the tool properly to edit each others postings in order to improve the final outcome.

There are more examples of online collaborative work using this particular tool. What are yours? To find out more about other collaborative tools, check out the How-To @ Emmanuel EClearn course where all academic technologies offered to faculty are listed. Have questions? Email us at at@emmanuel.edu.

Posted in EC Learn, Open Educational Resources, Teaching Tips, Tech Tips | Leave a comment