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Teach Feast 2014: Canvas December 8, 2014

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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On Nov 21, the Friday before Thanksgiving, the Teaching and Technology Collaborative (TeachTech) hosted a one day series of workshops. These are my notes on the sessions I attended.
The University is planning to go to a vendor supplied LMS soon. Canvas is the planned replacement, and several classes were/are piloting it in fall and winter terms. It is part of the package for joining UNIZEN. Organization-wide learning analytics and object repositories are also part of that, and can be incorporated into Canvas. It is not a replacement for CTools Project sites.

Some basics:

Canvas has features instead of Tools. They are integrated, so you don’t get a choice of which ones to add to your site. However, if you don’t have any content, the students won’t see the feature. You will see all the features, but the ones without content will be light grey. There are also 3rd party plugins, like Piazza, which you can choose to add.
The items, whether it’s an image in a quiz question or an entire learning module, is called an object.
When you first log in to Canvas, you’ll have a chance to update your profile. Part of your profile is your notification center, where you can control what sort of notifications you get, and with what frequency. It has finer control than CTools. You can get back to it latter by clicking on your name in the yellow highlighted links at the top.
The help button in the upper right actually has useful and normally up-to-date documentation. There’s also a link to the user community, which is often helpful. If you think of a feature, you should check there first to see if someone else has also requested that feature. If neither of those solve your problem, contact 4help.
The calendar is global: all your Canvas sites employ it, and all deadlines from all sites are displayed on it. Similarly, Grades lets you (and your students) access the grades and learning outcomes for each course you’re associated with from a central location. The Learning Outcomes can be shared (anonymously) with the other UNIZEN schools, so you can compare your class with other schools. You can also get to those features for each class from within the course site.
Commons is a organization-wide object repository. Instructors from any UNIZEN school, including you, can create and share objects. You can also use any object in Commons, so before building a new learning module or image, check there. It could save you a lot of time.

Course Specific information

Where you create a new course, there will be a “Next Steps” link at the bottom to guide you through the typical things you need to do when creating a course.

People can reply to the Announcements, so it’s no longer a one-way only communication tool. You can attach images, files, video, links to assignments, etc. You can also schedule it to go out at some latter time.

Modules let you organize your content, like the Lessons tool did in CTools (Lessons is still in pilot mode, so you may not have seen it).

Conferences uses the Big Blue Button service to do actual teleconference type of session. It is not as easy to use as BlueJeans, and not as powerful as Adobe Connect, but you can run and record from inside Canvas.

People is where you control things like adding participants and creating groups. The roster will automatically be added for you, so you’ll only add people like observers and assistants. Canvas does NOT support friend accounts at this time.

The syllabus , gradebook, and Calendar are built automatically as you add things to the site.  You can add extra material (like learning outcomes or a grading scheme) but you can’t hide or remove things.

Files is the canvas equivalent of CTools Resources. Pages allows you to create webpages, or embed websites in your Canvas site.

All graded items go into assignments, no matter which feature you add them in. You can control how the assignment is presented and recorded. For file uploads, you can restrict file types, or even the tools (e.g. only accept submissions through Google Drive). You can also have ungraded assignments.


Grading can be done from within the assignments tool, in the “Speed Grader”.  It records who wrote a comment, so you or your GSI can have a dialog with the student. You can also record video comments instead of annotating. Students are able to download and view the annotated assignment.
I can’t tell yet if you can import files from someplace like E&E scantron results.
By default, each grade goes to the students AS YOU ENTER THE SCORE. This is really inconvenient for large classes, or complex assignments. When you begin to grade, you can Mute Assignment and it won’t notify students. When you are done, don’t forget to un-mute to have it send the notifications.

Teach Feast 2014: Assessments December 5, 2014

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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On Nov 21, the Friday before Thanksgiving, the Teaching and Technology Collaborative (TeachTech) hosted a one day series of workshops. These are my notes on the sessions I attended.

This session provided a brief overview of some of the alternatives to CTools for student assessment. It covered Google Forms, Qualtrics, and Canvas quizzes. There is a comparison chart at the end.

Google Forms

All faculty and students have a Google Drive account, so you can be sure you and your students have access. You can force survey participants to login, collect use names, and tie it to class lists, so it’s easy to restrict who sees it and ensure you know who responded. There are also anonymous options for polling. You can even add a drive folder to your CTools site (but that means everyone in your CTools site will be able to access the results!).
There are multiple options for display, including emailing it, providing a link to the form on the web, or embedding it in CTools (very handy for LessonBuilder.)
Creation is very easy, and the interface is easy to use. However, it is a basic form: no branching based on responses, no
Grading can be prohibitive unless your class is small, or you are clever with analysis software. Responses are recoded in a Google sheet, which you can export as a csv and analyze/grade using other software like Excel or Mathmatica.


Everyone at the university can create a Qualtrics account for free. You can force participants to log in through Cosign, collect usernames, and do anonymous polls. It can be tied to a class list. It is possible to embed a survey in CTools, but that function is still in pilot mode, and we experienced some load problems with only a dozen simtaneous users. They have only just started on the Canvas interface, but it should be coming.

The interface is not quick and easy to use, buts it’s not terribly difficult either. There are a lot of options for everything, but the interface is well laid out and clear.

Qualtrics offers a lot of options for everything. There are many different question types, and many options within question types. You can embed short videos, images, animations, and other objects within both the questions and answer. There are also non-question objects. Objects can be grouped, and each group can be displayed on a separate page. You can also create triggers, so the next thing the respondent sees can be determined by their answer. For example, you can have an introduction screen, then a screen with a video, then a question. If the student gets the answer right, the survey ends. If they get it wrong, you can open up a new set of questions to guide them to the correct answer.

Probably the best thing about Qualtircs is that it can grade for you. The software is designed to enable quick processing of surveys with a large respondent group, which means it needs a mathematical way to represent responses (think about the results from teaching evaluations). However, instead of giving a scale of 1 – 5, you can give each response a different point value, so you can have a correct answer worth 1 point, and all the other worth 0, or you can do 2 points for the best answer, one for the good distractors, and 0 for the throwaway. Text based questions will have to be hand graded. At this time, you have to download the results, process the file, and upload it to the gradebook.


There will be a separate post about this, so I’ll keep it short here.
The website is umich.instructure.com/

Canvas is a Leaning Management System, so it is a replacement for CTools, including Assignments and Test Center. It also has (or will have) plugins for other systems, including Google and Qualtrics.

Canvas considers all scored items “Assignments”, and all assignments go to the gradebook. In CTools, you can create “tests” that aren’t sent to the gradebook, like a practice exam, but the students can try it and see how they do. You can also create an assignment that requires the student to do something, but becomes part of another item, like requiring an idea, outline, and rough draft for a project, but only the final score actually gets sent to the gradebook. Canvas won’t allow that.

For added security, you can “Require access code”, which is essentially a password for the assignment. You can also set an IP, so you could make them use a specific computer or set of computers.

Comparing the Options

Google Qualtrics Qualtrics in CTools Canvas
Authenticated/user name collected
Anonymous no not sure
Auto Grading no no some
Uses class rosters no no
uses MCommunity groups not sure not sure not sure
can embed in email no not sure
flexible format/ triggers no some

Teach Feast: MOOCs November 26, 2014

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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On Nov 21, the Friday before Thanksgiving, the Teaching and Technology Collaborative (TeachTech) hosted a one day series of workshops. These are my notes on the sessions I attended.

This session was presented by the Office of Digital Education & Innovation (DEI)
There are some obvious reasons to do a MOOC:
it raises awareness of the University in general and the instructor in particular.
It builds community focused on the U, but not restricted to Michigan, or even to the US.
It can act as a sort of audition for prospective students: if they enjoy a MOOC and think the instructor was good, they may decide to come to the University for the chance to work with that instructor.
It generates revenue (students who choose to get verified pay a fee, and a fraction of that fee comes to the University and the instructor).
There are some not so obvious reasons as well:
There are stories from students who took a MOOC, and it gave them the confidence to go back to school or change careers.
It broadens the diversity of students the instructor gets to interact with (this is most helpful in smaller scale MOOCs, where interacting with students is still feasible.) Some instructors who travel hold office hours in the cities they travel to in order to meet their students.
Re-working the course to make it into a MOOC significantly improves the residential experience as well. It essentially forces the instructor to adopt a flipped classroom model, provides some resources to enable the development of new materials, and includes additional analytics and people to assess the effectiveness of the new resources.
There are some reasons NOT to do a MOOC
If you don’t have the personality for it! (you must be comfortable with the camera, the flipped classroom model, and the idea that what you are doing isn’t a lecture, it’s a screen art.)
If you don’t want to commit the large up-front time to develop the materials.
If you’re just jumping on the bandwagon.
Before developing a MOOC, you should consider the following:
Who are the learners you want to reach?
Is a MOOC the way to reach them, or is some other digital learning environment better?
Will what you want to do enhance the learner environment?
When dealing with a class of thousands, peer assessment is the only way to manage assessment. However, relying on peers to judge your work can be very frustrating. They may grade too harshly, or mis-interpret instructions. They may not take it serially, or finish the assessment.
MOOCs have a low completion rate. In some cases, it’s because people only stay in as long as they need to get what they want. You may want to consider a more flexible type of digital learning environment if that is a problem for you.
If you think you might want to develop a MOOC, DEI can help you. They have a “venture fund” to help instructors develop materials. There is a $10k stipend for development, and once the MOC is running, you can get paid through revenue sharing (though you should be aware that the amount of revenue varies widely.)
After you apply to develop a MOOC, the dean has to approve it. Once approved, it typically takes about 4 months to complete all of the development. The timeframe largely depends on the instructor though. They’ve had people work VERY hard and very long hours for 2 weeks, and they’ve had others who took almost 2 years.

Teach-Feast 2014: BYO device November 25, 2014

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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On Nov 21, the Friday before Thanksgiving, the Teaching and Technology Collaborative (TeachTech) hosted a one day series of workshops. These are my notes on the sessions I attended.

The Bring Your Own Device session was a roundtable, sharing ideas about what people are doing with devices around campus. Here are some highlights.

Using the conditional/branching abilities in Qualtrics to design a responsive assessment. Instructors can embed materials live video in a survey, then ask for responses. The next set of material the student is presented with depends on the response.

The file size allowed in Qualtrics is limited, so Lesson Builder (in CTools) was discussed briefly as an alternative.

For those who don’t want to do assessment, maybe just foster discussion, Twine could be a useful tool. It allows users to incorporate many different types of materials, not only images, text and video, but also variables and conditional logic to assemble “interactive, nonlinear stories.” It is free for anyone to download and use, and it generates a website that you’ll need to host.

BlueJeans is an easy to use conferencing tool. It can tie into telecom equipment like a Polycom, a webcam, or a regular old phone. The video and audio are synchronous, but on different bands, so you can still get clear audio even if you bandwidth is too poor to transmit video. The biology department has used it during class, so the professor and a researcher can work in a small lab while a large class watches AND can respond to the professor as they normally would. Screensharing allows the professor to switch between showing the lab and the data processing or a powerpoint slide. (you still have to have someone in the lecture hall to run the iClicker software if you want that.)

As an FYI, may departments around the University, including the libraries and Language Resource Center, keep a regular count of the number of people using the facility on an hourly basis. If you see students wandering around with iPads or clipboards, making notes, they are probably doing the hourly headcount.


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