Course Evaluations: Your Chance to Effect Change

Course evaluations at UNE Online

Why does your Student Support Specialist email you near the end of each course, asking you to fill out your course evaluations? Does anyone even look at them? What are course evaluations? Course evaluations are our primary way of getting student feedback within the College of Graduate and Professional Studies (CGPS). They gauge what resonated with students, determine what may not have worked well, and identify opportunities for improvement. While the specific course evaluations and formats may vary from program to program, questions follow the same general patterns. Questions may ask the student to rate their instructor’s interaction within the class, or whether the instructor was accessible and able to answer questions about course materials. However they may be worded, these evaluations will ask you about your experiences in that course and with that instructor. All course evaluations use a combination of short answer text boxes and 1-5 Likert scales to evaluate particular aspects of the course. Related article: How to… Read More >

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CGPS Team Presents at CETL Faculty Workshop

CGPS Staff Faculty with with the poster results of their CETL mini-grant-funded research project

Each year, the University of New England’s Center for the Enrichment of Teaching and Learning (CETL) offers mini-grants to support research into the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) to faculty and staff. In Spring, 2017, Titi Balogun, Practicum Coordinator for the Graduate Programs in Public Health at UNE Online, convened a team of co-investigators to create an application for research funding for this program. Joining Titi were Sharla Willis, Curriculum and Assessment Coordinator for the Graduate Programs in Public Health at UNE Online, and Richard Parent, Director of Assessment at UNE Online. The goal of the project, which is the first College of Graduate and Professional Studies (CGPS) proposal to receive funding through this program, was to gain insight into the perceptions of students in the Graduate Programs in Public Health (GPPH) field practicum experience and their supervising preceptors. The data obtained were used to redesign the Master of Public Health (MPH) practical experience. Brianna Parsons, Research Coordinator for… Read More >

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How Assessment Guarantees Return on Investment

Assessment Guarantees ROI

How do you know that the online courses that you are taking are high-quality and appropriately rigorous? What does Assessment have to do with anything? In an attempt to understand some of the higher-level happenings within the College of Graduate and Professional Studies (CGPS) I recently spoke with Dr. Richard Parent, UNE Online’s Director of Assessment, about the role of Assessment as an integral part of instruction, and how assessment helps determine whether or not a school or program delivers on the promise of a high-quality education. How does Assessment translate to a quality education? Assessment is a guarantee. At CGPS we have a fine-tuned Assessment process that enables us to make good on the promise of a quality education. When a student looks at one of our programs and sees what program competencies are, they know that by the time they successfully complete the program, they will be able to do meet and exceed those competencies. That’s our promise…. Read More >

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Assessing Online Courses is Key to a High-Quality Learning Experience

Assessment at UNE Online

How do you know that the online courses that you are taking are high-quality and appropriately rigorous? Through Assessment. Recently I spoke with Dr. Richard Parent, UNE Online’s Director of Assessment, about the role of Assessment as an integral part of instruction, and how assessment helps determine whether or not a school or program delivers on the promise of a high-quality education. You can read the blog post about assessing students to guarantee a high-quality education, right here. In this post, Dr. Parent shares his perspective on the role of Assessment in higher education. Can you talk about Assessments within courses? In every course, and in each of our programs, we have what we call key assessments. Those are significant projects within a course that measure a student’s ability to master a body of knowledge and to apply that knowledge. Each of those key assessments is where we do spot checks on how well a course is functioning. Each of… Read More >

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Assessing Students to Guarantee a High-Quality Education

Richard Parent, Director of Assessment, UNE Online

Recently I spoke with Dr. Richard Parent, UNE Online’s Director of Assessment, about the role of Assessment as an integral part of instruction, and how assessment helps ensure that a school or program delivers on its promise of delivering a high-quality education. In short, assessment deals with three core issues: Learning outcomes: “Are we teaching what we think we are teaching?” Skill acquisition: “Are students learning what they are supposed to be learning?” Improvement: “Is there a way to teach the subject better, thereby promoting better learning and application?” Dr. Parent weighs in with his perspective on assessment in higher education. Why is assessment is important in choosing a graduate school? Historically, higher education institutions have followed what I like to call a “faith-based” model. In the past, universities just had to have faith that if they put smart instructors in front of a group of students, and had them teach for a while, that the students would learn something…. Read More >

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Portfolios and Authentic Learning

Online Student Portfolios

In an earlier post, I wrote about our Instructional Design work with three of our online instructors in the MSEd Literacy concentration. This mapping and redesign project spurred enthusiastic discourse with both faculty and program managers about the role of authentic assessment in our graduate courses. These conversations led quite naturally to discussions about the role of professional portfolios in graduate level education. Portfolios aren’t exactly new to education. In fact, K-12 teachers have used them as reflective assessment tools for decades. Nonetheless, they have generally been underutilized in universities in favor of more traditional assessment methods. In this, UNE has been ahead of the game. On the one hand, we want our students to become skilled researchers who can articulate the major challenges, philosophies, and educational models that drive 21st century education. Yet, while research papers and rote exams may reveal a student’s knowledge of a subject, they rarely reveal what a student can do with that knowledge. For… Read More >

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Scaffolding for Learning

Scaffolding for Learning

Back in March, my colleague Olga wrote about authentic assessment. In her post, she noted “you scaffold the assignments (activities) and put together course materials necessary to help students do their best in achieving the desired result.” In this Vision post, we’ll take a look at how scaffolding and formative assessment can foster student success throughout your courses. Together, scaffolding and formative assessment should provide students the valuable, low-stakes practice opportunities that will lead them to success in the course’s summative assessment. Instructional scaffolding refers to the supports that faculty provide to help students learn new tasks or concepts they may struggle with on their own. Similar to the scaffolding construction workers use, these are temporary supports that are removed once students are able to accomplish the task or demonstrate mastery of a concept. Dr. Vicki Caruana, of Regis University’s College of Professional Studies, discusses scaffolding and provides some examples in this article. You may be asking yourself, “So how does… Read More >

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How to Write Compelling Final Project Prompts

Writing Prompts

Final projects make or break a course. A good final project incorporates everything the student has learned in the course. It lends structure and meaning to the assignments that precede it, and it offers the student a chance to demonstrate mastery of course material in a way that is authentic to the subject matter. In an introductory nutrition course, for example, a good final project might ask students to complete an educational flyer or develop a blueprint for a blog. Both of these assignments help students cultivate skills they will use in the discipline. A bad final project is unrelated to course material. It fails to provide context; that is, it does not explain why students should complete the project besides simply fulfilling a course requirement. It asks students to complete rote, uninspiring work. It does not engage or inspire; it requires only a dreary slog to the finish line. But even the best final project can fall flat if it… Read More >

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Assessment: You have options beyond multiple choice and lit review

Program Assessment

In backward design, you start any course or lesson with the goal in mind (=the outcome, hence “backward”), and then design an assessment (or a series of assessments) to allow students to demonstrate that they have mastered a certain concept or a skill – as determined by the outcome (or competency). Then, you scaffold the assignments (activities) and put together course materials necessary to help students do their best in achieving the desired result. When the competency reads, “Learn to ride a bike”, the assessment required to evaluate the student’s success is fairly obvious. When competencies are more of the academic, graduate program nature, it’s not always as straightforward to arrive at a best task to confirm that the students are walking away with the outcome we claim. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about authentic assessment, “Authentic assessment is the measurement of “intellectual accomplishments that are worthwhile, significant, and meaningful,” as contrasted to multiple choice standardized tests. Authentic assessment can… Read More >

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Discussion Board Best Practices - A Webinar with Susan Hyde

Discussion Board

Happy to say our webinar on Discussion Board Best Practices went swimmingly, thanks in almost every respect to our one and only Susan Hyde. Her presentation is recorded below, and you can follow along with this direct link to her slideshow should you wish. Resources from the Slideshow (2016). Best Practices for Managing Online Discussions. Teaching Online. The University of Rhode Island. Retrieved from https://web.uri.edu/online/best-practices-in-managing-online-discussions/ Infande, Al. (2013). A Dozen Strategies for Improving Online Student Retention. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/a-dozen-strategies-for-improving-online-student-retention/ Ladyshewsky, Richard K. (2013). Instructor Presence in Online Courses and Student Satisfaction. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Vol. 7:  No. 1, Article 13. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1377&context=ij-sotl (2009). Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation: Resource Guide. TeacherStream, LLC. Retreived from https://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/stw/edutopia-onlinelearning-mastering-online-discussion-board-facilitation.pdf (2011). Using Online Discussions to Enhance Learning in Your Class. Course Support Toolbox. University of Washington. Retrieved from http://depts.washington.edu/swedtech/2011/04/21/using-online-discussion-boards-to-enhance-learning-in-your-class/ Weimer, Maryellen. (2014). What Kinds of Questions Encourage Student Interaction? Magna. Retrieved from https://www.magnapubs.com/online/mentor/What-Kinds-of-Questions-Encourage-Student-Interaction-13205-1.html

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Webinar Series - Fun with Rubrics

Webinar Series

In today’s webinar, Chris Malmberg and Sarah Cochran went into the methods you can use for taking full advantage of the rubrics in your courses, both to grade students fairly and give them quality feedback. There were many questions throughout, which we answered as best we could, but if you have more questions please write them in the comments below.

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Webinar: Peer and Self Assessment in Blackboard

Webinar: Peer and Self Assessment in Blackboard

Please consider watching this brief webinar on Peer and Self Assessment and adding an activity of this nature to your course where appropriate. Thanks for watching! For more information, you can also revisit our previous write-up about Peer and Self Assessment.

