Performance Improvement

Measuring Learning in Blended Courses

Assessment is an important part of any course. We want to make sure that our methods are working and learners are learning things (correctly!).

One of the things that I love about the blended and flipped classroom movements is the focus on assessment through projects, discussion, and other non-test means. Today I’m going to take a brief look at formal and informal assessments, in addition to some best practices for online quizzes.

Formal (Active, Authentic, Creative) Assessment

Formal assessment does not necessarily mean an exam. Instead, students may be asked to:

  • create a portfolio piece (image, audio, lesson plan, the possibilities are endless!)
  • write a research paper
  • design a web site or visual resumeoffice-624749_1280
  • research and present on a topic
  • work with a client to solve a real problem
  • tell a story through writing, audio, or video
  • create a technical drawing or model
  • design and build a prototype
  • provide proof of application to their life/job

Note that any of these assignments could be submitted in person or online. In fact, some (web site, video, etc.) may be more suited to an online submission.

Regardless of the type of assignment, the goal is to replicate, as closely as possible, what application of their new knowledge might look like in the ‘real world’. The key to successful projects and authentic assessments is to set expectations through thorough instructions that include a checklist or rubric. Rubrics should always be shared when a project is assigned and should have measurable criteria.

Informal Assessment

I love informal assessments. I often think that they can hold more insight than a formal one and are a great way for an instructor to see which students need extra support. In addition, informal assessment can also be more fun for students.

tweet-149813_640One idea I like is the use of Twitter. Assign a hashtag for the course and have students tweet answers to questions, summaries of articles, or links to resources they have found. Summarizing complex ideas into 140 characters can be tough!

Kevin Kelly puts forth the idea of the one-sentence summary. For this activity students write one sentence that answers all the important questions – who, does what, to whom (or what), when, where, why, and how. It is important that the instructor feedback for this activity touches on both what the student did grasp and what they did not grasp – either through errors or omission.

Kelly also brings up the idea of student generated test questions that may then be used on a test, if appropriate of course. This also gives the instructor an understanding of what students are and are not grasping.

A Good Old Fashioned Quiz

Of course, sometimes you just need to give a quiz – perhaps if you are offering a course for certification or have 200 students in your class. If this is the case, technology can offer some great resources. Most online quizzing tools, whether built into an LMS or not, offer:

  • Randomization of test itemsforum-27450_1280
  • Assessment time limits
  • Rules for completion (such as requiring completion within one sitting)
  • Support for proctoring

If you do go this route, the University of Central Florida has compiled some great resources for combating cheating and writing effective test questions.  Their blended learning MOOC also shared a great resource on configuring quiz settings.

Regardless of the type of assessment, remember that the point is to make sure students are learning and to gather insight into your effectiveness. Be sure you use assessments not only to assign grades, but also as a way to see what is working and what is not, and then make changes accordingly.

Questions? Comments? Leave them below!


This is my third (and a half) post about blended learning as I work my way through a MOOC on blended learning.

Check out my previous posts on blended learning and my series on flipped learning:

Next time: connecting the online and face-to-face elements

 

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Fostering Interaction

This past week in the blended learning MOOC I’m participating in, we discussed interactions in a blended learning classroom. There are a few key points that I think are important for anyone creating any class, whether blended, online, or completely face to face.

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Types of interactions

There are several types of interactions that students can have in a classroom. They are:

  • Student to content (e.g. reading, homework, reflection)
  • Student to instructor (e.g. lecture, Q&A, feedback from assignments)
  • Student to student (e.g. group work, discussion, peer reviews)

All three types of interaction are important and all should be incorporated in any classroom.

The role of the teacher

A teacher is now rarely thought of as someone up in front of the classroom spewing knowledge and expecting you to take it all in. Active learning, engagement, flipping, and other educational trends have changed that image. There are lots of opinions on what exactly is the role of an instructor.

These include:

Atelier
The teacher is still seen as the expert, critiquing and drawing attention to good and innovative work. Students are learning from the expert and each other. This model works well for art, writing, or other topics where students can gain insight from each other’s work.

Network administrator
In this model the primary role of the teacher is to help students form connections. Students have a large role in driving their own learning. The teacher is there to build the skills they need to make connections, make sure they are on track, and fill in any gaps.

Concierge
Often seen in K-12 classrooms, in this model the instructor provides soft guidance through the use of lecture and external resources while at times allowing the learners more room for exploration.

Curator
The teacher is seen as an expert learner, curating resources and creating a space for exploration. Learners are able to explore freely, but are given materials, concepts, and other resources as a roadmap for learning.

