Minimum Technical Skill Requirements for Online Learners

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One of my tasks as an instructional designer on my college campus is to provide learning guidelines and protocols for distance education. One way to prepare students for online learning is to provide a list of minimum technical skills required and make recommendations on where they can seek help if they do not possess such skills. Below is what I prepared for our students. I’d love your feedback on it.


Students,

The following is a list of basic technical skills you should have to engage productively in an online course:
● use the learning management system (e.g., Schoology) tools to post
discussions and upload assignments;
● use different browsers, clear browsing history, cache, and cookies, and refresh the screen;
● use email with attachments;
● create and submit electronic files in word processing program formats;
● copy and paste text;
● download and install software (e.g., media applications);
● download a media file for viewing or listening;
● use spreadsheet programs (e.g., Excel, Google Sheets, etc.);
● use presentation and simple graphics programs;
● use collaborative tools like Google Docs and shared folders on Google Drive; and
● use search engines to access digital books and articles from library databases.


Sandra Rogers, Ph.D.

Blackboard Test Generator Converts MS Word Formatted Tests into LMS Quizzes

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:

  1. Create a blank test in Schoology.
  2. Then select Add Question.
  3. From the drop-down menu, select Import Test/Quiz.

  1. 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.

  1. Save!

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:

  1. 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.

Schoology Test creation options include a drop-down menu for Add Questions to Bank

  1. Then delete your quiz after you’ve saved it to the Schoology Question Bank. Yes, start all over!
  2. Create a new test (Add Quiz), and use questions from your test bank.

  3. Select From Question Banks from the drop-down menu to Add Questions.

Quiz creation tool includes a tab to Add Questions with a option in the drop-down menu for From Question Bank5. 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.

In your personal resources, within your saved Question Bank, you can set points for all test items by typing in the value

 

What I’m doing to help combat disinformation online

A word cloud based on a blog about fake news detection resources.

I’ve spent a lot of time the past two years reading and figuring out how to use technology and critical thinking to identify false information. I realized that I hadn’t posted anything on my personal blog about it. Instead, I’ve blogged about it on the academic site, the AACE Review. In Navigating Post-Truth Societies, I provided useful strategies, resources, and technologies. For example, if you’re still on Facebook, use Official Media Bias/Fact Check Extension to determine the accuracy of posted articles. In my review of Data & Society’s Dead Reckoning, I summarized why it’s so difficult for humans and machine algorithms to defeat fake news. I also summarized Data & Society’s article on whose manipulating the media and why. Recently, I interviewed the creators of Hoaxy to learn more about their social diffusion network that pinpoints claims posted on Twitter.

Additionally, I’ve been curating useful strategies and technologies for students to use to combat fake news on Scoop.It. The e-magazine is called The Critical Reader. This digital curation has useful videos, articles, games, and technology tools for detecting biased or false information. For example, it describes how the Open Mind Chrome extension not only detects fake news but also provides veritable articles instead. The target audience would be for high school and college students. Let me know if you would like to collaborate on this endeavor.

And last but not least, I spent 2016-2017 searching for the truth about the workings of the Trump administration. I curated these articles on another Scoop.It titled The News We Trust.  Each of these articles, videos, and tweets were evaluated with a critical lens prior to being added to the collection. Evaluation measures used were confirming authenticity, triangulation (e.g., interviews, observations, and documentation) of evidence, relevance, and currency. Many others I read didn’t make it due to biased comments or going off topic. The reason I’m sharing this now is that it’s still useful going forward in our shared effort of maintaining a free democracy.  They can also be useful in the 2018 midterm elections. If you notice any pertinent article missing, send it to me, and I’ll review for consideration.

#fakenews #mediamanipulation #disinformation #hoaxbusters

Remember the Human in Online Courses

Remember the human is something we intuitively do in traditional face-to-face classrooms, but somehow this gets lost in distance education. If it’s only a text-based independent study, then we’ve silenced our students and treated them as mutes by not providing communication platforms that are supported in the grading criteria. Virginia Shea asks us to remember the human in the impersonal cyberspace, as part of her Core Rules of Netiquette. She was referencing politeness. I, on the other hand, am referencing the instructional goal of teaching to the whole student.

This blog focuses on the basics of computer-mediated instruction in terms of the dichotomy of transmissive (authoritarian) education versus that of a transformative one (democratic). Whenever I present on this topic at conferences, participants share that they or their peers have also encountered and endured transmissive online courses. I wonder how big the problem really is. Since first encountering this problem in 2012 as a doctoral student, I’ve dedicated my research efforts on addressing it.

