I’ve been working on a side project recently to help young people improve their financial literacy and job skills, and I needed to create a quiz that would be accessible to anyone with the link. I’d heard from a colleague that Google recently rolled out a feature allowing Google forms to be turned into quizzes, so I decided to give it a try. The process was easier than I expected and, in less than 30 minutes, my “ultimate credit score quiz” was live for the world to see.
If you’re accustomed to having students access your learning materials within a learning management system like Canvas, Blackboard, or D2L/Brightspace, you might wonder why you’d ever want to create quizzes outside your LMS. I had a similar perspective until I began working on projects that included students outside of my institution. For instance, through DePaul’s Global Learning Initiative, I frequently work with faculty who are collaborating with foreign instructors and students.
Before the rollout of Google quizzes, the only way we could provide our non-DePaul collaborators with access to quizzes was to add them to our LMS. This process is time-consuming and tends to reinforce the feeling that, as an American institution, we’re requiring our partners to learn our systems and do things our way. Because Google quizzes can be accessed by simply clicking a link (no login required), and because many Google products are widely used in many countries, we now have an option for online, auto-graded assessments that feels more open and familiar to students outside of our institution.
A few weeks ago, I attended the Brightspace Fusion 2016 conference. While the conference itself is hosted by the team that develops our LMS (Learning Management System), many of the sessions focused on strong use of technology in general, as well as tested strategies for engaging learners, whether online, hybrid, or in traditional classrooms (in other words, these ideas apply regardless of the LMS you may be using). If I had to pick one theme that stood out to me most, it would be the idea of personalized learning and instruction.
I know what you may be thinking now—we’ve been hearing about this for years and it still doesn’t seem to be that common, and most people push back by saying they don’t have time for creating individualized items for every student in the class. I couldn’t agree more; that’s why the point here isn’t necessarily making many individualized items for each and every student, but personalized to different styles of learning, or even to your personal style of teaching your subject. From what I see, the point here is that much of the content for courses is ubiquitous now—anyone can search online for countless bits of information, textbooks, how-to guides, websites, or videos on a topic; because of this, the real art and strategy of teaching is not so much in what we present, but how we present it. The personalization is as much about the instructor’s style as it is the learners’ styles—the questions we need to answer are “How knowledgeable and authentic is the instructor? How can an instructor use their personal experiences or examples to make the content more accessible?”
It’s just after your first class and the students are filing out of the room and you happen to be standing near enough to catch a few of their comments. You only get snippets of the conversations, but you hear…
In a face-to-face class, your presence is partly defined by your demeanor, persona and actions while in front of the class.
An intro, to let students know what will happen in the class; a highlight, to capture the meaning of the subject; a heads-up, on what to expect; and maybe, a rationale, for the format in which the course is delivered.
To accomplish all of these in a quick and engaging way takes more than a syllabus or a course homepage. It requires condensing the course description and combining the presentation with multimedia or special effects…like a movie trailer.
According to a report by the Chronical of Higher Education, course trailers have become increasingly popular with the growing use of social media. The report cited Harvard University as an early adopter of course trailers because students there spend the first week of the semester “shopping” for courses they may want to take. So course trailers are a big help for boosting student interest and attendance.
Here is a course trailer for CS50 at Harvard University, a course that focuses on an introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming:
If you haven’t ever had a virtual reality experience before, you probably will in the next twelve months.
Virtual reality is coming online in a big way. VRheadsets for high-end gaming PCs started shipping this past spring. This fall, Sony is launching a VR headset for its PlayStation 4 game console. Beyond gaming, Google has been experimenting with VR for two years, using phones and a cardboard holder. The low-tech, low-cost solution was designed to get VR into the hands of as many people as possible, and Google has already managed to get many developers on board with cardboard, creating games, simulations, and more. Google has created K12-focused Expeditions, where users can get the full 3D and 360-degree experience of being somewhere very few could ever go–like the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef, and even the surface of Mars. YouTube is also filling up with 360-degree 3D videos that are meant to be consumed with virtual reality devices. But VR isn’t always just consumptive–apps like Tilt Brush allow users to create 3D paintings in midair. And Google is getting ready to launch a more sophisticated VR platform with its next Android release in a few months, to build on and enhance their Cardboard platform. 2016 is the year of virtual reality.
As an instructional technologist, my natural tendency is to get excited about new technology and its potential in higher education. My instinct is to imagine all the possibilities that the next big thing affords for our classes and to push for the rapid adoption of the latest and greatest tech. But in the case of virtual reality, I’m a little skeptical that it’s going to be a true transformative technology for a couple reasons.
