TLT, TLTCon

8 Engaging Ways to use Technology in the Classroom

I wanted to share the article 8 Engaging Ways to use Technology in the Classroom to Create Lessons That Aren’t Boring from EmergingEdTech that offers up some strategies and tools for the classroom at this time because a few ideas noted in the article will be covered by CofC Faculty at the upcoming TLT Conference which takes place March 8, 9, and 10th.  There are still a few spaces available so register now at https://goo.gl/oVJf8M

The article mentions Socrative and Plickers.  To learn more about these tools register for the Faculty Discovery Lab and Lunch on 3/9 from 11:50-1:15

Google Drive is another tool in the article.  CofC has adopted Google apps for Education and Google Drive is available to all faculty and students.  There will be a number a session on Google Drive: “Using Google docs for a final project in place of a final exam,” “Introducing Students to Collaboration Using Google Docs,” “Improve Collaboration and Efficiency with Google Docs” as well as “E-portfolios, Google Sites and Digital Projects,”  and Using Blogger for Class Notes.” Check the Conference Schedule for dates and times.

PollEverywhere is listed in the article and although there will not be a session on it at the upcoming conference I think it is important to note that CofC does have a educational license to PollEverywhere.  To learn more about it and view step by step tutorials visit: http://blogs.cofc.edu/tlttutorials/2013/09/10/poll-everywhere/

Like PollEveyerywhere, both Twitter and PowToon make an appearance in the article and are not featured sessions at the Conference, but TLT has created step by step instructions for these tools and if you would like to learn more about them contact your Instructional Technologist.

 

Create Polls and Quizzes with Riddle
Assessment, Innovative Instruction, Web 2.0

Create Fun Polls and Quizzes with Riddle

Riddle is a FREE web-based tool that allows users to create opinion polls, lists, quizzes, and personality tests.  If you’re familiar with Buzzfeed (your students will be), Riddle allows you to create similar quizzes.  It’s a fun and simple formative assessment tool to engage students, gather their opinions, and gauge their understanding.

Create Polls and Quizzes with Riddle

Cool features of Riddle:

  • Templates to help you create quickly
  • Embed Youtube videos, and trim them to only the parts you want
  • Mobile-friendly, so students can use their smartphones.
  • 30 languages available
  • Have option to reveal responses immediately or hide them until you’re ready
  • Share via hyperlink, social media, or embed into a website

Ideas for using Riddle:

  • Create a syllabus quiz or a “getting to know you” survey at the beginning of the semester.
  • Have students create lists, such as “Top 10 contributors to global warming,” to help them synthesize content or review for exams.
  • Incorporate a poll during class to gauge students’ comprehension of the material so you can adapt your lecture.
  • Ask students to create polls or quizzes to engage their classmates during presentations or discussion facilitation.
  • Use a quiz at the end of class as an “exit ticket”

Create Polls and Quizzes with Riddle

Example Riddles:

  • Tufts University created a great quiz called “What Major Are You?
  • This University of Texas professor created a top ten list of things students should know about her and her section of the university’s freshmen book club.
  • This quiz is about the “Space Race” between the US and the USSR during the Cold War.
Best Practices, Pedagogy

Energize In-Class Discussions

Last week, I was commiserating with an instructor about her struggle to engage students in discussion during class.  “Sometimes it’s like talking to a brick wall,” she lamented.  Facilitating lively conversations that require students to apply, synthesize, and evaluate their knowledge is one of the most challenging aspects of teaching.  Even the most brilliant lecturer can be stymied by an unresponsive class.  So these are my top tips for improving class discussions:

Plan your discussion prompts in advance.  Thought-provoking questions are challenging to come up with on the fly.  So when planning your lectures and in-class activities, craft prompts as well.  Without prior contemplation, we may resort to asking “any thoughts about that?” and be discouraged by the blank stares we receive.

