You are currently browsing Justin Henry’s articles.

This May, Blackboard @ UVM will be getting an upgrade that will deliver some brand new features and greatly improve a few of the existing ones. We’ll be posting more about these changes in the coming weeks, but here are a few highlights.

New Features

Test Access Log

The Test Access Log allows instructors to see exactly what students clicked on in an exam. This provides a much clearer view into what happens during an assessment.  

Retention Center

The Retention Center provides an easy way for instructors to discover, track, and communicate with students in their course who are at risk. Here’s an example of what the retention center looks like.  

Updates to Existing Tools

Discussion Board

The Discussion Board tool has been redesigned for an improved experience. Here are a few of the new features:

  • Instructors can require students to post to a discussion before seeing other students’ posts.
  • Posts made by forum managers and moderators will contain the user’s course role and forum role.
  • All of the posts in a thread will be visible at the same time on one page.
  • When replying to a post, the content editor used to write a response appears on the same page, in the context of the discussion.

Here’s a video about the new Discussion Board interface.

Text Editor

This upgrade brings a complete replacement of the text (content) editor—the tool used for writing announcements, items, folder descriptions, etc.—and has many improved features! The new editor presents a simpler interface with a more consistent results. Here’s a sneak peak of the new Content Editor.

Bug Fixes and More

Blackboard will also be receiving a number of bug fixes and small behind-the-scenes improvements. Stay tuned for more information and opportunities to participate in hands-on demonstration sessions.

The CTL is taking steps to test and install several textbook publisher add-ons for Blackboard. These add-ons allow faculty to link their courses to externally hosted publisher content and interactive tools. For example, an instructor might use the tool to give students access to reading materials and to take quizzes on a publisher’s site. The results of those quizzes can be automatically sent back into their Grade Center in Blackboard.

Publisher add-ons will be tested and evaluated during the Summer 2014 term and made available to the general community for the start of the Fall 2014 term. During the summer evaluation period, a protocol for evaluating these publisher tools will be developed. The initial add-ons to be installed will be selected based on past requests and include tools from McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Carnegie Mellon University, among others.

Blackboard Organizations logoUVM licenses a Bb add-on tool that allows individual colleges and organizational units to create and manage course-like “organizations” in Bb. Example uses of these spaces might include:

  • Providing collaborative environments for Residential Learning Communities and student clubs or interest groups. 
  • Delivering training courses for faculty, staff, and students to ensure compliance with policies and regulations addressing safety, privacy, or any number of subjects. 
  • Creating work spaces and tools for faculty wishing to collaborate with colleagues who are otherwise not affiliated with UVM.

Organizations use different nomenclature in some ways (i.e instructors are listed as “Leaders”, and students are labeled as “Participants”), but otherwise are functionally equivalent to courses. Organizations are created individually by an administrator (who is assigned by the college) instead of being created and populated by the registrar.

Getting started

Colleges wishing to create these organization spaces will need to identify someone who will be responsible for creating and managing organizations in Bb for the college. An email from the Dean’s or Director’s office to blackboard@uvm.edu indicating the primary administrator will be enough to get started. Once we have that information, we will create the administrative space for this person, and work with them to provide as much instruction, training, and support as is needed.

Managing organizations

Managing organizations is relatively straightforward:

  • The administrator will be trained and supported by UVM’s Bb administrator. Training is not complex – at most a one-hour conversation is all that is needed. 
  • The percentage of FTE involved depends on how extensively the college makes use of the tools (i.e. how many organizations the college decides to create). 
  • Administrators will be required to follow protocols in terms of naming convention. Training and instruction is provided to identify these conventions. 
  • Tasks associated with this role require using a web interface to create organizational spaces. Participants normally self-enroll in these spaces, so enrollment management is minimal or non-existent. While these are not highly technical tasks, the person managing the organizations should be comfortable with computers and learning new applications.

