Making Sense of Ed Tech…. with Ice Cream

Once upon a time, eLIS hosted a summer academic technology institute for faculty. On the first morning of this event, I facilitated a workshop on how to navigate and make sense of the overwhelming amount of technology out there. I introduced the hands on piece with an analogy involving ice cream. Just like tech, there’s a ton of ice cream flavors in the world…. and let’s face it…. ice cream is awesome.

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August Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series

The Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series (BITS) is a free webinar series designed to bring faculty, instructional designers, partners, and Blackboard experts to you. Speakers share their tips, best practices, pedagogy, and higher education hot topics so you can stay ahead of the curve on teaching efficiency, course design, and student learning outcomes.

This August theme is “Best Practices to Start the Academic Year.” Review the descriptions below and register today.

Manage Your Blackboard Grade Center
Presenters: Kendall St Hilaire and Steve Ramos, Indiana River State College
Tuesday, August 6th – 10am ET

At Indian River State College, all faculty are expected to use the Blackboard Grade Center, and provide timely feedback to students. This webinar will walk participants through the external and internal drivers that resulted in the required use of the Blackboard Grade Center. Presenters will discuss the Virtual Campus master course model, and the process for setting up all Grade Centers within the master courses. The presentation will also cover the important role of the Grade Center when it comes to analytic reporting. IRSC also utilizes Blackboard Analytics for Learn reports to distribute data to key stakeholders such as Department Chairs, Deans, and Academic Vice Presidents.

Presenters will cover best practices in managing the grade center and share tips and tricks for faculty and those who provide technical support to faculty. IRSC will also share their techniques for offering training on the Grade Center, both through face-to-face trainings and resources that are accessible to the faculty member at the moment they need support when working in the Grade Center.

Register for the webinar

Beginning the Term Blackboard Checklist
Presenter: Helen Keier, Associate Director for Learning Management Systems, John Jay Online
Thursday, August 8th – 11am ET

The beginning of a term is often a hectic, stress-filled time for instructors, filled with a variety of tasks that must be completed all at once. Taking cues from the advice we often give our students (“Use a date planner,” “Write it down,” and “Check the Syllabus”) Beginning the Term checklists can help us make sure we stay on task, we meet our deadlines, ensure that nothing is overlooked, and most importantly, provide our students with a fully-realized experience in our classes. In this session, we will discuss the approach adopted by one college to make sure that Blackboard courses are ready for their students – from the start of the content copying process to making the course available on the first day of class.

Join us in this webinar to learn best practices for using and constructing your own custom Beginning the Term checklists, and discuss how checklists cannot only streamline your pre-semester preparations, but help you improve your online courses.

Register for the webinar

Incorporating Student Feedback Before, During and After Your Course
Presenter: Corrie Bergeron, Instructional Designer, Learning Systems Administrator, Lakeland Community College
Tuesday, August 13th – 10am ET

We all SAY that we want student feedback, but how do we put that into practice?  An answer might lie in our expectations for how we want our students to use the feedback that we give them.

Before the course even begins, we set out our expectations in the syllabus and schedule.  We expect them to read and understand it – but what if they don’t?  We give formative feedback on assignments and discussion posts.  How do we expect them to assimilate it and respond?   We give feedback on summative assessments – what do we want students to do with that after the class ends?   We’ll look at ways to elicit both overt and implicit feedback about our courses.

We’ll discuss situations where things go seriously sideways – when do you try to right the apple cart, and when do you just try to jump clear with minimal injuries? Finally, we’ll look at the process of making adjustments to a course while it is still in progress, in the short break between semesters, and when you have the luxury to step back and take a long overall look at it.

Register for the webinar

Updating Content to Make Your Courses More Accessible
Presenter: Melissa Hortman, Assistant Professor & Director of Instructional Technology, Medical University of South Carolina
Thursday, August 15th – 11am ET

The landscape of higher education is drastically changing in terms of student profile and the technology to support their learning. Barriers can be removed by creating more usable course content, and it is our responsibility to ensure that digital content is accessible to all. There are various ways to update your content to make your course more accessible by integrating easy principles into your workflow.

Register for the webinar


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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.”

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Faculty Spotlight: Dawn Burau

One Adjunct Faculty Workshop Delivered Three Ways

Dawn Burau, Instructor of Expressive Therapies, Art Therapy

Dawn Burau, Instructor of Expressive Therapies, along with fellow Lesley faculty Valerie Blanc and Jason Butler, ran a three-part workshop for adjunct instructors in the Expressive Therapies graduate division called “Engaging Students: In Class and Online Discussion.” Participants attended the workshop in person or online via Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. For those who missed the live event, an edited recording and other resources were shared online in the Expressive Therapies Faculty Community in myLesley.

Dawn decided to live stream and record the face to face workshop because, “many of our adjuncts have jobs or families that make it difficult to come to campus during the day. For those who could, we wanted to give them an in-person learning experience. For those who couldn’t, we wanted to include them in the community and give them access to the information we were sharing.”

In order to reach her goal of making the workshop content accessible to all adjuncts, Dawn reached out to eLearning and Instructional Support (eLIS) to help go over her game plan and receive technology training. For the workshop, Dawn set up a laptop running Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and acquired a 360 microphone to ensure that all participants could hear each other, whether in the room or online. Dawn used Collaborate Ultra’s built-in recording feature to record the workshop, which she edited and posted in the faculty community along with PowerPoints and other workshop resources.

With a little planning and creative thinking, Dawn was able to make an interactive workshop much more interactive and accessible to all of her adjuncts. If you are interested in exploring the use of synchronous online meeting tools or want to record and share academic events, reach out to us in eLearning and Instructional Support (elis@lesley.edu). We are happy to work with you to devise new ways to engage with students and colleagues.

Resources on how to use Lesley supported software like Blackboard Collaborate Ultra can be found on the Lesley Technology Support Site.  

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