female student at computer February 17

Getting Started with Blended Learning Videos

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“There’s just not enough time in class with students!” It’s a common faculty complaint, and when students are provided quality course materials they can use outside class, this blended learning approach gives faculty more time in class. A variety of materials can be developed for use outside class. In this article, we’d like to focus on creating video content that students use for a blended learning course.


February 7

Easy Content Creation with Whiteboards

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A number of video types work well in an online environment, each with its own strengths that make it appropriate for teaching certain types of content. One of the most powerful types is whiteboard videos.

Whiteboards are basically blank canvases on the computer onto which you can write, draw, or place different sorts of content. The ability to draw is particularly helpful for instructors teaching quantitative courses, as instructors can write out equations freehand, rather than going through the laborious process of typing them onto a computer. But drawing can be used in other subjects as well. An art instructor can teach how to identify a particular painting style by placing images of different paintings on the whiteboard and circling their defining features while recording the lesson. Whiteboards also work for assessments. Students can demonstrate their understanding of a physics principle by recording themselves solving equations on a whiteboard while describing the steps. This allows the instructor to see whether an error in the student’s thinking has led them astray.

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teaching and learning graphic February 7

Let’s Solve the Right Damn Problem: Intentional Teaching with Technology

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We’ve all experienced failed learning activities, such as painful class sessions, online disasters, or group projects gone wrong.

When we analyze what went wrong, we usually wring our hands and lament the state of college students today, but is it possible that we ourselves are the inadvertent cause of many of these problems? Could our lack of intentional planning be the issue?

Misalignment in our classes can cause many problems. Consider what happens when the wheels of your vehicle are out of alignment. The tires aren’t all pointing in the same direction, making it difficult to steer, causing undue strain and wear, and possibly endangering the safety of those in the car.

The same things can happen when we teach a class that is out of alignment. It’s hard to direct the flow of learning; learning activities and assessments become more burdensome than they need to be; and the safety and well-being of those in the car, so to speak, are unnecessarily put at risk.

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video assessment January 9

Making Learning Visible with Video Assessment

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In winter 2015, I was given the opportunity to design and teach my department’s first fully online course, in calculus. Some design challenges emerged in the process, not least of which was the question of assessing homework. In a face-to-face class, students either turn in handwritten solutions to online problems or present them orally in class. But how can you have students presenting work to each other when they don’t even meet?

My solution—the only solution that could really work—was to have students present work via recorded video and then put those videos in an accessible place for the rest of the class.

The process worked as follows:

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screenshot of 20 Minute Mentor January 3

How Do I Align Learning Objectives with Technology Using Backward Design?

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Just like with DIY projects, it's important to use the right teaching tool for the job. But even the latest “cool tool” won’t solve learning problems if it isn’t integrated properly. This program shows you how to peel back the layers of your teaching challenges and work backward from your learning objectives to your choice of technology solutions.

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unplugging cord December 8, 2016

Use It but Don’t Depend on Technology to Teach

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This article is not a Luddite’s rejection of digital technology. Even though I feel some intellectual kinship with Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in regard to how some tools affect people constitutionally, I readily admit that digital technology has made my job as a teacher much easier in a number of ways. Courseware makes it possible for me to share handouts with students without having to make copies. I can post web links for easy in-class access. Using email, I can make important announcements when my students are not in class, and they can contact me with questions about their essays. After my students visit a local science museum, I can have them post their thoughts about the visit to a discussion board, responding both to me and to each other as they ruminate on connections between the museum displays and related content in the course text. In short, for teachers and students—including sometime skeptics like me—digital technology, despite occasional overuse, facilitates interpersonal communication and accessibility to information.

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online courses computer screen December 1, 2016

Using Padlet to Encourage Student Collaboration

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Online faculty generally default to their learning management system’s discussion form to facilitate student collaboration or sharing. But Padlet provides an alternate format that can be much better for many purposes. The LMS forum is designed for linear, text-based discussions around a pre-established theme. This is good if a faculty member wants to corral discussion and keep it on track, but it is not so good for facilitating a more free-form, creative discussion that branches out into many areas. Padlet also provides a much more visually appealing, and thus inviting, system for facilitating content sharing among students.

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man on a ipad November 29, 2016

Using VoiceThread to Support Close Reading from a Distance

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Faculty know that the increased think-time provided by asynchronous online discussion allows for deeper and more active deliberation by students than is possible in face-to-face courses. But this advantage is often lost as online discussions revert to personal opinions and anecdotes. One method for keeping a discussion on track is to organize it around close reading and analysis of course texts.

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Male Student in online chat November 22, 2016

Improve Learning with Student Interviews

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Interviews are a powerful yet underutilized learning device in higher education. There are thousands of experts available who would be more than willing to add interesting material to your courses. While it is not very practical to fly those people in to speak in a face-to-face course, video recording systems make it easy to add interviews to an online course.

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