Learning Centered Technology

Technology for the Educator

Active Learning in Blackboard: Panel Discussions

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Panel Discussions

Panel Discussions

Typically, Panel discussions are a group of experts talking about a particular topic to an audience. In this case, the students become the authority on a specific topic and present their finding to the class. Each panelist is expected to make a very short presentation, and then the floor is opened to questions from “the audience”.

Panel discussions adds interest and engages students in the learning process. It can also be used to help students develop speaking skills and give the participant the opportunity to practice using the language of the discipline.

Blackboard Panel Discussions

This method of active learning can be very effective in helping students learn a variety of topics. To create a Panel Discussion in Blackboard, the instructor would first create groups (See my post, Active Learning in Blackboard: Jigsaw Group Projects to see how to create groups.)

Once the groups has organized and sufficiently prepped for the panel discussion, several tools could be used to do the presentation such as a conferencing tool. Blackboard Collaborate is a feature used by many schools, but other collaboration tools such as Skype, WebEx, or Big Blue Button. You could also use the discussion board of live chat.

Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

November 30, 2015 at 9:00 am

Active Learning in Blackboard: Role Playing

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Role Playing

Role Playing

In Role Playing, students are asked to “act out” a part. In doing so, they get a better idea of the concepts and theories being discussed. The role play activity can involve one or many students.

The primary purpose of role-playing exercises is to get students to look at the material they are learning in a new light and allows students to alter their mental maps of the world. By looking at the world though others eyes they can begin to understand things outside their own mindset.

Example Role Playing Activity

One student alone could research and act out a mini play of a famous speech such as Martin Luther Kings “I have a dream” speech.  A group Role Playing activity may be Playing out a famous trials such as the Watergate Trial.

Blackboard Role Playing Activity

As a group activity, the instructor could use the Group Tool for students on each team could collaborate with one another on research to construct the trial. (For assistance in setting up Group activities, see my earlier post Active Learning in Blackboard: Jigsaw Group Projects.)

For the actual Role Playing activity a conferencing tool could be used. Blackboard Collaborate is a feature used by many schools, but other collaboration tools such as Skype, WebEx, or Big Blue Button could be used for students to simulate the characters.

If visuals are not an important element in the character presentation, the faculty could use live chats. To learn more about Role Playing in Online Education check out http://www.editlib.org/p/107276/. Here Tisha Bender discusses her experience with Role Playing in the Virtual world.

You can also checkout The Teaching and Learning at a Distance Website http://eduscapes.com/distance/course_activities/simulations.htm where they go into various role-playing activities such as Interviews, Debates, Improvisations, and Mock Trials.

Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

November 23, 2015 at 9:00 am

Active Learning in Blackboard: Jigsaw Group Projects

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The jigsaw is a group project where members come together and divide the project into smaller pieces a then each member works on the smaller piece. After individuals assemble the small pieces, the group reassembles and lays out the larger image. This method can be used in many different disciplines.

When students are solving puzzles, it strengthen the skills necessary for successful learning. They sharpen their reasoning abilities and logical thought patterns.

Example Jigsaw Activity

One activity a nursing class could use is Diabetes. The instructor would break the class into groups and ask the group to explore Diabetes. The group would meet together and decide on the smaller pieces such as Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments. Each individual would explore his or her topic in depth. When they came together as a group, the group would decide what areas they would focus on in their presentation and work as a team to present the findings to the class.

Blackboard Jigsaw Group Projects

To do this activity in Blackboard you would use the Group Tool. Go to the student menu and select Tools> Groups > Create



Choose the type of group you want to create. In this example, I will be creating a Self-Enroll Single Group. Fill in the Group information and description. Decide on the tools you will make available to the group.


Self Enroll Group

Self Enroll Group

Finally, you will create a Sign-up sheet. You will be ask for the maximum number of users and if members can see the names of others. Once you fill out the form click, submit.

Sign Up Sheet

Sign Up Sheet

From a student view, the student will log into the class and go to Tools> Groups. They will see a list of groups they can Sign Up for and they will choose the Sign Up button.

Student Sign Up

Student Sign Up

Once they click Sign Up, they will see the group space and be able to start on their projects.

Group Workspace

Group Workspace

Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

November 16, 2015 at 9:00 am

Active Learning in Blackboard: Evaluation of another student’s work

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Peer/Self Review

Peer/Self Review

In a traditional classroom with a Self/Peer review assignments, students are asked to complete an assignment or short paper. On the day the assignment is due, students submit one copy to the instructor to be graded and one copy to a partner. Each student then takes their partner’s work and gives critical feedback.

Using an “Instructor only evaluation” role makes students focus more on the grades instead of the feedback from the assignment.

Self and peer assessment allow teachers to help students understand the mistakes that they have made not just making the grade. This will improve subsequent work and allow students time to digest information and may lead to better understanding.

