Oct 22

Faculty Challenge #4: Show Us Your Word Cloud

tagul word cloudIs it true that a picture is worth a thousand words? We think so! Check out the word cloud to the right. It was created by pasting all of the words from all of our Faculty Learning Corner posts this past month into Tagul, a word cloud generator.

“But why” you might ask, “would you want to do that? And what possible academic benefits or uses could word clouds have?” Good questions, and hopefully this post will address those questions, but first, let’s start with the basics. What are “word clouds?”

A word cloud takes a document of text (could be a speech, a poem, a lesson on astronomy, song lyrics, recipes, etc.) and creates an image based upon the frequency of word usage. In my example, you can see that our posts must have a lot of course/faculty/student /tool/use emphasis since those are the largest words showing up.

There are some really great word cloud generators out there and they are described well in The 5 Best Free Word Cloud Creation Tools for Teachers. This article lets you know whether you will need an account, for example, or what kind of file the generator outputs your completed word cloud to. My two favorite word cloud generators remain Wordle (for simplicity and clean look) and Tagul for when I want a word cloud shaped like a pumpkin, or some other specific shape.

Before you just get lost in the beauty and fun of word clouds, we want to emphasize that there are some great educational reasons for using word clouds. Each of the following links provides a wealth of ideas for you.

Top 10 Tips to Use Word Clouds in eLearning  is a short article giving you some great tips on integrating word clouds in your course.

A longer 4-part blog comes from the 21st Century Educational Technology and Learning, by Gorman, and has some really great information. Even those of you who use word clouds already are sure to find some new ideas here!

And, if you love Google Docs, you can now even create a word cloud within your Google Doc. Richard Byrne explains how in Create a Word Cloud Within Your Google Documents.

If you aren’t convinced that there is a word cloud generator out there with your name on it, we’d be surprised. But if you are thinking that you already can see the possibilities of word clouds, then get ready for Faculty Challenge #4 — Show Us Your Word Cloud!!

We want to see your word cloud but tell us how you used it in your class. Did you use it to introduce a topic? To create a discussion? Do you have an assignment where the students create their own word clouds? However you are using word clouds– please share with us by sending your word cloud or assignment to Kathi. We’ll post your submissions on our Faculty Challenge Google Site and we’ll vote on our favorites next week. Deadline for word cloud submissions: Wednesday, October 29th.


Oct 21

Tech Tuesday – Online Teaching Tips (in 20 minutes)

timerGot 20 minutes? Then we’ve got a deal for you! The UAS Sitka Campus Title III program is offering UAS faculty the opportunity to start their week with dynamic, professional development delivered online in only 20 minutes! The program started in August but there are still 7 sessions remaining. If you contact Nicole this week you’ll also be able to access this week’s program: What Does Copyright Ownership Mean to Me?

The Monday Morning Mentor is a program from Magna Publications. How does this practical and convenient program work? Each program is available online starting at 9 am CST – yes, that’s 6 am AK time. But don’t worry about setting an early alarm as the programs are available for on-demand viewing for one full week. New programs are available weekly each Monday morning through December 8. The remaining topics are:

Oct. 27:  Is There a Solution to Students Multitasking in Class?
Nov. 3: How Can I Enhance the Impact of Feedback in Online Classes?
Nov. 10: How Can I Make My Course Content More Accessible?
Nov. 17: What Is Storyboarding and How Can It Help You Flip Your Class?
Nov. 24: What Are Five Tips for Writing Effective Learning Outcomes?
Dec. 1: How Can I Design Copyright-Compliant Courses?
Dec. 8: Where Can I Find Flippable Moments in My Classes?

Interested faculty should email Nicole Duclos for information on how to access the programs.

Photo credit: istockphoto.com/TokenPhoto

Oct 20

Surveys and Polls, Challenge Winners!

Thank you Charla and Marnie for contributing ideas about surveys! You can find their submissions at our Faculty Challenge Google Site.

Marnie reminded me that when we listed survey tools in our initial post, we forgot to include the UAS Survey tool in our list. She really likes the reports that she gets from this survey tool. If you have never given it a try, you can find that tool by going to UAS Online, click on “Add Tools”, then under “Faculty/Staff” click on “MySurveys”.

Challenge 3

Before we leave this topic, we’d like to gather just a little information from you on polls and surveys.

Remember, you do not have to use any fancy survey tools to collect feedback from your students. Built into Blackboard we have journals where students can reflect and evaluate their learning or respond to specific prompts. The discussion board also is often used as a survey tool, asking students to respond to questions without the need to respond to each other. And, of course, the built-in survey tool is fairly robust as well. And built-into Collaborate are some easy-to-use polling capabilities.

Oct 17

Fried Friday

Be thankful that our Faculty Challenges haven’t included things like Ze Frank’s “Toilet Paper Challenge” and “When Office Tools Attack” challenge to his followers! This is an old Ted Talk, but if you never watched it, you might enjoy Ze Frank’s Nerdcore Comedy. You’ll have to stick it out to the end of the Ted Talk to see his challenges.

