Distance Education http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance Mon, 27 Jul 2015 17:03:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Inoculate before school starts! http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/07/inoculate-before-school-starts/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/07/inoculate-before-school-starts/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 17:03:40 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5314 germ

Prevent accessibility germs from spreading. Public Domain image from Pixabay.

Remember getting shots before school started? I know it’s a controversial topic these days, and many folks don’t believe it’s important. I won’t take sides on that debate. But in most areas, I do believe in prevention over intervention. Intervention is usually way more work than prevention.

But instead of shots, I’m talking about accessibility of your online course content and exposure to outside (of D2L and PCC) tools and websites. Whenever you link to outside resources, you risk exposure to a slew of inaccessible “germs”. But like going to school or day care, it’s often a necessary risk.

To minimize the risk to disease, many choose to inoculate their kids. To minimize the risk of inaccessible content, we encourage you to have your content tested to make sure it is accessible to students using assistive technologies.

What should be tested for accessibility?

We encourage you to contact Distance Education’s accessibility advocate, Karen Sorensen to have these sort of items tested for accessibility:

  • Publisher websites
  • Software or web apps that aren’t essential functions of the course  (No need to test Photoshop if the course is on Photoshop for example.)
  • Any forms or widgets that would normally require a mouse

What happens if it’s inaccessible?

No worries. You won’t have to remove the inaccessible tool. Instead, we will work with you to create an accessible option, so everyone will have an equally effective path to the learning outcomes.

Be prepared

I know it’s scary to worry about accessibility on top of everything else you have to think about, but isn’t it better to be prepared? Otherwise you open yourself and the institution up to serious risk that could have been prevented.

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Offsetting all the dates at once with Manage Dates tool http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/07/offsetting-all-the-dates-at-ones-with-manage-dates-tool/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/07/offsetting-all-the-dates-at-ones-with-manage-dates-tool/#comments Mon, 20 Jul 2015 17:00:03 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5321 At the beginning of every term I am getting asked by our instructors about a tool in D2L that can change all the dates at once. I think it will be useful to post the answer to this question in Best Practices blog, so many of you, who are still in process of learning all the bells and whistles in D2L can bookmark the page and get back to it before the new term starts.

You have to be very careful, when you are changing all the dates at once, because, if you do make a mistake by offsetting the dates for the wrong amount of days, it might create even more work fixing it, rather than change each date by hand.

But don’t be scared, I will explain how to get this done precisely right! Just follow the simple instructions.

  1. Click on Edit Course in the navbar and find Manage Dates link.Find Manage Dates link under Manage Course widget or on Manage Course page.
  2. Select all the items (Content items, Discussions, Dropboxes, Quizzes, etc.) that have the dates associated with them.Note: Make sure that all the items you have selected have dates associated with them. You need to uncheck the items that have no dates. This is very important, and if you leave the items without dates selected, D2L will give an error later.Select all the items that have dates and uncheck al the items that don't have dates.
    You can narrow down your choices by using Filter option. For example, if you have dates only associated with Quizzes and Dropboxes, check only them under Specific Tools selection on top of the page. Click the Apply Filter button.Use filter options to narrow down the options.
    You can also group the events on the top of the page by clicking on the Start Date or End Date columns names.Click on Select Dates to group the items with dates on top of the page.
  3. Click Offset Dates button and Bulk Offset window will pop up.Click Offset dates button.
  4. Under Offset action menu choose Both start and end date. Under Days action menu choose Calculated based on two dates.

    Bulk Offset popup window
  5. These two dates have to be the dates of the same reoccurring once a term event. I like to use beginning of the term for my reference. On this step we want to be absolutely sure that we select the correct date. It may cost us extra time fixing the mistake, if we make one here.
    Select the two dates
    I usually open another tab of my browser and go to Calendars on our pcc.edu page and choose Academic Calendar. On this page Beginning of term is clearly marked and we can go ahead and use these dates.

    Academic Calendar. Use Beginning of term date.
  6. Now let’s get back to D2L tab and select the start day of the previous term in the From select box. Select a start day of the new term in the To box.

    Bulk Offset pop up window.
  7. Click on Calculate button. Now you should have exact number of dates that to complete the offset.
  8. Click on Save and let D2L process your request. It may take some time for D2L to get this job done. You can refresh your browser’s window and see the results.

