Academic Toolbox Renewal Initiative

When you are thinking of using a new educational technology, do you ask
yourself, does the solution allow me (and my department) to take advantage
of international standards for interoperability and integration, or is it
a completely closed proprietary solution that can¹t connect to anything
else in our Toolbox?

When considering a new teaching tool, the tool should ideally let you
leverage international standards for the interoperability of teaching and
learning tools. Examples should include the Learning Tool Interoperability
(LTI) standard, the IMS Common Cartridge format, the Question and Test
Interoperability (QTI) standard, and the Sharable Content Object Reference
Model (SCORM), etc. In particular, software or solutions delivered through
a web browser should include something called an Application Programming
Interface (API), which would allow other University systems to interact
with the tool. Otherwise, you could end up using all kinds of tools that
don¹t work well together, and which detract from the teaching and learning
experience.

Also, many people at the University are particularly interested in
leveraging the benefits of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and therefore,
the new tool should ideally be operating system-agnostic (i.e., work on
Windows, Apple and Linux computers at the very least), and where
applicable, they should work with all contemporary web browsers (Chrome,
Firefox, Safari, Explorer), and be designed for mobile access (either
through a responsive web interface or multiple-OS-specific apps).

For more on the Academic Toolbox Renewal Initiative, please visit
http://toolboxrenewal.act.utoronto.ca.

The Grade Center: Planning Ahead

Saira Mall, Manager of ACT Support, 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 U of T

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.

Is There Grade Information I Should Not Display to Students?
Do not display the following to students in My Grades:

  • Final Exam marks
  • Final marks

Visit the Portal Information + Help web site for more information on how to Hide or Show Grade Columns to Students

Best Practices

  • Consult with your Registrar on recommended divisional or departmental procedures for displaying grades to students in My Grades.
  • Organize Grade Center columns and edit the Weighted Total and Total columns so that grade information in these columns is not displayed to students.  Note: Do not display Final Exam grades to students in My Grades.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Life Cycle of  Your Portal Course. Students automatically lose access to the course approximately 3 months following the class end date. After this date, student information and student grades will no longer appear in the Grade Center.
  • Download the Grade Center to your computer regularly throughout the course and once final marks have been submitted to the Registrar.
  • Notify students at the beginning of term if you plan to display their grade progress in My Grades.
  • Students should understand that My Grades allows them early access to preliminary grades, but does not represent their official final marks.

Portal (Blackboard) Training Sessions and Scheduled Drop-ins at CTSI

The Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI) offers Portal training sessions. To view the current schedule and to register, please see:

http://uoft.me/portaltraining

These workshops are free of charge but registration is required.
Registration and questions about Portal workshops can be sent to ctsi.teaching@utoronto.ca.

Portal Drop-ins:
One-on-one consultations are available for U of T instructors, TAs and staff who need help with their Portal course site. Someone will be available to review your course site with you and answer questions you may have.

Drop-in Hours: Tuesdays 1:00pm-3:00pm and Thursdays 9:00am-11:00am

CTSI is located on the 4th floor at Robarts Library.

Visual Oompf!

Post 3: Video Killed the Faculty Star

You remember the feeling from your elementary school days. That all to perfect moment when, the teacher stepped away from the chalk board, rolled out the a/v cart, hit the play button (or, gasp, fed in the film reel to the dusty projector) and retreated to the back of the class for…. a movie.

However, the longer we are in school, those precious opportunities to spend whole periods engrossed in Bill Nye episodes obviously dwindles. In higher education especially the impetus of knowledge transfer, critical thinking and philosophical pondering often takes priority over entertainment. Is there something to be considered when a six-minute Funny or Die “Drunk History” clip   can not only explain the history behind father of western technology, but also make it memorable?

My Visual Ooompf! dribble today aims to reposition our beloved “video” as a useful lecture and learning tool.

Videos have a place in the university classroom

This past winter, I attended an engineering lecture on the titillating topic of pumps. As I sat in Convocation Hall, amongst the 300 + young and occasionally distracted undergrads, I witnessed first hand the power a College Humor video had on re-engaging a group. During the traditional lecture part of the lesson, some students tuned in an out, impressively talking to their friends, playing games on their phones, and eating breakfast, all the while jotting down the odd lecture note. About a quarter into the lecture the lecturer switched gears, clicked on a pre-loaded video link and suddenly things changed.  More students looked to the front of the class and some actually laughed. While many still talked to their friends, I heard a couple people actually talking about the video!

I’m not saying that videos are better than live humans for engaging a group.  I only mean to illustrate that the act of breaking up the lecture with a visual tool, using a wildly different tone, is an awesome way to re energize and draw more of the class’s attention to the topic.

The example I witnessed in the engineering lecture was also a good illustration of general video showing best practices:

  •  the faculty member set up the video asking a question to help guide the viewers while they watch (showing videos does not mean people get a brain break)
  • this is an obvious one, but the video was related to the lesson topic
  • the video was relatively short in length
  • at the end of the clip, the faculty member asked a question and invited student reactions (this could even be done in groups as a collaborative exercise or dare I say, “Think-Pair-Share?)

CopyRIGHT

Moving from thinking about using video clips to actually using them in your class requires a necessary (and, I admit, somewhat cumbersome) discussion on Copyright. If you are going to show a clip in class you are automatically entering the realm of Canadian Copyright Act.

