Do you ever wonder where your students go once they log into an online course? John Whitmer (Blackboard analytics, blog link) and Kevin Reeve (instructor and director of Teaching and Learning Technologies at Utah State University, Canvas Analytics video link) did some hard work to seek answers to this question. Kevin presented his team’s preliminary results at Online Learning Consortium conference in Nov. 2016. Some of the findings were obvious, some not so.

My question is: what can we do with this information? How can we use this learning analytics to guide our course design practices as online instructors and online instructional designers?

Here is a summary of Kevin’s report and my ideas of course design based on learning analytics of students’ course visiting behavior patterns:

Student course visit behavior Observations from Canvas learning analytics: Course Design Ideas:
Students’ first visits to online courses may be exploratory.

activitiesannouncementdqtodoviewcalendar

Use announcements to connect with students before course start and during course session; Create navigation tutorial video to guide students; Design course homepage, Start Here module, and syllabus for easy navigation and communicate important information with clear instructions.
Some students visit “Grades” early on to view the weighting of grades and other details Have an accurate grade book available from day 1
Some students visit assignments first Put link to learning module, or related learning materials, learning outcomes, instructions etc. in each assignment.
Many visits to course do not start with homepage Design your course homepage to be attractive and put information that students care to read there; Direct student attention to course homepage if you intend to put important information on homepage, otherwise do not overly rely on homepage.
To do list is driving students entry points once course starts. Enter due dates for graded assignments so the assignments will appear on the calendar and to do list.
Syllabus is being missed by some students during the first few visits Make syllabus prominently visible and accessible.

In the same time, put important information from syllabus in multiple places such as course home page, Start Here module, and first assignment directions, in case students visit assignments directly.

If you have ideas for Canvas course design based on the above observations or your own observations of online students course visit behavior patterns, feel free to share with us

Happy Holidays!

If you’d like to adopt group work in your online course, but want to ensure accountability among your students, consider asking your students to create a group contract to guide their work. Beginning online group work with a mutually agreed upon contract creates a blueprint for the project, and it facilitates the process of students establishing norms and expectations within their group. These norms help to remove the instructor as the sole authority figure, and instead give the team the power to hold one another accountable, according to the guidelines they agree upon, rather than just personal opinions or perceptions.

One way to help your students begin to think about what to include in their group contract is to initiate a conversation with your students about their preconceived notions of group work. Have they done group work before? Have they had good or bad experiences? Ask your students to clarify what ideal group work looks like to them and what specific things they hope to avoid. A discussion about their past experiences may also help your students to better understand their peers’ perspectives and what skills they bring to the team. Key areas for your students to consider and map out in their contract are:

  • Roles and participation responsibilities
  • Communication expectations (mode and frequency)
  • Project timeline/milestones
  • Conflict resolution plan
  • Consequences for breaking contract

To get you started, take a look at these sample group contracts that you can adapt to fit your needs:

References

  • Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Additional Resources

Bright red and orange maple leaves against a blue skyResearch supports the value of online student-to-student interaction and building community among learners. Week 1 intro discussions—Let’s get acquainted. Tell us about yourself!—are a staple of interaction among students in online and hybrid courses. Can a Week 1 intro discussion that introduces students to one another also actively engage them in learning course content while building community with peers?

Karen Holmberg, Assoc. Prof. of Creative Writing, uses an “Interview Haiku” exercise in her hybrid WR 241 Introduction to Poetry Writing course that combines students introducing themselves and introducing peers while practicing the popular three-line poetry form.

After being introduced to haiku, syllable counting and marking stresses in the first week, Prof. Holmberg’s students interview partners during an in-class session. (In a fully online course, this step could be done through other means, for instance, in a Google doc or by text or email.) For these intro interviews, she provides a set of six questions such as “Describe your preferred environment: urban, woodland, seaside, desert, etc.?” and “What is your favorite animal and why?”

Text showing portions of interview questionsFollowing the interviews, students write haikus to introduce their interview partners to the class as well as haikus to introduce themselves. Imagine the challenge of introducing someone else, or yourself, in three brief lines!

Each student posts these two intro haikus in an online discussion. Then each student replies to another student by copying and pasting the other student’s two haikus in the reply box and counting and marking the syllables and noting the stressed syllables in the haiku. The instructor can follow up with her students by offering timely feedback individually and collectively through the discussion forum, through comments in the grade book, and in subsequent in-class discussions.

