Friday, February 18, 2011

CPR almost ready to go, surpasses all expectations

The Calibrated Peer Review assignment for my genetics class is almost ready to go, thanks to lots of work by our Faculty of Science technical support person working with the Centre for Learning, Teaching and Technology (or is it 'Teaching, Learning and Technology...?).

The legal indemnification issue has been resolved; apparently it arose due to a misunderstanding between the two parties about which university was meant by the phrase "the University".  The software has been installed into UBC's elearning system, and the course has been created.

Setting up the student accounts turned out to be a bit of a hassle.  The local CPR setup needs to be told, for each course, the names and IDs of the students who are entitled to create user profiles.  In principle this info should be uploadable from the class list for the course, but for some reason it had to be entered manually (by the tech person, not me).  This problem will need to be resolved by September, as we'll have >400 students in the course then.  (Note added later:  In my Instructor view I see a page for uploading students from a class list file; I don't know if this is what wouldn't work for the tech.  Later: this problem has been solved.)

The students have been sent emails telling them to set up their user profiles (just password, email address and secret question/answer) and complete the introductory tutorial and pretest, and several have already done so. Once they have an account they must agree to the CPR Terms of Use; this requires them to promise to abide by UCLA's Student Conduct Code!  (I couldn't check out the code because the link to it is broken.)

The tutorial and pretest are an excellent feature.  The tutorial takes students through ten pages of information about the different steps of a CPR assignment.  The pages are very clear, with good diagrams and illustrative screen shots.  Once the student has been through the tutorial they take a pretest to check that they've understood how the CPR process works, with 12 Yes/No questions.  The pretest isn't graded, but the system records that the student has completed it.

At this point students are ready to begin their assignment.  Unfortunately mine can't do this yet, because a setup problem won't let me import the assignment information from its home on the CPR Central website at UCLA.  I've finished creating all the assignment components (learning objectives, instructions for the students, calibration essays, review questions, answers and feedback to review questions for each calibration essay).  The local CPR interface asks me if I want to activate a new assignment, and then asks for my CPR Central userID and password so it can connect to the assignments I have there.  But it can't make the connection.

The support tech had her CTLT tech working on this problem yesterday (Later: they're waiting to hear back from the UCLA tech).  If it's solved today (and no other bugs surface) I'll be able to tell the students to submit their drafts by the Sunday midnight deadline.  If it persists I'll have to extend the submission deadline again, and push back the dates for completing the various stages of the assignment.  Fortunately I set up the original dates to have the final polished submission due several weeks before the end of term, so moving to a later deadline won't be a big problem.

Over all I'm very impressed with the high quality of the CPR resources and interface.  Every step has been very straightforward and easy to understand, and the supporting materials for both instructors and students are very well designed.  (Of course, the technical people may think differently...)

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