23 Things an Online Instructor Should Know

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, formerly known as the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, created a program to encourage its staff to learn and explore Web 2.0 and new technologies.  The program included 23 brief exercises, or 23 Things, for its staff to complete.

Since its inception, the program has been replicated in libraries elsewhere.  As a librarian, I participated in a version of 23 Things.  I already knew and used much of what was discussed in the program, but it still, nonetheless, was worth the time I spent reviewing and exploring something new now and again.

Online instructors certainly would benefit by exploring many of the tools in the original 23 Things program.  Of course, there other things online instructors should know to be successful in their own development and in that of their students.  This is not an exhaustive list, just a start.

  1. Online classes.  Take an online class every now and then.
  2. Content Management System.  Know your CMS and the CMS support staff for faculty and for students at your institution.
  3. Applicable statutes.  Know the basics and where to look for information about copyright, fair use, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the TEACH Act.
  4. Plagiarism.  Know what constitutes plagiarism and know your institution’s academic integrity policy.
  5. The Library.  Know your Library’s online resources, chat and email reference availability, and embedded librarian options.
  6. Accommodative Services.  Know how students request services and how you are expected to provide them.  Design your course with accommodative services in mind.
  7. Creative Commons.  Know how to collaborate, share, and locate content.
  8. Tagging.  Understand what tagging is and remember to use it.
  9. Follow a good tech site, like Mashable.
  10. Social Bookmarking.  Explore Diigo or Delicious to organize and share bookmarks.
  11. Professional Networking.  Set up a LinkedIn account or a profile on VisualCV.
  12. Facebook.  Know your institution’s policies about friending students or responding to their friend requests.  Set boundaries if no formal guidelines exist.
  13. Twitter.  Set up an account, follow a few people, and develop a realistic tweeting plan.
  14. Presentations.  Create a Prezi account use a similar tool to add some zing to PowerPoint.
  15. More Presentations.  Create a SlideShare account to embed your PowerPoints.
  16. Google.  Gmail.  Google Docs, Google Sites, Blogger, Google Maps.  Free tools to learn and use.
  17.  Blog.  Create a free blog at Blogger or WordPress.  Keep it current.
  18. HTML.  Learn a little code or where to find code so you can edit your blog or site.
  19. Photos.  Explore photo sharing and editing with Picasa, Picnik or Flickr.
  20. Videos.  Learn how to upload a video to YouTube and how to embed videos in your blog or Website.
  21. Podcasts.  Learn how to create and embed podcasts in your blog or Website.
  22. Screen capture.  Learn how to use Jing or a similar tool to explain.
  23. Professional Development.  Technology keeps changing, so make a commitment to keep learning.

A little indecision goes . . .

I decided to try a couple of things to create a lesson about plagiarism. First of all, I wrote a very brief “script” about plagiarism thinking I might make a podcast. Unfortunately, allergies still were winning, so I needed to save my voice to make it through the last few days of the semester.

Instead, I created a Voki and set up a Google site. I put the script on a brief PowerPoint presentation and uploaded it as five very, very short Prezi presentations. I embedded the Prezis, PowerPoint handout, a Voki, a simple Xtranormal clip I made at the last minute, and a survey in the site.

I provided a list of works cited (Resources), but, with one exception, I did not include in-text citations. Generally speaking, my resources did not present unique ideas and, in fact, some information can be found verbatim elsewhere.

Pulling everything together for Plagiarism:  A Tutorial for Teachers was a quick process, so I can only imagine the possibilities with good planning and more time.

To prezi or not to prezi

I wanted to make a podcast, but I was having a bout of allergies and a cold, so I didn’t think anyone should be forced to listen to me. I’ll save a podcast for another day.  I decided to give Prezi a shot, perhaps, in part, because several colleagues do not like it and several classmates experienced some problems with it.

Honestly, I did not like Prezi for several reasons. First, it is not intuitive. I am very comfortable just jumping right in with tech tools and have used a variety of them, but I had to say, what is this? And, second, I think Prezi may be difficult for students who need vision accommodations. My time would have been better spent subjecting people to a recording.

Nonetheless, I created a brief Prezi adding text, PowerPoint slides, and a link to a somewhat lengthy video. This is very simple presentation, but one I could use to introduce students to the discipline of geography.

Is it fair?


Copyright law attempts to find a balance between the rights of creators of original works and the public interest. The right of the owner of copyright to reproduce or authorize others to reproduce his work is subject to certain limitations, including the doctrine of fair use. The doctrine of fair use has been codified in section 107 of the U.S. copyright law (title 17, U. S. Code), which includes a list of purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair. (1)

Section 107 establishes four factors to be taken into account when determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

  1. “The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.” (2)

There is no simple test to determine fair use. Fair use should be considered carefully for each situation by weighing the four factors cited above, and if there is doubt about the application of the fair use doctrine in a particular situation, then the use of the copyrighted material in question should not be used. (3, 4)


The fair use exemption lists education, research, and scholarship among potential fair use scenarios. Although fair use allows educators to use copyrighted works without permission, however, “it should not be assumed that every use of a copyrighted work in an educational environment is a fair use.” (5) Additionally, citing the source of the work or restricting access to students only does not constitute fair use. (6)

Distance education raises additional issues about the use of materials for educational purposes. Digital multimedia, including PowerPoint Presentations, audio and video clips, and scanned documents, are often made available via course Websites or content management systems. (7)

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, in an effort to extend copyright balance to digitized materials, in effect restricted the use of materials in online classes. The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH) addresses those restrictions by “expanding the Fair Use exemption of copyright law to include online education at accredited nonprofit colleges and universities.” (8) Under the TEACH Act, accredited, nonprofit educational institutions may transmit performances and displays of copyrighted works as part of a course, provided certain conditions are met.” (9)

In addition to considering the four factors established by section 107 of the U.S. copyright law, instructors should weigh how long the work will be available to students and if the location of the materials is restricted to students enrolled in the class. (10) The Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University recommends that the content management system or course Website should include only material for which the instructor, the library, or another unit of the educational institution possesses a lawfully obtained copy.” (11)


An instructor may want to create content for a course and include material created by others. It is legal to link to copyrighted materials hosted elsewhere; therefore, an instructor can avoid potential copyright infringement by linking to a Website. Additionally, works in the public domain are owned by the public and are not protected by intellectual property laws. These works are free to be used and can be included in content without the consideration of fair use criteria. (12)

Some content can be found for use through Creative Commons licenses, the intent of which is to provide for the sharing of information. In fact, Creative Commons “licensing and contract arrangements include dedication to the public domain and open content licensing terms.” (13)  Creative Commons licenses support the Open Educational Resources movement by providing instructors with an avenue for remixing materials and lesson plans and redistributing lectures. (14)


  1. http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html
  2. http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html
  3. http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/copyright/copyrightarticle/whatfairuse.cfm
  4. http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html
  5. http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/copyright/copyrightarticle/whatfairuse.cfm
  6. http://copyright.columbia.edu/copyright/fair-use/practical-applications/posting-course-materials-online/
  7. http://citl.indiana.edu/services/instructionalTechnology/fairuse.php
  1. http://www.washburn.edu/copyright/faculty/copyrightprimer.html
  2. http://citl.indiana.edu/services/instructionalTechnology/fairuse.php
  3. http://citl.indiana.edu/services/instructionalTechnology/fairuse.php
  4. http://copyright.columbia.edu/copyright/fair-use/practical-applications/posting-course-materials-online/
  5. http://citl.indiana.edu/services/instructionalTechnology/fairuse.php
  6. http://citl.indiana.edu/services/instructionalTechnology/fairuse.php
  7. http://creativecommons.org/education

The National Science Digital Library

As a librarian and a geographer, I am a fan of the National Science Digital Library, the nation’s online portal for education and research.  Ready made lesson plans can be found easily by searching by grade, browsing by collections, or entering terms in the search box. I quickly found a learning object about the scientific method, which I could use in a number of geography courses, including Weather & Climate and Maps & Landforms.

According to the description, the assignment is “designed to introduce the students to the idea and process of the scientific method.” The exercise requires students to work in small groups, to form and describe observations and hypotheses, and to test their theories. This is a suitable assignment in the early weeks of a course, because it not only contributes to the framework for studying the subject at hand, but provides a meaningful “ice breaker” activity.

The learning object is available from the Website of the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) of Carleton College.

For the love of Nosferatu

I frequently use the USGS Website in my Maps & Landforms class and occasionally in Weather & Climate. The site is rich with content that can be used in lectures, labs, and Web exercises. The USGS also has an extensive collection of podcasts.

The podcasts are organized in several different collections, including CoreCast – natural science from the inside out; CoreCast – short on time, big on science; coastal and marine geology; and recordings from several state programs. Solid summaries are provided along with transcripts. In addition to providing access to podcasts on the Website, podcasts are available via Twitter.

I listened to a number of the podcasts, all of which I found easily. For purposes of this post, I am sharing Beyond Billions: Threatened Bats are Worth Billions to Agriculture. The transcript is available, too. The podcast features a discussion of the pest control services and savings provided by bats and the potential economic impact of declining bat populations from white nose syndrome and wind turbines.

I believe this podcast could easily be incorporated in the discussion of and an assignment about wind energy.  We often assume that wind is a benign source of power, which this podcast dispels in non-technical language. It provides a solid example of the interconnectedness of people and the environment, how we attempt to harness natural resources, and how our decisions impact the landscape.

Wind turbines near a farm
Wind turbines near a farm

Floridians are ruining the Karst

I use videos frequently in my F2F geography classes, and I embed them in the college library research guides I create. I particularly like a video from the University of South Florida Libraries, What is Karst?

The video provides an excellent overview of Karst and includes important discussions about the interconnectedness of people and the environment, including the impact of human activity on Karst and the role of Karst in underground drinking water. The video allows students to experience Karst in a way that pictures simply cannot provide and serves as an acceptable alternative to field trips when they are not possible. The visuals are grabbing and the discussions are clear, brief, and interesting. Students can easily take note of terms they may not understand or recall to review later.

In a recent reflection exercise, I asked students to list three things they had learned this semester.  Karst and caves made more than one list.  Lesson learned? The Floridians are ruining the Karst.  Well, not exactly.  Let’s try again.  A well-executed video is a great teaching tool.  Oh, and creepy crawlies in caves generate a lot of EEWs at any age!