Introducing SAMR

Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition, otherwise known as SAMR.

SAMR is a model for integrating technology into your classes that was developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura. The strength of the SAMR model is that it allows you to start small with the knowledge you already have and to begin using technology to do a task that you already do. For example, you may substitute your paper calendar for a digital one. Later, you may decide to step up your technology use by sharing this calendar with others to coordinate scheduling, augmenting your use of a digital calendar in a way that you could not have done with a paper calendar. For more examples of integrating technology in small, but manageable steps, take a look at SAMR and Bloom’s Taxonomy and listen to Dr. Puentedura describe his model in the video below. 

Wrapping Up Lesley’s LMS Review

In September 2015, the Digital Experience Committee and Teaching and Learning with Technology Committee (TL Tech) kicked off a review of several learning management systems (LMS). Lesley has been using Blackboard as its LMS since 2005 and we last conducted an LMS review back in 2011. eLearning and the LMS market have changed a lot since then. It seemed worth looking at the available options to see if Blackboard is still meeting the needs of our faculty and students.

After initial conversations and demos with several vendors, test environments were provided for three LMS tools: Desire2Learn/Brightspace, Schoology and Canvas. A smaller team tested each tool from both the faculty and student perspective and reported back to the committees. After careful review, the committees decided to take a closer look at Canvas as it compared to Blackboard.

Blackboard has a lot of built-in functionality that many other LMS’s do not. Faculty have a lot of flexibility on how they present their course content, including a fully customizable course menu and the ability to organize content in folders, modules, or a combination of both. Blackboard features integrated blog, journal and wiki tools for student created content, as well as an anti-plagiarism tool built right into the assignment tool. Blackboard’s robust gradebook provides faculty with a wide range of grading options as well as the ability to create grade columns as needed and calculate weighted grades. However, all those options and features can be overwhelming and unintuitive for some faculty and students.

Canvas is overall very intuitive to use, but at the cost of some functionality that we have come to expect in an LMS. Faculty can easily create content in Canvas, especially when it comes to adding images, documents and links, but are presented with fewer formatting options beyond the basics. Students, however, cannot easily add images or documents to discussion posts or wiki pages unless they are within a group area. Canvas presents content only in paged modules (not folders) and only course tools such as Modules, Discussions, Assignments, etc. can be included in the course menu. Students and faculty who wish to move through content out of sequence, such as revisiting prior content, may find it more click-heavy to navigate. Canvas does not have a native blog or journal tool and the ‘wiki’ is not a true wiki site, but an individual editable page that can be added anywhere in the course. There is also no built-in anti-plagiarism tool. The gradebook is more intuitive than Blackboard’s, but not quite as fully featured. For example, faculty are not able to manually create grade columns but, instead, must create assignments within in a content area, which would automatically be added to the gradebook.  

There were a lot of very good things about Canvas, but, overall, there was no strong faculty support for it. Throughout the demos, testing, and frequent conversations with faculty, there was a great concern about a loss of features if we were to switch to Canvas. Faculty didn’t feel there were enough positives and sufficient gain to warrant the huge endeavor of time, energy and money a transition would require. The decision was made to stay with Blackboard for now. In Fall 2017, we will restart our LMS review and take another look. Perhaps, the LMS landscape will be more interesting.

If you have questions or comments about the LMS Review, please email

Getting Started with Open Education Resources

What is OER?
The Hewelett Foundation defines Open Educational Resources as: “teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits free use and repurposing by others.”

OER may include textbooks, videos, tests and assessments, software, course content and even full courses. These materials are shared under Creative Commons licensing which allows the content to be freely used, copied, and remixable. The goal is have content that is free of barriers to access and sharing for educational use.

Why do I care about OER?
Textbooks are expensive. Using OER instead of publisher content that students must purchase makes education more affordable. OER gives you freedom to decide what to teach when in your course. Simply plan your course and then look for the resources to support your content and assignments rather than following the textbook structure. OER are just as good, and sometimes better, than publisher content.

Why isn’t everyone using OER?
In a 2014 survey, most faculty were unaware of OER. Those who were aware were deterred by the lack of search tools. Locating appropriate resources took too much time and energy. Fortunately, the lack of search tools is changing. Over the last decade several OER repositories and search tools have appeared to curate all this incredibly useful content.

Where can I find OER?
These searchable sites are great places to start looking for content you can use in your classes.
MIT OpenCourseWare
Open Stax College
College Open Textbooks
OER Commons

Updating Your Syllabus in myLesley

In this episode, Agent L helps faculty easily update their syllabus AND all the links to it their myLesley course.

BenBen Friday: Hi, Agent L. No time to talk now. We will have to grab coffee some other time. Must run.

Agent L: Ben, what happened? Why is everyone so busy?

Ben: A new semester started and faculty have uploaded their updated syllabi to their myLesley courses.

Agent L: That’s great! They are sharing their syllabi digitally instead of on paper. … Isn’t it…?

Ben: Yes, but they’ve linked to the syllabus from multiple places in their online course site. All of those links need to be updated with the new file. It’s a lot of work to go through your course to find and update them all.

Agent L: Ummmm…. Ben…. there’s a much easier way to do this.

Ben: What? How?

Agent L: We can overwrite the old syllabus file with the new one in Course Files. All the links to that file will be updated to the new file in one step. Here, let me show you.

Log into the course you need to update. Then go to the Course Management area in the left-hand menu.

CourseFiles  agent L

Click on Content Collection and then the Course ID for your course. It’s elis_training_2014 for this course. This will open up the Course Files area of your course. It contains every file (documents, images, videos) uploaded to your course.

Locate the syllabus file in the list. Now click on the gray arrow at the end of the file name. Select Overwrite File from the menu that opens.

overwrite file

Click Choose File and locate the updated syllabus document on your computer.

choose file

The new syllabus MUST have the same file name as the old syllabus. The contents of the document can change, but you will need to save the new syllabus with the same name as the old one.

old file name Syllabus_English101.docx Syllabus_Fall2015.docx
new file name Syllabus_English101.docx Syllabus_Spring2016.docx

Once you have selected your updated syllabus file, click Submit.

That’s it. All the links to the syllabus will now download the new one.

Ben: You mean we don’t need to tediously go through the entire course and change all the links. We only need to replace the file.

Agent L: Yep. As long as the new syllabus has the same file name, it will work perfectly. It also works with reading lists, study guides, rubrics, images… any file really.

Ben: Wow! That’s great! Maybe I have time for coffee after all.


agent LTo learn more about how to best take advantage of your Course Files, see Blackboard’s Best Practices on Attaching Files. For more myLesley tutorials, visit the Agent Support Site.

Pump Up Your Pedagogy

Next week is Pump Up Your Pedagogy week. Join us for three days of events. Learn more about:

  • preparing for missed classes due to snow or other emergencies
  • how to engage students with social media
  • creating and managing online discussions
  • collaborating online using OneDrive and Skype for Business
  • creating and using video with Kaltura
  • using VoiceThread for peer review
  • finding grant resources
  • the library’s streaming video databases
  • the mobile constructivist classroom
  • and much much more….

Faculty Development Day on January 21st will focus on inclusivity and how to create a safe and inclusive classroom environment.

Download the schedule and make your plans. We’ll see you there.