Distance Education http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance Mon, 05 Dec 2016 18:00:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.1 Short videos improve instructor presence – Part I http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/12/short-videos-improve-instructor-presence-part-i/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/12/short-videos-improve-instructor-presence-part-i/#respond Mon, 05 Dec 2016 18:00:39 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7318 Have you read Jeff’s blog post on video clips? He created 2-3 minute weekly video clips to introduce his students to the weekly topic, recommend additional resources for tricky concepts, and reminded them to contact him with any questions. Would you like to create more instructor presence in your course?

Since this is the last best practices blog post of 2016 and we have a long break where you prepare things for your course next term, I thought it would be a good idea to provide you with three simple options for you to get started with video!

Free video options Video clip icon - from Wikipedia
Option I: Video Note in D2L

D2L’s Video Note is a simple way to add video for your students. These videos are limited to 3 minutes, which can be just right! However, these videos are designed to be used for messages unique to a single class. This is because the videos are only stored for about 6 months and as of this writing, can’t be captioned. Lastly, You can’t use it to capture your computer screen.

Option II: Screencast-O-Matic

If you need to create a video longer than 3 minutes, Screencast-O-Matic will record up to 15 minutes. It’s a simple web-based program, so you do not need to download or install any software! All you need to do is creating an account and the video will be hosted on their server. The video can be downloaded and captioned too. You can use it to capture yourself using a webcam and your computer screen.

Option III: Webcam in D2L
Webcam icon - image from Wikimedia Commons

Webcam icon from Wikimedia Commons

If you are creating a video and you don’t want to be limited by time, you can use the “Insert Stuff” option in D2L’s editor, select webcam, and record your video right in D2L (You can use this for shorter videos too.) These videos are stored at our streaming server and PCC can caption these videos for you when an accommodation is needed. You can’t use it to capture your computer screen.

Editor’s note: The webcam tool can be finicky. Sometimes it’s easier to capture the video separately then upload it.

Still not sure which one to choose?

Here’s some information that would help you make the right decision if you want to add media for your course.

During Winter term, we are offering Gear Up media sessions. These sessions will focus on using video and audio tools. Attendee may be eligible for a webcam or a headset to get them started, with the expectation that they will share one of their short videos to inspire other instructors at PCC. Watch for these in our training calendar!

Still have questions?

Don’t worry, if you still have any questions or need more guidance, the Instructional Technology Specialist will be there to help you every step of the way.

In my next post: Short videos improve instructor presence – Part II, I will give you some tips on recording. Start creating your video and Happy Holiday!!

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Before you decide to proctor http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/before-you-decide-to-proctor/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/before-you-decide-to-proctor/#respond Mon, 28 Nov 2016 19:44:41 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7313 Anyone who has attended a distance learning conference recently will tell you that the world of online proctoring is expanding fast. The list of virtual proctoring vendors has grown from the classic ProctorU and BVirtual to include several relatively new offerings like SmarterProctoring, Proctorio, Examity, BioSig, Kryterion, ProctorTrack… The list goes on and on. With all these products to choose from, it may just seem like a matter of selecting the right tool to guarantee exam integrity for online assessments. However, after a few years (yes, years) of working on this issue with various faculty and staff, I can tell you that nothing about proctoring for online classes turns out to be simple.

Is proctoring the best solution for your case?

This blog post is cautionary tale for instructors who are considering proctored exams for their online classes. Before you head down the proctoring path, I urge you to consider a few issues and really consider if proctoring is the right choice for assessment in your case. After all, there are lots of pedagogical approaches to assessment in the online learning world.

What’s so complicated?

In working with various faculty groups at PCC, I can see the thinking that leads them to consider proctored exams. Some departments have long suspected that some students were committing academic integrity violations in their online classes, while others are feeling pressure from transfer schools who frown upon transferring online credits. And in some cases, proctoring is the ultimate solution for user authentication during exams. Typically when a department or individual instructor arrives at this conclusion, the planning usually starts with the classic – “We’ll just make them come to campus for the midterm and final exams.” Things spiral out of control from there.

While it’s true that if you tell your online students, “The proctored final exam will be on Friday at 3pm during finals week at the X campus in room 123.”, most of your students will plan to attend that exam session (especially if you give them plenty of notice). Even this straightforward scenario has its complications – How do you manage to reserve a classroom on campus during finals week for a class that doesn’t usually meet on campus and has no predetermined final exam schedule? How do you find a time for this exam that doesn’t conflict with exams for your students other classes? Did you remember to tell your students to bring photo ID? Did you consider your technology needs? What are your expectations during the exam and what will you do if they are violated? Will you allow a bathroom break? And is that guy in the back row looking at a smartwatch with a cheat sheet on it, or just checking the time?

