As you know, technology and teaching are always evolving, and this blog will be our spot to talk about the tools, tech, and pedagogy that make up great online learning. Each week we will post about all sorts of topics, from top apps for education, instructional design, tips and tricks about our learning management system (Blackboard), best practices for utilizing online resources for your teaching,, and other instructional technologies. 

If you have comments, questions, topic requests, or just want to sound off about what we write about, you can always reach us through Twitter at #learnau. Or you can email us at

Posted by Charles Piscitello on April 16, 2018


What is Quality Matters?

Quality Matters (QM) is a faculty-centered, peer review process designed to certify the quality of online courses and online components. Sponsored by MarylandOnline, Inc, Quality Matters has generated widespread interest and received national recognition for its peer-based approach to quality assurance and continuous improvement in online education.

What is the Ohio Quality Matters Consortium?

For several years, Ohio colleges and universities have been part of a consortium that utilizes the Quality Matters (QM) Rubric to improve online courses in a variety of ways. Originally organized by the Ohio Learning Network (OLN), the consortium has grown to over 60 institutions for the 2013-2014 academic year and is currently the largest QM state consortium in the nation. When OLN was dissolved in 2011, the QM Consortium transitioned leadership to key individuals at four institutions: Bowling Green State University, Columbus State Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, and The University of Akron. Additional information can be found at the Ohio QM Consortium web site:

The Quality Matters Certification Program

The Quality Matters (QM) certification program is emerging as an international standard for the design of online courses. QM requires a designated sequence of activities designed to prepare instructors for becoming peer reviewers of online courses that have been submitted for review. 

1. APPQMR (Applying the Quality Matters Rubric)

APPQMR offers training in utilizing the QM Rubric to review online courses and is the first step to becoming a peer reviewer. This training can be completed face-to-face or online. We are proud to recognize UA graduates of APPQMR course. 

2. The Quality Matters Peer Reviewer Course

The QM Peer Reviewer Course offers practice in responding to sample online courses using the QM rubric. APPQMR and online teaching are pre-requisites. Graduates can participate in official Quality Matters reviews of online courses from any institution in the world. We are proud to present. 

3. Advanced Quality Matters Training

These QM workshops are available to certified Peer Reviewers who would like to become "Master "Reviewers" and QM trainers:

  • Master Reviewer Certification.
  • Face to Face Facilitator Certification.
  • Online Facilitator Certification.

4. Optional Quality Matters Training

Optional QM workshops allow participants to focus on specific areas. We are proud to recognize UA graduates of QM optional training courses.

5. Social Media

Optional QM workshops allow participants to focus on specific areas. We are proud to recognize UA graduates of QM optional training courses.

Get connected with other Ohio Consortium Members through our social media pages 

Interested in Quality Matters (QM) professional development and course certification? 

 Contact Chuck Piscitello Ashland University Instructional Designer 

Christopher Stormer Posted by Christopher Stormer on February 16, 2018

The Blackboard student app is used by many students in order to access quick information about their Blackboard courses-- it can also allow students to participate in discussion boards, read posted content, and check their grades. Check out this page for more information and download links for the student app.

If you're the instructor of a Blackboard course, though, you'll want to download Blackboard's Instructor app-- this app will not only allow you to participate in your course discussions, post announcements and new content, but also will allow you to grade student work on your mobile device. This app is a work in progress, and there are many features still to be released. If you'd like to learn more about this Instructor app and have a chance to provide feedback and request features, please sign up at the link below for a free webinar:

Thursday, March 1st, 10am EST or  Thursday, March 1st at 8pm EST

Registration Link

If you'd like to download the Instructor App for your mobile device, use the links below--- downloading this app will enable it to automatically update as new features are released!

Download on your Apple® device

Download on your Android™ device

Posted by Charles Piscitello on February 5, 2018


We can assess our students in two ways:

  • Through summative assessment, a high stakes exam, paper, project, portfolio or capstone. Usually a significant portion of a student's grade. Allows the student the opportunity to showcase their mastery of the subject matter.
  • Through formative assessment, a low or no stakes check-in, such as a quiz, class interaction, short reflection, etcetera. Formative assessments allow the teacher and the student the opportunity to gauge their understanding of the subject matter early and often.

Gauging your students' understanding of the learning process is essential. And most of the time, the midterm exam is much too late for many students who by that time, may feel lost and abandoned.

Instructors can significantly benefit from incorporating formative assessments in the classroom since they can better understand what material the students understand and what content requires more time and attention.

When teachers take the extra time to plan engaging formative assessments throughout the course, the students are better able to understand the course content and master the skills showcased in high stakes formative assessments.

This specific post will outline using Kahoot! as a fun and engaging method to gauge your student's understanding.


Make learning fun, inclusive and engaging in all contexts


Create a fun learning game in minutes – we call these ‘kahoots’. You can make a series of multiple choice questions or try our new game – Jumble. The format and number of questions are entirely up to you. Add videos, images and diagrams to your questions to amplify engagement.


Kahoots are best played in a group setting, for example, a classroom. Players answer the questions on their own devices, while games are displayed on a shared screen to unite the lesson. It creates a ‘campfire moment’ encouraging players to look up and celebrate together. Besides creating your own kahoots, you can search among millions of existing games.


Social learning promotes discussion and pedagogical impact, whether players are in the same room or on the other side of the globe. After a game, encourage players to create and share their own kahoots to deepen understanding, mastery and purpose, as well as engage in peer-led discussions. When a learner becomes a leader, that’s a true magic moment!

Share learning games of Kahoot!


Practice makes perfect! With the challenge feature and our mobile app, you can assign kahoots as homework. Students play kahoots on their phones for revision and reinforcement, training their classroom superpowers anytime. In homework challenges, questions and answers will appear on their phone screens. Choose a kahoot, assign it as a challenge and share the link or PIN with your students. Make homework awesome!

Here are some additional articles on formative and summative assessment:

Posted by Carl Nestor on January 26, 2018

A common topic when designing an online course revolves around the use of video instruction. The question regularly comes down to “what is the optimal viewing length?” You may hear that Americans have the attention span of a gold fish, or roughly 8 seconds. This factoid, however, is a bit misleading. It’s true that when sifting through a large volume of possible online choices, the mind makes quick decisions, often based on the first ten- seconds of a video. The mind filters the information and almost instantly makes a perceived ranking as to its worth.

But this rule of thumb does not apply in all attention span situations. For example, there is binge watching, or the viewing of numerous episodes of a favorite TV show in a constant stream - for hours. Online gamers can be engrossed online within World of Warcraft game environment. So, this still leaves us with our basic question – what is the optimal length of an instructional video?

For me, this decision isn’t based around a pre-determined number of minutes, but rather culmination of several key factors. You may find that a 15-minute video is more powerful, and memorable, than a 3-minute blip. Getting students to watch videos can be tough. Period. But considering these factors below are a great aid in finding the best length.

The first factor is quality of presentation. Basically, how dynamic is the speaker? First impressions count. If the instructor speaks in a slow, monotone voice or the video begins with two minutes watching the instructor prepare – students will quickly disengaged and shift their attention to checking your phone messages. Ensure your sound quality is good. If the voice recording is not clear or muffled by background noise, you’ll have a tough time keeping viewers watching. Having to strain to understand the speaker quickly becomes tiresome. I’ve found that people are more forgiving of poor image quality than the poor sound.

Another factor is how quickly do you hook the student and draw them into the video. Relevancy is key. In the online article, Attention Span Statistics for video[1], blogger Elishe Lagarde writes “you need to present the viewer with a reason to stay with your video and you need to do it in the first minute of watching time – or less.” Within the first 10 seconds, the viewer is making decisions as to its perceived value in exchange for their time.

A third factor is video length counts. The longer the video, the more chances you have to lose viewers. In the online article, Four ways to keep viewers engaged in an online video[2], blogger Chris Savage stated in a study dealing with an hour-long video that “the average viewer watched 72% of the shorter video and only 50% of the longer video.” A graphic within that article shows that less than 20% of viewers continued to the full hour point.

I’d like to illustrate this factor further by sharing some findings from a recent online course. For our online courses, we embed videos into Blackboard using a software called Kaltura. This software has analytic capabilities that allow us to accurately record student viewing times. The instructor used hour-long video lectures. The online course started with 31 students logging in. But even on the first day of the course, only five students actually watched the whole hour lecture. 11 students didn’t even open the video. By the end of the second week, only 13 students were logging in. Interesting, there was a core group of about 6 students who diligently watched each video in its entirety. Three students watched less than 50 percent and one did not even start the video. This shows that 30 percent of the remaining students watched less than 50 percent of these videos. I share these findings only to encourage everyone to consider the length of their videos. A video not watch is lost opportunity for knowledge.

If you are considering using an hour-long video, try this a simple test to evaluate its optimal length – watch the video yourself. How long do you watch the video before your mind begins to drift? Is there anything that distracts you in the video?

If your video topic is complex and needs time to convey – consider chunking the information into shorter videos. Instead of a one-hour long video, consider making four shorter videos. Have you ever sat in a classroom where the teacher talked for an entire hour straight? Even with an interesting topic, your mind is likely to drift. By chunking, I’m not talking about taking a one-hour video and breaking it into four 15-minute portions; but rather, creating four new shorter videos. Each video would have its own statement purpose and material to cover.

So, what is the optimal video of an instructional video? While the answer is somewhat subjective, from practical experience, I’ve found that 10 to 15 minutes seems to be good length. Consider chunking complex topics into a series of videos. Consider adding activities between the videos to strengthen retention. Use a microphone to get the best sound possible. Consider using slides to keep the viewer’s mind engaged. Keep your viewers watching as long as possible. Your information is valuable.

Posted by Keith Harris on January 23, 2018

Here is another opportunity to learn more about Qwickly Attendance and how you can easily integrate class attendance into your Blackboard gradebook.

See how its features and flexibility will work with Blackboard. 

Qwickly sample


  • Automatically create a graded column in Blackboard and keep a running grade for attendance.
  • See a list of all students and work down the list or show one student at a time as the instructor calls names.
  • Send an email to students when they are marked as absent for the day. Provide students with acknowledgement that they were missed in class and a way to cross reference with their attendance score.
  • Export to CSV.


Introduction to Qwickly Attendance for Blackboard Learn

January 31, 2018 at 1:00 PM ET

For: Faculty and academic leadership

Register Now


Posted by Vivian Beaty on January 22, 2018

A concept map is a visual display representing the spatial relationships and connections between ideas or concepts (Smith and Ragan, 1993).  Concept maps have also been referred to as graphic organizers, sematic mapping, information mapping, and networking (West, Farmer, and Wolff, 1991). According to West, Farmer, and Wolff, there are three common types of concept maps. The three common types of concept maps include the spider map (also referred to as a cluster map), chain map (also referred to as a flowchart), and hierarchy map (West, Farmer, and Wolff, 1991). Examples of the common types of concept maps have been provided below. 

  • Spider Map – the organization of this map begins with an idea being place in the center of the map and associated offshoots of the central idea is linked outward representing sub-themes and supporting factors. 

Example of an image of a spider concept map

  • Chain Map – the organization of this map presents ideas in a linear formation. This map is also referred to as a flowchart map where decision inputs and outputs can be inserted. 

Example of an image of a chain concept map.

  • Hierarchy Map – the organization of this map presents an idea or information in the order of importance. 

