When was the last time you really sat down and looked at the ‘bones’ of your course?
Course outcomes form the backbone of a course – telling us what students should be able to do by the end of the term. All content, assignments, assessments and other activities should support the course outcomes. We call this concept alignment. According to the Quality Matters rubric, a national benchmark for online course design, alignment is defined as “the critical course elements working together to ensure that students achieve the desired learning outcomes.” Reviewing the alignment, or lack of, within your course can help you identify areas for future improvement.
A course-planning chart is a tool that you can use to begin examining the alignment of the elements in your course. It can help you identify orphan content or activities that do not support a corresponding learning outcome – or if there are learning outcomes that lack associated activities. It is also useful in determining if there is a good mix of activities to engage students and whether the course meets workload requirements for a class.
Sketching out how all of the elements of your course align with each other is a good first step in identifying where you can strengthen your course.
Providing feedback to students is a critical component in any course and perhaps even more important in an online course where the instructor and students are not in the same physical space. Although written feedback is the primary method used when providing feedback to students, some instructors are turning to the use of audio feedback and finding that it is both easy to do and effective. Research has shown that audio feedback can allow for more nuanced messages to the student. It has also been shown to involve the student more deeply in a class and make them feel that the instructor really cares. One study even found an association between the use of audio feedback and better retention of course content.
There are several online tools that allow you to create and share audio clips easily. One that I’ve used recently is Chirbit. You only need a microphone and you can record clips up to five minutes in length. There is no limit to the number of audio posts that you can share on Chirbit. Once you create an audio clip you can mark it as private and then share the link that is provided with your student. Chirbit has a number of other capabilities for sharing clips that you can explore even further, including the ability to attach transcripts or QR codes directly to audio clips.
Consider choosing one assignment next term that you could experiment with by providing audio feedback to students. Some instructors have reported that giving audio feedback is actually more efficient for them than giving written feedback. It is definitely another way to extend your presence in the online classroom.
Are you looking for a new way to engage your online students without leaving your Blackboard course site? Consider using a wiki, blog, or journal! Wikis allow your students to collaborate on a single document within Blackboard and you are able to track their participation. This is a great tool for brainstorming, collecting research, or producing a student-created FAQ or glossary.
A blog is meant to be a place where students can post their opinions or climb on a ‘virtual soapbox’ and deliver a message. There are opportunities for others to comment, but the focus is on the initial posts and what the student had to say.
A journal is usually intended to be used as a private space for reflection. It is a space that can only be ‘written’ on by the student and the instructor, although you can control whether the rest of the class can read each others’ journals or not.
Sometimes using a different tool for a week or two gives the students a break from the traditional discussion board routine – -and that in itself can improve student engagement in a class. Instructions for setting up a wiki, blog, or journal are found here.
Are you searching for a way that students could post a presentation to you or your class online? One option might be Zoho Notebook. This online program allows you to easily create content and collaborate with others using a familiar notebook-like interface. Combine text, images, audio, video, or live web-content in one place. Other uses of Zoho Notebook include using it as a location to aggregate research for a project or as a device for you to create and tell a story using a variety of multimedia resources.
Check out this short tutorial for more information about how to get started using Zoho Notebook.
Blackboard has a built-in equation editor that allows you to add scientific and mathematical notation to a discussion board entry, an assignment submission, or an exam answer. The Equation Editor is available anywhere the visual text editor is available to you in Blackboard.
Students who may be new to building equations using this editor may find that it is not entirely intuitive. We’ve developed a short video tutorial and a template-group sheet as a guide. We hope you find these resources useful.
Looking for a different type of learning activity for your course? Did you know that in this version of Blackboard you can create a ‘wiki’ for your class? A wiki is a collaborative space that allows anyone to add or edit content. It is a place in which knowledge can be pooled and improved on by the class. As people contribute to the wiki, a unique resource is created by and for the group. And – by having students build their ‘wiki’ within Blackboard, you have the ability to track each student’s contribution and grade them from within the tool itself.
Here are some ideas for using a wiki in your course:
Create a glossary of technical terms
Create a newsletter for reporting on a breaking event
Create a community of practice virtual space
Create a student-constructed FAQ list
Post research project results for group analysis
Create an online guide, reference lists or outlines
Research items of local interest that can be updated and shared.
View this short video to learn exactly how to set up a wiki in your course.