WBU and Accessibility


What does it mean to have your classroom and content accessible?  Think easy to approach, or reach.  Easy to use, or engage. It also refers to our students with disabilities being able to acquire the same information and engage in the same interactions within the same time frame as those without disabilities. Don’t think you have students with disabilities?  Think again.  Whether they are declared or not,  15-20% of their students in any given class may have a disability.

Structure of Courses

On a recent exit survey, our students told us they like using Blackboard and find it easy to use BUT they find the lack of consistency between courses, in our course organization and navigation, confusing.  For example, some instructors place the assignments within the weekly lesson, some place them in an assignment folder, some don’t place them at all…they list it in the syllabus.  Our menus are as varied as our instructors, some tall, some short, some colorful, some complicated.  I have always believed in instructor’s  ‘free choice’ in how they place their content in the classroom, but our students are requesting a bit less variety.  Universal Design for Learning is a set of guidelines that points to an architectural framework for creation and organization of learning materials. Individuality for your course, with some common structure for your students is the goal. The Virtual Council will be addressing this issue in the fall. Your school has a representative.  Make sure you get in on the conversation.

Accessing Materials

Another component of accessibility involves barriers that students encounter in our classrooms.  We need to be more aware, more sensitive to students who may be very intelligent but have some disability (physical, psychological, developmental) that makes working in the classroom more of a challenge than it is for students without disabilities. A file that won’t open or can’t be read by a screen reader; video that won’t play or is not captioned; text that varies in size, color, and contrast are common issues. But what about the student for whom English is a second language, a student with dyslexia, a student who has had a traumatic brain injury and processes learning differently – what is our responsibility to them?  The law says we must accommodate them.  But what it really involves is a change of thought, a change of heart, a desire to help others learn, for us to truly live our profession.  At WBU, we are committed to educate students in an academically challenging, learning-focused and distinctively Christian environment.  We are inclusive and caring with quality courses. We need to learn to use tools and resources to create a learning environment that provides for all students.  Is this easy? Somewhat. The hardest part is to break old habits and accept some change. We need to develop a culture that does not just see a set of rules, but sees the objectives of the rules as a basis for our cultural values, ensuring equality in an enriched learning environment so our students have professional success and can provide service to God and humankind.

This change needs to happen.  We hope to make it gradual without too much stress, but  need your help and your support.  We need your ideas and cooperation.  The changes will require a bit more of your time in the classroom set up, but won’t be difficult.  We will also start to include training, and EDI components to help you create that accessible classroom both online and f2f.

To start getting acquainted with some accessibility ideas and techniques, please see the tutorials posted in the WBUOnline Toolbox under Recommended Tutorials.

Have a great summer term and God Bless


“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:2

Pushing and Pulling: How it relates to online learning

Most of us come from a traditional learning background where information is presented in a linear fashion – Professor presents a lecture and perhaps some notes, students absorb the information, students are assessed on the information. In an online course, students are often locked into a “click and read content” format of learning. In this instructional format, students are not always challenged to reflect and make decisions about the information they are learning.

In the article “How to Create Interactive E-Learning”, the author of the  Rapid E-learning blog , who simply calls himself Tom provides four structural changes that allow learners to pull information.  This “pulling” action helps create a more active learning experience.

  • Set the stage by providing some contextual information.
  • Create decision points where the learner is challenged to demonstrate their understanding. We don’t want them just reading or listening. We want them to reflect and process. Getting them to make decisions is a good way to get them there.
  • Provide a means for them to collect information (this is where exploration comes in handy).
  • Give them feedback based on the decisions they make.

Simple changes to the presentation of your content will allow you to make a bigger impact in your online learning environment.

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From the Director’s Desk

Welcome back to Fall in the Virtual Campus. In mid-August we upgraded to the most current version of Blackboard. This should fix several of the annoying error messages  Trishseen during spring and summer terms.

  • Blackboard IM and Safeassign have also been updated.
  • Blackboard Collaborate has been developed into a more social space for easy file, desktop and website sharing, conversations, and class meetings. If you are interested in trying out this Collaborate, which is more similar to the Google Hangout setup, let me know. Until all the tools are fully functional I will not put it in all classrooms. Development for the mobile components should be complete in a few weeks.
  • Unfortunately we have had to cancel Respondus Lockdown Browser. It is being redeveloped but is not ready for use. The virtual campus is searching for an affordable replacement with similar functionality.

Look for our newest tool called Atomic Learning. It’s a Blast! It is available to all students, staff, and faculty, and can be found in Blackboard under tools on the MyWBU page. This tool has thousands of short video tutorials on how to do things. For example, there are Blackboard tutorials from an instructor or a student perspective. Need to format a Word document? Learn how with Atomic Learning. Confused using Excel? Need help using Photoshop? Got an Apple Watch? Search Atomic Learning to find a video to help you figure it out. These tutorials can also be placed and assigned in a classroom – with direct links to the video.

In October, the Virtual Campus will hold some training on Blackboard and various tools. These trainings will be a combination of onsite and virtual so anyone can attend or watch the training at a more convenient time. Learn more about Kaltura for multimedia, Atomic Learning, the new Collaborate, Grade Center, and assessments.

As always, the Virtual Campus team is ready to assist you. Holly, Leslie, and Jennifer Brown are experts for your classrooms and Blackboard issues. Jennifer Martin helps our students with all the ins and outs of advising within the virtual campus. Call, email, IM or Lync into our help.

We hope you have a blessed and exciting Fall term.

Patricia M. Ritschel-Trifilo, PhD
Director of the Virtual Campus
Faculty Support
Wayland Baptist University

From the Director’s Desk

The Summer Term for the Virtual Campus has jumped out to a fast start – and a wet one as reported by many campuses. Summer is a time for review and renewal, and growth at the Virtual Campus. We look at Blackboard and see what updates will benefit the faculty and students. We renew many software contracts.

This July we will be bringing on an exciting software package called Atomic Learning. It will be available to all faculty, staff, and all students university wide. The “atom” part refers to very short, sequential videos that teach you how to use, create, and work in hundreds of software applications: Microsoft Office, Adobe, Blackboard April 2014, Camtasia, DragonSpeak, Dreamweaver, Dropbox, Google, IOS products including the new Apple Watch, tablets, Photoshop to name a few. It will be integrated into Blackboard so you can assign a lesson, or use it as a resource without leaving the classroom for faculty and students. Staff will have access via the WBU website. There will be a single sign in and new students will be authenticated automatically.

I always like to include a component on Course Design in my Newsletter component. I ran across an article by Michael Simonson that I think provides a good checklist for online instruction. Online Instruction – The Seven Virtues. Or, How to Avoid the Seven Deadly Presentation Sins, Distance Learning, 12(1), 3-4.   I always talk about “best practices’ that lead to a dynamic interesting online class. Dr. Simonson describes his “7 virtues” or best practices as follows:

  1. Humility, that counters the sin of pride – avoid the talking head! Do not be the presenter who dominates the screen and never shows any visual content like graphs or examples. Establish your presence and then show something.
  2. Charity, that counters the sin of greed – keep the length appropriate. Organize your lesson around a single concept easily presented in 3-5 minutes. Then expand with ancillary materials. Go for an introduction statement, a brief explanation, and a strong summary statement.
  3. Patience, that counters the sin of wrath (when no one asks relevant questions) – plan for interaction by seeding questions, interspersing chats, blogs, or simple discussions. This might help encourage more in depth discussions as the material is synthesized.
  4. Diligence, that wards off the sin of sloth – preparing and planning. Every course, every term should be reviewed, looking for updated resources, relevant assessments, and include testing of tools used in the classroom.
  5. Kindness, warding off envy – Design for your audience! Learn new strategies, or refine old ones; try out new learning modalities. Be aware of how your students learn, and what disabilities might impair their ability to learn.
  6. Temperance, to avoid gluttony – Presenting as the goal in order to avoid lecturing. While talking is usually the easiest form of communication for the instructor, lecture is a poor way to promote understanding. Think about using multimedia, visuals, and projects to deepen the learning through comprehension, analysis and synthesis.
  7. Chasitity, to counter the sin of lust – intentions are critical! ‘Return on investment’ or ‘cost effectiveness’ should not be the primary reason we offer online learning. Both the institution and Instructors should be dedicated to high-quality materials, rigorous instructional standards, and uniform expectations. (Yes those EDI’s have a purpose).

Have a great and safe summer term! And be virtuous!

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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