Archives for May 2014

What’s the State of College Readiness in the U.S.?

Did you know that for every 100 ninth-graders, only 70 gradate high school? This video about college readiness in the United States reveals some alarming realities facing educators and students today.

Proud of my cousin, Jared Abbrederis, drafted by Green Bay Packers

Jared Abbrederis My family was so excited to learn that my 2nd cousin, Jared Abbrederis, a former walk-on wide receiver who just finished his career with the Wisconsin Badgers, was drafted by the Green Bay Packers.

For anyone wondering the family connection, my mom’s maiden name is Abbrederis and Jared’s grandpa Abbrederis and my grandpa Abbrederis are brothers, making my mom and Jared’s dad 1st cousins, and Jared and me 2nd cousins.

Not only is our family excited, but so is my entire hometown, Wautoma, WI where Jared also grew up and his family currently lives. The entire community is sharing it’s pride.

Jared has defied the odds time and time again during his high school and collegiate athletic career. In high school, despite suffering a devastating leg injury, he went on to win multiple state championships as a track star, breaking state records in the 110m high hurdles and 300m intermediate hurdles, as well as lead his high school football team and track teams to state championships as a senior.

Jared with state championship trophiesJared holding high school track and football championship trophies

He went on to be a walk-on at the University of Wisconsin, where through his hard work and dedication he become one of the all-time greatest wide receivers at UW, finishing his career tied for the school record for receptions (202) and ranked No. 2 all-time at Wisconsin in receiving yards (3,140) and touchdown receptions (23).


Being from Wisconsin, our family has always been huge Badgers fans, but all the more with Jared playing on the team. While he’s certainly well-known throughout WI, my girls may be among his biggest fans!

meeting JaredMy daughters, ages 2 and 5, meeting Jared at Badgers Family Fun Day in 2013

The entire Abbrederis family certainly couldn’t be prouder of Jared!

Abby FamilySome of the Abbrederis family with Jared following big win

Playing for the Packers would be a dream come true for Jared…and he’s now one step closer to that dream become reality! Leading up to the draft, he and his family talked about the opportunity to possibly playing for the Packers. Here are a couple of videos of Jared leading up to the draft in which he was asked about the possibility of playing for the Packers:

It’s been fun following all the conversations and media about Jared since the draft. Here are a few tweets and links to articles immediately following his draft announcement by the Packers:

As you might suspect, I couldn’t be prouder of the outstanding young man the Jared has become and I’ll be continuing to follow Jared’s career as he launches his NFL career as a Packer, where he’ll be wearing #84. As I come across further news about Jared, I plan to share it to the Jared Abbrederis Fan Club on Facebook so feel free to follow along Jared’s journey there. You can also follow him on Twitter @abbrecadabra.

Jared Abbrederis bio

Excited to be Receiving Blackboard Exemplary Course Catalyst Award at BbWorld 2014

Blackboard Catalyst Award WinnerI was excited to learn that my Blackboard course, ETT 510: Instructional Media and Technology, which I designed and taught online during Fall 2013, has been reviewed by the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program and received the distinction of being named an Exemplary Course. Below is the email notice I received from Lauren Krznaric at Blackboard:

On behalf of Blackboard and the Exemplary Course Program Directors, I am pleased to inform you that your course, Instructional Media and Technology, has been recognized as a 2014 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Exemplary Course. Congratulations on this achievement! You join a select group of educators and course designers from around the world whose courses have earned the Exemplary Course designation.

One of my reviewers, Leah Chuchran, shared these kind comments on Twitter:

Below is a sampling of some of the great feedback I received from reviewers of my course, including:

This is a really well-designed course. I kept trying to find a ‘weak link’ in the course navigation but just couldn’t do it! This is good, right? It’s not an easy feat to design a course that is clear to navigate, robust in content and not feeling like I am lost somewhere trying to find something. The units make sense and the links within keep everything organized. The downloadable syllabus and the schedule were also easily accessed – so important! Exemplary work.

It is evident that Dr. Rhode has a passion for higher ed/online education AND design/development skills. It’s also evident that he enjoys the facilitation side and teaching both theory and practice and engaging with learners. The audience for this course really is awesome and ripe for a well-developed course – what more could one ask for? The embedded YouTube videos and especially the channel are an excellent addition to the course. Aggregated content in this fashion is so valuable for the learners. I really enjoy the fact that the synchronous sessions are scheduled and the students are expected to attend in this online class. I think that really is important and should be integrated as much as possible in the online environment.

The learning activities truly embody the student-content, student-student and student-instructor theory and practice. The learners were offered an opportunity to gain many new skills, even if there was a “stretch” involved. I love how the learners were surveyed about their technical skills so you could gauge your audience. The journal activity seems to be a key component and allow you to “take the temperature”. In addition, I really enjoyed both the ID model presentation as well as the tech-integrated ID plan assignments. Especially the models/templates that were provided – I can imagine how much time this saved both parties in the process.

I think that learner support was one of the main foci for this course, from the course design to the variety of content to support learning to the learning activities in which students were given opportunities to perform and shine.

The course design is exemplary. It’s easy to navigate and it just makes sense. It provides the learners with all of the necessary information to be successful and to jump right in and feel like they can begin learning the subject at hand, not how to get to the content and activities.

The learning activities are awesome. Assessment of each of the activities is thorough and clear with the rubrics. Each of the activities is appropriate for the audience.

Student engagement is obvious throughout, including in the discussions and the group projects. The feedback on the various assignments were also important in creating engagement.

I truly hope it is nominated as one of the Bb Exemplary Courses for 2013. It truly is one of the most well-designed courses I’ve seen.

The Blackboard Catalyst Awards will formally be presented at the Blackboard Catalyst Awards Luncheon on Thursday, July 17th at Blackboard’s annual worldwide user conference, BbWorld. As an exemplary course winner, I’ll be preparing a poster presentation for BbWorld, a screencast course tour, and also may be giving another information session at BbWorld (if proposal is accepted) with tips for exemplary course design in Blackboard.

Thank you to all my NIU ETRA Technology Specialist cohort students in the course this past fall and for your valuable feedback that guided the course design and delivery. I’ve previously shared my tips learned through the experience with other faculty and am currently in the process of designing a new course, ETT 511: Advanced Instructional Media and Design following the same principles of quality course design.

I was also thrilled to hear that the NIU MOOC that my colleagues Stephanie Richter and Tracy Miller helped develop has also received the Exemplary Course Award, also to be recognized at BbWorld!

For faculty who have never considered participating in the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program, I encourage you to do so! More details are available at

#ETT511 Course Podcast – Summer 2014

ETT 511 - Advanced Instructional Media DesignIn addition to the course videos being available on YouTube for #ETT511 this summer, I’ll plan to try also making audio-only versions of my weekly course videos available as a course podcast that you can subscribe to using any podcast app of your choice (options include Downcast, Instacast, Apple’s Podcast app, or others to and be able to then easily download & access all future course podcast episodes directly from your smart phone or tablet.

The course podcast will contain audio-only versions of all course videos (so, you can choose to either view the videos or listen to the audio in podcast form). You don’t need to watch both, unless you would like to hear the same message twice 🙂

Here’s the podcast URL you can use to subscribe to our course podcast in your podcast app of choice:

I’ll be curious to hear at the end of the course whether you preferred the audio or video option for my communications in the course.

How to Create a Course Podcast Using Dropbox and JustCast in 5 Easy Steps

I’ve been a long-time proponent of podcasting in education and I shared back in 2012 how to create a course podcast using Dropbox. The process I shared at that time, while free and workable, was still a bit cumbersome a presented a few minor technical hurdles that faculty needed to overcome in order when implementing. I recently learned of a new tool, JustCast, that removes the previous technical hurdles and makes podcasting using Dropbox super simple!

This 2-minute tutorial demonstrates how easy it is to create a podcast using Dropbox:

JustCast Tutorial

I decided to give JustCast a try myself. Below are the steps I took to setup a course podcast for my summer course, ETT 511: Advanced Instructional Media Design, in less than 5 minutes! Before following my steps below, you’ll need to first have a Dropbox account, which you can sign-up for free at

Step 1: Sign-up for a Free Account

After I viewing the tutorial at, I signed-up for a free account. In a matter of just a couple of clicks, I had approved the JustCast app in my Dropbox account. After logging in, my JustCast Shows page looked like this:

JustCast Shows

Step 2: Edit “example” Dropbox Folder Name

As part of the JustCast install process, it creates a folder called “justcast” in your “Apps” folder in your Dropbox folder. Within that “justcast” folder will be a subfolder called “example” that is meant to be the placeholder for your first podcast. I renamed that folder to the name of my course podcast, “ETT 511 – Summer 2014” so it appeared as follows:

renamed podcast folder

Step 3: Place .mp3 File in Podcast Folder

With my course podcast folder renamed to “ETT 511 – Summer 2014” I then simply dragged and dropped the .mp3 file for my first podcast episode into that folder within Dropbox on my computer, which then sync’d with my Dropbox in the cloud. Once sync’d, I could see that the audio file for my first episode was within my Dropbox/Apps/justcast/ETT 511 – Summer 2014/ folder
Podcast file
For each new episode to be added in the future, the new .mp3 file will simply need to be added to this folder.

Step 4: Edit Podcast Details

I then went ahead and edited my podcast show details in JustCast. Clicking the “Edit” button I added the following show details and attached a square graphic to be used as the thumbnail artwork for the podcast.
edit show details

After saving the edited show info, the podcast appeared in my list of shows as follows:
edited podcast show details

Step 5: Share Podcast RSS URL

The final step was to click the “RSS” button for my show to get the RSS feed for my course podcast, which is

podcast RSS feed

Students can copy/paste this URL into their own podcast app of choice, such as Downcast, Instacast, Apple’s Podcast app, or others to subscribe and be able to easily download & access all future course podcast episodes directly from their mobile device.

I’ve been very impressed thus far with JustCast, even though it is currently just beta. I plan to continue using it for my course podcast this summer and I’d encourage other educators looking for a simple and free podcasting solution to give it a try! The free plan currently limits to 100mb of uploading per month, with an unlimited monthly upload option for just $5/mo.

Have you tried JustCast and/or found these steps helpful? What has been your experience thus far with podcasting using Dropbox and JustCast? Leave a comment with your thoughts!