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!


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