Advising for Online Courses

Screenshot 2020-02-20 16.36.41How’s your Outlook Calendar looking about now? Packed to the brim with advising appointments, no doubt!

When I was faculty at the University of Memphis, I typically advised 50 undergraduates. At 30 minutes a meeting (with many going longer than that) advising meant 25-40 additional hours packed into an already packed three weeks each semester. It’s a lot.

Advising, like the many obligations that eat at our schedule and try our patience, can also be rewarding. It’s a time to get to know students on a more personal level. It’s a time to understand how our students are experiencing the university on a broader level. Most importantly, though, it’s a time to lay the groundwork for a good and productive semester.

We’ve had online courses for years at CBU and one online degree. As the Center for Digital Instruction (formerly OLET) team works with faculty to develop more online courses and fully online degrees, you may find yourself increasingly fielding questions or concerns about online courses at CBU.

As the Online Student Success Specialist, I’ve been meeting with a number of our students. Based on those encounters, as well as the research around online learning, this is what I’ve learned:

Every student can succeed in an online course.* If a student has been accepted into CBU, they are as capable at succeeding online as they are in one of our traditional courses. The content is similar, if not identical. Some students may just prefer one mode of learning to the other. There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about online or traditional teaching. As it is in the traditional classroom, the quality of an online course is about the content, the class structure, as well as the care and responsiveness of the instructor.

*One note for students with vision or hearing issues. Just as would happen in a traditional classroom, accommodations can be made for an online course. Some technical solutions in the online environment can even be superior to accommodations made in a traditional classroom. For example – a screenreader can be installed on a student computer, so all written material is read aloud to the student. For students with hearing issues, most online material is in written form and closed captioning can be added for videos. 

Time management is the greatest predictor of student success online. When you’re advising a student interested in an online course, point out that they should treat their online course just like a traditional one. Adequate blocks of time should be scheduled weekly to “attend” an online course. Just like in a traditional course, attending online regularly is vital to success. A major benefit to online, especially for students who work or are student-athletes, is the ability to schedule class time when it works best for them. But it still must be scheduled. A student taking an 8-week online course cannot skip a week of class and make it up later, just as they couldn’t in the classroom. Many professors do not accept late work, and it’s not realistic to build up work and believe you can cram it into the last few weeks. Online courses are about pacing, in the same way as their traditional counterparts.

Online courses are not easier than traditional courses. If a student says this or you catch yourself thinking it, press pause. Online courses at CBU must meet the same learning objectives as their traditional counterparts. The same course taught online and in person will have similar, if not identical, content. Online learning can be more challenging, simply because students must manage their own time and may not be able to lean on peers as easily. Encourage students to connect with someone in their online course, just as they would in person. Having a study buddy can make online learning more manageable.

Consider the number of online courses a student wants to take. When CBU offers new, completely online degrees, students will be enrolling with the intention and desire to learn entirely online. Most of the students you’ll advise, however, will be taking one or two classes online mixed with traditional courses. Their desire and intent about online versus that of fully online students is an important distinction. It’s expected that a completely online student will take multiple online courses each semester.

But for students on a traditional track, their level of expectations and preparedness should be considered before taking multiple online courses – particularly multiple 8-week courses in the same semester.

Students often underestimate how much time is required of an online course and think they can just “knock out” a few 8-week 1st term classes in a semester. Depending on the student (past performance, number of hours working outside of class, athletics schedule, experience with online) this could be a recipe for disaster. If a student’s learning has taken place primarily in a traditional classroom and that student wants to take multiple online courses in one semester, make serious inquiries about how this will fit with their schedule, expectations and experience.

Consider the point in the term. Taking a 1st 8-week course online can be very different from taking a 2nd 8-week online course, just as it is in the traditional classroom. This is because the 2nd 8-week course will affect their schedule mid-way through the semester at a time when their full-term courses are also ramping up. Taking a 2nd 8-week course can be managed, however, students must have expectations set before making the choice.

Inquire about your advisee’s access to a computer/wifi. Student don’t need their own computer to take an online course at CBU. Our IT computer labs are open 24/7 to anyone with a CBU card. Students who have their own computers and internet access, though, have more opportunity to enter online courses at any time. Students relying on the computer lab must schedule their online course time around their ability to get to the lab.

Should Freshmen take online courses? At this point, we’ve observed CBU Freshmen who do very well in our online courses and those who do very poorly. Anecdotally, the Freshmen who struggle in online courses are typically those taking full loads and working numerous hours. Not surprisingly, they don’t do well online or in traditional courses! This has little to do with the mode of education and more the lack of their experience to understand time management at the collegiate level.

Concerned that your advisee needs help? Send your student to me! This is my job – to help students have the best experience possible in their online course. While your advisee is in your office, give them my phone number and ask them to make an appointment right there! Or send me a quick email with your student cc’d requesting an appointment. I’ll take it from there. You or your student can reach me at: 321-4456 or

What we’ve observed so far among CBU students, in general, is that those who aren’t doing well in online courses… are not doing well in traditional courses that semester, either. There are exceptions, but for the most part, failure to do well online often correlates with a high level of responsibility outside of school and/or failing to understand that online learning, just like classroom learning, requires dedication, time management and participation. As an advisor, you can help set expectations for online courses at the outset and improve their chances of succeeding online.

Click here to download the Advising for Online Infographic PDF


Lurene Kelley is the Online Student Success Specialist for Christian Brothers University’s Center for Digital Instruction. She holds a Ph.D in Organizational Communication from the University of Memphis and is a former college professor and journalist. 




Traditional, Online or Hybrid Learning: It’s all about access


Screenshot 2020-02-19 14.10.58As you know by now, we have an office dedicated to online learning and educational technology, the Center for Digital Instruction (formerly OLET). We even have a few full degrees that can be earned online. Yes, we are currently in the midst of developing more fully online degrees.

As you’d expect from the Director of CDI, I believe wholeheartedly in the method of online course delivery. I also believe that online courses can and should be at least as good as a traditional course. (If you haven’t already, you might want to sit down for this one) I also believe that an online course can be better than a traditional course, given good course design, compelling material, and engaged participants.

Despite all of this faith and optimism I hold for online education, I still believe in the traditional course built on weekly meetings. This mode of learning can be so beneficial to students. The opportunity to focus on one course as a group, for students to know the faculty, spend time in the library, and participate in the community of the institution makes traditional degrees and courses excellent learning opportunities.

Research supports that if most non-traditional students had their way, they would take classes in the traditional classroom setting. But they often can’t. Work, family, distance, and a combination of obstacles create a situation where many cannot take classes that are limited to certain times of the day on certain days of the week.

So in this instance, it’s the fully online courses that can provide the best opportunity for learning. The research shows, however, that these same students who take online courses for convenience would happily participate in a multi-modal degree. A multi-modal degree or course mixes online delivery with the traditional. Students who participate in hybrid, blended, or flipped classes typically find these to be the best of all worlds. They can make these classes work with their schedules, while getting the experience of the institutional community.

What does this kind of course look like? This mix of online and traditional delivery is called “hybrid” and comes in two different formats. The Hybrid Classroom is a course in which “online activity is mixed with classroom meetings, replacing a significant percentage, but not all required face-to-face instructional activities” (Mayadas, Miller, & Sener, 2015). A Hybrid Classroom course mixes both synchronous and asynchronous modalities, replacing a significant portion of the required face-to-face instructional activities, but not all. For example, a course may typically meet three times in a week. In this version, however, the class will meet in a physical space only once each week or even every other week, while offering online work that replaces the traditional face-to-face meeting.

The second type of Hybrid Course is called Hybrid Online. It is also referred to as a “flipped” course. Hybrid Online courses mix online and traditional modalities but with a strong emphasis on online. Most of the work will be done online while reserving some time at a physical location for specific work. For instance, a course may deliver most of the course content online but require a weekend of classroom work that would be highly practical and applicable to the course. In this example, students would only meet once or twice during the term.

Both of these kinds of courses (Hybrid Classroom and Hybrid Online) typically benefit regionally based students. So, while they expand the “walls” of the institution, it is still somewhat limited to those within driving distance of campus. That’s the trade-off.

In the end, we are interested in one thing: providing access to a quality learning experience for students who would not ordinarily have that opportunity. Friends, I don’t need to tell you, but that fits so neatly into the LaSallian model. If we can focus on opening our doors wider, reaching beyond the current boundaries to a broader constituency, then we create the opportunity to have greater influence than we have ever had.

If you are interested in putting your class fully online or creating a hybrid version, please speak to one of us here in the Online Learning and Educational Technology office. We stand ready and willing to help you imagine and dream, then embark on any of these creative course delivery methods to reach students in innovative and effective ways.

Contact: (901) 321-4004


Mayadas, F., Miller, G., & Sener, J. (2015, July 7). Updated E-Learning Definitions. Retrieved from Online Learning Consortium:


Dale Hale is the Director of CBU’s Center for Digital Instruction (CDI). He holds a PhD in Education Policy Studies and Evaluation from the University of Kentucky. Previously, Dale was the Director of Distributed Learning at Asbury Theological Seminary where he was in charge of all aspects of the institution’s distance education program. 

Eliciting Video Responses from Your Students

By Tyler Isbell

Adding the ability to receive video responses from your students within Canvas assignments or discussions does not require any special software, complicated set ups, or an expertise in computer programing.  In fact, this feature works within Canvas out of the box!  Because of Canvas Studio integration, faculty and students can import or record a video directly into any course activity that uses the rich text editor.  Below you will find student instructions on how to add or record a video into a Canvas activity.

You can also download the PDF of these instructions here and share it with students!

How to Add or Record a Video into an Activity using RTE

Begin by enabling the rich text editor within the activity.  For a discussion, click ‘Reply’.  For an assignment, click ‘Submit Assignment.’

On the second row of the rich text editor menu, select the blue ‘V’ with a white background.  This icon is for ‘External Tools.’  Choose ‘ARC’ or ‘Studio’, depending on which option is available to you.  (Canvas Studio was called ARC before last fall, but the links have not been updated everywhere yet.)

Picture1Your Canvas Studio ‘My Uploads’ menu will open. If you have already uploaded or recorded the video, you can simply find and select the video now.  Otherwise, use ‘Record’ to create a new video or ‘Add’ to upload a video from your computer’s hard drive.

Picture2Canvas Studios gives you two main options for recording — ‘Screen Capture’ or ‘Webcam Capture’.  Screen Capture is the more robust option and will give you options to trim and even edit your video post-production online.  Screen Capture allows you to capture just what’s on your computer screen, just your webcam, or you can include both in your capture (picture-in-picture).  Webcam Capture will only capture from your webcam and does not offer the same editing features, but it works well for a quick video that won’t require any editing.










Screen Capture

First, select if you are capturing the ‘Screen’, ‘Webcam’ or ‘Both’.  For ‘Screen’ or ‘Both’, you will draw a rectangle around the part of the screen you would like to capture.


When you are ready to start recording, click ‘Rec’





You may pause and resume right where you left off during recording.  To finish the recording, press pause and then ‘Done’.





Use the next screen to trim your video, access the advance editing tools, and save your video.  Use the bumpers to cut off parts of the beginning and end of your recording.  To save, give your recording a title and description, then click ‘Upload.’  The save process may take a bit, depending on the length of your video.  Canvas Studio is encoding and then uploading the video directly into your Canvas Studio account.  For more information on the advanced editing features, use the Canvas Studio Canvas Guides (link — also available through the ‘Help’ button).


Webcam Capture

Make sure your Mic and Webcam are selected correctly, then simply hit ‘Start Recording.’

Picture9When you are finished recording, click ‘Finish’ or ‘Start Over.’

Picture10Give your recording a name and then click ‘Save’ to encode and upload your video.


Selecting the Video and Posting/Submitting

After uploading or recording your video, click on the clip (‘Select This’) you are wanting to post or submit.














You will be given the opportunity to choose to allow comments directly on the video and to allow/restrict other users from downloading your video.  Click ‘Embed’ once your options are set.


You will now see your video directly in the rich text editor box of the discussion or assignment you are working on. Click on ‘Post Reply’ or ‘Submit’ to finish and share your video within the activity.



Tyler Isbell is an Instructional Designer and Trainer for the Center for Digital Instruction at Christian Brothers University. He holds an Educational Technology Master’s Degree from Boise State University and masters-level certification in Technology Integration and Online Teaching. Before coming to CBU, Tyler was a trainer and instructional specialist in secondary education. 

Online Course Design Class Launched

By Lurene Kelley 

OCD Kickoff event held in the Sabbatini Lounge. Members of our team in front, presenting the layout of the course.

OCD Kickoff event held in the Sabbatini Lounge.

Many of you have taken Canvas training. Some have even completed the four week, fully online Faculty Training (OFT) course. Even if you’ve not participated in a single OLET training – we’d like you to see what’s ahead, as online learning will play a vital role in the future of CBU. A cadre of faculty and adjuncts prepared to deliver and facilitate high quality online learning will be essential to the success of this initiative.

On January 13th, we launched our inaugural Online Course Design (OCD) session – a 16-week, hybrid course created to produce fully-developed, quality online courses by the end of the semester. Eighteen professors and adjuncts are part of the first OCD cohort.

To head off your question, yes, we are aware of the OCD acronym! And yes, we want our educators to be a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to generating and facilitating their online class!

The course began with a kickoff and happy hour for facilitators and participants to get to know each other, as well as a presentation about the unique design of the class. Some participants in the class have little or no online teaching experience. Others have been teaching online, but understand that designing a quality online course is something different.

“I am taking this course in order to become a more well-rounded online course designer,” said Cort Casey, an associate professor in the CBU Education Department. “I have actually taught quite a bit online before, but I am a novice online course designer.”

The first six-weeks are fully online. Participants read articles, watch videos, take quizzes and contribute to forums, just as their online students do. It’s part learning online course development, part “what it feels like” to be an online student. In these six weeks, professors explore ways to engage with their class, how to develop a course that students can easily navigate, and advanced features in Canvas. We also ask educators to rethink what they know about teaching in a traditional classroom and approach digital learning in a new, yet familiar way. The entire course is built on the foundation of student-centered design – all aspects focus on creating an online learning environment that considers how students best learn, navigate and participate online.

Karen Golightly is an associate professor and Chair of the English Department at CBU. She has taught online at various institutions, including CBU, for 20 years. But as any good professor knows, online or in the classroom, there is always room to grow.

“I’m trying to balance the specific student outcomes needed for each assignment/discussion question and some of the smaller details that are required, such as guiding questions for videos with the content of a literature (or creative writing) course,” said Karen. “The OFT (Online Faculty Training) got me working directly on these two aspects, but I want to refine those aspects of my course. I also want to engage students more. I’m going to work on how to make my courses more interesting. I hope this doesn’t include videos of me speaking very often, as I don’t like doing that. But I’m looking forward to learning how to establish a social presence online (I am often too direct) as well as engage students better.”

A period of contemplative, self-paced work follows the online portion. In this phase, professors take what they’ve learned and apply it to creating their fully-online course. Each participant is assigned to one of our Instructional Designers (ID). During the course design phase, participants meet one-on-one with their assigned ID. Participants will also gather in person at least once during this phase to share ideas and learn alongside their colleagues and our entire OLET team.

The culminating event will be a showcase that the entire CBU community is invited to attend! Our participants will give short presentations about their online course in an open forum. The goal is to share ideas with fellow participants, but also to show any interested faculty, students and staff what a high quality, online course looks like at CBU.

It’s going to be a challenging 16-weeks for our participants – all who teach, serve in leadership roles and/or work outside CBU. OLET has provided a fair stipend for successful completion, but just two weeks in and it’s obvious: these educators are in this to teach their students well, no matter where it happens.

As stated in CBU’s strategic plan, we are all dedicated to providing transformational learning experiences by “expanding vibrant academic programs and student experiences.” Developing a high-quality, interactive, meaningful online learning program is a key part of this mission. Online teaching is not antithetical to a Lasallian education. If we do this with care, it is central to it.


Lurene Kelley is the Online Student Success Specialist for Christian Brothers University’s Center for Digital Instruction. She holds a Ph.D in Organizational Communication from the University of Memphis and is a former college professor and journalist.  

Spring Prep Checklist

Screenshot 2019-12-16 11.41.59The Spring 2020 semester is quickly approaching, so if you intend to use your course Canvas shell, now is the time to create or modify your course. Every CBU class comes with a Canvas shell. Whether you are teaching fully online, hybrid or a traditional course — your digital course space is there for you!

