Do you currently use the discussion board tool in Blackboard? If so, you may be looking for ways to increase student engagement and participation inside your discussion forums. A common complaint about discussion boards is that unless they are graded or required by the instructor, students do not want to participate. The conversations between students are full of flattery and follow the leader, and often lack the depth that is found in the face-to-face classroom environment.
One possible solution is through the use of YouTube video postings to the discussion board in place of the traditional text responses. To set this up, students will need to create their own YouTube channel using a Google Account. Luckily, anyone can create a Gmail account or for added features, BU students and faculty are also able to set up Google Apps for Education accounts through BU: (http://www.bu.edu/tech/support/google/).
Once a YouTube channel is created, students can upload their video from either a smartphone or computer to their YouTube channel and copy the video’s Share URL into the Blackboard discussion board thread by clicking on the “Insert/Edit Embedded Media” button. Students who are concerned about posting personal information on YouTube have the option of saving videos as “unlisted.”
Not all scientists must also be expert computer programmers, but basic knowledge of programming fundamentals can be an important tool in your professional toolbox. The ability to automate repetitive tasks and to modify or create simple programs is a major boon in terms of research productivity and creativity. Here at BU, Research Computing Services (RCS) offers a regular series of scientific computing tutorials to help researchers get up and running. While these tutorials work well for many researchers, some may benefit from a more comprehensive approach. To meet this need, RCS is currently exploring offering Software Carpentry workshops.
Software Carpentry is a non-profit that supports teaching basic programming to early-career scientists through 2-day workshops. The goal of these workshops is to provide programming tools that are immediately useful, and an introduction to best-practices (or just good-enough practices) in scientific computing. For some researchers, a Software Carpentry workshop can be a “one stop shop” to learn enough programming to further their research. For others, it can be an entry point to a deeper study of scientific computing.
A typical workshop includes lessons on the Unix shell, programming in a popular scientific programming language (e.g. Python, R, or MATLAB), and version-control and collaboration using Git and Github. Instructors strive to make their teaching highly interactive, leaning heavily on live-coding and hands-on exercise as opposed to lecture. The lessons themselves are developed and improved by a large community of instructors. All of the lessons are shared on Github and anyone can suggest a modification. After thousands of revisions from hundreds of contributors, the lesson plans are highly polished and anticipate many common misunderstandings.
Back to BU, Research Computing Services recently hosted a Software Carpentry Instructor Training workshop, and anticipates hosting our first Software Carpentry workshop this coming summer. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested in attending or hosting a workshop.
How best to introduce a busy faculty member to new educational approaches and technologies? Scheduled for December 15, 2015 and next on April 19, 2016, BUSM faculty attend a drop-in when-you-can, two-hour lab and talk one-on-one with Educational Advisors: media specialists, clinical educators, librarians, and early adopters. Faculty brought their specific course/seminar/educational topic on thumb drives and the Ed Advisors consult with them on how to make it more active learning. Individual stations for different pedagogies such as flipped classrooms, simulation exercises, interactive large lectures, and small group sessions and for different educational technologies such as MS Mix, Personal Capture, and Qualtrics. Faculty casually moved from station to station and asked questions of the Ed Advisors. A looped slide presentation with soft music shows the different resources. Short snapshot presentations by Ed Advisors showcases their topics. Participants receive handouts, resource lists, a relaxing environment and a light lunch. Stop by next Tuesday at noon in the Instructional Building L-206 and join the conversations.
To increase exposure and practice in interpersonal skills, the Geddes Language Center adopted Dill, or “The Digital Language Lab” in the summer of 2014. Classes use Dill for various activities, such as paired conversations, listen and repeat exercises, interpersonal dialogues, oral presentations, and speaking exams all in the effort to increase oral proficiency.
For instructors, the software is very easy to use. As students log in, they appear as an icon on the instructor’s lab controller. Instructors can group students (in pairs, usually) for conversations simply by drawing a line between the students. To make sure students remain on task, instructors can monitor or converse with students by drawing a line between them. Activities can be recorded by the instructor initiating a recording task and assigning it to the class. For individual recordings, students have a recorder with a simple interface. All recordings are saved automatically, and instructors access them via a web interface.
In the Spring 2016 semester to date, 26 instructors representing a number of different foreign languages have brought their classes to the lab to use Dill. Students have reacted positively. Many students prefer being recorded in a booth with a noise isolating headset while speaking instead of having to perform in front of their peers. This allows them to consider their speech instead of possibly being self-conscious, and as a result they tend to generate more speech. Not being able to see the person they are speaking with also allows students to focus on what they’re saying and not their body language.
Digication, BU’s ePortfolio software, now allows Google app documents, including Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, Google Forms and more, to be embedded within an ePortfolio module. Students can create, share, and collaboratively edit a document in Google Docs and have the result be pushed to the portfolio, with the original revision history still available in Google Docs. You can find this function in Digication by pressing Add A Module, selecting the Google option, pressing Add This Module and following the instructions.
On Monday, April 4 from 10am-2pm, BU IS&T will host a Tech Fair open to all BU students, faculty and staff. The event will be in Metcalf Hall at the GSU. There will be snacks, drinks, prizes and more, along with displays from companies like Microsoft, edX and Verizon. No advance registration is required. More details are available. Come join us!
As of March 1st, ETTO has completed its evaluation of a course assessment vendor that was used for the Fall 2015 semester. A full review of the service and input from the end users has been gathered and analyzed. The pilot involved the College of Arts and Sciences (BU’s largest college), the School of Education, School of Social Work, and the School of Law.
Unfortunately, there were many issues in the proliferation of data and the GUI interface with this particular vendor. The layout and menus were not easy to use, and much of the end user feedback complained of difficulties in setting up courses, question sets, and other relevant data to be evaluated. The process of setting up custom questions for specific courses was difficult to the point in which many in the pilot abandoned this aspect of the system. From an administrative perspective, users found the back-end of the system difficult to use as well, and the options and functionalities considered to be vital were not useful or functional.
While the pilot in Fall 2015 was well supported by the vendor, the decision has been made to use a different vendor for the Spring 2016 Online Course evaluation pilot. Implementation is ongoing and data is currently being gathered to populate the application. First impressions look promising, as the GUI seems to be laid out in a more user-friendly format and there are more administrative options that we have been looking for in an evaluation suite.
The study of primary texts serves as a cornerstone of humanities scholarship and coursework. In the field of humanities computing, the ability to mark up and annotate e-texts has provided insights into such texts and their interpretation by an individual or a community, whether in a research cohort or an introductory course in the arts and sciences curriculum.
In the Geddes Language Center, we have been experimenting with a social reading tool called eComma . The added value for humanities and other courses is that eComma permits multiple users to insert comments, view other people’s comments, and create a shared database of tags that provide added layers of interpretive information for all readers without changing or altering the original text. eComma was created by Professor Sam Baker and a team of graduate students from the Department of English at the University of Texas at Austin with support from an NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant.
Below is a screen shot of a chapter from a novel by contemporary German writer Olga Grjasnowa showing how students and the instructor added tags to grammatically similar lexica. Another view of the comments feature is at the end of this post.
Starting in the Spring 2016 semester, the Learning Management Systems team in IS&T have provided BU Blackboard Learn users with an integration for eComma.
Over the last few weeks the Boston University Libraries have been evaluating a tool, free to the BU community, for creating, writing, and editing data management plans called the DMPTool. As many of you might be aware data management plans are increasingly required from funding agencies and institutions. However, what is included in a data management plan often varies from funder to funder, which can make writing them a bit of a headache. The DMPTool is one solution to this problem.
Created by the California Digital Library the DMPTool allows you to:
- collaboratively write data management plans
- find templates from numerous funders
- find public data management plans for reviewing
- obtain assistance and get feedback on writing a data management plan
- find data management resources and tips
There has been a lot of buzz recently about an approach to presenting video content known as “in-video quizzing.” In-video quizzing involves inserting questions into pre-existing videos to periodically check the viewer’s understanding of what is being presented and/or as a more formal approach to assessment using video as the medium. Moreover, integrating quiz questions into videos is a way of creating more interaction between the typically passive viewer and the material, making for a more engaging experience. There are more and more tools appearing on the market that allow this functionality.
One tool that allows free use of their software with only a few features locked for premium subscription users is Zaption. With a free account, you can:
- Watch as many video lessons as you like
- Create your own video lessons using 6 interactive elements with a single video
- Share lessons with your students and colleagues
- Track viewer progress and responses with built-in analytics
- Copy and edit ready-to-use video lessons from the Zaption Gallery
As implied, there are other features available if you become a paying customer including LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) integration into Blackboard, but the free tools allow you to experiment quite a bit. Zaption’s Web-based service requires no installation and their interface is friendly and easy to use. A handful of BU faculty have begun to use Zaption in their online courses, but it is clear that it can be used in any course where students will be asked to watch video content outside of class. In-video quizzing can be a great way to capture students’ feedback or level of understanding of material presented in video form.