Gamifying Blackboard Training

Technology trainings can be… well… just a bit dull. Being guided through how to click buttons in software has never really been that exciting and the steps can feel a bit disconnected from your real work. Participants are often at different skill and knowledge levels, but must move through the same content at the same pace. Plus, the information is rarely retained beyond the workshop. In most cases, attendees have difficulty remembering the steps or applying them on their own and need to reach out for help.

There must be a better way. Right? The eLIS Support team decided to find out. We threw the outline for our standard Intro to myLesley (Blackboard) workshop into the trash and started over from scratch.

The Goal(s)

Our goals were simple in scope, but not so simple to achieve. The primary goal for the new training was to increase the retention of content being delivered so faculty would be better able to use their new knowledge when they returned to their desks. Towards that end we used several techniques:

  • Storytelling would give attendees a narrative to attach the steps of the process to and aid memory creation.
  • Narrative and game-based design would create a fun experience to engage affective (emotion/feeling) learning and aid memory creation.
  • Faculty would teach themselves rather than watching a demo and then try to repeat the exact same steps. The need to figure it out and struggle a little would improve retention of the steps.
  • Faculty would be able to mostly move at their own pace allowing more tech savvy users to speed through the content and novices to take their time.

Faculty would learn to use available resources including support tutorials and working with their colleagues attending the workshop.

Blackboard Clue (Version 1.0)

Who Killed Mr. Blackboard?
We created Blackboard Clue. Faculty had to discover the identity of Mr. Blackboard’s murderer, but they would need to complete various tasks in Blackboard to do so.

First, they met the suspects in the Study. Then they reviewed the Detective’s Notebook, a blog, and made comments on the clues. Next, they interrogated the suspects on the Discussion Board, or two members of the support team in the other room. Finally, they created a Wanted Poster, content item, of the suspect who did the deed. The true murderer was revealed at the end of the game and everyone got to see if they guessed correctly.

How It Went
It was ok. Everyone seemed to have a good time, but they were a little distracted by the game itself. They were so busy trying to solve the murder that it overshadowed the learning. It was too hard to form connections around the content. The game needed more structure and probably a different narrative.

Soooo…. Back to the drawing board.

Agent L vs. GITS

Enter Agent L, a secret agent battling Gremlins in the System (GITS). GITS agents, NeoLuddite, Pandora, and Clippy are trying to disrupt Blackboard courses. Ben Friday (Miss Moneypenny) hands out the missions and Quinn (Q) provides tech support.

Mission 1: Alert Your Fellow Agents! – Use the Announcement tool.
Mission 2: Fix the Broken Content using the text editor.
First, review the intercepted GITS transmissions on the Discussion Board. Then, interview Clippy, a support team member in the back of the room, in a discussion forum to discover where the GITS server is.
Mission 3: Interrogate the Captured GITS Agents
Mission 4: Create an Assignment for Agent M to shut down the GITS server.

How It Went
The new game narrative had more structure allowing faculty to more easily move through the missions, complete the tasks, and not get lost. They used support tutorials to teach themselves all of the steps while the support team moved through the room to assist, but not answer their tech questions. Collaboration was encouraged allowing the more advanced attendees to happily aid the newbies in figuring stuff out.

The game format had two primary issues, however. One, faculty become their students and don’t read the instructions. (Shocking, I know.) The game master pointed out their error and directed them back to the mission profile. Two, some faculty just don’t want to play. They prefer the old format where they sit back and are fed the content without too much expectation. That attitude can be hard to overcome, but the other attendees simply play on without them.

Overall, there was a lot of laughter, a lot of noise and chaos, and everyone was successful. We’ve offered the game a few times now and feedback from faculty has been positive. We can’t say for certain that it’s more effective than the old traditional training, but at least we are all having fun. That must count for something. Plus, the eLIS team has been able to model a new way of teaching and give faculty a chance to see us a fellow educators, not just the “tech folks.”

New Online Training: Art Portfolio Reviews

Alumni Admissions Ambassadors from across the country can now learn to review the arts portfolios of prospective students who may be interested in applying to Lesley University. Alumni Ambassadors with a background in the arts will use online, self-paced training to learn how to assess arts portfolios and to communicate with students during portfolio review events.

This new training system is being piloted this fall semester and will be used will be used by BFA and MFA alumni admissions ambassadors. This effort to extend and streamline the training process is important to the goal of enlisting more ambassadors with training and experience in the arts to assist prospective Lesley students in applying to our university.

Central to the training was the development of a set of guidelines by which to assess portfolios. These guidelines were tested by a group including recent Lesley alums and members of the Marketing Design team and updated based on their input. Trainees will learn to assess portfolios primarily by reviewing many sample portfolios and receiving automated feedback on their choices.

