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Archive for November 2015

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

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