Example image of a hierarchy concept map

It is important to note that there are hybrid forms of the three common types of concept maps commonly used.  For example, a concept map displaying the relationship and connections among and within systems may be comprised of features of a spider and hierarchy concept map.  Concept maps can be created by instructors to demonstrate relationships and connections between key concepts and subordinate ideas or by students to demonstrate their understanding and explanations of the relationships and connections associated among concepts and subsuming components.  

Theoretical Foundations

In the 1950s, a researcher by the name of Joseph D. Novak and his research team set out to understand how and why some learners obtained a deep and meaningful understanding of content and concepts and others did not.  Novak believed that “knowledge acquired meaningfully is usually retained longer, functions to facilitate future learning and can be used in novel problem solving or creative thinking (Novak, 2010).”  In 1963, Novak read a research article written by David Ausubel on assimilation theory.  David Paul Ausubel began his career in the field of medical psychiatry and later returned to school at Columbia University to earn a Ph.D. in developmental psychology (Ivie, 1998).  As a psychologist with a research interest in education and cognitive development, Ausubel wanted to learn more about deep level learning that reflected a meaningful learning experience  which allowed students to retain material over a longer period of time rather than superficial knowledge frequently forgotten resulting from rote learning.  The idea is that student’s learn by creating and making connections and links from prior knowledge to new material being learned. It is through this connection and association between prior knowledge and new material that supports deep level meaningful learning experiences (Cliburn, 1990; Ivie, 1998; Novak, 2010; Daley & Torre, 2010.  This is the underlying basis of Ausubel’s assimilation theory. Using Ausubel’s theory on assimilation as a theoretical foundation, Novak developed an instructional tool called the concept map. The purpose of a concept map is to provide a big picture view of the relationships, connections and associations of an idea or concept to its subsuming components.  

In her Doctor of Nursing Program (DNP) courses, Dr. Lisa Young has integrated the use of concept maps. Below is a short video clip of Dr. Young describing how she uses concept maps in her courses.  Click on the link below to view the video.

While the video focuses on Dr. Young's use of concept maps in her nursing courses, concept maps have been used in other disciplines such as education, science, computer science, business, branding and marketing courses, and research data organization,  On Thursday, January 25th at 2 p.m. in a Blackboard webinar, I will be discussing and demonstrating the use of the Mindomo concept map software to help gain a big picture perspective on how to organize and shape research ideas and concepts.  All are welcomed to participate in the discussion. If you are unable to attend, but would like to learn more, please feel free to contact Vivian Beaty at


Cliburn Jr., J.W. (1990). Concept maps to promote meaningful learning. Journal of College Science Teaching, 19(4): 212-217.

Daley, B.J. (2004). Using concept maps in qualitative research.  Concept Maps: Theory, Methodology, Technology, Proceedings of the First International  Conference on Concept Mapping, , A. J. Cañas, J. D. Novak, F. M. González, Eds. Pamplona, Spain.

Daley, B.J. & Torre, D.M. (2010). Concept maps in medical education: An analytical literature review. Medical Education, 44: 440-448.

Fesmire, M. Lisner, M.C.P., Forrest, P.R. & Evans, W.H. (2003). Concept Maps: A Practical Solution for Completing Functional Behavior Assessments. Education and Treatment of Children, 26(1): 89-103.

 Ivie, S.D. (1998). Ausubel’s learning theory: An approach to teaching higher order thinking skills. The High School Journal, 82(1): 35-42.

John, D.R. Loken, B., Kim, K. & Monga, A.B. (2006). Brand concept maps: A methodology for identifying brand association networks. Journal of Marketing Research, 43(4): 549-563.

Nesbit, J.C. & Adesope, O.O. (2006). Learning with concept and knowledge maps: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 76(3): 413-448.

Novak, J.D. (2010). Learning, creating, and using knowledge: Concept maps as facilitative tools in schools and corporations.  Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society, 6(3): 21–30.

Smith, P. L. & Ragan, T. J. (1993). Instructional design. New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Tseng, K.H. Chang, C.C., Lou, S.J., Tan, Y., & Chiu, C.J. (2012). How Concept-mapping Perception Navigates Student Knowledge Transfer Performance. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 15(1): 102-115.

Villalon, J., & Calvo, R. A. (2011). Concept maps as cognitive visualizations of writing assignments. Educational Technology & Society, 14 (3): 16–27.

West, C. K., Farmer, J. A., & Wolff, P. M. (1991). Instructional design: Implications from cognitive science. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Yang, Y.F. (2015). Automatic Scaffolding and Measurement of Concept Mapping for EFL Students to Write Summaries.  Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 18(4): 273-286.


Christopher Stormer Posted by Christopher Stormer on January 10, 2018

Laptop With Attendance

Have you wanted to integrate class attendance into your Blackboard gradebook? Have you wanted an easy way for students to "check-in" to a course? Qwickly Attendance, a new tool at Ashland University, can do all of that, and more!

Join Qwickly for an online workshop about using the Attendance tool that is integrated into our Blackboard Learn system. 

Qwickly Attendance Training

January 17, 2018 - 2:00 PM ET

Start your semester with the efficiency of Qwickly Attendance. Learn how to manage class attendance with our user-friendly software.

For: faculty and other current Qwickly Attendance users

Christopher Stormer Posted by Christopher Stormer on January 3, 2018

LearnAU, the Instructional Design and Technology Center at Ashland University, is pleased to announce our scheduled Instructional Design and Tech Tools Talks for the Spring 2018 Semester. The IDT^3 series features talks by our Instructional Design and Instructional Technology experts on a variety of topics of interest to faculty teaching in face-to-face, hybrid, or online environments.

