Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Fraudulent Email and Phishing Redux

Example of phishing email (click to enlarge)
Yet another round of fraudulent "phishing" emails have been sent across Campus masquerading as an official email warning users that their accounts are about to be shut down unless they are verified.

As we have noted multiple times during these campaigns, the Help Desk will never solicit your account information. All of our account work is done via our ePass website [epass.plu.edu], and we will not intentionally put your account into a position where it cannot be recovered.

Given how these emails continue, we felt it would be appropriate to pass on a small FAQ to help better inform the PLU community about these phishing emails.


  • PLU (I&TS) will never solicit your account information via email
  • If you ever have even the slightest inkling that an email might be fraudulent, do not do anything with it and call the Help Desk at 253-535-7525
  • If you have clicked on any links in these emails or responded to them, call the Help Desk at 253-535-7525
  • This phishing campaign has been attacking users for several months, taking over PLU accounts and sending more phishing emails from PLU accounts
  • They often include PLU logos to mimic official PLU emails and claim to be from the non-existent PLU Webmail Management Team


Q: What exactly is a phishing email?
A:  A phishing email is basically an email meant to trick users into revealing sensitive information, "baiting" them into giving out private info such as passwords, credit card information, etc.

Typically, a phishing email will masquerade as coming from an official source, often claiming to either have important information for the user or claiming that their "account will be terminated" if the user doesn't give out their password information.

Unfortunately, methods will vary from phishing email to phishing email.

Q: How can I tell if an email is a phishing email?
A: Most phishing emails are plagued with:
  • Spelling errors
  • Grammatical mistakes
  • Strange use of punctuation
  • Bits of "code" showing in the email
  • Vague claims or threats towards your account
  •  Inconsistent or incorrect information about the account system
Q: Why is this still happening months after the initial email?  Can't these emails be stopped?
A:  The way this particular phishing campaign is working is to send out as many emails as possible to PLU emails, collect a few accounts, sit on these accounts for a bit while sending out more emails, and continue to collect more accounts.  Every time the attackers get another account, they can send out hundreds of emails; if even one person responds, that's another account and another couple hundred emails.

It's a vicious cycle that we can only break by educating users about the existence of these emails.  While we do our best to shut down the accounts as soon as we receive a report, usually we don't get a report until after a few minutes of sending, which can be hundreds of emails by that point.

We are considering other alternatives system side, but we need to be vary careful about such alterations as they can affect the receiving of legitimate emails as well.

Q: What do the attackers have to gain by doing this?
A:  Just more sources to spam people with.  Once the spammers have a sufficient number of accounts stocked up, they can start sending out spam emails to other people.  Often times we will cleanse an account and find that it has been altered to look like a bank or a school or a credit union.

Q: What should I do if I have responded to one of these emails?
A:  Change your password immediate by going to epass.plu.edu [epass.plu.edu] and call the Help Desk at 253-535-7525.  We will need to walk you through cleaning your account to ensure that no one else has access.

Q:  Is there anything I can do to help combat these emails?
A:  Yes!  Continue to report them to us every time you get one.  It may seem futile or redundant, but the sooner we know about a new wave, the sooner we can take action.

Tell your colleagues and friends about the phishing emails and about how they can learn more about them; the more people that know, the better chance we have that the phishing waves will be ineffective.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Spring 2016 Technology Workshops

Check out the schedule of Spring 2016 Technology workshops at http://www.plu.edu/itech/workshops/ along with full workshop descriptions and registration information. Workshops include a diversity of topics such as: 
  • Recording Screencasts with Screencast-o-Matic 
  • Assessing Class Climate with Electronic Student Feedback Tools 
  • Adding Interactivity to Videos with Zaption 
  • Collaboration with Google Docs and Drive 
  • Sakai Lessons Tool 
  • Photoshop Basics 
  • Easy Steps for Making Your Course Content Accessible 
  • Backups and Data Security at PLU 
  • And more...!
For a complete listing of workshops, see the workshop listings page.

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

Need one-on-one assistance with technology? Contact itech@plu.edu to schedule a consultation. We'll find the right staff to assist you with your specific needs. In addition, 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.  

Friday, January 29, 2016

Enhancing Video Interactivity and Engagement with Zaption

February 14 marks ten years since YouTube was founded. Since that time there has been a massive proliferation of online videos, not just in YouTube, but in other services such as TED Talks, Vimeo, PBS Video, National Geographic, and Discovery. And though some might argue that much of it is not at all useful for instruction, with a bit of searching you might find the perfect jewel of a video to supplement your instruction in the classroom or online.

