Friday, October 28, 2011

How To Web Enhance Your Course

You want to Web Enhance Your course without recreating the Wheel? Use Videos to Enrich Your Content with a multimedia approach.

There are several great sites to search for valuable educational content for your course and in this blog we will outline a few.

YouTube is the most popular site to host videos – both from mainstream publishers, like the Royal Family and The Whitehouse – as well as general users.  YouTube is now the second largest search engine in the world.  It hosts both informational and instructional videos, including “screencasts”, i.e. video recordings of screen activity that shows you how to use software or work through websites, etc.

YouTube EDU – aggregates all the videos from more than 100 institutions of higher education around the US.


youtube logo


There is also a direct link in Blackboard to Youtube so the integration is easy!


More General video sites

Academic Earth – Thousands of video lectures from the world’s top scholars

Google Video – videos on all topics

TED videos – ideas worth spreading; riveting talks by remarkable people worldwide

Vimeo – a thriving community of people who love to make and share video offers videos related to mathematics, physics, electronics concept videos


Don’t forget the NBC Lean Video archives that are resource tools inside of Blackboard and your textbook course sites such as McGrawHill. Both of these content providers have partnerships and integrations with Blackboard Learn.


How To video sites


graspr logo


Graspr – The instructional video network

Howcast – How-to videos

5min Life Videopedia – instructional and how-to videos

SuTree – Learn virtually everything by watching how to videos from all over the web

Video Jug – Life explained. On film.


One tip for implementation: When you are adding these components to your Blackboard course make sure that you are linking to the material instead of embedding the video.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mobile Apps Find increasing Popularity on College Campuses

Public Universities are increasingly embracing or are expected to embrace the use of mobile apps by 2012. According to Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project, “ 55.3 percent of public universities have already activated mobile apps or will do so in the coming academic year, compared to 32.5 percent in fall 2010 (Raths, 2011).”

Among the most popular mobile apps are those offered through Blackboard, which now account for almost 3 million downloads.

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Pursuing innovation and comprehensive innovation of mobile apps for learning and social media, schools like Cuyahoga Community College are customizing Blackboard Mobile applications to provide “student life-related modules” in addition to traditional learning options. Christina Royal, associate vice president for eLearning and innovation at Cuyahoga Community College emphasizes that she wants to ensure that everything that learners at her school need to be successful are essentially at their fingertips. Providing information in “, easy to access place [may hopefully lead to] an increase in student interaction, engagement [and] achievement (United Business Wire, 2011).”

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Here at UDC the Center for Academic Technology (CAT) maintains mobile learning and related applications to facilitate teaching, research and learning. For example, faculty may search library resources using the WRLC Catalog (Aladin), search other member libraries, access basic info about each member library including phone number(s), map, library hours, and website, check the status of their books, renew books or items checked out, access their Blackboard courses via the Blackboard Mobile App or borrow mobile computing devices such as ipads, iPods, Flip Cameras, Android Tablets or Laptops. Using the Blackboard App, faculty can post class announcements, manage course related tasks, create discussion threads, respond to student discussion posts and more. Students can view announcements, participate in online class discussions, view their grades, manage school related tasks, organize study groups, access course loaded music, videos and images and more. Many of the features of Blackboard Mobile can be accessed through the tablet devices mentioned above as well as iPhones, iPods, and Blackberrys. To learn more about using the LRD/CAT Mobile App and to download, go to:


Raths, D. (2011). Campus Computing Survey: Mobile Apps Grow, Cloud Adoption Slow. Retrieved from

United Business Media (2011). Blackboard Mobile Apps Reach Nearly Three Million Downloads. Retrieved from

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How Secure is Your Smartphone or Mobile Device?

The growing popularity of smartphones and mobile devices has made them attractive to purveyors of malicious software. McAffee reports a 46 percent increase in mobile device malware threats since 2010 (International Business Times, 2011). But, according to a report published by the Georgia Tech Information Security Center and the Georgia Tech Research Institute, these threats have been particularly concerning for colleges where attacks on smart phones and related mobile devices have been on the increase (Rice, 2011).

Why Smart phones are vulnerable

There are a number of reasons that smart phones are particularly vulnerable to cyber threats. Dmitri Alperovitch, independent security expert and former vice president of Threat Research at McAfee states, “Mobile phones represent a physical part of your identity. They know and can share your location, can take photos and record videos (Ahamad and Rotoloni 2011:4).” So if an attacker is able to gain access to and remotely control one’s mobile device he or she can use the phone to record private conservations, take photos, retrieve financial information and much more. Reviewing the permissions of many mobile apps for android phones reveals that many popular services request permission to control the phone settings, retrieve information, take photos etc. These types of applications while popular, potentially compromise the security of android mobile devices.

A related concern for smartphone users is the small screen size of these devices which prevents the user from being able to completely view/review website addresses. Specifically, visual cues which are present in web addresses are often missing from small screens where address bars are quickly removed to optimize viewing capacity. Users may thus inadvertently click on a link that exposes their systems to malware (Rice, 2011).

Additionally, according to the Georgia Tech Report, mobile applications are also browser dependent, making them more vulnerable to increasing web based attacks. Malware targeted toward mobile devices, particularly through web browser based attacks, may be used to compile extensive databases of information on users including their name, address, gender, location, financial status, spending habits and so on.

What is being done generally to protect mobile devices

Currently encapsulation and data encryption processes are preferred methods of securing mobile devices. There are also discussions of biometric security measures such as photo recognition and iris recognition applications that take advantage of features commonly present in mobile devices Ahamad and Rotoloni (2011).

The smartphone security software market is also expected to expand by almost $3 billion dollars by 2017 providing additional options to users seeking to secure their devices (Chapman, 2011). In the meantime, proactivity will be the order of the day to ensure the security of your mobile device.

What you can do to protect your Mobile Device?

Some general tips to help you protect the security of your smartphone or mobile device include the following:

1. The first thing to do is to make sure that you have security/anti-virus software installed on your mobile device. Some good options include:

Kaspersky Mobile Security

McAffee Mobile Security

Webroot Secure Anywhere

Trend Micro Mobile Security

2. Check the permissions you must accept to download apps from the android market avoiding those which provide autonomous access to the features of your mobile device. In this regard it is best to remember that a smart phone (and related mobile device) is a personal computer. Treating them as such from a security perspective makes sense if you wish to protect your personal information. If you would not give a stranger access to your home or personal computer then you don’t want to give him or her inappropriate access to your smartphone (tablet, etc.).

3. If you use Wi-Fi only use access encrypted or firewall protected Wi-Fi___33 hotspots.

4. Avoid using your mobile devices for financial transactions, particularly if you are using an unsecured Wi-Fi___33 Hotspot.


Ahamad, M and Rotoloni, B. (2011). Emerging Cyber Threats Report 2010. Georgia Tech. Information Security Center and the Georgia Tech Research Institute. Retrieved from

Chapman, P. (2011). Smartphone security software market set to grow to $3 billion: Retrieved from

International Business Times (IBS) (2011). Top Ten Security Software for Smartphones and Mobile Devices. Retrieved from

Rice, A. (2011). Smartphones Present Growing Security Problems on Campus, Report Says. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from

Friday, October 14, 2011

Want To Share Ideas and Links With Your Colleagues? Social Bookmarking is the Way!

If you want to share web links with others, then social bookmarking services are an easy way to do this.   Today we are going to look at how to use social bookmarking services to store and share your own bookmarks.

Most people are familiar with collecting and storing bookmarks in their browsers, known as “Favorites” or “Bookmarks.” However, social bookmarking is about collecting and storing bookmarks online and then sharing them with others.

An extra aspect of social bookmarking is that the bookmarks can be tagged, this means categorizing or describing them using keywords defined by the user, which means that they then become searchable by others.

For general information about social bookmarking, take a look at 7 things you should know about social bookmarking.

Two popular social bookmarking tools are Delicious and Diigo.

delicious logo – is a very popular free social bookmarking tool.

