Viewing by month: January 2015

Jan 27 2015

A Couple of Gradebook Changes for the New Year

The Gradebook received a couple minor updates over the holidays. 

First, all feedback sent from the Gradebook now uses ? as the "From" email address rather than the email address of the person who clicked the "Send Feedback" button. This should cut down significantly on Gradebook feedback being marked as spam in student email accounts and makes the sending of feedback anonymous, which has been requested a number of times in the past. The person who clicked the "Send Feedback" button is still listed as the sender on the "Enter Grades" view of the Gradebook, but students will only get feedback from ?

Second, scores from a quiz or peer assessment linked to an activity in the Gradebook are now automatically pulled into the Gradebook when a student's answers for a quiz are fully graded or when a final grade is assigned for a peer assessment. Previously, you had to click on the linked activity in the Gradebook in order for final quiz or peer assessment grades to be pulled into the Gradebook. This sometimes caused confusion because faculty would see that everything was graded in the Quiz Generator, but the Gradebook would show zero grades having been entered because no one had gone into that activity in the Gradebook before. Now it all happens automatically. Please note that display preferences in the Gradebook still control the visibility of that score in the Gradebook, just as before.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 11:15 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Jan 20 2015

Schedule the Sending of Class-Wide Emails

The class email tool is a powerful and heavily used part of CoursePlus. Not only can you send messages to the entire class, or groups of students, or even individuals, you can also create draft messages for instructional team review or sending at a later time. Starting today, you can even schedule the sending of messages for the entire class.

Faculty and TAs frequently find themselves needing to compose a message for the entire class but not wanting to send it until some time in the future. Previously, a faculty member could create a draft of a message and then have a co-instructor or TA go into the CoursePlus site for their course and send the message at the appropriate date and time. Now when you create a draft message, you can specify the date and time on which the message should be sent. The message will be sent to everyone in the class at the selected date and time (or within 5 minutes of the selected date and time) with no additional action required. Please note that once you click "Send" on a scheduled email, that message cannot be edited or recalled.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:35 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Jan 16 2015

A New Way of Handling Large Course Drop Box Downloads

Downloading all the files in a Drop Box in courses with 200+ students or in courses where students upload large (200MB+) files has been problematic. You would click the "Download ZIP file" link and wait and wait and wait and wait, and sometimes you'd even eventually get an error message instead of a ZIP file. This is becuase it takes time to ZIP up large files or large numbers of files. Go ahead and try making a ZIP file of a 1.7GB folder on your computer. It takes about 7 minutes, which is much longer than a normal request should run on CoursePlus. The CoursePlus team has been looking at ways of working around this issue, and we've come up with a solution which unltimately benefits everyone.

If the total file size of all the files submitted to a Drop Box exceeds 300MB, you will get an email message when your ZIP file is ready. If the total file size of all the files submitted to a Drop Box is under 300MB, the ZIP file will start to download shortly after you click the "Download ZIP file" link in the Drop Box. By taking this route, we avoid the problem of requests for the ZIP file for large Drop Box downloads from timing out.

A side effect of this change is that the total time it takes to create ZIP files of all submissions to a Drop Box has been reduced. We're using a totally new system behind the scenes to create the ZIP files, and it's much faster overall than the old way in which ZIP files were created. Although you may have wait for an email to come in to actually get the ZIP file of all submissions to a Drop Box, the total time it takes to create that file will be shorter than if you sat and waited and waited and waited on the Drop Box page.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 9:08 AM - Categories: CoursePlus

Jan 14 2015

What Devices Students Are Using to Consume Course Lectures?

Lectures in online, blended and flipped courses at the School are delivered via Amazon’s CloudFront content delivery network. This allows the CTL team to push large video files closer to students no matter where they are in the world, rather than making them travel all the way around the world to servers in Baltimore to grab the files.

Until recently, Amazon really did not provide to its customers any metrics about who was accessing the files and what kind of devices they were using to do so. That changed recetly when Amazon released a set of reporting tools for CloudFront. The tools are limited, but they do provide some insight.

One of the reports available is a report on what kind of devices are being used when making requests to course lecture videos on CloudFront. The results from the second term are below:

Graph of devices used to request course lecture files in the second term, AY 2014-2015

It's striking to see that 22% of all requests for course lectures are coming from iOS devices. This validates the significant investment the School made in the past year to move all course lectures from a Flash Player-based format, which does not play back on mobile devices, to the MP4 format, which plays back on a wide range of mobile devices. It's little surprise that many students prefer the flexibility and freedom that consuming content on a mobile device provides.

It's also interesting to see that so few requests came from Android devices, despite the fact that more mobile devices are shipped around the world with Android than iOS devices. One explanation is that a majority of requests for course lectures come from the U.S., and iOS is more dominant than Android in the U.S. (that is absolutely not the case outside the U.S.). However, the School has a significant international student population, and one would expect that with Android's dominance outside of the U.S., we would see many more requests coming from Android devices.

The data also shows that, in spite of the emphasis on mobile technology in the last few years, the desktop/laptop environment still dominates. This may be the result of difficulty in taking notes while watching lectures on a mobile device (especially the single tasking environment of iOS), or it may be that most students are still simply more comfortable doing class work on their desktops and laptops.

Finally, it's surprising that 62% of all requests came from Mac OS devices. Imagine saying that just five years ago!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:38 AM - Categories: General

Jan 12 2015

Two Things to Help Prepare for Teaching During Inclement Weather

Are you looking for ideas to maintain the continuity of your classes during winter snowstorms? Here are a few things you can do to help stay prepared:

1.             Join us on Wednesday, January 14 from noon-1p.m. for the Teaching During Inclement Weather workshop. (RSVP link) In an eight-week term, losing a day or two to bad weather can be a big hindrance. Will you be prepared to continue your classes in the event of big snowstorms and school closures? In this session, we'll cover some of the major technologies and strategies you can use to help keep your classes going, including tools in-and-out of CoursePlus. Join us to explore how you can quickly create recordings, online discussions and host live remote class sessions. 

2.            Visit the Teach During Inclement Weather webpage to review information about the various ways you can record and create lecture presentations or hold live virtual class sessions. 

Stay warm!

0 comments - Posted by Clark Shah-Nelson at 2:30 PM - Categories: Teaching Tips | General | Course Tools | CoursePlus

Jan 6 2015

Go Ahead, Duplicate a Quiz

While you've had the option of copying quizzes from one section of a course to another for a few months now, you haven't been able to simply make multiple copies of a quiz in the same course. You'd have to re-create the quiz from scratch, which wasn't very fun.

The CoursePlus team recently introduced the ability to duplicate any quiz in a course as many times as you want. Some faculty have asked for the ability to do this to create start-of-class and end-of-class formative assessments for their students. Some faculty have wanted to set up a template quiz with all the settings just the way that they like and then make multiple copies of that template quiz for building each real quiz in the course. Some faculty have wanted to duplicate an exam and then move some of the questions around or swap questions in and out to make the second copy of the exam slightly different than the first. All of these tasks are now much easier with the duplicate quiz functionality in CoursePlus.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 9:55 AM - Categories: Course Tools

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