Multimedia Web Applications

To promote more effective instruction and better learning experience for students, we encourage the use of multimedia in the classroom, be it physical or virtual. Here are some free and easy-to-use web applications:

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Change Course Theme and Menu Colors in Blackboard

You can change your course theme and menu colors to personalize your course site.

Change your course theme

Make sure that the Edit Mode is ON. If it is not on, click the OFF button to turn it on. Then click the color icon as shown below to see a list of themes and pick the one you like.

Click the theme icon to change course theme


Change your course menu colors

  1. Under your course control panel, click Customization, then “Teaching Style”.
  2. On the “Teaching Style” page scroll down to the “Select Menu Style” section, you can choose either text or button as your course menu style. If you choose text, you can select text color and background color.  TIP: choose background colors that form good contrast to the text color so that it is easier to see the menu text.

    Pick menu colors

  3. If you choose button for your course menu style, click the Buttons, then “Button Library”. Browse the various buttons and select one by clicking on it.

    Select menu buttons

  4. Click Submit to save the change.
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Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra provides a more user-friendly and browser-based web conferencing experience. It does not use Java, so users do not need to download and use a Java application when joining the session. Chrome browser works best with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. However, you can also use other supported browsers and find which OS, browser and software combinations work best for screen readers from the accessibility page.

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra has a modern, intuitive user interface. One can easily figure out how everything works directly from the screens. If you need more information, below are some tutorials for instructors/moderators to get started:

Tutorials for students/participants on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra:


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How to Save a Copy of Blackboard Grade Center in the Content Collection

If you use Blackboard to record grades, it is a good idea to save a copy of your Blackboard course Grade Center at the end of the term so that you can access it easily any time in the future. You could download and save the Grade Center to your computer. You can also save it in your Content Collection in Blackboard (What is Content Collection?).  The advantage of saving the Grade Center in your local computer is that you can access it without internet or when Blackboard is down.  The disadvantage is that you cannot access it from home if you save it in your office computer and vise versa. If you save one copy in your home computer and another copy in your office computer, you will need to deal with two copies of the same document.  The advantage of using Content Collection is that you can access it from home, office or anywhere as long as you have internet connection. If whenever you need to update it for whatever the reason, you only need to deal with one file.

Here is how to save your Grade Center in Blackboard Content Collection.

  1. If this is the first time you save the Grade Center to your Content Collection, you should first create some folder(s) in your Content Collection area. Folders can help you better organize your grade files and easier to find them in the future.
  2. If you already have the folders created in your Content Collection, go to step 6. If not, click the “Content Collection” tab on the top banner.                                              Click Content Collection
  3. The “My Content” screen will be displayed.
  4. Click “Create Folder”.                                 Create Folder
  5. Enter a meaningful name for the folder and click “Submit”. You could organize your grade center files by semesters or courses. In this example, a folder is created to store all Fall 2014 course grades.Enter Folder Name and Save it
  6. Navigate to your course Grade Center and then “Full Grade Center”.
  7. Click “Offline” and then Download.          Blackboard Grade Center
  8. On the “Download Grade” screen leave everything under items 1 and 2 as default.
  9. Under item 3 “Save Location” click the radio button for “Content Collection” and then click Browse button.Choose Content Collection
  10. On the “Browse Content Collection” pop-up screen move the cursor to the Browse tab and click “My Content”.  The files saved in this section (your “My Content”) will never be removed by the system.Choose My Content
  11. In “My Content” section choose the appropriate folder. In this example click the radio button next to the “Fall 2014” folder.Choose appropriate folder
  12. Click Submit button at the bottom right.
  13. You are brought back to the “Download Grades” screen. Click Submit to save the grades in your appropriate Content Collection folder.                                                        Save File to Content Collection folder
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Using Images to Enhance Learning

Based on dual coding theory originally proposed by Paivio, people learn better when the new information is presented with both verbal and visual forms.

Dual coding theory

Have you thought about presenting difficult concepts in your courses with images accompanying your narration? Or asking your students to use visuals such as pictures, drawings, graphic organizers to present their understanding of concepts or ideas? There are many free online tools that can be used to create and modify images or visual presentations.

Fotor is an online photo editing tool.  With this tool you can resize, crop, rotate a photo, a picture, adjust the lighting curve, brightness, contrast, add photo effects and do many more in a few clicks.

Another online photo editing tool is Pixlr. It is basically an online version of Photoshop.

Pencil Madness is a web-based sketching and drawing application with which you can create anything you can imagine.

Bubbl can be used to create colorful graphic organizers.

To create interactive infographics, try Infogr.

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Assessment in Online Courses

When talking about assessment in online courses, there are concerns regarding who really complete the exam and whether students follow the rules in online exams that are not proctored. In the presentations below I share my ideas about the issues related to assessment in online courses and strategies to deal with them.

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Sloan-C Conference on Emerging Technologies for Online Learning

I attended the Sloan C’s 4th annual international symposium on Emerging Technology for Online Learning in San Jose, CA from July 11 – 13, 2011. The presentation and poster topics in this conference include pedagogy, instructional design and support of online classes, the new learning communities, inventive uses of media and tools, administration, infrastructure, support services to support online and hybrid environment and the cutting edge sessions.

Keynote Address

The keynote address was given by Bryan Alexander, a senior fellow at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education. He researches, writes, and speaks about emerging trends in the integration of inquiry, pedagogy, and technology and their potential application to liberal arts contexts. The title of his address is “Imaging the future of education: Scenarios of learning after technology”. In his very engaging speech he proposed five scenarios for the near future of education (in 2016) which were presented at: http://prezi.com/vubhcwzhbti-/several-stories-for-several-academic-futures/. They are “digital balkanization”, “the wide open world”, “gamified world”, “augmentation nation”, and “the long great recession”. Bryan Alexander used examples to illustrate scenarios in global digital context and their impact on campus life. He then asked the audience what are their preferred scenarios and what scenarios they think are most likely to happen. I really hope that “the long great recession” is over in the near future. I believe that the other four scenarios will co-exist for some time.

This web service is free and can be used for courses or any online community. You just need to create an account. Then upload or embed a video and create the discussion questions. Afterwards, send invitations to your students. You can make the discussion forum private or public. This is the first platform I’ve seen that combines videos and structured meaningful discussions in one place. I can see many uses of Vialogue for courses in different disciplines. For example, for a political science course, a discussion about a political event shown in a video can be created. For a nursing course students can discuss about a scenario in a hospital that is video taped. In a video production course students can upload videos they created for critique.

Open Education Resources (OER)

There were plenary and presentation sessions about this topic. OER refers to openly licensed (Creative Commons) high quality digitized educational content, tools and communities. OERs are available anywhere at anytime and they are free. Michigan State University presented their experience in developing open educational programs (http://msuglobal.com/oer/). They explained that a dual approach needs to be employed in order to increase the sustainability of the OER, which includes development, and usage & discoverability, and pointed out that the latter is more difficult. That is to build awareness of the existing OER and a community of users, creators and improvers. It is important to establish metadata when developing OER so that they become searchable and to make use of repositories and digital libraries.

There was a plenary session “Publish or perish: Will the OER kill the publishing world or fit in it?” which was a moderated discussion among representatives from textbook publishing companies. They examined the roles of OER and traditional publishers in the changing landscape of educational media. They see the need to organize, classify the OER in order to improve the usability and reusability, and to make the “traditional textbook” content interactive and to build in learning analytics into it.


What is MOOC? Watch this video:

I also attended a session on lessons learned by the presenter from her experience in taking an MOOC – Massive Open Online Course “PLENK 2010“. The presenter, Dalit Levy, is a faculty member at Kibbutzim College of Education in Israel. She described that she felt overwhelmed in the MOOC at first. As time went, she found her way around and came up with her four lessons: “Learning in a MOOC is possible”; “Learning often occurs through the back channel”; “Learning without being assessed”; “Learning needs a daily reminder” (http://plenk2010.tumblr.com/post/2153872549/paper-accepted-for-chase-2011-about-plenk2010). She also showed us a tool “PearlTrees” (http://www.pearltrees.com/) that she used to visually construct her Personal Learning Environment (PLE). It includes connections to learning resources, topics in which she is interested, people to whom she is connected, etc.

I think that MOOC could be a good format for professional development and life long learning.

Learning Analytics

In a pre-conference workshop I attended there was a presentation by Phil Ice, VP for research and development, from American Public University System on “Multi-level institutional application of analytics”. He showed us how they used an analytics system to flag students who have certain percentage potential to withdraw from a course based on the data collected from many data channels related to student learning activities. It could predict that a student has 90% chance to withdraw from a course in 5 days, for example. Then they provided proper intervention, which resulted in the increase of student retention in courses. He pointed out that industries have been using analytics to collect user data on the internet in order to adjust their strategies to sell their products and suggest things for users to buy online. Academic institutions should also be able to collect data of student learning activities and to adjust the instruction accordingly and provide earlier intervention to students at risk. The big potential of learning analytice is to help faculty identify student’s learning needs and design better instruction. Learning analytics is also on the 2011 Horizon Report as one of the six featured technologies to watch. Its predicted time-to-adoption is four to five years http://wp.nmc.org/horizon2011/sections/learning-analytics/.

Syllabus Intelligence

In one of the cutting edge sessions the CEO of Intellidemia presented a solution for creating interactive and dynamic syllabus easily. As more and more students want to be able to access their learning materials including the syllabus anywhere anytime, what is the best way to post syllabus online? How can faculty use it to keep students on track and their time on task? Can students view the course syllabus before registering for a course? Is it easy to update? How can faculty members collaborate to create syllabi that share some common elements but differ in other details? Watch the linked video to find out how this type of tools can help. http://www.intellidemia.com/products/tour.php


There are many presentations on pedagogy and best practices of online instruction. You can learn more from the conference proceedings at:


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