Home » Getting Started

Category Archives: Getting Started

Simple Thoughts for Simpler Times: ‘Think like a Student’

Tags: , ,

By in Blackboard Learn, Content Development, Course Redesign, Distance Education, Getting Started, IMPACT, Morning Musings, Student Behavior on .

We all strive to create effective online learning content and experiences for students. Yet, when we are teaching content to students and designing our online course, it’s so easy to overwhelm students with lists and folders of materials, cross-links and multiple links, and giving them everything we ever wanted to them to know about our subject. I know I’ve been guilty of over-supplying the information and options in the past.  We just have so much we know about the subject and after all isn’t our role to teach and share what we know when we are doing instruction?

Interestingly, one of the consistent complaints we hear from students when we survey them in regard to the learning management systems, be it Blackboard or Canvas are: problems with navigation and knowing where to go first in the course, where to find something, or which links to use.

Actual student feedback comments from past surveys:

  • “Things are to scattered. Easy to loose track of where something was. Some things are everywhere you look and others are hidden.”
  • “It was hard to figure out how to submit assignments… so I would suggest making it easier and in one place. I just found it difficult the way either my teacher set it up as, or how the website was set up.”
  • “Collaborative group work was hard to manage. Not everyone knew where to look for our shared documents we were using.”

Now, various learning management tools take different approaches, some are better or cleaner than others; but we always have a certain amount of customization we can use to tailor the course how we see fit. How do we do that best?

One approach is to look at online courses you like or that are set up as “best practice” examples and borrow some ideas on course set-up. Taking part in workshops and sharing about online course design is certainly another approach.  Many of you have likely used both.

Let me offer another approach, slip on a different pair of shoes and think like a student.   You do it now without realizing it when you participant in our IMPACT course redesign program through the Blackboard content, complete an online MOOC or participant in any other online course for professional development.  I have had amusing comments from my IMPACT faculty, who sheepishly admitted they were short on time to complete their weekly online readings and activities.  One of them said he felt like one of his students must, by quickly scanning down the page to see just what he “had” to get done for the session today. So, if we are looking for shortcuts at times; what of course are the students doing? If we aren’t sure what to do first and poke around when we are in an online course for the first time; what are students doing?  The same, I would imagine. I don’t think we can write it off as students are being lazy when we are all challenged with time constraints and try to maximize our time on tasks.

While we like to give many options and much information, it’s best to help learners maximize their time on tasks too. So as you set up your entire course or a partial amount of your course online, think like a student.

Look at the course like you are viewing it for the first time.  Using the ‘student view’ options provided are useful for this as well.  Consider, is it glaringly clear where the student should start first? Is it without a doubt, clear what is required weekly and where items are found in the menu or content arrangement? Have you pared down content to focus on what the student ‘must know’ and moved additional ‘nice to know’ information into a reference area; so, they are not bogged down completing weekly tasks? How will they communicate with you and with other students? Ask a student to test drive your course and provide feedback.

To get started with assembling and arranging your content, here is a link from our ITaP Course Design Web page: http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/cdm/index.html#faculty  or email our team at tlt-cdd@purdue.edu. Happy thinking!

Tools of the Trade: The INNOVATE Teaching with Technology Website

By in Classroom, Getting Started, Musings on Technology, Tools on .

One of the great benefits of the Internet Age has been the development of digital tools that will aid faculty in their ability to improve their teaching and engage students in learning. During a recent consultation, the faculty member with whom I was working was trying to make a decision about which tool to choose to best support student learning. He said, “It is good that we have a lot of tools, but how am I supposed to choose? There is so much I have to think about?…” This faculty member is not alone in his sentiments. Juniu (2005) noted that faculty often feel “overwhelmed by the twofold challenge of keeping abreast of a rapidly changing technological environment…and finding pedagogical strategies that allow for technology to be effectively integrated with their course content.”

In order to address this challenge, Instructional Development Center (ITaP) staff members developed the INNOVATE Teaching with Technology website. This website was designed to inform faculty understanding about tools supporting pedagogical strategies they want to implement in their course.


How Do I…?

