Reduce Scrolling in Moodle with Section Links

Moodle course pages can become quite long, requiring students to scroll down a long page of content to find what they’re looking for. Dave Musicant and Stephen Mohring have solved this problem by creating section links at the top of their Moodle course and in every section that follows.

Sections in Moodle

These links allow students to click directly to the week or unit they are studying and avoid what Stephen refers to as the “giant scroll of death.” He says, “I use it because I like students to have ready access to the narrative flow of the whole class,  without having to scroll through it all the time. I find it more functional than the Table Of Contents block, since that stays pinned and doesn’t follow your scrolling – which is silly. It is far more digestible than those cute but non-linear (and for me very confusing) tiles.”

Dave Musicant adds, “I’m with Stephen: I really like it. I’ve tried playing around with all of the other Moodle views and the user just ends up doing so much clicking and waiting. This one is fast, efficient, and you can still see anything you want.”

Sections in Moodle

Section links do not need to be recreated each semester – they will import correctly to a new section, with the links pointing to the correct course each time, rather than linking back to the old, original course. According to Stephen, importing works correctly even if you switch Moodle formats from weeks to sections to topics.

Dave discovered this feature on the website of Christopher X J. Jensen. Directions, HTML code, and a few things to watch out for are available on the site.

Video Tools and Instructional Continuity

This short video offers insight into how Carleton faculty, staff, and students can use institution supported video tools to meet, teach, or attend classes and meetings remotely.

Here are some quick reminders:

Link to VPN Information: https://apps.carleton.edu/campus/its/services/accounts/offcampus/
Link to Zoom and Google Hangouts/Meet Training videos and documentation (on PEPS Event Page): https://apps.carleton.edu/campus/its/peps/events/
Link to Panopto Training Videos and Documentation: https://apps.carleton.edu/campus/its/services/learning/lecture-capture/

Each tool has a few other bells and whistles that you may want to explore to determine what the best option is for you, and Academic Technology staff are great resources for you.

So, keep yourself and others healthy by washing your hands, eating and sleeping well, covering your cough, and then staying home if you are under the weather. When that happens, don’t forget that there are relatively easy ways to meet, teach, and stay connected while you work remotely. Reach out to Dann Hurlbert or the other Academic Technologists if you have any video conferencing or lecture capture questions.

Here’s a link to Academic Technology Staff:  https://blogs.carleton.edu/academictechnology/collaboration/

Teaching with Tech Tip: Making Slides Quickly

Now that I’ve been back in the classroom for a little while, I’m starting to collect various tips and tricks for preparing my course materials. I teach Japanese to high schoolers in the upper mid-west, so I don’t really have my pick of ready-made curricular materials.  I generally make my own versions of activities even when I find that someone else has posted something useful. So I do a LOT of material creation!

Thus, I’m starting a new segment to my very sparse blog: Teaching with Tech Tips.  These are little tricks that I’ve found along the way to help me make materials faster and with fewer clicks.  As I come up with more of them, I’ll try to write about it quickly to share with the world.  I have no doubt that many other people have found these tricks, too.  But they were new to me, so they might also be new to others!

Continue reading Teaching with Tech Tip: Making Slides Quickly

The Science of Instruction: Text and the Heart

In this short video, one of three in a series on the textbook, ELearning and the Science of Instruction by Ruth Covlin Clark & Richard E. Mayer, Dann Hurlbert digs into how these important concepts should impact instructional video production.  The book is an in-depth, research-based look into best practices surrounding using audio and visuals in e-learning.  Elearning is only a part of its application, though.  These principles are also highly applicable for those creating instructional videos for flipped classrooms or other hybrid teaching styles.  In this third video, Dann relays how text placement can reduce cognitive load to increase learning capacity & effectiveness. To learn more about Dann and Carleton College’s Academic Technology department, visit https://www.carleton.edu/academic-technology/aboutus/

The Science of Instruction: Talk is Cheap (and Less Effective)

