Are Your PDF Files Accessible as Text?

Many instructors upload pdf files into their Springboard classrooms as resources for their students. Just because a pdf file contains text does not mean that it can be “interpreted” as text by assistive devices used by learners who use text-to-speech software. If you created a digital file by scanning a document, chances are it is not accessible. Your document is an “image” pdf, meaning that it provides an image of the text and not access to the text itself.

It is, however, possible to use Adobe Acrobat Pro to open an inaccessible pdf or even an image file containing text and to make the text in those documents readable. For complete (and short!) instructions, view the document “Making a PDF or Image File Accessible as Text.”

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The Science of Learning | Thoughts from SXSWedu


I recently had the opportunity to attend SXSWedu in Austin, Texas. What started as a “Texas-focused K-12 event” back in 2011 has grown into a mega-conference unto itself, boasting more than 300 sessions from 700+ presenters across 35+ countries. This conference brings together some of the most interesting and innovative faculty, designers, administrators, well-established ed tech providers, and ed start ups in the world.

By far, the most difficult thing to decide (aside from where to get the best BBQ) is which sessions you want to cram into your already fully-loaded schedule. At the University of Akron, there have been many conversations and initiatives regarding competency based learning, gamification, cognitive process, big data, etc… and thus, focusing on these themes seemed to be the best use of time.

One of the first sessions I attended was, “The Science of Learning”. This was a discussion that included: Mariette DiChristina, from Scientific American, Robert Lue, from Harvard University, Tim Stelzer, from the University of Illinois, and Susan Winslow, from Macmillan Education. The panel discussed:

  1. What works in education, using emerging technologies and new methods of data analysis
  2. Ways in which researchers and teachers can work together on collating and deriving new directions from such evidence-based analysis, for the benefit of students
  3. Insight into a range of new teaching and educational models, including international models such as those deployed with success within other countries, such as Finland.

A comment that Tim Stelzer made stood out to me:

What Professor Stelzer was referring to was that we need to think about how our students learn. If we look across the history of education, we see that one of the most successful ways to teach students is the apprentice model. Think about it. The apprentice would learn from the master every skill and nuance to solve a problem; and after a great deal of practice, they too would demonstrate proficiency. The issue however, is that this model doesn’t scale.

How do you provide experiential learning opportunities to a classroom full of students, let alone in an online course? There’s a lot to uncover here. Different modalities, classroom design, online offerings, “flipping” the delivery of content, etc… all play into this. Research shows that student performance increases when students are presented with multiple modes of information. If we know this, then why do we still deliver 55 minute lectures and read off the PowerPoint slides? (Which was the exact joke that was made about this conference presentation)

Here’s the challenge. Think about how YOU like to learn. Is it merely reading the assigned text for yourself? Or, is it approaching the material from multiple angles? Watching videos? Listening to the lecture? Analyzing a real-world case study? Discussing how the topic relates your life? It may be any one of these approaches, and certainly, providing these different options to learn the material couldn’t hurt, right?

I saw this posted in the hallway at SXSW:

A wall in the hallway at SXSWedu where attendees could indicate where they do their best thinking. Wait! We don't all do our best thinking in public in groups?

A wall in the hallway at SXSWedu where attendees could indicate where they do their best thinking. Wait! We don’t all do our best thinking in public in groups?

Conference attendees self-identified where they like to do their best thinking. Mind you, many of these attendees are college professors, K-12 teachers, educators from across the spectrum. The point is, we KNOW this. We know that we don’t all operate the same way when it comes to learning. Yet, we still set up classrooms with the “Sage on the Stage” approach. I admit, I do this in my own teaching, especially when I think the topic is best served (and most efficient) by my sharing of the material from the front of the classroom. However, I know that there are better approaches, and conference sessions like this help me to think about what I can do differently.

Robert Lue brought up a great point. I’m paraphrasing:

“We hear about the 100,000 students who dropped a MOOC course. What we’re not asking is what was their intention? So, we asked them, and what they said was they never intended to complete. However, we can see that the number of students who actually clicked on things had a much higher completion rate. MOOC’s have one opening [one front door], when in reality, we need multiple doorways. It would be better to tailor things by cohort, and identify the 10,000 committed students.”

Looking at the data across 100,000 students shows you some very interesting insights. Who’s obviously committed, and who’s not? This prompts the question, “How do we influence the will of the student to become a committed learner or to learn more?” Here are some ideas:

  • Do a full analysis of what you want your students to learn and adjust your assessments if they appear to stray from those objectives.
  • Ask yourself, what do you want out of grades? Is it just an even distribution? Or, do you want students to demonstrate mastery? If it’s mastery, consider building multiple opportunities to practice with the content at various levels of difficulty. Remember, we learn from our failures, and providing various levels of difficulty can help build student confidence.
  • Connect the dots. Show students how things relate to each other across the entire course. Students often miss the “big picture” of what their learning and how the various concepts fit together.
  • Ramp up interaction. Reaching the introverts as well as extroverts in class is paramount to building student engagement. Multiple small group activities can help students get comfortable working with their peers, and lead to larger interactions.
  • Promote student engagement. Send reminders encouraging students to get into the conversation. Remind them of how their discussion relates back to the content.

After the session, I was walking amongst the flurry of other conference attendees, scrambling to make it to the next room, and saw this on the wall:

Had to take a picture. Another wall at SXSWedu

This just made me smile. Learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom.  It can happen anywhere, in any space. It’s all about application and connecting the dots.

-Steve K.


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Welcome back to the DDS Family Feud!

Name the method faculty and staff used to learn WebEx.
Name the method faculty and staff

Survey says…

We surveyed UA faculty and staff who have WebEx host accounts. 66% of the respondents were faculty and 34% were staff/contract professionals.

Survey says 63% of the respondents have attended either a one-on-one WebEx training with a DDS staff or group training. DDS offers live instructor-led training for WebEx. Training is offered either face-to-face or via WebEx. The next training comes up on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. To register, visit To schedule a training session for a small group or department, please email

Survey also says 17% of the respondents watched online tutorials. There are a number of videos that teach how to use WebEx. For tutorials on how to use a specific product on WebEx, visit For more in-depth tutorials, visit

20% of the respondents have no formal training. They might have learned WebEx by just joining a meeting or figured out how to schedule a meeting by themselves. Faculty and staff who already have WebEx host accounts can login at using their University credentials. To request a WebEx host account, send an email to

You can learn more about WebEx here:

~ Graduate Assistant, DDS

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Now it’s time to play DDS Family Feud!

Name the product faculty and staff are using in WebEx.

Survey says…

We surveyed UA faculty and staff who have WebEx host accounts. 66% of the respondents were faculty and 34% were staff/contract professionals.

Survey says few faculty and staff use the WebEx Event Center. This may be because they are unaware of the product. The Event Center is designed for very large group events (up to +500 users) and it’s intended to primarily provide unidirectional (presenter to participants) voice, video, and data presentations.

In June, 2013, the School of Law used WebEx Event Center to organize a program to recruit applicants. The program, named, “The Five Types of Legal Argument” was held on five nights. There were between 100 and 200 people in attendance for each sesssion, including 20 pre-law advisors. “It was a highly successful and satisfying experience,” said Will Huhn, one of the organizers of the event. Here’s a recording of one of the sessions

One WebEx product we didn’t include in the survey is the Support Center. It is designed to provide virtual support on technology issues. Using Support Center, a WebEx presenter can take control of a remote participant’s computer.

The next WebEx training comes up on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. To register, visit To schedule a training session for a small group or department, please email If you’d like to try WebEx, you can learn more here:

~ Graduate Assistant, DDS

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Protecting Online Exam Integrity

If you are interested in learning how to protect the integrity of online exams in Springboard in both a proctored and non-proctored environment, then you may be interested in an upcoming webinar from Respondus. The University has a license for both Respondus LockDown Browser and Respondus Monitor. LockDown Browser provides a secure web browser that disables other programs, keyboard shortcuts, and accessing external websites while taking an exam. Monitor is an add-on component to LockDown Browser that uses a student’s webcam and microphone to record the student while s/he is taking an exam.

The webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, March 10 at 2PM EDT. You can register here:

Please note: at this time, Respondus LockDown Browser can be enabled for exams that are being proctored in the Computer Based Testing Center, but Respondus Monitor is restricted for use in 100% online courses only.

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Has Springboard had any impact on the way you teach? Do you use Springboard to collaborate with students and provide innovative learning experiences? If yes, you should nominate yourself for the 2015 Brighspace Excellence Award.

To enter the competition, share your inspiring and innovative ways you teach with Springboard (please refer to it as Brightspace).

The official rules for the competition can be found at To enter the competition, visit

Please note that you may not submit more than one entry.

For more inquiries about the competition, send an email to or call 208-476-7405.


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Created  by Sean MacEntee. Obtained from

Created by Sean MacEntee. Obtained from

Are you innovative? Do you enjoy sharing your ideas? All you have to do to win $500 is to enter the 2015 Brightspace Excellence Student Award.

To enter the competition, students are required to share innovative ideas on how to improve Springboard (please refer to it as Brightspace). You need to explain how you’ve used the platform, how you’d like to be able to use it and how technology can be used to improve learning and make learning an exciting experience.

The official rules for the competition can be found at To enter the competition, visit and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Please note that you may not submit more than one.

For more inquiries about the competition, send an email to or call 208-476-7405.


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Create Online Exams in Minutes

Creating online exams from publisher test banks is fast and easy – if you use the Respondus Test Bank Network! Over 6,000 ready-to-use test banks are available for the leading textbooks in higher education.

Join a webinar on Wednesday, January 28th at 2:00pm EST, Leigh Hall room 208 to learn how this free resource works with Respondus and Springboard. You will quickly see how the Respondus Test Bank Network can save you countless hours each term.

Register through the Institute for Teaching and Learning (ITL) seminar site and join us for this informative webinar.

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Walk-in Support for Faculty

During the week of January 12-January 16, Design & Development Services will provide walk-in support for all Instructional Technologies including Springboard. Support will be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis. Here are the details:

  • Hours*: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday through Friday
  • Location: Leigh Hall 506

*If you need assistance after hours, we can schedule a virtual conference. Please email ‘’ to request this.

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Changes to Springboard Login

Later this week, we will be turning on single sign on functionality for Springboard. Once SSO has been enabled, instead of seeing the normal Springboard login page:


You’ll see a page similar to the one you use to log in to My Akron:


Enter your UAnet ID and password, and you’re all set!

For those that are used to accessing Springboard via My Akron, you likely won’t even notice the change. Single sign on will, however, eliminate some of the issues that instructors and students have had from time to time when attempting to access Springboard via My Akron.

If you need to log in to Springboard using a local account (typically Firstname.Lastname), you can still log in using a different page. The login page for local Springboard accounts can be found here: (Link currently is not live, but will be once SSO is enabled).

If you have any questions or experience any issues when attempting to log in to Springboard, please contact the ZipSupport Center at 330.972.6888, or by email at

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