Wednesday, December 24, 2008

HTML_Cleaner Program Updated

Just a quick notice that I've updated my HTML_Cleaner program, and the current update will run through May 31, 2009.
HTML Cleaner
The program performs the following actions:
  • strips out all the inline "Microsoft junk" added into HTML files which are FILE > SAVE AS > FILTERED HTML. It makes "plain vanilla" HTML out of these files.
  • creates thumbnail-sized linked images (to the full size versions) and enforces ALT tags for all <img> tags found in the document
  • allows the inclusion of an external CSS stylesheet link.
Get the update at:

Web and Media Accessibility Standards for Minnesota

If you are an educator in Minnesota, here are some links to check out regarding your obligations for making content accessible to individuals with disabilities.

MnSCU Webmasters have developed a series of Web Accessibility Guidelines based on the W3.ORG and Section 508.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Network Speed Test

Does your Internet connection seem to be creeping along?
Is it your connection, or all the "junk" in your browser and background applications?

A quick way to test is to go to the SpeakEasy.Net website for their Internet Connection Speed Test. The test allows you to choose servers from various parts of the country. It has even has a "car-like" speedometer.
Check out the Speedtest.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Moodle Tutorials in YouTube

The following are some interesting videos relating to Moodle which I found in YouTube.

Intro to OpenShare for Moodle 1.9 - allow specific content to be "open" to the general public within a course (Moodle Add-In)

MoodleMan - YouTube user with tutorials about how to use Moodle
- setting up parent roles as "mentors"

Uploading eXe SCORM content to Moodle

Correcting Student Writings within Moodle

Adding Wikis in Moodle

Maintaining Course Sites in Moodle (hiding articles)

Embed YouTube video in Moodle

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Best Practices in Web Page Development

Here are good sites for developing better user experiences for users of your website.

  • Yahoo's Steve Souders - 14 Rules for Fast Web Pages
    (PPT, video lecture)
  • Plaxo's Joseph Smarr - High-Performance JavaScript
    (video lecture)
  • Yahoo's Matt Sweeney - Web 2.0: Getting It Right the Second Time
    (video lecture)

Other Best Practices for the Web videos from Yahoo Videos

Monday, November 10, 2008

SCORM-Compliant Content Editors for Course Design

SCORM is an acronym for Sharable Content Object Reference Model.

Connexions - Rice University (
OpenLearn - The Open University
SoftChalk (commercial product)
uDuTu Online Course Authoring (Moodle Plugin)
eLearning XHTML editor (exe) - open source (creating new styles)
Reload Editor 2004
Xerte - University of Nottingham (open source)
Microsoft Learning Essentials for Office 2007

Web Conferencing Tips

Here are some easy tips to help web-conferences run smoothly.
  • Send out Agenda and all Documents to be distributed ahead of time.
  • Initiate the connection/conference 15-minutes early ( to make sure technology works).
  • Set documents to be released by all users, and allow documents to be saved from the session.
  • Send out motions and reports ahead of time.
  • Use “track changes’ when editing motions in "application sharing" - so that all users see the updates simultaneously.
  • Let users know ahead of time if web-cams are preferred to be used or not.
  • Inform users how to keep their microphones muted until they have something to say.
  • “Share” the presentation role with those who are presenting materials - so that they have control over the pace of the slides, etc.
  • Have people introduce who is speaking before making their points.
  • When a group is meeting in one room, pass around the headset / microphone so that remote users can hear. Also make sure that the “Group” can see the WebConference screen (for Chat comments – and also to “enforce sharing” of documents under discussion through the web conference interface).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Portable Voice Recorders and Audacity

I have a couple digital voice recorders which allow me to record lectures, interviews, and conference presentations which I can later share electronically.

Two of the recorders create files in the Microsoft WMA format, but my favorite (and FREE open-source) editing program, Audacity, does not import WMA files.

I use Apple's iTunes to convert the WMA files to WAV files (which can be edited in Audacity).

Here is the process.

Go into iTunes.
Use the menus EDIT > PREFERENCES >

The use the menus FILE > ADD FILE TO LIBRARY, and select your WMA file(s).
As they are added to iTunes, the WMA files will be converted into .WAV files

The imported files are normally stored in your
(or another subfolder if there is identifying track information from your recording device).

