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

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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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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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.



Effective Design Initiative Update

At WBU, we endeavor to offer the best online classes.  To that end we use a standard established from global best practices, SACS requirements, and WBU expectations called the Effective Design Initiative to evaluate the design and functionality of our courses.  We want effective learning communities with easy access to course materials, and a common organization to facilitate learning.

In the winter term, we began evaluating courses using our phase 2 rubric which provides more detailed information about establishing communication in the classroom, how students find their course materials, and the effective use of Blackboard.  (Compare EDI Phase 1 Rubric and  EDI Phase 2 Rubric).
We encourage you to self-evaluate your course using the phase 2 EDI rubric.   If your course was reviewed by a member of the VC Staff, you will receive an email letting you know how to access the results.  Please apply the recommendations provided.
Wayland Baptist University has a wonderful online program and we are glad you are a part of it. Thank you for your efforts and contributions to the Virtual Campus!

Engaging the Online Learner

TrifilioTrish.jpgIs your online class in a rut?  Do you assign readings, ask a question for discussion, maybe have a short assignment, and give a test?  If all my classes were set up this way, I’d be bored with the work and probably boring in my responses.

Engaged learning is not a new instructional concept.  You have probably heard the terms social cognition, constructivism, active learning, or problem-based learning.  Bruner, Vygotsky, and Piaget all professed that humans learn through interaction.  Learning should be collaborative with meaning negotiated from multiple perspectives (enter critical thinking!).  Activities that require students to interact and encourage a sharing of ideas promote a deeper level of thought.

In a face-to-face classroom you can tell when students are engaged by the sound level and energy in the room. Discussions become animated and there is reluctance to move to a new task.  So how do you create a similar environment online without those visual and verbal cues?

First, the activity you choose must meet the learning outcome you seek (matching learning objectives).  The outcomes of the activities should fall into application, analysis, synthesis, or evaluation levels of thinking as described by Bloom’s taxonomy.


How engaging is the activity?

o   Do the learners use online tools (either in Blackboard or on the Web)?

o   Is there a social component in the established classroom learning community?

o   Is a particular problem presented and solved collaboratively?

o   Does the activity involve reflection using the text, Internet, or personal experience

Choose an authentic activity – it can be a motivating factor.

o   Activities that mimic an actual situation or shared personal experiences are great.

o   Failure, repetition, and subsequent reflection can be some of the best activities.

o   Activities should build skills that have value after the life of the course (Lose the busy work).

Part of the responsibility of an online instructor is to build student’s skills in using necessary tools for the particular subject.  This might involve Internet searches with critical examination as to its source and efficacy.  It might include multimedia, or worksheets.  Skills in group work, or debate, or problem solving might be required for certain professions, so build those skills in your classroom.

Remember, your students have come from an age where the internet has always existed.  Use it!  Try games or simulations – Merlot.org, Connextions, and MIT OpenCourseWare  are good places to start.  Take Virtual Field trips, do WebQuests, incorporate video (student created or on the Web).  Take a leap of faith and empower your students with learner-led activities where students become contributors of knowledge.

As an instructor you do not have to include ALL of these different activities, nor do you have to have one activity every week.  Try to improve you course by adding one engaging activity during the term and refine and improve it.  You might need to use trial and error to find the right activities to make your course more engaging, but when you see the level of excitement and enthusiasm from your learners it is worth the effort.

Dr. Tricia Ritschel-Trifilo
Distance Learning Specialist
Faculty Support
Wayland Baptist University


Wayland Baptist University now has a new multimedia management system called Kaltura that can process and hold various types of media.  This repository can be personal, shared in a classroom, or shared between faculty.

Kaltura 1

With Kaltura, instructors can record mini lectures from their webcam, do screen recording for demonstration, voice over power point, or upload already created video from a source file.  These videos are stored in the instructor’s own “My Media” repository. They can also upload audio files. Instructors can upload media directly into Course Content with the Kaltura Media tool (the original is stored in My Media).  Users can also import media from My Media Repository into a course.

Students can also view, publish and share media (depending on the instructor’s permissions).  Media can be applied to course content, assignments, lectures, etc. to enrich and improve learning and teaching. Instructors can include video or audio in an assignment or content item; students can use videos or audio to respond to a discussion post (this is posted directly with no preview), or submit a video assignment to the course gallery for all in the class to see (this is previewed and released by the instructor), or include video/audio in an assignment that is uploaded in the assignments area for instructor viewing only.

Kaltura media works on all major browsers, and with any online supported video format. Kaltura identifies the best playback engine (Native HTML5, Flash, VLC, Java Cortado, etc.) for each individual settings and video format whether viewing on a smart phone, tablet, laptop, desktop computer, Wifi, satellite, or hard wired connection.

Here is how to get started.

  1. Log into Blackboard and go to the “My WBU” page (usually the landing page for everyone when you login).
  2. Click on the “add Module” tab on the upper left corner.  Navigate down until you find “My Media” and click on the “add” button.

The My Media module on the My WBU page will be the general repository for any media you import or create.  It will be holding ALL of your media so as you create or import items be sure to tag your media with a descriptive term (see below).  This repository is associated with your Blackboard login and will stay with you as long as you have a Blackboard account.

  1.  In each of your courses, under the course management menu for instructors, go to  customization> tool availability > and scroll to find Kaltura Media.  Checkmark as below.


  1.  Now the tools are available for use by instructors and students. If students are going to submit  media assignments to share with the class you must create a Gallery page.
  2. Go to the course menu and click on the ‘+’ sign above the course name


    • Name it “Course Gallery ” or “Gallery Page”.
    • Make it available to students.
    • Submit.
  1. On the course menu, click on the Gallery tab you just created.
  2. Click on the “add module” tab
  3. Find “Course Media” and click on the add button.


Direct students to upload any multimedia assignments to this gallery if you want the class to be able to view them. The instructor must release the media (grant permission) to the classroom prior to students being able to view any multimedia.

Multimedia placed in the Discussion board (such as an introduction) is not reviewed for release.

Trish Trifilo will be doing a spring training on how to set up and use Kaltura in March so watch for announcements.

30 Boxes – an easy to use Course Calendar Tool

30 Boxes is a calendar tool that “supports drag-and-drop capabilities, one-click editing, plain-language event adding, as well as unique features aimed towards social networkers.”[1]  It’s a great tool for Blackboard classrooms because

  • It is easy to use
  • You can embed or share a link to your calendar with anyone
  • Students do not have to be 30boxes users to view your calendar
  • You can schedule multiple terms at one time

Powerful Powerpoints

When students access a PPT file in Blackboard, they have to

  1. download the file
  2. open it in MS Powerpoint (which requires them to also have the program)
  3. then view the file as a show

There are BETTER options for sharing your PowerPoint presentations.

Saving your presentations as a Powerpoint show (PPS) file will eliminate the need to open the file in Powerpoint (but still requires students to download the file).  Students who do not have Powerpoint on their computers, can still view the show through Microsoft’s free Powerpoint viewer.


For instant access that does not require students to download a file in order to see your PowerPoint Presentation, consider saving it as a pdf file.


If you are not sure which option is best for you, consider uploading in both formats.


For optimal Powerpoint viewing, remember to save as a pps or pdf.  PPT is an option that should only be used if you need for students to have the ability to edit and revise the file you are sharing.