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Thoughts on Adding Technology to Blend Courses

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By in Content Development, Course Redesign, IMPACT, Musings on Technology on .

This Spring, I made a decision to enroll in a Blended Learning course sponsored by EDUCAUSE called “Becoming a Blended Learning Designer”. This MOOC requires participants to complete the course in six weeks, and during that time participate in discussions, blogging, and readings.

As I went through the readings for the first week of the class, two lines stuck out to me:

“Blended learning is not simply adding an online component to a face-to-face course.  Technology in a course should be used wisely – to facilitate student learning.”  (Thompson, 2015, p. 7)

I’ve seen cases all too often where faculty members try to add technology in to the course because they’re trying to meet a need.  They know they should be adding technology but they’re looking to add something that may not always be the most practical or the most appropriate for their class.  Some instructors I have worked with have looked to using the LMS to replace in-class quizzes, for example.  Great idea in theory, but they were not prepared for some of the variables:

  • Students trying to use smartphones or tablets to take the quiz (when the LMS doesn’t necessarily support this well)
  • Students taking the quiz with other students
  • Students using their notes/books for the quiz

The instructors in these cases were thinking it would be simple to replace their low-stakes quizzes with ones that could simply be taken online. But they wanted a full replication of the in-class experience, one that mitigated “cheating” (or as some prefer to call it, “collaboration”).

For me the first part of a blended learning course is determining which parts should go online, and which should not.  It should be a careful, deliberate process that seeks to allow technology to assist in teaching, not trying to force technology into a role that faculty may regret later.

If you are looking to redevelop your class, consider applying for the IMPACT program by visiting http://www.purdue.edu/impact. If you know what tools you want to use and need help getting those tools integrated into your class, contact us at tlt-consulting@purdue.edu.

Brett Creech
Educational Technologist


Thompson, K. (ed.). (2015).  BlendKit Reader (2nd Ed.).  Retrieved from https://blended.online.ucf.edu/blendkit-course-blendkit-reader-chapter-1/

Using Apps to Navigate Purdue and the Surrounding Community

By in Hiring, Musings on Technology, Tools, Uncategorized on .

When I moved to Indiana almost two years ago, I was overwhelmed trying to find my way around until I came across some helpful digital apps. There are many official and unofficial apps related to Purdue University but I am going to share the ones that worked best for me in the operating systems I use.

Purdue Maps appPurdue maps shot

The most helpful was Purdue Maps, available free on Android. While other apps have maps, what made this one useful is this is all it does. One tap and it shows me right where I am on campus. After typing in where I need to go, it shows me my destination with a dot. All I have to do is follow the map to match the dots.  I still use this app nearly two years later.

Purdue walkPurdue walk shot

The other issue you run into as someone new to campus is not knowing how long it takes to go from one part of campus to another. Purdue Walk, free on Android, assisted with this. You tell it your starting and ending points and it tells you how long it takes to get there at various walking speeds. When I have needed to calculate what time I need to leave to make an appointment or if I need to drive to make it over walking, this app has been extremely helpful.

YalpYelp screen shot

Learning my way around West Lafayette and Lafayette became much easier after utilizing Yelp (free for both Android and IPad). If you haven’t heard of Yelp, it is an app that reviews businesses and includes maps to find them. You get to hear from others who have been there and discover which businesses have received good reviews. It also knows where you are and can tell you what businesses are close to you and related to what you need, such as car repair or a grocery store. Yelp also allows you to look businesses up ahead of time, and bookmark them to find them more easily when you need them.

Starbucksstarbucks screen shot

I must also include the very important Starbucks app (free on Android and Ipad) which is perfect when you only have your phone and really need coffee, tea, or a snack. The app works by having you pay ahead and it can subtract your purchase from your account. It also has maps to nearby Starbucks and will inform you if they are currently open.

What apps have you found to be helpful for those new to Purdue?

Canvas Likes and Less-Than-Likes


By in Musings on Technology on .

In Fall 2014, Purdue started a pilot of the Canvas LMS to assess the usability of Canvas at Purdue University. With Purdue’s contract with Blackboard expiring in September of 2017, it is important to look at alternatives to see if Purdue is best served by Blackboard, or if a different learning management system would be better for faculty and students.

When it comes to Canvas, I’ve considered the things I like, and the things I’m not quite a fan of. Let’s start off with the three things I really like about Canvas:

  • Customizable Notifications
    One of the terrific options in Canvas is that users can customize how they are notified of course changes, announcements, and other alerts. By default, all users have their Purdue email address listed for notifications. Canvas allows for users to add additional email accounts, as well as their cell phone numbers for SMS messages. Notifications can also be sent to a user’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.Additionally, when users are notified of alerts can be changed. A user can be alerted to a change when it happens, once daily, or even weekly. Notifications can be turned off, too. By allowing faculty and students to customize how and when they are notified of course changes, in-course communication can become more effective.
  • Uploading Files
    Adding files to a Canvas course is simple – click on a file on your computer, and drag it into Canvas. Need three files? Highlight all three files on your computer, and drag them all into Canvas. Canvas features a file manager that can also allow for the creation of folders for better organization of files. Instructors may also lock files to limit access to them and course TA’s, which is useful if the course must include private files (such as homework solutions).
  • Canvas Mobile Application
    For me, this is a big deal. First, the Canvas Mobile Application while still developing, has a number of features that I think users will find very useful immediately. The mobile application allows for sending messages to instructors and students, as well as checking grades and viewing all course notifications sorted by date. Also, the mobile application is free and is available for iOS and Android. Plus, students can submit assignments through the mobile app!

So, I’ve listed the things I like. Here’s the three things that I’ve found that I’m not thrilled about just yet…

  • Test and Quiz Creation
    This is something where Canvas does not necessarily have an advantage over Blackboard, unless you’re creating equations (where Canvas does have an advantage). Creating a test or a quiz in Canvas is just as complicated as it is in Blackboard. Also, one must be careful to not scramble answer options if answers such as “all of the above” or “A and B only” are used in questions. However, adding images and multimedia to question answer options is fairly simple in comparison to Blackboard. Overall, it’s still a time-consuming process to build a quiz in Canvas.
  • Limited Course Menu Alteration Options
    Canvas has designed its course menu to where there is not a lot of customization that can be done with the menu itself. Sure, menu items can be removed or made unavailable to students, but for arranging content, instructors cannot add new content areas like Blackboard. Canvas provides a Modules area, where content can be arranged by week, unit, chapter, and more. But there can only be one Modules area, not more, and the names of the links cannot be altered. For instructors who like to place a link to individual content areas set up by week or objective, this could be a concern.
  • Automatic Updates
    Instructure updates Canvas usually once every three weeks with anything from bug fixes to the addition of new options. While for bug fixes this is welcome, when it comes to look and feel alterations, should things really change during a semester? If look, feel, and feature updates could be delayed on an institution-by-institution basis this wouldn’t be a concern.

So, that are some of my likes and concerns about Canvas. If you would like more information about the Canvas pilot, visit our Canvas Pilot Site at http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/innovate/projects/canvas.html. Faculty members who would like to try out Canvas are invited to request a test account by emailing tlt-consulting@purdue.edu.

Brett Creech
Educational Technologist

My Favorite Three Research Related Apps

By in Mobile, Musings on Technology, Tools, Uncategorized on .

As a PhD candidate and an Educational Technologist for ITaP, I rely on technology to keep myself organized at work, to collect research materials for my dissertation, and to keep track of things I find for my personal life. Here are three of my favorite apps and why I found them to be so helpful.

1)  Evernote icon  Evernote: This free data management system assists in keeping track of three areas of my life: work, school, and home. Each area has its own folder within Evernote. A paid account gives you a defined large storage space. The free version recharges your account monthly with storage space.

Evernote is:

*Accessible on the platforms and devices I use, Mac/PC, and Android.

*Backed up on the cloud.

This application has:

* Tagging for organization

*The Web Clipper extension in Chrome, which allows you to turn a web page into a note.

*The ability to convert an email message into a note in Evernote.

*The ability to record and save audio in a note.

Additional Notes

I use the tags to keep myself organized while writing my dissertation. If I find a resource I need to remember when writing Chapter 2, I can tag it as such. I can also add a “Chapter 1” tag as well so I remember to mention it in my background. I can also give it a topic or author tag so when I want all resources related to any topic or person, with one click, I have them.

I have a notebook for work. I created tags for all projects, meetings, notes, tools, and events I need to follow. I can find them and add to them wherever I am, even if all I have is my phone and the Evernote app.

I have another notebook in Evernote for personal resources such as recipes and bookmarks. Entering recipes makes them accessible anywhere I am near technology. When I find a resource my daughter might enjoy, I tag it with her name.

Anything that can use sorting or quick referencing anywhere is a great fit for Evernote. A getting started guide is here: https://evernote.com/getting_started/


Example of Evernote

2) Mendeley_Logo_Vertical  Mendeley: I have found immense success in using Mendeley as a tool to not only collect research related resources but to search files of the scholars who contribute to the Mendeley collection.

Mendeley allows you to:

*Connect to scholars with similar research interests.

*Join groups based on your research interests.

*Connect with colleagues and share resources.

*Have your journal collection accessible and backed-up on the cloud.

*Connect with your materials using the app.

*Organize your articles with tags.

*Monitor a folder on your desktop to import any journal you save right into the tool.

*Connect directly to Word with an embed feature.

Additional Notes

I have found I need to review what I import to Mendeley because it does not always collect the citation information accurately. Once I have verified for accuracy, the citation can be copied to your clipboard and imported into a document. Mendeley also is friendly to the “drag and dropped” file. You can drop files into the tool and drag citations out of the original Mendeley file.

Mendeley is a free web-based tool. The app is also free but you need to use the web-based tool to connect with scholars and interact with peers. Your files update every time you open the application.

Mendeley Online Example

Mendeley Online Example


3) easybib_twitterlogo EasyBib online is a fee-based tool when used on the web but the app for Android and iPad is free. I do not use the web-based part of this tool. The app is helpful when I find a resource such as a physical book I would like to remember later. Opening the app immediately opens your phone or tablets camera, prompting you to take a picture of the books bar code. It then looks up several possible matches, allowing you to select the correct choice. You can also look up books according to title. The application saves a list of all things you looked up on just that device, making it an accurate but temporary repository for books you want to find again. This one feature is all the free application does but it has proven to be extremely useful, quick, and easy to use, on several occasions. Since there is no cloud storage of your information, I suggest utilizing the citation as soon as possible.

EasyBib app example

EasyBib app example

If you know of additional apps useful for the busy graduate student/mom/Ed Tech at Purdue, please share them in the comments section.