William Cain

Synchromodal Support for Deaf Students

 Spotlights, Synchromodal  Comments Off on Synchromodal Support for Deaf Students
Apr 152014


Creating opportunities for meaningful interactions is one of the most important goals of many courses. Supporting students with disabilities is simply another opportunity for providing creative learning solutions to enable these meaningful interactions for everyone. A case in point is our work with a synchromodal course (including face-to-face and online students in the same learning experience as comparable partners) that features interpreters for deaf online participants.

The Design Studio has been helping Dr. Cary Roseth, associate professor in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology, facilitate learner interactions in CEP 910 Motivation and Cognition for a variety of students. Since this course is a synchromodal course, some of these learners are online students. John Kirsh is one of these online students who is also mostly deaf. Our solution for John has been to include two (2) interpreters who sit in the classroom with the face-to-face students. Watching John through videoconferencing and interpreting his signing for the face-to-face participants, these interpreters act as John’s surrogate voice for engaging in class interactions and discussions. “I really enjoyed this online hybrid CEP910 course,” John told us. “I am able to take the class from home and reap the benefits of an almost face-to-face class.  As a result, I saved about 2.5 hours’ driving time as well as gas.” IMG_0985554671a91017John uses two computers to engage in the class activities.

One computer allows him to see in-classroom lectures and presentations by the instructor. The second computer links him to desktop computers that run Zoom videoconferencing sessions for small group discussions that take place during the class sessions. Since some of the students in the small groups are online, videoconferencing is already supported in the classroom via desktop iMacs. John participates fully both through his visual presence and through interpreters who are physically present in the face-to-face groups. This setup allows John to interact with and present to his classmates, sharing insights and opinions through a combination of human and digital assistive technology. Using a synchromodal assistive technology setup has been beneficial for the instructor as well. “Working with assistive technologies this semester has reinforced my belief that almost anything is possible when people work together towards a common goal,” noted Roseth. “Supporting a synchromodal classroom is a complicated endeavor and, initially, I was worried whether we could integrate this approach to teaching face-to-face and distance students with assistive technologies. Working together, however, we worked through these challenges and I am deeply thankful to everyone – including John, his interpreters, our technology coordinators, and the other students in the class – for their creativity, compromise and, above all, determination to make this work for everyone in the class. In the end, we all benefited from the efforts to integrate assistive technology.”

Review: Round Table on Alternating-Hybrids and Flipped Classes in the College of Education

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Nov 022013

Round Table on Alternating-Hybrids and Flipped Classes in the College of Education

On Tuesday October 29th, the CEPSE/COE Design Studio hosted a roundtable on alternating-hybrids and flipped classes in the College of Education at Michigan State University.

Dr. Punya Mishra and Dr. Danah Henriksen  from the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology program, Dr. Kristy Cooper from the Educational Administration Department, and Dr. Kim Maier from the Measurement and Quantitative Method program spoke about their experiences and lessons learned in designing and implementing such unique courses.  The roundtable was also an opportunity for audience interaction and conversation around these interesting pedagogies.

Alternating-Hybrid Courses

While these courses generally alternate between (a) face-to-face class meetings interspersed throughout the semester and (b) online interactions; each course specifically implemented a different strategy based on the needs of the students in the class.

Knowledge. Media. Design

Dr. Henriksen and Dr. Mishra spoke about the alternating-hybrid course (CEP 917 – Knowledge. Media. Design) they co-taught in Fall 2012.  Their class had an equal number of face-to-face and online students; and to accommodate the hectic schedules of the full-time employed online students, the instructors decided to hold synchronous “face-to-face” sessions every other week and to have students work online during the remaining weeks.  This course was previously taught fully face-to-face; as such, the course had to be redesigned into a hybrid course that fits the needs of both the face-to-face and online students.  The decision to make this a hybrid course came from the difficulty of having the full-time employed online students find a time to meet weekly.

Knowledge. Media. Design class setup

Knowledge. Media. Design class setup

This course was divided into two complementary parts: synchronous face-to-face meetings and asynchronous online work.  Synchronous sessions were held on alternate weeks on Tuesday nights from 6 to 9 pm and several technologies were used to mediate the conversations between the face-to-face students, instructors, and online students.  GoToMeeting, a video conferencing tool, was the main portal for online students to join class through and bring them into the same space as the face-to-face students.  While GoToMeeting was used for whole class discussions, other tools such as Etherpad, Google hangouts, and Skype were used for small group conversations.  Every small group was made up of two online and two face-to-face students and they chose which platform to communicate through.  This minimized any technology issues since each group chose what they were most comfortable with.

 Asynchronous work was the key to keeping the student community running during the off weeks when the class did not meet face-to-face.  In fact, according to Dr. Mishra, some things, such as discussion forums related to content, are better suited to be done online as they lead to deep conversation.  Having the discussions be asynchronous gives the students time to reflect on the readings and craft a well-thought-out answer.  This was achieved through a course website developed on WordPress.  The activity on the website was content oriented as it was an active hub of communication around the readings.  Every week, students would have readings to complete and discussion questions to answer.  The asynchronous communication allowed them to think deeply about design.  In addition, short videos aimed at synthesizing and connecting the readings were uploaded on the website.  In the videos, the instructors gave a quick overview of the authors, the readings, the surrounding context, and key ideas about the content.

In this alternating-hybrid course, there were two sets of technologies: content-related technology that students used to complete the asynchronous course assignments (e.g., Garageband) and communication-related technology for synchronous interactions (e.g., GoToMeeting).  Managing the communication-related technology was a feat.  It required two instructors being in charge of the course in case of the need to troubleshoot.  In addition, it was important to have one instructor monitoring the GoToMeeting backchannel.  Some online students found it easier to participate through typing rather than speaking up. This brings to light the differences in class communication norms: what is the equivalent of raising your hand when you are attending remotely?

Whereas Dr. Mishra’s and Dr. Henriksen’s course met 50% of the time synchronously in a face-to-face setting, Dr. Cooper’s class met the majority of the time synchronously in an online setting.

Inquiry and Analysis of Teaching and Learning

The alternating-hybrid strategy Dr. Kristy Cooper used in her course was different than that used by Dr. Mishra and Dr. Henriksen.  The majority of the class interactions took place online during weekly synchronous sessions every Tuesday from 6 to 8 pm.  The technology of choice was Skype at first, but then Dr. Cooper switched to using GoToMeeting. In addition, the class met face-to-face five times a semester in Birmingham, MI.

To prepare for the synchronous sessions, the students had to watch, short, five-minute teacher-prepared videos before hand.  Typically, those involved Dr. Cooper narrating an Excel sheet.  On the course management system, there were assignments to be completed after watching the videos. These involved answering a quiz that autocorrected the students’ answers.  If students got the question wrong, they could go back, review the video, and attempt the quiz as many times as they liked until they received the correct answer.

The synchronous sessions mainly involved group work. Dr. Cooper would introduce tasks on her PowerPoint and then ask students to work with others on a Google Doc to complete the assignments.  The decision to use Google Docs allowed the students to record their work and keep track of it.  It also presented an opportunity for the instructor to open a group-specific Google Doc and take a “sneak peek” of what was going on.  As such, students were held accountable as there was a running record of how they were spending their time.

While both of these are examples of alternating-hybrid courses, they did include some element of flipped pedagogy as the instructors in each class included videos for students to watch on their own time before participating in the synchronous conversations with the rest of the class.  In Knowledge. Media. Design the videos introduced and contextualised the readings, whereas in Inquiry and Analysis of Teaching and Learning the videos were tutorials intended to teach students some methods.  Despite their different functions, both videos required a huge time investment, and some effort from the instructors prior to the beginning of class.  The videos, however, are now resources that will be immediately available in future iterations of the courses.

While the flipped pedagogy was a secondary component in the courses described above, it was the main pedagogical style in Dr. Kim Maier’s Quantitative Methods course.

Flipped Class: Quantitative Methods

Dr. Maier’s Quantitative Methods course has been taught in a traditional face-to-face format and in a fully online format.  To prepare for the online section of the class, Dr. Maier had prepared videos of the content for students to watch.  Each week, students had to watch, on average, around five 12-minute videos.

When teaching her face-to-face class last spring, the students requested that the videos from the online class be made available.  This request ultimately led Dr. Maier to experiment with flipping her class.  At first, she would make the videos available but still go over the content during class.  As the weeks passed by, however, Dr. Maier informed her students that they will be responsible for watching the videos before hand and come to class prepared to apply the content and discuss their own research projects in light of the material.  Since there was no attendance policy in place, attendance dropped significantly.  In addition, students would come to class anxious if they haven’t watched the videos.  This was a struggle for Dr. Maier.  She had hoped to use class time for conversations and discussions around these statistical methods and to help students practice and move their research along.

The roundtable panel and some audience members gave excellent suggestions as how to successfully flip a class and provide students with the most positive experience.  One tip is to make the videos as engaging as possible.  Then, build assignments into the videos that ask students to apply the video content in some way.  For example, have students complete a quiz as soon as they enter class or ask them to generate questions for discussion during face-to-face time.  In brief, students need to be held accountable.

The assumption that “in a flipped class listening is learning” is false.  Real learning happens in the face-to-face conversations about the online lecture and in the application of the content.  Real learning is in the practice that occurs in the classroom.

As such, in both alternating-hybrid courses and flipped classes it is increasingly important to strike a balance between the synchronous and asynchronous communications that take place (for the former) and between the face-to-face and online interactions (for the latter).  Balance is the key to a successful learning experience.


Michigan State University is hosting its second Cyberinfrastructure (CI) Days event on October 24-25, 2013

 Upcoming Events  Comments Off on Michigan State University is hosting its second Cyberinfrastructure (CI) Days event on October 24-25, 2013
Oct 222013

CI Days provides an opportunity for the MSU community to share information about cyberinfrastructure resources and their use in research.  This free event will feature:

  • Nationally-renowned research leaders from multiple disciplines presenting how advanced technologies have enabled their scholarly work
  • A panel of MSU researchers discussing CI challenges and solutions
  • Posters showcasing CI-enabled research at MSU
  • Resource fair featuring CI resources available to MSU researchers; and
  • While the preconference workshops are full and no longer available for registration, the keynotes and breakout sessions look very interesting.

Participants are not required to be present for the full day of events.  You may select to participate in only the presentations that are of interest to your work. We hope you will register and plan to attend this event and also encourage interested faculty and students in your unit to register and attend. More information, including a detailed agenda is available at http:/tech.msu.edu/CI-Days/index.html.

This event, coordinated by the Institute for Cyber Enabled Research (iCER) and IT Services’ Research Support Team, is jointly sponsored by the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies and IT Services. CI Days is based on an initiative originally supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2010 to support the implementation and use of cyberinfrastructure in support of research.

Linked Classrooms

 Spotlights, Synchromodal  Comments Off on Linked Classrooms
Oct 222013

2 groups, 2 instructors, 2 locations. 1 integrated class.

Maddy EAD807


This month’s Design Studio Spotlight takes a closer look at a course being taught this semester by EAD faculty Madeline Mavrogordato and Chris Dunbar in the Masters in Education Administration program.

Maddy and Chris have two different groups of students, one located in East Lansing, and one in the Detroit area. Bringing them all together via video conferencing allows students from different populations and backgrounds to discuss and explore content and ideas from multiple perspectives in a way that previously would have been logistically impossible. The two groups are now able to share presentations and other content synchronously, interacting through audio and video channels to exchange perspectives and insights as a single class.

