CTEL would like to extend a hearty congratulations to Paul Dexter, Coordinator for Learning Assistance Services at the Learning Commons, for being honored as the Sloan-C Featured Certificate Program Graduate for January 2013.
Paul started the Sloan-C Certificate Program last January, and according to the his interview with Sloan-C, he described the value of his experience with the Sloan-C Institute as ‘INCREDIBLY useful’. Paul joins a growing rank of USM faculty who participate and complete the Sloan-C Certificate Program. Congratulations, Paul!
To learn more about the Sloan-C Certificate Program, please refer to the Sloan-C Online Teaching Certificate site.
USM’s transition from BbCollaborate (Elluminate) to Adobe Connect as the web conferencing tool has gone extremely well. The tool has been used successfully by faculty who previously taught with Collaborate, as well as by faculty who have never used a web conferencing tool. As use of the tool increases, please be aware that CTEL has a resource site available with some commonly asked questions, tips and training videos. Please view http://usm.maine.edu/ctel/adobe-connect-0 to learn more!
by Dan Stasko
Associate Professor of Natural and Applied Sciences
Don’t attend in Spirit!
Meetings, Meetings, Meetings!! I am sure that everyone is super excited about hopping into the car, sitting in traffic (albeit Maine traffic isn’t that heinous), or fighting the weather (another story altogether), to rush onto campus for a 1-hour meeting. We have all experience ‘meeting days’ as well, where we hop from one conference room to another, sometimes across campuses to interact with our peers. And where do we squeeze in some intellectual growth, professional development, or just peer-to-peer hobnobbing? As we increasingly wear more hats while balancing our service to the university with our mission of student centered efforts and our own scholarly pursuits, why must we waste time sitting in our cars flitting between the three campuses or myriad of meeting spots?
Thankfully, we now have more options than ever for ‘attending’ a meeting in a way that isn’t necessarily corporeal. Fitting with the season, we can often be at a meeting in more ways than just in spirit. With a little planning we can be ghosts in the machine and haunt our colleagues in a disembodied fashion by the miracle of telepresence.
Telepresence is not a new concept for many of us. Utilizing the the polycom locations at each of the campuses is a viable option. The equipment and infrastructure is there and often available. The drawback is that you are locked to a few locations and there is a requirement for strong coordination within the meeting group to routinely arrange, setup, and connect the polycom locations.
Luckily for us, the ubiquity of wi-fi, webcam enabled hardware, digital projectors and free, mature technology & software makes it possible to be a virtual attendee very easily.
“The Ghost in the Machine”
Virtual attendance to a meeting requires a few tools. Like the title of this section references philosophical debates about the mind and the hardware upon which it is constrained, so too does effective telepresence require a connection between the hardware (how you connect) and users (the other meeting attendees). And like neurological underpinnings of the brain structure can influencing behavior and thought, sometimes this hardware can overcome effective meeting attendance. My goal in this little essay is to help minimize the influence of the ghost in the machine so that you can be a productive colleague in a remote situation.
Lets talk hardware!
What you need to succeed:
#1. A connection device
This is easy! Laptops, tablets, and even cell phones are now useful as tools to allow you to connect. I personally enjoy using an iPad in some situations, though I have ‘attended’ meetings via my cell phone or laptop. These devices have a webcam (optional but useful) and built in microphones and speakers.
#2. A connector
This is the software that you will use to host your presence. There are many versions of software out there but the most common software is Skype or the combo of iMessage & Facetime, both of which are convenient from iDevices like the iPad or iPhone. Besides those options, and maybe more simply, every USM faculty, staff and student has access to a suite of Google tools that includes Google chat and voice/video interactions built into there UMaine System account. There is NO EXCUSE for not being able to connect if you have a computer that has been purchased in the past 4 years. You just need to have activated your UMaine webmail interface (which causes no changes to your email client) which is easily done via http://mycampus.maine.edu or http://gmail.maine.edu (see: Migration Handout) and once you are able to utilize the web interface to the mail system, you can connect via the umaine.edu address we all have. (simple, browser based plug-in required). Using the pop-up button associate with each contact you can start a chat or ‘hangout’ for face-to-face virtual interactions. (see arrows in figure below)
#3 (optional) A headset or headphones
Having a headset will eliminate the most common problems associated with laptop/device based telepresence. This is the dreaded ECHO CHAMBER OF DEATH!! or at least the echo chamber of distraction. The software has come a long way to do noise cancellation and echo elimination, but it is far from perfect. The speakers in your laptop or device broadcast the distant meeting sounds and speaking and these feedback to your microphone in a lovely (read horrid) loop turning the conversation into a difficult echo loop. As the virtual attendee, judicious use of your mute button will also be helpful. By remaining on mute unless you have a contribution, you can avoid errant noises and echoes. This is particularly useful for low bandwidth connections often allowing you better sound quality when calling in from off campus.