Screenshot of the iTunes Advanced tab showing the sub-tab for Import

Monday, October 27, 2008

MP3 Uses in the Classroom

Mp3 player - the Creative Zen V

Sure, iPods and MP3 players can be used to listen to content in face-to-face, hybrid, and online courses, but how can students be engaged in learning through use of their portable music players.

Most MP3 players also have a microphone and a recording function - so that you can use the MP3 device as a portable audio recorder.

Here are some interesting uses to consider.

1. Training Health Care Professionals
What does a normal heartbeat sound like? An abnormal one? What does chest congestion sound like in different areas of the lung? What about common phrases in different languages, such as "where does it hurt?" and "how badly does it hurt, a little, some, very bad?"

2. Interviewing Professionals
When students interview professionals working in the field, they can gain critical insights into the work roles they will soon be performing. When students record these interviews, they can concentrate more on the professional and using active listening rather that furiously scribbling notes. The recording can be reviewed later to prepare work for the homework assignment.

3. Audio Tour Guide
Can't afford to take the class on a field trip? Consider doing a walking tour through the site you wish students to visit and then give your students the audio files along with a map which indicates which audio track is associated with each location at the site.

4. Practice Vocabulary and Pronounciation
Ohhh... those latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Remembering them and learning to pronounce them can cause fits! Students can take advantage of using MP3 players in learning any language or vocabulary list.

5. Watch YouTube Videos and Photo Albums
Many MP3 players also can play MP4-format videos and display JPG-format photos. There is a free online site which allows you to download iPod style versions of online videos at

6. Research Via Podcasts
There are thousands of free, educational podcasts available as free subscriptions through iTunes. A quick search through the iTunes Store may expose you to some great supplementary (or required?) sites to which students can subscribe for additional course content.

7. Student Presentations Students who would otherwise present a PowerPoint or other presentation in front of a classroom could record their presentation and send the instructor and other students their PowerPoint and audio file. Viewers could click through the presentation as instructed, and audience members could provide feedback through posts on a discussion board or blog connected to the student's presentation.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Voki is a Talkie

Get a Voki now!

This is an incredibly cool tool for online. allows you to create an avatar, record some audio, and then combine the two to create a talking character for your online course site. Use these characters as introductions to case studies to add interest and engagement. I'm trying to figure out if there are ways to capture the video of separate characters to build up a story line which goes back and forth between characters (as a normal video would). I'll post later if I come up with a simple solution.

Comical Content

2 panel cartoon.  In first frame, character says 'Yes it is. It allows users to create their own content...' and second panel the character says 'Just like me. I'm a Web 2.0 creation from!'

If you have very little artistic ability, is just the site for you.
Easily create cartoons using their built in tools. For each of your characters, you can specify hair, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, body, arms, and other attributes, and then you can stretch, move, and rotate any of these parts -- which is helpful in having your characters express emotion and movement. Save each of these snapshots of your character - and then simply click them into the cartoon cell you wish to edit. Add some words, and presto! Custom comical content! Turns Your Words into Art

Tag cloud showing words in various sizes based on frequency they were found in a webpage
I stumbled upon a great new site that turns your words into art. generates a word-cloud from your writing, and the size of each word is related to the frequency to which you use the word.

My example above comes from my "Growing Your Online Course" article at

The application is free to use, and it allows you to cut and paste content into an edit window, or allows you to scrape a blog with an RSS feed, or allows you to enter in the username of a user.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Updated Teleprompter Script

Updated Teleprompter Script for Word 2007

Here is an updated macro script for Microsoft Word 2007. This turns your script into a WHITE text on black background, auto-scrolled text.

Remember that you can continue to use your MOUSE's SCROLL WHEEL while this macro is running - in case the script gets ahead of your (or behind you).

