TABLE OF CONTENTS Welcome from the eCollege

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Welcome from the eCollege
1
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Welcome from the eCollege Instructional Design Team ............................................................. 3
Getting Started........................................................................................................................................ 4
Teaching and Learning Online ........................................................................................................... 5
Making the Shift to Online Education ......................................................................................................5
Prepare Yourself ......................................................................................................................................5
Learn about Online Students ...................................................................................................................6
Use Student-Centered Techniques .........................................................................................................6
Review an Instructional Design Model ....................................................................................................7
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) ................................................................................................ 9
Introduction to the Course Views, Course Homepage, and Course Tools ..........................13
Course Views.........................................................................................................................................13
Course Homepage.................................................................................................................................14
Announcements .................................................................................................................................14
What’s New ........................................................................................................................................15
Course Checklist................................................................................................................................16
Syllabus ..............................................................................................................................................17
Calendar.............................................................................................................................................19
Help Functions ...................................................................................................................................19
Course Tools..........................................................................................................................................20
Course Admin ....................................................................................................................................20
Group Management ...........................................................................................................................20
Gradebook .........................................................................................................................................21
User Activity .......................................................................................................................................22
Email ..................................................................................................................................................23
Chatroom............................................................................................................................................25
ClassLive............................................................................................................................................26
Document Sharing .............................................................................................................................27
Dropbox..............................................................................................................................................27
Journal................................................................................................................................................28
Webliography .....................................................................................................................................29
Building the Foundation.....................................................................................................................30
Quick Start Wizard.............................................................................................................................30
Syllabus Builder .................................................................................................................................31
Units ...................................................................................................................................................32
Accessibility........................................................................................................................................33
Course Content.....................................................................................................................................34
Creating Content Items......................................................................................................................34
CourseFlex Navigation.......................................................................................................................35
Adding Content to Course Content Items..........................................................................................35
Adding Content to Content Items ......................................................................................................36
Adding Content to Exams..................................................................................................................37
Exam Timing & Password Protec tion ................................................................................................37
Exam Grading ....................................................................................................................................38
Threaded Discussions .......................................................................................................................38
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Content Connector.............................................................................................................................39
Microsoft Integration .........................................................................................................................40
XanEdu Coursepacks ........................................................................................................................40
File Manager ......................................................................................................................................41
Instructional Multimedia .....................................................................................................................42
Uploading audio and video files.............................................................................................................42
Creating Audio .......................................................................................................................................43
Creating Video .......................................................................................................................................45
Slide Shows ...........................................................................................................................................49
Readings.................................................................................................................................................53
Learning with Style (or, The Art of Virtual Origami) ..............................................................................54
Learning with Style II: Providing a Balanced Menu for Every Appetite ...............................................56
Course Accessibility Strategies for Students with Visual Impairments.................................................59
A Few Thoughts on the Process of Making an Existing Course Your Own .........................................61
Some Thoughts on Class Size, Interaction, and the Simplicity of Email ..............................................62
Email Heaven or . . . ??? .......................................................................................................................63
Taming the World "Wild" Web ...............................................................................................................64
It Must be True—I Found It on the Web! ...............................................................................................66
Teaching and Learning in the Online Seminar......................................................................................68
End-of-Semester Student Self-Evaluations ...........................................................................................70
Online Education: It’s not Just for the Internet Anymore.......................................................................72
Enhancing Your Course—or Creating Clutter: How Do We Incorporate Engaging
Technology That’s Educationally Effective?..........................................................................................74
Online “Events” ......................................................................................................................................75
Enough with this abstraction and obfuscation already: How do you do this stuff?..............................79
AFT Core Standards ..............................................................................................................................82
Beyond PowerPoint ...............................................................................................................................84
Breaking the Fourth Wall .......................................................................................................................86
Teaching the Hypertext: The Deconstructive Enigma of Distance Learning .......................................88
"High Touch" in a "High Tech" World: Strategies for Individualizing Online Learning..........................92
Students as Learners and Users: Enhancing Usability for Your Online Course ..................................94
eCollege Product Accessibility ..............................................................................................................96
APPENDIX ............................................................................................................................................103
The Technology Fact Sheet.................................................................................................................104
Technical Tips and Tricks ....................................................................................................................106
Sample Course Policies and Procedures ............................................................................................108
Course Templates................................................................................................................................114
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Welcome from the eCollege Instructional Design Team
Dear Instructor:
Internet technology continues to become a pervasive force in how the world communicates. Shops peddle
their wares online; movie companies promote their latest features; news stations broadcast the breaking
events of the day; and your neighbors have just posted the newest toothy grin of their one year old on the
family webpage. Education is not unaffected by this phenomena. Welcome to the age of Cyberspace
Learning or “eLearning.”
“Preparedness.” “Quality instruction.” “Prompt Feedback.” These are the familiar terms of good teaching
in the traditional classroom and they will be the familiar terms of good teaching in the online classroom.
But online teaching demands the mastery of a new technology. In this handbook, we primarily provide
online teaching advice from what we have learned through experimentation, practice, and consultation. For
technical, ‘how-to’ advice, refer to the Help pages within your course shell. The Help pages provide stepby-step suggestions for integrating and implementing tools and features into your course.
The prospect of developing an online course can be quite daunting. How do I communicate well with
students online? How can I assess their progress in my courses fairly and effectively? Can good teaching
in the classroom really translate into the online environment? The good news is, a clear understanding of
the pedagogical use of technology is acknowledged by all as a prime determinant for the success of an
online course. As Dennis Trinkle points out in a commentary for the Chronicle of Higher Education,
teaching is about teachers, be they in the classroom or online (Dennis Trinkle).
Thus, as you embark on the process of developing and then teaching your course, we hope that this
handbook will be a helpful guide for you to make the best possible online course, and to make the
smoothest transition possible into the online teaching environment. We encourage you to take the best of
what you’ve done in the face-to-face classroom and use the diverse communication tools available in our
system. Transform those moments and methods of teaching brilliance, once scrawled quickly with chalk on
the board, to your online course. Like a screenwriter adapting a novel of words to the images and sounds
of the big screen, you can translate your teaching to the monitor screen and computer speakers through
real time and asynchronous digitized communication.
Good teaching will indeed translate to the online environment. We wish you well on your journey.
eCollege Instructional Design Team
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Getting Started
Though you certainly do not have to be a computer aficionado to teach online with the eCollege System,
you should have some basic computer skills (such as simple word processing skills) to comfortably design
and conduct your course. You should also understand how to send and receive email messages.
You will also need to meet some minimum software and hardware requirements. To test that your
computer meets the eCollege minimum requirements go to:
http://eteaching.ecollege.com/index.learn?action=Technical and take “The Browser Test”
Note about AOL: America Online (AOL), Prodigy, and CompuServe are Internet Service Providers
(ISPs) who, as part of their software, provide an internal web browser that allows users to browse the
web. Often, these web browsers are either modified and/or older versions of IE (Internet Explorer). If
you're using internal browsers provided through AOL, Prodigy, or Compuserve to access your online
course, you will likely experience sporadic problems. To minimize the possibility of browser-related
problems, we strongly recommend you use the latest standard browser distributed by Microsoft or
Netscape. If you're using Windows NT/98 or higher, an updated version of an external browser is preloaded on your computer. If you're using an older version of Windows, you can download a new
version of IE or Netscape for free.
Optional Software
eCollege also supports both Macromedia Flash Player and Macromedia Shockwave Player browser plugins for enhanced media applications.
Additional Requirements for ClassLive: The ClassLive tool has additional hardware and software
requirements. This is not a requirement of the eCollege platform, but necessary for the performance of
the whiteboard capabilities within the ClassLive application.
PC
•
•
•
64 MB Ram
Sun's Java 2 SDK (Java 1.3.1)
Microsoft JVM (Windows XP only)
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MAC
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128 MB Ram
MacOS Classic Java (MRJ 2.2.5)
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Teaching and Learning Online
Teaching online, as well as learning online, is an exciting challenge. “What teaching methods are
the most effective online?” “How can I create good rapport with a class I never see?” “What can
and should I expect from my online students, and what should my students expect from me?”—
are all common questions the new online instructor asks. Teaching online does require you to
learn new technologies and new techniques for teaching with these technologies. It may ask you
to refine and reshape your class policies from the traditional classroom. For instance, what
constitutes an “absence” in an online course? Is a paper due on Monday due at nine in the
morning, or at midnight? You will have new concerns regarding cheating and the best ways to
test students online. All of these issues will have you reviewing your teaching practices, and
some of you may begin to think that you have entered into an entirely new realm of teaching. As
you begin designing your course, keep in mind that effective online teaching shares the
fundamentals of effective face-to-face teaching—preparedness, responsibility, empathy, creativity,
and passion.
We begin our handbook with the sage advice of instructors who have already experienced the
challenges and joys of teaching online and who have offered to share their hard-won knowledge
with you.
Making the Shift to Online Education
Day and night learning, invisible student bodies, communication beyond walls, and technologies
that create opportunities for students to take on more responsibility for their own learning all offer
you a chance to explore different avenues for teaching in the online environment. As you explore,
you will hear terms like “student-centered learning,” “instructional multimedia,” and “content
interactivity” and you will become the designer, tutor, expert, and guide shaping the learning paths
for your online students.
Prepare Yourself
1. Learn the technology. Update your computer literacy and your knowledge of the
eCollege System well in advance of the course start date. Explore the resources of the
World Wide Web and the management capabilities of your email software.
2. Allow enough time . Plan to take longer to design and develop an online course than you
would a face-to-face course. More time spent " up front " in design and development will
lessen time spent building and maintaining the course.
3. Use a student’s perspective. Go through your course from a student’s point of view
before class starts. Make sure that what is expected of students is clearly stated.
Remember to explain when and how to submit assignments. The more proactive you are
about giving directions in a course, the less email you will receive from your students.
4. Check accuracy. Check all links, dates, and Unit content before students enter the
course. Run a weekly check before each particular Unit opens to your students.
Troubleshooting saves time in the long run.
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Learn about Online Students
1. Non-Traditional Students. Studies have indicated that a preponderance of online
students are beyond the 18–22 year old range of the traditional college student. Many
have careers and families already in place. These students choose online courses
because they have busy schedules and can participate in class only from home or work.
They wish to review lectures and other learning materials as many times as they like.
Whether their barriers are parking issues, lack of course availability nearby, or work and
family constraints, these adults want to improve their skills and knowledge through
courses that fit their busy schedules.
2. Lifelong Learners. The online environment offers and promotes the opportunity for adults
to pursue educational goals throughout their lives. These lifelong learners bring valuable
experiences to discussions in the Chatroom (a tool that allows students to type messages
back and forth in “real time”) and in the Threaded Discussions (a tool that allows for
asynchronous discussion in an online course) that can enhance the learning experience
for all students.
3. Self-directed Students. Successful online students are mature, self-motivated achievers
able to monitor and regulate their own progress in a course. Online students depend on
their time management skills and self-discipline to succeed. Most students hone these
skills as they work through the course with their classmates and instructor. Online
learning supports communication, encouraging students to participate and develop these
skills.
Use Student-Centered Techniques
1. Assign group projects. Ask students to role-play, act out simulations, and engage in
mock trials and debates online. Document Sharing is a tool that allows students to upload
their own papers into the course and download the papers of their classmates for peer
review. Use Document Sharing as a place for students to collaborate on written projects
and online presentations.
2. Use peer-review. Assign small “workshop” groups and ask students to critique each
other’s work before their final rewrites. Be sure to model and describe acceptable and
constructive critiques. If you have the opportunity, direct students to appropriate critiques
on the Internet.
3. Create and alternate leaders. Give students the responsibility of leading discussions.
Create a flexible environment within your online course so that your students can help
determine the ultimate path of learning through their research, discoveries, and
subsequent projects.
4. Interact for Success: Interaction between instructor and student, as well as between
student and student, is a critical factor for successful learning experiences and is one of
the building blocks of a learning community.
5. Give feedback. Provide ongoing feedback to students. Let students know when you are
available for Chatroom visits, phone conferencing, or face-to-face meetings, if possible.
Create a timeline for responses to student work and adhere to it. Students need
reassurance that you will be responding to their work on a regular basis. Respond in
emails, Threaded Discussions, in Dropbox comments, Journals, and in the body of the
course itself.
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6. Encourage student-to-student interaction. Set up Threaded Discussions for students
and require thorough and worthwhile participation. Encourage group workshops and small
group project work. Students gain valuable insight into lessons when they have the
opportunity to process the information with each other.
7. Ask provocative questions. Stimulate critical thinking and active learning with good
constructive questions. Post “open-ended” questions that cannot be answered by a
simple “yes” or “no,” or a memorized fact. Create questions that will assess whether
students understand key points and basic concepts, and whether they can then apply that
knowledge to real world situations. Use questions to ignite debate and further inquiry.
Good beginning question words are words like “why,” “how,” “summarize,” “justify,” “trace,”
“describe,” or “define.” Use these questions to help direct and refocus discussions.
8. Tap students’ knowledge. Create activities for students to integrate new ideas with
existing knowledge.
9. Use resources on the Web. Direct students to online journals and to websites like CNN
and Discovery. Use the information and multimedia available on the web to create
diversity and awareness of the world outside your classroom.
10. Empower students. Ask students to summarize the week’s discussions or to teach a
concept in a Threaded Discussion or through email. Let them take responsibility for their
own learning.
11. Require class participation. Make class participation a significant percentage of student
grades. Create both informal and formal discussion threads and Chatroom discussions.
12. Give positive feedback. Motivate students with some creative praise. Send them on
virtual vacations or send virtual greetings or congratulations for outstanding work.
13. Engage “silent” students. Reach out to quiet students with private email or phone
messages. It is easy for students to become passive and drop an online class.
14. Demand “netiquette”. Formulate guidelines for acceptable email, Threaded Discussion
and Chatroom exchanges. Not only can words be interpreted very differently online, but
also the anonymity of the online classroom can corrode self-restraint. Have your students
check out one of the many websites on netiquette and chatiquette, such as
http://www.albion.com/netiquette.
Review an Instructional Design Model
Many scholars within the field of Instructional Design have developed models for guidance when
designing courses. Although there are many instructional design models, a generic model can be
extracted from their common features (Gibbons, 1981; Hannum & Hansen, 1989). Like all
instructional design models, the ADDIE Model includes the processes of analysis, design,
development, implementation, and evaluation.
The instructional designers at eCollege often use the ADDIE Model when designing online
courses because of its comprehensive approach. We encourage you to refer to this model also,
as it will help answer some of your questions about course design and development.
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The ADDIE Model
When designing any course, you should consider certain questions. What will students gain from
instruction? How will learning occur? How will the objectives be measured? How and when will
the course be evaluated and revised?
Analysis. This phase is a needs, or problem, analysis. What are the ultimate goals for your
course? What skills or knowledge would your students end up possessing which would constitute
success in achieving these goals? What base knowledge and skill sets do you predict your
students will have coming into your course? Answering these questions will help you begin to
formulate the overall plan for your course.
Design. This is the blueprint for the course, complete with the rationale behind your choices for
the learning activities. In order to determine what those learning activities should be, you need to
thoroughly understand the needs of your students. If students bring this knowledge and these
skills to your course, what do you need to provide them in order to reach your course goals?
What mix of activities or content formats can you create in order to reach out to as many students
as possible? What technology tools will allow you to both facilitate and lead your students toward
your course goals?
Development. This is the construction phase, when you actually begin building your course.
Make yourself familiar with all the tools available to you. Consider alternative ways to present
content beyond text presentations. Create multiple testing strategies. Research the World Wide
Web for primary and secondary resources.
Implementation. This is when you get to teach, or, better yet, facilitate your students’ learning.
Now that you have analyzed needs, created a design, and decided how to present content, you
have the opportunity to share the course with your students and guide their learning. Be sure to
communicate with them on a regular basis, and ask for feedback on their process in the course.
Evaluation. This phase is critical and should be completed frequently on an informal or formal
basis. Because of the variety of students and the unpredictable impact of the online learning
environment, you should always judge the effectiveness of the course’s instructional design and
delivery in terms of student learning. Create a variety of evaluation items that will help you
determine your success in reaching your course goals.
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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Because the idea of creating an online course may be new to you, we have included a list of
Frequently Asked Questions that you may find helpful.
What are some advantages of online learning?
Wide Accessibility - Online students have the ability to learn at anytime, from
anywhere—time and place constraints have been eliminated. For many individuals who
have multiple work and family responsibilities, this alone can mean access to an education
that might otherwise have been unattainable. Also, new policies and technological
capabilities have opened the limitless potentials of the web and online education to
students with disabilities.
Student Empowerment - Online learning can easily be structured into a student-centered
environment, which simply means that students have the opportunity to take on more
responsibility for their own education. Active learning has long been acknowledged as
more powerful than passive learning.
Limitless Resources - The World Wide Web offers students access to online museums,
libraries, news centers, and journals for research and projects within the classroom.
Technology-Enhanced Education - Online courses incorporate the latest technologies,
allowing streaming audio and video, slides, graphics, images, synchronous (real time) and
asynchronous (any time), online testing and self-assessment, computer simulations and
hypertext (words in a text that act as links to other websites or materials) to easily become
part of a learning strategy.
What are some challenges of online learning?
New Environment - Online learning means the use of technology, of electronic
communication, and, for some, unfamiliar teaching and learning strategies. Some
students, and instructors, find the transition from the traditional classroom and its familiar
teaching tools uncomfortable.
Technology Dependency - Technology may be intimidating to some people. An Internet
connection can fail. Using a computer can be a rewarding or a frustrating experience.
Some people are not technical by nature, nor do they have the inclination or the time to
educate themselves, with or without assistance. The notion of online learning and its
dependency on technology can be unsettling at first.
Communication - Because of its “anytime/anywhere” nature, online learning emphasizes
asynchronous communication between students and between students and instructors.
For many, this kind of communication is not more desirable than immediate
correspondence. Students and instructors fear that no real bond will be forged in the
classroom if everyone remains anonymous.
Self-Discipline - For some, not having to physically go to class twice a week can be a
motivator for not doing work in an online classroom. Students and instructors have to
create individual schedules for participating in class and for completing assignments, a
task that can be difficult when working from home or from an office.
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What are some solutions to meet these challenges?
Empathize - Acknowledge the newness of the online classroom and discuss its pros and
cons throughout the course. Both the students and you should take responsibility for
solving problems that might arise because of the nature of the online environment and be
flexible.
Learn the Technology - Take every opportunity before class begins to read handbooks,
take online tutorials, and do research on the Web in order to learn how to use the
technology for a course effectively. Be careful to use technology in your online classes as
simply and intuitively as possible, so that learning the technology does not become the
focus of the course.
Communicate Regularly - Establish guidelines and deadlines for all types of
communication within the online course. Decide on a schedule of communication for
student email response and assignment critiques and adhere to it. Require students to
acquaint themselves with the parameters of good communication you set up and to abide
by it.
Make a Commitment - Plan to spend the time and effort to succeed. Create schedules
and expectations. Check and recheck your work. Be open to modifying your course as
you learn by doing.
How Do I Get Help?
Browser Tests - Both you and your students have access to browser tests on your online
Campus Portal that will help determine technology needs. It will check for appropriate
browser versions, availability of Real Player, Java, and Shockwave, cookies etc.
Orientation Courses - You have access to "ID2003: eCollege Instructional Design
Tutorial", on your personal home page. This self-paced tutorial course explores the good
design, development, and teaching of an online course. Students have access to a
Student Orientation course on their personal home pages that will take them through the
technology tools used in the eCollege System. You have access to this course as well.
Course Tutorial, Help, and Design Tips - Every eCollege course includes a Tutorial on
developing an online course, Help pages with content-sensitive system how-to’s, and
Instructional Design Tips on how best to use the tools of the course to teach online.
Course Development and Instructional Design - Depending on decisions made by your
administrators, you may have access to course development and instructional design
services. If so, you may email course and design specific questions and email electronic
content for course development assistance.
Helpdesk - If your school has contracted for helpdesk service, the eCollege Helpdesk is
available by phone and email ([email protected]) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
to both students and instructors, or call 303–873–0005.
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How long does it take to develop and teach an online course?
Multiple Factors - There is no standard answer for this question. The amount of time
depends on the instructor’s teaching style and technical skills, the subject matter, whether
the course has been developed previously for a face-to-face environment, or has webbased materials, and many other factors. Generally, it takes longer to develop an online
course because the medium for so many is unfamiliar. In addition, you will probably have
to create new materials and find some new resources. Indeed, some equate it to building
an entirely new course for the traditional classroom, and then translating the materials into
electronic form.
On-going Process - Most instructors tend to create a good solid base course that
incorporates content, interaction, and web-resources to begin with, and then to continue
developing it each time they teach it as their experience and understanding increase.
Instructor Teaching Experience - The amount of time an instructor spends teaching an
online course depends upon the instructor’s experience in the online environment, and
his/her understanding of how best to effectively use online teaching tools and to act as a
“facilitator” in student progress.
How Do I Prevent Cheating?
Fears - Student cheating is one of the great concerns for most instructors entering the
online teaching environment. Instructors fear that the student “present” during class will
not be the registered student; they fear that students will cheat on exams; they fear that
students will plagiarize work or hand in “bought” papers as their own.
Facts - As of yet, there are no “finger-printing” devices for the online course that could
prove the real student is taking the course. Browsers do allow exam questions to be
printed out. Supplying students with “bought” papers seems to be a profitable online
business.
Solutions - Ask your students to do many different kinds of assignments during the work
so that you will have a chance to get to know their varying voices and styles right from the
start. Do not let their grades depend on just that one mid-term and final exam or you will
invite cheating. Grade students on a variety of assignments such as: Threaded
Discussion participation, journal writing, small group projects, and papers as well as on
midterms and finals. Either develop exams that are open-ended and ask for critical
thinking and analytical skills, or create an open-book objective exam. Create pools of
questions so that each student will receive a different set of questions. Time your exams
so that students have only a certain period in which to take them. Insist that students post
all paper writing brainstorms, rough drafts, and rewrites. Follow their progress.
Additionally, a feature of the eCollege platform is the ability to password-protect exams so
that they can be proctored. Student can only access password-protected exams after
given the official exam password. There are many strategies that instructors can employ
to minimize cheating but unfortunately, cheating is one element of the traditional
classroom that has crossed over easily to the online classroom, too.
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What Should I Know About the Technology?
Issues - Technology is not fail-safe. Servers go down, ISPs go down, and browsers go
down. eCollege works diligently to keep our system as reliable as possible. However, the
eCollege System is only one part of the technology that serves your online course.
Precautions - To be safe, make copies of all your work, and save copies of all your emails
on your own computer. In addition, use the Threaded Discussion, Document Sharing, and
Journal as places to “store” assignments since eCollege backs up course materials each
night. Be flexible with your students and understand that “accidents” can and will happen
to both you and them.
What about intellectual property rights and copyright? Who owns what?
Intellectual property rights - eCollege owns only the delivery platform that supports your
course. All intellectual property right questions should be discussed between you and
your academic institution.
Copyrights - eCollege does not obtain copyrights and permissions for materials brought
into the course environment, and we cannot be held liable for copyright infringements.
How often do I “hold” class?
“Holding class.” In an online environment, this is not quite the same thing as holding
class in the traditional classroom. Most involved in online learning and teaching want to
take advantage of its “anytime, anywhere” nature. Some instructors count participation in
the Threaded Discussion as “class participation.” Some instructors will create “weekly”
Units, asking students to perform certain tasks within a week’s time and use this structure
as a way to determine class attendance. Create deadlines such as “ thread responses
must be made by Thursday midnight each week, and completed written assignments
turned in by Sunday midnight.” Occasionally, class meetings are held at specific times,
synchronously, through the Chatroom. Or, small groups are required to meet at specific
times in a Chatroom. Usually, students work in an online course on their own schedules.
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Introduction to the Course Views, Course Homepage, and Course Tools
If you have never taught online, you will want to know what you can do in this teaching
environment. If you have taught online using another course delivery system, you will want to see
how this one stacks up. You want to see what students see when they first log in to the course.
You want to know how students will know what to do, how you can welcome them when they
arrive, how they will navigate through the course. Teaching, in large part, is an extensive
conversation, and you need to know how you will communicate—besides email—with your
students, and what sorts of ways they will communicate with you. Moreover, there are nagging
questions: Is this going to be difficult? Is it really possible to adapt what I do to the online
environment?
This section will address these issues with an overview of the eCollege System Course View, the
view in which your students see the course and the view in which you will teach. Here, we will
focus on the function of the Course Homepage and the system-wide Course Tools and consider
instructional issues associated with them.
Course Views
There are two views in the eCollege System, the Course View (or student view) and the Author View. As
an instructor, you can view your course using both of these perspectives.
You can switch between these views by clicking the Course or Author tab at the top of the Course
Navigation Tree, on the left-hand side of the screen.
In Course View, you see your course content as students see it. Students do not see the Author
tab or the Author View; they see only the Course View. For example, if you are in Course View
and click, say, Syllabus from the Course Homepage, you see your Syllabus just as students see
it. If you click the Author tab, however, you see tools that allow you to add new Syllabus items or
edit existing items. In general, you can toggle between the two views of any item you select in the
Course Navigation Tree.
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Course Homepage
The Course Homepage is the first thing you and your students see when logging into your course.
This is the “hub,” or starting point, for your course. The Course Homepage displays
Announcements (in which you post messages to the entire class), What’s New (where you can
see student activity since you last entered the course) and a link to the Course Checklist (a list of
course work currently assigned to students, with links to quickly navigate to specific unit
activities).
View of the Course Homepage
The Course Tool bar and the Course Navigation Tree border the Course Homepage, as well as all
other pages in the eCollege System. The Syllabus and Calendar are located in the Course
Navigation Tree. This tree will also contain the course structure that you eventually create.
In addition to the standard features of Announcements, What’s New, and Course Checklist, you
may also place your own introductory information on the Course Homepage, including text,
images, web links, links to course files, audio, and video.
Instructional Issues
The Course Homepage should provide students with immediate information to get them started.
Think of your Course Homepage as a front door: when students come knocking, how are they
going to be greeted? This environment may already intimidate students; therefore, the Course
Homepage should open the door wide, give a big welcome, provide some further instructions and
essential introductory information, and point out where the student needs to go next. One way to
do this is to record a video introduction to your course. Alternatively, put a photo of yourself onto
the page with a link to your bio. Write a brief welcome note. Possibly, provide an audio course
overview, or maybe some links to relevant web addresses or to your own web page.
Announcements
The Announcements feature on the Course Homepage is an ideal location to post messages to
the entire class. Students see any new message in Announcements any time they login to class.
Announcements are archived in reverse chronological order.
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Instructional Issues
Using Announcements reduces time spent responding to similar email messages from many
students, or to explain breaking situations that might otherwise get lost in the email shuffle. One
instructor stated that she receives many of the same questions via email every week. Addressing
those questions to the entire class via Announcements has cut her email correspondence in half.
It is also a place to convey welcome messages to students, make special announcements, refer
to current events, give specific instructions about a course/unit change, inform students about
changes in the course schedule or office hours, update homework assignments, remind students
about important dates, pose questions for future threaded discussions or chats, and praise the
class for work well done or coax students to step up the quality of their work.
What’s New
The What’s New feature on the Course Homepage allows you to see and go to the latest student
contributions to selected areas of the course. This feature gives you an overview of new class
proceedings and will eliminate the need to search through every unit. You may sort by either
student or Content Item to see What’s New in your class.
