CIRT News is published 
four times a year by the 
Center for Instruction 
and Research Technology 
at the University of North Florida. 

To view past 
current events, and more, visit  

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 Using the Photovoice Method to Explore Social Themes in Introduction to Anthropology
Dr. Anne Phister, Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work

Dr. Anne Pfister, Assistant Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, uses visual methods, including photovoice in her research. Photovoice is a qualitative research strategy that invites participants to explore concepts through digital photography. Pfister uses photovoice in her research investigating identity and language socialization among deaf youth in Mexico City, Mexico. She also saw potential for using this strategy as a way to invite her students to explore and analyze themes and concepts in her Fall 2015 Introduction to Anthropology course. The core idea of the photovoice method is to ask a group of people, in this case her students, to take photographs to express their point of view on certain concepts, themes, or events.
Student-submitted images from Dr. Phister's Introduction to Anthropology course on the topic of gender. The student tagged this photo with the description: "Hammocks - a male hobby?"
Prior to the start of the semester, Pfister contacted CIRT to consult on tools and strategies for incorporating the photovoice method into her course. Introduction to Anthropology is a large course with more than 100 students, therefore it was critical to create a process that was easy for students to learn, and that minimized the logistical demands on the instructor for collecting and grading the assignments. After exploring several options, they settled on a combination of Flickr and the Blackboard Assignment tool. 
Students used Flickr, a free online social photography sharing service, to upload their pictures. Once uploaded, students would then tag the picture with the social theme it represented to them, for example "gender" or "race and ethnicity". 

Students wrote a short description, or analysis, for each photo. Students then created an album of pictures for each assignment and submitted a link to that album using the Blackboard Assignment tool. The student's photos and albums were private, and could not be seen until the students shared the link to the material. 

Photovoice provided a unique opportunity for assessment and participation, and many students said they enjoyed the project because it was "fun" and "interesting".

Student-submitted images from Dr. Phister's Introduction to Anthropology course on the topic of gender. The student tagged this photo with the description: "The most masculine sport."
After students submitted the links via a Blackboard Assignment, Dr. Pfister used the standard Blackboard Grade Center tools to grade and give feedback for each assignment. At the end of the semester, students were asked to choose the images they thought best represented the themes explored throughout the semester, and to submit that subset of images to a Flickr Group. This allowed each student to contribute to a shared album. As a culminating activity, Dr. Pfister used the Flickr slideshow tool to present an in-class exhibit, organized to highlight the major themes of the project. Finally, students reflected on the themes of that exhibit through a short writing assignment. 

Pfister found several benefits to using Photovoice in an undergraduate classroom. This strategy encourages critical thinking, incorporates multiple learning styles (visual, kinesthetic, artistic), and adds authenticity and interactivity to lecture-based content. Photovoice provided a unique opportunity for assessment and participation, and many students said they enjoyed the project because it was "fun" and "interesting". Dr. Pfister continues to adapt this method as a pedagogical tool and works toward encouraging students to hone their analytical skills.

If you have any questions or are interested in using photovoice or similar visual methods in your course, please contact us at

 Director's Message: Resources for Personal and Professional Development
Dr. Deb Miller, Director

With the new year comes the urge to make changes and improve habits. If one of your resolutions is to spend more time learning in the coming year, these professional development resources from institutional memberships and MOOC providers may come in handy. While I must confess that I've started several MOOCs, and finished zero, I have nonetheless learned from my participation in them. I've also taken advantage of the membership resources listed below for my own development, and for the research and reports they provide. There are an increasing number of resources available related to learning design, brain science, and teaching in online platforms, which motived me to put this list together for you. Best wishes for the new year, and all of your resolutions!

