Ian Hall

Final Exams: Drawing and D2L

Executive Summary

Denise Nacu created a pair of multimodal midterm and final exams for her Human-Computer Interaction classes, but the time it took to grade them caused stress for her and her students.

Putting Denise’s exams online was difficult because parts of them required students to physically draw on the exam. We shifted the exams into two-part asynchronous, online-only formats with a D2L quiz for the multiple-choice and short-answer questions, and D2L dropbox with release conditions for submitting the design questions.

This solution saved Denise hours of grading and allowed her to return all final grades to her students within 48 hours of the last student completing their exam—a win for all involved.


This post describes how Denise and I moved her midterm and final exams online using Desire2Learn. We’ll cover what the exams looked like at first, how we adjusted the format to a fully online format, and what we learned in the process. Continue reading

Elisabeth Ramos-Torrescano

Can Project Management Achieve a Zen-like State?

“Huh?” you ask?  The typical project management state of mind is angst-ridden and chaotic.  There are too many projects with too many tasks and too many people to manage.  Then there is the inventory and handling of the content in order to check-off completed tasks to complete the projects.  And so it goes, until the mind becomes a tangled mess that brings on the dire need for a cup of coffee and a candy bar.

Three weeks before the beginning of a new quarter became the trigger point for inducing this project management panicked state of mind.  The bits of content and emails started rolling in which prompted growing task lists, phone calls, and meetings with my production assistant.  We couldn’t seem to get the information contained in any organized way where we felt in control.  We also found that in this morass of information, we were making mistakes.

Then along came Asana.   Asana is a cloud-based project management tool whose tag line is “Teamwork without email. Asana puts conversations and tasks together so you can get more done with less effort.”  YES!  Continue reading

Jan Costenbader

Cool Creative Commons Collections for Class

I am not very original and I like to find materials on the web to ‘spice-up’ my hybrid and online courses. However, I frequently find things that are wonderful, but I am never sure as to their usability with regards to copyright and fair-use. Fortunately, there is a wealth of resources out there that are available under some very clear and user-friendly licensing.  So, let me first briefly discuss Creative Commons licensing and then point you to some wonderful web sites that support either Creative Commons licensing or clearly stated licensing materials for use in your course.

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that has established some legal tools to allow content authors to share their creative works under six different licensing schemes. The schemes are outlined on the website. In the simplest of terms, all of the licenses require, as a minimum, attribution. This means you give credit to the author for the original creation. The rest of the licenses add on one or more of these attributes: NoDerivs, NonCommercial or ShareAlike. Rather than go into the detail, the site provides complete descriptions of the licenses in both a human-readable format (License Deed) or the less-friendly Legal Code. Below are a few sites where you can find some really great content licensed under CC.

Continue reading

Sarah Brown

IDD Book Club: Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Do you remember the dread of reading books “for school”? As a former high school English teacher, I remember feeling conflicted about book selections because I feared that the “for school” designation would automatically turn students off to a book they might like in other circumstances, no matter how hip and non-worksheet-y the accompanying assignments (Make a soundtrack for the book! Create a children’s book version of the same story with pictures and everything!).

I often find myself falling into the same trap with “for work” reading. I’m genuinely interested in reading about topics related to my job — Cynthia Selfe’s  “Multimodal Composition — Resources for Teachers” is a fantastic book, for example, but these aren’t the types of books I turn to for those 20 minutes of unwinding time before my head hits the pillow.

To my delight, though, my current “for fun” reading, Thunderstruck by Erik Larson, is striking the perfect balance of telling a compelling narrative and making connections to my professional life. Continue reading

Daniel Stanford

Highlights from the 2014 ELI Conference

One of the best things about the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) annual meeting is the broad spectrum of institutions represented, from the Ivy League to large public and private universities to community colleges and small liberal arts schools. If you’re looking for colleagues who are grappling with the same challenges you’re experiencing at your institution, chances are you’ll find them at ELI.

The ELI audience is as diverse as the institutions they represent and includes instructional designers, faculty with a passion for technology, and IT professionals working in higher education. Unlike conferences that focus primarily on distance learning, ELI attracts a large proportion of CIOs and people passionate about the intersection of technology and physical learning spaces. As a result, the conference typically includes ample hands-on time with new gadgets and hardware. On Tuesday, I learned more about Arduinos during a hands-on “maker-space” session that left me missing my old Capsela set. At breakfast on Wednesday, I had a chance to chat with remote conference participants who roamed the venue using a device designed by Double Robotics. And just before heading to the airport, Jeremy Littau, an Assistant Professor at Lehigh University, let me test-drive Google Glass.

