Best Practices, discussion, TLT

Tips For More Effective Online Discussions

There are many ways in which faculty can extend the classroom conversation online; OAKS Discussion board, VoiceThread, and blogs to name a few.  However, there is an art to getting students to actually think critically and discuss thoughtfully in an online environment.   The document below outlines a few tips to help you get more out of your students in an online discussion.

Download a printable PDF

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Best Practices, Teaching Advice, TLT

Tips to Prepare Your Course for Campus Closures

As instructors, we try to anticipate problems and challenges that may come up in our courses. One thing we sometimes forget to plan for is weather and natural disasters. Do your students know what is expected of them in a situation when class must be cancelled? Of course it is impossible to predict whether our semester will go as planned, or if it will be interrupted by a single ice day or a long term emergency with a disruption to our College of Charleston services like email or OAKS. Jessica Smith, Instructional Technologist for School of Business, blogged about her firsthand experience with a class cancellation last semester. Though we cannot plan for these unexpected events, we can prepare for them. Here are 5 tips to help you prepare for a worst case scenario:

1) Include a statement in your syllabus.

Do you have a statement about cancelled classes in your syllabus? What are students responsible for if class is cancelled due to weather? This statement should include expectations, an alternate communication plan, and information about student responsibilities and adjusted assignment deadlines.

2) Determine alternate communication procedures.

It is possible that there could be a disruption to campus services like faculty email. To prepare for this unlikely event, make sure you keep a hard copy list of student emails, or save a copy of the classlist to your home computer. Other options that some instructors utilize for class communication, even under normal circumstances, include Twitter, Facebook, Celly, and Remind. It may be beneficial to set up these communication systems early in the semester as an experiment to see if it is a good way to communicate with your students.

3) Plan online methods of content delivery.

If multiple class meetings are cancelled, you will want to be familiar with technologies that will make it possible to deliver course content to students. This may involve finding existing media online or creating your own online lecture. The library has resources to help you find suitable media, and TLT is here to help you navigate the technology options for online lecture delivery. Some options include Kaltura, VoiceThread, and Explain Everything.

4) Know OAKS.

Assuming that all systems are functional on campus, but class is still not in session, you will want to be able to utilize OAKS. Do you know how to post content, embed videos, or create a dropbox for student assignments? If you feel that your OAKS skills could use a refresher, contact your instructional technologist to find out about upcoming scheduled trainings or availability for individual consultations.

5) Back up your files.

This is a no brainer. Make sure you are not reliant on access to the internet, OAKS, or email to prepare for your classes. Keep copies of important lecture or course materials on your computer or a hard drive.

If you would like more information about preparing for the unexpected, make sure you attend TLT’s training sessions on these topics. We will cover these tips in more depth. You can register here:

Face-to-face –


Online –

Accessibility, Best Practices, Distance Ed, Pedagogy, Productivity, Teaching Advice, TLT

TLT’s Top Tips for Time Management

What are instructors spending time on?

Below are the five most mentioned teaching behaviors identified in the research and from the feedback of online instructors. The ranking begins with the teaching activity that involved the highest time commitment, and descends from there. This is not a scientific analysis, but I included the list to provide an overview of the most prevalent online teaching activities (Van de Vord & Pogue, 2012).

  • Interacting with students: moderating discussion forums, responding to student emails
  • Evaluating student work: assignments, papers, discussion forums
  • Recording grades
  • Modifying and making changes to course materials and/or course home page
  • Addressing technical issues/course administration (not including grading)


Tips for Time Management

  1. Handle it once.

Following the principles of the GTD (Getting Things Done) Methodology, manage items as soon as you can.  For online teaching, this means doing things in a regimented format.  When emails come in, if an answer or action can be done in less than 5 minutes…do it now.  If It needs deeper thinking and reflection, mark it in a follow up folder or category before closing it.  While reading discussion boards, keep a spreadsheet open so that you can grade as you go and make notes while reading to help keep your students straight. Grade as items arrive and space out due dates to cut down on last minute or end of term grading.  Create blocks of time during each day to work on a particular item.  For example, Mondays from 10-11 am I work on items strictly for the mentors.  Everyday from 830-930 am I answer emails from participants about course related issues.  Thursdays from 1-4 are spend grading specified assignments.  Making this set schedule for yourself will make sure that you are allowing ample time to focus.


