Perusall- the truly social e-reader

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Submitted by Navneet Kaur

For the technology assignment, I decided to look at Perusall. Perusall is an online e-reader textbook system to encourage students to read their assigned class readings. The website claims that only 20%-30% of students in the average class complete their assigned readings, over 90% of the students are likely to complete their assigned readings through Perusall. This is achieved by providing students with a more interactive reading experience.
Students are engaged in reading by annotating reading in treads; they can comment or ask questions about the specific text. Other classmates can make additional comments on that or answer the question. It is recommended that the instructor does not go in to clarify any questions on Perusall, instead use those questions to format their lessons that incorporate the questions. Perusall provides one page of summary of concepts students had trouble with or are most engaged with and a list of the best annotations for the instructor. This platform does not cost any extra for students; they can buy their assigned books through Perusall.
This platform seems very similar to discussion boards, although this platform might be more engaging because students are asking questions or making comments on the direct text. I can see this being very useful for courses that rely heavily on texts. It also might be reassuring for students to know other classmates are struggling with certain concepts in the text. This also allows the instructors to be more direct in their lessons and cover areas that were confusing for students. One reservation I have about this platform is that students might treat this like discussion boards and engage at the minimum level to earn their reading points (e.g. just reading a couple of paragraphs and making comments on them. There is also an issue with the cost of books associated with Perusall. The platform requires the book to be on the platform, and students directly pay the publisher for it. Many students might be borrowing books or rent/buy them from much cheaper sources; this forces them to pay to full price. If the institution can pay for access to the book to all students, that would be more inclusive and allow students to use this platform without cost restraints. This platform has the potential to engage the students more, especially in an online classroom if used correctly.

For more info: https://perusall.com/

Understanding academic integrity in the online learning environment: A survey of graduate and undergraduate business students

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Submitted by Navneet Kaur

Article Reference

Cole, M. T., & Swartz, L. B. (2013). Understanding academic integrity in the online learning environment: A survey of graduate and undergraduate business students. ASBBS Proceedings, 20(1), 7 38.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

The main purpose of this paper was to examine if college undergraduate and graduate student perceive academic integrity differently for online verses in person classes. The article first establish why is this topic important. Nationwide survey showed doubling the number of students enrolled in online classes from 2002-2007, this number has increased since this survey and now even more with Covid lockdowns. In 2010, a survey of 14,000 undergraduates found that an average of 61 percent admitted to cheating on assignments and exams. The percentage increased when college alumni were asked the same question, about 81 percent reported cheating during their undergraduate education. The authors suspect this number might be worse for online classes. Previously, university have used variety of methods in enforcing academic integrity in online classrooms, such as: instructor supervision, webcam with microphone coupled with fingerprint authentication, and Software that prevents students from searching the internet while they are taking an exam (Lockdown Browser).

The article uses honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility as the definition of academic integrity. The study was conducted with undergraduate and graduate students at Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania. They used a survey method asking the following question: yes or no question: “if the student thought the tenets of academic integrity applied equally in the online environment and in the classroom setting”; open-ended question: “what the basis for the difference was”; “whether certain activities, such as sharing papers, tweeting, or Googling during an exam, were more acceptable in one learning environment than in another”; open-ended question: “recommendations for improving online instruction and maintaining academic integrity”.

The study found that 64.6% of students thought that the perception of academic integrity were applicable to the same degree in the online environment as in the classroom. While, 35.4% disagreed with this view. When asked why they thought that was the case, students emphasized “Cheating is easier in online courses than in the classroom because the student is off-site, unsupervised and has access to multiple resources, such as the text, the web, and other people”. The article concluded that academic integrity is an evolving topic. In order to follow it the university and instructors need to work together to establish clear guidelines for students.

Discussion Questions

  1. Chapter 7 of Forsyth (2016), mentioned that cheating typically occurs when students feel unprepared, what should instructors do to help students feel prepared?
  2. A lot of academic integrity issues emerge in traditional forms of testing and plagiarism of written material. One students made this comment in the above study: “Understand that in the real world the ability to track down existing information is a key skill. Information is so available these days that the standard of memorizing information rather than understanding the concepts is antiquated. True it’s difficult to gauge a students [sic] performance in an untraditional environment, it would move things to a discussion group rather than a cram your brain and vomit the information on the test the next day practice of traditional students.” Do you think we need to move away from the memorizing and regurgitating facts way of testing for students? Would this improve academic integrity, especially for online classes?
  3. Given the stress associated with Covid and everything going on right now in our nation, should instructors emphasize academic integrity (closed book, proctored webcam exams) as heavily as they did before, especially if they are not providing extra flexibility and richer learning environment for students?

Student learning through service learning: Effects on academic development, civic responsibility, interpersonal skills and practical skills

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Submitted by Denise Zheng

Article Reference

Hebert, A., & Hauf, P. (2015). Student learning through service learning: Effects on academic development, civic responsibility, interpersonal skills and practical skills. Active Learning in Higher Education, 16(1), 37-49.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

o Hebert and Hauf (2015) defined service learning as an opportunity for students to apply classroom material to community service through volunteering for relevant community organizations. Past research of the program has shown to promote higher order critical thinking skills and personal growth in advocating and social justice.
Findings:
o Although service learning was optional, there was no self-selection bias in students who choose to participate in service learning.
o Students who participated in service learning did not perform better on final exam as compared with those who did not engage in service learning.
o Student self-reported improvement in academic development, civic responsibility (e.g., awareness of social problems and intent to make social changes) and interpersonal skills (e.g., verbal communication and teamwork).
o No difference in perceived improvement in practical skills (e.g., written communication skills) between those who engage in service learning and those who did not.
o Student who chose to engage in service learning reported professional development and community engagement to be their greatest motivators while academic development to be the least motivator.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think that educators should provide opportunities for students to engage in service learning or even make this program a part of course requirement?
  2. Educators often focused on the academic development aspect of service learning. Do you think that as teachers we should also be concerned about the three other benefits that Hebert and Hauf (2015) examined by promoting civic responsibility, practical skills, and interpersonal skills?
  3. Do the benefits of service learning align with your teaching philosophy/goals and would you consider incorporating service learning into your curriculum?

Correlations, trends and potential biases among publicly accessible web-based student evaluations of teaching: a large-scale study of RateMyProfessors.com data

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Submitted by Michelle Eglovitch

Article Reference

Rosen, A. S. (2018). Correlations, trends and potential biases among publicly accessible web-based student evaluations of teaching: a large-scale study of RateMyProfessors.com data. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(1), 31-44.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

Student evaluations are an important, if somewhat nebulous, process to not only help professors inform their practice, but also have potential implications for faculty through use in promotions and tenure. Thus, student evaluations are important, and require us to understand the trends and their proneness to bias and influence. The purpose of this article was to assess data from RateMyProfessor, a popular and controversial student evaluation website that creates a large and publicly available dataset. Almost 8 million RateMyProfessor ratings from 190,000 US professors with at least 20 student ratings were analyzed for correlations between measures of instruction quality, easiness, physical attractiveness, discipline and gender.

The authors found that all three metrics of instruction quality (i.e. clarity, helpfulness and overall quality) positively correlate with average easiness scores. Professors in STEM received both worse instruction quality ratings and easiness scores compared to disciplines in the humanities and arts. The authors caution that this might have direct translation to school student evaluations, in which if standardized student evaluation forms are adopted across a given institution, it may not be fair to directly compare professor ratings across disciplines.

Surprisingly to me, the authors found statistically significant but very small differences in the correlation between gender and ratings; however, there were no disciplines where women had statistically higher overall quality scores than men. The authors suggest that their findings likely reflect at least in part, in institutionally administered student evaluations of teaching as well. Identifying the potential biases that exist in widely used, publicly available web-based faculty rating websites such as RateMyProfessor may provide an understanding of student evaluations of teaching.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is helpful, for both students and teachers, about websites like RateMyProfessor? What is harmful?
  2. Do you think websites like RateMyProfessor are accurate representations of teaching effectiveness? How might they compare to more formal student evaluations?
  3. The reading finds that there are statistically significant, but small, differences between overall scores for male and female professors. However, this finding varies widely by discipline- for example, history and political science report a much greater discrepancy (in that female professors ranked significantly worse) than in chemistry and psychology. What do you think about this finding? Does it surprise you?

A longitudinal investigation of the impact of faculty reflective practices on students’ evaluations of teaching.

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Submitted by Jelaina Shipman

Article Reference

Winchester, T. M., & Winchester, M. K. (2014). A longitudinal investigation of the impact of faculty reflective practices on students' evaluations of teaching. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(1), 112-124.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

As instructors, reflection should be a component of evaluating our effectiveness as teachers. Winchester & Winchester (2014) used multiple methods of data collection, including interviews, to examine how practicing different levels of reflection could influence teaching quality for faculty. Winchester & Winchester (2014) found that while practicing any level of reflection improved faculty’s student evaluation scores, faculty who practiced higher levels of reflection had the greatest increase in student evaluation scores. The study operated on the assumption that higher scores were suggestive of improved teaching quality.

Discussion Questions

  1. How do you feel about the study using improved student ratings as an indicator of improved teaching quality and effectiveness?
  2. The article discusses the use of weekly student evaluations of teaching as a means of encouraging faculty reflection. Do you agree with this frequent use of student evaluations as a means to improve teaching quality? If so, why? Why not?

    The article discusses different levels of reflection that faculty may practice. The study results suggest that faculty using higher levels of reflection had a greater increase in their student evaluation scores compared to faculty using lower levels of reflection. Other than weekly student evaluations, what can we do as instructors to practice reflection during the courses we teach?

  3. Could student ratings of instruction be used to evaluate diversity and inclusion in the classroom? If so, what kinds of questions should be asked? What are the potential benefits? What are the potential issues?

Climate for Learning and Students’ Openness to Diversity and Challenge: A Critical Role for Faculty

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Submitted by Caroline Cusick

Article Reference

Ryder, A. J., Reason, R. D., Mitchell, J. J., Gillon, K., & Hemer, K. M. (2016). Climate for learning and students’ openness to diversity and challenge: A critical role for faculty. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 9, 339-352.

Article DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0039766

Summary of Article

The main purpose of this article was to examine the relationship between college students’ perceptions of the climate for learning and their openness to diversity and challenge (ODC). ODC was measured using the ODC Scale, which assesses students’ openness to diverse cultures, races, ethnicities, and values as well as their willingness and enjoyment of having their ideas challenged by different values and perspectives. The authors argue that faculty play a role in developing ODC in their students and hypothesize that they can do so through creating a ‘climate for learning’ that values the exploration of diversity and diverse perspectives and advocating for the respect of people and issues of difference. The authors also aimed to explore the role of “high impact practices” (activities known to improve learning and development; e.g. study abroad, diversity program, capstone course) and ODC.

To summarize the results briefly, the authors first examined the relationship between high impact practices and ODC, and then examined the influence of climate for learning above and beyond the influence of high impact practices. The authors found that almost all aspects of climate for learning were significantly associated with ODC, above and beyond the effects of the high impact practices. Of note, there were two items related to climate for learning that were most strongly associated with ODC — 1. “Classes encourage students to research ideas and explore controversial issues using evidence” and 2. “Classes help explore diverse perspectives, cultures, and world views.”

Overall, the authors hypotheses were supported. They found that having a climate for learning that values diversity and respect is important for increasing students’ ODC. The authors emphasize the crucial responsibility for faculty in creating this climate for learning.

Discussion Questions

  1. 1. The article emphasizes the importance of educators creating a climate for learning that students identify as placing an importance upon being open to new ideas and perspectives and exploring diverse perspectives, cultures, and world views. What are some ways that you can try to foster this type of environment in your classroom as a future professor? How can you do this now as a TA?
  2. 2. An interesting and important finding was that a perceived climate for learning that encourages students to research and explore controversial issues using evidence-based claims was positively related to student ODC. The authors of the article encourage the purposeful discussion of "hot topics". What are some potential challenges to this that you might anticipate as an educator? What are some ways that you might combat these challenges?
  3. 3. Do you think that fostering students' openness to diversity helps create an inclusive classroom? Why or why not? What are some other elements necessary for creating an inclusive classroom?

Assessing the relationship of student-instructor and student-student interaction to student learning and satisfaction in Web-based Online Learning Environment

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Submitted by Drew Parton

Article Reference

Sher, A. (2009). Assessing the relationship of student-instructor and student-student interaction to student learning and satisfaction in web-based online learning environment. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 8(2).

