All posts by sashatberr

When the winds of change blow…

So, here’s one final blog post from yours truly before I head off to New Hampshire!

Couple quick things:

  • Even though some folks are moving around, eLi is still here!  Tri-C will be hiring a new Assistant Dean to lead eLi and fill the open positions in the department in the coming months.
  • If you have inquiries of a technical nature, please route them through or by calling 216-987-4257.  This includes requests for extensions for training for faculty to teach online, course combinations, etc.
  • If you have departmental questions, our own Dr. Holly Craider is serving in an interim capacity in addition to her primary role as Director of Curriculum, and can be reached at her Tri-C email.

A big giant thank you to everyone at Tri-C who I’ve had the pleasure and honor of working with.  Our common mission is close to my heart.  I truly believe that we have, together, improved success for our students online through implementing quality design and innovative learning models.  Please always feel welcome to reach me – I am sashatberr on just about everything, and at gmail.  You can also find me at

One of my favorite quotes these past few years has been this one (generically labeled “Chinese Proverb”):

“When the wind of change blows, some people build walls, others build windmills.”

Let’s continue to build windmills together.




FYE Game Site & Student Tech Survey

In this update….

Info on the FYE Game, the Student Technology Survey, and the eLearning Orientation Reboot.

FYE Game Site

If you attended the Convocation session on the FYE Game, please find that here:

FYE Game screenshot

You can now request your copy of the FYE Game site!  How?  Follow these simple directions:

  1. Email ITS at:
  2. Ask to be added as a faculty member in the 2016 FYE Game course site.
  3. Login to Blackboard, and use the Course Site Request System to request your own copy!
  4. May the odds be ever in  your favor.

We are currently incorporating the feedback from the session, so those Softchalks will be updated till end of day Friday.  Don’t worry, that’s all in the cloud, so it won’t impact your ability to have a current copy of the course.

Student Technology Survey

If you weren’t at the Student Technology Survey session with Professor Sam LiPuma and myself, of course you missed the social event of the season, but you also missed hearing the sometimes unexpected but always illuminating results of the 2015 college-wide survey of students about technology!  Check out the presentation below:

Student Tech Survey


eLearning Orientation Reboot in Course Button

Have you seen the eLearning Orientation Reboot?  Check it out!  It can help prepare your students to be successful in their online and blended/hybrid courses.

We also put it into a course site via a button!  It comes with 5 quick accompanying quizzes to test students’ knowledge in 5 domains:

  • Managing Your Time Well
  • Being a Successful Student
  • Being an Online Student at Tri-C
  • Using Blackboard
  • Computer and Internet Basics

Students get digital badges when they hit 80% or above in the quick quizzes.

Do you want your very own button?  Email and ask to be added to the 2016 eLearning Orientation Reboot course as a faculty member.  You can then copy the entire button into your courses!

Have a great start of term!



2015 Recap of Online Learning: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

2015 has seen some interesting developments in online learning.  Here is a recap of some key trends, as well as critical components for higher education to consider in innovating online learning to improve student success in online programs and courses.

Some large surveys have revealed important data about student preferences and perceptions, as well as that of faculty and administrators.  There is a strange symmetry in these results. 

What Students Want Online

An important answer for any institution to know is if students would come to an on-campus class if their program wasn’t available online.  Of online learners, 30% said they would probably or definitely would not attend face-to-face.  Also important to note is that online learning is growing at a much higher rate than higher education overall – the IPEDS data release recently for Fall 2014 indicated that overall enrollments in colleges and universities were down 2.2% over the previous 2 years.  However, online learning enrollments continued to grow, with a 6.6% increase in enrollments over the same time period.

The enrollment growth aligns with the perceptions of Chief Academic Officers, 70.8% of whom agree that “online education is critical to the long-term strategy of their institution.”

Though the demographic of online students has largely been attributed to post-traditional students (a population that continues to grow in higher education,) 34% of undergraduate online students are 18-24, and the next highest percentage was 17% for 25 – 29 year olds.  That same survey found that 44% of these undergraduate students were employed full-time, and 24% were employed part-time.

Opportunity:  Follow the growth.  An important need is being revealed as the demographic of online learners expands and continues to grow:  a contemporary, knowledge-based economy requires continual, flexible learning.  Cohesive, well-designed and streamlined online programs can provide those to students regardless of their age.  Student supports need to be available online as well as face-to-face because an increasingly diverse population of online learners will have varied needs for support.

Who Are These Students Anyway?

