TIPS for an Effective Course Design

five tips

Each term, we have the opportunity to visit between 75-100 courses to see how well our courses are meeting the goals of our Effective Design Initiative.   Here is a list of the most common issues addressed in our reviews.  Follow these five tips and you will be well on your way to an effective course design.



Can you imagine walking into teach a face-to-face course and not ever telling anyone who you were or anything about your credentials to teach the course? Even if you did not introduce yourself, face-to-face students would still have the advantage of seeing you and having some idea who you were.



Even if your course does not lend itself to discussion, you can still provide forums for students to introduce themselves and interact.

(See Engaging Students through Interactivity)



Suppose that you were a student in a face to face class. Your instructor walks in and hands you a sheet of assignments for the week and then dismisses you from class: no lecture, no discussion, no supplementary materials, just a list of assignments.What kind of an impression would that leave?

Here are some ideas for the kinds of instructional content you can include:

Good Better Best
A text based lecture An audio lecture A video lecture
A Powerpoint* presentation Powerpoint with audio A voice and visual lecture PLUS interactive content  

*to make Powerpoints more accessible, post them as pdfs or upload to slideshare or brainshark

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A Welcome from Your New Director

In nature, spring is a time of transition and transformation, and so it goes for the Virtual Campus. After 21/2 years as your distance learning specialist I have been blessed with the opportunity of serving as the Director of the Virtual Campus.   I come to this job with 20 years of experience in distance education including teaching, designing courses, and implementing and directing a new online program. I am very active in the Texas Blackboard Users Group, and currently serve as the President of the Texas Distance Learning Association, a non-profit organization of over 700 individuals, universities, colleges, corporations, non-profits, and military in Texas that keep abreast on ideas, technologies, legislation, and content to help develop and maintain leading-edge distance learning programs.

Wayland has an outstanding online learning program and I am excited to be a part of it. I bring to this job a foundation of integrity, a passion for learning and teaching, a commitment to excellence and quality education for our students, and a conviction that integrating faith and learning throughout our program will lead to graduates who are successful professionally, and in service to God and their community. I am excited about the opportunity to market Wayland’s online program beyond its current borders. We have a unique niche in the world of distance education created by our excellent programs and Christian values.

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Engaging your students through interactivity

Teaching online is a challenge.  It’s easy to feel disconnected from our students and not engage with them as well as we could, especially since our university reaches a broad audience of students through several time zones.   Asynchronosicity often is the best approach for our courses, so, if we can’t get everyone together to Collaborate , Skype, or IM what are our options?   

How can we create meaningful learning interactions to engage our students?

Show your face

I’ve mentioned this before in previous articles because I think it is so important to let students get a glimpse of who you are.


  • Post a picture with your introduction
  • Post an introductory video
  • Post an occasional video lecture

          Camera shy?  Create an audio lecture and post your picture with it.   Students can see your face while hearing your voice

Let students show their faces (their personalities, their creativity, etc.)


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A Fond Farewell

Franklin_2013_squareIt is with a heavy heart that I write this column for our Spring newsletter.  At the same time, I am very excited about the upcoming opportunity.  As many of you will have already heard, I am stepping down as the Director of the Virtual Campus and transitioning into the position of Dean of the School of Mathematics and Sciences.  Coinciding with the start of the Spring VC term, February 23, Dr. Trish Trifilo will be assuming the top position here in the Virtual Campus. (See the Official Press Release)

Dr. Trish Trifilo was first hired by Wayland in May of 2012 to serve as our Distance Learning Specialist.  Since then, she has served as our primary support for online faculty and those who teach online have come to know her well and know that she is perfect candidate for the job.  She brings with her many years of expertise in teaching online and her credentials include a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.  Prior to coming to Wayland, she served as the Director of Online Learning at Hardin Simmons University.  The Virtual Campus will certainly thrive under her very capable leadership.

Dr. Herb Grover has served as the Dean of the School of Mathematics and Sciences since 2009, and recently announced that he will be retiring from this position at the end of the current term.  Beginning with the Spring VC term, I will take over many of his duties within the School.  Over the course of the next few months, Dr. Trifilo, Dr. Grover, and I  will work to complete the transition of leadership.  Most issues for the Director of the VC will need to be directed to Dr. Trifilo, while most issues for the Dean of the School of Mathematics and Sciences will be directed to Dr. Franklin.  As needed, Dr. Grover and I and step in to help on issues relating to our current positions.

I will miss a great many things about this job, most of which are people with whom I have had the great honor to serve.  Wayland could not ask for a more skilled and capable staff in handling the complexities of delivering online programs and courses to the thousands of students we serve each term.  The Virtual Campus staff are the ones that have made me look good over the last three years.  I will also miss the wonderful faculty, both full-time and adjuncts, that teach for us online.  While I may not have met most of them face to face, I was constantly reminded of just how special of a place Wayland is when I saw their care and compassion for our students.  It is our people that make Wayland the best place to complete a degree and the best place to work.

Those that know me well know that my heart has always been in the classroom, both the physical classroom and the online classroom, but more specifically the mathematics classroom.  I have always had a passion for the study of God’s creation as a means to learn more about our Creator and how He works to reveal himself through nature.  Mathematics is the language that has proven surprisingly effective in modeling the physical world around us and by God’s design, I was made to seek him through this language of creation. When I see God’s creation follow these discernible patterns written in mathematics, I become convinced that God created mankind to know him both through faith and through science. And when I see how faithful God’s creation is to these patterns, I catch a glimpse of God’s faithfulness to his children.

I look forward to serving in leadership of the School of Mathematics and Sciences so that we can continue to keep Christ at the center of our School, helping our students to see the study of science and mathematics as more than just a path to a career, but also as the study of majesty of God’s creation.

Thanks to all of you who made my time in the Virtual Campus special, you will be missed! (But, for the record, I’m still just an email away at the same old address.)

Two Questions to Start the Year

2015_new_yearHappy 2015!!!

I pray you had a restful and memorable Christmas season. As we start the new year there are two questions that need to be raised in our prayers, plans, and preparations. You may want to post them to your desk area, refrigerator, in your bible, bathroom mirror, or somewhere you can be reminded throughout the year.

  1. What do I want to accomplish this next year?
    In Proverbs 29:18 we read, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained (perish – KJV), But happy is he who keeps the law.” (NAS)

    If you don’t have a vision/goal for what you want to achieve in this coming year your time will be quickly lost as you utilize your energy and resources for things that perish. Happy is he who keeps his eye on the goal and completes the task. The rewards are worth the effort. God wants you to do much and will give you a vision for what you can do and become if you ask.

  2. Do I reveal Jesus in my daily life?
    In Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul calls us to “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (NIV) We should reveal Jesus in all aspects of our daily life. As followers of Jesus, we look to his life to gain insights on our decisions and interactions. We must be careful to not give intellectual assent to the truth of the gospel without demonstrating true spiritual transformation. Others are looking at your life and following your example. That is why Paul says, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NAS)

Lawrence W. Wilson asked these questions of pastors, but they are for all who believe in Christ Jesus. I pray we have the courage to ask these questions weekly as we follow Jesus together at Wayland in 2015.

May God bless each of you in 2015 as you walk with Jesus,


Micheal Summers
Director of Church Services / Assistant Professor of Religion / Assistant Director of Ministry Guidance

The Season of Advent

advent-wreath-and-candle---christmas--1435855-mThe Season of Advent began Sunday, November 30. With candles, greenery, songs, psalms, and decorations churches began celebrating the birth of Jesus as foretold by prophets of old like Isaiah in chapter 9 of the book that bears his name.

2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

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From the Director’s Desk – Winter 2014

Franklin_2013_squareIt was just over two years ago, the Virtual Campus along with the rest of the Wayland system was celebrating all-time record high enrollments.  Since then, Wayland as well as most of the rest of Higher Education has seen significant decline in numbers, particularly in the non-traditional student population.  In this environment, it pays to stop and evaluate who we are and why we do what we do.

As I’m sure it is with all of our staff and faculty, Wayland’s mission is at the core of everything I try to do for my students and for the university.

Wayland Baptist University exists to educate students in an academically challenging, learning-focused, and distinctively Christian environment for professional success and service to God and humankind.

When it comes to our online programs, I encourage you to see your role as an instructor, advisor, or other service staff to our students, as a way of accomplishing that Christian mission.  For me, that means focusing on what makes Wayland special. Continue reading

111114 – Veteran’s Day 2014


“Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.” – Gen. George S. Patton

As Joshua prepared to lead the Hebrews into Canaan the Lord’s words were ones of courage and assurance.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged,
for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Today the nation honors our military personnel for their service and sacrifice, for their conduct and courage, for their duty and defense. We remember those who gave their lives for the cause of freedom as we salute those presently serving. We give thanks also for the families who stood beside, stayed behind, and said goodbye, acknowledging their sacrifices and service as well. May we honor them each day by utilizing the freedom they secure to better serve God and humankind. This is a continuing role of Wayland’s mission. Continue reading

Blackboard Grader App for iOS

There is finally an app for Blackboard that has been designed with the online instructors in mind. The Blackboard Grader App is now available and gives instructors an option for reviewing, providing feedback, and grading student submissions to Blackboard Learn Assignments.BbGrader_hero2_tcm21-7049

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Kaltura: What is it? Why should I use it?

When a company markets their product, they want to wow you with all the bells and whistles and entice you to buy it. Once it comes down to application, however, that new product with its huge list of “features and benefits” may leave you puzzled.


There is a lot of documentation on a relatively new Blackboard building block we’ve made available to you called Kaltura. We even have some fantastic tutorials on our faculty resources page, which you will definitely want to refer to after you read this article. But before you read the instructions, it would serve you well to understand what the product is.

We can probably all look back on a time when someone gave a gift that puzzled us as to its use or purpose. Months, or even years later, a situation or need may have arisen that caused us to remember the gift and suddenly have a purpose for it.  Aha moment

As a member of the Virtual Campus staff, it is a high priority for me to understand, navigate and become comfortable using  certain technologies. Yet, I tend to have a “show me why I need it” philosophy before I jump on the technology bandwagon.

Since our adoption of Kaltura, here are some of the ways I have found it useful in teaching my online course:

Student Projects

My music appreciation class has a final project that allows students to submit an audio or video recording. I generally do not get many video projects, but when a student emailed to say she was having problems uploading hers because the file was not in the right format, the “ahah moment” hit me. “I know just the tool for that!” I thought. I suddenly had a practical need for Kaltura. Kaltura allows video and audio uploads in any format. It also allows you to add images.

 Screen Capture

I found Kaltura useful again when I wanted to create an instructional video with screen capture for my students. I was able create a lecture video using you tube video clips, my voice, and screen shots of several webpages.

Welcome and Lecture Videos

Although I am still camera shy, (I cannot seem to not look weird on a web cam) I am impressed and inspired by our faculty who post a welcome video in their courses. Kaltura would allow me to do that too!

Kaltura audio and video files can be used anywhere in Blackboard. Faculty and students can add video to assignments, tests, quizzes, forums, blogs, etc. Imagine the possibilities. You could add audio instructions to assignments; you could have students post video or audio responses to your discussion board; you could add an audio or video introduction to each course unit.

These suggestions just scratch the surface. So, what are you waiting for?   Start poking around and see how you can best use that puzzling gift the VC got you.