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Abandoning Fears and Taking the Plunge into Online Teaching

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2016 Ann Ferren Conference Session #405:

Mastering the intricacies of navigating an online classroom can be challenging. Aimed at both established and new faculty members, this roundtable consists of experts in online learning, a professor who recently launched her first online course, and a professor previously hesitant to take the plunge but who is increasingly getting ready. Learning outcomes in this SPExS-SOC roundtable are to give participants a clear and actionable plan of what is needed, emotionally and technically, to make this important move into the (Blackboard-driven) virtual classroom and to extend ones reach beyond the traditional classroom.

Iris Krasnow (SPExS)
Patricia Aufderheide (SOC)
Bobbe Baggio (SPExS)
Stephanie Brookstein (SOC/SPExS)

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Teaching Approaches Inspired by Teaching Online

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2016 Ann Ferren Conference Session #205:

For some, online education is seen as a second-best educational option when in-person learning is impossible. Yet, some aspects of online education rival or surpass what faculty accomplish in traditional face-to-face classrooms, ultimately inspiring new teaching approaches and methodologies. The goal of this session is to provide a forum for all faculty to explore the many ways teaching online might influence pedagogical approaches when teaching on-campus. Faculty who teach both online and on-campus share how the realm of blended learning environments informs their traditional on-campus teaching practices. This panel is intended to encourage all faculty to think differently about co-presence, interactions with students, definitions of the classroom space, and the way immediate access to information shapes learning.

Terra Gargano (SIS)
Steve Dalzell (SIS)
Eddy Lucas (SIS)
Kate Tennis (SIS)

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Online Learning What the Students Are Saying

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2016 Ann Ferren Conference Session #105:

Although online courses are increasingly popular with students, are they effective? The goal of this session is to improve online teaching by asking students about their online learning experiences. The intended audience is anyone who teaches online or hybrid courses. A growing literature addresses issues from technology to student engagement. One way to improve teaching is to fully consider what students themselves are saying. This presentation looks at mid-semester and end-of-course student evaluations from The Catholic University of America and end-of-course evaluations from AU. This information is supplemented with interviews of students from both universities, seeking additional insights on online teaching and learning.

Jim Quirk (SPA-GOVT)
Melissa Scholes Young (CAS-LIT)
Sarah McKinley (Class of 2019)
Chandler Randol (Class of 2018)

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Tool Review: Kaltura

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Kaltura is a web-based application used for uploading and managing video content, creating multimedia presentations, and interacting with students.




Kaltura is built into AU’s Blackboard.

What does it do?

You can use Kaltura to create course videos, conduct video discussion boards, record lectures, and create video presentations. The Kaltura tools integrated into Blackboard can be used by both faculty and students.

Which class can you use it in?

Kaltura can be used in any class where students or professors will be presenting. Kaltura’s web-cam feature can be used in an online or hybrid course to supplement face-to-face interactions. The easy-to-use screen recorder feature can be used to show students your computer screen.


  • Interface for webcam recording and uploading videos is very easy to use.
  • Allows media captioning.
  • Existing videos can be carried over from Panopto.
  • Integrates well with Blackboard which extends the capabilities of Blackboard and allows the videos to stay organized in a central location.
  • Since Kaltura is web-based, users can create, edit, and collaborate on multimedia projects from any computer with Internet access; there is no software to download.


  • Uploaded clips may take longer than expected to become available for editing.

Overall Grade


Additional Information

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Education Web Tools to Use in Your Classroom

Working on a computer

Web tools can be a vibrant supplement to lectures or assignments and can take student learning to a new level. Whether you want to try flipping your class or are wanting to move your discussions online, these tools will be a welcomed addition to your modern classroom.

