Category: Course Tools

Apr 22 2014

"Recent Items from the Online Library" Box on the Course Home Page

When the online course and CoursePlus systems merge at the end of the academic year, we'll be introducing a new element to course home pages: a "Recent Items from the Online Library" box on each course home page. This box includes the five most recently uploaded (or replaced) files or links in the course Online Library.

Aside from making the course home page more useful, the other purpose of this addition is to help replace some of the functionality on the “What’s New” page in CoursePlus. In case you don't know, when students sign into CoursePluse, there is a “What’s New” link next to each course in which they are enrolled. This page lists recently added quizzes, surveys, Drop Boxes and Online Library files for a specific course. Unfortunately, this feature won't make it into to the merged CoursePlus right away because it’s not a very scalable tool (it takes 5-7 seconds to gather all the data for just one course). It also helps to divert students from actually going into a CoursePlus site and engaging in the full scope of activities therein. It’s certainly convenient, and our hope is that — while no replacement for a custom, per-person, per-course “What’s New” page — the "Updates to the Online Library Box” will help replace some of this convenience.

0 comments - Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:24 AM - Categories: Course Tools | CoursePlus | Online Courses

Mar 4 2014

New Peer Assessment Tool in Online Courses

We're very excited to announce that a new peer assessment tool has been added to the online course system. Developed with a lot of great input from faculty and TAs here at the School, the peer assessment tool allows faculty to set up rubrics against which students will be assessed. There are a number of configurations available for organizing students for assessment:

  • Students can assess themselves
  • Students can assess [n] random other students
  • A student can assess everyone in her group
  • One group of students can assess another group of students
  • Everyone in the class can assess one group of students
  • Faculty and TAs can assess students individually

Assessments can be linked to course drop boxes, so that students are automatically assigned the appropriate files from those drop boxes to assess. Assessments can be points-based or not, and points-based assessments can be linked to the Gradebook for automatic import of final assessment grades into the Gradebook.

The peer assessment tool delivery process works like this:

  1. Create the basic parameters for the asssessment (when it starts/ends, what kind of assessment, etc.).
  2. Create a rubric or copy from an existing rubric against which students will be assessed.
  3. Students assess each other's (or their own) work using the rubric.
  4. Faculty and TAs review student assessments and release results to students.

The peer assessment tool is currently available only in online courses, but will be coming to CoursePlus in June.

There is extensive help documentation built into the new peer assessment tool, but if you're interested in using the tool, we strongly encourage you to talk about creating a great peer assessment with your course instructional designer!

0 comments - Posted by Brian Klaas at 9:26 AM - Categories: Course Tools | Online Courses

Jan 14 2014

New Version of the Rich Text Editor includes Equation Support and a Drawing Tool

On January 14, 2014, we pushed out a major new version of the rich text editor in all online courses. The highlight of this new version of the rich text editor is that it now includes a) support for rendering equations created in LaTeX format, and b) a drawing board for sketching equations, tables, graphs or anything else!

Faculty (and students) have long asked for the ability to render equations in discussion forum posts, quizzes, and more. The problem has been that doing this required additional plug-ins to the Web browser, because Web browsers used to not be able to display markup for equations. That has changed, and since we're no longer supporting older browsers like Internet Explorer 8, we can now use tools which render equations using markup!

If you look at the rich text editor in the discussion forum, quizzes, or elsewhere in an online course site, you will now see the Greek Sigma symbol as a button in the editor toolbar.

Clicking this button will bring up the LaTeX equation editing window.

You paste in syntactically correct LaTeX markup, and the result  is rendered immediately in a preview. Clicking OK to close this window inserts the equation wherever it your cursor is placed in the rich text editor box. 

The other new button in the rich text editor toolbar is the paintbrush button:

Clicking on this button will bring up the drawing board tool, which allows you to quickly sketch or draw something (or mark up an equation or create a 2x2 table, etc).

Once you click the OK button, the image is saved, and then that image then becomes part of the content of your discussion forum post, email message, quiz question, etc. This is a great tool for marking up something that isn't possible to type.

The new rich text editor appears throughout tools in online courses. There is one place where the equation editor tool does not work, however, and that's within the class email tool. The reason for this is because the rendering of equations inside the Web browser requires code to execute. Email clients do not allow code to execute when you open an email message because that would be a major security risk. As a result, we've removed the equation editor button from the class email tool so that you don't create messages with equations in them and then get frustrated that students don't see those equations when they read the email. You could use the drawing board tool to sketch your eqation instead, as email clients don't have problems displaying images.

