Cloud Tools in Online Courses

Right now I work at Vancouver Island University (VIU), teaching Math and Biology in adult education and love it. A few years ago, I decided to teach my Biology course in a blended format (part online and part face-to-face) as there was just so much content and so little time! VIU has a Learning Management System (LMS) that is recommended and supported, Desire2Learn (D2L). Most of my lessons and assignments have been in that framework. D2L is limited to what it can do so while I intend to continue using it as a framework, I have been expanding outward into cloud tools. Thus the question I must ask myself constantly is which cloud tools should I incorporate (what are their advantages and disadvantages) and how should they best be integrated in to the LMS that I currently use so that the online learning experience of my students is enhanced.

In Biology, on d2L, one typical lesson is students first watch a video or read notes, then they participate in a discussion, do something creative (a concept-map or a comic for example) outside of D2L and post it in a discussion, and then take a quiz. In D2L this can unwieldy as each one of these is a different entry in the same concept. It can be easy for students to get lost or miss something important. While checklists can overcome this a bit, it can still be confusing.

I had the opportunity to try a TED-Ed lesson. The structure is to watch a video (one of theirs or one from YouTube), take a quiz, look at other resources recommended, participate in a discussion and then read any final words of the instructor. Everything is in one place, neatly organized. While students do not have to flow through the lesson in this order, it suggests that they should. One advantage to having everything in one place is it makes it easy for students to see where they are in the lesson. It is also easy to move between components without losing your place or your work. I like the idea of putting the quiz right after the video. By putting it here, instructors can highlight the key points or ‘take-aways’ from the lesson.

One disadvantage I see is the lack of creativity. The lesson format is fairly standard, much like you would see in a classroom. However, I feel that this would work well for a flipped classroom (here is a good description of a flipped class: as a collaborative, creative activity would work well in person. If the lesson was to be solely online, having a creative learning opportunity at the end, after the TED-Ed component was completed would be an excellent summation of learning. I personally like to use concept maps (, coggle, and mind42) and comic builders (comix) as a formative assessment piece.

By using TED-Ed, the lesson would be far more streamlined and organized for the student. In the D2L lesson there would only be or two places for the student to go, rather than many, while still allowing for discussion and both formative and summative assessment to occur. The creative aspect of the lesson, that I like to include, is now a summative of what they have learned, emphasizing its importance, rather than just being another thing in a long list of things to do. I am excited to try it out but may have to wait until next semester as final exams are very soon.

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