One of the biggest questions faculty face when considering how to integrate digital tools into their course is where to start. In the “How Do I” section of the website, you will have the opportunity to review strategies that will enable you and your students to organize, present, assess/evaluate, or collaborate/communicate your work. When you select the “How Do I…?” selection, the following page will appear:


Some of the topics on this page include selecting the appropriate tool for blogging, managing student email, and creating video content. You will note that each of the sections found on the page are framed by a given color. These colors are visuals linking you back to the corresponding strategy found on the main page where you can learn more about the strategy itself.



The Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education

The Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education were used as one of the primary drivers underpinning  in the development of this website. These principles are:

Intended as guidelines for faculty members, students, and administrators with support from state agencies and trustees – to improve teaching and learning. They rest on 50 years of research on the way teachers teach and students learn, how students work and play with one another, and how students and faculty talk to each other. (Chickering & Gamson, 1987)


The Teaching, Learning, and Technology (TLT) group cited how digital technologies can be utilized to support the seven principles. There are number of Purdue tools that may be helpful in supporting these principles as well.

Tools_4  Strategies using Digital Tools 


When you select a given strategy, you will be presented with a page presenting examples of the strategy using Purdue Supported Tools; opportunities to Learn More, including tool synopsis and table highlighting which tools support the 7 Principles of Effective Instruction, information regarding how the strategy is linked to the 7 Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, and a list of references grounding the pedagogical strategy. Strategies_5ACourse Design

If you are considering designing a new course or redesigning an existing course, the Interactive Course Re/Design (ICD)* model provides:

A sound, pedagogical approach to course design with links and resources that offer guidance on each step in the process… The ICD model is specifically designed to encourage development of active learning and supports the ‘backward design’ pedagogical concept of determining what you want to accomplish before deciding how you want to approach it.

(Source: http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/cdm/index.html)



(*This site /model was developed and written by Dr. Pat Reid, Dr. Frank Dooley, Clarence Maybee and Dr. David Nelson with contributions from IMPACT Support Team members)

If you would to schedule a consultation or would like to discuss any of the strategies or technological tools in more detail, please contact itap@purdue.edu.


Chickering, A. W., & Ehrmann, S. C. (1996, October). Implementing the seven principles: Technology as lever. AAHE Bulletin, 3-6. Retrieved from  http://www.tltgroup.org/programs/seven.html

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.” AAHE Bulletin, 39(7), 3-7.

Juniu, S. (2005). Digital democracy in higher education: Bridging the digital divide. Innovate Journal of Online Education, 2(1). Retrieved from http://www.oit.sfasu.edu/disted/DigitalDemocracy.pdf

Prepared by: Dr. Constance Harris, Educational Technologist

Teaching From the Test: Exam Wrappers

By in Classroom, Course Redesign, Getting Started, Musings on Technology on .

Picture of Graded exam

As an educational technologist, I have the opportunity to consult with faculty members who want to know how they can best help students prepare for upcoming examinations. During our discussions, faculty members comment that students focus (obsess) on their test score and not what they might have done differently to prepare for their exams.  When I attended the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference in Philadelphia this past spring, I learned about a pedagogical tool faculty members utilize to help students learn from past exams and become more purposeful in the manner in which they prepare for future exams. This tool is known as exam wrappers.  Lovett (2013) described exam wrappers as, “structured reflection activities that prompt students to practice key metacognitive skills after they get back their graded exams” (p. 18).  Exam wrappers promote the development of self-regulated learning by prompting students to reflect, compare, and modify their learning strategies.

Exam wrappers pose three types of questions to students:

Question markWhat did they do to prepare for the exam? The purpose of this question is to prompt student reflection and help them evaluate the choices they made studying for the exam.  Questions posed to students include: How much time did you spend studying? and What exam preparation strategies did they use, such as, reviewing notes, studying in a group, working practice problems, or reading the course texts.) When faculty members present exam strategy choices, students are reminded of additional methods they can use to prepare.

Where did they make exam errors?  When exams are returned, students identify areas where they lost points and consider why the points were lost. For example, students may have lost points because they did not understand the question, did not understand how to apply a given concept or formula, or made careless mistakes.  Some instructors also incorporate open-ended questions so that students can identity other areas that affect exam performance, such as test anxiety.

What could they do differently to prepare for the next exam? This question is designed to encourage students to review their response to the first two exam wrapper questions and then list strategies that they could utilize to improve future performance.

Sample Exam Wrapper

 Figure 1. Sample Exam Wrapper

The Exam Wrapper Process

  1. Students utilize normal test taking strategies to prepare and take the first exam.
  2. The first exam is returned and students complete the exam wrapper either in class or online within a course management system, such as Blackboard Learn. (Instructors can either make the assignment required or award participation points for completion).
  3. The instructor collects the exam wrapper and reviews student comments.  This allows the instructor to assess student behavior patterns and determine whether the teaching staff needs to include additional teaching resources to support student learning.
  4. The exam wrapper is returned to students within a week or two before the next exam.  Students review their comments and then have the opportunity to follow their own advice for studying.

Benefits of Exam Wrappers

Exam wrappers:

  • Can be implemented without infringing on class time.
  • Are easy to complete by students.
  • Are repeatable and flexible. Faculty members can incorporate questions that address topics that are being covered in their curriculum.
  • Can be used to help faculty adjust their teaching strategies and assist students in achieving learning outcomes.
  • Help students develop metacognitive skills that faculty want them to learn. These skills include the ability to analyze their own strengths and weaknesses, identify study strategies that work for them, and adjust their learning strategies. (Lovett, 2013)

Blog Resources:

Bowen, J. (2013). Cognitive wrappers: Using metacognition and reflection to improve learning. Retrieved from http://josebowen.com/cognitive-wrappers-using-metacognition-and-reflection-to-improve-learning/

Ebbler, J. (2013, July 31). Exam wrappers. Retrieved from http://teachingwithoutpants.blogspot.com/2013/07/exam-wrappers.html

Pinchin, S. (2013, June 17). Exam wrappers: A novel way to review exams. Retrieved from http://meds.queensu.ca/blog/undergraduate/?p=653


Lovett, Marsha C. (2013). Make exams worth more than the grade: Using exam wrappers to promote metacognition. In M. Kaplan, N. Silver, D. LaVague-Manty, & D.  Meizlish (Eds.), Using reflection and metacognition to improve student learning: Across the disciplines, across the academy (pp. 18-52). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Prepared by: Dr. Constance A. Harris

Eight Questions About Windows 8

By in Getting Started, Musings on Technology, Software on .

My first experience with the Windows 8 operating system began in December 2012 when I helped friends install their new desktop computer. Windows 8 was installed on the computer and my goal was to set-up Wi-Fi and install their printer.  I thought the process would be easy, it was not. I quickly became frustrated during the installation process, because I like many others could not easily find the programs for which I had become accustomed to using, such as the Control Panel. After a few hours of mulling my way around the system, I was able to get everything successfully installed and went happily back using Windows 7. Fast forward to now… I recently began using a Surface Pro tablet, which comes with Windows 8. I really like the Surface Pro tablet and decided (this time) to explore features of the operating system more deeply.   This post is designed to share the answers to initial questions you may have about the operating system.

1.) How do I take a screen shot with Windows 8? 

Press the Windows key Apps4and the Print Screen key and the screen shot will be saved in the pictures library. If you are using a tablet device, the combination is the Windows key and the Volume Down key.

2.) Where is the Start button? 

The Start button has been replaced with the Start screen in Windows 8. The Start screen is the initial screen that you will see upon logging into the Windows 8 environment. The files and programs that were listed on the Start button are now presented as tiles on the Start screen. You can accesTiles can open desktop programs and system tools, such as, Microsoft Word and File Explorer, and Windows Store apps.

The Start Screen

Tiles on the Start screen link to programs, apps, and websites.

Windows 8 does not show you all of the tiles on your Start page. In order to see all of the tiles, scroll or swipe to the right side of your screen. As you can see, I loaded a variety of apps and programs.

The Start Screen

Access additional tiles