If you have been in your Blackboard courses in June, you may have noticed that there are additional icons that appear in the instructor view and in the student view. We’ve added a tool called “Ally” to Blackboard Learn. This tool gives two different sorts of assistance: one for students; and one for instructors. The instructors can also see and access the student tool. These new tools help us to meet our legal and moral obligations to our students with learning differences.
If you create items natively in Blackboard (with the exceptions of some specialized HTML coding) all of the content is compatible with national and international standards for accessibility and universal design for learning and compliant with the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. If, however, you choose to add items like PowerPoint decks, Word documents, PDFs and videos, it is the responsibility of the instructor, in normal circumstances, to make the additional materials compliant.
We recognize that many of our courses have content that has evolved over time, and so this tool will give instructors the opportunity to review their course content with a new set of “eyes” and to review their current content by today’s accessibility standards. It will also allow students to have a digital assistant that can attempt to correct a number of issues without instructor intervention and in so doing, keep more students on track.
Students do not see the instructor indicators and do not have access to an accessibility report. They only get an indicator beside each item for which Ally can assist, that will give them access to a tool which may be able to help them move forward and have some level of access to the content. If the instructor has also made the recommendations the tool recommends, the student’s options will be significant. If the instructor hasn’t done anything, the tool may still be able to remediate the content to an accessible alternative.
Ally gives instructors tools to audit all added content except audio and video and to see to what degree the documents, presentations, and images in your course are considered compatible by current accessibility standards.
As an instructor, you can work on your course content in two ways, by using the indicators in the course content, and by running your full accessibility report from “Course Tools.”
The indicators give you a fairly intuitive workflow with scoring that is based not on how “bad the problem is” or even how fixable the issue may be but on how a screen reader or other assistive device will encounter, and importantly, navigate, what you’ve given the students.
When you are in your course, you click the symbol and Ally will launch an assistant tool that will give you recommendations and remedies for making the file more accessible. The CFC can help you walk through any confusion or difficulties you have with the tool or you can review our current help document on the tool, watch this short video introduction, or review this use guide.
If you are interested in seeing the status of your whole course you can go to the Course Tools and run an Instructor’s Accessibility Report. You may even take some delight in running the report both before and after you do the work to make it more accessible for more learners.
Three recommendations as a teaching colleague: 1) Don’t be too hard on yourself if you get the red gauge, in many cases it will be a case of a document that you haven’t “tagged” and the tool can assist you by doing the tagging directly from your Word or PowerPoint original; 2) Fix the easy things first; 3) Remember that this is an act of compassion and empathy in addition to helping us meet our legal requirements.
Together we can continue to work to design our Fall 2020 semester so that every learner can succeed in an environment that values equity and difference.
We want to give a huge shout out to all instructors who made the shift to remote instruction with lightning speed so we could finish out the spring semester! As the parent of a graduating senior, I am so appreciative of everything you are doing so all of our students can complete this term. Has it been easy? No! Has it been comfortable? No! Are you making it work? Yes! If you’d had more time to make this move are there some things you would have done differently? Absolutely!
Guess what? We DO have more time to prepare our summer courses that were going to be offered in person, but now need to be moved to remote instruction. And we DO have the workshop to help you do just that!
Moving Rapidly to Remote Instruction (MRRI) will help you rapidly develop your face-to-face course for remote instruction for this summer’s semesters. If you are planning on teaching a summer course that needs to move online quickly, attend this three-week online workshop that will walk you through an intentional course design process and provide the expertise of the Coulter Faculty Commons and experienced WCU online faculty in designing and facilitating remote instruction. This is not the full Online Course Design Institute, which is for online courses that will be taught next Spring. Instead, we have more time to prepare for the summer courses and design them to be more enjoyable by you and your students.
Dates: May 11 – May 31
When: There will be a combination of live Zoom sessions, recorded tutorials, content and assignments/deliverables. You will have the opportunity to have 1:1 conversations with CFC staff and experience online faculty. Expect to commit 8 – 10 hours each of the three weeks to complete this process and be ready to teach.
Where: Fully Online through Blackboard, Zoom, and Teams
Outcome: By the end of May, you will have your online course designed and developed, in Blackboard, with a teaching/facilitation plan in place. You will also have the support of colleagues and the CFC throughout the summer.
The workshop is free and open to all instructors, including adjuncts. Please register, to let us know you are joining us and to allow us to ensure that we have enough facilitators to make this workshop successful!
The LMS Team have had several requests to launch online proctoring tools. We researched the issue and presented the options to the LMS Governance Committee. The committee, after consideration of the market leader, Respondus, put forward the following recommendations related to proctoring tools.
After discussing the advantages and disadvantages of these products and remote proctoring at large, the LMS Governance Committee voted unanimously to not adopt the Respondus Lock-down Browser and Respondus Monitor with the following justification:
Respondus Lock-Down Browser is a custom browser that locks down the testing environment within a learning management system. It is used for securing online exams in classrooms and proctored environments.
Analysis and Conclusions
- Not an appropriate solution for online exams given at a distance as it only locks down the browser on one device.
- Does not prevent using multiple devices to look up information and collaborate with others using another device.
- Does not encourage authentic assessment.
Respondus Monitor uses a student’s webcam to video them taking the exam.
Analysis and Conclusions
- More resource-intensive to implement – The LMS team will not be able to have this in place immediately.
- Will create duplicative work – will need to pay for the continued license and will have to go through the implementation again with the new LMS.
- Student privacy concerns – Students did not ask to go online or agree to video themselves. There are ethical concerns about student privacy.
