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 itech@plu.edu. You can also share your thoughts in comment section below.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Top Ten Syllabus Suggestions

by Dana Bodewes, Instructional Designer


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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!

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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 http://www.plu.edu/itech/workshops/ 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 (
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? 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 sakai@plu.edu.

    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!