Create an Online Space for Students to Collaborate

Working in groups can be a very positive experience for students; it allows them to take ownership of their learning, and they become active rather than passive learners. In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the subject at hand, the interaction that students have with their peers is equally valuable. Students have the potential to develop life-long learning skills including critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making abilities, as well as social skills such as effective communication, negotiation, and conflict resolution. Instructors may help ensure the success of group work by following some of these simple guidelines:

  • Establish clear expectations of participation by group members.
  • Specify the roles and responsibilities needed within each group and have students delegate them.
  • Have group members assess each other at various times throughout the project/activity.
  • Periodically check to monitor group progress.
  • Use rubrics to assess both group and individual contributions.

For more on student collaborative work, see Barbara Gross Davis, Tools for Teaching, Jossey-Bass, 2001.)

Screen Shot: Blackboard Groups - Creating a GroupInstructors at JHU who have the option to use Blackboard (course management system), can create an online space for students to work collaboratively. The Groups Tool in Blackboard is a convenient way for instructors to create subsets of students for collaborative activity. Once created, group members have access to a number of communication and collaboration tools within Blackboard, as determined by the instructor. These tools include: a group discussion board, blog, wiki, journal, email tool, chat tool, a file exchange tool, and a task list.  The instructor has access to all group tools at all times.  This allows him/her to monitor each group’s activity as needed. The blog, wiki, and journal tools have the option of being graded; they are connected to the Blackboard grade center, so any grades entered are automatically transferred and recorded in the grade center.  Within these tools there is the option to grade each member of the group individually or grade the group as a whole. Blackboard groups can be created one at a time, or as a set. Members of groups are selected manually, with the instructor choosing students from a pre-populated list, or by using the self-enroll option, where students use a sign-up sheet to enroll themselves into a group. There is also a ‘random enrollment’ feature (if creating a group set), where Blackboard will randomly assign students to groups. This feature is often helpful in large lecture courses.

For more detailed information about using the Blackboard Groups Tool, please see the Groups Tool tutorial.

Amy Brusini, Course Management Training Specialist Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: Screen shot: Blackboard.

GradeMark Paperless Grading

GradeMark is a paperless grading system that gives instructors the ability to add comments and corrections to assignments submitted electronically. It is a tool offered within Turnitin, the plagiarism detection software product used at JHU. With its drag and drop functionality, among other features, GradeMark has the potential to save instructors a great deal of time when grading online assignments.  It is also easily integrated with Blackboard.

(Note: In order to use GradeMark, online assignments must be created using Turnitin. If using Turnitin within Blackboard, accounts are automatically created for instructors and students through the Blackboard system. If using Turnitin outside of Blackboard, the instructor is responsible for creating separate accounts for each student. Please click here for more information on Turnitin’s integration with Blackboard.)

Screen shot showing example of using GradeMark

GradeMark contains several different grading features:

  • Dragging and Dropping Quickmarks – Quickmarks are frequently used comments that are readily available to drag and drop into a student’s assignment. While viewing an assignment, the instructor can select from a panel of standard Quickmarks that come with GradeMark, or from a custom set that s/he has created.  For example, the abbreviation ‘Awk.’ is a Quickmark indicating an awkward phrase. The ability to drag and drop Quickmarks to an assignment, instead of typing them over and over again, can save instructors a lot of time.
  • General Comments – Each assignment has a generous space where general comments can be added.  General comments can be used to further clarify any Quickmarks that were added as well as discuss the assignment as a whole.
  • Voice Comments – A recent addition to GradeMark is the ability to add voice comments. A voice comment can be added to the assignment lasting up to three minutes in length.  An instructor can use the built-in microphone in his/her computer to easily record the message.
  • Rubrics – Rubrics created within GradeMark can help streamline the grading process by using a ‘scorecard’ approach. Specific criteria and scores are defined in a rubric that is then associated with an assignment. Instructors grade the assignment by filling in the scores based on the evaluative criteria in the rubric. There is also the option of associating Quickmarks with rubrics when they are added to the assignment.

