Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dealing with Gradebook Confusion

Several of the tools in Blackboard can be very helpful in that they create a gradebook entry when you implement the tool within a content area. However, this can often cause some gradebook confusion - especially if you have already created gradebook entries for certain assignments. For example: some of us actually have time to create gradebook entries for all assessments for the semester before the class actually begins. But, when you go into the content area and use the Assignment, Survey, or Test feature, this will create another entry in the gradebook. What do you do? The easiest way, of course, is to plan ahead for this! But, if you're like me, planning ahead is not always possible. So, here's how you can figure out those pesky duplicate entries and delete the ones you don't need.

How to Delete Extra Gradebook Entries:
Gradebook entries can be created two different ways:
1) by manually creating an entry in the Gradebook, or
2) by adding an Assignment, Test, or Survey within a content area.
To remove a Gradebook entry in Blackboard, you must remove it in the area in which it was created.

To remove an entry created in the Gradebook:
1. Click on the Gradebook option in the Control Panel.
2. Click on Manage Items.

3. Click on Remove next to the item you wish to delete:

4. If there is no remove option here, then you will need to remove the item from the content area in which it was created . . .

To remove a Gradebook entry created in a Content Area:
1. Enter the content area through the Control Panel.
2. To the right of the Assignment (or Test or Survey), you will see a Remove button. Click the Remove button:

This should take care of your duplicate entries. However, if you need additional help on this, please feel free to contact your friendly neighborhood instructional design specialist!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thoughts on Course Design and Instructor Presence

Have you ever walked into someone’s home and felt immediately comfortable and welcomed into the surroundings without your host ever saying a word? Can you imagine such a place or room now or the person(s) who inhabit it? In the physical world, color, design, layout, and d├ęcor can influence mood and affect. The attributes of a physical space may also provide an insight into the personality of the creator of that space.

One role of the online instructor is designer of the online learning experience. Through thoughtful application of good practices in course design, an instructor may use design elements to communicate their presence and personality to students. Consider, for example, how might an organized navigational structure, where each course element is linked by clear directional cues, positively impact not just a student’s learning experience but his or her perception of the instructor or their personality?

Online course construction also requires the instructor to build virtually what are often conveyed through physical or vocal cues such as, setting, tone, time parameters, communication style, etiquette – even humor or encouragement -- must all be designed and transferred quite consciously and deliberately into a primarily text based world. The questions of where to place information and in what form can become troublesome spots to navigate through.

How does one convert self from three-dimensions to virtual-dimensions? Perhaps the groundwork has been laid in part already by those adept enough to create entire literary worlds and characters that vibrate in a reader’s mind for a life time?

For those who would like to read more about this topic, you may wish to link to the articles below which provide research and information on how to increase instructor presence in the online classroom.

Assessing Teaching Presence in a Computer Conferencing Context This paper presents a tool developed for the purpose of assessing teaching presence in online courses that make use of computer conferencing, and preliminary results from the use of this tool.

A Follow-Up Investigation of "Teaching Presence" in the SUNY Learning Network, JALN 7(2)

Improving Your Teaching Presence in Distance Learning Courses

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Finding Images for Your Online Course

The sites in this list will help you find iamges for your online course. Most have images whose creators have offered their material for use under a Creative Commons license.
If you’re not familiar with Creative Commons, here is their website with good explanation.

Flickr Storm - While this site pretty much does the same as Flickr’s own search tool, Flickr Storm allows the user to set up a search and then save them for later reuse. The advanced search also allows searching for Creative Commons licensed pictures.

yotophoto - Use this site to search the web (including Flickr) for photographs licensed under Creative Commons and other open license systems (copyleft)

Wikipedia free image resources - This section of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia offers a short list of links to pages all over the world that offer royalty-free and Creative Commons licensed pictures in specific subject areas.

National Science Foundation multimedia gallery - The US government has a large collection of images and other media that can be used for almost any non commercial purpose. This site offers a search tool to find them, most of which are oriented around science topics.

Image Base - This collection of stock photography by professional photographers is licensed for anyone to use for non-commercial purposes. This material is more sophisticated and general than some other sites in this list

PD Photo - Another large collection of public domain, royalty free stock photographs.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Attention! Technical Outages, Sunday October 14

On Sunday, October 14 the following systems will be taken offline from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. in order to perform system maintenance on our storage infrastructure equipment. The systems will include (but not limited to):

* Blackboard
* WWW web site
* Portal
* Finance
* Human resources
* Student records, registration, admissions, billing, etc.
* X: drive
* Video conferencing
* Internet access
* Razors Edge
* Credit card processing

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time. More announcements will be made if the technology outage continues.

Monday, October 1, 2007

What Does RSS Mean?

What is an RSS feed?

RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" or "Rich Site Summary". It is an XML code that "feeds" out information from a site in an organized manner. The feed must be subscribed to and is read using an aggregator, or feed reader, tool. (Some feeds can also be subscribed to and set to send you a new email whenever the site is updated,
but this is an option that the site has to make available to its users.) Aggregators check the sites that the user is subscribed to on a regular basis, and download any new updates that take place. These tools can collect feeds from a variety of sites so that you can access all your favorite information in one place.
Currently RSS feeds are available on a large number of different sites, such as newspapers and blogs. Often on sites that offer RSS feeds, you will see symbols like this:

To subscribe to a feed, you would click on the icon for the aggregator or feed reader type you have. However, some sites don't use icons to advertise their feed. Often you need to look for this type of statement, which is used by the Washington Post:

Clicking on the "RSS" link above will take you to the page where you can access URL's for feeds from various different news pages:

Clicking on the links will give you the opportunity to subscribe by choosing from a list of aggregators. If you want to use Rojo (see below) or another aggregator tool not listed, simply right click the link you want to subscribe to, and then select "copy link location". This will give you the URL for the feed:

You can then past the URL into the aggregator of your choice to subscribe to the feed.

So, what is an aggregator, or feed reader? How do I get one?

Aggregators, or feed readers, are tools that decipher the XML coded feeds and collect them in one place for the user to view. You can set up your aggregator to collect all feeds that you are interested in – and then you only have one place to go to read the newest information from all of them. There are a wide variety of aggregators available. Here are a few selections: In addition, Bloglines, Google, and Yahoo have their own feed readers that you can use, if you already have accounts with them. My favorite free aggregator tool is Rojo. Here is how Rojo looks:

You can click through all the stories from your feeds and read them here, in one place. There are also social bookmarking tools like tagging and flagging available.
To subscribe to a new feed in Rojo, I simply copy the URL for the feed (as explained above) and paste it into the appropriate area:

Then click add. Very easy!
Finding the aggregating tool for you is often just a matter of exploring the options and deciding on what kind of format and additional options work best for you.