This year I decided to attend the OLC (Online Learning Consortium) Innovate conference in New Orleans. The conference was a great experience in part for getting to hear from others in the same field on what their doing to improve online learning and I also had the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture, music, and food of New Orleans; the chance ended up being very fulfilling.
Of the sessions I attended, two in particular really stuck with me. One session, as the title “Don’t Put Your Phone Away” suggests, demonstrated how instructors can incorporate students’ phones into their classrooms. One tool in particular that really intrigued me was Kahoot!. Kahoot! is free tool that allows you to create fun learning games made up of multiple choice questions. You can add images, videos, and diagrams to your questions to enhance them. Kahoot!s are meant for an in-class setting as they are not embeddable in web content. You’ll also want to make sure you are using a classroom that has a projector, as the answer choices will only appear on the screen with a corresponding symbol. This symbol is what students see on their devices. Once they see these symbols, they must select the symbol that corresponds with the answer they want to select.
If you’re like the majority of the world, multitasking is part of your daily routine. From managing personal to professional tasks, keeping it all together in your brain can be a bit overwhelming.
Thankfully, there are a number of tools, from easy to use smartphone apps to more complex software, that exist to help manage it all.
Whether you’re looking for a tool to individually track tasks, or you work with one or more people and need to manage and track a series of tasks, choosing the right process and solution doesn’t have to stressful. The following are some general tips to consider as you broach the subject.
When I began my classes for my M.S.Ed. in Instructional Technology (IT), I was often looked upon as an odd duck. Most of my classes were full of classroom teachers, school librarians, and administrators looking to be in charge of a different area. So here I was, a musician in their midst (and a jazz musician, no less), and when I would invariably be asked about what brought me to IT, I always answered, “I’m going to change the way we teach music.” I’ve widened the scope of my approach, and my research, to include everyone I serve at the University, but I still haven’t lost sight of that goal. But the problem isn’t in the discipline itself; rather, it’s in the materials and methodology.
In a previous life, I was a music professor, and tried as much as possible to leverage technology to improve my course materials and course delivery, and to facilitate better learning experiences for my students. However, these improvements tended to be hybrid instruction methods, such as online testing, audio or video lectures, online paper submission or discussion boards. They did make my course more efficient and created more hands-on class time for me, but did little to truly transform the learning experience in the classroom or outside of it. The students thought taking tests online, watching short video lectures, and doing lots of stuff online was “cool,” but as we all know, “cool” doesn’t really equate to a sea change in their learning. (This was over a decade ago, when doing anything online had way more sparkle than it does today.) Looking back on it after studying and practicing Instructional Design for several years, I see most of my former “innovations” are not really that groundbreaking, just repackaging of old lessons to take advantage of some tools I had available.
My colleagues at FITS have already provided many helpful tips for developing and facilitating effective discussions in online courses. Josh cautions against teaching a correspondence course and explains, “the best discussion questions don’t have a clear answer, and sometimes they aren’t even clear questions.” He also encourages instructors to provoke debate and ask those pointed and room-dividing questions. And Ashanti provides strategies for generating discussions that matter, such as providing opportunities for student-led discussions and pushing students to draw real-world connections.
Still, even with these strategies and course design principles in mind, it can be hard to get every student involved and engaged. Julie Stella and Michael Corry recognize this, and engagement is a focus in “Intervention in Online Writing Instruction.” Stella and Corry argue for “an interwoven perspective of motivation, engagement, agency, and action in Online Writing Instruction,” and in the process provide some helpful tips for all online educators.
Stella and Corry begin with an overview of the current literature centered on engagement and agency, and specifically the ways these concepts are treated in Self-Determination Theory (SDT). As they explain, SDT is “a framework through which educators may be able to reliably predict the motivation a student feels toward academic tasks.” In other words, the good stuff instructors are always trying to tap into. In SDT, all students – and humans – are thought to be working towards satisfying three needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
In the training sessions we provide for faculty who are going to teach online or hybrid courses for the first time, our facilitator, Daniel Stanford, often mentions how instructional technology consultants can serve as “course therapists.” We’re there to listen; to assure faculty that the anxiety they might feel around making such a dramatic change to their teaching is normal; and to help them move through the stages of grief they might experience as they negotiate the losses that result from change.
Given my understanding of this framing metaphor, and given the amount of advice I’ve doled out within this context, I thought I was fully prepared to undertake the process myself when I agreed to teach one of my courses online this past Winter. Surely I could coach myself through the process, right?
As the colleagues I turned to when I needed a therapy session will tell you, I was wrong. In two key ways, I didn’t follow the recommendations I usually give to others.