Archive for July, 2009

Random Captivate Tip

July 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Did you know you can copy the background of a slide by pressing Ctrl-Shft-Y? That seems so random to me, but helpful when trying to replace lots of screenshots in an already-created project.

Categories: Content Creation Tags:

Respect in Online Courses

July 29, 2009 Leave a comment

DaycareI’m sure college students wouldn’t really appreciate the comparison I’m about to make but it fits too well on this topic to not use it. If you have ever visited a daycare you will often notice they post rules on their walls. These rules may not necessarily be the same rules the kids follow at home and that is exactly why they are there. If they do not alert the children to the rules of the current location, not all children will behave appropriately. Sure, there are always the well-behaved ones that will be quiet and well-mannered no matter where they are but typically a child will mold themselves to the rules of their current location. Not much changes when we grow up.

Just like you are given codes of conduct at your workplace so you know for sure what is and is not okay, students need to be given the codes of conduct for each online course they attend. What you may feel is a lack of respect may be perfectly acceptable for another instructor. The key here is: Everyone is different. We shouldn’t expect a student to know exactly what we expect of them without telling them. For example, you have no problem with students calling you by your first name. I only want to be referred to as ma’am (this is COMPLETELY fictionally, btw). A semester after taking your course, they take my course. If I haven’t informed them that I want to be referred to as ma’am, should I be upset when they call me Sue? Given the circumstances, no. Given the circumstances, I would actually expect them to call me Sue. But many instructors do get upset (down-right angry actually) if this situation were to happen to them (because they don’t know the circumstances). And far too often, they would go on about how disrespectful the students are no-a-days. When, in this situation, it had nothing to do with respect. It had to do with conditioning. The student had been taught by a former teacher that it is okay to call an instructor by their first name. If they are not told otherwise, they will continue to think this is true. It is basic human nature.

So basically, if you want to be respected, the first step is to tell the students what respect means to you.

Now, it isn’t just that easy. You also have to be willing to give some respect to get some. If you treat your students as lowly, undeserving delinquents then it doesn’t matter how many times you lay down the law, they aren’t going to listen to you. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to be their friend. It doesn’t even mean you have to like them. Simply treat them as deserving participants in your course and you should be fine. I also suggest you tell them they will receive respect from you until they do something to lose that privilege and you expect the same from them. This helps level the playing field and gives them an idea of what to expect.

Categories: eLearning Tags: ,

Well Lit Course

July 8, 2009 Leave a comment

So, inĀ  my last post, I showed you some elements of an online “course” I’m creating on Instructional Design. Daniel Stevens asked me to expand on the idea of a “well lit course.” I’m not sure how far I can really go into it but I’ll give it a shot.

The Light of Information

Traditional learning has been happening for hundreds and hundreds of years. Most students have been shown from a young age how to learn (or at least behave) in that environment. If not it is fairly easy to figure out what you are supposed to be doing through visual and auditory clues. The desks are set up in a specific way to face the correct area of the room. The instructor speaks to you and tells you what page you should be on during the lesson. The instructor can see if you are struggling and can offer assistance. The instructor can even somtimes tell when you are sick or unable to perform to your normal standards and make arrangements accordingly.

light_bookOnline learning is new enough, even a technically savvy individual taking an online course isn’t necessarily well versed in how an online course works. It isn’t always apparent where to go first or what is expected of the student. It is up to the online instructor to light the way. Information is your light. (I’m probably going to take this metaphor a little too far, but here it goes.) A spot light needs to be shown on the place you want the students to start (by creating an announcement pointing them there or by making it big and colorful). Put some twinkle lights on the syllabus (by including instructions on what being an online student means to you and what you expect from them). And always provide ample illumination to submitted work (whether that be in the form of discussions, assessments, or assignments by giving feedback on both correct and incorrect responses).

Pretend the students have never set foot in a classroom in their lives and tell them everything they need to know, highlighting the extremely important parts in bold (never all caps, that is shouting). The idea here is if the student already knows the information they can skip over it, otherwise it is there for anyone who may be confused. This is how you provide the light for your online course. Don’t make students wander around in the dark. That is aggravating for not only them, but you as well (as soon as the questions start rolling in).

Sometimes it is hard to know what all to tell students about, especially if you are extremely comfortable in the online learning environment. It is easy to forget the little things that were confusing at first once you have mastered them. When you run into this problem, be open. Let your students know that you need their input. Ask them what they found most confusing about your course and create a Frequently Asked Questions area. You can add to this as a semester goes on and even use it from semester to semester.

I guess what I’m getting at is there is no such thing as too much information…

Focused by Organization

…as long as it is well organized. Once you start providing all this information to students you have to find a way to present it that won’t overwhelm them. Too much information in an unorganized fashion is blinding. You must develop a system that puts the information in a logical order or provides clear labeling. Providing snippets, teasers, or descriptions of the information can also be helpful because it allows the student to really see if the information is what they are looking for.

Unorganized books blue_arrow 804360_33720836_small

It is also helpful to create skimmable documents. Basically, this means utilizing header text and text formatting to break down the document into parts and highlight the really important information. Highlighting doesn’t have to be simply using bold text or a yellow highlight. You can highlight information by providing an accompanying graphic or bullet points.

Creating well organized, skimmable materials is extremely helpful to students. It allows them to find the document they need quickly and then skim through the document for the exact information they are looking for.

And Reinforced by Feedback

Once your students figure out what they are supposed to be doing and find the information they need, they will need to tell you what they have learned through discussions, assessments, and assignments. Your information flow should not stop short. You need to finish out the lighting of the way by letting them know if they have successfully navigated the road you laid before them. Many instructors simply tell students if they have not completed something successfully and what to do to fix it. It is also necessary to let them know when they have mastered what was put before them.

Categories: eLearning Tags: ,