In February, 2016, I worked with Dr. Alexander Romiszowski of Syracuse University in writing a series of articles about personalized learning for World Innovation Summit for Education’s Ed Review. In this series we put the much-hyped personalized learning in historical perspectives, and offered suggestions that may help educators think and design educational experiences conducive to effective personalized learning.
Some exemplary work by ACU faculty is also discussed in this series.
Check below for the articles.
- Why Personalized Learning?
- Can Technology Fix Personalized Learning?
- You Get What You Measure: Assessing Personalized Learning
- Learning, Personalized and Competency-Based
- The Buffet of Learning: Design for Personalized Learning
- Implementing a Personalized Learning Environment
One significant but rarely discussed issue with online teaching is that both teachers and students could have a “reading overload.” Appropriate use of online teaching tools and media components help to address this problem. In a recent Adams Center session for engaging students, Dr. Vic McCracken shared a few of his methods which we found fascinating.
When teaching his CORE210 course online, Dr. McCracken had 25 students who were asked to participate in online discussions. It is extremely time-consuming to respond to 25 students’ posts individually. More importantly, student views may overlap at times, and it does not add value to learning experiences to repeat similar responses. So instead of responding to each student, Dr. McCracken recorded a video response every day to share with students. This is a three-week course, which he thinks makes it necessary to post a response daily. If it is a full semester-long course, weekly video response may be sufficient.
To make sure students watch his video responses, he asked students to post at least one response to his response. Students were held accountable to interact as he graded these responses. Such video feedback, as well as student responses to feedback, add immediacy and personal presence to his course, while also reducing the time demand for him and students.
Time thus saved can be used elsewhere in the teaching process, such as individualized feedback on papers. For these papers, Dr. McCracken marked on them first, using notes and color-coded highlights, and then he used Camtasia to record screencast sessions to give students detailed explanation.
Here are some additional suggestions for more efficient use of time in providing feedback to students in an online setting:
- Use assignments to collect student work. I strongly advise against using email to collect student work as this creates much busywork for both you and students. Use the assignment tool to collect almost any type of digital artifacts, as the assignment tool makes it so much easier for you and students to send work back and forth, mark on them, and type or record comments without having to create folders in your email or on your computers and spend time looking for them later.
- Use a forum: Instead of using university email or inbox of Canvas to interact with students one by one on logistical issues, create an online forum titled “questions and answers”, as students may ask the same questions.
- Use virtual “office hours”: If you sense that many members of the class are struggling with the same issues, consider hosting a virtual office hours session using Canvas Conference or Chat, which allows you to meet synchronously with students. Make sure you offer alternative time slots (one in the morning, one in the evening, for instance) for students who may have schedule conflicts.
Do you have any other thoughts on the ways to improve the efficiency of student interaction in online settings? Please share with us!
How do you write multiple choice questions that are valid and just? What kind of “testwise” clues do you want to avoid? What are the pros and cons for using textbook questions? To address these and other questions, listen to the following podcast by Dr. Robert McKelvain, Professor of Psychology at Abilene Christian University.
Canvas has a fairly effective tool for building ePortfolios. It allows one to create pages, add attachments, embed videos and add work directly from courses. Please watch the following video for instructions on how to use this tool.
I have also included an instructional module for ePortfolios in Canvas Commons with the following pieces:
You can search for my name (Berlin Fang) or search for “ePortfolio” to add it to your course and customize it afterwards.
Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.
Canvas Speedgrader does not have a Word Count feature, though it is under development according to this thread. Before this feature becomes available, you can get your word count in either of these two ways. This may be a fairly minor issue, but it can be annoying if you keep having to copy text into a word processor for word count while grading.
Display word count with an Browser extension
If you use Chrome or Firefox, install an extension called “Word Count Tool”. I could not find a similar tool in Safari yet, but please share if you find one.
Once installed, highlight any text (or the entire paper), right click, and then click on “Word Count Tool”, you will be able to see the detailed Word Count information, like this:
Display word count with Turnitin
If you enable Turnitin for student assignment, Turnitin allows you to see the Word count for the paper fairly easily.
Click on the percentage that represents matching, such as “8%” below.
