Posts Tagged ‘Online Courses’

Broader View of the Shopping Example

October 1, 2009 1 comment

Ok, that last post is a perfect example of an idea that wasn’t as well thought out as it could have been. So this is attempt #2 at making my point.

The following series of images is an example of what Amazon would look like as a typical online course in higher education.

Amazon’s Main Page:


I’m looking for a book so I click the Book link and get this:


I want an actual book so I click the link and get this:


I want a book on Arts & Photography so I click the link and get this:


I want a book on Architecture (in Arts & Photography) so I click the link and get this:


I want to see more about the book titled “Understanding Exposure” so I click the link and get this:

Amazon_eLearning6After falling down the rabbit hole, I finally get the information I’m looking for but it turns out to be boring and dull (completely non-engaging) but full of the facts I may actually be looking for.

So now, I pose the question again, would you shop here?

Categories: eLearning Tags: ,

Would You Shop Here?

October 1, 2009 2 comments

Amazon as a typical online course in Higher Education:


So tell me, would you shop here?

Categories: eLearning 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, inΒ  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: ,

Lessons in Instructional Design

June 30, 2009 7 comments

I’m creating a course, well more like a self-help area in our ANGEL system, on Instructional Design. Since I’m new to the field but am a veteran online student, most of my information comes from personal experience from the student side of things and how I always wished things would be. A lot of what I write is completely of my own making from my own logic which can be dangerous ground. SO, before I unleash my lessons on the poor, unsuspecting faculty at our university I thought I would show them here. Keep in mind, none of the lessons are supposed to be long or overly bossy. Our faculty, in general, do not take well to any pedagogy instructions especially ones given by someone they deem as inexperienced. So I have left these as light-hearted suggestion.

The following are the first 3 pages (there will be 3 more when I get them written).

Let me have it. Tell me exactly what you think. πŸ™‚ I promise I’ll try not to cry….too hard anyway. πŸ˜‰

How Would I…

418215_2815_smallWhen thinking about the design, structure, and content of your online course you should always keep the learner’s view close to your thoughts. After you create something, look at it from the student perspective. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Would I get the point of this learning object?
  • Would this object interest me?
  • Would I find this object boring or unnecessary?
  • Is it obvious why this object is here?

I’m sure we can all agree, excessive, boring, unnecessary information and tasks are not good for learning. We don’t want to turn the student’s learning experience into a painful one. If the objects you create are not things you personally would find interesting then I’m sure a typical college student would not find it interesting either.

If your objects are interesting to you, go that extra step and try to put yourself into a student’s shoes. Make sure it is something that would interest them. Give them a reason to want to learn from you. Make it interesting and entertaining (if possible). But remember, there is a fine line you will need to learn to walk. You want to make it interesting and entertaining without turning the course into a joke.

I know that is a lot of work and that balance is a hard one to find, but you are a good instructor, you can do it!

The Dark is Scary

474426_67978012_smallNo one likes to be left in the dark about things they are supposed to be involved in. Information is light to your students. The more information you can give them about what you expect of them and how you expect them to achieve goals, the better. This includes a well established syllabus, ease of navigation through the course, and feedback, feedback, feedback.

The best way to start creating a well lit course is to create an informative syllabus. Once again, you will find yourself walking a thin line. You need to make it informative enough the students feel confident in your requirement without overwhelming them with verbiage. Make your requirements clear and concise. No one wants to wade through a 20 page document just to understand what is required of them. If you do find you need a 20 page syllabus (or even a 10 page one) you might want to think about making a condensed version to go along with the detailed version. This way all bases are covered. You can provide the students with a quick reference on what you expect while also providing them with a way to find additional information if the quick reference isn’t quite deep enough for their understanding.

The next step for a well lit course is good navigation. You need to provide your students with a clear path to follow. If the course you are teaching doesn’t require linear learning (which is also a great teaching method) be sure all resources are clearly labeled and categorized appropriately.

The final step is to always give the students feedback. Let students know what they are doing wrong AND right. It’s easy to find yourself only providing feedback for wrong answers (I am as guilty as anyone else) but it is just as important to reinforce when students do something right.


1055796_39177408_smallAs much as we all would like to live in a perfect world, where young adults have been properly taught the delicate art of respect, we don’t. Although, to be fair, even if a young adult has been taught the art of respect, the rules do seem to change occasionally from person to person and confusion is inevitable. Throw these confused young adults into an online environment where it is hard to distinguish the fact they are dealing with real people, and mass chaos can ensue.

What do I mean by that? Online students are not always the best about respecting their instructors. I honestly believe much of that problem stems from the anonymity of the online world. But, for whatever reason may cause it, I have a solution that may help.

