As someone who has taught online university courses since 2009 and taught high school level social studies for 13 years before that, I have met many colleagues who share similar experiences teaching. One commonality? Academic integrity is something we all strive to promote in our courses yet still find elusive in some respects. We try different methods for monitoring student activity in Canvas tests and quizzes and we develop writing assignments that are more authentic in nature in hopes that we get an authentic product from our students as a result. I came across this short article offering up three other strategies we can implement in our courses to help alleviate plagiarism. If you have any strategies that have worked well for you, whether online or face-to-face, please feel free to share them in reply to this post.
It is easy (well…) to tell when a student in your in-person class is struggling: you can see their detachment, their boredom, their sleeping, their scowling, their sadness, their confusion, their disappointment. Online courses don’t provide the same access. In some cases, an instructor may never lay eyes on a particular student. So how does a person even know that a student needs help? And when you know, what can you do about it? Are we compelled simply to write off some percentage of our online students as lost sheep?
Dr. Audrey Begun and Dr. Jennie Babcock offer some concrete strategies to resist that fatalism in this webinar (recorded Thursday, April 5, 2018). Drawing on their years of experience in teaching and advising, as well as insights and methodology from the discipline of Social Work, they describe four domains of specific steps instructors can take to reduce the likelihood students will start to struggle, recognize quickly when it is happening, and intervene usefully.
iPads are clearly powerful tools for teaching, in part because there are thousands of apps available. Those same thousands of apps can, however, also make it difficult to know how to get started, in much the same way it would be difficult to learn how to eat if you had never had food before.
In this webinar, our colleague Scott Sheeler, educational technologist and app sommelier with ODEE’s Distance Learning team, stopped by to provide a rapid-paced high-level overview of four of the best apps to start with, including Canvas Grader, Notability, CLIPS, and Adobe Spark. You might want to slow down the video for this one, so that you can see all of the features he shows off.
It’s tempting to be glib and introduce the link to this webinar recording about Office365 with a snarky reference to 90s retro, maybe by embedding a grunge cover of “Macarena,” but the thing is, we’re actually excited by this. Basically every instructor and student at Ohio State now has a license to Office365, which means we now have access to a better-than-Google-Docs platform for students to share files, simultaneously edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, and otherwise write in multimedia formats online. Office has been around for a while, and that means that your students (and you!) already know how to use it, so there is that much less training you’ll need to do to make use of it. It even integrates directly into Carmen.
In this webinar, our colleague Instructional Designer extraordinaire Tim Lombardo explains in more detail how to set up Office365, some of the complications you might need to work around, and some of the fancy and awesome things your students can do with it. Thanks especially to the attendees, who asked excellent questions.
PS. Having mentioned a grunge cover of “Macarena,” it would seem cruel not to embed an actual instance of the genre… (OK, strictly speaking it’s metal. What can I say? It was a crazy decade. Some lines blurred.)
Last month, I touched on the concept of branching activities, specifically focusing on the why and the when. Now that you’ve got a solid foundation and understanding of their practicality, it’s time to look at how we may plan and build out a branching activity.
Planning is the most crucial part of the branching activity process. In some cases, you’ll have a good idea of starting points for your activity but may not be sure where it will go from there. This could just be having a topic and understanding of what you want to accomplish with the activity without much content. To plan through a situation like this, we recommend identifying decision categories that students may need to work within and building out content from there:
In other cases, you may have an idea of where you want students to end up but aren’t sure how they will get there. You’ll have to plan backwards in this situation:
Either way, it’s important to think about every possible landing point that students may reach and map out every possible way they may get there.
While thinking about these things, there are multiple processes you may use to plan content for your activity. You may use pencil/paper or Dry-Erase, drawing boxes to represent each page. You may use notecards or Post-it notes in the same way with the added flexibility of being able to move things around. You may also use mind-mapping if you would like to plan digitally.
Building in Carmen
Once you’ve planned, the hardest part is over! It’s now as easy as building out your planned pages and connecting them. We’ll start by walking through this process in Carmen:
Within Carmen, we recommend you start by creating a module specifically for your activity. You can move the activity into another module with the rest of your content later, but it’s easier to keep everything for this one activity contained during the building process.