The Buddy System (aka Playing the Host)
#4 Lend a hand?
Lastly and most importantly, you will need a friend to allow you to piggyback on their attendance to the meeting. This person will serve as the carrier of your avatar. This friend will be a gracious host and allow you to access the meeting. Your partner in this meeting setting will need the same items above (#1 and #2) and for a group meeting, the device they are using to host your avatar will ideally NOT be the one they want to use to take notes or surf during to boring parts since, in a meeting, the device used to host the avatar is best left just sitting in a corner where they can watch and contribute. Their machine will be the conduit for your virtual presence.
As a host, you should have a fallback option (aka a phone number) and be ready to open the connection early to work out the inevitable bugs. As the host it is also helpful to serve as a moderator for the discussion between remote and local participants. This is made easier by using a projector and external speakers to blow up the virtual attendee to a more manageable size than laptop postage stamp. Something that is y important for a larger gathering than 2-3 sitting around a table.
#5 The three P’s:
Okay, having a buddy was supposed to be the last and most important thing, but the real last and most important thing(s), are the three P’s, Patience, Persistence and Practice. Sit down with your buddy, bring you connection device, give each other connection information (sometimes usernames, sometime invites are needed), and have yourself a virtual meeting while in the same room. Work out the minor bugs or try and do it over the phone while you are each off campus. A little practice getting setup and rolling will go a long way. Once you have hammered out the initial hesitancy I am confident that you will find that virtual attendance is actually pretty easy (and typically there is coffee at home!).
So, attending meetings via a digital avatar is actually pretty apropos. In Hinduism, an avatar is an extension of a deity on earth whose purpose is to spread dharma. For us this often can be expressed as duty or vocation as well as proper or correct behavior. Our digital avatar allows us to dispense with our duties in a manner that is productive and beneficial and if more people would participate, rather than throwing up their hands and saying “ I can’t make it to that meeting because I am in portland/gorham/lewiston that day” imagine all that could be accomplished. With a judicious application of technology and a helping hand, this is very doable. In fact, it is so easy, there is no reason it can not be extended to other arenas such as faculty development opportunities as well.
Intrigued? Want to try it? Need help setting up a conference? I am happy to help. Drop me an email and we can test out a connection and session.
Are you looking for a REALLY simple and free conferencing tool to use, or recommend your students use? It would be worth your time to check out LiveMinutes (http://liveminutes.com/) which allows for hangouts with document sharing, commenting on documents, synchronous note-taking and sketching/imaging abilities. The output is a simple report with all your saved details. Throw in FREE video and audio…and you have an incredibly easy web-based tool at your finger tips!!
As of September 17, Blackboard changed their Mobile Learn app distribution model to a personal licensing option and updated their application to make it available to all iOS, Android, Blackboard and WebOS devices regardless of service provider. As a result, it is NO LONGER FREE of charge. The cost is $1.99 for a one-year license OR a one-time fee of $5.99. (Note: the one-time fee assumes continued use of the same mobile platform. The license is not transferable from iOS to Android and vice-versa.)
The free service was made available by the University of Maine system last winter, accessible via the app published by Blackboard, Inc. The service was available in a limited, subsidized capacity at no cost to any Sprint device or iOS over wifi user. Due to the new pricing model, I ask that you please read the information compiled about the change : http://usm.maine.edu/ctel/blackboard-mobile-learn.
***If you had the free Mobile Learn app already — the app will update for free on your device, but you will not be able to use without choosing a payment option after login.***
To simply state the issue, Blackboard’s text editor is old, slow and needs to be replaced before formatting within a course works properly again. The good news is that this is addressed with a new TinyMCE text editor, but not until the next service pack (potentially in summer 2013) install to our system. This understandably has caused numerous headaches for faculty, as well as for students submitting assignments with text editor comments. The systems office has repeatedly discussed this with Blackboard. Due to the complexity of the editor and amount of locations it is found in the system, there is no patch or update Blackboard can provide that would correct these formatting issues.
In the meantime, I would suggest you refer to our CTEL resource page: http://usm.maine.edu/ctel/blackboard-wysiwyg-editor-formatting-issues for full details of the issue and work-around steps.
While conversations continue on campus as to whether it is fair to expect our students to use technology like Blackboard, web-conferencing, and social media, some faculty are evaluating students’ Klout with respect to social media sites. And some hiring firms are paying attention! Thanks to Marketing Professor, Bob Heiser, for bringing this article to our attention.
This article in Faculty Focus describes Dr. Patrice Hallock’s use of “frameworks” in her college teaching. She uses visuals of square, triangular and circular frames to promote critical thinking in her students’ work.
“The shapes have three associated phrases: “Something that ‘squares’ with your beliefs,” “Three ‘points’ to remember,” and “A question ‘circling’ my mind.””
One of the interesting Emerging Technology for Online sessions surrounded the 2012 Horizon Report through the idea of F.A.C.E.S and Power tools. The 6 areas discussed from the Horizon Report were:
1. Mobile Phones – how will they be used
2. Tablets – will they replace paper entirely?
3. Educational Games – the use of simulation and virtual reality in education
4. Learning Analytics – are we continually assessing what students are doing (i.e. evaluating activities in courses, evaluating how students are accessing courses, are we evaluating course scores, evaluating how often they are engaging through the use of discussion boards, blogs, journals) in an attempt to ensure the correct tool is being used?
5. Power Gestures – will the movement of ones body be used in education, how, when?
6. Internet of Things – how will non-computer based devices connect to applications, connect to the internet and store information (ex: Google TV, Nike+ sneakers)?
As a group, we were asked to think about how these 6 topics could lead to a better online learning experiences. The presenters took these Horizon report topics and brought up a great acronym (F.A.C.E.S) as their way of creating a virtual classroom that has the same impact as face to face instruction.
F = Facilitated: how is the course facilitated? Learning Management system using weekly modules?
A = Assessed: how is student comprehension being assessed? Are there online quizzes and exams similar to an in-class component?
C = Communicate/Collaborate: how will students communicate and collaborate online? Will there be a tool for online collaboration such as Blackboard Collaborate, Adobe Connect or a Google+ Hangout option?
E = Engaged: how are the students engaging in the course? Will discussion boards or blogs be used, will commenting in these tools be used?
S = Student-Centered Learning: are the tools being used appropriate? Don’t give the students a discussion board when you want them to chronicle their learning for the week; use a journal instead.
This concept was present as an idea for attendees to take back and use when viewing their course. The idea is to have an online course that is as engaged and personalized as a face to face course. One way to conceptualize F.A.C.E.S in your course, is through the use of some tools. While Blackboard provides most of the tools you would need to keep the content inside of the course, the following tools are a way keeping the data current in only one location. Links to the tools would reside in Blackboard. Updates would be done once and available from wherever the link lives.
Instructor information: ePortfolio.org or Google Sites – create a portfolio of your infomation
Course: Blogger or WordPress – use a blog for the description of the course
Objectives: SnagIt – repeat, repeat, repeat
Resources: Spreadsheets, Wix – comprehensive list of tools, apps and accounts that will be used in the course
Schedule: Google Calendar, Zoho Calendar – it is important to physically display the dates of assignments, etc.
Teaching: Blackboard Collaborate, Adobe Connect, Camtasia or Captivate videos – how will the course be facilitated; asynchronous or synchronous?
Assessment: feedback on the course (USM has course evaluations to be used)
Remember, Blackboard offers built in tools similar to those listed above. Use of tools should ONLY occur when you find the need arise, and should seek out any support from Course Designers in CTEL. The easiest way is not always the best way!!