Blackboard Annotate is Updated!!!

Hooray!  Blackboard Annotate has finally been updated! You have no idea how long I have been waiting for this.

So, here is what are the changes:

Now in the assignment submission page Blackboard supports the following files:

  • Microsoft®Word (DOC, DOCX)
  • Microsoft®PowerPoint®(PPT, PPTX)
  • Microsoft®Excel®(XLS, XLSX)
  • OpenOffice®Documents (ODS, ODT, ODP)
  • Digital Images (JPEG, JPG, PNG, TIF, TIFF, TGA, BMP, HEIC)
  • Source code (Java, PY, C, CPP, etc)
  • Medical Images (DICOM, DICM, DCM)
  • PDF
  • PSD
  • RTF
  • TXT
  • WPD

Blackboard Annotate also supports the current versions of the following browsers:

  • Firefox
  • Chrome
  • Edge
  • Safari

The other interesting change is that the annotation session expires after an hour. Apparently, the user will receive a pop window with a warning message that the session is expiring. The cool thing about this is that whatever work that you had done on the assignment is saved so if you ran out of time and did not manage to finish reading the assignment your work is not lost and when you come back you continue where you left off.

Here is what the Annotations Tool Icon looks like:

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Document View Settings

  1. Sidebar: View Thumbnail, Outline, Annotation, or Bookmark views of the submission.
  2. Pages: Use the arrows to jump to different pages in the submission.
  3. Pan: Move the submission on the page.
  4. Zoom and Fit: Zoom in and out of the submission or adjust the view to fit the page, fit the width, or select the best fit.

Annotations Tools:

  • DrawingBrush, and Eraser: Draw freehand on the submission with various colors, thickness, and opacity. Select the eraser to remove annotations. You can erase parts of a freehand drawing with the eraser or select the Delete icon to delete the whole drawing.
  • Image or Stamp: Choose a preloaded stamp or create your own customized stamp or image to add to the submission.
  • Text: Add text directly on the submission. You can move, edit, and change the text and select the font, size, alignment, and color of the text.
  • Shapes: Choose Line, Arrow, Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, and Polyline. Each shape has its own settings to change the color, width, opacity, and more.
  1. Comment: Provide feedback in comments. Your comments appear in a panel next to the submission.
  2. Print or Download: Print or download the submission with the annotations.
  3. Search: Search the submission for specific text.
  4. Content Library: Create a bank of reusable comments. You can add, edit, delete, and search comments in the library. You can also add a comment directly to the submission page from the menu.

Note: The Content Library is only available in SaaS environments.

Highlighter: Select specific portions of the submission to highlight. As you highlight text on the submission, an additional menu opens. You can highlight, strikethrough, underline, squiggle, or comment on the highlighted section.

Click below to see a video created by Blackboard which guides you through the new updates:

Bb Annotate Overview in Blackboard Learn

I can wait to use these new features in the fall. Unfortunately, I am done with teaching for the year so I cannot try them out, but in the fall I will use Blackboard Annotate to grade student papers so I will let you know what I think of them and if it makes grading easier. If you had the opportunity to use these new features let me know what you think.

All of the information came from:  https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Assignments/Grade_Assignments/Bb_Annotate

Katherine

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Copyright © 2020 TheAdventuresofanOnlineInstructor.com

 

Things I like and don’t like about Blackboard?

Let me start by saying that when I first started teaching online for the university, the only LMS they offered was Blackboard, I hated it because it wasn’t as intuitive or user-friendly as Moodle. I was exposed to Moodle when I was taking courses online for the Tesol Certificate on teaching online. That was in in 2005 fast forward 15 years later I have come to appreciate Blackboard as it has evolved as much as I have. The thing I like the most is the structure it offers because I have found that while teaching online, students need structure and predictability. They also don’t like spending too much time looking for things in different spots and in all sorts of different folders. If you send students on a treasure hunt looking for the homework, readings, and videos for the whole semester they because extremely frustrated and angry. It that was very stressful for me and my students, so I began experimenting with all sorts of different tool that were in Blackboard and outside of Blackboard. Today I will talk about the tools that I like and don’t like on Blackboard.