Ze Frank Ted Talk Click Here


Faculty Challenge #3 is still open.

We know many of you use surveys in your courses or take quick polls– we’re still looking for your examples and your shared strategies on how and when to implement these. Please get your submissions to Kathi so she can post on our shared Faculty Challenge Google Site. Thanks.

By the way, if you noticed yesterday that this post was sent out a day early and retracted, that was our fault. We were hoping yesterday was Friday! Enjoy your weekend.

Oct 15

Exemplars Aligned to the Peer Review Rubric

Click for examplarsWe’ve posted about the peer review of online courses a few times (search for Peer Review) in the past. Today we’re excited to announce that, similar to the sharing we’ve doing with our Faculty Challenges, many faculty have shared examples from their courses that showcase different ways of meeting the Peer Review Rubric’s standards.

We’ve posted these Peer Review Exemplars, with faculty permission, in a public Google Doc and we hope that you will take a look at some of the ways your colleagues are meeting the peer review standards. We want to keep adding examples to this list. If you are interested in sharing something you feel meets the rubrics standards, please send it to ksbaldwin@alaska.edu and we’ll add it to our document.

One of the real values of the peer review checklist/rubric is that you can self-assess your course(s). Beyond the value of self-assessment, participating in a review, formal or informal, allows you to gain insights from other faculty on different ways or strategies to accomplish something. It isn’t often that we have the time to step inside someone else’s classroom and see first hand how they deliver their content. Peer review gives us this opportunity.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to look at the UAS Peer Review for Course Improvement process, we have a Presentation for you to view. Additionally, here is the Peer Review Rubric and Checklist both found on the IDC website.

We’re very interested in your thoughts on our rubric, the process, the value and the exemplars to please comment below!

Starting soon, we’ll begin the 2014-2015 Peer Review Thru The Lens meetings. If you missed these sessions last year, they are 1 hour-long sessions where we look in depth at one of the peer review standards through the lens of one or two real courses. Our first session will be a close look at Standard III: Assessment and Measurement. If you would like to share your course assessments, both formative and summative and have faculty look at how your course meets Standard III of our rubric, please contact Kathi.

Oct 14

Tech Tuesday – RSS Feeds in Your Blackboard Course

rss iconIt might be handy to have a live feed from a news blog, or any other blogging site updating dynamically, in real time, inside your Blackboard course. For example, maybe you would like your students to see all the great posts that are added weekly to the UAS Tips for Student Success blog. It’s easy to add this to your Blackboard class.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to do this!


Technical Note: If on your Blackboard page you have text and code, when you edit the text after the code has been placed on your page, the widget will break when you resubmit. A good work-around is when editing, click on HTML and copy the code and erase it from your editor. Then, go back to your visual editor and make all necessary changes to your text. Finally, return to HTML button and re-paste the embed code for the RSS feed. This sounds a lot harder than it is. Just realize, text edits might force you to re-paste your code.

Image credit: iStockPhoto Bet_Noire

Oct 13

Best Practices for Surveys and Polls- This Week’s Faculty Challenge #3 (Continued)

Satisfied or notAre you using polls and/or surveys to collect data from your students to improve your courses? to encourage student participation? to determine what your next lecture or presentation should highlight? to ascertain what aspects of your course students are struggling with? As we mentioned in our previous post, we’re very interested in sharing how YOU use polls and surveys in your classes.

Horton, in eLearning by Design suggests some best practices for polls including:

  • Collect opinions at the right time. Collect responses from your students after an event, during an event or immediately before an event, like a quiz, a discussion, an assignment or a lecture.
  • Be sure that your learners know how to vote. Sometimes online surveys use text messaging, or a website with a passcode, or are simply ungraded quizzes in Blackboard. Whatever the tool, make sure that your student understand how to submit their vote. It may be obvious to you, but not quite so obvious to your students. And be sure that it is clear that they know what they are voting for. For example is (1) very satisfied or (5) very satisfied?
  • Phrase prompts and choices with extreme care. It can be extremely frustrating to end up with survey results that are so ambiguous that you don’t know how to act on the information you just received.

Horton further provides a few examples for using a poll at the beginning of the course to determine if the course is right for your students. For example, post your main learning objectives and have students select for each from the following choices:

  1. This is exactly what I want to learn
  2. This is something that I want to learn
  3. This is of NO interest to me

All this week we are collecting your survey strategies and questions. Tell us how you survey, when you survey, and give us an example of some of your best questions. Please send these to Kathi. You can view the current submissions at our Faculty Challenge Google Site.

Photo credit: iStock Photo jntvisual

Oct 10

Fried Friday: Awakening the “Wonder Junkie”

Click for videoIt’s that day of the week again. Friday. Time for a little lightweight but hopefully inspiring, short video clip from “Shots of Awe” this one titled “The Ecstasy of Curiosity.”

Last year we did a Book Club on Sitka campus and talked a lot about creativity and innovation. Tony Wagner’s book “Creating Innovators” shares a lot in common with this 3 minute video clip. I hope you enjoy and take away from this clip that our mission is difficult, but certainly not impossible!

isotck 259666 Remember

FInally, just a few things to remember and act on:

  1. We need your ideas, strategies and questions for Faculty Challenege #3. We are collecting your questions and techniques for polls and surveys, see last posting for details. Email Kathi with your ideas and strategies for gathering good feedback from students.
  2. Don’t forget to VOTE on which faculty challenge topic you’d like to see in the future!
  3. Have a great weekend!!!


Istock Photo Credit: keeweeboy/Photo 259666


Oct 09

Faculty Challenge #3: We Challenge You to Share Your Ideas!

Thank you everyone who shared examples of ways that you create your online persona. We had a tie this week for first place, something fishy here? Congratulations to both Joel and Jim for your video submissions.

challenge winner 1 challenge winner 2

This week our challenge does not pit faculty against faculty, even in fun. Rather, we challenge you to share your ideas for creating good survey questions. Share with us what you are doing, what questions work best, what tools you are using, etc. We’ll compile and organize your responses. You can view some sample questions as they are sent in at our FLC Faculty Challenge Google Site.

We are looking to collect the best questions, techniques and tools to inform you mid-semester:

  • Are your students are struggling on concepts, assignments or quizzes?
  • Is your course design easy for students to navigate or is it a barrier to their learning?
  • Do you need to restructure or explain certain concepts or aspects of your course?

We are looking for the best questions at the close of your semester to let you know:

  • How successful were you in the eyes of your students in achieving your course objectives?
  • What sections of the course need you revisit before offering the course again?
  • What structural or course delivery strategies should you modify before offering the course again?

And if you have a synchronous classroom using Collaborate (or other tool) or a face-to-face classroom and you use clickers or other polling tools, please share with us some of your best practice tips.

  • How do you involve and engage students during your sessions?
  • How do you encourage all students to participate and contribute?

Send your thoughts, your examples, your successful questions to Kathi and I’ll collect them and post them to our Faculty Challenge Google Site so everyone can benefit from your success.

And, DON’T FORGET– scroll down to our last post and VOTE on which topic you’d like to see next in the Faculty Challenge series!

Oct 08

Polls and Surveys to Connect with Your Students

Online instructors, especially those teaching asynchronously without video or audio conferences, often express that they don’t know how their students are “feeling”, or if their students are confused, or frustrated with aspects of the course. Survey tools are plentiful and make surveys simple to deploy. Surveys may be one of the most powerful tools in your teaching arsenal, whether you are teaching online or face-to-face. A well-written survey can collect a wealth of information in a short time span. But surveys can do so much for your class.

  • Surveys can empower students. When you use a survey to find out what students want to learn or ask them to pinpoint areas that they still find confusing, you are asking them to help personalize their learning.
  • Surveys can also be used to compare different attitudes and showcase how different student views on various course topics might be.
  • Surveys can also let you know how effective different components of your course are. If you are spending hours on creating videos, are they effective? Are students watching? Do they have the technical skills to watch? Are your students getting out of your course what they need?
  • End-of-course surveys help us to determine which parts of the course should be kept and which parts need to be modified.

Let’s take a look at some of the tools that are free and easy to use.

Poll Everywhere: A survey service that lets you collect responses via the Internet, tablets, text messaging on phone, or by twitter. Survey results are instantly available. The free account plugs right into PPT so you can use it while lecturing. The free version limits you to 40 respondents. The responses can also be viewed as word clouds.

Google Forms: Free and easy to use you can easily create a form that feeds results into a spreadsheet. While the results may not be as pretty as some survey tools, Google forms are quick to create and easy to launch.

Socrative: Works on any device and operating system. Includes games, quiz questions, on-the-fly questioning and other easy to use features.

SurveyMonkey: The free version of survey monkey allows you to ask up to 10 questions and get 100 responses. You can gather responses from email, websites, Twitter, Facebook and more.

Blackboard has a survey tool built-in and Collaborate also permits polling with results hidden or visible to students. Collaborate has a Wizard Quick Guide Reference to help you get started. Both Blackboard tools are quick and easy to implement.

These are just a few examples. Common Sense Graphite posted their Top Tech Tools for Formative Assessment and there are many there (nicely rated and described) for you to explore.

Our upcoming “Share” or “Challenge” is on Polls and Surveys — did you guess that already? Be looking for more information in our next post!

Now it’s your turn to answer our quick poll so that you can help us pick some of the upcoming topics for future Faculty Challenges.


If you have another suggestion please leave us a comment below!

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