Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Six Tips for online efficiency in the distance learning environment that will earn you praise

S. Suzan J. Harkness, ©2011

Presence: Be present on the days leading up to the start of your online class and every day the first week. Have a FAQ document posted on the course site and direct students to this memo to address common questions. Have some answers penned in advance for commonly asked questions and paste them into a reply. No need to create the wheel each time a student asks the same question as another.

Recycle: Use free resources to support your content and drive learning. Check out MERLOT (http://www.merlot.org); YouTube (http://youtube.com); C-SPAN Video Library (http://www.c-spanvideo.org/videoLibrary); Wisconsin Online (http://www.wisc-online.com); Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org); MIT Open Courseware (http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm); Carnegie Mellon Open Courses (http://oli.web.cmu.edu/openlearning/); and The Open University UK (http://openlearn.open.ac.uk).

Attendance: Take attendance several times during the first week of class to document student presence. Have discussion postings that are due such as a check-in or an introduction posting. This activity alerts you up-front who has checked-in and who has not. This documentation may be required by the registrar’s office for financial aid reasons and quickly tells you who you may need to contact.

Instructor’s schedule: Set up a schedule of when you will go online and respond to student’s questions and when you will hold virtual office hours. Set up assessments to be self-grading when appropriate, track student progress, and set-up dashboards that will alert students to their status.

Syllabus Quiz: Require students to read, ask questions, and take a quiz on the syllabus. This exercise provides students a chance to review and ask questions on the syllabus and exposes them to the assessment tools to be used later in the course, i.e. quizzes and assessments.

Expectations: Establish clear expectations and go over rules of engagement and conduct. This should be thought of as a pathway to success. Provide students with clear and concise information on policies, extra credit, how and where to get technical help, when and how to contact the professor, how assignments should be submitted, how to navigate the course site, appropriate and inappropriate postings, netiquette, how to use any mobile learning platforms, institutional resources such as online tutoring, a writing lab, disability services, and the instructors policy on submitting late work.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Organizing Research Efforts With Zotero

Those of us reading these words live in a world where information is plentiful. Whatever your search is, finding something isn’t such a challenge. The many subscription resources available to students and faculty at the University of the District of Columbia Learning Resources Division will give thousands and thousands of results. Finding the right thing can be more difficult. Sometimes it can feel like a full-time job just keeping track of all the information you need for the many projects you are working on each semester.

There are tools that can help researchers and scholars with this. Zotero is a free plug-in for the Firefox browser (no others at this point, but Firefox is free too!). It does three important things. It helps you collect different kinds of citations from a variety of sources all in one place; it lets you organize and annotate those citations; and it works with your word processor to create references and bibliographies, all formatted according to the style you choose. There’s much more it can do, but those are just the top three.

Wherever you find it — whether in the library catalog, one of our many subscription databases, or on Amazon, YouTube, or somewhere else — the information can be collected and stored in Zotero and will be ready for you to use later in papers and projects so you can cite your sources appropriately. Notecards were a good idea, but they are so last century. Zotero does all that and much more.

The award-winning Zotero software was developed by the Center for New Media and History at George Mason University, one of our partners in the Washington Research Library Consortium.

There’s more information available, including video tutorials on using Zotero. As part of its information literacy services, the UDC Learning Resources Division offers instruction on Zotero. If you are interested in a session, please fill out our online form. We look forward to helping you move forward with this cutting-edge tool.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Helping Students Master the Research Paper

As we approach the second half of the term, students may begin to fret about upcoming research papers and how to do them correctly. Writing papers and doing research can be one of the hardest tasks for students to master.  Because of the perceived difficulty, many students balk at the task or put it off.

Behavior such as this is unfortunate because research and writing are two skills that are mastered more easily through repetition. Moreover, strong analytical thinking and research abilities are proven job skills that will help a student land a good job upon graduation.

The Learning Resources Division (LRD) are partners with faculty to offer students assistance on the individual skills necessary for completing research papers. In short, students need to hone their skills around the following areas:

  • Identifying resources and performing database searches
  • Effective note taking and referencing the work of others
  • Citation rules, formatting, constructing reference pages
  • Editing drafts
  • Using evidence to support the position or argument

Together, the University as a team can support the student journey toward skills development, the construction of knowledge, and the successful completion of course specific activities.

For more information about information literacy, visit our website - http://udc.libguides.com/infolit.