  • Membership Resources: The University belongs to a number of professional organizations that provide valuable professional development resources for its members. In most cases, faculty are extended membership via UNF's institutional membership. Visit the Resources for Personal and Professional Development page to obtain additional information on access and contacts for these membership resources.
  • EDUCAUSE and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI): EDUCAUSEŽ is a nonprofit professional organization association of IT professionals committed to advancing higher education. ELI is a community of higher education institutions and organizations committed to the advancement of learning through the innovative application of technology. Available Resources: In addition to its annual conferences, EDUCAUSE and ELI provide the monthly EDUCAUSE Review, its 7 Things You Should Know briefs, and many other useful publications. Webinars are offered monthly on topics from Online Teaching to Technology Advising, and most are free of charge to members.
  • New Media Consortium (NMC): The New Media Consortium (NMC) is an international organization that informs the decisions people make about technology through timely and focused research, events and collaboration, and engaging people in substantive discourse. Their singular goal is to keep NMC members at the forefront of effective applications of technology to learning and research.

    Available Resources:
     NMC annually publishes its well-known Horizon Reports, which disseminate annual findings from an ongoing research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in education.  In addition to the Horizon reports, NMC publishes a number of strategic briefs related to technology and education. The NMC Academy offers powerful online and offline experiences to inspire and transform teaching practices. The courses and events are hosted by a variety of education leaders and specifically designed for busy faculty, museum and library professionals. 
  • Online Learning Consortium (OLC): The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is the leading professional organization devoted to advancing quality online learning by providing professional development, instruction, best practice publications and guidance to educators, online learning professionals and organizations around the world.

    Available Resources:
     OLC regularly hosts webinars and online hangouts on topics related to online teaching and learning, and collects and publishes effective practices on its website. In addition, OLC publishes Online Learning (formerly JALN) promoting the development and dissemination of new knowledge at the intersection of pedagogy, emerging technology, policy, and practice in online environments.
  • MOOCs: MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) providers, such as Coursera and edX offer courses on a variety of topics ranging from The Science of Happiness to Getting and Cleaning Data. If you're not familiar with MOOCs, a MOOC is an online course, developed for participation by a large audience, with completely open and free registration. Typically, there is a small cost if one wishes to earn an official certification upon completion of the course.  These courses classes may be self-paced or taught in cohort-style, and are typically designed and/or taught by well-known experts.

    MOOCs were once thought to be a disruptive force that signaled the end of higher education as we know it, with predications that anyone with a computer and access to the Internet could gain all of the benefits of attending a university at almost no cost. That has not happened, but MOOCs remain a valuable resource for both skill development and lifelong learning. If you are interested in brushing up on data analysis skills, exploring alternate teaching strategies, or simply learning something new, visit our
     Resources for Personal and Professional Development page to find more information about MOOC providers and their offerings. Here are some additional course titles to spark your interest!
      • Interaction Design, UC San Diego
      • Medical Neuroscience, Duke University
      • Social Psychology, Wesleyan University
      • Basic Physics for Animators, San Jose State University
      • Emotional Toughness Training, Austin Peay State University
      • Humanizing Online Instruction: the #Human MOOC, Canvas Network
      • Aviation 101, Embry Riddle 

 Statewide LMS Selection 

The Florida Board of Governors (BOG) recently selected Canvas as the common Learning ManagementSystem for the SUS, an approach that has been taken in other states as a means of providing students with a common online learning experience and providing institutions with cost savings. 

Information about the selection process, Canvas, and steps UNF is taking in response to this decision can be found here.

 Upcoming Events
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

 CIRT Open House

Join us for an open house and walking tour of CIRT's facilities, including the new Video Studio, Online Learning Lab, and Instructional Design Suite.  You'll have an opportunity to chat with staff, see tool demonstrations, learn about available services, and pick up useful resources. Register here.

 Blended Learning Professional Development Opportunities

Blended With a Purpose: A Kickstarter for Designing & Delivering Blended Courses
March - May 2016 

The Blended with a Purpose Kickstarter is an introductory workshop intended to help faculty prepare a blended learning course. Blended courses combine the best practices of online and face-to-face instruction into a mix of pedagogically-appropriate classroom and online activities consistent with course learning objectives. 

The goal of this three-day seminar is to provide faculty with an opportunity to develop fluency in the instructional and technical strategies that support the design and delivery of blended courses. For more information or to apply for this opportunity, visit our webpage.
Application Deadline: February 1, 2016 

UCF and EDUCAUSE are offering their fifth iteration of BlendKit - an open, online course for those interested in blended learning course design, sponsored by ELI and delivered via Canvas Network. 

The course is free of charge and begins February 22, 2016. 
For more details, visit the Educause website.

