Ten tips to make your Bb site better for students - Google Docs
Good ideas, Corrie. Thanks!
I do question your suggestion about avoiding the midnight deadlines, though. In fact, I was one of those undergraduates who (back in the days when our only option was to turn in a paper copy of assignments directly into the hands of our instructors) regularly completed work between midnight and 6:00a.m. just in time for my morning courses. It wasn't that I procrastinated, I just knew that I didn't have to turn anything in until class time and took advantage of the last few hours before something was due. If my professors had been able to set midnight deadlines, though, I may actually have gotten more sleep. On the other hand, I do also like the idea of having things be due only when I am ready to grade them, so that students have as much flexibility in their schedule as is possible. Consequently, I have come to balance these two concerns by setting my "due" time as midnight, but allowing late submissions and not penalizing students as long as the work is turned in before I am ready to grade it. Of course, I explain this to them in advance and make no promises about how soon I will grade something after the time that it is due. For me, this is a nice opportunity to have a conversation with my students about the whole concept of "due dates" in life and possible penalties that we may pay for violating them. I'm not suggesting that this approach is "right" for everyone or every situation, I just wanted to make the point that there may be times when midnight or even earlier is a carefully selected due time.
I wonder if others have additional tips?
I'll chime in on time of deadlines, too. I agree that arbitrarily choosing midnight is only helpful if you will begin grading then. Kimberly Gibson makes an excellent point, though, that forcing students to complete it sooner may be better for their health. I'd love to see some research on due dates and student sleep patterns (or at least student perception on deadlines!)
The most important factor that we try to bring to faculty attention, though, is technical support and faculty responsiveness. Our support desk is only open until 10:00 pm now, and only during the week. Setting a deadline of midnight on Friday is guaranteed to be a recipe for panic, if the student has an issue submitting. They can't get help from tech support until Monday, and their professor may not respond to emails over the weekend.
It would be helpful to have a list of factors to consider when setting the time for due dates:
Yes, great point, Stephanie Richter about the availability of technical support!
To be honest, I disagree with the discussion on what time something should be due. The real requirement is that time and date should be clearly communicated to the learner, as well as the time zone associated with it. In the world of online adult education and training, learners will be in different time zones, and indeed, different continents.
I should add I really liked the rest of it. I spot checked some of our instructor led courses, and it seems our course builders think like you! I was happy to see that.
Great job Corrie, and thanks for sharing! So many great tips already, and quite a few that could be #10.
The tip that our faculty have appreciated the most is to put folders in reverse-chronological order. That is, with the first week at the bottom and the last week at the top. If your weekly folders are set to open on the first day of the week (whenever your week starts), students will always see the most recent content at the top. It makes it easier for students to stay current.
Of course, I noticed that your tips and mine all presuppose that you are using folders. That should perhaps also be a tip - Use folders to keep your course organized! It is easier to find the right materials when they are organized in some logical structure instead of having a long list of files to read in order to find the right one. Most of our faculty use folders, but for those who don't it makes a huge difference to their students!
Reverse-order is great if you're using progressive reveal. My preference is to make everything visible from Day One to give students an advance and concurrent organizer of the content. Every Monday morning I re-order so that the current week is on top. Same with discussion forums.
That's a great point - reverse order is contingent upon using progressive reveal. I like that you still keep the most current content at the top, even with everything available all along. It would be cool if there was a "Pin at top" option in Blackboard that would highlight certain content at variou times, like making something Featured.
I have heard several online students that they do not like it when content is made available on-the-go.........it makes them feel uncomfortable and unsure despite the syllabus.
I'm not sure what you mean by "available on the go". Can you explain, perhaps with an example?
I'm getting more and more interested in these tips as folks are adding ideas. Thanks again, Corrie Bergeron for starting this and Gail Watson and Stephanie Richter for your contributions. I'm wondering what other ideas we could all document here. Thoughts? Leah Alviar, Loranel Graham, Carol Jeffries-Horner Jayme Agozie
#10 Communicate with your students and find ways to get them communicating with each other (beyond the discussion board). This is not meant to be a correspondence course after all. This is online learning at its best. Students do not want to feel disconnected in any way, and by staying connected with them, and helping them to connect with each other, will help develop that sense of community they desire.
That's one of the purposes of the Introductions forum - let folks with shared interests connect on their own terms. I don't try to manage it; I just tell students that getting together with a "study buddy" is a great success strategy.
