Friday, December 10, 2010

Put Personality into online courses

Interesting article about personality in an online course. Enjoy - bb

December 10, 2010

Instructor’s Personality: An Essential Online Course Component

By: Rob Kelly in Online Education

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An instructor’s “digital” personality can influence student achievement, retention or completion, and satisfaction with courses, says Todd Conaway, an instructional designer at Yavapai College in Arizona. This is why he encourages instructors to infuse their personalities into their online courses. A growing number of tools and technologies can help.

Whether or not you make a conscious effort to project your personality into your online courses, students draw inferences about you through whatever information about you is available to them.

“Some [instructors' digital personalities] are just very, very flat and lacking in information,” Conaway says. This can be due to the instructor’s underestimation of the importance of this aspect of his or her courses or lack of confidence and/or experience in the online environment. The persona you present online can affect the online classroom in the following ways, Conaway says:

  • Student satisfaction: “Student satisfaction, persistence, and achievement are all influenced by the relationships they develop in courses. Any event is influenced by how we feel about the experience. Humanistic theory would agree that we would choose to stay in environments that feel safe, comfortable, and rewarding,” Conaway says.
  • Learning: “Transactional distance research suggests that we get more from those we interact with. In online education, that distance can be closed by interacting with students. That interaction does not have to be an email or discussion thread. It could be the interaction they have with your website or an image of you, or a video clip. I think that instructor presence leads to the potential for deeper learning.”
  • Interaction: “Role modeling interaction with students in the class is more likely to create student-to-student interaction. It’s the same with the online class. Of course, in the online environment there are students who choose that delivery because they do not have to interact as much. Very independent learners shy away from those student interactions. Learning styles and a student’s comfort with social situations vary, but I think role modeling frequent and quality interaction is very important.”

Here are some steps that Conaway recommends for expressing your digital personality in order to enhance the learning experience:

  • Include some biographical information in your course. Course management systems have spaces for instructor information. The default setting typically includes space for a small photograph of the instructor, office hours, and an email address. As a first step toward improving on this, Conaway recommends including more information on that page—a few photographs, descriptions of hobbies and interests.
  • Consider students’ expectations. Today’s students are typically quite familiar with interactive technologies and expect their instructors—especially online instructors—to understand and use technologies that promote interaction as well.
  • Explore new technologies. “Just looking at what has happened to the capabilities of the Internet and computers in the past ten years should be enough to guide us in what we should be doing. YouTube tells us we can create videos and share them with our students. That content that once could only be played in the classroom or living room on VHS tape can now be placed in your online class. Social networking sites tell us that our students do want to communicate with each other. The recent developments in open courseware tell us that there are instructors all over who have great information to share, and we can incorporate it into our courses. The Internet is not just scrolling text anymore. We need to use its capabilities to address learning styles and promote interaction,” Conaway says.
  • Create a Web page. Some students will want to know more about you. If they do a Web search and don’t find much about you, they make take this as an indication that you are not very tech savvy, which as an online instructor is not a good impression to make, Conaway says. In addition to serving as a space to convey your personality, a personal Web page is also a great place to put reusable resources for your courses—handouts, links, etc.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Two-Minute Intro to Wylio

This YouTube video is a great clip to show how you can find images to use on a web page or blog that have creative commons licenses. Watch the short video and then go to and look for images that you can use to enhance your content. Below is a picture I grabbed using the key word search "WCET". This was from a recent conference I attended and the two gentlemen in the photo are active participants. One of them is the past mentor of our own Sage Adams here at ISU. Try it out!!

In Debate Modephoto © 2007 Chris Lott | more info (via: Wylio)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The iPad is?

So is the new iPad an essential academic tool? Is it something really cool and useful? Is it just a lot of hype and not a lot of substance?

These are all questions I was wondering a few months ago as the iPad was just getting released. There were jokes about the name, there were skeptics talking about what it didn't do. But there was also the history of apple devices, like the iPhone and iTouch, that said these things will sell like hot cakes! I wondered if in the ITRC and the ETS generally if we would start getting questions from faculty and students about "how do I do this on the iPad?" or "can the iPad do that for me?"

Consequently, I decided that we better buy a couple of iPads and start playing with them as fall semester approached so we could be ready for the questions. Well guess what? The questions haven't come. And as I checked with IT about how many iPads had been registered as wireless devices on campus, the anecdotal answer was, not very many.......

However, I attended a conference (Western Cooperative for Educational Technology (WCET)), I also talked to some ISU folks that went to Educause, and I visited with some colleagues at BSU and in each case, the iPads are apparently very popular and "everywhere".

So who knows what the story is at ISU. Perhaps like many things, we are later adopters. Or maybe they will never catch on at ISU or be a "high demand" wireless tool. Nonetheless, I want to use this post to report on some of the things I'm finding out about the iPad as I use it and try to adopt it into my work routine.

Two observations: First, it is not a laptop. The iPad is a data consumer at its best. Data generation is not its strong suit. Second, I've come up with an analogy to describe to people that ask me about it - and they inevitably do. Having had grandparents that always had a large print edition of the Reader's Digest sitting around their home, I decided that the iPad was like that. I've used the iPhone for more than a year and like a lot of the features and benefits of it. However, it is small. I've never enjoyed going to a web site on it. It just didn't show enough to be as useful as I wanted it to be. But the iPad, with its 1024X768 display solves that problem. It is great to surf the web on and it is great for watching video on. So I liken it to a large print Readers Digest. That may not be a hip endorsement that will make the under 25 crowd want to have one. But it is a nice endorsement for those of us over 40.

So what works and what doesn't?

Fist thing, I bought a cover for it to carry it around. I didn't like the Apple cover so I bought another case that folds and makes it easier to use in a landscape mode. The link isn't to the exact case I bought, but looks like about the same thing and the cost is about the same. I did buy my case through Amazon. I wanted a case for my own piece of mind, as well as convenience. As you handle it, drop it, set it, bump it, etc., I felt like I need some kind of protective cover on it. Besides the ability to lay it landscape.

Second, I mentioned previously that it isn't designed to be a data generator. However, that is exactly what I wanted to do it more often than not. I wanted to take notes on it in meetings. I wanted to generate "to do" list items. I wanted to check off that some thing was done. I wanted to start a Christmas list for all my kids. You get the idea. I wanted to use it more like a laptop and not just a data consumer. So I set out to see what I could figure out. First, I got a keyboard. The first one I bought was the "iPad keyboard dock" from Apple. It was not what I wanted. First thing I did was set my iPad in it and then try to move the dock. The iPad became unbalanced and started to tip and broke the docking interface. Additionally, the iPad keyboard dock also forced you to use the iPad in a "portrait" mode, versus the landscape mode which is my favorite mode. So after trying to use this and also getting the case I wanted for it, I decided to try a different keyboard. I went with the Apple wireless keyboard and have for the most part been very happy with it. It is small and light. It connects easily, via bluetooth, with the iPad. And it is very comfortable to use. And, it works great with the case I recommended previously. In fact, the only problem I've had with it is that if I don't turn it off or disable the bluetooth on the iPad it will sometimes get bumped and start the iPad while it is in my backpack or brief case unintentionally. I've had this happen a few times. I'll be loading, unloading, or just carrying it around and all of a sudden a movie is playing on my iPad. It has raised a few eyebrows and been good for a few laughs. But other than that one problem, I've been very happy with the keyboard.

So I finally have a cover and a keyboard that I like. Now lets talk "aps".

You can buy the Apple big three for the iPad - Keynote, Numbers, and Pages. But to move things on and off it, you have to work through iTunes. I didn't like that scenario. However, I did like the idea of being able to run presentations from it. And, I figured that might be one of the bigger uses for faculty on it, so I did buy Keynote so I could play with that feature. It was very cool and easy to make presentations. The iPad version is kind of a "lite" version of Keynote. But I found it to be very capable and useful. Since I didn't buy the Pages product, I was always looking for somewhere to take notes. I used the notebook feature on the iPad a lot initially. But you can't get those off the iPad. So that limited it usefulness. I experimented with a number of "aps" and read a number of articles and talked with other iPad users. They all had good information, but I wasn't finding exactly what I wanted. Finally, I read an article about an "ap" called Evernote. It is a cloud based tool that allows you to easily generate notes, to-do lists, web clips, etc. in a convenient location. The best part for me was that there is also a laptop and desktop version so I can access any of the notes from either my iPad, laptop, or desktop machine. That is important for me because I'm on several different computers on a daily basis. The Evernote tool solved my "data input" dilemma and provided me with a very neat tool. This has definitely been the single most useful "ap" I've found for the iPad.

Because I don't want this post to become any longer than it already has, I want to summarize all the "aps" I use on the iPad. Besides keynote, web browsing, video watching, and Evernote, I use the Google ap to find things, the Flixster ap to see what movies are playing, the Netflix ap to watch video on, the Wall Street Journal ap to keep up on news, the Wikihood ap to find new and interesting things where ever I go, the ap to have a dictionary wherever I go, the weather channel ap to keep up on the weather, and Tripit to keep track of my airline, hotel, and car rental reservations. All of these "aps" are useful and helpful. There are so many "aps" that it is hard to keep up on them. I think blog posts like this one or other articles about what people are using is helpful to find the best and most productive aps out there. If you have any questions about any of the "aps" I've mentioned here, please feel free to contact me.

Overall, I like the iPad. I think it is useful and convenient. I will continue to use mine. In fact, I might get rid of my iPhone and just get a regular cell phone next time around because my iPad is a more useful tool for all the other things I'm trying to do on my iPhone. I think faculty, students, and administrators can find the iPad to be a useful tool. But! you have to know what it can and can't do. I hear people say, "well I can see I would still need my laptop so what is the point". That very well may be the case for some. But for others that want a data consumption device (email, websites, etc.) and need little data generation from their device, this could be a much easier tool to use that your laptop or your iPhone.

Hope this helps!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Moodle Faculty Advisory Board Meeting

The Moodle Faculty Advisory Board (MFAB) met Thursday, October 21st. The following is a list of items discussed along with action items (as needed). If anyone feels anything was left out, or would like to make additional suggestions, please feel free to comment.

1. In the Moodle ISU forums there is no way to isolate the instructor response from other students responses to posts. It was determined that the ITRC will find a way of making it clear who is the instructor, using either a special icon, or by formatting the instructor's name to make it stand out. Whatever method of highlighting is chosen it will be standardized such that it will appear the same in every Moodle ISU course.

2. Internet Explorer often has issues correctly rendering quizzes, assignments, and a host of other course elements within Moodle. ITRC will test out the problematic features of Moodle within the new version of Internet Explorer that is being released; if any problems remain it will be seen what can be done about getting a movement started within the larger Moodle community to get Microsoft to standardize their browser, or at least make it Moodle-compliant.

3. The Google Apps and Attendance tools were well-received by faculty. However, if we decide to use the Attendance tool we'll need to configure it ourselves to work with Moodle 2.0. Since this will required additional resources that may not be available, there is no guarantee the Attendance tool will be added as a permanent (or even temporary) tool within Moodle; ITRC is still exploring this possibility.

The Google Apps tool will be included in future course instances.

4.) When grading in the assignment tool, faculty are unable to input grades that are not whole numbers because it only allows you to select whole number grades from a drop-down menu. ITRC will work to make the grade input a text-based field instead.

5.) The popularity of MFAB has led many to wonder if there is not a similar board meeting available for BengalWeb users. ITRC will look into this and get back to the community.

