Expanding the D2L Classroom with wikis, webinars, avatars, blogs, tweets, and more

Presenter 1: Laurie Lykken


We're all concerned with student engagement, particularly those of us who teach online since engagement is tied to retention. A recent article "The College of 2020: Students," from The Chronicle of Higher Education's Chronicle Research Service reports that in 2020 students will want convenience. That certainly is no surprise to those of us teaching online in the community college as one recent article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, "They Thought Globally, but now Colleges push Online Programs Locally" points out. For those of us teaching fully and partially online, the future has arrived.

Though online courses promise convenience--which is attractive to students--online courses also need to provide engagement--even more engagement than their on-ground counterparts. That many online courses don't yet offer that kind of increased engagement is surely part of why retention remains an even greater issue with online courses than with on-ground courses. Though Web 2.0 tools appear exciting, in and of themselves they aren't going to suddenly create engagement. Judicious use of Web 2.0 tools is needed in order for that use to effectively facilitate connecting students with each other and to help the instructor apply active learningto learning online. Incorporating Web 2.0 tools effectively into the D2L course site requires clear assignments and straightforward assessment rubrics. Instructors should have the expectation that students will have fun even though they may react at first with dismay and confusion. The instructor using Web 2.0 tools should expect to function as a mentor and guide for the student explorers.

A Few of the Tools I use:


wetptlogo.JPGhttp://www.wetpaint.com/ and wetpaint education wiki





Uses of these tools in my D2L delivered composition classes:

  • efoliomn provides an electronic portfolio for students in the Minnesota State Colleges and University system. It can be used in a number of ways. I use efolio as a way for students to learn more about themselves and, in that way, connect with and learn more about each other. We start building the efolio site at the beginning of the semester and use the efolio address as the website we make part of our profile on the D2L Classlist. Being able to see what other students are doing as they build their sites, encourages students to do similar things to their own sites: modifying the site design, adding pictures, adding captions and links to pictures, and so forth. Since we do peer review of the major papers written for the class, getting to know their "audience" helps students begin to think about writing for an audience and not just for themselves...or just for me.
Instructor's Introduction to Course

"Houses" are links on Classlist to Student efolio sites

My efolio site

Student efolio site

  • Vokis are talking avatars. This fun, free program allows users to create a character and give it speech. Users can choose between a synthezised voice that "reads" text a user types into a textbox or a recording of the user's voice. The characters are stock but can be modified. Several backgrounds are available, or users can add backgrounds of their own. I embed a voki in my D2L content with a recorded class greeting to start out the semester. I use as a background the entrance to the campus library. The Voki character I use is holding a book. Students can also create vokis. Last spring my composition students created a Voki wall addressing climate change on a wetpaint wiki as part of a class project. This fall, my composition 2 students will use Vokis share poems with each other. A couple features that make the Voki avatar nice to use include not speaking unless prompted to do so and having eyes that follow the user in a disarming manner.

My Voki Greeting

Voki wall on course Wiki

  • At first, I thought why blog when I have D2L Discussion? Partly, I decided, because I use Discussion in a serious, academic way to discuss assignment and for peer review of essay drafts. Blogging could be used more playfully in addition to and not instead of D2L Discussion. The use of a Blog gives my composition students a chance to role play. To help students better understand the difference between expository writing and writing the argument, I created a blog published by a fictitious town council from a fictitious town--Blog Town. The town council asks for their opinions on issues before the council--home foreclosure, lawn mower emissions, etc. I add this blog to a D2L Discussion. This way, we can leave D2L for role playing and then return to D2L to assess our experience as citizens of Blog Town.

Blog Town Townconcil Site

  • Wikis provide an effective way to set up and manage class projects. A link to the class project wiki can be added to the D2L menu bar for quick access. The record of page edits that a wiki keeps allows the instructor to keep track of individual participation in a group project. I show students how this works up front, so they know that I will be able to tell who contributes what. The three free wiki providers I use are wetpaint.com; pbworks.com; and wikispaces.com. Each has its pluses and minuses. Each can potentially be upgraded--for a price.
For more on wikis, view this YouTube video.

Link to course wiki on D2L menu bar

Wiki as Group Project

The wiki that the D2L menu bar link opens. To edit the wiki, students need to sign up and sign on each time used.

  • Twitter is a fast and fun way for students to connect with a much talked about Web 2.0 tool and with others. In my composition class, I use Twitter as a way to collect and exchange Web resources on a specific topic (currently climate change/global warming). This work ends up being a form of prewriting for the wiki group project assignment. I ask students to follow me and to see who I am following. In turn, I follow them.
My Twitter Homepage

Following climate change and students...and Barry Dahl

  • Helping students get started with Web 2.0 tools is essential. Some will already be using some tools and need little help. Others will need a lot of assistance. While other students are probably the best source of help for those that are struggling, instructors planning to beef up their classes should also be prepared to help struggleing student. The following is a list of Web 2.0 tools I use to help students learn how to use Web 2.0 tools:
      1. Dedicated section of D2L Discussion for student questions--open all semester.
      2. Step-by-step instructions with screen captures to get students started.
      3. Adobe Presenter presentations with voice. Example: Introduction to Weekly Webinars for Students presentation
      4. YouTube Video (created by others--or create your own)
      5. Podcasts (using audacity and lame to create and podbean.com to collect for students to access)
      6. Weekly Webinars (in Adobe Connect)--My favorite!

=Presenter 1=
Laurie Lykken
Job Title
Instructor, English
North Hennepin Community College and Century Community and Technical College
Laurie Lykken is an adjunct English instructor currently teaching on two community college campuses in the Minnesota State Colleges and University's system. As much as 75% of her course load has been online by choice because she views online teaching as an unfolding adventure and opportunity for discovery.