Thursday, March 23, 2017

Blended Content and Assignments


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY

Designing an integrated (F2F and online) blended course with a focus on a modular structure of diverse content and learning activities requires careful planning, experimentation, and ongoing feedback. 



REACTION    

Opportunities (and Challenges)

The list of Technology tools for teaching and learning is seemingly endless, continuously refreshed with updated and newer tools, gradually leaving others less tended to behind. There is the consideration of ease-of-use cost, obsolescence (e.g. Google Reader, Dropio, Zaption), and most significantly its potential for learning and assessment. Faculty typically adapt their school's learning management system and after an initial comfort level explore technologies that complement what the LMS lacks or insufficiently provides. 

Help for Faculty

There are number of teaching focused Twitter feeds and chats, blogs, conferences, and courses (in addition to BlendKit of course) that can assist faculty with course design, teaching strategies, and choosing technology materials and tools that have been tested and evaluated by others.  A partial list:
Technology Tools and Outside Course Resources

There are blogs, Tweets, free courses, and these teaching with technology lists:
but there is no substitution for face-to-face interactions (meetings, conferences) with faculty, instructional technologists and designers, and students. 

Course Design (including integration into LMS)

The chapter points out that uniformity guides students through the content and helps reinforce learning. To add, a diversity of content provides students with different experiences and perspectives. Instructors can align their structured content and activities into learning management system modules, which are included in most new systems such as Canvas, which will be used in the examples in this post. HTML pages, links, documents, lecture recordings, and videos can be added as course materials to these modules. For activities instructors can include quizzes, discussions, conferences, and collaborations.  


The Canvas.net course United States History is module based as shown in the diagram below.  Regardless of LMS modules and content/activity tools, course organization, learning resources, student engagement, and assessment depend on teaching excellence.



Content creation Tools

The chapter referred to content creation/screencasting tools such as Jing, Camtasia, and Audacity (audio). Snag-it, Screenflow, and Microsoft Office Mix are newer tools that allow instructors to add embedded video, audio, call-outs, and annotations to PowerPoints. Although screen recording software has evolved with more features and improvement, the time to create and produce lecture videos can be considerable. Some instructors prefer the simplicity of PowerPoint’s build-in recording tools to add audio annotations for each slide. However, this process requires students to download the final PowerPoint lecture to their desktop and having the software available to open and play. 

Ideally, enhancements to online presentations tools such as Google Slides will evolve to include live recording and embedding multimedia onto slides such as audio, video, and annotations so that live lectures can be viewed and played online.  

MOST IMPORTANT TAKE-AWAYS
  • Designing courses by modules facilitates integration of F2F and online environments
  • Uniformity guides students through the content and helps reinforce learning.
  • technologies are adopted more readily when cast in the “context of existing teaching and learning activities
  • freely available online learning resources provides an opportunity for educators to either link to or create derivative works based upon many educational resources
  • Implementing different and new technologies for the first time in a course can be challenging. Start simple to help ensure success for students and faculty and then explore other tools. 
MY FAVORITE QUOTES

“I'd devote more attention to integrating what was going on in the classroom with the online work. This was true even though the project's faculty development sessions repeatedly emphasized the importance of connecting in-class material with out-of-class assignments.”

"When applied to learning, certain activities can be utilized to greater effect when appropriate matching occurs between: the technology used, the learning desired, the context of use, the learner experience, the instructor experience, and the nature of content."

HELPFUL LINKS

Friday, March 17, 2017

Blended Assessments of Learning



ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY

Different modes of assessments based on course objectives provide faculty with comprehensive learning portfolios of their students and promote academic integrity through prevention. 

REACTION    

My experience teaching (face-to-face in the classroom or computer lab) took place before learning managements systems were available. Assessments included exercise and project assignments, in-class exams, and the use of Minitab. As an instructional technologist I have had the opportunity to work individually with faculty to assist in the effective use Canvas (learning management system) and other cloud based resources to assess student learning. Some of my thoughts are below:

Informal Assessments

Providing multiple opportunities to participate in informal assessments lessens the stress for students but these assessments should be purposeful and include faculty feedback. Some tools to consider:
  1. Most learning management system include practice quizzes, which provides preliminary feedback to faculty and help students prepare for actual graded exams. 
  1. I look forward to sharing the One sentence summary with faculty who have not used this assessment.  A step-by-step procedure :
Description. This simple technique challenges students to answer the questions "Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why?" (represented by the letters WDWWWWHW) about a given topic, and then to synthesize those answers into a simple informative, grammatical, and long summary sentence.
    1. Select an important topic or work that your students have recently studied in your course and that you expect them to learn to summarize.
    2. Working as quickly as you can, answer the questions "Who did/Does What to Whom, When, Where, How and Why?" in relation to that topic. Note how long this first step takes you.
    3. Next, turn your answers into a grammatical sentence that follows WDWWWWHS pattern. Not how long this second step takes.
    4. Allow your students up to twice as much time as it took you to carry out the task and give them clear direction on the One-Sentence Summary technique before you announce the topic to be summarized
  1. The Muddiest Point is a simple but effective way to determine what point was least clear to students. However, if implemented regularly (e.g. once weekly or after each class) summarizing and acting on student feedback is essential for making the assessment meaningful. 
  1. Student generated questions: Online discussions provide a forum for students to share questions, provide feedback, and collect their questions into shared documents such as a Google doc, spreadsheet, or presentation. Using the groups tool available in many learning management systems students could write questions for their own group and then quiz other groups who have not seen the questions. In turn faculty can assess these questions and determine which are suitable for practice quizzes or graded assessments. 
Formal Assessments

Developing different types of online assessments: summative, formative, multiple choice, short essay, practice, graded exams, assignments, discussions, and group presentations to measure student learning offers several advantages:
  • Help maintain academic integrity by not focuses on one type of assessment such as multiple-choice quizzes.
  • Provides an in-depth assessment of students and determines their strengths and weakness based on the type of assessment.
  • Allows faculty to collect feedback on what works best for their students in achieving course objectives.
Exams and quizzes

Multiple choice exams with an emphasis on application and higher-level thinking are difficult to write effectively and can take significant time. Taking advantage of resources such as 10 examples of question improvement and Examples of Multiple Choice Items at the Levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy help faculty with this difficult, time-consuming process.

Publisher test banks provide faculty a reasonable efficient way to create quizzes that can be used for practice and low-stakes assessment (e.g. ensure that students are completing assignments such as readings). In addition faculty can curate the best questions and write those of their own to build their own improved question banks. 

Essays/Academic Prompts

In a small college where class sizes are typically less than 30 students, the focus is less on multiple-choice exams and more on essays, projects, and presentations. 

Learning management systems such as Canvas provide faculty different tools to assess student contributions in writing: such as essay or paper assignment submissions, links to an online blog, or interactions with other students (wiki, discussions, document collaboration in real-time). One of Canvas strengths is the ease in assessing documents with SpeedGrader, which provides inline annotation, text and multimedia commenting), and grading. Students can comment on their assessed papers providing a trail of student-faculty interaction.   

Projects/Authentic Tasks

Audio and video recordings provide opportunities for different modalities of student expression, which can be submitted as assignments and included in discussions. Most learning management systems support these features. In Canvas students can record media with the browser, upload video or audio recordings as files, or use their smartphones to create multimedia recording and submit them. In addition their is the fluency of commenting and feedback that is an essential part of evaluating student recordings. 

ePortfolios such as those for teacher education are a promising but often underutilized assessment that can be summative, formative, and authentic. To see testimonies read The Benefits of E-portfolios for Students and Faculty in Their Own Words. Although there are significant benefits to students in completing ePortfolios, it is essential that student work be consistently assessed by faculty, mentors, peers, and advisors with feedback. Such consistent feedback can take considerable time and must be planned in advance by reviewers. 

Promoting Academic Integrity

Respondus LockDownBrowser, which integrates with most learning management systems, is advertised as a tool to prevent student cheating. It was added to Canvas at Elmira College in response to faculty concerns about academic integrity in high-stakes exams taken in large classrooms. However, online proctoring tools such as LDB can also be framed in a more directed, student-centered approach: a tool for reducing outside distractions and focusing student interaction with the assessment. Proctored exams using tools such as LDB work best in a F2F environment. 

