Nov 5 2019

Web Accessibility Improvements to CoursePlus

Making the web accessible to everyone is not only a public health issue, it's simply the right thing to do. The Center for Teaching and Learning has long pushed to make the content offered in online courses (and CoursePlus in general) accessible. From a core, accessible PowerPoint template used for all lectures to interactive captions on every online lecture, accessibility is an important part of the work that CTL performs every day.

The CoursePlus web application has long had basic accessibility features built in to make it easier for screen readers and other assistive technology to work with the site. Technology and accessibility standards keep changing, however, and CoursePlus needs to keep up with those changes.

You may have noticed a recent change to the color of links and some other items on the CoursePlus main pages. These changes were made to make the site more accessible to people with vision issues, and to meet more modern accessibility standards. Additionally, a lot of behind the scenes work was done to make pages — particularly those outside of an individual class — more accessible to those who navigate solely by keyboard.

There's always improvements to be made, and the CoursePlus team continues to work on improving navigability and accessibility throughout CoursePlus. While you may not see changes as obvious as link colors changing in the future, rest assured that the CoursePlus team continues to refine how the site works to make it a better experience for anyone using assistive technology.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 7:40 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Oct 8 2019

Highlights of What's New in CoursePlus for the First Term

CoursePlus is always changing. Faculty, staff, and students alike request that new features be added or altered. The team that builds CoursePlus doesn't stop this work, even in the summer. Here are some important changes to CoursePlus from the past few months that you may have missed due to end of academic year busyness or summer break:

A lot more happened to CoursePlus in the last few months, but these are the highlights. There is a full, detailed list of changes to CoursePlus broken down by month available for you to view at any time. You can also follow the @courseplus Twitter account for changes as they happen.

If you have questions about any of these changes, please contact CTL Help. They're always happy to answer your questions.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 11:07 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Aug 21 2019

Peer Assessment Updates for the Start of First Term

The CoursePlus team is constantly fielding feedback from faculty, staff, and students. Peer assessments are complex activities in any course, and each course runs their peer assessments a little differently from any other course. Building a single tool that accommodates the ways in which everyone runs their peer assessments requires the CoursePlus team to continually refine the Peer Assessment tool.

To that end, a number of changes were made to the Peer Assessment user interface to make it easier to discover and use the many options in the tool, including:

  • It's much more obvious where faculty enter their own feedback on a student assessment.
  • Instructions on sending results are now displayed when there are results to send.
  • Details about “What to show when students are emailed their results” have been expanded and clarified.
  • The controls on the main page of the Peer Assessment tool have been reorganized to group similar functions together.
  • Checkboxes on the report page have been moved and organized to make their purpose clearer.
  • The "n/n" counter column on the main report page has been removed to reduce visual clutter.

The "Assessment Summary" report — the report that shows the collected responses from other students about a single student in the class — has received a lot of attention as well. The following changes have been made to that report:

  • The report looks more like a plain-text report, and less like an interactive form. The primary text font on the report has been made slightly smaller and uses an easier-to-read font.
  • You no longer have to scroll through individual cells in the rubric to read long-form text in that cell. 
  • You no longer have to scroll through long-form student comments on a criteria in a rubric.
  • A link has been added to the end of the report to jump back to the top of the report.
  • An "Add faculty feedback" button now appears at the top of the report which, when clicked, immediately jumps you to the part of the report where you can enter your own feedback for the student.
  • All all scores now consistently show to 2 decimal places.

Additionally, a new report has been added that shows who each student assessed — the "Who Assessed Who" report. This report makes it easy to quickly see the other students to which student was assigned.

We hope that all of these changes make it easier for you to use the Peer Assessment tool in your courses. If you have any questions about these changes, or have additional feedback about the Peer Assessment tool, please contact CTL Help!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 10:53 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Aug 7 2019

Send Both Individual Student and Class-Wide Feedback from the Gradebook

The Gradebook has long been the tool from which faculty send not just grades, but also feedback, to students. Feedback could be a text-based message, or a file that has been marked up with comments and review. Customised feedback could be created on a per-student basis, or a single message or file could be sent to the entire class. This was, however, an either-or proposition: you could either send feedback on a per-student basis or you could send a single message or file to the entire class.

Thanks to the hard work of the CoursePlus team, this binary choice no longer exists! You can now send both individual student feedback and class-wide feedback for a single Gradebook activity. If you want to provide customized feedback for each student but also send a message and a sample file which highlighted best practices on the activity to all students in the class, you can.

For each student in each activity in the Gradebook, indicators for both individual and class-wide feedback are displayed:

Screenshot of new individual and class-wide feedback

Note that you will only see class-wide feedback displayed next to each student name if you have created either a class-wide text message or uploaded a file to send to everyone in the class.

The icons for individual and class-wide feedback have also been adjusted. You'll now see a paper plane icon for feedback that needs to be sent, a green checkmark for feedback that has been sent, and a gray dash where no feedback exists for that student.

If you decide that you don't want to send class-wide feedback to students after all, clicking the trash can icon next to the class-wide feedback for one student will delete that class-wide feedback for all students with one click.

We hope that this change provides even greater flexibility for faculty and TAs in giving feedback to students in their classes. If you have any questions about this change, please contact CTL Help — they're always happy to answer your questions.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 9:28 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Jul 25 2019

End of Access to Pre-AY19 LiveTalks in CoursePlus

As the School (and University) has moved from Adobe Connect to Zoom for live, synchronous class sessions, we are fast approaching the time when access to old LiveTalk information in Adobe Connect will no longer be available.

The School's Adobe Connect server will be retired on September 1, 2019. For students and faculty alike, LiveTalk recordings from classes in AY18-19 and prior will no longer be available starting September 1, 2019. 

For faculty, this also means that some LiveTalk reporting data from courses in AY18-19 and earlier will no longer be available in CoursePlus after September 1, 2019. While you will still be able to view the LiveTalk attendance reports and see if a student attended a LiveTalk, you will no longer be able to see how long a student spent in a LiveTalk session in AY18-19 and earlier on September 1, 2019. If this data is critical to you, you should download the report data prior to September 1, 2019.

Please note that CTL will not be able to access any LiveTalk recordings or time spent in LiveTalk data for you after September 1, 2019. We realize that this will be an inconvenience for some, but our Adobe Connect infrastructure must be retired due to licensing and security considerations.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 1:51 PM - Categories: CoursePlus

Jul 9 2019

More Accurate Reporting of Abandoned Quiz Attempts

The Quiz Generator tool in CoursePlus has long helped faculty track situations where a student started taking a quiz or exam, but never finished the work by submitting their answers. In Quiz Generator parlance, this is known as an "Abandoned Attempt."

The CoursePlus team recently refined the way in which an Abandoned Attempt is detected to provide more accurate information in situations when a faculty or TA gives a student who previously had an abandoned attempt more time or more attempts on a quiz. Prior to this change, a faculty or TA could give a student special permission (via the Special Permission tool) to access a single-access exam a second time, or convert their submitted answers back in to an active quiz/exam, and the student would still be listed as haivng an "Abandoned Attempt" until the student actually went back into the quiz/exam to continue work.

The code for this feature now takes in to account if the student was recently given special permission to re-access a quiz, if the student has worked on the quiz in the last hour, or had their answers cleared for a retake after the quiz deadline. If any of these conditions are true, then the student is no longer listed as having an Abandoned Attempt, but instead is listed as "In Progress" for their work.

Hopefully this change will reduce confusion when faculty and TAs work together to administer a quiz or exam. If you have any questions about this change, please contact CTL Help!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 9:13 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Jun 27 2019

PathFinder Gets a User Interface Overhaul

PathFinder is a tool that allows students to engage in choice-based simulations. It's like a Choose Your Own Adventure tool within CoursePlus. PathFinder has existed for over a decade in CoursePlus, but only a handful of courses used the tool. It's not simple to make a choice-based simulation, as it takes time to plan all of the content. The original PathFinder user interface also did not make it simple to put together a simulation, nor see how all of the possible choices intersected and worked together.

The PathFinder user interface has undergone a huge renovation, making it dead-simple to map out your content and see how one choice leads to the next. The tool now includes a drag-and-drop interface for building your choice-based simulations:

Screenshot of the new PathFinder editing UI

Exits from one choice point to another are now displayed in an easy-to-parse flowchart, and you can add exits and ending points with ease from within the dynamic, new user interface. This vastly streamlines the effort of putting together a PathFinder simulation.

The student view of PathFinder has also been refreshed with a card-based interface that makes it easy for students to see the choices they've made thus far:

Screenshot of new card-based student view of PathFinder simulations‚Äč

PathFinder is a powerful tool that can add significant learning value to your course. The instructional design team in the Center for Teaching and Learning is happy to help you figure out how to best use the tool in your class, and CTL Help will glady answer any questions you might have about using the tool.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 10:37 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

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