Quick Tips: Paperless Grading

Just in time for the end of semester assignment and exam grading marathon, The Innovative Instructor has some tips for making these tasks a bit less stressful.

Male instructor 's head between two stacks of papers.Last year we wrote about the GradeMark paperless grading system, a tool offered within Turnitin, the plagiarism detection software product used at JHU. The application is fully integrated with Blackboard, our learning management system. For assignments and assessments where you don’t wish to use Turnitin, Blackboard offers another grading option for online submissions. Recent updates to Blackboard’s include new features built into the assignment tool that allow instructors to easily make inline comments, highlight or strikeout text, and use drawing tools for freeform edits. All this without having to handle a single piece of paper.

If you don’t use Blackboard, don’t despair. The Innovative Instructor has solutions for you, too.  A recent post in one of our favorite blogs, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Professor Hacker, titled Using iAnnotate as a Grading Tool, offers another resource. According to its creators, the iAnnotate app “turns your tablet into a world-class productivity tool for reading, marking up, and sharing PDFs, Word documents, PowerPoint files, and images.” This means that if you students submit documents in any of these formats (Professor Hacker suggests using DropBox, Sky Drive, Google Drive, or other cloud storage services for submission and return of assignments), you can grade them on your iPad using iAnnotate.

Erin E. Templeton, Anne Morrison Chapman Distinguished Professor of International Study and an associate professor of English at Converse College and author of the post, has this to say about how she uses iAnnotate’s features.

With iAnnotate, you can underline or highlight parts of the paper. I will often highlight typos, sentences that are unclear, or phrases that I find especially interesting. I can add comments to the highlight to explain why I’ve highlighted that particular word or phrase. You can also add comment boxes to make more general observations or ask questions, or if you would prefer, you can type directly on the document and adjust the font, size, and color to fit the available space.

I frequently use the stamp feature, which offers letters and numbers (I use these to indicate scores or letter grades), check marks, question marks, stars of various colors, smiley faces–even a skull and crossbones…. And if you’d rather, you can transform a word or phrase that you find yourself repeatedly tying onto the document into a stamp–I have added things like “yes and?” and “example?” to my collection. Finally, there is a pencil tool for those who want to write with either a stylus or a finger on the document.

Not an iDevice user? iAnnotate is available for Androids too, although it is limited at the time of this posting to reading and annotating PDF files.

The Professor Hacker post offers additional links and resources for paperless grading and more generally for those looking to move to a paperless course environment.  Be sure to read the comments for additional solutions.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art

Quick Tips: Little Things That Can Make a Big Impact on Teaching

You have pulled together your syllabus, lined up the readings on course reserves, planned your class presentations, and mapped out the assignments. Your Blackboard site is prepped and ready. The big stuff is all taken care of, so all you have to do is walk into the classroom. According to Woody Allen, eighty percent of success is showing up. But is just showing up to teach really enough? A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that instructors would do well to look at the other twenty percent.

Chemistry instructor facing class of students with blackboard behind himIn It’s the Little Things That Count in Teaching Steven J. Corbett and Michelle LaFrance argue that paying attention to the “less serious” aspects of teaching can make you a more effective instructor.  Their advice includes arriving at the classroom early and sticking around afterwards in order to be more accessible to your students, playing interesting YouTube videos as your students are getting settled, establishing an email policy (and sticking to it), and letting students take responsibility for leading discussions. There are some suggestions for how to handle students’ use of mobile devices in the classroom. [See also The Innovative Instructor post Tips for Regulating the Use of Mobile Devices in the Classroom.] They advocate for bringing candy to class for motivation, and depending on class size, having a pizza party or potluck along with final presentations. The authors acknowledge that their recommendations may make for more work, but feel that the payoff is worth the effort – more engaged students and a positive classroom environment.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art

Quick Tips: Flipping Your Classroom

Text reading flipping the classroom with the classroom upside downThe CER blog, The Innovative Instructor, has posted on flipping the classroom (see here and here). Recently we came across a couple of videos and tips sheets that provide succinct overviews to the process.  What is the Flipped Classroom combines a 60 second video that gets right to the heart of the matter, with graphic explaining the difference between traditional and flipped classroom techniques. A two page document from the Educause Learning Initiative describes seven things you should know about flipped classrooms. Jen Ebbeler, Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Texas Austin, has blogged about her experiences with flipping her large enrollment (400 students) course Introduction to Ancient Rome. She’s produced a seven minute video: Transforming Ancient Rome: Active Learning in a Large Enrollment Course chronicling her experiences.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: © Macie Hall, 2013.

Quick Tips: Managing Your Time Spent Online

Collage of logos for various online applications such as Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, GMailWe spend an increasing amount of time plugged in to our various e-devices, doing research, monitoring the “interwebs”, interacting with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances in social media settings, blogging and reading other’s writings, texting, and answering emails. For faculty the influx of email particularly during the semester is often overwhelming. Students seem to expect an immediate response and may become frustrated if they don’t receive a prompt reply. They may not understand that you teach several courses and have hundreds of students and don’t know from their email which course they are in. What to do?

A recent article (March 26, 2013) in the  Chronicle of Higher Education, Managing Your Online Time by Paul Beaudoin, has some timely suggestions. While the article was written with faculty who are teaching fully online courses in mind, the suggestions offered will be equally useful to those instructors in more traditional, face to face environments. For example: it helps to start by managing student expectations on email responses at the outset, preferably in a well designed syllabus. You should let students know how quickly you will respond and during what hours. Frequent reminders that students should identify their class and section in all correspondence are helpful in gaining compliance. Look for tools in Blackboard (course management application) that will offer additional discussion outlets so that students can help others with the same questions. Create an FAQ, post it, and point to it when students ask the same questions repeatedly.

Check the article for more details and ideas.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: © Macie Hall, 2013

Quick Tips: Managing the End-of-Semester Crunch

Stressed female with stacks of paper, clock in background.

CER staff member Cheryl Wagner came across a timely post on another educational blog and we wanted to share it with you. Professor Hacker, from The Chronicle of Higher Education, is one of our favorite blogs. It’s an advice column for faculty and future faculty that focuses on using technology to simplify the lives – professional and personal – of instructors in posts that give “tips about teaching, technology, and productivity.”

This post, entitled From the Archives: Getting Through the End of Term, has some great ideas for managing the end-of-semester crunch with tips on grading, handling stressful meetings, and taking care of yourself in the process.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art

Quick Tips: Using Case Studies

Sometimes we see a link to a resource or hear of a teaching solution that we want to share. The Innovative Instructor provides the perfect place for this. In our Quick Tips you’ll be getting “Just the facts, ma’am.” Or sir, as the case may be.

Students in discussionOne of our CER colleagues, Mike Reese came across a link to a great online resource for case studies (also called case reports), the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS).

From the NCCSTS website. “[Case studies] can be used not only to teach scientific concepts and content, but also process skills and critical thinking.  And since many of the best cases are based on contemporary, and often contentious, science problems that students encounter in the news, the use of cases in the classroom makes science relevant.” (http://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/cs/about/)

If you want to know more about case studies and the value they can provide in your teaching, the Colorado State University Writing Guide to Case Studies is a good place to start.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: Microsoft Clip Art