Category Archives: Online Teaching and Learning Tips

Online Faculty Fellows Showcase – January 2016

Congratulations to the Fall 2015 Online Faculty Fellows participants!  See our program web page and a list of participants here:

During January Celebration of Learning, participants shared before and after glimpses of their Online Fellows projects from fall 2015.  Here are a few tips taken from those presentations.

  1. Provide general technical resources for students in your Blackboard sites.  Link students to for guides for email, Blackboard, and academic support.
  2. Plan for a week of getting started and oriented activities.  Focus the first week’s activities on getting to know how the course works, and assessing students’ readiness for successfully completing your class.
  3. Carefully assess your content.  Do you have enough rigor to support the credit hours earned in the class?  Use the latest version of ICC’s Quality Online Course Initiative rubric (QOCI) to measure your weekly activity content.  See pages 3 and 4 of this document.
  4. Provide students with descriptions of units and explicit instructions on how to complete a unit, not just the content within the unit.
  5. Consider how you would teach this class in-person, then attempt to match the rigor and level of engagement through online delivery.  For example, if you teach a T/Th class, you’d interact in-person two times a week with students.  In an online class, you might simulate this by updating content and communication two times a week as well.
  6. Set dates so announcements that are no longer needed disappear from the main Announcements page, to avoid distractions and clutter (but keep the message on your Announcements page if needed).
  7. Use Announcements to preview upcoming events and weeks in the class.
  8. Have someone else take a tour through your site and provide feedback on the ease of navigation.  Make changes as needed.
  9. When possible replace text heavy content with more appealing and effective images.
  10. Aim to make your online class site “browsable”, like a good website.

OTAAG Oct 21, 2014

A great deal of online course content is text but accessible and easy-to-use tools are making it easier to capture video and audio.  Are you using capture tools already?  Are you interested in learning more about them?

If you’re not already using capture tools, think of that one concept or idea that you try to explain or reinforce using text but students still just “don’t get it”.  Now think of how much more effective presenting that idea or concept might be if you can demonstrate something on-screen for your students.  With capture tools you can put nearly anything into video/audio format.

  • Capture a software program and narrate how to use it
  • Display a map on screen and identify key locations by drawing on it
  • Work and explain steps of a problem

Here are some of the tools the ICC TLC staff members have worked with:
Screencast-O-Matic: (free account option, available online)
Snag-It: (software available in the Teaching and Learning Center, 240A)

There are several free and easy-to-use tools available but also some considerations you need to make when producing and sharing this type of content.  If you are interested in creating an enhanced experience for your online students and want to learn more about capturing tools, contact someone in the TLC, or 309-694-8908.

OTAAG Oct 9, 2014

This week’s topic is an extremely important one.  It’s relevant to teaching in any mode but a real challenge and point of potential weakness in online learning.

How do you verify and know that the work done in your online class is being completed by the student registered for the class?

For several years there has been a federal mandate to authenticate student identity through a specified method.  This method for ICC is the process by which our students are given an assigned username and password by the college to log in to Blackboard.  As long as we maintain a secure process to issue usernames and passwords, we meet the requirements of the federal mandate.  The liability is twofold.  The college must maintain the secure process to issue user credentials and the student must maintain the responsibility to keep those user credentials secure and private once he/she has them.

There are a variety of vendors wanting us to buy a commercial “solution” to identity verification.  There are video proctoring services where live proctors monitor webcams focused on students taking tests.  There are “biometric” solutions for capturing each user’s unique mouse usage.  There are fingerprint scanners to unlock content.  There are databases that ask security questions much like the ones your bank or credit card company would ask.  There are “lock down browsers” which stop a student from accessing content in a different program or browser on one computer.

I have seen the live webcam proctor in action and it seems to work for a testing environment. However, to me it’s not feasible to webcam monitor ALL of the work a student does, therefore at least a portion of the grade could be earned by someone else.  The biometric, fingerprint, or security question “locks” can be easily outsmarted.  I can unlock the content and then let you do the work!  And the lock down browser is fine when I am working on only one device, but a recent survey of ICC students indicated that over 80% of 180 student respondents have 2 or more web-enabled devices.  So while you’re locking me down in one computer, I just need my phone, laptop, tablet, or other web-enabled device to look up content in an “unlocked” environment.  And the no-print/no-copy code we used to use?  It takes only the camera on my cell phone to capture the on-screen content perhaps more efficiently and effectively than printing, anyway.

So all of this may seem like gloom and doom and a reason to stop teaching online.  It isn’t.  But we have to continue to work on developing high-quality, engaging online classes which defeat the “shadow scholar” (Chronicle article, November 12, 2010:

How do you do this?  How do you know the “right” student is completing work in your online class?  How do you maintain the integrity of offering an ONLINE class with the needs to KNOW your students individually and authenticate their work?  What strategies do you have to share with others?  Post your comments to the blog or email me at

OTAAG Sept 26, 2014

This is the first post of what I hope to be a series of “Online Teaching at a Glance” posts in the “5th Campus” blog at ICC.  As a reminder, the “5th Campus” name emerged as we were starting up our Virtual Campus initiative.  At the time we counted our Peoria campuses (2), plus the East Peoria campus, and the Pekin site and dubbed the Virtual Campus ICC’s 5th campus.  At the same time I was coming up with short handles for our social media channels.  The 5th campus stuck with both the blog and Facebook addresses and names.  (If you haven’t liked us on Facebook yet, please do!

And of course you can’t have a movement without an acronym so OTAAG is just the simple acronym for Online Teaching at a Glance.  The vision for this series of blog posts is to put timely and relevant information into a curated and small-bite format.  As the reader, you may want to check it all out or you may find just a link or two each time is of interest to you.  Either way, I hope you will “glance” and I welcome your input or even your willingness to guest curate a week if you’re interested (just contact me!)

OTAAG Sept 26, 2014

Dean Dad asks, “For the folks who recently taught online for the first time: what do you know now that you wish you knew then?”  See the comments to his post.  If you are willing to, comment on his post and copy and post here, or just post here.  The article:

Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon is offering a MOOC on the Columbian Exposition of 1893 (White City: Then and Now). What do you think?   More info here:

The Online Learning Consortium posted proposed new definitions for e-Learning.  Do these work for us?

Student Retention and Success in Radiology: Live discussion, journals, blogs

This is a guest post authored by ICC Radiography Faculty, Lisa Arnett. If you have virtual campus/online learning information or ideas to share and would like to write for the 5th campus blog, contact Patrice at

Night Before the Test Q&A: Live Online Discussion Forums

Our sophomore students are currently studying Radiobiology and Radiation Protection, material that is both difficult and comprises 25% of the national registry exam that they will be taking after they graduate in July, 2012. They have traditionally struggled with the material so in 2008, my first year of teaching, I was looking for a way to help the students to understand the material so April suggested we meet on Blackboard the night before the test for a live “jam session.”

So the night before the test I am available for one hour to answer questions in the Discussion Board. If enough students participate, I just facilitate the discussion but if only two or three are present, I answer any questions or clear up any concepts they bring up. It has been a well-attended tutoring session and, obviously, the more that participate, the more fun it is. After attending the Blackboard sessions this summer I considered using some of the other collaborative avenues that are available but I ultimately stayed with the Discussion Board for a few reasons: the threads make it more organized and easy to follow (especially when 10-15 students are participating at a time), the discussion that took place is available for those students who were unable to attend to view at a  later time during the evening, and the discussion is also available when the students are reviewing for the final exam. Really, the only disadvantage to the forum is everyone has to back out of the Discussion Board and re-enter it to see new postings.

Mentoring and Retention Strategies: Journals and Blogs

April and I are also very excited about a couple of retention strategies and mentoring initiatives that we piloted this semester for our freshmen students. Our program suffered a pretty drastic attrition rate in our current sophomore class and the main reason that students gave for leaving was they didn’t know what they were getting into. In an effort to address the issue, we piloted an expectation that our students use journaling to keep us informed of how they are doing in their clinical rotation, barriers to studying, stressors, etc…..anything that could signal a potential drop from the program so we can intervene early. We ask that the students journal or come to see us twice this semester just to check in. It is in no way meant to take the place of conversation; either will count towards the expectation. So far it has gone well and no students have dropped to date!

Finally, as a way for our freshman students to stay in touch with each other, mentor each other, and encourage professionalism, we created three blog spots. It will be easier to explain them by sharing the titles and descriptions so I will include them below. The students just started in their clinical rotations so little has happened in the blogs so far but we are hopeful that the students will use them as time goes on.

Blog Examples

Positioning Blog
Are you having problems with a particular radiographic position? Chances are, if you are having problems, someone else is or knows how to help. Quit struggling! Post your positioning challenges and work them out with your peers. Did a tech give you a positioning pointer that was helpful? Share it with everyone! Use this area to improve your positioning skills.

So This Stuff Really Does Work!
Post any examples of what you are learning in the classroom that you were able to apply in clinicals. Did something happen that helped you to “put it all together?” Were you finally able to perform that perfect radiograph that you struggled with for so long? Did you see an example of a theory you were just learning about such as differential absorption? It’s exciting for everyone when the light bulb comes on – tell us about it!

Triumphs in Radiography!
Have you had a particularly great clinical shift? Did you get a compliment from a (gulp!) radiologist? Did you take the most I-can’t-believe-how-gorgeous-that-turned-out chest x-ray or knee x-ray or scapula x-ray? Did a tech actually smile at you and ask you your name? Did a patient thank you for your kindness? Let everyone know about your accomplishments, your victories, and those things that keep you coming back for more! We could all use a lift!

Lisa Arnett is an instructor in the ICC Radiography Program and a member of the ICC Online Learning Task Force.  Email Lisa at for more information about these strategies or Patrice at about the online learning task force at Illinois Central College

Blackboard Users Conference 2011

ICC Instructional Technologists Gayle Blodgett and Jeff Maston attended and presented at the 2011 Blackboard Users Conference (hosted by SLATE).  The conference was held October 13 and 14 at the Gleacher Center, University of Illinois-Chicago.  See: Gayle and Jeff’s compilation of session notes, including Blackboard tips and strategies; See also the Slate Conference Blog for 2011:

Summary of notes topics: simple clicker/Blackboard integration; wikis, communication and collaboration; assessment; Google Docs

Need help with Blackboard? Contact the ICC Teaching and Learning Center,, 694-8908 or 240A on the East Peoria Campus

Blackboard Tools: Tips for promoting academic integrity

Here is a “laundry list” of suggestions for promoting academic integrity in online testing in Blackboard.  Remember, there is no 100% reliable solution!  Develop relationships with students; get to know them and their work.  Deliver and manage an online course that requires frequent and meaningful engagement!  Use more than one method to evaluate student achievement.  Never use only online objective-type tests to determine a student’s grade.

In Blackboard, try these tools, combining two or more if desired:

  1. Administer the test one question at a time;
  2. Present the test questions in a random order;
  3. Select test questions randomly from a pool or pools of questions;
  4. Present the test answers to objective-type questions in random order for each student;
  5. Present essay/short answer questions requiring students to apply information and knowledge to course concepts;
  6. Time the test, allowing for enough time to read and complete the test for an average student (consider question presentation format, reading comprehension requirements and time necessary to answer the question);
  7. Set the test to ‘force completion’ so the student must start and end the test in one sitting, the test cannot be started, saved and resumed later;
  8. Withhold showing the correct answers to questions until all students have completed the test;
  9. Require proctored testing (making accommodations for students who cannot visit an ICC campus but who would need to make arrangements for a local testing center; test proctoring is not prohibited but can present logistical challenges for the instructor and students! Check with a TLC or Testing Center staff member for more information about proctoring online class tests.)
  10. Eliminate objective-type tests as a measure of student achievement, replacing that measure with applied projects, discussion, individual and group assignments, etc.