Instructor Update - June 2017
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AEA Learning Online
Instructor Update - 8/30/17


This newsletter is going to all instructors for AEA PD Online.  This includes those who are offering courses on our open catalog, those who are offering site based courses for a specific district, and those who teach courses as part of a grant or special project.

For those who do not know me, I serve as the Program Director for AEA PD Online and, at least for the time being, am also the License Renewal Coordinator.  That means I am you contact for course proposals.  If you have questions about the process, you will want to contact me directly.

One of my goals this year will be to ramp up my communication with you via this newsletter.  There are many policies and procedures that we want to make sure that our instructors are aware of, as well as tips and tricks on how to do things better within Moodle.  Though I can't guarantee it, I am hoping to have our newsletter come out monthly with the latest updates.

Getting Support

One thing we have found in our discussions with our graduate partners is the extent that our instructors are self-sufficient.  You require technical assistance far less than the typical online instructor, and that is with less formal training.  This is a credit to your own talent and experience, and thus you get the *coveted "You Rock, You Rule" badge from me.
* - "coveted" is open to interpretation

If and when you require support, you have two avenues.  First, you can contact our support line at  I receive these and prioritize instructor requests above user requests, so emailing here is the same as emailing me personally, plus it is perused by other instructional designers when I am unavailable.

In addition, we welcome Craig Mohr ( as our newest instructional designer.  Craig has quite a bit of experience with Moodle and can provide excellent advice for how to take your Moodling to the next level.  Got something you would like to see happen in your classroom but not sure how?  Craig is your man! 

Hours and Rubrics

Of course, many of you have worked exclusively with Peggy Steinbronn on course approval in the past, and a change in personnel is a change for you in the process, no matter how much we try to make the criteria for course proposals universal.  I'm not sure if there is an answer to "who is tougher on course proposal approval", as that is a natural question that an instructor would have with a change.

What I can tell you are the things that I emphasize on the proposal.  These might be new points of emphasis, or quite frankly, Peggy might have emphasized them more than I do.  But, I do know they are things I emphasize.

1. I'm picky about whether course hours are correctly identified.  If you have identified hours for an orientation, those are out of class hours.  Also, hours for tutorials are out of class.  I can't comment on if those were approved beforehand with those designations; I can only say that when I see those items on the course proposal, I will change the hours from in-class to out-of-class.

Here are the most common items seen on a proposal:

In-class = Forums, Discussions, Collaborative activities, Group work, Quizzes, Lessons, Presentations (the part where you give the presentation), any Synchronous sessions

Out-of-class = Assignments (not collaborative), Tutorials, Articles on the web, Homework, "Read", Projects or Presentations (the part where you build the presentation), Orientation, Communicating with the Teacher

2. I'm picky about hour allotment.  I don't allow individual items to be posted for more than 2 hours.  That doesn't mean the item has to be changed.  It just means that from the description, I can't tell that it meets the number of hours that it says it does.  Things like "Final Project Work - 6 hours" won't work.  Instead, you will need to separate that out into the different things students are working on.  So in many cases, this just means a change on the proposal.

3. I will be picky about whether stated things actually appear in the course.  If you state that you are having students do an orientation, that orientation needs to be in your course.  Yes, you can link to the sitewide one, but there should be instructions telling students they should complete the orientation.  

The big stickler on this is the term "lessons".  I had the opportunity to substitute teach for a course recently, and in many cases what was listed as a 1 hour lesson was simply a 1-page document with a few paragraphs on it.

At some point during the year, I will take a look at courses to audit for hours.  I won't do it with a stopwatch.  But I will be looking for discrepancies like these, which could result in the course proposal not being approved in the future.

4. I am picky about rubrics.  Specifically, rubrics need to be an assessment that measures quality, not quantity or activity completion, and the measures of quality should be discrete and descriptive so that a student knows why they received a Good instead of an Exemplary, say.  This means that I'm looking to assure rubrics don't rate quality based on how much of the activity you completed (completed most of the replies, some of the replies, none of the replies) or the quantity (had no grammatical mistakes, 3 grammatical mistakes, 6 grammatical mistakes).  It also means I'm looking to see your measures of quality don't slip into the aforementioned most/some/none issue (mostly analyzes, somewhat analyze, does not analyze).

Rubrics should also align to the outcomes you have for the course.  So if you are using a rubric and you are measuring the presentation and grammatical skills of a student only, I might have some questions about that.  In this case, there will be times where I don't have expertise on your specific outcomes, so this would be an issue in only the most egregious of cases.

We have a lesson in OLLIE on rubrics that might be of assistance as well.

Nuts and Bolts: Boost

With our summer update, we have a few new features available.  I will be sharing this in more detail in coming newsletters.  The first one I want to share is the new Boost theme.  Boost is the name of the new theme, making it different than our previous one (which is entitled "Essential").

I am a BIG Boost fan.  It creates a much cleaner interface that is easy to use.  I tend to use a simple Essential layout, but Boost even tops that.  In the courses that I taught over the summer, I tried it out, and will now be going Boost full time.

If you would like to use Boost, this is up to your control.  Just edit your course settings and then change the appearance to Boost.

There are some general cautions.  You will need to become comfortable with what they call the "hamburger" sidebar.  Plus in an effort to clean up things, Boost hides quite a bit of the administration settings.  There are several good Boost tutorials on YouTube if you get stuck.

Here is my overview of Boost to my first class that I used it with:

Tips and Tricks: Forums as Journals

Each newsletter, I'll try to add a tips and tricks section of things you might not have known you could do, or give you an insight into a way an instructor has tackled an instructional issue.  This month, I'm sharing a conversation I had with a teacher on our K-12 Moodle server.  She was looking for having a journal for students, but have it all in one location.  This is not standard within Moodle, since Journals are 1-entry items.  Students can edit that item, but it does not keep entries separate.  You could also add multiple journals to your course, but that creates a bit of a mess.

There is another option: Forums as journals.  You can set up a forum to be an ongoing journal for your course, thus keeping all the entries in one place.  The key is getting it so that other students cannot see other participants' journals.

The answer is groups.  This is the way I recommend doing this:

1. Go into your Groups area, then click “Auto-Create Groups”.  

2. Fill out the groups like so.  For “Group/member count”, put in the number that is equal to the number of students in your course.

3. You can preview it.  You are aiming to have a group of 1-student each.

4. Click submit

5. Edit your forum

6. Under common module setting, change group mode to separate groups

7. Student won’t see other posts:

8. But you will

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