Much like lighting a student’s way through a course, information is the key here. At the beginning of the course, lay down YOUR laws as to what constitutes respect and how you expect to be treated. Along with that, lay down the laws as to how they can expect to be treated. From my own person experience, I find letting students know they will be receiving respect from you until they do something to lose that privilege is the best way to keep the respect ball rolling.

Categories: eLearning Tags: ,

Which Learning Style?

April 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Most of my days are spent doing one-on-one type support over a large array of software and hardware issues. I’m like an in-depth tech support. Over the past month I have been able to do work with my favorite thing: online courses. It’s been great but it has also been extremely challenging. In my past experience with creating content for online learning I have had the benefit of knowing my audience was one that liked to learn online. This is extremely helpful. As we all know, teaching someone who is comfortable with learning online is a much easier task than teaching someone who is not comfortable with learning online. Suddenly, I found myself dealing with 6 courses worth of people (instructors) who taught online but did not necessarily learn well online. In the beginning, I had an idea what type of problems this would cause but really didn’t have a clue.

Problem #1 – The majority of the “students” really had no desire to learn anything new. They were being forced into it because we are changing the LMS whether they like it or not.

Problem #2 – The change from WebCT to ANGEL is pretty substantial. WebCT is a very structured area only allowing you to place content in specific locations. ANGEL is a very open area allowing you to create the entire design of your course on your own. There was a pretty even split of people who liked this and hated this.

Problem #3 – The majority of the “students” do not do well in an online format even though they are online instructors. We did provide the opportunities for them to come to face-to-face sessions but many did not attend.

Problem #4 – Due to the large number of “students” we had an extremely wide variety of learning styles. Creating content that suited them all in one shot was nearly impossible.

So I found myself (the only Instructional Designer and one of the only SME’s) juggling what I thought was best for the learner, what I could produce fastest (we are on a strict timeline), and what I knew the most about. This was not a fun juggling act.

I find interactive content the best way for learners to learn and retain information. So I created Captivate tutorials whenever possible. I also know from experience in this institution that people love to have printed out instructions of specific tasks. So I tried to incorporate as many printable references as I could while putting together afore mentioned Captivate tutorials. Thank goodness for ANGEL’s doc files they were so gratious as to give to us for our editing and using as we needed. It was much easier to simply splice a piece of their instruction manual to use as the printable reference rather than have to make one on my own. Much time saved there. I’m also thankful for their in-depth instructor reference manual, Tony Suess, and the ANGEL-L ListServ from which I attained a good portion of my ANGEL knowledge.

Where am I going with this? Really, I’m not sure. My brain is pretty much friend at this point.

I guess my point was, how do you successfully balance the learning styles without overkilling the audience on information? It is my hopes to go back through the course I made and add printable references for every Captivate tutorial. But I’ve begun wondering if I shouldn’t also go through and add simple non-interactive screen capture videos for each item also. This would be for the people who don’t like to read the printed version but don’t want to take the time of doing the interactive version. So many different ways of learning. How in the world do we cover them all cohesively?


April 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Until I studied the term ADDIE using Google and Wikipedia, I had no idea what it was or what it meant to me as an Instructional Technology major and that was just 6 months before graduation. Some people would find this disturbing: To know that an Instructional Designer in training had no idea what the #1 used model of Instructional Design was. Now that I’m in the field, I actually find it refreshing. So many people run at ID full speed using only the ADDIE or other models to profess their knowledge and create their content. I use logic and personal experience. I also use my knowledge of andragogy and psychology to help guide my way. I’m sure my perfectionism doesn’t hurt any either.

I think it should be required of anyone who creates online content to participate in an online course. You get a whole new view of the world when you are looking through the eyes of a student. I also think there is something to be said of online instructors who do not learn well in an online setting….what are you doing teaching in a setting you, personally, don’t understand??? Anyway, that is off the point a little, I’ll have to talk about that one a little later.

I think ADDIE is a great model….but that is where people get confused…it is only a model…a process….a suggestion. It is a great way to structure how you go about making sure your content is complete but it doesn’t explain how to make sure your content is effective. People need to learn to use their heads. Put yourself in the shoes of others. Think about what you are doing. Think about how YOU would like the content to be prepared if YOU were the one taking the course. Think about how your thoughts differ from others. Think about how others might see things…..the key word here is THINK. Don’t just follow a cookie-cutter model….think about how the model should be used in your SPECIFIC case. The model gives you the process…you need to figure out how that process will work for you.

Categories: Content Creation Tags: , ,