Friday, September 21, 2012

Academic Integrity in Online Assessments

Now that we have gotten further into the semester, many of you may have considered  utilizing some of the online functionality of Blackboard to give quizzes or tests in Blackboard. This thought for some is not without  concern about the academic integrity of the online environment. While this is a valid concer, the medium (online) should not be the reason for the concern since many of the same expressed concers with cheating in online courses or assessments also exist in a face-to-face course. The major issue addressed in this post is to provide faculty with an online strategies to address the concern.

One of the solutions the University of the District of Columbia has secured is the use of Respondus LockDown Browser. Respondus LockDown Browser™ is a custom browser that locks down the testing environment within Blackboard or any other learning management system. When students use Respondus LockDown Browser they are unable to print, copy, go to another URL, or access other applications. When an assessment is started, students are locked into it until they submit it for grading.
There are two upcoming webinars on Respondus LockDown Browser.

Each session provides a 30-minute overview of the product features, followed by a question-answer period. These sessions are great opportunities for anyone who might be new to LockDown Browser to learn more.

Here are the dates and times:

Respondus LockDown Browser: Reduce Cheating During Online Tests (45 minutes)
Wednesday, September 26th at 4 pm ET — Register
Thursday, September 27th at 2 pm ET— Register

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ready for the Real World?

Life has no textbook.
As professors work to prepare university students for their futures outside the classroom, they should keep this in mind and strive to introduce students to a diverse set of materials. To be sure, textbooks are useful, as they gather information in one place and present a single coherent view of a subject. In the world of elementary and secondary education, this is acceptable. However, university graduates must be able to gather their own information and address the different perspectives found in those sources.
For students, having the freedom and responsibility to work independently is an essential part of higher education. Some professors might have worries, however. What if they do not use the right sources? What if they do not select the best bits for quotation or paraphrase? They must be taught, of course! Critical thinking skills are vital and this is what they should be learning here at the university. If they learn these skills, they will be better equipped to deal with the “real world” where an overflow of information — much of it biased — will rain down upon them. Would we rather have graduates who are overreliant on a single source?

Here at UDC, the Learning Resources Division is the strongest ally of professors and students. The mission of the university library is to collect, organize, and provide access to materials that support the mission of the university. Here is the gateway to the wider world of information. Here is a collection that has been carefully examined and selected.
How many of this semester’s assignments require your students to go beyond their textbooks? For the projects that do, have you set clear standards for the sources they should use? Have you explained how to evaluate sources? Have you yourself examined the library holdings in your discipline so that you know what is available? Remember that the Learning Resources Division welcomes the input of faculty regarding acquisitions.
Assignments that require students to make use of outside sources should also ask them to become familiar with the different formats and platforms that exist. Have all your students used an e-book? An archival database? A historical newspaper? A journal aggregator database? A streaming video collection? Now is the time to make them aware of these and to guide them to the appropriate resources for their assignments. LRD faculty and staff are here to assist, whether with in-class instruction, informal consultations at the level 5 reference desk or via chat or e-mail, or one-on-one tutorial sessions. See the link below for more information.
Future posts on this blog will highlight some of these resources and also examine strategies for discovering and collecting information in an organized way that avoids the haphazard approach used by many inexperienced information seekers.
Michael Fitzgerald, Electronic Services Librarian

Friday, September 14, 2012

Increasing Accessibility in Your Online Resources Series: Tip #1 

Over the next semester, the goal of this accessibility blog series will be to increase the capacity of all in the university community who work with students with disabilities to have knowledge about how technology can be used to support Universal Design. The impetus of the concept behind Universal Design is one that has a focus on eliminating barriers and this blog series will focus on those barriers in teaching and learning.

As faculty in higher education, there is always a need to think about alternative ways to make content available. One such way is to add voice to your PowerPoint is one way to increase the universal design of your lecture points. Adding a narration to your slides give students who may have a visual impairment an alternative method to access the core material of the lesson or subject material. One tool for adding this feature easily is through the use of Impactica.
 Using Impatica allows you add narration to your slide as well as decrease the size of your PowerPoint presentations before uploading them to Blackboard. By reducing the size of the files, you are able to load more presentations to your course.I n addition, the java feature of the software allows students to see the file in a web browser format which presents a more user friendly interface.

