About Dr. Scott R. Franklin

Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, School of Mathematics and Sciences, Wayland Baptist University.

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.)

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

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

Continue reading

From the Director’s Desk – Fall 2014

Profile Picture for Dr. Scott R. FranklinIs it just me or does the beginning of the fall term feel like a dust storm rolling in, a haboob, if you will?  Thanks to the fact that the Plainview campus schedule and the external campus schedule collide for the start of the fall term, the Virtual Campus gets stretched just a little thin this time of year.  But the good news is, now that we’re past the census date, the dust is settling.

Since that last time I wrote to you, we have taken a number of steps to help improve our online courses including an update to Blackboard, a reorganization of our faculty resources, and a complete redesign of our online term schedule.  In this newsletter, you’ll find links and information about all three of these developments.

In my column this term, I wanted to draw your attention to some of the new features that are now available in Blackboard Learn thanks to our recent update and give you glimpse of some exciting things on the horizon.

Continue reading

From the Director’s Desk – Summer 2014

One of the great “joys” of my position in the Virtual Campus is to coordinate with each state to make sure that we are authorized to offer our programs to their students. (Yes, read some sarcasm into that.) The good news is we are making great strides towards our goal of providing our programs across the entire nation. I wanted to share one of the great conversations that I had during this process.

Currently, there are several states that only have a handful of students enrolled in our programs. One of those states, which I’ll hold back on naming, has very stringent and expensive requirements to authorize in their state. It was made very clear by the official with whom I spoke that they have those requirements to protect their citizens from predatory institutions that do not have their best interests in mind. In spite of the fact that it is not in our financial best interest to continue offering programs in their state, I did get to explain to the official how we do “online education.” Continue reading

From the Director’s Desk – Spring 2014

Franklin_2013_squareMarch roars in like a lion.  At least here on the Plainview campus, we’ve already had several days of bitter cold and biting wind with at least one 80 degree day mixed in.  You can never fully know what to expect next.  It kind of reminds me of teaching online.  I love the excitement of a new term with new students and new opportunities and, of course, new challenges.

If you’re anything like me, you’re always tweaking.  I’m never comfortable with the status quo and am always striving to make changes to improve the way I teach my classes, whether it’s trying a new discussion board topic, grading strategy, or brand new technology.  Thanks to rapid advances in technology there’s no shortage of new “things” to try.  Of course, we all know it’s not about technology for technology’s sake, but how we can improve the learning environment within our courses.

In this newsletter, I hope you’ll explore some of the newest features that are available to you, including a tool (Kaltura) that will let you not only upload and embed your videos into Blackboard, but also let you record your own screen (e.g. Powerpoints) with voiceover directly through Blackboard. Another tool, recently installed on our Blackboard server, is called Qwickly with which you can post an announcement in multiple classes or email students from multiple classes all at once.  You can read more about these in this quarter’s newsletter.

Also, in the coming weeks, we’ll be starting another round of Spring Training for Blackboard.  Just like last spring, we’ll be hosting weekly online webinars on different features of Blackboard for the newbie all the way to our most advanced users.  Stay tuned for more on these opportunities.

As always, when you run into trouble or need help, be sure to let us know.  We’re standing by to assist you at vcsupport@wbu.edu.

Qwickly – Communicate with all your classes at once

Have you ever needed to make a quick announcement or send an email to all of your classes? While not difficult, it can be tedious to go through the process of navigating to each class, copying and pasting the announcement, configuring the settings, and sending it out.

Now, Qwickly allows you to easily and quickly post announcements or send out emails to multiple classes all at once.  The tool is already installed and available in Blackboard.  To find it, look in the Tools module when you first log in to Blackboard.  At the bottom of the list, you’ll find “Qwickly.”   Continue reading

New Blackboard Features Rolling Out

bb.jpgIt’s so much easier to remember the bumps in the road rather than the smooth patches.  The Virtual Campus had one of those bumps with the recent upgrade to Service Pack 13 in August.  Many of our online instructors were bitten by a short-lived bug that prevented the deletion of discussion board forums and posts in copied courses.  Fortunately, Blackboard Managed Hosting worked quickly to resolve the issue.  Any piece of software as complex as Blackboard is sure to offer it’s fair share of bugs and glitches.

The good news is that Blackboard continues to innovate and provide advances in major new features to their course management system.  Plus, the Virtual Campus is always looking for new ways to improve the online learning experience of our students.

So, here are just a handful of new features that are either available now, or coming very soon:

Inline Grading (available now)

Now, you can now grade your students’ uploaded documents directly in Blackboard.  For many years, instructors have had to download students’ papers, use Word to provide comments and corrections, then either upload the revision or email the student the feedback.  Now, with Inline Grade, instructors can add their comments, corrections, and even draw annotations on their documents directly through the browser in Blackboard.
Learn More ->

Blackboard Collaborate (available now)

The Blackboard Collaborate feature has received an upgrade.  Every course now has an updated look to the Blackboard Collaborate tool which allows instructors easier workflow for setting up synchronous class meetings.  Plus, every course has a dedicated “Course Room” and each instructor has their own room as well.  Also, Collaborate now features built-in telephony so that participants in your meetings can connect via telephone.
Learn More->

Kaltura Media Hosting (coming soon)

Coming very soon, the Virtual Campus will be announcing a new tool integrated into Blackboard where instructors can upload their videos, record from their webcam and record their screen directly into Blackboard.  The tool will be called Kaltura Media and will provide media hosting embedded in Blackboard for all your online video content. We are in the final stages of testing with a pilot group of instructors and will soon be launching this tool system-wide. Stay tuned for more on this feature!

Date Management (coming soon!)

How would you like to be able change all the due dates and availability dates for your course on the same page? Blackboard has just released a feature called “Date Management” which will analyze your course and find all availability and assignment due dates.  Then, from one master page, you’ll be able to adjust all those dates by a specific number of days or individually review and update them.  This feature is currently being tested on our system and will likely be available in the next few weeks.
Learn More ->

From the Director’s Desk – Winter 2013

Winter - TreeMy, how time flies when you’re having fun! The start of the Winter term has come and gone and here we are more than week into classes. We’re running just a little behind with this newsletter edition, largely due to an extended transition from our previous 24/7 help desk vendor to our new partner, Blackboard Student Services.  We are so happy to announce that as of November 6, we are back up and running with full 24/7 Blackboard support for all our students. Students having trouble with Blackboard can call at 866-547-9192 or visit http://bbhelp.wbu.edu.

It’s been a busy fall, as always.  I recently had the opportunity to participate in the Texas Blackboard Users Group (TBUG) Meeting in San Antonio, where a sizable contingent of instructors, administrators and designers gather to share their successes and struggles with Blackboard. The best part of a meeting like this is the chance to learn you’re not alone!  This year, being in San Antonio, we also had several faculty and adjuncts from our Wayland San Antonio campus attend.  As the Director of the Virtual Campus, I often feel a little too virtual so it was very nice to move our interactions out of the inbox and meet face-to-face.

So, here’s my word of thanks to all who where able to come out at join us:
Linda Flores, David Maltsberger, Tim Parker, Charlene Smith, David Stamper, James Todd, Trish Trifilo, Charles Whitehead, and Ellen Walroth.

Another great advantage of gathering with fellow online instructors is that you accumulate some great new ideas to renovate your online course.  There’s no shortage of new tools becoming available in Blackboard.  Later in the this newsletter, we’re announcing some of these of new features that we’ve been rolling out.

Keep in mind that there are a number of places online instructors can go for more help in using all these features in Blackboard:

  1. Wayland’s Faculty Resource Site: Check out a whole series of just-in-time resources compiled by our own Dr. Trish Trifilo.
  2. VC Toolbox:  All of Wayland’s online instructors are enrolled in a course in Blackboard called the VC Toolbox. There is a lot of good information there about Blackboard and our Effective Design Initiative.
  3. Blackboard Help: Go straight to the source with the Blackboard help site.
  4. On Demand Videos: Blackboard also has an extensive library of videos to explore the new learning tools.

As always, when you run into trouble or need help, be sure to let us know.  We’re standing by to assist you at vcsupport@wbu.edu.