Thursday, December 19, 2013

Preparing your ANGEL Courses for the Winter/Spring Semester

As you start to think about your winter and spring courses, we wanted to share with you the following important information that will help you prepare your course site in ANGEL.

Please review the “Preparing your ANGEL Course for a New Semester” checklist for directions on getting your course site set up for a new semester.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

Monday, December 16, 2013

Important End of Semester ANGEL Tasks

As you near the end of your semester there are a few IMPORTANT things you might want to consider.

First, it is always a good idea to create a backup of your ANGEL gradebook. 
  • Go to the Manage tab in your ANGEL course. 
  • Click Gradebook.  
  • Click Print Grades (on the left side of the page). 
  • Here you can change a number of things.  I usually increase the font size to 12 so it is easier to read.  
  • Click Generate PDF.  This will create a PDF document that you can print or save to either your computer or flashdrive.  
  • Click Done.  
That’s it!  You will now have a copy of the grades for that course.

Next, as outlined in the NSCC ANGEL Course Archive Policy, we have begun the process of archiving older ANGEL course sites and removing them from the ANGEL server.

A course will remain active on the production server for only one academic year from the end date of a given term.

If you would like to retain these course sites for a longer period of time, you have the option of generating your own archive and there are several available options for storage, including:
  • Your P: Drive network folder (only accessible on campus)
  • Your Google Drive, accessible through the your  NSCC email account
  • A personal storage medium, i.e. USB drive, portable hard disk, computer, CD
  • External cloud storage solutions, available at little to no cost (such as Dropbox or SkyDrive)
Please click on the active link listed below for directions on archiving your course.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Phase 1 Report of College Instructional Technology Study

In Fall 2012, the Instructional Technology and Design (ITD) team from the Academic Technology Department at North Shore Community College initiated a campus-wide project to investigate the uses and needs of faculty as it relates to instructional technology at the college.  The public document of this project can be found at this link  After a year of successful discussion and work, we are proud to announce our findings on Phase 1 of this project.  We had the benefit of hearing from more than 75% of the academic departments.  This has been a very successful experience and we are greatly appreciative of all the feedback from faculty and administration.  Before moving into Phase 2 of the project, we wanted to reach out to the community to share our findings and, even more important, some of the actions and plans we will be implementing based on faculty input.  The Report on Phase 1 can be found here at this link

This report captures the findings of the first phase of a two year study of instructional technology use at North Shore Community College, conducted by the ITD team.  Over the 2012-2013 academic year, the team met with and discussed instructional technology with representatives from 35 academic departments.  These meetings were largely focused on gathering information about faculty's use, challenges, and concerns around instructional technology.

The overall positive findings of the project revealed that a significant majority of the faculty are using a wide array of instructional technology with their courses including regular use of our learning management system, ANGEL, and the suite of Google tools.  It was also clear that faculty  utilized and appreciated the support regularly provided by ITD.  Faculty also showed significant interest in pursuing additional instructional technologies such as publisher and other third party eContent, library-supported digital resources, social media, Web 2.0 tools, ePortfolio, and web conferencing platforms.

The challenges encountered by faculty fell into three main areas: clarity around the roles of  Information Systems (IS) and Academic Technology (AT), technical issues within the classrooms, and faculty/student interactive technology challenges.  Given these concerns, this report identifies the different actions that AT will pursue in the next year. These actions include the following:

  • Pursue a two-tiered approach to address and improve student preparedness for online learning.
    • Investigate and choose a survey that accurately assesses online preparedness
    • Develop an Online Learning orientation course to address the most common gaps in preparedness.
  • Develop a Mobile Guide for faculty and students to increase awareness of what is available and useful, and to assist in troubleshooting mobile usage within the college.
  • Establish the Learning Environment Modeling Lab (DB234) where faculty can try out new methodologies and technologies before deploying them in the classroom. This is an initiative of the Classroom Architecture Group comprised of key Academic Technology staff from ITD and Instructional Media Services (IMS). This initiative will work in conjunction with the newly established Education Technology Innovations Group.
  • Develop an Open Educational Resources Guide in partnership with the Library and the Education Technology Innovation Group.
  • Promote and integrate the recently acquired college-subscription to Atomic Learning which provides instructional videos on technology with over 50,000 tutorials of 1-5 minute walk-through videos.

To check out the various materials we have been using for this project, visit this Google Folder at this link

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Gold Standard Implementation of Peer Instruction Using Clickers

Recently, I watched a webinar from Turning Technologies that addressed a standard of implementation for using clickers for peer instruction.  Julie Schell, the Director of OnRamps and Strategic Initiatives, was the presenter.  In her presentation, "Using Clickers with Peer Instruction," she offered the 7 basic steps of this standard:

1.  Provide a mini lecture
2.  The instructor asks a question to the class
3.  The students are given time to think about the question
4.  The students vote for the first time
(The answer is not shown if there is a right answer; the answer may be shown if there is not a correct answer)
5.  Students discuss their response to the question with a neighbor or in groups
6.  A second vote is taking in class
(The answer  is shown)
7.  There is an explanation of why the answer is correct.