Impactica is available for all faculty and staff use in the elab 106 in Building 41. Come stop in and  use the software licenses on the computers to create more dynamic and engaging material for any of your courses or projects.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Quality Course Design

Good course design is essential to effective online learning. At the University of the District of Columbia, we follow the QualityMatters (QM) nationally benchmarked design standards. QM is a leader in quality assurance for online education and has received national recognition for its peer-based approach and continuous improvement in online education and student learning. The QM design standards utilize a rubric that is based in national standards of best practice, the research literature, and instructional design principles. The rubric and peer-review process are designed to assess courses with an eye to ensure that online and hybrid courses promote student learning.

The simplicity of the QM Rubric is that it follows eight key areas that guide the development of effective course design. The eight areas include: 1. Course Overview and Introduction; 2. Learning Objectives (Competencies); 3. Assessment and Measurement; 4. Instructional Materials; 5. Learner Interaction and Engagement; 6. Course Technology; 7. Learner Support; and 8. Accessibility.
The successes of Quality Matters have resulting in more than 500 institutions from around the world subscribing and implementing the review process. Simply put, the standards are easy to follow, logical, and effectual.

When instructors think about designing an online or hybrid course, we urge them to come to the Center for Academic Technology (CAT) to learn more about the QM design standards. Moreover, many of the standards are effective in designing a collaborative and well aligned face-to-face course. Several instructors have commented that after learning how to apply the standards, they implement many of the design principles into their traditional courses and have a deeper understanding of alignment and assessment.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ten Tips for Onboarding Students to Blackboard

1. Prepare a trial week – A trial week is like a prequel to the real thing. Have students submit a faux assignment, take a mock quiz, use the journals or participate in a discussion board. You may elect to give a grade (pass/fail) for the assignment. If you elect to use a quiz, the quiz will usually just have a couple of multiple choice questions. The goal is for students to feel comfortable with Blackboard before the grades REALLY count.
2. Scaffold the usage of tools: Scaffolding is an educational term that refers to the purposeful sequencing of content and instruction. Therefore, before using wiki's in the classroom, you might want to first discuss how to write for the Internet (individual writing). Then perhaps move to discussion boards to practice how to comment and critique the ideas and words of others. Finally, introduce the wiki, which employs the aforementioned skills and adds another level of collaboration.

3. Use Screencasts to model web-based tool functionality: Screencasts are short videos which record your computer screen, mouse movements and voice. Screencasts are an effective way to model web-based tool functionality to students. You may also use them to review q quiz or explain an assignment. To learn more about Screencasts, check out Jing as a tool to product screencasts
4. Discuss pedagogy and learning/course objectives: If the students don't know WHY they are doing something, it's likely they won't do it well/correctly. Take the time to explain how the activities align to the expected learning objectives and how you will assess their learning. Make sure you provide adequate descriptions of activities to be performed on Blackboard.

5. Write concise instructions and descriptions: Never post an item without a description. Cite due dates, cite connections to the course and learning objectives, share what they should try to extract from the activity/reading/movie/PPT. Oftentimes, students JUMP right into Blackboard, the couple of sentences they spend reading your description before they open a file may be the only academic orientation they experience. Make it concise and to the point!
6. Use appropriate tools to drive learning: Use Blackboard tools in the class. Use podcasts, blogs, screencasts, wikis or voice memos to share information with the class. The more you use various tools, the greater your personal comfort level and more engaged the student will feel. The literature tells us that instructors who use technology tools as part of their instruction see greater learning outcomes than those who ask students to interact individually with web-based technology or applications.

7. Share your experiences with technology: Converse about Blackboard before complaining starts. Be open and honest with the students. The shared experience will build community. Also consider creating a discussion board that acts as a town hall or digital cafe. Allow students to post their comments, concerns, ideas, or simply vent. Be sure to participate in this discussion; the students will appreciate your presence and engagement.
8. Discuss academic integrity: It's so easy and tempting for students to plagiarize. Have an honest discussion about your expectations with the class. Also introduce SafeAssign, the Blackboard submission tool that checks for plagiarism.

9. Set ground rules for academic versus non-academic writing: Students should not treat Blackboard like it is Facebook or Instant Messaging. Be sure to set ground rules for what type of writing is acceptable for your class.
10. Blackboard support: Make sure that you acquaint your students to the Blackboard support office. Did you know UDC has 24/7/365 support for blackboard as well as staffed offices on the Van Ness and Community College Campus?

Face-to-face support is available on the Van Ness Campus, Building 41, Room 106 (Monday – Friday) and at 801 North Capitol Street, N.E. (LRD Office, 2nd floor – Thursday and Friday).  
24/7/365 support is available by Telephone: 202-274-5665 or toll free: 877-736-2585; Online ticket submission or live chat -