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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)

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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.

Interaction

  • 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)?

Assessments

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

Feedback

  • 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?

Implementation

  • 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:

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.

startup-594090_1280

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!

Sliding Along with Storyline 2

I was one of the lucky folks that got to beta test Storyline 2 and lemme tell ya’ – it was hard to hold my tongue.  I am so happy that it was officially released last week so I can share my excitement about this upgrade! So happy that, for the next few weeks, I will be blogging about just how excited SL2 makes me.

One of the features I have had lots of fun playing with are the sliders. I had built a couple of “sliders” in SL1 but they just never really worked how I wanted them to. Storyline 2 makes it SO easy!

Slider features

What makes sliders a great new feature is a combination of things.

  • Obviously #1 is that you can now easily create a dragging action that is constrained to 1 dimension.
  • Each slider can be tied to a variable of your choice. Yep, sliders can control variables attached to other items in your file.
  • You can completely customize how a slider looks. 100%. Totally customizable.

How does this make me feel?

Some basic examples

The videos below walk you through a couple simple examples that I created using SL2. You can click on the image above to demo these sliders yourself.

 

 

Advanced sliders

Want a more custom look? Want your slider to act like a 1D drag and drop? Want to create a scrolling panel? You can click the happy image above (or right here) to see some fancier sliders in action. Maybe some day soon I will get around to creating screencasts for these as well, but in the meantime you can download the source file for all 4 of these slider interactions. Have fun!

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Welcome to My (Flat) World

This week’s eLearning Heroes Challenge was to create a flat office or desktop theme based on your own work space. I love the visual design challenges so I jumped into to this one wholeheartedly!

What is flat design?

For the visual design newbies out there, flat design is a style that focuses on making images look simple, rather than realistic.  It’s 2D rather than 3D with minimal shadows and shading and is very clean and modern. It is also really easy to create flat images using just some basic shapes!

My inspiration

photoHere is a picture of my work space.  It’s cluttered (though not as cluttered as it was yesterday!).
Because of that, I decided to use it as inspiration rather than create an exact replica.  I actually tried making a close replica at first and boy was it
terrible.  Perhaps this means I need to simplify my office set up?

Well, that’s a question for another day.

My design

I ended up cutting out some of the desk shelving and moving the cork boards over to that area instead. I also cut out all the stacks of papers and magazines and flies as well as 4 of my 5 pencil cups.  I don’t know why I have so many pencil cups but I’m sure it is someone else’s fault.

2014-09-16_11-43-53I decided to keep my most fun element, a panda shaped pencil sharpener and mini shredder (you turn its tail to make either action happen), along with my yellow walls. I also added in my cat on top of the printer as that is her favorite napping spot when I’m in the office.

Adding some interactivity

In theory, this would be used as a setting for an interaction.  I think it would be a little crowded to use as a simple background. So I went ahead and added some interactive elements into it. You can drag the pencil to the panda to sharpen it, view “videos” by clicking on the webcam or first monitor, read an excerpt from one of the books, or view documents in the inbox, on the cork board, and from the printer.

Click on the image above to check it out and let me know what you think!  You can also download the source file to use or pick apart at your leisure.

Postscript: While my office has a PC desktop setup, I actually created this on my brand new Macbook Pro while sitting on the sofa in my living room… Just another person prodding Articulate for a native Mac version of Storyline. (Yes, I have put in a feature request!)

A Challenging Challenge

If you stopped by my home page today you might have noticed something new – a video!  I created it as part of this week’s eLearning Heroes Challenge. I have to say, I was really nervous about this one. I like creating eLearning precisely because I am not front and center!  Plus I don’t have a great webcam or a nice looking space in which to record.

But I told David I would participate in this challenge so I couldn’t very well back out. Plus, I think this challenge was really about embracing low-end solutions to create a quality product. And you know what?  I think I did just that.

Just in case you also want to incorporate some webcam video into your website or trainings, here’s a quick recap of my tools and process. Be sure to click over to the home page or read till the end to check out the finished product.

Camera

The webcam I have on my desktop computer is a Logitech HD webcam. I have previously only used it for Skype but found that it had a pretty good video and audio quality for this project.

Recording studio

My super professional set up was, well, not so super professional.

photo 1     photo 4

I think part of what made this challenge interesting was the point that webcam video can be of decent quality and is a lot easier to incorporate than using more professional video tools. So, I moved a few things from the back of my office (I keep my bike there and didn’t want that in the shot) and amped up the lighting by adjusting my monitor brightness and turning on a lamp I don’t normally use.  I also had to close my window blinds as the glare from the window was extremely bright. And voila!  Instant recording studio.

Software

I decided to give Articulate Replay a shot for this challenge.  It came free with my Storyline license but I had yet to open it up and try it out. While the editing capabilities are pretty limited, it was an easy way to add lower thirds and switch between different variations of webcam, screen share, and picture in picture formats.

Process

First, I wrote a script.  Ok, actually first I tried a shot without a script. Then I realized that was a horrible mistake and immediately wrote a script.  So if you’re trying this out – write a script first. While I was writing the script, I also created a short PowerPoint presentation that I could use as some B roll footage.

I did a couple of short takes of the first few sentences, adjusting my lighting and webcam settings in between, until I found a set up that worked.

Then I did two or three takes with everything in place, just of me talking straight to the camera. (Along with my surprise guest!)

Then I recorded a screen share of my PowerPoint.  I decided to record these separately because I had a hard time remembering what I wanted to say while also operating the PowerPoint. I must be getting old. Luckily Replay makes this easy and it didn’t really matter when it came time for editing!2014-09-12_10-20-34

Editing

This was the easiest part!  Replay was a cinch. I just chose where I wanted to start and end each take, where to start my screen share, and where to put my transitions.  In addition I added a lower thirds caption to the beginning and the end which took about 30 seconds. The reason editing is so easy is that I just listed all of the editing possibilities in Replay.  It can’t do a lot but it makes simple video editing so easy my Grandma could do it.

And that’s it!