2018 Schedule

Using Concept Map Software for Scholarly Work

Dr. Vivian Beaty, Ph.D., LearnAU Instructional Designer

Thursday Jan 25th 2pm-3pm

Webinar: or join as a group in CONHS 139/141

This session will demonstrate the use of the Mindomo Concept Map software to gather research materials to clarify key concepts in support of evidence based practice and to visually display and organize research items toward constructing scholarly papers. 


H5P - Creating Interactive Web Content

Donna Lannerd, MSEd., LearnAU Educational Technologist

Wednesday. February 21st, 3pm-4pm

Dauch 106

Explore H5P,  a free HTML5 content tool that allows you to create interactive activities and embed inside Blackboard. Just a few of the activities you can create include: Memory Game, Drag & Drop, Flashcards, Fill in the Blanks, and Timeline. Creating content with H5P is easy with the web-based content editor. You'll be on the way to having your first activity finished before the end of the session.


Reading Deeper with Perusall

Carl Nestor, MFA, MS., LearnAU Instructional Designer and Dr. Richard Gray, Ph.D., Associate Professor of French

Thursday, March 22, 2018  12pm-1pm.

Bixler Hall, Room 309

Learn about this collaborative, peer to peer tool developed by Harvard University that strengthen reading comprehension. Dr. Richard Gray and LearnAU instructional designer Carl Nestor share the positive results of its use in his French course.


Instant Video Feedback with Kaltura Quizzes

Donna Lannerd, MSEd, LearnAU Educational Technologist
Keith Harris, MBA, Learning Systems Manager
Jay Summers, LearnAU Videographer

Tuesday, April 10th, 3pm – 4pm

Schar 203

Learn to make a quick quiz that overlays on any Kaltura video, pausing to prompt students with comprehension questions. Turn any video into an opportunity for student feedback!


Instructional Design for the Outreach Program

Emily Weller M.Ed., LearnAU Instructional Designer

Wednesday, 5/2/2018, 9:00am-10:00am

Patterson 303

 In this session you'll learn about the Outreach program and the instructional design approach we use to engage students in this unique environment.

Christopher Stormer Posted by Christopher Stormer on February 5, 2016

Active discussions are a core element of any course, and research has shown that online course discussions do help students understand concepts more deeply. (For an interesting literature review and study of online course discussions, see Cranney et. al., Instructor’s Discussion Forum Effort: Is It Worth It? at ).  Discussions are great for student learning -- but when you have an active discussion, there are LOTS of posts to wade through. 

In the default discussion board, you'll see a list like this-- you must click on each thread in order to read and reply to those entries.

Default Discussion Board View

Wouldn't it be nice if you could collect these all on one page?  You can! To do this, check the box next to each thread that you want to read. Or you can check the box at the top of the column in order to check every thread. Then click the "Collect" button.

Place a check next to the threads you want to view, then click Collect

All of the threads you've checked, including any replies, will be displayed on one page. You can scroll to read all of the posts, and click on "Reply" to any one directly from this page. 

Collected Discussion Posts

The collection page also give you options to sort by date or author, and the "Print Preview" button will let you create a PDF copy of the page-- which can be useful for your records, or for easy offline reading.

Instructors and students have access to the "Collect" tool-- try it out.  If you think others would be interested in knowing about it, share a link to this post in your course's discussion board!

Christopher Stormer Posted by Christopher Stormer on January 8, 2016

Keeping records of student attendance in class, or for synchronous sessions in an online course, is an important way to help you find and address problems that students may be having. If you can see a pattern of missed classes, or late attendance, that can be a part of an intervention strategy early enough to help that student turn their performance around. Besides the diagnostic benefit, financial aid requirements for many students hinge upon attendance, and so you may be asked by the registrar to provide this information for reporting purposes.

Old Fashioned Gradebook

While there are several different takes on how attendance should be counted (or not) towards a student grade, taking a few moments each class session to collect it can only help you make classroom decisions. [For an excellent summary of recent research in this area, see Macie Hall's blog post from Johns Hopkins University: Should You Require Classroom Attendance?]

To make keeping and collecting attendance information easier, LearnAU has just rolled out an Online Attendance tool in Blackboard that provides an online interface for you. An added benefit of using this tool online in Blackboard is that is gives students the ability to see their own attendance records, so that they can be made aware of their own patterns of class attendance.

It's easy to get started-- with a few simple clicks you can enable the tool in your Blackboard course and give it a try. Grab a copy of the documentation and setup guide here!

As always, if you have any questions, please contact the LearnAU team at

Christopher Stormer Posted by Christopher Stormer on November 20, 2015

Dashboard of Car with Fuzzy Dice

Your car's dashboard has some helpful information to keep you driving smoothly-- how fast you're going and how much gas you've got left to get there!  Blackboard also has a dashboard to help you keep you monitor your courses, and this short post will help you get started.

As we near the end of the semester, your courses in Blackboard have become full of student submissions, discussion board posts, and, of course, your feedback and grading. There is a lot in there to keep track of! One thing about Blackboard is that there are often multiple ways to access the same information-- and in this post I'd like to introduce you to a tool called the "Performance Dashboard".  This tool lets you get a quick view of student activity in your course.  

Performance Dashboard

To access the dashboard, in your Course Management Menu, go to "Evaluation --> Performance Dashboard". 

You'll be presented with a list of your students, with information about their last course access time, the number of discussion board posts they've posted,  and some customizable alerts related to course deadlines or grades.

This information is a great window into student activity-- but you can click on some of the columns in order to get more detailed information about each student's work in the course. 

Performance Dashboard

  • Clicking on the number of discussion posts brings up a list of posts that includes information like the average number of words per post. You can even click on through to view the full-text of each post.  This is a great way to look in detail at one student's work-- and is a great tool when doing end of course assessments or feedback on participation, or when you are working with a struggling student to help identify areas in which they should focus their attention.
  • Clicking on the grades link takes you directly to that student's row in your Grade Center, so you can move from a birds-eye view of course participation into the details of a student's work.
  • Clicking in the "Retention Center" column takes you to a customizable page where you can configure alerts to notify you if a student has missed deadlines, isn't logging in to the online course site regularly, or has a poor cumulative grade.