Of course, you don’t have to be on a first name basis with the staff of your local Radio Shack to get something useful out of ELI. The annual meeting agenda is brimming with presentations on everything from faculty development for online learning to predictions on the future of open-source textbooks and MOOCs. Here are a few highlights from some of the sessions I attended.

Continue reading

Josh Lund

Reclaiming Your Classroom

As the name might suggest, Faculty Instructional Technology Services (FITS) is tasked with providing technology support to instructors for the purposes of enhancing teaching and learning.  A great deal of the job entails the development and support of online, hybrid, and flipped classes.  We’ve been doing this for a while, but lately we’ve been hearing a new set of questions as the direction of higher education moves more and more online:

“I’m teaching a hybrid/flipped class, and I’ve put all my documents online, provided lecture videos, and I do all my papers and exams online as well.  But now I have all this extra face time in class…what do I do with it?”

Fear not. We’re here for that too.  It is true that the majority of learning materials can usually be offloaded to an online resource.  Students can come to class having seen the lecture material, perhaps turned in a homework assignment or taken a quiz, and maybe even participated in a discussion online.  This offloading of materials means students can take advantage of the ebb and flow in their personal schedules to complete the class work online, but they still need meaningful learning experiences when they are face to face.  Let’s examine some possible strategies that can be easily implemented to reclaim your class time.

Continue reading

Sharon Guan

From Content Critical to Content Cheap: The Change of Online Course Value

In the December issue of the Campus Technology magazine, Gerry McCartney, CIO at Purdue University, was cited in “What Will Happen to MOOCs Now that Udacity Is Leaving Higher Ed?” for his response to the downward spiral of the MOOC.  McCartney “applauded the MOOC makers for demonstrating that ‘content has almost no value…”, and when it comes to the value of this type of education, “the money is not in the content”.

McCartney believes that the learning experience delivered through a MOOC is like learning from watching The History Channel. It is merely access to content—a low-value type of education.  In his opinion, one can get the best Chaucerian professor to publish a book for everyone in the world to read, but it is impossible for the same professor to offer a class to teach everyone in the world because learning requires personal interaction. Personal interaction, as Gerry McCartney points out, is the high-value type of education—something that is not scalable in a MOOC.

Continue reading

Alex Joppie

Progress Tracking in Desire2Learn: The Newer, Better Checklists

Two months ago, DePaul upgraded from D2L 9.4 to version 10.3, a leap of four versions. For our department, that means we’ve had 60 days of leading trainings on the big changes in the system; discovering, reproducing, and reporting bugs; fielding angry complaints about new annoyances that have popped up in this new version; and constantly manning the phones to answer instructor questions. In short, it’s been exhausting.

But I don’t want to talk about bugs or new annoyances. I don’t want to talk about how much time I’ve spent on the phone to get through this transition. I want to talk about something positive. So to take my mind off of all that, I’m going to write about the good part of upgrades–great new features, my favorite being student progress tracking.

What is progress tracking?

Progress tracking turns your Content area into a checklist for students. Every item in your Content can be something that students can check off as they complete it, or something that’s automatically checked when the student does something in D2L, like submit to a dropbox folder or complete a quiz attempt. This is what it looks like for a student.

Continue reading

Ian Hall

Quick and Easy Curving

Something Happened! – That Sinking Feeling

Sometimes the grade distribution on your exam seems a bit low — maybe even horrifyingly low.

Perhaps there wasn’t enough time to focus on a topic due to a holiday, a bout of illness struck, or maybe there was a question that was ambiguously worded. The assessment might be brand new and still needs some tweaking, or maybe the students just didn’t get it — there was a collective lapse in memory.

Whatever the reason, the grade distribution is low and it feels bad for you and worse for your students.

What Happened? — The Empathy Hat

Now that you’ve identified there is an issue, the next step is to identify the reason for the low scores. Continue reading

Kate Daniels

“Any questions?” Engaging your students with interactive polls.

I’ve been indulging in a bit of a guilty pleasure lately: a network television series that ran a couple of years ago called Lie To Me. It stars Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman, a deception specialist who is hired by agencies and individuals to determine the “truth” at a crime scene.

Dr. Lightman and his team of experts study the micro-expressions (brief, involuntary facial expressions) on all of the parties involved.

Be it a downturn of the mouth, or a twitch under the eye, “The Lightman Group” banks on the fact that these micro-expressions consistently indicate emotions such as guilt, shame, fear or arousal.  These expressions are especially apparent when video footage of a subject is slowed down and studied, frame-by-frame. The scientific premise of the show is based on the cutting-edge research of psychologist Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman group facial expression picturesPhoto credit: Paul Ekman Group

Continue reading