In the spotlight: Helping out with hurricane recovery
View this email in your browser
Banner Image: Distance Up Close November/December 2018
Greetings from ODL
In the News
Canvas FYI
Tool Time
Technology Tips



During this season of thankfulness, we’re grateful for our instructors who work hard to help our students pursue their educational goals. We’re especially grateful to our colleagues in Panama City who have experienced difficulties during and after the hurricane. Despite these challenges, they’re reconnecting with their students and working to keep them on their learning path. We want to thank everyone who had a part in helping make this happen.

We continue to provide tools and technologies that instructors can use to enhance course development. In this issue, you can read about the new Kaltura tool that offers a user-friendly recording experience. To expand your Canvas knowledge, you can choose from our support articles, spring training, plus a new online consultation option. We’ve also upgraded our online proctoring system so instructors will find it easier and quicker to request services. Lastly, for a look at faculty innovation, be sure to read how two FSU professors are using online STEM labs to open up a virtual world of learning to their students. 

We here at ODL wish you an enjoyable winter break with family and friends and are eager to continue working and learning together in 2019. Have a happy new year!


Helping Out with Hurricane Recovery

Hurricane Michael was a major inconvenience to most of Tallahassee, but west of here, lives have been changed dramatically. The Florida State University Panama City campus suffered significant damage, and faculty and students were scattered as far away as Texas and Illinois.
In an effort to help FSU Panama City recover after the storm, ODL provided a range of resources. Media and instructional technology staff traveled to South Walton County to meet with a dozen FSU Panama City faculty to discuss course recovery options. Media Specialists Jim Shaw and Daniela Hernandez assisted instructors with lecture capture and web conferencing tools. Instructional Technology Faculty John Braswell provided strategies for using online technologies such as discussion boards, group projects, and assessments. He also demonstrated how to use Kaltura to create short asynchronous lecture videos with embedded quiz questions to replace missed class time.
Assessment & Testing staff helped FSU Panama City set up its own proctored testing site to accommodate students, who would typically test at Gulf Coast State College, which was damaged in the storm. Our testing vendor Examity issued a limited number of vouchers so displaced students could take exams remotely. The waived fee helped students who had lost their jobs and were facing the unexpected cost associated with remote testing.

"When a part of our community is suffering, it's easy to feel helpless," said ODL Business Analyst Kim Houghton, who helped coordinate some of ODL's response. "In those first weeks after the storm, our Panama City colleagues were working around the clock to regroup and respond. They were scrambling to locate students and faculty. Their campus was damaged and their own lives upended by the devastation. For staff at ODL, it was an honor to support our Panama City campus in a tangible way. We enjoyed the collaboration and the chance to serve our fellow Seminoles."

After the Storm: How to Give and Receive Help

Decorative image: Seminole Emergency Relief FundClasses at Florida State University Panama City resumed October 29, but recovery remains for both the campus and city. If you would like to support the students, faculty, and staff affected by the storm, you can donate to the FSU Panama City Seminole Emergency Relief Fund. To help individuals at the Tallahassee campus, you can donate here. The goal of these funds is to help meet the essential needs of those in the FSU community who have experienced a temporary financial hardship. FSU and FSU Panama City students and employees seeking assistance can apply to the fund at any time.

Online Strategies for University Closure

To prepare for any future university closures, we suggest instructors keep the following in mind:
  • Use Canvas. Because Canvas is cloud-hosted with Amazon, it was available during the storm. "Instructors who had developed courses in Canvas clearly had an advantage," said ODL Instructional Technology Faculty John Braswell. "Canvas courses were key to keeping the communication path open with students."
  • Use OneDrive. By using Microsoft OneDrive to store all of their files, instructors found it easy to access materials from a variety of computers and locations, which ensured smooth file management.
  • Gather student contact information. FSU Panama City Computer Science Teaching Faculty Chris Lacher required his students to submit their names, cell phone numbers, and the best time to be contacted on their first assignment. Having this information helped him reach students after the storm.
  • Create an asynchronous module. For face-to-face courses, instructors can create an asynchronous module that could be deployed at any time during the semester. This module could require students to watch a video, complete a reading, participate in a discussion board, or take an online quiz.