Use hooks to launch the discussion.  Rather than starting a discussion with a single question, consider building up to that prompt with a hook to pique your students’ interest and start their thinking process.  For example, present a short case study, tell a story, recite a witty quote, show a video clip, or share a current event.  These serve as points of departure that contextualize your questions and give students the opportunity to apply their knowledge.

Ask better questions.  Often because we haven’t given them much thought in advance, our discussion prompts fall flat.  Our questions are too vague, too long-winded, or limited to yes-no answers.  Instead, make sure your questions are succinct, clear, and open-ended.  This may seem obvious, but I often ramble a bit when asking questions forcing students to inquire, “so what’s the question again?”  Some ideas for discussion prompts

  • Ask for students’ input: What should ___ have done? What would you do in this case?  Have you had a similar experience in your life?
  • Ask “how” and “why” questions: How might this argument be made more persuasive? Why do you think the author made this argument?  How does ___ compare to ____?
  • Ask evaluative questions: How compelling is the author’s argument?  What are the implications of ____?
  • Ask prediction questions: What will occur next?  What might happen if. . .?
  • Ask justification questions: What evidence led you to conclude that…? What is the reason…?

Give your students a chance to think.  Many of us are uncomfortable with silence, so when students don’t immediately respond to our questions, we continue talking.  It’s easy to forget that students are disciplinary novices who need greater time to ponder than we do.  So when asking a question, pause for a good 30 seconds before probing further.  Don’t surrender and answer the question for your students.  Force yourself to endure the silence.   

Think-pair-share.  Many faculty turn their noses up at strategies implemented in K-12 classrooms, but that’s where a majority of innovative pedagogy comes from.  Think-pair-share is a simple but brilliant way to encourage conversation. First, after presenting your hook and prompt, let students jot down their ideas on scrap pieces of paper.  Then, ask them to turn to their neighbors and share their ideas.  Finally, bring the entire class together and have the pairs report what they discussed.  This gives students the chance to think and talk through their ideas before being put “on the spot” in front of the entire group.

Use positive reinforcement.  When students contribute to class discussion in ways that demonstrate higher-order thinking, acknowledge it.  Saying, “that’s a great question” or “good point” is an effective start, but be more specific with your feedback.  For example, “Sam makes an excellent point. I appreciate how you supported your claim with evidence from the reading.”  This demonstrates to students what a “good” response sounds like, providing a model they can all use.

Ask follow-up questions. When students respond with brief or incomplete answers, don’t miss the opportunity to ask a follow-up question such as, “Could you tell me more?” or “Why do you say that?” or “How did you come to that conclusion?”  You can also pull in other students to contribute: “Let’s help Jamie out, why might we reach the conclusion that. . .?”

End discussions purposefully.  Before moving on to the next lecture topic or question, summarize what was discussed or ask a student to do so.  This helps students to synthesize new information and integrate it with existing knowledge.  You could also consider ending your class with some type of “exit ticket” such as a minute paper or Poll Everywhere poll (which is a free tool for CofC students and faculty).  Exit tickets are a quick and easy method to help students solidify their understanding as well as communicate to the instructor what they still have questions about.

Do you have other suggestions for facilitating engaging class discussions?  Please share!

For help improving discussions in your online course, check out this post written by my colleague, Mendi: http://blogs.cofc.edu/tlt/2015/10/28/tips-for-more-effective-online-discussions/

TLT

Using Canva and Haiku Deck in the classroom

Back on February 4th, 2015 TLT posted our Top Ten Tech Tools and for today’s post I would like to highlight two of those tools, Canva and Haiku Deck , and share a few ways to use them in the classroom.  Both are free, easy to use, and rely on images instead of a lot of text.  Here are a few suggestions on using them with your students:

Canva

These uses are from  Holly Clark’s  5 Great uses for Canva in the Classroom

Think-Pic-Share

Think – First, ask students to think about what they learned and find a way to summarize it. Being succinct and articulate is a very important 21st century skill and NOT one students do very well on their own. Teaching the art of concise writing –  that is still able to catch the readers attention is not easy to do.  Learning how to do this is extremely valuable in today’s 140 character world.

Pic – Next, find a picture (at this point teach about creative commons) that is a good graphical summarization of what was learned.

Share –  Gone are the days where students turn in work that it is only seen by the teacher, graded and then returned. Once they are done and have shared their work…they look to see what others have turned in.  Students will compare their designs with the other students and  begin thinking about their thinking – or better yet thinking about their learning.

Quick Reflection

Canva can be used as a quick reflection tool. What about a six word summary about what was just learned.

Collaborative Designing

Students can share a Canva with another student – and together they can work to make it better. It might be smart to make each Canva go through one other “student editors” or “Co-creators” eyes before being published.

For a tutorial on Canva visit http://goo.gl/5XHIaL 

Haiku Deck

The uses from Holly Clark’s post that I listed above can also be applied to Haiku Deck.  For the Think-Pic-Share under “Think” Haiku Deck limits bullet points to five and limits the amount of text that can be added to a slide so students will need to be succinct.  Under “Pic” Haiku Deck pulls from Creative Commons and cites them.  This is a great opportunity to talk with your students about Copyright.  For Holly’s Quick Reflection idea keep in mind that Haiku Deck limits bullet points to five and limits the amount of text that can be added to a slide.

Digital Portfolio

Haiku Deck is not limited to images from Creative Commons.  If using an iPad any photo in the Camera roll or if using the web version any image on the Computer can be used to create a slide.  In addition to an image the student could add text to reflect.

For a tutorial on Haiku Deck visit https://goo.gl/rbtNxN 

Strategies for Effective Team Projects
Best Practices, Collaboration, Teaching Advice

Strategies for Drama-Free Team Projects

Effective collaboration is a foundational skill that is taught as early as kindergarten.  By the time students reach college, one would think they would be expert team players.  Unfortunately, any professor can tell you that’s not usually true.  Students struggle to communicate competently, schedule meeting times, and manage conflict.  This often leads to tearful office hour appointments or angry emails about slackers and alliances. So the following is advice based upon my experiences and research I’ve conducted regarding effective group work strategies for the college classroom.

Strategies for Effective Team Projects
Image credit: endlessorigami.com

Determine what type of group work will allow students to achieve the learning outcomes.  Group work is not one size fits all.  There are many forms of collaborative learning and each serves its own purpose.  So first think about what you want students to accomplish from working together, then decide upon a method (such as team-based learning, peer instruction, or project-based learning)

Instructors, not students, should form groups.  When students are allowed to choose their own teammates, they almost always (1) choose their friends and acquaintances or (2) choose people who sit near them.  I don’t blame them; that’s the easy and comfortable option.  But this often results in homogenous groups.  Thus, especially for higher-stakes projects, instructors should strategically form teams that are composed of members who are diverse and who share common blocks of time to meet outside of class.  This can be accomplished by administering surveys that address variables such as personality type, learning style, conflict management style, course-related knowledge and experience, habits, and schedules.

Discuss principles of effective teamwork.  While students have been collaborating with peers for most of their educational careers, many don’t have a scholarly understanding of group dynamics.  I’ve found spending a class period sharing the research on assigning group roles, establishing expectations, and managing conflict has improved my students’ success.  If you don’t have class time to devote to such a discussion, provide your students with resources, such as handouts or links to websites that they can refer to as they work.

Require a team contract.  For higher-stakes assignments, such as semester-long projects, have students write a contract that details expectations and consequences of violating those norms.  During the team’s first meeting, I suggest students brainstorm all the things they hate about group projects then turn those complaints into a list of do’s and don’ts.  I ask students to provide me with a copy of their contract that each team member has signed.  This document can then be used by the group to mediate conflicts.

Establish a policy to deal with social loafing.  I work hard to maintain a “no drama” environment in my classes.  So I have a policy that outlines procedures and consequences for students who violate their team contracts.  This policy has shown students that I will not (and they should not) tolerate slacking off.  Whatever type of policy you create, make sure you require students to provide documentation of the contract violations and to meet with you separately.  This helps to prevent unwarranted complaints or students “ganging up” on a teammate.