Note that in all of the models students are interacting with content, the instructor, and each other. Students are at least partially responsible for exploring, creating, or otherwise driving their own learning. The role of the instructor, while slightly different in each, is focused on guiding and evaluating learning.

class-302116_1280Fostering engagement and interaction

Both synchronous and asynchronous activities can be used for student expression and engagement. Below are some methods for fostering engagement and interaction in any course.

Method

Uses

Benefits

Asynchronous discussion Any course can make use of asynchronous discussion. Even in technical fields, students may discuss the best methods for solving problems or grade each other’s work. Students have more time to explore an idea and prepare what they want to say. This can lead to deeper discussion and is a huge benefit to students who need extra time due to language, ability, or other factor.
Synchronous discussion Synchronous discussion can happen in a classroom or online via webinars and chat rooms. In very large courses, smaller groups may be used. Each group can then report out one or two key points. This can provide a sense of community and can be easier for an instructor to moderate.
Student
leadership
roles
An instructor may assign roles to students, rotate facilitation of discussion boards, ask students to report back on offline activities, or make each student responsible for researching and sharing information on a particular topic. This allows more student to student interaction, giving students an opportunity to learn from and critique each other. It also encourages students to dive deeper into the material.
Individual
reflection
activities
Students may blog, podcast, create videos, tweet, create an ePortfolio, present to the class, or complete a project. This gives students a chance to reflect and express their thoughts. Students may describe a process, express opinions, or create work based on concepts and theories presented in class. Student to student interactions can be increased by providing a space for peer feedback.
Group work Students may work together on a wiki, a research project, a class presentation, or case studies. This builds community and allows students to learn from each other.

If you need some guidance on how to plan interactions, this list of questions can help.

Check out the previous post on blended learning basics to get started.

If you’re interested in learning more, I would encourage you to sign up for this MOOC.

Next time: Blended Assessments

Questions? Comments? Leave them below!

Building a Digital Magazine

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This week’s ELH Challenge was to create a digital learning magazine. I was excited about this for a few reasons, but mainly because I had wanted to mock up something similar to this for a while now to show as a sample of how interactive documents can be created pretty easily with Storyline.

The Concept

I am not sure where this concept came from, but I decided to create a magazine that could be used to help introduce new hires to a company and also double as a nice informative piece for current staff.

I decided to mock this up as if it could be used for my office. The company I work for does a lot of work with USAID so I chose “Water” as the issue topic, probably because I was thirsty, and gained some inspiration for the fake articles from USAID and The Water Project.

Picture1

The Build

Since this was an “internal” company magazine, I kept the style pretty traditional. I used some magazines that I had on hand for layout inspiration – National Geographic and ASTD’s td magazine – and was able to find some really great pictures for free on Pixabay. I used a combination of three fairly simple fonts: Adobe Garamond Pro (large headlines), Century Gothic (secondary headlines and the header), and Palatino Linotype (body text).

When I thought of the concept, I immediately had some ideas of what I wanted to include, like Meet the Team, Q&A, and a Resources section.  I felt like these topics would do well in a “learning magazine” format where some quick information could be presented on the page in an easy to read format and layers, downloads, and links could be used to give the user more information as wanted/needed.

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Meet the Team makes good use of layers and the Resources section has some “downloads” and a layer that enlarges the floor plan image. (This is actually the floor plan for Graceland!).

The Q&A was the last slide I built so it isn’t as interactive but includes some fake links that in theory could take you to forms or information on a company intranet. I also had an idea to build out the Q&A as a list of questions that you could click on to see the answers, but it was may more fun to create this as a Dear Abby-esque set up.

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The articles on water each have some layers that include additional information. In a way these layers act like the sidebars in a traditional magazine layout. But one of the cool things about having a digital format is that you can also include videos.  Be sure to check out the Health H2O article to see the video I included.

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In order to navigate through the magazine you have 2 choices.  You can use the turned up page corners at the bottom or click the arrow at the top to “pull down” the menu page.

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An Extra Special Extra
For the first time I decided to try my hand at using a texture for the page background. This isn’t tough to do but does require fiddling with the html code once the project is published. David Anderson created a great screencast on how to do this. And I pulled my background texture from the wonderful Subtle Patterns site.

2014-11-11_13-50-23Check it Out!

Click on any image above to view the demo or go ahead and download the source file.

And leave a comment below to let me know what you think!

Tell Me a Story… Resources!

800px-Once_Upon_a_Time_LogoI was planning to write a post on some tips and tools for storytelling to wrap up this series.  But there are already so many great free and low cost resources out there that I just decided to curate a list and share with you guys.