Students who self-graded their tests do better on later tests. The students could see what they had done wrong and were able correct such errors in later assignments. If implemented correctly, students will come to see tests not as punishments but as useful feedback.

University of Oregon 

Below are several link to help you understand how to use the peer review tool in blackboard. The first one comes from the University of Oregon and writes about the does and don’ts of the evaluation tool.

University of Oregon Libraries – How does the Self and Peer Evaluation tool work in Blackboard?


Purdue University

The following are videos from Purdue showing you how to create assessment, create criteria, and grade self/peer assessments.

Purdue University Videos (Teaching With Technology) – Create a self/peer assessment:


Purdue University Videos (Teaching With Technology) – Creating criteria in self/peer assessment:


Purdue University Videos (Teaching With Technology) – Grading self/peer assessments and sending the grades to the gradebook:


University of Ontario

The University of Ontario video is a good overview of how students use the tool.

University of Ontario – Teaching & Learning Center – Student View:


Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

November 9, 2015 at 9:00 am

Active Learning in Blackboard: Puzzle/Paradoxes

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Puzzle/Paradoxes present students with a paradox or a puzzle involving the concept(s) at issue, and have them struggle towards a solution. By forcing the students to “work it out” without some authority’s solution, you increase the likelihood that they will be able to critically assess theories when they are presented later.

In general, there are two steps involved in resolving a paradox.

  • Establish the paradoxical argument
  • Find the fault in the argument

As an example, one popular paradox is “The Surprise Examination”

“A teacher announces in class that an examination will be held on some day during the following week, and moreover that the examination will be a surprise. The students argue that a surprise exam cannot occur. For suppose the exam were on the last day of the week. Then on the previous night, the students would be able to predict that the exam would occur on the following day, and the exam would not be a surprise. So it is impossible for a surprise exam to occur on the last day. But then a surprise exam cannot occur on the penultimate day, either, for in that case the students, knowing that the last day is an impossible day for a surprise exam, would be able to predict on the night before the exam that the exam would occur on the following day. Similarly, the students argue that a surprise exam cannot occur on any other day of the week either. Confident in this conclusion, they are of course totally surprised when the exam occurs (on Wednesday, say). The announcement is vindicated after all. Where did the students’ reasoning go wrong?”


This active learning method can be used to draw out students’ intuitions and prior knowledge about a topic and to increase their ability to critically assess theories when they are later presented.

Blackboard Puzzle/Paradoxes Activity

Go to the content area in the course where you want the Puzzle/Paradoxes Activity to appear.

Click Tools> Discussion Board> Create New Forum> Name the forum something appropriate such as Chapter 1 Paradox Discussion

In the description area create text to explain the paradox and process, see the example listed below:

The Paradox : A teacher announces in class that an examination will be held on some day during the following week, and that the examination will be a surprise.

  • Students must post and original post before reading classmates post. Each student must establish the paradoxical argument and find the fault in the argument.
  • Students must also respond to at least two of their classmates original post and discuss to flaws to that students theory.

Click Submit> Select the Puzzle/Paradoxes Activity and select Next> fill out form making sure to select Participants must create a thread in order to view other threads in this forum and click Submit.

The Forum will appear in the content area.

Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

November 2, 2015 at 9:00 am

Active Learning in Blackboard: Fish Bowl Activities

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For a traditional Fish Bowl Activity students are given index cards, and asked to write down one question concerning the course material. These questions are then put in a fish bowl or box, the instructor will randomly pull out questions and answer or have someone in the class answer them.

This is a great technique to gauge the class knowledge on a topic and clear up any fuzzy points. This techniques is easy to mimic in the online classroom by using discussions.

Blackboard Fish Bowl Activity

Go to the content area in the course where you want the Fish Bowl Activity to appear.

Click Tools> Discussion Board> Create New Forum> Name the forum something appropriate such as Chapter 1 Fish Bowl.

In the description create text to explain the process, see the example listed below:

Ask a question of clarification regarding some aspect of the material which you do not fully understand or question concerning the application of course material to practical contexts. You are submitting the post anonymously so no one including the instructor will know who ask what questions. No points are awarded, this is strictly to clarify any remaining questions on the topic.

Students may participate in the answering of question. Please click rely for any question you wish to answer. This Forum will be monitored by the instructor and any remaining question will be answered by the instructor.

Click Submit> Select the Fish Bowl Activity and select Next> fill out form and click Submit. The Forum will appear in the content area.

Fish Bowl

Fish Bowl

Students can submit questions now as they come up in the class. At the end of the chapter or module, the instructor can respond to all the unanswered question.

Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

October 26, 2015 at 9:00 am

Active Learning in Blackboard: Reading Quizzes

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Everyone recognizes the importance of students coming to class prepared in a traditional classroom, it is even more important in an online classroom. In an online classroom students must read. Even if an instructor includes audio/video, the primary method of learning is through reading and comprehending the material that is consumed by the student.

Traditional faculty have given Reading Quizzes to make sure students are keeping up with their readings. The way this is accomplished in the online classroom is basically the same, the student is given a test about the materials.

In Blackboard the test tool is used. Questions are designed from the materials present in the class and give the students clues as to what they should be comprehending from the materials. For instance detailed questions such as exact length or color, will indicate that detail is important. Comprehension questions will test their overall knowledge of the topic. Those questions will ask students to give a larger picture of what they read and understand.

The test tool in blackboard has a number of different question types to accomplish this, they include:

  1. Calculated Formula
  2. Calculated Numeric questions
  3. Either / Or Questions
  4. Essay Questions
  5. File Response Questions
  6. Fill in Multiple Blanks Questions
  7. Fill in the Blank Questions
  8. Hot Spot Questions
  9. Jumbled Sentence Questions
  10. Matching Questions
  11. Multiple Answer
  12. Multiple Choice
  13. Opinion Scale / Likert Questions
  14. Ordering Questions
  15. Quiz Bowl Questions
  16. Short Answer Questions
  17. True / False Questions

Blackboard Reading Quiz Activity

  • To get started go to Control Panel> Course Tools> Test, Surveys, and Pools> Test> Build Test> fill out the test information form and click Submit.
  • Create Questions and choose the type of question you want to create.
Create Questions

Create Questions

  • Fill out the form and click Submit.
  • Once you have included all the questions for the test click OK.

All that is left to do is to deploy the test.

  • Go to the place you want the students to access the test, preferably near the reading materials.
  • Click Assessments> Test> Select the Test> Submit> Fill out the Test Options Form and click Submit.

Your Reading test is now created and deployed to the students.

Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

October 19, 2015 at 9:00 am

Active Learning in Blackboard: One Minute Paper

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This active learning exercise allows the instructor to assess a student’s knowledge of a particular topic at a specific point in time. The one minute paper is traditionally done walking into a classroom and asking students to pull out a paper and pen. A question is asked of the entire class. Students are given one minute to write whatever pops into their minds about the topic or question. Sometimes the instructor collects the papers and sometimes not. If collected the instructor can get an understanding of each student’s knowledge on the topic. If it is not collected it will help the student understand their own weaknesses and strengths on the topic.

Blackboard One Minute Paper Activity

To get started go to Control Panel> Course Tools> Test, Surveys, and Pools> Build Pool>

Create Pool

Create Pool

Fill out the form and click submit.

Create Question> Essay> Enter Question Title and Question Text> Submit.

Repeat creating Essay question until you have enough questions to distribute to the course. (For approximate 20 students you should create at least 4 question.)

Once the pool is complete use the quiz tool and create a Assessments> Test> Create a New Test>

Test Information

Test Information

Inside the Test Canvas click Reuse Question> Create Question Set> Select the Pool you just created> from the pool select the question> Click Submit

Select Pool

Select Pool

In this example it shows that we have a total of 4 questions but only 1 question will be displayed. In other words each student will randomly receive one of the four questions and because they were essay questions the student will have plenty of space to write.

When you click Ok, you will be taken to the options window and allow to set time and availability dates. Make sure to set the timer to 1 minute with Auto-Submit turned on.

Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

October 12, 2015 at 9:00 am

Active Learning in Blackboard

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Active learning is defined as a process whereby students engage in activities, such as reading, writing, discussion, or problem solving that promote analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of class content.

On March 10 2015, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach posted the article The key to making the shift to active learning (and why technology is not enough) to highlight the need for active learning. She included this graphic visualizing the depth of Active Learning verse Passive Learning. ( see http://plpnetwork.com/2015/03/10/shift-active-learning-technology-answer/)

Active Learning

Active Learning


I have decide to do a series of post on active learning and how some of the techniques can be translated into an online environment. I will cover a number of active learning activities and walk you through the tools in blackboard to make the activity happen. In this series I will discuss the following:

  • One Minute Paper
  • Reading Quizzes
  • Fish Bowl Activities
  • Puzzle/Paradoxes
  • Evaluation of another student’s work
  • Jigsaw Group Projects
  • Role Playing
  • Panel Discussions
  • Debates


Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

October 5, 2015 at 9:00 am

Mid-Semester To Do

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Mid-Semester To Do

  1. Mid-Terms Grades
    1. Normally student receive a mid-term exam this allows the faculty and student to access their learning at that point in time.
    2. Once the grades are calculated for each student they will need to be entered into Banner Self-Serve. This process alerts the Registrar to any student in trouble and initiates an official communications between the school and the student.
    3. The Registrar will send a notice to all faculty on due dates for entering grades and the process to enter the grades.

  2. Gather mid-class feedback from your students
    1. Administering a mid-class evaluation is a great way to see how your class is going from a student perspective. You can create a Blackboard Survey to do this evaluation.      
    2. Blackboard survey allows you to ask personalized, class specific questions. (Need help? See Office of Extended Learning)


Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

September 28, 2015 at 9:00 am


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