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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

Enriching Scholarship 2014 – Google Apps in CTools June 4, 2014

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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Enriching Scholarship is “a week of free workshops, discussions, and seminars… for instructional faculty and staff” at the University of Michigan. On Thursday I attended a session on using Google Drive and Calendar in CTools. I am also part of the pilot. Members of the Astronomy Department can check it out on the ASTRO 000 sandbox site. 

Currently, these tools are in Pilot mode, but they expect to release them in fall. If you want to see them (or anything else on the site) the way your students see them, creating a friend account and adding it to your site is highly recommended.

CTools should be a hub for students and faculty to access and organize their tools and materials. To that end, the developers have started trying to bring other tools, like Google Calendar and Drive, into CTools. They chose these tools as priorities because when students were polled about what they wanted, they overwhelmingly asked for Google Calendar.

Google Calendar

Please note that putting both the Google Calendar and the Schedule tool on a single site is not recommended.

If you add the calendar to your site, your students should automatically have access to it in their Google Calendar under the Other Calendars section. If they hide it from their list, they can get it back in the calendar settings. Also, it can’t be hidden from CTools, so they view it there. They (and you) can also control the notifications under the settings, but don’t forget that the general settings are over-ridden by event specific settings. You may want to save the reminders for important events, like exams, and let them set their own homework reminders.

The calendar should show up in your list under “My Calendars.” Just like your students, you can use settings to change whether or not it is displayed, set default notifications, etc. You will always have access to it through CTools.

You can only have one calendar per site, and there are no group-level permissions (so no group-specific deadlines). Also, be aware that at this time, friend accounts cannot actually open the event and get the details.

Currently, it works with the Assignments tool, so when you create an assignment, you can check “Add due date to schedule” and it will put the deadline on the calendar. They are also working on integrating it with the sign-up tool (currently in stealth mode.) Test Center is likely to be the next priority after that, but probably not in time for fall. You can of course manually add events to the calendar too.

Students should be able to “invite” the calendar to an event, so you can use it . You control the settings for what the calendar does with the invitation, which could include setting the calendar to auto-decline all invitations.

You can export/import events from one calendar to another, just like a regular Google Calendar.


As with Calendar, you get one root folder, and there are no group level permissions. Anything put in the Drive folder for your CTools site is automatically shared with everyone on the site. Sharing permissions are at the folder level only, not document level, so be aware that if you give edit permission to the folder, that means the students can edit every document in that folder!

The big advantage of course is that you can access it from your Drive, including your desktop application, so you can write an assignment on the bus, save it in your drive folder, and it will automatically be added to the CTools site when you get an internet connection. No need to revise it locally, then log in to CTools and up lead the new version!

Since it is tied to Drive, each document has a URL, so you can attach it to something in Assignments or Test Center (just remember, it’s there for the students to see!)


That brings to an end all my notes from this year’s Enriching Scholarship! I hope you found them useful.

Enriching Scholarship 2014 – Kickstart your ePortfolio May 21, 2014

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Enriching Scholarship is “a week of free workshops, discussions, and seminars… for instructional faculty and staff” at the University of Michigan. On Friday I co-hosted a session on ePortfolios. 

Most of the session was spent brainstorming what should go into an ePortfolio and planning it out. The end of the presentation has tips for using Google Sites.


Enriching Scholarship 2014 – CTools Hidden Treasures II May 20, 2014

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Enriching Scholarship is “a week of free workshops, discussions, and seminars… for instructional faculty and staff” at the University of Michigan. On Wednesday I attended a session on CTools new and underused tools by Jeff Zeigler. CTools in the U-M implementation of the Sakai learning management system (LMS). If that’s gibberish to you, this post probably isn’t useful.

 Joinable link

If you have a project site that is joinable, you can create a link to invite users to join your site. Simply take the orignal site url and add /join in the middle. The original url looks something like https://ctools.umich.edu/portal/site/<siteid&gt;. The joinable link looks like https://ctools.umich.edu/join/portal/site/<siteid&gt;. 

Note that only users with uniqnames or friend accounts that already exist in CTools will be able to use this link. They are working on an “invitation” that would create a friend account if it doesn’t exist.

To make the site joinable: In Site Info, under Manage Access, choose “Allow anyone to join the site with valid login id.”

Sharing materials across sites

If you use the same materials on several sites, you can place it under Resources in My Workspace. The best practice is to create a public folder in your resources folder, and make sure it is shared with the world.

Add a Site Icon

The site Icon is at the top of the navigation menu on the left side. You can change this to something to make your site easily identifiable to the users. An image size of 120×80 is optimal. Place the image either in the Site Resources, or in the Public folder in Resources under My Workspace. From the Actions drop-down menu for the image, choose Edit Details. Click “Select URL (for copying)” next to Web address (URL) under the File Details section to copy the URL of the image. Go to Site Info, Edit site information, paste url into the box  labeled “Icon URL.”


Some documents can be printed directly from CTools. From the Actions drop-down menu for the image, choose Print. It doesn’t work with all documents types. ALso, it’s a new feature, and still has a few bugs.

Special templates

Site templates are useful if you repeatedly create the same basic sites. Templates contain a basic set of tools and resources. There are a few special templates too. The Listserve project only displays home and help. User can receive emails from the site without having their email address revealed. However, it does reveal the sender’s address if users send to the site or reply to a message. You don’t need the email archive enabled to send & receive email from the site. The HIPAA template is a compliant site that can be audited at any time.


In the polls tool, responses are always anonymous. The user data, including the reference number, is not stored. Because of that, multiple answers are possible.

Embedding YouTube videos

YouTube changes the embed code regularly. This is the best method to use as of May 2014.

Find the video you want to use on YouTube. Below the video, click Share, then click Embed. A box will open with a code snippet. Copy that embed code.

Go to the CTools site you want to embed int in,  or to My Workspace. In Resources, under the Add dropdown menu for the folder you want to place the video in, select Create HTML page. In the upper left corner of the WYSIWYG editor, click Source to switch to the source code view. Paste the embed code here and save. You now have a page within CTools with the video embedded in it. To use the video elsewhere (e.g. in a test or on the homepage), Select Edit Details from the Actions dropdown menu, then copy the URL. You can now paste the URL into the Web Content tool, into the Worksite Information box on the site homepage, or into the attachments field in Test Center or Assignments.

Images and Video in Test Center

To hide an image or video, create the HTML page in My Workspace instead of in the Site Resources and share it to test from there. Students won’t be able to browse to it. Just to make sure, test it using a friend account.

Lesson Builder

This is an powerful and big tool, deserving of its own separate post.


This is still in stealth mode, so it must be requested. It lets you post anything you can put in an Excel CSV. The first column of the CSV needs to be the uniqname. The rest of the columns can be anything else: grades, comments on a project, group assignments, etc.

Comming Soon

The following tools are currently in stealth mode, but should are available soon.


Aggregates sites into your MyWorkspace in a more intuitive way. Allows push notification.

Sign-up tool

Allow students to sign up for things like office hours

Page order tool

Available on project sites now. Use with caution – students learn the names and order of the tools so changes can result in confusion.  This allows the site owner to reorder pages, change their name, or hide tools.