Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why Professors Teaching Online Must Think Like Method Actors and Film Directors

Why Professors Teaching Online Must Think Like Method Actors and Film Directors

by Varun Khanna

Clearly, academia is going through a disruptive phase where students from all over the world believe that their next classroom experience may not come face-to-face from the local college but, half-way across the world via a web conferencing tool like Adobe Connect, Fuzebox or Bb Collaborate.

Even die-hard traditional universities that may have vowed never to join the blended/online classroom experience are now reevaluating their strategy.

So, what can professors do to enhance online engagement experience for their students?

Think - Camera! Lights! Action!
  1. Camera Angle
  2. Lighting 
  3. Background
  4. Color
  5. Movement 
  6. Eye contact 
  7. Punctuate 
  8. Script it 
  9. Rehearse it 
  10. Technique
Laptop Camera Angle
If your laptop camera is not eye-level then you are looking down on your students. If you have too much space on the top, to left or right, then you probably are projecting a diluted version of yourself online.

Think soft warm light as opposed to fluorescent lighting that is rarely kind. Pick up a couple of small lamps with warm light bulbs from your local hardware store.  Place a light to your left and right (one closer than the other). Try not to have an overhead light that might create shadows on your face. Remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry's girlfriend looks rather interesting under different lighting conditions?

Sitting in front of a window during the day teaching an online class? You could be in a silhouette on camera.  If possible, your office desk should be at least 6 feet from the back wall.  If working from home, please take off any clothes hanging behind your home office door.

Think strong colors that compliment the topic being covered in class. Solid colors do well on camera. Stripes, polka dots, plaid - not so much! Now if you are teaching double-declining depreciation - you are on your own!

Some web conferencing tools might not deliver the optimal frame rate per second that best represents smooth video quality.  Lower bandwidth connections will deliver higher quality video if you limit on-camera movement to a minimum, unless you are teaching P.E. online!

Eye Contact
If your laptop or desktop camera is eye level and you are looking directly into it from time to time, students will be more engaged as you bring content directly into their online world. Look to that green light on your Mac from time to time. If your laptop does not have an "on" light next to the built-in camera, paste a small stickie note next to it.

Online content delivery begs that you carefully punctuate! Punctuation may also come in the form of turning off your camera while your student/s are talking and then turning their camera/s off and turning your camera on to amplify your presence and response.

Script it

Your online class needs an even stronger (might I dare say, dramatic) script than what you would have in a face-to-face class. The script needs careful attention with a beginning, middle and an end. It will need constant revision. After all, your online audience is tiring as the semester progresses and every semester your audience is going to change. One glove fits all simply does not work!

Rehearse it
Even Academy award winning actors need an acting coach. Don’t be afraid to invite a good coach (instructional consultants or peers) to several online rehearsals and performance/s.

Rehearse it! Rehearse it!! Rehearse it!!!

Unless, you are Steven Segal!


Once you have mastered the technique - forget it! What that means is that as an online teacher you must, yes, must master the technical UI (user interface) of your web conferencing tool and LMS (Learning Management System) and make that second nature. Mastering a web conferencing tool like Bb Collaborate, Adobe Connect or Fuze is imperative. Once you have mastered it - you must forget it so that your students do not see these technology tools as a deterrent to delivering an Oscar worthy performance every time.

Break a leg! 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How Pepperdine has Contributed to the Open-Source Sakai CLE

Even Small Institutions Can Make a Big Impact

by Alan Regan

This week, we applied a small patch to Courses (powered by Sakai). Courses is our learning management system at Pepperdine University, and the patch related to the "Home" tool within Sakai.  The Home tool is often the home page for a class or project site, which provides space for introductory information as well as a dashboard of announcements, calendar events, and similar notices.

We had discovered a peculiar issue with the Home tool.  If you edited the "Site Information Display" element and added embed code from YouTube (with iframe tags), the tool was stripping away the code.  It was peculiar, since this code is accepted in other tools like Syllabus, Lessons, and Forums.  It was even more bizarre, since a professor could go to Site Info and use Edit Site Information to add the same code -- and it would work! So, there was something unique about how the rich text editor in the Home tool was processing the code.

Our Sakai service is hosted by Longsight. We reported this situation to them.  They confirmed the issue, created a JIRA ticket (the bug tracking system used within the Sakai community), and promptly rolled up their sleeves and set to work. Shortly, they had a fix for the issue. We applied the fix to our development instance, did some testing, and then scheduled the release to production.  The patch is working, and professors can now use the default embed code from YouTube to bring their class sites to life. Better yet, the fix is available for any other institutions using Sakai, too.

