This lesson was designed as a part of the MiddCORE summer 2020 and winter 2021 online cohorts. The program has always involved extensive collaborative group work, however doing this work completely online and across multiple time zones posed a new challenge. As many educators have pointed out, it is essential to provide some scaffolding and support when beginning any group-work. Too often we assume that people know how to collaborate and what we expect of them in our group work challenges. These assumptions become even more problematic when we are not physically in the same space to hear and see challenges that might be presenting themselves as groups collaborate in real time. The lesson below was designed to help support this process and give students a window into the process of “teaming online”.
The Set Up
We began this work with a reflective task that asked students to consider the way in which they prefer to work, strengths that they will bring to the group, and other information that team members should know about them.
In Class (live) Activity
MiddCORE is still largely built on students meeting synchronously via Zoom, so the team invited me to work with the group on learning how to “team online”. Prior to the session all students were asked to complete the reflective task and bring it with them to the session.
At the beginning of the session I introduced myself and explained my experience with working as a part of a remote team and the impact of the pandemic on our work processes. I worked to frame the discussion as not just occurring because of the pandemic, but that the impacts were definitely amplified because of our current situation. One of my goals was to make the connection that in a globalized society, it will only become more and more common for remote teams to need to learn how to work together effectively and efficiently.
Next I explained several “learnings” that I had accumulated over my time working as a part of a remote team. These considerations/topics included:
(You can click on each item to view a brief video overview of the topic.)
Some of these points directly connect to the reflective task students were asked to complete, so before breaking into groups I referred to these connections and the importance of recognizing and owning your own needs, strengths, quirks, etc. when attempting to work as a part of a team. (See point #2 in this article – “Create an equitable distribution of labor and assure students that you, not they, are responsible for this aspect of the collaboration”)
I then explained that students were going to work together in their teams to establish a team agreement that would guide their work. In order to establish a successful team agreement students needed to ensure that all voices were heard in their meeting and I encouraged them to share info from their reflections to determine the best way for them to work together based on all of their individual needs and preferences.
Before breaking into break out rooms I paused to ask for any questions, and then explained the time limit for the break out rooms, the expectation for what would be completed during that time, and how could they ask for help if they needed it.
The Wrap Up
With 5 – 10 minutes left of class, all students returned to the main room so that we could recap how things went. We discussed general questions and whether any group felt stuck or significantly challenged in setting up their team agreement. Students were reminded they could also touch base with the faculty member or program managers if they felt like they needed additional assistance with their group. It’s important for students to know that there is help if things are really not going well in their group.
Learn more – here are some articles and resources that inspired the structure of this lesson:
Announcements may be just one component of the communication plan that you devise for your course. (Virtual office hours might be a part of this plan too!) Like all of the pieces of your course it’s important to be transparent and intentional in your use and explanation of these plans to ensure that students follow the unique guidance and expectations that you have for your course and your virtual course space.
A popular request from faculty has been how do I set up a way for students to:
Create recorded presentations
Share them with their classmates
This post will explain how to do this using Panopto and Canvas. However it is important to note that you can allow flexibility for how your students record their presentations based on what they are most familiar with. It is good to have a method for them to use (along with documentation & help) in case they don’t know where to start – but you don’t necessarily have to require them to do their recording this way if they have an idea that would work better for them.
Step 1: Create a Panopto Project Folder for Students to Share their Work
This step will create a location where students are able to upload and share videos with their class. If you have not already created a Panopto resource for your course through the course hub, you should complete that step first. As a refresher, below is a video to demonstrate how to do this.
Step 1A Create a class folder in Panopto
Step 1B Create a Sub folder within the class folder that gives students access to create items in that folder
Communicate to students, either through your course site, or another communication method information about the assignment along with instructions for how students can upload their recordings to your course Panopto – Share folder. We’ve included a video tutorial below to demonstrate this.
Step 2: One option for how students can record their presentations – Panopto
Once the students are familiar with your assignment & its guidelines give them the option to create the recording in any way that they feel most familiar. This will serve to give your students agency to use knowledge that they are already have, and only learn a new workflow if they do not know how to complete the assignment.
Be sure students understand that they all will need to try to share videos using the method described above.
