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

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Featured Faculty Member: Dr. Michael Binder, Associate Professor, Political Science & Public Administration and Faculty Director, Public Opinion Research Laboratory
The Public Opinion Research Laboratory (PORL) is a full-service survey facility that provides tailored research to meet client needs. The PORL specializes in telephone, email and in-person surveys. Depending on the population of interest, the PORL uses the most appropriate method for sampling. One type of research the PORL conducts is economic impact surveys for events in the Jacksonville region, like the DONNA Marathon Weekend and The Players Championship. Since it opened in March of 2001, the PORL has conducted over 150 public opinion surveys and provided services to the community including consulting, questionnaire design, population sampling, data collection, analysis, and reports. PORL is a charter member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research Transparency Initiative.

PORL staff create surveys using Qualtrics, UNF's online survey tool. In addition to delivering surveys online, Qualtrics has a function called the Offline Survey Tool that allows for data collection on devices without Internet connectivity, like iPads. Once a survey is published to a device, it can collect responses without Internet connectivity. The collected responses are saved to the device and can be uploaded to Qualtrics when the device is next connected to a network. A single survey can be downloaded to several devices at one time. The PORL conducts interviews at these events in order to reach event attendees. CIRT's iPad pack contains seven iPads and is available to faculty for checkout. Using the Qualtrics Offline Survey Tool helps to speed up the process by automatically coding the data electronically, so there is no need for paper surveys; also, because the data is being electronically inputted, there is less chance of error during data transcription.

After the responses are collected, PORL staff then brings the iPads back to PORL, or any location with Wi-Fi access, and upload the responses to Qualtrics.  The data are then downloaded from Qualtrics in a format that allows for analysis in SPSS, a statistical analysis software.

During the 26.2 with DONNA event, the PORL used the Qualtrics Offline Survey Tool with the iPad Pack.  Over the course of two days at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, PORL student interviewers spoke with more than 1,000 event participants.  The PORL students were able to quickly and accurately run through interviews that included complex logical skips. The results from this project will estimate the economic impact of out of town visitors to the St. Johns and Duval areas.  These results allow for the sponsoring organizations to plan future events and then present the information to government agencies.

If you are interested in learning more about Qualtrics, offline data collection, or CIRT's iPad packs, please stop by.

 Director's Message:  2017 Horizon Report, Higher Education Edition
Deb Miller, Director
The Horizon Report is a comprehensive research project established in 2002 to identify and describe emerging technologies that are likely to have a large impact on education over the next five years. Each year, three editions are published: K-12, higher education, and museum education. The higher education edition is produced as collaboration between the New Media Consortium (NMC) and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI). The 2017 Higher Education Edition was recently published and I will share highlights in this article. A panel of experts that included institutional leaders, educators, instructional designers, technologists, industry leaders, and other stakeholders select the topics in the Horizon Report. This year, 78 experts from 22 countries made the topic selections. 

The Horizon Report identifies key trends driving the adoption of higher education technology. In the short-term, blended and collaborative learning are spurring adoption, as these types of designs often rely on online tools and platforms. Blended learning allows instructors to combine the best of both worlds, providing content and individual feedback online, while using classroom time for group work and application. By using both modes of delivery, instructors can choose from a large tool set to meet the needs of students with varying levels of prior knowledge. Collaborative, peer-to-peer designs, promote high levels of interaction and application-based activities. Digital tools such as cloud-based collaboration platforms (think Google apps) allow students to work together synchronously or asynchronously.

The heart of report are the six developments in educational technology identified as being expected to drive technology planning and decision making, broken into three horizons: near-term, mid-term, and far-term. A key criterion for the inclusion of a new technology is its potential relevance to teaching, learning, and creative inquiry. As I reviewed the report, I could see that we are already firmly engaged with the technologies in the near- horizon at UNF. In adaptive learning, the presentation of content, assessments, and feedback are customized, or adapted, to meet each student's unique needs. Currently, this most often happens through the use of publisher platforms, such as MyLab and   Acrobatiq . Instructors customize content selection and the platform can provide students with almost endless practice and feedback, depending upon their individual needs. Some instructors also develop their own materials and practice sets, and use the Mastery Paths feature in Canvas, which allows for the customized presentation of materials and activities based on student performance.

One new technology to this edition of the report is Artificial Intelligence. Artificial intelligence has the potential to further advance adaptive learning by intuitively responding to and engaging with students. Would C-3PO make a good TA? Some researchers are trying to identify the best blend of human and artificial intelligence in the classroom to promote learning (Devlin, 2016). 

In addition to identifying technology trends, the report identifies six significant challenges to technology adoption, organized as solvable, difficult, and wicked. These might also be characterized as technical problems, which we know how to solve now; and adaptive problems, for which solutions will require some adaption of individuals and organizations (Heifetz, Grashow, & Linksy, 2009).

One challenge, digital literacy, requires us to develop the 'digital citizenship' of students, in a way that enables students to not only perform course-specific tasks and master tools, but to evaluate and use information appropriately. In a recent special report from the Chronicle, Shannon Najmabadi (2017) makes the case for this skill as a priority in an era of news consumption through social media sites and "false" news. Educators, including professors and librarians, will play a key role in teaching students to critically evaluate content by developing critical thinking skills as part of the digital toolset. This is a challenge we can address now.

The  Horizon Report  is full of interesting and digestible information about technology trends that impact higher education. If you'd like to learn more about one or more of the trends identified here, I encourage you to view the full report . NMC maintains a  wiki  documenting the topic selection process since 2002. The site provides an open window into the work of the project and is also worth exploring.  

If you're interested in discussing any of these technologies, we'd love to hear from you.


Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., Freeman, A., Hall Giesinger, C., & Ananthanarayanan, V. (2017). NMC Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition . Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

Devlin, H. (2016, December 26). Could online tutors and artificial intelligence be the future of teaching? The Guardian. Retrieved from

Heifetz, R. A., Grashow, A., & Linsky, M. (2009). The practice of adaptive leadership: Tools and tactics for changing your organization and the world. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

Najmabadi, S. (2017, February 26). Information Literacy: It's become a priority in an era of fake news.  The Chronicle. Retrieved from: 

 Upcoming Events
Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

 Digital Thinking: Innovative Audio-Visual Capture Tools
Jessica Harden, Coordinator of Educational Media

CIRT offers a wide variety of equipment for faculty checkout that can be used for teaching and research. The Swivl and Shure wireless microphone are two tools recently acquired by CIRT that can help faculty with recording audiovisual projects.
The Swivl is a unique a device that works as a mount for a camera, tablet, or mobile phone to  smoothly  track a person as they move. The Swivl allows an individual capture video that would otherwise require a skilled camera-operating assistant. The user has a remote that pairs via Bluetooth with the recording device. That remote can start and stop recording using the Swivl App and also allows the user to rotate and tilt the recording device while recording, just by moving the remote or using the arrow buttons on the remote. Paired with a tablet or phone, the Swivl can record to the device using the remote and the Swivl app, eliminating the need for complicated camera set up. The Swivl App is available for iOS and Android devices.
For hands-free operation, the Swivl remote can be worn as a lanyard and has a built in microphone for capturing clear audio at a distance from the recording device. Filming lectures, presentations, or demonstrations using equipment that is set up to capture subjects in a static environment can be challenging. The microphone and position adjustment capabilities make the Swivl perfect for use during lectures, presentations, and demonstrations in dynamic spaces.
CIRT's Shure microphone is another option for capturing clear audio in many different settings. Once the receiver is connected to the recording device, the microphone is ready for use. The handheld microphone itself is wireless, making it perfect for use in lectures, and presentations. Capturing clear audio is essential when creating videos for instruction. Using an external microphone, such as the Shure, and pairing it with one of CIRT's camcorders will allow faculty to capture excellent audio in multiple settings. The microphone can also be mounted to a tripod for hands-free operation.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to email me at

 Best Practices Online: Facilitating Engaging Discussions  
Rozy Parlette, Instructional Designer
Asynchronous discussions are a very effective means of engaging students and enhancing understanding irrespective of whether you are teaching a fully online or a blended/hybrid course. Nevertheless, planning a successful online discussion can be one of the most challenging aspects of an online course. In an online or blended course, much of the shared learning takes place in an asynchronous discussion board; therefore, it is impetrative that instructors carefully craft effective and engaging discussion prompts. In addition, the methods instructors use to facilitate their discussion forums are also critical to the success of the assignment. This article will address the benefits of using discussions in an online course, strategies for designing engaging discussions, and methods for successfully facilitating discussions online.
The benefits of utilizing high-quality discussions in an online course are numerous. They are essential in the effort to build and maintain a community of learners. According to MGH Institute (2017):
They also serve as the "classroom" where ideas are raised, examined, and resolved. Online discussions provide an opportunity for students to do more than re-state information learned in class. They are forums that allow students to bring in outside information, relate course content to real-world events, and apply the material. 
Discussions can allow for interaction and collaboration that is often lacking in online classes.
Online discussion forums offer the capacity for asynchronous discussion to take place over a certain length of time. Online discussions differ from discussions in face-to-face courses as they provide students with more time to respond. The greater response time given to students allows them to carefully think about and develop their ideas and craft a well-considered response. Furthermore, the reflective nature of discussions encourages students to think critically as they formulate their responses.  Since students' responses are seen by all their peers and are able to be reread at will, students will often take care when crafting their responses. Often they will integrate research into their responses, which increases knowledge.
Discussions provide an outlet for exploratory learning. This type of learning takes place when students consider new material and investigate relationships between their background knowledge and the new material. Online discussions often require students to communicate with people with differing experiences and ideas. As they do this, they gain new perspective. Another benefit to using discussions is that all students in an online discussion have a voice. In face-to-face classes only some students get to respond. Online discussions require that all students share their input and ideas. Students often feel more comfortable contributing to online discussions, as the feeling of judgment is often decreased.
Designing an effective and high-quality discussion forum can be challenging and it is critical that the dialogue is meaningful and aligned with course learning objectives and/or outcomes.  When developing discussion prompts it is best to use open-ended questions as they offer students a way to respond differently. It allows for multiple answers or solutions and varying responses and ideas. Closed-questions, like yes or no questions and questions that require a response from the textbook, do not provide openings for any discussion. It is also important to not overwhelm students by asking more than one question at a time.  Rich discussions can occur when students are asked to take a pro/con position on issues - especially if they are required to find support for a topic they oppose. 
Another useful strategy is to provide students with differing yet related prompts and divide them into smaller workgroups to encourage more in-depth discussion. When designing discussions it is also important to establish ground rules for how the students are expected to communicate with each other, set policies and put them in the course, and set the stage for civil and respectful discussions ahead of time. Finally, let the students know how you plan on evaluating their contributions. Provide a rubric with clear grading criteria. This will lessen any confusion they may have about expectations. Also plan on grading the discussions - this will add value to student effort and provide incentives for posting and replying.
After the discussions have been developed, it is time to facilitate the forum. Instructors should try to avoid the urge to jump in with the "right" answer as this can make students feel self-conscious and impede interaction. A better way to encourage communication is to ask students probing questions. Students acquire and form new knowledge as they ask questions and explore understandings and misunderstandings. In addition, while moderating the discussion forum, ask students to clarify or expand on their contributions and encourage them to react or build on their peers' comments. Remember, when instructors participate in the discussion it adds value to the students' work. Also, the instructor's presence helps to keep students focused on the task at hand and can help to refine discussions so that the conversations progress past basic information sharing to knowledge construction and, ideally, application and integration of the knowledge (University of Waterloo, 2013). Student participation will usually increase when instructors are more active in the discussion forum.
If you would like more information on developing and facilitating discussions in a distance learning or hybrid/blended course, please contact a member of the instructional design team. 

Centre for Teaching Excellence at University of Waterloo. (2013). Collaborative online learning: fostering effective discussions. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from
MGH Institute of Health Professions. (2017). Designing Online Discussions. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from

 Canvas News
Ross Bell, Assistant Director of Online Learning Support

Blackboard will be retired on May 31st and we will no longer be able to access any course information after that date.  For information on what migration options are available visit our Canvas Transition Website .

Canvas Updates

One of the benefits of Canvas is its 3-week update cycle that allows for fixes and new features to be introduced in a timely fashion. To stay up to date on all the latest release information, be sure to bookmark the Canvas Release Notes page,

Below are a few of the recent changes that have been introduced.
New VeriCite Integration

VeriCite has a new Canvas tool that integrates directly into native Canvas assignments. This provides a much improved workflow over the existing VeriCite LTI. Some of the more exciting features are the ability to use rubrics and SpeedGrader integration. We are seeking faculty members to test the new tool and provide feedback in advance of a possible Summer implementation. If this sounds interesting to you, please email Ross Bell, , for information about how to participate.


UNF currently licenses Respondus and Studymate together. Respondus will continue to be available, however when the campus StudyMate license expires on July 31st, 2017 it will not be renewed. Contact CIRT for assistance in finding alternative solutions.

For any Canvas questions, contact CIRT at 620-3927 or .


The five-week MOOC allows participants to interact with any or all of the five-week "live" sessions on
  • Understanding Blended Learning
  • Blended Learning Interactions
  • Blended Assessments of Learning
  • Blended Content & Assignments
  • Quality Assurance in Blended Learning.
BlendKit2017 will be facilitated by UCF Center for Distributed Learning instructional designers Dr. Baiyun Chen and Ms. Sue Bauer.

The course is free and open to any learners, who can also elect to participate in a low-cost certification track. The MOOC is the fifth iteration of the EDUCAUSE and UCF partnership. Watch a  short video on the BlendKit course highlighting the course design and participant experience.

The BlendKit2017 course began Feb. 27, 2017, and registration is currently open on Canvas Network at

 New in CIRT: Josh Barthuly & Tomás Marentes

Josh served as the communications director for a large engineering laboratory at Texas A&M and its respective continuing education symposia in Houston and Singapore. Thereafter, he taught English and analytic writing in northern China. He earned an MA in Philosophy from Texas A&M University, where he taught as a TA, as well as a BA in Digital Production from Ball State University. Josh's interests include, inter alia, practicing analytic philosophy, studying languages, cooking, and getting outside to enjoy creation.

Tomás is currently a graduate student pursuing his Master of Business Administration degree. His Bachelors degree is in Advertising from UNF. Tomás grew up living in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Honduras. When not at school or work, he enjoys endurance races, grilling, and puzzles.

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

Deb Miller, Editor

Please direct any comments, or questions to