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SUNY Effective Online Practices Award Program

E-Portfolios for Learning & Development

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Online Teaching & Learning Practices

The E-Portfolio set of learning activities and assignments in a semester-long online course (undergraduate and graduate) incorporates deep learning and transfer experiences for learners. Learners engage in cycles of exploring a topic, identifying relevant content, making sense of it, and integrating it into their long-term memory through connection-making and eventually creating digital artifacts. The digital artifacts represent the learners’ “take” on the topic and can include infographics, blog posts, annotated bibliographies, vlogs, screencast videos, audio podcasts, and others. Over time and in iterative cycles, learners revise their work (digital artifacts), incorporating new understandings from ongoing learning experiences in the course, expanding the connections they’ve identified, and ultimately publishing their artifacts to a public platform of their choosing in a coherent, curated collection – their e-portfolio (website or e-book).

The E-portfolio helps instructors to bring their learning outcomes to life by scaffolding learners to synthesize course content, communicate it in diverse, multi-media formats, and continually add to and refine their understanding and skills related to the course. Learners leave with a curated digital set of evidence of their knowledge, skills, and mindsets from the course along with key habits of lifelong learning. Employers are able to see extensive evidence of graduates' career competencies such as communication, team work, critical thinking, and digital literacy.

Finally, ongoing multi-year research in an IRB-approved study indicates that learners find the activities and assignments quite challenging initially, and over time, recognize their enormous personal value for their learning and career goals.

The University at Buffalo School of Social Work launched a new online Doctorate in Social Work (DSW) program in the fall of 2019. A key aspect of the program is to position graduates to become thought leaders on how emerging technologies can be integrated into the practice of Social Work. This award application describes how Virtual Reality (VR) was integrated across the curriculum and the supports that were developed to aid students in learning this new technology and thinking about how it could be integrated into Social Work practice. VR was integrated into the DSW program using sound curriculum and instructional design principles. Learning activities were designed to help students understand how VR is being integrated into health-related professions, instruct students on how to successfully employ head mounted VR devices (HMD), provide experiential activities to develop facility in using HMD, and to think critically about how they could be or should be used in practice. This culminated in a capstone project where the students developed their own intervention that would utilize VR to improve client outcomes and agency trainings or procedures.

The Professionals in Sustainability webinar series provides a regularly occurring extracurricular opportunity for students in the online Sustainability Management BS program that is specifically targeted to them in both the content focus and modality. The program showcases different career opportunities and paths, particularly in a fairly new and evolving field around sustainability, and provides an opportunity for students to network with professionals working in the field. Webinars are about 30 minutes of content plus 15 minutes for questions and presenters are asked to discuss their background, career trajectory, current initiatives, and general lessons learned as in their talk. The recorded archive enables students who can’t attend a particular session the opportunity to still watch the session, and just about every presenter so far has been open to students following up with them directly later on. The sessions and digital archive also provide an opportunity for marketing and recruiting for the program as well. We will email inquiries about a webinar when they come up, and the YouTube playlist of the archive serves as a potential path to learning about ESF and the online Sustainability Management program.

SUNY Canton OSCQR Certification Program

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Online Course Quality Practices

SUNY Canton OSCQR Certification Program was created to help faculty course developers achieve successful course peer reviews by understanding best practices associated with the SUNY Canton OSCQR rubric. The certification program addressed two needs – the need to educate course developers on standards against which their online courses will be assessed, and the need to educate faculty course reviewers on how to spot whether course quality standards were met in an online course and what strategies they recommend to help the course pass the review.

The participants who completed the certification program received a certificate and they are featured on the SUNY Canton website.

Many faculty use Panopto—or other screen casting tools—to create lectures for their online students and/or require students to create their own videos for specific projects. While using Panopto in this way goes far to foster regular and substantive interaction, the software can also be used to provide meaningful feedback in both online and seated classes. In this presentation, a writing instructor demonstrates how she uses Panopto in all her classes, across modalities. She will focus on how to insert Panopto into Brightspace and share student reactions to this type of feedback.

During SUNY Canton’s migration to Brightspace, several instructors requested guidance on how their courses should or could be designed in the new environment. With input from three instructional designers and utilizing the capabilities of the new platform, three courses were selected to be showcased as “exemplary” and examples of how courses could look.

A custom widget was also created on the Brightspace institutional homepage, where the courses are readily available for self-enrollment and review.

The study investigates a strategy to enhance discussions as a central part of online and hybrid courses where the course activities are directed and prioritized. To ensure quality several enforcing and motivational techniques are introduced in conjunction with the existing tools of Learning Management Systems. A technique of indirect feedback encourages learners to post more and build toward quality value.

ELN Project Portal and Global NGO Projects

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Online Program Partnership Practices


Although interest in high-impact Experiential Learning (EL) continues to grow, current models are unable to accommodate changing challenges and expectations. Towards ensuring that all students have opportunities to engage with the world, and connect their experiences with their academic and career goals, we designed the UB Experiential Learning Network (ELN) Project Portal, a dynamic digital platform that creates and shares high-impact projects; supports engagement through a flexible framework; and displays and showcases outputs through digital badges. Our innovative use of co-curricular badges supports facilitation, incentivization and assessment at scale. Our badges also address issues of access, allowing for direct student engagement, or integration within courses and programs of study, supporting collaboration with faculty and departments. Our portfolio of global NGO projects connect students with community-based organizations for customized engagement and contributions. Students begin by exploring the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and connect with their partners via teleconferencing and social media. Projects culminate in Global Collaboration or Sustainability badges depending on student and project focus. Initial research suggests transformative impacts related to global projects for both students and partners. We are interested in scaling the model to reach more students and NGOs.

Universal Design for Trauma

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Online Course Quality Practices


Trauma is an epidemic in the United States. Over 60% of men and 50% of women report exposure to at least one lifetime traumatic event (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Traumatic events include domestic and sexual violence, school and mass shootings, community and police violence, suicide, war, accidents and natural disasters. Exposure to trauma can lead to both short and long-term impacts on physical and emotional health, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Previous research has found that trauma exposure can also negatively impact academic and career outcomes (see Norway, Huand and Mossige, 2012; Horsmon 2000 and 2006; Nikischer, 2018). This effective practice, Universal Design for Trauma (UDT), outlines five key steps to designing courses that address trauma content and student trauma history (Nikischer, 2020). UDT is a framework for accessibility, ensuring that online courses are built to successfully engage and support all students.


The Embedded Librarian Program assigns a librarian to a research-based course to assist students in Blackboard. Working within Blackboard, a librarian collaborates with faculty to provide enhanced library service and assistance to students. Embedded Librarianship requires advanced planning and collaboration between the requesting faculty member and Librarian. As demand for this service increased a Library Repository was created in Blackboard in order to foster collaboration and sharing among embedded librarians. This repository consists of research tools including links to library resources, research guides, pathfinders, tutorials and videos.