Monday, April 15, 2013

Online Syllabi Using Google Calendar

Time management has always been a critical skill for a student to poses in order to effectively balance their academic and personal lives. Students must constantly be aware of their agenda for each class and how much time to set aside to complete assignments and prepare for exams. Syllabi have always been around to dictate the pace of each course and alert students of upcoming deadlines. But is there a more effective and innovative way?

After numerous discussions with my colleagues and students, I have come to the realization that there definitely is. Professors due their best to remind students about upcoming deadlines and students use their own daily planners and online tools to keep up-to-date. However, there is a more cohesive and technologically friendly way to accomplish these goals.

Professors should consider creating a Google Calendar in the form of their syllabus for each of their class sections. Exam blocks should be scheduled out in addition to project reminders, suggested group meeting times, and most importantly, class times. By then sharing the Google calendar with their students’ - every student would have an extremely useful calendar to keep them up-to-date with everything going on in the class. More importantly, this calendar can be accessed from any computer and most mobile devices 24/7/365.

If all professors employed this method at their institution, each student would have a calendar of their personal appointments and agenda in addition to an overlay of all their classes, assignments, and tasks. Professors often change their syllabi throughout the semester and hand out additional hard copies or upload another online version which can be confusing and inaccurate for some students. This Google- approach scheme allows professors to make modifications to their curriculum on the fly and insures that every student is always up-to-date with latest agenda. A bonus to the student is that each student only has to reference one online file for all their classes and avoid having to sort through multiple hard copies and online syllabi for each class.

To learn more – go to:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Benefits and Challenges of Using Tablets in Classrooms

The incorporation of digital devices for students and instructors is becoming a major trend in education. The recent appearance and early adoption of tablets by young people is pushing the acceptance of these devices into the classrooms which, in turn, have been broadly presented (at least by the media) as the “next step” or the “natural evolution in the wave of future education.” Even though there are potential promises of educational impacts of tablets, educators should weigh the potential challenges as well before utilizing tablets into teaching and learning. Below is the list of some of the benefits and challenges of using tablets in classrooms with the resources where they were discussed.


1. Tablet computers, like the iPad, are interactive communicator and book-reader tools. They are also an imminent second wave of “must-have” technology for students. Their large screens (about 10 inches diagonally) and large memory (16 GBytes minimum) and similar processing power to Netbook PCs differentiate them from mobile phones and give them a different IT dimension: they are not just communicators, or toys, they are computers.

2. A Tablet’s functionality potentially allows it to behave as a paperless combined textbook/notebook/test-paper/progress-record. A textbook may be downloaded and stored for use as needed. The Tablet’s interactive property allows the textbook to function as a notebook- meaning the user can make notes, highlight, and even look up the meaning of words. The progress/recorder allows attempted work to be automatically logged and all marks awarded to be automatically entered from the instructor’s machine.

3. An Extensive library of apps are available either free or reasonably priced, as compared to computer software which is usually quite costly, allowing the student experience to be easier and more affordably accessed.


1. Drawbacks of usage. A seven-week-long study by the University of Notre Dame found that students did indeed like learning with the tablet computers, but that they used the devices differently than was expected. The students also identified some drawbacks of bringing iPads into the classroom, such as the difficulty of taking notes on the tablet. The auto correct typing function can create very interesting passages as well as frustrations. In the study, more than half the students reported feeling frustrated when highlighting text and taking notes within e-books on the iPad. Another drawback was the fact that multiple “windows” or files couldn’t be kept open, side-by-side, on the iPad, unlike a full-fledged computer.

2. Monitoring use.  Though tablets allow students to learn at their own pace, some educators are worried about how to handle a classroom full of independent learners.  Many educators expressed concern about monitoring students while they use their tablet. The biggest problem with tablets is students’ visiting sites other than those for learning.

3. Incompatible Applications - Until all tablets can use all applications/websites there are limits to how well the tools can be used in the classroom. ( As faculty, we must select tools that are compatible with the greatest number of devices – especially if one allows a BYOD environment.

In sum, it is worth experimentation and identifying whether or not a tablet will help your students consume course content and learn. Even though there are potential promises of educational impacts of tablets, educators should weigh the potential challenges as well before utilizing tablets into teaching and learning. At the end of the day, if using a table is helpful to facilitate student success, we should embrace it to the extent it facilitates the learning process and causes no harm.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Just-in-time Webinars

As we approach the end of the semester, perhaps you need some just-in-time training. I have placed some valuable links below to upcoming webinars to help ease your work and refresh your skills. Please see what we have for you.

Creating Tests, Pools, and Surveys: (April 8, 2013 - 11:00 am Eastern Time) – 1 hour

Webinar Description: Blackboard has enhanced the search function when building tests. Join this session to explore creating, finding and using questions in the Blackboard testing, pools and surveys feature. We will also learn how to build random tests to help ensure integrity. To register – go to:,-Pools-and-Surveys.aspx

More about Rubrics: (May 6, 2013 – 1:00 pm Eastern Time) – 1 Hour

Webinar Description: This webinar is for faculty interested in learning more about rubrics and how to use the new rubric tool in Blackboard to assess student work. To register – go to:

Organizing your Content: (May 20, 2013 – 1:00 p, Eastern Time) – 1 Hour

Webinar Description: Within each menu area of your course, you have options of organizing content in folders, learning modules, lesson plans. In this webinar, you will see some exemplary designs to make decisions about your content organization. To register – go to: