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  1. page Online Assessments edited BlendKit Course: BlendKit Reader: Chapter 3…

    BlendKit Course: BlendKit Reader: Chapter 3
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    Blended Assessments of Learning
    Edited by Kelvin Thompson, Ed.D.
    Portions of the following section are adapted from “Design of Blended Learning in K-12” in Blended Learning in K-12 under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike3.0Unported license. Portions of the following section labeled as the property of the Commonwealth of Learning are used in compliance with the Commonwealth of Learning’s legal notice and may not be re-mixed apart from compliance with their repackaging guidelines.
    Questions to Ponder
    How much of the final course grade do you typically allot to testing? How many tests/exams do you usually require? How can you avoid creating a “high stakes” environment that may inadvertently set students up for failure/cheating?
    What expectations do you have for online assessments? How do these expectations compare to those you have for face-to-face assessments? Are you harboring any biases?
    What trade-offs do you see between the affordances of auto-scored online quizzes and project-based assessments? How will you strike the right balance in your blended learning course?
    How will you implement formal and informal assessments of learning into your blended learning course? Will these all take place face-to-face, online, or in a combination?
    A blended learning class is like any other – when lessons are presented, it is imperative that assessment is given to check the depth of learning. Looking back at the learning objectives and design documents (e.g., Course Blueprint) can help answer assessment questions. “Is my test content-valid, based upon the methods of lesson presentation?” “Should my test include a short review time via a traditional classroom setting, or would an online review better prepare my students for assessment?” “Should the test be performed online or in the presence of the teacher?” Online tests make for easy and quick grading by the teacher. Security of the test, however, might be diminished depending on the software and implementation methods used by the teacher. Tests taken exclusively in the classroom setting, however, negate the affordances of technology. Teachers who evaluate their students’ performances by using a mixture of tests – some online, some offline – have experienced more fruitful outcomes. Supplying examples to read as text online or offline proves to be helpful. Presenting video explanations or examples online, where students can view a snippet of the lesson repeatedly gives enough exposure to solidify an idea or concept. Any tool that can be afforded the student should be considered to improve retention.
    The most crucial step needed in each lesson is the preparation of transfer of learning strategy. If learning is not transferred from the place of learning to practical application, there can be no positive return on investment of the time needed to create, implement, and evaluate the lesson. Students are smarter than we might think. If the lesson doesn’t apply to something tangible or if it can’t be used in real life, you can expect them to ask, “When are we ever going to use this stuff?” Make sure that your objectives are made clear to the students. The learning standards must be addressed, yes, but also find a real life application to better your students’ understanding of the materials covered. If this is not done, much of your time, and your students’ time, has been greatly wasted. A second look to ensure that students have indeed learned the objectives might trigger revisions, allowing for more (or better) class activities and teacher feedback. This should be done before any evaluation strategy. Technology is useful in simplifying this task of transferring the learning strategy. Many times a lesson taught with the use of online instruction or with technology as its main tool provides a built-in application. Students see more clearly how the concepts are used in real life situations, and because the lesson was applied practically, the student retains the information and skills much longer.
    Caution must be practiced when using online assessment in a blended course. If this method was never practiced during the teaching of the lesson, the student finds himself at a bit of a disadvantage when being tested. Instead of devoting proper time to the non-technical concepts taught, the student might be fighting his way through the technical tool he must use to perform the task at hand. However, the online environment does provide blended learning instructors with opportunities to develop and create a multitude of assessments using new and innovative tools. This section reviews two types of assessments, formal and informal, that can help shape how you assess your students online.
    Formal assessments provide a systematic way to measure students’ progress. These types of assessments also contribute to the final grade, which indicates a student’s mastery of the subject, e.g., midterm, and finals.
    Informal assessments generally provide the faculty member the ability to gauge their students’ comprehension of course material. It does not involve assigning grades. Furthermore, they can be used to allow students to practice the material prior to a formal assessment, e.g., self-tests.
    Formal Assessments
    Multiple choice and short answer tests (or quizzes) are useful for assessing students’ abilities to recognize and recall content. They are also fairly easy to grade; and when faced with a large class size, you can make the grading automatic depending on the question type. However, these online tools also arguably provide students with “more ways to be academically dishonest” (Watson and Sottile, 2010).
