SharePoint Task Lists for Project Mangement

I have started to use SharePoint to manage projects. I haven’t used it on a real project yet, but if I prepare it can’t be worse than my last two projects which didn’t really use any kind of PM framework.

SharePoint Tasks Lists are:

  • Accessible to everyone at Penn State. Smartsheet requires accounts to use the platform and while free accounts are available, this is a critical downside because team members will likely not want to log in or download an app to access information about a single project. SharePoint would not be accessible however to people outside of Penn State. I may have to consider Google Sheets in these situations.
  • Robust compared to MS Planner. Planner is quick to learn and has a much nicer interface than SharePoint Lists, but it is very limited and does not allow for nested tasks and custom fields. It does have very nice report views even if they are not customizable.

There is a decent video training series on using SharePoint Task Lists (original post) on LinkedIn Learning.

I was able to create a new Task List for a recurring project that is pretty complex with over 100 tasks and multiple custom fields. I haven’t fully implemented dependencies and timeline views since that will have to wait until we actually start planning for the upcoming event. I was also able to figure out how to clone Task Lists using templates with Ronda’s and IT’s help.

Smartsheet does provide some great, general information about project management on their website. They even have a library of templates that you can use in Smartsheet or Excel.

Google Tasks to the Rescue!

I’ve switched all of my tasks over to Google Tasks and everything is already better. Things are starting to get really busy preparing for FA20 and I was feeling stressed out and behind. Having all my tasks somewhere I can manage them definitely helps with my stress levels.

Now I can access/edit my tasks from my laptop, mobile devices, etc. Before, I was using MS Outlook Tasks and that was horrible. I would continually having syncing errors and lost a lot of content after a recent sync. Office365 has been a real disappointment in general. Before that, I was very happy with Apple Reminders, but was very disappointed that when they updated Reminders with Catalina, I lost the ability to access/edit my tasks via online iCloud and non-Catalina machines (not including mobile devices).

I was going to move all my tasks to Smartsheet, but looking through a spreadsheet for your tasks is a horrible experience and while it can handle this kind of data, it’s definitely not the best tool for task management for me.

Google Tasks isn’t as detailed as Outlook and that’s better for me actually. I’m going to keep track of how well it helps me, but so far so good!

Looks like I can even export my tasks using Google Tasks Desktop. I hope that works because that wasn’t something I could do with Outlook or Apple Reminders.

Peer Evaluation of Group Work Options

Qualtrics Peer Evaluation

Qualtrics is a great option for delivering a lightweight option for peer evaluations of group work performance.

At Penn State, faculty and staff are able to request a license to use Qualtrics. This is required for this approach. Please contact your IT department for more details.

Once you have a license make a copy of this project into your list of projects. This is also required because you will be managing the setup, delivery, and analysis of the data.

Click to view/take sample evaluation

To setup your project to use in your course, please follow these directions:

Step 1. Make a copy of the peer evaluation into your Qualtrics account

Step 2. Export your Canvas Grades

Step 3. Download this CSV template

Step 4. Copy-and-paste the first column, all of your student’s names, into the CSV file in the first column replacing the sample data. You can ignore all of the other empty cells under the other columns. Save your changes.

Step 5. Import your CSV roster to your Qualtrics project (see “Importing Reusable Choices” section)

To deliver the peer evaluation in your course, please follow these directions:

  1. Copy the distribution link
  2. Paste the link into your Canvas Course or share via a Canvas Announcement or a class email

To view the results after the evaluation has closed, please follow these directions:

  1. Open the evaluation in Qualtrics
  2. Switch to view the reports

Other Evaluation Approaches Tested

The following tests all fail for the same basic reason: the approaches are not viable because different evaluations are stored in the same position and would require a manual process to separate the results for each student being evaluated. Each test does explore different ways of inputting data and piping text in from previous questions along with using display logic algorithms.

  • Test 1: Depending on how many teammates an evaluator chooses, they are provided just enough fields to enter the names of their teammates. Based on the names they have entered, the evaluator is provided with a matrix of selections for each teammate.
  • Test 2: The owner of the survey copies-and-pastes the names of the students into a list of potential choices for the evaluator to chose from to indicate who is on their team. Based on the names selected, the evaluator is provided with a separate slider-matrix of evaluation rankings.
  • Test 3: Evaluators are provided form entry fields to enter the names of each of their teammates and those names are automatically populated on separate rows of a slider-matrix where the evaluator ranks their teammates contributions to the group work.

Earlier Efforts

  • I tested a similar evaluation process using a different approach that would be used for evaluations of IA/LA/TAs at the end of a semester. I did not feel this was an approach that would realistically work because of the amount of back-end data manipulation required to make sense of the results. This approach asks evaluators to group selections together to indicate who was in the evaluator’s class sections. Then evaluators would provide rankings for each assistant based on their performance.
  • In 2018, I worked with Christian Vinten-Johansen <> with the Penn State Accessibility Team to create an accessible alternative to a CATME Peer Evaluation. At the time, CATME was not accessible.
  • I found earlier attempts as well that I’ll eventually document here.

Replacement Plan in Smartsheet

Our leadership is looking at better documentation around Replacement Planning and while we have a lot of the data in existing Smartsheets, I need to work with others to better communicate that data.

Ultimately, we want to share who’s working on what project and who others can go to for “leadership” and “project” backups in the event that the principle is unavailable. In this time of COVID-19, we have determined that it may be necessary to document up to three backup tiers for each project.

Initially, the difference between a “leadership” and “project” backup needed to be defined. Someone identified to provide leadership backup would be expected to know how to get answers related to a specific project but they themselves may be unable to complete the work or task. The person identified as a project backup would be able to accomplish the work that would yield answers to those questions.

The next big hurdle was to determine how to combine information from at least three different Smartsheets and using the Dashboard feature, we will be able to combine that information. We’re starting off with one sheet as the master that will establish the basic style (column names and widths) for the data. A second sheet was edited by changing some of the existing column names and adding new ones. A third sheet is going to prove more difficult. We need to preserve the original column names and will not be able to add more columns to that existing sheet as we had done in the second sheet.

I have decided to create a secondary sheet that pulls in that information using index and match functions and then other formulae to remap that data into columns that we are using in the other two sheets.

How to Make a Perfect Screencast

I have a hard time making concise and direct screencasts while being as time efficient as possible.

I have recorded a screencast on how I make screencasts.

Basically, I make a screen recording without audio first, then I record the audio, and finally I edit them together into a final cut that plays back smoothly and much better than if I just hit record and do everything at once. All I use is iMovie and Quicktime Player on the Mac. Both are available for free.

While this takes a little longer, it is much less frustrating and higher quality than trying to record both my audio and the screen at the same time.

Troubles with O365 Permissions and OneNote

Jon was having issues with not being able to edit pages in our team’s OneNote notebook. He reminded me that we dealt with something similar when he first started working here and that I was able to fix that issue pretty quickly, but something must have changed since then because those pages are a subset of the larger notebook that we’re now having issues with.

We believe we have a working solution: SharePoint > Site Contents > Site Assets > Options > Share > Who would you like this link to work for? Specific People > Apply > [add email address] > Send.

This appeared to work for his laptop and iPad when accessing OneNote using the web interface, not the native apps. Hopefully this is the solution we’re looking for. We’ll know in our upcoming Weekly Office Meeting.

I tried a slightly different approach that worked temporarily, but didn’t lead to a permanent fix: SharePoint > Site Contents > Site Assets > Options > Manage access > adjust permissions to “Can edit.”

Video Copyright and Licensing for Instructional Designers Training

I attended an online training, “Copyright for Instructional Designers” (scroll down the page) provided by Ana Enriquez on the very complex topic of copyright when it comes to video content, but not limited to just video.

Poll results to the question, "Which of the following performances would be considered 'public' under U.S. copyright law? Playing a movie in a dorm common area for a group [71%]. Playing a movie in a Libraries space at an event sponsored by a student organization [96%]. Streaming a movie on a Canvas course website (behind authentication) [43%]. Playing a movie during a class session of a... [57%]."