Article DOI

Summary of Article

As online learning becomes more and more common (even disregarding the current pandemic), it is important to be able to deliver the same quality education that in-person class provides. In order to best structure online classes, it is important to understand what facets of in-person class facilitate student success. Sher (2009) studied two possible facets: instructor-student and student-student interaction. Both instructor-student and student-student interaction were strong predictors of students’ perceived quality of learning and satisfaction with online courses.

Discussion Questions

  1. Because all classes are online and many are completely asynchronous, what new strategies can instructors and TA’s (who are having to adapt to full-time online courses) do to maximize student-student and student-instructor interaction?
  2. What are some possible external factors that can affect and constrain students’ access to online learning and their ability to interact with students and instructors? How can instructors broaden and adapt their course to better include and interact with these individuals?
  3. In the regression models, while student-instructor and student-student interactions predicted perceived learning with relatively equal strength, student-instructor interaction was a much stronger predictor of student satisfaction than student-student interaction was. Does anyone have any conjecture why this may be the case?

Blended learning in a second-year organic chemistry class: Students’ perceptions and preferences of the learning support.

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Submitted by Nina Plotnikov

Article Reference

Tekane, R., Pilcher, L. A., & Potgieter, M. (2020). Blended learning in a second year organic chemistry class: Students’ perceptions and preferences of the learning support. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 21(1), 24-36.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

The Tekane et al. (2020) article provides an example of a “blended learning” approach, meaning that it has both in-person and online components, for an organic chemistry class, which a notoriously difficult requirement for many majors.

Class Components
• In-person classes: traditional classes focusing mostly on the theoretical principles described in the textbook. Clickers were used to monitor attendance.
• Class tutorials: shorter in-person sessions in which the instructor gave in-depth explanations for how to solve the types of problems students would see on their exams. At the beginning of each class tutorial, students had to submit a homework assignment with similar problems. Students were given the option to either attend class tutorials or submit online homework assignments.
• Online homework assignments: students had the option of answering textbook-related questions using an online platform. Assignments were graded automatically and students received immediate feedback.
• Learnsmart reading assignments: to help with conceptual understanding, students were encouraged to complete reading assignments using these very fancy e-books with quizzes that had “adaptive technology”. Since this exceptionally fancy e-book system was rather pricey, students were given the option to post on the discussion board rather than completing the Learnsmart assignments.
• Discussion board: students were graded for participation in discussions, which could include asking or answering questions or summarizing key concepts.

Conclusions
• Students found the online components (such as the online homework and Learnsmart reading assignments) helpful because they allowed greater flexibility in choosing when to complete work and provided an opportunity to practice the skills learned in class at home.
• Students appreciated the chance to speak with instructors in-person and also found the Learnsmart activities helpful.
• The discussion board was largely considered unhelpful by the students as it “did not meet their learning needs” and felt overwhelming to complete.

Discussion Questions

  1. The class described in the article used a number of methods to combine online and face-to-face learning. What ideas do you have about integrating technology with in-person classes? These can be inspired by the article, or just based on your previous experiences!
  2. The article gives several examples of using online tools to enhance learning outside of face-to-face classes. Students seemed to find some of these tools helpful, but not others. What experiences have you had with using online tools in the classes you took or TA’ed for? Have you ever run into any significant issues with using a particular tool?
  3. One of the Tekane et al.’s (2020) findings was that students appreciated the flexibility that the technology being used in the class offered them. How could you use technology to make your current or future classes more flexible for students?

rampage blog

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Submitted by Fan Zhang

For the technology assignment, I made a rampage blog as the repository for all the online teaching resources I found. The home page of rampage can be easily found using google and keywords VCU rampage. once you find the site, the first you need to do is register for a personal site using your VCU email. The process is very simple, but if you run in to any problem, you can easily find help by using the “trouble?” tag on their home page. I had to research out to them due to forgotten password once, the respond was fairly quick, and the recovery process was very simple.
The first thing you will see when you first log into your won site is the page of dash board. In here, you can make personalized modifications on the overall outlooks of your site. Under the “activation”, you have a number of high quality pre-made themes available. However, if you want make you site more personalized, using the taps under “active theme”, you can make changes to the color, background images, and placement of menus, widget etc.
The next step will be making contents. On the rampage, you can making content through three different ways: 1. Making a post. 2. Make a page. 3. Make a form. The posts are the first thing people will see when they log into you site. You can post all the content through here, however, in my case, since the contents are from to multiple courses, put all that information here might be too messy. So I only made one post as my home page. On this post, links to different course content can be found (as right now, only one link is live)
For the actual course contents, I used the page functions. The links provided on the homepage will lead the reader to the chapter outlines of each course, from there the the readers can make there ways directly to the chapter of interest. For each chapter, a page is created, and inhere I uploaded all the online teaching resources that I found that are related to this chapter. The edition of the page is very intuitive. The only thing I think is worth mention is that when you are trying to upload a online video, it is easier to do it using a coded link though the text edit mode.
The nice thing about the blog format is that you can make any changes at any time, and there is not a limit in the amount of content that you can included in there. And since the coding used here are universal to all WordPress site, when you are no longer associate with VCU, all these work can be easily copy and pasted into another WordPress site.
A link to my sites attached:
For the technology assignment, I made a rampage blog as the repository for all the online teaching resources I found. The home page of rampage can be easily found using google and keywords VCU rampage. Once you find the site, the first you need to do is register for a personal website using your VCU email. The process is straightforward, but if you run into any problem, you can easily find help by using the “trouble?” tag on their home page. I had to research out to them due to the forgotten password once, the response was reasonably quick, and the recovery process was very simple.
The first thing you will see when you first log into your won site is the page of the dashboard. Here, you can make personalized modifications to the overall outlooks of your website. Under the “activation,” you have several high-quality pre-made themes available. However, if you want to make your site more personalized, using the taps under “active theme,” you can make changes to the color, background images, and placement of menus, widget, etc.
The next step will be making content. On the rampage, you can make content in three different ways: 1. Making a post. 2. Make a page. 3. Make a form. The posts are the first thing people will see when they log into your site. You can post all the content through here; however, in my case, since the contents are from multiple courses, put all that information in one place might appear messy. So I only made one post as my home page. On this post, links to different course content can be found (as right now, only one link is live)
For the actual course contents, I used the page functions. The links provided on the homepage will lead the reader to the chapter outlines of each course; from there, the readers can make their ways directly to the chapter of interest. For each chapter, a page was creat, and here, I uploaded all the online teaching resources that I found that are related to this chapter. The edition of the page is very intuitive. The only thing I think is worth mention is that when you are trying to upload an online video, it is easier to do it using a coded link though the text edit mode.
The nice thing about the blog format is that you can make any changes at any time, and there is not a limit in the amount of content that you can include in there. And since the coding used here are universal to all WordPress site, when you are no longer associate with VCU, all these work can be easily copied and pasted into another WordPress site.
A link to my sites attached:
https://rampages.us/zhangf3/

Excel for reducing the pain of grading

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Submitted by Polina Beloborodova

Have you ever had over 500 submissions to grade in one week? If you have, you would understand my desire to optimize the process as much as possible. In this post I will share several MS Excel tools that I’m using for fast grading.

1. Grades calculator for tests

In one of my courses we have periodical tests with a combination of multiple choice and open questions. I do all the grading in Excel and then upload the file with the resulting grades to Bb. The process may look complicated, especially if you don’t work in Excel. But it becomes really easy when you actually do it! Also see attached my file for one of the tests. I removed students’ personal information, but left the grades so that you can see how they are calculated.

Here is the algorithm that I use: shorturl.at/czNX6
And the file: shorturl.at/jwNS0

2. Feedback phrasebook

In another course where I’m TAing, students submit a two or three little assignments each week and two additional big projects. My feedback tends to be repetitive, so I copy it from a separate file. To do it quicker, I organized my “feedback phrasebook” by tone of comment (positive/negative) and topic.

Here is the one I’m using: shorturl.at/IST26

3. TA hours tracker

In order to make sure that my TA hours don’t exceed 20 hours per week, as well as have a more realistic picture of how much I’m working, I made a spreadsheet to track my hours for each course.

I usually put my TA hours in my Google calendar, and then at the end of the week calculate weekly hours for each course where I’m TAing and put the result into my spreadsheet. Excel calculates total weekly hours, average weekly hours for current semester and draws a plot depicting my working hours throughout the semester. This helps me to plan my time and remember that each “hell week” is usually followed by a quiet period.

Here is the template: shorturl.at/afPS7