This is something I love. I love the fact that, although we didn't create the fix directly, we played a part. By shining the light on an issue, reporting the problem, and testing the fix, we helped to make an open-source product just a little bit better. We've been able to contribute in this way a few times, either through sponsoring bug fixes or engaging in development projects which were then contributed back to the community.
  • Sakai 2.9's "Publish Now" feature was a feature we dreamed up based on feedback from our Pepperdine faculty members.  We contracted with Longsight to develop a solution and then worked with the Sakai CLE team to introduce it as a core enhancement in Sakai 2.9. Hat tip: Nicola Monat-Jacobs and Dr. Charles "Chuck" Severance.
  • Sakai's "Assignments" tool now offers the ability for professors to submit a document on behalf of a student. We were very excited for this feature, but soon discovered that it worked in two submission modes ("Attachments and Inline" and "Inline Only") but did not work in "Attachments Only" or "Single Uploaded File Only." We wanted to offer this feature to our professors, so we contracted with Longsight to make the feature available in all of these submission types. We also identified a display issue and worked with Longsight to fix this as well.
  • With the advent of more mixed content blocking in web browsers, we noted that Lessons would sometimes not display YouTube content. We submitted a feature request and the amazing Chuck Hedrick at Rutgers quickly improved the multimedia embed feature.
  • Sakai's Announcements tool has a reorder feature. When we upgraded from Sakai 2.6 to Sakai 2.8 a couple years ago, we enabled this feature but soon discovered that it hadn't received enough quality assurance (QA) time. A few professors reported issues and we engaged Longsight on fixes. In the end, the feature was improved and is working well in Sakai 2.8 and Sakai 2.9.
  • And the list goes on. We've collaborated with Longsight on several other small fixes, whether in Gradebook, Tests & Quizzes, or other tools, to improve the software bit by bit. We've also contributed to improvements to tool documentation for Site Info, Assignments, Web Content, and others.
So, I am proud that as a small institution, we can make a contribution to the Sakai community. And I am very grateful to our partner, Longsight, since they deserve the lion's share of the credit!  I am also very appreciative of the many other collaborators and contributors from institutions big and small, nonprofit and for-profit, that help to make Sakai and other open-source solutions available to the world!

Thank you, everyone! Your contributions make a big difference!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Google, Ads, and Choices

Google Ads and Endorsements:

The choices you have and how often you have to repeat those choices

by Alan Regan

On November 11, 2013, Google will make changes to its privacy and terms of service. You can review the changes.

There are two specific settings you'll need to review:
  • Ads settings (not new, per se, but they don't make it easy to persist!)
  • Endorsement settings (new!)


First things first.  When using Pepperdine's Google Apps for Education service (via http://google.pepperdine.edu), you will NOT receive ads in Google Mail or Google Search.  Also, we have disabled the Google+ endorsement feature at the domain level, so when using your Pepperdine Google account you do not need to worry about those ads or endorsements! These are some of the benefits of the Apps for Education service that we enjoy.  Also, there is additional storage (30 GB!) plus enhanced Google Drive and Google+ sharing options to better adhere to FERPA guidelines.  When using Google services for academic purposes we strongly recommend that you use your Pepperdine Google account instead of your personal Google account.  When using Google services for official Pepperdine work, you should only use your official Pepperdine account.  You can learn more about Pepperdine's Google policies at the bottom of the following page: http://community.pepperdine.edu/it/tools/googleapps.htm

Of course, we are "mostly" immune, since Google owns a number of sites and services.  It's great that we won't receive ads in Google Mail or Google Search.  Of course, other Google sites that are not core Google Apps for Education services will still display ads. Example: YouTube.


When using your personal Google account, you'll need to make some decisions on how you want Google to use your searching, Google mail, and other content to deliver ads.  You also need to decide whether you want Google to share your comments and +1s related to specific products.  The latter is the brand new item that's making the news, since your profile photo and comments may be displayed to your friends or the public, depending on your settings.

Ads: Your Choices are Fragile

So, you have choices when you use various services.  You can opt out of marketing emails.  And you can opt out of some ads, but usually not all ads.  Afterall, most online services make their money just like newspapers do -- by ad placement.  You enjoy "free" services because of the advertising model; it's the bargain you make when you choose one of these services.

At Google, you can choose to opt out of targeted ads through the Google Ads setting.  Basically, asking Google not to use your mail, search, or other online footprints to deliver ads specific to you interests, gender, or other factors.  Rather than deliver targeted ads, they'll simply deliver general ads.  So, you'll receive ads one way or another.

But I mentioned that the choices you make are fragile.  What do I mean?  The "catch" is that your choice is specific to the browser and computer/device you are currently using.  The choice is stored in a "cookie" in that browser.  So, it's fragile in that it's not global (you must repeat the process on each web browser and device you plan to use) AND it's temporary.  If you ever clear your cookies, then your choice is cleared and you'll need to update your ad settings again... and again... and again.  They don't make it easy!

Endorsements: Your Name and Photo Exposed

This is a new feature. Basically, Google wants to use your comments or ratings about a product or service to promote them to your friends or the world.  Facebook already does this, when you see in your news feed that friends like specific company pages, etc.  Google wants to leverage its social media platform, Google+, in a similar way.

If you never sign up for Google+ on your personal account, you shouldn't need to worry.  If you do, then you'll want to decide whether you want to opt out of this feature.  You can opt out here:

Remember, Google Apps at Pepperdine is not impacted by these changes since our education domain is immune to ads and the Google+ endorsements feature.  You'll make these choices on your personal Google account(s).


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Faculty Speaker Series: First Fall 2013 Speaker, Dr. Dan Morrison

Peer Instruction with Classroom Response Systems

by Varun Khanna

Pepperdine University's Faculty Speaker Series, Fall 2013 commenced with Dr. Dan Morrison's presentation on Peer Instruction with Classroom Response Systems.

Professors have been using peer instruction with students learning from each other for years. Before the digital revolution professors were already using raising hands or chalk and a blackboard as response systems to quantify classroom polling.

Dr. Morrison, however, makes use of polleverywhere.com and smart devices/laptops as his tool of choice to measure classroom response in real time.

With several faculty in attendance at The Page Room at the Malibu campus, Dr. Morrison successfully demonstrated how using the right technology can:
1. enhance student engagement.
2. strengthen pedagogical methodology.
3. quantify student response, encouraging peer-to-peer review and deep learning.

