Academic Technology - Florida State College at Jacksonville

Academic Technology

Blackboard Course Shell Availability

News, EdTechBrandi Bleak

Blackboard Course Shells - Now Available for Fall!

We are happy to communicate that Fall course shells have now been successfully loaded in Blackboard and have been associated with their instructors. Professors should be able to access them now by logging in to Blackboard via Artemis. 

Be aware that students will not yet be populated within courses, and thus will not have access to them, even if the instructor makes the course shell available. The loading of students into courses will take place during the course of the week of August 20.

FSCJ Online Courses

Those that use a course master may not yet have the associated content loaded into the shell. At this point, all A term master course content should be loaded into the Blackboard shells. The work of loading B term course content should be completed next week. 

Online Syllabus Builder

The link to the Online Syllabus Builder is now visible within my.fscj.edu under the newly designed Faculty tab. Please view our separate post regarding the online syllabus builder for more information. 

Issues, Questions, or Concerns?

If for any reason you have issues with access to Blackboard or are unable to view a course that you have been assigned for the Fall, please contact EdTech@fscj.edu.

FAQs

My course and lab appear as two separate shells.

We have found that this is occurring in classes that have both a lecture and a lab component; separate Blackboard shells with separate reference numbers have been created for both of the course components. This is happening because the courses themselves are set up this way in PeopleSoft, and when the data is sent over to Blackboard it mimics this set up. At this time, we are researching the implications of how changes to this may affect grade input, student interaction, and other concerns. We will follow up with additional communications as we know more.  

Will the class roster populate students info at a later time?

Yes. The creation of course shells and instructor association was the first step of the integration of PeopleSoft with Blackboard. After receiving feedback from professors, we prioritized the creation of course shells so that content could be built in advance of the Fall Semester. The addition of students to Blackboard requires a change to student user IDs that cannot be performed until the Summer Semester's end, so as not to disrupt ongoing classes. We’ll be sending more information out about the progress soon.

The IT Maintenance Dates are not currently visible within the Syllabus Builder, however often used to inform students and for planning purposes. 

We are currently working to integrate the dates within the online syllabus builder, however they may not be ready prior to Fall. Below are the IT maintenance dates for the Fall term:

August 26-27, Weekend in between grade submission and start of term.
September 16-17, Saturday 9PM – Sunday 9AM
October 14-15, Saturday 9PM – Sunday 9AM
November 10-12 Veterans Day
December 23 – January 2 Winter Break

I am able to see the link for the Online Syllabus Builder within the my.fscj portal, however nothing happens when I click the link. 

A pop-up blocker may be preventing the Online Syllabus Builder to open. Navigate to your computer settings to allow pop-up blockers to see if that resolves the issue.


Apps for Student Success Presentation from HHS Common Orientation

EdTech, AppsRobyn Reese

Thanks so much for attending our presentation, Apps for Student Success, at the Health and Human Services Common Orientation, held at North Campus on July 14th. Below is a copy of the presentation used, which includes the names of all of the recommended apps and information about how to get them. Due to high student interest, we also wanted to share some information about how to get free copies of the Microsoft 365 suite of productivity tools for your home computer. Instructions for doing so can be found here. 

Best of luck to all of you as you continue your degree program at FSCJ! It was a pleasure to meet you, and please do not hesitate to reach out to Information Technology if you ever have questions or issues with computers, Blackboard, or any other FSCJ system.

Online Syllabus Builder: Testing Required

EdTechBrandi Bleak

my.fscj Integration

As most employees are aware, we are in the middle of a transition from the Artemis and Connections portals to our unified portal, my.fscj.edu. The move requires a new data workflow, integration of multiple systems, and updates to current tools. Our development team has been working diligently to prepare one specific piece of the puzzle, the Online Syllabus Builder.  

The updated version of the Syllabus Builder will be located within my.fscj.edu once the transition is complete. We are now in the last stages of beta testing and need faculty to assist in the process because they are most familiar with the tool. We would like users to focus on reporting any incorrect data that may be populating, features that are not functioning correctly, and areas still in need of adjustments. 

Once testing has been completed and the final data has been transitioned into the new portal, Educational Technology will communicate the availability of and instructions for accessing the updated version of the Syllabus Builder. Please be aware that already developed syllabi from the old Online Syllabus Builder will be able to be transferred to the new Syllabus Builder Platform, however, Syllabi that are built in the testing environment will NOT transfer to the new system. 


Request for Testing

Please use the buttons below to access the Syllabus Builder testing environment. There is an access point for both faculty/adjuncts and for deans; both cases still need extensive user testing. Users can log in with their current College username and password. (The impersonate user option is only available to development team.)

Users must be on campus, using the College's internet network to access the links. Because the site is in development, you may be presented with a warning regarding the site's security certificate. Please continue to test the site with confidence by acknowledging the security warning and moving past it. 



Report an Issue

If you spot any issues, please use the Report Issue button within the testing environment to notify the development team directly. Be as descriptive as possible to assist the team with addressing the concern. Although there is a list of issues currently being worked on, don't hesitate to submit any concerns you may have. As we get closer to the date of release, we will update this blog post with known issues and what users can expect. 


Requested Features or Reports on Issues with Resolution Status

Although this is by no means a full list of requests or issues reported, we thought users may want to be aware of some of the most recent improvements made to the online syllabus builder system. As new items are finalized, this page will be updated.

Request / Issue:

Can office hours be added globally, or at least to multiple syllabus instead of needing to be input for each course taught? Also, could students have a way to search for an instructor's hours instead of hosting only within the online syllabus?

Resolution Status:

New feature: option to copy office hours between syllabus

In the updated version of the syllabus builder, the option to copy office hours to another syllabus will be available. 

The functionality to create global office hours has not been added at this time, but the team will be surveying users to ensure this option would be most beneficial and addressing a solution in the near future.

The site search is a great idea that will also be added to the queue to be worked on this Fall.


Request / Issue:

Can required text books pull from an instructor's book adoption request rather than the bookstore's order?

Resolution Status:

The book request needs to be handled through the Follett process, so no change will be made.


Request / Issue:

The experience of viewing a syllabus on mobile needs improving. Is that possible?

Resolution Status:

This has been addressed and will be finalized soon for a better viewing experience on mobile.


Request / Issue:

There's an issue when displaying different syllabi in same browser session. This workflow is necessary for reviewing multiple syllabi at one time. Can this be addressed? 

Resolution Status:

This has been corrected and should no longer be an issue. 


Request / Issue:

Deans have numerous courses, which at times makes it difficult to find a specific course or session. How can this be improved? 

Resolution Status:

Deans View now has the ability to filter by sessions.


Tools for the Millennial Student Training Materials

EdTech, WorkshopRobyn Reese
 

On July 13, 2017, the Educational Technology Department worked with the Office of Training and Organizational Development to offer Tools for the Millennial Student, a look at how technology has changed the educational experience for today's students. The training provided an overview of some apps, websites, and applets that fit into the broad categories of effective learning detailed in the graphic above, drawn from the Adobe Education Creativity Study.

 

MediaSpace/CaptureSpace

For those who are interested in learning more about MediaSpace, FSCJ's media streaming service and CaptureSpace, the screencasting and recording tool, the Office of Training and Professional Development is offering a dedicated session on Wednesday, July 19th at 2:00 at the Advanced Technology Center Downtown. 

You can also view an In Focus webinar that showcased MediaSpace, produced by the Academic Technology Department, here, along with a series of tutorials that explain how to use some of the more advanced features of MediaSpace, like chaptering and video quizzing. Information about the Reach auto-captioning service for MediaSpace can be found by watching this tutorial. Remember that, as discussed in training, all academic videos should be captioned to 99% accuracy in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Blackboard Collaborate

Based upon the results of the exit survey that we administered at the end of the training, many of the participants wanted more information about the use of Blackboard Collaborate. You can find a series of webinars that detail the many features of Collaborate, along with best practices for their use, here. 

Thanks so much for attending our training! For more information about inititiatives offered through the Training and Organizational Development Office, click here to visit their website. 

Taking Better Selfies!

Photos, AppsRobyn Reese

In the age of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, taking flattering selfies seems like an important life (or even career) skill. Each day, when scrolling through my social feeds, I see well-composed photos of people at the springs, in front of famous monuments, or snuggling with their super adorable pets. I have to admit that this annoys me slightly because I am HORRIBLE at taking selfies. In fact, I sometimes feel like I am the only Millenial who cannot manage to hold my phone out at the right angle and compose my face so I look gently happy and in possession of the right number of chins. Granted, I am kind of an old Millenial, but I refuse to believe that I am as old as I look in my selfies.  

When discussing this with my coworkers, who are depicted in the lovely images below, I was told that awesome selfie-taking is not some sort of crazy voodoo magic, but rather is a skill that can be learned through practice and the application of a few simple principles, as explained below. 

  1. Know your Angles It turns out that "your good side" isn't really a myth! Take some time to look at yourself in the mirror (or on your camera's screen) to determine how to hold your face in a way that you think is most flattering. Generally, people who take good selfies are making the same face, at the same angle, in all of their photos. They are not necessarily naturally photogenic, they have just figured out how to work what they have. You have "it", too, you just need to find "it".  
  2. Camera Placement This is somewhat of a controversial issue. Many people believe that holding the camera out and slightly up can keep you from exhibiting the dreaded five chins. It can also produce odd shadows on your face, though, and it can look a bit forced. Alternatively, holding the camera on the same level as your face, and within two feet of it, can produce a nice look. To keep your face sharp while snapping an image, poke your chin out and down while shoving your shoulders down into your back and away from your ears (remember, beauty is pain).
  3. Lighting is Everything  Proper lighting can change the look of the planes of your face, the texture of your hair, and the quality of your skin. Natural lighting is best for photography, and especially flattering is the "Golden Hour" around sunrise and sunset. If taking a photo in the middle of the day, try to keep the harsh sun behind you, but use your head as a natural block of the actual sun to avoid overexposure. Avoid fluorescent or harsh lighting at all costs--if taking photos inside, try to find a window or skylight with slightly filtered natural lighting.
  4. Background Choice Your background should reflect the purpose of the shot and should be thoughtfully chosen. If you want to document your visit to a fabulous location, focus on making that the focal point of the photo by holding the camera further away from you and experimenting with different viewpoints until you find something that looks interesting. If you just want to show off your outfit or a new haircut, keep background distractions to a minimum.
  5. Take a Million Shots Great photos don't happen by accident. Usually, that perfect image seen on your friend's Instagram is just one of twenty slightly different takes on the same subject. The burst feature on your phone's camera can really come in handy here, as it will allow your phone to take a series of photos while you focus on voguing.  Try moving the camera up and down, or rotating the phone and your body on an axis.  Be experimental! This is supposed to be fun (at least, that's what I hear).
  6. When All Else Fails, Filter!  Postproduction is always important! Instagram and Snapchat come with tons of built in filters to change the coloring of an image, or to blur it to mask tiny imperfections. I am also a big fan of the Adobe Photoshop Fix mobile app, which allows you to adjust color, fix blemishes, cut out backgrounds, and even use a clone stamp tool to remove tiny distractions. 

