Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Making your online class accessible

After attending the Texas BlackBoard Users Group (T-Bug) conference last week, I came back with lots of new grey matter fodder. But, the one that sticks out in my mind as an action item was the break-out panel on “Suggestions for Accessibility for Visually Impaired Students”. I have always promoted accessibility for any online material throughout my training career and felt I was rather concise and thorough about my information. Well, I found out that I was close but still had a lot to learn about some of the common uses of online tools that make web pages and Course Management Systems less than user friendly. I have l listed below the notes I gleaned from the panel:

• On images and animations give a detailed “alt” text to give a meaningful description for the reader. To illustrate: think of describing the item over the telephone to a friend.
• When the item is complex use a long description “alt” text page.
• Make hyperlink text that is specific to where the link is going instead of “click here”.
• Convert all PDF files where the text is seen as an image so the screen reader can translate the information. Scan PDF’s as text and not images.
• Don’t use frames within web pages.
• When using video make sure to have a transcript available and to have a note on what kind of player will be needed to play the media source. This will help the individual to know what player is needed and how to use the player.
• Scripting languages that are not supported by readers will need an alternative site to provide the information.
• Use "strong" and "em" tags instead of Bold and Italic when creating your web pages.
• Try to use tabs to navigate your site instead of mouse clicks.
• Do not use color as the singular indicator of different types of information.
The panel also played a typical web page through a screen reader named JAWS. It was the most confusing thing I had ever heard. Imagine looking at the source code for any web page and then hearing R2D2 on speed reading aloud to you! It definitely caught my attention and made me plan a trip to my university’s disability support services office to learn more on how to help our impaired students with their online learning courses.


Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI):

Histosoft validation software:

U.S. General Services Administration IT access for Persons with Disabilities

Markup Validation Service

Texas Woman’s University Disability Services Support:

Friday, October 24, 2008

23 Things for Learning - Post #5

# 11 thing - Let's Wiki

A wiki is a webpage that multiple people can edit. An example you may have heard of is Wikipedia: information may be added by its readers in a collaborative format. Another wiki is Project Gutenberg, the collection of free book texts. Many people collaborate to bring non-copyrighted material to Project Gutenberg. Here are a few more samples:

Anatowiki http://anatowiki.wetpaint.com/?t=anon
Welker’s Wikinomics http://welkerswikinomics.wetpaint.com/
Salute to Seuss http://salutetoseuss.wikispaces.com/
LearningLatinAmerica http://learninglatinamerica.wikispaces.com/
El Mundo Tarvin http://misstarvin.wetpaint.com/
Human Physiology http://physiwiki.wetpaint.com/
TWU ID http://twuid.pbwiki.com/

Wikis can be set up for personal reasons, too, including family genealogy projects, group vacation planning, and more. A wiki can support nearly any collaborative effort that requires updating a document or information.

Set up a wiki.

(Estimated time to complete: approximately 60-70 minutes)

There are several wikis you can use that are free and web-based. We’re going to use PBWiki, so go to http://pbwiki.com/.

Click on Create a Wiki (green button).

Fill out the form and click on the Create My Wiki button.
Follow instructions for checking email and confirming.
After confirming, keep your wiki “public” and then agree to the terms and follow the instructions for setup. (Scroll past the $$ wikis down to click No Thanks, just take me to my wiki).

You will go to a page that says: Welcome to PBwiki 2.0! Click on the EDIT tab.

Highlight everything in the window and delete it. Now you can start fresh.

Type in a question. It could be something like What are the barriers to student retention? or What is your favorite restaurant? or something like that. Just type a question.

Click the save button at the bottom of the entry.

To the right, click Create New Page.

Name the page My New Page, skip the choices, and then click on Create New Page.
On the new page, type your own answer to the question on your homepage, and click save.

Feel free to fiddle with the settings or create other pages. When you are done, click on the name of your wiki at the top left.
You must give someone access to your wiki to make it available for editing. If you are asked by someone else to grant access to your wiki, you’ll need the requester’s email address (the one they used to sign up for PB Wiki). You give them access in Settings, (located at far right of wiki page). Then it’s just like editing your own page.

There are some great videos on how to use pbwiki here: http://pbwiki.com/content/supportcenter

Blog it. This has been a very abbreviated introduction to wikis, but in your blog entry, be sure to share your thoughts on the process for setting up the wiki, whether or not you like it, whether or not you might find it useful. You might go back (above) and check out some of the example wikis shared. Be sure to include your wiki URL.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

TBUG is on!

The 2008 Texas Blackboard Users Group is about to be underway! Preconference sessions were held today at Houston Community College. The main conference officially kicks off tonight at the the vendor reception at 5:30. There will be appetizers and drawings for door prizes.

Representatives from Blackboard will give a presentation tomorrow at breakfast, then we will have a day full of sessions led by fellow Blackboard users (several of them from TWU!!!). Then, tomorrow night is the Night in the Bayou dinner party! The conference concludes on Saturday. You can check out the official schedule at http://www.t-bug.org.

If you are on your way, travel safely and get ready for a great conference!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Follow-up Materials from the Adjunct Webinars

The Division of Academic Affairs offered two webinars that provided an opportunity to learn more about supporting adjuncts at TWU.

Training and Supporting Online Adjuncts: Practical Ideas
Featuring Dr. Kimberly Hardy, Dean of Instruction and Student Success for the Open Campus at Florida Community College at Jacksonville

Delivered by Magna Publications, Inc.
Thursday, September 25, 2008

Webinar Summary
  • Creating an online mentoring program
  • Helping adjuncts with development and preparation of courses
  • Meeting adjunct needs for technical support and assistance
  • Developing robust communication and information tools and forums
  • Creating adjunct tutorials
  • Building a community of learners among online adjuncts
  • Connecting offsite adjuncts to the campus
  • Establishing professional development opportunities
** If you were unable to attend the live webinar and would like to receive a copy of the handout, please contact the Office of Lifelong Learning at 8-1-3409.

Supporting Adjunct Faculty Online
Featuring Richard E. Lyons, Senior Consultant for Faculty Development Associates and Helen M. Burnstad, Director Emeritus of Staff and Organizational Development at Johnson County Community College (JCCC)Delivered by Academic Impressions
Thursday, October 2, 2008

Webinar Summary
  • Strategies for implementing a plan to support adjunct faculty
  • An appreciation of the advantages of online support for adjunct faculty
  • Strategies for development of online tools for supporting adjunct faculty

**Handouts from both of these webinars can be obtained by calling the Office of Lifelong Learning at 940-898-3409.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I’m excited to be blogging this week on The Online Instructor. Today, I’d like to hopefully clear up some confusion regarding the designation of a degree program as distance education. I think that most faculty at TWU understand that a DE course is defined as one in which over 50% of the instruction is delivered electronically. Similarly, a DE degree program is one in which a majority of the courses are designated as distance education. However, before academic units can declare and begin to advertise all or part of their programs as DE, they must gain University—and possibly other—approvals, even if TWU already has degree authority to offer the program on campus. Please note the last part of that sentence. Just because the program is approved to be offered on campus doesn’t mean that the program can be offered electronically without approval.

This process is detailed in the TWU Policies and Procedures Manual at
https://portal.twu.edu/policies/executive/distance_learning_policies_and_procedures.htm (login required). The requesting department must prepare a proposal and submit it to the Office of Lifelong Learning. This proposal will outline the need for the online program as well as describe student and faculty preparation and support services, the anticipated course rotation, and the requested budget. The proposal will be reviewed by the Office of Lifelong Learning, the Graduate Dean or the Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Studies as appropriate, a representative of the TWU Curriculum Committee, and the Distance Education Advisory Committee. Finally the proposal will be submitted to the Provost.

If a partial degree is being proposed, the Provost’s approval is the final step. If the proposal is to create a full bachelor’s or master’s degree program, the Provost must submit the proposal to the TWU Board of Regents for final approval. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) are then notified of their decision. DE doctoral programs, upon approval by the Regents, must actually be reviewed and approved by the THECB. Again, this process is required even if the University already has degree authority. The THECB has a nice chart on their website detailing the requirements of full programs. It can be accessed at

If you or your unit is considering the offering of a DE program, please feel free to contact me in the Office of Lifelong Learning at 940/898-3409. I’ll be glad to go over the process and to set up a timeline for gaining the approvals. Since the Regents and the THECB only meet on certain dates during the year, it is important to start as soon as possible before the anticipated start date of the program.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Tests, Video, and Music Databases

Learning Express Library - Provides aids for College Prep Tests (such as GRE), Math aids, and Grammar/Writing skills, including some e-books. Each student sets up their own account and remains in the system for a year.

"Learning Express Library is a comprehensive, interactive online learning platform of practice tests and tutorial course series designed to help students and adult learners succeed. There is immediate scoring, complete answer explanations, and an individualized analysis of results."

Consumer Health Complete - Contains video and animation, short clips, and excellent quick viewing segments that can be used supplemental to discussion/lecture. Students may also find items to add to presentations.

"It is the single most comprehensive resource for consumer-oriented health content designed to support patients' information needs and foster an overall understanding of health-related topics. CHC covers all areas of health and wellness from mainstream medicine to the many perspectives of complementary, holistic and integrated medicine. This full-text database covers topics such as aging, cancer, diabetes, drugs & alcohol, fitness, nutrition & dietetics, children's health, men & women's health, etc."

Classical Music Library - Add music to your class or to your day by using this database.

"Classical Music Library is the world's largest multi-label database of Classical music recordings for listening and learning in libraries. The award-winning Classical Music Library's growing collection of 50,000-plus tracks for listening and searching is supplemented by extensive reference materials.

Classical Music Library includes recordings of music written from the earliest times (eg Gregorian Chant) to the present, including many contemporary composers. Repertoire ranges from vocal and choral music, to chamber, orchestral, solo instrumental, and opera."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Online and Open Access Journals

Where do you find Online Journals and Open Access Journals?

The TWU Libraries Catalog is a good starting point.

From the Basic Search screen, enter the journal title and search "Journal Title Keyword" in the drop-down box. The results for online journals will state "electronic resource." When you click on the title, the Links heading will direct you to the database where the journal resides. You will also be able to see the range of dates available. TWU currently subscribes to over 34,000 electronic journals.

To search for journals by subject or keyword, enter your term in the Search for an E-journal title and change the drop-down box to "Title Begins With" or "Title Contains All Words." http://www.twu.edu/library/research.htm Your results will display the names of the journals, years covered, and the database that contains the journal.

The Directory of Open Access Journals http://www.doaj.org/ is a "service that covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals. It covers all subjects and languages. There are now 3,678 journals in the directory. Currently 1,260 journals are searchable at article level. As of today, 211,108 articles are included in the database."

BioMed Central http://www.biomedcentral.com/ is another publisher of open access journals. It currently has 193 peer-reviewed journals.

All these journals and articles may be linked directly to your course.

Please contact me for details on how to provide articles and journals to your students.
Stephany Compton