How to tell if your college is using non-credit organizations

If you feel you have a use for a space like this, contact blackboard@uvm.edu explaining what you’d like to do, and we will direct you to the administrator for your college. If your college or unit is not using organizations, we can work with you and your Dean’s/Director’s office to identify possible next steps.

On December 19th, UVM’s Blackboard system will be upgraded to version 9.1.9.

What will I have to do?

Aside from the normal end-of-term backups and course management tasks, you won’t have to do anything at all to prepare for this upgrade. The system will be upgraded “in-place,” which means that there is no need for migrating or moving materials and data to something new.

What’s New? What’s Changed? 

Most changes to this version affect the “look and feel” of the application. This means that the daily use won’t be that different from what you’re used to. That said, here are a few notable changes and additions.

  • Contextual chevron menus are hidden until you move your mouse over them. This is perhaps the largest functional change, however it is mostly aesthetic, since the use of this content hasn’t really changed.
  • Colors, typography, and overall aesthetic design has changed. While these might be the first thing you’ll notice, the changes here will be the least in your way. The aesthetic changes should make aspects of getting around your course easier, with improvements to readability and navigation. 
  • Less clicks to get from point A to point B. Speaking of navigation, this version advertises less steps to get to different parts of a course. For example, you can now jump from one course to another without having to go back to the “My Blackboard” tab.

Where do I find out more about this? Can I test  
drive this new version?

For more information about these upcoming changes, and to get a sneak preview of the new version, take a look at the FAQ on the CTL website. 

We’ve come to expect innovative ideas from CHNM and this week has been no exception. Funded by a grant from the NEH, the One Week/One Tool project’s intent was to bring together twelve practitioners in the digital humanities to decide on, and develop, a useful tool. The project was announced in June 2010 and the event was held in late July. True to the premise, Anthologize was delivered at the end of the One Week. There were several finalists that we hope will be developed in future.
Anthologize is a plugin for the WordPress blog application. It allows one to collect their own blog posts, or import blog posts from others, combine them, and produce a text. Currently the text formats are ePub, PDF, TEI, and RTF. An active community has sprung up around the project, contributing bug reports and feature suggestions. Work will continue on what promises to be a simple but useful tool.
There are several educational uses that immediately spring to mind:
1) Bringing together class blogs from a course
2) Collecting individual student’s blog posts as a ‘takeway’ for students
3) As an assignment or class project, having students search and compile posts on a topic
4) For organizations, an easy way to compile news and updates from the year as a document for use in applying for, or continuing, grant funding
5) Using WordPress as a drafting space, then compiling the results as a TEI document for forther markup and processing (Your WordPress postings do not have to be publically posted: you can build Anthologize documents from drafts)
6) Teaching students the importance of creating their materials digitally, especially using standards like TEI. Digital, done right, means multiple opportunities for repurposing.
7) Pulling together blog postings for a quick ebook that can be downloaded to your ereader device for offline reading.
8) Building course packs or readers of relevant articles
9) Building a CV or portfolio of your own work, or teaching your students to do the same for their own eportfolios
I’m sure we will all be thinking of more as the program develops. Meanwhile, here is a short video of Anthologize in action. It’s done without audio overlay as a way to show how easy it is to use, though I’ve also highlighted some of the current bugs that are already being addressed.
Unnarrated Screencast of Anthologize
If you are at UVM and would like to try it, contact me and I’d be happy to get you started (hope.greenberg@uvm.edu, Center for Teaching and Learning, UVM).

