Using Google Forms to Jump Start Your Video

Red Jump Start Cables with red handles and black handles, on a TableNow that everyone is teaching online, active learning strategies like minute papers and muddiest point are hard to manage spontaneously. In a campus classroom, you can ask everyone to share responses out loud or on a piece of paper. In an asynchronous online class, students aren’t able to participate in quite the same way.

Google Forms can give you a quick and easy solution. Create a form with the question you want to use to begin a presentation or demonstration, students respond using the form, and you use their responses to frame your presentation.

Create Your Form

  1. Log into your Google Drive account.
  2. Create a new Google Forms file, using Google Help if you need more details.
  3. Give the form file a straightforward title (such as “Presentation Topic Survey”).
  4. Add a description or explanation if desired. I added details on how I would use the survey.
  5. Change the question type, if necessary. I changed the question to “Paragraph” so that student have room to write a few sentences as their response.
  6. Add the one question that you want students to respond to. I used the question “What topic have you chosen for your presentation? Give me specific details in a sentence or two.”
  7. If desired, click the Palette icon on the upper right and customize the appearance of the form.

My example Presentation Topic Survey shows what the resulting form looks like. You will notice that I added a second question asking students for contact information if they wanted a personal response. That step is completely optional.

Share Your Form

  1. Click the large SEND button in the upper right corner of the page. The options shown in the screenshot below will appear:
    SEND Form Options, described in the text below
  2. Choose one of the following options to share your form:
    • Click the envelope icon to send the form to students by email, and fill out the remainder of the SEND form accordingly.
    • Click the link icon to copy a hyperlink to the form that you can share with students.
    • Click the angled brackets icon to copy the code that you can use to embed the form on another webpage.
    • Click the Facebook icon or the Twitter icon to share the form on social media.

Prepare for Class

  1. Log into your Google Drive account.
  2. Open the Google Form that you created.
  3. Click the “Responses” link at the top of the form.
  4. Use the Google Help instructions to view the responses in a variety of ways.
  5. Review students’ responses just as you would review answers they shared on paper.
    • If desired, remove any answers that do not meet the requirements or focus of the assignment.
    • Look for patterns to address with the class. In my example, I would look for answers that were strong and specifically focused to highlight. I would also look for those topics that could be improved by focusing more specifically.
    • Copy the responses to a word processor file, if desired, to share the answers with the class.
  6. Choose two or three strong examples and a few examples to demonstrate how to improve the responses.

Use the Responses in Your Video

  1. Prepare to create a lesson to share with students. This post will focus on producing a 5 to 7 minute video. You could also create a handout or audio recording.
  2. Begin your video session in a synchronous forum like Zoom or using your favorite video recorder to share asynchronously.
  3. Open your video by referring to students’ responses. You can share a link to the responses or a link to the word processor document you created with the responses.
  4. Review the qualities of a strong response. For my example, I would talk about how a strong topic is specific and well-focused.
  5. Point out strong responses and explain why they succeed.
  6. Review weaker or incorrect responses and demonstrate how to improve them.
  7. End your video by reviewing the qualities of a strong response.
  8. If desired, give students a follow-up activity to complete:
    • For synchronous meetings, ask students to share ways they can improve their responses in light of the examples.
    • For asynchronous videos, have students share their ways to improve responses in a discussion forum or email.

Photo credit: Jumpstart cables by Michael Pedersen on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 license.


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This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Online Is Different from Face-to-Face

 


This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Explain What to Do in an Emergency

Red push button on the wall labeled, Emergency Stop for ComputersProviding students with instructions on what to do in an emergency is always a good idea. It’s even more important now as all classes are moving online and many students are relying on technology resources more than they are used to.

You may be thinking, “Oh, I will wait and deal with trouble if it comes up.” It’s nice to be optimistic, but trust me, eventually something will come up. You may not think of it as an actual emergency, but a panicked student may. Add the complication of the sudden reliance on resources students don’t have experience with, and the panicky emails are sure to start filling your inbox.

How to Address Emergencies Before They Happen

  • Brainstorm a list of the basic hurdles students are likely to encounter. Consider the issues that have occurred in previous courses you have taught, and reflect on challenges you and those you know have had as they work online. Combine any challenges that will have similar responses (see the example below).
  • Outline what students should do in each situation. Include specific details that will walk students through their response. Students coming to this list are anxious. They not catch the nuances of what you say, so be sure that everything is clear and concrete.
  • Emphasize trust and calm in your explanations. Let students know that you take their situation seriously. Maintaining a sense of calm will do much to solve the challenge. Panic can make everything worse. If you persuade students to remain calm and trust that you will help them, reasonable solutions to the problems will become easier to accept.

An Example Policy

Here’s a version of the emergency policy that I use with my courses. The policy (like all content on this site) is content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Share-Alike 4.0 International License; thus, you can copy and customize the policy to use with your course.

Emergency Policy for Technical Writing

Slogan Keep Calm and Carry On shown on Red British War Poster with white letteringProblems with vt.edu websites, LinkedIn Learning, or Canvas
If something goes wrong with one of the websites we are using, don’t panic. Send me an email message, since I may not know there is a problem. I will fix it if I can, and if necessary, I’ll adjust any due dates or expectations. If appropriate, contact 4-Help and explain the situation as well. Once you have contacted me, keep working as you can until the situation is resolved.

Problems with something in your world
If something goes wrong for you personally, send me an email message explaining the issue and relax. We can come up with a solution. Things such as a broken computer or a change at work that messes up your schedule fall in this category. Getting sick or having an accident (such as a broken bone) also fall into this category. Your situation may feel horrible, but we can work it out. Don’t worry if I don’t respond immediately. It just means I’m not at my computer.

Emergencies and the 911 policy
If you have an emergency, first take care of any immediate danger. Make sure everything and everyone is safe before you worry about this course. When you can, email me and begin the subject with 911. For example, a subject line might be “911 Struck by Storm.” Give me the details in the message (e.g., The storm knocked out your power. Your work is going to be delayed until things are fixed). Save these 911 messages for emergencies please. I give 911 messages priority and answer them ASAP. Again, don’t worry if I don’t respond immediately. It just means I’m not at my computer. When I get back online, I will do whatever I can to help.

Photo: Emergency Stop by Daniel Nisbet on Flickr, used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 license. Keep Calm and Carry On Poster, from the UK Ministry of Information, used under a CC0 Public Domain license.


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This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Turn Your Handout into a Video

You can make a simple video that pairs key information from a short handout with images using the free web-based tool Lumen5. You can edit the video components (the text on screen, how it appears, and the image shown). As you are moving course materials online, Lumen5 can be a quick way to add a visual element to your course materials.

An Example Handout and Video

The video below was created with the text from a webpage that explains my labor-based grading system and a tip-filled infographic on how to do well in the course. The result is the following video:


Video Transcript

The video took me about three hours, though most of that time was spent searching for appropriate, diverse images and for the background music. The result is far more interesting than a Zoom video allowing students to watch me read the information to them.

How to Create Your Own Video

The process is straightforward:

  1. Create a free login on the Lumen5 site.
  2. Use the Create Video button at the top of the dashboard page, which you reach after logging in.
  3. Choose one of the available options (start with a blog post, paste in text script, use a media file, or begin with a template), as shown in the image below:
    Video Options in Lumen5 (start with a blog post, paste in text script, use a media file, or begin with a template)
  4. Provide the text for your video, following the on-screen prompts.
  5. Wait while Lumen5 uploads and processes your text, adding images and key phrases to the video slides.
  6. Edit the slides as you wish, changing the placement of the text, editing the text, choosing new images, and changing the options for the images, all shown in the screenshot below:
    Lumen5 edit screen, showing different layout available and other options.
    Notice on the upper left that you can also choose different media, templates, and music for your video when you are editing.
  7. Click Publish when you are happy with everything, and the video will process and then prompt you to download.
  8. Share the completed video as you like—in your CMS, on YouTube, or elsewhere.

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This post was inspired by a piece written for Bedford Bits: Convert Handouts to Videos with Lumen5 and originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Ten Tips for Moving Your Class Online Quickly

You’re probably working away at moving your class online. Even with the extra week to prepare that some of us have been given, there are weeks of work ahead of us. We’ll all have to rethink activities, change things that aren’t working, and give up on some things that are beyond the possible right now.

Your work will be easier and more successful if you keep these ten tips in mind:

  1. Choose online tools you know. This is not the time to innovate. It is hard enough to migrate all your course materials online. Don’t add to your workload by choosing a new tool to do it. Whatever you’re using is good enough.
  2. Remember time zones matter—as do personal schedules. Students are no longer in the same place and time. They are spread all over the globe. Their time zones are different and their personal obligations are different. Asynchronous work (work that doesn’t require everyone to be online at the same moment) allows everyone in the course a fair opportunity.
  3. Keep it as simple as possible. The activities and expectations should be clear and straightforward. Break things out into smaller steps, rather than creating one larger activity. You’ll help students keep track of what they need to do when they can complete an activity in one sitting.
  4. Let students track their own work when they can. Ask students to keep track of how they are doing in the course. They can keep a log of what they have posted easily, for instance. All you have to do is review their logs. That’s much easier than you having to keep track of every thing that every student has done.
  5. Allow reasonable accommodations and exceptions for everyone. With the many additional demands and challenges we are facing, we can all use a little extra help right now. Give students who ask for more time an extra day. Allow students whatever they need, as long as it’s reasonable.
  6. Share accessible resources. There are students in your class who will not have the resources that they need. It may be their textbooks, class notes, or library books. If you can share PDFs or offer alternatives, do so. Students may have no other option if you cannot provide them an alternative.
  7. Be clear about your availability. When classes meet on campus, students know when they can find you. If all else fails, you’re about just before and after class meets. With classes online, students have no idea. Will a response to that urgent email message take a few hours or a few days? Be specific about when you are online and working so they don’t worry needlessly. For example, tell students something like “I am usually online and answering messages weekday afternoons, from 1 PM to 3 PM, Eastern.”
  8. Explain yourself. Tell students the reasons behind your choices and decisions for how the course proceeds. Don’t expect students to guess what you’re thinking or expecting. With all course interactions online, you can help things run much more smoothly by explaining logistics and other class decisions.
  9. Encourage students to help one another. Create a space in your course resources where they can ask one another for help. Whether the questions are about the course, Internet connectivity, or which grocery stores are open, students can help one another—and their effort will reduce your workload while building community.
  10. Give up on perfection and absolutes. Set reasonable expectations for yourself and your students. It would be nice to imagine there will be no Internet or software issues and that students have access to all the resources that they need. It’s not likely to happen that way however. Scale back your plans, allow for changes as needed, and have alternatives and back-up plans ready. You’ll thank yourself later.

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This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Set a Consistent Schedule

Every aspect of a college student’s life is in flux right now. All the familiar routines they are used to are changing because of COVID-19. One of the best things you can do is provide these students with a consistent schedule that they can rely on.

Why do these routines matter so much? There’s no way for a student to know when you will post something online. In the campus classroom, you probably hand out or share assignments, pass back or post graded work, and so forth. When classes move online, students no longer know when to expect these things to happen. Either students leave it to chance, hoping that they will notice when you post something or when work is due, or they spend every moment online refreshing class resources in an attempt to catch updates the moment they are posted. Neither of these options is ideal—and both can lead to a great deal of anxiety and stress.

If you establish a regular schedule however, students know exactly what is supposed to happen when. I established a weekly schedule for the classes I teach entirely online, which I share using an inforgraphic similar to the one below:

Weekly Course Schedule, explained in the accompanying text

Because the schedule is an image, I provide a transcript as well, publishing the details from the image beside it. As you move to migrate your course online quickly, a table with the details will work just fine. Students will care about having the details more than how pretty the schedule is.

For your schedule, include as many days and as much information as necessary. For instance, if your course was meeting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, just include those days on your schedule. If your course runs on two-week units, go ahead and include two weeks in your schedule.

Keep in mind that this schedule is not a substitute for the class calendar. Its job is simply to outline the repeating structures that students can rely on each week. It’s a simple piece to add to the resources you share, but establishing consistency in this way can help students stay on try, especially at a time when COVID-19 seems to be disrupting everyone’s schedule.


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This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Preparing Students for Online Classes

Teaching completely online writing courses quickly taught me that students needed additional preparation and support in most cases. While students at my university are online often, they are not frequently online for academic purposes. Now, thanks to COVID-19, they are online for every course—and they are unlikely to be prepared for it.

I made the infographic below to give students some quick things that they can do to make sure they are ready. I use it at the beginning of every term, along with other activities and resources.

How to Succeed in this Online Class

You can use the infographic as is, if it fits the needs of your course. Note that it does make reference to Canvas (our LMS at Virginia Tech). Download a copy from Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/DWAs78. It’s shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Share-Alike 4.0 International License.

If you need to tweak the infographic to work for your course, visit the template on Canva (a drag-and-drop web-based design tool). You will need to create a free Canva login to customize the image.

If you do use the infographic, remember to also provide a transcript for students who cannot view the image. I handle this transcript by repeating the text beside the image itself, as you can see on this page from my current Technical Writing course.

This text version of the infographic gives you another option for sharing these ideas with the students you teach. You can also skip the infographic altogether, copy and customize the text from the transcript (linked above), and publish the resulting version with your other class resources.


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This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

Teaching Online 911 Collection on Evernote

Sinking BoatAs everyone scrambles to support students in online classes, colleagues are sharing links to teaching tips, free online resources, and classroom activities.

I have found links in my Twitter Timeline, my Facebook Newsfeed, and my email inbox. Lots of links. Soooo many links.

Every time a new link shows up on my screen, I make a guilty mental note to go back and read it later, when I will surely have more time. But that miraculous blessing of “more time” still hasn’t appeared.

The links keep coming. When I click through, frequently I find even more links. There is an entire ocean of resources out there, and I’m over here bailing out a sinking dinghy. I just can’t keep up.

Not only am I overwhelmed with all these great resources, I’m anxious about missing or losing one of them. That one link I forget to return to will surely be the resource that solves the challenge I’m working on. I’m not sure how to remember all these great ideas, but one thing is clear: I need a way I can find these links later, before any more scroll off my screen.

Evernote to the Rescue!

I have set up a Teaching Online 911 Evernote notebook, filled with all these wonderful links. So far, it’s a great solution. The notebook has just over 40 links at this point, to webpages created recently to address the pandemic-driven need to move online and to established resources that offer good teaching advice for any situation when classes are taught online.

Whenever someone forwards a new resource, I use the Evernote Web Clipper (a browser plugin) to add it to my notebook. The clipper saves the title, a copy of the document, and its link. I published the notebook on the web, so I can share it with everyone.

Visitors to the Teaching Online 911 notebook can either Join Notebook, to connect to their own Evernote login, or View Notebook, to see the notebook without loggin into Evernote. Both options are shows in the screenshot below:

Evernote Public Notebook screenshot, showing the Join or View options

Because I have the clipper save a copy of the resources, anyone visiting the notebook can easily find resources that include relevant information. A search in Evernote checks for the search term in the saved copies and returns a list of found sources with the search term(s) highlighted. The screenshot below shows what such a search looks like.

Evernote Public Notebook screenshot, showing a search term and highlighted results

If you too are looking for solutions and inspiration, give the Teaching Online 911 notebook a try. I hope you’ll find something you can use as you move your courses online.

Photo credit: Sinking Boat by Rodrigo Amorim on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 license.


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Stop, Read, & Apply: Guided Revision Activities

Earlier this year, I participated in a conversation on collective feedback during a Faculty Office Hours session (an online chat for teachers of professional and technical writing). Collective feedback, a strategy examined by Lisa Melonçon (University of South Florida, @lmeloncon on Twitter) in a five-year study (see her resources online), provides the whole class with details on frequent errors found in the drafts for the course, replacing some, if not all, individual feedback on projects. The process gives the instructor the chance to review common errors with everyone, eliminating the duplication of explaining to each student individually.

Building on Melonçon’s research, Dr. Sara Doan (Kennesaw State, @SDoanut on Twitter) described an in-class activity that she uses to guide students through revision of their projects. She explained that she would tell to the class that she was going to review “Ten issues you all need to fix.” She then asked students to open a copy of their project on their computers. Once students were ready, Doan then stepped students through common errors that they should correct in their drafts. For example, she asked students, “Is your name the biggest thing on your résumé? If not, you need to fix it.”

I love this strategy. I have given students checklists and rubrics to use as they evaluate their drafts, but the same common errors persist. The challenge for me is that my classes are all online. I cannot gather students and ask them to all open their projects so I can walk them through revision strategies.

I created a Google Slides presentation (click on the screenshot below) to solve the problem, calling it a “Stop, Read, & Apply” activity.

Stop, Read, and Apply Slides screenshot. Click to view the slideshow.

The instructions essentially match those that Doan used: Students open their project, and then advance through the slides, stopping on each one to read the details on the common error and then apply that advice to their drafts. To focus students, the slideshow addresses only common errors in memo format. If the activity works, I will create similar slideshows for other common issues students can review as they finish their work.

Because the slides are online, I can also use them in feedback to students. All I have to do is open the Slides file in a new browser tab, advance the presentation to the slide I want to reference, and copy the link from the browser. For instance, I can link directly to the slide on eliminating opening greetings in a memo. So simple!

I hope that this slideshow-based system will slow students down, encouraging to check their drafts more carefully. Further, I can easily adapt it to any course and assignment I might teach. I am eager to see if the activity helps students address common errors. I’d love to hear your feedback on the strategy as well. What do you think? Would you use a similar resource in your courses? Are there “Stop, Read, & Apply” activities you would like to see in a future post? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think!

This post originally published on the Bedford Bits blog.

A Grace Period Update

Grace period catRecently, several colleagues have asked me about my grace period, which is part of my late policy on student work. Their interest encouraged me to write an update on how it’s been working.

I began using a grace period in 2013, and I’ve used it ever since. When we talk about students and their requests for extensions, someone usually talks about the number of family deaths that students mention in their requests for more time to get their work done. I’m happy to report the grace period means that I never read that kind of an extension requests. That’s right! No grandmothers are killed in my classes!

So how does the grace period work? Below is the statement that I include in my syllabus for the summer session. Canvas, which is mentioned in the policy, is our course management system (CMS):

Late Policy (Grace Period)

My late policy includes a grace period that should cover most problems that come up, whether academic conflicts, an illness, a religious holiday, or a personal issue. It applies to most graded work and can be used multiple times. You do not need to ask in advance or explain why your work is late. Just take advantage of the grace period, as explained below, for any work OTHER than your final exam:

  • The due date is the day that your work is due (usually Fridays). Every student has a 3-day grace period after the due date during which the project can still be submitted.

  • The grace period occurs between the due date and the deadline. Work submitted during the grace period will be marked as late in Canvas; however, there is no grade penalty for work submitted during the grace period.

  • The deadline comes 3 days after the due date (usually Mondays) and is the final moment that Canvas will accept a project (listed as the “available until” date in Canvas). There are no extensions on deadlines. If you do not turn in your work by the end of the grace period, you receive a zero for that activity, and you cannot revise. Unlimited, punishment-free revisions are NOT intended to support those who never did the work in the first place.

Final Exam: There is no grace period or make-up option for your final exam. Your final exam must be submitted by the due date (11:59 PM on Saturday, August 17) so that I can turn course grades in on time. If you have three exams on Saturday, August 17, let me know and we can make alternative arrangement.

Extenuating Circumstances: In the case of extenuating circumstances, let me know immediately. I understand that things happen. To pace course work for everyone, I will not post work early to resolve a conflict. If you let me know reasonably ahead of time, we can find a solution. As long as you are honest and timely in letting me know what’s going on, we can try to work something out.

Religious Holidays & Events

Please take advantage of the grace period explained in the Late Policy section above if the due date for any work in this class coincides with a religious holiday that you celebrate. Please let me know before the holiday if the grace period will not be adequate, and we will come up with an alternative plan.

I have learned a few lessons in the six years that I have used the Grace Period system. After some experimentation, I settled on three days as the length of the grace period. Longer grace periods interrupt progress on the work students need to do. At one point, I used a week-long grace period. Unfortunately when a student turns in a rough draft a week late, she can’t use any of the revision strategies we are talking about during the next week of the course. Three days seems to be just right.

I also learned to warn students not to use the grace period to procrastinate. We will begin working on the next project as soon as the due date passes. During the grace period then, students will end up working on two projects at once. If they procrastinate too much, they may be behind all term. I advise them at the beginning of the class to try to keep up with the due dates, and I remind them throughout the term to try to catch up if they do fall behind.

Others have described this system as humane and supportive. Those are great advantages to be sure. I’m selfish though. I created this policy for myself. I no longer have to weigh the believability of student excuses nor respond to those email messages asking for extensions. The grace period is one of the best policies I’ve made as a teacher.

Do you have a policy that has made a big difference in your teaching? I’d love to hear about it. Tell me in a comment below. I look forward to hearing about what works in your classroom.

This post originally published on the Bedford Bits blog.