Thursday, 14 August 2014

Open Coalition says "No thanks!"

Open Access
To enable the progression of human knowledge there is an innate need to be able to develop upon previously expressed ideas.

“If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
Isaac Newton, 1676

Over the last ten years this process has been facilitated with the development and extensive use of Creative Commons (CC) licences. Other licences are around, but in many ways CC has become the de facto standard. To ensure that licences used can be declared ‘Open’ there are a couple of useful definitions to test them against, the Definition of Free Cultural Works and the Open Definition.

When the concept of Open is applied to content of peer-reviewed scholarly journals it is termed ‘Open Access’. This video by PHD Comics explains things.



So recently when a global trade association for academic and professional publishers set out its terms for ‘open’ licensing that didn’t seem to fit in with the definitions over 50 organizations, including the JISC and the RLUK, formed a global coalition and released a joint letter asking that the licensing model be withdrawn.

Further reading:

http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/43450

https://blog.wikimedia.org/2014/08/07/new-open-licenses-arent-so-open/

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Assistive Software and Technology for Disabled Students - Readit


A small team of staff from CICS, DDSS and Library Services have been working over the last few years to establish a platform for different software and technology for disabled students within the University. There are now various software available on the managed desktop or individual machines in several of the libraries http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/library/services/assistech , and also equipment such as CCTV magnifiers http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/library/services/textmagnifier

One software in particular is especially designed for low vision and blind users to access texts in the library quickly and independently. Equipped with its own scanning camera, Readit will capture reading materials at speeds up to 20 pages per minute, and then convert the captured information into a personalised viewing style or document format for instant text to speech output.

The text display options include magnification levels, choice of font, and text and background colour. The reading options include a choice of voices and speed of speech. There are various export options including Microsoft Word, rich text format, PDF, plain text and MP3. The Readit software also works with documents already in electronic format so, for example, it can enlarge and read aloud a Microsoft Word document or a PDF. Readit can fluently read different languages and also accurately scan books where text would usually be distorted because of the thickness of the book spine. We also have a site licence for Lex which is very similar software to Readit, designed for students with a Specific Learning Difficulty such as Dyslexia and Dyspraxia to be able to reformat text into a format to enhance their reading speed and accuracy.

The software has been developed by Vision Aid Technologies over the last few years and the University is the first higher education institution in the country to have a Readit site licence.

Readit is currently available in the IC, Western Bank and Royal Hallamshire Hospital libraries, and the Wand camera available on request.

Jayne Woodward
Disability Adviser
DDSS

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Student Response Systems (Part 2)

Following on from yesterday's post, this is a list of student response systems collated from various sources. I did consider doing this as a table of features but there are so many criteria that this was impossible to do effectively, so what I have aimed to do instead is pick out key points from each offering. You can see in my blog post (Part 1) the things that you need to consider. This list began when I posed a question on the Alt-members (Association of Learning Technologists) forum, so many of those listed are suggestions / recommendations from members. The products repeatedly mentioned were Poll Everywhere and TurningPoint. Other products came from various sources. It is not a complete list nor is the information under each entry comprehensive. The information is accurate as of July 2014, but will change quickly over time.

  • For a basic test, you do not need to set up an account or register
  • A poll is a question. Create as many questions as you like, no matter which pricing structure you are on
  • Question types: Open-ended or multiple choice.
  • Images can be added to questions (drag and drop)
  • Can add LaTex: equations
  • SMS, Twitter, Web responses from students
  • Cap of 40 students for a free web account.
  • Pricing plan for Higher Ed
  • You can see results change as the vote comes in (but be careful as this can influence how later voters give their response)
  • No delay in distributing, collecting or maintaining devices as students use their own
  • Some controversy over pricing - make sure you check. See this blog post by Anne Cunningham (Cardiff University)
  • “Polleverywhere does have a plugin for presenting polls via PowerPoint. Interestingly, half of our trial participants preferred to poll directly from the Polleverywhere ( at the beginning of the trial, 9 out of the 18 academics who registered to participate responded yes to the question “If possible, would you like to present Polleverywhere questions using PowerPoint?” ) (Darren Gash, University of Surrey) (Note added by Terese Bird - make sure that the managed PCs used by tutors have the plugin installed or it can be frustrating.)
  • “We use poll everywhere with the students' own smartphones through SMS/Twitter/Web. Much cheaper and easier to administer than using custom PRS devices.” (Dr Chris Evans, Brunel Business School)  
  • “I used polleverywhere this past week at an 'industry meet the university' sort of session about byod, and it was really good.... It got the point across that we can use whatever device  we own and good learning can happen.” (Terese Bird, Learning Technologist, University of Leicester)
  • “We recently completed a trial of Polleverywhere with the aim of finding an alternative to our existing clicker-based system introduced in 2006. Although they have served the University well, their reliance on proprietary hardware (clickers and receivers) has limited adoption by students (some are either reluctant to carry additional electronic devices around with them or make the effort to book them out from library services) and staff (who have experienced problems getting the receivers to work).The trial has been very positive. Students overwhelmingly found Polleverywhere easy to use, and those who had previous experience with clickers preferred using their own devices. Similarly, staff on the whole found Polleverywhere easy to use, quick to set up and preferred it to the clicker-based system. There is also the potentially wider educational benefit through students being able to respond to open questions with text messages which we’re keen to explore. As a result of the trial we’ve purchased a year site license for Polleverywhere. (Darren Gash, University of Surrey)
  • “Just to echo what Darren has said below. I implemented PollEV in pilot this year. We purchased a license covering 1000 students. The feedback was excellent. We are now expanding wider across my faculty/institution due to the increased interest. Obviously BYOD is a key factor halting wider roll out, so we are investigating purchasing small and cheap devices that can be used where students don’t have anything to use themselves. “ (Matt East, Anglia Ruskin University) 
  • Handsets available, often called ‘clickers’ – different types available offering different types of question possibilities, including a self-paced option (Response Card NXT)
  • “We’re using Turning Point handsets currently. We bought some last summer and keep them centrally so we can loan them to departments when needed. More recently, one of our larger departments has purchased handsets for all their first and second year students (starting next academic year) whilst another large department has purchased the ResponseWare licences with Turning Point, so students use their own devices to answer questions. “ (Catherine Mclean, University of Essex)
  • Software option for use with students’ own devices is called Responseware (http://www.turningtechnologies.com/response-solutions/responseware)
  • “We’ve been using turningpoint handheld clickers for years at Warwick but are now hoping to get funding to licence responseware web client that works alongside it (on web browsers and mobile app). We started using them before the whole BYOD thing and there is still a feeling that we’re not ready to move away from the bespoke handset option altogether. Turningpoint plus reponseware is nicely hybrid. Simon Lancaster from UEA demoed the hybrid approach recently at a guest lecture here and got us thinking!” (Amber Thomas, University of Warwick)
  • Responseware doesn’t support the self-paced polling facility: “We looked at Responseware but decided to continue with dedicated hardware for a number of reasons, not least the ability of our WiFi to reliably handle the number of devices in some areas of the campus (an upgrade project is in progress but naturally it’s not an overnight job) and because ResponseWare doesn’t support the Self Paced Polling facility. We plan to use the Self Paced feature to facilitate computer marked assessments which have a greater range of question types available, to avoid having to shoehorn questions into multiple choice format to use with our optical marking system, and can be taken by greater numbers of students than can be accommodated in a computer room in one sitting.  Even if the feature were available on the app, it would give the invigilators considerable difficulty in ensuring that students are only using that app and haven’t switched to a browser to research the answer.” (Steve Bentley, University of Huddersfield)
  • “We've been running the TP handsets since about 2010, and have found them pretty good. As reported elsewhere, some of our departments and larger faculties have taken the steps of buying them for all their students and tying the handset IDs to the students registration where attendance monitoring was an important issue for complying with external regulatory bodies such as the GMC for our medics. The downside to TP is of course being tied to their hardware, however some areas are now looking at the app version. What I would say about TP, which isn't so much the case with some of the other ones, and I think this is a major reason why it is popular with teaching staff is the integration with PowerPoint. We have TP on our managed desktop, and I think the fact it is so easy to use and represents such a small leap from what they already do is a significant attraction.“ (Graham McElearney, University of Sheffield)

