Distance Education http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance Thu, 21 May 2015 21:09:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Take a walk on a bright side! Brightspace video tutorials http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/05/take-a-walk-on-a-bright-side-brightspace-video-tutorials/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/05/take-a-walk-on-a-bright-side-brightspace-video-tutorials/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 17:01:51 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5171 For some of you it may come as a surprise, but D2L is branding themselves now as “Brightspace by D2″. While for us it’s still D2L, we can now find large amount of resources about our LMS on the Brightspace Community website.

Brightspace by D2L Community web site. Bright orange is a new color for Brightspace logo

A screen-shoot of Brightspace by D2L Community web site. Bright orange is a color for Brightspace logo. Among many other great resources you can find here a large collection of video tutorials on every D2L tool.

Here we can find a full assortment of videos that D2L recently made open for а public.  If you’ve ever had a question about any D2L tool, you can try searching there.

There are plenty of videos for students on how to use D2L also. When you are searching for them use the word “Learner”.

Brightspace (D2L) is hosting these videos on YouTube and you can search,  look and share them right from the Brightspace YouTube Channel.

Keep in mind that all these videos are reflecting features of version 10.4, while PCC is still using the previous one (10.3). But regardless of the slight differences from our environment, you’ll enjoy using this great resource!

Just as an example of many videos found here, I’m posting a tutorial about Manage Dates tool. This should cover one of the most often questions, that I get from our instructors when answering Help Desk phone line.




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Online Presentations Made Easy http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/05/online-presentations-made-easy/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/05/online-presentations-made-easy/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 16:39:46 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5162 We have all made one. We have all probably used one at least a few times. But, they were never meant to be a stand-alone educational tool. They require one key element. A speaker. You know what I am talking about…the “PowerPoint.”

“PowerPoint” versus Presentation

I have “PowerPoint” in quotations because like using the word Kleenex, presentation slides are generally dubbed a “PowerPoint.” In recent years, free alternatives to Microsoft’s PowerPoint have entered the scene. We have Google Slides, Prezi, Haiku Deck, Slide Rocket, and many more. Programs such a Prezi and Haiku Deck provide a unique alternative to the normal PowerPoint with neat animation features, templates, and simpler user interface. All are great presentation programs and each have unique benefits. But, for a “PowerPoint” to graduate to a “presentation,” it needs a speaker.

Presenter and her PowerPoint

Hayat Sindi – Pop!Tech 2009 – Camden, ME | Flickr

Online classrooms are riddled with “PowerPoints” as the web alternative of the classroom lecture. But, are they really an equal alternative? In a campus course, my “PowerPoint” isn’t the only thing my students see. No. They get to see and hear me, their instructor, too. The “PowerPoint” is not the sole source of information. I am there providing a presentation, where additional information and clarification is included.

So, just because a student decides to take a web-based course, does that mean they should give up that same level of engagement and richness? I personally don’t think so. Preparing a presentation for the online classroom is just different. I must make a recording to accommodate the asynchronous nature of distance learning. The technology is here and it has been for a while. Though, it does require a certain level of tech savvy or the assistance of campus resources.

Home Production

Title Slide of Camtasia Video

Courtesy of Rondi Schei

I know quite well the hours I have spent recording my presentations using Camtasia. The learning curve, the glitches with the PowerPoint plugin in previous editions, the need to alter my screen resolution before recording, not to mention editing can all become frustrating and frankly a deterrent for the average Joe trying to use such a high powered piece of software. Free versions such as Jing or Screencast-O-Matic do not allow the editing of “bloopers” and limit the video length to 5 and 15 minutes, respectively. While Camtasia is great and definitely has its uses for me, I’ve found an effective (and accessible) alternative when making a PowerPoint presentation.

Office Mix: An Alternative

I have fallen for Microsoft PowerPoint all over again. Why, you might ask? Because of the add-in Office Mix. It is so easy to use! I can choose to simply record my voice or I can add video of myself too. I can even hand write in real time by adding “ink” using a mouse, finger on a touchscreen, Pen-abled Laptop/Tablet PC, or a Wacom tablet. Those are three levels of additional engagement! But, it doesn’t stop there.