Earlier we looked at how you could use Delicious to find useful resources, today we are focusing on using Delicious to store and share your own links.

To save links in Delicious you will need to have an account.  When you sign up you can also install two buttons for your browser toolbar, so that you can quickly bookmark items when you are moving around the web.

To add a web resource to your Delicious account, click the “tag” button on the toolbar and enter the details (including the tagging) in the dialogues box that opens. Note, With Delicious you can mark any links you store as “private” so they will not be found by others  publically.

You can share your bookmarks with others by giving people the link to your public bookmarks.

You can also create a library of Delicious links, e.g. a team resource list, by agreeing on a tag that you and others will use, so that all links tagged in the same way can be grouped appear together.  Each of the group can then subscribe to that tag.

For more information about Delicious and how to get started, take a look at the Help section.

Note:Yahoo recently sold Delicious, so expect to see some new functionality shortly.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Text to Speech (TTS) – Revisited

Have you ever used a text-to-speech function either on your computer operating system or via freeware? You might rethink how you have used it in the past or think about using it now after you read this blog. Text to speech (TTS) is a functionality that serves many purposes. The primary purpose of TTS is for accessibility – assisting those with low vision, blindness, or dyslexia; although TTS may serve us all with a multiplicity of outcomes. For example, you might consider selecting a block of text and have the TTS application read it back to you as your personal narrator helping you edit.

You might also use TTS to read blocks of text you have posted to your online course to better understand how students using screen readers will interact and understand your text. You may find that context or meaning is lost as a TTS reader stumbles over technical words. This will assist you in writing cleaner text enabling all students the ability to have a clear understanding of the subject matter.

I have heard others who extol the TTS function as a way to proofread their work when the services of an editor are unaffordable or unavailable. You might also consider asking students to use the TTS tool as a way to proofread their work before submitting it for grade. We often overlook errors – the TTS application may help students catch simple errors that will result in their earning a higher grade. Regardless of how you use TTS, the possibilities are numerous and often overlooked.

Use Microsoft OS TTS


Better yet – Imtranslator <>


Friday, October 7, 2011


Want to add a little variety to your course? Want to Address Different Learning Strategies of the Students You Serve? Well adding podcasts just might be your answer!

In an elemental sense, a podcast is an audio recording that has been compressed into a MP3 file and distributed over the internet to multimedia players. Podcasting and its distribution using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed aggregation can be traced back to 2003 and the work of Adam Curry and Dave Winer. Podcasts can be played on computers (PCs/Macs) or downloaded onto MP3 devices like iPods as well as other MP3 players.  Although they get their name from the contraction of the words “iPod” and “broadcasting,” you don’t have to have an iPod to listen to them!  Podcasts are flexible and portable, as such, students or anyone wanting to tune-in can listen to them not only on a desktop, but also on the move – jogging, working out, on the Metro, or travelling.



There are great podcast created in nearly all fields including: psychology, political science, biology, and music to name a few. Many institutions such as DUKE, Harvard, MIT or University of Maryland have created podcasts for public consumption where anyone may subscribe.

Podcasts allow instructors the ability to address different learning strategies that students may prefer. For example, in a hybrid or online course where most of the material may be visual, a podcast provides an opportunity to connect students to the material in an alternative manner.

Sources of Podcasts

There are many resources available to locate appropriate podcasts to use or subscribe to. Alternatively, instructors may easily create their own podcasts for instructional use. Research some of the following options to see what is available in your discipline. You may like to start with iTunes or iTunesU.


itunes logo2


The iTunes Store provides a one stop shop for listening to a huge range of free audio and video podcasts – over 150,000 from independent creators, as well as big names such as HBO, NPR, C-SPAN, ESPN.  You can listen to podcasts on your computer, any MP3 player, iPod, iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, although you will need to download the iTunes application first.   Find out more about finding, subscribing to and managing iTunes podcasts here.

