Good news for social scientists: NVivo, the software package for qualitative and mixed-methods social-scientific research, is now available free of charge to all BU faculty, staff and students. NVivo allows you to take verbal interview data and use your computer’s power to analyze it for subtle trends and patterns. You can now go to the NVivo page on TechWeb and download the software to your computer. The page also provides links to the NVivo company’s supporting documentation.
For the moment, NVivo is only available for Windows. The company has promised a Mac version for fall 2013. In the meantime, NVivo will run on a Mac in virtual Windows emulation software like Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop, or VMware Fusion.
You should feel welcome to use NVivo in your classes. However, if you wish to use NVivo in a class with more than a handful of students, we request that you contact us at the Help Center so that we can add their additional licences without interruptions in availability.
The Educational Technology Blog has moved to a new home at sites.bu.edu/edtech/. We hope you like the new look. Please update any links in your browser accordingly, but the old blogs.bu links will redirect you here. The move is part of an exciting upcoming transition from the old blogs.bu.edu WordPress server to a new and more powerful sites.bu.edu WordPress service, providing the full power of BU’s departmental WordPress installation to faculty and staff. (blogs.bu.edu will remain as an option available to students.) We expect the sites.bu.edu service will be available within the next few weeks; stay tuned on this blog for more details!
This Wednesday, BU engineering professor Lorena Barba will give a Teaching Talk on the topic of the “flipped” classroom, in which course content (such as lectures) is delivered online in order to free up class time for interactive participation. Practising what she preaches, Prof. Barba will be flipping the talk itself. She is asking attenders to view an interactive online presentation before they come to the talk. As a tool, Prof. Barba uses the free TED-Ed platform, which she also uses in her classes (see an example here).
Prof. Barba has written a longer piece in defence of the flipped classroom, with many links, available here.
At his Teaching Tech Talk today, Turnitin representative Shawn Lowney demonstrated some features of the Turnitin software that many users may be unaware of. Most faculty know Turnitin for its OriginalityCheck plagiarism detection function, and Lowney briefly addressed how it can perform this function well. But he also addressed other sides of Turnitin that may be less familiar.
Turnitin’s GradeMark portion contains many functions to make grading easier. Its QuickMark system allows you to save time on grading papers by dragging and dropping your most frequently used comments directly onto the paper. You can also add audio comments to convey the tone of your comments. Turnitin is integrated with Blackboard, so grades can be passed easily between the two systems.
Turnitin also includes PeerMark software to make student peer commenting easier by anonymizing their reviews. PeerMark is linked closely with OriginalityCheck and GradeMark so that you can move between the three kinds of reports easily and get a comprehensive view of a student’s work.
BU offers Turnitin via the Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching; these features are available to all BU faculty now. We do not yet have a structure in place for offering technical support to faculty, but hope to have one established soon.
BU has made the core set of Google Apps available to faculty and students for classroom use. Among the apps with the most educational promise are: Google Drive (formerly Google Docs), which allows easy commenting on student papers and collaboration work among students; Google Forms, which provides a quick way to solicit and tabulate student feedback; and Appointment Slots, an easy way to schedule office hours with students. All BU students have their email accounts through Google, so they are all able to use any of these tools without having to sign up for any additional services.
Because BU has a service agreement with Google, comments and grades on student papers can be provided in BU Google Apps without violating FERPA policy. (Commenting on student work through unsupported third-party services, like Dropbox, is usually illegal under FERPA.) To make sure you stay within FERPA guidelines, we highly recommend that you create a BU Google account to use Google Apps for educational purposes (rather than a personal Google/Gmail account). To create one, go to our account creation page and follow the instructions. You can log into this account by entering your BU email address as a username and not entering a password; Google will redirect you to the regular BU Kerberos login screen.
When you’re logged into a Google Account, you can access Google Drive via the Drive button in the black toolbar at the top of the screen. From Google Drive, the “Create” button will allow you to create forms. To use Appointment Slots, follow the instructions here: go to Google Calendar in your BU account, click on an empty space and click on Appointment Slots.
CEIT has now posted its list of Teaching Talks and Teaching Tech Talks scheduled throughout the Spring 2013 semester. The talks are scheduled on various dates and times to make it possible for faculty to explore some talks whatever their schedule. Some scheduled talks with an emphasis on new technologies include:
Databases for non-majors (Jan. 10)
The top 5 things faculty need to know about Blackboard Learn (Jan. 10)
Read & Write Gold (Feb. 6)
Flipped classroom and Echo360 (Feb. 13)
Collaboration tools in Blackboard Learn (Feb. 20)
iPad applications in the classroom (Feb. 25)
Google Apps in your classroom (Feb. 25)
Increasing instructional interactivity with clickers (Mar. 19)
Virtual student exchanges (Apr. 3)
High-tech cheating (Apr. 3)
How to use ePortfolios (Apr. 5)
Making grading easier and more transparent with rubrics in Blackboard Learn (Apr. 11)
Dimensions of online courses and student perceptions (Apr. 17)
In continuation of CEIT’s and IS&T’s efforts to engage faculty in the LMS migration, CEIT hosted a presentation on Blackboard Learn that focused on how faculty can use it for their course. Participants from the Blackboard Learn pilot were present to share their ideas and experience with the new environment. Some topics included:
- Collaboration tools in Blackboard: With this new system comes new tools and features. In terms of student collaboration, the three that are most significant are blogs, journals and wikis. Blogs allow students to share their personal thoughts with their classmates and gives them their own voice in the class. Journals, on the other hand, are designed to be a private communication between an instructor and a student. Finally, wikis are collaborative documents that allow students to edit each other’s work.
- Assignments and Rubrics: Faculty now have the ability to attached rubrics to their assignments, making grading more transparent to the students and much simpler for the instructor. Additionally, assignments are the new and improved way of accepting documents from students.
For more information on the presentation, please feel free to reach out to CEIT (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the presenter, Kacie Cleary (email@example.com).
In his course on investments, management professor Zvi Bodie uses student-created blogs. Students are grouped into teams, with each team creating a blog of its own. The blogs allow students to report quickly on current events in the world of finance, which the course teaches them to analyze. Student teams have made their blogs publicly available and some of them can be viewed here and here.
Prof. Bodie’s students use Google’s free blogging software, Blogger (which provides URLs in the blogspot.com domain). Similar (BU-supported) student blog functions will be available in the new Blackboard Learn system (aka Blackboard 9.1), available now to faculty wishing to use it in Spring 2012 courses.
Professors in several departments at BU (including Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, and Mechanical Engineering) often use the free social discussion tool Piazza in their courses. Piazza is free, and allows threaded discussions to happen in a user-friendly way. Students in these courses are encouraged to post their course-related questions on Piazza, significantly reducing emails that are directed to the course staff. Questions posted on Piazza are then answered by the course staff, or, in many cases, by other students. Questions posed in these courses have ranged from logistical issues (“Which lab are we doing this week?”) to conceptual issues from students grappling with the material (“I tried solving problem 3 this way, but it didn’t work – can someone point me in the right direction?”) The latter are particularly good at drawing multiple students into the discussion.
Piazza can help you keep on top of what’s going on in your course, while at the same time reducing the amount of time you spend responding to students over email. Piazza posts can be read on the web site, whose features make it easy to see which posts need an instructor’s attention. They can also be viewed and responded to through the Piazza app on your favorite mobile device. You can also choose to get updates from Piazza via email. BU IS&T does not offer support for Piazza, but it is an interesting option for professors who feel comfortable exploring free online teaching tools.
Today’s issue of BU Today features an article highlighting Read & Write GOLD, literacy software that helps students with reading, writing, research, and organization. The software is available to the BU community for free download via TechWeb. It is especially helpful for students with learning disabilities but can be useful for anyone, especially in language-learning classes. See the article for more about how BU got Read & Write GOLD and what it can do for students.