Semester Course Template

We have created a Fall 2018 template that you could use to speed up your course development.  The template contains an orientation module with some Canvas tutorial videos for students, and a page to show them how to get help.  There are some additional activities which are unpublished for you to choose to use them. Remove them if you already have similar items. The template also contains modules marked by weeks.

The template also contains some key events from the academic calendar to help you and students to keep track of them.

Additionally, we have created a course homepage which you can customize for your own use. If you decide not to use it, go to course home page, and use “choose home page” to select another course entry method.

To use this template, go to your course’s home page, choose “import from Canvas Commons”, search for “Fall 2018 Course Template” and import it into your course once you have found it.

If you run into difficulty in any of these steps, please contact the Adams Center for help. When requesting help, remember to send the course URL for us to find your course quickly.

Alternative uses of your voice

If you hear me speaking to myself in my office, it is not a sign that I am getting crazy. I might be “typing”.  Voice recognition technologies have made it possible for us to input by simply speaking. Here are a few examples:

  1. “Type” on a mobile device:
    On your iPad or mobile phone, press the microphone icon to dictate in notes, emails, or other applications. Make sure you check the results later on.  You may need to edit the content. The same applies for other suggestions below.

iPAD Dictation tool

2. Dictate in Google Docs:
Google Docs now allows you to dictate as well.  It is called “voice typing” under “tools”.  Give it a try.  It is fairly accurate.

Google Docs Voice Dictation

3. Generate video subtitles:
If you upload a video to Youtube, Youtube can automatically transcribe your voice into subtitles which you can then improve into more accurate ones. The automatic process saves you at least half of the time compared to doing it from the scratch. However, if you do not have the time for lengthy editing, you might consider using a professional service.

Subtitles tool of Youtube

4. Leave voice comments in Canvas:
When grading student work in Canvas, you can use voice comments to give feedback to students, or use the Speech Recognition tool (works in Chrome) to have your comments turned into text.
Canvas Speedgrader Feedback

5. Take voice notes:
If you use Evernote, you can leave yourself a voice note instead of typing it.

Evernote Voice recording tool

I hope this gives you some ideas of using voice to make input easier and faster.

Video response: saving time without losing touch

Dr. Vic McCracken

One significant but rarely discussed issue with online teaching is that both teachers and students could have a “reading overload.” Appropriate use of online teaching tools and media components help to address this problem. In a recent Adams Center session for engaging students,  Dr. Vic McCracken shared a few of his methods which we found fascinating.  

When teaching his CORE210 course online, Dr. McCracken had 25 students who were asked to participate in online discussions. It is extremely time-consuming to respond to 25 students’ posts individually.  More importantly, student views may overlap at times, and it does not add value to learning experiences to repeat similar responses.  So instead of responding to each student, Dr. McCracken recorded a video response every day to share with students.  This is a three-week course, which he thinks makes it necessary to post a response daily.  If it is a full semester-long course, weekly video response may be sufficient.

To make sure students watch his video responses, he asked students to post at least one response to his response. Students were held accountable to interact as he graded these responses. Such video feedback, as well as student responses to feedback, add immediacy and personal presence to his course, while also reducing the time demand for him and students.  

Time thus saved can be used elsewhere in the teaching process, such as individualized feedback on papers. For these papers, Dr. McCracken marked on them first, using notes and color-coded highlights, and then he used Camtasia to record screencast sessions to give students detailed explanation.

Here are some additional suggestions for more efficient use of time in providing feedback to students in an online setting:

  1. Use assignments to collect student work.  I strongly advise against using email to collect student work as this creates much busywork for both you and students. Use the assignment tool to collect almost any type of digital artifacts, as the assignment tool makes it so much easier for you and students to send work back and forth, mark on them, and type or record comments without having to create folders in your email or on your computers and spend time looking for them later.
  2. Use a forum: Instead of using university email or inbox of Canvas to interact with students one by one on logistical issues, create an online forum titled “questions and answers”, as students may ask the same questions.
  3. Use virtual “office hours”: If you sense that many members of the class are struggling with the same issues, consider hosting a virtual office hours session using Canvas Conference or Chat, which allows you to meet synchronously with students.  Make sure you offer alternative time slots (one in the morning, one in the evening, for instance) for students who may have schedule conflicts.

Do you have any other thoughts on the ways to improve the efficiency of student interaction in online settings?  Please share with us!  


How to write good multiple choice questions

Dr. Robert McKelvainHow do you write multiple choice questions that are valid and just? What kind of “testwise” clues do you want to avoid? What are the pros and cons for using textbook questions? To address these and other questions, listen to the following podcast by Dr. Robert McKelvain, Professor of Psychology at Abilene Christian University.


Creating ePortfolios in Canvas

Canvas has a fairly effective tool for building ePortfolios. It allows one to create pages, add attachments, embed videos and add work directly from courses. Please watch the following video for instructions on how to use this tool.

I have also included an instructional module for ePortfolios in Canvas Commons with the following pieces:

ePORTFOLIO In Canvas Commons

You can search for my name (Berlin Fang) or search for “ePortfolio” to add it to your course and customize it afterwards.

Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.

Check this page for additional Canvas resources.

Online Teaching Certificate Program

Online teaching is being seen as a “disruptive innovation” for higher education with the potential for changing the ways students learn (Read this New York Times article for more information). On many campuses, online teaching is a regular alternative to face-to-face teaching. We invite you to join the Spring 2016 Adams Center certificate program for online teaching.

These sessions will be held around twice a month during the lunch hours (11:30am -1:00pm). During each session participants will develop, as a community, conceptual understanding about best practices in various aspects of online teaching. Each session will also include hands-on activities for participants to finish developing at least one sample module. If you do not intend to teach an online course, you may also find such sessions useful if you incorporate online components into your regular face-to-face, blended or flipped classes. 

Please RSVP to or call 2455 to make your reservations.

The sessions will include the following topics and activities:

Module 1: Getting ready to teach online, Monday, Jan 25, 2016

In this session, we are going to examine the benefits of online teaching, what quality looks like, what others have done and what the next steps will be. The end products for this session include:  a course shell to work in and a plan for building the course.

Module 2: Creating Online Content, Thursday, Feb 18, 2016

In this session, we are going to brainstorm ways to “translate” face-to-face teaching into online formats, including different types of content and design principles for delivering content. We would expect you to develop sample content for one module.

Module 3: Assessing Learning in An Online Setting, Thursday, March 3, 2016

In this session, we are going to explore ways to assess learning online, including traditional assessment strategies and alternative online assessment methods.  For this session we would expect you to develop, for at least a sample module, online tests,  assignments and other activities for assessing students

Module 4:Facilitating Online Interaction, Thursday, March 24, 2016

In this session, we are going to explore ways to promote teacher-student, student-student and student-text interaction in an online setting.   We expect you to develop your strategy to create “presence” in your online class, space for interaction, and discussion forums, sample questions & grading rubrics.

Module 5: Using Media in Online Teaching, Thursday, April 7, 2016

In this session, we are going to show ways to build and manage media components in teaching, including audio, video and screencasting components that an effective online course should include. We would expect you to select media format to be used, download screencasting applications, and create sample screencast / video / audio segments for your course.

Module 6: The Talent Show, Monday, April 18, 2016

In this session, participants will each spend a few minutes demonstrating their online courses for peers to learn from.

Please contact Berlin Fang ( if you need further information.

