Customized Questions at SmartEvals

It is now possible for individual instructors at K, if desired, to include customized questions (up to 5 per course) in their course evaluations at SmartEvals.

Here’s a short (3.5 minute) video demonstrating the procedure. If you want to jump right in, scroll down to see screenshots of the three important steps

We need to talk about the size of your email inbox — Josh Moon

Information Services is in the midst of a long-term project to eventually migrate our email server to a “cloud” based Office 365 system.  When this happens – likely by the end of this academic year – email quotas will substantially increase.

While email attachments are quick and familiar, sending files to each other can fill up our Sent Items folders as well as the email storage of our recipients.

Follow this link for our five suggestions on how to get files to recipients without using email attachments and filling up your storage quota.

Importing a previous course into your new Moodle site — Josh Moon

Once registration for the new term is completed, a new Moodle site will be automatically generated for your courses. If you’ve used Moodle to organize a course in the past, it is really convenient to import that existing setup into the new course. Here’s a quick video from Josh Moon showing you how to do it!

Making an Online Midterm Student Survey for Your Class

I’ve heard from lots of colleagues over the years that a quick survey of students in your class at the midpoint of the term — together with a discussion with your class about what you heard in the responses — improves the class climate and gives the instructor important feedback. Especially at this time when we’re all spending lots of time developing content for online delivery of our courses, a midterm student survey can show us which parts of our course the students appreciate and value. And just as importantly, we might learn that the students aren’t finding some parts of the course useful for their learning, in which case the instructor can stop spending so much time developing those materials!

Below are two quick (3 minutes each) videos showing how I created online student surveys in two platforms: Moodle and in Microsoft Forms.

Setting up a student survey in Moodle using the Feedback Activity

Setting up a student survey in Microsoft Forms

An Introductory Tour of #KTeachDev2020

K’s “online backbone” plan for fall courses is designed to provide the flexibility we need to keep community members safe while allowing students to continue to experience the hallmark features of a K education, whatever the public health situation brings. Designing effective courses that meet those goals is the singular challenge of our lives as educators. This year, in keeping with the challenges before us, we are replacing our traditional in-person fall gathering with the aptly named #KTeachDev2020, a mix of faculty-contributed blogs, tutorials, and conversations that start now and will continue to evolve throughout the summer. We invite you to interact with, and contribute to, the #KTeachDev2020 collection of resources.

A 5-minute Video Tour of #KTeachDev2020 resources

The #KTeachDev2020 Homepage

The #KTeachDev2020 homepage can be reached by links at the Teaching Commons Site and the TLC Site, as well as from links at the other #KTeachDev2020 resources. It contains blog entries from a variety of contributors about lessons learned from the online teaching experience in spring and plans for fall.

The Teaching Development Moodle Site

Josh Moon is developing a Moodle site Teaching Development for Online Learning – Summer 2020 that contains lots of resources about teaching, as well as providing a field-tested model for the kinds of things you can do with your own Moodle site.

The Teaching Commons Teams site with Channels for sharing ideas

The most interesting and dynamic part of the #KTeachDev2020 is the discussion it generates among colleagues. We’ve created a space for that at the Teaching Commons Teams site. Members of TLC will monitor the Discussion Channels. We hope you will post your ideas, respond to others, and check back often to share in the collective wisdom of your colleague instructors.

Five Things: Indoor Air Quality in Classrooms at K

**August 20, 2020 Update** A more detailed version of this information has been published at the College Covid 19 Site.

I had a really informative meeting with Susan Lindemann, Director of Facilities Management, about the ventilation systems in our classroom buildings and steps being taken to prepare for on-campus classes this fall. The College is following the Covid19 guidelines of the  American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Here are five things I learned

  1. Fresh Air
  2. Windows — please leave them closed.
  3. Air handling is different than temperature/humidity control, but those are related
  4. Different classroom buildings have different needs
  5. Portable air purifier units

1. Dilution is the Solution to Pollution

The key idea is to dilute indoor air, and any infectious material in that air, with fresh air from outdoors. The air handling systems in classroom buildings at K have the capability to do exactly that with large outside air intake devices on each building. In fact, that was the case before Covid19 too. In the past, the mix of recirculated air and fresh outside air was achieved automatically by instruments that detect and maintain carbon dioxide levels in the building at healthy levels while improving energy efficiency by recycling some of the indoor air that has already been heated or cooled.

As we turn our attention to preventing possible spread of Covid19 by particles and aerosols in the indoor air, these systems are being reconfigured to increase the amount of outside air being brought indoors. This, together with the lower building occupancy associated with the College’s distancing and de-densifying plan, increases the effective dilution ventilation per person.

2. The Unintuitive Thing About Windows — Leave Them Closed.

In my house, the easiest way to dilute the inside air with fresh air from outside is to open a window. The situation in classroom buildings is different: The systems that detect and control the amount of fresh outside air in the building are tied directly to the outside air intake location in each building and not to any given room. Opening a window in one room disrupts the fresh air sensing equipment for the whole building, resulting in less fresh outside air being brought into the other rooms in the building.

3. What you feel in the air: Air Handling and Temperature Control are Different Things

The aspect of the building’s indoor environment we are most aware of is the temperature and humidity. The environmental control systems in the classroom buildings at K maintain a comfortable interior environment by two separate processes: air handling and hydronics.

Air handling is what we’ve been talking about in the points above. The hydronic system involves moving air past coils filled with heated or chilled liquid. That heating and chilling happens in the boiler/chiller plant at the bottom of Academy Street, with the hydronic liquid passing through underground pipes to the classroom buildings.

The air handling systems will be configured to bring more outside air into the mix to achieve greater dilution in each building, but of course we know that for most of the academic year in Kalamazoo, that outside air is cold! The amount of fresh outside air that can be included in the air handling mix will need to be balanced with the capacity of each building’s hydronic system to maintain a comfortable and safe temperature.

4. Different Buildings, Different Systems

What about my building? Here are some things to know:

  • Dow Science building, because of its design for preventing airborne health hazards from chemistry and biology labs, has always included 100% fresh outside air in the air handling mix. There is no recirculation of interior air at all. The extra-high capacity hydronic system designed for that building maintains the indoor environment at comfortable temperature and humidity.
  • Olds-Upton Hall has an air-handling system which is adequate for its traditional usage, as well as high dilution with greater proportion of fresh outside air discussed here. The hydronic system in OU is undersized for that purpose however. For that reason, it is possible that temperatures in OU will be less comfortable this year. To help maintain interior comfort, portable electrostatic air purifier units are planned for classroom spaces in OU, allowing for fresh air levels to be better balanced with the capacity of the hydronic system while at the same time actively reducing the concentration of any infectious material in the air.
  • Dewing Hall is a tale of two zones. The air handling unit for the 3rd floor is not configurable to bring higher amounts of fresh outside air into the mix. For that reason, portable electrostatic air purifiers are planned for any classroom space in use on Dewing 3rd floor. The other levels of Dewing hall have a separate air handling system which allows for the greater dilution with outside air we’ve been discussing here.
  • Light Fine Arts has generally adequate air handling capacity for including greater dilution of outside air. The special purpose uses of many spaces in LFA — for activities that traditionally bring large groups together in close contact while singing, acting, playing wind instruments, etc — bring with it special considerations.
  • Upjohn Library Commons has generally adequate air handling capacity for including greater dilution of outside air. The need for special climate control in the rare book room brings extra considerations into play.

5. Portable Air Purifier Units

A lot of portable electrostatic air purifier units are on order now for use in classroom spaces in Dewing and OU, with deliveries scheduled to begin in the first few weeks of the term. As with other high-demand items — remember that every other higher education institution is making similar orders — the delivery dates are likely to change. These units are rated to handle large rooms from 1500 to 3000 square feet (1500 square feet is 30×50). We won’t know until they arrive how much sound they generate and the resulting impact on classroom acoustics.

Moodle FAQ

Wait, I thought we just rolled out Teams?  Why I am using Moodle?

Teams is not designed to replace Moodle.  Moodle and Teams can compliment one another.  Moodle is an open-sourced, community-supported product that has decades of experience in traditional Learning Management System functions like receiving Assignments, distributing Files, and organizing a course. Though Microsoft has attempted to introduce some of those functions to Teams, we recommend focusing Teams use on their modern Chat interface, the videoconferencing functions, and other collaboration tools.

Where is my Moodle course?  I don’t see it!

Visit to access the login page. Enter your K ID and password.  Once you are logged in, you can look at the Course Overview block on the Dashboard. Fall 2020 sites will be listed under “Future” until September 14th. At that time, they will also appear in My Courses on the menu on the left.

Okay, I found my Moodle. How do I begin setting this up?

Consider starting the the Four Models for Your Moodle Post on the Teaching Commons. What do you need your Moodle site to do? Do you need weekly sections or should you delete them? To learn how to use the site, you can watch a video introduction on Stream. If you’re inclined to read, there is also a Moodle 101 page with instructions. Would you like to talk to a human being? Contact Josh Moon, Educational Technology Specialist.

How do I get students enrolled in my Moodle site?

The simplest solution is to make sure you have set your Course Visibility to “Show” and then copy the Moodle course’s URL into an email to students (example:  Alternately, you can direct students to navigate to the appropriate departmental category under the active quarter Course Sites. In either case, they will need to login and click the “enroll me” button for the course.

How can I limit who can join my Moodle site?

Moodle does allow “Enrollment keys,” which are essentially passwords to protect course access.  If one is especially concerned, you can prevent students from self-enrolling and manually add students from your course roster. For the latter option, click “Participants” in the menu then select “Enrollment Methods” in the gear wheel icon. By clicking the eye icon, you can disable Self Enrollment for students. You will then have to return to Enroll Users and manually search for students.

How do I open my Moodle site to students?

On your course’s main page, click the gear wheel in the upper right and select “Edit settings.” In the Settings option for Course Visibility, change the setting to “Show.” 

What is the easiest way to get my files on there?

While you can use the File resource to manually add files with more control over settings, you can also turn your Editing On then drag-and-drop files from a folder on your computer.  You can also go back and adjust settings to files already on Moodle.

How do I give feedback to students?

If you’re using the Assignment activity, you can choose multiple options for giving feedback.  The most common are to enable Feedback Comments to give the grader a text window to add comments and Feedback Files which allows the grader to upload a file of their own for grading.  Rubrics, a PDF editor, and other options exist.  Note: this is not what the small “Comments…” (below) field is for.

I plan on delivering a lot of video content to students with Moodle.  What is my best option?

Hosting large video files directly on Moodle causes problems for the system and are difficult to access for users.  Fortunately, there are other options to get your video content on Moodle. If you need to host your video somewhere, you can upload it to Microsoft Stream or your own hosting solution. Moodle will allow you to link or embed these hosted files.

Four Models for Your Moodle Course — Josh Moon

Using Moodle does not mean that there is one solution for every instructor, group of students, discipline, or pedagogy. With this in mind, we’ve created four different models to demonstrate what various utilizations of Moodle by an instructor might look like:

  • The Basics: A very simple, minimalist Moodle example
  • A full-featured example using many features
  • The Course Reserve: An example of a Moodle site that serves mostly as a course reserve of readings
  • The Link Hub: An example of a Moodle site that merely provides links to other sites (e.g., Teams site)

There are other options imaginable, so adjust these to meet your needs.

The Basics

This is quickest, simplest approach using the default course format. The instructor here has dragged-and-dropped their readings and other files directly from their computer (note: this brings along the file names but you can clean that up). They’ve done the same with the syllabus and added a few links with the URL tool. There are no explanatory text or instructions, no Assignment dropboxes, but that’s okay. This is the basics to provide students with the syllabus and readings.

A Full Moodle Site Utilizing Many Features

My “How to Organize a Week of Online Learning in Moodle” post from spring is based on this model. While this uses a similar weekly structure to The Basics site, you’ll see important differences. In terms of formatting, the instructor has used the Description fields to offer explanatory text about activities. File names have also been cleaned up and renamed (full citations are a copyright recommendation). They have added more tools including a discussion Forum, Assignment dropbox, and a Feedback survey. Some resources utilize “Move Right” to imply their direct relationship to the reading PDF and provide structure. Again, there are many gradients between this option and the Basics. It’s all about the features you and students could benefit from.

The “Course Reserve.”

This Moodle site has done away with the weekly format and placed all content in a list at the General (top) section. The idea here is to replicate a course reserve and supply students with the reading documents that they need for the quarter. If you already have a plan to facilitate discussion, support collaboration, receive assignments, and just need a convenient space to supply students with documents, this is the template for you.

The Link Hub

If you’re doing all of your digital communication with students on another platform or with other software, you can keep Moodle to a jumping off point with links. Even if you’re not spending much (or any!) time on Moodle, the goal here is to help students stay organized and have at least one, consistent hub to keep their online course content accessible that every instructor is using in some capacity.