The Retention Center is a subject worthy of its own post, but the cross-linking here between the tools that Blackboard offers is an example of how you can take advantage of features you are already using in Blackboard in order to give you insight into your students' study and work habits. Identifying students who are falling behind early in the course is the first step to getting them the resources they need to succeed.

For more information and a video about using the Performance Dashboard, take a look at the Blackboard Help Site for Instructors. And, as always, if you have any questions, you can always contact us at

Photo: Angela K. Titherage, M. Ed. Posted by Angela Titherage on November 14, 2015

Open Personal Planner  

Have you looked at your calendar lately? Can you believe that Christmas is only a little over 5 weeks from now? Some radio stations are already playing Christmas music around the clock.  It seems like the Christmas season is starting earlier every year and the countdown has begun!

Well, the countdown to Christmas isn’t the only thing we have our eye on in the LearnAU team though. Did you know that there are roughly 8 weeks until the Spring 2016 classes begin?  Yes, ‘tis the season to dive in and begin getting your courses organized and prepared for the spring semester.

Don’t worry…I will try to refrain from spoofing the 12 days of Christmas, and writing a version titled “8 week till Spring Semester.” (But it practically writes itself: ”eight course copies, seven course menus, six reviewing content, FIVE DISCUSSIONS FORUMS, four assignments, three exams, two the myCourse Section and then finally a full course review!) Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

All joking aside, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by the work required to start closing out the fall semester course and begin preparing your course shells for the spring semester.  If you are looking for help in managing the workload to prepare your courses for next semester, take a look at the 8-week Course Prep Countdown Tool.  

 This tool can help you target what to work on each week leading up to the start of the spring semester. Additionally, this tools will provide you with links to access training video or print guides to assist you along the way.

If you find yourself in need of further help throughout the coming weeks, don’t hesitate to contact our team at .

Spencer Stadnik profile picture Posted by Spencer Stadnik on November 6, 2015

The year is nearing it's end. With that comes the beginning of new seasons. As the leaves change, the temperature drops. You may even find yourself wearing more socks. You open your door to enter the world and the weather prevents you from making your trek. You return back indoors and reluctantly write, "sorry class, we can't meet tonight".  This may happen often, or this may be nil. I'll tell you good person, no need to cancel unless you're ill! 

Just approach your laptop with the usual delight. Don't forget to tell your class that everything will be alright. Now in the comfort of your home with your pet in lap. Go to your keyboard and give it a tap! Within your course under communicate, you'll find a button for Collaborate! Give it a click and join the room and tell your students that today's class will resume. 

Once you are in turn on your webcam and mic. Today, regardless of weather, everything will be alright!

Brandy Schaad Posted by Brandy Schaad on October 30, 2015

As we close out another workweek here at Ashland University, I’d like to reflect with you on some of the wonderful things from our week here on the LearnAU Team.

First, we would like to welcome Dr. Todd Marshall to our team and to Ashland University. Dr. Marshall is the new Associate Provost and his first day was Monday. I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Marshall everyday this week. I am truly excited to have him here and look forward to the days, weeks, months, semesters, and years ahead! I believe this is just the beginning of...Read more

Christopher Stormer Posted by Christopher Stormer on October 23, 2015

One of the most common concerns about online course materials is that they are very text heavy. Course readings, articles, and books are, of course, based on the written word—but when all a student sees in a course is what looks to them like a wall of text, they can easily lose their place, feel overwhelmed, or check-out before they’ve even finished checking-in!

When you post reminders and instructions in your course, you can help students orient themselves by including images that help students find their way around a page. A well-chosen image can provide a visual clue to the content you’re presenting, and give students another way not only to remember what they’re reading, but also to be able to easily find it again in the course.

Take a look at these two examples—when you’re taking a look at the page, which one catches your eye? Which one gives you a clue as to the content? Which one could you more easily find if you were to return to the course looking for this specific information?

Sample Image displaying course content with and without an embedded image

The key to an effective image is one that is relevant to the content—if you’re talking about due dates, an interesting calendar image can help students connect with that information. If you are describing an assignment with the topic of 1950’s era US transportation, a nice picture of that ’57 Chevy might be the right choice. But don’t go overboard; one or two well-chosen images on a page can help divide a longer text into easier to understand chunks, but too many images can become a distraction.

Image Permissions and Licenses

Wanting to add images to your course is one thing—but where do you find images to use? A common tendency is to go to Google and do a quick search for images relevant to a topic. You’ll certainly find a lot of images, but do you have permission to reuse those images in your course? Of course you wouldn’t even consider copying the text from someone’s site into your own course without attribution! The same holds true for images—most images you’ll find doing a regular Google search are copyrighted and need to be licensed or purchased in order to legally reuse them. Remember there are photographers and artists out there working hard on creating those images—they may not want you to use them without payment.

Luckily, there are several sites that are designed to help you find images that are licensed specifically for you to use in your courses and presentations for free. These sites provide images that are either in the Public Domain, and therefore free to use for everyone without attribution at all, or by using a Creative Commons license, which means the creator has specifically given permission for you to repost their image, as long as you include a credit line.

Here’s a nice list of sites for finding images that you can reuse:

    • -- user uploaded and categorized photographs that are free to use
    • – user uploaded photographs and artist created graphics, all Public Domain licensed
    • -- this is a specialized search engine for Flickr, the image sharing site; when searching using this tool make sure to choose “Creative Commons” as the license type to limit your results to reusable photographs

Magnifying Glass over the word SearchAll of these sites provide some information on how to download the image files, and also some instructions on how properly cite the image, if this is required. Once you have downloaded an image file, you can place it in your course in Blackboard, or in your course materials in Word. If you're looking for tutorials on the mechanics of adding images, check out Blackboard's Adding Images page, and's Adding Images in Word 2013 pages.