Writing effective assignment instructions

Dr. Dannelle D. Stevens, Professor of Education at Portland State University, and co-author of Introduction to Rubrics recently shared her suggestions to the The Professional and Organizational Development Network (POD Network) for writing assignment instructions which I think are really helpful.  I am sharing these suggestions and examples with her permission:

“1. Title conveys type of assignment.
Not “Term paper” but “Research paper: Describes and explains challenges for women pioneers on Oregon Trail from 1842 to 1865″

2.The purpose of the assignment is clear.
The purpose of this paper is for you to refine your research skills, to practice analysis and synthesis of historical documents, and to learn about and appreciate what women experienced on the Oregon trail from 1842 to 1865.

3. Describes what completed assignment will look like.
The paper should include at least 10 secondary and 5 primary sources. It should be at least 10 pages long, double-spaced with 12 point font.

4. Tells point value in relation to other assignments.
The paper is worth 20 points out of the 100 points for all assignments in the class.

5. Describes how you will score the assignment (uses a rubric).
The rubric below elaborates this task description and will be used to score the assignment.”

Please also note that Canvas has a rubric tool that can be easily used for assignment grading.  Check with the instructional design team if you need help setting up your assignments or rubrics.

How to import partial content from another course

As you prepare for your course for the next semester, remember you will need to request a new course shell.  Check instructions here if needed.  If you want to make an exact copy of the course (clone it), you can choose “copy” when you request it.

If you anticipate major changes in your course, and you do not want the trouble of having to delete content you would not like, you can choose “create”when requesting the course, and import content later on.    One major benefit of doing this is that you can handpick the content types you would like to include.  In this tutorial, I am going to show you how to do that.  Once your blank new course shows up, follow these steps:

1. Go to your new course (or any other course to copy content INTO) and click on “settings” on the button left of your course menu,

Click on settings

2. On the right, find and select “import content into this course”
Import content into course

3.Choose “Copy a Canvas Course”;

Choose "copy a Canvas course"

4.Start typing the name or course ID for the course you’d like to copy from, or make your selection from the list.

Start typing the name or course ID for the course you'd like to copy from.

5. Choose “select specific content”.  Click then on “import” next.  (Of course, if you change your mind and decide to copy everything, that would be fine too.  Just choose “all content.)

Choose select content

6. The import process will start, click on “select content” button when it shows.

Click on select content

7. Now you can select one or multiple types of content you would like.  Please understand that some content types may be related to each other.  For instance, if your quizzes are based on “question banks”, you might want to select both “quizzes” and “question banks”.

Make your selection

8.You will then see the job processed.


9. When you see “complete”.  You can start to check if everything looks right to you.


If you find that things do not seem right after you import it, do not hesitate to contact us for help.  It will be tremendously helpful if you can provide the course URL to us when you need help.  Otherwise, we would have to perform a lot of searches to find the course and page you would like help with, with possibilities of us looking at different courses/sections with identical names.   When you are on any page in Canvas, you can find that it has a unique URL, just copy and paste that URL in your email to us, or when you try to get help from Canvas directly.

Find course URL


Should I have extra credit in my course?

Having worked with a number of learning management systems, I found that one the biggest complaints from faculty to vendors is the lack of a a good mechanism to consider extra credit items in final grades.  I think this is probably more of a pedagogical issue than a technical one. Those wanting to use extra credit should first of all examine the purpose of having extra credit assessment activities. It will help to ask questions like:

  1. Do I want everyone to participate in this activity?
  2. What message am I sending to students by having extra credit items?
  3. Have I included statements in the syllabus about how extra credit items will affect their final grade?
  4. Will extra credit items affect participation in regular graded activities?
  5. Am I confusing my students?
  6. Am I confusing myself?

I can think of the following scenarios of having extra credit.  I have also included some recommendations.  Please add as needed.

  1. Extra credit item that should have been a regular grade item: If the assessment activity is something that you would want all students to participate, then make it a regular item, assign weight to it and hold everyone to the same expectation.  If you would like to add items “on-the-fly” without having informed students earlier in the semester, you do not have to use the extra credit method to include some items and exclude others.  That would cause confusion easily, when students compare what your syllabus has said and what you actually have in the course. It is better to create clear categories and add items to the categories.  Assignment groups and weighted grading allow an uncertain number of items in a category, leaving room for changes in your assessment while not confusing anybody. You could choose to drop some lower grades for a category.  Doing so makes more sense mathematically than having extra credit which may or may not count towards the final grade.
  2. Extra credit for extra work: If the purpose is to motivate students to do more than what the course requires at a minimum, I would add a category for extra credit (make it worth 0% if you use weighted grading) to distinguish it from regular grading categories. Then create extra credit columns for this category and mute them.  This will prevent students from seeing the extra grades.  Enter any possible extra credit grades as needed.   While muted, these grades will not be seen by students, but they will see that the columns and an extra credit category exist, which may motivate them to do extra work if interested.  Having them muted also reduce confusion for students as extra credit items will not be calculated until after they are unmuted.  You use the unmuted grades to adjust final grade as needed (see “4. Extra credit for grade adjustment” below).   Explain to students about this arrangement so that they know exactly what they are getting.  In the meantime, rather telling students extra effort yields extra grades, it is a better idea to hold everyone to the same high expectation of their work.
  3. Extra credit for differentiated assignment: If you would like to have options for the same assignment, but allow different kind of products/submissions, consider changing the assignment.  You can use the same assignment entry to grade a variety of artifacts.  We call this “free-range assignment”.   Check this paper Jennifer Shewmaker, Scott Self and Berlin Fang wrote on the  topic.
  4. Extra credit for grade adjustment:  If the purpose is only to give grace to students, to adjust scores for borderline cases (for instance, someone is only 1 point away from an A, for a course with a total point of 1000), calculate extra credit items only towards the end of the semester.  Otherwise there might be situations in which students feel they have earned enough grades through extra credit arrangements that they will not put in effort for their work towards the end of the semester.  That could adversely affect their motivation in the learning process.

In any of the cases above, it is unnecessary to find ways to factor extra credit into total grades, as that will make it a required normal grade item/category, which defeats the the purpose of having optional, extra credit items.

We would welcome your thoughts on the issue.

How to Avoid Being a Helicopter Professor

This article was originally published with Faculty Focus on June 8, 2015.  Ideas of this article  come mostly from my interaction with our faculty, as well as participation in the “Make it stick” reading group led by Dr. Bob McKelvain.  We encourage you to participate in Adams Center events in which such ideas are discussed.

Professor helping students

For years there has been talk about shifting a professor’s role from the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side.” But as some teachers leave the center stage, they may not move to the side as guides. Instead, they may find themselves hovering above students as helicopter parents hover over their children. While a complete lack of guidance is not a good idea, excessive guiding could turn constructivist scaffolds into new forms of crutches.

Here are a few suggestions for providing students with the proper balance of challenge and support.

Allow chaos. Students should learn to tolerate some uncertainty and vagueness in the learning process. “Figuring it out” is part of the learning. While you don’t want to be deliberately confusing, you also do not have to oversimplify some necessary complexity in order for students to learn. Some vagueness can encourage creativity. In our university, some of our professors, such as psychology professor Jennifer Shewmaker, have even started to experiment with what we call “free-range assignments.” With this approach, students are not prescribed a detailed set of assignments. Instead, they get to define what kind of assignments they will hand in, as long as the assignments illustrate their mastery of the learning outcomes.

Embrace desirable difficulty. Desirable difficulty is something that cognitive scientists believe is helpful for learning (Brown et al., 2014). Do not step in too quickly to help the moment a student appears to stumble or starts to complain that something is too hard or they “don’t get it.” Reflect first whether the task is indeed prohibitively difficult, in which case you would need to add some prerequisite training. If the task is appropriately difficult, communicate that to students and expect them to persist in seeking answers.

Increase accountability. There are things students have to learn to do. For instance, if technology is used heavily in class, students should learn to perform some tasks, such as clearing the cache of their browsers. If I argue that students should increase their digital literacy of the type of tools they will likely use in the workplace, most professors would agree. However, some professors may direct students to support professionals at the slightest suggestion of a problem. Eventually these students learn to go to others for answers rather than try to solve problems on their own. The bottom line is: help students, but don’t teach helplessness.

Reduce redundancy. Students sometimes treat the course syllabus like those terms of service agreements that are so pervasive on websites and apps. They accept it without actually reading it. Admonitions that “It’s all in the syllabus” do not help. However, just because students choose not to read the class syllabus does not mean you have to repeat an instruction 20 times in a course. You can post certain instructions (how to participate in discussions, for instance) once, quiz them if needed, and be done with it. Do not repeat the instructions every time there is a class discussion.

Remove crutches. Professors should help students learn the process of finishing a product without having to rely on constant feedback and guidance. One of our professors, Suanna Davis, recently shared with me a brilliant approach for gradually empowering students to do independent work. Davis has six major assignments in her class. Each assignment involves, say, four steps. For assignment one, she asks students to submit their work for each of the four steps so that she can provide detailed feedback to make sure they understand the process. For subsequent assignments, she gradually removes requirements for some of the steps. For the last assignment, she asks students to submit only the final paper, which she grades with a rubric. As she reduces and removes process-related requirements, the steps for the assignments are still included in the schedule until the final project, even though they are not required to turn anything in. By doing so, she teaches students the enabling tasks for completing their assignments, while empowering them to work increasingly independently.

Mix pull and push. There is certain information you want to push to students, but it is also reasonable to expect them to pull other information. You do not have to send students the syllabus again and again when they request it, especially if it creates a distraction for students who have already obtained what you want them to have. Instead, include a syllabus or orientation module online and ask students to download or view such instructions themselves when they need it.

I understand that educators walk a tightrope between supporting students and challenging them to be more self-directed learners. Yet it is not impossible to eventually find a good balance. Like building skyscrapers, you start by having scaffolds, but eventually, you want to remove the scaffolds and let students stand on their own.

Brown, P. C., Roediger III, H. L., and McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press.

Changing Start and End Dates for a Canvas Course

Each Canvas course is created with the default beginning and end date for a semester. Sometimes, however, faculty will want to allow students to access and interact in the course before or after the official start and end times of the semester. In order to do this, an instructor should enter the course, then select Settings in Course Navigation.

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 10.40.21 AM

Under the Course Details tab, you can change the Start and End Dates by using the calendar tools. Be sure that “Users can only participate in the course between these dates” is checked.

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 10.43.34 AM

Once you have set the dates the way you want them, click on “Update Course Details” at the bottom of the page.

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 10.48.15 AM

ACU Chooses Canvas

Canvas by Instructure

It’s official – Canvas is now the enterprise learning management system for Abilene Christian University. Canvas is built in such a way that it can effectively be used for both fully-online and face-to-face courses. Tools such as SpeedGrader make grading and grading with a rubric simple. The gradebook itself is fully functional, enabling faculty to drop grades, weight grades, and a host of other sought-after features.

Canvas will not only make life easier for faculty, but also for students. Students will experience a consistent online platform for course delivery and interaction. No longer will students lament that they are using 3 or 4 learning management systems. Using Canvas as a campus-wide solution will remove many of the undesirable difficulties encountered by students who have to determine what system to use for what class, and will enable faculty to focus them on desirable difficulties inherent to learning.

This process will be gradual. A pilot group is formed and will use Canvas this Spring semester, with campus-wide implementation set for Fall 2015. Canvas offers a wealth of learning guides online. Go to to get started. Local training on using Canvas will be offered at various times in the upcoming months, so be sure to watch the Adams Center calendar for a time that works for you.