Synchronous Communication
  • Google HangoutsGoogle Hangouts is Google’s free video chat tool that enables one-on-one chats and group chats with up to ten people at a time. Anyone with a Google Plus account can create a Hangout (information on getting started with Google Plus can be found here).
  • Skype: Skype has led the videoconferencing scene for so long that its name has morphed into a verb. Whether you’re hosting a video chat or want to share your screen, Skype is a popular alternative to Google Hangouts.
Sharing Files
  • Google DriveGoogle Drive offers a comprehensive suite of collaborative, online tools including word documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and forms. After signing up, you’ll have 15 GB of free Google online storage to keep photos, designs, recordings, videos, and more. Others can be invited to view, download, and collaborate on your files in Drive, and everything is accessible from a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
  • DropboxDropbox is another great resource for sharing files with students. Upon signup, you’ll get 2 GB of space to share documents, PDFs, videos, and images with students’ own Dropbox accounts.
Content Management
  • WordPressWordPress is a versatile Content Management System that can host class blogs, group projects, and ePortfolios. Customize your website further with the vast collection of free WordPress themes and plugins available.
  • PinterestPinterest is a visual collection of online resources where you can use online “pinboards” to save articles, photos, blog posts and other resources in one place. Create multiple boards to collect and organize ideas for class projects.
  • PocketPocket is a program that allows for saving content to read it later. Pocket can keep articles organized by tags and is a powerful tool for gathering and analyzing information. Saved content is available to view offline and can easily be shared.
  • Evernote: Evernote is a multi-function app that lets you create content with notebooks, or collect content by clipping articles or taking photos and  allows for endless organization. Use Evernote to capture feedback from students, collect snapshots of the whiteboard after class, and share notebooks with your students.
 Social Network & Discussions
  • Twitter: Twitter can be used both synchronously and asynchronously to engage learners and others outside the classroom. Encourage your students to use assigned hashtags to exchange ideas, articles, project resources, and have a conversation.
  • Facebook: Facebook is another platform that can accommodate classroom discussions. Easily create a Facebook Page or Group that can be effectively used to share information, and facilitate discussions within a page.
 Audio/Video Recording
  • Audacity: Audacity is a sound editing/recording tool that can be used for creating Podcasts, recording speeches, and recording sound for Powerpoint presentations.
  • YouTubeMake your class visually stimulating by creating YouTube videos for your students. Videos can supplement lessons, or ask students to make their own videos to present information or respond to a discussion.
  • VimeoVimeo is a video-hosting application that has the same uploading, comment moderation, and sharing options as YouTube. In addition, with Vimeo you can organize content into albums and channels and customize the look of the the video player.
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Anki: The intelligent way to memorize

Anki Logo

The Monthly App-etizer is CTRL’s regular feature where we talk about the latest app, software, and tools that could make teaching (and life) a little easier.

ankiThey say the best way to get information glued to memory is to revisit it consistently until it becomes a regular part of daily thought. At least, that is what practitioners of spaced repetition believe to encourage long-term retention of important concepts, key terms, and even a 2nd language.

anki3Create a new flashcard deck for all your subjects

Enter Anki—an intuitive app designed to make memorization less time consuming and as painless as possible. Much like standard flashcards and digital study apps like Quizlet, Anki allows you to create customized flashcard decks. You can store your cards in several decks based on topics, and even embed audio clips, images, videos, scientific notation, and language characters (e.g. Chinese, Sanskrit, etc.)

anki2What makes Anki special is the way it allows users to review their flashcards. Its algorithm separates the easy cards from the ones you struggle with the most. Every time you review your flashcards, Anki spaces your cards out, allowing you to review the difficult concepts more often and, over time, cement it to your long-term memory. You could even review your progress over time.anki4

For all its usefulness, Anki does have a few drawbacks. Getting started with the platform and a creating new flashcard deck may not be as intuitive. It may also not be the prettiest flashcard app you could find in the market. But, it is free and downloadable across all platforms (iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Linux, etc.), allowing for easy access to your flashcards from virtually any device. And, no matter how many flashcards you have in your deck, you could bet that it will operate fast and with limited error.

Download Anki here:

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Snow Day? Stay Connected.

Desk with Coffee and Laptop

Spring is finally around the corner along with its promise of blue skies and jacket-free days, but the threats of icy conditions still loom well into March (remember when white was the new green on St. Patrick’s Day 2014?). Below are a few tips that will help you keep your students engaged when the weather is too critical to hold classes at the university.


Send emails and use the Announcements feature in Blackboard to keep your students updated on class activities.