 Digital Thinking: Course Trailers
Andy Rush, Coordinator of Online Course Media 

In April 2015, the Chronicle of Higher Education
featured an article on the increasing use of course trailers. It's the idea of doing a course introduction video as if it were a movie preview, like those you see prior to a feature film in a movie theater. While to some they might seem gimmicky, course trailers could instead be seen as opportunities to reach out to students in a form that is familiar to them, and go a bit beyond the standard course introduction video. The more that faculty members gets involved in the creation of these trailers, the more they learn the valuable skills that will serve their students, academic departments, and their own professional development. Faculty who create these works in a medium that encourages student exploration, will in turn encourage the students who take these classes to create additional trailers. 

There are lots of different approaches that can be taken for these types of videos. We encourage you to choose a style that you, the faculty member, are comfortable with. CIRT can provide plenty of information, both technical and practical, about how to create good videos, and even introduce you to advanced equipment and facilities that can be easily utilized in your productions. 

The resources below provide further examples of what your course introduction/trailer video can look like. If you're interested in creating a trailer for your course, please contact CIRT for guidance.

  • Michigan State 
    • "Zombie" Course (Warning: slightly graphic content, but a very cinematic course trailer.)

Opening screen (title) - Course number(s) and name including cross-listings (think about adding graphic and video elements throughout):
  1. Talk about why this course excites you.
  2. Answer the question "What is the significance of this course?"  - What does the student get?
  3. What is the context of the course - how does it fit in with majors/non-majors
  4. Is this a long-time successful course or a brand new one? Why is it being taught?
  5. Details of what students will study. Say what the course catalog doesn't.
  6. See the Duke Outline on workload and course grading.
  7. Close with course details and contact information.
  8. Read the FAQ from the Duke Outline, which has some very good points to keep in mind.
 Best Practices Online: Using Facebook Groups to Increase Learner Interaction in Online Courses
Jaime Chaires, Instructional Designer
The importance of student interactions and sense of involvement in online courses has been well documented. This article proposes building that learning community through the use of Facebook groups. As with any course discussion forum, proper instructions and guidelines should be clearly communicated with students, including how the discussions will be assessed and what the roles of the instructor and student will be in these discussions. 

