Accessibility – Free Technology Tools and Tips for Compliance

During Spring 2020, COVID-19 forced many face-to-face courses to shift to remote learning abruptly. This shift posed numerous challenges for instructors, including how to provide accessible course content. While the pandemic forced institutions and instructors to be flexible or even allowed short-term exceptions for specific requirements; accessibility standards were not waived.  Instructors were still responsible for making sure that their courses were accessible and in compliance.  Markus and I recognize that complying with accessibility requirements can feel a bit overwhelming. Therefore, we want to share a few tips to demystify the concept of accessibility as well as provide some free tools to simplify making your asynchronous and synchronous courses compliant.

Let’s start by discussing accessibility best practices.  First, a common thought is that accessibility requirements only need to be met if students request accommodations.  In reality, remote courses need to be accessible even if no student accommodations are in place.  Regardless of the delivery format (asynchronous vs. synchronous), there are several accessibility best practices to consider:

  • Course design – We recommend that you use a simple and consistent format. Take a few minutes to look at your course through multiple lenses.  Ask yourself, if you could not hear, see, or had other disabilities, could you successfully navigate this course?  If not, make the appropriate changes.
  • Communication – It is important to make sure your instructions are clear for all course activities. Remember, in a remote environment, you will not be as readily available to your students as you might have been in the classroom. Ask yourself, if you did not know anything about the presented materials, would you know what to do?  If not, add the appropriate clarification.
  • Learning Management System (LMS) Tools – Most LMS systems (i.e., Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, etc.) have built-in accessibility support tools. Be sure to use these when they are available. These tools and resources will simplify the task of making your course compliant.
  • Third-Party Applications – Do you use third-party tools? Homework managers, or other applications?  If so, are these third-party applications accessible?  If not, you may consider using different resources.  Third-party applications that are accessible will have an accessibility statement.
  • Hyperlinks – It is important to describe any hyperlinks used in your course. Avoid using generic terms for links, such as “Assignment,” “Quiz,” etc.  The link should describe the activity and its content, such as “Chapter 2 Assignment”.
  • Images – It is also essential to use descriptions that clearly describe all images shown in your course. If possible, avoid using images just for decoration.  All images should have a purpose and add value to the learning experience.
  • Font – The bigger the font, the better. San serif fonts are the best for accessibility. Additionally, Word documents should typically use a font that is 14-point or larger, and PowerPoint slides should use a font 24-point or greater.
  • Color – When using color in your course, always consider color-blind students or those who are visually impaired. It is best to use contrasting colors, whenever possible.  Avoid red and green, but if you must use these colors, try to use darker versions for clarity.  Colors like blue and orange tend to be better.
  • Captions – Captioning your course content is one of the biggest challenges or concerns for many instructors. It is perceived to be very time-consuming. Additionally, there is often the misconception that captioning is just for students who are hearing impaired. However, captioning can be helpful for a variety of other students as well. For example, ELS/ELL students (English Language Learners).

Markus and I are often asked the question, “Where do we start?”  There are several free tools available for you to use.  Some of these tools you already use on a regular basis.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office provides a free accessibility checker tool that can be used with Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word.  This accessibility tool is available for Office Online, as well as Windows and Mac users.

Word and PowerPoint are probably the best-known applications that allow you to create and share accessible documents.  Accessibility features in Word and PowerPoint can be turned on for accessibility checking while you work, or you can verify accessibility before saving the document.  The Microsoft accessibility checker not only verifies accessibility; it also provides recommendations for compliance, such as inserting alternative text (Alt Text) for images and properly formatting headings.  When creating accessible Word documents, avoid using features such as SmartArt, text boxes, headers, and footers.  When creating accessible PowerPoints, consider selecting a template that offers contrasting colors and avoid using the Design Ideas feature.  While some Design Ideas templates are compliant, many others are not.

PDF

PDFs are another way to share accessible documents.  If you have the professional version of Adobe Acrobat, you can use the accessibility check feature for any documents (created by you or others).  To create an accessible PDF, Markus and I recommend that you start with an accessible Word document. It is important to use the “Save As” feature to convert your Word document to a PDF, rather than printing the document to a PDF.  The “Save As” option helps retain the original accessibility features in your new document.  Most accessible Word documents easily convert to an accessible PDF; however, it is always a good idea to double-check the accessibility of your new document for accessibility and make modifications as needed.

Videos and Virtual Meetings

Course videos and virtual course meetings also need to meet accessibility guidelines.  Videos should be captioned, visual content needs to be described using Alt Text, and video players need to be user-accessible by mouse and keyboard.  Video controls should be appropriately labeled so that screen reader users can access all the video features. A few of the video players that support accessible content include YouTube, Vimeo, and Panopto. You may find Panopto as a free feature in your school’s LMS.

Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR)

Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology is continuously improving, but the technology is still not 100% accurate.  Accuracy of converting speech to text can be affected in various ways, including excessive background noise, the speaker’s accent, voice tone, or volume.  If you use a script to record your videos, then you already have your captioning transcript created.  If you do not use a script, there are several free captioning options available.  Regardless of the captioning method you use, it is essential to review your captions and make corrections as needed.

Closed-Captioning vs. Live-Captioning

Asynchronous courses typically use closed captioning.  Alternatively, live-captioning is generally used with synchronous courses since it happens in real-time.  Closed-captions allow course participants to opt-in or opt-out of displaying the caption. In contrast, live-captioning is always displayed, for all participants. Closed captioning is easy to translate into multiple languages, and captions can be modified.  In comparison, live-captioning is typically available only in one language and cannot be modified or saved.  Not all platforms support closed captioning, but accessible video players like YouTube, Vimeo, and Panopto do.

The accuracy standard for closed-captioning is higher than for live-. For closed captioning, the goal is 99% to 100% accuracy rate.  Markus and I have found that verifying video captioning accuracy is quick and easy when you record shorter videos (less than 15 minutes). Shorter videos also are more engaging for students, so it is a win-win!

Live-captioning standards strive for the highest level of accuracy considered reasonable under the circumstances.  Using technology tools that have a high speech to text accuracy level dramatically improves the quality of the live-captioning experience for students.  Technology tools like PowerPoint, Google Doc/Slides, G Suite – Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom all have live-captioning options.  As previously mentioned, usually, live-captioning cannot be saved for future use, but Zoom’s “closed-captioning” feature does have the ability to archive live session captions.

The topic of accessibility may still feel a bit overwhelming, but once you find your tools and perfect your processes, accessibility compliance can be very manageable.  Do not forget to use your Disability Services and Distance Learning offices for support and assistance.   They can be great resources.  An accessibility resource for web content that may also be useful is the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) Quick Reference.

©2020 TeachingAndLearningToolbox.com

 

 

GoSoapBox In Review: Taking Student Engagement To A New Level

GoSoapBox In Review: Taking Student Engagement To A New Level

Occasionally, Markus and I receive a request to revisit a previous technology tool, so this month we will be looking at GoSoapBox In Review.

If you are looking to enhance your current classroom response system, you might consider GoSoapBox. GoSoapBox is a powerful multi-function tool that can help you engage students as well as conduct formative assessments to evaluate students understanding of course concepts.

GoSoapBox events help you gain real-time insight into student comprehension with several useful tools, such as (1) Social Q&A, (2) Confusion Barometer, (3) Quizzes, (4) Polls, and (5) Discussions. Let’s briefly look at each of these GoSoapBox features.

Social Q&A: Social Q&A is a way to manage student questions that you do not have time to answer in class. Social Q&A is a technology feature that is similar to a student raising their hand in class but without the disruption. As questions are posted, other students can determine which questions are also most important to them. This lets the instructor know what questions to address in class, which is especially useful when class time is limited.  After class, you can also post answers to the questions that were not covered in class.  With GoSoapBox, you can easily address all student questions, in or out of class, which supports all students throughout the course.

Confusion Barometer: The Confusion Barometer is a feature that lets students communicate when they are confused or when they need the instructor to slow down on a topic discussion.  GoSoapBox engages even the quietest voice in the class, especially when the anonymity feature is enabled.  The instructor sees a visual representation that identifies the number of students who are confused, compared to the number of students who understand.  It is always better to know early in the learning process that a student is off-track, rather than find out later, such as on an exam.

Quizzes: The Quizzes features let the instructor created multiple-choice or short answer questions. Students can take the quizzes either during or outside of class. Results can be exported into a spreadsheet to analyze student performance or apply points to the grade book. Quizzes are a great formative assessment tool to identify what students understand or may need to review further.

Polls: Similar to clicker devices and other polling technology, such as Polleverywhere (September 2018, August 2015), the GoSoapBox Polls feature engage students in course lectures and activities while displaying results in real-time.

Discussions: Discussions allow instructors to create topics for students to research and debate.  Discussion can be set up where participants can post anonymously or where student responses can be identified for grading.  The anonymous feature in GoSoapBox is easy to deploy by a discussion event.

For the instructor, GoSoapBox makes it easy to export data to a spreadsheet, capturing data for the entire class or by individual students.  GoSoapBox’s reporting feature makes it easy to identify students who may be getting off track or confirm which students have a solid understanding of the material.

GoSoapBox is compatible with all web browsers and most devices. It is easy for students to join using an event code. Best of all, GoSoapBox is free for smaller classes (30 or less), but upgrades are available for larger class sizes.

If you are excited to explore this fantastic tech tool, you can take a tour of GoSoapBox at https://www.gosoapbox.com/tour or sign up for your free account at https://www.gosoapbox.com/signup.

©2020 TeachingAndLearningToolbox.com

 

Are You Ready for Remote Learning? Technology Tools to Quickly and Effectively Shift Your Lecture Courses Online.

When teaching with technology, Markus and I always promote having a Game Plan B and sometimes even a Game Plan C.  This same mindset can apply to having a contingency plan for taking lecture courses online.  This plan might be the result of weather or as we are seeing right now the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  If you are in the process of shifting your lecture courses online or facing this prospect in the future, here are some tips and technology resources that may help.

Transition Strategies

  • First and foremost, it is important for you to remain calm. Making this transition can be stressful for instructors and students.  How you present yourself with students will set the stage for a successful transition.  Strive for a smooth transition, not perfection.  Remember you aren’t perfect in your lecture classes, and you don’t need to be perfect in the online classroom.
  • As part of the planning process, try to mirror your online course as closely as possible to your existing lecture class. This will help your students adapt and provide everyone the best transition and learning experience. Check out your publisher’s materials first.  They are already prepared for online delivery, including content being accessibility approved.  When you have the time, create your own lecture videos.  Being able to see the instructor in the course, keeps students engaged.  For online learning, be sure to keep videos short.  Five minutes or less is ideal.  Having more short videos is better than one long video for both the students and the instructor.
  • Make yourself “present” in the course through Discussion Boards, collaborative tools, etc. It is important for students to feel connected.  Remember, many students believe they learn best in a lecture environment.  It is essential to make them feel comfortable in the online course too.
  • Set expectations immediately. Communicate what has changed in your course format and be clear about your expectations. Also, make sure to highlight the differences in online learning. In addition, revise your syllabus to reflect any remote learning expectations.
  • Include frequent feedback mechanisms or knowledge checks. Utilize your learning management system, homework management system or other assessment technology tools listed below.

Let’s look at some technology tools that can help you make a quick and easy transition from the classroom to online.  Don’t try to use too many tools at once.  Pick the best tool(s) to supplement the learning experience you are trying to achieve at the time.

Immediate Transition Tools

  • Communicate: Post an announcement in your learning management system about course changes.  Remind students to check the course and their school email regularly.  It might be helpful to have your students sign up with Remind (November 2015) as a way to stay connected.  Both Markus and I use Remind to redirect students back to our learning management systems.  This tool can be especially helpful for working with lecture students who may not regularly check their school email or learning management system course.
  • Updating Your Course: To quickly insert supplemental material into your course, look at all available publisher material.  Publisher homework managers often have various study tools and supplemental teaching tools, including adaptive learning plans, videos, etc. that can be easily inserted to help with the initial transition.
  • Campus Resources: Use any campus resources available that are supported by your IT staff first.  This will ensure that you have professional assistance available if needed.
  • Stage the Transition in Steps: Look at the activities you can easily transition to online learning first.  Then look at how you can enhance or add to your course.
  • Be inclusive: Remember that some students will not have computer access to your course.  Will the activities in your course be accessible to students on smartphones or smart devices?  Be sure to consider how you will accommodate a student who might not have access to any technology.

Video Creation Tools

  • Doceri:  Markus and I have used Doceri (October 2019) for several years as a lecture capture tool as well as a method to provide students with short tutorials.  Doceri has a free version if you don’t mind the watermark or you can pay a one-time fee of $30 for the desktop license and training support.
  • TechSmith (Snagit):  The TeachingAndLearningToolBox featured Snagit (August 2017).  Snagit is a screen capture, screen recorder that can be used to create tutorials and lectures.  TechSmith is now offering this technology for free through June 30, 2020.  Click here for details.
  • Video Hosting:  There are several video hosting sites including Vimeo and YouTube.  Markus and I use YouTube because of the closed-captioning feature.  Click here for how to upload videos to YouTube. Note:  If you use the public setting, anyone can find your video.  Markus and I prefer to use the unlisted setting where we share a link with our students.  We would recommend you avoid using the private setting as that requires you to input/approve your student email accounts before they will have access.  Accessibility is a concern when shifting to online learning.  Click here for how to add closed captioning to your videos on YouTube.

Virtual Collaboration Connections

Many learning management systems have a collaboration feature (Blackboard Collaborate, Canvas, etc.), or your school may have technology such as Adobe Connect or WebEx.  Check with your school resources first to see what type of collaboration tools may be available.

  • Zoom:  Zoom is a virtual collaboration tool that is available for most devices.  Its free version hosts up to 100 participants and allows unlimited meetings.  Zoom’s free version also allows unlimited 1 on 1 meetings; however, group meetings are limited to 40 minutes.  Zoom is an easy tool to learn and set up.  All meetings include features like a conference call-in number, private and group chat, screen sharing, group collaboration, and an electronic whiteboard to name a few.  To learn more about Zoom, click here.
  • WebEx: WebEx has just extended its free plan to 90 Days.  WebEx allows you to record meetings, share files and it also has a whiteboard feature.  It also accommodates up to 100 attendees and can be accessed through both computer and mobile devices.  To learn more about WebEx’s extended free plan special, click here.
  • Logme.in: Logme.in is part of the GoToMeeting family.  It provides similar features to Zoom and WebEx.  To learn more about Logme.in’s free plan special, click here.
  • Microsoft Sway:  Microsoft Sway (December 2017) is a virtual collaboration tool that is referred to by Microsoft as a “digital storytelling app”. This tool is an alternative to PowerPoint that lets you share video, text, images, and any other media to “tell the story” to your students.
  • Evernote: Evernote (March 2016) is a great tool for remote group work collaboration.  It allows students to easily share with their classmates and instructor.  Evernote is also a great tool for student portfolios.
  • TechSmith Video Review:  This is a collaborative feedback tool that records presentations as well as allows students to interact with the videos and provide comments.  This tool lets you keep a meaningful conversation going in an asynchronous environment. TechSmith is now offering this technology for free through June 30, 2020. To learn more about TechSmith Video Review, click here.
  • Microsoft Teams:  If your school has Office 365, Microsoft Teams (March 2018) is another great collaborative tool you can use to create classroom teams.
  • Slack:  If you want to bring classroom collaboration and teamwork together online, check out Slack (January 2018).
  • GoogleHangouts Advanced (Gsuite):  Normally, Markus and I talk about GoogleHangouts for virtual office hours; however, Google has just announced free access to their Advanced GoogleHangouts/Gsuite as a response to the needs of organizations affected by the Coronavirus.  Gsuite will allow users to hold meetings up to 250 participants, live stream to up to 100,000 viewers within a domain and record meetings that can be posted to Google Drive.  To learn more about GoogleHangouts, click here.  To learn more about free access to Gsuites, click here.

Virtual Office Hours

In addition to some of the virtual collaboration tools listed above, below are some technology tools that can help you streamline your virtual office hours.

  • Calendly:  Calendly (November 2016) is a simple way for students to sign up for virtual office hours.  This is a tool I use regularly and couldn’t live without.  Simply set up your office hour schedule in the application and provide students the link.  They can pick the best time to connect with you based on your availability.
  • Google Voice:  Many schools are asking faculty to provide some type of phone number to their students.  To avoid giving out your personal phone number, Google Voice offers a free number that you can link to your home or cell phone.  Markus and I both use Google Voice with our students.  This allows you to separate your personal and work life calls. To learn more about Google Voice, click here.
  • Skype:  While Markus and I have talked about using Skype for virtual field trips, it is also a great tool to connect with students during virtual office hours.  To learn more about Skype options, click here.

Interactive Assessment

  • Peergrade:  If you do individual and group evaluations, Peergrade (August 2018) is a great online tool to use with your students.  While there is typically a charge, Peergrade just announced that they will provide this application for free for the next four months. Use the code COVID19 when prompted.  Click here for details.  What a great time to give this assessment tool a try!
  • Quizlet:  Quizlet (January 2017) is a great tool to reinforce basic learning outside of the classroom.  The free version allows for the creation of study tools, including flashcards, learning activities, practice tests, and games.
  • Kahoot Challenge:  Bring the gamification of Kahoot from the classroom to online with Kahoot Challenge (November 2017).
  • Poll Everywhere Competition:  If you are using clickers or other polling devices in your classroom, try Poll Everywhere Competition (September 2018) with your online learners.

Enhanced Discussions

  • Flipgrid:  Create a vibrant learning environment by bringing your discussion boards to life with Flipgrid (February 2018).  Students create short videos for discussion posts from their cell phones.  Flipgrid gives every student a voice!

Document Submission

  • Office Lens:  You may have students who don’t have access to a computer while off-campus.  While most students can access class materials with their smartphones, they may not be able to electronically complete or submit work. If you have students who need to submit manual assignments, suggest that they download the Office Lens app by Microsoft (May 2018). Office Lens lets students take a picture with their smartphone, then convert it to a PDF.  This app provides more clarity than a regular smartphone picture and the PDF file is easy for the instructor to grade.

Markus and I know we have given you a lot of information.  You may feel a bit overwhelmed.  We recommend that you only pick one or two items to start.  Remember to use technology that serves a pedagogical purpose.  That may help you narrow down your selection.

Markus and I are closely monitoring free or low-cost technology options that may help you provide a better learning experience for your students.  As new information is available, we will post it to the blog.

Best of luck!  Remember this transition will be an evolving process.  You and your students will be adjusting together. You don’t need to be perfect. You just need to stay positive.  You’ve got this!

If you have questions during your journey, feel free to reach out to Markus or myself at info@teachingandlearningtoolbox.com.  You can also sign up for automatic notifications for future posts by clicking on the link on the bottom right corner of the Tip of the Month home page.

©2020 TeachingAndLearningToolbox

Create Interactive, Engaging Presentations with Real-Time Feedback Using Mentimeter.

Markus and I have discussed several polling and assessment apps over the years including Socrative (February 2016), Kahoot (June 2016), Google Q&A (April 2018), Polleverywhere (September 2018), Sli.do (May 2019), GoSoapBox (September 2019) and Formative (November 2019).  If you are looking for something different that seamlessly combines interactive, engaging presentations with real-time feedback, consider MentimeterMentimeter allows you to create interactive presentations by embedding polls, word clouds, quizzes, and Q&A slides.  Like other polling applications, students use their smartphones to respond.

What makes Mentimeter different?  Primarily, their free version allows unlimited participants.  This single feature can be extremely useful for those teaching larger classes.  Other benefits of the free version are unlimited presentations and access to the Mentimeter Help Center.  However, the free version does have some limitations.  For instance, it only allows 2 questions per presentation and no more than 5 quizzes.

Mentimeter’s paid upgrades also have some useful enhanced features, including (1) Smartphone presentation control; (2) Easy navigation between presentation slides, student voting, and Q&A monitoring; (3) PowerPoint import feature, which allows you to use existing PowerPoints with Mentimeter assessment features.  In addition to PowerPoint, users can also upload PDF or Keynote files.

For those who prefer to present from a podium, both Windows (PowerPoint 2016 – Office 365 with the Mentimeter plug-in) and Mac’s users can easily toggle or swipe to move between a presentation and the Mentimeter application.

Mentimeter as a single app easily supports interactive lecturing.  Use Mentimeter to start class with an icebreaker activity, encourage discussion between concepts, assess learning, and monitor student questions in real-time.  Mentimeter is also a great reflection tool at the end of an activity, a class or the course.

Most of all, Mentimeter is inclusive, fun and a great way to increase learning.  It is a tool that helps engage everyone in the course while providing the instructor with real-time feedback to quickly assess and correct gaps in knowledge.

To learn more about Mentimeter or set up your free account, go to https://www.mentimeter.com/Mentimeter also has a blog that shares various presentation and teaching tips https://www.mentimeter.com/blog.

©2020 TeachingandLearningToolbox.com

 

Formative: A Real-Time, Robust Assessment Tool To Improve Learning!

Markus and I have been a fan of Kahoot (June 2016) and Kahoot Challenges (November 2017) for some time. While Kahoot is a fun way for students to learn and instructors to easily assess learning, there are times when a more robust assessment tool is desired.  Formative is that tool.  Formative is an easy to use, web-based, real-time student response and assessment tool that works well with any device and any type of delivery method (traditional lecture, flipped classroom, hybrid or online).  It allows you to track student learning over a period of time, rather than a single activity.  Formative offers closed and open-ended question options, plus provides immediate feedback, if desired, to support deeper learning.

Formative connects in-class and out-of-class activities together.  It also gives students the opportunity to try, fail and try again.  Markus and I both feel that providing students an opportunity to fail in a safe environment is essential to the learning process.

Formative is a multifaceted tool.  You can use it for assessing student pre-work, supplement interactive lecturing, collect class exit ticket data, enhance reflection activities or simply reinforce class concepts outside of class.  Formative gives students the chance to demonstrate their understanding of concepts through closed-ended questions (Multiple Choice or True False) or open-ended questions with written and/or show your work responses.

As an instructor or program assessment coordinator, you can use the data collected with Formative to improve course delivery immediately or over a period of time.  Formative eliminates the guesswork involved in traditional methods of teaching.  It provides real-time feedback to both the student and the instructor.

The basic version of Formative is free and works quite well for a single instructor. When upgrading to the premium version, you will receive several other features such as cheating detection, enhanced questions with audio, auto-grading, class lock, emoji feedback, randomized questions, and results, answer images, printing for non-tech environments, student to instructor feedback, unlimited progress tracking, unlimited PDF/Word Document uploads, unlimited report exports, default points, customized assignment options, batch scoring and feedback as well as the ability to add answers while grading.

Student access to Formative is also easy.  Students can join your Formative class with a class code or URL.  For schools that use Clever or Google Classroom, Formative integrates easily with these applications.

Formative has a few different ways to monitor student progress, including real-time formative feedback or a student growth tracker. If you want to add learning scaffolding to your course, Formative allows you to provide as many or as few resources as desired.  For instance, when a concept is introduced, you may want to provide students with more supporting resources.  However, as concepts and students evolve, you may decide to use fewer supporting resources and let students work and think more on their own.  Formative is ideal for course or program assessment as it allows you to track by standards or learning outcomes.

