Video Tutorial on Audacity

I've put together a 25-minute video-based learning object on how to use the free, open-source software Audacity. Audacity is a program which allows you to do audio recording and editing, and also allows you to do multi-track production (if you want to fully produce music).

The Introduction to Audacity video walks you through the install process, presents an audio-production model, and shows how to use some of the editing controls and effects available in the tool.

Audacity is multi-platform (Windows, Mac OS, Linux) and is also available in a version which runs off a USB Flash Drive, called Audacity Portable.

James Falkofske -

FREE Audio Books!

You and your students can download hundreds of audio books for free!
Finding the free books is very easy with a set of lists compiled by the site

You also can go into iTunes and do a search on "audiobook" or "ebook" and then sort the column titled PRICE to be ascending (the free books will list first).

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Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia

The Consortium of College & University Media Centers has a set of Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia (pdf).
While these guidelines are not part of copyright law, they are agreed upon standards which can guide the non-commercial, educational uses of multi-media.

An important point in the use of multi-media in online courses is that materials must be password protected and prevent students from downloading the work (which normally means using a streamed media server). If the network cannot prevent downloads, then the materials can be placed on a secured network (password protected) for a period of 15 - and then removed (and students must be advised that they cannot make any copies of the multimedia).

Guidelines for the amount of work are also provided. The following assume that non-commercial, educational uses are being made and that materials are not copied by the students to their own computers.

  • Motion media: 3 minutes or 10% whichever is less.
  • Text materials: 1000 words or 10% whichever is less.
  • Music, Lyrics, and Music Video: 10% or 30 seconds, whichever is less.
  • Illustrations and Photographs: 10% or 15 images from a collection, whichever is less.
  • Numerical Data Sets: 2500 cells or 10%, whichever is less.

The site also provides a caution against using materials found on the Internet and labeled as "public domain" - because most often these works are protected by copyright and mislabeled (intentionally or otherwise).

Also - a reminder that any sources and materials must be attributed to the copyright owner. The © symbol followed by the year of publication and the name of the copyright holder is expected. (© 2009 James Falkofske)

It is recommended that multimedia productions include a notice on the opening slide or title which indicates "certain materials included in this presentation are under the fair use exemption of the U.S. Copyright Law and have been prepared according to the fair use guidelines and are restricted from further use."
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Welcome to the new site!  Please feel free to explore the site.  The materials on this site are available for use under Creative Commons with attribution for educational uses.


Creative Commons License
This work by James Falkofske is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


LSC Workshop for Online Course Peer Review

2009 May Faculty Peer Review Workshop by LSCSummary of Notes – James Falkofske
The last two days I was in Duluth, MN attending the Online Faculty Peer Review Course Design Workshop presented by Susan Brashaw and Amy Jo Swing of Lake Superior College. Here are some notes from the workshop about their faculty peer review process for online courses.
Peer Review is Strictly Voluntary Participation

  • Instructors are invited to participate, but there is no requirement (due to labor contract concerns of “on-ground” versus “online” responsibilities and review).
  • About 60% of the online faculty members have been part of the review process at some point.
  • Faculty volunteer to have their courses reviewed; they aren’t eligible for this until they have had the training.
  • A coordinator (Susan Brashaw) is given release time to recruit faculty, recruit courses for review, handle paperwork, and provide training to reviewers. Also, the coordinator helps “teach how to teach” online (which is more than having technical training on how to use D2L tools). This was seen as a critical factor in the ongoing use of the peer review process.

Review Process

  • Rubric adapted from the Maryland Online Quality Matters Rubric while still under the FIPSE Grant (which required results be public and sharable). LSC allows others to use, adopt, and adapt their rubric. The LSC rubric is simplified to meet the best practices and needs of LSC.
  • LSC review process uses local faculty only (no outside reviewers), and instructor / designer must approve the review team prior to review.
  • Reviewers receive 2 to 3 hours of instruction prior to their first review. Faculty are only eligible to become a reviewer after one of their own courses has been reviewed.
  • Three reviewers are assigned to review a course, and one is designated the leader who meets 1-on-1 with faculty designer and has other reporting responsibilities. The leader receives a $300 stipend for this activity.
  • Instructor completes a checklist – helping reviewers identify where certain standards are being met in the course.
  • A passing score of 60/70 means course is “certified;” otherwise the course is scored as “in progress.” Roughly half the courses are given “in progress” scores upon first review.
  • Even if a course is “certified,” the reviewers provide recommendation for improvements to the course design, flow, and appearance. The review process examines structure and design much more than “quality of content.”
  • “In process” courses can have the leader of the review team review the changes to determine if the course then meets certification standards.
  • All the information is held as confidential; review team signs statements of non-disclosure; faculty may choose to share results with administrators, but administrators alone cannot request results from any review. All documents (paper and electronic) are “shredded” after one year.
  • Since starting 4 years ago, 53 courses have been reviewed and 21 reviewers trained (review of roughly 15 courses per year)
  • Reviews are only made for fully online courses; there are thoughts of expanding the review process to hybrid / web-enhanced courses

D2L Best Practices NotesMuch of the workshop was sharing of best practices for online instruction and course design; I enjoyed hearing that other faculty were using the same types of online activities which I recommend, and I was able to provide some technical assistance to participants in specific D2L settings and tools.

  • The LSC Presenters felt this was especially important: D2L Site Administrators should turn on all possible tools for faculty to control themselves; this allows faculty to be innovative and be able to have maximum control over the presentation of their online courses. This includes changing navigation bars, creating custom widgets, and modifying course run dates.
  • Provide faculty with a “Starter Course” from which they can copy & paste ideas they want. The course provides brief “how to” instructions for embedding different types of content, changing D2L tool settings, etc.
  • The processes of satisfying the rubric can be simplified by creating special tools that faculty can cut and paste into their courses (the official Virtual Campus Student Support Widget as one example)
  • Faculty and students need to have access to technology tutorials which demonstrate how to use tools (D2L, wikis, photo editors, etc.) for online courses.
  • Encourage students to express creativity using Web 2.0 tools, but don't make the use of Web 2.0 tools a requirement for an individual student's assignment.

James Falkofske -

D2L Setting Custom Content Homepage

If you use Desire2Learn and want to help guide your students through your course week-by-week, you can set a custom Content Homepage for each week, by picking which Content Topic should open automatically when students click Content.
Students will always get to see a Table of Contents link - so that they always access any Topic from the course.

Go to Content > Settings > then use the checkbox for Create a Custom Content Homepage. Then choose which File should be loaded automatically by using the button Change File.

James Falkofske -

D2L - Creating Private Discussions

Why Create a Private Discussion?

If you are using Desire2Learn (D2L) then private discussions will allow you and your students to communicate confidentially within the online course site. Rather than receiving emails from unknown personal accounts (and likely ignoring the emails), or being asked to reply to a cryptic email which lacks basic details (such as which course, which section, which student), a private discussion area allows you to easily manage your 1-on-1 communications with students.

Setting Up Private Discussions (pdf) - how to set up a 1-on-1 private discussion with each student.
Video Demonstration of Private Discussion Process (Flash)

Not only does this help keep your email box clean, but it also assists with FERPA issues, so that students who have private concerns are not feeling compelled to post them in a public discussion forum.

James Falkofske -

Are Students Ready for an Online Course?

Some students sign up for online courses thinking they will be a breeze, since they "won't even have to go to class!" Other students sign up - because their work schedules don't allow them to take classes when the face-to-face sections are offered.

This results in some students in the "virtual chairs" not having the skills, tools, are attitudes required to succeed.

Here is a self-assessment checklist I wrote in JavaScript to counsel students if they are ready for the online environment.

Here is an exercise I created for students to assess their ability to use Microsoft Word formatting and tools.

Here is a site which offers a free keyboarding / typing test - for students to check how fast they can keyboard.

Here is a site which offers a free connection speed test for student Internet connections.
James Falkofske -

What Sections Should Your Syllabus Share?

A syllabus for an online course needs to account the integration of the technologies being used and also should be much more thorough than a syllabus for a face-to-face course in order to avoid the small questions which students will have (which might raise their anxiety). Over-explaining is encouraged in an online course; students who are nervous will get the answers they need, and all others can quickly skim through the documents feeling reassured that if they have a question later, they will be able to find the answer quickly.
Here are some specific sections you might include as headings in your syllabus for an online course.

  • Instructor(s) and Department Contact Information
  • Instructor(s)'s Teaching Philosophy and Course Pedagogy*
  • About the Course
    • Course Description (University Catalog)
    • Prerequisites
    • Competence Statement and Course Learning Objectives
    • Required Textbook and Resources
    • Are You Ready for This Online Course?
    • Course Methods
    • Measurement of Learning Outcomes
  • College / University Policies
    • Drop/Withdraw
    • University Grading Policy
    • Disability Services
  • Communications
    • Questions and Answers about the Course
    • Email: When to Use and What to Include
    • Major Life Trauma
    • Return of Assignments / Feedback
    • Attendance and Course Communications
  • Instructor Policies and Requirements
    • Preparation
    • Quality of Response
    • Professionalism and Respect
    • Collaborative Work
    • Plagiarism and Copyright
    • Course Incomplete
    • Late Work
    • Extra Credit Policy
  • Technology Expectations
    • Backup Copies of Assignments / Save of Returned Assignments
    • Online "Snow Days"- What to do if the IMS is down (alternatives)
    • Technology Requirements and Expectations
    • Computer Hardware and Software
    • File Management
    • Document File Names
    • Campus Resources
    • Other Free Resources
  • Evaluations and Grading
    • Required Competency Activities (if these are not completed; student fails course)
    • List of Assessments and Instructions for Completion
      • Course Orientation Assignments
      • Chapter Quizzes
        • No Trick Questions - Obvious Answers are Correct*
      • Exams
      • Discussions - Participation and Posting Expectations
      • Weekly Research and Analysis Activities
      • Peer Reviews
      • Written Papers
      • Projects and Presentations
    • Grade Scale:
    • Bonus / Extra Credit Opportunities

* Students in online courses might not get as much of a chance to see your personality or to gauge whether or not you are a "trickster." If you like to play "Devil's Advocate" in Discussions, or if you use humor to try to make your points - disclose that to students right up front - so that they know you are not making fun of them. Also - to reduce testing anxiety, it is helpful to clearly state something like "when taking quizzes and exams, you will not face any trick questions. If you are very well-studied, the answers should be obvious. Don't 'over-think' a question; always pick the answer which works best in the widest variety of situations."

As a separate document, a Schedule of Assignments should be created which indicates specific due dates, readings and topics, and activities/assignments which needs to be completed. Rather than burying this information in a syllabus, placing this information in a separate document makes it much easier for your students to reference.
James Falkofske -

Making Your Documents Accessible

Here are some videos which will walk you through the basics of making accessible documents.

Please view ALL of the following videos to ensure that you know the skills needed to make your Microsoft Office documents accessible.

These videos require the Adobe Flash Player. The player is available as a free download (if not already installed on your computer).

For other videos - scroll down beneath the video window.

Video: Preparing Your Documents for Online Use (3 min 40 sec) | Handout: Making Your Word Documents Accessible (pdf)

Specific Skills
Video: Using Heading Codes in Microsoft Word (interactive)
Video: Adding Image Accessibility to Microsoft Documents (1 min 34 sec)
Video: Renaming Hyperlinks in Microsoft Documents (1 min 45 sec)
Video: Ensuring Tables Meet Accessiblity Guidelines (2 min 30 sec)
Handout: Installing the Office 2007 PDF Plug-in (pdf)
Video: Saving Word 2007 Documents as PDF files (1 min 45 sec) - screen reader voices
Video: Saving PowerPoint 2007 as PDF files (2 min 5 sec) - screen reader voices

You should convert your content documents to the PDF format so that they open directly in D2L. Microsoft Office documents uploaded directly to D2L create browser security errors; they also force a student to own Microsoft Office software to use the files (or to having to use Microsoft Internet Explorer and additional special plug-ins before files will display).

Video: Security Issues Caused by Microsoft Office Documents in D2L
(0 min 55 sec)

NOTE: If you have worksheets or other homework which students must complete using Microsoft Office programs, then it is appropriate to post those files directly in D2L with additional instructions for students on how to properly download and save the files for editing.
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