The Peer Instruction Model 

Image 1: The Peer Instruction Model (image courtesy: Dan Morrison)

Using Polleverywhere.com,

Step A
Dr. Morrison asked the group a question. Attendees had a choice to respond via their smart device or laptop. 

Step B
Attendees sent a text message. The text message field had an assigned number (provided by Dr. Morrison, who got it from polleverywhere.com) followed by their response message.

Step C
Attendees saw the live response either on the web or as in the case of Dr. Morrison's presentation, live in his Powerpoint presentation.

Dr. Morrison suggests that after students respond independently via their smart devices, he can choose three paths based on the response.

Path 1
If most students answer correctly, briefly discuss the question and move onto the next topic.

Path 2
If results are split, have them discuss in pairs and poll again.

Path 3
If most answer incorrectly, backtrack, return to the lecture, and provide extra instructional support.

And the last part of the peer instruction technique, using student classroom response systems, is to lead a classroom wide discussion.

So, what else did we learn today using Dr. Morrison's peer instruction using classroom response systems?

An oak tree uses air (carbon dioxide) and converts it into carbon which contributes to its overall mass.

I did not know that!

Thank you, Dr. Morrison.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why Bitly.com?

Free Sign-Up Benefits

by Varun Khanna

What is Bitly?
Bitly.com is a URL code shortener.

1. Shortened code

Enter long URL. bitly.com will auto-shorten code
Auto-generated shortened URL code
2. Customize
Customize link to brand course, event or document
 3. Get Statistics

Click to view URL statistics
Data collected by bitly.com

 4. QR code
 Click on View stats. Click bottom right for QR code.
Auto-generate QR code with single click

 5. Add to Bundle
Gather bitly.com links in a bundle for convenient viewing by students. 

Convenient bundling of bitly.com URL links

Friday, August 30, 2013

Mixed Content: What Instructors and Instructional Designers Need to Know

The Big Three Block Mixed Content: Update Your HTML

by Alan Regan

In August, Mozilla released Firefox 23. Firefox is a major web browser and it created a serious ripple, especially throughout higher education. With the release of Firefox 23, the browser now blocks "mixed content." This means that some information on web pages will not be displayed, such as embedded media or linked CSS formatting that points to unsecured sources.

However, Firefox is not the only browser that does this. Internet Explorer has blocked mixed content since IE 8 (2009) and Chrome started blocking mixed content in version 21 (2012).

What is "mixed content"?

Mixed content refers to a web page that contains a mix of both secure content and open or unsecured content. Basically, you're visiting a secure web page (the address begins with HTTPS and has a current and valid security certificate installed). On that secure web page, there is content that draws from an open or unsecured source.

Example pages

For the following examples, please use one of the following web browsers: Firefox 23+, Google Chrome 21+, or Internet Explorer 8+. Do not use Apple's Safari web browser, since as of the writing of this blog, it does not block mixed content. Not yet, at least.
  • Secure Content Example. See this example web page that is hosted on a secure website and only refers to secured content. All references point to content with valid HTTPS addresses.  You should see an embedded YouTube video as well as a dynamic countdown counter.
  • Mixed Content Example. See this example web page that is hosted on a secure website but refers to media and code with unsecure references. The references point to content with HTTP addresses. The same objects as above are included, but you will likely not see the objects due to mixed content blocking.

What You Need to Verify or Change in Your Code

If you are embedding content on our learning management system or any secured website, check your code. You want to be sure that all LINK, SCRIPT, SRC, and VALUE references point to HTTPS sites. You also want to be sure that the target websites have valid SSL certificates installed.

If your code contains value="http://www.youtube.com/v/1skBWSln_j4?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"

... you would change the code to value="https://www.youtube.com/v/1skBWSln_j4?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"

Another technique to explore is to remove the "scheme" from the address altogether. The scheme is http: or https:.  An example would be like this: value="//www.youtube.com/v/1skBWSln_j4?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"

Finally, you can also consider relative references. "Absolute" references include the complete address for a given resource. "Relative" references provide the path to the resource based on the source web site address.
  • Absolute reference: <img src="http://www.pepperdine.edu/images/home/vista-3.jpg" /> 
  • Relative reference: <img src="/images/home/vista-3.jpg" />

Be sure to check:
  • Media embed code
  • Image references
  • Linked Javascript or other script files
  • Links within Javascript or other script files
  • Linked stylesheets (CSS)
  • Links within stylesheets (CSS)

Embed Site to Avoid: TED.com

As of this writing, the TED.com website does not offer HTTPS references for its videos. If you would like to embed TED Talk content, find the same video on YouTube and use YouTube's embed code which supports HTTPS.

The Tempting-But-Not-Advised Approach

While I can understand the motivation, I would discourage you from simply asking your site participants to use the Safari web browser. Granted, Safari seems to display mixed content right now, but that can easily change. An equally bad practice is to ask your visitors to permanently set their web browsers to "allow" mixed mode content. These two approaches seem like easy fixes because you don't need to do anything to your content. However, the reason that your content isn't displaying in other web browsers is because you are not following the best practices to help protect your audience. Please put in the time to review your code and update your references as needed. This way, your participants can easily view your content and feel secure doing so!


Related Posts:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Learn How to Use the "Web Content" Tool in Sakai 2.9

Adding and Editing Website Links with the Web Content Tool

by Alan Regan

On August 13, 2013, Pepperdine University upgraded its learning management system, Courses (powered by Sakai), to the latest release.  Version 2.9 offers many enhancements, including a revision to the Web Content tool.