My main take-aways:

  • Contact Ana ( or Brandy Karl ( with questions
  • Do your due diligence to follow the laws while working on a project for PSU, there may be some protections under PSU Policy IP05 but don’t count on it because there is some specific language about “system users”
  • There are three sections of Copyright law that we use
    • Fair Use (107)
    • Classroom use (110-1)
    • TEACH Act (110-2)
  • We only need to qualify for one of these sections, not all three
  • The laws may not and do not make common sense, but that’s not important, what is important is to try and understand how they work – and this is why I am not a lawyer

Truncating text in Smartsheet

I’m trying to figure out how to truncate characters from a cell but am having troubles.

For most of the data, it’s easy.

ex. “13: FA16” with the function

=RIGHT([Launch Semester]@row, 4)

yields “FA16” which is exactly what we’re looking for.

However, some of the cells have additional data like “00: Unknown” and returning the last 4 characters, “nown” isn’t useful.

So, I’ve tried this formula

=RIGHT([Launch Semester]@row, LEN([Launch Semester]@row – 4))

based on this article and I’m getting an error, “INVALID OPERATION.” The problem is, I don’t know if I’m getting this error because I’m using tutorial information for Excel or if it’s because I’ve messed something up.

I believe it is the LEN formula because when I use the formula below, I still get the error

=LEN([Launch Semester]89 – 4)

But when I change it to this, I do get the right number!

=(LEN([Launch Semester]@row)) – 4

And there we go… here’s the working formula:

=RIGHT([Launch Semester]@row, (LEN([Launch Semester]@row)) – 4)

Now, “00: Unknown” returns “Unknown” which is exactly what we’re looking for.

Digital Pedagogy Video Guide Presentation

April Millet and I have been asked to present at the Feb 12 Faculty Development series being hosted by the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence. Chris Gamrat has been working with others to plan these faculty development sessions at various locations around University Park. I the sessions are also being shared and recorded via Zoom.

April and I will be discussing the pedagogical applications of video. We worked together to build an online resource for the University.

INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO GUIDE: Best practices for creating pedagogically appropriate video –

Twine for Authoring Interactive Content

Are you interested in creating interactive, choose-your-own-adventure content?

There are many tools, but I recommend that you consider Twine – an open-source solution that is easy to get up and running with. Twine can be used to deliver text-based or media rich stories/projects or it can be used as a planning tool for projects that are delivered via other platforms.

“Twines” or  your stories/projects are created by building links between various passages. Passages are segments of your narrative that either lead the reader to specific choices they can make or they provide explanations of choices they have previously made.

You do not need to download and install the Twine application, nor do you need an account to use Twine online. My recommendation is to use Twine in the browser because it is fast and works great.

Save and archive your work right from the Story List page to make sure you never lose a thing!

Get started!

  1. Click the “+ Story” button
  2. Name your Twine
  3. Double-click the initial passage to start editing
  4. Enter your beginning narrative
  5. Add links to other passages by using “[[” at the start of your link text and “]]” at the end of your link text, click to view more options
  6. Use the “whiteboard” view to rearrange your passages
  7. Click play to start your Twine
  8. Refer to the Guide for more information about formatting and other features in Twine


  • Save your work often – you can save copies of individual Twines by going to the Story List > click on the gear icon > choose the “Publish to File” menu item; import your work by going to the Story List > click on the “Import From File” link under the main menu
  • Consider starting with just the main narrative from start to finish or perhaps one of the main threads of the narrative if you plan on multiple endings, then work on the various branches or additional narratives
  • Proper planning prevents poor performance – this adage definitely applies to creating branching narratives! Focus on perfecting the architecture of your narrative before adding all of the additional formatting, media and “polish.”


One possible application of Twine that I’m working on is to help author Analytic Decision Games (ADGs), that our faculty have developed to run in class and for other audiences.