It’s Spring Cleaning Time! A checklist for the end of the semester

Broom

As the semester wraps up, we’ve created a list of a few things that you’ll want to remember to do before you head off for the summer.

  • Back up your Moodle sites. As a reminder, Information Services keeps five years of course sites active and available to you. This means that as Academic Year 2018-19 becomes active, AY 2013-14 will go offline. Before July 1, make sure that you create a backup of any course sites that contain material that you might want to use in the future. You can create a backup of the entire Moodle site, to be used for a future Moodle course site, or you can download individual file resources.
  • Download and save your Moodle Gradebook(s). As a matter of best practice, IS suggests that you save the grades that you’ve entered into Moodle. A course’s Moodle gradebook can be downloaded in Excel format and saved for long-term recordkeeping.
  • Check out your Moodle courses for next year. Moodle for Academic Year 2018-19 is up and running. Minor changes to the system may happen over the summer, but all currently scheduled courses have been loaded. If you’re teaching a course that doesn’t appear on your course list in Moodle, first confirm that it’s on the course schedule and you are listed as the instructor. If not, contact the Office of the Registrar. If it is on the course schedule, but doesn’t appear for you in Moodle, submit a WebHelpDesk ticket.
  • Return your library books. Books and other library materials that were checked out this year have a due date of May 18. Return all your loans to either Shain or Greer by that date. Don’t forget any equipment you might have borrowed from Media Services or the Digital Scholarship and Curriculum Center.
  • Submit your list of course reserves. Please help library staff avoid the crunch at the end of August by submitting your list of Fall course reserves to your library liaison or directly to Bridget Pupillo, Reserve and Circulation Assistant.

 

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Moodle OR Google?

In this post I would like to build on Ariella Rotramel’s and Anthony Graesh’s posts on course management systems and describe how I use Google Sites to deliver content and manage students’ assignments.

What is Google Sites?

Google Sites is the website building application in the G Suite productivity suite. The application allows you to easily build a webpage from scratch or customize a template. Although intended for webpages, Google Sites is a versatile and useful tool that can be used for many purposes. Two features make it especially useful in the classroom: collaboration and privacy.

Why do I use Google Sites?

Collaboration and privacy are the main reasons why I chose Google Sites as my course management system for my upper level Italian courses. In these courses I mostly use open-ended written responses to readings and other course material on a weekly basis. I require students to submit their writing assignments as Google Docs and share them with me so we can edit collaboratively.  Google Sites allows me to manage all these Google Docs files, which, depending on the size of the class, could be close to 200 per semester, effortlessly and efficiently. Moreover, it allows me to consolidate both students’ assignments and content delivery in the same place. In these courses I tend not to use many of the features available in Moodle, such as gradebook, rubrics, and quizzes, therefore Moodle was never my first choice.

How do I use Google Sites?

For each course, I build a simple webpage using the “Classic Sites”. I use this mode because it is the simpler but more flexible builder and allows me to design my site the way that best suits my purposes. I restrict access to only the students in the class, who also have permission to edit.

This is a snapshot of the course I am teaching this semester where I use Sites.

I use the main page of the website to post the body of the schedule of topics organized by class meetings with links to either PDFs or online resources. I find linking and posting course material much easier and faster in Google Sites than in Moodle. Any changes in schedule or announcements can easily be incorporated in the body of the page. In dedicated areas of the main page, I add other resources that students might need for the course. I then create subpages for each student enrolled in the course. Students have complete control over their subpages and over their own Google Docs files, which they can share either just with me or with anybody else in the site. 

On the first day of class I show students how to edit their webpages and divide them into sections, each one devoted to a certain group of assignments.  I ask them to adhere to a naming convention (so that I can easily track what was submitted or not submitted.

Students’ subpages look like the one here

Submitting their work on this customized platform is very easy for the students. They work on their Google Docs and, when they are ready to submit, they follow these simple steps:

  • select Edit mode on subpage
  • write the title of paper and due date under the appropriate category
  • highlight title
  • click on Link icon
  • add shareable link of the Google Docs file into the Web Address Box
  • hit Save

What are the advantages of using Google Sites?

For me there are a number of advantages, in courses of this nature, to use Google Sites over either Moodle or My Drive with separate folders and subfolders for each course.

  1. It prevents My Drive to be flooded with files from students.
  2. It prevents My Drive from having too many folders and subfolders.
  3. Content and students’ work is consolidated into a single separate space, that is saved in My Sites (NOT in My Drive).
  4. All the students’ Google Docs files are easily accessible for revisions and neatly organized.
  5. It is quicker to link content than in Moodle.