Perhaps counterintuitively, most online students are still local.  65% of online students live within 100 miles of their institution, of those 50% live within 50 miles.  However, that still means that 35% of online students live outside of that 100 mile radius.  What institutions are they going to?  Is there a closer institution that they are not attending because the online program that they want is not available?

2014 IPEDS data reveals that one in seven of college students is enrolled exclusively at a distance.  The same data reveals that this growth is entirely in the non-profit sector, with 9% of it coming from public institutions, and 22% of the growth coming from private non-profit institutions.

Opportunity:  Public institutions could consider innovating faster and creating more agile processes for program development.  It could be that the availability of programs offered by more nimble, private institutions are luring away potential students from local, public institutions.  The opportunity for private non-profits, of course, is to continue to innovate at this pace and lure away!

Student Perception of Quality and Faculty Buy-In to Online Learning

According to the 2015 Online College Students:  Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences report by Learninghouse and Aslianian, 21% of students reported “inconsistent/poor contact and communication with instructors” and 17% reported that they had concerns about “inconsistent/poor quality of instruction.”  The 2015 Grade Level:  Tracking Online Education in the United States by the Babson Survey Research Group, revealed that only 28% of academic leaders indicated that their faculty accept the “value and legitimacy of online education.”

Though one can’t make definitive conclusions based on this data, it would seem that faculty perceptions of the value of online education could be impacting the quality of the student experience.  The same report indicated that 56.7% of academic leaders rated faculty acceptance of the value of online learning as an “important or very important” barrier to the growth of online education.

Opportunity:  Investing in faculty professional development and quality improvement processes (like Quality Matters) can improve the quality of online courses and thereby transform the culture of an institution and the perception of the value of online learning.

What Research Says Is Important to Student Success Online

Because I’d like to avoid “duplication of effort,” check out this blog post on what matters for student success in online learning entitled “Does Online Learning Work.”  As a brief recap, some important components are:

  1. Online engagement (which has that strange symmetry with student perception about faculty communication as above), including social engagement
  2. Instructional design (see Quality Matters, eCampusAlberta and Universal Design for Learning’s Research)
  3. Student preparation (interestingly, most often an issue of student attributes rather than technology skills)

Opportunity:  Institutions should build into faculty professional development an emphasis instructional design of courses including designing for increased social learning, and develop online programs that maximize opportunities to build student resilience, through strategies like gamification.

Deep Thoughts

Regardless of what type of institution you are at, investing in online learning follows the growth of enrollments in higher education.  Finding ways to improve quality will both increase faculty perceptions of the value of online learning and then hopefully student perceptions of the quality of online learning leading to increased student success.

There is now quite a bit that we know about what works online.  Now it’s time to drive the change that will support students to succeed in individual courses and graduate from online programs.


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Microsoft Store

We’ve been blogging about success rates for online courses for the past few days.  And wouldn’t you know it…

So I’m at the Microsoft Store attempting to get my Surface Pro 3 updated because it is not behaving properly.  I strike up a conversation with a woman in a similar situation and – I am not making this up – it turns out she is a Tri-C student, graduating this May.  She asked me what I did at Tri-C, and when I told her I worked in the online division, hilarity ensued.

Her reasons for choosing online:

  • Saves time
  • Works with her schedule
  • As a busy mom, that’s important!

Another Tri-C success story!  Congratulations to Rebecca who will graduate in May!

Students Taking Online Courses Graduate at 50% Higher Rates

In this morning’s edition of “The More You Know” we explore Tri-C’s data behind success rates for students who take online courses.

Did you know that students who take online courses have a 50% higher graduation rate?

This data was taken from the three-year graduation data of Tri-C students who started in years 2010, 2011, and 2012 through our Office of Evidence and Inquiry.  And yes – that was 50% higher!

What about students who take online courses only?

You would think there’s a gap, right?  You would be right!  Interestingly there is a .6 point difference between students who take online only courses and all students – .6 points lower for students who take online only.  But for non-IPEDs students (that is students who are not first-time, full-time students,) students who take online only courses actually are UP .6 points in graduation rates.

So what does all of this mean?

We can’t say it’s causational – the mere taking of online courses or online only programs doesn’t mean you will learn better in order to graduate sooner and in greater percentages.  It could be that students who take online courses take them because they need them, because they otherwise would not be able to complete their degrees.

