New Books

The Center for Online Learning has upgraded our library! We've just added 8 more books to the number of books that faculty and staff can borrow to learn more about online learning, or just to read for fun. The titles we just added are:

  • Rapid Instructional Design: Learning ID Fast and Right, by George M. Piskurich

  • The Course Syllabus: A Learning-Centered Approach, by Judith Grunert O'Brien, Barbara J. Millis, Margaret W. Cohen

  • The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips, by Judith V. Boettcher, Rita-Marie Conrad

  • Introduction to Rubrics: An assessment tool to save grading time, convey effective feedback and promote student learning, by Dannelle D. Stevens and Antonia J. Levi

  • Handbook of Online Learning, by Kjell Erik Rudestam, Judith Schoenholtz-Read

  • The Perfect Online Course: Best Practices for Designing and Teaching, by Anymir Orellana, Terry L. Hudgins, and Michael Simonson

  • Delivering E-Learning: A complete strategy for design, application and assessment, by Kenneth Fee

  • A Guide to Faculty Development, by Kay J. Gillespie, Douglas L. Robertson, and Associates

So come on over and check out one of these books! Hope to see you soon.

(As a side note, if anybody could suggest a reliable checkin-checkout software program that runs on linux and works with a barcode scanner, that would be awesome.)

Google Chrome For Students?

Have you used the Google Chrome internet browser yet? I know it's fairly new, but it has been highly publicized (and just about as highly criticized) for being the brain-child of one of the biggest corporations in America.

If you're interested in trying out a new way to browse the internet, you can download the installer for Google Chrome from the Google Chrome website. In Firefox, you can just type the word "chrome" into the address bar and it will take you to the right page. (Even when I have the links, I think that's so cool that I often look up pages in Firefox just to test where the keywords take me.) If you don't have Mozilla Firefox either... you should break out of the square mold and try something new.

Google Chrome is fast, free, easily set up, and full of fun surprises. With only a tab bar and a address bar, the interface uses far less screen real estate than any other browser that I've seen. It works on Windows, Mac (Intel), AND Linux (Debian/Ubuntu/Fedora/openSUSE), perfectly replacing the bulky bars and borders of each window manager with it's own sleek and customizable set. There's only one menu to deal with, hidden under a little wrench icon on one side, where the most used options are directly shown and the lesser used options are in submenus. The address bar automatically searches Google if you don't put in a DNS-recognized web address ( and can search some other sites directly. But what sold me is the speed. When you have to boot an older laptop, open your web browser, email your professor, and shut down the laptop on a battery with 5 minutes remaining, you need a browser that reduces your stress and gets the job done. Hey, among college students, that kind of thing happens all the time.

Speaking of college, wouldn't it be nice if your web browser alerted you to the fact you have a class in five minutes? I don't know how many times I've gotten zoned (doing my calculus homework on the Pearson website, OF COURSE!) only to look up at the clock and realize that I needed to have rushed out the door in a great big hurry... five minutes ago.

Well, Google Chrome uses what's known as "extensions" to extend the usability of the browser. And guess what - there's an extension for alerting you to appointments and classes and all sorts of things, suggested by the Google Chrome Team themselves, called RemindMe. You can get it from the Google Chrome Extension Library.

But don't just listen to me - there's a Google blog full of useful knowledge for students. Just look for the Google Student Blog. You can even find a pile of interesting extensions by looking at all the posts tagged "Chrome Extensions". Try a few out! If you don't like them, just type chrome://extensions/ in your address bar, hit enter, and disable or delete the ones you hate.

Moodle Mastery: The Lesson Module

Have you ever heard of the Choose Your Own Adventure books? They were a group of books that pioneered the idea of a branching story. As you read the book you would come to a point of decision. If the main character came to a cave it would give you the choice to A. Enter the cave or B. Run away. If you chose to Enter the cave you would turn to page 37 or if you chose to Run away then you would choose page 96. The branching storylines made the book engaging and greatly increased the amount of times one could read it before losing interest. Now imagine taking that concept and interweaving it into an online lecture. That is what the Moodle Lesson Module is.

