Through the first two months of 2011 we have released a number of new features. This page overviews each of them.
We reorganised the assignment page to both add new options, and to make it easier to simply accept the defaults if they meet your needs. Here are the categories:
- Grade scheme
This applies to the student set, and once set up you don't need to change it. Quizzes can now report results in any grade scheme you use (NC levels, GCSE, etc). Tell us the current average grade of the set, and Yacapaca will then automatically track it as it changes.
- Students in set
By default, your assignment goes to all students in the set. If you want to exclude some students, change that here. If you regularly assign to sub-groups, consider splitting the set.
- Start date
If assigning a lot of work ahead of time, set the start date to the date of the lesson when that particular content is due to be covered. Weaker students, especially, can be intimidated by long to-do lists. Assignments don't appear in the to-do list until that date, so the list is maintained at a manageable size.
- Due date
Due dates are now mandatory to stop students' to-do lists getting gummed up with long-forgotten assignments. The default is 7 days, but you can change it to any value you like up to 100 days. We recommend for the best completion rate to set tight deadlines (one day is ideal) but only assign one item at a time.
- Students per team
If you already have the student set organised into teams, they will not be changed when you assign more work. If not, the default is 2-3 students per team. To change teams, move students manually or rename teams, open this popup. More details on that below under 'Teams'.
If you give prizes for team effort, describe the prize here, along with the completion date for your competition. Students will see this in their Teams popup. Sorry, we don't buy the prizes for you.
- Attempts per quiz
The default is two attempts per quiz. Be careful of assigning too many attempts as this can lead to over-confidence in the students. Rehearsing one set of questions until perfect does not guarantee retention until exam time, nor does it mean that students will recognise the same issues if they are differently presented in the exam.
The Assignments List is not new, but it has taken on a greatly enhanced role recently. It is now your main page for managing assignments.
- Allow extra attempts
The single most-requested feature is finally here! If students have accidentally missed a quiz attempt, go to Action->Edit and you will see a list of failed attempts that you can 'forgive' to allow students to try again. Use with discretion! Students can and do quit quizzes on the last question in order to rehearse themselves through a test before taking it for 'real'. If you are trying to do a summative assessment they will take advantage of your trusting nature to completely sabotage the results.
- Controlled assignments
Go to Action->Hide (or ->Show) to control the visibility of assignments to students. You can now quickly switch access on and off to comply with exam board requirements.
- Progress bars
How many students have completed a given assignment? The blue progress bars will show you.
- Progress charts whiteboard
Once you have enough data for a given student set, a little 'graph' icon will appear next to that set's assignments. Click it to open the progress chart whiteboard. See below for full details.
- Auto-creation of equal teams
As soon as your students have completed their first assignment, we maintain a 'strength' value for each one. When you create (or re-create) teams, we use this to try to make each team the same overall ability. The great benefit is that even your weakest student knows s/he has the same chance of being on the winning team as anyone else.
- Teams management whiteboard
This is not the same as the quiz results whiteboard! Open this from the student set page, or during the assignment process (see above). As well as showing the students which teams they are in, it allows you to drag students between teams and to re-name teams. When you move a student, you will see the 'strength score' of the team update automatically, so you can aim to keep all the teams approximately of equal ability.
- Team prizes
Add a prize during the assigning process. This is just a notification feature that lets you tell the students what the prize is, and when it falls due. For example, you might set a prize for the leading team at the end of term.
- Motivation points for supporting your team
AS part of the motivation points structure (see below), students receive individual points whenever their team wins. This gives them an extra incentive to support team-mates
The students' to-do list has had a complete redesign, and this has made visible a number of features that were previously far too well-hidden. The aim was to create a minimalist look, whilst at the same time putting all the account administration features onto the homepage. Sounds contradictory, but I think we did it.
- Sort order
The to-do list is sorted strictly by due date, with the most urgent items at the top. Assignments due in the next 24hrs have a flashing exclamation mark next to them. Assignments past due date or completed (in the case of quizzes) slide to the bottom, and are then automatically archived.