For those who are not sure how to proceed, offer the following steps as a college-supported method that is available for all students for recording virtual presentations.
2A. Download & Install Panopto
Students also have access to download and use the Panopto video recorder. To do this they should:
Open a web browser
Navigate to https://go.middlebury.edu/panopto
Log in with their Middlebury credentials
Select to “Download Panopto”. This option will display in the upper left hand corner of your screen.
Follow the prompts to download and install the application on your computer.
2B. Open and Record in Panopto
Once the application is downloaded students should open the Panopto application on their computer.
Then open the presentation or display window that they plan to record and situate it on the screen to suit their needs. (For example, if they plan to move between different tabs in a browser, pre-load the tabs with the content they plan to use, if they plan to walk through a slide presentation open the file in present mode.
Open the Panopto application and select either their web cam or none in the primary window. In the Secondary window option select the screen they wish to display.
The default location for their recording will be in their My Folder location in Panopto. Ask students to select the project folder that you created and shared in step 1b above.
Below is a video tutorial demo of this process.
Step 3: Upload your Audio/Video File to Panopto (Only needed if recording was not done in Panopto)
Note: Students will only need to complete this step if they did NOT use Panopto to create their recording.
In this step students would need to have their audio or video file saved on their computer. To move it quickly from a mobile device to their computer they may choose to email it to themselves if the file is not too large. (This is another reason to keep recordings short – moving them around gets more difficult the larger they are. )
As a first step students should open a web browser and navigate to https://go.middlebury.edu/panopto and log in with their Middlebury credentials.
Click on the button at the top of the screen labeled “Create”.
Select Upload Media.
A dialog box will open that allows students to select the folder they wish to save the file into (identified by their faculty member) and a selector box where they may drag and drop or select the file they wish to upload.
Depending on the size of the file and the internet connection it could take some time to upload. Be sure to remain connected to the internet during this step. If your internet connection is unstable be sure to share this information with your faculty member so they are aware and can make adjustments as necessary.
Step 4: Sharing a Panopto Recording in Canvas (for Students)
This step will go over how students can embed a Panopto video into a Canvas Assignment or Discussion forum. Both of these items allow students to write in the Rich Text Editor window. For assignments, faculty should just be sure to request the “Text Entry” option to give students that editing functionality. The video tutorial below demonstrates what this would look like from a student perspective. (Updated 12/13/20 with new RCE editor functionality.)
“One reason we roll our eyes when people start talking about values is that everyone talks a big values game but very few people actually practice one. It can be infuriating, and it’s not just individuals who fall short of the talk. In our experience, only about 10 percent of organizations have operationalized their values into teachable and observable behaviors that are used to train their employees and hold people accountable.
If you’re not going to take the time to translate values from ideals to behaviors—if you’re not going to teach people the skills they need to show up in a way that’s aligned with those values and then create a culture in which you hold one another accountable for staying aligned with the values—it’s better not to profess any values at all. They become a joke. A cat poster. Total BS.”
Brene Brown, Dare to Lead
This is my attempt to operationalize the Office of Digital Learning and Inquiry’s goal to advance digital fluency and critical engagement at Middlebury. I’m going to try to walk the walk by looking at a common scenario and dissecting it in relation to a specific tool that has gained in popularity in education circles. As you’ll see, being critical of tools also means making conversations more complicated. It means examining our assumptions and calling out problems even with the shiny-est of new objects. I’ll attempt to identify pros and cons as well as concerns regarding student privacy, agency, and access. It won’t be a short post – but it will be a full one — so let’s get started.
The tool – FlipGrid
The tool I decided to start with is FlipGrid. I chose it because I found out numerous faculty had already started to use the tool in coordination with Canvas. Since that time the Office of Digital Learning has implemented a whitelisting process whereby Canvas integrations are evaluated for privacy and security concerns.
After examining some documentation I found that FlipGrid is intentionally designed to be integrated at a course level.
“***Please note, Flipgrid does not support a system-wide integration or admin-level setup. Instead, teachers must individually do this for each course they want to use Flipgrid with.”