These are great! My favorites from your list: use due dates (populates calendar and Bb Student Due Dates section + date management will change your life) and post some personal information about yourself (not just credentials, but who you are, what you like). Two tips I've recommended to folks: allow for self-assessment and provide supplemental learning resources. I've seen faculty use standard publisher test bank questions (that they don't plan to use for graded course assessments) to create numerous unlimited attempt, ungraded quick quizzes. Those test banks so often come with hundreds of questions and using pools to randomly select 10 or so at a time allows students to quickly check their understanding of what was read before they complete higher stakes assessments that often require application of that knowledge. As for supplemental learning resources, good candidates are often material covered in the course just before the current one in sequence (ex. Bio 102 materials for the Bio 103 course) for review/recall or material related to content (needed to be successful) but not covered (ex. grammar/punctuation review in a news/journalism course). A faculty member I worked with once used StudyMate learning games to do this and students loved it!
Isn't having assignments "Due Wednesday of Week One." unfair to students who are late registrants? Course enrollments are in flux for at least the first week of classes. Also, it takes time for online students, especially first-timers, to grasp how an online course works, even how to navigate its contents and find information (like assignments). And then there are students who prefer to devote attention to the course when they have more time (usually the weekend). Mid-week assignments might be OK but just not in the first week of classes. Otherwise, instead of getting students more engaged more quickly, the outcome can be just the opposite by resulting in students who are "behind" right of the gate. And getting behind is a major reason for students actually to disengage further from the course and drop out.
Research shows that students who get engaged right from the start are far morel likely to persist, retain, and complete. My personal experience has been that students who miss the mid-week deadline either a) apologize profusely, promise to get on track, and then do extremely well, or b) drop without further communication. Either outcome is fine by me. College is demanding; if you can't do it, please don't waste your money.
There's less "schedule churn" with online classes because there's no set meeting time. We've done away with late registration - the data was clear that students who sign up at the last minute are unprepared, and fall out at a huge rate. So we make it clear that you need to show up Day One ready to go.
Unfair? Not at all. It's kind, really, in a "tough love" sort of way. If a student adds late, that's actually ok. There IS in fact plenty of time to get caught up. But sending the message, setting the expectation up-front that, "Hey, gang, this isn't kindergarten; we have work to do!" sets students up for success.
I do think that you raise an important question though, John, that ultimately points to the importance of reviewing all of the processes and policies related to teaching and learning in 2017. My school, like many, historically had been extremely flexible with our add and drop dates, because we believed that doing so was an important part of being student-centered. Of course, many faculty at that time also thought that course preparation was what an instructor did while walking to her/his classroom. Now that our curriculum design often is the result of carefully and collaboratively planned scaffolded learning opportunities across an entire degree-granting program, we mostly are thinking about start and end dates of a term very differently. In fact, our goal now is to design courses so well that "if you miss a day, you miss a lot." (For those who don't get that reference, it was from a 1980s (?) series of commercials for daytime television in the US that had been designed to counter-act a commonly held belief that a person only watching these daily serials on Friday could easily keep up with the major plot-lines.) In order for this change in course design to not disadvantage our students, though, we had to carefully reconsider all sorts of administrative policies and practices. Thus, we now have to ask
I don't mean to suggest that we have successfully concluded all of these discussions, yet, nor that these are all of the implications of trying to maximize the learning possible in a course. But I do think that these and other administrative issues must be considered as part of the question of how universities can maximize learning opportunities in every course and every program.
re: "5. Don’t use midnight deadlines." -- Why not just specify 11:59 pm on a certain date? Using "midnight" is fraught with knowing which day is meant, especially with students in multiple time zones. Specify what time zone is being used, typically where the school is located. And whatever date and time is used for a submission deadline certainly does not mean that the instructor is going to immediately start reviewing the submissions.
Good point on multiple time zones. And I agree about 11:59 or 12:01 rather than "midnight." But if you're not going to actually *start grading* at midnight, why set that arbitrary limit?
Another good point that someone made elsewhere is that if students have a technical problem at 11 PM on Sunday night, they're pretty well hosed. Aligning due dates with Help Desk hours is a good idea.
Corrie Bergeron I would never make an assignment due in the morning. Technically you're saying it's due July 14, but at 8 am, which is very sneaky. If it is a high stakes course with severe implications on someone's career, a lawyer could make things interesting for you. Universities typically don't have to deal with this, but adult education sure can. You are sneaking details into the fine print. So let's be clear. If it's due July 14, then it's due July 14 and make it 11:59 your time zone.
That's a great counterpoint on the topic with when is something legally due.
The other issue is time zone related. If say I am either travelling or live in a time zone outside of the physical location of the school.
11:59pm is different to different time zones. I have seen adjustments typically for east coast versus the west coast but beyond that with online, you need to accommodate for global students, too perhaps or incorporate that into the Rubric for due dates and times.
A course where the time zone issue was challenged, it was upheld. No more details. BUT in that course, which had thousands of offerings world wide, students did travel a lot and the local due time was always imposed. In that situation, there was a process of "checking in" and "handing off" between instructors. If there was a course where the student traveled to, the instructor hand shake was needed. I can see people's eyes rolling back, but this course was required for promotion. It was/is delivered through Blackboard even though students physically attended the seminars in person. Attendance at a certain % was part of the requirement. High stakes status will influence how course rules evolve.
Being a community college, we typically don't have many time zone issues - 95% of our students live within a few miles of campus, and many use the on-campus labs for their online classes! We do have a number of active-duty students deployed; instructors deal with those case-by-case. But for global courses/students, yes, time zone policies need to be clear. A "What time is it on Blackboard?" tool would be VERY useful.
Yes, my former job was supporting the Marine Corps. War zone delivery of a course opens up an interesting conversation. Time zone is still an issue, but a minor one compared to other interesting challenges.
How many instructors start grading immediately right after the submission deadline, whether it's midnight or 9 am?
Good point; I have had experiences personally in my own online learning adventures where the instructor did not grade after one week of submission which was also being tracked. It is more of these deadlines being in place can be stressful if for example the very first deadline can pull students in online courses as a no show and then they are dropped out of the course.
A VERY good question, which is why I've started using realistic deadlines. If the deadline is noon, I go in and mark zeroes for those who haven't turned it in. That tends to get their attention!
That first Wednesday deadline gives students a chance to decide if they really want to deal with the course. I expect a lot, and that first deadline drives the point home. I get one of two responses. Either, "Ahh! I'm sorry! I'll get caught up!!" and they generally do well. Or I hear nothing back, and the next day I get a system notice that they've dropped. Rarely do I have to report a student as not attending (at the two-week point). They tend to opt out early.
Great job, Corrie Bergeron! We built a similar list a few years back in regard to best practices. I dug it up and here it is Technology Best Practices to Engage Learners.
After reading through these comments, it makes me wonder why we are not collaborating on an open document together to make the Ultimate Blackboard Community Tips Guide?
Attached is a conference presentation -- Top 10 Ways to Improve Student Engagement in Online Courses -- from a few years ago. The "Top 10" list is flexible, meaning someone else's Top 10 might be different. And my own Top 10 might be different if I were to give this presentation today.
Looks great, John Thompson thank you for the share! Incentivizing activities has helped to get more participation. That kind of thinking lead me down the path of gamification, but that's for another thread someday... This thread is becoming a great resource pool for Bb tips and engagement. Kimberly Gibson was right to be excited to see what keeps getting documented here! I liked the tips Carey Smouse added in regard to due dates and self-assessment. Adding the low stakes assessments have helped in courses we builds for online and hybrid students. They test knowledge before and after a section as well as act as a study guide for larger graded assessments. the instructor gets some initial feedback as well to the pain point before the instruction even starts by monitoring the metrics of the tests. Stephanie Richter made a great point in regard to reverse-chronological order. I have found that works best in the reveal scenarios because the most recent topic to work in is always at the top! I've had students comment how much easier it is to know where they are and what's next. To help further the concept, I make sure they can "Mark Complete" the entire module and items within so they can track where they left off much more easily. Gail Watson is right to ensure time zone is well articulated. It is critical in online based courses. We have taken the practice to establish with our students that all times entered based on a specific time zone. This is clearly documented in the course information. Then we provide a resource to check the proper times someone should submit an assignment based on location.
re: gamifying an online course ... Attached is a conference presentation ("Gamifying an Online Introduction...") from a few years ago that describes my attempts to gamifying an online intro to computers course. You might find it interesting.
I didn't see an attachment.
Look again. It's there.
My stuff is CC; so feel free to incorporate and share! Debbora Woods, MBA suggested that this topic might make a good BITS session. Interested?
Yes! I would love to be able to point our faculty to a BITS session on this topic. I think that we are generating some very useful, well-tested suggestions.
I'll agree with the time thing. Although I personally do as another poster mentioned, have it due at 11:59 pm Eastern, but have a grace period of "until I get into the office" before points are lost.
I would combine #8 and #9, or have #8 be the all-class discussion (we call it Ask the Class in our template). I train my faculty to post their intro in the Meet Your Classmates forum (also in the template), and to post all the things they are asking students to post, and to give some extra. I recommend about 3x as long as you want to get from a student, as I've found that students write as little as possible. And post a picture!
This introduction gives you more than just some fluff info about your students. It is a low stakes way to get a feel of their writing style, which can be important later on in the "did they write this" moments when your instructor-senses tingle.
And I'll be sharing this out with my currently training faculty.
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