Respondus and Sakai: The Answer to Online Quizzes

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

You’ve been using a course management system (CMS) for your courses, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re completely online, completely onground, or somewhere in between. The CMS has some advantages, and you’re making use of them. If you’re like me, then you’ve also toyed with the idea of putting quizzes online.

It makes sense. It frees you from the drudgery and loss of class time associated with paper ‘n’ pencil tests. Students can take the quizzes on their own time, 24/7, as long as they complete them by a specified date. You can set it up for mastery learning so they can take it as many times as they need to before the deadline, with only the highest score being recorded.

Scoring is done automatically, instantly, and the scores are recorded in the gradebook automatically, too. Students can log in to check their scores. You can log in, too, to look at their scores. Sounds great – until you actually tried to set up a simple quiz and found the klutziest interface in the world. So you remained with paper ‘n’ pencil or did away with quizzes altogether and replaced them with discussion forums geared to readings.

But the problem of students refusing to complete required readings unless there’s a quiz attached to them persists. The top third of the class will do the readings, but the rest will wing it. It hurts their performance, but they can’t or won’t make the connection. For these students, reading is a means to avoid the pain of flunked tests, not a means to learn, to improve performance.

So I returned to the testing function built into our Sakai CMS. It’d been a few years since I last tried it. Maybe it’d gotten better. But after a few minutes of poking around in it, I found it was just as klunky as ever. After rooting around for a bit in our university’s IT help files looking for a miracle, I found something called Respondus.

Respondus is an app. Our university system provides it free to all faculty. Yours probably does, too. The IT help page provides a click-here trail that leads to the site, followed by a download and set up on your computer’s desktop. Click the new icon, and, voilà, your test and quiz creation woes are over.

Respondus is a relatively simple to use test development app. It allowed me to create a ten-question multiple-choice quiz quickly and, dare I say it, naturally. This is done outside the CMS — which at once explains the ease of use and highlights the shortcomings of CMS environments.

After you’re done, the next step is to get the test into the CMS so your students can take it. The process is logical. You need to convert the quiz into a format (QTI) that Sakai can understand. Respondus does this for you when you click on the button to “Preview & Publish.” It walks you through a few steps and creates a folder where you want it. I chose the desktop. In the folder is the quiz file in the required QTI format.  Continue reading

CFE 2015 Faculty Showcase at UNC: ‘Teaching Less in More Depth’

By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 5th annual Center for Faculty Excellence (CFE) Faculty Showcase at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This event is indispensible for those who want to gain a concise overview of emerging trends, proven approaches, best practices and innovative experiments in Carolina. CFE organizes the gathering to offer faculty an opportunity to learn more about specific instructional techniques or technology from their peers. For many attendees, showcase talks are the spark that ignites interest in considering changes for courses they teach. It also serves as a reminder for faculty to make use of the many instructional design and pedagogical consulting services the campus has to offer.

The day provided a chance to hear firsthand about the capabilities of the University’s Makerspaces, how teachers use Google Earth’s Liquid Galaxy display and Lightboard, which is currently being built on campus. What makes the showcase an exceptional learning opportunity for instructional designers is the mix of cutting edge technological innovation and low- or no-tech tips and tricks – be it gender neutral language, better writing assignments, role-play or reflective teaching practices and course evaluation. The showcase event closed with a presentation format I particularly enjoyed: Five-minute-long introductions to a variety of topics and projects with the explicit invitation, “Steal my idea!”

mary-huber 2The keynote speaker, Mary Taylor Huber, consultant at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, characterized the CFE event as the “greatest illustration possible” for the theme of her talk, “Building an Academic Commons Through SoTL.” Huber stated that the relationship between teaching and the institutional environment has changed noticeably over the past decade. Teaching is increasingly recognized as a valued academic activity in both general public debates and in the scientific communities. “Teaching is on a fast train,” explained Huber, and pointed out several catalysts for change: diversity, technology, new pedagogies (i.e., undergraduate research, service learning), authentic participation and educational research. Throughout the day, many examples of exceptional teaching brought these concepts to life.  Continue reading

