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Change is gonna do me good

January 13, 2014 Leave a comment
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Links for School of Business Online Education Workshop

February 25, 2010 Leave a comment
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Gradebook Thoughts for an Open Course

October 3, 2009 5 comments

I’m co-teaching an educational technology course with Helen Barrett (@eportfolios). Instead of using Blackboard, we’re trying to use all open technologies for the course.  We are using Google Sites for the content and Google Groups for class communication (no Google Wave invite yet).

So far, so good except for a few small snags such as what to do about a gradebook.  I’ve agreed to find a solution for this.  I would like a gradebook that allows students to check scores whenever they want.  Students already have a number of applications they need to create logins for so I would like to avoid one more if possible.

I was hoping to be able to use Google Docs Spreadsheet alone for the gradebook for this course.  My goal was to make it possible to have one spreadsheet where all scores were entered by the instructors, and students could only see their individual scores.  However, it doesn’t look like there is a way to give students access to part of a sheet or even one sheet in a Google Docs Spreadsheet.  I could create a spreadsheet for each student but this would require too many clicks when entering scores.

I did some research on the use of a mail merge command in Google Docs. It looks like I would need access to scripts that aren’t available to all users so this idea is out for now. Therefore, I am planning to use the following plan (which breaks our goal of trying to use only open software in this course) unless someone from my Personal Learning Network (you) can provide another way forward:

  1. Create a single Google Spreadsheet to enter student names, email addresses, and scores.
  2. Share this spreadsheet with my co-instructor, Helen Barrett.
  3. Enter scores as assignments are completed.
  4. Each week, export the spreadsheet as a Microsoft Excel document to a folder on my computer.
  5. Use Microsoft Word to create a MailMerge and send each student an update on their progress in the course.


  • This is technology I am familiar with and know that it will work, possibly saving me time and stress.
  • Students will get weekly feedback on their progress.
  • Pushing grades to students (emailing) may encourage them to check in on the course as they probably check email more frequently than they access the course.


  • This solution uses non-open technologies so university students who want to replicate this technique with their K-12 or adult ed students will need to have Microsoft Office. (All SPU students have Office 2007 or 2008 so maybe this isn’t a disadvantage.)
  • Students won’t have real-time access to their grades. They will have to refer to my last email to check on their grades.
  • I will have to remember to send out a grade update each week, which is unlikely so I will probably need a prompt from students or my co-instructor.
  • Although I’m familiar with this process, it may seem complicated to teachers who want to replicate what I’m doing.

Do you have any suggestions for me? The idea solution would:

  • Let students access grades whenever they want.
  • Let them use existing login information so they don’t have to create an additional account
  • Come at no cost to the students, a small annual fee for the instructor would be acceptable.
  • Provide common gradebook features such as the ability to have easily enter data and sort, create reports, and make calculated columns.

Planning and Implementing an Affordable and Scalable Content Capture Solution

August 15, 2009 Leave a comment

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Presentation by David Wicks and Cris Guenter at the 2009 MERLOT International Conference in San Jose

As blended and distance learning have grown in popularity so has the need for content or lecture capture solutions which allow professors to record and upload direct instructional activities. During these challenging economic times institutions must give special consideration to cost and scalability when selecting a solution.

In this session, participants will examine the Content Capture Comparison Matrix which provides a list of features necessary for scalable content capture. The session will conclude with discussion about implementation strategies such as how to integrate the system with an institutions Course Management System.

content capture solutions slides pdf_icon_sm

Time for ebooks in the classroom?

June 14, 2009 2 comments

Six Lessons One Campus Learned About E-Textbooks
Is it time to switch to ebooks? Not quite yet, according to Chronicle writer Jeffrey R. Young after he visited with Northwest Missouri State University faculty and students about their venture into the world of e-textbooks.  NWMSU has been a leader in student communication technologies since the days of OTPDR (That’s one-terminal-per-dorm-room for those of you who have trouble remembering the great acronyms of the past).
Young shares six lessons he learned about the current state of ebooks in the classroom.  Here are my thoughts on each of his points.

