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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).
- Make a list of your priorities. Here are a few ways to do that:
- 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
- Set 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.
- Schedule your day! Follow this resource to learn how.
- For projects, plan out the pieces and parts – here is a resource to get you started.
- Read this blog post to find some resources to help get organized
- 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
Prioritizing Projects in 3 steps
Time Management for Students
Time Management: Tips to reduce stress and improve productivity
CTL Blog Post on Time Management (with links to task management tools: Wunderlist, Got Milk, Google Keep)
Additional Task Management Tools:
UVM 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.
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 email@example.com 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
We’ve recently had fun expanding our Media Resources page. There are new links to image collections, organized by Agriculture and Natural Resources, Art, History, Science, and General Collections. There are more video links, too. Read about copyright and fair use, and then go forth… as a kid in a candy store: www.uvm.edu/ctl/mediaresources.
It seems like we hear this more and more: “I’ve been crazy busy!” So, in the interest of getting to “sane busy,” I’m listing here what I think are some of the best work tools and techniques for time and task management:
To-do List Apps: Write down everything you need to do for a particular list, prioritize your list, assign dates, take action, and then cross them off when done. Be sure to prioritize your workload. Work backwards from project due dates to set your deadlines and prioritize your tasks. For more help prioritizing your workload take a look at: http://www.wikihow.com/Prioritize-Projects.
Here are some apps/websites to try:
Remember the Milk. Share lists, syncs across computers, tablets, smart phones (iphone & android), google calendar, gmail, outlook and twitter!
Wunderlist. It has a simple and clean interface, ability to share /email your lists, and syncs with all of my computers and devices. Smart lists and notes here too.
Toodledo. A powerful tool when you are looking for robust task manager. Includes hotlists, filters, sorting, scheduling, notes, file attachments, sharing, time tracking, imports lists, alarms, and more. Syncs with multiple devices.
- Timers to help you stay on task. The Pomodoro Technique is a simple, effective approach to time management that chunks the work into “pomodoros” (or tomato, in Italian)—25 minute periods of focus—followed by short breaks. This is effective for projects that take a good deal of focused energy to complete. The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility. A Google search for pomodoro timers or pomodoro technique will yield a lot of results, but here’s one site that’s all about the simple timer: Pomodoro Timer.
There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:
- After creating your to-dos, decide on the task to be done;
- Set the pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes;
- Work on the task until the timer rings; record with an x;
- Take a short break (3-5 minutes); and
- Every four “pomodoros” take a longer break (15–30 minutes)
- Get(ting) Things Done is a time-management methodology, as described in the book with the same title by productivity consultant David Allen, often referred to simply as GTD. The Getting Things Done method rests on the idea that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally, so the mind is free from the job of remembering the tasks that need to be completed. One can then concentrate on performing the tasks, instead of remembering.
I read this book in a moment of panic earlier in the semester and it has been a serious stress reducer. It’s full of ideas to help you, well, get things done.
The David Allen Company lists many tools to help you manage your time more efficiently like TheBrain and EverNote. Richard Winters wrote an article reviewing 3 apps he uses to get things done including the low-tech index/notecard.
You put a lot of work into your Blackboard course space. As we move through each semester there are tasks you can do to protect that work. This checklist can help you wrap up the closing semester and make the transition to a new semester run more smoothly.
Links throughout this post take you to specific “How To” pages at the CTL’s Blackboard Help site at: http://www.uvm.edu/ctl
At the end of the semester
- Try Color Coding in your Grade Center to easily see students at risk.
- Download the final Backup of your Grade Center to store for your records.
- Create, download, and store an Archive of your course. An Archive is a compressed file that contains all the information you have built in your course as well as your student grades. It can be used to build a new course and it should be saved as your backup of your grade center and your course materials.
Before the new semester starts
- Log in to Blackboard, explore the new appearance (upgrade happening on Dec 19th), and check that your course appears with the correct instructors associated with it. Instructors are added to Blackboard through the Banner system, by departmental staff.
- Add TAs as soon as possible.
- Gather your course materials, plan how you will organize them in your course space, create Tests or Surveys, and plan which tools you will use for assignments and course activities. Plan early if you intend to create and incorporate videos.
- If you are reusing course material from a previous course, Archive the material from the old course, then Import it to the new course. Another way is with Course Copy command.
- Begin planning your Grade Center. Visit the CTL Dr Is In so our staff can consult with you on strategies for using this tool most effectively and efficiently, especially if you are teaching large enrollment courses. See Dr Is In schedule here.
- Post your Syllabus.
- Make the course Available to students when you are ready for them to access it.
During the semester
- Create and download an Archive of your course frequently throughout the semester. These will be your backup copies in case you need to restore any deleted material to your course.
- Download and store a Backup of your Grade Center both before and after adding grades.
- Use Color Coding in your Grade Center to easily see students at risk.
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.
MOOCs are courses that are:
- Massive: designed for large-scale participation by dozens or even thousands of
- 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 as the model has been adopted by such well-known universities as MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and Berkeley . They have even been blamed for the recent controversy surrounding the departure and subsequent return of the President of the University of Virginia. 
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 . 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. 
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 , of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University and Stephen Downes , 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.
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.  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. 
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. 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  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?
- 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.”
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. 
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.
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.
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.
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
“Physical activity has been identified as an important behavior to help prevent the development of overweight/obesity and associated conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. Regular physical activity has also been found to improve dietary intake and patterns. Therefore, interventions targeting physical activity may lead to weight change not only by increasing calories expended each day, but also by influencing the food choices people make.” 1
Or so thought Nutritional Sciences Graduate student Lizzie Pope. So she designed a study to provide new information on the efficacy of using monetary incentives to help college freshmen meet physical activity guidelines, and therefore establish an important health-promoting behavior. It worked like this:
One hundred and seventeen students were randomized to one of three groups: continued-incentive, discontinued-incentive, or control. For 12 weeks during the fall semester both the continued-incentive and discontinued-incentive groups received weekly incentives for using the university fitness center. At the conclusion of fall semester weekly incentive payouts ended for both incentive groups. For 12 weeks during spring semester the discontinued-incentive group received no incentives to use the fitness center while the continued-incentive group received incentives on a variable-interval schedule, averaging one incentive payment each month. During the spring semester the exact schedule for the incentives was not known to participants in this group.
Great. But how was she going to track the students? Well, perhaps she could set up some sort of card swipe system that would record the student ID, date, and entry/exit times for each visit to the fitness center. Great, how do you do that?
Enter the Center for Teaching and Learning. Lizzie enlisted the aid of CTL staffer Wesley Wright. Together, Wesley and Lizzie assembled a Mac Mini computer and magnetic card reader. The Mac recorded each card swipe and entered the data into a central database. The database fed a web site, and the web site was used by the students to track their individual progress, using both tables and graphs. The web site also provided Lizzie with both individual and group statistics and the incentive payment owed to the students.
Results? ”Basically, we were able to increase fitness-center use over the fall semester by paying weekly incentives,” says Lizzie, “however this increased exercise did not translate into weight maintenance for the incentive groups over the fall semester. In the spring semester without incentive payments our discontinued-incentive group no longer met fitness-center use goals. However, with a variable-interval payment schedule our continued-incentive group continued to meet fitness-center use goals. Unfortunately, this increased exercise again did not translate into weight maintenance over the spring semester. It would be interesting to measure body composition and metabolic markers to see if the increased exercise had beneficial effects other than weight control.”
1 “Burn and Earn: Incentivizing Physical Activity in College Freshman – UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT”, n.d. http://www.reeis.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/0223043-burn-and-earn-incentivizing-physical-activity-in-college-freshman.html.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework, based in cognitive neuroscience, that encourages the design of flexible learning environments to accommodate a variety of learning styles and differences. This post focuses on one of the three core principles in UDL: multiple means of representation.
This means moving beyond textual representation by presenting information and conceptual knowledge to students in a variety of formats, e.g., images, video, and audio. Not only does research indicate that this practice can enhance student understanding and retention of course content, it can also be used to engage students and prime discussion. Students responding to an image, song or movie clip can spark reflection and debate.
Effective use of multimedia in your teaching is non-trivial. It takes time to find the right image or clip and prepare it so that is accessible and available to all students. Fortunately, UVM has some resources to help you every step of the way.
Step 1: Finding Multimedia
There are so many sources of multimedia, and so little time. To help you get started, CTL has collected a list of websites where you can find images and videos applicable to many disciplines. Check out this link for information about copyright, fair use, and using multimedia in your courses, as well.
Additionally, Bailey/Howe Library has several new, searchable databases for streaming media that provides access to licensed documentaries with relevance across the curriculum. Features for some of these databases include synchronized, searchable transcripts, editing capabilities to make video clips, and an embeddable video player that can be used in Blackboard courses.
Step 2: Making Multimedia Accessible
Multimedia used in class or on the web needs to be ADA compliant. Video/audio content needs to be captioned. Captioning not only benefits the deaf or hard of hearing student, but can also benefit students for whom English is a second language, and individuals with learning disabilities (hearing and reading at the same time can improve comprehension). For information regarding captioning services on campus, please see the ACCESS offices captioning website.
Images on the web also need to be accessible and take into consideration not only people with blindness, but also those low vision, color-blindness, or cognitive disabilities. For a comprehensive discussion on effective and appropriate use of images to facilitate comprehension, see Creating Accessible Images on the WebAIM website.
Step 3: Making Multimedia Available on the Web
If you want students to access your own audio/video content on the web, or if the content falls within Fair Use copyright guidelines, use the UVM Media Manager tool to upload the files to your UVM server space, also known as your “zoo space.” The Media Manager makes it simple to share your media by broadcasting it, linking to it, or embedding it on a webpage such as a Blackboard course page. See Media Manager directions here.
Another way to add media to your Blackboard (Bb) course is to use the Bb “MashUp” tool. This tool allows you to search YouTube, Flickr, and SlideShare (a site for viewing and sharing PowerPoint-like presentations), select content, and then embed this content directly into your Bb course. While the media content resides on their respective websites, students view the media content without ever leaving the Bb course. View this tutorial on the Bb MashUp tool
Interested in Learning More?
For more information about the Filmmakers Library Online, attend the upcoming CTL Sound (Teaching) Bite on “Teaching with Streaming Media” facilitated by Daisy Benson of the B/H Library, on October 9, 12:00 – 1:00 pm. Visit this page for information and to register.
For more information about the Media Manager, attend the upcoming CTL Sound (Teaching) Bite, “From DVD to Blackboard” on October 3, 12:00- 1:00 pm. Visit this page for information and to register.