MOOC Sightings 005: Wharton School and Universiti Teknikal Malaysia

MOOC Sightings2

Rapid change is the norm, and for professional development in business, MOOCs are the answer. “Wharton School recently teamed up with Coursera . . . and tech start-ups Snapdeal and Shazam to launch $595 online courses with certificates.” This unbundled or certificate model underscores the MOOC’s disruptive force. “‘For adults who have limited resources – whether that’s time or money,'” says Rick Levin, Coursera chief executive, “‘the Specialization [industry project] model works well.'”1

As change approaches warp speed, the shelf life of knowledge decreases and the need for constantly accessible modules of new knowledge increases. The watchword here is accessible, and this is the MOOC’s domain.

This fact is becoming increasingly obvious in the world of business where you’re either on the leading edge or out of the picture, and the critical factor is time. You can’t pause or stop to learn. Learning has to be on the go, and this means anytime-anywhere.

Will this disruption creep into our college campuses? Will traditional students take to learning in MOOC modules to keep pace with the latest developments in their field? How will this impact courses in the more traditional semester mold?

Most expect professors to gradually blend modules into their curricula, but this is an institutional perspective. My guess is that students will self-modularize and independently flow toward MOOCs that give them the edge, regardless of what professors and colleges decide to do.

In fact, this is already happening, but this disruption doesn’t show up on the campus-richter scale because, from all appearances, the students are on campus and sitting in lecture halls.

On college campuses in other parts of the world, the disruptive power of MOOCs is being embraced. Shahrin Sahib, vice-chancellor of Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM), sees MOOCs as a window for “‘students to work collaboratively and closely with colleagues around the world and to have access not only to course instructors, but to textbook authors and experts from other institutions.'”2

For Sahib, the playing field is no longer just the university campus or Malaysia but the globe. He says, “‘If students are to fully assume positions of leadership and responsibility in specific organizations and in society as a whole, then they must be prepared to deal with the global environment.'” For college students, regardless of location, MOOCs are an interactive and accessible portal to that environment.
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1 Seb Murray, “Technology Expands Business Education As Students Opt for Digital Route,” BusinessBecause, 10 Mar. 2015.
2 Kelly Koh, “MOOC Can Help Create Global-ready Graduates,” New Straits Times, 10 Mar. 2015.

Who Dat? It’s E-Learn 2014! Come, Learn, Share, Connect

By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education

The 19th annual international conference AACE E-Learn took place from October 27-30 in the sunny, warm and welcoming climate of the city of New Orleans. The conference attracted 670 participants from 60 different countries who enjoyed four days of workshops, keynotes, presentations, symposia, SIG meetings, posters, and, last but not least, informal discussions and networking opportunities during the session breaks.

Conference infographic by Stefanie Panke.

Conference infographic by Stefanie Panke.

AACE E-Learn Conference

What sets AACE conferences apart from other events in the educational technology community is the rigorous peer review process in the selection of presentations. Instead of simply submitting an abstract, AACE requires a full manuscript of 6-10 pages. While writing skills do not always and certainly not necessarily translate into great presentations, the quality off contributions is generally high. This also makes the conference proceedings (available in the AACE digital library EditLib) a really great resource for an up-to-date overview of the current state-of-the-art in educational technology. While access to the proceedings is generally restricted to conference participants and subscribers, several papers that were honored with an outstanding paper award are openly accessible:

The best paper awards mirror the diverse spectrum of the conference. E-Learn is a place where educational technology researchers, developers, and practitioners from higher education, K-12, nonprofit and industry sectors meet – brought together by a joint focus on leveraging technology for achieving instructional goals.

My Conference Experience

This conference report is my personal eclectic account of E-Learn 2014. My schedule was packed this year: Not only did I, in a hyperactive mood, choose to deliver three talks, but I also had a symposium and a special interest group meeting to moderate and an executive committee meeting to attend. Luckily, the overall conference atmosphere, the great discussions during the special interest group meeting, and the thoughtful feedback, ideas, encouragement and contributions by numerous conference participants made all of this fun.  Continue reading

‘Big Hero 6’ Delights and Challenges

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

Only a few true nerds, such as myself, will be at all challenged with Big Hero 6. Let me explain.

Big Hero 6 is about four students at San Fransokyo Institute of Technology (SFIT), the younger brother of a fifth, and a robot. These are the “6” in Big Hero 6. The catch here is that these “super heroes” don’t have mystical powers. Their performance boosts come from technologies that they create.

The lead character is Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) who is a wild genius youth who enjoys bot fights instead of the serious business of school. His older brother, Tadashi, tries to dissuade him from wasting all of his talent on underground bot fighting and finally breaks through. He gets Hiro hooked on being a student at SFIT. There’s a catch. SFIT is a robotics-oriented school, and you must show your ability to get in. Hiro must demonstrate his capability to the faculty of the school by showing actual robotics.

How he does so and what happens next set the course for the film. There’s just enough scariness and just sufficient levity associated with it to please school-age children. I’ll be taking my grandsons (aged five and seven) to see this movie two days after it opens and will share their reactions with you then.

The robot member of the six is the most unlikely hero you’ll ever meet. Baymax is voiced perfectly by Scott Adsit. He is a healthcare robot, a nurse, who looks like, as the script puts it, a marshmallow. He is white and squishy — inflated actually. He has a large pot belly and walks like a penguin. This robot is the legacy of Tadashi, his ultimate creation.

Besides Hiro and Baymax, the six include Go Go Tomago (Jamie Chung) who is a speed freak, Wasabi (Damon Wayons Jr.) who has terminal OCD and looks like he spends too much time in the gym, Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) who seems out of place in a robotics school because her expertise is in chemistry, and Fred (T. J. Miller) who just likes to hang out with the smart kids at SFIT.  Continue reading

Geography? T3G…ESRI in Education

VicSutton80By Vic Sutton

While at a recent workshop at the Redlands, CA, headquarters of the Environmental Science Research Institute (ESRI), I heard the most concise definition of geography yet: “What where? Why there? Why care?”

vic063014 1

My wife, Bonnie Bracey Sutton, had been accepted for a week-long workshop in ESRI’s T3G Institute. I traveled with her, thinking I was heading for a holiday in Southern California – maybe visit the beach and chill out in wine country.

No such luck. As soon as he saw me, Charlie Fitzpatrick said, “I’ll get you a badge.”

Charlie Fitzpatrick is the K-12 education manager at ESRI. Before joining ESRI in 1992, Charlie taught social studies in grades 7-12 for 15 years.

vic063014 2

“T3G” is ESRI’s acronym for “teachers teaching teachers GIS.” So the goal of the workshop was to give a group of some 90 educators the knowledge and hands-on skills to be able to teach other colleagues how to use geographic information system information in their work.  Continue reading

Cyberlearning Summit 2014: A Quick Recap

VicSutton80By Vic Sutton

[Note: See Bonnie Bracey Sutton’s report. -Editor]

There is reportedly a wealth of research being conducted unto cyberlearning, but there are no clear views about how to translate research results into action in the community context, in particular for schools or informal education.

This emerged from the recent Cyberlearning Summit held in Madison, Wisconsin, on 9-10 June 2014, which brought together some 200 participants — mostly academics, plus some educators, industry representatives and grant makers — to highlight “advances in the design of technology-mediated learning environments, how people learn with technology, and how to use cyberlearning technologies to effectively shed light on learning.”

Bonnie's photos

There was no discussion about quite what cyberlearning is, but it appears to be a fancy name for on-line learning.

The meeting was organized by the Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning (CIRCL), funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and featured a number of eminently qualified speakers.

Yasmin Kafai, from the University of Pennsylvania, reminded participants of the remark by the late Steve Jobs that “everybody in this country should learn to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.”  Continue reading