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

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

3. What is Turnitin?
Turnitin is a plagiarism detection service that is also integrated into 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 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 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 and download the latest version.

3. Log onto 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 and click on Google Drive. Sign in using your Wavenet ID credentials.  Signing up for free at 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. 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 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

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 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.