Image of Quiz Question in Office Mix

Courtesy of Rondi Schei

Office Mix also has a fourth and very powerful tool. I can insert a quiz or survey question to check learning after a section! And guess what? For students to continue with the presentation, they must first answer the question correctly. Those little questions I pose during a face-to-face course can now be interactively included! That, I can’t do in Camtasia.

Now, I may not be able to edit out my bloopers when making a “Mix,” but I can re-record the slide I was working on. In Jing or Screencast-O-Matic, I would have to re-record the entire presentation. Fixing a single slide is quicker (in general) than having to search out the blooper in Camtasia to edit.

Limitations of Office Mix

Unfortunately, Office Mix is only for the Windows versions of Office 2013 or Office 365. It can’t be used with the Mac version of Office. Also, know that as of right now, students with disabilities should use Firefox and Jaws 16 when viewing a Mix. Lastly, know that the interactive quiz questions do not work on mobile devices. Instead, when you publish a Mix, an MP4 version is saved as part of the “file.” It is this video version that automatically plays on mobile devices.

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Using Intelligent Agents http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/05/using-intelligent-agents/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/05/using-intelligent-agents/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 15:07:14 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5159 Distance technical icon

We don’t have a scheduled Best Practices Blog post for this week, so I just wanted to share a link to some resources from the D2L/Brightspace Community on using Intelligent Agents. Intelligent Agents are a set of automated notifications that help you identify when students have completed some activity, or haven’t accessed D2L in a specified amount of time. They can be useful and powerful, but you should use caution when setting up agents. Here are some great resources for learning about the agents and how to use them in your online class.

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Applying the Quality Matters Rubric – Online workshop http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/applying-the-quality-matters-rubric-online-workshop/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/applying-the-quality-matters-rubric-online-workshop/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 22:55:37 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5146 Image credit: Sean Hobson

Image credit: Sean Hobson

This workshop explores the Quality Matters Rubric and provides a framework to improve the quality of online course design. This is the QM foundation workshop for anyone who might be interested in participating on a peer review team in the future, and participants will be able to apply the strategies to their own online course design. During this workshop participants have the opportunity to explore many standards of the Quality Matters rubric in depth, and to apply those standards to a demo course.

The workshop is totally online, so you’ll plan your own schedule. There are numerous engaging online activities, so you do need to be able to dedicate time during that 2 week period, up to 20 hours total.

Date: Tuesday, May 5th – Thursday, May 21st

•    Kristen Kane (Columbia Gorge CC)
•    Tani McBeth (PCC/Clark)
•    GwenEllyn Anderson (Chemeketa)


Contact Greg Kaminski. All you need to do is create a “MyQM” account at https://www.qmprogram.org/myqm/   I will do the rest. The cost of this workshop is covered through our statewide OCCDLA grant.

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Massive Data & Video Engagement http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/massive-data-video-engagement/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/massive-data-video-engagement/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 15:49:21 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5117

A massive star and its cradle, imaged by NASA

(thanks to Becky Washington – Cascade Career Services for forwarding me this link.)


MOOCs give us a unique opportunity to view data produced by large populations of online student participants much more rapidly than prior possible. In this study first to correlate video production style with engagement from a data set that offers millions of records, coordinated by Philip Guo, Asst. Prof of Computer Science at the University of Rochester, we’re happy to see the results corroborate smaller scale studies, our own server use data, and anecdotal observations that we’ve prior based our instructional video production best practice recommendations upon.



The results In a nutshell

  • Shorter videos are much more engaging. Engagement drops sharply after 6 minutes. 
  • Videos that intersperse an instructor’s talking head with PowerPoint slides are more engaging than showing only slides.
  • Videos produced with a more personal feel could be more engaging than high fidelity studio recordings.
  • Khan style tablet drawing tutorials are more engaging than PowerPoint slides or code screencasts.
  • Videos where instructors speak fairly fast and with high enthusiasm are more engaging. 
  • Students engage differently with lecture and tutorial videos.