Within this module, create each page that you planned out. Think about it as a page for each notecard/Post-it note or each box if you used the pencil/paper or Dry-Erase method.
When creating pages, naming convention is extremely important. Using “BA” (for branching activity) or some other recognizable naming structure at the beginning of each page puts every page for one activity next to each other in Carmen’s “Pages” list, which makes bulk publishing/unpublishing and/or editing much easier to follow.
After all pages have been created, you’ll need to connect them together. Go to any one of your pages and list any other pages that can be reached from that page. Then, highlight text that want to turn into a hyperlink and use the “Links” tab to the right of the rich content editor to link to additional pages.
Once everything is finished, you’ll need to decide whether your students should only see the beginning page of the branching activity or all pages within the activity, which you can toggle by adding or not adding pages to a module. Either way, every page in your activity needs to be published for students to see them, and all modules that hold any pages within the activity need to be published.
I’m guessing that this may have been hard to follow without any visuals, so we’ve created this step-by-step video to walk you through the process:
Building for Other Systems
There are other tools that will may be able to produce something a bit more robust than what Carmen can provide or produce something more specific to your needs. One alternative option is Twine. Twine is an HTML-based, mind-mapping software that is easy to use and produces basic scenario/decision-based activities.
Larger software programs like Articulate Storyline or Adobe Captivate are specifically made to create rich interactive projects with multimedia elements, but these tools are pricey and require a steep learning curve. Also, Twine, Storyline and Captivate are not OSU-supported.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of branching activities and how you may plan and build one for your course(s). Over the coming months, be sure to revisit this blog for updates on our multimedia efforts. I will be sharing monthly updates, presenting easy-to-use tools that can improve your course(s) and sharing up-to-date research and developments from the eLearning world.
If you have any questions about branching activities or anything related to multimedia elements of course design, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.
The struggle is real. It takes a village to provide quality education to thousands of students, and that effort only becomes more complex as education becomes hybrid and even fully online. How to ensure that students learn what they need regardless of which section they enrol in (without squelching the opportunity for variety and specialization)? How to provide an ever-rotating cast of instructors with the training and support they need? How to gather and manage data and information about how it’s all going and make sure that other departmental stakeholders know about it? While it rarely leads stories about the impact of the Digital Revolution on universities, this layer of the puzzle is crucial for making sure it all works and that the fancy new tools and opportunities the future is making available help students and do not just become a fog of chaos.
In this webinar, Dr. Melissa Beers and Dr. Kristin Supe discuss their experience coordinating the exemplary Introduction to Psychology course at Ohio State. Ranging from the philosophical to the logistical, they shared useful insights about things like how recent LMS features simplify creating the dozens of course shells, the importance of training, and the importance of research. Bonus points for the Harry Potter references. It was a fun time!
“I used to never allow computers in my classroom. Now that I’ve become integrated into disability studies. I’m ashamed of that former teacher who didn’t allow computers in her classroom. I’m embarrassed for her because that’s so important to allow that kind of technology into the space.”
In the fourth episode of AccessEDU, your host interviews an OSU English professor who is new to teaching online and has a unique (and exemplary) philosophy on access and inclusion in her classroom spaces.
Interactivity is an essential course design element in online learning. Interactivity could be defined in many ways, but let’s think of it in the context of passive vs. active learning. Passive learning environments contain little to no interactive elements and can be thought of as having stereotypical, “traditional” methods of content delivery and comprehension checks.
In these environments, students may go to class, take notes on everything that they see on a slide deck and take a structured weekly quiz, but they aren’t actually learning or retaining anything and aren’t able to regurgitate or apply the information in a practical setting.
In an active environment, the content may be the same as what is presented in a passive environment, but it’s interactivity that changes everything. Student learn by doing rather than just listening, and traditional methods of content delivery and reinforcement are replacing with hands-on, collaborative multimedia activities and assessments. Presenting content in more meaningful and engaging ways can lead to more effective learning experiences for students.