  1. Judge ebooks by their covers – All ebooks reading software is not created equal.  Sony’s ebook reader is different than Amazon’s Kindle.  There are lots of ebook reader options for laptops.  Publishers have even created proprietary readers that work within an LMS (Blackboard, Moodle, etc.)  The point here is that with this many options, you will need to do your research, and  try before buying where possible.
  2. Learning curves ahead – Students have had years of practice learning how to learn from paper-based textbooks. Institutions should offer training as part of any e-textbook initiative.
  3. Professors are eager students – This may be puzzling to some but I’ve always been able to find professors eager to experiment with a new technology IF (and this is an important “if”) they can envision how it might be meaningful to teaching/learning.
  4. Dead batteries – Hopefully this problem that will go away as better battery technologies are developed. For now, we need to make sure that there enough power outlets in classrooms and learning centers (and hopefully not just on the back wall.)
  5. Subjects are not equally e-friendly – Some disciplines may be better suited to e-textbooks than others. I’m not sure that I agree with this statement, especially if we leave out Amazon and Sony, and just talk about the use of a laptop or iPhone (both support color) as the ebook reading device.  Both would allow students to zoom in and query images for more information.  Think about the possibilities with a subject like Geography.  Maps within a paper textbook are static while ebook maps can be dynamic, allowing students to ask how borders or populations have changed over time. The result may be customized maps that help students understand current political issues.
  6. Environmental impact matters – Saving trees is an important consideration but a move to e-textbooks could ultimately reduce the cost (and amount of fuel used) to provide textbooks to students in developing countries.  Textbooks are already expensive. Add the cost of shipping overseas and the price may double.  Instead, these students could be outfitted with multi-use resources (laptop or smartphone) to access up-to-date content. Easy access to electricity is a major issue but one that can be eased with longer battery life.

While I don’t believe it is time to make wholesale changes to e-textbooks, it is time to begin experimenting with ebooks in individual courses and programs. What do you think?
(delicious tags: Education technology textbook academic college kindle ebooks)

Blackboard or WordPress? Part I

June 1, 2009 1 comment

Colleges Consider Using Blogs Instead of Blackboard – link to external website

Please read the linked article above and then let me know what you see as the advantages and disadvantages of using a blog (WordPress) instead of a learning management system (Blackboard)?

I’ll tell you what I think. First here’s my disclosure statement.  I’m a huge fan of WordPress and I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Blackboard during my ten years as a user.  (Has it really been that long?)  That being said, I don’t see why an institution would choose to use an application designed for reflections (WP) when an application designed to manage courses (Bb) fails.  It would make more sense to investigate why Bb is failing or evaluate another LMS like Moodle.

I like the commenting feature in WordPress but it isn’t a threaded discussion board.  I like the ability to review blog stats in WordPress but it isn’t a gradebook.  I can see how some professors could teach their courses using a blog but it won’t meet the needs of the many.

There are non-LMS alternatives to Blackboard (such as Drupal) but I don’t see WordPress as being one of them.  Now if we want to talk about using WordPress as an alternative to an ePortfolio management system I am ready to talk. For now, I’m sticking with Blackboard as my LMS.


(delicious tags: Blackboard LMS higher_education K-12)

Come to MERLOT this summer

May 19, 2009 1 comment

I’ll be attending the MERLOT International Conference in San Jose, August 13-16, 2009. I’m giving a presentation on Lecture Capture technology. MERLOT always puts on great conferences. If you are interested in eLearning I would encourage you to attend. Here’s a message from the MERLOT project director with more information about the conference.

Dear MERLOT International Conference Presenter,

As MERLOT Project Director for the CSU system and corporate coordinator for the conference, I want to thank you for your participation in the 9th annual MERLOT International Conference, August 13-16 in San Jose.  Rarely do we have the opportunity to attend an international conference focused on pedagogy, teaching and learning innovations, effective application of academic technology within the beautiful state of California.

As my friend and colleague Dr. Cris Guenter, Professor of Education at CSU-Chico and Editor of the MERLOT Teacher Education Editorial Board, reminded me recently, “The MERLOT International Conference provides a chance for me to share and exchange recent technology trends, teaching issues, and simmering ideas with friends and colleagues from around the world. The inclusive atmosphere, the range of perspectives and the variety of approaches to how MERLOT is used by instructors helps me keep my face-to-face, blended, and online courses current and engaging.”

Given your appreciation of the value of the MERLOT International Conference, I hope you will make a concerted effort to spread the word on your campus about this wonderful professional development opportunity.  To help you spread the word please send to your colleagues and friends the attached MERLOT International Conference flyer or refer them to the conference website

I know budgets are tight for us all and yet as people committed to teaching and learning we still must find effective ways to innovate, collaborate and develop new skills and insights to meet our students effectively.

As always, on behalf of the MERLOT, thank you for all you do to make MERLOT an effective resource.  Your efforts are appreciated.  I’m looking forward to seeing you in San Jose, CA this summer for the 9th annual MERLOT International Conference.

With appreciation,

Regan Caruthers

MERLOT Project Director, CSU

MIC 2009 Corporate Coordinator

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