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About Janice Florent

Technology Coordinator in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development at Xavier University of Louisiana

image of light bulb that is on

The underlying theme for the Sloan Consortium International Symposium on Emerging Technologies for Online Learning (ET4Online) was on how instructors can refresh their online course to keep it interesting for students.

In an Online Colleges blog post about the symposium, Dr. Melissa Venable writes,

The primary goal of keeping an online course current or fresh is improving the experience and environment for all involved. This effort can include content and assignments, as well as social interaction and technology upgrades, and it doesn’t have to mean a large-scale initiative. Small changes and modifications can make a positive difference for both students and instructors.

Dr. Venable posted a few ideas from the symposium to help instructors refresh their online course. Those ideas are:

Threaded Discussions

  • Include student generated discussion questions.
  • Vary your comments and replies.
  • Use the HTML Editor to format a text-based response (e.g., bold and italics, bullets) and add embedded links, images, and multimedia.

Multimedia Options

  • Build a community with audio.
  • Increase your presence with video.
  • Use the HTML Editor…MORE! Audio and video options are integrated into the Content Editor, allowing you and your students to record from within the course.

Assignments and Activities

  • Consider assignments that foster student interaction with each other.
  • Give students choices for assignment completion (i.e., choosing between writing a paper and creating a video.)
  • Integrate “active learning" breaks.

For suggestions on setting up a successful online course, read the “Strategies for Creating a Successful Online Classroom” article.

Photo Credit: work found at Christophe / CC BY SA 2.0

image showing unhappy team member

Most students have mixed feelings about group work and usually moan and groan when they find out they are required to work on a group assignment. This is also true for students taking online classes. Group work is more challenging for online students because they may have to work with peers in different time zones, use different technologies for online collaboration, and communicate in ways that can make it difficult to understand someone’s personality or tone.

Many students cite lack of cooperation, work equity and dependency on others as major factors in disliking group work. Ironically, this is precisely why group work is essential for learning.

Online Group Projects — Yikes! You can hear the moans and groans of students echoing through your computer monitors as you start the first week of your online course. The reasons for requiring a group project vary from one discipline to another, but there are educational and career motives for requiring group projects.

Steven Johnson’s "Where good ideas come from" video gives an excellent explanation as to why group work is important.

Successful online group collaborative assignments can be a challenge in an online course. In a Faculty Focus article, Gregory Wells, instructional designer at Colorado State University, provided a few suggestions for improving online group work assignments. Those suggestions are:

Define the Project - the project should be integrated into the course objectives and not be viewed as an extra assignment or busy work. The project should allow students to practice specific skills based on the objectives of the course and demonstrate the ability to apply learning to a specific project.
Establish Milestones - the project should include specific milestones during the course. For example, require an outline, a project scope, a requirements document, and other pertinent deliverables.
Use the Learning Management System (Brightspace) - offer private group discussion areas and other collaboration tools that will encourage both communication and participation.
Simplify and Clarify Grading - it is imperative that you establish clear grading expectations for the group project.
Provide Encouragement - it is important to encourage and communicate the specific details of the project. Instructors can not assume students have the knowledge, competencies and skills necessary to engage in group work. They must prepare students for the obstacles they may face.

Following Gregory’s suggestions will not eliminate all of the potential issues that come into play with online group work, but these suggestions will certainly minimize the issues and can turn those moans and groans into excited and energized students that understand the importance of group work.

For more information on Gregory’s suggestions, read his article, “Five Steps to Improving Online Group Work Assignments.”

teamwork word cloud

Additionally, you may find helpful information in the following resources:

female staring at sheet of paper she is holding in one hand while holding pencil in the other hand

In a Faculty Focus article, Dr. Linda Shadiow and Dr. Maryellen Weimer suggested using end-of-semester evaluations to get information from your students that can help you develop your teaching persona (the slice of your identity that constitutes the “public teaching self.”)

Your teaching persona should be created from a series of choices made with the aim of enhancing student learning. In the article Drs. Shadiow and Weimer write,

By the end of a semester, we have a sense of how a course went and what activities and actions supported student learning. But through some painful experiences we’ve learned that sometimes what we thought happened was contradicted by what students experienced.