To learn more about Formative, go to https://community.goformative.com/videos to view any of the free tutorial videos or you can go to https://goformative.com/ to set up your free account!

©2019 TeachingandLearningToolbox.com

 

 

GoSoapBox to Enhance Classroom Engagement and Learning Assessment

Frequently, Markus and I are asked about the best technology to manage student Q&A’s during class.  In April 2018, we discussed Google Slides Q&A as a technology tool that allows students to ask questions as they occur while letting the instructor decide about the best time to answer those questions. This month we want to introduce another Q&A management technology and learning assessment tool called GoSoapBox.

GoSoapBox is a real-time response system that not only allows instructors to effectively manage student Q&A’s, but also provides students an opportunity to prioritize which questions are the “muddiest points”.  Questions with more student votes, move up the Q&A list.  This makes it easy for the instructor to visually determine which questions to answer in the current class session, the next class session, or through the course Learning Management System (LMS).

Another GoSoapBox feature is the Confusion Barometer.  The Confusion Barometer lets students indicate when they need more clarification about a topic.  The Confusion Barometer provides the instructor with immediate visual feedback about the student learning happening in class. It also allows the instructor to easily identify the number of students who may be confused.

In addition to GoSoapBox’s Q&A feature, additional functions include polling, quizzing, and discussions.  GoSoapBox combines a lot of standalone technology features into one, easy to use technology tool.  Need support?  GoSoapBox offers a free Support Center with FAQs or there is also a Contact Us option.

Like most of the technology tools Markus and I discuss, GoSoapBox has a free version for classes of 30 or less.  If you teach larger class sections, there are upgrade options available: (1) Medium classes (31-75), (2) Large classes (76-150) and (3) Huge classes (151 – 400) classes.  Markus and I tend to have students work a lot in groups; therefore, the free version of GoSoapBox would accommodate up to 30 groups.

GoSoapBox is a cloud-based application and will work on almost all devices that can access a web browser; such as laptops, desktops, Macs, Windows, iPads, iPhones, iPods, Androids, etc.  There is nothing for students to download, install or sign up for.  Instructor’s simply set up an “event” that students can join, then provide students with the event access code.

If you are looking for a way to give all students a voice as well as keep track of the learning pulse in your classroom, GoSoapBox is a great tool to add to your teaching toolbox.  GoSoapBox removes some of the barriers of student engagement and provides instructors with a real-time understanding of student comprehension and learning needs.

Are you ready to try GoSoapBox? Visit https://app.gosoapbox.com/ to get started!

© 2019 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

 

Integrating Data Analytics In Courses Across Your Curriculum To Raise The Learning Bar!

Today’s accountants find themselves performing more and more tasks that require data analytics skills.  Accounting fields such as audit, tax, financial and managerial accounting all use big data to find patterns that impact decision making and organizational strategy.  Data analytics can help accountants and management better understand their organizations from an external and internal perspective.  Data analytics helps answer what’s happened (descriptive analysis), why it happened (diagnostic) what the future may look like (predictive) and what direction should be taken next (prescriptive).  Accountants are accustomed to looking at problems that need recommendations or solutions.  Data Analytic skills enhance the accountant’s ability to quickly determine trends or irregularities in order to more rapidly identify potential problems and find solutions.

Markus and I feel it is important for students to develop data analytic competencies early in their educational coursework as well as reinforcing or “stepping up” these competencies throughout the curriculum.  So, the question we often hear is, “How do we get started incorporating data analytics into our courses and curriculum”?

Markus and I have created a “step-up” approach to data analytics that can help.  This approach has worked well with our students.  We have found that integrating data analytics into our courses has increased synergy, engagement, collaboration, attendance, as well as student interest in the potential of data analytics.  Additionally, this approach helps us prepare graduates with the required 21st-century skills.

Since Markus and I teach at different institutions and in different parts of the country, we believe our approach to incorporating data analytics is seamless and has a pedagogical purpose that can be replicated into many accounting courses, by any instructor. The first step in this model is to introduce students to Big Data concepts and problems looking for solutions.  Next students interpret already prepared data visualization reports from Power BI and/or Tableau. This gives students the opportunity to see the results of data analytics before they work with any raw data.  After students understand the big picture of data analytics, they begin working with data visualization modeling using Power BI  (https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/downloads/) and/or Tableau (https://www.tableau.com/).  Finally, students are introduced to coding exercises. The Hour of Code (https://hourofcode.com/us, and Code Academy (https://www.codecademy.com/),  both offer free coding tutorials that expose students to the world of coding.  Introducing students to coding is not intended to replace information systems courses or create proficient coders. The goal of this activity is to expose students to the basic concepts of coding in order to increase student interest and a desire to learn more about coding on their own.  Ultimately, we have found that this approach improves critical thinking skills as it pushes students into higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Technology and education are continuously evolving.  Integrating data analytics into accounting courses across the curriculum allow faculty and students to stay current with industry and educational trends.  In addition, data analytics integration allows us to address AAA/AICPA Pathways, AACSB Accreditation Standards and AICPA Technology and Tools Competencies.