Click on “Text-Only Report” at the bottom right corner.
Now you should be able to see the word count for the submission.
Online teaching is being seen as a “disruptive innovation” for higher education with the potential for changing the ways students learn (Read this New York Times article for more information). On many campuses, online teaching is a regular alternative to face-to-face teaching. We invite you to join the Spring 2016 Adams Center certificate program for online teaching.
These sessions will be held around twice a month during the lunch hours (11:30am -1:00pm). During each session participants will develop, as a community, conceptual understanding about best practices in various aspects of online teaching. Each session will also include hands-on activities for participants to finish developing at least one sample module. If you do not intend to teach an online course, you may also find such sessions useful if you incorporate online components into your regular face-to-face, blended or flipped classes.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 2455 to make your reservations.
The sessions will include the following topics and activities:
Module 1: Getting ready to teach online, Monday, Jan 25, 2016
In this session, we are going to examine the benefits of online teaching, what quality looks like, what others have done and what the next steps will be. The end products for this session include: a course shell to work in and a plan for building the course.
Module 2: Creating Online Content, Thursday, Feb 18, 2016
In this session, we are going to brainstorm ways to “translate” face-to-face teaching into online formats, including different types of content and design principles for delivering content. We would expect you to develop sample content for one module.
Module 3: Assessing Learning in An Online Setting, Thursday, March 3, 2016
In this session, we are going to explore ways to assess learning online, including traditional assessment strategies and alternative online assessment methods. For this session we would expect you to develop, for at least a sample module, online tests, assignments and other activities for assessing students
Module 4:Facilitating Online Interaction, Thursday, March 24, 2016
In this session, we are going to explore ways to promote teacher-student, student-student and student-text interaction in an online setting. We expect you to develop your strategy to create “presence” in your online class, space for interaction, and discussion forums, sample questions & grading rubrics.
Module 5: Using Media in Online Teaching, Thursday, April 7, 2016
In this session, we are going to show ways to build and manage media components in teaching, including audio, video and screencasting components that an effective online course should include. We would expect you to select media format to be used, download screencasting applications, and create sample screencast / video / audio segments for your course.
Module 6: The Talent Show, Monday, April 18, 2016
In this session, participants will each spend a few minutes demonstrating their online courses for peers to learn from.
Please contact Berlin Fang (email@example.com) if you need further information.
Dr. Dannelle D. Stevens, Professor of Education at Portland State University, and co-author of Introduction to Rubrics recently shared her suggestions to the The Professional and Organizational Development Network (POD Network) for writing assignment instructions which I think are really helpful. I am sharing these suggestions and examples with her permission:
“1. Title conveys type of assignment.
Not “Term paper” but “Research paper: Describes and explains challenges for women pioneers on Oregon Trail from 1842 to 1865″
2.The purpose of the assignment is clear.
The purpose of this paper is for you to refine your research skills, to practice analysis and synthesis of historical documents, and to learn about and appreciate what women experienced on the Oregon trail from 1842 to 1865.
3. Describes what completed assignment will look like.
The paper should include at least 10 secondary and 5 primary sources. It should be at least 10 pages long, double-spaced with 12 point font.
4. Tells point value in relation to other assignments.
The paper is worth 20 points out of the 100 points for all assignments in the class.
5. Describes how you will score the assignment (uses a rubric).
The rubric below elaborates this task description and will be used to score the assignment.”
Please also note that Canvas has a rubric tool that can be easily used for assignment grading. Check with the instructional design team if you need help setting up your assignments or rubrics.
The Canvas grade calculation method is fairly robust compared to other systems. As students usually expect all their course-related information in the same place, you do not need to use Excel or any other tool for grade calculation if you have set things up properly in Canvas.
By default, Canvas calculate grades by adding up all column grades. It does not use weighted grading method unless you tell it to. With the total, non-weighted method, you will very like see a percentage rather than raw points for total grades. For instance, for students earning 800 out of a total of 1000, Canvas will display 80%.
What if you prefer to use total points (800, for instance) instead? Switching to total points is very simple:
1. Mouse over the heading for the column called “total” (usually towards the very end of the page), and you will see a downward arrow, click on it.
