Piloting Blackboard Ultra

Jennine Tambio teaches the Research Capstone course for the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (CLAS) at Lesley University. In this fully online course, students develop a senior research project based on an area of interest in their major. They synthesize the knowledge and experiences they have gained from prior courses through research, discussion, peer review, and reflection.

This summer, Jennine taught her SU1 and SU2 courses in Ultra Course View. Ultra is Blackboard’s newest version, redesigned from the ground up. It has several advantages including a more modern look, consistent navigation, progress tracking for students, streamlined grading, and more.

eLearning and Instruction Support (eLIS) at Lesley approached Jennine about piloting Ultra courses due to her heavy use of peer review. Previously, she had been using an external tool called PeerGrade which provided a robust framework for students reviewing each other’s work using rubrics. While Jennine liked PeerGrade, it required purchasing a subscription and the company was beginning to phase out its use in favor of a newer product. The Ultra Course View includes the option for peer review directly in its assignment tool. No additional tools required. Jennine also thought it looked cleaner and easier to use.

To get started, eLIS set up and transitioned the first few weeks of the course. Jennine quickly took over creating the subsequent weeks with guidance from eLIS. She had a couple of minor questions that were quickly answered while learning the new environment, but nothing significant. As part of the transition, she consulted with eLIS on how to reorganize parts of her course to make it concise and easier to navigate. She also worked to turn the narrated Powerpoints she had previously created into Kaltura videos making them more accessible for her students and captioned.

The resulting Ultra courses were very successful. Jennine got a lot of compliments from her students who “thought I had just made a beautiful Blackboard course.” Her students “were all able to hop in and seamlessly navigate” the course.

“It’s much cleaner, fosters more collaboration because of the format. The peer review feature was really cool and I loved that part of the course.”

“I enjoyed how easy it was to see what was due each week and to check them off!”

“I like Ultra Course mode much better.”

– Student survey responses

The process of transitioning her course helped her to “improve the quality and delivery of the course.” The peer review tools in Ultra were easy to use and allowed her to see each student’s submission, their feedback to others, and the self-review of their own paper all in one space. The students didn’t need to navigate to another site and learn another tool. And Jennine didn’t need to pay for a subscription.

According to Jennine, “It’s not a stressful transition.” While recreating her course took a little time, she appreciated the opportunity to rethink, update, and finetune certain aspects of her course. She found the final result more visually appealing. Her students were very engaged and she discovered helpful tools and nuances for a better teaching experience.

Interested in learning more about the Ultra Course View and if it is right for you? Contact elis@lelsey.edu.

April Faculty Community Conversation: Incorporating DEI Into Your Course Content

There are many benefits to incorporating DEI into our course designs. Creating an inclusive environment allows us to connect and reach a wide range of students. Incorporating DEI motivates students and supports a positive educational experience with multiple perspectives and backgrounds. In April’s Community Conversation, Lesley faculty Maureen Creegan Quinquis and Aya Karpinska joined Kay Martinez, Director of DEI Training, Education, & Development, to share strategies, reflections, and their ongoing journey to make more intentional and informed choices with their course content and activities.

Maureen began our conversation by sharing her course, “Equity, Access, and Inclusion through Arts Based Inquiry” for K12 classroom teachers. In the first class assignment, she shares a single photo of herself and asks students to list assumptions about her gender, ethnicity, personality, physical abilities, etc. One cohort assumed she was Italian after the first meeting because she gestures a lot with her hands. Their answers then lead to a discussion and activities around misconceptions we make based solely on visual information and how assumptions are created. “Are they an inside job or culturally created?”

Some of Maureen’s students also use Mursion, a virtual reality tool that allows student teachers opportunities to practice classroom scenarios including how to deal with bullying and microaggressions. Students using the tool encounter a diverse group of middle school student avatars in realistic situations that don’t have a script. Students can practice specific scenarios and learn to confront biases in a low-stakes environment before stepping into a real classroom.

Aya has taken an iterative approach to teaching her History of Interface course and providing a more diverse view of technology. Many technology interfaces and programming languages have been created by white, western men and most of them in English. This creates a bias and an impact on how technology is created and used. Since many of the texts shared in her course are also by white European/Western men, Aya has been going back and asking herself why she selected this source. Is there another text that could be used instead to bring a different perspective? Are there other modalities of learning that can be used such as a graphic novel about Ada Lovelace, the originator of the algorithm.

Aya’s course has a module on the history of textiles asking the question “How do we define technology?” In it she looks at sewing, the spinning jenny, and knitting. Some programmers say that knitting is a turing complete process and that the definition of knitting is similar to the definition of a computer. She shares the role of the seamstresses who created the space suits for the astronauts who went to the moon highlighting the untold stories of the women, people of color, and the disabled individuals behind the scenes.

Kay discussed the shift from DEI, diversity, equity, and inclusion, to EDIJ, equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice, leading with equity and adding justice to the conversation. It’s an important change that reflects the values and our framework as an institution. To illustrate the difference between equality and equity, Kay shared this bicycle image, in the top half everyone has a bike, but it’s not designed for each person’s needs. In the bottom half of the image, each person has a bike that has been adjusted to the needs of the individual.

The top row shows four people with the same bike. It is is only suitable for one person. The bottom row shows four people with a bike that suits each person.

Kay then asked the question “How does the curriculum reflect the students in your classes?” As a queer, trans person of color, Kay never saw themselves in the courses they took or in their higher education experience at large. Students look at Kay as a “unicorn” where they didn’t know people like them existed in higher ed.

Kay suggested creating a shared community agreement with your class. Begin by saying that this is a share learning space. It is not top down, but a circle. I will learn from you, my students, as you learn from me. Use the one mic rule, one speaker at a time, to mitigate disruptions and provide support for those who get interrupted. Acknowledge the relationship between intention and impact. This means assuming positive intentions, but you must still address the impact that the statements had on the class. Use the word “ouch” as a way for students to indicate that that statement hurt and “oops” to say that it wasn’t intentional.

Our panelists all agree that while this is important work, it’s not always easy. As Aya stated, be “forgiving of my ignorance” and be iterative with your course design. You won’t get everything right all the time but providing a more diverse and multifaceted perspective in your course will be hugely beneficial to all of us.

Resources

The EDIJ Training site has lots of training materials and information including Kay’s presentation for this conversation.

Check out the Lesley Library’s Lib guides. There are multiple guides for DEI, but Including Underrepresented Perspectives in Your Course may be a good place to start.

Ensure your resources are fully accessible to all your students. Ally is integrated into all your myLesley courses and review your uploaded documents for potential issues and provide guidance on how to fix them. Learn more about Blackboard Ally and review the Accessibility Checklist.

 

March Faculty Community Conversation: Student Presentations

We’re all familiar with the traditional end-of-semester final presentation where each students speaks to the class for a period of time, often while sharing Powerpoint slide. But what if it could be different? This March Ingrid Stobbe, Assistant Professor of Digital Filmmaking, and Jason Butler, Associate Professor of Drama Therapy, led our Community Conversation on alternative ways to do student presentations or as Jason put it, how we can “play and innovate with our students.” 

Ingrid teaches film production and theory classes at Lesley and one of her students proposed an alternative. He wanted to create a short film as his presentation. As with any other presentation or final paper, he started with his thesis statement: Pink Floyd’s “Live at Pompeii” was an innovative documentary that merged the medium of music with innovative techniques that were starting to appear in documentary filmmaking of the time. He then provided Ingrid with an outline where his thesis statement would be supported by media clips. Ingrid liked the idea enough to open the option up to all the students in the class. They still needed to hit the objectives of the assignment, synthesize what they had learned in class, and communicate that information to others, but it allowed filmmaking students a chance to express themselves in their own medium. For Ingrid, the question at the end of the day was “Is there a way that I can support and allow for the key moments in my class?” 

Ingrid’s alternative presentations were the result of a student request. However, Jason purposely designed his into his Drama Therapy course. Jason based his approach on Universal Design for Learning theories (UDL) where multiple avenues are provided for students to engage with the content and to share their knowledge. 

Jason had both asynchronous and synchronous elements to his course assignments. Students began by creating a fictional story and character to learn about embodiment. They then created short videos of themselves showing how their character is embodied. In the follow up assignment, students compared autobiographical theater with self-love pieces. Many students created traditional Powerpoints, but others did a more creative interpretation which was then shared in VoiceThread. VoiceThread allows the presenters to have traditional slides, images, and video. Viewers can provide feedback in multiple ways, text, audio, or video, allowing them some choice in how they respond.    

Jason also had some tips for synchronous presentations. He hides non-video attendees in Zoom and then asks the students who aren’t presenting to turn off their camera in order to create a stage for the performers on screen. Other times, he asks students to move closer to the camera if they agree with what is being said and to move away if they disagree in order to get the audience involved and interacting rather than just sitting back and watching. He also uses the reaction buttons in Zoom or asks the viewers to enter a word or two in the chat that expresses their thoughts on the presentation.   

But how do you assess such innovative assignments?  

According to Ingrid and Jason, you must give it structure. Jason shares the criteria of what needs to be covered while Ingrid has a workshop day where the student comes in with an outline of the goals they need to meet and how they will do that. While you are providing the student with some flexibility and room to explore, it must still meet the assignment criteria and stay within the boundaries of what the instructor can grade. Having a rubric helps communicate the criteria and to grade.  

How do you provide options when you teach more traditional content?  

Look for places where you can provide a little bit of choice for students. Where can you provide a small piece of creativity for them. Your students might not be ready to dance their dissertation, but can they share a picture or a piece of music that will transmit another aspect of the article they presenting on? The process forces us to think in different ways. 

One significant goal is to create a classroom culture where students feel empowered and comfortable talking risks and stepping out of their comfort zone. Small gestures over time where you allow students choice or opportunities to be themselves helps to create that safe space. Jason shared that in partnership with UDL, there’s a trauma-informed pedagogy perspective that says when we are activated due to trauma, we can’t function or reason… or learn. One of the common reasons for trauma is a lack of choice. It’s difficult to properly engage with something when we feel that it is being imposed on us. Providing some form of choice in your assignments diminishes that activation and allows students to more fully participate. 

Do you provide alternative ways for students to share their knowledge? Let us know how. 

 

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.  

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Olivia Cheever

Dr. Olivia Cheever

Dr. Olivia Cheever teaches Anatomy and Kinesiology Through Somatic Learning in the Expressive Therapies program.

In 2012, Dr. Olivia Cheever decided to take the plunge and begin bringing some of her course materials online. Olivia teaches Anatomy and Kinesiology Through Somatic Empathy in a five-day intensive format. Realizing that she wanted more time in class for hands-on practice, she reached out to eLearning and Instructional Support for help in moving some of her content online.

Olivia started slowly, first posting her syllabus, creating a course introduction and some narrated presentations using VoiceThread, and introducing a class blog. Over time, she began adding additional elements to the course, including course materials (readings and videos), online discussions, an online journal, and assignments. When her typical 5-day intensive course was cut down to 4 days because of the July 4th holiday, she was able to bring more content and activities online to make up the missed class time. With the skills she has gained, she is now preparing to teach an independent study course with a student at a distance.

What was the driving force in wanting to bring some of your content online?

I teach Anatomy and Kinesiology through Somatic Empathy in a one-week intensive format. A lot of what we do in class is hands-on movement and touch. Part of why I wanted to explore moving content online is to give students pre-work, so they come to the course further along, already having experienced something experientially, as well as didactically.

So, giving them, for example, a recording of a movement lesson and having them practice the movement and writing in their journal. So, they first see what the movement will be like, then they practice the movement and sense what is going on with their skeletons and their muscles, then they reflect and write in their journals about what they felt in their body. This allows them to capture what they’re learning from the inside out and the outside in, which is what somatic learning is all about.

I find that giving my students this pre-work gives them a little bit of a taste before they come in class that we can build on during the week we’re together.

The other reason that I wanted to do it is that, as an adjunct, I wanted to take advantage of the tremendous resource that is free to us at Lesley University with the eLIS staff, who are so accommodating and welcoming.

What are some of the advantages for you and your students using this more blended format?

It provides the opportunity for students to be using different parts of their brain. With online learning, they can take a look at videos, read through articles, and enter a discussion board with each other. Then you don’t have to take up class time; you can cover the big points in class and they can follow up online in their own time.

I think that another advantage of online learning is that some students who are quiet in class are more articulate when they write online. It’s wonderful sometimes to have students come out and be more forthcoming through that medium, where they’re not as comfortable sharing in class.

It also helps to bring up some issues before we meet in class. For example, some students are not comfortable being touched. And part of what we do in class is based on touch. We explore anatomy with hands-on palpation of self and others. So knowing that in advance gives us some time to work through it and come up with some solutions.

Also, one of the ways that I address diversity in my class is showing films from other cultures and documentaries with other ethnicities and you can do that through this platform. It’s very nice that you can include video in the online course rather than trying to find a DVD and DVD player to show the video in class.

What kinds of challenges have you faced?

I find this very challenging because I’m used to teaching in front of a class. I go from being an old-fashioned professor where you’re doing a lot of written review, feedback, and written papers and doing a lot of in class discussion to stepping back and being more of the guide on the side. Which is something that I really enjoy but it’s an art.

For an example, you see an online discussion going and want to insert a comment like, “good for you, guys, that sounds great,” or, “what about this over here?” or something like that. I can’t do that yet. Not during that week we’re meeting. What I do instead, at the end of the course, is read their papers as well as the discussion boards and the ongoing journal and I try to bring them together with my overall feedback.

Do you have any advice for faculty who may be hesitant to include technology in their teaching?

There are those, I think, who would benefit from this but don’t know how to take the first step. But it’s important to take that first step. To reach out.

There are some faculty who may feel that they can’t do it because they’re not comfortable with the actual mechanical stuff, such as using the computer and navigating online. And that may be something where they would benefit from a one-on-one or a small group where they can go at their own speed and build up to it.

I’m able to do it now, but in some of the eLIS workshops and trainings things can move quickly. And that can be intimidating for those that don’t know what they’re doing. But knowing that they can set up a one-on-one to get started and move slowly, at their own pace, that’s helpful.

Do you want to learn more about adding online elements in your course? Do you have ideas for adding digital content into your course but don’t know where to begin? Email elis@lesley.edu to set up an appointment. We’re happy to meet in person, online, or on the phone.