Blackboard Learn is being upgraded on May 19th and 20th

The College is upgrading to a newer version of Blackboard.  When the upgrade is complete, faculty and students will not experience significant differences from the functionality and design of the current version, but the system will be operating on new hardware.  Please take note of the following upgrade activities as we work to implement the upgrade:

  • Starting at 12:01am on Thursday, May 19th and continuing through May 20th, Blackboard Learn will be offline and unavailable to students, faculty and staff.  The extended outage will allow the infrastructure changes to be completed. Note that faculty preparing course sites for Summer will not be able to access the system during the upgrade.
  • The upgraded Blackboard Learn will be available again on Saturday, May 21st.

If you need assistance with Blackboard Learn, the Online Technical Support team can be reached via phone or email:

  • Call 216-987-4257
  • Email or

Additionally, help documents will be available on the Online Learning pages at

Free Quality Matters APPQMR workshop at the University of Akron

The UniversiQuality Matters Logoty of Akron is offering a free “Applying the Quality Matters Rubric (APPQMR)” workshop on April 22, 2016 from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. 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. Registration is required and there are only a limited number of seats available so register now!    See “How to Register” below and log into MyQM to register to register now! Contact Cheryl Knight (216-987-4979 or for the Rubric Workbook that you should bring with you.

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.

How do I register: Log into MyQM. SELECT: Workshop – Register, Dedicated Training, find the corresponding workshop date, click on Register link.
Location: The University of Akron, Leigh Hall 414.
Time: 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, (lunch is not provided).
Who should attend:  faculty who are interested in improving the quality of online/blended courses and faculty  who are in becoming a peer-certified reviewers.
What is covered in the workshop:  The workshop will cover the underlying principles of QM; the critical elements of the QM quality assurance program, including QM Rubric, materials, processes, and administrative components; how to apply the 5th Edition QM  Rubric to review online courses; applying the concept of alignment; writing helpful recommendations for course improvement and much more.

March 17 Blackboard Outage

Yesterday, March 17, Tri-C’s Blackboard system was unavailable from approximately 3:00pm – midnight due to an unexpected outage. This outage was a result of system instability that manifested after maintenance was completed in the early morning.  When we realized the extent of the issues impacting faculty and student users, the Blackboard system was brought down to allow us to resolve the issues. The system came down in stages to allow connected students to complete and submit their work before the outage.

Once the system was unavailable, it took longer than expected to resolve the issues and restore functionality. We offer our apologies for the inconvenience that this caused for our faculty and students who were trying to access Blackboard to complete course work or prepare for the upcoming B term. In the future, updates will be made available in a more timely fashion on this blog, but be sure to check My Tri-C Space for the most current and official status updates from the College.  We will also continue to work with Information Technology Services to ensure that any additional faculty communication preferences are met.

Please let us know if you have any questions.


Of Gamification and Game-Based Learning – a Refresher

Refining terms – we ask it of our students, and of ourselves so that we can be succinct in our understanding of a given topic.  Well, what of Gamification and Game-Based Learning?  Do we have a clear understanding of the concepts? Check out this article from the folks at eLearning Industry (elearning blog).  It provides some clear and basic definitions.

The Differences Between Gamification And Game-Based Learning gamification-vs-game-based-learning-two-different-things

Introducing . . . SoftChalk Create Online!

softchalk create online

Ever wish you could make quick little edits to your SoftChalk lessons without having to launch the entire SoftChalk Create program? Have you been on the go and only had your iPad or tablet with you to make revisions to a lesson? Or maybe you just want to run SoftChalk Create from your desktop without logging into Tri-C Private Cloud?

SoftChalk is making those wishes a reality with the SoftChalk Create Online ‘Quick Editor’, and SoftChalk Local Launch!

SoftChalk Create Online ‘Quick Editor’ allows users to:

  • Add or edit text as well as applying text formatting,
  • Insert bookmarks, hyperlinks, iframes and tables,
  • Modify properties for an existing image as well as insert a URL to an image,
  • Work on Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or IE and,
  • Allows editing on your iPad or Tablet.

SoftChalk Create Local Launch allows users to start building SoftChalks without opening Tri-C SoftChalk Cloud Private.

To begin using Create Online, simply log into your SoftChalk Cloud account, select ‘My Content’ and ‘Lessons’ find the pencil icon and click! To begin using Create Local Launch download the Create Local Launch .exe file, review the instructions and contact customer care (987-4357) for assistance installing it on your computer.

Need a quick reference? Use the updated on SoftChalk Create Online in the SoftChalk Cloud Guide (pgs. 38-48) to get started!


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.


Camtasia Relay updates Coming Soon!

The Office of eLearning & Innovation and Information Technology Services will be updating Camtasia Relay on Friday, December 18. The new version of Relay offers similar functionality to the current version of Relay, but has been renamed “TechSmith Relay.” TechSmith Relay will support Windows 10 as well as both Mac OSX Yosemite and Mac OSX El Capitan. The new TechSmith Relay Recorder also will enable faculty to upload existing video and image files. Stay tuned for more information!


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