A Checklist for Facilitating Online Courses

If you’re just about to teach an online class, be sure to read through this checklist created by Humboldt State.

A Checklist for Facilitating Online Courses
By Mary Bart

There are two common assumptions about teaching online that can sink even the most well-meaning neophyte. One is that “teaching is teaching” regardless of whether it’s face-to-face or online and there’s no reason to deviate from the proven principles that work so well in the traditional classroom. The second assumption is that teaching online is all about the technology, and if you design your course properly, it pretty much runs itself.

Of course both assumptions are false, but where does that leave online instructors looking for guidance on the right way to teach an online course? A new research-based tool developed at Humboldt State University can help. Assessing Online Facilitation (AOF) can serve as a valuable guide to best practices in online teaching. It lists the four main roles of an online facilitator – pedagogical, managerial, social, and technical – and the associated tasks of each role. These tasks also are broken down according to when they should be done – before the course begins, during the first week of class, throughout the course, and during the last week of class.

Do you let your students get limited access to your course before it officially begins? Do you use ice breakers in your class? Do you invite peer review? Do you use rubrics? Hopefully you’ve answered ‘yes’ to most, if not all, of these questions because that’s what’s recommended.

In the recent online seminar Beyond Course Design: Planning for Successful Facilitation, two of the AOF’s developers, Joan Van Duzer, an instructional technologist at Humboldt State University, and Carole Robinson, instructional media producer for Pasadena City College, discussed many of the tasks outlined in the AOF. Some of the items in the checklist include:

Before the Course Begins:

Pedagogical – Review past course evaluations to determine if enhancements for instructional strategies are required.
Managerial – Send informational message including how to login, what materials are needed and how to get them, and who to contact for technical assistance.
Technical – Update hyperlinks to remove dead or broken links.

During the First Week of Class:

Pedagogical – Create an ice breaker activity related to a course key objective or concept.
Managerial – Contact missing students to encourage their participation.
Technical – Assist students with login/access difficulties.
Social – Provide a personal and welcoming introduction to develop a personal presence.

Throughout the Course:

Pedagogical – Summarize discussions.
Managerial – Update the online grade book promptly after assignment due dates.
Technical – Model competency with course management system delivery tools.
Social – Organize collaborative projects to achieve strong social interaction.

During the Final Week of Class:

Pedagogical – Provide feedback on final project.
Managerial – Provide general information concerning the nature and format of the final assessment(s).
Social – Send an email with a closing personal message to students.

The AOF is available for download from here. Also included is the Facilitation Activity Record, an optional companion document to the AOF, that provides spaces for facilitators to make notes of what worked and what didn’t work when facilitating a course, and to flag issues that should be addressed before the course is offered again.

The Chico State App for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android Devices Is Here!

Blackboard Learn at CSU Chico can now be accessed on mobile devices two ways:
Bb Learn is part of the free official “Chico State app” for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android devices. (The Android app is available on Feb. 8.)
“Blackboard Mobile Learn” is a free standalone app for iPhone, iPad, and Android mobile devices.

Additionally, CSU Chico has purchased the “Institutional License” for all campus users, so you do not need to purchase the “personal license” in the Blackboard Mobile Learn app. Usage is free for all Chico State students.

Why should you get the app?

Using Mobile Learn, instructors can:

Send announcements
Post and reply in discussion forums
Upload photos to discussions, blogs and journals
Comment on blogs and journals

Using Mobile Learn, students can:

Check grades
View announcements
Access course content and view documents
Post and reply to discussions
Upload photos to discussions, blogs and journals
Comment on blogs and journals
Attach documents to discussions and blogs from a connected Dropbox account (note Dropbox is not supported by ITSS)

To read more about the full features, please go to the Bb Mobile Learn page.

Need Grade Center help? Come to Open Lab Time!

If you need help organizing or double checking your Bb Learn grade book for the end of the semester, TLP will be holding several open labs. No appointment is necessary, just come to TLP and help will be available. The schedule for help sessions begins on December 10 at 10am. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of this opportunity to use one of the best elements of Bb Learn.

12/10/2012: 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM
12/12/2012: 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM
12/17/2012: 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM
12/18/2012: 12:30 PM – 1:00 PM

As always the TLP lab is open for walk-in help from 9:00am – 5:00pm, Monday through Friday.

Early Start Mathematics Course Uses Bb Learn for Course Delivery

In January of 2012, CSU, Chico was charged with creating two remedial mathematics courses for incoming students whose entry test scores fell below the required amount to attend Beginning or Intermediate Algebra. This project, done in conjunction with a similar project developed for Remedial English, was headed by mathematics professor, Ted Cluver. Ted contacted the Chico Technology and Learning Program and soon a plan was developed to create a fully accessible online course that any incoming CSU student could take.

In order to lower the cost to students, a decision was made to develop the course using Blackboard Learn. Through the hard work of a team consisting of a math department student, Cluver and TLP, a well-developed accessible course was created. Students were enrolled during the months of June, July and August and participated in activities created to assist them with their math development as well as a retest to raise scores.

Cluver and Ann Steckel, project manager for the Early Start course development, recently presented their work at the 2012 CELT conference held on the CSU, Chico campus. The video of the presentation, embedded in this post, explains the history behind the project, the production of course content, and the successful roll out to students.