I hope, that you will find this useful and it will save you a lot of time every term. There is often more than one way of doing a similar thing, when it comes to D2L tools. Please share with us your preferred way of Offset Dates use in the comments if you know one.

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Finding non-engaged students (and imposters) http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/06/finding-non-engaged-students-and-imposters/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/06/finding-non-engaged-students-and-imposters/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 21:44:36 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5298 In this week’s post, I want to highlight the user progress tool again, but for a slightly different reason. At the start of the term, many of us staff are on the look out of cases of academic misconduct or financial aid fraud. I know many DL faculty are also worried about students who Show up then disappear after the first week. We don’t have a great word for these characters, but these Show-NoShow students create problems for us all. They hurt your course completion rates, they potentially take money that could have gone to intentional students, and they just seem to make us all feel bad.

This is a topic that usually gets discussed behind closed doors,  and it is going to be a first time that I’m not actually going to embed the video I created in the post. I’ll have a few bullets on using the Class Progress tool, but if you want to see the video, email me and I’ll send you a link to view it.

Am I building suspense? Good? Well, here are the bullets that are just some tips that are useful for anyone who notices a drop in student engagement. To access the User Progress tool’s class dashboard, go to Edit Course > View User Progress. This will bring up a dashboard showing your students, and key metrics from different course tools.

  • Change the Objectives column to something more appropriate to your class (discussion count, dropbox grades, etc.) by clicking Settings at the top of the page.
  • Remember that the Login history details all logins to D2L, not just your class.
  • Also, mind the peaks and valleys with visits.
  • Click on any student to view the individual progress info, including details on access to content, grades, etc.
  • Look at superficial discussion postings. Follow-up with the student to make sure they understood the point of the topic.
  • If something seems fishy, contact the Faculty Help Desk.


A view of the class progress

The Class view of User Progress gives you a great dashboard of student activity. Click the image to see a full size version.

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How we read differently on the web http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/06/how-we-read-differently-on-the-web/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/06/how-we-read-differently-on-the-web/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 17:00:16 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5293 One of the great things about working with faculty is that I learn something almost every day.

During spring term, I had the pleasure of working with Laura Sanders, a writing instructor, and Jen Klaudinyi, a faculty librarian.

I started to think about my own way of writing on the web – how I tend to write e-mails with long paragraphs, for example, and how the directions I give tend to be big blocks of text. I thought back to my grad-school days, where thoughts were not considered “serious” or “weighty” unless they were contained in paragraphs that took up at least half of a page! And then I thought about my own blog postings during the past year – especially my recent posting about LMSs. Look at that last paragraph! – it’s huge! It challenges the eye as an amorphous blob of text. Oh wait: I’m doing it again …

I’m not saying that we all need to give up our scholarly prose; there is certainly a time and place for it.

And I want to challenge the research in the UXMyths article about how people read on the web: I think that scholarly web sites and online courses must be consumed differently than CNN.com or TMZ.com are.

Vernier Caliper image by StevePB of Pixabay. Image licensed public domain.

Vernier Caliper image by StevePB of Pixabay. Image licensed public domain.

But I realized, when I read Laura’s feedback on the discussion board, that I could digest her comments so much more easily.

I would argue that online courses are different – in purpose and, to some extent, in design – from commercial web sites. But I am challenged by the idea that both exist in the same physical space – on the computer screen. For that reason, I think it makes sense to be mindful of how people – especially students – behave in the space.

Since people have an easier time reading shorter blocks of text on the web, I’m going to try writing that way – and I hope you will too.

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More data on video usage at PCC http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/06/more-data-on-video-usage-at-pcc/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/06/more-data-on-video-usage-at-pcc/#comments Mon, 01 Jun 2015 17:00:37 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=5223 A few weeks back, Monica posted a link to an article on findings about media usage from Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which also included some recommendations for creating media to better match viewership patterns. I found the info to be very interesting, and thought it reaffirmed trends we’d seen from our own video servers. I also thought that it could be fun to take a look at this data because people like to see local data. So in this post I’m going to look at media use from two different streaming servers, Mediasite and Kaltura.  Mediasite is primarily used for lecture capture, but at PCC, we’ve also used it to do higher quality productions that can be used to support online and hybrid classes. Kaltura is the streaming server that DL uses to host video content that cannot go on to a public streaming site like YouTube because of copyright restrictions, because the video is being posted to meet an accessibility accommodation, or because the instructor isn’t comfortable with the video being in the public.