If you would like to explore this approach,  G Suite Learning Center provides detailed instructions on how to work with Sites or Lynda.com has a tutorial entitled Google Sites Essential Training by Jess Stratton.

A Handy Trick for Duplicating Google Docs

Faculty often create assignments in which students are asked to complete a worksheet or template. When using Google Docs for this, a common practice is to either make multiple copies of the template and share the copies with individual students , or to give students access to the original document so the students can make the copy themselves. The former option is time consuming while the latter option is risky, as students may make inadvertent edits to the original document.

At a recent NERCOMP event, I picked up a great Google Drive tip from a colleague (credit to Carol Damm of Brandeis University). There is a quick and easy way to make copies of a Google Doc (or Sheet or Slide): by changing the word “edit” to the word “copy” at the end of the URL for a Google Doc, the URL becomes a command to create a duplicate of the original Doc. The modified URL can be pasted into an email to students, or posted on the course Moodle page. A student clicking on the link will be prompted to create a copy of the original Google Doc, which will then be stored in the student’s own Google Drive. That resulting file can be edited by the student, and subsequently printed, saved as a PDF, or shared.

Watch this video to see how it’s done!

Snow day planning…

Due to demand, we are re-publishing this post from earlier in the year!


Did you miss the weatherproofing workshop last week? We focused on three types of activities you can do with your students if you are unable to attend class. Here are just a few ideas we shared. If you want more information or need step-by-step instructions about anything mentioned, contact Diane Creede or Jessica McCullough!

  1. Record mini-lectures or a full lecture. This can be so easy and done on the fly! Record audio directly on PowerPoint slides, or make mini-lectures and share with students. Students can listen/watch from any location, and you can include some of the more participatory ideas below to hold discussion and check for understanding. Technologies we demonstrated are PowerPoint (Insert Audio feature), QuickTime audio/screen capture, Jing, and whiteboard apps such as Educreations.
  2. Hold discussion, collect responses, and continue group work.  Students can participate in discussion and participate in group projects just as they would during class. Use a Moodle Forum to elicit responses to readings or your recorded mini-lectures, or to hold (asynchronous) discussion. Google Docs can be used for group work – ask students to add you as an editor and check in, answer questions, and provide feedback as they progress.
  3. Meet virtually. Have an exam coming up and want to be available to answer questions or hold a review? Hold virtual office hours using a tool such as Zoom. A free license allows for a 40-minute virtual meeting. We have a limited number of Pro licenses that we can distribute for longer meetings. Other options are Google Hangouts or Skype.

Weatherproofing Workshop Recap

*This post was scheduled for later in the day, but we are publishing it now due to the weather!


Did you miss the weatherproofing workshop last week? We focused on three types of activities you can do with your students if you are unable to attend class. Here are just a few ideas we shared. If you want more information or need step-by-step instructions about anything mentioned, contact Diane Creede or Jessica McCullough!

  1. Record mini-lectures or a full lecture. This can be so easy and done on the fly! Record audio directly on PowerPoint slides, or make mini-lectures and share with students. Students can listen/watch from any location, and you can include some of the more participatory ideas below to hold discussion and check for understanding. Technologies we demonstrated are PowerPoint (Insert Audio feature), QuickTime audio/screen capture, Jing, and whiteboard apps such as Educreations.
  2. Hold discussion, collect responses, and continue group work.  Students can participate in discussion and participate in group projects just as they would during class. Use a Moodle Forum to elicit responses to readings or your recorded mini-lectures, or to hold (asynchronous) discussion. Google Docs can be used for group work – ask students to add you as an editor and check in, answer questions, and provide feedback as they progress.
  3. Meet virtually. Have an exam coming up and want to be available to answer questions or hold a review? Hold virtual office hours using a tool such as Zoom. A free license allows for a 40-minute virtual meeting. We have a limited number of Pro licenses that we can distribute for longer meetings. Other options are Google Hangouts or Skype.

Avoiding the Rabbit Hole of Distractions on YouTube: How to Embed YouTube Videos Into Moodle

YouTube is amazing. With nearly 1 billion hours of uploaded video, the site hosts an impressive array of content germane to many topics in my courses. But YouTube is also a rabbit hole of distraction. I’ve gone to YouTube to watch a four-minute video on mitosis and left over an hour later having watched eight videos featuring farm animals attacking humans, nearly 14 minutes of carpool karaoke with Madonna and James Corden, and maybe 12 minutes of Queen at LIVE Aid. Thanks to increasingly savvy logarithms, the opportunities to click on other “suggested” videos are seemingly endless. And then there’s the cesspool of oftentimes caustic user commentary that continues to erode my faith in humanity.

Suffice it to say that sending students (or faculty) to YouTube to watch and think about only one video is like sending my 8-year old to a candy store to do her homework. It’s just not gonna happen. So my challenge has been how to use YouTube content without all of the distractions. My solution, detailed below, is to embed the YouTube video into my Moodle site and to do it such that only the video displays.

Read step-by-step instructions in the document embedded below.

Image credit: Rabbit Hole. By Amanvanasparesort (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Google into Moodle

About a year ago, I shifted my course syllabi to Google Docs as a strategy for more nimbly handling the inevitable hiccups and improvisational changes to scheduled meetings during the semester: snow days; opportunistic class visits by colleagues and other scholars; newly published research addressing course topics; etc..  As a result, any updates to syllabi are immediately available to students and other course participants.  You can read more about this here.

For similar reasons, I’ve since shifted to using Google Docs for all of my lab and other assignment instructions.  Whenever I correct a typo or tweak an assignment parameter, the changes are rendered in real time, and I don’t have to convert the doc into a PDF, upload to Moodle, and delete or replace the old version.  Fewer steps, fewer keystrokes, fewer headaches. Huzzah.

I might even consider shifting my courses entirely to Google Drive – for example, check out Ari Rotramel’s approach – but I’m a huge fan of Moodle’s online submission tools, gradebook, and quickmail features; I find all indispensable to my pursuit of less paperwork, less email, and a streamlined workflow during the semester.  But Google Drive and Moodle can happily play together.  Links to Google Docs, Sheets, and Maps are easily curated on Moodle with other course content and, when properly framed, all of these apps facilitate and enhance student collaborations in ways that are seldom afforded by other software.

Recently, in a moment of glorious nerdiness, I figured out how to take this simpatico relationship one step further, or how to display the contents of a Google Doc in Moodle.  My simple goal was to have my Google Doc syllabus display – not as a link but, rather, the actual contents – near the top of a course Moodle page.  In effect, the syllabus becomes the digital center of all digital content and workflow while retaining its autonomy as a document that can be shared with colleagues or added to a tenure or promotion file.

The path to embedding the Google Doc into Moodle is not overly complicated, but it does require a dive into various menu commands and a minor tweak to some HTML code provided by Google.  For those who take the plunge, here’s a brief video tutorial as well as some step-by-step instructions and notes:

  1. Open up your Google Doc in one tab of your browser and your course Moodle page in another.
  2. Make sure that your Google Doc is shared or, at minimum, viewable by anyone who has the link.
  3. In your Google Doc app, select “File” from the menu bar, and then select “Publish to the web”.  (Make sure you’re selecting from the menu in the Google Docs app and not the upper menu bar that belongs to your browser.)
  4. Click on the “Embed” tab in the window that opens and copy the link. If no code is displayed, press the blue “Publish” button. Copy the code, and then close this window with the “X” in the upper right.
  5. In Moodle, turn editing on, and then select “Edit topic” for one of the major topic sections of your Moodle page.
  6. You might name this section “Syllabus”.
  7. In the Summary box below, select the “<>” button which allows you to edit the HTML source code.
  8. Paste the code you copied from Google.  

Some tips and code for making more screen real estate, making the document editable in Moodle, and for loading up on bookmarked pages in the embedded Google Doc below.

Rubrics for efficiency and structure

*This post was written by Joyce Bennett and Rachel Black

Why use rubrics

We have been using rubrics for the new ConnCourse that we co-designed “Power and Inequality in a Globalized Word.” Joyce first taught the course in the fall of 2016, when she used rubrics for each of the writing assignments and the in-class presentations. She found the rubrics helpful in creating an even set of standards by which to evaluate each work, and it helped her tackle the daunting task of grading more than 50 assignments by streamlining the work, making my time grading more reasonable and focused. Additionally, using rubrics on Moodle allows the instructor to leave specific feedback next to each criteria, which we have found effective for getting students to understand how to improve their work. While it takes time to develop a rubric, the amount of time it saves during grading is well worth it.

How to use rubrics in Moodle

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to create a rubric on a Moodle assignment. Note that Moodle presumes students are submitting the assignment via Moodle. If you prefer paper copies of papers but want to provide digital feedback so that you and the student have access to the feedback, you can still create the rubric but simply ask students to hand in a hard copy of their paper.

  1. In your Moodle course site, but sure you have editing turned on. From there, add an assignment as you would any other assignment.  
  2. When creating the assignment, under “Grade,” look for “Grading Method.” In the drop-down menu, select “rubric.” Once you have arranged everything else you want for the assignment (if it is included in gradebook, feedback types, etc.), click “Save and display.”
  3. On the left hand side of the screen, scroll down to a toolbox called “Assignment administration.” From here, click on “Advanced grading.” A link called “Define Rubric” will appear just below it. Click on that link.
  4. On this page, you can either import a previous rubric by searching for the name of the previously used rubric, or you can create a new one by selecting “Define a new form.”
  5. If defining a new rubric, you will be able to “add criterion” and also “add levels.” Typically, we have found that having more levels of points available to students is better. We recommend having 5 levels for each criteria.

Once you have created your rubric, you can come back and edit it at any time. Be aware that students can see the rubric before they turn the assignment in, so you want to have given this some thought before students begin working on the assignment. Otherwise, you may want to hide the assignment until you are ready for students to consult the rubric.

A few pointers for creating and using rubrics

  • Suggest that students consult the rubric before handing in the assignment. This will help make expectations clear. In addition Rachel has suggested that student download the rubric and have a peer review their assignment using the criteria on the rubric.
  • Be sure that the rubric speaks to all elements of the assignment. The more you can break down your assessment, the more likely this will be helpful to students in understanding their strengths and weakness.
  • Be sure you have enough evaluations points. This is important because you can end up with very low or high grades if you do not add enough variation in points in each category. Keep the final tallies in mind when designing your rubric.
  • Remember that Moodle allows you to add additional comments at the end of the rubric. This is a good opportunity to further personalize feedback.

To each their own

As with any kind of grading, the use of rubrics is relatively personalized. Between the two of us, we each have preferences that work better for us. For example, Rachel likes to include rubric categories that focus on student development of specific skills related to writing and argumentation. She also likes to focus parts of the rubric on the integration of specific concepts related to course materials and discussion. Rachel finds that this helps students focus their work and develop skills that they will use beyond the one course. Joyce likes to take the assignment instructions and break them up into different components of the rubric. She prefers to leave rubrics a little bit flexible so that students can bring innovation and their own interests to the assignments, where appropriate. Joyce finds this approach helps students think about the components their work should include while also keeping them interested because they get to have their own input. It is important to consider your course and assignment objectives when creating your rubric. If you work your objectives into the rubric evaluation, you will be providing your students with a clear framework for what is expected of them.

Image credit: By Cleonard1973 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t Yuck Anyone’s Yum*: Using Google Drive and Moodle for Courses

venceslao_gennaio_castello_buonconsiglio_trento_c1400_detailIn 2017, many faculty use an online platform to provide their students with course content and engage with them in or outside of the classroom.  At Conn, we have two major ways to organize such work – Moodle and Google Drive.  As I started to use Google Drive to organize my work from job applications and budgets to collaborating on conference proposals with colleagues across the country, I was drawn to it as a potential course platform.  Its limits could serve my need for simplicity, and while there have been  updates to Google Docs or Forms, I was able to get my approach to using these tools locked down quickly.  For this post, I have been in conversation with colleagues to identify and share some key elements of Google Drive and Moodle, sharing what draws us to one option over another when considering 1) student communication, 2) organizing content, and 3) grading.

Student Communication
Online professor-student contact has become a regular part of class-related work, from updating students about an assignment or snowday plans to fielding questions about a reading.  Sending out messages efficiently is easily handled by Moodle’s quickmail function that sends a message to the entire class.  Working with Google requires more set-up initially, but provides further flexibility.  At the start of the semester, I set up a student e-mail list through Groups.  One cheat is to use the mail students function on Camelweb to grab the set of e-mails.  Once set up, I can have the ability to use Boomerang to send a message to students later or have a repeat message sent their way.  Other functions to explore on Moodle and Google Drive include chat functions, including chatting on a Google Document as students work through an assignment or collaborate on in-class research.

Organizing Content
With the advent of LMSs and websites, faculty now have the opportunity to organize course content in much more complex manner than a syllabus, texts or reader.  With Moodle’s sections, it is simple to create a readings section so students can easily find upcoming readings and download or print them easily.  With Google Drive, it is possible to move or copy a folder’s worth of readings for students to similarly access.  I appreciate the ability to link readings in my syllabus (a shared Google Doc) either to a reading in a Google Folder or to the library’s site to support the tracking of usage of our online journals.  tudents or I set up folders and documents for collaboration or individual work throughout the course.  

Grading
Moodle and Google offer distinctly different opportunities for grading-related work. Moodle’s Assignment activity includes the ability to create rubrics for grading and the gradebook has a wide array of grade calculation functions, it also has a marking guide that you can use to set categories and provide comments. I prefer using a paper rubric that I either upload from my desktop or edit online for paper assessment.  For exams, I create a spreadsheet rubric that I similarly edit and upload to my students’ folders.  These methods are more or less the same ones that I have used for ten years, allowing me to document and back up my grading process in case there are any points of contention.  Moreover, if I find that I am spending too much time staring at my computer screen, I can print out rubrics and/or papers and grade by hand easily.  For the semester’s-worth of grading, I keep a spreadsheet with an attendance page and a total grade page that simply calculates the percentages I have given to different assignments. The limitation of this approach is that students are not able to keep tabs on what grades and attendance have been recorded for them over the course of the semester through the platform. The Moodle gradebook and Attendance modules offer functionality for those faculty who prefer for their grade records to be more transparent to students, including attendance, rather than asking students to track and calculate the value of their own assignments. Through Google, a professor could also use a shared grading spreadsheet with students that is updated throughout the semester if they wanted to provide similar transparency.

Overall, both platforms have something to offer faculty seeking to streamline their online engagement with students. A final factor that has drawn me to Google Drive is that it has value for students embarking on internships or post-graduation jobs, as they will have at least navigated for a semester this platform and learned how to use some of its key components. Meanwhile, as Moodle is our College-wide Learning Management System (LMS), utilizing this platform ensures that students have more ease accessing all materials from the first day of classes.  

*I think it’s a beautiful edict, on par at least with the Golden Rule, and it simply means that no one in that safe space should attack or tear down what brings joy to someone else and which also doesn’t hurt anyone else.

Thank you for input from Diane Creede, Jessica McCullough, Anthony Graesch, and Lyndsay Bratton!

Swivl toward Lecture Recording

This semester Joe Schroeder is using a Swivl, a robotic mount that holds an iPad or smartphone, to record lectures in Behavioral Neuroscience. With the use of a remote that the presenter wears, the Swivl tracks a moving person and uses the camera on the iPad or smartphone to record. Lectures or presentation are stored and saved in the cloud using Swivl’s cloud service, and shared with students through a link.

Swivl robot
Swivl robot

Why Lecture Record

Last year Joe had a problem: several students were going to miss class but he needed to cover important material. He asked about ways to record his lecture, and we suggested he try the Swivl. He gave it a try, and found the technology easy and convenient to use. This year, due to scheduling difficulties in Behavioral Neuroscience (PSY/BIO 314), he has one student who needs the class but is unable to attend one day a week. Recording the class on this day was the only way that this student could enroll. Remembering the Swivl, he decided to record the Friday lectures.

How it Works – Technology

Joe assigned one student as the class videographer, and this student is responsible for ensuring that the device it turned on, recording, and working throughout the class period. After class, Joe initially downloaded the video, saved it as an .mp4 file, then uploaded that to Moodle (through Kaltura). This process, while simple, was time consuming. More recently, with the introduction of Swivl’s cloud service, which automatically processes the video after recording and provides a link to the video, he simply copies that link and shares it with all students through Moodle. While Swivl provides tools for editing, the integration of slides and video, and other features, Joe does not spend time editing.

Excerpt of Joe's Moodle site, showing links to outside resources, lecture slides, and class recordings.
Excerpt of Joe’s Moodle site, showing links to outside resources, lecture slides, and class recordings.

How it Works – Pedagogy

After a few weeks of recording one day a week, Joe decided to record every class. Initially he had concerns about attendance – would students attend a class they knew would be recorded and could be watched later? He found that this practice did not affect attendance. Students value class time for the interaction with Joe and fellow students, as well as the ability to ask questions and check for understanding – this is a challenging class and expectations are high. In addition, the course does not use a textbook (see When Risks Pay Off in the Classroom), but a collection of resources – an online animated textbook from University of Toronto, simulation software, videos, articles, and more. Students use the recordings as another resource to understand course material.

Final Thoughts and Next Steps

While the full impact of providing class recordings is not yet known, mid-semester feedback from students is positive. Using Swivl is low-effort, but may potentially have a high impact for all students in Behavioral Neuroscience.

Beyond lecture capture, I can imagine additional uses for the Swivl. Students or faculty could use it to practice presentations and review the recording, students could rehearse a performance, then send the video to faculty or peers for feedback.

If you have questions or are interested in exploring ways to record your classes, contact your Instructional Technology liaison.