Students are able to view their graded assignments when the ‘post date’ is reached. The post date is set by the instructor when setting up the assignment. Students have the option to print or save a copy of the graded assignment and can view only their own submissions.

GradeMark Logo showing grade book and apple

Advantages:

  • Flexibility in marking up assignments – Quickmarks, rubrics, text, voice comments all available.
  • Time saved dragging and dropping reusable comments.
  • Increased consistency in grading.
  • Clear feedback to students, instead of ‘scribbled margins.’
  • Opportunity to provide more detailed feedback to students including links and resources.
  • No need to download assignments – everything is web-based, stored online.
  • If the instructor is using Blackboard, when the assignment is graded the grade is automatically transferred and recorded into the Blackboard Grade Center.

Amy Brusini, Course Management Training Specialist
Center for Educational Resources


Image sources: Amy Brusini screen shot of GradeMark example; GradeMark logo

VoiceThread – “Conversations in the Cloud”

VoiceThread is web-based presentation application that allows users to create and share interactive multimedia slideshows. VoiceThread presentations are used to showcase audio, video, images, and documents while allowing users to comment on them in a variety of different ways. Comments can be made using a microphone, a webcam, uploading a prerecorded audio file, using a phone, or by simply typing text. There is also a “doodle” tool which can be used to annotate presentations with digital overlay while leaving a comment.  The result is an ongoing, asynchronous, digital conversation that can be easily shared with individuals, groups, and/or embedded into different websites, including Blackboard.

Image for VoiceThread application. Conversations in the Cloud.

Originally developed at the University of North Carolina, VoiceThread has been used at  the Johns Hopkins Schools of Nursing and Public Health for several years. IT@JH recently obtained a university-wide license for all members of the Hopkins community; instructors and students from all JHU schools now have the ability to access VoiceThread free of charge.

At JHU and other institutions, instructors and students have been very creative in the ways they are using VoiceThread. Here are some examples of how this tool is being used:

  • Student presentation tool – Students can use VoiceThread to create individual or group presentations on any number of topics, which can then be shared with the class.  An added advantage – students can watch and comment on each other’s presentations outside of class, freeing up valuable class time.
  • Online lecture tool – Instructors can use VoiceThread to create online lectures for fully online classes or as a supplement to face-to-face classes.
  • Peer assessment – Students can use VoiceThread to share assignments (papers, images, audio, video clips, etc.) with their peers for comments and critique.
  • Foreign language assessment – VoiceThread is especially useful to foreign language instructors who would like to hear their students speak. Instructors can create a presentation (upload an audio recording, image, video clip, etc.) which students then have to translate, describe, or narrate, for example.
  •  Brainstorming session – Students and instructors can use VoiceThread to brainstorm ideas for project topics, group presentation strategies, etc.
  • Digital storytelling – In groups or independently, students can use VoiceThread to create interactive digital stories using various media artifacts (audio, images, etc.).
  • Review Session – Students can use VoiceThread to record a content review session in preparation for a test or exam.
  • Facilitate Discussions – Students can present a topic and then facilitate a class discussion in VoiceThread about the topic.
  • Student Introductions – Especially helpful in a fully online environment, students and instructors can use VoiceThread to introduce themselves, helping to build a sense of community.

JHU instructors and students can go to http://jhu.voicethread.com and login with their JHED ID and password.  All users are automatically set up with a ‘Basic’ account that they can begin using immediately. There is no software to download as all VoiceThread presentations are created and stored in the “cloud.”

Additional Resources
VoiceThread Overview: https://www.voicethread.com/about/features/
VoiceThread ‘How-To’ Basics: https://www.voicethread.com/support/howto/Basics/
JHSPH VT Site: https://sites.google.com/site/ctltteachingtoolkit/resources/voicethread

Amy Brusini, Course Management Training Specialist
Center for Educational Resources


Image Source: VoiceThread image [http://d25wzyo6b5ic8t.cloudfront.net/rev/c32981bd/media/custom/www/banner_cloud.jpg] edited by Macie Hall