“Tips you Desire” at UWRF

In late September, we started a weekly “Tips you Desire” initiative. We had been discussing how to communicate short and quick information on how to best utilize the tools in D2L to our faculty. Many times we would be asked the same questions from different faculty regarding these tools.  So, we developed the “Tips you Desire” weekly email so we could address these questions and offer new uses of tools to those who may not have previously used the tools.

“Tips you Desire” is sent out each week on Thursdays.  Why Thursdays?  Seemed like a good day after the beginning of the week and before the weekend so that folks could try utilizing the ideas in the tips. What is important here is that we set a point of consistency.  Before we started, we brainstormed and created a list of categories and topics that we can use to create tips for the entire year.  As the semester continues we’ve add to the list and received suggestions from faculty with more ideas!

In addition to a short text message with screen shots in the “Tips you Desire” message, we’ve also created quick 2 to 4 minute video clips explaining each tip. Using the free version (limited to 10 min clips) of Microsoft Expression Encoder 4, the tips are created with audio and screen capturing, so that faculty have a rich media tutorial explaining the tip!

Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 does a great job of creating the video, encoding it into a format so that I can easily upload it to YouTube.  Once it’s uploaded to YouTube, I set it up as private (only those that have the link can view it) and send out the link in the email. Faculty can subscribe to the YouTube channel so that when new videos are up, they will be notified.  Here’s a link to one of the videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXhh9_EJLuQ

We are in the process of determining the best format to store these resources. For example, should we create a space on our website for the links (though these should have some privacy??); should we create space in the “org” shared content within D2L?…at any rate, we are determining how best to give access to faculty for these resources we create.

We’ve had numerous positive feedback from the weekly “Tips you Desire” and we’ve noticed that more faculty are utilizing the tools in more efficient and effective ways and are actually having “fun” with D2L!

UW River Falls’ Dan Semi Receives Professional Development Award

It is with gratitude I write this blog entry to share my experience and the resources I had the opportunity to engage with at the ITC eLearning 2010 Conference. My name is Dan Semi and I’m a staff member in the Teaching and Learning Technologies team at UW River Falls.

Earlier this year I applied and received an LTDC Professional Development award to attend the eLearning 2010 conference in February.  The location was sunny and warm Fort Worth, Texas (well I thought it was going to be sunny and warm, but unfortunately it snowed…in fact the week before they had a record 11in snowfall!) at the Omni Ft. Worth Hotel.

I chose the ITC conference because the web site had a good schedule lined up and the more I began reading about this group, the more I became excited in what they were providing.  ITC began 33 years ago starting as a committee comprised of community and junior colleges.  They now are an advocate group and task force for the Uses of Mass Media and the Instructional Telecommunications Council.  They also are a great resource for collaborative efforts and sharing best practices amongst learning technology professionals and offering professional development tools and resources throughout the year.

Obviously the reasons I desired to attend the conference were to further develop my skills in eLearning support and teaching and learning environments. Exchanging ideas and seeing how others implement technology into their teaching benefits not only me, but also my team and faculty we support at UW River Falls.

The conference had 2½ days of workshops to choose from. Jim Groom, an instructional technologist from the University of Mary Washington was the keynote speaker on Sun morning. His featured presentation, “A Sermon: “For Who Hath Despised the Day of Small Things?” was a real good opener to the next couple of days.  As we were finishing breakfast and Jim was about to begin speaking, a whole group of about 20 people came up both sides of the outside aisles wearing white bath robes over their outfits and singing “praise the Lord, I see the light!” Very befitting for a Sunday morning workshop!  Jim spoke of the use of blogs on his campus, that he started using them and now 99% of the students are using blogs! It has virtually become a University publishing platform!  He was real encouraged by this and so was I as I think of how this helps students to engage with the use of technology.  Another great idea he shared was a campus blog. It’s called “bavatuesdays” and as is stated on the blog, “bavatuesdays.com is an ongoing conversation about media of all kinds … “ After speaking with Jim and following the blog, I can see that it is really engaging students to write about the things that are current and happening on their campus and in their classes and using a blog to express it, also allowing others to comment, thus producing simple conversation! Anyway, I can ramble on more, but you should look at the blog yourself.

Some of the workshops that I attended were, “How the distribution of New Faculty Training Can Effect Participation and Engagement Online”, “Faculty Access to Supportive Technology”, “Social Networking”, “Screencasting 101”, “Creating Media Rich Learning Environments”, “How to Connect with your Online Students and Improve Their Performance”, and “It’s Pedagogy, not Technology: LMS Training can address Teaching, Learning and Student Engagement.”  All of these workshops had something to offer that I learned or was reinforced by current processes.  An impact that this conference made on me was how the blogs increased the engaged communication of students on campus. Another impact was the support and importance of faculty training to increase student participation in blended or online courses.

Other items of interest were learning about a MOOC (massive open online course), some new software tools to look at for rich media content creation or collaboration with students.  A few of these tools that caught my eye were AutoTweet plugin for powerpoints (way cool, even grawesome!), a simple web conferencing tool called dimdim, and an open source content management program called Drupal.

Meeting some new folks and sharing ideas was extremely useful. I met a couple folks in the neighboring state to the west of us (Min-e-so-tah!) and some folks out east and we engaged in some conversations about training and working with faculty on each other’s campuses.

The conference was very interesting and I definitely learned something new and shared with others!

Thanks LTDC!

Dan Semi

Updates from UW River Falls

Electronic Resource Website
The teaching and learning technologies team at UWRF launched an electronic resource website for faculty, students, and staff interested in using technology to support teaching and learning.  Supported by research articles, the website provides information on how particular technology can be used to meet particular pedagogical needs.  Technical information accompanies each tool in the form of step-by-step quick start guides and screencast videos.

Ongoing Technology Integration Workshops
Each Wednesday and Thursday from 12:00 to 1:30pm, the teaching and learning technologies team will offer a workshop with a particular focus.  These hands-on workshops are free and open to all faculty, staff, and students.  Each workshop focuses on one of three areas including technology tools that support teaching and learning, best practices using Desire2Learn, and managing your workflow. 

Online Teaching Institute
Supported by the office of the provost, the teaching and learning technologies staff will begin an online teaching institute with a cohort of fifteen faulty members.  The cohort meets partly face-to-face and partly online.  The workshop provides faculty members the opportunity to examine learning theory and approaches to teaching in online and hybrid learning environments.  A portion of the workshop will be devoted to developing learning activities with appropriate technology tools to help students meet intended learning outcomes.  By the end the eight-week workshop, faculty members will have developed a peer reviewed online or hybrid course.

Submitted by Scott Wojtanowski, UW-River Falls