Peer instruction and class interaction often fall apart when one or more of these steps are left out of the process. Check out the entire webinar here

If you'd like more information about survey and polling solutions to help enable peer instruction and student discussion in your classroom, please contact me, Dave Houle, at

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More ANGEL Tips

The semester is well under way and I thought I would present some tips on using ANGEL.

TIP  #1:    Personalizing Announcements

When students log into their ANGEL course, it is always nice for  you to have a message welcoming them, directing them or updating them on the course.   You can personalizing your announcement and thus make the student feel as though you are addressing him/her individually. You can include the student's first name in the message.

You can use a simple script to add a student's first name to any announcement.  To do so, just add the following: $First_Name$ into the announcement text box (such as "Greetings $First_Name$).  Be sure to add it exactly as it is shown (or copy and past it).  This will enter the student’s first name on the announcement page.  It will also work in course mail.

TIP  #2:    Printing the ANGEL Gradebook

An ANGEL tip for those of you who are using the ANGEL Gradebook. It is always a good idea to "save" a copy of your Gradebook a few times throughout the semester.  It is very easy to do. 

1. Go to the Manage tab in your course.
2. Go to Gradebook.  
3. Click on the "Print Grades" in the left column.
4. On this page, select the parameters you would like to print.  You can even change the font if you would like to view it in a larger size.
5.  Click on "Generate PDF"
6.  You can either print or save the PDF file to your computer or flash drive.

If you have any ANGEL tips you would like to share, please feel free to comment!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Online and Hybrid Course Accessibility Checklist

North Shore Community College is committed to providing equal access to all educational courses for all students.  To assist faculty in developing accessible online and hybrid courses, Instructional Technology and Design has developed a checklist that outlines things to think about when designing an online or hybrid course and in developing online content.  Our checklist is based on a great resource developed by Portland Community College (thank you so much for your permission to use).

Online and Hybrid Course Accessibility Checklist

  • Navigation is clear and consistent.
  • Contrast between text and background colors is strong.
  • Flashing content is limited and only used when necessary.
  • Clearly identify the destination of a link so that users know where they will be taken if they click.
  • Instructions, operation, or navigation do not depend on solely visual or solely auditory information.
  • The page/site is navigable with just a keyboard (no mouse or touchpad necessary).
Documents and Multimedia
  • Alternative text is provided for all images and graphics.
  • Text transcripts are provided for all audio.
  • Captions are provided for all video.
  • In documents, use text formatting styles provided.
  • Tables are kept small.  Large tables are broken into multiple smaller tables.
  • All external content linked to from within the course should also be accessible.
  • Technology utilized within or incorporated into the course should also be accessible.
Throughout the year, we hope to publish several additional blog posts to provide tips, best practices, and resources for faculty that will help them accomplish the various items in the checklist.

What strategies do you follow to ensure that your online and hybrid courses are accessible?  What challenges do you encountering in developing online content?  Do you have any helpful resources to share?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Announcing Atomic Learning - Online Technology Training Tutorials

North Shore Community College is dedicated to ensuring that all learners have the 21st century technology skills needed for today's world.  That is why Instructional Technology and Design is pleased to announce Atomic Learning, a new online, on-demand training and professional development resource that will provide faculty, staff, and students 24/7 access to over 50,000 technology training tutorials. 

What is Atomic Learning?
Atomic Learning is an online technology and software tutorial service.  Through Atomic Learning, you can view short, easy-to-understand video tutorials to get just-in-time answers to your “how do I do that?” questions by clearly demonstrating how to accomplish specific tasks in over 200 software applications and technologies, such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suites, ANGEL, Google Apps, Windows and Apple operating systems, Web 2.0 tools and iDevices.  Or you can view a series of videos to learn an entire software application.  In addition to the technology training how-to tutorials, Atomic Learning also includes workshops on a variety of technology topics, such as avoiding plagiarism, computer literacy basics, using Microsoft Word to create MLA or APA citations, being an effective online student, Web 2.0, and effective presentation design. 

These online training tutorials are:
  • Available on demand 24/7 on and off campus.
  • Open to all NSCC students, faculty and staff.
  • Answers to many of the common "how do I do that" technology questions.
  • Expansive and includes many software programs and technologies such as Microsoft Office, Adobe, Windows and Apple operating systems, Web 2.0 tools, Google Apps, and iDevices.
  • Easy to access by logging in with your Pipeline username and password.
  • Easy to search using keywords, specific applications, versions, and/or platforms.
  • Easy to share with direct links through email or in ANGEL to support necessary software or technical skills.
  • Available on an iPad.
How do I access Atomic Learning?
Atomic Learning is available on and off campus and can be accessed through NSCC's portal, Pipeline, by clicking on the My Course tab – just look for the channel called Technology Training Tutorials - Learning Made Easy. Click on the Atomic Learning web site link and enter your Pipeline username and password.  Atomic Learning can also be accessed on an iPad.  Just download the app at the App Store. You will need to use your full NSCC email address as your username.

How do I log in?
From Pipeline (My Courses - Technology Training Tutorials), just log in with your Pipeline username and password.  If you are using the Atomic Learning iPad app, you will need to use your NSCC email address as your username.

How can it be used to support teaching and learning?
Atomic Learning can be used in a variety of ways to support the teaching and learning environment.  Here are just a few ideas.
  • The how-to tutorials provide visual step-by-step directions on how to perform functions with a variety of software applications which can supplement and enhance the instruction of those software applications.
  • The how-to tutorials can enable students to learn the necessary technology needed to be successful in their classes.
  • The how-to tutorials can serve as a resource to support students in completing projects that utilize technology by providing directions and answering questions.
  • The technology workshops can provide multimedia materials to aid faculty in infusing 21st century skills into the curriculum.
We are delighted to present this resource to the NSCC community and hope that you will take advantage of it with your students or for your own professional development!  If you have questions  about Atomic Learning or need assistance in using it, please contact us at

Have you viewed any of the tutorials or workshops in Atomic Learning?  Did you find them helpful?  How might you see these being used to support students?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Digital Assignment: How Do You Accept Assignments?

When I look back even 5 years ago, I've seen a significant change in the ways in which faculty take assignments. I know faculty have been taking digital assignments as far back as the 1990s but it often seemed the exception whereas now it feels much more like the rule. We all remember the frantic whirlwind of getting an assignment to an instructor (often after waiting until the last minute to write it) by battling printers or lines at the printers, traffic, crowded hallways, etc just to get that paper in before the end of class, only to repeat this several times each semester.

While there are many benefits to taking online assignments (less chance of losing it, time stamps, environmentally friendly, less redundancy, etc), there are definitely some drawbacks and every person has their own method of doing it.  Below are some of the different methods of taking digital assignments that you may be using or considering using. 

Email is still a popular method of receiving digital assignments as it remains a standard go-to place for students and faculty alike. 
Email is easily accessible for most people.  You don't have to dig too far down into a learning management system to find it and you can do searches to find things.  With NSCC's Gmail server, we have a large space (30 gigabytes and counting) with which to store our emails and attachments.  You will also have an exact time stamp of when the student sent it.
Organizing assignments as they come in can be challenging. Finding and sorting along with downloading each assignment can be time-consuming; especially if you intend to send them back with comments (and thus have to upload the assignments again).  Improper file formats mean more back and forth with the student.  The excuse "I sent it, you didn't get it?" can be come fairly common (whether truthful or not).
  • Have students put a specific but unique word in their subject line (such as your course code) to make it easier to find and search.
  • Create labels and use filters
  • Be sure to reply to students to let them know you received their paper.  It can be a very simple response that you copy and paste into each, but it will be useful for the students to know.
  • Include in your syllabus and elsewhere that this will be the method of submission for course assignments.
Every course at NSCC has an ANGEL shell and you can create dropboxes for your assignments.  Students would then log into ANGEL and go into the course shell in order to upload their assignment. 
All of the assignments are in one place for you to see and to download in a single batch.  You can see what time students passed in their assignment and grade them all in the same place as well as use a grading rubric.  If you use ANGEL's Automate feature, you can have an email sent to students who haven't uploaded the paper by the appointed time.  Students can receive an email when their grade is posted. 
Using the dropbox still requires students to be shown what it is and how to use it within class time.  It also means setting up a dropbox for assignment to prevent confusion for students.  Also, it's best used when using the gradebook in full.  While there is batch download, you still need to upload graded papers with comments one by one.  Like email, there is still the issue of file format since students may not upload the preferred or required file format, causing delays. 
  • Make sure you spend some class time (5 minutes or so) showing students how to get into ANGEL and upload their file.
  • When setting up the dropbox, be sure to include instructions (including file format, due date, links to relevant resources, etc) in the message box.  
  • Make use of the advance settings in the dropbox to determine when you will stop submissions, how many submissions you will take and other matters to make it more efficient for you. 
  • Include in your syllabus and elsewhere that this will be the method of submission for course assignments.
Faculty are increasingly using and enjoying the benefits of Google Drive with its suite of programs including a word processing program, spreadsheet program, and presentation program that students can use and save themselves money by not buying expensive programs like Microsoft Office.
The ability to create student folders where all of a student's work can be found.  No uploading or downloading.  Easy to comment and provide feedback to the student.  Opportunity to use text-chat or the comment feature to have back and forth discussions about assignment.  The program is already tied to the students' School email so it's easy to locate.  The Google Drive app allows for students and faculty to access the content regularly without signing in and out of the school's system.  Easy citation system.  Lots of good How-To resources to direct students towards (as well as for yourself).  One singular file format.
There's a big learning curve since many students haven't used it yet.  The sharing of files and folders can get confusing.  Though there are work-arounds, if the student doesn't have consistent internet access, it can be cumbersome.  Google regularly updates or changes their suite of tools which can confuse faculty and students.
  • Have the students create their own Folder that they share directly with you (and then put all of their folders into your own "Class Folder."
  • Make note of the "Revision" feature under the File menu.  This can provide a history of the project being made which can be useful in understanding how a student is working.
  • Include in your syllabus and elsewhere that this will be the method of submission for course assignments.
Publishers are now creating very robust learning management systems that are accompanying their books.  These eContent web-based (and sometimes software-based or app-based) programs will have a dropbox similar to the one in ANGEL but may have some extra features. 
If you are using the other eContent, then it is one central place to house your materials.  The eContent site will often have clear instructions on how to use the dropbox.  All of the assignments in one central location.  Some of them will allow for any file format to be uploaded and for the instructor to download in a preferred format.
If you're not using much else of the eContent, this becomes more cumbersome to students (especially, if they did not buy a new book).
 Students may have access problems and not be able to complete the work or just email it instead. 
  • Be sure to spend some class time familarizing your students with the environment.
  • Include in your syllabus and elsewhere that this will be the method of submission for course assignments.

What methods and programs do you take digital assignments in?  What obstacles do you contend with when doing so?  What solutions have you found?  What tips would you add to the ones above?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Polling in the Classroom

Of course every great instructor loves to see their students engaged in the classroom.  Students, believe it or not, love to have their voices heard too, although many may be shy about doing that.
With the influx of new technologies over the last few years, many new ways have been developed to get your student's voice heard in your class.  One kind of technology that has been used here at North Shore Community College is clicker technology, which is often times referred to as audience response, classroom response, or student response technology.

This little device, the clicker, allows the student to make their voice heard anonymously in class.  Many faculty have used polling when talking about controversial issues.  The student submits their actually feelings on an issue without class influence.  Other faculty have used clickers to get a sense of whether or not the class has understood the gist of the material just presented in class.  It's a kind of "pre-testing" or "assessment" of student knowledge.  It helps you as the instructor understand just where they are in their learning or any common misconceptions that might be happening.

Formal polling can be developed in PowerPoint.  On-the-fly polling can be conducted anywhere, anytime.  We use Turning Technologies' Turning Point software here at the College for both formal and anywhere/anytime polling.  You, as the instructor, get to tailor the polling to your classes needs.   For instructors, who for whatever reason choose not to clicker hardware in their class, web-based and phone-based solutions are also available through Poll Everywhere.  Submitting answers through a web site are often preferred over submitting answers via text as students texting may cost that student money depending on their texting plan.

For "first steps" in this process, please contact me at or 978-739-5530.  Also, here is a great resource for getting started with clickers here at North Shore.  We are happy and here to help! 

General Overview of Clickers 
Peer Discussion/Peer Learning/Student Engagement 
  • Classroom Reconsidered: Understanding and Engaging Students with Clickers

Have you used clickers or other similar tools in your class?  What are some of your best experiences with it?  What surprised you about the experience?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

20 Minute Mentor - Online Professional Development for Faculty

The Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment and Academic Technology have partnered up again to bring faculty a professional development series from Magna Publications, called the 20 Minute Mentor. The goal of the  20 Minute Mentor series is to offer faculty practical professional development opportunities in twenty minute snippets that can be accessed from anywhere and at any time during the given week. Session topics cover the areas of student engagement, teaching and learning, teaching online, assessment and learning goals, and classroom management.

Information on how to access the  20 Minute Mentor sessions is available each week in the Bulletin.

New video presentations go live at 10:00am each Monday morning and are only accessible through Sunday. Presentation handouts and supplementary materials are always available.
The following sessions are on the schedule for fall 2013.  For session descriptions, objectives, and mentor bios, click on the titles below.
We would love to hear your feedback on the usefulness of these sessions. Please send your input to

Friday, August 30, 2013

MOOCS and Beyond: My Experience

Well, I have to admit the MOOC course wasa worthwhile endeavor.  While I participated in many of the activities, I did not complete the course.
It was a great way to learn about the subject matter (“Exploring Irish Identity”). I was able to experience various aspects of Irish Identity, including: History, Literature, Film, GAA, Art, Music, etc.
Offering free courses via the MOOC format is an opportunity to broaden your knowledge at no financial cost to you. The only thing you will spend is your time.  You can check out the range of MOOCs available across the Internet at the MOOC List website.
The course ran for 8 weeks and began about 5 weeks before my trip.  What I found is that before I took my trip to Ireland, I was dedicated to completing the course.  I would log in when I could, listen to the lectures, complete the discussion boards and do the quizzes.  While some days I wouldn’t be able to do the necessary assignments I would make sure to catch up when I did have the time. Through this, I learned a great deal about Ireland and its Identity.  However, once I was in Ireland I did not have access to WiFi and couldn’t get online. Many of the things I learned about in the course made me have a better experience.  I heard about the great many literary figures from Ireland and was able to see where some were born.  I heard wonderful Irish music and appreciated where some of it originated. I would see the GAA advertised in the different pubs and know what it was all about. I saw where the great Irish song, “Danny Boy” was written. 
Once I returned from the trip, my interest dimmed though.  I found the desire to complete the course was not there.  What I have determined was that a MOOC course is very beneficial as long as you have the time and desire to learn the subject matter.
Go ahead, find one that interests you and go for it!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Preparing your ANGEL Courses for the Fall Semester

As you start to think about your fall courses, we wanted to share with you the following important information that will help you prepare your course site in ANGEL.

