Using VoiceThread to Support Student Interaction
Dr. Wendy Waugh uses VoiceThread to promote learner engagement and active learning in her online courses. This tool enhances rich interaction in online environments by allowing students to comment (via voice, text, audio file, or video) on images, documents, or videos shared by the instructor or other students in the course.
Watch this video tutorial created by Dr. Waugh describing the VoiceThread set-up process for example discussions in one of her courses.
This is a second article in a series highlighting educational technologies or teaching and learning strategies that are working well (and in some cases, not so well) for CSC instructors in the classroom or online courses. Whether you are a senior faculty member or a new one, please contact email@example.com if you have a story to share with your colleagues regarding what works well (or not so well) in your teaching and learning efforts.
For the TLC March Faculty Seminar, we would like to invite you to join us in our peaceful, thoughtful “March for Best Practice.” This two-week event is intended to provide an opportunity for sharing and learning from the variety of ways that Chadron State College instructors support teaching and learning.
During the “March for Best Practice,” we encourage peaceful faculty participants to share narrated videos and screencasts to showcase the work they do in their online and face-to-face courses. We will collect these videos and screencasts and build a shared resource–an impressive, revolutionary wall of videos containing stories, strategies, and ideas offered in a way for new faculty and seasoned colleagues to learn from each other.
In the coming weeks, we will be visiting with faculty members on campus to extend personal invitations to join the cause as well as to provide complete march details and materials.
To participate, we request that you create at least one video or screencast, between one- to three-minutes long, in which you describe how you address a best practice in your online or face-to-face course. In your video or screencast introduction, please identify the specific standard (as stated in a quality course standards rubric) that you are addressing to provide those who view your video with this key information. Where can you reference a quality course standards rubric? Contact the Teaching & Learning Center staff (firstname.lastname@example.org) for quality course standards rubrics. Jereme, Sam, and Elizabeth are also on hand to discuss ideas, to recommend screencast and video creation tools, and to assist with steps for creating your video or screencast.
Although this is the first “March for Best Practice” organized at CSC, marchers at other institutions have previously engaged in peaceful efforts to share and learn from colleagues. We are modeling our march after those who have gone before us, and we recommend viewing examples of their work to learn from what they are doing and to find inspiration for creating your own best practice video or screencast to share. Check out the best practice videos posted at Yavapai College, Northwestern Michigan College, and Glendale Community College. Then join our cause and contribute to the revolutionary collection of videos showcasing efforts underway to support teaching and learning at CSC.
Video wall construction will take place from March 13-27, 2017, at which time you may view the shared resources posted on the Best Practice Video Wall.
Sincere appreciation to Todd Conaway for providing inspiration and an invitation to march via his Quality Matters conference presentation.
These are exciting times for Chadron State College with various advancements in educational technologies available to use in the classroom, both face-to-face and online. CSC instructors are developing courses that provide a variety of ways for students to interact with each other, with their instructors, and with the content of courses. Teaching and learning can be enhanced with technologies such as the web conferencing system of the Sakai Meetings Tool, a GoPro camera for facilitating a flipped classroom approach, and interactive large format touchscreens on campus.
This is the first in a series of articles that will share educational technologies or teaching and learning strategies that are working well (and in some cases, not so well) for CSC instructors in the classroom or online courses. Whether you are a senior faculty member or a new one, the TLC invites you to share your experiences with your colleagues. Please contact me, email@example.com, with a story to share regarding what works well (or not so well) in your teaching and learning efforts.
What Works Well? Phil Cary Shares his Experience Using Touchscreens in his Classroom
I recently asked Phil Cary to share his perspective on using the new large interactive touchscreens for teaching his math classes. Following are his responses regarding how these technologies are transforming his classroom teaching as well as how they may be useful for teaching and learning in other disciplines.
How are you using this technology to enhance your teaching?
I prepare digital notes ahead of class, using a digital tablet (the Sympodium from Smart products). Then during class discussion, I show the prepared notes on the touch screen, but also write on the touch surface to record additions and modifications to the notes during discussion. After class, I convert the completed notes reflecting class discussion into pdf files that I then post for the students (both on and off campus). I can also use a web-based graphing calculator (Desmos) that is so useful in discussing concepts with students in my class. I can annotate the graphs we produce and capture the graphs into my notes for the day.
Are you using the screen with or without the computer?
I am currently using the screen with the desktop PC in the classroom, which is running the Smart Notebook software.
Do you use the whiteboard technology and save files for each class session?
Yes, every class period, as described above. I can work additional math problems and answer questions by writing on the touch screen.
Do you see other departments using this technology?
Absolutely! The ability to create notes, as well as write directly on web pages and other documents, then save the modifications digitally, would be very useful in all classes.
Have you run into any problems?
So far, I am very pleased with the touch screen as a useful classroom tool. Just this morning a student told me that he could see the touch screen better and more clearly than the previously used projected image from the projector located in the ceiling. The only issue (that is a temporary one) is that it takes a while to get used to the sensitivity of the touch screen, so it is not quite as simple as writing on a whiteboard. However, I am confident this issue can be overcome with practice and experience.
Do you have any plans for using this technology differently from how you are currently using it?
Yes, one of my top priorities is to learn how to use the screen with a webcam to conference with others using Vidyo. Since many of our math students (in the math major) are located at a distance from campus, this could be very useful in communicating with groups or individuals off campus.
In your online course development process, do you take specific steps aimed at addressing accessibility? How do you ensure that the course is accessible to students with a wide range of differing abilities?
General Standard 8 of the Quality Matters Rubric expects that “course design should reflect a commitment to accessibility so that all learners can access all course content and activities and to usability, so that all learners can easily navigate and interact with course components.” (Quality Matters ™ Higher Education Rubric Workbook, 2014).
Why Standard 8?
Several federal laws support the rights of individuals with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) supports students with disabilities and is the foundational piece of legislation for ensuring equal access to programs and services in higher education. Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are also pertinent. Section 504 states that institutions are required to provide equal access to programs and services receiving federal funding, while Section 508 requires that federal websites have minimum benchmarks for website accessibility.
What Do These Laws Mean for CSC Online-Sakai Courses?
Because CSC is a public institution which receives federal funding, the online courses CSC provides to students are required to comply with these laws and ensure that course materials are accessible. The major portion of content created in CSC Sakai-Online course sites is generally accessible. However, materials developed using external applications such as Microsoft Word documents, Adobe PDFs, and multimedia may not be accessible for all students.
Incorporating accessible design enhances the learning experience for all students, not just students with disabilities. For example, selecting a font which is easy to read on a computer and mobile devices makes content more accessible for students with visual impairments, but it also provides all learners with content that is easier to read. Similarly, providing transcripts and captions for videos allows hearing impaired students to access content. However, providing multiple ways to engage with course activities and instructional materials provides an enhanced learning experience for all students.
This Accessibility Basics Handout provides guidelines for improving the accessibility and usability of your online course as per QM General Standard 8.
Are you taking specific measures to develop online course environments for students with different abilities? Post a comment below and let us know!
Quality Matters™ Higher Education Rubric Workbook (5th ed.). (2014). Annapolis, MD: MarylandOnline, Inc.
Book Review: Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses
Check It Out: Teaching & Learning Center Collection
The author poses the question, “How can I create courses that will provide significant learning experiences for my students?” A question, or possibly a riddle, that I feel the author does an excellent job of addressing with a practical research-based paradigm shift from “content-centered” to “learning-centered” course design and delivery. A tweaking (not to be confused with twerking) of Bloom’s Taxonomy could be considered blasphemous amongst educators, but I found the author’s “Taxonomy of Significant Learning” to be “Aha!” inducing.
Applicable Knowledge / Skills
Concepts I’ll be implementing from this book:
- The use of a “learning portfolio” to “simultaneously integrate and promote significant learning goals, active learning activities, and educative feedback and assessment.”
- Using the “Taxonomy of Significant Learning” as a general guide to enhance course design, delivery, and assessment.
Useful information abounds. Read it, and/or swing by my office for a chinwag.
Book Review Club
If you’re interested in writing reviews of the books in the TLC Collection, contact Josh Ellis (firstname.lastname@example.org), who is facilitating the Book Review Club through the TLC in 2016-2017. As you peruse the shelves for a book to read, review, and share, keep P. J. O’Rourke’s insightful suggestion in mind: “Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”
In early August, the Teaching & Learning Center hosted a 2-day Summer Institute with professional development sessions aimed at tuning up online courses. Elizabeth Ledbetter, Dr. Tracy Nobiling, Dr. Nathaniel Gallegos, and Sam Ballard delivered event sessions featuring tips for making online courses accessible, exploring ways to make a syllabus more learner-centered, delving into copyright, and providing a hands-on introductory experience with Virtual Reality. Aaron Johnson, author of Excellent Online Teaching: Effective Strategies for a Successful Semester Online, facilitated several sessions highlighting strategies for developing robust online discussions, tips for time management, and top ingredients for effective lecturettes.
Faculty members offered these comments to describe what they liked most about the event:
- The VR (Virtual Reality) tutorial hands down…. it gave me a potential idea about directions that VR may go in relation to (my discipline) in particular, which I may propose as a panel topic for a future conference.
- ….learning more about learner-centered syllabi!
- I really liked the part about online discussions. It has changed the way I’m going to participate, grade, and present them to my students.
- …..bringing in Aaron (Johnson) was great!
- I really appreciated the new technology and resources! (The institute was) a great way to get started for a new year —so much great information as well as support.
New faculty gathered at the Bean Broker for the final meeting of the New Faculty Orientation (NFO). Tracy Nobiling, NFO facilitator, led a discussion with the now not-so-new faculty to identify what they considered most useful and least useful aspects of this year’s program experience. The new faculty members shared their perspectives and offered suggestions for ways to improve the program for next year’s new faculty cohort.
The discussion expanded upon feedback the NFO participants submitted via an anonymous, online evaluation of the program’s full-day orientation held prior to the start of fall semester and the hour-length, bi-monthly meetings scheduled during the fall and spring semesters. Points taken from the survey framed the candid discussion.
Survey responses and the subsequent conversation suggest that new faculty have many things in common, that they appreciate and benefit from having structured, collegial opportunities to meet with each other, and that the program is not perceived as overly time-consuming.
Faculty expressed general agreement that the most useful meetings are those focused on explaining college planning, policies, processes, and
procedures as well as those which identify resources (individuals and offices) that support students.
Opinion was split on the value of meetings focused on teaching-related topics. Given the varied levels of new faculty teaching experience, these meetings were considered greatly beneficial to some, but less valuable to others.
The informal discussion underscored the challenges of providing the right balance of topics relevant to all new faculty while coordinating perfectly timed delivery of information just when faculty need it.
The group discussion prompted several suggestions to enhance future NFO experiences and/or CSC teaching overall. Some ideas proposed are:
- Add an agenda item to every meeting to increase time allotted to unstructured discussion and sharing of challenges and successes faculty are experiencing at the moment.
- Add a meeting or event in which a panel of experienced CSC faculty members address what to expect when teaching CSC students and how best to engage them.
- Schedule and promote a regularly scheduled “Teaching Table” to support both new and experienced faculty informal discussions regarding teaching strategies, ideas, and conundrums.
The NFO Program is designed to assist incoming faculty who are new to teaching and/or new to campus with just-in-time guidance and resources for getting settled on campus. Meeting topics aim to introduce new faculty to CSC and support them in navigating college processes, developing a support network, and fostering plans for improving teaching, scholarly and creative activities, and professional service.
One new faculty member expressed that the NFO experience was very helpful and provided some great information that could be used throughout the semesters.
“It was refreshing to be part of a group of faculty that was in the same boat as me, being in the first year of teaching here at CSC, and it helped provide a non-biased look at happenings around the campus. Often times, our views can be distorted and we can get cliqued into our own department and not have to travel outside of it. This was a nice way to branch out and meet new individuals and learn about campus.”
Check It Out: Teaching & Learning Center Collection
The authors draw on “research from a breadth of perspectives to identify a set of key principles underlying learning” and provide guidance for applying those principles to college students through thoughtful course design and instruction. I found the book to be a bit overwritten in parts and oversimplified in others, but all-in-all a good read that offered some thought-provoking concepts and ideas in regard to designing a course and presenting material with “how learning works” in mind.
Applicable Knowledge / Skills
Some of the concepts that I found particularly interesting and applicable are as follows:
- Course improvement should follow a process of “progressive refinement” with continuous incremental changes and reflection.
- Increase student learning through “goal-directed practice” and “targeted feedback.”
- Increase student motivation by making the “value” and “expectancy” of the course evident to them.
- To increase “expectancy” and “mastery” establish student learning outcomes and course goals that help students see “component parts” of a “complex task.”
- Prior knowledge can help or hinder student and teacher course performance so it is necessary to determine what your and your students’ beliefs are regarding intelligence, ability, and learning.
“Numerophobic” safe. Useful research-based information presented in a readable manner.
Book Review Club
If you’re interested in writing reviews of the books in the TLC Collection, contact Josh Ellis (email@example.com), who will be starting and facilitating a Book Review Club through the TLC in 2016-2017. As you peruse the shelves for a book to read, review, and share, keep P. J. O’Rourke’s insightful suggestion in mind: “Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”
The idea of hosting an academic study table came back to CSC from a session at a Higher Learning Commission Conference. The principle is that students who might benefit most from visiting faculty during office hours to discuss class material, study habits, and writing are unlikely to do so. First-generation college students are reportedly the least likely to visit with faculty in a one-on-one situation. In theory, moving office hours out of the office and into a more public space that accommodates group meetings encourages greater contact between students and faculty. Presumably, greater contact facilitates improved student success.
Although study table is a common practice at colleges and universities, there is not a significant body of scholarship on the topic. Many athletic departments at Division I and II schools set aside library time – labeled study table – for student athletes, but they are not usually moderated by either faculty or tutors. While the rationale for mandated study time for athletes appears to be continued eligibility, there is a small body of literature that addresses the importance of scheduling times for study when student athletes are not exhausted from their practice sessions.
Many institutions also schedule study table as part of their supplemental instruction programs, which are generally hosted by peer tutors. Some engineering programs set aside time and space for unmoderated group study on a drop-in basis. Modern language programs still host tables that focus on language immersion. Faculty-led study tables are either uncommon or have received little scholarly attention. The promise of improved student success and the dearth of information about study tables is what compelled me to experiment throughout the 2015-16 academic year. I cannot ascertain at this time whether holding a study table in the Library Learning Commons is holistically successful or not, but I feel it is worth continuing – with some modifications – in 2016-17. I have come to this decision not because I collected much data on the practice (a quantitative approach) but because of my general impressions about student engagement (a qualitative approach).
In fall 2015, I started a study table for my freshman-level World History survey sections. Combined enrollment in the two courses was about 95. In addition to presenting historical content, the study table is designed to help students read and write at a college level. All exams and in-class assignments are in essay format, and there is a formal essay based on an ancillary monograph. I hosted my study table in a main-floor study room in the library every Monday at 1 pm and every Tuesday at 6 pm. Attendance at the 6 pm session, I feel, was acceptable, although a large number of the regulars were student athletes who would have been in the library anyway. Three to four students attended most evening sessions. The largest groups were about a dozen students, but this only happened in sessions just prior to exams.
Student success was likely improved, although those in most frequent attendance were individuals who would have succeeded anyway. There were also students who utilized study table to pass the course. Three of my study table students were in the Transitional Studies program, and they attended (at least in part) because other professors and tutors asked them to do so. They all earned Cs, and their work improved dramatically as the semester moved forward. Availability of study table was noted positively on student evaluations.
I expanded my sessions to Wednesdays at 6 pm for spring 2016 and opened up study table to students in all of my courses, as requested by several seniors. Up until mid-term, attendance had been markedly down. My spring course load, however, is less focused on freshmen; I have only one large survey section, and most students were already successful for at least one semester. However, I regularly see both of my independent study students during the evening hours. I read essay drafts for about ten students prior to the first deadlines, but spring term has not been as active as fall.
In 2016-17 I will likely continue the 1 pm Monday sessions. In the fall term, I will schedule two evening times, one at 6 pm Tuesdays and one other to be determined, in part, by library usage statistics. Spring term, I will reduce the hours to just 6 pm on Tuesdays. I opt for the Tuesday slot to encourage students to attend the Graves Lecture Series at 7 pm. I will reevaluate after next academic year.
If you would like to learn more about my study table experiment, please attend the TLC Seminar “Academic Study Table” on April 14 (3-4 pm, ADM 030). If you are a faculty member interested in starting a study table of your own, the librarians in the LLC are happy to assist you. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 308.432.6271.
The Teaching & Learning Center will host a Summer Institute designed to assist faculty members in “tuning up” their online, hybrid, or web-enhanced courses. The two-day event (proposed for August 2016) offers interactive, hands-on sessions that guide participants in assessing, revising, and reinvigorating instructional components to make courses road-ready and to boost student performance. Read Full Post