The New LMS is here! The New LMS is here!

 

Copyright Dr Neil Clifton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License. CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s official! USask is moving away from the Blackboard Learning Management System (LMS) to Canvas by Instructure! But what’s the hubbub? Why did the University choose to make this change to the Learning Technology ecosystem? In the 10 years since Blackboard was first launched at USask, university teaching and learning has evolved, and so too has the learning technology marketplace. Institutional research, institutional priorities in learning and teaching, and feedback from faculty, instructors and students indicated that Blackboard was not meeting our needs. The decision to begin a review process was also prompted by our current contract with Blackboard being up for renewal. The version of Blackboard we are currently using was almost at the end of its life cycle, and replacement was necessary. You can visit the Learning Management System Renewal project pages for more details on how and why the LMS review took place at USask on your own time, but for now, let’s take a look at some of the major upgrades this LMS has to offer under the hood!

5 Reasons to be Excited for Canvas

When reviewing the LMS RFP’s the review committee used the 8 principles, research supported characteristics of effective digital learning spaces that prepare students for work and life that are aligned with Our Learning Charter, to help determine the best fit for our learning technology ecosystem. Below are several principles where Canvas excelled and the features that support that excellence.

1. Designed for Accessibility

Accessibility Checker – Insuring equitable access to online course materials has not always been an easy task. Knowing all the standards for accessible web design is not an option for most faculty. With Canvas Accessibility Checker building compliant content within the pages of your course is all part of the process. The Accessibility Checker will not only identify elements within your page that do not follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1), but will allow you to fix the issue within the same Accessibility Checker window. This just-in-time tool ensures all your students are gaining equitable access to course materials with just a few clicks. See the Accessibility Checker in action in this video from the Distance Education Unit at Santa Rosa Junior College.

As a bonus here’s a link to a great little blog post outlining how to use the tools in the Text Editor to create great accessible content within Canvas.

2. Designed for reflection and growth

MasteryPaths – MasteryPaths allows you to customize learning experiences for students based on performance. You can enable MasteryPaths to automatically assign coursework based on the score achieved for a previous assignment. This provides multiple opportunities to show and achieve mastery in a course.

DocViewer – Canvas DocViewer is a tool that allows annotations on online assignment submissions in Canvas. You can use DocViewer to view files and assignments in SpeedGrader. You can view when students view annotated feedback in the assignment details section of the sidebar.

Video and Audio Recording – The ability for you and your students to record video and audio within Canvas as a form of Feedback, Response, Reflection, or Journaling makes it simple to increase the human presence within an online course.

3. Designed for students who are remixing and/or creating

Ideally, the role of a student within an online course is greater than a passive observer of content you’ve provided. Active and engaged learning activities require students to have some tools available that let them curate and share, remix and create. Aside from the video and audio tools already mentioned above, Canvas has several tools available to get students adding content to your course making them an active participant in the online learning community.

Groups – Many of the available creation tools for students can be found in Groups. Here students have the ability to create discussions, upload and share files, start an Office 365 Collaboration, create a conference, and create Pages. Pages allows students to create and collaborate on simple webpages within their groups to build content in a variety of ways.

ePortfolios – Simple ePortfolios are also available in Canvas and allow students to take control of their learning by organizing and reflecting on their progress.

4. Designed to enable connection

Enabled connection in a course has several meanings. First it’s about being able to connect to the course materials in a variety of ways and being able to connect what you’re doing in one course with what’s happening in another.

Features like groups and ePortfolios can all happen in a more global environment than an individual course itself. This allows students to create groups outside a particular class and connect with peers in their program or in cross disciplinary activities. The LMS is a hub that helps students and educators connect to the experiences, concepts, people, and ideas that they need.

5. Active and social

The active and social learning tools in Canvas provide a hub for learning constructed with others. It is an intentional, deliberate system that easily supports learners in connecting to others, and making sense of learning for themselves, within and beyond class groupings. Many of these tools have already been featured above, but here’s a few more.

Chat – The Chat tool can be used for real-time conversation with course users. Any user in the course can participate in a chat conversation. All content in a course chat can be viewed by anyone in the course.

Mobile Apps – The Canvas Mobile Apps’ functionality is impressive. Unlike the squished full size browser on your phone that we’re used to, Canvas has created responsive apps for both students and teachers allowing course participants to increase their access on the go. Available on both Android and iOS. Below are some links to the feature sheets of these apps and you can download them at Google’s Play stores as well as Apple’s App Store.

Teacher App features

Student App features

What tools are not available on the Canvas by Instructure mobile app?

  • Conferences
  • Collaborations
  • Outcomes

What features have limited or no support on the Canvas by Instructure mobile app?

  • Peer review assignments
  • View assignment annotations
  • Certain quiz question types (Essay, Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer, Fill in the Blank, or True/False questions are supported)
  • Certain quiz settings (one-question-at-a-time quizzes, quizzes with passcode restrictions, or quizzes with IP address restrictions)
  • What-if Grades (Android only)

 

Get up to speed fast with the new Canvas LMS

The new Learning Management System (LMS) is reason to celebrate. But transitioning to new learning technologies can also be a little daunting. Although DEU, GMCTL, and ICT will be working hard to develop professional learning plans that merge teaching and learning practices with technical skills, and will be designed to support a change in either or both within the new LMS, you may want to take some time on your own to orient yourself with the LMS update. USask training will take place throughout the summer for early adopters and into the fall and beyond for those transitioning for winter term. Keep an eye out on https://training.usask.ca/ for these and other opportunities as they come available.

In this post, however, the Instructional Design Team at the Distance Education Unit has curated a few resources from Canvas to get you familiar and even, up and running in Canvas, quickly and easily.

Set Up Your Canvas Course in 30 minutes or Less

Fortunately, Canvas offers lots of great self-help resources along with their LMS to get you up to speed no matter your level of familiarity. One of the great collections of resources they offer is a 5 part video series designed to get you started with an overview of Canvas, how to build and manage a course, and how to create and manage course content. Follow the link below for these introductory videos.

Set up your canvas course in 30 minutes less

Instructor Guide

Another great resource from Canvas is the Instructor Guide which provides an alphabetical table of contents (TOC). Each topic/tool in the TOC links to a database of FAQs. Each FAQ takes you to the full documentation and guide which answers that question. When you’re not sure what questions to ask this type of resource can be very useful in helping you navigate your learning. Follow the link below.

Canvas Instructor Guide

Canvas Community

Finally we’d encourage you to explore the wider Canvas Community. Canvas Community is a forum for Instructors, Designers, Students, and Administrators who all share knowledge and support one another across the globe. The common thread is that they are all Canvas users and they all started out knowing nothing. Lot’s of great conversations, but also links to videos, guides, and samples available here.

Follow the link and find the Canvas Community.

Canvas Community

USask Updates and Opportunities

For more support and information about the transition to Canvas keep an eye out on the following sites for updates and opportunities.

LMS updates, training, project and technical details are all available online.

deu.support@usask.ca is always a great option if you just need to talk to an instructional designer whose been there before.

Promoting Peer to Peer Participation

Remote Teaching and Learning does not need to be a self isolating experience for your students. Although we’re all working from home and keeping our distance there’s no reason we can’t work together. In this post we’ll give you few ideas and tools to get students interacting with peer to peer activities and supports.

Peer Support Discussion Forum

Often students’ questions about class get answered in the informal moments before and after class when students run into each other in the hallway or out in the bowl.

“Hey aren’t you in my History class? Do you know understand what we need to do for the second writing assignment?”

But without that physical opportunity for happenstance, you may find one of two things happening:

  1. You’re either fielding a LOT more emails than you’re used to (mostly about things that are in the Syllabus) OR
  2. Students are finding themselves in the dark and NOT asking the question at all, which is far worse.