Transmissive vs. Transformative

Critical pedagogies (e.g., Ignatian pedagogy and Freirean praxis) place the human in a real-world context as much as possible through learning experiences and reflection. The goal being transformative learning experiences instead of transmissive ones that use the antiquated banking model of education where the teacher deposits knowledge for the student to withdraw (Bradshaw, 2017). A good example of transformative learning is Ignatian pedagogy that advocates for context, experience, action, reflection, and evaluation (Korth, 1993).

Interactions for transformative learning are active, authentic, constructive, cooperative, and intentional. Hooks (1994) called this humanity-affirming location of possibility. The design of interaction treatments online doesn’t rely solely on synchronous sessions through web hosting with everyone present. Instead, the goal of high-quality online instruction is to avoid passive learning that requires little cognitive engagement. A good example of a transformative learning activity would be a student (or group) project where students provide each other with authentic feedback.

Interaction treatments are any direct or indirect action between and among students, teachers, and content. Besides written and spoken word, this includes nonverbal immediacy behaviors such as an instructor’s response time. The alternative, a transmissive education of information dumping, is unethical. Freire (1970) called it a corpse of knowledge. Nowadays, this is delivered by the uninformed online instructor through text-based study devoid of interactions with other students (e.g., read-write-submit). The lack of contact with others in the class is not only isolating, shielding us from social learning, but can be frustrating for some students.

Are we teaching machines to learn better than we teach humans?

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I recently read an introductory book about artificial intelligence (AI) and was struck how even the old AI addressed the environment of the robot, as this is something online instructors sometimes overlook for humans. If we want to come away as winners in the man vs machine competition, when humanoids such as Erica the robot have complete human feelings and singularity occurs in 2045, we should focus on providing human interactions in online courses.

Through trial and error, AI has developed heuristics to address robots’ interaction with the environment such as the symbol grounding problem, where symbols are meaningless unless they’re grounded within a real-world context.  For example, the Skydio R1 drone may become the ultimate selfie as it maps its environment using GPS, cameras, and other sensors. How often are instructors grounding the instructional content into the lifeworld of human learners?

What are the heuristics for effective human interaction in distance education?

Provide an online community of inquiry (COI) to dispel the perceived psychological distance between students and teachers in distance education to improve student learning outcomes and student satisfaction. An online COI, a sublime goal, requires consideration of the types of interaction treatments that could engender social, teaching, and cognitive presence for going beyond generative learning. These presences are the key elements for the COI loop (Garrison, Anderson, and Archer, 2000).

Technological affordances can provide humans with multimodal instruction such as narrated PowerPoints or audio feedback for teaching presence for an online COI. For example, podcasts increase student achievement and student satisfaction because they can listen to them over and over (Beylefeld, Hugo & Geyer, 2008; McKinney, Dyck & Luber, 2009; Seed, Yang & Sinnappan, 2009). Learning management systems allow for student-student discussions and the sharing of projects with opportunities for peer feedback to engender social presence in a COI. For example, Schoology’s Media Album allows students to upload their media projects for peer feedback. Projects also provide student agency in the design of their own learning.

Cognitive presence is the other component in the COI traid. Instructors generally provide this with interesting and challenging activities online that they’ve honed over the years from their F2F courses. In my two research studies (Rogers & Van Haneghan, 2016; Rogers & Khoury, 2018), the potential plans for cognitive presence have been high at the institutions; however, social presence has been average and teaching presence below average.

Designing interaction treatments (e.g., student-student, student-teacher, and student-content) will help address the psychologically perceived distance in computer-mediated courses (Bernard et al., 2009). These designed interactions need to focus on meaningful activities for the students’ lifeworld to aid their learning. Remember the human as you plan your online course; otherwise, the robots will overtake us.

#criticalpedagogy #transformativeeducation #AI #elearning #Ignatianpedagogy #CoI

References

Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Borokhovski, E., Wade, C. A., Tamim, R., Surkes, M. A., & Bethel, E. C. (2009). A meta-analysis of three types of ITs in distance education. Review of Educational Research, 79, 1243-1288. doi:10.3102/0034654309333844

Beylefeld, A. A., Hugo, A. P., & Geyer, H. J. (2008). More learning and less teaching? Students’ perceptions of a histology podcast. South African Journal of Higher Education, 22(5), 948-956. doi:10.4314/sajhe.v22i5.42914

Bradshaw, A. C. (2017). Critical pedagogy and educational technology, in A.D. Benson, R. Joseph, & J.L. Moore (eds.) Culture, Learning and Technology: Research and Practice (pp. 8-27). New York, NY: Routledge.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum.

