Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January 25, 2011

Good morning instructors,

As we are getting closer to mid-quarter, I thought now would be a good time to share some writing and tutoring resources with you and your students. 

First, did you know we have an excellent Writer's Reference Center database available to you and your students via the online library?  It has some really great tools such as:
  • Cliché and proverb dictionaries
  • A rhyming dictionary
  • Grammatical terms
  • A section on frequently confused words.  
  • Many materials to support the writing process, including a research guide and writing fundamentals. 
  • And many other great aspects.  
Whether you teach a writing specific course or not, this reference database can be very helpful to you and your students as I would guess students are required to complete some element of writing in your course at some point during the quarter (even if only in the discussion boards, and I think many of you would agree with me that this is an area we can help our students improve their writing skills).

Another great resource available to our students is our free, online writing and tutoring center called Smarthinking.com.  It is a building block within our Blackboard courses and can be accessed via the Tools tab on the left side of all our Blackboard courses.  I have shared this "How To" video on Smarthinking in the past, but we have many new instructors so I would like to share it again.  And I will share the URL link within this week's email message so you can access the link and share with your own students if you would like also.

Once again, let me know if you have any questions on these great student resources, and I encourage you to pass them along to your students.    

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 19, 2011

Good morning everyone,

During last week's faculty meetings, adjunct instructor Cathy Kennedy mentioned she uses PhraseExpress on a regular basis to streamline her student communications and grading processes.  I wanted to take this opportunity to expand on Cathy's great tips by sharing this resource with you directly.

What is PhraseExpress?  PhraseExpress is a resource that "eliminates repetitive typing and manages frequently used text snippets in customizable categories" (download.cnet.com/PhraseExpress).  And some of its key features as articulated on its website are:
  • Organize frequently used text snippets.
  • Expand abbreviations as you type.
  • Launch programs with text shortcuts.
  • Auto-complete repetitive phrases.
  • Quick access to the Windows Clipboard History.
  • Correct spelling mistakes in any application.
And some additional benefits are:
  • Multiple clipboard phrase capabilities.
  • Free download and usability.
  • Works with any application, meaning it works in Blackboard and in Excel depending on the grading approach you use.
To see just how beneficial this resource can be, I encourage you to click here to see a visual timed demonstration.  I think you'll agree that this tool can be a big time saver for you!  Any time we can streamline our processes, it is a win-win for ourselves and our students as we can then spend more time on enhancing the learning environment for our students.  

And to view a full video tutorial on what the many features are, please click here

Check out this resource and let me know what you think!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January 12, 2011

Good Afternoon Online Instructors!

During Fall Quarter 2010, I introduced Eyejot and VoiceThread as two video messaging opportunities for your online courses and additional ways to connect with your students. Today, I'd like to extend on this discussion of video and voice messaging by introducing you to a quick and easy video email messaging system called MailVu and an audio email messaging system called Vocaroo. Both of these tools are free to use and do not require any software downloads.

Some of the key features of MailVu are:
  • Plays on most smart phones
  • Video mails up to 10 minutes.
  • Self-destruct after # of views
  • Retract video email at will
  • Send and Read notifications
  • Video stored up to 365 days
  • No account or downloads

And for Vocaroo it is simply the click of a button to record an audio message to then quickly and easily email to one or more recipients.

Click here to view a video tutorial I found online that explores both of these resources. The tutorial was created by a language professor so the focus is on using these tools as ways for students to practice their language skills and pronunciations for example, but I am certain either tool could serve a benefit in any online course of study.

I could see either being used as a way to connect directly with your own students on a weekly basis beyond simply a text email (for example, you could email the video or audio message to yourself first and then forward on to your students using a Group under Contacts within your email account that you would only need to create once at the beginning of the quarter). Or you could have students complete an assignment via a presentation format (video or audio in nature) to then be emailed to you. It could even be an assignment submission option rather than a specific requirement. Students love when they have assignment options.

I encourage you to check these two resources out and let me know what you think!

Have a great rest of the week! And as always, let me know if you have any questions.

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Thursday, January 6, 2011

January 6, 2011

Happy New Year! And welcome to a new quarter! I hope everyone is having a great start to the new year and new quarter.

This quarter I will be offering two instructor trainings - both as Blackboard courses facilitated asynchronously just like the courses you facilitate. If you are interested in participating in either of the trainings, please just drop me an email as soon as possible. The training topics and dates are:
  1. eFolio Training Course: February 7 - February 20
  2. Jing: February 21 - March 6
Upon 100% completion of each of these training courses (and yes, you can sign up for both if you are interested) you will earn 2 hours of professional development compensation and certification.

Both are excellent tools we can use to help our students be even more successful.

If you are already familiar with Jing and use it on a regular basis, that is great! I'd now like to share another great screencast audio and video capable recording tool that you may also want to try out. Screencast-o-matic is very similar to Jing and offers a few additional resources. Three things in particular that I really like about Screencast-o-matic are:
  • Screencast-o-matic allows recordings of up to 15 minutes in length (Jing allows recordings up to 5 minutes in length);
  • If you have a Webcam you can do Webcam recordings quickly and easily; and
  • No software is required to be downloaded onto your computer system; rather, you simply click record, run, and go.
I could see this being a very useful tool in offering students various presentation assignment submission options. Students could very easily record an audio or even video presentation to submit for grading through the use of Screencast-o-matic.

I encourage you to click here to check out screencast-o-matic for yourself and let me know if you have any questions.

Have a great rest of week 1!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist