Every instructor has struggles with students getting a late start because of textbook prices. Today I would like to share a few resources I have collected for free and inexpensive textbook alternatives. There are a number of sites out there like Merlot (http://www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm?action=find) and Open Stax (http://openstaxcollege.org/books) that have alternatives to the pricey traditional book publishers.
Although it may be too late to incorporate these resources into this semester, now is the time to start thinking about the future. If you are looking to design a new online class or substitutions to your current course offering, please check out this list alternative solutions for your classroom.
The web is full of articles on how to increase your mobile battery life such as ZDNet’s 26 ways to improve your iPhone’s battery life. All of these are good resources to help, but who wants to do a web search each time you are looking for the precise steps to disable your phones background refresh option.
This week I have a new app for you, although it is not necessarily educational it is very useful. The app is called Normal. It is useful to discover the battery sucking apps on your mobile device and how to fix the problems. Check it out at the App Store Normal: Battery Analytics.
The discussion board is one of the more powerful tools a faculty can use to build community and allow students to interaction with other students in Blackboard. Keeping up with those discussion post is much easier if you use the collection feature. Collection is available to both faculty and students and is extremely easy to use. Once you enter the forum all you do is select and collect.
- Click Select All
- Click Collect
The selected threads will open and all be listed on one page. From the open post you can respond to individual post. This feature even allows you to print the post. Discussions have never been easier to review and all it takes is two simple clicks.
The achievements tool allows instructors to create opportunities for students to earn recognition for their accomplishments. These opportunities are called achievements. Instructors designate criteria for issuing rewards to students in the form of both badges and certificates. Students can see which rewards they have earned and what is required to receive additional rewards. Instructors can easily see which students have reached learning milestones.
To create Achievements
Control Panel> Course Tools> Achievements> Create Achievement
Select the type of achievement:
- Course Completion: The certificate reward is required. An additional badge is optional.
- Milestone: The reward can only be a badge.
- Custom: The reward can be a badge, certificate, or both.
Decide the name and location of the achievement. Use the description box to describe the achievement the student has completed.
Six steps to Define Triggers
- Rule Name – Force completion of this achievement after a specific date. If no date is selected this achievement can be completed at any time.
- Date – Force completion of this achievement after a specific date. If no date is selected this achievement can be completed at any time.
- Membership – Give this achievement to specific users or groups.
- Grade – Identify a specific grade that must be made to complete this achievement. Possible points for a Grade Center grade or calculated column are listed in brackets beside the column name. The score entered must be numeric.
- Review Status – Force users to review specific content to complete this achievement.
- Select Reward – Click Select Reward to select reward. Click Cancel to quit.
The final step is to select the reward. Blackboard will offer a few images to attach to the reward or you can add your own.
Access an achievement’s contextual menu and click Delete. If you choose to delete an achievement which has already been earned by a student, the associated reward will also be deleted.
A common problem in building an online class is the constant updates. Each semester you will need to update your syllabus and other course materials. The best way to do this is through the Overwrite File command. This command will allow you to replace the existing file with a new file without having to change a link within the course content.
To Overwrite a File
- In the Control Panel click on Content Collection.
- Click the Action Link beside the file name you want to update.
- On the popup menu select Overwrite File.
- When the Overwrite File window pops up click choose file (The file does not need to have the same file name as the original)
- Select the file and click open
- Click Submit
When you return to the place in the course content the old file will be replaced with the new.
If you have been using Blackboard 9 for a while you are aware that faculty Student View does not give you a true image of what your student’s experiences. A new building block, Add a Test Student, fixes that problem by allowing instructors to add test student in their class without involving the admin staff.
To add a test student log into the course as instructor. Under the Control Panel click Course Tools> Add Test Student.
Blackboard will create a test student using the account name in which you are logged into blackboard and add a “_s.” Choose you own password and select enroll and submit.
To use the account, log out as instructor and log back in under the test student account information.
Removing the Test Student from your course.
When you want to remove the test student, log in as the instructor. Under the Control Panel click Course Tools> Add Test Student.
The Retention Center provides you a simple way to keep track of your students. When a student misses a deadline, makes a bad grade, or does not access the class on a regular basis the retention center will automatically alert you to the problem. You can directly contact the at risk student from the retention center. The monitor option allows you to flag at risk students for closer monitoring.
To access the Retention Center click Control Panel> Evaluation> Retention Center.
At risk students will automatically appear in the Retention Center. The default categories of Missed Deadlines, Grades Alert, Activity Alert, and Access Alert will appear in the center. A Customize button at the top right of the screen will allow you to customize and create new alerts.
The bottom portion of the Retention Center screen consist of your course activities. It offers a few suggestions for the instructor to add an interactive class experience to keep students engaged. Instructors can directly access the discussion boards, blogs, announcement and other activities from the Retention Center.
The Date Manager is a Blackboard Building Block that allows you to set dates for various course activities. The date manager only shows activities that have dates associated with them such as Start and End Dates, Adaptive Release Start and End Dates, and Due Dates.
I have notice two issues with the date manager, but they are easily overcome.
- An activity does not show up in the Date Manager. The activity was never associated with a date. You will need to access the activity through the course content and rerun the date manager.
- Too many activities show up in the Date Manager. If the course was taught previous semesters and some announcements or quizzes are expired, they will still show up in the date manager. You must remove dates from all activities you do not want to show up.
To access the Date Manager go to Control Panel> Course Tools> Date Manager. The first time you run the date manager you will be asked to select Adjustment Options, choose List All Dates for Review option and click Start.
Date Management Progress will update the system to the current status. Once it is 100% complete click Next. You will see a complete list of activities and dates. Click on the Pencil Icon to the right of the activity to edit the dates.
Once you have completed the edit, click the green box with a white arrow to submit the change.
After completing the date update, the system will send you an email listing all the activities, with both old and new dates.
My new favorite toy is the Livescribe 3 Pen for the iPad. Many of you may be familiar with the Livescribe pen, but let’s face it, it was a hassle dealing with the USB cable to upload your pen cast. The Livescribe 3 connect via Bluetooth to your ipad and your writing are uploaded with no hassle.
The device feels like a real pen in your hand, although a little on the thick side. The pen and notepad allows you to keep traditional style hardcopy notes and simultaneously creates an electronic copy. It uses your ipad’s microphone to record voice and automatically sync’s with your writing. The ipad app allows you to send electronic copies via email. The pen itself uses real ink and on the opposite end is a nice stylus tip for your ipad.
Another bonus is the online content can be converted to text with the swipe of a finger. Of course that requires legible handwriting to work properly.
One of the major drawbacks of the pen is the need to use special paper, proprietary dotted paper. They do say that you can print copies of the special paper if you own a 600dpi (or higher) inkjet printer.
You can learn more about the pen at the Livescribe website located at http://www.livescribe.com/en-us/smartpen/ls3/.
I know I have touched on this before, but this is good stuff. Huffington Post has created a list of 14 ways to make google more productive. In this article 14 Google Search Tricks That Make Life a Whole Lot Easier author Carina Kolodny covers a variety of tips for google. For instance, do you know how to do a search for fill in the blanks? Do Math? Convert Currency? Make Google Flip Out? Check out the answers at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/30/google-search-tricks_n_5338470.html.
Additional search tips for Google
Time zones – Search for ‘time in <place>’ and you will get the local time for that place, as well as the time zone it is in.
Translations – A quick way to translate foreign words is to type ‘translate <word> to <language>’.
Conversions – Currency conversions and unit conversions. For example, you could type “convert 12 inches to millimeters’ and get an instant answer.
Check flight status – If you type in a flight number, the top result is the details of the flight and its status. for example, typing in AA 1067 reveals that American Airlines flight 1067 departs Los Angeles at 7:30 AM today and arrives at Chicago terminal 3 at 1.30 PM.
Weather forecasts – Type the name of a city followed by ‘forecast’.
Public data – To see trends for population and unemployment rates of different cities and counties, type ‘population’ or ‘unemployment rate’ followed by the location. So for example, typing ‘unemployment rate’ Charleston, WV returns the answer 5.4 percent, and shows a graph of unemployment rates over the last 10 years.