Good luck, happy selfie-ing, and don't forget to smize! 

 

Will HEIF replace JPEG?

EdTech, DMP, NewsBrandi Bleak

If you’ve taken, shared, or edited a photo within the last 25 years, chances are you’ve worked with a JPEG file. This file format is the standard for all digital photos, was around before modern digital cameras were available, and every camera on the market currently is able to export photos as JPG files. Just like many other technologies, though, it looks like we could be heading toward a change in the standard file format that many of us use on a daily basis. 

During Apple’s most recent WWDC 2017 Keynote on June 5th, they introduced a file format that will give images better quality while only requiring half of the storage space on a mobile device. If you are an avid user of your mobile device's camera, you know what a needed innovation this is, as it is sometimes challenging to balance personal storage needs for apps, files, videos, and photos. This Fall, with the launch of iOS 11, iPhones and iPads will all capture and store images in HEIF, or High Efficiency Image File Format. The smaller image files will include all of the features users expect, as well as anticipating the needs of future users. 

 

If Apple has its way, the standard file format everyone is used to will be improved and JPEGs will be replaced by HEIFs.

 

The HEIF format stores images, video, image bursts, audio, and text together in one file, that can be edited without compromising the original quality of the image. When editing or cropping a file, a separate portion of the file is viewed without taking up additional storage, essentially utilizing non-destructive edits. That’s a huge improvement from the JPEG, which when an image was saved, it gave you a final image with less quality each time it was edited. 

Example files copyright © Nokia Technologies 2017

Example files copyright © Nokia Technologies 2017

View more example images

What does this mean for an average user? At this point, we will have to wait and see. If the format catches on though, consider the extent to which images are currently integrated into our everyday life and communications. Software companies will have to adapt to the change by issuing updates that will enable this new file type to be compatible with current desktop applications. Additionally, websites like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat where images are a core component of the service will need to support the files, and browsers will need to adjust as well. It could instigate a series of huge changes throughout all segments of technology. 

However, Apple isn’t the only one working to change our future. Google has also developed their own format for images on the web, called WebP.  it remains to be seen which of these two massive tech companies' file format will become the new standard. 

Low-Cost (Mobile) Virtual Reality Options

EdTechRobyn Reese

In a past post on this blog, we examined the highest quality virtual reality devices that are on the market right now. Currently, the best VR systems available require the use of a standalone computer with a high-powered processor and graphics card, and range in price from $500 to $800 dollars. If you are interested in acquiring one of these and have the budget to do so, click here to read our roundup of the computer-enabled VR headsets. If you just want to experiment with VR, or to incorporate it into your classroom without breaking the bank, read on! 

Lower cost VR systems rely upon the use of a mobile device to provide the processing power. These mobile device VR headsets are essentially holders or viewers that work in conjunction with specially designed mobile apps to produce an immersive experience. This experience can vary in quality, depending upon the screen resolution and power of the phone and the control mechanism and lenses of the headset being used. The first mobile VR headset to be distributed widely was the Google Cardboard, a fifteen dollar headset that was so simple that users could assemble it themselves, or even download plans to print their own. As the Cardboard gathered steam (Ten million units have been distributed since it appeared in 2014), it became apparent that there was a need for headsets with more durability, and that there was a market for competition. Here are some of the best examples of mobile VR headsets that are built to last, low in cost, and reliant on a mobile device. 

Samsung Gear VR

The Samsung Gear Mobile VR headset is currently the most widely known of this category of headsets, and is currently the best-selling unit in this category on Amazon.com. It is also currently the most expensive in this category, with a new model priced at $109. The Gear is often bundled as a giveaway with the purchase of Samsung Galaxy devices, making it more affordable if you are in the market for a new phone. The Gear is designed to be paired with Galaxy family of phones, though it can be used with other mobile devices, albeit with limited functionality. Those who are using the Gear with a Galaxy phone can take advantage of one of its most unique features, the controller, which enables you to manipulate or change the content and gaming experience on the device without removing your phone from the holder to tap the screen or the buttons. 

Reviews indicate that this feature of the Gear is one of the reasons that it is currently at the top of its market, along with the fact that it integrates with the Oculus Store. This integration means that users of the Gear must download an Oculus app that enables them to use the content. Unfortunately, though this means that some of the best games and experiences in Virtual Reality are available to users of Gear VR, it seems that many games experience glitches because the mobile phones does not have the requisite processing power to deliver the full, smooth experience. 

As mentioned above, the Gear VR headset can be used by anyone with a mobile device, however, the feature set is severely limited, based upon the type of phone being used. iOS capable devices do not have access to the Oculus Store, severely limiting the experience. Also, currently the remote control might best be described as "in development", since fewer than ten apps in the store take full advantage of it! Another mark in the negative column for the Gear is the fact that the Oculus store is mainly centered around gaming. It does not currently market a Youtube app, making it more difficult to watch 360 videos put out on that platform, which are among the best educational content for VR available today.

Google Daydream View

The Daydream is the newest (and possibly most hyped) addition to the slate of mobile-enabled VR headsets. Continuing Google's commitment to offering cutting-edge technology at a lower price point, the Daydream View offers an incredibly immersive VR experience, and a controller that is better thought-out than the Gear's, but is currently "affordably" priced at $79.00. It is consistently noted as the most comfortable VR headset on the market, constructed out of lightweight plastic with a soft fabric covering that can be removed and washed. 

The Daydream View has a lot of promise, but currently, it is designed to only be compatible with the Google Pixel mobile phone and a VERY limited list of models manufactured by competitors (an updated list of Daydream-ready phones can be found here).  Also, at this time the dedicated Daydream app store has very little content in it, though what IS there is fantastic for education, as this seems to be Google's primary targeted market for the device. Google Expeditions, the Google Arts and Culture App, and YouTube all provide wonderfully immersive experiences with a variety of informative material. 

Another main strength of the Daydream is its open developer platform, making it possible for those who are interested to create their own apps for inclusion in the Daydream store. This is in keeping with the ease of development and acceptance that characterizes the Android platform, as well as other Alphabet (Google) owned content outlets. On the flip side, it has been reported that some of the Cardboard apps that were designed for Google's lower-cost mobile VR headset do not work well in the Daydream, and can cause vertigo or motion sickness. At this time, the Daydream is very much under development, and may not be the best investment, though it does have great promise to provide the VR democratization that will bring this technology fully into the mainstream. 

Cardboard-Compatible VR Headsets

The last category to consider in mobile VR is an extremely broad category known as "cardboard compatible" headsets. Since the form factor and design of the Google Cardboard have been open since its inception, there are a wide variety of devices that mimic it, in different materials, with different price points and levels of quality. Though none of these devices offer an immersive VR experience on the level with the Gear or Daydream, they have the advantage of being device agnostic, so every user has the same experience, regardless of the type of mobile device that they put into the headset. Here are two of the best-known Cardboard-compatible headsets on the market:

Zeiss VR One: The Zeiss is manufactured by the lens company Carl Zeiss, and as such, it markets the visual experience as being one of the best on the market. You are, essentially, paying for the lenses on this headset, and with a price point just under $100, it is debatable whether it is worth the money. The visual experience in mobile VR is already limited by the resolution of your screen (hence, the complaint that Mobile VR often looks gridded or boxy), and the better lenses cannot fix this visual distortion.

Merge VR: The mobile VR dark horse is the Merge VR foam headset. It is designed to hold phones with all form factors, and stretches slightly to ensure a tight fit to protect your phone from dropping out of the headset. Lightweight and closely fitting, it features two straps for comfort when wearing the device. Though it essentially does nothing but hold your phone in the optimal position for viewing, has no buttons, and requires you to take the phone out of the holder to change apps, for the casual user (or in a classroom setting), the Merge is more durable than the traditional Google Cardboard and can be cleaned between uses. With a $40 price tag, it provides few frills, but is the most affordable of all options, while maintaining comfort, cleanliness, and functionality.

 

 

 

 

 

Protect Yourself from Phishing Emails

Robyn Reese

Have you ever recieved an email from a reputable source and thought that something was not quite right about it? It may have been a well-disguised phishing scam, designed to trick you into giving up your personal information or email login. 

Please be advised that there has been a recent rash of scam or phishing emails that appear to be coming from widely used IT services, like Dropbox. Though these emails use logos and branding that make them seem legitimate, they are scams intended to steal email login or other personal information. It is important to always be vigilant when reading emails (at work and at home), and to investigate anything that seems suspicious or unexpected before opening it or clicking on any attachments.

Here are some general clues that an email may be phishing:

  • Does it address you personally? Spam emails often do not refer to the recipient, or refer to them by email address only.
  •  Is the tone urgent and the information incomplete? Since the goal of phishing is to get you to click on a link without thinking, messages are often short with few details, but contain attachments that seem too important to ignore.
  • Who sent the message? Carefully check the email address of the sender. Though it likely will contain the name of the business that is being impersonated, there will be extra information in the domain (For example: Drop-Boxmailing@drop-boxing-authorized.com).
  • Where do the links or buttons lead? Hover, but do not click on any buttons or links within the message to ascertain that they will direct you to a legitimate website. Often, as in the case above, they will direct you to a site that looks legitimate, but has a URL that is too long or contains extraneous information designed to confuse the reader.
  • Does it ask you to enter your email username and password to access the link or attachment? No reputable company would ask you to login with this information.

If you receive an email that you suspect may be a scam or phishing, do not open it. Instead, please forward it to the IT department, so that we can investigate and report back to you.  Instructions for how to report spam or phishing emails can be found here in our Knowledge Base.

Get into your students' heads with Socrative!

EdTechRobyn Reese

The image above, taken from a series of French postcards published in 1899, posits a vision of an ideal twenty-first-century classroom, in which knowledge is literally transmitted into students' heads via cables and a headset. It such a system, I assume, each student would receive the same packets of knowledge in exactly the same format, and thus each student would leave the educational experience with a targeted and identical set of skills. 

This postcard helps to exemplify the fundamental problem of education, one that has clearly existed forever: how do we ensure that students receive the message that we as educators intend to send, and thereby achieve universal mastery for all students? Without an elaborate brain cabling system like the one depicted above, it can be practically impossible.

Assessment is the closest remedy that current instructors have to the problem of uneven understanding, but it is also among the most time consuming and hated features of the instructional cycle for both students and teachers. Thus, when we discovered the app Socrative earlier this year (courtesy of Kent Campus-based History Professor Dana Logan), we were amazed at the ease with which it enabled the creation, administration, and analyzation of mobile-based assessments.

This free app can be downloaded in a student and teacher version for iOS and Android, and can also be used via the web. After signing up for an account, instructors can create short or long-form quizzes that students can access via the mobile app. While the initial purpose of Socrative is for formative assessment at the end of a lesson (it even has a "quick question" feature for on the fly assessment), it allows instructors to utilize a variety of question types, as well as embed related images, figures, and exhibits into questions, making it possible to use the tool for longer form assessments, as well. Once a quiz has been created within the mobile teacher app or the web-based app, it is stored within the interface for later use or re-use.

When the teacher is ready to launch the assessment, they are provided with a number of options that can facilitate classroom and assessment management, such as scrambling questions and distractors or utilizing a teacher-managed pace. Students are able to access the quiz via the Socrative student app by entering the classroom code, a constant letter/number combination that is generated when users sign up for the app. The image to the left provides an example of the launching menu within the teacher's version of the mobile app. 

As the students complete the assessment on their mobile devices via the Socrative student app, the instructor can use either the teacher's mobile app or the web app to view the results in real time, and share them with the students, if appropriate (student names can be hidden). The image below shows an example of a sample World Geography quiz that we administered to test the app, and the results are very instructive. You can see that the color-coded chart provides guidance on concepts that may need quick reteaching, or and it makes it easy to pinpoint individual students may need more intensive remediation. For example, in the example below 80% of the students in the class answered question number one incorrectly, so clearly this content, which dealt with the diameter of the earth, needed to be retaught. Also, the second student in the chart needs additional help, because they missed three questions and are really struggling with many of the concepts. As you can see, Socrative allows you to develop plans to address misconceptions and help your strugglers, before students walk out the classroom door. After class, results can be exported as a .csv or .xls file for manipulation in Excel or uploading into the Blackboard Grade Center.

Thus, while the Ed Tech team has not yet figured out how to build the indoctrination machine that was imagined in the French postcard, Socrative comes pretty close to figuring out what is going on in our students' heads and helps us to do our best to make sure that all students leave us with the skills mastery that is the ultimate and lasting goal of education. 

Thinking Virtually? Tips for Purchasing VR for use at FSCJ

Robyn Reese

Recently, the Ed Tech team has been approached by a few different departments to assist with the acquisition of virtual reality systems for use in creating simulation labs and for learning how to program. As we did preliminary research for the purchases, we found that there was the potential for gaps in understanding the function of the technology that could lead to big problems in the cost and efficiency of virtual reality projects at FSCJ. Prior to making purchases, it is important to recognize what each device needs in order to function properly, and what limitations it may have in terms of available software and functioning. 

Currently, virtual reality devices can be divided into two broad categories, those that require the use of a high-powered computer or laptop to function (computer-tethered), and those that rely upon a mobile device to generate sound and images (mobile-tethered). Broadly speaking, those that require a PC generate better graphics and a more immersive experience but are also more expensive. The most well-known examples of VR devices in this category are the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. In contrast, VR headsets that rely on mobile devices to power the experience are cheaper but do not always provide the "wow" factor that users expect from virtual reality devices. In this post, we will take a closer look at PC-tethered VR headsets. In a future post, we will look at mobile VR headsets.  If looking for a super low-cost option, check out our post about the mobile-enabled Google Cardboard. 

Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift is by far the best known virtual reality device on the market. A subsidiary of Facebook, Oculus was the first company to release a viable VR headset that was able to credibly simulate immersive experiences without creating motion sickness issues. It also has some of the best motion control paddles on the market, allowing you to interact a realistic way within the game play or application use. Built-in headphones complete the immersive experience, without canceling out ambient noise.

From a practical standpoint, it is important to know that the Oculus requires a computer with a high-powered processor and graphics card (specifications can be found here), and that the machines provided for FSCJ faculty and staff are not designed to render highly detailed graphics. Computers must also have three USB ports and an HDMI output. When planning a Virtual Reality project, be sure to budget money for the headset, motion controllers, and the computer to power the VR rig. 

Having developed their own platform for applications and movies, content can currently be purchased via the Oculus Store and the VR section of the online gaming retailer Steam. The content in the Oculus store is one of the major advantages of the Rift right now. It includes incredibly detailed games, award-winning movies, and stable apps to convert your desktop into Virtual Reality. While there are currently workarounds that allow you to play Oculus games on the HTC Vive, Oculus has not promised to allow full compatibility to users of competing devices for all apps moving forward. 

HTC Vive

The Vive is a newer and less celebrated VR headset, but, in many cases, it offers a better setup and use experience than the Oculus Rift, but has a higher price. The Vive's major selling point is the fact that it offers "whole room" VR, which allows the user to move freely within a predetermined space. This allows the viewer to have a more immersive experience, getting them off of the couch and into a better-simulated real world experience. It does this by including "lighthouses", bounding sensors that are set up within the room to create a ten square foot "safe" zone. When the user approaches the edge of this area, they will encounter a virtual "wall" that lets them know that they have reached the end of the bounded play area. 

