Tag Archives: WordPress

WordPress 3.8 update

Happy New Year! In the spirit of starting fresh, on Thursday, January 9th, from 6 – 8 a.m., WordPress will be unavailable while it updates to the latest version, 3.8.

Version 3.8 includes the usual security updates and patches, but also a gorgeous new dashboard design, that offers eight color scheme options for your enjoyment. However, all functionality within the Dashboard, while updated, remains the same.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact ITG at ext 8090 or at itg@emerson.edu.

Faculty Technology Survey Results!

In the spring, ITG asked the faculty what they thought about educational technology at Emerson. A good mix of full time (46%) and part time (54%) faculty from all departments responded.

The most interesting question to us was “What do you think of Canvas so far? What is easy, and what is confusing?” 74% of responses had feedback on specific features: organizing content (21%), assignments (19%), grading (19%) and the gradebook (17%).

We also categorized the responses as mostly positive or mostly negative:

69% had positive comments about Canvas, with only 5 negative comments

…and positive won by a landslide!

Sample comments:

 AMAZING. It's easy to post, email, receive work. Discussions are a bit confusing (though I haven't played around with it as much), student view seems less intuitive for certain things like submitting assignments and peer review. I think this just calls for extra clarity in instructions from the professor.

Canvas was easy and I thought a much better experience than when I used to use Blackboard. My students didn't have many issues, either.

Canvas is great! It helps me and students keep organized and tracks important information, such as assignment due dates and upcoming events. As far as improvements go, I think the icon/link that lets students see the annotated version of their drafts needs to be larger and prominent.

Nothing is easy. Its really not intuitive. There is an unavoidable, perhaps, learning curve. It will take a few cycles to fully utilize.

 I absolutely love Canvas so far. It serves as a single space for all of my class needs--from grading to assignments to syllabus to peer reviews. It's been fantastic. I love the Speedgrading feature along with the rubric function; it's made grading so much easier. I also love that the peer review feature allows for comments and replies to comments directly in the draft. Having all of that information (including attachments) directly in Canvas has been very helpful. Using Canvas has allowed me to go paperless for the first time.

More results:

Most respondents said they use Canvas, and they use it mostly to distribute content and for other administrative tasks like receiving assignments and grading.
68 responded: 67% did, 32% did not.

Of those who didn’t use Canvas, the biggest barrier was the lack of time to learn it. Other frequently used technology tools are Powerpoint and Google Docs.

Faculty’s main goals when using technology are to distribute course content (87%), save time in managing courses (76%) and provide supplementary materials to students (76%).

In general, faculty are comfortable using technology:

0 answered not comfortable, 16% somewhat comfortable, 42% confortable, and 42% very comfortable

What hinders them from using it is the time required to use it in the classroom (34%) and lack of technical skill (32%).

Faculty generally learn about technology from a staffer or by experimenting on their own:

77% from a technology support staffer, 76% on own by experimenting, 46% on their own by reading support documents, and 35% from a colleague

When asked “Is there anything else we should know?”, the responses were categorized as follows:

46% of answers were categorized as love, 42% uncategorized, and 10% of faculty said they had no time to learn technology

Sample comments:

You guys are awesome. Great support, quick response, very knowledgeable. The office makes instructors feel welcome:)

 The College IT/media learning support is good. The problem is finding the time to update skills in these areas.

We adore you too!


Student Technology Survey Results!

In the spring, ITG asked students their views about educational technology at Emerson.

As with the faculty survey, we were eagerly awaiting answers to the question “What do you think of Canvas so far? What is easy? What is confusing?”

The results are in, and students love Canvas even more than the faculty do!

77% viewed Canvas positively2% negative reaction to Canvas

Many had feedback on specific features: most of it was about organization of content (20%), and the Canvas user interface (17%).

43% of answers had feedback on features

A significant amount of students wanted professors to use Canvas even more! Sample comments:

I like it when professors use all of these abilities it has to offer because looking track of everything becomes easier.

I love it. I have one professor who has been taking full advantage of it and it has made submitting assignments and keeping track of grades so much easier. My one complaint is that not all of my teachers have made the switch.

 I like or when professors use all of these abilities it has to offer because looking track of everything becomes easier... I love it. I have one professor who has been taking full advantage of it and it has made submitting assignments and keeping track of grades so much easier. My one complaint is that not all of my teachers have made the switch...  I absolutely love it! So far only one of my classes utilize it though, History of Jazz. I want more classes to use it...Love it! Really easy and straightforward... It's really easy to use and is much better than webct

The ability to reference course content is seamless and easy to use. The only confusing thing I have found is the grading which seemingly calculates the points you have made out of the total possible points, for the semester...  I really like it a lot. It has a ton of features and is easy to use. Nothing is really confusing after you play around a little bit. I wish I used it in more of my classes...  I like Canvas a lot. I think it's very user-friendly... Much easier than webct... I like Canvas so far, but I don't think my professors have completely figured it out yet so I don't think we're using it to its full potential.

More results:

More undergraduates (79%) than graduate students (21%) responded. Almost all of the respondents use Canvas, and they report their professors use it to distribute content (97%) and for administrative tasks (72%).

90% yes, 10% no

Other frequently used technology tools are Powerpoint and Google Docs.

Students’ main goals when using technology are to access course content (96%), organize due dates and scheduling (78%) and to turn in work (75%).

Students are even more comfortable using technology than faculty:

not comfortable .5%, somewhat comfortable 4%, comfortable 44%, very cofortable 51%

They report that what hinders them from using technology is when professors lack technical skills (51%) or choose not to use it (57%).

They are much less likely than faculty to learn technology from a staff member, and more likely to learn by experimenting on their own or from a friend:

40% from staff, 56% from a friend, 81% on own by experimenting, 56% on own by reading support documents

When we asked “Is there anything else we should know?”, we got more positive comments about Canvas, a lot of pleas for professors to use Canvas more, some slightly disturbing information about people’s underwear, and a shout out from a student who works at the IT Help Desk. Hi Lindsay!




WordPress Habits of Mind (Part 1)

WordPress stickers
Photo: WordPress Stickers Everywhere / teamstickergiant / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

We are big fans of WordPress here at ITG. It’s highly customizable with thousands of free themes and plugins. However, such flexibility can sometimes result in confusion, especially when you are dealing with an open-source product like WordPress: the interface may change with certain themes, some functionality is not built-in when we think it should be, or sometimes we’re just plain overwhelmed with all of the options.

We understand your frustration! Our “WordPress Habits of Mind” series will explore the skills and knowledge that we find lead to more productivity and less frustration in WordPress. They are relevant no matter which theme you are using for your site and, I would even venture to say that they’re applicable to other educational technologies as well.

This first post will start off with a few general tips and best practices. (Feel free to share your tips in the Comments area!):

  • Save! Be mindful of saving your work. This not only goes for posts that you write, but also for pages, widgets, and plugin settings. If you’re changing the settings on a widget, make sure to check and see if there is a “Save” or “Update” button. If you’re making a change to a post, make sure to click “Update” or “Save as Draft.”
  • Play! Don’t be afraid to test things out, especially when you’re using a new theme, widget, or plugin. Create test posts and pages to see how they interact with your theme, widgets, and plugins. You won’t know unless you try! Think of mistakes as learning opportunities and remember, you can always delete or un-publish a post or page.
  • Start small. When testing or troubleshooting, focus on changing one variable rather than everything at once. Make the change, save, preview, see what’s different (if anything). Focusing on one variable at a time is safer and also helps you to easily pinpoint the issue.
  • Take HTML baby steps. A little HTML can go a long way in WordPress. If you find that the formatting options in the Visual Editor are just not cooperating, you may want to switch over to the HTML Viewer. Although you don’t have to know HTML to use WordPress, it will certainly give you more formatting options. W3 Schools has tons of free resources for learning HTML.
  • Tag! Get in the habit of creating tags when you’re creating posts. It will give you and your audience more options for organizing and searching through your content.
  • Categorize! Take a few minutes when you’re creating your site to think about how you might want to categorize posts. Create the categories and use them as much as possible. You can always delete a category, add a new one, or reassign posts to different categories. Ultimately, categories provide you with more options for how to arrange your site. You can create pages of specific category posts, use them in menus, and many plugins and widgets build off of categories.

Stay tuned for more “WordPress Habits of Mind” posts. Next up, we will share our strategies for navigating themes.

New to WordPress? Check out the “Getting started with WordPress” section of our website for free resources, or request a face to face consultation with ITG by sending an email to itg@emerson.edu.