Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 17, 2010

Good morning instructors,

This will be my last Online Instructional blog post for the quarter. With next week being the last week of the quarter, I wanted to share some last minute tips on using the grade center to assist in the calculation/reporting of final grades and Learner Outcome Assessment scores. I've shared this information before, but I've received a few emails this week with questions so thought I'd send the information to everyone as a refresher.

Calculating Learner Outcome Assessment (LOA) Percentages:
  • All LOA associated assignments should already be set up for you in the grade center to reflect two numbers in the appropriate grade center column. The first score is the actual point score of the assignment; the second score in parentheses is the calculated percentage score (this is the score you will be entering into the faculty portal).
  • IF you are finding that your grade center column is not displaying two scores, you can quickly and easily make this modification by completing the following steps:
  1. Click on the appropriate grade center column's down arrow;
  2. Scroll down to and select Modify Column;
  3. Click on the drop down arrow for the Secondary Display option;
  4. Select Percentages;
  5. Click Submit
Calculating Final Course Grade Totals/Percentages for Final Course Grade Reporting:

Blackboard is set up to do all final grade calculations/percentages for you as long as you follow a few simple steps.
  1. Within the grade center, click on the down arrow for the Total column;
  2. Scroll down to and select the Modify Column option;
  3. Select the Primary Display down arrow to show the Points;
  4. Select the Secondary Display down arrow to show the Percentage (this will give two scores just as in the above LOA description);
  5. Select "Yes" for a running total;
  6. Click submit;
  7. Enter a zero into any empty grade slot for any student;
  8. Use the percentage score in parentheses to identify the appropriate corresponding letter grade that you will now enter into the faculty portal.
If you have any questions on any of these steps, please let me know.

Thanks and have a safe and happy holiday season! I'll be blogging again in winter :)

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 9, 2010

Good Afternoon Instructors,

Today's post is an extension of last week's topic: finding new ways to interact more personally with students. Last week I introduced Eyejot, a free online video messaging system. Today I'd like to talk about VoiceThread. Brian James, Network Director of Instructional Technology, introduced this resource to me, and it seems pretty cool with a lot of great opportunities for instructor to student and student-to-student interaction.

Click here to learn about VoiceThread and then click here to view 25 examples of ways to use VoiceThread in the classroom. I encourage you to check these out and let me know what you think.

Thanks and have a great rest of the week!
Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Friday, December 3, 2010

December 3, 2010

Good Afternoon Instructors,

It is hard to believe it is already December and we have only 3 weeks left in the quarter! As you are looking at ways to freshen up your courses and end on a really strong note, I encourage you to consider connecting "face-to-face" with your students, at least in a virtual fashion :) There is a great tool called "Eyejot" that can allow you to do just this.

Eyejot is a free online video messaging platform that does not require any software download. You simply need a webcam and to have registered on their truly is as simple as that. Unfortunately Eyejot video messages are housed within your Eyejot account so are not directly connected to your school email account or to Blackboard, but I still believe it could be a very beneficial tool as another way to connect with your students or for your students to connect with one another, especially if they are working on a group project.

The intent of Eyejot is to leave messages with one another much like voice mail messages, but it adds in the visual component voice mail doesn't allow. The addition of nonverbal communication can now help to clarify any confusion that may be experienced through a simple email or voice mail message. (It is important to note: Senders and recipients all need to have their own Eyejot account to log into to send and receive messages.)

I can see many Eyejot opportunities within the online classroom:
  • Offer feedback to students individually on large projects in a way that you can truly emphasize certain points you want to get across that may otherwise be lost in written feedback;
  • Deepen weekly discussion boards through shared Eyejot messages to really simulate an actual verbal discussion;
  • Offer another medium for students to connect and work together on group projects;
  • And the list can go on.
I encourage you to check Eyejot out by clicking here and watching some of the sample videos and even setting up an account for yourself. If this is something you find you'd like to try in your own classes and would like some assistance creating tutorials to share with your students on how to use Eyejot, please just let me know. I'd be happy to work with you on this!

And as with any enhancement, if you do give this a try, please let me know what you think and what your students think of it!

Have a great weekend!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Thursday, November 18, 2010

November 19, 2010

Good Morning Instructors,

Are you looking for a new way to show your students a course trend? Or maybe there is a discussion board topic where a select group of words is highly repeated by many students, which could offer strong insight into the importance of these words or the course concepts being explored? Would a visual image help to convey the significance of certain words or concepts? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may be interested in checking out what Wordle could do for you.

