Thursday, September 4, 2014

Top Ten Syllabus Suggestions

by Dana Bodewes, Instructional Designer
A new semester is about to begin and that means it is time to update your course syllabi (or syllabuses, if you prefer).  There isn't one specific syllabus format endorsed at Pacific Lutheran University, so I have created an outline of topics I would recommend for anyone interested in providing a comprehensive overview of key topics.  

Syllabus Topics

1. Purpose and Structure of Course
In this introductory section, you can provide an overview of the course structure and main topics.  

2. Required Instructional Materials
Especially for courses with lots of resources, this section explains what materials will be used in the course, how to obtain the materials, and what the expectations are for different items.

3. Prerequisite Knowledge and Technical Skills
Even if your course requires no prior knowledge or skills, it is important to state the expectations you have for students coming into your course. 

4. Course Learning Objectives and PLU Integrated Learning Objectives
Your course learning objectives clarify the overall knowledge and skills students should acquire by the end of the course.  It is also a good idea to specify ILO’s that your course supports.

5. Class Expectations
It is critical for instructors to explicitly state expectations for student behavior, communication, attendance, participation, and other policies important for the course.

6. Course Grading Policies
One way to increase responsibility and decrease anxiety is to provide an overview of graded activities at the beginning of the semester.  This section could include a list of all activities, point values, and due dates in addition to information on how work will be graded.

7. Academic Integrity
It is a good idea to include a statement about PLU's expectations for academic integrity, which can be found in both the faculty and student handbooks.

8. Student Services and Policies
This is a syllabus section that is often absent or assumed covered elsewhere.  My suggestion is to list key student services and policies along with brief statements and links to relevant websites.

9. Registrar Deadlines
The Registrar’s office recommends that faculty include key dates in their syllabus, most notably the last days to add/drop and withdraw from class.

10. Semester Schedule
The semester schedule is one of the most important and frequently accessed sections of the syllabus.  Schedule information might include readings, assignments, assessments, activities, and lecture topics along with the mode of delivery and corresponding dates.

Next Steps

I encourage you to check out this full outline of syllabus topics along with specific resources for PLU. You are welcome to borrow and modify ideas from this outline.  If you have any suggestions for syllabus topics not included in the outline, please add them to the comment section below.  I would love your feedback and will update the document as new ideas arise.  For more syllabus advice, the Provost's website includes document with PLU policy information for course syllabi. I also encourage you attend the workshop Take Your Course from Good to Great with a Quality Check where we continue to explore elements of high quality courses.  Have a wonderful semester!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Classroom Podium Videos Just Launched!

Written by Steve Sosa

Instructional Technologies is proud to announce that three new "Classroom Podium" videos just went live via our YouTube channel and web site. Instructors can now easily familiarize themselves with classroom technology they will be using at the start of the semester, from the convenience of their own offices.

Three New Videos!

Each video is around three to four minutes in length and covers topics such as Using Installed Equipment, Connecting Your Mobile Device, and Support and Troubleshoooting. We hope instructors find these new resources useful (see each video below).

Learn Before Stepping into the Classroom

Our goal is to provide instructors with the great support documentation, accessible before they even step foot in the classroom. The videos above, the redesigned Classroom Podium Quick Start guides, and the Learning Spaces resources, can all be found online via our Classroom Technology web page.

Good luck this semester!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fall 2014 Technology Workshops

Check out the schedule of Fall 2014 Technology workshops at along with full workshop descriptions and registration information. Workshops include a diversity of topics such as: 
  • Screencasting with Camtasia
  • Collaboration with Google Docs and Drive
  • The New Sakai Lessons Tool
  • Webconferencing - Communicate Live and Online!
  • Easy Steps for Making Your Course Content Accessible
  • Getting Started with Sakai
  • Backups and Data Security at PLU
  • And more...! 
For a complete listing of workshops, see the workshop listings.

If you have a particular need for specialized and customized technology workshops for your class or department, contact Layne Nordgren (, 253-535-7197) and we'll do our best to meet your specific needs.

Need one on one assistance with technology? Instructional Technologies provides a design lab with computers and software for digital editing projects. The Digital Design Lab is located on the first floor of the Library near the Help Desk. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Recording an Album

Written by Patrick Colin Wakefield.

Last July I was contacted by a PLU music faculty member, Erik Steighner, about recording an album. Erik, as a saxophone professor, obviously loves music for saxophone. His dream was to record an album of modern chamber music for saxophone featuring composers from the Pacific Northwest area. I was excited to be able be a part of this new opportunity.

Erik Steighner
My First Album Produced at PLU

Unfortunately, prior to the upgrades in the Lagerquist Production room this past winter we could only record two tracks at a time, or a single stereo file. This provided a new challenge for me: the mix I recorded was set in stone. If I failed to balance the instruments properly while recording, there would be no way to fix them later. I'll admit, I was worried. I'd never been in a situation where I couldn't go back and fix things in a recording, and this was my first time producing an album at PLU.

