LearningStudio Gradebook Enhancements (Instructor)

The Pearson LearningStudio Gradebook enhancements launched today!

The enhancements includes the following: (select links below for feature descriptions)

Gradebook how-to documents and videos have been updated on our website to reflect these new enhancements.

Watch a video recording of the December 11th webinar on the enhancements.

More webinars will be offered in January on these enhancements. View the full schedule on our website.

Exams

We’re a few weeks into the semester. Most courses are in full swing, and students likely have submitted their first assignments or will do so shortly. For those courses with exams, the exams are coming (if they haven’t already arrived!).

Here are a few good resources about creating multiple-choice tests. First, from the eLearning Coach Connie Malamed, 10 rules for writing multiple choice exams. I’m generally rule-averse, but I do think that these are wise guidelines. I’m not as opposed to “All of the above” and “None of the above” questions as she is, but I think this varies with your subject matter and learning objectives.

As an instructor, it’s hard to write multiple-choice questions where the right answer is clear and the incorrect answers are wrong, yet close enough to be plausible. Questions can’t be too easy, but no one wants a test where the possibility of misconstruing answers leaves students feeling as if the exam was intentionally misleading. Consider this quote from the article cited below:

The thing about multiple-choice questions is that the answer is right there on the screen. So the challenge as question-writers is to construct the question and its answer choices in such a way that the learner really has to master the objective in order to select the correct choice.

So how do you write really, really good questions? What do bad questions look like? And how do you use the data from students’ incorrect answers to help you build better questions in the future? This article is full of good examples, tips, and references.

This is also a great resource on writing multiple-choice questions for higher-order thinking. I find it exceptionally helpful to see both the “standard” question and the question that has been re-worked to stress higher-order thinking skills.

Think multiple-choice questions function best in subjects that put a premium on calculations? This is a great article detailing the mechanics of using comprehension-based multiple-choice questions in a communications course. I love the idea of letting students bring in a sheet of handwritten notes; the cynic in me would either keep these notes or perhaps mark them in some way in order to prevent re-use by future students.

Last, it feels fitting to offer a small reminder about resources for creating rubrics. Rubrics are useful for essay, short answer, or performance items. You might first write something that summarizes your own grading observations, then revise the rubric and share it with students as you communicate information about the exam. If you’re not distributing the question in advance, you can still share the rubric, removing any identifying details that would give away the question or skill to be demonstrated. You may find that using a rubric makes the writing or demonstration process more comprehensible for your students, and the reading or grading process easier and more consistent for you.

Of course, exams aren’t the only way to measure student learning (hardly!). We have posts coming on project-based learning, groupwork dynamics, and alternate research assignments. Stay tuned!

Grading

I’ve rounded up some helpful grading links. These should come in handy just in case you find yourself with a pile of grading to do now. Or next week. Or both.

Enjoy a better grading experience. I like the author’s optimism! The link has basic information about how to use your TAs and how to respond to complaints, points worth thinking about if you haven’t yet developed a strategy for either situation. The author also discusses rubrics; note that rubrics have been the topic of several earlier posts here on our blog.

From Profhacker, how to grade with voice on an iPad. This method relies upon the iAnnotate PDF app ($9.99) and having your students submit their papers and receive your comments as PDFs. The blog post has a detailed how-to video. Additionally, several commenters share alternative methods for adding audio comments to student work. Other Profhacker posts detail providing voice feedback using Jing and audio comments using Audacity.

If you find yourself grading something other than traditional papers or exams, this very thoughtful piece on evaluating multi-modal work may help to crystallize your approach.

In closing, a reminder that we have Teacher-Scholar labs on May 7th and 10th. We can help you wrap up this semester or get ready for next semester.

Rubrics Redux

As the Fall semester draws to a close, now is a good time to revisit our earlier post on rubrics.

Handing out the rubric as you hand out the assignment is often the most expedient way to get students thinking about all the components of a successful assignment. However, if your students have on-going projects, but are now moving into a new phase (say, the write-up of a field experience, or the presentation of a semester’s worth of research), a rubric targeted to this new portion of the overall assignment can still be helpful.

It’s possible that rubrics are something you’d like to use in the future, but the timing isn’t quite right for you or students this semester. In this case, you might consider taking notes on the Fall 2012 work you’re about to grade and using those observations to drive a rubric that you share with your Spring 2013 classes.

For both students and instructors, the most useful rubric is one that contains a range of performance levels. The goal is to make the rubric less like a checklist and more like a detailed teaching tool. For example, reading that a thesis statement should be specific, clear, contestable, and on-topic is one thing; being able to see robust descriptions related to full credit, degrees of partial credit, and no credit can really help one to focus on the elements that set excellent work apart from work that is merely good or adequate.

