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   Fostering collegial student relationships in an online environment can be one of the most challenging tasks facing an instructor. I am often asked: How can we get students to interact with each other as frequently as they do in a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom? What are some best practices by which online instructors have facilitated student-to-student engagement? And, more practically, what can we do right now to implement these techniques in the classroom? Fortunately for those of us using LaunchPad, there are many ways to encourage this kind of dialogue, features like the discussion board, that are already built into the platform.

   Perhaps the most important, the discussion board tool allows students the ability to post original contributions while also letting them provide feedback to their peers. Indeed, as Krentler and Willis-Flurry (2005) discovered, the implementation of this kind of technology in the classroom does actually empirically increase student learning. While not assigned by default, an instructor can easily implement the discussion board feature into any or all of the chapters and modules. By clicking on “Add to this Unit” the instructor can select the discussion board function and post an appropriate content prompt revolving around the material covered in that specific chapter.

   It is often helpful for the instructor to construct a prompt that not merely asks the students their opinion on a certain matter - say, do you believe that nature or nurture is the cause of psychological abnormality and suffering? Rather, by including a video clip or a link to a research article, the instructor can help the students more critically and conceptually engage with the material (Harman & Koohang, 2005). That is, by encouraging students to analyze a specific pedagogical object or artifact, they, by extension, are able better to construct a communal narrative that revolves around that very task. Taking a step further, the instructor can also provide ongoing and dynamic feedback while the discussion board has not passed the due date set in LaunchPad. This has the benefit of helping to steer the dialogue in a certain way, acting as an opportunity for student learning, while also fostering class cohesion and identity.

   The importance of student collaboration and building collegiality becomes all the more pressing in a digital classroom. As a result, instructors will find the discussion board option in LaunchPad to be a very welcomed feature. In fact, I have suggested some ways in which educators can implement this into their curricula. However, what I have found after teaching online for the last 8 years is that the more creative we can get with using functions like the discussion board, the more seamless the online experience and the more efficacious the actual learning.




Harma, K. & Koohand, A. (2005). Discussion board: A learning object. Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects, 1(1), 67-77. Informing Science Institute. Retrieved September 13, 2019 from


Krentler, K. A. & Willis-Flurry, L. A. (2005). Does technology enhance actual student learning? The case of online discussion boards. Journal of Education for Business, 20(6), 316-321.




Jacob W. Glazier, PhD, LPC, NCC is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Positive Human Development and Social Change at Life University and an online Adjunct Professor in the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University – Steinhardt. He provides therapy services online for BetterHelp and its associated sites as a licensed professional counselor. 

One of the forms of assessment in LaunchPad is called "Data Connections" and is built differently than some of the other measures like LearningCurve and Quizzing. Data Connections has more of an integrative and essay aspect with regard to how it presents itself to students. In this way, it creates a place where students have some free choice in what kind of content they want to look at and how they respond to the assessment prompt.


Below, I am using a Data Connections activity from the LaunchPad system on human growth and development. This one is listed as "Common Genetic Diseases and Conditions" - clicking on it will bring up a new window.



This particular Data Connections has 4 pages to it. In the screenshot below you will see how Data Connections presents an opening page that introduces the topic. 



Clicking on the "Get Started" button at the bottom brings up the interactive table that I have highlighted in yellow below. The student is able to click through the table and learn about each of these different genetic diseases and conditions.


Personally, I like having information presented in this way as it allows for the student to become more personally invested in exploring the content provided - contrast this to just reading something in a textbook. While the latter isn't non-educational, having the material appear in a way that is different, I think, helps to capture the student's attention and thereby, hopefully, fosters retention.



On the next page, in the following screenshot, the student is prompted to enter a short essay on the previous information that was just presented to them. Unique to Data Connections is how the student's response is very wide open, allowing them to select from a wide range of possibilities as to how they want to show what they learned. 


As an important note, being an instructor, you will want to be sure to go back and review the grade for this activity. Data Connections provides a tentative full-credit grade after the student has submitted an answer. As a result, a review by the instructor ensures that the student is learning the concepts and ideas that are required by the course. 



