May 27, 2016

What happened at the 2016 Sakai Conference?

We just attended the 2016 Sakai (Apereo) Conference in New York, at New York University. We found a very excited group of faculty, developers, and trainers, who couldn't wait to find out about the latest updates to Sakai 11. Plus, there are already a variety of plans afoot for Sakai 12 too! Some folks were handing out Sakai 11 t-shirts-so I thought you might want to see a sample:

 For Sakai 11 (which we'll get the end of this year) the biggest change is the look and feel: 
  • Students can use their mobile devices to access Sakai
  • We'll work with a stream-lined Lessons tool, with just four buttons. 
  • The Test and Quizzes settings will be consolidated and simplified. 
  • Assignments will support peer and group activities. 
  • The New Gradebook (Gradebook NG) will look and work like a spreadsheet, and will be easy to download, update, and upload. 
  • We'll provide training this Fall so you can try out the changes!

What are folks planning for Sakai 12?

  • Forums retooling : Forums will remain the same for Sakai 11, but big plans have already been made to streamline the tool, with less clicks for posting and grading. 
  • Resources upgrade: In addition, there are already plans to update Resources so it looks and acts more like Google Drive or Dropbox, with drag and drop capabilities. 
  • New! Rubrics: Also, a new group has formed to integrate rubrics with the new Gradebook, later Assignments, then Forums.
  • Want to add your ideas or help with projects? Check out FARM, where you can submit and vote on ideas for Sakai and other Apereo open source projects.  You can also volunteer to join project teams (test how a change looks, how it works, document it, code it, or test it) 

What will be available the end of this summerMeetings (BigBlueButton) is adding new features:

  • Breakout rooms
  • Closed Captioning 
  • Plus: Faster Desktop sharing

In future, Meetings will allow shared note-taking, and will allow students to join a Meeting with mobile devices. As a matter of fact, if students use the Puffin web browser on their mobile device now, they can use it to join a Meeting now!

Curriculum Online Course Guidelines
Tools for Teaching
Sakai Resources for Instructors

May 18, 2016

Our Favorite Tech Tools

For our eighth Favorite Tech Tools, we focused on free tools that you can use in your online courses, but also tried out tools that you can have fun with in the classroom.
Since YouTube MyWebcam went away (YouTube discontinued it), I found out that good ole Screencast-o-Matic allows you to quickly create your videos and allows you to upload your videos directly to YouTube. Screencast-o-Matic has been updated; you have three ways you can create a video:
  1. Demo what you're doing on your screen
  2. Use your webcam to create a video of yourself
  3. My favorite: I like showing a tiny view of myself on my webcam in the corner of the screen, while I'm demo'ing how to create a web page or demo how to test whether styles have been applied to a web site. Students get to see my facial expressions, yet still get to see my demo. 
Tired of Discussion Boards but need interaction? So are we (and our students). Karen found out about NowComment from another Sakai university.  NowComment turns documents (or web pages, pictures, or videos) into class conversations. 
  • After you upload a document, your students can comment on a specific sentence, a paragraph, or on the entire article. 
  • And of course, you and your students can reply to each other.
Looking for photos but don't want to mess with figuring out Creative Commons?
Even though it's used a lot by K-12, I taught my students to use Photos For Class, so they could find flickr photos, that had the Creative Commons attributions added to them when you downloaded them. I use it myself as well-it's fast, easy and free!

Need to wake your students up? 

Mar 10, 2016

Web Accessibility: What is it? What do we need to do?

Instructional Technologies and the Teaching-Learning Center invited Darrin Evans, the Director of the NC Virtual Learning Community's Professional Development Center to provide:
  • An Introduction to Web Accessibility
  • Hands-on training for making Word or PowerPoint documents accessible
  • Plus: all three workshops were offered twice: February 12 and March 9, 2016

WebAIM Color Contrast Checker
WebAIM Color Contrast Checker From Access MOOC CC-BY

Need a Plan: It was a bit of a surprise for many to find out that all 58 North Carolina Community Colleges are supposed to be in year three of a five year plan to develop college-wide accessibility goals and implement them. The NC Virtual Learning Community has developed a Web Accessibility web site to help faculty and staff update their content and web sites. Darrin also pointed out that our publisher content must be accessible as well.

LMS Accessibility: Faculty, developers and usability experts strive to make all of the Sakai LMS core tools accessible and are working towards meeting the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Level A and AA Success Criteria as well. Durham Tech has contributed grant funds to help make this happen!

Other NC CC's: Darrin noted that many NC community colleges (in the Triangle, too)  are in the initial stages of developing their college web accessibility plans and implementations. 

Example "Premium" Plan: To get an idea of the types of resources NC State University provides, here is their  Accessibility @ NC State University web page, which outlines an array of accessibility assistance available, such as transportation options, maps with designated building and parking accessibility, library accessibility resources, and procurement guidelines.


Mar 3, 2016

What is it like to be a student in your online class?

Even though we have the best of intentions, sometimes we could make a few tweaks to our online courses that would be appreciated by our students, more than we may know.
confused student
Untitled by Jazbecky (CC-BY-2.0)

Invisible Teachers and Missing Course Descriptions:

  • Shy Teachers: Your Home page has lots of great info, but there's nothing about your name, title, or contact information. Please share, your students want to know you!
  • Enigmatic Courses: Your Home page is very light in color, as it is all blank. Give your students and fellow instructors a hint: What are you teaching? Who are you?
  • How do I fix this? Here are the steps to update your home page as well as examples of how other faculty have updated their courses. 

Scavenger Hunts and Tricky Due Dates:

  • Hidden Due Dates: Some of us like to hide our due dates at the end of our Syllabus. Why don't we put it at the top of our syllabus? Or create a separate document for it? Or add due dates at the top of our weekly Lesson? Or all of the above?
  • Due Sunday at Midnight: Some of us love to use Sundays and midnight as a due date/time. But what does midnight mean-is it due Saturday at midnight or Sunday at midnight or is it Monday? Let's use 11:30, 11:45 or 11:55  pm instead.
  • Also, why Sunday? Don't you want to enjoy your weekend? How about Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, so you're available to help your students?

Math Impaired Gradebooks:

  • Creative Accounting: Why get lots of emails about mid-term and/or final grades? If you're not good at math, like myself, why create an overly complicated grading scheme?  Keep your Gradebook simple! Then it will be easy to make Sakai calculate your grades for you-and it will be easier for your students to understand their course grades too. 
  • Math Instructor Want-to-Be's: If you think you're good at math, please save your masterful math equations for your friends and family. Just let the Sakai Gradebook do your calculations for you: set up Gradebook categories and weighting. Your students will thank you when they can easily understand their grades and I will thank you. Oh, and make sure your Gradebook matches your Syllabus, many others in high places will thank you too.

Hide-and-Seek with Content and Assessments:

  • Where is that darn content and assignment? Is it in the Syllabus, Resources, Announcements, personal Email; or in Forums, Assignments or Test and Quizzes? Please use Lessons to organize your weekly content, and use Lessons to link to your assessments. Use the Rule of Three's: Students should click a maximum of three times to get to their activities.
  • Is this all there is? A Syllabus,  PowerPoints and Tests alone is a self-study course, not a learning environment. Mix it up: Add a video, a diagram, or an overview convincing your students why this info is important to them and their career (and to you).
  • Isn't there more than just Tests and Forums? Again, Mix it up: Add Chat Rooms, Blogs, Lessons Student Pages, Assignments (students can submit videos or mindmaps or projects), or interview someone in your field and share it in writing, by audio or by video.

 Feedback: Missing in Action:

  • Discussions/Assignments: A blank space for feedback or "Good job" is not constructive feedback; "referred to multiple examples in the text, correctly referenced an appropriate article" are better.  Time constrained? Provide feedback every two or three weeks, as long as it is effective. Here are dozens of examples of feedback for all types of learners.  Or limit discussions, replace them with reports, research or projects.
  • Quizzes: Check out creating tests and publishing tests step-by- step instructions and videos to find out how to add Feedback for both incorrect and correct answers. Help your students build their skills in your quizzes before their major exams.
  • Weekly Course Feedback: Make your presence known. Post a weekly announcement or email (send to email archive so they can review it if they miss it) or post something new on your Home page each week: what can your students look forward to in your course? How did they perform last week as a group on a discussion, activity or project? What happened in the news that relates to your course?

Want More Ideas? 

Make sure you review the Curriculum Online Course Guidelines with Resources. Plus here are other ideas:

Advanced Suggestions

Feb 29, 2016

Free: March MOOC Madness for Educators/Teachers

Today I was reading this interesting article about the popular MOOC "Learning How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help you Master Tough Subjects", and was wishing I could take the course, too. The instructor, Barbara Oakley, was an engineer who was interested in teaching, but wanted to figure out how to reach STEM students. She saw that undergraduate students were finding college math and science a "death march", so she worked with a nuerobiologist, Terrence Sejnowski to create their online course in her basement...

Student with computer overlaid with word: MOOC's
Student, Computer Labs by Thompson Rivers University, CC (BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Over a half a million people have now taken Oakley and Sejnowki's course about Learning How to Learn. It's highly rated, too. Over 11,000 students have given it an average score of 4.8 out of 5.0. So guess what? It turns out we can take it, too. The course is being offered February 29, 2016 by Coursera. Here's the link to enroll: Learning How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help you Master Tough Subjects

But watch out, Coursera has changed. Some courses are still free. But now, some courses are free, but there's a catch: you don't get to submit the assignments (I haven't taken one of these yet). And just like there were previously, there are courses you can pay for, if you want a certificate. But there's now a new wrinkle: paid specializations. Groups of individual courses are bundled into specializations. So if you want to take free courses, search for courses, not specializations.

I've taken MOOC's with, Coursera, and Open2Study. Other organizations I've heard good reviews of have been EdX and FutureLearnI don't work for any of these companies, I just enjoy learning new things, and the price is right: 

March MOOCs

Self-Study MOOC's (highly rated)