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Online Social Work Teaching and Learning Resource Center

Top 5 Tips for Improving your Online Course

1.  Display your information in new ways:

Create an online flyer in less than 10 minutes that has its own url and can be shared via blackboard and social media sites!

Check out ThingLink ( to create multimedia graphic images:


2.  Learn about Open Educational Resources and how you can incorporate them into your Blackboard courses.

The summary about Open Educational Resources is written by Diane Shepelwich, the Outreach and Scholarship Librarian at the Central Library at UT Arlington (

Open Educational Resources: Affordable, Adaptable, Accessible

Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely accessible online teaching and learning materials. They can be delivered in a variety of formats such as complete courses, textbooks, lectures, videos, podcasts, and course modules. Using OER in your classroom improves student engagement and success (de los Arcos, 2014), provides immediate, equitable access to resources, saves money for your students, and provides you a venue to use adaptable, high-quality learning materials in your individualized curriculum.

In the 2013 US Public Interest Research Group Education survey of 2,039 students from 150 universities, students were asked about the affordability of textbooks; “65% of students said that they had decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive” (Senack, 2014, p.4). Additionally, 94% of those students believed that not purchasing the textbook would negatively impact their grade in the course. Providing students with OER that are readily accessible at no or little expense to them allows students to immediately engage in the course and reduces financial stress.

Locating high-quality, relevant OER to integrate into your curriculum may be time consuming; however, your subject librarian is available to assist in the process. Library staff is working on developing tools and procedures to review OER which will save faculty time while still providing freedom of choices to OER that fit your specific discipline and curricular needs. The beauty of OER includes the ability to adapt materials to fit your teaching needs.

Tips for finding and using OER:

  1. There are lots of OER materials out there. It takes time and persistence to find the ones that best fit your students' academic and research needs.
  2. Instead of focusing on the textbook that you want to replace, focus on what you want your students to know or do.
  3. Visit these guides to find out more about OER and to find scholarly OER relevant to your discipline: & (under construction)
  4. Talk with Diane Shepelwich,, about questions you have concerning OER.


Guidelines for making OERs accessible to all students:

Check out Blackboard’s new integrated tool from Follett:

3.  Incorporate Social Media into your online course:

Introducing Twitter to students:

4.  Explore the concept of microlearning:

This summary about Video-based Microlearning is written by Justin Dellinger, Research Coordinator in the LINK Research Lab at UT Arlington

The increasing prevalence of mobile device use, online courses, and non-traditional student admissions in higher education provides opportunities to move beyond lecture-based content in standard classrooms. Demographic, technological, and pedagogical trends continue to transform facets of traditional universities to account for dynamic learner needs and preferences. Microlearning can address some of these needs since it embodies short instances of learning facilitated by media, the internet, mobile devices, and other tools and mediums for learning (Hug, 2010; 2012). This strategy is especially useful for non-traditional students, fully-online courses, and face-to-face instructors interested in using a blended/hybrid learning model.

One particularly effective way to utilize microlearning is through the use of media. Video-based segments allow instructors to present information in a concise, topical manner. After watching snippets, learners can immediately receive feedback on their comprehension of specific content through brief checks for knowledge. This feedback can take place through low-stake or no-stakes assessments meant to help learners self-check their knowledge. Learners can quickly return to a video if they missed specific objectives, and then move forward to the next topic. Later comprehensive assignments, to include discussion-based activities, papers, and examinations, can formally assess mastery of the objectives (Semingson, Crosslin, & Dellinger, 2015).

There are a number of options for instructors to implement this microlearning strategy at UT Arlington. Three examples include the following:

  1. Utilizing a common presentation tool like Microsoft PowerPoint allows for the integration of video snippets and checks for knowledge in the same location. Instructors can integrate videos and quizzes into slides by use of hyperlinks. This is great for no-stakes assessment as it allows students to quickly see correct or incorrect answers.
  2. Using software applications like iSpring allows for more complex and visually stimulating assessments. iSpring, in particular, can integrate with PowerPoint to create HTML5 and Flash quizzes. Programs such as these typically have an associated cost.

  3. A simple alternative could be to use add a video segment into the Blackboard learning management system followed by an associated quiz. This pattern can continue until all topics are covered and mastered. If there is desire to make the assignment low-stakes instead of no-stakes, this would allow for easy integration into Blackboard’s gradebook.

Microlearning allows instructors to produce meaningful content in online and hybrid/blended course formats. This content can engage learners in brief, measurable chunks and provide opportunities for self-assessment and reflection. It is also effective practice for non-traditional students with unique learning needs and preferences.…/faculty/kaltura-adding-media.php…/how-to/create-assessment.php

5.  Explore and experiment with new tools and apps that can be seamlessly added to your course!

EduAppCenter provides an extensive listing of tools you can use in your LMS (Blackboard included). It gives specific directions on how to use and integrate them into Blackboard.