Finally, the last page of Data Connections will let the student know that their work has been submitted. It will also provide a list of references that can be referenced on a term paper or used by the student for further learning. 



Data Connections, a unique form of assessment in LaunchPad, has the benefit of providing the student with a broad range of possibilities of how to respond and demonstrate their knowledge. It does this through presenting the material interactivity and by using essay questions as a way to gauge the student's progress. Data Connections is another feature unique to the LaunchPad learning system.

It is important not to forget that a main part of student learning takes place from actually reading the textbook - whether this textbook is either a traditional hardcover book or, with regard to what we will be talking about, an online version of the text. As a result, it is exceedingly necessary that an educator choose a text that is conducive to their own pedagogical values. What's more, given the increasingly online nature of higher education and content delivery, picking a text that excels in both of these areas may also be high on the priority list for instructors looking for a classroom textbook. 


The eBook in LaunchPad does just that: it provides an integrative and immersive experience for student and educator alike. In what follows, I am hoping to show you some of the features of the LaunchPad eBook that I have utilized in my courses. But first, you will see below, that I have highlighted how to access the eBook from the main screen within the LaunchPad system. It is always displayed in the left tab menu for easy access. Let's check out "Chapter 1" and see what happens...



Educators that have used LaunchPad in the past will be familiar with the drop down menu that breaks the chapter into various themes and sections. The eBook is organized in the same way. As such, it becomes easy to navigate because the student or instructor can topically navigate through the content, as opposed to having to thumb through the pages as is the case with a traditional textbook. 



Within the actual eBook, you will see a couple of things I have highlighted in yellow below. First, I wanted to point out that the eBook in LaunchPad will always display the page number that corresponds to the material 'brick-and-mortar' textbook. This is especially helpful if you have a mixed bag of students, some of which may be using the eBook and others a traditional textbook. What's more, in terms of standard citation practices, I have found that having this page number easily allows students to cite the eBook using various scholarly formats - for example, APA or MLA. This way, there is no confusion, which is generally the case when citing an eBook or an online source.


I also wanted to show you how there is interactive media content integrated directly into the eBook. For example, you will see that the yellow arrow shows a video clip that students can play from within the actual eBook - not having to jump back and forth between the book and some other place within the LMS platform. 



In the screenshot below, there are several items which I have noted. Looking at the text that I highlighted, you will see that the instructor can add notes directly into the eBook, and these notes can be viewable by the entire class or made private, accessible exclusively to the instructor. You may also see that I can add a note to the highlighted material (more on this later). 


Next, the circle in the upper right hand corner will draw your attention to additional notation features. For instance, you may add a general note to the top of this eBook page, you can clear all of your highlighting, or you can delete all of your notes. This allows for the ability to master edit this section of the eBook. Finally, I also wanted to highlight how the "Read On" button at the bottom of the page allows students to seamlessly continue learning and reading, right into the next section. In other words, there is no skipping back and forth between different screens or apps, giving both educator and student an environment that is similar, if not better, than a 'normal' reading context.



Returning to the highlighting feature I mentioned earlier, you will see that once I select to actually highlight the text it will turn yellow. I have also, in the example below, selected to add a note to that particular highlighted material. The note, again, can be made viewable students or retained just for instructor notation. I have found this feature helpful when I have wanted to draw attention to a certain concept that the class may be using in a term paper or in that week's discussion post. 



All in all, I have tried to give an overview of the eBook that is integrated within the LaunchPad system - highlighting, along the way, the quality of integration, between media and text, as well as the ability to pedagogically insert your own values as an educator directly into the eBook. As a result, I hope I have gone to show that the eBook is another example of the great interactive tools that are a part of the LaunchPad suite!

How would you like to give your students a form of assessment that only an online system, like LaunchPad, can offer? LearningCurve, one of the most exceptional features of LaunchPad, can do just that. By way of a brief introduction, LearningCurve is a form of adaptive assessment that conforms, dynamically, to how the student is doing during the duration of the assessment. For example, if the student is doing well, LearningCurve will select progressively harder questions and, conversely, if the student is doing poorly, LearningCurve will know to use easier questions for that specific student. In addition, if a student is struggling in one of the content areas of the chapter material, then LearningCurve will select more questions from that domain for the student to answer. For a more extensive account of LearningCurve, make sure to see the FAQ on LearningCurve embedded within LaunchPad and also the instructor's guide on the publisher's website.


