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EHHS Distance Learning News

Welcome to the College of EHHS Distance Learning Support Newsletter!

We will send newsletters twice a semester (and once a Summer) to keep you informed and updated on all things related to distance learning, online teaching, and educational technology within the College of EHHS.

Summer 2014 Newsletter

This summer you will find information on the following topics.


The EHHS Blackboard Learn Course Template

What is the EHHS Blackboard Learn Template?

Screenshot of the EHHS Template

The template is a course shell with placeholders and areas for key items within a Blackboard Learn Course. Content can be created or copied into the shell and organized as the instructor wishes within that initial structure.

Why do we need an EHHS Template?

There are three main reasons for the implementation of the EHHS Template.

1. Quality Matters: Here at Kent State University we use the Quality Matters rubric to review and evaluate courses. Within EHHS, all new online and hybrid courses are Quality Matters reviewed before they go live to students.  The template is designed to meet fundamental elements of the Quality Matters rubric related to organization, structure, and information provided to students. When a course is placed inside the EHHS Template it automatically meets a number of Quality Matters standards, which means faculty can concentrate on designing effective and engaging online courses for their students.

2. Consistency in appearance and navigation: Online courses often look different depending on the topic or instructor. For students, this means that valuable learning time at the start of the course (and in some cases throughout the course) is taken-up by learning to navigate the course and locate key pieces of information. The benefit of our EHHS Template is that EHHS courses will be immediately recognizable to students, and they will always know how to navigate and access important information. Learning can then begin from day one, without the technology acting as a barrier.

3. Provides a Framework for course design: Once you get to know your way around the EHHS template, you will have a strong foundation for building any online courses in the future. Much of the anxiety of designing online education is not knowing when to start; that anxiety is removed when you have a framework in mind before design begins. The EHHS Template also follows the Office of Continuing & Distance Education's 'Design to Teach' framework. The framework itself is an "an intuitive framework for designing, building and teaching your online course" (Design to teach website), so if you feel confident you can follow the steps on the website independently to design your course and know that it will still fit within our EHHS template.

Can I still edit content and organize my course in my own way?

The EHHS Template provides a great deal of flexibility for organization specific to each instructor and course. Our intention is not to strip out your unique teaching style or to make every course the same. We provide a very broad organizational structure with elements that are necessary for successful online courses, but within that you have complete freedom to make an online course your own.

Do all courses need to be immediately moved into the EHHS Template?

Eventually we hope to have all online, hybrid, and even supplemental courses within our EHHS Template. Our main focus for the template is currently newly developed courses and faculty who are editing existing courses. Our initial feedback on the template has been good and in future months we will communicate a strategy for rolling out the template to online courses.

But I don't have time to move all my online courses into a new template!

Your EHHS Distance Learning Team are here to support and assist with any courses that move to the EHHS Template. We are keen that no unnecessary, additional work should occur for already busy faculty. Our goal is not to make life more difficult, but instead to provide a systematic process that will make design, development, and editing of online courses quick and easy in future.

Can I see the template before I move my course?

You are more than welcome to explore the EHHS Template prior to working with it in a live course. Please contact the EHHS Distance Learning Team to request a practice course where you can test the template.

End of Semester Checklist & Preparing for Fall 2014

An image of a stick man checking off a checklist
Checklist Image Courtesy of AJCann, Flickr (used under CC License).

As we reach the end of Summer 2014 and look forward to Fall there are a number of steps to take finalize your current Blackboard courses and prepare for new sections.

End of Semester Checklist

It can be helpful to save student data and other important information from your Blackboard course. Please follow this link to review the End of Semester Checklist for Blackboard Courses.

Pre-Semester Checklist

Before the Fall semester begins there are steps you may want to take ahead of time, such as combining multiple course sections or copying content from previous semesters. This checklist summarizes some of the steps you might wish to take. Remember: If you are copying content from previous semesters you will need to go through the course and change all relevant availability and due dates in the course. You will also need to remove any existing discussion posts or existing announcements. 

As always your EHHS Distance Learning Support Team are here to help with the pre-semester preparation process.

**New Course Development for Fall 2014

It can take a full semester to appropriately prepare a new online course for delivery. If you are planning to implement a course in the Fall that has never been placed online before, please contact the EHHS Distance Learning Support team immediately. You can find more information about the EHHS Online Course Approval Process on our Distance Learning Support page.