Strategies for Effective Team Projects

Require teams to provide you with regular progress reports.  To identify problems early and to ensure students are not procrastinating, I require teams to update me biweekly.  I ask students to identify a member of the team who is responsible for providing me with those updates either face-to-face or via email.  This has helped immensely to address concerns and to steer students in the right direction when they’re faltering.

Ask teams to complete regular assessments of one another.  An interesting meta-analysis published in Teaching of Psychology concluded that peer assessments within groups do not improve learning outcomes.  I hypothesize that the typical way peer evaluations are completed is to blame.  Often, instructors will require students to complete a cumulative assessment of their teammates at the end of the project.  Perhaps they’re asked to distribute points or assign each team member a grade.  But by the time a project is completed, students may have “checked out” and are less motivated to provide a thoughtful assessment (“the project is done; I don’t really care anymore.”).  Also, this type of evaluation doesn’t allow the team to examine their dynamic while they’re collaborating and, therefore, eliminates the opportunity to make improvements.  A potentially better approach is to first instruct students on the principles and importance of constructive feedback then ask them to complete periodic assessments as they work together. Perhaps at the termination of the project, students could write a letter to you reflecting on the evolution of the group.

Encourage students to use technology. One of the biggest complaints students have about group projects is finding time outside of class to meet.  Many students have jobs, internships, and other extracurriculars that make matching schedules frustrating if not impossible.  There are a multitude of technology tools that allow students to collaborate when not in the same physical space.  Google Drive allows students to work together on documents, slides, and spreadsheets on any device that connects to the Internet.  Google Hangouts, Blab, and Skype allow students to videoconference.  And there are many collaborative whiteboard apps, such as Realtime Board.  The availability of free software and apps really limits how often students can claim “we can’t get together.”

I hope these suggestions help you to help your students get the most out of collaborative learning.  If you have other tips for effective group work, please share!

 

References and Resources:

Faculty Focus Special Report: Effective group work strategies for the college classroom: http://www.cincinnatistate.edu/online/faculty-resources/Effective%20Group%20Work%20Strategies%20for%20College%20Classroom.pdf

Major, C. H. (2015, Sept. 21). Choosing the best approach for small group work. Faculty Focushttp://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/choosing-the-best-approach-for-small-group-work/

Oakley, B., Felder, R. M., Brent, R., & Elhajj, I. (2004). Turning student groups into effective teams. Journal of Student Centered Learning, 2 (1), 9-34.

Tomcho, T. J., & Foeis, R. (2012). Meta-analysis of group learning activities: Empirically based teaching recommendations. Teaching of Psychology, 39 (3), 159-169.

Weimer, M. (2012, Feb. 22). My students don’t like group work. Faculty Focus. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/my-students-dont-like-group-work/

Assessment, instructional technology, Pedagogy, TLT, Web 2.0

Quick Audience Feedback with GoSoapBox

If you’ve ever asked your students “are there any questions?” you’ve likely received blank stares and shrugs.  Assuming this to mean everyone understands the content, you move on.  But what if students aren’t sure how to articulate what they don’t understand?  Or what if they’re too shy or embarrassed to admit they are confused?  Or maybe you’re simply looking for a way to get greater feedback from and interaction with students during lecture?  GoSoapBox could be just what you’re looking for!

GoSoapBox is an audience response system (a “clicker” tool) that works on any device that connects to the Internet.  This tool allows you to survey the class for understanding, quiz them on content, and encourage discussion.  The beauty of GoSoapBox is the simplicity of the user interface despite offering numerous features.  For example, “Social Q&A” allows students to contribute ideas and up-vote the ones they like.  This could be great for an exam review: students submit questions and vote for the ones they really want to spend class time discussing.

GoSoapBox Social Q&A

The “Confusion Barometer” is a super simple way to gauge just how well students really understand the material.  Instructors can see a live graphical display of how many students are confused by the material being covered and can then adjust their teaching strategy as necessary. GoSoapBox also offers quizzing, polling, and discussion board features, which allow for short answer/open-ended responses.

GoSoapBox Confusion Barometer

Students can respond with their names or anonymously, so GoSoapBox can be used to monitor students as well as allow sensitive opinions to be freely shared.  Instructors can even export reports in spreadsheet form to track student performance.

So why explore GoSoapBox instead of PollEverywhere?  If you have a class of 30 students or fewer, GoSoapBox is free and provides features that Poll Everywhere doesn’t, such as the quick and easy “confusion barometer” and threaded discussions.  It’s also a simpler interface so it’s quite user-friendly, while PollEverywhere can sometimes be clunky.  However, if you have course enrollment of over 30 students, I would not pay for GoSoapBox; our site license for PollEverywhere provides a great audience response system for free.

Applicationhttp://www.gosoapbox.com/

Platform: Web

Cost: Free for courses of 30 students or fewer

Tutorialshttp://help.gosoapbox.com/

GoSoapBox Blog (for updates and tips): http://gosoapbox.com/blog/

Assessment, Best Practices, instructional technology, TLT

Padagogy Wheel

At the 2015 Teaching Professor Conference one of the sessions I attended was Topping Out on Bloom:Technology for Student Projects led by Ike Shibley. I found it to be very helpful when thinking about a technology assignment that encourages students to use Bloom’s.  Below is a link to Dr. Shibley’s Obstacles/Opportunities table, questions for analysis of your course and the Padagogy Wheel which aligns Blooms with iPad apps.

TPC Shibley Topping Out on Bloom

Poll Everywhere Icon
1-1-1

Guest Post: Improving Exam Scores with Practice Poll Everywhere Questions

Our guest blogger this week is Dr. Kristin Krantzman from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Dr. Krantzman attended the Faculty Technology Institute in 2014. In this post, Dr. Krantzman recounts her experiences using Poll Everywhere to provide students with opportunities to work on practice problems during class.


 

Poll Everywhere is a program that allows an instructor to give interactive polls over the internet without requiring students to spend additional money on special equipment. I decided to try using Poll Everywhere as a supplement to my traditional lecture in two sections of the general chemistry course, CHEM 112. CHEM 112 is the second in a two semester introductory course that is taken by students in the sciences, and my enrollment in Spring 2015 was about 45 students per section. This course has an introduction to chemical equilibria, reaction kinetics, entropy and free energy. Fundamental concepts are applied to acid-base reaction, precipitation reactions and oxidation-reduction reactions.

A primary challenge in my course is that many of the concepts in the class are abstract and mathematical. As a result, many students do not immediately understand the material when it is presented. Students are focused at the beginning of class, but their attention decreases when they cannot follow what I am talking about in class. Students need to work out problems in order to learn the material. But, there are many topics to cover over the semester, and there is not much time in class for students to practice problems. Another problem is that the final exam is all multiple choice questions, but the practice problems that students do as homework in the textbook are short answer. I decided to give students multiple choice questions with Poll Everywhere as a way to engage students and allow for practice. I chose to do this because I thought that students would learn more if they were required to think about questions and respond in class. Students showed a greater understanding of the material and improved their ability to answer multiple choice questions.

Prior to class, I wrote the multiple choice questions in Poll Everywhere. One strategy I used was to post a Poll Everywhere question for students to work on as they entered into the classroom. Previously, this time was unused because I could not start class early and we had to wait for all of the students to get settled. This question was on a topic that we had covered in the previous class. This review reinforced student learning. In addition, I often gave students another question to answer, either halfway through class or at the end of class. After the students had answered the question, I displayed the response results. If the majority of students did not respond with the correct answer, I asked the students to discuss the question with each other and then respond a second time. After reviewing the responses, I went over the correct answer and explained why the other answers were incorrect. I chose to put some of the Poll Everywhere questions on the in-class tests, which motivated students to study them.

The students showed a dramatic improvement on the final exam, with average scores increasing by 7% from the fall semester. The students responded on the course evaluations that they liked the Poll Everywhere questions because doing them in class helped them understand the material. They also enjoyed the class more when I broke up the class lecture by having them work on questions that they had to actively work through.

My advice to other faculty is to have the answers to the Poll Everywhere questions count towards their grade and write this into the syllabus. Students could be given credit for answering questions even if they are not correct, which would reward students for attending class and actively participating.

Clearing a Path for People with Special Needs Clears the Path for Everyone
Accessibility, Assessment, Best Practices, instructional technology, Pedagogy, Teaching Advice

Designing with Accessibility in Mind, Part 1: The Theory

We have reached that glorious time of year when students are starting to plan for the future (i.e. – register for Fall semester).  As we wrap up the current academic year, you may start thinking about the future yourself.  What courses will I be teaching next year? How will I do that? What assessments am I going to use? What am I going to change up?  Wouldn’t it be cool if {insert innovative idea here}?  While TLT is here to help you with all of your planning needs this summer, there are a few things to keep in mind while you make plans for your future courses, especially in terms of meeting the needs of all learners.

College of Charleston currently has approximately 900 students with various disabilities on campus who are registered with the Center for Disability Services. [1]  Some of you may have already worked with students with disabilities in your courses and have a working knowledge of accommodations.  For others, this concept may be new and foreign to you.  In any case, as you look to prepare your courses for future semesters, here are some overall tips that will help you to design with accessibility in mind:

  • Think about the whole process more as Accessibility rather than Compliance. When you hear someone bring up the topic of working with students with disabilities, you often hear it referred to as ADA Compliance.  Just that phrase can conjure up images of lawsuits, courtrooms, and “early retirement”…but it doesn’t have to be that way!  True, there are federal requirements that are outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act, reauthored in 2010.  What it all boils down to is making sure that each student in your course has equitable access to the information and participation.  When you think about it, that just makes sense!  Why would a student be in our courses?  To learn.  How can we help them learn? By giving them the opportunity to do so.  To learn more about what this means, check out this video on Web Accessibility as it pertains to College of Charleston.

 

  • It is much easier and less time consuming to design a course to be accessible from the ground up than to try and retrofit it later. Sometimes, you’ll hear a faculty member say “I’ll worry about that IF I have a student who needs a disability in my class”.  However, as one professor who recently had a student with visual impairments in her class put it, “I realized at that point it was too late.  I had to struggle to get all of my material together and put into a format that the student could use.  Add that on top of not knowing what that meant or looked like and all of the responsibilities of the semester.  I was stressed out, the student was falling behind, and it wasn’t really their fault! I just hadn’t thought about it.” Many of us will be teaching courses that we’ve taught before, so how can we start looking at accessibility issues and fitting in pieces that fit?  Which leads us to…
  • Consider using Universal Design for Learning principles as you redesign parts of your course. “Universal design for learning (UDL) is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn,” (CAST 2015)[2].   Structured to help all learners in your courses, not just students with disabilities, this framework for curriculum design is based off of three primary principles:
    • Multiple Means of Representation: Present information in different ways so that all learners can access the information.  Look for flexible ways to present what you teach and what you want the students to learn.  Consider using visual and auditory elements, experiential learning, and kinesthetic opportunities to engage with content.
    • Multiple Means of Expression: Provide ways for students to show what they know and what they can do using multiple modalities. Project Based Learning is a great way to do this by giving students a forced choice menu of final product options and adding in a reflection piece.
    • Multiple Means of Engagement: Consider using different “hooks” or “activators” to capture your students’ attention to the content and hold it. Remember, relevance is key!

Universal Design for Learning is a vast and useful framework for reaching all learners and to individualize the learning process to meet their needs and your course goals.  I would suggest checking out some of the additional resources below if you are interested in learning more about the theory.

To learn more about HOW to do this, including examples from current faculty, stay tuned for Designing with Accessibility in Mind, Part 2: The Practice (Coming in May…debuting just in time for your summer course planning!)

Additional Resources

When using these principles there are a variety of resources available to help you out.  Here on College of Charleston’s campus the Center for Disability Services is a wonderful resource for faculty.  TLT can also help you differentiate your instruction and research academic-related technology solutions to implement.  Here are some other resources to help you out:


 

[1] Mihal, Deborah. “Our Role.” Center for Disability Services. College of Charleston, Aug. 2014. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.

[2] Poller, Lisa. “About Universal Design for Learning.” About Universal Design. CAST, n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.

Best Practices, TLT

Preparing for the Unexpected

On Tuesday, the College of Charleston experienced a safety and communication crisis when a bomb threat was made.  Classes in six buildings were officially cancelled and many faculty, staff, and students were prohibited from accessing their offices, classrooms, and dorms until 5:00PM.  This unexpected disruption caused many professors to lose valuable class time.

As the daughter of a Boy Scout and a Girl Scout myself, I try to live by the mantra: be prepared.  As an instructional technologist, I’ve learned ways to use technology to “prepare for the worst” and want to share that knowledge so you will be ready for the next interruption, closure, or disaster.

1.  Think ahead.  Before the semester begins, decide how you will manage if classes are cancelled.  According to instructional technologist, Kaitlin Woodlief, “your best preparation is to learn the tools now before you’re put into a situation where you have to use them.”  This doesn’t mean you must become an expert on Adobe Captivate to make professional-quality video lectures.  Instead, familiarize yourself with one tool so you feel comfortable enough producing something simple that will transmit content.

VoiceThread iconGiven Tuesday’s events, I had to figure out a way to prevent my students from getting too far behind.  I uploaded the Powerpoint I intended to use in class into Voicethread and narrated my slides using already created lecture notes.  I didn’t need to create new content; I just had to put that content into a different format.  And because I had already familiarized myself with Voicethread, the process was simple.  There are numerous tools that will allow you to deliver content online in case of a College closure or class cancellation, including Kaltura, Jing, Screencast-O-Matic, EdPuzzle, and Google Drive.  Of course, TLT has you covered with workshops that focus on online content delivery!  Browse tlt.eventbrite.com for those sessions.

2.  Include a syllabus policy.  As you prepare your classes, craft a policy that establishes expectations and procedures in case an emergency occurs.  For example, Penn State encourages faculty to include the following language in their syllabi:

In the event of a campus closure, course requirements, classes, deadlines and grading schemes are subject to changes that may include alternative delivery methods, alternative methods of interaction with the instructor, class materials, and/or classmates, a revised attendance policy, and a revised semester calendar and/or grading scheme. Information about course changes will be communicated through [e-mail, etc….]

3.  Determine communication protocols.  If an emergency closes the College or you have to cancel class at the last-minute, how will you communicate with your students?  There are numerous options, including email and posting a notification in the OAKS News tool.  This semester, I’m using both Twitter and Celly to communicate with students.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve found students don’t routinely read their emails, so I decided to meet them where they are and use text messaging and social media.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 4.58.07 PMThe numerous ways I use Twitter in the classroom is a blog post for another day, but on Tuesday, I tweeted numerous times to inform students that the Cougar Alert was not a test, that they needed to pay attention to their email, and that class was cancelled.  I also used Celly to communicate the same information.  Celly provides a way to send SMS text messages without exchanging phone numbers (you can also use the mobile app or website if you don’t text).  I’ve found students to be much more responsive to these text messages than email.

For more serious emergencies, when campus is closed for a longer period of time, you may want to communicate with your students synchronously.  Skype and Google Hangouts provide simple and free options for hosting virtual, synchronous meetings.  The OAKS Discussion tool can also be used for conversation and collaboration.

As my colleague Chris Meshanko says, while we always hope for the best, we must plan for the worst.  Anticipating disruptions and making plans can prevent students and faculty from losing valuable contact hours.  Most importantly, let students know within the first two weeks of classes what your expectations are if classes are cancelled due to an emergency.  And as always, TLT can assist you in choosing the right tools for keeping your class on track.