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Posts from the ‘Teaching’ Category

19
Dec

Online Course Redesign for Better Engagement

I like to tell people that I’ve been designing an online course that I’ve been teaching for over 10 years. I say this because I feel that there is always room for improvement, and with the ever changing landscape of technology tools and LMS tools available, a good online course should never really be “finished.” It’s just ready for the next go round. Well, this next go round, Spring 2013, the ENG102 online course is due for a major upgrade. It seems only appropriate since so many others in Maricopa are going through their own redesigns as they move courses over from Blackboard to Instructure Canvas. I made the move a year ago, but now that I’m there or here, I’m ready for some major upgrades.

So like any good instructional designer would do, I did an analysis and came up with a list. The focus of the redesign is to make the course a little more engaging. I want for students to have more video and interactive lessons and less reading of handouts and texts. And when students do read the textbook, I want to give them more guidance for reading and remembering the concepts in those chapters. Here’s a quick preview of part of my list:

courseredesign

ENG102 Redesign list made in Evernote

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25
Oct

TYCA West Presentation: The Not-So-Distant Education – Blended Comp Courses That Rock!

Many community colleges have experienced a growth in students over the past few years, and with a limited number of classrooms available, many colleges are trying to find a way to accommodate the needs of all of these new students. We’ve managed to meet this need by offering more online and hybrid freshman composition courses. Online courses obviously are not for everyone, but what about blended learning? This presentation will demonstrate how I created and now teach blended composition courses that meet the needs of all types of students (dev-ed to honors) by incorporated good course design, gaming, challenged based learning, self directed learning and multimedia elements. I will discuss basic design steps for developing a blended course, as well as discuss the pedagogy and tools necessary to make it a success.

Tools discussed: CanvasConnect CompositionGoogle+GoSoapBoxTegrityYouTubePiazzaSoundCloudCamtasia Studio and SnagIt (Jing).

Topics Discussed:

  • Course Design
  • Gaming
  • CBL
  • Self Directed Learning
  • Multimedia

Presentation Slides:  TYCAWestBlendedCoursesRock.pdf

6
Apr

Automating the Process of Grading Essays on a Tablet

When the first iPad came out, I remember saying, “that would be cool if I could grade my essays on it.” But I was thinking of the whole tablet PC method where you could use a stylus and mark up a word document with your own scribbles as well as highlights and what not. It took a few months before there was an app that could do something similar, but it never felt intuitive and never worked on Word docs, only pdf files. This process is clearly still evolving. Since then the major book publishers have improved their online offerings to provide some pretty good grading tools for grading papers online. McGraw-Hill has Connect Composition 2.0, Cengage has Enhanced InSite with the TurnItIn.com suite of tools built in, and Pearson has MyCompLab. I’ve used all three of these tools, and quite frankly they are all pretty good for grading papers online. I couldn’t always say that, but I’ve watch them all evolve into tools I couldn’t live with out. But I digress. You can’t use these tools on a tablet (yet).

So back to this grading on a tablet idea. Some people still want to be able to do this on their tablets. I don’t, not with Connect, InSite and MyCompLab available. I’d much rather grab my Macbook Air and grade on that in a browser than on my Samsung Galaxy Tab. Nevertheless, I’ve come up with a pretty good solution for those of you who would like to do just that – grade on your tablet with a stylus or your finger for that matter. So here goes.

First you need to choose the right annotation app for your preferred device. When I had an iPad, I played with and liked iAnnotate. On my Android devices, I’ve been using ezPDF Reader. There is an iOS app too. Both of these apps work well, although the stylus interaction could be improved, and it might already have been. My finger works well too for what it’s worth. The key is that both integrate with DropBox, so you can access files from your dropBox and/or save annotated pdf’s to your dropbox. More on that later. But here’s the problem. Both apps are pdf annotation tools. I don’t know about you, but my students have a hard enough time submitting .doc files to me. PDF files just might send them over the edge, so in order to grade on my tablet, I would need to convert all the essays to pdf files. I can do that in several ways. Here are a few options.

Option 1: Open every essay and re-save as pdf using Word. Not! Too time consuming.

Option 2: Use Wappwolf Automator for Dropbox. If you have a Dropbox account, set up Wappwolf to automate this process for you. Choose the folder in Dropbox that you plan to put the essays in, and then choose convert to pdf when you set up your automation in Wappwolf. That’s it. It will convert pretty much everything but Apple’s iWorks pages files. Does anyone even use Pages? Anyway, Wappwolf will convert and put the original doc files into a new “processed” folder. It will also auto-convert all the files already in the folder if you’re not starting from scratch.

Here’s the process for grading those essays now. Download the essays in bulk from your LMS. This works in both Canvas and Blackboard. Open the essay folder, select all files, and drag them to the Dropbox folder you chose in the first steps. Now all your essays are in that folder in your dropbox, and they are automatically converted to pdf files. Go to your tablet, open your Dropbox app, choose the folder with the essays, open a file using your pdf annotation app and start annotating. Usually when you choose a pdf file to open your device will give you a few options if you have several apps installed. Be sure to choose the annotation app to be the default. Annotate the essay and save it back to the dropbox. When you’re finished, upload the essays back to your LMS for students to view. Now what’s really cool is if you don’t change the names of the original files, Canvas will let you upload them back to Canvas in bulk. This is the only step I’m not sure about, as I’m not sure if Canvas counts changing the file type from doc to pdf counts as changing the file name. If it does, then the bulk upload back to Canvas won’t work. You’ll have to do it individually as you add the grade, like you probably do now.

*BONUS: Here’s a way to automate this even further. Skip the whole download the class essays from the LMS part and automatically add to Dropbox by using a JotForm.

Instead of having students upload their essays to the LMS, create a form for them to use to submit their essays. Embed the form on the assignment page in your LMS. Students fill out the form, attach their essay file and done. A whole bunch of cool stuff happens next. Students can get an email verification that you indeed received their essay. You too can get an email if you want. The file that was submitted gets added to a folder in, yep you got it, your Dropbox account. Then you just follow the steps above. Pretty sweet, no?

Here’s what I haven’t tested. JotForm creates a folder automatically for you in your dropbox, so when you set up Wappwolf Automator you need to be sure to choose the JotForm folder. Now what I don’t know is if Wappwolf will convert files in a subfolder inside the folder you set up, as JotForm creates a new folder for each form you create. So I have a folder named Final Paper Submission (from the form above) inside my JotForm folder in Dropbox. If it doesn’t work that way, you would need to create a separate automation for each essay/form you create. Still not bad.

So there you go. Now you have no excuse not to grade those essays. You can grade them on your tablet or your phone for that matter. Ugh, no thank you. 😉 Let me know if you give this a try.

 

19
Mar

MIL Proposal 2012- Statement of Project Goals

So I’m finally getting around to applying for the Maricopa Institute of Learning (MIL) Fellowship Program in the district. MIL is a “Fellowship for six residential faculty in any discipline who are interested in examining significant issues in their teaching fields and contributing to the scholarship of teaching and learning through classroom research projects. Its secondary purpose is to create a community of scholars that will engage in conversations about the scholarship of teaching and learning.” I’ve wanted to apply for about five years now, but I’ve never gotten around to it. Well, this is the year, and here is my statement of project goals. I’ll post the rest once I’m accepted (fingers crossed).

With the growing popularity of online courses in the district, more students are opting for an online course of study. And as we rush to provide these online courses, we continue to look for more effective online instructional practices. Online asynchronous discussion seems to be the most prevalent practice in online courses. Online asynchronous discussions are discussions through an online media where participants are responding to each other, but not simultaneously. Online discussions are good practice because the discussion is happening in an asynchronous manner, participants have time to think about the question and others’ responses before posting their response. They are able to develop their thoughts more fully, rather than responding immediately after the question is asked. The discussion groups also provide an opportunity for participants to hear feedback from members who may be reluctant to share information in a face-to-face group setting. It is an effective online instructional practice. However, in most cases asynchronous discussions, despite their good points, more often than not are the least favorite aspect of the online course according to students. This is the case mostly because online discussions are not implemented effectively by instructors. My goal for this project is to research effective ways to structure online asynchronous discussions with particular emphasis on student led small group interaction. Discussions in online and hybrid courses as an instructional technique are integral to using cooperative learning structures, so that will be the focus of my research.

24
Aug

Mobile Learning Takes Shape in ENG101

I’m about one semester away from teaching a fully mobilized ENG101 course. What do I mean by a mobilize course and mobile learning? Mobile learning is learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies. Mobile gadgets are everywhere, and just about every student has a mobile phone in his/her pocket. Why not take advantage of these learning tools, as like to refer to them?

So this semester I introduced a mobile learning opportunity to my students in the ENG101 class. I created content that could be viewed, read, watched and listened to on a mobile device. Then I created this video to tell students about it. How they take advantage of what I’ve created and to what extent is yet to be seen.

5
Jul

Video Essay Option Available to Students

For two semesters now, I’ve written into the plans an option for students to do a video essay for the argumentative essay instead of writing a traditional position paper. So far only two students have attempted a video, with mixed reviews. In the first case, the student did a good job with using the technology, but the argument itself was a bit confusing. It’s unclear if this is due to the use of the technology or if the student just had trouble rationalizing her argument. In a written paper it is easy to quickly dismiss the argument as poorly written and unsupported by the evidence in the paper. But with a video, it is not as clear. With so few students choosing this option, it seems a waste of time to dig into supporting arguments in video form. This is something I will have to do as more and more students choose to do video.

Presently this is the only criteria I have listed in the instructions:

  • 3-5 Minutes in length
  • documentation required (use APA style)
  • work needs to make a claim and support it (in other words, this work should have a thesis and support that thesis just like the position paper)
  • research (at the very least, for images, video, and audio) required

Grade will be determined by how well video essay meets criteria and how the essay is suited/developed for the video format.

In preparation, I ask students to:

You will need to script your work. Beyond the obvious (you need to determine what claim you will make and how you will support it), you should storyboard your work. An easy way to do this is by creating a table using a wiki (why a wiki? this way, you can keep it as a resource for your final portfolio). To create a storyboard, simply create a two column table in a document. In the left hand side you may put an image or a description of an image. In the right hand side, place any notes or voice overs that you may include. I’d suggest you list your purpose in a brief heading/ abstract.

I found most of this assignment on the internet and have adapted it to fit my needs for this assignment. I also had to update the technology instructions to fit the tools available today.  I give them an example of the storyboard and then give them some steps to follow in creating their video using Windows Movie Maker. Students are required to submit their storyboard and a works cited page with the video essay. I won’t have an example until we work out all the kinks or until a student knocks this assignment out of the park.

16
Feb

New Player for ENG101 Podcast

I’ve been experimenting with flash players for my weekly podcasts in my freshman composition courses. I this one from MyFlashFetish.com was pretty cool. I’ll paste the code into the course blog and see how students like it.


music player
I made this music player at MyFlashFetish.com.

16
Apr

Using del.icio.us for Research in ENG102 Course

Yes, just this semester I tried implementing del.icio.us into my ENG102 (research) class to help students share their research with each other. I wouldn’t say it was a huge success, but I still believe it is a worthwhile assignment. The main problem was that many students are not familiar with social bookmarking and can’t see a need for it. Students tend to “live for the moment” meaning they search for something in Google, find what they need, use it for whatever purpose, and then they are on to something else. It’s hard to get them to think in terms of “saving” for later or even sharing it with someone else. I also had to teach students how to download the bookmark extensions for the browsers in class and how to use the extension. This is all time consuming.

The assignment was based around a unit theme for the course, personal freedoms. This was an exploration assignment to get ideas for topics that fit into the theme. We used the notes section to practice summary skills. They wrote 3-5 sentence summaries of what the web pages covered, and we used the tags section to come up with keywords related to the topics. They could later use those same keywords to do further searches for periodicals and books. A requirement was that one tag must be: personal+freedoms. By using this tag we created a repository of web pages on the topic of personal freedoms, which then becomes a starting point for students exploring a topic to research and argue. Here is a list of our collection: http://del.icio.us/tag/%22personal%2Bfreedoms%22
We needed to spend more time on the tagging and keywords. They did do very well there.

I then used the RSS feed to port the collection into Blackboard, explaining to students that they could view the collection right from there, and whenever anyone added more to it, it would automatically repopulate with all the new content.

The evaluation part came in later. We were only concerned with gathering and sharing ideas with that assignment. The next assignment was to choose a page from the collection and evaluate it. The lecture discussed how web sources are not always reliable and are not always the best for college papers. My guess was that many of the pages collected would not be great sources, so an evaluation would point out some major flaws. They were then asked to search and share again, armed with this new knowledge, but I’m not so sure the second batch of pages collected were any better than the first.

I hope that explains it. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask. I’m already think of better ways to do it next time.