Looking for ideas and effective practices for online discussions that enable learners to share, comprehend, critique and construct knowledge?  Try The Art and Science of Successful Online Discussions.

Do you have an intro discussion assignment that engages learners in course content?

References:

Al-Shalchi, O. N. (2009). The effectiveness and development of online discussions. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(1). Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol5no1/al-shalchi_0309.htm

Palenque, S.M., & DeCosta, M. (2014, August 11). The art and science of successful online discussions. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/art-science-successful-online-discussions/

Rubin, B., & Fernandes, R. (2013). Measuring the community in online classes. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(3), 115—136. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1018304.pdf

Just came back from Open Oregon State‘s Open Education Day and can’t wait to share with you all what I have learned from the meeting: open pedagogy. The keynote speaker for Open Education Day, Rajiv Jhangiani from the University of British Columbia (@ThatPsycProf), introduced open pedagogy as an instructional strategy to promote reusable assignments and turn students from consumers of content to creators of content.

Examples: a book produced by instructor and students from Brigham Young University (2012)a wiki resources of web 2.0 tools created by students from College of Education at Purdue University (2012); a book produced by instructor and students from the Master of Science in Education: Information Technology program at Western Oregon University (2013):

project management for instructional designers book coverinsite project: web 2.0 tools for educationmassively open book

Examples of open pedagogy Jhangiani introduced:

LibrerTexts: Students-built knowledge base for Chemistrylibretexts: students built knowledge base in chemistry

When Wikipedia Is the Assignment, & WikiUniversitywikiversity

Teach and Learn Psychology for free at NOBA noba: teach and learn Pscychology for free

 

Annotate Open source text to teach literaturegutenburg project

free public domain images from rijks museumfree public domain images from rijks museum

The call is for instructors to design assignments that build problem solving skills, critical thinking skills and/or analytical writing skills in students and create assignments that live beyond the lifespan of a course and are useful to the general public, instead of creating assignments that only one instructor will view in order to give a grade.

Have fun design such creative assignments and feel free to share your life-long assignments with us.

If you’re searching for an engaging, authentic, and personalized way to assess your students’ learning, consider developing an ePortfolio assignment for your online course. The benefit of ePortfolios, or digital collections of student learning artifacts, is twofold: you can formatively assess your students’ learning over time, and you can help your students craft a personalized, customizable end product that serves as both a networking tool and a professional presentation of their skills and abilities to showcase to future employers in a more humanized way than a standard resume.

There are multiple approaches to structuring an ePortfolio assignment. One method is to ask your students to gradually add to their ePortfolios each week. This allows you to assess your students’ work over the course of the term, and it allows your students to make meaningful connections between all of the learning artifacts they collect.

With any ePortfolio assignment, consider building in a reflection requirement to help encourage students to connect their learning. Reflection helps students make connections between what they learned, what they still hope to learn, how these things connect to the next course in a series, and how these things apply to experiences beyond their online class. Reflection is also an opportunity for you to encourage your students to connect the dots between their academic, professional and personal lives.

As a starting point, OSU’s College of Liberal Arts has some great reflection tips and questions for you to provide to your students.

Two Tools: Canvas ePortfolios and Google Sites

You will need to select a tool for your students to build their ePortfolios. If you are looking for an integrated tool in your LMS, consider Canvas ePortfolios. This tool is useful because it is not specific to your course, but rather specific to each Canvas user. This means each student can create as many ePortfolio sites as they wish, and they can continue to access these even after your course is over.

Canvas ePortfolios also eliminate the submit it and forget it experience with digital assignments; with a few simple clicks, students can quickly add assignment submissions they are proud of to build structured digital archive of their achievements throughout their online college experience. They can also export their ePortfolio at any time, meaning they could save a copy to take with them after they leave OSU.

Another option is a Google App called Google Sites, which is a free platform to build a website. All students and faculty have access to Google Sites with your ONID login. The benefit to using this tool is the flexibility of platform; students can apply a previously created template or build a custom site of their own.

When considering any ePortfolio platform, it is important to remember to play with the tool as an instructor to understand how the tool works and what the student experience will be like. Consider setting up a model ePortfolio to familiarize students with what you generally expect, but encourage them to go above and beyond to personalize their ePortfolios. This will empower students to engage with the process of customizing their collection.

ePortfolio Tool Resources

References

Miller, R., & Morgaine, W. (2009). The Benefits of E-portfolios for Students and Faculty in Their Own Words. Peer Review, 11(1), 8-12. Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/benefits-e-portfolios-students-and-faculty-their-own-words

Barrett, H. (2011) Balancing the two faces of eportfolios. Retrieved from: http://electronicportfolios.org/balance/balancingarticle2.pdf

Looking for a simple way to evaluate whether your teaching practice is staying on track or jumping the rails?

Mark Francek, a Central Michigan Univ. geography professor, has devised a simple mnemonic to look at his teaching: CAR. Try it out; see if it works for you! There are three elements:

word cloud: community, accountability, relevance, CAR1 – Community: Building community within your class can pay dividends in terms of learner engagement, positive collaboration, and a supportive environment in which to work toward shared learning goals. Francek says, “promoting camaraderie and mutual respect in the classroom should be a teaching priority,” and that it’s incumbent on instructors to foster community. He also encourages instructors to consider how student learning can be applied to the broader community through service learning projects and activities.

2 – Accountability: The use of formative assessment throughout a course can aid in student accountability for learning. Frequent low-stakes assignments, such as weekly quizzes or brief reflective writings, not only help motivate students to move forward through the course content, but also give you significant feedback on student learning. This continual feedback gauges student learning is valuable information for a nimble instructor who can make course adjustments and intervene as needed to support learning.

3 – Relevance: It’s natural for learners to be drawn to subject matter and learning activities that appear relevant to their lives, their interests and their future careers. And course content can be more engaging to your learners if you take the extra step of showing them or, better yet, challenging them to show you, how the subject matter relates to their prior learning.

Although Francek’s CAR model is oriented primarily toward classroom teaching, it is every bit as meaningful in online and hybrid courses. Explore the ways that other recent posts here in the Ecampus CDT blog illustrate this by considering how each of these learning activities can build community, increase accountability for learning and/or make a course relevant to students:

Community, accountability, relevance. These three elements can benefit your teaching practice and your learners.

Reference: Francek, M. Let CAR drive our instruction. Tomorrow’s Professor eNewletter, 1449. Retrieved Dec. 15, 2015, from https://tomprof.stanford.edu/mail/1449

feedback
image of man crying after receiving negative feedback

Why Peer Review?

According to a study by Leadership IQ, 26% of new hires fail because they can’t accept feedback (Murphy, 2015). Most students are trained to study for grades and have seldom been given enough training on how to receive feedback and how to make feedback work for them. By the time they enter workforce, they will have a hard time facing feedback from coworkers and supervisors. As instructional designers and instructors, we can help by training students in peer review skills. In doing so, we are preparing our students to be successful in their future career on the one hand; on the other hand, instructors will spend less time grading peer reviewed submissions because of the improved quality of work submitted. It’s a win-win solution. Nothing could get better than this in teaching, right?

How to Create Peer Review Assignments in Canvas?

There are two types of peer review assignments.

  1. Writing assignments with peer review process where peer review effort is not heavily graded. The focus is on improved writing.
  2. Writing assignments with peer review process where peer review efforts is heavily graded. The focus is on training students in peer reviewing.

If your students lack peer reviewing skills, instructors can provide tutorials on how to provide feedback constructively. And instructors can also set up practice assignments where peer review is graded, for at least one or two assignments so that students are given the proper training and practices they need. Here is a video tutorial on how to provide constructive feedback.

If your students have been trained in peer reviewing, I recommend the type of assignments where peer review is not heavily graded. Peer review can be extra credit points, or a small portion of the grade.

To set up peer review in Canvas for an assignment, Log into Canvas course as an instructor/designer, go to the assignment, click “Edit” button to edit the settings for the assignment.

It will greatly help students if you provide clear directions for how you expect students to conduct peer review.

BA 347 International Business
banner image of BA 347 International Business

 

For example, in BA 347 Research Writing Assignment, the instructor provided the following directions: Peer Review Feedback guidelines: As you conduct your peer review, remember to praise, criticize appropriately, and be specific with revision strategies.

  1. Identify and describe three strengths in this draft.
  2. Identify and describe three weaknesses in this draft.
  3. How does this draft meet the requirements of the assignment? If not, what is missing?
  4. What should be revised in this writing? Why?
  5. After reading, I was left wondering….”