In the Moodle Lesson Module you create an interactive lesson where the students responses guide his/her path through the lesson. If they make a wrong choice or wrong answer you can have them repeat the question or branch off into a more intensive discussion of the subject. This by far is only the tip of the iceberg though. If you would like to learn more about using the Moodle Lesson Module visit where it will give you an in depth look at the Lesson Module.

If you would like to get up and running quickly, check out this video tutorial on using the Lesson Module in Moodle:

Web App Spotlight: VideoANT

Do you ever wonder if your students are really engaging their minds while they watch the videos you post in moodle? Or, have you ever wanted to comment to your online students about portions of a video while they watch it? This week's Web App Spotlight focuses on VideoANT, a new web 2.0 application that could address these questions and change the way you think about using videos in online courses.

Created by Brad Hosak, the New Media Developer for the University of Minnesota, VideoANT combines streaming video with time synchronized text annotations. As a video plays in the application window, annotations are seen to the right of the video and a timeline is shown below the video, marking where each of the annotations start. Once the video playhead reaches a mark in the timeline, the corresponding annotation on the right is highlighted.

Here is an example of the embedded version of VideoANT (one you could place in your moodle shell!):

Interested? Getting started is easy.  You start by going here and entering the link of a streaming video (youtube, or other streaming servers/services), your email, and the title of the project you want to create into these fields:

After you complete those steps, you will receive an email that contains links to a strictly viewable version of the project, an editable version of the project (where you create the annotations), a link that will give you the embed HTML code (so that you can place it in moodle or wherever else you are able to post HTML code like I did above), and a link to an RSS feed created specifically for the project (the RSS feed can be used to alert you to any changes made to the annotations of a project). The possibilities of what to use it for are up to you.

 For instance, if you wanted them to watch a video segment on the civil war, you could place annotations throughout the video that would help them see how a certain portion of the video relates to what they have been learning in class.  Or you could require your students to create their own VideoANT project where they are the ones that have to perform the annotating.The video they use could even be a video that you used in a previous VideoANT project.

There are some limiting factors to VideoANT:

  • The video has to already by streaming from somewhere on the internet. 
  • Videos have to be a .flv, .mov, or a youtube video.
  • If you hand out the editing url of a project, then anyone who has access to it can edit or delete any annotations.
So, if you are looking for a new way to engage students with video content, VideoANT might just be your solution. Let us know what you think and what your experience is with VideoANT in the comments below. Can you think of any innovative ideas as to how this could be used?

FPU OpenSim: Setting up the Diva Distro

If you've been wandering around the COL lab sometime in the last couple of weeks, you'll have noticed that we've been spending some time building things on a grid we set up using Diva Canto's distribution of OSGrid. You can find more information about it on Diva's blog post, Standalone but Join the Party!

Some ideas I'm currently working on include: a system of teleporters using the campus map connecting the "entrance area" to locations that represent the different schools/groups of FPU (project code MAP); recreating the levels of Dante's Inferno, using teleporters at logical breaks in the text and scripting conversations between the characters like a ride at Disneyland (project code INFERNO); a space shuttle that takes you to the moon and drops you off, allowing you to bounce around while wearing a space suit (project code MOON); guided tour of the solar system/galaxy/universe (project code SPACE); developing the land around the "entrance area" (project code LAND).

Currently, we have this done:

I'm finished with the basic build of the map, but I'd still like to texture it with photos of the school, and of course we need to add teleport scripts to the buildings. That will wait until we have builds for the different things. I put lights over the map so you can see it at night, and they fade on shortly before the sun sets and fade off shortly after the sun rises. At least, that's how they are meant to work. The lights are also a warm color that reduces how blue the map looks at night.


I built a cave (and JUST realized I forgot to texture the rocks, so they are probably still the default wood texture...) around a teleporter sign that takes you up to a "halfway point" island where I will have a scripted Virgil who explains what's going on to a lost and confused... you. When I have a "circle" built, you will be able to use Virgil to teleport to the beginning of it. Right now he doesn't talk, he just sits there with a broken teleport script.


Scott likes the idea, so we'll move forward on it. Inferno comes first though.


I haven't mentioned this to Scott yet.


Scott has a couple buildings in mind to the Northwest, where he built a simple "house" with a "white board", a clock, and a teleport back to the "entrance area". He's also planning something much larger in the mountains, and I built a cave underneath it. But what the cave leads to is something he's planning as well.

At the "entrance area" I built a sidewalk around the 3d FPU Campus Map (the MAP), and a little "lounge area" with a low wall that has picture on it, a couple tables, some chairs, the scripted, not-super-useful, time-telling clock which reads in hours after midnight and isn't really accurate anyway, and a canopy with scarves that are supposed to flutter with the wind. I'm still working on the "flutter" part. Currently they like to "wag" wildly side to side. And I am working on the clock... It was an adaptation of a single lsl command that I learned. I'm trying to keep all the scripts I put on the sim to ones I wrote.

All of Torley Linden's textures I uploaded and put into "freebie boxes" near the lounge area, along with a box of t-shirts someone made using a T-shirt Template from Robin Wood, which you can use in GIMP as well as Photoshop. You can see Robin Wood's tutorial here, and download the file to make your own T-shirts for SecondLife, OSGrid, and anything else running OpenSim: How to Use the Robin (Sojourner) Wood T-shirt Template. And the last "box", a cylinder, contains a couple gestures for people to add to their inventories, made using Legend of Zelda sound effects. Hehe.

Fun Fact of the Week

Did you know about the incredible literary resource of Search for a title, and you can see previews of any book that Google has scanned into their databases, and download the full text of any book under a creative commons license or in the public domain. That means, for instance, you can find high quality scans of books from the 2nd edition of Das Kapital by Karl Marx, to the whole story of Peter and Wendy: Margaret Ogilvy by J. M. Barrie, that is, Peter Pan and a biography of Barrie's mother. It's a great way to get the feel of a book, or a version of a book, before you commit to it. I always suggest using creative commons resources, so you might also consider using a site like Creative Commons: Books , which is a list of books released under a creative commons resources. Another source of public domain books is Project Gutenburg, and LibriVox that reads Project Gutenburg books aloud.

Fun Fact of the Week

Happy Pi Approximation Day! Pi is 3.141592654 for the purposes of this discussion.

Pi Day and Pi Approximation Day are two holidays held to celebrate the mathematical constant π (pi). Pi Day is celebrated on March 14, which, in America, is 3/14. March 14 is also the birthday of Albert Einstein and the two events are sometimes celebrated together. Pi Approximation Day is held on July 22, which, in Europe, is 22/7. The fraction 22/7 is an approximate (and slightly more accurate) value of π. However, on 12 March 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution (HRES 224), recognizing March 14, 2009 as National Pi Day.

If you wanted to get really geeky, you could also celebrate the Pi Minute on March 14 at 1:59 am, and Pi Second at 26 seconds. In 2015, a Pi Second with an accuracy of 10 digits will be held on 3/14/15 at 9:26:54 in the morning. Pi Day in 2016 will be special as well, since 3/14/16 equates to a rounded version of pi.

The first Pi Day celebration was held at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988, with staff and public marching around one of its circular spaces, then consuming fruit pies. The museum has since added pizza to its Pi Day menu. The founder of Pi Day was Larry Shaw, a now-retired physicist at the Exploratorium who still helps out with the celebrations. Here at Fresno Pacific University, the mathletes celebrate Pi Day with a pie fundraiser. They buy pies from Marie Callendar's and set up tables in front of the cafeteria and on the first floor of AIMS Hall of Math and Science.

Of course, I don't think we'll be getting quite as into the spirit of Pi Day as MIT Admissions, who releases decisions at 1:59 pm on Pi Day, or MIT students who in 1994 put a campus police car, number pi, on top of their Great Dome. Or did they?

To learn more, visit these cool sites:

Pi Day at the Exploratorium
Pi Day .org

Some entertaining videos to watch:

The Pi Song - singing Pi to 50 places.
Say that Funky Number, Math Guy - a video by Al G. Bra and Cal Q. Lus that you have to see to believe.
Pi Pi Mathematical Pi Song (Full Version) - "Pi, pi, mathematical pi" is the first line of the chorus. ((The first time I heard this song was in Academic Decathlon... I believe a guy named Marcus Cope was singing it. Hey, Marcus, what's up? Happy Pi Approximation Day!))
The Tales of Fort Lego: Pi Day - Silliness with Legos and pies.
Pi Day - cute pi day short in preparation for Pi Day 2010... which has passed, but it's still cute.

Fun Fact of the Week

Second Life (SL) is a virtual world developed by Linden Lab. "Residents" can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another. Built into the software is a 3d modeling tool where users combine basic shapes ("primitives", or "prims") to build virtual objects. They then use the Linden Scripting Language to add more functionality, even animations, to their objects. "Sculpted prims" (or "sculpties"), textures for clothing or other objects, sounds, and animations can be created using external software. SL has it's own economy and residents can use real world currency to purchase "Linden Dollars" for buying higher quality items and renting land.

There is also an open source simulator (called "OpenSim") similar to Linden Labs' Second Life, and this is the basis for a variety of open source "grids". The most popular of the grids would be OSGrid, which works by having server users connect "regions" to the main grid. Another option for the tech-savvy is to connect "standalone" configurations (like the "Diva Distro") through what's known as "hypergrid technology". Almost everything created for Second Life can be used in OpenSim.

Second Life and OpenSim are currently available for Windows, Mac and Linux; both PCs and servers.

Read more about Second Life on Wikipedia!

Read more about OpenSim on Wikipedia!

Learn about Second Life, OSGrid and OpenSim by visiting these sites:

Second Life Official Site
OSGrid - the open metaverse

Open Sim

Metaverse Ink - Standalone But Join the Party

Article - How Technology Changes Education

Hello, and welcome to the Center for Online Learning article review, written (and thus "facilitated") by Oriana Neulinger. This time, we'll be discussing the article called "How Technology Changes Education", written by Olga I. Agapova and Alex S. Ushakov, published in the Technos: Quarterly for Education and Technology, Spring 1999. I chose this article because this division in thinking of "technology and education" seems to be where most FPU teachers and professors are at. Even though it was written 11 years ago, it still strikes at the heart of people developing online courses and preparing supplemental material for lecture-based courses. The original article, which can be found for free at How Technology Changes Education, has several specific references and suggestions for the interested online professor.


There are two main directions that people go when viewing technology in education: they can either view it as an "additional tool" or as an "innovative teaching and learning process". The question addressed is this: exactly what can new technology change in education -- and how does this affect the student?

Agapova and Ushakov explain that using technology as an "additional tool" refers to the use of technology to present information and resources in the same or similar manner as traditional classes. However, using technology as an "innovative teaching and learning process" refers to the use of technology in a manner that encourages learning and doing for oneself in an active way, highlighting familiarity and mastery of tools provided and also proficiency in learning new tools.

The different ways to use technology stem from the different needs of the different generations - Learning used to be about filling out a checklist of things mastered, but now learning is about shaping the student both in study and in life. A presentation of knowledge formerly included only static, sectioned content, but increasingly the intertwined nature of science, life and society forces new mediums of knowledge presentation into the limelight - mediums such as Wikipedia and a learning tool called ChemQuest.

Agapova and Ushakov participated in the creation and testing of ChemQuest, and they explain how the application brings a level of interactivity into the learning process that a traditional lecture would not possess. For instance, the student can choose how to learn "core material" by choosing from a variety of topics of interest to them. When the student engages and enjoys the context picked, learning becomes easier. Of course, not only can they pick between case studies, but also between various learning styles, allowing equal opportunity for success. The interaction of the student brings focus to active, independent and somewhat informal learning.

Assessment in the "innovative process" should contain similarly informal, continuous tests and checks mixed with new ideas in a manner designed to teach the student how to work from real life data, rather than data in a textbook. However, it must still include formalized, "traditional" tests and checks for learning, as these are designed to train the student for later school. Some combination of both is best, as the more tools are given, the more opportunities are provided to learn.

The three most important improvements of the "innovative" program, ChemQuest, over the statistics of the "traditional" program are well-documented in various field tests from schools scattered across America. These results we may now take for granted, but our strengths can always be made stronger. The change of role of teachers - from lecturer to facilitator to collaborator - leads to a trust and pride in learning; the change in how the learning program adapts to students allows for many more students to be successful than before; and the high sustained interest levels throughout the school year leads to noticeably higher grades and greater learning retention.

However, the authors warn, these changes are truly dramatic only if the "traditional process" of teaching and learning is completely scrapped, and all involved are set free from it's restrictions.


A learning system like ChemQuest is amazing to me. A program that allows you to follow the path of the way that you learn best, that allows you to interact and create rather than simply react and consume - this seems to me to be some kind of dream course.

By reading this article, I was able to learn a little bit more about what I would look for in an online course. With the tools we have now, quite a bit is possible - from live presentations held using Elluminate, to "in-person interactions" in a virtual reality using LindenLab's SecondLife or the Open Source Grid. I don't think I would be satisfied with a class that didn't experiment with some exciting technology.

Fun Fact of the Week

Did you know that your computer, your iPad, and even your smartphone can tell another person quite a bit about where you are? In fact, Google's geolocation software is so accurate that it can often determine what side of campus we're accessing Google Maps from, using the school network. Most internet-based geolocation software uses internet protocol (IP) addresses which are assigned by your internet service provider (ISP) and can be easily read and analyzed by server-side software. This is legal, and in fact encouraged by banks and law enforcement, as in the first case it helps to prevent fraud, and in the second case it helps to track down criminals. Organizations providing location-based content often utilize this software to return the most helpful content to the user, such as Google's Maps Search function, which returns the "closest" options.

Read more about Geolocation Software on Wikipedia!
Learn about Geolocation by visiting these sites:
Geolocation 101: How It Works, the Apps, and Your Privacy - PCWorld
Geolocation by IP Address | Linux Journal
Geolocation on Wikipedia

Master List of Tools

This post will be the master list of all the different tools that are helpful to people involved in distance education and online learning, sorted by what platform used.


Browser-based Tools
  • Blackboard - Commercial server-side learning management system used to add online elements to courses traditionally delivered face-to-face and to develop completely online courses with few or no face-to-face meetings. Similar to Moodle.
  • Blogger - Google-provided weblog service tied to your Google Account. Integrate other Google tools like Picasa image hosting, use forms made in Google Docs, share your Google Calendar or Google Books Library, and update your Google Reader with different blog's posts.
  • CampusCruiser - commercial course/learning management system with integrated communications such as email, news, forums, chat, and mobile alert functions.
  • Google Docs - Google-provided office suite tied to your Google Account. Create, share, and collaborate rich-text documents, presentations, spreadsheets and more. Download created files in most open and proprietary formats. Upload "any file" (with size restrictions) and share it for free. Only the owner of the file must have a Google Account, collaborators and downloaders may be anonymous.
  • Streaming Media - Fresno Pacific University has a streaming server that the Center for Online Learning uses to host files for the faculty and staff teaching courses on campus and online. Often we convert videos from VHS and DVD formats to do so.
  • Mindomo - Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization,problem solving, decision making, and writing. Mindomo is an online mind map application where users can create, view and share a number of mind maps in their browser.
  • Moodle - Open Source course/learning management system designed to create online courses with a focus on interaction and collaborative construction of content. Extended through "modules" that allow you to do almost anything you can imagine. Similar to Blackboard.
  • Ning - Create-your-own social network. Commercial. Educators may have an option for a free 150 member network, but that hasn't been finalized yet.
  • Prezi - web-based presentation application and storytelling tool that uses a single canvas instead of traditional slides.
  • Stickam - free service to host and embed video files and live videos - chat live with up to 12 people at a time.
  • TaskStream - commercial learning management system with similarities to Moodle and Blackboard.
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iPhone, iPad, iPod Tools
We currently have no iPhone, iPad, or iPod tools listed. Please check back later, thank you.
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    Win/Mac Tools
    • Dropbox - Cloud storage of your files means that you can access them from any computing device that has internet access. Dropbox is a free or paid utility that gives you the ability to sync files directly from the file browser.
    • Open Source Applications
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    Windows Tools
    • Notepad++ - Open source text and source code editor that supports syntax highlighting (and folding) for 48 programming languages, including web-programming languages such as JavaScript, PHP, ASP, and HTML. Vim and Komodo Edit are other Open Source programming text editors that run also on MacIntosh and Linux.
    • Raptivity - commercial tool for schools to develop learning tools and games to use and embed in online courses.
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    Mac Tools
    We currently have no Mac-only tools, check also the Win & Mac Tools section.
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      Linux Tools
      We'd also list Linux-only tools, but the list would be much too long simply from the tools you can download for Ubuntu using the Software Manager!
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        Fun Fact of the Week

        Adobe Creative Suite (CS) is a collection of graphic design, video editing, and web development applications made by Adobe Systems. Macromedia Studio, a predecessor, was designed and distributed by Macromedia, who released the last version (Macromedia Studio 8) on the 13th of September, 2005. After Adobe's acquisition of Macromedia, however, Macromedia Studio was replaced, modified, and integrated into Adobe CS3, CS4, and CS5. The latest version, Adobe Creative Suite 5, was released on the 30th of April, 2010, and still includes programs like Flash, Dreamweaver, and Fireworks - essential for web designers.

        Read more about the Adobe Creative Suite on Wikipedia!
        Learn about Flash by visiting these sites: Internet for Beginners: What is Flash?
        Adobe Flash on Wikipedia

        Fun Fact of the Week

        Tim Berners-Lee’s dream for his invention, the World Wide Web, is a common space where users can share information to work together, to play, and to socialize (The World Wide Web, A very short personal history ). People known as web developers, usually for reasons of their own, work alongside Berners-Lee to continue making his dream a reality. Web standards guide developers to help ensure that everyone has access to the information and to allow it to be created in as pain-free a manner as possible. The discussion is very diverse on what the standards should be, but most developers will agree that standards that support building and running on all platforms are the ones that they should support. Almost every webpage you visit complies with the W3C standards, and you can see which one it complies with by "viewing source" and looking at the declared "doctype" in the first line. For instance, this page [referring to COL Home Page] mostly complies with the xhtml 1.0 transitional standard. learn more, visit "W3C Standards" (, "The Web Standards Project FAQ" (, and "Web Standards" ( on Wikipedia.

        Fun Fact of the Week

        The Moodle Learning System was created by Martin Dougiamas from Australia. Dougiamas believes students learn best when they are able to learn through experiences, so he wanted to create an online environment where students would be able to explore and learn without a teacher telling them exactly what to do. He released the first version of Moodle in August of 2002, and continues to be a major developer of the CMS even today.
        ...from Moodle on WikiEd.

        Fun Fact of the Week

        By using applications like Google Docs you can edit, share, collaborate, and even track revisions to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents... from any computer with internet access.