The CCP and CTL are pleased to bring Dr. Mary Meares, Assistant Professor, University of Alabama to UVM on April 1, 2010 for two workshops. Dr. Meares taught intercultural and organizational communication in the U.S. and Japan and has consulted for educational, corporate, and public service organizations in the areas of intercultural transitions, team building, and conflict. Her research focuses on intercultural groups, virtual teams, diversity in the workplace, and perceptions of voice.
Two workshops are offered:

  • Culture, Communication, and Technology: Working with Culturally Diverse Students in the Online Environment, 2 – 4:30 pm on 4/1 (for faculty)
  • Culture’s Role in Computer Mediated Communication: Checklist for
    Culturally Competent Perspectives,
    10 am – 12:00 pm (for information and technology staff)
  • For more information and to register please go to http://www.uvm.edu/ctl/events

Congratulations to the 2009 – 2010 Faculty Fellows! We are pleased to have such an interdisciplinary faculty cohort:

  • Rocki-Lee DeWitt, Professor, School of Business Administration
  • Tyler Doggett, Assistant Professor, Philosophy
  • Nancy Hayden, Associate Professor, School of Engineering
  • Thomas Hudspeth,Professor, Environmental Program, RSENR
  • Laurie Kutner, Library Associate Professor, Bailey Howe-Info & Instruction
  • Annika Ljung-Baruth, Lecturer, English
  • Ernesto Mendez, Assistant Professor, Plant & Soil Science
  • Donald S. Ross, Research Associate Professor, Director of the Agricultural Testing Lab, Lecturer, Plant & Soil Science
  • Larry Rudiger, Lecturer, Psychology
  • Hollie Shaner-McRae, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Nursing
  • Leon Walls, Assistant Professor, Education
  • Qingbin Wang, Associate Professor, Community Development & Applied Economics
  • Richard Watts, Research Center Administrator, Research Assistant Professor
    RSENR, Transportation Research Center, Com Dev & Applied Economics
  • Beverley Wemple, Associate Professor, Geography
  • Bob Winkler, Lecturer, Continuing Ed
  • Alexander Wurthmann, Lecturer, Chemistry

The UVM Sustainability Fellows Program announces its first Call for Applications. This program seeks to engage faculty from a variety of disciplines to incorporate principles of environmental sustainability into UVM’s Curriculum. We seek to develop a learning community – a multidisciplinary cohort engaged in a yearlong exploration of sustainability, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and collaboration.
Applications are due Sept. 30th. Click here for more information.
This program is presented by UVM’s Environmental Program, Center for Teaching and Learning, The Office of Sustainability, The Greenhouse Residential Learning Community and in partnership with Shelburne Farms.

News flash: The Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that PowerPoint is over-used and boring. This is not exactly leading edge news, but an article by Jeffrey Young (“When Computers Leave Classrooms, So Does Boredom” ) July 24, 2009.
http://chronicle.com/article/Teach-Naked-Effort-Strips/47398/ takes another look at the use, or non-use, of various technologies inside (and outside) the classroom.

While the first section of the article might lead the reader to assume that IT has no place in the classroom, the argument is not quite that simple. Rather, as many of us have been aware of for years, the challenge is to find where technology enhances learning and where it detracts from it. The questions raised by the article continue to be timely: how do we navigate between student expectations and student needs? how do we make in-class time engaging and how do we make out of class time support what happens in the classroom?  how do we keep up with funding the necessary infrastructure? and, most importantly, how do we make time to learn, or support the learning of, the ever-shifting technologies that could enhance learning?

Summarizing quotes:

“José A. Bowen, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts, has challenged his colleagues to “teach naked” — by which he means, sans machines. More than anything else, Mr. Bowen wants to discourage professors from using PowerPoint, because they often lean on the slide-display program as a crutch rather than using it as a creative tool. Class time should be reserved for discussion, he contends, especially now that students can download lectures online and find libraries of information on the Web.”

“A study published in the April issue of British Educational Research Journal found that 59 percent of students in a new survey reported that at least half of their lectures were boring, and that PowerPoint was one of the dullest methods they saw.”

“Mr. Bowen is part of a group of college leaders who haven’t given up on that dream of shaking up college instruction. Even though he is taking computers out of classrooms, he’s not anti-technology. He just thinks they should be used differently — upending the traditional lecture model in the process.”

