I am an avid gamer. For some time, I have been thinking about how engaging games are and whether this quality can be leveraged for other purposes; like instruction. Put more simply … What is it about games that makes them so engaging? Is there something about this that we can use as educators? Granted, these are not new questions.

Dr. Meghan Naxer recently posted a primer on Self-Determination Theory (SDT), Self-Determination Theory and Online Education: A Primer. I believe SDT does an excellent job describing much of what makes games so motivating and engaging. Indeed, games provide an excellent model of SDT and can inform us on how the three basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence and relatedness) might be met in learning environments. I hope to build on some of the concepts introduced in Meghan’s post.

This is the first in a series of posts on games as a model for SDT. In part 1, I look at the convergence of Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness in gaming and online learning in relation to building community and intrinsic motivation.

Autonomy: Open Worlds

Games are becoming increasingly complex, particularly in the arena of Open World games where players are allowed to choose their own paths (autonomy). Entire worlds, even universes, exist for you to immerse yourself in, each with their own history and internal logic. You are often thrown into a new world with few instructions.

For example, in the Open World game No Man’s Sky, millions of stars and planets are procedurally generated just for you, unique to your specific game. When this game begins, you appear on an alien planet next to a broken space ship. Your space suit is running out of oxygen. No instructions, just urgent messages from your onboard computer on toxicity and your decreasing oxygen levels.

The complexity of modern open world games is more than can be reasonably covered in a tutorial. Besides, a significant part of what makes the game engaging is the autonomous exploration and discovery. You decide how you will play the game, in what order you will do things and at what pace. Being told how to play the game is far less interesting.

Here is the internal logic of No Man’s Sky:

  • You’re in an alien environment.
  • It seems like you are alone.
  • There are problems to solve.
  • There is no instruction manual.
  • You must explore to solve these problems.

Think about that in comparison to your online students when they first enter your course. Online students do have instructions to help them get started. However, at first glance, it can seem like they are thrown in the deep end to figure things out for themselves. In a situation where intrinsic motivation is less clear, this can lead to frustration. That does not have to be the case. For gamers, there is one more bullet-point.

  • When you get stuck, you can turn to an online community.

If you were to talk to a gamer and describe your experience about how many times you ‘died’ trying to figure a game out, a common reaction would be something like, “Why would you do that? You know there’s a wiki, right?” Playing an online game today is not a solo venture, even if it is a solo game.

Relatedness: Gaming Communities

Online communities spring up around successful games to support players. A majority of large games have an accompanying Wiki, many of which are curated and updated by players. Various online communities exist to discuss specific games in forums and social media. Players discuss technical issues, the internal logic of a game, the lore and history of the game’s world, where to focus their efforts when starting, or the best order to do certain tasks for best success.

The point here is that given the resources, an intrinsically motivated group of people will figure out ways to help each other succeed. This speaks to Relatedness. In an environment where players are given maximum autonomy, they turn toward their community to support that autonomy and gain competence in that environment. Further, when given an opportunity to contribute to supportive communities, to share their competence, players feel valued as members of that community. So, can we create something like this environment in an online course?

Intrinsic Motivation: Sharing Competence

The challenge in my above summary is intrinsic motivation. There is something of an inherent motivation to play a game and get better at it. Though it can be less clear, online students also have intrinsic motivation beyond just ‘passing the course’. Community building can be a way to help students to discover and support these motivations.

Following the gaming example from above,

“Players discuss technical issues … where to focus their efforts when starting, or the best order to do certain tasks for best success.”

This is a good place to start building community. Simply encourage your students to share their success strategies in your course.

Formalize this by setting up a forum-style environment where students share their experiences, the process they used to solve a problem, the biggest stumbling block this week, or simply to ask each other for help. Much of this could also be accomplished through existing discussions or peer reviews by simply adjusting or adding language for students to draw from their own success strategies, “What did you discover this week that would benefit another student?”

Group work is another tool that can be used for helping students discover intrinsic motivation and build community. Challenge students to work together to apply this week’s content to something in their own lives, a subject of their choice. Trust them to find the problem that needs solving. This is similar to participation in a gaming community – sharing and building competence. But in this case, you are allowing students to build the narrative.

By giving students some autonomy in deciding the end product of their work, you are creating an opportunity for them to discover what drives them.

With all of these examples, it is perfectly reasonable to set the ‘internal logic’ of the environment; subject matter to be discussed, the completion goals, length of the project, rubrics for assessment purposes. The idea is to allow students more autonomy in determining how to get to these goals. All that you are really changing, compared to a typical assignment, is control of the narrative.

And that is a nice segue to the topic of my upcoming post, Part 2, Games as a Model for Motivation and Engagement – Narrative and World-Building

Oregon State University has more than 570 hybrid-designated courses. These hybrid (“blended”) courses integrate regularly scheduled on-site classroom meetings with significant online, out-of-classroom components that replace regularly scheduled class meeting time. In this blended learning format, face-to­ face meeting time is generally reduced by 30 to 80% compared to a traditional on-campus course.

Hybrid courses range from large-enrollment general education courses to seminar-style graduate courses. Since 2012 when OSU formally established the hybrid course schedule type, the total enrollment in hybrid courses has exceeded 42,000 students.

OSU Portland Center

Ecampus has recently expanded hybrid course offerings through the new OSU Portland Center, including undergraduate hybrid programs in business, psychology, cybersecurity and human development and family sciences. Portland-based graduate programs include the Master of Arts in Teaching, MBA and graduate certificate in business analytics.

As Susan Fein noted in the previous post, Blended Learning: What Dose the Research Show?, the literature provides a wealth of evidence for the efficacy of hybrid education. But what can instructors who design and teach hybrid courses tell us? Here are some valuable highlights from posts of the most recent Hybrid Faculty Learning Community cohort in the OSU Hybrid Faculty Blog. The members of this cohort were each engaged in the redesign of a more traditional on-campus course into a hybrid course that will be offered during the 2019-20 academic year.