2. Click on “switch to points”. Please note that this option is not available if you have chosen to use “weighted grading” method, because Canvas is following your logic to calculate your total grade based on the percentages you assign for each categories of assessments.
3. You will then see a warning to show that a change will happen. Click on “continue”. Also, take this as a reminder that you will need to tell students your grade display has changed from a percentage system to a total point system. Students will appreciate that notice.
- Everything you grade in your course can have a column. A column does not have to be something you collect online. You can even have a column for oral presentation or attendance, for instance.
- You can move the “total” column to the front (see the second screenshot above) to display final grade together with student names so that it is easier to see how much each student has earned.
- You can click on any column’s heading to sort the scores from the lowest to the highest, or from the highest to the lowest.
- Try to make your grade book display the kind of columns your syllabus has described. Discrepancies between the two leads to anxiety and unnecessary work on your part.
- If you use weighted grading, you can use assignments tool in Canvas to create and manage groups. With weighted grading method, you can drop some low grades in a group. Let us know if you would like to help doing that.
- If you click on the name of a student in the grade book, you can see how each student’s grade is calculated. I would also encourage you to look at one of the student’s individual grade book to get familiar with their view. If you are not sure whose to look at, try students with the highest grade or the lowest grade, which will show the calculation more clearly.
- You could also experiment with the test student view. Every course has a test student. You can give the test student “fake” scores and see how that adds up in the “total” column as a way to validate your calculation method.
- You can have Canvas generate a letter grade (A,B,C,D,F, etc.) for you using a pre-defined schema.
Please contact me or David Christianson if you need any assistance with any of the above. We’d love to discuss with you in greater detail.
As you prepare for your course for the next semester, remember you will need to request a new course shell. Check instructions here if needed. If you want to make an exact copy of the course (clone it), you can choose “copy” when you request it.
If you anticipate major changes in your course, and you do not want the trouble of having to delete content you would not like, you can choose “create”when requesting the course, and import content later on. One major benefit of doing this is that you can handpick the content types you would like to include. In this tutorial, I am going to show you how to do that. Once your blank new course shows up, follow these steps:
1. Go to your new course (or any other course to copy content INTO) and click on “settings” on the button left of your course menu,
3.Choose “Copy a Canvas Course”;
4.Start typing the name or course ID for the course you’d like to copy from, or make your selection from the list.
5. Choose “select specific content”. Click then on “import” next. (Of course, if you change your mind and decide to copy everything, that would be fine too. Just choose “all content.)
6. The import process will start, click on “select content” button when it shows.
7. Now you can select one or multiple types of content you would like. Please understand that some content types may be related to each other. For instance, if your quizzes are based on “question banks”, you might want to select both “quizzes” and “question banks”.
8.You will then see the job processed.
9. When you see “complete”. You can start to check if everything looks right to you.
If you find that things do not seem right after you import it, do not hesitate to contact us for help. It will be tremendously helpful if you can provide the course URL to us when you need help. Otherwise, we would have to perform a lot of searches to find the course and page you would like help with, with possibilities of us looking at different courses/sections with identical names. When you are on any page in Canvas, you can find that it has a unique URL, just copy and paste that URL in your email to us, or when you try to get help from Canvas directly.
Having worked with a number of learning management systems, I found that one the biggest complaints from faculty to vendors is the lack of a a good mechanism to consider extra credit items in final grades. I think this is probably more of a pedagogical issue than a technical one. Those wanting to use extra credit should first of all examine the purpose of having extra credit assessment activities. It will help to ask questions like:
- Do I want everyone to participate in this activity?
- What message am I sending to students by having extra credit items?
- Have I included statements in the syllabus about how extra credit items will affect their final grade?
- Will extra credit items affect participation in regular graded activities?
- Am I confusing my students?
- Am I confusing myself?
I can think of the following scenarios of having extra credit. I have also included some recommendations. Please add as needed.