    In the design of effective assessments of learning, Hoffman and Lowe (2011, January) note that the “focus must be on student learning, not student control.” Particularly when dealing with online assessment (e.g., the ubiquitous auto-scored multiple choice quiz tools within course management systems) it is tempting to design a testing environment in which all variables are controlled and student responses do naught but reveal students’ mastery of course objectives. However, as Dietz-Uhler and Hurn (2011) note, “the evidence, although scant, suggests that academic dishonesty occurs frequently and equally in online and face-to-face courses” (p. 75). It is counter-productive to adopt an adversarial stance as we attempt to fence in students to prevent them from cheating (in any modality). Nevertheless, there are steps we can take to make online testing more effective. Many of these are applicable to face-to-face environments as well.
    Creating Effective Online Tests
    Hoffman and Lowe (2011, January) identify a number of techniques for creating effective online assessments. These are grouped into online assessment tool features and assessment design strategies.
    Online Assessment Tool Features
    Online quizzing tools typically provide some affordance for randomization of test items. Depending upon how the instructor uses the tool, this may range from merely randomizing the order in which the same set of items appears to each student all the way to sophisticated alternative test versions in which test items in various content categories and at different levels of difficulty are dynamically-generated for each student (i.e., each student receives a different test, but each version is equivalent). The instructor may impose assessment time limits such that the test is only available within a certain window of opportunity (e.g., an entire week or just one evening). Additionally, time limits can also be placed on the period between the opening of the quiz and its submission (e.g., a few minutes to multiple hours). Related to this restriction, the instructor can also allow students to see the entire test at once or only one test item at a time. Supported by the online quizzing tool, the instructor may choose to establish rules for assessment completion. For instance, students may be required to complete the quiz in one sitting once the quiz is launched, or they may have the option to start the quiz, log-out, and come back later (within whatever time restrictions have been established). Online assessment tools also support proctoring if the instructor (or institution) chooses to undertake the logistical arrangements involved in vetting proctors. An approved individual receives a password to unlock the quiz and then he remains present while the student takes the test. The proctor may be asked to verify the student’s identity and/or ensure compliance with certain test-taking protocols (e.g., open/closed book, etc.).
    Assessment Design Strategies
    Apart from the affordances of the online testing tools, online auto-scored assessments may also benefit from well-designed multiple-choice items with an emphasis on application and higher-level thinking. While many online quizzes (especially many of those available as supplemental instructor resources) focus on low-level factual recall, multiple-choice items may be written at the higher application, analysis, synthesis, or evaluation levels. Such items often involve some sort of scenario aimed at promoting learning transfer from one context to another. Additional strategies might require students to view a chart/graph and select the most accurate interpretation from among several alternatives or even to collaborate with classmates in selecting the best justification statement for why a given answer is correct prior to individually submitting their quizzes.
    For detailed information on the kinds of assessment design strategies summarized above along with numerous supporting resources, you may wish to visit Hoffman and Lowe’s (2011, January) web page at In particular, if you would like a refresher on writing effective multiple choice items at various cognitive levels, you may wish to review the following PDF documents:
    Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Create Multiple-Choice Questions
    Effective Assessment Examples
    Question Improvement Suggestions
    Many of the above techniques for creating more effective assessments are relevant for online quizzes, traditional face-to-face exams, and online testing implemented in a face-to-face environment; a range of automated assessment options in a blended learning course.
    Essays/Academic Prompts
    Assessments that require a subjective analysis are often more difficult and time consuming to grade, however this type of assessment is appropriate for gauging how well students are able to apply the concepts learned in class. Within most course management systems (CMS) there are a variety of tools to facilitate these types of assessments. Such tools typically include the following at a minimum:
    Discussion area –often used for generating student-to-student interaction based on an instructor-specified critical thinking challenge.
    Assessment tool – can be used to construct essay-type questions (which must be manually scored).
    Assignment tool – can be used to submit papers, essays, or other types of assignments.
    Projects/Authentic Tasks
    The following section is excerpted from “Assessment and Evaluation” by Dan O’Reilly and Kevin Kelly in the Commonwealth of Learning’s //Education for a Digital World// in compliance with the Commonwealth of Learning’s legal notice and may not be re-mixed apart from compliance with their repackaging guidelines.
