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Student Systems of Support, Uncategorized

Tommie Tech for Graduate Students: January 2021

This article describes the University of St. Thomas student technology resource for graduate students called Tommie Tech Canvas site, including a summary of student feedback from the fall 2020 semester.

What is the Tommie Tech Canvas Site for Graduate Students?  

All current St. Thomas students have access to the Tommie Tech Canvas site, an orientation to St. Thomas technologies and online learning resources.

Tommie Tech invites students to:

  • Learn about key tech systems such as Canvas, Zoom, Murphy, Office 365, and OneStThomas (intranet at St. Thomas);
  • Set up their devices including free apps to download;
  • Practice with technology tools; and
  • Locate additional resources while learning online.

Students find Tommie Tech on their St. Thomas Canvas dashboard. The graduate student course link works for students already enrolled in the course; students must use their St. Thomas username and password to log in.There is a daily enrollment feed to ensure that students are not missed. After students are given access to the site, if they do not want to be in the site, they can request being removed.

Who uses Tommie Tech?   

As of December 2020, there were 4,344 graduate students enrolled in Tommie Tech; there is a daily automated feed so the course shows up on each student’s Canvas dashboard. It is a 24/7/365 resource for any graduate student looking for additional help so even during holidays the self-help is there!

Many students simply pick any unfamiliar topics to explore. A smaller number of graduate students explore each module and complete the entire site. There is an option for students to receive a St. Thomas Tommie Tech certificate if their graduate program would like them to document evidence of completion, or if a student simply wants to have that certificate of completion.

Several graduate programs require students to earn a certificate of completion; other programs point out or build a link in their program level orientation materials back to the Tommie Tech site with an invitation to explore anything unfamiliar.

Fall 2020 Survey Results from Graduate Students Completing Tommie Tech

In the fall 2020, 124 graduate students completed the entire site and earned the Tommie Tech certificate. The majority of these students were from programs and departments that strongly encouraged or asked them to complete Tommie Tech; however a few students simply found the site and chose to complete it. Ninety-nine of these students also completed a short anonymous survey.

Here are a few highlights from the survey results from 99 graduate students who completed the survey after going through the entire Tommie Tech Graduate site. Of the 93 first year respondents, 45 had reported that they had started their first class/term at time of completing the survey, and 48 had not yet started graduate classes at the time of the survey completion (seven of them were students who had been undergraduates at St. Thomas).

When asked how helpful Tommie Tech was, here is what they said:

Most of the survey respondents (86%) found the Tommie Tech helpful or very helpful, as illustrated by the following comments:

  • “All the information necessary to navigate anything tech-related is there.”
  • “I was able to set up Canvas in a way that will be most beneficial for success.”
  • “There were some aspects of the modules that I was familiar with, specificallyOffice365. However, everything is presented in a clear and accessible way.”
  • “I had not previously used many of these platforms (Murphy, Canvas, etc.) and this course helped me gain a strong understanding of these and many other platforms not listed. I’m looking forward to working through these on my free-time to understand them more but this program was a perfect stepping stone before starting my courses through St. Thomas.”

A smaller number (12%) reported Tommie Tech as Somewhat helpful & Somewhat unhelpful. These students tended to already know certain resources and only needed a smaller subset of the resources, as illustrated by the following comments:

  • “I was already familiar with Canvas due to using it during my undergraduate studies at the UMN – Twin Cities. It was helpful to learn about downloading Office365 on multiple devices.”
  • “I knew how to do most of this and I feel as though, even if I didn’t, it would be easier for me to figure it out myself than to navigate through this entire canvas course. One thing that had not been explained to me before today was the One St. Thomas page and I am very surprised that this is my first-time hearing of this! Maybe I missed it in the orientation packet but like!”

We also asked graduates students “How prepared do you feel for your upcoming class(es) and St. Thomas school experience using technology?” 

