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- The Blackboard Feature of the
- Teaching with Technology:
"Online Human Touch"
Tech Talk Topic:
- For more, see
podcast notes page for Episode
Technology News Briefs
has been upgraded to Service Pack 3 of version 8.
We should now see faster performance in the Grade
Center and can now use Firefox to upload files, both
problems that were fixed in the upgrade. In
addition we have added
Campus Pack to the system, tools which
allow for faculty and student blogs, wikis,
podcasts, web authoring, and indexed content search.
We have placed a 250MB course quota
on all Blackboard courses. If you suddenly
start receiving an email alert from the Blackboard
system stating that you are over quota, or a "soft"
alert, saying that you are over 200MB but not yet at
the quota limit of 250MB, please contact Blackboard
technical support at
email@example.com, or call (760)
744-1150 ext. 2862. Our technicians will work
with you to reduce the size of your courses or
otherwise resolve the issue for you.
Google announced the release of
Picasa for the Mac. Picasa is free software
that helps Mac users easily organize their photos in
one place, edit pictures, and share them online with
friends, family, and the world.
for the details.
- The World Tech Layoff Report: Microsoft will be
laying off about 15,000 employees (17%)on January 15
They join Western Digital (2,500), Sun (6,000) ,
Sony (16,000), AT&T (12,000), HP (24,600),
Lenovo (2,500) and
many other tech
firms in a contraction that is being
echoed in all fields across the economy.
- Streaming delivery of feature films took another
huge leap this week with the announcement from
Amazon that Amazon Video On Demand will now be
that $99 set top appliance that many have purchased
solely for the purpose of streaming their
Instantly queue. The Amazon On
Demand catalog has 40,000 titles (Amazon
- MacWorld occurred this week; sans the
traditional Steve Jobs keynote.
In fact, this will be the last MacWorld that Apple will be
participating in. The news? Nothing very
spectacular: DRM free music at a premium
through iTunes; an updated 17" MacBook Pro; and new
versions of iLife, iWork, and FileMaker Pro (ars
MacWorld page). Small potatoes by
- Not to forget the world of gadgets, the Consumer
Electronics Show also occurred this week, though
much scaled down from previous years. Along
with all the new gadget announcements, the big news
was the keynote by Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft,
who was there to pitch Windows 7, the next iteration
of the Microsoft operating system due out November
of this year and is, Ballmer insists, on schedule.
for the video (all hour and 22 of it, if you can
stand it). Windows 7 is available
but it should not be installed on Palomar College
CES page |
- File under "Aren't You Glad You Bought a Zune":
After the first of the year, owners of 30GB Zunes
couldn't help but notice that their devices
no longer worked.
They locked up, rebooted themselves, and then froze,
not to be thawed again--until now. The
problem, according to Microsoft, is caused by the
older Zunes internal calendar's inability to handle
leap years properly. they have now posted a
fix at the
- Each year Lake Superior State University (!?)
publishes a "List of Words to Be Banished from the
Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General
Uselessness". Our favorite winners this year:
- Carbon Footprint
- Maverick (remember "lockbox" from the 2000
- Wall Street/Main Street
- -monkey, used as a suffix, as in "tech-monkey"
or "love-monkey" or "word-monkey"
- Not So Much
Get the details at the
LSSU web site.
Safari Tech Book Online:
Creating a Web
Site in Dreamweaver CS4: Visual QuickProject Guide
by Nolan Hester. "Dreamweaver has been
the tool of choice for professional Web site
designers for years. And since it became part of the
Adobe Creative Suite, even more users, including
beginning Web designers, have turned to it to start
creating Web sites. This book is for those
beginners—all the people who are itching to design
their very first Web site but don’t want to learn
every last Dreamweaver feature to do so." Palomar maintains a subscription to Tech Books
Online, and the books can be accessed from any
computer on the campus network without as login, or
with your Palomar login and password from anywhere
in the world.
Click here for more information about off-campus
- Academic Technology Workshops
- The Academic Technology training schedule has
been published for the spring 2009 semester.
for the schedule, and
for the training description page. New this
spring will be four "technology Fridays" where a
topic will be pursued by a limited number of
participants (15) in depth for six hours (including
an hour for lunch, which will be provided free).
Those interested in technology Fridays are
encouraged to sign-up early, since seating and lunch
reservations are limited.
Our plenary and pre-plenary workshops will occur on
January 15, 2009:
- Blackboard Essentials - a hands-off introduction
to Blackboard by Chris Norcross in room P-32 from
- The Blackboard 8 Grade Center - a hands-on
workshop conducted by David Gray in room LL-109 from
- Academic Technology at Palomar College - a show
and tell by Dr. Haydn Davis and Terry Gray in room
LL-109 from 7:15-9pm.
- In addition, we have developed a set of
self-paced, online workshops on various technology
essentials topics in the Academic Technology
Training Blackboard course. All faculty and
staff members are pre-enrolled in this course.
You will find it in the My Courses area when you
login to Blackboard under the "Courses in which you
are enrolled" section.
- We have also developed (or linked to) sets of
screen videos that teach how to use the features of
the various technology tools available to faculty
members through Blackboard:
Feature of the Week - David Gray
Q&A about Q-U-O-T-A
you’re using Blackboard, have a good bit of stuff in your
course, but all of a sudden you started getting these
messages about “Course quota exceeded”. Quota? On
Yes, a quota on your Blackboard course.
Here’s a list of both those questions
we’ve already received about quotas, and some questions that
Q: Why is there a quota on my Blackboard
A: Two main reasons: There is a technical
limitation in Blackboard, where if a course is archived, but
that archive is over 250 megabytes in size, the course
cannot be properly restored; we would be remiss if we didn’t
do everything we can to ensure that your archives will work,
so are imposing a quota to emphasize this issue. Also, the
time our Blackboard system has to be down for maintenance
and upgrades is directly related to the amount of data on
the system, so finding ways to limit the sheer mass of
content held inside the Blackboard courses will allow us to
minimize the system down times.
Q: Why are
these “Course quota exceeded” emails coming, and why are
they so badly written?
A: Sadly, the
quota notifications are not customizable in Blackboard. They
are automatically sent once a day; we have no control over
how often, nor when during the day, those messages go out.
The wording of the messages is hard-coded into Blackboard,
and there is no way for us to customize that in any way. In
fact, there are two different types of messages that go out,
but they read almost identically. The first you may see
indicates that you have “exceeded the soft quota limit”,
which means that you are between the warning limit of 200 MB
and the actual quota limit of 250 MB. The other message
reads the same except indicates that you have “exceeded the
hard quota limit”, that is, you are over the 250 MB limit.
Of course, when you contact our techs and start working to
diminish the size of your course content, we can also halt
the warning messages from being sent.
Q: So, hard
limit, soft limit, what’s the difference?
A: The quota
“soft limit” defaults to 200 MB, and is really just there so
that you should get a message before you hit the hard limit;
being in this size range doesn’t have any effect other than
to generate the warning message. The quota “hard limit” on a
course default to 250 MB, which we picked because of that
technical limitation of Blackboard. Courses which are over
the “hard limit” will return errors when trying to upload
certain kinds of content to the course. If your course is
over the hard limit, please get in touch with our Blackboard
techs as soon as possible, and we can work with you to get
things in your course working again.
should I do if I’m over the quota limit?
A: If you
have more than a couple hundred megabytes of data directly
in your Blackboard course, that’s what I would consider
“big”. Apart from quota concerns, I’d really recommend
talking with our techs to see if we can’t limit the sheer
amount of data you have. If you are over the hard limit and
being prevented from adding content to your course, get in
touch with us at once. We can modify your quota limits for
this semester so you can continue uploading needed material,
and we can begin working with you to find ways to deal with
the file size issues long term. Even something as simple as
optimizing the images in PowerPoint presentations may
decrease file sizes to a tiny fraction of their original
size without changing the appearance of the images at all;
there may also be alternate, and possibly better, ways to
store some of your material. The possibilities are legion,
which is why you should really get in touch with our techs
to look at your specific situation.
Q: So, I
don’t need to just delete a lot of my content?
Imposing quotas on Blackboard courses is not intended to
limit the way you teach using the system. It is simply the
best solution we can find to address some of the technical
limitations of Blackboard. Absolute worst case scenario is
that we will override your quota, you will keep having a
large course site, and you will know that your archives will
be useless. (In other words, rather than be ignorant of the
situation, it will be business as usual with you in
possession of all the facts.)
Q: How do I
know how much content is in my course?
A: As you
might expect, Blackboard gives us absolutely no tools for
analyzing content sizes. However, the good folks at the
University of York have developed a Building Block for
Blackboard systems, which they freely shared with us, which
gives some useful information. To use this tool, go into
your Control Panel, and find the “Quota Usage” link in the
“Course Tools” area. There are some details on exactly how
much content is in your course, but for most people the
really meaningful number is the percentage in large colorful
text. If green, you’re under the quota hard limit, if red
you’re over the limit.