At the Distance Education Unit we simply create a digital space for happenstance in the Discussion Forums of the Learning Management System. Creating a “Questions Lounge” forum of some sort allows students to have a place to ask those general questions about the course. This serves several functions in the online environment.

  1. It allows those eager and engaged students to jump in and support their peers. There’s always a few students who love this role. Having students support each other in this way means you’ll probably only have to monitor this feed and not answer every post. Just make sure that the answers coming in are correct and otherwise facilitate any questions that need your attention.
  2. By centralizing these responses, you’ll probably answer the question for more students than you think as their peers begin to build a FAQ of sorts that ends up helping more than just one student.
  3. It’s a good review process for your course design. If there are consistent questions about one assignment or aspect of your course perhaps it’s your explanation that needs to be addressed for next term. This forum can help identify aspects of your course that may not be clearly articulated.

Here’s a link to some help on how to set up a discussion forum in Blackboard.

Groups

There’s lots of ways to use groups in your remote teaching and learning class. It doesn’t always need to be a formal assignment. Think of all the ways you ask students to interact during class. Many of these opportunities exist online. Here’s a few ways to use Groups:

  1. Simple study groups – especially useful if you have a large class. Breaking students into smaller groups can mean that students can form a tighter group with whom to rely on when major assignments or exams are on the horizon. Building some type of learning activities early on in the term to encourage students to engage with peers is an important to the success of this type of peer group.
  2. Case-study – Giving students a specific case study to work through together can get them supporting each others learning. Have students discuss a case study with guided questions in the group discussion forums and give each group a summary question to formulate a response to. These responses can then be shared with the larger class in the main class discussion forum.
  3. Jigsaw – Jigsaws allow you to break up readings or other large chunks of content and assign them to groups of students. These groups then summarize the content for the rest of the class and synthesize how it relates to objectives and topics in that weeks learning materials. Presented back to the class, every students gets the benefit of the content and also a peer to peer interaction.

    Peer Reviews

Having your peers provide honest feedback on you drafts can be invaluable. You can set up a Peer Review system in your course in a number of different ways. The simplest way would be for students to post their drafts in a Discussion Forum (either the full class tool or within a group) and have their peers provide feedback through the replies on that post. There’s very little setup required for this method making it quick and easy.

Blackboard does have a Peer Review Tool that allows you to set up a more formal process where students can provide feedback similarly to how an instructor would do for a formal assignment.

For instructions on setting this up in Blackboard, follow this Link.

Remote Teaching with Video

Keeping your course fresh and interesting throughout the term can be challenging in an online environment. Especially if you’ve had to rush to prepare a remote teaching version of an otherwise live course. One of the many ways we can keep things interesting is with the use of video. Students will appreciate the opportunity to break-up their readings with some media.

Here’s a few creative ways you might use video in your remote or online class yet this term.

Guest Lecture Videos

What is it?
Inviting a guest speaker into your class might be an effective strategy to bring an author’s first hand experience into your class, to discuss a recent development in your discipline with another leading expert, or to bring in alternative perspectives on a topic.

  • You might consider inviting:
  • a guest with a specific field experience to share with the students
  • another faculty member or researcher
  • graduate student(s)
  • someone currently working as a professional in the discipline
  • an author
Why Consider it?
Inviting a guest speaker goes beyond demonstrating collegiality to your students, there are a number of reasons you might consider inviting a guest speaker. Guest speakers can:
  • provide alternative perspectives to topics and issues in your course
  • bring insights from the field into the classroom
  • demonstrate a skill or process
  • provide further expertise on specific topics
  • share key findings from a project or initiative they have worked with
  • supplement and enhance resources available in the course
  • co‐teach a case study
  • provide feedback on student work via a Judging Panel
  • just-in-time information and skills

However, you should keep in mind that making the most of a guest speaker in your classroom requires careful planning. One of the first decisions you will need to make is how you would like the guest speaker to participate in your class (e.g. as a presenter, a discussion facilitator, a recording, etc.)