  • Capped at 50 simultaneous students for a free account  
  • Exit ticket feature – 3 quick questions to get feedback at the end of a class
  • “At the Language Centre we also use socrative (maybe language groups are generally smaller classes anyway so no cost involved) Also, from the point of view of logisitics BYOD is a better solution as specialist hardware is not easily accessible when our staff teach in so many different locations. “ (Teresa McKinnon, University of Warwick Language Centre
  • BYOD (PC, Mac, iOS, Android and Windows) – App or Browser
  • Results generated as Excel spreadsheet
  • Can sign in with Google
  • BYOD
  • Free account capped at 30 students
  • Import a PowerPoint and then add question slides
  • Students see your slide on their device
  • Volume licensing and various upgrade options
  • “I used it successfully with a group of 60 participants using a variety of devices, some supplied (ipad minis), others brought by participants - iphones, android phones, laptops, Windows phones. In fact it was only the Blackberry users who had trouble !!!” (Matt Smith)
  • “Dear Members: The State of Tennessee uses NearPod (you can use on ALL devices including lap top). It is free and offers more than a student response system. You can use it as a clicker,poll, testing, drawing, video, etc. Yes, it is FREE for the students and the basic level for instructors! This application allows our instructor to use as an attendance tool, instructional tool, communication tool, and most importantly a teaching and learning tool and assessment tool.Plus, the instructor may upload content, browse the web, etc. and have it to show on the students' mobile device of choice.” (Robbie Melton)
And a few more worth a mention, in no particular order…..
  • Embed your questions in PowerPoint
  • “I invite you to also consider LectureTools from Echo360.  With it you can pose questions as multiple choice, free response, reorder list, image-based and numerical plus students can pose questions, take notes, annotate slides and indicate when they’re confused.  In addition, it offers a growing list of learning analytics so you can do research on to what degree student participation affects  learning in your classes (e.g. http://www.sageonstage.com).”  Perry Samson, University of Michigan
  • Future Event: Perry Samson will be presenting lessons learned using LectureTools on Sep 1 at the ALT-C Conference
Learning Catalytics

  • BYOD
  • Wide range of question types
  • Owned by Pearson
  • Question sharing across the user-base
  • Detailed reports on student results 


Text Wall
  • Students can send in texts which are displayed on a screen
  • £600 per year as a site-wide licence
  • As many responses as you like
  • Recipients SMS, email, type in web page
  • Responses can go into a Wordle
  • “It allows as many responses as you like and lets recipients SMS, e-mail or type in a web page box. Then you can ping the resposnes straight (integrated) into Wordle for a word cloud.” (Mark Gamble, University of Bedfordshire) 
The following information has been supplied by Dee Vyas at MMU
  • Question types: multiple choice, text response for open-ended answers, free numeric entry , slide to display text and images to respondents
  • Question Presentation: randomly shuffle the order of options for each respondent in multiple choice questions, images displayed in the question with pinch-to-zoom for touch devices, videos from YouTube and media from other sites can be embedded in the question
  • Responding: unlimited audience size, unlimited number of open sessions, guaranteed anonymity for respondents, enhanced support for Android, iPhone, iPad and Blackberry devices
  • Results: results displayed in PowerPoint slides with live updates, displayed as: charts: vertical bar, horizontal bar or pie chart, export / download as spreadsheet
    • table of responses
    • interactive 'sticky notes'
    • word cloud (now available!)
    Usability: powerful search features, Question Bank for easy re-use and templating support



  • Interface may be more suitable to younger learners (although the advertising does say it is suitable for business and University)
  • Geared to games-based learning
  • BYOD (browser-based)
  • No real chance to try – only based on their questions. No pricing given.
  • ActivExpression handsets or ActivEngage software (requires installation). This is ideally suited to learning environments that are already worked with the Promethean interactive classroom software.
  • Requires use of ActivInspire software to set the questions
  • Provides wide range of question types and self-paced options.
  • Browser based
  • An fully-embedded add-on to PowerPoint for live-polling inside your PowerPoint
  • One month free and then £30 per year
  • Ombea devices or students’ own devices
  • Can embed into PowerPoint
  • More detailed analytical tools than many of the other systems
  • Browser based
  • The tutor opens up a blank page and gives a URL to the students
  • No log-in required – can be set up almost instantly – good as an ice-breaker
  • BYOD for any device – browser based
  • Particularly good option to ‘draw’ a response freehand
  • Self-paced option
  • Multi-language option – can be translated for students on the spot
  • Push-link option – send a URL out to all your students instantly -  tutor types in a link, pushed to students
  • Easy to use and we have used it effectively in staff PD & multi-campus classes when presenting via videoconference to get remote students to ask questions and contribute to discussion (Janet Buchan, James Cook University)

