Congratulations to Faculty/Staff Innovators – TRiO: Student Support Services


We’d like to recognize TRiO Programs – Student Support Services as 2015 Innovators. They are a federally-funded grant program designed to provide additional support, advocacy, and services to students who are first generation (neither parent has a bachelor degree or higher), low income, or have a disability. Basically, these folks  do everything they can to serve at-risk students,  to help them along their college path, and to succeed in their courses and in their college plans.

SSS works with what’s called a more intrusive or proactive model of support like many other colleges and universities have adopted, including WGU.

According to “The History of Intrusive Advising in the General College” by Anthony Albecker,

The intrusive advising model is based on the premise that some students will not take the initiative in resolving their academic concerns, thereby needing the intrusive assistance of assigned advisors. The use of the word “intrusive,” as coined in Walter Earl’s 1987 article, “Intrusive Advising for Freshmen,” is used to describe this model of advising as “action oriented by involving and motivating students to seek help when needed” (p. 24). The intrusive model incorporates the components of prescriptive and developmental advising models, creating a holistic approach that meets a student’s total needs (Earl).

In addition to this TRiO is taking their traditional face-to-face strategies and moving them to the cybersphere.

From Liisa Preslan, Director of TRiO – Support Services at Centralia College:

We are creating a Canvas classroom that students can access PRIOR to beginning at Centralia College. It will have information on their next steps (short videos on financial aid, paying for tuition, getting books, etc.), lists of campus and community resources that will be advantageous to their college experience. It will also have two assessments – one for college readiness and one for financial literacy. This course serves several purposes. 1) Students will have a “one stop” resource for information all new students should know prior to starting college; 2) It will provide a more effective way to communicate with students than through listservs, student email system, or traditional mail; 3) We will be able to connect with them from the time they apply to when they start classes – which can be as long as six-months – allowing us to build relationships earlier to increase retention; and 4) Students will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with Canvas in a no-risk situation before their courses begin. Hopefully, this will minimize the learning curve, particularly for our students with limited technology skills. We have capitalized on several technologies available like Panopto and video features to provide a richer experience for students, but also kept accessibility in mind throughout the design phase. One example is videos of former TRiO Students who share their struggles and offer words of encouragement. Students can access them any time they need motivation.

We are still finalizing content and have not completed the entire site. We want to have a quality product that meets accessibility standards before going live. That process takes a lot of front-loaded effort, but we are certain the benefits for our students, our program, and the campus will be tenfold.

We want to thank Liisa and all the staff at TRiO – Support Services for rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard work it takes to be innovative for the sake of the students’ success, and, ultimately, our campus success.

Congratulations to Faculty/Staff Innovator – Sam Small

Sam Small - Julia Fractal background

Sam Small is one of our recently recognized innovators. He is the Applications Developer for Centralia College and in his own words, he “[serves] up data analysis, software engineering, and anything else related to the software/data side of Computer Science.” In addition to his mad computer coding, Sam  teaches in the Computer Science workforce program, building students’ web application development skill sets.

Around campus, we’ve come to look at Sam as the “answer guy.” If you’re in a meeting anywhere on campus, it’s highly likely part of the conversation will go like this:

– “It would be really great if we could…Is that even possible?…I bet Sam could come up with something.”

Here’s a look at Sam’s innovations in his own words:

I like to use technology to find better ways to do my job.  I look for ways that programming can help enhance our jobs at Centralia College, and more recently – student experiences.  This week I have been working on a low cost prototype attendance system that logs attendance and makes the results available instantly across campus.  Long gone will be the days of manual attendance verifications, and manual attendance taking!  I love innovation, and I particularly love innovation that improves return on investment.

Sometimes innovations come about as a result of a need, other times innovations happen because of a want.  For me, I am looking to innovate daily – improve our lives, our professional and student experiences, and in the end save us money.  My workload has increased a lot because there are a LOT of opportunities for innovation in this arena at Centralia College!  I often find myself thinking about how one innovation/implementation can affect others on campus, and try and find ways to improve the processes.  I hope that everyone’s work will be more focused as a result of new innovations and systems – because this is the real purpose.

