Hallowe’en and presentation horror stories

As a Trainer with the TATP, one of my responsibilities has been to design and teach a workshop for TAs on Classroom Presentations.  Within the workshop, we review a number of resources to provide inspiration to create dynamic and engaging classroom presentations.

Getting into the spooky spirit, I would like to share a Hallowe’en twist on one of these resources.

Slideshare.net is a website for sharing slide decks that can be easily emailed, linked, and shared on the web. Slideshare sometimes runs contests to identify the best slide decks. In one iteration of the contest, they ran a Presentation Horror Story Contest.

Boom or Bust, is one of my favourite winners from the presentation horror stories contest, because the creators draw on traditions from comic books to tell a story through their slides.  The types of images shown in Boom or Bust can be easily created using a software package like Comic Life.

If you are looking for a more general slide deck on presentation, I also recommend the tongue and cheek ‘You Suck at Powerpoint.’ It offers some up-to-date suggestions to make your presentation graphically appealing. If you are looking at SlideShare.net keep in mind that you may need to translate concepts from business to educational contexts to make them relevant for your students.


View more presentations from @JESSEDEE.

The Grade Center: Planning Ahead

Saira Mall, Educational Technology Liaison, CTSI

Between course scheduling, assignment deadlines and mid-term exams, managing and entering grade data in the Portal’s Grade Center may be left to the last minute resulting in very late nights, usually just before grades are submitted.

If you are using the Grade Center in your Portal course, my advice is old and true: plan ahead of time.

About the Grade Center
The Grade Center is an online repository for course assessment data that allows for grades to be entered directly into their Portal course. Grade Center can be used in conjunction with other Portal tools (e.g., Tests, Discussion Board, Wikis, Blogs, Journals, Surveys and Rubrics) to develop an efficient grading and record keeping system.

Who Has Access to the Grade Center?
Those assigned with Portal course roles including Instructor, Teaching Assistant and Grader all have access to the Grade Center.  Students do not have access to the Grade Center. Students view their progress in My Grades.

Familiarize Yourself with the Policies of Use at UofT
Students should understand that My Grades allows them early access to preliminary grades, but does not represent their official final marks. The Repository of Student Information (ROSI) is the official system of record for the University of Toronto for student grades.  For more information on University of Toronto policies and guidelines regarding the posting and distribution of grades, please visit FIPPA, Q and A for Instructors on the website of the Vice-President and Provost.

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Academic Technology & Classroom Response Systems

There has been a lot of talk lately about the use of classroom response systems (at UofT, we use iClickers) and the role they should play in higher education. They are useful tools for engagement, especially in large classes, but are some instructors relying too heavily on them? And, perhaps more importantly, are some students taking advantage of the technology and committing academic offences whether they realize it or not. Recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article – “With Cheating Only a Click Away, Professors Reduce the Incentive” – that renewed this conversation around the CTSI office. With clickers being used more and more, and class sizes on the increase, we asked ourselves when and how clickers should be used and when should they be left behind.

First of all, we need to remember that academic integrity is not only about plagiarism. As the Chronicle article points out, a major abuse of the clicker system happens when students bring in more than one device to ‘represent’ absent classmates. Students can still meet the attendance marks, or answer quiz questions, without stepping foot in the classroom thanks to helpful friends. While these students might understand that ‘helping’ each other in this way is cheating the system, they might not recognize that it’s an academic offence. This is a good reminder that 1) using clickers to check attendance is not a fail-safe method and 2) if we use engagement technology (like clickers) in the classroom we should be sure to explain the procedures and implications to our students.

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Coming Soon – Large Classroom Teaching

The Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation will soon launch an online module on Exploring Large Classroom Teaching. The University of Toronto’s faculty and graduate students have a fair bit of experience in this area (as you might imagine) and we have looked to them for insight and advice on this topic. We’ve divided this section into four areas (Planning, Strategies, Assessment and Technology) with videos, resources and tip sheets available.

We hope to launch in a few weeks. Please stay tuned!

The Portal’s Wiki: a Quick Guide

The latest update to the Portal introduced a new Wiki tool.  A wiki is a collaborative tool that allows students to contribute and modify one or more pages of course related content. Members of a course can develop content on these shared pages using only a web browser.  Students can work together to create an assignment or build on a collection of ideas.  Instructors can create a single wiki for all members of the course or for specific groups. Student contributions to the Wiki tool in the Portal can be viewed and graded.

Getting Started
To create a course wiki, the instructor selects the Wiki tool option in a content area (e.g., Course Documents or Assignments) and enables the settings to make the wiki open for editing.  Grading options and rubrics can be applied to the wiki if applicable.
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Entering the online classroom

Online courses are increasingly more commonplace (for distance education, continuing studies or as one way to deal with large classes and a rise in student population) but many of us are still wary. If you are heading into the virtual classroom this fall, and are a little concerned about how best to approach this new territory, there are many resources available. From simple helpful hints to the advent of Teaching Machines, there is a lot of information to sift through when it comes to online learning.

Online Learning at the University of Toronto
The CTSI web site offers information and resources (including accessibility guidelines and help with online course design) in the Online Instructor Toolkit. We also highlight Innovations at the University of Toronto – profiles of instructors and departments who have already made headway in working online and connecting with students.

Expert Advice
Not too surprisingly, there are a number of websites and blogs that discuss the ups and downs of leading an online course. An internet search will quickly turn up many examples but we’ve selected a few to look at:  Continue reading

Five New Tools to Enhance Your Course Within the UofT Learning Portal

An update to the University of Toronto Learning Portal was performed at the start of the 2011 summer session.  This version introduces five new tools that can be used to enhance collaboration, content delivery and student evaluation within a course.

1. Wikis:  The Wiki tool allows students to create and edit web page content within a course.  Single or multiple wikis can be created for all members of the course or for specific groups.  Students can edit wiki content to work collaboratively on the development of documentation, assignments or projects.  Detailed version information and a history of student contributions to the wiki can be reviewed and graded by the instructor.

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