Please review the “Preparing your ANGEL Course for a New Semester” checklist for directions on getting your course site set up for a new semester.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

MOOC, MOOC, and more MOOC

I guess that is the buzz lately. What is a MOOC and what is it all about and is it a worthwhile endeavor?

According to Wikipedia: "A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and TAs. MOOCs are a recent development in distance education.

I have been hearing about MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) a lot lately.  There seem to be pros and cons and I wanted to find out more about it.

What a coincidence to see that Hibernian College in Dublin was offering a MOOC course in “Exploring Irish Identity”.  It just so happened that I visited Ireland in July and to explore my Irish Identity.  It seems like destiny!

I joined the course and found it amazing when I saw where the enrolled students were from.  It was truly a massive course with countries like Tanzania, Netherlands, Canada and Belgium represented, just to name a few.  I look forward to reporting back on my experience.  But it's great to see that there are such a variety of MOOCs out there to learn just about anything. 

Have you tried a MOOC?  What was the subject?  What was the experience?  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Best Apps for Teaching

In May, I went to a 1-day conference on by "Tablets, Handhelds, Smartphones; Oh My: Challenges and Solutions in Supporting Mobile Devices and on Campus" by NERCOMP.  In one session, they spoke about great apps for teaching that are certainly worth sharing:

Poll Everywhere
Platform(s):  Any device with internet access.
Cost:  Free account with limitations on size of polls.
This a classroom response system that uses mobile phones, Twitter, and the web.  This is similar to clicker technology except online and without having to use clickers.

Platform(s):  Works on all platforms and web-enabled devices.
Cost:  Free with registration.
This is a smart classroom response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smart phones, laptops, and tablets.

Platform(s):  Apple & Android Devices
Cost:  Free with registration.
With the latest version of this (2.0), you can not only look at the news that you care about but you can save and collect things that you love into your own magazines.  Examples: "Cars I Like" "Best Vacation Offers."

Platform(s):  Any device with internet access.
Cost:  Free with registration.
This is a suite of software and services that allows you to take notes and archive.  It supports many operating platforms.

Cloud On
Platform(s): Apple & Android Devices
Cost:  Free with registration.
This brings Microsoft Office to your iPhone and iPad and links it to your Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and SkyDrive accounts.

Air Sketch
Platform(s): iTunes
Cost: $9.99
This allows you to turn your iPad into a wireless whiteboard.  You can also annotate PDF documents and images live.
1-2 Educational Uses

What apps to you use in the classroom to help with student engagement?

Monday, July 29, 2013

August Instructional Technology Workshops

We hope everyone is having a great summer!

In August, Instructional Technology and Design will be sponsoring a series of workshops on a variety of topics around integrating technology into the teaching and learning environment.  All North Shore Community College faculty are welcome to attend.  The workshops will be in Danvers Berry 202 unless otherwise indicated.  Check out the workshop descriptions to learn more about each workshop.

If you are interested in attending any of the workshops, please take a moment to RSVP.

Tuesday, August 20th

9:00am to 10:15am, New to ANGEL
10:30am to 12:00pm, ANGEL Discussion Forum*
1:00pm to 2:00pm, Blogger
2:15pm to 3:30pm, Flipping the Classroom [DB304]

Wednesday, August 21st

1:00pm to 2:00pm, Communicating with your Students Virtually (Google Chat, Skype, Google
Hangout, etc.)
2:15pm to 3:30pm,  Screencasting – Creating Videos

Thursday, August 22nd

9:00am to 10:15am, ANGEL Rubrics*
10:30am to 12:00pm, ANGEL Gradebook*

Tuesday, August 27th

9:00am to 10:15am, Smart Classroom [DB304]
10:30am to 12:00pm, Encouraging Student Collaboration with Google Documents and Google Sites
1:00pm to 2:15pm, New to ANGEL
2:30pm to 3:30pm, Advanced ANGEL - RSS Feeds, Automated Agents, etc.*

Wednesday, August 28th

9:00am to 10:15am, Getting Started with Clickers [DB304]
10:30am to 12:00pm, Creating Accessible Online Course Content [DB304]
1:00pm to 2:00pm, ANGEL Assessment* [TBD]

*Note: Participants attending these ANGEL workshops should have already attended a New to ANGEL workshop or have experience in using ANGEL. 

Please let us know if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you at the workshops!

What workshops are you planning to attend? What other workshops would you like us to offer?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Locating and Evaluating Open Educational Resources

This blog feature was originally featured in NSCC Technology Across the Curriculum's annual publication: Mousetales.