    Authentic student assessment strategies for the online environment
    Often when we talk of assessment in an online environment, we think of automated quizzes and grade books. While useful in many circumstances, automated quizzes do not always accurately reflect a student’s abilities, especially when you are asking them to achieve a higher level of difficulty in the cognitive learning domain, to demonstrate a physical skill in the psychomotor learning domain, or to evaluate attitudes in the affective learning domain (see description of learning domains and degrees of difficulty at ). Authentic assessment—assessing student abilities to apply knowledge, skills, and attitudes to real world problems—is not only possible in an online environment; it is getting more popular.
    When you consider what types of online assessment strategies to choose, the list will be very similar to the print-based strategies that you know and already use. However, there are a few additional assessment strategies that the online environment makes possible. The list below is not comprehensive by any means. It also does not show which tools could be used to facilitate the different types of assessment strategies. Some of these activities may require students to have access to equipment or software applications to complete.
    Table 14.1. Assessment strategies and disciplines that may commonly use them
    Type of assessment strategy
    Disciplines that might use each assessment strategy
    lab manual
    physical sciences
    computer code
    computer science
    technical writing
    technical and professional writing
    teacher education, health education, social work
    observation log
    teacher education, nursing, laboratory sciences
    image gallery
    art, industrial design
    web page or website
    business, public administration
    language acquisition
    theatre arts (monologue), marketing
    Notice that some assessment strategies require participation by someone other than the student. For example, a K–12 master teacher would submit an observation log for a credential student performing his or her student teaching. Similarly, a health clinic supervisor would submit an observation log for a nursing student related to his or her abilities to draw blood for testing. A theatre arts student may need someone to record his or her monologue.
    Some assessment strategies allow students to get creative. It is important to make sure that students have access to, or ability to use the technologies required to complete the tasks, but once you do that, you could ask students to create a video advertisement that demonstrates the application of marketing principles, an audio recording that demonstrates mastery of inflection and tone when speaking Mandarin Chinese, or a PowerPoint slide show with audio clips that demonstrates competency with teacher education standards. The age-old practice of storytelling has been “remastered” as digital storytelling through blogs, wikis, podcasts, and more. Students are taking advantage of these new media formats to illustrate that they have met certain requirements. In some cases, each product becomes an “asset” or “artifact” in a larger electronic portfolio that contains items for a single class, an entire program or department, or all curricular and co-curricular work that a student does.
    Regardless of what products students provide to show their abilities, you need a way to evaluate their work.
    Defining Expectations
    After determining how students will show how they can meet the learning objectives, it is time to choose an evaluation method. You can use a number of tools, ranging from a simple checklist of criteria to a rubric that contains the same criteria as well as a range of performance and degrees to which students meet the criteria.
    You can use qualitative or quantitative degrees to evaluate criteria (see Table 14.2 for an example of each). Share the checklist or rubric with students before they begin the assignment, so they know what will be expected of them. In some cases, instructors create the entire rubric, or portions of it, with the students.
    Table 14.2. Portion of a student presentation assessment rubric
    Student supports main presentation points with stories or examples.
    Student effectively usedstories and/or examples to
    illustrate key points.
    Presenter used storiesand/or examples somewhat
    effectively to illustrate some
    key points.
    Presenter used some unrelated stories and/or examples that distracted fromkey points.
    Presenter did not use storiesor examples to illustrate key
    Cover project completely,including:
    1) Needs Assessment Objectives, 2) Extant Data Analysis,
    3) Data Collection Methods, 4)
    Brief Summary of Data, 5)
    Collected Data Analysis, 6)
    Presentation covered all 6of the areas to the left.
    Presentation covered 4 or 5of the areas to the left.
    Presentation covered 2 or 3of the areas to the left.
    Presentation covered 1 or 0of the areas to the left.
    Preparing an Assignment for Assessment
    The first step to assessing online work is to prepare each assignment. Since students may not have you around to ask questions, you need to anticipate the types of information that students need. There are some standard items to include in your instructions for all types of online assignments:
    Name of the assignment (This should be the same name as listed in the syllabus).
    Learning objective(s) to which this assignment relates.
    When the assignment is due.
    Any resources that you recommend using to complete the assignment.
    Expectations (length, level of effort, number of citations required, etc.).
    Level of group participation (individual assignments, group or team projects, and entire class projects).
    Process (how students turn in the assignment, if they provide peer review, how peers give feedback, how you give feedback).
    Grading criteria (include rubric if you are using one).
    By including these items, you give students a better idea of what you want them to do.
    Informal Assessments
    Informal assessments are an integral part to any quality course. Many blended learning faculty incorporate these types of assessments into their courses to increase their presence in the online environment and to keep track of their students’ learning using tools within the course management system (CMS) or publicly-available alternatives if necessary. For instance, some CMSs (or free online tools) allow faculty to create practice assessments/self-tests for students to complete. While unscored, these informal assessments often provide data for the instructor to review as one indicator of student learning. Additionally, summative and formative evaluations can be conducted by collecting anonymous input from students during and after the course using either a survey tool within the course management system or one of the many free web-based survey tools.
    The following section is excerpted from “Evaluating and Improving Your Online Teaching Effectiveness” by Kevin Kelly in the Commonwealth of Learning’s //Education for a Digital World// in compliance with the Commonwealth of Learning’s legal notice and may not be re-mixed apart from compliance with their repackaging guidelines.
    One-Sentence Summary
    The one-sentence summary is another classroom assessment technique that I adapt to the online environment. Designed to elicit higher level thinking, a one-sentence summary demonstrates whether or not students are able to synthesize a process or concept. Students answer seven questions separately: “Who? Does What? To Whom (or What)? When? Where? How? And Why?” Then they put those answers together into one sentence. Angelo and Cross (1993) also describe this exercise in their book about classroom assessment techniques. Examples I have seen include assigning nursing students to write a one-sentence summary of a mock patient’s case, as nurses are often required to give a quick synopsis about each patient, and asking engineering students to write a summary about fluid dynamics in a given situation.
    It is fairly easy to use this technique online. You can set up a discussion forum to collect the student entries. The online environment also makes it fairly easy to engage students in a peer review process and to provide timely feedback.
    When looking at the results of the students’ summaries, you can identify areas where large numbers of students did not demonstrate an understanding of the topic or concept. The most common problem area for students revolves around the question “Why?” Figure 24.4 is an example of a one-sentence summary submitted via discussion thread. The instructor’s reply gives suggestions for improvement and shows the student how the instructor interpreted the sentence components.
    My Sentenceby Student B—Friday, 2 September, 12:35 PM
    In order to adequately address teaching effectiveness an instructor needs to use an effective tool to measure specific activities or deficiencies in student performance by using techniques including but not limited to: surveys, analysis of performance, and questionnaires.
    Re: My Sentence
    by Instructor—Sunday, 4 September, 08:31 PM
    This is a good start. WHEN does it happen? Keep in mind that the process does not end with using a data collection tool. There is analysis of the
    process before the course begins, and after collecting the data. Also, WHERE does it happen? Is this online, in the classroom, or both?
    In order to adequately address teaching effectiveness [7 WHY] an instructor [1 WHO] needs to use an effective tool to measure specific activities
    or deficiencies [2 DOES WHAT] in student performance [3 TO WHOM] by using techniques including but not limited to: surveys, analysis of performance, and questionnaires [6 HOW]
    Figure 24.4 Example one-sentence summary student submission with instructor’s repl y
    Student-generated test questions
    Ask students to create three to five test questions each. Tell them that you will use a certain number of those questions on the actual test. By doing this, you get the benefit of seeing the course content that the students think is important compared to the content that you think they should focus on. You can make revisions to your presentations to address areas that students did not cover in their questions. If there are enough good student questions you can also use some for test review exercises.
    Angelo, T. A. & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
    Dietz-Uhler, B. and Hurn, J.(2011). Academic dishonesty in online courses. In Smith, P. (Ed.) Proceedings of the 2011 ASCUE Summer Conference. Myrtle Beach, SC. Retrieved June 30, 2011 from
    Hoffman, B. and Lowe, D. (2011, January). Effective online assessment: Scalable success strategies. In Faculty Seminars in Online Teaching. Seminar series conducted at the University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL. Retrieved on June 30, 2011 from
    Watson, G. and Sottile, J. (2010). Cheating in the digital age: Do students cheat more in online courses? Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 23,1. Retrieved June 30, 2011 from

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  2. page Learning Styles for Online Learners edited Illinois Everyone has th…
    Everyone has their own "style" for collecting and organizing information into useful knowledge, and the online environment can be particularly well suited to some learning styles and personality needs. For example, introverted students often find it easier to communicate via computer-mediated communication than in face-to-face situations. Also, the online environment lends itself to a less hierarchical approach to instruction which meets the leaning needs of people who do not approach new information in a systematic or linear fashion. Online learning environments are used to their highest potential for collaborative learning which complements many students' learning styles, and independent learners have also found online courses to be well suited to their needs.
    Because learners have different learning styles or a combination of styles, online educators should design activities that address their modes of learning in order to provide significant experiences for each class participant. In designing online courses, this can best be accomplished by utilizing multiple instructional strategies. Below is a table of the most common learning styles. These descriptions reflect different channels of perception (seeing, hearing, touching/moving):
    topLearning Style
    Preference for information acquisition
    [[ Learners:|Visual/Verbal]]
    Prefers to read information
    [[ Learners:|Visual/Nonverbal]]
    Uses graphics or diagrams to represent information
    [[ Learners:|Auditory/Verbal]]
    Prefers to listen to information
    [[ Learners:|Tactile/Kinesthetic]]
    Prefers physical hands-on experiences
    What is YOUR learning style? There are a few external resources that will check it for you.
    {} arrow Take this online quiz to find out.
    {} arrowMultiple Intelligences quiz
    {} arrow Find your Learning Style
    {} arrow Assess your learning style
    Visual/Verbal Learners:Visual/Verbal Learners:
    These people learn best when information is presented visually and in a written form. In a classroom setting, they prefer instructors who use visual aids (i.e. black board, PowerPoint presentation) to list the essential points of a lecture in order to provide them with an outline to follow during the lecture. They benefit from information obtained from textbooks and class notes. These learners like to study by themselves in quiet environments. They visualize information in their "minds' eyes" in order to remember something. The online environment is especially appropriate for visual/verbal learners because most of the information for a course is presented in written form.
    {} back to top
    Visual/Nonverbal Learners:Visual/Nonverbal Learners:
    These people learn best when information is presented visually and in a picture or design format. In a classroom setting, they benefit from instructors who supplement their lectures with materials such as film, video, maps and diagrams. They relate well to information obtained from the images and charts in textbooks. They tend prefer to work alone in quiet environments. They visualize an image of something in their mind when trying to remember it.These learners may also be artistic and enjoy visual art and design. The online environment is well suited for this type of learner because graphical representations of information can help them remember concepts and ideas. Graphical information can be presented using charts, tables, graphs, and images.
    {} back to top
    Auditory/Verbal Learners:Auditory/Verbal Learners:
    These people learn best when information is presented aurally. In a classroom setting, they benefit from listening to lecture and participating in group discussions. They also benefit from obtaining information from audio tape. When trying to remember something, they often repeat it out loud and can mentally "hear" the way the information was explained to them. They learn best when interacting with others in a listening/speaking activity. Online learning environments can complement these learners' style. Although most information is presented visually (either written or graphically), group participation and collaborative activities are accomplished well online. In addition, streaming audio and computer conferencing can be incorporated into an online course to best meet the learning style of these students.
    {} back to top
    Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners:Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners:
    These people learn best when doing a physical "hands-on" activity. In the classroom, they prefer to learn new materials in lab setting where they can touch and manipulate materials. They learn best in physically active learning situations. They benefit from instructors who use in-class demonstrations, hands-on learning experiences, and fieldwork outside the classroom. Online environments can provide learning opportunities for tactile/kinesthetic learners. Simulations with 3-Dimensional graphics can replicate physical demonstrations. Lab sessions can be conducted either at predetermined locations or at home and then discussed online. Also, outside fieldwork can be incorporated into the coursework, with ample online discussion both preceding and following the experience. Finally, the online environment is well suited for presentation and discussion of either group or individual projects and activities.

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  3. page Blended Learning Tips and Tricks edited Some Considerations for Facilitating Online Interaction Nancy White…

    Some Considerations for Facilitating Online Interaction
    Nancy White
    Last edited 4/03/04
    In Facilitating a Virtual Community we looked at the rationale for online facilitation and some of the more common online faciliator roles. In this article we explore some of the basic considerations for facilitating online interaction.
    Understanding Member Roles and Behaviors
    We all know that humans will be, well, humans. Just as in offline community spaces, there are a range of behaviors that community hosts will encounter. These mirror offline behaviors, but manifest differently in the text only environment. Without the non-verbal cues, we can misinterpret a person's actions online. Likewise, one voice can be very loud. Good stuff really is great, and difficult stuff can be awful. It helps to understand some of the roles that members take on so you can anticipate and appropriately respond to different situations. For a idea of what you might expect, check outCommunity Member Roles and Types (See also Getting and Retaining Members.)
    Rules of the Road - Civility Please!
    When you first structure your community, one of your options is to specify your community norms, rules or procedures. In addition, if your community is on a web-based provider like Yahoo Groups, you also have to abide by the overall system rules. Sometimes these are called Terms of Service (TOS) or Acceptable Use Policies (AUP).
    The trick is to make the rules as simple and clear as possible. People don't read long lists of rules. Think of things that are simple and relevant to the group's purpose. Make sure that they are clearly communicated to members.
    Some communities thrive under very loose, minimal rules. Others have more stringent requirements. The trick is to have the rules that work for your community. Here are some things to consider:
    Are there audience-related issues, such as presence of children, which would require certain standards?
    Is this a public or private community?
    Does the target audience have an existing set of norms, rules or guidelines that would work online (such as scouting groups, or religious groups)?
    Does the topic matter attract potential problems (politics, religion, etc.)?
    Are there any issues of libel or liability? This is an emerging but unclear area.
    Do you want members to play a role in deciding and enforcing rules? A "voting" or other group decision-making structure?
    Are there minors involved and are there national rules pertaining to your role in hosting an online space for minors (there are in the US)?
    Case Study: Electric Minds Rules of the Road
    The Electric Minds community has a set of rules, fondly called "The Rules of the Road" which were developed by the community's original founder, Howard Rheingold. Central to the rules are two tenants: "You Own Your Own Words" and "Assume Good Intent." The most important expression of these rules is the behavior and role modeling of the hosts. Many people never take the time to read the rules, but they read their manifestation every day in community behavior. Bottom line: live by your stated rules and guidelines!
    Engagement and Reciprocity
    When it comes down to the bottom line, people like to be recognized. They enjoy giving in an environment where they are appreciated and can anticipate others will respond in kind. This pattern of engagement and reciprocity is at the core of all online hosting and facilitation. Again from Howard Rheingold; "All communities happen between people, not on computer screens. It turns out that sociologists have been arguing about what "real" community is for a long time. I strongly believe that people who spend time together online can only become a community if and when they reach beyond that screen and have some effect on each other's lives." Engagement and reciprocity help people discover how to interact more meaningfully online. Here are some tools and ideas.
    Welcoming newcomers/Greeting/Directing
    Every new member who posts should have a response to their initial post. There is nothing worse than sending out a signal (post) and getting nothing back. Some facilitators like to send a welcoming email to new members upon sign up or first post. Others offer new folks a mentor or guide to "show them around."
    Creating Personal Profiles
    Encouraging members to create personal profiles gives everyone in the community a tool to get to know other members. Encouraging members to view others' profiles, and keeping their own profiles up to date helps build a sense of community. Profiles may vary quite a bit, depending on community purpose. Some communities may promote the use of personas or "pseuds" while others strongly depend on people representing their "real" selves. Communities sometimes profile a member a day or a member a week to help people get to know' each other and to give members their own "spotlight." Permission from the member is a must and privacy issues should be respected.
    Creating Topics that Support Engagement & Reciprocity
    Sometimes people are hesitant to jump into ongoing conversations and more intense topics. Having fun, game-like topics provides both a testing ground to familiarize new members with the platform and a safe place for those first posts. Some traditional online fun topics include:
    Just Three Words - the rule is that your post can be no longer than three words
    One Word Thread - Even easier -- just one word!
    Group Stories - Start a never ending story with each poster adding a section. Can be a take off of fairy tales or a more limited format such as limericks or group haiku.
