eLearning Frenzy

eLearning is like a sewer, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.


SHSU Online

SHSU Online Support Desk – Interim Hours

Beginning Monday, May 13, our Support Desk hours will be:

Monday – Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Saturday – Sunday: Closed

We’ll resume regular hours after Memorial Day.

Support Desk Summer Interim Hours

NBC Learn on Blackboard – Adding a Media Rich Resource to Your Courses

NBC Learn on Blackboard

One of the best things about the connectedness of the web space is the ability to find media rich content to supplement or enhance course activities and materials.  The beauty of this particular medium is that it is not just left to the instructor to utilize this media.  Students can now liven up online discussions, assignments, projects and more with historical, current or relevant video or audio media.   YouTube has long been a mainstay in this arena, in that it’s API allows for easy integration and everyone is familiar with what it does.  However, there are other vast collections of resources out there that are relatively untapped by the student/faculty population.  One of these curated resources is NBC Learn.

NBC Learn is a rich and unique resource that provides thousands of historic news reports, current event stories, original content, primary source documents, and other digital media specifically designed to teach and engage students.  NBC Learn content can easily be downloaded for offline use or connected to your institution’s Learning Management System, which in my case is Blackboard.

The content is also fully accessible it allows for keyboard navigation, assistive technologies(works with screen readers), support for deaf and hard of hearing.

NBC Learn Portal

You can Browse NBC Learn, and see the Collection of all NBC resources within the NBC Learn environment.  You can browse by category that best matches your field of study or just Search NBC Learn via keyword.

Each video has its own CueCard with metadata like source, date, description, keywords, & citation (allows students or faculty to include citation in posting), as well as transcript tab for full transcript.

NBC Learn Cue Card

  • Each video can be saved to your personal playlist within NBC Learn.   You can also print a 2 dimensional version of the CueCard.
  • Download:  You can choose a quality version and save it locally to your computer. (You will need administrative access to your computer as the download will be an executable NBC Learn player)
  • Videos can be sorted for easier searching. (Title, Date, Story Date, Alphabetic, Recently Updated)
  • Don’t see your category? NBC Learn allows users to “contact us” and add comments/suggestions in terms of new categories for the NBC learn site.

NBC Learn on Blackboard

NBC Learn & Blackboard – Working Together

There are a couple of ways to add NBC Learn content to your courses:

  1. Employing the Mashups button anywhere you use the Blackboard text/content editor (items, folders, discussions, etc…)
    Adding NBC Learn to Blackboard

    This particular option allows both you and your students to build context around the video.  Whether you are introducing a unit or your students are adding to a vibrant online discussion, using the Mashups button in the content editor can add rich media throughout your Blackboard course.

  2. Accessing the Mashups area under Build Content and selecting NBC Content (places content directly in content area as it’s own item).NBC Learn Mashup Item

    The beauty of this option is that the media itself becomes a piece of course content.

*Depending upon your institution’s setup, you may be able to leverage a NBC Learn content module that will allow you to display categories of videos like: NBC Learn Science, History, News, Social Studies etc…

NBC Learn and Blackboard have integrated and that is a win for Blackboard instructors and students.  Now course content and contributions can become more rich, relevant and engaging!

New Semester? Check Your Course Before You Wreck Your Course!

Check your CourseAnother new semester has arrived at my workplace and Alma mater. We are just days(2) away from the start of a the fall 2014 semester. Many of us have moved last fall’s content over or re-purposed course materials from last spring. Copying course content from previous semesters saves us time and effort that we would otherwise spend re-inventing the wheel.

As you prepare to unleash your online course resources to your students via a course in your Learning Management System, you will need to take some things into consideration to ensure a smooth start to the semester.

Here are a few steps you can take to help guaranty a good start for you and your students:

  1. Get your course’s dating life straight. – Content Availability & Due Dates
  2. Take….these Broken Links! – Check Your External Content
  3. Get a second opinion! – Is Your Course Navigable?

Get Your Course’s Dating Life Straight
(Content Availability & Due Dates)

Date AdjustmentNothing can be more frustrating for your students than having an assignment that is due in the syllabus but unavailable in your Blackboard course.  Obviously this is not done on purpose to confuse the students.  Some content from a previous semester could have been date specific and so a new semester needs new availability dates.  Checking your due dates is also an important part of getting your course’s dating life straight.  Not only to ensure that you have days and dates mentioned correctly throughout your course, but you want to ensure you don’t have things due on holidays etc..

This date checking session also provides you with a good opportunity to make changes for the better.  Think back to your previous semester when you taught the course.  Maybe there wasn’t enough time to complete an assignment, or maybe there was too much.  Make changes to this semester’s calendar based upon issues or opportunities from the previous semester.

Blackboard provides a great tool for date management inside your course.  The Date Management tool can be found here: Control panel>Course Tools>Date Management. The tool allows you to change dates based upon:

  • Using the Course Start Date
  • Adjust by number of Days
  • List all Dates for Review

Being aware of your course’s dating life will greatly benefit you and your students.

