Teaching Online

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Online Games and Quizzes

An interactive game or quiz that provides students with feedback can be stimulating for students and enhance their online learning experience. The trick is to find a way to keep the development time to a minimum while you seek to maximize student learning.

Strategies for Minimizing Development Time:

Nobody has lots of time to spend on developing supplemental materials. You need to make the most out of the small amount of time you might be able to spend.

Choose your software wisely and know it well. The time you invest up front in choosing the right piece of software and knowing how to use it well will definitely pay off in the long run. Check out the Help files that are part of the software. Click on every button and just see what it does. Talk to an expert user before you begin and make sure you are getting off to the right start. Listed below are some products you might try .

Make a systematic plan. Instead of just doing a couple of games or quizzes here and there, make a systematic plan so that the games and quizzes are a regular feature of your course. Use the same types of games and quizzes consistently so that you can provide instructions for your students and so that they can become familiar and comfortable with the activity interface. If you can just add one interactive item to your course each week during the semester, you will have a nice collection of items by the time the semester is over! Do that again the next time you teach the class: the collection grows.

Think about the basics. We all know it: there are "basics" in every field of study that we would like to assume that students know already... but many of them don't. You probably don't want to take class time to cover these basics - but some of your students really need help. That is the ideal role for online games and quizzes. Basic terminology required in your field of study. Elementary writing skills, especially spelling and punctuation. Searching with online databases and search engines. Class procedures and policies. Technical skills required for any software or websites you require students to use. Telling students about these basic kinds of things is not very effective - but letting them do something, even just letting them play a simple game, is a big step up!

Use software that supports text-import features. You will find it much faster to prepare the raw materials for your games and quizzes in a text-file format, using either Word, or Excel, or a plain text editor (for example, WordPad). Using the text-file option allows you to create dozens or even hundreds of items at once, spellcheck them, etc., and then copy them or import them into the software. Respondus, a quiz generation program for which Whitewater has a site license, allows you to import quiz questions formatted according to a few simple rules.

Use existing raw materials. The biggest advantage of using text-file format is that you can use existing data files to build some of your interactive games and quizzes. For example, Laura Gibbs at the University of Oklahoma built a Wheelock Latin Vocabulary glossary using an existing Wheelock vocabulary list online: it took less than an hour. You can find gazillions of verb conjugations at verbix.com - cut and paste them into a text file and you're ready to go. See what raw data files your textbook publisher can provide you with.

Use software that supports re-purposing of materials. For example, when you create a Flashcard set with Respondus StudyMate, you automatically get a Glossary, Matching Game, Fill-in-the-Blank, Hangman and Practice Quiz to go with it. (See sets of examples at the Respondus website.)

Use software that supports re-use of materials. For example, when you create multiple Flashcard sets it takes just a couple of minutes to combine those individual sets into bigger composite sets (a small set of Greek nouns can be combined with other sets to create a big set of Greek nouns).

Strategies for Maximizing Student Learning:

There are two important factors in maximizing student learning with these games and quizzes. You need to maximize the time students actually spend on the activities, and you need to design the activities so that you make sure the time translates into learning.

Offer credit or extra credit. If you really want students to do an activity, you need to be prepared to make it matter in terms of the grade for the course - even if it is just a very small part of the course grade.

Study the interface carefully when you choose the software. One of the big factors in your choice of which software product to use should be the student interface. It doesn't matter if the instructor interface is clunky (you'll live) - but it is essential that the student interface be easy to use, engaging and ... ideally ... fun! This is, unfortunately, a problem with Hot Potatoes software: the interface is very bland. You can jazz it up some, but Hot Potatoes pages will never be as inherently appealing as the QUIA pages or as slick as the activities produced with Respondus StudyMate.

Feedback and success. Unlike a test or traditional quiz, the goal of an online quiz or game should be success. Students should be able to repeat the activity as many times as they need to be successful, and they should be able to get feedback that helps them succeed. Different software allows different kinds of feedback, so think about what your students need: check responses one by one, see all questions at once, get a hint if needed, visit a webpage for more information...

Provide students with instructions. Don't ever assume that anything is ever intuitive! Everything on the computer is learned, and you can never underestimate your students' computer skills. Providing instructions - with screenshots - can make a big difference in students successfully using the games and activities that you develop.

Let students type. If the goal is to increase student familiarity with words and terms, improve their spelling, improve their punctuation, etc., then having them type is much better than having them click.

Let students cut-and-paste or drag-and-drop. If for some reason, typing the answer is not an option (we all know the pitfalls of machine-graded fill-in-the-blank quizzes), then make the answers available and have the students cut-and-paste or drag-and-drop. This "mobile" response increases their focus on the actual answer. So, for example, cut-and-paste was used for Greek games at QUIA, as in this Greek Nouns Vocabulary game (Cloze exercise). Or you can use drag-and-drop for Greek games with Hot Potatoes.

Specific Products

Here are some notes about specific software products that you might find helpful:

Respondus 3.0 . Respondus allows you to create a variety of quizzes, which you can upload to D2L. Rather than creating quizzes inside D2L, it is easier to create quizzes in Respondus and upload them to D2L. UW-Whitewater has a site-license for Respondus. You can download it, install the license key, and use it in your office. Information on installation and the license key can be found in the D2L Instructor Resources course under Respondus.

Hot Potatoes and Quandary. The Hot Potatoes software is free for educators, and allows you to create free-standing webpages with Matching games, Jumble games, Crossword Puzzle games, Cloze games and Quizzes. The Hot Potatoes folks are also the creators of Quandary, a software package that lets you build "mazes" with branching and complex scoring. Here are some specific notes:

Flashcard Exchange. If you are looking for some hardcore online flashcards, check the Flashcard Exchange. It is a free service (with additional features for paid users) that allows you to build complex sets of cards and to practice those cards over time, with a system that "remembers" you. Flashcard Exchange supports text-file upload, but its Unicode font support is limited. There are over a million flashcards there already.

Javascript tools. If you are an advanced webpage designer, you can find thousands of javascripts online to add interactivity to your own webpages. But javascripts can be used in a very simple way, too - and most javascript authors who make their materials available on the Internet do a good job of explaining to beginners how to use them.

This article was modified from content originally created by Laura Gibbs, University of Oklahoma.