Online Teaching Resources for Courses & Emergencies

As with most things, when it comes to online teaching resources and being prepared to teach when emergencies arise, Michigan State University is a cipher wrapped in an enigma — We have excellent resources but there is no central portal that disseminates and explains them well.

What follows is a brief set of explained links that could be helpful if you find yourself in one of the following situations:

1) You are going to teach an online course.

2) You want to make your course more blended or flipped.

3) You want to prepare for emergencies or planned absences.

Accessibility: It is good to begin any talk of teaching and teaching online with accessibility.  Accessibility is not simply an afterthought to apply to your course (online or face2face) but something that should be baked into your course from the beginning.  Most studies show that enhancing your teaching for accessibility (or as we like to say Universal Design) creates a better learning environment for all students.

We put together a resource on accessibility for teaching history at (https://history.msu.edu/digital/ada-compliance/) but one of the best resources for accessibility can be found at the University of Minnesota: Accessible U (https://accessibility.umn.edu/)

Online: Teaching online can be effective and successful (particularly for nontraditional students).  We have set up a quick set of tips & resources for teaching history online at (https://history.msu.edu/online-teaching/)

Blended & Flipped: One of the best reasons to think about technical resources for teaching is to create a blended or flipped courses that allow for you to maximize your time with your students.  Incorporating blended or flipped techniques also helps to prepare your for emergencies and those times when you can’t make it to campus.  We will have some tips and resources on blended & flipped classes here https://history.msu.edu/digital/blended/

Emergencies: It is always good to be prepared for emergencies: both for crises that can limit access to campus and the classroom as well as those days that you might be sick, out of town, or at a conference.

Resources for keeping teaching going in an emergency:

  1. Michigan State University (keepteaching.msu.edu)
  2. Indiana University (https://kb.iu.edu/d/keep)
  3. University of Maryland (https://svp.umd.edu/keepteaching)
  4. Vanderbilt University (https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/dealing-with-the-unexpected/)

D2L (https://d2l.msu.edu): Things can get confusing right off the bat with D2L.  D2L (trying to rebrand from Desire2Learn) is the name of the company.  The software product you actually use (the LMS or Learning Management system) is called Brightspace.  For the most part you don’t need to know since since at MSU we call our LMS D2L but it does come in helpful because there are a number of communities and help out there that support Brightspace (i.e., https://community.brightspace.com/s/article/Mapping-Brightspace-Functionality-Higher-Education).

For the most part, the Help offered at MSU for D2L is very good (https://help.d2l.msu.edu/msu-docs).  D2L is an exceptional tool but like Microsoft Word, it is designed to satisfy everyone from Math to English teaching so it never quit satisfies anyone.  You often need to wade through a ton of features to find the ones that work for you.  We plan to offer D2L tips for History teaching soon (https://history.msu.edu/digital/teachingonline)

MSU OneNote Class Notebook (Spartan 365): OneNote Class Notebook for writing and research paper based courses is great for group work and sharing resources (https://www.onenote.com/classnotebook). OneNote Class Notebook is also great for face2face courses making it easy for students to turn in multiple drafts, do peer review, collect research resources, and much more.

MSU Google Docs for Educations (https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/?hl=en#topic=6020277): With Google Docs, Drive, Calendar, and Sites it is very easy to create a rich and robust learning environment for students.  The up side is that students know how to use google docs and can be a great environment for turning in drafts of writing, doing peer review and peer editing, and multiple forms of collaboration.  Great for collecting research and historical sources.  It is also easy to post classroom materials including video and audio.  The downside is you will need to manage your student roster.

MSU Google for Education does offer Google Classroom (https://classroom.google.com/) that does make it easier to manage rosters, track students, and do quizzes and such (https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/).

EliReview (https://help.d2l.msu.edu/eli-review): For those who like to focus on writing and having students do peer review, Eli is a nice addition to D2L    (https://elireview.com/support/lms/msu/).

Zotero (https://www.zotero.org/): For those who have used Zotero, they know it is a great (free) bibliographic management tool, but it can be a great addition to online and face2face courses, particularly for research heavy courses.  It is even possible to design a whole online courses around Zotero and use it as a great collaboration tool (https://cha-shc.ca/teaching/teachers-blog/three-reasons-to-teach-and-use-zotero-in-the-classroom-2019-09-09.htm)

Zoom (https://msu.zoom.us/): Zoom is the all purpose video conferencing tool that works great for both meetings and holding classes, particularly if you or your students can’t make it to campus.  You can also record sessions for students who miss your class.

Many of the classroom carts are Zoom ready and can allow you to let students who need to be off campus or in quarentine to attend class (https://itservicedesk.msu.edu/CAisd/pdmweb.exe)

MSU MediaSpace (https://mediaspace.msu.edu/): Kaltura Mediaspace is a great place for you to host, edit, caption, and store video (and audio) for your class.  You can share directly with students from Mediaspace or embed within D2L (also embed in Google or OneNote).  You can also store YouTube videos that you may want to use in your class (it can be a great way to trim and only use the portions you want to show).

Kultura Capture (https://mediaspace.msu.edu/help#howdoiaddmediausingcapturespace): Kultura Capture is an easy to use tool that supplements MediaSpace.  You can use Kultura Capture to capture your lecture videos and/or desktop presentations.  It also has easy to use editing tools and can then be directly uploaded into MediaSpace and then ported to D2L (or OneNote of Google docs).

Captions & Transcripts: To caption and get transcripts for media, you should be using your MSU MediaSpace account (https://mediaspace.msu.edu). Once you log in (using your MSU ID and Password), you can upload media, order captions (under the “ACTIONS” button), edit the captions (transcripts are made too), and then embed your media on D2L (under “Share” button). Generally there are good instructions on the site and the captioning can be fairly good (awful with numbers and does and foreign terms so you will need to edit).

You can also go to https://webaccess.msu.edu/Getting_Started/index.html and choose one of the approved vendors and purchase transcripts for about $1 a minute.

Software: MSU does supply all the software and online applications needed to help you to do highly successful and effective online courses (although the effective and successful is primarily based on your teaching and content).  In addition to the tools above, all MSU faculty and students have access to Office 365 that we like to call Spartan 365 (https://tech.msu.edu/technology/collaborative-tools/spartan365/).  Yet other tools can be helpful.  Over time we will list possible tools below, but done hesitate to contact me with some of your favorites.

1) Camtasia by Techsmith (A local Okemos company) is a favorite for screen capture and doing online course videos (https://www.techsmith.com/video-editor.html). Can be found at the MSU C-Store.

2) Snagit is a simpler to use version of Camtasia (https://www.techsmith.com/screen-capture.html). Can be found at the MSU C-Store.

Equipment: The equipment needed is a bit more touchy than the software.  Most can be done with the camera and microphone on your laptop but inexpensive or borrowed enhancements (particularly a microphone) can greatly enhance the quality.  We will be listing good equipment choices and don’t hesitate to send me you choices.  As part of History, you can borrow equipment from LEADR and we do have a Video room, complete with green screen, on the second floor of Old Hort (key card access is available).

The key to good video for online courses is the sound.  The video can be so-so (and often students prefer your direct presentation of materials over slickly produced educational videos) but bad sound can wreck the whole experience.  It is good to invest in an inexpensive external USB microphone:

1) Reviews of USB Microphones (Soundguys)(the WireCutter)

2) A great kit for doing oral history work and online course work using your smart phone (https://www.shure.com/en-US/products/microphones/mv88plus?mobile=1)