Interactive courseware and how to use it in Canvas

Written by Joel Duffin

2021 is almost here and we are still advancing in technology and changing the way we use technology. Online education has become more relevant than ever, and will only continue to grow.

Online education is still a territory that has it’s growing pains. Trying to solve problems like student engagement, student participation, and retention without a physical instructor to help the student can be challenging. 

Some of these problems can be solved by introducing interactive courseware to your online course.

What is interactive courseware?

You might be asking yourself, “What is interactive courseware?”. Interactive courseware is another way of saying “Interactive Questions”, which can be inserted into your course material. These questions provide more engagement for the students and help them understand difficult concepts that they are learning.

These interactive activities can give the student an opportunity to test their knowledge of the course material directly inside the content, which gives them instant feedback based on their answers. 

Allowing the student to practice with the course material can help them prepare for exams at the end of each unit. 

That all sounds great, but how do we add these questions into Canvas? 

How to add interactive courseware to Canvas?

How can you add interactive courseware to your Canvas instance? Atomic Jolt has created a tool called Atomic Assessments, that helps instructors and instructional designers create interactive questions for students. 

Atomic Assessments comes with over 65 unique question types that give you a wide variety of designing course content that can embed into any page, assignment, or quiz. 

These question types include Fill in the Blanks, Classify, Match & Order, Written & Recorded, Highlight and Drawing, Math, Graphing, Charts and Chemistry.

In my Introduction to Music course, I added a Match List question type (which you can see in the image below) to allow the students to drag and drop the answers into the right columns.

Match, Classify, and Order question type

This question is inserted directly into my Timing lesson where students just learned about the different note types. 

Atomic Assessments is a great tool to help design your online courses, and it gives your students a unique way to test their knowledge while they are still learning about it.

Contact Atomic Jolt today to get a free sandbox of Atomic Assessments. 

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Delphinium – Gamifying Your Canvas Course is Just a Click Away

When given a choice between electronic games and homework, games win hands down – if you can’t beat em, join em!

Jared Chapman PhD, MBA, M.Ed

Delphinium is a one of a kind Canvas plugin that gamifies your modules and pages. With the mini-games, colorful modularization, and witty progress rewards, your students will spend more time engaging with your course and less time haranging you about the bare minimum level of effort required to pass the course. Oh, I haven’t mentioned the best part: it sets itself up with your own custom course content?

Timestamping Outline

  • 0:00 Jared Chapman background
  • 0:55 Why is Delphinium needed now?
  • 2:47 Why do some students struggle?
  • 5:00 What is Delphinium?
  • 6:54 What pedagogies does Delphinium support?
  • 10:25 Power teacher tools
  • 11:45 Easy to use authoring environment and templates
  • 12:18 What does the research say?
  • 19:51 What does ROI look like?
  • 22:02 Why have institutions chosen to adopt Delphinium?
  • 24:21 Delphinium demo
  • 30:48 Questions
  • 33:57 Game elements

See Jared’s InstructureCon presentation at cutt.ly/delphi for more information on the theory and research behind Delphinium

Delphinium Highlights

Written by Rich Kingsford

Avatars

Who doesn’t love to create little customized characters of themselves? Delphinium’s Avatar feature makes a great introduction to any course, allowing the student to build an emotional connection to your course. Hats, facial hair, face types, and even monster features mirror the fun students find in the most addictive games on their phone.

Badges and brag boards

Delphinium automatically sets up badges and milestones with your various modules. By default, Canvas offers plain text module outlines that, frankly, are quite dull. This feature literally adds some color to the course. Delphinium’s AI automatically interprets your content and guesses at what the badges should be, but you can customize the groupings to your heart’s content. My favorite badges are the ones that introduce a little friendly competition to the course: “First one to complete the midterm.”

Leaderboard

The leaderboards in delphinium are designed to take advantage of the way your brain uses dopamine.  You can break your own records, see your own progress, or see how you stack up against your cohort or class.  Some students are more competitive than others…  With the intent to engage the more competitive students without introducing any discouragement to those who are less competitive,  the leaderboards customizability allows endless possibilities.

Module map

Delphinium’s module map takes the plain text modules you’ve seen in Canvas today and colorizes them by adding stars to them.  As the students progress through the module, they can see instant feedback about their progress through the stars.  Far more rewarding than the plain check boxes. Again, zero set up required, but also customizable.

Easter eggs

An Easter egg in the gaming world is a small hidden secret that, when discovered, makes you chuckle with glee and achievement. You can trace these to practically any accomplishment in your course.  I’m having a hard time deciding which one is my favorite: The dinosaur one or the dancing microbiology images and vocabulary words in my biology course :-).

Progress

The progress meter is a small thermometer that helps students see how they compare against the absolute course standard and against their peers.  We believe some light peer pressure can be a powerful motivator to the student.

Delphinium is very easy to set up and really packs a punch in making any course more engaging.  Students want to play games on their phones.  If you can’t compete with those phone games, join them :-).

Derivita – Math Homework Made Easy

Finally, a comprehensive online solution for the “I don’t get it” math and science homework hurdle.

Devin Daley, Co-Founder and CEO of Derivita

Take an inside tour of Derivita courseware; math homework made easy for the educator, but effective for student learning through the use of automated dynamic feedback. Devlin, the co-founder of Instructure and co-creator of the Canvas LMS, takes us down the pathway of not only how and why Derivita was created, but also an in-depth demonstration of everyday student and teacher use.

Timestamped Outline

  • 0:00 Devlin Daley background and Canvas history
  • 6:50 Talking panda and publishers produce low-quality content
  • 7:50 Derivita introduction and purpose
  • 10:00 How does Derivita reduce costs for the students?
  • 13:45 Derivita’s market approach
  • 14:25 Derivita demo
  • 15:30 Dervita offers mastery-based learning & examples
  • 24:08 Graphic with Derivita
  • 25:50 Derivatives with Derivita
  • 27:10 Do Derivita’s graphs support interactive sliders?
  • 38:58 Create a randomized factor 
  • 41:10 Creating a matrix
  • 45:15 How does Derivita organize its topics?

Derivita Highlights

Written by Rich Kingsford

Show the how; don’t just give the answer

Sometimes an instructor takes the pencil and solves the problem for the student, then demands the student solve the next problem.  This is heartbreaking; this instructor just stole from the student!  Derivita shines by showing the student, step by step, how to arrive at the answer.  Most math questions have a series of steps.  If I, the student, can walk through one step at a time correctly, I’ll arrive at the right answer – and strengthen my logic and programming muscles as a byproduct.

Step by step instructions

Derivita’s step by step instructions blew me away.  When I was learning this stuff, my teacher explained it to the entire class, either going too fast or too slow through every single step in the mathematical process.  Sometimes, I would zone out. Even if I zoned out for one second and then came back, I would still be confused through the remainder of the explanation.  But, today my kids can enjoy the power of one-on-one instruction.  Derivita gives my kids individually paced, one-on-one instruction, adapted to what the kid does or doesn’t understand.  If a kid is struggling with step one of nine, Derivita knows it, and will focus on step one. Amazing.

Instant feedback

In many programs and textbooks, the student receives feedback after it’s too late.  “Darn… I missed that question. Oh well, I’ll get the next one right.” But why did you, student, get it wrong?  Students need instant feedback, given the millisecond after she errors to understand the mistake and try again.  Instant approval also tickles the student’s reward centers, encouraging them to keep on fighting!

Dynamic feedback

This one was quite impressive too… I’ve never seen this in any math assistant. Derivita gives students dynamic feedback, meaning it uses the numerical inputs they enter in.  For example, given the problem __ * 4 = 32 and the student answers 6, Derivita might reply, “6 multiplied by 4 equals 24, not 32.  Try again!”  Dynamic feedback like this helps the student examine her thinking from another angle. 

Conclusion

Derivita is an easy to use, attractive, self-grading, and almost-fun (is it possible to make math fun?) math tutor.  Imagine the possibilities as it becomes available to every student in the world.  (Did I mention how easy it is to translate numbers into other languages?  😃)

See additional Derivita features and information at https://www.derivita.com/

Improve your student engagement with breakout discussions

How can we intellectually stretch the students without causing too much pain?

Written by Rich Kingsford

Which will engage your students more: class-wide discussions or 2-3 person breakout discussions?  Of course it depends on the circumstances, but I have absolutely loved the increased engagement I’ve witnessed by giving students one to seven discussion topics, usually open-ended questions, and then turning them loose.  I teach a series of computer science classes and business classes, so most of the concepts are best learned through case studies and scenario application.  We tend to do less memorization and test taking and more projects. 

Of course class wide discussions are probably far more comfortable for most teachers and students; after all, 80% of the students can pretend to be paying attention while the other 20% carry most of the conversational and collective thinking burden.  Class wide discussions might also be more interesting for the instructor, because she can explore the more interesting areas.  

But we don’t go to class to be comfortable… How can we intellectually stretch the students without causing too much pain?  (How much pain is too much pain anyway?  And what are the risks of crossing that line?) I would argue that peer-to-peer discussions in small groups quickly become comfortable, right after the student learns the basics of making an argument, develops a healthy sense of curiosity, practices a little human decency (politeness), and builds a tiny bit of courage. As for the teachers, if you’ve never done a breakout session before, an experiment like this is low risk and very inexpensive, from a time perspective.

I was first introduced to breakout discussions in a negotiations class.  My instructor shared fewer than five concepts the entire semester and instead gave us challenges and then asked us to pair up and roleplay through the scenario, each with a different role.  It was a little uncomfortable, at first, but we learned how to get through it quickly and efficiently.  

For most of my subjects, the structured scenarios and roles in my negotiations class seemed too heavy – I simply list a set of questions and ask the students to break out and then reconvene as a class in 20 minutes. 

“What about virtual classes where all the students are remote?”

  • Collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Discord, Google Hangouts, and even Skype make putting one call on hold while you meet on another call very easy.  Sometimes the students will IM me a quick question.  Works great.

“Can’t the students just pretend they’re meeting and discussing?”

  • Some will try to do this, yes.  Rather than shooting down the entire idea, I suggest experimenting with a control mechanism.  
  • One control mechanism I often use is requiring one or more students to write out some or all of their arguments. Sometimes I ask the students to meet asynchronously, not vocally, and then copy and paste their text discussion on our class collaboration tool (e.g. Trello, Facebook Workplace, Canvas, or Quora).
  • Another control mechanism I use is to randomly call on students and ask what their team discussed.  Occasionally a student will go AWOL, in which case I dock a few participation points. 

“Aren’t breakout discussions higher maintenance and therefore more work for me, the instructor?”

  • Nope – they’re a fraction of the work.  I often use the isolation time to catch up on email or improve the quality of my personalized feedback on a project or assignment.
  • Occasionally I will have an idea on how to improve the discussibility or insight of a question.  Modern discussion tools make it very easy to update my discussion templates.  

How have you used breakout discussions or class discussions in your courses?  (Instructor or student comments are welcome!)

Are there any discussion-based challenges you’ve faced in your remote or face-to-face classes?  Asynchronous or synchronous?