Well, my utter absence over the last few months derives from my own coursework and my attempt to teach a Library Studies course for the first time. As a short term, 8-week, online course, the pressure was, well, intense. However, without my own school stuff going on, I’m trying to test out new ways to possibly make my life easier and thought I would share my research findings.
1) Weekly homework assignments are part of the learning process of the course, forcing students to download, enter in their answers, save, and upload their responses back to the course Assignment Drop-Box (I’m using WebCT). The number of problems this routine activity causes students is astounding. To avoid the proprietary file format issue, the standard set forth is RTF (rich text format) so students can use it in Google Docs, Microsoft whatever version, WordPerfect, etc. However, at least 10-20% of the time students fail to either a) include their names or b) save the file they edited in the correct format. Other issues tend to arise from uploading a file. In order for me to markup their assignments, I have downloaded each RTF file, converted it to PDF, marked up the PDF, and reuploaded it as a Graded Assignment for the student to review. To say the least, getting through a batch of 30 kids can take 8-10 hours. Therefore, I thought I might be able to trim the time down (at least on the uploading, converting end) and try to reduce the number of issues students encounter by changing the RTF document into a form of some sort. The library is also keen on understanding the student learning outcomes (SLOs) from this course to help either a) advocate for more sections since this is a graduation requirement but we only currently offer 3 sections of it or b) propose more funding to develop the library’s resources and programs.
Option 1: Create PDF Interactive Forms for students to fill out
With government agencies like the IRS having made the transition to interactive forms available online (instead of waiting for paper ones to arrive), I figured it was worth a shot. Previous experience with Adobe Acrobat Pro 9.0 (yes, only this version is form-creator friendly) helped me feel comfortable jumping in. The forms seem like a good idea since students wouldn’t struggle with changing text font into a different color than black and then I could download all answers in a spreadsheet at the end of the semester to evaluate question effectiveness. The only real trick to making this successful is remembering that after running the Form Wizard and creating all of your fields to go to Advanced>Extend Features in Adobe Reader so students completing the form can save copies of the form with their answers. (Granted I only discovered this trick with drafting up this post). I still need to see how things work with exporting the data, but I know that all goes to a CSV (comma-separated value) file that opens nicely in Excel and Excel like programs.
Option 2: Google Forms
I use Google Spreadsheets to track grading progress, I use Google Powerpoint to create my Powerpoint-like presentations, so why not test out a Google Form? Unlike Adobe’s forms, Google Forms are unbelievably user-friendly, as you can see from the image of how to create a Multiple-Choice quesiton below.
Another great thing with Google Forms is its ease of distribution. You email the form itself to be completed in the email or give a URL for the form or even embed the Form into your own site.
Although, I think my favorite part of Google Forms is the pretty summary graphs and charts it gives you about each response, as you can see in the gallery of images below. You can also view the responses in a spreadsheet if you’d like but its less fun that way.
However, for my purposes, there are some drawbacks with Google Forms such as I can’t markup assignments and send them back to students to see what they got wrong and students don’t learn how to save a file, edit the file’s name, download a file, or upload one. While those aren’t technically part of my curriculum, these life skills are important for students moving into professional settings or moving on to other online or hybrid-type classes that most universities offer nowadays. Therefore, Google Forms will simply be just that, a simple form tool to get feedback for my own use and not to use as a feedback tool between me, others, and back to others.