Educational Development Digest: November 2021

Jump to: Pedagogy in Practice | Academic Technology Tips | Did You Know?


Pedagogy in Practice

Strategies for Attending Virtual or Face-to-Face Conferences

Pedagogy in Practice
By Catherine Ford

I was in the back of an Uber on my way to my first face-to-face conference in two years. Admittedly, I was a little nervous even though fully vaccinated and masked. I had read and reread the conference protocols for Covid-19 safety, and I did not take for granted how particularly fortunate I was to be able to attend and present about the good works happening in Minnesota State to a national audience with my colleague Ken Graetz. Not only did I look forward to sharing, but I was especially looking forward to learning and figuring out my conference plan.

Aside: In the short ride to my hotel, I shared with the driver that I was in town from Minnesota for an education conference. Without skipping a beat, he asked to confirm if I was part of “MNSCU,” and I immediately knew he had Minnesota State connections. It turns out that he did with a bachelors from Metropolitan State University and a masters from St. Cloud State University. What were the chances? What a small world! I love being reminded how connected we all are and the lasting impacts we each can have on our students. He had only wonderful things to share about his experiences with Minnesota State and attributed his success to his institutions and support. Wow.

Once I got checked in at my hotel, I opened my laptop, pulled up the conference website, and opened my notebook. How was I going to navigate this conference experience? Maybe you too have ask this question or a variation of it for face-to-face, online, or hybrid conference.

Thomas Tobin (UW-Madison) in “How to Make the Most of an Academic Conference” and Elizabeth Wilcox (UC Berkley) in “ Getting the Most Out of a Professional Conference” have some practical strategies for attending and navigating conferences regardless of the format that are worth sharing as you make future plans for conference attendance (virtual or in-person). Here are a few of their suggestions:

  • Review the conference agenda and conference sessions in advance. Does the conference offer tracks or paths? What sessions are important to you? Why do those resonate with you?
  • Identify your conference goal. Tobin suggests that this goal should be more than self-promotion. Are you hoping to learn more about a particular topic? Are you experiencing a challenge or dilemma that a session or new connection may provide insight or suggestions for tackling it?
  • Plan (tentatively) the sessions you’d like to attend and then identify a back-up. Check on the location of the sessions, so you don’t lose time or become frustrated in searching for a room location.
  • Give yourself grace. Don’t forget to schedule down time. Be flexible.
  • Be Present. Especially if attending a virtual conference, block time on your calendar and turn on your out-of-office auto reply. Most instructors are annoyed when students are on their phones or clearly not paying attention while in class, so why do we do this to our peers when they are presenting to us?  Can you write down a 1 sentence summary or your biggest takeaway of the session when it is over? Practice active listening.

It struck me that these strategies have resemblance to the same strategies that we ask of our students when they sign up for our courses:

  • Develop or engage with prior content knowledge
  • Identify the relevance of the experience or learning
  • Create a plan for learning (even a tentative one)
  • Sometimes we all need grace and flexibility
  • Be present

We should not be surprised at the similarities as conferences are places for sharing, learning, growing, and exploring just like our classrooms and programs. Be it an in-house institution professional development day or a national event, attend your face-to-face or virtual conference with purpose and a plan to make the most of your experience.


Academic Technology Tips

Addressing Digital Equity Gaps

Academic Technology Tips
By Brock Behling

Minnesota is currently behind the national benchmark (Download 25 Mbps/ Upload 3 Mbps) for sufficient broadband speeds; however the state’s universal goal is to reach this mark by 2022. More details about the current progress can be found on this map of Minnesota showing what percentage of households were meeting this baseline speed from data reported on Dec 31, 2020.

About 7 percent of the state does not have access to this base-level internet service. Physical location is one potential barrier to access and financial circumstances can be another. To help address these barriers, there are some federal and state supplemental funding opportunities for those who qualify for assistance and need access to internet service. Many internet service providers are aware of these programs are often support the application and verification processes for new or existing customers.  

Here are a few links to the federal broadband benefit program, consumer lifeline-program, and a Minnesota financial help page to help with obtaining or improving internet connectivity across the state.

How Can Minnesota State Educators Help?

Following universal design for learning principles by offering multiple means to engage, represent, and express content, can help ensure equitable access. 

What can I do in Kaltura MediaSpace?

What Can I Do in Kaltura MediaSpace?

One way to address this within Kaltura MediaSpace, is to include supplemental files like transcripts, slide decks, or audio only versions of the content.

Adding alternative formats only requires a few steps. On the Edit Media Page, click the Attachments tab and select Upload File. 

The related files will display when the paper clip icon is selected in the player.

KMS Go, can also help with equity by optimizing the viewing experience on mobile devices as it adjusts playback quality on slower internet connections to adapt to the specific device capabilities. Encouraging students to familiarize themselves with the features of their specific platform (Android, or iOS) can help ensure that they have access to the content they need when and wherever they are accessing the videos.

By default, Kaltura does not allow viewers to download the videos, but changing this setting can help individuals who only have highspeed access at remote locations–like only when they are on campus.

Video owners can Edit their media, click Downloads, check the format to share with viewers, and select Save.

What can I do in Zoom?

What Can I Do in Zoom?

Zoom allows for audio only files to be captured as part of the recording.  If interested in having this alternative format, navigate to Zoom’s recording settings and check Record an audio only file.

This file is usually 5-10x smaller than the standard recording and can be distributed and downloaded more easily with low-speed access.

Zoom also has the option to stop all incoming video feeds for particular devices which will not impact other participants.  This can reduce the bandwidth consumed and ensure that the participation isn’t interrupted by excessive latency or network saturation.

Session hosts can also use focus mode to help conserve bandwidth across the entire session if needed.

What can I do in the Office Suite?

What Can I Do in the Office Suite?

Microsoft has built in features to help reduce file size and optimize digital sharing. 

To compress images in the Office Suite:

  • Select any image
  • Click on the contextual Picture Format menu on the ribbon
  • Click on the Compress Pictures tool in the Adjust group
  • Choose desired settings and click OK

The dialog box allows for the option to compress an individual picture or all pictures in the file.  Reducing the resolution will shrink the overall file size and make sharing and access easier for slower internet connections.

This image is an example dialog box setting the resolution to 96ppi optimal for email distribution, deleting the cropped areas not currently displayed in the document and compressing all pictures in the file.

Why Should I Do This?

Taking some of these steps to ensure shared content is accessible to all can enhance the learning experience and success of individuals who may not have equitable internet access.  Using these techniques as well as offering alternative formats, can be beneficial for the entire learning community. Thanks for working together to help close equity gaps.


Did You Know?

D2L Brightspace Product Development Feedback Sessions

Did You Know?
By Scott Wojtanowski

Last month, representatives from Minnesota State including college faculty, university faculty, and staff hosted its first semi-annual meeting with product development staff of D2L Brightspace. During these meetings, representatives from D2L Brightspace presented the product developments that have occurred within their platform over the last 18 months and provided insight as to what the next 12-18 months of their product development might look like. This also provided time for representatives from Minnesota State to provide direct feedback to those who develop D2L Brightspace on areas that are cumbersome and inefficient for the students and faculty who use the service.  Finally, Minnesota State representatives were able share their perspectives with D2L Brightspace staff on functions they would like to see included in future updates to the product.

If you missed this opportunity to provide feedback and input, reach out to your bargaining union or student organization representative of the Learning Environment committee of the Academic and Student Affairs Technology Council or contact Educational Innovations.

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