Student Enrollment with CourseSites

If you use CourseSites as the LMS for your coming semester, please be reminded that you will need to “invite” students to your course, and students will need to “confirm and register” to be able to get in to the course. In a way, this works like friend request in Facebook or connections request in Linkedin. To invite students, go to the control panel of your course, find “users and groups” and then click on “users”. Click on “invite” to start your invitation.

Here are a few suggestions to make the process smoother:

1. Instead of typing all student email, copy all students’ email. To do so, go to MyACU, find your class, go to the class roster, and try sending email to “all” to launch an email window. Before sending any real mail out, just copy all the email from the “to” field.  Open a blank Word document and paste these addresses. Use Word’s “replace all” function to replace “edu” with “edu,”, as CourseSites invitations require commas to separate email addresses. Then copy and paste it to the receivers’ field in CourseSites’ invitation email when you invite.

2. If a student encounters an error in accepting the invitation, ask him or her to clear cache.  You might want to send link of this Wiki article: http://www.wikihow.com/Clear-Your-Browser’s-Cache to help the student learn how to clear cache.

3. If that still does not work, ask the student to switch to a different browser and try again. I asked CourseSites support which browsers work best, they said they would recommend Firefox.  They found that the lower versions of Internet Explorers give more issues.  Students may need to update to a higher version of IE before accepting such invitations, or use another browser  for this purpose.

4.  In some cases you may need to re-send the invitation if students find the link does not work.

5.  You can send a second invitation only to those who have not accepted your invitation. To do this, go to “check invitation status” , and click on “invitation status” to sort students by those who have accepted and those who have not. This way all students who have not accepted the invitation will be listed together for easier selection. Check the boxes besides their emails and click on “send invitations”  to resend your invitation.

6. As semester goes on, students will be added or dropped from your course, for added students, just send a new invitation.  For dropped students, you can remove them.  But to be safe I would choose to make them unavailable in the course during the semester, if there is any possibility of them being re-enrolled in the course.   To make someone unavailable, go to “users and groups” on the control panel, choose “users”, find the user and click on the edit button that appears when you mouse over the name, click on “change user’s availability” in the course and then choose “no” for “available (this course only).”

User availability in course

7.  Save your invitation drafts.   CourseSites has also added a feature to save your customized invitation message.  Usually you get a default message.  Feel free to use that if it suffices.  However there are times you need to customize the message for various reasons.   As you do so, please do not change the highlighted links.   Also,  consider saving each version of your invitation, which will save you much time. Do NOT copy such messages between courses as each course has a specific link. Overwriting such links by pasting the invitation message from another course may cause a lot of confusion and make it inefficient for you to manage your enrollment.

Once you finish adapting your invitation message, save it under a name that you will recognize in the future.

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 11.54.48 AM

 

 

After you have saved your  version of the invitation letter,  you can choose a version of your invitation letter from the drop-down menu, as shown below, if you need to send another invitation letter.

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 11.56.09 AM

Backing up Your Course Data with CourseSites

Written by Berlin Fang

You can use the “export/archive” functions to back up your course data with CourseSites. You will need to do this for a number of reasons:

  1. Creating a copy of the course so that it can be imported into a shell in future semesters;

  2. Restoring a past course to check certain information.

Usually you do this at the end of the semester, but you can do so multiple times during the semester as long as you have space to store such files.

CourseSites gives you the option to “export” or “archive” a course. The former allows you to mainly export the content of the course, while the latter allows you to preserve student activities (especially Grade Center history) as well.

Check this tutorial for instructions on archiving your course.

If you export a particular type of content (such as tests only)  from one course to another, you may want to consider using “export course” function to export the source course first (see tutorial), and then use “import package” to import (see tutorial).

You can also download your Grade Center data for backing up or for offline grading. Check this tutorial for details. If you intend to use this option to grade offline, make sure there is no change in columns or users between the time you download the grades and the time you upload the Excel file back.

Managing Assignments with CourseSites

Written by Berlin Fang

 

Collecting student assignments by email can add to the increasing clutter of our digital lives.  Well, there is a method to madness.   You can collect assignments using your learning management system.  All major learning management systems (OpenClass, CourseSites and Moodle) have ways for you to collect student assignments, grade them and record them directly in the grade book that comes with the learning management system you use.

The benefits of doing this is that you do not have to sift through your emails to find a particular attachment and then relate that to a particular class.  Nor would you have to create folders to store such files.   A learning management system would streamline the entire process while students can get quicker feedback as soon as you have given them.

I am going to use CourseSites as an example to show how it works to management assignments with a learning management system.

 

 

While this tutorial shows you as an instructor how to manage assignment using CourseSites, the following tutorial shows students how to submit an assignment.  Consider copying the URL and share it with students if you intend to collect assignments the way I explained:

http://ondemand.blackboard.com/r91/movies/bb91_student_submit_assignment.htm

 

Please note that you can also create “self and peer evaluation” type of assignments or group assignments using CourseSites.  Let me know if you need any help creating this type of assignments. In addition, you can also download all your assignments from the learning management system, grade them offline and enter your grades online if that’s more desirable.

Sending Email via Your Course Management System

If you use your email to communicate with students in a class, you will need to create folders or tags to track such emails. You probably will also have to create email groups for various classes. Students or you may also delete such email messages by accident, or misplace them at locations where you would not be able to find them at a later date. You may find a need to dig out some emails and resend if any of the above happened. To avoid all such time-wasting busywork, you might want to consider using your learning management system to send email instead.

With OpenClass, you can send email to students by clicking the “email” button on the course menu. You will then be able to choose the users to send the emails to.

With CourseSites, you can send emails to them in any of the following three ways:

  1. Use “send email” under “course tools” to send emails to everyone or selected users.

  2. Use “announcement” tool under “course tools” to create an announcement. When you do so, remember to check the box beside “Send a copy of this announcement immediately” to create the email message while keeping the announcement in the course. The benefit of doing this is that you keep your email message within the course as an announcement in case students ignore their emails but come to the learning management system to retrieve course materials.

  3. Use the Grade Center to send email to particular students. As you grade their work, you may want to communicate with them about certain problems, and you do not need to get out of the Grade Center to send an email to them.  Remain in the Grade Center, choose the student(s), and click on the “email” button to send an email to them. This will save you quite a bit of time that could be wasted switching back and forth from the Grade Center and the Email tool.  This works best when you are grading student work or checking their performance within the Grade Center.

Check this video for a demonstration of these three methods if needed.

We often hear that students are not reading longer email messages. Besides, email messages may mess up your formatting. For these reasons, if there are documents that you would like students to spend substantial time reading, consider posting it as a document in your course site, while using announcements/emails to notify them of the availability of such documents, and where they are.

Using Respondus to Convert Tests for Use in OpenClass

If you have tests from a textbook publisher it is very likely that they allow you to download these tests into a compressed format that can be directly imported into your course shell with a major Learning Management System. At this point, OpenClass does not handle such imports except in a handful of formats. However we could use a combination of Respondus and CourseSites to make this conversion possible.

To do this, you will need to download test files into a Blackboard-compatible format. Some publishers have such tests already exported for you to download directly from their sites. Others allow you to export on your own, into a format you would like to use. In the latter case, export a test into a Blackboard format. This will produce a zipped file you can save on your local computer, and send to us for conversion.

The Adams Center can then help you to convert such zipped files for use in OpenClass via Respondus. Or we can show you how to make this conversion if you have a copy of Respondus yourself.

Getting Publisher Content into CourseSites

Textbook publishers are moving vigorously into developing resources for faculty members. Some offer resources such as PowerPoint files, animations, videos and tests that you can use in the course. Coursesites offers a number of ways for you to utilize such content:

1.  You can “pair” certain publisher courses with your CourseSites.  McGraw-Hill, for instance, allows you to pair their content with your CourseSites course so that it is possible to manage grades and assignments within CourseSites. Check this video for instructions on how to do that. You may want to check this site for a complete list of videos about pairing content from some other publishers.

2. Some publishers provide “course cartridges” that you can use. These cartridges are pre-configured courses, complete with content and assessments that you can use in class. You can use such cartridges as a start, and customize them based on your actual need.   You will need a course cartridge number to import such content.  The sales rep of your publisher should have access if such cartridges are available.

Please note, however, in either of the two cases above, the content you customized is not easily transferable between semesters within CourseSites. If you want to develop an online course yourself to be reused, these may not be good paths to follow.

3.  Sometimes textbook publishers may have tests you can download into “Blackboard” format, which you can then import into CourseSites to use or customize.

 

We hope you can keep this in mind as you build your course content. This may save you time as you get your content ready for the course you teach.

A Matter of Time

Please note that CourseSites uses Eastern Time, and we were told that it is not yet possible to customize it to use Central Time.   This has implications for time-sensitive information.

For instance, if you set your quiz to be available at 9:00AM, the quiz will be available at 8:00AM Central Time.  Students may find it available too early and perhaps unavailable anymore at 9:00 Central Time (if, for example, you made it available for only 15 minutes).    Similarly, if you set your due time for an assignment to be 11:59PM,  students using Central Time here will find they cannot submit after 10:59PM.   It is therefore necessary to set the due date to be 1:00AM the next day.

Here are some of our suggestions to address the issue:

  • Convert your time to Eastern Time and use Eastern Time to set up your tests and assignments.   To convert your time to Eastern Time, check this time zone converter.   Please make sure you tell students what is going on.

  • You do not set the display time for your assessments while using “availability” tool to turn a quiz on or off.  Alternatively, keep the quiz available, and set a password for the quiz.   Announce the password when you intend to start the quiz.

  • Turn the editor mode to “off” to see a student view of your course.  This will allow you to see if your quiz can be seen or not.  You will notice that there is a editor mode button on the top right hand corner of your page.  Click on it once to toggle between “on” and “off”.  When it is “off”, you see the course as students would see it (except the control panel which you can still see.)

 

Contact Berlin Fang with any questions.

Preparing to Teach with CourseSites

If you intend to use CourseSites to teach this semester, here are a few suggestions we would like to share with you to help you get ready.

1. Set up your course shell, if you haven’t done so already. We would also recommend you set up a sandbox shell to test things out as you develop your course or teach them.

2. Enroll your students. Use the “invite” function under “users and groups” to invite users. To get the list of student emails, go to “myACU”, click on the icon for the class roster, click on “email”, and then, copy the email addresses from students. CourseSites email requires the use of commas to separate email addresses. You can copy all email addresses from myACU to a blank Word document, use Word’s “find and replace” function to replace all “edu” with “edu,”. And then copy and paste the new list to CourseSites email.

3. Create content for your CourseSites. You will notice the LMS has a whole variety of functions you can use to post and organize your content. Let the instructional design team know if you need any assistance in this area.

4. Create assessments using CourseSites. Check if your textbook publisher has some tests you can readily use. Many have pools you can import directly into CourseSites. If you want to build some yourself, consider building them in Word first. It is possible to convert some to Bb format using Respondus. Let us know if you need any help in this area.

5. Set up your gradebook. You can add your content in the Grade Center as you teach, but it may be a good idea to set it up now if you know what you will include throughout the semester. Please also know that if you create a graded test or assignment with CourseSites, a column will be created in the Grade Center automatically.

6. Check if your course is available to students. Here is the path to set the availability: Control panel –> Customization –> Properties –> Check beside “yes” to make the course available. Check beside “no” if you want to hide the course while you are still developing it, or after you have finished teaching it.

7. Explain the resources for help. CourseSites support for your students comes from CourseSites itself, not Team 55. You might want to share the support resources with students at the beginning to set the expectations. Once you are in your course, you will notice there is a “resource” button on the top right corner of the course, you and the students can click on that to find help information for getting help.

We have a Google Group set up for CourseSites users. Please send an email to anyone on the instructional design team if you would like to be added.

Setting up Courses with CourseSites

Some professors are considering using CourseSites as an alternative to OpenClass to manage their teaching online. CourseSites is a cloud-based learning management system, equivalent in much of its functionality to the latest Blackboard enterprise version. As each account will be associated with an individual URL for each instructor, there is no way to integrate these varied accounts with our student management system. Therefore, instructors will need to set up their own accounts, enroll students and get the course started. Instructors will need to do at least the following things below to get started.

  • Create an instructor account: When you create your own instructor account, use the same username and password you use for myACU to streamline all your university accounts.

  • Create courses: When you create your course(s), make your course titles consistent with what you have in Banner. In the course description area, add your course ID for easier retrieval in the future.

  • Enroll students: Students also need to have or create their accounts to be able to be added to the course. Once you are in your course, go to “users and groups”, then “users”. You will then see you have the options to “create” student accounts or “enroll” existing accounts. As you may not know which students have CourseSites accounts and which ones do not, we advise that you choose the “invite” option. CourseSites will then show you an invite message with links for students to sign up or sign in. You can add some brief instruction in the message to advise first time users to create an account by using their MyACU user names, which would make it easier for you to transfer their grades to Banner in the future.

  • Make courses available: Remember that you can turn on or off your course any time. Go to “customization”, then “properties” and then check beside “yes” to “make course available” when you are ready to release it. Choose “no” if your course is at its “work in progress” stage, or when you have finished teaching the course.

  • Send students an initial email: When you are ready to ask students to come in to the course,  send them an initial email (preferably through myACU to make sure you do not miss anyone) to inform them how to access the course by providing the CourseSites URL. Once you find  that everyone is in the course, you can use the email tool within CourseSites to communicate with them. Remember, too, that students will be added or dropped from class, so please re-resend your invite message to those who get added to class later in the semester. In the Spring 2014 semester, the last day for block students to drop/add is January 17.

If you need help setting any of these up, please set up an appointment with an instructional designer from the Adams Center. More resources will be available later. Please check this blog for further instructions and training information. You can also subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the “subscribe2” area of this page. If you would like to share or learn best practices in using coursesites to teach, we would like you to join the ACU Coursesites Google group.