Happy Image Searching!


Images aren’t the only things that are often overlooked when providing citations in your course materials—for a short discussion and a list of citation guidelines and gotchas, see Dr. Miki Crawford’s article on Faculty Focus.

Photo: Angela K. Titherage, M. Ed. Posted by Angela Titherage on October 16, 2015

As I walked to my office this morning I noticed that the trees across campus are boasting a beautiful array of colors and felt the brisk nip in the air, signaling that fall is here. Can you believe it is the middle of October already? Not only does this mean that it is time to begin to think about midterms and plan for the holidays ahead, it also means that the Spring course shells are available for you to begin the process of preparing your online course shells for the Spring 2016 semester.

 Hopefully you have seen the communications and information that our LearnAU team has provided regarding the myAU Course Menu that has been establish as the default menu within the course shells. This standardized default menu is the next exciting step towards excellence in online learning here at AU.  I know-exciting may seem like an odd descriptor when talking about a course menu.  It is easy to take something as basic as a course menu for granted in the online course experience, unless of course you are a student who is struggling to adapt from one course menu organization to the next as they navigate through their courses in Blackboard.  If you are that student, a move towards something that is standard and will reduce your frustrations and time spent hunting for things as you move between the varied course menus of all your courses, exciting might be a perfect description!

 As you begin the process of looking at your 2016 course shells and planning for Spring 2016 and explore the myAU Course menu, keep that student in mind. I encourage you to remember that most students are taking more than one course each semester, and thus, have to learn a new navigation and roadmap for each course.  The more standard the navigation is across online courses, the less time a student has to spend learning the navigation and the more they can spend learning your material.


Want to learn more about best practices in course structure?

Check out the 2012 abstract from the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration article, An Analysis of Organizational Approaches to Online Course Structure.

In this article, Dr. Cheng-Yuan Lee, Dr. Jeremy Dickerson and Dr. Joe Winslow review the importance of a standardized course structure for online learners.   

Spencer Stadnik profile picture Posted by Spencer Stadnik on October 2, 2015

Tomorrow afternoon (Saturday, October 3rd), your 2016 Spring courses will be made available to you! They will automatically populate within your Blackboard Learn environment. As we continue the semester we will be implementing several great features that Blackboard has to offer. This is our opportunity to start implementing a standard AU branded experience within our online learning environment. The myAU Course Menu does leverage some familiar labeling from Angel, to help return a sense of familiarity of organization labels.  Our goal is to move towards a best practice of offering a standardized course menu that will help students spend less time adjusting to the technical format of the course navigation and be better able to jump in and focus on the curriculum.  Given the varied nature of courses across AU and the varied needs based on the instructional and content design, tools and resources, the myAU Course Menu allows us to provide consistent navigation landmarks and organization that will improve consistency across courses and hopefully reduce the learning curve and technical hurdle from course to course. 

If this menu causes red alert be not afraid, for you can continue to use the menu from your previous courses. We have created several instructional materials to help you with this menu. Remember that we are here to help try to make your teaching and learning experience the best that it can be. Check out the playlist below for more videos on the myAU Course Menu. Thanks for you cooperation and have a great weekend!

myAU Course Menu and Copying into Course Shells

Spencer Stadnik profile picture Posted by Spencer Stadnik on September 25, 2015

The past six months have been a time of introduction and "getting acquainted" with Blackboard Learn as our new learning management system.

Your LearnAU team is excited to announce that as a result of your hard work getting familiar with Blackboard Learn, we are ready to move into the next phase of implementation and will be releasing the myAU COURSE MENU.

The myAU COURSE MENU is the layout within Blackboard that will become available with your 2016 Spring Courses on October 3rd-That’s next Saturday! Access to the myAU COURSE MENU should become available that morning, and you’ll know it’s ready for you when you see your 2016 Spring Courses populate in Blackboard.

This menu has been created to leverage many familiar "landmarks" from Angel, while building the "best practices" in our AU online experience. If you’re hesitant about this activation, no worries! You can still customize your menu to best fit your students needs. Check out the myAU COURSE MENU video for a sneak peek at the layout.

Posted by Jason Coale on July 15, 2015


It's been a busy week so we have a lot to share with everyone. 
We are ready to begin the next step in the process of migration from Angel to Bb Learn!  Let me begin by saying thank you to everyone for your responses to our initial Angel Course Listings Spreadsheets.  We have submitted these requests to Blackboard and should begin seeing those migrations going through very soon.  I know everyone is anxious for those courses to show up so just hang in there a bit longer. I try to think of it like its the night...Read more
Brandy Schaad Posted by Brandy Schaad on June 23, 2015

Hello. Just wanted to give you a little update on what we are doing and what we have in the works...

First, our LearnAU Team has officially moved to Academics. If you are reading this blog, there's a very good chance that you may already know this. If not, hopefully this will give you a little information on how to find us. On the Ashland Webpage, we are now located under the Academics tab. Here you will find a lot of information about our team, training for Bb Learn, updates and blogs on where we are...Read more

Brandy Schaad Posted by Brandy Schaad on May 15, 2015

As we wind up another week, we are already planning for the next one that will be here in the blink of an eye. For some reason, the weekends just go by way too fast, and for that matter, so do the weeks! In any case, we hope your past week was productive as new Summer Semester courses began, and a few of you took advantage of some of our face-to-face training opportunities.

