Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fall 2015 Technology Workshops

Check out the schedule of Fall 2015 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: 
  • Flipping vs. Blending: Course Design Options
  • Engaging Students Outside the Classroom with Google Blogger
  • Collaboration with Google Docs and Drive
  • Sakai Lessons Tool
  • Recording Weekly Videos with iMovie
  • 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.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sakai Rich-Text Editor Upgrade on Aug. 8, 2015

On Saturday, August 8, 2015, Sakai will be out of service from 7:00AM to 7:30AM PDT in order to upgrade the CKEditor, the rich-text editor in Sakai. The CKEditor is embedded within many Sakai tools including Lessons, Mailtool, Assignments, Announcements, etc.

Click image to enlarge.

As a result of this upgrade, the new CKEditor will have a new look-and-feel, most noticeably with updated tool icons. However, the current ordering of the CKEditor’s buttons and drop-down menus will remain the same. Furthermore, many of the quirks users experience with this editor will be resolved as a result of this upgrade.

For a closer look at each of the new CKEditor buttons and menus, see the document What is the purpose of each of the CKEditor controls? If you have any questions or concerns please email sakai@plu.edu.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sunset for ½” VHS Videotape Players

For over 25 years Video Home System (better known as ½” VHS) players provided access to analog video recordings in classrooms. But as technology continued to improve, this format was gradually supplanted by DVD players. What this means at PLU, is that what was once a standard component of classroom podiums, is now obsolete.

In May of 2013, Instructional Technologies emailed all faculty to let you know about the sunsetting of the ½” VHS video format. Since the Spring of 2013 we have not been able to purchase new ½” VHS players because they are no longer being manufactured. At this time we have only a few spares left to replace players in the classroom that become inoperable. If you're still using 1/2" VHS cassettes in the classroom, please be aware of the following change that will take place this summer and learn what you can do to make this transition as smooth as possible.

Removing ½” VCRs from Classroom Podiums

To address this issue and conserve our remaining VHS player spares, Instructional Technologies plans to make the following changes in classroom technology this summer:
  • Remove all remaining ½” VHS/DVD players in classrooms and make them available for faculty checkout as needed.
  • Replace ½” VHS/DVD players with region free DVD players that play NTSC, PAL, and SECAM DVD formats.
If you still use ½” VHS videos in your classes, you may check out a VHS player that can be easily patched into a podium or even stationed in a classroom for the semester if used frequently. You can reserve a ½” VCR from Instructional Technologies by emailing itech@plu.edu.

Replacing ½” VHS Videotapes

Ultimately though, you will need to take action to replace these videotapes or find alternative instructional content.
  • Un-copyrighted ½” VHS tapes may be converted to the DVD format using commercial conversion services. 
  • Copyrighted ½” VHS tapes might be available for purchase. Contact your department/school faculty library liaison for assistance in researching options for purchasing videos in DVD format.

If you have any questions or concerns about this transition, please contact either of us at itech@plu.edu. Thanks!

    Layne Nordgren, Director for User Services/Instructional Technologies
    Travis Pagel, Classroom and Event Technologies Team Lead

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Exploring “GradeMark” for Sakai Turnitin Assignments

by Dana Bodewes, Instructional Designer

Most faculty are familiar with the software Turnitin for its Originality Check of student papers, but it also offers a grading tool called GradeMark. On May 30, PLU will upgrade its Turnitin service in Sakai and with it receive improved access to the GradeMark tool. For student work submitted through Sakai Assignment’s Turnitin service, faculty will now have access to GradeMark’s grading functions. I am always keen to explore ways to streamline the time-consuming and arduous process of reviewing student work, so I have been exploring some of the new features this tool can bring to the grading process.

GradeMark is probably used most often for the evaluation of student papers. The digital grading process can be more efficient while also providing an electronic record of feedback, benefiting both instructors and students. Here are a few features I thought provided the most potential for faculty:

Quick Marks: Grademark allows you to highlight and easily insert feedback on students assignments. Comments can be personalized or you may utilize a library of comments created to reflect the needs of a specific course or assignment.

Rubrics: Using rubrics during the evaluation process helps to encourage clarity and specificity. GradeMark rubrics can be easily created and added to an assignment review. With the rubric and assignment side-by-side, the grading process moves much faster.

Voice Feedback: Recorded messages hasten the feedback process while providing a personal touch. GradeMark allows you to record up to 3 minutes of feedback for the overall assignment. However, the feature does not allow for feedback pointed to specific parts of student work.

If you are interested in trying GradeMark, Turnitin has an interactive tutorial that allows users to simulate the grading of a student paper while exploring the tool. You may even want to explore mobile grading using Turnitin on your iPad. Keep in mind that specific uses of GradeMark in Sakai might vary from what is presented in the videos and tutorials on Turnitin’s website. Also, because the integration between GradeMark and the Sakai Assignments tool is not entirely seamless, please refer to the Sakai help documentation, or schedule a consultation with Instructional Technologies (itech@plu.edu) for more information.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Helping Students “Stay Connected” This Summer

by Dana Bodewes, Instructional Designer

You may have noticed PLU promoting a new summer session campaign called “Stay Connected”. The campaign hopes to improve retention, decrease time to matriculation, and increase enrollments in summer session courses. 

A February 2015 survey of PLU students found:

    86% have never enrolled in a PLU summer course.
    76% plan to work over summer break.
    59% plan to return home over summer break.

To meet the challenge of staying connected to students during the summer, PLU will be offering twelve fully online courses taught by PLUTO trained faculty. Courses range from Christian Ethics to Beginning Watercolor Painting and allow students to fulfill general education requirements. Enrollment and budget challenges provide PLU with an opportunity to consider the evolving needs of our students. Pioneering faculty are helping PLU to explore how online learning might offer a high quality, engaging PLU experience when students cannot come to campus. Registration is right around the corner, and the PLU community is interested to see whether these new online offerings will entice students to give summer session a try.

     40% are undecided about whether to enroll in summer session.
     31% are interested in online summer courses.
     25% are interested in blended summer courses.

Summer is a great time for faculty to begin thinking about whether teaching an online or blended summer course might be something they want to consider. PLUTO trained faculty report gaining skills in pedagogy and technology that not only prepare them for online teaching but improve their teaching in traditional courses as well. Information sessions for the next PLUTO Institute during JTerm will be offered in the fall. This is an exciting time to be teaching at PLU. We would love to hear your ideas for summer session in the comments section below. For more information, check out the websites for PLU Teaching Online (PLUTO) and Summer Session.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Maintaining Student Engagement

by Dana Bodewes, Instructional Designer

The Northwest has experienced some beautiful weather lately and the effects of spring fever are soon to appear in the classroom. It can be difficult to focus on work when sunshine and warmer temperatures are beckoning us outside! Perhaps this is a good time to consider ways to keep your students interested and engaged in class activities. Below I have listed some strategies to increase student interest and engagement in any course.
  • Games and Competition: Game-based learning isn't just for children. Games tap into the human desire for competition and utilize scheduled, intermittent rewards to keep learners motivated. Games for higher education are growing in popularity. (Check out the Educational Gaming Commons hosted by Penn State.) But, even simple, low-tech games or competitions can make learning really engaging for students. 
  • Applied Learning: Students consistently report that they value learning experiences more when the learning is applied to real-world situations or scenarios relevant to their future professions. When possible, look for opportunities to use case studies, simulations, or role-playing to help ground theoretical ideas.
  • Formative Assessments: Keep students on their toes and paying attention by integrating quick assessments of learning. Assessments can be implemented using clickers, online polls, or even Twitter to gather and report on student responses to a topic or question. A free account with Poll Everywhere can you get started with integrating simple formative assessments. 
  • Peer Learning: Spend any time around teens and young adults and there's no denying the effects of peer learning. Look for opportunities to utilize group projects, student presentations, and peer feedback. Collaboration tools and clear directions help to set students up for success when working in groups.
  • Creativity and Personalization: When assigning projects, students may become more engaged when there are opportunities to get creative or to personalize the project to their individual interests. For example, you may consider letting students share research by creating a video documentary, a journal article, or a web page. 
  • Debate and Discussion: To keep students engaged, you may want to post a trending news story or controversial idea for debate or discussion in an online forum. Some cognitive dissonance can peak student interest and push them to analyze their opinions in light of new information or differing perspectives.
  • Guest Speakers: To spark interest and introduce variety, consider inviting a guest speaker to talk to your class. Students can converse live with your guest in person or using a web-conferencing tool. They could also interact asynchronously with a guest using a discussion forum or social media tool like Twitter or Facebook.
If you are interested in learning more, check out this blog post Understand, Engage, Connect: Meeting Millennials Learners Where They Are. If you are ready to try a new engaging activity, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Instructional Technologies for assistance and support.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Assess Your Course Design for Quality Practices

by Dana Bodewes, Instructional Designer

Whether you are teaching a course for the first time or the fiftieth, it is good practice to take a step back and critically reflect on the design of one’s course. Faculty are undoubtedly the masters of their course content, but it can be beneficial to consider the best practices that contribute to the quality design of a course as well. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple checklist to help you review your course’s design? Well, read on...

In support of the PLUTO Institute and initiatives, PLU holds an institutional subscription to the Quality Matters (QM) Program. The program rubric contains 44 standards to assess the design of online and blended courses. Quality Matters standards are based on best practices and help to guide the development of quality courses while providing a process for peer review. With PLU’s subscription to Quality Matters, faculty may use (and modify) the standards for unofficial review purposes. If you are interested in seeing the Fifth Edition of the Quality Matters Rubric, it can be accessed from the Instructional Technologies site with your PLU ePass. 

The QM Rubric is such a great tool for online and blended course design, I found myself wishing an equivalent existed for traditional courses. Last semester, I created a short and simple checklist for faculty to self-assess traditional on-campus courses in a way similar to Quality Matters. I pared it down to 25 best practices in the following categories: Course Introduction, Learning Objectives and Assessment, Instructional Materials and Activities, Course Technology, and Learner Support and Accessibility. The list intentionally errs on the side of brevity in order to provide a fast review of quality design indicators. Note that teaching of the course is not evaluated here; that would require a whole different type of rubric. About ⅔ of the standards are based on the Quality Matters Rubric and a few are original contributions.

As the semester begins, take a few moments to review this course quality design checklist to see how many best practices your courses contain. Or, consider attending an Instructional Technologies workshop on this topic from 12:30-1:30 on May 5, 2015. As always, consultations are also available for those who would like to discuss course design by contacting Instructional Technologies at itech@plu.edu. 

If you have any design standards to add to the list, or if you have a course review checklist that you know and love, please share in the comment section below.