As online educators, we strive for a balance of learning activities that incorporate three types of engagement: learner-to-content, learner-to-instructor, and learner-to-learner.  The learner-to-learner component is often filled through discussion boards or group projects, but an underutilized and undervalued option is peer review.

The Rationale

There are many ways peer review benefits students, among them Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation lists:

  • Empower students to take responsibility for and manage their own learning.
  • Enable students to learn to assess and give others constructive feedback to develop lifelong assessment skills.
  • Enhance students’ learning through knowledge diffusion and exchange of ideas.
  • Motivate students to engage with course material more deeply.

More broadly, the authors of The Knowledge Illusion argue that our individual capacity for knowledge is often much more limited than we realize and that our true depth of knowledge is held collectively.  They remind us that, “when you put it all together, human thought is incredibly impressive.  But it is a product of a community, not of any individual alone” (page 5).  In our increasingly complex world, some evidence of a shift towards building knowledge collectively can be seen in research. For example, in the MEDLINE database, “the average number of authors per article has nearly quadrupled from about 1.5 in 1950 to 5.5 in 2014” (page 226).  This is just one of many examples the authors use to illustrate how essential collaboration and relationship skills have become.  In nearly every field, students need to be prepared to be more than individual achievers, but rather to contribute effectively to a group.  Peer review provides students an opportunity to give and receive feedback with the goal of creating a better end product, but it is also an opportunity for students to practice and build their teamwork skills.

Moreover, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 3b emphasizes the need for students to, “evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.”  Peer review is a great way for us to meet this standard and to combat against misinformation, by teaching students to evaluate and challenge claims.  In Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era author Daniel J. Levitin shares strategies for how we can think more critically and evaluate the trustworthiness of what we are being told.  He notes that, “sometimes the people giving you the facts are hoping you’ll draw the wrong conclusion; sometimes they don’t know the difference themselves” (page xx).  If your students are in either of these groups, it benefits them to have an attentive reader review their work and provide respectful suggestions for improvement prior to a final assignment submission.  This may help you as the instructor to avoid catching errors too late in the process when students cannot revise their work.

The Explanation

However, students may not see the value of peer review on their own.  The Teaching Center at Washington University in St. Louis describes many reasons students may express uncertainty around peer review as, “Many students do not perceive feedback from peers as relevant to the process… students are likely to assume that it is only the instructor’s feedback that ‘counts.’”  Therefore, it is important that we explain to students why we are asking them to engage in peer review explicitly.

It can be helpful to explain specifically how this will relate to industry or field of study requirements as a student advances as a professional and scholar – it looks different for a researcher than it does for a project manager, so motivate students by sharing with them how they will engage in similar activities in the future as this gives them an opportunity to practice what Starting Point: Teaching Entry Level Geoscience describes as, “key skills such as abstracting, developing arguments, describing, assessing, criticizing, analyzing, and reviewing.”  As Faculty Focus advises, we can’t assume that students will implicitly understand the purpose of peer review.  When we craft a peer review assignment, we need to think carefully about how we will articulate the benefits of the process to students.  It can be helpful to answer questions like, “Why am I having students do this?” and “Why should students be excited about this process?”  Or, to take it a step further, we can anticipate the questions from our students’ perspective and proactively address the purpose and logistics in the assignment description, by answering questions like, “Why am I doing peer review?” and “How am I supposed to review my peer’s work?”  Make sure the technology needed and processes are clear and that resources are provided for students that need more guidance.

The Process

Remember, knowing why students are peer reviewing and being able to peer review are two totally different skills.  If you are an Ecampus instructor, talk with your instructional designer about strategies that can help your peer review process be more successful.  Some of the best practices suggested by Center for Instructional Technology & Training at the University of Florida include:

  • Clarify expectations in advance
  • Check your students have all the tools they will need
  • Provide enough time in the peer review process so that students can meaningfully engage – this may span more than one module
  • Model the type of feedback you want your students to use
  • Create a quality rubric as a guide

Your instructional designer can also talk to you about digital tools or strategies that can be used to introduce students to peer review. For example, you can discuss whether it makes more sense to use Canvas Peer Review or another tool, like Peerceptiv, which is research-validated peer assessment technology available for Ecampus courses.

Remember, students need opportunities to practice peer review, as they may never have done it before.  That means they have to get familiar with both the tools and the process.  It’s best if they can practice with the technology on a low stakes assignment before using it for a high stakes assignment, so that they can familiarize themselves with a peer review process without the added anxiety of a major grade on the line.  It will also take time for you as the instructor to get familiar with the process, but it is a completely worthwhile investment!

I invite you to consider some concluding thoughts from Levitin, “Information gathering and research that used to take anywhere from hours to weeks now takes just seconds… The implicit bargain that we all need to make explicit is that we will use just some of that time we saved in information acquisition to perform proper information verification” (page 253).  Let’s reinvest some of the time our students saved researching to engage them in verifying claims, evaluating evidence, offering commentary, and incorporating feedback – all of which support the development of a stronger student work and the building of a collective knowledge.

The Ecampus multimedia team creates animations to bring your thoughts and words to life. In virtual reality, creating these 3D objects and animations has become incredibly easy and fast.

The old ways … of power tool juggling

Developing “multimedia” often means using small aspects of many different tools. “Media” being a means of communication and the plural of medium: a means of doing something. To create an animation for your class, we quickly run through a long list of media.

Here’s an exhaustive run through of how the process works at the moment (feel free to skip to the next section! This is detailed): You would typically type up and email over a script that I take into Google Drive to edit and comment upon. You’d record audio in one of our sound booths, and I’d take the resulting sound files into Adobe Audition to equalize levels and remove background noise(s). Then I’d grab a pencil and sketch out a quick storyboard for each sentence to suggest visuals that could emphasize your point(s). Photographs of these sketches are edited in Photoshop and injected into another file on Google Drive.

And that is just the easy preparation portion. Depending on the animation style we’re going after, I’d dive deep into obscure programs I’ve learned to use over the past few decades – like Autodesk Maya / Mudbox / MotionBuilder / Meshmixer, Adobe Illustrator / Animate / Character Animator / Fuse / Dimension, Unity3D, the Procreate iPad app, Agisoft Photoscan, MeshLab, Instant Meshes, Mixamo, etc. … Simply trying to list the most commonly used apps is exhausting (much less all the other emerging apps we investigate, or the ones we mastered that went away. I still love you HyperCard, Director, and Flash!). Phew.

However the pieces of animation are generated, we still end up spitting out thousands of images or video files that have to be lined up in Adobe After Effects / Premiere / Media Encoder to assemble the final video that we can upload to YouTube or Kaltura and send to you.

What I’m saying here is: this whole process usually takes weeks or months. Or… we can just do it all in VR in an afternoon.

 

The new reality… of easy bake dreams

Tvori is an amazing tool to easily puppet objects and characters around in VR. You can record audio in directly, and export 4K videos, 360 videos, or animation data for all those old programs i mentioned above. The main reason I set out to write this blog post: was to promote Tvori. It offers an all-in-one easy pathway to making your own animatons in mere minutes. This amazing program runs about 20 bucks, and unlike the other (free) VR tools I’ll mention below – Tvori isn’t backed by a major corporation (*yet). I expect to be generating much more animation work for instructors with it, and hope to be advising you all on how to use it yourselves as you step into VR through your own office computers.

I’d say Tvori offers a level of animation comparable to an “animatic” – a movie industry term for quick and dirty approximations of what the final multi-million dollar film could look like. There’s a good chance animatics will be good enough for the bulk of concepts we wish to impart to students at the university level, with the added bonus that we can generate many of them in a single term. That said, maybe you’re curious what other creative tools are emerging in VR these days?

1) Whiteboard animations are a common request at Ecampus. Oculus Quill lets us draw and animate in this cartoon style in 3D (so it’s like our current 2D drawing tools, but we can move the camera around freely at any time, zoom-in endlessly,). This free tool for Oculus Rift users was updated last month to add a ton of new useful tricks.

We’ve already made fly-bys of 3D drawings in Google Tiltbrush, but we couldn’t actually animate the drawings directly (we just started recording, and moved our head through space). But both these programs are free and worth looking into.

2) In Oculus Medium, anyone can sculpt objects in the air at high resolution with weightless clay. If you own the Oculus Rift, this is an free and amazing tool for creating 3D objects. Now we can make things extremely fast and bring them into those old programs we’ve used for years.

Google Blocks is a similar free tool to quickly make solid low-resolution objects (it’s like Google Sketchup with VR ease and benefits). Upload them to Google Poly to share with the world (a service very similar to SketchFab or Microsoft’s Remix 3D). With these sculpting tools, and repositories of free creations, it’s a snap to gather the building blocks needed to start complicated animation projects. For example, we can bring any of these sculpted objects right into Tvori…

3) Final thought: you can use Google Earth VR to walk around any location on earth, while scaling up to Godzilla height or even zooming in and out from space. The multimedia team can record what you’re seeing and pointing at, along with your narration. While this isn’t a feature of the software (yet), we have the magic means to do it for you. (And we can also go back into Google Earth Studio to make a more polished and precise version of the path you traveled).

I hope this inspires you to go get a VR headset, come by our offices and try it out, or let us don the gear for you. We look forward to making your imagination a reality for students worldwide!

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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.

 

 

 

Dog running through water with a stick
Image by Wolfgang Horvath from Pixabay.

My interest in learning about motivation in education began many years ago when I started learning about motivation in game design. In a way, while this blog post will follow a different format, it is an outgrowth of my previous post on how game design can influence course design. In order to better understand motivation, in a classroom, while playing a game, and in an online learning environment, I am turning to the body of research that has grown from Edward Deci and Richard Ryan’s Self-Determination Theory (SDT).

What is Self-Determination Theory?

Deci and Ryan’s theory stems from the larger investigation of human needs for well-being. While physiological needs like food, water, and shelter may be obvious, what are our psychological needs? SDT posits that the three basic psychological needs of humans are autonomy, competence, and relatedness. “Like physical needs, these needs are said to be objective phenomena in that their deprivation or satisfaction has clear and measurable functional effects, effects that obtain regardless of one’s subjective goals or values” (Deci & Ryan, 2017, p. 10). In addition to the basic needs, each is also associated with a dichotomy of social environments.

  • Autonomy: “the need to self-regulate one’s experiences and actions” (Ryan & Deci, 2017, p. 10). A feeling of autonomy is not simply being able to make choices, but feeling that your actions and behaviors are in alignment with your own values. Being able to independently make your own choices is certainly one way to feel volitional engagement, but not the only way to fulfill the need of autonomy. Social environments vary between autonomy supportive and demanding/controlling. When was the last time you were able to engage with a situation or action wholeheartedly and felt fulfilled?
  • Competence: “[the] need to feel effectance and mastery” (Ryan & Deci, 2017, p. 11). This need is often paired with receiving positive feedback, seeking and overcoming challenges, and following curiosities. This need has received the most research in motivation and psychological studies, especially in education research. Social environments vary between effectance supporting and overly challenging, inconsistent, or being otherwise discouraging. When was the last time you sought a challenge and positively progressed (or achieved) mastery?
  • Relatedness: “[the need to] feel socially connected” (Ryan & Deci, 2017, p. 11). Feeling relatedness isn’t just about feeling cared for or taken care of, it is also about feeling valued in a community and having a sense of belonging. Social environments vary between relationally supportive and impersonal/rejecting. When was the last time you felt a sense of belonging and valued in a community?

These needs are essential for optimal motivation, well-being, and vitality (Ryan & Deci, 2017, p. 11). The research on how SDT promotes more intrinsic motivation is significant, as well as helps empirically establish different types of motivation (autonomy-control, intrinsic-extrinsic, and internally regulated-externally regulated) (Ryan & Deci, 2017, pp. 14–15).

Designing and Teaching with SDT in Mind

If we want our learning spaces (no matter the modality: face-to-face, hybrid, online, etc.) to promote optimal student (and teacher!) motivation and overall well-being, how can we design these spaces to fulfill these three needs?

  • Autonomy: allow students to make meaningful decisions about their learning, which may include students pursuing objectives in an order of their choice, providing students with additional relevant applications and rationales for activities and materials, providing students with opportunities to roleplay or act through a scenario.
  • Competence: balance the challenge/difficulty of a given task with student ability/skill, set clear goals, scaffold materials or activities, have a system for transparently communicating student progress, provide positive feedback.
  • Relatedness: foster an inclusive learning environment, instill a value of learning, design activities and interactions for peers to share and collaborate their knowledge and experience, provide instructor-to-student interaction.

“In fact, classroom climates supporting autonomy, providing high structure [competence support], and conveying relatedness and inclusion foster personal well-being and feelings of connection to one’s school and community” (Ryan & Deci, 2017, p. 18). Many of these goals may already be met in your courses. However, there are actions and elements of design that can negatively impact need satisfaction as well. For example, overly difficult challenges, overwhelming negative feedback, and social comparisons can inhibit a sense of competence. The role of assessments and grading will need to be covered in a follow-up blog post, as these can have both negative and positive impacts depending on how they are implemented and designed.

In summary, striving to create a learning environment that fulfills all three needs of SDT can be positive and rewarding for everyone in the class, including the instructor. While this is only a brief introduction to Self-Determination Theory as a whole, I hope it has inspired you to consider how your courses can be designed with SDT in mind.

References and Resources

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry 11(4), 227–268.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2017). Self-Determination Theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. New York: Guilford Press.

Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 54–67.

Self-Determination Theory. (2019).

  • This website is a treasure-trove of resources on SDT and its application in numerous fields, including education.