Brace Yourself in Lessons

So everyone likes new features – as long as they add value and they’re not too hard to use.  A new feature in Sakai is a special set of ‘codes’ you can use to refer to the logged in user by first name. This neat feature was developed by the good folks over at University of Dayton based on an effort to personalize the interaction students have with course content. Dayton later shared the feature with the larger open-source Sakai global community.

The feature works in any rich text edit window of the Lessons tool and it’s simple to use.  Let’s say you’d like to welcome students to a course with something like the following:

Welcome to the course! I’m so glad you’ve registered and checked into the course!

It’d be great if you could draw the student’s attention to something in the content using their first name or something like this:

Welcome to the course! David I’m so glad you’ve registered and checked into the course!

You can use the following text to do so:

Welcome to the course! {{firstname}} I’m so glad you’ve registered and checked into the course!

entering the text right in the rich text edit area. Don’t use the SOURCE toggle button.  Once you save the change, you’ll see the result with your name – and anyone else who logs into the course will see their name in that area. You can even change the font color of {{firstname}} or {{lastname}} or {{fullname}} to draw even more attention.

Here’s a 73 second video showing the feature:

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Organizing Favorites in Sakai

With the recent upgrade to Sakai 12.1, faculty and students are starting to notice some of the nuance and changes from Sakai 11.

autoaddfavoritesites

One of the new features in Sakai is in the Organize Favorites tab under the Sites area.  Here you can now elect to have your newly added sites automatically added as favorites.  Essentially this acts as a way to keep tabs on courses you’re in without having to look under the Sites menu.

toomanyfavorites

This is a user preference – which means turning it on or off only affects you – the person changing it – not your students (if you’re a faculty member) and not faculty (if you’re a student).  With the setting turned on, you can still manage your favorite sites by selecting to turn the star next to a site yellow (favorited) or white (un-favorited). This setting can be very handy though, because when a new semester or session begins, as instructors (faculty) make course sites available, they’ll automatically show up as favorited sites in the top banner on your login.

reloadtoseenewfavoriteselections

There is a limit to the number of favorites you can have though – 15 in fact. If there are more than 15 sites favorited (either by you selecting that many or by way of having the “automatically add new sites to favorites” checked), you’ll get a notice on the Organize Favorites tab.  You can then review your favorited sites, unselecting specific ones or by using the star at the top of any term to unselect or select a whole term’s worth of sites.

select multiple favorites

Keep in mind that if you don’t see a site, it’s because it:

  1. hasn’t started yet, and therefore hasn’t been published by the instructor
  2. has concluded and the instructor has un-published the site
  3. as an instructor – you may not have been assigned to teach it yet
  4. you have the “automatically add new sites to favorites” turned off
  5. you have the “automatically add new sites to favorites” turned on, but you have too many sites favorited
  6. OR you may have it hidden in your Preferences>Sites area

Here’s a quick video over the concept and of course you can always check out the Users Guide on Sites organization here.

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.

Will Sakai look different following the upgrade?

While there are some improvements to accessibility and some on-going tweaks to improve color contrast issues, the upgrade to Sakai will not affect the overall appearance that much.  For mobile users – the difference in course navigation will be much-improved.

Desktop/Laptop view:

Sakai 11
Sakai - Pre Upgrade Desktop View

Following Upgrade:
Sakai - Post Upgrade Desktop View

Mobile view (Sakai 11/Post-Upgrade):
Sakai - Pre Upgrade Mobile View  Sakai - Post Upgrade Mobile View

More detail will be distributed in the coming weeks and those following the upgrade.

Data Informs Instruction

Ever teach an online course? Those who have know it’s sometimes difficult to know what’s going on with the students taking the course.  After all there’s “no way” to engage face to face with them, or maybe there is.

In any case having a pulse on if students are engaging in the course and how they’re engaging can be key.  Knowing when to what degree and in what ways students are engaging with course material and each other can help improve the outcomes of the course and help you (the instructor) help students meet with success more often.

One tool available to you in our course site is the Statistics tool.  This tool brings together an extensive amount of log data – and some of it in ready-packaged easy to use diagrams and visual models. You an even run custom reports using the Reports tab:

reporttabinstats

Here are just a few of the tables/graphs you can see just by selecting the tool:

Screenshot 2017-11-17 08.57.39

Screenshot 2017-11-17 08.57.40

To use the tool, just select it from the tool set. The tool merely reports data – it won’t change anything, but it could help you change how you help your students succeed in your class.

Online Video Tutorial Authoring – Quick Overview

As an instructional designer a key component to my work is creating instructional videos.  While many platforms, software and workflows exist here’s the workflow I use:

    1. Write the Script:  This first step is critical though to some it may seem rather artificial.  Writing the script helps guide and direct the rest of the video development process. If the video is part of a larger series, inclusion of some ‘standard’ text at the beginning and end of the video helps keep things consistent.  For example, in the tutorial videos created for our Online Instructor Certification Course, each script begins and ends with “This is a Johnson University Online tutorial.” Creating a script also helps insure you include all the content you need to, rather than ad-libbing – only to realize later you left something out.As the script is written, particular attention has to be paid to consistency of wording and verification of the steps suggested to the viewer – so they’re easy to follow and replicate. Some of the script work also involves set up of the screens used – both as part of the development process and as part of making sure the script is accurate.

 

  1. Build the Visual Content: This next step could be wildly creative – but typically a standard format is chosen, especially if the video content will be included in a series or block of other videos.  Often, use of a 16:9 aspect ratio is used for capturing content and can include both text and image content more easily. Build the content using a set of tools you’re familiar with. The video above was built using the the following set of tools:
    • Microsoft Word (for writing the script)
    • Microsoft PowerPoint (for creating a standard look, and inclusion of visual and textual content – it provides a sort of stage for the visual content)
    • Google Chrome (for demonstrating specific steps – layered on top of Microsoft PowerPoint) – though any browser would work
    • Screencast-O-Matic (Pro version for recording all visual and audio content)
    • Good quality microphone such as this one
    • Evernote’s Skitch (for grabbing and annotating screenshots), though use of native screenshot functions and using PowerPoint to annotate is also OK
    • YouTube or Microsoft Stream (for creating auto-generated captions – if it’s difficult to keep to the original script)
    • Notepad, TextEdit or Adobe’s free Brackets for correcting/editing/fixing auto-generated captions VTT, SRT or SBV
    • Warpwire to post/stream/share/place and track video content online.  Sakai is typically used as the CMS to embed the content and provide additional access controls and content organization
  2. Record the Audio: Screencast-O-Matic has a great workflow for creating video content and it even provides a way to create scripts and captions. I tend to record the audio first, which in some cases may require 2 to 4 takes. Recording the audio initially, provides a workflow to create appropriate audio pauses, use tangible inflection and enunciation of terms. For anyone who has created a ‘music video’ or set images to audio content this will seem pretty doable.
  3. Sync Audio and Visual Content: So this is where the use of multiple tools really shines. Once the audio is recorded, Screencast-O-Matic makes it easy to re-record retaining the audio portion and replacing just the visual portion of the project. Recording  the visual content (PowerPoint and Chrome) is pretty much just listening to the audio and walking through the slides and steps using Chrome. Skitch or other screen capture software may have already been used to capture visual content I can bring attention to in the slides.
  4. Once the project is completed, Screencast-O-Matic provides a 1 click upload to YouTube or save as an MP4 file, which can then be uploaded to Warpwire or Microsoft Stream.
  5. Once YouTube or Microsoft Stream have a viable caption file, it can be downloaded and corrected (as needed) and then paired back with any of the streaming platforms.
  6. Post of the video within the CMS is as easy as using the LTI plugin (via Warpwire) or by using the embed code provided by any of the streaming platforms.

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.