Monday, August 11, 2014

Looking Back at Previous Courses to Improve Your Next Online Course

The countdown is on for the start of the Fall semester, and with that comes the work of getting our courses ready to go live. This article is about looking back at previous semesters and finding information that will help us improve our future courses. Below are tips for where to look for clues on how we can improve:

  • Student Evaluations: read them and take note of the good, the bad, and the ugly. We are often so involved with our teaching and trying to get all the information covered before the end of the term that we overlook items that are important to the students. Evaluations can often reveal the missing pieces.
  • Student comments and emails: Look back at student emails and forum posts for additional insight into what needs clarification. For example, if numerous questions were asked about assignments, grading policies, etc., this would indicate that further explanation is needed in the course. Also take note of positive comments from students that indicate what activities and resources they especially liked and use this as a guidepost for designing future ones.
  • Activity reports: Look at the activity reports within Moodle to see how often students viewed specific resources or utilized tools that were included in the course. This will indicate resources that could be eliminated or improved and also emphasize the types of resources that students found most useful.
  • Take note of the "unexpecteds" that occurred during the previous semester. Were there activities that did not go as you planned, or assignments that took too long to grade, or quiz questions that seemed to stump the entire class? In the future, start a file or document where you can collect these items and your responses to them so that the next time one pops up you will be prepared and you can spend less time and energy dealing with it. This will also serve as a reminder of what to go back and fix the next time the course is offered.
  • Check your syllabus for items that need to be added, clarified, or updated. If students had questions about your late work policy, add this information to the syllabus. If you received numerous poorly written emails, include a section on netiquette.
  • Conduct an honest self-evaluation and look over and learn from your mistakes, oversights, and inconsistencies. Look for activities that you did not like or could have run smoother and improve them.
  •  Do a thorough check of your course for any broken links, layout problems, or inaccessibility issues. Be sure to test all url's to make sure they still work - Internet materials can be there one day and gone the next!
  • Keep a file of positive comments, new ideas you come across and student interactions that went especially well. The comments will serve as a reminder of your positive efforts and how they were appreciated by the students. The documentation of new ideas will help you to remember what you wanted to add in the future. The transcript of student interactions can be used as guide for future students who may need assistance with the project.
  • Set aside enough time to look over your course before it goes live to update due dates, textbook information and lectures. 
Remember that you may have taught this course dozens of times, but "to each of your students this may be a first experience having you as an instructor and thus having a course that works well in all aspects--layout, technical, explanation of assignments, correct dates, working links, and an engaged and concerned instructor--is what that student expects..and deserves. And only you can make that happen" (Sull, 2010).

Sull, E. C. (2010, January). Use end of an online course to better your next online course! Online Cl@ssroom.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Get Your Online Course Off to a Great Start

The first few weeks of an online course are a critical time for establishing instructor expectations, setting the tone for interaction, and showing students how to navigate the course. Below are some tips to help you get your course off to a great start:

  • Contact your students via email a week before class starts to welcome them, pass on textbook requirements and introduce yourself. This is a good time to encourage students to test their browser settings and to make sure they can get logged in to Moodle. A welcome email sets the tone for instructor to student interaction.
  • During the first week of class, direct students to resources that will help them be successful in the course. These resources might include the Student Success Center, the IT help desk, the Student Support menu located at the top of the Moodle window, and your course syllabus. The ITRC has many helpful resources for students on their website including a Student Guide to Moodle ISU, the survey "Are You Ready for Online Learning?", and a handout on software, browser and plugin requirements for Moodle. Feel free to incorporate links to any of these items into your course.
  • Establish expectations for participation in the course during the first two weeks of class. Use the News Forum to send announcements to students letting them know what the activities are for the week; explain to students how to use the communication tools; designate where to post questions about the course; and establish a connection with the students.
  • Begin with a few low-stakes activities. It helps to have some ungraded or low scoring practice activities during the first week of class to give students the chance to try out the course tools such as the forums and quizzes and to establish a routine for logging in to the course. For example, give a short quiz or design a scavenger hunt over the content of the course syllabus.
  • Have students introduce them in a discussion forum during the first week of class. The introductions help to establish a community of learners, breaks down some of the barriers to getting started, and gets them used to using the discussion tool. Start by introducing yourself first to set the tone. Provide specific criteria of what you want the students to talk about in the introduction such as their major, why they took the class, and something interesting like a favorite book or movie. Require students to make an initial post and then respond to at least two of their peers.
  • Add a question and answer forum to the first block of your course and designate it as the place for students to go to post general questions about the course. Some instructors call this the Cybercafe' or Water Cooler. 
Biro, S. C. (2010, May). Get your online course off to a good start. Online Cl@ssroom.

