Using a Course Website to Recruit Incoming Students and Promote Community Engagement

CC Choir WebsiteI have the happy challenge of needing to communicate with students over the summer.  Most of them are incoming first-year students or transfer students who are trying to decide how they will spend their time at Connecticut College. This means quite a few questions regarding the types of choral ensembles that we offer, how often the ensembles meet, the types of literature we study, and audition requirements/times. During my first summer teaching at Connecticut College, this meant writing pretty much the same response over and over. I got into the habit of keeping several stock responses in a separate Word document so I could cut and paste the details. I am happy to say that I found a more efficient way to keep in contact with these incoming students!

I created a choir website in WordPress during the Tempel Summer Institute. For incoming students, it describes our choral program, the audition process, and a way to sign up for an audition slot via SignUpGenius. For the current students, it describes volunteer opportunities and how to contact the choir council. For the greater community, it contains information about participating in our high school choral festival, attending upcoming performances, bringing a choir to an event, and joining the Chorale (open to students, faculty, staff and community members.) For the greater community, there is a media page with YouTube videos and Livestream videos of past choral performances. I am currently working to build an audio portfolio that will feature audio clips via SoundCloud.

During the month of July, I have the email vacation autoresponder tell all incoming messages that I will get back to them shortly and to visit the choir website for more information about our program. My incoming students now have a better idea of the philosophy and scope of the choral program (and I get my month of July back). Prospective students can also visit this website to see what musical opportunities we have to offer before they apply. Lastly, this website is a storehouse of information regarding community engagement events that I can easily share via social media (Twitter, Facebook).  While time intensive in the beginning, a course website can help you communicate more effectively and also build a community presence. I highly recommend it!

Active Engagement and Group Work at the Visualization Wall

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The Visualization Wall can instantly and wirelessly display up to five smartphones, tablets, and laptops at once, or one device full-screen. Pictured above: dual display of a MacBook Air and an iPhone.

The Diane Y. Williams ’59 Visualization Wall in the Technology Commons of Shain Library offers new possibilities for group work and classroom engagement. With just a few clicks on one’s own smartphone, tablet, or laptop, the wall wirelessly displays up to five devices at once.

Biology Professor Martha Grossel used the Visualization Wall weekly for her Accelerated Cell Biology class, asking students to work on problems in groups. One member of each group then displayed their work simultaneously for discussion and comparison of all the groups’ results as a class. Theater Professor Sabrina Notarfrancisco takes part in the Instructional Technology team’s DELI program to provide her students in Costume History with iPads each semester and meets regularly at the wall with her class. Whenever relevant to the discussion, students can easily display and compare examples from the visual portfolios that they build on their iPads, encouraging active engagement in discussion.

The furniture in the Technology Commons is all flexible and can be arranged to be most conducive to your class activities.

Interested in how this feature can be used in your own class? Email Lyndsay Bratton to discuss ideas or to schedule class meetings at the wall!

Data Fair September 26-29!

Connecticut College is a member of ICPSR (Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research), a data archive of more than 500,000 files of research in the social sciences. It hosts 16 specialized collections of data in education, aging, criminal justice, substance abuse, terrorism, and other fields. We have written about this amazing resource on the blog, in Andrew Lopez’s post The JSTOR of Data Archives.

We invite you and your students to join us for the ICPSR  Data Fair being held next week, which “aims to introduce, engage, and help the data community manage through the ongoing Data (R)Evolution.” We will be broadcasting Data Fair events in the Davis Lab all this week. You will find the schedule below, and on the ICPSR website.

ICPSR Data Fair Poster

September Teaching with Technology Productivity Workshops

The first two workshops in September focus on productivity. We will spend time organizing and developing new strategies to keep our email and Drive from overwhelming us, allowing us to focus on more important tasks. Registration is recommended (food is provided), but not necessary.  Please join us!

Take Control of Your Google Drive
Monday, September 12, 1:30 – 2:30 PM
Neff Lab, Shain Library 2nd Floor
Is your Google Drive driving you crazy? Confused about folders and sharing? Come to this workshop and spend one full hour organizing your Drive so that you can find important documents quickly and share things with others.  We will start with some brief instruction, but most of the hour will be dedicated to getting your Drive in order!
Register

Get Out of Your Inbox! Gmail Productivity
Thursday, September 22, 9:00 – 10:00 AM
Neff Lab, Shain Library 2nd Floor
Spending too much time in your Inbox?  Stressed out by unread email?  Ready to mount a resistance to email’s ever-increasing bid on your time?  In this session, we tackle best practices for emailing, and we discuss some strategies for making the most of gmail.  Come sip some coffee, munch on a bagel, and learn how to make gmail do the simple work, leaving you more time to be productive.
Register

Help Students Out: Syllabi as PDF or Google Drive Link

word-to-pdf-freenetworktips-800x445Do you upload your syllabus to Moodle? Is it a Word document? A Pages document? You may not realize it, but there are students who do not have these programs on their computers. Already I have spoken with two students who do not have Microsoft Word (or PowerPoint, or Excel…), but they must access syllabi that are Word documents. While I recommended they download OpenOffice or use a library computer to view the syllabus, you can help your students by using one of two simple solutions.

