Recently we wrote about Kristin Bartholomew, Professor of Nutrition, at Valencia who won 3rd Place in the SoftChalk Lesson Challenge “Congratulations “Chalkie” Kristin Bartholomew SoftChalk Winner” Read her interview below about SoftChalk and why she uses it to engage her students.
How did you get started with SoftChalk?
I started using SoftChalk a few years ago as I began my tenure track position. At the time, our course shells were in desperate need of some re-vamping. One of the adjunct nutrition professors had taken a professional development class on SoftChalk, and mentioned I should use this software to make the module lessons for our course shells. She really loved the integration of activities and strongly ‘hinted’ this was necessary for our students. The software was very easy to learn on my own. By the end of my first year in the tenure track position I had both course shells integrated with learning modules from SoftChalk Software. I continue to update the lessons each semester.
Why do you like using it?
I love using this software because it gives faculty a way to meet multiple learning styles and engage students. In an online environment, it is really easy to get stuck in a visual text learning style. With SoftChalk, you are able to organize text in a visually appealing way with easy integration of images and video. In addition, SoftChalk has multiple learning centered activities to complement the lessons, such as charts, crossword puzzles, flash cards, and timelines. The software also has multiple types of quiz questions that can be used as practice or for assessment with scores added directly into the grade book. I love that my students can read some text, see an accompanying graphic, watch a video, practice the content with an activity and then answer a critical thinking question to assess if the learning outcome was met.
I have recently developed a one credit online course here at Valencia that has no accompanying text. The course is entirely online with learning modules created from SoftChalk software. I really feel this was successful because of the diverse learning centered features of Soft Chalk. The software also has a feature allowing the student to print the modules so they can have a hard copy of the information. It is not quite as nice as a textbook, but cuts down on student costs immensely.
Do you have a favorite feature?
I have several favorite activities that I use a lot within my learning modules. I really like using the sorting activity because it lends itself well to the type of information I teach, and offers repetition for student learning. But, the activity I find most fascinating is called “Hot Spot”. It allows the instructor to create interactive graphics. One example is identifying parts of the digestive system. Students roll over parts of the body with their mouse to learn what digestive process occurs in each organ. When you scroll over the stomach, text would appear stating the hydrochloric acid secreted in the stomach denatures protein. It is a very kinesthetic type of learning style.
What do you students say about your lessons?
I get a lot of feedback from my classroom students. Most of them find the learning modules much more useful than the book. They like the repetition with the activities. The students who struggle with content and come see me during office hours are usually not using the learning modules. Once I show them how to use the learning module with their own specific learning styles, I often see improvements in their grades. But, it will always be a struggle getting students to use the resources we give them. Many will perceive it as more work to do.
How did you find out about the SoftChalk Lesson Challenge?
I receive electronic newsletters from SoftChalk to keep up on the latest news. I also frequent their website looking for ideas from other professors across the nation and looking up directions on how to use new features I want to incorporate. Their website is pretty user-friendly, so it is really easy to keep up on the latest news and contests. I have applied for a couple of years, so I know when to look out for the annual event.
What was your reaction when you heard that you won 3rd place?
Honestly, I was in utter shock. Since I had applied previously I knew this contest was fairly large, with many talented higher education instructors across the nation. I was in disbelief at first, and didn’t really know what to do. I happened to have my annual evaluation with my dean that day, so I shared the news with her. Of course, Dr. Pitts was very pleased and proud of my accomplishment. SoftChalk had asked that I not announce it until their press release, so I let it sink in for a while before Dr. Pitts or I shared with the rest of the college. I have had an outpouring of congratulations, of which I am sincerely grateful.
What is your favorite feature in this particular lesson?
I was able to use quite a few features to help meet learning outcomes in this particular lesson. I used the sideshow, hot spot, drag n’ drop, and several sorting activities. But, one of my favorite activities used in this lesson is the “tabbed info”. This particular feature allows you to put more information in less space. Students ‘mouse over’ the tabs to reveal additional information. I like it because you don’t have to scroll up and down a long page to read and re-read information. I use this feature often for case study examples to prepare students for the real ones we do in class for a grade. The only downfall to the tabbed info is that if a student prints the lesson, the information contained in the “tabbed info” will not print. So, you have to be careful about what information you use within the “tabbed info”.
Do you believe more open source materials and lessons should be developed and shared among educators, like SoftChalk Connect?
Yes. My ideas are often inspired by others’ works. It triggers that creative spark that leads you to a really great lesson. I would like to see more discipline specific online communities to share lessons.
What advice would you give any other instructors interesting in utilizing SoftChalk?
Embrace technology. Learning centered approaches to teaching can be enhanced by technology if you keep the student and the learning outcomes at the forefront. This software is very user friendly, and there are plenty of ideas to stimulate creative lessons. Sign up for the SoftChalk lesson builder professional development course to learn more about how to use this software for your courses.
Interested in SoftChalk? Register for the SoftChalk Lesson Builder LTAD3270 Professional Development Course. This is a Web-enhanced Course: May 16- June 6, 2011, on West Campus, CRN 2191 ( Note: Meets weekly face-to-face: Mondays 1:30-2:30PM 5/16, 5/23, 5/30, 6/6)