Monday, November 21, 2011

2011-2012 Distance Learning Advisory Committee

James Matchuny
Michael Adkins
Baker, Lucinda D
Patricia Miller
Steve Stone
Kausha Miller
Kevin Dunn
Rebecca McCane
Melanie Sallee
Maureen Cropper
Connie Rine

End of Semester Email -- Fall 2011

This email below was send out over the bctc_faculty distribution list on Monday, 11/21...

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Wee!  The end is in sight!  I hope you are doing well and braced for finals . . .  This email contains some updates and goings on in the world of distance learning.  Since increasingly Blackboard and online learning pertains to us all, I’m send this message out on the  distribution list.  Just prior to this email going out, I sent an email to the members of the list with the word *membership* in the subject heading; if you didn’t get that email and want on that list, please send your name and email address to Bill Davis.


KCTCS will continue to use JCTCS’s SharePoint database through the end of the semester to share pass*words and exam directions for proctored exams.  Directions on uploading this information is maintained here.  If you have not uploaded your exam directions and pass*words, do so now.  If you need assistance call (x6603) or email Karen Dearborn.  Beginning in the Spring, the system will migrate to a new database located on The Point.  The new database is stored on this Team Site: “KCTCS Distance Learning Proctor Resource Center”. If you’re familiar with the Point, you can check it out now.  If not, no worries.  We’ll have directions out in the Spring for how to access it.


There have been reports of problems with the course copy feature.  Some  content may appear to be copied yet remain invisible to students.  The solution is deleting the content and reloading <grumble>.  Given the confusion this can create, I am recommending reloading content to Blackboard.  I also recommend use of your district locker to store content that you may wish to share in multiple classes or over subsequent semesters.   This way you can link to the content and then easily change it in the L:/www folder.  See this tutorial for directions.


We will continue to use our current version of Blackboard through the Spring semester.  We will then migrate to a new version at the start of the summer session.  A test shell for the new version of Bb will be available in the Spring.  It will allow instructors to interact with some of the new features in Bb.  From what I’ve seen of the new Bb upgrade, it will not substantively change the GUI/interface but will add a lot more functionality.  Expect training on the new Bb in the Spring.


Our new Teaching and Learning Center is keeping a list of all kinds of training offered across the college.  I encourage you visit them.  They also link to Technology Training  provided by ITS.  Note: our two week institutional closing will limit access to training.  If there is training that you need, please complete that before you go home for break.  Remember that the college asks all new online (including new hybrid) instructors to complete Blackboard training.   A list of faculty who have completed training is available from the Distance Learning Web page.  So…. If you want to get ready for Spring, make an appointment with Connie Rine now, our resident Bb training expert.

If you are not teaching online or hybrid classes, but are interested in doing so, talk with your program/area coordinator about going online.


I use a blog, BCTC Distance Learning, to share information about goings on in the world of online learning.  I encourage you to subscribe.  For those who don’t subscribe, I will periodically make reminders about  the blog on the bl_onlineinstructors distribution list.  I think this makes a good way for me to share information without unnecessarily cluttering inboxes.  I’m also using the blog, which is fully searchable, to archive important information such as this email.


The DLAC is charged with representing faculty concerns about the direction of online learning and contains representation from each division.  If you have concerns about anything pertaining to distance learning, share them with your DLAC rep.  Of course, you can always direct those concerns to me.


I want to highlight our eMentor program.  The college eMentors provide assistance to new online instructors—and anyone else in the BCTC community who has questions about best practices in online learning.  Their email address is


If you are keeping your gradebook on Blackboard, I strongly recommend that you download a copy of it after turning in your grades.  This is easy to do.  From the control panel, click Grade Center/Full Grade Center.  Then Work Offline/Download.  Click Submit then Download.  Then Save.


KYVC.  If you are teaching classes in a BW mode (meaning your classes is available to all students across KCTCS), be sure to update KYVC with your course information.  Click here for directions on how to do this.  *Tip* this is a great way to let potential students know about your textbook requirements, potential proctored exams and special software needs. 

PeopleSoft.  Make sure next semester classes appear on Faculty “My Schedule” in PeopleSoft; if not, check with your AD or Office Manager.

Bb Availability.  When you are ready to make your class available to your students, remember to change the Blackboard settings.  From the Bb Control Panel, click customization/properties.  Under “Set Availability” have “Make Course Available” read “yes”.

Weather Language.  New syllabi checklists call for language about weather closings –  online classes don’t close—but it might not be a bad idea to state that explicitly on your syllabus.


Thank you for time.  I wish each of you a safe and relaxing holiday and prosperous new year.  And if you’re on the move, safe travels.

Friday, November 18, 2011

KCTCS Summit on Testing and Proctored Exams

On Friday, 11/18, I attend this summit on the campus of Elizabethtown CTC.

Key Themes: The rapid growth of online enrollments has led to to a sharp increase in proctored exams, which is putting a strain on testing centers at some colleges. Another big issue is communicating concerns from one college to another.

Some interesting information:

July 2012, they system will be 24/7 student services support for online students.