6.) Faculty have expressed some annoyance with the way the HTML editor works in Moodle, including the following issues:

1. Style sheets don't get copied and pasted correctly.
2. You cannot simply hit the 'A' icon to change the color of text once you've already changed the text color; you have to re-select the new color from the drop-down list of color swatches every time you wish to change the color of some text.
3. Sometimes when you select a color for some text and then bold, italicize, or perform some other operation on it, the color or the other formatting doesn't 'stick'. The problem is also apparent when you first do the formatting and THEN select a color for the text.
4. The default font size is often different than what is imported (usually its smaller).
5. The font selector tool should allow for relative font sizes and not use point-based sizes.
6. Sometimes the formatting LOOKS right in the editor, but when the changes are saved they do not show in the final output.

* ITRC will be looking into all of the HTML editor issues mentioned above for solutions.

7.) Quickmail needs to be improved to show participant's names in the messages history; ITRC will look into this issue.

9.) ITRC will send out a link to the Moodle 2.0 test course, so interested faculty get a chance to see how it works and comment on it.

10.) We are contemplating doing a pilot this Spring for Moodle 2.0, with the actual transition to the new release in the summer or fall of 201l. This is not yet set in stone. One of the great things about Moodle is we do not have to move to the new version unless we want to. More information on this possible transition will be forthcoming as details are known.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) Grant Opportunity

Educause and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have teamed to offer a grant opportunity to education.

Here is a quote from the announcement as we received information about it:

I encourage you to review the NGLC RFP and consider the opportunities it represents for your institution and the nation’s learners. EDUCAUSE will host two webcasts (October 19 at 3:00 p.m. ET and October 27 at 1:00 p.m. ET) to provide additional information and answer questions. The pre-proposal application will go live on October 25, with pre-proposals due on November 19. Those asked to submit full proposals will be notified in January, with final awards made by March 31, 2011. Please share this information with your colleagues.

As you consider what Next Generation Learning Challenges means to you and your institution, let me underscore three important aspects of the program:
  • NGLC is designing the future. NGLC focuses on the next generation—of learners, learning, and technology. This focus will interest constituents from across your campus, including presidents, provosts, and faculty.
  • Information technology is at the forefront of change. NGLC heightens recognition of IT as a critical enabler of student and institutional success with new models that personalize, customize, and deepen learning.
  • NGLC will create a “multiplier effect.” NGLC encourages the adoption of effective practices across institutions. IT can extend the reach and multiply the benefits of new models without sacrificing personalization or effectiveness.
We in the ITRC are excited about the possibilities of this grant opportunity. We are considering option and potential projects even now. We would like to encourage the rest of campus to consider ideas as well. If we could partner on some kind of idea or project for ISU with individuals on campus, we would be very excited about that opportunity.

Below are three ideas we are brainstorming on now:

* A student technology support center
* Analytics from Moodle or distance education in general to provide better information for faculty to improve student learning and retention
* A focused eISU effort that encompasses, expands, and spotlights distance education at ISU

Those are just a few of the ideas we are considering right now. We would love to hear more ideas from the campus community. If you want to talk to someone about this opportunity please contact either Blake Beck or Randy Stamm.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Introducing Sage

Hello ISU community!

My name is Sage Adams and I’m the new Senior Instructional Technologist at ITRC (as of October 1st); but you may just call me ‘Sage’ - there aren’t too many of us (Sage’s that is).

I’ve only been in Pocatello for two weeks - and really I’ve spent a lot of that time in Chubbuck, because that is where my apartment is located. In fact, I’ve only been in Idaho for two weeks.

That’s right, I’m not from around here. I am originally from Fairbanks, Alaska; and that is also where I’ve been living most recently - I had an 8 year break from Alaska from 1995 to 2003, during which I lived in places like Seattle, Portland, and Norway.

While in Alaska (for the second time), I worked as an instructional designer for the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF) which is, perhaps surprisingly, the largest campus in Alaska. The University of Alaska, Anchorage (UAA) is quite a bit smaller (physically and in terms of faculty and student body size). Anchorage is, however, our largest city by far.

At any rate, I’m here now; and, this may come as a surprise to many Pocatellans, but I love it here so far. It’s much warmer than Fairbanks for one. Just this morning, for example, I woke up and it was about 40 degrees outside; chilly right? Well, in Fairbanks this morning, it was 21 degrees. And it only goes downhill from there. At some point this winter it will be -50 degrees in Fairbanks, perhaps for an extended period of time, and I will not be there. That in itself is comforting to me.

Second, and related to the first, is that you have four seasons in Idaho. In Alaska we really only have two: summer (which is glorious while it lasts - light all night, very warm) and winter (9 months of darkness and numbing cold).

Third, you can leave Pocatello (or Chubbuck) at any time - well, while you are not working - and drive to other places! I could go to Salt Lake City if I wanted, for example, and in fact I have. I bought furniture at the IKEA there, and I had a lot of fun doing so.

I could drive to Jackson, Wyoming and go snowboarding. I could take a few days vacation at some point and drive or fly to Portland, Seattle, Denver, Las Vegas, or a host of other locations just one or two states away (fairly easily and inexpensively from my perspective) . In Fairbanks you can drive to Anchorage (a six hour journey)...and that’s where you can go.

I also have been enjoying getting to know your little town. the Idaho State University (ISU) campus is very pretty, and it’s easy to get around on foot or by car. You have some lovely restaurants as well, including the Indian cuisine over on Main street, the 5th Avenue deli, and El Jacalito. Although to be fair, Fairbanks has some excellent Thai restaurants I will miss.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, working with the ITRC staff and students is a real pleasure. They are a great group of people, dedicated to helping faculty and students succeed. I have felt very welcome and at home here. The ISU community is lucky to have such a talented and inspiring group of professionals, here to assist faculty create and maintain the highest quality courses possible.

Thanks for having me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Moodle 2.0 RC1 released

Moodle 2.0 Release Candidate 1 has been released and has been updated to the latest version. This should spur community input and polishing of issues and help solidify a timeline for ISU to move to Moodle 2.0. You can test the latest version at the Moodle QA Testing Site. I would encourage anyone who wishes to help in Moodle development to participate in the Moodle 2.0 QA Cycle 2 process. The QA site has its code updated daily and the site is reset hourly so you will be testing the latest coded and can't permanently break anything. ISU faculty that would like to do more involved testing or course development can contact the ITRC,, for access to the Moodle ISU 2.0 test site.

For detail on the changes in Moodle 2.0 see the release notes. Some of the changes include:
  • Navigation has been redesigned and menus are now dockable to improve use of space.
    • Standard "Navigation" block on every page showing contextual links, while allowing you to jump elsewhere quickly.
    • Standard "Settings" blocks on every page shows contextual settings as well as settings for anything else you have permissions for.
  • Numerous quiz improvements and features have been added. See the release notes for details.
  • The Wiki has been rewritten from scratch and has interface improvements including support for Mediawiki-style syntax.
  • The Workshop module has also been rewritten from scratch.
  • Completion has been added.
    • Teachers can now specify conditions that define when any activity is seen as completed by a student. For example, when a certain number of posts have been made, or a grade has been reached, or a choice has been made.
    • Teachers can now specify conditions that define with any course is seen as completed by a student. Conditions include activity completion, but could also be by grade, date or a number of other criteria.
    • Teachers and students can see reports that show the progress of any user within a course, or through a series of courses
  • Conditional activities have been added.
    • Access to activities can be restricted based on certain criteria, such as dates, grade obtained, or the completion of another activity.
    • These can be chained together to enable progressive disclosure of the course content, if that is desired.
  • IMS Common Cartridge format, commonly used by publishers, can now be imported.
  • My Moodle page has been improved and made more customizable.

Friday, March 12, 2010

After adopting Google Apps, Quickmail wins over Email List

Since Idaho State University has adopted Google Apps for Education, Quickmail is probably a better email choice than Email List for Moodle ISU email. As a reminder Quickmail sends email though ISU email, which is now Gmail, while Email List is internal to Moodle ISU.
  • It is hard to compete with Gmail for options. Email List will never be able to compete with Google on usabilty, options, or robustness.
  • Users will have a lot more space. One of the reasons users wanted an LMS email solution was because space was severely limited on the previous email solution. Gmail provides more space than we can provide through Moodle ISU.
  • You can organize Gmail with filters and labels. Quickmail puts the shortname of the Moodle ISU course in the subject. It is easy to set up a gmail filter to apply a label to organize course emails.
  • Gmail will be less confusing for new users. One place to check email is a better choice.
  • Quickmail - Gmail will have fewer bugs, easier to maintain, and be more sustainable. Email List emails consume space on ISU servers with the accompanying costs for disks and backups.

Moodle 2.0 Roadmap Updated

The Moodle 2.0 Roadmap has been updated.

The timetable is designed to deliver Moodle 2.0 in time for the new school year in the northern hemisphere and currently looks like this:
  • April 2010: Moodle 2.0 Beta release
  • May, June 2010: intensive beta testing and bug fixing (freeze on new features)
  • July 2010: Moodle 2.0 production release

You can track our current progress in detail on the Moodle 2.0 Planning document. Please remember that this document is frequently updated and details can change a lot!

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Checklist for Facilitating Online Courses

A Checklist for Facilitating Online Courses

By: Mary Bart in Distance Learning, Online Education

There are two common assumptions about teaching online that can sink even the most well-meaning neophyte. One is that “teaching is teaching” regardless of whether it’s face-to-face or online and there’s no reason to deviate from the proven principles that work so well in the traditional classroom. The second assumption is that teaching online is all about the technology, and if you design your course properly, it pretty much runs itself.

Of course both assumptions are false, but where does that leave online instructors looking for guidance on the right way to teach an online course? A new research-based tool developed at Humboldt State University can help. Assessing Online Facilitation (AOF) can serve as a valuable guide to best practices in online teaching. It lists the four main roles of an online facilitator – pedagogical, managerial, social, and technical – and the associated tasks of each role. These tasks also are broken down according to when they should be done – before the course begins, during the first week of class, throughout the course, and during the last week of class.

In the recent online seminar Beyond Course Design: Planning for Successful Facilitation, two of the AOF’s developers, Joan Van Duzer, an instructional technologist at Humboldt State University, and Carole Robinson, instructional media producer for Pasadena City College, discussed many of the tasks outlined in the AOF. Some of the items in the checklist include:

Before the Course Begins:

For more content like this, be sure to download the FREE REPORT: 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education

* Pedagogical – Review past course evaluations to determine if enhancements for instructional strategies are required.
* Managerial – Send informational message including how to login, what materials are needed and how to get them, and who to contact for technical assistance.
* Technical – Update hyperlinks to remove dead or broken links.

During the First Week of Class:

* Pedagogical – Create an ice breaker activity related to a key course objective or concept.
* Managerial – Contact missing students to encourage their participation.
* Technical – Assist students with login/access difficulties.
* Social – Provide a personal and welcoming introduction to develop a personal presence.

Throughout the Course:

* Pedagogical – Summarize discussions.
* Managerial – Update the online grade book promptly after assignment due dates.
* Technical – Model competency with course management system delivery tools.
* Social – Organize collaborative projects to achieve strong social interaction.

During the Final Week of Class:

* Pedagogical – Provide feedback on final project.
* Managerial – Provide general information concerning the nature and format of the final assessment(s).
* Social – Send an email with a closing personal message to students.

The AOF is available for download here. The Facilitation Activity Record, an optional companion document to the AOF, which provides spaces for facilitators to make notes of what worked and what didn’t work when facilitating a course, and to flag issues that should be addressed before the course is offered again, can be downloaded here.