  • “A new way to capture student (and anyone else’s) response is by simple video capture using mobile devices in the main. It allows the questioner to pose questions by video capture that the respondent can then watch and reply to, using the same video capture. It works on handheld devices as well as laptops so can be used for web quests etc. Well worth looking at as it replaces the need for written feedback. It could be used to capture learner experiences for OfSTED and Marketing purposes. Can provide the ‘vox pop’ type capture of a video box.” (Geoff Rebbeck, Freelance)
  • Not really suitable for use in lectures, but could be used to capture questions and responses in-between times.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Student Response Systems (Part 1)

What to look for in a student response system – or the questions to ask?

Many educational contexts now make use of student response devices - devices, which allow a student or group of students to send a response to a question back to a tutor in a classroom or lecture theatre. There is a wide array of devices and it can be very hard to choose which one you would like. This blog post is Part 1 of 2. In this post, I will look at the features that response systems can have. In the second part, I will look at some specific systems and highlight their best features.


BYOD or a device supplied by the University
One of the first considerations should be about which type of device you will use. There are two choices here:
  •  A supplied device: Some of the student response systems can use a proprietary device (e.g. Turning Point, Promethean). This has some advantages in that you can test the technology, you know that it works, you know that everyone will have one. In some cases, departments supply these on loan or the students buy them. In other cases, they are given out session by session.  There is a cost implication per device to this solution
  • BYOD (Bring your own device): Many students now own and carry a personal device. This could be a smartphone, a tablet or a laptop computer. The main consideration here is whether every student has one and which type they are using. Ideally, you would want to look for a solution which caters for all types of devices (iOS-Apple, Android and Windows). If a response system works through an Internet browser window then it can be used by all types of devices.
How many students?
This is an important question because it will influence some of the other answers. If you have a group of 40 students who all have their own device, then a BYOD solution would work well. If you have 400 in a lecture theatre where 10 do not have their own devices and there is limited wifi, you may be better to use ‘clickers’- devices which work on radio frequency and use a receiver in the tutor’s computer. You should speak to the IT department where you work about the wifi capacity of any venue where you are thinking of using a response system. (In general one access point will cope with 40-50 users - http://www.securedgenetworks.com/secure-edge-networks-blog/bid/59743/How-Many-Users-Can-a-Wireless-Access-Point-Handle).


How will my students give their answers?
Some of the response software allows for different ways to respond. Let’s look at the options:
  • Hand-held proprietary devices  Type in a response on a clicker. One of the limitations of clickers can be that they are restricted to multiple-choice questions: A,B,C,D etc. or 1,2,3,4. Some clickers are a little more sophisticated and do have a small screen to allow for some alphanumeric entry as well. Some clickers allow users to register so that the tutor knows who they are. This can be important if you want to be able to use them for attendance-monitoring or targeted support for students who are struggling.
  • Browser: Some student response systems allow responses through a web browser. This means that any device that has a browser and an Internet connection can send a response. Typically, students would key in a web address and a ‘code’ and this would open the response area. Responses could be of any type. These sites do not generally require a log-in, although some do give the option of adding your name.
  • App-based: Some systems require users to install an app. This works through the Internet and students start the app to receive the questions. You are sometimes asked to enter your name to log-in. Apps will often work on tablets and mobile phones, but sometimes not on laptops. You will need to ensure that the app is available on all operating systems (iOS, Android and Windows)
  • Text message: In some cases, users can text in a response from their mobile telephone, which will appear on screen alongside ones that have been added by an app or browser. This allows for participation from users who only have an older phone.
  • Twitter: Some systems allow users to tweet replies.
 
Question types
There are several types of questions that can be asked and you will need to consider which of these are important to the teaching you want to do.
  • Multiple choice: How many options are available for your multiple choice? If the system does marking, does it allow for more than one correct answer? (e.g. If you want to ask, ‘Tick the three possibilities for this scenario’)
  • Yes/No, True/False: Essentially these are variants on multiple-choice, but with just the two options. Sometimes you can set these up yourself or sometimes they already exist as options
  • Likert scale: Also a variant on multiple choice, as you are asking a student to choose from a number of options e.g. ‘How do you feel about this subject on a scale of 1-6 where 1 = I don’t care at all and 6 = I care very deeply?’ Again, you can set this up yourself on a multiple-choice question, but some software will offer you ready-made Likert response scale
  • Sort in order: This often allows the user to express a series of events in an order. So they may be given six events, labelled A-F, and then generate an answer that reflects the correct order: C,E,A,B,F,D
  • Free text entry: Students can enter text freely based on a stimulus question. Students may be asked for a single-word answer or may be able to type a phrase. It is a good idea to keep responses short, especially in large numbers are involved. What is interesting here is to look at how the software handles text responses. Does it scatter them across a page or stack-them up? Can the responses be moved and sorted on the page they appear on. Some software will create a Wordle from the responses it receives.
  • Free numerical entry: Enter numbers freely. With whole numbers, this is quite straight-forward, but you should look at the level of sophistication available for equations, fractions or specialist mathematical symbols. If the mathematics is complex, an option is to ask the students to write it on paper, take a photograph of the finished version and then save the photo as a shared photo or email it to a specific address
  • Annotate a picture: There are now options available for students to annotate a picture. This could involve adding labels, putting a cross on a certain point on a chart or picking out key parts of an image.
How do you set up the questions
In looking at the different types of software available, it is worth considering where the questions will be placed. Some software offers integration with PowerPoint, meaning that a tutor could prepare a lecture and fully integrate the questions, so that when they reach that slide, they can trigger the question.
If the questions are browser or app-based, how user-friendly is the software for putting the questions together and how easy is it to move from the presentation to the place where your questions are stored? There is the potential to waste a lot of precious teaching time by not being able to move fluidly from one application to another.


How are the results given and shared?
When using the software, how does it handle the responses from the students? Does it know who has sent in which response? Do the responses have to be saved? Does the software generate a ‘mark’ for the student based on their participation and ability?


What can you do with the feedback?
One aspect of using a student response system is to improve engagement by providing challenge in a lecture. However, the other side is that if the students’ responses are saved, they can be used to analyse a student’s progress and help to identify students who may need extra support. Good student analytics can help a tutor to spot a student who may fail much earlier than waiting for an assignment or test in a module.


You also need to think about how to use the response system during the lecture. Simply asking the question and getting correct responses does not really improve the learning process. Getting an explanation of the right answer and maybe, depending on how the questions are structured, understanding why wrong answers have been selected or put forward, is crucial to getting the most from the questioning process.


Self-paced?
Some resources do allow students to work through papers and give responses in their own time. This can be useful, although it is difficult to restrict access to other applications, such as the Internet, which could be used for cheating if the test is an assessed piece of work.

At a distance
It is also worth bearing in mind that the devices which work over a browser or app can be used at a distance. You may be delivering a lecture which is being simultaneously broadcast or a webinar with participants in different locations. The actual location of a student is irrelevant if they use a browser and this can really help distance learners to feel like they are involved in the session.


So, there are a lot of choices, but having a clear idea of what you are looking for will help you to make the most appropriate choice.

Part 2 looks at some of the systems available and highlights the features that they have.


Further Reading: If you would like to learn more about this topic, you may find the following papers of interest:


Lukoff, B., Mazur, E., & Schell, J. (2013). Catalyzing Learner Engagement using Cutting-Edge Classroom Response Systems in Higher Education. In C. Wankel, & P. Blessinger, Increasing Student Engagement and Retention Using Classroom Technologies: Classroom Response Systems and Mediated Discourse Technologies (Cutting Edge Technologies in Higher Education, Volume 6) (pp. 233-261). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Stowell, J. R., & Nelson, J. (2007). Benefits of Electronic Audience Response Systems on Student Participation, Learning, and Emotion, Teaching of Psychology, 253-258.


Thursday, 24 July 2014

OpenEd Platform?

Flying Platform
No known copyright restrictions 
I’ve just stumbled across a new initiative ‘Open Education powered by Blackboard’, which I found because of the Commonwealth Games. To celebrate the Games, Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) has launch the GCU Game On. This is a way for people to come together and participate in online learning. It seems like a really good way to break down barriers for people to engage with a form of learning that they might not have encountered previously. Also, tying in a learning initiative with a global sporting event is inspired.

The platform being used for this Open Education powered by Blackboard, which “is a free, fully supported cloud offering for Blackboard customers who are interested in offering Open Online Courses and MOOCs to the public.

