SHSU Online October 2015 Faculty Development Opportunities

October brings with it many faculty development options. SHSU faculty can boost their technology know-how by attending sessions online or at the Woodlands campus. Blackboard instructors at Sam can bring their lunch and their questions to our “Brown Bag” session or attend one of the regular how-to sessions at the MURFF. If the daily grind does not allow for attending one of SHSU Online’s regularly scheduled development sessions, SHSU faculty may choose to carve out 5 minutes to an hour for a one-on-one session.

Visit our Faculty Development Sessions sign-up page to enroll.

 How-to By Appointment How-to By Appointment

Visit the development sign-up page. Click Signup then By Appointment. Choose topic & availability and you’re set!

 Blackboard Brown Bag Blackboard Brown Bag

Bring your lunch and your Grade Center questions to our Blackboard Brown Bag on Thursday, October 15 @ Noon. Sign-Up Today!

 Blackboard and More By Request Graphic How-to @ The Woodlands Campus

Stop by room 209 at the Woodlands Campus for Blackboard Learn & More on Tuesday, October 13 and Tuesday, October 27 @ 5pm. Sign-Up Today!

Faculty Development October How-to Sessions at the MURFF
This month’s sessions at the MURFF include Blackboard Bootstrap, Kaltura: Lecture Capture with Blackboard, ProctorFree: Online Proctoring, Blackboard Learn: Using the Grade Center & Blackboard Learn: Tests Surveys & Pools. Sign-Up Today!

Visit our Faculty Development Sessions sign-up page for all of the great how-to options for October 2015!

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Online Course Weight Loss Plan – 4 Steps to Get Your Course in “eLearning Shape”

Online Course Weight Loss Plan Banner

There are many good reasons to keep your course from growing too big for its own britches. A large course could impact your student’s learning experience because:

  • The size of course intimidates your students.
  • The same document in multiple places takes up space and clutters the course.
  • Large images take forever to load and..
  • Take up valuable visual real estate on handheld devices.
  • The more items in your course and LMS, the slower it operates.

Keeping these things in mind there are steps you can take to manage your online courses so they don’t become overwhelming, unnavigable, burdensome and out of control.

Step 1: Keep your course organized.

One of the easiest ways to think about your online course’s health and well being is to keep it organized. Traditionally when we think about our courses being held in an LMS, we think of our course as having large containers that hold different types of content like assignments, tests and course materials.

Course Bucket OrganizationThis can be an easy way to think about organizing at the beginning, but the end result is that over time, these buckets become catchalls or laundry lists of everything you’ve ever added to your course. This causes your students to suffer from over scrolling and to constantly search for important information and activities. Another side effect of this particular organizational method is that it causes the instructor to have trouble determining whether or not they put “that file” in the course.

Instead of large “buckets of information”, why not think of chunking them across topics, or by time. That way, all of the information and activities that a student will need to interact with during a specific week or around a particular topic is located in the same space.

Course Organization Example - By WeekBy organizing your content, you make it easier for you and your students to find what you are looking for and reduce the ‘laundry list’ effect.

Step 2: Use Course Links to cut down on content cloning.

linkThe next step in our online course weight loss plan covers the use of one particular document in different places throughout your course. Whether it is a special rubric, a project guideline or just something you want available easily for your students, it is natural to just want to add the document where you need it. Over time, you create multiple versions of the same document that just adds extra weight to your course and makes your list of course files hard to deal with from a file management perspective.

Most learning management systems provide a way for you the instructor to “link” to the document in question wherever they are in the course. Here at Sam Houston State University, we use Blackboard and it provides this ability via the Course Links content item. Course Links allows instructors to link to files, content items and course activities anywhere in their course.

This way, an instructor only has to add 1 instance of whatever it is they want to use throughout the course and link to it from other course areas.

Step 3: Reduce the size of images BEFORE placing them in your course.

By now, we are all familiar with the fact that adding contextually relevant images to your course is a best practice. Course images engage your students, stimulate different parts of the brain and break up what would otherwise be an ocean of Times New Roman or Arial text.

Picture of a Graphic Icon on TreadmillThe issue for instructors is that the learning management system does not provide a way to reduce the size and weight of the image prior to placing it in a course. It does not allow you to change the “visual appearance” of an image by resizing how the image looks, but this DOES NOT reduce how much space the image takes up in your course or how long it takes a student on their computer or mobile device to see the image.

The good news is that almost every computer comes with a software that will help you change the size and weight of images before you place them in the course. In most cases, once you are in the software reducing the size of the images automatically reduces how much drive space they takes up. Below we will provide a few links to helpful how-tos on the Internet, but you can always google the topic and find what works for you.

Step 4: Use streaming services and Internet links for videos rather than uploading them directly to your course.

streamingOne of the most effective ways to engage your students online is to employ videos along with learning activities throughout your course. Videos add another dimension to your course that connects with your students and can be viewed on whatever device they may be utilizing.

The best practice for how to leverage videos in your online course is to host them with a streaming service or link to videos already hosted elsewhere. Burdening your LMS with Gigs of video files will have a direct impact on your students, because the way they are hosted/loaded is not ideal for streaming on mobile devices or even computers. Also the more large files you add to your learning management system the more you can affect its performance.

Fortunately, there is a great way for you to utilize video in your online courses while following the best practice. Just use other video hosts and provide links and embeds in your online course. Here at SHSU, Blackboard has the ability to directly embed YouTube videos in your course while leaving them hosted in YouTube. It does this via the YouTube mash-up and the Video Everywhere tool. We also utilize Kaltura for video/lecture capture and screen recording. Blackboard employs a Kaltura mash-up and content building tool to place these videos/screen recordings directly in your course content.

Teaching an online course can be intimidating in its own right. Make it easy on yourself. Keep your course in “eLearning shape” by ensuring your course is properly organized, providing links to course documents you want to use in multiple places, reducing the size of graphics and pictures before you insert them in course content, and using streaming services and internet links rather than uploading heavy video files directly to your course. These aren’t the only steps you can take, but they are a great place to start.

Best Practices For Utilizing TA’s In Your Online Course

We all know that teaching online requires instructors to think differently about how their course is delivered. While the methodologies of learning are still in play, the online medium requires you to proactively account for multiple learning strategies when putting together, delivering and interacting with your course and students.

Online instructors fortunate enough to work in departments who provide Teaching Assistants, feel like they have a lifeline in this strange “new” online world. However, the fact that you have a Teaching Assistant does not make the stars align, world peace occur and automatically make everyone fall in love with your course. There are some things to consider about utilizing TA’s in your online course that can make the overall experience more successful.

Combat Inferred Digital Nativity – #providehowtosforTAs

Digital Native PhotoWe like to think that the next generation is more “plugged in” and that they “get it” (whatever “it” may be) when it comes to technology. While this may be true for their smart phone (Let’s take a selfie!), it does not guarantee immediate understanding of your institution’s Learning Management System.

This is why it is important to put your TA’s/Doctoral Fellows through the same kind of technology “how-to” sessions that are available to you as a faculty member. At Sam Houston State University, TA’s/Doctoral Fellows have the option of participating in any of the teaching online certification programs, which provide a strong base for starting out on the right foot, particularly for those who will teach online courses in the future. These technology development efforts help increase course interaction, engagement and ultimately satisfaction for both instructor and student.

Use your TA to Increase Student Engagement – #notjustforgrading

Increase Online Student EngagmentThere are three types of interaction in any good online course:

  • Student/Content
  • Student/Instructor
  • Student/Student

Each one of these plays an important role in student satisfaction as well as student success. With online class size growing, it does become more challenging to engage every learner in the student/instructor interaction more than a few times during the course. TA’s can play a very important role in helping to increase student/instructor interaction, as they fall under the “instructor” umbrella in this equation.

You can assign your TA to work on specific discussion forums within the course to provide feedback, answer questions, or to gently nudge students in a particular direction to ensure objectives are met. This ability to flex your teaching assistant is not limited to discussions. They can help out with blogs, wikis, web conferences and more. This can help increase the one-on-one interaction time you provider learners throughout the duration of the course.

Use your TA to Increase Instructor Presence – #untilwefindacloningmachine

Instructor PresenceThere are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week and honestly, there is such a thing as a work/life balance. Leverage your TA to help with office hours, web meetings and other times where you may be spread too thin to be in two places at once. They can also help with answering “virtual office” or “general questions” discussion forums if you are at a conference, out of town or fulfilling research requirements.

Put a Face to your TA’s Name – #gettingtoknowsue #orstew

More than likely, you have a place in your course where you introduce yourself to the class. It may be in your Virtual Office area or in some other spot. It probably has a picture, some contact info and a brief bio. This would be a great place to add a second item that introduces your TA to the online students. That way when students see discussion replies, grade book feedback and more, they will know who it is from.

Making the course more personal for your students is always a best practice. Connecting your students to you and your TA will allow the students to feel like that they “know” you and this is especially important when it comes to online feedback.

Use your TA to Unleash your Online Grade Book – #feedbackmachine

Online GradingOnce a course is developed, where is the one place where you may spend most of your time in? The answer is overwhelmingly, the grade book. A well-used grade book or grade center can make the difference for you, as well as for student success and satisfaction.

Gone are the days where students would check the door to the classroom twice a semester (midterms and finals) to figure out how they were doing. Nowadays, students receive updates on their phones when an assignment in their course has been graded, when an exam grade has been posted, or when their group projects have been evaluated.

Leveraging your TA to help with the grade center can help decrease grading turnaround time and increase the amount of times a student receives personal feedback on graded items in the course. Any LMS worth its salt has a Rubric tool that faculty can employ to ensure grading guidelines are followed down to the individual criterion by the teaching assistant. Even if you limit your TA’s to a particular number of assignments to grade, it will help with the amount of grading you have to do and the amount of time it takes to get that grade to the students.

TA’s add value to what you are already doing in the online course. They are an important supplement and providing them with technology skills, leveraging them to increase student engagement, introducing them to your students, using them to increase instructor presence and empowering them to enhance feedback with your grade book are best practices that can contribute to success and satisfaction for you, your students, and your online course.

Blackboard & More: By Request – Live at The Woodlands Campus this Fall!

Blackboard and More By Request GraphicEvery other Tuesday this fall, SHSU Online staff will be at the woodlands campus from 5 – 6pm to answer questions about everything you’ve always wanted to know about Blackboard and associated software applications but were afraid to ask.  We will be located in room 209, which is a computer lab on the 2nd floor.

You can sign-up for these sessions each month via our How-to Session sign-up form, or just drop-in and we will be glad to help you out! So bring your questions, conundrums and your self and we will be there to assist.

We look forward to seeing you there!