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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 Teaching a Visual Language Online

When the Department of Exceptional, Deaf, and Interpreter Education began planning its online ASL Educator Certification Endorsement, program director Michael Stultz wanted to ensure that students would receive high quality instruction in American Sign Language (ASL). Program faculty had been creating online video for years, but through use of CIRT's Video Studio with green screen technology, and the expertise of a course media developer, the program was able to take their instructional videos to a whole new level. 

According to Kelly Leeper, another instructor in the program, ASL is an increasingly popular language being studied in US higher education institutions. The latest report from the Modern Language Association (MLA) shows that it is the third-most studied language, and enrollments for ASL have grown 19% between 2009 and 2013.

Stultz adds, "ASL online courses are becoming increasingly popular and highly sought after.  These types of courses offer an incentive for [those] who work [or] teach full time and may live a long distance from UNF." The typical audience for the ASL I & II courses are UNF students who are Deaf Education majors, ASL Interpreting majors, ASL Studies minors, and for those who need to fulfill a foreign language requirement.

Students want to learn American Sign Language and to be able to communicate with
those in their fields.

Leeper also says that "students want to learn American Sign Language (ASL) and to be able to communicate with those in their fields, for example - Criminal Justice majors if they join the police force, they would be able to communicate with Deaf people they may encounter on-duty. Also, for Pre-Nursing students, they could communicate with their Deaf patients at hospitals." 

So where does the studio with the green screen enter the picture? Most of the videos that Stultz creates are of him signing in front of digital content that focuses on a particular word, phrase, picture, or storytelling concept. In this application, the digital content came in the form of PowerPoint slides, but the same could be done with any computer-based content- a web page, a spreadsheet, etc.

The studio lights are turned on and adjusted, and a wall begins glowing bright green. The first slide of a PowerPoint presentation is on the monitor, the screen recording software counts down (5, 4, 3, 2, 1), and then the record button is pressed on the studio camera. We're recording, but the studio remains relatively quiet. That's because Stultz is signing in front of the video camera in CIRT's green screen Video Studio.

Stultz is often quite animated as he shows how to properly produce a sign. He also sometimes looks away or signs sloppily to demonstrate how not to sign. Facial expressions are very important, and so Stultz is providing examples and non-examples in the videos he creates.

This shows what it looks like to sign in front of some shapes.
What is actually recorded in the studio looks like this.
The final version, as seen by students in Canvas.

In post-production, green-screen software "magic" is applied, combining the digital content with the video recording. The end result shows Stultz signing and interacting with the content to enhance the concept being conveyed.  

From Stultz's vantage point, he sees the camera and PowerPoint slide on a screen next to the studio camera. He advances the slides on the computer in front of him

The videos are made available to students in Canvas for both the ASL I & ASL II courses. Students also record their own videos in Canvas, for video journals assignments. Students will self-record ASL "finger spellings" of their first and last name as part of an introduction to their fellow online classmates. In subsequent video journals, they will sign increasingly more complex narratives, which will include those all-important facial expressions, as they begin to master the language.

If you would like to learn more about using the green screen capacity of CIRT's video studio, please contact us at

 Director's Message: Canvas and More
Dr. Deb Miller, Director

Welcome back! The start of the fall term and the increased student activity on campus is always a wonderful reminder of our shared mission. CIRT is offering a great selection of events this semester on topics that include 3D printing, professional social media presence, YouTube, and all kinds of Canvas. We'll also be running our regular Qualtrics sessions through CPDT. 

CIRT recently deployed a new web-based equipment reservation system that should make finding and booking equipment easier for faculty. We have also updated our equipment policies, so please be sure to review those changes. 

As you surely know by now, UNF is in the process of transitioning from Blackboard to Canvas. The project is going well and I'm happy to report the following fun factoids:
  • Canvas workshop attendance >400  
  • Fall courses published in Canvas >600 
  • Canvas Migration Requests Completed >100 
  • Safe Assign submissions imported into Vericite >200,000
Both Canvas and Blackboard will be available for use during Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 semesters. Blackboard will be retired in May 2017. See the Canvas Transition site for further details.

A Communication & Marketing Working Group has been busy this summer planning ways to spread the word. So far that has included:
  • myWings Hot button for Canvas
  • New LMS channel in myWings
  • Messaging going out on CIRT, Library, and UNF social media accounts
  • Announcements in Osprey Update
  • Osprey Shuttle ad
  • Canvas session for students during Week of Welcome (WOW) activities
  • Canvas Transition Updates being published every 3 weeks this fall in sync with production updates
  • Video testimonials from faculty/students - rolling out this fall

The adoption of Canvas affords opportunities to track and improve student learning, to share resources within and between institutions via the Canvas Commons, and for increased customization of course tools and resources through the EduApp center. Of course, all of these opportunities will present challenges. We look forward to working through them with you in the coming year.

Finally, I am very pleased to present CIRT's 2016 annual report. I invite you to review our achievements, planned initiatives, activity data, and strategic goals for the coming year.

 New Art On Campus Installed at CIRT Entrance
Nofa Dixon, Associate Professor of Art and Design

CIRT is proud that the newest Art on Campus installation graces its entrance on the north end of Honors Hall, Building 10. Professor Dixon and her students worked for two semesters to create the four magnificent mosaic columns with hand-painted glazed tile inserts that enhance and add new life to the exterior of the building. 

The columns impact the environment surrounding it, offering a spectacular view for students, faculty, and staff walking through the campus. "Our projects are visually transforming the campus and are transformational to the students who create them," noted Dixon. 

CIRT Graphic Designer, Michael Boyles, assists Dixon with developing the initial concepts and reference images, as well as taking these concept images to a higher level by superimposing them on photos of the actual environments where they will be installed. This assists Dixon and her students visualize how the final project will appear. The superimposed photos are also used in the development of presentations for approval, funding, and community outreach. 

This new work outside Building 10 incorporates rich colors and exquisite textures meticulously created with thousands of hand-cut tiles, along with the integration of hand painted, glazed-tile renderings in the style of historic artists you might be familiar with: Vincent van Gogh, Keith Haring, Edvard Munch, Albrecht Dürer, Georgia O'Keeffe, Salvador Dalí, and more. 

Stop by to enjoy this project and see how many works of art you can identify, and perhaps discover new ones! 

 Upcoming Events
Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Friday, October 21, 2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thursday, November 17, 2016

 Digital Thinking: Using Audio and Video in Canvas
David Wilson, Assistant Director, CIRT (aka Awesome Projects & Groovy People)

It may be beneficial for you to know about the audio and video tools that are available in Canvas as you start to build courses in Canvas, or migrate your courses and materials from Blackboard to Canvas. In this article, I will give a summary of those tools. 

There are two methods to add audio to a Canvas course: uploading it to Files, or adding it through the Canvas Media Comment Tool. The major differences between the two methods are that audio added to Files can be downloaded by students, whereas audio added with the Media Comment Tool cannot be downloaded. In addition to allowing you to upload audio files, the Media Comment Tool allows you to record directly into Canvas using a microphone connected to your computer. It is worth noting that audio files added to course files are limited to 50MB and do count against your course size limit. Audio files added with the Media Comment Tool are limited to 500MB and do not count against the course size limit. Generally, audio recordings have small file sizes and will not significantly add to your course size. If you are teaching a course that uses a lot of audio recordings, such as a music course, or a course where you provide recordings of every lecture, then I recommend using the Media Comment Tool.

There are two methods to add video to your course in Canvas: adding through the Canvas Media Comment Tool, or publishing through a video service, like YouTube, and then embedding it into your course. Please see the table at the end of this article for a breakdown of the features by publishing platform.

Adding video to a course using the Media Comment Tool is similar to adding audio. The only difference is that students will be able to save the course videos uploaded with the Media Comment Tool to their devices, and get a link to the video that can be played by anyone. That link expires after 24 hours, but during that time anyone with the link will be able to play the video, regardless of whether they are in your course or logged in to Canvas. In addition to allowing you to upload video files, the Media Comment Tool allows you to record directly into Canvas using a webcam connected to your computer. The record feature is great for short video announcements. Video files added with the Media Comment Tool are limited to 500MB and do not count against the course size limit. CIRT has tested video files sizes and found that we can create videos that are more than an hour long, at DVD quality, and still remain under the upload cap of 500MB.

There may be times when you need to add videos larger than 500MB to a course. In these situations, we recommend publishing the video to YouTube, and embedding it into your Canvas course. There are some limitations to this method. You may have special permission from a copyright holder to use a video in your course, and as a requirement of that permission, can only make it available to your students. In that case, you should not publish the video to YouTube. 


If you would like assistance in uploading videos or creating a YouTube channel, please consider attending the YouTube Channel Workshop this semester, or contact us at:

For more information about or assistance with media in Canvas please feel free to email me at:

 Best Practices Online: Engaging Students in Canvas
Megan Bracewell, Instructional Designer

One of the biggest challenges in online education is student engagement.  To overcome this obstacle, instructors can apply a variety of strategies within Canvas to attract student attention and promote active learning.  While socially and cognitively connecting students online can be a challenge, there are five essential student engagement strategies instructors can employ in an online Canvas course: foster community, promote collaboration, encourage expression, infuse creativity, and make content relevant.

Instructors who foster community in their online courses pave the way for student engagement throughout the course by socially integrating students and reducing the risk of disengagement caused by feelings of isolation (Briggs, 2015).

To foster community in Canvas, try these strategies:
  • Ask students to introduce themselves by submitting an introductory post or video in Discussions
  • Encourage students to respond to and like each other's posts in Discussions
  • Invite a guest speaker to present relevant experiences in Conferences
  • Provide prompt feedback to student posts in Discussions and to assignments in SpeedGrader.