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

Hooks, B. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Korth, S. J. (1993). Precis of Ignatian pedagogy: A practical approach.  International Center for Jesuit Education, Rome, Italy.

McKinney, D., Dyck, J. L., & Luber, E. S. (2009). iTunes university and the classroom: Can podcasts replace professors? Computers & Education, 52, 617-623. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2008.11.004

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.

Using Google Suite for the Universal Design of Learning

Design for gardining Website interface displays tools and supplies as icons
This Google Drawing was created for a doctoral mini project on an interface design task for developing a gardening website with one of my peers in an online course. This was created prior to my understanding of accessibility issues. Notice that not all icons are labeled. This would not be accessible to all. Additionally, alternative text would need to be embedded with each image.

Google Suite,  along with the Chrome browser’s Omnibox and useful extensions, can be used to enhance the teaching of all learners with universal instructional design principles. Google Suite is the new name for these features: Google Apps (Docs, Forms, Sheets, Slides), Classroom, and Drive. This blog focuses on the use of technology to augment instruction through differentiation via scaffolding, formative assessments, and student collaboration. Google professional development opportunities and teacher resources are also addressed.

There are several efforts to design education with universal design in mind. Palmer and Caputo (2003) proposed seven principles for universal instructional design (UID): accessibility, consistency, explicitness, flexibility, accommodating learning spaces, minimization of effort, and supportive learning environments. The UID model recognizes those needs for course design. Its main premise is equal access to education and extends this to all types of learners and not just those with disabilities. For example, all learners can benefit from multi-modal lessons. Palmer and Caputo’s principles should be kept in mind as you develop differentiated instructional learning scenarios with Google Suite. See my blog post to learn more about universal design.

My College is a Google Apps for Education campus, which means we have unlimited storage on our Drive and seamless access to Google Suite through our school Gmail. Speak with your Google Suite administrator to learn about the features and functions of your access, as some institutions like my alma mater block YouTube and Google+. 

The following scenarios address possible technology solutions for teaching all learners. For instance, scaffolding supports different learners’ preferences, as well as the needs of lower performing students. Formative assessments are important to obtain ongoing feedback on student performance; use these often. They can be formal or informal (practice tests, exit tickets, polls). Formative tests promote active learning, which leads to higher retention of information learned. Use the following list to add your ideas and scenarios for differentiated lesson planning.

Scaffold Learning Google Tools & Features Formative Assessments Your Ideas & Scenarios
Provide visuals for structure, context, or direction & just-in-time definitions Google Drawings, Docs’ Explore tool, & Drive Students make their own graphic representation of a concept or complete guided tasks with the frame provided by an instructor.
Provide authentic speaking practice prior to oral test/presentation Google Docs’ Voice Typing, Chrome Browser’s Omnibox for a timer, & Drive Students work individually or in small group turn-taking voice typing their scripts/stories on Google Doc within a timed parameter on a split screen.
Check for comprehension to obtain data to drive instruction/remediation Google Forms, Sheets, Classroom, & Drive (Alternative: Google Slides new feature allows for asking questions & polling question priority live from slide.) Students take a quiz on Google Forms to demonstrate knowledge after a lesson (exit ticket) or homework. Instructors receive Form responses in a Google Sheet. Sheets has Explore tool for analyzing data for visual display for data-driven discussions among teacher cohort/supervisors. Auto import grades from Forms to Classroom gradebook.
Students use app with embedded choices to check their own grammar Free Chrome extension, Grammarly and/or app Students correct errors in their first writing drafts on the app or within online writing platforms (e.g., wiki, blog, or email). Grammarly is also available for MS Office and Windows but not for Google Docs. Use its app to check Docs or other writing formats by pasting content to New Document.
Hi/low peer collaboration and/or tutoring Google Apps, Classroom, & Drive Students share settings on project Docs, Drawings, etc. to collaborate via text comments or synchronous video chat sessions.

Resources for Digital Literacy Skill Training

  • Did you know that Google provides lesson plans for information literacy?
  • Do you need to teach your students how to refine their web searches? See Google Support.
  • Internet Safety Tip- Recommend that students use incognito browsing on Google Chrome when conducting searches to reduce their digital footprint. See Google’s YouTube playlist, Digital Citizenship and Security, and their training site for more information.