  1. Save your documents as PDF files and upload those to Moodle. Not only can any computer read PDF files, they are much easier to view in Moodle. Word documents are downloaded onto your students’ computers every time they click on the syllabus title. Not only is this annoying, but increases the chances that students are looking at older or outdated versions. PDF documents simply open in the browser whenever a student wants to view it.
  2. Do you change your syllabus a lot over the course of the semester? If so, consider using a Google Doc and add the shareable link to Moodle. Anthony Graesch wrote about why he made this change and explains how to do it in his post, Dish Up Your Syllabi with Google Docs.

If you have questions about posting your syllabus to Moodle, please contact us!

Announcing Fall 2016 Reading Group – Join Us!

DH Book CoverWe are excited to announce that this semester’s reading group book is Interdisciplining Digital Humanities: Boundary Work in an Emerging Field (2015) by Julie Thompson Klein. Looking back over 65 years of scholarship, Interdisciplining Digital Humanities provides an overview of definitions and practices in the emerging field of digital humanities. As the library ramps up efforts to leverage digital scholarship tools and research methods to support faculty and student research, this is a very timely reading. Informal book discussions will take place over lunch provided by Instructional Technology. 

Those interested should plan to attend all three meetings (listed below). Participation is limited; please contact Jessica McCullough by September 7 to register.

Reading Group: Interdisciplining Digital Humanities
Tuesdays, 12:00 – 1:00 PM
Haines Room, Shain Library lower level
September 27, October 25 & December 6

 

Using Twitter to Sharpen Literacies and Engage in Global Conversations

Screenshot of Twitter feedIn my previous blog post, I talked about videoconferences as a way to integrate global perspectives into my refugees course. Another tool to encourage students to apply their knowledge by engaging in a global dialogue was the use of Twitter. Students were asked to tweet five times a week, using the hash tag #GER262. During the first half of the semester, I made sure that each student was comfortable using Twitter and that they had acquired the necessary background knowledge to engage with the global community in an informed and meaningful way. Hence the Twitter posts were not only a way to interact with the world outside of the classroom, but also helped the students to deepen their social media literacy and to critically analyze rhetorical strategies being used in social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Students posted and discussed links to articles, videos, and cartoons they had found online and – as part of the assignment – responded to other people’s tweets around the world. In order to value the students’ contributions and to contextualize their findings, I reserved 10-15 minutes each week for a group discussion of their tweets.

Even though Twitter is not a medium commonly used among students, they responded enthusiastically to the assignment. As one of the students highlighted in their course evaluations: “I have been able to sharpen my ability to identify specific rhetoric that either supports or criticizes the situation on media outlets such as Twitter. To converse on Twitter gave us a hands-on opportunity to engage in the global conversation of this ongoing refugee and migrant crisis.”

I will definitely continue to use Twitter in my classes and plan to incorporate it also into my beginning language classes, as a meaningful way to apply newly acquired vocabulary and grammatical structures in a real-life setting. I would like to thank Ari Rotramel for sharing her extensive Twitter assignment guide and Laura Little, as always, for her invaluable technical support.

MIT OpenCourseware for Course Inspiration

MIT OpenCourseware Logo

During a recent consultation with a faculty member where we explored affordable online resources for a new Conn Course, I shared related course materials available through the MIT OpenCourseware website. If you are developing a new course, looking for inspiration to update an old one, or trying to incorporate different disciplinary approaches and content, MIT Open Courseware is well worth a visit.

MIT OpenCourseware shares materials from 2,340 courses taught at MIT. By sharing course content, MIT hopes to help educators improve courses, help students find additional information, and provide quality resources for independent students and self-learners. Courses include both undergraduate and graduate levels in all subjects taught at MIT. Many courses include a syllabus, reading material, assignments, and in some cases audio or video lectures, even online textbooks and supplemental material. 

screenshot of Anthropology course available through MIT OpenCourseware
Anthropology course available through MIT OpenCourseware

 

If you’re looking for new classroom activities, try exploring the related OCW Educator which allows you to browse instructional approaches and materials. For example, browse by Active Learning and find examples of case studies, discussion, flipped classrooms, teamwork and more. Other interesting topics include Critical Thinking, Diversity and Inclusion, Engaging Learners, Lecturing, and more. Some courses also include a section called “This Course at MIT” which explains how the course was developed and taught. 

Use the comments below to tell us if you find something interesting!

Back to School Basics Online Workshop Tuesday, August 23

Welcome back!

We had a productive summer and are very excited to begin a new academic year. Are you ready for classes? Whether you are on campus or still traveling, we invite you to join us online for our Back to School Basics workshop. In this virtual workshop we will cover essential elements of preparing for your classes, including: getting Moodle sites set up, scheduling lab and library research sessions, making course material more accessible, and whatever else is on your mind. There will be time for open questions with instructional technologists. See workshop details below.

Back to School Basics
Tuesday, August 23, 10:00 – 11:00 AM
Register using this link or by emailing Jessica McCullough before the workshop start and we will send you a link with instructions for connecting to the workshop.

flickr photo shared by dlofink under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Summer (blog) Reading

Reading by a pond

Happy summer! Graduation was one month ago and you are probably settled into your summer routine (which may be no routine at all!). This is also a good time to catch up on the blog posts you didn’t have time to read during the semester. To get you started, here are the most popular posts published this year.

The blog will take a vacation in the month of July, but we are still here! If you would like to meet with any member of the Instructional Technology team to discuss technology in your classes, summer is a great time to do it. Start with your Instructional Technology liaison if you are not sure who to contact.

The top 10 blog posts published in the 2015-16 academic year are:

Image credit: “Connecticut College, Arboretum, Amphitheater and pond, March 5, 1977.” Photograph by Ted Hendrickson.