Archives for May 2014

Part 2 – Using Google Docs to Build Student Engagement and Success by Involving Students in the Rubric-Creation Process

rubrics-cubeIn this blog post I’ll discuss how to set up a Google Doc, as well as relate some classroom best practices for this type of collaborative online exercise, including how to get students started, how to constructively guide the editing session, and how to ready the finished rubric for use. (NOTE: You will need to have a Google Apps for Education account in order to use Google Drive. Instructions for syncing your S&T account with Google Apps for Education can be found here.)

First things first – Getting your class onboard with the importance of rubrics

As an instructor, your students will tend to follow your lead. They might not always be paying attention to the material, but I promise that they are keenly aware of you and how you run your class. If you consistently use rubrics for grading, peer review, and formative development of assignments, your students will quickly realize that rubrics play an important role in determining their grades. After a short while, students who have been paying attention to how you teach will begin to expect a rubric to appear with each new assignment. This is exactly what you want to happen. Most people (students included!) are looking for an advantage; when students realize that they have the chance to develop an assignment rubric and directly affect the way their assignments are graded, you’ll have the student buy-in you need to make a collaborative rubric-building session a success.

Setting up the Google Doc for use

First you’ll want to set up a blank Google Doc that will become the rubric. To begin, navigate to Click the Create button and select “Document” from the drop-down list. This will create a new, empty Google Doc. Next, to make a rubric, you’ll need a table. Click the Insert tool, select “Table” from the drop-down list, and define an appropriate sized table for your rubric. The intended dimensions of your rubric will, of course, dictate the table size. 5×5 is a common size, but the table can always be later expanded or contracted as needed.

At this point you have created a document, but before it is ready for use the document must be shared and have full editing permissions set for users. To share the document, click the Share button in the top right-hand corner of the workspace. This will open the “Sharing settings” dialog box. Under the “Who has access” option, select the Change button, and then select the option Anyone with the link. This setting will allow anyone with the link to access the document. To allow anyone with the link to edit the document, change the Access drop-down option from “Can view” to “Can edit.”

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Part 1 – Using Google Docs to Build Student Engagement and Success by Involving Students in the Rubric-Creation Process

rubrics-cubeThere is a wide consensus among educators that rubrics can be very useful tools. For instructors, rubrics often enable rapid student assessment and standards-based grading as well as reinforcing learning objectives and helping to standardize a course curriculum. For students, rubrics can be a useful tool for providing formative guidelines for assignments while—ideally—spurring reflection and self-assessment.

Rubrics can do wonderful things for students, but only if students actually look at the rubric, understand it, and use it. Many instructors have had the experience of passing out a rubric only to see students quietly file it away never to be seen or thought of again, or even worse, have seen their students throw away the rubrics en masse as they leave the classroom. Clearly, this is an ineffective use of a rubric. So how can instructors ensure that students both know about the rubric and that they will be more likely to use it when drafting an assignment?

One way to promote rubrics is to have students collaboratively build the rubric themselves.

People (yes, undergraduates are people too!) often do not value that which has been freely given; however, people tend to highly value what they have worked for. In my experience as an undergraduate-level technical writing instructor, students who were empowered to create an assignment rubric typically become much more interested in that document as a useful and advantageous tool.

Of course, as an instructor, you have to carefully guide this process in order to end up with a usable rubric that accurately reflects the effort and complexity surrounding the subject material. Having students develop their own assignment rubric is not often a day one activity; the first step is imparting a working body of knowledge. You will be asking students to descriptively evaluate what makes a “good” or “bad” assignment submission, and students must collectively possess the domain knowledge required to make these judgments. However, as students get to the point where they have a working knowledge of a subject and realize that they are able to determine their own assignment scores based on previously-agreed upon metrics, a rubric becomes a powerful tool for students to use when completing an assignment.

One particularly powerful tool for facilitating collaborative rubric-building is Google Docs. Google Docs is a multi-author online collaborative document space. In this environment, up to 50 people can simultaneously edit a document. As you might imagine, a live document with 25 editors can quickly become very chaotic. But, if this chaos is constructively controlled, the end result can be quite amazing; students typically draft along parallel lines of thought, build upon each other’s work, make corrections, and ultimately select the “best” version of work, all in real-time. The end result is often a very high-bandwidth human discussion about the classroom subject material wherein metrics for success and failure are critically engaged by students; you’ll also end up with a student-created rubric that (very likely!) closely parallels your own original rubric. The most key difference is that now students are full stakeholders in the rubric. They’ll know exactly what a rubric is, what it’s good for, and how to use it. After all, they created it.

In the next blog post I’ll discuss how to set up a Google Doc, as well as relate some classroom best practices for this type of collaborative online exercise including how to get students started,  how to constructively guide the editing session, and how to ready the finished rubric for use.

S&T Students Prefer Canvas to Blackboard for Online Testing

canvas-v-blackboardOver the last several months, many instructors on campus have come together to take a look at Blackboard and its competition. The decision was made by the faculty committee to conduct a pilot using Instructure Canvas, an open-source learning management system (LMS), which has experienced tremendous growth in the last couple of years. The faculty have recommended that the campus make the leap from Blackboard to Canvas. So, what do our students think?

As a part of that pilot, I decided to take the bull by the horns and try out the testing capabilities in Canvas. I had already given online assessments using Blackboard and Moodle at S&T and elsewhere. This spring, I provided assessments using Blackboard, Instructure Canvas, and Qualtrics, a survey tool available on campus.

At the end of the course, I surveyed my students and let’s just say that the numbers speak for themselves. Our students like Canvas as much as our instructors do!

LMS/Testing Tool Student Preference
Instructure Canvas 74%
Blackboard 14%
No Preference 9%
Qualtrics 3%

Blackboard FALL 2014 Courses Now Available

FALL 2014 courses in Blackboard have now been renumbered, using a new 4-digit re-numbering system approved and adopted by both the Faculty Senate and the Registrar.

Instructors can now access their Fall 2014 courses and begin adding course materials, either copying from existing courses or creating new content.

The Registrar and IT have worked together to create a web-based application to help you identify the new course numbers for courses you teach: Online Course Renumbering Crosswalk. This link can also be found through the Registrar’s website under the Class Offerings left-menu item.

IT, EdTech, and the Registrar are working to make this transition as smooth as possible.

The official cutover date to the new 4-digit numbering system is scheduled for August 1, 2014.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to contact EdTech ( or 573-341-4131), the Help Desk ( or 573-341-HELP) or the Registrar ( or 573-341-4181).