To set up details for peer review, first we set up a due date for when the draft writing will be due and enter the date in the assignment “Due” area. Secondly, check “Required Peer Reviews” box to enable peer review, and how to assign peer review (manually or automatically), if automatically, enter a number for how many peer reviewers will be automatically assigned for each submission and enter a date for when the peer reviewers will be assigned in the “Assign Reviews” area. Lastly, enter a date in the “Available from … until” area for a “until” date as the date for when the peer review will be due. And explain to your students what these dates mean if this is the first time you assign peer review assignment in your course.

Peer Review Set up in Canvas
How to set up peer review assignment in Canvas. date 1: Individual draft due date; date 2: Peer Reviewers assigned date; date 3: Peer Review due date and assignment becomes unavailable after this time.

Image 1: Canvas Assignment Peer Review Option Set Up

Grading peer review

Once all of the peer reviews have been submitted, if instructors would like to access the actual comments, assess, or add comments of their own, they can do so by going to the speedgrader function. To grade the original submission, simply enter grade point in the Assessment “Grade _____ out of 10” area.

Grading Peer Review Assignment
an image of peer review assignment in Canvas with area for grading highlighted.

Image 2: Grading Assignment

To grade peer review effort, the instructor would need to set up a separate assignment and name it something like “Peer Review Grade”. Some instructors attach peer review rubric forms so students can attach the forms in the submission for Peer Review Grades. See a youtube video example and its web instructions.

 

References:

Murphy, M. (2015). Why New Hires Fail. Retrieved on November 17, 2015, from http://www.leadershipiq.com/blogs/leadershipiq/35354241-why-new-hires-fail-emotional-intelligence-vs-skills

Alisa Cooper’s post “Conducting Peer Review Assignments in Canvas” at http://freshmancomp.com/2013/02/19/conducting-peer-review-assignments-in-canvas/

TEXT(S)

There’s been some discussion recently about students and lectures and attention spans.* As conversation about this turned to how students grapple with long form texts in an online course, I thought it might be useful to gather some ideas on course design and working with texts in online courses.

The initial page of the Peterborough Chronicle, marked secondarily by the librarian of the Laud collection. The manuscript is an autograph of the monastic scribes of Peterborough. The opening sections were likely scribed around 1638 (See document). The section displayed is prior to the First Continuation.
The initial page of the Peterborough Chronicle (annotated monastic text)

Structure your course around the texts not the weeks

Some instructors structure their reading intensive course around the books that are read. A module per book with multiple discussion boards and prompts per book. This subtly shifts the focus from what am I doing this week to what is this book doing. For example, in ENG 210 Literatures of the World: Asia, Jeff Fearnside structured the course around the five books they were reading.

Banner depicting a 3D model of the Blue Mosque in Turkey
Banner for the module and book on Turkey

Other course elements allowed summative reflections and integrative questions to address themes throughout the course.

Shift format away from only reading and writing.

If reading, multiple books you might change how students interact with one or more of the books.

In engaging with a text, students might:

  • watch a play rather than read it
  • listen to a poem rather than read it (For example, this recording of The Waste Land – poem begins at 16:10)

In responding to a text, students might:

  • create a video journal or podcast as they progress through text(s)
  • tweet (or write within 140 characters) summaries of characters or plot themes (similar to the idea of Tweet your thesis)
  • build a timeline of the narrative (for example, this timeline of Russian History created with student entries for Betsy Ehler’s RUS 233: 20th Century Russian Culture course)

Check for understanding

I’m wary about the idea of reducing student engagement with a text to quizzes but as a feedback mechanism as part of a process and on the way to richer engagement I think quick polls, quizzes, or surveys have a role. You could have quick short post reading quiz or survey to figure out if the students have followed the reading. This would let you respond before the students get further along and further behind.

Other interpretative tools

Pie Charts (Shakespeare) - Link out to a collection of images on flickr analyzing word counts of characters in the plays
Collection of Images Analyzing Word Counts for Characters in Shakespeare’s Plays

There’s a whole range of interpretive tools Digital Humanities tools and engaging with them is well beyond this blog post. However, many projects have available outputs in some form that instructors or students can draw on as they grapple with texts.

A great starting point to explore digital humanities would be to take a look at this overview & contact Jane Nichol the emerging technologies librarian. And as you think through how to use these tools in your course

One example of the type of output you might find is this collection of visualizations of the word counts in Shakespeare’s plays

Collaborative writing and commenting

There are also other ways to dialogue around a text – especially when it’s a short dense text with lots of debate and discussion around the text. There are examples of creating your thesis on a blog as you write or using github or a federated wiki as collaborative authoring tools. However, for many courses google docs (which is integrated into canvas) offers a fantastic, known, and private tool for a course to create a document.

A manifesto for teaching online

As a open experiment let me invite you to engage with a text. The Digital Education team at the University of Edinburgh recently released their 2015 Manifesto for teaching online. There’s a lot to think about in their manifesto and how it works or doesn’t work in our context. Please join in and add your voices this copy for comment  – an annotated ‘manifesto for teaching online’. **

 


*The statement spun off a conversation triggered by the NYT opinion piece on lectures, (which I can’t mention without also noting this thoughtful response)

**If you want to author a new pathway through the text or add resources beyond what comments allow request an account and I’ll add you to the project.

Half a century has passed since educational psychologist Robert Gagné published his influential book, The Conditions of Learning, but his ideas are relevant to online and hybrid learning even today. He presciently wrote, “The real point to be made is that use of a variety of instructional modes is both feasible and potentially effective. . . . What is needed in each case is thoughtful design and management of the learning environment.”

chalkboard, apple, eraser, iPad that says "nine events"Gagné popularized the concept of nine “instructional events.” Each represents a step in the teaching and learning process:

  1. Gain learners’ attention
  2. Inform students of learning objective
  3. Stimulate recall of prior knowledge
  4. Present stimulus material (content)
  5. Provide learning guidance
  6. Elicit performance (practice)
  7. Provide feedback
  8. Assess performance
  9. Enhance retention and transfer

Do you regularly use these steps in your courses? To address this question, you might consider what your students experience as they work through a typical weekly module in one of your Canvas course sites:

     Are they aware of weekly learning outcomes? If not, state them in a weekly overview that serves as the first page in each Canvas module!

     How do you gain their attention? Through video, audio, images, interactivity?

     Do you use your students’ prior knowledge as a scaffold for the learning in your course? In fact, do you make it a point to assess what they know at the outset your course?

     Beyond simply presenting content, how do you provide substantial learning guidance? Do you foster active learning through online interaction student-to-student, student-to-content and student-to-instructor?

     Do you frequently assess performance and provide feedback? Do you use weekly quizzes and/or low-stakes writing or problem-solving exercises?

Ultimately, over the course of a term, have you blazed a trail that fully supports your students’ retention and transfer? If so, bravo!

Additional Resources:

  1. Gagné’s 9 Events Applied to All Courses
  2. Instructional Strategies for Online Classes

And, for a light-hearted view of teaching and learning, here’s a 3-minute video that will definitely gain your attention and may well enhance your retention of this post: Gagné’s 9 Events Featuring Cats

You send out announcements but do your students actually get them? You might wonder if you are doing something incorrectly or if they just aren’t reading them, but, you’ll be interested to know that Canvas allows notification preferences to be modified by the individual user.

Notification preferance list in Canvas
Click to enlarge

Each user has the ability to alter their notifications from Canvas and choose how, when, and with what frequency they want to be notified of several different activities. They even have the option to receive the notifications via text or a different email address that they might check more frequently! What these individual settings mean is that if they select that they don’t want any notifications at all, they aren’t getting news of announcement postings, posted grades, due date reminders, or discussion board posts.

In order to encourage your students to receive notifications, you might think about sending a start of term email with an example of the notification preferences you would suggest based upon your class and explain to them why these specific notifications will help them as the term goes on. In that same email, you can also direct them to the Canvas Guides with step-by-step instructions on how to set up notifications in Canvas You send out announcements but do your students actually get them? You might wonder if you are doing something incorrectly or if they just aren’t reading them, but, you’ll be interested to know that Canvas allows notification preferences to be modified by the individual user.

Each user has the ability to alter their notifications from Canvas and choose how, when, and with what frequency they want to be notified of several different activities. They even have the option to receive the notifications via text or a different email address that they might check more frequently! What these individual settings mean is that if they select that they don’t want any notifications at all, they aren’t getting news of announcement postings, posted grades, due date reminders, or discussion board posts.

In order to encourage your students to receive notifications, you might think about sending a start of term email with an example of the notification preferences you would suggest based upon your class and explain to them why these specific notifications will help them as the term goes on. In that same email, you can also direct them to the Canvas Guides with step-by-step instructions on how to set up notifications in Canvas