In the spotlight: Student Writing Tool
View this email in your browser


Image of fountain outside of Florida State's football stadium

As we close the book on the fall semester, the Office of Distance Learning has enjoyed sharing new tools, technologies, and training throughout the year to help instructors enrich their online courses. In this issue of Distance Up Close, we’re eager to highlight more ways to help you provide an excellent learning experience for students.

If you have students who occasionally struggle with writing, we encourage you to introduce them to a new tool in Turnitin called Draft Coach. The tool assists with similarity checks, citations, and grammar. You can ensure your students are aware of Draft Coach by posting an announcement in your Canvas course site.

While Draft Coach can help students, we have several opportunities to help instructors with training and professional development this semester and into the new year. Review the article in the Training & Outreach section for webinars on social learning and discussion boards and register for the session of your choice.

Our media team is always on the lookout for new ways to help instructors transform online courses into engaging and immersive experiences for students. Read about the latest tool below, an all-in-one video kit that you can use to create smartphone video content for your online course. It’s a portable, easy-to-use tool that you can check out for a week at a time for vlogging or mobile live streaming.

In technology news, the deadline to switch from Classic Quizzes to New Quizzes has been eliminated. With Canvas focused on developing and implementing New Quizzes features, you’ll have more time to ease into the transition. If you haven’t already, we recommend you begin experimenting with New Quizzes.

In past issues, ODL has recognized the winners of the 2021-2022 FSU Excellence in Online Teaching award and shared their instructional insights. This issue takes a closer look at the final honoree, Dr. Karen Works with Computer Science at Florida State University Panama City.

We appreciate the opportunity to share distance learning news with you throughout the year. Have a happy and safe winter break and see you in 2023!


Improve Student Writing with Draft Coach

Banner image of a person on a computer using Microsoft Word Draft Coach

If you’re looking for new ways to help students strengthen their writing skills, point them toward a free tool integrated recently in Microsoft Word online. Turnitin Draft Coach is designed to check content early in the writing process and provide instant feedback that helps students develop citation, research, and writing skills.


Using Draft Coach, students can address the following issues and improve their writing before the final submission:

  • Similarity. Students are given a similarity score that helps them identify when their writing matches the text of other sources. They are given suggestions on how to revise their writing based on the score. By citing potential plagiarism issues, Draft Coach helps students ensure the academic integrity of their work.
  • Citations. Draft Coach generates a report that helps students identify when citations are missing references and references are missing citations. The tool provides information for MLA, APA, and Chicago citation and reference style.
  • Grammar. Draft Coach identifies errors in grammar, mechanics, usage, and structure and provides guidance so students can fix the errors and better understand grammatical concepts.

By providing formative feedback early in the writing process, Draft Coach helps students develop a deeper understanding of the issues, gain more confidence in their writing, and write with integrity. You’ll save time during the grading process because basic issues are addressed before submission.

Sample Announcement

Since students are more likely to use a tool when prompted by their instructor, the Office of Distance Learning encourages you to post a Draft Coach announcement in your Canvas course site. Feel free to use this sample text:

Need writing support before you turn it in?

You can access a free tool in Word online to help you improve your writing. Turnitin Draft Coach examines issues of similarity, citations, and grammar in your writing and provides instant feedback. Before you begin, you’ll need to enable Draft Coach in the Office 365 version of Word. View the Office of Distance Learning support article for instructions on enabling the tool.

Note that Draft Coach is not available in the desktop version of Word or Google Docs.


Learn more about Draft Coach in our support article. Additional resources include:

In the Spotlight: Karen Works

Excellence in Online Teaching graphicIn previous newsletters, the Office of Distance Learning has highlighted winners of the 2021-2022 Excellence in Online Teaching award: Lisa Johnson, Charla Perdue, and Svetla Slaveva-Griffin. The award recognizes outstanding and innovative teaching in distance learning courses.

In this issue, we share insights and instructional strategies from the final honoree – Dr. Karen Works, assistant teaching professor in computer science at Florida State University Panama City. Works received her PhD in computer science from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and has been with the university since 2019.

Why do you like teaching online?
I love connecting with my students and find teaching online has more opportunities to engage with students. When I taught a traditional face-to-face program, I engaged with my students two or three times a week, typically during the two class periods and one side email. My online students work asynchronously according to their personal schedule.Image of Karen Works Rather than engaging the class for two set periods, I have students reaching out to me on different days with questions. This affords me more one-on-one interaction with my students and through these interactions, I really get to know them on a personal basis.

What teaching tips would you give instructors interested in teaching online?
Any instructor starting to teach online should take a course in QM (Quality Matters) and follow QM standards in their course design. I have found that my online students appreciate when course materials are well organized and QM provides a great framework.

What is your favorite instructional strategy for teaching online?
Active learning is my favorite strategy because it drives my students to deeper understanding of the course materials and an ownership of the learning process.

I flipped a course in the past. I loved how engaged the students became with the course as opposed to traditional lecture approaches. This past spring, I discovered Active Learning Online: Five Principles that Make Online Courses Come Alive* by Stephen Kosslyn and started incorporating active learning strategies into my online course materials.

How do you engage with your students and how do students engage with each other?
My students engage with each other via discussion posts about each module’s content, during online office hours, and online study groups.

Working with Dr. Tyson [FSU Computer Science Professor Dr. Gary Tyson], we developed a new project-based elective for the computer science program, IDC4290 Projects in Data Science. I taught this course for the first time this past spring. It is a project-based course where students develop a data science project over a semester. I used periodic presentations as an assessment and a means by which students could share their work. The majority of students really enjoyed this method of assessment. I plan on incorporating this into some of my other courses.

Assessment can sometimes be challenging in online courses. What strategies do you use for assessing student learning?
Quizzes are used to assess basic content knowledge. Projects are used to assess ability to apply logical constraints. Exams are used to test their mastery of both knowledge and application of content covered.

*Kosslyn, S.M. (2020). Active Learning Online: Five Principles that Make Online Courses Come Alive. Boston: Alinea Learning.

Past Spotlights: You can view profiles of the other online teaching award winners in the following issues: Charla Perdue in the May/June issue, Lisa Johnson in the July/August issue, and Svetla Slaveva-Griffin in the September/October issue.

Capture Quality Video with Smartphone

Video can be a powerful tool to enhance instruction and engage students in the online learning environment. Image of SmallRigFor instructors interested in creating smartphone video content for online courses, the SmallRig video kit offers an easy-to-use option.

Designed for videography, mobile live streaming, and vlogging, the kit features the following:

  • Compact microphone, variable color temperature light, and mini tripod for easy desktop vlogging
  • LED light for shooting in dark or low-light environments
  • Tripod and handheld modes for static or on-the-go shooting
  • Lightweight handles for smooth video capture in landscape or portrait mode
  • Phone cage for smartphones from 2.4 to 3.4 inches wide
  • Secure power bank holder for extended shooting time

How to Use the Kit

You can check out the video kit for a week at a time by contacting Media Production Manager D.D. Garbarino at or 850-644-7574. For a video demonstration and quick guide, see the Media Production Services page. Instructors of distance learning courses will be given priority scheduling.

Keep Programs Up to Date on Licensure

NC SARA Logo of Approved InstitutionFederal and SARA regulations require institutions to make "every reasonable effort" to determine if completion of a course or program meets state educational requirements for licensing and to notify students if a course or program meets the requirements in their home state. SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements) provides oversight of postsecondary distance education at a national level.

Colleges offering programs designed to lead to professional licensure are responsible for determining whether or not their program meets the licensing requirements in each state and for reporting licensure data to the Office of Distance Learning (ODL). Any changes that affect licensure eligibility status of the program also must be reported to ODL in a timely manner.

You can help the university stay in compliance by completing two simple steps:

  1. Visit the student-facing Professional Licensure & Certification page to confirm your program is listed and provides accurate information.
  2. If your program is designed to lead to licensure and is missing from the page, or if changes are needed to the current information, your college’s licensure liaison should use the My Licenses data portal to make these additions or changes as soon as possible.

Learn more on our Regulatory Support page or contact ODL’s SARA liaison for personalized assistance.


Focus on Module Learning Objectives

The goal of the Quality Quick Tips feature is to help instructors enhance the quality of their online courses by meeting essential standards from the Quality Matters rubric. By meeting these standards, you’re on your way to developing a robust learning experience for your students. We continue our rubric review with a look at Essential Standard 2.2 and module-level learning objectives.

Essential Standard 2.2: The module/unit-level learning objectives or competencies describe outcomes that are measurable and consistent with the course-level objectives or competencies. Modules are learning chunks that break up your content into manageable pieces to aid in learning, organization, and navigation. Modules can be broken down by weeks, topics, or chapters – whatever form best fits with your content. In a quality course, each module contains its own objectives that can be aligned back to the overall course objectives. Like course objectives, module objectives should be specific and measurable.

These tips can help you meet the essential standard:

  • Create a page for each module that contains the module objectives.
  • Use the ODL Module Overview template or create your own and fill it in with the module objectives and other content.
  • Match the module objectives back to the course objectives by numbering them. Not only does this help you, the instructor, ensure that you are meeting the course objectives (some of which may be mandated like Liberal Studies), it also helps learners connect what they are doing back to a larger goal.

General Standard 2.0

Learning Objectives (Competencies)

Learning objectives or competencies describe what learners will be able to do upon completion of the course. Learning objectives are the foundational learning element of your course. When you first designed your course, you may have thought in terms of what you wanted to teach and how you wanted to teach it. You then added some assignments and assessments to make sure that what was being presented was being practiced and learned. You were thinking in terms of instructional goals.

A quality course asks you to think not in terms of how you want to teach but rather how you want students to learn. A quality course introduces the concept of alignment. With alignment, elements of the course – learning objectives, instructional materials, learning activities, assessments, and course technology – work together to support the learner’s achievement of the course goals.


Essential Standards

2.1 The course learning objectives, or course/program competencies, describe outcomes that are measurable.

2.2. The module/unit-level learning objectives or competencies describe outcomes that are measurable and consistent with the course-level objectives or competencies.

2.3 Learning objectives or competencies are stated clearly, are written from the learner’s perspective, and are prominently located in the course.

2.4 The relationship between learning objectives or competencies and learning activities is clearly stated.

2.5 The learning objectives or competencies are suited to the level of the course.

General and essential standards are taken from the Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric, Sixth Edition.

If you’re interested in learning more about online course quality, visit the FSU Online Quality Initiative page.


New Quizzes Transition Deadline Removed

Instructure (the parent company of Canvas) has eliminated the June 2024 deadline for the transition from Classic Quizzes to New Quizzes. Canvas will focus on implementing requested features in New Quizzes and establish a new deadline for the switch once a majority adoption rate has been reached. This change allows FSU instructors more time and flexibility to become familiar with the tool.

Because New Quizzes is enabled for all Canvas course and development sites, the Office of Distance Learning encourages you to access the tool and experiment with its features. To learn more about New Quizzes, you can register for the December 14 webinar. Visit the New Quizzes Transition Timeline article for updates and the Get to Know New Quizzes article for help with creating quizzes.

In Other Tech News

  • The Kaltura Express Capture tool allows instructors to record short videos using a webcam and microphone within a browser. A recently added feature lets you record your computer screen.
  • Canvas has added a new feature that allows you to prepare and schedule pages for publication on a specific date and time. See the Canvas article and scroll down to Publication Options for more information.
  • New features for BigBlueButton Conference include enabling a waiting room, adding conferences to the calendar, and syncing attendees.

For assistance with tools or technologies, contact ODL technical support at 850-644-8004 or or submit a ticket.

Canvas Editor Renders Accessible Equations

STEM instructors can use the Equation Editor in Canvas to ensure their mathematical and scientific equations are accessible to students with disabilities. Used within the Rich Content Editor (RCE), the Equation Editor allows you to generate a formula or import existing LaTeX equations to create an accessible Canvas page.

Improving Accessibility

LaTeX is the standard software for generating mathematical and scientific equations. However, in previous Canvas text editors, LaTeX equations were presented as images, which creates learning barriers for students with disabilities. Images do not work with assistive technology like screen readers, do not scale properly, and are rendered at low resolutions, making them difficult to read when enlarged.

Developed as an alternative to LaTeX, MathML renders equations as text, which can be accessed by assistive technology. Because MathML equations are written differently than LaTeX equations, converting between the two can be challenging. In 2021, Canvas integrated the JavaScript platform MathJax to automatically convert LaTeX notation to MathML, ensuring the accessibility of mathematical and scientific notation.

Using the Equation Editor

Screenshot of the first way to get to the Equation Editor tool in Canvas. Select Insert then select Equation

To generate accessible equations and formulas, open the RCE and access the Equation Editor by selecting the "Equation" option within the Insert menu.

You can also access the editor by selecting the 3 dots on the far right of the menu bar and selecting the Equation icon, which is the third option from the left. In the editor, you can create an equation or select the "Directly Edit LaTeX" option and then paste the LaTeX formula into the editor. Once you select Save, the equation will be placed at the cursor's location.

For detailed instructions on inserting equations, see the Canvas article about using the editor. View the following resources for additional help:


Webinars Provide Training Opportunities

From discussion boards to social annotation, instructors can choose from a variety of training and professional development opportunities to enrich their courses.


Yellowdig logo

Yellowdig is a dynamic social learning tool that improves on Canvas’s built-in Discussion tool for student engagement and interaction. The Yellowdig platform allows instructors to track engagement, share content, and track participation. Students can communicate about class content and share resources.

Click on a date below to register for the webinar of your choice.

  • December 13, 2022. Discover the pedagogy and technology that drives Yellowdig in this demo of the Yellowdig Engage platform.
  • January 20, 2023. Learn how to leverage Yellowdig data to better understand your students and their learning in this session on informed teaching.

For more information, see the Yellowdig support article, which provides details on the tool's student-pay model and how to convey this information to your students.


Hypothesis logo

With the social annotation tool Hypothesis, your students can annotate online course readings and webpages, encouraging them to connect and engage with the content and their peers. Annotation-driven reading can help students develop deep reading and persuasive writing skills.

Click on a date below to register for the webinar of your choice.

  • January 6, 2023. Review ideas for starter annotation assignments along with ready-to-use instructions.
  • January 10, 2023. Learn how to begin incorporating social annotation into your courses.
  • January 12, 2023. Get familiar with the basics of the Hypothesis tool.
  • January 24, 2023. Discover how to develop a more collaborative learning environment by using Hypothesis in small groups.
  • January 31, 2023. Learn how to add multimedia and tags in annotations to increase engagement.

Florida Instructional Designer Network

FSU faculty can join a series of free professional development webinars hosted by the Florida Instructional Designer Network (FL-IDN). FL-IDN provides online faculty with professional development resources in instructional design, course development, and learning technologies.

Click on a date below to register for the webinar of your choice.

  • February 7, 2023. Review tips that can help make your course more accessible in this session on universal design. Facilitated by Lindsey Morris, Tarrant County College
  • March 7, 2023. Learn how to create interactive digital textbooks for OER-powered courses. Facilitated by Laurie Nave, University of Alabama (Huntsville)
  • April 11, 2023. Get familiar with a pedagogical framework that can help you organize lesson design for online instruction. Facilitated by Dax Parcells, Palm Beach State College

Conferences & Events

  • UPCEA Annual Conference, March 22–24, 2023, Washington, DC. Presented by the University and Professional Continuing Education Association, the conference assembles practitioners in the field of professional, continuing, and online education. Early registration fee good through January 3, 2023.
  • OLC Innovate, April 4-6, 2023, for the virtual conference and April 18-21, 2023, for the onsite conference in Nashville, TN. Presented by Online Learning Consortium and MERLOT, the conference provides a space to share and collaborate on digital, online, and blended learning. Early bird prices good through February 21, 2023.
  • USDLA National Distance Learning Conference, July 17-20, 2023, in Orlando FL. Annual conference hosted by the U.S. National Distance Learning Association.
  • ISTE Live 23, June 25-28, 2023, in Philadelphia, PA. In-person and virtual options presented by the International Society for Technology in Education.
Tech Support
Tech Support
Canvas Support
Canvas Support
Office of Distance Learning
University Center C-3500, 296 Champions Way, Tallahassee, FL 32306
General Phone: 850.644.4635 | Newsletter Email:
Tech Support: 850.644.8004 |
ODL website | Student website | Canvas Support Center
Twitter | Facebook
Copyright © 2022 FSU Office of Distance Learning. All rights reserved.

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
FSU Office of Distance Learning · University Center, C-3500, 296 Champions Way · Tallahassee, FL 32306 · USA

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp