BlendKit Reading response for Week 4

This week’s topic is blended content and assignments, another good reading. I liked the emphasis on integrating the online and face-to-face components of the course to make one, seamless experience for the students. There was a helpful discussion of learning activities with and without technology. I’d say the many apps and sites and services under the heading of Technique (How) only scratched the surface of what’s out there. In fact,, an outliner site/service, was mentioned on NPR on Monday.

BlendKit Course Badge

In other, synchronicitous news, there was an article in Science Magazine reporting that lectures aren’t just boring–they’re ineffective. Active learning trumps passive learning any day. The more the brain is engaged in the process the better it learns.

And it was good timing that I also attended a Blackboard webinar on badges today. Lots of ways to make learning more engaging and active and rewarding! I’ve actually earned 12 badges so far in this MOOC, and one of them is displayed above. Badges may now be awarded in Blackboard too, and our OWU Blackboard is currently getting an upgrade to Service Pack 14 (all the way from SP 6!) Come fall, I’ll be doing a lot more to promote the use of Blackboard features to make courses more blended and more engaging.

Are Liberal Arts colleges insulated from current higher ed trends?

I attended a webinar on the new Blackboard Store today and found that it’s not what I expected–yet another app store–but an online bookstore with other course materials available. These materials would be exclusively for the courses the student is enrolled in. This makes sense as the next logical progression from Blackboard’s publisher integrations. It also appears they’re trying to cut Ginkgotree out by developing a similar platform native to Bb.


What gave me pause for reflection was the current trends the rep from MBS Direct (Bb’s store development partner) cited as the context for the launch of the store. It’s all stuff I’ve been hearing a lot of over the last few years:

  • Whole industries are shifting from a single, persistent source for informationĀ (or a very few) to multiple channels and multiple modalities, indeed whole new environments. He spoke of a single rock radio station per town in the 1970’s to multiple radio stations, satellite radio, digital downloads, Spotify, Pandora, internet radio, and more. We’re all familiar with these trends in music, movies, and news.

  • In higher education we have growing adjunct and part-time faculty contingents, and shrinking percentages of tenure-track faculty.

  • At the same time there are shrinking percentages of traditional students, with growing percentages of non-traditional students. So the most common type of student nowadays is one who is also working and/or raising a family while attending college.

I got to thinking how different it is at small, residential Liberal Arts colleges than at big state schools and community colleges, what to speak of for-profit, online schools. Here at OWU we still use tenure-track faculty primarily. Our students are predominantly 18-22, and the vast majority of them live and work (if they hold a job at all) on campus. We pride ourselves on having small class sizes in which students and teachers can really get to know one another.

And yet, are our students likewise insulated from these big trends affecting the rest of higher education? I doubt it. Do they increasingly prefer digital over print? Are they increasingly finding multiple sources for study help, for research materials, etc. outside of the campus library, beyond the library’s website? Are more and more of them getting their textbooks and course materials somewhere other than the campusĀ Bookstore? And are they bringing mobile technology with them and accessing course materials, official collegeĀ email, etc. on these devices? Remember, they are young millennials.

Our teaching and assessing practices need to adapt not so much to the trends in the rest of higher ed, but they should definitely adapt to the changing learning and study habits of our students, who are digital natives.

YAOS – Yet Another Online Store

Blackboard, the mammoth, monolithic LMS is announcing “a new resource that further simplifies the teaching and learning experience: the Blackboard Store(TM).” I can’t imagine how offering students or faculty another store with another expanding collection of apps/building blocks/publisher integrations/service providers is going to further simplify the teaching and learning experience. Here in the U.S. we’re paralyzed by the paradox of choice, and higher education is no exception.

Blackboard Logo

“Study hard. Shop easy.”

SafeAssign fails faculty demo

Plagiarism prevention services produce only so-so results…

After last month’s discussion of plagiarism at our Teaching Circle, I was asked to demonstrate the use of SafeAssign, theĀ plagiarism prevention service offered by Blackboard in its Blackboard Learning System. I was happy to do so.

On Tuesday, I grabbed a few sample papers from the Internet and ran them through SafeAssign’s scan. One was from, one from Hacker Handbooks, and one from Dr. Cecilia Barnbaum’s page at Valdosta State‘s web site. The scan matching results wereĀ 100%, 100%, and 100% respectively. The faculty present were pleased with the results and with how it worked. The suspected sources included student papers from other institutions, as well as the Internet.

For Wednesday’s circle I decided to use documents that would better demonstrate SafeAssign’s capabilities. The first document was a sample exam full of random questions, such as What color is the sky? What is Lady Gaga’s given, birth name? How many windows are there in the Pentagon? and What is Pi, to the 10th digit? The second document was the EarthDance Delaware press release from 2011. And the third document was a “random sample essay paper” I composed from a variety of sources, the full text of which is posted below. The scan matching results were 13%, 24%, and 43%, respectively. (These results may have been slightly different during the presentation, as they’ve been rescanned several times since.)

The results this time around were not only disappointing, but perplexing.

Continue reading “SafeAssign fails faculty demo”

Food for thought and further conversation

Will the Digital Revolution finally transform higher education? That’s a topic of much speculation and enthusiastic debate.Ā Adrian Sannier, in the latest Educause Review, asks “If not now, when?”

I like how he describes the industry of education improving faster and more dramatically than individual people are capable of, instead of individual teachers improving over the course of their careers at human scale. That’s exciting, especially given that we’re a part of making it happen.

His discussion of education moving beyond the LMS was especially pertinent, as OWU has just begun (and I will be coordinating) a discussion on that very matter. Ā And rather than starting with the question of what’s better and cheaper than Blackboard, we started (as Instructional Technologists are prone to do) by backing up and asking what educational objectives we are trying to enhance with technology. Taking this approach allows us to then ask whether another LMS–which some see as a behemoth of an ERP that strives to be all things to all users–or a best-of-class approach–utilizing different systems for different tasks–would be better for us.

We’re just wrapping up a multi-year ERP migration where we moved from a monolithic Jenzabar system to five new systems for different departments. Doing something different (than Blackboard) for edtech would fit right in with OWU 2.0.

…but we’ll have to see how the conversation proceeds…


Bandwidth is a technical term indicating the maximum amount of information (bits/second) that can be transmitted along a channel or data connection. The term is also used loosely to indicate how much workload a person can handle in their day-to-day duties.

I could say I haven’t had the bandwidth to blog lately due to time-consuming projects, such as the Blackboard upgrade and updating our classroom inventory.Ā Yet blogging is an important medium for communication with my constituents, peer colleagues at other institutions, and the world. It’s simply a matter of making it a priority and making time for it.

This semester I’ve made it a priority to attend the Psychological Foundations of Education class. This has been a good exposure to a typical course here at OWU, and one that integrates a a fair amount of technology: PowerPoint is almost always used for presenting material, and the presentations often include video. The Blackboard course is available and is where course documents can be found. (I’ve accessed it via the Blackboard Mobile app on my iPad.) Ā The document projector is sometimes used. The course is taught in Phillips 210, where there is a SMART Board, but the interactive features of that are not used in this course.

It will be interesting to discuss with the instructor ways that she might utilize technology more in this class. However, it’s been eye-opening to simply observe her teach and interact with the students. It’s given me a deeper appreciation for the time it takes to prepare and present a lesson. I typically teach stand-alone workshops that last up to an hour and a half. She’s teaching 50-minute sessions three times a week for 16 weeks, and that’s just one of her classes.

It’s understandable if faculty don’t want to start something new in the midst of a semester. They may not have the bandwidth to give it the attention required with everything else they’re already doing. I’m here to support what they’re already doing, and to be available when they’re ready to learn something new.

My first workshop this semester is Thursday at noon, and will cover the new apps in BishopApps, including Blogger.