Thursday, January 31, 2013

Baking Bread: Five Essential Ingredients To Online Education

Suzan Harkness Ph.D., Director of the Center for Academic Technology,

University of the District of Columbia and ACE Fellow, Mount St. Mary’s University Class of 2012-2013

No matter how endowed or respected the institution, there are five essential elements of equal importance that bind together to affect the functioning of the other in a successful online initiative. Successful online initiatives require a basic understanding of how core elements work together and separately to create a sound and successful online education program or college. Building a successful online model is much like baking bread – there are really five key ingredients that make or break the recipe.

Flour – Flour provides the foundation for all other ingredients – Colleges and universities need a sound strategic plan, supportive infrastructure, policies and procedures, and dedicated budget to support the strategic initiative.

Yeast – Yeast is a living organism that grows and reproduces – Colleges and universities need their strategy and key administrators, faculty and staff to grow the initiative through peer review, peer-to-peer learning, collegial collaboration, collaborative support structures and shared services, vision, and continual improvement. A program, staff, faculty, and vision in the technological paradigm that does not grow and stay current will rapidly become out-of-date and insignificant.

Liquid – When liquid is added to the flour it causes the gluten to form long elastic strands with kneading. This represents a commitment to student success across a comprehensive learning environment that begins when a student shows initial interest in the college or university by visiting its webpage all the way through graduation and alumni relations. How institutional employees who come in contact with the student population support students, is fundamental to student success, time to degree, matriculation, career preparedness, well-being, and learning.

Salt – Salt provides balance and flavor, it also slows down the yeast process and controls the way the bread will rise. Dedicated faculty and instructional designers are the introspective salt in any successful online initiative. Faculty and instructional designers balance actions to safeguard high quality course design and delivery. Their work is to ensure that the best interests of student learning and institution integrity are at the forefront of every step. Moreover, the diversity of faculty, majors, programs and sharp thinking, provide ample opportunity to thoughtfully and with great purpose, implement online delivery strategies in collaboration with administrators.

Fat – Fat coats and tenderizes the gluten and gives bead the elasticity it needs to reach its full potential. Without fat, the gluten would keep expanding to a breaking point and collapse. As much as some look with animosity toward the administration and finance/budget office, without a fiscal plan, oversight, and careful financial planning, any initiative could easily grow out of control, expand in areas without a return on investment, and undermine an otherwise successful model.

Keeping these five key elements in mind and attending to the manner in which each is added, supported, recognized, and rewarded will help ensure a successful online initiative.

© Harkness 2013: To contact the author, email:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Four Useful Resources

Reposted from: The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2013.

Below find four instructional resources to help you in your academic or creative work.

BioDigitalHuman -

BioDigital Human presents a virtual 3D body that brings to life "thousands of medically accurate anatomy objects and health conditions in an interactive web-based platform." Visitors can get started by clicking on the appropriately named Get Started button. Here they will have access to hundreds of interactive features and customized views that look through all of the body systems. Moving on, the Annotated Screenshots area will teach users how to save and share these powerful tools for use in a range of settings. It's worth noting that while the Basic version is completely free, there are other levels of functionality available for a fee.

GetBodySmart -

This remarkable online textbook was created by the folks at McGraw Hill Higher Education to complement several of their physical textbooks. The site contains eleven subject areas, including Skeletal System, Muscle Tissue Physiology, and Nervous System. Each of these fascinating areas contains interactive animations, along with elaborate links to additional resources, such as quizzes, fact sheets, and so on. Visitors should also note that the site contains other versions of this same material designed to be used on the iPad. The site is rounded out by a collection of anatomy and physiology quizzes that cover everything from the clavicle to the lumbar vertebrae.

Codeacademy -

Have you ever had a problem or found coding complicated? Allow Codeacademy to lift the veil on the mystery behind coding. On the site, visitors can immediately get started by typing in a username. After this, visitors can click on a Learn area to find out more about programming for JavaScript, Python, Ruby, and jQuery. An area at the bottom of the main page links to HTML/CSS lessons. Visitors with adroit skills can click on the Teach area to get involved with creating new code teaching modules. The site also contains a link to After-School Programming which will help young people get started with creating a programming club at their school. Finally, the site also features a Stories area, which features inspirational stories from people who have used the Codeacademy website.

