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!

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 11.06.22 AMDigital timelines are a great way to display a series of events in your online course. They can be used to capture historical events or a series of steps that occur in specific order, for example, a lab activity.

TimelineJS is an easy to use online tool that allows you to create a timeline by pulling in various types of online media such as video, images, and maps from easy to integrate sites such as Twitter, Flickr, Google Maps, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Dailymotion, Wikipedia, and SoundCloud. The magic happens in a Google spreadsheet and it is as simple as inserting dates, links, and text into the appropriate columns.

If you are interested in having Ecampus create a timeline for you using this tool, all you need to do is contact your instructional designer. Click the image above to view a timeline that was created for French 329, a course on francophone cultures and film.

For every concept you want to convey, there is a scale of understanding (from those who’ve never heard of it, to those who have PhDs in it). In many cases, those who really understand something well have trouble putting themselves into the shoes of others who are just setting out to learn it. This is why it is often hard to give a stranger directions when they don’t know the local streets or landmarks. The key to good explanation is: empathizing with your audience.

In May, I had the pleasure of seeing Lee LeFever speak at WebVisions 2013 in Portland, Oregon. His session, “The Art of Explanation,” was about crafting explanations in video form and it delivered my favorite takeaways from the show. I’d like share a few of these juicy insights with you, because they inform my multimedia work for CDT.
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1. Audio Audio Audio!

Audio is just as important, if not more important, than the video. Most people are willing to tolerate bad video if there is good audio, but not the other way around. Ecampus has wireless lavaliere mics (the little black mic that clips on to your shirt) that can be checked out with the camera to capture good audio.

2. Consider your Background

What is the background of your video is just as important as the subject of the video. Avoid windows in the background or shooting with the sun at your back. Flip cameras have no control over exposure so they adjust according to the brightest light in the frame. If you are shooting in your office with your back to the window, the camera will adjust to the light outside which will make you, the subject, really dark and underexposed. Also make sure there are no plants, pillars, signs or anything right behind your head or that “split the frame in half”. These are common distractions that pull focus away from the subject

3. Keep the Camera Steady

Handheld, shaky, video is very distracting. If you have a tripod, use it. Ecampus has small, desktop tripods, which work well for placing the camera on a table or shelf.

4. Here is a link to the OSU guidelines on shooting video http://oregonstate.edu/brand/video-best-practices

the title screen

Often an instructor will bring us media (like a collection of photographs) and ask if we could help create some sort of interactive exercise  (like a microscope simulation, to explore their photographs). We’re happy to do what you ask, but when time and interest permit – we like to push a little further. Sometimes we will ask if it’s all right to make a game.

This past term in Botany 350, we created an anime-themed adventure game, Plant Detective, which let students collect clues and present their findings to a humorous  caricature of their instructor. You can play it here, and I’ll discuss how we made it after the break.
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Some instructors are surprised when they first hear that they should begin preparing for a recorded lecture by writing a script. Some instructors believe that writing a script will take a lot of time, and that using a script will make the finished recording sound like they are reading, and that they should approach their online lectures the same way they do the on-campus ones – without a script.

Preparing a script for an online lecture is an essential step, however, that actually helps to save time and create a higher quality finished lecture.

So why script your lectures?

  1. To Save Time
      You will be surprised how much time and frustration you will save yourself when you are recording lectures. You won’t have as many flubs-ups or wonder if you actually covered everything you were planning on covering only to discover you didn’t. If you do mess up, it’s easier to re-record.
  2. To Keep Online Lectures at an Ideal Length and Quality
      A script will also help you keep track of time. We recommend that online lecture be no longer than 20 minutes (and shorter is better!). This time limit is very hard to achieve when you don’t know how long you plan on talking, or if you go off on a tangent.
      One trick you can do so you don’t sound like you are reading a script is writing your script in a less formal manner. How will you know if it’s less formal? Read it out loud after you write it! If you find yourself getting stuck on words or just find it hard to read, try restating the sentence as though you are just talking with a friend or a student in your office. Also, practice reading your script two or three times before you record; this will make the whole recording process go more smoothly.
  3. To Make Lectures Accessible
      An added bonus to scripting your lectures is that it would be transcribed for students with documented disabilities, or for those for whom English is a second language.

On-campus and online courses meet the same learning outcomes, but the online learning environment is different from the face-to-face environment. Writing a script as the first step in creating your online lecture content is a great way to help you create content that will be effective for online students.

A great example of a lecture that was recorded with a script was done by Julia Goodwin for her HST 104 course World History I: Ancient Civilizations, here is her lecture for week 8

Part 1 and 2 are both only 1 slide long, however they exemplify the change in the design. These were created after I found the Oregon State style guides, so they were created with official colors and a more streamlined layout. These allow students to practice identifying kids that might need alternative learning options. These don’t feature any groundbreaking changes, however they do show how I’ve become more layer oriented with a cleaner display.

Experience Part 1 or Part 2 of the storyline yourself.

This storyline project was created for CS 325 on General Recurrence. Katie Hughes the developer has this to say bout her experience:

While this is a seemingly simple project, I really consider it the turning point in my Storyline experience. On one slide, the instructor wanted the student to input a text response, and if that response contained a certain word it would be considered correct. Storyline has nothing supported that does any sort of text comparisons, so this is the project I learned how to integrate JavaScript. Learning JavaScript and how it works in Storyline really opened up a lot of options for other projects after this one. Also, this series of CS 325 lectures is really the first one where I began using a consistent layout for each Storyline project.

Click here, If you would like to experience the storyline yourself.