However, since these are online classes, there will always be a few students who for reasons of time or location, cannot attend your proctoring session. How will you accommodate their needs? The logical option is to allow them to make up their exam at a PCC testing center. Problem solved, right? Were you aware that there is a testing center at each PCC location? This is fantastically convenient! Were you also aware that each testing center has their own unique set of practices for handling proctored exam arrangements? That some testing centers allow drop ins while others require appointments. And they each have their own preferences for working with instructors to transmit exam materials and criteria? Also, some testing centers just don’t have the capacity to handle the demand for their services during finals week. What if your student can’t get an appointment before your deadline? With a little luck, support and plenty of preparation you can successfully navigate all of these testing center complications.

But what about students who just can’t make it to a PCC campus during business hours? Either they live too far away or their work/life obligations don’t allow them the freedom to come to campus during regular hours. There are several classic answers to this issue:

  • Testing centers at other colleges
  • Professional testing centers
  • Private proctors
  • Virtual proctoring

And, as you might expect at this point, each of these options has their own unique set of complications and logistical nightmares to consider. And like I mentioned before, it may seem like the ideal solution is just to select a virtual proctoring vendor and let them handle all the arrangements. But after having worked with a few of these vendors now, and hearing about experiences at other schools, I can guarantee you that none of these tools come without significant cost, training, technology setup, and support headaches.

So you still want to proctor?

It is possible that despite all the issues and complications we have discussed, proctoring may still be the best option. It happens, and sometimes for good reasons. But before you merrily skip down the proctoring path, remember that preparation is key! Make use of the tools and services at your disposal.

Consider the timeline – If this is your first time requiring proctoring for your online class, we now have a training for that! The training takes about 2 hours and must be completed during the term (or break) prior to when your class begins. Contact me if you’d like to sign up. This is not a process you can start after the term begins.

Be sure to check out the Proctoring for Online Classes Checklist, this list will keep you on track with all your important training, communication, and exam preparation tasks. You will also want to take a look at the Proctoring Tips for Online Instructors document for a quick overview of proctoring issues and links to support for instructors who are trying to coordinate their exams. The most important advice I can give to instructors who are new to proctoring is to plan ahead and don’t procrastinate.

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D2L CD update 10.6.7 for November 2016 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/d2l-cd-update-10-6-7-for-november-2016/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/d2l-cd-update-10-6-7-for-november-2016/#respond Fri, 25 Nov 2016 16:24:51 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7307 November’s Continuous Delivery update adds a few items worth noting. These updates are live in D2L Brightspace as of today!

Rubrics & Assignments

The Rubrics window in assignments now defaults to open in a new window. Previously, the rubric opened in one of two ways. Now, it defaults to opening in a new window so that you can view the rubric while grading the assignment. Apparently this was important enough to enough other users that it was addressed as a fix.

User Progress is now Class Progress

Nothing major here other than a slight name change for consistency.  It’s one of my favorite tools, so go check it out.

User progress is now class progress

Quiz question editor update

As part of the coming Daylight overhaul (more later), and general recognition that the quiz tool is hard to work with, the interface is getting a redesign. The next time you go to create a new quiz question, you’ll see the option to enable or disable the new interface. Here’s a quick view of what it looks like.

Quiz interface updates make it look like a tool from this decade.

I still prefer using Respondus when working on questions, but I’m old fashioned.

HTML Editor updates

As of the last Continuous Delivery update, the HTML editor was updated to the latest version of the TinyMCE software. In this update, a majority of the formatting when copying from Word will remain. No changes are needed on your part.

Intelligent Agents

Scheduled intelligent agents now deactivate when a course ends or is made inactive. This is a good (and seemingly obvious) feature. You can now easily delete (and restore) multiple agents at a time, making it far simpler to manage your catalog of time-saving, student success-improving agents. What? You’re not using Intelligent Agents? You should! Here’s a quick primer.

Daylight preview

a preview of the new daylight interface. It has more pictures and less pinstripe.
Daylight is the interface overhaul that D2L has been working on for the last year. They are still a little ways away from it being stable enough to share widely, but we’ve been poking around on our test server. The update is very “light,” and it’s responsive to screen size, so the pages and layouts all adjust accordingly for whatever device you’re on. We haven’t shared many images because they are still actively working on it. Here’s a teaser of the main home page on a mobile device.

We are going to start developing a new DL and campus course template in January when we’re more certain about the more permanent design of the interface. We want to create two new templates that are consistent enough that students don’t get confused between campus and online classes, but so that the campus template is simple enough for casual users of the D2L Brightspace platform. We’re eager for the update to improve the mobile experience, and frankly, eager to reboot the existing blue pinstripe theme. It’s starting to feel rather dated.

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Default font size in D2L too tiny? http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/default-font-size-in-d2l-too-tiny/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/default-font-size-in-d2l-too-tiny/#respond Mon, 21 Nov 2016 18:00:59 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7296 Do you wish that the default font size wasn’t so small in D2L?  Do you wish there was a way to change that without having to adjust the font size on everything?

Well you can!

D2L allows users to customize their default font size to suit and it is really easy to do!


  1. Click on the action menu next to your name from the mini bar
  2. Select Account Settings
  3. Change the Font size to Medium, Large, or Huge – depending on your preference.
  4. Click Save and Close
Is this better?

Creating a user specific default is a really good idea. This is because each user of D2L is different. If you change your font sizes for each message/description and a student has their setting to “Huge,”  then the fonts in D2L are really “Huge!” By setting your default sizes this way, each user has control over how they view text in  D2L.

Changing setting to Huge

Now, this doesn’t mean that you can enlarge a font a little bit to distinguish it as being visually different than the rest of the text, but be careful!  If you have your default settings as huge and you decide to “increase” font size to let’s say 14pt, the text will come out smaller – since the “Huge” default font size is larger than  14pt.

Font size visual comparison

As D2L continues to be updated, changes to the inherent D2L font size will also be change.  If you are someone who uses different font sizes in your D2L classroom, you may find yourself having to fix those at some point in the future. But, if you increase the default font size, then you will not have to worry!  Any changes to inherent fonts in D2L will automatically be updated!


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WeBWorK integration with D2L Brightspace http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/webwork-integration-with-d2l-brightspace/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/webwork-integration-with-d2l-brightspace/#respond Sat, 19 Nov 2016 01:30:10 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7289 An example of a WeBWorK activity in D2L

WeBWorK inside D2L. We actually recommend that you open it in a new window, but that’s harder to make in to a compelling screenshot.

WeBWorK is an interactive homework platform hosted by the PCC math department to support math instruction. Over the last couple years, several dedicated instructors have built a library of dynamic questions for several course levels so that students could use the platform for practice and for assignments as part of their math classes. There are several publisher platforms that offer online practices as well, but WeBWorK is available at no cost to the student.

We worked with Alex Jordan late this summer to evaluate an integration between D2L Brightspace and WeBWorK. The integration at that time allowed for a single sign-on between D2L and WeBWorK so that students didn’t have to log in to access their homework problems. This kind of integration is frequently requested, but doing the integration is never as simple as you’re led to believe. We have developed a 3rd party integration evaluation process to ensure that integrating with an external platform doesn’t create issues for students, faculty, or us as an institution. We reviewed the security of the platform, the user agreement (none, in this case), the usability and accessibility (including a test by a screen-reader user), and finally a technical integration evaluation.  WeBWorK passed each with flying colors, so we enabled the single sign-on integration just before fall term.

Today, we met again to investigate the option to do grade pass-back. This functionality is relatively new. The integration itself is based on Learning Tools Interoperability (or just LTI to us dorks), and relatively recently, both D2L and WeBWorK’s developers built in support for version 1.2 of the LTI specifications which allows for grade pass-back.webwork activity grade in the gradebook

Our testing revealed that the grade pass-back can be relatively complicated. Setting up a single “cumulative” grade column is very easy. But setting up grade columns for each activity is far more complex. In fact, it has enough challenges that we’ve decided not to support it yet. But we are going to enable “overall” grade pass-back. And it’s not that we think our instructors aren’t capable, it’s just that the integration needs some more time to gestate so that it doesn’t create more confusion.

The cumulative grade, or course grade, shows you approximately what percentage of the WeBWorK activity score has been completed, and at least gives the instructor a sense of how each student is progressing through the homework content.

So very soon you will be able to get more details on the Math SAC’s spaces page, but you can get details on setting up the simple Single Sign-On integration now with this WeBWork integration howto page.

If you want to evaluate the integration with another tool, please contact me.

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Video Camp: Apps Due 11/27 for Winter ’17 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/video-camp-apps-due-1127-for-winter-17/ Tue, 15 Nov 2016 15:00:45 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7250 decorative vector illustration of media production elementsWhile we openly collect your ideas for Video Camp proposals as you have them throughout the year, we review submissions each term during week ten. If your proposal is accepted, we can get the administration and paperwork out of the way so that you’re all set and ready to work with our design and production staff for the entirety of the following term.


Ready to join us for Winter ’17? Be sure to fill out our Video Camp Open Application Form by Sunday, November 27th. Want more information? Check out the Video Camp F.A.Q.

Top online course design mistakes http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/top-online-course-design-mistakes/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/top-online-course-design-mistakes/#respond Mon, 14 Nov 2016 18:00:38 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7258 In this month’s edition of Online Classroom, Picture of man overwhelmed by what he sees on the computer. Hopefully it's not your online class.John Orlando, Associate Director of the Faculty Resource Center at Northcentral University, shares his perception of four common mistakes course developers make when designing online courses. The first pitfall is the tendency to make sure we “cover” all of the content as opposed to focusing on having students learn the key parts of the content, which can result in too much content and information overload. Orlando labels this as a “covering content” view of teaching rather than a “learning view.” To guard against this, instructors should keep in mind that the content in a particular module should connect with the central concept of that unit in ways that reinforce it. It is possible to attempt to cover too many details.

A second common problem is designing discussion questions that simply ask students to reiterate what is in the material, leading to a set of answers that are basically the same. At the other extreme, some questions are designed to elicit only essay type answers which can lead to a class collection of mini-essays that inspire only limited interaction with classmates. Orlando recommends designing questions that allow for a variety of responses and opinions. Creating scenarios that “fall on the borders of fundamental principles” will inspire students to dig deeper in supporting their positions. The result will be increased engagement in a richer conversation.

Aim for real instead of perfect.

Tracy Schaelen, Southwestern College

A third area of concern is relying too heavily on text to deliver the content. The Internet’s strength is through the use of visuals as opposed to text. Our tendency as instructors is to write out the content using a lot of text and a few images, but student engagement will be improved and learning stimulated through the use of visuals, especially concise video. If you have yet to add a video introduction to your class, try it. There are various ways to approach this, from an informal self-created video using the free program Screencast-o-matic to a more polished video using the help of our Media Production team. But don’t stop after adding a video introduction. Add a brief video clip to capture students’ attention and imagination at the start of each module. Consider sharing a brief story, a case study or a key example to spark student interest. Tracy Schaelen, DE Faculty Coordinator at Southwestern College, shared suggestions for creating video as well as examples at a recent eLearning conference. I think she makes an excellent suggestion with “Aim for real instead of perfect.” You can see her examples at https://tackk.com/elearning2016.

A final potential mistake is focusing on “creating” rather than “curating” content. Granted, the instructor’s voice and perspective are essential components of the mix, but there is already a wealth of excellent content online. Orlando is of the opinion “If someone can say it better than I can, let them.” The value of an instructor has become more about “being able to identify the best content available and to present it in a way that produces understanding.” Be sure to involve your subject area librarian in the quest for engaging content that already exists and may very well be better and certainly easier to implement than starting from scratch.


John Orlando’s complete article “Top online course design mistakes,” is available through our PCC subscription to “Online Classroom.” Here’s how to access these articles. (Only the first time you access is cumbersome. After that it’s easy.) While you’re there, skim through some of the recent articles in the archives. For example, “Expand classroom walls through international course collaborations” fits our focus on internationalization.

Online Classroom logo

November 2016

  • Top online course design mistakes
  • How to deepen online dialogue
  • Promoting deeper learning with online scavenger hunting
  • Incorporating gamification into your courses
  • Hashtag concept organization for better learning

October 2016

  • Mind mapping for better learning
  • Is creating online course content worth your time?
  • Teaching skill based courses online
  • Have you turned yourself into a writing tutor?
  • What FERPA isn’t

September 2016

  • Expand classroom walls through international course collaborations
  • Curt Bonk talks about open education
  • Improve your teaching with a teaching toolbox
  • Applying neurology to online videos
  • Facilitating real-time, online group projects

August 2016

  • Lessons learned from the world’s best MOOC
  • Get the most out of online discussion
  • Role-playing for improved online discussion
  • Fact vs. feeling in flipped learning
  • Use quizzes to add competition to your online class
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Collaborate Ultra training on Nov 17th. http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/collaborate-ultra-training-on-nov-17th/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/collaborate-ultra-training-on-nov-17th/#respond Wed, 09 Nov 2016 20:37:36 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7277 the new collaborate ultra interface has a lot less junk on it.We will be retiring our old Blackboard Collaborate/Online Rooms tool this December and replacing it with Collaborate Ultra. If you use the Online Rooms now, or want to learn how to provide online office hours, there’s still one more training with Michael Moss on November 17th at 9am. (link to the online training room)

Attendees can receive a free webcam or USB headset/mic as part of our Gear Up initiative. Just let Michael know, and he’ll send you your choice via inter-campus mail. Our only ask is that can check in with you in a couple months to see how the tools are going and how you’ve chosen to use them in your class.

The new interface is much simpler than the older Java-based tool, and it runs right in your browser. Learn more about this powerful tool by attending the training.

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Using your PCC Gmail account like a boss, part 2 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/using-your-pcc-gmail-account-like-a-boss-part-2/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/11/using-your-pcc-gmail-account-like-a-boss-part-2/#respond Mon, 07 Nov 2016 18:00:10 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7139 If you would like to provide a custom email address to your students in a particular section of a particular class and have a filter in your email account that will automatically sort all of the email messages from the students in your class, following these instructions.

How to create a custom email address for your class for easy filtering:

1. First, you will need to create a custom email address for your course. This sounds complicated but it is actually very easy! Gmail allows you to receive email messages that are sent to your email address with an addendum that follows a plus sign. For example, your email address might be joe.smith@pcc.edu. You can also receive email in your inbox that is sent to joe.smith+example@pcc.edu. So all you have to do is create a meaningful addendum to your email address, such as your CRN or the name of your class, etc. and have your students email you at that customized email address.


2. Once you’ve created the custom email address (and added it to your syllabus and contact information for the specific class for which it was created), you will want a custom filter in Gmail that will collect all email messages sent to that specific custom email address. To do this, click on the triangle next to the search field at the top of your Gmail account.


3. Several options will become available in the menu that drops down from the search field. Enter the custom email address in the To field.


4. Next, click on the “Create filter with this search” button in the bottom right corner of the dropdown menu.


5. A new set of options will appear in the dropdown menu. You have several choices you can make here that will determine how Gmail handles emails that are sent to the custom email address you created, but the most important step is to check the “Apply the label” checkbox and then click on the “Choose label” option next to it. Choose “New label” from the “Choose label” menu.


6. On the New Label popup box that appears, enter a meaningful name for the course for which you created the custom email address. This can be the CRN or the full course name or whatever works for you. Hit the Create button when you’ve entered the name.


7. The new label should appear on the left side of your Gmail inbox. Gmail should now collect all email messages sent to the custom email address you created for your class.


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Royalty Free Media: More Than Eye Candy http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/10/royalty-free-media-more-than-eye-candy/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/10/royalty-free-media-more-than-eye-candy/#respond Mon, 31 Oct 2016 17:00:51 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7198 45070067 - pile of halloween candy eyeballs over a white background

Copyright: jenifoto / 123RF Stock Photo

You may have noticed that distance education is offering pilot access to royalty free media collections for the 2016-17 academic year and you might be wondering- what is this, and how as online faculty does it apply to me?

Royalty free media is image, audio and video production content that the Distance Education Department is paying to use via service subscription or credit per use to help make finding and using media in your online courses a little less tricky. All content in these collections has been copyright assured, and because this content can be licensed to many royalty free purchasers, our cost to use it is relatively low. When you search any of the collections that we have access to and identify an asset you would like to use for your online course, you can request it via our royalty free media request form. More information including what collections are available can be found on our pilot overview page.

Media from these collections can be used in D2L pages, Camtasia recordings, PowerPoint slides, weekly overview videos, topic podcasting, email, Twitter polls or Facebook posts, green screen productions, MediaSite lecture captures, interactive Captivate content and more.

While weʻre striving to use open standards content that is in the public domain or creative commons licensed at PCC, we recognize the varying available quality and copyright assurance burden that this can sometimes be for our faculty. Unless you’re using an asset from an open collection like Pixabay or Pexels, you need to affirm that you understand and are respecting copyrights for each and every piece of media you find and use.

Open content pools are growing in quality, and weʻre actively participating in that growth. We also have resources to help you begin your search with open content in mind – connect with your subject liaison librarian and PCCʻs Open Education Resource Librarian if you don’t know where to start. But, If you donʻt find what you need in open options and you donʻt have the resources to contribute to open content yourself, we would rather see you use this interim solution of royalty free media to support your effective online teaching practice than to not see you use media when you want or need to.

Whether you use open or royalty free media in your course, here are a few links to some prior blog treats to help you use these resources effectively:

A classic: To wrap or not to wrap – or how to wrap text around an image in D2L by retired ITS-Rock Creek Jim Johnstone

Andre Temkinʻs Online image editing, layout and design with Canva will show you a simple graphic design tool.

An excellent three part series on image and video use in online courses part 2 part 3 by Michael Moss

Still considering adding media to your D2L course a ghoulish task? Connect with our instructional technology support staff at each campus for direct assistance.

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