Wednesday, January 7, 2015

February 3 Development Day Technology Workshops

On February 3, Human Resources is sponsoring a Personal and Professional Development Day with workshops covering a wide range of topics. Information & Technology Services will be offering four technology-focused workshops:

8:30am - The Anatomy of a Computer
Get a better understanding of how a computer works with hands-on deconstruction and rebuilding of a computer. Instructors will explain a bit about the function of each component and tips for handling when putting things back together. No prior computer knowledge necessary.
9:45am - Engaging Your Audience with Prezi
Interested in taking your presentations beyond Powerpoint? Learn to use Prezi to add motion and organizational structure to engage your audience. Review exemplary Prezis and create your own Prezi presentations, zooming in around your topics and graphics, without making your audience seasick.
1:15pm - Intermediate Excel
Go beyond the basics of Excel and learn new features of the program that can help you to better organize and present your data. Topics will include creating running totals, using pivot tables and utilizing IF statements in your formulas. Previous experience working with Excel is required.
2:30pm - Backups and Data Security at PLU
Learn about backup solutions at PLU including Netstor and Google Drive and best practices for storing your sensitive data. Topics will include data encryption options, appropriate use of cloud storage, and types of data that may need additional security.

Look for an email from Human Resources in mid-January for more seminar details and registration information.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Blogging: So Many Uses, So Little Time

by Dana Bodewes, Instructional Designer
Blogs have greatly contributed to the explosion of content created and shared on the internet. I, myself, couldn't count the number of hours I've spent reading blogs about everything from recipes to research. There are many academic applications for blogs. Blogs allow students to easily publish and share content, foster writing and presentation skills, and help faculty facilitate peer learning and discourse. Blog writing can also encourage the personal reflection and processing of content that is critical to deeper learning. Though the potential uses are endless, blogging requires commitment from the instructor and students to be successful and worthwhile. To help you use your time wisely, I have gathered resources and advice for you here.

How do you know if blogging would work well in your course? There is no easy answer to that question; however, before assigning a blog activity, instructors should critically analyze the purpose of the activity. Any blogging project should be in support of the course’s learning objectives and enhance meaningful communication. Expectations and processes for the activity should be defined up front. In most cases, technology hurdles should be minimal, allowing students to focus on the content and not the tool. It is also important to analyze the audience for student writing. Will these blogs be private to the class or shared openly on the web? How you design your assignment will depend entirely on your unique needs.  

If you’re worried about the time commitment of reading and assessing blogs, consider the following ideas and strategies:
  1. If possible, start small. A class blog can be supported by rotating one or two student authors each week.
  2. If appropriate, skip the analytic grading and assign simple participation points for blogs mainly used for reflection or journaling. Don’t forget to post a few short comments. Students want to know you are reading what they are writing.
  3. If students are regularly blogging all semester, have them submit their top 3 blog posts to be officially graded at the end of the term.
  4. If you have a high volume of posts to manage, try “randomly” grading just a few posts each week, while quickly skimming the un-graded posts. Be sure to make students aware of this grading procedure.
  5. Try using a holistic rubric to quickly provide feedback on the quality of student posts. An example is provided here for you to modify and use.
  6. Consider using Twitter when frequent, super-short communication is appropriate. It can be very engaging and encourage concise, well-planned responses.

WordPress, Google Blogger, and Twitter are three tools to explore for student blogs. I would suggest examining each option to see which one might best fit the needs of your assignment.  

There are many resources available to help you make the most of student blogs. If you are interested in learning more about blog assignments, I encourage you to read “Develop and Implement a Course Blog” or “Getting Started with Student Blogs: Tips for the Digital Immigrant”. If you would like to know more about managing and grading student blogs, check out some of the many fantastic posts by the ProfHacker team for the Chronicle of Higher Ed, such as “‘How are you going to grade this?’ Evaluating Classroom Blogs”. And of course, the Instructional Technologies team at PLU provides consultations and workshops for faculty interested in blogging. Contact us at

Now, time to blog!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Flipping vs. Blending - What's the Difference?

by Dana Bodewes, Instructional Designer

Like it or not, technology is influencing the 
process of teaching and learning in new and evolving ways.  Two key trends that draw upon innovations in technology and pedagogy are the flipped learning format and the blended learning format.  As these terms are used more often and in varying ways, the difference between the two formats can become confused.  I will highlight some of the key differences between 
flipped and blended learning and why
you might want to choose either one.

The term flipped learning comes from the idea that instructors are flipping or reversing the activities traditionally completed in-class and out-of-class.  The term blended learning reflects the decision to blend or use both online and onsite instruction and activities, drawing on the best of both media.  Let’s look at three important factors - direct instruction, homework and practice, and class meeting schedules - to examine how the two formats often differ.  

Direct Instruction

In the flipped model, students typically receive instruction at home in the form of online videos or tutorials.  Flipped models emphasize active, exploratory learning building upon foundational knowledge obtained before class meetings.  In the blended model, direct instruction can occur either online or in-class.  Methods are mixed or matched to meet the needs of the lesson.  Blended instruction also emphasizes options; students are usually given more control over the path and pace for learning key concepts.  This also requires the professor to differentiate instruction, considering different learning preferences and abilities.

Homework and Practice

In the flipped model, homework and practice are largely completed in-class, where students can work with others and get immediate help from the instructor.  Assistance is provided just-in-time, preventing students from languishing at home when confusion arises.  This model works well for courses that require complicated, multi-step procedures.  In the blended model, homework and practice are typically completed online or at-home.  Emphasis is placed on providing students with more control over the learning products they generate.  Online interaction with peers and the instructor bridges the time between class meetings and keeps students engaged in the course.

Class Schedule

In the flipped model, the traditional class schedule is preserved.  Students continue to meet at regularly scheduled times.  In the blended model, the traditional class schedule is altered.  The definition of what constitutes a blended course varies by institution.  Generally, blended higher education courses contain a significant amount of online instruction and activities, so face-to-face time is reduced to balance the total workload.  Blended courses are sometimes favored for their schedule flexibility, which can address certain conflicts of time and space.

If you are interested in exploring flipped or blended learning, Instructional Technologies provides workshops, resources, and consultations for faculty.  We would love to know about your experiences with either format.  Contact us at You can also share your thoughts in comment section below.  

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!

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