Tools & Resources from #et4online
I've just returned from the 8th annual Emerging Technologies for Online Learning symposium in Dallas, TX. I've compiled some of the most interesting nuggets from the conference here. I separated my thoughts into three categories, each with its own post: resources and tools (you're reading this one!), notes from my 5 favorite sessions, and general takeaways from the conference as a whole. Of course, probably the most valuable piece was connecting with other attendees, which is a bit more difficult to convey in writing :).
What it is: Zaption is a tool that allows users to customize videos - including those found in YouTube, Khan Academy, etc - with images, text and questions overlayed on top of the video or placed in a sidebar next to the video. It integrates with the LMS gradebook so that faculty can track students' answers to questions, which can be used to assess participation, assign grades, etc.
Why it has potential: I'm enamored with this idea because it solves a problem I've been having in my physiology courses. Khan Academy Medicine, HHMI and others make excellent videos on many of the topics we cover. However, students feel these external videos are impersonal and may not highlight the particular areas of emphasis in our courses. I am really resistant to creating my own videos when excellent ones already exist. Customizing the existing videos, interspersing short clips of my own, and adding interactive questions would help the students to focus on the most relevant topics and prevent me from needing to reinvent the wheel.
Potential downsides: The free account may work for my needs, but an upgraded account is $89 annually for a single instructor. There are institutional licenses available as well. Another potential concern is that not all students prefer to learn from videos. By adding assessment questions to videos, we are then insisting that students watch them when otherwise they might be able to get the needed information from a textbook or elsewhere. (Note that questions do not have to be used for assessment or can be used for self-assessment only without any associated score.)
Here's a kind of silly example that I pulled together in just a few minutes:
Go from this...
What it is: DropThought is a software that collects instant feedback from students after they have participated in an activity or assessment. The idea is that course-level feedback doesn't ultimately change the course in a meaningful way over time - and certainly not for the student currently taking the course. DropThought offers a visual rating scale (smiley faces) and the opportunity to leave anonymous feedback or to ask a question. Instructors have access to a dashboard showing results of the surveys and highlighting areas of concern. The software is free and they do have LTI integration so it works smoothly in the LMS.
Why it has potential: While I know end-of-term evaluations (IDEA forms, in our case) are an important part of accreditation, I haven't personally found them helpful at almost any level outside of providing some "proof" that I'm doing a reasonable job as an instructor. I prefer informal and more immediate feedback, particularly when I'm trying something new (ahem, almost always). I also like the idea of highlighting troublesome areas by compiling assessments, and the ability to quickly respond to student's questions and concerns is appealing. The dashboard looks intuitive and helpful, and you can't beat the price.
Downsides: It is one more thing to integrate. It seems as if integration would be pretty easy, and since we're switching LMSs soon I'm going to wait to give this a shot until the fall. I think we'd need to apply it sparingly, as I imagine students might tire of providing so much feedback. Could be wrong about that, as those smiley-faces are fast, non-intrusive and friendly. It also seems like this tool requires you to ask good questions and at the right time. If you aren't doing that, then it probably won't be much of a help.
I wrote a little bit about my experience in a session on humanizing your online courses in this post on the top 5 sessions I attended. Below are some of the tools we discussed that I think will be helpful. Here is an infographic about humanizing online courses that summarizes many of the important concepts.
- Populr - This is a free site that you can use to create interactive and pretty single-page websites. The session instructors use it for creating humanized syllabi among other things, which I thought was a great idea. You can check out my new and improved course overviews here and here. Populr offers free educational accounts, which you can access by clicking on the link from this page (a great resource from the session itself)
- VoiceThread - This one has been on my radar for a while, and it was nice to see it in action at the conference. VoiceThread is a tool for using video/audio/written feedback in discussions in a more fluid way. Essentially an instructor posts an image, slide or prompt and the students can respond to one another or to the original prompt in their own voices. I'm still not totally convinced about how helpful this would be, but I won (!) a free subscription to VT so I'll check it out and see. It does have an annual fee per instructor ($99), so I'm not sure we'll be able to use in the long run. It does have LTI, although I'm still unclear on how the grading/assessment would work.
- Animoto - Create short, engaging videos to inspire interest in your course or to introduce a new concept or idea. Again, they offer free educational accounts if you apply for one on the website. I was approved in <5 seconds so it shouldn't be too much of a hassle. At first I thought that this was kind of a silly thing that I probably wouldn't use, but after creating the video below for ISci547a I think it's a significant improvement on our previous course intro. It was helpful for me to think through what I find exciting and fascinating about physiology and the students seem to like it so far.
One Last Resource
The Teaching and Learning Innovations at Channel Islands page is an absolute wealth of resources, ideas and information (we need something like this at MUIH! I would have LOVED to have an online teaching preparation program like theirs...). I highly recommend the Toolbox section in the drop-down menu. Many of the pages there are made with Populr.