Record your class

Panopto allows you to pre-record a lecture that you can upload to Blackboard for easy access by your students.

Meet virtually

Use Blackboard Collaborate to meet in real-time with your students (available in Blackboard under Tools). Collaborate will let you upload a PowerPoint or OpenOffice presentation and even record your webinars.

Start a Discussion

Post questions in Blackboard’s Discussion Board over a variety of topics that students can respond to. Make sure your students know how to comment on a discussion board, and remind them of “netiquette” principles.

The American University Be Prepared site offers more preparatory advice on keeping classes going while campus is closed.

What strategies do you use to keep class going when campus is closed? Comment with your ideas!

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Organize Your (and Your Students’) News

RSS Icon

rss RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds and their little orange icon have been around the web for a long time (remember Google Reader?). Usually, people use RSS to collect personal news digests. However, the ubiquity of specialized feeds and the recent increase in academically rigorous blogs means that beyond just getting you your morning news, RSS feeds can also collect articles related to your research and teaching.

The beauty—and main selling point—of getting your news through RSS is that content from around the web is collected in one location for you. This means that rather than remembering to go to a dozen different websites, you can just go to one location where it is all waiting to be read.

Feeds can also help you filter out the noise from sites you visit. Rather than sifting through an entire website to find stories you are interested in, subscribe to a feed about a specific subject. Do you just want the local stories from the Washington Post? There’s a feed for that. Do you only want the evolutionary psychology stories from Scientific American? There’s a feed for that. Are you specifically looking for stories about China’s economy from The Economist? There’s a feed for that.

Don’t stop at traditional news sources. Most organizations have a feed that contains all of their press releases and publications. Does your research involve staying current on particular elected officials, businesses, agencies, organizations, etc.? Subscribe to their feed and immediately get notified anytime they produce new content.

Beyond organizing your own news sources, RSS feeds can also help organize what your students are reading. Rather than just tell your students to “stay up-to-date on current events,” give them a curated list of feeds that you expect them to read before each class. Essentially, you can use RSS to create a free, supplemental electronic textbook that updates in real-time. If your students are each researching a particular topic, have them find feeds that keep them updated on their chosen research area. The possibilities for tailored news digests are endless.

There are a number of RSS readers on the market today, but we recommend Feedly ( The free tool has a clean, easy to use, problem-free interface on both the web and mobile devices.

To learn more about using RSS in your classroom schedule a one-on-one tutorial or attend one of our workshops this coming Spring.

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Mobile Tool Review: Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard Collaborate

This Mobile Tool Review was written by John David Clark, Learning Technologies Trainer and Consultant.

Blackboard Collaborate Mobile App

Blackboard Collaborate is an AU-supported tool that facilitates online participation and coursework.




The iOS/iPhone and Android apps are mobile counterparts to the full desktop version.

What does it do?

Collaborate users can participate in 
online web-conferences, complete with the ability to talk, listen,
 chat, see a virtual whiteboard, “raise a hand,” participate in polls, and
 more. Unlike the desktop version, however, there is no ability for users to share video from a webcam, PowerPoints, or other outside programs.

Which class can you use it in?

Any AU Blackboard class.


The Collaborate mobile app can launch any Collaborate 
link. It provides mobile functionality for iOS and Android users since it does 
not need Java or Flash.


Users cannot share or present, and there is no webcam functionality.

Overall Grade


Additional Information

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ADP: Interagency Mobile Learning Webinar Series

ADP will be hosting a webinar series on Interagency Mobile Learning on July 16-18, 2013. From their site:

This special 3-day event will be open to hundreds of participants completely online using both GoTo Meeting and Defense Connect Online (DCO) conferencing capabilities. The event co-hosts are:

• Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative
• Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO)
• Defense Acquisition University (DAU)
• U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) and Sustainment Center of Excellence (SCoE).

The multi-day format will allow you to participate in the sessions that are most relevant to your needs and interests. Join us for an informative set of online sessions to hear the latest from our esteemed list of pioneers and experts presenting on the latest trends and topics on mobile design & development, mobile learning, and mobile government initiatives and projects.

For more information and registration, visit the event’s website.

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