Learning Ecosystem Integrations for Improved Student Experience & Engagement

At my presentation at COHERE 2015, I spoke about the transformation that the Sauder School of Business COMM101 Business Fundamentals Course has gone in terms of how it integrates technologies to improve student experience and engagement.

The Challenge – COMM101 is a huge face to face course enrolling all 1st year Sauder students (for 2015 almost 700 in 6 sections with 4 instructors). The challenges that the instructors have bravely taken on in the past few years are how to:

  • provide hands-on in-class activities
  • engage students in group work and other informal assessments in the classroom
  • provide engaging, easily accessible online content,
  • improve mobile-friendly communications,
  • facilitate content creation by multiple instructors with user-friendly interfaces,
  • increase social learning, peer learning, group activities, etc.,
  • reduce large assessments (midterms/finals)
  • provide quick feedback to students on all assessment pieces

The Process –  Yet a work in progress, instructors opted not to use more paper handouts, nor to use just one piece of central technology (i.e. a single LMS), but instead to use a variety of integrated technologies, different online assessment types that would facilitate quick feedback to students. They substituted large assessment pieces such as midterm and final exams for group projects and presentations, informal and formal assessments scattered throughout the term using multiple modes of delivery. All of these activities then had a layer or in some instances several layers of analytics to enable instructors to see of how students were engaged and addressing the needs of disengaged students.

List of technologies used: 
1. Learning Management System (UBC Connect aka Blackboard Learn), used for:

  • Individual and Group Assignment Submission
  • Central hub for integrations (BasicLTI integrations into WordPress, iPeer)
  • Weekly Tests
  • Library Course Reserves (UBC Library content, also via BasicLTI integration)

2. Master Blog in WordPress housing content for all section students to go to

  • All instructors are able to edit a single WordPress site where content is managed
  • Posts pushed to email via Mailchimp
  • Page views monitored via WP xAPI plugin pushing to Learning Record Store (LRS – in this case self-hosted version of Learning Locker)

3. Discussion and collaboration tools (WordPress via BasicLTI Integration in Connect)

  • PulsePress is a theme for WordPress giving WP a twitter like functionality
  • Meant for groups/individuals to post in backchannel format.
  • Serves as archive of discussions
  • Also has WP xAPI Learning Analytics of Page Views

4. iPeer – student team peer evaluations

  • This is its own standalone platform at ipeer.elearning.ubc.ca
  • Allows for teams of students to self-evaluate as well as evaluate each of their peers
  • Results synchronized with Connect or exported via CSV.

5. iClickers

  • Used in class for pop Multiple Choice quizzes
  • Data can be pushed into Connect Grade Center, or aggregated in excel sheet, uploaded into Connect

9. Blogs.ubc.ca for each student to create their personal blog

  • Student blogs URLs are collected from students, then each blog evaluated by instructors based on various criteria

Here are my slides from the presentation:

And here is a Prezi to show how the Learning Technology Ecosystem that supports COMM101 integrates:

What technologies are you trying to integrate in a “learning ecosystem” to improve student experience and engagement?


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