Faculty Reflection on the Flipped Classroom

Written by Berlin Fang

The Flipped Classroom model has been around for a while. As a matter of fact, teachers may have been doing it before the term was even coined. However, flipped experiences might flop without teachers being deliberate in the planning and implementation process.

In Fall 2014, David Christianson of Adams Center, Professor Laura Phillips and Professor Mark Phillips from the College of Business Administration, have been working with a group of our professors through a “flipped classroom” workshop, as well as ongoing mentoring, classroom observation, and feedback that came after the workshop.

In a recent progress review, Professor Karen Cukrowski and Professor Vic McCracken shared their experiences using the model. Here are a few takeaways from this session.

  1. “Just do it.” Students do not have to know you are trying a “flipped classroom” model. When they find that you are trying some new “gimmicks” in teaching, they may groan or even resist. However, a well-implemented flipped classroom experience, engaging and instructive, will be well received.

  2. Make it or Mix it. Online videos are often used for the flipped model. Students watch videos before coming to class for hands-on activities or discussions. It is a good option to use podcasting or screencasting tools to produce videos on your own. However, professors may also use or mix videos that already exist. When using existing videos, professors add value by screening, selecting and elaborating on the most effective videos. Most importantly, professors can project a strong professor’s voice throughout the teaching process even if videos are not produced locally.

  3. Design with the future in mind. When producing learning materials, be mindful of future uses of such materials. If intended for reuse, videos produced had better not include references to particular time, space or individuals that may make it difficult to use in the future.

  4. Make learning active. In the classroom, students should be actively involved in the learning process. Lecture out of necessity, but think of additional ways to make learning stick. Practice active learning mentally and even physically if need be. For instance, when discussing literal or metaphorical interpretation of the creation, Professor Cukrowski literally asked students to take a stand by moving to various areas in the classroom. She said students loved it.

  5. Use groups. Small groups can help a great deal in classroom activities. One special value it provides is that quiet students, when joining a small group, find it easier to talk. However, do not expect groups to just work. It is dangerous to assign students to groups without proper structure, guidance, or feedback. This could create the situation of “the blind leading the blind,” which both professors warned about. Good strategies for avoiding blind leading the blind include initial structuring or walking through, as well as “group reflection” for students to calibrate their position in the learning process. Providing rich learning resources is also a great way for students to learn when they are assigned to groups during the flipped classroom experience.

  6. Last but certainly not the least, value what students bring to the experience. With the use of group learning, learning communities among students can form in such flipped classroom experiences. Help shape such communities. There are times students bring great input to the process.  Make sure such highlights are captured. Structure for it, for instance, by asking students to present their discoveries after groups have an opportunity to work on problems.

Mobile Learning Evolves from Initiative to Ecosystem

Written by Berlin Fang

The Adams Center’s Berlin Fang published the following article with WISE Ed Review, an online platform hosted by World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) to share thoughts in educational innovation.

“On November 6, 2014, I organized a meet-up during the 2014 World Innovation Forum for Education. The audience was small, but diverse and active. Participants came from Egypt, France, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon, China, as well as Qatar, where the summit was held. A variety of mobile phones were used by participants of this session, including iPhones that are often seen in the US, Huawei’s Mate used in China, as well as some “dumb” phones used temporarily during travel.

Curious what people do with their phones, I asked everyone to recommend one favorite mobile app. Participants from France and Canada both recommended Uber, an app to help get a taxi. A participant from Egypt said she used whatsapp. Professor Jiao Jianli from China recommended Zite, an app to gather and curate mobile content. A participant from China recommended a Chinese app that provides recipes and tutorials for cooking Chinese food. Almost all of us use some kind of social media tools such as Wechat, Twitter, or Instagram. Of course, Skype is everyone’s favorite app as well.

Click here to Read more.

The Adams Center will also host “appy hours” for you to share what you do with your mobile apps.  Please check our weekly newsletters for details.

Learning Styles Out of Fashion

Written by David Christianson

It seemed to make sense – we all have different learning styles. You could take a learning styles inventory, find out your preferred learning style, and supposedly, that was the best way for you to learn. You might be a visual learner, spatial learner, a logical, an aural, physical, social, or solitary learner, and if you found out your best learning style, you would become a whiz at learning.

The problem with learning styles, and finding out how we learn best to learn the most, is that the idea has no support from empirical research. It’s a neat idea, but not one that is valid. The point is not that there are not learning styles, but rather, evidence does not support that receiving instruction with a preferred style improves learning.

So what is left? While the idea of learning styles to learn best has been debunked, strong research does suggest what does work best for learning. In Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel lay out the best methods for learning. While learning styles seems intuitive, they report that the most effective methods for learning are often counterintuitive.

Here are seven of the researched claims they make:

1. “Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful.”

2. “We are poor judges of when we are learning well and when we’re not.”

3. “Rereading text and massed practice of a skill or new knowledge are by far the preferred study strategies of learners of all stripes, but they’re also among the least productive.”

4. “Retrieval practice – recalling facts or concepts or events from memory – is a more effective learning strategy than review by rereading.”

5. “When you space out practice at a task and get a little rusty between sessions, or you interleave the practice of two or more subjects, retrieval is harder and feels less productive, but the effort produces longer lasting learning and enables more versatile application of it in later settings.”

6. “All new learning requires a foundation of prior knowledge.”

7. “The popular notion that you learn better when you receive instruction in a form consistent with your preferred learning not supported by the empirical research.”

Make It Stick goes deeper and makes other claims as well. The focus for this article is that learning should be effortful, and easy learning through learning styles simply is not supported by research. Retrieval practice (flashcards, quizzes, tests) are the strongest ways to retain information. Since prior knowledge is required for new learning, having a solid foundation of information is necessary before learning can go deeper. Effort makes learning deeper and longer lasting. With this information in mind, the idea that learning is made easier when it is delivered through your favorite style actually doesn’t make any sense after all.

If you’re looking for a great read to improve your teaching, and even your own learning, Make It Stick should be at the top of your list.

Minimize Problems for Quizzes in OpenClass

Written by the Instructional Design Team

Many faculty find online assessment features useful for administering daily quizzes. The grades are automatically reported and recorded in the gradebook, students are held accountable for class preparation, and such retrieval practice helps make learning “stick” (Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014).

When administering quizzes online, students using different devices may experience a variety of problems, from the quiz not loading properly to the quiz seemingly not submitting properly. The problems can be dramatically reduced if students take some steps proactively.  We have some suggestions that may help students minimize problems when taking quizzes in OpenClass.

As you have students take the quiz or test, you can display this slide before students log in and during the assessment so students can troubleshoot before they ask for help.

For added success in using the technology, have students restart their computer or iPad and empty their browser cache before they log in to OpenClass.  Students should also consider applying updates to their programs before a test, since automatic updates can be disruptive in the middle of a quiz.  You might also want to ask students to close other programs and browsers that are not relevant for a quiz.

This prevents the most common problems and can save precious class time.

How to Create A Course Calendar

Written by the Instructional Design Team


You probably enjoy the convenience of Google Calendars which give you alerts to events and activities to keep you organized. You could create the same calendars for courses. Course calendars will automatically be pushed to Google calendars of students enrolled in these courses. If you want to create such course calendars for classes you are teaching, follow these steps:

  1. Log into myACU

  2. Under “My Courses” click the wrench icon next to the course that needs a calendar created

  3. Click the Tools tab to manage course tools

  4. Click the Create button next to the Calendar tool (you will get  a pop-up box that asks you confirm your request, click “yes”)

  5. You should receive an email alert once the calendar is created and shared with you.

Note: These instructions are also displayed if you click on the Calendar Edit tool in myACU (instructor-only tool with month calendar icon) and you don’t already have a calendar created for the course.

How long will it take? Between 6am and 10pm this will typically take one hour.

Thank you to Hab Adkins, Director of Computing Services, and the IT department for their work in adding this to our faculty’s course management options.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Written by the Instructional Design Team

 Choose Your Own Adventure. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? During one of our recent “Best Practices” sessions,  Dr.  Matthew Dodd, assistant professor in the Duncum Center for Conflict Resolution demonstrated a teaching approach he has used successfully in his online courses.   He uses video to create scenarios for his students to view, explore, create-the-right-ending, and other ways to engage his students in learning.


These videos can then be used integrate theory, practice, and other application of conflict principles in professional and personal situations.  Dr. Dodd is one of ACU’s online teaching guru’s and has recently published this, and another practice, in the highly acclaimed University of Central Florida’s peer reviewed Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR).

Matthew Dodd (2014). Use branching videos to engage students. In K. Thompson and B. Chen (Eds.), Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning.

Matthew Dodd (2014). Engage adult learners with course-long role play. In K. Thompson and B. Chen (Eds.), Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning.


The Adams Center would like to thank Dr. Dodd for sharing his expertise.  To gain further insights from Dr. Dodd, email him at:

Collaborative Team Translation

Written by the Instructional Design Team


We recently invited a number of our faculty members to showcase their online course/course components during one of our “Best Practices for Online Teaching” workshops.  Dr. Melinda Thompson (Assistant Professor and Director of Distance Education at the Graduate School of Theology) introduced an effective approach to have her students collaborate on their translation assignments. Usually class translation is a “lone ranger” kind of assignment, though Bible translation and ministry activities often require collaboration among different people. Dr. Thompson intentionally designed this collaborative translation activity to cultivate habits of working with other people to produce quality work.

In this activity, students translated – from Greek to English – the Gospel and Epistles of John. Dr. Thompson put together a rigorous process for team translation. Each of her four teams consist of 4 students, who take assigned rotating roles of (1) primary translator, (2) text critical work, (3) literary considerations and commentary work, and (4) theological claims and application for sermon or Bible lesson. Students shared their work with their teammates through Google Docs.

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Fascinated by her approach, we followed up with Dr. Thompson about her method and would like to share with you the short interview we had:


Adams Center: What made you decide to have students collaborate on translating a book?

Dr. Thompson: Language study, by nature, is mostly individualized. Even if you attend a study group you still have to learn the forms and vocabulary for yourself. But Bible translation – for modern English translations especially – is almost always done by committees. On top of that, our students are training for ministry in congregations or small group settings. I wanted to give these students – who had already gone through a semester of individualized work on grammar and vocabulary – a more authentic experience in translation and exegesis. I also wanted to reinforce the concept that translation should never be done in a vacuum. Even the best language work should be checked and balanced through interaction with others.

Adams Center: How did students respond to this process?

Dr. Thompson: Student response was very positive. They appreciated seeing how translation fits into the larger process of exegesis, especially with an eye toward preaching or teaching for a congregational setting. Sometimes students struggle to understand how parsing verbs or memorizing long lists of words applies to their vocational goals. With this project, students come out with a semester of practicing translation as part of lesson or sermon prep. They also have spent a semester collaborating with others to create a community-based interpretation of the text. My hope is that this experience will encourage them to continue using their language skills after the class ends and will encourage them to seek out the input of others when considering the meaning or application of a particular text.

Adams Center: What kind of pedagogical considerations went into this design of collaborations?

Dr. Thompson: We did need to establish some ground rules at the beginning which helped iron out general group-work concerns about students not pulling their weight or not getting things shared in a timely manner. Because this was a fully online class comprised of students from across the globe, it was more difficult sometimes to enforce group work. When I teach this class in residence next year we’ll use the class meeting times (in a “flipped classroom” style) to ensure that students have space for collaborative work.

We would like to thank Dr. Thompson for sharing her method. We also hope that you can be inspired by her approach in creating innovative teaching experiences for your students.