As a reminder, next week there will not be any scheduled face-to-face training opportunities. For starters, we will be acclimating our new Content Developer into his new position with our LearnAU Team. Jason Coale will be joining us beginning bright and early Monday morning. He will be working with faculty and our Team to develop media rich, interactive, and engaging content for our online, hybrid, and web enhanced courses. We are looking forward to having Jason as part of our team! Watch our webpages and blog for more information about Jason!

Next week, as much as we would love to be sitting around eating bonbons, we will be hard at it developing videos and online training tools for Bb Learn. Many of you have asked for online resources, so next week we are taking a break from the scheduled face-to-face sessions and are going to really be concentrating on online video and training content development. We know these online resources will be very valuable as we move along with Bb Learn.

We will also be working to design Bb Learn training for the rest of the summer. Don’t worry; we are not taking a permanent break from the face-to-face. We know many of you prefer that method; so now that we have provided about six weeks of face-to-face training sessions, based on what we thought was most relevant to get those of you teaching this summer started, we are now going to change our focus to be more need-specific based. Again, next week is going to be busy for us as we complete the design of what this will look like and how we will deliver the information to you. Based on what we have talked about so far, I think many of you will find the new structure helpful and useful for your individual needs and teaching styles.

Now that I have bored all of you to death with my update, I think if you have made it this far, you deserve to be rewarded. How does an hour of personalized, one-on-one training time with Eric sound? And let’s see…how about we’ll throw in lunch too! Well, just send an email to using your Ashland email. In the subject line type, “I’ll Take It!” and your name will be entered in a drawing for that lovely prize! The drawing will be held Tuesday, May 19th at 8:00 am. And you know, we might just be adding a few more prizes here and there so make sure you stop back often! Have a wonderful weekend and good luck in our drawing!

Spencer Stadnik profile picture Posted by Spencer Stadnik on April 10, 2015

As we are quickly nearing the end of the semester, many of us are going through our checklists to make sure we are ready for the months ahead. Some of these lists may include preparing for next semester, finalizing grades, watering the fiscus, walking the dog, watching Netflix, and maybe even washing the car. In addition to all of that, AU is changing Learning Management Systems, which may take some time to learn. There is just so much to do and so little time! I'm here to ensure you that we are here to help with the transition from Angel to Blackboard Learn (Bb) in any way we can. underdog

We just kicked off our first round of training this week and I appreciate all of those who were able to make it in such short notice. We will be offering a number of training and meeting times throughout each coming week. If you have not signed up, or could not find a suitable time for your busy schedule, we have added additional "open office hours" at each of the Colleges. These sessions will being the first week in May. If we still have not offered the sessions at the times you are looking for, drop us a request here and we'll do our best to accommodate your needs.

One of the sessions I believe some of you would really benefit from is our online training. This will utilize the Collaborate real time learning tool, which all of you will now have access to! Blackboard Collaborate is a highly interactive environment which allows you to set up various rooms that can be utilized for office hours, synchronous and asynchronous lectures, virtual classrooms and more! This means that not only will you be able to have web conferencing built in to your learning environment, but also the ability to record meetings and lectures and link them directly into your blackboard course. By attending one of these online sessions, you will be able to experience exactly what your students will be experiencing.

Now some of you may be asking, "who can attend all of these amazing training opportunities"? The answer is all Faculty, Staff and Adjuncts. You can even attend the same session twice, to ensure that you are really understanding the material we are training you on. Remember that this training is about an online learning platform, so it would be best if you brought your own computer. This will allow you to navigate and explore Blackboard Learn (Bb) on the device that you will be using most often. You can even favorite the link to our Blackboard Learn (Bb) site! 

I'm looking forward to working with each and every one of you in the future and I wish you all the best. Be sure to hit us up on Twitter at #LearnAU, or shoot us an email if you have any questions, comments or concerns. Remember we are here to ease you through this process. We understand that you have a lot going on, but in order to make this a successful transition, we need to work together. Check out our updated training calendar here and sign up! I'm excited for the future!

Brandy Schaad Posted by Brandy Schaad on April 2, 2015

The moment you have all been waiting for has arrived!

Over the last three weeks, our LearnAU Team and the College Champions have been emerged in Blackboard (Bb) Learn training - preparing ourselves to better serve faculty, staff, and students in our transition from ANGEL to Bb Learn. We have scheduled training sessions for the next two weeks and will be working on the rest of April and May as well. The week of May 11th, we will have a full slate of training opportunities available also. While space is limited now, we will be giving precidence to all those teaching Summer 2015 Semester. We will be spending the entire summer developing and holding various types of training sessions in various locations also. Don't worry, we will have many, many opportunities for training.

To make things a little easier, we have divided these sessions into levels. These levels are Basic (B), Intermediate (I), and High (H). Most everyone will need to start out with the Basic Levels. There are two of these sessions and everything builds from here. Even if you are/were an experienced ANGEL user, much of the terminology has changed and these two sessions really need to be attended before moving on to the Intermediate and High Level sessions. A description of each of the levels is below.

To sign up for training, CLICK HERE to be taken to our LearnAU Main Page. Here you will find the Training Calander and also a link to the Training Request Form. Space is limited in each of the sessions and will be filled on a first-come/first-served basis. Most training is divided up into 50 minute sessions. Note that some sessions are grouped so you may choose to schedule a couple of sessions back-to-back. The Training Request Form will allow you to request multiple sessions at the same time. We are very excited to begin working with all of you. Now... Let The Training Begin!

Description of Training Levels

Basic Level Training sessions (B) are where we will introduce you to Blackboard Learn (Bb) concepts and vocabulary, while giving you an overview of the learning environment. We will offer two Basic Level courses: One is identified as an Introduction; the second is called, “Deeper Dive.” If you have taught using Bb before or have participated in one of our pilot programs, you probably don’t need these sessions. While you might learn some things, you would probably find the content redundant. Otherwise, these courses are the building blocks for all other Bb Learn trainings we will offer. Do not mistake these courses as being simple or unnecessary.

Intermediate Level Training sessions (I) will deal with the broad strokes of managing courses and content in Bb Learn. These trainings assume you have a basic understanding of the vocabulary, layout, and introductory concepts of Bb Learn and will not deal with reviewing those subjects. These sessions will often be topical, dealing with one aspect of Bb Learn’s environment, describing the options available, and then a very brief explanation of usage.

Higher Level Concepts Training sessions (H) will take one aspect or tool available in Bb Learn and deconstruct it. This training assumes an intermediate understanding of Bb’s tools and how to use them to build a basic course within the environment. We will look at the content, tools, and assessment options in Bb Learn from multiple angles and discuss best practices. When possible, we’ve scheduled these sessions to follow a training that deals with an overview of the subject matter. For instance, a higher level concept training on a specific tool could follow an intermediate training overview of course tools or content menu.

Description of Training Levels

Basic Level Training sessions (B) are where we will introduce you to Blackboard Learn (Bb) concepts and vocabulary, while giving you an overview of the learning environment. We will offer two Basic Level courses: One is identified as an Introduction; the second is called, “Deeper Dive.” If you have taught using Bb before or have participated in one of our pilot programs, you probably don’t need these sessions. While you might learn some things, you would probably find the content redundant. Otherwise, these courses are the building blocks for all other Bb Learn trainings we will offer. Do not mistake these courses as being simple or unnecessary.

Intermediate Level Training sessions (I) will deal with the broad strokes of managing courses and content in Bb Learn. These trainings assume you have a basic understanding of the vocabulary, layout, and introductory concepts of Bb Learn and will not deal with reviewing those subjects. These sessions will often be topical, dealing with one aspect of Bb Learn’s environment, describing the options available, and then a very brief explanation of usage.

Higher Level Concepts Training sessions (H) will take one aspect or tool available in Bb Learn and deconstruct it. This training assumes an intermediate understanding of Bb’s tools and how to use them to build a basic course within the environment. We will look at the content, tools, and assessment options in Bb Learn from multiple angles and discuss best practices. When possible, we’ve scheduled these sessions to follow a training that deals with an overview of the subject matter. For instance, a higher level concept training on a specific tool could follow an intermediate training overview of course tools or content menu.

Posted by Eric Sherman on March 20, 2015

This week we onlGroup of people around table in conference roomy have enough time for a quick update. Blackboard has been on campus since Tuesday. Bb's trainer, in addition to the #LearnAU team, has been supporting the TSC staff in discovering how best to leverage the new tools available to them in Blackboard (LMS), especially Collaborate. Additionally, we've been meeting with the AU's Bb Champions. Champions are volunteers from the faculty of all our colleges who have stepped up to accept the call to be first adopters, advocates, and first-point-of-contact in their respective departments and disciplines.

Training continues next week (March 23-27) for your Champions through some Collaborate sessions. Then, the following week (March 30-April 3), our Bb supplied trainer returns to wrap things up.

We continue to have the Blackboard Online Training Videos available to all. And, once the Champions have been trained, #LearnAU will announce the roll-out of our own online training videos as well as make available dates and opportunities on our calendar to train with us face-to-face.

We've also begun meeting face-to-face with each college during faculty meetings. Last week we met with the College of Education. Next week we have scheduled the College of Business & Economics, and the College of Arts & Sciences. We want to update each college in person as well as field questions you may have as we moved forward with this transition.

These are exciting times. Don't miss a thing. Subscribe below to receive RSS Feed updates for when new items are posted to this blog and, if you use Twitter, follow us or use #LearnAU to keep up to speed.

Posted by Eric Sherman on March 11, 2015

Do you remember how movie trailers used to create excitement? They introduced the characters or teased the conflict. They made you want to see the movie. They built anticipation. My wife used to make us leave the the theatre, claiming we were late, if we didn't make it in time to see every movie trailer prior to the feature presentation.

I realize I may be accused of having Early Onset Grumpiness (it's a real thing, don't you watch Portlandia?), but these days I feel as though I've watched the entire movie by the time they get done showing me the trailer.

And don't even get me started on "teasers." For those of you who don't know what a teaser is, it's what we used to call a movie poster, but now someone puts music to the static image and it gets a 60 million views.

Well, I want to offer you a preview: As you know, AU is moving from our current Learning Management System (LMS), ANGEL, to Blackboard (Bb). We're hoping this fills you with excitement and anticipation. But, we're realistic enough to know that when people aren't provided enough information it can create a sense of anxiety. That may be fun in a movie theatre, but it is not cool when it comes to your reputation. So, it is our goal to inundate you with as much information as we have available to us. This will include email, portal announcements, blog posts, tweets, flyers, posters, face-to-face training, online video tutorials... there are so many other ways, but I'll let that be just a small example.

The Blackboard Team is going to be returning in the next couple of weeks. They are going to be training the Tech Support Center, administrative assistants, professors, and administrators through the end of March. Those individuals will then be better equipped to pass that training on to you. Blackboard has also supplied us with their own knowledge base documentation as well as video tutorials. Additionally, we currently have some dedicated faculty and staff who are well experienced with Bb. In addition to all of the training we will be announcing in the very near future, we will be rolling out some of our own online video tutorials.

We are going to do our best, but we need your help. Consider bookmarking this page or subscribe to this blog for updates; keep an eye on this training calendar; volunteer to be a first-point-of-contact for your department; comment and keep engaged with us, and let us know how we're doing.

As I said, we're in the process of supplying you with all the materials you need, and there will be more communication in the coming weeks as we schedule all of the training opportunities. In the meantime, here is our own teaser of what is to come and to get you a little more comfortable with the Blackboard environment.