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Software and Tool Reviews

Open for Learning: OER Materials Continue to Rise

There is a large and growing number of works released with open licenses, which encourage sharing and remixing. These works (both creative and academic) can be used extensively within classrooms for little to no money. Over a billion such works were created under Creative Commons licenses alone. Yet for many, open educational resources (OER) are a yet-unknown element. A recent study found that about 3 out of 4 higher-ed faculty members could not name what OER was, despite making access to textbooks and other learning materials easier than ever for students. The common trope of professors writing textbooks that they require students to buy doesn’t quite hold up: few professors make money from textbooks, even if they do write and require their own textbooks, and the process systematically locks students out of learning.

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Photo Credit: premieradmissions.com

Combining pedagogy with open learning materials is the subject of multiple websites and conferences, including the Open Education Global Conference in Krakow, and oerstrategy.org. OER advocates say that campuses save almost as much time and expense by adopting these resources as their students do. Cable Green of the Creative Commons points to OER efforts in British Columbia and the University of Minnesota, which snowballed into an effort that Washington, Oregon, and California have since joined. Green hopes the efforts will lead to more efficient usage of faculty time and more uniform, less redundant learning materials: “They said, ‘Let’s not duplicate efforts and let’s not waste money’ — butwe can actually do better than that. We can set plans together. We can divide the labor, so everybody doesn’t have to work so hard. We can share the expenses on projects.”

For more info, visit the article here.

 

Feedback Studio by Turnitin

The infamous anti-plagiarism website has added a new feature! Turnitin Feedback Studio is a product that will emphasize feedback, easy use and accessibility. Renamed “FeedBack Studio”, this new function’s main point is to help instructors provide authentic feedback to improve their student’s writing.  It does this by giving instructors a single place to quickly provide direct feedback on all aspects of their students’ work.

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(Photo Credit: TurnitIn.com)

Some features of this new tool include:

  • New user interface that puts plagiarism prevention, feedback, and grading into one unified view
  • A responsive design that is functional on PC’s, tablets, and mobile devices
  • Expanded database and enhanced anti-plagiarism technology that indexes the most relevant and up-to-date content on the web, including content that is hidden behind JavaScript

In a survey conducted with more than 1,000 students, the students stated that they valued the feedback from their teachers in support of their learning.  Feedback Studio’s new interface allows educators to provide feedback on students’ papers from one window the entire time they edit and comment. Teachers also have the option to choose from over 75 pre-written comments like “citation needed” or “phrasing”.  Furthermore, the new version offers grading rubrics and voice feedback options.

Turnitin Feedback Studio is currently available to all Turnitin users and for on a per-student, annual subscription for new customers.

For more information, please visit the article here, or the Turnitin website

Engaging Students with Active Learning

There are now more ways to get students active and interested in classes.

Professor Perry Samson from the University of Michigan experienced a significant increase of the amount of students in his class after he simply added the word “extreme” to the class name. Now that he had to deal with about 200 students from just 40, he decided to come up with a way to effectively teach his lectures to all of them.

Professor Samson is an entrepreneur as well and is the cofounder of a popular weather site and an active learning platform known as LectureTools. His purpose for LectureTools was to get students participating in class through their technological devices in class. This software allowed real-time feedback from the students and was able to capture notes that students were taking, how they answered questions and questions that they asked.


Co-founders of LectureTools (from left to right): Kiran Jagadeesh, Jason Aubree and Perry Samson.
Credit: AnnArbor.com

According to a report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, students enrolled in STEM courses that used active learning techniques had exam scores that were 6 percent higher than the students who did not have active learning. In fact, it was shown that students who did not have active learning were “1.5 more likely to fail course exams”.

Samson concluded that a strong relationship exists between the students’ active learning participation and their outcomes. He says that, although the typical Learning Management System provides grading, assignments and collaboration potential, it does not provide tools that students can use to participate and be active during class time.

Ever since Samson introduced his software into his classes, 68% of his students asked questions in class; there was more of an even distribution among women and men and non-English and English speakers asking questions.

Source: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/04/15/engaging-students-with-active-learning.aspx?admgarea=News

5 Lecture Hacks

Students often get confused and bored during lectures. With the help of technology instructors can hold students’ attention both inside and outside of the classroom with engaging videos. Here are 5 lecture capture devices that can help make instructors videos more engaging:

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Dynamic Green Screen:

  • Recording a presentation while the professor is standing in front of a whiteboard or projector can make it difficult for students to see the presentation clearly. Chromatte is a dynamic green screen which is made from a ring of LEDs that go around the camera lens. These lights can shine green or blue on the Chromatte to change the color of the background in the video. The different color helps distinguish the presentation material clearly.

Virtual Green Screen:

  • Personify is a software that inserts a video of the instructor into a PowerPoint or other online material. You will need a 3D camera, similar to an ordinary webcam, mounted on the computer. Next, the instructor will record himself with the 3D camera, and Personify automatically filters out the background so the instructor appears in front of the presentation material in the video similar to filming himself in front of a green screen. This is an easy way to insert an instructor into a learning presentation.

Lightboard:

  • Instructors often have to turn their backs on students while writing on the board, blocking the students’ view of the content on the board. The Lightboard is an illuminated 4-by-8-foot sheet of glass, which allows an instructor to write on the glass from behind using fluorescent markers, so the writing “glows” in front of the person. This helps students see what the instructor is talking about while writing rather than seeing somebody’s back write on the board. On camera the writing appears reverse, but can be digitally flipped or recorded with a mirror. The Lightboard itself costs about $2,000 for the glass frame.

Multi-Perspective Video Capture:

  • Mediasite MultiView is a great multi-perspective video capture tool that records both the instructor and the presentation material. While Chromatte, Personify and Lightboard produce a video where the instructor and presentation materials appear in the same view, Mediasite MultiView captures multiple video streams and allows students to view them side-by-side simultaneously or zoom in on one or the other.
    • This is an excellent tool for people with disabilities. For example, a student with disabilities can see an interpreter using sign language in one screen while watching the instructor’s PowerPoint slides displayed on another screen. With the help of technology students with disabilities can even zoom in to the singing to receive a closer look.

Interactive Video:

  • Instructors often don’t know if students actually understood their video lectures or if the students even watched them. With the help of eduCanon instructors can use this free tool to embed questions into online videos to create interactive lessons. As a student watches a video, it pauses wherever the instructor has embedded a question and students can’t continue watching the video until they answer the question. EduCanon helps teachers comprehend if their students understood the lecture.

For more information on this topic click here.

Simplifying the Design Process- One Canva at a Time

To all designers and creators: have you ever opened Photoshop, PowerPoint, Word, or even social media sites and asked yourself now what? How about those who fear the Adobe Suite or even Microsoft Office?

Canva, a design app, simplifies creating posters, flyers, presentations, business cards, Facebook covers- you name it. With a selection of professional, pre-designed graphics and stock photos to choose from, you can finish a project within minutes. Be aware that most stock photos have Canva watermarks or you can pay $1 to omit it.

Most of the design process is drag-and-drop. Choose what background, layout, and text you want in your project, then fill in the blanks. Customizing their templates is no problem either. Click on an object to move it, change the color, edit the text, or delete it.

Designs and graphics are great to embellish presentations- especially “PowerPoint-esque” ones. They catch audience’s attention and intrigue listeners. Be aware though, too much text and over the top graphics can just as easily detract your audience. Learn your medium before giving a presentation.

Below are examples of posters we made in less than five minutes:

UWB Learning Tech LT Mission

What can you create on Canva?