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!

Why Storytelling Works for E-Learning

Recently I had the opportunity to read an excellent article on “Why You Need To Use Storytelling For Learning” from the eLearning coach blog. I happened upon this blog shortly after rereading a web document about Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. Ideas were bouncing around in my head about the way we build online courses to achieve learning objectives and how storytelling so aptly helps us achieve those objectives.

ImageIllustration by Milo Winter
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bloom’s lowest order of thinking skills, remembering, the basis of any educational experience, is so much easier to do when it is tied to a story that the listener can recall. Memorizing anything feels like work. Listening to a story is just fun. Understanding the context of the story draws us into the story and helps the viewer gain awareness of gray areas in order to broaden our perception when applying the subtleties in real world application.

Sometimes I wonder at our abilities to create meaningful discussions in our online classes, but today I marveled at technologies ability to foster a learning experience in a discussion board when I viewed a discussion in a one of the classes in the Digital Journalism and Design program at USF St. Petersburg, Digital Media and Democracy. The discussion was about Fact Checking and the pressure that the news industry faces when trying to be first to get on air with a story. This particular discussion has accumulated 95 responses in a class of 21. While it isn’t the numbers that I am excited about, even though if you were to count the number of students contributing in a discussion in a face to face class I don’t think you would ever hit 95 contributions, it is the quality of the responses and the ability to ferret out fine details through the use of video citations and relevant links that excites me.

One student added to the discussion by adding a link to a portion of a video from the movie Newsroom. In the video, the newsroom was responding to the Gabby Gifford shooting and was illustrating the internal dissension as to whether or not to report her dead, when other news agencies were reporting that unverified information. We sometimes forget about the impact of videos and their ability to communicate unique and powerful stories and their nuances. Understanding the pressure the news agencies are living, is communicated through character portrayal in a realistic setting with a current and heartbreaking story about real people. Relating the instructor provided materials of this module to this link to illustrate a point, would simply not have happened in a regular face to face classroom. The student would have had to come to class ready with the reference link to have added it to the discussion before the class ever took place. In Bloom-speak, he synthesized the material applying it to his own experience, before he created his own posting.  It brought the discussion alive to me, rendering an impression that transported the discussion into my life outside the classroom, to coworkers, friends and readers of this post.

The integration of stories whether by instructor, or by learner, help engage and make meaning. The eLearning Coach does a good job at reminding us of all the components that make stories so effective. If you have a minute pull up a seat and take a look here.


There is a good chance that most of you reading this have used a rubric in your life. Whether you have used one as a faculty member or as a student, a rubric typically has the same universal structure. The rubric you have used probably looks something like this:

A traditional Rubric.

A traditional Rubric.

Why use a rubric though? What purpose does it serve? You may have asked yourself that same question.

Ultimately, a rubric is a powerful tool for assessment. They help students become more thoughtful judges of the quality of their own work and others work as well. Rubrics also dramatically reduce the amount of time teachers spend on evaluating student work. Finally, they are easy to use and explain.

Typically, there are four parts to a rubric. Those four parts include the following:

  1. Task Description – Involves a “performance” of some sort by the student. The task can take the form of either a specific assignment or overall behavior.
  2. Scale – Describes how well or poorly any given task has been performed.
  3. Dimensions – This is where you lay out the parts of the task simply and completely. They should actually represent the type of component skills students must combine in a successful scholarly work.
  4. Description of the Dimensions – A rubric should contain at the very least a description or the highest level of performance in that dimension. However, you should strive to also create descriptions for all levels of performance.

You should also consider these steps when creating your own rubric:

  • Identify the characteristics of what you are assessing.
  • Describe the best and worst work you could expect using these characteristics (this describes the top category).
  • Describe an unacceptable product.
  • Develop descriptions of intermediate-level products and assign them to those categories.
  • Ask for colleague feedback!

Finally, after everything has been said and done, your rubric might look something like this:

This is an example of a complete rubric

This is an example of a complete rubric. Take note of the different criteria.

Your rubric could easily look different. It could have more dimensions, it might have a different scale, or you might now allow for comments at all. Your rubric should be tailored towards the information you are grading. Whatever your rubric looks like though, make sure it is well structured and easy to follow. Remember, chances are students will study these rubrics closely, so make sure you have a well-crafted one!