Instructional Issues
This feature is a timesaving device and will help reduce Internet fatigue. It reduces clicks to other
pages so you can focus on teaching and not waiting around for pages to load. Use this feature to
check for class participation and how active your learning community is.
You can quickly see a summary of which students have contributed to a particular Content Item or
Course Tool since you last entered the course. At a glace it is evident who has taken an Exam,
who has participated in a Threaded Discussion, who has posted a Webliography entry, who has
posted a document in Document Sharing, who has posted a Journal entry, and when Chats have
taken place.
Faculty View
The faculty view for What’s New differs from the student view. As an instructor, you will see an
alphabetical list of your students by last name. Click on an individual student’s name and you will
see what his/her activity has been. Click on the blue Course Item link and you will go directly to
the particular Content Item in the specific Unit to view the student’s work.
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The link in the upper right allows you to change the way the items are sorted, from the default
student last name grouping, to a list by content area of the site. Below right is a pull down menu
to choose to see “What’s New Since Last:” (x) number of days.
Student View
Students see a similar view, though they do not have access to the "Sort By" ‘Name’" function.
Students see only a list of Course Items and What’s New since their last login. For example, if a
student logs in, he/she will see course items such as Webliography, Document Sharing, and
Threaded Discussion. Beside each item will be a breakdown of any new activity since his/her last
login.
Course Checklist
The Course Checklist, a list that is accessed via a link on the Course Homepage, shows you and
your students due dates for Content Items, provided you have assigned a due date in the Edit
Scheduler or Calendar tools.
If there is no date associated with a Content Item, it will simply be blank under the Due Date
column. The due date(s) will help keep students organized and help them submit assignments
and activities on time.
Under a unit title, students will see a checkbox next to each Content Item. As a self-check, they
can check each item off after completion. This is merely a self-checklist and may provide the
student an opportunity for better organization.
You, the instructor, do not have this view because you will not need to check off the assignments
you have created; you will see only the due dates for each Content Item. In addition, each activity
listed is a direct link to that Content Item.
Instructional Issues
When designing assignments for your course, be aware of portfolio assessment strategies for a
comprehensive approach to assessing learners. Portfolio assessment allows you to assess
students’ progress in multiple ways over the course of a semester, not simply though tests, but
also through discussion and class participation, drafts, projects, and exercises which define an
evaluation that cumulatively represents each student’s work. Whether you require students to
submit an actual end-of-semester portfolio documenting the process of their work, or whether you
simply consider an array of all their work in the calculation of their final grade, this approach
supports the student-centered nature of the online learning environment.
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It also helps to reduce concerns about cheating. Relying on just a mid-term and final exam
increases the possibility of students getting other students to take the tests for them. Many
professors attest that through a portfolio approach they get to know their students as well as or
better than in their face-to-face courses, and they know whether or not Sam or Judy is doing his
or her work. Consider the following suggestions:
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•
•
•
Whenever possible, use an array of communication tools in your course, along with other
activities you have created.
Combine Threaded Discussion responses, Webliography submissions, class participation,
Journal entries, activities sent through Email Class, and quizzes and exams as part of the
students' comprehensive grade.
Ask students to self-assess the work they submit in a final portfolio.
Count quizzes and exams as only a small part of the total evaluation.
Student View – Course Checklist
Students can track their progress throughout the course. The system can accurately determine
when an exam has been taken; hence, the status of exam tasks is not editable. The checked or
unchecked marker for exams will be a graphic that displays a grayed-out checked or unchecked
item. Practice exams (exams that can be taken multiple times) have the editable HTML check
box. Data entered by the student to track completed assignments is saved to the system and is
available when the student clicks the Update Assignments button.
Syllabus
Located under Course Homepage at the top of the Course Navigation tree, the Syllabus is the
place to put your course information. Click on Syllabus to open it. Upon first entrance to the
Syllabus, you will see a sample syllabus. This will disappear when you add your own course
information, which is done in the Author View.
There are five default Syllabus Items—Course Description, Course Objectives, General Policies
and Procedures, Grading Policy and Course Text Books. You can add Custom Items as well or
delete the default items to best suit your course. In addition to text, you can add photos, clip art,
and links into the Syllabus.
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Course View with Sample Syllabus and default Syllabus Items
Instructional Issues
One of your first assignments for your students should be to read the Syllabus. Some instructors
develop a quiz about important Syllabus policies and procedures in their first unit. The Syllabus,
like the one you hand out in your face-to-face classroom on your first day of class, contains
important course information, instructor contact information, and perhaps assignments and due
dates. Students can print out the Syllabus for a handy reference to the course. They cannot lose
this course information. However, they may not realize it is there or take the time to read it, so it is
important that you direct them to it.
In addition, just because you state policies, does not mean students will remember them. It is a
good idea to remind students of key course policies throughout the course. Redundancy of
Syllabus information in other parts of the course is helpful to students and can reduce extra email
questions for you about things like when an assignment is due, or how it should be turned in.
Even though they can easily click on Syllabus to find out, some individuals neglect to do this! You
know how students can be. As you have no doubt heard many times, your Syllabus is your
contract between you and your students. It should be complete, and as detailed as you explain it
in your face-to-face class. This is especially helpful for the online student who is more dependent
on the information as he/she sits alone in front of his/her computer trying to figure out what to do.
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Calendar
Located under the Course Home button at the top of the Course Navigation Tree, just under
Syllabus, the Calendar feature is an easily updateable calendar for course and personal events.
In the Author View, only you can add Course Events to the Calendar, including unit start and end
dates, due dates for Content Items, dates for Exams, or any other event you want to add. When
students log in to the system and enter the Calendar, they will see the Course Events you have
added.
Both you and your students can store personal dates, times, and additional information related to
those events that other class members cannot view. In the top right area of the Calendar, you
can select two different views: List or Calendar. In either view, you can view by Day, Week, or
Month. The Calendar allows for integration with CampusPortal and other courses, personalized
views, and offline access. The Calendar can be synched up with MS Outlook. You can add
reminders, too, that will pop up when you enter your course(s).
The Calendar also houses the Course Scheduler. This feature lets you change access dates to
all elements of your course, including unit dates, content item dates and Gradebook review dates
for all exams.
Instructional Issues
Many online instructors and students comment that keeping academic and personal events
organized can be a challenge. Instructors need to highlight key assignments and assessments to
emphasize topic discussions for fostering online communities, and to keep a personal record of
events. Students need similar organizational tools with the ability to view multiple course events
on one single calendar. Thus, the Calendar acts as a front line communication tool. In addition,
adding Course Events to the Calendar reduces redundant emails asking when an assignment is
due.
Help Functions
Several help options are available to you as you design and teach your online course, whether
you are in Course View or Author View.
Help
Located in the upper right of every page, Help offers context-sensitive,
technical help for the specific task you are trying to accomplish. If you do
not see the Help topic you are looking for, use the navigation buttons on the
left to see an index of other Help topics. You can also choose to download
and print out the Help Pages in their entirety.
Design
Tips
Located in the upper right of every page, Design Tips offer
context-sensitive, brief instructional design suggestions and tips for teaching
online.
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Course Tools
Course Tools, which are different types of communication tools, are available at the top of every
page system-wide, in Course View and in Author View. Students do not see Course Admin, and
the functionality of their Gradebook , Dropbox, and Journal differs from yours in that a student
sees only his/her grades or his/her Dropbox and journal entries. You, on the other hand, can
enter and view all students’ grades and can access any student’s Journal (unless the student has
elected to make a particular Journal entry private and not accessible to you).
The Course Tools—Instructor View
The Course Tools—Student View
The array of Course Tools provides a variety of ways for you to communicate with your students.
Additionally, these tools offer your students many options for communicating with each other and
with you. This allows you to design interactive instruction and vibrant learning communities
through active learning and constructivist teaching methods (student-directed learning in which
students are empowered to “construct” their own learning by doing, collaborating, and critiquing).
Course Admin
The Course Admin tool is not a teaching/communication tool per se. Students do not see this one
Course Tool because it gives you the ability to:
•
•
•
Edit General Course Info.
Customize the look and feel of your course with Style Manager (if your institution’s
administrators have granted you access).
Create groups, teams or cohorts using Group Management.
Group Management
You can create groups and add members to groups in Group Management within the Course
Admin tool. The “Add New Group” link will ask you to name the group, select members of the
group, and then create the group. Instructors have access to every group. Students can access
only those groups in which the instructor has enrolled them.
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When students are assigned to particular groups, special links in Email and Document Sharing
are automatically created so they can email their group members or select a special Document
Sharing area just for their group. In addition, a special Chatroom is automatically created for each
group, in which only the members of a particular group can enter. You may also create Content
Items that are viewable only to the group or groups you assign when you create and add content
to Content Items.
If students are assigned to particular group Content Items, (e.g., Group A Assignment, Group B
Reading, or Group C Threaded Discussion), they will see these in their course. However, if
students are assigned to Group A Threaded Discussion they will not see Group B’s Threaded
Discussion listed in their course. It is possible to design an activity, like discussing different
aspects of a case, in which you can create four groups which discuss separate issues on their
own and then come together to present their conclusion in a full class discussion, which you have
assigned to all class members. To recap: content specified for individual groups will show up on
the Course Navigation Tree, under the appropriate units. Group members will see Content Items
specific to their group. You will have access to all of these individually designated group items.
As the instructor, you will see all of the groups’ Email aliases, Document Sharing contributions,
Chat logs, and Content Items you have created. In addition, you can review and assess those
group Content Items through the Gradebook.
Instructional Issues
If you use groups or teaming strategies in the physical classroom, you will find that you can also
do this online. Group work, according to much of the literature about teaching online, is one of the
best ways to facilitate self-directed learning, critical thinking, and teamwork with online students.
Your online student groups can hold private team Chats and/or Threaded Discussions, have
specialized readings and assignments, use group emails and other tools for completion of final
team projects or papers.
Gradebook
The Gradebook is a communication tool in which you may post grades and comments for each
student’s assignments. Students may view only their own individual grades and comments from
you. Your Gradebook is much more comprehensive.
When you enter the Gradebook, you will notice three horizontal tabs at the top of the page.
These three tabs make up the first level of navigation and functions of the Gradebook:
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•
•
View Gradebook
User Activity
Setup Gradebook
The Gradebook must be set up before it can be used properly. When you click on Setup
Gradebook, you are presented with a matrix of checkboxes. On the vertical axis of the matrix,
you will see three sections in the following order from top to bottom: Course Content Items,
Course Tools, and Custom Items. On the horizontal axis, you will see, from left to right, Course
Home, Numbers representing each unit of your course, and Final Grade. In general, to set up the
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Gradebook, you are simply ‘telling’ the system which items you want to post grades for, and in
which units. You can reconfigure the Gradebook at any time. Clicking on the ‘Save Changes’
button will ensure all changes are updated in the Gradebook.
Setup Gradebook automatically lists all of the Content Items that you create, from Introductions to
Lectures to Exams. That is, when you add a Content Item to your course, it will be listed
automatically in the Gradebook. This is convenient. However, there will be many Content Items
automatically listed that you cannot grade such as Introduction, Objectives, Lecture, and Reading.
These are Content Items that simply contain information. There are other Content Items that you
will assign grades to, like Quizzes, Exams, Threaded Discussions, and Assignments.
In the Section below Content Items, the Course Tools section appears. These are the Course
Tools that could potentially be graded: Chat, Document Sharing, Journal, and Webliography
(though you may decide not to evaluate these, depending on how you’ve designed your course
and calculate the final course grade).
In addition, in the Custom Items section, below the Course Tools section, you will probably need
to add other Gradebook Items, which are not Content Items. These would be gradable
assignments that you might assign in the Unit Homepage, or the specific assignments in a
Content Item, instead of lumping them all together in one general category of Assignments that
has been automatically listed in Setup Gradebook.
A hyperlink above the Course Content item grid allows you to “assign points to gradable items”.
When students access the Gradebook, they will see points given to their work against points
possible. The system also allows you to curve exams, automatically calculate student’s
cumulative grades, and display entries as both numeric and letter grades.
Instructional Issues
Students can see exactly how they are progressing, including total points earned, points possible
and percentages per unit, per gradable item and overall. This helps students know where they
stand, where they have lost point opportunities, and to plan accordingly.
NOTE: Once the student has taken a test, you may launch the Gradebook Details Box, review the
exam and the automatically scored points (objective questions only), and enter the grade. Also, in
this Details Box, you may Reset or Grant Additional Time. That is, any gradable item connected to
an Exam Content Item has a special feature. When you enter the Gradebook Details Box, you
can Reset an exam that has been taken or even grant an individual additional time. Be aware,
however, if you Reset the exam, this eliminates any answers that were stored previously,
but if you Grant Additional Time, it will not erase those answers.
User Activity
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User Activity allows you to view your students’ activity in the course, and track attendance. It also
alerts students when they have not been active for a certain amount of time, measured in
minutes. It monitors if students are accessing their course, how long they have spent in a unit,
and how long they have spent in a particular Content Item. You can click on a students’ name to
see where the student spent his/her time, down to the unit and content item level. You can also
click on a unit to see how much time was spent on the unit. Likewise, there is also an option to
search attendance through “view by dates.” Viewing by dates gives you a way to check how
much activity occurred from a beginning date to an ending date. Finally, you can choose to Export
User Activity, like Export Gradebook, to your hard drive and open it with a spreadsheet program.
Instructional Issues
Use this feature with caution for grading purposes. Short minute times may simply mean a
student prints out course work for later review. On the other hand, a student may have the course
open for long periods, but may not be spending that time “in class.” In general, after a few weeks
into the course, you will probably see a pattern emerge and can get a sense of the “right” amount
of time students should be spending in the course.
Email
The Email Course Tool is an outgoing-only email feature. You do not receive course email here.
When sending an email using this tool, a copy of the message also goes to the sender. All course
users’ email addresses are uploaded into the course when they are enrolled in the course. You
may email individual students, the entire class, or groups of students, either individually selected
or with group email aliases you can create in the Course Admin tool. Your students can email you
through this feature and you will receive these emails at your own email address.
Instructional Issues
Email is one of the key ways you will communicate with your students and your students with
each other. It was about the only way to communicate with students if you tried to teach online
just a few years ago.
The advantage of email is that it can be personal, one-to-one communication. It is probably the
best way for you to receive formal assignments--sent as attachments, or copied and pasted
directly into the email text box. The disadvantage of email is that you have to organize them all,
which can amount to literally hundreds a week with questions, assignments, and chatty notes. No
doubt, you will do a lot of teaching through email and can have real teaching moments.
However, your strategy as an online instructor will be how to reduce your email load by using
other Course Tools. As you know, responding to email takes time. Nevertheless, with the ability
to email groups of students or the entire class, you can save yourself time by not having to
respond individually.
It is important to remember that without hand gestures and tones of voice online, in email (and in
Chats and Threaded Discussions) unintended communication can happen. Humor and irony can
be taken seriously. Consider using emoticons – :) :-p :-o —to soften language which sometimes
can be misinterpreted when, for the sake of speed, emails are written too quickly and efficiently.
For example, “Read assignment again!” can feel disparaging compared to “Read Assignment
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again:).” Alternatively, in class, you might say ironically, with a grin and a wink, “I can’t believe
you really think that.” Emoticons can take the edge off communication when you do not have time
to craft a comment.
One of the most effective uses of email is to assign team projects in which students email each
other discussing a question, exercise, or assignment at hand and teach themselves. This not only
helps to create learning communities and support systems, it encourages student-directed
learning. It also reduces your email load.
Email Attachment Suggestions
You can read an email attachment only with the same program in which the attachment was
created. Thus if you have Microsoft Word and a student sends a file created in Word Perfect, you
may not be able to read it. In most modern word processing programs, you can save files in other
word processing formats, using a “Save As” function. Nevertheless, these do not always preserve
exact formatting and still sometimes are not readable.
For best results in reading email attachments, it is best that all class members use the same word
processing programs that you use, especially if formatting is an important part of your
assignments. However, this may be too costly for some students, and there are several ways to
get around compatibility problems in email attachments. Some suggestions are noted below:
•
•
•
•
In the first week of class, send an introductory email message to all students with an
attachment to see if they can read your attachment. .Ask them to send you an attachment
to see if you can read theirs. If there are problems, you can at least try to resolve them
before the first assignments are due.
Ask students to send attachments in Rich Text Format (.rtf) that is readable by all systems.
Some formatting can be lost, but it will be readable.
Instead of asking for attachments, ask that students highlight the text of their entire
document, copy it, and then paste it directly into their email text box.
Consider requiring students to use only programs you are using (check with your school’s
policies first).
Managing Email Effectively
Effectively managing email is a key to helping effectively manage the online classroom. We
suggest the following strategies for effective email management:
•
•
•
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•
Ask students to email each other before they email you with course questions.
Create distribution lists for your classes on your personal email program. This is useful
when you want to respond to the student email you receive without having to go into your
course. Be sure to periodically update student email addresses in your personal mailbox.
Create mailboxes and folders on your personal email software for each student and filter
and/or organize (automatically if your email software has the capability) incoming
assignments.
Create automatic reply functions such as, “Your assignment has been received,” if your
email program has this feature. In some email programs, you can filter a student’s
assignments into the appropriate mailbox and have an automatic reply message sent to
your student.
Create “Form” emails for messages that you send often, such as late work, absences, and
grades.
Require that students place their names, assignment titles, and course numbers (if you are
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•
teaching more than one class) in the subject line of their emails. For example, “Betty Boop
ENG 213 Assignment One.”
Consider signing up for a separate email account for your course if students’ questions
and submissions will interfere with your own primary email account.
Chatroom
The Chat tab offers two synchronous (real time) communication tools, Chat and ClassLive. Chat
provides a Chatroom for synchronous communication. ClassLive combines chat with a robust
whiteboard, providing a dynamic teaching environment.
When you first enter Chat, you will have a default Chatroom. However, you may create as many
Chatrooms as you like. Each Chat that takes place is automatically archived, though you may
turn off the archive feature if you do not want private conversations made public. In a Chat, each
participant’s name will be listed alongside the participant’s comment. Participants may send each
other private messages as the Chat proceeds. As the instructor, you can choose to ignore a
student who is not acting appropriately. Chat participants may also enter URLs or web addresses
for websites. Then the Chat participants can click on the URL posted in the Chat. This will open
a new browser window, and the entire group can view the website and discuss it.
To summarize, you can:
•
•
•
•
View Chat Logs, which are archived chats from the course. Students may also view Chat
Logs.
Create separate Chatrooms for different purposes or groups. The rooms can be created
as private, non-archived rooms.
Send private messages to an individual participant.
"Follow" one another to Web sites related to the course discussion.
Instructional Issues
Chat is a useful tool in creating an online learning community. It is a synchronous (real time)
communication tool open for creative uses. The main strength of Chat is also its main drawback.
Since it is live, you can hold discussions and see students thinking on their feet (or fingers to be
more precise). However, because it is live, students are required to be online at a specific time.
For students who are taking an online course precisely because they can participate
anytime/anywhere, to study around work schedules, family obligations, and travel, it is difficult to
schedule a time when all class members can meet. In addition, it is possible that some of your
students will be in different time zones. If you intend to use Chat regularly as a critical component
of your course, it would be a good idea to mention this in your course description so that students
are aware from the beginning that they will have to attend at a specific time each week.
Many of the same issues in holding discussions in a face-to-face class arise in a whole class chat.
It is possible that just a few students will be the main contributors to the discussion: some will not
be afraid to voice an opinion quickly; others will be fast typists or seasoned online chatters. Other
class members, especially second language students, may struggle with chats, and their English
skills may make their comments difficult to understand or they may be too slow to participate.
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Chats can be fast-paced and difficult to moderate with many comments intervening between the
one to which you are trying to respond. Some professors have devised ways to moderate a chat
by requiring students with comments to make to first enter an asterisk to symbolize a raised hand,
for instance. Some professors prepare questions in advance and copy and paste them into the
chat message line because they will take too long to type live. Nevertheless, many professor find
the whole class chat useful in discussing cases or questions when they want to see students
discussing the issues live, or able to recite facts of a case on the fly.
Using Chat for student group discussions is another effective online teaching strategy. Breaking
the class into smaller groups or teams to work on projects, exercises, or discussion questions
promotes collaboration, student-directed learning, and negotiation, just as in a face-to-face class.
Interestingly, a Communications professor asks each group to use the Chat Logs to analyze the
group dynamics of other groups in the class.
As mentioned above, you can also take students on a “virtual fieldtrip.” In the Chatroom, you or
your students can type in a URL, and when others are in the room, they can click on it and a new
browser window will pop open, taking them to that particular site. While the Chatroom is still
open, you can go back and forth between the Web site and the room. If you are teaching an art
history course, for instance, take your students on a guided tour of the Metropolitan Museum of
Art. If you are teaching a research class, take students to sites and have them evaluate the sites'
validity.
Finally, you can use the Chatroom to hold office hours. You can tell your students that you will be
online at a particular time every week to answer questions or shoot the breeze. You will probably
want to make your Office Hours Chatroom a private Chatroom so not every discussion is logged.
ClassLive
ClassLive is accessed from the ClassLive button at the
top of your Chat page. From this page, you can initiate
and lead a ClassLive session. The ClassLive tool has
extensive math, science and accounting demonstration
and problem-solving capabilities in the whiteboard,
enabling you to conduct tutoring, office hours or class
lecture in a live classroom-like environment. You can
also upload PowerPoint slide shows, share documents,
websites and applications in a live environment.
Students can be given virtual permission to “go up to
the board”, upload content, and even ask questions by
raising a virtual hand. All sessions are archived.
Instructional Issues
One of the most common comments we get from teachers new to the online format is, “I can see
how you teach English or History, but how do I teach Math, Science, or Accounting online?”
While many instructors have taught these subjects online without whiteboard or live interactive
tools, ClassLive provides a classroom-like chalkboard experience during which students can
follow and participate in problem solving demonstrations. This gives them an instructor-led,
hands-on opportunity to engage with important class concepts and content.
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Document Sharing
There are two basic functions in Document Sharing: uploading a file and downloading a file. The
Document Sharing tool allows you to upload any file—documents, images, spreadsheets,
slideshows, and HTML pages, etc.—into your course from your computer. Alternatively, you may
download a file, which already has been uploaded into Document Sharing, to your computer.
Students have the same functionality. Both you and your students have access to shared files,
but only instructors can delete files. Students can choose to share with the entire class or with
only you.
Instructional Issues
The Document Sharing tool is generally a public place to share work, though students can submit
work for only you to view. In the student-centered online environment, Document Sharing can be
used as a place for sharing data sets or solutions for students, work-shopping essays for peer
critique, and sharing final group papers or presentations. Some instructors have placed writing
samples in Document Sharing and have asked students to revise the piece or critique it. In
addition, Document Sharing is a good place to post reference documents such as style sheets or
cases.
Math and Science instructors who must use math programs such as Maple or SPSS for writing
equations and solving problems have required that all students purchase the program and upload
these files to the Document Sharing area.
NOTE: The screen with the Share file with instructor only option is the same screen students
see, thus this option would not seem to be an option an instructor would ever choose. However,
you could post solutions to quizzes, exams, exercises or homework and not share them with the
class until the assignments are turned in and the answers are ready to be seen.
Dropbox
The purpose of the Dropbox feature in your course is to provide a central location where you and
your students can submit and retrieve assignments and graded activities. Think of the Dropbox as
a virtual "Inbox" and "Outbox" for course assignments:
•
•
You can pick up or retrieve submitted assignments from your students in your Inbox
You can return or send graded assignments back to your students in your Outbox
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Your Dropbox/Inbox is also linked directly to the Gradebook, which makes it easy to open an
assignment, grade it, and then record the student's grade directly into the Gradebook--all from
one place. Students can open a graded item from either the Dropbox or from the Gradebook and
see their grade for that item. You can also attach files and documents to assignments when you
return them to students.
Instructional Issues
Any grades you save through the Dropbox are passed through to your Gradebook as well. That is,
if you assign and save a grade using the Dropbox, you do not need to transfer the grade to the
Gradebook. You can only enter grades through the Dropbox for assignments that you have set up
in the Gradebook as "gradable." To make items gradable, click the Gradebook tab, go to Setup
Gradebook, and check the box next to the individual Content Item to identify it as "gradable."
If a student submission includes an attachment, you'll see an "attachment" icon next to the
assignment name in your Inbox. Hold your mouse over the icon to display the file name of the
attachment.
Journal
The Journal (also found under the DropBox tab) is a one-on-one, student-teacher communication
tool. It also is a place for confidential student writing and reflections, as the students have the
option to make a Journal entry private. You can also add a new entry to your student’s Journal.
Instructional Issues
You can use the online Journal just like a traditional journal, requiring students to make regular
entries reflecting on issues germane to your course. It is also an ideal place to ask students to
enter nightly homework, submit shorter or informal assignments and exercises, weekly selfassessments of work completed for class, or react to class discussions.
The Journal is also an email reducer and timesaver. If you ask students to submit work in the
Journal—work that would otherwise be submitted by email—your assignments will be organized
in one place, and you will not have to spend time sorting through your emails. If you require, say,
three journal entries per week, and you have 20 students, then you would be receiving sixty
emails per week to read and organize. In the Journal, you can read each student’s journal entries
when you are ready to do so. Once you have selected a particular student’s Journal to view, you
can view all entries at once if you choose Expand All.
The Journal tool allows you to comment on your student’s Journal entry. In order for your
students to distinguish your comments from their writing, it is a good idea to write in ALL CAPS or
to use brackets […]. If your comments are extensive and more global in nature, you may add a
separate entry to the student’s Journal.
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TIP: In your Syllabus, you should suggest your students compose Journal entries offline, in their
word processing programs, and save their work. Then they can copy and paste their text into the
Journal. Although this may seem like an extra step, your students will benefit in two ways:
1. They have a record of their work after your course ends.
2. Writing offline will save them possible frustration from losing work if they get timed-out of
the course as they are writing. This happens because the system does not recognize
typing as an activity in the course (only mouse clicks register as activity), and if a student
takes more than 45 minutes composing, he/she will be timed-out and will lose all the work
as well as the time involved.
Webliography
The Webliography Course Tool leads you to an area in which you and/or your students may work
together to create an actively linked, annotated bibliography of World Wide Web sites relevant to
your course. Both you and your students can submit sites to the Webliography. You can
organize the Webliography into categories. You can sort Webliography entries by the date they
were submitted, by categories, or by the person who submitted the entry.
Instructional Issues
The Webliography is useful for you as the instructor to post Internet sites you will use as
references to your course. You can post articles in online journals, magazines, and e-zines.
There are sites that can give students incredible primary information—Yeats reading his own
poetry, Kennedy delivering a speech. This tool gives you something not readily available in the
face-to-face classroom, and can make learning more immediately dimensional than the face-toface classroom. Web sites can make learning come alive. For example, students can see that
literature is not a dead art form when they see contemporary online literary journals.
However, an even greater potential of the Webliography is to ask students to post Web sites.
Students can greatly increase the knowledge capital of the course by submitting Web sites they
have found. More importantly, this empowers them by giving them the chance to contribute to the
learning community of their course. Webliography assignments encourage students to customize
their own learning by following directions that particularly interest them.
By writing annotations to the sites that they submit, students begin to develop keener media
literacy, especially when you discuss what makes a site worthwhile in terms of being a source of
reliable authority. Many instructors ask their students to address these issues in the annotations.
If students are asked to post sources they have used in their papers, possibilities of plagiarism are
reduced. Often instructors will make Webliography entries a significant part of the final course
grade. The Gradebook automatically lists Webliography as a gradable item.
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Building the Foundation
The Author View
While you can build some content into your online course through the Course view (with the
Course Tools, etc.), most of the material you add will require you to go “behind the scenes,”
through the Author view. By clicking on the Author tab (right next to the Course tab), you have
access to the “authoring” tools of the eCollege System. You can easily “toggle” back and forth,
from the Author view to the Course view, by clicking these tabs. This allows you to add content to
your course (in the Author view) and then view the course as your students will basically see it (in
the Course view). It is important to view any content you add in the Course view—just to doublecheck that your formatting, etc. is exactly as you intended.
In this section, Building the Foundation, we will look at the authoring tools that will aid in the
development of the overall structure for your course. (For actually adding course content, refer to
the Help Pages.)
Quick Start Wizard
The Quick Start Wizard is a tool that aids in building the basic structure of your course. It also
allows you to choose a “look and feel” for your course. Before you start the Quick Start Wizard,
you need to have a good idea for your overall course layout. Have an idea about the number and
titles of Units (Weeks, Sessions, etc.) and Content Item titles. This is important if you choose to
use the Quick Start Wizard. Once you exit the Wizard or begin to manually add content, this tool
will no longer be available.
•
•
•
•
•
Upon entering the course for the first time, you have the option to utilize the Quick Start
Wizard. When you click on it, you will be taken through a number of steps.
You can exit the Wizard (if you just want to ‘pop into it and take a peek’), even if you have
not finished all the steps, by clicking on Exit Quick Start Wizard. However, if you exit the
Wizard, you will not be able to save the work you have done up to that point.
As long as no course content has been added manually, you can return to the beginning of
the Quick Start Wizard.
If you exit before finished, a message box appears: “Are you sure you want to exit the
Quick Start Wizard? Your work will not be saved.”
Click OK to return to the unaltered blank course. Click Cancel to continue working in the
Wizard.
To Use the Quick Start Wizard
Step 1 . Create Units. The Wizard will ask you how
many Units will be in the course and what
you want these to be called (i.e., Week,
Module, Session, Lesson, etc.). You can
move forward or back through the Wizard
at any time.
Note: If you intend to use the CourseFlex
feature, create your navigation using the
default Unit convention. You can change to
CourseFlex when you go to the Unit Home
Pages to name your units.
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TIP: If course content needs modifications after being created with the Quick Start Wizard,
you can simply use the Author tab to make the necessary changes.
Step 2 . Create Content Items. You can
select various Content Items to be
used in the course. You will see a
choice of eight Content Item types
(as displayed in the image above).
After selecting each item type that
you intend to use in your course and
going to the next screen, you will be
asked specific follow-up questions for
each item you choose. For example,
if you choose the Text Content Item
type, you will be asked to check off
which specific item names
you may want to use: Introduction, Objectives, Reading, Lecture Notes,
Assignment, Resources, Review Question, or Add a New Custom Item. This
process is repeated for every Content Item type you select.
Step 3 . Place Content Items. This step asks you to decide where in each unit you would like
each Content Item to appear. This step merges the information from Steps 1 and 2. In
essence, you are creating a course outline of what Content Items go in which Units. If
needed, you can update this later from within the Author view.
Step 4 . The last step will prompt the Style Manager if your institution has given all instructors
access to this feature.
Syllabus Builder
The Syllabus Builder is another tool, separate from the Quick Start Wizard, which will help you
create and format your online Syllabus. It includes five standard, commonly used items—
headings—like Instructor Information, Course Description, Course Objectives, General Policies
and Procedures, Grading Policy, and Course Textbooks.
TIP: You have the option to use all or none of the default items. You can delete or rename them,
and you can also create as many Custom Syllabus Items as you wish.
Syllabus Items have entry fields that allow for quick Syllabus creation and revision. The Textbook
item provides fields for Title, Author, Publisher, Year, etc. The Course Objective item provides
fields for individual course objectives that show up as bullet points. The Grading Policy item
provides the option to communicate course grading criteria and grading scales, which are
automatically formatted into a table. Finally, you will have the opportunity to create Custom Items.
Custom Items can be titled as you choose, and they can be used as often as desired. The goal of
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the Syllabus Builder is to support you with tools to easily organize and present Syllabus
information without having to use HTML for formatting.
NOTE: Each default Syllabus Item asks you to fill in different types of fields. So, as another
example, if you choose Grading Policy, you will be prompted to enter much more detailed
information regarding your grading rubric.
TIP: Remember, you can rename the default Syllabus Items. Therefore, if you like the formatting
created by the default Objectives item, but you want it titled “Goals,” you can simply rename it
when you add the content.
Units
While you can add Units in the Quick Start Wizard, you can also add them manually.
As with a traditional course, you will most likely want to divide your online course into Units,
Sessions, Weeks, Topics, or any other division title you choose. The “Units” are most often
related to a length of time; for instance, one Unit may take one week or perhaps longer.
Moreover, just like with a traditional course, you may wish to have one or two discussion sessions
within each Unit. Some instructors like to divide their courses into sections related to Topics.
Still, though, there is usually a certain length of time associated with it. Within each Unit, you can
add Content Items that are specific to that Unit. All Units you create will appear in the Course
Navigation Tree.
You also have the option of “blocking off” your Unit start and/or end dates to students. This is
especially helpful if you must develop your course as you go along—so that students do not have
access to an incomplete Unit. Also, it helps keep students on task and going at the same pace,
so you don’t have some students turning in assignments from Unit 2, while others are working in
Unit 10 (unless your course is intended to be self-paced). As the instructor, you will be able to
view all of your Units, regardless of assigned dates.
Design Note
An important consideration in the layout of your course is the design of the Unit structure.
Because of issues with “scrolling” and the readability of screen-based text, content “chunking” has
become a highly regarded instructional design strategy in the online environment. Content is
divided up into highly focused “bits,” allowing students to concentrate on specific sections of
information at a time. While there is a ‘homepage’ for each Unit, and most material can be placed
on this page (except Exams and Threaded Discussions), these separate headings and their
content have been identified as individual “Content Items” and appear as clickable list items
below the Unit homepage in the Course Navigation Tree. For instance, if you use the heading
“Reading,” you will find this Content Item listed underneath the Unit homepage (see image below.)
Students click on this link to access your reading assignments for that Unit.
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You can end up with a blank Unit homepage, though, if you place all of
your content under separate headings (Content Items). We suggest
that you consider using this Unit Homepage as a place for introductory
material—Unit Objectives, Goals, Outline, etc.—and not to make each
of these separate Content Items. The Unit Homepage is also an ideal
area for placing audio or video overviews. However you decide to use
this Homepage, it is important to keep your students in mind—and
make sure it is clear to them how to navigate the Unit structure.
TIP: You do have the option of placing almost all of your content on the Unit homepage, if that
better suits your teaching style. (Again, exceptions to this are the Threaded Discussion and the
Exam Content Items.) Instead of creating separate Content Items for each section (i.e., Reading
or Assignments), simply add all of this content to the Unit homepage.
Accessibility
Accessibility is one of the hottest topics in web design today. Just as you will want to take into
account multiple learning styles while building your course, you will want to think about designing
your course to be accessible to students with disabilities. Statistically, there are more blind users
online than Mac users. With this in mind, it is quite likely that at some point you will have an
online student with a disability. This is especially important in an online environment, as you do
not see your students – you don’t know who may be accessing your course with assistive
technology. Likewise, students are not aware of an instructor’s need to use assistive technology
when teaching.
The eCollege platform is designed to accommodate and exceed the standards set forth by
Section 508 of the U.S. Federal Accessibility Standard for electronic and information technology.
A White Paper on Accessibility is included in the Readings section of this handbook. This paper
outlines in real-world terms how each of the Section 508 requirements can be accommodated in
the eCollege platform.
Instructional Issues
Because assistive technologies interpret and use text, data, graphics and images differently, you
may have to think creatively about how you convey concepts within your course. For example, an
image or Excel spreadsheet graphically depicts a concept visually. However, these objects may
not be translated well by assistive technology.
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Course Content
Now that you have created the basic “skeleton” of your course, it is time to begin developing it by
adding course content.
The Content Items hold the “meat” of your course, allowing you to present that content in multiple
ways, to create assessments for your students, and to create asynchronous discussion areas.
Use these Content Items to display lectures, discussions, group work areas, exams, Unit
introductions, objectives, instructor notes, PowerPoint, graphics, Excel spreadsheets, images,
videos, audio, etc. You can also choose to schedule each of these items for specific student
access dates. This feature allows you to control the learning progression of your students.
Diversifying the ways in which content is presented is a big initiative in the online environment. It
is more difficult for online instructors to assess whether their students are fully engaged with the
content. Diversification allows instructors to address different learning styles and motivate
students to learn in different ways. Try presenting content these ways:
•
•
•
•
•
•
Introduce Units or subject matter with audio clips.
Choose graphics and clip art that complement your content, not detract from it.
Include descriptive, short link texts for images.
Incorporate discussions through either Threaded Discussions or Chatrooms.
Create self-assessment quizzes and graded exams, group projects, graded discussions,
and peer workshops as ways to determine student progress in your course.
Combine audio and/or video with PowerPoint to deliver “lectures.”
Creating Content Items
The eCollege System provides you with the following types of Content Items:
• Text/Multimedia. Text/Media Content Items are essentially empty fields in which you can
add text, images, or links to the Internet or external pages. You can use text items to
deliver many different types of course content.
• Exam. Exam Content Items give you access to the Exam Builder.
• Threaded Discussion. Threaded Discussion Content Items give you access to Threaded
Discussion areas where you can post your Threaded Discussion topics.
• Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint. These Content Items act as
Text and Multimedia Content Items, but specifically upload files from Microsoft Office 2000
(older versions will work also, though not as reliably) and automatically convert these files.
• XanEdu Coursepacks. For those of you who may use a photocopied course pack in your
traditional classes, which students generally buy from your school's bookstore, eCollege
and XanEdu can provide you with virtually the same thing. XanEdu provides instructors
with a large number of copyright-cleared articles.
TIP: Remember the Content Item itself is simply a shell or a “content holder.” After you add a
Content Item to a Unit, you need to go back into the Content Item in Author mode and add the
actual content. Once you have added a Content Item to the Unit, you will find it in the Course
Navigation Tree located on the left of your screen. Click on the Content Item. A screen appears
on the right side. The screen will be different depending on the content item you have chosen.
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You can use, name, and rename the same Content Item as many times as you wish in your
course. You may also delete it entirely or simply delete it from a particular Unit.
Even after you have filled a Content Item with content, you have the option of moving that Content
Item to a different Unit. For example, you may decide to move an Exam from Unit/Week three of
your course to Unit/Week four of your course.
NOTE: Responses made to Threaded Discussion questions will not be moved.
Each Content Item appears in a Unit in the order in which you added it. As you build your Units,
you may decide to change the order of your course Content Items. Any content that has been put
into the Content Item is moved as well.
If you have created groups in your course through Group Management in the Course Admin tab,
you have the option of assigning Content Items to the whole class or to specific groups. Creating
specific Content Items for individual groups allows you to facilitate group collaboration and team
presentation projects.
CourseFlex Navigation
CourseFlex Navigation lets you choose how to organize your course through either unit-based or
feature-based navigation. Instructors who may have used other platforms before will be familiar
with feature-based navigation. Left-bar navigation buttons in the eCollege system can be named
anything you like. This gives you complete flexibility to:
• Organize your course by topic(e.g. “Early Renaissance”)
• Organize your course by units, such as “modules” or “weeks”
• Add special units like “Midterm Review” or “Appendix”
• Organize by features, such as Threaded Discussions
CourseFlex Navigation also has a show/hide content navigation feature that lets users collapse
the navigation tree in order to allow more space for content.
Adding Content to Course Content Items
Once you have created your Content Item and added it to your Course Homepage or Course Unit,
you must fill it with content in order to make it functional for your students. Text used in an online
course must be converted into HTML (Hypertext Mark Up Language). HTML conversion can be
done in two ways: through HTML encoding or through a Visual or HTML editor. Although
encoding Basic HTML for bolds, underlines, italics, paragraph and sentence breaks, etc, is not a
difficult task, Visual and HTML Editors are even easier. These editors allow you to create and
format your content as you would in a word processing program and then they convert your
materials into HTML for you.
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The Standard Text Box
In the eCollege System, if you use
a PC and Internet Explorer 5.0 as
your browser, you have access to
our Visual Editor for content
formatting. If you are using a Mac
and/or Netscape Communicator
4.7 as your browser, you will have
a text box into which you can place
content that you have already
converted into HTML with an
HTML editor. Alternatively, you
can format your content with
HTML as you enter it.
The view you will see if you are not using Internet Explorer or a PC is a standard text box that will
require the implementation of some basic HTML code. This view still contains a Link Wizard that
can be accessed through clicking on the link icon (directly under the “Save Changes” button) or
clicking on Add Link. This Link Wizard allows you to add links to documents and images on the
eCollege server, and hyperlinks to external web pages.
NOTE: The leading math equation web editor, WebEQ from Design Science, has been
integrated into every authoring text area of the course. Math, Science, and Business instructors
and course builders can now build dynamic, “editable” equations using an easy to use symbol
palette. Click the x2 on the Visual Editor to access the equation editor.
You can either directly do
basic encoding within the
text box, or use an HTML
editor such as Homesite,
FrontPage or Netscape
Composer to first create
content documents and
then paste the source code
into the text box.
Adding Content to Content Items
Text Content Items are essentially empty fields in which you can add text, images, gifs, links to
external HTML pages, and/or links to the Internet. Multimedia Content Items are much like text
items, except they hold multimedia content such as audio or video clips. You can use text and
multimedia Content Items to deliver many different types of course content such as readings,
assignments, text "lectures," study tips, a glossary, handouts, or other text-based information,
tables, charts, audio or video segments, images, computer simulations, or slideshow
presentations.
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TIP: For those with Microsoft Office 2000 (and some older versions of Microsoft Office), you
can easily use the Microsoft Content Items to automatically convert and upload PowerPoint
presentations, Excel spreadsheets, and Word documents into your course.
Adding Content to Exams
The Exam Content Item acts much like a traditional quiz or exam given in class, with the obvious
exception of your being able to “watch over” students as they complete the assessment. This tool
allows you to set time limits and restrictive dates for your exams, as well as create question pools
and multiple types of questions that can be manually graded by you or automatically graded by
the eCollege System. You can create exams that are “single-access exams” and exams that can
be accessed many times by a single student, so that the exam becomes a self-learning tool.
When designing your exams, remember that you can also use them as important communication
tools by putting in explanations for right and wrong answers in the available answer fields. As
with any Content Item, you may move Exams between Units. You can also create a “Test Bank”
that allows you to easily build cumulative exams from other exams created in your course.
Exam Timing & Password Protection
Exams can be set to be available to students only within a specific date and time range, e.g.
Wednesday 9am to Friday 6pm. You can also force a time limit on an exam by entering an exam
duration and utilizing the “kick-out” feature that will not let students enter answers after the exam
period expires. Exams can also be password protected, allowing for additional security and
proctoring.
NOTE: The time limit option only applies if you selected Students may only take exam once.
The default settings for Edit Exam Info are the items to which you will pay close attention when
setting up your exam. They are as follows:
•
•
•
•
•
•
Edit Schedule—“Do not assign
dates to this content Item”
Exam Type— “Students may take
exam only once”
Time Allowed— “0” hours and “0”
minutes for taking the exam
Grading Options—Use Auto-Grading
to score questions
Display Auto—Grading Quick
Summary to students upon submit
Display to students—“Exam Grade
and Questions with correct answers
displayed”
Be sure to adjust these settings as necessary when you set up the Exam.
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Instructional Issues
Questions and concerns about cheating are part of the universal educational dialogue. The fact
is, there are rarely any guarantees against cheating, even if exams are on-site, in-class and
proctored. Scheduling a limited access time, timed “kick-outs” and password protection are all
tools you can use to reduce the temptation to cheat online. However, perhaps an even better
technique is to keep exams a minimal part of a student’s grade, placing more emphasis on
participation, projects and group work.
TIP: There are several options for assessing students online. We encourage instructors to
consider using an inclusive portfolio assessment. Portfolios could include assessing students’
submissions to the Webliography and Threaded Discussion areas, quality/quantity of Journal
entries, individual email attachments, participation in group projects, papers, and scores on
exams and quizzes.
Exam Grading
Objective assessment questions, such as True/False, Multiple Choice, Matching, and Fill in the
Blank, can be automatically scored by the eCollege System. For the system to “grade” your
exams for you, you must provide the answer to a question as you build the question in Exam
Builder. You may provide point values for each question. If you do not want the system to grade
the exam, you can disable the grading function through the Exam Builder. (Simply uncheck “Use
Auto-Grading to Score Questions” under “Grading Options.”)
Subjective question types, such as Short Answer and Essay, are not automatically graded by the
eCollege System for obvious reasons. Fill in the Blank questions can be the exception. For each
Fill in the Blank question, you can provide up to five possible answers. The eCollege System will
count only an EXACT match as correct. For example, if the only answer you provide is “seven,”
the system will not accept “7,” “SEVEN,” or even “Seven” as correct. These must be provided as
alternate answers.
Once you have set up your exam through Edit Exam Info, you can now add questions, pages, and
question pools through the Exam Builder.
Threaded Discussions
The Threaded Discussion Content Item simulates traditional classroom discussions. A Threaded
Discussion (thread) allows students to post comments to a discussion topic, react to other
students' comments, and respond to ideas shared by you or by others in the course.
Discussions take place asynchronously, that is, students post responses to the Threaded
Discussion at their convenience. Threaded Discussions can begin with a topic you have
identified, a call for the student discussion leader to post a question, or a call for assignment
submissions. Responses appear below the specific topic.
Some Thoughts on Threads
A vast majority of instructors finds asynchronous discussion, or Threaded Discussion, to be the
most valuable learning tool in an online course. It is one of the foundation blocks for creating a
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"learning community." Both instructors and students are surprised and pleased to find that new
intimacies are forged, different perhaps from the traditional classroom, but just as effective.
Students enjoy Threaded Discussions because they can take time to compose their thoughts
before they post a comment. They can also engage in lively debates in an environment that is
less threatening, sometimes, than a live classroom environment. Because Threaded Discussions
are so popular, and can spark in-depth discussion, sometimes they can seem overwhelming to
the instructor who must manage them. Here are some ideas on how best to “facilitate” those
discussions:
1. Guest Speaker. Give special access rights to an outside expert and let the “guest
speaker” formulate the discussion topic and respond to students.
2. Two Cents. Become another voice in the discussion. Wait until everyone else has
responded to the threaded discussion by a designated date, and then add your “two
cents.”
3. Email Analysis. Scan all the responses, pick out one or two that bring up especially
interesting issues, and respond to these in the threads. Then, send out a general email to
the whole class telling them to read the threads and respond to them. Or post your
responses in the email itself.
4. Student Only. Let the Threaded Discussion belong only to the students and simply keep
track of who has responded and how well. Give credit percentage for a specified number
of “peer responses” and/or for quality of response.
5. Student Leader. Designate one or two students per week to facilitate and summarize the
discussion for the class. Create a Thread topic with the directions “Student Leader please
post topic here” and let the leader post his/her own original discussion question.
6. Small Group Work. If you want your class to work in groups, simply create threads that
are labeled Group A, Group B, etc. and request that group members post work in the
appropriate group thread.
7. Water Cooler. Create one thread for the class that is totally unmoderated and “free.”
Simply invite your class to participate in the conversation.
8. Greetings at the Door. Use a Threaded Discussion to stimulate discussion with students
when they first “walk” into the “class.” This is when questions are fresh and ideas about
the content of the course or how they are feeling about their learning experiences are
important to share.
TIP: Before your students can use the Threaded Discussion item, you must go into the Threaded
Discussion and create a thread topic. You may create as many topics as you want in a single
Threaded Discussion Content Item.
Content Connector
The Content Connector feature allows you to create hyperlinks from anywhere in your course to
anywhere in your course. This can help you direct a student’s experience through course content.
A hyperlink at the end of the page can send a student to the next activity, e.g. “If you feel
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comfortable with the concepts above and are ready to discuss them, proceed to the Threaded
Discussion”. Links for course content to tools such as Document Sharing or Webliography can
help keep a student from getting lost or distracted in the navigation.
Instructional Issues
The Content Connector can be an especially useful tool in directing students back to content
areas that may require additional mastery. Threaded Discussions, Journal entries, exam results
or Gradebook entries can include feedback references including a link directing students back to
content where key topics were covered within the course for easy review.
Microsoft Integration
The Microsoft Office Integration Content Item helps you upload existing Microsoft Office files
(Word, PowerPoint, Excel ) automatically, converting them to a Web ready HTML format. Use
this feature to easily bring documents, visual presentations, and spreadsheets into your course.
This feature works best with Microsoft Office 2000 but also functions with older versions of
Microsoft Office (Note: You must be operating in Internet Explorer 5.0 As with any Content Item,
you can name your item anything you want, and schedule the item on your Course Calendar.
TIP: Microsoft Files uploaded through our Microsoft Office Integration tool cannot be edited
through our Visual Editor. To edit, simply download the file through our File Manager to your
desktop, make the required changes, save, and then re-upload to File Manager.
XanEdu Coursepacks
eCollege had partnered with XanEdu, a company that allows instructors to browse and choose
from thousands of copyright-cleared journal articles, primary literature, and more. Articles are
available for all subjects, and you can create your own coursepack or have XanEdu create one for
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you. As you create the coursepack, you can see what the cost will be to students. The students
will go through the payment process only once. From that point forward, when students login to
their course, the system will recognize that they have paid and the coursepack(s) will be available
wherever you, the instructor, have decided to place the link to the coursepack.
Note: In order to browse XanEdu’s articles and add a coursepack, you must add XanEdu as a
Content Item (following the same steps for adding other Content Items). Once it is created, you
can look at XanEdu’s offerings, at which point, you can decide to create and add a coursepack to
your course, or you don’t have to do anything with it at all, should decide to not include a
coursepack.
File Manager
It is likely that your online course will include numerous files—document files, audio files, video
files, images, etc. The File Manager gives you another option for uploading files into your course
besides uploading them directly into Course Content items. It helps you organize and keep track
of your course files. Once you create new folders and add files, this file structure will appear on
the left side of the screen whenever you are working with course files. That is, when you add files
in other areas of your course, the course structure you create in the File Manager will be available
to you.
TIP: If you create a link so that your students can download large files or multiple files
from your course, you many want to upload a zip file for them to decrease the
download time. (Be sure not to check the Unzip Zip File box, if you want your student
to download the zip file.)
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Instructional Multimedia
Audio and video files can easily be uploaded through the eCollege File Manager system, and
PowerPoint slideshows can be converted to HTML by creating a PowerPoint content item in the
unit tree. Even with the ease of media uploading into the eCollege system, the initial task of
media creation and preparation will demand much more of your time and energy.
Because creating media can be a time-consuming endeavor, this section not only shows you
uploading procedures, but it also discusses pedagogical issues and outlines tips for the creation
of media.
Uploading audio and video files
The current version of the eCollege system allows for the online upload of Real Networks
encoded audio and video. Formats such as Windows Media and QuickTime media can be used
within the eCollege platform, but will need to be sent to eCollege staff members for backend
upload to the media servers.
FORMAT
COMPATABLE WITH
ECOLLEGE ?
ABLE TO UPLOAD VIA FILE
MANAGER ?
Real Media
YES
YES
Windows Media
YES
NO
Quick Time
YES
NO
Here are the steps for uploading a Real Media file (audio or video) via the eCollege system:
1) Go to the Course Home section of the course and click on the Author Tab.
2) Click on the File Manager button. This will open a new area, which will show
the content for your course, organized in a folder tree.
3) The folder at the top will read “Streaming Media.” Click on this folder.
4) This will open a new area with a pull-down menu with options such as Upload a
Streaming Media File, Download a Streaming Media File, Create a New Folder, and
Delete Files and Folders. Select Upload a Streaming Media File and click “Go.”
5) After clicking on the “Go” button, a Browse button will appear with some other fields.
Click the Browse button.
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6) Another window will open, allowing you to browse your computer for the media file.
Click on the desired file, and click the “Open” button.
7) The window will disappear, and you will be back in the eCollege system, with the file
loaded into the field next to the Browse button.
8) Next, select the file type, either Real Video or Real Audio.
9) The Description or Comments fields are optional. Insert information here, only if it is
something that will help you in the future.
10) Click the Upload button.
TIP: You can choose Create a New Folder to make unit folders and help organize
your media files.
Media files tend to be much larger than other computer files, and therefore may take longer to
upload. Expect that uploading files via slower connections, such as 28.8 or 56.6 modems, or
uploading unusually large (greater than 12MB) files, will take several minutes.
Once your files are uploaded, you can then go into the section of the course where you'd like
them to appear and create a link in the same manner as you would other files, through the Link
Wizard, in the Visual Editor.
Creating Audio
Audio is often used as a way to enhance the content you present “in class.” Since recording and
uploading audio in a course is easier than video, it is one of the most common ways to
“humanize” your online course. This section will outline suggested Instructional Applications,
Basic Speaking Tips, and Technical Advice.
Instructional Applications
When an audio clip is used in an online course, it is most often used in one of the following ways:
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•
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An introduction of yourself to your students and/or an addition of personal experiences.
An introduction or overview to the material, which can include background information
about you, the course, and course requirements. This acts as a “warm up” that helps
bring personality into the online classroom.
An opportunity to feature a guest lecturer.
A monologue or dialogue discussing concepts or course material.
A “pep talk” or a “fireside chat” that can help students stay engaged, or prompt questions.
A side-link to describe an image, graphic, graph, or formula.
Spoken “lecture” in conjunction with a slide show.
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Basic Speaking Tips
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Speak with a strong, clear voice, and with appropriate inflection.
Talk with your audience in mind. Remember that your online class is a presentation rather
than merely a discussion, so be sure to “present” the material in an interesting manner.
If you send your materials to the developers at eCollege, cue your material at the
beginning of each segment. For instance, before you give your lecture, say,
This next segment is the course introduction for English 101, Spring 2003 semester.
I’m Professor Jones from William & Mary College. Begin audio.
•
Keep audio lectures concise and informative. Remember, your students will be listening to
this material via their computer, and it is important they remain engaged. We highly
recommend that media delivered over the Internet be no longer than 10 minutes. If 10
minutes is not enough time for the information you need to convey, we suggest dividing
your presentation into sections. This will allow your students to digest the material in
smaller segments, and retain the information more effectively. (Smaller audio clips also
load more quickly.)
•
Questions to ask yourself when preparing for recording
Are you giving the learner enough information?
Are you giving too much information?
Do learners know what to do when the audio ends?
Would music or sound effects help deliver your message?
Technical Advice
If you are sending a cassette to eCollege for Internet audio encoding, we will need a good quality,
original tape to work with. If you are making your own Internet streaming media files, you will also
need to produce quality recordings so your students will be able to hear and understand your
message. Fortunately, you can create quality audio clips using simple recording devices and
techniques. The following are handy tips for recording quality audio:
•
•
•
Find a quiet location to record your audio message and try not to talk too quickly.
