The Center for Teaching and Learning will provide guidance for faculty and students who are interested in integrating a range of technologies into their work at Baruch College.
Minimum Technology Requirements
Students are told that the following bullet points are the minimum technological requirements necessary to participate in an online or hybrid course. If the technological requirements of your course differ from these, you should clarify this via your course description on CUNYFirst and on your syllabus. You may even want to email students soon after they have registered for your course to ensure they are aware of the technology requirements.
All online, hybrid, partially online, and web-enhanced classes at Baruch College assume that students have:
- A reliable Internet connection.
- Regular access to a laptop or desktop computer with an updated operating system.
- Working knowledge of how to use word processing software and web browsers.
- An active Baruch College webmail account that is checked daily (or forwarded to an email that is checked daily).
- A CUNY Portal account.
- Access to Blackboard.
- A Blogs@Baruch account.
- A CUNYFirst account.
- Off-campus access to the library’s online databases.
Some online or hybrid classes will require students to:
- Have access to a web camera.
- Use social networking sites (including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, and social bookmarking sites).
- Purchase or learn additional applications.
Educational Technology Platforms
Here’s a brief overview of the technologies supported at the College, which the CTL can help faculty members integrate into their courses.
Blogs@Baruch is a WordPress platform maintained by the College and used by students, faculty, and staff members to meet a wide range of publishing needs. The system hosts course sites/blogs, sites for special projects or clubs, and student and staff publications. Blogs@Baruch is also running BuddyPress, a social networking suite that allows every member of the community to maintain a profile page where content they’ve publish across the system accrues. Blogs@Baruch also offers a “groups” functionality that can facilitate communication and collaborative document editing.
Vocat is a web application managed by the Center for Teaching and Learning that helps Baruch students become confident, dynamic public speakers. Both a teaching tool and an assessment instrument, VOCAT enables faculty members to document quantitative and qualitative feedback on video recorded student performances. Vocat gives students easy access to their videos and scores from across their academic career, and provides a space to engage in online conversations with instructors about their progress over time.
Blackboard is CUNY’s course management system, and a familiar presence in the lives of all Baruch students. It allows for the posting of course materials, the structuring of assignments, and ease of communication between participants in a course. If you choose to use Blackboard, consider how best to design your Blackboard site to increase learning opportunities for students. Consult the Blackboard Guide for Faculty Teaching Online,http://www.cuny.edu/about/administration/offices/CIS/functions/bb/userguides/faculty.html
Kevin Wolff of BCTC is Baruch’s resident Blackboard expert, and can answer all questions pertaining to the system.
Synchronous/Web Conferencing Tools
The College currently supports Blackboard Collaborate as its synchronous web communication tool. More options will be available for synchronous online teaching and learning in Fall 2015 (interested faculty should contact BCTC for details).
The CTL helps faculty members who are teaching online and hybrid courses build video lectures that integrate other media. Baruch has several licenses for Camtasia, a powerful screenrecording and video editing software package, but there are a variety of ways to go about this. The CTL will work with faculty members to determine the best solution for creating, hosting, and serving asynchronous instructional media.
For more details on available technology, see http://ctl.baruch.cuny.edu/educational-technology/
Back-up your work
- Just as students can’t always get to campus on time due to events beyond their control, course websites might be unexpectedly unavailable, internet connections might be weak, and computers might crash. When working online, back work up frequently.
- Save files: When composing blog, social media, or discussion board responses, save them in a word processing file or text file (Text Edit on a Mac or NotePad on Windows).
- Keep consistent track of student work. Save important assignments to a local drive. This also helps with assessment, targeting struggling students, and maintaining engagement.
- Keep your files organized in folders by class, and within those folders by units of the class. Your work will quickly pile up, and establishing a system for easily locating materials you’ve produced for your coursework is immensely valuable.
- Regularly backup your files to an external drive or cloud storage.
- Encourage student support networks
- Try to spend some time at the beginning of the semester helping students build networks and contacts among others in the class.
- Encourage students to exchange contact information with a few classmates who share their schedules. Ideally, these contacts will have the same schedule (for example, if Jane Doe does most of her work after midnight, then she should try to find peers who will be up at this hour, too).
Practicing Defensive Teaching
While we can’t always divine when there will be “traffic problems in Fort Lee,” we can reasonably expect congestion when driving over the George Washington bridge during rush hour. Try to anticipate when things may go wrong in your online learning environment and circumvent crises before they happen. The following bullet points offer some suggestions for how to do this.
For example, imagine a major assignment is due on Blackboard the Friday before a holiday weekend. If the server experiences glitches, or dozens of students submit their work at the same time, the site may crash, causing anxiety in students and a headache for faculty.
- Encourage students to submit their work early. You may even consider offering some incentives for doing this, or staggering due dates by group or individual.
- Have an alternate plan for collecting such assignments in case of tech problems.
- Give students time to learn new technologies.
- Pay attention to emails from BCTC about scheduled server and site maintenance so that you can work around them.
- Try to be available online when assignments are due to troubleshoot problems. Encourage students to communicate with you via a forum online about difficulties they encounter. Chances are, other students have experienced the same challenges.
What to Do When Things Go Wrong
- The BCTC help desk offers student support for Baruch email, Blackboard, Baruch’s wireless network, CUNYFirst, and printing.
- In-person requests: BCTC is located on the 6th floor of the Library and Technology Building at 151 East 25th Street. Have your student ID handy.
- Phone requests: (646) 312-1010. Be prepared to state your Baruch username.
- Email requests: firstname.lastname@example.org. Send it from your Baruch email and detail the problem.
- For help with Blogs@Baruch: https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/contact/, and for help with Vocat email email@example.com.