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To keep engaged with my students, I use my digital avatar as one way to do that. It can be a little tricky if you have never done this before. This post will be about how to upload an image or digital avatar to Blackboard.
Start by opening up the email/announcement/assignment in Blackboard that you would like to attach your image or avatar too. As you see, there are many different icons you can choose from. The one circled in the image below is the one you will want to click on.
Once you click on it, a second window will pop up. Before you click on browse my computer, you will want to have your image or avatar ready. If you are using a Bitmoji, go to the Bitmoji extension and drag your desired avatar image to the desktop of your computer.
Once you are prepared click browse my computer and locate the image or avatar you would like to use.
After that, click on insert. It will take you back to the Blackboard email/announcement/assignment you were working on.
As you can see, my avatar is quite large. Using your mouse, highlight the image until prongs surround the image. Once the image is highlighted, you can resize the image or avatar.
With your image resized you can now engage with your students using your digital avatar!
Emailing students is one way to stay in contact with your students and is really important to the survival and success of your course. Before a course starts make sure to send an email out to all the students with the syllabus and course schedule attached. First, go to and click on your tool panel on Blackboard.
Depending on your Blackboard layout your email tab may be in a different location but it should look like this:
Once you click on the tab you will be taken to a page with a few different options for who you want to email. You can email all course participants that may include students, teaching assistants, other professors, supervisors what have you. Or you can email individual people in the course.
To send an email to everyone just click on All Users. It will take you to this page:
Which will have all the students’ emails and any additional participants and your email listed. You can attach any documents you need to in this email. I send an email out to all my students before our course is supposed to start, and with COVID-19, I added some additional things that generally would not be included. This is what I sent:
Good Afternoon, Students of REL 104!
I hope this email finds you well. My name is Ms. Isidore; I will be your instructor for your fall course REL 104: Religion in Pop Culture! I am sure you know that our course begins a week from today, so I wanted to reach out to you all with some important information before we start.
- Please make sure you are registered for the correct course. Once again, this is the email list for the class REL 104: Religion in Pop Culture. If this is not the class you intended to sign up for, please contact the registrar as soon as possible and correct the mix-up.
- This course is an entirely online course. There is no face-to-face component to the course, and you do not have to be on campus to take this course.
- I am attaching the syllabus and the fall course schedule. It is highly recommended that you read through the syllabus and course schedule before our class begins, so you are familiar with what is to be expected. I recommend downloading or printing out copies for your own record and even put due dates for your assignments into a calendar. These documents will be available to you on Blackboard next Wednesday, August 19, but keep in mind that fall course tends to move much quicker than fall and spring semester courses. I recommend that you log into Blackboard as soon as possible next Wednesday to make sure you have access to the course material and content.
- To avoid as many technical issues, I recommend making sure you have (and if not) downloading Firefox. UA Tech Support has recommended using Firefox when using blackboard and uploading assignments.
- Most importantly, we are all aware that we’re living through an unprecedented time with regards to COVID-19. With this in mind, I am aware that we may encounter some difficulties this fall in regards to web access, living situations, health issues, etc. Please be mindful as your instructor; I am here to support you the best that I can throughout this course. But, I cannot help you if I am not aware of your situation. Thus, it is your responsibility to keep me informed of anything that may come up so that I can make necessary accommodations as efficiently as possible. My email policy is that I will respond within 24 hrs. of receiving an email; if it is urgent, please indicate so in the subject. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me for any questions or concerns you may have. I don’t have scheduled office hours, but I’m happy to set up a zoom meeting or phone call if you wish to talk.
I am very excited and look forward to working with and getting to know all of you this semester.
Keeping in contact with students is extremely important. If your university is using Blackboard, one way to do this is by creating announcements. But if you have not used Blackboard before or as much for your course, it can be a little confusing. This blog will show you how to create announcements for your students.
Start by clicking on Create announcements on your blackboard course homepage.
Once you have clicked on create announcement it will take you to this page. Here you can write an announcement to your students. I usually send out an announcement about the upcoming assignment due date.
You can prewrite announcements by scrolling down and clicking on date restriction. This sets the date and time for when students can see the announcement. When making regular announcements I recommend clicking on send a copy immediately to have a copy in case a student claims they did not receive the announcement.
My first announcement said the following which I assigned to be sent out the day our class started at 7 am:
Welcome to REL 104 online course. If you have not yet done so, please log into the course and complete the intro module, review the SYLLABUS, and download the SCHEDULE. Also, be sure you complete Module 1 by August 20, as indicated on the schedule. I will communicate with you periodically via email and announcements, so be sure to check your email regularly throughout the semester. Likewise, if you need anything from me, please reach me via the Blackboard MAIL link or email me at . Note that, as said on the syllabus, I will respond to all emails within 24hrs and if it is urgent, please indicate so in the subject.
I am looking forward to a great semester!
This announcement can be found on our home page so students can go back and see both when the first assignment is due and what my email policy is.
Taking screenshots of your computer screen is a great tool for you to use to share things on your screen with your students. You can also record your screen, creating a video of your screen for your students. Recording your screen this way, however, does not show your students your face. There is a Chrome extension that lets you film your face and record your screen, which is called Screencastify. This blog post will take you step by step on how to take screenshots on a Mac computer.
To take screenshots on your computer there are two things you can do.
- Press the keys: command, shift, 3 to take a screenshot of the entire screen like this:
To take a more controlled screenshot, press the keys: command, shift, 5. This gives you an option to capture the entire screen, select a window (like chrome or word), or select a portion that you can shape.
IF you want to record a video of your entire screen or a portion of your screen by pressing command, shift, 5. For this, you should go to the options tab that appears where you can save the video (desktop or documents), set a timer (5-10 sec) before recording, and I suggest clicking on show mouse pointer so the viewer can see what your mouse is doing.
This is what a controlled screenshot looks like if I only wanted to show where you type in a tweet:
For the University of Alabama, I am an instructor of record for some of the online courses for the Religious Studies department. One way to engage with the students is to have them add an avatar that represents themselves after they have completed an assignment. I also add an avatar to my emails and announcements to engage with the students as well. I use the application Bitmoji to create my digital avatar. This blog will show you how to create your own Bitmoji and add it to your computer.
To start, you will want to go to your smartphone and download the app Bitmoji. Once you open up the app, you will want to create an account with an email. Once you log in, you can customize your avatar to look like whatever you would like. Once done, you now have a digital avatar that can have captions or not, but there are hundreds of ways to use the avatar. I use my avatar to engage with my students by adding them to my announcements and emails. This is what my avatar looks like.
Once you have finished setting up your avatar on the app, you will go to bitmoji.com. It will take you to a page that looks like this:
Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the icon that says Bitmoji for Chrome.
It will take you to the Chrome web store. You will click on add to Chrome.
Once it is added, you will log into the account that you set up on your phone.
To add Bitmoji to your Chrome browser, you click on the little puzzle piece icon on your chrome web bar. It will pull down all the extensions available for your browser and click on the small pin next to Bitmoji. This will allow easy access to your avatar!
Now click on the Bitmoji icon, and you can type into the search bar to look up an activity for your Bitmoji to be doing. Drag your mouse over the Bitmoji action you want and grab it. You can now add your Bitmoji to the word document.
You now have a digital avatar you can use to engage with your students in your digital classroom!
If you want to work on a larger screen or two screens, there is an application you can use on your laptop and tablet. It is called Duet Display and costs $10 but is worth it in my opinion. This application works for both Mac and Windows.
First, click on the link here https://www.duetdisplay.com/air; it will take you to the latest version of duet display, which allows you to connect your device via WiFi. It will take you to a page that looks like this:
Second, for macOS and Windows, click on the designated icons in the top right corner for your computer, and it will begin to download. Don’t forget while you’re doing this; you will need to download duet display for whatever tablet (Apple or Android) you will be using as your second screen. Just go to whichever app store your tablet uses.
Once downloaded follow the installation process for your computer and the icon will look something like this:
Once you have created an account, log into it on your computer app and tablet app; on the computer, the duet app should open and have a page that looks like this:
As indicated in the image above, you can connect your tablet via wire or air (meaning WiFi). To connect your tablet, select which brand your tablet is (Android or iOS, i.e., Apple)
a. For wire connection select wired and connect a charging cord from your tablet to your computer. Open up the duet display on your tablet and it will connect via the cord. Once there you can change the resolution and size of the new second screen.
b. For air (WiFi) connections the setup is similar. On your computer select the model of your tablet (for me it is Android) and then click on the air icon.
c. Once you open up duet display on your tablet the computer should pick it up on your device via the WiFi and should look something like this:
d. Click on the connect wirelessly link and this should now allow your tablet to be your second screen. With the end result being a page like this to appear on the desktop to allow you to change the resolution:
An added step to help with your new double screen is making sure the tablet is on the side of your computer you want it to be on. Full discretion I have only done this on Mac, and so this part is for a Mac computer.
a. Go to System Preferences and click on the displays icon.
b. Once you are connected via cable or WiFi click on arrangement. The screen with the white bar above is your laptop (the desktop) screen and the second screen with no white bar is the new second screen (your tablet).
c. It is easy to move by simply clicking on the second screen and dragging it to the side of the computer you wish it to be on. A red outline will form around the second screen.
Once you have the set up the way you like it, you can now drag web browsers, images, word documents onto whichever side you have now designated your second screen. If you want to have your tablet connected to your computer as I do in the photo at the top of the page, you can go to Amazon and get one for yourself.