Goal #1: Making your job easier!

Welcome to morelearning4u, where I’ve shared thoughts on e-learning, instructional strategies, meta-cognition, collaborative teams and more. I’ll continue to provide updates on new technologies, and recent publications. —  all with the goal of providing morelearning4u related to the world of scholarship and learning. As a recent retiree I’ll also be adding some personal reflections on the importance and the joys of being a lifelong learning.

There’s usually a 3-part format for each post that will include  at least one “take-away”– a thought provoking idea or small nugget of information that you can gather in a 5-10 minute scan of the post. In addition, there will be additional links to supporting research, similar articles or other views for those who’d like more in depth information on a particular topic. The third part of each post is an open invitation for your comments, questions, criticisms or additional recommendations of  information on the same or related topic.

The #1 benefit of any social media tool such as a blog like this is the potential for a robust dialog. I hope you’ll join in the fun! You can find more information about this site and its facilitator at about morelearning4u


Considering copyright issues for your images


From photo archive at http://morguefile.com

Images can make a boring presentation come to life, but before highlighting your next presentation with a beautiful image you find online, there are a few things to consider regarding potential copyright issues. This is especially true when you plan to share the presentation via social media, post it publicly on the Web, widely distribute it in hard copy format, or use it for commercial purposes.

This article is not a comprehensive tutorial on all aspects of copyright regulations for digital images. Instead, we’ll mention one important exception that may allow you to freely use copyrighted images in your academic work, provide links to more than a dozen online sources where you can find beautiful non-copyrighted images, and direct you to sites with more detailed guidelines on copyright issues in online learning.

The Classroom Exception permits you to use copyrighted images without permission in the classroom or a similar space devoted to instruction such as a lab, or library room – as long as the work is related to your instruction. In the case of online learning, work that’s shared within a password protected environment is considered similar to usage in a classroom.

More than a dozen sites with non-copyrighted images can be found on this recent blog post from Kasper Spiro:

HELP for your copyright questions is available from NC State University’s D.H. Hill Library. Detailed information on copyright regulations is available from NC State’s   Copyright and Digital Scholarship Center, http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/cdsc/copyright/instruction. For information about any copyright and fair use questions, contact William Cross, Director, Copyright and Digital Scholarship Center at william_cross@ncsu.edu.

Quizzing and other “low-stakes” formative assessment strategies

It’s not unusual to hear of a faculty member who’s experimented with, but since given up on using  pre-quizzes to measure students’ existing understanding of a specific topic or to assess whether or not they’ve completed assigned readings prior to coming to class. Why do students often complain or view this practice negatively and instructors decide that it’s too time consuming with no apparent benefit?


To be able to answer the question above, one must be clear on the differences between formative and summative assessments. Carneigie Mellon makes the following differentiations between these two different instructional strategies:

  • The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning.
  • The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.

Students frequently have negative views of quizzing because this type of assessment has most often been used as a high-stake tool for summative purposes. With this approach, students often experience test anxiety, complain that questions are not clear, argue over incorrect answers, or are tempted to cheat in order to achieve high grades (Shingles, 2015).

Students may need to be re-educated to the idea of quizzing or other formative assessment methods as an instructional strategy to help them take more control of their own learning by getting an better understanding of where they should focus their effort. For students to fully embrace this concept, the instructional activities will be “low stakes” with minimal or no point value.

In addition, the quiz or other assessment should be closely related to clearly defined learning goals and should provide students with helpful feedback to suggest how they can clarify any misunderstandings about the course content. Useful feedback from formative assessment and thoughtful self-reflection by students help both help to reinforce the idea that one’s intelligence can be increased as opposed to it being a fixed entity (Wilson, 2014).

