Sunday, August 23, 2015

Switching to Canvas

Miami University has recently changed to a new LMS (Learning Management System) called Canvas.  We used Sakai for a few years before this latest change- and faculty can choose to keep Sakai for this year if they choose.  I decided to jump in and switch to Canvas this semester. It's been a steep learning curve, but I've put in a lot of hours setting up my courses and think I have a good idea how to use it now. One thing that I like is that it has apps for iOS and Android. So obviously I went ahead and installed it on my iPhone, iPad, and Nexus 7! Here's a comparison of the home page for my GEO 121 course:

Here is a screen grab from my computer (iMac 27')

Here is the iPad version

iPhone (5s) version

Nexus 7 version (Android)
The picture is not showing up in the Android version for some reason (it shows up in the iPhone version, but you have to scroll down). I like the features in the Nexus 7 and iPad since you can set a color for each course (iPhone doesn't have that option). It looks like they are all functional and you would be able to take quizzes, post to the discussion board from all devices. If students come without computers or tablets on quiz day, I have them use paper- some quizzes have maps that might not show up well on the phone.

So, it will be interesting to use Canvas this semester. It seems like a good system, but the transition is a huge pain since I have to recreate all of the content (quizzes, assignments, discussions) all over again. 

Anyone else using Canvas? What do you think of it?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Teaching Labs Online

The last time I posted over here (almost a year ago!) I wrote about teaching GEO 121 (Intro Physical Geography) online that summer. I think it went pretty well, but the labs were the most challenging aspect of that class. I write my labs with fairly detailed instructions and encouraged students to email with questions, but I think some students still struggled. It was hard to tell how many of the problems they had resulted from frustration and just giving up, or thinking that they were on the right track, but being wrong about that.

Another issue with the online labs is providing feedback to students on their work.  I used Google Forms for student lab submissions- which was great. I split each lab into multiple parts instead of having one really long form.  When students submit their answers, I get everything in a spreadsheet.  I do the lab first to submit my answers for the key (first row in the spreadsheet) and it makes grading really easy.  For my summer class last year, I wrote up summaries explaining parts of the labs that seemed to be consistent trouble spots for most students, but there was no easy way for them to see which questions they missed.

Sample form from one of the labs. Student names are automatically recorded by the form.
This semester, I'm teaching GEO 121 as a hybrid course.  We meet twice a week for lecture and in-class activities, then the students do the labs online at home.  I set up a couple lab hours each week that students can come for help from my teaching assistant and also encouraged them to come to my office hours or email with lab questions. So far I've gotten a few questions, but I'm a little concerned that everyone is waiting until the last minute to do the first set of labs. They're due next Friday, so we'll see if I get bombarded with questions next week. Anyone else teaching a hybrid course or online course that has labs? I'd be interested to hear how you handle these issued. I'll keep you posted with my class!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Summer Class is going Online!

I was scheduled to teach a section of GEO 121 (Intro Physical Geography) this summer, but was told a few weeks ago and that we can't schedule any classes in our building this summer.  We're supposed to move out in August so that (long overdue) renovations can begin on our building.  Even though my class ends in June, we were told to move it.  My class is usually scheduled in both a classroom AND the computer lab, so I was immediately concerned about how I would swing this in another building. Then I asked if I could just move it to an online course and that is what happened!

I'm excited about adapting my class for online (which I already planned to do for next winter term), but a little worried about the challenges.  I already teach the course in a way that is well suited for online teaching (I don't have much lecture, students work in groups, quizzes are already online, etc.), but I will also have to adapt my lab exercises. As of now, I'm planning to set up Google Forms for submitting lab write-ups. The forms can have the text and links I usually have in the paper copies, then space for students to respond. I will have to make them shorter and simpler to make sure that students can complete them without direct assistance.

I'm also looking forward to having a flexible summer schedule.  In the past, having to be on campus at a specific time on certain days has been difficult for driving my daughter to summer activities, scheduling meetings, and parking can be a real problem (especially during orientation).  I'm aware that I will be spending many hours at my computer, but I look forward to the change.

It will be strange to not meet my students face-to-face, though. I'll get to know their online personalities, but not see them in person. That will be a big change, too. The class filled up (25 students) in first three days of summer registration, so the students seem to appreciate the online option!

Friday, December 27, 2013

*NEW* Winter Term

Luna Lovegood's first Christmas at our house.
I have been saying for years (since I was hired at Miami U) that I would love a couple more weeks between the Fall and Spring semesters and wouldn't miss a week or two less in the summer. This year, I finally got my wish! January 2014 will be the first winter term at Miami. It is three weeks long and we don't start Spring semester until January 27th. I am not teaching during winter session this year, so I can spend those three weeks doing research, getting ready for next semester, and any other work that's hard to get done during the semester. I'm hoping that three weeks is short enough that I don't have my summer problem of squandering my time.  My daughter will be back in school on January 7th, so that will add structure to my day (driving her to school and picking her up). My strategy will be to set a schedule for myself each day to help stay focused. I also have a specific project to work on since I need to get some research done for a conference in March.  I am thinking about teaching an online course next winter session and am attending a workshop about online teaching in late January. I'm hoping it can be a productive AND relaxing month. For now though, it's time for more eating, reading, watching movies, watching TV, and shopping with my family.