Viewing by month: April 2014

Apr 30 2014

Delayed Sending of Mail from CTL Servers

Mail messages sent from CoursePlus, the online course system, and other Center for Teaching and Learning servers between 5:01pm yesterday, April 29, 2014, and 10:05am today, April 30, 2014, was delayed due to problems with the JHU mail gateways. We became aware of this problem early this morning and JHSPH IT team members resolved the problem at approximately 10:05am.

Messages sent from CoursePlus, the online course system, and other Center for Teaching and Learning servers during this time were not lost. They were simply delayed until the issue with the JHU mail gateways was resolved.

We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 10:25 AM - Categories: Online Courses | CoursePlus

Apr 29 2014

Two Changes to the Class Email Tool

As part of the work merging the online course system and CoursePlus, we've made a couple of small and (hopefully) helpful changes to email messages sent from the class email tool.

First, all courses (online or on-campus) will list the course number in the subject line of every message. Currently, online courses display a shortened version of the course name in the subject line. Many students do not know what these shortened versions of the course name mean. Messages sent through CoursePlus currently display the course number in the subject line. By making all courses, regardless of modality, use the same format for the subject line, we'll eliminate some confusion and create a more consistent experience.

Second, all email messages sent through the class email tool will be framed in a nice, gray box and will include a “Go to the class website” button at the bottom of all messages.

This is a small visual change, but makes the messages look nicer. With the addition of the “Go to the class website” button, everyone receiving the message now has an easy way to get to the class website from the email message.

0 comments - Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:45 AM - Categories: Online Courses | Course Tools | CoursePlus

Apr 24 2014

Speeding Up (or Slowing Down) Lecture Playback

One of the advantages of video-based lectures in online courses is that the videos can be sped up or slowed down as needed during playback. The video player used in online courses here at the School has had this capability since May 2013. 

To speed up video playback, press SHIFT + the right arrow key at the same time.

To slow down video playback, press SHIFT + the left arrow key at the same time.

There are whole host of tools for controlling playback of lectures in the online course video player. Simply press the ? key while playing a lecture video to see the full set of controls. You'll see a help screen like this:

Video player controls

In addition to pause/play, speeding up or slowing down playback, you can also jump to 10%, 20%, 30% into the video by pressing the 1, 2 or 3 keys, respectively. This works for all 1-9 keys.

Please note that smartphones (iPhones, Android phones) have their own playback controls that supercede those we build into the online course system. Therefore, speeding up and slowing down the playback of lectures on a mobile device may not be possible depending on the device used.

Additionally, speeding up and slowing down playback of video does not work in Internet Explorer 9 or older versions of Firefox. By having an up-to-date browser, you'll have the full set of playback controls available to you!


Posted by Brian Klaas at 10:02 AM - Categories: Online Courses

Apr 22 2014

"Recent Items from the Online Library" Box on the Course Home Page

When the online course and CoursePlus systems merge at the end of the academic year, we'll be introducing a new element to course home pages: a "Recent Items from the Online Library" box on each course home page. This box includes the five most recently uploaded (or replaced) files or links in the course Online Library.

Aside from making the course home page more useful, the other purpose of this addition is to help replace some of the functionality on the “What’s New” page in CoursePlus. In case you don't know, when students sign into CoursePluse, there is a “What’s New” link next to each course in which they are enrolled. This page lists recently added quizzes, surveys, Drop Boxes and Online Library files for a specific course. Unfortunately, this feature won't make it into to the merged CoursePlus right away because it’s not a very scalable tool (it takes 5-7 seconds to gather all the data for just one course). It also helps to divert students from actually going into a CoursePlus site and engaging in the full scope of activities therein. It’s certainly convenient, and our hope is that — while no replacement for a custom, per-person, per-course “What’s New” page — the "Updates to the Online Library Box” will help replace some of this convenience.

0 comments - Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:24 AM - Categories: Online Courses | Course Tools | CoursePlus

Apr 17 2014

Variable Credit Courses Will Not Be Listed in the Merged CoursePlus

When the online course and CoursePlus systems merge at the end of the academic year, there will be a change to the courses listed on the "Course List" view in CoursePlus.

Currently, if you go to the CoursePlus home page and click on “Course List,” you will see variable credit courses listed. These are generally .840 courses, though there are a handful of others which have variable credit. We cannot create CoursePlus sites for those course numbers as a) there’s no faculty assigned to these courses, and b), more importantly, there’s no single course for all students who may have signed up for that variable credit SSR. Everyone is doing something different. If faculty need a CoursePlus site for special courses that have students register as SSRs, faculty can request a non-catalog CoursePlus site and the CTL team will gladly set one up.

These courses generally have no information (description, learning objectives, methods of assessment, etc.) in the SPH course catalog. These courses also cause confusion on the part of students who register for variable-credit courses and don't see them listed when they sign into CoursePlus. Faculty who teach a group of students as an SSR are also often confused as to why a .840 course isn't available to them to set up, when, in fact, they simply need to request a non-catalog CoursePlus site for that group.

After discussion of the above with a number of teams and with the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, we have decided that variable-credit courses will not be listed in the merged system. If you questions about this, please contact the Center for Teaching and Learning.

0 comments - Posted by Brian Klaas at 4:24 PM - Categories: Online Courses | CoursePlus

Apr 17 2014

The Flipped Classroom

You may have heard of flipping the classroom as a model for active learning that works well in graduate level courses. It is not new, and some instructors are already practicing it here at JHSPH, but I often get questions about how to more effectively add these techniques into a course. Instructors want to know how much time it takes and if it is worth the effort. 

The flipped classroom is really just a way of making the most of face-to-face class time. Particularly with an eight week term, efficacy in short amounts of time is really important. When students leave your classroom, what is it that you want them to be able to do? Recite a few key points that they picked up from the readings and lectures? Or do you want them to have a deeper level of understanding and the confidence that comes from having applied their learning and worked through complicated problems? Flipping the classroom can help achieve this second outcome. Usually it works like this: there is some homework assigned, maybe even before the first day of class. It can be reading, watching a lecture, or listening to a podcast, something passive where students are getting the background information they need to be able to be an active participant in class. This prepares students to engage in class, and also gives them some confidence that they have some basis for participating when the time comes. Once in class, there are various activities that range from discussion, to group work, to case studies and problem solving, or even letting students teach a section, all of these help students to get a more memorable experience out of the course.

A key to success in the flipped classroom is setting student expectations up front. Letting students know what is expected of them and why you are doing what you are doing. This allows students to take a more active role in their education, and ultimately, get more out of the course. 

My colleagues and I are happy to talk in more detail about your specific courses and questions about implementing a similar model in your classroom. Drop by E5620, Wednesdays from 10-12 or Thursdays from 1:30-3:30, or come by any time and pick up a handout from our office door. 

We look forward to seeing you soon!


Findlay-Thompson, S., & Mombourquette, P. (2013). EVALUATION OF A FLIPPED CLASSROOM IN AN UNDERGRADUATE BUSINESS COURSE. Global Conference On Business & Finance Proceedings8(2), 138-145.

Bergmann, J., Overmyer, J., Wilie, B. (Aprils, 2012). The flipped class: What it is and what it is not. Retrieved from


For even more information on the topic:

Additional Flipped Classroom Resources Including an Infographic

May 8th Inside Higher Ed The Flipped Classroom Webinar

0 comments - Posted by Amy Kitchens at 3:12 PM - Categories: Teaching Tips

Apr 15 2014

CoursePlus 101: Signing In and Setting Up a Site in the New CoursePlus

While the look of the new CoursePlus is definitely different, the process of signing in to CoursePlus and setting up a CoursePlus site is very similar to how that process worked in the past. This video walks you through the process, and points out some of the subtle changes along the way:

Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:37 AM - Categories: CoursePlus 101

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