Mediasite is a video capture and display platform that supports the capture of multiple views. Most commonly, it is used to capture the lecturer and the slideshow that is being presented. This format is identified as one of the recommendations from the MOOC study over standard video of slides and narration. I’m not the hugest fan of this format though because the videos tend to be long, and it seems that students prefer shorter video clips (6 minutes per the MOOC study). But how do our videos stack up?

I looked at data from January to May 2015 at just the top 50 “viewed on-demand” videos (I excluded any events). The average length of video was 24 minutes, 16 seconds, and the average time watched was 13 minutes, 20 seconds. In aggregate, over 45% of the video content isn’t being viewed!

Mediasite Usage
Duration (Min:Sec) Plays Avg. Play Time (Min:Sec) Avg. Play Drop-off
24:16 624 13:20 54.8%

When looking at the video series with the highest percentage watched, they were from General Science 109 and Psychology 101, both series that were produced with assistance from Media Services and the Video Production Unit. One takeaway is that you should get some help when creating media for your course, even if it’s just consultation.


Kaltura media dashboard shows playback across the system

Kaltura media dashboard shows playback across the system. Click to see full size.

This was a little easier with Kaltura because it provides me with a quick dashboard to view statistics on video usage. Just looking at the last 30 days, the dashboard shows me that there were 543 titles played 5,121 times, and that the average viewing time was 8 minutes and 32 seconds. Another useful feature on the dashboard is the Average Play Drop-off. That tells me the approximate percentage of the videos that was viewed over the last month was only about 54%. That’s very similar to what we saw with Mediasite.

Katura Media Dashboard
Plays Minutes played (HH:MM:SS) Avg. Play Time (MM:SS) Avg. Play Drop-off
5,122 730:07:50 8:33 53.7%

So what?

I’ve taken a handful of MOOCs and when I read Monica’s post, I thought “well, duh.” But it can be easy to dismiss something that happens somewhere else, especially with the word MOOC in the title. The purpose of this post is to put the recommendations of the previous post in to context with institutional viewing data. Based on the aggregate info from MediaSite and Kaltura, it’s possible to hone in on specifically one dimension of the previous recommendation:

  • Shorter videos are more engaging. Engagement drops shortly after 6 minutes

Engagement may be difficult to define, but it’s clear that the average drop off and average play time detailed above on our systems reinforce this recommendation. One additional dimension we can look at for videos in Kaltura is the drop-off rate in greater detail. We can look at the drop-off rate for a collection of videos, but we can also explore the drop-off for a single video. This can be useful for the instructor to see where students are either losing interest, or are already comfortable with the content. Let’s look at a single title used this term, which I’ll anonymize as to protect the owner of the video.

This “Lecture 6″ video is about 26 minutes long and is a narrated slideshow. Below are some details on where students are dropping off in the playback.

Drop-off of viewers during duration of a video clip.

Drop-off of viewers during duration of a video clip. Click to view full size.

Content Drop-off report for “Lecture 6″ in May 2015
Plays 25% Playthrough 50% Playthrough 75% Playthrough 100% Playthrough Playthrough Ratio
42 28 25 24 17 40.5%

Wow! That means that even before hitting that 6 minute mark, the video has already lost one third of the viewers. By the time the video ends, only 40% of the viewers are left. These stats aren’t perfect, but it does give you a glimpse in to the use of a single video. (Though I would be careful to make generalizations based on just this small sample.)

Are you getting to something?

Yes, I am trying to get to a point. When you have hundreds of thousands of data points showing how students respond to video in online classes, and you can see patterns at your own organization that mirror the same behavior, maybe it would be good approach new videos in a new way. Lectures are lectures, but that’s not the right format for online classes. Perhaps you can create shorter, concept specific videos. You’ll probably see higher playthrough, and you might be surprised how much more portable the smaller clips can be in the other classes you teach.

P.S. If you’re ever curious about how your media is being used on Kaltura, let me know.

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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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