Accessibility Resources for Assistive Technology

  • ChromeVOX – Google’s screen reading extension for the Google Chrome browser and the screen reader used by Chrome Operating System (OS).
  • TalkBack – This is Google’s screen reading software that is typically included with Android devices. Due to the design of Android and its customizability by hardware manufacturers, TalkBack can vary and may not be included on some Android devices.
  • Screen Magnifier – This is the screen magnification software included with ChromeOS. The magnification function in ChromeOS doesn’t have a unique product name like other platforms.
  • Hey, Google – This is Google’s personal assistant, which is available in the Google Chrome browser, ChromeOS, and many Android devices.

Professional Development for Educators

Other

#Google #Edtech #Accessibility #UDL

References

Palmer, J., & Caputo, A. (2003). Universal instructional design: Implementation guide. Guelph, Ontario: University of Guelph.

Fair Use Recommendations for Viewing Copyrighted Media for Educational Purposes

Copyright (c), Creative Commons (cc), Public Domain is not copyrighted (letter c with slash through it), Fair Use symbol has balance scales

One of the first issues I encountered on the job as an instructional designer was the misuse of copyrighted media by instructors. Unfortunately, this was propagated by the previous uninformed instructional designer. According to the U.S. Copyright law and Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), copying copyrighted material is a violation. Basically, you cannot modify the existing format (e.g., copying a VHS to DVD format or converting it to a MP4 file) Review your faculty manual or school guidelines on the use of copyrighted material in the classroom. Also, I recommend talking with the copyright expert on your campus.  For example, I learned a lot from a librarian at our College who is knowledgeable on the topic.

Here are a few useful websites to reference to aid your understanding of the topic:

The following are some practical solutions that I put together for a job aid when redirecting instructors to best practices within the law. Here are some recommendations to show copyright-protected videos to students:

1) Only show a small segment of a privately owned video in your class to illustrate a lesson, as part of the Fair Use laws (Title 17, Section 107, U. S. Code, Copyright.gov). Avoid showing an entire video of copyrighted material, as this constitutes a public performance of it and is prohibited by law. Use a Fair Use checklist to determine the purpose, nature, amount, and effect of the media use for educational purposes.

2) Place your videos on course reserves for checkout by students in the library for one semester only to meet spontaneous requirements. Fill out the necessary paperwork with the library at the circulation desk for course reserves. If a student does not have a VHS or DVD player, they may be able to check out one on a TV cart to take to a study room in the library for viewing. Meanwhile, place a request order with the purchasing librarian for the library reserves. See solution # 4.

3) Search the library’s video databases to see if the same content is available (e.g.,  Films on Demand and WorldCat). Films on Demand provides Live Media Streaming. Students log in with their school credentials to view.

4) There is an option for the library to purchase DVD formats for multiperson use to include in their collection. Contact the purchasing agent in your school’s library to learn more about this option.

Please share any of your recommendations on this topic!

Thank you to my followers!

Avatar sitting on a crescent moon
My avatar sitting on the moon in SecondLife.

With the new year, it’s time to reflect, plan, and show gratitude. Last year, my blog and Twitter accounts attracted more followers. Both now have 1K+ followers. It’s been a slow and steady increase, as I’ve engaged with educators worldwide since 2010 on Twitter, WordPress, and other social media tools. It’s not about quantity for me but quality. I want to thank you for your comments and positive responses!

New Academic Blog:  I invite you to read my guest blogs on the new AACE Review. AACE stands for the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. I’ve been involved with this organization since 2014. They host several teacher/IT conferences such as the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE). My first blog was on grit and learning. This month, I’ve written one defining computer-assisted language learning (CALL) and sharing media selection criteria for CALL from researchers. For next month, I’m preparing interview questions for a CEO about a new speech recognition API.

Tech Tip:  As for new tips, I’m using Grammarly for the first time and loving the free version. I have the Chrome extension. The application checks your grammar and spelling in all writing situations including emails, blogs, and learning management systems. Grammarly sent me a report on my usage that was very insightful. This is a great way to check your past work, too. I work as an instructional designer at my College. No one generally checks my writing unless I ask, so I’m going through all of my online content. I’m doing the same for my personal blog and website! And yes, it would be a great tool for students to use.

Happy New Year!

Sandra Rogers