Non-traditional and post-traditional students often can’t make it to campus.  Access was one of the core reasons for expanding online education back in the 1990s, and indeed the entire history of distance education demonstrates this access mission.  Correspondence courses and radio and televised courses enabled students who otherwise would not have access to higher education the ability to gain credentials and improve their lives and the lives of their families.

So how can we improve graduation rates, gain and support more post-traditional students, and improve access (and equity) in alignment with our mission?  Do online better of course!

Happy to share the raw data!  #TheMoreYouKnow #MissionDriven


Interested in learning more about the history of distance education?  Check out this great interactive timeline one of my students created for the course I teach at Kent State University – “The Guide to Everything eLearning for the Higher Education Administrator.”

If you want to get your eLearning geek on and explore the perceptual differences between distance education, eLearning, online learning and the corresponding craze of spellings, check out this examination from the journal The Internet and Higher Education.

Quality Matters Workshop at CSU

Tri-C faculty!  You are invited to attend an Applying the Quality Matters Rubric workshop at Cleveland State University.  Please find details below.  If you plan to attend, please register directly with CSU via the method below and also contact Sasha at in order to obtain your QM Workbook.

This workshop will explore the Quality Matters Project and Processes and will prepare you to be part of an initiative that positively impacts the design of online/blended courses and ultimately, student learning and success.

QM is designed to improve the quality of online and blended courses by establishing a peer- reviewed quality assurance review process. You will become familiar with the Quality Matters standards and participate in a practice peer course review of an online course using the review tools. Participants in this hands-on workshop can be online/blended instructors, instructional designers, and/or faculty members & faculty developers. After successfully completing this workshop, you will be eligible to move into the Online Peer Reviewer Certification. In addition, you will gain ideas to improve your own courses using the QM Standards.


Seats Available per session: 15

Cost: FREE for participants from an institution that is a member of the Ohio QM Consortium. Cleveland State University will provide coffee and lunch. Paid parking will be available in the visitor lot near the building.

You must come to the workshop with a QM Rubrics Workbook. Consult with your school’s Institutional Representative to obtain a workbook for the workshop. You can also order this from Quality Matters for $15 plus shipping and handling. Please order your workbook quickly to assure that you have it in time for the APPQMR training. If you have trouble obtaining a workbook prior to training please let us know.  We have a few extra.

Date: 12/17/15 Time: 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM

Location: Cleveland State University,

Michael Schwartz Library, RT 401

1860 E. 22nd St., Cleveland, Ohio 44109

Registration Deadline: Friday 12/11/15

To Register: email

Please email QM Coordinator, Sarah Rutland ( or call 216-802-3147 with questions regarding the workshop.

Does Online Learning Work?

Though many within the online learning field have considered this question to be a bit of a “been there, done that” moment, some recent studies have indicated new evidence on the impact of online learning for students.  What does online learning “do” to student success?  What does it “do” to graduation rates?

So the short version is that many studies have indicated that in terms of meeting course outcomes, online courses are at least as effective as face-to-face courses.

But many studies at the community college level have indicated a difference in student success rates (generally considered to be A-C) of anywhere from 5% – 10%.  The Community College Research Center’s investigation also revealed this in a 2 state study.

The Paradox

Students who take online courses at community colleges get good grades in lower percentages, but (and this is a big but) they graduate sooner and in greater percentages.

Authors Shea and Bidjerano analyzed national data from community colleges and found that students who take online courses early in their degrees had a 13.5% completion rate over 4 years, as compared to only 8.9% of students who had not.

With online courses continuing to grow at a rate faster than higher education overall (enrollment in online courses grew at 3.7% last year,)  and enrollment declines being seen in community colleges what core components impact student success in online courses?  In other words, how can institutions improve students success rates in online courses?

Follow the Data

From the research conducted into what makes online learning effective, we know that:

  1. Engagement is key to student success online
  2. Good instructional design is critical (outcomes & objectives)
  3. Effective use of technology is a good thing
  4. Student preparation may have some effect

Online Engagement

Historically, online courses were created by “converting” face-to-face instructional materials and quizzes into online delivery systems.  With student engagement being key, it appears that social engagement is important, and studies have supported that theory.  Lack of student engagement online (as indicated by frequency and timeliness of instructor interactions) correlated with student perception of lack of quality in online courses.  In other words, the less engaging the course, the poorer the students perceived the course to be.

Why might online courses be created to be less engaging?  System limitations.  At a time when over one-third of recent marriages start online, when Facebook has 936 million active users in Q1 of 2015 alone, we can postulate that online engagement can be highly effective.  But while has a lot invested in creating engagement online, our LMS systems (i.e. Blackboard et al,) were mainly built to deliver content.

Importance of Instructional Design

…. and delivering content should probably not be the focus online.  Engagement with content is a different animal than posting content.  Recent discussions of contemporary learning theory have focused more and more on active, participatory learning in virtual environments.  This great post explains some of the differences between Education 1.0 and Education 3.0.   Or here by Hase and Kenyon, the originators of heutagogy.

How do you know what is quality online?  Many quality tools have appeared over time based on comprehensive research into what works online.  I’m not going to repeat all that research here, but find research on Quality Matters here, find research on eCampus Alberta’s Rubric here, and find information about Universal Design for Learning here.

Student Preparation for Online Learning

A Noel-Levitz study found that Life Factors and Individual Attributes were a significant predictor of student satisfaction in online courses.  Personal attributes seem to be one of the most- if not the most – important component of student preparation, and this SmarterMeasure research supports that and the conclusion that results on skills for online learning were also correlated with success in online courses.

However, beyond technical skills, by far a learner’s general abilities and qualities such as motivation, attitude, confidence, and independence are most highly correlated with success in online courses.

Other Institutional Advantages

In addition to the conclusion that “yes, it’s effective at graduating students, somewhat less effective at getting them good grades (by 5-10%,) and how you do it really matters,” there are the other institutional advantages.  Beyond fiscal sustainability, when a learner is engaged online, you can capture rich data about their progress in real-time.  No longer does an institution have to wait until the student has already failed the course to conduct intrusive, rapid-fire outreach.

When a student doesn’t come to class, a faculty member can’t always call them to ask why.  But the college can send emails, texts, and even contact the student on social media if that student is participating.  Many institutions don’t have those systems set up yet.  While’s very existence depends upon tracking your online behavior, colleges are not yet there with the technology and the interaction.  But many institutions are actively integrating these components in an effort to support student success.

So there you have it!  The brief version anyways.  Interested in Tri-C’s data on the same?  Contact

Special Issue of American Journal of Distance Education focused on Quality Matters

Check out the great articles on the research behind QM!

Great article The Impact of Findability on on  Student Motivation, Self-Efficacy, and Perceptions of Online Course Quality! 


“Findability” is a component of “usability,” whereby students can find essential course components.  Results included that courses with low findability reported lower levels of self-efficacy and motivation.

Interested in learning more about how you can get more involved with Quality Matters at Tri-C and improve findability in your course?  Contact


Open Access Week

Did you know it’s Open Access Week?  What is that?

“Open Access” to information – the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need – has the power to transform the way research and scientific inquiry are conducted. It has direct and widespread implications for academia, medicine, science, industry, and for society as a whole.

Check it out at:

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

How can you get involved?

  1. Use Open Educational Resources (OER) – free, openly licensed materials.  Your students will love you!
  2. Publish materials as OER – share your great educational materials (and get publication credit!)
  3. Tell a friend!  The more folks who are involved in the OER community, the better!

Learn more about Open Educational Resources HERE!

Want to get involved?  Contact Sasha dot Thackaberry at

Message from IT Regarding Instructor PC Login

Hi All!  We’re sharing the below message from IT in order to get it out to all Tri-C faculty asap.  Please contact IT with any questions regarding it at 987-4357.  Best! – Sasha

Based on faculty feedback regarding the need to use “ccc_network\” when logging into classroom-based instructor PCs, ITS has identified a solution that will address this immediate need:

  • Starting at 6:30 AM ET on Friday, September 18th, faculty will no longer need to use “ccc_network\” in front of their username when logging into a classroom-based instructor PC.
  • Faculty will be able to log into these machines using only their username, just like on their office PCs.

There should be no negative impact from a faculty perspective. Please note the following:

  • If a faculty member encounters a classroom-based instructor PC that does not enable a faculty member to login using only his/her username, then please report the issue to the HelpDesk at x4357 or via email at Faculty members can still login to these machines by using “ccc_network\” in front of their username until the issue has been corrected.
  • Any student who logs into a classroom-based instructor PC will now need to use his/her email address (, which is how students access their email currently
  • If a faculty member needs to log into a normal lab PC or a Learning Commons PC, then he/she will still need to use “ccc_network\” in from of his/her username.

A more detailed description of the issue, resolution, impact, timeline, ongoing monitoring, and the future state can be found here.

We sincerely appreciate your partnership as we work to enhance the faculty experience in the classroom. – IT and Technow