Collaboration drives engagement by encouraging students to play an active role in the learning process. Canvas optimizes student collaboration by enabling groups established in People to communicate through their own group-designed sites within Canvas - complete with pages like Announcements, Discussions, Files, and Conferences (Dice, 2014). Canvas also enhances collaborative efforts by offering Google Doc integration in Collaborations.

To promote collaboration in Canvas, try these strategies:
  • Assign groups in People to enable students to manage their project materials and correspondence through their own group-designated Canvas sites. 
  • Have groups present an artifact - image, concept map, or slide - in Conferences to explain and apply a concept or skill. 
  • Ask students to post 1-2 minute videos showcasing their major projects in Discussions, and have students provide feedback to their classmates. 
  • Create a wiki by integrating a Google Doc in Collaborations for students to compile resources relevant to course topics.

Students should have opportunities to express their perceptions and ideas, and they are more likely to feel engaged in an online course if they have chances to interact with their peers regarding course content and assignments (Dixson, 2010). 

To encourage expression in Canvas, try these strategies:
  • Have students post their work in Discussions for peers to conduct reviews. 
  • Construct a blog for students to express reactions to content by creating a space for students to edit in Pages. 
  • Group students into pairs in People, and prompt them to debate opposing sides of a topic in their group-designated Discussions
  • Assign a weekly reflective journal entry for students to reflect upon their learning in their ePortfolios.

Rather than building an online course upon traditional lectures and quizzes, instructors can further engage students by infusing creativity into their courses with multimedia.

To infuse creativity in Canvas, try these strategies:
  • Supplement text resources in Modules with images, videos, or graphs to showcase ideas in a variety of formats (Briggs, 2015). 
  • Have students post a video or audio file in Assignments to showcase a concept. 
  • Ask students to submit an image with a brief explanation of how it symbolizes or represents a theory in Assignments
  • Encourage students to share knowledge by having them each submit an instructional video that narrates the process taken to solve a problem in Discussions.

Authentic assessments and real-world scenarios engage students by challenging them to apply concepts and skills learned in the course to solving problems and forging solutions (Yang, 2011).

To make content relevant in Canvas, try these strategies:
  • Chunk content - as in 5-7 minute videos - and challenge students to react or apply the information in their ePortfolios (Briggs, 2015). 
  • Have students create a conversational script related to a course topic in a Google Doc in Collaborations to reflect real-world contexts. 
  • Incorporate case studies in Modules to encourage students to apply concepts and processes to solve real-world problems (Dixson, 2010). 
  • Ask students to each create a post in Discussions at the end of each unit featuring one concept or skill they learned and how they could apply it in their fields of study.

If you would like more information about the content of this article or have other questions related to instructional design and online learning, please visit the instructional design website to schedule a consultation with an instructional designer.

...To read the rest of this article, please click here.

 Blackboard News
Ross Bell, Assistant Director of Online Learning Support

For more than 15 years, Blackboard has been UNF's Learning Management System. When the Spring 2017 semester comes to an end, so will Blackboard.  With the Canvas transition in full swing, the focus is on moving content and courses out of Blackboard and into Canvas, therefore it is not intended that any new features or functionality will be added in the remaining Blackboard maintenance window in December 2016.   

On this same wind of change, the Blackboard News section of this newsletter will become Canvas News starting in November's issue.  If you are feeling nostalgic and wish to reminisce about past Blackboard events, you can always visit the CIRT News Archive.

You have probably already received a lot of information about Canvas, and sometimes it is hard to remember which email had that one link you need. Here is a directory for all of the important Canvas transition information, support, and training links you need.

  • Canvas Transition Website: From here you will have access to information pertaining to the transition including a timeline, migration options, and more. 
  • Canvas SupportThe Canvas Support site is home to UNF's instructor support for Canvas. From here you can easily access Canvas's Instructor Guides, UNF's Canvas Knowledgebase, CIRT Events, and more. 
  • What's Different in Canvas: It's important to understand what works differently in Canvas. Visit the transition site's What's Different page to learn more. 
  • Canvas Instructor Guides: The Canvas Instructor Guide is a great source for tutorials and tool/functionality information. 

Looking for a plagiarism checker tool in Canvas? VeriCite is the plagiarism detection tool available in UNF's Canvas platform. For information about VeriCite and how to use it in your course, go to our VeriCite KB article.  

 New in CIRT
Please join us in welcoming our newest Instructional Designers, Allison Archer and Megan Bracewell, to CIRT.

We also welcome Brianna Maisonet, Shaneice Lord, Jean Munnerlyn, and Shayne Auguste, to our Online Learning Support Team.

The Creative Team welcomes Thomas Lewis, our newest CIRT Tech student assistant in the lab.

You can see all of the smiling faces on our People page.

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

Beauty Kolenc, Publisher
Deb Miller, Editor

Please direct any comments, or questions to