2.   Respond to students efficiently.

If a student asks a great question via email, reply to them and ask them to post their question and the response to the class, but if more than one student has emailed about the same issue or set of instructions, then address the group as a whole with a news item, whole class email, or something else that will make sure that all students see the information.  For example, if there is a procedural problem (students not knowing how to do something in a class) create a short video or screencast to walk them through the process.


3.   Make Time Count.

If it’s something that a student won’t notice…don’t do it!  If it’s something the students can do for themselves or with each other…delegate or provide opportunity to do it.  For example, a Course Lounge or question forum will allow students the ability to answer each other.  You can back this up by adding an “ask 3 before me” type policy so that you know they’ve tried to find help on their own first.  To make this efficient, you need to mindfully not engage in what one professor called “Whack a Mole” facilitation, where as soon as a discussion post or a question comes up the professor logs in to answer it or replies immediately.  Make sure you give your students that time to help each other or they will become accustomed to that immediate feedback and you’ll spend all your time responding to email.


4. Get Organized:  Location, Location Location

Have your course follow a logical path so that not only you but your students also know exactly where to go and what to do.  The easier it is to find something, the less time you spend looking for it!  This is especially applicable to the syllabus.  The more text heavy and exhaustive your syllabus, the less likely your students will be able to find what they need in the process.  Try breaking your syllabus up into sections and bulleting information rather than using paragraph texts.  Have your students engage in a scavenger hunt or quiz to show that they understand the key pieces of the document before the class gets too far underway.  This will lead to less questions and less time emailing “it’s in the syllabus”.

5. Get Organized: Me, Myself, and I

Make sure that your workspace is organized and ready to go.  This includes your computer!  If you have a hard time finding files or folders on your machine, take some time to organize your files so that you can easily grab an item when it is needed.  Keep a list handy of places you can go to for help.  Obviously TLT is going to be number one (:)) but make sure that you add your librarian, CDS, CSL, and other campus resources and how to contact them.


6. Develop a routine and electronic minions

There are a lot of moving parts in an online classroom.  Some can be automated, some cannot.  First, make a list of all items that you need to do (that you know of) and due dates prior to the course starting. Identify any weekly activities and blocks of time you’ll need to answer emails, grade, respond to discussions, etc.  If an item can be automated (for example, a news item reminder about a test that you want to go out on a certain date) go ahead and create the wording and release conditions before the class starts.  In the immortal words of Ronco…set it and forget it!  For those items that can’t be automated, create calendar reminders or use a task management tool that contains reminders like Asana.


7. #Unplugged

In honor of the TLT Lifetime DE Mentor award recipient Lancie Affonso, we bring you this most important tip.  Unplug every now and again!  Take some time away from the screen and technology to engage in the world.  It is tempting to want to be logged in 24/7 when your students are in session, but taking some time to take care of yourself (and your eyes, back, and wrists) will benefit you in the long run as an instructor.


8.  Use the right tools for the job.

Technology can do so much to help with time and task management, as well as automating parts of your responses without losing that personal touch.  Talk to your instructional technologist about some of the options to help you with time, task, grading, and communication management for your online class.  Check out this article on how to go about choosing the right tool for your situation:


9.  To Thine Own Self Be True

“Each person has a daily cycle when he or she is most alert; schedule that time for online work. Determine the best time of day to check and respond to email. Flag and prioritize emails.  Realize that what is an overload for some instructors is not for others. Before accepting teaching assignments, look at the other assignments already accepted for that semester and consider whether the workload is too heavy. Factor in family obligations and planned vacations when considering personal work capacity.  When planning for the future record notes each week in a teaching journal identifying thoughts about revisions for the next semester. Some fixes like broken links can be done on the fly during the current run, but others, like the rewriting of a section, need to wait until the students are no longer present. At the end of the semester, reflect on the notes and adjust as needed.”


10.  Practice your online writing

Because writing is a major channel of communication in an online class, the importance of clear and concise writing of the course materials cannot be over-emphasized. If one student finds a sentence unclear, the instructor will need to spend valuable additional time responding to clarify. Five or ten minutes of additional time for polishing a message or task instructions before distributing or publishing may save hours in clarifying later.  Have someone who is not familiar with an assignment read the instructions and see if it makes sense or if they could do the assignment with the information you provided.  Keep a list of frequently asked questions and your responses.  You can then copy and paste your responses or keep a running list published in a Google Doc that would get updated in real time for your students and would be easy to search for keywords.


