About Shannon Riggs

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

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.

Have lots of papers to grade? Lots of student assignments that need your expert, detailed feedback? Instructors and students alike know the value of formative assessments, but instructors know how much time quality, detailed feedback takes to supply. Shortkeys is a helpful program that can help instructors provide detailed feedback and save time in grading by reducing the need to re-type the same passages repeatedly.

Shortkeys is a macro program, which is a program that allows you to set up replacement text for a small number of user-defined keystrokes. If there is anything you type multiple times, this program is for you. There is a limited-use free version, called Shortkeys Lite. The full program costs around $25.
Benefits of using this program:
  • Significantly reduces grading time – a clear benefit for instructors
  • Much more efficient than copying and pasting from Word files
  • Reduces errors due to typos
  • Significantly improves the depth of feedback instructors can provide, given time limitations – a clear benefit for students
  • Useful for URLs, HTML code, phone numbers, email addresses, library card numbers, page references in textbooks, or any other information you find yourself having to look up more than once

How it works:
The user programs each “shortkey” code and types out the replacement text. Once the shortkey is saved, it is ready to be re-used. For instance, for a shortkey that is programmed to explain a comma splice and how to fix one, a user could set the shortkey as “##cs.” As soon as the user types that code, a full explanation about comma splices is placed in the document: This is a type of run-on sentence called a comma splice, which is two complete sentences linked with nothing but a comma. Two complete sentences need more than a comma to separate them. To correct this, change the comma to a semi-colon, add a conjunction, or simply make two separate sentences.

Possible applications:

  • To explain common grammatical and punctuation errors
  • To provide examples to students, such as example thesis statements
  • To refer students to outside resources
  • To demonstrate proper citation styles for various types of sources
  • To include “here’s what I was looking for & here’s how your assignment measured up” notes for student assignments
  • To record summaries and announcements that you re-use in my courses from term to term
  • To remind students of course policies, such as late policies
  • To record HTML code you use frequently in Blackboard

Where to get it:

To order the software or to download a free trial version, visit www.shortkeys.com.