Toopography-Linked Classrooms-01The technology set-up uses GoToMeeting as the video conferencing platform and features an omni-direction speaker microphone and two cameras in each location. (Using two cameras per location enables more dynamic video coverage of both the instructor and the students.) Both groups use large screens to view presentations and each other during class. In East Lansing, they use two screens simultaneously – one solely for computer presentation, the other for the group to view and interact with the people in Detroit.This particular course design creates a synchromodal face-to-face and online instance we call the linked classroom model. Synchromodal refers to the fact that online and face-to-face participants interact synchronously as comparable partners, whether their mode of interaction is mediate via technology or not.

To learn more about this exciting class model and how you can implement the linked classroom model in your own course, please contact us at dstudio@msu.edu or come by our office at 401b, Erickson Hall.

Personal Portal Model in Synchromodal Learning Environments

 Spotlights, Synchromodal  Comments Off on Personal Portal Model in Synchromodal Learning Environments
Jun 112013

A Synchromodal Learning Environment is one in which online and face-to-face individuals (both students and instructors) interact with one another in real-time learning sessions (i.e., classes). As technology facilitators and observers, we have noticed that face-to-face students have their own physical presence in a class and occupy a physical space.  As such, we have developed a synchromodal model aimed at giving online students their own virtual physical space in the physical space of the classroom.  The personal portal model was developed and subsequently evolved with the goal of giving online students presence and immediacy comparable to that of the face-to-face students.

Personal Portal Model

To achieve comparability, we first used a combination of Skype and iPad to give the online students their own personal video streams and audio channels.  The iPads are mounted on node chairs – chairs with swivel seats and tables.  Skype video calls were initiated on the iPads – each calling one online student.  A face-to-face student sat at each node chair and was responsible for swiveling the iPad to follow the class conversation.   For example, if the instructor was speaking, the face-to-face student turned his/her chair so that the iPad faced the instructor.

Photo Feb 18, 18 09 38

The online students were able to see a student-view of the class, their face-to-face peers, and the instructor. They also saw the shared instructor’s screen through the iPad Skype video. In turn, the face-to-face individuals were able to see the online students as part of the class instead of seeing them on a large screen on the back wall of the class.

The online students were able to hear the conversation in the room through the microphones on each iPad. They also had their own audio output channel and thus each had his or her voice in the classroom.

We did face some limitations, however, as we tested this model.  First, since the online students saw the classroom activity only through the iPad Skype video, the instructor’s shared presentation did not appear very clearly.  Second, it became apparent that the online students could not see (a) each other well, (b) the face-to-face student sitting that their node chair, and (c) the entire class at the same time.  Finally, the online students were completely dependent on the face-to-face students sitting at each node chair to move the iPads towards the class conversation and/or the topic of conversation. There were instances, unfortunately, where the face-to-face students forgot to steer the node chair in the right direction and the online students were stuck looking at a student who was not currently speaking or looking at the class presentation instead of looking at the current speaker.

To address the above issues, we further developed the personal portal model and came up with the enhanced personal portal model.

Enhanced Personal Portal Model

To implement this model, we asked the online students to join the class GoToMeeting on their home desktops or laptop and we asked them to use their iPads to video call each of the Skype accounts.

enhanced personal portal

As such, there were two video streams, one from GoToMeeting and one from Skype. Through GoToMeeting the online students were able to (a) see each other, (b) see the entire class at the same time, and (c) see the instructor’s shared screen. Through Skype, the online students were able to see a student-view of the class; and in turn, the face-to-face individuals were able to see the online students as part of the immediate class environment.

Instructor Feedback

Photo Feb 18, 19 50 04

Integration of online and face-to-face students was near seamless.

Using iPads on chairs allowed the remote students [to] participate more like they were physically in the room with the face-to-face student… The remote students more comfortably joined the face-to-face conversations as if they were physically in the ‘real’ classroom.

Without personal portals, online students would qualify their comments with statements like, “If it’s okay to speak, I’d like to add that…

With personal portals, online students could pick right up when someone else stopped saying something, or even to overlap their seminar conversation when making an argument that called for grabbing the discussion floor.