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Archive for the 'Distance Education' Category

Canvas spotlight: The Calendar Tool

Canvas, the learning management system recently chosen to replace Oncourse, has many tools that will help instructors and students better manage their academic lives. In this series we’ll be examining some of the nifty things we can do with these tools.

The first tool to be spotlighted is the Calendar tool. When I first started exploring this tool, I was very pleased at how intuitive it was. The more I played around, however, the more impressed I became. Let me show you some of the highlights.

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next.iu decision: IU chooses Canvas

To keep Oncourse, or not to keep Oncourse, that was the question…

…and now we have an answer. Over the next two years, Indiana University will be transitioning away from Oncourse as our learning management system (or LMS, for those who like acronyms and abbreviations), in favor of a new LMS called Canvas. Canvas is offered by a company named Instructure, and as we at IU start moving over, we’ll have a series on this blog detailing some of the neat new features that Canvas has to offer.

Ready to learn more about Canvas? Try these links to start with:

Perhaps some of these features will lead you to switch your course management to Canvas long before Oncourse is retired.  I know once I saw the Calendar tool, I was a huge fan. More to come!

eLearning with Captivate 6

Adobe Captivate 6 is eLearning authoring software, and broadly speaking, eLearning is learning online or via some electronic device.  It’s a different experience than you would have sitting in a classroom and taking notes as a lecturer gives you information.  For some, the experience is better, and for others, it’s worse.  Whatever you think of it, it’s here, so why not get involved?  Here’s an  infographic  to give  you some insight about the trend in online education in the United States. It’s trending upward! Recently, IU announced a major new online learning initiative called IU Online.  Check out the press release to learn more.

So, back to Captivate 6. IU students, faculty, and staff can download it from IUware free of charge. You can’t beat that! Captivate 6 gives you features like:

  • Rapid eLearning content development
  • More effective collaboration
  • Interactive eLearning experiences
  • Rich multimedia to attract learners
  • Easy quizzing
  • Delivery virtually anywhere
  • Scoring, tracking, and reporting

You’re itching to learn all about this cool tool aren’t you? Luckily, IT Training has a Captivate 6: The Basics workshop planned.  It’s an online workshop (imagine that), scheduled for Tuesday, December 4th from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. In the meantime, go ahead and download Captivate 6 and start playing around with it. You can also find Captivate 6 training on

If you’re an educator you may be called upon to create some online learning content, so learn how to do it and impress your boss.  If you’re a student you can surely use Captivate to put together some pretty nifty class projects. There’s something for everyone, so start learning today.


Captivate 6 opening screen

Captivate 6 opening screen

The (too) long path home

I’ve encountered a problem I never thought I’d have: I’m too organized.

No one looking at my office (or my house) would suspect it, but all of my computer files are very neatly stored and nested, sub-folder within sub-folder. My virtual desktop is almost completely empty, save a few shortcuts. Any time I see two or more files in a folder that have something in common, I make a new sub-folder and drop them in.

As I’ve transitioned to paperless grading in Oncourse, particularly for my Spanish composition class, I’ve run across “Destination path too long” errors that baffled me. In Assignments 2, I make regular use of the “Download All” option, so that I can grade all of my students’ submissions for a particular assignment at once.

Screenshot of the Download All option in Assignments 2Oncourse is also hyper-organized (evidently we have this in common), so the zipped file that I save to my computer has a very detailed name:

Obviously in real life most of those come out shorter. Here’s a more true-to-life example inspired by my class.

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Oncourse Assignments: No more paper cuts!

A few years ago I made the decision to stop grading papers. This might come as a bit of a surprise to my Spanish students, as they still have to do homework and write research papers. What I really did was come to the conclusion that I was done with paper. I was spending way too much time trying to keep track of who had turned in which assignment, when they turned it in, whether or not I had handed it back or recorded the grade… and let’s face it, handwriting skills are not universally emphasized anymore. (Frankly, that goes for me, too – my poor students have had trouble for years deciphering my scrawl). I was done with it all. I went digital.

I became a very heavy user of Oncourse’s Assignments tool, in all of its incarnations. The current version has several features that have made my transition to purely digital assignments much easier. Read the rest of “Oncourse Assignments: No more paper cuts!” »

Oncourse Tests & Surveys tool: Set it up

Oncourse’s Tests & Surveys tool lets instructors change a wide variety of settings in the assessments they create. Students should pay attention to these options too, as different settings might change their test-taking strategies.

Under Settings, instructors can specify delivery dates for their assessments, including whether or not to accept late submissions. In addition they can add a time limit, and add feedback (for specific responses, or for the assessment as a whole). They can even allow students to respond anonymously, or choose to hide students’ names from the person grading a test (such as a course assistant). Two settings in particular can be exploited for pedagogical purposes: Assessment Organization and Mark for Review.

Read the rest of “Oncourse Tests & Surveys tool: Set it up” »

Oncourse is your new best friend

Oncourse, the open source learning management system that is used by IU, was created right here – and is constantly being revised, tweaked, and improved.  (Technically Oncourse is our version of Sakai).  Oncourse provides a place for collaboration and learning for faculty and students.

Every course taught at IU automatically gets an Oncourse site. The following tools are immediately available:

  • Home, where instructors post an introduction to their course. The Home tool also displays the most recent announcements, and whether or not there are new messages.
  • Announcements, useful for keeping site members up-to-date on assignments and other events
  • Assignments, for posting homework and other tasks. You can associate them with the Gradebook automatically, and choose to post an announcement when they come available.
  • CourseNetworking (beta), an external tool that encourages social interaction among classmates and others who study similar subjects.
  • Gradebook, where to record and calculate grades.
  • Library Resources, an interactive page connected to the university library.
  • Messages, an internal email system for each site than can be connected to its members’ IU email address, or automatically forwarded to any outside email address, as desired.
  • Performance Roster, a way for instructors to submit information about students’ performance in their classes.
  • Resources, a place to post documents and links related to course content.
  • Roster, which shows a list of site members (students, instructors, course assistants, and others). There’s even a roster version with everyone’s official ID photo for those of us with memory issues.
  • SIS Grade Roster, a quick way to officially post grades.
  • Site Setup, the only tool that can’t be deleted, which allows site owners (usually instructors) to change what tools are visible, who can access the site, and how basic info is displayed.
  • Syllabus, where you can post a copy of your course syllabus, as text or as an attachment.

These are by no means the only tools at your disposal, however – there are many more.  Some additional tools that might be useful:

  • Web Content, which allows you to list links to other web sites that will be listed among the tools on the left of the screen.  You can add multiple links this way.
  • Forums, a discussion board
  • Chat Room, for live chat between students – with or without the instructor
  • Presentations, a tool that helps students create learning and showcase portfolios
  • Tests & Surveys, for creating assessments

There are many more tools available that might serve your needs.  For more details on how to use Oncourse, watch our short feature demo movies and read the PDF Least You Need to Know documents, or click the blue question  marks sprinkled liberally throughout the workspace.  Watch this blog for tips and tricks to make the most of your Oncourse experience!

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