In this short video, number two of three in a series on the textbook ELearning and the Science of Instruction by Ruth Covlin Clark & Richard E. Mayer, Dann Hurlbert digs into how these important concepts should impact instructional video production.  The book is an in-depth, research-based look into best practices surrounding using audio and visuals in e-learning.  Elearning is only a part of its application, though.  These principles are also highly applicable for those creating instructional videos for flipped classrooms or other hybrid teaching styles.  In this second video, Dann reports that, while audio is easy to produce, it’s often less effective.  He also provides some insight on how you can easily supplement your audio to create more engaging and effective content. To learn more about Dann and Carleton College’s Academic Technology department, visit https://www.carleton.edu/academic-technology/aboutus/

The Science of Instruction: Making Video Work Well

In this short video, one of three in a series on the textbook ELearning and the Science of Instruction by Ruth Covlin Clark & Richard E. Mayer, Dann Hurlbert digs into how these important concepts should impact instructional video production.  The book is an in-depth, research-based look into best practices surrounding using audio and visuals in e-learning.  Elearning is only a part of its application, though.  These principles are also highly applicable for those creating instructional videos for flipped classrooms or other hybrid teaching styles.  In this first video, Dann relays how best to use the dual channels (audio and visuals) to make his or her instructional videos more engaging and more effective. To learn more about Dann and Carleton College’s Academic Technology department, visit https://www.carleton.edu/academic-technology/aboutus/

3 Cheers for The Maintainers

During my annual professional reboot (presenting & attending IASSIST19) I came across a group called “The Maintainers” .. they are championing a refreshingly accurate / realistic perspective on living and working with technology.

Originating in the perspective of the History of Science, their content reflects the understanding that maintenance is not the opposite of change (when in balance they have a symbiotic relationship.)  The Maintainers also most especially focus on the care with which we should also curate the information surrounding all of our technology & technical processes, as well as just coping with the maintenance of everyday information.

I am so happy with their white paper: “Information Maintenance as a Practice of Care: An Invitation to Reflect and Share” (June 17, 2019), downloadable from Zenodo … it is really good.  If you feel like your maintenance work might be dragging you down — read this paper, check out their blog, follow them on Facebook; this is a path that supports a long-term-sustainable and respectful culture.

keeping technology working - at least some of the time
http://themaintainers.org

The logo alone (above) probably resonates with many of us – but the group is actually more focused on the maintenance of information (which is inherently technical) and as such, reminds me that the File Management Stewards are in the midst of their 2nd summer without overt recognition.

Many of us are familiar with the term “maintenance,” and we may even have ready-made ideas of what maintenance looks like, whether as an occupation or what we just realized the dishwasher needs. But what about the day-to-day, minute-by-minute work that sustains our world, our societies, and the way we interact with them? Maintenance is like soup: it comes in many styles and flavors. And our preconceived ideas and notions of what maintenance entails simultaneously bias our understanding of maintenance and its value within our surroundings, while further making invisible the myriad forms of work that sustain the world around us…

I’ve been waiting for a professional development group to take this on & it’s likely that The Maintainers are quietly (characteristically) “leading” this charge.

If information is to be useful over time, something more than preservation is required: it must be carefully maintained.  

Wading into UX

Andrew stands in front of a large tv showing laser lines. Andrew is wearing a VR headset and gesturing with controllers in both hands.
Recently, Andrew and Celeste joined the Minnesota chapter of the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA). They had 2 main reasons for wanting to join: 1) learn more about different approaches to UX, and 2) learn more about the professional community of user research and user experience design to better connect our student workers with opportunities.

So far, we’ve attended two very different events and here are some of the takeaways:

UX + Virtual Reality (VR)

Celeste: The 1st event was held at a virtual reality arcade meets karaoke lounge, where the networking hour doubled as open playtime. It was really interesting to see how the business had laid out the space and setup the VR into “pods” separated by partial walls. The cables for the Vive Pro headsets were suspended from the ceiling, which was a great improvement on worrying about tripping on cables along the ground. They even had 3 multiplayer areas, where headsets were paired — Andrew and I played ping pong in one of these areas, which basically just reminded me how much I like playing ping pong in real life more.