Want more than what’s in the above list? Read the full paper here. And remember, if you’re looking for support or resources to create media for your PCC courses that use D2L,  use the Media Production Request form to let us know how we can help.

Retrieved from edX 2015042

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Did you caption your video? Do you need to? http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/did-you-caption-your-video-do-you-need-to/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/did-you-caption-your-video-do-you-need-to/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 14:29:33 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5091 Faculty are no longer required to caption video for their courses

""Have you heard? Faculty are no longer required to caption/subtitle their self-produced course videos! We heard you loud and clear. And now a system is in place that allows Distance Education and Disability Services to caption all the media in a course within a few business days if an accommodation arises. But we need the help of the faculty to achieve this term after term.

Here’s what faculty can do to help

Please keep track of the videos in your course that don’t have captions/subtitles.

If a student with a captioning accommodation registers for your online course, you will receive a notification from Disability Services and Distance Education. The notification will ask you to promptly provide the titles and locations of all of the videos in your course that are in need of captioning.

Your speedy reply to this request is critical to our ability to fulfill the accommodation quickly. So remember to keep a list of uncaptioned videos used in your course, and please reply promptly when you get a request about an accommodation! We really appreciate it!

And please consider captioned videos first when selecting new media for your course.

See pcc.edu/access for more information about the accessibility of online course content.

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What about Font? http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/what-about-font/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/what-about-font/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 17:02:27 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5058 Let’s face it, even though we strive to add rich media and images to our classes, the majority of content is text. This is an important for several reasons. First, your choice of font should consider what fonts your end user may have resident on their computer. If you choose a “wild” font, and it is not resident on students’ computers, it will be replaced with a more conventional font.

What about font choice?serif-sans

Of the choices available in the D2L HTML editor, notice that Arial is “recommended.” Tahoma is very close to Arial and is also a good choice. Both Arial and Tahoma are sans-serif in style fonts. Georgia, a serif style font (notice the small line attached to the ends of letter strokes.) Georgia was developed in 1993 specifically for displaying on a computer monitor. It, too, is a good choice.

At PCC we offer templates that remove the worry about font style, font color and font size.

What about font size?

To increase font size, the use of “Headings” is the correct approach. It isn’t enough to make headings big and bold.  A student using a screen reader with your content will not benefit by simply increasing the font size for headings. Headings need to be formatted as headings and used in the proper order. Headings will benefit all students by sectioning content into chunks. This makes it easier to read and skim. Watch a short video on How to Add Headings

What about color?

Never use color alone to make a distinction, a comparison or to set something off or apart from the rest of the web page. If you categorize something by color alone, those who are color blind or blind will not benefit from the color distinction.

When using color, sufficient color contrast is important, not just for low vision and colorblind users, but for everyone. I often run across web pages that use very unlikely color combinations. The image below dramatizes this principle.

examples of contrast between text and background

The D2L HTML editor includes a tool that allows you to make good choices when using colored text. d2l color preview indicates contrast ratio

When you highlight text and click the color picker, the pop-up window includes a “Preview” section that displays the foreground and back ground colors together. Below the preview is a built in WCAG AA analyzer. The goal is to choose colors that produce a green check mark and a contrast ratio of 4.5:1.

What is WCAG? Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are developed through the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The goal is to meet the needs of all internet users through international standards.


To learn more about making your course accessible to all students, visit the PCC accessibility web page.





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D2L Mooc for effective practices using the learning environment http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/d2l-mooc-for-effective-practices-using-the-learning-environment/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/d2l-mooc-for-effective-practices-using-the-learning-environment/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 15:23:55 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5077 D2L is offering a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) for instructors wanting to get the most out of the D2L learning environment. The MOOC covers Communication, Release Conditions, Intelligent Agents, and student centered tools. The course actually started yesterday, but there’s still time for those who are interested in learning a little more about using D2L to support their online or hybrid class.

Learn more about the Effective Practices MOOC from D2L.

Oh, and P.S. – D2L has re-branded their LMS as “Brightspace.” We haven’t really adopted that language yet.

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What’s going on in the world of LMSs? http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/whats-going-on-in-the-world-of-lmss/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/whats-going-on-in-the-world-of-lmss/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 17:02:39 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5051 When you are busy teaching online or supporting online teaching, you might not have time to look up from your work and see what’s going on in the world of Learning Management Systems. As PCC approaches the fifth anniversary of its adoption of Desire2Learn, we should be mindful of what’s going on in the larger world of LMSs. After all, what might seem permanent and fixed today could very well change tomorrow, so it’s good to know the landscape.

In September 2014, a group of ed-tech hobbyists published a study on their site, called edutechnica, that tracked the rates of adoption for the various LMSs at higher-ed institutions. Their study identified the following trends in LMS use and adoption:
  • Angel shrinking significantly (Blackboard bought Angel and planned to retire it in 2014);
  • Blackboard also shrinking in real terms, but still retains the largest market share (33%);
  • Canvas growing significantly (from under 5% to around 10% in one year);
  • Desire2Learn steady – not shrinking but also not gaining market share (around 9%);
  • Moodle also steady, and the second-most used platform (20%) after Blackboard;
  • Sakai also steady but with a small market share (around 6%);
  • “Other” LMSs are also growing and now have around 17% of the market.
% change in LMS adoption

Data from edutechnica.com, used under CC BY

After PSU and PCC adopted Desire2Learn in 2009 and 2010, respectively, I thought we’d see many other colleges and universities in the Northwest flocking to D2L. But it hasn’t happened. Instead many institutions of higher ed have adopted a new LMS called Canvas. Momentum has been surprisingly steady:
  • In 2012, the 34 community colleges in Washington State decided to replace Angel with Canvas;
  • In 2014, Oregon State University decided to replace Blackboard with Canvas;
  • In 2015, the University of Oregon decided to replace several LMSs with Canvas.
When I talk with colleagues at other colleges in the Northwest, I keep hearing about Canvas. Since I’m a fast learner, I asked myself, after I’d heard about Canvas for the 53rd time, What the heck is up with Canvas??
Canvas, a relative newcomer to the LMS scene in 2011, was created by a privately held company (D2L is also privately held) called Instructure, based in Salt Lake City. You can read about the history of the company and the LMS on the Instructure web site, but the synopsis is that a company started in 2008 by two grad students now employs over 550 people and serves over 1200 colleges, universities, and school districts. Adoption of Canvas jumped from around 200 in 2014 to over 400 in the spring of 2015. The company now wants to move into the corporate-training market, having launched a training management system called Bridge. Both Canvas and Bridge employ a sleek design with a Cloud-based architecture that makes them reliable and fast – or so says the company’s literature. Certainly our peers at other colleges in the Northwest are finding a lot to like about Canvas. The University of Oregon recently adopted Canvas after faculty and students voted overwhelmingly for it.
In summary, Canvas is one LMS to keep an eye on. And what about LMSs generally? Jim Groom, whom I had the honor of meeting at the Portland NWACC conference a couple years ago, wrote an article with Brian Lamb in 2014 that should be required reading for everyone who teaches online. Their article, called “Reclaiming Innovation,” was published by Educause and challenges us all to think about the ways in which the tools we use promote – and detract from – student learning. Why, the authors ask, is all student work housed within the LMS, invisible to the public and unavailable to students once the course is over? Part of the article, called “Five arguments against the learning management system,” challenges us to think about systems, silos, missed opportunities, costs, and confidence, as they relate to student learning. Also the article is just beautiful to behold, published in a gorgeous font, with embedded tweets and videos. It shows us how well the web can really work – perhaps to reinforce their point about why we should be disappointed in LMSs generally.
No one is saying that the LMS is going away anytime soon, but still it’s good to keep an eye on developments in the world of LMSs. It’s a world that’s constantly evolving, even if we don’t notice right away.
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New Encryption Algorithm for Student Records http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/new-encryption-algorithm-for-student-records/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/04/new-encryption-algorithm-for-student-records/#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2015 22:43:08 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5063 Distance Education is rolling out a new service to use a new encryption algorithm to protect student records.

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