- Extra credit item that should have been a regular grade item: If the assessment activity is something that you would want all students to participate, then make it a regular item, assign weight to it and hold everyone to the same expectation. If you would like to add items “on-the-fly” without having informed students earlier in the semester, you do not have to use the extra credit method to include some items and exclude others. That would cause confusion easily, when students compare what your syllabus has said and what you actually have in the course. It is better to create clear categories and add items to the categories. Assignment groups and weighted grading allow an uncertain number of items in a category, leaving room for changes in your assessment while not confusing anybody. You could choose to drop some lower grades for a category. Doing so makes more sense mathematically than having extra credit which may or may not count towards the final grade.
- Extra credit for extra work: If the purpose is to motivate students to do more than what the course requires at a minimum, I would add a category for extra credit (make it worth 0% if you use weighted grading) to distinguish it from regular grading categories. Then create extra credit columns for this category and mute them. This will prevent students from seeing the extra grades. Enter any possible extra credit grades as needed. While muted, these grades will not be seen by students, but they will see that the columns and an extra credit category exist, which may motivate them to do extra work if interested. Having them muted also reduce confusion for students as extra credit items will not be calculated until after they are unmuted. You use the unmuted grades to adjust final grade as needed (see “4. Extra credit for grade adjustment” below). Explain to students about this arrangement so that they know exactly what they are getting. In the meantime, rather telling students extra effort yields extra grades, it is a better idea to hold everyone to the same high expectation of their work.
- Extra credit for differentiated assignment: If you would like to have options for the same assignment, but allow different kind of products/submissions, consider changing the assignment. You can use the same assignment entry to grade a variety of artifacts. We call this “free-range assignment”. Check this paper Jennifer Shewmaker, Scott Self and Berlin Fang wrote on the topic.
- Extra credit for grade adjustment: If the purpose is only to give grace to students, to adjust scores for borderline cases (for instance, someone is only 1 point away from an A, for a course with a total point of 1000), calculate extra credit items only towards the end of the semester. Otherwise there might be situations in which students feel they have earned enough grades through extra credit arrangements that they will not put in effort for their work towards the end of the semester. That could adversely affect their motivation in the learning process.
In any of the cases above, it is unnecessary to find ways to factor extra credit into total grades, as that will make it a required normal grade item/category, which defeats the the purpose of having optional, extra credit items.
We would welcome your thoughts on the issue.
There are situations when you need to release a quiz or exam to different students at different times. This can be done fairly easily in Canvas either by individual students or by sections. Check the video below for details.
You can now embed an EBSCO Search Box into your Canvas wiki and assignment pages. Just change the edit mode to “HTML Editor” and paste the following code:
<iframe src=”https://widgets.ebscohost.com/prod/customerspecific/s8479690/search2.html” width=”650px” height=”240px” style=”border:none”></iframe>
The search box contains many of the features of our library searches so your students are easily able to type in their search terms for accessing articles, books, videos, and other resources.
This video explains how to add the search box to the page and its functionality.
If you have questions please contact Mark McCallon at firstname.lastname@example.org
When building quizzes (generic term for quizzes, tests, or exams) in Canvas, it is a good idea to build first in “question banks” so that you can create random blocks of questions. Here are a few benefits for doing this:
- It increases test security as students in your class will get different test questions drawn from the same question banks, or the same questions in different order.
- It allows you to reuse questions for multiple purposes in the same course. For instance you can create chapter quizzes as well as major exams using the same question banks so that learning becomes iterative and accumulative.
- You can easily import your question banks into other courses without importing the quizzes, which makes it possible to re-create quizzes in different configurations.
In the tutorial below, I am going to show you how to create quizzes from question banks.
Having online quizzes saves you time from manually grading your quizzes. It gives you flexibility in moderating the quiz. However, as with other tools, it will take some time for you and your students to get used to it. Here are a few suggestions I would give for you to ensure a smooth testing experience:
- Before you develop your quiz, I strongly recommend that you read this article: What options are available for Quizzes?
- Remember that you do NOT have to use every option in Quiz settings. Some are optional. Be especially careful with the timing of your quizzes. Read this article for some basic understanding of how due dates and availability work: What is the difference between assignment due dates and availability dates? (This applies to quizzes too.) Check with us if you are not sure.
- Start your semester by having fewer restrictions instead of using all of your restrictive parameters concurrently (limited time, due dates, available dates, access code…). Add restrictions as you and your students become familiar with the testing environment.
- Have an ungraded, one-question “test quiz” in your course with no time limit and unlimited attempts that students can always take before a real quiz to make sure everything works for their device.
- Make it part of students’ responsibility to get ready for the tests. For instance, they should close all non-related windows or apps on their computers or devices. Ideally they should restart their computer before a test. They may also need to check their Internet connection, battery power, and automatic updates that could interrupt testing. Advise students to obtain help before class if they have found problems. Do not use too much class time for troubleshooting.
- Go to student view (settings –> student view) to see and take the quiz from a student perspective to make sure everything works. If you find problems with your questions or answers, make changes before everyone else takes it.
- Have a few hard copies of your tests ready, just in case.
Contact an instructional designer for help if needed as you get ready to release your quiz or exams online.
Educational Technology and the Adams Center will co-host a Canvas Kickoff event after chapel on Monday, August 31. The event will be held outside the Moody Coliseum in a Canvas-style tent. The event is aimed at helping students become familiar with Canvas. Faculty members are also welcome to come and ask questions about Canvas, ACU’s new learning management system that is now widely adopted in Fall 2015 courses. We will be demonstrating Canvas functions and features to students, answer their questions, gathering their feedback and giving out cookies and water. If you would like your students to learn more about Canvas, please encourage them to come to this event.
College syllabi are often perceived as legal documents, with fine prints increasingly verbose, as the teaching profession itself gets complex, through integration of technology, innovations in teaching practices and the need to comply with various laws and regulations that have to be enforced on campuses.
For the protection of professors and students, it is still necessary to include “fine print” legalese in your instructional policies, which reside naturally in a syllabus container, unless better methods are invented and successfully promoted to replace the tradition. It is also necessary to have such detailed syllabi for course reviewers (university councils for instance) to have a consistent set of standards and formats to go by in evaluating new courses. Potential students may also appreciate consistent formats from an institution to be able to compare apples to apples when selecting courses.
However, “It’s all in the syllabus” is no guarantee for communication. While syllabi serve as legal documents, they should also have a communicative function. Here are a few suggestions to improve their potentials to communicate:
- Test students over syllabus content. To ensure students read your syllabus, create a short quiz. It does not have to be difficult. Design something “trivial” even! That should balance the seriousness of the tone in the syllabus. For instance, test them over your office location. You could also use such a quiz to familiarize students with the quizzing function of your learning management system. There is the stone to kill two birds! Alternatively, use games in class to test mastery of content in your syllabus. Ask students to conduct a scavenger hunt, or, as Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker did with a “syllabus jigsaw puzzle” game, have groups focus on different parts of the syllabus, and present on each of them in class, so that, through sharing, students get a fuller picture of what you are expecting through the syllabus. However, be careful that not everything has to be internalized. Some requirements and policies should stay in the head, while others can live “in the world” (Norman, 1988), available to students when the need arrives. This will distribute their cognitive load for better learning.
- Apply sound design principles. To be fair, it is challenging enough at the beginning of the semester (the “drinking from the firehose” period) to read multiple pages of syllabi from different classes. Student will be all the more miserable if you are not considerate with the design of your message. In order to show students that certain messages are more important than others in your syllabus, sometimes I see professors seem to have put all fonts and colors together and throw a grenade into it to create quite a mess with all caps, italics, bold, colors, or all of the above, to call attention to important details, when the application of good design principles would create more engaging flow for reading and make emphasized content stand out in a natural way. Consider applying the PRAC principles(Proximity, Repetition, Alignment, Contract) described in Robin Williams’s The Non-Designer’s Design Book. Move similar content, such as university policies together (proximity), repeat your pattern (such as use only bold for emphasis throughout the document), use consistent alignment scheme, and show contrast between subheadings and regular text.
- Put your syllabus on a diet. Instead of cramming everything into a gigantic syllabus, create an orientation module or page in your course. Put your printable syllabus on a diet by offloading to this orientation area such content as the schedule of activities, assignment requirements, and grading rubrics. Canvas has “syllabus” tools that can automatically generate calendar items based on your due dates, and allow you to create links to pages which may be chunks of content from your syllabus. If students do not read a 5-page syllabus, they may click on a link to a page for grading policies only.
- Create alternative syllabus representations. While you may want to keep your “fine print”, “legal contract” version of the syllabus, create alternative representations of your syllabus to better communicate your expectations. For instance, use infographic, audio or video to represent information you would like to emphasize. Adobe Slate is a fairly easy tool to use to create a flow of content with graphic. There are also various mindmapping tools for you to create advanced organizers or visual representations of your requirements. If you want to be even more creative, how about making a short movie about your course requirements?
- Translate action verbs into actionable items. Usually you describe in a syllabus what you would like students to do, and expect them to understand and act upon these descriptions. I would suggest that you do not stop with action verbs. Use action items. For instance, instead of including a long rubric in your syllabus showing how you will grade a paper, create an assignment tool in your learning management system and associate it with a rubric. Directly use a rubric to grade their work. This will remove inconsistency between your assessment plan and actual actions. Another example: instead of making human decisions whether to accept a late assignment, use an assignment tool in Canvas to mark assignments as late, or prevent further submissions after the due dates. Instead of just posting an academic honesty policy, use originality checking tool (such as Turnitin) in your assignment collection process. In other words, your requirements will not just be “all in the syllabus”, but “all in the course”, spread out and close by when students work on tasks or when you grade them.
All of the suggestions above are based on the understanding that you will set requirements. You can also incorporate student insights and backgrounds by involving them in the development of your syllabus. When their input is incorporated, a syllabus is no longer the “law” a professor imposes, but a living contract for both parties to honor.
- Norman, D. A. (2002). The Design of Everyday Things (1st ed.). New York: Basic Books.
- Williams, R. (2004). The Non-Designer’s Design Book (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press.
The ACU Library’s Curriculum Builder LMS Plugin enables you to search for EBSCOHOST articles, e-books, and other digital sources directly from the Canvas system and provide access to your students. Here is how it works: You can search our ACU OneSearch directly from the Canvas LMS. Simply click the button “Add to Reading List” and your selections are saved for your students to view. Curriculum Builder allows you to annotate the reading list items so that you can provide additional information to your students. You can also share and copy other reading lists that have been created by faculty.
Canvas Commons is an area where ACU faculty and staff share resources for easier transfer between courses. For instance, video tutorials to help students become familiar with Canvas, or resources a lead instructor intends to share with other instructors. You could import these resources to your course by following these instructions:
1) Log in to Canvas (acu.edu/canvas);
2) Go to your course in Canvas;
3) Click on “Import from Commons” on the course home page (towards the right);
If you teach multiple sections identical in content, you may consider cross-listing them for easier course administration. With a cross-listed course, you can release your assignments or quizzes to different sections at different times, or look at student grades in the grade book section by section, while uploading/updating your content only once.
If you need to cross-list courses, you might want to do this early in the semester. It is generally not a good idea to keep two courses running and crosslist them mid-semester as crosslisting will get rid of the work in the course that is being crosslisted.
Please also note that there is going to be some “lag” time between your action in MyACU and results in Canvas. Your requests may not have results until a 2-4 hours later. Here is how to cross-list your courses:
1. Go to MyACU;
2. Find the course you intend to use as the target course; (Note: A target course is one that you would like to cross-list other courses into. )
3. Click on the course tool shaped like a wrench;
4. Click on the “cross-list” tab;
5. Find the course you would like to cross-list into the target course, and click on “add”. If you do not see the “add” tab, you may have created a Canvas course and/or some other tools (such as calendar and blog) for the course. All of these tools have to be deleted before it is possible to cross-list the course into another one. If you are not sure, make a copy of what you did just in case.
6. Request a Canvas course for the main section.
7. After a Canvas course is created, you might want to go to the the course settings and change the name to reflect that it is a cross-listed course, for instance, by changing “01” to “01 & 02”.
If you found that you cross-listed the wrong courses, go back to step 4, find the “parent” course, remove the “child” course. After that is completed, cross-list the right course into it.
Check here for more information related to the use of Canvas for your courses. Contact an instructional designer at the Adams Center if you want to learn how to manage a cross-listed course, or if you are not sure of the cross-listing process.