Best Practices FAQ: Discussions and Participation

What should be the expectations for discussion postings?

Research indicates that active participation in dissuasions is a successful method for improving student engagement in a course.  The guidelines will be based on the driving questions you provide the students and the overall objectives of your curriculum and course. At minimum, we recommend you set deadlines for the posts and guidelines the frequency of posts and replies to other students. We also recommend you have a strategy in place to measure the quality of posts — this could be in the form of a rubric or a checklist. Again, the depth and breadth of discussion will be based on the subject matter of the course and your own expectations for your students. Also, remember to place a statement of these expectations (as well as other expectations for online learning) in your syllabus.

Best Practices FAQ: Objectives and Competencies

I’m in the process of planning a new course, but I’m not really sure where to begin. Do you have anything that might assist me in getting started with the objectives and the content of the course?

Absolutely! We have a simple, easy to use tool called the Course Planning Worksheet. It will assist you in planning and aligning the scope and sequence of your course, the objectives, the content (readings/media/resources), how students engage with the content, and how students will be assessed. Visit our Files and Forms page and click on the link for the worksheet.

What resources would you recommend for writing effective course objectives?

If you are not yet familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy or Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, we recommend you investigate the following resources for identifying actionable and meaningful objectives and assessments in your course. As a general rule of thumb, we should aim for objectives that will support or scaffold real-world experiences for students or build skills and knowledge that will advance students toward these real-world experiences.

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Compose Learning Objectives. Bloom’s Taxonomy divides the way people learn into three domains. One of these is the cognitive domain, which emphasizes intellectual outcomes. This domain is further divided into categories or levels. The key words used and the type of questions asked may aid in the establishment and encouragement of critical thinking, especially in the higher levels.

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy
Guide to Writing Learning Objectives

 

Best Practices FAQ: Presentations and Videos

I have a Powerpoint presentation with audio, but the files size is too large to upload to eCourseware. It either won’t upload or it takes a long time to download for my students.

We recommend you do the following:

  1. Save your presentation as a video. See these instructions.
  2. Request an Ensemble account through umTech via helpdesk.memphis.edu.
  3. Once you have an account, upload the video and publish it .
  4. Use the embed code to display the video in your course.

UM3D Instructional Media DIY Guide: Best Practices

Integrating Printed Text and Visuals Effectively

You can use printed text and visuals simultaneously to create effective instruction. Printed text includes any form of written text, including text documents, articles, essays, and traditional “bullet-point” slide shows. Visuals include things such as photographs, illustrations, diagrams, charts, video clips, maps, and animations.

There are many instructional benefits to integrating printed text and visuals. You can use visuals to:

  • Represent prerequisite information,
  • Help students make connections with existing knowledge,
  • Organize information for students,
  • Reinforce key concepts,
  • Represent a concept,
  • Show a relationship between two or more concepts,
  • Depict changes, or
  • Add visual interest.

The chart below outlines definitions and examples for the correct way to integrate graphics with text to support learning.

Type of Graphic Definition Example
Decorative Visuals added to make the printed text more appealing Picture of a life cycle in a lesson about life cycles
Representational Visuals that depict the appearance of an object Picture of materials needed in the day’s lesson
Organizational Visuals that depict the qualitative relationship among the content Charts or graphs
Relational Visuals that show or summarize relationships A bar graph
Transformational Visuals that show changes over the course of time A photograph that shows the incomplete metamorphosis
Interpretive Visuals that depict specific messages Photographs that model the proper way to clean a room

Possible Uses of Visuals Within Instruction

Facts: concrete examples, data, application screens

Example: Picture of a life cycle with labels

Concepts: events, ideas, symbols

Example: Tree diagram of different facets of a subject

Process: instructions to show how something works

Example: Animations that show how water exits the faucet

Procedure: steps to be used to complete a task

Example: Animations that show how to adjust settings on a microscope

Principle: guidelines that result in completion of a task

Example: A video that shows two possible solutions to one problem

References

Clark, R. & Mayer, R. (2011). Elearning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. Pfeiffer Wiley Imprint.

Pappas, C. (2014, December 15). Audio in elearning: Top ten tips for the elearning professional.

Best Practices When Using Podcasts

Within education, podcasts can be used for several purposes.

For Educators:

  • Podcasts are excellent alternatives for delivering content or lessons to students who need additional support.
  • Teachers can record audio podcasts to help students review content at a time that fits their schedule best.
  • Podcasts can support students who prefer learning by listening.

For Students:

  • Students can create their own podcasts to share their learning experiences with each other.
  • The act of creating podcasts encourages students to develop several important skills, such as researching, writing, speaking effectively, solving problems, managing time, grabbing attention, and improving vocabulary.

Download this outline of best practices when using podcasting (PDF).

Podcasting Best Practice Resources

Best Practices When Creating and Using Sceencasts

Just like with podcasts, screencasts can be used in education by instructors and students alike to make an impact on student engagement and learning. When creating screencasts, it is a good idea to plan ahead.

Pre-production tips:

  • Choose visuals wisely.
  • Consider writing out a script or set of talking points before you record.
  • Plan to describe any essential visual elements carefully so that blind students can learn from the action you explain.
  • Turn off all non-essential programs that you don’t want to show up in your video. In particular, be sure to turn off email and instant chat tools.
  • Set your phone on silent and hang a “Please Do Not Disturb” sign on your door if unexpected visitors might drop by.
  • Plug in and test your microphone or headset.

Post-production tips:

  • Embed your video directly into your course, blog, or website so that it plays within the screen and keeps unwanted ads from popping up.
  • If your video is on YouTube or another hosting site, make sure the settings NOT set to private so that students can view it.
  • Test your video playback to ensure it plays on multiple devices.
  • Always provide accurate closed-captioning. Watch the video with captions turned on, and make note of any words or phrases that need to be corrected.

Best Practices FAQ: Assessments

University of Memphis online courses are expected to provide the same rigor as “on-the-ground” courses. Each course should include clearly defined objectives, meaningful assessments, and activities designed to engage and retain the online learner. The following questions have been asked by faculty at the University of Memphis:

How long should quizzes and exams be?

The length of quizzes and exams will be based directly on the competencies and objectives for your course. You may also consider basing this on the weight of these assessments. For example, a more informal or formative assessment could be completed in fewer questions — a “temperature check,” so to speak. However, if you are more interested in exam-type questions, you may consider creating a text bank, and randomly selecting quiz questions so that students do not always receive the text/exam in the same format, order (or the same questions). eCourseware provides you multiple ways of delivering your quiz or exam. To learn more about the Quizzes tool, we recommend you contact umTech (901.678.8888).

What length of time should I provide my students to complete an exam or quiz?

Similar to the length or number of questions, the time you provide your students will be based on a number of factors: the content of the quiz, the format (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, essay), or other restrictions. If you are mostly interested in protecting the integrity of your quiz (or preventing students from looking up responses), we do recommend you place a time limit on an exam or quiz. However the length of time will vary based on the objectives and the course in general.

If a student has a technical issue with an online exam and is unable to complete the exam or quiz, should there be a penalty for the student?

For the most part, it will be up to you to determine whether or not the student has reason or need for extended time to complete an assessment. Knowing whether or not to permit an extension will be based on a variety of factors: (a) statement of expectations for completing assessments on time (Did the student wait until the last minute to access the exam?) (b) severity of the technical issue experienced (Has the technical issue prevented the student from submitting the exam?)

 What should be the expectations for discussion postings?

Research indicates that active participation in discussions is a successful method for improving student engagement in a course.  The guidelines will be based on the driving questions you provide the students and the overall objectives of your curriculum and course.

At minimum, we recommend you set deadlines for the posts and guidelines for the frequency of posts and replies to other students. We also recommend you have a strategy in place to measure the quality of posts — this could be in the form of a rubric or a checklist. Again, the depth and breadth of discussion will be based on the subject matter of the course and your own expectations for your students. Also, remember to place a statement of these expectations (as well as other expectations for online learning) in your syllabus.

A great resource for Managing Online Discussions can be found at (http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/strategies-managing-online-discussions/).