What if you could make clips of an existing online video, add text or image annotations to provide context, and then include multiple choice or open-ended questions within the video to create interactivity and engagement? A free, web-based tool called Zaption provides a toolkit to do just that. You can then publish the interactive video for use in your face-to-face class using Zaption Presenter and invite your students to respond during class. Or alternatively you can link to it online from your Sakai course for enhancing your blended, flipped, or online course videos.

Zaption Lesson Example

Click on the image below for a quick overview of how Zaption works from a student's view, using the TED Talk by Julian Treasure, "5 Tips to Listen Better." When you click on the orange "Start" button to open the video, you'll see an orange vertical slider under the video that you can use to navigate through the video. In the same navigation area you'll see gray vertical lines which represent spots in the video where Zaption elements have been added. Navigate to several of these elements to see examples of multiple choice or open-ended questions.

Zaption Lesson from TED Talk "5 Tips to Listen Better"

Video Sources for Zaption

Image from Zaption training presentation
The first step in creating a Zaption video is to find a video resource. To add a video to Zaption you can search by title and author keywords or by entering the URL of a video, including videos from resources such as:
  • YouTube
  • Vimeo 
  • TED
  • National Geographic
  • PBS
  • Edutopia
  • NASA
You can also pull in web-accessible mp4 videos, such as those you’ve published yourself.

Trimming tool

Trimming Videos

Once you’ve selected your video you can trim the head or tail of the video to pull out just the right segment. The process is as simple as dragging a start point marker to portion of the video where you want the video to start and moving the endpoint marker to where you want the video to end. In the example to the right the first third of the video is set for trimming.

Adding Zaption Elements

Next you can add elements to your video tour to create interactivity. The free version of Zaption allows you to add the following elements:
  • Text - Add and style text either over the top of the video or to the side of the video. The text might include a note about context of the video in relation to your class lesson, definitions, explanations, etc. 
  • Images - Add an images to a video by dragging it onto the video or selecting one from your computer file system. You might include schematics, illustrations, labeled diagrams, etc. 
  • Drawings - Add a drawing tool so users can draw on top of the video or to the side. You might ask them to highlight an object on the video or write a formula for instance. 
  • Open Response - Write a question and provide a text entry box for user responses. 
  • Multiple Choice - Write a question, provide multiple choice answers, and identify correct answers for feedback. 
  • Check Boxes - Write a question and provide check boxes. 
Settings for each element allow you to adjust parameters such as the:
  • Position - Over the video window or on the sidebar?
  • Behavior - Continue playing video or pause?
  • Duration - Show element for a fixed number of seconds or wait for the user to click “Play”? 

Publishing Your Video Tours

After you’ve finished adding elements to your video tour and adjusting their settings, you can publish your video for distribution. You’ll then have a link you can add to your presentation or Sakai site.

Viewing Zaption Analytics

Once you’ve had your students interact with the video tour, you can view analytics about the unique viewers, viewing times, and questions. Though these metrics may not directly measure learning, they might be used for informing modifications of the video content, questions, and instruction.

Still Interested? Try it Out!

Get a free Zaption account at https://www.zaption.com/signup. You can sign in with your Google account. Comparisons of functionality of the free and paid accounts can be found at https://www.zaption.com/pricing. Need help? Schedule a consultation with Instructional Technologies staff via itech@plu.edu.

Upcoming Workshop

Want to learn more about using Zaption? Register for the following hands-on workshop:

Title: Adding Interactivity to Videos with Zaption    REGISTER 

When: Thursday, March 3, 12pm – 1pm, Library 331

Workshop Description:
Zaption provides a toolkit for selecting clips from online videos, annotating them with text and images, and asking multiple choice and open-ended questions. This hands-on workshop will explore tools and techniques for making your videos more interactive and engaging.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Using Google Maps in the Classroom: Teaching an old software new tricks

Christmas break is nearing, and with it comes a chance for faculty to catch their breath after a long and hard fall—before revving back up for another semester. The holiday break is ideal for exploring new methods of teaching, so why not start small by finding innovative ways of using familiar, ubiquitous technology?

Whether you're going across the world or across the street for the holiday, you’re likely to use Google Maps before the end of the year. This free software is so common that most students (and faculty) already know how to navigate it; with the right lesson plan, it is easy to integrate into a classroom setting, and allows student a concrete, visual way of understanding certain kinds of information.

The examples below demonstrate how using Google Maps will put you on the road to success by adding new texture and depth to a lesson, invigorating the learning process for you and your students.

Contextualizing Location

Our first example comes straight from PLU from History Professor Mike Halvorson, who created an interactive map of Ancient Egypt that overlaid modern-day Egypt for his course on Western Civilization. Students can zoom in on important locations and monuments, while still able to keep these locations rooted in a global context.
A google maps screen that is focused on Egypt, with red pinpoints at along the Nile River. On the left is a listing of locations, including the Giza Pyramids and Lower Upper Egypt.
Halvorson marks sites down the Nile River. Click to view larger.
A google maps screen that is zoomed in on the Great Pyramids at Giza. There are mutiple red pinpoints on the map, indicating many pyramids.
Bird's eye view of the pyramids. Click to view larger.

For students of literature, it can be thrilling to see how the people and places in a work of fiction can crossover into the real world. This is especially true for books where location plays an important role, such as in James Joyce’s classic, Ulysses. Using a map like the one below, students can follow, chapter-by-chapter, as the protagonists journey around real-life Dublin.
Click on the locations in this interactive map to see how context has been applied.

Likewise, what better way to follow the road-trip of the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath than a Google Map? This map includes both quotes from the book and a short description of notable events that take place along each stop, helping to visualize the dramatic length and difficulty of the journey.
A google maps screen that is focused on Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a blue line following Route 66. There are many multi-color pinpoints along the path. On the left the following text appears: “Oklahoma City to Bethany is fourteen miles.” (pg. 170). The Joads meet the Wilsons and camp with them overnight. Grampa has a stroke and dies on the Wilson’s mattress -- the second fatality. He is buried illegally, and the two families decide to travel together.
The Joads' long journey along Route 66. Click image to view larger.

Language faculty may find it useful to help students visualize the diversity of locations where a language is spoken, as seen in this map by French teacher Samantha Decker via her blog, The French Corner: a blog about teaching French. This map marks francophone countries across the globe, and can be incorporated into a discussion of how a foreign language became important in these regions.
Click on this interactive map to see what countries include French as a national language. 

For more information on creating custom maps, check out Google's My Maps documentation.

Google Earth

More adventurous faculty might try playing with Google Earth, a free software built using extensive satellite imagery, with the principle focus of exploration. Whereas Google Maps is great for routes and marking distances—perfect for visualizing the Joad’s arduous trek—Google Earth shows faculty and students an overhead view of any location on the planet, and even some in space! You can design tours that include text, pictures, landmarks, close-ups of 3D buildings and geographical features, and more.

Some excellent examples of innovative Google Earth topics include:
A screenshot of the Google Earth software. It shows a detailed geographical map of Uganda with diamond-shaped markers. Beneath a marker labeled "Alluvial mining," there is a pop up with a black and white photo of a man in a muddy body of water, sifting gravel with a box. The caption reads: Kadir Van Lohuizen “Diamond Matters” Legend: Domingos Papa Seko (35 years-old), Angola. ‘Originally I am from Malange. I have been a miner since 1992. During the war, I was sent to Bula as a soldier. Since then, I am washing gravel here.'
Each stop includes the story of a real diamond miner. Click to view larger.
Google Earth is easily applied to a variety of topics, and there is no shortage of tutorials to help you get started. For a browser-based software, consider using Google's Tour Builder software, which also has plenty of online help available.

Virtual Tours

The excitement doesn’t end there! A wealth of ready-to-use virtual tours can be found online, providing an in-depth look at sights that would otherwise be very difficult to visit on a field trip.

Here are some of our favorites:

PLU Resources

For help creating a Google Maps or Google Earth tour, set up an Instructional Technology consultation with Jenna Stoeber or Katie Martell at itech@plu.edu

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Tips for Streamlining Assignment Workflows

After the first few assignments of the semester, you may begin wondering what you can do to streamline your workflow in collecting, grading, and distributing feedback for assignments. Though there are a number of ways to collect Assignments, such as by email or using the Sakai Dropbox, the Sakai Assignments tool provides a robust workflow for both faculty and students to submit and manage assignments in a course. Below are three tips you might consider for streamlining assignment workflows for you and your students.

Tip 1: Use Sakai Assignments Tool

With the Sakai Assignments tool, faculty can create assignments, set automatic release and due dates, include Turnitin originality checking, grade assignments, provide feedback to students, and release grades to students. Students can submit their assignments, view scores, and view faculty feedback. For both faculty and students the Assignments summary screen (shown below) provides an organized list of assignments, open and dues dates, and their current status in the workflow.

Check out the following video for an overview of the Assignment tool and a quick-start for adding an assignment to your course:

Detailed instructions on adding an assignment to your course can be found at:

Not all students may have used the Sakai Assignments tool before, so you may want to include instructions about how to submit assignments and view assignment grades and feedback. Some instructors include a low/no stakes assignment (such as personal introductions) at the beginning of their course so students can get familiar with submitting assignments successfully. You might consider providing links for students to the following Sakai Help resources:

Tip 2: Provide Clear Assignment Instructions for Students

From a student perspective, clear assignment instructions are essential since students often will be working on their own when preparing to complete and submit an assignment. They may have a number of questions about the assignment itself as well as the mechanics of submitting an assignment online. The Sakai Assignments tool provides a rich text editor for articulating instructions as well as the option of adding document attachments such as readings, templates, worksheets, or exemplars.

As students work on completing an assignment, clear assignment instructions can provide information and answers to questions in the context of the assignment workflow, potentially resulting in less confusion and interruptions in completing the assignment. Below are eight components of assignment instructions (adapted from O’Reilly and Kelly, 2008) that are likely to address student questions: 
  • Assignment Title - To avoid confusion, use exactly the same title in syllabus, Sakai pages, assessment plan, and gradebook.
  • Learning Objective(s) - Reference relevant learning objectives for the assignment.
  • Assignment Due Date - Specify due date and time as well as late acceptance policies. For electronic submissions, include time zone (e.g PST, Pacific Standard Time).
  • Submission Details - Specify electronic and/or inline submissions, required file formats, and any file naming schema. 
  • Grading Criteria - Describe how the assignment will be scored and graded and whether a rubric will be used. 
  • Level of Group Participation - Define your expectations for group participation. Are the assignments individual assignments, group or team projects, or entire class projects? 
  • Mechanical Details and Expectations - Suggest number of words/pages, preferred style guide for citations, number/type of citations, etc.
  • Supporting Resources - List and/or attach supporting resources necessary for assignment completion. Many students find it useful to see one or more completed examples of the assignment. 

O’Reilly, D. and Kelly, K. (2008). Assessment and evaluation. In Commonwealth of Learning (Ed.) Education for a Digital World: Advice, Guidelines, and Effective Practice from Around the Globe. p.240. http://www.colfinder.org/materials/Education_for_a_Digital_World/Education_for_a_Digital_World_part2.pdf

Tip 3: Use the Assignments Tool Grading Workflow to Provide Feedback and Grades

The Assignments tool provides an organized way to view the current status of an assignment and individually grade each student submission. The summary screen (shown below) lists students, when their assignments were submitted, the status of their assignment, the grade, and whether it was released to the student.

Clicking on the “Grade” link on a student row allows you to view the student’s submission, which can be an inline entry in the Sakai rich text editor and/or a file attachment. If you have Turnitin originality checking enabled, you’ll see a link to view the Turnitin report. You can optionally toggle the Assignment Instructions on so you can see the student submission in context.

To grade the assignment you can enter the grade in the box provided and provide feedback to the student via the “Instructor Summary Comments” area using the rich text editor. If students submitted an inline assignment in the text editor, you can surround your comments with double curly braces {{like this}} and they will appear as red text to the student. You can also add one or more file attachments, such as a marked-up version of a student paper.

If you have specific detailed criteria, rubrics, or notes for grading you might consider putting this information in a Private Note when you create the assignment. Then, you’ll be able to see the Private Note for you (or other instructors, if you choose) to view in the grading screen. Once you’re finished grading and providing feedback, you can save the grade and release the grade to the student or save it for later release.

The Assignments tool has several other handy features:
  • An email notification option can be enabled when you create an assignment so that you’ll receive an email notification when an assignment is submitted and ready for grading. 
  • Grades can optionally be sent to the Gradebook. You can enable this setting when creating an assignment. 
  • If you prefer to work with submitted files offline, you can batch download assignment files and inline submissions using the “Download All” link on the assignment summary page. 

More information about grading assignments and providing feedback can be found in the following video and help document:

If you need help with the Sakai Assignments tool or any of these tips, don’t hesitate to contact itech@plu.edu to set up a consultation.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Quick Tips for Improving Your Sakai Site for Students

Now that the semester is underway and much of the heavy lifting of creating and populating your Sakai course site is complete, perhaps you’re ready to consider some fine-tuning to improve your course site for students. One option to consider would be to review your course using the Quality Matters Rubric Standards checklist, but that may take more time than you have to invest right now.

Alternatively, what are some relatively quick adjustments you can make to improve your Sakai course site for students? Below are two tips you might consider for improving your Sakai course site for your students, along with actionable links on how to implement them. Applicable Quality Matters standards are referenced for each tip.

Tip 1: Remove or Hide Tools Students Don’t Need (QM 6.1, 8.1)

In the summer of 2013 the Sakai Support team interviewed several students to find out what they liked and disliked about how Sakai was used in their courses. All students interviewed said they had taken courses where some tools on the Sakai site menu were not used. They described their frustration as a scavenger hunt where they clicked on the tool menu item but found a dead end with no content, wondering why the tool was even there or if they had missed something.

When you create your Sakai site, it includes a default set of commonly used tools that appear in the left menu. But you can easily remove tools that you’re not using or hide tools that students don’t need to see. Both of these tasks can be accomplished via the Site Info tool.

Remove Tools - Use the “Edit Tools” button to remove tools. Simply uncheck the tools you want to remove, click the “Continue” button, then the “Finish” button. Detailed instructions can be found at:

Hide Tools
- There are some tools that students don’t need to see, and you can hide these tools to declutter what student see in their menu. Examples include the Site Info, Roster, and Statistics tools. Use the “Page Order” button to hide tools. Here you’ll see each tool and you can hide a tool by clicking on the light bulb and toggling it to the off (gray) position. You (in the course Instructor role) will still see the tool in your menu, but it will be italicized as a cue that the tool is hidden to students. Detailed instructions and other options can be found at:

Tip 2: Organize Your Site with the Lessons Tool - (QM 4.2, 8.1)

Another common theme from student interviews was confusion in navigating through the course content by using the tool-centric approach of the tool menu. For instance, some assignments were located in Resources, others used the Drop Box, and still others used the Assignment tool. Students had to move in and out of the tool menu to search for relevant resources and activities.

The Lessons tool allows you to create pages, provide a context and navigational flow for an instructional unit, and combine materials such as text, resources, assignments, and assessments into a smooth sequence for students. Students appreciate the organization and flow that lesson pages can provide.

Students taking online courses in the summer of 2015 were asked what they liked best about online courses and nearly a third responded that they liked the organization of the courses (most courses used the Lessons tool). In particular they liked the clear expectations, to-do lists, self pacing, and easy navigation -- all features that can be implemented in your course with the Lessons tool.

Check out the following video for an overview and quick-start for using the Lessons tool:

Detailed instructions and other resources for using the Lessons tool can be found at:

If you need help with any of these tips or with fine tuning your Sakai site, don’t hesitate to contact itech@plu.edu to set up a consultation.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Summer Technology Renovations 2015

For most people, the beginning of summer signifies the start of barbeques, campfires, and lazy river rafting. Unlike most people, the beginning of summer marks the start of something else for Instructional Technologies: install season.

Every summer, a few classrooms are selected for media technology upgrades. Unlike many universities in the area, these upgrades are performed by in-house staff as well as a student workforce. Over a few days the room’s outdated equipment is dismantled, and replaced by state-of-the-art equipment which has become standard across campus. This equipment includes a wide-screen projector, screen, and media podium.
Updated media podiums were installed in six rooms
across campus this summer.

This season of installations marks the start of a new era for Instructional Technologies. While three of the six rooms (Ramstad 202, 203, and 205) received our standard equipment, the other half (Ingram 116, Rieke 210, and Garfield 102) have been outfitted with hybrid digital systems. The details of  “hybrid digital systems” may be rather boring, but the results may be exciting for users across campus. In addition to VGA inputs, these new podiums now have HDMI inputs for laptops, so users will be able to connect their digital devices.  Even the installation was easier: rather than pulling six 30 foot cables through the ceiling, this new hybrid system requires a single ethernet connection to the projector

We hope people will enjoy these upgrades and have a wonderful start to the semester!

Finished installation in Ingram 116