“Here’s the kicker, though: The biggest resistance to Mr. Bowen’s ideas has come from students, some of whom have groused about taking a more active role during those 50-minute class periods. The lecture model is pretty comfortable for both students and professors, after all, and so fundamental change may be even harder than it initially seems, whether or not laptops, iPods, or other cool gadgets are thrown into the mix.”

“His philosophy is that the information delivery common in today’s classroom lectures should be recorded and delivered to students as podcasts or online videos before class sessions. To make sure students tune in, he gives them short online multiple-choice tests.”

“So what’s left to do during class once you’ve delivered your lecture? Introduce issues of debate within the discipline and get the students to weigh in based on the knowledge they have from those lecture podcasts, Mr. Bowen says. “If you say to a student, We have this problem in Mayan archaeology: We don’t know if the answer is A or B. We used to all think it was A, now we think it’s B. If the lecture is ‘Here’s the answer, it’s B,’ that’s not very interesting. But if the student believes they can contribute, they’re a whole lot more motivated to enter the discourse, and to enter the discipline.”

“To encourage the kind of technology use Mr. Bowen did want, the school gave every professor a laptop and set up support so they could create their own podcasts and videos.”

“‘Strangely enough, the people who are most resistant to this model are the students, who are used to being spoon-fed material that is going to be quote unquote on the test,’ says Mr. Heffernan. ‘Students have been socialized to view the educational process as essentially passive. The only way we’re going to stop that is by radically refiguring the classroom in precisely the way José wants to do it.’”

“‘Initial response is generally negative until students start to understand and see how they learn under this new system,’ says Glenn Platt, a professor of marketing at Miami who has published academic papers about the approach, which he calls the “inverted classroom.” “The first response from students is typically, ‘I paid for a college education and you’re not going to lecture?’”

“Whatever griping students do about being asked to participate in class, though, it’s better than the boredom induced by a PowerPoint lecture, say fans of the new approach.”

“Now that so many colleges offer low-cost online alternatives to the traditional campus experience, and some universities give away videos of their best professors’ lectures, colleges must make sure their in-person teaching really is superior to those alternatives.”

images.jpegViruses. Malware. Network interruptions. Program bugs. Version incompatibilities. Now, add to this list of things that can go wrong add a vendor who sells “corrupt files” that can be submitted in lieu of homework, hopefully buying a day or two more to work an an almost done homework. That’s the latest twist we get from the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus Blog’s posting of ‘The Computer Ate My Homework’: How to Detect Fake Techno-Excuses .

The scheme is pretty simple:

Corrupted-Files.com, a Web site developed in December as a joke, its owner says, offers unreadable Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files that appear, at first glance, to be legitimate. Students can submit them via e-mail to professors in place of real papers to get a deadline extension without late penalties. For $3.95, the site promises a “completed” assignment file will be sent to the buyer within 12 hours, to be renamed and submitted by the new owner. By the time a professor gives up on the bogus file, in theory, a student will have been able to complete the actual assignment.

The article then goes on to explore ways to detect and possibly handle such events.

The comments section chimes in with two dozen or so additional suggestions – everything from “use paper” to “develop work process” with the selection of a topic, the submission of a brief reading list, then an outline, and finally the paper itself. The latter one appeals to me because it has the advantage of testing the assignment system, keeping students on track, and generally emulating best practices. The comments themselves could be edited to be a part of the “how to submit a paper” instructions.

Definitely a good read for courses with a writing requirement.

Marc Beja, ‘The Computer Ate My Homework’: How to Detect Fake Techno-Excuses, The The Wired Campus in The Chronicle of Higher Education (Online), June 10, 2009. http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/article/3818/the-computer-ate-my-homework-how-to-detect-fake-techno-excuses

Image. A Google thumbnail found with a image search for [gremlin]. Alas, the source of that image is no longer on the page that google points to, illustrating another way the computer can eat your homework.