Collaboration: Jillian St. Jacques – Applied Journalism: “Our students are thirsty to work with each other because it is stimulating, plain and simple. . . . They find their own interpersonal relationships incredibly exciting, as they agree, disagree, admire and/or square off with each other in the Arena of the Intellect.”

Creativity: Alina Padilla-Miller – New Media Communications: “Through activities, experiments and use of everyday media, there are a lot of opportunities to fold in the creation process. The process of creating is not only necessary to include in active learning but it’s also incredibly engaging and dare I say it, fun! Whether the class is face-to-face, online or hybrid, incorporating active learning will enrich the course and ultimately the student’s experience with the curriculum. Let the creating begin!”

Excitement: Susan Rodgers – Writing: “This is what’s exciting to me about the hybrid format: instead of simply assigning readings and hoping the students will come in prepared, they’ll do quizzes, discussions, and collaborations before they come to class . . . we can take the conversation very quickly to a deeper and more meaningful level during our f2f time.”

Students working together in class

Flexibility: Dennis Adams – Business: “Students can more easily sort out the variance in their individual ability in this format. Students who require more time and exposure can reread/re-watch the material on their own time.”

Ownership: Michelle Maller – Forestry – “One of the most effective ways for a student to really master a concept is to present/teach that topic to their peers. . . . Creating ways for the students to interact with the content in a way that builds ownership of it can affect the overall learning. A good example of this is to use a discussion board to have each student “teach” their peers about a specific topic covered in that module.”

Roles: Irene Rolston – Anthropology: “Rather than students relying on their ‘sage’ to inform them, we have the ability to transform the classroom from unidirectional communication into multilateral communications between instructor to student and student to student. Approaching this from a hybrid design perspective, using the initial collection and deciphering of data online prior to use in the classroom as, for example, small group discussions, moves the omnipotent sage into the role of facilitator, one who directs the flow of the classroom rather than dominating the stage.”

Skills: Inara Scott – Business : “In a blended classroom, we have a unique opportunity to rethink the structure and content of our courses. . . . Rather than delivering content, we should be thinking about what unique skills we are building in students, and how we can engage them in the process of finding, interpreting, and creating their own content.”

To summarize, intentional hybrid course design and delivery afford opportunities for faculty to create engaging learning experiences that effectively interweave the classroom and online learning environments. This may involve rethinking the roles of the instructors and students, redesigning learning activities and even reconsidering learning outcomes to optimize the teaching-and-learning experience!

What are your perspectives on blended learning? How does this teaching modality compare to fully online or traditional classroom approaches?

Thank you!

This post is the second in a three-part series that summarizes conclusions and insights from research of active, blended, and adaptive learning practices. Part one covered active learning, and today’s article focuses on the value of blended learning.

First Things First

What, exactly, is “blended” learning? Dictionary.com defines it as a “style of education in which students learn via electronic and online media as well as traditional face-to-face learning.” This is a fairly simplistic view, so Clifford Maxwell (2016), on the Blended Learning Universe website, offers a more detailed definition that clarifies three distinct parts:

  1. Any formal education program in which at least part of the learning is delivered online, wherein the student controls some element of time, place, path or pace.
  2. Some portion of the student’s learning occurs in a supervised physical location away from home, such as in a traditional on-campus classroom.
  3. The learning design is structured to ensure that both the online and in-person modalities are connected to provide a cohesive and integrated learning experience.

It’s important to note that a face-to-face class that simply uses an online component as a repository for course materials is not true blended learning. The first element in Maxwell’s definition, where the student independently controls some aspect of learning in the online environment, is key to distinguishing blended learning from the mere addition of technology.

You may also be familiar with other popular terms for blended learning, including hybrid or flipped classroom. Again, the common denominator is that the course design intentionally, and seamlessly, integrates both modalities to achieve the learning outcomes.

Let’s examine what the research says about the benefits of combining asynchronous, student-controlled learning with instructor-driven, face-to-face teaching.

Does Blended Learning Offer Benefits?

Blended Learning Icon

The short answer is yes.

The online component of blended learning can help “level the playing field.” In many face-to-face classes, students may be too shy or reluctant to speak up, ask questions, or offer an alternate idea. A blended environment combines the benefit of giving students time to compose thoughtful comments for an online discussion without the pressure and think-on-your-feet demand of live discourse, while maintaining direct peer engagement and social connections during in-classroom sessions (Hoxie, Stillman, & Chesal, 2014). Blended learning, through its asynchronous component, allows students to engage with materials at their own pace and reflect on their learning when applying new concepts and principles (Margulieux, McCracken, & Catrambone, 2015).

Since well-designed online learning produces equivalent outcomes to in-person classes, lecture and other passive information can be shifted to the online format, freeing up face-to-face class time for active learning, such as peer discussions, team projects, problem-based learning, supporting hands-on labs or walking through simulations (Bowen, Chingos, Lack, & Nygren, 2014). One research study found that combining online activities with in-person sessions also increased students’ motivation to succeed (Sithole, Chiyaka, & McCarthy, 2017).

What Makes Blended Learning So Effective?

Five young people studying with laptop and tablet computers on white desk. Beautiful girls and guys working together wearing casual clothes. Multi-ethnic group smiling.

Nearly all the research reviewed concluded that blended learning affords measurable advantages over exclusively face-to-face or fully online learning (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, 2009). The combination of technology with well-designed in-person interaction provides fertile ground for student learning. Important behaviors and interactions such as instructor feedback, assignment scaffolding, hands-on activities, reflection, repetition and practice were enhanced, and students also gained advantages in terms of flexibility, time management, and convenience (Margulieux, McCracken, & Catrambone, 2015).

Blended learning tends to benefit disadvantaged or academically underprepared students, groups that typically struggle in fully online courses (Chingosa, Griffiths, Mulhern, and Spies, 2017). Combining technology with in-person teaching helped to mitigate some challenges faced by many students in scientific disciplines, improving persistence and graduation rates. And since blended learning can be supportive for a broader range of students, it may increase retention and persistence for underrepresented groups, such as students of color (Bax, Campbell, Eabron, & Thomson, 2014–15).

Blended learning  benefits instructors, too. When asked about blended learning, most university faculty and instructors believe it to be more effective (Bernard, Borokhovski, Schmid, Tamim, & Abrami, 2014). The technologies used often capture and provide important data analytics, which help instructors more quickly identify under-performing students so they can provide extra support or guidance (McDonald, 2014). Many online tools are interactive, fun and engaging, which encourages student interaction and enhances collaboration (Hoxie, Stillman, & Chesal, 2014). Blended learning is growing in acceptance and often seen as a favorable approach because it synthesizes the advantages of traditional instruction with the flexibility and convenience of online learning (Liu, et al., 2016).

A Leap of Faith

Is blended learning right for your discipline or area of expertise? If you want to give it a try, there are many excellent internet resources available to support your transition.

Though faculty can choose to develop a blended class on their own, Oregon State instructors who develop a hybrid course through Ecampus receive full support and resources, including collaboration with an instructional designer, video creation and media development assistance. The OSU Center for Teaching and Learning offers workshops and guidance for blended, flipped, and hybrid classes. The Blended Learning Universe website, referenced earlier, also provides many resources, including a design guide, to support the transformation of a face-to-face class into a cohesive blended learning experience.

If you are ready to reap the benefits of both online and face-to-face teaching, I urge you to go for it! After all, the research shows that it’s a pretty safe leap.

For those of you already on board with blended learning, let us hear from you! Share your stories of success, lessons learned, do’s and don’ts, and anything else that would contribute to instructors still thinking about giving blended learning a try.

Susan Fein, Oregon State University Ecampus Instructional Designer
susan.fein@oregonstate.edu | 541-747-3364

References

  • Bax, P., Campbell, M., Eabron, T., & Thomson, D. (2014–15). Factors that Impede the Progress, Success, and Persistence to Pursue STEM Education for Henderson State University Students Who Are Enrolled in Honors College and in the McNair Scholars Program. Henderson State University. Arkadelphia: Academic Forum.
  • Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Schmid, R. F., Tamim, R. M., & Abrami, P. C. (2014). A meta-analysis of blended learning and technology use in higher education: From the general to the applied. J Comput High Educ, 26, 87–122.
  • Bowen, W. G., Chingos, M. M., Lack, K. A., & Nygren, T. I. (2014). Interactive learning online at public universities: Evidence from a six-campus randomized trial. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 33(1), 94–111.
  • Chingosa, M. M., Griffiths, R. J., Mulhern, C., & Spies, R. R. (2017). Interactive online learning on campus: Comparing students’ outcomes in hybrid and traditional courses in the university system of Maryland. The Journal of Higher Education, 88(2), 210-233.
  • Hoxie, A.-M., Stillman, J., & Chesal, K. (2014). Blended learning in New York City. In A. G. Picciano, & C. R. Graham (Eds.), Blended Learning Research Perspectives (Vol. 2, pp. 327-347). New York: Routledge.
  • Liu, Q., Peng, W., Zhang, F., Hu, R., Li, Y., & Yan, W. (2016). The effectiveness of blended learning in health professions: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 18(1). doi:10.2196/jmir.4807
  • Maxwell, C. (2016, March 4). What blended learning is – and isn’t. Blog post. Retrieved from Blended Learning Universe.
  • Margulieux, L. E., McCracken, W. M., & Catrambone, R. (2015). Mixing in-class and online learning: Content meta-analysis of outcomes for hybrid, blended, and flipped courses. In O. Lindwall, P. Hakkinen, T. Koschmann, & P. Tchoun (Ed.), Exploring the Material Conditions of Learning: Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) Conference (pp. 220-227). Gothenburg, Sweden: The International Society of the Learning Sciences.
  • McDonald, P. L. (2014). Variation in adult learners’ experience of blended learning in higher education. In Blended Learning Research Perspectives (Vol. 2, pp. 238-257). Routledge.
  • Sithole, A., Chiyaka, E. T., & McCarthy, P. (2017). Student attraction, persistence and retention in STEM programs: Successes and continuing challenges. Higher Education Studies, 7(1).
  • U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. (2009). Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies. Washington, D.C.

Image Credits

  • Blended Learning Icon: Innovation Co-Lab Duke Innovation Co-Lab [CC0]
  • Leap of Faith: Photo by Denny Luan on Unsplash
  • School photo created by javi_indy – www.freepik.com
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Are you interested in reading about research in the field of online teaching and learning? Could you use some help in reading and digesting the results of various research reports in the field? Would you like to be able to identify the strengths and weakness of the study reports that you read? If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions then you might be interested in the  Ecampus Research Unit’s new resource: the Report Reader Checklist.

The Report Reader Checklist includes a comprehensive set of criteria that offers you a guide to evaluate the quality and rigor of study reports. The checklist is intended to provide an overview of the foundational elements that should be included when reporting on the results of a study. You can apply each checklist criterion to a report to see whether that element has been included or not.

Here is an overview of the six areas of the checklist and the criterion in each area:

  1. Context: Does the report describe the larger purpose of the study? Does it explain the history or theoretical framework? Does the report include research goals and suggestions for further research?
  2. Methodology: Does the report have a methodology section? Is it clear how data were collected and analyzed? If the study used statistics, were they named? If coding was used, was the procedure described?
  3. Sample: Are the study participants described in detail? Is it clear how participants were recruited? Does the sample represent an appropriate level of diversity? Are subgroups appropriately identified?
  4. Reporting Results: Are all numbers in the report easy to comprehend? Is the “N” provided? Does the report identify missing data? Is it clear where study findings fit with the study’s purpose? Do data visualizations enhance your understanding of the results?
  5. Transparency: Are raw data included in the report? Are instruments or study protocols provided in the report? Are the authors clear about any conflicts of interest? Is the discussion rooted in data results?
  6. Reader Experience: Does the report use language that is easy to understand? Is the report ADA accessible? Does it include a summary or abstract? Is the study an appropriate length?