Sub VideoPrompter()
' VideoPrompter Macro
' Macro created 8/13/2007 by James Falkofske
' Autoscroll Window
Dim PauseTime, Start, Finish, TotalTime
Dim i, iMax As Integer
Dim i1, i2, i3, i4 As String
Dim fTiming, fFontSize As Double

'How big should the text be?
i3 = InputBox("Enter the Font size in points", _
"Font Size", 32)
fFontSize = CDbl(i3)

'How many lines of movement are needed?
i1 = InputBox("Enter scroll-down-clicks for script", _
"Teleprompter Motion", 1000)
iMax = CInt(i1)

'How much of a pause between each movement of script
i2 = InputBox("Enter the delay moves (decimal seconds)", _
"Movement Timing", 0.35)
fTiming = CDbl(i2)

With Selection.PageSetup
.LineNumbering.Active = False
.Orientation = wdOrientPortrait
.TopMargin = InchesToPoints(0.5)
.BottomMargin = InchesToPoints(0.5)
.LeftMargin = InchesToPoints(0.5)
.RightMargin = InchesToPoints(0.5)
.Gutter = InchesToPoints(0)
.HeaderDistance = InchesToPoints(0.5)
.FooterDistance = InchesToPoints(0.5)
.PageWidth = InchesToPoints(8.5)
.PageHeight = InchesToPoints(11)
.VerticalAlignment = wdAlignVerticalTop
.TwoPagesOnOne = False
End With

ActiveDocument.Background.Fill.ForeColor.ObjectThemeColor = _
ActiveDocument.Background.Fill.ForeColor.TintAndShade = 0#
ActiveDocument.Background.Fill.Visible = msoTrue

Selection.Font.Size = fFontSize
Selection.HomeKey Unit:=wdStory
ActiveWindow.ActivePane.View.Zoom.PageFit = wdPageFitBestFit

For i = 1 To iMax
PauseTime = fTiming ' Set duration.
Start = Timer ' Set start time.
Do While Timer < Start + PauseTime
DoEvents ' Yield to other processes.

'Move down a small scroll increment
ActiveWindow.ActivePane.SmallScroll Down:=1
Next i

End Sub

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Productive Photoshop Sites

Sometimes you just need to go back to pre-school for some cool "show and tell." Show me something I've never seen before, and tell me how you did it.

To satisfy my curiosity (at least regarding Photoshop), I found a cool new site which provides links to large numbers of tutorials about Photoshop.

The site,, presents thumbnails from each of the tutorials, so that you can quickly spin through the topics until something catches your eye.

Also, Adobe has a set of RSS tutorial feeds at I'm a fan of RSS feeds in iTunes, to pull down feeds and then review them on weekends (normally listening to audio casts while running errands and shopping for groceries, and viewing video casts while weight-training).

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Speaking Your Mind

James with Computer Headset
Online courses normally expect both students and faculty to do more writing. Giving comments back to students can be made easier by recording your feedback and then sending your students the resulting MP3 files. Not only is this faster than typing out your feedback, but it also allows your personality and sense of humor to directly reach the students.

To meet accessibility standards, you'll need to poll your students to find out which ones would like and can use audio files. For the students who do not want audio files, post a list of their names near your computer - so that you can remember to provide written feedback instead on their works.

There are a number of audio recording tools which allow you to create MP3 files for your students. I personally prefer to use Audacity with the LAME plug-in (to create MP3 files). Audacity and LAME are open-source software tools which can be used without fee.

You can even save yourself some time while recording! If there are some standard types of mistakes students make, you can record that information once, and then "cut and paste" it into other recordings.

If you do not already have a computer headset with a microphone, I can recommend the Microsoft Lifechat 3000. It is a USB-connected device, so that it works on any computer, and it has the benefit of lower noise (normal sound-cards pick up a lot of line-power hum and suffer from microphones that pick up other electrical interference). On sale, this headset is about $30.

You might also use this technique to give feedback on other graded assessments, such as essay exams, projects, presentations, and discussions.

CAUTION: You probably do NOT want students to submit assignments or questions as audio files. It is a lot easier for you to "quickly scan" a text-comment than it is to listen to an entire recording (think about how you might prefer an email instead of an extensive voicemail message).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Office 2007 Add-In

Screenshot showing the plug-in for searching

There is an add-in for Microsoft Office 2007 that helps you search for commands, options, wizards, and galleries. Type in what you are looking for and the available commands show up to "click."