Use high quality audiocassette tapes. Maxell XLII is a suggested brand, but there are
other comparable cassettes available. If necessary, ask the salesperson.
Use the best equipment you can—a good microphone and a good recording device.
•
•
Once you have your equipment hooked up, perform a test.
Be wary of your audio “levels” and do not record audio too “hot.” Most recording devices
have an audiometer that displays the level of your recording. You do not need to know
what all those numbers mean, but you will need to record a strong signal without making it
too strong. The goal is trying not to record audio that “goes into the red zone.” Think of
the audiometer as similar to the tachometer on your car, which measures RPMs —
recording audio in the red zone means you are recording a signal beyond what your tape
can handle. If your recording goes into the red zone every now and then, it is not a
problem. Your goal is to avoid having it stay in the red zone.
•
Do not record audio too “cold.” This would be the opposite of recording a signal, which is
too strong—recording a signal that is not audible because it is too weak. Again, watch
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your audiometer. If it is moving when you speak into the microphone (and it is not going
into the red zone often) then you are doing fine.
•
Listen to the audio when you finish. Be certain your recording is good and your message
is complete. If possible, listen to it on a different tape deck. Ask yourself the following
questions as you listen to your audio:
§
Can you understand what is being said?
§
Are there background noises drowning out your voice?
§
Is there a “hum” or a “buzz” caused possibly by a loose connection on
the microphone?
•
After listening to your tape, if the material has any of the above problems, please adjust
your equipment, your environment, or your speaking style, and re-record your entire piece.
NOTE: You do not need expensive professional audio gear, but we suggest avoiding cheaper,
low-quality cassette recorders. You can purchase a good cassette recorder and external
microphone for between $50 and $100. Most sales people are helpful when you are shopping for
audio equipment, but be certain to test any equipment before you purchase it. Additionally, many
colleges and universities have an audio/visual department, with technicians that will record your
audio for you. If your institution has such a lab, we highly suggest taking advantage of its
services.
Creating Video
Like audio, video is an effective way to introduce yourself, emphasize difficult concepts, share
intriguing “war stories,” feature guest lecturers, and give demonstrations. This section will outline
Instructional Applications, Basic Filming Tips, and Technical Advice.
Instructional Issues
Video streamed over the Internet is lower quality than broadcast television, so we caution you to
use video judiciously. Some instructors may be tempted to record their entire lectures for Webbased delivery, but nothing could be less effective for engaging learners.
•
•
Video Vignettes can be used to touch on key concepts and objectives. Often a video
vignette involves a couple of speakers in a talk show kind of setting. It can also be used to
highlight poetry readings, a news story, or even demonstrate a science experiment. If you
think of a vignette as “Video Show and Tell,” then the possibilities are endless.
A Video Introduction is the most common use of video in online courses because it is an
effective way for your students to “meet” you. Relax, speak into the camera, and share
some thoughts that will get learners comfortable, engaged, and ready to begin the course.
Be sure to write a script and practice before you step in front of the camera. In case you
do not know what to say, there is a sample script on the next page. Please feel free to
adapt the text and use it for your online message.
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Basic Filming Tips
As noted above, due to current bandwidth limitations, streaming video over the Internet is not the
same quality as video broadcast on a television. This section provides some basic filming tips to
help you shoot a quality video that you can either encode for Internet delivery or send to us for
encoding.
Before reading on, we would like to invite you to view a “How to Shoot Video for the Internet.”
The presentation is hosted by Steve Mack, the Manager of the Media Lab at RealNetworks, and is
only 4 minutes long. To view, simply go online, open a browser, and type in the following
address:
http://realmedia02.eCollege/schools/ecollege/stevemack/home.htm .
You will need the RealPlayer to view the presentation.
Technical Advice
Professionally shot and edited video presentations are not always good material for Internet
delivery, due to all the moving images, moving titles, and video effects. As Steve Mack explains
in “How to Shoot Video for the Internet,” the encoding process sacrifices frame rate and clarity in
order to produce a video that can be streamed over the Internet. Nevertheless, many of these
videos can still be very useful to your course. If you choose to use them, please keep in mind that
certain parts may not be useable due to the lower quality of Internet delivery. Also, if you want to
use only a short segment in a video, be sure to give clear instructions when you send the video in
for encoding.
NOTE: When eCollege receives any recorded material, we make the assumption the copyright
permission has been secured.
Here are some technical suggestions for when you shoot your online video material:
•
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Wear clothing that sets you apart from the background.
Wear solid colors. Video has a difficult time reproducing narrow strips or checkers.
Before you shoot your video, prepare a script and practice your delivery. Below, we have
provided a sample script that you can adapt to your class or program. If you feel more
comfortable speaking extemporaneously, but would like a bullet point list to remind you of
key topics, we suggest writing the key points on a piece of paper and taping it directly
below the lens of your camera. As you speak, you can glance down at the paper to
remind yourself of the key points.
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Here is a sample script for a class introduction video.
Hello, I’m (name), and I want to welcome you to (course name).
It has been a unique experience creating this course online and I believe that you are in for an enjoyable
learning experience. A little about my background…(Discuss your work experience, hobbies, etc.)
In this course, you can expect…(Add a little bit about the course, such as objectives, overview,
expectations from learners, grading, etc.)
When you enter the course for the first time, be sure to read all of the homepage information: the
syllabus, policies and procedures and course requirements. I recommend printing the Course Syllabus,
my contact information, and technical support (303–873–0005 or [email protected]’sURL).
Please feel free to contact me through email, or by checking the Calendar and contacting me in the
Chatroom during arranged office hours. Be sure to review the syllabus, and be prepared to log on often
to keep up with the course material. Even though in an online class there is no specific time to “go to
class,” attendance counts. Participation is a large part of this course, so come to class ready to respond.
Again, welcome to (course name). I look forward to an exciting and enjoyable learning experience!
•
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•
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Use a basic font for any titles in your video. Fancier fonts tend to become unreadable
when encoded for Internet delivery. Suggested fonts are Helvetica, Arial, or Verdana.
The font size of any title should be big enough to read when streamed across the Internet.
We suggest using letters that are at least 1/5th of the screen height.
Avoid using moving or scrolling titles.
Keep movement to a minimum. Your television broadcasts video at 30 frames per
second, but video on the Internet is between 4–15 frames per second. In order to avoid
unnecessary movement of the camera, we advise the following:
- Always use a tripod.
- Avoid zooming and panning the camera.
- Avoid an “MTV style” of filming and editing.
Record video with ample lighting. If you have at least average everyday lighting
conditions, the image will be recorded on the tape with much better quality.
Avoid "back lit" situations. A video is backlit when the subject is dark and the background
is bright:
A "back lit" image:
The subject is dark and
the background is bright
•
“White balance” your camera. What does this mean? Basically, different light sources
produce different colors of emitted light: incandescent light bulbs produce an orange-ish
color, florescent light bulbs produce a greenish color, and sunlight produces a bluish color.
Almost all camcorders are equipped with a white balance adjustment to adjust to the
lighting conditions you are filming. Since different camera models have different
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adjustments, you will need to refer to the owner's manual for instructions on how to
properly adjust the white balance on your particular camcorder.
•
Filming two or more speakers. When you have more than one subject, there is no way
to avoid a wider shot. They will appear smaller in the frame, but that is okay. As one word
of caution, try to avoid giving the subjects too much headroom. Here is an example of
what to look for as well as what not to look for:
Too much headroom
Good framing
The following are examples are well-shot videos.
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Average lighting
Good framing
Minimal headroom
The subject is not
too far nor too
close
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Good framing and
lighting
The subject is close
enough to camera
There is not too much
headroom
The following are examples of videos that were shot poorly.
•
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•
Subject is too far away
Too much headroom
Shot is crooked
•
The image is "back lit"
The subject is dark with a
bright background
•
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Slide Shows
Slide shows contain graphs, charts, photographs, outlined notes, spreadsheets, and any other
graphics or text that supports your lesson plans. You can create a slide show using PowerPoint
or using simple graphic images, text and audio.
Basic Tips
1. Font size. Use a large legible font. We recommend 32 point and above.
2. Amount of text. Try to use a maximum of 3–4 lines of body text per slide. This will
ensure that the slide is readable and not cluttered.
3. Graphics. As a general rule of thumb, the more graphics, images, and gradients in your
slides, the longer the download time. Although we do not want to discourage you from
using images in your slide shows, we do want to make you aware of this issue. Our
advice is to keep graphics and images to a minimum, using them only to help your
students learn the material. Generally speaking, if your slide images are 30kb or less, a
28.8 modem user will get the slide in 8 seconds or under.
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Examples of Slides
WHY THIS SLIDE WORKS: Contrasting
background and text, minimal text, easy to
read, WILL download quickly over a 28.8
modem.
WHY THIS SLIDE DOESN’T WORK: Noncontrasting background and text, difficult to
read text, many graphics draw attention from
the text, will take longer to download via 28.8
modem.
Preparing Your Materials
Slides. PowerPoint is the most commonly used program and preferred method for creating
slides. PowerPoint slideshows can be presented in different ways. You can send them to your
Profhelp contact here at eCollege, and we will convert the images for Internet delivery. It is very
important to understand that not all of the functionality of PowerPoint will translate into the online
environment. For instance, bullet points which zoom in from the side of the frame will not be
possible. Every motion or change within your slide requires an entirely new slide in an online
presentation. Therefore, the key to building your slide show in PowerPoint is to keep your slides
simple.
NOTE: Remember, you can upload your PowerPoints directly into the eCollege system, using the
Microsoft PPT upload tool. With this option, when students view the slideshow in the full-screen
mode, any animations and audio from the original PPT will be retained.
If you are using a word-processing program to construct slides, please indicate the separation of
slides using page breaks or borders. Additionally, if the slide show is not formatted, it will be
necessary for you to give very specific instructions to your Profhelp contact.
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Last, the number of slides you send should match the number of audio cues (if applicable) in the
audio you send. If the audio cues do not match the number of slides, it will cause us delays in
getting your slide show built and into your class.
Audio for Slides. To create the audio for your slide show, you can record the information
digitally, as a .wav file, or record to a cassette tape or DAT. (Review the Audio section for
technical tips and issues.) Please note: We do not accept Dictaphone or mini-cassettes due to
the poor technical quality.
Recording Audio for Slide Shows
Step 1 . Say the course number, unit number, and title of the slide show at the beginning of the
tape.
Step 2 . Take a 5–10 second pause and begin recording the audio.
Step 3 . If you are recording a self-paced slide show, clearly state the slide number before each
audio. For instance, say, “Audio for slide 10.” Take a brief pause and then begin
speaking. We need these cues so we can coordinate the proper audio with the proper
slide.
Or
Step 4 . If you are recording a synchronized slide show, clearly state the slide changes as you
speak. For instance, when you are done with the information for slide 2, say, “Begin
slide 3,” and then continue with your audio for slide 3. When you are done with audio for
slide 3, say, “Begin slide 4,” and continue with your audio for Slide 4, and so on. Our
Audio/Video technicians will edit out your slide callings so that they are not heard in your
final slideshow audio.
Please remember that it is important to refer to the slides by number while recording the audio.
Submission Formats
Audio submissions are accepted in the following formats:
•
•
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Standard sized cassettes
DAT (digital audio tape)
.wav file saved at a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz. (sent via FTP or burned to a CD
NOTE: Micro cassettes are not accepted due to their poor audio quality and variable
recording/playback speeds.
Video submissions are accepted in the following formats:
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VHS
S-VHS
8mm (not digital 8mm)
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•
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Hi-8
DV
DVcam
BetaSp
.avi files saved in uncompressed format and at a size of 176 x 132 pixels.
Graphics (images) are accepted in the following formats:
•
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•
.gif
.psd
.png
•
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.jpg
.bmp
•
•
.tif
.ai
Sending AV Materials to eCollege
If you are sending audio or videotapes, some form of actual shipment will be necessary.
Be sure to label your tapes with the following information:
School
Class Name
Class Number
Your Name
Contact phone number
If you would like to submit audio or video electronically, you can be set up with an FTP account on
our FTP server. It is free of charge, and all you need to do is contact your Profhelp contact at
eCollege. Here are some conventions when saving and sending electronic files:
Audio: Save .wav files at a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz.
Video: Save .avi files in uncompressed format and at a size of 176 x 132 pixels.
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Readings
Over the past few years, the Instructional Design Team has been writing a series of feature
essays for our faculty newsletter on the pedagogy and the trials and tribulations of teaching with
Internet technology. Our experiences come from our own backgrounds in teaching and from our
work in supporting faculty who teach online. Dealing with email, understanding the implications of
learning styles in an online class, and effectively exploring the World Wide Web are just a few of
the topics into which we delve in these essays.
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Learning with Style (or, The Art of Virtual Origami)
If I have a piece of paper and fold it in half, it creates two “layers” of paper. If I fold it in
half again, I have 4 layers. If I continually fold the paper in half 6 more times, how many layers of
paper will I have?
Walk through the steps of this problem, then come back to this paragraph. (Yes, try it!)
How did you go about solving this problem? Did you visualize folding a piece of paper and record
the number of layers? Did you write out a quick mathematical equation? Did you read the
problem aloud? Did you actually take a piece of paper and fold it, counting the layers, only to give
up after 3 or 4 folds because you hate math problems? Each of us has our own unique style of
solving problems. Chances are we all used a different method in attempting to solve this problem,
owing in large part to our different learning styles.
Of course, how we as individuals process information, acquire knowledge, and solve
problems has to do with various factors, such as personality traits, preferences towards facts or
theories, left or right brain dominance, etc. But one important component in how we learn is
through perceptual learning styles, or how we prefer to receive information. These learning styles
are commonly divided into 3 categories: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic/tactile.
Auditory: Do you hear what I’m saying?
Aural learners prefer hearing new information. It is still up for debate, but many
researchers feel that those who learn best by reading are also considered aural learners. Reading
can be understood as the process of hearing ourselves say the words on a page. Auditory
learners often thrive in the traditional classroom because they learn best by reading a textbook or
listening to lectures. In the online environment, these learners may prefer the option of reading
text material on or off-line, and listening to auditory mini-lectures.
Further, aural learners may be divided into those who “hear” messages, and those who
learn by “speaking.” Some individuals process information by talking it out to themselves. These
individuals may become easily frustrated in the online environment and would benefit from the
multiple opportunities to participate in threaded discussions and chat rooms to discuss the course
material.
Visual: Do you see what I mean?
Visual learners prefer to see or visualize what they are learning and create mental images
to help them understand new concepts. These students prefer the use of pictures, charts, graphs
or diagrams to help them process and remember information. In addition to a textual lecture, an
alternative slide show presentation would benefit visual learners. When using visuals however,
make sure the aid adds value to the material. With Internet technology the temptation may be to
add color, images or moving objects whenever possible, but the result may frustrate some
students by causing unnecessary distractions or unneeded technical problems.
Kinesthetic/Tactile: Do you grasp my message?
Kinesthetic learners do best when given the opportunity to “do” something, and tactile
learners learn by touching. These two learners are similar in that they receive information in a
“hands-on” basis. Real-life examples, problem solving, or computer simulations are excellent
teaching approaches for this learning style. Remember that in an online course, students do not
have to complete 100% of their coursework while sitting in front of the computer. Preparing
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students to conduct their own hands-on experiments or observations and then debriefing
everyone’s experiences online is a great technique for these learners.
So What Now?
Knowing that your students have different ways of taking in information, what do you do?
Do you cater to each and every student’s individual learning style, or do you require students to
“get over it” and become stronger in their weak area, if it fits your discipline? Individuals do not
learn in just one style, but tend to favor one over the others. Of course, we can’t individualize our
courses for every student’s particular learning style ratio. But as teachers, we have a duty to
provide a healthy environment in which students can learn best.
Getting to know your own learning style and how it affects your students is the first step.
Richard Felder concluded in Reaching the Second Tier that “Students whose learning styles are
compatible with the teaching styles of a course instructor tend to retain information longer, apply it
more effectively, and have more positive post-course attitudes toward the subject than do their
counterparts who experience learning/teaching style mismatches” (286).
The next step is to design your course to provide material in more than one format. The
online environment creates a unique opportunity to present information, assess student
performance and interact in various ways. By creating variety in the way instruction is conducted
in your course, and by allowing students some flexibility to demonstrate their performance, you
are creating an environment that both supports and stimulates students of all learning styles.
Reference
Felder, Richard, “Reaching the Second Tier: Learning and Teaching Styles in College Science
Education.” J. College Science Teaching, 23(5), 286–290 (1993).
Recommended Websites
Indiana State University. CTL Learning Styles Site.
http://web.indstate.edu/ctl/styles/model.html (September 8, 1999).
Washburn University. Learning Enrichment Through Learning Styles.
http://www.washburn.edu/services/class/le/le-styl.htm (August 25, 1999).
Bridget Arend, M.A.
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Learning with Style II: Providing a Balanced Menu for Every Appetite
When it comes to writing, we tend to prefer using either our right hand or our left hand.
Although, technically, we could write with either hand, we tend to rely on one or the other to
successfully engage in the writing process. For a moment, pick up a pen or pencil and write a few
sentences with your preferred hand. Now, switch hands and try writing those same sentences
with the opposite hand. Unless you are one of the few individuals who are equally comfortable
writing with either hand, you probably noticed a big difference when attempting to write in your
less preferred mode. You might describe the experience as awkward, uncomfortable, unnatural,
and frustrating. It probably took a lot more time and energy, and in the end, the product was
probably lower in quality. Now for a moment, imagine being in a class where the instructor
required you to write the majority of the time with the hand opposite from the one you prefer. How
would that affect your learning? What impact would that have on your overall productivity and
motivation?
In the same way that each of us has a preferred mode of writing, we also tend to have
preferred modes of learning, referred to as "learning styles." Although we can technically learn
using a variety of learning modalities, each of us tends to have preferred styles with which we rely
upon. Similar to the writing scenario above, engaging in the learning process via a less preferred
learning style is a lot like having to write with the "wrong" hand…possible, but awkward and less
productive.
In the ideal world, every class we take would be tailored to our individual learning
preferences. However, because each of us has a preferred "learning style," every class is
ultimately composed of a variety of individuals and therefore a variety of preferences for learning.
As a result, one of the greatest challenges for educators involves creating a learning environment
that successfully incorporates a variety of learning processes to effectively cater to the different
learners and learning styles that are involved. It is unreasonable to expect instructors to adapt
every learning experience to accommodate every learning style. However, in a "student
centered" approach to teaching, it is also unreasonable to require all students to engage in the
process of learning through only one learning modality. By providing students with a "menu of
learning opportunities" throughout a course's curriculum, instructors can effectively incorporate
experiences for all learning styles to be adequately represented.
To teach a multiplicity of learning styles is often difficult in traditional "on-site" classes,
where educators are constrained by the factors involved in engaging a group of individual learners
in a single place, during a specific time period. Committing to one learning process in this
confined context inevitably caters to certain students who prefer that mode of learning, while
neglecting other students who are not as effective in learning in that way. However, online
education, by removing the barriers of time and place, provides educators with a unique
opportunity to appeal to a wider array of learning preferences within the framework of a more
flexible and expansive learning environment. Instead of providing a single learning process for a
group of individuals, instructors can provide a "menu of learning opportunities" for individual
learners to explore. Assuming that the menu incorporates the range of learning style preferences,
each student is bound to find some element of the learning experience that appeals to them.
At this stage, you may be wondering how you might adapt to different learning styles in
your online classes, so let's consider a few possibilities. Viewed in overly simplistic terms, the
process of learning can be described as a two-stage process. The first stage involves "taking in"
new information and the second stage involves cognitively "processing" the new ideas by
integrating them into our existing frame of reference or knowledge base. In "Learning with Style
(or the Virtual Art of Origami)," Bridget Arend discusses some important implications and
applications of learning styles in online education related to the first stage of learning. This
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included an analysis of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic perceptual learning styles. As an
extension to her contribution, let's focus on two additional learning styles associated with the
second stage of learning, referred to here as the cognitive "processing" mode of learning.
Active vs. Reflective Learning Styles
David Kolb (1983) suggests that one dimension where individuals tend to differ in their
preferences for cognitive processing involves "active" vs. "reflective" modalities. As the name
implies, active learners prefer hands-on active learning processes, interaction, and physical
exploration that allows them to express their thoughts and ideas externally and spontaneously.
They learn by "doing" first and then thinking about what they have done later. Often times, active
learners prefer to "talk out loud" with insight and understanding being generated through external
dialogue. Reflective learners, on the other hand, prefer to "think" first and "do" later. In other
words, they prefer to mull ideas over internally and desire time to think about the learning
experience prior to "jumping in" or expressing their views. As they engage in the learning process,
they tend to need time to reflect upon what they have encountered. They prefer to arrive at insight
and understanding through "internal dialogue" with themselves and are typically uneasy when put
on the spot to respond to questions that they have not had enough time to think about.
In the online environment, active learners may thrive when engaged in webquests, online
simulations, experiments, and hands-on activities. They may feel a need to engage regularly in
online chats where they can interact with others in real-time. They tend to become dissatisfied
with a "read and write" format that lacks the interaction and physical exploration that they crave.
Reflective learners, on the other hand, may feel threatened by participation in real-time chat
rooms. They may enjoy "lurking" or passively reviewing the chat posts of their classmates but
may become very uncomfortable if "put on the spot" to express their thoughts in this forum without
having had enough time to "reflect" and formulate their ideas. Instructors might encourage more
productive participation by reflective learners in chatroom discussions by providing advance
notice of the issues and questions to be considered. This way, the student can reflect on these
issues well in advance and come to the chat prepared to engage actively in the discussion. The
asynchronous nature of the threaded discussion is also very accommodating to a reflective
learner because he/she can review questions and other students responses, take time to reflect
upon them, and then post their own thoughts when convenient for them. These learners are also
likely to enjoy using the online journal, which lends itself nicely as a forum for the "internal
dialogue" that they desire.
Random vs. Sequential Learning Styles
Dr. Anthony Gregorc (1992) suggests that there is also a "Random vs. Sequential"
dimension to cognitive processing. Random learners prefer flexibility and freedom in the
organization and structure of learning processes, so that spontaneity and impulse can guide an
exploratory learning adventure. On the contrary, sequential learners prefer a carefully planned
linear process with a step-by-step organization that guides them toward a pre-determined product
or conclusion.
In the online environment, random learners may feel constrained and controlled by a
highly organized and structured curriculum. If everything is spelled out and step-by-step
instructions are provided with a pre-determined end, they tend to quickly become bored and
disengaged. They need to have freedom to explore, flexibility to diverge from the path, and
opportunity to take leadership over their own learning experiences. Presenting them with openended, problem solving exercises and activities that ask them to conduct novel Internet searches
are likely to be successful in satisfying the random learner's need for spontaneity and innovation.
The random learner will also desire open-ended discussions where the questions do not
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necessarily lead to pre-determined answers. Sequential learners, on the other hand are likely to
"get lost in cyberspace" in a class that lacks a clearly defined structure, organizational schemata,
deadlines, timelines, etc. They are less able to cope with unexpected changes and are likely to
become frustrated if the course diverts from the class syllabus. Sequential learners tend to need
direction and explicit instructions and may become confused in a class that provides for selfpaced, self-directed, open-ended learning. Obviously, the contrast between these two styles is
likely to pose significant challenges to the instructor. Ideally, incorporating a well balanced
mixture of freedom and flexibility along with reasonable structure and organization will allow both
types of learners the type of learning environment that they need to excel.
In addition to the implications and applications of learning styles considered here, there
are a number of others that ought to be further explored by online educators who want to create a
"menu of learning opportunities" that can help all students. For additional information and
assistance with creating online courses that are "learning style friendly," feel free to contact your
Instructional Designer. We will be happy to provide you with helpful insight and suggestions for
using online tools and technologies to provide your students with a veritable smorgasbord of
educational opportunities.
References
Gregorc, Anthony. (1992). An Adult's Guide to Style. Gregorc Associates.
Kolb, David. (1983). Experiential Learning. Prentice Hall.
Kirk Lacy, Ed.D. candidate
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Course Accessibility Strategies for Students with Visual Impairments
Part of the appeal of an online course is that it allows students to learn anytime from
nearly anywhere. However, will it be possible for everyone to take your course? There is
tremendous potential in the online environment for including students of all abilities and learning
styles. While there are particular course design issues to think about for students with specific
disabilities, let's narrow the focus right now to a few universal design strategies you can
implement to make your course more accessible to students with visual impairments.
While it is true that the Internet tends to inspire a highly visual presentation of materials, it
is still possible to design your course to include the visually impaired student. There are software
and hardware available to make computers and the Internet accessible to these students, such as
programs, which will read aloud all the text on an Internet page. There are also ways to greatly
magnify the images and text on a computer screen.
There are four strategies to use to make your course more accessible to students using
screen reading and magnification tools. These strategies are using text equivalents for all visual
information, avoiding columns, using consistent page layout and design, and creating descriptive
"link text." Using just these strategies will not always result in an accessible page; however, it will
make your course more powerful and clear for all of your students.
When students use "screen readers," only the text on a web page is read. When you use
visual materials like graphs, tables, pictures or photos as part of your course content (and we
definitely encourage you to use these images) be sure that there is text included to allow students
using these screen readers to obtain the same information as sighted students. Consider the
following two labels for the same graph comparing the performance of students on a recent exam.
Figure 1. Graph showing student performance on section two of our last exam.
Figure 1. Graph showing student performance on section two of our last exam. The graph
illustrates the range of student outcomes. Five students got more than 90 percent
of the questions correct while twenty students got fewer than 70 percent of the
questions correct. Ten students scored between 70 and 90 percent. Clearly we
should spend more time with the material in section two.
Descriptions such as the ones in the second example will make the material more clear for
all your students. For students who use screen readers, this added text is indispensable.
The organization of your pages is also especially important when it comes to screen
readers and screen magnifiers. By default, screen readers read all the text on the page from left
to right and top to bottom. For this reason, columns can be especially confusing for students
using screen readers and should be avoided when possible. Also, try to have a clear and
consistent page design in your course. This will help all students focus more on the content you
are hoping to convey.
For those of you who include links to external pages and web sites, keep in mind that
screen readers can pull all the links from a web page and organize them together. This makes it
easier for people with screen readers to move from one web page to another. The text on which
people click in order to get to other pages or sites on the web is known as "link text." Your course
will be much simpler to navigate if you use carefully descriptive "link text." For example, when I
write, "Click here to go to the eCollege web site," and make the "Click here" the actual link text, a
screen reader would pull this text to a list of links. The rest of that sentence, "to go to the
eCollege web site," would be missing, making it difficult to identify. However, if you write, "Click
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here to go to the eCollege web site," making "the eCollege web site" the actual link text, a screen
reader would pick up the name of the web site, thus giving students much more useful information
about where a link will lead them.
Naturally there are other ways to be sure your course is universally inclusive, but the point
here is simply to identify some basic issues and solutions to help students using screen readers
and screen magnification tools. If you want to learn more about designing your course for all
students you may want to visit the Web Accessibility Initiative Web page at www.w3.org/WAI. By
meeting the needs of students who are visually impaired, you will better meet the needs of all
students. Include text with audio and video. Enhance the power of images you use by providing
supporting text. Simple changes like these can make your course more powerful for everyone.
Keith Millner, M.A.