Promoting Academic Integrity in Online Education is a special PDF report from Faculty Focus that provides a variety of helpful articles such as the catchy “91 Ways to Maintain Academic Integrity in Online Courses"

MOST IMPORTANT TAKE-AWAYS
  • Based on previous faculty experiences students taken a blend of online and face-to-face assessments have better outcomes.
  • Writing multiple-choice questions that effectively measure student knowledge (especially) higher-level thinking is difficult and requires time, experience, and re-writing (based on student responses). 
  • Examples of assessment strategies provides faculty a framework to choose which assessments meet the needs of their students
  • “Authentic assessment—assessing student abilities to apply knowledge, skills, and attitudes to real world problems—is not only possible in an online environment; it is getting more popular.”
  • Define course objectives so they are clear to students, determine how they will meet these objectives (e.g. essays, presentations, audio recordings) and choose the appropriate assessments (e.g. online exam, blog, media assignment) to evaluate their learning.
MY FAVORITE QUOTE

“The most crucial step needed in each unit of instruction is the preparation for students’ transfer of learning to new contexts. If learning is not transferred from the place of learning to practical application, there can be no positive return on investment of the time needed to create, implement, and evaluate instruction”

HELPFUL LINKS

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Blended Interactions



One sentence summary

The success of blended learning is dependent on three things: active learning and engagement in F2F classes, active learning and engagement in online classes, and the integration between the two.

Reaction

After reading Understanding Blended Learning it was time to dig into the details of designing student interaction in a course. The game design metaphor best described the tension between minimal and structured guidance: too little scaffolding leaves students lost and disengaged but too much scaffolding feels school-like and procedural. 


I think back years ago to a Teacher Education class in which a professor gave student teachers rules on how to behave professionally in the K-12 classroom. Although the rules were an attempt to ensure that students followed necessary state requirements (e.g. privacy, safety), they seemed overly procedural and minimized student (teacher) independence in decision-taking. 

I did not know the distinction between cMOOCs and xMOOCs so that section was helpful. A FutureLearn course on Social Media and Analytics that I participated in was an xMOOC so having that experience was good. 

A Slideshare on Demystifying MOOCs


I thought of the Atelier learning model developed by John Seely Brown and in addition to blogs thought of ePortfolios and video art as other possible digital environments, especially when sharing is part of the process.

I found Clarence Fisher’s Online Communities for Learning (PDF) a great resource for planning and developing communities. The focus is not on the technology but there are many available tools: Twitter, discussions, online collaboration through Google Docs to name a few. But plan carefully before implementing! 

Getting Started
  • Create a discussion and ask students to review the syllabus and respond with what they hope to learn from the course.
  • Have students participate in writing their personal goals so they are more engaged in their decision-making.
For further reading see Faculty Focus: A learner-center syllabus helps set the tone for learning

The section Construct Assignments That Encourage Expression provides many ideas for guiding students through interacting in a course:
  • Have students express themselves to different audiences (peers, supervisors, outside professionals, in-class, public) so they know how to prepare accordingly. 
  • What are the resources for their personal expressions: ePortfolio, blog, podcast, presentations, videos? If they are working in groups: wiki, online collaboration space, shared presentation space. What about an group environment that allows annotation, highlighting and tagging such as annota.co or hypothes.is . Many of these tools are used outside a learning management system so ensuring that students have the necessary technology skills for their personal or group work is essential. 
  • Why express themselves? A point that can easily be overlooked when planning for student motivation and engagement. Including samples of student work as they improve continuously from course to course can help raise higher expectations for students.  
  • Students need guidelines through clear instructions (visually helps!), policies on academic integrity and plagiarism. Examples help clarify for students about plagiarism. 
  • Prompt, substantive feedback is crucial to students. New inline annotation tools such as SpeedGrader in Canvas facilitates such feedback, automating the mechanical process so that instructors can focus on context and substance of their comments. 
Most important takeaways
  • Apply technology advantages from MOOCs: Lessen dependency on physical presence in the classroom and apply technology to assign traditionally based responsibilities (e.g. group leadership)
  • Challenges when learners are in control: how will they know what they need to know and how will they cohesively organize fragmented and distribution information (like a textbook)
  • Student interaction is an essential part of designing an online course and should be embedded in learning objectives before curating, developing, and uploading resources.
  • Consider a hybrid course over fully online even when there are only two F2F sessions — course launch with important expectations and modeling and closure. “This will improve students’ abilities to express themselves freely to peers.
My favorite quote

“Blended learning, in all its various representations, has as its fundamental premise a simple idea: link the best technological solutions for teaching and learning with the best human resources…. encourag[ing] the development of highly interactive and collaborative activities that can be accomplished only by a faculty member in a mediated setting.”

Helpful links


 
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