I read this morning in InsideHigherEd
The critical difference between replication (with enhancements) of the classroom experience and the potential for the transformation of the classroom experience lies not necessarily in technology, but in four aspirations: A learner focus, an emphasis on interactivity, scalability, and a quest to reduce costs while maintaining quality. We see transformation happen when faculty members don’t see themselves as mere instructors, but as designers, coaches, and members of a learning development team with particular goals in mind.
– Steve Minz, InsideHigherEd, “Next Generation Online Learning,” Nov. 19, 2014.
Honestly, this statement is right on the money. So often the motivation for changing our pedagogy is to chase some bright and shiny technology. Of course, in the chase we realize one person can’t know it all (technology, that is), which is all we needed in the first place – gather a team of complementary disciplines and focus on the learner.
Steve Minz goes one further – change the role of the student: not a consumer but a participant creator contributor.
I am doing that in a small way in a course I’m teaching right now. I have 3 extra credit assignments for students to provide content in the form of assignments which might more simply teach a concept than those I use already, or already existing YouTube videos with high explanatory value. Thr0ughout the course I emphasize the need to learn from the course activities which kinds of activities are best for the way the individual student learns. I want to help in the formation of students who take charge of their own learning. For a lifetime.
Thank you Bit Blueprint , engaging, explanatory, and fun!
I think it’s the Gradebook. It’s the primary difference between a learning management system and many of the other tools helpful to teaching such as Box or Google docs or blogs or wikis. A platform like Sakai is quite a convenience for posting grades from electronic paper submissions, from quizzes, from forum postings, from almost any other gradeable student artifact (electronic or not), and securely displaying them to students. The Sakai Gradebook even does calculations for Instructors and provides histograms of grade distributions.
Sakai open source software
At last reckoning, March 2014, nearly 40% of Notre Dame instructors used Sakai in some fashion or other. They touch 80% of our undergrad students. More startling to me is the 60% of Notre Dame instructors who don’t use Sakai. Why they don’t use Sakai is probably due to many factors – not enough time to learn it, the perception that it will be daunting, perhaps even a failed attempt to grasp it, or not being aware of the people and resources to turn to when setting it up for the first time. But my bigger question is what are these Instructors using to keep their student grades?
I met an Instructor two years ago who showed me their ledger, the same style as an accounting ledger from an office supplier. All grades for all classes for each student they taught were neatly transcribed. It was elegant. It was permanent. It was accessible to the instructor. It was a tried and true method perfected through regular yearly use. I’m sure the instructor did not share this ledger with their students because it was not possible to see only one students’ grades; I don’t know if the instructor scheduled office appointments with each student for every grade to apprise each student. Surely not… Did they use personal emails to inform students of their grades?
More often though, I talk to instructors who keep grades in alternative electronic gradebooks. The most popular electronic gradebook is plain ole Microsoft Excel. Those who know Excel well have embedded formulas that automatically calculate students’ averages, provide stats, categorize Homework, Quizzes and Exams, and weight them appropriately to their syllabus. – Really, all the things the Sakai Gradebook does but without having to know Excel formulas. These instructors are in the same boat when it comes to regularly and frequently distributing grades to students. How do they do it? I don’t know.
As Notre Dame’s LMS administrator these past 10 years, I can remember when only the technologically adventurous used such platforms – yes, they wanted to easily distribute grades to students behind a secure login, but they also have been ever pushing the envelope of what they can do inside and outside the classroom through engaging students everywhere that students learn, including the Internet.
Today because of this one feature, the Gradebook, more faculty are simply using our LMS, Sakai, to make their grading processes more efficient. Maybe later they’ll find value in some of the other features, but for now, they just use the Gradebook. And because of this, we’re asking ourselves if we picked the right Gradebook. Does it do everything needed for the different ways instructors record grades?
The Gradebook we picked (GB2) does well if the items to be graded are all based on points or all based on percentages. It works with number grades, but not letter grades (except for a final grade). It allows instructors to create categories to weight like Assignments, Projects, and Exams. But recent criticism suggests faculty want more. Not all faculty want points converted to percentages for students. Faculty want their excel spreadsheet imports to do more – to upload comments or letter grades, in other words, non-numeric data not used by our chosen Gradebook for calculations. They want more flexibility in what they display to students. Some want to only display the running course grade (based on work completed to date) but not the percentage it represents – because they will grade on a curve at the end of the term.
Some faculty who do use other Sakai tools love that they can collect electronic submissions, grade them electronically and return both the marked up submission (such as a word doc or spreadsheet) and the grade for it, all within Sakai. Others have built multiple choice quizzes that are automatically graded by Sakai and serve to let students know how well they’re doing on reading or homework.
- If you have general comments or feedback on Sakai and/or on the Sakai Gradebook, or if you’ve found particular Internet tools helpful, we’d love to hear from you at Sakai_Team@nd.edu . Meanwhile, if you’re exploring tools for the fall, here are a couple of excellent resources to stimulate your thought:
- NspireD2 “Explore new ways to integrate technology into teaching & learning.” You’ll find this blog at https://ltlatnd.wordpress.com – great tips and reviews by the Kaneb Center’s Chris Clark and others.
- Why not talk through your course with the Kaneb Center for their direct recommendations? Consultations can be scheduled online at http://learning.nd.edu .
- Have you seen the site yet for Notre Dame’s Office of Digital Learning? It’s already a great resource. Check out http://online.nd.edu
- If you already use Sakai, or have a question specific to it, our site is http://sakai.nd.edu
Kudos to Darren Crone. So true! And funny…unless you’re crying.
“How to set expectations for change management,” – that’s it. That’s what I didn’t know.
Consider the kinds of changes one habitually takes from a vendor of proprietary software which you maintain in your own higher ed Data Center.
The hypothetical change is
New cool features advertised to you, or…
- Bug fixes (you’d found them or you hadn’t, in other words, you cared deeply or not at all), or …
Qualities of the change:
- The change has already been deployed and tested many times over by the software vendor in environments, with data, very similar to yours.
- You schedule when you want to accept/install the change and make it available to your users, usually based on your academic schedule.
What your users expect-
- Won’t get it before the regular schedule break, even if they knew about it.
- Didn’t know about it anyway because the vendor doesn’t market to them but to the people who manage the system for them.
- The vendor is an uncaring large collection of cogs anyway, so no point in asking for an enhancement.
What your users do-
- Blog, tweet and facebook their complaints vociferously but without expecting more than a good venting session.
- Write you emails about how your vendor doesn’t care.
- Login after upgrades and harumpf that that the thing that used to annoy them so greatly is finally fixed.
Contrast this with open/community source:
What your users expect-
- They will be heard if they connect with the community.
- You are connecting with the community on their behalf and that will be meaningful in the community because it must be small.
- The developers working on their behalf will automatically do a better job than the vendor because they work for higher ed institutions.
What your users do-
- Demand bug fixes and enhancements.
- Expect them to be applied frequently.
- Suggest enhancements and expect them to be executed in amazingly beautiful ways.