Recommended Reading v.2

John Percy, Professor Emeritus, Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Teaching Academy member, has a recommendation for instructors leading Astronomy courses. Just in time for summer course design!

Learner-Centered Astronomy Teaching: Strategies for Astro 101
Timothy Slater and Jeffrey Adams

Slater and Adams are leaders in astronomy education research.  Prentice-Hall made this short paperback available at low cost.  In 167 pages, it contains everything that an instructor needs, from background research, to course design, lecturing for active participation, small-group collaborative learning, writing effective multiple-choice items (and alternatives thereto), course evaluations — even tips on creating a teaching portfolio.  It has many useful appendices, including sample questions and tasks and learning objectives, and the well-tested Astronomy Diagnostic Test.  A model for how to provide instructors with practical, research-supported material!

Astro 101 book cover imageSlater, Timothy, and Adams, Jeffrey (2003), “Learner-Centered Astronomy
Teaching: Strategies for Astro 101”, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River NJ, pp. 167, paperback ($4.80 on eBay).

Blackboard Collaborate: a new web conferencing tool to support online teaching and learning at U of T

by Marco Di Vittorio, Courseware Support Supervisor & Saira Mall, Educational Technology Liaison

The teaching and learning landscape has expanded to include online learning environments. An institutional web conferencing tool is now available to U of T instructors to further the ways in which faculty can engage and interact with students online.

What is it?
Blackboard Collaborate is a web conferencing/webinar platform designed for use in online teaching. Instructors can create virtual classroom and online meeting spaces to share presentation material and communicate with students via synchronous audio, video and chat tools. Webinar rooms include a collaborative whiteboard tool that allows students to interact with peers and faculty in real time. Instructors can make use of polls directly within a session for immediate feedback and to check for understanding. Students can also be divided into break out rooms to facilitate active and collaborative online group work and assignments. Desktop applications and web resources such as multimedia hosted on the U of T Libraries MyMedia website can be displayed directly within the web conference room. An interactive recording can be created for each session allowing students the opportunity to review material following the live online lecture. Participation points can also be automatically awarded for joining or reviewing session recordings.

Where do I find it?
Webinar sessions can be created and joined directly from courses within the U of T Learning Portal. Mobile apps are also available for participants to join Collaborate sessions from Android and iOS portable devices. To begin, contact staff providing educational technology support within your department or e-mail portal.help@utoronto.ca to enable the tool in your course.

Who can use it?
Instructors and course staff have the ability to create and moderate webinar sessions. Participant links for students are displayed directly within the course. Moderator and participant roles can be set ahead of time or directly within a live session. Guest links can also be made available to individuals outside of the U of T community.

When do I use it?

  • Live lectures and tutorials for fully online and hybrid courses
  • Virtual office hours
  • Online student collaboration and group projects
  • Graduate seminars and student presentations
  • Distance learning courses
  • Online training, presentations and information sessions

Recommended Practices

  • Visit the First Time Use page before joining a session to check system requirements and configure audio devices.
  • Review training material and practice using the tool before conducting the first live class.
  • Use a wired or stable wireless internet connection.
  • Select the correct connection speed when joining a session to set the appropriate audio and video transmission rates.
  • Run the Audio Setup Wizard after entering a session to test and set audio input and output devices. Use a headset microphone for best results.
  • Existing presentation content may need to be modified for use in a webinar session. Prepare and upload presentation material ahead of time to preview content and make any necessary changes. Avoid use of slide animations and transitions.
  • To share videos, use the Web Tour or multimedia library instead of embedding media in presentation slides.
  • Provide online help resources for students.

Please visit the portalinfo site to review additional techniques for effectively managing a webinar session.

Training & Support

Please register to participate in an upcoming Blackboard Collaborate training session.

Additional support resources and best practice information can be found on the Portal Information & Help website.