QM Course Certification for USFSP Faculty

ImageThe Distance Learning and Instructional Media Services department of the Nelson Poynter Library is thrilled to announce that Dr. Barbara Jolley’s second course has met the highest national standards and was awarded the QM seal of the Quality Matters Program.

Dr. Jolley’s Cultural Studies and Popular Arts (LIT3301) is now on the list of award-winning courses from colleges and universities across the nation. This course makes number six to receive QM certification for USF St. Petersburg. Earlier this month Dr. Jolley’s Twentieth Century Literature (LIT 3155) course also received QM certification.

The QM seal of recognition will now be proudly displayed in Dr. Jolley’s online course. Additionally this course will be listed on QM’s site, bringing positive exposure to USFSP’s College of Arts and Science and to the campus.

QM’s review process is designed and implemented by faculty who teach online courses throughout the U.S. to ensures quality and alignment with accreditation standards and best practices in online learning. USFSP first joined QM in 2010 as a way to assist faculty with the development of high quality online courses.

Please contact the Nelson Poynter Library’s Instructional Media Services department for more information about QM and to learn how this program can assist you with your online course development and refinement.

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This Week’s Distance Learning Professional Development Schedule (Jan 29th, 2014) ….

Compfight, add visual inspiration to your online courses – Tuesday, January 28, 2pm-3pm, POY 234.
Collaborate, web conferencing in Canvas – Thursday, January 30, 12pm-1pm, POY 234.

We hope you will join us!

Distance Learning Professional Development Spring Catalog: PDSpringCatalogv2

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Pearson My Labs: Accessibility Tips and Updates

George Mason University recently offered and has archived a webinar about recent accessibility updates from Pearson Higher Education North America.

Topics include:

  • Discussion on the accessibility of MyMathLab, MyITLab, and MyWritingLab, all with live demonstrations.
  • Broader information sharing for other MyLabs
  • Introduction of accessible HTML eBooks across several disciplines
  • Explanation of various workarounds that can be provided
  • What should be coming in 2014

View the archived webinar using the link on the right hand side of GMU’s Assistive Technology Initiative Website.

Typeface

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

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?

YEP. IT’S ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. SURE, I’M MAKING IT A POINT THAT YOU READ THIS, BUT DOESN’T IT FEEL LIKE I’M YELLING AT YOU? DO YOU REALLY WANT TO READ A TEXTBOOK OR POWERPOINT THAT YELLS AT YOU? WHAT?

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

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.

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!