Private Groups
At first, some faculty and students might be hesitant at the idea of using Facebook for online class discussions because of the access to personal information. At a mid-sized southern university, higher education faculty (n=62) and students (n=120) were surveyed on their use of Facebook in education; only a small percentage of faculty (22.6%) and students (15.0%) believed that their privacy would be invaded by the use of Facebook for educational purposes (Roblyer, McDaniel, Webb, Herman, & Witty, 2010). To address this issue, Facebook gives the option to create private groups, where no one in the group will be able to access an individual group member's information, or see anything that they post outside of the group page (as long as the Facebook profile set to private). The only information that can be seen in the group is the individual's profile picture and name. Facebook has even created an additional mobile app (Groups) just for viewing and managing your groups without having to go into all of the other Facebook features.
Increased Participation and Online Presence
Research shows that anywhere from 85 to 99% of college students use Facebook, making it the most popular social media website for this demographic (Junco, 2012). Data collected by EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, sampling 36,950 students from 126 U.S. universities, showed that 97% of students who use Facebook reported actively engaging on the site daily (Smith & Caruso, 2010). Instructors of asynchronous online courses could tap into this pre-established daily interaction and apply continuous and consistent exposure to their content by implementing discussion boards in a Facebook group. Posts and comments made by instructors and student peers are seen every time a student visits their Facebook, with the option of also receiving an immediate notification on their phone after a comment is posted. This results in the students being involved in the discussions and reviewing content more often throughout the day or week. Students who would normally only log into their Blackboard course a few times per week to intentionally check discussion boards can now be connected with the course every time they pick up their phone or tablet. Instructors could also encourage students to use the "like" feature to acknowledge they've read an announcement or to show agreement with a comment.
Student's Perspective
Study results suggest that the use of social media can increase students' satisfaction and perception towards ease of learning, motivation, and levels of achievement (Suebson, 2015, Roblyer et al., 2010, Mazer, Murphy & Simonds, 2007 and Junco, 2012).  After using Facebook, students were significantly more receptive to using it as an educational tool. Comparisons of pre- and post-test scores indicate that students thought it was beneficial in improving readiness for course assessments, and in enhancing their learning (O'Bannon, Beard & Britt, 2013). Facebook is more convenient for students to access throughout the day, usually on their phones, and provides a good means of communication.
Building a Learning Community
One best practice associated with online learning is the creation of an engaging and interactive learning community where students feel their peers and instructors are present and accessible. With a high number of individuals already using Facebook as a means of connecting with family and friends, educators can capitalize on this established and enduring relationship. Some instructors may choose to give students the option of staying in the group even after the course has ended. This could extend the professional networking and communication capabilities for the scope of their academic program or beyond, promoting the goal of creating lifelong learners who are part of an academic learning community and have a source for future support.
If you are interested in discussing how to use private Facebook groups to increase learner interaction in online courses, schedule a consultation with me or another Instructional Designer.
O'Bannon, B., Beard, J., & Britt, V. (2013). Using a Facebook Group As an Educational Tool: Effects on Student Achievement. In Computers in the Schools. Retrieved January 18, 2016, from
Junco, R. (2012). The relationship between frequency of Facebook use, participation in Facebook activities, and student engagement. In Computers & Education.Retrieved January 18, 2016, from
Roblyer, M., McDaniel, M., Webb, M., Herman, J., & Witty, J. (2010). Findings on Facebook in higher education: A comparison of college faculty and student uses and perceptions of social networking sites. In The Internet And Higher Education. Retrieved January 18, 2016 from
Smith, S. D., & Caruso, J. B. (2010). ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology, Vol. 6. Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, Retrieved December 16, 2015, from
Suebsom, K. (2015). Measuring Knowledge Transfer through Facebook of Higher Education Classroom. IJIET. Retrieved December 16, 2016 from
 Blackboard News
Ross Bell, Assistant Director of Online Learning Support

Welcome to the start of a new year!  By now, you have already requested your course(s) in Blackboard, and are well into readying them for the semester, if you haven't already finished.  December's maintenance was an opportunity to make changes to Blackboard's backend infrastructure with the hope of improving the overall performance and stability of our LMS.  The maintenance was completed in the scheduled three day period, and since its availability on Dec. 18th, we have not seen a repeat of the problems that were ailing us at the end of last semester.

Start of Spring 
  • Course Request: Click here to review the steps for requesting Spring courses in BbCAR.
The new Blackboard Knowledge Base contains many more articles on end- and start-of semester 

Updated Blackboard Requirements 
CIRT has updated the current supported Browsers and Operating System list for Blackboard. To avoid complications while working, it's important to be on a supported platform with all required plugins.
Browser Test Video Guide

If you're unsure which browser plugins you have installed, try the Browser Test module from the Blackboard home page. Simply click the Test Your Browser button, and it will provide a full report of the necessary plugins you have installed, as well as optional components and common file types you may need to access while working in Blackboard. This video will guide you through the steps to check the status of your browser plugins. 

Blackboard Support
Need help with Blackboard?  Check out our  Blackboard Support Pagewhere you can find contact information and availability hours.  With multiple support options available, this can be a guide to the best support experience.

UNF Bb News has moved to Bookmark and use this resource to stay up to date on system news.
 Online Learning Lab (OLL) Available Now!

We are excited to announce that the Online Learning Lab (OLL) is open and is available for faculty use!
Located in Building 10, Room 1102, the OLL provides a state-of-the-art facility to support online learning and faculty development. The design of the room allows for easy creation of high-quality online materials that combine audio or video elements with content. The OLL has the capability to record video lectures and even annotations made to content via a touchscreen TV. If you prefer to use an interactive projector and whiteboard with audio only, that capability is also available in this new space. Once a lecture is recorded, the video can easily be posted in your Blackboard course. 

We invite you to stop by or make an appointment to visit the OLL and gain hands-on experience with its technologies. To learn more about the Online Learning Laboratory, or to schedule an appointment in the OLL, click here.

This is a publication of the
at the University of North Florida.

Deb Miller, Editor

Please direct any comments, or questions to