Developing Faculty Mentors: The Low-Stress Option To Faculty Training

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At 10:00am On 11/10/16 I attended Developing Faculty Mentors: The Low-Stress Option To Faculty Training presented by Geni Wright at the 2016 USCA NDLW Virtual Conference.

Developing Faculty Mentors: The Low-Stress Option To Faculty Training

In her presentation, Geni Wright spoke on how developing faculty mentors modeling best practices for online and blended courses is an excellent resource for new and established faculty. Faculty mentors provide a long-term training strategy that is both cost-effective and user-friendly. Faculty are often more receptive to fellow faculty suggestions for course revisions providing collaboration opportunities and development of future training modules based on common concerns and trends. Faculty mentors have the additional benefit of ongoing professional development, interdepartmental interaction, and are often included in the planning and training for early adopters of newly adopted technology at the institution.

This discussion had no slide deck, so it seemed more like a free-flowing presentation with some off-the-cuff thoughts on the way through. Main topics were folded into:

  • Opportunities to enhance faculty training
  • The need for more effective peer to peer training
  • A way for faculty to model universal design in online and blended courses

Geni Wright discussed that her school contains only 175 faculty members at her school, and this required a team of 3 faculty members and a growing system requiring 1 faculty mentor per department moving forward. Faculty chosen for these mentor positions are ones using the universal design theories and practices in their classes. We need the faculty to facilitate and participate in the program are the ones who are showing the best use in their classrooms.

As a school which participates in Quality Matters (QM), faculty mentors participate in an internal peer review process to assist faculty in alignment for initial quality matters pre-review. Quality matters at their school is voluntary. I found this to be surprising. It calls to mind the idea that schools of small sizes have a lot to offer, but not always what is needed for larger schools. Granted, this goes both ways.

Moving into the latter portion of the session, the speaker discussed accessibility and objectives- issues we have covered heavily in our QM training here on campus, and moved into with EPIC. I was EXTREMELY surprised to find out how many schools are NOT ADA section 508 compliant with accessibility.

Some of this was not useful. A major improvement discussed was the use of Starfish, a faculty student evaluation tool, but the speaker mentioned that many teachers at her college were not aware of how to use the blackboard gradebook, and not all teachers did use it. This was extremely disheartening. However, not everyone can be the best, so there was a good deal to learn overall, just not a lot of it was for me.


Blackboard Course Files and Content Control

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This Blackboard training class hosted by Linda Larson was a 1-week online course which consisted of three lessons introducing the Course Files area, basic accessibility concepts, and content tools including the Build Content area, creating a Content Folder, Item, File, URL, Image, Audio, and YouTube Mashup. After successful completing this training, I feel I have a much stronger understanding of the Course Files area and how to organize and add various types of content to a course.

Most effective in this session was the explanations given regarding the course copy materials. A problem in the past was a full copy of the files area being added INTO the new course file area. This exponential increase in file sizes can cause blackboard class sizes to baloon into 5-10GB courses sizes. Linda Larson of Wake Tech Community College walked us through identifying these files and through the removal process.

Customizing The Blackboard Grade Center: Advanced Features

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Customizing The Blackboard Grade Center: Advanced Features, presented by Linda Larson

Today’s presentation at the NCCFA 2013 involved some great materials about blackboard, especially customizing the blackboard grade center. The blackboard grade center is a heavily-utilized area of Wake Tech’s classes- whether they be seated, online, or hybrid classes. I’ve been using the grade center for calculations since 2006, but today’s session was a chance to see a bit more of the features available in the latest upgrades to blackboard.

Many of the features within blackboard I must admit that I already knew how to use. However, there was a great feature that Linda Larson pointed out, allowing blackboard grades fitting certain thresholds to be colored within the grade center. This allows grades for students who (in my case) get 60 or less to have their grade bar turn pink and for those receiving 50 or less on an assignment have their grade bar turn red.