What is Wordle you ask? Well, according to Wordle's website ( "Wordle is a toy for generating 'word clouds' from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text." Understanding what Wordle truly is makes more sense when you actually see it though - after all it is a visual representation - so I encourage you to click here to check it out!

Diane Maki, one of our MBA instructors, created a Wordle in one of her discussion boards this quarter and shared the image with her students, which spurred even more critical thinking, discussion, and insights. She shared with me that students responded very positively to her use of Wordle, and I could see it really helping to drive home the point of the importance of certain words and concepts for students. Click here to check it out for yourself and see some samples in the gallery.

If you have any questions or you give this a try and have some feedback, please let me know.

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I won't be posting to my blog next week. My next post will be on Friday, December 3rd. And just as Diane shared this tool with me to share with the rest of you (THANKS DIANE!) please be sure to let me know of any great resources you may be using in your courses that could benefit others as well.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! In addition to celebrating Thanksgiving, my family will also be celebrating my son's birthday as he turns 2 on Thanksgiving - so we'll be having pie AND cake at my house! Once again, have a great Thanksgiving!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Friday, November 12, 2010

November 12, 2010

Good Morning Instructors!

I hope you are enjoying the various in-service sessions today. In the break-out session I facilitated we explored a cool new interactive presentation tool called Prezi. If you weren't able to attend the session but are curious about what it is, please check out the Elluminate presentation session and/or the PowerPoint for the presentation in the faculty course once they become available. And if you have any questions on this fun tool, let me know.

You can also check out Prezi here; and Kelly Schmidt has graciously shared with us a sample Prezi she used this quarter in her classes as part of her Meet Your Instructor profile.

Check these out and let me know what you think!

Have a great weekend!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Friday, November 5, 2010

November 5, 2010

Good Afternoon Instructors,

With mid-quarter upon us, I thought this would be a great opportunity to bring up the benefits of Grading Rubrics. Grading Rubrics are an excellent tool to help increase grading consistency and student-to-student fairness, and is a solid mechanism to hurdle over the grading inflation obstacle we are often faced with. By clearly and directly breaking down the point system for assignments, exams, and even discussion boards, you as the instructor are sharing with your students what the assignment/exam/discussion board expectations are, and you then have a set criteria to base your evaluation of off. This allows you and your students to be on the same page.

When grading student work, you want to not only use the grading rubric as a guide, but also reference it in the feedback for students directly. Rather than offer feedback and then give a general score of 41/50, for example, I encourage you to use the grading rubric categories to offer specific reference to where the student earned points directly.

For example, the 41/50 reference above may actually be reflective of:
  • Essay Development: 9/10;
  • Articulation of Course Content Comprehension: 12/15;
  • Effective and Appropriate Application of Course Content: 11/15; and
  • Grammar/Mechanics: 9/10
By sharing this information directly with students, in addition to specific written feedback for each section, students then know more directly the areas they did well in and the areas they need to work on and why. They also then have the original grading rubric which will be much more detailed in the break-down of expectations for each category that offers the student even more insight into the score they earned.

If you've never created a grading rubric, please do not be intimidated, the following are some great online Grading Rubric creation sites that offer you templates and guide you through the process, making it really easy:
If you have any questions on grading rubrics or how to use them in your classes, please let me know. And if you already have or create a rubric that works really well for a particular assignment, please let us know, it may be something to add to the master course shell for all sections to benefit from.

Have a great weekend!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October 22, 2010

Good morning instructors,

Building off of last week's blog post, I'd like to share one additional tip with you if you are using the Download/Upload Excel document grading feature within Blackboard's Grade Center. If you find that you need to alter a score that you have already uploaded for a student via an Excel document, you will need to modify it using the Modify Override option rather than via the View Details tab. To view a demonstration on how to do this, please click here.

My hope with these various tips and tricks is to help you streamline your grading process so that you can focus on the student content rather than the grading process. Next week I will be moving on to a different topic, but if you have any questions on the grade center at any time, please don't hesitate to let me know.

Thanks and have a great weekend!


October 15, 2010

Good morning instructors,

Previously I used the following Screencast (click here to view) to demonstrate how to grade multiple assignments as well as enter scores and feedback to multiple students in an efficient and easy manner within Blackboard's grade center. I continue to recommend this approach as it is a great way to streamline your grading process. However, if a student has not submitted an assignment and you need to enter a score of zero, simply entering that score on the spreadsheet to then upload will NOT block students from being able to submit the assignment at a later date, which can lead to a great deal of confusion and miscommunication between instructor and student.

Click here to view the steps you will need to take to enter zeros into the grade center for non-submitted assignments so that it is calculated in the running total as well as blocking late submissions (remember it is important to enter a score for every assignment/discussion board/exam for every student so the running total calculates accurately). This demonstration of entering zeros for non-submitted assignments using the grade details view is needed regardless of the grading approach you use.

If you have any questions on how to most effectively and completely use the grade center, please let me know.

Have a great rest of the day and a great weekend!


Friday, October 8, 2010

October 8, 2010

Good Afternoon Instructors,

It is an absolutely gorgeous fall day here in Minnesota! I hope it is just as beautiful where ever you are, and that you are able to enjoy some fun, fall activities as we close out the first week of a new fall quarter.

As you are getting into the full swing of things with a new quarter, I encourage you to think of ways to help your students connect with the course material on an even deeper level. A great way to do this, particularly in online courses, is through audio and video lecture implementation. There are many ways you can record lectures or presentations to share with your students, and I'd be happy to work with you individually on any you'd like to do. But there are also some great audio/video lecture resources readily available to us to simply add in to our courses. The following is a list of some great online resources I encourage you to check out for possible course implementation. These resources offer you the opportunity to bring into your courses expert guest lecturers without your students even needing to leave the comfort of their homes (or where ever it may be that they complete their coursework).

Stanford University's Entrepreneurship Corner

Khan Academy
UC Berkeley Webcasts
Academic Earth
World Lecture Hall

If you do locate and choose to add a lecture to your course from one of the resources listed, please remember to select the "Open in New Window" option so as to comply with Internet copyright regulations. Also, let me know how the lecture is received by your students. It may be a lecture we'd want to add to the master course shell for all future sections to benefit from.

If you have any questions on searching within any of these resources or adding a resource to your course, please let me know.

Have a great rest of the day and an enjoyable fall weekend!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

September 9, 2010

Good Morning Instructors,

As we get closer to finals week, I encourage you to consider implementing online flashcards into your courses to assist students in studying for their final exams. Online flashcards are an excellent study tool. As the instructor you can create the cards for the students to study from, or you can have students make the cards (this way they will be studying as they create them, which is yet another added benefit). And many online flashcard sites have various study techniques that allow students to print cards, study on their computers, send to their personal mobile devices to study on the go, etc., making studying very user-friendly.

A few online flashcard sites include:
Check these out to find one that best fits your own teaching style and course needs.

For a sample, click here to access a Jing tutorial Kris Ebent, one of our online instructors, created to share with her students for a course assignment. This is a great illustration of how you could implement a similar demonstration for your students.

If you have any questions, please let me know. Have a great rest of Unit 8!

Heather Thomton-Stockman

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September 1, 2010

Good Afternoon Instructors,

It is hard to believe it is already September!

I have had a couple of requests from instructors to demonstrate how to set up and manage groups within Blackboard so this week's screencast walks you through the process of setting up, managing, and accessing groups within Blackboard. Our students will be working in groups in their careers so offering them the opportunity to work in groups in their education prepares them even further for life after graduation. I encourage you to consider implementing some type of group work into your courses if you haven't done so already. And if you have any questions on how to manage groups after reviewing this screencast, please let me know.

As a follow-up to last week's blog post on Animoto, I'd like to share a source with you where you can access photos that are copyright free. Thank you to Cathy Kennedy for bringing to my attention.

Have a great rest of the week and if there is a topic you'd like to see explored in a future blog post, please just let me know.

Heather Thomton-Stockman

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August 25, 2010

Good Afternoon Instructors!

For this week's blog post I'd like to discuss a fun and interactive tool that you may want to consider implementing into your courses in some fashion. Particularly with the second half of the quarter ahead of us, you may be finding that you'd like to add in some variety or new tools to your discussion board topics to continue to motivate and engage your students. A fun and creative resource that can really help to spur critical thinking and engagement in this area is something called an Animoto.

You are probably asking, what is an Animoto. Well, Animoto is a Web 2.0 tool that allows us to make amazing videos to the beat of music. It does all the work of timing and "popping" the pictures to the tune for us and is an excellent way to illustrate through pictures, text, and sound, what a term or concept means to us. Students have a lot of fun and engage in critical thinking when creating Animotos.

If there is a particularly abstract concept you are trying to get students to think about in a new way, this is a great option. For example, how might concepts of a marketing strategy be that much more clear through pictures? Or how might a visual discussion of economic changes help students think about the course concepts in a new way? Or if you are teaching a Natural Science course, how might visuals help to solidify student understanding?

Our online intercultural communications course has implemented student developed Animotos very successfully for a few quarters. If you
click here you will see a sample Animoto on the concept of culture. Students are given this sample as well as some training resources and then asked to create their own Animoto depicting what they view as a visual definition of cultural values. In addition to the Animoto, students are required to submit a reflection on how their definition and understanding of cultural values changed or were enhanced as a result of creating this Animoto.

To explore this resource further or to start your own Animoto presentation, the following will take you to the site directly as well as guide you through the process: Animoto and Jing Training on Animoto.

I encourage you to give this tool a try and let me know what you think. Have fun with Animoto and have a great rest of the week! (And as always, please let me know if you have any questions.)


Thursday, August 19, 2010

August 18, 2010

Good afternoon instructors!

With the second half of the quarter before us, now is a time where students may be writing more papers or looking for more assistance with course concepts in preparation for final projects and final exams. A great resource available to all online students - free of charge - is our online tutoring center called This resource is housed within Blackboard so students don't need to log-in to a separate location, they simply access it through the Tools tab within any GEN online course.

The following is a link to a screencast tutorial walking through how to use This is for your reference as well as something I encourage you to share with your students.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Have a great rest of Week 5!

Heather Thomton-Stockman

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 11, 2010

Good afternoon instructors!

As you are finishing up the grading of Unit 3 material and preparing for the reporting of mid-quarter grades by Sunday at midnight, I thought I would dedicate this week's blog posting to a quick and easy way to utilize features in the Blackboard grade center to calculate a running total of assignments/assessments as well as demonstrate how to display letter grades for your reporting purposes.

Click here to view how these features let Blackboard do the calculations for you!

If you have any questions please let me know.

Have a great rest of the week!

Heather Thomton-Stockman

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

August 4, 2010

Happy Wednesday! This week's blog is dedicated to offering some tips and tricks on streamlining your grading process. I sent this Jing screencast to instructors last fall, but it was suggested by an instructor I share it again as it really changed - for the better - the way that instructor approached her grading each week. This process works really well for me too. So in case you missed it last fall or are new to GEN online entirely, I hope you find these strategies helpful.

Click here to access a Jing Screencast demonstration on how to grade multiple assignments as well as enter scores and feedback to multiple students in an efficient and easy manner within Blackboard's grade center.

Jing Screencasts only allow 5 minute recordings and I had a lot to get in within 5 minutes so it does end a bit abruptly but it ends with me showing you what the student will see, which is the last aspect of the demonstration, so it does cover everything. If you have any questions on any of it, please don't hesitate to let me know.

Happy grading :)

Heather Thomton-Stockman

Friday, July 30, 2010

July 30, 2010

Welcome to the first blog posting for Online Instructional Strategies!

Weekly I will be posting various online instructional and technology strategies, tips, and tricks. Please feel free to use anything from these postings in your own classes and let me know if you try something out and it works really well as we may want to implement the approach in the master shell for all sections and students to benefit from.

In this first blog posting, I'd like to share with you a great audio/video resource that allows us to bring expert "guest lecturers" into our courses through the use of online TED.

Who is TED you may be asking. Well, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives.

This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free - a huge opportunity for us to bring experts into our online courses. More than 200 talks are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a creative commons license, so they can be freely shared and re-posted. You'll simply need to remember to add the link with the "Open in new window" option selected (just as you should with any external link so as to comply with Internet copyright regulations).

If you haven't had a chance to search around the TED website at I encourage you to do so. The videos that are shown are very "real life" and "relevant."

Because of TED's success and growth, even if you are teaching a course not in one of the above mentioned areas, I strongly encourage you to check out the various TED listings as the videos also include the disciplines of Business, Science, and Global Issues.

By incorporating TED lectures into your courses you are adding in both video and audio components to your course, thus reaching audio and visual learners. The more learning styles we can appeal to in our courses, the more effective we will be as instructors.

If you have any questions on this resource, or anything that I post in the future, please just let me know. I'm here to help you enhance your online instructional approaches!

Have a great weekend!

Heather Thomton-Stockman