Friday, June 6, 2014

June Workshop Offerings in the ITRC

Please join us for a workshop in the Instructional Technology Resource Center during June. All workshops take place in the ITRC lab, Library Room B17. To register, visit the ITRC Calendar at and click on the link for the workshop you wish to enroll in. All workshops are free.

Voice Tools in Moodle - June 3, 9:00-11:00am
This workshop will show you the Voice Tools available to use in your Moodle Course. You will learn how to record an introduction, send verbal feedback via email, and set up a verbal discussion board.

Course and Module Objectives (QM 2) -  June 4, 2:00-4:00pm
At the heart of any course are the objectives. Writing course and module objectives that are measurable, precise and appropriate for students is critical in meeting the QM Rubric Standard 2.

Tracking Student Activity in Moodle -  June 5, 10am - 12:00pm or June 26, 2-4pm
Having trouble engaging and managing students? This workshop will show you how to track student activity using the reports. We will also be talking about some strategies for dealing with cheating and encouraging student engagement.

Moodle Quizzes -  June 10, 9:00-11:00am
This workshop will cover the new features and improvements of the Moodle ISU quiz tool and how to use it effectively in your teaching.

Assessment and Alignment (QM 3) -  June 11, 9:00-11:00am
Good course design is exemplified by the alignment of your assessments, materials, activities and technology to your course objectives. With a focus on assessment strategies we will discuss alignment and how to meet the QM Standard 3.

Creating Narrated Presentations Using Office 2013 - June 12, 11am-12:00pm
Learn how to narrate, design and publish PowerPoint presentations using Microsoft Word 2013. Learn how to export a presentation movie file and upload it to Moodle.

Using Moodle Forums - June 17, 3:00-4:00pm
Learn how to add, manage, and communicate using Moodle ISU 2 forums. This workshop will show you how to set up a basic forum, use the forum tool for class discussions, create forums for groups, and allow the forum posts to be rated.

Engaging Your Students (QM 5) - June 18, 9:00-11:00am
Using the Community of Inquiry (COI) framework we will look at strategies, tools and options for engaging your students. Looking at ways to improve teaching presence, cognitive presence and social presence aligns with meeting the QM Rubric Standard 5.

Introduction to Collaborate Web Conferencing - June 19, 9-11am or June 25, 9-11am
The Collaborate web conferencing interface has many tools to offer. In this workshop we will walk you through getting a Collaborate meeting set up, checking your system and moderating your meeting. We will also demonstrate several of the features available to you within the Collaborate environment.

Creating Course Materials (QM 4 & 8) -  June 23, 2:00-4:00pm
There are many tools and options available to create instructional materials that support your students in meeting your course objectives. We will look at various tools and discuss the benefits of each in additional to considering the needs of all students as we strive to meet the QM Rubric Standard 4 & 8. 

Minimizing Accessibility Barriers in Moodle - June 24, 9:00-11:00am
This workshop presents solutions for the creation of accessible Moodle content.

