Importing Assessment Content – from Cengage

If you’ve ever had an issue pulling content into your course – especially assessment content the know you’re not alone.  Assessment content can be a really great win for you and your time, especially if you’re looking to provide some low-level assessment to check for student comprehension or understanding of material.

The real problem is when you get them from the publisher and go to put them into your course site.  Having played and worked with several learning management systems, I’m well aware of the phrase, “Not all learning management systems are created equal,” but I’m also aware that not all publishers are the same, nor is their implementation of standards, especially the QTI standard, used to provide formatting to assessments and the assessment question types so they’re portable and reusable in different learning management systems.

I’d like to say that there’s one full-proof/fool-proof way of doing this for every publisher, textbook, and question set – but there’s not.  There are lots of great tools out there like these:

  • Respondus
  • Cognero
  • TestGen

And yet sometimes it requires the use of multiple tools to get the assessment content into a course site. Here’s one such episode I recently encountered in an online course where the instructor needed multiple chapters of content imported from the newly minted next edition to the course and Cengage didn’t provide a Sakai labeled import file – just one for Angel and Blackboard (not even one for Canvas).

In short you may have to try several things or a combination of things. I’ve even taken content from one publisher in a format specific to another LMS, imported to that LMS, exported it and then was able to bring it into a course site. Just goes to show, nothing is standard in the world of publisher-created assessments, despite use of QTI as a standard.

If you have questions, or need help with importing your assessment content contact Dave Eveland of the Department of Online Education.

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New Video Tools for Course Content Development

Looking for a new and easy to use tool to create closed captions for video content you author for your course(s)?  There’s a few new tools just out this Fall 2017 term that area available to all University faculty (full time, online, part time, hybrid, extend ed, etc.)

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If you’re the kind that likes to figure things out yourself. Check out the links below and get to work:

  • Microsoft Stream
  • Screencast-O-Matic

The two services both provide means for creating closed captions, though they are not designed to do so exclusively.

Microsoft Stream

Microsoft Stream is provided to University faculty as part of the Microsoft licensing enjoyed and provisioned by the University Information Technology office.  You can login here, using your University credentials to explore the service.  Think of Stream as an exclusive video streaming service that’s specific to and for exclusive use by University students, faculty and staff. Stream is similar to Microsoft’s other service, Microsoft Video which is similarly included in the Office365 service and related licensing. Stream does not permit any uploaded video to be set to ‘public’ access – only those associated directly with the University can be permitted to see video content. A more exhaustive review of the service is available here.

To leverage the captioning function follow these steps:

  1. Update_video__DOE_20170915PD_Supporting_University_Adjuncts____Microsoft_Stream_🔊Login and upload a video asset to the service using your University login credentials
  2. Depending upon the audio quality (including voice diction, pronunciation and related sound fidelity) and file length, the service will produce a caption file in about 20 minutes.  This is done through a voice to text detection algorithm, so it won’t be perfect, but it may be better than typing things up yourself.
  3. You can then pair the caption file with Warpwire, YouTube, or even just provide it as a rough transcript of the content in your course.

Screencast-O-Matic

Screencast-O-Matic has long been used by University faculty for face to face and online courses.  What’s new is the pairing of the Pro level of service with a Google speech to text engine, which works much the same way Microsoft’s Stream does.  The difference here however is that the Pro level of service from SOM allows you to edit the caption from right within the program.  Microsoft’s Stream doesn’t permit easy editing of the captions, unless you download the caption VTT file and then hunt through this kind of mess to fix misspelled words, inaccuracies and complete blunders accordingly:

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 2.33.17 PM

To get more information on how to access the closed captioning feature in SOM, check out these tutorial videos:

If you have questions about using Screencast-O-Matic, or need directions on how to access the Pro service so you can access the editing function, record beyond 15 minutes and use the annotation tools contact the Department of Online Education.

For more information, faculty and course designers can contact the Department of Online Education.  Bear in mind, you need not wait to have a focused need based on enrollment in order to begin captioning course content you author.

Why would I use one service over the other?

  • If you already have a video in need of captions – look to use Microsoft Stream to create captions quickly.
  • If you are getting ready to create video content – and can do so, type out or correct the captions produced by Screencast-O-Matic.

What if the video isn’t from YouTube?

Ok so you’ve finally finished planning out part of a lesson and you want to include some killer video content you’ve found online.  The only problem is – the video content isn’t yours, and it doesn’t appear as though there’s an easy way for you to get it into your course in Sakai.

So what do you do?