For the current blog post, I want to give you a brief glimpse of LearningCurve while, along the way, letting you know the experiences I have had using this product. If you have a test course set-up in LaunchPad or have used LaunchPad in the past, you will already know that there may be a couple 'mini' LearningCurve activities embedded within each chapter or module. As a case in point, below, there is a LearningCurve assessment that is focused in on the challenges of caregivers. 



Clicking on it will reveal the following. You will see that this LearningCurve is focused on two content areas: caregiving styles and becoming boys and girls. You can also see that in order for the student to 'pass' the assignment - in other words, to earn full credit - they have to get to 300 points. This brings up another important point about LearningCurve. Students are guaranteed to earn full credit as long as they finish the assessment. If they do not, then they receive a zero. Personally, I have had many students tell me how much they prefer this form of testing over a traditional, timed quiz. Not only do they like the fact that they are certain to get full credit if they complete it, but they also tell me that the more engaged nature of LearningCurve helps them better retain the material from the chapter. 


It is important to realize that the 300 isn't the point value for the assignment. This can be set from the home screen in LaunchPad and is usually, by default, assigned between 5 - 10 points. The 300 just signifies the points the student must earn within that particular LearningCurve. This makes for a kind of game-like experience, which I will explain in more detail later.  



If you were to click on "View Sample Results" the system will display the following for you to see. Make sure to note that these sample results are in-progress, meaning that none of the students displayed have actually finished the assessment (since their grade would be 100%). It is also important to realize that if these students were not to finish this LearningCurve they would receive a zero from the system, since LearningCurve is, by default, a pass/fail adaptive assessment.


What also is helpful is how the system breaks down the scores as per the content domains: caregiving styles and becoming boys and girls. As an educator, this allows me to see that material that the students are struggling with the most thereby informing my next lecture or what I want to present to the class during our next session together. 


Let's click on "Preview as Student" at the bottom and see what happens...



This screen, below, is what students will see when they login to a LearningCurve assessment. Listed are the content areas that are going to be covered so the student may go back and review these parts of the book or eBook if they so choose. Also shown is a link for students if they want some tips on how to do well on LearningCurve - this is especially helpful if the student has never used an adaptive assessment like this before. 



Clicking on "Begin Activity" will take the student right into the first question. There are several things to note on this page. First, following the yellow arrow, the student can review the eBook directly from the LearningCurve assessment. Pedagogically, this is fantastic because it gives the student a seamless experience, not having to click out of the assessment to access the text, but being able to do it right from LearningCurve. What's more, the button will take the student directly to the section with the relevant information on it - talk about being easy and convenient. 


The two yellow circles indicate possible options if the student doesn't feel like they know the answer to the question. They can select "Get a Hint" which will give them some clues as the nature of the answer; but, as you will notice, selecting this will also deduct a few points from point bar at the top, meaning they will likely have to answer additional questions to complete the full assessment. Alternatively, the student may pick "Show Answer" which would result in not earning any points on this particular question and would most likely prompt LearningCurve to select similar questions from this content pool in order to challenge the student before the assessment completes. 



Highlighting the point bar, in the circle below, brings up how LaunchPad keeps track of the progress during the assessment. The goal is to get the blue, 15 points, all the way to the top of the bar, at 300. The student doesn't ever lose points, although they may not earn points and it may take them awhile to complete the assessment if they do not know the material very well. It is also almost impossible to complete the assessment by just guessing since LearningCurve throttles the questions according to the right or wrong answer. In other words, it would take a very long time to complete it by guessing at random. 


Also, you may see that the student has the option to "Take a Break" as indicated by the button below. Selecting this will save the student's position within the assessment and will not deduct any points. In fact, the student has as much time as they need to finish or at least until the assignment comes due, as specified by the instructor on the homepage. 



The ability to assess students in an engaged, interactive, and adaptive way in one of the major boons of the LaunchPad system. Without a supplemental online component, it is simply impossible to use an adaptive assessment, like LearningCurve, in a traditional brick-and-mortar environment. That's why, in the past, I have enhanced my 'in person' courses with an online LaunchPad and LearningCurve component. In this way, it is possible to get the best of both worlds.


Plus, using an adaptive assessment like LearningCurve for an entirely online course is not a feature that every LMS platform has - thus making LaunchPad all the more appealing to instructors who want to use tools that are informed by the latest educational research showing the power of adaptive assessment to aid in student learning. 

How do I want to assess my students' competencies and monitor their progress in my course? Such a question can lead an educator to consider the means by which they gather data or measure the retention of concepts and material during the duration of their course. One way to do this is through a traditional form of assessment: quizzing or testing.


In LaunchPad, there is the option to construct and edit this kind of assessment. Being different than another LaunchPad feature, the adaptive quizzing feature called LearningCurve, the more traditional quizzes in LaunchPad are, by default, listed at the end of each chapter and module. These summative and timed quizzes are aimed at testing the student over the material that was just covered in the chapter or module. They tend to be concise, having less than ten questions for the students to answer. 


However, the quizzing feature in LaunchPad is also highly customizable, which means that if you want to give a large assessment, like a midterm or final test, you have the option to do just that. Below, you will see that, as I indicated earlier, by default the quiz comes at the end of the chapter. In instructor view, let's click on it and see what comes up. 



Selecting the "Chapter 1 Quiz" row from the LaunchPad home screen will bring up the window below. If you follow the yellow arrow, I have circled where you can go in and edit. In the past, I have found it helpful to start with the publisher's default content, which gives me a template from which to begin, and then go in and tweak or make the changes I need to in order to fit the class. 


Apart from just the edit button, you may also want to pay attention to the way that each of the pools of questions listed below are grouped together topically and randomized. This, of course, is more rigorous pedagogically insofar as it reduces or eliminates any sharing of the answers. But, for our purposes, let's click on the edit button...



Doing so shows more details and gives us more options. For example, you can rearrange the order of the question pools, you can delete a pool, or you can edit that particular group of questions - see the yellow bracket. The new options that are available include creating new questions, showing feedback, importing questions, displaying the question pools, and collapsing the details of each pool. Clicking on "Create New Question" will give you the option to build your own quiz.



In the yellow box below, you will find that click on "Create New Question" give you several options of the specific kind of question you want to create. While I haven't gone into more detail or shown the interface where you actually do create the questions, it is very similar to other tools you probably have used in the past to build online assessments. Suffice it to say, LaunchPad has a lot of deep or advanced features that I think are best learned through exploring or messing around with - in a test or dummy course similar to the one I have been using for this blog post. 


Another feature I have used in the past, and I am sure many instructors would use as well (especially if you have taught from an older online platform), is the "Import Questions" option, to the right of the yellow box and listed in blue.



Once you click on that, the following dialogue box appears. Some of you may be familiar with the formula it offers on how to import questions. That is, follow this template in a word processing program to get the correct formatting so that LaunchPad will recognized and place the information in the right way. My sense is that this formatting is pretty standard. So, some of your old test banks that you designed maybe for a more dated system should upload correctly (or just minor tweaks are required). 



Finally, I wanted to show you that you may also search the entire database of publisher provided questions using various filters and keywords. This is great because it allows you to quickly sort and organize all of the test and quiz questions that are uploaded into LaunchPad. 


Below is an example where I searched for the term "Watson" - an early behaviorist in the psychology profession. You can see that the system lists all of the questions, regardless of chapter or module, that contain the word "Watson" - allowing you to select ones that you may want to add to a quiz.



In summary, I tried to give you a taste of how LaunchPad handles the construction of traditional, timed quizzing and testing. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how to use the publisher's content as a springboard to customize and build your own quizzes, even how to upload quizzes and test banks the you may have used in the past.

The first thing that your students will see when they sign onto LaunchPad is the "Welcome Page." The default settings automatically include a couple widgets: an RSS feed from Scientific American and a list of upcoming assignments that are due. However, there are many ways that you can customize this page to fit your teaching style. 


In this post, I am hoping to show you how I have used the "Welcome Page" in my courses. This demonstration will aid you in both learning about ways to customize LaunchPad as well as give you some pedagogical tips that could be incorporated into your own teaching style and LaunchPad courses. 


