As Term Start Approaches

Term Start I found myself mildly freaking out about what to write this week for the blog post. We are nearing term start and most of us are focused on finishing up our courses. The building is filled with stress. My favorite way to deal with stress is cake. Who doesn’t become excited and giddy, like a small child, when cake is mentioned? That is when it hit me… Designing a course is like baking a cake! It takes time, patience, and skill to create both. A cake, just like a course, needs to be balanced. You don’t want your cake to be overly sweet, but too bland is just as bad. Both need to be easily consumed. Finally, if both a… Read more >>
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Online Access for Students with Disabilities

orange key Sixteen years ago, I met a blind professor who was an early adopter of what we now call the flipped classroom; students completed assignments online and class-time was reserved for collaborative projects and discussions. Early on in one of his flipped courses, he began receiving multiple emails from a student asking questions about everything from course content to his experiences as a historian. After a couple of weeks, he became curious about why she wasn’t talking with him during class. Her response was that she was deaf, and this was the first course in which she was able to communicate with the teacher without an interpreter. It took a minute for what he said to register with me: Email… Read more >>
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Tips for Strengthening Your Course Narrative

Course Narrative A good story generally contains the following elements: Protagonist: The hero (or anti-hero) of the narrative. Central premise: The argument or thesis of the story. Backstory: The context of the story. Conflict: The challenges faced by the protagonist. Narrative arc: The chronological movement of the story. Should any of these be missing, readers will find the story lacking, though they may not be able to say why. The same thing holds true for courses. A course is also a type of story. The narrative unfolds through readings, assignments, lectures, and other materials. And as with a story, a course will seem inadequate should major narrative elements be missing. More often than not, the effects of badly designed courses and badly… Read more >>
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Harnessing the Distracted Mind

A Distracted Mind We use the web for so many different things. We shop, read the news, watch movies, listen to music, talk with friends — often all at the same time. Some people call this multi-tasking. Others don’t call it anything — it’s just second nature that when we sit down with our computers or pull out our phones, we automatically become engaged in multiple streams of activity. Generally, this isn’t a big problem. At least, not until work needs to be done. That’s when it becomes clear that the web is both our friend and our enemy. Online students (and instructors) are very familiar with this paradox. When we listen to a lecture, there’s always another browser tab beckoning our attention.… Read more >>
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Webinar - The Blackboard Grade Center

Webinar Series We’ve received several requests to dive more purposefully into the nitty gritty of using Blackboard, and so today we conducted the first in a series of webinars on it, focusing on the Grade Center. As we found ourselves jumping rather quickly from tool to tool, we think the video may be less valuable as a recording than a textual breakdown, with screenshots, that you can jump through at will below. Navigation Finding the Blackboard Grade Center We always suggest faculty use the “Full Grade Center,” as the “Needs Grading” page will not always show you all the assignments that need grading. For example: A student may receive permission to submit an assignment a second time. The second submission will not… Read more >>
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Group Projects: Insights with Mentor Commons

Group Projects Group projects – online especially – have been an interest of mine for a long time. In a way, group projects are spaces for students to learn from each other, collaborate, and form relationships. If you have never heard about Sugata Mitra and his Hole-in-the-Wall project – old news, I know! – he takes it even further saying that kids can teach themselves, given the right opportunity. It is curious then to explore what structures and setup allow students to make the most out of a group project. Is it really true that a team can achieve more than individuals working on their own projects? Are there reasons why group projects won’t succeed and will be a source of constant… Read more >>
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Using Course Announcements to Maximize Instructor Presence

Course Announcements Research shows that online students appreciate a strong instructor presence. Online instructors who leave regular digital footprints in their classes show that they are actively engaged and committed to supporting student success. In addition to discussion boards and assignment feedback, course announcements provide an excellent opportunity for instructors to maximize their online presence while also sharing important course information. Personalize Your Space Let your students know that you are more than words on a digital page. While you want to be professional, you also want to be approachable. Use an early course announcement to introduce yourself and to let your students know that you are there to support their learning. Since you are an expert in your subject, you may… Read more >>
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Curriculum Mapping - Giving Direction to Learning

