Monday, October 29, 2012

Instructional Designer Resources

By: Hong Kha

Resources for Instructional Designers

As an instructional designer, I always try to keep a pulse on the latest and greatest teaching tools and pedagogy tips that can help me advise faculty on how they can engage students. Here are a few sites that I turn to when I need inspiration.


Is a site targeted towards faculty. This site has provided me with a lot of pedagogy tips on how to improve student learning whether in a face-to-face or online setting. The articles here have served as a faculty mentor for when I run into a teaching experience that can only be advised by another faculty.


Educause ELI is a great way to keep a pulse on what universities are doing to keep on top of the teaching with technology innovation curve. I've enjoyed reading their "7 Things You Should Know About …" to get brief tips about new pedagogy concepts, such as teaching with badges or the evolution of textbooks.

Educause also publishes an annual review of education technology trends that help predict where we're heading in one year, three years, and five years from now. This has been really beneficial for strategic planning on what we should build into our Faculty Professional Development training program.


Then there are the techie tips sites. Here are a few links that are geared towards teaching.
Authentic Assessment Toolbox:
Edudemic (news and latest trends):

If you're more interested in listening to podcasts rather than reading newsletters then here is a great podcast you can subscribe to: Chronicle of Higher Ed: Tech Therapy
Subscribe here:

I hope you enjoy these resources.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Exploring "Open Source"

By Mark Giglione

What Open Source Tools Have To Offer

"Open source" software includes applications that are are offered freely to the public and make the computer code (source code) available as well. This means that anyone can download and use the software without cost, but individuals with the know-how can also use the code to customize the software or contribute to the project.

Typically, communities of users and developers arise to support open source projects. The size and composition of these communities can vary greatly.  Some projects are small while others, like Sakai, have large communities that include participation by major academic and commercial institutions.  The quality of open source offerings can also vary but many of these projects offer products that equal or exceed the capabilities and features of commercial counterparts.  For pedagogical use, open source may in some cases offer alternatives to commercial software but in other cases, a commercial product may be the better choice.

Questions to ask when evaluating "Open Source" for pedagogical and academic use:

1. Does the open source product offer features (or a useful feature subset) comparable to a commercial product?

2. Is the open source product sufficiently easy enough to use to be practical in a pedagogical setting?

3. Does the open source product offer features that are not available in a commercial product?

4. Does the student require expertise using a specific commercial product (that is not provided by an alternative product) in order to be viable in a professional job market?

5. Are the skills gained using the open source product transferable to other similar products both open source and commercial?

6. Can the open source product provide an alternative or supplemental tool for academic research?

A few examples of "Open Source" software that may have pedagogical value:

Art and Music

Description: Audio recording and editing program

Blender 3D
Description: Powerful 3D modeling and animation package.  Also includes video editing and video compositing capabilities and can be also used to create interactive 3d applications such as games

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)
Description: Image retouching and editing tool.  Comparable to Adobe Photoshop

Description: Vector graphics program comparable to Adobe Illustrator

Description: Music notation, composition and scoring software.  Comparable to Finale and Sibelius

OpenShot (Linux only)
Description: Non-linear digital video editing

Description: Desktop publishing program comparable to Adobe InDesign

Math and Science

Description: A statistical programming language (originally based on the commercial 'S' language) comparable to SAS and SPSS.  The Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN) is an extensive repository of over 5300 contributed statistical routines and utilities.

Description: Mathematical software suite comparable to Mathematica and Maple


Description: Open Source office application suite.  (Forked from the older OpenOffice suite and maintained by the original primary OpenOffice developers.)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Evaluating Student Engagement Using the Statistics Tool in Courses/Sakai

by Alan Regan

Creating Custom Reports with the Statistics Tool in Courses/Sakai

As a professor, have you ever wondered whether your students viewed the class syllabus you posted online? Or maybe you're curious if your students are using the materials you've shared with them in the Resources tool? The Statistics tool in your class site can help answer these questions.

Video tutorial:

  1. Click Statistics in your left menu.
  2. Click Preferences in the gray tool bar.
  3. Select "All Tools" and then click "Update."
  4. Click Reports in the gray tool bar.
  5. Click Add to create a new, custom report.
  6. Click Show to reveal the Title and Description boxes. Enter a title so you can save your report.
  7. Select the type of report you want to generate.
    Visits - how many times participants have accessed your site.
    Events - the tools and activities with which your participants have interacted.
    Resources - the documents, web links, or other materials with which your participants have interacted.
  8. Select the time period, such as "Last 365 days."
  9. Select the participants to include:
    All - will include everyone
    Role - will allow you to select a user type, such as "Student," "Instructor," etc.
    Custom - will allow you to select one or more specific users. You can Control-Click (Windows) or Command-Click (Mac) to select more than one person.
  10. Select the report items to include in the report. Grayed out items are not available for the report type you selected.
  11. Click Save Report.
  12. Click the title of your custom report to view the results.
  13. At the right, click the Show drop down menu to view more rows of data on the same page, such as "Show 200." You can use the arrow buttons next to the Show menu to navigate through multiple pages, if necessary.

Example Reports

"All visits, all users, last 365 days"

Want to see if someone visited your site on the day when an assignment was due? This custom report will verify whether they accessed your site or not.
  • What: Visits
  • When: Last 365 days
  • Who: All
  • How: User, Event, Date

"All events, all users, last 365 days" 

Want to know if they ever viewed your syllabus, visited the Tests & Quizzes tool, or interacted with other tools? This is the report to create.
  • What: Events (Select by tool, All)
  • When: Last 365 days
  • Users: All
  • How: User, Tool, Event, Date

"All resources, all users, last 365 days"

Want to know what documents or web links they've accessed in Resources, Dropbox, etc.? Try this custom report.
  • What: Resources
  • When: Last 365 days
  • Users: All
  • How: User, Resource, Resource action, Date

We encourage you to experiment with the Statistics tool to help you review the engagement level of your students and which materials or tools are the most popular in your site.