Teaching online courses is very time-consuming, especially if you have to build the course yourself. Here are a few tips to save time on various tasks. They include free or otherwise open education resources (OER) and premium software.
Microsoft Word (premium software). Most educators know that MS Word provides the ability to give feedback on student papers through the Track Changes feature within its Review tool. However, most don’t realize that it also provides a way to automate common feedback through the AutoText tool. To create your own automated personalized feedback, type word or abbreviation for common error and the corresponding corrective feedback and writing guidelines (i.e., APA or MLA) in a table. Then follow these steps:
Highlight the text description.
Select the Insert tab from the toolbar.
Select Quick Parts in the Text section of the MS Office ribbon above.
Then save the selection to Quick Part Gallery in Normal.dotm.
Update name and description in the Gallery. If you make a mistake, edit the description provided by retracing your steps; it will ask if you want to redefine the Building Block entry when it detects similar content.
If the aforementioned directions don’t work for your version of Word, see their website. Not only will this save time grading, but it will help with consistency in feedback. I recommend providing the page number to the writing guidelines along with good examples as in Table 1. The more specific the better.
Common Error with Corrective Feedback
Search for digital object identifiers (doi) at this site: www.crossref.org/simpletextquery. If you don’t find one for the article, provide the URL to its online location with the reference. See APA p. 49 for examples of references.
Google Classroom (free software). Google Docs also provides the option for corrective feedback on student writing. In this situation, you’ll need to be given access to the document and work within Google Drive or Google Classroom to use the tool. However, you’ll need to use Google Classroom to be able to save and reuse comments in their Comment Bank.
Google Suite(free software). Google Suite of desktop publishing tools includes the following: Docs, Drawings, Slides, and Sheets. Because it’s cloud-based, after posting a link (or embedding them) in your online course or website, you can make updates from your Google Drive. This saves time when you encounter an error or need to make an update each term. You no longer need to remove it and upload a revised one as with MS Word or PDFs, which are static and based on your desktop.
To save time, install the mobile app for your learning management system (LMS) to readily access it on the go. This is helpful when you need to check something in the course that a student brings to your attention while you’re away from your computer. It’s also useful to see how responsive your course design is on a Mobile device. Consider other mobile apps for commonly used ed tech tools for the online environment (e.g., Zoom for video conferencing, Google Drive for collaboration and storage, MS Word for publishing).
Respondus 4.0(premium software). This is a Windows application that helps you upload your paper-based tests or surveys or that of your textbook publisher’s test bank to your online courses directly. This will save you from having to create test questions one-by-one in the LMS if you already have it prepared. There’s only a little advance formatting of your paper-based test for it to be rendered by Respondus. See their website for tutorials. Ask your instructional technologist to see if it’s available at your school. [Note: Respondus also makes test integrity software which is something altogether different.]
Blackboard Test Generator (OER). This software converts your electronic file tests (i.e., MS Word or Text) into LMS test questions. It’s hosted on this website where you copy-and-paste your test to convert it into a bbquiz zip file that can then be uploaded into your LMS when you create a new quiz. The directions on this website are fairly straightforward. After you convert the text, you’ll obtain a bbquiz zip file. This works much the same as Respondus. The limitation to this free software is that it doesn’t convert images; you’d need to add those afterward within the LMS. For a more robust conversion, see Respondus 4.0 above.
What are your time-saving tips? Please share those in the comment section! I’ll be updating this as I remember short-cuts in building and running online courses. Part II will cover some non-software tips such as Ctrl+Z to undo mistakes on the web or LMS platform when there is no undo button.
This blog was originally posted on the AACE Review (Rogers, 2018).
Community of Inquiry
A community of inquiry (COI) is what it sounds like—people gather to learn from each other. I argue that a COI can be preplanned to engender a robust learning environment. What that entails is under investigation. For instance, a query of COI educational research on the EdTechLib database garnered 6500 articles. “The ‘community’ in “community of inquiry” is not defined by time or space. A common question, problem, or interest helps to forge the connection” (Shields, 1999, para. 2).
Historically, interdisciplinary scholarly communities have been around since the time of Theagenes of Rhegium who orally interpreted texts to pupils in the 6th century B.C.E. (Hornblower & Spawforth, 1998). Those ancient Greek gatherings were generally teacher-centered in a unidirectional flow of information between the teacher and listening participants until eventually taking on the Socratic method of shaping pupils’ understanding through questioning for critical thinking in the 3rd century B.C.E.
As for the American educational setting, the foundations of a COI can be found in John Dewey’s writing and reform efforts, which were influenced by Charles Sanders Pierce’s logic of inquiry for scientific methods and Jane Addams’ pragmatic approach to social analysis (Shields, 1999). For example, Dewey strongly believed that through experience-based learning, students could intellectually address the subject matter with the assistance of their teachers (Dewey, 1938).
Fast forward to computer-mediated instruction, Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) proposed a COI framework for distance education. It includes the following elements they deem essential: social presence (SP), cognitive presence (CP), and teaching presence (TP). According to Google Scholar, their COI framework has been cited academically 4817 times. Based on their research and related literature, my interpretation of the COI presences is as follows:
SP is the co-construction of meaning through shared learning experiences to engender student agency from connectedness.
CP is the engagement in learning activities that demand higher-order thinking skills.
TP refers to feedback and instruction and can be presented through the instructor or student-led activities.
The online course syllabus serves as a plan of action that can be utilized for discussing continuous improvement between course design collaborators (i.e., instructional designers, course developers, instructors). To that end, I developed a rubric to evaluate online instructors’ planned interactions for delivering computer-mediated instruction based on their syllabi. It is used to analyze proposed interaction treatments (ITs) such as student-student opportunities for discussion, not the actual course. Our purpose was to determine the inclusion and strength of ITs to provide instructional design (ID) feedback to online instructors regarding their course plans. The underlying theoretical premise being the more interactive the course, the higher the level of student satisfaction and course achievement. Cummins, Bonk, and Jacobs (2002) conducted a similar syllabi study that looked at formats and levels of communication of online courses from colleges of education.
Content Analysis Research of Online Course Syllabi
Rogers and Van Haneghan (2016) conducted the initial research utilizing the rubric with two raters. Good interrater-reliability agreement was obtained in the review of 23 undergraduate and graduate education online course syllabi, intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) = .754, p < .001 and 95% CI [.514, .892]. Results indicated the potential for above-average CP (M = 4.7); however, SP (M = 3.1) was moderate, and TP (M = 2.7) was basic. Rogers and Khoury (2018) replicated the study at a different institution across disciplines with 31 syllabi; those findings mirrored the previous study’s levels of COI presences indicating a weakness in TP. For action research, the rubric criteria and results can serve as talking points between instructional designers and course developers to address gaps. Table 1 provides common ID feedback based on our 2018 syllabi analysis.
Common Feedback Based on the Online Community of Inquiry Syllabus Rubric Analysis
Instructional Design Recommendations
Instructional Design for Cognitive Presence
Include higher order thinking activities such as case analysis, papers that require synthesis or evaluation of peer, self, and/or product. See the list of cognitive activities in the Online Course Design Guide in Table 3.
Education Technology for COI
· Add group work for collaborating on projects with Google Hangouts or Skype, so students can learn from each other.
· Use Schoology’s Media Album for students to share their projects and obtain peer feedback. For example, students could narrate PowerPoint project and save as MP4 to create a video presentation to add to a digital portfolio.
COI Loop for Social Presence
· Provide a rubric for discussions to make the criteria clear.
· Provide discussions on readings to enhance learning from each other.
Support for Learner Characteristics
· Add the College’s accommodation statement.
· Provide links to academic tutoring services.
· Provide strategies for remediation and/or resources for building background knowledge.
Instruction and Feedback for Teaching Presence
· Add specific online virtual office hours and format options. For example, use Skype, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime with your smartphone for human interaction.
· Describe direct instruction. Will there be narrated PowerPoints, audio summaries, lecture notes, or commercial program?
· Add information on feedback response time and format.
Cummings, J. A., Bonk, C. J., & Jacobs, F. (2002). Twenty-first century college syllabi: Options for online communication and interactivity. Internet & Higher Education, 5(1), 1.
Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. The Kappa Delta Pi Lecture Series. New York, NY: Collier Books.
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education 2(2-3), 87-105. doi:10.1016/s1096-7516(00)00016-6
Hornblower, S., & Spawforth, A. (1998). The Oxford companion to classical civilization. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Johnson, E. S. (2007). Promoting learner-learner interactions through ecological assessments of the online environment. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 3(2). Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol3no2/johnson.htm
Roblyer, M., & Wiencke, W. (2004). Exploring the interaction equation: Validating a rubric to assess and encourage interaction in distance courses. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 8(4).
Rogers, S., & Khoury, S. (2018, October). Rubric to evaluate online course syllabi plans for engendering a community of inquiry: Round II. Paper presented at the meeting of the Association of Educational Technology & Communications, Kansas City, MO.
Rogers, S., & Van Haneghan, J. (2016). Rubric to evaluate online course syllabi plans for engendering a community of inquiry. Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference, 349-357. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
In my departure from a College that uses Schoology, I thought of ways that I might be able to save my online course designs for future use even though my new workplace doesn’t use this learning management system (LMS). Fortunately, I was able to save the entire course files, not just the individual material.
First, I saved them to my Schoology personal Resources (aka Home), then I downloaded the courses as Common Cartridge (IMACC or Zip) files for future use. The Instructional Mangement System (IMS) Global Learning Consortium states that Common Cartridge is a formatting standard for the interoperability of content within other systems. See their Brief Primer on Common Cartridge Conformance. In Schoology, you can upload and export these types of course files. See the Schoology Help Center on this topic.
I also decided to share them on Schoology’s Public Resources so others can use them. To be clear, I’m only sharing the content that I created. See Figure 1 for the location of these free resources. Schoology doesn’t make it easy to locate by name, so you’ll need to filter the results by Resource Type (higher ed) and File Format (folder), etc.
Anyone can sign up for an individual Schoology account to access them if their institution does not subscribe to this LMS. Here are the two courses that I shared:
Accessibility Workshop for Online Learning in Distance Education – I used this for faculty professional development for meeting accessibility federal guidelines in course design.
Critical Reading 101 Demo Hybrid Course – I used this for an actual developmental reading course for college students and as a demonstration course for faculty training purposes.
Schoology users can share their courses and other content on its Public Resources by selecting the bookshelf with globe icon beside the material in your personal resources. See Figure 2 for location. If you use either of my course content, I would love to hear about it!
Active learning engages students directly in the learning process through instructional activities with differing degrees of interaction that is student-centered, whereas passive learning occurs indirectly and without interaction. The latter is often, but not always, teacher-centered. Student-centered learning emphasizes learner control and manipulation of information, so students can actively use what is learned. Students respond well when they have a participatory voice in their learning. Additionally, active learning is preferred because it triggers cognitive functioning. This is based on the cognitivist (with constructivism as a subset) educational learning paradigm.
Examples of active learning include the following:
Studio model with a teacher or student observations and feedback (e.g., writer’s workshop, art production, portfolios)
Group work (e.g., business proposals, case studies, mixed media presentations)
Gaming and simulations,
Metacognitive strategies to monitor self-learning,
Transference of knowledge to new problems and situations, and
Assessments that require analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
These can be configured to the hybrid and online environments via videoconferencing tool for synchronous conversations, forum tool for asynchronous discussions, shared drive and collaborative documents, media hosting platform, and portfolio or other platforms to share student work. Besides the general activity description and assessment piece, these digital activities require clear guidelines for interacting with each other, the content, the teacher, and the tools (e.g., group roles, peer review criteria, schedule, samples, tool guides).
