Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blog Set Up and Training

In past posts, I mentioned blog assignments. Well, September rolled around and it was finally time to make it happen.

I met with the faculty to set up the blogs before school started. They wanted the students to be in groups of approximately five students/authors per blog and for the blogs to be private to the students and professors. First, the students were grouped using the D2L groups tool. Then the faculty set up the blogs on Google Blogger.  Since they wanted the blogs to be private, here's what we did under the Settings tab:
  1. Basic: We chose No for "Add your blog to our listings" and "Let search engines find your blog."
  2. Permissions: This is where the students were invited as authors. This means they can post but can't change settings or the look of the blog. 
    1. Who can comment - we chose users with Google accounts, just so they were identifiable since they will already have a Google account. 
    2. Turned off word verification, which means commenters will not have to decipher the funky words to verify they are human. 
    3. Comment notification email - I just pointed out that the default is for the blog creator to get emails whenever someone comments, which may get annoying, so here is where they can remove their email address. 

One thing I really wish I would have known during these meetings was how to easily get the emails for the group members in copyable and pasteable form. We made this more difficult than it needed to be.  There is a place under manage groups in D2L where you can email each group.

I learn about 20 new things every day!

Then we did in-class training for the students, simply on how to post to the blog and comment. I figured this would be super easy. It's when you are confident that things can go awry! The first group was in a distance education room with an ITV to view students in a different town, so the professors told the students to bring a laptop to practice on since we couldn't go to a computer lab. This was interesting because they had all sorts of different browsers. Some students were unable to publish their post - when they clicked "Publish Post" nothing happened. Thankfully Danielle was there and she figured out that Internet Explorer 9 was the problem. When these students switched to the new interface of Blogger, they were able to post. 

A few days later I did training for another professor who was able to reserve a computer lab. I didn't ask Danielle to come because I figured it would be pretty simple. I was wrong. The teaching station wouldn't project, so I couldn't show them what I was talking about. Thankfully it's not that hard so I could walk around and explain it. The additional problem was that they were using Internet Explorer 8. Well, at least it wasn't 9, but it still had issues and about half the students were unable to comment. When they viewed the blog, it was like they weren't signed in but then they could go back to the dashboard and they were signed in. Weird. So, I hate to admit such ignorance but I didn't know where/if there were other browsers on the computers! I had to end up telling them that I was 99% confident that it would work on Firefox or Chrome. Great success! Just kidding.

The next day (today) I did the training again for the other section. The teaching station was working and turns out the problem was something technical I didn't understand - the main thing I was concerned about is that it was not my fault. I also found out from Greg that all the computers had both Chrome and Firefox under Start - All Programs - Internet (really intuitive, right?).  Sometimes I think I should use a Windows machine more but I'm not sure if I would have known this because I would have just made a shortcut. But I know now. Training today went great and only took about 15 minutes, mostly because one student was having issues with his invitation and it had to be resent a few times. What a learning experience!

So, from the professors' perspective, I know that they had to resend a lot of invitations for some reason or another. I hope it wasn't too much work. It is interesting how the two groups are approaching it differently:
  • One is having students post a certain number of times through the semester as "blog leaders"  and then others comment, with extra credit options if they post additional times as leaders (I'm sure there is a limit but I don't remember the details). Their rationale is that this is more of what a blog is like, which makes sense to me.
  • The other is requiring the students to post a certain number of times (connecting news to the course content) and write a reflection paper on what they learned from others' posts a few times during the semester. Comments are not required (they can comment if they want).
I can't wait to see how it goes for them all!


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