Friday, March 18, 2016

Using EDpuzzle to Engage Your Students

Xiaokai (Katie) Jia
By Xiaokai (Katie) Jia
CELT Instructional Consultant/Designer

Have you ever assigned students an instructional video but wondered if they have watched it? Have you found an excellent online video but wanted to quickly customize it (e.g., add narration, crop it) for your own instructional purpose? Do you want to direct students’ attention to a specific part of a video? Do you want to quiz your students while they watch a video? If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, EDpuzzle ( might be a great solution for you.

EDpuzzle is a free online tool that allows you to fully engage your students, either face-to-face or online, by integrating interactive features such as adding quizzes and comments. For instance, a foreign language instructor can insert quizzes into a video on grammatical rules to check students’ understanding and have them engaged. You can also empower active student learning by having them create their own video projects (e.g., teaching certain topic) and present to the whole class or even the whole world.

The main features of EDpuzzle include uploading/searching for videos, cropping video, adding audio track and audio notes, and adding questions. You can easily monitor students’ progress by viewing their study status. EDpuzzle also automatically grades multiple-choice questions and generates summary of students’ responses for you.

In short, EDpuzzle provides great features for teachers to engage students with videos. All you have to do is to pick a video, add your magical touch, and then track your students’ progress and understanding. What’s even better? EDpuzzle is easy to learn. Check out four short online tutorials from YouTube to get started. If you are interested in learning more about EDpuzzle with a CELT consultant, please request for services online. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Grade Inflation, or How I Learned to Quit Worrying and Love the Bomb

by Worth Weller

I have a dirty little secret.

No, it is nothing about my sex life or drinking habits.

It’s a lot more tawdry than that: I’m thrilled when a student in my class gets a C.

Not that such an occurrence actually happens a lot – I’m even surprised when a student gets a B – but I am elated to see at least one middling grade when I export my Blackboard grades to my spreadsheet for double checking, because otherwise I feel a sense of embarrassment that nearly every student in the class got an A.

I write this blog post now to reveal this secret shame because in just a few weeks the halls of my department will be filled with lecturers and professors dashing from their windowless cubicles to the department office with reams of smudged papers and worried looks on their faces, as the almost palpable gloom of the “grading season” takes over in the final days before administrating class evaluations and turning grades in to the Registrar.

The gloom, of course, is not just attributable to the fatigue of grading – it’s also a manifestation of the fear of, of, gasp, no, not “Jeb!”! It’s much worse than that. It’s the demon that lurks in all our nightmares: “Grade Inflation!”!

Two recent articles in the mainstream media and twittersphere have prompted my renewed attention to this reoccurring, primordial scream. The first, which mysteriously showed up recently in my Twitter feed, is a blog post by Jason Mittel, media and film critic at Middlebury College. Titled “Rethinking Grading: An In-progress Experiment,” Mittel’s blog post describes his distaste for grading and his fear that grades “often work as an obstruction for learning, rather than a motivation, reward, or neutral assessment.” I’ll leave it to you to analyze the article and his remedy, but whether you agree or are aghast with his solution, (he provides a detailed syllabus), his approach is particularly thought–provoking and timely now that the Washington Post just this month came out with a front page article (above the fold!) dissecting recent trends to the grade curve and in a truly Munchenesque twist, arguing that grade inflation may not be such a bad thing.

With a title guaranteed to get your attention – “There’s nothing wrong with grade inflation: Grades Don’t matter anyway. Here’s why” – Mark Oppenheimer, director of the Yale Journalism Initiative argues that employers aren’t looking at grades or GPAs anyhow. In fact, he stipulates that most students at schools like Yale, Duke and Harvard are going to do A level work no matter what approach is taken to assessment, as that level of engagement is what got them into those schools in the first place. “For years, I feared that a world of only A’s would mean the end of meaningful grades; today I’m certain of it,” admits Oppenheimer. “But what’s so bad about that?” he asks.

I don’t have an answer to this question (although both articles make a good case for the authors’ own answers), but I can describe here how I’ve learned to quit worrying and love the bomb, so to speak. I grade with rubrics, which I explain in great detail ahead of each assignment. And I try to keep these rubrics fairly simple and to the point. Writing assignments are boiled down to paragraph focus, development and support (all of which imply a certain degree of critical thinking) along with an introduction that guides the essay and a conclusion that sums it up. Visual Communications assignments are slimmed down to technique, clarity and display of content that shows mastery of the specific concepts. I also don’t spend a lot of time on late penalties (I teach English, not math) and give students the benefit of the doubt about family matters, work and illness, until I lose my patience or the semester gets alarmingly close to the end. (Yes, some students do take advantage, and they are the ones who wind up with that guilty C!)

If a student shows mastery of the concepts I’ve set out and clarified for each assignment, if they have spent the time necessary to prove to me they have reached my own teaching goals, then who am I to say they don’t deserve an A? So if the vast majority of my students get A’s, I am learning (finally) to quit second-guessing myself and enjoy the breaks between classes, feeling good that I have met my own expectations for the semester.

Mittle, Jason. “Rethinking Grading: An In-Progress Experiment.” Just TV, 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 6 March 2016.

Oppenheimer, Mark. “There’s nothing wrong with grade inflation: Grades Don’t matter anyway. Here’s why.” Washington Post 6 March 2016 Web. 6 March 2016.

Worth Weller is a Continuing Lecturer for the Department of English and Linguistics and also teaches Visual Communications for the Department of Communication. He has taught face to face and online courses for IPFW for 16 years.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Discussion Questions that Make Us Think

If a question has a factual answer, it will squash discussion. Once answered, there is nothing left to add. What kinds of questions DO WORK?

  • Give a case, scenario, point-of-view, or problem and ask for reflection, interpretation, analysis, or solution options. Require rationale, logic, or evidence for response.
  • Ask for examples of a concept from personal experience. This allows students to build a repertoire of examples, like "Have you ever been or do you know someone who has been the object of hate speech? If so, what happened? If not, what example do you know from the news? What could decrease the use of hate speech? Why do you think what you have proposed would work?"
  • Ask an "if you were..." question. For example, "If you were in charge of helping out the homeless in Fort Wayne, what would you do? What resources, agencies, or people would you call upon? What do you think would be the strengths and weaknesses of your approach?"
  • Ask for students to explain connections between concepts previously studied and the present course material. Ask for logical explanations and for an answer to the "so what?" question.
  • Provide a video that shows a controversy. Ask students to take a position and give reasons and evidence to support the position. 

For more ideas, visit "Sample Discussion Board Questions that Work" and "Online Discussion Questions that Work."