And then came the presentation. I have to admit to some concern when it started like this:

mighty claim of VR + UX presentation: VR’s biggest strengths are 1) democratizing experience and 2) seeing things in unique way.

slow your rhetoric, ppl.

— Celeste Tường Vy PhD (@celeste_sharpe) February 13, 2019

And, it didn’t get better from there. But what I did takeaway is that there’s a serious gap between how commercial VR is proceeding and the research coming out of academia — and I see that gap as a place where there can be some powerful collaborations. There’s so much room for pursuing and applying research in the development of meaningful (and profitable) VR applications, particularly since some are hoping enterprise uses will generate wider adoption and profits. Some are less optimistic. But overall, I think researchers have a lot to say and do to shape the direction of VR experience development and break down some of the barriers between industry and academia to create better ethical products.

Andrew: I was excited for our first event since joining the UXPA, it was held at a virtual reality arcade. I like Celeste description here, the location really did feel like a mix between a karaoke bar, lounge and arcade with VR. I love the idea of VR arcades. As owning a VR device is still expensive and beyond the reach of most. Sadly, however, the cost per hour still seemed pretty expensive for most.

Two years on from our first Vive, I still love the technology and can’t wait to see the development. So you can understand my excitement when I saw they had the new Vive Pro headset. This is the second generation of the Vive headset we currently have. Some of the changes in this new version is a much needed improved screen. The resolution has been, so everything looks much sharper.

Being a UX/UI workshop, I was looking forward to the presentation, and I what I hoped would be a discussion around moving beyond flat screen UI designs into 3D space, sadly this was not to be. The talk took a very commercial route. The presentation was marketing talk for getting people and companies to buy time in VR rather how to better the field or peoples experiences. As a researcher in VR, I honestly feel like it can help revolutionise a large number of fields and subjects. However, the VR/AR/MR need to be lead by research and not the drive for money.

Building Consistent Design Systems

Andrew: Our second event with UXPA group was very informative. The speaker talked about designing and templating design elements and components in the product. I liked the idea of having a components/elements library to give coders more rigid constraints on which designs can be used and in what locations. These ideas of design patterns are something I feel we could use with our student developers here at Carleton.

Celeste: The second event dove much deeper into a specific topic, which was a nice change of pace. This was my biggest takeaway:

really like this approach: “define a process, not a project” to support long-term or ongoing work. #uxpamn

— Celeste Tường Vy PhD (@celeste_sharpe) March 8, 2019

The idea of establishing a design library of elements really rang true, especially for our Omeka-based projects. Thinking about where to streamline, and where to customize, is an ongoing conversation we’re having so this was a nice case-study to consider.

 

Expanding faculty support with Academic Technology Student Assistants

**cross-posted on Carly’s blog**

I was in a conference session recently when the topic of using student workers to provide instructional support of faculty was raised as a tangent to how to engage faculty in technology training and instructional design. I was surprised to hear that many in the room felt that it was inappropriate to have students supporting faculty in the use of the LMS or other curricular technologies. This is completely counter to how we’ve been providing curricular and technical support at Carleton, so I thought I would write about how we do it and why.

 

Why have student workers supporting faculty?

The immediate reason is obvious: we can’t do it all alone! Most of us in the field of instructional technology have more than enough to do, learn and keep up with, so the chance to get a little help along the way is gold. This is especially true when you have big initiatives, such as switching your LMS or implementing a new tool. But if all I did was hire students to do the many boring or mundane tasks that I don’t want to or have time to do, there would be little else to write.

A big consideration when I’m hiring students is what the student is going to get out of working in the Academic Technology office. I want them to be excited about the work we are doing and learn as much as they can on the job. And I want them to be able to have several new skills they can add to their resume when they start to pursue internships or jobs after graduation. Hiring students in our office is as much for them as it is for us.

Because of this, I look for very specific things when hiring students. First, I look for students who are personable and comfortable talking with staff and or faculty. I look for some background in technology, but it’s not as important as the people skills.  Tech can be taught and changes so quickly anyway, it’s much harder to teach people skills. I also look for students who are excited to learn new technology or just learn new things in general. I have found that if I find students who fit this bill they are able to get a lot of working in our office.

