Category Archives: Instructional Technology

ET4Online: Emerging Technologies for Online Learning

This week I have the pleasure of attending the Sloan Consortium’s 7th Annual International Symposium: Emerging Technologies for Online Learning as a virtual attendee. I think this is the first time I’m experiencing remote participation in an on-site event … and it’s great!

#et4online

Not only are there a lot of streamed sessions to choose from, the social media interaction is helpful in bringing us all together through shared conversations and resources. Thanks to Saint Leo University for making it possible for me as an adjunct instructor and course designer to experience this event.

Here are a few of the sessions I attended, along with (very) brief notes and links that take you to the conference pages where more information (including slides and handouts) are uploaded and openly available.

How’d You Do That? Tips and Tricks That Might Account for My 95% Retention Rate

  • “Keep class fresh and fun for you and your students.”
  • Try having students submit discussion questions – students may be more likely to participate.
  • Provide a table-format course schedule with details about due dates, instructions, objectives, etc.
  • Decide what your policies are (e.g., late assignments) and stick to them. “Otherwise it’s a guideline.”
  • Good conference tip: “look for a few gems.” Ideas that intrigue you, make you think about what you are doing, and could be actionable.

Turning the Lens Inward: Analyzing Instructor Participation in Asynchronous Discussions

  • Take a look at the Discussion Participation Tool presented in the session.
  • Good breakdown of types of responses – social, teaching, cognitive.
  • “It’s nice when you can’t tell who is the teacher and who is a grad student” in an online discussion forum.
  • We’re all in search of a “desirable instructor profile” that includes optimizing frequency of posts and types of posts. Would expectations be different for full-time/part-time instructors?

Developing Collaboration Online: Comparison of Structured Group Assignments

  • Challenges exist in creating outcomes and activities that meet the needs of students from novice to expert.
  • Importance of the role of social presence cannot be overstated.
  • Advice includes: move toward synchronous sessions, intentionality in assignments, complexity of group work, use of webcam, on demand videos and assignments.
  • Consider designing, approaching online course in phases (Boettcher and Conrad, 2010).
  • Provide step-by-step instructions for students’ “first night” in your online course.
  • Reflective blog prompts bring closure to every assignment.
  • Interesting assignments described, including “Cool Tool Duel.”

Thanks again to Sloan-C and Saint Leo! This is a small sampling of the range of speakers, topics, and interactions that are being shared. Explore the conference program online for more info – most session pages include downloadable materials and presenter contact details.

You may also want to follow @et4online to get updates about next year’s conference, and, of course, the #et4online hashtag.

Update! I’m an official Sloan-C Ninja after completing the conference’s social media challenges, including my first video upload. Check out the badges. :)

facebookinstagramtwitter (1)vinerssninja

Top 10 Learning Tools – 2012

Are you familiar with the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT) annual “Top 100 Tools for Learning” project? Led by Jane Hart, this is a collaborative effort in which learning professionals all over the world submit their top 10 tools for the year. This year more than 500 submissions were included.

I’ve contributed to the project over the last several years, but having missed the deadline for the latest list, I thought I’d go ahead and post my thoughts here. As a blogger, freelance instructional designer, and adjunct online instructor, these are the 10 tools that have been the most helpful to me over the past year (in no particular order):

  1. Google Search: What would we do without it? As a blogger I use Google to begin the research for almost every post I write. In the process I’ve become a student of analytics and changing algorithms. I recently completed Google’s open access Power Searching class and highly recommend it if you have the opportunity to enroll or use the posted resources.
  2. Blackboard: I love it and I hate it. Both the class I taught in the spring and another I assisted with this fall used Blackboard to deliver content to online students. While it’s not my favorite, I think an LMS at its most basic can provide a helpful hub for information and communication during an online class.
  3. Gmail: Email may be dead, but I sure am using it a lot these days to communicate with students, co-workers, and even to conduct asynchronous interviews for blog posts. I currently have more active accounts that I really want to count, and continue to be issued new ones with new contracts.
  4. Twitter:Perhaps my favorite on this list, I spend a lot of time on Twitter for a multitude of reasons: current events, industry news, network building, conference backchannels, keeping in touch with friends and colleagues, community-building and more. I also moderate a weekly chat focused on online learning and presented Twitter-related topics at several conferences this year.
  5. MS Word: Still my go-to for all things related to writing, I use Word to draft all posts here and at work, as well as for note-taking. Although I am using shared Google Docs more and more when collaboration is needed.
  6. Skype: I initiated Skype use this past year for virtual office hours with students and found several other groups asking me to join Skype meetings as well. I have also had a Skype phone number for the past several years and find it is more reliable (and has clearer reception) than my cell for work-related calls.
  7. WordPress: WordPress.com is home for this blog, and Inside Online Learning is powered by WordPress.org. One of the highlights of my year was presenting at WordCamp Miami in February and learning more about how to use WordPress from other speakers and participants representing a wide range of blog topics and web development skills.
  8. Google Chrome: As my favorite browser (although Firefox is a close second) Chrome has come a long way and just makes my work easier with a streamlined interface and great add-ons like Awesome Screenshot.
  9. Camtasia: Earlier this year I designed and developed an online course for CEUonestop (LinkedIn) which required screencasting. The Camtasia app was affordable and much more intuitive than I thought it would be, allowing me to quickly capture and edit resulting in a nice looking final product.
  10. Flickr: I continue to rely on the generosity of photographers providing use of their images with Creative Commons licenses. Flickr makes it easy to search for these via keyword and license type so that I can find items suitable for use in blog posts. I also try to add to the pool when I can.