Anything that is not to do should not be in a to-do list, so it goes to the archive. Students can manually archive or unarchive any assignment, other than uncompleted quizzes. A previous problem of students accidentally archiving has now been addressed by moving the 'archive' button. The archive is sorted in date of archiving, with the most recent items first.
- Teacher photo
The teacher who set any given assignment is identified by his/her profile photo. This gives quicker recognition and more motivation to do the work than just putting a name. Make sure your photo is uploaded to your profile. This is particularly important if you are not the only teacher in the school on Yacapaca.
- Assignment type icons
The old icons have been abandoned in favour of simple abstract coloured squares. Roll over any icon to see what it means; you will quickly learn them.
In each assgnment listing, there is a Teams button. This opens a popup showing team members, a teams leaderboard and any details you have entered of prizes on offer for winning teams.
- Feedback tab
Accesses our student voice system, a closely-moderated suggestion board for new features.
- Change Password tab
Allows students to change their ID and/or password. To protect against pranksters, students must enter their old password first, before they can use this feature.
- Merge accounts tab
Students often wind up with multiple accounts from different teachers. This tab allows them to merge those accounts into one so, for example, they get just one place to pick up and manage all their homework.
- Join a Class tab
If you have handed out access keys to allow students to join a student set, they access them here.
- Choose Avatar tab
Students can 'buy' new avatars with motivation points they have earned by doing work in the system.
- View Archive/To-do tab
toggles between the archive and to-do lists.
- Points log
Next to the student's name is an indicator of the number of motivation points currently in their account. Click on this to see a log of how the points were earned.
My School and Peer Support
A list of all the teachers in your school, with some useful data about them. This same list will appear in your co-teaching menu, if you wish to co-teach a student set. The aim of the page is to encourage a supportive community of Yaquapacistas within your school.
- Get support from a colleague (UK schools only, so far)
At the top right of each page, look for a link Get support from a colleague This will open a popup in which you can ask your question, which is then emailed to the other Yacapaca users in your school. They can reply the same way. Given that you are usually in the same building, we expect that the conversation will quickly move to a face-to-face one. The popup is a way of initiating that conversation now, whilst the problem is clear in your mind.
Enter the marks or grades from any assignment done outside Yacapaca, and you can benefit from all of Yacapaca's markbook features. Students see the results immediately, at home or at school, results can be shared with parents, and the data will appear in the progress chart for the student set, making this more accurate and more useful.
Access Offline Assignments from the Assignments List or the Markbook. Name the assignment and add it to a course. The course can contain Offline Assignments and Quick Assignments, but it cannot contain quizzes, ePortfolios or short-text tests.
Quick Assignments (due for launch Feb '11)
Many assignments are very simple, e.g. an essay title, a confirmation or a small project. Set these quickly and easily with an instruction and (optionally) an attached file. Students can respond with text and/or an attachment, and you get the standard notifications when they do. Now the good bit: download all attachments for the whole assignment with a single mouseclick. They will appear on your computer neatly organised in their own folder. So much better than email!
Grade Quick Assignments through Yacapaca to get all the usual benefits - markbook, progress charts, instant notification for students and parents.
Progress Charts Whiteboard
Each student set has a progress chart that can be used on whiteboard. The chart only becomes available when there is marking data across a date range, and its accuracy increases the more data there is. This is one reason to use Offline Assignments and Quick Assignments.
In the Assignments List, you will see a little 'graph' icon in any assignment to a student set with an available Progress Chart. You can also access the charts from the student set page.
When you first open the Progress Chart, you will see the class average progress as a blue line, and a list of students on the left hand side. Mouse over any student to see his/her complete data. Click on a student to 'freeze' this. Click on 'show all' at the bottom to get a sense of variation within the set, but be warned! In a class of 30 this looks pretty confusing. Set the date range using the slider at the bottom. Grab and drag the two yellow dots to show target levels and dates.
Course Editing features
The course page in the Resources section now contains rich editing features, that are visible to you if you are the course author. We hope that this will encourage you to improve the course description and to add resource files.
Author tools are on a dark blue 'author bar' so they are really easy to find and understand. Note also the Statistics button beside each quiz. This shows you complete statistics for all uses of the quiz, and it is an excellent tool for spotting duff questions.