Learning Objectives – Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation – Carnegie Mellon University

Source: www.cmu.edu

What is the most important thing in your course for students to know or do in five years? That’s the question that we use to start the first consultation we have with instructors.  It is important to understand what you expect of students. This becomes the foundation that instructors build their course.  Once they know what the consider to be the most important part of their course, they can begin to build the learning objectives that will guide students in their learning. 

This website has great resources on building good learning objectives that are student centered and help to guide students.  This website also shows the importance of alignment.  This is where you align your assessments and learning activities with specific learning objectives.  This helps to eliminate confusion and keep students on track with what the instructor finds to be the most important parts of the course.

What is STEM Transformation?


I had the opportunity to attend a conference in October called Transforming Institutions: 21st Century STEM Education.  There were many good ideas that I took away from this conference but the question that I started the conference with is, what is Transforming Institutions, STEM Education really all about. I know what STEM is.  It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  But what does transformation mean? The easy definition that I found was “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance”. (Thanks Google!) So the question really is, what needs to change (or be transformed) about the way that we teach STEM disciplines?

That question is a little harder to answer. If we say that we need to transform the way we teach, that first assumes that we admit there is an issue with how we are teaching now.  Is that true?  The opening keynote gave a couple of statistics that are quite startling.  Two-thirds of Americans over the age of 25 don’t have a college degree. Around 50% of students who start college never complete.  Is this true?

In the past few years we have seen an increase in the scholarship of teaching that has been focused on actively engaging students in courses and the positive outcomes that come from that.  Unfortunately, these activities are a minority on most campuses.  The culture of most campuses was fashioned many years ago and success for all students wasn’t part of that culture.  What was re-iterated over and over at the conference was that to make true change we must make student success the focus for the campus and make it the mission of everyone.

What does student success mean to you?

Faculty Success = Student Success & Student Success = Faculty Success


I had the opportunity to attend a conference in October called Transforming Institutions: 21st Century STEM Education. There were many good ideas that I took away from this conference but one that continues to resonate with me is that for many of us in higher education, we influence student success by helping to make faculty successful. When faculty succeed in the teaching and learning mission we can help students succeed as well.

In order to establish this culture of success, we need to first understand who we are as a university. Many of our institutions have a culture that was formed many years ago and hasn’t changed even though our students have changed. We base are strategic plans, activities and events around assumptions. As those who want to change this culture we need to be deliberate and systematic about analytics. Spending time studying our data will help us understand who we are and where we are. We must never stop taking risks as it is through these risks, and sometimes failures, that we can learn the most.

We can make a difference and the way that our universities were in the past doesn’t mean they must be that way in the future. We can be agents for change. We must always strive for success and realize that when we have success in one area we should not consider it final. We should push for a culture that accepts nothing less than continued success.

LMS Update

Last year, Educational Technology supported a committee of faculty and students to evaluate our current Learning Management System (LMS), Blackboard.  This LMS Review effort was part of a larger project to understand whether the portfolio of learning technologies we had implemented on campus contained the best tools to meet the needs of instructors and students on our campus.

The committee did a great job working together and asking the hard questions about teaching and learning needs on our campus.  We helped facilitate several open forums where feedback from students was gathered to help the committee understand students’ needs and desires.  In late fall the LMS Review committee decided to look at other learning management systems to better understand the entire picture of potential learning management systems’ capabilities.  According to the committee, “If we’ve never seen anything else, how do we know we are even asking the right questions?”

The committee focused in on the major LMS offerings, Desire2Learn, Canvas, Sakai, and Blackboard. A scoring guide was developed help the evaluation process.  (This scoring guide can be found on the Resources portion of the project website.)  After preliminary evaluation by the committee, the three finalist LMS vendors were invited to make campus presentations.  Following the campus visits, further hands-on evaluation of the products continued.  In March, with the evaluation of products completed, the committee unanimously recommended that Canvas would better serve the teaching and learning needs of Missouri S&T.  But what does that mean?  EdTech has never guided the campus through such a significant change in a foundational learning technology software like this before.  What were the steps?  It seemed around every corner we have found more steps that need to be taken in order to make this happen.  If our campus changes LMS, what about the other UM campuses? How might this affect the UM Course Sharing Initiative?  What about procurement?

Since S&T completed our evaluation, Columbia campus has started theirs.  MU’s timeline is to evaluate possibilities and gather information through this semester. They plan to make a recommendation by the end of the fall 2014 semester.  UMKC has indicated a desire to stay with Blackboard, but is exploring the alternative of having Blackboard, Inc. host their server.  There seems to be a lot of activity around LMS across the System!

There has also been an announcement about the evaluation of the ERP (JoeSS, finance, HR) from the President.  This is a major endeavor that affects many functional groups across the system.  Unfortunately, this appears to be the major stumbling block for further progress toward implementing a better LMS for S&T.  Upper UM System administration is asking us to wait on any decisions about the LMS until after there is a plan in place to address the needs of the ERP, latest estimate is 6-9 months.

There are always complexities in this sort of decision and implementation plan.  Some are anticipated, some are not.  EdTech and the LMS Review committee are continuing to work diligently to resolve the issues that arise in order to settle once and for all what learning management system S&T will be using.  For the time being, and through spring 2015 at least, it remains Blackboard.

I can assure you that no matter what LMS is chosen; EdTech will be here to help you.  Our goal is to do what is best to address the teaching and learning mission of our campus.  As of right now, an extended demonstration phase of Canvas is occurring where EdTech is really digging into the back-end management process and working to understand how everything works while a limited number of faculty and students continue to use Canvas for some classes.  Additional feedback from the faculty and students using Canvas this semester will help inform us and the other campuses as we move forward with the LMS discussion and decision.  We will continue to work with UM System to understand the process for making this change and what steps we need to complete.  If you have any questions about what is happening don’t hesitate to contact us.  Stayed tuned for future developments!

Adding the Pizzazz to Your Course with Digital Content

“Technology alone will not improve learning.  However, it can support the learning process by making access more convenient and enabling new activities.”

Learning Objects

MERLOT – Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching

Connexions – The Connexions Consortium (http://cnxconsortium.org)
is a group of organizations and individuals, including the world’s
foremost leaders in education, who work together to advance open source
educational technology and open access educational content.

Inside the LMS – Blackboard
EdTech Blackboard Resources

Creating and Designing a Custom Banner

  1. Open a new PowerPoint 2007 document.
  2. Click the DESIGN tab.
  3. Choose Page Setup and set the length to 9.25″ and height to 1.5″. Click OK.  This becomes the size of your page and it fits nicely at the top of the Blackboard opening page.
  4. Type in the title of the course and any other information you want the students to see.  Keep it short and sweet.
  5. If you decide to add clip art, keep in mind copyright laws.
  6. In the DESIGN tab, you will have several choices for background.  Click through them to decide which one you would like to use.
  7. Click the Office button.
  8. Choose SAVE AS, then Other Formats.
  9. Scroll through the file types until you see JPEG File Interchange Format.
  10. Click SAVE.
  11. Choose the Option Current Slide Only.
  12. Now open your Blackboard page and choose the course you want to add the banner to.
  13. In the Control Panel, click Customization and then Style.
  14. Scroll down to Part 5 and click Browse for Local File, locate your jpeg file and click Open.
  15. Click Submit.
  16. Click on Announcements and your banner should now appear.

Customizing Your Course Menu

Adding YouTube Videos

  1. Locate the video you like to embed on YouTube.
  2. Click on the <Embed> button to get the embed code.
  3. Highlight and copy the embed code. (Highlight > Right Click > Copy)
  4. Login to the Blackboard and open your course.
  5. Open the Content Area in which you would like to insert your video and click Create Item at the top.
  6. Name your Video Clip and then click on the <> button to turn on HTML Toggle Mode.
  7. Paste the YouTube embed code into the textbox. (Paste = Ctrl + V)
  8. Click Submit.

Adding Prezi to Blackboard
What is Prezi?
1. Locate the Prezi you would like to add to Blackboard.

  1. Click on the <Embed> button to get the embed code.
  2. Highlight and copy the embed code. (Highlight > Right Click >
  3. Login to the Blackboard and open your course.
  4. Open the Content Area in which you would like to insert your video
    and click Create Item at the top.
  5. Name your Presentation and then click on the <> button to turn
    on HTML Toggle Mode.
  6. Paste the Prezi embed code into the textbox. (Paste = Ctrl + V)
  7. Click Submit.

Adding a Widget
What is CountDownr?

  1. Fill in boxes in the Add New Counter
  2. Click on Create Link.
  3. Scroll to the section with the information to embed the code.
  4. Click your mouse inside of this box and do select all (Ctrl + A) and then copy (Ctrl + C).
  5. Open the location within your Blackboard course where you would like this timer to appear.
  6. There are four things to do.
    1. Title your object.
    2. Click on the <> symbol to toggle to HTML Source Mode.
    3. Paste your code into box.
    4. Scroll to the bottom of the Blackboard page and click Submit.

Adding an Online Poll

  1. From the menu at the top right, select Poll. Select Create Poll.
  2. Enter your question in the question field.
  3. Enter your answers in the answer field.
  4. You can set parameters for your questions.
  5. Select a language for your poll.
  6. Select the desired style for your poll.
  7. Click Save and Continue.
  8. There will be a window that opens that will have the code for embedding.  Select the code (Ctrl + A) and copy it (Ctrl + C).
  9. Login to Blackboard and open your course.
  10. Open the Content Area in which you would like to insert your poll
    and click Create Item at the top.
  11. Name your poll
    and then click on the <> button to turn
    on HTML Toggle Mode.
  12. Paste the poll embed code into the
    textbox. (Paste = Ctrl + V)
  13. Click Submit.

Other Tools In Blackboard
Voice Tools

A Dialogue for Engagement

How do you know a student is engaged in your course?  What steps do you take to foster engagement?  These are questions that every instructor begins to ask as they are doing course design as it is vital to the success of the course.  “Engaged learners work willingly, instead of by coercion, and approach their assignments as something that matters to them personally.  The spirit of engendered by engaged learners in a course is infectious, spreading among and sustaining all participants,” states an EDUCAUSE article in September/October issue (EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 45, no. 5 (September/October 2010): 38-56).  The article goes on to give examples from five different instructors on how they foster engagement.

A Dialogue for Engagement will take you to the text of the article.

How would you foster engagement in your course?

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video

It is common today for people, students, to make and share videos to tell stories, complete projects or start debates. The internet and websites like YouTube have helped to make it so much easier to share these video creations. This digital platform allows "old" culture to be transformed into new and for a generation to express themselves on a medium they are very comfortable with. To deny the right of these individuals to be creative, would stifle the emerging culture. The number one question that gets asked is "Can I use this video content in my class?". Up until recently, that questions was met with discussion of copyright and fair use. But what does "fair use" mean? Fair use is the right to use copyrighted material without permission or payment under some circumstances. This definition still left lots of room for interpretation.
A distinguished panel of experts, from cultural scholarship, legal scholarship and legal practice, came together to develop a Code of Best Practices. This code was based on research, current personal and nonprofessional video practices and on fair use. This code of best practices was not designed to be restrictive but to give some guidance and framework as individuals are creating their stories, mashups and debates.
Code of Best Practices
1. COMMENTING ON OR CRITIQUING OF COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL – Individuals have the right to evaluate, scrutinize and comment on copyrighted material. This is a safeguard for freedom of expression.
2. USING COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL FOR ILLUSTRATION OR EXAMPLE – When using copyrighted material for example, individuals simply need to give proper credit just as someone does who is writing a paper.
3. CAPTURING COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL INCIDENTALLY OR ACCIDENTALLY – If it was captured by accident and not staged, it is OK for limited use.
4. REPRODUCING, REPOSTING, OR QUOTING IN ORDER TO MEMORIALIZE, PRESERVE, OR RESCUE AN EXPERIENCE, AN EVENT, OR A CULTURAL PHENOMENON – If an individual takes video of themselves at a concert to remember the experience and they capture some of a song, that is fair use.
6. QUOTING IN ORDER TO RECOMBINE ELEMENTS TO MAKE A NEW WORK THAT DEPENDS FOR ITS MEANING ON (OFTEN UNLIKELY) RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN ELEMENTS – It is the same as creating a collage of pictures. Individuals will put together completely unrelated video segments to create something brand new.
These are simply guiding principles that can be used in a variety of hybrid situations. As video making, mashups continue to evolve so with the fair use practices.
To read the full paper go to Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video
Update (Malcolm Hays): To help underscore the point the authors of this paper are making about Fair Use, they have added a still image of the "Dramatic Chipmunk" video that made its way around the Internet some time ago. The video linked here is simply a short snippet of a longer video wherein a prairie dog turns to face the camera suddenly. Someone put this short snippet to dramatic music and an Internet sensation was born! This could loosely be construed to fit within guideline number 5 above, as it certainly sparked some notoriety and discussion on the Internet (along with spawning a dozen different variations on this theme).

Archiving Your Blackboard Course

Blackboard_Logo.jpg It’s the end of the semester and while we are looking forward to summer, there are a few things you can do to help prepare for next year. One of those is to archive your Blackboard course to be ready to use the material in coming semesters.
Why would you archive? Archiving is great for providing you with all the information in your Blackboard course for use in another course. This can be particularly important if you are not teaching the course for a few years due to scheduling or a sabbatical.
Archiving is easy. Just follow these simple steps.
* From your Blackboard course, click Control Panel.
* Click Archive.
* You can choose to archive the different portions of your account.
* Click Submit.
     Note: It doesn’t immediately prepare the file for download. Blackboard will send
     you an email letting you know when the package is ready.
* Click on the zip file to download. Remember where you saved the file!
     Note: This is a zip file that only works inside Blackboard.
* Once you have downloaded the file, remove it from your Blackboard course.
Now you have your course information ready for when you next need it.