Online Office Hours in Instructure Canvas

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the video chat service provided in Canvas was turned off in Fall 2012. It has now been replaced with a Text Chat that is built in to Canvas, but no video.


I have been incredibly happy with the online office hours that I’ve been holding in Canvas this semester (see previous post on SAVI tools in Canvas here).  Day after day, students are showing up for office hours to ask their own questions, hear other students’ questions, and just kind of hang out while they work on problems.  It’s lovely to SEE my online students regularly and I feel a much greater connection to this summer’s students than from any prior semester.

I’m quite sure that the difference is the ease of use of the Canvas Chat tool.  There are no logins, no scheduled sessions, and there is no separate software to install.  To get into the online office hour, the student (and the instructor) simply has to click on Chat.  To share camera and/or audio, they click “Start Broadcasting” and follow the prompts.  It really does not get much easier than that.

Images of Instructor and Student Guides for Online Office Hours in Canvas. Click on image to enlarge. Follow links in blog post for actual documents.

To make it easier for other instructors to implement the practice of online office hours, I wrote two guides:

The instructor guide contains tips on:

  • Webcams: Should you require or not?
  • Scheduling sessions: When and how?
  • Syllabus considerations
  • User Limit to Chat
  • Sharing a YouTube video, with an interactive whiteboard, or a screenshot
  • Sharing a document through the link to a Canvas page
  • Taking attendance
  • Students with low bandwidth
  • Troubleshooting technical problems
  • Reducing the “echo” effect that commonly plagues SAVI tools

If you’re going to share these with colleagues or students (which is fine), please share through the hyperlink so that if I update the documents in the future, you’ll always have the current version.  Hope these are helpful to you!

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Mobile Phone Cameras in Teaching and Learning

My latest “Teaching with Tech” column for MAA Focus just published this week.

Phone Cameras Handle Information in a Snap!

Teaching with Tech: Phone Cameras Handle Information in a Snap!

 

Here are the general topic areas:

  • Carrying a library of “good problems” with you for topics you are teaching.
  • Transfer an application problem to the computer/projector in your classroom.
  • Share your lecture notes from class (from a blackboard, whiteboard, or document camera).
  • Keep notes from a meeting.
  • Make a copy of a handout or meeting agenda.
  • Share student work for discussion about good methods or errors in thinking.
  • Answer emailed questions easily.
  • Tips for Conferences

Phone Cameras Handle Information in a Snap!

Archive of Teaching with Tech Columns

 

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Analysis of Online Whiteboard Tools

NOTE: This post was revised considerably on 5/31/12 after a followup use with Dabbleboard proved to be awful.  Given this new development, I have to recommend Scribblar and I will plan to have a “backup” whiteboard handy in case the chosen system is “having a bad day.”

When I meet students online for office hours, it’s vitally important that we have an shared online whiteboard to use as a space to do problems.  These online whiteboard tools tend to come and go, so don’t shoot the messenger when one of the tools in the list below disappears. The good news is that these types of tools seem to pop up on the Internet all the time, so where one disappears, three others take its place.

Solving a problem in DabbleBoard

Solving a problem in Scribblar

I’ve been on a search for my “perfect” online whiteboard this week, so I thought I would run through several of the available options, and do my “math teacher analysis” for each.  I use the Chat interface in Canvas to see and hear my students, so I’m really only concerned with finding the “perfect” drawing space.  I paste the URL for the whiteboard in the text chat window, and we can all view the drawing screen from that link.

Here are some of the features I find important in an interactive whiteboard:

  • Large writing space
  • Ability to quickly clear the screen
  • Ability to add more space to the whiteboard or go quickly to a 2nd screen
  • Responsiveness of the pen with freehand drawing
  • Colored ink
  • Highlighting tools
  • Easy ability to share the board with students (ex: by pasting a URL into a chat window)
  • Ability to add a graphing grid or image

This morning I took a look at the following online whiteboard tools:

For the record, none of these tools will work on an iPad.  They all run using Flash and/or Java plugins.  The native Canvas Chat is actually Tinychat, and there is a whiteboard plugin included. However, it’s Flockdraw, and of all the tools I tested this morning, it is in the bottom two in terms of performance (toss up between Flockdraw and Google Draw for worst tool).  Here’s my detailed analysis of the six online whiteboard tools.

Analysis of Online Interactive Whiteboards (click on image to enlarge)

In the “War of the Online Whiteboards” I was torn between Dabbleboard and Scribblar.  I listed Dabbleboard as my top choice on Wednesday, but then its performance on Thursday was so horrid I’ve reversed my decision.  Scribblar has a couple of advantages: highlighter pens (the only tool I looked at that included this option for drawing) and if you do splurge for a Pro account there is a built-in WolframAlpha button which pastes the output of a WolframAlpha search directly to your screen.  The only downside of Scribblar is that students are prompted to “login” when they follow the URL to the whiteboard.  They don’t really have to login, they just have to provide a username for the board, but you will probably have to explain this to every single student that follows the link (sigh).

Guide to Dabbleboard (click on image to enlarge)

 

Guide to Scribblar (click on image to enlarge)

My recommendation for math teachers using the Instructure Canvas Chat: Ditch the Flockdraw whiteboard and create a “permanent space” in Scribblar or Dabbleboard (both will require you to create a free account for a permanent room) where you can keep a collection of all the pages you’ve used for a given class.  Create a different space for each class.  Then paste (or re-paste) the URL to the room URL  into the text chat whenever a new student arrives in Canvas Chat (since they don’t see the past history of the chat).

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Report from the 1st TaLDA Workshop

During the 2nd week of May, a group of faculty and instructional designers gathered for the first ever TaLDA Workshop at Muskegon Community College. TaLDA = Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age. This was a workshop inspired from the success of the annual Math & Technology Workshop, but designed for faculty and staff from any discipline. This year, instructional designers and distance ed coordinators joined faculty who teach Theater, Humanities, Psychology, Education, Library Sciences, Information Literacy, and Computer Information Systems joined to create a truly unique and fun week of technology experiences.

This was a tech conference unlike most any other. There was laughing, dancing, and even some crying. [Note: The crying was tears of joy.]

The TaLDA workshop is designed to layer on technology skills as the week progresses.  Participants must attend for the whole week – there’s no picking and choosing.  From years of experience, I can tell you that we all have gaps in our knowledge base, and the more of these gaps that get filled, the better our technology experiences will be.

View our FlickR Photostream from TaLDA 2012

Some of the topics at TaLDA included:

  • HTML Basics (so you can do a little bit of hacking when a website or course page doesn’t behave)
  • Jing (for sharing images or video on both the student and instructor side)
  • Search tips, browser tips and online bookmarking (aka “The Secret Technology Club”)
  • Web Tools for Enhancing Online Courses (see mindmap by following link)
  • Data visualizations
  • Building your own web presence (primarily LinkedIn and Google Sites)
  • Using digital mindmaps to organize and retrieve information
  • Online learning design
  • Social media for learning and for educational use (primarily Twitter and Facebook)
  • Presentation design
  • Copyright and Copyleft
  • Using SnagIt to create any image you can imagine
  • Synchronous Communications (SAVI = synchronous audio visual interactions)
  • Using Camtasia Studio to edit and produce videos
  • Mobile and Tablet Apps for learning and professional use
  • Using games to teach/learn concepts
  • Finding and using Classroom Response Questions
  • Wolfram Alpha Workshop (trust me, it’s not just for math folks)
  • Google Docs, Forms, etc.
  • Organize Your Digital Self

The big surprise (for everyone, including me) was the great joy we found in using Instructure Canvas (an LMS that is about 15 months old now).  The operative word of TaLDA turned out to be “gobsmacked” as in “we were all gobsmacked when we discovered that there is an LMS that is intuitive and easy to use from both the student and teacher side.”

Click on the image of the infographic to enlarge.

One of the participants (Christopher) created a great “infographic” to demonstrate the great power to misuse infographics.  It cracked us all up, and so I share it here.

Also, it’s true. There was dancing.  At some point, we decided that every mouse action should have a dance move, and the rest is history.  Yeah, there’s a video of the silliness that ensued too.

I’m not sure if we’ll do this again at MCC as the timing seemed to be bad for many potential participants, but we have to run these things between semesters to get lab space.  However, TaLDA can definitely be taken on the road, so let me know if you want one in your neck of the woods.

Also, I have to say a HUGE Thank You to our sponsors for this year’s workshop: Muskegon Community College, TechSmith, and Mindomo – we’re truly grateful for your continued support!

Update: Oh my gosh! How could I possibly forget about thanking Anna?  Anna was a godsend!  Couldn’t have done it without her.  I wish I could just keep her around all the time!

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MCC TaLDA Workshop – May 2012

I’m pleased to announce that we’re going to start offering a “Tech Bootcamp” for non-math faculty.  Our first offering of the MCC TaLDA Workshop (Teaching & Learning in the Digital Age) will be in May 2012.  Registration opens today!

The MCC TaLDA Workshop is a week-long immersion in Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age for College faculty from all disciplines. This workshop is modeled after the MCC Math & Technology Workshop, which MCC has hosted for four years now. Over time, this workshop has been dubbed “Technology Bootcamp” by its participants. Participants come from all over the country to get an “upgrade” to their technology skills as they relate to teachinging and learning in the college setting.

Participants go home armed not only with new technology skills, but also software and hardware to help them on their journey, all provided by donations from our commercial sponsors. Participants in the 2012 Workshop will receive the latest versions of Camtasia Studio, SnagIt, and a 1-year subscription to Mindomo.  Thanks to TechSmith and Mindomo for being sponsors of the 2012 MCC TaLDA Workshop!

Organizers and presenters at the workshop donate their time for a “good cause” – that is, we hope that participants will go back to their own schools and wider educational communities and spread what they have learned. The 2012 Workshop will be facilitated by Maria Andersen and Barry Dahl (see Workshop Staff page for more info). Both have considerable experience in the realm of leveraging technology for learning, and are invited to speak and conduct workshops at many national events.

The TaLDA Workshop will be May 7-11, 2012 in Muskegon, Michigan. There are 40 spaces for participants, so register as soon as possible if you’d like to attend. For the first month, only one participant per college will be accepted.

Register here! 

Math and physical science faculty (those subjects that involve a lot of equations and graphs) should consider the MCC Math & Tech Workshop instead (August 2012).

Oh … and did I mention? Muskegon has a beautiful beach!

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