A perceived pro for this is that it allows for faculty flexibility, however after digging into the FlipGrid and the power that a grid owner has – you can see that within an academic context it is very easy for this “feature” to result in former students having orphaned video work stored on a server that is impossible to remove. (More on that later.) It also loads the majority of responsibility for privacy concerns on the grid owner.
Let’s start with the documents that teachers need to confirm they have read before creating an account. They consist of:
First – a pro – these docs are all available and fore-fronted for teachers to review. A con – they took me well over an hour to wade through in their entirety. In addition, in the Parental Consent Form there is no opt out option listed. This design highlights the power of defaults. The appearance of only one option is a bit of a power move that does not favor student or parent agency.
“The power of defaults to guide people’s choices has made them an extremely popular way for policymakers and marketers alike to nudge people toward a particular decision. But it has also raised questions about how to ensure that defaults are used ethically and responsibly.”
Ruth Pogacar and Mary Steffel and Elanor Williams, Fast Company, 4/9/2017
How to fix this → write your own Parental Consent Form and include AND DISCUSS an opt-out option.
In the terms of service in section 2.1 the option to share grids outside of the school population is mentioned, however only later in the section is it stated that:
“If Grid Owners invite unaffiliated guests (e.g., featured speakers) to participate on their Grids, they are solely responsible for (a) obtaining parental consent for sharing Student information with any guests; and (b) obtaining clearance to use the guests’ content. Flipgrid has no responsibility for Grid Owner guest activity.“
See Also: FERPA Anyone who enters your class and is not a registered student or faculty member should be aware of their responsibilities as a guest in an academic space. And as the person responsible for upholding FERPA and protecting the classroom space, you must be willing to be fully responsible for their actions. In the Do’s and Don’t’s document provided by FlipGrid this behavior is listed as a don’t:
“Don’t share student information outside the classroom or the school community.”
How to fix this → read up on your FERPA related responsibilities. Have questions? Check in with the Registrar’s office to clarify what is ok and not ok to do.
The Scary Language You Need to Pay Attention To
Some quotes from the ToS that raised concerns for me:
“grant us a nonexclusive license to view, download, reproduce, modify, create derivative works of, distribute, and display any information provided by or collected from a Student solely for the purposes discussed in these Terms.
“Flipgrid does not guarantee any confidentiality with respect to your User Content.”
How to fix this → my take → in some ways not fixable — As a user of tech (and a parent), this is where I stopped and ruled this tool out as a viable option. Part of my determination was that video is a potentially more problematic medium than writing because it is usually less planned and more spur of the moment. This means that there is a higher chance that a student could potentially record something that they did not think out fully or that – in retrospect – they regret or feel silly about posting. It’s one thing when that happens within the four actual walls of a classroom. It’s something completely different when it’s one screen capture away from Snapchat infamy.
The only suggestion I have is to make use of this tool optional and focused solely on team building within the group for no stakes community building interactions. Make students aware of how the tool works and the policies governing its use BEFORE they use it.
Student Agency – Deletion & Tracking
In the Privacy Section the major issues returned to the concept of student agency. If we are fully in support of championing student agency over their work and likeness then they should be learning in systems in which they have control over deletion of their content. FlipGrid puts this power firmly in the Grid Owners hands. For example:
“1.2 Depending on the Grid Owner’s privacy settings for the Grid, other Users may view and share Student content.“
“Info collected from users: device type, the device identifier (UDID), the Open Device Identification Number (ODIN), date/time stamps for each visit, browser type, operating system, Internet Protocol (IP) address, Internet service provider (ISP), referring/exit pages, clickstream data, and domain name are all collected for purposes of administering, tracking usage of, and improving the Service. We may store this information in log files.“
“Cookies & Web Beacons: The Service may include web beacons and cookies from third-party service providers.“
“Companies that deliver content, such as videos a Grid Owner links to or embed, place cookies on their own. These companies use the data they process in accordance with their privacy policies, which may enable these companies to collect and combine information about your activities across websites, apps, or online services.”
A positive in this section is that FlipGrid notifies users that they have the ability to block some of these technologies…
“Each User has a variety of tools to control cookies, web beacons, and similar technologies, including browser controls to block and delete cookies and controls from some third-party analytics service providers to opt out of data collection through web beacons and similar technologies.”
However, they also let you know it might mess with your ability to use FlipGrid:
“User browser settings and other choices may impact the functionality of the Service. “
Another negative against student agency becomes apparent when we dig into a student’s ability to delete their own content. (This is the orphaned content I mentioned way back in the introduction.) They can’t. They are reliant on the Grid Owner to do this or must contact FlipGrid directly:
“Users can contact us at support@Flipgrid.com and request that such videos be removed. However, we will only be able to remove the video if (a) the User provided their email address when posting the video and (b) the User sends the email request to us using that same email address. Otherwise, we may not be able to remove a posted video. Deletion of a video removes it from the Grid. “
Unfortunately, once a student graduates or a teacher leaves a school they typically lose access to the email account that would be associated with this video and consequently – would lose all control over removing the video.
How to fix this → Delete your FlipGrids and all associated videos at the end of the semester. Also – be aware that you are being tracked and make sure that students understand this. Let them ask questions and interrogate the classes’ use of the tool. Allow them to opt out if they choose to.
Flipgrid also tells the user that they do not respond to “do not track signals”:
12.2 How We Respond to Do Not Track Signals
“We do not currently respond to “do not track” signals or other mechanisms that might enable consumers to opt out of tracking on our website.”
So What? Who Cares?
Well – actually – I’m kind of hoping YOU do! We are too quickly trading away power over our own data and choices for ease of use and that’s a BIG problem. It becomes an even bigger problem when we act as agents of an educational institution and make decisions for our students without fully examining the future consequences of our decisions. Finally – whenever we choose an option that makes it difficult (or potentially impossible) for students to access and control their data or for future college employees to help do this after we or the students leave, we have taken away our students’ ability to control their digital life and traded understanding and respect for digital fluency in for ease of use.
Let’s not shy away from these complicated conversations. We all need to be more transparent and honest about how things work and how they can potentially impact everyone. We don’t have to rule out a tool – but we should not require it either. Students deserve options and we shouldn’t hide behind the power of defaults to obscure the fact that they have the right to make those decisions for themselves.
Do you have a tool that you are interested in using with your class but would like some feedback from DLINQ? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also check out these other resources for additional critical examinations of tech tools:
I’m not sure where I first heard about this text, but the paradigm’s focus on disciplinary bottlenecks intrigued me and seemed reflective of a great deal of interest at Middlebury in connection to helping students to think like a …. scientist, historian, educator, economist, etc. The decoding paradigm relies on three assumptions:
Learning is focused on disciplinary processes
We must concentrate on what students need to be able to do
Experts are not always able to identify the basic necessary tasks in a disciplinary field because those processes have become automatic to them
The decoding process is broken up into seven steps:
“Identify a bottleneck
Define the mental operations needed to get past the bottleneck
Model these tasks explicitly
Give students practice and feedback
Motivate the students and deal with potential emotional blocks
Assess how well students are mastering the mental operations
Share what you have learned about your students’ learning”
(Pace, D., 2017, p. 6)
A lot of what is covered in this texts reflects what we already know to be effective practices to improve student learning, however I found the chapters on identifying bottlenecks and dealing with students’ emotional blocks to provide some of the most transformative material.
Bottlenecks are those process areas where professors can predict that a majority of their students’ will get stuck. Pace makes the argument that:
“The mistakes that students make in our courses become gifts that can serve to increase our understanding of how to better teach our disciplines and even illuminate the deeper nature of those disciplines”
(Pace, D., 2017, p. 26).
A key to identifying bottlenecks is focusing on what students need to be able to do, or the mental operations that a student must perform to complete a task within the discipline. These bottlenecks can be difficult for experts to identify, and Pace suggests decoding interviews to help hone in on the core of the difficulty that students are experiencing. The interview can begin with asking professors how they would get past the bottleneck that stumps their students. The interviewer will focus on breaking down the answer into a specific set of steps by asking follow up questions.
Pace notes that bottleneck patterns that have emerged in multiple fields include:
Moving back and forth from models to concrete situations
Integration of details
Issues of scale
Procedures for knowledge generation”
(Pace, D., 2017, p. 24 – 25).
This chapter seemed particularly relevant given our current polarized political climate. It offered a great deal of guidance and suggestions to help professors be proactive in their management of student emotions to ensure that students are familiar with a process for objective engagement with content before they engage with information that may evoke an emotional and personal reaction.
“…what students learn in a college classroom may disrupt the once harmonious flow of opinions around the family dinner table. In some cases what they are studying may even be perceived as a betrayal of the family and the culture within which they have been raised”
(Pace, D., 2017, p. 84 – 85)
In addition, students’ preconceived notions of how they believe a college classroom will function, and the ways in which they will need to study to be successful may come in direct conflict with the disciplinary ways of thinking that students need to acquire. Here again, a proactive approach to teaching students methods and practices that will benefit them in your class is a good way to head off or, at least dampen this reaction before it can occur. A great way to do this is by asking students to share with future students what they need to do to be successful in the class and including this content as a part of your syllabus for subsequent cohorts. Pace also emphasizes that professors should not dismiss either of these types of misconceptions. Instead, professors should help students to see these prior understandings as building blocks to new levels of learning.
Perhaps you have noticed the little mail icon labeled Inbox on the blue menu bar on the left hand bar of your screen and though “just what I need – ANOTHER inbox”. This brief post will outline a few ways in which this option (called Conversations in Canvas-speak) might offer you some benefits.
To begin, here’s a video introduction of how Conversations work in Canvas.
Benefits of using the Canvas Inbox:
All course related messages are grouped together (not intermingled with other emails)
You can filter your messages by course to view conversations only related to that course
Students (and faculty) can still set their notifications to receive email messages when they receive messages in their Canvas inbox if they find that helpful
Things to consider:
Using right click (or option+click) functionality you can open the Canvas mailbox in another tab to keep this feature handy while you are doing other work in Canvas
Once a course has concluded the messaging function in Canvas can no longer be used for that course.
This article highlights a tension that can exist between the convenience of digital vs. in-person communications. In the article “Office Hours are Kind of Weird…” the authors directly address this complexity:
“To implement office hours in a more connected world, we suggest that the emphasis should be put on enhancing student-faculty interactions regardless of means, either in-person consultation or brief communications via digital tools. How to maintain quality student-faculty interaction in this increasingly connected world is a challenge facing faculty and institutions.”
So if you’ve decided to encourage the use of your office hours you also need to make it easy for students to find a time to meet with you when you are not already meeting with someone else. Below we’ve outlined instructions for two different options that utilize Middlebury systems. You can also set up a consultation with a member of the Office of Digital Learning and Inquiry if you would like to discuss these options in more depth. Also – keep in mind that these meetings could happen virtually via Zoom which can be particularly helpful if a student is away from campus due to travel, illness, emergencies, etc.
Setting up Office Hours using the scheduler in Canvas
You can set up your office hours using the scheduler in Canvas which will allow students to sign up through the Canvas calendar interface. Important tips to keep in mind are that you will need to enter all of your office hours for the semester at once, or add new ones week by week. You can not generate hours via a pattern. However, if your hours are regularly scheduled on a weekly basis this is not a time consuming process.
Below is a video about the calendar in Canvas. Fast forward to 3:00 to see the specific information about the scheduler.
Ask students to request meetings with you during your scheduled office hours using Outlook.
You can also use Outlook either via the application or the web interface (go/mail) to have your students initiate scheduling a meeting during your office hours via the calendar interface. The best way to facilitate this would be to notify your students of your office hours and explain that they should use the instructions linked below to request an appointment with you. An added benefit of this process is that you can respond to requests on an appointment by appointment basis so if your schedule has changed unexpectedly you can adjust and suggest alternate times. Here’s a guide for how to use the Outlook Web App.
Small Teaching Online is a 225 page book written as a follow up to Small Teaching to address ways in which the small teaching approach can be adapted in the online medium. Both books address small practical changes that you can make to your teaching that will positively impact student learning. Although this resource appears to be directed strictly to an audience of faculty teaching solely online, it offers tips that would be beneficial to any faculty member who finds themselves building some of their course content into an online space.
Small Teaching Online is broken up into three parts: Designing for Learning, Teaching Humans, and Motivating Online Students (and Instructors). The chapter-by-chapter breakdown is:
Part I: Designing for Learning
Surfacing Backward Design
Guiding Learning Through Engagement
Using Media and Technology Tools
Part II: Teaching Humans
Fostering Student Persistence and Success
Part III: Motivating Online Students (and Instructors)
Developing as an Online Instructor
It has always been my contention that online learning forces a lot of pedagogical considerations that should occur in all learning environments, but become much more apparent when teaching in an online space because you are establishing all new norms. The authors make this point in the introduction when they contrast the experience of entering an in person classroom vs. an online space. In one experience students walk through a door – in another they need to navigate several login protocols and guidelines to gain access to a course space and then
“Once online students finally get into their class, it is frequently unclear what they should do first.” (p. xvii)
Using the example as a guideline we can see that a course needs to be re-thought when it is taught online. Some of the biggest takeaways I found were:
Design and align your course content – Teaching online is a great opportunity to consider what you are teaching, how students will use that knowledge, and how you will know that they are successful. This can start with your assessments & assignments. Look at what you’ve typically required and then break it down from there. What is the purpose of the assignment? What are students demonstrating through that work and what type of thinking have they had to use to generate it? Does it address your course objectives? Is it meaningful to students? If not – how can you re-work that piece?
Pay attention to the clues your students are giving you. Recognize that as an expert in your field you may make assumptions that trip up novices a bit. Do you notice that a large portion of your class missed what you thought was a fairly obvious conclusion? You need to figure that out! Sometimes breaking the assignment down into chunks can help to move students through a complex thought process (and provide you with the means to address a mis-conception at the exact point it occurs rather than after a whole thought process has been built on that mistake). Use discussion forums to monitor for confusion. Are you noticing patterns? Jump in and ask questions, provide resources and suggestions when you think they might be helpful in redirection students.
Connection matters. It shouldn’t be surprising that I had the same takeaway for Small Teaching. This is the core of education – connection. However, connecting in an online space is unique. What you might be able to do through eye contact or a quick conversation on the way to class, needs to happen in a different way in an online class. Regardless of medium students need to feel seen and heard. They want to know you care. Helping students to build their own personal learning networks is a method where you will not only get to know the students interests, but also help them to develop a network that can further support them in the learning after they have left your classroom. It also establishes the power and value of connection in all areas of our lives.
Small Teaching is a 246 page book written to address small moves that faculty in Higher Education settings can make to address teaching challenges and improve student learning in the process. This book is for you if you are looking for small practical adjustments you can make to your teaching to address learning challenges.
Small Teaching is broken up into three major parts to address: knowledge, understanding, and inspiration. The chapter by chapter breakdown is:
Part I: Knowledge
Part II: Understanding
Part III: Inspiration
Practice, practice, practice – make sure your assignments and formative assessments are practice sessions that mimic the way in which you will summatively assess your students. In other words – don’t assign papers all semester and then assess a student’s knowledge based on a multiple choice exam. Give students the opportunity to practice the cognitive activity that you have chosen to summatively assess their knowledge so that the assessment method does not impact your students’ ability to show you what they understand.
Focus on growth – use reflective metacognitive exercises to help students recognize and analyze the ways in which their knowledge and understanding has grown over the course of time. This practice not only positively impacts learning gains – it also reinforces a growth mindset.
Connection matters – the way in which you connect and interact with your students will impact their motivation. Sometimes you will not recognize the impact that a few moments of personalized attention will have on a student, but you can bet on the fact that this time is never wasted. In my experience this motivation is dual purpose; it positively impacts both teachers and students.
“Whatever we do, we have to remember that the brains in our classrooms do more than think; they feel, and those feelings can play a valuable role in our efforts to motivate and inspire student learning” (p. 193).
As the semester start date approaches we get more questions about grading and how different grading schemes can be configured in Canvas. Members of the Office of Digital Learning and Inquiry are always happy to schedule consultations to discuss this in more depth, however Canvas also provides several resources that faculty can review at their convenience as well. To get an overview of the gradebook in text form you can visit the article “What are Grades and the Gradebook”. In addition, Canvas has a great gradebook overview video that I’ve embedded below. Please note that although the title says that it is outdated – this functionality will be live until 2020. To view what options will be available in the new gradebook in 2020 please view the video at the bottom of this page.