Distance Education http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance Wed, 26 Oct 2016 20:53:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.1 Using your PCC Gmail account like a boss, part 1 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/10/using-your-pcc-gmail-account-like-a-boss-part-1/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/10/using-your-pcc-gmail-account-like-a-boss-part-1/#comments Mon, 24 Oct 2016 17:00:31 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7126 If you’d like to be able to send an email to your entire class without having to go to the Summary Class List in MyPCC, follow these instructions for creating a Gmail Contact Group from your class list.

How to create a Gmail Contact Group from your class list:

1. First, go to the Summary Class List on the Faculty tab of MyPCC. This is located on the right side of the Faculty tab.


2. Scroll to the bottom of the class list and click on the “Email class” link.


3. This will pull up an email message in your PCC Gmail account with all students from your summary class list in the BCC field. Select all the email addresses by clicking in the blank space next to an email address in the field and pressing ctrl + A on your keyboard (or cmd + A for a Mac). Then hit ctrl + C on your keyboard (or cmd + C for Mac). This will copy all the email addresses to your clipboard.


4. In your PCC Gmail account, click on the Mail dropdown menu in the top left and choose Contacts.


5. On the left side of the Contacts page, choose New Group.


6. Type in a meaningful name for the group in the Group Name field. If you’re creating multiple contact groups for multiple classes, you might want to list the year first, then the term, then the class, and then the CRN so that they will sort by year and term alphabetically.


7. The Contact Group should now appear in the list on the left side of the Contacts page. Click on it to select it.


8. At the top of the page, click on the add contacts button (which looks like a silhouette of a person with a plus sign next to it). A field will open up underneath the button where you can paste (ctrl + V or cmd + V) in all the email addresses that we copied earlier from your summary class list. Hit enter to complete the entry.


9. With that Contact Group created and the contacts added to the group, you can go back to your Gmail inbox by clicking on the Contacts dropdown menu in the top left and choosing Mail.


10. Now when you want to send an email to your entire class outside of MyPCC, you can type in the name of the Contact Group you created and Gmail will add all the email addresses of your students to the field. If you don’t want your students to receive a full list of all the email addresses of the other students in the class or to be able to reply to all the other students in the email thread, enter the Group Contact name in the BCC field.


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Tools to improve writing on the web http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/10/tools-to-improve-writing-on-the-web/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/10/tools-to-improve-writing-on-the-web/#comments Tue, 18 Oct 2016 17:27:50 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7122 Writing isn’t easy. Among our Online Student Services team, we strive to write any web content to be at a 9th grade reading level or lower. Creating technical documentation for online classes or explaining how to be a community college student is difficult because the content is difficult. But we’ve adopted a few tools to help us meet this goal. I wanted to share them because you also create content for students or for fellow instructors.


First, we do our best to adhere to the PCC Style Guidelines. We have a few of our own rules and exceptions, but the guidelines are helpful when approaching a new page, message, or post. What kinds of things are in the guide? Obvious things like keeping the message short and sweet. But some less obvious things like keeping a conversational tone and make the content more approachable are essential to blog posts. And if you still don’t know whether to hyphenate or capitalize certain words, look to the style guide. It will support you when you finally decide to drop the hyphen from online and email.

Writing boldly

We have been using the old Fleisch-Kincaid readability score to check our writing. Recently Gabe from the Web Team introduced us to the Hemingway Editor. It’s a browser based editor that reviews your writing and gives you a readability score based on a familiar grade level number. But it goes a step further. It identifies difficult sentences and can even recommend suggestions that can simplify your writing.

The hemingway app reports that our browser instructions are well written

Obviously this won’t work for all college level course content. But it can help with explaining class activities, simplifying announcements, and more. If anything, it forces you to do that annoying step when you proof your writing.

One note

The Hemingway app can insert HTML code  (e.g. <span data-offset-key=”eare8-5-0″>) that it uses in to your writing. If you make changes to your text in the app and want to copy it back, make sure you paste without formatting to remove the unneeded span tags. Using control-shift-v (command-shift-v on the mac) can accomplish this.

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Gamification: Use What Works in D2L http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/10/gamification-use-what-works-in-d2l/ Mon, 10 Oct 2016 17:00:41 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7078 Decorative illustration of gears and Gamification titleFirst, if youʻre interested in concrete examples of how you can apply Gamification in your D2L course, a free live webinar is available tomorrow (Tuesday, October 11th) at noon with D2L, sign up here:

Maximizing BrightSpace Tools to Create a Gamified Learning Environment

If you cannot make the live webinar it will be archived here in the Brightspace (aka D2L) Webinar Archives following the live presentation.

In the August 15, 2016 edition of the Distance Education Report, Dr. John Orlando, Associate Director of Training at Northcentral University summarizes research conducted on the effect of gamification features in massively open online courses (MOOCs). This research, conducted at Taiwan University by Jen-Wei Chang and Hug-Yu Wei reviewed MOOCs for game features and learning devices used to enable them in online courses.

