Nov 10 2014

Two New Drop Box Features: Automatic Reminders and an Honor Pledge

We've added two new features which we hope will make the CoursePlus Drop Box even more useful to faculty and TAs.

First: automatic reminders. You can now schedule automatic reminders that will be sent to students who have not yet turned in a file to a Drop Box that the Drop Box due date is approaching. You specify the number of days before the due date of the Drop Box that you want the reminder to be sent, and it is automatically sent to students who have not yet turned in a file for that Drop Box. This is the generic message that is always sent:

This email message is to remind you that you have not submitted [Name of Course] [Name of Drop Box].
Due Date: [Due date for Drop Box]

Second: an honor pledge indicator. You can now opt to require that students click a checkbox next to a statement about completing work in compliance with the School's policy and procedure memorandum pertaining academic ethics before they can submit a file to a Drop Box. While clicking a checkbox cannot literally enforce that students complete their work in an appropriate manner, it does help to serve as a reminder to all students of their obligations when it comes to academic ethics.

The honor pledge, written by the Associate Dean for Academic Integrity, reads:

I have completed this assignment in accordance with the School's Policies and Procedures Memorandum Students-1 pertaining to Academic Ethics.

One other change that we made to the Drop Box was to limit the size of submitted Microsoft Word or PDF files. In the first academic term, there were a handful of students who submitted Word documents or PDF files that were over 300MB in size. That's fairly huge for a Word document or PDF file, especially as the vast majority of students submit files that are less than 10MB in size. The problem with these large files was that they'd take a longer than normal time for faculty or TAs to download, and would significantly slow the creation of the ZIP files for all files submitted to a Drop Box. In order to improve the overall experience for everyone, we've limited the maximum file size of Word and PDF files that can be submitted to a Drop Box to 50MB. Students who have files larger than 50MB can use any number of techniques to reduce the file size, and can seek asssitance for doing this from the CTL Help team.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 9:55 AM - Categories: Course Tools

Oct 27 2014

A New File Uploader for the Online Library

Over the past few months, we've noticed sporadic instnances where uploading multiple files at the same time to a course Online Library would randomly fail. There was no clear indication why the file uploads would fail, and there was no clear pattern to the problem. It would most often manifest itself when people uploaded multiple files with Firefox, but we also saw the problem in Chrome and Safari.

Along the way, we discovered that the Flash-based uploader for files in the Online Library was the culprit. To address this problem, we replaced the Flash-based uploader with a standards-compliant set of code that does not require the Flash plug-in to work. This is one more dependency on the Flash plug-in that we have removed, and makes CoursePlus more accessible across mobile devices.

You should not notice much difference with the new, non-Flash file uploader in the Online Library. One additional benefit this uploader brings is that you can now upload individual files up to 200MB in size to your course Online Library, up from the rather paltry 30MB that was the previous limit.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 1:26 PM - Categories: Course Tools

Oct 23 2014

Follow @CoursePlus on Twitter!

We try to post here on the CTL Blog on a regular basis, and many of the posts are about new features and changes to CoursePlus. We only post to the CTL Blog once a week — maybe twice if there's a lot going on. If you want more up-to-date information about what's new or different in CoursePlus or information about known issues or problems in CoursePlus, you can follow @CoursePlus on Twitter for more timely information. 

Some of the information in the @CoursePlus feed will be posted on the CTL Blog, but on Twitter, we'll include lots of extra, small things that aren't being blogged about as well as problems we find and when those problems are resolved. Please note that we won't be offering technical support via Twitter. You'll still need to contact CTL Help for that.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 4:09 PM - Categories: CoursePlus

Oct 21 2014

Schedule Course Announcements

We've added two new small, but helpful, features to the Announcements tool in CoursePlus.

First, you can now schedule announcements in advance. You can set a date in the future for the announcement and the announcement will not appear on your class website until the date and time you've selected. Previously, all announcements would appear immediately, as soon as you created them.

Second, you can now select the number of days for which you want the announcement to appear. Announcements can appear for 1 to 7 days. (An announcement that needs to appear for more than 7 days should really be added as a class email or go into the Discussion Forum.)

Hopefully these small improvements make announcements more useful for you in your classes!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:24 AM - Categories: Course Tools | CoursePlus

Oct 14 2014

Update Your Flash Player to Fix the Problem with LiveTalk Crashing When You Adjust Your Sound

A release of the Flash Player in early October introduced a bug that caused the Flash Player, which powers LiveTalks, to crash on the Mac OS any time you adjusted your sound volume on your computer. This was hugely annoying to many students, and rightfully so.

Adobe just released an update to the Flash Player which fixes this problem. If you do not install this update and you are on the Mac OS, you will continue to have crashes any time you adjust your spealer volume during the LiveTalk. Go get the updated Flash Player now!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 12:17 PM - Categories: Tech Tools

Oct 14 2014

Numeric Value Question Type Added to the Quiz Generator

The Quiz Generator tool in CoursePlus has long supported five question types — multiple choice, true/false, match from two list, fill-in-the-blank, and essay — as well as the ability to insert blocks of text that aren't questions at any place in a quiz. We're pleased to announce that we just added a sixth, and long-requested, question type to the Quiz Generator: numeric value questions.

Numeric value questions allow you to specify a single numeric answer to a question which students much match exactly to get the question scored correctly. You can provide a range of values within which the student answer can fall and still get the question scored as being correct. Negative values and decimal values are supported. Best of all, the Quiz Generator automatically scores this type of question for you.

There are a couple of limitations to this question type: you can't specify a value in scientific notation, and you can't use percentage signs as part of the response.

A recommended best practice for using this new question type is to be very explicit about the number of decimal places which a student should include in their answer, and how rounding should work. Providing clarity on this will reduce the likelihood that a student would enter "80" for "80%" (which would be rejected by the system) instead of ".8" as an answer. However, the acceptable range feature will help alleviate problems where students might not use the correct number of decimal places or round incorrectly.

We think that this new question type will be a major boon for courses where mathematical computation is required, and will replace a lot of multiple choice questions that are currently used to ask students to perform a calculation and then pick the correct answer from a list of options. Using this new question type provides the benefit of autograding without having to come up with a series of incorrect multiple choice answers which may give students hints as to the correct answer in the process.

If you have questions about how the numeric value questoin type works, CTL Help is just a click away!

0 comments - Posted by Brian Klaas at 9:14 AM - Categories: Course Tools

Oct 10 2014

Deleting Wiki Comments

The comments feature in the wiki tool allows anyone in a class to leave comments on a wiki page. This can be great for faculty evaluation of a wiki or peer-to-peer evaluation of a wiki. Previously, however, the only faculty and TAs could delete their own comments. There have been situations where students have wanted to use the commenting tool to leave comments for each other, but delete them before finalizing the wiki. There was no way to do that, until now.

Anyone who posts a comment in a wiki can now delete their own comments. Faculty and TAs can even delete any student comment on a wiki, in addition to being able to delete their own comments.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 9:21 AM - Categories: Course Tools

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