Fun things around the internet:

Resources I linked to in this guest post:

Articles from ASTD ATD and other professional sites:

Infolines:

Free tools for telling digital stories:

I know that there are lots of other great resources out there… please share them in the comments and I will add them to this list!

Tell Me a Story – Part 1

As a kid, I hated history class. I loved to read, I loved to solve problems, I hated to memorize. And, while I know I had some great history teachers, I always felt like I had to memorize too much.

Except in the 7th grade when Ms. Gautier (Go-chay) was my history teacher.

28045daca56e4caca3451f5bf642e2e8Ms. Gautier recently passed away, still teaching history to lucky kids in my home town. When I heard the news, I spent some time reflecting on why I enjoyed her so much as a teacher and why I was so sad that she was gone.  I realized that it was because she made history come alive.  We weren’t focused on memorizing dates and figures, but on learning and telling stories.

File:Ivy Mike H Bomb.jpgAlmost every student who had her class remembers one assignment in particular – we were each assigned a “year” from We Didn’t Start the Fire and had to learn about and tell the stories of the headlines for that year.  I was given 1951 – Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom, Brando, “The King and I” and “The Catcher in the Rye”. I still remember the H-bomb pinata I made for the class. Most of us who had her class still know all of those lyrics.  But most importantly, we all know the stories behind the lyrics.

I know now, as an adult, that history is full of really great and amazing stories. But I think my experience is not uncommon. Often we, as learning professionals, focus on what facts are needed to pass tests and move to the next level. We forget that storytelling can be an extremely powerful way to help learners remember facts within context, or to infuse emotion into a classroom, or to help the audience understand another person’s point of view.

Over the next few weeks, I ‘ll be writing a series on storytelling, with a little help from some friends. I’ll write another short post this week on the types of stories we can use for learning. Then, you get to read some really great writing from two good friends of mine who are amazing storytellers, Melissa F. Miller and Jake Hinkson. I’ll write a final post with some tips on storytelling for learning.

A little about my future guest bloggers:

Melissa is in another profession where storytelling is important – she and her husband practice law at their firm in PA. She, naturally, writes a series of nail-biting legal thrillers that center around some kick @$$ women… I can’t wait for her next novel set to be released at the end of the month. Melissa’s debut novel won the 2012 National Fiction Writing Competition for Physicians and Lawyers and she is a USA Today bestselling author.

Jake is a storyteller of the southern variety. He hails from Arkansas and I could listen to Jake tell stories all day long. Jake knows more about film noir than anyone I have ever met – he’s literally a scholar on the stuff – and writes in that style of noir/pulp fiction. He has published a book and 2 novellas and is a prolific blogger/essayist/short story writer. Jake also holds private writing workshops online if you are interested in honing your storytelling skills.

I may also have some additional surprise guest bloggers so stay tuned!

My eLearning Story

 

Image Credit: David Anderson
Image Credit: David Anderson

I am jumping back in to the Articulate eLearning Challenges this week!  David has asked us to do a short interview with ourselves, answering the following 10 questions:

1. Tell us a little about yourself and the types of e-learning projects you most enjoy.
2. How did you become an e-learning or instructional designer?
3. What are the essentials of good e-learning design?
4. Tell me about your most successful e-learning project.
5. What are the most important criteria in evaluating e-learning?
6. What are some common mistakes new course designers make & how can they avoid them?
7. How is designing mobile learning different than designing for the desktop?
8. How do you evaluate whether your course was effective?
9. How do you keep up your skills and stay current in the industry?
10. What is the future of e-learning?

A little about my process:

Script: I didn’t fully script out my answers, but I did consider each question and make some notes for myself before starting.  I find that when recording audio for eLearning I prefer this method unless there is a specific script I need to follow.  When I do have a script, I always read it out loud a few times to note any phrases that feel unnatural and try to edit those if possible.

Hardware: I almost always use a Logitech headset for recording. It’s comfortable, easy (it’s always plugged in to my computer), and produces a pretty good quality sound.

Software: I recorded each answer as a separate track in Audacity and used the noise removal function to minimize any background buzz the headphones didn’t cancel out. I only allowed myself one take for each answer as I didn’t want to sound scripted and wanted this to be an honest reflection of where I am at this moment. (I did have to start one track over after some crazy dog barking started a few seconds in… the perils of working from home while being married to a professional pet sitter!)

Sharing: Once everything was recorded, background noise was removed, and I had exported the files, I uploaded them to SoundCloud so they could be embedded here.

That’s it – the whole process took less than 30 minutes.

You can listen to my eLearning story using the player below.

I hope you take a little time to share your story as well!