I’m personally a big fan of MOOC data because I think it gives us as instructional technologists the opportunity to gain knowledge rapidly from a large data set. In the case of gamification, we’ve had approximately a decade since these ideas started being defined and used in course design. While there are clearly differences between our individual online courses and how MOOCs and their learners perform, I believe the insights offered by a wide pool of learners in a short period of time in a single place can be gleaned to our advantage.

Gamification itself is a daunting topic to approach, especially if you’re in the majority with other faculty and do not identify as a gamer yourself. Having data to illuminate gamified mechanics that are more likely to lead to successful outcomes, and also having support in understanding how locally to apply gamification features in our learning management system will hopefully help you focus and choose a gamification strategy or two that may improve learner engagement in your online course.

In synopsis, some of these strategies include the following gamification features:

  • Self Expression -assisting learners to build self identity can facilitate learner engagement
  • Self Discovery – building expertise by learning deep patterns that constitute mastery via reflection
  • Time Pressure – focus the mind and draw learners to the task at hand
  • Status – a primary human motivator using communication of accomplishment
  • Goal Setting – short term goals with immediate feedback scaffolded to keep interest
  • Rewards – non grade based rewards can help improve student motivation
  • Altruism – taps into the natural joy of helping one another

I know. These are all theoretically wonderful features, but very abstract. So, how do we take this information and apply it in our own practice without giving up all of our free time for the next decade to do so? Join us in tomorrow’s BrightSpace webinar, or catch the posted archive recording to find out!

p.s : If you are on the PCC team, the article has been posted in Spaces (login required) for your review. You can also read a draft review copy of Chang and Wei’s research here. And, if you haven’t seen it and are considering gamification as an instructional strategy, check out Dan Pink’s TED talk on motivation.
Now available – royalty free media to enhance your course! http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/10/now-available-royalty-free-media-to-enhance-your-course/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/10/now-available-royalty-free-media-to-enhance-your-course/#respond Fri, 07 Oct 2016 14:26:52 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7093 Royalty Free media is availableDistance Education is providing pilot access to royalty free media collections during 2016-17. We’re hoping to discover if this helps our instructors improve media use while assuring copyright and preserving precious teaching time.

There are several collection sources that include pictures (including vector images), audio, and video clips that you can use in your online class.

Learn more on our Royalty Free Media Collections page.

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Retiring legacy Collaborate/Online Rooms in December 2016 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/10/retiring-legacy-collaborateonline-rooms-in-december-2016/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/10/retiring-legacy-collaborateonline-rooms-in-december-2016/#respond Fri, 07 Oct 2016 13:22:11 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7073 the new collaborate ultra interface has a lot less junk on it.After years of near usefulness, we are finally retiring our support and integration with Blackboard Collaborate 12.6, also known for years as “Elluminate.” We have used the Java-based platform for 8 years but have never experienced the kind of adoption we had hoped for largely due to the complex support needs of the product. So after fall term ends, we will be disabling the the legacy Collaborate product and the Online Rooms tool as you know it.

But this doesn’t mark the end of the Collaborate experience entirely. We will be using a replacement product, Collaborate Ultra, which is a browser-based online conferencing tool with many of the same features as the previous product. We’ve done a soft launch of Collaborate Ultra and the feedback from the instructors using it has been great.

If you’re using the legacy Collaborate product (also known as Online Rooms in D2L), there are many opportunities this term to find a training for the new Ultra platform. Our Instructional Technology Specialists are offering many training sessions for the new interface, and they’ve created some very simple handouts to get you started.

What does Collaborate Ultra look like?

The new interface will seem very familiar to anyone who has used Google Hangouts in the past. Here’s a very quick intro played to a happy little piano jingle.


What does this means for students?

Early feedback from our friends in BA and CIS using Collaborate Ultra suggests that students are not having problems using Collaborate Ultra. We will provide an intro for students handout on the basics of using the new software.

What does this means for instructors?

If you are an instructor who hasn’t used Collaborate in the past, or have and thought it was wretched, this is a good time to revisit the tool. It has an improved and far simpler interface and doesn’t suffer from the same 30 minute setup issues that the older version often required.

If you do use the legacy version of Collaborate, we hope you’ll attend one of the training sessions or just glance at the handouts and  continue using the new version the same way you did in the past. There may be a few features in the legacy version that don’t yet exist in the new tool, but it is getting monthly updates with new features and we may be able to tell you if that feature is already on the roadmap, or request it if it isn’t.

What about old recordings?

If you had recordings of online meetings in the legacy system, they will not be transferred automatically. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since using the playback of recordings was one of the more problematic features of the old software.  If you need to preserve old recordings, let us know and we’ll work with you to convert them and get them migrated on to our streaming server.