11.  Design with Accessibility in Mind

Too often faculty members will design an online course and then realise a semester later that they have a student with a disability in their courses that require accommodations (screen readers, subtitles, alternative formats, etc.)  While it may take more time as you build the course, designing your course to be as accessible as possible from the start will save you more time (and you will reach more students) than trying to scramble after you get an accommodation request letter.  Remember, it is easier to construct than to retrofit a class!


Clearing a Path for People with Special Needs Clears the Path for Everyone
Accessibility, Assessment, Best Practices, instructional technology, Pedagogy, Teaching Advice

Designing with Accessibility in Mind, Part 1: The Theory

We have reached that glorious time of year when students are starting to plan for the future (i.e. – register for Fall semester).  As we wrap up the current academic year, you may start thinking about the future yourself.  What courses will I be teaching next year? How will I do that? What assessments am I going to use? What am I going to change up?  Wouldn’t it be cool if {insert innovative idea here}?  While TLT is here to help you with all of your planning needs this summer, there are a few things to keep in mind while you make plans for your future courses, especially in terms of meeting the needs of all learners.

College of Charleston currently has approximately 900 students with various disabilities on campus who are registered with the Center for Disability Services. [1]  Some of you may have already worked with students with disabilities in your courses and have a working knowledge of accommodations.  For others, this concept may be new and foreign to you.  In any case, as you look to prepare your courses for future semesters, here are some overall tips that will help you to design with accessibility in mind:

  • Think about the whole process more as Accessibility rather than Compliance. When you hear someone bring up the topic of working with students with disabilities, you often hear it referred to as ADA Compliance.  Just that phrase can conjure up images of lawsuits, courtrooms, and “early retirement”…but it doesn’t have to be that way!  True, there are federal requirements that are outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act, reauthored in 2010.  What it all boils down to is making sure that each student in your course has equitable access to the information and participation.  When you think about it, that just makes sense!  Why would a student be in our courses?  To learn.  How can we help them learn? By giving them the opportunity to do so.  To learn more about what this means, check out this video on Web Accessibility as it pertains to College of Charleston.


  • It is much easier and less time consuming to design a course to be accessible from the ground up than to try and retrofit it later. Sometimes, you’ll hear a faculty member say “I’ll worry about that IF I have a student who needs a disability in my class”.  However, as one professor who recently had a student with visual impairments in her class put it, “I realized at that point it was too late.  I had to struggle to get all of my material together and put into a format that the student could use.  Add that on top of not knowing what that meant or looked like and all of the responsibilities of the semester.  I was stressed out, the student was falling behind, and it wasn’t really their fault! I just hadn’t thought about it.” Many of us will be teaching courses that we’ve taught before, so how can we start looking at accessibility issues and fitting in pieces that fit?  Which leads us to…
  • Consider using Universal Design for Learning principles as you redesign parts of your course. “Universal design for learning (UDL) is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn,” (CAST 2015)[2].   Structured to help all learners in your courses, not just students with disabilities, this framework for curriculum design is based off of three primary principles:
    • Multiple Means of Representation: Present information in different ways so that all learners can access the information.  Look for flexible ways to present what you teach and what you want the students to learn.  Consider using visual and auditory elements, experiential learning, and kinesthetic opportunities to engage with content.
    • Multiple Means of Expression: Provide ways for students to show what they know and what they can do using multiple modalities. Project Based Learning is a great way to do this by giving students a forced choice menu of final product options and adding in a reflection piece.
    • Multiple Means of Engagement: Consider using different “hooks” or “activators” to capture your students’ attention to the content and hold it. Remember, relevance is key!

Universal Design for Learning is a vast and useful framework for reaching all learners and to individualize the learning process to meet their needs and your course goals.  I would suggest checking out some of the additional resources below if you are interested in learning more about the theory.

To learn more about HOW to do this, including examples from current faculty, stay tuned for Designing with Accessibility in Mind, Part 2: The Practice (Coming in May…debuting just in time for your summer course planning!)

Additional Resources

When using these principles there are a variety of resources available to help you out.  Here on College of Charleston’s campus the Center for Disability Services is a wonderful resource for faculty.  TLT can also help you differentiate your instruction and research academic-related technology solutions to implement.  Here are some other resources to help you out:


[1] Mihal, Deborah. “Our Role.” Center for Disability Services. College of Charleston, Aug. 2014. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.