Comments from students who selected completely prepared after completing Tommie Tech include the following 

  • I have a strong background in technology and have taken many online classes. Combine that with the very thorough orientation and I feel ready. 
  • The in-depth tour of Canvas helped me get the hang of how classes will be organized. The “preparing your devices” section helped me catch and address a few potentially-frustrating tech shortcomings.

Comment from students who felt mostly prepared include: 

  • This will be my first time taking online synchronous classes, so I am sure there will be a learning curve. Tommie Tech did help me feel prepared to find help if I end up needing it. 
  • I feel like I have a great grasp on the technology and where to find it but I will not feel completely prepared until I need to use the tech in a real world application when classes fully start.

We also heard from six graduate students who had been at St. Thomas for two to four years, and shared that it was helpful or very helpful as illustrated by the following quotes:   

  • Easy to understand the instructions on how to use most of the resources. 
  • I didn’t know I had access to so many apps and resources like Office 365 for example. 
  • Helped me with navigation and awareness of resources.” 
  • Answered common questions in one spot. 
  • I feel very prepared (after completing Tommie Tech). I just need to download the proper apps, but now I know what resources are available. 
  • I feel confident in finding things.”

Summary of Student’s Feedback 

Based upon student feedback, Tommie Tech helps newer students or student unfamiliar with UST tech to have ways to know about and use various UST technologies. A significant number of survey respondents (86%) expressed that Tommie tech was helpful and helped them to feel prepared for the upcoming semester. Students also stated that this was helpful for them as all the classes are now moving towards online. 

Some students also expressed that most of the information was general and it would be helpful before the start of the classes. For students new to Canvas, Murphy and other St. Thomas platforms, this was very important information to aid their successful startup. The students who knew about Canvas and other features pointed out that it was a good review for them after a break.  

However, graduate students also expressed wanting to be able to find the information most important to them, and some students expressed a wish to be able more easily find what was needed. At times students expressed there was too much information although others seemed to appreciate the robust nature of resources.   

Although overall Tommie Tech is more likely to have value for newer students, the comments from the six graduate students (in their 2-4th year) show how there are occasions where more experienced St. Thomas students also find this to be a useful resource. Some of these same students however also mentioned that they would have been a greater help if offered when at the start of their program. 

The majority of the students also expressed that after going through the Tommie Tech they felt completely or mostly prepared for upcoming classes (with respect to technology). After going through the orientation, they felt confident attending classes and knew how to navigate through the systems for upcoming classes. As a result of completing the orientation site, students felt more comfortable navigating around in Canvas and becoming familiar with systems like OneSthomas, Office 365 apps, and other places to get tech help like the tech desk and 24/7 Canvas. 

Next Steps: Continuing to Listen to Student Voices  

Tommie Tech is especially pertinent for newer students, students who have had less access to or comfort with technology or academics, and/or students unfamiliar with St. Thomas technologies. However, some more experienced students also use the site. Students get to decide when and if the site is helpful for them, to enhance their experience and success as a student. 

Even though overall there are indicators that this resource has value for students who need this type of support, we also know there are some ways to improve this experience.   

Student time is so valuable. As we make site updates in Tommie Tech during the early part of 2021, we will seek ways to further help students find what may be useful to them, when they need it. We can do that by both shortening and clarifying the home page to make is easier to know how to find what may be the most useful to you. We also can add some information graphics, and further differentiate headings in the site to depict basic introductory versus “going deeper” or extension resources 

By listening to our student voices, we seek to create a more seamless student experience that effectively integrates technology in meaningful ways. 

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Student Success Facilitator (jkmontie@stthomas.edu) and Rajaram Tangirala and Rayni Shin, Graduate Students in Data Sciences, with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn 

To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email Jo Montie at jkmontie@stthomas.edu. 

Student Systems of Support, Uncategorized

Tommie Tech Student Resource: Tips for Faculty and Staff

This article describes the University of St. Thomas student technology resource called “Tommie Tech“ Canvas site, and how faculty and staff can use this resource to support student success.   

What is Tommie Tech?                                                          

All current St. Thomas students have access to a Canvas site called Tommie Tech, an orientation to St. Thomas technologies and online learning resources. There is both an undergraduate and a graduate student version. The current COVID pandemic has further reinforced how students need equitable digital access to resources to enhance participation in virtual spaces.  

Tommie Tech invites students to: 

  • learn about key tech systems such as Canvas, Zoom, Murphy, Office 365, and OneStThomas; 
  • set up their devices including free apps to download; 
  • practice with technology tools; and 
  • locate additional resources while learning online. 

Tommie Tech includes videos, tutorials, and optional activities so that students start their classes knowing how to upload assignments, set their notifications, find 24/7 help, and more. Tommie Tech Site Facilitators keep the site current, post occasional resource updates, and help students find the technology resources such as the UST remote tech desk help.  Tommie Tech complements (does not replace) the more specific college/department level orientation provided to students, and enhances the course-specific student prep module that instructors may include in their courses. 

What do students say about Tommie Tech?  

Many students report finding value in having access to the Tommie Tech site, especially early on in this program.  Here are a few examples of impact from this resource:   

  • “I loved having the screenshots that walked me through how to access the platforms step-by-step!” 
  • “I think the best thing is the canvas app because you are able to see and get notifications on your phone.” 
  • “I thought it was cool that we get 1 terabyte of free cloud file storage in OneDrive.” 
  • “That’s awesome there is 24 hour help available for students, it makes me more confident that if any tech problems arise, I’ll have help to solve them.” 
  • “The in-depth tour of Canvas helped me get the hang of how classes will be organized. The “preparing your devices” section helped me catch and address a few potentially-frustrating tech shortcomings.” 
  • “I have a strong background in technology and have taken many online classes. Combine that with this very thorough orientation and I feel ready.” 

How do students access Tommie Tech? 

Students find Tommie Tech on their St. Thomas Canvas dashboard. If they have trouble finding this site, please contact services.stthomas.edu or the techdesk@stthomas.edu. 

Tommie Tech is especially pertinent for newer students, students who have had less access to or comfort with technology or academics, and/or students unfamiliar with St. Thomas technologies. However, some more experienced students also use the site. Students get to decide when and if the site is helpful for them.  

How can faculty and staff access Tommie Tech? 

St. Thomas instructors and staff are invited to self-enroll into the Tommie Tech Sample Sites: 

Try out the activities and share your feedback on ways to further improve the resource. 

How might instructors, advisors, and program leaders use Tommie Tech with students? 

Professors, advisors, program leaders, student service team members hold a special role to help students to find and use this resource. A few ideas to consider: 

  • Instructors could point out this resource to students on your course site home page or in course announcements. Prior to a new semester or course start, include a message in your pre-class or week 1 note such as “All students are enrolled in a Canvas site called Tommie Tech. Please explore the resources in this site and try the suggested activities by or before the first week of class” OR you could point out certain activities that you’d like them to try. 
  • You are welcome to include the student course URL in your current course or student communications. 
  • There is an option in both sites for students to receive a St. Thomas Tommie Tech certificate if you would like students to document a certain level of engagement with the content. (Note: Starting fall 2020, all first-year freshmen undergraduate students were required to complete Tommie Tech before their first semester and receive a certificate of completion.) 
  • Advisors, Counselors, or Disability Services team members – If you see a student having technology challenges or needs, ask them if they know about the Tommie Tech site. If not, help them find this course on their Canvas dashboard. 
  • In your advising notes, say “For additional technology support, explore the Tommie Tech Canvas site-there for you, 24/7. If new to St. Thomas, we suggest completing practice activities in the site too.” 
  • If a student has unresolved tech needs, point them to the services.stthomas.edu or  techdesk@stthomas.edu for one-on-one support.  

Where did Tommie Tech come from (in case you are wondering…)?  

These sites combine ideas from both the Orientation to Online Learning site (launched in Summer 2018) and the fall 2019 Tommie Tech sites. The earlier versions of both sites had a lot of student, faculty, and staff input that guided us on what to include in this current site. At the start of the COVID 19 pandemic (spring 2020), all students became automatically enrolled in the respective site to ensure equitable access to technology support for all students.  

Starting May 4, 2020, all current and upcoming students are automatically enrolled into the respective site (graduate or undergraduate). There is a daily enrollment feed to ensure that students are not missed. After students are given access to the site, if they do not want to be in the site, they can request being removed at any point (see the home page for unenroll option).  

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Student Success Facilitator (jkmontie@stthomas.edu) with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email Jo at jkmontie@stthomas.edu. 

Technology Tools, Uncategorized

Place Based Digital Storytelling, Citizen Science and Place Making

Think of a few places you have never been to, but feel connected to.

How did that connection develop?  What stories were involved?

Our earliest evidence of stories are etched or painted on stone, inseparable from the places they inhabit. Through digital storytelling we can better understand people whom we may have never met and places we may have never been. In Voices of the Grand Canyonwe are shown places “firsthand from people whose cultures, world views, and livelihoods are inextricably tied to the Grand Canyon region.” In the video below, Jim Enote shares the meaning of petroglyphs in Chimik’yana’kya dey’a.

Video from the “Voices of the Grand CanyonStory Map

ESRI story maps have specialized tools for creating narratives involving spaces and places. They make meaningful and authentic whole class, group, or individual projects when some aspect of place is a part of the study. Story Maps are not new, but recent improvements have made them easy to use to create modern-looking and immersive web experiences. Their use is growing in the private and public sectors, including k-12 and Higher Education. This post provides an overview and examples of Story Maps with resources to get you started using them.

Guide your audience through immersive and interactive scenes with maps, images, video, and sound.

If you were telling a story in person you would probably use gestures and movement. Story Maps have features that help draw your audience in. For the best experience let’s look at some stories that highlight some of these features.

  • Side Cars allow you to create smooth flowing scenes with rich media content and maps. As the user scrolls down the page, the side cars float up triggering new views or scenes. There are a few well designed options for layout that are simple one-click options in the builder. The Story Maps below show some ways sidecars can be used with different media types.
    • Braided by Greta McLain, A Midway Murals Project by the College of Arts and Sciences SOLV Initiative tells the story behind the St. Paul Mural “Braided” by Greta McLain. The central pane features different views of the art while the sidecar uses video interviews with the artist to tell the story behind the mural and its connection to the community.
    • Saving the Shawangunks uses video and text adjacent to maps in the side car.
    • Sounds of the Wild West immerses you in the sounds of the ecosystems of greater Yellowstone National Park. One unique feature of the sidecar is its ability to add sound that will play in the background as the user scrolls down the page.
  • Slide Shows allow your audience to navigate horizontally for a section of your story. This can be used when you want to provide more detail about a topic in your story without taking away from the main narrative. Hannah Wilber’s Slideshow: A new immersive block in ArcGIS Story Maps provides an in depth look at this feature and when you might choose it over side cars.
  • Guided Map Tours takes your audience on a journey through points on a map. Each stop contains a block that you can configure with multimedia and text. By setting the initial zoom of each point, you can draw your audience’s focus to the action. In guided maps you can choose to have your map, or your media focused in the main view.
    • Mapping street art inspired by George Floyd keeps the art positioned in the center while the map and narrative float to the left.
    • Reveal takes you on a short journey of exposed features in the Mississippi River Gorge near St. Thomas. This tour keeps the map as the central focus.
    • TIP If you take pictures using a phone with “location services on.” Location data is encoded in the picture. If you upload those pictures in .jpeg format to a map tour it will automatically create a pin on a map where you took the picture. For a fun activity ask students take 5 random pictures and then ask them to create a story out of them. As a get to know each other activity you can ask students to create a story about 5 places that are important to them and describe why?
  • Swipes let the user compare two maps or pictures. These are great for highlighting change in a place at two different times.
    • Reveal uses a swipe to compare two photos of the falls of St. Anthony at different times. You can also compare maps.