Effective implementation of formative assessment to improve learning and teaching

In a recent CIRTLCast webinar, Dr. Richard Shingles of Johns Hopkins University presented a webinar where he discussed effective implementation of quizzing as a formative assessment strategy for faculty who teach large enrollment courses. Here are some of his recommendations:

When to administer quizzing or other formative assessments

Quizzes should not be limited to use at the end of an instructional unit, but as a resource to guide the learning process. Make sure that students receive timely (if not instant) results and that the quizzes provide not just a numerical score, but also useful feedback. Feedback can be in the form of references in the textbook, a lecture to review, or additional problems to try. Ideally, the instructor will review aggregated results prior to the next class meeting so that he/she can address concepts that are unclear.

Getting students to complete quizzes even if they’re “low stakes” with no point value

  • If you’re using a learning management system, you can make the release of critical lesson content contingent upon taking a quiz or even achieving a minimal score.
  • You can consider giving minimal credit for simply attempting all questions, but consider awarding a small amount of additional credit for cumulative scores over a certain level.
  • Promise students that X% of questions on these quizzes will appear on the final exam. Therefore, completing/reviewing the quizzes will help them prepare for exams.
  • Provide students with information on the need to take responsibility for being self-directed learners, where they are aware of what they need to learn, assess what they currently know, and develop a strategy for acquiring the additional knowledge.

Getting started with formative assessments

YFCS faculty have access to LMS tools that can automate quizzing, grading, feedback and conditional release of subsequent course content. To discuss options for your particular course, contact Instructional designer dede_nelson@ncsu.edu for assistance.


Shingles, R. (February 17, 2015). Conducting assessments during your STEM course. Educational Innovation and the Active Classroom CIRTLCast series. Webcast recording at http://www.cirtl.net/index.php?q=events.

Wilson, S. (February 13, 2014). The Characteristics of High-Quality Formative Assessments. The Innovative Instructor Blog. http://ii.library.jhu.edu/2014/02/13/the-characteristics-of-high-quality-formative-assessments/

CIRTL, the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning, is an organization committed to advancing the teaching of STEM disciplines in higher education. You can review recordings of various CIRTL presentations with practical ideas to improve both teaching and learning.

The one-hour session on Conducting Assessments During Your STEM Class was initially presented 2/17/2015 as a Blackboard Collaborate webinar, and the recording is in native Collaborate file format. https://sas.elluminate.com/site/external/jwsdetect/playback.jnlp?psid=2015-02-17.0712.M.91F8BDB9C9ED5FC374879ACB77BD35.vcr&sid=1304

NC State University faculty can go to http://go.ncsu.com/configuration to do a one time download of the Blackboard Collaborate launcher application to play this recording.

Reflections on learning

The path to becoming a self-directed lifelong learner requires the ability to reflect on one’s personal approach to learning- how to set goals, what strategies work, which ones don’t. As faculty in higher ed we need to help our students “learn about learning”, and an initial step is to provide opportunities for self-reflection.

In Prompts to Help Students Reflect on How They Approach Learning Maryellen Weimer includes a number of short prompts that could be used for journaling, short assignments, or as an individual activity at the beginning of class.

Implementation within Moodle

A simple approach for personal journaling within a Moodle course site, is to use Moodle Groups to create groups of 1 for each individual student. Then the instructor/ID creates a Journal discussion forum, specifying that each Group (of one) has a private forum space available to the student and the faculty member.  However, the instructor only needs to add the prompt for all students one time, making sure to set clear expectations for expected length and deadlines for posting. When posts have been made, it’s a simple process for the instructor to scan through all posts and make comments or clarify incorrect assumptions, as appropriate.

Having all posts throughout the semester made in the same space will allow you to note the progression of an individual student’s views. While this would not be an assignment that is graded for content, it can be factored into the participation grade as a simple yes or no.

Formative assessment of your course

The use of reflective posts in your course also provides you a means of formative assessment for your teaching. Are students finding the course content relevant to their educational goals, are there specific assignments or concepts that are difficult, are there missing skills or knowledge that you’d assumed they’d have coming into your course? Instead of waiting to get this information in your end-of-course ratings, you can work with your ID to clarify certain aspects of your course or provide additional content-specific resources to support student learning.

Getting started with self-reflective journaling

Take a look at the specific prompts suggested in the Weimer article linked above or come up with your own prompts and then talk to your ID about the best way to integrate or modify this strategy for your own courses.

Registering devices with NOMAD

In order to access an NCSU wi-fi network connection on a wireless device (without being prompted to enter your Unity ID/PW each time), you must register each device (whether university or personally owned) at http://nomad.ncsu.edu. Additional information about the process is available at: http://www.wolftech.ncsu.edu/support/support/Nomad_Registration This is a one time process and you will not be prompted by Nomad to enter your PW again when using this device.

Mid-semester survey: Simple but scary?

NC State faculty members have recently received an email from the university’s Office of Faculty Development promoting the use of an anonymous mid-semester student survey to find out “what’s working, what’s not”. See: http://ofd.ncsu.edu/mid-semester-evaluations/  A faculty member from New Mexico State University describes the process as “simple but scary” (Furth, 2000).

surveyReflecting on student feedback, you as the instructor, have a golden opportunity to make minor modifications in your course or to clarify issues that may be confusing to students. Making slight adjustments now can lead to more favorable end-of course survey results. A brief 3-question survey, as suggested by the Office of Faculty Development, might serve your needs perfectly.

If you’re looking for a little more in-depth feedback, I can work with you to create and customize an online survey specific to your course. Obviously, the primary goal for teaching faculty is to provide an effective learning experience for all students, and one measure of an instructor’s teaching effectiveness continues to be results from end-of-course student surveys. However, research has shown that surveys in use by most universities do not actually measure factors that necessarily correlate with higher levels of learning (Achtemeier, Morris & Finnegan, 2003).

The questions

The University of Georgia system conducted an extensive study  that identified certain best practices for  effective online courses, and they pointed to 11 questions that were deemed as factors in gauging the effectiveness of online teaching and learning (Achtemeier, Morris & Finnigan, 2003). In a review of end-of-course surveys from 13 different institutions they found that none of the surveys actually addressed all of the identified best practices.  Based on a review of Principles of Effective Teaching in the Online Classroom (Weiss, Knowlton & Speck. Eds. 2000) the University of Georgia researchers suggest that the following 11 questions focus on factors that are key indicators of effective online courses:

  1.  Were the course goals, learning objectives and outcomes made clear to you at the beginning of the course?
  2.  Did you have the necessary technological equipment and skills required for this course?
  3.  Was there adequate technical support if you encountered difficulties?
  4.  Was the format and page design of the online course easy to use?
  5.  Were there sufficient instructions given for you to complete all assignments?
  6.  Did you feel hindered in your online course experience any way? Please describe.
  7.  Were standards for evaluation of assignments made clear?
  8.  Did you receive prompt feedback on your completed assignments?
  9.  Did you participate in online conversations with your instructor during the course?
  10.  Did you participate in online conversations with your classmates during the course?
  11.  What learning activities most influenced your learning in this course?

You can preview a DRAFT of an online survey based on these questions. Using NC State’s Survey Builder tool, it’s possible to allow only a single response from each student currently enrolled in your course and at the same time keep the survey results anonymous. I can work with you to customize a survey for your use  and make results available only for you.

And the rest is up to you.

Dr. Furth (2000) recommends that once you’ve gathered your feedback, you should relax, get your ego under control and carefully consider the results. He regards the mid-semester survey as part of a continuous-improvement-process for his teaching and shares his analysis strategies and the results he received over a three-year period.


Achtemeier, S., Morris, L., & Finnegan, C. (2003). Considerations for developing evaluations on online courses. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 7(1).

Furth, P. (2000). A simple but scary mid-semester evaluation instrument. Presentation at 2000 ASEE/Gulf-Southwest Section Annual Conference, Las Cruces, NM.

Weiss, R.E., Knowlton, D.S., & Speck, B. W. (Eds.). (2000). Principles of Effective Teaching in the Online Classroom, New Directions for Teaching and Learning,(84).