As you know, technology and teaching are always evolving, and this blog will be our spot to talk about the tools, tech, and pedagogy that make up great online learning. Each week we will post about all sorts of topics, from top apps for education, instructional design, tips and tricks about our learning management system (Blackboard), best practices for utilizing online resources for your teaching,, and other instructional technologies. 

If you have comments, questions, topic requests, or just want to sound off about what we write about, you can always reach us through Twitter at #learnau. Or you can email us at

Posted by Charles Piscitello on April 16, 2018


What is Quality Matters?

Quality Matters (QM) is a faculty-centered, peer review process designed to certify the quality of online courses and online components. Sponsored by MarylandOnline, Inc, Quality Matters has generated widespread interest and received national recognition for its peer-based approach to quality assurance and continuous improvement in online education.

What is the Ohio Quality Matters Consortium?

For several years, Ohio colleges and universities have been part of a consortium that utilizes the Quality Matters (QM) Rubric to improve online courses in a variety of ways. Originally organized by the Ohio Learning Network (OLN), the consortium has grown to over 60 institutions for the 2013-2014 academic year and is currently the largest QM state consortium in the nation. When OLN was dissolved in 2011, the QM Consortium transitioned leadership to key individuals at four institutions: Bowling Green State University, Columbus State Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, and The University of Akron. Additional information can be found at the Ohio QM Consortium web site:

The Quality Matters Certification Program

The Quality Matters (QM) certification program is emerging as an international standard for the design of online courses. QM requires a designated sequence of activities designed to prepare instructors for becoming peer reviewers of online courses that have been submitted for review. 

1. APPQMR (Applying the Quality Matters Rubric)

APPQMR offers training in utilizing the QM Rubric to review online courses and is the first step to becoming a peer reviewer. This training can be completed face-to-face or online. We are proud to recognize UA graduates of APPQMR course. 

2. The Quality Matters Peer Reviewer Course

The QM Peer Reviewer Course offers practice in responding to sample online courses using the QM rubric. APPQMR and online teaching are pre-requisites. Graduates can participate in official Quality Matters reviews of online courses from any institution in the world. We are proud to present. 

3. Advanced Quality Matters Training

These QM workshops are available to certified Peer Reviewers who would like to become "Master "Reviewers" and QM trainers:

  • Master Reviewer Certification.
  • Face to Face Facilitator Certification.
  • Online Facilitator Certification.

4. Optional Quality Matters Training

Optional QM workshops allow participants to focus on specific areas. We are proud to recognize UA graduates of QM optional training courses.

5. Social Media

Optional QM workshops allow participants to focus on specific areas. We are proud to recognize UA graduates of QM optional training courses.

Get connected with other Ohio Consortium Members through our social media pages 

Interested in Quality Matters (QM) professional development and course certification? 

 Contact Chuck Piscitello Ashland University Instructional Designer 

Christopher Stormer Posted by Christopher Stormer on February 16, 2018

The Blackboard student app is used by many students in order to access quick information about their Blackboard courses-- it can also allow students to participate in discussion boards, read posted content, and check their grades. Check out this page for more information and download links for the student app.

If you're the instructor of a Blackboard course, though, you'll want to download Blackboard's Instructor app-- this app will not only allow you to participate in your course discussions, post announcements and new content, but also will allow you to grade student work on your mobile device. This app is a work in progress, and there are many features still to be released. If you'd like to learn more about this Instructor app and have a chance to provide feedback and request features, please sign up at the link below for a free webinar:

Thursday, March 1st, 10am EST or  Thursday, March 1st at 8pm EST

Registration Link

If you'd like to download the Instructor App for your mobile device, use the links below--- downloading this app will enable it to automatically update as new features are released!

Download on your Apple® device

Download on your Android™ device

Posted by Charles Piscitello on February 5, 2018


We can assess our students in two ways:

  • Through summative assessment, a high stakes exam, paper, project, portfolio or capstone. Usually a significant portion of a student's grade. Allows the student the opportunity to showcase their mastery of the subject matter.
  • Through formative assessment, a low or no stakes check-in, such as a quiz, class interaction, short reflection, etcetera. Formative assessments allow the teacher and the student the opportunity to gauge their understanding of the subject matter early and often.

Gauging your students' understanding of the learning process is essential. And most of the time, the midterm exam is much too late for many students who by that time, may feel lost and abandoned.

Instructors can significantly benefit from incorporating formative assessments in the classroom since they can better understand what material the students understand and what content requires more time and attention.

When teachers take the extra time to plan engaging formative assessments throughout the course, the students are better able to understand the course content and master the skills showcased in high stakes formative assessments.

This specific post will outline using Kahoot! As fun and engaging method to gauge your student's understanding.


Make learning fun, inclusive and engaging in all contexts


Create a fun learning game in minutes – we call these ‘kahoots’. You can make a series of multiple choice questions or try our new game – Jumble. The format and number of questions are entirely up to you. Add videos, images and diagrams to your questions to amplify engagement.


Kahoots are best played in a group setting, for example, a classroom. Players answer the questions on their own devices, while games are displayed on a shared screen to unite the lesson. It creates a ‘campfire moment’ encouraging players to look up and celebrate together. Besides creating your own kahoots, you can search among millions of existing games.


Social learning promotes discussion and pedagogical impact, whether players are in the same room or on the other side of the globe. After a game, encourage players to create and share their own kahoots to deepen understanding, mastery and purpose, as well as engage in peer-led discussions. When a learner becomes a leader, that’s a true magic moment!

Share learning games of Kahoot!


Practice makes perfect! With the challenge feature and our mobile app, you can assign kahoots as homework. Students play kahoots on their phones for revision and reinforcement, training their classroom superpowers anytime. In homework challenges, questions and answers will appear on their phone screens. Choose a kahoot, assign it as a challenge and share the link or PIN with your students. Make homework awesome!

Here are some additional articles on formative and summative assessment:

Posted by Carl Nestor on January 26, 2018

A common topic when designing an online course revolves around the use of video instruction. The question regularly comes down to “what is the optimal viewing length?” You may hear that Americans have the attention span of a gold fish, or roughly 8 seconds. This factoid, however, is a bit misleading. It’s true that when sifting through a large volume of possible online choices, the mind makes quick decisions, often based on the first ten- seconds of a video. The mind filters the information and almost instantly makes a perceived ranking as to its worth.

But this rule of thumb does not apply in all attention span situations. For example, there is binge watching, or the viewing of numerous episodes of a favorite TV show in a constant stream - for hours. Online gamers can be engrossed online within World of Warcraft game environment. So, this still leaves us with our basic question – what is the optimal length of an instructional video?

For me, this decision isn’t based around a pre-determined number of minutes, but rather culmination of several key factors. You may find that a 15-minute video is more powerful, and memorable, than a 3-minute blip. Getting students to watch videos can be tough. Period. But considering these factors below are a great aid in finding the best length.

The first factor is quality of presentation. Basically, how dynamic is the speaker? First impressions count. If the instructor speaks in a slow, monotone voice or the video begins with two minutes watching the instructor prepare – students will quickly disengaged and shift their attention to checking your phone messages. Ensure your sound quality is good. If the voice recording is not clear or muffled by background noise, you’ll have a tough time keeping viewers watching. Having to strain to understand the speaker quickly becomes tiresome. I’ve found that people are more forgiving of poor image quality than the poor sound.

Another factor is how quickly do you hook the student and draw them into the video. Relevancy is key. In the online article, Attention Span Statistics for video[1], blogger Elishe Lagarde writes “you need to present the viewer with a reason to stay with your video and you need to do it in the first minute of watching time – or less.” Within the first 10 seconds, the viewer is making decisions as to its perceived value in exchange for their time.

A third factor is video length counts. The longer the video, the more chances you have to lose viewers. In the online article, Four ways to keep viewers engaged in an online video[2], blogger Chris Savage stated in a study dealing with an hour-long video that “the average viewer watched 72% of the shorter video and only 50% of the longer video.” A graphic within that article shows that less than 20% of viewers continued to the full hour point.

I’d like to illustrate this factor further by sharing some findings from a recent online course. For our online courses, we embed videos into Blackboard using a software called Kaltura. This software has analytic capabilities that allow us to accurately record student viewing times. The instructor used hour-long video lectures. The online course started with 31 students logging in. But even on the first day of the course, only five students actually watched the whole hour lecture. 11 students didn’t even open the video. By the end of the second week, only 13 students were logging in. Interesting, there was a core group of about 6 students who diligently watched each video in its entirety. Three students watched less than 50 percent and one did not even start the video. This shows that 30 percent of the remaining students watched less than 50 percent of these videos. I share these findings only to encourage everyone to consider the length of their videos. A video not watch is lost opportunity for knowledge.

If you are considering using an hour-long video, try this a simple test to evaluate its optimal length – watch the video yourself. How long do you watch the video before your mind begins to drift? Is there anything that distracts you in the video?

If your video topic is complex and needs time to convey – consider chunking the information into shorter videos. Instead of a one-hour long video, consider making four shorter videos. Have you ever sat in a classroom where the teacher talked for an entire hour straight? Even with an interesting topic, your mind is likely to drift. By chunking, I’m not talking about taking a one-hour video and breaking it into four 15-minute portions; but rather, creating four new shorter videos. Each video would have its own statement purpose and material to cover.

So, what is the optimal video of an instructional video? While the answer is somewhat subjective, from practical experience, I’ve found that 10 to 15 minutes seems to be good length. Consider chunking complex topics into a series of videos. Consider adding activities between the videos to strengthen retention. Use a microphone to get the best sound possible. Consider using slides to keep the viewer’s mind engaged. Keep your viewers watching as long as possible. Your information is valuable.

Posted by Keith Harris on January 23, 2018

Here is another opportunity to learn more about Qwickly Attendance and how you can easily integrate class attendance into your Blackboard gradebook.

See how its features and flexibility will work with Blackboard. 

Qwickly sample


  • Automatically create a graded column in Blackboard and keep a running grade for attendance.
  • See a list of all students and work down the list or show one student at a time as the instructor calls names.
  • Send an email to students when they are marked as absent for the day. Provide students with acknowledgement that they were missed in class and a way to cross reference with their attendance score.
  • Export to CSV.


Introduction to Qwickly Attendance for Blackboard Learn

January 31, 2018 at 1:00 PM ET

For: Faculty and academic leadership

Register Now


Posted by Vivian Beaty on January 22, 2018

A concept map is a visual display representing the spatial relationships and connections between ideas or concepts (Smith and Ragan, 1993).  Concept maps have also been referred to as graphic organizers, sematic mapping, information mapping, and networking (West, Farmer, and Wolff, 1991). According to West, Farmer, and Wolff, there are three common types of concept maps. The three common types of concept maps include the spider map (also referred to as a cluster map), chain map (also referred to as a flowchart), and hierarchy map (West, Farmer, and Wolff, 1991). Examples of the common types of concept maps have been provided below. 

  • Spider Map – the organization of this map begins with an idea being place in the center of the map and associated offshoots of the central idea is linked outward representing sub-themes and supporting factors. 

Example of an image of a spider concept map

  • Chain Map – the organization of this map presents ideas in a linear formation. This map is also referred to as a flowchart map where decision inputs and outputs can be inserted. 

Example of an image of a chain concept map.

  • Hierarchy Map – the organization of this map presents an idea or information in the order of importance. 

Example image of a hierarchy concept map

It is important to note that there are hybrid forms of the three common types of concept maps commonly used.  For example, a concept map displaying the relationship and connections among and within systems may be comprised of features of a spider and hierarchy concept map.  Concept maps can be created by instructors to demonstrate relationships and connections between key concepts and subordinate ideas or by students to demonstrate their understanding and explanations of the relationships and connections associated among concepts and subsuming components.  

Theoretical Foundations

In the 1950s, a researcher by the name of Joseph D. Novak and his research team set out to understand how and why some learners obtained a deep and meaningful understanding of content and concepts and others did not.  Novak believed that “knowledge acquired meaningfully is usually retained longer, functions to facilitate future learning and can be used in novel problem solving or creative thinking (Novak, 2010).”  In 1963, Novak read a research article written by David Ausubel on assimilation theory.  David Paul Ausubel began his career in the field of medical psychiatry and later returned to school at Columbia University to earn a Ph.D. in developmental psychology (Ivie, 1998).  As a psychologist with a research interest in education and cognitive development, Ausubel wanted to learn more about deep level learning that reflected a meaningful learning experience  which allowed students to retain material over a longer period of time rather than superficial knowledge frequently forgotten resulting from rote learning.  The idea is that student’s learn by creating and making connections and links from prior knowledge to new material being learned. It is through this connection and association between prior knowledge and new material that supports deep level meaningful learning experiences (Cliburn, 1990; Ivie, 1998; Novak, 2010; Daley & Torre, 2010.  This is the underlying basis of Ausubel’s assimilation theory. Using Ausubel’s theory on assimilation as a theoretical foundation, Novak developed an instructional tool called the concept map. The purpose of a concept map is to provide a big picture view of the relationships, connections and associations of an idea or concept to its subsuming components.  

In her Doctor of Nursing Program (DNP) courses, Dr. Lisa Young has integrated the use of concept maps. Below is a short video clip of Dr. Young describing how she uses concept maps in her courses.  Click on the link below to view the video.

While the video focuses on Dr. Young's use of concept maps in her nursing courses, concept maps have been used in other disciplines such as education, science, computer science, business, branding and marketing courses, and research data organization,  On Thursday, January 25th at 2 p.m. in a Blackboard webinar, I will be discussing and demonstrating the use of the Mindomo concept map software to help gain a big picture perspective on how to organize and shape research ideas and concepts.  All are welcomed to participate in the discussion. If you are unable to attend, but would like to learn more, please feel free to contact Vivian Beaty at


Cliburn Jr., J.W. (1990). Concept maps to promote meaningful learning. Journal of College Science Teaching, 19(4): 212-217.

Daley, B.J. (2004). Using concept maps in qualitative research.  Concept Maps: Theory, Methodology, Technology, Proceedings of the First International  Conference on Concept Mapping, , A. J. Cañas, J. D. Novak, F. M. González, Eds. Pamplona, Spain.

Daley, B.J. & Torre, D.M. (2010). Concept maps in medical education: An analytical literature review. Medical Education, 44: 440-448.

Fesmire, M. Lisner, M.C.P., Forrest, P.R. & Evans, W.H. (2003). Concept Maps: A Practical Solution for Completing Functional Behavior Assessments. Education and Treatment of Children, 26(1): 89-103.

 Ivie, S.D. (1998). Ausubel’s learning theory: An approach to teaching higher order thinking skills. The High School Journal, 82(1): 35-42.

John, D.R. Loken, B., Kim, K. & Monga, A.B. (2006). Brand concept maps: A methodology for identifying brand association networks. Journal of Marketing Research, 43(4): 549-563.

Nesbit, J.C. & Adesope, O.O. (2006). Learning with concept and knowledge maps: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 76(3): 413-448.

Novak, J.D. (2010). Learning, creating, and using knowledge: Concept maps as facilitative tools in schools and corporations.  Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society, 6(3): 21–30.

Smith, P. L. & Ragan, T. J. (1993). Instructional design. New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Tseng, K.H. Chang, C.C., Lou, S.J., Tan, Y., & Chiu, C.J. (2012). How Concept-mapping Perception Navigates Student Knowledge Transfer Performance. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 15(1): 102-115.

Villalon, J., & Calvo, R. A. (2011). Concept maps as cognitive visualizations of writing assignments. Educational Technology & Society, 14 (3): 16–27.

West, C. K., Farmer, J. A., & Wolff, P. M. (1991). Instructional design: Implications from cognitive science. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Yang, Y.F. (2015). Automatic Scaffolding and Measurement of Concept Mapping for EFL Students to Write Summaries.  Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 18(4): 273-286.


Christopher Stormer Posted by Christopher Stormer on January 10, 2018

Laptop With Attendance

Have you wanted to integrate class attendance into your Blackboard gradebook? Have you wanted an easy way for students to "check-in" to a course? Qwickly Attendance, a new tool at Ashland University, can do all of that, and more!

Join Qwickly for an online workshop about using the Attendance tool that is integrated into our Blackboard Learn system. 

Qwickly Attendance Training

January 17, 2018 - 2:00 PM ET

Start your semester with the efficiency of Qwickly Attendance. Learn how to manage class attendance with our user-friendly software.

For: faculty and other current Qwickly Attendance users

Christopher Stormer Posted by Christopher Stormer on January 3, 2018

LearnAU, the Instructional Design and Technology Center at Ashland University, is pleased to announce our scheduled Instructional Design and Tech Tools Talks for the Spring 2018 Semester. The IDT^3 series features talks by our Instructional Design and Instructional Technology experts on a variety of topics of interest to faculty teaching in face-to-face, hybrid, or online environments.

2018 Schedule

Using Concept Map Software for Scholarly Work

Dr. Vivian Beaty, Ph.D., LearnAU Instructional Designer

Thursday Jan 25th 2pm-3pm

Webinar: or join as a group in CONHS 139/141

This session will demonstrate the use of the Mindomo Concept Map software to gather research materials to clarify key concepts in support of evidence based practice and to visually display and organize research items toward constructing scholarly papers. 


H5P - Creating Interactive Web Content

Donna Lannerd, MSEd., LearnAU Educational Technologist

Wednesday. February 21st, 3pm-4pm

Dauch 106

Explore H5P,  a free HTML5 content tool that allows you to create interactive activities and embed inside Blackboard. Just a few of the activities you can create include: Memory Game, Drag & Drop, Flashcards, Fill in the Blanks, and Timeline. Creating content with H5P is easy with the web-based content editor. You'll be on the way to having your first activity finished before the end of the session.


Reading Deeper with Perusall

Carl Nestor, MFA, MS., LearnAU Instructional Designer and Dr. Richard Gray, Ph.D., Associate Professor of French

Thursday, March 22, 2018  12pm-1pm.

Bixler Hall, Room 309

Learn about this collaborative, peer to peer tool developed by Harvard University that strengthen reading comprehension. Dr. Richard Gray and LearnAU instructional designer Carl Nestor share the positive results of its use in his French course.


Instant Video Feedback with Kaltura Quizzes

Donna Lannerd, MSEd, LearnAU Educational Technologist
Keith Harris, MBA, Learning Systems Manager
Jay Summers, LearnAU Videographer

Tuesday, April 10th, 3pm – 4pm

Schar 203

Learn to make a quick quiz that overlays on any Kaltura video, pausing to prompt students with comprehension questions. Turn any video into an opportunity for student feedback!


Instructional Design for the Outreach Program

Emily Weller M.Ed., LearnAU Instructional Designer

Wednesday, 5/2/2018, 9:00am-10:00am

Patterson 303

 In this session you'll learn about the Outreach program and the instructional design approach we use to engage students in this unique environment.

Christopher Stormer Posted by Christopher Stormer on February 5, 2016

Active discussions are a core element of any course, and research has shown that online course discussions do help students understand concepts more deeply. (For an interesting literature review and study of online course discussions, see Cranney et. al., Instructor’s Discussion Forum Effort: Is It Worth It? at ).  Discussions are great for student learning -- but when you have an active discussion, there are LOTS of posts to wade through. 

In the default discussion board, you'll see a list like this-- you must click on each thread in order to read and reply to those entries.

Default Discussion Board View

Wouldn't it be nice if you could collect these all on one page?  You can! To do this, check the box next to each thread that you want to read. Or you can check the box at the top of the column in order to check every thread. Then click the "Collect" button.

Place a check next to the threads you want to view, then click Collect

All of the threads you've checked, including any replies, will be displayed on one page. You can scroll to read all of the posts, and click on "Reply" to any one directly from this page. 

Collected Discussion Posts

The collection page also give you options to sort by date or author, and the "Print Preview" button will let you create a PDF copy of the page-- which can be useful for your records, or for easy offline reading.

Instructors and students have access to the "Collect" tool-- try it out.  If you think others would be interested in knowing about it, share a link to this post in your course's discussion board!

Christopher Stormer Posted by Christopher Stormer on January 8, 2016

Keeping records of student attendance in class, or for synchronous sessions in an online course, is an important way to help you find and address problems that students may be having. If you can see a pattern of missed classes, or late attendance, that can be a part of an intervention strategy early enough to help that student turn their performance around. Besides the diagnostic benefit, financial aid requirements for many students hinge upon attendance, and so you may be asked by the registrar to provide this information for reporting purposes.

Old Fashioned Gradebook

While there are several different takes on how attendance should be counted (or not) towards a student grade, taking a few moments each class session to collect it can only help you make classroom decisions. [For an excellent summary of recent research in this area, see Macie Hall's blog post from Johns Hopkins University: Should You Require Classroom Attendance?]

To make keeping and collecting attendance information easier, LearnAU has just rolled out an Online Attendance tool in Blackboard that provides an online interface for you. An added benefit of using this tool online in Blackboard is that is gives students the ability to see their own attendance records, so that they can be made aware of their own patterns of class attendance.

It's easy to get started-- with a few simple clicks you can enable the tool in your Blackboard course and give it a try. Grab a copy of the documentation and setup guide here!

As always, if you have any questions, please contact the LearnAU team at