The Office of Distance Education West Chester University | Fall 2016

In This Issue

  • Faculty Focus: Dr. Susan Fiorentino
  • New Online Program: MS in Human Resource Management
  • What's New in the Office of Distance Education?
  • Upcoming Events and Training Opportunities
  • Did you know?
  • Tech Tools To Turn To
  • Follow us!
  • Support Hours

Faculty Focus

Some Thoughts on Student Engagement in an Online Course

Dr. Susan Fiorentino

Assistant Professor of Management

Coordinator, M.S. in Human Resource Management

I have been teaching in an online format for a little over a year, and like most professors who have transitioned to online teaching, my experience has been one of trial and error. Initially, I shared the skepticism of many who expressed concern about how to engage students in a distance education environment. The truth is, I love having faces—real faces—in front of me when I teach. So for me, I wanted to make engagement with students a priority.

This fall, the university launched a new Master of Science in Human Resource Management, which is being offered in a 100% online format. The challenge for any new program is to help students form a sense of community for learning, and this can be especially difficult in a new online program. Student engagement within the online course is critical, as students don’t have the opportunity to interact in a face-to-face setting.

There are a number of ways to increase student engagement, but I’d like to share one particular video learning app that I have found very helpful. Practice, formerly ApprenNet, is an educational tool that allows students to apply what they have learned in a class and to share it with other students for feedback. I have used Practice in two different ways: 1) as a tool for hypothetical case simulations; and 2) for student presentations.

Case Studies: Practice is ideal for case study simulations. It begins with a “Challenge Video” that is taped by the instructor who poses a hypothetical scenario that the student must solve. The student is then asked to upload a response video to the challenge. Typically, this video is 5-8 minutes in length.

After the student videos are uploaded, each student is required to review 3 other student videos in the class and make constructive comments based on a rubric which the instructor provides. After the review period, the instructor can then post an expert response so that students can see what the ideal answer would entail.

This use of Practice is a great pedagogical tool for an online course, because it provides a means by which students can learn from and evaluate other students in the class. As an aside, it also serves to help students with communicating ideas responsive to a prompt, and to do so in a succinct manner.

I have received great feedback from students about this use of Practice.

Student Presentations: In all of my face-to-face classes, I assign a student presentation component. With the help of the Practice staff, I learned that Practice is a great tool for doing student presentations online as well. So, this past semester I had the students present their research from their final research paper via Practice. First, I posted the Challenge video which outlined the requirements of the presentation. Then each student prepared an 8-10 minute video summarizing their research. After the videos were submitted, students had to watch and evaluate 3 other student research projects. This enabled students to once again learn from other students in the class, and evaluate their work based on my rubric.

General Comments: Overall, I have been so impressed by the support I receive as a Practice user from the Practice staff. There have been many occasions when I have e-mailed late on a Sunday night and receive an instant response from someone. In addition, there is a “help” tab for students and again I have found the response rate to be wonderful.

In short, Practice is an excellent tool to help connect students with other students in the class. It is an integral part of my pedagogical approach in my online courses.

New Online Program!

M.S. in Human Resource Management

The 30-credit online M.S. in Human Resource Management prepares students to advance in the Human Resource profession at the highest levels. It trains students in all facets of Human Resource Management across industries and organizational types.

What's New in the Office of Distance Education?

Meet Our New Online Support Specialist

Jessica Drass

Jessica holds a Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. While she was a student here at WCU, Jessica was an intern at the IT Help Desk on campus where she gained experience supporting faculty, staff, and students. After graduating, she worked as an IT Support Analyst for a healthcare company. She is excited for this opportunity to return to the WCU Community, and offer quality support to our Distance Education faculty and students. Please join us in welcoming Jessica to the Office of Distance Education! Jessica can be contacted at or 610-436-3375.

National Recognition

The Office of Distance Education's first iBook authored by Instructional Designer, Marc Drumm, was selected as a 2016 iBooks Author Conference Award Finalist in the category of 'Best iBook of the Year, Education (School Activities)'. The winner will be announced on Thursday, October 6, at the 2016 iBooks Author Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The iBook, Ten Ways Teachers Tame Twitter, can be downloaded for free using the iBooks App on any Apple Device.

Upcoming Events and Training Opportunities

Open House!

We will be having an Open House, co-sponsored by Kutztown University! Please join us on Friday, November 4, 2016, from 10am-1pm, in Sykes 117A. Lunch will be provided. More details will be coming out closer to the event. Please RSVP by 10/21/16.

Webinars | Fridays at 11am

Webinars can be accessed here! (Be sure to bookmark the link!)

  • 10/14: Creating an Accessible Word Document
  • 10/21: Interactive Elements in Online Courses
  • 10/28: Techniques for Engaging Synchronous Sessions

Faculty Seminar Series

Lunch is provided. To attend, please RSVP to Pat Brander at x2948 or

  • 10/19: 12:00-1:15pm. 1st Time Online Faculty Share their Experiences
  • 11/17: 12:30-1:45pm. Student Presentation Tools

Self-Paced Technology Training

Trainings are 100% online, and facilitated by an instructional designer.

Online Faculty Development Program

This program satisfies the CAPC training requirements for online faculty, and is 100% online. The next session runs from October 10-28.

Be sure to visit our website for more information about upcoming events!

Did you KNow?

Distance Education Enrollment Data: Fall 2016

170 Online Courses (3312 Student Seats)

42 Blended Courses (1567 Student Seats)

5 ITV Courses (41 Student Seats)

That's a total of 217 courses and 4920 student seats!

Look how we've grown over the years

Combined total number of online, blended, and ITV course sections offered each Fall Semester.
Combined total number of student seats for online, blended, and ITV courses each Fall Semester.

Tech Tools to Turn to

Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark consists of three, free web-tools that can be utilized to create content that has a clean and professional look.

Adobe Spark Video: Users can create animated videos by using a template created by Adobe, or starting from scratch. Users can incorporate their own images and sound files, as well as content found in Adobe's library of images, icons, and music.

Adobe Spark Page: This tool can be used to create web pages which are great for reports, newsletters, and digital storytelling. Users can choose from a variety of professional looking themes, and have access to Adobe's library of royalty-free photos. Pages created with this tool look great across a variety of devices (computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.). This newsletter was created using Adobe Spark Page.

Adobe Spark Post: Adobe Spark Post can be used to create professional-looking graphics for course modules, social media posts, presentations, and more. The Instructional Designers here in the Office of Distance Education often use this tool to create banners for courses in D2L.

All content created in Adobe Spark can be shared by providing users with a shareable link, or by using an embed code to get the content on your course, blog, or website. They can also be shared directly to Facebook, Twitter, or a user's email address. Videos and Posts created in Adobe Spark can also be downloaded and saved to your computer.

Follow us!

Come and be a part of our growing online community! Learn some new tricks on #TechTipTuesday and join in on the conversation on #ThoughtfulThursday. Use the buttons below to follow us.

Add us on SnapChat using the SnapCode pictured above, or search for our handle: wcuonline

Distance Education Online Support Hours

Monday-Thursday: 8am-8pm

Sunday: 12pm-8pm

Distance Education Online Support Line: 610-436-3373

Distance Education Online Support e-mail:

Contact us

Wayne Hall 324

125 W. Rosedale Ave.

West Chester, PA 19383

Phone: 610-436-2948

Fax: 610-436-2189



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