The Hiring Process

One of the most important skills that our student workers need to have or develop is the ability to figure out the answer to a question. I also feel that understanding how a shared calendaring system works is just a basic life skill at this point. So in my job ad, I ask the students to email me a resume and make a 20-min appointment on my calendar. I also send them the Google help pages if they don’t know how to propose a meeting in Google. If a student can’t figure out how to propose a meeting time with documentation, they may not be well-suited to working in our office. So that usually only gives me a short list of students to interview.

During the interview, I ask them why they are interested in working Academic Technology and about their own academic or personal interests. I ask them to describe a time that they had to teach or tutor someone in something difficult, and then listen to how they describe the interaction.  Are they being derogatory or mean about the person they were teaching? Are they able to name some issues pertinent to training adults? Do they mention any particular teaching strategies that also work well when working with faculty?

Student Training

Once I hire a student, I try to make sure I spend a lot of time with them at a few points early in their work in our department. My primary job is to support the faculty in their use of the LMS. So we get some questions how to do this or that, or what module is the right one to use for their activity. So I make all first-term students learn how to edit a page in our LMS. Because I have a primary goal of making sure they know how to find answers when they don’t have them, I don’t actually train them. I give them a blank site, a sample syllabus, and then point them at the documentation.  I also make it clear to them why I am making them learn on their own. I want them to know that their goal should be to get better at finding answers.

Once they have the LMS down, I try to get them involved in a project. I rarely have one lined up for them from the get-go, but I usually don’t have much trouble coming up with something for them to do. If it happens to be related to their academic interests, that’s a double win.  But they know that they won’t always get to do that.

I also focus on making sure they have good customer service skills. I teach them how to answer the phone and invite the caller to ask their question. I tell them how to address people who just wander into our office. I also teach them how to write polite and informative responses in our ticketing system to faculty. These skills will be valuable to the students no matter what industry to go into, and I make sure they know that, as well.

Finally, I talk to them about boundaries. We don’t have graduate students at our institution, so we have undergraduate students who are potentially sitting down with faculty to help them use some technology.  There is an inherent power relationship there that does not work in the favor of the student. We are very small, the chances that this student either will or currently is in a class taught by that professor is quite high. And I know that all faculty have only the best intentions when working with students, but sometimes they end up unintentionally using that power position to get the student to do more than they should be doing. I have never met anyone who did this on purpose, but having a student there who you know can just do what you need done for you is so very tantalizing! After explaining this to the student, I tell them that if ever they are asked to do something that is outside of the work they should be doing then they can say “Carly won’t let me do that.” or “I have to check with my supervisor first.”  I essentially let them have me take the blame. Almost every student who has worked for me has come back to say that this was very important to them at some point. They all appreciate the feeling that I have their back, and that helps them to learn that boundaries are important.

The Results

The results have been amazing. I have had numerous years of excellent student workers who have been invaluable in helping our office to support the faculty.  They have taken on the bulks of answering or triaging technical how-to questions, and successfully escalate to professional staff as needed. Many of my students who came in with no particular interest in technology, have gone on to take CS courses because they were no longer as afraid of programming as they had been before working on our office.

Faculty have also reported that most of our students have been wonderful to work with. I have had faculty come to our offices and tell me that they don’t want to talk to me, but want to speak with one of my student workers about their question. And faculty who have gotten the help they need from our student workers are often repeat customers.

I have had student workers that have gone on to do amazing things! They work in high-security computing, are doing graduate research in labs, going to medical school, pursuing their PhD in Computer Science, and more. I have written letters of recommendation for so many of them and helped them get some of these positions, but mostly they have been successful because of how awesome they are to begin with.

Working with students is one of my favorite parts of my job. I love introducing them to new and creative uses of technology.  I love seeing them get excited about education + technology, and watched so many of them grow into confident people when they started out super shy. It’s been a wonderfully rewarding part of working at a small college.

I hope this post has been helpful. I’m happy to answer any questions about how I work with student workers any time!