Arts Portfolio Guidelines Pilot Testing Event: Lunder Arts Center

Arts Portfolio Guidelines Pilot Testing Event: Lunder Arts Center

The development of this training has been a collective effort involving staff from the Alumni Recruitment, Undergraduate Admissions, and eLearning and Instructional Support departments.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about this project, please contact Liana Caffrey (Director) or Shirley Chin (Sr. Assistant Director) of the Alumni Admissions Ambassador Program: lcaffrey@lesley.edu (x8201); schin@lesley.edu (x8806).

Project Staff

Alumni Admissions Ambassador Program: Liana Caffrey, Director; Shirley Chin, Sr. Assistant Director.

Undergraduate Admissions: Erik Gullard, Assistant Director / BFA Specialist; Mike McCarthy, Assistant Director; Lauren O’Neill, Assistant Director / BFA Specialist / International Student Coordinator.

eLearning and Instructional Support: Robyn Belair, Instructional Technologist/Interface Designer; John McCormick, Director of eLearning Design; Bill Porter, Learning Technology Designer

Week of Learning at Summer Tech Institute

The inaugural Lesley University Summer Tech Institute was a week full of energy and new ideas. From June 10th – 14th, the Brattle campus was bustling as twenty-five faculty members from all Lesley schools explored the possibilities of teaching with technology. The week of professional development was planned and facilitated by the department of eLearning and Instructional Support (eLIS) and sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Center for Teaching, Scholarship, and Learning.

The theme of the Summer Tech Institute was Blended Learning and was possible due to collaboration across the University. Several Lesley faculty members added their expertise to the program, including Sue Cusack on Universal Design for Learning, Susan Patterson on developing a personal learning network with social media, and Michele Forinash, Paul Naso, Susan McFarland, and Susan Patterson on a panel discussion around effective teaching methods for online courses. The entire eLIS design and technology team was embedded throughout the training, providing one-on-on guidance and coaching every step of the way. The Information Technology department gave an overview of classroom technology support. The library staff also conducted workshops on Endnote Web, Mobile (iPad) applications for library resources, and using the library video databases.

You can hear some of the participants thoughts on the event on VoiceThread.

Be on the lookout this fall for information about applying to next year’s Summer Tech Institute!

Using Prezi as a Teaching Tool

Here’s a publicly-shared Prezi that outlines the advantages of using Prezi as an alternative to traditional presentation tools like PowePoint and Keynote for instruction. What make this tool so unique is that an instructor is not constrained to following a linear path. Text, images and videos can be juxtaposed in whatever manner will most effectively communicate concepts.Paths can be created for the presentation that zoom in and out of those objects to help students focus on important details and illustrate relationships between the content.

In a live presentation, Prezi also allows the presenter the ability to break away from the presentation path to zoom in on any of the content on the fly.  Jumping back to the original presentation path at any time is also very easy.

If used effectively, Prezi can be a very flexible and engaging presentation tool. One common mistake presenters make is “over zooming”. Big and frequent zooms distract from the presentation of the content and can even make students nauseous.

The web based version of Prezi is free to use for students and teachers. Instructors just need to register with a .edu email address.

 

Module Overview in Creative Writing


(click to enlarge)

Author: Chris Clark

Course: Introduction to Creative Writing

For instructors designing online materials, setting a helpful tone in each module and previewing the important components of the week’s objectives, activities, and assessments can be challenging. In this example, Chris Clark uses quotes from the readings and ask students questions to consider as they approach the week’s materials.

In the film Wonder Boys, during a speech on writing, the keynote speaker says, “As a writer, you learn that everyone you meet has a story. Every bartender, every taxi driver has an idea that would make a great book… But how do you get from there to here? What is the bridge from the water’s edge of inspiration to the far shore of accomplishment?”

At this moment, a slightly stoned creative writing student in the back of the auditorium let’s out a high pitched laugh and all heads turn.

After the commotion dies down, the speaker gives his answer. “Faith,” he says. “Faith that your story is worth the telling.”

The student, a talented writer in his own right, has every right to laugh at the puffed up language the speaker is using to describe their craft, but the speaker’s answer to the pompous question he poses is as spot-on as any that’s ever been uttered. Telling stories, in whatever form you choose to tell them, is ultimately an act of faith. As a storyteller, you must believe that your listeners will find your story worth the time it takes to hear it.

So, that’s you keep going. But how do you get started?

The introduction continues, drawing from other quotes and continuing to probe around what it is that makes an interesting story. Aren’t you wondering what comes next?