Schedule of Student Charges: $25 per test may be charged to non-KCTCS students. No fee may be assessed directly to KCTCS students.

Recharges ($25 per students) may be processed through journal entries from the home college to the delivering college.

For an example, Gateway processed 180 KCTCS students Fall 2010. Those fees would amount to $4,500.

The system will be holding a meeting on Academic Advising tracking in Versailles on 12/5 from 10-3.

Bb Collaborate, a new service coming from Bb, could allow an instructor to proctor exams via webcam.

Troubleshooting Concerns Raised
--scheduling issues
--sharing exams and passwords
--Recommended windows for testing

Suggested Procedures for Proctored exams (offered BW):
--2 exams per semester
--3 hours time limit
--all content for exams should be done web browser w/out assistance from the proctor
--link to KCTCS proctor exam page from online syllabus
--extend exam windows to at least 48 hours.

Friday, November 4, 2011

KCTCS Digital Textbook Meeting

On Friday, 11/4, I attended a meeting in Versailles on eTextbooks: "Today's Textbook--Tomorrow's Digital Future Quality and Costs: An Aim toward Affordable Education." The even consisted of 20 min. presentations from a variety different eTextbook vendors:

--Walters Kluwer
--Flatworld Knowledge
--KY Learning Depot
---Barnes and Noble

Some major themes I heard over and over included:
--eTextbooks are significantly cheaper--as much as 50%.
--eTextbooks give students instant access to course materials.
--eTextbooks provide the functionality of a computer. Students and instructors can share notes and comments easily. eBooks provide multimedia (audio and video) and other functionality like flashcards, practice tests, etc. Instructors can "add" chapters and other content to their eTextbook.
--Some eTextbooks can be integrated with Bb and provide a single sign on solution...when students log into Bb, they have access to their textbooks.

Some items that struck me:
--Barnes and Noble really is pushing Nook Study--their eReader software (Note: this is different from the Nook eReader they sell that completes with Kindle). I was pleased to Nook Study connects to Merlot and other open source content. Faculty can make notes in the textbooks that are shared across the all student textbooks. And students can "annotate" text. The big downside: the software is restricted to a PC and will not run on mobile devices like smart phones, iPads, or even eReaders like Nook and Kindle. More at
--Cengage's Four Letter Press (4LTR) offers both eTexbooks along with a paper companion. They are sold in a one stop shopping experience for textbooks. 75+ titles.
--I would like to see more cross platform solutions. E.g. Amazon's eBooks can be read on a Kindle, an iPad, an iPhone, an Android phone, a Windows PC and a Mac. I'm not necessarily seeing that _yet_ in these educational solutions.
--Elsevier offers eContent to support nursing and allied health programs and provides Bb support, too _and_ an iPad app.
--Flatworld Knowledge does appear to be pretty cross platform. They allow much of their content to be viewed for free online and make money by selling print books and eBooks for PDF, iPad, Kindle. They also let books be read through Nook Study. I like some aspects of this model.
--KY Learning Depot is repository for open textbooks and other content. They are also trying to do bulk purchasing of educational content much in the same way the KYVL offers content.
--MacMillan/Bedford St. Martins/Worth/W. H. Freeman/Hayden McNeil offers ebooks.
--McGraw-Hill recently released McGraw-Hill Campus, a cross platform eReader with Bb functionality. McGraw-Hill Create allows instructors to customize content. Their Connect platform allows for powerful data analysis of student success rates. ALEKS is AI software that assesses student knowledge of a topic (esp. math) and connects students to textbook content.
--HippoCampus and NROC. Grant funded for "open educational resources" including open source textbooks. National Repository of Online Courses offers lots of great content and support for creating online classes. In addition to textbooks, there's lots of great, free audio and video content.
--Pearson eBooks are supported on the iPad, the Pearson eText.
--Walters Klewer is Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a health-science publisher. More at

My two-cents:

--I would like to see more cross platform solutions. E.g. Amazon's eBooks can be read on a Kindle, an iPad, an iPhone, an Android phone, a Windows PC and a Mac. I'm not necessarily seeing that _yet_ in these educational solutions...although some are coming close.
--I am looking forward to a the moment when my annotations, notes, and even audio and video can be imbedded in a "textbook" so that my commentary is available to my students.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

SoftChalk Competition

We know you've created some amazing content with SoftChalk this year because each day we see lessons that WOW us on CONNECT. SoftChalk's annual Lesson Challenge is our way to recognize your innovative teaching, lesson design skills and hard work! If you have lessons or eCourses that you're proud of—submit them to the 2012 SoftChalk Lesson Challenge now! A $500 cash award will be awarded to each lesson challenge winner.

It's easy to enter your lessons, just:
  • Create an account on CONNECT, SoftChalk’s Learning Object Repository.
  • Publish your completed SoftChalk lessons or eCourses to CONNECT.
  • Submit your content into the Lesson Challenge.
  • For full details on the 2012 Lesson Challenge and to see the winning lessons from previous years, visit the Lesson Challenge page.
Don't delay, the deadline for submitting is January 13, 2012.