Doing E-Learning the W&M Way

Broadcasting from W&M Weather Vane

About this time last year, William & Mary was touted as the best school in the nation for undergraduate teaching. Having sent out several E-Learning Development Kits into the wild over the spring and summer, I’ve gotten more than the usual taste of why, and how, our faculty achieved that reputation.

This Summer W&M Offered Our First Fully Online Courses

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that this summer William & Mary’s School of Arts & Sciences offered the first two fully-online classes for undergraduates in its 321 year history. Of course, being William & Mary, we did it our own way. These weren’t classes-for-the-masses; the two courses — introductory economics and biochemistry — are mainline undergraduate classes that tend to fill up to the consternation of students required to take them, which makes them attractive summer offerings.

Recognizing that students who can benefit from such summer courses must also often live at home and/or work full-time during the summer, Dean of Undergraduate Studies John Griffin led our online class production efforts to meet that need: A wonderful example of how W&M is using current educational trends and technologies to benefit our traditional residential students.

Teaching Excellence and Collaboration Makes for Successful Online Courses

The W&M ethos is also prevalent on the production side of online teaching and learning here.  Larger schools with comprehensive online offerings often provide concierge-type production services to their faculty. While our technical academic support staff is long on expertise, we’re short on available person-hours — so we’ve approached developing online course materials using the tried and true methodology of collaboration and rolled-up shirtsleeves.

Intrepid faculty are diving into desktop video production using the e-kits; IT staff with a whole roster of other duties are providing part-time consultation on everything from course design to video hosting tips; student workers provided editing services … a true “takes a village” sort of effort. Best of all, early reports sound as if our efforts paid off with successful classes.

Offerings Are Growing as Are Our Capabilities for E-Learning

Which, to me, is the best part: It’s working! Our capabilities and offerings are growing. Not one e-kit is gathering dust; all are in the capable and willing hands of W&M professors. (And I’m putting together two more to keep up with demand. Let me know if you’re interested!) However, by being involved in this effort, we do hear from detractors who feel that e-learning has no place at a residential, liberal-arts-focused institution. Now we have some real successes to point to and say, “See! Look at what we’ve done to support our students and our mission, and not a bandwagon in sight!”

“E-learning” might be a dirty word to some, but it’s hard to argue against helping currently enrolled students graduate on time while keeping them engaged with William & Mary faculty as they live at home or abroad during the summer months. I am unabashedly proud of the work this group of colleagues has accomplished — administrators, faculty, and staff — and am excited to see what we can accomplish next … by doing it our own W&M way.

New Blackboard Features for Fall 2014

Course Menu button circled in red

Our Blackboard downtime on August 15th was a success. In addition to the needed security updates and patches, Blackboard added some two great new features. Student Preview Mode I’m most excited about the new Student Preview mode. In the past W&M professors who wanted to see what their class looked like to students or how [...]

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How to Effectively Use Blogging in Your Course

Title: Blogging Street Cred

If you have read any or all of my previous posts, you may have picked up on the fact that I tend to stray a bit from the typical Academic Technology Blog contribution tactic that many of my colleagues take. Sometimes I still find myself seeking to take the student role here at the College, [...]

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More on Web-Friendly Mapping: Google Maps vs. Google Sheets


In my last post I discussed some of the new features and cool possibilities of Google Maps for the humanities at the College. After writing that post, I’ve been obsessing just a bit on the various Web-friendly ways to present map data to an academic community, and I’ve struck on another interesting option in case Google Maps [...]

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RIP Photo Management Application Aperture, Gone but not Soon Forgotten

One of my six large Aperture Libraries… with over 32,000 images!

One of my favorite articles here at the W&M Academic Technology Blog is Mike Blum’s 2012 post “What Do You Do When Your Favorite Tool Goes Away?“ In that piece Mike dealt with, not altogether tongue-in-cheek, the stages of grieving when one of your favorite applications goes away. Specifically he was referring to the early demise [...]

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Project Ideas for Google Maps and the Humanities


Google Maps’s newest iteration attempts to combine qualitative and quantitative data into easy to build and manipulate maps. While faculty and students in the sciences and social sciences have been using quantitative data sets in teaching and research for a long time, the impulse to use interactive maps has not quite caught on with too [...]

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Basic Skills for the Information Age: Ideas from the Community College Circuit

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 9.41.57 PM

In April, I attended the Council for the Study of Community Colleges’ annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Part of my work there involved co-organizing a roundtable session around the idea of digital literacies in community colleges. Since then, I have published a summary of the session here. Defining Digital Literacy One of our biggest challenges [...]

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Pioneering W&M’s First Fully Online Classes

Prof. Coleman's online lecture on Metabolism.

William & Mary’s College of Arts and Sciences quietly crossed into a new era at the start of the second summer term with the launch of two fully online classes. Don’t be surprised if you missed it; the two pilot classes weren’t advertised or formally announced. How It Started Meetings began last December, and continued [...]

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SCORM und Drang, or, Testing out Some E-Learning “Objects”

This is not a SCORM, but it does do a good job saving student answers. The pencil and paper method, however, cannot grade exams for you.

The other week I was thinking about little projects to test out on the e-learning development kits, and I hit upon the idea of teaching myself how to create interactive content in Camtasia Studio. After watching the how-to video on Camtasia’s website (go figure — most of the help for Camtasia is developed in Camtasia, [...]

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Reflections on W&M’s myNotebook Program Ten Years Later

Geology 110 students using their laptop computers and LectureTools during class. I’m arm-waving at the front of the class. So who is on Facebook and who is checking their email? Photo by Pablo Yanez.

William & Mary announced its myNotebook initiative nearly ten years ago. Our effort was by no means revolutionary (as Wake Forest University’s ThinkPad Project began a decade earlier in 1996), rather it was meant to capitalize on the boom of mobile computing that was already changing how students interacted with technology on a day to [...]

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