Here is a summary of ‘official’ projects Sam is working on, has finished, or will be starting this year:

  • AEW: A modern, easily modified, easily measured system that provides instructional staff a means to report academic indicators to Centralia College support staff.
  • SMART:  A monitoring and reporting system that works with Office 2013 tools including access, and excel.  The purpose is to augment existing HPUX queries and provide staff at CC the ability to do ad-hoc data gathering against our database.
  • MyCC:  Relaunch of the intranet on a SharePoint 2013 environment.  This is the first major system overhaul I completed here at CC.  The success of this project allows us to launch both a Content Management System and Student Portal with much less cost and provide a much more robust, manageable information system.
  • Centralia.Edu CMS project:  Establish a system that facilitates content management on the public website.
  • Centralia College Student Portal:  A proposed project built upon the MyCC Framework to provide a unique student information system for Centralia College students to improve their academic experiences here at Centralia College.
  • CCVote:  An intern developed application to allow students at Centralia College to vote on campus elections.
  • Centralia College Business Intelligence:  Training and development of business intelligence tools including dashboards, pivot tables, and data driven documents.

Essentially, Sam is innovative in how he thinks and that he cares about making people’s lives easier. Thanks for all your amazing work, Sam!


Congratulations to Faculty/Staff Innovator – Dave Peterson

PetersonFamily - edited

Dave Peterson, one of Centralia College’s recognized innovators, teaches Electronics, Robotics and Industrial Automation. Dave says “this includes technical math specifically for electronics, like circuit analysis, graphing and data visualization, and trigonometry applications.”

If you know anything about Dave Peterson, you know he’s no stranger to innovation. He builds robots, for crying out loud. In addition to being one of the youngest instructors to be accepted to tenure track at Centralia College, he helped students of the college’s physics and electronics club launch a “near space vehicle”  90,000 feet into the air carrying data recording equipment during the summer of 2013.

Interestingly enough, he isn’t being recognized for his obvious innovations like those listed above. eLearning is recognizing Dave for his innovations in the classroom that engage students and help them to be even more successful.

In his own words:

The main initiative that we are working on this year is optimizing a lecture capture method tries to best re-create the classroom experience for students who are not able to attend as often. A good percentage of our students have either long commutes or full time jobs which would normally be a huge inconvenience, if not making it altogether impossible to get the training. By making our lectures available online, we can customize the schedules for each person and remove that ‘mandatory confirmation’ to our traditional day or night schedule. Since neither one works for every person.

The main kinds of things we are working on include a heavy integration of Canvas for immediate feedback and thorough description of assignments. Each homework, lab, study guide, etc is outlined in as much detail as possible. The point distribution is also made entirely clear so that time and resource management can be factored in to the right assignments (if something is worth more, they know to budget time accordingly). Also, many students are willing to work ahead as their time allows, and a through use of Canvas assignments allows them to look ahead at future assignments.

Another innovation is whiteboard capturing and recording. The Panopto platform allows simultaneous recording of the computer screen as well as a thumbnail video of the presenter (via a webcam). We use a device called a MimioTeach, which is a magnetic pen tracker that mounts to a standard 8’ whiteboard. The virtual pens are loaded with normal whiteboard markers, so the presenter uses the whiteboard as they normally would. The MimioTeach tracks all motion with a respectable degree of precision, and this is displayed on the PC. Through Panopto, every whiteboard action is recorded alongside the presenter video.

Since they are recorded as opposed to ‘live’ webcasts, the students can then watch at their own leisure, and are free to ask questions through Canvas which can be easily answered the following class period.

In addition to the whiteboard, any PC programs used through the class will also be recorded. In math classes, a heavy emphasis on problem solving through Microsoft Excel is used, including some fairly advanced functions, such as drop-down menus, conditional statements and macros. In Electronics and Robotics, computer simulation software is commonplace, and the screen recording can greatly aid in learning. The video casting features allows students to skip, pause and rewind to review these complicated concepts and try their own variations.

I am always surprised at how little extra work this requires. In the old system, Tegrity, the process allowed a presenter to record right from the desktop application and place the video right into the corresponding Canvas classroom. The same concept is still possible with the Panopto system, and also allows the videos to be either recorded onto the computer, or recorded directly onto the online server.