Tools for the Job

  • WebEx – The University of Saskatchewan has a site wide license for this web conferencing application which allows you to: stream live audio and video, use chats and collaborative whiteboards, and share presentations.
  • Skype – This is a free* and commonly used mobile and desktop application
  • Google Hangouts – For instructors and participants who have a Google account, Hangouts allows up to 10 participants to conference with live audio and video, chat, share screens, etc.
  • YouTube Live – For larger groups with less interaction from the audience YouTube Live allows you to stream audio and video, record sessions, and share the live broadcast publicly or to specific people.
  • Screencast-o-matic – This free* desktop application allows you to record audio and video to a file. This tool works well for recorded lectures which could be used repeatedly. It can record the presenter’s screen, the presenter, or both.
Tips and Tricks
Preparing your guest

Consider discussion the following with your guest prior to their session or recording:

  • what are the learning objectives for the module and for the session or recording?
  • what are your expectations for the format and duration of the session or recording?
  • are handouts required/will students need a copy of the presentation?
  • what instructional strategies could the guest employ?
  • what setup or support is required?
  • will the session be recorded? (why or why not?)
  • provide adequate lead time
  • obtain a bio for the guest
  • describe your class size and characteristics
  • determine roles and responsibilities
  • can/should students be able to contact the guest ahead of time or after?

Preparing your students

Consider discussion the following with your students prior to the session or viewing the recording:

  • what are the learning objectives for the module and for the session or recording?
  • what are your expectations for the students?
    • e.g. prepare questions, check for understanding, related task
  • how will you facilitate discussion between students and the guest?

 

Course Trailers & Intro Videos

What is it?
You have likely seen movie trailers; those short videos that are designed to capture the interest of the audience to get them interested in seeing movies. You may want to consider creating your own course trailer. Create a short video that would give learners a quick glimpse of your course and the connections you hope to make throughout the semester.
Why Consider This?
“It’s not the technology. It’s not the way something looks. It’s the story.” – John Lasseter, PIXAR

In the course trailer video you can introduce yourself, the course description, the course objectives and topics. For this particular video type you might consider completing some, or all, of the following statements:

  • Do you like…
  • Are you interested in…
  • Are you concerned about…
  • Do you want to…
  • By participating in this class…
  • We will look at…
  • Join us as we investigate/explore…

A course trailer would be an opportunity to introduce yourself to learners.  Sharing course outcomes could also be done here.  Think about inviting learners to participate and become part of this learning community.

Think about including campus and classroom footage as a way for distance learners to gain a sense of connection to the institution. You may also want to have a final statement that invites learners to participate, create and explore.

Tools for the Job

We can help!

If you are interested in creating a trailer for your distance course, contact your instructional designer at DEU.

Take the plunge!

If you would like to create your own trailer, a few of the following tools might be helpful:

Camtasia– This nonlinear digital video editing software is somewhere between entry level and professional levels. You can splice together audio and video as you need, insert graphics and titles, as well as a few other interactions. Available for both Windows and Mac OS. Camtasia Tutorials

Screencast-O-Matic– This software is available for both Windows and Mac OS, and has a free as well as a Pro version. At the push of a button you can begin to record right from your webcam, what’s on the screen, or both. When you’re done recording it can export the video to your desktop or even straight to your YouTube account. Screencast-o-matic Tutorial 1 Tutorial 2.

GoAnimate – This online animation tool offers a wide range of assets to create comprehensive animations. They offer paid plans and a 14 day free trial. Tutorial

PowToon – This popular online animation software offers both free and pro versions. It comes with a series of sample music and images you can use for creating engaging animations. Tutorial

Explain Everything – This mobile app is available for iOS, Android, and Windows. Record voice and animations using the assets provided or insert your own! When you’re done simply export the video to upload to the LMS or your Website. Tutorials

Educreations – This mobile app is available for iOS. Record voice and animations using the assets provided or insert your own! When you’re done share the video with classes, embed it in a website, share it on Facebook or Twitter, or export it. Free and paid versions available. Tutorial

Tips and Tricks

A Few Practical Guidelines

Creating a Storyboard
After drafting your storyboard review the topic(s) and learning outcomes. If everything adequately presented? Is there anything present on the storyboard that is not explicitly related to the topic(s) or learning outcomes? If so, why is that content present and would it be missed if omitted?