    Starting Conversations
    As a community matures, some ongoing conversations either start recycling as new members join, or become cliquish or closed. By regularly starting new topics and conversations, a variety of members can be engaged or reengaged.
    Providing Content (Cybrarianship)
    Using Content to Support Your Community Give them something to talk about. Provide a variety of relevant content if appropriate to your community's purpose, such as relevant news stories about topics of interest, web resources or quotes.
    Responding to Member Feedback
    Members are the best source of ideas to strengthen and grow communities. Seek their opinions and ideas actively and often!
    Encouraging Subgroups
    As communities mature, you can keep "old-timers" engaged by providing the space and tools for them to create their own subgroups. These might come in the form of offshoot conferences, special interest groups or even new communities.
    Expectation Management
    Nothing sends a new member away faster than being disappointed. Promise only what you can deliver, then over deliver a bit. Don't set expectations that can't be met. Be fair and consistent in the application of rules and norms. This is essential to building and maintaining community trust.
    Getting a sense of the rhythm and pacing of a conversation is a facilitation art that improves with time. Sometimes the most important thing you can do is step back and let the action happen. Other times you need to light a fire, or cool a fire. Most experienced facilitators say that doing less is often more. Sometimes you just need to step back and let the members drive. This dynamic varies with purpose. Keeping people on topic or focus is a much larger job for a facilitator in an online workspace.
    Rituals and Special Places
    One of the hallmarks of offline community over the ages have been their rituals and rites. Online spaces can benefit from these as well, especially long-term and socially oriented communities.
    Amy Jo Kim, author of Community-Building on the Web has identified "backstories" or the community history as an important aspect to community rites and rituals. A community's history and creation story can provide a strong heart to the group, and should be clearly communicated to members on static pages, in welcoming messages and as part of initiation rituals.
    Rituals and Rites
    Rites and rituals, celebration of special events and member milestones can help bring members together and feel like a group or community. Rituals might include new member initiations, rituals for elevating members to formalized volunteer roles (greeters, cybrarians, guides) or simply a place for people to note it is a birthday, anniversary or special event and allow other members to "celebrate" with them. Celebrating milestones, friendly initiation rituals, reflection practices and holidays are some examples. A "virtual potluck" can do wonders!
    Special Spaces and Places
    The use of special topics for community rites and rituals can help communicate these aspects of a community to members and build new rituals along the way. There might be topics just for building community legends and stories, topics to honor service to the community and other forms of recognition. Personal reflection or journal topics are helpful "special places" in work and focused discussion communities and serve as a place for each member to keep track of their learnings, and yet not divert the main discussion threads.
    Initiations and Formal Community Roles
    As communities grow, members can take up leadership roles such as facilitation, greeting and serving as cybrarian. To recognize these efforts and to ensure they are meeting the needs of the community, the roles can be defined and recognition can be given to volunteers through initiations. The initiations can also serve to increase the member's knowledge of the community, its roles and rituals.
    Dealing with Problems
    Into every community a little rain must fall. Because of the limitations of a primarily text-based environment, misunderstandings can compound small problems as well. On the other hand, diversity can invigorate and keep a community growing and healthy. So defining and dealing with "problems" is as much art as it is skill. Much of the "problem behavior" you will encounter will be inadvertent. Assume good will!
    The most difficult skill for a facilitator is knowing when to become involved. Heather Duggan of Big Bang Workshop wrote "Attention is the coin of cyberspace. Attend to those things you want to encourage and do not attend to those things you want to discourage." Ignoring some things can be a better solution in the long run than head-on confrontation. It is common for people to "defend" themselves. If they are not put in this position, they may let go of a potential conflict and move forward.
    Sometimes things "look" like problems, but are in fact the natural dynamics of conversation between certain members. Other times, subtle signs may be warning of bigger problems. Most experienced online hosts suggest that for the most part, erring on the side of standing back is often the best route. This is different is certain environments, depending again, on the purpose of the community. Large, high traffic sites like CNN (before they closed their online discussion boards) had very clear rules and when an infraction occurs, action is immediately taken. It is more about keeping some order than building strong interpersonal relationships in the community.
    Here are some basic troubleshooting techniques.
    Working behind the scenes
    If a member is violating community guidelines, or other members have expressed concern, you can start by trying to clarify the situation by email. This can save face for the member in question as well as for the host/facilitator.
