The 2012 CTLT Institute opened with the session “Been There, Done That: Faculty Experience Using Connect.” The aim of the session was to provide workshop attendees with a better understanding of how to use UBC’s new Learning Management System (LMS), Connect. The session consisted of a panel of six UBC course instructors who had been asked to recently pilot their course using Connect.
The presenters took the workshop attendees on a step-by-step journey of using, and transitioning to, Connect. Some of the presenters used Connect to teach a fully online course, while others used Connect to complement their on-campus course. Depending on their experience, the presenters had different insights on their use of and transition to Connect.
WebCT Vista and Connect: They May Look the Same, But They Are Not
The first presenter was Dr. Darlene Redenbach, who teaches in the Department of Physical Therapy at the Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Redenbach went from having taught ten years in a face-to-face classroom, to teaching the fully online course, AUDI 402: Neuroanatomy for Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, using WebCT Vista. Her course was chosen as one of the pilot courses for Connect.
Dr. Redenbach’s initial impressions were that Connect was “just confusing.” She stated that she “had become accustomed to using Vista, and it had become a second-hand practice” to her. Now, she had to adapt to use Connect all over again, “although it did pay off in the end.” She found that most students adapted well to Connect. The students’ biggest concerns, she stated, “were that the line would go down during an assessment,” but not so much about how to navigate Connect.
Dr. Redenbach advised the workshop attendees to “be at one with the IT colleagues and support facilities available.” She stated that she received plenty of support from CTLT, and that her IT queries and concerns regarding Connect were always answered. Secondly, Dr. Redenbach advised attendees to set-up a “low-risk practice form of assessment.” Dr. Redenbach found that “the best way to ensure that the system is running properly, and that students know how to correctly submit an assignment, is to ask them to do an example quiz, and an example assignment.” Finally, Dr. Redenbach advised workshop attendees to “not just assume that everything is just the same as Vista.” She stated “they look the same, but they are not the same underneath.” For example, “the Vista Grade Book, is not the same as the Connect Grade Centre.”
A More Intuitive Platform for Teaching and Learning
The second presenter was Duncan McHugh. McHugh is a Multimedia Developer at UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems, where he teaches and supports digital media. He has been on the teaching team for LFS 400: Digital Communication and Topics in Agriculture since its inception in 2009. The course tests student’s storytelling ability. It is an on-campus course, but it uses the new Connect platform for students to submit assignments and access certain course content.
McHugh found the Connect system to be “cleaner, more intuitive,” and that it is” clearly designed for the modern browser.” McHugh used the Connect platform for grade posting and some assignments. He attended a three day training workshop to get up to speed. He admits that Connect was “a bit tricky at first,” but he later found that he could easily navigate through it. Initially, McHugh found it difficult to post announcements; some students did not see them. Some things that McHugh likes about Connect, is that there are not as many pop-ups as WebCT Vista. He also likes the new grading system. He finds that, “it clearly shows you what needs to be graded.”
The course did “freak-out some students.” However, similar to Dr. Redenbach’s impressions, McHugh found that “students were more concerned with learning the content, and the least of their worries was how to use Connect.” Students seemed to “figure it out, and easily navigated their way through it all.” McHugh noted that in the cases where students do not quite understand Connect, there are plenty of resources available to orient students. McHugh’s tip was simple but important, “attend the training sessions provided by your respective faculty and CTLT.”
An Easy Transition
Dr. Jodi Streelasky is the M.Ed. Coordinator at the Faculty of Education. She teaches undergraduate and graduate early childhood courses and is a faculty advisor for early childhood teacher candidates. Dr. Streelasky teaches ECED 406: Early Learning Curriculum in the Pre-School Years.
Dr. Streelasky, found that she had “no problems at all with [her] course.” She admits that she wasn’t as “innovative as everyone else in using Connect,” but that she found no issues at all navigating the new LMS environment. Furthermore, none of her students had issues logging in, and submitting an assignment was very easy. Dr. Streelasky stated “it was an environment that was not too difficult to navigate.” If there is one thing that she would have liked to have changed about her experience, it would have been to learn how to alter the email notification. Overall, however, Dr. Streelasky found that it was a “safe learning environment, where a lot of support was provided; really, it was all a non-issue.” Furthermore, she stated that “the transition was easy, and there were no challenges for myself or my students.”
A Learning Experience
Lucy Gofton is a Sessional Lecturer for Counseling Psychology, and is currently a PhD candidate in the Counseling Psychology program. She teaches CNPS 362: Basic Interviewing Skills. Before using Connect, Gofton had never taught an online course. She stated that using Connect definitely involved “a learning curve.” Gofton found it very useful to attend the training workshops. Some of the things she learned at training included how to send out announcements and how to use the calendar.
The only problem she encountered was with submitting feedback; “it was a definite learning experience.” Gofton also encountered some problems with students submitting assignments. There was some confusion amongst students as to where exactly they should be submitting their assignments. Like other panelists, Gofton advised the workshop attendees to know the support people. “They are always willing to help,” she stated. She also advised the workshop attendees to be careful when posting feedback. She found that one can easily mistake the feedback post as being private, when it may in fact be public.
A Different Language
Dr. Warren Code is a Science Teaching and Learning Fellow with the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative. Dr. Code provides instructional support, so he was happy to get better informed on how to use Connect. Dr. Code also teaches MATH 184, Differential Calculus for Social Science and Commerce. In MATH 184, Dr. Code teaches 120 students, and it is a partially online course.
Dr. Code attended some of the training sessions on Connect, and recommends that others “start early.” Whether they are migrating a course, or starting from scratch, Dr. Code cautions others to “make sure you know what you are doing before your course begins.” Dr. Code found that the transition from WebCT Vista to Connect was not too bad, for himself or for his students. A minor challenge was getting familiar with the “language on Blackboard.” He knew some of the WebCT Vista language, and now he had to become familiar with the language on Connect. Dr. Code mentioned that some of the language on Connect seemed ambiguous at first. For example, there is a Grade Centre but also an Assessment option on Connect, and even though they sound like the same thing, they are not.
Dr. Code tried to make the transition for his students as easy as possible. Most of Dr. Code’s students were familiar with WebCT Vista, so he made sure that the Connect page resembled the WebCT Vista format. This helped his student’s transition from WebCT Vista to Connect. For the front page of his course, he used a “static page,” where he posted announcements and links for students. He liked the idea of a static page because he didn’t have to worry about making sure students had not been informed of something. He always referred students to the front page when they needed more course information.
A Positive Transition
Dr. Michelle Lamberson is the Managing Director of CTLT. Dr. Lamberson also teaches an online course, EOSC 311: The Earth and its Resources. The course consists of six modules, with a quiz after each module, and four discussions. Dr. Lamberson structured her course so that the homepage included sub-groupings of each module. Essentially, she “copied Vista, but altered it a bit.”
Dr. Lamberson did not attend any training sessions. She stated that she’s “more of a dig in, do it myself learner.” She did, however, “spend some time with the person that migrated [her] course to Connect.” Dr. Lamberson stated that there was a bit of a learning curve when getting use to the difference in language, the way content was treated, and the left navigational tool on Connect. A difference between WebCT Vista and Connect that Dr. Lamberson found was that on Vista, you do everything on a particular page. On Connect, it’s a different method. “You create a quiz, for example, and then you deploy it.”
Dr. Lamberson recommended that others make “as much use as possible of the support you have available.” A great feature about Connect is that one can make certain parts of the website public, and others private. Dr. Lamberson stated that this is a neat feature, especially if you want to make the syllabus public for potential students. Furthermore, she advised the workshop attendees to utilize the drop-in sessions, and to use the help if they need it. Finally, she stated “don’t think Vista was the world’s most perfect platform, the change to Connect is good.”
Want to learn more about Connect? Faculty and staff can gain more knowledge and learn how to use Connect effectively through CTLT’s Connect Institute. The workshops explore various areas within Connect, and follow a ‘learn and apply’ model.
To view the full video presentation, check out the article 2012 CTLT Institute Videos.