Archive Version of e-Notes

April 2008 e-Notes

Vol. 3, Issue 1, April 2008

What is Blackboard Scholar?

a screenshot of Bb Scholar

Blackboard's Scholar is a web-based social bookmarking tool that is free to all Blackboard customers around the world. It can be used on its own or integrated with Bb Vista. Scholar allows you to save and tag interesting bookmarks for your own use, and to share your collection with the community. You add bookmarks to Scholar using a "bookmarklet" tool, direct from the menu bar of your web browser.

Students like Scholar because they can access their bookmarks from anywhere. Instructors like Scholar because they can assign groups of students to work together to build a comprehensive collection of bookmarks on a topic, kind of like an online "scavenger hunt."

Scholar uses the concept of a tag cloud. Tags are keywords that you associate with a particular bookmark. A cloud of tags is displayed in a box on your screen and the most frequently used tags show up in the largest fonts. You can view either your own tags or everyone's tags. You can sort by popularity or creation date. Tags come in three types: general, discipline specific, and course specific.

Create a personal profile in Scholar, upload a photo, list your interests, and search for websites that are popular with your colleagues. For example, if your profile includes your university or subject area (assuming you choose to share this information), you can view the tags created by others at NAU or by people around the world who work in your discipline.

Discover great websites and share your finds with the user community. Invite your friends or classmates to be your buddies so you can keep track of their activity. Scholar is social software with an academic twist. It's like Facebook for your classroom. For more information, sign up for a short training session at the e-Learning Center.

What's Happening

e-Learning Showcase Spring 2008

Join us for the Spring 2008 Showcase on Friday, April 4 from 10am to 3pm in Cline Library, Room 200. This e-Learning Showcase will highlight how faculty engage students beyond course-centric activities. Attendees may attend all or part of the event. Register now on our website.

2008 Southwest Institute for Learning with Technology

The 2008 Southwest Institute for Learning with Technology @ Northern Arizona University (formerly the NAU e-Learning Institute) will be held on May 19-21, 2008 at The W. A. Franke College of Business. The conference will focus on improving learning through the use of instructional tools and practices. Conference registration and a full schedule will be available online in mid-March.

What's New

Another new face at the e-Learning Center!

Jeanette Roe, new multimedia technical designer

Jeanette Roe joined the e-Learning Center Creative Design Group as a Multimedia Technical Designer in January. Jeanette recently came from Mesa Community College where she taught multimedia classes as full-time faculty in the Art Department. Jeanette has experience in formal and informal teaching and a broad range of experience in graphic design and the application of design across different media. "I am pleased to be a part of the Creative Design Group and the e-Learning Center. I appreciate the philosophy of lifelong learning,  and using the best of what technology has to offer to enhance teaching and learning opportunities. E-learning is a growing area in education, and I am excited about where this may take us."


Dora Moore

Dora Moore

As many of you know, Dora Moore, our beloved and respected Administrative Associate for the e-Learning Center, retired in January. NAU and the ELC owe a debt of gratitude to Dora, and we will miss her. She had been with the University for many years, always vocal and active in all of her various endeavors at NAU. Dora came to the e-Learning Center from the Ombudsman Office in the spring of 2003, bringing generous energy and excitement to help establish and promote the e-Learning Center. As those of you who know, she kept all of us in line and focused on serving faculty to benefit the student experience. As she leaves this phase of her life behind, we wish her good health and happiness in pursuing her avocations, and wish her well in achieving the goal of living next door to Yellowstone!

Dora, thanks for all you have done for the e-Learning Center and NAU!

e-Learning Tidbits

Project Database

Working directly with instructors to develop online courses is one of the primary functions of the e-Learning Center, and to streamline that process we have developed an online project management system. This new web-based system will centralize all of the tasks, notes and communications that were formerly spread across spreadsheets, papers and multiple email inboxes. Some of the advantages of the new system include: a web page where an instructor can view progress on their course; a single point of communication so that anyone in our department can see all activity for a single project in one place; and flexible template-based project milestones to allow us to quickly setup projects, yet adapt to changing needs. We hope to begin using this system in mid-March.

Assessment Corner

Developing the Competent e-Learner

What is a competent e-learner?  This question was addressed by Janet Macdonald, e-Learning Coordinator at the Open University in Edinburgh, Scotland, in an assessment journal. Unlike many articles I’ve read, this one appeared to focus on students first--before curriculum or teaching methods. I was also curious to know what distinguishes a competent e-learner from any other learner.  As it turned out, they aren’t much different.

According to Macdonald, competent e-learners need basic information and communication technology skills, a self-directed approach to learning, information literacy skills, and collaborative learning skills.  Aren’t these desirable outcomes for any learner?  Yes, Macdonald argues, but e-learners in this “information rich” age might need to develop these outcomes earlier in their academic careers than conventional learners.  She goes on to say that assessment must support these needs.

How can we develop competent e-learners? We begin by incorporating outcomes such as collaborative learning in our course designs. Then we think about how our course activities and assignments can encourage collaborative learning and, finally, how we will assess it. Whether you are designing a web-enhanced, hybrid, or online course, the e-Learning Center can assist you with incorporating engaging assessments that will develop and support competent e-learners. Come see us!


Macdonald, J. (2004). Developing competent e-learners: The role of assessment. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 29 (2), 215-226.


Director's Note

Don Carter, Director of the e-Learning Center

The grand unveiling: the first fully online e-Notes! In keeping with "e" principles, and in support of NAU's commitment to sustainable practices,  this newsletter henceforth will only be available electronically in your email and on the e-Learning Center website. We hope you enjoy this newsletter in its new format, and please do provide feedback and suggestions for improvement.

As always, there are many activities keeping the e-Learning Center buzzing. While we continue the core mission of supporting class e-activities, we are looking to open doors for new learning activities and to expand beyond the course-centric model. The new interactive web tools (Web 2.0, one of which, Scholar, is highlighted in this issue) will give rise to new opportunities and new methods in what is being called e-Learning 2.0. No, not my term! Yet, we in the ELC are exploring these emerging technologies, and will bring into the fold of supported tools those with the most promise for appropriate application for learning.

Upcoming Workshops

Web Pages with Word

Mon Apr 7, 2008 9:00am - 11:00am

Vista - Managing Your Course

Tue Apr 8, 2008 1:00pm - 2:50pm

Digital Video-Windows

Fri Apr 11, 2008 11:00am - 12:00pm

Elluminate Consultation

Mon Apr 14, 2008 9:00am - 10:50am

Bb Scholar

Thu Apr 24, 2008 11:00am - 12:00pm

The e-Learning Center offers a variety of trainings to meet your needs, including workshops on Bb Vista, technical tools, and instructional planning and design. If your schedule or location does not allow you to attend workshops in person, do not despair! We offere Bb Vista labs and workshops online and personalized workshops to departments as requested.