There are no “points” or “weighting” within the checklist, but if you find one area (e.g., “Context” or “Methodology”) that is missing several criteria within a report, that would indicate that a report is weaker in that particular area.

You can download a one-page PDF of the checklist or visit our supplementary website that provides more details on each of the criterion. Further, the site includes sample reports for each criterion so that you can learn more about areas that you are unfamiliar with.

We hope you find this resource useful for reading and evaluating reports in the field. We also hope it helps you make data-driven decisions for your work.

About the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit: The Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit makes research actionable through the creation of evidence-based resources related to effective online teaching, learning and program administration. The OSU Ecampus Research Unit is part of Oregon State Ecampus, the university’s top-ranked online education provider. Learn more at ecampus.oregonstate.edu/research.

 

There are many benefits to using rubrics for both instructors and students, as discussed in Rubrics Markers of Quality Part 1 – Unlock the Benefits. Effective rubrics serve as a tool to foster excellence in teaching and learning, so let’s take a look at some best practices and tips to get you started.

Best Practices

Alignment

Rubrics should articulate a clear connection between how students demonstrate learning and the (CLO) Course Learning Outcomes. Solely scoring gateway criteria, the minimum expectations for a task, (e.g., word count, number of discussion responses) can be alluring. Consider a rubric design to move past minimum expectations and assess what students should be able to do after completing a task.

Detailed, Measurable, and Observable

Clear and specific rubrics have the potential to communicate to how to demonstrate learning, how performance evaluation measures, and markers of excellence. The details provide students with a tool to self-assess their progress and level up their performance autonomously.

Language Use

Rubrics create the opportunity to foster an inclusive learning environment. Application of clear and consistent language takes into consideration a diverse student composition. Online students hail from around the world and speak various native languages. Learners may interpret the meaning of different words differently. Use simple terms with specific and detailed descriptions. Doing so creates space for students to focus on learning instead of decoding expectations. Additionally, consider the application of parallel language consistently. The use of similar language (e.g. demonstrates, mostly demonstrates, and doesn’t demonstrate) across each criterion can be helpful to differentiate between each performance level.

Tips of the Trade!

Suitability

Consider the instructional aim, learning outcomes, and the purpose of a task when choosing the best rubric for your course.

  • Analytic Rubrics: The hallmark design of an analytic rubric evaluates performance criteria separately. Characteristically this rubric’s structure is a grid, and evaluation of performance scores are on a continuum of levels. Analytic rubrics are detailed, specific, measurable, and observable. Therefore, this rubric type is an excellent tool for formative feedback and assessment of learning outcomes.
  • Holistic Rubrics: Holistic rubrics evaluate criteria together in one general description for each performance level. Ideally, this rubric design evaluates the overall quality of a task.  Consider the application of a holistic rubric can when an exact answer isn’t needed, when deviation or errors are allowed, and for interpretive/exploratory activities.
  • General Rubrics: Generalized rubrics can be leveraged to assess multiple tasks that have the same learning outcomes (e.g., reflection paper, journal). Performance dimensions focus solely on outcomes versus discrete task features.

Explicit Expectations

Demystifying expectations can be challenging.  Consider articulating performance expectations in the task description before deploying a learning task. Refrain from using rubrics as a standalone vehicle to communicate expectations. Unfortunately, students may miss the rubric all together and fail to meet expectations. Secondly, make the implicit explicit! Be transparent. Provide students with all the information and tools they need to be successful from the outset.

Iterate

A continuous improvement process is a key to developing high-quality assessment rubrics. Consider multiple tests and revisions of the rubric. There are several strategies for testing a rubric. 1) Consider asking students, teaching assistants, or professional colleagues to score a range of work samples with a rubric. 2) Integrate opportunities for students to conduct self-assessments. 3) Consider assessing a task with the same rubric between course sections and academic terms. Reflect on how effectively and accurately the rubric performed, after testing is complete. Revise and redeploy as needed.

Customize

Save some time, and don’t reinvent the wheel. Leverage existing samples and templates. Keep in mind that existing resources weren’t designed with your course in mind. Customization will be needed to ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of the rubric.

Are you interested in learning more about rubrics and how they can enrich your course? Your Instructional Designer can help you craft effective rubrics that will be the best fit for your unique course.

References

Additional Resources

The Basics
Best Practices
Creating and Designing Rubrics
One of the most common questions I get as an Instructional Designer is, “How do I prevent cheating in my online course?” Instructors are looking for detection strategies and often punitive measures to catch, report, and punish academic cheaters. Their concerns are understandable—searching Google for the phrase “take my test for me,” returns pages and pages of results from services with names like “Online Class Hero” and “Noneedtostudy.com” that promise to use “American Experts” to help pass your course with “flying grades.” 1 But by focusing only on what detection measures we can implement and the means and methods by which students are cheating, we are asking the wrong questions. Instead let’s consider what we can do to understand why students cheat, and how careful course and assessment design might reduce their motivation to do so.

A new study published in Computers & Education identified five specified themes in analyzing the reasons students provided when seeking help from contract cheating services (Amigud & Lancaster, 2019):

  • Academic Aptitude – “Please teach me how to write an essay.”
  • Perseverance – “I can’t look at it anymore.”
  • Personal Issues – “I have such a bad migraine.”
  • Competing Objectives – “I work so I don’t have time.”
  • Self-Discipline – “I procrastinated until today.”