While the use of the lighthouses to enable more authentic movement in space provides a major advantage for the Vive, it is disadvantaged in the games and apps department. Vive's gaming platform was developed in conjunction with Steam's parent company Valve, and thus it is intended to use apps purchased through that platform. In order to access games via the Oculus store, users must download third party apps that are not guaranteed to work in perpetuity. It is important, therefore, that users insure (at least at this early stage of technology development) that the apps that they would like to use are available for their chosen device. This, of course, is in addition to insuring that the user's personal computer meets the required specifications for use, which can be found here

Thus, while both devices provide the best virtual reality experiences available on the consumer market today, each has features that may make them a better fit for specific educational technology projects. Be sure to do ample research prior to making purchases, and feel free to contact the Educational Technology department with any questions you may have

 

Not sure that you have thousands to spend for your virtual reality project? Coming soon to the AT Blog: a review of the best mobile VR headsets for device compatibility and cost effectiveness. 

VoiceThread in Education

Elizabeth Rodrigue

As education enthusiasts, our team makes it our goal to find new, interesting, and helpful technology for use in education. The most recent tool we have discovered is VoiceThread, which allows you to create slideshows of pictures, videos, articles, and audio recordings using resources on your computer, URLs, or the database of resources provided by them. Once they are set to view, users can make comments, draw pictures, or record voice memos. You can see a sample of this process in the screen sample below. 

 

To begin, visit voicethread.com to set up an account. Those who have a free account can access the preexisting library of VoiceThreads, but cannot create their own. With a paid account, you can create your own files and slideshows!  All VoiceThreads that you create, follow, or that are shared with you can be found on your homepage. There is a search bar and drop down box with options to help you organize your VoiceThreads by date, title, or shared/owned. The content that can be made into a VoiceThread is endless; with options such as animals, math, science, literature, or historical figures.

In addition to sharing of VoiceThreads, there is also the option to browse a library of already existing VoiceThreads for use as a reference or attend free instructional workshops on the website that teach basic to advanced technique in using VoiceThread. 

Your VoiceThreads can also be integrated into your favorite learning management system (Blackboard!),  

Overall, VoiceThread technology is a helpful, easy-to-use tool for education. With a secure platform and the ability to create and share endlessly. It could make any class more interesting.

Behind the Scenes of 2017's Commencement Livestream!

DMP, On Location, PhotosRobyn Reese

Digital Media Productions (with a little bit of help from Educational Technology) was responsible for live streaming FSCJ's annual Commencement exercises, held at the Veterans' Memorial Arena on May 11, 2017. Live streaming enables students' families and support systems to watch the commencement from anywhere in the world via live.fscj.edu or Facebook live. This year's stream was viewed by over 3,500 people in 38 different countries! 

Live streaming requires the use of ten people, three cameras, several computers, yards of cables, and hours of preparation! View the carousel of images below to get a look behind the scenes at the process of setup and filming. 

Blackboard Upgrade: Known Issues and Workarounds

Brandi Bleak
FSCJ Blackboard LMS Upgrade Complete

The Blackboard LMS upgrade is complete and the system is now available. Below, we will list known issues and workarounds discovered within the upgraded system. If you discover additional issues please submit a ticket by going to help.fscj.edu.


RESOLVED!

This issue has been resolved by the Bb and FSCJ Admins.

Login Loop

When attempting to login to Blackboard, you may get pushed into a loop that takes you back to the Artemis/Connections login button loop. If this occurs, please clear you cache and close the browser, then try again. it may take a couple times, however this should resolve the issue.

We are working to resolve this intermittent issue and apologize for any inconvenience it may cause.


RESOLVED

This issue has been resolved by the Bb and FSCJ Admins.

Turnitin

We are currently researching an issue with Turnitin where the following may not be functioning correctly:

  • The links to Turnitit assignments are broken.
  • Unable to edit current Turnitit assignments.
  • Unable to create new Turnitit assignments.

We will update this post with additional information as it is discovered.


image001.png

RESOLVED!

This issue has been resolved by the Bb and FSCJ Admins.

Grade Center Anomaly

Instructors may notice a visual anomaly in the grade center when entering grades, such as “19undefined00”. The grades will be entered and viewable in the grade history of the grade center and students will not notice anything unusual. We are currently working with Blackboard on a solution.


Newly discovered issues will appear on Tips & Tricks tab within Blackboard.

Chatbots In Education: Are They Useful?

EdTechElizabeth Rodrigue

Recently, the term "Chatbot" has come to prominence in EdTech research. What is a Chatbot? They are software that allows for a conversational or messaging style interface to simulate a human interaction. They are computer programs that do their best to act like humans. Some Chatbots have artificial intelligence and many have a database of information and responses for whatever they are asked. Many people use Chatbots on a daily basis to shop, get directions, or even schedule appointments. Some examples of Chatbots would be Siri, Cortana, and Alexa, created by Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, respectively. Increasingly, people are turning to chatbots to control huge aspects of their life, as they can be used for organization, media consumption, and even to control your home's climate!  