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A Few Thoughts on the Process of Making an Existing Course Your Own
Although I had never taught a course in the cyber-realm previous to this semester,
between the encouraging emails from contacts and colleagues, and my little experience with the
language of “hypertext markup,” I thought that creating my own course out of a previously
developed one would be a relatively simple undertaking. This was definitely not the case.
Even though I knew this course had been taught before by another instructor, the first time
that I logged onto the system, I was surprised to find that the entire course from the previous
semester was somehow posted in my semester. I was initially concerned about my credibility and
repertoire with my students. Although I knew that they couldn't log on until the first day of class, I
thought of how silly I’d look if I missed one old Threaded Discussion entry or a link to an outdated
assignment. I was somewhat overwhelmed at seeing all of the places that an old instructor’s
name or due dates might be hidden. So I brewed a fresh pot of coffee, started some inspirational
working tunes, and began looking around. Reading through the class, I realized how well the
former instructor had handled the online classroom. This discovery made me consider how the
curriculum was already set up, and what I’d like to implement in a similar fashion.
I began slowly replacing the existing course with mine (one “Learning Tool” at a time) and
did a lot of learning along the way. I realized that my larger documents (like readings and
lectures) didn’t necessarily have to exist within their parent Learning Tool, and making links to
external files allowed me to format the HTML in another HTML Editor program—and those “What
You See is What You Get" programs make HTML coding NOT like learning a whole new
language. Each time I updated a new Unit (Week) of my course, I had the chance to view the
other instructor’s pedagogical approach to this whole new electronic learning environment.
My course is now at the beginning of its fourth week and I already feel like I know my
students (individually) as well as if we were meeting three times a week! I’ve found that as long as
you explain your objectives clearly, all of the fun and important activities that happen in a live
classroom can be just as effective. Although the pedagogical shift from the “real” classroom to the
“virtual” classroom involves an immense learning curve, the experience I’ve had so far is definitely
worth it. Having the chance to view how someone else taught the course in the past, too, helped
with the shift from the traditional classroom to the "cyber-class."
Peter S. Cassidy, M.A.
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Some Thoughts on Class Size, Interaction, and the Simplicity of Email
Over the past semester, I taught my second online writing course for the University of
Colorado, at Denver. During my first semester, I had about 16 students, all of whom seemed to
have had a reasonably good experience—the feedback was solid, and the papers seemed to
meet or exceed the high campus expectations; based on this, I signed up to teach a second
course.
I sent out my obligatory week-before introduction letter, and I was ready to interact. Then,
as the first week got rolling, I took a good look at the roster; the class was filled to the max—25
students, and more on the waiting list! Seeing the at-capacity roster made me begin to think about
the previous semester, especially the threaded discussion interactivity, and how difficult it was for
me to post enough genuine responses each week with only 16 students.
I remembered from the previous semester that, even when I prompted students to react to
my comments, many of my posted comments would end student conversations—and I realized
that if those conversations were going well, perhaps “the best action to take is no action!"
(Muilenburg, Berge). It was at that point that I had an idea about another option for feedback that
ended up working out well. The idea of heavier student-to-student interaction in the threads
suddenly became more than just a progressive concept to me—it became the Holy Grail! But, as
a teacher, “letting go” is about the hardest concept of all.
I was already answering course management questions via email from about a third to a
half of my students each week. I also monitored the threads closely throughout; but rather than
responding directly in the threads, I started copying snippets from student posts/assignments and
pasting them on the bottom of those individual emails. I would then add comments, thoughts,
praise and instruction to the emails. I was ultimately giving my students individual, personal
feedback, while answering the questions that needed answering anyway. Two birds. One stone.
In these private emails, I asked questions that would hopefully spur more thought, and promote
more responses—in the threads to other students and to me personally. After a few of these
emails, I noticed that there was a higher rate of excited response from the students (even if it was
just the simple “thank-you for your comments” email); and through those responses, the rapport
between my students and me soared.
As the semester moved forward, I found I got much better at initially asking the kinds of
threaded discussion questions that sparked rich conversation—with stipulations like, “post your
first response by Wednesday, then return and respond to at least 3 other student responses.” I
also added specific direction that asked my students to explain their stances—not to just “agree”
or “disagree.”
By implementing my new system of promoting student-to-student interaction, through
limiting my personal thread posts, and by commenting directly through email, I set up a system in
which each student would hear from me, personally, at least every other week. The combination
of the simple email and heavy student-to-student interaction helped me build a solid and
interested community in my online course.
Peter S. Cassidy, M.A.
Sources
Muilenburg, Lin MA University of South Alabama, Berge, Zane L., Ph.D. UMBC; “A
FRAMEWORK FOR DESIGNING QUESTIONS FOR ONLINE LEARNING”.
http://emoderators.com/moderators/muilenburg.html
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Email Heaven or . . . ???
Let’s do a little arithmetic: say you are now an online aficionado teaching two courses with
an average of 25 students in each course. Your courses are highly interactive, so each week,
your students respond to discussion questions, make daily journal entries, participate in group
projects, and complete larger homework assignments. That comes out to about 200 assignments
a week. Add to that (let’s be conservative) the 20 or so general inquiries you will receive and the
daily correspondence from chatty students and, suddenly, you are receiving close to 250 email
messages a week. (Let’s not even consider the email you get each week from your own personal
correspondents!)
Have you had the opportunity yet to see 50, 100, 150 messages displayed in your inbox?
It’s not a pretty sight.
Even with fancy email software and their high tech filters, automatic reply functions and
individualized mailboxes, you’re going to be spending valuable time shuffling, replying and
stuffing. On top of that, too many outside email servers go down, don’t deliver, whatever. You’ll
be dealing with student complaints about not receiving email from you or other classmates, and
replying to complaints, as well as to the original email! Horrible.
Yes, use email, but don’t rely on it as your only method of communication, or your only
way of receiving assignments. If students are sending journal entries, discussion question replies,
and even whole papers directly by email to you, not only are you nowhere near heaven, but your
class misses out on wonderful learning opportunities.
Instead of just email, create a variety of threaded discussions in your course for discussion
responses, general housekeeping questions and even for the turning in of assignments. Students
can attach papers to their threads. (I never worried about students "cheating" on the threads: it
was pretty obvious if the student had done any thinking on his/her own and I graded accordingly.)
Require your students to use the online journal. Here you and each individual student can share
private reflections on course readings. Let them share papers with you and other students
through Document Sharing, a “tool” useful for workshop formats and peer critiques. Use the
Message Center to communicate with your students and know that each student who logs into
your course will see that message, no matter what problems with email might exist.
The less email you require, the less sweat you’ll lose worrying over your own computer
pitching an unexpected computer “hissy-fit,” and all that student work going down those proverbial
“tubes!”
Kathy Winograd, Ph.D.
Academic Services Department
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Taming the World "Wild" Web
There are three critical requirements for effectively “Taming the World Wild Web”:
1. Know what search tools are available and understand how each tool works,
2. Understand the strengths and limitations of each tool, and
3. Learn how to use each tool most effectively.
Know The Tools and How They Work
There are at least three different types of tools for searching the World Wide Web. These
include Search Directories, Search Engines, and Meta-Search Engines.
Search Directories. Like a subject index, catalogue, or the telephone yellow pages, a search
directory classifies information on web pages by topic. It is a hierarchical search that starts with a
general subject heading and follows with a succession of increasingly more specific subheadings.
Popular Search Directories include LookSmart, NetGuide, Yahoo, and About.com.
Search Engines. A search engine begins with the user providing a topic, keyword, or phrase.
Each search engine maintains a database of references to web pages according to various
keywords associated with the contents of those pages. When the user submits a search request
consisting of keywords and phrases, the search engine scans the database looking for "matches"
to web pages included in their database. These "matches" are then submitted back to the user
with hyperlinks to the associated web pages. Popular Search Engines include Alta Vista,
GoTo.com, InfoSeek, Lycos, Excite, and Northern Light.
Meta-Search Engines. A Meta-search engine utilizes a number of search engines
simultaneously. The search is conducted using keywords or phrases submitted by the user. After
collecting the results from several search engines, it then lists the hits either by search engine or
by integrating the results into a single listing. Popular Meta-Search Engines include Dogpile,
Savvy Search, and MetaCrawler.
Understand the Strengths and Limitations of Each Tool
Search Directories. If you have a general topic in mind, a Search Directory is often a good start
because someone else has already gone searching and found resources for you that are related
to a particular subject. Because directories concentrate on matching specific web sites to these
general categories, you are less likely to have to wade through irrelevant information.
Directories do not contain all the links to all the web resources on every topic. Instead, a
directory lists only the resources it has indexed in its database. The links listed in one Directory
under a certain topic are not necessarily the same as those listed in another Directory under the
same topic. You also must rely upon the thoroughness and opinions of whoever is managing the
directory. For example, there may be thousands of other web pages “out there” on your topic that
the Directory has not catalogued or that the Directory did not “match” with your subject area.
Search Engines. In contrast to the Search Directory, a Search Engine is most effective if you
have a very specific topic in mind but not as effective when searching for general subjects. Using
a search engine for a general subject can produce millions of matches making it highly inefficient.
However, when using the search engine for a very specific topic like “eCollege”, the resulting 27
matches illustrates how this tool can offer the user a very efficient tool for zeroing in on specific
topics.
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One problem with search engines is that while they share the common feature of requiring
user-submitted keywords or phrases, each search engine is different in terms of how it maintains
its database and how it returns matches back to the user. For example, some search engines
match the user submitted keywords only with terms included in the title of a web page while other
search engines scan every single word in the web page looking for a match. Another problem
encountered with using Search Engines is related to the amount of time that each search engine
scans its databases for matches to keywords. A search engine’s database may consist of
references to millions and millions of keywords and phrases. When the user hits the “search”
button, the search engine begins scanning the database for matches for a specific period of time.
After that time has passed, the engine returns whatever “matches” were retrieved prior to the
search timing out. Therefore, your search results are not always representative of all the
resources available within a search engine’s database but only those resources effectively
retrieved in the allotted time.
Meta-Search Engines. The advantage of a Meta-Search Engine is that the user needs to submit
a search just a single time and simultaneously receives the search results from several search
engines. However, because Meta-Search Engines use multiple search engines simultaneously,
the advantages and disadvantages described above for using Search Engines are simply
multiplied by the number of search engines employed by the Meta-Search Engine.
Learn How to Use Each Tool Most Effectively
Ultimately, these three different search tools serve to complement each other in terms of
their respective strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, the best rule of thumb is to use a variety of
these tools when conducting searches.
Because every tool utilizes its own unique procedures for maintaining its database, to be
most effective in using each of these tools one needs to learn the unique rules and recommended
search techniques of each one. To do this, you are invited to take an online journey through an
interactive "Taming the World Wild Web" guide that can be accessed via the following URL:
http://msubillings.eCollege/newsletter .
I hope this guide and the various resources included will prove to be useful in your
attempts to harness the power and potential inherent in the WWW. If you have comments or
suggestions, I would greatly appreciate your feedback.
Kirk Lacy, Ed.D. candidate
[email protected]
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It Must be True—I Found It on the Web!
For years, media pundits (not to mention advertisers) have known that people tend to
regard as true most information they see on television. Imagine, then, the potential for information
mayhem when a generation of students raised on television (and who wasn’t at this point?) turns
to the multimedia World Wide Web as its primary research tool.
Of course, most of us know deep down inside that not everything on TV—or the Web—is
true. However, most of us aren’t undergraduates writing research papers at 2 AM. But that’s how
students spend their time (at least part of it), and it’s the most natural thing in the world to surf the
Web for that perfect citation to clinch whatever point they are trying to make before slipping into
sleep-deprived oblivion. The obvious danger is that a great deal of information on the Web is, to
put it delicately, not crafted according to the highest academic standards. Or, as a well-known
cartoon says, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”
As an instructor, how can you guide your students through the vagaries of the Web? After
all, though it has some faults, it is the largest compendium of information ever created, and it will
only grow in size and importance.
There are two parts to the answer. First, remember that the Web is a source of
information, not necessarily knowledge. Equipping students with the critical thinking to turn
information into knowledge is the essential guidance that teachers bring to all computer-mediated
learning. Second, the information itself almost always provides clues to its veracity that are visible
to the critical eye.
How to Tell Garbage from Gold
As with any arena of popular culture (movies, music, magazines), the Web generally
makes no pretense of scholarly rigor. It is aimed at a general audience for whom superficial
discussion of a subject is often all that is required to formulate an opinion, buy a product, or satisfy
curiosity. That is not necessarily a bad thing: one would probably not care to hack through dense
and closely reasoned arguments when comparing the relative virtues of recently-released CDs.
But, when the Web is used as an academic resource, students need to know that there are—and
that they are expected to use—some basic guidelines when evaluating information on a Web site.
The tips that follow are both a survival kit for wired scholars and a proactive attempt to define the
field by demanding quality.
•
•
•
•
Does the Web site have a date? This most basic piece of information is not negotiable.
Without a date (minimally the date of writing or copyright; preferably the date of the most
recent update as well), the online material simply cannot be considered a resource worthy
of the name.
Is the author’s name and contact information clearly displayed? This is another nonnegotiable demand. No matter how brilliant the argument, if it’s not attributable, it’s not a
resource.
Do accepted scientific methods and clear citations support the author’s argument?
Scholarship is a craft with tested and time-honored standards. Online scholarly works
must adhere to the same rigorous academic criteria as printed materials, or they do not
constitute scholarship and should not be used. Rather than excusing the shortcomings of
a resource because it’s online, just refuse to use it. You will do a great service both to
online scholarship—and to the author.
Is the text clearly and carefully written, with proper grammar and punctuation? Given the
plethora of spelling and grammar checking software available today, what reputable
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•
•
•
•
•
scholar would permit any work bearing his/her name to see the light of day with mistakes
in it? Shoddy work is not only offensive, it is also suspicious.
Are differing opinions or positions presented? Are they treated respectfully? While this
point may not be immediately obvious to students, it cannot be overemphasized. No
online resource that makes its case by attack or disparagement can be considered
reputable.
Does the Web site support a product for sale? If so, you may want to evaluate the motives
of the site and its advertisements.
Is the Web site associated with a political, social, or religious movement? While a site of
this type may contain gems, it’s important—like with print material—to be able to identify
whether or not the site has a certain slant.
Does the Web site use garish or obtrusive graphics? Like corrupt politicians who wrap
themselves in the flag, less-than-credible online materials often hide behind bright colors
and twirling icons. If something other than solid, well-substantiated information catches
your eye, chances are it’s no accident.
Does the Web site feel right? Is it the kind of work you would expect of a scholar? At the
end of the day, you are the audience and consumer of the online resource. If anything
about a Web site leaves you feeling uncomfortable, just click out of it and find another one.
Your academic peace of mind really is worth more than the illusion of convenience—even
at 2 AM.
Of course, adherence to these guidelines is not an ironclad guarantee of veracity, any
more than deviation from them inevitably indicates bogus information. Common sense and a
healthy skepticism are always in order. But by establishing some rules for online scholarship we
not only guide our students around academically hazardous pitfalls. We also place the burden of
proof squarely where it belongs: on those who claim to place authoritative information on the
Web.
Evaluating Web sites is a learned skill, the same as evaluating print resources, and one
that is sharpened with practice. Fortunately, the Web itself offers countless examples, both good
and bad, on which to practice. (As an instructor, you can place a variety of Web sites in the
Webliography and have students analyze them in a Journal assignment or Threaded Discussion.
A few obvious examples for analysis might be a well-written scientific study proving the
harmlessness of nicotine on a tobacco company’s Web site, or a first-hand account of the ethnic
cleansing written in broken English on an Albanian Web site. The exercise in critical thinking will
provide an opportunity for your students to challenge their patterns of media usage, and for you to
hone their skills on the ultimate goal of all education: turning information into knowledge.
The following Web sites contain useful tools and additional links for evaluating Web sites:
Modern Language Association (MLA) Style Web site at http://www.mla.org/main_stl.htm
American Psychological Association (APA) Style Web site at http://www.beadsland.com/weapas/
Peter Margolis, PhD. candidate
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Teaching and Learning in the Online Seminar
A common misconception about online learning is that it is suited only to factual subjects and
didactic teaching. While this type of instruction constitutes much of the demand for online
learning, an online course can also be used for teaching by the Socratic method of presentation,
questioning, defense, and rebuttal. The seminar course, that treasured fixture of traditional
graduate education, is alive and well in cyberspace.
This article presents a tested method for conducting an online seminar based on recent
experience. Although the course that inspired this article is part of an MBA program, with a little
adjustment, this method would work for most disciplines.
The seminar scenario goes something like this:
The students receive access to a case study. If it is in digital format, it can be loaded directly
into the online course. Alternatively, paper copies can be sent to the students or made available
for them through an arrangement with the library. About two weeks before the official start of the
course, the enrolled students receive an email message from the professor, telling them to read
the case study.
When the class begins, the students are divided into work teams. In addition to assignments
given to the entire class, each team produces their own analysis of the case study. For the first
two weeks of the course, the teams work independently, exchanging emails, sending documents,
making phone calls, meeting in coffee shops, or all of the above. One member of each team is
designated to make the final version of the case study analysis available to all members of the
class by, say, 6 PM Friday. Document Sharing is the preferred tool to distribute the team projects,
although email attachments will also work.
On the day that the team projects are due, the professor sends an email reminder, telling all
students that there will be a live chat on the following Monday at 7 PM to discuss the case study
analyses. Students must download and read all the team projects by that time, and at least one
member of each team must participate in the chat. Those unable to participate are instructed to
read the Chat transcript that will be made available by the professor afterwards.
On Monday evening, when the Chatroom comes alive, the professor opens by establishing
the rules (students should have hard copies of each case study analysis in hand; wait a few
seconds after sending a message before sending another; don't hog the airwaves; teams will
participate sequentially, etc.) The class then proceeds to discuss each team's case study
analysis in sequence.
After all teams have presented, the professor enters the URL of his private homepage
containing his own analysis of the case study. The students open another instance of their
browser in order to view the professor's homepage without exiting the Chatroom. The class reads
the instructor's analysis and comments on it in the Chatroom. After a brief discussion, the
professor bids the class good night. The entire class seminar took about two hours.
The online seminar adds a lively component that can be used periodically throughout a
course. Where the live Chatroom creates problems for students in different time zones, the teams
can be divided regionally. Each team can then hold their seminar at a convenient hour on a
different day. The rest of the class would join in as time permits, or send a representative from
each team.
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Most of us remember a seminar sometime in our academic careers, where the ideas flew
around in sharp-witted exchange and the class became an incubator of creative thought that was
greater than the sum of its parts. With a modest amount of planning and organization, such
moments can also happen online.
One final note: the instructor who requested that a seminar format be devised for his
marketing course is a self-proclaimed "Luddite" who had never before taught online. His course
simply reflects his personality and teaching style; his trail-blazing was incidental.
There's a lesson in that for us all.
Peter Margolis, PhD. candidate
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End-of-Semester Student Self-Evaluations
How do you know if your students really learned anything, or at least retained that key
information you think they must have acquired by the end of the course? Tests, papers, and final
exams are the hard evidence of student performance, but that nebulous class participation grade,
so subjective and potentially manipulative, and so important in the online classroom, can be
facilitated with end-of-semester student self-evaluations.
Given the asynchronous nature of online teaching with Threaded Discussions weaving
though a semester like a cubist tapestry, it’s easy to forget who’s who. Even if you fastidiously
enter grades in the Gradebook, and even if you constantly use your Gradebook to review
Threads, Journal entries, and Webliography entries, the abstraction and repetition of faceless
names can blur, with, say, three Kevins and two Keiths and two Michelles. Of course, you really
do get to know some of your students well, just as you would in a face-to-face class. But weeks
blend into months, with thousands of electronic words wafting and dissipating in late night emails,
and you may have switched on a light bulb with out knowing it, and student self-evaluations can
help you see a student in a different light.
Furthermore, end-of-semester student self-evaluations can eliminate or confirm concerns
about cheating. This auxiliary evaluation method can help to figure out participation in group
activities, if you ask students to reflect on this specifically. Also, and perhaps most importantly,
student self-evaluations will give you positive strokes when you need it most—at the end of the
semester. Tired, blurry-eyed and frazzled from the usual deluge of work at the end of the
semester, you will inevitably read some student comments that attribute what they learned to you,
with thank you’s and other notes of appreciation!
A Little Theory
It is becoming increasingly documented that the best online learning happens through
student directed learning—students teaching themselves by teaching each other.
As Rena Palloff and Keith Pratt point out in their book Building Learning Communities in
Cyberspace (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1999), one of the key aspects to understanding
successful online learning is “volitional control of learning by students rather than by distance
instructors.” That is, the online student is naturally more inclined to be in control of his or her
learning instead of relying on the instructor. When you teach online, you quickly see that this is a
truth. Therefore, self-evaluations could be the most important document your students put
together, even if you determine their performance to be different through other methods of
assessment. They will make their own learning concrete for themselves.
Some educators even argue that, in general, students should be given the final say for
their grades. This somewhat radical notion is supported by D.Cecil Clark of Brigham Young
University in his article, “High Risk Teaching,” in the Teaching Professor. Trying this in his own
class, he estimates that only about 5% of his students completely abused this method of
assessment. However, most of his students, about 350 over several semesters, gave themselves
a grade very close to what he felt was deserved—nearly 50% matched exactly and some 30%
were a half grade higher. Even if you disagree with students determining their own grades, a
student’s insight to his or her own learning in an end of semester self-evaluation can be a
transformative learning experience, especially online.
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Open-ended questions may serve students best because they must do the work of
recalling and organizing their own learning. A simple instruction like, “Please assess in one to
two pages what you’ve learned over the semester and how you’ve improved your understanding
of the material,” can yield information that you can more accurately gauge the students' overall
class participation and retention.
Of course, broad, open-ended questions can produce vague responses. So more specific
questions can be useful too. For instance: How do you think you performed in threaded
discussions? What was your best threaded discussion of the semester? Why? How would you
rate your participation in the class over the semester? What three Webliography entries did you
find that gave you insight to learning the course material? Of the ten minor assignments, which
two helped you most in gaining understanding of the material? Why?
In conclusion, the online environment is naturally conducive to student self-evaluations.
You can make your life as a teacher a little easier while giving your students an opportunity to
personalize their own learning.
If you'd like to see an example, here are some more pointed questions that Dartmouth
uses for its medical students:
http://www.dartmouth.edu/~biomed/ondoc.htmld/stu.eval2.html .
The online environment also allows for even more structured and easy to use selfevaluations, like this auto response questionnaire developed by Raymond A. Bucko of Creighton
College for the Department of Sociology and Anthropology:
http://puffin.creighton.edu/bucko/syllabi/forms/form_self_evaluation.html.
Stephen Shugart, M.F.A.
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Online Education: It’s not Just for the Internet Anymore
While most people think of “online learning” in terms of distance education, many people
believe that the real future of online learning is in the classroom, or, more specifically, in
connection with it, as an online supplement for the traditional course.
My first experience with online learning happened almost four years ago, when I decided
to create a supplemental website for a Freshman Composition course I was teaching. It started
out as just a spiffed-up version of the syllabus I had handed out on the first day of class. But, I
soon realized that I wasn’t bound by paper limitations. I no longer had to economize my use of
space. I could supplement my “page” with images and links to additional resources. After awhile,
I started putting assignments online—saving paper and, perhaps more importantly, the time I had
been spending in lines at the copy machine. Eventually, I even started using threaded discussion
boards and chatrooms.
Of course, doing all of this from scratch took an incredible amount of time: first learning
how to create Web pages and then figuring out how to have students navigate between them. I
found I was spending a tremendous amount of time looking for new ways to make things better or
fancier or flashier, but my ultimate goal was to improve the learning opportunities for my students,
to expand the pedagogical possibilities of my classroom.
And, the more substance I was able to give to my site, the more students took advantage
of those opportunities. In fact, my campus webmaster told me once that my site was averaging
almost 60,000 hits per month, and I never had more than 100 students at a time! So, there were
definitely opportunities. The key to all of this, however, is that they were doing things once they
got there, interacting with each other, finding new resources, extending the boundaries of the
classroom, as well as their understanding of the course materials.
The first thing I wanted to do with my site was carry the conversation beyond the
classroom. Using threaded discussions, I provided everyone the opportunity to participate in the
class discussion. I didn’t have to worry about classroom time restraints, or even student shyness.
I found that many students would consider their statements and explore their ideas more fully in
the threads than they would in class, especially when a comment was questioned or challenged
by another student. Students would also use these discussions for review. I used chatrooms for
group projects, review sessions and online office hours.
In addition, I used my site to supplement course content. My university required that all
faculty teaching the same course use the same text books, which I found very limiting,
considering I was teaching composition and literature courses. So, I supplemented my course
reading list with texts on the Web. I couldn’t require that they buy Whitman’s Song of Myself or
King’s I Have a Dream, but I could provide them with a link and have them read it online. I even
required one class to read Hamlet! (I told them they could find a hard copy or read it online.)
I provided my students with numerous links to credible websites. One of the most
dangerous aspects of the Internet is the wealth of bad information. When students type
“Shakespeare” into Yahoo!, they are much more likely to find something that should be called
“Billy Bob’s Shakespeare Page”—or worse yet, something written by an eighth grader—than
something that is a suitable source for a college research paper. But, if you provide your students
with some starting places for their research, they are much more likely to use the Web
responsibly, and even fruitfully.
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Finally, I often posted my own notes, unpublished essays, and slide shows, anything that
would help students better understand the subject matter. I would also “publish” student work,
which not only served as a reward to students, but also provided them with a genuine sense of
audience for their writing. I even created a Microsoft Word template for MLA-style research
papers and made it available for my students to download. When I started building my first truly
online course, I immediately made my online lectures available to my in-class students as well.
All of this combined to elevate the level of class discussions, in person and online, as well
as student performance on papers, projects and exams.
Of course, it took time for me to discover the various pedagogical applications of Internet
technology, and there are plenty more applications out there, or on the horizon, for all of us to
discover. What I find most important in all of this is that the Internet is a resource of virtually
limitless possibilities, and the more we are able to take advantage of those possibilities for our
students, the better teachers we will be.
All teachers would welcome the opportunity to expand the classroom and, more
importantly, to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of that classroom. However, very few of
us have the time or the interest to go about conceiving and creating supplemental Web pages
from scratch. And even when we do have the interest, we often don’t have the technical expertise
to pull it off.
Robert Gray, M.A.
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Enhancing Your Course—or Creating Clutter: How Do We Incorporate Engaging
Technology That’s Educationally Effective?
As the world of online education becomes less and less alien, the focus is shifting from
just get your information up there, to it IS online, so why not utilize the forum to its fullest?
Having taught online (and knowing quite well the panic this new format instilled in us—‘I
just need to get some words on the screen!’) and then having the opportunity to work on many
classes and with many instructors, we can see both viewpoints.
We also see that adding technology, such as Flash and animated graphics, creates a very
fine line between the why not? and the why? It’s not good enough to say that just because we can
use various technologies to “jazz up” a course, we should. Just like the information we choose to
place in a class, everything needs to be there for a reason—an educationally sound reason.
Of course, we want our content to be engaging for students. It’s hard to deny the power of
flashy, moving images when it comes to getting attention. (And, is that so terrible?) However, it
can easily be overdone, and then we risk having a course that is so heavy on the flashy side that,
somewhere, the real meat of the course is lost.
