Course Reports – How are your students doing?

While keeping track of student progress via the Grade Center, Performance Dash Board and course activities are great tools for encouraging student success, instructors who use Blackboard also have another powerful tool at their disposal.  You can access the health of your course by looking at course-wide trends in tool and content use.  When you compare these trends to student achievement, you can pinpoint areas of your course that need attention. These trends can be found in the Control Panel of your course in the Evaluation section.  They are called Course Reports.

Course Reports

Course ReportsThere are eight types of reports available based on the type of statistics you want to view:

  1. All User Activity inside Content Areas
    Displays a summary of all user activity inside content areas for your course. Use this report to determine which students are active in your course and which content areas they are using. For example, if you house all your tests in a content area named “Tests,” you can run this report and easily see who accessed this content area and how often over a certain time period.
  2. Course Activity Overview
    Displays overall activity within your course, sorted by student and date. Data includes the total and average time spent per user. You can also click an individual student’s name to access his or her Student Overview for Single Course report. This report can help you determine which days of the week students are active in your course and see how much time students spend overall.
  3. Course Coverage Report
    Displays goals coverage information for a single Blackboard Learn course. Data includes both covered and gap values for all curricular areas that the course is associated with, as well as a breakdown of course items that have been aligned to goals.
  4. Course Performance
    Displays information showing how a single Blackboard Learn course performs against a selected set of goals. Performance targets and a range of acceptable performance for the course can be determined when running the report. Data includes averages for the entire course as well as breakdowns for individual students and goals.
  5. Overall Summary of User Activity
    Displays user activity for all areas of your course, as well as activity dates, times, and days of the week. Use this report to view student access as well as how often course tools are used.
  6. Student Overview for Single Course
    Displays an individual student’s activity within your course, sorted by date. Data includes the total overall time the student spent in your course as well as detailed information about the student’s activity, such as which items and content areas a student accessed.
  7. User Activity in Forums
    Displays a summary of user activity in discussion board forums for your course. View which students are using which forums and which are most active.
  8. User Activity in Groups
    Displays a summary of user activity in groups for your course.
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Getting Your Students ready for Online Exams – Finals Prep

ReadinessWith finals fast approaching, your students should be dutifully studying up on course materials, completing academic research and course activities that will help them be able to handle the questions and concepts they come across during end-of-semester assessments. Your course materials have covered topics large and small that will help them make appropriate inferences, connect the dots and generally understand the subject matter they have been interacting with over the course of a semester.

Even when hitting all of your targets academically speaking, your students may have problems when it comes time for finals in an online environment. We all know that technology failures operate under the “when, not if” principle, but there are strategies and practices that your students can put into place that will help them surmount any obstacle thrown their way. The following practices will benefit your students when it comes to the end of year exams:

BEFORE STARTING THE EXAM

Power Up!
Plug your laptop into the power outlet unless you are absolutely certain that your laptop has enough battery power to last for the duration of the test.

Tether Up!
If you have the option, turn off your wireless connection and plug your laptop into the nearest available network port or use your desktop computer if available. Wireless issue can cause your exam to disconnect and your instructor may not be fond of resetting your exam attempt for the umpteenth time.

Go Solo!
Close down any other programs that my distract you from the test or interfere with your network connection. Having only one active program ensures your computer will be running at its best.

Idle Computers are the Devil’s Playground
Check your laptop idle time to make sure that it will not go into sleep mode prematurely and sabotage your assessment attempt midway through.

Be Up for Pop-Ups!
Disable all pop-up blockers. These blockers come installed in the latest versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox, in third-party toolbars such as Google and Yahoo, and they can come with utility software such the Norton products from Symantec.

Get Patched Up!
Ensure that your laptop has the latest Operating System (e.g., Windows) patches. Automatic updates can disrupt your current browser session or make your laptop very slow.

Are You Compatible?
Use a web browser that is compatible with or certified to work with the current version of your Learning Management System.

Using Special Software? Practice, Practice, Practice!
If you are using a lockdown browser or special proctoring software, be sure to download and install it BEFORE you take the exam. Your instructor may provide a practice assessment that will let you make sure you are familiar with the special software involved.

