Student needs are changing during this move to offering alternative modes of instruction. Faculty who want to find out what challenges students are facing can utilize a new web form created in Office365.
The form can be modified by faculty prior to sending out. The survey should take students 5 minutes to complete, and asks for the following types of information:
- whether students expect to have reliable Internet access
- times of day students expect to do online work
- preferences for asynchronous or synchronous activity
- accessibility requests (content in different formats, for example)
- basic psychological and physiological needs
The survey form is available below. Note the options for modifying the survey questions, collecting data, and sending out the link (the Settings icon can be found top-right of your screen, to the right of the Share button).
Open the Form
A heartfelt thank you to our colleague Dr. Mae Claxton, Professor of English, for reaching out to the CFC with this idea.
Surveying Your Students: WCU Supported Software
Option #1: Canvas
Don’t forget that a Canvas’ Quiz also allows for surveys that don’t add to grades and that links to those surveys can be added to announcements and emails from Canvas. More information on Surveys in Canvas. This is a best option if you are only surveying one course.
Option #2: Microsoft Forms
For easily copied and shared polls, check out Microsoft Forms. If you haven’t clicked the “Waffle of Power” (apps launcher) in your email portal for Office365 (email.wcu.edu), then you may not have found all of the magical wonder hidden in O365. One of those is Microsoft Forms. Forms is basically the Microsoft version of Google Sheets, and it is very easy to use and distribute.
Option #3: Qualtrics
All WCU employees can log into Qualtrics and create surveys. You can get to Qualtrics by going to myWCU and clicking the SURVEYS button in the quick links, or you can type in wcu.qualtrics.com into your browser and it will take you to the log in page. The learning curve for Qualtrics is a bit steeper than Forms.
Option #4: Poll Everywhere
PollEverywhere is already a part of many of your class experiences. Remember that PollEverywhere is not really designed as a survey tool but rather as a live polling tool. It will really only be useful to you in an online environment if you couple it with your synchronous virtual classroom tool (Zoom, Collaborate, or Teams) and from our point of view, it may be more difficult to be running the virtual meeting tool and Poll everywhere than to use the more limited polling tools already available in those environments. If you have a number of existing PE polls, however, it might be a good option for you. We are not advising PollEverywhere as a solution during the emergency online period in Spring of 2020.
For all of these, call or email ITHelp first and they should be able to get you started.
A Case Study in Marketing: The Danger of “Free” (Especially for Public Employees)
My dear faculty friends. Many of you are on marketing email lists of a number of educational technology companies. They’ve given you good value for trading your email address for many different incentives at conferences or for webinars or for whitepapers. They are now descending upon you with “free” offers that might not be as good as they seem in the first place.
Now you are getting exciting announcements that they are offering you free access to their predictive learning or course management platform or free publisher content. Think twice. This falls in the free like a puppy category, and it could put you in a great amount of risk.
We are making every effort to provide you with the basic tools you need to meet the needs of your students, and although these other tools may seem to be THE ANSWER TO EVERY PROBLEM IN THE UNIVERSE, they still need to go through all of the contract and data handling review that any software or service requires.
North Carolina has some particular laws with relation to the retention of student course data and any software we use is required to be properly vetted. And even “free” click-throughs are contracts that you aren’t authorized to enter into on behalf of the university. (See the software policy). Unfortunately for most of these free products, by the time we are able to get them through the process and have their lawyers and our lawyers align the agreements and check all of their data retention policies, we’ll probably be outside of the window of this particular set of circumstances.
If you absolutely have to move the ball forward we can start the process of getting the software reviewed, but, if I were you, I’d dig into the tools we have before I even considered putting content into a platform that at most will be “free” for 6 months and then will be asking for money. (For example one of the huge offenders is offering a wonderful platform that when it goes to paid costs on average $10 a student a year, and we don’t have a mechanism for paying for that particular service.)
Yes, most of us like shiny, flashy, and interactive technologies.
How many truly awful webinars have you experienced?
How many times have you had to log back on, or fight with your microphone settings?
And, indeed, we have three well-provisioned video conferencing platforms that should handle the traffic, Zoom and MS Teams meetings. We also have Panopto which will allow you to record video and audio to share with your students. And video and live conferencing may be more engaging when done well, but it isn’t necessarily easier, and it is most certainly far more difficult to make compliant with accessibility laws and to get to work consistently over low-bandwidth connections.
Even if you are adept with technology, we urge you to tend toward simplicity with students who didn’t seek to be online students. They may not like to read, but text may be your and their best friend.
If you create text within the LMS using any of the built-in functions, it is automatically usable by screen readers and available for students who need that tool. Discussion boards may be clunky, but once you’ve mastered the flow, they work, and at low bandwidth.
If you choose to do live classes or to record videos, you may want to consider pre-scripting them so that you can easily send a copy of the transcript to any student who requests the transcript.
So consider whether your high-stakes information and content might better be delivered as text, as text and photos, or as a recorded video that has an identical transcript.
Remember that you can insert images and links to YouTube videos easily within the LMS from the editor and that links to external sites work as well. You can even create a reflection assignment or discussion board afterwards.
For images, remember copyright issues (a great guide from our library is available here) and remember that there are several cultural heritage institutions that provide their images free for educational use (like the Smithsonian).
And, if you’ve been forced to move online because of outside factors, be kind to yourself. Stick with simplicity or use simplicity as a fallback when complexity causes confusion.
Remember that the best practices of online course-creation call for a 1-2 year preparation for a well-designed online course and that many outside companies suggest a budget in the tens of thousands for well designed video and interactive content. You don’t have the time for that. You have the core of content and can use tools like Zoom or Collaborate as extensions of the relationships that will get us all through this time of change together.
Focus on getting a working wall of sandbags built to channel the water for a short period of time. This isn’t time to try to build one of the wonders of the world.
We’re here to help you with your technology, but don’t forget that words and reading are still one of the most powerful technologies, and that they still have their place in the world of online teaching and learning.