What is the Web Content tool?  With this feature, you can easily add website addresses into your class site's left menu. If there are select websites or web pages you want students to access regularly, placing them in the left menu can make it very obvious and convenient for them.  (You can also add web links into the Resources tool or use the rich text editor in several tools to add links, too.)

To help you understand how to add a website using Web Content and how to force the link to open in a new window, we created the following video:

Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpGcjQHPpTc

TIP: If a website does not appear after you've added it, this may be because your web browser is blocking the content. Check the address you used. Does the address begin with HTTP?  If yes, then the web page will likely be blocked by Firefox 23+ and Internet Explorer 10+.  Consider editing the link to HTTPS or check the box to force the content to open in a new window. Watch the video above for more details.

Learn more:

Help! Firefox Ate TED! Why videos and websites may not appear in some browsers

My Video Disappeared!

Learn why Firefox 23 or IE 10 may be blocking your content

by Alan Regan

Not seeing an embedded video, image, or web page?  If you're using Firefox 23+ or Internet Explorer 10+, then this is because you're suffering from the "mixed content" blues.

Released in early August, Firefox 23 has a new security feature. It's called "mixed content blocking." The short description: if you are on a secure website (like Courses/Sakai, WaveNet, Digication, and almost every website that requires a login) and the page tries to load content from an outside website that is not a secure website, then the browser will block that content from appearing.  Another way to look at it is if you are on a website and the address begins with HTTPS and you're embedding content and the code references website addresses that begin with HTTP and not HTTPS, then you need to put in some fixes so that your audience sees the content.

So, what can you do?  First, you need to look at your class sites and see if any of your content is being blocked.  Open up your class site or website in Firefox 23 and see if the material loads.  If the page is blank -- then you need to correct the code or re-embed the content for a secure address.

Thankfully, YouTube makes it pretty easy now.  The latest embed code takes out the guesswork and helps professors, students, and everyday users embed with ease. Of course, this new YouTube code started mid-June 2013. So, if you embedded a YouTube video before that time, you need to go back, remove the old YouTube code, and embed the new code.

A ray of sunshine is that our new Sakai 2.9 service now supports the shorter "iframe" embed code! It's currently supported in Forums, Syllabus, and Lessons. (The Home tool does not support iframe yet, but we hope to correct this soon!) This should make the process of re-embedding videos a little easier than in the past. Also, with the new iframe code, mobile participants should be able to play the video.

  1. Visit http://www.youtube.com
  2. Find your video.
  3. Below the video, click Share and then click Embed.
  4. We recommend that you uncheck the box "Show suggested videos when the video finishes." This will prevent potentially unwanted or inappropriate video recommendations from displaying at the end.
  5. Copy the code.
  6. Go to your class site on http://courses.pepperdine.edu
  7. Go to a supported tool like Forums, Lessons, or Syllabus (if a tool is not in the menu, use Site Info > Edit Tools to add it).
  8. In the rich text editor, click Source at the top left.
  9. Paste the YouTube embed code.
  10. Click Source again and then finish the posting.
  11. Your embedded video should display fine in all browsers and also on most tablets and smart phones.
NOTE: On the Home tool you will still need to check the box "Use old embed code" when copying code from YouTube. Again, you can use the newer iframe code with Forums, Lessons, and Syllabus.

There is a known issue with videos from the TED.com website, though.  This isn't an issue with the web browser or Sakai, WaveNet, etc.  The issue is squarely on the TED.com website.  As of this moment, the TED.com website is not a secure website.  If you link to a video, it only supports an HTTP connection and not an HTTPS connection.  The solution?  For the most part, almost every TED.com video can be found on YouTube.  Embed the video located on YouTube and you should be fine.

You may be asking, "Well, what if I don't use Firefox or Internet Explorer?" That's fine, but know that this security setting may soon be coming to your other web browsers like Chrome and Safari.  Web security is important, so don't rely on "use another web browser" as a fix.  Best practice is to embed content from a secure source when you're on a secure website.

So, now you know why some content may appear for some visitors, but not for others.  The likely culprit is "mixed content" blocking on some web browsers.  You also know the fix: update your web links or embed code to secure versions. We hope this helps you create better online experiences for your audiences!

Learn more:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The "Save Yourself the Heartache" Guide to Blended-Learning

Tips for Students Starting an Online or Blended-Learning Program

By Varun Khanna

Less than a decade ago, a student could walk into her college class and expect the professor to hand out a printed syllabus and spend the entire first class going over a laundry list of textbook requirements, expectations, do's and don'ts, important dates, ice breaker activities, and end the class by answering student questions.

Those days are almost a thing of the past.

With technology life cycles getting shorter and shorter, academia much like any other industry is rapidly responding and adapting to the needs of the marketplace. Technology is one of the main drivers of productivity. Deploying the right technology, in and out of the classroom, can help students convert knowledge to real world intelligence.

Blended-learning is one example of how technology is forcing both teachers and students to change their habits in order to harness the maximum benefit out of this new relationship.

It is important to note that a lot of professors will front-load a blended-learning class. This means that before you get to that first face-to-face class, which could very well be the fourth week of the semester, you may already have had three online sessions that include reading assigned material, writing a blog, and turning in an assignment online via http://courses.pepperdine.edu also known as Sakai.

In this blog I want to focus on the student asking herself some important questions prior to an online or blended-learning class.

Do I know my technology tools?
Prior to commencing an online course or a blended-learning program get to know the learning tools endorsed by Pepperdine University. Send your professors an email prior to the semester commencement and request the names of the online tools they intend to use. Examples: Courses (powered by Sakai) may include Forums, Drop Box, Assignments, Blogs etc. Other examples would be Bb Collaborate, Google Hangouts, Google Drive etc.

Do I know my audience?
Get to know your professor and fellow-students. Look out for the first announcement email from your professor. It may include email addresses of your peers. Use http://linkedIn.com or other professional social media websites as a source to find out more about your classmate’s professional affiliations. Visit the Pepperdine website to find out more about your professor.

Is my computer in good health?
It's critical that your computer is working well. The last thing you want is the hardware on your computer to fail during an online test or a virus to wipe out your hard drive. You may visit your local computer repair store or schedule an appointment with Pepperdine University’s Technology Support department for
a health check.

Do I have the latest software updates?
You are attempting a Bb Collaborate session and find the clock clicking as the class charges forward because you don’t have the latest Java update. Regularly visit http://browsercheck.pepperdine.edu and the system will perform an automatic scan to see if you have the latest updates. Not only will the system know whether you are behind on the latest update but, will display a button so you can Fix It.

Is my internet connection fast enough?
You are at your home office attending a Pepperdine online class. The kids are in the their respective rooms. One is watching Netflix on the iPad and the other is watching HBOGo on Apple TV, while your spouse is in the living room busy watching a YouTube channel on how to buy penny stocks. Use http://speedtest.net to test your internet connectivity speed. Talking to your family about limiting use of the internet during your online class time may prove beneficial.

Did I just blow my budget?
Instead of buying books, many students save money by renting expensive text books from online sites like http://chegg.com or http://bookrenter.com or http://campusbookrentals.com. If you wish to go green use digital downloads. However, professors may also want you to also download case study papers. You should always first check with Pepperdine Libraries. The university subscribes to many databases for articles, research materials, and other sources. Don't pay for something when it's free for you as a student! Also, your professor may recommend that you use an outside resource like http://study.net where you can purchase an entire bundle of required case studies or published papers. Digital download signatures on your download may include your IP address and name (as it appears on your credit card) to validate a purchase. Bundle digital download sites like http://study.net allow the professor to see which student has bought the case study articles as well as ensure publishers that their company and writers get paid for their intellectual property. A final appeal, though -- check with the library!

Communication is hard. Online communication is even harder. It makes even more room for misinterpretation. Just because you are at home taking an online class does not mean you are not "in" class. Be mindful of your presentation online. Pay attention to your language and grammar (e.g. CAPS may be interpreted as shouting). Also, be sure to respond in a timely or courteous manner.  These behaviors may not only affect your grade but your professional relationship with your peers.

Do my online assignments come with due dates?
Just like any offline assignment has a due date, an online assignment comes with an expiration date, too. Be fastidious about sharing due dates with your cohort or peers. Sync your calendar with your phone and don’t forget to set up several alerts for every assignment.

How can I work in groups for an online class?
There are free, easy-to-use, intuitive, online video tools like Google Hangouts that allow you to share Google Drive (Google docs, spreadsheet, presentation etc), video and audio for virtually "face-to-face" meetings.  Many tools offer the ability to share your computer screen or other features.

How do I back up my files?
You can purchase a flash drive, an external hard drive or subscribe to an online back up service like http://carbonite.com which will auto backup your files to the cloud. Another option would be to use Google Drive that offers Pepperdine Google Apps users up to 30 GB of free online storage. Use http://google.pepperdine.edu to sign up for free. Whatever tool you choose, it's critical to back up your documents. After spending hours writing a research paper, you don't want a hardware problem or a coffee spill to force you to write it again from memory! Frequent backups are a necessity for all students.

We hope that these questions will help you prepare and succeed in your online or blended/hybrid program.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Distance Education Just Got A Little Closer!

Distance Education Just Got A Little Closer!

by Alan Regan & Varun Khanna

In my earlier post on Google Hangouts, I wrote about the benefits of using this new engaging online video tool to work in small groups (less than 15).

But, what if your group or class is more than 15? Pepperdine University's Technology & Learning group suggests Blackboard Collaborate as an online web conferencing platform.

With so many possible tools -- Courses (powered by Sakai), Google Hangouts, Bb Collaborate, Turnitin, Google Drive/Docs -- which tools do I choose?

Let's attempt to reduce the confusion surrounding all these technologies.

1. What is Courses (powered by Sakai)?
Courses (aka Sakai) is the official learning management system (LMS) used by Pepperdine University. It is the online destination where you might post your syllabus, send announcements to the class, administer tests & quizzes, assignments, gradebook, etc. In 2011, Pepperdine University moved over from Blackboard's learning management system to Courses (powered by Sakai). In short, it is the powerful brains behind courses.pepperdine.edu.

2. What is Blackboard Collaborate?
Blackboard Collaborate is an web conferencing platform that allows people to meet online.  It supports up to 200 people to attend a single meeting. Participants can take advantage of live audio, text chat, web camera video, shared whiteboard, application sharing, polling, and many other features.  Blackboard Collaborate is available as an optional tool within courses.pepperdine.edu.

3. What is Turnitin?
Turnitin is a plagiarism detection service that is also integrated into courses.pepperdine.edu. With this tool, professors and students can evaluate the amount of text in student papers that is similar to other sources.  It is a powerful way to educate students about academic integrity.  This service can be enabled by a professor within Assignments tool of Courses.

4. What are Google Hangouts, Drive/Docs, Google+, etc.
Google provides free applications that are hosted online in the cloud. Google Hangouts is a web conferencing service that allows small groups (up to 15 if you are using google.pepperdine.edu) to interact using audio and video. Google Drive is an online storage solution that offers up to 30 GB of total storage space. Within Google Drive are Google Docs -- mini applications that are similar to Microsoft Office.  A Google Document is like Microsoft Word, Google Presentation is like Microsoft PowerPoint, and Google Spreadsheet is like Microsoft Excel.  They share many common features with the Microsoft Office suite, but are not as robust.  These online documents allow multiple people to work simultaneously on a project or paper and are saved automatically every few seconds. Finally, Google+ is a social networking service similar to Facebook.

Let us turn our focus back to Blackboard Collaborate.

10 Things You Always Wanted To Know About Blackboard Collaborate:

1. Plug in your microphone and headset FIRST. This is a very important first step. Be sure that you have connected your headset to your computer before you start a Blackboard Collaborate session.  (If you plug in after you've started a session, the software may not recognize your device!) We also recommend a headset to avoid a majority of audio issues. After you've connected to Blackboard Collaborate, run the Audio Wizard to confirm that everything is working properly.

2. Go to browsercheck.pepperdine.edu. A quick scan will reveal whether your browser requires updates. To use Blackboard Collaborate your Java version must be the very latest. If you have an outdated version, click Fix It on browsercheck site.  Alternately, you can go directly to Java.com and download the latest version.

3. Log onto courses.pepperdine.edu using your Wavenet credentials. If you have not already enabled the tool in your site, edit your tools and add it.  It will appear as "Elluminate Live! Bridge."

4. Click Elluminate Live Bridge in the left menu. On the next page you can either Create Session or View Past Recordings.

5.  To create a session follow simple instructions. Click Finish. On the next page you will see a "guest" link.  You can copy this link to distribute to guest speakers or outside participants.

6. On the main page, you'll see the session (if scheduled for today).  When the session is available, click the link and then click the "Join" button.  (Don't accidentally click the guest link!)

7. Blackboard Collaborate is an application. So, it may take a few minutes to load and open depending on your computer and network speed. It is also common that the window may be hidden behind your browser window.  Look for the purple icon in your Windows task bar or MacOS dock.

Important: Once you are in a Bb Collaborate session, check your audio and video. You will not have time during the online class. A best practice is to arrive and check your online session settings at least 15 minutes prior to the given class or meeting time. Your professor most likely will have the bridge (access to Blackboard Collaborate) open at least 30 minutes prior to your official login time.

8. Only 6 people may talk at any given time. So, if the class is 20 or 199 - only 6 people may have the "Talk" button selected. It is a best practice to turn your microphone off when you are not speaking. The group will get distracted and fall behind if all they can do is hear the theme song to Who's Smarter Than a 5th Grader playing on your TV.

9. There are group chat features as well as peer-to-peer chat within Collaborate. If you are posting in group chat -- keep your comments short, to the point and keeping in mind that the entire class can see what you are typing. Peer-to-peer chats cannot be seen by your class (but may be visible to the instructor!).

10. Be patient! Be proactive! And, then be patient again! All online interactive technology tools are a work-in-progress. Slides may take a few seconds to load. Blackboard collaborate will strip all animations out of a Powerpoint presentation. Raise your hand feature is a polite way of asking a question. It takes a few sessions to get used to any online interactive platform. Blackboard Collaborate is no different. Play around with all the features before you attend your first class. You can always call Pepperdine technical support on all five graduate campuses to assist you with a training session. And lastly, turn off your smart phones (we know it's hard but, give it a shot anyways!).

Helpful Resources:
  •     Blackboard Collaborate Support Phone Number: 866-388-8674 (toll-free)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Google+ Hangouts: A Must-Have Easy-To-Use Technology Tool in Academia

Google+ Hangouts: A Must-Have Easy-To-Use Technology Tool in Academia 

by Varun Khanna
Google Hangouts are free audio & video online sessions. Fun. Easy-to-Use. Interactive.

What is Google Hangout?
An easy-to-use, free, online interactive and engagement audio/video tool for small groups (up to 15 for Pepperdine community).

Who can use Google Hangout?
Anyone with a Google+ account. 

What devices does Google Hangout support?
PC, Mac, or Smartphone/Tablet (iPhone, iPad or iPad mini).

10 things to know about Google+ Hangouts for Pepperdine faculty and student community
1.  Go to http://google.pepperdine.edu and click on Google Drive. Sign in using your Wavenet ID credentials.  Signing up for free at google.peppedine.edu has advantages. You get 30GB of cloud hard drive space for free. Additionally, Google Hangouts allows you up to 15 users (as opposed to 10 when you sign up with your personal Gmail account). Lastly, you can communicate with your Pepperdine community at lightning fast speeds.
Google.pepperdine.edu. Sign up to get 30 GB free.
2.  On the top left click on +You.  After you have signed up for Google+ the same link will change to +YourName. During the sign up process it is imperative that you list your age > 13 or Google will not allow you to sign up for Hangouts. 

Before Signing up with Google+

Click on +You and proceed to sign up for a Google + account

After Signing up with Google+
+YourName confirms that you have signed up for Google+ and can use Google Hangouts
3. Look for thesymbol on the right side once you are in Google +. This is the Google Hangout symbol.

4. You can create an immediateGoogle Hangout by inviting students/colleagues that are already online. 

5.  Or, you can go the left sidebar and create a futureGoogle Hangout event and invite students/colleagues. Note: There is a maximum of 15 invitees (including yourself for a Pepperdine Google Hangout event).
Google Side Bar menu. Click on Events to create Google Hangout session.
6.  Alternately, you may go to Google Calendar and create an event and invite your colleagues or students to the Google Hangout event. (Recommended)
  • Title your Google Hangout Event
  • Choose date and time. Important: Choose your time zone. This is especially important for online sessions when students and professor are spread out across different time zones.
  • If you are going to be using video please do not forget to click on Add Video Call.
  • You can set up Alerts to remind you about your upcoming Hangout meeting.
  • As Pepperdine faculty/students you can invite up to 15 (including yourself).
  • SAVE will allow you to send invites and the event will automatically be added to your Google Calendar
Setting up Google Hangouts using Google Calendar (recommended)
7.  You may also choose to record your Pepperdine Google Hangout session on YouTube. With Pepperdine Google Hangouts you are not restricted to the usual 15 minute recording as you would be on your regular Gmail account. 

8.  Note: your Google Hangout session will be made public by YouTube unless you change the video settings (Video Manager)  to private after your Google+ Hangout session has finished recording. 

9.  Too may users? Bandwidth issues? Jerky video? Turning off your Google Hangout camera with a single click may help. If you have your image uploaded it will default to the photo. You can also turn off your microphone within Google Hangout itself.

10.   During your Google Hangout, you can share in real time Google docs, folders, presentations, desktop as well videos with your student group.

You can always email techlearn@pepperdine.edu for a one-on-one consultation to learn how to use Google Hangouts.

Monday, July 8, 2013

FacProfDev Summer 2013 - Day 10

FacProfDev Summer 2013 - Day 10

by Varun Khanna

Dr. Reyna Garcia-Ramos, Professor of Education
at FacProfDev 2013 Summer Workshop in Malibu, CA
FacProfDev Summer 2013 - Day 10.

After rigorous nine days of going over Pepperdine University's learning management system of choice - Sakai, making presentations more effective, Google docs, Google Hangouts, Google Drive, Google Apps, Powerpoint, Prezi etc, it was time for the faculty-in-attendance to share what they would be taking from the workshop and into their classroom.

Dr. Reyna Garcia-Ramos, Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education & Psychology (GSEP) spoke about how using the power of music in class deeply resonated with her. She is now going to be using music at the beginning and end of her classes to center student energies and get them in the most receptive and responsive frame of mind that promotes deep learning.

Dr. Garcia-Ramos also demonstrated the use of Google forms in taking a quick class poll, in addition, to making her presentations more effective by using free images from sxc.hu

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words  

Professor Lisa Creach teaches finance at Pepperdine University.

What is a bond? Most text books might list some of the following information before proceeding to explain what a bond is.
P0 = Current bond price (at t=0)

Pt = Bond price at time t.

C = Coupon payment

F = Face value. 

C/F = Coupon percentage or rate

After FacProfDev 2013, Professor Creach demonstrated the importance of starting off her lecture by using an image of a US Treasury bond that lists coupon rate, maturity date, bond price, face value etc. Her next step would then be explaining relevant terms followed by the equations and calculations imperative to bond pricing.
A US Treasury bond image (used for demonstration purposes only)

Professor Dan Morrison teaches sociology at Pepperdine University. Many things resonated with Professor Morrison during FacProfDev 2013. High on the list was Gerard Flynn, Senior Director of IT Administration and Client Services talk on engaging the Gen-Z student.
  • Focus on the main point, Keep it front and center.
  • Use powerful stories that are simple, unexpected, and emotionally resonant with students.
Professor Morrison further amplified his point by concluding with a hilarious YouTube video by Father Sarducci and his 5 minute university.
Father Sarducci's 5 Minute University
While FacProfDev 2014 will be held next summer, Pepperdine faculty need not wait for an entire year. You can meet with Pepperdine's Technology and Learning consultants all year round by writing to techlearn@pepperdine.edu to set up a one-on-one meeting.

Pepperdine CIO, Jonathan See, Sr. Director of IT Administration & Client Services, Gerard Flynn and Director of Learning and Technology, Alan Regan lead FacProfDev 2013 Summer Workshop series with Pepperdine faculty.

Friday, June 28, 2013

FacProfDev Summer 2013 - Day 9

FacProfDev Summer 2013 - Day 9

by Varun Khanna

Class assignments have always been a part of academic learning.

Most professors go through excruciating pain to put together a syllabus that has copious amounts of information about tests, quizzes, personal pedagogy, mid term exams, final exams, email address, office address, day and time for their office hours, online office hours...everything except, maybe, their home address.

While most students are conscientious about their school work - it comes with some baggage.

Tom: "Do I write 400 or 500 words?"
Professor: "I mentioned in class. 500 words."
Alice: "Is the due date the 14th. I could have sworn you mentioned it was the 14th but, Janice says it is the 15th"
Professor: "17th!"
Mark: "I know it's 3 am Professor and I had just finished writing my paper when my dog ate it."
Professor: "Shoot the dog! :)"

We have all heard our share of "the dog ate it" stories.

We have a robust, confidential and environmentally sound solution for you!

Sakai (Pepperdine University's choice of online learning management system) has the Assignment tool.

Graphic representation of Sakai's unique Assignment tool assignment submission
Graphic representation of Sakai's online submission process
Sakai offers a two way transparent online process to communicate with your students for all your class assignments. The diagram above is a representation of your submission process. Example: students can submit between June 2 and June 5. However, your choice may be to accept the assignment till 5pm, June 6  with a 10 point deduction.

Sakai's Assignment Tool Submission Process
Pepperdine faculty attending FacProfDev Summer 2013 - Day 9 found tremendous value in Sakai's online assignment submission process.
  • Students can get a due date announcement email.
  • Professors can clearly announce and publish their expectations for the assignment including any late submission point deductions.
  • Professors may allow the student to resubmit 0-9 times or unlimited.
  • Professors will receive and see only the very last submission. Not multiple versions of the student assignment submission.
  • There is a digital footprint including time and date stamp when the student uploaded their assignment. Both, student and professor receive email notifications with a unique code number.
  • With the Single Uploaded File only submission, Pepperdine professors can check mark the TurnItin option. Should professors choose unlimited submissions, students can view their TurnItin report and make corrections up until their final submission.
  • Students will not be able to upload their assignment past the final deadline.
  • Professors can download all submissions with one click. Grade the assignments. And, with one click upload all the papers.
  • Enter the grades (points only) in Grade Scale (as seen above), which in turn automatically posts in Sakai's Grade Book tool.
  • No paper. Environmentally friendly.
Still want hard copies of student assignments? Still want to get woken up when the student emails you at 3 am and your smartphone ring tone plays the Beach Boys ringtone?

Pepperdine faculty at FacProfDev 2013 may advise you otherwise!

FacProfDev Summer 2013 - Day 8

FacProfDev Summer 2013 - Day 8

by Varun Khanna

Do you tweet?

Do you facebook?

Do you linkedin?

Do you google+?

Up until a few years ago words like tweet, facebook, google, linkedin were not exactly used as verbs in our everyday vocabulary. Today, most people could not go 12 hours without using at least one of these big social media brands in a sentence as a verb.

How many times have professors heard their students say "But, I googled it and Google says....?" Or, "I read it on Wikipedia!" That's right! Once a Wikipedia page says it, that's the end of the research. It can now be published. At least, that's what students would have you believe!

It's a whole new world out there. A whole new language. And, keeping up with generation Z, mandates (did I just say "mandates?") we all speak the same language or at least parts of it.

See any similarities between the keyboard shortcuts and the photographs below?

Strangely, I do!

 =:o] is a keyboard short cut for Bill Clinton

 7:^] is Ronald Reagan

Would you like to be a history teacher in a large classroom filled to capacity with 175 students tweeting keyboard shortcuts with #BluePresident or #RedPresident @PepHist101?

Well? The big question came up during Day 8 of FacProfDev Summer 2013. Can educators can use social media before, during or after class to further engage today's student?

Dr. Sharyl Corrado, Assistant Professor of History and Dr. Lynn Newman, Practitioner Faculty in Organizational Behavior, both believe that social media can play a successful role in today's teaching and learning environment, when used judiciously.

Social media platforms are being used during intense three day business simulations at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business & Management for the rigorous MBA program as a gateway for real time reporting between student simulation teams and four supervising professors located in different rooms. 

Dr. Stella Erbes, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education,  leading the FacProfDev 2013 Summer workshop series on social media and the role it can play in a classroom and educators stressed:
  • Use the @ symbol to follow people who are leaders and trendsetters in your area of teaching expertise.
  • Resources from following these experts can be shared with your students by retweeting or sharing knowledge articles, podcasts, videos etc.
  • Encourage students to follow subjects that could be trending within the topics of your syllabus or curriculum by using the # symbol in Twitter. # symbol is now also being used by Facebook.
  • An educator might consider encouraging students to post on Twitter or todaysmeet.com as  back channel platforms for a face-to-face, blended, or an online classroom discussion that could provide insight as to what students have learned about a particular class topic.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

FacProfDev Summer 2013 - Day 7

FacProfDev Summer 2013 - Day 7

by Varun Khanna

Gerard Flynn, Sr. Director, IT Administration & Client Services
presenting BB Collaborate at FacProfDev Summer 2013

It's day 7 (out of 10) at Pepperdine University's FacProfDev Summer Workshop 2013.

Gerard Flynn, Senior Director, IT Administration and Client Services in his presentation on Blackboard Collaborate (formerly known as Elluminate) highlights 10 things to keep in mind when Pepperdine faculty use this powerful online classroom collaboration tool. 
  1. Go to browsercheck.pepperdine.edu to confirm you have the latest Java version.
  2. Plug-in your microphone and headset before you launch the Blackboard Collaborate application. Use the audio setup wizard.
  3. Up to 200 people (including faculty member) can join the online collaboration tool but, only 6 people can talk at one time.
  4. Students can now call into the session using their telephone or VoIP.
  5. Talk to your students about online classroom ethics before the session. Make and share a list of your own do's and don'ts with your students.
  6. The left hand panel of Blackboard Collaborate (including Participants window) requires your time, attention and practice. 
  7. Powerpoint slides will be stripped of any and all animations. Keep your slides engaging but, simple with no animations or transitions.
  8. Everyone will have a varying degree of connectivity to internet speeds. Keep that in mind when you load a slide or document. Wait a second or two before you start talking about it.
  9. There are global settings for the entire class and there are local settings (for an individual student). You can globally apply a setting to the entire class. For example: muting everyone's microphone. Or, you can turn off a single student's microphone.
  10. A powerful tool to keep in mind - polls. You can take a live poll, keep the responses private or public as well as publish the poll results to the whiteboard.
For detailed information and resources on Blackboard Collaborate please click here