What does active learning look like online?
Active learning can take on different formats, levels of engagement, and levels of complexity in setup. For example, active learning can be individually or collaboratively assigned. Online educators use the community of inquiry (COI) framework to ensure students are engaged with the content, each other, and the instructor to maximize learning. Social presence (SP), cognitive presence (CP), and teaching presence (TP) are the essential elements to the communication loop for an online COI (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). This means that online learners are involved in cognitively challenging activities for CP (i.e., analysis, synthesis, evaluation), are able to interact with classmates for SP (e.g., discussions and projects), and that the teacher or student moderator is present in some way through communication, guidance, and feedback for TP. This document covers various instructional strategies and the digital tools to engage students online through active learning as structured through the course’s primary interactions (e.g., lecture, discussions, assignments, assessments, feedback, and guidance).
Set the Stage for Active Learning
Tell your students what you expect of them in the online course. A best practice is to provide a ‘Getting Started’ folder with your syllabus, schedule, pertinent documents, and protocol for interactions (Quality Matters, 2014). For example, share course requirements for the online environment and address learning values such as the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset.
Dweck (2009) described those who underestimate their ability to learn as possibly having a fixed mindset, while those who believe that they can learn by establishing attainable goals and applying effort to learn as having a growth mindset. Students with a growth mindset want to be corrected; their ego is not tied to learning. Conversely, those with a fixed mindset do not pay attention to corrective feedback. They believe that learning should not take any effort because it is tied to their intelligence; their ego influences how they learn. Students with a fixed mindset may be resistant to active learning. See the blog post to Focus on the Process to Support the Growth Mindset of Students.
Make sure students know how to use the learning management system (LMS) prior to high-stakes assignments to reduce anxiety and to reduce the cognitive load for the overall task. Here are some useful tasks to help familiarize students with the LMS:
Student acknowledgment form submission/assignment (i.e.,, course expectations),
‘Getting Acquainted’ discussion,
Syllabus quiz to ensure students have read it, and
Poll practical experience on the course topic to better understand students’ prior knowledge on the subject and drive instruction to meet students’ needs.
The lecture, demonstration, or direct instruction of a skill is a passive learning event unless students are provided ways to interact with the content. Consider using EdPuzzle,PlayPosit, or Camtasia Studio to engage learners while watching a video lecture or demonstration with questions to answer before preceding to the next segment; these third-party premium tools provide instructors with learner analytics.
Instructional strategies. Strategy election depends on various affordances and constraints such as time and resources. For example, an activity-centered lesson is based on an interactive task and requires collaborative tools and student groupings. Content-centered lessons are passive tasks where the student generally only interacts with the content, the exception being discussions of content. Experience-centered activities require a hands-on approach to developing something or serving/working with others. The learner-centered activity provides the learner with more autonomy over their pursuit of knowledge and includes metacognitive actions for self-regulation of learning; the affordances and constraints for this type of activity are highly dependent on the task. Overall, the best practice is to utilize a variety of instructional strategies to address learner preferences. Here is a list of online instructional strategies for each type.
· Analysis of case studies
· Critically review an article
· HyperInquiry* team project
· Academic controversy** assignment
· Develop a book trailer on topic
· Write a literature review
· Complete modules on topic in computer-adapted lab/program
· Write essay
· Make a presentation
· Discuss content with peers and instructor
· Develop questionnaires
· Develop a personal model of topic
· Participate in a simulation
· Develop a workshop
· Develop a wiki on topic
· Produce a podcast on topic
· Develop a how-to guide on a procedure
· Write a blog post on topic
· Serve others as a mentor, tutor, or volunteer on topic
· Curate an art exhibit
· Peer-review of papers or projects
· Students create m/c questions for review
· Design a project
· Evaluate a program
· Write an autobiography of your interaction with topic
· Complete self-evaluation
· Develop a personal learning network
· Capture reflections in journal, audio, or video
· Curate digital books and articles on topic for lifelong learning
Notes. *HyperInquiry is like a Webquest but at a deeper level of inquiry (Dempsey & Litchfield, 2001). **Academic controversy is a debate where students eventually take on both sides of an argument.
Learning strategies. Learning strategies are ways students can engage with the course readings and other content to monitor their learning. Cognitive learning strategies include concept mapping, mnemonics, overlearning, metaphors, and similes. Embed these learning strategies into your instructional activities to build students’ brain schema on the topic and its relation to other subjects for long-term memory. Share this list of cognitive strategies with students. The difference between cognitive and metacognitive being concreteness versus meta-awareness respectively. Most students are likely familiar with the structurally cognitive ones such as concept maps but may not be familiar with the others. Share this Student Learning Organizer of Metacognitive Strategies. Tying learner strategies to your instruction will make it more inclusive.
Discussions can have well thought out open-ended questions provided by the instructor, student-generated questions, or no questions at all. For example, one instructor has had great success without providing questions in his online discussions. Instead, he tells students the purpose of discussions and that they will find suggestions for these by listening to his podcast or video lecture for that unit.
Roles. Provide structure and student agency to discussions by assigning roles (e.g., starter, responder, wrapper) and rotating those roles during the course. Additionally, this will prevent the same students posting first and everyone else waiting to reply. Student-moderated discussions provide social presence to the online community of inquiry (COI). See blog post on how to plan for an online COI.
Media. Use the audio or video recording features to share responses besides the text-based option to provide novelty and multiple means of representation. Ask students to provide a visual created by the student that illustrates their learning along with their reflection. See Google Drawing illustrating a students’ understanding of reading regarding semiotic domains. This provides both teaching presence and social presence for the online COI. The exchange of media will close the psychological distance between you and your students.
Monitor. For equity, a best practice is to create a matrix of teacher-student interactions to track your response efforts over the course of the semester. Monitoring your discussion posts will curtail various biases and ensure consistency. Set up a spreadsheet to do this and include personal information shared in the ‘Getting Acquainted’ discussion to provide a more personalized context to interactions with each student.
Highly effective tasks are those which are situated within the actual task (authentic or simulated) or end goal for your course for near transfer of information to long-term memory. This is in contrast to far transfer tasks that are related but not exact. Situated learning occurs through different modes of co-participation based on situational factors (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Learning in one situational context may not transfer to another unless it closely mirrors it and the learner is properly prepared; therefore, authenticity is crucial to the learning situation (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989).
Groupwork. Student-led projects provide student agency in the design of their own learning. Provide the parameters, team roles (e.g., team leader/organizer, researcher, writer, & presenter), and peer evaluation forms to ensure everyone participates fully. Include expectations for group grade such as everyone provides proofreading of assignment prior to submission. Encourage student groups to set up their own ground rules for group meetings and task sharing. Monitor group work by asking to be added to the document workspace such as a shared Google folder.
Presentations. As for hybrid courses, maximize the face-to-face meeting by asking students to present their work to each other during seminar sessions in their level one courses. This is referred to as flipped learning when you use class time for student activities instead of teacher-centered activities. For fully online courses, students can share their media presentations (e.g., narrated PowerPoints saved as MP4 files, podcasts, video projects) with other students in a media hosting site that allows students and teachers to provide feedback, as well as tags, titles, and captions.
How can students demonstrate mastery besides multiple-choice tests? These are still useful for testing recall. However, to engage the learner in higher-order thinking skills, we should provide alternative assessments such as project-based learning, essays, portfolios, performance, products, and presentations. These do not need to be end-of-term projects. Formative assessments can be formal or informal (practice tests, digital exit tickets, polls), which serve as comprehension checks and subsequent student feedback during the course. This is in contrast to summative assessments that test your cumulative knowledge on a topic at the end of the term. Formative assessments promote fairness by gathering evidence of students’ understanding throughout the course, which can be used to better inform/modify your instructional practices to meet students’ needs.
Testing is a learning event. Consider setting tests for multiple attempts to help students achieve mastery. This triggers new learning and/or review of content, as student revisit content for answers. Tolerance for error in course assignments also makes it more inclusionary. To prepare for a test, ask students to use the free tool PeerWise to create questions on the topic of study for each other to answer. Some instructors ask their students to submit questions for actual tests. In this scenario, students develop questions from the content according to its structure and importance.
Feedback & Guidance
Learning requires differing feedback loops offered at intervals throughout the course, hopefully, with just-in-time guidance. Feedback can come from intelligent tutors through computer adaptive programs, instructors, teaching assistants, peers, and subject matter experts from the professional field. Formats for feedback loops vary from discussions, recommended edits on a paper, rubrics, and assessments.
Rubrics. Rubrics establish the criteria and scale for various tasks such as discussions and assignments and make the expectations explicit. Rubrics provide consistency and speed with grading. Some electronic rubric features allow you to provide feedback at the criterion level and for overall performance. Additionally, you can tag your departmental student learning outcomes to these rubrics to help students understand why the task is important.
Scaffolded instructional feedback. Scaffolding instruction provides content in meaningful and manageable chunks of information. This entails providing visuals for structure, context, direction, and just-in-time definitions. For example, segment a lecture at viable points and ask reflective questions. For writing, break large tasks such as research papers into point-based phases of the writing process (e.g., outline, literature review with five citations, rough draft, final paper). Consider the universal design for learning and design for tolerance for error by providing space to practice (e.g., mock interviews/comps/presentations, tutorials, simulations).
Peer feedback. It is critical to provide guidelines and criteria for peer feedback tasks. This involves establishing roles, a clear project description, rubric, and instructions for tools used. For writing, assign a peer review of draft papers utilizing MS Word tracked changes or Google Docs suggested edits. Instructors can request access to the documents for review.
In summary, for active learning, students need the following:
Preparation for learning events,
Situated learning environments for near transfer,
Planned multimodal interactions that are cognitively challenging,
Feedback loops, and
Metacognitive strategies to monitor their learning.
Brown, J., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32–42.
Dempsey, J. V., & Litchfield, B. C. (2001). Surfing below the surface of the Web: HyperInquiry. In B. H. Kahn (Ed.), Web-Based Training (pp. 229-234). Englewood Cliffs, NY: Educational Technology Publications.
Dweck, C. (2009). Developing Growth Mindsets: How Praise Can Harm, and How To Use it Well. [Presentation]. Paper presented at the Scottish Learning Festival, Glasgow. Retrieved from http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/video/c/video_tcm4565678.asp
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education 2(2-3), 87-105.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Quality Matters™ Rubric Standards. (2014). Higher education rubric, fifth edition. Quality Matters Program (QM). MarylandOnline, Inc. Retrieved from https://www.qualitymatters.org/rubric
Note. This is specific to the Schoology learning management system and other technologies and protocols we use on our campus. It’s based on the policy that I used at my former workplace for my instructional design graduate assistantship, the University of South Alabama’s Innovation in Learning Center. I recently added the use of headers, which was missing from that policy.
This Accessibility Logo was created by Christy Blew of The University of Illinois on behalf of the EDUCAUSE IT Accessibility Constituent Group.
Accessibility Statement for Distance Education
The U.S. federal laws require online course accessibility for persons with disabilities. Follow these basic guidelines for compliance: Section 504, 1973 Rehabilitation Act and Section 508, its 1998 amendment to include Electronic and Information Technology, and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 and 2.1.
Provide a hierarchy in the headers of your documents, course pages, and websites.
Describe images and hyperlinks with an alternative text.
Do not use coloring as the sole indicator of meaning.
Use san serif fonts for online text.
Check and repair all portable document formats (PDFs) for accessibility.
Caption all video and provide transcripts for audio.
Provide students with disabilities the prescribed accommodations, as needed.
Persons with visual impairment use screen readers to hear the content on your online course or website. They can also tab through the headers to get an overview or to find specific content. To distinguish headers from paragraph within the text, use the Paragraph tool in the rich text editor to create Heading 1, 2, 3, et cetera. Avoid creating headings from paragraph delineated text by making it bold and increasing the font size.
Alternative (alt) text helps students that use assistive technology (e.g., screen readers) as their learning accommodation. For example, screen readers such as Microsoft’s JAWS (Job Access with Speech) read the description aloud to the user with vision impairment. Make sure you concisely provide alt text for each image in your online course so that students will hear and learn about the images shared. This includes images on a course page or within a document or multimedia presentation (e.g., PowerPoint, Word, or PDF). For Schoology, currently, you cannot add the description for the image during upload. Add it afterward by selecting the image in edit mode. For PowerPoint 2016, follow this pathway to add alt text: Right-click image > Select Format Picture > Select Alt Text. For PDFs, use Adobe Acrobat Pro XI to add alt text to images. This software allows you to edit PDFs and is available in the Faculty Development Center.
When you add links to Schoology, it asks for the name of the link to display and the URL. Provide the specific name of the website instead of a confusing web address, also known as the URL (Uniform Resource Locator). The exact name of the website will aid all learners in understanding where the link will take them. Additionally, assistive technology (e.g., JAWS) will read aloud the long URL if you do not give it a name. Imagine listening to an entire URL reading: “h-t-t-p-s-semicolon-forward slash-forward slash-shc-period-schoology-period-com-forward slash-home.” This would cause extra cognitive load on the listener. Here are good and bad examples:
Color-coding presents a problem for visually impaired students, as they will not be able to access the meaning of particular coloring of text for emphasis (e.g., red text conveying importance, etc.). Simply add the word or words to convey the meaning such as Important.
Sans serif fonts are recommended for online text to provide accessibility. Sans serif fonts do not have the ‘hats and shoes’ on certain letters that serif fonts include. Fortunately, Arial, which is a sans serif font, is the default for Schoology. Avoid using serif fonts because they may waver and become difficult to read on low bandwidth or poor Internet connections.
Are your PDFs readable? Conduct a word search within the Find box of a PDF for a word you see in the document. Type Ctrl+F if you don’t see a Find box. If you receive the message, “No matches were found,” then the document is a scanned image, which cannot be read by persons who use assistive technology. Use Adobe Acrobat Pro XI to repair unreadable (scanned image) PDFs. Remember that this software is available in BL12. Here is the pathway to fix your PDFs with Adobe Acrobat Pro XI: File>Action Wizard>Create Accessible PDFs> Action Step #5 is the Accessibility Checker.
Ensure your Word documents are accessible before you save them as a PDF. Microsoft has accessibility checkers that will highlight any issues in your document. Within Word 2016, select the following pathway: File > Info> Check for Issues > Check Accessibility. Then fix issues such as missing alt text for images. See Adobe Accessibility Quick Reference Card for information on earlier versions of MS Word that you may have at home. Currently, our campus has MS Office 2016 on its computers.
Caption video files and transcribe audio files. Closed captioning is the preferred format (instead of open captions) so the user can turn it on or off according to their needs. If you do not have your media captioned, at the very least, provide a script until you caption the video. However, transcripts do not provide equal access to media files because the words and images from the video are not in sync to enhance meaning. Audio files or podcasts must include a transcript. For narrated PowerPoints, transcribe the audio in the note’s section of each slide.
Captioning Key, funded by the National Association of the Deaf and The Described and Captioned and Media Program, provides a document on specific quality assurance guidelines for closed-captioning. They mention several free captioning services. Our current practice is to upload media to YouTube and use their auto-captioning service and then correct inaccuracies. Ask the instructional designer for the how-to guide on how to set up an unlisted YouTube channel and the video tutorial on how to correct automated captions on YouTube in your video manager account. We also provide the video software production/editor tool, Camtasia Studio 9, which incorporates closed-captioning. The instructional designer can train you to use it.
Providing accommodations in Schoology. In Schoology, you can assign assignments or tests to individuals when you create them. Reuse your existing assignment or test by saving it to your Personal Resources in Schoology. Then bring it back into your course as a new test with a different name. We suggest naming it with ‘Extended Time’ in the title so students know they are receiving the accommodation. Go to the Schoology test settings to add the prescribed accommodations. Warning: Do not reassign the mainstream test to an individual in Schoology, as it will disappear the test scores of the other students. Instead, instructors should make a separate assignment or test for the student(s) with accommodations.
Publishers’ accessibility statements. As a best practice, online courses should provide accessibility statements to the publishers they use (Quality Matters™ Rubric Standards, 2014). This will help those who need access to alternative text files and/or eBooks from publishers, as well as other alternatives to interactive products for adaptive technologies used. Visit the Instructional Design LibGuide on Accessibility where I provided a list of publishers’ links to their accessibility statements. Please inform the instructional design team to update this accordingly.
The Association for Educational Communications & Technology (AECT) is, in my humble opinion, the premier association for instructional designers. My professors in my doctoral studies had been promoting this professional organization and their educational technology standards to their students. I finally attended the AECT conference last year and was blown away by the professional level of everyone I met and how cordial they were to newcomers. This year, their 2018 conference will be held in Kansas City, MO from October 23-27 at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown. I’ll be there, so let me know if you plan to attend. For AECT members, I placed my slides and research paper on the new conference online portal.
This time around, I’ll be presenting on my latest research and giving a workshop on the Online Community of Inquiry Syllabus Rubric that I co-developed with Dr. Van Haneghan. It serves as a great collaboration tool to provide feedback to instructors and for syllabi content analysis for action research. Here’s my schedule:
Wed, Oct 24, 9:00am to 12:00pm, Marriott, Room-Bennie Morten B
Use of Online Community of Inquiry Syllabus Rubric for Course Developers and Collaborators, Drs. Rogers & Khalsa
The Blackboard (Bb) Test Generator converts your electronic file tests (i.e., MS Word or Text) into the learning management system (LMS) test questions. Bb Test Generator is an open educational resource. This will save time from building a multiple choice or T/F test online one question at a time IF you already have it prepared. The College of Southern Idaho provides a Bb test generator website where you can copy-and-paste your test to the Bb test generator to convert it into a zip file that can be uploaded into Schoology. The directions on their Website are fairly straightforward. After you convert the text, you’ll obtain a bbquiz zip file.
For Schoology LMS, follow these steps after you log into your course to upload the test:
Create a blank test in Schoology.
Then select Add Question.
From the drop-down menu, select Import Test/Quiz.
Select Blackboard 7.1-9.0 button for import type from the pop-up window. Select next and locate your bbquiz zip file for import from your computer.
5. Then provide the appropriate test settings within Schoology.
Note. In Schoology, the default points awarded for test questions is 1. To change them all to something else without having to manually do this one-by-one for long tests, follow these steps:
Select the Options tab within the Quiz Questions view, and save your test to the Schoology Question Bank. Make a new Question Bank if you don’t have one already. Save Question Bank to your personal Resources (Home) on Schoology.
Then delete your quiz after you’ve saved it to the Schoology Question Bank. Yes, start all over!
Create a new test (Add Quiz), and use questions from your test bank.
Select From Question Banks from the drop-down menu to Add Questions.
5. Open the Question Bank in your Resources to add Set Points BEFORE you copy it over. This is the only material you can actually edit within your personal resources in Schoology.
“The more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled.― Paulo Freire