[2] Poller, Lisa. “About Universal Design for Learning.” About Universal Design. CAST, n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.

Best Practices, TLT

Preparing for the Unexpected

On Tuesday, the College of Charleston experienced a safety and communication crisis when a bomb threat was made.  Classes in six buildings were officially cancelled and many faculty, staff, and students were prohibited from accessing their offices, classrooms, and dorms until 5:00PM.  This unexpected disruption caused many professors to lose valuable class time.

As the daughter of a Boy Scout and a Girl Scout myself, I try to live by the mantra: be prepared.  As an instructional technologist, I’ve learned ways to use technology to “prepare for the worst” and want to share that knowledge so you will be ready for the next interruption, closure, or disaster.

1.  Think ahead.  Before the semester begins, decide how you will manage if classes are cancelled.  According to instructional technologist, Kaitlin Woodlief, “your best preparation is to learn the tools now before you’re put into a situation where you have to use them.”  This doesn’t mean you must become an expert on Adobe Captivate to make professional-quality video lectures.  Instead, familiarize yourself with one tool so you feel comfortable enough producing something simple that will transmit content.

VoiceThread iconGiven Tuesday’s events, I had to figure out a way to prevent my students from getting too far behind.  I uploaded the Powerpoint I intended to use in class into Voicethread and narrated my slides using already created lecture notes.  I didn’t need to create new content; I just had to put that content into a different format.  And because I had already familiarized myself with Voicethread, the process was simple.  There are numerous tools that will allow you to deliver content online in case of a College closure or class cancellation, including Kaltura, Jing, Screencast-O-Matic, EdPuzzle, and Google Drive.  Of course, TLT has you covered with workshops that focus on online content delivery!  Browse for those sessions.

2.  Include a syllabus policy.  As you prepare your classes, craft a policy that establishes expectations and procedures in case an emergency occurs.  For example, Penn State encourages faculty to include the following language in their syllabi:

In the event of a campus closure, course requirements, classes, deadlines and grading schemes are subject to changes that may include alternative delivery methods, alternative methods of interaction with the instructor, class materials, and/or classmates, a revised attendance policy, and a revised semester calendar and/or grading scheme. Information about course changes will be communicated through [e-mail, etc….]

3.  Determine communication protocols.  If an emergency closes the College or you have to cancel class at the last-minute, how will you communicate with your students?  There are numerous options, including email and posting a notification in the OAKS News tool.  This semester, I’m using both Twitter and Celly to communicate with students.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve found students don’t routinely read their emails, so I decided to meet them where they are and use text messaging and social media.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 4.58.07 PMThe numerous ways I use Twitter in the classroom is a blog post for another day, but on Tuesday, I tweeted numerous times to inform students that the Cougar Alert was not a test, that they needed to pay attention to their email, and that class was cancelled.  I also used Celly to communicate the same information.  Celly provides a way to send SMS text messages without exchanging phone numbers (you can also use the mobile app or website if you don’t text).  I’ve found students to be much more responsive to these text messages than email.

For more serious emergencies, when campus is closed for a longer period of time, you may want to communicate with your students synchronously.  Skype and Google Hangouts provide simple and free options for hosting virtual, synchronous meetings.  The OAKS Discussion tool can also be used for conversation and collaboration.

As my colleague Chris Meshanko says, while we always hope for the best, we must plan for the worst.  Anticipating disruptions and making plans can prevent students and faculty from losing valuable contact hours.  Most importantly, let students know within the first two weeks of classes what your expectations are if classes are cancelled due to an emergency.  And as always, TLT can assist you in choosing the right tools for keeping your class on track.

Top Ten Tech Tools
Innovative Instruction, instructional technology, Productivity, TLT

TLT’s Top Ten Tech Tools

In TLT, we are continually conducting research, starting trials, and experimenting with a variety of technology applications to find the best and most useful tools for our faculty. It makes sense that faculty and staff often ask me about apps and other tools I use in my courses, training sessions, and typical day-to-day activities. During iPad training, instructional technologists are nearly always asked some variation of “What’s the most popular app?” or “What’s your favorite app?” After technology sessions or presentations, I usually get questions from faculty expressing curiosity as to whether there are other faculty members using the tool or technology.

Through the new ranking feature in Poll Everywhere, your instructional technologists ranked nearly 30 of the most popular tools. I asked my colleagues to rank these technologies based on frequency of personal use and overall impression of the tool, while also considering the usefulness of the tool for faculty at College of Charleston. Listed below are the top 10 tools ranked by your instructional technologists in TLT. Please contact us with any questions.


  1. Google Drive: We use this for everything – meeting minutes, tutorials, brainstorming, group work, etc. It’s great for real-time collaboration.
  2. Poll Everywhere: This is one of the most popular tech tools on campus. We love it so much, it’s how we came up with this list.
  3. SMORE: You might be familiar with this tool if you have paid close attention to the flyers in our emails. We use it because it’s very easy to put together a great looking flyer in just a few minutes, and it tracks our views. Faculty could use it to brighten up weekly announcement emails or for introductions at the beginning of the semester.
  4. Screencasting: We use Screencast-o-matic to make quick how to videos rather than writing out tedious step-by-step instructions in emails. This program allows you to record your voice and your screen for up to 15 minutes with a free account. I use this technology frequently in my online courses.
  5. Skitch: All I have to say is Mac users, get this now! Take a screenshot, crop it, add arrows or text, and then drag the file into an email or presentation. The best part is that you can set it up to sync between all your devices.
  6. Kahoot!: We’re addicted. We love this fast and interactive quizzing game. I use it as an alternative to Jeopardy for in class review sessions.
  7. Canva: This is the best free graphics tool we have tested that offers professional-quality design options. It’s a lot of fun to experiment in Canva.
  8. EdPuzzle: Make an existing YouTube video more instructional or relevant to your class by adding in audio comments and quiz questions. You can track student views too.
  9. Haiku Deck: Make beautiful presentations in a jiffy on your iPad or computer. The image finder is fantastic and the formats are striking.
  10. Twitter: Stay up-to-date with news and interact with students and colleagues.
Kool Kats Photo of school bus reflection
Pedagogy, TLT, Training Opportunities

Reflecting on the Fall Semester

Your course is over and grades are submitted! Whew, you have time to take a deep breath and kick those feet up on your desk…well maybe. The spring semester is not so far away, and this is a great time to reflect on your teaching and courses. Here are 10 questions to think about:

  1. Review your course goals, objectives, outcomes, etc. Did the course meet your expectations?

  1. When were students most engaged? When were they distracted? Can you determine why?

  1. Did you cover all of the material you had hoped to discuss? Was anything extraneous?

  1. Should you consider re-sequencing any topics?

  1. When were students most confused?

  1. Which topics, discussions, and assignments were most relevant to your course learning goals and objectives? Are there any assessments that should be re-tailored?

  1. Did students come to class prepared? What could be adjusted to improve student preparation?

  1. What were the best and worst moments in the course? Was anything different, unique, or surprising about this semester?

  1. What would you change in future iterations of this course? What could you improve?

  1. Did your student course evaluations surprise you?

Other than reflecting and taking notes on areas to adjust for the upcoming semester, there are a handful of other tasks you can get started on. First, it’s always helpful to have examples of student work. If there’s a project or piece of work from this fall semester that you would like to share with future students, make sure you seek written permission from that student. It’s better to do it now while you still have the contact information for all of your students.

Have you reviewed your teaching evaluations? It’s OK to wait – ProfHacker actually recommends reading teaching evaluations at a later time. Regardless of when you read them, they can sometimes be difficult to interpret. Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching has an excellent page with resources and thoughts about student evaluations. If you don’t feel like you can use the information from the standard evaluations for reworking your course, you might consider creating your own course evaluation with specific questions about your course. This reflection period is the perfect time to prepare a questionnaire or survey for your future students. You could even create a survey to hand out around midterms.

Lastly, if there is a particular topic or area of teaching that you are struggling with, come up with a strategy for how to address it. Consider attending a TLT Training Session to hear about best practices, setting up an appointment with your instructional technologist, or reaching out to your peers for a discussion about teaching. There are also some great resources available online to help with your teaching – contact your instructional technologist if you need help navigating them. In the long term, you may consider attending an FTI or checking out TLT’s brand new Spring Training initiative. Remember that there are a lot of instructors on campus with a passion for teaching – they are great for ideas and feedback. You could even invite a colleague to sit in on one of your classes to get some honest and constructive evaluations. If that doesn’t sound appealing, as an alternative you could plan to record a class period or lecture to watch on your own. This can be a very enlightening process, and it may give you ideas to keep in mind for future lectures. If this is something you would like to pursue,TLT has equipment you can borrow.

There’s so much that can be done in preparation for your 2015 courses! But, don’t forget to take a break so you come back energized and refreshed for a new group of students.

Coterminal Angles
1-1-1, Innovative Instruction, TLT

Faculty Guest Post: Echo360 to (partially) Flip a Math Classroom

Today our guest blogger is Dr. Jason Howell, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics. Please note that as of August 2015, Echo 360 is no longer available to CofC faculty as a campus license. Mediasite Desktop Recorder is the new replacement allowing for media creation and media sharing.


I was very excited to learn that I was selected to attend the Spring 2013 Faculty Technology Institute as I was very interested in learning about some of the latest and greatest innovations that could help me improve my overall effectiveness as a teacher.  Having taught college math courses since 1997, my teaching style and techniques evolved to include many software and hardware tools, including programmable calculators, mathematical software, and even lecturing with a tablet PC, but I felt that I was not fully taking advantage of what was currently available in terms of instructional technology.  The TLT staff did an excellent job and the FTI showed me lots of new tools that were available to enhance student learning.

One of the instruction techniques that was covered in the FTI was the inverted, or “flipped” classroom, in which students are responsible for absorbing new lecture content outside of class meetings.  This way, class meetings can be devoted to more interactive discussions about the course concepts or, as is often the case with math courses, working more problems in class.  One of the tools introduced at the FTI for this purpose was Echo360 Personal Capture.

This software will record your desktop, microphone, and webcam (optional) all together to help you create lectures or presentations.  I decided that this would be a great tool to try out for myself – if I can get my students to learn some basic ideas or concepts though watching a video outside of class, I could then devote more class time to working problems, which students are always clamoring for!  I was teaching Precalculus (MATH 111) at the time, and we were getting ready to cover trigonometric functions, so I decided that my first experiment would be to create a video on finding coterminal angles and evaluating the sine and cosine functions at these angles (if you want to know exactly what I’m talking about, watch the video below!).

The Echo360 software was very easy to download and install on my old Toshiba Tablet PC (still running Windows XP Tablet) and I was up and running in no time. This is a relatively old computer but I really like it for writing – I’m left-handed so writing on a tablet doesn’t always produce good results, and I’ve tried many tablets but this one works best for me.  I started by creating a worksheet that was only partially complete – and my goal was to work through the worksheet on the tablet while Echo360 captured the screen and my voiceover.  I created the worksheet and produced a PDF version, and I annotated the PDF using a program called PDF Annotator (, I’ve used it for years).  Meanwhile, my discussions of the worksheet were recorded using a USB microphone, and the Echo360 software was launched to capture everything together.

One disadvantage of Echo360 software is the inability to splice two captures together to make another.  While this might seem annoying at first, it forces you to do two (actually good) things:

  • You really need to rehearse your presentation of the material before you attempt to record, as you don’t want to have to redo the whole thing once you’re a few minutes in. This is good practice anyway, just as going over your lecture notes thoroughly/rehearsing your lecture helps you become more effective in the classroom.
  • You do not want to set out to create really long videos – in fact, it’s probably a good idea to break a long lecture into a series of shorter videos.  Depending on your discipline, a few short videos may be better to retain student attention, and they definitely will be more convenient for the students to work into their out-of-class schedules.

After a few mulligans I was finally able to record two videos that split a three-page worksheet into two coherent mini-lectures.  The two videos can be viewed here:

Coterminal Angles:

Evaluating Trig Functions:

Math Worksheet for Echo360 Lectures

**To access these videos, click or copy the link into your browser, login to Kaltura with your Cougars username and password, then click the link AGAIN to be taken to the video**

Once you create your videos using Echo360, you can share them on the college’s Echo360 server, and you can post a link in your OAKS course to the video. However, I don’t like the fact that Flash must be enabled in order for the videos to be streamed from the server – I find this quite limiting, as many students have iPads, iPods, or iPhones that will not play Flash content.  To work around this, I downloaded the m4v file and converted it to an mp4 movie file.  I then uploaded the MP4 files to Kaltura so students can access and play them on any device.  My MATH 111 students really liked the videos, especially the fact that they could rewind and play certain parts over and over – something they certainly can’t do in class!