Take….these Broken Links!
(Check Your External Content)

One of the primary benefits of posting files and content in Blackboard or any Learning Management System is that you can feel very secure in the knowledge that within reason, your content/files will always be accessible.  This is NOT true with links to external content.  Whether you are linking to an Internet article, a YouTube video, a SlideShare presentation or some other external content, you never know when that content might disappear.

This is why it is uber-important for you to check links to external content prior to releasing it to your students.  This means checking prior to the start of the semester as well as just before your students have to use the content.  Ensuring that links to external content work before your students need them will help reduce pain and frustration within your Blackboard course.

Here is a helpful (and funny) eLearning Best Practice music video to help you remember to Take….these Broken Links!

Get a Second Opinion!
(Make Sure Your Students can find Their Away Around)

So, you have dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s.  Your course dates are adjusted and your links have been checked.  You’ve even read through your course and feel pretty good about it. There is another best practice you can use to help ensure success for your students when it comes to your Blackboard course.

Why not have a colleague, a friend even a family member read through course instructions to make sure they make sense?  Unfortunately ‘they’ haven’t invented a pill that conveys all knowledge of how to operate inside a Blackboard course yet so the importance of contextualized mechanical & academic instructions is key for any LMS-based course.  Layering instructions throughout your course will help your students feel like they have way-points to guide them as they move along through their learning journey. 

Your course might make sense to you the twelfth time you’ve read through it, but there might be some obstacles that people who have never seen it before could come across.  So getting a fresh perspective on your course is always a best practice.  Ask a colleague, your instructional designer, a family member, heck even your son or daughter could help in this endeavor. 

These three steps can go a long way toward reducing consternation and frustration for both you and your students as they and you move through your Blackboard course.

#bestpracticemonday LMS Skills are Learned Not Inherited – 3 Ways to Help

Blackboard on the BrainI am old enough to remember thinking of computers as something that fit into a large room and young enough to remember when my family received its first computer that sat on a desk in my father’s office. My children are familiar with touch screen interfaces, wireless internet, smartphones and tablets. With all of the technology that students coming into the university setting seem to have at their fingertips it is easy to assume that as digital natives they are already familiar with how a Learning Management System (LMS) works and how to navigate their way through an online class.

One thing I have learned through supporting faculty and facilitating online courses is that you cannot assume that students were born knowing how to maneuver within the confines of a Learning Management System.  LMS skills are learned and not inherited.  Taking this into account there are steps online instructors can take to give students the resources & skills they need to be successful in online courses.

1.  Use a Getting Started Area/Unit to Orient Your Students

Getting StartedHaving the words Getting Started or Start Here show up in your course are automatic clues for your students on where they should go and what they should do.   They immediately give the students a sense of where they should be going and what they should be doing.  Leverage this part of your course to communicate to students about how your course will work.  Explain to students where readings, lectures and videos will be found as well as how they will participate in and submit items for assignments and activities.  Communicate expectations, course policies and general advice in this unit that will help your students be successful. An added bonus here is you can use the Getting Started unit to model how the rest of your units will work.

Instructions2.  Layer Academic and Mechanical Instructions Throughout Your Course

With students, everything revolves around context.  They are becoming used to getting contextual information about the restaurant where they are eating, the traffic they are driving in, and the television shows they are watching.  That is why it is important to not just put instructions in your course syllabus.  They need to placed at the unit and assignment level as well.  A big key here is not just revealing the academic instructions that tell the students the requirements of a particular assignment or activity, but the mechanical instructions that tell the students how to use the particular tool to complete the assignment or activity.

3.  Be Sure Your Students Know How to Get Technical Assistance

Technical SupportIn order to make online courses more interactive and engaging for our students we have added new activities and technologies. We do this to ensure that students have the same types of learning opportunities as students in the face-to-face environment. With any new technology or new tool there will be obstacles, snafus and technical glitches that arise.  It is more important than ever that your students have the resources that can help them work through any of these issues. Post online support desk contact information and hours of operation prominently in your course (At SHSU Online we include a Need Help?  link in every Blackboard course).  If available provide a link to the student documentation for your LMS (The Getting Started with Blackboard Orientation course at SHSU for example).

Even though your students may not know what a LMS is, you can help them by providing the resources and information that can equip them to be successful in your course.  Using a Getting Started area, layering mechanical and academic instructions and connecting your students to tech support are practices you can incorporate to help your students learn how to operate within the Learning Management System.

World’s First eLearning Best Practice Music Video

A few weeks back, I did a post about an elearning best practice that turned into a song.  Well that song has finally been turned into a music video.  If this doesn’t help you to remember to check the links and embeds to external content in your online course, I don’t know what will!

Check Your Course Before they Wreck Your Course!

Before You BeginBefore you give your students access to your course, go through it with Edit Mode off and/or use the Student View button to make sure all your content and tools are accessible and easy to find.

Note: Use your course’s navigation menu because students can’t navigate via the Control Panel.

A few things you should be looking for are:

  • When a student enters the course do they know where to go and what to do?
  • Are the items in the Nav Menu clear? For instance, ‘Content’ means anything to a new student. It would make more sense to them if it was more specific, like ‘Course Materials’ or ‘Modules’
  • Are all the tools you want the students to use linked from the Nav Menu or a Content Area? An easy way to check is by looking at the Nav Menu in Edit View.
  • Can all the Tests and Assignments be taken and submitted?
  • Do links to other places on the web work?  (YouTube videos can be pulled down in a blink of an eye and web content can disappear at any time).

Other things to check while in Edit Mode:

  • Links to hidden tests and assignments are not broken. Its good practice to re-deploy all your tests (if you’ve copied the course) to ensure that the links are correctly attached to the Grade Center.
  • The Grade Center columns are correctly displayed to students (hidden or revealed) and the weighting and points possible are correct.
  • Be sure due dates on items in your course are correct (these can now be changed easily by dragging and dropping with the Calendar feature in My Blackboard.

BbWorld Blog: Wikis, Blogs, Forums, Journals- Which One Do I Use & Why?

7/12/2012 | Room 276

Deborah Prickett
English Instructor
Jacksonville State University

Rewrote mission statement to be a “learning centered” university.   Doing a lot of challenge based learning in the English Department.  Offering many hybrid courses.


  • Prompts or not
  • Replies when required
  • Checking for posts that respond
  • Students – not continuous Engagement
  • Grading Fast and easy

Discussion forum keeps track of all comments(replies) in Gradebook.  Blackboard Blogs & Wikis do not.


Individual Blackboard Blogs are better Chunked.  Put them together so that they are easier to grade.  This professor created an individual blog for every chapter.  Great for multimedia input (videos, pictures, charts etc).  Great for older students.

Students are used to looking at blogs.  Blogs are more visual.  Forums have Tree Structure.

*Tip:  Have your students decide how the assignment will be graded: A student created Rubric!

BbWorld Blog: New Ways of Communicating at Xavier University

7/11/12 1:50pm

Subject:  Implementation and uses of Connect to communicate on campus.

Moving from just using connect for emergency communication to using it for alumni, financial aid, student activities etc.

Test messages to cell phones, PDAs networked digital signage, and other text based devices and messages to e-mail accounts.  Personalized voice messages to land line and cell phone.


Only issue was collecting required data (cell phone number).  Had students fill out survey with cell phone and alternate e-mail address.

Bursar’s office use:
Registration – Notify students to pay for classes before they are dropped.

Refund Checks -Notify students receiving refunds.

Bills – Notify students via text and e-mail on bills.

Financial Aid office Use:

Acceptance – Notify students to accept financial aid awards
Verification forms – Notify students to complete before aid is awarded
Attendance: Attend all classes before aid is posted.

Faculty Use: Faculty schedules, attendance codes

Department Use: Notify students on meetings and seminars.

Scholarship Use: Notify students when scholarships are available.

Newsletter Use: Alumni newsletter

Social event Use: Notify alumni in certain areas of regional events.

Fundraising use: remind pledger about pledge and due date

Create a data file (.csv or .txt) of the constituents you want to communicate with and send the message just to them!

You can get information (data) about all of your communication (sent, people reached, bad numbers and successful deliveries)

Generate reports can be generated from the data.

BbWorld Blog: ConnectYard and University of Mississippi

BbWorld Blog: Engagement, Persistence and Retention:  How is the University of Southern Mississippi using ConnectYard to Successfully Enhance these Key Factors

Room 277
Tuesday 7/10/2012

Overall Concept: How Student Engagement and Persistence has a positive effect on retention.

Students and faculty choose course by course what channels they want to be communicated through.  (Facebook Twitter, Texting and e-mail)

Faculty doesn’t have to have a Facebook or twitter account to use ConnectYard for the students in their courses.

  • Social Media plays an important part in students’ lives.
  • U of M’s adoption of ConnectYard grew from a desire to improve communication and increase participation in online courses and enhance student learning.
  • Campus email is not an effective tool for student communication.


– Marketing

– Faculty and Student buy-in

  • Fear that professors will have to access FB pages
  • Faculty concerned with added workload

Social Media Policy (prohibits faculty from using it to teach classes through facebook, but they can use it to supplement.)

Faculty/Student Buy-in

  • Easy to use
  • Building block Integration
  • Bridge to Social Media

Position ConnectYard

  • Integral part to each course
  • Stress privacy protection

Encourage students to personalize notifications

Stress Use to Quantify Class Participation.

Current use of ConnectYard

Getting Everyone Involved

  • Faculty to Student
  • Student to Faculty
  • Student to Student

Communication within Courses

Student Notification

How it works: Messages, Discussions and Announcements come through Channels (Twitter, Facebook, Text & e-mail).  Gradebook updates coming.

Planned uses:

  • Enhance Hybrid courses & supplementals
  • Communication/interaction tool between learning teams
  • Back Channeling during course and web presentations (students communicating with each other during lecture/video etc)
  • Intra-department interaction & communication
  • Campus Notifications
  • Student Services
  • Marketing & Recruitment

Personalize Channels

  • personal perferences
  • protect privacy

One way & Two Way Communication
Bb Integration

  • Discussion Boards
  • Announcments
  • Messages (Blogs, Wikis and Grades coming)

Participation Points
Granular Administration

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