Getting a “learner-sighted” view of the course-experience can add to your understanding of the learning environment, including aspects of your teaching persona that have framed it.

The authors suggest you begin by telling students that you’re asking questions only they can answer. Explain that this is feedback that can help you become a teacher who helps students learn more effectively. Here is their sample note that introduces students to the concept of evaluating the course experience and some examples of sentence stems that can yield useful information:

Your insights into your learning in this course can help me see our course from your side of the desk. Please respond to any three of the statements below (more if you’d like). Submit these anonymously; I will use them as I plan for my courses next semester.

In this course …

it most helped my learning of the content when…because…
it would have helped my learning of the content if…because…
the assignment that contributed the most to my learning was… because…
the reading that contributed the most to my learning was… because…
the kinds of homework problems that contributed most to my learning were…because…
the approach I took to my own learning that contributed the most for me was…because…
the biggest obstacle for me in my learning the material was… because…
a resource I know about that you might consider using is…because…
I was most willing to take risks with learning new material when… because…
during the first day, I remember thinking…because…
what I think I will remember five years from now is…because…

What are good ways to gain insights from student feedback? Put some distance between the course and the feedback. It’s particularly beneficial to review the feedback when selecting course materials, developing assignments, and constructing the syllabus for the next semester. Another option is to have a colleague compile the results and return them to you prior to planning for the next semester.

For more information read the Faculty Focus article, A New Twist on End-of-Semester Evaluations.

Additionally, Brightspace has a survey tool that allows you to get anonymous feedback from your students. You can get more information about using Brightspace surveys in my Get Feedback from your Students tip.

Active learning is "anything that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing" (Bonwell & Eison, 1991, p. 2). Research suggests attention wanes after 15-20 minutes of a lecture. Active learning techniques can be used to re-energize and refocus a class.

In an active learning classroom, students must think, create and solve problems rather than passively listen to lecture. Active learning techniques and strategies can be used to develop quick activities that punctuate lectures. They can also be used to completely fill the class time.

During the break between semesters, our classrooms (Library rooms 501 and 502) were redesigned to support an active learning environment. An active learning environment is a flexible space that can be reconfigured quickly for a wide variety of teaching methods. An active learning environment supports student-centered learning and works best when you have furniture that allows students to easily shift from independent work to group work to class discussions and back again—without wasting valuable class time.

Active Learning Room 501 can accommodate a class-sized audience of 36. Active Learning Room 502 can accommodate a class-sized audience of 28.

active learning classroom
Active Learning Classroom (Library room 501)
active learning classroom
Active Learning Classroom (Library room 502)

students working in an active learning classroom
Active Learning in Action

Our classrooms are primarily used by faculty teaching regularly-scheduled university courses which make extensive regular use of multimedia materials, network communications, and/or active learning. Information about our approval process is available in our approval and assignment of Active Learning Classrooms and Teaching Lab document. Fill out our Classroom Request Form to request one of our classrooms.

Are you interested in incorporating active learning techniques in your classes? Here are a few resources to get you started:

We invite you to visit us if you are interested in taking a tour of our active learning classrooms.

update

D2L (the company that owns Brightspace) uses Continuous Delivery to update our Brightspace system. The Continuous Delivery model gives us regular monthly updates allowing for incremental and easily integrated changes with no downtime required for our Brightspace system.

Our Continuous Delivery update occurs on the 4th Thursday of each month. D2L provides release notes to help users stay up-to-date with the changes.

Here are a few updates in the March 2019/10.8.11 release that were added to our system this month:

1) Assignments - Annotate learner submissions

Instructors can now use the built-in annotation toolbar in Assignments to provide contextual feedback with highlighting, free hand drawing, shapes, and associated commenting. This allows instructors to complete all their evaluation and feedback work directly in Assignments, without the need to use any external tools or applications. Annotations remain editable until the feedback is published by the instructor. If instructors want to add additional feedback after publishing, they can update the annotations and re-publish them.

Document viewer toolbar
Document viewer toolbar
Annotation tools when grading assignment submissions
Annotation tools when grading assignment submissions

ICYMI, here's a link to my previous bolg post which has more information about the tool:
Brightspace Tip #82: Annotate Assignment Submissions

Note: D2L does not recommend annotations for use with assistive technology.

2) Assignments - Improvements in Assignments

This update includes the following improvements:

  • Learners can now submit .cs file types as assignment submissions.
  • The Publish All Feedback on Anonymized Assignment Submission permission has been renamed to Publish All Feedback on Assignments. When the permission is turned on for the instructor role, instructors can publish draft assignment feedback in bulk by clicking Publish All Feedback.

Publish All Feedback
Publish All Feedback

3) Rubrics - Rubric icon criteria changed

The checked rubric icon now displays only when a rubric has been fully scored by the instructor. Previously, the checked rubric icon displayed for partially or fully scored rubrics. The unchecked rubric icon displays when a rubric is unscored, or partially scored to provide instructors and learners with more visual information about the status of the rubric.

Unscored rubric icon
Unscored rubric icon
Partially scored rubric with additional information
Partially scored rubric with additional information

Scored rubric icon with check mark
Scored rubric icon with check mark

4) Rubrics - Override criteria scores before selecting a level

Instructors can now enter a score for a criterion on a points-based rubric before clicking on a level within the rubric. Previously, an instructor could only manually enter a score after selecting a level.

If you are interested in getting more information about these and all the March Continuous Delivery updates, refer to the Brightspace Platform March 2019/10.8.11 Release Notes.

Additonally, refer to the Brightspace Release Notes for Continuous Delivery Releases, for details about current, past, and to preview upcoming continuous delivery updates.

Want more information?

View current, past, and preview upcoming Continuous Delivery release notes
View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

1

picture of a person's hand marking on a survey

Instructors can create surveys in Brightspace and use the statistics tools to monitor current course trends, seek opinions, and assess user satisfaction.

Surveys are an excellent way to solicit feedback from learners regarding any aspect of a course. You can gather anonymous or non-anonymous opinions and information from users. Unlike Quizzes, survey questions do not have to have right or wrong answers and Likert-style rating questions are possible.

Some examples of the types of uses for surveys are: seeking feedback on the effectiveness of active learning exercises, the need for clarification of course material, and/or seeking suggestions for course improvement.

Follow these steps to do it.

To create a survey:

  1. On the NavBar, click Activities, then click Surveys.
  2. On the Manage Surveys page, click New Survey.
  3. Enter a Name and select additional settings for your survey (e.g. choose the option to give instant feedback and/or make results anonymous).
  4. To add questions directly to the survey, click Add/Edit Questions. Alternatively, you can add questions from the Question Library.
  5. Click Done Editing Questions to return to the survey page.
  6. Click the Restrictions tab to modify the survey's availability.
  7. Change the survey status to Active.
  8. Specify a date range for the survey, if appropriate.
  9. Set the attempts allowed for the survey.
  10. Click Save and Close.

To track survey progress and results:

Based on how you have set up the survey properties, you might see a list of all users or just the overall survey results with anonymous responses.

  1. On the NavBar, click Activities, then click Surveys.
  2. On the Manage Surveys page, click the context menu next to the name of your survey and click Statistics.
  3. In the Users tab, search for users and their listed attempt types. You can restrict your search of survey results by attempt in the Attempts tab.
  4. To view a specific user's results, click on an individual attempt. To view the number of attempts per question within a survey, click View Overall Results at the bottom of the page.

Want more information?

Setup a Survey (video)
Track Survey Progress and Results
Monitor Course Trends and Assess Satisfaction

Question Library Quick Reference Guide (pdf)
Benefits of Question Library (video)
Create a New Question (video)
Import Questions into Question Library (video)

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

just released stamp

Release conditions allow instructors to create a custom learning path through the materials in their course. When a release condition is attached to an item, users cannot see that item until they meet the associated condition.

For example, instructors can setup release conditions to:

  • Require students to complete an activity (e.g. Syllabus Quiz, Introduce Yourself discussion forum) before accessing course content.
  • Require students to obtain a certain percentage on an activity (e.g. 100% on Syllabus Quiz) to access content items.
  • Require students to complete a non-graded activity before accessing a graded activity.
  • Release an answer key to students who completed the assignment.
  • Require students to view a content topic before gaining access to a quiz.
  • Require students to post to a discussion topic before they can see a content module.
  • Release content based on a student's group enrollment to customize the content each group receives.
  • Require students to acknowledge they have read and agree to an honor pledge before releasing a quiz.