This is where branching activities come in.
If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a branching activity, think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure flowchart of choices that is based on scenarios and decision making. You may remember choose-your-own-adventure books from your childhood, where you would make decisions along a storyline that led you down certain paths and ultimately an ending point based on all of your previous decisions.
In the context of online learning, branching activities are one of the many ways to bring more interactivity into a course. A well-planned, well-thought-out branching activity can transform a passive learning activity into a rich, active learning experience, one in which students are immediately able to reinforce and apply the information that they just learned.
When should I use branching activities?
Branching activities are applicable in many learning situations and have been used successfully by instructors in a number of ways:
Nursing simulations where students make decisions on how to deal with a patient
Interview simulations where students have to react to certain question/reactions from the interviewer
Activities to guide students to resources/other activities
Asking students to “see where they are” before a new topic is started to point them towards specific resources
Asking students to participate in certain alternate discussions, activities or assignments based on their responses to topic-related questions
Reinforce concepts with optional branching activities that can be revisited
Study guides that aren’t just an outline of topics to be covered in an assessment (Gamification, etc.)
There are many other situations where a branching activity could be useful. Try to think of a project or idea in your course(s) that could take on a branched format.
Over the coming months, be sure to revisit this blog for updates on our multimedia efforts. I will be sharing monthly updates, presenting easy-to-use tools that can improve your course(s) and sharing up-to-date research and developments from the eLearning world.
If you have any questions about branching activities or anything related to multimedia elements of course design, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Educational innovation is a top priority at Ohio State. Across our campuses, we strive to be at the forefront of a better and more modern student experience. Here at ODEE, we are no different. The Distance Education team works hard every day to make sure that our course design and development processes will lead to positive experiences and effective learning for online students.
A new wave of innovation has come into focus for our team in the form of multimedia advancement. Although we feel as though our multimedia efforts are already strong, we have developed an initiative that identifies some important work to be done in the next year (and beyond) that will allow faculty to present more dynamic and engaging course content to online students.
One of our bigger goals in the coming year is to get multimedia innovation integrated into our course design process. This means that there will be a section of each of our course designs that focuses solely on opportunities for multimedia advancement. Faculty will have conversations with our team to develop plans and identify possible work to be done in this area, which may include replacing a few traditional assignments with interactive, click-through activities, for example.
To go along with this, on our end, we will be developing a clear project management system that makes multimedia innovation easy for our faculty. A clear planning system will be drawn out and faculty will have the opportunity to complete clear and reachable goals surrounding multimedia improvements to their course(s).
Additionally, we are in the process of developing an ‘innovative tool guide’ that will help our instructional designers and online faculty identify tools that meet their innovative needs. Whether faculty are brand new to the multimedia game or have an idea that they are not quite sure how to execute, the guide will be there to provide answers. We are also piloting a storyboard that will be used to easily build out interactive projects.
We also have plans to explore the relatively new field of virtual reality, which has the potential to play a very interesting and impactful role in the world of online education. Additional new technologies will continue to challenge the way we do things on a daily basis.
All of these measures are being taken to ensure that our online students continue to receive the most dynamic and rich learning experiences possible. A few tweaks to traditional learning methods with an open mind of the advantages of multimedia learning can go a long way in greatly enhancing the student experience.
Over the coming months, be sure to revisit this blog for updates on our multimedia efforts. I will be sharing monthly updates, presenting easy-to-use tools that can make your courses better and sharing up-to-date research from the evolving world of multimedia eLearning.
In this webinar, Dr. Brian Lower and his team, Kylienne Shaul and Ella Weaver, talked about some of the steps they have taken to develop a deeply engaging large online course, ENR2100: Introduction to Environmental Sciences. They will especially describe how they have used writing-based assessments and peer-review processes to enable students to think more deeply about the material and extend their understanding through interaction (in both on-ground and online versions of the course).
2013 in-person ENR Poster Session, the inspiration for a virtual poster session assignment that helps drive student engagement in the large course. For more information and examples of student work, visit https://u.osu.edu/environmentalsciencesymposium/