Friday, May 27, 2011

New Rulings on Accessibility

On Thursday, May 26, The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) released rules that colleges must abide by to ensure that new and emerging technologies are assessable to all students. The ruling addressed issues of accessibility specific to visual problems. The guideline, in the form of “Frequently Asked Questions,” came in response to the department’s “Dear Colleague” letter to college presidents on the subject dating back almost a year. In essence – any new adoption of an emerging technology, for example the use of digital books or e-Readers must afford equal access to the curriculum to the same degree of functionality. This is significant in more ways than one.

When Colleges and Universities use e-readers, or other emerging technologies, all students “must be afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services” says the memo. Moreover, even if no students with learning challenges are enrolled, the course content must be fully accessible to the same degree for all students.

While not overtly discouraging the use of emerging technologies, the ruling does take the wind out of the sails and will pose challenges. It is clear, colleges need to assess whether a new technology is accessible, or could be modified to be accessible, before using it. Simply offering a standard print textbook in place of an e-reader and digital text is not sufficient. Students with disabilities must have access to an alternative that is “equally effective and equally integrated.”

Creativity and oversight is key to compliance. For example – making available a digital book on an iPad that has increased functionality for students with visual imparities may be an effective alternative to a web-based e-reader. The important component of the ruling is that alternatives need to offer all the capabilities of a traditional or e-text. This includes navigation, search, highlight, dictionary access, and other interactive features such as quizzes, note-taking and social activities. Although this is one slice of the big picture, the larger impact will be upon hybrid/blended courses and online courses.

This new ruling applies to all grades from Pre-K through graduate levels and all school operations are subject to the nondiscrimination requirements found within Section 504 and the ADA. Therefore, all faculty and staff must comply - this includes adjunct faculty. The scope of this decision will have a significant impact upon operations, online instruction, and the use of emerging technologies at their current service levels. (Source:


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Embedding YouTube Videos into Blackboard

Technology is all around us and when it comes to building course content, why recreate the wheel? Many videos on YouTube (see TeacherTube) are academic and professional in nature and when used properly will reinforce the lessons you set out to teach. Moreover, YouTube and TeacherTube videos can be used to engage college students in the lessons in a way that is authentic to their lifestyle. If you ask students to view web-based videos to reinforce your lessons prior to class, the classroom space becomes more engaging with questions, responses, informed dialogue and deliberations. To learn more about the impact of using YouTube, see Cardine, S. (2008). “Is Education ready for YouTube?”  Converge and McKenzie, J. (2008). “Breaking the YouTube blockade.” From Now On.

Please keep in mind, all video is not the same and the use rules need to be reviewed carefully. TeacherTube for example, allows educators the right to post instructional videos and share with students, as does the Khan Academy. YouTube may not. Please check the original source of the video and make sure you only share what is legally allowed. When in doubt -refrain.

Some Universities have established agreements with YouTube that allow them the right to set-up channels (individual sites) administered by the university. Faculty and students may create, post, and host exclusive videos for academic use. Below, please find some steps to help you post, find, and  embed video into Blackboard.

Uploading Videos to YouTube

1. Log into YouTube by visiting

2. Click upload and click browse to locate your video

How to Find a YouTube Video and Get the Embed Code

1. To find a YouTube video, type one of  the following urls in the address bar:

2. Search for videos that suit your objective.

3. Once you have found a video, you will need to search for the embed code. Remember the name of the video you are planning to embed.

On YouTube – this is found below the video window. Click “share” then click “embed.” The code will appear in a textbox already highlighted. Copy this code to your clipboard. 

On TeacherTube – this is found to the right of the video window and is called “Embeddable Player.” Click and copy this code to your clipboard.


Embedding Video into Blackboard

1. Log into your Blackboard Course

2. Create a Course Video’s Tab by clicking on the orange plus sign and selecting Create Content Area. Please make sure that you give the tab a name, such as “Videos.” and check the box to make the tab available to users.


3. Click into the tab (on the left sidebar) you have just created.

4. Click the orange button on the top menu bar that says “Build Content” and select “Content Folder” from the drop down menu under New Page. This is a way to organize your videos and the file folder becomes your video file cabinet. Give the folder a name for example: Chapter 1 Videos.