You will notice, below, that when you are in instructor view you have the ability to edit the "Welcome Page." Following the yellow arrow and clicking on the "Edit Page" button will bring up the edit screen.



The edit screen, featured in the screen capture below, lets you do several things. For example, you can rearrange the different widgets to different spaces on the page, you can add a new widget, and you can delete a widget. You may also notice that the two widgets that are enabled by default are an RSS feed for Scientific American and a list of the upcoming assignments that are due. 


Let's say that we want to add a new widget. To do this, you would click on one of the empty yellow boxes or where it says add new widget. 



Once you do this, the following gray box will appear - I have circled it in yellow. You have a few options here of what you can do. You can, of course, add or re-add an RSS feed from Scientific America, add your own custom RSS feed, add or re-add the upcoming assignment widget, and, finally, you can create your own.


As a tip, in the past, I have had students use the Scientific America RSS feed to write a one page article that summarize some of the current research coming out of the psychology field. As an educator, I think it is important to stay as up-to-date as possible on the current literature and latest developments within the field. And, as a result, having this continually updated feed on the home page is a nice resource to utilize if you want to have students engage with current research in this manner. 


To give you a concrete example, let's click on "Create Your Own."



This will bring up a dialogue box that looks similar to an HTML page you can create within the module and chapter system of LaunchPad. This is great because it allows you to edit and customize the widget pretty extensively.


Below is an example of how I have used this to create my own widget on the "Welcome Page." A lot of time, I have found it helpful, especially when teaching a fully online course, to post a class wide, at least weekly, update about the upcoming material that may also include technical and logistical notes. You can do this on the "Welcome Page" and students will see this every time they sign onto LaunchPad. 



Posting a weekly update on the "Welcome Page" is one way I have used this LaunchPad feature in my courses. Also, as I have indicated, the Scientific American RSS feed is great if you are trying to help students stay on top of the most recent research and literature coming out of your discipline. 


Overall, I hope that I have been able to give you some ideas about ways to customize the "Welcome Page" in LaunchPad and, in addition, given you some ideas about how to incorporate it into your own teaching style.

There is a wealth of content and features in LaunchPad that are either not enabled by default, or take a little bit of digging to actually find. In this blog post, I am hoping to shed some light on this publisher provided material by showing where you can access it within the LaunchPad system and, then, by exploring what some of this content looks like. This includes, for example, things like lecture powerpoint slides, flashcards, video activities, and the instructor's resource manual. I will also add my own experience as an instructor in terms of what I have used in the classroom or what I have found to be helpful.


Let's begin with where and how to access these materials within LaunchPad itself. You will notice that below, on the main screen of LaunchPad, the left menu frame contains the "Resources" button. Click on this to access another menu where you can sort these features in various ways.



Below, you have the option to sort by type, chapter, or content that you've created. I have gone ahead and chosen to filter this by the content type to make it easier to categorize and understand.



Once sorted in this way, it will bring-up the various categories of materials that are built into the LaunchPad system. Some of these include case study exercises, flashcards, videos, lecture slides, the instructor's manual, etc. You may also notice that I have indicated that there are two kinds of files: files that are geared toward students and can be accessed by them and files geared toward instructors. The yellow arrow pointing down indicates that there are more instructor resources that cannot be shown on the screen capture. 



Taking as an example, under the instructor resources, the lecture slides, I have displayed a selected chapter below. I have used these kinds of materials in class before (when I was teaching a hybrid brick-and-mortar and online course).  I have found these slides to be extremely extensive and comprehensive, covering virtually all of the material that is embedded within the eBook or hard cover textbook. What also is nice is that you may edit, delete, or add slides in order to customize the lecture powerpoint toward your own pedagogical style. 



As another example, in the following screenshot, I have included the instructor manual, which provides curriculum and pedagogical guidelines by which to structure your course. This can be really helpful if you are looking for an experiential activity or a new assignment to provide to your students. There are a lot of tips and tricks within each instructor manual and, making for easy access, they are broken up as per each chapter. 



Lastly, I have selected the flashcard activity that can be available to students. This can be really helpful if you want to give your students a pedagogical aid by which to memorize or learn some of the key concepts of each chapter. You will notice that each flashcard also contains the page number where the student can go look-up the context wherein this concept is introduced. 



In the forgoing, I have tried to highlight, briefly, some of the great resources that can sometimes remain "hidden" within LaunchPad. My goal was to demonstrate both how to access these student and instructor resources and also to provide a couple of examples of what some of these materials look like.


I have found, as I have indicated as an example, the lecture slides to be exceptionally helpful in structuring my lecture and classroom time. What's more, it has been much more convenient for me to have these resources accessible over the internet and on LaunchPad as opposed to, say, carrying them on removable media or a USB drive. This way, they can be accessed from almost any computer or device - making you able to prepare for class or to teach virtually at any time!

Customizing the content in your LaunchPad course is the first step toward making it uniquely yours. For this blog post, I want to show you how to do precisely this. I will first walk you through the different kinds of assignments and features that can be added to LaunchPad while also providing a few personal anecdotes from my own experiences teaching. Then, I am going to show you one of the customizable features that I use most often: "Document Collection". By adding this to your course, you will be able to attach virtually any file format (for example, PDF or a PowerPoint file) so that it is accessible and downloadable by your students.


To begin, you will see below that I have highlighted the "Add New" button that appears in the home screen in LaunchPad. Click on this to access the customizable content window.



Once selected, a window with eleven different options appears. I am going to briefly walk you through each of these. You may also be able to read the description that LaunchPad provides in the window as well. 


The "Unit" selection is generally used as a kind of module placeholder for other content. In other words, it will help you build and structure your course. Use this if you want to create a unique module on the LaunchPad homepage. I typically select this to advertise extra credit opportunities or to post a large assignment like a final research paper.



Next is the "Discussion Board" option. Be sure to check out my other blog post that goes into more detail about this feature: Using Discussion Boards in LaunchPad


But, again, this is an excellent way to integrate your course fully into a single LMS platform - this is something that I have done and found it very convenient and helpful. 



Third on the list is "Document Collection" which is something that I am going to go into a lot more detail later on in this blog post. As a result, I won't say too much right now other than this will allow you to upload and make accessible various kinds of documents to your course. You will also be able to type on an HTML page and include instructions or other kinds of content like URL links.



Speaking of links, the next option will let you post a URL exclusively by itself. This can be helpful if you want to give students quick and direct access to a certain webpage or online resources. This would be opposed to having them click into a HTML page and then selecting the link from within the text. In general, this is a pretty standard and straightforward feature.



The "Homework" content is somewhat of a new feature to LaunchPad. It will allow you to provide a very customizable experience for the student by bringing together and interlinking eBook content, APA or other professional standards and learning objectives, and quiz questions over chapter or lecture material. I would recommend creating a test course, like I have done here, and playing around with this one as there are many ways in which it can be deployed in your course.



Next, the "HTML Page" is a pretty standard feature on other LMS platforms and other university content delivery systems. In it, you can edit a page much like you can a word processor page. I have found that this is helpful if I want to provide quick instructions to students or include a link with some context around it. 



The "Offline Assignment" option is great if you are teaching a hybrid course, both online and in person. For example, if you give a large exam or assign a big research paper in the brick-and-mortar classroom, then you can use this to provide an entry in the gradebook in LaunchPad. This way, the students will be able to view current and up-to-date grades even though the assignment was not provided through LaunchPad. 



"Link Collection" that is pictured below, is a hybrid between the "Link" and "HTML Page" features. It is pretty straightforward in that you will be able to edit an HTML page and attach, in a separate way, a URL link.



By selecting "Quiz", you will be prompted to create your own quiz questions or select them from the pre-established test bank. I am sure you are familiar with at least a similar feature if you have any experience with teaching online. An analogous logic applies in LaunchPad, allowing you to develop your own form of timed quizzing (or you can use the built-in adaptive quizzing found in LearningCurve).



Using the "Video Assignment" feature is great if you want to upload your own media lectures to the course thereby making it much more personable and, perhaps, more pedagogically effective. You don't have to be super proficient in internet and video technology in order to do this. For example, you may embed a YouTube video you record right on the site or you may upload, for instance, a .mpg or .mpeg file recorded on your computer. 