Students have also reported fewer issues with viewing the videos on Panopto. Since the beginning of Fall 2014, I have only encountered one instance of an incompatible browser plugin, and that was fixed quite easily by following some instructions on the Panopto site. I’m sure there are more reported, but it seems very accessible by the students.

The recordings are imitated with not much more than clicking the “start new recording’ link, providing a descriptive name for the lecture and pressing ‘record’. At the end of the recording after pressing stop, a couple clicks of the mouse sends the video directly to the Canvas page. It couldn’t be much simpler, and I am very impressed with the quality.

There are many variables that affect the performance of a particular class, perhaps nothing more significantly than just the students’ drive and motivation to succeed. But even considering those dynamics, we have observed a dramatic increase in performance through the entire class, with 100% participation and assignment completion in several classes – a landmark that has never been seen before. The students are interacting and participating much more than ever seen before, and I attribute that in large part to our innovations in bringing the classroom home to the students so they have the ability to revisit the day at school whenever they want.

This is definitely just the beginning of Dave’s innovations and we will be looking forward to the wonderful ideas that come from him and his class. Congratulations Dave!

What the What? Word has an MLA Template?

Gif of Amy Poehler saying, "What?"

“What?” Reaction Gifs. Created 25 Mar. 2013. Original video from “Parks and Recreation.”

Seriously, did you know that Word has a template for MLA and APA format? I’m not talking about it setting up your bibliography or Works Cited page for you. I mean an honest-to-goodness (I dare say) fool-proof template. I totally have to give the credit to this find to Associate Professor, Gene Shriver. I knew Word could help you set up your citations and works cited page, but this made my brain explode.

If you’re a student, this is phenomenal because now you don’t have to try and remember all those stupid rules that seem like they don’t make any sense and you won’t get docked points when you feel like the teacher should have been looking at your writing, not the dumb formatting.

If you’re a teacher, this is phenomenal because now students don’t have an excuse for not understanding the formatting rules and you don’t have to continue banging your head up against the wall because you handed them a worksheet, went over lessons, gave them TONS of references and extra help, and yet you still end up repeating yourself over and over and over.

Gif of Charlie Day experiencing a migraine from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

“Tortured” from Created 3 Sep. 2014. Original video from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”


Everybody wins!

Here’s how:

In Microsoft 2013, you get this awesome prompt when you open a new Word document.

Word 2013 - New Document prompt and search window

Word 2013 – New Document Prompt and Search Window

See that cool search bar at the top? Type MLA or APA and hit enter. Then the magic happens.

MLA Template in Word

MLA Template in Word

Now, you have the wonderfulness. The template even has examples for charts, tables and Works Cited. Bloody brilliant! Goodbye headaches of formatting issues. Hello headaches of content-related issues, my old friend.

MLA Research Paper Template in Word

MLA Research Paper Template in Word

This also works with Word 2010, just a little differently. First off, when you open Word, it automatically opens a document and doesn’t ask you if you’d like to open something else. So, you have to actually go tell it you want something different. You do this by clicking on File>New. Then, it offers you choices.

Word 2010 - New Document

Word 2010 – New Document

And, it still offers you that search bar. Type in MLA (or APA, etc.) and you’ll get your template.

Warning sign

Circle-style-warning by Carelesshx, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA

The 2010 template is different than the 2013 template. The 2013 template is much more accurate and detailed.

Using Announcements in Canvas – Do Students Get These?

Large red speakers saying "Announcement" to a crowd of peole

Adapted from “Speakers” from Pixabay

Do You Use the “Announcement” Feature in Canvas?

Beware: Your Students May Not Be Getting the Messages You Think They Are

Using announcements are easy. You just click on that easy little navigation button on the left side of your class, click +Announcement and boom, you could use pictures, videos, attachments, text, etc. Then, click “Save” and you’re golden, right?…Not necessarily.

It’s entirely possible your students aren’t getting these messages or even know that they exist. The reason is because students have to go into their personal settings, click on notifications and make sure the announcements are coming to an email, phone number, Facebook, or Twitter account that they’ll actually look at. The default email is their student email account. The last statistic I heard about how many students check their student email addresses is less than 5%. Those are not good odds.

Well, does that mean you can’t use this really cool tool? No. It just means if you’re going to use it, you have to tell students to expect that you’ll use it and that they need to set up their notification preferences to get the messages they need, when they need them and where they need them. Here’s a really great tutorial on how to set notification preferences from the Canvas Guides.

And now you know…

Announce Responsibly

Ryan Gosling Approves gif


Winter Quarter Survival Tips

Worried male black and white cartoon, holding the sides of his face

“Worried” from openclipart

Are you surviving winter quarter?

Here are a few tips and reminders that should make things easier.

Advising – You can set up a Canvas course for your advisees. Then, you can message all your advisees at the same time in the Canvas messenger or put all the information on the classes or deadlines they need on the home page. Are there classes that are only offered every other year or only one quarter a year that students need to plan for? Do you have an academic planner that students need to fill out? Do you have goal setting activities that could work as ‘assignments’ in Canvas? Aditionally, you could use the amazing Scheduler to set up advising times in Canvas that students can sign up for themselves and get electronic reminders and notifications. If you weren’t able to get it in time for this quarter, think ahead to next quarter.

Gradebook Settings –

If I have not emphasized it enough in the past, allow me to restate. If you’re going to use Canvas for nothing else, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE consider using it for grades. Students are becoming much more familiar with using Canvas for all of their classes. They expect to be able to use it to check their grades. Having their grades visible and up-to-date empowers students to take control of their grades and learning (I know they won’t all do it all the time, but it gives them the opportunity to be empowered). Next, it helps you and ALL the other organizations on campus who need to track student grades for progress reports, etc. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to sign those grade verification forms all the time? Next, having the students’ grades all in the same place makes it easier to do the things we want/need to do as a college like get up-to-date information on students to feed in to an early alert system, research for accreditation and other things. Now, if you’ve decided to use your gradebook, it is always a good idea to check it for the following issues:

  • Make sure your “Assignment” tab has all the assignments and gradebook items you expect (and none that you don’t expect)

The Assignment tab in each of your classes is the key to what is in your gradebook (and what isn’t), how grades are calculated and how assignments are grouped together (or not). So, start with your Assignment tab on the left hand navigation and check out the “Assignment Groups” that are there.

***Common Areas of trouble***
Multiple groups named “Assignment(s)” – this is incredibly confusing to students. Clarify if this is the discussion forum group, essays group, participation group, etc.- Assignment groups with no assignments in them – this is also confusing to students. They think they’re missing something. If you intentionally do this, make sure you explain (and re-explain) to students.

Duplicate assignments – (from Kathy Brooks, SPSCC) The biggest problem here is determining which of the duplicate assignments is the wrong one. Usually one column will have grades (the good assignment) and one will not (the bad assignment). But since both assignments have the same name (Homework #5) – which one should be deleted?  Here’s what I do:

Click on Assignments. Find the two assignments with the same name (Homework #5). Rename one of them – it doesn’t matter which one. I usually just add an “X” to the front of the name:  X-Homework #5.

Now return to the gradebook. Look at the column names and figure out which assignment of the two is the “bad” one. It might be the one with the “X” in the name, or the one without the “X”. Once you know the “bad” assignment, return to Assignments and delete that bad assignment. Now still in Assignments, if necessary, rename the remaining “good” assignment.

Inconsistencies in naming, points, due dates, and dates in general – always check these every quarter, even if you’re “POSITIVE” that they’re fine or imported in. Save yourself and students a lot of stress and heartache. Just double, triple check.

Weighted categories – You can weight your assignment groups, so if you would like students grades to be something like 10% for weekly discussion forums, 20% for weekly homework, 25% for midterm, and 45% for final project, you would just create 4 assignment groups and set up the weights. To set up weighted categories, click on the gear of the assignment group (in the Assignments left hand tab) and click “edit” from the drop down menu. There you can edit the name of the Assignment group, the % of the total grade you want the category worth and it even allows you more functionality by dropping (“ignoring”) as many lowest or highest scores you want and to tell it to never drop certain assignments.

Canvas Assignment Group Edit
Extra Credit – (from Kathy Brooks, SPSCC)

Adding extra credit for a gradebook using just points
There are a couple of easy ways to do this – as long as you are NOT using percentages in your gradebook.

– Simply give a student more points than an assignment is worth. If a student turns in a fabulous paper that’s an assignment worth 10 points, just enter 11 points when you grade the paper. Or enter 12, or 25 or…

– Create a separate assignment. Set it to be worth 0 points. As you grade each individual student in this assignment, simply enter however many points you want. You can create more than one extra credit assignment too. You might name one Extra Credit Homework, Extra Credit Volunteer Work, etc.

Extra credit for a gradebook using percentages and groups
Because of the math involved in calculating percentages for assignments and assignment groups, this becomes a little tricky. However once you “get it”, it makes perfect sense!

– First, for each extra credit assignment determine in your mind, what percentage impact the extra work will have on a final grade. Is that extra paper worth 2% of their total grade? Perhaps that volunteer work is worth 1% of their total grade?

– Go to Assignments. Create a new assignment group for each extra credit assignment. In the example above I’d create two new groups – one for Extra Paper and one for Volunteer Work.  I’d set the percentages for each group as I decided above. Then I create just one assignment in each group – one assignment for the Extra Paper, and another single assignment for the Volunteer Work.  I can set the point value for each of those assignments to whatever I want, because it’s the percentage value of the group that will determine the impact on the final grade.

Using the example above, this is what the Assignments area of my course would look like.  Notice that the total percentage for my course is now 103%.

Canvas - extra credit with percentages

Canvas - extra credit with percentages - groups

Using CrocoDoc to annotate, edit and grade right within Canvas

If you haven’t discovered it yet, CrocoDoc could potentially save you a ton of time and headaches. If you have students turn in a paper, document, PowerPoint, Excel, Image, etc. in Canvas as an assignment, once they turn it in, you have the option in SpeedGrader to make notes, annotate, circle, highlight, strikeout and draw all over the document. It also allows for peer review annotations.

When you open a submission, Crocodoc will automatically save any annotations made to the submission file for one hour. You can restart a Crocodoc session at any time by refreshing the submission page or navigating to another submission. To help you avoid losing work, Canvas will generate a session expiration warning after 50 minutes.

Compatible Crocodoc Files

If a student submits a file that is not compatible with Crocodoc, the document previewer will still display the file, but Crocodoc markup and commenting will not be available.

Canvas supports .doc/.docx, .ppt/.pptx, and .pdf Crocodoc file formats (.xls/.xlsx is not available at this time).


  • Files over 100MB and password-protected files will not be converted by Crocodoc
  • Crocodoc annotations can be viewed on Android devices in the Canvas by Instructure app
  • Crocodoc annotations cannot be viewed by screen readers; for students with accessibility concerns, please leave comments in the Assignment Comments section of the SpeedGrader sidebar

View SpeedGrader Submission

When you open the SpeedGrader™, you will see the Crocodoc preview in the submission window [1]. You can still download the original submission through the SpeedGrader™ [2], grade the submission [3], and add a comment (text, file, or media) [4].

Crocodoc Preview

If a submission includes a file that can be rendered in Crocodoc, but the submission preview is not complete, SpeedGrader™ will generate a message stating the document is still processing.

Note: Crocodoc is not available in beta, so SpeedGrader™ will always show that Crocodoc document previews are in process.

View Crocodoc Toolbar

The Crocodoc Toolbar helps you manage your student submissions with Crocodoc.

The Magnifying Glass icons [1] allow you to zoom in and out on the submission.

The Comment icon [2] allows you to add comments on the submission.

The Download icon [3] allows you to download the submission file and/or the annotated submission file.

If there are multiple pages, the Page arrow icons [4] help you advance through the submission to find the page you want to annotate.

Use Comment Tool

Use Comment Tool

To make a comment, click the Comment button [1]. The commenting menu will expand. Click the comment type menu [2] and select the type of comment you want to create.

In the Comment tool menu, you can leave comments as a Point Comment, Area Comment, or Text Comment. Each comment type is associated with an icon to help you identify the purpose of the comment.

  • The Point Comment lets you place a comment in a specific place in the document.
  • The Area Comment lets you place a comment around a specific area.
  • The Text Comment lets you place a comment within lines or paragraph of text.

Add Point Comment

To leave a Point Comment, select the Point Comment option [1]. Then click in the desired area of the submission [2]. The comment icon will appear indicating the location of the comment.

To delete a comment, hover over the comment in the sidebar and click the Delete link [3]. Crocodoc will confirm you want to delete the comment. You can also reply to student Crocodoc comments by hovering over the comment and clicking the reply link.

To move the comment, hover over the comment icon in the document. Click and drag the comment to the new area.

Add Area Comment

To leave an Area Comment, select the Area Comment option [1]. Then click and drag the rectangle around an area of the submission [2]. A red box will appear indicating the area for the comment.

To delete a comment, hover over the comment in the sidebar and click the Delete link [3]. Crocodoc will confirm you want to delete the comment. You can also reply to student Crocodoc comments by hovering over the comment and clicking the reply link.

To move the comment, hover over the red border. Click and drag the comment to the new area of the document.

Add Text Comment

To leave a Text Comment, select the Text Comment option [1]. Then click and drag to highlight text within the submission [2]. Crocodoc will highlight the text indicating the area for the comment. You can use the Highlight tool color panel [3] to change the color of the highlighted text.

To delete a comment, hover over the comment in the sidebar and click the Delete link [4]. Crocodoc will confirm you want to delete the comment. You can also reply to student Crocodoc comments by hovering over the comment and clicking the reply link.

Use Draw Tool

To make freehand drawings and annotations, you can use the Draw tool. To enable the tool, click the Draw button [1]. Free-form lines will appear indicating the drawing area. You can use the Draw tool colors panel [2] to change the color of the draw tool. When you are satisfied with you drawing, click the Complete link [3]. Otherwise, click the Cancel link and start over.

To delete a drawing at any time, hover over the outline of the drawing and click the drawing. Then click the delete/backspace key. Crocodoc will confirm you want to delete the drawing. To move a drawing, hover over the outline of the drawing, then drag and drop the drawing to to the new area of the document.

Use Highlight Tool

To highlight text within the document, you can use the Highlight Tool. To enable the tool, click the Highlight button [1]. Click and drag to highlight text within the submission. You can use the Highlight tool color panel [2] to change the color of the highlighted text.

To delete a highlight, hover over and click anywhere in the highlighted area. Then click the delete/backspace key. Crocodoc will confirm you want to delete the highlight.

Use Text Tool

To add text directly on the submission, you can use the Text tool. To enable the tool, click the Text button [1]. Click in the desired area of the submission, then type your entry. You can use the Text tool color and size panel [3] to change the color and size of the text. You can also use the transparent icon [4] to place the text box behind or in front of the document text.

To delete text, hover over the text box and click the text box. Then click the delete/backspace key. Crocodoc will confirm you want to delete the text box. To move the text, hover over the text box. Click and drag the text to the new area of the document.

Use Strikeout Text Tool

To indicate that text should be deleted, you can use the Strikeout Text tool. To enable the tool, click the Strikeout button [1]. Click and drag to strike out within the submission. A red line will appear indicating the text has been striked out.

To delete strikeout text, hover over and click anywhere in the strikeout area. Then click the delete/backspace key. Crocodoc will confirm you want to delete the strikeout text.

Download File

To download the submission, in the tool bar, click the download icon [1]. Then choose to download the original file [2], which is the original submission without your comments, or the annotated PDF file [3], which will show all your comments and/or annotations.

Note: When you download a Crocodoc file, it will be saved as doc.[file format]. For example, if a submission was myassignment.doc, the downloaded file will be doc.doc. In order to easily find the Crocodoc file in the future, you may want to rename the downloaded file on your computer.

Student View

Students see annotations by viewing the Submission Details. On the assignment page, students need to click the View Feedback button [1] to view the annotations. Students can reply [2] to comments and leave other feedback [3].

Taken from the Canvas Guides: How do I use Crocodoc in the SpeedGrader(TM)?