eLearning Technology Blog

Pointing to Politics

by WSU Online 26. October 2012 14:53

USA Flag

Today WSU News released a story, “Voting up among youth using social media,” revealing the findings of WSU professor, Bruce Pinkleton and WSU Alum, Yushu Zhou. The report will be published in the November issue of the journal of Mass Communication and Society, and begs an important, larger question: how important is social media?

The study indicates a close correlation between social media and communication about political ideals and civic involvement, “Pinkleton and Zhou found that participants who were interested in election information were more likely to use social media, public affairs websites and other digital information sources to learn about elections and were more likely to participate in public affairs by expressing their opinions online.”  So, not only do young  people find information about the election online, but they are also using these very same social media platforms to synthesize their own ideas, in essence teach others what they’ve learned.

This process is not only interesting in regards to the political sphere, but also in regards to higher education.  As social media progressively seeps into the daily life of all age groups, we as an educational institution must consider its impact and how we could potentially harness such a force. Multimodal studies in a variety of disciplines have started to touch on these ideas—but how can the average instructor both consider and reflect upon what, how, and when social media could be used to not only propagate information but also spark the thoughtfulness and critical thinking surrounding such information?

These are questions we certainly grapple with here at the WSU Global Campus.  Whether it’s exploring new applications available to our students or investing in systems with built in social media features, we value the ability of students to connect with each and share their opinions and information.  Likewise, we hope that the discussion forums within any given WSU Online course space are rich places for students to synthesize material in the course space and catapult their learning to the next level (much like how traditional social media is working for the public realm today). Perhaps the great thing about a discussion forum within a course space is that it imposes no third party providers to manage.  Faculty can simply respond to students – elaborate on a student’s idea, ask questions, push for more information and feedback—right there in their own course space. 

Indeed, the discussion board is one of the most useful, and in some cases under-utilized, aspects of any Learning Management System. If nothing else, thinking about the growing importance of social media within our culture should spur faculty to communicate more frequently with students, and to provide them with a virtual space for expressing opinions, supporting those opinions, and reiterating valuable content. So, as election day creeps upon us, and we busily scribble in our votes, seal and stamp, may we be thinking of how else to engage students, how to push our courses beyond the routine and mundane, into a place of interaction and relevant conversation.

For the full WSU News story, check it out online here.

Rebecca L Stull

New Rubric Tools in Angel 8.0

by WSU Online 15. October 2012 09:15

In a previous blog post we discussed the Angel rubric tool that is available for the assignment drop box. With the upgrade to Angel 8 you can now associate these rubrics with discussion forums.

This provides a straightforward, scalable, and automated way for instructors to score and give useful feedback to student discussions. Students benefit greatly from explicitly stated expectations for the quality of their engagement in discussion forums. It would be nice if instructors had the time to monitor multiple discussion forums and provide personal feedback to large numbers of students but unfortunately, this takes too much time.  The rubric tool makes it easy for instructors to make their expectations explicit and central to students in the discussion forums even when they are not available. Students can use the criteria and feedback provided to improve their work over time.

Other ways rubrics are useful:
• Rubrics allow you to make your expectations explicit, recursive, and aligned with scoring.
• Students require less monitoring in the discussions and can be more responsible for the quality of their own thinking and engagement.
• Rubrics provide a foundation for consistent scoring and feedback among multiple graders in a large class setting.
• Rubrics help students to understand and reflect on the standards that underlie grading as they work.
• Rubrics provide a way for students to self and peer assess.
• Rubrics help students to understand how the instructor sees their work and what can be done to improve.

To add a rubric to your discussion forum, first click on the title of the discussion, then click Settings and then the Assignment tab.
You can select any rubric that you have created from the Grading Rubric dropdown. You can then decide whether you would like the rubric to be visible to students before their submission and/or after the submission is graded. Allowing students to see the rubric prior to submission gives them a way to reflect on and refine the quality of their work. After submission, students can again use your rubric based scores to further polish their work.

Once the rubric is created you can easily to share a rubric  between courses. To learn more about creating rubrics, first click on small question mark icon in the left menu in your Angel course, then click on the link Using Grading Rubrics in the help menu. You are also encouraged to attend WSU Online’s Angel training, Gradebook and Grading which teaches rubric creation and use as well as other useful skills.

Theron DesRosier

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