When it comes to the software available to faculty in the Digital Backpack, the sky’s the limit on what can be accomplished, says Diana Fordham, an instructional designer in the Distance Learning department.

“There’s so much available digitally now,” she says. “If you want to take a virtual tour of the Louvre, you can. These tools are game-changers for online education.”

With students making use of virtual and HyFlex courses during the pandemic, the Digital Backpack – made possible through CARES Act funding – allows instructors to use programs such as Yellowdig, VoiceThread, Nearpod, EdPuzzle, Camtasia and others to create engaging and productive learning environments during this challenging period.

Another tool available is PlayPosit, an interactive video platform which Fordham has used to administer authentic assessments in Southern courses. The company recently spotlighted her experience with their product and the opportunities she saw for use in a writing-intensive course.

During a Western Civilization course she taught last fall, she utilized PlayPosit to present documentaries on historical figures along with supplemental resources, which students then used to create short essays. The interactive session, called a “bulb,” gave students everything they needed to complete the assignment.

“These authentic assessments have students really engage with the material,” she says. “No one can cheat, and it enhances the integrity of the course.”

Fordham says she received positive feedback from her students, and the company recently reached out to interview her about her experience with the platform.

“PlayPosit is great,” she says. “We meet with them monthly to create new things and troubleshoot … we’re being proactive instead of reacting,” she says. “We have training and support and if there’s something I don’t know how to answer or how to fix, I know I can immediately call them for help on the technical side.”