Other podcast sites

BBC Podcasts - podcasts from BBC radio stations

LearnOutLoud - one-stop destination for audio and video learning (many free)

Podictionary – Podictionary is the audio word-a-day from  Charles Hodgson

iTunes U – a powerful distribution system for everything from lectures to language lessons, films to labs, audiobooks to tours

80 excellent podcasts for every kind of classroom, Click the link and find dozens of podcast sources separated by general discipline areas.


Create Your Own Podcast

Blackboard allows you the opportunity to create your own podcasts with the help of Blackboard Collaborate or Wimba. You may also use Audacity or GarageBand (MAC) as alternative external resources to create podcasts; although you will need to know a bit more about compressing and editing them.

Creating podcasts are a great way to add your personal insights on course material for your students or a way to drill-down on specific content that your students may need additional support in understanding. You may also use Podcasts as a recap of your face-to-face instruction or as a way to present guest lecturers. Some faculty find that delivering lecture material by podcasts frees up the classroom or synchronous discussions for more focused deliberations and case studies.

Some of the earliest research on Podcasting in higher education (Harkness 2006) found that initially faculty were more likely to be the producers of podcasts while students the consumers. But the use of podcasting is not limited to faculty use only. In fact, some faculty encourage student collaboration and podcast production and editing. Podcasting is also being used by administrations for a multiplicity of purposes.

If you think you will need a little help getting one of these recorded, professional development workshops are scheduled through the Center for Academic Technology at the University of the District of Columbia to get you up-to-speed!

Click this link to review the schedule for October and November as well as get registered for a session:


Harkness, S.S. J. (2006, August). Podcasting: A pocket full of power and intellectual property issues. (Paper presented at the 102nd American Political Science Association Annual National Conference, Philadelphia).

Monday, October 3, 2011

Introducing the New Kindle Fire

The internet has been a buzz since last week when Amazon unveiled the new Kindle Fire. Adding size and tablet-like functionality to its popular Kindle device, the Kindle Fire is purported to be a potential contender for the mobility device top spot. Amazon has been very careful to market the Kindle Fire as a Kindle device – not as a tablet – consider that it is an ebook reader, a magazine reader, a comic book reader, and a media player (for movies and music purchased through Amazon). There is also a Web browser and you can buy apps (purchased through Amazon's store), but they aren't hyping it.




Measuring only 7-inches, the Kindle Fire is smaller than the ipad, but it is distinguished by a dual core processor; a rich, color drenched display and a quick, intuitive touchscreen. It has a reported 8-hour battery life and supports both public and private Wi-Fi networks. Of particular note is the Kindle Fire’s interface with Amazon content, providing users with access to over 18 million books, songs, TV-shows and movies. Amazon’s app store also provides access to over 10,000 games, tools and resources which will run on the Kindle Fire’s Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system.

Previously ipad users could point to an advantage over the Kindle because in addition to college textbooks, the ipad stores video lectures, online notes, lab materials and more. This essentially meant that a student could carry his or her entire classroom on an ipad. Kindle Fire users will have access to similar functionality facilitated in part by access to cloud storage, which incidentally, is free for all Amazon content. Therefore, it does not matter much that the Kindle Fire won't have much memory or expandable storage. Additionally, Kindle fire users will be able to access Word, PDF and related documents.

Summary specs for the Kindle Fire are as follows:

7 inch IPS 1024×600 resolution display with 169 PPI

7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″ (190 mm x 120 mm x 11.4 mm) at 14.6 ounces (413 grams)

dual-core processor

8GB of internal storage

Up to 8 hours of continuous reading or 7.5 hours of video playback (charges in four hours and can be charged using a USB port on your PC)

802.11b/g/n WiFi (no ad-hoc support)

microUSB 2.o

3.5mm headphone jack and top-mounted external speakers

Available for preorder at the Amazon website, the Kindle Fire is competitively priced at $199. “The Kindle Fire will be a tablet for users who know how to take advantage of a tablet, and it will be a Kindle for users who just want a media player and book reader” says Will Greenwald (2011 PCMag).

To learn more about the Kindle Fire, please click here.