Release conditions can also be added to intelligent agents to create email notifications for users. For example, instructors can create an intelligent agent that would automatically send a reminder email to users who have not yet completed a required quiz or assignment in the course.

release conditions example
Example of multiple Release Conditions applied to a module

If you attach multiple conditions to an item, users must meet all conditions before they can access the item. For example, you could require users to visit the first three content topics in a unit before gaining access to an associated quiz.

NOTE: Once a user meets a release condition, the condition is cleared for that user and cannot be reset. For example, if you attach a release condition to a discussion topic requiring users to achieve more than 60% on a quiz before they can access that topic, and one of your participants receives 72% on the quiz but you adjust their grade to 55% they will be able to access the topic because they did meet the requirement at some point.

Want more information?

Getting Started with Release Conditions (pdf)
Adding Release Conditions
Create a Custom Learning Path in a Course
Customize Learning Paths Using Release Conditions (video)
Content - Attach a Release Condition (video)
Quizzes - Attach a Release Condition to a Quiz (video)
Awards - Add a Release Condition to an Award (video)
Best Practices for Setting Release Conditions
Working with Groups
Intelligent Agents

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

Instructors can use Replace Strings to personalize Brightspace. Replace strings allow instructors to customize course content and communications in Brightspace by incorporating the intended learner's personalized information, such as their first name, automatically.

Example of a personalized Course Homepage
Example of a personalized Course Homepage

Use Replace Strings to create a more personalized learning environment. For example, you can personalize a welcome message, announcement, and/or honor pledge by including the learner’s name.

Follow these steps to do it.

Enter the {FirstName} replace string variable (must be enclosed in curly bracket) in the HTML editor when you want to substitute the learners’s first name. Enter the {LastName} replace string variable when you want to substitute the learner's last name.

Example #1

In an announcement, enter:

Hi {FirstName}! Welcome to this...

Replace String in an Announcement example
Replace String in an Announcement example

Example #2

In module description, enter:

Welcome {FirstName}! Welcome to the study of...

Replace String in a module description example
Replace String in a module description example

Example #3

For an acknowledgement in an honor pledge, enter:

I, {FirstName} {LastName}, acknowledge that...

Replace Strings in an honor pledge example
Replace Strings in an honor pledge example

NOTE: Not all Replace Strings are available in all areas of Brightspace and Replace Strings do not work when sending email inside of Brightspace.

Want more information?

Using Replace Strings (pdf)
Teaching Tip - Use Replacement Strings for Personalization (video)
Getting Started with Release Conditions (pdf)
Customize Learning Paths Using Release Conditions (video)
Content - Attach a Release Condition (video)
Quizzes - Attach a Release Condition to a Quiz (video)
Best Practices for Setting Release Conditions
Customize Your Course Homepage

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

rubric icon

Brightspace interactive rubrics help instructors:

  • Increase Efficiency - Rubrics are built into the grading workflow. Rubrics click-and-score simplicity saves time.
  • Provide Consistent and Quality Feedback - Rubrics enable instructors to provide consistent evaluation and contextual feedback to students.
  • Promote 21st Century Skills - Rubrics make it easier to assign essay questions, individual and group assignments, and discussion forums as assessment activities which foster critical thinking and collaboration.

Rubrics allow instructors to establish set criteria for grading assignments; instructors can attach rubrics to submission folders so that the criteria are available to students before they submit their assignment.

Weighted analytic rubric creation example
Weighted analytic rubric creation example

Rubrics contain criteria that list the attributes on which an assignment will be assessed and levels that list the standards each criterion must meet. A specific grade or score is usually assigned to each level. In Brightspace, you can use a rubric to calculate scores for multiple criteria to determine an overall score for an assignment.

Grade using a rubric example
Grade using a rubric example

Rubrics can be used to display the number of points students were awarded for each criterion after the assignment is graded and rubrics can also be used to provide customized feedback.

Instructors can choose to have the rubrics visible to students at any time, only after grading has been completed, or not shown to the students at all.