By incorporating multimedia into our classes, we not only create more engaging material,
but we create more interaction for students. While we can have communication with individual
students, as well as student-to-student collaboration, learning opportunities can be increased
when students interact with the course content. Interactive multimedia also allows us to
communicate more effectively to a broader range of learning styles.
We’re all aware that none of us process information in exactly the same way. There are
Auditory, Visual, and Tactile learners—and combinations thereof. We risk cutting out a large
portion of our students who may be mainly auditory learners if we present a text-only online
course. On the other hand, to supply only an audio version of lecture material would create even
more concerns—download/streaming time is just one potential problem.
Therefore, the best use of so-called ‘enhancement’ technology in an online course is to
use a combination of presentation modes—so that all learning styles can benefit as much as
possible. For instance, you can deliver content with visually stimulating PowerPoint slides and
expand on main points with a brief (2–3 minutes) audio clip per slide.
For our tactile learners, have them do something with the content. For instance, programs
like Director and Generator allow us to create interactive lab experiments. Students can drag and
drop various objects, and the program will interact accordingly. Utilizing simpler applications,
JavaScript will allow the creation of pop-up boxes. So, if you’re teaching an American History
course, you present a map of the United States, and ask your students a question like, “Which
states were acquired in the Louisiana Purchase?” When students click on designated portions of
the map, pop-up boxes will tell them whether they’re correct or not. The possibilities are as
limitless as your imagination!
Of course, if you’re faced with teaching your first online class, just transferring your
traditional content to the online forum may seem like an ominous task! Once you’ve taught online,
though, for a couple of semesters, you’ll find you get comfortable with the platform. Then you’ll be
ready to take it a step further and delve into how you can use multimedia technology to further
engage students and enhance interaction.
Errin Klein, M.A.
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Online “Events”
Instruction is an “eventful” activity. Gagne′, Briggs, & Wager (1992) define it as a set of events
that affect learners in such a way that learning is facilitated. Learning is an internal process, the
nature of which has been, is, and likely always will be a subject of research, conjecture, and
debate. The events that define instruction are external stimulants influencing this internal learning
process. As postulated by Gagne′ (1985), there are nine of these events. Although it is not
necessary that all of them be present for every lesson or every learner, or invariably appear in a
certain rigid order as a lesson progresses, their presence ensures that instruction occurs.
Events of Instruction:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Gain the learner’s attention
Inform the learner of the objective of the instruction
Stimulate the learner’s recall of relevant prior knowledge
Present the information to be learned
Provide guidance to the learner
Elicit performance from the learner
Provide feedback to the learner about the performance
Assess the learner’s performance
Enhance the retention and transfer of the knowledge learned
These stimulants are as significant for effective online instruction as they are for any other
delivery method. Let’s examine each one in the context of an online course in the order in which
they would typically appear.
Gain Attention
Stimulate learners to focus on the relevant portions of the learning task. Motivate the individuals
by engendering interest and curiosity. The opposite of attention is boredom (definitely not
conducive to learning!). No matter how interested students might be at the beginning of a lesson,
it IS possible to bore them if you don’t TRY to engage them. You might accomplish this by
including photos and other relevant graphics to add color and interest to the screen. Piquant
questions are attention getting. So are hyperlinks that hint at interesting or important information.
Audio and video presentations relieve the monotony of written text. Humorous or pointed quotes
can emphasize a lesson while entertaining and informing. For interesting text, use font colors
other than black, employ larger font sizes and bolding for emphasis, select the more legible type
faces (sans-serif suggested), and utilize vertical and horizontal line spacing (white space) to
attract and interest the learner.
Inform the Learner of the Objective of the Instruction
Tell the students clearly and specifically what they are about to learn in your instruction, and how
you expect them to demonstrate their learning. A good way to develop preciseness in course
objectives is to incorporate three components when you write them:
1. Give the situation for learning with which the student must deal. For example: if the
instructional outcome is to be able to label parts of the human body, give the learner a
diagram of the body with which to work.
2. Indicate the human capability being demonstrated by using specific language. Example:
the student will identify the parts of the body.
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3. Describe in no uncertain terms how the human performance is to be completed. Example:
the student will write the name of the body part on the diagram.
The complete course objective would then read: “Given a diagram of the human body, the student
will identify each of the parts by writing its name on the diagram.” List your objectives for the
course both in the Syllabus and on the Course Home Page. The Unit Home Pages are good
places for your lesson (unit) objectives.
Stimulate Recall of Relevant Prior Knowledge
When you help students retrieve what they already know that is relevant to your lesson, you make
your instruction more effective (Ormrod, 1995). Review material learned earlier. Use examples
that are familiar to your audience. Create activities that draw upon the learners’ own experiences.
Ask recognition or recall questions. Threaded discussions are wonderful opportunities to link to
prior knowledge by inviting participants to bring their personal experiences to the forum.
Present the Information to be Learned
Expose students to the exact materials you expect them to learn. Be certain you deliver learners
the facts, concepts, and rules they require to achieve the understanding you desire in a format
that increases their selective perception. Delivering brief bursts of text (chunking) is helpful, as is
bolding and enlarging font size for emphasis. Using arrows or other effects to highlight important
areas of charts, graphs and images aids the presentation. So does utilizing examples to explain
complex concepts.
Provide Guidance to the Learner
Provide learners with clues to help them comprehend and remember what they are to learn.
Guiding or facilitating a lesson rather than overtly telling students everything encourages initiative,
which is very motivating, which is very beneficial to the learning process (Ormrod, 1995). You can
create self-discovery opportunities through posting open-ended topics in a threaded discussion,
sending students on Web quests, and assigning group project work. Posting some subtle
“Guideposts” or “Focus Points” on Unit Home Pages can influence students to concentrate on the
concepts and information that will enable them to fulfill your learning objectives.
Elicit the Performance
Give your students an opportunity to demonstrate that they have learned new material and are
ready to proceed to the next part of the instruction. This is the “show me” or “do it” event. Quizzes
at the end, or embedded, in course units are useful. Required assignments and other activities
closely following the presentation of the content will reveal their grasp of the lesson.
Provide Feedback to the Learner
Inform the learners of the correctness, or degree of correctness, of their performance. Prompt
feedback leads to stronger feelings of personal control and responsibility on the part of learners
(Wlodkowski, 1993) Your feedback should be timely and consistent throughout the term of the
instruction. Let your students know that you will do your best to give feedback on assignments
within a certain time frame. Make every effort to meet your deadlines. Online students can
become “disconnected” from the learning process rather quickly unless there is consistent twoway communication taking place. In addition to grading assignments, responses and comments
on threaded discussion postings and real-time chat room conversations can provide needed
feedback. Automatically generated information in the form of self-quizzes incorporating Java
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programmed feedback via pop-up boxes and immediate computer scoring also benefit learners,
but do not replace the need for human evaluation.
Assess the Performance
Determine whether students have achieved the objective(s) of the lesson. In general,
assessments are most beneficial to learners when they are clearly related to the stated learning
objectives, are returned promptly, and include instructor comments that are informative and
supportive (Wlodkowski, 1993).
Assessing “open-book” exams, proctored exams, projects, papers, threaded discussion
contributions, chat room participations, and laboratory applications can all contribute to an
indication of whether or not the desired learning has occurred.
Enhancing Retention and Transfer of Knowledge
Make it possible for learners to extend their recently acquired knowledge or skills to new
applications. Portfolios and projects compiled over the length of a course term that exhibit
progress in learning and that clearly relate to usefulness beyond the term of the course often have
a positive impact on retention. Retention of learned material--facilitating its transfer to new
situations--has a direct relationship to the degree of relevance it has to the learner’s personal
needs and desires (Keller & Suzuki, 1987). You can also encourage relevance by providing, or
requesting students to provide, links to Web sites that exemplify application of the acquired
knowledge or skills in the “real world.”
This article began with the statement that instruction is an eventful activity. Good instruction is
also a designed activity. Recently someone said to me, “Why do you emphasize the instructional
design theories of Robert Gagne′ in your presentations? Gagne′’s ideas have been around for
years.” Well, yes they have, and I feel they are as valid today as when he first advanced them.
Good instruction is good instruction whether it is being delivered in a text format, in a classroom,
or via a computer. The Events of Instruction will operate as a useful checklist to help ensure that
is the case with your course. But good instruction is more than just strategies, rules and
preciseness. Raymond Wlodkowski (1993) puts it well:
“When it is very good, instruction is technical excellence under the command of artistic
expression . . . instruction remains a science within an art… in fact, instruction may never
be a sure thing, because what makes people learn is beyond guarantee or total
prediction.”
Still, a plan or design will increase your chances of presenting good instruction. Remember the
wisdom of Yogi Berra: You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going,
because you might not get there.
References
Gagne′, R.M. (1985). The Conditions of Learning (4th Ed.). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Gagne′, R.M., Briggs, L.J. & Wager, W.W. (1992). Principles of Instructional Design (4th Ed.).
Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Hartley, J. (1994). Designing Instructional Text (3rd Ed.). London: Kogan Page.
Keller, J.M. & Suzuki, K. (1987). Use of the ARCS Model in Courseware Design. In D.H.
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Jonassen (Ed.), Instructional Designs for Computer Courseware. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates.
Ormrod, J.E. (1995). Human Learning (2nd Ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Wlodkowski, R.J. (1993) Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Hendon Blaylock, M.S.
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Enough with this abstraction and obfuscation already: How do you do this stuff?
Most of us are familiar with the language of academia. It has its disciplinary differences, but for
the most part, the language of academia is the language of the scholarly journal. It is a privileged
discourse. Those of us in academia read and write in our particular dialects fluently and with
ease. We use it freely in conversation with our colleagues and peers; we write it when we do
research; and we teach it in graduate seminars.
However, different disciplines speak completely different dialects.
Imagine if you will, a working nurse who is also a student in an online MSN program. She is
charged to research the specificity of Sputum Gram's Stain in the etiologic diagnosis of
community-acquired pneumonia. So what does she do? She goes to the scholarly literature
where she finds an article that serves her purpose beautifully. Keep in mind, however, that for
you and me, that article might as well have been written in Sanskrit.
Now imagine that very same nurse at her grandmother’s house reading that volume of Robert
Frost that everyone’s grandmother has on the coffee table. She comes across the poem
“Birches.” There is something about this poem that grabs her interest, something about a quest
for innocence and renewal. She really likes it, but she doesn’t feel like she quite understands it.
So where does she go for answers? To the scholarly literature of course! Where she reads about
onanism and orgasms couched in language that might as well be Sanskrit. And she soon gives
up, frustrated, sorry that she had ever ventured into the world of poetry.
Obviously, the language of academia is not for everyone. It is fundamentally esoteric, almost
intentionally exclusionary. Yet strangely, when we leave the hallowed halls of our departments,
and especially when we enter the undergraduate classroom, our dialect disappears. Sure, we slip
in some ten-dollar words here and there, but for the most part, we speak in laymen’s terms when
we are among the masses, the uninitiated.
It has been my experience that the language of Instructional Design works much the same way as
any other academic dialect. When professors attend conferences or hit the library stacks to learn
more about Instructional Design in preparation for creating an online course, they find many
impressive resources on educational theory and online pedagogy, all rich in cryptic jargon, but it is
much harder to find resources on how to actually and effectively apply the abstract theory to the
actual creation of their course.
Their task is daunting. They must learn the online environment, put course materials into a
deliverable format, plus try to work all of these fancy and complex pedagogical theories in as well.
And for the most part, they are left to figure it all out on their own.
In other words, they have to make that dangerous leap from theory to practice.
Now at the risk of offending Instructional Designers and Educational Theorists everywhere, I am
going to throw out an easier-to-digest ID model, one that doesn’t require graduate work to learn
the language: the English 101 model. However, before I get into that, I would like to look back at
our frustrated, poetry-reading nurse.
I wrote a paper on “Birches” for a twentieth-century American poetry course in graduate school,
and I found all of the same disturbing articles that our nurse did? that they were written in my
dialect and that I could “understand” them did not make them any more palatable!
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However, I had learned a valuable reading lesson from the professor teaching that course. He
simply told us that you read poems just like you do 101 essays: that every poem has an
“argument,” that everything in the poem ultimately supports that argument, and that the trick to
understanding a poem is finding what that argument is. By applying this lesson to the very limited
and partial readings on sexual imagery that I could find in the scholarly literature on “Birches,” I
was able to incorporate those ideas into a more comprehensive reading, which also recognized
the familiar qualities of the poem that so attracted our nurse.
Of course, now is not the time to go into the intricacies of that theory or of Frost’s poem, but that
valuable reading lesson turned out to be an even more valuable writing lesson, especially in terms
of how I could teach my students the importance of argument in the writing (and reading) process.
With this in mind, it is not such a leap to claim that building an online course is like writing a 101
essay.
So, when you are looking for a resource on instructional design, you can dive into Gagne or Smith
and Ragan. Or, you can look over the first few chapters of The Riverside Reader (or any other
Freshman Composition reader/rhetoric). There you will learn that before you write something, you
must have a purpose or argument. Next, you must consider your audience. Finally, you must
develop a strategy by which to achieve your purpose with your audience.
Of course, your purpose is somewhat predetermined by your institution, as is your audience, so
the real variable here is the strategy. And if you think of your course as an essay, you can think of
each unit as a paragraph. Each unit (i.e., paragraph) can have its own structure and strategy, but
each unit, as well as each element within that unit must still adhere to the overall purpose of the
course. This sounds simple? perhaps too simple? but you will be surprised how well it works
when you consciously apply it.
Another thing you will read about in those opening chapters of your 101 text is the writing process,
which is the simple truth that writing is not an inspired, singular action. Rather, it is a painstaking
process of planning, discovery, drafting, peer-review, revision, and polishing. This is also true of
course design.
A good course cannot be designed and built quickly and easily. The process demands time,
effort, and, frankly, a lot of hard work.
And just like in writing, the most productive part of the process is the one everyone tries to skip
over. Put most of your early effort into the discovery stage. I know it sounds hokey, but if you
take the time to do some brainstorming and freewriting at the beginning of the course design
process, as well as at the beginning of each unit’s design, you will find that the creative juices will
start flowing, and you will be amazed at what you come up with. Also, take the peer-review step
seriously as well. Always have colleagues and/or your Instructional Design Consultant review
your work to guide your revisions and perhaps to suggest new discoveries as well.
Of course, there is no way to make the leap from theory to practice without actually working on
your course, but if you can take some of these basic ideas and apply them to your course design
(or re-design) process, you will find that your course will have more vitality, which will ultimately
lead you to achieving your intended purpose with your student audience more effectively, which
will lead to higher student achievement.
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References:
Frost, Robert. "Birches." The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and
Unabridged. Ed., Edward Connery Lathem. New York: Holt, 1969. 121-2.
Gagne, R.M., Briggs, L.J., & Wager, W.W. Principles of Instructional Design. 4th Ed. New York,
NY: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1991.
Smith, P.L. & Ragan, T. J. Instructional Design. 2nd Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/PrenticeHall, Inc., 1999.
Trimmer, Joseph F., and Maxine Hairston. The Riverside Reader. 6th ed. Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, 1998.
Afterward
Be There for Your Students
This is by far the most important element in successful online teaching and effective course
“design.” You want the course to be interactive and student-centered, but you also must provide
a considerable instructor presence. This will usually be in some form of content delivery, but it
can also be simply asking good questions and follow-up questions.
A few key points to remember:
•
•
•
•
•
Make sure your voice is heard among the course content. When students remember
a course they took in college, they remember their professor far better than they
remember their textbook. You are teaching the course because you are an expert in that
field; do not deny your students the experience of your expertise. Your communication of
that expertise might be a little different online, but it should not be less significant.
Don’t rely too much on the textbook. I have seen far too many online courses where
instructors leave all of the content delivery and even the instruction to the textbook. I do
not think anyone would ever consider doing this in the traditional classroom.
Don’t rely on the same PowerPoints you use in class. I have also seen far too many
instructors take the PowerPoints they use in class and just load them into their course as a
lecture. Remember that when you lectured with those slides, you said a lot more than
they did. Fill in the gaps by adding an audio track or by simply adding notes to the
slideshow. These notes will be displayed regardless of how you convert the slideshow to
HTML.
Give students plenty of feedback. Make it timely, frequent, and substantive.
Analyze what it is that you provide your students in the classroom. Make sure to
provide that to your online students as well.
The main thing is to remember that a poorly designed, bland “course” with a great instructor
interacting with the students is far better than a fancy course full of bells and whistles with an
inactive instructor.
Robert Gray, M.A.
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AFT Core Standards
In July of 2000, the American Federation of Teachers proposed some core standards for distance
education programs for colleges and universities. And, now that online courses are becoming
widely available, from an array of schools, enacting a set of standards seems to be a logical step
in furthering the development of online courses, programs, and even complete online institutions.
In July (2000), the AFT outlined the general principles governing their proposed standards
(http://distancelearn.about.com/education/distancelearn/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.aft
.org/press/2000/0706a00.html). It’s worthwhile—for instructors and admin, alike--to discuss these
principles. They adhere to the basic good sense of traditional courses and program guidelines.
“Academic faculty must maintain control of shaping, approving and evaluating distance
education courses. Faculty who teach distance courses need to be adequately compensated and
provided with the necessary time, training and technical support to develop and conduct classes.
Faculty should retain creative control and intellectual property rights over the use and re-use of
distance education materials.”
Perhaps this is one of the most important—or, at least, relevant—points to discuss when ‘drafting’
instructors to teach online courses. While there will always be those early adopters, instructors
often need some incentive to teach and/or develop an online course. Certainly, instructors need to
be well-compensated for such a venture—and it should rarely be viewed an ‘add-on’ to a full-time
instructor’s course load. It takes many hours to develop a course online—especially if this is new
to the instructor. In addition, necessary, readily available, technical (and moral) support is
imperative. And, of course, there is the ongoing discussion surrounding intellectual property rights
(and vague copyright standards): whatever the policy, the institution needs to have them in place
before instructors are brought on to develop online courses, and they need to be clearly laid-out.
“Distance education students must be given advance information about course requirements,
equipment needs and techniques for succeeding in a distance learning environment, as well as
technical training and support throughout the course. No student should be offered distance
education as his or her only opportunity to obtain a public college education.”
Just as the instructors need readily available, knowledgeable, technical help, so too do the
students. In addition, students should have access to an online course catalogue, outlining each
course’s requirements—some may require students to have costly software; some may require a
certain amount of synchronous communication…Students have the right to know this information
before they sign up for a course. Lastly, any course that’s offered online should almost always be
offered on-campus: the idea behind distance education is not to exclude, but to allow more
students access to courses.
“Student-teacher interaction needs to be determined through the same procedures used for
traditional courses. Close personal interaction needs to be maintained in distance education
courses among students and between teachers and students through electronic means, and
whenever feasible, opportunities for same-time same-place interaction should be provided.”
While online courses may allow for more flashy content delivery, students still profess that they’re
most satisfied with courses where their instructor has personal interaction with them.
Equivalent library materials and research opportunities should be made available to distance
education students.
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Assessment of student knowledge, skills and performance should be as rigorous as
assessments in classroom-based courses. Distance learning programs also should be assessed
for their effectiveness in delivering particular subjects and to different types of students. Research
in this area should be accelerated.
Academic counseling and advising should be available to distance learning students at the
same level as it is for students in more traditional campus environments.
Full undergraduate degree programs should include classroom-based coursework, with
exceptions on a case-by-case basis for students truly unable to participate in classroom
education. More than 70 percent of distance learning practitioners in a recent survey felt that
same-time same-place communication is a critical part of the undergraduate experience.
Errin Klein, M.A.
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Beyond PowerPoint
In his New Yorker article, “Absolute PowerPoint,” Ian Parker examines the history of PowerPoint
and how it has changed the way we communicate. Parker’s position is that, for the most part,
PowerPoint’s pervasive influence (primarily in the business sector, but also in the academic world)
is reductive; it distills ideas to bullet points to be presented, not discussed. He suggests,
“PowerPoint…has a private, interior influence. It edits ideas…. It helps you make a case, but it
also makes its own case: about how to organize information, how much information to organize,
how to look at the world” (76).
He goes on to explain that the PowerPoint AutoContent Wizard (the tool that gives you templates
for various kinds of presentations when you first open PowerPoint), developed in the mid-‘90s,
was originally conceived as a joke by PowerPoint developers, “Punch the button and you’ll have a
presentation” (87). Parker refers the reader to humorous site, http://www.norvig.com/Gettysburg/,
in which the Gettysburg Address has been reduced to bullet points, using the AutoContent
Wizard. He also cites a Stanford Sociology Professor who admits that he decided not to require
a text for a course he was teaching because the ideas in the book were too complex to
“PowerPoint” into a lecture presentation for his class.
Okay. Alarm bells might be starting to ring, if they haven’t already been ringing down deep
somewhere for a while. In the online educational environment, PowerPoint slideshows are a
common tool for delivering content. Many professors who develop online courses use
PowerPoint slideshows that they have already created for their face-to-face lectures. They drop
them into their online course because it is often the quickest and easiest way to populate an
online course shell with some semblance of content.
PowerPoint Slideshows are meant to illustrate a spoken presentation or lecture, and they are
useful because they can sequence and illustrate key points. However, without audio annotations
or text annotations, online slideshows are often difficult for students to follow. Students have to
read between the bullet points and try to make sense of them on their own, guessing at what the
professor might have elaborated on. It is possible—and quite easy--to record audio lectures to
accompany online PowerPoint slideshows, and many online instructors do this.
Indeed, if audio annotations are used in an online course, they make PowerPoint presentations
more useful for students, but we’re still left with the issues Parker unearths in his New Yorker
article—presenting instead of engaging.
Essentially, bullet pointed slideshows use the old-fashioned model of lecturing to teach. That is, if
we use PowerPoint as a dominant mode of content delivery, we are simply using this new online
educational environment to fit old ways of teaching (lecturing). The multi-dimensional online
educational environment, on the other hand, asks us to embrace new and more effective teaching
strategies that involve communication, collaboration, and project based learning. Even Cathleen
Belleview, the designer of the “Screen Bean” clip art characters
that we’ve all seen in
so many PowerPoint slideshows, is quoted in Parker’s article as saying, “…we as a people have
become unaccustomed to having real conversations with each other, where we actually give and
take to arrive at a new answer. We present to each other, instead of discussing” (86).
So, how should we respond to the dominance of PowerPoint and its influence in standardizing the
way we engage (and think) with each other in our culture, especially in regard to education and
teaching?
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First, we can acknowledge that PowerPoint, used traditionally, is indeed useful in laying out a
sequence of material that may be helpful to the learner, especially if the slideshow is voiceannotated. Slideshows can address aural and visual learning styles. However, a slideshow
should be seen as only one element in a course.
PowerPoint should be seen as a resource for active learning exercises and assignments. Active
learning activities should be at the core of an online learning situation, not presentations.
Active learning has been defined in many ways. Often, active learning teaching strategies include
student participation in goal setting and involvement in creating the educational process. Active
learning posits that the instructor is a facilitator, not a presenter. Perhaps the most common
definition of active learning is that it is a problem-solving approach. Exercises are designed using
practical, real world problems or cases in which students must bring to bear their own knowledge
and creativity and must find resources to help them solve the problem or dilemma.
Active learning makes knowledge retention deeper and more permanent. In addition, active
learning is often done in collaborative ways, within teams that solve problems. In the online
environment, this means using threaded discussions, chats, and emails — not just viewing
PowerPoint slideshows and reading textbooks to prepare for tests.
Thus, one response to the dominance of PowerPoint is simply to view it as a launching point for
an active learning exercise that asks students to apply what has been presented with pithy bullet
points and punctuated with clip art.
Another response to PowerPoint’s dominant organizational agenda, especially to its inherent
linearity, is to creatively twist its features so that it becomes an interactive hyper-text exercise or
self quiz, by linking to other slides from one main slide. Using the PowerPoint Slideshow Action
Setting in this way, it is possible to provide students an activity or game to interact with the
material so they can discover it in whatever sequence that works for them.
As Parker points out, “According to Microsoft estimates, at least thirty million PowerPoint
presentations are made every day” (85). As online educators, we can at least begin to
work on transforming the concept of PowerPoint from “presenting at” into “a way of
promoting discussion”-- or to use it in unconventional ways to create more effective
learning situations.
Reference
Parker, Ian. “Absolute PowerPoint” New Yorker. 28 May 2001: 76 – 87.
Stephen Shugart, M.F.A.
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Breaking the Fourth Wall
George: Gracie, what day is it today?
Gracie: Well, I don't know.
George: You can find out if you look at that paper on your desk.
Gracie: Oh, George, that doesn't help. It's yesterday's paper.
George: (toward the audience) I lie a lot, but when I talk about Gracie, I don't have to lie.
As you can see, the truth is unbelievable enough.
In the old Burns and Allen television show of the fifties, George Burns and Gracie Allen would
routinely engage in some type of hilarious repartee. George, pushed to the brink of exasperation
from the scatterbrained Gracie, would turn directly address the television audience in an appeal
for sympathy or venting of frustration. During the golden age of television, George Burns was the
first to break the electronic fourth wall: to actively engage the viewing audience and create the
illusion of intimacy thus drawing them into the action. Online instructors can employ a similar
technique by using creative video clips in order to transcend the limitations of the asynchronous
communication environment.
This concept of the breaking the fourth wall is not relegated to popular media. William
Shakespeare did this in what is known as an aside, while Bertolt Brecht was known for drawing
his audience’s attention to the fact that they are in a theatre watching a play. Explaining his theory
of Epic Theater, Brecht says, “Epic theater turns the spectator into an observer, but arouses his
capacity for action, forces him to take decisions...the spectator stands outside, studies.” In fact, as
noted in the article, “Bertolt Brecht: A theatrical Genius,” Brecht referred to actors in nineteeth
century plays as “sellers of drugs” who lead the audience to an emotional high that would
inevitably crash as they returned to the real world outside the theater. This is, of course, extreme
when we think of students taking an online course.
However, we could posit that it is possible that a student taking an online course can get an
artificial sense of academic achievement, having gotten through a high tech course just because
it’s high tech (technology as drug) but may have not been totally engaged with the material. The
student could simply have done the assignment in a cursory way with minimum contact with
his/her professor or with other students. Current online teaching literature suggests that the most
successful courses create learning communities through interaction. As stated in “Teaching at an
Internet Distance: The pedagogy of Online Teaching and Learning, the Report of a 1998-1999
University of Illinois Faculty Seminar,” “High quality online teaching is not just a matter of
transferring class notes or a videotaped lecture to the internet; new paradigms of content deliver
are needed. Particular features to look for in new courses are the strength of professor-student
and student-student interactions, the depth at which students engage e in the material….” And, of
course, active learning--involving students as “observers,” not “spectators”--is the new paradigm
for teaching, whether online or on campus. Thus, using video is only an enhancement and cannot
replace the necessary component of real, timely feedback.
Nevertheless, since video is one of an array of possible online teaching tools, by attempting to
break the fourth wall of the computer screen, we can help to create more collaboration and
engagement between students and teachers using the constrained video capacity of the Internet.
However, one has to keep in mind that, technically, video streamed over the Internet is still in its
infancy and is of lower quality than television. When the video comes up on the screen in
Realplayer, the image is small, 1 ½ inches square. Also, depending on the age of your computer
and speed of your modem (or more importantly of your students’ computers), video can take
extremely long to download and to view. It can look more like a series of still shots than a moving
picture. Also, “net congestion” during prime-time hours can also slow down the streaming of the
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video. This can make the video experience frustrating for the students because the information is
difficult to follow. Therefore, 10 minutes is the maximum practical length for a clip in your course.
