Monthly Archives: November 2010

Online Statistics Book with Simulations

There are a number of free educational resources on the web.  Many of them are very good or even excellent.  Today, while looking for a review of "degrees of freedom", I found the Online Statistics Book, a project that was "partially funded by the National Science Foundation".  It's free, or what's known as an "Open Educational Resource (OER)".  No surprise there, as the National Science Foundation has funded other similar publications that are freely available on the web.  This particular book is described as follows: "Online Statistics: An Interactive Multimedia Course of Study is an introductory-level statistics book. The material is presented both as a standard textbook and as a multimedia presentation. The book features interactive demonstrations and simulations, case studies, and an analysis lab."

A list of contributors, and the universities that helped with the development of the project, as listed on the homepage.  There is also a comprehensive table of contents, a link to Rice University's Virtual Lab, and a list of "simulations and demonstrations".  Additionally, the book is downloadable, so it can be read/used offline.

Categories: Research, Simulations | Tags:

Moodle for f2f courses

While most people associate Learning Management Systems (Moodle for example) with online learning, there are a number of ways that an LMS like Moodle can support f2f instruction.  I'll start off with some of the more obvious ways, and then talk about some that aren't so obvious.

First, Moodle can host all the documents you would normally pass out in class (making your course more green) and providing unlimited copies of the documents to students who lose them regularly.  It can also be a place where you post lecture notes, or even recordings of your lectures, so students can review them later.  But, in addition to these, the LMS can be used in such a way as to free up more time for you to interact with students personally, or in way that allows for a deeper examination of content.

One of the techniques that allows for this is called "front-loading".  When you front-load a course, you provide some course content (that normally would be given in-class) online.  So, in essence, the homework comes first.  The nice thing about having this homework online is that you can literally see who looks at it; and if it requires some sort of interaction with the material, you can see whose done the activity.  For example: it might make more sense to upload a recording of your lecture and require students to watch it before class, then in-class provide an activity that will encourage them to apply the information given in the lecture.  This allows you to walk around and interact with the students, drawing them to a deeper understanding of the information.

Back-loading is a technique usually used with graduate level students.  Students are given the content in-class and then homework that is used to stimulate the application of that material.  So, discussions and group-work (for example) would be moved online.  In the online environment it is easier to monitor discussions for all groups, and can encourage students who might be reluctant to share their opinion in-class, to do so.  If a wiki is used for group projects, it will be easier to see who has contributed to the project, and how much they contributed.

Grading quizzes, providing feedback on assignments, etc, are also facilitated in the online environment.  You certainly can't be accused of losing someone's homework, and the date and time they submitted their assignments will be clear as well.

There are a number of other ways Moodle can support your f2f class, and students will thank you for it.

Categories: Moodle

A few tips about your course

When designing your course page, think of it like you would a web page.  If you were viewing your course for the first time (as a prospective student) how would you feel about it?  Is there any text on it that explains the course?  Would it make sense to you?  Would you want to explore?  Or would it simply look like a bunch of documents and links?

Design your course page as if it was a web page.  Design it as you might if you were going to showcase it for other faculty members.  Your students should find the course welcoming, not intimidating.  They should be able to easily scan the course page and get an idea about the structure of the course.  It should make sense visually.

There are very simple things that can make the course more inviting:

1. Add a "welcome" to your course in Topic 0.  Use a large font and make it Bold.  You can even add an image or a banner.  To do these things, turn editing on and click the pencil tool at the top of that section.

2.Put all the general course related materials in the Welcome section (syllabus, general forum, etc).

3. Label each topic: click the pencil tool next to the number of the topic to do that.  Use a relatively large font and make it bold.

4. Use labels to explain some of the items on your course page.  For example: in Topic #1 you might have a label for Readings, Assignments, and Discussions.  You can access "labels" in the "add a resource" menu.

5. Eliminate blocks you are not using--both the ones on either side of the content area, and the topic blocks you aren't using.

These steps will make the course much more inviting, and make navigating the course easier for students.  (It will make a bit more sense to them visually)

Categories: Moodle | Tags:

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