Going Online 2.0
This page has been prepared by ITS to support faculty who will be delivering online classes for the Spring & Summer 2020 semesters. If, after reviewing this resource, you still have questions or feel that any resources are missing, please open an Octopus ticket and our team will get back to you quickly.
Initially moving a class online is somewhat about minimizing the anxiety related to that move. One of the best ways this can be done is to find “online analogues” for the ways that you traditionally conduct your classes to minimize the amount of change required from your “normal”. This site is arranged with that in mind. See the list of activities below that you would normally do when delivering a class, and click on them to see suggestions and links to tutorials about how to closely replicate that in an online class.
Synchronous vs Asynchronous
Synchronous refers to class activities happening at the same time for all members of the class. Traditional face-to-face classes (the in-class portion) are synchronous as everyone attends at the same time.
Asynchronous refers to activities which are not required to happen at the same time. If you post slides on your class Moodle site, and students can go and read those slides at a time that is convenient for them, this would be an asynchronous activity. Similarly, the use of an online discussion forum is an asynchronous replacement for a traditional in-class discussion. You can post a subject in a forum and then allow your students to post reasoned responses to each other’s posts.
In class, if you would normally…
Synchronous online course delivery is done via a “web conferencing tool” like Bluejeans or Microsoft Teams. These tools allow both the students to see and hear you, and for you to see and hear the students. Bluejeans and Microsoft Teams are the two utilities that we have at Bishop’s, and these are virtually identical to “Zoom” which is another application that does the same thing. You can utilize these tools from either a computer or a tablet (indeed, even from a phone, although the experience is less than ideal) and you can also conduct a presentation of slides or even writing notes and annotating slides live during the presentation.
At Bishop’s we have the Ensemble Video server…essentially our own mini YouTube for faculty to host video content. Ensemble also has software which can facilitate the recording of your content and uploading it to the server automatically. This software is called Ensemble Anthem and all faculty can use it from virtually any device to record videos.
Videos recorded with Anthem can be of different types:
- video/audio of you speaking in to your camera on your computer or mobile device
- video of your computer screen with your voice overlaid as you, say, narrate through slides
- video of your computer screen with a camera view of you in the corner so your students can still get the expressive context of your delivery
While the normal use of this software would be to get a closeup view of yourself speaking to the camera on your computer, it will of course capture anything that your camera is pointing at. So, if you were more comfortable having a small whiteboard at home and delivering content by writing on that whiteboard, you would just have to point your camera at that while doing the recording. See here for a demo of traditional whiteboard recording using instead the Ensemble Video app installed on your iPhone or iPad.
If you’d like to show a video to your class – live – so that all of the students watch it at the same time, and so you can pause and discuss the video at various parts, the best option is to show it from your computer over a Bluejeans or Teams connection using “screen sharing” which is a part of the functionality of both of these programs.
While screen sharing generally works very well for sharing your desktop or presentation slides, sharing a live video in this fashion does require you to have a faster internet connection than in these other use cases. You should arrange to test this with ITS or a friend before relying on it for class.
If you have a video that you simply want to make available for your students to watch on their own time, you can either embed the video directly into your Moodle page, or post a link to the video on Moodle.
A “fancier” option would be to post the video and then have a quick quiz come up at the end to let you know who has actually watched the video and who hasn’t. This requires a little more setup time, but is possible with the systems we have at Bishop’s. See this tutorial on how to use Ensemble to host videos with video quizzes.
For question 1, there are a few options:
- Most videos are now available online in some fashion, so the first suggestion is to search YouTube to see if you can find what you’re looking for already online.
- If it can’t be found online, but you have a copy of it either as a file on your computer, you can upload it to our Ensemble server (kind of like our own campus YouTube) and then share it with your class. Click here to see how to upload a video to Ensemble and use it on Moodle.
- If you only have it in a format like a DVD, you can use software to turn it into a computer file, which you can then upload to Ensemble. We suggest that in this case, you contact ITS by placing an Octopus ticket and we will assist you with getting a digital copy of that file.
If the guest is going to be presenting content while they speak (either slides, or something else on their computer), it would be good to setup an additional Bluejeans session, before your actual class date, where you and the guest speaker can practice transitioning to different people speaking and different people sending content from their computer.
Bluejeans has a built-in whiteboard feature within the software and it can be used on any computer while in a Bluejeans call. If you also have an iPad with a stylus (or the Apple Pencil) you can have an even better experience either annotating over slides, or starting from a completely blank whiteboard and using it to comfortably teach math or other “board intensive” classes.
If you’re more comfortable standing in front of a traditional whiteboard, and you happen to have one at home, you can do that as well!
Using your iPhone running Ensemble Video as a recording device, you can stand in front of a real whiteboard and use it the way you normally would. When the recording is done, it will be automatically uploaded to Ensemble and then you can post it directly to Moodle from there.
See this tutorial for how to do that.
Bluejeans allows you to have a “virtual room” that students can call into simply by clicking on a link that you’ll provide — you can post it on Moodle and/or email it to your class. Multiple students will be able to call in at the same time and listen to you answering questions for others until it’s their turn. If you’re already comfortable with using Bluejeans for this purpose you can book your “room” with this link.
Microsoft Teams allows you to either host a virtual room (similar to Bluejeans) or allows you to do 1:1 video chats with your students.
For video tutorials on both of these options, see this page.
When using either Bluejeans or Teams to conduct synchronous online classes, you can setup the idea of “breakout rooms” where the students can do group work during class time in a way that allows you to jump from group to group to answer questions and listen in on what the students are working on.
This is a slightly more advanced feature than just the basic use of Bluejeans or Teams and so therefore you should practice with it before using it for a real class. Here is a page of tutorials about how to use these features of the two applications.
You can also create groups in Moodle for asynchronous activities such as forum discussions. This will allow you to divide your class into groups so that each group can work in their own forum without seeing the posts of the other groups. (That setting is optional as sometimes you might want the groups to be able to see the other group discussions.)
At the very least, using this Moodle option allows for discussion where only certain people can make posts which prevents accidental posting into incorrect threads of discussion.
You can also provide that link directly to your students so that they can connect to Teams themselves.
Certainly the most dynamic live discussion will happen when you can see and hear all of the participants in the conversation. Tools like Bluejeans and Microsoft Teams enable this as it is truly their core functionality. Both of these “web conferencing” applications allow for multiple video feeds to be used at the same time so that you can see and hear the person currently speaking, but also others who have spoken recently.
Even if you have a class of 50 people communicating on one of these tools, while you won’t see all 50 at the same time (one could ask how practical that would even be as they’d be very small), you will be able to see a selection (generally 9 or so) of the most recent speakers. And that view will change as people who have not spoken do so.
Alternatively, you could consider a text-based chat in either Moodle or Microsoft Teams. While not as lively and dynamic, a synchronous text-based chat (think of it as a multi-person chat like you may have on Facebook or WhatsApp or alternatives) can still result in a great discussion.
Assessing and Evaluating
- automatic marking of all questions except essay-type or other long answer
- question randomization for when you have multiple students taking the quiz at the same time
- even answer randomization in multiple choice questions
- automatic time limiting, and retry-limiting functions
- ability to put audio/video/pictures into both questions and answers
- much more!
This is an advanced feature of Moodle and you will find that setting up your first quiz takes some time, but once you have set one up (and more importantly, once you start to build up a bank of questions in the system) you will find that you can create additional quizzes in the same class or in future classes much more quickly. (You can maintain your question bank and your quizzes from one year to the next so you don’t need to recreate them for each class!)
ITS is also happy to assist you with developing Moodle quizzes (we can even assist you over Remote Desktop so we can follow along as you build the quiz). If you’re interested in this assistance, please use this link to place an Octopus ticket for support.
An additional feature available to all faculty is the ability to setup “video quizzes” — quizzes which play a video and interject questions at specific points during the playback of the video. This feature utilizes our campus video server, Ensemble Video, and Moodle together so that students can click on a video quiz in Moodle, have the quiz happen with Ensemble, and then pass the grade back into the Moodle gradebook automatically.
Use of Moodle allows for a uniformity in the approach that students will become familiar with for submitting assignments, instead of the uncertainty which could come from different faculty members using different methods to receive assignment submissions. But more than that, it makes life much easier for you! Moodle can make the process of reviewing assignments, marking, and provide feedback much more streamlined than if you were to have each of your students email you their assignments.
The 1% case where Moodle may not be a possible solution is if you are asking students to prepare a large video presentation…perhaps them speaking into a camera for 30 minutes or more. The file that will be generated in this case will be large enough that Moodle will not accept it.
In that case, we recommend the use of WeTransfer, which is a service that allows people to (for free) email files up to 2GB (gigabytes) in size to each other.
See this page for how students can use WeTransfer to send you files. You can send the link to this page directly to your students.
The simplest version of this process depends on setting up the assignment submission to only allow PDF files to be submitted by the students. In most classes (ie. when assignments are not video and/or audio) this should not pose a problem.
Synchronous oral presentations in the context of online classes are really no different than using Bluejeans to conduct class and instead of you being the active person speaking, the student(s) will instead. If more than one student is presenting at the same time, each of them can un-mute their microphones so they can each speak.
If there is an accompanying presentation, one student will share their screen in the Bluejeans call and they will be the ones responsible for switching from slide to slide.
Asynchronous oral presentations could happen in a couple of different ways. The easiest may be that you simply setup individual Bluejeans sessions for each of your students to do a 1:1 Bluejeans with you…where you and they can talk and they can deliver their presentation in front of you and you alone.
Alternatively, you could consider giving the students a “video assignment” where they record and send you a video by themselves. We are all carrying high-quality video cameras with ourselves everywhere we go!
Although most students will already know how to record videos with their phones and for the purpose of the assignment, a basic recording like that may perfectly suffice, but we have also put together a page of tutorial videos that you can provide for your students which will help them increase the “technical quality” of the videos…better sound, lighting and framing. See this page of tutorials here.
The best option for requiring students to work on specific software at home is to base your requirements on software which is freely available and is a close analogue to the software you’d normally use.
For example, SPSS does not allow remote access for students (at least with our current license). But, there are several alternatives out there that are free and are intended to work in a very similar fashion. The most common is called PSPP which is designed to look and operate almost exactly like SPSS, and can open and save SPSS files. Alternatively, some departments on campus are already moving to another statistics tool called Jamovi.
If you have a specific software need and are not aware of a free solution for it, please submit a ticket for ITS and we’ll assist you with finding a solution. (In some cases we may be able to work with vendors to get free or low-cost trials for some of the software you are already using.)