Take a look at C4LPT’s final Top 100 list below, but don’t stop there. Go to the main page to explore more details about the submissions in the “Best of Breed” list and to see how this year’s tools compared to those submitted in 2011.

Image credit: (Top 10) iabusa, Flickr, CC:BY-SA

Top 10 Learning Tools – 2011

This is my third year of submitting my Top 10 Tools for Learning to Jane Hart’s annual project. Jane invites you to add your input as well:

If you are a learning professional (e.g. teacher, academic, trainer, consultant, developer, practitioner, analyst, etc) and active in the field of (e-)learning, please share your Top 10 Tools for Learning to help refine the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2011.

She goes a step further and defines learning tool for us:

This could be a tool you use to create or deliver learning content/solutions for others, or a tool you use for your own personal learning.

This year I’ve done more writing than designing, but have put these tools through their paces for my own personal learning purposes. So, here’s my list (in no particular order):

  1. Hootsuite: I have written about information curation and management systems several times this year and use Hootsuite every single day to manage Twitter tasks: monitor the incoming feed, correspond with other individuals in the field, track topics of interest, follow conference events, and develop writing ideas.
  2. Twitter: This one pretty much goes without saying after #1! I have come to rely on Twitter a great deal, but I am also exploring Google+ more and more for information, conversations, and network building.
  3. Google Search: This is the go-to search engine for me without a doubt. Especially since I made the move over to Chrome.
  4. Chrome: Using this as my primary browser not only opens up the convenience of Google-related features and functions (e.g. searching via keywords in the address bar), but also does a nice job of tracking most frequently visited and most recently visited sites for easy return.
  5. GMail: Another Google product and the one I use for work. Email continues to be a mainline connector for me, and a place where other communication efforts (i.e. Twitter) seem to end up eventually. Did I mention it works well with Chrome? Chrome allows me to set up the notification of new messages so I get a visual on-screen.
  6. Feedly: This is another information management tool that I have written about this year. Set up your reading list of blogs and other websites, and access them in an easy to scan interface. This is a daily routine as well. (And, yes, connects with Google Reader). The Feedly App also allows you to sync your reading list and progress across devices.
  7. WordPress: I use WordPress.com for this blog, and my work is posted on a WordPress self-hosted blog. When asked for recommendations for pretty much anything web-based (i.e. blogs, websites, portfolios, online course delivery, content management ) I mention WordPress. With its large and helpful user community, easy to learn admin side, and design flexibility, you’ve got to give it a try. Oh, and don’t forget to check out a local WordCamp!
  8. MS Word: I made the move to a MacBook Pro over a year ago and haven’t looked back, but I still use Word. For me it’s tried and true. I know how it works and document creation is essential for me. I even admit to creating drafts in Word first before moving to Google Docs or WordPress to share, and then I back up the shared files in Word.
  9. Delicious: I’m still using Delicious pretty heavily, even after the move to AVOS last month. The transition was a little rocky, but everything seems to be back up and running – except, sadly, for Chrome extensions. So while I am shopping for another bookmarking system, Delicious is it for now.
  10. iPad: I am not sure if devices are allowed on this list, but it does fit the definition provided for learning tool. I resisted this purchase with the original then pre-ordered the iPad2 and use it to access everything listed above, except MS Word.

After I completed this list I looked back through my Top 10 for 2009 and 2010 and was a little surprised at how my use has changed over time. How about you? If you haven’t added your Top 10, consider doing so before the project wraps for 2011 sometime in the next few weeks!

UPDATE! Jane Hart’s list of the Top Tools for 2011 is complete! Take a look at the list and slideshow presenting the submissions of 531 learning professionals.