Many faculty are looking to open educational resources to provide students with engaging and interactive multimedia resources or offer students low-cost quality content and materials that are alternatives to high-cost textbooks.  Open educational resources are “teaching and learning materials that are available freely for anyone to use” (from the Learn about the Movement page on the OER Commons web site).  These resources can range from individual items such as syllabi, lectures, learning activities, videos, simulations, and lab exercises to complete courses or textbooks.  Even though there are a lot of benefits to using open educational resources, it is often challenging to locate relevant and appropriate quality materials due to the large amount of resources available on the web.  This post aims to provide faculty with some resources that will help them find and evaluate open educational resources. 

Directories or repositories of open educational resources are one of the best places to start when looking for these types of materials.  There are also specific repositories for subject specific open education resources as well as ones for open courses and open textbooks.   Here are a few to start with.

OER Commons
OER Commons is a collection of over 40,000 resources that can be browsed by subject area, grade level or material type.  An advance search is also available to limit a search by a variety of different criteria including subject area, material type, media type, accessibility, and conditions of use.  Many of the resources have been reviewed and rated using the Achieve OER Evaluation Rubric.  And each resource is clearly marked with the conditions of use.  

Connexions is a project of Rice University and is “a place to view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports, etc.” (from the Connexions web site).  There are over 21,000 reusable modules that can be browsed by subject area or searched by keyword.  Materials found here have a Creative Commons open license that allows for free use.

MERLOT: Multimedia Educational Resource for Teaching and Learning
MERLOT is a “free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy. MERLOT is a leading edge, user-centered, collection of peer reviewed higher education, online learning materials, catalogued by registered members and a set of faculty development support services” (from the About Us page on the MERLOT web site).  There are currently over 40,000 learning materials that can be browsed or searched.  An advanced search is also available to limit a search by keyword, language, material type, audience, resources with peer reviews and comments, resources released under Creative Commons, are not copyrighted or have no cost associated with them.

Open educational resources can also be located through a variety of search engines such as Google.  For example, Google allows you to search for materials that have a Creative Commons license.  This short video demonstrates how easy it is to locate open educational resources that have a Creative Commons license.  Resources that can be freely used can also be found through the Creative Commons search.  This search allows you to easily locate images, music, videos, and other media that can be reused, remixed, and shared. 

The next challenge in using open educational resources is evaluating the resource to determine their usefulness and appropriateness.  The Evaluating OER Rubric is a helpful tool as it provides some basic questions to consider about an open educational resource.    

Here are a few more resources if you would like more information about open educational resources.
If you want to learn more about open educational resources or would like some assistance in incorporating them into your classes, please feel free to contact the Instructional Technology and Design team at  We would be happy to help.

Are you already using open educational resources in your classes?  If so, how are you using them?  And what resources are you using? 

What concerns do you have over using open educational resources in your classes?

Monday, May 20, 2013

3 Steps to Video Excellence

Over the last few months I've been presenting in several classrooms where faculty were looking to introduce students to instructional technology of some sort, which usually fall into the category of digital or face-to-face presentations.  In preparing and developing for these classes, I let my mind wander a bit on how to do this in a way that balanced the students' need to understand the tools, exciting enough for them to want to use the tools, and manageable for them to actually integrate the tools.  Here is the triangulation that I developed that can be done with using nothing more than your computer (an maybe an external microphone if you don't have an internal one) and little knowledge of basic programs.  In total, this entails creating a presentation that can be engaging and easily moved into a video for later use.

This process requires 3 programs--all of which are web-based (and free).  The only obstacles are that two require registration (Google and Prezi--though if you have a North Shore Community College account that is your Google account and Prezi offers an Educational License that is free when you use your school email account) and the video can be no longer that 15 minutes.  But for videos that are going in an online environment (for either face to face or online teaching), this is good because it helps the instructor or student keep focus on what they need to communicate is a confined time.

Step 1:  Google Slides (Presentation Tool)

We're talking primarily about Google Slides here, but Powerpoint works just as well for this part.  Either way, you'll need to opt to select "Download as a Powerpoint" when you are done with the Google Presentation in order to integrate it into Prezi.   For a good primer on Google Slides, check out their help feature which has really good information.

In Google Slides, you can compose your  specific content and information.  This might include images, videos, and text.  You can think of them as your "scenes" and what you want to convey in each scene.  When completed with the content, this is also a good time to work through the presentation to get a sense of how long it will take you and the flow of it.   

Step 2:  Prezi  (Optional)
Once you have  content settled into scenes in Google Slides, you'll want to download it as a Powerpoint file (pptx).  (If you've been using Powerpoint; you are all set).  Then you'll want to go to and create an account.  Be sure to sign up for an educational license if you are a college student or instructor.   This will provided you with additional benefits.  Like Google, Prezi has great support and guidance for learning the tool and for something like this, you don't need to know much about Prezi beyond the basics.  

Once you have created an account, and started a new Prezi, you'll want to select the "Insert" menu and choose "Powerpoint."  You'll be given the option of how many of your slides you want to import as well as the design you want to use.  Those are aesthetic choices you will need to consider in terms of what the information is you are conveying and how it should look laid out on Prezi.  

When you have sequenced and aligned your scenes in a way that works for you, you'll want to run through the sequence from start to finish at full screen.  This will benefit you in two ways.  The first is that it will make sure everything runs smoothly.  It will also give you another opportunity to pace through it and see how it works in terms of time.  

It should be noted that this is an optional step and one that you might not be ready to tackle with your first video or two.  Prezi can be a little overwhelming if you haven't used it much or are still not comfortable with Web 2.0 tools.  However, if you're just importing your entire Powerpoint and not necessarily manipulating much of the content besides cleaning it up any glitches in the transfer, it can be easy to do in an hour or so (at least the first time).  I've added it as a step here because the moving and fading tool features allow for your Powerpoint to come alive a bit more than just a typical Powerpoint.   We'd also recommend you check out our previous post on Prezi to get a better sense if the tool if you haven't used it before.  

Step 3:  Screencast-o-matic 
 Once you have created an excellent Prezi, now you can get ready to make a video of it with the use of Screencast-O-Matic.   We're big fans here of Screencast-O-Matic as we've mentioned before. Screencast-O-matic is a free tool that only requires a brief and easy installation of a browser applet in order to run.  The program will record what's on your screen (screencast) and whatever sound you create (or you can keep it mute).  

At this point, you'll want to have a tab on your browser to open up the Screencast-O-Matic tool while also having a tab open on your browser with your Prezi that you want to record.  Set your Screencast-O-Matic to capture the full screen and then set your Prezi to full screen.  When you are ready, press the big red button on Screencast-O-Matic and begin recording.  

3 Notes about recording:
  1. Don't expect to get it right the first time.  You'll probably need to restart at least once.
  2. Don't aim for perfection.  Look for a conversational voice and don't worry about a few mistakes.  If you aim for perfection, you will lose your mind and lots of time trying to get it "just right."
  3. Do your best to prepare a script that you work from.  This is useful not just for you to follow along but you can make the script available so that it meets accessibility requirements for your students. 
This is not so much a step but a consideration. Now that you've made a great video, the question is where to put it.  You can certainly store it in your ANGEL course.  However, I find it useful to upload it to my Google Drive and then embed it into an ANGEL page.  This allows me to also share the video out with other people and places as I see fit.  If comfortable, you can also put it on YouTube.  The one challenge if you are going to use YouTube is that you would need to create a separate account since your NSCC account can't be used for Youtube accounts. 

Here is an example of a video (also reiterating much of what's in this blog post). 

Have you tried any of these tools?  How do you like them?  What challenges have you run into?  Have you produced any interesting content that's available to see (share the link below!)?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Massive Open Online Courses: Massive Threat or Open Invitation? Part 2 of 2

This 2-part blog feature comes from Guest Blogger, Michael J. Badolato, Ed.D., Dean of Academic Technology and was originally featured in NSCC Technology Across the Curriculum's annual publication:  Mousetales.  Part 1 of this article can be found here.

In the course of this academic year, two Massachusetts state community colleges have partnered with edX in the delivery of an introductory computer science course on their respective campuses. Mass Bay and Bunker Hill each have integrated edX’s content within different instructional designs. Mass Bay has developed a hybrid, or blended, design incorporating the MOOC as the online component complementing weekly in-class meetings to meet the course’s total credit-hour requirement. Bunker Hill’s rendition is essentially a ‘flipped classroom’ model where the lecture provided by the MOOC is positioned as the assignment component along with a full number of in-class meetings reserved for project-based activities, collaboration and discussion. While MIT will recognize participation with a certificate of completion, course credit will be awarded through the participating community colleges.  The courses are led by the local community college professors while the MOOC portion of the course is a video lecture offering no real interaction with the MIT lecturer. In effect, both schools implement the MOOC as a large-scale reusable learning object in the service of their individual learning outcomes.

What is important to remember about this partnership is that while MIT and Harvard have elite brand recognition, they are relative novices in the world of online learning. Community colleges have the benefit of years of experience in online course design and in accommodating students diverse in their backgrounds and educational goals. Where the community colleges gain yet another strategy in their arsenal, Harvard and MIT gain valuable partners who can share their extensive knowledge of creating challenging learning experiences that benefit students of all levels.

To gain a balanced perspective on MOOCS, it is helpful to view them within the context of an emerging academic infrastructure where both content and process is less centralized and more distributed. This infrastructure embraces sources of content beyond our local development, includes individuals outside of our immediate locale, blends the physical and virtual, and rebalances the teacher-student-peer relationship towards independent learning and collaboration. Aside from MOOCs and open content, a working example can be found in our own Math Redesign Project, which is a flexible convergence model utilizing third-party content within a fixed learning environment facilitated by qualified, experienced faculty.  We have before us a greater continuum of possibilities that will continue to include us and the value we provide, yet challenge us to collaborate and literally think outside the boxes that are our texts, curriculum, classrooms, desks, buildings, and servers.  As the continuum expands, we will in-turn find ourselves moving beyond the writing of singular courses toward strategically building complete learning experiences.  The possibilities have never been greater.

To learn more, please visit:

Have you taken a MOOC?  What are some of your experiences with MOOCs?  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Preparing your ANGEL Courses for the Summer Semester

As you start to think about your summer courses, we wanted to share with you the following important information that will help you prepare your course site in ANGEL.

Please review the “Preparing your ANGEL Course for a New Semester” checklist for directions on getting your course site set up for a new semester.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

Monday, May 6, 2013

Massive Open Online Courses: Massive Threat or Open Invitation? Part 1 of 2

This 2-part blog feature comes from Guest Blogger, Michael J. Badolato, Ed.D., Dean of Academic Technology and was originally featured in NSCC Technology Across the Curriculum's annual publication:  Mousetales.

When I first encountered the word “MOOCs” a little over a year ago, I envisioned subterranean creatures lying in wait to conquer our world, or perhaps another multi-user online dungeon game.  A recent set of articles (see Laura Pappano's “The Year of the MOOC" and Kevin Carey's “Show Me Your Badge") featured on the cover of the November 2012 New York Times Education Life supplement presented a white rabbit along with the headline “Massive and multiplying, the latest word in online learning: MOOC.”  While the latter image may be far less menacing, it is no less compelling given the seemingly sudden appearance and proliferation of MOOCs across the higher education landscape.  

On the surface, MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, are exactly what the term implies: an online course that is massive in terms of sheer enrollment, potentially thousands at any given time, and open, in that anyone can attend regardless of academic background, at no cost and with no official registration required.

Upon closer examination of MOOCs, there is something in them that is familiar in a manner not unlike so many ‘next big things’ we have all encountered.  Yet, their very scale and accessibility suggests implications for altering the structures and relationships of our educational systems as we have come to define them.  It is common experience, if not historical record, that whenever a new technology is first integrated into the educational practice of the day, be it chalkboard or circuit board, some disruption occurs while the innovation gradually settles into the mainstream.   Communities of practice, within a single institution or distributed across the field, establish rubrics, standards, and other structures from which to base development and assess quality.  The innovation is adopted, brought under control and integrated within an agreed upon framework. Final analysis results in acceptance, rejection or revision and the practice moves onward.

In the midst of these processes, technology in education has come to know several forms. Many colleges and universities, NSCC among them, have been developing their online learning practice and capacity for the better part of two decades. Classroom delivery, increasingly influenced by what has been learned through online practice, has also become richer and more complex in its ability to accommodate a greater variety of content and interaction.  The recent influx of mobile and wireless devices promises to take these interactions to a more immediate, untethered and personal level.  Thus, the very infrastructure of our educational delivery system is becoming distributed across an increasing number of channels while pedagogies strive to adapt.  Content for this emerging infrastructure is being prolifically developed as the means for its production and adoption becomes more accessible, less costly and, ironically, less technical.

A recent trend that has been born of these possibilities is the Open Content Movement.  Among the growing number of open content developers and distributers are individual teachers working through collaborative online entities such as the Open Education Resources (OER) Commons, as well as non-profit organizations such as Kahn Academy, a producer of internet video micro-lectures currently in its seventh year of operation. Several renowned institutions have also sponsored open content projects, such as MIT’s Open Courseware and Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative.  Where the products of these initiatives have been adopted, they have supplemented, and in some instances replaced, traditional texts and other materials.  The educational publishing industry, however, has also responded by offering supplemental materials at no additional charge to maintain interest in their inventory.   These resources are not typically organized into whole courses and the interactions that surround them, but are offered in a format known in educational technology jargon as Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs), which are typically digital chunks and snippets of materials and curriculum guides offered in a variety of file types. They can be used as strategic parts of a larger course or curriculum, or as learning experiences that can often stand on their own.

MOOCs are essentially an extension of the open content concept, presented as an entire online course or as a series of related lectures with roots in programs offered at actual higher education institutions. As such, there are currently three recognized major MOOC producers.  The MIT/Harvard collaboration edX is an outgrowth of their Open Courseware Initiative, providing the next level  in open content to enable an experience more akin to a fully functioning online course and if desired, a process for gaininga university-backed certificate, albeit no direct MIT credit. Another university initiative spin-off is Udacity, which began life as a series of free computer science courses offered through Stanford University.  Coursera, a for-profit company founded by Stanford University computer science professors but not affiliated with that institution, was conceived as a hub for MOOCs developed at several participating institutions and as a venue for offering credit and certificates (for a fee) as well as integrated support services. The American Council onEducation recently approved five Coursera courses for college credit.

Khan Academy’s stated mission is “… the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.”  Proponents of MOOCs, and open content in general, laud this very openness as a decentralized and democratic opportunity for access to what they view as a quality higher education experience. Doubters, for much the same reasons, are concerned about the potential disintermediation from the oversight of higher education institutions and their faculty. Both sides of the debate see the potential for alternative credentials outside of the traditional degree sequence, though each side obviously has a different opinion as to the relative merits of such an outcome.

This ends part 1--stay on the lookout for part 2, where Michael address specifically what's being done at community colleges in Massachusetts.