Course construction ahead….


This fall, I’m teaching a writing-intensive undergraduate class. In lieu of writing a term paper or literature review, our class is using blogs for weekly writing and revisions and project websites (for more writing and revisions). Most of the students have not blogged before and are excited to try it out. It’s been really exciting to see the blogs created, read what each person is writing about, and comment on their posts.

I’m basing my course design for the blog use on the work of Laura Gibbs – aka @OnlineCrsLady in many online spaces – who has been teaching this way for many years. If you aren’t familiar with her – take a few minutes to read through one of her sites: Online Course Wiki, Teaching with Canvas, or her posts in the Canvas community. She embodies the spirit of an open educator – shares what she has created, writes about her work, and invites others to use it. As someone who is new to the all-blogging mode of student work, I was grateful to find her!

Also in the spirit of an open educator, Laura has her course on the open web. One difference for my course though, is that the starting point is always our Canvas course. That’s where all of the directions, information, declarations, announcements, etc reside. The blog content flows back into our course via links, embedded posts, a running blog stream, and a variety of other ways. One of the weekly assignments is to comment on other students’ blog posts. Laura, with one of her former students Randy Hoyt, has figured out this neat and fun way to have a random blog post appear on a webpage. When the page is refreshed, a new post appears on the page. She discussed this approach in a webinar-style presentation in April 2017 (post + video link). I wanted to try my hand at setting up something similar for Canvas. The accompanying slide deck provided a good overview of the process. I thought a post of my own to fill in the gaps might be a helpful addition to her work, so here goes…

Step 0: Prep work

  • created Canvas content/pages
  • set up feed reader account with Inoreader, added blogs to it
  • created ‘Introduction’ tag
  • read through the process of creating randomizing content on the Rotate Content website

Step 1: Generate HTML table

I downloaded the Rotate Content randomizer template and updated my text/HTML editor of choice, Brackets.

Step 2: Enter content in table

As the posts started rolling in, I tagged them and added them to the template provided by Rotate Content. I did some tweaking to the template as I wanted it to be styled in a particular way. I have a very basic knowledge of HTML, and I found the Try-It editor and help articles by w3schools to be key in figuring out how the final product would look and how to make changes.

While I was waiting for the rest of the posts to be completed (so I could add them to the template), I spent some time doing pre-work for Step 5. In order to have randomized content work of your own work successfully, it needs to be hosted somewhere. I saw that Laura’s was hosted at her own site, with ‘widgets’ as a subdomain. Since I also have my own domain, I knew I could set up something similar and followed suit.

Step 3: Convert table to script.

After all of the posts were completed, I added them to the table, saved it, and uploaded it to the Rotate Content site to be converted to javascript.

Step 4: Publish the javascript.

I uploaded the javascript files to my website via the File Manager in cPanel.

Step 5: Publish the HTML script page.

After trial and error, I made it to this point. Initially, the content worked (sometimes), but other times did not display at all on the website. I finally figured out that I needed to create a .htaccess file to force my site to load over HTTPS. This is necessary as otherwise, the (insecure) random content would not be able to be displayed within Canvas.

Step 6: Use iframe in Canvas.

I finally got it to work. Here’s the initial version:

hmm…I am not a fan of that extra white space. Plus, some post titles appear centered, while others skew to the left. Also: font mismatch. urgh. Tweaks to the style sheet were added to the list of changes. After some futzing with the style sheet, I am not able to figure out why the font and link colors don’t conform to it. That looks like it will take more digging and reading, which I need to put on the back burner for now.

Step 7: Rinse & repeat

Repeat process for all areas of the course in which I plan to have randomized content. As of now, it is four, but I still have about half of the course to build, so I will probably end up with at least double that number.

CCC: Create a remix!

The fourth assignment in the Creative Commons course is a fun one! It asks us to create some type of remix for a course that we teach.

After browsing through some examples from my peers in the course, I came across this great creative example that Helen DeWaard made: a course trailer. I thought that was a brilliant idea, and wanted to see if I could figure out how to make something similar.

Assignment requirements

  • use at least 5 CC-licensed works (one of our own is fair game!)
  • include proper attribution
  • make sure all of the licenses can be used together

The last point is a really important one when you are making remixes. It also can be tricky to figure out. Thankfully, there are some helpful resources to help all of us with that part:

With the assignment descriptions in mind (and my course syllabus finally completed!), I set out to figure out how to make a course trailer. I found quite a few resources to help with the content.

Creation process

Based on the storyboard outline I found, I started brainstorming what to say. I wasn’t sure if I would be talking or just have text & images on the screen with background music. The audience for the video will be students who are already enrolled in the class, rather than a video designed to encourage enrollment. After I had a rough outline of what to include, I moved on to looking for some images.

About a week ago, I created a sneak peek syllabus, a course banner, and YouTube channel art with images from the Noun Project + Canva. All of those steps made finding images was somewhat easier. My first place to look is always Flickr. Using the ‘modifications allowed’ in the search settings, I was able to find a few images that worked and added them to the Google slide deck, along with the image attributions. I found out how to make a rolling credit outro thanks to this video. After the slides were finished, I downloaded them as a PPT file to set up the animations.

I planned to do some minor edits and adjustments in the YouTube editor, including adding a music track that I found via Free Music Archive. I finished the animations, saved the file as an mp4, and uploaded it to my YouTube channel. I then found out that you can’t upload audio to YouTube: you are limited to its audio library. boo. I edited the text, adjusted the timings (which was too long anyway), and repeated the process again. I modified the license and rights attribution setting on the video to include the Creative Commons – Attribution option.

Update: I made some minor changes to the original video to prepare for spring courses.

CCC: Anatomy of a Creative Commons license

The third assignment in the Creative Commons certificate course focuses on the basics of the licenses. For each assignment, I have also been experimenting with different ways to explain and depict the content, such as a timeline and a sliderDING presentation. This week, I’m using a range of h5p content types.

There are six components to this assignment.

#1: What are the three layers of the CC licenses?

#2: What are the four license elements and their corresponding icons?

#3: What are the six Creative Commons licenses?

#4: License restrictions

#5: How do CC licenses affect exceptions and limitations to copyright ?

An exception and limitation to copyright is fair use, which is not the same as the Creative Commons licenses. Fair use was designed to allow the public to not be restricted by copyright. Fair use is often used by educators when they use copyrighted materials for instructional purposes only with students in their class/es. CC licenses were not developed to “reduce, limit, or restrict any rights under exceptions and limitations to copyright, such as fair use….” (source)

#6: How do the CC licenses affect works in the public domain?

Creators can opt to put their works directly in the public domain. If they chose to do so, they can apply the CC0 license. This license holds no copyright and carries a ‘no rights reserved’ approach. There are a number of caveats to the use of this license, such as the creator’s country of origin, non-competition laws, and other intellectual property concerns (trademarks and patents), among others. Works that are already in the public domain, such as Beethoven’s compositions, would not be CC0 licensed as intellectual property rights no longer apply.

CCC: What is copyright law?

The second assignment in the Creative Commons certificate course asks us to develop a short primer on (a lay person’s understanding of) copyright law.

I created a short sliderDING-style presentation, based on Ann Fandrey’s work in Academic Slide Design.

CCC: What is Creative Commons?

Our first assignment for the Creative Commons certificate is due this week. I created a timeline that captures the key events that lead to the foundation of Creative Commons.

Depending upon how the rest of the course goes, I may come back and add to this timeline in the upcoming weeks. This is a start for now.

Annotation tools for online teaching and learning in higher education

This post is a short recap of collaborative annotation tools that I have found to be currently available (as of January 2018) and appear to be suitable for online teaching and learning in higher education. Over the past semesters, I have gradually been incorporating annotation tools in my online courses, starting with text and now branching out to video and audio. I found numerous options, but after reviewing them, many were either out of date and not able to be used, would not easily work for an online class as they required extensive scaffolding for use, or were not technically feasible. I also did not want to use anything that would require students to install browser-specific extensions or download software and figure out how to use it, as providing that detailed nature of technical troubleshooting for questions tends to add a lot of complexity that can detract from the course’s learning goals.

Text annotation

    • create private groups for each semester/course
    • can annotate websites or PDF downloads
    • extensive support materials for both instructors and students
    • used this last semester and it worked well – plan to continue using it for current semester
  • Diigo
    • create private groups
    • in addition to text annotation, could also use the group for sharing resources
  • Annotation Studio
    • examples of class use for instructors
    • support for mobile learning is in the works!

Video annotation

  • VideoAnt
    • only works with YouTube videos
  • Reclipped
    • can use as a Chrome browser extension and via bookmarklet
    • supports YouTube, Vimeo, and TED – I use videos from all three platforms in my courses
    • looks to be mobile-friendly…will look into this more
  • Vialogues
    • create group to share annotations (not clear if this is a private group)
    • works with YouTube or Vimeo
    • integrates with Google Drive to timestamp and share notes – not sure if this means that all students in a course could take notes on one shared doc. No documentation available on site to check this out prior to signing up
    • can use videos from YouTube or Vimeo
  • Synote
    • looks like it can be used for video and audio annotation – I requested an account to further explore

Audio annotation

Finding suitable annotation tools for audio has been the most challenging component. I’m looking for a tool that will allow collaborative annotations on a number of podcast platforms (something similar to what the Reclipped tool for video offers, but for audio). I only found one that might work, but if that doesn’t pan out, I may ask students to take notes/summarize in a learning journal…still thinking about how this might work…

  • Soundcloud
    • create private groups
    • further explore: can users’ comments on public tracks be limited to the private group?
  • Annotation Studio is exploring “fine-grained annotation of images, video, and audio,” so that’s another option to keep in mind for the future

Why Open Matters

So it begins

This week wraps up the first week of the Introduction to Open Education MOOC offered through UT-Arlington’s LINK Lab.

One of the reasons why I am taking this course is to connect with others (already saw a fellow MN educator in the group), to compile additional resources for my lit review, and to find out about the fantastic open initiatives taking place all over the world. It will also be fun to blog again 🙂

The first week kicked off with overview videos from the course facilitators, George Siemens and David Wiley. As someone who finds the history of disciplines and academic fields endlessly fascinating, I enjoyed hearing about the genesis of the open movement, which as they note, is in its second decade. Both facilitators shared their stories about how they became interested in and got started with open education. I was familiar with Wiley’s history in terms of being inspired by the open-source movement and his work with Lumen Learning. I was less familiar with Siemen’s background – he was part of the first 1:1 laptop programs in higher ed in Canada and views learning as open – as in transparent. When he talked about his current interests in learning analytics and data, this stood out to me:

How we make decisions with that data needs to be as transparent as the content

Additional names mentioned during their conversations include Stephen Downes, Darcy Norman, Alan Levine, Bryan Alexander, and Dave Cormier. Supplemental resources mentioned include The cathedral and the bazaar and Open education: International perspectives in higher education…and many more in the ‘articles to read’ section.

From there we moved through a series of videos about why open matters: from the perspectives of librarians, students, Paul Bond, Bryan Mathers, and Stephen Downes! What I particularly appreciated about his video was his emphasis on people: “it’s not about what you do with stuff, it’s about what you did with each other.”

At this point, I am starting to wonder about other voices in this space….and then we came to the link to Jenny Mackness’ post. I echo her comments about this course, in that we collectively engage in “a critical approach, encourage diverse perspectives and be willing to surface and challenge assumptions.”

Personal project management software: Asana and Wrike comparison

Write something....

Now that I am nearing the end of my coursework, I’m plotting out the schedule for exams and the dissertation writing process.

