Archive for the ‘Online Teaching and Learning’ Category

2016 ATD Conference Top 5 Sessions

September 16, 2016

yjyxkn7iThrough the fortune of geography and the opportunity to work as a volunteer, I was able to attend the ATD Conference in Denver this past summer.  Usually I like to share my top takeaways, but because of the enormity of this conference I had to go the level of top 5 sessions, not just top 5 ideas.  Here they are, in non-ranked order.

1. Storytelling is the Secret Sauce  Doug Stevenson, author of “Story Theater Method” echoed Chip and Dan Heath when he opened with this idea: facts fade, data gets dumped, but stories stick.  I was already a believer in the power of stories to teach and move people to action but Doug taught me some new things.  First, don’t tell a story just because someone told you stories are good.  It has to be the right story, at the right time, for the right audience.  Context is king.  Secondly, as a presenter, you should pay attention to your role as an actor/performer when you step in front of an audience. Just where you stand on a stage imparts meaning.

2. Effective Virtual Training/Webinars led by David Smith, from Virtual Gurus.  David recommends Adobe Connect as the best webinar tool and I found that reassuring, since I know the strength of that software and use it almost daily.  He gave me some ideas of elements to add to my webinars such as an intro video (to be played as people enter the virtual room) that shows attendees how to use the interactive tools.  Another recommendation was to avoid using yes/no true/false questions in polls, rather just have attendees respond using the agree/disagree buttons to save time.  He strongly advises for using a producer to handle tech issues, and only using the webcam at the very beginning of a webinar to establish presence, then turning it off to avoid distractions.

3. Awesome Powerpoint Tricks by Wendy Gates Corbett & Richard Goring from BrightCarbon. This demo went at breakneck speed leaving we in the audience dazzled, yet yearning for slower paced step by step instructions.  The main concept is to create visual sequences in Powerpoint that look like detailed animations focused on clearly communicating the most important messages.  I could see how most of us could develop creative animations, given the time.

4. Using Social Media and Online Learning Communities by Daniel Jones.  Daniel gave me some new ideas such as using social media before, during and after a course. This aligns well with the concept of ongoing learning that doesn’t just start and stop within course deadlines.  He touched on ingredients to create a successful online community: finding people who want to share, have something of value that makes them want to come back to the community area, and have a community manager who keeps the discussions on point, keeping it positive, and asking questions to spark discussions.  Daniel also gave me a new idea for webinars-seeking out resident subject matter experts to share their knowledge, instead of waiting for people to approach me to host webinars, I approach them first.

5. Biology, Sociology of Learning and Leading, keynote address by Simon Sinek.  If you’d like to see him talk on this topic, check out his TED Talk here.  Simon showed how our biological chemicals-specifically endorphins, dopamines, seratonins and oxytocins-give us powerful motivators to act in certain ways.  We must be aware of these to recognize what drives us and other to action.  Another factor is the influence of others, especially leaders, on our ability to work well and persevere.  Simon believes that leadership is a choice and involves personal sacrifice.  By building trust people will follow you.  Many of these ideas seem self-evident, but he added some more that serve as a personal challenge to me:  Anyone can lead.  It’s a daily practice.  We can lead by exercising selflessness, even when no one sees you.  This sounds like a bold, strong ethical ethos that I’d like to strive toward.  In closing, he said, “I urge you to take care of each other.  If you take care of each other, I guarantee we will change the world.”  Let’s do it!

Thanks for reading.

Let me know what you think.


Hanging Out on Air

August 19, 2016

googleplushangoutonair-300x207Dear Faithful Readers,

Sorry it’s been a while since posting…this summer has been hectic.  But the good news is that I have plenty to share over the coming weeks!

First, I want to talk about the streaming broadcasts that I hosted for the DEPLA (Digital Educator and Personalized Learning Academy) event this summer.  I volunteered to handle all streaming from one of the classrooms.  My challenge was to find equipment to support a panel discussion and to select the best free streaming platform.