For additional information, contact the ITRC at 282-5880 or by email at

Monday, June 2, 2014

Interactive Uses of the Moodle Feedback Activity

 Moodle's Feedback activity may not get a lot of attention, but there are many interactive uses for this tool within a course from simple quiz creation to class discussions designed to keep students engaged in the learning material.

 Creating an Ungraded Quiz

One of the biggest issues with the Quiz activity in Moodle is that the quizzes must be graded. However, sometimes you may want to gauge how well students are understanding concepts without grading them on that knowledge. This type of feedback activity can be used as a pre-test study guide; to measure attentiveness to a guest speaker/movie/field trip; or understanding of a topic covered in class the previous day. The Feedback activity allows you to ask more than one question and do so in an ungraded format.

The Feedback activity does not have the ability to know the "right" answer and because of that it cannot tell the student that they know or don't know the material. One way to circumvent this issue is the put the correct answers on a page that is displayed after the student has submitted their feedback (conditional release).

Sharing Input

One feature of Feedback is the ability to share answers with students by setting the option that allows the analysis page to be shown after submission. When this box is checked, the student will see their responses upon completion along with all others. You can choose whether the responses will be anonymous or with user names. This activity could be used to gauge/share the most meaningful topics of a discussion (ex: what are three take-aways from the chapter); to nominate officers for an election; to pull out mistakes found in a text or sentence structure; to list Web sites with supplemental material, etc.

Getting a Conversation Started

Feedback can be used before or after class to facilitate discussion. If your goal is to flip your classroom, create a Feedback asking students to respond to a question, video or other meaningful content before coming to class. This will give students time to respond and prepares them for a guided discussion in class because they know what the topics will be ahead of time. Feedback can also be used to continue or redirect the discussion after the class is over by restating the same question from class in another way.

Allowing Students to Create the Feedback Activity

By allowing students to create a class survey or produce class content within the Feedback activity you are empowering students to teach each other. Begin by adding a Feedback activity, naming it and adjusting the desired settings. Once saved, return to the course page, and with editing still on, select the last icon next to the Feedback activity (a person with a plus sign). Choose the instructor role and assign the student. The student will then be able to click on the activity and add questions and access the analysis page to see responses.

Assessing Student Perceptions of Course Components

Use the Feedback activity to assess students perceptions of an activity, assignment, or website that you have added to the course. This is helpful if you are trying out something new and would like to gauge how your students feel about it in order to determine if it was worthwhile, easy to use, and/or useful from the students' viewpoint, etc.

More Information:

If you would like assistance setting up a Feedback activity, contact the ITRC or view our Feedback Tool handout.

Dulaney, E., & States, T. Building Ungraded Feedback Activities in Moodle. (April 2, 2014). the Journal.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Utilizing Personal Response Tools and Software


A personal response tool is a device used to encourage interactivity between a presenter and his/her audience. The first technology introduced required a hand-held remote control type device that is often called a “clicker”. However, new software has been introduced that allows responses from the audience utilizing personal devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets. There are many personal response tools available. Some are free and utilize personal devices while others are fee based and require a special remote.

Cloud-based software enables the presenter/instructor to create questions or polls that can be sent to the participants/students during the presentation or lecture or integrated into a PowerPoint slide deck. Results are instantly tabulated via the Internet, and can be displayed by the presenter to the audience either as anonymous responses or linked to the participants.

Benefits of using personal response tools

  • Improved attentiveness and engagement during the presentation
  • Increased retention of presentation materials
  • Facilitation of private student responses
  • Tracking of individual understanding so that the instructor can identify students who are not comprehending the material
  • Adaptation of questions written on-the-fly according to the direction the class takes
  • Immediate display of polling results to facilitate discussions and question and answer time
  • Creation of an interactive and fun learning environment
  • Confirmation of students’ understanding of key points immediately instead of waiting for an assessment activity
  • Gathering data for reporting and analysis

Response Products

Learning Catalytics: A “bring your own device” student engagement, assessment, and classroom intelligence system by Pearson. Students use their web-enabled devices to interact with open-ended questions that ask for numerical, algebraic, textual, or graphical responses. Instructors can access a question library with thousands of questions. Free instructor account and a student fee of $12 for 6 months.