Image credit: zigazou76, Flickr

What I learned at WordCamp 2011: Messages for eLearning

Last weekend I attended WordCamp Miami. This was my second year at this event and I highly recommend it if you use WordPress or are interested in blogging. WordCamp is…

“…a conference that focuses on everything WordPress. WordCamps are informal, community-organized events that are put together by WordPress users…. Everyone from casual users to core developers participate, share ideas, and get to know each other.” – WordCamp Central

This one-day event featured three tracks – beginner/blogger, marketing/design, and development/coding. I felt like I fell a little in between the tracks – not a beginning blogger, but also not a skilled programmer. That being said, I really enjoyed the sessions I attended and left with a list of ideas that will keep me busy for some time to come.

Getting started with WordPress:

If you aren’t familiar but want to find out more, take a look at this Introduction to WordPress presentation from Adam Warner. It’s a nice place to start.

Take-aways for eLearning:

I found that many of the presentations spoke not only to bloggers and WordPress users, but also to designers and developers of online education experiences. We’re concerned about a lot of the same things. The ideas and tips described below could be adapted for use in instructional design and development.

  • Keep mobile development in mind – “The mobile web is growing”, says Steven Mautone. Check out this presentation: WordPress for Mobile. Kevin Zurawel’s presentation on Responsive Web Design recommends developers plan for mobile delivery first, then look at the rest.
  • Let data drive your decisions – In a session on analytics, the stress was on gathering data about blog members and visitors. What data do we collect about online students? How can we better leverage the existing information to improve learning and the online experience? For WordPress users, several presenters mentioned WP SEO by Yost.
  • Improve user experience – We know we don’t ask our students and faculty enough about their experiences with our online courses. How can we get better at this? A user experience checklist might help. Jeremy Harrington presented a User Experience Flight Checklist for a WordPress site that could be adapted for use in eLearning.
  • Prepare to hand-off to your client – In this case I think we could consider both instructor and student “clients”. Too often we complete course development, upload the course pages, then more or less walk away. What can we do to make the transition easier? Tammy Hart discussed future proofing and tips for simplification.
  • WordPress as an LMS – I have friends at the University of Hawaii who are using WordPress to develop and deliver online courses. They are not alone in taking WordPress beyond the blog. Take a look at this presentation by Josh Guffey about using WordPress as a CMS to create a portfolio site. How could students do this for study and/or career portfolios? This plug-in was lauded for making the admin side a lot easier – CMS Tree Page View.
  • Take a long-term approach – It takes time to develop a quality product of any kind. Multiple presenters, especially those talking about the art and science of blogging, stressed this point. It takes time…and practice. And you get better.

Thanks to all:

Thanks to the organizers and speakers for a great event! Lost of positive energy and ideas, all at an affordable price. Visit the WordCamp Miami website for more information about the event and additional links to presentations. If you are at all interested in blogging, social media, or the WordPress platform, find a WordCamp in your area and go!

See you in 2012, WordCamp Miami!

Open or Commercial? Selecting eLearning Development Tools

Whether you are creating a storyboard, editing a photo, writing a training guide, or developing a presentation there are endless choices of applications available. How do you choose? If you are the one making the decisions about which tools to use to develop an elearning project – either you’ve been assigned this task in your organization or you’re freelance – you find that some tools are free to use, while others require the purchase of a license. A previous post listing tools freelancers might choose, included a mix of open and commercial recommendations.

I suspect that there are multiple ways to approach this. My time in organizations with limited budgets saw supervisors asking us to fully review and test open options first, before making a purchase. While private employers often insisted upon specific commercial products and sometimes proprietary ones developed in house.

A few considerations:

  • Budget – What can you afford? This one question may be the deciding factor for you or your organization.
  • Context – Does the choice change based on where the eLearning is to take place? (higher education, K-12, corporate, industry)
  • Input / Output – What raw materials will you be working with in terms of file types, images, etc.? What do you need to end up with, again, in terms of file types?
  • Utility – What functionality do you need? There are different considerations and implications for choosing something like an LMS (Moodle vs. Blackboard) versus a photo editor (Gimp vs. Photoshop).
  • Support & Training – Where can you turn if you need help with a product? Is there an additional cost associated? There is also an investment in time required to learn how to use something new. What is available in terms of tutorials and user communities?

Resources:

Your thoughts?

This post contains more questions than answers. Please consider sharing your experiences and preferences in the comments here.

Image credit: stock.xchng

Reporting Course Issues with Screencasts

How do students and instructors report problems with an online course? Over the past year I have been working with one faculty member that posts issues with screencasts. It has been a successful experience both from her perspective, as an Instructor, and mine, as Instructional Designer.

What are course issues?