The surest way to navigate this area is to use Media Commons to access your video clips. The Media Commons online record’s details tells you plainly the terms of use for each item. In some cases, you may be required to contact the copyright holder to obtain permission. For clips you find outside of Media Commons (on websites etc.), make sure to read the specific terms and conditions of use.

While it may be tempting to gloss over the question of Copyright, it is important to remember that Canada’s Fair Dealing (or what some dangerously think of as a “get out of jail free” card) is much more strict within the categories of education and teaching than the US’s Fair Use.

If you have questions about Copyright always err on the side of caution and contact the Copyright holder directly or CTSI (ctsi.teaching@utoronto.ca) for guidance. Avoid a fight, use it right.

Getting the Goods

One of the major hurdles that can dissuade faculty from using video is the stress of finding quality video for a class. Chris O’Neal, a blogger from Edutopia.org, calls YouTube a “giant video flea market,” which gives you the gist of the type of labour  involved in retrieving useful clips with what can seem like

a big mess of junk.

There is no way around it – using videos to add oompf to your lectures does require extra effort. Below are several sites, which may help you in building your “classroom clips” library.

External Sources

http://www.scivee.tv/node/11161 – scientific research clips

http://www.bigthink.com/ – philosophical discussions on “big issues”

http://www.snagfilms.com/- amazing source for independent movies free to use as an educational tool, on demand!

http://www.ted.com/ – public lectures by some real visionary people

UofT Libraries

AV Catalogue searching
 Search Media Commons AV holdings in the Library catalogue by broad research topic.

http://mediacommons.library.utoronto.ca/research/audiovisual/research-tips/general-information

AV Subject Searching
 Connect to Media Commons AV holdings in the Library catalogue by broad research topic, such as gender diversity or visual arts.

http://mediacommons.library.utoronto.ca/research/audiovisual/research-tips/subject-searching

Online Video Resources 
A growing number of online video resources is now offered by U of T Libraries, available for classroom and individual streaming.

http://mediacommons.library.utoronto.ca/research/audiovisual/research-tips/online-video-resources

Resources & Links

http://mediacommons.library.utoronto.ca/research/audiovisual/resources-links

New Arrivals

http://mediacommons.library.utoronto.ca/research/audiovisual/new-arrivals

Embracing videos in university classrooms beyond the level of instructional “bells and whistles” does not have to pander to the nostalgic idea of a thoughtless movie period or shift anyone’s core teacher values. Punctuating every lecture with a snappy YouTube clip would (I guess) grow old.  Videos and interactive elements of visual entertainment should always support the timeless and simple goal, furthering student learning. That being said, learning about gravity is so much more fun watching Bill Nye throw stuff off of a roof. .

From our Educational Technologoy Experts: RecordMP3.org

From Ryan Green, Educational Technology Liaison, CTSI

RecordMP3.org is a recently developed website that does just what its name implies; it allows anyone to record and distribute audio as an MP3.  What makes this tool interesting is that it is done entirely through your internet browser, and does away with the need to install any software.  Users just need to have a recent browser, an up-to-date version of Adobe Flash player, and of course a microphone.  Once a user has recorded their audio they have the choice of downloading and saving the MP3 file, or they can use a short URL to share it with anyone.  This ability to either download the file or share a link provide some interesting opportunities for engaging your students in recording their own snippets of audio.  The saved file could easily be submitted as part of an assessment or activity, and the link would allows students to share their recordings with each other, providing the opportunity to give feedback, potentially as its own recording.

I would definitely recommend experimenting and playing around with the tool. I would avoid long recordings, though. When I was using it a couple recordings never finished uploading. They were lost and had to be recorded (which is why I suggest shorter recordings). I would also advice restarting your browser before re-recording. So while there may be the occasional hiccup, the ease of use and sharing still make this a tool worth trying.

Large Classroom Teaching: a new online resource from CTSI

We’re excited to announce that our new online learning module on Large Classroom Teaching is now available. This has been a collaborative project between CTSI staff, Teaching Academy members (winners of the President’s Teaching Award) and Tyler Blacquiere, our work-study student. One of our goals in producing this module was to bring colleagues together via video clips to share their experience and expertise. Walking into a large classroom – whether that’s 60 or 1600 students – can be a daunting experience for students and instructors alike. Rather than reinventing the wheel (and assuming that there is something called the ‘teaching wheel’), we’ve compiled interviews and resources from instructors, staff and graduate students who offer their knowledge and real life experiences working in the large class setting. The module highlights work already happening on UofT campuses. Instructors describe their  methods to engage with students, and how students can engage with each other, even when there are hundreds gathered in a single room.

Our module, divided into four broad categories (planning, strategies, assessment and technology), is designed to help instructors and teaching assistants as they build and deliver their courses. There is so much more to teaching than simply providing content. There is more to assessment than mid-term tests. Visit our module and explore the almost 100 short clips (yes, 100! I was pretty impressed when I added them all up) and resources available online.   They can be used by individual instructors as they refine their teaching approaches, or can  be used by groups in workshop and seminar settings through CTSI or as department-based discussions.

Please keep in mind that we want to continue building this module, highlighting and exploring initiatives across all three campuses. If you have an experience that you would like to share – or have specific questions regarding this module or large classroom teaching – please feel free to contact CTSI at any time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-mKiU6aOe8

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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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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