I have been using two types of project management software for personal use, both with a free account, during the month of August. Below are my thoughts about each of the two platforms.



  • visual interface is clean-looking
  • ability to sync tasks and due dates with Google Calendar is spiffy
  • workspaces idea is neat – thanks, Lifehack! hmm….how might I make best use of workspaces for different areas of my life?


  • finding files in Google Drive integration is tough. My GD folder structure was collapsed, so all folders were listed. I was not able to dig into the nested sub-folders.
  • couldn’t figure out how to add a “New Section” to a project on the mobile app. While watching this video, I learned that I might be able to create a new section by including a colon after the word. Will keep this in mind to try the next time I need to do this.
  • desktop: not sure how to see subtasks. There is a small gray arrow which is tough to see as the color is so light. Would imagine this would be hard to see to folks with low-vision.
  • doesn’t seem to offer a gantt chart view. I find this helpful to see where tasks/subtasks pile up, and if I’m trying to pile too much into a week
  • not able to start the week on Monday



  • can set the calendar to start on Mondays
  • gantt chart view


  • mobile app: tough to figure out working with tasks and subtasks
  • entries didn’t save -sometimes I needed to use the enter button. Seems that the UI is consistent
  • midway through the month, I was no longer able to create subtasks with a free account

Active Citizen course: recap

Notes from the Active Citizen course


Three spheres of democracy

Political sphere
  • encompasses government, elections, and participation in political life
  • political involvement is public information
  • political life is a combination of voluntary and required actions
  • buying things
  • investments
  • marketplace participation is unavoidable: marketplace activism (ie, boycotting companies) is voluntary and mostly private
Civil society
  • nonprofit organizations, sports clubs, neighborhood groups, protest organizations, & community, trade, or professional associations
  • civil society participation is private information

Why digital matters

  1. nature of digital data
    • two copies of it
    • non-rival and non-excludable good: many people can use an item at the same time AND it’s hard to restrict access to that item
  2. nature of the network
    • quantity of information that can be stored (infrastructure)
    • involvement of third parties
    • see for more info
    • civil society needs to function as an independent space, separate from markets and from government
    • where we are now: digital infrastructure built by private companies and controlled by government

Digital political engagement

  • TurboVote: online voter registration
  • MapLight: track donations to political campaigns
  • find like-minded folks to connect on various social issues
  • publishes and shares materials in the public domain in the US and around the world
  • OSET Foundation: open source election technology
  • signing petitions
  • using hashtags
  • online tools used for offline organizing
  • positive: helps groups to grow in size and gain momentum faster than not using digital tools; negative: alerts adversaries to your actions

One of my favorite videos from the course:

Open Research: reading notes

I recently finished reading one of the OER Hub‘s publications: the Open Research textbook.

The book is based on content and activity from a P2PU course called Open Research that ran in 2014 and 2015. It’s organized into five chapters that consist of content, a few activities to get you thinking about how to apply the concepts and ideas, and commentary. The commentary section of each chapter summarized thoughts from the course participants and was a beautiful way to honor their voices and participation.

Below are my notes – mostly for my own reference when I embark on future open research projects of my own and hopefully with collaborators.

Open Research

  • variety of ways to define open
  • openness in many contexts
  • School of Open: P2P University offers more classes in this area
    • difference between authorship and ownership

Ethics in the open

  • overview of ethical considerations when working with (human) research participants
  • considerations for researchers not affiliated with an institution that has an IRB/ethical review board
    • apply basic principles of avoiding harm, ensuring consent is informed, and respecting privacy and people
  • develop your own moral compass: particularly crucial for researchers working in the open [education, etc] space

Open dissemination

Reflecting in the open

  • reflection is a huge part of research! can take the form of blog posts or a research journal
    • for the purpose of this book, emphasis is on the former
  • audio, text, and video reflections from researchers who blog in the open about their work
  • I have many articles saved from the researchers featured in this chapter 🙂

Final thoughts

  • #openresearch
  • join GO-GN!