Although these are the only videos I have done so far, I am planning on doing more as soon as I get time.  I think they could really help in many courses, such as Calculus and Discrete Structures.  In summary, the FTI was a great opportunity to learn some new and innovative ways to enhance student learning, and I successfully used Echo360 to create some lecture content for my students to view outside of class.

Assessment, Classrooms, Innovative Instruction, instructional technology, Pedagogy, TLT

A Plan of Attack for Implementing Technology into Your Instruction

Image Credit: Veer

Here at Teaching, Learning, and Technology part of our mission is to support, develop, and educate faculty in the integration of educational technology into pedagogy and assessment.  Our goal for doing this is that it will enhance student learning and promote effective or innovative practices.  Lately, I have met with several members of the College of Charleston faculty who are interested in getting started with incorporating more technology into the classroom or starting to look at it for the first time.  It can be daunting when faced with the choices of technology tools that are on the market.  Which one is the best?  Can my students use it?  Do I really HAVE to use technology to get my point across?

Here are our top 5 tips to consider when you are looking at implementing educational technology into your courses:

  • Above all, technology should be chosen to ENHANCE instruction.  Too often faculty members find a new tool and try to come up with a way to use it in class, which is not necessarily a bad thing and can lead to some innovative instruction.  However, trying to force a tool to fit into your course simply because it’s new and shiny may not be the best way to introduce technology into your courses.  Remember, the instruction should be used to structure tool choice rather than using the tool to structure your instruction.


  • Define what you want the tool to accomplish and the relevant features. There are tons of tools out there to achieve your goal for any action.  Just do a quick Google search for apps for managing a to-do list (! The first step to a purposeful integration is to reflect on your current teaching practices to see where your lessons could be enriched with a technological tool.  Next, define what you want the tool to be able to do and what are your “deal breaker” features, or features that the tool absolutely must or must not do.  This will help to narrow your search.  Of course, when it comes to this, you can always have a conversation with your neighborhood, friendly Instructional Technologist to help with the narrowing and research process!


  • Plan ahead and test it out.  Whenever you are trying a new instructional technology tool, it may take a while for you to feel comfortable with using the tool or to get it set up the way that you want.  Like anything, this comes with practice and exposure to the product.  Make sure that if you want to use a new tool in your courses that you give yourself at least 2 weeks to really get to know the app or tool before implementing it with your students.  Also, try the tool in multiple locations and using multiple platforms.  For example, try using a web based tool both on and off campus, in the classroom where you want to work with it, and on Chrome/Firefox/Internet Explorer/Safari to make sure everything displays and functions the same way.  Nothing is more frustrating than getting in front of your students to facilitate a wonderful lesson planned with technology and have it not work the way that you intended.  Which leads me to our next point…


  • Have a backup plan just in case.  In a perfect world, we would all be able to walk into any classroom and have every lesson go smoothly…the students are actively learning, all of the technology functions perfectly, and you leave class with the high of knowing that you have helped to mold young minds into the way of the future.  Snap back to reality!  There are too many variables to have that utopian classroom be a constant, so as effective instructors we need to be prepared with various instructional strategies to help our students meet the end objectives for the lesson.


  • Don’t be afraid to try something new!  Yes, things can go wrong and it’s scary to change from the way that you may have done things for years.  It can also be amazing and you can see growth, access, and engagement with material that you never thought possible.  Be honest with your students about your new endeavors and ask them for their feedback.  When the students know that you are learning and that you value their opinions about what is going on in the classroom, it creates a sense of ownership within the cohort of learners in your course.

One faculty member on campus told me that he tests his material for his online courses in his face to face course and has his students rate them.  It helps to shape the instruction and trouble shoot for the next running of the course.  Another faculty member in the Department of Communication told his students that they were going to try a new tool in the class and that it was the first time he had ever tried to use this tool, so they were going to experience it together.  The students responded to his openness and they ended up learning from each other and allowing this particular faculty member to branch out and try more technology tools to engage his students.


When you start to look at integrating new tools into your lessons it may seem like there are so many options and only one of you, but keep in mind that there is always safety in numbers.  Talk to your colleagues to see what they are doing and what they have found to be successful and what has not.  You can learn just as much from a failed attempt as you can from a successful one.  Attend workshops and training sessions to help with your comfort level.  In addition, you can always contact your Instructional Technologist to help with an individualized plan of attack!