NOTE: The Brightspace Rubrics tool is different from Turnitin Rubrics.

Follow these steps to do it.

To create a rubric you should:

  1. On the navbar, click Course Admin.
  2. Click Rubrics.
  3. On the Rubrics page, click New Rubric.
  4. Enter a name for your rubric.
  5. Change the status of your rubric, if necessary.
  6. Choose the rubric Type and Scoring method.
  7. Enter the criteria, levels, criteria/level details, and initial feedback for your rubric.
  8. Enter details for the Overall Score feedback.
  9. Click Options and choose the options for your rubric.
  10. Click Close.

Note: Rubric changes are automatically saved.

Want more information?

Rubrics Tool Quick Reference Guide (pdf)
Create a Rubric
Create an Analytic Rubric (video)
Create a Weighted Rubric (video)
Create a Holistic Rubric (video)
Add a Rubric to an Existing Activity (video)
Grading with a Rubric
Add Feedback and Evaluations to Assignments (video)
Rubrics FAQ

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

1

gears silhouette teamwork

Online groups can enrich class discussion and provide a virtual environment for sharing information. You can use groups to organize users’ work on projects and assignments, or you can create special work areas for users with different learning needs. The Groups tool allows instructors to form virtual groups of students to support peer collaboration.

Users can belong to multiple groups within the same course. For example, each user can simultaneously belong to a group for class projects, a group for special interest discussions, and a group for advanced users. Each group can have its own discussion forums, assignments, and locker area to work in. You can grade members of groups individually or as a team.

Groups can be designated as Self Enrollment (allows students to add themselves to a Group), No Auto Enrollment (instructor assigns students to Groups), or random enrollment (Brightspace system distributes students equally into Groups).

Group Enrollment Type Description
# of Groups

Groups of #

Groups will be created by either number of groups (i.e., 4 groups total) or group size (i.e., groups of 4 students). Students will be randomly assigned to each group.
# of Groups - No Auto Enrollment This option allows instructors to manually assign students to groups.
# of Groups - Self Enrollment

Groups of # - Self Enrollment

# of Groups, Capacity of # – Self Enrollment

Blank groups will be created for students to sign-up for. Students will be able to see the other members of their group.
Single user, member-specific groups This option creates groups of one (1). Each group has a single user where the first name and last name of the learner is the name of the group.

Important: Currently, there is no way to hide the names of group members from other students who are in the same group. Therefore, creating groups for remedial or disability purposes could violate confidentiality laws if group names and/or group members makes the purpose of the group obvious.

Follow these steps to do it.

To create a group category you should:

  1. On the navbar, click Groups.
  2. On the Manage Groups page, click New Category.
  3. Enter a Category Name and Description.
  4. Select an Enrollment Type from the drop-down list.
  5. Depending on the chosen Enrollment Type, enter the Number of Groups to create, the Number of Users per group, or both.
  6. To apply a distinctive prefix to each group name and code in the category, enter it in the Group Prefix field. If you do not fill in this field, the prefix defaults to "Group".
  7. Depending on the chosen Enrollment Type, to automatically enroll users to groups, select Auto-enroll new users.
  8. Depending on the chosen Enrollment Type, to randomly place users in groups, select Randomize users in groups. If you do not choose this option, users are placed alphabetically based on the Classlist.
  9. If you select an Enrollment Type that supports self enrollment, to set a deadline after which learners can no longer self enroll in the group, select Set Self Enrollment Expiry Date.
  10. Click Save.

To create a group you should:

Note: Groups reside in categories. You must create a category before you can create a group. These instructions assume you have already created a category for the group.

  1. On the navbar, click Groups.
  2. On the Manage Groups page, from the View Categories drop-down list, select the category you want to add a group to.
  3. From the context menu of the category, click Add Group.
  4. If you do not want to use the default name provided, enter a group name.
  5. If you do not want to use the default group code provided, enter a group code.
  6. Enter a description for the group.
  7. Click Save.

Want more information?

Groups Tool Quick Reference Guide (pdf)
Create Group Work Areas for Learners
Create a Group (video)
Understand Group Enrollment Options (video)
Modify Group Enrollment (video)
Best Practices for Setting Up Groups

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.