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Feedback Focused on Revision

studying supplies

Lori Rand is a guest contributor this week. She has been providing writing support for UNE students since 2009 and has taught English Composition courses for over 15 years. In her current position as an online writing tutor, Lori uses web conferencing to help students practice independent revision and editing. Today’s post relates to one of the most important ways tutors provide feedback on student writing. Feedback Focused on Revision Assessing students on two levels – comprehension of content and communication of ideas through writing – is challenging. Content feedback is usually concrete, but as Olga has written in a past post, giving feedback on writing is not as straightforward. Initial feedback focused on revision vs. editing can significantly help students improve the quality of their writing and thinking. Instructors who provide feedback on early drafts know the benefits, especially if the writing project is weighted heavily in the final grade. Reviewing even a partial draft can help you catch… Read More >

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Self and Peer Assessment

checklist

In many instances, it is beneficial to students to do peer evaluations – that makes them look at submissions more critically and learn in the process, plus using a predetermined rubric helps identify the high points and the important performance criteria for an assignment. The Self and Peer Assessment feature in Blackboard allows students to submit an assignment to a dropbox, then to be randomly assigned several of them for review (anonymous option available) and offer feedback, and even include a self-evaluation, if desired. In the current courses, we often have a discussion forum set up for similar purposes, where one has to submit an assignment – usually as attachment (and sometimes viewing of the discussion forum is restricted so that students can only access the other threads after creating their own). Then one will pick which papers they will read and provide feedback based on either suggested criteria or their own perception of a quality paper. Both papers and… Read More >

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Feedback

Feedback

We have already touched upon the subject of feedback, and its peculiar and often subjective qualities and content. Today we resume the topic of feedback and challenge you to an exercise in feedback. We know that good feedback is always contextual, and is often tricky. Some of the trickiness is in the object of the feedback. Usually, it’s easy to give your opinion and it’s hard to refraining from sounding judgmental. “Your essay was great!” or “The paper is poorly written” are examples of such. These don’t provide the student with enough context and a direction for improvement, or in the former case, don’t point out what exactly the student did right so she can carry it over to her other assignments. The Judge, the Transparent Reader, and the Transparent Reader Plus Advice Giver Barbara Walvoord and Virginia Anderson in Effective Grading bring up a concept of the “transparent reader”. I haven’t been able to find any other literature where… Read More >

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Gamification - An Implementation of Immersive Role Playing

Illustration of a man collecting coins as he goes up ladders to signify gamification

Former colleagues of mine, Robert Prince and Owen Guthrie of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, developed a journalism course wherein the professor constructed the lesson plan to mimic the internal organization of a struggling newspaper. The students in the course were new hires looking to climb the professional ladder he’d constructed for them, from intern all the way up to Editor-in-Chief. Students covered different subjects and wrote articles in a variety of forms in order to fulfill the obligations of their current position at the paper while, at the same time, meeting certain requirements for promotion. At the end of the course, student success was evident in how high a position at the made-up newspaper he or she had achieved. As was covered in a previous post, one of the principal ambitions of gamification is to design professional and educational processes with heightened consciousness of what motivates engagement. The models for engagement are drawn, with good reason, from games. Games are entirely focused… Read More >

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Look at all these Writing Tools in Blackboard

Blackboard

Hey y’all! One of Blackboard’s strengths is the variety of tools it has that allow students to express themselves in writing. I’ve divided these tools into two camps, Individual and Social. Tools in the Individual camp are designed for writing projects that only the student and the teacher see; tools in the Social camp are designed to engage the class as a whole or students in groups. Individual Assignments A Blackboard Assignment stores all the information from when the student submits his or her project through the assignment portal. The assignment portal links that information directly to a column in the grade center. Each submission is called an attempt, and any assignment can be programmed to allow multiple attempts or only one, but only one of the attempts is meant to be graded for any one assignment. The emphasis of the assignment tool is on product, by which I mean that, generally, students are graded on the quality and polish… Read More >

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Instruments, and the Craft, of Feedback

feedback

Feedback is a craft, and like any craft it is simultaneously distinct from and defined by the tools we use to practice it. Quality feedback can go through any communicative medium—text message; youtube comments section; a waxed string strung tautly between two paper cups—because the properties of good feedback are universal… Good feedback is honest Good feedback is encouraging Good feedback is mindful of its own context relative to the course’s Learning Objectives, and also Good feedback is mindful of the unique context created between the course, the student, and yourself (perhaps by connecting the specific assignment to which it responds to other examples of the student’s work, that student’s personal life, or even your own personal life) …though it never hurts to use the right tools for the job. That’s not a great list. The properties of good feedback are so subjective…maybe it would be better to ask y’all to list some of the properties you consider most important… Read More >

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What if students created viral videos as course projects?

Viral videos as assignments

It might just work! Sure, writing papers is academically significant and is a way to demonstrate understanding, analysis, and such. No question that putting together a website is collaborative and there are opportunities to make changes after peers offer feedback on the project. But, what if good videos carried a good message – and through great distribution, affected thousands of people and how they think? What if content was presented in a persuasive way, and had immediate impact? We can shoot for the stars, right? Truth is that a good story is part of the success. Viral by itself isn’t much, it has to have a message. But it also needs to be produced well. What if we could attract high-quality production people? What if there were local resources we could rely on? This might be worth looking into. This video is one of those viral ones. The article presents a perspective on the process (you will not be able to miss… Read More >

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