 

Tools I like:

  1. The “Lesson Plan” tool, as it helps create a structured course because I can keep all of the information the students need for the week in one folder. In this tool I am able to include links, assignment dropboxes, connect to a specific blog and/or discussion thread, etc.
  2. The “My Messages” is another good tool because it keeps all of the students’ messages in one place and nothing ever gets lost.
  3. The “Announcement” tool allows me to send one message to all of my students at once straight to their email which so convenient when I need to quickly respond to everyone or let them know about something that is going on without having to log out and log into another website.
  4. The “Blog”, this tool is great since it allows students to reflect on what is going on and they can also read and respond to each other.
  5. The Sign-up sheet, I use this tool to have students’ sign-up for their group assignment. The feature I like the most is that it allows students to choose the group they want to be in.
  6. The reports tool is amazing because it allows me to see where my students have gone in the course and if they did the work, they say they did. I know it sounds like big brother, but it comes in handy when you have a dispute with a student.
  7. “SafeAssign” is another great tool that Blackboard created to detect if a student has plagiarized or not. It takes out the guesswork. The other thing that is nice about this tool is that it so easy to add it to an assignment and it does the work for me.
  8. The “Survey” tool is one that I had not used a lot in the last, but it came handy this semester because my students were so used to seeing me in class and we were able to come to a decision quickly, but once we met remotely it was easier to use the survey to make decisions since it allowed students to think and vote. In many, they felt better because it gave them power in the decisions I made, and it helped them feel included like when we were in class.
  9. “Blackboard Collaborate Ultra” allows me to connect live with my students without making the student learn new anything new or login to anything to a new website. I especially like this tool because I can use it for my virtual office hours and my students can pop in and out to ask me questions.
  10. The “assignment dropbox” is another great tool because it allows me to see the student’s paper and even correct it without having to download it on my computer. I also get to see when the paper was submitted which also helps a lot when there is a dispute with a student.

 

Tools I don’t like:

  1. I don’t like the inline corrections of the written assignment. I love the idea of it, but it is very difficult to use. I tried it on my computer with my mouse and there is no way you can draw with it. So, then I tried using my iPad with an apple pencil and it worked but not as well as other software. It is very difficult to do inline correction on a paper with multiple errors like the writing of an ESL student.
  2. “Data Management” is a cool tool if you know how to use, but If you make a mistake with the dates, it will throw the whole course off as far as the dates go and then I will have to enter all of the dates and time manually.
  3. “Rubrics”, that tool is difficult to use well at least the way I want to use it. Personally, I like to use it so my students can peer review each other’s writing. From what my students told me they can’t access the rubric before I post their grade so I cannot use it the I want to.
  4. The “Test” tool that imports and exports a test is also a good tool but difficult and cumbersome to use.

So, there you have it. As you can see there are more things to love in Blackboard than not. What has your experience has been with Blackboard?

 

Katherine

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Copyright © 2020 TheAdventuresofanOnlineInstructor.com

Can podcasting be used in online teaching?

The first week of the summer session is last tonight. There is so much to do during the first week, so many worried stressed-out students. Posting all sorts of questions. Such as: How do I upload my profile photo, to how is the participation grade counted, to but I don’t understand what a podcast is? Meanwhile, all of this information is in the syllabus.

Last night as I was reading their blog reflections for the week and listening to their podcast introductions I couldn’t help but think that it feels like any other summer session Trying to squeeze a 15-week course in a little over 6 weeks and the students realizing that taking a summer course might not have been such a great idea because although I will finish the course quicker it is going to kill me while I am doing this. Yet it isn’t the same summer course as last year because now the students are not just talking about just how worried they are about the amount of work they have to do they are talking about being worried of COVID-19 and how grateful they are having the opportunity to take the course online. As well as missing being on campus and interacting with their friends and classmates.

They were also super relieved that I wasn’t going to make them be on zoom for 3 hours every day for the next 6 weeks. When I teach my online courses, I don’t include zoom or Blackboard Collaborative Ultra. I actually use the tools that Blackboard offers me to a create a very active, but asynchronous course. The only time I use live video is for office hours. So, students feel like they can find me and pop in and out of the live meeting, and their questions answered.

Long ago when I began teaching online and before the era of Zoom and live video streaming that now is so easy to use, we used a program called Wimba that offered an asynchronous environment, but it was very problematic and super frustrating. It offered live video, but it did not work well most of the time it was super glitchy, so whenever I attempted to use it, I would use just the audio portion of it. In all fairness to the company that offered this software we were at the beginning stages and it was more than 10 years ago when online teaching was still in its infancy. I have no doubt that Wimba is currently offering a much better product than the one I used from 12 years ago. As I result of all of the technical problems, I gave up on it and began searching for solutions to my problem since my students were also supposed to practice their oral skills. How could I offer an online course and only teach them part of the material I would teach in class? At the time it was difficult to persuade the dean to approve online courses as people thought it was not possible to create a course online that was just as good if not better than the on-campus course equivalent.

After researching for weeks and looking at my options (the good old days when I did not have a child or homeschooling) I found the podcast. I tested all sorts of software and landed on a program called Audacity. The reason I chose Audacity was that it had a user-friendly interface and it was free so the students would not have to pay for the software or spend hours trying to learn something new. To my surprise, it worked the students were able to improve their oral skills and I got to listen to them without making all of them get online at the same time and place. I still remember my excitement because it was a time that I was new at teaching online and I had literally no idea if what I was doing was going to actually work. One reason for this was that at the time the university offered very few workshops for online teaching and I hadn’t gotten my Master’s degree in Instructional Design so I did not have a background on how to envision, design, create, or teach online. Sure, I had a certificate in Principles and Practices of Online Teaching from Tesol but as I found out that was not nearly enough knowledge to create an online course in anything.

So since I went with having students create podcasts I realized that not only did I alleviate my stress and frustration of trying to make software program work, but I also helped my students practice their oral skills by recording and rerecording their podcasts until they were happy with the results.  This worked well especially with ESL students who are hesitant to present in the classroom because it allowed them to do the work at home on their own time without being put on the spot. As a result, I get a lot of positive feedback from my student.

When teaching online what kinds of solutions have you come up with when trying to teach oral communication?

 

Katherine

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Thoughts on Teaching, Taking Stock…

Since my last post I have been thinking a lot about my students that are finishing up the semester and if how I taught them, or should I say facilitated their learning because I really don’t think of myself as a teacher in a traditional way. You know, the kind that sits in front of a classroom and lectures. I actually abhor that kind of teaching because it makes students lazy and comatose. Most of the time they are so bored that they end up looking at more interesting things on their laptops, tablets, or phones. The way I like to teach is when I am off-center i.e. when I make the students take center stage. As a dear friend and colleague used to say when I was a new professor, the lazier the instructor the more active the students. At the time I didn’t understand what she meant, but almost 20 years later I do because with teaching and experience comes understanding.

Of course, she didn’t mean that I should work, what she meant is that I shouldn’t lecture so much and let them do active work. When I say I don’t lecture I mean I don’t sit in front of a group of students and explain how prepositions work in a sentence (although in some instances I have been known to do that as well). Because part of teaching business communications includes quite a bit of grammar instruction since many of my students are ESL and International students that many have a hard time writing a cohesive sentence.

When I teach on campus I begin the week by laying out what the week is going to be about as well as the type of work they are required to do, but I don’t lecture in the traditional sense and that is why I like hybrid courses because they allow me and my students the flexibility to expand the number of activities and learning because there is so much information that you can squeeze into a 50 minute class period. So, a lot of my lecturing happens online via e-lectures for it allows them to view it as many times as they like or practice with the interactive grammar exercises that I have created.

The other thing that I do during this time of the semester especially after I have posted final grades is trying to see if my students have been able to meet the goals, I set out for them. To that end, I use the backward design model by Wiggins & McTighe which believes that learning experiences should be planned with the final assessment in mind. One starts with the end i.e. the desired results or goals and then designs the curriculum from the evidence of learning called for by the standard and the teaching as well as the material needed to equip students to perform’ (Wiggins and McTighe, 2000, page 8)

So finally, as the semester winds down I take time to think about everything that happened and look at my notes and see what worked and didn’t work this time around. How do you end the semester or year?

Katherine

 

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Copyright © 2020 TheAdventuresofanOnlineInstructor.com

Are we meeting student expectations?

This morning I was reading the morning news and saw an article on how Northeastern is being sued by students for inferior online teaching. I am not going to take a position on what Northeastern is doing as far as teaching online goes and how prepared or not their faculty were when they asked them to transfer their courses to online because I am not familiar with the university’s online platform. From what I understand, Northeastern is one of the many universities being sued by their students.

The question is why? Why are students suing their universities? What are their expectations? Are faculty not working up to their usual standards?

I have no doubt that the majority of faculty if not all of them have been working a lot more than they usually do to compensate for having to transfer and teach online in order to assist students in successfully completing the semester because as educators this is what we do help, educate, and guide students. So, have their teaching standards dropped? No, it has not dropped, it changed to accommodate the online modality. You cannot go from a high standard of teaching on campus to a low one because you are teaching online.

So, what is wrong? Why do students feel that they are not getting what they paid for? The article I read did not say. I think that many students like faculty and administration do not understand that teaching online versus on campus is not the same thing.

As far as the faculty are concerned, I believe that when they transferred their courses online, they did a great job and all of the material is there that they were going to teach in class. But in what format? You cannot use the same teaching tools online that you used in-class. It doesn’t work trust me I have tried. In the early years of online teaching despite my best efforts, I did have a few teaching fails and learned from them but unlike my colleagues, throughout the US I had time to hone my online teaching skills.

Also, you cannot just use zoom and lecture non-stop until the end of the semester as the students will be exhausted from all the live online lectures.  There must be a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities such as zoom lectures with online activities and e-learning lectures. Something that most faculty did not have time to create as you need to search to find the software you think might work, learn how to use it, and then design and create the material. Time instructors did not have.

That is where the administration comes in. As they didn’t understand the amount of work it takes to create and set up an online course. Two weeks is not a realistic amount of time for faculty that are starting from scratch to be able to design and create an online course let alone several. At this point, I think that the majority of admins are finally understanding what it takes for faculty to go online as I am sure they have heard back from their faculty about the challenges they are facing.

Finally, let me talk about the students, most have no idea what it means to be taking a full load of courses online. Sure, they have taken an online course a few times. That’s different. So that is why they probably feel that the work their professors are doing is an inferior job. Taking a full load of courses online means that the students need to step up and be responsible for a lot more than they ever had to. Why? because now they need to log in and find things as there is no professor at the front of the class to answer questions as they are looking at their phones checking their social media status and how many likes they got on Tik Tok. They need to remember to get on zoom, make sure they have a good working computer, fast internet connection, and actually take notes. When they have a question, they need to log in to their online platform to post a question that might take their professor more than twenty-four hours to respond. This creates stress and tension for students because they think that they should get a response immediately, they don’t realize that their instructor might also be overwhelmed by the fact that s/he was not planning on teaching online for half a semester and is now trying to figure out how to teach in this new platform while teaching. So, suddenly life became a lot more complicated than it was before the quarantine.

The bottom line is that students have to take charge of their own learning and work independently and figure things out on their own. Of course, that is easier said than done. It is difficult for them because they are not ready. This is not how they were taught in K-12. I say this because as a mother of a nine-year-old boy 4th grade has been a difficult year for him long before COVID-19. The teachers realized that children are not able to be more in charge of their own learning and day as a result for the last few years they have begun asking students to use agendas to write down their schedules. So, since September I watched my son struggle to figure out how to remember to write things down in his agenda and to also make sure to look at his agenda. This has been painful for me and him, but I had to let him fall on his face several times in the hope that he will learn and become more responsible for his own learning. These are life skills that many of my students do not have. One reason for this could be that they came from a different country or their school system just didn’t think it was important enough at the time. But like everything else education and curricula evolves and changes to reflect the needs of the students to help them succeed hence the change in my son’s school.

The other problem most college students are facing is that it is hard to have to go from an in-class learning experience to an on-line learning one and be expected to perform the same. Which are my grading standards have eased and it is easier to get a pass/fail this semester.

Let’s not forget that students are locked up in a house with their parents which cannot be easy nor stress-free for them as they also had to leave their dorms or apartments and their friends behind. Physiologically they are stress out and tired of this new way of living and going to school. Their lives have changed, and they don’t know when they are going back to school. For now, everyone in higher ed will stay online for the foreseeable future and that is not easy for college students to accept. Eventually and hopefully by the fall semester, we will all be on-campus teaching and learning, but it won’t be the same. I don’t think that we can ever go back to the pre-quarantine time.  I see education evolving and changing in ways we never thought it would.

What do you think?

 

Katherine

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Google Classroom? Yay or Nay?

Today I want to talk about Google Classroom. Let me start by saying that I am not a huge fan of Google so please don’t think that I am advertising Google products. Also, this is not a product I have used for teaching at the university as we use Blackboard. I like Blackboard, but it took me a long time to get comfortable using it. Something that did not occur with this product.  I had also heard from several colleagues that have used Google Classroom instead of Blackboard that it was such a wonderful product to use and there is no learning curve.

So when my son’s Greek schoolteacher needed assistance with setting up a virtual classroom due to the COVID-19 quarantine I chose to use Google Classroom because I wanted to take a look and see how user-friendly it was. Also, it is a small school with a couple of sections and with no real budget for online teaching so since this tool is free it was a no brainer.

I found Google Classroom to be straightforward and intuitive to use. It took me a few minutes to create the course shell for each section. Then I told each teacher to go into their course and upload their information as well as personalize it as I did not know what their vision for their course was. When I checked in on them, the instructors told me that it took them a few minutes to start to personalize and upload their course material.

Here is how one of the instructors chose to personalize her page:

 

Google classroom image.jpg

 

Since it is free it gives one the opportunity to experiment and try new things out without worrying about the cost especially since most LMS can be expensive. The thing that I noticed about Google Classroom is that you can make your course as simple or as intricate as you want depending on your needs and what you are teaching.

From this brief experience with Google Classroom, I am certainly planning on giving it a try for one of my courses so I can really see how it feels from the perspective of a teacher as well as figure out if it is possible to replace Blackboard.

If you have tried it let me know what your experience has been with it.

 

Katherine

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Copyright © 2020 TheAdventuresofanOnlineInstructor.com

Teaching Online… our new reality

This week has been so surreal as I watched the world come to a screeching halt in order to control this virus as my UMass Boston colleagues raced to get ready during our spring break to put their material online.

Luckily all institutions and school districts have great e-learning teams that are helping. Those people are also working hard and a lot of hours to help educators upload their material and are getting slammed because there more teachers than instructional designers.

So, since I have been teaching online for over 10 years at this point and feel at home on Blackboard, I am ready to transition to online teaching and had very little to do this week to get ready for when our courses start up again. As a result, I offered my assistance to colleagues and my son’s teachers in case they needed anything. Such as talk through their ideas and answer any questions they might have as teaching online can be overwhelming and a huge amount of working when you have never taken on such an endeavor before. Also, having someone to talk to when trying to change the way you work can be comforting and as well as a lot of help when brainstorming ideas.

Then I was thinking what advice can I give people I can’t talk to via zoom, skype, and facetime? So here are my suggestions:

For starters, educators that are new to online teaching, please know that there is no way you can upload all of your material for the rest of the semester or year online within one week. At least not the correct way. The reason I say this is because uploading the material you were supposed to use on campus or in a classroom will not necessarily be the best way to teach online. Teaching online is a whole different animal and it is taught very differently. A lot of planning and thought goes into designing an online course and one week is not enough time to do everything.

Second, the other reason you should not upload all of your material at once is you need to wait to see how students are going to react to the way you designed the course. You don’t want to have done all of this work only to have to rearrange or delete materials as you begin to receive angry and frustrated emails from your students.

Third, work in chucks: Put up material for a few days. Then upload material for the whole week and so on.

Fourth, make it user or student-friendly i.e. listen to your students and their needs. I say this because students of all ages get easily frustrated and upset, then they shut down and don’t want to do the work.

Fifth, use interactive material to keep students engaged you can’t have them read a chapter from the textbook or a long article at home and expect them to feel engaged. Remember you are not with them in the classroom so there is no in-class or small group discussion.

Sixth, use as much material as you can that someone else has created because at this point there is no time to learn new software on how to create e-learning videos or interactive exercises.

Sixth, include material that will keep your students engaged. Such as videos, interactive exercises, podcasts, audiobooks, interactive books especially for younger children as well as utilizing the discussion threads, blogs that are available in LMS’s such as Blackboard, Moodle, and, google classroom.

Seventh, make sure to start the week on the same day and all of the homework must be due on the same day every week as it is difficult for students that are taking multiple classes/courses to keep track of constantly changing deadlines. For example, my students know that all homework is due on Friday and it will not for the whole semester, so they never forget to submit their homework.

Eight, remember to be patient and that almost all of the students especially K-12 are not used to being online taking classes so they will also be having a difficult time adjusting to not going to school having to go to an iPad or a computer to keep up with their classwork.

I will also create a page on my blog with resources with links and books I think can be helpful as we move forward.

If you do have questions for me feel free to post them here.

 

Katherine

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Online Group Work

collaborating image2

One of the biggest challenges I have faced when teaching online is getting students to work collaboratively and successfully to complete a group assignment online. Over the years I have discovered that it takes a lot of planning and thought to make sure that the students will have a positive experience. However despite all of the effort put in designing a group assignment if the students are not willing to collaborate and work together. It seems that their biggest issue is responding to each other in a timely manner. Some things I have discovered in order to make the process smoother are:

 

  1. Have clear guidelines on about the group assignment. I create assignments that are straightforward with as much information about my expectations as possible.

 

  1. Offer different types of online collaborative tools such as Google docsor Evernote Evernote
  1. Resolve any issues quickly. I let the students know that if there are any issues they need to email me or post a question in the Q&A and I try to resolve any issues within 24 hours.
  1. Keep groups small. No more than 3 students per group because if it is more or less then it can become complicated. When there are only 2 students in the group I have found that many times 1 of the student does not communicate quickly enough with their group member to complete their work and either end up doing the work at the last minute or the other student is left to write the whole assignment on his/her own which is not what I want. On the other hand, if there are 4 students in a group it is harder for the students to coordinate and collaborate with each other because there are too many emails and texts occurring to keep track. cell phone imageOn the other hand, if there are 3 students in a group things seem to work better because they are able to work better with each other. Even if one of the students does not end up participating during the group assignment there are still 2 students that can successfully complete the assignment.

 

Katherine

Beyond the One-Dimensional Page

During the summer I always reflect on the year that just ended in order to begin working on my courses for the fall and spring semester. As a result, I decided that it would fun to add audio to my weekly overviews. The thought behind it was that audio would add more depth to a one-dimensional page. When you add audio or video to a piece of writing it makes it more interesting and grabs people’s attention. It makes the experience be more like that of an in-class course. I know what you are going to say. Hold on! I thought the whole point was for people taking a course online is to have a different learning experience. Although that is true for many people I have also found that the reason many students in my college register for online courses is the convenience that an online course has to offer. Such as not having to go to class, adapting the course to a work schedule etc.  So they want to take a course that is flexible and easier on their professional, and family life.

