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 an .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 a 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 stoyboard 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 anyways), 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.

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 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 I (want to) teach

Playing a bit of catch-up here, going back to the first unit of Connected Courses and thinking about the whys of teaching and the whys of a course. One of my favorite links during this unit was Mike Wesch’s talk about Why we need a “why?”

As a relative newcomer to these types of discussions, I tweaked the question to why I (want to) teach. I’m in the middle of a grad program in Learning Technologies. When I entered the program, one of my driving questions was “What does high-quality, engaging online learning look like…and how do I do it?” One year into it, I’m finding out that learning online is really fun! There’s elements of play that can be incorporated into a class which make it enjoyable. (I recently read a great post about this topic…still searching for the link to it…) I want to be able to bring those to a class that I teach, and show what online teaching and learning looks like in different ways. (hint: it can be so much more than just PDFs and discussion forums. Once you get hooked into ds106, you can never go back…)

In a perfect world, there would be the option to construct a course from scratch. In reality, that may not be the case. Sometimes instructors find out they will be teaching a course close to the start of the semester, or there are existing materials from previous courses available for reuse. Perhaps there are departmental reasons for a standard course to be delivered…it may have to deal with accreditation requirements. All of these reasons and factors come into play.

For now, let’s dream big and imagine a space where those stipulations do not exist. Fortunately, an imagined course is starting to take shape…in the form of a final project for one of my fall semester courses. I will be using resources from Connected Courses as well as my class readings to create a course of my own. The course’s overarching theme will be the history of the internet/web from a feminist perspective and why it’s important in edtech to talk about it. I haven’t started thinking about specific course topics (mostly as I’d want the course to be co-constructed by the facilitator and participants). General offshoots might include current topics such as SOPA, the many forms of open – OERs, scholarship, pedagogy, etc.

hmm…even though there’s a great post on how to write one…I think I need help on how to end one! (Vania – you are not alone in this respect) Moving on to unit 2…