What is next?

Watch our site and your email for updates as we approach winter break. You will see more training opportunities, including some with free equipment for instructors who attend the trainings! We’re hoping to help you Gear Up for success with these engaging online tools.

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Using the style sheet in D2L http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/10/using-the-style-sheet-in-d2l/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/10/using-the-style-sheet-in-d2l/#respond Mon, 03 Oct 2016 17:00:54 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=7036 The course templates in D2L contain a link to a “style sheet” that you can use to make your pages in D2L look really professional. In case you are not familiar with style sheets, their official name is “cascading style sheets” and they control the look of pages at a global level. So instead of specifying on every page in your course that you want the page to look a certain way, you can simply have every page refer to the style sheet, which will make every page look good.

Much of this control happens in the background, and since the D2L template comes with pages that are linked to the style sheet, many instructors don’t even realize that the style sheet is controlling the look of their pages. But it’s helpful to know how the style sheet works and what it does, in case you want to use all of its features. In this post, I will first describe how you can make sure you are using the style sheet, and then I’ll describe a few of the features the style sheet affords on your pages.

How to make sure you are using the style sheet

If you like to code by hand, you can just make sure that the following code is in the “head” section of your HTML document:

style sheet code

Or you can simply use a template page in D2L that is already linked to the style sheet. Our colleague Marc Goodman explains in an excellent video how to create a styled page using a template.

Note that D2L has changed a few things since the video was made:

  • The “New” button is now called “Upload / Create.”
  • The “Copy from a file” page is now called “Browse for a template” and looks like this:

browse for template button



But both buttons are in the same place and work the same way.

Note that both the online-course template and the on-campus course template work the same way, so whether you are teaching online or on-campus, you can have professionally styled pages in your D2L course shell.

What the style sheet does for your pages

The way you’ll really know that the style sheet is working is when you see your page magically transformed to look something like this:

styled page

Here’s a brief list of features:

  • The “Introduction” is white text on a saturated blue background because the style sheet says every H1 heading should look like that.
  • “Overview” is large blue text with a line underneath because the style sheet says every H2 heading should look like that.
  • The lists (the numbers and the bullet-points) are nicely indented and spaced because of the style sheet.
  • Even the footer at the bottom of the page is controlled by the style sheet (centered, italicized, and just lookin’ fine down there).

One more prominent feature of the style sheet is how it works with images.

I’ve helped many instructors who don’t understand why they can’t just drag an image onto a page and have it stay where they left it, as in Word or PowerPoint. Images don’t work that way on a page in D2L because, once again, the style sheet insists on controlling where the image appears.

The style sheet has a definition called “floatright” that allows an image to appear on the right side of the page as text wraps around it, like this:

image on right side of page

Or maybe you prefer to have your image appear on the left side of the page and have the text wrap around it (“floatleft”), like this:

image on left side of page

All of these features are available to you from the toolbar under “Edit HTML File”:


If you would like to make full use of the style sheet, you might make an appointment to sit down with one of our amazing Instructional Technology Specialists. But if you already have a D2L course shell, you can make a sample page and try calling up an H1 format, an H2 format, or moving an image around the page – or making other discoveries. Knowing how to format your page, using the full power of the style sheet, can be quite an empowering experience!

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D2L CD update 10.6.5 for September 2016 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/09/d2l-cd-update-10-6-5-for-september-2016/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/09/d2l-cd-update-10-6-5-for-september-2016/#respond Mon, 19 Sep 2016 19:22:32 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=6952 icon continuous deliveryThe next Continuous Delivery update is this Friday, September 23rd. Who does an update on the Friday before the start of the academic year? Well, we do now because of the Continuous Delivery’s schedule. Fortunately, there’s nothing major happening this time.

Sadly, the best update from this release was delayed. We were supposed to get Discussion notifications in the Pulse mobile app, but that was delayed until October. I am really excited about that one.

September is another mostly quiet month. There are some useful features added for data-heads, like the ability to export Quiz and Survey results directly to Excel. This functionality appears in the results area, the statistics, and more. You can export the results from quizzes to identify problematic questions and more now without relying on the built in charts. (btw, Melany has a great post on working with quizzes).

export to excel buttons are now everywhere

We’re also enabling Audio Note 2.0 and Video Note 2.0, which actually came out in a previous release. Our team wanted to evaluate the implications for support and usability before enabling these features. It looks like they are both an improvement over the older audio feedback tool.

Audio Note 2.0

If you used the audio recorder in the past, you probably noticed how finicky the Flash tool was. And you probably  noticed how the recording was a WAV audio file that you and your students had to download to play (assuming you had an application to play it with). This update is a step forward, but not a complete improvement over the old tool.