BrowserBite -

The BrowserBite application gives web designers the ability to test out their designs on different browsers without much fuss. This application uses complex image processing algorithms to detect differences in snapshots captured through different browsers. It's a rather useful tool, and the free version gives users access to browsers such as Chrome and Firefox. This version is compatible with all operating systems.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dropbox for Storage and Easy Access

Dropbox is a web based cloud storage system that will allow you to save files on one computer and access them from any other personal computer or mobile smartphone. Whenever you create a document or file and upload it to the Dropbox, the file is instantly made available on your other internet accessible Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices. Dropbox eliminates the need for carrying files around on a zip or thumb drive or emailing them to yourself.

Dropbox is likely to appeal to a wide variety of users, becoming one of those resources you quickly begin to wonder how you did without. How can you know if Dropbox is right for you? A few key questions to ask yourself are:

Do you need to collaborate with other faculty or students on a project? Collaboration is one of the best and most exciting features of Dropbox. Team members may collaborate on a project from literally anywhere in the world and ensure that changes made to any project documents or files are instantly available to all team members.

Are you working with large or frequently expanding data or project files and simply need more storage space? It can be frustrating trying to frequently determine how much additional storage space you need for ever expanding files. Do you need 500gbs, 1TB or 100TB? How much is enough?

Are you tired of trying to keep track of what is on your mobile drives? Keeping track of multiple thumb, zip or jump drives, external hard drives and the like can become cumbersome not to mention expensive if you have to continually buy more of these items. Cloud storage services such as Dropbox eliminate this problem by providing one point of access for all of your storage needs across ALL of your internet accessible computing devices.

Are you concerned about data lost due to computer accidents? Computer accidents do happen. From power surges to lattes spilled on laptops, unexpected accidents can make data retrieval a major headache. While Dropbox won’t keep you from spilling that Latte on your keyboard, it may save you the headache of data retrieval by providing quick and secure access to all files you have stored on its cloud server.

Are you concerned about your tablet, smartphone, or mobile drive being lost or stolen along with all your data? Well today there are numerous resources such as Prey, Lookout Security and others, that will help you to retrieve these items if they are lost. But, with Dropbox, retrieving your valuable files and information is easy – they are right where you put them. Anything you upload to the Dropbox is accessible from the Dropbox server – anytime.

Are you travelling and want to ensure that you have access to your conference paper or presentation? While many people simply email a copy of the item to oneself when travelling - Dropbox eliminates the need for the “email backup” strategy. Using the cloud provides a safe, secure, easily accessible virtual file cabinet for all of your work.

Dropbox is free and comes with 2 GB of space which one may use for an unlimited time. Those requiring more space may purchase up to 100GB of space, or teams and administrative groups may access 1TB or more.

To download a free copy of Dropbox or to learn more about this helpful resource, please go to

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Web 2.0 Tools and Resources for 2013

Word Clouds - graphically display textual information based on word frequency.

Wordle -

Uses: Summarizing articles, highlighting key points, summarizing course notes.

Visualization Tools - provides alternate means to display information, temporally, graphically, or spatially.

The Visual Thesaurus - is an interactive dictionary and thesaurus which creates word maps that bloom with meanings and branch to related words. Its innovative display encourages exploration and learning. - is an online service that lets you create, share, discover infographics and online charts

Uses: language and vocabulary development, definitions, brain storming, collaboration, presentation.

File Conversion/exchange- convert, compress, synch and share file types between different formats via the Internet.

Zamzar - allows users to convert files for free without downloading a software tool.

Yousendit – Send, synch and securely send your files.

Youconvertit - allows users to convert and share files.

Uses: file conversion, video extraction, file compression

Concept/Mind Maps- Allows users to brainstorm ideas, organize information, solve problems, plan projects, write, study, collaborate, and communicate more effectively. Shows relationships between entities (words, ideas, tasks)

Webspiration™ -

Mindmeister - -

Uses: setting objectives, brainstorming activities, organizing information, identifying cues, summarize notes, visual thinking, collaboration, process management, write, study, and communicate.

Screencasting—record and share your computer screen with voice, mouse movements. - - -

Screen-o-matic -

Uses: share ideas instantly, create demos for repeated activities; demonstrate grading policies, review quizzes, class summaries/announcements, helpdesk support, advising, and registration.

URL Shortened- take really long URL's and shorten them for easier consumption and redirection. Bookmark, organize, and share.

TinyURL -

Uses: URL shortened for online assignments, share links in class, soft assessments (track number of students who accessed link), organize and bookmark.

Document Sharing—tag, share, and annotate documents with others. These sites and applications allow you to upload documents, share, annotate, and collaborate via the Internet. - - -

Google Docs

Uses: sharing, collaborating, annotation skills, class resources, providing supplemental materials.

Blogs - An online journal or collaboration tool which allows users to share media as well as text with minimal HTML experience. – - -

PBWorks -

Edu Blogs -

Uses: Assignment self-reflections, posting supplementary materials embedding sound, video, documents critical response, course notes and build community.

Wikis—a website which allows for the creation and editing of linked web pages by multiple users simultaneously. Collaboration and participation allow multiple people to have access to a shared workspace. -

Wikispaces -

Uses: Peer review, collaborative writing assignments, resource collections, group work, reading summaries.

Social Bookmarking/Online Notebooks – create, store organize, and share online repositories of URLs, clippings from web pages, images, and more, all accessible via the web Sites. - -

delicious - -

Google Reader

Uses: Peer review, collaborative writing assignments, resource collections, storage, organization, reading summaries, literature reviews, and data aggregation.

Visual Communication/Collaboration-- Use media to collaborate with students and vice versa. The ability to manage these efforts is made easier. - - -

Uses: Peer review, collaborative writing assignments, resource collections, reading summaries

Feedback Tools-- facilitate the collection of data from students in an online environment. The participatory nature of the Internet mandates two way communications. -

poll everywhere - -

Doodle -

Socrative -

Google Forms

Uses: Gather student/group responses, assess progress/readiness, collect student data, rapid feedback,  assessments/reflection, and scheduling.

Comic Creations - The fastest way to build comics strips.

Toondoo -

Uses: express creative works, student community building, and online introductions.

Speaking Avatars - Create voice over animated discussions or voice threads.

Voki -

Uses: Motivate students, increase participation, Improve comprehension, address language skills, increase comfort using technology.

Scavenger Hunts

Goose Chase -

Scvngr -

Uses: Team Building, Reinforce Course content, Fun

Flashcards - collaborative flash card web app that allows users to create flashcards for review. There are ready made flash cards in a pool, often organized by topics. Some may be used on smart phones.

Cobocards -

Quizlet- -

Used: reinforces learning through study, games, and memorization.

Video Creation – Create videos


Uses: Users are able to mix relevant messaging, statistics and quotes among the pictures or videos to educate and inspire.

Screen Sharing - Opportunity to share your desktop and screen with others. -

TodaysMeet -

Uses: Help service, narration, navigation and resource sharing.



Gizmodo - to stay on top of Apps and new tools to the market.

Mashable - to learn about technology in general.

Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies to understand the pedagogy of teaching with new technology and to quickly identify the latest and newest ranked applications.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Online Dictation Made Easy

Happy New year! Are you looking for an online dictation program to start your New Year off right? If so, look no further than Online Dictation for use with Google Chrome. This FREE dictation program allows users the ability to convert their spoken voice into digital text with little fuss. Visitors to the application just need to attach a microphone to their computers to allow the program to pick up their voices. This version is compatible with all computers running Google Chrome. What a great way to create a transcript to pair with your spoken words - especially useful for online, hybrid, and computer enhanced traditional classes. Use it to write a long email, narrate an essay or speech, provide student feedback, or transcribe any message. For more information, go to: