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If you’re interested in teaching a hybrid course, the chance to apply for training and support from the Hybrid Course Initiative will be available for just a few more days. The applications to be part of the next cohort (starting in Fall 2014) will close on Monday, March 31st, end of day. This cohort will be developing courses to be taught in either the Spring or Fall 2015.

» Read an article about Anthropology Professor Emily Manetta’s experience going through the program and teaching a hybrid course.

» Go to the application information webpage.

Read (or rather, view), on Slate.com, one faculty person’s evolving position about teaching with this tool and allowing students to present their work with it.

UVM’s Hybrid Course Initiative, conducted by the CTL, is now into the second implementation phase. There are currently three cohorts of faculty who are either teaching or in the process of designing/redesigning hybrid courses. By the end of this second phase of the initiative, we’ll have assisted in launching nearly 30 hybrid courses! (Learn about hybrid teaching and about the UVM initiative, here.)

We’re currently welcoming applications for the next faculty cohort that begins meeting in August ‘14. Participants in this cohort will be eligible for a support package that includes a laptop, a grant to aid in the development of their course, and support from the CTL staff. **APPLICATION DIRECTIONS** and more detailed information about support packages for each phase of the initiative can be found on the Hybrid Course Initiative page. Applications are due by March 31st.

If you’re interested and want to learn more, we’ll be holding an informational session, “What ’s the Hype About Hybrid?,” on Thursday, March 20th. (Read more and register for this session, here.)

2014 dates to keep in mind:

  • March 20th – Information Session: “What ’s the Hype About Hybrid?
  • March 31st – Applications due for the Fall ’14 faculty cohort (info here)
  • April 15th – Applicants notified of acceptance by end of day
  • Welcome and informational luncheon in late-April
  • Cohort meetings begin in August

If you can’t make it to the March informational session, feel free to email the co-directors of the program: Jennifer Dickinson (jadickin@uvm.edu) or Henrie Paz-Amor (hpazamor@uvm.edu) to set up some time to talk about your interest in the program.

Do you sometimes feel like you are trying your best to teach to all the students in your classroom, but something isn’t working because, on the midterm exam, half the class gets below a 70?  How could this be?  In fact, traditional post-secondary teaching methods such as lectures and multiple-choice tests are good learning tools for only a small percentage of today’s college students. A research-based framework for course design called, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can help.  

What is UDL?

UDL is an extension of a movement in architecture called Universal Design, conceived of by Ron Mace at North Carolina State University. The theories specific to UDL are based on research in the neuroscience of learning.  David Rose and Anne Meyer (2002),  first coined the term “Universal Design for Learning” in the book “Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age.”   (Available to read online at the CAST website, http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/.)

Rose and Meyer (2002), developed guidelines based on three neural networks: the recognition network, the strategic network, and the affective network. Each of these networks work together to help the whole brain learn. A person’s brain is as unique as a fingerprint in the way it learns and builds its own learning schema, according to David Rose. However, certain regions of the brain are activated when doing similar kinds of learning tasks. This means a faculty member can use the knowledge of how the brain learns, and the framework of the UDL principles and checkpoints, to create learning opportunities in the classroom that work for all learners.

The UDL principles on each brain network are:

  1. Recognition Network: Principle One – Provide Multiple Means of Representation
    A couple of examples:

    • Create a concept map of the class that spans the semester
    • Use images, maps, graphs, videos and other visuals to help present a difficult concept to students
  2. Strategic Network: Principle Two – Provide Multiple Means of Expression
    A couple of examples:

    • Give students options for the kinds of homework assignments or projects they can submit
    • Provide multiple ways of engaging with each other in the class
  3. Affective Network: Principle Three – Provide Multiple Means of Engagement
    A few examples:

    • Use iClickers
    • Do in-class activities such as small-group work or “think, pair, share”
    • Assign larger, semester-long group projects
    • Create a safe environment for learning
    • Be approachable and available for students during office hours

Overall, the idea of UDL in post-secondary education is to support learning at various levels of acquisition and provide opportunities for students to show you what they are learning in a variety of methods, so you may offer appropriate “scaffolds.”  We offer suggestions for each of the above principles as just a place to start. We encourage you to use the linked resources as well as make an appointment with a CTL faculty professional development specialist to assist you in incorporating UDL in your courses.