Turning Technologies (TurningPoint): Offers instant management of polling participants, content, sessions and reports. Provides a simple interface in PowerPoint, or through a floating interactive toolbar. TurningPoint allows several response options ranging from clickers to smartphones and/or laptops. Pricing varies depending on use.

Poll Everywhere: A web-based application that allows participants to respond via any web-enabled device by sending text messages, visiting the web page, or using Twitter. The poll can be embedded within a presentation or web page and updates in real time. The free plan limits the number of participants to 40 per poll with higher-ed price plans available. Take a tour of Poll Everywhere.

Socrative: A student response system that empowers teachers and/or presenters to engage their audience through a series of educational exercises and games via any web-enabled personal device. For more information, view the 4 minute video produced by Socrative at, and the narrated slideshow “Using Mobile Devices as Personal Response Tools”. Students can use the Socrative app or access it through the Internet without creating an account or login. The student response service is free for everyone but only 50 participants can be logged in at one time - but you can have as many as you would like throughout the day.

QuestionPress: A classroom response system that provides polling, surveys, forms, and online assessments through live interaction with the students. QuestionPress can gather a digital show of hands and more, whether the responders are in the same room or across the globe. Fees are based on sessions and the number of responders per session.

Google Docs: Several tools available in Google Docs can be used as to create quick assessment surveys for students. Instructors can use Google Forms to create a quick exit-ticket type survey of their students’ understanding. The Google spreadsheet can be used to watch students’ work in progress. The spreadsheet can be revisited by the students in order to gather information or to check their progress. Google Docs allows up to 50 multiple users to access a doc at the same time. Docs can be accessed by any web-enabled device through the shared link. Visit “Google Spreadsheets and real-time assessment” for an excellent article on how one instructor uses Google Docs for instruction.

Moodle: There are several activities available in Moodle that can be adapted to use as personal response tools such as
  • The Feedback activity can be used to create multiple, ungraded questions for assessment and polling. The Feedback activity will keep track of individual student’s results or can record responses as anonymous. See “Building Ungraded Feedback Activities in Moodle” for more information.
  • The Choice activity allows instructors to create one question with a number of options as the student’s choice. The publishing features available in Choice allows the instructor to choose when and if the results will be released and whether they will be anonymous or with names. See “Interactive Uses of the Moodle Choice Activity” for more information.
  • The Quiz activity can be used to give students instant feedback through graded questions. Instructors can set the quiz grade to 0 if they do not want the grade to count. With the many settings options available in the Quiz activity, multiple attempts can be allowed and adaptive attempts can be integrated.

Online Survey Tools

There are also many free online survey tools available for quick web-based polling. For more information about online survey tools visit the article, “A Few Good Online Survey Tools”. The article features information on SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, SurveyGizmo, and many others.

Getting Started - Preliminary Questions to Think About When Incorporating Response Tools into the Classroom*

  • How do you plan to use the product?
    • what type of questions (multiple choice, true/false, other) would you like to use?
    • how would you like to collect students responses (anonymously or not)?
  • In which classroom are you going to teach (if already known)?
  • What is the expected enrollment for the class?
  • What response devices would you like the students to use (clickers, laptops, smartphones -- note: not mutually exclusive)?
  • How early in the class would you like to poll the students?
  • In what format would you like the results to be displayed?
  • Do you want the results to be available to students? 

 *Harvard University’s Academic Technology Group webpage provides an overview on using clickers and a pedagogical background for their use in the classroom. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Open Education Resources (OER): What, Why and How

 The What, Why and How of Open Education Resources

What are Open Education Resources? 