In regards to selecting the platform, I chose Google Hangouts on Air and was pleasantly surprised by the ease of scheduling, automatic recording, and even stats for attendees and recording views.  I highly recommend it for these features.  Thanks to the static urls, we were able to publicize the links before the sessions (for live attendees) and afterwards for viewers of the recordings.  Here is our page of links to the recordings.

My biggest challenge was to find a usb audio mixer for the streaming room since my other mixer was being used in the cafetorium (yes, that’s what they called it, a combination of cafeteria and auditorium).  I purchased a Alesis Multimix usb audio mixer for this event.  This is  a mixer I would highly recommend for it’s affordability, ease of use and high quality sound with no noisy channels.  This mixer made me very happy over the two days of streaming panel discussions.

The lessons I learned to improve my streaming for next year are:

  1.  Try to use a better webcam or video camera
  2. Try to get a backdrop for the panel to avoid distractions and
  3. Look into a virtual or physical video mixer to run more than one camera

Here are photos of one of the panels and my humble streaming rig:

panel at deplamy streaming rig at DEPLA 2016


Online Learning Conference Review

October 16, 2015

olc logoLast week I had the pleasure of attending the Online Learning Conference in Denver.  I want to share my top five takeaways in this brief review.

1. The Glance Test.  In an impressive session by Laura Wall Klieves from Duarte, we were introduced to their Glance Test.  Using their rubric we looked at slides for 3 seconds and determined if they contained more signal than noise.  Elements we looked at included singular message, audience relevance, visual elements and arrangement. This reinforced everything that I’ve learned from Presentation Zen and “Lose the Bullets”.  I’m hoping that I can convert more people at my current workplace to this line of design.

2. Intelligent eDesign. Using the psychology of how people learn, course designers should remember that brains learn best when solving a problem (use PBL), use social learning, puil rather than push learners.  Learners like variety-our brains like different sources of input.  Aligning with Adult Learning Theory, let learners self-direct whenever possible and give them rewards/motivation for learning.

3. Interactive Videos.  This is something I’ve been meaning to try out with Youtube tools, making videos interactive with links.  They showed a really cool tool Hapyak that allows designers to embed not only links and branching but even quizzes into existing videos.  I’m definitely going to try out this tool.  The presenters also emphasized the value of video to encode into our memory using multisensory immersion and emotional content.  This harkens back to my work in Digital Storytelling.

4. Gamification. Another approach I’ve been looking at incorporating into my learning design.  This graphic connecting with Bloom’s Taxonomy gave me some entry points to explore.  There is no doubt that our brains are wired to play games, they are ubiquitous thanks to mobile devices and social media, and they keep us motivated and engaged.

5. Whiteboard Animation.  By now most of us have seen whiteboard animations where a human hand draws images and words on a white background accompanied by narration or music.  Until recently you would have had to hire an animation company to produce one of these videos.  Now there is software available to create some pretty professional looking short videos.  I attended a hands-on session using VideoScribe and we quickly created videos on our own.  I intend to purchase a subscription and try out this tool some more.  I am attracted to the customization that this particular software provides.  Look for a future post and example from me.

Flavors of Online Learning

September 3, 2015

Wow, another week, another screencast.  I think I”m on a roll with these as another way for me to share resources. Watch for more in upcoming weeks.  This one is short (7 minutes). It is my attempt to explain the categories of online learning which come in many varieties…or flavors.  Here is the video:

Two of the links referred to in the screencast are already here in my blog.  The other is: The Tangled Web of Online Learning.

Since there are few printed words in my screencast video I thought it might be helpful for some to see my outline and show you how I organized the categories.  Here is the outline for my presentation:

Online Learning Flavors
Online Courses-  LMSs with Modules, MOOCS, Digital Badging (aka micro-credentialing)
Courses can be 100% online, blended/hybrid mix, or web-enhanced
Elements-tracking, assessments, certificates/grades/credit

Google Forms, Google Slides, websites, blogs
Google Docs don’t need staples 🙂  Collaborations!
Online Learning Communities
Social Media-FB, Twitter, Scoop It, Google +

Somewhere in between formal and informal
Personalized Learning
Customized-letting learners choose material but have a common assessment

Conference Calls
Live Streaming

Discussion Boards
Self-paced courses/modules
Online Resources-wikis, collaborative docs

As always, I welcome your comments and sharing.

Creating Effective Discussion Boards

August 27, 2015

This week I’m going to try something a bit different.  Most of my post is in the form of a video screencast (10 minutes).  It’s a subject I talked about years ago but felt it needed some updating as I’ve learned more on the subject.  Recently I gave this presentation at the University of Colorado.  The ppt follows the principles of Presentation Zen with images carrying my message along.  Here is the video:



Here are the resources mentioned in the video:

Creating Discussion Boards in Canvas

Discussion Board Advice from Faculty Focus

Cornell Center for Teaching Excellence

Mastering Online Discussion Boards from Edutopia

Tips for Creating Prompts

Sample Rubrics for Grading Discussion Boards

Drag and Drop Quizzes in Moodle

February 4, 2015
Daniela Harmann Flickr CC

Daniela Harmann Flickr CC

I’m really excited about the new drag and drop quiz functions in Moodle.  We added them to our main site last month.  There are three audiences that I can see using these immediately:

1.  Adult Learners-for our adult learners we have the option of making more complicated, yet visually appealing, drag and drop matching text quizzes.  Not only are they easy to create and automatically grade, they can engage adult learners in choice, applicability and higher-order thinking.  Of course, auto-graded quizzes are useful in self-guided online course modules.  They will run on their own, indefinitely, without further facilitator interaction.

2.  Teachers will find these quizzes easy to create and appreciate the auto-grading. I hope teachers will consider this a wonderful opportunity to create PARCC-like tests to get their students ready for the real thing.

3.  Students will enjoy the visual appeal, be engaged by the game-like challenge and get great practice for future mandated online testing.  They might even find that taking a quiz can be fun!

Below are some screenshots of quizzes I created for elementary school students as examples:

drag and drop map quiz in moodle

fish matching quiz in moodle

Innovate Conference at OSU

March 29, 2013

ImageThis post is my overview of the Innovate Conference held this past week at The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus Ohio.  The first keynote of the day was Jim Grooms from the University of Mary Washington.  I’ve been familiar with Jim’s work in the open digital storytelling course called DS106 (that you can sign up for here).   The DS106 concept is “everything you do online is a story”.  Jim fervently believes in totally open educational experiences and open platforms.  My favorite quote from him is “At its best, openness is an ethos not a license.  It’s an approach to teaching and learning that builds community online and offline.

One of the interesting presentations of the day was on iPads in the Classroom, although perhaps a more appropriate title would have been iPads In and Outside the Classroom.  This biology class divided the students into groups of 4 and gave each group an iPad to work on the day of class.  Using tools such as Apple Configurator, iTunesU, Notability and Box, the students are given an assignment to work through.  Some of the activities take place outdoors and involve documenting plants, the iPad is perfectly suited for this and by limiting the software that is installed on the iPad the students stay focused on the assignment.

One panel of the day that was surprising in its appearance and candor was one featuring three undergraduate students relating their “user experience” with technology in the classroom and online activities.   They stressed a desire to follow their grades online and for faculty to post course materials online.  They were undecided the use of discussion boards but did like the idea of posting short lecture materials online and leaving more time in the classroom for interaction with the teacher and course activities.

I could go on and on about the ideas shared at the conference and its incredible value.  Did you know this annual conference is free to attend?  I invite you to look at this year’s recordings here and mark your calendars for next year when the conference will be on March 25 and 26, 2014.  Kudos to all the folks at OSU who I know must put a lot of work into this magnificent event for everyone interested in technology and teaching.

Jumping In To The MOOC Pool

March 21, 2013

ImageWell, I’ve finally taken the plunge and signed up for a MOOC.  This one is offered by Coursera.  The course is on songwriting and is being taught by Pat Pattison from the Berklee School of Music.  Currently we’re in week 3 of 6 so I feel I can offer some accurate observations on the design of the course, the delivery system and my personal experience.

Here’s what you find inside the course:

Short video lectures that are no longer than 20 minutes long.  Some are as short as 1 and a half minutes in length.  The short length is a good design choice and the videos have embedded quizzes that are interspersed within-another element of good instructional design.  The videos are well produced (probably shot with at least 3 SLR cameras), edited, and have graphics added to illustrate important points. Pat, the teacher delivers the lectures in a personable way with humor, drama, stories and great examples.

Each week has graded quizzes that can be taken repeatedly as the highest mark becomes your final grade for the assessment.

Every week also has an assignment that is turned in online.  Although not called a rubric, detailed expectations for the assignment are given.  These guidelines then become the grading criteria when the assignment moves into its second phase: peer assessment.  You must grade at least 5 peers before you receive feedback on your own submission.

There is also an open social dimension to the course.  Discussion forums are setup for formative feedback on the videos, quizzes, assignments and design of the course. Students can also start their own forums and threads for interest groups, meetups and spinoff discussions.  These areas are quite active on the course page and searchable.

Bottom line, thus far: I’m finding this experience to be rewarding personally for my creative development and professionally as I see the inner workings of a MOOC and how it can be successful.  My advice to you is don’t be afraid to jump in to the MOOC pool.  The water’s fine!

Getting my COAT on

March 15, 2013

ImageThis week I completed the online course to earn a Certificate for Online Adjunct Teaching (COAT).  Although it was originally designed for adjunct instructors, I believe that anyone who teaches a fully online or blended course can definitely benefit from taking this course.  Part of the value of this course is experiential.  By taking an online course you experience exactly what it is like to be an online, distance, learner.  I might go as far to say that anyone who intends to teach an online course must first take a course online to gain this invaluable perspective.

Though the COAT course for the most part focuses on facilitation there was time spent looking at pedagogy, andragogy and assessments.  The interaction with fellow students/teachers was engaging and informative.  I found that the timed pace of the course, along with grading of activities kept me focused and motivated.  The instructor/facilitator, Dr. Muse, gave us excellent modeling to follow.

It’s personally invigorating to be taking courses again(after a break of a few years).  My eyes are wide open to seeing examples of good online instructional design and effective tools.  As always, it’s good to fill in any gaps in my knowledge and keep current in the field.  Courses like these also inspire me to improve my own teaching.

If you’d like to check out the course for yourself(it is offered multiple times a year), then follow this link.  The tuition, which I think is affordable, is $300 for Maryland residents.

Adobe Connect to the Rescue!

February 22, 2013

Thanks to suadmissionsadobeconnectthumbnailperstorm Sandy last fall our admissions department had to cancel quite a few presentations on the East Coast.  They approached me to discuss the possibility of using Adobe Connect to reach out to the potential students.  What really impressed me about the folks in the admissions office was how they took my advice and did everything to assure a successful webinar, and it was a huge success.  What did they do?  They came in and learned about the software and tried it out for themselves in some test situations first.  They took their spectacular presentation that was in Mac Keynote format and changed it to pdf, with adjustments where necessary to make it look perfect in Adobe Connect.  They used a good USB microphone (AT 2020) and we monitored the sound from another room, with headphones.  Also, as you can see in this photo, one person presented while another facilitated, answering questions.  We  had a few more people on hand who were also monitoring and answering questions from prospective students by using the chat window.  Because it was such a success, I know they’re planning to use it more in the future and will probably add some interactive survey questions too.  Preparation, testing and employing best practices=success.