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Abandoning Fears and Taking the Plunge into Online Teaching

Ann Ferren Conference Logo

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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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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How to Keep your Students Engaged during the Snowquester?


The American University Be Prepared site ( gives us a few tips to keep your classes going and your students focused on the class material while campus is closed.

We invite you to view the above site and to comment to this post if you need any special support from us.  Here we summarize a few of the most handy tips:

1.  Use Blackboard to e-mail students and post announcements on readings, discussion boards or any tool you want to use to keep the class going.

2.  Meet with your students using Blackboard Collaborate tool.  You can have several students in session and do a compact class meeting.  Alternatively you can hold your office hours using Collaborate and just meet with one student at a time.  You will need a camera and a microphone if you want to have a video session with your students.  But you could simply chat with them, share your screen or use the “white board” in Collaborate to write equations or draw graphs.

Links to learning material on Collaborate can be found at the library site:

3.  Film your class session using Panopto and post it in Blackboard.  We recommend making a couple of short videos (up to 15 minutes) with the key topics you want emphasized.  Remember that Spring break is next week, so the Panopto tool can help you not stay disconnected from your students for 2 weeks.  You can use Panopto to film your power point slides, your screen view and/or yourself so it can be as interactive as you want it.

Links to instructional handouts including how to get started with your first recording are available online at:, or through the Library’s Panopto support site:

4.  Post your class Power Point slides in Blackboard with narration.  This is an alternative to Panopto recording for those that find it easier (we recommend Panopto though).  You can create your slides and add narration to them (remember to check your microphone settings so that the voice comes as optimal as possible).   As with Panopto recording we recommend making a couple of videos of up to 15 minutes long to optimize attention levels.

Microsoft offers step by step guides on how to add narrations to your slides:

Please feel free to e-mail us with questions at or to post your comments here.  We would like to know if any of these tips are useful to keep your classes going while the university remains closed.

The Snow Storm is Here…and So Are We

snowy trees

The CTRL Lab team is online ready to support you accessing the Virtual Computing Lab.  We can also help you with questions regarding SPSS and Stata.

Remember to friend us on Skype (our user name is “ctrl_research“) and send us an e-mail to if you have any questions.

For useful tips during the storm please see our post “Getting Ready for the Storm” in this link:

And remember to keep yourselves warm!

Getting ready for the storm: How to Stay Connected if AU is closed on Wednesday March 6th, 2013


NOT TO WORRY, if the Saturn snowstorm (aka Snowquester) hits us we will be ready to support our “snowed in” AU community with Stata, SPSS and general questions.  So if we have to be closed tomorrow this is what we recommend for those wanting to connect to these and other important tools, as well as for those wishing to receive remote assistance:

1.  If you need to have a one on one consultation: Please friend us in skype (our user name is ctrl_research) or send us an e-mail to to book a skype appointment.  We can also use the Blackboard tool called “Collaborate” if we need additional ways to help you.

2.  If you need to use Stata or SPSS remotely:  Don’t let the storm stop you from finishing your project. Simply go to and download the Virtual Computing client (recommended option) or use it over the internet (option just recommended if for some reason you cannot download the client).  For instructions on how to use Virtual Computing go to  Please e-mail us at or if you need assistance with your Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) connection.

3.  If you need to access the J drive or your personal G drive: Go to portal under the Technology option and select “Access my network drives”

4.  If you are a faculty wishing to record your class in the event the University is closed: You can use Panopto to record a session that can be uploaded to Blackboard and viewed by your students.  Links to instructional handouts including how to get started with your first recording are available online at:, or through the Library’s Panopto support site:

For any questions, please add your comments to this post or e-mail us directly.

Teaching through Hurricane Sandy

NOAA image as of 11:00AM EDT 10/29/12

The East Coast is shutting down in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, and American University is no exception. But you don’t have to cancel your statistics, econometrics, or research methods course just because you can’t come to a lab – Use the online Virtual Computing Lab instead!

As this previous post explains, the VCL is a service that allows AU faculty, staff, and students to use their AU credentials to access a virtual desktop that’s loaded with SPSS and Stata.

Important links:

Access the VCL here:

Troubleshooting and FAQs:

Handouts on using SPSS and Stata via VCL: 1. SPSS handout: ; 2. Stata handout:

For any VCL related questions, please email us at or skype us using screen name: ctrl_research.

Good luck riding out the storm!



Since we here at the CTRL notebook are always interested in unique methods of data visualization, we’ll be following this amazing map of current wind patterns in the US as the storm progresses.

Work from Home with the VCL

In response to student and faculty requests, CTRL is pleased to announce the implementation of the Virtual Computing Lab! The Virtual Computing Lab, or VCL, is a system that allows you to run applications remotely without having to download (and pay for!) software onto your personal computer, by accessing a remote server, like this:

Anywhere you have an internet connection, you can access your AU network G:/ and J:/ drives and use licensed software. So you can do your stats homework on SPSS in your pajamas, refine your research in STATA from your back porch, or save to your AU network drive from the coffee shop!

Accessing the VCL is easy. All of the instructions and details are online. You can just go to https://vcl.american.eduwhere you’ll reach the following screen:


Just log in with your AU credentials, select “connect” on the next screen, and you’ll be on the VCL. Within your browser window you’ll see a new screen – treat this screen as if it were a different computer, and get to work!  Be sure to log off when you’re done, just as you would from a shared computer.

If for some reason you have difficulties connecting or with saving data, check out the Frequently Asked Questions webpage. Support is also available by calling 202-885-3862 from 9:30 AM to 8:00 PM, or emailing

Stay tuned for more updates on ways the CTRL Research Support Group is helping the AU community reach its full research potential.


Oh, the weather outside is…

snowy trees

This morning the students, staff, and faculty of AU woke up to a DC completely blanketed in white.  Luckily, we managed to ice-skate, climb, dodge, ski, [insert other Winter Olympic skill that we instinctively attain during these icy times here] our way to campus as soon as we received the public safety “ok” to do so. If, however, the weather becomes too critical or if any other emergency event emerges, remember that you can still learn from/teach your class remotely using CTRL’s Online Learning Resources. This page can serve as a portal for online support for faculty and students. The SSRL consultants do not support these technology resources specifically, but we can direct you to the staff of  Teaching and Learning Resources who can provide the assistance you need for remote teaching and learning.

During emergency events, the SSRL and SPA labs will open and close according to the alerts administered by the campus safety system. Our hours will generally follow the campus emergency alerts unless otherwise noted. Check this blog or the CTRL website for more information or if you have any questions.

And as always, if you have been working in the lab and are forced to work at home due to the weather, make sure you save your work to your G: drive or at least a flash drive so that you access your files from home!

Stay warm!

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