Upgrade to Blackboard Learn - Service Pack 13

In May 2014 the Blackboard Learn system was upgraded to Service Pack 13. This upgrade provided additional tools and useability within the system without any major changes to the look and feel of the system you are all used to using. You can find more information on the update by reading the 'What's New' PDF.

The changes included:

  • Global Notifications:  Notifications from all areas of Blackboard in one place.
  • Discussion Board: The look of the discussion board has changed slightly. There is not also the option to require a student to post to the discussion board before they can review the rest of the students' posts.
  • Video Everywhere: Users can record and embed video throughout the course. 
  • Tests:
    • The upgrade makes it easier to provide additional time for students who require assistance.
    • More useability will also be provided in relation to providing feedback to students and allowing students to take tests after the due date.
    • Access logs are available to track student activity during a test.
  • Inline Grading: You will now be able to provide feedback to students' papers directly within the system - you will no longer have to download a file to add notes and comments. Supported document types that can be converted are Word (DOC, DOCX), PowerPoint (PPT, PPTX), Excel (XLS, XLSX), and PDF (PDF)
  • Calendar: The calendar functionality has been improved. Now when you create items with due dates they will automatically appear in the calendar.
  • There have also been upgrades to the group management system, setting availability dates in a course,  Collaborate online classrooms and more.

For more detailed information about Blackboard Learn SP13, please visit the Blackboard Learn@Kent State website, or contact your EHHS Distance Learning Support Team.

*As of July 2014, most minor teething problems have been resolved in the SP13 release. However, if you have any issues or concerns with your Blackboard Course not working as expected, please contact your Educational Technologist, or email Blackboard Support using the email address above.

Support & Training for Instructors

There are a number of support and training options for instructors teaching online at a distance. The resources range from handouts and videos designed for those designing online courses, to workshops for those looking for guidance on online teaching, and Certificates in the Quality Matters Standards. The following list of resources is by no means exhaustive.

Please contact the EHHS Distance Learning Support Team if you have an idea for a small group workshop, or if you would like to arrange one-on-one training.

Designing or re-developing an online course from scratch

  • The 'Design to Teach' website provides a step-by-step backwards design process for designing and developing an online course. All necessary resources and guides, as well as commentary from experienced online instructors can be found on this website. Please contact the EHHS Distance Learning Support Team if you have any questions about the Design to Teach process.
Teaching Online
  • The Office of Continuing & Professional Development offer a number of different workshops for instructors. You can find more information in this flyer.

Blackboard Learn Handouts and Video Resources

  • The KSU Blackboard website has a number of tutorials available for instructors: Blackboard website.
  • Our own EHHS/Distance Learning Support site has a number of tutorials that are updated regularly: EHHS Tutorials.

Tips and Tricks

Each newsletter you will find a new tip or trick to make your life easier. This Summer we have one tip for Mac users, and one tip for all users.

Mac Users - Locating the Scrollbar in the Blackboard Learn Grade Center.

If you are using a Mac and have trouble scrolling through your assignment columns in the Blackboard Learn grade center, you may need to adjust your scrollbar settings. Follow these simple steps to always have your scrollbar appear in the grade center.

  • On your Mac, go to and click on System Preferences.
  • Click on the 'General' icon.
  • In the window that appears locate where it says 'Show scroll bars:' and then check the box next to 'Always'.
  • Close System Preferences. You should now have standard scrollbars in any window.

All Users - Locating your Course in your Blackboard Learn Course List

If you have taught the same course every semester for many years, it can become difficult to find your current course. Instead of scrolling through the whole list, why not try the 'find' tool to locate your course.

  • With Blackboard open and your course list showing: Windows users click CTRL+F and Mac users click Command+F. This will bring up a search box (usually at the top right of your screen, but it may also appear at the bottom of your screen). You can then search for a part or whole course name, or the semester for your course.
  • If the keyboard shortcut above does not seem to work for you, use the menu items in your browser. With the Blackboard Course list open click on the 'edit' menu and then click find. Then search for a term relevant to your current course.

If you have a handy tip or trick that you use to help manage your online teaching, please let us know in the EHHS Distance Learning Support team so we can share with everyone!