Consider this Spring Prep Check List to make sure your Canvas classroom is ready to receive students:

  1. Make sure you’ve updated your online classroom for the new term. Import what needs to be there. Our Instructional Design team created this short video to show you exactly how to import your content! Clean up what doesn’t need to be present. The new term begins on January 4th and tidying up your online classroom while the students are in it can be confusing for all involved!
  2. Publish your course. Make sure you publish the contents of each module, as well as each module. A green circle with a checkmark in it means it is published and visible to the students. If you don’t want students working ahead, you can limit access by controlling the dates of accessibility. Always check the “Student View” by choosing that perspective in the upper right side menu. If you can’t see it in Student View, then it’s not been published.
  3. If you run into a problem creating a quiz or discussion, check out our helpful Canvas Job Aids. They are all available here by description.
  4. If you’re teaching a fully online or hybrid course, include this Canvas Student Orientation course in your class. This 30-minute tutorial will make the transition to using Canvas easier for your students. Consider making it a graded assignment to encourage participation. Here is the link:
  5. Plan to expand your use of Canvas, our LMS. You may have just used it as a repository for lecture notes or as a means of giving a quiz in your on-campus class. Did you know that you can use Canvas to take attendance? It’s really easy. Give it a shot. Learn something new. Try the gradebook. Click this video to learn how to create a screen capture video for your course!
  6. If you’re teaching a fully online or hybrid course, run it by our Online Course Checklist. It will help ensure that all the elements are in place to make your course is easily navigable and prepared for students.

Although our office is closed during the break, Canvas Support is available – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Just call Canvas Support at (901) 318-3024 to speak with a knowledgable, helpful person or chat with a representative by clicking on the Help button in the main sidebar menu inside Canvas. They’ll even send you a transcript of your conversation for reference! Our Instructional Design team returns to campus on January 2nd and will be refreshed and ready to assist you – or (901) 321-4004.

How Organizing Modules, Using Course Template Can Help Students

Screenshot 2019-12-10 09.28.23By Tyler Isbell 

Believe it or not, the organization of your online course makes a major impact on the success of your students’ learning.

Online courses are a shared experience that requires careful planning and guidance, so that students can reach the learning goals successfully.

Without the proper organization and facilitation, an “online course” is little more than a shared cloud space. Furthermore, students lacking the immediacy of the face-to-face classroom become disoriented, unmotivated, and even anxious if there isn’t some clear and consistent organizational structure in place. The organization of your course should serve as a pathway for students to follow so they know what to do, when to do it, how it all fits together, and why it is important.


Begin by thinking through the structure of your course. What is the teaching sequence?  How might you group the content? The grouping of content or modules may represent one week at a time or longer periods of time centered on a specific concept, theme, or topic (such as a unit or chapter).

While the inclusion of instructional content, assignments, and assessments within a module is obvious, it is also important to include an introduction, conclusion, and other activities as well. The use of overviews, to-do lists, wrap ups, and similar pages within your modules provide ‘trail markers’ to guide students through the course content. Students will feel better supported and more motivated to work within your course when they know where to go and what to do.

The creation of these “extra” pages for each module might be overwhelming. Luckily, there is a tool provided within each Canvas course at CBU to reduce the time required to create these pages – The course template.

What It Might Look Like: The Course Template    

Regardless of your content area or audience, the template provides a shortcut to the course planning, designing, and building process. Instructors are able to modify and customize features within the template to create a new course rather than starting completely from scratch. The template includes:

  • A generic module-based navigational layout, easily adapted for weekly, topical, or chapter-based units. 
  • A customizable course home page, instructor page, course overview, and online learning orientation to strengthen social, cognitive, and teaching presence. 
  • Pre-built pages designed with Universal Design in Learning (UDL) and adult learning best practices in mind.  This includes the necessary pages needed to guide students through the content within each module: An introduction, to-do list, sample student activities/assessments, and conclusion. 

Check Out the Template

Open any of your future production shells to get started OR follow this link for a read-only example:

Want More Information on Online Teaching?

Did you know the OLET team offers a completely online training related to teaching an online course?  Our Online Faculty Training (OFT) course dives into:

  • How to navigate the online classroom, both as a student and as an instructor.
  • How to create a community of inquiry among online students.
  • How to have an effective teaching and human presence in an online classroom.
  • How to create courses in our Learning Management System (LMS), Canvas.

Instructors complete OFT with the first module of their new course completed and reviewed.  Participants that finish OFT and teach their course online also receive a stipend!


Tyler Isbell is an Instructional Designer and Trainer for the Center for Digital Instruction at Christian Brothers University. He holds an Educational Technology Master’s Degree from Boise State University and masters-level certification in Technology Integration and Online Teaching. Before coming to CBU, Tyler was a trainer and instructional specialist in secondary education.