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2015

Learning about LaunchPad

Ever since we started using an online component with our textbook, I have had the dilemma of how do I show my students all the study options (opportunities) that are
available to help them through my course (Biology 1010 – Introductory Biology for Non-majors). It would take an entire class to demonstrate all of the different materials available for them to use. Sadly, that’s time we really didn’t have.  Out of concern for presenting a solid foundation for using LaunchPad, an assignment called
“Learning About LaunchPad” was born. The assignment is somewhat like a scavenger hunt, asking the students to travel through all of the different components of LaunchPad and answer questions along the way. They are exposed to the calendar, announcements, the ebook, the animations, Learning Curve,
flashcards, the homepage lay-out and more. By the time they finish the assignment, they know where and how to use all the various components LaunchPad
has to offer. My colleague and I asked the students to enroll in LaunchPad before the first class and we offer extra credit if they come to class with the
“Learning About LaunchPad” assignment completed. This past semester over 90% of my students handed me a completed assignment on the first day! We have even
used the assignment to help a new colleague become familiar with all LP has to offer. Did the assignment assist students feeling comfortable with LP, in locating their assignments throughout the semester and using study tools they might otherwise not have tried?  I thinkthey would all give you a resounding yes!

The assignment goes with the LaunchPad for Biology for a Changing World (Schuster,2e). I’ve posted the “Spring version” of our assignment.  Feel free to modify it for your own courses. I hope you get the same positive results, we have experienced!

During this time of year, my daughter has a lot of days off from school. I'm not sure that she's ready for it, but one thing that I'm thinking about is getting her to watch Pride and Prejudice with me. I love the book, but she's only nine, so that might be a little much to start with. And I adore the movie, the A&E version with Colin Firth, but it's quite long. However, I find the character of Elizabeth Bennett to be inspiring, because she speaks her mind, doesn't want to settle, and admits when she is wrong. And (spoiler alert in case you don't know the plot), it's inspiring when love triumphs. So we'll see if I can get my daughter to watch this, or if I have to wait a few more years to inspire her with Jane Austen.

So your classes are coming to an end and it’s time to make sure everything is in order for finals. Here are some tips to help you wrap up your semester with Launchpad.

 

1. Add zeros for all unsubmitted Launchpad assignments

You may notice in the gradebook, the grades don’t look entirely right. If you have not selected to add zeros for unsubmitted assignments when you created your course, l this is a good time to do so. All work that was not completed, will now have a zero in the gradebook and the grade totals will now be accurate. Here is how you do it:

 

Step 1. Click on the Instructor Console from the menu on the left

Step 2. Click on the Gradebook Preferences link.

Step 3. Select the Zero Score preference.

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2. Export your grades from Launchpad to your campus learning management system (Blackboard, Canvas, D2L etc.)

If you are keeping other grades in your campus learning management system, Blackboard, Canvas, or D2L for example, you will want to export your Launchpad grades and then import them. Here are the steps:

 

Step 1. From your gradebook, click “Export Scores” at the top of the page.

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Step 2. Select the information you want to export and which assignments you want grades for.

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When you're done, click Export.

 

3. Verify Students work

For students who challenge their scores in Launchpad – there are a few tings you can do to verify their work.

 

Step 1. Click on the Gradebook to open it

Step 2. Click on the student's name whose activity you wish to track

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Step 3. From here you can do one of two things. First, you can view the student’s submission for a specific assignment by clicking on it. Second, you can see their overall activity by selecting the icon on the right side that looks like a sheet of paper with a clock on it.

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4. Changing settings and due dates for a student

Special cases arise where you need to extend a due date or change setting for a particular student. Here is what you need to know.


Step 1. Hover your cursor over the "More Options" menu for the assignment and select "edit"

 

Step 2. From the Basic Info screen, select Assignment.

Step 3. In the drop down menu for Setting for: click “Add individual"

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Step 4. Enter the student's name then click add

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Step 5.  Select the student from the drop-down list

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Step 6a. Change the due date settings for the individual student.

Step 6b. Or to change a setting follow the preceding steps and click on settings tab to adjust the time limit, number of attempts, etc.

