About Shannon Riggs

Executive Director of Academic Programs and Learning Innovation, Oregon State University Ecampus


Ecampus launched the Quality Matters (QM) initiative in 2013. QM is a continuous improvement model for assuring the quality of online courses through a collegial faculty review process. QM focuses on the design of online and hybrid classes, as opposed to the delivery or content of the courses. The QM rubric and trainings are

  • Based upon national standards of best practice, research, and instructional design principles;
  • Designed to promote student learning;
  • Integral to continuous quality improvement; and
  • Part of a faculty-driven, collegial peer review process.

The QM rubric is comprised of research-based standards, all about course design (as distinct from course content and facilitation). The rubric consists of eight general categories, with 41 specific standards. To achieve QM certification, a course must meet all 17 of the 3-point essential standards and must meet a minimum threshold of 81/95 points overall.

To improve the learning experience for Ecampus students and to help OSU faculty who wish to pursue QM course certification, the Ecampus Course Development and Training unit has developed a QM-based course template used as the foundation for the design of new and newly updated online courses. This template meets about half of the QM standards, all before any specific course content is added, and is already being used in approximately 100 courses.

To explore the Ecampus QM-based course template, log in to Blackboard using the username dce_qm and the password ecampus. If you would like to use the QM template in your online course, please contact Shannon Riggs, Ecampus Director of Course Development and Training, at shannon.riggs@oregonstate.edu.

Looking for a way to bring pizzazz to your online course content? To gain your students’ attention? To use visual rhetoric to communicate complicated ideas succinctly, clearly, and persuasively? To inject some humor into an otherwise dry subject? To bring clarity to a muddy point? Whiteboard animations may be the solution!

Here’s an example Ecampus multimedia developers Warren Blyth and Drew Olson created with content by Linda Brewer from the department of Horticulture. (You can find more information here: http://agsci.oregonstate.edu/research/writingimpacts.)

Whiteboard Animation Link






How do you know if your content is right for this kind of presentation? Well, it should be relatively short. When read aloud, the script should take no more than three to five minutes in length. A script is necessary before beginning this kind of project so that the illustrations can be planned. It also helps if the content is vivid in some way — humorous, ironic, vivid in figurative language or imagery, or somehow able to be conveyed or partially conveyed in simple drawings.

How do you proceed if you’re interested in having this sort of resource in your online or hybrid class? Contact Ecampus!

Digital portfolios can be interactive, meaningful, and engaging assignments in online courses. According to Ecampus Instructional Designer Jonan Donaldson, “Well-designed learning environments organized around published digital portfolios can increase not only academic achievement but also intrinsic motivation, student autonomy, collaborative learning, and digital literacies.”

Read more about digital portfolios in Jonan’s article for Educause, Digital Portfolios in the Age of the Read/Write Web.


Knowledge, Skill, Collaborate, Create, Structure, Publish, Reflect

In building online courses, we try to create three forms of interaction on a regular basis throughout each class:

  • Student-Content, where the interaction is as active as possible for the student;
  • Student-Instructor, where the students have a chance to ask instructors questions, engage in facilitated discussions, and receive feedback from their instructors on assignments;
  • Student-Student, where students have an opportunity to communicate with peers and learn in the framework of a learning community.

Sometimes these interactions are formal and graded, such as graded class discussions, group projects, or multimedia presentations. Other times, though, we want a more informal means of generating these three forms of interaction.

Wallwisher is a free online tool that can be used for this purpose. Wallwisher is a simple website that allows participants to visit and post quick, virtual sticky-notes that include text or links to audio or video content. Wallwisher is easy for instructors to set up and easy for students to use.

Here’s a Sample Wallwisher page we set up for you to try. This page asks students to quickly note which concepts they’ve found most difficult so far during the course of a term. An instructor might use this tool to gather opinions, gauge assumptions, check comprehension, or to help students prepare for an exam.

Looking for ways to make your online class more interactive? Wondering what your students are thinking about a certain topic in your class? Wondering if your students are struggling?

Surveys are helpful tools to help us meet these needs in online classes. Google Docs offers a free survey tool, Google Forms, which you can use in your online class by following a few simple steps:

1. Go to your Google Docs account.

2. Create a Form.

3. Choose a Theme.

4. Write your questions.

5. Share a link to the live form.

6. Collect your responses in one convenient location, your Google Form spreadsheet.

Click the image above to watch a brief video that explains how Google Forms can work in your class.

screenshot of library course guide

Did you know that the OSU Library offers Course Guides? Course Guides are webpages that the librarians can help to create for your class. Then Ecampus can place these webpages in your Blackboard class.

Course Guides are a great way to …

  • Guide research projects
  • Put students in touch with the library and library staff
  • Guide students beyond Google and Wikipedia
  • Focus your students on specific journals or even on specific articles
  • Provide plagiarism prevention information
  • Provide citation formatting information
  • And more …

Visit the library course guide webpage to browse through course guides from courses in almost every discipline. To start setting up a Course Guide for your class, please contact Stefanie Buck (stefanie.buck@oregonstate.edu) or your subject’s librarian.

Looking for a way to elicit more original replies in your online class discussions, or perhaps an engaging assignment that will challenge your students to comprehend and then explain the concepts you’re trying to teach? You might want to give FlickrPoet a try. Don’t let the name fool you; this tool can be used in a wide range of classes, from liberal arts to the sciences.

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Gaining students’ attention is the first of Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction. A great way to gain attention is to provide a catchy animated video about the topic you are presenting.

What’s that? You’re not a trained animator? Don’t let that stop you! If you can choose items off a menu and type some dialogue, you can create an animated video for free at www.xtranormal.com. The animation below was created for an upcoming professional development workshop at Ecampus. The whole project took about 10 minutes to create.