Their results showed that students don’t begin a course with the intention of academic misconduct. Rather, they reach a point, often after initially attempting the work, when the perception of pressures, lack of skills, or lack of resources removes their will to complete the course themselves. Online students may be more likely to have external obligations and involvement in non-academic activities. According to a 2016 study, a significant majority of online students are often juggling other obligations, including raising children and working while earning their degrees (Clinefelter & Aslanian, 2016).

While issues with cheating are never going to be completely eliminated, several strategies have emerged in recent research that focuses on reducing cheating from a lens of design rather than one of punishment. Here are ten of my favorite approaches that speak to the justifications identified by students that led to cheating:

  1. Make sure that students are aware of academic support services (Yu, Glanzer, Johnson, Sriram, & Moore, 2018). Oregon State, like many universities, offers writing help, subject-area tutors and for Ecampus students, a Student Success team that can help identify resources and provide coaching on academic skills. Encourage students, leading up to exams or big assessment projects, to reach out during online office hours or via email if they feel they need assistance.
  2. Have students create study guides as a precursor assignment to an exam—perhaps using online tools to create mindmaps or flashcards. Students who are better prepared for assessments have a reduced incentive to cheat. Study guides can be a nongraded activity, like a game or practice quiz, or provided as a learning resource.
  3. Ensure that students understand the benefits of producing their own work and that the assessment is designed to help them develop and demonstrate subject knowledge (Lancaster & Clarke, 2015). Clarify for students the relevance of a particular assessment and how it relates to the weekly and larger course learning outcomes.
  4. Provide examples of work that meets your expectations along with specific evaluation criteria. Students need to understand how they are being graded and be able to judge the quality of their own work. A student feeling in the dark about what is expected from them may be more likely to turn to outside help.
  5. Provide students with opportunities throughout the course to participate in activities, such as discussions and assignments, that will prepare them for summative assessments (Morris, 2018).
  6. Allow students to use external sources of information while taking tests. Assessments in which students are allowed to leverage the materials they have learned to construct a response do a better job of assessing higher order learning. Memorizing and repeating information is rarely what we hope students to achieve at the end of instruction.
  7. Introduce alternative forms of assessment. Creative instructors can design learning activities that require students to develop a deeper understanding and take on more challenging assignments. Examples of these include recorded presentations, debates, case studies, portfolios, and research projects.
  8. Rather than a large summative exam at the end of a course, focus on more frequent smaller, formative assessments (Lancaster & Clarke, 2015). Provide students with an ongoing opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge without the pressure introduced by a final exam that accounts for a substantial portion of their grade.
  9. Create a course environment that is safe to make and learn from mistakes. Build into a course non-graded activities in which students can practice the skills they will need to demonstrate during an exam.
  10. Build a relationship with students. When instructors are responsive to student questions, provide substantive feedback throughout a course and find other ways to interact with students — they are less likely to cheat. It matters if students believe an instructor cares about them (Bluestein, 2015).

No single strategy is guaranteed to immunize your course against the possibility that a student will use some form of cheating. Almost any type of assignment can be purchased quickly online. The goal of any assessment should be to ensure that students have met the learning outcomes—not to see if we can catch them cheating. Instead, focus on understanding pressures a student might face to succeed in a course, and the obstacles they could encounter in doing so. Work hard to connect with your students during course delivery and humanize the experience of learning online. Thoughtful design strategies, those that prioritize supporting student academic progress, can alleviate the conditions that lead to academic integrity issues.


1 This search was suggested by an article published in the New England Board of Higher Education on cheating in online programs. (Berkey & Halfond, 2015)

References

Amigud, A., & Lancaster, T. (2019). 246 reasons to cheat: An analysis of students’ reasons for seeking to outsource academic work. Computers & Education, 134, 98–107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2019.01.017

Berkey, D., & Halfond, J. (2015). Cheating, student authentication and proctoring in online programs.

Bluestein, S. A. (2015). Connecting Student-Faculty Interaction to Academic Dishonesty. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 39(2), 179–191. https://doi.org/10.1080/10668926.2013.848176

Clinefelter, D. D. L., & Aslanian, C. B. (2016). Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences. 60.

Lancaster, T., & Clarke, R. (2015). Contract Cheating: The Outsourcing of Assessed Student Work. In T. A. Bretag (Ed.), Handbook of Academic Integrity (pp. 1–14). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-079-7_17-1

Morris, E. J. (2018). Academic integrity matters: five considerations for addressing contract cheating. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 14(1), 15. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40979-018-0038-5

Yu, H., Glanzer, P. L., Johnson, B. R., Sriram, R., & Moore, B. (2018). Why College Students Cheat: A Conceptual Model of Five Factors. The Review of Higher Education, 41(4), 549–576. https://doi.org/10.1353/rhe.2018.0025

“As a stranger give it welcome” – Shakespeare

Students need tactics for when they encounter strange people or strange ideas.(Wilson, 2018) If you think of a first time online student, this is very true as they are entering a new learning environment, likely extremely different from their previous educational experiences. Welcoming that strange experience should include a little bit of information gathering. Look for positive and negatives so that you can decide for yourself how you view it, most of all, have an open mind.

To help potential online students make decisions, and hopefully be more successful should they chose to take an online course, Marie Fetzner asked unsuccessful online students; “What advice would you give to students who are considering registering for an online course?”

Their top 13 responses:

  1. Stay up with the course activities—don’t get behind
  2. Use good time management skills
  3. Use good organizational skills
  4. Set aside specific times during each week for your online class
  5. Know how to get technical help
  6. A lot of online writing is required
  7. There is a lot of reading in the textbook and in online discussions—be prepared
  8. Regular online communications are needed
  9. Ask the professor if you have questions
  10. Carefully read the course syllabus
  11. Be sure you understand the requirements of the online course discussions
  12. Understand how much each online activity is worth toward your grade
  13. Go to the online student orientation, if possible

This needs to raise the question, how can we better help our students? There are obviously struggling students and we want our students to be successful. So, what can we do?

  1. Reach out to students who seem to be lagging behind. A quick email is sometimes all it takes to open up that line of communication between you and the student.
  2. Provide approximate times for course materials and activities. Students can use this to better plan for the requirements that week.
  3. Keep your course organized so students can spend more time with the content instead of search for the content.
  4. Remind students about where to access help and support services.
  5. Develop a Q&A discussion board for student questions about the course. Often, more than one student has the same question and often other students might already know the answer. Have this be something you check daily to answer questions quickly so students can continue with their learning.
  6. Use rubrics for grading. By giving the students rubrics, they will know what is expected, you will get responses closer to your expectations, and it makes grading easier!

Welcome these ideas as you would a new experience. Give it a little try, jump right in, confer with colleagues, or chose your own path. Know that as an instructor or developer for an online course, you have the ability to help your students be successful!

References

Fetzner, Marie. (2013). What Do Unsuccessful Online Students Want Us to Know? Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 13-27.

Wilson, J. (2018). “As a stranger give it welcome”: Shakespeare’s Advice for First-Year College Students. Change, 50(5), 60.

Could your online course use a boost? Is it lacking the secret spice that could be the difference between students coming away feeling satisfied rather than feeling like something was missing? Maybe there is a complex topic that students are consistently having a difficult time understanding or perhaps a particular concept that begs for more than a Power Point with some bland images collected from the internet. Well, perhaps the missing ingredient is an animation!

A brief history of animation…

In 1914, cartoonist Windsor McCay wowed audiences with his short animated film. Although not the first animation ever produced, Gertie the Dinosaur broke ground by employing new techniques, such as keyframes, loops, and the use of an appealing character, all of which would become standard practice in the creation of future animations. Interestingly, Gertie the Dinosaur also featured an interactive element where McCay would appear to give commands to Gertie which she would then carry out on screen.

Fast forward to 1928 where upstart Walt Disney Studios released the animated short Steamboat Willy and introduced the world to Mickey Mouse. Steamboat Willy also marked the first use of sound integrated onto film in an animation.

The 1930’s saw a boom in animation with Warner Brothers creating  its Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons which featured a cast of outrageous characters including Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and arguably some of the most enduring pop-culture references ever. I admit, the Looney Tunes were an invaluable supplement to my formal elementary school education!

Disney upped the ante in 1937 with the release of the first feature length animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. With Snow White, the Disney animators ventured into uncharted territory and proved that an animated film could be both visually stunning and a legitimate medium for storytelling. It was also around this time that the Disney animators planted the seeds of what would become the 12 principles of animation, a system of principles and techniques which have endured to this day and serve as the foundation in the creation of animation and motion graphics.

In the 1940’s and 50’s Disney continued to produce classics with films like Bambi and Fantasia while  another animator, Ray Harryhausen, perfected his “Dynamation” stop motion technique and brought fantastic monsters to life alongside live actors in films like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts. Meanwhile, across the Pacific Ocean the Japanese were busy developing their own unique style of animation known as anime.

In 1960, The Flintstones became the first animated prime time television series and paved the way for animated programs like The Simpsons, the longest running series of all time.

In the 1970’s, animated cartoons dominated Saturday morning television. Although the content was mostly aimed at keeping kids engaged while mom and dad slept in, the power of animation’s potential as a learning tool was being explored in the form of short interludes during the commercial breaks. Most notable, Schoolhouse Rock combined animation and music in a powerfully memorable format to teach kids topics like grammar, history, math, and science. Meanwhile, Sesame Street  featured groundbreaking animations aimed at teaching through entertainment.

In the 1980’s, the computer arrived and ultimately revolutionized the way that animation was created as well as the way it looked. It was a clunky start but by 1995, Pixar studios released the first entirely computer animated feature Toy Story and there was no looking back. The omnipresence of the internet added fuel to the fire and allowed anyone with a laptop and a story to tell to publish their ideas to the world.

So, what does all of this have to do with online learning? Well, before the pedagogical red flag goes up and you think that animation is just for kids or that it’s too frivolous to occupy space in the world of higher education, read on.

We need look no further than the media that we consume on a daily basis to see how ubiquitous animation is. From television commercials, to the prevalence of the online “explainer” video, to online apps such as Headspace, which utilizes  animations to demystify the practice of mindfulness and meditation, animation is proving to be an effective medium to deliver information and get it to stick. Why wouldn’t we want to implement this powerful and available tool in online learning?

A well-crafted animation is a multi-sensory experience that can take a complex or abstract concept and explain it in a way that is concise, understandable, and engaging to the learner. Combining audio/verbal and visual information to illustrate difficult topics allows learners to associate images with concepts and has been proven to actually increase learner understanding and retention.

Additionally, animation can be used to visualize things that would otherwise be impossible or too cost prohibitive to depict with film, text, or still images. Things such as a biological or chemical processes that are invisible to the naked eye, or the ability to look beneath the earth to witness how a plants’ roots grow and utilize nutrients, can effectively be illustrated with animation. Larger scale events like planetary orbits, the hydrologic cycle, earthquake science, or the Russian Revolution can be represented in ways that are much more effective than using still pictures with arrows and text. Does the topic require a horse, a bug, a whale, a tractor, a piece of DNA? There’s no need to worry about the exorbitant costs and time required to train, catch, dive, drive, or dissect…simply animate it!  Animated characters, human, abstract, or animals can also add visual appeal and inject humor into a lesson. Finally, and arguably most important: animations are entertaining! If the student is entertained, they are more likely to be engaged in the subject matter and if they are engaged, they are more likely to retain information.

So what’s the next step? The Ecampus Custom Team is here to help you develop your animation. We’ll start by meeting with you to determine a learning objective and to brainstorm ideas for the project. You can view examples of our work to see if a particular style sparks your interest or, if you have a specific aesthetic in mind, we will work with you to refine it. Once we have pinned down a solid direction for the project, we’ll work with you to create a script. The script will serve as the narration for the animated video and is vital as it is an opportunity to distill the content down to its most potent elements. We prefer to keep the maximum length of the animation under 5 minutes and have found this to be most effective for the learner. When the script is finalized, you will come in to one of our studios to record the voice over narration. At this point, it’s full steam ahead and our team begins production on the animation! We’ll check in with you regularly with samples and progress reports to ensure an amazing final product.

-James Roberts, media team, Oregon State University Ecampus

References:

Oregon State University’s Learning Management System (LMS) migrated to Canvas in 2014-2015. The Canvas migration was based not only on the company’s feature alignment with our learning platform needs but also on the outstanding customer service Canvas Instructure has provided to our LMS user community including students, faculty, instructional designers, and administrators. How Canvas provides customer service offers an example we can model to continue to exceed student expectations.

According to Michael Feldstein’s July 8, 2018 report, major players in US LMS market include Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, Bright Space, Sakai, Schoology, and others (Feldstein, 2018).

LMS Market share in North America

Figure 1: US Primary LMS Systems, July 6th, 2018 (Feldstein, 2018)

 

Of these major players in the LMS field, Canvas is most noticeable with fastest growth in market share among U.S. and Canadian higher education institutions.

LMS history and Market Share

Figure 2. LMS Market Share for US and Canadian Higher Ed Institutions (Feldstein, 2018)

 

Different people suggest different criteria when comparing LMSs. Udutu.com provided a list of 7 things to think about before purchasing a LMS:

  1. Be clear on your learning and training objectives;
  2. Don’t be fooled by the high costs of an LMS;
  3. Know the limitations of your internal team and users;
  4. Pay for the features you need, not for what you might need;
  5. The latest new technology is not necessarily the best one;
  6. Customer support is everything; and
  7. Trust demos and trials over reviews, ratings and “industry experts”

(Udutu, 2016).  Noud (2016) suggested the following ten factors to consider when selecting a LMS:

  1. Unwanted Features;
  2. Mobile Support;
  3. Integrations (APIs, SSO);
  4. Customer Support;
  5. Content Support;
  6. Approach to pricing;
  7. Product roadma;
  8. Scalability, Reliability and Security;
  9. Implementation Timeframe; and
  10. Hidden costs.

Christopher Pappas (2017) suggested 9 factors to consider when calculating your LMS budget:

  1. Upfront costs;
  2. LMS training;
  3. Monthly Or Annual Licensing Fees;
  4. Compatible eLearning Authoring Tools;
  5. Pay-per-User/Learner Fee;
  6. Upgrades and Add-Ons;
  7. Learning and Development Team Payroll;
  8. Online Training Development Costs; and
  9. Ongoing Maintenance.

Of all of the above lists, I like Udutu’s list the best because it matches with my personal experiences with LMS migrations.

I first used WebCT between 2005 and 2007, participated in migrating from WebCT Vista to Blackboard in 2008, and Angel to Blackboard migration in 2013-2014.  During my seven years of using Blackboard as instructional designer and faculty support staff, my biggest complaint with Blackboard was its unexpected server outages during peak times such as beginning of the term and final’s weeks. In 2014, I moved to Oregon State University (OSU). The OSU community was looking for a new LMS in 2013 and started piloting Canvas in 2014. At the end of the pilot, instructor and student feedback was mostly positive. Not subject to local server outages, the cloud-based system was stable and had remained available to users throughout the pilot. Of course no LMS is perfect. But after careful comparison and feedback collection, we migrated from Blackboard to Canvas in 2015. So far in my four years of using Canvas, there has not been a single server outage. Canvas has the basic functionality of a LMS.

Canvas wanted to expand their market share by building up positive customer experiences. They were eager to please OSU and they provided us with 24/7 on-call customer service during our first two years of using Canvas, at a relatively reasonable price. The pilot users were all super satisfied with their customer service. Several instructors reported that they contacted Canvas hotline on Thanksgiving or Christmas, and their calls were answered immediately, and their issues were resolved.

Michael Feldstein (2018) summarized that Canvas’ “cloud-based offering, updated user interface, reputation for outstanding customer service and brash, in-you-face branding” have helped its steady rise in the LMS market share. As instructors and instructional designers, we can learn a lot from the CANVAS INSTRUCTURE’s success story and focus on improving the service we provide to our students, such as student success coaching, online recourses, online learning communities, etc. Would you agree with me on this? If you have specific suggestions on how to improve the way we serve our students, feel free to let us know (Tianhong.shi@oregonstate.edu ; @tianhongshi) !

 

References:

Goldberg, M., Salari, S. & Swoboda, P. (1996) ‘World Wide Web – Course Tool: An Environment for Building WWW-Based Courses’ Computer Networks and ISDN Systems, 28:7-11 pp1219-1231

Feldstein, Michael. (2018). Canvas surpasses Blackboard Learn in US Market Share. E-Literate, July 8, 2018. Retrieved from https://mfeldstein.com/canvas-surpasses-blackboard-learn-in-us-market-share/ on February 2, 2019.

McKenzie, Lindsay. (2018). Canvas catches, and maybe passes, Blackboard. InsideHigherEd. July 10, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2018/07/10/canvas-catches-and-maybe-passes-blackboard-top-learning on February 2, 2019.

Moran, Gwen (October 2010). “The Rise of the Virtual Classroom”Entrepreneur Magazine. Irvine, California. Retrieved July 15, 2011.

Noud, Brendan. (February 9, 2016). 10 Things to consider when selecting an LMS. Retrieved from https://www.learnupon.com/blog/top-10-considerations-when-selecting-a-top-lms/ on February 2, 2019.

Pappas, Christopher. (June 13, 2017). Top 9 Factors to consider when calculating Your LMS Budget. Retrieved from https://blog.lambdasolutions.net/top-9-factors-to-consider-when-calculating-your-lms-budget on February 2, 2019.

Udutu. (May 30, 2016). How to choose the best Learning Management System. Retrieved from https://www.udutu.com/blog/lms/ on February 2, 2019.

Wikipedia. (n.d.). WebCT. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebCT on February 2, 2019.

 

Would you like to save time grading, accurately assess student learning, provide timely feedback, track student progress, demonstrate teaching and learning excellence, foster communication, and much more? If you answered yes, then rubrics are for you! Let’s explore why the intentional use of rubrics can be a valuable tool for instructors and students.

Value for instructors

  • Time management: Have you ever found yourself drowning in a sea of student assignments that need to be graded ASAP (like last week)?  Grading with a rubric can quicken the process because each student is graded in the same way using the same criteria. Rubrics which are detailed, specific, organized and measurable clearly communicate expectations. As you become familiar with how students are commonly responding to an assessment, feedback can be easily personalized and readily deployed.
  • Timely and meaningful feedback: Research has shown that there are several factors that enhance student motivation. One factor is obtaining feedback that is shared often, detailed, timely, and useful. When students receive relevant, meaningful, and useful feedback quickly they have an opportunity to self-assess their progress, course correct (if necessary), and level up their performance.
  • Data! Data! Data! Not only can rubrics provide a panoramic view of student progress, but the tool can also help identify teaching and learning gaps. Instructors will be able to identify if students are improving, struggling, remaining consistent, or if they are missing the mark completely. The information gleaned from rubrics can be utilized to compare student performance within a course, between course sections, or even across time. As well as, the information can serve as feedback to the instructor regarding the effectiveness of the assessment.
  • Effectiveness: When a rubric is designed from the outset to measure the course learning outcomes the rubric can serve as a tool for effective, and accurate, assessment. Tip! Refrain from solely scoring gateway criteria (i.e. organization, mechanics, and grammar). Doing so is paramount because students will interpret meeting the criteria as a demonstration that they have met the learning outcomes even if they haven’t. If learning gaps are consistently identified consider evaluating the task and rubric to ensure instructions, expectations, and performance dimensions are clear and aligned.
  • Shareable: As academic programs begin to develop courses for various modalities (i.e. on campus, hybrid, online) consistently assessing student learning can be a challenge. The advantage of rubrics is they can be easily shared and applied between course sections and modalities. Doing so can be especially valuable when the same course is taught by multiple instructors and teaching assistants.
  • Fosters communication: Instructors can clearly articulate performance expectations and outcomes to key stakeholders such as teaching assistants, instructors, academic programs, and student service representatives (e.g. Ecampus Student Success Team, Writing Center). Rubrics provide additional context above and beyond what is outlined in the course syllabus. A rubric can communicate how students will be assessed, what students should attend to, and how institutional representatives can best help support students. Imagine a scenario where student contacts the Writing Center with the intent of reviewing a draft term paper, and the representative asks for the grading criteria or rubric. The grading criteria furnished by the instructor only outlines the requirements for word length, formatting, and citation conventions. None of the aforementioned criteria communicate the learning outcomes or make any reference to the quality of the work. In this example, the representative might find it challenging to effectively support the student without understanding the instructor’s implicit expectations.
  • Justification: Have you ever been tasked with justifying a contested grade? Rubrics can help you through the process! Rubrics which are detailed, specific, measurable, complete, and aligned can be used to explain why a grade was awarded. A rubric can quickly and accurately highlight where a student failed to meet specific performance dimensions and/ or the learning outcomes.
  • Evidence of teaching improvement: The values of continuous improvement, lifelong learning, and ongoing professional development are woven into the very fabric of academia. Curating effective assessment tools and methods can provide a means of demonstrating performance and providing evidence to support professional advancement.

Value for students

  • Equity: Using rubrics creates an opportunity for consistent and fair grading for all students. Each student is assessed on the same criteria and in the same way. If performance criteria are not clearly communicated from the outset then evaluations may be based on implicit expectations. Implicit expectations are not known or understood by students, and it can create an unfair assessment structure.
  • Clarity: Ambiguity is decreased by using student-centered language. Student composition is highly diverse, and many students speak different native languages. Therefore, students may have different interpretations as to what words mean (e.g. critical thinking). Using very clear and simplistic language can mitigate unintended barriers and decrease confusion.
  • Expectations: Students know exactly what they need to do to demonstrate learning, what instructors are looking for, how to meet the instructor’s expectations, and how to level up their performance. A challenge can be to ensure that all expectations (implicit and explicit) are clearly communicated to students. Tip! Consider explaining expectations in the description of the task as well.
  • Skill development: Rubrics can introduce new concepts/ terminology and help students develop authentic skills (e.g. critical thinking) which can be applied outside of their academic life.
  • Promotes metacognition and self-regulatory behavior: Guidance and feedback help students reflect on their thought processes, self-assess, and foster positive learning behaviors.

As an Ecampus course developer, you have a wide array of support services and experts available to you. Are you interested in learning more about rubric design, development, and implementation? Contact your Instructional Designer today to begin exploring best-fit options for your course. Stay tuned for Rubrics: Markers of Quality (Part 2) –Tips & Best Practices.

References:

  • Brookhart, S. M. (2013). How to create and use rubrics for formative assessment and grading. Alexandria, Va.: ASCD.
  • Richter, D., & Ehlers, Ulf-Daniel. (2013). Open Learning Cultures: A Guide to Quality, Evaluation, and Assessment for Future Learning. (1st ed.). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.
  • Stevens, D. D., & Levi, Antonia. (2013). Introduction to rubrics: an assessment tool to save grading time, convey effective feedback, and promote student learning (2nd ed.). Sterling, Va.: Stylus.
  • Walvoord, B. E. F., & Anderson, Virginia Johnson. (2010). Effective grading: a tool for learning and assessment in college (Second edition.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.