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Step 7. Click Save Changes at the bottom of the screen

 

5. Deactivate your course

After all is completed and your grades are finished – there is one last step to finish wrapping up your Launchpad course. You now need to deactivate it. Your data will all be saved and you still have the ability to view and change anything you like. The main benefit for deactivating your course is that now students can’t register for the course. So this makes it easier for next semester so students register for the right course. Here is how you do it:

Step 1. From the LaunchPad home page, select Switch/Create New Courses from the drop-down menu in the upper-right corner of the screen.

Step 2. Click on the “Deactivate” button under the course you have completed

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As always – if you need any extra help with your end of semester wrap up – you can sign up for a training session here.

Every fall, our local high school puts on a musical and anyone in the community can attend. There is an adult director, but the rest is pretty much run by the students--as actors, set designers, lighting and audio techs, and more. As someone who loves to attend theater, but can not imagine participating in theater, I find these performances to be inspiring. Not only do the students put in tons and tons of hours to prepare for the five shows, but they put themselves out there just by participating in the shows, whether in front of the audience or behind the scenes. Even if the performance isn't like going to Broadway, I find simply the fact of the show itself to be inspiring.

 

What inspires you?

Launchpad has given me the tools to create a much richer learning environment outside of class, which in turn has transformed what I do in live class sessions.  In particular, it has allowed me to break down traditional barriers between in-class and outside of class activities, radically transforming how I structure my course.  Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the elimination of my live lectures—which is not to say that I no longer speak in class, as you’ll see.

 

Parts of my lectures have become redundant.  No longer do I have to lecture on material covered in the textbook during class. Before LearningCurve helped my students to engage with and master readings, these review lectures made some sense. Many students hadn’t completed the reading assignment for the week, and those that had read it passively and still needed to digest the information. But now with LearningCurve assigned before class, such reviews are largely unnecessary. Through a journal exercise, my students tell me which parts of the chapter they would like to review. Instead of lecturing on the same material covered in the text, I now lead class discussion of student-identified topics from their readings.

 

But there were important elements of my traditional live lectures that were not redundant, particularly those moments where I clarified, challenged or added to the text in important ways. These segments could not be cut without loss, but I increasingly wondered about the timing of these portions of my lectures. While I had something that I wanted to tell my students, was the Wednesday afternoon after the student read the text over the weekend really the right place to add my thoughts? Moreover, was covering all this material in a single one-off 50 minute session the right modality? The answer for me was no to both questions.

 

My solution was to embed these segments of my traditional lectures directly into Launchpad. I see this change as a chance to guide my students as they are reading and to encourage critical engagement with the text. It is remarkably easy to do in Launchpad.  I simply record voice over lecture slides and then embed them using the ‘Link’ option in the ‘Add to this Unit’ button. I can place these mini-lectures before or after any a- or b-heading in the e-book. I’ve experimented with a variety of formats, but I have settled on 1 to 4 minute segments as the ideal. This length is perfect for a mini-lecture focused on a specific question, puzzle, or event.

 

The format has several advantages over the classroom.  First, its length makes it easier for a student to focus on and the mini-lectures break up the text which in turn makes it more digestible. Second, it can be viewed multiple times and a student views it when he or she is ready or it becomes relevant. Third, my lectures align more closely with the book than ever before.  Even when I offer new material I do so in the context of the book. Finally, my videos are closed captioned and I post a transcript with each podcast. These features address universal design and accessibility issues more fully than I could in my traditional classroom.

 

I know that this probably sounds like a big undertaking, but there are two things to keep in mind when you think about inserting elements of your lectures into Launchpad.  First, these mini-lectures are the best segments of your current live lectures, so they are easy to create.  Also, once you create them, they are ready for future semesters.  No longer will you have to give the same lecture three times on the same day and the links copy over each semester in Launchpad.

 

You have options as to how these mini-lectures will look and feel.  I have found voice over lecture slides most effective. It allows me to bring visual evidence and structure to my mini-lectures.  But there are other options.  It is even possible to record a live lecture in front of a real class and edit it into shorter segments for Launchpad.

 

Flipping my classroom has led me to think a great deal about timing and teaching. New on-line resources are breaking down traditional barriers between inside and outside of class activities, making for a more seamless and dynamic experience for my students. The elimination of traditional live lectures in my courses is just one part of this transformation, one that freed up considerable class time for discussion and active learning, which both my students and I are finding more enjoyable and useful.