Q: What do I
do, if my content is simply never going to be less than 250
in the vast majority of cases we will be able to help folks
get their content trimmed down to under the quota limit, we
realize that certain courses just can’t compress files and
trim down data. However, there are some other options
available to store the content securely, that will not
require the files to be actually in your Blackboard course.
Depending on your exact situation, your solutions may vary;
get in touch with the techs and we will work with you.
Again, the first step will be to bump up your quota limit
for this semester, so we’ll have all semester to implement
the new way of doing things. This is not something you’ll
need to get finished before the students show up, by any
Teaching with Technology -
Dr. Haydn Davis
Student enrollment in online classes
continues to increase nationwide. But, unfortunately,
student attrition is much higher in online classes relative
to traditional, on-campus classes.
Drexel University has developed an
interesting approach to ensuring that online students don’t
drop out. Called the Online Human Touch program. This
approach asserts that students are more likely to remain in
online courses if they are engaged with the course and if
their online learning experience is personalized. While the
Drexel program is a comprehensive one that couldn’t be
implemented here in its entirety, some important elements
could be – and these could make a huge difference in student
Here are some practical ways that student
engagement and personalized communication can be integrated
into an online class (or an on-campus class to for that
- Welcome To Students
- the week before the semester
begins, make a phone call to each student – while
this may seem initially, like a time consuming
effort, it really doesn’t have to be: when you reach
a phone message it will take maybe 30 seconds or so
to welcome the student to your class and if you
actually get the student on the phone it probably
will only be a minute or two in most cases
- record a welcome message, place
it somewhere in your course and link to it from the
Announcement area so students will see (and listen)
to it when they first enter the class
- Use first names in all correspondence
- Create a forum that allows students
to introduce themselves to each other – the Drexel
program requires students to post audio/voice and text
introductions and to respond to at least two classmates
during the first week
- Provide individualized feedback
- Drexel University faculty are
required to provide individualized comments on all
graded assignments – these comments allow students
to understand what they have done well and what they
need to modify
- Audio/Voice Contact
- consider sending voice emails –
you can create one and send it to all students (for
example a summary of that week’s activities) or
create a personalized one to send to a particular
student (for example reminding a student to post to
the DB or submit assignments on time or praise for
doing something well)
- create brief audio messages
regarding such topics as weekly overview of the
coming week’s assignments, audio announcements
regarding local current events or a movie or TV
special that relates to that week’s content, weekly
wrap-ups that highlight some main learning
objectives and/or that mention – by name – some
student contribution, a weekly (or periodic) podcast
relevant to the course
Survey data from students enrolled in the
Drexel University program that implemented the OHT approach
indicated that the online education they received from this
program was the same (53%) or higher (39%) quality than
Tech-Talk-Topic - Terry
majority of browser users use Internet Explorer
because that is what came with their computer and
they see no reason to change. Among this group
IE still holds the dominant market share and always
will because of Microsoft's OS market monopoly.
But among the tech savvy, things are different.
A higher percentage of this group prefer
the open source browser from
and there are many reasons. It is faster,
better designed, and offers more options than IE.
One of the main reasons for its popularity among
the technoscenti is its implementation of
"extensions". Extensions are little bits of
computer code written by third-party programmers
that can be installed as part of Firefox in order to
extend its capabilities in useful and interesting
ways. Mozilla publishes a web site
extensions, and you can browse there and
install as many as you want for free. What's
more, if you don't like what they do, you can easily
uninstall them with the extremely intelligent design
of Firefox's add-on manager.
Rather than browsing among the hundreds of
extensions available, however, or discussing
extensions in general, I would like to recommend one
I find particularly useful:
The product tagline associated with Hyperwords is
"Make all web pages smart", and that, it indeed,
does. Since a picture is worth a thousand
words, and a video is worth a thousand pictures,
take a look at
this YouTube video to get the general
idea of Hyperwords. After you grasp the
concept, I will discuss some of the not so apparent
features that make it a very useful tool indeed.
As you can see from the video, Hyperwords
provides search and manipulation tools for any word
or set of words on a web page via a pop-up menu or,
something the video does not show, a toolbar.
You will find yourself using the toolbar frequently,
and when you install Hyperword you are given the
choice to replace the standard Firefox Search
toolbar with the Hyperword one. You can even
have them both, but once you get used to the
Hyperword toolbar you will have no use for the
standard search toolbar.
The basic functions of Hyperwords are exciting
enough, and I'm sure you gather the basic idea from
watching the video, but to get the maximum from
Hyperwords I suggest the following changes from the
- Add your own search engines to the search
menu. While Google is the default, and
probably the most commonly used search engine,
and other more specialized search engines are
categorized under the Search menu, it may be
useful to add another category within Search
called "Sites" or "Others" or simply use
existing categories to place other search
engines within the Search structure in Hyperwords. The easiest way to do this is
to go to the Search Engine interface on the web,
right-click in the search box, and choose "Add
to Hyperwords..." from the pop-up menu.
The Hyperwords Custom Search Command dialog
box will appear. Highlight the category
where you wish to place search engine link (you
can create your own categories if you wish) give
it a shortcut key if you desire, highlight the
category and click Add.
You will be prompted to Restart Firefox for
the change to take effect.
Note: If you are installing the Palomar
College electronic database search tools on a
laptop you transfer between home and campus, add
these searches from home using the proxy server
address so that your searches will work from
off-campus. Not all of the databases
subscribed to by Palomar will work within
Hyperwords, but the OED and JSTOR certainly
- Turn on the Email Page button to add a
one-button tool to the Firefox toolbar that,
when clicked, will email the URL of the current
page using your email program. The button
looks like this:
Turn it on by clicking the Hyperwords icon in
the Hyperwords toolbar and selecting Settings >
On the Toolbars tab select "Using Your Email
Program" or, alternatively "Using Google Mail"
if you prefer.
This makes it easy to quickly send page URLs
to friends and colleagues from within Firefox.
- Turn on Auto-Content. This will
automatically generate a table of contents for a
long web page. Find this setting on the
Other tab of the User Settings dialog:
This will not work on every web page, but for
sites with long, verbose articles, Wikipedia for
example, it will auto-generate a table of
contents for the article that can be accessed by
moving the cursor to the far left of the page.
- If you are one who likes those little link
previews (preview versions of the web page that
are linked from the page you are viewing) , you
can now get rid of whatever software you are
using and turn on link preview in Hyperwords.
You will find this setting on the Other tab
- If you typically work with another language,
you can change the default translation of the
program to translate from a language to another
by default. This can be configured on the
Localization tab of the Hyperwords User Settings
Unless you have a reason to see the
translated text inline on the page you are
viewing, you will want to clear the "Translate
in page" checkbox.
Another localization you will find useful is
to enter your home and work locations into the
Google Map Location field. If you do,
driving directions will be generated without you
having to enter these items each time.
My ten favorite Hyperwords uses:
The ability to highlight all the uses of a
particular word on a page, and even highlight it.
- The ability to highlight a section of text
and choose to Email immediately. When this
command is invoked the highlighted text is
transferred to an Outlook mail form, along with
the URL for the page from which it is taken,
along with an appropriate subject line.
All I need to do is address the email and click
- The ability to search the OED for
highlighted words via the Palomar College
database subscription, without having to go to
the library web site or click any other
- The ability to copy sections of text with
links and, additionally, the ability to turn on
automatic copying for any highlighted text
without having to use Ctrl-C or press any other
key to effect the copy operation.
- The ability to print immediately,
with or without printer preferences, any
highlighted section of text to any printer,
including the Adobe PDF printer.
- The system of keyboard shortcuts that permit
me to highlight a word, and simply press a
couple of keys to get to relevant search or
reference results. For example, if I
highlight "Pepys" and press r,w on the keyboard
I am taken immediately, in a new tab, to the
Wikipedia article on Samuel Pepys.
- The ability to get a quick thumbnail picture
of anyone (or thing) withing the Hyperwords menu
by simply hovering over the Google image search
(See the thumbnail of Moss Hart and Kitty
Carlisle below). If I want to perform the
Google image search, I click.
This sort of in-menu processing is especially
useful with conversions too.
- The ability to quickly search custom
databases by simply adding them to Hyperwords
and assigning a shortcut key to them. I
can search the full Time magazine database, for
example, by first adding it to Hyperwords (see
item 1 above), placing it in the Search>news
category, and then going to any web page,
highlighting a term, and pressing s,n,t.
- The Page Info menu (once you turn it on in
User Settings) permits a quick Google search of
pages linked to the current page. There
are other ways to do this, of course, but this
is far the easiest and most convenient.
- The ability to get tech support from various
recognized web resources, like Apple.com, ZDNet,
Wired, etc. through the built-in Search>tech
- The best thing about
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