Open education resources (OER) are learning materials released under an open license that allows for their free use and repurposing (New, 2014). Unlike electronic versions of textbooks sold by publishers, open source resources are made up of materials gathered from various sources and are not protected by copyright. They are often designed to be interactive, with links to source materials and multimedia elements with the materials being licensed openly so that anyone with an Internet connection can access them (eCampus News).

Why use Open Education Resources? 

Textbook prices have risen an average of 82 percent between 2002 and 2012, about three times faster than the rate of inflation, according to a report from the U.S. Governmant Accountability Office (eCampus News). "Textbooks are the largest out-of-pocket expense for students and families," said Ethan Senack, higher education associate for student advocacy group U.S. PIRG. College students spend an estimated $1,200 a year on textbooks, and the costs are often higher in fields like science or mathematics (eCampus News). Open educational resources give students more control over the learning materials they use and can drastically lower the cost of their education.

Another advantage of using open-source materials is that they can be updated immediately when new information and/or studies are released instead of waiting a year or more for it to show up in an updated version of a printed textbook.

How can faculty use Open Education Resources?

There are many high quality, free resources in existence. New (2014) recommends that faculty take advantage of OER by engaging with the OER community through conferences, online resources (such as the ones listed below), and by tapping the knowledge of the college librarians.

Sources for Materials

Textbook publisher Pearson has launched the OpenClass Exchange platform with almost 700,000 educational resources compiled into an easy to search catalog. The resources include videos from TED-Ed, Kahn Academy, and YouTubeEDU as well as courses from the Open Course Library. Scot Chadwick, vice president and general manager of OpenClass, said the expansion of Pearson's online learning environment addresses the difficulty that educators have had in locating the best open educational resources and integrating them into existing learning management systems (New, 2013). A search bar is used in OpenClass to search for materials with an option to preview material before it is added to a course (New, 2013). Educators can choose which of their courses they want to have connected to OpenClass (New, 2013).

MERLOT is a free and open peer reviewed collection of online teaching and learning materials and faculty-developed services contributed and used by an international education community. Membership is free in MERLOT but is required to contribute to the Community and to build custom content-loaded webpages.

Lumen Learning assists institutional leaders and faculty with addressing the major challenges of OER adoption by helping to find quality content and mapping it to course learning outcomes; incorporating OER into academic strategy and curriculum decisions; training and supporting faculty; and improving student outcomes. Lumen also provides Open Course content with free digital access for students to 100% of course materials. Instructors have the freedom to adapt learning content to their instructional preferences and students' needs.

The OER Commons website is a network that brings together over 44,000 OER tools for sharing curriculum. It also provides a host of world news and training on the amazing arena of open education.

The article, E-Curriculum - Exploring 24 Free Open Education Resources, explores twenty-four sources for open education resources.

More Reading:

There are important points faculty should consider when building digital open source learning content. The article, E-Curriculum - 12 Points to Consider, Part One brings many of these considerations to light. 

There are some great tools that can be used outside of the learning management system to  compile and share resources with students. The article, E-Curriculum- 7 Key Tools Uncovering A Goldmine of E-Resources, talks about seven of those tools in great detail with links to the tools.

When considering using open education resources, it is important to know the laws surrounding copyright. The article, Staying on the Right Side of Copyright in Education which first appeared in T.H.E. Journal gives a primer on copyright laws.


New open-source strategy would drop textbook costs to $0. eCampus News. April 9, 2014.

New, J. (2013, September). Pearson creates searchable OER catalog. eCampusNews, 6(8). p. 10.

New, J. (2014,  April). Will book publishers go the way of ice delivery? eCampusNews, 7(4). p. 22.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Interactive Uses of the Moodle Choice Activity

Moodle's Choice activity is often one of the most overlooked tools in the Moodle toolbox. But the publishing features and restriction options available for Choice make it one of the most robust and useful tools to promote student interaction within an online course.