Finally, the "Dropbox" gives you a place to let students submit any kind of document - whether that be a final paper, research proposal, or weekly journal reflection. This will also create an entry in gradebook where you can render a grade for the document; furthermore, allowing you to provide personalized feedback to individual students. 



In the last part of this blog post, I will take a more detailed look at the "Document Collection" feature largely because I use it so extensively and I would guess, by extension, that other instructors do as well. 


Below is the screen that will appear after having selected it from the original menu (above). You will notice that there is an option for you to select "Attach a Document". 



Once you click on this, a prompt will show-up for you to browse for the file you want to upload. Again, the file type is really irrelevant, since the system can handle anything from a PDF file to a PowerPoint slideshow or a Word document. 



I have selected a PDF file. You can also see that the "Description" box acts as basically an HTML page where you can provide context for the file or instructions on what the students are supposed to do with the attached document. 



This last screen shot is virtually the same screen that the students will see. You will notice that I have highlighted how the uploaded document appears giving the students the option to download it. 



I hope that this outline of customizable content in LaunchPad has been helpful in giving you an overview of the ways in which you can add your own material into the system or, at least, riff off of the default assignments that are already provided. 


I have found LaunchPad to be extremely user-friendly when I have attempted to incorporate my own documents and brick-and-mortar assignments into an online platform. By extension, I think that the students, as well, have appreciated how seamless and efficient it is to have mid-semester content (like an extra credit assignment) appear within the user interface.  

Why not include all of your grading and student evaluation in the same place? That's what the "Gradebook" in LaunchPad is specifically designed to do. In this blog post, I will walk you through some of the key features of the "Gradebook" page in LaunchPad as well as describe my own experience using it for my courses - things that I have found helpful or ways in which I let it inform my teaching. 


On the main screen, you will notice under the menu column on the left-hand side, there is a button named "Gradebook" - clicking on this will take you to a table that lists the current scores for every student in your course. 



The below screenshot is what appears after clicking the "Gradebook" button. In this course, you may notice that I have left the display options set to their default settings. As an alternative, you may tell LaunchPad to order the grades by highest to lowest overall score, the amount of time students are logged into the system, or other factors of your choosing. In the furthest left column, this is the current total grade for the particular (redacted) student in the course. This is nice because it gives me, the instructor, as well as the student a convenient place to view the progress in the course - without having to calculate anything. You may also notice the import and export scores options in the row towards the top. This is an excellent feature if you are required by your institution to keep a copy of your grading in their own LMS platform as well.



By clicking on a specific student name, you will be taken to a screen that provides more details germane to that student. This allows you to make changes to that student's grades - for example, you may alter the points for that exact assignment, give the student an exemption, or provide individual feedback. In order to do this, you will need to click on the specific assignment you want to access. See the below yellow arrow and circle as an example. 



Once selected, the options highlighted in the following screenshot come up. Again, you will notice how the system allows you to provide two forms of feedback - one that is viewable to the student and one that is only accessible by the instructor. This screen will also allow you to see the specific items within the assignment that the student completed, either correctly or incorrectly. The yellow circle below indicates the place where you can add feedback to the content after or before the student completes it.



In order to help you evaluate the class in a way that is more fair, LaunchPad also provides several statistical analyses. This has helped me in terms of receiving feedback on specific assignments that may have been too challenging or the concepts within the assignment may not have been explained by me as well as they could have been. As a result, this sometimes leads me to alter the point structure and curve of that specific evaluation. By clicking on "Class Statistics" you will receive statistical feedback.



You will find, below, that LaunchPad represents that data in graph form making it easy to visualize the distribution of scores. This is presented with the numerical analysis adjacent to and below the graphic outputs. The "Gradebook" gives you, as an instructor, the option to see this kind of data as per each individual assignment or, in a more macro sense, for an entire student.