Additional Resources:

San Francisco State University – Best Practices in Teaching:
http://ctfd.sfsu.edu/best-practices-in-teaching

National Center on Universal Design for Learning
http://www.udlcenter.org/implementation/postsecondary

Information on creating a video transcript:
From Colorado State University:
http://accessproject.colostate.edu/udl/modules/multimedia/tut_video_transcript.php?display=pg_2

It often feels like there are not enough hours in our days to get everything done. To make life a bit more manageable, we need some system(s) and process(es) to help take the stress out of the workload.

Here are a few ways to help you manage your projects, large and small, and ultimately allow you to become more efficient:

Note: All links below will open in a new tab (or window, depending on your browser settings).

  1. Make a list of your priorities. Here are a few ways to do that:pencil and paper
    • Do a “brain dump.” Take a few minutes and grab a stack of sticky notes and write each task that comes to mind
    • Organize tasks by categories (e.g. home, work, class)
    • Choose a project to focus on
  2. To-do listSet some goals for yourself, organize your lists…
    • by priority (H-high, M-medium, L-low)
    • by project or location (work, home, school)
    • by deliverables (what is due first)
    • by importance (what matters most)
    • by time needed (how long will each task take to accomplish)

    Write down the tasks associated under each priority.

  3. Schedule your day! Follow this resource to learn how.
  4. For projects, plan out the pieces and parts – here is a resource to get you started.
  5. checking things off the list Read this blog post to find some resources to help get organized
  6. Cross off tasks as you complete them.
    • Keep your lists close by and easy to find
    • Use paper or find a program that helps keep you organized
    • At the beginning of each week update your plan and set some goals for the week
    • Every morning review your list to see what needs to be done (this also helps me get grounded for the day of work)
    • Delegate, schedule and, re-schedule anything that does not get accomplished

Resources to learn more:

Learn how to prioritize in 12 steps
http://www.wikihow.com/Prioritize

Prioritizing Projects in 3 steps
http://www.wikihow.com/Prioritize-Projects

Time Management for Students
http://www.cob.sjsu.edu/nellen_a/time_management.htm

Time Management: Tips to reduce stress and improve productivity
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/time-management/wl00048

CTL Blog Post on Time Management (with links to task management tools: Wunderlist, Got Milk, Google Keep)
http://blog.uvm.edu/ctl/2012/12/17/time-management-resources/

Additional Task Management Tools:

Tip #1: Learn names. Jonathan Leonard (CDAE) makes the effort to learn every student’s name, even when he has hundreds of students! His strategy is to open the class roster page in Banner and display the students’ photos and, while studying each face, he speaks their names aloud. Over and over. And over. Occasionally he shifts the page arrangement, by changing the row settings to, for instance, students three across instead of five, and he keeps testing himself. He admits that it takes several practice sessions, but he claims the effort is well worth it. His students are completely astonished when he greets them at the door by first name. A large class it may be, but an indistinct mass of anonymous faces it is not. Individuals are being recognized and this, he says, changes the whole game.

(By the way, Jonathan isn’t the only one to stress the value of learning names. Every year when the CTL holds a panel discussion with the latest winnersof the Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award, at least one of the panelists mentions that this practice is vital to their teaching style.)

Tip #2: Get students talking. Sheila Boland-Chira (English) recommends the turn and talk method in any class, but particularly on the first day when anxiety may be running a little high. She asks an evocative question related to the course topic and invites students to turn to their neighbors and talk about it. After a few minutes, she invites volunteers to share their thoughts with the whole group. Not only does the lively buzz change the atmosphere in the room, doing this on the first day lets students know that the class is participatory and that they are going to be challenged to think.

Tip #3 Make personal connections. Char Merhtens (Geology) asks students to come to her office and meet with her individually during the first week or two of the semester, just to say hi and chat for a few minutes. However, because there are 200+ students in one of her classes, visiting with everyone isn’t practicable, so she invites only the first-years and seniors, the two groups she feels would most benefit from this (although, for completely different reasons). Char says that this simple social gesture has paid off in countless ways and many students go out of their way to thank her.

Tip #4: It’s standard practice to review the syllabus on the first day of class, but a few faculty offered tips to make this ritual more meaningful:

  • Before the first class meets, contemplate your schedule again and identify the overarching themes. When you review the syllabus on the first day, share this 10,000-foot view with your students and talk about how the key themes are woven throughout the schedule. This overview provides not only a conceptual map of the course, but a rationale for the work you are going to be asking them to do.
  • Make the syllabus review more engaging by including interesting visual elements, e.g., drawings, concept maps, or a humorous cartoon. Consider playing music.
  • Use Blackboard’s test tool to create a short quiz about the syllabus with multiple-choice type questions (so Blackboard will do the grading for you) and make it a mandatory assignment by the second day of class. Doing this gets them to delve deeper into the syllabus and you can review the stats in Blackboard before the next class, so you can touch upon any murky areas.

Tip #5: Finally, convey enthusiasm! J. Dickinson (Anthropology) offered what might be the most important tip for the first class and every class: that it’s crucial to communicate your excitement about what you teach. Even if you’re not teaching your dream course, you should be able to muster enthusiasm for it. Foundational or introductory-level courses are exciting when you consider the potential for learning and that you just may spark an interest that has a formative effect on someone’s life. Genuine enthusiasm can be infectious.

Marbles Applications are now being accepted for the UVM Hybrid Course Initiative program! Read more about teaching hybrid coures, about the initiative, and the benefits in applying to teach one of these courses.

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stack of papers to gradeDid you ever hear a student say, “I wish I understood what the professor wanted with this assignment?”  Have your students ever asked how you came to a specific grade? Have you felt the need to create more clarity around an assignment, both for your students and/or your TAs who handle grading?

The solution may be to create a rubric for your students—or even with your students—for the assessment of the paper or project. 

What is a rubric?  A rubric is a tool for assessment that is created by the instructor to articulate clear expectations for an assignment and how it is to be graded.  In some cases, it can even be helpful to elicit help from students in creating the rubric because, when students are involved in planning how they will be graded, they take ownership of the assignment and their understanding of what is expected is improved.

The Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence states about rubrics:

Rubrics help instructors:

  • Assess assignments consistently from student-to-student.
  • Save time in grading, both short-term and long-term.
  • Give timely, effective feedback and promote student learning in a sustainable way.
  • Clarify expectations and components of an assignment for both students and course TAs.
  • Refine teaching skills by evaluating rubric results.

Rubrics help students:

  • Understand expectations and components of an assignment.
  • Become more aware of their learning process and progress.
  • Improve work through timely and detailed feedback.

So how do you go about making a rubric? 

  1. You can attend the upcoming workshop, “Designing Rubrics” (February 21, 2013) offered at the CTL by the UVM Writing in the Disciplines Program.
  2. You can go through this helpful tutorial by University of Colorado – Denver.
  3. You could also email ctldoc@uvm.edu to ask for an appointment with one of the Center for Teaching & Learning instructional design specialists who can meet with you individually to assist you in creating a rubric for your class.

Additional Resources:

Grading and Performance Rubrics – Carnegie Mellon

How and Why to use rubrics – Cornell University

Rubric Resource – DePaul University

Examples and How-to’s for Authentic Assessments and Rubrics – University of Central Florida/Orlando

Rubric Development -University of West Florida

Grading Rubrics – University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

 

 

 

 

 

The recency and primacy effects—long documented phenomena related to the importance of sequence on information recall—evidence that, in short, “Following a single exposure to learning, recall is better for items at the beginning (primacy) and end (recency) […] than for middle items.” [1]

This is relevant to teaching and learning because it’s in that middle period, when many faculty have come to the heart of their lesson, that students may be least likely to be actively learning.

In the book, Student Engagement Techniques, [2] Elizabeth F. Barkley poses the suggestion that lectures could be shaped around this retention curve by segmenting a class into three parts:

1)  Begin the class by diving directly into teaching important content.

2)  After 20 minutes or so, have students take a brief break, stand up and stretch, and then conduct the administrative business, i.e., attendance, collection of homework, distribution of graded homework, etc.

3)  Finally, transition back into important content for the last part of class. Consider incorporating a “JiTT” activity (Just in Time Teaching Techniques, October 10, 2012) and close the class with a recap of the most important points.

Notes

  1. Primacy Versus Recency in a Quantitative Model: Activity Is the Critical Distinction Anthony J. Greene, Colin Prepscius, and William B. Levy
  2. A CTL favorite book: Student Engagement Techniques (p.103)

MOOCs are courses that are:MOOC

  • Massive: designed for large-scale participation by dozens or even thousands of
    people.
  • Open: freely available with free access to all course materials.
  • Online: available through any web browser on any mobile device or computer.

As the MOOC model has gained acceptance it continues to be redefined and changed to suit the needs of learners, teachers, and institutions.

Currently, MOOCs combine the practice of online education with the ideals of open education and open courseware initiatives. They have gathered increasing attention in the past year[1] as the model has been adopted by such well-known universities as MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and Berkeley [2]. They have even been blamed for the recent controversy surrounding the departure and subsequent return of the President of the University of Virginia. [3]

Where did MOOCs Come From?

The advent of the web provided new opportunities for proponents of distance education. In addition to the ability to provide course materials and communication opportunities online, the web has allowed for experimentation with new pedagogical approaches. In 1999 the University of Tübingen in Germany made videos of its lectures freely available online. MIT followed suit in 2002 with its publication of course materials through its OpenCourseware initiative [4]. Alongside these initiatives, discussions about Personal Learning Environments, or the more colorfully named Edupunk, combined a reaction against the commercialization of learning with a focus on individually crafting one’s own learning and curriculum. [5]

Giving away course materials for self-learners was one thing. Giving away access to actual taught courses was another, yet that is exactly what David Wiley of Utah State University did in 2007 when he opened his graduate course on, appropriately enough, open education, to anyone who wished to participate. The term MOOC itself, however, came as a result of a course taught by longtime open education advocates George Siemens [6], of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University and Stephen Downes [7], Senior Researcher at The National Research Council (Canada). The course was titled “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” and was offered both to the students at the University of Manitoba who took it for credit and to the over 2,000 students who participated for free. The course content and discussion were made available through a variety of tools such as blogs, threaded discussions using Moodle, virtual encounters in Second Life, and synchronous online meetings. As a result of that course, and with a nod to an older interactive and collaborative technology, the MOO, Dave Cormier, Manager of Web Communication and Innovations at the University of Prince Edward Island, coined the term MOOC in 2008 and created the video that defined it.[8]

Cormier, Downes, and Siemans have continued their experiments with MOOCs, offering a number of courses. In 2011 they brought together over 30 facilitators to offer a 35 week MOOC focused on innovations and directions in online education. [9] As of the writing of this post they are offering a MOOC titled Current/Future State of Higher Education (#CFHE12) to explore the impact of the MOOC model. [10]

Who is teaching them? Where are they taught?

There are multiple online courses calling themselves MOOCs. These are currently taking one of two forms, recently labelled by Downes as cMOOCs and xMOOCs.[11] The original MOOC concept envisioned that an instructor would provide information and encourage participants to share their knowledge and experience, connecting with each other in groups and sub-groups based on their particular interests and expertise. They would take the opportunity to peer instruct and even expand upon areas where the instructor may not have extensive knowledge. In other words, much if not most of the learning experience is derived through meaningful interaction with others in the course. This connectivist approach, or cMOOC, makes use of many of the social networking tools now available: blogs, Twitter, Facebook, discussion boards, etc.

xMOOCs, or those served by new start-ups such as EdX, Coursera, Udacity and Udemy [12] are an effort to formalize the MOOC model. Their service provides the managerial functions necessary for institutions offering MOOCs: account administration, server infrastructure, marketing, etc.

What are the potential benefits of the MOOC model?

MOOCs:

  • can encourage communication among participants who bring a variety of viewpoints, knowledge, and skills to the course. This serves to create communities of interest along with broadening the scope of the MOOC.
  • could inspire people to “try on” subjects that they wouldn’t otherwise pursue or even try on education itself.
  • can provide multiple ways to engage with course material, encouraging multimodal learning that can address the needs of learners with a variety of learning styles (i.e. Universal Design for Learning or UDL).
  • by developing for multimodal learners, could inspire better teaching and use of technologies in general for face to face courses.

Yet MOOCs are viewed with trepidation and skepticism by some who see them as reinforcing the worst aspects of teaching. Those that are designed to simply provide droning lectures followed by auto-graded multiple choice tests are, in the words of Said Vaidhyanathan “taking the worst aspects of college learning as the favored methods of college learning.”[13]

And then there are the financial questions. While MOOCs have been and might continue to be used for marketing purposes or to claim cultural capital for those institutions that are the early adopters, there is no doubt they can be expensive to run. They are not yet direct revenue generators. Among many educators that lack of commercial viability is seen as a positive trait, especially for public institutions that, ideally, promote the extension of knowledge as a core value. Those who see commercialism as corrupter are understandably leery of institutions that view MOOCs solely in terms of revenue generation through commercial transactions with students.

Administering several large MOOCs simultaneously has infrastructure implications. Alternatively, outsourcing MOOC administration to any of the several MOOC providers that have sprung up must take into account FERPA policies and the privacy of students.

Among the many questions revolving around the formalization of MOOCs are how faculty will be compensated for teaching them and how universities will credential students taking them. Currently, xMOOCs generally make a point of offering some form of assessment but we are a long way for any kind of standardization that would allow for MOOC credit to travel easily from institution to institution. Then again, “long” is a relative term. When speaking of the evolution of MOOCs that day may come much sooner than expected.  Indeed, in the past few weeks the University of Texas has negotiated with Coursera to offer courses that may carry college credit. Meanwhile the State of Minnesota Office of Higher Education has declared that Coursera cannot offer any courses to citizens of Minnesota without that government’s consent, an odd proposition given that the courses are free and offer no credit. [14]

How can you learn more about them?

A quick look through the notes below, or a search through The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wikipedia, or even generally via Google or YouTube will net you more than a little information on MOOCs. A more experiential way to learn about MOOCs is to take one. Visit the xMOOC providers or follow Siemans’ or Downes’ offerings.

Notes

1. The Chronicle of Higher Education has compiled a timeline of their articles related to MOOCs at “What You Need to Know About MOOCs.”

2. In the May 2012 article “Harvard and M.I.T. Team Up to Offer Free Online Courses” the New York Times reported that several other universities had jumped on the MOOC bandwagon.

3. While the ouster of President Sullivan was more complex than a simple argument over the adoption of MOOCs, it is interesting to note that almost immediately upon her return to that Office the university signed a deal with Coursera to begin developing MOOCs.

4. Since that time the MIT OpenCourseWare site has continued to be enlarged, reporting 100 million visits by 2010.

5. Educators also see a role for EduPunk and Open Education practices as a counter to the more restrictive and, some would argue, limiting environment of Learning Management Systems like Blackboard, Moodle, etc.

6. This video continues to be the definition of MOOCs as originally conceived, though the term itself is applied to two diverging definitions. In an all too common instance of web irony, and as an example of how quickly the MOOC concept is evolving, this video has been accused of being “inaccurate” by a commenter who apparently did not know Cormier’s role in creating the term.

7. While more formal talks by both George Siemens and David Cormier have been recorded, for a more casual discussion about MOOCs by these founders, see the interview with Martin Weller of the UK’s Open University at http://youtu.be/l1G4SUblnbo.

8. Stephen Downes has been writing and speaking about issues in education for many years. For example, in this 2009 video he describes Open Education. You can also see his brief introduction to the 2011 “Change 2011 MOOC” which provides his take on how that MOOC will work.

9. The “Change 2011 MOOC” is available at http://change.mooc.ca/index.html.10. As of today, it is not too late to join CFHE12 at http://edfuture.mooc.ca/index.html.

11. In an interview with Downes for her July 2012 article (“Massively Open Online Courses Are ‘Here to Stay’“), Tanya Roscorla picked up on his use of the terms xMOOC and cMOOC, so they have now entered the MOOC lexicon. See also the report by Sir John Daniels “Making Sense of MOOCs.”

12. EdX is a joint venture created by MIT and Harvard. Coursera was founded by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng of Stanford. Three roboticists, Sebastian Thrun, Mike Sokolsky and David Stavens founded Udacity. Udemy was founded by Gagan Biyani, Eren Bali and Oktay Caglar.

13. Quoted from the webinar “Beyond MOOC Hyperbole: Why We Should Support MOOC Experimentation … Critically and Carefully,” Oct. 12, 2012.

14. As reported in the Washington Post on October 19, 2012 (“Is Minnesota Cracking Down on MOOCs?”). For a recent recap of other general issues surrounding MOOCs, see Katherine Mangan’s “MOOC Mania” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 1, 2012. In addition, feel free to visit my growing collection of MOOC references at http://delicious.com/hopegreenberg/mooc+MOOC?link_view=expanded

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