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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:

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Cartoons Compete: PowToon vs. GoAnimate

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Sometimes in eLearning you need to create a quick animated short, either to insert into a longer course or to stand on its own. Storyline 2 actually makes this pretty simple, but there are some platforms that exist that make it even easier by providing built-in graphics; we all know that creating or finding images can take forever!

Two of the leaders in this area are PowToon and GoAnimate. As I mentioned last week, our team recently switched from PowToon to GoAnimate. In the process of switching, I was looking for a comparison of the two but not much was out there. So, if you are thinking about purchasing or switching to one of these platforms, you’re in luck!

 

Pros

PowToon is simple to use.  Creating and timing objects is easy. I like the way that PowToon uses a timeline even though you can only view and adjust one object a time on it. It has the basics and the free plan has some good features and options.

Cons

AUDIO. You can only import 1 audio file into the entire project so both creating the audio and timing it to your slides can be really tricky.

You also don’t have much control over the props and characters. They are set in stone. So, if the prop you need doesn’t really fit into your color scheme, too bad.

Pricing

The free plan offers a decent selection of styles and can be a good way to get started with PowToon. It will only let you share your video through YouTube or with a direct link, so if you want to download videos this isn’t a workable option. However, you can pay per export. The thing that I really don’t like about the free version is that it has both a watermark and an annoying outro slide at the end that has a little “created using PowToon” jingle.

For $228 a year you can get a pretty good business plan that allows you to download videos, get rid of the watermark and outro, and has a lot more included styles though not all of the styles. The only downside to this plan is that you are only allowed to use the videos for your own business; they can not be sold.

If you want the whole shebang, it’ll cost you $684 a year, though they sometimes run specials that will allow you to get the best plan for the price of $228 a year.

Why we switched

GoAnimate offers superb control over both audio and visual elements. You can even create your own custom characters in several of the styles and sync their talking to your audio narration.  It’s impressive! In addition, you can make characters actually hold objects (and they move with the objects in hand) and there are several more options for exits and entrances in addition to motion paths.

Also, you can search for a particular prop among all styles which is super handy and something I was often wished for with PowToon.

GoAnimate also has lots of features I didn’t know I was missing like a Ken Burns effect, great built-in “scenes” that can be modified as needed, and cool infographic animations.

What’s missing

I think my only let down with GoAnimate is that timing objects is a definitely trickier. There is a timeline but it only shows the scenes and audio, not the individual elements in each scene. You have to time objects relative to each other which can be tricky and makes time the full scene difficult. I think the best workaround for this is to create several short scenes with a couple of things happening as opposed to one longer scene with several actions.

GoAnimate does make this a little smoother than PowToon, including the fact that handwritten text matches up exactly with non-handwritten text, an issue I battled in PowToon more than once. I also just realized the other day that you can fit the scene duration to the content so that helps as well.

Pricing

The free plan for GoAnimate doesn’t allow exporting either, however you can copy embed code for the video or share a link. Also, the branding is a little less intrusive than that of PowToons in that there is only a small logo and not a jarring outro. However, you can only create videos that are less than 30 seconds long.

The mid level plan is $299 a year, about the same a PowToon and with basically the same additional features.You do get access to ALL the styles with this plan which is nice but you still have a watermark and can only use the videos internally.

The high level plan is $599 a year, considerably less than PowToon and, in my opinion, with a great deal more to offer.

In addition, GoAnimate offers a team subscription. It’s pricey, starting at $2000 a year for 3 subscribers, but allows separate accounts to collaborate on videos which is pretty handy.

So which one is better for me?

Glad you asked! Overall, I think GoAnimate is a better tool with more bang for your buck.  If they would add slide elements to the timeline, I would even call it close to perfect! However, if you are looking for a great tool to create some (longer than 30 second) free videos, PowToon definitely has the upper hand. Either way, these tools are easy to use and can really up your animation game!

Do you use either of these? Or another tool that you like?  Please share your experience in the comments!

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!

School’s Out for Summer!

Today is the last day of school for the kids in my town. For many that means the start of several months of forgetting much of what they just crammed into their brains for finals.  Admittedly, I was never that kid.  I read all the time, even really boring things like math text books (yeah, I’m that person).

But, as an adult that has been a really great thing!  I am constantly seeking out new ways to learn.  The downside is that now I am the one responsible for paying for books, events, and other learning tools…  and that sure can get expensive.

Earlier this week I attended a local ISPI event.  Rick Rummler spoke on performance thinking and then we participated in several mini-sessions.  Deadra Welcome presented a great min-session on a program she used to keep her department learning (for free!) for a month.

So, in the spirit of keeping the school year alive here are some free tools and resources anyone can use to keep learning all summer long (any beyond!). I provide some examples below, but you can use your favorite search engine to easily find a resource in any of these categories that fits your needs.

Blogs

beach-84560_640You’re here so I figure I don’t need to sell you too much on this one. 🙂

Blogs offer a way to stay on top of current trends, interact with other professionals, and expand your horizons a little. I follow several and my advice is to find some authors you like and subscribe so you never miss a post (unless you are sitting on the beach with a pina colada in hand, in which case you should be ignoring everything digital).

Social Media

tweet-149813_640Twitter is a great learning tool.  Follow some folks who post interesting and useful things, and click on their posts every once in a while.  Online chats such as lrnchat (which happens every Thursday at 8:30 pm EST) are a great way to connect with and learn from other professionals interested in learning. If you can’t make the chats (I am usually having family time) they post the transcripts each week.

LinkedIn is also a nice place to stumble across news, blogs, events and other professional happenings in your field.  The more rich your network of connections (read not just large, but also quality connections), the better your news feed will be on LinkedIn.

Of course, every social media channel offers a chance to learn, but for the newly initiated I think these two are a great place to start.

Online Videos

I can waste lots of hours on YouTube watching videos of cats.  But for about every 3 cat videos, I also watch something that helps me learn a useful skill.  It might be a new workaround for Articulate Storyline or how to build a rain barrel (yep, I just installed some to help water our garden!). Other great online video sites include Screenr, TED, and Vimeo.

Apps

iphone-37856_640Whether you want to learn to code, need some inspiration for a course, or want mobile support for instructional design, apps can offer lots of support and learning opportunities these days.  And no longer is apple king of the apps.  Andriod and Windows app stores have bulked up considerably in the last few years.  And yes, there are tons of great educational apps for free.

If you don’t have a smart phone or tablet, never fear.  Lots of apps also have versions that exist online or can be downloaded to a computer desktop.

Podcasts

Podcasts exist on any topic you can imagine.  I recently participated in one called Eye on ISD. I also listen to several that don’t directly relate to what I do, but keep me listening to a constant stream of new ideas. iTunesU is a great resource for high level learning on specific topics.

computer-103577_640MOOCs

Massive open online courses require some dedication but can be quite worth it.  These online courses are often free and offer an opportunity to “audit” a college course online. There are lots of great places to sign up for a MOOC and it is likely a class exists on whatever you want to learn.

Learn Camp

This is one of the few resources that I am calling out by name for a few reasons: A) I think it is awesome, B) It doesn’t really fit into the categories above, C) I signed up and want to learn from as many awesome people as possible, so you should sign up too.

Learn Camp is a free, 12 week long self-directed program led by Mike Taylor of Articulate. Basically, it is an awesome way to experiment with technology on the web. It is geared towards learning and development professionals, but everyone is welcome to join in the fun. It doesn’t even take much time (less than 30 minutes a week, or 4-8 hours total over 12 weeks), so you have no excuses.

Feedback

I know that for myself, and several others I have come across, a community that can provide substantial feedback on your work is the tool that has helped me grow the most.  I am lucky to have several of these right now, my school community and the eLearning Heroes community being the primary ones.

If you don’t have a work or school environment where you can do thispeak-238488_640s, there are lots of forums and communities online where you can share and get feedback.

Conversations

Talking with folks about their ideas is a great way to learn whether it is face-to-face or virtual.  Ask questions, listen actively, and engage. I try to approach every conversation with the attitude that everyone has something to teach me.

Library

Yep.  Remember the library?

If you really hate making the trek, or don’t have the time, or just love technology too much, many libraries now how programs that will allow you to check out books through your e-reader/tablet/mobile device. There are also now lots of virtual library options like Textbook Revolution (books & textbooks), the Free Library (classic lit and periodicals), and Project Gutenberg (eBooks).

 

What are your favorite ways to learn for free?  Do you have any sites, apps, community or resources you would like to share?  Please do so in the comments below!

Community Matters

An old friend came to stay with me this past week, someone I love dearly but hadn’t seen in about 5 years. He (Dave) lives on the west coast, I live on the east coast and therefore we don’t get to see each other often.

We had a wonderful time catching up and had lots of stories about where our lives had gone since we last hung out. Both of us had made some job changes, bought houses, and gotten married.  But one topic kept recurring in almost every one of our conversations – community.

Dave and his wife met at a cohousing community. They moved a couple years ago but are struggling as they have not found their place in their new community. I left 2 previous higher education programs because of a lack of a supportive community (in one case, students were even downright cutthroat). I love my neighborhood because of the strong sense of community. You get the picture.

I also found myself talking about all the professional communities I rely on daily to learn new things, get inspiration, and find support. I guess this would be my personal learning network. Today I just want to pay homage to some of those communities.

 

My colleagues

community animated GIF

Why I love this community: So, I have yet to decide if this is the best way to pick a new job, but I always rely so much more on the connection I feel with a potential manager during the interview than anything else.  I think this probably means I don’t make as much money as I could, but who cares?  All the money in the world wouldn’t be enough for me to work with a team I couldn’t stand.

Anyway, my current team at Engility is awesome.  My group/division works on projects in international development and is full of passionate people that want to change the world. My team members are my life support on a regular basis and I think I do a good job helping them out as well.

I also have so many friends from previous jobs that are always willing to give me feedback, or just go to happy hour after a tough day. A former boss of mine is the one that convinced me to move to my current location (she also lives in the neighborhood). My current manager encouraged me to start blogging and is my biggest advocate. Some of my current and former colleagues are folks I count among my favorite people in the world.

You guys (and you know who you are) are better than money – thanks.

What this community offers that others don’t: personalized support and feedback

 

UMBC

https://i2.wp.com/www.reactiongifs.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/community.gif

Why I love this community: For those that don’t know, I am currently working on a M.A. in instructional systems development at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. It’s mostly online, which I was unsure about at first because I felt a large part of grad school was making connections in your field.  But I really had nothing to fear because UMBC is really great at encouraging those connections.

I am only about half way through the program but have already met a slew of wonderful professionals who challenge my thinking and expand my ideas of what is possible on a regular basis. There are so many stories of alumni in this program moving forward in their careers because of connections they made at UMBC.  If you are considering a master’s or certificate program in ISD or instructional technology, I would highly recommend this university.

What this community offers that others don’t: a real push outside of my comfort zone in conjunction with a safe place to fail

 

ASTD (ATD) and ISPI

community animated GIF

Why I love this community: To be honest, it took a long time for me to be convinced of the worth of professional communities. Then I realized that it was because I wasn’t really engaging with the community… duh.

The local chapters are a great place to meet folks in the field who work in your area.  The national chapters offer blogs, publications, conferences and other forms of support.

So this year I vowed to get more involved and it has really paid off!  I have attended some local meetings where I have made new connections in my area and learned some great information. I attended the ASTD/ATD conference in May and again, made some great connections and learned lots of great information.  I even offered to serve on a panel at the conference and met some amazing folks through that opportunity.  In fact, the ASTD staff member coordinating the panel asked us to write guest blog posts and mine should be up on the ASTD site some time in the coming week.

What this community offers that others don’t: a wealth of professional resources and tools for staying current in the field

 

eLearning Heroes

community animated GIF

Why I love this community: I’m not going to push Articulate Storyline or other products on anyone, but even if Articulate wasn’t a great tool (which it is!) I would still use it. I’m sure you can guess why – the community.  They have this amazing site full of forums, blogs, and resources.

One of the best parts of this community is that each week David Anderson posts a weekly challenge where anyone can create and submit a piece of work to help build skills, share information, and build their portfolio. Through these challenges I have “met” some really talented eLearning designers/developers, learned lots of new tricks, and really improved my outputs in Storyline.  These challenges have challenged me to try some new things in the software that I might not otherwise have an opportunity to try and made some of my processes more efficient.

Involvement in this community has also really increased my visibility. David and the other Articulate staff are amazing about sharing the work of community members through their site and on Twitter. For the freelancers in the field, they offer a lot of support when it comes to looking for new clients and they even post a weekly round up of job openings every Friday.

What this community offers that others don’t: specific support for and feedback on eLearning and Articulate Storyline and a regular opportunity to build my portfolio and increase my visibility

 

Note that all of these communities are awesome for the reason that all good communities are awesome – they offer laughter, insight, feedback, and support. Instructional designers and eLearning developers often produce proprietary products, but amazingly are some of the most open, sharing, supportive folks in any profession. I love what I do because it is creative and scientific, but mostly because I always feel like I am a part of something larger.

What communities have been important to you?  Am I missing any that I should be sure to check out?  Please share!

Flipped Primer – Part 4

This week’s flipped primer installment just happens to correspond nicely with the Articulate eLearning Heroes challenge of the week – I love it when those things happen!

The Articulate challenge is to share your favorite eLearning tools. I shared a few of my favorites, and there is a wonderful list being compiled.

And in this week’s post I’d like to share some tools and strategies for flipping the classroom.  Some of those tools will overlap as eLearning can certainly be a part flipping. But I’ll also check out social media and collaboration tools and strategies for use in a face to face classroom.

(For more background on flipped learning check out my previous posts on what it is, how to do it, and some pros and cons.)

Tools for moving lecture out of the classroom

Many tools created specifically for flipped classroom use, such as sites with instructional videos or cloud based software that integrates several types of sharing and collaboration activities, are unfortunately geared towards a K-12 audience. However, there are a large number of tools that can be used to flip the classroom in the workplace. The table below shows a list of some commonly used tools that can be help instructors flip the corporate classroom. I compiled this list from my own experience and knowledge along with some help from the Regional Educational Media Center Association of Michigan, Edudemic, Adobe, and Bob Lee and Jim Recker.

Action Tool(s)

Create a video lecture

  video107

Screenr, Screencast.com (screencasting)
Powtoons (animated video creation)
Explain Everything, Screenchomp, ShowMe, Educreations (tablet apps)

Create an audio lecture

microphone9

Audacity
Create an interactive video
with knowledge checks

education

Articulate Studio or Storyline
Adobe Captivate or Presenter
Camtasia
Lectora
Upload and share a video, audio lecture,
podcast, or other resources
(books, articles, job aids)

cloud32

YouTube, Vimeo (non-interactive video)
iTunes (audio)
Box, Dropbox, Google Drive
LMS such as Moodle
Collect, curate, and share a list of resourcesdata29 Diigo
Padlet
Evernote
Create lessons with pre-made videoseducational1 TED-Ed
Quiz or poll learners

man318

Poll Everywhere, Google Forms, Survey Monkey
Socrative, InfuseLearning, GoSoapBox (tablet apps)
LMS such as Moodle
Encourage collaboration, communication
or discussion; provide ongoing supportonline5
PBWorks, Wikispaces (wikis)
Twitter
Facebook
Google+
Celly
Podio
Collect student reflections

dream

FlipGrid
Padlet
PBWorks, Wikispaces (wikis)
WordPress, Blogger (blogs)

Student-centered learning techniques.

I won’t delve too deeply into these, but it is important to note that in order to achieve higher order learning, flipped learning educators use student-centered techniques such as active learning.

Active learning is a broad category that includes several other techniques and methods where students are actively exploring and reflecting. It includes strategies like:

  • problem-based learning (where students focus on using resources to solve a problem)
  • experiments
  • preparing and delivering presentations
  • games
  • simulations
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Active learning also includes peer-assisted learning techniques. Learners may work with their peers/colleagues during concept exploration or meaning-making by:

  • chatting online
  • responding to posts on a discussion board
  • using social media

They may work with peers in the classroom for engagement and application by:

  • collaboratively solving problems
  • cooperating to complete projects
  • peer tutoring so that students at different levels of understanding are actively engaged

A note about cooperative learning: individual accountability is key. Group projects which can be completed by one or two of the students in a group are not an example of cooperative learning. Rather, each student has a role that they must fulfill in order for the group to be successful. Group self-evaluation is also part of cooperative learning, making it more structured than other types of peer-to-peer learning techniques.

 

Do you have a favorite tool that should be added to this list?  Please share it here and I’ll tack it on!

Next up: The last installment… Examples of corporate flipping

In the meantime, here are some resources for a little extra reading.

Bishop, J. L., & Verleger, M. A. (2013). The flipped classroom: A survey of the research. In ASEE National Conference Proceedings. Atlanta, GA. Retrieved from http://faculty.up.edu/vandegri/FacDev/Papers/Research_flipped_classroom.pdf

Dunn, J. (2013, April 6). The 10 best web tools for flipped classrooms. Edudemic: Connecting Education & Technology. [Web log]. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/web-tools-for-flipped-classrooms/

Hamdan, N., McKnight, P., McKnight, K., & Arfstrom, K. (2013). A review of flipped learning. Retrieved from http://www.flippedlearning.org/cms/lib07/VA01923112/Centricity/Domain/41/LitReview_FlippedLearning.pdf

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

Partridge, A. (2013, August 28). What is a flipped classroom and how can it help me? Rapid eLearning: Adobe Presenter Blog. [Web log]. Retrieved from http://blogs.adobe.com/presenter/2013/08/what-is-a-flipped-classroom-and-how-can-it-help-me.html

Regional Educational Media Center Association of Michigan (REMC). (2013). 21 Things for Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.21things4teachers.net/

Regional Educational Media Center Association of Michigan (REMC). (2014). 21 Things for iPads. Retrieved from http://www.21things4ipads.net/