Typical problems associated with online courses include:

  • Links: broken, misdirected, error messages
  • Errors: typographical errors, formatting problems
  • Content: missing or outdated information

The usual reporting of a course issue involves filing out an online form with predetermined fields. One of the challenges of these forms is the field titled “description of problem”. Communicating an online program via text can be difficult to do.

What is a screencast?

Using a headset and a screencast application you can create a recording of your computer screen and your narration of what you are doing.  The screencast can be uploaded to another site, think YouTube, or accessed via URL. The instructor mentioned above was already familiar with Jing, but there are other options available – many of them free.

A recent example:

A file wasn’t opening properly for students or instructor, instead opening a series of error messages and warnings. I was not able to recreate the problem. When I contacted the instructor for more information she sent a screencast that allowed me to watch her screen as she tried to open the file. I could see that the file extension was the problem. She would not have thought to mention it, or look for that as a troubleshooting step, but I knew that the LMS could be a little temperamental with the .docx extension. The screencast made all the difference in the communication and resolution process.

Benefits

The potential for decreasing resolution time is the primary benefit here. Instructors are on the front lines with these kinds of errors and students, who are not aware of the existence or role of the instructional designer, often hold the instructor responsible for problems. Screencasts help to remove the uncertainty and the need to go back to the instructor for more information.

For more information about using screencasts:

  • Ferriter, W. (2010). Preparing to teach digitally. Educational Leadership, 67(8), 88-89.
  • Griffis, P. (2009). Building pathfinders with free screen capture tools. Information Technology and Libraries, 4, 189-190.
  • Rethlefsen, M. L. (2009). Screencast like a pro. Library Journal, 134(7), 62-63.

Have you used screencasts, or screenshots, to resolve course issues? Consider incorporating screencasts into your issue reporting process!

Image credit: umwditt, Flickr

Top 10 Tools for Learning – 2010

Once again, Jane Hart is asking all of us to submit our individual top 10 lists so that she can compile and report on the “Top 100 Tools for Learning”, this time the 2010 edition. So, here’s my list (in no particular order) from my perspective as a designer, developer, manager of online courses. These are the tools that I have turned to most often this year to get the work done, and more importantly, to collaborate with others to get the work done. It’s only June, so this might be worth another look a little closer to the end of the year.  

  1. Google Docs – Using these more and more with faculty SMEs to map out course content and with colleagues to write papers and conference proposals.
  2. Twitter – Just marked my first year on Twitter and I am still enjoying it – the constant flow of information and resources. Getting better at curating my list.
  3. Skype – I work remotely and use the Skype Number service as my office phone number. Works well and is very affordable. Also use the instant messaging and conference calls for quick questions with teammates.
  4. Basecamp –  This online project management system allows team members to post and reply to internal messages, work on asynchronous whiteboards, maintain version control of documents… and they are adding new features and capabilities all the time.
  5. Adobe Connect – The features of a synchronous system are not always required, but can’t be beat for sharing screens and walking through a product or document. Adobe Connect’s not my favorite of these systems, but it’s the one I’ve used the most this year. Adobe Connect Now has been great for small meetings (up to 3 people).
  6. WordPress – Still using WordPress for my blog and looking at moving to the self-hosted version.  After attending a WordCamp event I am even more convinced that this is the tool of choice for blogging and that there is potential for use as an LMS/CMS…
  7. Learning Management Systems – A broad category, yes, and still on my list in 2010. I’ve used Sakai, Blackboard, e-College, and dabbled in WebCT and Moodle. The features are similar and provide a framework for delivering a formal course. I realize there is a lot of debate out there about the need for a system like this, but there’s something to be said for the ability to add structure and organization.
  8. Slideshare – A nice tool for sharing presentations that are easy to embed in blog posts, course web pages, etc. with active links. Twice this year I’ve used slideshare to share a presentation before and after synchronous conference sessions. Also easy to add to your LinkedIn profile or VisualCV.
  9. Google Search – I’ve experimented a little with Bing, but Google Search is my favorite search engine and the one I use 99.99% of the time.
  10. Aggregators, all kinds – I add this as another broad category to include tools like TweetDeck, Google Reader, The Twitter Time.es, Meebo, Delicious, Acamedes, etc. Information overload is upon us and I am starting to find these tools more useful all the time to help me sort through information, share information, and manage incoming and outgoing communication with my network.

A bonus: Creative Commons licenses. This isn’t a technology, I suppose, but it is a tool that is helpful in my field. There is a lot of debate currently about open educational resources and how they can be and should be used in different contexts. These licenses at the very least offer us all a way to clearly indicate how we intend our materials to be used.

Did you submit your top 10 list for 2010? How does your list differ from mine?