To learn more about getting started with integrating Data Analytics into your courses, visit our February 2019 blog at https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2019/02/28/integrating-data-analytics-into-your-accounting-courses/.

©2019 Teaching and Learning Toolbox.com

 

Sli.do: A Student Engagement and Data Analysis Tool!

Over the years, Markus and I have been asked which technology tools let students present questions in real time while allowing the instructor to decide what questions to answer and when to answer them.  In April 2018, we presented one possible solution, Google Slides Q&A.  While Google Slides Q&A is a great tool, it is limited to the Google Suite platform.  This may or may not work in some classroom situations or for some instructors.  Therefore, if you are still looking for a technology tool that allows students to submit real-time questions during class while giving you the option for what questions to answer and when Sli.do is a great tool!

Sli.do lets you engage students with traditional features such as live polls and surveys.  However, it also lets you use a crowdsourcing approach to obtain questions and ideas from your students.  In Sli.do, Polls refer to a single question that can be integrated into your presentation for immediate student feedback.  This technique can be helpful when introducing new concepts or connecting concepts together.  Surveys, on the other hand, let you group multiple questions together so that students can answer a series of questions at one time.  The survey approach may be useful to close a class session or as a test preparation tool.

The Questions feature in Sli.do lets students submit questions in real-time while simultaneously allowing other students to view the submitted questions and vote on the questions they find useful. Polls, surveys, and questions can be submitted anonymously, or students can identify themselves by name.  Sli.do gives all students a voice in class. Additionally, the Questions voting feature gives instructors a way to identify and prioritize key areas that need further explanation.

Ideas is a new feature in Sli.do. It allows the instructor to create a topic that students can “brainstorm” about before class, during class or after class.  Like some social media platforms, the Ideas responses can be limited by word count.  Instructors can set response limits to 160, 240 or 300 words.

Sli.do is easy to use and seamlessly integrates with PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, or Google Slides by using the free Switcher app. The Switcher app also lets you control the presentation from your smartphone if desired.  If you are using Slack (January 2018) with your classes, Sli.do allows your students to ask questions and engage with the Ideas feature directly through Slack.

Connecting to Sli.do with a laptop or smartphone is as easy as going to  https://www.sli.do/.  Just provide students with your event code and they can join right from the Sli.do home page.  There is nothing to download or install.

A Sli.do event can be active during class or for up to seven days.  Sli.do is perfect for staying connected with your students outside of class as well as engaging online learners.

Do you teach classes larger than 40?  Have you found some polling solutions a bit limited for your needs?  Sli.do can accommodate the larger classes.  The maximum participation cap for Sli.do is 1,000 students, even with the free version!

Wondering which version of Sli.do is for you? Sli.do’s free version allows three polls and one topic per event as well as themed templates for customization, presentation integration with Switcher, training videos, online FAQ’s and 24/5 online support.  However, there is a paid version (single educator) for $75 per year that provides several additional benefits.  For instance, (1) the ability to review and moderate questions before students see them; (2) the ability for the instructor or students to comment on questions or ideas; (3) data analytics (event or account) that can be viewed, analyzed or shared; and (4) the ability to export data to Excel or PDFs.  You may find these additional benefits are worth the investment.  If your school has available resources, there are also department and institutional education pricing plans.

To learn more about Sli.do, visit https://www.sli.do/.  The Education (EDU) Plans (free and paid) can be found at https://www.sli.do/pricing?plan=edu.

Also, the following links are short videos that can help you get started:

Sli.do Questions:  https://www.sli.do/features-questions

Sli.do Polls:  https://www.sli.do/features-polls

Sli.do Ideas:  https://www.sli.do/features-ideas

Sli.do Analytics:  https://www.sli.do/features-analytics

Sli.do Switcher:  https://www.sli.do/switcher

Sli.do Integrations: https://www.sli.do/features-integrations

Sli.do/Slack Integration:  https://www.sli.do/slack-intergration

©2019, Teaching and Learning Toolbox

 

 

 

 

Google Keep – Another Great Tool from Google!

Over the years, several of the TeachingAndLearningToolbox blogs have highlighted some great Google tools for use in the classroom or to improve productivity.  Google Keep is another wonderful tool you can add to your Google Suite toolbox.

Google Keep is a free, simple and effective productivity and collaboration tool for both students and instructors. If you want to be more organized, productive and collaborative, Google Keep captures your notes and ideas, provides a collaborative sharing resource and offers a great To Do List feature.