Education Levels Across America One of my favorite features on my iPhone is the Maps App. I lost my beloved DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer several moves (and states) ago. I don’t have a GPS in my car. I’ve often found myself lost in many an unfamiliar part of a town when traveling for work or even pleasure. There is something very comforting in saying, “Siri, where is the nearest gas station?” In program development and course development, curriculum maps serve a purpose similar to geographic road maps: They help give direction. “Curriculum mapping is the process of indexing or diagramming a curriculum to identify and address academic gaps, redundancies, and misalignments for purposes of improving the overall coherence of a course of study and,… 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… Read more >>
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The Many Faces of An Online Course: Edit Mode

Blackboard Edit Mode Regardless of the Learning Management System your institution uses, many of the recognizable names in this crowded field have various modes for authoring and viewing that can be turned on or off by a faculty or staff role to see, and edit, the course in different ways. The ability to put on a different set of eyes and view your course from various perspectives has many advantages, most importantly if you’re going through the course from a student’s point of view. Today we’re exploring what Blackboard calls “Edit Mode”.  While there is a lot of value in viewing a course from the students perspective, many actions simply cannot take place without Edit Mode”being turned on. At the University of New… 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… Read more >>
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For the Love of Rubrics

Choosing Rubrics In past posts, we have discussed how to create rubrics, why we use rubrics at UNE, and how to use rubrics in Blackboard. This particular post will focus on the different types of rubrics one may encounter and what they look like. There are three main types of rubrics: holistic, analytic, and a love child of the two that we’ll call single point. Holistic Rubric A holistic rubric provides the students and faculty with the different proficiency levels. For each level, all the criteria are listed describing what a student would have to do to achieve each. Let’s take a look at this example from the Ohio Department of Education: Holistic Rubric Example As you can see from this… Read more >>
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Where the hard drive ends: Why you need to back up your computer

Hard Drive Backups I’d wager that most people reading this blog have some important documents and files stored on their computers and phones. I’d also be willing to bet that less than half of those people have backed up their devices. I don’t blame them – backups are really, really boring. But, in this case, the opposite of boring is misery, because losing all or some of your files can be a horrible (and maybe even expensive) experience. Here are a few tips to get you moving on the road to Backup-land. The key to backups is redundancy. That means you need to have multiple copies of your files spread out over more than one location. Even if your files are stored in… Read more >>
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Rich Internet Applications - Conversations and Mashup

Rich Internet Applications CLEAR’s RIAs Michigan State’s Center for Language Education And Research (CLEAR) has created a number of Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) that can be used across a variety of disciplines. Because CLEAR is funded by a US Department of Education grant, the applications are free to use. Furthermore, they do not include annoying advertisements. As a world language instructor, I have used a number of these RIAs in both face-to-face and online classes, and have been very pleased with them. Although the RIAs were created for language classes, most of the tools can be used in other disciplines as well.  Conversations One of my favorite RIAs is Conversations. Instructors create a series of audio questions for students to answer. In world… Read more >>
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It’s all in How You Ask – Posing Questions to Engage Learners

Learning Questions A few months ago, my teenaged son came home from seeing a movie with a friend. I cheerfully asked, “How was the movie?” He responded, “Good.” I shook my head and sighed. “Let me rephrase,” I said. He rolled his eyes at me. “Tell me about the movie!” He smirked. “I already did. It was good.” I felt thwarted by his matter of fact and mildly mocking tone. Without skipping a beat, my daughter called after him in her tattle-tale voice, “I think she wanted you to explain the actual story. You know, like, the plot.” Once again, my son’s lips curled into that special teenage-boy smart-alecky grin. “Duh, I know that. But, that’s not what she asked.” What was… Read more >>
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Webinar: How to Assure Quality in your Online Course

Webinar Series Yesterday, the entire Instructional Design team in CGPS put on a (rather successful, by our estimation) webinar on assuring quality in online courses. We recorded the webinar for the faculty, administrators and staff who could not make it to the live broadcast. That recording is below: (Note: The first 26 minutes are of the webinar, with one or two questions from the audience mixed in. After 26 minutes, the webinar becomes a QA session.) For your convenience, you can also go directly to the slideshow itself. And, for those of you who attended and asked about it, here are a couple pictures from the room taken during the webinar:
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It's easy to find articles with Summon

Finding Articles with Summon In your courses, you are often required to locate an assigned reading using the UNE Library website. For advanced searches, it’s recommend that you use the Full Text Journals page. However, this tool, Summon, which is embedded right on the main Library page has saved me a ton of time! Not only does it make it easy to plug in an article’s title, on the results page, it allows you to narrow down your search, peruse related items, get an abstract and a citation in your preferred style (in case you need to cite it in your discussion post or a paper for instance) and another perk – it runs the search across several databases so you don’t have… Read more >>
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Macgyvering Blackboard

Blackboard MacGyver While I won’t pretend that I am among the generation that watched and enjoyed MacGyver during the mid 80s and early 90’s, the concept of “MacGyvering” is one that I feel transcends generations. It reflects the ability to take whatever you have on hand, however impractical it may be, and accomplish what needs to be done. Secret agents like Angus MacGyver have their own tricks up their sleeve, and Instructional Designers do too. Using HTML Objects in Blackboard to develop and design instruction and materials beyond what Blackboard itself can natively encompass is a degree more practical than most of the items on the compiled list of every episodes “Macgyverisms”; but there is a degree of outside-the-box thinking and… Read more >>
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Why do it: Essential Questions for Learning

Essential Questions We have been talking on and off about essential questions with Chris. Just the other day, because I am facilitating an online course about online course development (yup, I am!), a participant in the course submitted a syllabus with an essential question in it, and this was such a joyous moment that I had to capitalize on it and spread the message. If you are not familiar with essential questions as they apply to course and curriculum design, you are in for a treat! Essential questions are defined as the big, important questions that recur in one’s life, open-ended overarching questions exploring the deeper connections between objects in the world, and some say these are the questions that touch our… Read more >>
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Grab Text from Images with Project Naptha

Project Naptha Images are powerful tools for communication, and we try to use them in our courses wherever we can. A picture can speak a thousand words, as they say. More practically, a quiz asking students to identify the bones of the human skeleton makes more sense visually than as text. At the same time, however, images can be extremely frustrating if they contain text of any kind. Text in an image is, most likely, not screen readable. Have you ever tried to copy/paste text from an image? The reason why you couldn’t is because, to your computer, that text doesn’t exist. Try to highlight these words in bold. Now try to highlight the text in the image below. Screen-readability is an… Read more >>
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Tips for Gamifying Your Course

Gamification Looking to heighten student interest and understanding? Then consider gamification. What’s gamification? Gamification entails using game design elements, game thinking, and game mechanics in non-game contexts to make learning more engaging. Gamification boasts many benefits (1). It not only fosters student engagement, but also increases retention. It engages people’s natural desire to explore and make meaningful decisions. It’s also a student-centered method of instruction. In short: Gamification helps people learn – and remember what they’ve learned! But assignments shouldn’t be gamified just for the sake of gamifying them (2). A well-integrated, gamified assignment can enhance a course. An assignment gamified just for gamification’s sake, however, can detract from a course’s overall goal. No one likes jumping through hoops… 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… 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. 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… Read more >>
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Resources for Finding Public Domain Images

Public Domain Images We at CGPS are constantly working with visuals to make our online courses more engaging. Often, this means searching the Internet for images with suitable licensing for reuse, or most often for images that are in the public domain. UNE isn’t an ad-agency; it is a school. And while it is important that we maintain a budget for making what we do as pretty as possible, our primary job is to educate future professionals. So it’s important that we be able to find images that are not only good looking but also appropriately licensed for our use. More often than not, this means using images that are in the public domainthereby freeing us of the obligation to pay… Read more >>
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