Audio
Speech – narration does not necessarily need to be written word for word on a storyboard. However, providing more detail will make the recording process much easier, even if you do not repeat it word for word. Attempting to “wing it” often results in multiple takes and wasted time. For more information about recording audio see Tips for Recording Narrations.
Sound bites can add realism, generate emotion, define space, depict identity, set the pace, symbolize meaning, and unify transitions. However, they should not be overused as they can distract the learner and increase cognitive load.

Visuals
Imagery should be self explanatory, simple, at the learner’s level, match it’s purpose, and be relevant to the scene/objective/narrative. In your storyboard you might simply provide a short description,  sketch, table or figure number or title, or a copy of the visuals that are to be on the screen. For more information about selecting types of visuals see A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words: Using Visuals.

Video
Is most effective when the combination of audio and visuals is carefully considered and planned. Storyboarding will help you to identify if there is too much information being presented to the learner at one time (through audio or video) and avoid cognitive overload. Consider the pacing (rate of information), and transitions between ideas and what the learner is seeing and hearing. A general guideline for length is to keep the videos in your course around 6 minutes in length. However, this may vary slightly depending on the purpose and content of the video (e.g. a narrative story may take longer than 6 minutes to complete, but can still be engaging for its entire duration). The key is to make sure the video is no longer than is needed.

USask DEU Examples

Student Made Videos

This video was created by students for a Distance Education offering of Women and Gender Studies (WGST) 210.3. It went viral and to date has over  4,000,000 views and even had an article written about it at ominocity.com .

What is it?
You are likely already familiar with video technology. You may already enjoy making video recordings of personal events in your life. For a digital analysis, online presentations, or other assignments, you may be producing your response as a short video. Knowledge and skills in the domain of digital literacy are critical here, so we have provided some resources to help you on your way.

It is important to also mention that for these types of assignments, knowledge and skills around copyright, open licensing, information sharing, digital footprints, and managing your online presence should be well understood by anyone creating, adapting, using, or contributing to, creative works via the world wide web.

Using Licensed Materials in Your Work
Often when creating videos and presentations we are inclined to include quotes, images, audio and video clips, and other media that we did not create ourselves. There are a variety of ways that students can include third-party work in their videos and presentations, but it is critical to consider copyright and intellectual property implications of doing so. The following links provide some support in navigating the rules and guidelines for using third-party materials in your work:

Creative Common Licenses Explained
Canadian Copyright Act
U of S Copyright Information

Applying Open License to Your Work

Open Licensing Resources

Where should I publish my Open Content?
Creative Commons publishing communities by content format – http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Publish

How do I mark my work with an Open License?
Creative Commons Licensing and Marking Your Content

Choose a License that works for you
Creative Common Licenses Explained – http://creativecommons.org/licenses/

Tools for the Job

Desktop and Laptop

Panopto – USask supported video production and post production tools on campus. Check out this blog post from GMCTL about student videos using Panopto https://words.usask.ca/gmcte/2020/03/17/panopto-for-student-presentations/

Camtasia – This nonlinear digital video editing software is somewhere between entry level and professional levels. You can splice together audio and video as you need, insert graphics and titles, as well as a few other interactions. Available for both Windows and Mac OS. Camtasia Tutorials

iMovie – This is Apple’s entry level video editing software and is available for both Mac OS and iOS. If you’re new to video editing you may want to get your feet wet by trying this software first.

Screencast-O-Matic – This software is available for both Windows and Mac OS, and has a free as well as a Pro version. At the push of a button you can begin to record right from your webcam, what’s on the screen, or both. When you’re done recording it can export the video to your desktop or even straight to your YouTube account. Screencast-o-matic Tutorial 1 Tutorial 2.