While this seems like it might be a train wreck, what you are doing is setting up a visual record which will quickly and easily let you see who is dropping or failing in a classroom.

The latter half of the class was set up in a way to highlight the rubric functions of blackboard. While I knew a lot about using the rubric functions of blackboard for grading, there were several people who were unfamiliar with the process. Rubrics are great- if you feel like you cannot deliver bad news to students or you simply need things to reflect the objective nature of the grading platform, it allows you to assign gradepoint values or percentages to the pieces of an assignment along with commentary.

I had a chance to highlight some of my own grading rubrics in the presentation, and that made me smile. Its always nice to look professional or like I know what I’m doing.  🙂

Online Teaching Survival Series: Developing Interactive Learning Activities

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Online Teaching Survival Series: Developing Interactive Learning Activities was an online webinar presented by Jennifer Jones

In this online webinar, Wake Tech’s Jennifer Jones discussed ways of keeping students motivated and engaged in an online course. Her comprehensive visuals included all aspects of an online course. This session explored creating interactive learning activities that engaged students through unique, technology driven tools. It had a large component using discussion boards for classroom activity, using groups, wikis, and starfish response system. We briefly discussed using the texting system integrated into blackboard, although most respondents noted that they did not use this item as it caused too many issues with student expectations during the course.


The Great Course Migration: Preparing to Move Your BB 9.1 Course to Moodle 2.0

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The Great Course Migration: Preparing to Move Your BB 9.1 Course to Moodle 2.0 a professional development how-to presented by Jennifer Jones and Katherine Bennett

In this professional development course, I was able to get a glimpse of Moodle 2.0 as well as tips and ideas on organizing online course content in Blackboard for the migration to Moodle 2.0. Topics included an overview of how Moodle 2.0 works, saving and organizing files from Blackboard 9.1, moving quizzes and pools, and adapting assignments and activities for Moodle 2.0. This session was a demo only and did not actually include a hands-on experience for individuals.

Moodle 2.0 is one of the newest flavors in LMS (learning management systems) for educators. Technically being around long enough to go through an original draft, Moodle 2.0 offers some great features with a price tag set to move. Well, the price tag for this item is set at $0.00 which is a price tag most schools can cope with.

When attending this training, I was struck with 2 initial thoughts related to this product:

1) Our division has really worked hard for a long time to prepare our online materials (since 2006) and now it is the required norm for the college.

Our team in Computer Engineering Technology ( CET Division ) of Wake Technical Community College has endeavoured to place our online materials in blackboard using a weekly folder, with all materials for the week held within the folder itself- all learning objectives, all goals, all notes, all lectures, assignments and links to the discussion board, all videos, etc. This has been an effort we’ve put into place in an effort to make all of our courses containing a common thread so that whatever course you were in, one week would be all you needed. Also, if you were hit by a bus and unable to return to classes, another teacher could simply step into the breach and release your materials one week at a time.

In the new moodle system, this will be the required norm. It is nice to see that efforts within the CET division as well as the GRD (Advertising and Graphic design) and WEB (Web Design) departments were ahead of the curve on this one.


2) I am extremely suspicious of the $0 price tag.

No price at all sounds great- on the surface. But what lurks beneath? Our IT staff works very hard to troubleshoot the systems, and get frequent updates and patches from the customer service teams at blackboard. How then, will a free system like moodle meet our needs? Is there not a great opportunity for security breaches, problems which cannot be helped by a help network which is manned by volunteers, etc.?

If a system like this is free, how can they possibly be as responsive as a paid system with working customer service? How much will training cost to get each person in each department switched over to the moodle system? In the mean time, will we have to work partially in moodle and partially in blackboard? My suspicion here is that there MUST be a set of hidden costs- either in functionality, system use, customer support, number of users/licenses, etc. Hidden costs. That’s my thought, although I’m ready to make the switch if requested.

I will grind whatever grist the mill requires.