First of all – do you need to include it directly into the course?

The short answer: No.
The best answer: Yes.  Wait – what?

There’s nothing in the ‘How to be a Perfect Online Instructor’ that says you have to include the content in the course, inside the LMS.  Pointing students to otherwise well-curated, applicable and relevant content is good and it’s something you’re likely better better at than students.  However – it may be good to help retain student’s focus by including the content right in the course – inside the LMS.  How many times have you found yourself looking for something online – only to get side-tracked by some ad, link, other video or headline?  To some degree this may not be a big issue, it provides support for learning through exploration.  On the other hand, in the void that is the Internet, students may meet dead ends or distractions that completely take them away from accomplishing the lesson or course objectives.

The lesson here: If you can legally and efficiently include content into an online course’s LMS – do so. This becomes especially important for adult students taking online courses – where their time and energy are likely being utilized in a full-time job or other responsibilities.  The other added benefit is that you’ve curated and organized content in such as way that demonstrates to students how you value their time and the content of the course. This also helps to minimize the barriers between students and the content they need to engage with – online advertisers do the same thing.

Ok, what about finding the content elsewhere?

Many instructors, faculty and/or course designers will look to see if the content has been posted to YouTube – albeit sometimes by others who have used other means of ripping the content and posting it illegally. While there is a lot of good content on YouTube and other video sharing sites that would benefit your course – be sure to steer clear of using content that is more than likely pirated or otherwise posted without consideration of copyright and fair use.

The lesson here: Don’t use content you know or suspect to be posted illegally. It’s so easy to pull that image or video and think, “No one will know, and the students won’t care.” This however is the same type of thinking that galls instructors when students turn in papers which have obvious plagiarizing issues. While you wouldn’t want your students to turn in content that’s not theirs (or otherwise well cited) – demonstrate the same level of integrity you’d expect from your students.  There is room for leaning on fair use policy, but don’t use it as license.

One way to address the ability to place content into your course is by using an embed code.  Yes, YouTube provides these rather handily.  They make it very easy for anyone to copy the embed code and make the video content appear in another website or in this case in the LMS.  In some ways, the use of an embed code provides a somewhat balanced approach to fair-use and inclusion of content in a course without claiming it as your own.

Picture1
Embedding a video from a website into a course site in the LMS.

What exactly does an embed code do? Essentially it acts as a pointer to the content – and the browser understands to go ‘fetch’ the content included in the embed code and display it accordingly.  In some ways it’s like the picture-in-picture (PIP) function of many televisions – it shows the content from some other channel (website) but here, while the other content is being displayed.xmiddleware_pip_01_2b1b72662199a309e45c823b8684d9ea-pagespeed-ic-waatcewutd

So what does an embed code look like?  Something like this, but it’s always specific to where on the Internet the video is really located – sort of like referring to the channel in the PIP example above:

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So where do you do with the embed code once you find it? Basically – you copy the code itself and then place it into a HTML area in the LMS – according to where it best fits for students to see and access the content. In Sakai, for example – you can place the code into any area that uses the Rich Text Editor, by clicking on the SOURCE button:

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So the pasted code would look like this:

skitch (6)

Once you save the edit, you’d end up with something that looks like this (but without the blue and red area designations):

skitch (7)

Ok so now we get to our final question, or our original question and the one that prompted this particular post. What if the video isn’t from YouTube?  Short answer: look for an embed code. Long answer: Really look for an embed code. There’s no question the Internet is filled with content – not all of it good and yet some of it is really excellent – like this video from TIME.  An instructor contacted me and wanted to include in his online course – but was unsure of how to do so. Thankfully – TIME provided just the right solution – an embed code.  Sometimes these things are hidden or ‘organized’ under a share area or button:

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In this case, hovering over the video itself for a second, allowed the share options to appear in the top right of the video.  The icons represent information, share, link and embed respectively (left to right). Clicking the <> icon displayed the following and provided the means to place it right into the course:

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And here’s how it appears in a course:

skitch (10)

Not every website provides an easy way to share content this way – likely because they just don’t want to or because it’s not within the framework of how they want to provide their content for public access and consumption.  Sites provide ways to embed more than just videos – you can also embed audio and images.  Smells are still quite a ways out of technologies reach for now – thankfully.

Many other popular services provide this ability to embed content including the following:

If you’re still curious or worried about the legality of embedding content check out this interesting post from Andrew Feather (especially the part about the Terms of Service section) on the matter and this ruling from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012 as reported by CNET. You can even read about Google and Facebook’s position on the issue here if you’re super board or extra curious. Oddly, as of this posting the actual ruling from the Seventh Circuit isn’t available. There’s also this posting by Eric Goldman on the ruling at the Technology & Marketing Law Blog.

