Monday, October 14, 2013

Making the transition from classroom to online?

On of the great misconceptions among teachers and administrators who have never developed or taught an online class and that is that teaching online is easier than brick-and-mortar classroom. teaching. The assumption is that once the course is online, it will somehow run itself.



I know it may not be politically correct to quote someone from Penn State (old rivalries die hard), but Dr. Lawrence C. Ragan has written a terrific, and succinct, commentary on this subject in "From Real to Virtual Classrooms: The 5 Key Transition Points." 

Here are Dr. Ragan's 5 points with a few highlights I find particularly worthy of mentioning…

1. Teaching Presence

"Contrary to the belief of many novice online educators, the role of the online faculty member requires more, not less, attention to the role of instructor."
"Many of the traditional teaching methods do not translate well to the online classroom."

2. Changing Classroom Dynamics

"The type of and frequency of interactions changes online, and new boundaries for classroom behavior may need to be established."

3. Time Management

"It is generally accepted that the online classroom will require an additional 10-15% of faculty member’s time to successfully complete the course."

4. Learner Characteristics

"This potential diversity of learners can also challenge the faculty member to reconsider what she knows and believes of the students in their class."

5. Technology Interface

"The specific technological skill sets required to “survive” a first or even third online course offering can be very different than those developed after five or more offerings."
"Most learning management systems are complex, data driven environments with hidden and often overwhelming levels of nuance."
Have I whetted your interest? Then go to Dr. Ragan's post to see more.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Free Articulate Storyline Templates

Harnessing the power of software to produce dynamic e-learning objects can be an effective way to engage students. Programs such as Articulate Storyline can make production of such elements much easier and quicker and do not require learning complex programming languages. By downloading and using pre-made templates, much of the design, layout, and functionality is already in place and ready to be modified to fit your instructional needs. Below are a collection of websites that host free e-learning templates that may be used in Articulate Storyline. Be advised that most of these websites will require signing up for a free account.

5 transferrable tips

Rexi Media founders Dr. Carmen Simon (formerly Carmen Taran) and Danielle Daly  are experts on the science of memorable presentations. They recently shared one of their presentation decks on Slideshare. It's an A to Z look at the subject.

I looked it over because I've attended online webinars that Dr. Simon has delivered and always find the helpful and enlightening. Since I may have to do a webinar someday, I thought I should take a look at what she has to say here. 

It occurred to me as I made my way through the slides, that though intended for people making in-person or webinar type presentations, there are some points that are relevant to online course content built with HTML as well. Here are a few...

"People remember content better if they contribute to it in some way."

Face-to-face or online, this point applies. So, how do you allow your students an opportunity to contribute to the content of your course? If you don't do that now, how might you?

"Present from where they are, not where you are." 

This is not a new concept from a teaching perspective. Check out Chapter 3 in How People Learn by Bransford, Brown and Cocking. You can read it online at They point out the value of building new knowledge on what students already know and can relate to.

"The more you invite them to participate, the more memorable the content, because they will remember content over which they have ownership."

Simon makes this point she makes under the letter K, "Know-it-all," where she makes the point that "there are few absolute truths," so let your audience make contributions to your materials. Think about ways you might be able to do this in your course -- face to face or online.

"Attention drops significantly after the first 10 minutes… Vary the pace and format to re-set this starting point."

This is particularly relevant to instructors using video online. I've heard about some instructors who post an entire 2 hour lecture video online for students to watch. That's deadly. Even face to face, it's really hard to maintain a high level of attention to one person speaking without any variation for that long. Think about ways you can break up the information so that something surprising or out of the ordinary happens every 10 minutes or so. The surprise should relate to the content you're presenting and should enhance the learning point being made -- an interesting but little-known fact, for example, or the way a thing looks at a certain stage of development. If you use clickers in your classroom, a quick check for understanding could be the break you need. In a Collaborate session online, a quick survey can accomplish the same thing. The possibilities are endless.

"The audience will forgive you for sub-optimal design, if you offer relevant content that means something to them."

Before you can create content that is meaningful to students, you have to find out what that is. (Refer back up the page to the point about starting where your students are). What are some ways you find out this kind of information now? No doubt your approach with a small class of 20 people differs from what you would use for a large 150+ class. 

I've addressed only 5 of the 26 points made in the Slideshare. So check it out and see if it doesn't trigger some more ideas for you.