- Bandwidth resources concerns – We are already hearing of students having bandwidth issues and issues of exams being submitted as incomplete when students are using their phones to take exams in Blackboard; this will increase when they are also recording themselves.
- No budget to extend usage – Respondus is offering their tools for free only through July of 2020.
- Ignores Academic Integrity Task Force recommendation.
- Does not encourage authentic assessment.
The LMS Governance Committee also voted unanimously on March 27, 2020 to deliver the following message concerning any type of video remote proctoring:
The LMS Governance Committee strongly advises all faculty to NOT require that any students record themselves taking any assessment. This includes not using Zoom, Panopto, Youtube or Blackboard Collaborate for recording. The Coulter Faculty Commons is assembling resources on how to create alternative assessments that can be used in various disciplines.
LMS Governance Committee
Jonathan Wade – Senior Educational Technologist, Chair
Amy Davis – LMS Analyst
Annette Littrell – Associate Chief Information Officer / Academic Engagement & IT Governance
Eli Collins-Brown – Director, Coulter Faculty Commons
Jon Marvel – School Director EMPM/Professor
Kenneth Chapman – Tech Support Specialist
Lee Nickels – Director Assessment & Instruction Technology, CEAP
Scott Barlowe – Associate Professor
Siham Lekchiri – Assistant Professor
We still have a few more workshops available this week!
The end of the semester is quickly approaching and to help you prepare your final assessments for the online environment, we are offering research-based best practices segmented into four workshops. WCU does not have an online proctoring solution and, because of technology challenges and privacy concerns for students, the LMS Governance Committee, whose members include experienced online faculty, have voted not to adopt any online proctoring solution, including not requiring students to use Zoom or Panopto to video themselves while taking an exam (1). These workshops, which will be recorded, will be accessed from within the Blackboard Learn for Instructors course (2) in which all instructors are already enrolled. No need to sign up, just show up!
Additionally, the Educational Development Team is open for group or individual consultations to partner with you to complete this work. Go to https://affiliate.wcu.edu/cfc/partners-in-pedagogy/ to schedule with us!
Writing Better Exam Questions
The key to reducing cheating in online exams is to write exam questions that require knowledge application rather than knowledge recall. In this workshop, we will go through the basic steps of taking your existing exam questions and writing better questions.
At the conclusion of this workshop, you will be able to:
- Identify question stems
- Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to write higher-order thinking questions
- Write questions that require application of knowledge instead of recall
- Monday, April 20, 10 am
- Tuesday, April 21, 2 pm
- Wednesday, April 23, 1:30 pm
- Thursday, April 24, 10:00 am
Designing Alternative Assessments
Faculty looking for alternatives to deploying a final Blackboard test will benefit from this interactive workshop. We will explore strategies for connecting prior student work to a final assessment, including the use of reflection-based narratives, photography, infographics, and student presentations. We will examine various technological tools with an eye towards those that are expedient and efficient for faculty use, including considerations for grading and student feedback. Faculty will be asked to share their ideas for their final assessment with peers.
At the conclusion of this workshop, you will be able to:
- determine an alternative assessment strategy for your final exam
- select a tool which is expedient and efficient for grading
- identify various methods for providing student feedback
- Wednesday, April 22, 10 am
- Thursday, April 23, 1 pm
- Friday, April 24, 1 pm
Creating and Using Rubrics for Faster, More Consistent Grading
Multiple choice tests are popular assessment techniques because they are simple to develop, quick to deploy, and easy to grade. Using alternate assessment techniques are marginally more challenging to develop and deploy but place a considerably greater demand on an instructor’s time to grade. Well-constructed rubrics can save an instructor a significant amount of time and still provide the students with meaningful feedback.
At the end of this workshop you will be able to:
- Develop rubrics that measure the student learning outcomes of an assessment
- Associate rubrics to assessments in Blackboard
- Use rubrics in the Blackboard Grade Center to grade assessments
Friday, April 24, 10 am
(1) – LMS Governance Committee decision regarding online proctoring – can be accessed from within the Blackboard Learn for Instructors course.
(2) – Go to wcu.edu > QuickLinks > Blackboard or go directly to https://wcu.blackboard.com/ to log in.
Image – https://collegeinfogeek.com/open-book-exam/
As more schools begin to make the transition to distance learning and online classrooms, we want to help. Microsoft has created resources, training, and how-to guides that we hope will help educators and their classrooms make this transition.
To help support you during this time, we’ve created a support page for O365 with the information Microsoft has provided.
Microsoft Education is committed to helping all teachers, students, and staff stay engaged and focused on learning. Creating an online classroom is an important step in moving to a remote learning experience. Free for schools, Microsoft Teams, provides a secure online classroom that brings together classroom management features, collaborative workspaces like OneNote Class Notebook, and virtual face-to-face connections in a single digital hub that keeps students engaged.
Information included are Microsoft’s top resources on distance learning, Web Pages with tools to connect remotely, Microsoft Teams quick start guide for EDU (PDF). Webinars designed for educators, Blog posts, and Free Training,
These resources have been provided by the Microsoft Corporation and are included in this post for the convenience of WCU faculty who want to use Office 365 to facilitate online learning.
Open Help Sessions for All Instructors
The CFC is hosting additional open sessions for all instructors to learn how to effectively facilitate online learning and engage students using Blackboard and its general suite of tools. We will be offering these sessions through the following video-conferencing link:
Dates and times are as follows:
Monday, March 23 – March 25
1:30 – 3:00 p.m.