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.
At the top of the e-Portfolios page in Digication, you’ll find a row of boxes labelled “Featured e-Portfolios”. These are portfolios we have selected as strong and effective examples of what ePortfolios can do. As well as the portfolio about portfolios, they have so far included a professional portfolio from a Sargent College student, an interdisciplinary portfolio from a CGS student, and portfolios for teaching purposes from SED’s Colby Young and the School of Public Health’s James Wolff.
Today, we’re adding a newly featured portfolio from Winnie Hsieh, created for a CAS Writing Program course. Many courses in the Writing Program use ePortfolios to allow students to view their writing over the course of the semester and reflect on it. Hsieh’s course section involved writing three papers and scaffolding the working process of writing each paper. In her illustrated portfolio you can find her reflecting on the process of becoming a successful writer.
In the 2012-13 academic year, BU has joined an exciting partnership with Boston College to pilot MediaKron, a new tool for maps and timelines. BC has been using MediaKron in its own courses for a few years, but this year it has chosen a few select institutions to pilot MediaKron for wider adoption, and BU is among them. BU faculty already using MediaKron in the fall pilot include International Relations professor Andrew Bacevich, in his Honors College course “War for the Greater Middle East,” and School of Theology professor Christopher Evans, who is using it now for a graduate course on American church history and will be using it in the spring for an undergraduate survey course on American religious history. In the spring they will be newly joined by Writing Program instructor Gwen Kordonowy, who will use it to map out student-created content for her writing course “Literature and Art of the Depression Era.”
One of the greatest challenges facing educators is to document and assess the learning that takes place in and outside the classroom. For several years Professor James Wolff at the School of Public Health has found Digication e-portfolios to be an exciting and innovative way of reflecting on the learning experience, documenting the competencies and skills acquired during a course, making learning visible by creating a permanent record of classroom activities, and assessing the progress and competence of students.
Wolffy, as he is known by colleagues and students, teaches several courses for master’s students in the School of Public Health, all of which have successfully integrated e-portfolios. His first experience with e-portfolio was in IH 790, Leading Organizations to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals. In this course students reflected on the leadership skills they are acquiring and the e-portfolio was used for both formative and summative evaluations. More
Ever wondered about additional features in Word or PowerPoint but weren’t sure where to turn? Online training about Microsoft products is available to all BU faculty and staff. Learn more about this training at www.bu.edu/tech/training/online/microsoft/
Professors are often reluctant to introduce active learning in class for fear that they will not have time to cover the content. In his Introduction to Epidemiology class, Wayne LaMorte has used online technology to flip the classroom. His course website consists of learning modules, including video, for students to absorb content outside of class time, taking a “pre-quiz” to demonstrate they have retained the content. This process freed up classroom time to explore more complicated topics in greater detail: class time could be spent on discussion of controversies and problem-solving (both individual and team-based). After class, students would then take a more detailed “post-test”.
Students reacted with enthusiasm. 98% of the students “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that the online modules were a significant aid to teaching. Their comments included: “Given that I had already taken more advanced epidemiology courses, my main engagement with the course was through the online modules. This provided an excellent way to accommodate people with different levels of experience who could learn at different speeds.” “Did not find I needed to use the textbook. The online modules were more than enough to understand the material.”
Prof. LaMorte developed the online modules using SoftChalk software. SoftChalk is currently being offered to School of Public Health faculty through the Office of Teaching, Learning and Technology. Faculty. Faculty at other schools may be able to take a similar approach using other available technologies such as Echo360, Digication and Blackboard.
If you’re curious about ePortfolios and would like to learn more about the uses they can have in your classrooms, or you’d just like to get some hands-on tips about how to put them together, then check out our brand-new resource: the portfolio about portfolios. This site is an ePortfolio just like the ones you can create, but full of helpful information about why ePortfolios can help your classes and how you can put portfolios together. It also includes detailed help on the Digication system’s newer and more advanced features, like the Organizer and Courses. Have a look!
In collaboration with the Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching, IS&T is happy to announce the faculty have been selected for the Blackboard Learn pilot. There are 21 faculty across the schools and colleges and about 35 courses. These courses all include undergraduate and graduate courses and large (largest at 900) and small class sizes (smallest at 10). There is a great collection of teaching styles that the steering committee feels will be representative of BU as a whole.
There is still a lot to do but we know this pilot will help shape our new learning management system. We will gradually phase out Blackboard 8 to make way for the new and improved Blackboard Learn.
You can expect to see updates and workshops on the project coming from CEIT over the next few months.