5. Click into your folder that you just created.

6. Click the orange button “Build Content” and click “Item”

7. Name the item the same name as the video you are embedding.

8. In the text window select the arrows “< >” to toggle html and paste your embed code from your clipboard here.


9. Click submit

Note: Step-by-step guide was created by DeJohn Davis in the CAT office.

Friday, May 20, 2011

TEN Resources for Online Design and Instruction

It’s all about access and resources. The nice thing in today’s technology paradigm is that the web overflows with rich resources –literally at our fingertips. Many universities have elaborate resources on their web sites centered around teaching excellence. Below, I have included my ten favorite links to resources.

1. ELearning Heroes – Forums and Resources

2. ELearning Curve – Blog

3. Illinois Online Network (ION)  - ION has numerous resources about online instructional strategies. Some of the topics include:

How to develop Online Ice Breakers

How to communicate with your students - Feedback loops

What Makes a Successful Online Student

What Makes a Successful Online Facilitator

Alternative to text-based lectures

4. Merlot Pedagogy PortalThe MERLOT Pedagogy Portal is designed to help instructors learn about the variety of instructional strategies to build their pedagogical approaches.

5.Penn. State University World Campus - 

COTS Competencies for Online Teaching

YouTube Channel


Instructional Strategies


Best Practices

6. San Francisco State University (SFSU) Center for Teaching and Faculty Development

Best Practices in Teaching

Universal Design for learning

7. Teaching in a Recession – Free Technologies

8. Universal Design

9. University of Maryland University College – Virtual Resources

10. Wisconsin Online

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Competencies for Online Teaching Success (COTS)

Larry Ragan, PhD., Director of Faculty Development for Penn State's World Campus has made significant contributions to faculty expectations in the online arena. In particular, Dr. Ragan and colleagues identify three key areas:

I. Core competencies for online teaching success – Currently there are 28 competencies across three main topic areas of technology, course administration, and pedagogy.

II. Online instructors' performance expectations – Currently there are eight key performance expectations and a description of behavior attributes. I have modified these slightly to fit our institution.

III. Performance metrics – Although not all of the behaviors lend themselves to metrics, some do – these are: feedback, availability and communication.

To learn more go to:

Faculty Focus

Penn. State University World Campus  – Excellence in Teaching Website

Also see: Ragan, Larry. “Defining Competencies for Online Teaching Success.” Distance Education Report 13.19 (2009): 3-6.

Moreover, he has put his flip camcorder to good use and has uploaded numerous 1-3 minute videos to YouTube. They can all be accessed by typing “world campus cots” into the YouTube search window.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Khan Academy

Salman (Sal) Khan - (AKA – The Khan Academy - has become an egalitarian force on the web and the Center for Academic Technology often receive inquiries about the website and its content. Most inquiries run along the lines of: “What is this Khan Academy? “ “Is it reliable?” “May we use it?”

In a nutshell, the Khan Academy includes ten to twenty-minute micro-lessons that span numerous disciplines (see below). Using a computer and a pen-tablet mouse, Sal Khan has embarked upon a large mission - to educate anyone who has internet access. The YouTube lessons are universally accessible, free, good quality, and have earned much attention.

The Khan Academy website content is available to anyone – students, teachers, professors, or life-time learners. The successes of the Khan Academy and its 2,100 (and growing) micro-lessons sparked financial investment by Bill Gates and won recognition from Google in its Google’s Project 10 to the 100 ideas to change the world. Principle investments allowed Sal Khan to quit his day job and dedicate himself to his calling.

What started out as Yahoo Doodle lessons to help a cousin understand math problems, filled a void far larger than Mr. Khan could imagine. More people began following the lessons, and Khan started to post his lessons on YouTube. The power of YouTube allowed the project to take off as millions tuned-in to learn, or brush-up on forgotten skills.

The Khan Academy democratizes education and the delivery of tutorials around specific topics. Khan said he’s looking over the next six to 12 months to build more community into the academy, allowing peers to help each other learn.[1] At present, the following topics are included on his website: Algebra, Arithmetic, Banking and Money, Biology, Brain Teasers, Calculus, Chemistry, Cosmology and Astronomy, Credit Crisis, Currency, Current Economics, Developmental Math, Differential Equations, Finance, Geometry, History, Linear Algebra, Organic Chemistry, Physics, Pre-algebra, Precalculus, Probability, Statistics, Trigonometry, Valuation and Investing, Venture Capital and Capital Markets.

The magnetism of the Khan Academy is that the content is easily digestible, accessible, and specific. I would encourage faculty to introduce students to Khan Academy content as a supplementary source. Post links on your Blackboard course site to specific Khan Lessons and encourage students to view these micro-lessons. You may discover that students have fewer questions and gain a better understanding of basic concepts taught in class. Students are able to review the Khan micro-lessons as often as necessary and at any time. The open nature of the Khan Academy lessons is attractive to students and carries no stigma of not keeping-up or catching-on. So give it a try and see what your students think. Khan Academy is an IRS-recognized 501c3 not-for-profit organization.


Fast Company


Khan Academy

[1] Khan Academy:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Academic Integrity in Distance Education

How do we know who are students are when we teach online, and more importantly, how do we ensure that those enrolled are those who are submitting the required work and sitting for exams?

The federal government and members of Congress have taken a sharp examination of distance education as it relates to fraud and integrity. As a result, federal policy has been enacted to step-up oversight requirements to combat fraud, especially as it relates to federal student aid. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education’s recognized accreditation agencies oblige institutions of higher education to provide documentation on how they comply with federal policy verifying student identity and academic integrity. In particular, accrediting agencies are concerned with how institutions implement the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) that was signed into law August 14, 2008.

The particulars of this policy stipulate that accrediting bodies require institutions that deliver distance education establish a systematic approach to verify that a student enrolled in a distance education course is the same student who submits assignments, takes exams, and receives credit. The HEOA also specifies that institutions employ a system of secure login and passwords or proctored exams as a means to verify student identity. Policy makers recognize that this is a newly emerging area in media and security and that there are costs involved. As such, HEOA does not specify narrow or exacting language that places a financial burden upon education institutions as they implement these new policies.

In response to federal policy and accrediting oversight, the education industry has explored solutions to these specific questions and offers various strategies to verify student identity and safeguard academic integrity in the distance learning environment. Some popular solutions include software to detect plagiarism by checking submitted papers against databases, secure web browsers, secure login and password protected exams, encrypted test question banks, identity prompting within exams based upon public domain data banks, and secure proctoring facilities. At the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) we have several solutions to help faculty who deliver online education, these include: Respondus lockdown browser, Acxiom, SafeAssign, and secure LDap password authentication. Moreover, we are committed to ensuring that our distance education courses align to the same high level of academic integrity as our face-to-face courses.

Question: Do you believe there is a greater likelihood of fraud and cheating in distance education than in traditional face-to-face education?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Earning Praise

Tips for online efficiency in the distance learning environment that will earn you praise.

Presence: Be present on the days leading up to the start of your online class and every day the first week. Have a FAQ document posted on the course site and direct students to this memo to address common questions. Have some answers penned in advance for commonly asked questions and paste them into a reply. No need to create the wheel each time a student asks the same question as another.

Recycle: Use free resources to support your content and drive learning. Check out MERLOT (; YouTube (; C-SPAN Video Library (; Wisconsin Online (; Khan Academy (; MIT Open Courseware (; Carnegie Mellon Open Courses (; and The Open University UK (

Attendance: Take attendance several times during the first week of class to document student presence. Have discussion postings that are due such as a check-in or an introduction posting. This activity alerts you up-front who has checked-in and who has not. This documentation may be required by the registrar’s office for financial aid reasons and quickly tells you who you may need to contact.

Instructor’s schedule: Set up a schedule of when you will go online and respond to student’s questions and when you will hold virtual office hours. Set up assessments to be self-grading when appropriate, track student progress, and set-up dashboards that will alert students to their status.

Syllabus Quiz: Require students to read, ask questions, and take a quiz on the syllabus. This exercise provides students a chance to review and ask questions on the syllabus and exposes them to the assessment tools to be used later in the course, i.e. quizzes and assessments.

Expectations: Establish clear expectations and go over rules of engagement and conduct. This should be thought of as a pathway to success. Provide students with clear and concise information on policies, extra credit, how and where to get technical help, when and how to contact the professor, how assignments should be submitted, how to navigate the course site, appropriate and inappropriate postings, netiquette, how to use any mobile learning platforms, institutional resources such as online tutoring, a writing lab, disability services, and the instructors policy on submitting late work.