    Working 'live' in front of the community
    Some communities value knowing what is going on and may be less trusting of "behind the scenes" interventions. When working a problem in front of the community, it may feel as if you are working "without a net." The stakes increase as people's reputations are put on the line. If problems are resolved in public, there should be a clear procedure.
    Hiding or Deleting/Erasing Posts
    When members post something that is against community guidelines (spam, obscenities) host can either hide or erase posts. Posts with large sound or image files may be hidden to keep from slowing down the systems of users with slower Internet connections. Erasing posts should only be done in extreme circumstances, and for clearly stated purposes, to avoid issues of censorship.
    Banning is when a member is denied access to a community. Members should only be banned according to the stated processes of a community. In private communities, this is fairly easy to do. In public communities where members can register with free email addresses, this is not always an effective solution. Some communities just try and ignore posters who have the sole intent of disrupting a community, known as "shunning."
    Helping and Housekeeping
    Keeping the online space organized and uncluttered helps members find what they are looking for. Members need pointers and assistance in using the software.
    The degree of housekeeping needed depends on the purpose of the community. Work spaces might be more "organized" than social conversation spaces. Here are some housekeeping tools and tips:
    Providing technical assistance and the HELP files!
    New and old members often need help with technical aspects of a conferencing system. New members should have access to a mentor or guide and then be taught to use the HELP files for the hosting system. Seasoned members sometimes need reminding of how to use less-used features, including the HELP files!
    Hiding, or moving posts
    Large files embedded in posts can be hidden to avoid slowing the system of users with slower Internet access. Posts can often be copied and moved if they belong in a different topic. Guidelines on post hiding/deleting/moving should be stated and understood by the community.
    Pruning topics (archiving, read only)
    Old topics never die, they just get archived. Inactive topics can be "frozen" so no new posts can be added, and they can also be archived, which means they will no longer show up on the active topic lists. They can be brought back or "unarchived" and "thawed" as well. By keeping inactive topics pruned, conferences can focus on the active topics and kept robust.
    Organizing stuff/Summaries
    In outcome oriented communities, it helps to summarize threads and post the summaries for easy access by community members. One of the downsides to linear conferencing is a phenomenon known as the "tyranny of recency over relevancy." We bury our gems in subsequent posts and unless someone mines for these jewels, they are effectively lost to the community.

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  4. page Web Tools edited WebAIM Evaluates the accessibility of any web content With a WebAIM product calledWAVE, you can…
    Evaluates the accessibility of any web content
    With a WebAIM product calledWAVE, you can test the accessibility of any website that you wish to include in your course to make sure all of your students will be able to access it.
    Deliver information for visually impaired or for aural learners
    iPadio allows you to create podcasts with the phone(s) that you have registered with the service. Take a few minutes to create an account so that you register your phone(s) with the service. Then, call 1-866-488-3946 from the phone(s) you registered with, enter your pin number, which they assign when prompted, and speak! Your podcast will be recorded to your own “channel” along with a transcript and you can share it easily. Read the following to learn how to create a moderated phonecast with iPadio.
    Deliver information in multiple mediums
    You can register for a free account to VoiceThread hereand access a free iPad appas well.
    Deliver information for visually impaired or for aural learners
    FoxVox is an add-on for your Firefox browser that will speak any text you highlight in a web page. This text-to-speech program that turns articles into podcasts is free and can also create audio books.
    Help with organization,
    staying on task, and meeting goals
    This site allows you to create visual, linear checklists for student projects as a simple alternative to rubrics.
    Multiple uses is a free online graphic organizer tool that you can use to help scaffold information or that your students can use to help them brainstorm.
    Audio books for visually impaired or aural learners
    This a collection of audio books in the public domain, narrated by human voices.
    Merriam-Webster Visual Dictionary
    Visual Dictionary
    This visual dictionary can help students who are allowed to use a dictionary in class and during assessments (and is great for English Language Learners as well).
    Multiple uses
    This is a free site that allows students (or teachers) to create 3D animated movies with written text.
    TrackClass is a free tool that allows students to take class notes and keep a calendar.
    For students on the autism spectrum
    A browser made especially for students on the autism spectrum.

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