Introducing Google Course Kit

googlelogoStudents have long been taking advantage of the college’s access to Google Drive for completing course work. Assignments completed in Google Drive, however, could not be easily submitted as assignments…until now. Google has introduced a new plug-in for Moodle that streamlines the submission of student assignments completed using Google Drive. The plug-in allows students to turn in Google Drive files through Moodle, and then allows instructors to grade and provide feedback through the Google Drive interface, using the native commenting features of Google Docs.

We held a short hands-on workshop on Google Course Kit last week, but in case you missed it, check out more detailed instructions on adding Course Kit to your Moodle site. If you need further help or have any questions, please contact a member of the Instructional Technology team.




Handy Time-Saving Tips for Gmail and Google Calendar

I attended Monday’s Talking Teaching on “Office Hours and Email: Connecting with Students Outside of Class.” We mentioned two time-saving tools that faculty might find useful in managing their calendars and email: calendar appointment slots and email canned responses. Below are instructions for using both, pulled from our archives.

Appointment Slots in the Google Calendar

Although Google Calendar has changed slightly since our original post, the process for creating and using appointment slots is similar. One major difference is where to find the link to share with your students. Here are instructions.

1. Begin to create an event on your calendar, but select “Appointment Slot” instead of “Event.” You can then edit the duration of the appointment slots. Save (or if you want to add location and other details, edit that in “More Options”).

2. Share the link to your appointments. To find the link, open the event on your calendar and copy/paste the link for “This calendar’s appointment page” by right-clicking on the link and copying it, or opening it in another tab and copying the URL from the address bar.

Using Canned Responses in Gmail

Do you find yourself typing the same email response over and over again? Use a canned response!  Simply, canned responses allow you to write text one time, save it and insert it over and over within Gmail. Canned responses are very easy to set up and use, take a look!

  1. Enable canned responses in your email. This 45 second video shows you how.
  2. Create and insert canned responses. Here’s the video showing you how. 
  3. Use the time you just gained on more meaningful communication and projects!

Collaborative Reading Online: Workshop Monday!

Are your students reading course materials on laptops or other devices?

Online annotation tools can support students’ close reading of texts in an online environment. These same tools can be used to support collaborative reading where students add annotations, questions, and discussion directly on the texts themselves! Intentional use of social annotation tools make texts come alive for students, create community, increase participation and comprehension, and, as a result, improve learning.

Join us Monday at our workshop, Close Reading Online: Social Annotation and Reading Tools. We’ll look at tools such as, CommentPress, and RefWorks. We will also discuss criteria for selecting tools and consider issues such as privacy and accessibility. Register here, or feel free to drop in!

Introducing “Digital Connecticut College”

Digital Connecticut College Homepage

Yesterday we held a workshop to introduce Digital Connecticut College. Thanks to everyone who attended!

What is Digital Connecticut College?

Digital Connecticut College provides students, faculty, and staff with the opportunity to register a domain name and create a digital presence through various mediums such as blogs, portfolios, and wikis. You can easily install open source applications such as WordPress, MediaWiki, Drupal, Scalar, and Omeka to your own domain.

Why would I use it?

Although are are the beginning stages of rolling this out to the community, we can share some ways faculty, staff, and students are already using Digital Connecticut College.

  • Faculty research website. Use your domain as a space for digital scholarship, or to share your research with a broader community.
  • Online annotation of texts. Upload your course material into an interactive site that allows for student comments, discussion, and annotation. CommentPress and are two available options that we can support.
  • Collaborative class website. Several courses created a class website, sharing the results of their coursework with a wide audience.
  • Weekly writing. Students post reflections based on course readings or films. The site is shared with everyone in the class, and students comment on each other’s posts creating a vibrant online discussion.
  • Small group or individual websites. Students can also share their research or a project by creating their own websites.

How do I get started?

Contact Diane Creede, Lyndsay Bratton, or Jessica McCullough to create your domain and get started! If you have an idea, feel free to contact one of us. We can work with anyone regardless of your experience with technology.

A Student Experience With The Digication Portfolio

This blog post was written by Rigoberto Reyna, who worked as the Instructional Technology Student Assistant last summer. He is a junior and a member of the Social Justice & Sustainability pathway.  In the post, he reflects on the use of an ePortfolio in the thematic inquiry course. Thank you, Rigoberto!

As a sophomore I was introduced to the concept of Pathways. In the Pathway you will ask a lot of questions, discover answers, and piece them together. In order to keep track of your progress,  an online portfolio helps you organize your ideas and thoughts. This is where the Digication portfolio plays its part.

Digication is an online portfolio that allows you to save your animating question and the assignments that you worked on throughout the semester. By having it in one place, you can see how your thinking  evolved with your learning experience.

In my case, I took Professor Garofalo’s Pathway about Social Justice and Sustainability, and the portfolio allowed me to keep track of my initial thoughts on the subject. It was very interesting and shocking to see my portfolio at the end of the semester, because I could not believe how much I changed in just one semester. I then realized that learning and thinking are not something that can be described as linear. I was convinced of this because I added to my Digication portfolio throughout the semester. As I learned new information my views on the subject changed as well. Not only did I see my own changes, but I was also aware of how my fellow classmates dialogued with each other and asked for suggestions.

In the end, we had to create a final presentation for our animating question in the portfolio. We got together in our writing groups and had constructive conversations about our animating question(s). We referred back to the writing samples that we had in our portfolio in order to have evidence for our arguments.

As a rising junior I am aware that my ideas and thoughts digital portfolio will definitely change by the time I am a senior. I did learn that Digication is a very creative tool that allows you to express your ideas in a website-like portfolio that facilitates the expression of your thoughts to your classmates and professor.

If you would like learn more about digital portfolios, don’t hesitate contact me. 

Most Frequently Asked…Moodle and the First Week of Classes

After the first full week of classes, let’s look at some of the most frequently asked Moodle questions:

1. Where are my Moodle sites?

This question pops up every year from students and faculty alike. Students frequently look to Moodle to get a jump on their assignments or to get a preview of the syllabus before the class meets. Oftentimes, a student will log in and find that one or more of their courses are not listed and be concerned that something is wrong with their course registration. Most often, though, the course Moodle site just hasn’t been made visible to students yet by the faculty member. Students can contact the IT Service Desk for confirmation as to whether a site should be visible, or look to their instructor for guidance.

When the same question comes from a faculty member, the most common reason for the problem is an outdated browser bookmark. Each academic year, Information Services installs a new, updated version of Moodle, which is located at a slightly different URL. Using will always get you to the current year, but if you’ve bookmarked Moodle, you may be looking at a previous year.

2. How do I add someone to my course site?

All students will automatically have access to any Moodle site for the courses in which they are registered. However, faculty often need Moodle access for other students who are not registered for the course, either because those students are serving as teaching assistants or tutors, or because the student is taking an Independent Study and is using much of the same material. Anyone with a Connecticut College username can be added to a Moodle site, using the instructions here. Depending on the role selected, users can be given student-level or teacher-level access to any site.

3. How do I email all my students through Moodle?

Moodle has a couple of different ways of sending email messages to students, each with their own advantages. One way is to post a message to the Announcements forum that is located at the top of the page on all Moodle sites. Anything posted to the Announcements forum will be emailed to all the currently-listed participants in a course. One advantage to this method is that all posts remain in the forum for the duration of the course. This allows any students who may add the class later, after a message was posted, to be able to go back and review earlier messages. Any student can look back at the Announcements forum to see any post, even if they have deleted the email from their inbox.

Another method of emailing students is to add the Quickmail block to a course site. Look here for instructions on setting up and using the Quickmail block. The benefit of the Quickmail block is that it allows flexibility in who an email goes to – instructors can select all members of the class, individual students, or groups of students.

Open Educational Resources: OER Explorers and Informational Libguide

The headlines are frightening: “Student Debt Nears One Trillion Dollars,” “College Costs Out of Control,” and “Betrayed by the Dream Factory.” These are not Hollywood blockbusters, but articles written in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and about the skyrocketing cost of a college education.

A steep increase in textbook prices is a major factor in actual costs to students.  A 2015 analysis of Bureau of Labor Consumer Price Index (CPI) data found that textbook prices rose by 1041% from 1977 to 2015. The fears of increasing debt are shared by college students across the U.S. Connecticut College student, Jacee Cox in an article in The College Voice described the “dark and frightening online search” that revealed that in 5 years college tuition will increase to $86,787 per year.

Here at Conn, faculty and staff are working to address the issue of textbook costs by creating programming and material about open educational resources. Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or have been released with an open license. In June 2018, librarians at the College formed a group called “OER Explorers” in order to explore programs, funding sources, and support models for adopting Open Educational Resources at Connecticut College.  We also considered challenges and roadblocks for faculty and recommended a grant initiative and implementation plan. OER Explorers are advocates for open and accessible course materials at the College and work to share their knowledge of OER with colleagues across campus.

There is now a dedicated library staff member, Ariela McCaffrey, who will act as point person for faculty, offering consultations and workshops for faculty and staff, developing ways to promote OER, and getting support from stakeholders. A presentation entitled “OER and Your Course: Integrating open content into the curriculum” will be held in the Advanced Technology Lab, Lower Level, Shain Library from 3-4pm on October 22, 2018.

Find more information on the Open Educational Resources at Connecticut College libguide.

Please contact me if you have questions about OER!

Ariela McCaffrey
Research Support and Outreach Librarian | 860-439-2103
Shain 226

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 has a tutorial entitled Google Sites Essential Training by Jess Stratton.

Appointment Slots in the New Google Calendar

With advising week fast approaching we’ve been getting questions about using appointment slots in the new Google Calendar. It still works in the same way that we outlined in our original post, but finding the link to share with your students is different. Here are instructions.

1. Begin to create an event on your calendar, but select “Appointment Slot” instead of “Event.” You can then edit the duration of the appointment slots. Save (or if you want to add location and other details, edit that in “More Options”).

2. Share the link to your appointments. To find the link, open the event on your calendar and copy/paste the link for “This calendar’s appointment page” by right-clicking on the link and copying it, or opening it in another tab and copying the URL from the address bar.