Archives for June 2008

Campus License Agreement for Respondus Software Application

Missouri S&T now has a campus licensing agreement for Respondus. Respondus is a software application that allows instructors to create tests, quizzes, and other assessments for use in their course. Respondus is compatible with Blackboard and other learning management systems.
Instructors who have already purchased a license for Respondus will not need to renew their license. They will need to contact IT to have the campus-licensed version installed instead.
Instructors who do not have Respondus and would like to have Respondus installed should submit an online Help Request or contact the IT Help Desk at 341-HELP for assistance.

Are Your Distance Students Paying Attention?

The Wired Campus (blog of The Chronicle of Higher Education) has a posting up that describes a new technology instructors can use to determine if distance students are actually paying attention. A YouTube video about the technology is posted below.

The sample size used in this study was only 8 subjects, but definitely seemed to give promising results. I would wager that further studies will produce similar outcomes (I could be wrong, though).
The idea behind this technology is to give instructors feedback on whether the students in an online course find the material difficult to understand. This should not be the only technology used, of course, but it might provide instructors with some insight. They could also see if students are "nodding off", which could be an indication that the student is tired or the instructor is boring.

Do Conversations Matter in Web 2.0?

Dr. Trent Batson, who also wrote an article on the irrelevance of paper-based instruction, has written a new article for Campus Technology–"Learning in the Webiverse: How Do You Grade a Conversation?"
Dr. Batson first introduces his article with an anecdote of a colleague of his who monitored students’ postings to Blackboard. Students who simply posted an essay on the topic at hand were given poor grades. However, students who responded to material written by other students and tried to advance a conversation by referring to other students comments were given higher grades. The highest grades were reserved for students who synthesized several comments in their own comments.
This example is used to illustrate one criterion for grading a written conversation (as opposed to an essay or an article)–using cohesion elements to connect two or more language elements together. For instance, this blog post is itself using the cohesion element of Dr. Batson’s article in Campus Technology to create some dialog. I don’t know if Dr. Batson will ever read this blog post (might want to send this to him for him to respond to), so it is indeterminate if our combined efforts will lead to further discussion of the topic of conversation evaluation.
Anyone who has followed or contributed to a conversation in blog comments elsewhere in the blogosphere will be familiar with the process of online conversations.
Another criteria mentioned by Dr. Batson is "audience awareness". Anyone who has taken a course in technical writing should be familiar with this. In this particular example, Dr. Batson suggests that students posting content to a Blackboard discussion forum should address their comments not only to their instructor, but also directly to the students they are responding to. In the hierarchy of audiences, the other students should be the primary audience for the comment poster, while the instructor serves as a secondary audience. Each audience will have different needs and expectations for using the content that is posted. The other students will, hopefully, become more engaged in the subject matter of the course. They should also learn something about their fellow students and also gain a deeper understanding of the material through thought-provoking comments posted by other students. The instructor should monitor the conversation to see that the students are comprehending the material to the satisfaction of the instructor. The instructor can also step in and post comments when the students begin to drift off-course. This can be a way for the instructor to interject himself into the conversation without intimidating the students (as might happen in a more traditional face-to-face instruction setting). Monitoring the conversation also allows the instructor to pass judgment on a student’s writing skills (grammatical and analytical).
Dr. Batson further argues that Web 2.0 technology (blogs, wikis, podcasts, instant messaging, chatrooms, etc.) is a very good tool for conversing with others, just as Web 2.0 is good for visualization, referencing, and aggregation. Furthermore, there seem to be some natural linguistic rules that seem to apply to the use of these technologies such that they are accessible to nearly any one of any age, discipline, or interest. In my own experiences around the web, this certainly seems to be the case. The explosive profusion of blogs over the past few years is phenomenal. Everyone has an opinion and they are seldom hesitant to express their opinion in a Web 2.0 format.
Although I do not have any experience "grading" an online conversation on a given topic, I do have a number of blogs I like to visit simply because the "local" community that participates in the blog often has some very thought-provoking comments (those blog commenters would get a high grade, using Dr. Batson’s standards). Other blogs have comments that often devolve into flame-wars or ad hominem attacks against other commenters (those folks would be graded much lower).

Educational Technology Offers Clicker Training for Instructors on Thursday, June 26, 2008

On Thursday, June 26, 2008, Educational Technology will be hosting two training sessions for instructors who use clickers (or will be using clickers) to teach courses this fall.
IT will be releasing TurningPoint 2008 in conjunction with Office 2007 this fall, so EdTech strongly recommends ALL clicker faculty attend at least one of the two clicker training sessions (we will schedule more if the sessions fill up).
Basic Clicker/TurningPoint Training
Basic Clicker/TurningPoint training is for instructors who have never used clickers before. You will learn how to create clicker slides in TurningPoint, how to run a show during class, what reports are available and more.
Date: Thursday, June 26, 2008
Time: 10 a.m. – Noon
Location: 103 Library
Advanced Clicker/TurningPoint Training
Advanced Clicker/TurningPoint training is available only for instructors who have already taught at least one clicker-enhanced course. You will learn about conditional branching techniques, how to set up course standards for your clicker course so that you can verify if student are meeting your established academic objectives, and you will learn how to create multi-answer questions.
Date: Thursday, June 26, 2008
Time: 2 – 4 p.m.
Location: 103 Library
Register for Clicker Training
To sign up for one or both of the clicker training sessions, follow the steps below:
1. Go to http://edtech.mst.edu
2. Click Register for Training.
3. Type in your Missouri S&T userid and password and click OK.
4. Click on the training session you want to sign up for.
5. Click Register.

