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

Continue reading

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.

Electing Godly Leaders

1minutedevoIn his inaugural address on March 5, 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes, the nineteenth president of the United States (1877-1881), stated the following:
“Looking for the guidance of that Divine Hand by which the destines of nations and individuals are shaped, I call upon you, Senators, Representatives, judges, fellow citizens, here and everywhere, to unite with me in an earnest effort to secure to our country the blessings, not only of material property, but of justice, peace, and union – a union depending not upon the constraint of force but upon the loving devotion of a free people; and that all things may be so ordered and settled upon the best and surest foundations that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us for all generations.” 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

Transactional Distance Theory

Those in the School of Business can probably tell us a lot about transactions. We most commonly think about them in the exchange of money for a product. This involves a close face to face component where money is handed back and forth between the people. Some transactions involve credit or debit cards, and some are on the Internet where distance is a factor. We may not feel so secure about those distant transactions. Transactions in learning are the exchange of knowledge between instructors and learners. And in online learning this involves distance; a potentially insecure, lonely environment.

Michael Moore, a leader in the field of distance education, coined the name “transactional distance” in 1980. It is “a psychological and communication space to be crossed; a space of potential misunderstanding between the inputs of the instructor and those of the learner”. The theory was expanded and elaborated by Saba and Shearer in 1994. If learning outcomes are to be maximized, the transactional distance must be minimized. Interactive components in the online classroom are the key to accomplishing this.


Dialogue between learners and instructors -learners in an online course are not just separated by geographical distance but by design and structure of a course. They may feel disconnected or isolated if they are just given an assignment and reading and told to meet a deadline. This leads to low motivation, less engagement with the course material and ultimately – attrition – the killer of all online programs. So how do you increase dialogue?

  • Use discussion boards where the instructor actually comments back to learner posts in a timely manner, or summarizes learner posts at the end of the discussion. A great motivator is to name learners and specific contributions in the summary: “John Smith provided a foundation concept blah, blah, blah. Susie Jones furthered that concept by explaining Saba’s research done in 1998”. Learners love that pat on the back or recognition and are motivated to contribute more significant ideas.
  • Use discussion boards that require learners to interact with other learners in a meaningful way. Don’t just accept replies that state “good job” or “I agree”. Ask the learner to further the discussion by bringing in evidence in an article, or personal experience, or by elucidating the idea posted by the first learner. Research shows that learners are more motivated and more satisfied with learning that involves peer to peer interactions or participation in a purposeful community of inquiry (Moisey, Neu, & Cleveland -Innes, 2008) and (Stavredes, Herder, 2013).
  • Blogs and Wikis provide a different peer to peer interactive experience. Blogs tend to allow more free flowing thoughts and ideas. Wikis require learners to contribute and refine ideas into a succinct product.
  • Use Blackboard IM as an immediate question/answer platform when learners and instructors are online simultaneously.
  • Provide a place for learners to ask questions or seek directions of other learners in the course.
  • Use Kaltura to place short 3-7 minute videos; either lectures, voice over power point, announcements, or feedback to students on a project. Add a question/answer component after a video to help ensure assimilation. Seeing the instructor’s face and expressions improves satisfaction in the course by fostering a sense of community.
  • Utilize Blackboard Collaborate in office hours, community meetings with learners and instructors for explaining or expanding concepts, or a place for learners to meet to exchange ideas and build knowledge without the instructor.


Structure and Design of the course – the flexibility or rigidity of instructional methods and strategies can greatly increase or decrease transactional distance. Structure has a big influence in motivation to succeed in the course, and general satisfaction with the subject matter. Learners who can’t navigate the course or find vital information easily will become frustrated with the course and are less likely to participate fully.

  • Extrude the components of your syllabus into the Bb classroom. Syllabi are very important documents. They provide the direction and structure of the course, and expectations of the instructor for the learners. We expect learners to read the document, but it should not be used as a listing of course activities. Learners are using more and more mobile devices in learning. Constant downloading of documents can be expensive, time consuming, annoying on a slow service, or hard to read once acquired. If you place the course schedule, textbook and resource links, parameters for discussions or papers in the Course Information area they are easily seen by the student by one click and become better reminders of how to act in the course.
  • Anything to do with course materials and content should be in a content item on the menu (not in the syllabus). If your course is arranged week by week use weekly folders with the reading, Discussion Board, written assignments and quizzes inside the folder. If you want to contain all the quizzes in one menu item “Quizzes” then link to the quizzes folder or quiz in the weekly folder. This will provide the learners with a clear list of activities and due dates. If you arrange by unit….do unit folders the same way.
  • Be sure there are active links to the VC for help, and the library, and any other technical assistance you deem important. Learners need to have a way to request help quickly to stay active in the course.
  • The Effective Design Initiative(EDI) course provides you with a checklist for classroom design items – some which are required and some that offer suggestions and best practices. Use this to set up your course design.
  • Think interaction in whatever ways are comfortable for you.


Autonomy – the degree of self-directedness of the learner. This is a trickier component. Some instructors have very specific components with which every learner must interact. But research has shown that some autonomy gives the learner a sense of ownership, satisfaction, and accomplishment. Giving learners options on how to learn is a good solution.

  • Giving learners some choices can be simple or more complex. Because people learn differently you could provide videos, power point slides, or audio for the chapters. They select what works for them. Some textbooks provide at least the PPT’s and the audio in the faculty resources.
  • You can provide some different learning options in different weeks – such as a choice of article critiques.

You can encourage your learners to research and bring new found knowledge to the classroom discussion or blog.

So consider all those academic transactions you could make with your students. By decreasing the transactional distance and you will “show them the money”. You’ll give them evidence of a more successful classroom experience.

“Moore, M. G. 1991. Distance education theory. The American Journal of Distance Education 5 (3).

Saba, F. & Shearer, R. (1994). Verifying key theoretical concepts in a dynamic model of distance education. The American Journal of Distance Education, 9(3).

Blackboard Upgrade Scheduled – Friday, August 15

On Friday, August 15, we will be conducting an update to our Blackboard Learn 9.1 system (  We are upgrading from Service Pack 13 to the April 2014 Release.

The update is currently scheduled to begin at 4:00 pm (CDT) on Friday, August 15, 2014.  The system will be unavailable for approximately 15 hours during the update.  The system is expected to be fully up and running by 7:00 am (CDT) on Saturday, August 16, 2014.

There should not be any noticeable formatting changes to the Blackboard system and all of your course materials will remain intact through this update.  However, there are a couple of exciting new features that will accompany this update (see below).  As always, there are some bug fixes that will aid in resolving ongoing issues.

Two exciting new features added to Blackboard:

  1. SafeAssign Integration

The SafeAssign feature (for plagiarism detection) has been integrated into the Assignment object so it will be possible to check a box on an assignment for a SafeAssign report to be generated.  This also means that instructors can use in-line grading on these assignments, eliminating the need to create separate assignments for each purpose (plagiarism detection AND in-line grading).

Click here for more information and a short video:

Note that existing SafeAssignments will be converted to Assignments with plagiarism detection turned on.


  1. Student Preview

There is also an easier to use feature that allows instructors to switch between a student view and back again.  We have a feature installed that does this clumsily but now it will be available at the click of a button: one click to switch to a REAL student view and then a click to switch back.

Click here for more information and demo:


If you have any questions, please let us know using the Instructor Help Request Form

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!