Google Keep is available for your computer on the web or as a download through the Android or iOS mobile store apps. Google Keep also integrates with Google Docs [January 2016, Google Drive Blog, now Google Docs], which is helpful when collaborating.  Additionally, if you download the Google Keep Chrome Extension on your computer, you can save webpages, images, quotes, URLs, text, and your notes with a single click.

Google Keep is visually appealing.  It uses a sticky note, color coding format for listing projects, notes and activities.  The sticky note feature also lets you pin your most important tasks at the top of your screen or device, so they are not overlooked.  Google Keep’s note feature allows you to include text, lists, images, and audio. Voice recordings are automatically transcribed to text, which meets ADA compliance requirements, and text notes can be easily converted to checklists.

Need to pick something up for class?  Add a location-based reminder to your To Do List activity.  This feature sends a message to your mobile device when you are in the location area, saving time and consolidating trips.

Google Keep is similar to Evernote [March 2106, Evernote Blog], although not as robust.   Google Keep allows you to collaborate and share notes with others, which makes it a great tool for students to use for group projects.  It is easy to share, simply add individuals as collaborators.  Google Keep allows group members to see changes happen in real time, which makes it easy for everyone to track completed and outstanding project tasks. Google Keep also allows notes with images to be annotated, which is another great feature.  Evernote is still probably the best option if you want to organize your notes in files and notebooks, attach external files, or utilize work chat, but for Google Suite users, Google Keep may be just the tool you and your students need.

To review some of the other great Google Suite tools we have previously shared, click on the following links:

Google Slides Q&A (April 2018) https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2018/04/30/engaging-students-with-google-slides-qa/

Google Hangouts (May 2016) https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/google-hangouts/

Google Forms (April 2016) https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/google-forms/

To learn more about getting started with Google Keep, visit https://www.google.com/keep/.

© 2019 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

Doodly: Create engaging videos as easy as 1-2-3!

Happy New Year!  Markus and I hope you find some great technology tools to add to your toolbox in 2019!

This month’s technology tip is Doodly, a unique video creator.  Most of the time, Markus and I write about free technology, but this month I wanted to share a technology tool “deal” that could put a unique, eye-catching, engaging video creator into your teaching toolbox.

Doodly is a technology tool that allows you to easily create professional looking videos from simple visual sketches.  Best of all you do not have to have any drawing ability.  If you want to create video’s that are different, grab students’ attention and help simplify explaining difficult topics, Doodly may be the technology tool for you.

Doodly allows users to create drawings on various backgrounds, including whiteboard, blackboard, greenboard and glassboard canvases.  There are numerous doodle images available in the standard software. For a slight one-time upgrade fee ($97) to the Enterprise version, you can add thousands of more images to your Doodly library.

To get started, simply select your image, then drag and drop it onto your Doodly canvas.  Perhaps you want to add your own images?  Doodly allows you to upload .jpg images, including those you draw yourself.  Whatever images you choose to add to your canvas, Doodly can draw them for you. Doodly also has a large selection of drawing hands to choose from (male, female and various ethnicities), so you can customize your video’s hand image, or you can choose the “no hand” drawing option.

Do you want to add music to your video?  Doodly provides royalty free music tracks that are easy to add.  You can also record your own custom voiceover audio directly within the video creator or upload your voiceover from another recording source.  Whichever audio option you choose, it is simple to sync and/or edit audio with your doodle sketch.  Once you have created your Doodly video, save it in an mp4 format, then upload it for sharing to YouTube or another video web hosting source.

Doodly works on both PCs and Macs. After your online purchase you will receive a confirmation email with instructions on how to get started.  Best of all, Doodly can be downloaded to as many computers as you like, making it convenient to use with multiple devices, in multiple locations.

While Doodly is simple and intuitive to use, it also has helpful support and idea options including FAQ’s, tutorial videos, a help desk and a Facebook user group.

Normally. Markus and I pass over technology tools that aren’t free or don’t offer a free trial; however, Doodly’s limited time Facebook special offer (a one-time $67 fee, no annual renewal, free updates and a 30-day money-back guarantee), was too good to pass up.  Doodly is a great technology tool to kick off the new year!

Note:  Doodly normally retails for $480 per year; therefore, if you are interested in learning more about this dynamic video creator tool and the limited time Facebook discount offer, click on the following link. https://www.doodly.com/special-one-time-price-fb.php?fbclid=IwAR2Lzq0VzryOF1Z9Xd-UEjv_XUbN64xqcGr3tmqlxty5YyuTo1KurDZsmnI

*Doodly’s regular website (www.doodly.com) does not offer this limited time savings option.

© 2019 TeachingAndLearningToolbox.com