DURING THE EXAM

Don’t Get Click Happy!
When beginning the quiz/test, click the quiz link ONLY ONCE and wait at least a minute for the quiz/test to load.. Do not keep clicking on the quiz/test/test link. Clicking on the quiz/test link two or more times may trigger a message saying you already took the quiz/test. If, after clicking once and waiting the full minute nothing happens, contact your instructor or test proctor immediately.

Leave-off of Leaving
Once you have started the quiz, do not leave the quiz/test page for any reason. Using the browser’s back and forward buttons to move to and from the quiz/test will end the quiz prematurely and prevent you from further access until your instructor clears the attempt. If you are permitted to view other online resources during the quiz/test, open a new browser to view them.

Problem? Reach out and Touch Someone
In case of computer problems during the test notify your instructor as soon as possible. He or she will reset your quiz/exam attempt or authorize a designee to do so. Your instructor may have policies on if they allow you to reattempt the quiz at all.

Sizing it up BEFORE You Begin!
Do not resize or refresh your screen after loading the quiz/test. Make sure the screen is the size you want before going into the quiz/test. Most browsers refresh the page when you resize the screen so the browser will try to reload the quiz/test if you resize/refresh.

 

 

Want to take your Blackboard Course to Next Level? Be Graphic!

bestpracSo, you’ve been at this Blackboard thing for a couple of semesters and you are starting to feel comfortable with the learning management system. You’ve mastered the art of uploading and attaching files to content. The discussion board is your boon companion and you are collecting assignments digitally from your students via the assignment tool. Navigating the grade center is like riding a bike and you feel good about it!

What now? Learn a new tool or technology? Live inside your course for the next 6 months? Well, you could do those things, but let me suggest a slightly different approach. Have you considered adding an important layer to your Blackboard course by inserting images?

Importance of Images

  • Convey course information in an alternate method.
  • Students pay more attention to articles/readings with graphic content.
  • Breaks up monotony of “text-only” Blackboard pages.
  • Increases student engagement by making them use a different part of their brain.
  • It just looks better!

Below are examples of a Blackboard content area without graphics and a content area with graphics. Which one looks better? Which one would you rather read?

Blackboard Course Content Area Examples
In this example the graphics are more of the decorating variety, but they do add color and continuity to your course. Imagine having your course banner at the top of every major content area in your course. In this case there are examples of images in a content item, learning module and content folder descriptions. Almost anywhere you use the content editor in Blackboard, you can place an image.

Inserting an Image

  1. Click the Insert/Edit Image button on your content editor.
  2. Browse to where your image is saved and attach it.
  3. Type an Image Description (for screen readers).
  4. Click the Insert button.Insert Image dialogue

Editing an Image (Alignment, Spacing and Size)

  1. Click on the image you have placed in the Content Editor.
  2. Click the Insert/Edit Image button.
  3. Click the Appearance tab.
  4. Adjust your Alignment, Spacing and Size.
    Insert - Edit Image - Appearance Tab

With a few clicks of your mouse, your Blackboard course can go from black and white text to a colorful tapestry of text and images that convey meaning to students in a number of different ways!

Resources – Free Images For Your Courses

Help your Students be Reflective with Journals

Merriam Webster defines a journal as:

a book in which you write down your personal experiences and thoughts

Backboard JournalPutting down those thoughts and experiences that impact us can be an important tool in personal growth and development. Journals don’t have to be limited to the “Dear diary” entries you make at your beside table. They can be used in courses you teach as well. In online courses journals can be used as a mechanism for communication between a faculty member and a student, or as a reflective tool for students as they work to absorb what they are learning.

Benefits of using a journal include but are not limited to:

  • Teaches students to communicate their thoughts on the subject matter
  • Forces students to be on the lookout for journal material (actually paying attention in the course)
  • Helps students to remember what they have learned
  • Keeps a record of ideas, concepts or structures that are important
  • Lets students create without fear of judgement from peers
  • Allows students to take first level thoughts to the next level – idea expansion

Creative writing teachers can benefit from using a journal. Students can post their entries and instructors can make comments as needed. Journals can also be used to drive home what the student has studied over the week. Think about the reinforcement that happens when a student submits an assignment, discusses with his or her peers, takes a quiz and then puts it all together in a journal entry for the week. Finally, journals are ideally suited for formative assessment. Get the student’s temperature by asking them to write about their highs and lows as it relates to the course during the week. If something comes across that is legitimate, feel free to make course corrections for the benefit of all of your students.

Here at SHSU we utilize the Blackboard LearnTM learning management system, which has a journal tool as part of it’s feature set. Journal assignments can be placed anywhere in the course and are accessible with click of the mouse. Learn more about implementing journals in your Blackboard course.

While you are thinking of ways to ensure your students are getting what they need on their learning journey, consider reflecting on the added value of implementing journal activities to your courses.

 

 

Certificates Awarded to Beta ‘Teaching Online with Blackboard’ Online Cohort

Teaching Online Course Screenshot and CertificatesCertificates were awarded to the following SHSU faculty for completing the fully-online beta cohort of  the Teaching Online with Blackboard Certification Series:

  • Jennifer Aucoin – Ed Leadership & Counseling
  • Page Glave – Health & Kinesiology
  • Susan Holland – Nursing
  • Bonnie King – Ed Leadership & Counseling
  • Darla King – Criminal Justice
  • Steven Koether – Biology
  • Ian Lovestock – Criminal Justice
  • Patrick Saxon – Ed Leadership & Counseling
  • Sribhagyam Srinivasan – Ed Leadership & Counseling
  • David Stovall – Criminal Justice

Congratulations for being the start of something special at SHSU! The next session will begin on Monday, February 10, 2014. Limited spaces are available due to the course’s popularity; if space is unavailable for the February-April cohort, another cohort will be available in June. An announcement for the cohort will be made prior to that time.

The Blackboard Certification Series is a fully-online training option which SHSU Online has most recently developed and added to the training catalog. The certification consists of four courses aimed at preparing an instructor to master the online teaching environment through Blackboard. Courses included within this series comprise the following:

  • Course Building: Two-week course that will equip online instructors with building and sharing content in their online courses.
  • Communication: Two-week course that will cover tools of communication, as well as applicable communication strategies for online course management.
  • Assessment: Two-week course that introduces participants to how to get started assessing their student’s learning in an online class.
  • Teaching Online – Strategies for Success: Two-week course that presents participants with the opportunity to explore best practices for creating engaging and effective online learning environments.

Have Students Invest in Academic Integrity in Your Online Course

Academic Integrity WorldeOne of the biggest challenges facing distance learning today is ensuring academic integrity. There are an overwhelming amount of blog posts, scholarly articles and stories in the Chronicle covering this topic. Let’s clear the air now and state that there is no absolute, sure-fire way to eliminate cheating in your online courses, just as there is no way to do it in your face-to-face courses. However, you can educate your students about academic integrity as part of their course activities, thereby ensuring that they understand what expectations you have of them in regards to academic integrity in your online course.

Here are some examples:

  • Have students submit an assignment, blog post or journal entry on how they would define academic integrity.
  • Have students use their own words when describing the course’s academic integrity policy.
  • Provide a discussion assignment where students can discuss the importance of academic integrity in online courses.
  • Have students “sign-off” on the course’s academic integrity policy stating that they understand what the policy means and how it pertains to them.
  • Utilize a course wiki and have students create the academic integrity policy (have specific requirements).

Having students invest in the academic integrity of your course will go along way towards having them make good choices when it comes to academic decisions in the online environment.

#bestpracticemonday 5 “Resolutions” for Online Instructors in the New Year

New Years ResolutionsEach new year brings new growth, new ideas and new commitments for us to do things to make ourselves better personally and professionally. Whether we are inspired by too much turkey over the holidays or an urge to start with a clean slate, no other time of the year seems more appropriate for these determinations. Perhaps this year, we may consider some New Year’s Resolutions for our online courses!

Let’s face it, online teaching, like too much turkey, can really weigh you down. During a long semester, we can get buried in grading assignments and responding to discussion posts, and the lofty goals we started off with for engaging our students can seem dimly out of reach.

With a holiday break and a start to the new year/semester fast approaching, now is a great time to resolve to adopt a few pedagogically sound teaching and learning best practices for our online courses. While there may be several measures we can adopt to improve the overall quality of our online teaching environments, here are five easy to follow, easy to apply techniques that will make our online courses that much more engaging. Remember you don’t have to do all 5!

1. Model How the Course will go for Students with a “Getting Started” Unit

Getting StartedA smart move for any online instructor is to implement some kind of ‘orientation unit’ for the online student. This unit can serve the purpose of introducing the student to his or her online course environment, as well as other important course information. Expectations, rules of the road, and an operator’s manual are usually communicated within this unit.

It is important to set this unit up just like every other unit in the course. Model orientation content and activities in such a way as to reflect how the rest of the units will be structured. The student will not only gain the benefit of understanding how the online course operates, they will get the added practice of going through course units as they would normally throughout the course.

2. 2-4-6-8 it’s Time to Differentiate

Differentiated Instruction GraphicWe would be hard-pressed to negate the notion that are our students are not identical. Each of our learners comes to us with varying degrees of abilities, aptitude levels, interests, learning experiences and needs. While it may not be feasible to get to know each of our students on a personal basis, we can make some general deductions about the learning diversity that is present in every course we teach.

This is where Differentiated Instruction comes in. For those of us in the field, the term refers to the theory that since no two students will learn exactly the same way, instructors have the opportunity to structure and design their teaching environments using a variety of instructional methods that may reach a broader swath of the student body. The online environment really lends itself to this approach. With the advent of various technology tools, we can now choose to diversify our approach to lectures, activities and assessments and more.

If you are wondering how to add more diversity of instruction to your course, start with the following. It’s as easy as A-B-C!

a. Realize your students are unique, and discover ways to get to know them.

Realistically speaking, we may not get to know our students as well as we would like. But we can implement an activity or two to catch a glimpse into who they are and what their learning approach may be. For instance, at the beginning of your course, introduce an ice-breaker discussion forum and ask your learners what they do in their free time. You will be surprised by what you can learn!

b. Look critically at your course, and identify a few areas where you can introduce diversity of instructional methodology.

Sit back and consider your students’ learning objectives. Take a look at how you are introducing and enforcing these key concepts at the moment and select an area or two where you may introduce a different approach. Perhaps an audio lecture may be a welcomed alternative to the text-based reading. Or, perhaps you may want to spice up your course with content from the Khan Academy, Ted Talks, or NBC Learn. Often regarded as “mashups” the introduction of external collective knowledge in an online course adds variety, and piques students’ interests.

c. Consider the Context and Role of the Online Instructor.

The online environment can present us with options we may not have readily used in our face-to-face courses…so make the most it! While having lots of choices may seem daunting, starting with one or two will help keep them manageable. Online Instructors should think differently about their teaching, because in the online environment where rich, educational online resources abound, we become more of a guide on the side, than a sage on the stage.

3. Set Due Dates to Coincide with Support Desk Hours

This resolution is an easy one to keep! First, learn your Technology Support Desk hours (SHSU Online is 7am – Midnight, Mon-Sat). Once familiar with Support’s hours of operation, make sure any due dates, tests or technology oriented activities fall when the Support Desk team is available. This is important because the students will have someone to call when the technology doesn’t work or their interpretation of how the technology should work is different from actually happened.

4. Set a Schedule for Course Interactions, Be Consistent

SchedulePart of being available in a course, and establishing ever-important instructor presence, is letting your students know when you are available. A great way to do this is to establish a routine for your course interactions.

  • For starters, you can let them know that you will get back to them on questions posted in your Virtual Office discussion forum a time period you establish at the beginning of the term (usually within 24 – 36 hours)
  • Hold regular “office hours” with the asynchronous chat tool (Skype, Bb Chat or Collaborate, Google Hangout) where you will be available in real-time to answer your students questions if need be.
  • Post an announcement and send it out via e-mail once a week summing up the previous week’s events and highlighting the important aspects of the next week.

By establishing a routine, you form a habit of being available in your course that your students can count on.

5. Have fun!

Remember the excitement of teaching? The opportunities to lead, change, inspire, and innovate? Perhaps you connect with the intrinsic motivation of knowing you are making a real and tangible difference in many impressionable minds. Whatever that original point of motivation is for you, we can all connect with what originally prompted us to teach.

Being an online instructor is the perfect chance to express your teaching philosophies in a number of diverse and effective ways. Make your course as exciting as your teaching. Personalize it. Make it your very own. Let it show your unique teaching style and at the end of the day, resolve to have fun doing what you do best…teach!