For more information about this program please contact Ted Cluver. For more information about accessible course creation in Bb Learn please contact Ann Steckel in the Technology & Learning Program.

Update on Organizations in Bb Learn

Do you need a virtual space to store documents or meet with group members in an online forum? A Blackboard Learn organization might be the solution.

One popular use of the learning management system outside of classes is the community or organization. Many groups at Chico State need a secure place for documents to be stored so that others can access them and collaborate. Currently TLP is in the process of helping community owners migrate the contents from Vista over to Bb Learn. To date 33 Vista communities have been migrated and 23 new organizations have been created.

A recent addition to speed up the process is a self-service application that allows for self enrollment for students using the student writing center and Regional and Continuing Education re-entry students. Others wishing to create a new organization should contact instructional technology consultant, Jim Aird. Once Jim receives a request for a new organization the turn around time for its use is about a week from request to completion. All enrollments for new organizations should also go to Jim and he will facilitate that portion of the process, however in the near future a self-service enrollment tool for everyone will be available.

Another tool available to organizations is Blackboard Collaborate, a virtual meeting software that is built in to Bb Learn. This tool will allow for guests to communicate to groups or group members to meet virtually with each other.

For more information about organizations and how they can be used please contact Jim Aird in the Technology and Learning Program. He can be reached via email at jaird@csuchio.edu or by phone at X3209.

Virtual meeting software, Bb Collaborate, is Here!

blackboard collaborateBlackboard Collaborate, virtual meeting software that can be embedded into any Blackboard Learn course or organization, is now available to any faculty member who wishes to connect virtually to students, colleagues, or guests. Bb Collaborate, formerly Wimba, enables an instructor and participants to communicate in real time using audio, video and text chat. During a session instructors can share PowerPoint slides, conduct polls, administer quizzes, tour web sites and share desktop applications. Additionally, sessions can be recorded and archived for playback at a later time.

Some highlights of Bb Collaborate:

– Faculty moderators can create virtual rooms for students to collaborate in a small group setting.

– Presentations by guest content experts who are located anywhere in the world, can be delivered live and recorded for future use.

– Faculty can use Bb Collaborate to create a recording of a traditional face-to-face lecture and add it to Bb Learn for students to view while the instructor is away from campus.

Currently TLP is offering fun, low-stress workshops during which participants first experience the software from a participant perspective and then as an instructor. Steps to create a Bb Collaborate session in the learning management system are also included in the workshop. To find out when the next workshop will be held please check the the TLP Workshop calendar.

For more information please contact instructional technology consultant, Marjorie Shepard, at mkshepard@csuchico.edu or at x3159. As always TLP is open from 9am – 5pm, Monday through Friday in the basement of Meriam Library. Walk-ins are always welcome, however consultants are available to meet by appointment.

Five Easy Ways to Create a Better Grade Center in Bb Learn

One of the challenges faculty face is keeping up with grading and entering grades into the grade book. It certainly helps to have a grade book that is organized, easily managed, and calculates student grades correctly. This article details five effective, yet easy ways to manage the grade center. Included in the article are tips on how to rearrange the columns in the Grade Center, how to place columns into categories, how to lock the students’ running average into an optimal position in the grade center, how to hide irrelevant columns, and how to colorize grade center cells.

For the full explanation to complete these processes, please read the entire story in our Bb Learn Knowledge Base.

If you would like in-person help, the TLP lab is open Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm for walk-ins. Consultants are also available to meet with those who have deeper questions.

Read the entire article here.

How to Create A Total Points Column in the Grade Center

One of the essential elements of the Blackboard Learn Grade Center is the column that keeps a running total of points accumulated throughout the semester by students. An easy way to calculate this grade is to use categories in the calculation for a Total Points column. No formulas are needed and the total points will calculate automatically and correctly at any point during the semester.

The process is fairly easy and can be built within a matter of minutes. Please read this article if you would like to be able to easily calculate grades and share them with students to keep them apprised of their progress.

If you would like more help with your Grade Center please stop in to TLP, Monday through Friday, from 9 – 5. You can also call 530-898-6167 and speak to one of our lab staff or schedule an appointment with a consultant.

Read the entire article

Enable Bb Learn Spring Courses & Copy Content Now

Have you taken either Transition to Learn or Bb Learn Quick Start? If you have, this means you are eligible to teach your courses in Blackboard Learn for the spring semester. This article will explain how to do it.


Once you’ve completed the migration steps, or started anew, your content is in a Bb Learn prep area. There are two final steps you need to take to get that content into the live Spring 2012 term for students:

1. Enable your Spring 2012 course, which activates the Bb Learn course and hides the course in Vista. Use the self-service app to enable the course. The directions to do that are on the self-service app page.

2. Copy your course content from the prep area into the live Spring 2012 term course. Read the tutorial to see the specific steps. With course copy, faculty can copy all of the content from one course and move it over to another course (like a different section of the same course).

Faculty who wish to have assistance with course creation or course migration should contact TLP as soon as possible. The lab in MLIB 003 is open daily from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Student staff are also available to help faculty enable courses as well as copying content.

The number to call TLP for phone assistance is x6167. The TLP lab is in the basement of Meriam Library and is housed in MLIB 003.