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