Here is my current pick of examples of how instructors are improving instruction. My office is here to help you do this type of thing. And, of course, please tell me if you are using a different teaching tool that I can share with your colleagues. The Academic Technology Fellows and I want to be your conduit for best practices. -Deone
Put Your Class Through Moodle
Moodle may be a silly word, but it can make your life easier and your students better able to access your course materials 24/7. Think of it as a “bulletin board in the sky” where you can put syllabi, handouts, and interactivities. You can load it up with videos, quizzes to make sure they read and listen, discussion forums, and even your gradebook (which allows a student to see only what s/he has earned and not the grades of others). All your material is in one location, and prepping for the next semester is as simple as cloning the site. You’ll never feel so organized.
Have Your Students Create Videos, Stuffed Animals
Dr. Mary-Pat Stein teaches Immunology, and believes that getting students to exercise their creativity is the best way to help them learn. So she has her students submit their own student-generated lessons. Students have fulfilled the assignment by making stuffed animals of T-cells, writing comic books, and making movies that illustrate principles of immunology. Check out one of her her students’ video creations here.
Add Audio and Turn your Slideshows Into Multimedia Narratives
Staid Powerpoints come to life when narrated by passionate instructors. Dr. Paul Wilson loves photography, and adding voiceover makes the story come alive. Students won’t mind having to study this one, about Southern California Deserts, over and over, and they can play it even on a smartphone. All you need to put on shows like this is a hundred-dollar microphone and the software that’s probably already on your computer (Keynote or Powerpoint). Paul also has audio-only pieces. Here is one that was made with an iPhone, and here is one made with rock-star equipment.
Go Gaga for Google Docs and Dropbox
You’ll wonder what you ever did without Google docs and Dropbox, especially if you are involve in collaboration (or you assign collaborative papers). No more shipping versions around and waiting for someone else’s edits. In Google docs you can even edit at the same time, for true collaborative bliss. If you have large files that everyone needs access to, just share your folder, and files sync magically across all collaborators, almost instantly.
Grade One Fifth of the Papers You Used To Grade
Have you ever experienced the following? You receive a stack of papers, start to correct them, and realize that (a) most are first drafts, (b) correcting them is going to take 30 hours beyond what's allotted for the course, and (c) without requiring a revision the students will profit only minimally from the corrections. Well, here's what we've come up with. Have the students sign up to work in teams of five coauthors in a Moodle choice activity. They will all contribute remotely through Google docs. Each person will start by adding a paragraph, after which the other four coauthors will fill out a peer evaluation (grade). Then they will edit each other's work, add an introduction and conclusion, and more generally firm up the structure of the paper, after which they grade each other a second time. Then there will be a period for ironing and polishing, after which the coauthors grade each other a final time. Only then will you have to correct and grade the now-much-improved document. There's no paper, no toner. No one has to meet face to face, though they can if they like. Google docs saves a detailed revision history that you can investigate in the few cases that demand investigation. The students learn how to transform a first draft into something presentable, like most never have done before. And you only have to read 1/5th the number of papers. The students' CSUN email gives them a Google account, so once you get one too, you're ready to set up and share the documents with the students.
Flip Your Classroom
Face-to-face in-class time is the most valuable time you have with students. You can make it even more valuable by “flipping your classroom” - moving lecture out of class time so students can interact with you and their peers instead, work problems, have clarifying discussions, or even brainstorm. Where do the lectures go? You create them and put them on the web (or use other people’s), so students can listen to them over and over for maximum understanding. Leah Marcal flipped her Macroeconomics class - which had the highest rate of DUF grades at CSUN, then she just watched the exam scores climb. Listen to this NPR story of how a Harvard professor flipped his class.