Author Archives: Jody Davis

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

Evaluating: Assessing and Enhancing Teaching Quality

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Submitted by Fan Zhang

Article Reference

Beran, T. N., & Rokosh, J. L. (2009). The consequential validity of student ratings: What do instructors really think?.Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 55(4).

Felton, J., Koper, P. T., Mitchell, J. and Stinson, M. (2008), “Attractiveness, easiness and other issues: student evaluations of professors on Ratemyprofessors.com”, Assessment&Evaluation in Higher Education, Vol. 33 No. 1, pp. 45-61.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

Summary 1
The Consequential Validity of Student Ratings: What do Instructors Really Think?
The purpose of this study was to examine the consequential validity of student ratings, according to instructors at a major Canadian university. Results indicate that most instructors reported concerns about the SRI.
The problems:
Poor design of the instrument (70%)
The survey produced a limited amount of useful information. While there are items in the study that are targeted at specific areas of instruction, yet, these items may not be precise enough for instructors to determine how to improve these areas.
Many instructors indicated that the items were general and not applicable to their style of teaching or course design.
Procedural difficulties (56%)
Many instructors find that the SRI is administered too frequently, and resulting in “student rating fatigue.”
Myth-based issues (31%)
Some instructors consider the USRI to be an unfair measure as it is purely a “popularity contest” or believe that giving out higher grades will result in better SRI scores.
Ratings are biased (29%)
Many instructors believe students’ evaluations to be biased by several factors, including course difficulty, instructor popularity, grading leniency, prior student interest, and class size, although research has consistently shown that most such background characteristics have a negligible effect on student evaluation.
Negative effect on instructors/instruction (11%)
A number of instructors reported feeling that the student rating procedure leads instructors to lower their standard to avoid receiving low ratings.

This study revealed the importance of the consistency between what instructors consider to be quality teaching and the measures used to assess them.

Summary 2
Attractiveness, easiness and other issues: student evaluations of professors on Ratemyprofessors.com

Ratemyprofessors.com is a website with the motto ‘Where the students do the grading.’ It is not affiliated with any institution of higher education or accrediting agency. Since 1999, it has received nearly six million postings rating more than 750,000 instructors at more than 6000 schools.
At the time of this study, students can voluntarily rate their professor at the website based on easiness, helpfulness, clarity, overall quality, and hotness. It is worse noting that today, there are only two categories that are being highlighted on the website, and they are the level of difficulty and overall quality.
This study included data from 6852 professors from 369 institutions in and the United States and Canada. They found that there is a significant positive correlation for Quality and Easiness (0.62), and they found professors with high Easiness scores usually have student comments regrading a light workload and high grades. The authors of this article claim, based on these findings, they think these self- selected evaluations from Ratemyprofessors.com cast considerable doubt on the usefulness of in-class student opinion surveys for purposes of examining quality and effectiveness of teaching.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think SRI can be an accurate representation of the quality of a course?
  2. 2. What changes will you make so the SRI can be more helpful to the growth of an educator?
  3. 3. Do you think websites like “rate my professor” influence how professors teaching today?

Voicethread for enhanced student learning

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Submitted by Cathrin Green

For my technology assignment, I decided to look into the potential of using Voicethread as a tool in my classes. Voicethread is a system that allows multisensory collaboration between faculty and students. This tool can promote learning engagement and allows all types of multimedia to be uploaded, including video, pictures, and presentations. Voicethread allows for a range of assignments. Instructors could require students to view content uploaded by the instructor, such as lectures. Instructors could also require students to upload their own content and have other students engage in a dialogue about this content. The neat thing about this tool is that it allows students to comment and respond directly to others’ posts in the form of a video, audio, or text message. In my opinion, this increases the intimacy of class discussion, especially in larger classes, and particularly more than a typical Blackboard discussion board that some instructors use. This is especially beneficial in larger classes where students might not be able to discuss course topics in small groups during class due to space, time, or other limitations. With Voicethread, the instructor is also able to create group assignments and assign students to subgroups without students having to physically be together to complete their work.

Perhaps one of the best parts about this system is that at VCU, instructors can sync this tool with their already existing class Blackboard page. Instructors would just create a Voicethread instance link within Blackboard. Therefore, the class roster will automatically be integrated into Voicethread and students would not have to create a separate account or sign up for a new service. Within this service, instructors are also able to upload grading rubrics and grade assignments. These grades are automatically posted into the instructor’s Blackboard gradebook. In conclusion, Voicethread appears to be an innovative and convenient way for students to be creatively and actively involved in the learning experience.

Caveat: There does seems to be a slight learning curve when using this tool for both instructors and students. If instructors would like to use it, I would suggest taking sometime in class to explain Voicethread to the students and demonstrating how they are to use it to complete assignments. Additionally, VCU has an amazing resource center to help instructors and students create a Voicethread and troubleshoot any problems that might arise.

VCU Blackboard Link: https://ts.vcu.edu/askit/teaching-and-learning/blackboard-elearning/courseorganization-management-/facultyleader/add-courseorganization-content/content-area-buttons/build-content/create/voicethread/

The effectiveness of online and blended learning: A meta-analysis of the empirical literature

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Submitted by Polina Beloborodova

Article Reference

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., & Baki, M. (2013). The effectiveness of online and blended learning: A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Teachers College Record, 115(3), 1–47.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

Background:
Earlier research on various forms of distance learning concluded that these technologies do not differ significantly from regular classroom instruction in terms of learning outcomes. However, today the increased capabilities of web-based applications and collaboration technologies and the rise of blended learning models combining web-based and face-to-face classroom instruction have raised expectations for the effectiveness of online learning.

Purpose:
This meta-analysis was designed to produce a statistical synthesis of studies contrasting learning outcomes for either fully online or blended learning conditions with those of face-to-face classroom instruction.

Participants:
The types of learners in the meta-analysis studies were about evenly split between students in college or earlier years of education and learners in graduate programs or professional training. The average learner age in a study ranged from 13 to 44.

Conditions:
The meta-analysis was conducted on 50 effects found in 45 studies contrasting a fully or partially online condition with a fully face-to-face instructional condition. Length of instruction varied across studies and exceeded one month in the majority of them.

Research Design:
The meta-analysis corpus consisted of (1) experimental studies using random assignment and (2) quasi-experiments with statistical control for preexisting group differences. An effect size was calculated or estimated for each contrast, and average effect sizes were computed for fully online learning and for blended learning. A coding scheme was applied to classify each study in terms of a set of conditions, practices, and methodological variables.

Results:
The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed modestly better than those receiving face-to-face instruction. The advantage over face-to-face classes was significant in those studies contrasting blended learning with traditional face-to-face instruction but not in those studies contrasting purely online with face-to-face conditions.

Conclusions & Recommendations:
Studies using blended learning also tended to involve additional learning time, instructional resources, and course elements that encourage interactions among learners. This confounding leaves open the possibility that one or all of these other practice variables contributed to the particularly positive outcomes for blended learning. Further research and development on different blended learning models is warranted. Experimental research testing design principles for blending online and face-to-face instruction for different kinds of learners is needed. The meta-analysis findings do not support simply putting an existing course online, but they do support redesigning instruction to incorporate additional learning opportunities online while retaining elements of face-to-face instruction.

Discussion Questions

  1. In your opinion, how will higher education look like like in 2050? To what degree will it migrate to online? What teaching methods and technologies will we use?
  2. What will be the role of the instructor? What skills should we develop now to fulfil this role in the future?
  3. Coming back to the present, which of VCU technology resources would you like to try in your teaching? How are you going to use it?

Interactive lecturing: review article & pilot study

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Submitted by Polina Beloborodova

Article Reference

Gülpinar, M. A., & Yeğen, B. Ç. (2005). Interactive lecturing for meaningful learning in large groups. Medical Teacher, 27, 590-594.
Snell, Y. S. L. S. (1999). Interactive lecturing: Strategies for increasing participation in large group presentations. Medical Teacher, 21, 37-42.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

(1) Summary of Snell (1999): review of interactive lecturing techniques
Interactive lecturing is a set of techniques aimed at increasing participation of the audience in the lecture:
• Presenter <=> students
• Students <=> material / content
• Students <=> students
New role of teacher: instructor -> facilitator / coach
Why is it good for learning?
• Active involvement
• Increased attention & motivation
• ‘Higher’ level of thinking (analysis, synthesis, application, problem solving, etc.)
• Feedback to teacher & students
• Increased teacher and student satisfaction
Why teachers don’t use it?
• Fear of losing control and covering all material
• Contextual factors (content, physical setting, time constrains, audience)
Techniques:
1. Breaking the class into smaller groups
2. Questioning the audience:
– straightforward questions
– brainstorming
– rhetorical questions
– surveying the class
– quizzes & short answers
3. Using audience responses
4. Using cases & examples
5. Written materials (handouts)
6. Debates, reaction panels, & guests
7. Simulations & role plays
8. Multimedia (video, audio, etc.)
How to get interactive?
• Take risks & overcome fears
• Prepare & practice
• Set clear objectives, cut on material (less is more)
• Prepare students to get involved
• Be flexible, but not too flexible

(2) Summary of Gülpinar and Yeğen (2005): pilot study on interactive lecturing
Aim: to test a ‘structured integrated interactive’ two-hour block lecture
Objectives:
• effects of the prior knowledge on learning & evaluation of the lecture
• effects of well-structured advanced organizer on learning & evaluation
• impact of clinical integration on the comprehension of basic sciences
Lecture outline:
• Using the same template across the lecture: (1) for gradually adding details, (2) for introducing associated pathologies
• Interactive task every 10-15 min
• Using clinical cases with structured evaluations charts
Measures:
1. Pretest: evaluation of prior knowledge (pre-lecture test)
2. Posttest: problem solving skills (performance on cases, evaluated by instructor)
3. Lecture evaluation questionnaire
Sample: 93 students of a large Turkish university
Results:
• Evaluation: 92% successful, mostly positive comments
• Interactivity: 43.9% evaluated as interactive, 35.7% as partially interactive
• Issues: content wasn’t limited, fast pace
• 90% showed acceptable performance on evaluating cases (problem solving)
• Significant correlation (r = .2) of pre-lecture test scores and case scores in one of two topics of the lecture
Conclusions:
• Interactive lecturing facilitates more meaningful in interactive learning in large groups
• Higher order thinking and development of problem solving skills can be achieved to some extent with interactive lecturing
• Prior knowledge is important for learning processes and learning outcomes

Discussion Questions

  1. Which interactive lecturing techniques would work best for the course that you would like to teach in the future? Provide a few examples.

    Summary of discussion:
    – Working in small groups
    – Asking students to repeat what the instructor said a while ago
    – Asking questions
    – Using technology for surveys

  2. Which interactive lecturing techniques would work better for younger audiences? Which ones would be better for older audiences?

    Summary of discussion:
    – It’s not about the choice of techniques, but their adaptation to various audiences (e.g. organizing group work in more structured way for undergraduate students and less structured for graduate students)
    – Other factors to consider: institutional setting (university vs. community college), familiarity with interactive teaching

  3. What are possible negative consequences of interactive lecturing?

    Summary of discussion:
    – Too much interactivity can lead to losses in material covered and can be annoying for the audience
    – Technology has to be checked before the lecture
    – Students may disclose too personal information
    – Lecture may go out of control (e.g. students may start discussing irrelevant topics in groups)
    – Students may give wrong answers and examples

Jing for making screencasts

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Submitted by Sultan Hubbard

For my technology activity I chose to use the Jing application for screencasts. This is an excellent resource for capturing lectures on one's computer as a supplemental educational resource for students, have lectures posted for instructor absences, and an effective way to practice public speaking on challenging topics. In my activity I used Jing to discuss a particular methodology unique to dyadic data analysis that are typically employed in social psychological and personality research. By practicing the Jing application while lecturing the content, I could identify ways for more concise descriptions of the content area (Jing is free and limits casts to 5 minutes). After completing one's video, you can save it on one's desk top or on the online www.screencast.com website. This application does require adobe flash, so it is essential to have this updated on one's computer. I have posted a couple youtube instruction videos below that are helpful, however the application is quite user friendly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeb7nLLQfnU

Blackboard Training

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Submitted by Bianca Owens

To better prepare for a career as an instructor, I have chosen to go through online Blackboard trainings (Lynda courses) as my technology skill. There are close to 200 Blackboard video tutorials available ranging from introductory to advanced levels. I concentrated my training on courses that focused on the basics of Blackboard from an instructor’s perspective. I was able to gain knowledge on how to navigate Blackboard, effectively manage courses, and send information to students directly from the site, among other things. In addition, the training videos opened my eyes to more ways that students can use Blackboard as a centralized location for information regarding the course throughout the semester. As an instructor, use of Blackboard can act as a multipurpose medium. Of all the information received from the training courses, the most helpful was the customization features of Blackboard.  I was not aware that Blackboard was so customizable. This can be a great benefit when teaching multiple courses with varying goals. Overall, I would definitely recommend this site and training program. More specifically, to anyone who has never experienced Blackboard from the perspective of an instructor. It does a great job outlining and walking you through system. While I only focused on the basics, I see myself referring to these trainings as I enter into my role as an instructor. The training can be found at <a href="https://www.lynda.com/Blackboard-training-tutorials/487-0.html">Lynda.com</a>. Just enter your VCU EID and password to begin.

Google calendar/eLearning calendar

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Submitted by Hadley Rahrig

For my technology assignment, I decided to explore different online platforms for classroom calendars. I first discovered Google classroom, which seems to be very standardized, but requires administrator permission to create a class and develop a calendar. The standard google calendar app provided by Google Drive seems to be perfectly adequate. It allowed me to add in all due dates for the Interpersonal Relations class for which I TA. This calendar can then be shared with all classmates (with restrictions placed on editing functions). It should be noted that google calendars come with their unique ICAL link so that the calendar can sync with smartphone calendars.

I did a little more research and realized that Blackboard actually comes with this function! Under "my blackboard content" you can find a calendar application. You can use this application to schedule assignments and give links to those assignments directly from the calendar page. Each calendar comes with its own ical link so students have the option to import the blackboard calendar with any of their devices. The interface is fairly straightforward here and it allows you all of the same functions available with google calendar (i.e. repeat event; edit). According to the blackboard cite, all course items that are "assignments" with due dates are automatically added to the calendar. Two of my classes had all of their assignments added to the calendar. I'm not sure my instructors were even aware of this! Overall, I think this calendar application would be extremely useful for students and instructors and I think that the integration of this technology would be fairly seamless.

Taking the Testing Effect Beyond the College Freshman: Benefits for Lifelong Learning

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Submitted by Jeremy Barsell

Article Reference

Meyer, A.D., & Logan, J.M. (2013). Taking the Testing Effect Beyond the College Freshman: Benefits for Lifelong Learning.  <em>Psychology and Aging, 28</em>, 142-147.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

Using testing as a learning tool has been well-documented in young populations.  Testing as a learning strategy and tool has been linked to an improvement in long-term memory and recall.  Meyer and Logan (2013) investigate whether these testing effects apply beyond college students.  Comparing three groups, university students aged 18-25, young community adults aged 18-25, and middle-aged to older community adults aged 55-65, the authors found evidence of increased learning due to testing.  All three groups participated in a study phase of four study topics, followed by a distractor phase which included multiplication problems, then a recognition test phase for two of the study topics, and a restudying phase for the other two study topics.  Participants then went through another distractor phase before taking a final cued-recall test.  Findings suggested that testing significantly improved learning, and that there were little differences between the young adult and older community groups.  Implications include the use of testing beyond the academic setting, especially in the context of careers or jobs.

Discussion Questions

  1. Testing is heavily associated with being in school. Based on the results of this study, testing can be an effective tool for learning. As such, how would we apply this beyond academia? Would this be effective for promoting lifelong learners? In what other contexts could testing be effective?
  2. Other research has shown that testing itself can be full of bias. For example, there is evidence that the SAT is biased against racial minorities and for those with lower SES. If testing is truly better for learning, how can we reconcile these biases with testing?
  3. Are there other ways to demonstrate learning besides testing students? The authors of this article would suggest that testing is both an effective learning and studying tool. How can we promote positive attitudes towards test-taking, and should we do this? Or are there better ways to “test” learning?

Socrative

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Submitted by Jeremy Barsell

The technology that I have decided to share is a web-based app called Socrative.  Socrative is an interactive app that allows for teachers to create a virtual learning environment for students.  Similar to how many college courses require the use of a clicker for quizzes, Socrative can serve a similar function.  Teachers can create a live quiz that students log into using a generated classroom code.  Each student would only need to provide their own laptop, computer, or smartphone instead of buying a separate clicker.  Instructors can view responses and statistics in real time, such as seeing how many students gave a certain answer on any given question.  The quizzes can also be set to anonymous responses, which can be a great tool for sharing opinions without outing the student.  On top of quizzes, Socrative has an exit ticket function, where it would be helpful to get every student's response before they leave class, and a group function.  Instructors can create separate groups or rooms to split up students into different activities.  Socrative is free to use, and can be upgraded to a pro account which has more features.  There are also separate logins for instructors and for students.  Overall, I think Socrative is an innovative classroom app that can engage students using technology.