This new version of the rich text editor is available in online courses only at this time. It will be coming to CoursePlus in June.

1 comments - Posted by Brian Klaas at 9:26 AM - Categories: Course Tools | Online Courses

Sep 24 2013

Anonymize Student File Names in the Drop Box

In late August, we added a feature to the Drop Box tool in online courses that allows you to anonymize the file names of student files which you download from a course Drop Box. This means that instead of the file names having the student name in them when you download the files from the Drop Box, the file names have a random string of characters. For example, instead of a file being named "Homework_1-Brian_Klaas.doc" the file would be named "Homework_1-7URT-BQIK-J8AJ-KAN3.doc" if (and only if) you turn on this option in the setup for the Drop Box.

How is this feature useful? This feature has been requested by a handful of faculty over the past few years who have their TAs grade student papers and want the grading process to be totally anonymous. If the student name is in the file name, it's not going to be anonymous. With these anonymized file names, TAs will not know whose paper they are grading (provided, of course, that the student does not put their name in the body of the paper.)

If this option is selected in the setup for a Drop Box, a key listing all students and the file names for their files will be available from within the Drop Box. This allows faculty to know which file belongs to which student. Additionally, if you upload a ZIP file of files with these anonymized file names into the Gradebook, the Gradebook uses that key to correctly assign each file to the proper student so you don't have to do that work.

This feature exists only in online courses right now, but is coming to the CoursePlus Drop Box before the second term.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 11:04 AM - Categories: Course Tools | Online Courses

Sep 18 2013

More Announcements on the Course Home Page

Announcements are a handy way to let everyone in the class know about something important as soon as they arrive on the online course home page. Previously, only one announcement was displayed on an online course home page at a time. Announcements normally stay visible for five days from the posting of the announcement. If you posted another announcement before those five days expired, however, the previous announcement (or announcements) would disappear from the course home page.

We've changed the announcements tool so that you can now have up to five (5) announcements dispalyed on an online course home page at a time. This means that if you post an announcement on Monday, another on Tuesday, and another on Wednesday, all three announcements will be visible until the first announcement "expires" five days after it was posted.

If you have feedback on the announcements tool and how it works, we'd love to hear it!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:45 AM - Categories: Course Tools | Online Courses

Aug 20 2013

Copy Core Syllabus Content from One Section of a Course to Another

Since we rolled out the revamped syllabus building tool last year, faculty who teach multiple sections of the same course have asked if there's a way to copy core/catalog-linked syllabus content from one section of a course to another. This is relatively easy to do in CoursePlus, where you can select the course section from which you want to copy when you set up your CoursePlus site. This isn't so easy to do with online courses, however. You could copy and paste content from one browser tab to another, but there has to be a simpler way of doing this, right?

We've added a feature to the syllabus tool where you can copy all of the catalog-linked syllabus sections of content from one class section (ie; .01, .11, .13) to another class section (ie; .81). When you start this process, you'll be presented with a list of all sections of the course that have a CoursePlus site or an online course. You can then select the course section from which you want to copy, and the following sections of content will be copied into the current course syllabus:

  • Course Description
  • Course Learning Objectives
  • Methods of Assessment
  • Intended Audience
  • Prerequisites
  • Required Text(s)

If you chose to perform this copy, the content of these sections in the current course syllabus will be overwritten.

If you want to simply replace the content of these sections with what is in the JHSPH course catalog for the course, you can do so by using the "Revert to What's in the Catalog" tool that has been in the syllabus tool since we launched it last year.

This new copy tool is available only in online courses for the time being, but will be coming to CoursePlus later this year.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 9:06 AM - Categories: Course Tools | Online Courses

Aug 13 2013

Faculty, TA and Staff Indicators on BBS Posts

When a course begins, there's usually a flurry of introductory and administrative questions on a course BBS. While students may know who the faculty on a course are, they may not know the course TAs just yet, or they may not know the instructional designers or other CTL staff who may need to occasionally communicate with them on the BBS.

To make the roles of each non-student who posts to a course BBS clearer, we've added small indicators for "Faculty," "TA" and "Staff" next to the names of the individuals who are in those roles in a course. Here's an example:

Faculty flag in BBS posts.

We hope that this makes things clearer for students, especially at the start of a course.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 10:37 AM - Categories: Course Tools | Distance Learning

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