Some information and pictures based off the following:

Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback, and Promote Student Learning by Stevens and Levi 2005; Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education by Allen 2004; and Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses: shifting the focus from teaching to learning by Huba and Freed 2000

Important Statistics about the eLearning Market for 2013 – Infographic announced important eLearning Statistics for 2013.

The Top 10 statistics about the eLearning Market 2013 that should be highlighted are:

  1. eLearning is a $56.2 Billion business and is likely to double in size before 2015.
  2. The U.S. and Europe utilize 70% of the world’s eLearning, but Asia Pacific is gaining ground.
  3. The fastest growing eLearning markets are Vietnam and Malaysia.
  4. 77% of American Corporations use online learning.
  5. 72% of companies surveyed report that eLearning keeps them on top of their industry changes.
  6. In 2011, 51% of companies did at least one training session with eLearning to more than 50% of their employees.
  7. Corporations save 50-70% when they replace instructor-based training with eLearning.
  8. eLearning classes are generally 25-60% shorter in duration than traditional classes.
  9. 23% of employees leave their jobs because the position lacks opportunity for development and training.
  10. Online education is proven to increase knowledge retention by 25-60%.Image

What Personal Attributes Contribute to an Online Learner’s Success? | The Cengage Learning Blog

Most students entering an online learning program know the basic keys to success in education. After all, they have made it to college or graduate school — and perhaps even been at the top of their classes prior to arriving at their new institutions. However, the nature of online learning demands a particular set of skills, attitudes, and habits that lead to success — not to mention the self discipline necessary for programs that allow students to set their own schedule and work at their own pace. For this reason, even the most motivated and diligent students may find themselves at a loss when starting their careers as online learners.

Undoubtedly, you as an instructor are seeking ideas for making your online courses the best they can be. But what do the learners in your online courses need in order to achieve their fullest academic potential? In his new text Plugged In: Succeeding as an Online Learner, Joel A. English shares ten attributes of a successful online student, which we’ve presented below in a colorful infographic. If learners endeavor to adopt these ten attributes as their own, they’re certain to prepare themselves for a meaningful, effective, and engaging educational experience.

Would you like a closer look at these attributes, presented in a format you can share with your students? Download a full-size PDF of this infographic.

Structuring a Syllabus for an Online Course

A syllabus provides the students with a road map for the course.  The syllabus for a face-to-face course and an online course, can and should look somewhat different.

Online courses function differently than a traditional face-to-face course and students may need information that would not necessarily be included otherwise. Examples include:

  • Netiquette
  • Technology requirements
  • “Attendance” requirements
  • Prerequisite technology skills
  • and more!

When adapting a syllabus from a face-to-face course, or creating a completely new syllabus, use this document, Key Sections of a Syllabus for an Online Course (PDF), as a checklist to ensure that you are providing a comprehensive road map to your students.

You can also use it as a guide for creating a “Getting Started” module, or a course introduction video!

This resource document was adapted from:

Kelly, R. (2011). 11 Strategies for Managing Your Online Course. (pp. 5-6). Madison: Magna Publications, Inc.

Accommodations: Extended Time on Tests in Canvas

One of the most common accommodations that students with disabilities need is extended time on quizzes and exams. Providing this accommodation in Canvas is relatively simple and does not require you to alter the testing time for all students.

Follow this process to implement this accommodation in your course:

1. Click “Quizzes” on the left course menu

2. Click on the name of the exam/quiz you want to update for this student

3. Click “Moderate This Quiz” on the right side of the screen

moderate quiz button

4. Click the checkbox next to the student’s name on the list that appears

5. A button will appear that says “Change Extensions for 1 selected students”, click that (it may appear at the bottom of your list of students)

6. In menu that pops up, type the extra amount of time that student should get in addition to your currently allotted time in the box labeled “Extra Time on Every Attempt.”

For example, if your exam is timed for 90 minutes, and the student’s accommodation allows for double time, you would type “90” in that box.

7. Click Save


Repeat this process for all timed exams and quizzes within the course.