  1. It now uses an HTML5-based recorder and player to record up to 3 minutes of audio.
  2. The audio is saved as a compressed mp3 file rather than a plain old uncompressed WAV file.
    html5 audio recorder
  3. Playback now occurs, albeit awkwardly, in an HTML page attachment rather than requiring a download.

This tool is available in discussion under the Attachment area (like before) and in the Assignment feedback area. Both are great places to leave human-seeming feedback for your students. Audio feedback on assignments is a WKBP, or a Well Known Best Practice.

Video Note 2.0

Video Note, like Audio Note 2.0, allows you to leave video comments and feedback using a webcam. It is also HTML5-based, and so far seems more stable than the older webcam feature. Unfortunately, the player is still in its infancy, and it lacks important feature like the ability to add captions. We aren’t recommending this tool yet except in more personal feedback, or disposable (i.e. fleeting) media.

A preview of the Video Note 2.0 tool

The upside of this tool is that it can be used either in the Discussion attachments area like the Audio Note 2.0, or using the Insert Stuff option almost any place you can use the HTML editor.

As usual, there are a litany of bug fixes, but the are mostly boring. If you want to read more, check out the latest release info in the Brightspace Community.

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D2L Tool name changes for fall http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/09/d2l-tool-name-changes-for-fall/ Sun, 04 Sep 2016 20:32:18 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=6950 This fall, some common tools in D2L will see a name change. The vendor has made the changes based on extensive user testing with new students. If you have been using D2L in the past, you may notice some changes to the following tools:

  • News will become Announcements
  • Dropbox will become Assignments (students and instructors often confuse the D2L Dropbox with the file storage system Dropbox)
  • Pager will be called Instant Messenger (but almost no-one uses it)

For the most part, these name changes don’t really matter much. However, there may be a short transition time where instructors need to update references to instructions in their courses to match the new tools. So if you see instructions in your class that reference the “Dropbox,” the tool is now called “Assignments.”

These changes will all take place on September 7th, 2016.

D2L CD update 10.6.4 for August 2016 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/08/d2l-cd-update-10-6-4-for-august-2016/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/08/d2l-cd-update-10-6-4-for-august-2016/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 18:32:13 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=6914 This month’s Continuous Delivery update has a number of improvements that we won’t be enabling until Winter term at the soonest because they are major visual updates. But this release does have a couple nifty additions. The updates should appear this Friday, August 26th.

Let me start with my favorite update.

  • Practice Run: This feature lets you try out an Intelligent Agent in your course without sending out any  notifications just to see how many people will be contacted in the real run. I always get nervous about creating an intelligent agent because I don’t know if it’s going to send a message to the wrong students. This will hopefully take some of the fear out of using this awesome tool.

    The Practice Run option has been added to the Intelligent Agent tool

    The agent list now has a lot more useful info.

  • You can now view the history and the results of the last time an individual agent has run. This is useful in seeing who might have received a message and when messages were last sent. There’s a fine balance between communicating with students and over-communicating.
  • MIME Type flexibility: This update gives instructors some flexibility when dealing with non-standard file types. Now you can attach those unique file types in content and not have the browser freak out (that’s the technical term) when the student tries to download that file. This will be a popular update for anyone teaching programming courses where you share source files.
  • If you add files from the Shared area (that’s where those Intro to Online Learning files are from), and you want to modify the file, it will let you save a copy in your course.

There are a number of other fixes,  including allowing videos to expand to full screen, instead of just full frame. We’re really excited about the visual updates and will be working on updating our template, and the whole interface, and will be sharing that with you as we learn more.

Coming this Fall (September 7th)

This update also includes some changes to tool language, but we are going to delay the implementation of these language changes until after Summer term. This will give everyone enough time to update any custom instructions you may have developed for your course, as well as all the documentation we maintain. As a preview, the following tools may be changing.

  • News will become Announcements
  • Dropbox will become Assignments (students and instructors often confuse the D2L Dropbox with the file storage system Dropbox)
  • Edit Course will become Course Admin
  • Pager will be called Instant Messenger
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Video Camp Fall 2016 Apps due by August 22nd http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/08/video-camp-fall-2016-apps-due-by-august-22nd/ http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/2016/08/video-camp-fall-2016-apps-due-by-august-22nd/#respond Mon, 15 Aug 2016 18:47:44 +0000 http://www.pcc.edu/about/distance/?p=6906 This is a friendly reminder that if you are interested in participating in Video Camp, we now have an open application process that can collect your request to participate throughout the year. We review applications during week ten of each term so that if yours is approved, you will be notified during week eleven and have the entirety of the following term to work with the Video Production Unit team on your project.

You can find the open application for Video Camp here. If you are interested in participating Fall 2016,  be sure to get your application in to us by Monday, August 22nd at 8 a.m.

Questions? Check out our F.A.Q. Additional assistance? Contact Monica Marlo

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