Distance Education http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance Tue, 02 Feb 2016 17:11:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.1 Want current news on your course homepage? http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/02/want-current-news-on-your-course-homepage/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/02/want-current-news-on-your-course-homepage/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 17:04:16 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=6414 news iconThere is so much information out there on the subject that you teach. Do you sometimes wish that you could harness some of that information in one place? A place that students could browse at their leisure?  Many newspapers, magazines, journals, and news stations have RSS feeds that allow you to create a “live” list of current articles on subjects that you choose. This list is automatically updated for you, too. Once you add an RSS feed, the content continuously updates as the source adds new articles. You  never have to update the feed for your class unless you want to add or remove a source.

Benefits to student learning

Having a live feed of current articles on your topic adds learner interest and engagement in your course. A headline might catch a student’s eye, prompting him or her to read the article.  The results of such an action mean at minimum your student just voluntarily read a current event/issue/news item related to the topics in your course that wasn’t required! At best, the student reads an eye catching article, is able to apply knowledge gained in your course to evaluate the information, and initiates a dialogue about it with you and/or with fellow students.


How to create a news feed

FeedWindFeedWind is a free web application that allows you to build your own news widget using the RSS feeds from your favorite information sources. There are a number of customizations you can implement from color to number of articles to scroll timing. All you need is the website address (URL) of the RSS feed. Here are a few examples of available feeds:

And, there are so many more. Just sit down and search for your favorite informational site or a topic in general. Include “RSS” as one of the search terms.  Here are the instructions for creating a news feed widget using FeedWind.  These instructions also outline the procedure for creating a widget in D2L and adding it to your course homepage. Happy creating!

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Special Access bug in D2L 10.5.5 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/01/special-access-bug-in-d2l-10-5-5/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/01/special-access-bug-in-d2l-10-5-5/#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2016 02:24:53 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=6410
icon continuous deliveryWe have had several instructors report problems with the Special Access feature in D2L quizzes and we have confirmed a bug with that feature. The gist of the bug is that when you set special access time for a quiz, it displays the special access time using Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), so it looks like student special access is off by 8 hours. Fortunately, this is a display issue for instructors but not students. It will still be available to students using the time you originally set. Here’s an example:

The date/time I set up for the special access was:
Open on 1/20/2016 at 11:30 a.m.
Close on 1/29/2016 at 11:30 a.m.

When I saved… D2L changed it to:
Open on 1/20/2016 at 7:30 pm
Close on 1/29/2016 at 7:30 pm

Student sees:
Open on 1/20/2016 at 11:30 a.m.
Close on 1/29/2016 at 11:30 a.m.

D2L has addressed the bug in the next Continuous Delivery release, which is going to be installed on our test server this Friday (Jan 29th) and our production server on Friday, February 26th.

If you use this feature and have any questions about these bugs, please contact our faculty help desk at 971-722-8227 or dlhelp@pcc.edu. After hours support from D2L is also available by calling our phone number.

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Online course observations – a fresh perspective http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/01/online-course-observations-a-fresh-perspective/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/01/online-course-observations-a-fresh-perspective/#comments Mon, 25 Jan 2016 18:00:23 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=6387 You’ve probably heard that part of the new contractual agreement includes an observation of an online course as well as a classroom teaching observation as part of the standard assessment cycle for those who teach in both modalities. There are major differences between observing classroom courses and online courses. We’re starting to look at ways to make the online course observation the most productive experience possible for all involved.

I’ve been doing some exploration on this topic. To start out, here are a few suggestions from a recent NW eLearn Conference presentation by Dr. Carey Schroyer, Associate Dean of Instruction, Edmonds Community College. Schroyer states that one of the main observation challenges facing department chairs and deans is giving feedback in the spirit intended. It can be helpful to reframe the conversation as a professional development opportunity with these desired outcomes.

  • Ensure the process is meaningful and informative for faculty and administration
  • Clearly outline expectations and ensure process transparency
  • Minimize the anxiety associated with observation
  • Encourage faculty participation in the process
  • Provide resources
  • Ensure continuous feedback about the process & the system

Digging deeper into a couple of these, Schroyer notes that it’s important to highlight the observation as an individualized opportunity for 1-1 professional development. The process needs to be collegial with plenty of faculty input, and it’s helpful to meet in person when possible. I think this is an essential component when feasible, to meet to view and discuss specific components of the course together.

One question to consider in a formal observation of an online course is the distinction between design elements, which might have been created by another course developer, and observable teaching behaviors. Dr. Thomas Tobin, Coordinator of Learning Technologies at Northeastern Illinois University, exemplifies this in his article “The Case of the Unevaluated Online Courses” (Distance Education Report, Nov. 1, 2015). Tobin explains, for example, that “lecturing” is considered an observable teaching practice in the classroom, whereas lecture notes would not be considered in an observation of online teaching, especially if another instructor designed the course. To further clarify the distinction, videos and podcasts included in the initial course design would not be considered when looking at “observable teaching behaviors.” However, videos or podcasts created by the instructor as part of the course delivery to further explain concepts as a response to student questions would be considered as an “observable teaching behavior.” On a related note, Tobin’s recent webinar “How You, Too, Can Observe & Evaluate Online Courses” is still available for viewing. In it he shares a number of ideas about topics ranging from what is unique about online teaching to what are effective teaching behaviors to observe.

Sometime in the future you will be hearing more about tools designed to assist with observing online courses. There are various tools out there already. To produce a rubric or tool that meets PCC’s needs and culture, PCC will need to engage in efforts to refine what already exists through a process that includes all of the stakeholders. Any resulting tool would need to be flexible in terms of how a SAC might like to adapt it.

I’d like to close by saying that peer-to-peer sharing of a course with colleagues at PCC can also be an enlightening opportunity to share teaching strategies and receive useful feedback. I am always happy to help guide or coordinate these efforts, so please feel free to contact me if you might be interested in exploring this approach.

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Adopt OER, save students money http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/01/adopt-oer-save-students-money/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/01/adopt-oer-save-students-money/#comments Tue, 19 Jan 2016 18:56:47 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=6365 As of January 19th, instructors at PCC who have adopted free and/or Open Education Resources (OER) are saving students nearly $90,000 per term on textbook and material costs. That’s a great start, but the OER interest group at PCC is aiming to save students one million dollars by the fall of 2017. What are OER and why is PCC doing this? There are many reasons, but I think this intro from Open Oregon answers better than I can.

At PCC, many faculty have already selected course material that they feel adequately meet the instructional rigor needed for their courses but don’t require expensive textbooks or materials. These instructors are passionate about their subjects and passionate about supporting student success. Does supporting student success interest you? Are you curious about what open content might be available for your discipline? You’ll be happy to know that our own library has a guide for Open Education Resources, and it’s a great place to get started.

Are you already using OER in an online class? Please share it with us.

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D2L CD update for January canceled http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/01/d2l-cd-update-for-january-canceled/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/01/d2l-cd-update-for-january-canceled/#comments Tue, 19 Jan 2016 17:21:01 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=6363 D2L will not have a continuous delivery update for January 2016. Instead, the January release (10.5.6) has been postponed until February 26th, 2016. Once release notes are available, we will share updates about the coming release.icon continuous delivery

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Three online learning tools to try in 2016 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/01/three-online-learning-tools-to-try-in-2016/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/01/three-online-learning-tools-to-try-in-2016/#comments Mon, 11 Jan 2016 18:00:05 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=6301 Since you are already making resolutions for the new year, why not add a resolution to try a new online learning tool?

I suggest you try – if you haven’t already – one of the following tools in D2L:

  1. Checklists
  2. Rubrics
  3. Surveys

When I first saw the checklist tool in D2L, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. The tool basically allows a student to check boxes on a list. When s/he checks all of the boxes, a message appears saying “Good job! You are done with the checklist!”

Part of a checklist from Carole Eustice's CAS 133 course

Part of a checklist from Carole Eustice’s CAS 133 course

Then I discovered that the real power of the checklist is only realized when you pair it with a release condition, to wit: create a release condition for a quiz, a dropbox assignment, or a discussion that requires the student to complete the checklist before s/he can gain access. This way you make it more likely that the student will view videos, read instructions, or complete other assignments BEFORE moving on to an assessment. Of course the checklist doesn’t ensure s/he will actually be prepared, since the student can check all of the boxes without actually doing the work. But if the student doesn’t do the work and isn’t prepared to take a quiz, she has only herself to blame.


The rubric tool in D2L is practically perfect. I say “practically” because there are still a few things about the way it interacts with the grade book that I wish were better (not always transferring a grade, for example). And I wish the rubric would show up for students more prominently. But I still haven’t found a better way to communicate to students exactly what I expect them to do. And yes, you can attach rubrics to discussions, dropbox folders, and even quizzes, though I usually see them attached to dropbox folders.

A rubric from Rondi Schei's EC 201 course

A rubric from Rondi Schei’s EC 201 course


I love using surveys to find out how things are going during an online course. Steve Beining, manager of eLearning, gave me an excellent suggestion about using a short, one-question survey to check in with students at the end of each learning module. I’ve used the survey tool for this purpose and it’s working quite well. If you do use the survey tool, I’d recommend you keep the questions short and don’t use too many questions – to improve the likelihood students will complete the survey. Responses can be anonymous, or not, but if they are not anonymous, tell students in advance so they’ll know any info they provide can be traced back to them.

A one-question survey from Fundamentals of Online Teaching

A one-question survey from Fundamentals of Online Teaching

Where to find these tools

From your course homepage in D2L, click on Edit Course and then look for the section called Assessments. You’ll find Checklists, Rubrics, and Surveys here, along with Dropbox, Quizzes, and other, more traditional types of assessments. Give them a try and expand your online-assessment toolkit in 2016!


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Discussions – how you can tell when a student has edited their post? http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/01/discussions-how-you-can-tell-when-a-student-has-edited-their-post/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/01/discussions-how-you-can-tell-when-a-student-has-edited-their-post/#comments Mon, 04 Jan 2016 18:00:34 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=6259 D2L has added version tracking to posts in the discussion tool. Students and many instructors have been begging for this functionality for years, and it was even added a while back, but there wasn’t a clear way for instructors to view when edits to a post had occurred. Now you can now see the original post along with all edited versions of the post with the date & time the changes were made.

  • When a student edits a post for the first time you’ll see a small pencil icon added to the message title that shows who authored the post with date/time.
    Message title
  • If you hover your cursor over the pencil you’ll see when the post was last edited.
    message with edit

To see specifics about when the post was edited:

  • If you’re using Reading view, click on the action menu next to the “title of the student’s thread” and select View Post History.
    reading view - history
  • If you’re using the Grid view, click on the student’s thread so it’s displayed on the viewing panel, click More Actions button and select History.
    history -grid view

The history of a discussion posting will be listed in the order the changes were made. Oldest to newest, on the right of each post will show the date/time the change was made.  The last entry in the list is the original post.

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D2L 10.5.4 Update coming on December 16th, 2015 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/12/d2l-10-5-4-update-coming-on-december-16th-2015/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/12/d2l-10-5-4-update-coming-on-december-16th-2015/#comments Tue, 01 Dec 2015 20:07:24 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=6178 icon continuous deliveryPCC will be upgrading our D2L server on Wednesday, December 16th, 2015 to the latest version. This update shouldn’t cause any surprises, but we wanted to give you a heads up about a few changes.

  1. D2L has re-branded their product as “Brightspace.” You may see that language in help files, etc., but we’ll probably just keep calling it D2L.
  2. Once we complete the upgrade, the software will be on a “Continuous Delivery” model, where small updates are released every month. This means that new features (and bug fixes) make it to the platform much more quickly. Updates will happen on the last Friday of every month, but there won’t be any downtime for you. We will still have a monthly maintenance window around the second Sunday of the month, though.
  3. Screenshot of the new pulse app.

    Sample screenshot of an upcoming week in the new Pulse app.

    D2L has added support for a new mobile app called Pulse. It’s designed to provide quick access to the information that students typically want about their classes. It may not be ready by the time we upgrade, but it should be available soon. Check out this video about Pulse and it’s features.

  4. You will be able to edit your own discussion posts rather than having to contact your instructor. Any changes will be marked and a revision history of any changes will be recorded as well.
  5. You won’t be able to access D2L during the upgrade.

When there are future Continuous Delivery updates, we’ll post here about any changes that might be important to students.

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D2L 10.5 Top 5 Upgrades http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/11/d2l-10-5-top-5-upgrades/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/11/d2l-10-5-top-5-upgrades/#comments Mon, 30 Nov 2015 18:00:50 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=6181 D2L Brightspace logo

You probably heard that we will update our D2L learning environment on December 16th from previous blog post: Announcing D2L upgrade and how D2L will change their software delivery as a continuous delivery model. All of that may be fine and dandy, but what you probably want to know is how does this D2L upgrades to 10.5 affect me? What things in the new D2L version that I need to pay attention to for next term?

So I’m listing the top 5 things you probably would like to know about the new D2L 10.5. Here we go… let’s count them up…

D2L 10.5 Top 5 Upgrades

1. Copy Course Components – includes associated files

D2l 10.5 copy course includes associated filesThis update makes it easier and faster for instructors to include associated files when copying components from one course to another. Previously, instructors had to use the Course Files tool as well as select content in order to copy all associated files and prevent broken links. Now, when instructors use the Include associated files feature, D2L imports all files associated with selected course components to the new course.

In addition, for content topics and modules, this feature analyzes HTML and CSS files to retrieve any files referenced within them, such as embedded images, media, JavaScript, and CSS files. All these files are also copied, maintaining links and styles.

This feature is great for exporting individual modules in a common cartridge format to share with others (think OER).

To get your course ready for next term, I recommend using COPY ALL COMPONENTS when you copy your course, just to be safe!

2. Custom Homepage and Navbars stay active after copying

If an instructor is using a custom homepage and navbar active in the course when you copy the content, it will carry through to the new course. You don’t need to  re-activate in the new course every time they are copied.

3. Content – linking/embedding Video Topics directly inside the module

Instructors can link/embed video or audio files by inserting the url or embed code to create a more uniform viewing experience for the students directly from the Content Module area.

D2l 10.5 Linking/embedding Video Topics directly inside the Content Module, step 1

D2l 10.5 Linking/embedding Video Topics directly inside the Content Module, step 2

If you would like to track when students view the video through Completion Summary, link/embed the video this way instead of in an HTML page.
How to do it? From the Content, select the Module name and click on the video name. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Completion Summary tab. You should be able to see which students have viewed your video below the topic video.D2l 10.5 Content - Completion Summary

4. Discussions – bulk bdit feature

Instructors are now able to delete multiple forums or topics on one screen to maintain Discussions area more efficiently. You no longer have to click on individual discussion topic to delete it since it’s almost a one click button now.

How to do it? From the Discussion area, click More Actions and choose Delete. Select multiple forums or topics and click Delete.

D2l 10.5 Discussion-Delete multiple forums or topics

5. Discussion – students can now edit discussion threads

Now students have the ability to edit their discussion threads, you may be concerned about academic integrity. Don’t worry because you can track all versions of their threads in detail! You can see their original thread post with date/time, and their edited thread post with date/time.

How to do it?

  • If you’re using Reading view, click on the action menu next to the “title of the student’s thread” and select View Post History.
    D2l 10.5 Discussion-Reading view - View Post History
  • If you’re using the Grid view, click on the student’s thread so it’s displayed on the viewing panel, click More Actions button and select History.
    D2l 10.5 Discussion-Grid view - view History

Still have question?

If you still have questions, or you worry about how the new upgrade would affect your course, don’t worry! Our ITS have set aside some drop-in hours in case you want to stop by and get some help.

  • Sylvania: Thu, Jan 7th, 11am – 1pm at SY TCB 209
  • Southeast: Wed, Dec 23nd, 11am – 4pm at SE Tabor 107

Now that we count up to 5, you probably wonder,

is that all? NOOO…..

we have a few more coming. I can’t fit them all in this post, but there are more things in our upgrade that we will reveal in the future blog post, so stay tune!


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Adding a Q&A Widget to your course http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/11/adding-a-qa-widget-to-your-course/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2015/11/adding-a-qa-widget-to-your-course/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 22:52:55 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=6166 Want to bring more awareness to your Q & A discussion forum? Putting a widget on your course homepage is a great way to accomplish this goal. It makes the forum front and center for students as soon as they log in. It is a continual reminder that they can ask questions (anonymously even) at any time!

D2L Homepage with a Q and A widget in top right

Why might this be a better idea than having a student email? Well, nothing takes the place of email for a personal correspondence regarding grades, illness, or other extenuating factors. However, if you could reduce the number of times you answer the same or similar question regarding course content or assignments, wouldn’t that be great? Another thing is that students can post anonymously. This gives those students who don’t like to have attention brought to themselves the opportunity to ask questions without being judged. I highly recommend that the Q & A forum be set so that students can post anonymously.

Want to put one in your class? It is quite easy! You can name your forum anything you like. You can be creative or use the PCC standard “Student Q & A.” It is up to you and an opportunity to put a unique stamp on your course homepage!

four examples of Q and A WidgetsCreating your own Q&A widget

Make sure you are logged into your PCC Gmail and then go to the Google Doc Adding a Q&A Widget. Here you will find step by step instructions on adding a Q&A widget yourself. If you would like some question mark options, I have started a repository in the Google folder Question Marks, which is available to PCC instructors. These are free for you to use and augment.

Promoting your Q&A forum

Advertising the Q&A forum as the primary place for asking questions regarding course content and assignments helps to reduce the number of student emails and it also makes the answers available to all students. Make sure you provide this information in your Welcome message, your Syllabus, in the discussion topic prompt, and even in your weekly news items. The more your students see you promoting the forum, the more likely they will be to use it!

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