PowerPoint – A little known secret about PowerPoint is that you can record audio and creating a timed video slideshow without any other software. If you want to get started on voiceover slideshows, don’t want to spend any money on software, and don’t have time to learn a nonlinear digital video editing software this might be your best bet. Written Tutorial Video Tutorial

Keynote – A little known secret about Keynote is that you can record audio and creating a timed video slideshow without any other software. If you want to get started on voiceover slideshows, don’t want to spend any money on software, and don’t have time to learn a nonlinear digital video editing software this might be your best bet. Tutorial

Windows Movie Maker – This is Microsoft’s entry level video editing software and is available for Windows. If you’re new to video editing you may want to get your feet wet by trying this software first.

GoAnimate – This online animation tool offers a wide range of assets to create comprehensive animations. They offer paid plans and a 14 day free trial. Tutorial

Voki – A little camera shy? Not to worry, with Voki you can create an avatar and use their text to speech software for narration. Don’t like the robot voice? You can also upload audio files or record straight into Voki. Free and paid plans are available. Tutorial

PowToon – This popular online animation software offers both free and pro versions. It comes with a series of sample music and images you can use for creating engaging animations. Tutorial

Mobile

Explain Everything – This mobile app is available for iOS, Android, and Windows. Record voice and animations using the assets provided or insert your own! When you’re done simply export the video to upload to the LMS or your Website. Tutorials

ShowMe – This mobile app is available for iOS. Record voice and animations using the assets provided or insert your own! When you’re done simply export the video to upload to the LMS,your Website, or the ShowME community. Tutorial

Educreations – This mobile app is available for iOS. Record voice and animations using the assets provided or insert your own! When you’re done share the video with classes, embed it in a website, share it on Facebook or Twitter, or export it. Free and paid versions available. Tutorial

Clarisketch – This application is available for Android and Chrome. Record voice, images, sketches, and annotate as you go. When complete, it does not create a video file, but instead a small media format that can play in any browser. You can share your finished clarisketch via social media, email, and more. Short tutorial. Longer tutorial.

Planning Resources

A Few Practical Guidelines

Creating a Storyboard
After drafting your storyboard review the assignment instructions. Is everything adequately presented? Is there anything present on the storyboard that is not explicitly related to the assignment? If so, why is that content present and would it be missed if omitted? Sample storyboard template

Audio
Speech – narration does not necessarily need to be written word for word on a storyboard. However, providing more detail will make the recording process much easier, even if you do not repeat it word for word. Attempting to “wing it” often results in multiple takes and wasted time.
Sound bites can add realism, generate emotion, define space, depict identity, set the pace, symbolize meaning, and unify transitions. However, they should not be overused as they can distract the learner and increase cognitive load.

Visuals
Imagery should be self explanatory, simple, at the learner’s level, match it’s purpose, and be relevant to the scene/objective/narrative. In your storyboard you might simply provide a short description, sketch, table or figure number or title, or a copy of the visuals that are to be on the screen. For more information about selecting types of visuals see A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words: Using Visuals.

Video
Is most effective when the combination of audio and visuals is carefully considered and planned. Storyboarding will help you to identify if there is too much information being presented to the learner at one time (through audio or video) and avoid cognitive overload. Consider the pacing (rate of information), and transitions between ideas and what the learner is seeing and hearing. Video durations may vary slightly depending on the purpose and content of the video (e.g. a narrative story may take longer than 6 minutes to complete, but can still be engaging for its entire duration). The key is to make sure the video is no longer than is needed.

Lecture Videos

Perhaps you just want to make some lecture videos to send out or add to your Remote Teaching course materials. Here’s a link to a previous blog post we did to help you think through the process and get the most out of your lecture videos!

So You’d Like to Make a Lecture Video …

Class Communications at a Distance

Communicating with your students is the number one way to keep them on track and engaged in the topic of your course. But when the physical classroom is not an option how do we keep the lines of communication open between the instructor, the students, and their peers?

Here’s some tips and tools for making sure you’re keeping the communication lines open.