Proctor Request System Updated

Assessment & Testing's online Request for Services system has been recently upgraded to make requesting proctored exam services quicker and easier.
The new Instructor Request tool allows all course and examination information to be captured in a single place. Instructors can upload materials, determine if they want to allow online proctoring, and track the progress of their requests. Here are some additional benefits:
  • Linked to Campus Solutions so course information is auto-populated for faculty
  • Request dashboard for easy reference of requested courses and exams and their status
  • Email communication at each stage of the request process
  • Upload course materials such as exam aids and formula sheets directly in the application  
For instructions and screenshots of the tool's different functions, you can view the support article in our Canvas Support Center.

Empowering Online STEM Labs

In October, the first "STEMPowered" symposium was conducted at the University of Florida, with participants engaging in ideas on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) courses and labs for undergraduate students.
The symposium is an outcome of the State University System (SUS) Online Labs Task Force, which was launched in 2016. The goal of the task force is to "examine the current state of labs for online students [and] to ensure the availability of high quality STEM labs for online students enrolled in Florida's SUS programs."
Decorative imageFSU faculty members Stephanie Dillon (Chemistry) and William Landing (Oceanography) presented at the symposium. Both cited the importance of the immersive experience of online labs.
Dillon uses an online virtual learning environment for her Liberal Studies chemistry course. "The development of online laboratories should be done with a focus on giving the student as realistic an experimental experience as possible," she said. "The design of my course and lab is immersive as students participate in lab experiments as their avatar and can interact not only with the lab environment but also other students, teaching assistants, and me in much the same manner as they would in a real lab classroom."
In speaking about his Introduction to Environmental Science Laboratory, Landing said, "We cannot have an in-person lab that is anywhere close to what we can offer using virtual reality [VR]. We can't take students on a scuba dive to study invasive species or ocean acidification. We can do all of that, and much more, using VR labs. Students love doing the VR labs, and they especially love the freedom to work on their assignments 24/7 so that it doesn't interfere with the rest of their schedules."
Dillon agreed with the encouraging feedback from students. "Student response has been very positive," she said. Her course, which has been online for more than three years, has seen steady enrollment growth. "The beauty of an online class is there are no limits to the number of students who can enroll."
The task force, led by University of Florida Online Assistant Provost and Director Evangeline Cummings, has inventoried current online lab offerings around Florida and researched the state of the art and practice in this area. In January 2018, task force findings were reported to the Florida Board of Governors.
ODL Associate Director of Instructional Development Faculty Joe Clark has been a member of the task force from its inception and attended the STEMPowered conference. "It was really inspiring to see all the ways STEM faculty around the state are using instructional technology to deliver labs in innovative ways, and to listen in on the robust Q and A that followed each session," he said. If you're interested in learning more about using online labs, contact Clark at

Fall 2018 Finals Are Here

Fall finals are scheduled for Dec. 8-14, 2018. The Testing Center continues to offer weekend testing and an additional testing site in third-floor Miller Hall (C3300). Dates and times are listed below.

Testing Center
December 8-9: 7am-7pm
December 10-13: 7am-10pm
December 14: 7am-7pm
Miller Hall
December 10-14: 7am-7pm
Students who need a place to study or relax while waiting to take their exams can visit the conference room located on the fifth floor above the Testing Center (Room 5301). This area will be available December 10-14 from 8 am-5 pm. Staff will be onsite to let students know when the Testing Center or Miller Hall is ready to seat appointments.
Help reduce test anxiety. Feel free to share our Testing Center Tips graphic in your course communications to remind students about Testing Center policy.
Testing Center tips: 1. Arrive 30 mins before appointment time, 2. Remember your FSUCard, 3. Leave hats and other headgear at home, 4. Toss the water bottle, 5. Turn off cell phones.
ODL Technical Support has extended its help desk hours for those needing assistance during finals week. You can submit a ticket or call 850-644-8004 for help. Follow us on Twitter @FSUDistance for any Testing Center updates.


Training and Consultations

For instructors seeking one-on-one Canvas assistance from the convenience of their office, ODL has added an online consultation option to our spring Canvas training. You'll work with ODL Educational Technology Specialist Chuck McCann via Blackboard Collaborate while visually following along in your course or organization. If you prefer visiting us onsite, we still offer our one-on-one technical and media consultations.

Canvas training will cover modules, page design, testing and assessment, grading, communication tools, Design Tools, DIY media, and universal design. You can sign up for these in-person workshops or noon webinars—as well as any of our consultations—on our registration page. If you would like to arrange departmental training, contact John Braswell at 850-645-0469.

Sharing Canvas Migration Strategies

Decorative image: John Braswell and Liying MiaoODL's Instructional Technology Faculty John Braswell and Instructional Development Faculty Liying Miao recently presented at the Online Learning Consortium Accelerate conference in Orlando. Their session, "Making the Move: Implementing a Successful LMS Transition," detailed Florida State’s move from Blackboard to Canvas.

Optimization Tips

Here are some guidelines instructors can follow to optimize their use of Canvas and help students have an engaging, user-friendly LMS experience.
  • Use audio and/or video commentary when giving student feedback. Case studies show that using this type of commentary with online students increases the chances they will listen to and follow up on feedback.
  • Add a relevant image to your course card (e.g., a beaker to indicate a science class). This will help students easily identify the course on their dashboard.
  • Apply the auto-open inline preview. This displays the file directly in Canvas and gives students a preview of the content they will encounter when clicking on the link.
  • Use headers in the Rich Content Editor instead of changing the font size for accessibility.
  • Employ the Accessibility Checker in the Rich Content Editor when building pages and assignments. If you use Design Tools when creating your Canvas content, be sure to use Design Tools' built-in accessibility checker.
  • Use pages inside modules, rather than text and links on the module. Bookend each module with an overview and wrap-up page. This helps the student know where they are in the course and signals progression.
  • Use pages to encourage reciprocal teaching by having students upload a glossary, key terms, or examples of what they're learning in real life. You can allow this by turning on editing privileges for a particular page.
  • Use announcements to celebrate class-wide growth in learning.
  • Review the training course Growing with Canvas, which is a resource for instructors who want to use Canvas more effectively, but aren't sure how to begin.

Canvas Case Study

ODL presented on FSU's transition to the Canvas learning management system (LMS) during Canvas's annual conference over the summer. For more information on the lessons learned during the campus-wide migration, you can read the case study, "Graduating to a New Level with the Canvas LMS," featured on the Canvas website.

  • Florida State University had used its previous LMS, Blackboard, for 20 years.
  • An LMS survey of students and staff showed "overwhelming" preference for Canvas.
  • Migration to Canvas included evaluation/transfer of over five million documents.

Release Notes

The latest production release notes from Canvas describe updated features and bug fixes. New features cover moderated grading, New Gradebook, notifications, Rich Content Editor, and accessibility. Bug fixes address assignments, calendar, quizzes, rubrics, and SpeedGrader, among others. You can access the complete release notes on the Canvas Community page.


Kaltura Personal Capture

Decorative imageKaltura's new Personal Capture recording tool will replace the existing CaptureSpace tool in January 2019. Personal Capture provides an intuitive approach to creating media, while adding some advanced playback features.
Capturing your webcam, audio, and screen is easy with this one-time downloaded app. Instructors and students can create dynamic media presentations that they can share through the Canvas text editor. In addition, the Personal Capture tool provides better screen-within-screen playback technology than the CaptureSpace software. You can switch sources while watching screen-in-screen videos. Other benefits include automatic slide detection and creation of searchable chapters when recording a presentation, plus various recording options.
"Personal Capture offers a streamlined, intuitive recording experience," said ODL Project Manager Camilla Fincham. "I think the ease of use and introduction of additional features, such as automatic slide detection in presentations, offer a really helpful upgrade to both our faculty and students."
For an overview of the tool, you can view our support article.


Support Articles


We are eager to receive your feedback on what you would like to see in future issues of the newsletter, so please send us your suggestions about ways ODL can better serve you.


Tech Support
Tech Support
Canvas Support
Canvas Support
Copyright © 2018 FSU Office of Distance Learning, All rights reserved.

Update preferences

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp