Student Authentication for Online Courses

The recent Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) has made it mandatory that we be able to verify that the correct person is actually taking an online exam or other high-stakes assessment. The legislation language indicates that an institution must verify students’ identity by using at least one of the following:

  1. secure login and pass code
  2. proctored exams
  3. identification technologies

Regardless of which of these an institution pursues, there are some guidelines that may help with decision-making.

This blog article gives a good overview of how the online education sector is addressing these needs. It also provides a useful conversation point for a broader discussion of concerns of academic integrity that are not addressed by the legislation. It’s worth reading.

An Update on Student Authentication and the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA)

Embedding video in a Desire2Learn course

Often I find it desireable to include a video from the Internet into a course I’m teaching. Thanks to the new Web 2.0 technologies, it is possible to provide high quality videos direct to our students without needing to do a lot of production work ourselves. And the way many videos are being published on the Internet, we don’t even need to ask permission or get copyright clearance!

The trick is to look for online videos that have some kind of “Share” button or link mounted on or near the video panel. With that button you can copy a short line of computer code that you simply paste into your web page (in Desire2Learn or other learning management system, into your blog, into a PowerPoint presentation or wherever). Then each time the Play button is clicked by a student, the video actually streams from the server you found it on, in real time. No need to copy the video or otherwise handle it — it simply comes to your site each time it’s viewed.

In this short video, one of our colleages shows us how to accomplish this easy task. Go on and try it. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how easy it is.

An important side note: We have discovered that, at the time of this writing, this process will not work correctly if you are using the Internet Explorer browser. For the time being it will be best to use the Firefox browser, which you can download for free at www.firefox.com.

Emotionally intelligent signage

I have recently discovered the work of Daniel Pink. He is a business writer, and a master storyteller who encourages others to be the same. In this short pecha-kucha presentation (what’s that? — see another post in this blog) on “emotionally intelligent signage,’ where he encourages anyone creating signs to help others find their way to do so in an intelligent way that also touches our senses in addition to providing information.

This presentation has caused me to rethink how we provide instructions to our students, especially regarding how they should navigate through a course in a typical learning management system like Desire2Learn or Blackboard. Perhaps we should take some cues from Mr. Pink.

Watch this short presentation (7 minutes) with thoughtful reflection about how you communicate instructional material to your students.

Quality standards for online courses

I recently attended the annual FUSION conference for users of the Desire2Learn learning management system. One of the gems I discovered is the Southern Regional Education Board. I picked up a really useful pamphlet entitled “Standards for Quality Online Courses.” It is a very succinct yet comprehensive framework for assessing online course quality.

You can download a .pdf version of the pamphlet at www.sreb.org

I encourage you to download and review it!

Rethinking the old PowerPoint routine

I’ve discovered a couple of new approaches to preparing presentations. They are especially relevant to those of us who are deeply steeped in traditional bullet-point approaches using PowerPoint.

One approach and book that I’m really enjoying reading it Beyond Bullet Points, by Cliff Atkinson. Another is an online presentation titled Brain Rules: what all presenters should know, by Garr Reynolds. The second of these builds on a recent popular book entitled, Brain Rules: 12 Rules for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, by molecular biologist John Medina.

Some companion web sites for these approaches are at beyondbulletpoints.com and brainrules.net. Be sure and watch the videos on the Brain Rules site!

Both approaches underscore the fact that we are all highly visual creatures, and that we normally can focus on only one or a very limited number of thoughts at any given time. They build on this understanding of how our minds work to create a fundamentally very different approach to presenting information. They emphasize engaging the listener/viewer with a cogent STORY rather than a blizzard of facts.

Interesting reading and discovery.

The future of plagiarism

I just read an entertaining, but almost disheartening article that is a tongue-in-cheek eavesdrop on the conversation of two young professors twenty years in the future. They discuss the availability of automated plagiarism software that can research, copy or buy material, and then automatically edit the published works to the extent that the plagiarism can’t be detected. Here’s the article:
The Future of Plagiarism.

Maybe. But not today. For now software like TurnItIn.com can still be an effective tool for combating plagiarism in written works our students submit to us. At ORU we have a site license for it. Check out the link to it on the faculty resource page on the university web site: faculty.oru.edu/faculty.php.

“Chunking” your online course content

In an earlier post I introduced the notion of “chunking” your course content. What this means in a practical sense is that you should think of your course materials in terms of bite-size segments that your students can digest easily. For example, if you’re using a typical textbook, the chapters are probably subdivided by subheadings into sets of information that “hang together” for the learner to consider.

When preparing your content, you should consider how to create your content “chunks” in the same manner. Rather than thinking in terms of a monolithic classroom lecture (e.g., “I have to cover one and a half chapters of the textbook in this 1 hour, 50 minute course meeting”), think about smaller segments that can more or less stand on their own, or be sequenced in a meaningful way.

This is especially important when creating video content for your course, using tools like Camtasia Studio. When creating video segments of, say, a PowerPoint presentation, I like to limit the individual pieces to no more than ten or fifteen minutes, and then provide some type of table of contents or other structure to guide the students through the material in a logical fashion.

The latest version of Camtasia Studio provides some help with creating and managing your “chunks” of course materials. We have a limited number of licenses at ORU, so please contact me if you’d like to use it. You can download a fully-functional, 30-day evaluation copy at www.techsmith.com/download/camtasiatrial.asp.

For some ideas about how to create educational “chunks” using Camtasia Studio, check out the long list of tutrial videos at this link: www.techsmith.com/community/education/education_solutions.asp.

To see another component of Camtasia Studio, the Camtasia Theater, for arranging the set of “chunks” with a useful interactive table of contents and navigation structure, please see this tutorial video: Camtasia Theater.

Think “chunking”!

Tips for no-fail online course production

A recent article in Campus Technology provides some really good tips for creating high-quality, successful online courses. You should read the article to get all the fine points, but below are the 5 tips:

  1. Create a plan.
  2. Embrace “chunking.”
  3. Emphasize quality.
  4. Make it interesting!
  5. Keep it relevant.

Be sure and read the entire article at http://campustechnology.com/articles/61521_1/

Ways to address online cheating and academic integrity

In my conversations with colleagues about online education, the topics of cheating and academic integrity often come up. While these topics are also of concern in the traditional classroom, some may feel that online technologies may actually enable more widespread cheating.

Here is an interesting article from a Desire2Learn newsletter that discusses some ways to address such concerns.

http://www.desire2learn.com/newsletters/Horizon/Issue07/horizon6.html

In particular I found the discussion about creating contextual versus generic assignments very interesting. That is what I have been doing for quite some time — provide contextual assignments where students must study and interact with their own world and environment and report back on what they’ve discovered. Enjoy!