Before the start of class

  • Make sure your University email address is provided in a prominent place of the class syllabus. This will ensure students can message you with questions or concerns.
    • *Note: You can have your University email forwarded to another email address if your primary email is something else.
  • You might also provide a phone number and some “virtual office hours” when it would be appropriate for students to call.
    • *Note: You can have your office line forwarded to a cell phone or home line during campus closures which ensures you’re not sharing personal phone numbers.
  • Speaking of Virtual Office Hours, you may want to schedule a WebEx session each week where you are available for drop-ins and informal Q&A.
  • Create a FAQ in the Blackboard Learn Discussions tool and maintain it throughout the term.
  • Create and schedule Announcements in Blackboard for things like reminders, due dates and other planned events within your class schedule. This will save you time later in the term and ensure you don’t forget to send them.
  • Create a welcome video for the landing page of the course. This ensures that whenever students arrive to class for the first time they’re greeted by their instructor. This can just be a quick webcam hello with some instructions as to how to navigate the menu items or you might want to create a course trailer to really get students excited about being part of the learning community.

First Week of Class

  • Email students through the Email Tool in Blackboard at the start of class. You can welcome them to the class, set up expectations about how long they can expect to wait for a reply to their email questions and generally just say, Hi! This is more about confirming that there is in fact a live instructor facilitating and guiding this experience.
  • Setting up a who’s who chat inside the Discussion Forums can also get students interacting with peers and practicing with some tools before you get too deep. Have students post something interesting about themselves or something of interest to them and get people talking.

Throughout the Term

  • Discussion Forums can be vibrant exciting places to engage with peers and materials in an online class. They can also be a painful and often dreaded experience for students and instructors alike. The trick is to make the discussions purposeful. Follow this link to some resources around how to design interesting and engaging discussion activities.

Also here is a video you might use to show students the importance of online discussions.

  • Synchronous Activities are a great way to communicate with students throughout the year. Case studies, debates, open Q&A’s, guest lecturers and more can all participate together in web conferencing platforms like WebEx. See this link to find more ideas and tools to use for synchronous activities.
  • Announcements are a great way to share current events relevant to the class material, provide wrap-up or summary of discussions or activities, or provide student with other relevant information about job postings or extra curricular opportunities in your field of study. Keeping in contact throughout the term makes students feel more connected to their online learning community.

Feedback

  • Providing Feedback for assignments and activities is always important in helping students know how their learning journey is going. It’s especially important that you not only provide a number of formative assessment opportunities for students throughout the term, whether it be review questions and answers or self check activities, but also that you provide them with personal feedback on major assignments. Although this can be done as written comments and track changes on a document, consider creating a short video that outlines your comments and recommendations to add a personal touch.

Audio and Video creations

  • Creating Audio and Video content is easier than ever and doing so shows off your personality in a way that asynchronous discussion forums and announcements just can’t match. Panopto makes is simple to record and share video files with your class and even embed quizzes and activities right in the player. Demos, interviews, wrap-up’s and more can all help students better understand the written materials with added context.
  • Students can create videos too. Use Panopto to create a video assignment for students. Design a poster presentation assignment or just have students take the class through a webtour of an online resource. There are lots of ways students can make use of video in class to better communicate with everyone.

In the end, communicating with your students is all about creating a healthy online learning community. Click this link to learn more about how to create a Healthy Virtual Learning Community

Additional Resources:

Developing Effective Online Communication Plans – https://openpress.usask.ca/ideabook/chapter/communication-plans/

Utilizing Social Learning in Online Courses – https://openpress.usask.ca/onlinelearning/chapter/chapter-11-utilizing-social-learning-in-online-courses/

Humanizing Online Teaching and Learning – https://openpress.usask.ca/humanmooc/

 

Organizing Course Materials for Online Delivery

To avoid dumping your course materials into a virtual shoe box and having students sift through the materials, struggling to infer context and connections you may consider this quick guide to how we at the Distance Education Unit typically organize our materials within the Learning Management System. Templates, samples and checklists for these processes are linked to below the video.