OIT Monthly Blog Volume 14, Issue 8

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Early Indicators and Coachable Moments in Student Canvas Orientation

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) released the DSU Student Canvas Orientation inside Canvas at the start of the semester to foster student satisfaction by preparing them to become competent users of the campus learning management system (LMS). The course does not offer academic credit, but students can earn a Certificate of Completion as well as digital badges. To date, nearly 120 students have enrolled and 30 students earned their certificates in the first week and 45 earned theirs so far this week. Most of the students are from Mississippi, but come from as far away as Canada, Kentucky, Louisiana, and West Virginia.

The course was updated to reflect new technical requirements and place greater emphasis on student support and satisfaction by creating more interactive course components including wikis, Vokis, and bulbs. Early indicators show that students in the course meet the technical requirements for Canvas and are highly competent in various assignment submissions and tool use (eg. Rich Content Editor, Quizzes, Discussions). In addition, Outcomes were used to assess course goals to prepare students to submit assignments (efficiency), participate in discussions (community-building), and to connect with University administration (connectivity). The integration of Canvas’ Outcomes tool with specific course activities has proven helpful in identifying students’ strengths and areas for support.

In one assignment called “Where’s LaForge?” students are tasked to find information on the President and his role in the community and campus. Students contributed videos, pictures, and commentary to demonstrate 100% competency in knowing who the President is as well as his role with the University. This activity reinforces institutional commitment by the student which is a contributing factor to student persistence. Gathering information on the President can improve student confidence in the school and shape their perception of the campus environment which facilitates satisfaction with their institutional choice (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Tinto, 1993-to name a couple).

Students shared some of their findings about the President hosting Fireside Chats, love of green ties, political involvement, and his interest in students. Some observations were quite impressive including this comment below (Disclaimer: The submission below is an actual submission by a real DSU student; however, the student pictured is NOT a student at DSU and the student name has been omitted from the submission to protect his/her privacy):

happystdntstudentcommentedit

As the course facilitator, I will use the outcome findings to identify coachable moments and opportunities for re-shaping content to reinforce learning. For example, outcome findings demonstrate that a third of students who took the Activity 4 “Managing My Grades” assessment had a poor understanding of how to manage their grades in Canvas. In the assessment (which was aligned to the understanding grades outcome), I learned from the most missed question that students needed better guidance in understanding that changing their grade display to view only graded activities will mislead them about their actual course standing.

Consequently, I removed my Blubbr from last year thus making the content for that particular concept less interactive and more text-heavy. In the future, information for this “heavier concept” will be converted back to a more engaging format. I will also note that mastery for that task was set at 80% (20/25) which is high, but given the importance of the content, it is a reasonable goal. On the other hand, 98% of students achieved mastery in the prior Activity 3 for navigating to and accessing their grades in both Canvas gradebooks. See the Activity 3 Learning Mastery gradebook outcome results below:

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Conferencing Alternatives for Easy Connecting

Although most online courses will meet asynchronously, there are times when instructors want to have real-time interaction with their students. Canvas has a built-in Conferences tool to enable instructors to create sessions for just such occasions. However, some would like to explore alternatives for carrying on live conversations with students.

Conferencing solutions are costly in nature and all require that students and instructors have the required software and hardware necessary to to effectively participate in these meetings. Bandwidth is also an issue since those with limited bandwidth often experience connectivity issues. Nonetheless, there are other free alternatives which may meet the needs of instructors who desire minimum synchronous communication.

A strong contender is Zoom. I have used Zoom for free and like it’s ease of use, high-definition, access options, and clean design. There is even a Zoom Education Users Group on LinkedIn. Zoom is a cloud-based solution that offers more options than many of the other free conferencing tools. The free version will allow a host to conference with up to 25 people for 40 minutes, and for an unlimited time for one-on-one calls. Best of all, invited participants can either log into the room online or phone in. Both log in options are secure. A highlight feature of the free version is that hosts can record their meetings. The recordings will be saved to your files and in your Zoom account as video and mp4 formats (see image below).Zooms

As a Google enthusiast and Droid owner, I sign in with my Google account and love the mobile app’s easy integration with Google Docs. But unlike Google Hangouts, students don’t need a Google account to participate in Zoom meetings. Rather than embed a Zoom in your course, instructors can use the Redirect tool and make it part of the course navigation menu. There is an interface download when you start a meeting that takes less than two minutes, but no ads. If you want to try Zooming, let me know and I will invite you to join me!

 

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Another strong, free conferencing alternative is AnyMeeting. The free version of AnyMeeting will allow hosts to invite up to 200 participants with no time limit. Hosts can share presentations, screens, and YouTube videos, but hosts will need to install a screen-sharing plug-in. The tutorial for AnyMeeting is truly one of the best I have seen in explaining how to use the interface. Users are guided in the entry process which is extremely helpful for students. Also useful is the ability for hosts to create polls and know which of their users joined by phone and which joined with the internet (see image above). The AnyMeeting desktop application is also a great way to create meetings fast. The free version does have ads which essentially pay for the features. The ads are tastefully positioned on the right side of the conferencing screen and I did not find them to be distracting. Unlike Zoom, you cannot record meetings with the free version of AnyMeeting, but with all of its features and support it is worth trying!

 

Audio on the Go

One way that instructors connect with students and personalize their online courses is to place audio and video of themselves throughout the course. However, some instructors do not have the software or tools to accomplish this goal efficiently. There are tools to help those instructors on the go.

Vocaroo is a free online recording tool that allows instructors to create recordings of their audio without investing in expensive software. The recordings can be downloaded in MP3 file format or easily embedded in PowerPoints, websites, or directly in your online course. For best results, use a headset or you risk poor sound quality and background noise from internal mics and webcams.

Fotobabble is an oldie but goodie that’s been around for some time. Instructors can forgo a full video and save bandwidth by creating a babble instead. Instructors can load a photo in Fotobabble and record audio over the image. In terms of assisted learning, using a technology like Fortobabble has also been acknowledged as a beneficial tool for describing images to visually impaired learners.