Friday, June 27, 2014

New Name, New Look, and other News!

Tuesday, July 1 is the start of some major new changes, including changes to the location, look, and feel of Canvas!  The new URL to access Canvas will be  Faculty and students will be able to log in here with their same Portal username and password as normal; and the old address will redirect to the new address for the next few months to give everyone time to update their bookmarks. Students encountering login issues with their Portal username and password should contact the Help Desk.

Here’s a sneak preview of the look-and-feel of the new Canvas instance:

As with any major change, there may be some speed bumps as everything comes together, so please keep the following in mind as we get through the next week:
  • Although your Portal email may be down, your Portal username and password will continue to work in Canvas during migration
  • Regular Portal password updates are continuing for students so if login issues crop up during migration, please be flexible if students report issues logging into their email or Canvas.

Now for a look ahead...

Sometime in mid-July, we plan to have a resource for you to create your own custom FSW Online banner, to roll out in the Fall semester along with the new FSW syllabi.  We’ll be providing the link to that resource via the Information Station as soon as we can.  You will be able to customize those banners with your course number, course name, and your name.  Again, we are aiming for a release in mid-July for rollout in Fall semester.

In the meantime, it’s a good idea to comb through your course to find references to Edison State. If you see any of the following, and you need help removing or replacing them:
  • Course Banners with the old ESC logo that are NOT static images (i.e., you do not see the banner image in your course files);
  • Videos with the old Edison Online logo in the video (in Kaltura, Youtube or Vimeo); or,
  • SmarterMeasure links and related login information (please see this earlier announcement in the Instructor Information Station)

please make a note, and let your assigned instructional designer know.  Regular ESC banner image files can be replaced using the banner creator tool mentioned above, so those can be updated when the tool is announced.

Don’t forget: all references to Edison within the text of your course pages, announcements, documents, quizzes, or anything else will not update automatically, so those will need to be corrected as well!

We’re always happy to help create custom discipline- or instructor-specific banners with your photo, and work with you to find or devise replacement attendance verification activities or resources to replace SmarterMeasure.  Contact information for each designer and their assigned area is noted here:

Lily Carr Library, SLS
Tina Davis Pure and Applied Sciences, Health Professions
Marilyn Goby Business and Technology
Rebecca Yost Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Education

Thanks everyone, and Go Bucs!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Infographic: CATS

We've been talking a lot about infographics here in TIFDOL.  This is a visual representation of information, data or knowledge to present information quickly and clearly. 

This month’s blog post is in the form of an infographic designed by Tina Davis, Instructional Designer. 

Infographic: CATS (text explains how classroom assessment techniques are used)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Spring Faculty Institute is Coming....

EOL faculty, raising the bar!
Much like the Winter and Summer Olympics, every Spring and Fall, Edison Online proudly hosts our faculty and staff for a day-long learning experience related to online education, with workshops, sessions, and other activities. In our post-Olympics fervor, we selected a theme of “Raising the Bar” for student success! This is a chance for faculty to show off, learn something new, and share with each other across disciplinary lines - kind of like the Olympic village.

This spring our village will be at the Collier campus for a day dedicated to raising the bar in online teaching and learning here at Edison.  Thank you to all faculty who provided feedback and volunteered for potential sessions.  
Collier campus fountain
The main fountain at the
Collier campus

As for those sessions - we have some great ones planned.  We’ll be showcasing exemplary online courses and teaching skills, discussing different ways to help students succeed, sharing tips and tricks to get students motivated and engaged - even an Extreme Makeover and related challenge.  Of course, we’ll also still have all of the other things you’d expect at the institute, like activities, prizes, and a chance to interact with other awesome people doing great things in their online courses.

Keep an eye out for a registration email just after Spring Break to sign up.

We’ll see you then - don’t forget to GET EXCITED!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Navigating Mid-Semester Student Questions

Teaching is like navigating a ship through (sometimes choppy!) waters. You may have to make small course corrections to continue on to your intended destination. So, when students bring up issues, how do you know when to make small adjustments or stay on with the current direction?

Here are four common mid-course questions you may encounter, how to check to see if you need to change course, and how to make those changes. Luckily, Canvas's functionality helps make navigating the semester easy.

Moderate quizzes. 

A student with a an approved excuse asks for an opportunity to take the quiz even though the deadline has passed and the quiz is locked.

This can be easily addressed. To view student progress and moderate quizzes, select the appropriate quiz, and click "Moderate Quizzes" on the right-side menu. 

This will provide a snapshot of who has already taken the quiz, how long it took to do so, and also allows you a place to give individual additional attempts or extensions by manually unlocking for the next attempt.

Module progress. 

A student messages you because they can't post to a discussion - the reply box will not appear.

If you check the discussion and see other students in and posting, it likely means that the completion criteria for the prerequisite module has not been finished. This is extremely common for the first few weeks of class, as students may not be viewing required pages (because they are not assignments) or completing other module requirements (posting to an introductory discussion, or passing a syllabus quiz). 

Incomplete criteria are listed in View Progress.
Clicking on View Progress on the Modules page will tell you how many activities a student still has to complete before the activity will become available to them. This is often a function of students using pages other than Modules to track what work they need to complete.

Missing content. 

A student messages you to say a link to a video is missing or link to presentation is broken, and they can't find the materials.

This is a recent development. Visiting the page with missing content and then clicking Edit for the page (or quiz, or discussion) will often show that there IS a block of content there, but it will not display correctly. 
The yellow area in the WYSIWYG editor indicates that content is embedded in the page.

External sources can be blocked by what the browser sees as unsecured content. Chrome and Firefox both display a shield icon in the URL bar when they are blocking content. It is easy to allow the content - simply click the shield, allow the content to be loaded, and refresh the page. 

Shield icon to the right of the URL (Chrome)
Shield icon to the left of the URL (Firefox)

Drop the lowest. 

Students message you, worried about the effect of a bad quiz score on their final grade and ask for retakes.

You have an option to provide as many attempts at a quiz as you feel are necessary. However, if you want to keep the current number of attempts but still provide students some grading-related relief, you can always drop the lowest grade in a particular assignment group.

For example, if you have an assignment group with 10 quizzes, you can always use the Assignment Group options to set those parameters, with the exception of any assignments that should never be dropped. You will see any selected parameters appear in the heading block of the selected group.

Although we can't always know what's ahead between us and our destination, we know course corrections will be inevitable.  Here's to smooth sailing!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Improving course accessibility

Recent rulings and broader interpretations of ADA compliance means that colleges and universities are increasingly concerned about students’ equal access to educational materials, and rightly so!

As a college using Canvas, which was granted certification for its accessibility by the National Federation of the Blind in 2010, we have an excellent tool that’s already designed to meet accessibility standards. But it’s not just the tools we use that are important in complying with ADA; how we use those tools is much more important.  So as an instructor, what can you do?  Here are some easy ways to make your materials more accessible.

For screen readers (the most common of which is JAWS) and visual impairments:
  • Use complete but concise, direct sentences. Just like humans reading aloud, a screen reader’s voice needs time to “breathe.” A long and overly complex sentence can be very hard for a listener to parse.  
  • Use white space to break up long content.  “Chunking” content into manageable paragraphs will help students read (or listen) and comprehend material better than a wall-o-text.
  • Spell check!  Listening to a screen reader try to pronounce misspelled words is really, really hard to do.  Human beings are fallible and our brains have a tendency not to recognize misspelled words, especially if the first and last letters are the same as the word we’re thinking.  A screen reader will read that mistake aloud, though.
  • Use numbered or bulleted lists. A bulleted or numbered list created using the WYSIWYG editor signals a screen reader that the upcoming content is part of a group.  Use a bulleted list if the items don’t need to be understood in sequential order.
  • Alt-tag your images. When you upload an image, Canvas automatically alt-tags the image with the filename. If the filename is a group of numbers, it won’t tell the screen reader what the image actually looks like.  Thus, those using screen readers may lose some valuable information. (To improve your alt-tags in Canvas, see Neal’s response here)
  • Use heading styles to make landmarks in pages. Heading styles help screen readers outline the page for the reader.  A screen reader will read bolded content simply as “emphasis.”  Use heading styles using the WYSIWYG editor to mark headings on a page.
  • Use color with good amounts of contrast. Contrast between the background and text needs to be high enough that users can easily view your content.  If you’re not sure whether your contrast is high enough, there are web tools available that will tell you whether it would pass web content accessibility guidelines.
  • Use good link descriptors, not urls. Imagine listening to the following URL aloud: “https[colon][slash][slash]docs[dot]google[dot]com[slash]document[slash]d[slash]1HYpkCsSEcwDs8u2OKX4D[underscore]Dh0D0lxIsPhR10gIKrTpBE”. Doesn’t it make you want to tear your hair out? Using descriptive hyperlink text is much, much easier to listen to - and tells you what you’ll be looking at, too!

For hearing impairments:
  • Caption videos and transcribe audio you create.  If you post your videos to YouTube, it’s easy to correct automatic captions or use another tool (like Amara) to provide captions.  You can also use the Kaltura/Canvas captioning if you record your video straight into Canvas. Keep an eye on the training calendar in Portal - there should be an upcoming webinar on how to do this.

For motor impairments:
  • Use the tab key and arrow keys to see if you can access all of the content on the page. Motor impairments may include not being able to use a mouse.  If you link to outside content or use a publisher’s supplementary materials, but can’t navigate the those pages using only a keyboard, it’s not accessible.

General suggestions:
  • Use “personas” to imagine issues students might have.  Sloan-C put on a webinar last Spring on the different types of disabilities one might encounter in the classroom. The idea of “personas” can especially help you evaluate your content before you put it up.
  • Meet with an instructional designer to evaluate your course’s accessibility and plan improvements.  If you have questions about your materials or want to see how your course’s accessibility might be improved, contact your instructional designer.  Accessibility applies not just to web pages, videos, and audio, but PDFs, PowerPoints, eBooks, and a number of other materials. It can be hard to address the scope of accessibility concerns on your own.  We can help!

Believe it or not, this is an abbreviated list of items to check in your courses, and there’s a long way to go before equal access is ensured in all courses 100% of the time.  For more information, be on the lookout for professional development opportunities inside and outside of Edison, contact your instructional designer, check out WebAIM or one of several   faculty   guides  to  accessibility  or have Adaptive Services come talk to your department.  

Ultimately, the goal is equal access to all material for all students, regardless of whether materials are used in online, blended, or ground classes.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Evaluating Your Online Course

Remember the days when you taught a live course and could look out into the classroom to see whether or not the students were paying attention?  You could look to see if students were nodding in recognition or not. This would often give you some indication of whether or not those students were having success and remaining engaged in the class during the semester.  However, in an online course, it is not always easy to gauge how well the content is being received until the students start taking quizzes. Students may not ask for help during the semester and end up doing poorly.  Was the problem with the student or with the course?  When the course is over, how do you know if it was a quality online course?

Evaluating your course by using a systematic approach can help you to determine the quality of your online course.

One method you could use is the AEIOU Approach (Fortune and Keith 1992). This method is easy to remember and apply.

  • A – Accountability.  Did your course cover the required standards/objectives?  A quick check comparing the course to the syllabus will give you a good idea.
  • E- Effectiveness.
    Was your course easy for students to navigate?  Do all your links work?  Do students understand what is expected of them?  Do you create a positive “presence” in your course?
  • I – Impact.
    Did your course make a difference to the students?  Will they use your course content in other areas?  Will the material they learned with you stick?
  • O – Organizational Context.
    What resources (My Math Lab, Late Nite Labs, textbook resources, YouTube videos, etc) helped or hindered your course?  Should you add more, should you reduce the number?  Is it a good balance?
  • U – Unanticipated Consequences.
    Was the class a great experience?  Did it crash and burn?  What experiences can you take from it and apply in next semester?

Another method you could use is Kirkpatrick’s Five Levels of Evaluation (Kirkpatrick 2006).  It is very similar to the AEIOU Approach.

  • Level One – Reaction (did they like it?)  
    Do your students enjoy your class or is it a chore to do your work?
  • Level Two – Learning (did they learn it?)
    Can students pass your tests?  Is your course set up for success or failure?
  • Level Three – Transfer (will they use it?)
    Will students use their knowledge gained from you in other contexts?
  • Level Four – Results (will it matter?)
    Do you want your students to use the skills they learned in their future job?  How important do you think your content is?  Is it important to your students?
  • Level Five – Return on Investment (is it worth it?)  
    Will your college keep offering your courses online?  Is it worth the money?  Does your course have a high success rate?  What could you do about it?

Upcoming Webinar:

Are you interested in learning more about these methods of evaluation (and want to receive a free PDF to use as an evaluation tool?)? Edison Online will facilitating a webinar on this topic on July 10th at 2 pm EST.


Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education.  Boston, MA: Pearson. (main text)

Kirkpatrick, D., & Kirkpatrick, J. (2006). Evaluating training programs: The four levels (3rd ed). San Francisco, CA:  Berrett-Koehler.

Fortune, J. & Keith, P. (1992). Program evaluation for Buchanan County even start.  Blacksburg, VA: College of Education, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

This post was written by Tina Davis (Course Designer). 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Spring 2013 Faculty Institute Recap

This year’s faculty institute was a huge success!

This year's Faculty Institute was held at the Charlotte Campus on Saturday, April 13th. The day was filled with collaboration, sharing of knowledge, and discussions on everything Edison Online faculty are faced with while teaching in the online environment.Throughout the day, participants were engulfed with best practices in which they were able to learn more about and take back to use in their courses online.

The day started off with Dean Mary Myers welcoming everyone and thanking them for their continuous hard work in the department.

Next up was Kim Turano, Edison Online’s Student Support Specialist, who spoke about the Edison State College Early Alert System. If you missed the session and are interested in learning more about the system, Kim is holding a webinar on the Early Alert System on Wednesday May 15th. Registration for this session is available through the Portal.

Later in the day, participants split into two groups for breakout sessions. Six Edison Online Faculty members presented to participants on a variety of topics:

  • Tim Bishop previewed the new library resources redesign, including the Edison Library’s YouTube channel. Videos review common library tools and research strategies, including how to search the library database.  These videos are available as long-running videos and as shorter partial videos for ala carte use.
  • Marsa Detscher spoke on learner engagement. She explained the three types of engagement: behavioral, emotional, and cognitive. Interest in the topic boosts emotional engagement and increases retention. She went on to explain the different engagement techniques: multiple methods of student/student interaction and multiple ways of creating student/instructor connection.
  • Jean Labriola’s session centered on how to encourage critical thinking and writing skills in science courses using case studies, debates, discussions, and essay exams.  Jean explained that science and healthcare fields need graduates that can think critically, express themselves clearly, and work with others.  She discussed how these activities in her science courses push students to not only recall material but also use the soft skills needed in the field after graduation.
  • Stefanie Sanders went over TurnItIn and Grademark. Sometimes using Crocodoc can be confusing and hard for students to find instructor comments. Using Grademark requires students to use the TurnItIn feature Edison State College provides to its faculty for plagiarism. The built-in Grademark feature allows students to see their originality report and professor comments all in one clean, easy-to-read screen.
  • Tom Swierz spoke about his student contact information form. He explained that most students ask questions in math courses that are too complex to explain via email.  Tom uses a PDF file to retrieve student’s personal information so he can contact students when needed. He stated that the students can also benefit from actually hearing the voice of their professor and feel more at ease in a live phone conference and that contributes to his success rate and retention of students in his courses.
  • Myra Walters' session included tips and tricks on how to use the media tool while in Canvas. She requires her students in speech classes to use this feature in discussions. After explaining how to record and upload a video to a discussion, Myra discussed how much more personal it is for students to interact with each other using this feature because they can actually see and hear one another. 

The 2013 Edison Online Faculty Institute was a huge success. Edison Online is in the process of converting the speed sessions listed above into webinars and workshops for those who were unable to attend. To keep updated on all the latest professional development opportunities Edison Online offers, make sure to check out, or Instructor Information Station announcements.

This post was written by Thomas Turano (Coordinator, Training and Support).