Next-Gen.Edu Classrooms

This month’s issue of Campus Technology has an article by Dian Schaffhauser (Incubating Next-Gen.Edu) wherein she discusses how universities across the country are learning from each other to create new technology-enhanced classrooms to enhance the student learning experience.
"Incubator classrooms", as she calls them, usually have a number of distinguishing features: multiple projector/video displays, pods of computer workstations, collaboration software, and SMART boards. The real difference seems to be in how the technology is deployed in any given learning space and for what purpose they are deployed as determined by faculty and university administrators.
For instance, the University of California-Riverside has a standard set of technology deployed for all of its centrally-scheduled classrooms (much as we do here at Missouri S&T, though UC-Riverside had their standards established a few years before we did). However, they also have a set of "flex classrooms" which have additional technology above and beyond the standard baseline level of technology. Finally, they have their premiere showcase facility–the Hyperstruction Studio, which debuted its first course in January 2008. After looking at the Hyperstruction Studio web site, it seems as though the room is equipped with technology similar to our own University Center Technology Classroom (UCTC). The presentation displays in the room are connected to Dell Optiplex GX280 PC machines, which is about the equivalent of the lower-end systems found in a few CLCs here on campus. Students use Gateway M285-E tablet PCs, which are stored on a cart in the classroom when they are not in use (students can bring their own laptops, too). The Hyperstruction Studio does have a few added features that our UCTC does not, such as 42" plasma displays and videoconferencing capabilities. We do have videoconferencing capability elsewhere on campus (CS 212/213), just not in the UCTC.

Hyperstruction Studio at UC-Riverside — Click and hold the mouse on the image above to rotate 360° around the room (Quicktime plugin required).
Also in California, Santa Clara University recently built a $95 million facility (Santa Clara is located in Silicon Valley, so money apparently isn’t an issue there like it is on our campus) that houses its Learning Commons, Technology Center, and Library. This brand new facility is home to a number of classrooms that include neo-traditional learning spaces such as the one described above at UC-Riverside as well as very small "educational experimentation rooms" where instructors can explore the potential uses of new technology before rolling it out on a larger scale.
One of the more interesting aspects of Santa Clara’s facility is a room that allows the instructor to redesign the space for different learning applications on a whim, more or less. The room has a very flexible power grid that means an instructor can completely reconfigure the design space in about 30 minutes (using the already existing technology, of course). In actuality, it appears as though they have a few standard configurations that they can set up fairly quickly depending on needs.

[Read more…]

Strategies for Establishing E-learning Policies

In 2004, Educause Quarterly published an article on "The Importance of Policies in E-Learning Instruction" by Shirley Waterhouse and Rodney Rogers. This article is a very good overview of the issues that instructors need to think about when creating online courses. As with any course (traditional or new-fangled technological), it is important to establish from the beginning what your expectations are for your students and what the students can expect from you with regard to grading, homework, assignments, exams, privacy, communication, and so forth. In every class I’ve been in this information is presented in the syllabus.
Many courses on this campus are managed through Blackboard, which enables instructors to post all of the information necessary for the smooth running of a course–assignments, syllabus, supplemental readings, activities, quizzes, and more.
Waterhouse and Rogers provide some recommendations for disseminating the policies in an online course. For example, they have a sample email policy document that clearly delineates what email content is appropriate for the course and what is not and also when a student can expect a reply via email. Waterhouse and Rogers also suggest some alternatives to email communication. Blackboard does have a number of tools available for instructors: you can notify students of important information using the Announcements feature, you can set up discussion threads to discuss particular topics, you can also create blog and wiki entries (creating a blog or a wiki requires some configuration on your part since these features are "add-ons" that are not enabled by default).
Another issue that is critically important with regards to student-instructor interaction is how personal information about a student is handled in the online course (i.e. student privacy policies). Instructors probably shouldn’t release personal information about a student to other students in the class, even if only those students would have access to that information. If you plan to publicize a student’s work, either in or out of class, you should certainly obtain that student’s permission–even if you just want to show off a particularly good example of that student’s work to the rest of the class. Here is a good example of a form you might use to solicit students in what they consider acceptable use of their personal information.
student-permission-to-use-form.gif
It is also important to establish some policies for student codes of conduct, particularly if you will be encouraging students to engage each other in a discussion forum or other collaborative online social activity. If you read the comments in blogs or discussion forums in non-academic sites, sometimes the conversation can become a little heated, especially if the blog allows for anonymous comment posting (well, pseudo-anonymous, since the ISP hosting the blog can always track down a user via the IP they used to connect to the blog–this may be something to stress to students who work on projects outside of Blackboard. No one accessing the web is truly anonymous.).
Waterhouse and Rogers conclude their article with a comprehensive overview of fair use and DMCA, including a very nice checklist which contrasts activities that favor fair use (i.e. teaching, research, scholarship, etc.) against those activities that don’t (e.g. commercial activity, unpublished works, significantly large excerpts, etc.). Just in the past year, this campus has become much more aggressive about pursuing DMCA violations. The Student Affairs office and IT have teamed up to make students more aware of the potential consequences of a DMCA violation.