Recording sessions were booked, pages of music were scanned, and I began to realize the scale of my undertaking. The album consisted of seven pieces, some with multiple movements, for a total of 18 tracks. Each piece had a different set of instruments, and each movement had it's own tone. The schedule didn't help: we were constrained on time, and often needed to record the entire piece in one sitting (movements and all). Having a great producer can mean the difference between a decent album and a disaster. Enter, Dr. Edwin Powell.

A Team Approach

producer, Dr. Edwin Powell
During the recording process, Ed and I worked as a seamless team. I was responsible for making the instruments sound stellar, while he made sure those stellar notes were correct. While I consider myself a recovering musician, Ed lives and breathes music on a daily basis. Ed caught the performance issues, and I caught the recording issues. When we were both satisfied with a piece, we knew we had a great product.

Then came the fun part: editing. Once all recording was finished, we didn't just have 18 tracks for the 18 pieces, we had over 500 clips. Erik and Ed spent countless hours listening to find the best clips from each section, and created an outline for me to follow. I then edited the clips together to make one continuous file...18 times over. Although no one will ever be able to tell from the final product, one song on the album could be made up of over 20 individual recordings.

Now On iTunes!

Once the edits were completed, I applied some subtle EQ changes and exported the tracks for the album. Erik sent the tracks over to a production company, who in turn created the physical copies of the album, which is currently available for purchase on iTunes. While I doubt it will ever make the “top 40”, I’m very happy with how the album came together.

Future Recordings

I’m very grateful to both Erik and Ed for the opportunity to work on the album. While album production isn’t necessarily an iTech service, I believe that there is a place for it at PLU. Perhaps a jazz CD is in our future.. who knows?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sakai 2.9: A Look-Ahead to New Features

New in Sakai 2.9

In a previous blog post and a corresponding email sent to all PLU employees last month about the Sakai upgrade to version 2.9 on Fri., June 6, we had alluded to forthcoming details about the new Lessons tool and other new features to expect from Sakai 2.9. Those details are now available. You can refer to them in the Sakai support site on a new page: New in Sakai 2.9.

Therein you can drill down through the interactive headers to find screenshots and descriptions of the new features that will become available after the upgrade to Sakai on June 6.

Lessons Overview

Included in these materials is a brief video that provides an overview of the Lessons tool. Through Lessons a course or project site in Sakai can be constructed and organized in a more cohesive and intuitive style than has been possible with previous versions of Sakai.

Learn More by Attending a Workshop

Faculty and staff still have time to register here for the following workshops occurring within the next two weeks.

Sakai 2.9: What's Changing and Why Does It Matter? - Sakai will be upgraded early this summer to version 2.9. Get an overview of new features as well the new Lessons Tool. Learn to simplify your course structure for students and explore new pedagogical approaches. This workshop is offered three times this term (Spring 2014):
  • Friday, April 25, 2014 - 12:00 PM - Hauge Administration 213
  • Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 2:00 PM - Hauge Administration 213
  • Tuesday, May 6, 2014 - 12:00 PM - Hauge Administration 213

The New Sakai Lessons Tool - The Sakai Lessons Tool allows instructors to present course content in a structured way to guide students through their learning tasks. Using the Lessons tool, you can organize resources, assessments, forums, and media into a topical (rather than tool) structure so that students don’t need to navigate to different tools.
  • Friday, May 2, 2014 - 12:00 PM - Library Instruction Center B, Library Basement

We look forward to working with you in making the most of these new features in Sakai. If you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email us at

    Layne Nordgren, Director for User Services / Instructional Technologies
    Sean Horner, Web Application Developer

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stop Motion for Sustainability - Behind the Scenes

By Katie Martell

Recently I collaborated on a project with the Wang Center for Global Education and PLU Sustainability. PLU was recently selected as a Finalist for the 2014 Second Nature Climate Leadership Awards, and in short, our group was tasked with creating a video that demonstrates the complex concept of "carbon onsetting" and how it is being utilized at PLU to reduce students' carbon footprints. There was just one problem— the project had not yet begun. 

Since video is made up of moving images, the idea is to actually show something happening, but what could the team do when all we had to work with was an idea? We discussed a few well known advertisements, such as the UPS Whiteboard Campaign, "The Story of Stuff," and "The History of Education" by Lightspeed Systems (see below). After doing this research, our first thought was to use simple animations generated in a motion graphics program, but this approach is extremely time-consuming and we were under a tight deadline. So, instead of going through the laborious process involved in motion graphics, I suggested that we try stop motion animation to showcase PLU's sustainability efforts.

Scripting and Storyboarding

Once we settled on using stop motion to tell our "carbon onsetting" story, the next step was to write a script and draw a storyboard. The team from Marketing & Communications was instrumental in this process, and wrote a rhyming script that added a lot of life and interest to the rather technical idea. They also drew storyboards, which are basic images of each scene. Storyboards help me as a video producer because they keep ideas organized and inform me as to which shots we actually need to record so that we have a complete finished piece. Of course, any project that involves a number of constituents requires that we seek input throughout the process, and so the script and storyboards were meticulously critiqued and edited until we were ready to begin production. Below is an example of one of the storyboards we used for this project. 

Stop Motion Animation

Video is actually a series of images that give the illusion of motion, and stop motion animation is a technique that takes full advantage of that fact. To achieve the desired effect, we created scenes out of felt and took still photographs, moving the objects in the scene in small increments (about a quarter of an inch) for each image. When all of the images were played in sequence, the objects appeared to move on their own. After showing our proof of concept (video below) to the group, we received approval to carry out the rest of production. 

The Production Process

While stop motion is less labor-intensive than detailed motion graphics editing, it does present its own set of challenges. The first thing we did was create a space on which we could film the scenes. In the campus studio, we flipped over a whiteboard and brought in lights to set the scene. One thing we underestimated was the time it would take to actually cut out the felt objects and design each part of the story, but once they were completed, the actual shooting was not difficult. Campus photographer John Froschauer even paid us a visit to document the production!

We laid down each scene, one by one, and took about 60 images for every segment using a remote attached to the camera. Some scenes needed to be shot backward and then flipped in post production to create certain motions. Tedious, yes, but also very fun and very much worth the effort! For the final video, I edited each segment together and adjusted length as necessary. I also added music and credits, and finally, plugged in narration by Kirsten Kendrick from KPLU, who was kind enough to narrate the video. Here is the final product: 

This was a very different project from the interview-based material I normally produce, so it was great to let my creativity go to work.
Please vote for our video in Second Nature's Climate Leadership Awards competition today! 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My First MOOC: A New Year’s Resolution Revisited

By Dana Bodewes

In January, I enrolled in my first MOOC to learn more about this controversial form of instruction.  It was definitely valuable, both for instructional design research and as a learning experience. 

The course was designed around five basic elements: video lectures, readings, weekly online quizzes, discussion boards, and video recorded “office hours”.  Each Sunday, the instructor would post readings, lectures, and a quiz for the week.  Lectures ranged in duration and number, with four to eight lectures a week each between 10-20 minutes in length.  Required “reading” for the week usually consisted of articles, videos (several Ted Talks), and book chapters, all thoughtfully provided for free through the course.  Weekly online quizzes contained 20 multiple choices questions, written largely at the lowest level of Bloom’s taxonomy.  I spent about six hours each weekend reading and watching videos.  Online discussions were student-generated and optional.  However, during the first week of the course, a forum was created where students could submit questions for the instructor.  At the end of the week, the instructor selected a few questions and posted a video response, calling it “office hours.”  I will admit that I did not participate in the optional discussion boards.  There were over a hundred pages of discussion thread topics and I found myself disinterested in the random debates of thousands of unknown classmates.  

The instructor’s video lectures were thought-provoking topics that held my interest, despite a traditional “sage on the stage” approach.  Students watched the instructor lecturing on a Yale production studio stage.  Occasionally, images, graphs, or quotes were displayed in a split screen format next to the instructor, but presentation slides were generally not utilized.  The professor discussed lots of research, terms, and scientists.  The lack of visual supports made it more difficult to process all the lecture details.  Without the support of a textbook or slide presentation, I often missed important facts later represented on the quiz.  This small frustration reminded me of the importance of using visual cues to assist in the processing of new information, especially when discussing names and terms that are hard to aurally discern.

One of the common complaints about MOOCs is that they provide for little or no interaction with the instructor.  This concern is valid.  I had no direct communication with my instructor for this course.  If I was enrolled in a face-to-face or online course, I would have most certainly asked questions of my professor and discussed topics with my peers.  There are fears that MOOCs might replace college courses with an impersonal broadcast of learning.  Elements integral to active learning were not present in my MOOC course and I don’t consider MOOCs to yet provide an experience wholly equivalent to a traditional or online course.  With thousands of students, it would be difficult for a free online course to sustain the same level of interaction.  To provide course credit for MOOCs, rigorous certification standards would surely be necessary.

Although active learning is a powerful form of instruction, I still appreciated the MOOC for what it could offer.  I treated the experience as form of self-instruction.  The most positive benefit for me was access to a free course thoughtfully arranged by an expert in the field.  This expert selected insightful readings and provided poignant lectures, conveniently presented for my learning pleasure.  I don’t begrudge the Discovery Channel or the New York Times for failing to design active learning experiences; but then, they are not expected to do so.  I appreciated my first MOOC for what it could provide, however unidirectional.  The learning experience was filled with rich resources and well worth the investment of my time.  I look forward to taking more MOOCs in the future.