Category: Course Tools

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

Jul 23 2013

Draft Email Messages in the Class Email Tool

We've been asked over the years to provide faculty and TAs the ability to compose a draft email message in the class email tool. We have added this functionality to the online course system. You can now save up to 5 different draft messages in the class email tool. (Note that this means 5 different messages, not 5 separate drafts of the same message.)

This new feature means that one faculty member on a course can compose a message that is later sent by another faculty or TA in the same course. File attachments on draft messages are supported as well.

The draft message feature is currently only available in online courses. We'll be bringing it to CoursePlus as soon as we can.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 10:11 AM - Categories: Course Tools | Online Courses

Jul 9 2013

Submit Files to the Drop Box from Google Drive or Dropbox

We've just rolled out an exciting new feature for students who submit files to a course drop box. You can now select a file in Google Drive (Google Docs) or from your Dropbox or account in addition to selecting a file on your desktop or laptop computer when submitting files to a course drop box. This gives you a lot more flexibility in where you store (and how you work on) files that you eventually submit to a course drop box. Additionally, the new file picker for the Drop Box also supports dragging and dropping files from your desktop into the Drop Box file picker window.

If you decide to use Google Drive or Dropbox as the source of the file you want to submit, you'll need to give the application permission to do so. We use a third-party integration called "Inkfilepicker" for this functionality, so you may see that come up if you go this route. None of your files are stored on the Inkfilepicker servers. Files are securely stored on separate servers by the Center for Teaching and Learning. 

Please also note that if you're really pushing the deadline for submitting a file — that is, you're waiting until the literal last minute to submit your file to a course drop box — you might end up submitting the file past the deadline. Remember that you have to first authorize Google Drive or Dropbox or to access your files, and only then can you pick the file you want to use, and only after that is the file actually uploaded to the course drop box. This process can take a minute or more, so if you wait until 11:58pm to submit to a course drop box that closes at 11:59pm and you're using Google Drive, Dropbox or, you might miss the deadline.

This feature is only available in online courses at this time. We plan on bringing it to CoursePlus by the second academic term.

If you have feedback about this new feature, we'd love to hear it!


Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:19 AM - Categories: Course Tools | Online Courses

Apr 2 2013

Using the Rich Text Editor on iOS Devices

If you are using iOS 5.1 or later on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, we have a bit of good news for you: the rich text editor that we use in the course BBS, wiki, class email tool and Announcements tool now works on iOS devices! 

Previously, we had to provide a simple text box with no formatting if you were using an iOS device. This is because the rich text editor just didn't work on iOS devices. The group that makes the rich text editor recently updated it so that it now works on iOS devices, and we've added that version to the online course system.

If you're using an Android device, however, we don't have good news for you. The rich text editor still doesn't work on Android devices — although the new Chrome web browser that Google is building for Android 4 and later should work once Google finishes the product. We're keeping an eye on this so we can hopefully bring the rich text editor to Android devices soon as well.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 11:54 AM - Categories: Course Tools | Online Courses

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