However since the majority of the students doesn’t know what an online course is all about they think that it is going to be similar to an on-campus course. Hence they don’t know how to navigate in an online course so they get lost and lose interest. On the other hand, I want to make sure that I teach my students the information that I have set out. So if I don’t create material that will motivate my students to log in then I won’t achieve what I have set out to do.

To add audio to my weekly overviews so they I can provide students with the types comments I would make if I was in class with them.

I began by experimenting with iannotate iannotate logo small because it is a wonderful app that I have used in the past. Unfortunately, what I found out was unless my students have an Ipad or a tablet and purchase the app then they cannot listen to my audio feedback. As the university doesn’t give them a tablet when they are accepted, it would kind of unfair of me to ask my students to buy an Ipad just for my course so they can listen to my comments.

Then I went on to use Growly Notes Growly Notes logoand AudionoteAudioNote logo because you use them on a computer. So I thought it would be easier for my students to use. Both are great note taking apps for the mac, but the audio did not work when I uploaded it to Blackboard Learn.

So then I decided to use MS Word and then convert it to an Adobe pdf file. I thought that since these are such ubiquitous programs that all of my students can open them from any computer or mobile device. The pdf with audio worked well when I emailed it,  but when I uploaded the file to Blackboard the audio would not work. At this point, I am assuming that it is a Blackboard problem. My next step would be to call Blackboard and ask them if there is any way I can make this work. If I manage to solve the audio I will report back, so stayed tuned…

 

Katherine

Who Are My Students…

As I get ready for the upcoming semester I can’t stop thinking if my course design and the theories I use to reach all of my students.  So as I work on my courses I can’t help but wonder who are the students that so bravely decided to take my online course instead of an on-campus version of it. I look at their names men, women sophomores, juniors, seniors; English speaking students, non-English students, and the list goes on. Do I really care if they are seniors or non-native speakers? At the end of the day, no I don’t. What I actually want to know before the beginning of the semester is how they learn. Are they visual learners or do they learn just by reading a textbook. In a nutshel,l how do they retain knowledge?

Another thing I want to know is: Are they internet natives? This is an important question these days as technology has taken over our personal, professional, and academic lives. Being an internet native makes a difference in the way one learns. So in turn, it influences how a course is designed.

How old are they? Do they work? Both of these questions address experience outside of the classroom and the motivation to take a college course is so much different when you are in your 30s versus being in your early 20s.

Unfortunately, I don’t have all of the answers to my questions until a couple of weeks after the semester begins. So since I really don’t know much about my students when I am designing or redesigning a course I look at the feedback I received from the students during the previous semester. I also look at their performance as well as what assignments, video lectures, online discussions worked and what didn’t and change them accordingly.

As the students at my university are older that the average 20-year-old college student and the majority of them work the teaching philosophy that I espouse is Andragogy. It is a teaching theory developed for adult learners by Malcolm Knowles. According to Knowles Andragogy is the art and science to teaching adults. This theory is designed to engage adults to learn by:

  1. Letting adults know the reason they are learning something
  2. Using their experience as the basis for new learning
  3. Making adults responsible for their own learning
  4. Explaining the relevance and the practicality of what they are learning to their professional lives.

I teaching a business writing course and it super important to make students see that what they are learning in my course are skills that they will need when they graduate college if not sooner as many of my the students already work in the business world and need their bachelors degree to advance in their careers.

So I strongly believe that when designing the course understanding the types of students that will register for it is important to the success of the course as well as of how well the students learn and use the information that they learn. After all being a educator is about transferring what you know to somebody else so they can use it as well.

 

Katherine