It is based on the latest version of Blackboard LearnTM and provides free access to Mobile Learn. ‘Open Education powered by Blackboard’ seems to be different from their ‘CourseSites by Blackboard’. I’m not sure at this stage how or if the two fit together.

For an institution already using Blackboard for their VLE platform, ‘Open Education powered by Blackboard’ could provide more outlets for expansion of that institutions brand. Outreach to the community is one interesting possibility. It could also allow a parallel model for distribution and running of MOOCs alongside another platform like FutureLearn.

Whilst there could be debate about the use of ‘Open Education’ as a term, I can see possibilities for using the platform effectively.

More information:

Friday, 18 July 2014

MOLE Content Categorized Course Composition

Image of Chapter 1 photographed from a book
Representation of Content (CC0)


When creating a course for delivery via a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), in our case Blackboard Learn (MOLE), there are a number of approaches you could consider taking. If you want to align with a particular theory or model for teaching then you have the flexibility within the VLE environment to enable your particular requirements.

Blackboard highlights five categories of course structures you can use as a fundamental base for creating courses, organizing content, sharing knowledge, and building communities. The categories focus on:

  •  Activity
  •  Communication
  • Content
  • Systems
  • Time
I want to draw out some areas in these categories that might be of particular interest. Firstly I’ll concentrate on the idea of Content based courses.


Content

By Lecture
In MOLE, you can ask your students to read your lectures, listen to a voice recording, view slide presentation, etc. You can add extra value to your lectures with videos or screencasts that you create or link to external multimedia sources. This course structure works well for large introductory courses where lectures are the primary delivery method.

By Chapter
The By Chapter course structure organizes your course following the chapters in the required textbook and can work well for some subjects.

By Module or Element
A module or element is an independent unit or lesson. They can be self-contained allowing students to access them in any order, thus they can be used for self-paced courses.

By Unit
The unit-based course structure organizes content into large, distinct sections. Each of these units would have a separate link from the course menu. You could allow students to follow a predefined order or select units in an order of their own choosing. This approach might work successfully for subjects with specific historical time periods, several distinct or conflicting models of thought, etc.

Tools & their uses

Primary Content Structuring
Content will be published in the content area. This will provide students with an easy-to-navigate and familiar environment; you can create folders for each lecture, chapter, element, or unit. By including similar content, for example objectives, readings, instructions, assignments, and your lectures in varying formats you provide consistency whilst sparking interest. If elements of your course are larger topics, create a folder for each element, with folders inside to break up content by unit or week. Provide students with a similar layout in each folder to help them navigate and find information easily. Create a Resources content area to share additional material. This allows interested students to access more, relevant material.

A Discussion Forum can be used to help your student with their learning in a number of ways. You can use it for formal assignments. This could be via weekly questions that you set on the topics recently covered. Forums can also be used for informal scaffolding through student-student and student-lecturer interactions; they are able to ask questions and other students can answer them with lecturer intervention if required. Lecturers can also pose reflective questions about particular topics to promote conversations and discussions. These could be used to draw out the most salient points for a topic.

There is also the Blackboard Mobile Learn app available (Android and iOS) for free to our students and staff, which can be used seamlessly with Discussion Forums, Blogs and Journal tools within Blackboard. This allows tutors the flexibility to engage students in class with questions and topics that they want covered.

To enable collaborative working to happen amongst your students you can create a link to the wikis tool. Here students can generate content relating to the particular lecture, element, or unit. You can envisage getting the students to create reading summaries and further readings to share with the cohort, links to other relevant material, topic questions that they can research, and so forth. You can observe the contribution made by each student as the changes are tracked. This allows you to monitor engagement with the process as well as the generated end product.

For smaller collaborative workspaces it is useful to create Groups so smaller numbers of students can work together. The composition and size of groups can be changed during the course. Tools can also be varied.

Blogs can be used to give the students ‘thinking space’ related to each lecture or book chapter. You could set specific questions for the students to answer in their blog post. Alternatively you might let them react freeform to your material. A wider conversation can develop if you allow students to comment on one another’s posts.

For each tool used you can make the menu item link more descriptive of the functioning of the tool that you are using rather than just using the name of that tool.

Examples:

Tool
Possible Linking Names
Blog
Personal Reflection; Thought Space; My Weekly Notes
Discussion Forum
Any Questions; Q&A; Discuss; Conversation
Wiki
Collaborate; Development Space
Groups
Small Workspace; Group Working; Study Group
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