eLearning and Higher Education

This article is part of a guest blog post I wrote for Articulate eLearning Heroes.
Click here to read the full post.

e-learning in higher education

Instructional designers working in higher education have a ton of tools at their disposal. Learning management systems, educational apps, clickers, and other technologies allow for lots of creativity both inside and outside of the classroom.

At the University of Maryland, I partner with faculty to create engaging activities that help learners apply new skills and practice outside of the classroom. In addition to helping faculty with the tools listed above, we create custom videos and e-learning products for their courses. Both students and faculty have been wowed by the e-learning projects we have created for their classes. Faculty love how we can create a customized piece that requires students to demonstrate their skills; and students like that these assignments are engaging, useful, and fun.

Let’s look at a few ways you can use e-learning to enrich any higher ed course…(Read more)

Questioning Your Learning Design

If you follow my blog, you know that the past few weeks I have been participating in a MOOC on blended learning design. This week wraps up the course with a focus on quality assurance.

icon-354007_1280Here is the thing about QA in blended learning: there’s no real set standard. That said, I think the most important standards are the same for all courses whether online, blended, or face-to-face. The implementation may be different but the student experience should be the same. Below are some questions you can use for self-evaluation of your course. The first four sets can be used for any class. The last set is geared towards classes with an online component.


  • Do students have opportunities to interact with and reflect on the content?
  • Do students have opportunities to interact with their peers?
  • Do students have opportunities to interact with the instructor?

Active learning

  • Are students an active part of the learning process?
  • Are students required to do something other than listen/read in order to learn?
  • Do students need to use higher order thinking skills (application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation)?


  • Are there opportunities for both formal and informal assessments?
  • Are assessments given regularly throughout the course?
  • Do students receive feedback after each assessment?


  • Does feedback to students provide specifics on what was done well or poorly?
  • Is there a reasonable and stated timeframe within which students should receive feedback after an assignment?
  • Is feedback given regularly throughout the course?
  • Are students required to give feedback to each other through activities like discussion and peer grading?


  • Is the course highly organized with a clear set of assignments each week, listed due dates, and thorough instructions?
  • Is there a plan for regular and deliberate communication with students outside of the face-to-face sessions?
  • How are the online and face-to-face sessions integrated so the course feels cohesive?
  • Are all materials accessible and 508 compliant?

This might seem like a lot, but remember that there are huge benefits to online and hybrid learning experiences. Students really appreciate the flexibility and support that these courses offer, often at a reduced cost compared to face-to-face options.

BlendKit offers some great resources for blended learning QA that can help you at any stage of the process, including:

If you need extra support designing or implementing your course, talk to an instructional designer (like me!) or check out some of the many resources offered on the subject including:

And most of all, don’t forget to have fun!

Questions? Comments? Leave them below!

This is my final post about blended learning as I work my way through this MOOC.

For more, check out my previous posts on blended learning and my series on flipped learning:

Getting a Smooth Blend

blendingeducationOne of the biggest hurdles facing a blended learning instructor is making your course feel like one cohesive whole, rather than like two separate courses. Students notice right away if things feel disjointed and they will immediately check out if it feels as though the professor is unprepared.

In order to avoid this pitfall, it is important to consider how you’re integrating the online and face-to-face portions. There are several ways to make this happen.

Use technology wisely

If you make technology work for you in the classroom, it can not only create a great learning environment but also cut down on your work load. I wrote a post last year on tools for flipping the classroom that are also great tools for use in a blended classroom. In addition, the BlendKit Reader has a great chart that can help an instructor translate face-to-face activities into an online format (see Chapter 4, Table 2).

Bring assignments full circle

If you have a course that meets regularly, you can utilize a course structure similar to that of a flipped classroom where each topic is covered both in class and online. Check out the chart below (adapted from Jackie Gerstein) for some ideas on how to do this and check out this post for more explanation.

Flipped classroom modelBe consistent

An easy way for ensuring integration of activities in any blended classroom is to be consistent with your implementation. For example you might always:

  • present information first in class, with more opportunities for explanation online
  • place assignment instructions and details online and not cover this in class
  • have students submit assignments via an LMS or other online tool

Use a module structure

Organize the online pieces of the course into modules by topic. Each module should be relatively consistent, with recurring elements throughout. This allows students to see each topic area as an integrated whole, regardless of which mode of instruction is used.

Utilize active learning

The more students are engaged in active learning, whether online or face-to-face, the more likely it is that learning is going to happen. This also takes the focus away from modality and instead allows students to be immersed in the material. Check out my post on fostering interaction in a blended learning classroom for more information.

Note that all of these tips are interrelated. A consistently designed, module structure that wisely uses technology and active learning to bring assignments full circle is a great model for any classroom and can make a blended experience feel smooth and well designed.

Questions? Comments? Leave them below!

This is my fourth (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: QA in blended learning

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


Free Resources for Online and Blended Learning

This is a bit of a double post with some free resources for all!

First up, I found out this week that an article I submitted for publication – Flipped Learning in the Workplace – was finally published in the Journal of Workplace Learning. You can download the very pretty final version of the article from their site or, if you don’t have access to the journal, you can download a not nearly as pretty copy here.


Second, the ELH Challenge for this week was to share some images that could be used for eLearning.  I have been thinking about doing this with some of the zillions of pictures I have laying around in my Flickr account.


So, while hanging out at home during my snow day today I started the process. You can view and download over 100 pictures taken by me during my most recent vacation to Belize, a friend’s wedding in Florida, and Christmas holiday in Louisiana.


Enjoy and please leave me some feedback if you find the resources useful. Oh, and be sure to check all the other wonderful shared images from this week’s challenge as well!

Flipped Primer – Part 5

Alright.  I have already talked a bit about flipped learning – what it is, how to do it, pros and cons, and tools for implementation.

This last installment is a set of examples of how flipped learning is being used in the workplace.  There are some cool uses in here so please read on!

New hire onboarding48_l

Think about the last time you were a new hire.  How was the onboarding process?  More than likely, it was a lot of manual reading and directions with very little application.

Lee and Recker tell the story of a US technology company that flipped this model. They used to hold a standard six hour classroom session for all new hires. Now the company immediately gives students access to a training application full of exercises completed with the help of a manual. The go-getters are able to complete this part of the training in just three hours. Of course, some follow up is needed, so a virtual one hour session is conducted to emphasize the key points, assess understanding, and answer remaining questions.

The outcome? Training time was decreased and retention was increased.

Sales Skills training

Lee and Recker also present a model for flipping sales training. I don’t know much about sales training – it’s not something I have ever done or participated in. But from what I gather, it usually requires sales people to leave work, travel somewhere, and sit in a classroom for a few days listening to a lot of  lecture and occasionally participating in some role playing (bleh).

2233425566_55ce200871_oThis flipped model for sales training looks a bit like flipped learning in college or a K-12 classroom.  It starts with some recorded lectures, then students answer questions and discuss the material in online forums. The live session can occur either face-to-face or virtually and is used to answer remaining questions and practice, practice, practice. A wonderful key feature of this model is that the collaborative tools used at the beginning (forums, or some other virtual tool) are also used after the synchronous session to support students in the field.

I love this model as it is a simple, low cost, effective way to switch up any kind of skills training.

Product training

I found a couple of great examples of how flipped learning can enhance training on how to use new products – an type of training where flipped learning really makes sense.

cat-244060_640Vayuvegula presents an example of a company switching up training on a new software product. Traditionally an instructor conducted a face-to-face training lecturing on what the software does and how to use it. In the flipped model, employees completed an eLearning course on product theory and were able to experiment with the product before a synchronous virtual session with an instructor. During that session, users asked questions and shared their experiences rather than listening to lecture. The learners found that the information was immediately applicable and tailored to their needs.

Sams and Bergmann share an example of how a hair care company is reconsidering how it trains stylists to use its products. The company usually conducts one day workshops for a new product where a trainer presents information in the morning and students practice on models in the afternoon. The company is looking toward a flipped learning model using instructional videos viewed prior to the event in order to give stylists more time to perfect their application of products.

Flipped webinar

One of my favorite examples I came across was this flipped webinar by Jane Hart. What she did was simple and had a great impact.

6736359515_7d6cfa0e3e_zJane didn’t want to host a typical webinar with very little up front information, then lots of talking during the event interspersed with some Q&A, maybe a poll or two. Instead she asked participants to read an article beforehand, do some exploration of the topic if they wanted, and leave questions and comments on a blog site. The comments and questions helped shaped her presentation, which was pretty informal. During the actual webinar she answered questions that were left on the blog, encouraged discussion, and integrated some collaborative activities.

Flipped Conferences

I don’t know about you, but every time I attend a conference there is at least one breakout session where I wished I had made a different choice.  738px-Socks_cat_1

Well, the Professional Convention Management Association hears our pain and is working on ways to encourage meeting planners to flip meetings and conferences. A key component to this is assisting presenters in creating short videos explaining what the session will cover in the hope that participants can better decide what sessions to attend. A great side effect of having some preview material is that sessions could be more interactive.


So that’s it!  Flipped learning in 5 nut shells.

If you have a great example or idea of how flipped learning can change up the corporate classroom, please share in the comments below.


And of course, some further reading:

Hart, J. (2011, December 11). The flipped (or social) webinar. Learning in the Social Workplace. [Web log]. Retrieved from http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/blog/2011/12/09/the-flipped-webinar/

Lee, B. & Recker, J. (2013, May 23). How to apply the flipped classroom model for buisiness learning. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.elearningguild.com/olf/olfarchives/index.cfm?id=1051&action=viewonly

Sams, A. & Bergmann, J. (2014) Flipped learning: Maximizing face time. Training + Development, 68(2), 28-31. Can be found at http://www.astd.org/Publications/Magazines/TD/TD-Archive/2014/02/Flipped-Learning-Maximizing-Face-Time

Vayuvegula, A. (2012, October 11). Have you heard of flipped classroom in corporate training? CommLab India Blog. [Web log]. Retrieved from http://blog.commlabindia.com/elearning/flipped-classroom-elearning

Vayuvegula, A. (2014, January 13). Key element for the success of flipped classroom concept in corporate training. CommLab India Blog. [Web log]. Retrieved from http://blog.commlabindia.com/elearning/elearning-in-flipped-classroom