Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Mary Wall's Strategies for Dealing with Technology in Teaching Online Classes

First - I organize my disk. I use a PC, and Word, so I make folders for each class. Then, inside each folder I use subfolders for  each semester I teach. So I have a main folder for the school then inside I have subfolders for each semester: Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2015, Spring 2016 etc.

I believe that each week should have reminders of what is due, and summaries of what has been accomplished. Inside each subfolder I have the "Read Me First" posts in Word, and retrieve and modify it each semester, based on previous experience. I also save each Summary and the Weekly Announcements and save and modify those also. I find I can never simply cut and paste - I always have to modify - but this way I can build on past classes and constantly update without forgetting anything.

Navigation and Editing
I use the Windows Shortcut Keys for easy navigation and quick editing, especially Copy, Paste, Bold, Italic, Select All  and Undo (I use that one a Lot!) The complete list for Windows 10 is here http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-10/keyboard-shortcuts. You may have an Apple, and you can find the complete list of the control navigation keys here: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201236.

If I forget to press Use Advanced Editor in Moodle (it's a shame I have to do this in some versions of Moodle) then I highlight the text I have  written, copy using the Ctrl C key, start a new Forum, Press Use Advance Editor, and then Paste (Ctrl V) what I have written and make modifications.

Dealing with the technology. If you are like me you hate to read directions, but it really does help to do this. I like the fact that Moodle (especially Gnomio the site for free Moodle classes)  has a two column screen when you go to Add an Activity or Resource. As you click on each item in the left column as you face the screen you will see in the right column the description of its purpose and how it can be used.  Be sure to scroll all the way down as you read that column because it gives good tips and directions. Press the More Help key at the bottom of the Column for More Help. For example, when I press the CHAT button I see on the right screen the general information but then, when I press the More Help at the bottom of the screen it links me a guide on how to best set up the information. I think this information is NOT used as much as it should be. The Moodle resources online are also very good, and it is easy to Search for them.

I know from personal experience that a big problem in working with Moodle, or any software is NOT READING THE ENTIRE SCREEN. I neglect to scroll down, for example, and in working with Gnomio I didn't realize the More Help until I accidentally scrolled down to see all the documentation. Users don't even realize for example that, in the Assignment you can select Paper Submission, Type in text, or both. Depending on the length of the assignment you can make a choice.

Advanced features:  Some teachers, who have large classes, use Voice to Text software. I use the Chrome Browser and I find that its Voice to Text extension is very helpful and works surprisingly well.

If teachers of large classes need to correct a lot of papers they often invest the time and energy to learn how to use Macros in Windows. So, for example, they can insert the words "comma splice" by simply pressing a key combination. I don't do this but I see how it could be very helpful. 


Sunday, December 27, 2015

SELECT THE RIGHT TOOL WHEN YOU CONSTRUCT AN ONLINE CLASS

Every Learning Management (LMS) has options to facilitate student/teacher private conversation. The tools have different functions and if you are designing an online class be sure know which is the most appropriate for you purpose.

               The assignment tool is for an essay or paper. This tool is poorly named, because there are many things we, as teachers, consider assignments. However, in many LMS, this tool is exclusively used for written work submitted for grading.

               The quiz usually is for short answer questions. It can be formative or summative. If it is formative you should allow students to retake at least once.  Most LMS allow teachers to include short answers or fill in the blanks in the quiz. However, that means the teacher must go in and correct, which is usually not the purpose, especially of a formative quiz, where students are checking whether they have mastered the concepts. Also, "fill in the Blanks" causes problems because it is often impossible to anticipate every response.

               The questionnaire or survey is for responses that can be anonymous. The default option is viewing only by the teacher/mentor, unless the teacher elects the option to show results to the class. It is mainly used to get feedback on the class.  Presently the survey option in Moodle requires that you select one of the preloaded surveys. The Questionnaire allows you to add your own questions.

               The journal is for teachers/student interaction in short paragraphs. Teachers can comment within the text. This tool is often used for reflections.

               Use of the right tool will make your life easier as a teacher and save you time too. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Skills We Hope Student Have at the Start of Our Online Classes

Helping Students to Succeed

We would like to believe our students know how to navigate the Learning Management System but we cannot be sure of that unless we teach in a class that is beyond beginner level in an institution with many online courses. We may need to help students by explicitly stating where to find information in our courses. Some teachers have a “Treasure  Hunt” or “Scavenger Hunt” so that students will know where material is located.

It is a good idea for online teachers to TAKE an online class that uses the required Learning Management System before they online. Being a student gives teachers a good idea of what student face. Teachers should be prepared to help students with class navigation, but any institution with online courses should have technical help, and this help should be staffed fully the first few weeks of classes.

We hope students can compose, spell check and save files in a Word Processor.  Even today, they may not all use Word, however, and may need help in learning to save in .rtf format. We might expect them, depending on the class, to be able to open PowerPoint files and, if they do not have PowerPoint to be able to download the PowerPoint viewer. Some classes require students to use a Spreadsheet. If this is a requirement the students need to know at the start of the class.

If the class requires citing work students need to know which format is used: APA.MLS. Turabian, Chicago Style. They may need online resources to help them learn or review how to do this.  

Any special software used in the class should be explained to the students before they register for the class. It is not fair to the students to sign into a class and find they need to purchase an expensive piece of software.  

We hope our students realize that discussion in a college class is formal learning and the language in the class is academic writing. They may not know this and need to be told. They may also need to be reminded that discussions in the course require respect for others.


To help students succeed we need to give them the information that they need and assume nothing. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

acultights
  Intellectual Property Agreements at Institutions of Higher Learning

The intellectual property agreements of our institutions affect all faculty. It is often interesting to compare agreements.

For faculty, the main issues are whether the college can use the materials faculty create and give them to another instructor who will teach the course and whether faculty can take those materials and develop the same or similar courses for other institutions. This gets complicated if the faculty has been paid to develop the course materials. In this case a contract should clearly spell out rights.

My concern is that in the future faculty may NOT be asked to design new courses, and that function will be delegated to the Information Technologists only. I think that there should be collaboration between the teacher, the IT professionals and the librarians, but faculty should develop and teach the courses. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015





Wikis

Students often hate group work and one of the many reasons is that they have problems working on one final document for project completion. As files are passed back and forth they are corrupted. If students are instructed to use their group in the  discussion board they can attach files back and forth, HOWEVER, while one person is editing file 1 another person is also editing file 1, and there are two versions of the same file.

The solution is a wiki. A wiki is a document that can be edited by a group, BUT it has record locking. If  one person is working on a file and another person wants to edit it the second person will be locked out. This keeps the latest version of the file. When the first person is finished and saves, then the second person can edit the CURRENT DOCUMENT. There is no need to pass files back and forth.

A problem can be that if students make a mistake or delete information that should not be deleted then their final changes stay in the document. To stop this problem good wikis have a history function so that the owner of the wiki (usually the instructor/mentor) can revert the material to the previous edit. There is a trail of all the edits made and my whom.

Most of us a familiar with Wikipedia, but now wikis are part of many Learning Management  Systems.  The final file can be submitted by the group as the culmination of group project.

This site has an excellent graphic illustrating the differences between a wiki, a blog and a discussion. We need to use the right tool for the right purpose!

The University of Adlaide. (ND). Differences between Discussion Boards, Blogs and Wikis. http://www.adelaide.edu.au/myuni/staff/resources/tutorials/content/Differences_between_Discussion_Boards__Blogs_and_Wikis.html

Monday, July 20, 2015




Games and simulations in an online class

I think we will see more games and simulations in future online classes. Of course there can be concerns:
·        If the games/simulations are on the Internet, will they continue to be available? I have seen great games that have disappeared.
·        Are they age appropriate?
·        Are they created by a reputable source?
·        Do they provide accurate information?
·        Are the games optional for students or required?
·        How do we know that the games attained their objective?
These questions are very good ones. Sometimes the games themselves give a certificate, a badge, or a score at the end that the student can submit showing that they have accomplished the objective. Some faculty use games as the basic for discussions. Some faculty provide the games as optional for students who may need drill and practice.
I believe that games/simulations have a place after the concepts are first explored/discussed in the class. Game sites  can be shared with students for the purposed of review AND remediation We all know that material taught is often not retained. However, if the students then participate in a simulation or a game then the instant reinforcement can help "cement" learning. I found myself, and maybe you did to, spending time in some of the games. That is what we want to happen with our students. Dawn also reminded us that we can create our own simulations by using Case Studies, which are very effective. 
Games and simulations in an online class
I think we will see more games and simulations in future online classes. Of course there can be concerns:
·        If the games/simulations are on the Internet, will they continue to be available? I have seen great games that have disappeared.
·        Are they age appropriate?
·        Are they created by a reputable source?
·        Do they provide accurate information?
·        Are the games optional for students or required?
·        How do we know that the games attained their objective?
These questions are very good ones. Sometimes the games themselves give a certificate, a badge, or a score at the end that the student can submit showing that they have accomplished the objective. Some faculty use games as the basic for discussions. Some faculty provide the games as optional for students who may need drill and practice.
I believe that games/simulations have a place after the concepts are first explored/discussed in the class. Game sites  can be shared with students for the purposed of review AND remediation We all know that material taught is often not retained. However, if the students then participate in a simulation or a game then the instant reinforcement can help "cement" learning. I found myself, and maybe you did to, spending time in some of the games. That is what we want to happen with our students. Dawn also reminded us that we can create our own simulations by using Case Studies, which are very effective. 
I found the following game/simulation very interesting: "Cell Division and Cancer" produced by APBI, which is a  Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. (APBI).  It is recommended for students 14-16 but I did the exercises and thought they were well done.
http://www.abpischools.org.uk/page/modules/celldiv_cancer/index.cfm?age=Age%20Range%2014-16&subject=Biology They have many materials for students and teachers. At the end of each section there is a SELF QUIZ, with immediate feedback. That, to me, is the big plus of simulations/games. If students get immediate feedback and can redo then learning has a good chance of taking place

Sunday, May 24, 2015




I  believe that students do not cheat more in online classes than in traditional classes, and research would seem to indicate that is true.
Do Students Cheat More in the Digital Age? http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring131/watson131.html
However, I think plagiarism has increased, mainly because it is so easy now.  To help you and your students avoid plagiarism many institutions have linked with plagiarism detection sites.
·        Turnitin: in order to avoid any FERPA issues many institutions require that students submit their papers to TurnItIn, not faculty. The report can then be included in a paper.
·        Smart Thinking:  A site that can help students with papers – not content but format.

Of course, the best way to deter cheating is to design assignments that make it difficult to cheat  http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring131/watson131.html 
What can YOU do?
1.     Giving information to students on the rationale behind the assignments
2.     Designing good assignments that require critical thinking, not memory, and changing them slightly every term so that students cannot look at the files of previous students in the class.
3.     Using check points along the way for major papers – don’t wait until the last minute.
4.     Narrow the time frame for taking tests.
5.     Scramble questions, question order and use alternate questions.
6.     In the directions make clear to the students what constitutes plagiarism.
7.     Having a rubric, and making sure the students know that you will be using it.

8.     If a major product, consider giving examples of past projects that were well done.