There are so many 'deep features' that I was not able to talk about in this post that the "Gradebook" allows you to do. In my experience, it is helpful to just get in there and play around with the different options, perhaps in a dummy or test course. This lets you change options and settings without having to worry about it effecting the grade of the students you may be currently evaluating. Furthermore, by migrating all of your evaluating to the "Gradebook" in LaunchPad, it gives both you and the students a convenient and accessible place by which to access and monitor progress in the course. "Gradebook" in LaunchPad is comparable, if not more so, to evaluation tools found in other LMS platforms and systems. It is for these reasons that I have chosen to store my evaluation data solely within the LaunchPad system - and I know the students appreciate the ease of this, too!

The discussion board is one of the great features of LaunchPad that is not enabled by default and can sometimes go unnoticed. In this blog post, I hope to show you how to take advantage of this really useful pedagogical tool as well as offer my own insights as an instructor on how I use discussion boards, and what I have found as helpful in the past. Discussion boards are especially essential if you are using LaunchPad for an entirely online course or as your primary LMS platform. By integrating discussion board posts, responses, and feedback directly into the chapter module, the student gets a seamless learning experience being able to click through the content all in the same place.


I will assume that you have a basic understanding of how to set-up and log into your LaunchPad (if not, there are excellent tutorial videos and blog posts on this site as well as others). On the main screen, under each chapter or module, you will see a button that says "Add to this Unit" - when you click on it, you will get the option to "Create new..."


Add Discussion


Clicking on "Create new..." gives you the "Add a new assignment" window. You will notice that I circled in yellow the discussion board option. Once clicking on it, a blank discussion board is added to your chapter or module.



If the screenshots are any indication, I tend to place my discussion boards at the end of the chapter or module. There are really two reasons why I do this: First, it makes sense that applied learning should come after the more didactic material presented during the assignments and eBook. This gives the student a chance to show off what they have learned. Second, I have found that by being at the end of the chapter (and being worth 10 points, a large portion of the chapter grade), the student engages more rigorously with the material. I weight my discussion boards in this way in order to encourage original and substantive thinking - stressing that a couple sentences as a response is never going to be sufficient. 



Once clicking on what I have labeled as the "Chapter 7 Discussion" the below window will appear in LaunchPad. You will notice that this image is taken from a course that I have taught in developmental psychology. I create my discussion post prompts by scanning for the main themes of the chapter and trying to have the students integrate them with other major topics that we have covered in the past. Here, you will see that I ask them to revisit the nature/nurture debate (discussed in earlier chapters) but this time in terms of autism spectrum disorder. My goal here is to push the students to engage critically with the material - not necessarily taking either the nurture or nature side but being able to cogently argue for each side of the paradigm. 



When the posts are expanded, you can see the entire original contribution done by the student as well as the two responses that I require as part of their grading. This is helpful because the students are able to click through and easily see what post has responses, which ones don't, or whose post may be exemplary - garnering several responses or a longer discussion. While the below image is taken from my instructor view, the student sees a very similar layout and user interface. 



Strickly accessible to instructors, in the image below, the "Results" button lets the professor grade the posts easily and efficiently. On the main page, you will see the various statistics for this particular discussion post allowing you - if you want - to curve or alter the assignment grading. Or, this can also be useful if you want to see how well the students performed on this assignment thereby perhaps providing feedback regarding the retention of the chapter content or the efficacy of the discussion prompt.  



By clicking on the student name (redacted below), you can see where I circled in yellow the quick information that LaunchPad provides about the number of posts the student has completed and their number of replies. This allows me to quickly see if the student has met the criteria of one original post and two replies to their classmates. Furthermore, it brings up all of the students' responses so that I can grade them in one place - as opposed to having to search through all of the posts for this specific student. Not pictured but at the bottom of this screen, there is a place for the instructor to leave direct feedback to a particular student. This is really useful in providing individual instruction to a student that may be struggling with some of the chapter concepts or if you want to address a specific issue with the student's discussion board post; for example, 'you forgot to respond to your classmates' or 'the authoritative parenting style has shown to be most efficacious for healthy development and functioning, not the authoritarian style (see page 211)'.



I hope that I have given some useful tips that will help you integrate discussion board assignments into your LaunchPad course! From my past experience, I can for certain say that students really appreciate having all of the assigned content grouped together in one place. Plus, it makes for a more streamlined grading and teaching process.