Choice allows instructors to create a number of options from which students are limited to choosing but one. Limits can also be set on the number of students who can select a certain option and date ranges can be set during which students might be able to change their responses prior to closing (as opposed to locking them in with their first choice). The publishing features available in Choice allows the instructor to choose when and if the results will be released and whether they will be anonymous or with usernames.

There are a number of creative ways that the Choice activity can be used in a course:

Limiting Group Size: Choice can be used when you need to limit the number of individuals who are able to make a selection and are willing to do so on a first-come, first-served basis. Examples:
    • You are giving a proctored test to 150 students but the testing lab only seats 40 students at a time. The students must choose and commit to the day and time that they will come to the lab to take the test. The Choice is set up with the date and time options and with the restriction to only allow 40 students to pick each option. A report can be printed out and given to the proctor to use as an attendance sheet in the lab.
    •  You are assigning students a research paper with a limited number of options for topics. You set up the Choice with each topic option and limit the number of individuals to 4 per topic. This will ensure that there are enough research materials available on each topic.
Using HTML Options as Choices: In addition to using text options with Choice, you can use anything that you can supply a local or Internet path to. Examples:
    • You are assigning students to write an essay on visual images such as pieces of art, a historical figure, or something related to medical or dental disease. You post the actual images as the Choices and limit the number of students who can choose each image to write about.
    • You are assigning a speech made by a political figure, or a section of a film or a musical piece and you provide links to the videos on YouTube.
Assessing the Composition of a Class: It may be helpful to determine what teaching resources resonate with a unique group of students; to discover individual learning styles of your students; assess student's familiarity with technology; or determine which lecture format they prefer - written or audio. For example:
    •  Begin by pasting the URL to a web-based learning styles inventory in the description box of the Choices setting page, highlight it, and use the hyperlink icon to make it active. Be sure to set the webpage to open in a new window in the Appearance section of the Choice settings page. Set up the Choices inputs to reflect the three learning styles. Set the responses to anonymous and post the results after everyone has voted on their learning style. Use the results to start a discussion or to assess what additional types of learning materials you need to provide to your students.
Track Progress of a Student Project: Choice can act as an accountability tool for students completing semester long projects. At various points throughout the semester, insert a choice activity to track and document student-reported progress. Choice inputs for student selection can reflect the various stages required by the teacher toward completion of the project. Publishing options allow responses to remain unpublished or posted anonymously as a potential motivator for students suddenly realizing they are lagging behind the rest of the class.

Allow Students to Vote on Course Content: Inserting a choice early in the course and allowing students to pick from several future topics provides a level of ownership over the learning process. For example, what 21st century artist or musician would they like to learn more about or what cultural event would they like to participate in as a class?

Flip a Video: The choice activity allows a video to be "flipped" into a simple lesson, making a video interactive rather than passive. To begin, add a content question in the description box on the choice settings page, then embed a video below. To embed a video, click on the HTML icon in the text editor toolbar of the description box, and paste the embed code of the video in the HTML source editor (to find the embed code for a YouTube video click on the share link under the video, select the embed link, and copy the code). Student comprehension of the video can be assessed by their responses to the content question you posted previously.

A Note on Display Options in Choice: Choice allows you to choose whether you want the options displayed horizontally or vertically. Owing to space constraints on the screen, it is easier to fit larger choices in by choosing vertically but students may not choose options lower on the list because they have to scroll to see them. It is recommended that you try size options to experiment with where they all appear on the initial screen.

Conclusion: The Choice activity is one of the simplest tools available in Moodle, but its implementation is limited only by your own imagination. We encourage you to experiment with it and find creative ways to integrate it into your online curriculum. If you would like help setting up and using the Choice tool, contact the ITRC and we will be happy to demonstrate it to you and/or assist your with setting it up.

States, T. & Dulaney, E. (March 12, 2014). Creative Applications for Moodle's Choice Activity. Campus Technology.

Moodle ISU Handout: Choice Activities