How can Chatbots be used in education? Many colleges have already started using or discussing the idea of Chatbots as part of the learning experience. The general idea is that a Chatbot software would make it simpler for students to navigate their classes and college life while making it easier for professors and staff by answering the repetitive questions for them and freeing up more space for more in-depth academic interactions. So, students would be able to turn to the Chatbot for class times and room numbers, when assignments are due, applying for student aid, registering for classes, and other routine queries. An example of successful implementation of a chatbot is Georgia State's AdmitHub so that their students could complete all of the typical student actions, such as signing up for housing, through a simple chat interface.

Another example of a working Chatbot in education is integrated into the foreign language learning software Duolingo. Learners can hold a text-based conversation in the language they are studying that revolves around a specific concept. the responses entered into the interface determine the direction of the conversation, which helps one to practice language organically, in  a way that is more useful for retention and more authentic to the real-world speaking and writing experience.

Chatbot technology is still relatively new so humans have to respond to and edit content on occasion.  In the future, it is a hope that chatbots will be able to "learn" organically, so that human interaction will enable them to gain more knowledge that they can then use in future interactions.  All in all Chatbots can make a significant difference in education but we still have a long way to go with the technology so that Chatbots can completely function on their own.

In Focus LIVE: Academic Reorganization Discussion

In Focus, EdTech, DMPRobyn Reese

During the first week of May, Dr. Bioteau released a President’s Message that described in broad strokes some of the changes that will be made in Academic Affairs for the 2017-2018 year. Dr. Wall asked to utilize the In Focus platform to present a more detailed account of this new organizational structure and to provide an opportunity for faculty and staff to ask questions directly. There was a specific focus on those in Academic Affairs areas. Above, you can view a recording of this live-streamed conversation between Dr. Wall and Assistant Director of Academic Technology Brandi Bleak. 

Viewers of the livestream can follow along with Dr. Wall's PowerPoint below. Towards the end of the segment, Dr. Wall promised to answer all questions that were not covered prior to the end of the stream in this space. Please continue to revisit this space over the next few weeks, as those answers are still forthcoming. Those who have questions moving forward can direct them to provost@fscj.edu.

Explore Lecture Capture

EdTechRobyn Reese

Lecture Capture is becoming a ubiquitous educational technology in higher education because it allows students to have the flexible experience that they expect in a blended or fully online class. Lecture capture can take on a number of forms, and serve several purposes depending upon the pedagogical needs of the professor.  It can be used to record lectures for students who may miss class or need a review, or can be provided in advance of class meetings to front load content that may be needed for a lab or experiential exercise.  It may involve a classic, performative lecture led by a professor, or may simply be a demonstration of a crucial skill or technique that requires repetition for retention.

The Office of the Provost asked the Academic Technology department to investigate the use of lecture capture at FSCJ, for the launching of a pilot project in the Fall of 2017.  The presentation below is a summary of the team's findings, with information about how professors and lecturers can become involved, or obtain more information. 

Watch a Special (End-of-Semester) In Focus: Student Edition

In Focus, DMP, EdTech, AppsRobyn Reese

At this time of year, we all struggle to make it the last fifteen percent of the semester because we just want to think about the summertime! The drawback of this magical feeling of euphoria is that it is also finals time: the most important part of the term! For April's In Focus: Student Edition, Brandi and Robyn took a look at some apps to help you stay on track during these final days so that you can master your final exams. Then, we switched gears to look at ways that you can make the most of your summer!

After watching the video, you can download the apps that were discussed by clicking on the tiles below. Good luck on your final exams and happy summer! 

Blackboard Upgrade in the Works!

EdTech, NewsBrandi Bleak
blackboard logo

FSCJ is planning to upgrade Blackboard on May 10, 2017, with outages certain on May 10, and possible throughout the day on May 11. 

Why Upgrade?

Blackboard releases version updates twice a year, in order to introduce new features and address bugs that are problematic in old ones. Currently, we are a bit behind in adoption of Blackboard versions, and will be making a larger leap from Version 9.1 CU 5 2014 to Version 9.1 Q2 2016.

What to do to Prepare for the Upgrade

There is very little that needs to be done by instructors or students to insure that the upgrade is successful; the Academic Technology Department will work with Blackboard to complete the transition as seamlessly as possible. 

We are asking, however, that professors export any summer courses that you are working on now and store them locally for backup purposes. For more information on how to do this, visit the FSCJ Knowledge Base. 

What to Expect after the Upgrade

Though the Blackboard interface will not change substantially as a result of this upgrade, and most things will look and function the same, users will notice some small changes, detailed below. 

Announcements

When creating an announcement, "Not Date Restricted" is now selected by default.

Email

This release fixes an issue with email sent from Blackboard. Some email clients do not use the reply-to header of emails sent by BbLearn to populate the "To:" field when the user replies to an email. As a result, some students were confused when they received email from do-not-reply@<bblearn_domain> instead of their instructor's email address. This update will fix that problem.

Discussions

Users can navigate from thread to thread without having to return to the main Discussions page.

Browser & HTML5 support

Learn 9.1 now supports the Microsoft Edge browser. The Content Editor now supports HTML5 Audio and Video playback in Chrome and Edge browsers.

VALUE rubrics

As part of the Association of American Colleges & Universities' (AAC&U’s) Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative, the VALUE rubrics contribute to the national dialogue on assessment of college student learning. Educational professionals from over 100 higher education institutions collaboratively developed 16 VALUE rubrics to use the most frequently identified characteristics for measuring success in key learning outcomes.

For users who are interested in using these rubrics, Blackboard has made them available for download and import. Each rubric has been built and formatted appropriately so it can be imported to your courses and used anywhere you can align and evaluate with rubrics today. The downloadable rubrics are available in US English only because this is how they were authored by AAC&U.

iWork, Garageband, and iMovie just got better!

AppsRobyn Reese

Good news for owners of iOS devices! When Apple recently updated its flagship apps for productivity and creativity, it lowered their price to...wait for it....FREE! This is great news for users of Apple's mobile devices, as these apps were previously among the higher priced in the app store, ranging from $4.99 to $9.99 each. All are essential for making the most out of your Mac or tablet. Details of the functionalities of each are presented below, for those who are not already familiar with them. Apps are available for Macbooks, iPhones, and iPads, and require that you have one of the most recent operating systems (iOS 10 or MacOS Yosemite).

While these apps are must-haves for the casual user, they also have a number of pedagogical applications as tools for allowing students to synthesize and showcase learning in a variety of cool ways that will help them to develop real world skills. Teachers can also use the last two creativity tools to find ways to deliver instruction to students asynchronously while hitting different learning modalities. 

Pages

Apple's cleanly designed word processing app can help users make visually appealing posters, cards, and flyers, as well as serving as a word processor. Documents are stored automatically in the cloud for easy collaboration. 

Numbers

Numbers is Apple's spreadsheet application, and while it is not highly robust in the formula department (Excel remains the industry standard), it can be used to easily make visualizations of simple data sets. 

Keynote

With a slew of elegant-looking templates, Keynote makes beautiful presentations the norm. Its strengths are in looks and photo editing, though it does not feature as many customizable tools as PowerPoint. 

Garageband

Want to make music or a podcast? Garageband is the app for you! It allows you to easily record voices or instrumentation and comes with built in beats and sound effects. It has been used to create top ten pop songs, and is a great tool for auditory creativity. 

iMovie

iMovie allows you to easily make slideshows and movies with a series of still images or video files. It comes with built in transitions, music, and add-ons like credits and introductions that can enable you to make professional-looking movies very easily. 

In Focus LIVE: New MediaSpace Tools!

In Focus, EdTech, DMPRobyn Reese

On March 31, the Academic Technology Department hosted an episode of In Focus LIVE that showcased some of the new, easy to use features of MediaSpace, FSCJ's video platform! While you may have used MediaSpace to watch videos, store media, or integrate into your Blackboard courses, a recent update has also given faculty and staff the opportunity to create video quizzes and to do simple screen and lecture capture. MediaSpace expert Michael Smith joined Brandi and Robyn to share best practices for using these new tools within and outside of Blackboard. Watch the In Focus episode below, then, for more information about specific features mentioned in the segment, view the curated playlist of videos below, provided by Kaltura/MediaSpace.

If you are interested in becoming a MediaSpace expert, sign up for Kaltura University, Kaltura's free and comprehensive training program! Kaltura University provides a great overview of how to make, store, and manage videos, with details about chaptering and organizing content.  


How to Use MediaSpace and Upload Videos

Become a MediaSpace power user! This video will show you how it works, and how you can use it to find and view video content at FSCJ. It will also give you a look at how to upload a video from your computer to MediaSpace and how your videos can be organized into playlists and channels. 


Using the CaptureSpace Recorder

CaptureSpace is an exciting new tool that is available for FREE for all FSCJ faculty and staff. It can be used to do screen, voice, and camera recordings with up to three inputs. This video will give a brief overview of how to record videos using CaptureSpace, and will explain how to complete post-production tasks like chaptering and indexing. finally, it provides a look at the flexible media player that is one of the unique features of screencasts that are completed using CaptureSpace. 


 

Post-production Video Tips

This short video will give the novice creator of educational content some tips for how to make videos look more professional. Many of the suggestions provided, including trimming, adding a title, and adding credits, can be done with the touch of a button within MediaSpace.

Others, like captioning for accessibility, are equally important for educational content, but must be done outside of the MediaSpace platform. More information about captioning can be found at the bottom of this blog post. 


 

Adding Video Quizzes

Video quizzes are the newest and most exciting educational feature to be added to the MediaSpace platform. Video quizzes can be created with any video that has been uploaded to the system, and provide a wide range of flexibility in terms of the types of questions that can be asked and their placement within the video. Using the easy techniques that are integrated into MediaSpace, you can create professional looking video assessments that can measure student engagement with media content, as well as concept retention. 


 

Gathering Data from Video Quizzes

Once you have created a video quiz, learn how to use a variety of different tools to gather data about your students' performance. Reports can be viewed within Kaltura, can be exported into Excel, and can be directly sent to the Blackboard gradebook.

Video quizzes can be integrated into Blackboard, to be used for course assessment, as well as being used to track which students are watching required course media.


Tips for using Video for Teaching and Learning

Are you new to creating videos for educational purposes? Learn from the wisdom of MediaSpace users and video professionals from around the country who are interviewed in this video and provide simple tips that you can incorporate into your work. Remember: in making educational videos content, not technology, is king! Make sure that you are using the tool of video to deliver the information that you want your students to learn. 


For more information about how captioning for accessibility is handled at FSCJ, visit the Information Technology Knowledge Base here

Questions, comments or feedback? Email et@fscj.edu.