Maps help tell your story.

Creating maps

Why you should use Express Maps provides useful examples of the types of maps you can create in new Story Map builder.  Use express maps to tell your story provides a comprehensive and efficient animated tutorial to create maps. There are Nineteen Steps, but you really only need to do steps 1-3 to create a simple map with location points. For all maps, steps 17-19 are critical to helping your map stand out, look good, and be accessible. It’s easy for maps to get complicated fast. If you are new to this keep your maps simple to start.

Using existing maps

A library of over eight thousand maps are available through Esri’s Living Atlas of the World.  Maps built from public data sources such as US Census, academic, non-profit, private industry, and a growing open and citizen sources provide a diverse array of maps to enhance or be the centerpiece of your story.

Citizen Science, Research and Placemaking

A compelling story can motivate people to engage with your cause, research, or contribute to your crowdsourcing call. Story maps offer several affordances to promote engagement. Buttons with links provide “calls to action.” <i frame> support for embedded content help you integrate with other data collection forms and widgets. For citizen science work where you want to crowdsource information with a spatial component (like bird sightings), or for collective placemaking, ESRI’s Survey123 application helps you collect information from your audience and map it. In the story map Reveal there are two surveys to collect data and buttons with calls to action or to view the crowd-sourced data. The map River Stories displays the incoming entries in real-time. Survey 123 makes a fun and engaging class activities and a powerful tool for research.

Resources and guides for creating Story Maps

Planning Guides and Resources ESRI Education team

Get Started with Story Maps ESRI Education team

Teach with Story Maps  University of Minnesota

Making Story Maps Citable for Research ESRI Education Team

Have an idea of how you could use Story Maps but need some assistance?

Let us know!

This post was written by Matthew Vernon, Instructional Designer (vern0007@stthomas.edu) with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about STELAR, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu

Badging and Microcredentials, Student Systems of Support, Technology Tools, Uncategorized

Zoom Assistants: Available to Team with Faculty

Our St. Thomas Innovation and Technology Services (ITS) team now has Zoom Assistants, trained student employees who have earned Zoom Host and Zoom Assistant badges.

This fall 2020 several Zoom Assistants started teaming with faculty to help get the most out of Zoom in both fully online classes (where everyone is in Zoom) and also flex/blended classes where some may be online in Zoom and others are in person at the same time.

Typically,  a student Zoom Assistant would join you for 1-4 sessions (although on occasion, longer), or if you simply want a Zoom Assistant to practice certain Zoom tools with you, that is also an option.

These student employees are committed to you and your class’s success, and work in partnership with you to help you to further incorporate Zoom features and engagement tools into your teaching.

How to Request a Zoom Assistant

If you would like a Zoom Assistant to either join you for practice, or to attend one or more class times, please complete this short Zoom Assistant Request form. These details will help us to match the right support for your needs.

Situations Where a Zoom Assistant may Help 

  • If you wish to try breakout rooms and have help the first time doing that, a Zoom Assistant could join you to first practice and then join your class.
  • Perhaps you feel that your Zoom students and face to face students do not hear one another well; the Zoom Assistant can join your Zoom students for a session or more and help to improve the experience for virtual students.
  • If you have an extra-large class, you might like a Zoom Assistant to help monitor chat, monitor the participant box, and help with audio or cameras if someone has trouble.
  • Perhaps you have a guest speaker with a large class, and would like a second pair of hands to help you with the Zoom logistics for that session.
  • Maybe things are overall going “ok” and yet teaching can be lonely (especially during COVID) and you would like some validation in how you are using Zoom and also get a few other good tips or ideas.

If you or someone you work with may appreciate a Zoom Assistant,  please encourage them to fill out the Zoom Assistance Request form or talk to Sam Baldwin or Jo Montie to learn more.

Thanks for helping us to launch this new effort, and please help spread the word! 

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Student Success Facilitator jkmontie@stthomas.edu with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. 

Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks, Student Systems of Support, Uncategorized

Tommie Tech: A Technology Resource for ALL St Thomas Students!

As faculty prepare and start their upcoming courses, our academic technology team wants to remind you of a resource that you can point students to before students start your class and also during the semester if you ever hear they are having technology needs. If you like to send your students communication before class starts, consider reminding them about the Tommie Tech technology orientation site.

All St. Thomas students are enrolled in either the undergraduate or graduate student version of the Tommie Tech technology orientation. This student resource includes an introduction to St. Thomas technology that includes content and activities that will assist students in taking an online class. Tommie Tech guides students to:

  • find technology help available to St. Thomas students
  • set up your own device(s) such as testing your browser
  • use Canvas basic features
  • locate St. Thomas apps and digital tools
  • be aware of online etiquette, and
  • learn about digital security practices

There is also an option to earn a Tommie Tech Certificate; this is required for all first-year undergraduate students, and at times professors or graduate programs are also asking students to get this certificate of completion.

Security note: All course URLs are password protected and only accessible to St. Thomas students using their username and password.

If you are teaching this fall, consider these suggestions:

  • Mention the Tommie Tech Undergraduate or Tommie Tech Graduate site in an early course announcement or letter before or during the first week, and/or further call this out in your Get Started/Module 0 in your Canvas course. If you are using the Fall 2020 Course Template from STELAR (upload from the Canvas Commons), that course template includes a Module 0, mentions Tommie Tech as well. Tommie Tech complements and reinforces what you put into your courses, and is there for students throughout their time at St. Thomas for those who want to come back to this.
  • Include the student Tommie Tech course link in your fall course to make it easy for students to access Tommie Tech. Select the correct link here:
  • Encourage students to visit the Tommie Tech site by the end of the first week of class and spend time on what is unfamiliar. There are Tommie Tech Site Facilitators available in the discussion spaces and weekly Zoom drop in sessions for students needing to test Zoom, and lots of resources in Tommie Tech (browser check, internet speed tester, tips on Canvas, free apps in the Microsoft word suite, and much more!).
    • Sample Message: If you are new to St. Thomas or wanting to review some of the technology and technology support available for students, please explore the Tommie Tech site and suggested activities. <Faculty, insert in either the Undergraduate Student Tommie Tech or the Graduate Student Tommie Tech link into your communication>. New St. Thomas students find it especially helpful to complete the entire site but it is a resource for all students to keep current with St. Thomas technologies; if you have been at St. Thomas for awhile you may simply want to skim the resource. There is also an option to request a Certificate of Completion. 

Where did Tommie Tech come from?   

The current Tommie Tech sites combine ideas from both the Orientation to Online Learning site (in operation since Summer 2018) and the fall 2019 Tommie Tech sites. The earlier versions of both sites had a lot of student, faculty, and staff input that guided us on what to include in this current site. We continue to learn from students (and you!) and make edits to further guide all of our students.

Faculty are welcome to enroll in the faculty version of the site. 

There is also a faculty version of this site. Here are those links only for faculty/staff:

One St. Thomas, nobody left behind…Advancing the Common Good is about All of Us!  

If there are additional resources or activities you would like to see for your students especially accessing learning in the online or digital space (whether in a fully online class or other classes that access technology), please reach out to Jo Montie jkmontie@stthomas.edu to explore some ways to creatively work together on this!

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Student Success Facilitator (jkmontie@stthomas.edu) with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu