Discovery Fridays: Grovo

March 2, 2012 in Discovery Fridays, Distance Learning, Faculty, Inspire, Uncategorized

Have you ever asked or been asked “What is Twitter?” Or Pinterest? Or Dropbox? Or Evernote? Or Prezi? This list could continue for days! My point is there will always be some new tool or social media site on the Internet for us to learn about.

Now, there is a site called  Grovo that can actually teach us about the latest Web 2.0 technologies. Grovo is a free membership site that features short video tutorials on how to use applications like Twitter, Pinterest, Dropbox, Evernote, Prezi and many more. Grovo gets it’s name from its mission to help people grow their vocations online.

I have watched several of the video tutorials and they are fantastic. Each tutorial also includes .pdf downloads and short quizzes to help you master the latest social media darling. The site also offers certificate tracks, so you can document your training.

Check Grovo out and learn about a new technology tool. Then, you can share it with the rest of us!


Ken Fairbanks
Director of Distance Learning
Wytheville Community College

Consistency + Predictability = Improved Student Engagement

February 17, 2012 in Discovery Fridays, Distance Learning, Faculty

Each semester, I conduct Blackboard orientation sessions with hundreds of new students. These students are often new to WCC, new to distance learning, maybe even new to computers and anxious about EVERYTHING! Then, here I come to tell them that Blackboard is a web application and has nothing to do with chalk or banging erasers. It’s often amazing to me how these students brave so much of the unknown and perservere to the first day of classes.

One of the most popular questions during Bb orientation is “What will my distance learning course look like?” or “How do I get started in my distance learning course?” These are tough questions to answer because our distance learning courses all look different and each instructor approaches their Bb course shell design based on different pedagogy and personal preferences. I typically provide students some general advice about finding the course syllabus, searching for directions and contacting the instructor. I also give examples of how different courses may be set up.

The solution to this problem, is to create some consistency and predictability in our distance learning courses. At the same time… we want to preserve the academic freedom and individuality that makes our courses and faculty stand out.

There are three things we can do in Bb to easily create consistency and predictability… while helping students engage in our distance learning courses more easily:

An image of buttons in Blackboard

  1. Create a “Start Here” section
    The “Start Here” section would provide a course introduction from the instructor, course tour and step-by-step instructions for starting the class and completing the first assignment.
  2. Create a “Syllabus” section
    The syllabus section would hold the syllabus and possibly an assignment schedule with all the course due dates.
  3. Create a “Faculty Information” section
    The “Faculty Information” section would provide all of the faculty member’s contact information, office hours, bio and maybe even a photo.

Many of you are providing this information already throughout different areas of your Bb course. However, the key is for all of us to set these sections up as the first three links/buttons in our Bb course, following the “Announcement” link.

Using this standard format, students would quickly and intuitively learn how to proceed as easy as 1-2-3.

Plans are now in place, to require this format in all distance learning courses, beginning with the Summer Semester 2012.

Here are a couple of tutorials to help you get started:

If you have any questions about how to create an effective Start Here, Syllabus, or Faculty Information section in your Bb courses… contact us in the distance learning department.

We are are here to help.


Ken Fairbanks
Director of Distance & Distributed Learning
Wytheville Community College

Get Jing-y with It!

February 15, 2012 in Discovery Fridays, Distance Learning, Faculty, Inspire

One of my favorite free tools on the web is a screen capture tool called Jing. Jing allows you to create images and video tutorials from your computer screen. If you have every received a video tutorial from me via email… it was created with Jing.

Jing was developed by TechSmith, who also makes Camtasia and Snag It.

Below is a video overview/demo of Jing:

NOTE: Video capture is now included in the free version of Jing.

  • Use Jing to snap images of your computer screen to use in student directions.
  • Annotate screen captures with text, arrows, and highlights
  • Use Jing to create videos from your screen for course lectures or web tours. (5 minute limit)
  • Share Jing videos easily using Bb or YouTube.

Here is a great tutorial for getting started with Jing: Jing Tutorial

The possibilities are endless. I use Jing almost everyday for something. So, download Jing and let me know what you think: Free Download


Ken Fairbanks
Director of Distance & Distributed Learning
Wytheville Community College

Go Direct!

February 14, 2012 in BB Tutorials, BB Tutorials, Distance Learning, Faculty, Student

Did you know that you can sign into Blackboard directly without going to the MyVCCS or MyWCC portal? Occasionally, we will experience temporary network or power outages that shutdown the WCC website or portal pages.

Access Bb directly by going to (I recommend bookmarking this address) and use your established username and password.

Image of Blackboard direct log-in page

Blackboard direct log-in page

Don’t let a little outage keep you from getting your work done!


Ken Fairbanks
Director of Distance & Distributed Learning
Wytheville Community College

Welcome to the New Distance Learning Blog!

February 10, 2012 in Distance Learning

Image of Ken Fairbanks, Ian Griffin and Shawn McReynolds

Putting our heads together! (Ken Fairbanks, Ian Griffin and Shawn McReynolds)

Welcome to WCC’s new Distance Learning blog! It is all shiny and new and quite frankly… I LOVE IT! I would like to recognize the talents of Ian Griffin and Shawn McReynolds, whose determined efforts turned this idea into a reality. Back in October, I approached Instructional Technologist, Ian Griffin with an idea to help me create a new blog/communication platform for reaching online students and faculty. Ian took charge of the project and after a lot of brainstorming… he started building this site… one pixel at a time. Then WCC’s IT Director, Shawn McReynolds stepped in to help create the server infrastructure needed to deliver this site to you.

This new web site will provide us with a communication channel that will compliment and support WCC’s Title III Grant projects. These projects center around faculty training, student support and delivery of multimedia.

What are the plans for the site? We want to create an ongoing conversation with you, distance learning students and faculty. We also want to help you master the technology that surrounds us and create a successful distance learning experience!

I invite you to click around the site, visit all the pages and kick the tires (just don’t scratch the paint!). You will find tutorials for faculty and students, articles about new technology tools and reviews of educational apps.

Feel free to leave comments, make suggestions and ask questions.

What you see today, is just the start of a greater tomorrow!

Ken Fairbanks
Director of Distance & Distributed Learning
Wytheville Community College