DDS Wheel of Fortune – See What Faculty and Staff Are Doing With WebEx.

For the next few weeks, DDS will feature how faculty and staff are using WebEx. This week, we feature someone from the department of Curriculum & Instructions Studies. Here’s what he has to say:

“I use it to host guest speakers from around the state in my Educational Technology course and also to model what online & blended learning could look like in the K-12 classroom for my pre-service teachers.”

Who is he?

Did you solve the puzzle?

~ Graduate Assistant, DDS

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Building Digital Credential Value | Thoughts from SXSWedu


One of the big topics of conversation this year at SXSWedu in Austin, Texas was digital credentials. You may not have heard of “digital credentials” before, at least not in formal terms. However, you’ve most likely seem them. Anyone who uses LinkedIn knows a little bit about this. Remember that “Top Skills” list?

What I'm good at?

What I’m good at?

The idea is that your professional connections “endorse” what they think you’re good at. The problem is… how do they know? I could certainly put something like “Rocket Science” on my list of skills, but how can people verify that I’m actually good at launching rockets?

Before the digital revolution took hold, we may have seen the concept of credentialing or the certification of skills in something like boy scout / girl scout badges. Anyone who has been in the scouts knows that you don’t earn a badge unless you really can perform the task at hand. These badges don’t expire. Once you know how to swim, you know how to swim.

FEMA - 44431 - Boy scouts Place Flags at Tennesse National Memorial Cemetery

Badges have been associated with the demonstration of skills for a very long time.

Thus, a conversation has started about how we catalog these skills / credentials. Many organizations and web sites have started to come up with standardized ways of displaying these badges and providing a vetting process for their attainment.

Here are some good sites to check out:

Ok, so badges seem nice, but how does this apply to my students in a college classroom?

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

At SXSWedu, Michael Shawn Cordero, of the Urban Arts Partnership mentioned the importance of “showing students a visual trajectory of where they’re going.” The notion is that “you can put whatever you want on a resume, but digital badging allows you to see evidence of these skills.

That’s the key point here. Skills that are supported with evidence provide a much better picture of what someone can actually do. In addition, you can see the inter-relationships of how these skills fit together. Let’s think about it. When you are going through an academic program, you are provided with a syllabus, which most likely has learning objectives in it. “By the end of this class, you should be able to do A, B, and C.” Great! We also get prerequisites to know what skills I should already have prior to enrolling in this particular course. However, that’s often where it stops. The course is just one of many in a series, and I don’t necessarily have to take these courses in any particular order.

The problem is that students often can’t see the big picture of what they’re learning. How do all these courses and objectives fit together to make me a proficient in this field?


There are so many pieces on the table. How do they all fit together?

Jonathan Finkelstein from noted why it so crucial to “… not just build a badge, but to connect the dots to help them [students] see the value.”

Some good questions to consider are: Do we start badging everything? Who should be allowed to issue badges? Should badges be monetized?

Tracy Petrillo, Chief Learning Officer for Educause, had a good insight. “Badging platforms were meant to be open and free. This is not a threat to the certification industry. Badging is a complement.” In addition, “[It] helps us to think in smaller segments. You get more people to believe they’re good students.”

I think Tracy is right on. We shouldn’t badge absolutely everything, but rather, think about how we deliver content to our students and what they are expected to demonstrate back to us. We start off slow, providing a visual recognition of skills they’ve begun demonstrating in the course. This builds confidence. “Look! I’ve earned some beginner badges!” The next step is to help students build on those foundation skills, and through providing evidence, move them along from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced. We’re not charging for badges, we’re merely showing them that they have in fact learned a new skill.

As an example, in our Designing and Developing your Online Course Workshop, we provide badges for our faculty members when they demonstrate that they are able to complete or follow along on a specific task.


These badges are really about basic proficiency, but in the future, we plan on introducing a more rigorous, evidence-based, application-level of badges. These badges could then be tracked over a lifetime and displayed on the faculty member’s online profile of choice.

Our end goal is to show our students (and our faculty) that the process of lifelong learning never stops. It’s not about seat time. It’s about the application of skills and their inter-connectivity that really empowers (and informs) what they can do.

– Steve K.

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Final DDS Family Feud!

Name one way WebEx has benefited faculty and staff.

Survey says…

Survey says 77% of the respondents find WebEx convenient. It saves travel cost and time for 60% and 57% of the respondents respectively. 46% of the respondents reported WebEx increases productivity while 14 % reported it enhances teaching experience.

You can learn more about WebEx here:

~ Graduate Assistant, DDS

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Yet Another DDS Family Feud!

Name something faculty and staff can use WebEx to do on a snow day.

Survey says…

Survey says an equal 37% of the respondents use WebEx to teach synchronously and conduct meetings. Also, an equal 17% of the respondents use WebEx to conduct office hours, large-scale webinars and to host guest speakers. 14% of the respondents use WebEx for other purposes besides those listed above.

In upcoming posts, we will be sharing some of the more creative uses of WebEx reported by our inventive UA faculty and staff. So please check back again soon.

You can learn more about WebEx here:

~ Graduate Assistant, DDS

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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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