Simple Tech Tools to Help Smooth Online Teaching

Moving to remote learning causes hurdles great and small. Technology can sometimes just not work the way we need it to; either for rapid fire conversation, building assessments, tracking student engagement, or other aspects of in-person learning. 

The following are some simple tech tools, developed in conjunction with the Research, Teaching and Learning group in Information, Technology and Consulting (RTL-IT&C) here at Dartmouth that help smooth the transition to remote learning.

GIFT2QTI Converter

It may not sound exciting to be able to convert GIFT files to QTI Files, but it is for Jenny Lynn, Language Program Director in the Classics Department. Lynn wanted her students to be able to take quizzes multiple times for practice and have those quizzes be unique each time. In order to make big question banks on Canvas, Lynn needed a workaround so that she could create big question banks in GIFT and convert them into the file type that Canvas accepts. There exists a converter created by Chuck Severance at the University of Michigan, but it was not exactly what she needed. Lynn consulted with ITC-RTL who edited the tool so she could make quizzes not just with multiple choice, but also multiple correct answers.

Now that most classes are remote, Lynn relies on this new tool more than ever. She is building out more quizzes for students to use and practice. She has created her video tutorial for other faculty who want to do the same. The tool can be found here:

Canvas DiscussionsAnalytics

The Canvas DiscussionAnalytics tool is an R-based interactive tool that gathers student activity data, analyzes it and produces an interactive dashboard and statistical plots/graphs. An instructor can look at it to get a data visualization of which posts are prompting the most responses, which students are the main conversation starters, and others trends.

Many instructors are using Canvas for asynchronous class discussions during remote learning. It can sometimes be unwieldy to otherwise decipher how an individual student is involved in discussions, but the DiscussionAnalytics tool makes the read out simpler. Margaret Funnell, Director of Undergraduate Advising & Research, has used the tool in her class to understand how each student interacts in Canvas Discussions. "You can get a sense of how much an individual student was really digging down. You could see where their interest may have waned a bit and where it might pop back up. I found that incredibly useful." 

Rassias Drill Tool

For those unfamiliar with Rassias Method, drill sessions are a big part of language learning at Dartmouth. Students typically meet with their drill instructor/apprentice teacher (AT) multiple times a week for fast paced, interactive sessions to practice their language. The move to remote learning meant that instructors would have to rethink how to engage learners the same way. An AT could no longer turn to students and quickly point, asking for a response.

Helene Rassias-Miles is the Executive Director of the Rassias Center for World Languages and Cultures. When the Center learned that Dartmouth would be remote for spring she asked Dartmouth alumni to come together for a round of beta testing on a remote version of drill. She says, the beta testing found that, "things are different. It's slower. It has to be." 

Zoom lacked the simple, but important, ability for an instructor to be able to point to a student. Rassias-Miles then connected with John Bell, Leader Applications Developer in Information, Technology and Consulting (IT&C). Bell heard about the issue on a Friday afternoon and tinkered over the weekend to develop a simple tool to help ATs randomly and instantly call on someone over Zoom. He says, "Transitioning to online classes, you can have a major impact with simple tools. Not everything needs to be a big program."