About Phil Gaiser

Instructional Designer for Distance Learning and Instructional Media Services at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Distance Learning Studio Tour

Located in the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, the Distance Learning studio is a fully functional classroom with the capability of audio and video recording. It has the ability to not only record your lectures, but record your PowerPoint, documents, and whatever else you show to your class. Every semester we have at least one faculty member who holds class within the studio and records their lectures to use in the future.

Below is a video that we put together with the hope of showcasing some of the technology that is available to faculty members and others who wish to use our studio.

I would also like to mention and thank Robert Vessenmeyer and Timi Hager for helping put this video together.

If you have any more questions about the DL studio, feel free to contact one of us here in Distance Learning and we would be happy to help. I am also available to emcee all dinner parties, award shows, and revolutions you might be having in the future.


Plagiarism, whether you agree with it or not, is a hot button issue in both the professional and academic world. Someone is always looking for the easy way out when writing a paper. Unfortunately, people will turn to plagiarism in order to make it easy for them.

According to Merriam-Webster, plagiarism is defined as “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own.” In other words, you are stealing someone’s work and stamping your name on it. Plagiarism is a terrible thing that a lot of people do. Whether it is out of laziness or lack of creativity I’m not sure. One thing I do know is that there is many ways people plagiarize.

Before I get into that though, I’d like to share my own personal experiences. I have never plagiarized in a major assignment that I had to turn into school. Granted, I may have barely paraphrased a sentence or two in my day, but never on such an obscene level. At USF, if I were to plagiarize and get caught, I could have a ‘FF’ added to my records. A ‘FF’ is the worst thing possible. Not only would people see that I failed a course, but that I failed it due to cheating.

It was beat into my head. “Don’t plagiarize or you’ll ruin your academic career” they would yell at me. Every paper, essay, or short answer I ever wrote was painstakingly looked over to make sure that I didn’t accidentally copy anything. I appreciated what they were doing for me, but I began to think to myself if it was too much. I get it; plagiarism is bad, really bad. However, sometimes it crippled me to the point that I wrote terrible papers.

I share this because I want to share my story with faculty members. If you have classes where you have your students write a lot of papers, then explain to them what it means to plagiarize. Give them some resources that they can study so they can learn without the panic. You don’t know how much of a difference it can make when you tell someone “hey, it’s okay. Do this and you’ll be fine.”

Now that that’s out of the way, here are the top 10 types of Unoriginal Work!

  1. Cloning
  2. CTRL – C
  3. Find – Replace
  4. Remix
  5. Recycle
  6. Hybrid
  7. Mashup
  8. 404 Error
  9. Aggregator
  10. Re-Tweet

The full list provided by Turn it in provides some great reporting on these types. They do a far better job of explaining it then I ever could. Follow the link below to check out the full report!

Turn it in 10 Types of Unoriginal Work


According to Wikipedia, typeface is designed as a set of characters that share common design features. Typeface is usually represented by things like style, condensations, width, slant, and ornamentation (among other things). The text on your document, presentation, or website is the crux of your item. People need to be able to read the information that you are presenting!

Much like the information she gave on color palettes, Bianca Woods at Learning Solutions 2013 gave some great information on using typeface in your documentation. Unfortunately, I did learn that despite my best efforts I will probably not be bringing back Comic Sans to the mainstream. Kidding aside, typeface is very important when publishing material online. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing a typeface.

Serif vs. Sans-Serif

Both serif and sans-serif fonts have their individual uses. Serif fonts are categorized by the end-caps (actually called “Serifs”) that are placed on individual letters. Serif fonts allow some people to read material quicker as well. Examples of serif fonts include the following:

  • Cambria
  • Georgia
  • Times New Roman

Sans-serif fonts do not have those end-caps at the end of their letters. Sans-serif fonts also tend to have less line width than serif fonts. Some examples of sans-serif fonts include:

  • Arial
  • Calibri
  • Verdana

This image helps to delineate the two:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Which font do you use then? Typically, serif fonts are great for paper materials, while sans-serif fonts are the more popular choice for computers, tablets, and phones. Keep this in mind when choosing your fonts! I recommend that you should use one of each (serif and sans-serif) when creating your materials. Find two that complement each other and it can add a nice touch to your materials.


Emphasis can be hard to get across in text. If you had to guess what someone’s go-to strategy for emphasis was, what do you think it would be?


There are plenty of ways beside all capital letters to grab someone’s attention. Here are some tips:

Emphasis Dos:

  • Use bigger sizes to highlight titles and paragraphs. I’m not saying a massive size like 72pt though. Something a few points higher will do the job just fine.
  • Use bold or italics (bold more specifically in my opinion). The darker and stronger the font on screen/paper, the more likely someone’s eye will move to it. The italics also add a nice touch.

Emphasis Do Not’s:

  • Do not use underlining. When someone sees an underline online they automatically assume a hyperlink. Underlining will just cause confusion.
  • Do not use different colors. As awesome as hot pink or neon green is, this can cause issues with readability. Also, using crazy colors will make your website/presentation inaccessible to those with vision impairments.

I hope that you have found these tips helpful. Give some new typefaces a chance! See what you like and see what you can read. A nice typeface can really spice up a presentation.


Graphics are a big part of anyone’s course. I mean, who doesn’t love a great looking picture?

The biggest problem you should consider when choosing graphics though is basic: how does this graphic look? I know it might sound obvious, but that is a serious consideration. When choosing graphics for your document, LMS, or presentation, you should consider the validity and functionality of the graphic. You may have found a really great picture of a cat or a sunset to use in your course. Does that image really apply to your course though?

Here are some things to consider when you choose a graphic:

  1. What is its purpose – when choosing a graphic it is important to keep your learning objectives and other materials in mind. If you are teaching a course on American History, you may not want to show a picture of something like whales unless it really applies to what you are teaching.
  2. How does it look – A graphic that ‘pops’ out at you is great, but if it’s too flashy you may distract your audience. Flashy images pose too much of a problem, especially with students who may need to use a screen reader to understand your image. The images you choose should be great looking, but also clear looking.
  3. Do I have permission to use this graphic – This is a big one. Permission and citation are hot button issues in academia. It is very important that you don’t steal someone else’s imagery and use it as your own without permission. If you can’t obtain permission, then there are plenty of websites you can find images to use for free (which I will talk about next!).

So where can you find graphics to use in your course? Below is a short list of places.

Google Images

Google Images is a great place to find graphics. However, keep in mind that not every image is free to use. Lucky for you there are plenty of images on it to use. If you want to search for images that are fair use, you can do so by choosing that option while searching. The image below shows you how to do so:

These are the steps to finding free to use images on Google Images.

These are the steps to finding free to use images on Google Images.

By clicking on the gear icon you can bring up advanced search options. If you scroll to the bottom you will see the drop down menu labeled ‘usage rights.’ From there you can begin to search for images covered by fair use.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a website that allows for convenient access to search services provided by other organizations. Search results generated by CC are almost always free to use and you do not need to obtain permission to use what you find. In addition to images, CC also searches for other media like video and music.

Creative Commons allows you to search through many different websites that host media. Some examples include Google, YouTube, and Flickr. After typing into the search bar what you want to look for, simply click on the service you wish to use and CC will bring you to it with a list of media that is available. It’s a great tool because it has so many different websites centralized in one location.

Wikimedia Commons

Much like creative commons, Wikimedia allows for searching of free to use media. I have found Wikimedia to be lacking in quantity in some areas, but it more than makes up for it in quality. Many of the images I have found are of great quality and I have used plenty from this website. If you are looking for primarily educational images then I would definitely recommend Wikimedia.

Finally, in regards to images, I also recommend using a color palette generator with your image for your presentation. If you have a title image that you want to use that really speaks for the presentation, you might consider using a color palette based off that image so the rest of your presentation flows. That isn’t a necessity though. If you do decide to use one though you should go back to my posting about color palettes to help you choose a style!

Learning Objectives

Have you ever been to one of our Distance Learning Instructional Design series? If so, you’ve probably heard me talk about learning objectives. Learning objectives are a great tool to use when building your course. Frankly, they are great to use period.

A learning objective is a description of a performance you want learners to be able to exhibit before you consider them proficient. It basically describes an intended result of instruction.

Learning objectives are both important for teacher and student. For the teacher, they are great in the selection of content and teaching strategies. Learning objectives also help in the development of assessments and the evaluation of student achievement. For the student, learning objectives provide a “road map” for learning. They also provide a clear idea on what students are going to be assessed on.

There are many tips and tricks that you can follow when creating learning objectives. However, the following steps are a good path to take when writing learning objectives:

1. Completes this sentence:

  • Upon completion of this course/module, students will be able to (DO SOMETHING).

2. Begins with an action verb.

  • The “Bloom’s Taxonomy Action Verbs” provide a list of action verbs to spur your creativity in choosing both a measurable and precise verb.

3. Precisely describes behavior that can be observed or evaluated, (is measurable)

There are a lot of different Taxonomies that educators use to create learning objectives. However, we as educators tend to go with Bloom’s Taxonomy. It’s been around for several decades and continues to be a great tool to use when creating learning objectives.

One thing to keep in mind when creating learning objectives for your course though, and I can’t stress this enough, is that your objectives must be measurable. The objectives you create must have some sort of measurable quality to them. They must also be measured and assessed via your course assessments as well. If you were to create learning objectives that couldn’t be measured by the assessments you give then you would create misalignment in your course. The materials, learning objectives, and assessments within your course need to support each other to be considered ‘aligned.’ In other words, everything in your course has to match up to everything else.

Also keep in mind that if you are striving for QM certification you must meet all five points in the learning objective standard (Standard 2). Learning objectives are no joke in an online setting. They provide the voice of the class. Your voice. Students will be looking to you for direction in an online setting, and using learning objectives go a long way in making that voice clear.

If you would like to learn more about learning objectives please feel free to sign up for our Distance Learning Instructional Design series! We host it about once or twice a semester (including Summer!). As more dates are added for our series, please check back here for more information on it.

Social Media

When you hear the term ‘Social Media,’ what do you think about?

In its most basic sense, social media is online interaction and materials created by people. There are many definitions that people use to describe social media. One definition I like the most comes from Jane Bozarth and her book Social Media for Trainers. She defines social media as “online material produced by the public, which is distinct from content produced by professional writers, journalists, or generated by the industrial or mass media.”

What people seem to forget is that social media is more than just Facebook or Twitter. Social media includes things like blogs, wikis, YouTube, and anything else that can be created by you and placed online. Social media allows for continued interaction from anywhere at any time. There is a ton of potential to use social media in an educational setting as well.

So where do you start?

I’m going to outline a few social media outlets that you can test drive. Why not give them a shot to see if you like them?


You would be hard-pressed to find a major celebrity, news anchor, or entertainment outlet that doesn’t use Twitter. In my opinion Twitter has the worst reputation of all the social media outlets. While you only have 140 characters worth of words to use, people seem to spend that precious amount on ridiculous things.

However, the potential for real-time interaction can’t be ignored. Given the right place and time, you could literally have instant responses to your questions. For example, say you wanted to contact someone around the globe about something in their home country. You could send them a ‘tweet’ and they could respond in minutes to your question. I think a great way to use Twitter would be to use it in this way. You could compile a list of questions and ask them via Twitter to someone who isn’t within your reach. You could then make those questions into an individual transcript to have or give to someone else. Granted you could just e-mail someone, but with Twitter you can include others and have real-time interaction as well.


What Twitter is to celebrities, Facebook is to the common person. Over 1 billion people use Facebook at the moment (that is nearly 14% of the world’s population). People use Facebook for all sorts of social interaction. Friends can share photos, videos, stories, and other general information with each other. It’s a great tool that can reconnect lost friendships as well.

One aspect of Facebook that is popular is the ‘group’ function. In Facebook you can create a group that is hosted by you where you can invite others. This group can be labeled as private or open to the public at your discretion. In this group you can share everything I mentioned above, including links to things like documents that people can download. It’s a nice little private space that you can bring people together and chat at any time. You also have the ability to live chat with those in your group as well!


You probably know about the basics of a blog because you found ours. In a nutshell, blogs provide an online space for posting ideas. Typically a blog is used for posting text. However, on most blogs these days you can at least add pictures and embed video. There are many blogs out there, especially in politics, that provide information on a wide array of topics. While blogs don’t provide the real-time interaction you get with other social media, blogging is still a great tool to use. Websites like Blogger and WordPress allow for easy creation and sharing of blogs.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to use a blog is for journal entries or project presentations. During my undergraduate days I had a class where I had project that required me to interview a small business owner. I then had to take that interview and create a blog from it to share with my classmates. We had to go to each others blogs and post questions to each other. It was basically a conversation we had online through the blogging website. It was a really fun project and provided a lot of opportunity for outside communication.

While social media can be scary or wasteful, I truly believe that it can be used for better things. Social media can bring people together in ways that weren’t possible before. It has the potential to take people from all over the world and bring them to your fingertips. If you are interested in using social media then do some research. Go out there and find out what might be the best fit for you. Trust me when I say that the possibilities are endless.


If you intend on using social media in your classroom, please be aware of Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) laws. If you have any questions about FERPA please check out the following links:

FERPA via Ed.gov

FERPA Overview



Bozarth, Jane. 2010. Social Media for Trainers. San Francisco, CA. Pfeiffer publishing.

Color Palettes

Choosing a color palette for your presentation can be a challenging task. On the one hand you want to have a dynamic presentation with awesome looking colors. On the other hand though, you don’t want a presentation full of hot pinks and incredibly bright yellows. It’s never good practice to make your PowerPoint look like a pack of highlighters.

At Learning Solutions I attended a session hosted by Bianca Woods. She is an Instructional and Graphic Designer based out of Canada. She gave a great session on graphic design tips for all sorts of projects. Bianca talked about everything from typeface to graphics and color. One tool she highlighted in her presentation was a color palette generator. The one she highlighted in particular was from a website called DeGrave.com. It’s a cool little website that has a lot of tools you can use in graphic design.

The way the color palette generator works is by using pictures that already exist to generate your colors. Take this example on the website:

This is a screenshot of a color palette generator website. It currently shows a beach color palette.

This is the default picture listed on the website.

A picture from the beach was uploaded to the website. Using the colors that were present, the generator created a palette from it. It also gave two variations of the palette.

The original purpose of the tool was to come up with a website color scheme that matches a stock photo a client wants to work with. However, the tool easily translates to a PowerPoint as well! If you have an opening photo that you really want to use, you can upload it here and find a palette to match it.

Take a look at a photo I used:

This is a screenshot of a color palette generator website. It currently shows a purple color palette.

This is a photo I used.

I have to mention a few things about this tool. If you use a picture that is too large in dimension (usually bigger than 1280×768) or too small (lower than 640×480) the tool won’t generate a palette. However, if you have to use that picture, there are plenty of other tools out there that can help!

Check out the Color Palette Generator here!