Find the add-in at:

and go to the right panel under TRY IT to download the add-in to your computer.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ensuring Online Course Quality Experiences

The following is a list of Needs that should be discussed when designing online programs and courses.

Need: Student Preparation

  • Technical preparation (IMS use, homework file uploads and naming, network use from on/off campus, common quirks and workarounds)
  • Self-motivation and responsibility
  • Access to hardware / software

Need: Support Services to Students

  • Technical help
  • Library services
  • Tutoring (online services versus on campus services)
  • Advising and registration (online program plans that show sequence for completing all online)
  • Marketing and promotion of available online courses
  • “One-stop” contact for students needing help; standard answers, tracking, and forwarding issues
  • Feedback mechanisms to students (after registration, after “certification,” new opportunities and courses, etc.)

Need: Faculty Preparation

  • Technical training
  • Pedagogy and instructional design training
  • Assessments for online
  • Communication strategies for online courses
  • Best practices

Need: Course Offerings

  • Suitability of course and content
  • Strategic importance of online courses (what are the institutional reasons for offering online courses)
  • How instructors are recruited (and which incentives are provided to course developers?)
  • Courses which support lifelong learners (continuing education in addition to program completion)
  • Integration with customized training and workforce development offerings

Need: Course Design

  • Standardizing navigation, location, and document naming
    (Syllabus, Course Schedule, Grading Rubric for ….)
  • Accessible (508 ADA)
  • Rigor
  • Assignment descriptions and grade assessment
  • Tracking of students (demographics, preparation, and performance in courses)

Need: Feedback and Improvement

  • Faculty self-assessment
  • Peer review
  • Student surveys
  • Dean’s review

Monday, May 19, 2008

Best Practices in Online Learning - Sites

The following are some sites relating to Best Practices in Online Learning.

Just for Fun -- SHIFT Happens.

Standards for Online Courses

Golden Idea graphic
I found that the Tennessee Board of Regents has developed some templates and standard expectations for courses that are delivered online.

Of note is that faculty are expected to become proficient in Microsoft Frontpage in order to develop HTML content for courses.

The standards begin at:

It also appears that online courses require a "proposal" mechanism in which faculty must list the course information and also information about their own training and skills related to online technologies.

Expectations of online faculty are listed at:

These are the types of standards which I believe support the success of online course designs which lead to the success of students in online courses.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

OOOPS, I did it (finally) - FEATURED on YouTube's Homepage

Photograph of James
I guess I really did it this time....
Below you'll find a blog about "American Election Song" that I did to demo how online sites like YouTube could be used to create collaborations between students at a distance.
Well.... I guess on April 9th that the video was featured on the HOME PAGE of YouTube.
So far it has gotten over 300,000 views!
Here is the link to the video on YouTube.
You can hear the FINISHED version of the song at:
(make sure to listen to this!)
My best friend, Chris Snow, deserves much credit for putting my lyrics to music and using his beautiful voice to record the song.
This is amazing, and it flatters me that so many people have sent me emails of praise about the video (and song). Great, great, great week!!!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Instructional Design Tips for Online Courses

California State University, Chico has developed some good resource materials for faculty who are developing online courses. provides a series of rubrics to show Baseline, Effective, and Exemplary tactics/processes/information to include in course designs.

A checklist document which provides easy "check-offs" of design considerations is at: .

The University of Louisville has best practices advice for designing online learning courses at the site - which starts off the list of tips with "Start Slow" because your students may not have taken online courses before.

Virginia Tech has a great primer for new designers at their page - including explanations of some popular teaching techniques in distance education (Audio Tutorial, Goal-Based Scenarios, Case-Based Teaching, Guided Design, Cooperative Learning, etc.).

Desire2Learn in Court with Blackboard - Lufkin, TX

We all knew it was coming, and it has arrived!

Blackboard's patent infringement suit against D2L is finally in court. According to the article at the Chronicle of Higher Education's online site, the case was filed in Lufkin, Texas, where juries have a reputation of protecting patent owners.

Luckily for the rest of us, Blackboard issued a promise last year not to take action against the three largest open source projects, which are Moodle, Sakai, and ATutor.

Desire2Learn has a blog site which is tracking the patent-infringement suit.