FINE PRINT: The easy link can be the weakest

It’s important to recognize an inherent limitation to linking or embedding content.  While doing so does a great job of riding the fair use/copyright line, it also means that content integrity in a course can be compromised.  If someone has uploaded content to YouTube that is later deemed by YouTube to infringe on the copyright owner and YouTube removes the content, your course (by association) is affected. Consequently students become frustrated about content that isn’t accessible.  This isn’t a deal breaker – but it is something to bear in mind.

Using External Content in Sakai

Embedded Video
Embedded Video

One of the great things about the Lessons tool in Sakai is the ability to bring applicable content together from lots of different sources.

This isn’t so much a function of Sakai as it is a function of standard HTML, most of the code that structures the majority of web pages on the Internet today.

The Lessons tool affirms this ability to integrate content together using what is commonly referred to as embed codes.

The Lessons Tool

The Lessons Tool long ago replaced the Modules tool and is really the go to place for constructing chunked or organized course content by way of logical units or chronological portions of content into weeks.  Many faculty are using the Lessons tool, and all of the University’s online courses use it prolifically.

Adding content is as simple as using the common text editor (FCKeditor) which is a WYSIWYG style editor, which has been replaced by the CKeditor in Sakai 2.9.1.

The Lessons tool has several major components or mechanisms you can use to add content to your course site, including:

  • Add Text
  • Add Multimedia
  • Add Resource
  • Add Subpage
  • Add Assignment
  • Add Quiz
  • Add Forum
  • Add Comments Area
  • and more!

So how does all this come together?

Well essentially you have to do something. Hey, what were you expecting anyways? The best way to do so is to:

  1. Create your course components.
  2. Organize those components logically.
  3. Use Lessons to bring them all together.

Basically this means getting most of the individual bits and pieces of your course together ahead of time.  Gather, organize and create your course Assignments, online Assessments, Forums and other important content.  Once that’s done use the Lesson tool to bring it all together, allowing the content to appear in context within the Lesson – in Sakai:

Lessons: Content in Context
Lessons: Content in Context

This process is sort of like getting ready to baking a cake or making a batch of cookies.  It takes ample time and preparation, which includes the need to gather all the individual ingredients together. Each of the individual parts of the course are the individual ingredients. Constructing that content in Lessons is like mixing all the ingredients together, and teaching it? Well that’s like the baking process.

Try to keep the look and feel of each of your Lesson sections consistent in how they look and feel, retaining familiar navigation cues (like buttons, links, locations and color indications).  My grandfather always said the thing he loved about Walmart was that they were all mostly laid out the same, even though the stuff they had inside was different from season to season. You can do this pretty simply by designing a single Lesson with the structure you want, and then duplicating that Lesson and changing it accordingly. (To do so, using the Lesson as you’ve built it, click More Tools>Add More Pages.  In the pop up window, give the page a Title and be sure to place a checkmark next to”Make new pages copies of the current one”.)

Every course shouldn’t be perfectly identical. There’s a certain level of expectation students can rely on, and even come to appreciate when the content itself adheres to a structure w/o infringing on the content or compromising on the mechanism for delivering it. Doing so helps the technology to ‘get out of the way’ and allows students to ‘get on with the learning’.

Using Embed Codes

May different web services provide what are referred to as Embed codes – these codes – short segments of HTML code (which may look like this):

Sample Embed Code
Sample Embed Code

provide the means by which content from other sources can be included in text areas of the Lessons Tool.  Not all embed codes work the same.  You should note that content that’s pulled from another location on the Internet, which the University or you yourself do not have access to, might be removed by the owner or made private by the content provider.  (This can easily happen with YouTube content as some of our instructors have experienced.)

Johnson does have its own online streaming service that allows the University to retain access to uploaded academic audio or video content. If you want to know more, contact the University’s Online Education Department.

On the other hand, embedding content is a great way to extend the variety and access to applicable content within the context of the course. Most online services provide some type of embed functionality (often by way of a SHARE button), some of which include:

PowerPoint Web App
PowerPoint Web App

Keep in mind you can also use the Web Content and News tools to pull content in from other locations on the Internet, w/o having students click to another site only to loose their ‘place’ in the course in Sakai.

Keep in mind that Fair Use and Copyright requirements may be present for any or all of the content you elect to use in a course.