2 – 3 minutes is best.
No doubt creating short video clips that attempt to break the fourth wall requires some extra effort
in designing and building the course. And, perhaps it could be said we are suggesting a move to
teacher-as-actor. We’d prefer to say that most professors would probably admit that to some
extent we all have teaching personas. Essentially, and most simply, what we are suggesting here
it is a shift in approach in addressing the camera, to move to the second person snippets related
directly to what students are doing, rather than delivering material in removed, professorial thirdperson imperative.
Much like George Burns, and those directors who attempt to actively engage their audiences,
online instructors can employ techniques for breaking through the fourth wall--like whispers,
asides, self-references, invitations to participate “behind the scene” and personalized, “one-onone” direct addresses--to increase intimacy that may lead to improved motivation and
understanding. By anticipating, say, the main points that students will make in a threaded
discussion, professors can make video clips beforehand to simulate those personal moments of
the "guide by the side.” Through the medium of video, you can explain the relevance of material
or what to do next in short, intimate takes. The perceived personal connection and use of video
that relates directly to student learning helps create a friendly and fun learning environment. By
breaking the fourth wall, instructors have the potential to make a video presentation more relevant
to the student learning.
Sources:
Brecht, B. Brecht on Theater. New York: Hill & Wang, 1964.
Goosen, S. Bertolt Brecht: A Theatrical Genius.
http://www.geocities.com/Braodway/Stage/1052/brecht5.htm (2000, July 10).
Teaching at and Internet Distance: The Pedagogy of Online Teaching and Learning: The Report
of a 1998-199 University of Illinois Faculty Seminar. http://www.vpaa.uillinois.edu/tid_report.html
(2000, July 7).
Stephen Shugart, M.F.A.,
Joe Hartwig, M.H.
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Teaching the Hypertext: The Deconstructive Enigma of Distance Learning
(Part 1)
Deconstruction is inventive or it is nothing at all; it does not settle for
methodological procedures, it opens up a passageway, it marches ahead
and marks a trail; its writing is not only performative, it produces rules -- other
conventions -- for new performativities and never installs itself in the
theoretical assurance of a simple opposition between performative and
constative. Its process involves an affirmation, this latter being linked to the
coming [venir] in event, advent, invention.
--Derrida on the impossibility of a genuinely rigorous deconstruction
(from "Psyche: Invention of the Other," 1984)
When you begin a conversation about teaching—“pedagogy”—these days, you will almost
inevitably arrive at the topic of the “path of discovery,” and the “processes of gaining knowledge,”
ultimately replacing the age-old standard of knowledge transferring from the learned unto the
tabula raza of the student (the less-learned). All this is well and good, but what does it really
mean?
In the spirit of Socrates, many of us believe that if we ask the “right” questions, the process of
learning will somehow materialize out of thin air. Although the concept, when stated so bluntly,
might sound a bit hokey, I agree with it whole-heartedly. If you can somehow find a way to
motivate students to want to learn material (any material), and you give them a set of tools
through which that material can be discovered, learning should, and generally will, occur.
Now, though, with the arrival of the internet, perhaps the Socratic approach to knowledge
tranferrence is becoming loaded with a whole new set of factors. WWW: we are all familiar with
this infinite “web” of resources and immense repository of information (knowledge) from which we
can, through the intricacies of the hypertext-searching mode of discovery, learn just about
anything about anything. But what does it all really mean for the High School social studies
teacher, or the freshman math professor? Before we move forward, let’s step back and find a
good definition of the elusive “hypertext.”
John Slatin, in his “Reading Hypertext,” defines a process in which "the reader begins at a point of
his or her own choosing--a point chosen from a potentially very large number of possible starting
points. The reader proceeds from there by following a series of links connecting documents to one
another, exiting not at a point defined by the author as 'The End' but rather when s/he has had
enough." (1994). And Roland Barthes (although speaking, more generally, about the possibility
for any text to be “hyper”) exclaims that he sees a “language.... A third vision... appears: that of
infinitely spread-out languages, of parentheses never to be closed: a utopian vision in that it
supposes a mobile, plural reader, who nimbly inserts and removes the quotation marks: who
begins to write with me." (Barthes, Roland, 1975) Although both of these definitions provide us
with a great intuitive “feeling” as to the experience of reading the hypertext, I’m generally wary
when definitions of a particular noun always seem to rely on verbs to get at their meaning.
Other definitions of hypertext present it as a medium of reporting/storytelling in which the “reader”
is just as active a participant in the creation of a text as is the “writer.” In this sense, every time
someone attempts to access information from the World Wide Web, texts are created, destroyed,
and ultimately re-created. This definition, and the epistemological paradigm shift associated with
it, are extolled in Michael Joyce’s Hypertext and hypermedia (1993):
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[B]orrowing from the conventions of print culture, those who view, combine, or
manipulate hypertexts are commonly referred to as readers while those who create,
gather and arrange hypertexts are called writers. Yet hypertext challenges and, many
say, obviates these distinctions. Hypertext readers not only choose the order of what
they read but in doing so also alter its form by their choices. Also most hypertext
systems allow "readers" to add their own material or links to hypertexts. They thus
determine its content for themselves, and often for successive readers, and in a very
real sense write (or rewrite) hypertexts. . . . Hypertext takes advantage of the
computer's ability to retrieve information in any order (random access) and to store it
in any form (a hypermedia database). Hypertext enables interaction between viewers
of its material and those who created or gathered that material.
So, we have a situation in which the distinction of writer and reader, which can also be
applied to the distinction between instructor and student, are washing away—but how does
this new relationship effect the transfer of knowledge that we call learning? Joyce points out
that “This dissolving of distinctions between writer and reader makes hypertext a valuable
tool for learning and information management as well as a revolutionary artistic medium”;
and he continues by explaining that, “[I]ndeed, some theorists argue that hypertext
represents a shift in human consciousness comparable to the shift from orality to print”
(Joyce 1993).
With the invention of the printing press came a greater availability of information/knowledge,
and the possibility to share that knowledge with a much more diverse audience, and the
opportunity for teaching to begin to reach out to the masses. If the arrival of this new, nonlinear availability of endless amounts data and knowledge can, indeed, be compared to the
shift from the oral tradition to the printed one, then we almost need to step back and ask
ourselves if our traditional methods of transferring knowledge are adequate—or even
appropriate. In the second part of this article, I will attempt to ground this discussion
somewhere in the actuality of teaching, both in the traditional sense, and in the cyber
environment. . .
•
•
•
Barthes, Roland. Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes. NY: Hill and Wang, 1975.
Joyce, Michael. “Hypertext and hypermedia.” Of Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and
Poetics. MI: University of Michigan Press, 1993.
Slatin, John. 'Reading Hypertext' qtd. in Landow, 1994. p. 158
http://www.as.ttu.edu/kairos/5.1/binder.html?features/white/bridgenw.html
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(Part 2)
Somewhere in the course of the eighties of the twentieth century, history took a turn
in another direction. Once it passed its apogee in time, once it reached the peak of
the curve in its evolution, its solstice of history, a sliding back of events set in, an
unfolding of inverted meaning. As in the case of cosmic space, historical space-time
would also have a curvature. By way of the same chaotic effect in time as in space,
things go faster and faster as they approach their culmination, just like the flow of
water speeds up mysteriously as it approaches the waterfall. In the Euclidean space
of history, the fastest route from one point to another is a straight line, the one of
Progress and Democracy. This however only pertains to the linear space of the
Enlightenment. In our non-Euclidean space of the end of the century, a malevolent
curvature invincibly reroutes all trajectories. The phenomenon is doubtlessly linked to
the sphericity of time (visible on the horizon of the end of the century just like the earth
is visible on the horizon at the end of the day) or to the subtle distortion of the field of
gravity. Segalen says that on an Earth become a sphere, every movement distancing
us from a point also brings us closer to that same point. This is true with respect to
time as well. Every noticeable movement of history brings us imperceptibly closer to
its antipode, indeed to its point of departure. This is the end of linearity. Viewed from
this perspective, the future no longer exists. And if there is no future, neither is there
an end anymore. And yet this is not what is meant by the end of history. What we
have to deal with is a paradoxical process of reversion, a reversal of effect with
respect to modernity which, having reached its speculative limit and extrapolated all
its virtual developments, disintegrates into its rudimentary components through a
catastrophic process of recurrence and turbulence.
--Jean Baudrillard “Reversion of History.” Originally published in French as part of Jean
Baudrillard, L'Illusion de la fin: ou La greve des evenements
The “recurrence and turbulence” of which Baudrillard speaks is exactly what I was referring to in
the last article when I suggested that “we almost need to step back and ask ourselves if our
traditional methods of transferring knowledge are adequate. Perhaps we, too, have reached
some “apogee,” some sort of turning point from which we cannot return, and this is good. It’s
good in the fact that we must now step back, reevaluate the way in which teachers have been
teaching, and see if it really works. It’s not that students haven’t been gaining “knowledge” from
those passing down the little carrots of knowledge, nor is it that all of the loving teachers have
been performing their beloved task in vain; no, it’s just that, occasionally, in the face of a paradigm
shift (no matter how great or small), things must change. But what does this all mean for us?
I think that the new vision for pedagogical approaches to teaching hypertext will ultimately come
out of the well of thought that has already been put into writing these sorts of texts. Michael
Joyce, in a section entitled “Writing the mind-- Bolter and Storyspace,” when he outlines “Jay
David Bolter's sometimes controversial Writing Space” which, he claims:
challenges assumptions of contemporary literary theory and computer science
alike while making the case for hypertext as a new writing technology: "Electronic
writing is both a visual and verbal description," says Bolter, "not the writing of a
place, but rather a writing with places, spatially realized topics. . . signs and
structures on the computer screen that have no easy equivalent in speech."
(1993)
The writing of these texts will, perforce, challenge us to arrive at a new set of definitions for
the less-than-traditional signs that we seem to meet at every juncture in the WWW; thus,
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after we have all begun to agree on these definitions, we must find also find a way to walk
our students through this semiotic dream. The potential for becoming “lost in hyperspace”-more specifically, hypertexts--is one of the key difficulties in teaching in the online
environment.
Joyce offers a few often utilized treatments for these difficulties via “Bernstein's ‘breadcrumbs’
(Hansel and Gretel-like markers for hypertext trails). . . are examples of what Patricia Wright has
termed ‘cognitive prostheses’ against temporary overload-- or being ‘lost in hyperspace’.”
Although these guides and markers are becoming well established throughout the WWW (any
good web developer will tell you that the first deadly sin is to let your readers get lost navigating
through your site), Joyce continues his elucidation on the thoughts of Bernstein by pointing out
that “hypertexts can and do exploit disorientation." (1993)
Although the internet is the perfect environment to allow the process of discovery to occur, the
increasing appearance of disorientating and intentionally free-flowing texts that don’t necessarily
make sense to the sensibilities of logical, linear-thinking users is really the challenge in guiding
others through the WWW. The idea of leaving “Hansel and Gretel-like markers” seems to be a
good place to start envisioning the direction in which teaching must evolve in respect to onlinelearning. Learning is becoming a “process of gaining knowledge,” so we must find a way to direct
that process towards the outcomes that we ultimately would like our students to achieve. I think
that this can be achieved by formulating a well-mapped, guided approach to sending students out
into cyperspace—sending them into and leading them through the immense repository of
information (knowledge) with a solid plan in mind. And when we get “out there” with them, the
cycle of history will ultimately return full circle, the pendulum will reach its apogee and then come
back for another round—it’s at that point that we’ll have to look to old Socrates and ask the
questions that get results.
•
•
•
•
Baudrillard, Jean. “ Reversion of History.” Originally published in French as part of Jean
Baudrillard, L'Illusion de la fin: ou La greve des evenements, Galilee: Paris, 1992.
Translated by Charles Dudas, York University, Canada. Article can be found at:
http://www.simulation.dk/articles/a-reversion_of_history.html
Bolter, Jay David. “Writing Space,” qtd. in Joyce, Michael. “Hypertext and hypermedia.” Of
Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics. MI: University of Michigan Press, 1993.
Joyce, Michael. “Hypertext and hypermedia.” Of Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and
Poetics. MI: University of Michigan Press, 1993.
Slatin, John (1991). "Reading Hypertext: Order and Coherence in a New Medium."
Hypermedia and Literary Studies. Eds. Paul Delany and George, P. Landow.
CambridgeMIT Press: 153-169.
Peter S. Cassidy, M.A.
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"High Touch" in a "High Tech" World: Strategies for Individualizing Online Learning
Over the last several years, I have had the luxury of conversing with countless online instructors
regarding "what works" in online education. To my surprise, I have found that many, if not most,
conversations have centered on " the best way to create highly attractive visual presentations."
The focus often seems to be on teaching as information distribution, and on motivating students
by offering some "sizzle" in their presentations - employing cute animated gifs, blinking letters,
animated simulations of processes such as swallowing reminiscent of Alka Seltzer commercials,
etc.
I don't have a problem with the notion of creating visually exciting presentations. However, I am
somewhat surprised that there is so much concern about presentations, because in conversations
with many of the most successful experienced online teachers, I find a very different focus. More
often than not, we talk about the relationships they have with their students - and their strategies
for engaging their students from the individual learner's point of view. These instructors have
concern about the visual aspects of their courses like most, but much of their energy clearly is
invested in what I would call "high touch mentoring."
When one takes a look at the most successful online teachers -i.e., those who obtain high student
participation, high learning outcomes, and apparently high rates of student satisfaction, one finds
that they demonstrate a very rich, active, respectful and responsive style of communication. More
specifically, these "superior" online mentors often engage in one or more of the following kinds of
actions or strategies:
•
•
•
•
They provide a safe climate. They recognize that many anxious new online learners
need some reassurance. Early and often, they let students know that there are numerous
supports available to assist them - including the Orientation Course, the Help Notes, the
24/7 Help Desk, and their peers and the teacher. Most of all, they explicitly assure
students that it is okay to ask for help, to trust them, and to trust that they will be very
available and accessible - in the course, and/or by email, and/or by phone or in person.
They invite input regarding the goals and agenda of the course. While they are
mindful of the fact that they are content experts with clear ideas as to what students need,
they also realize that learners often benefit from content that matches their individual
academic and personal goals. These instructors also comfortably allowing their students
some measure of independence and control over their learning.
They provide much individualized feedback--through email, in threaded discussions, as
well as various other course communication tools. Knowing that learners will be gratified
by and work harder for a teacher who cares about them, they give their students lots of
positive messages about what they are doing well. They also offer constructive criticism
when called for, provide models of good performance, and recommend links to resources
for enhancing understanding of subject matter and/or to enable students to pursue
material related to individual interests.
They connect learners with one another. They appreciate that in interactive and
collaborative learning situations, individuals have an opportunity for perspective- taking
and reflective thinking, and that this often produces higher levels of cognition as well as
self-esteem. In turn, they fully employ threaded discussions and various collaborative
assignments, as they foster much peer-peer interaction.
So, what am I driving at here?
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Well, it comes down to this: In this "High Tech" world of ours, becoming more "High Touch" in
communicating with the individuals who make up your class will probably lead to higher levels of
achievement and satisfaction for your students. It will probably pay off for you as well.
Edward H. Ladon, PhD
Academic Services Department
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Students as Learners and Users: Enhancing Usability for Your Online Course
Participants have enrolled in an eLearning course to gain or enhance their knowledge and skills,
not merely to play, or struggle, in an online environment. In the eLearning environment,
participants become both learners and users. Participants as learners focus on learning new
knowledge and acquiring new skills while pursuing a course's learning objectives. Participants as
users access a course through an educational site; navigate through a variety of screens to
gather information or enter into discussions with other participants, probably interact with other
web sites; and often engage in self-assessment activities as well as in more formal evaluation
exercises. We see, then, in this context, thorough evaluation of successful online courses clearly
indicates that success requires addressing participants as both learners and users.
So, how do you design eLearning courses that not only have rich, robust content, but that also
receive positive participant reviews for great usability? One eLearning specialist, Jodi Bollaert,
notes that highly usable eLearning materials are a result of combining sound instructional design
with equally sound, usable technological courseware design. Course-design techniques must be
appropriate to the learner/user and support content delivery and the instructional objectives. In the
same vein, internationally-known usability expert Jakob Nielsen's comments on web design can
be applied to the eLearning context. That is, a usable eLearning course helps learners achieve
their educational objectives in the simplest, most user-friendly way possible. In brief, learners
want to easily access and navigate smoothly through a course site as they learn within their own
context of choosing where and when they use the online course.
A key point is that poor usability should never be an impediment to learning. In the ideal
eLearning environment, the courseware should be efficient, satisfying, transparent to the user,
and fun to use. That's the goal to work toward. Based on the work of many experts in the field,
there are a series of recommendations that can be profitably followed in designing and presenting
eLearning courses:
•
•
•
•
•
Orientation. Require new learners to take a pre-course student tutorial to familiarize them
with hardware and software requirements, the eLearning site requirements, and
courseware navigation. In the course syllabus and opening announcements, direct
learners to exit the course and take the tutorial if they have not already done so.
Assessments show that completion of such tutorials increases learner satisfaction with
their eLearning experience while reducing the burden on instructors to answer technical or
course navigation questions.
Obvious visibility. Course elements, objects and controls, like those that aid learners'
navigation, should be visible, obvious and, ideally, intuitive. That accomplished, it's in the
instructor's interest to provide clear instructions to learners, in multiple places in the
course, for using the elements and controls or recognizing objects. Such instructions,
though they may seem redundant, help ensure course usability for learners.
Simplicity. Keep the number of actions and objects to the minimum necessary for good
functionality and the optimum delivery of your course material. Remember, just because
you can add a lot of "bells and whistles" doesn't mean you should do so. In fact "too much
or too many" may actually be a distraction to learners. That is, course usability is often
reduced when a designer goes for too much "glitz."
Help support. Learners should be in control of seeking needed help. That said, the
course syllabus and/or opening announcements should clearly state how learners can
seek help, both within the course and by going to the site helpdesk. Just because this
material was covered in an orientation tutorial doesn't mean learners will remember it.
Well-placed announcements and instructions to learners will always help reduce the
burden on the instructor to answer similar questions from multiple learners.
Accessibility. A key to good instructional design is to "chunk" material into usable
sections that can be accessed easily and completed readily. It's always an important point
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•
§
§
§
§
§
to remember that this advice applies to the number of units in a course and the number of
content items in each unit as well as the more common application of "chunking" to the
actual course content.
Balance in visual design. "Balance" is the key term here, and the design goal should align
with the Goldilocks target of "just right."
Font. Experiment with font size and bolding to achieve desired legibility for different
content items or screens. And, no, you don't have to use the same font size for all text on
a page. In fact, assessment indicates increased learner satisfaction when there is some
text differentiation on a page.
Color. A small amount of color text enhances usability while a riot of colored text will
detract. Consider a color for headings on home and unit home pages. The same color can
be used for sub-headings for content and instructions. The use of a second color could
enhance usability, when combined with "bolding," to emphasize key words, terms, etc. A
note of caution here: don't use a blue color text that learners might confuse with the blue
color associated with hyperlink text. Again, learner feedback indicates increased
satisfaction when there is some use of relevant color text on a page.
Icons and graphics. The insertion of graphics is pedagogically sound when they relate
directly to content or instructions. For example, use a common icon or graphic throughout
a course's units whenever you present repeated material such as readings, assignments,
lectures, discussions, etc. Animated items can enhance visual satisfaction as long as their
placement has a reason and doesn't detract from the ultimate goal of learning.
Interactivity. There is a strong correlation in course assessments between learner
satisfaction and interactivity-interactivity across the board. The design goal is interactivity
between learners, learners and the instructor, learners and the course tools and content,
and learners and outside-the-course web sites. More than color, graphics, animation, or
anything high-tech in a course, designed-in interactivity is a sure bet to increase usability
and learner satisfaction.
Instructor feedback. In assessments, many students report that a "good" eLearning
course provides them with quantitatively more, qualitatively better, timely instructor
feedback than they commonly receive in traditional classroom settings. Effective, highlyrated instructors are those who participate in discussions, provide feedback on
assignments and assessments, and are accessible through email or office-hour chat
rooms or discussion sites.
So, how can we sum it all up? Good design makes learning relatively easy and ensures that a
course site is highly usable. Good instructional and technological design lets learners feel
involved and in control as they navigate the eLearning environment.
Sources
Bollaert, J. (January 2002). 10 tips for designing usable e-learning. Compuware Corporation EUsability News. Retrieved April 3, 2001 (no longer available) from the World Wide Web:
http://www.compuware.com/intelligence/articles/e-usability_i2a_v1.ht
Article no longer available online at this site.
Nielsen, J. (2000, December 15). Keep your users in mind. Internet World. Retrieved April 3, 2001
from the World Wide Web: http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m0DXS/24_6/68155735/print.jhtml
Kenneth Switzer, PhD
Academic Services Department
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eCollege Product Accessibility
Knowledge is power, and empowerment. It is fundamental to the individual--how we view
ourselves and our place in the world. As more and more students with disabilities harness the
advantages of distance education to overcome the daily challenges of location and accessibility, it
is increasingly imperative that online education providers meet this need and ensure equal access
to learning resources. To this end, the U.S. Access Board has identified basic accessibility
requirements for websites and web-based software. This will help ensure that the infinite
resource of the Internet is not restrictive in its access. The guidelines, known as “Section 508”1
(referring to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act), define how online learning applications can be
designed to accommodate people using assistive technology.
This document evaluates and responds to the Section 508 accessibility guidelines. It also explains
how eCollege is complying with these guidelines to assure an accessible online learning
environment and provides an overview of the resources available to you as an eCollege client.
Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities
The Access Board is an independent U.S. Federal Agency charged with developing accessibility
requirements and guidelines, assisting in the implementation of accessible solutions, and
enforcing accessibility standards for federally funded facilities. In 1998, Congress amended the
Rehabilitation Act to include Section 508, requiring all U.S. Federal Agencies to make their
electronic information accessible to people with disabilities. Compliance with the requirements set
out by the Access Board in Section 508 is usually referred to as “ADA Compliant.”
While most schools are not currently required to assume Section 508 compliance, many
educational institutions are at the forefront, voluntarily moving toward full compliance to assure
universal accessibility to education and its benefits.
1
For a detailed description of Section 508, the new federal procurement procedures, and compliance
issued please see: http://www.section508.gov.
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Section 508 Guidelines
These guidelines are taken from Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, Section 1194.22. The table on the following pages lists these
guidelines and highlights how eCollege compliant solutions implement them.
Section 508 Requirement
(a) A text equivalent for every non-text
element shall be provided.
(b) Equivalent alternatives for any
multimedia presentation shall be
synchronized with the presentation.
(c) Web pages shall be designed so
that all information conveyed with color
is also available without color.
(d) Documents shall be organized so
they are readable without requiring an
associated style sheet.
(e) Redundant text links shall be
provided for each active region of a
server-side image map.
(f) Client-side image maps shall be
provided instead of server-side image
maps except where the regions cannot
be defined with an available geometric
shape.
(g) Row and column headers shall be
identified for data tables.
Academic Services Department
Implementation in eCollege Solutions
All non-text elements are supported
with “alt” or “longdesc” attribute to
ensure screen-reading software can
render the image.
Multimedia presentations can be
synchronized with closed captioned
content. Audio equivalents can consist
of text-based transcriptions for screenreaders.
In places where color is used to draw
attention to important information,
additional markup and/or text
equivalents are employed.
Users can implement their own style
sheets for increased readability if they
desire.
Our system permits the course
developer to add redundant text links
All data tables use appropriate markup
to indicate the presence of table
headers for easier understanding with
screen-readers.
“In Other Words…”
Any picture can be accompanied by an “alt tag”
that, when accessed by a visually impaired
student using a screen-reader, will describe the
image.
Video presentations can be imbedded with
closed-captioned text and audio segments can
have a text transcription to accommodate deaf
and hard of hearing students.
Additional HTML read by screen-readers will
help draw attention to information by reading
grammar or associating importance to text.
Style sheets allow a user to override a website’s
font & color properties with their own
preferences. eCollege pages conform to these
preferences.
Additional HTML can be used to describe links
internal to an image that would not otherwise be
evident to a screen reader.
Additional HTML can help identify when data
tables are used and convey how they are
displayed (by row or column headers) to make
the translation by the screen-reader as clear as
possible to the student.
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Section 508 Requirement
(h) Markup shall be used to associate
data cells and header cells for data
tables that have two or more logical
levels of row or column headers.
(i) Frames shall be titled with text that
facilitates frame identification and
navigation.
(j) Pages shall be designed to avoid
causing the screen to flicker with a
frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower
than 55 Hz.
(k) A text-only page, with equivalent
information or functionality, shall be
provided to make a web site comply
with the provisions of this part, when
compliance cannot be accomplished in
any other way.
(l) When pages utilize scripting
languages to display content, or to
create interface elements, the
information provided by the script shall
be identified with functional text that
can be read by assistive technology.
(m) When a web page requires that an
applet, plug-in or other application be
present on the client system to interpret
page content, the page must provide a
link to a plug-in or applet that complies
with §1194.21(a) through (l).
(n) When electronic forms are designed
to be completed on-line, the form shall
allow people using assistive technology
to access the information, field
elements, and functionality required for
completion and submission of the form,
including all directions and cues.
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All data tables use appropriate markup
to ensure understanding and navigation
by screen reader users.
All frames have descriptive names as
well as extensive “title” attributes to
ensure their functionality with screenreaders.
Pages do not employ technologies that
cause the screen to flicker.
“In Other Words…”
Additional HTML can link the data from cells with
the appropriate row or column header to make
sure that it is properly interpreted by the screenreader for the student.
Pages organized into “frames” can have text
translating the frame structure and contents
appropriately for the screen-reader, i.e. “content
frame,” “navigation frame,” etc.
N/A
This has not proved necessary.
The eCollege courseware platform provides
sufficient opportunities for compliance to
eliminate the need for an additional text-only
page.
All JavaScript functionality is supported
with in-depth text descriptions to ensure
screen-readers present clear
information.
All JavaScript applications within a course can
have equivalent text descriptions to
accommodate translation by screen-readers.
When course content requires an applet
or plug-in it will offer alternative
solutions that do not have the plug-in
requirement to ensure Section 508
compliance.
Offering text equivalents for multimedia and
document applications, e.g. offering .txt or .doc
versions of .pdf files, will make sure disabled
students are accommodated within the
courseware and do not require plug-ins or other
non-compliant applications.
Forms in the eCollege platform, such as
registration forms, exams and the Gradebook,
are outfitted with additional HTML code that
directs the screen reader flow through the form.
Link with more information about the form and
how it is displayed, how used, etc.
Electronic forms have been modified to
permit their completion by users using
assistive technologies. All forms have
extensive help files for assistive
technology users to ensure their
usability.
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Section 508 Requirement
(o) A method shall be provided that
permits users to skip repetitive
navigation links.
(p) When a timed response is required,
the user shall be alerted and given
sufficient time to indicate more time is
required.
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All repetitive navigation links are
contained in defined navigation frames,
and labeled as such, so users can
rapidly bypass well-known navigation
links and directly access the content.
Timed responses are currently not
used. Note that for security reasons,
users who are inactive for a period will
continue to be logged out of their
account.
“In Other Words…”
Students using screen-readers can by-pass
familiar fames in eCollege courseware, e.g. left
bar navigation, and go right to content areas.
eCollege courseware Help files are available to
disabled students in multiple formats to
familiarize students with how to request
additional time for exams.
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Implementing Accessibility Standards, Usability & Support
eCollege has made building, testing, and implementing sites and eLearning solutions
compliant with Section 508 a top priority. This ensures that we, as educational partners,
support students with disabilities by making our platform and your content accessible to
popular assistive technologies.
Specifically, eCollege’s Accessibility Initiative focuses on the following areas:
Product Research
eCollege researches all potential product add-ons, through partnerships with existing
technology providers, to ensure their products are Section 508 compliant and accessible to
people with disabilities.
Product Specification
All eCollege software and technical specifications ensure compliance with Section 508
guidelines. These specifications are used by our Web Development, System Development,
Project Management, Course Development, Technical Support, Professional Services, and
Quality Assurance divisions. In this way, all aspects of product research, development,
testing, and support are rigorously maintained by eCollege Accessibility Design Standards.
Upgrading of Existing Products
All eCollege products are currently undergoing, or are scheduled to undergo, rewrites,
upgrades and internal testing to ensure Section 508 compliance and usability with assistive
technologies.
Course Development
All eCollege Course Developers are trained to implement Section 508 solutions into all
courses with development support. Educational institutions requiring Section 508 compliance
and who utilize eCollege Course Development are ensured compliant and accessible online
courses.
Instructional Design Consulting
eCollege’s Instructional Designers offer workshops and courses, online and on-location, which
will train institutional representatives on integrating Section 508 compliance in their online
courses and programs.
On-campus training – 2 day intensive Section 508 Workshop – During this workshop users will
modify course content to meet Section 508 requirements.
Online course – Creating Universally Accessible Online Courses – This 3 week online
workshop walks faculty through the steps needed to make course content accessible and
compliant with Section 508.
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Help Desk
Help Desk will continue to provide full support for all eCollege users. They are prepared to
answer questions and provide assistance for disabled students using supported assistive
technologies.
Quality Assurance
eCollege’s Quality Assurance testing methodologies have been expanded and enhanced to
ensure that actual system code complies with Section 508 requirements. We have also
initiated testing with popular screen readers and other assistive technologies to ensure full
functionality and usability by people with disabilities.
eCollege Support for Assistive Technologies
Assistive technology today encompasses a wide range of software and hardware solutions
that enable the disabled to use computers and the Internet. These technologies are designed
to ensure that computers and computer software are usable by people with visual, hearing,
and physical disabilities.
eCollege’s Teaching Solutions product has been enhanced to accommodate popular software
and hardware solutions used by people with visual, hearing, and physical disabilities. These
enhancements go beyond the minimum requirements defined by Section 508, and give people
with disabilities multiple options when faced with tasks in their online course.
Some of the ways in which eCollege’s platform accommodates these users’ needs are
outlined below:
§
Educators and learners with physical disabilities can utilize keyboard navigation. This
allows users who do not wish to, or who are unable to maneuver a mouse, full access
to their course content and course features using only the keyboard.
§
Users with visual impairments can modify some screen colors and font display
properties using web browser controls and by uploading their own style sheet for
increased readability. eCollege is also introducing comprehensive Q.A. testing and
Help Desk support for popular screen-readers.
§
Hearing impaired and deaf students will benefit from the implementation of closed
captioning and alternative script formats for multimedia presentations. This ensures
critical auditory information is delivered to all users.
eCollege is fully committed to an online learning environment that overcomes the challenges
and barriers faced by the disabled. To this end, we have ensured that every aspect of our
platform, its support, and all services provided to our clients, from course development to
quality assurance, is prepared for Section 508 compliance and available to our clients wishing
to make this transition. As new products are released and existing products upgraded to
enhance their accessibility, eCollege reaffirms its commitment to education as a whole and to
you, our Educational Partners, by providing quality services that ensure a superior learning
and teaching environment for all educators and learners.
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eCollege Accessibility Features
eCollege is unique in the online learning market in its level of Section 508 compliance.
Section 508 Testing Results Made Public.
Help Desk Technicians trained to support
assistive technology users.
Provision of 24x7 Help Desk support for
assistive technologies and courseware.
Instructional Designers trained in accessible
design.
Course Development trained to develop for
assistive technology.
Student and Instructor views of courseware
Section 508 compliant.
Chat software Section 508 compliant.
Accessible courseware enhancements
available without upgrade, additional
purchase, or installation of new server
software.
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Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
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APPENDIX
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The Technology Fact Sheet
What is Your Computer/Internet Savvy?
Before teaching online, you should feel comfortable with the following information. If any of
these issues seem unfamiliar, you may consider brushing up on these skills before your
course begins.
Computer
Know your computer type, size, memory, and software programs.
Know how to organize files on your computer.
Purchase any necessary software that will help you organize or teach ,
such as word processing and spreadsheet programs, and contact
management software.
Download any necessary software – RealPlayer, Flash, etc.
Word
Processing
Know how to: Cut, copy, and paste text.
Use basic word processing programs.
Save and move documents and files.
Save files in different file formats (.doc, .rtf, .xls).
Email
Know how to: Send and receive messages.
Send email attachments.
Open email attachments.
Organize email files and messages.
Know how to: Maneuver with your browser: back, forward, links, scroll
bars, refresh, bookmarks.
Internet
Locate URLs (Internet addresses).
Differentiate between the Internet and the World Wide Web.
Search for information with search engines.
Internet Service Providers
An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a company that provides you with the software needed
for connecting with the Internet. Contact a local ISP to set up your personal account or call
the eCollege Helpdesk at 303–873–0005 for more information about finding an ISP in your
area.
The following ISPs are recommended for their reliability and technical support:
• Concentric Network Corporation : http://www.concentric.net/
• AT&T :
http://www.att.net
• Earthlink :
http://www.earthlink.com.
Another good resource for finding an ISP is the Web site at http://www.thelist.com.
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NOTE: America Online (AOL), Prodigy and CompuServe are Internet Service Providers
(ISPs) who, as part of their software, provide an internal web browser allowing users to
browse the web. Often, these web browsers are either modified and/or older versions of
IE (Internet Explorer). If you are using internal browsers provided through AOL, Prodigy
or CompuServe to access your online course, you will likely experience sporadic
problems. To minimize the possibility of browser-related problems, we strongly
recommend you use the latest standard browser distributed by Microsoft or Netscape.
Once logged on into AOL, Prodigy or CompuServe, you can switch to Internet Explorer
and it will work through the connection you have established. If you are using
Windows98/NT and up, an updated version of an external browser is pre-loaded in your
computer. If you are using an older version of Windows, you may download a new
version of IE or Netscape for free.
Recommended Software
Although you are not required to have the following software to teach online, these programs
are recommended by many of us at eCollege. Some will be more relevant than others to your
specific discipline, but we urge you to familiarize yourself with how these programs function.
•
Microsoft Office Suite —Word, Excel, PowerPoint
•
Adobe Acrobat Reader (free)
http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html
•
PowerPoint Viewer—if you don’t have PowerPoint (free)
http://officeupdate.microsoft.com/2000/downloadDetails/Ppview97.htm
•
Macromedia Flash
http://macromedia.com
•
Shockwave
http://shockwave.com
•
Image Editor
Paint Shop Pro
LViewPro
Adobe Photoshop
http://www.shareware.com (60 day free trial)
http://www.shareware.com (60-day free trial)
http://www.adobe.com
•
RealNetworks Products
http://www.real.com (free)
•
HTML Editor
HTML Kit
http://chami.com/html-kit
Front Page Express Internet Explorer edition
Netscape Composer Netscape Communicator edition
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Internet Connectivity
Even if you fulfill the hardware and software requirements listed here, your connection rate to
the Internet (through your ISP) will determine how quickly you can access your course
material, especially audio and video. Your connection rate should be around 20 kbps or
higher to successfully access most online multimedia. Make sure your ISP can guarantee
your connectivity rate.
Email Accounts
An email account is established for you when you sign up with an ISP. Check with your ISP if
you do not know your email address. If you have an email account through your school, you
may use this address in your online courses. You may want to sign up for a separate email
account to use just for your online course to aid in organizing your email.
Browser Test
Take eCollege’s Browser Test, periodically, to make sure you have all of the essential
software on your computer to teach an online course. The Browser Test is accessible from
your institution’s homepage.
Technical Tips and Tricks
The following collection of ideas and suggestions from online instructors should help you learn
to use technology effectively and efficiently.
Personal Computer Tips
•
•
•
Create folders on your hard drive and file documents or programs just as you would
organize documents in a filing cabinet.
Save new programs to your desktop when downloading to make it easier to find them
when you want to install them. You can always move them to another folder later.
Create text responses or course information in a word processing program to spell
check and edit. Then copy and paste them into your email or online course.
Rich Text Format (.rtf)
If you have sent a document as an email attachment that the receiver cannot open, the file
may be in a format that the receiver’s email program cannot read. Saving a file in Rich Text
Format makes most documents readable by any user.
•
•
•
•
To save a document as Rich Text Format, open the document you want to send in the
program in which it was developed (for example, Microsoft Word).
From the top menu click on File and then Save As.
At the bottom of the “Save As” screen, you will see "Save As Type." Choose Rich
Text Format.
After saving the file in Rich Text Format, the file extension should be “.rtf.”
Repeat the process of attaching the file, but attach the document you saved as .rtf.
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NOTE: Saving as an .rtf file can cause the document to lose its formatting. If format is
an important part of an assignment, this option may not work for you. Remember also,
you can always cut and paste text directly into the body of the email.
Email Attachments
The “Email Attachments” function lets you send and receive documents (for example, Word,
Excel, PowerPoint, etc) by attaching them to email messages. The following information
contains instructions on how to send and receive documents from your personal email
program using email attachments.
Sending Documents using Email Attachments
You can attach a document anytime you are sending an email message. The way that you
attach a document to an email message can differ from program to program. Regardless, the
first thing you need to do is begin the actual message and address it to the person whom you
want to receive it.
The Attachment Process
This process starts after you have addressed the new message. Many email programs have
a paper clip icon. If you see a paper clip icon, click on it to start the attachment process. If
you cannot find a paper clip icon, look in the main menu of your email program. There will be
a menu option that will let you attach a document.
Example:
If you are using Microsoft Outlook, click on Insert at the top menu and choose File. If you
are using Eudora, click on Message and then on Attach File.
If you are using an email program other than Outlook or Eudora and you cannot find a paper
clip icon, you may have to search the main menu to find out where you can start the process
of attaching a file. The process will most likely be similar to that of Outlook or Eudora.
Getting the Document
The next step in attaching a file to your message is to locate the file. This process will most
likely start immediately after you click on a paper clip icon or when you choose the attachment
option from your menu. A window will open displaying your folders.
Whether the document you want to attach is saved on your hard-drive or on a disk, you will
need to retrieve it. To find your document, simply double-click on each folder and subfolder
until you get to your document.
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Then select the file (see image to the left). This
is much like saving a document from a word
processing program. For example, if you have
saved a document in a “Course Assignments
folder,” and this folder is located in your C drive,
you will need to follow this path: first go to your
C drive, then to the “Course Assignments”
folder, and then select the document.
Once you have selected your document, click on Open (in your program it could read
“attach”). The document should now attach itself to your email.
How do I know if it attached?
After attaching the document, you should be returned to the message you are going to send.
The attached document may appear in one of several places. Look at the images below to
see how it might look in your email program. Then just send through your email as you would
with any other email message.
Sample Course Policies and Procedures
Online learning is new for many students. Some students are challenged by the need to be
self-disciplined while others thrive on it. Writing specific Course Policies and Procedures will
help your students complete the course successfully. Here are some samples that you may
copy and alter as you see fit.
Late Work. Each week's work must be completed by Friday of every week. Late work will not
receive credit unless you have contacted me beforehand and explained a special
circumstance. The grade on the assignment will be lowered a half-grade for each day it is late.
Disappearing. No communication from you for two weeks for whatever reason means I will
initiate an administrative withdrawal. You can contact me via voice mail, email, fax (call first)
or by contacting <name> at <school> administration, <phone>. There will be no “Incomplete”
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grades in this course unless we are at the very end of the course and you have an extreme
emergency.
Threaded Discussion. You must make three threaded discussion entries throughout the
week, not at the end of the week. You should post your first thread response by Wednesday
of the Unit week, and by Saturday, you must respond to at least 3 classmates’ threads.
Turning in Assignments and Email Procedures
Sending assignments. On the Subject header of your email address, you must put the
following: "Your last name, <class number>, Name of Assignment." In the body of your
message, identify the assignment. For example, "Short Story Draft One." This is extremely
important, as this is how my email software will sort my mail for me. You will then receive an
automatic reply the next time I check my mail informing you that I have received your
assignment.
General email. When sending email other than assignments, in all email sent to me and/or
other members of our class, you still must identify yourself fully by name and class, not simply
by an email address.. I also expect you to follow rules of common courtesy in all your email
messages. If I deem any of them to be inappropriate or offensive, I will forward the message
to the Chair of the English department and the online administrators and appropriate action
will be taken, not excluding expulsion from the course.
Composing email. I suggest that you compose your assignments on your computer and
then paste them into an email message rather than compose on the email itself so that you
can retain a copy of your assignment and avoid unexpected email wipe-outs.
Responding to email. I will check my email on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I will respond to
course related questions within 24–48 hours. I will announce assignment due dates in the
course units and through updated messages just as I would in a regular class. Comments on
formal assignments may take up to two weeks but probably less than that. I ask that you
notify me when you have received critiques from me on your various assignments.
Email attachments. All formal assignments must be saved in Microsoft Word so that I can
read them. If you cannot save your files in Microsoft Word, you will not be able to complete
the class. Sorry. But do not panic. Most modern word processing systems can save in
Microsoft Word. (You can save in your own word processing program, but when you email
me, you need to copy that file and save it in Microsoft Word before you attach it. Or, save the
file as .rtf. For instructions on how to do this, consult the Student Orientation Course, or call
the HelpDesk.)
Grading Policies. Refer to the following grading system throughout this course:
30% Manuscripts
30% Exercises
10% Journals
30% Class participation—critiques, threaded discussion responses
NOTE: For an online course, it is recommended that class participation count as at least
20% of the final grade to establish an active learning community.
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Student Responsibilities. A Workshop conducted online asks each class member to be
responsible for turning in critiques and Threaded Discussions on time. It is your responsibility
to pace yourself through the week so that you are able to create your own manuscript and
critique your classmates' work. You must turn in work by the assigned deadlines or you will
interrupt the progress of the entire class. Failure to meet deadlines will adversely affect your
Class Participation Grade.
Safeguards. Back up your work on disk and make a hard copy. If you experience computer
difficulties, you are responsible for solving your own technical problems. Helpdesk is available
from the <your institution> services. (See Course Homepage for link and phone number.)
Heavy Internet use typically occurs in the evening, so you might want to log on at other times
if possible.
Deadlines. Odd things happen in cyberspace—emails get lost, servers disconnect
temporarily, and logins fail. Do not wait for the last minute to do your work. Allow time to
meet deadlines. Reply and check for replies on every email sent and received. You are
responsible for getting the work to me on time.
Courtesy Code. All members of the class are expected to follow rules of common courtesy in
all email messages and critiques. If I deem any of them to be inappropriate or offensive, I will
forward the message to the Chair of the English department and the online administrators and
appropriate action will be taken, not excluding expulsion from the course.
Workshop Etiquette. People want fair, honest feedback. They want to know what works in
their papers and what does not. Criticism should be considered a necessary part of the
procedure as well as praise. Go with your gut feelings about a piece, but before sending the
final critique, be sure you can discuss the reasons for those feelings concretely and
specifically. "It's a nice essay; I like this," tells the writer nothing. The learning process in a
workshop depends on both writing and critiquing. We learn from each other. I will review your
critiques in the early part of the class to help you learn how to effectively read and write about
writing.
Attendance. Failure to "show up" for the weekly work will be considered an equivalent of two
class-time absences. I will keep track of attendance weekly. Repeated absences of three
weeks or more will result in a failing final course grade. No communication for two weeks may
result in an administrative withdrawal and affect your tuition reimbursement.
Academic Dishonesty. Please review <name of school> policies on academic dishonesty.
The First Day of Class
The first day of class is just as important online as it is in the traditional classroom. A short
introductory video—less than five minutes—will let the students see that you, a real live
person, are teaching the course. This immediately humanizes the class and begins to create
a learning community. If you don’t have access to a video camera, or do not want to record
yourself on video, you can still write a text introduction or bio and include a photograph of
yourself that you can have scanned and entered into your course. You can also record an
audio introduction to help build familiarity and community. A link to your own Web page is
also helpful. Your introduction on the first day of class will make your students feel more
comfortable in their electronic classroom.
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Another important first week activity is to highlight the syllabus and course policies that are
already in your course. As you know, your students have a specific Syllabus link to click on in
the course tools. However, they may not realize that this is where the course Policies and
Procedures, etc. are located, so be sure to mention it in one of the first announcements to the
class.
Design an activity to create some sort of class introductions in Threaded Discussions, Chat or
emails in that first week. Some online instructors ask that students scan and attach photos of
themselves when posting their Threaded Discussions. As the instructor, you should
participate in these introductory exercises to place yourself as an active member of the
community of the class.
Inevitably, there are latecomers in the first weeks of class. Online, you have a helpdesk
where faculty and students can get help with technical questions or if they are not able to
access courses or material in courses.
You can preempt certain communication or computer problems, as well as extend a welcome
to your students, by sending a welcome email with a test attachment, asking them to see if
they can open it. Then, through an Announcement, you can send another welcome message,
noting that you have sent an email and that if they have not received it, or cannot open the
attachment, they must double-check the system requirements. You should expect that there
might be confused or inexperienced students, so send frequent emails, and write
Announcements to help your course run as smoothly as possible.
Sample Welcome Email Message
Online students do not always realize that they need to log onto their courses on the first day
of classes. In the first week, send a welcome and reminder by email, similar to the following:
Hello Students!
I want to take this opportunity to welcome you to our online course. I know that you
are in for an enjoyable learning experience. We currently have about <20> students in
this class, which should make for some lively discussions.
I won’t introduce myself to you here—you can view my introductory video in the
Course Homepage. When you enter the course for the first time, be sure to read all of
the Homepage information: the Syllabus, Policies and Procedures, and Course
Requirements. You are welcome to print any of this material. I recommend printing
the Course Syllabus as well as the important information on contacting technical
support (303–873–0005 or [email protected]’sURL) or me. That way, if you
encounter any problems getting on line or accessing course material, you will have our
numbers available for support.
If you are new to this Courseware, please complete the Student Orientation course
located at the top of your Personal Home Page.
From the Course Homepage, look over the Syllabus to get an idea of what lies ahead.
To keep everyone on the same schedule, I have given you access to Units only <one
week> at a time. Therefore, you should be prepared to log on a few times a week in
order to keep up with the requirements of the course.
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Keep in mind that even though in an online class there is no specific time to “go to
class,” attendance matters. I will take attendance every week in the form of Threaded
Discussions and on time assignments and quizzes. Class participation is <20%> of
your grade, so please review the Grading Policies closely.
I look forward to working with you!
Some Threaded Discussion Guidelines
Because Threaded Discussions can be one of the best learning tools in an online course, we
asked a faculty member from one of our Educational Partners to further discuss their effective
usage. The following excerpts on using Threaded Discussions are used by permission from
Robert Graver, Instructional Designer, Keller Graduate School of Management.
Guidelines on Facilitating Threaded Discussions
The following suggestions will help you to establish a choice of methods in which to develop
and facilitate your activities in the Threaded Discussion Area. In many ways, this is the most
critical part of your design and delivery. This is where you bring what was learned to the
highest level through your guidance of the interactions.
Interaction
Interaction with students was found to be the most critical factor that led students to perceive
a course as a successful learning experience. When comparing two courses, one with many
extra features and sparse interaction with the instructor, the second with standard text lectures
and regular interaction, the second version received many comments that were more positive.
Perhaps the best method to communicate with the class has proven to be the Threaded
Discussion. From the instructor’s point of view, the Threaded Discussion allows
communication and interaction with students without becoming a bottleneck. This provides
students with an orderly way to discuss topics that often becomes rich with examples and
experiences. The instructor then becomes a facilitator that focuses the learning in the
direction of the course objectives.
Developing Questioning Strategies
To be an effective instructor, one must be an effective questioner. Good questioning
strategies can be used to enhance the learning process. Questioning should be part of the
instructional strategy. Effective teachers ask questions to
1.
2.
3.
4.
Check the students’ understanding of key points,
Check for mastery of basic concepts,
Encourage critical thinking, and
Stimulate interaction among students, as well as between instructor and
student.
The first step in effective questioning is to recognize that questions have distinctive
characteristics, serve various functions, and provide opportunities to develop higher level
thinking skills by applying, synthesizing, or evaluating the content being learned.
Research in the area of questioning indicates that most questions asked by teachers demand
nothing more than recall of facts. One way to avoid asking questions leading to the mere
repetition of facts is to start each question with a word or phrase that calls for thought on the
part of the students. Words such as what, why, how, summarize, justify, trace, describe, or
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define encourage thoughtful answers and meaningful interaction. Through the process of
questioning, the instructor stimulates the learner to make use of information, to put together
facts that may not have been thoroughly understood, and to draw logical conclusions.
The questioning technique is effective if it is carried out at the appropriate time, causes
students to learn by thinking and doing, and changes students’ roles from passive to thinking
and applying. Skillful questioning can be learned through study, practice, and feedback.
Instructors can improve their questioning techniques by learning to formulate more thoughtprovoking questions and encouraging critical thinking by students. Instructors can also learn
to avoid practices that interfere with students’ responses.
Types of Questions
Questions are typically categorized into two main groups:
•
•
Factual or recall (not good for threading), and
Application or problem (more conducive for threading).
A more meaningful classification system would be to relate questioning to Bloom’s Taxonomy
and differentiate questions by the six cognitive levels:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
Knowledge
Comprehension
Application
Analysis
Synthesis
Evaluation
Examples:
Knowledge : What is the formula for calculating “Weighted Factor Scoring?”
Comprehension : How does “Weighted Factor Scoring” differ from “unweighted?”
Application : Given the following scenario, how do you calculate the value for the
unweighted factor score?
Analysis : Given the following scenario, which scoring model would be most
appropriate and why?
Synthesis : Give the following scenario, what set of recommendations would you give
to a Project Manager?
Evaluation : Given the following scenario with its recommendations, how useful did
you find using the weighted scoring model and why?
Thought-provoking Topics
Topics should challenge students to go beyond the knowledge level whenever possible (a
good way to lead a good Threaded Discussion). Questions should be phrased to reach
beyond the simple “yes” or “no” response. If the question is so easy that the answer is
obvious, then it is probably not worth asking. Questions that are thought- provoking arouse
the curiosity and interest of students and help them clarify their ideas, as well as to analyze
and synthesize facts. This aspect of questioning is especially important to adult students.
Value of Questions
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For maximum effectiveness, the instructor should use questions to:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
Stimulate interest in the lesson,
Establish communication between the instructor and students,
Focus students’ attention on major points to be remembered,
Stimulate learning by causing students to apply facts in order to analyze problems,
Help students develop a feeling of confidence and success, which leads to greater
motivation, further study, and experimentation,
Help students develop the ability to organize ideas and write effectively,
Build cooperation through group activity and responsibility,
Provide for a collaborative approach to learning, and
Evaluate effectiveness of instruction.
In recognition of the potential that questioning has for making a positive impact on students at
several levels of cognition, it is important that the instructor develop techniques that enable
questioning strategies to be used effectively.
Participation in Discussions
Instructors should record ideas during discussion. Instructors must not place a value on
student input as good or bad, right or wrong. If someone else is leading the discussion, the
instructor may wish to withdraw from the discussion and enter only to
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Make a connection between ideas,
Point out similarities or contrasts,
Request clarification or elaboration,
Invite students to respond to one another, and
Summarize the progress at various points in time.
The instructor’s or discussion leader’s role is to involve students in an effective and
constructive manner. The leader must guide the discussion when necessary, without being
too obvious, and end the session with an adequate summary. Above all, the instructor must
be sensitive to individual responses and to all participants’ feelings.
Course Templates
These templates are guides to help you develop ideas for the Course Homepage and Unit
Sections. Please feel free to add or delete anything you need when designing your course.
You may duplicate them for all sections of your course. You may also submit them to your
Profhelp contact, if your school has provided you with Profhelp support.
Sound online instructional design requires clear instructions to students. Although objectives
are implied in your lectures, making them more overt is helpful to the online student. Given
the learning curve of new software it is easy to forget about the little things like introductions
and clear direction. Give every Unit an introduction (text, audio, or video) to explain how it
relates to the previous Unit. Also, give clear directions how to turn in work and remind
students of upcoming assignments.
Syllabus Information
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Required Text
Textbooks, articles, journals
Course Objectives/Course
Goals
Overview of objectives, goals, etc
Grading Policies
Outline grading scale—percentages, letter grades
General Policies
Honor code, netiquette, other policies for the course
Course Syllabus
Readings, Assignments, Assessments, Due Dates
by Unit (or weeks)
Instructor Information
Bio, photo, office hours, email
Course Requirements
Times logged on, amount of time and effort in
assignments, threads, tests, participation
Student Materials
Material required beyond the textbook (special
programs, etc.)
Team (Group) Information
How teams are selected, participation for teams,
team requirements
The information on the Course Homepage provides students with immediate information to
get them started in the online course.
Homepage Information
Example
Introductory Video
1–3 minute video clip introducing self and course
Introductory Audio
1–3 minute audio clip introducing self and course
(can be taken from intro video)
Photo of Instructor
Optional, but encouraged
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View/Listen First
Video/Audio that gives directions for what to do
first in online course, i.e. “Go to Syllabus link.”
Read First
Text that gives directions for what to do first in
online course, i.e. “Go to Syllabus link.”
Any Learning Content Item
Threaded Discussion
Pre-Assessment
Reading
Introductions, preliminary work, etc.
Message in Announcements
Post a Welcome message; remind students of
assignments
Additional Text
Text that encourages and motivates students to
begin
Unit Information Section
The Units (Weeks, Modules, or Chapters) are the course content and instructions that follow
the Course Syllabus.
Possible Content Items
Example
Objectives
List specific objectives and/or goals for the unit. Also a good
place for audio or video introduction to Unit material.
Introduction
Overview of material
Lecture
Incorporate lecture notes, slide shows, audio/video clips, links
to the Web, instructor notes, etc.
Reading
From textbook, journal, websites, PowerPoint, etc.
Assignments
What assignment is due and when (be specific on date and
time).
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Threaded Discussions
List topic(s) for discussion, how many responses are due and
when.
Journal Entry
Have students post a journal entry each week, discussing
their progress in course, understanding, or questions.
Labs
Often used in science, writing, and math classes. Give
students lab assignments and have results submitted using
Email Class link.
Webliography
Assignments
Have students post and critique relevant websites.
Group Presentations
Team-based projects continue throughout the course; make
use of Document Sharing, Webliography, Chatroom. Groups
can also have any Content Item assigned solely to them.
Assessments (Exams,
Quizzes)
Give an automatically graded weekly “Knowledge Check,”
where students have the opportunity to check their own
understanding of material.
Unit Summary
Wrap up Unit with a summary of what was covered; lead into
next Unit’s topic.
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