Are you a rubric user? Share your tips (or links to your rubrics!) in the comments.

Infographics

We’ve mentioned infographics before and we share them with you quite frequently, but we haven’t yet devoted a separate post to the process by which one can make an infographic. As the revelry of fall fades away, Thanksgiving seems ever-distant, and the reading keeps coming, why not mix things up with an infographic?

Infographics are visual representations of data built around a theme. In telling their story, infographics usually have a mix of several small pictographs, a fair amount of data presented in chart/graph form, and a few short paragraphs and key sentences.

Consider my favorite (meta-) example:

Edudemic has a nice summary of the background and educational theory of infographics in their Ultimate Guide to Infographics. They’ve also gathered an informative assortment of education infographics. While the story each infographic tells is interesting, the ways in which the creators have used color, data, images, fonts, and manipulated the size of different design elements provide great examples for those of us thinking about making our own infographics.

You can use the resources below to create one (or multiple) infographics to start discussion with your students. What a great way to illustrate different perspectives, time frames, or sub-topics in a quick and engaging format.

Alternately, it seems to me that creating infographics could be an intriguing exercise for students. Derek Bruff, Director of the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, has a nice two-part blog post in which he lays out the logic behind an infographic assignment he gave his statistics students in the spring, the ways in which he prepared his students to look critically at visual presentations of data / information, how he created and refined the grading rubric, what tools his students used, and the terrific infographics they produced (post one and post two).

Without further ado, the infographic tools:

Infogr.am lets you easily create your own infographics. Using their simple interface and templates, you can upload your own data (in Excel or csv format), add video if you’d like, and then share your product on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, the web, or grab the embed code provided underneath your finished infographic and put your design anywhere you’d like. If, for example, you’d like to place your infographic in your Pearson LearningStudio course shell, you can do so by pasting the embed code into the HTML view in the visual editor, as our documentation illustrates.

Visual.ly is another infographic generator. Although it may not be as user-friendly as other options, visual.ly is specifically designed to help create comparison-based infographics. You can use their provided templates and then enter a pair of Twitter or Facebook accounts, hashtags, or webpages about which you’d like visual.ly to produce attractive statistics. I think the comparison feature is a nice angle, and certainly a real aid in framing a data-driven visual story.

For a bit of navel-gazing, or perhaps as part of a larger project about society or self, Intel’s What About Me? infographic engine offers to create an infographic based on your Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook profiles (or a combination of all three).

If the options above aren’t quite meeting your needs, you might take a peek at this list of 20 Web 2.0 Tools for Creating Infographics. If you’re still searching – either for theory, examples, data sources, or infographic tools / tutorials – Daily Tekk has a list of 100 Incredible Infographic Tools (these are broken into separate topics, thankfully!)

Last, if you’re using infographics in your course or considering doing so, we’d love to hear from you!

Teaching with blogs

In the age of Twitter, is the blog obsolete? Well, I hope not – we’re obviously rather partial to blogs around here!

There is something to be said for the longer form of the blog, especially as a teaching tool. Blogs are great spaces for reflection (on the course, an assignment, a site visit), for experimentation (to try writing in the voice of a character, to showcase work in progress), and for collaboration (comments, the ability to easily add and share links). Additionally, blogs can be stand-alone assignments or used as part of the preparatory writing process for other course items, like term papers. Of course, blogs aren’t the only places to do any of these things, but – depending on your course, your objectives, and your learners – they might be a place that makes sense.

This is a nice article about how to get the most out of student blogs and instructional blogging. As the article points out, getting comments on blog posts is what elevates them from web pages to interactive discussions. In order to get discussion going, some professors make commenting a requirement (similar to the discussion board commenting requirements may online courses have). Why use a blog, then? According to the article, students report that “blogs facilitated learning from one another, and helped them learn new electronic media skills that could be applied in other settings.”

Here is a more concrete step-by-step guide to getting started with blogging with students. This list outlines the basic steps, but leaves it up to you to chose the best platform and set the appropriate parameters.

Last, these are some resources for evaluating blogs. We’ve written about rubrics before, but this page has great links to rubrics for blogs and for peer commenting.

SPUNKI: A Reading Rubric That Engages Students with Course Content

This link was passed to me, and I thought it was worth sharing.

Per the linked site below:

“SPUNKI is an acronym that asks students to answer six questions, “What part or parts of the reading did you find Surprising?, Puzzling?, Useful?,  New?, Knew it already?,  Interesting?”  Applying the prompts to any reading assignment invites students to respond personally to the material and make it their own.  Also, we have found that students using SPUNKI are more enthusiastic about assignments involving reading and other media, e.g. diagrams and images.”

Read more on the OnCourse website: http://oncourseworkshop.com/Learning049.htm