Thursday, August 15, 2013

Discovering Discussion Posts

Discussion posts provide students with the opportunity to test out learning and gain feedback from peers.  Throughout our learning journey we have posted initial thoughts concerning prompts proposed in our course utilizing resources shared from primary resources.

As one considers the opportunities such constructive and collaborative activities provide, where would you find resources to engage your students on the topic of online assessment?  How would you share these resources with your audience?

The following rubric will be used to score your response:

Score 4 worth 25 points—student correctly identifies the artwork and connects the image to the prompt  (20 pts). Student includes the cultural context of the artwork, directly connecting the culture with the artwork’s physical attributes in at least three areas (30 pts). There are not any significant errors.
Score 3 worth 24–20 points—student correctly identifies the artwork and connects the image to the prompt (20 pts). Student includes the cultural context of the artwork directly connecting the culture with the artwork’s physical attributes in two areas (25–20 pts).   There may be a few minor errors.
Score 2 worth 19–15 points—student correctly identifies the artwork but does not connect the image to the prompt (10 pts) or student does not correctly identify the artwork but identifies the style, culture or time period (10 pts) with correct reasons to support their statements (15 pts). Student includes some cultural context of the artwork and only attempts to describe the artwork’s physical attributes (20–15 pts). The essay is generally not well developed. There may be significant errors.
Score 1 worth 14–10 points—student does not identify the artwork or connect the image to the prompt. Student includes only vague cultural context for the artwork and only attempts to describe the artwork’s physical attributes (25–20 pts).  The essay is generally not well developed. There may be significant errors.
Score 0 worth 0–9 points—attempt is made but without valid concepts (15 pts) or no attempt is made (0pts).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Detection v. Inspiration


While some free online tools exist to support the detection of plagiarism, most institutions purchase programs such as Turnitin, Grammerly, and SafeAssign, to check not only Internet resource plagiarism, but to host a database of previously submitted student work for the institution.  This practice can greatly enhance an institution’s ability to hold students accountable for academic integrity, even if a student copies his or her own work from a previous course.  Although these programs promote the ethical use of information, they create a false sense of security in that the work a student submits is their own.  In my district’s virtual school, there were some cases in which a student account was submitting work of sufficient academic integrity, however, the student’s parent was doing all the work.  This prompted the virtual school to implement a policy in which content in an online course is split into modules and each student must schedule a “call-in” with the teacher of record to talk about what they have learned in the module.  This process has greatly helped in ensuring that the student of record is the one completing the work.  The virtual school final course exams are proctored and students must come to a testing site and provide photo identification to be given the online exam.  In this manner, the virtual school has been able to prove that the student of record is the individual completing and submitting the work.
The punitive nature of copyright infringement, whether intentional or unintentional can hinder the body of academic work and creativity (Jocoy, & DiBiase, 2006).  Last year during the training for building blended courses in Blackboard©, teachers were cautioned and trained on the proper use of citation and copyrighted materials.  The fear of retribution convinced some teachers to limit their use of the learning management system and caused a backlash from others concerned about their own intellectual property rights.  


More important than the detection of plagiarism is the development of student’s sense of ethics and integrity.  Challenging students and building a culture of respect for individual contributions will have a greater and more positive impact than whether a program caught a “copy/paste” infraction.  The lesson is not, in the not getting caught, but in the not wanting to steal in the first place. 
Just as the Internet has provided almost unlimited access to information in the virtual classroom, teachers in the physical classroom have had to deal with these issues as well.  In a great post entitled, “Google-Proof Questioning: A New Use For Bloom’s Taxonomy”, blogger and educator John Sowash shares how teachers can challenge students in meaningful and creative ways.  Similarly, online courses can be designed with the intention of getting beyond the copy/paste option and into the creation of more personalized content that cannot be stolen but must be created to meet a specific goal.
Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lions, Technology, and Multimedia ..."Oh My!"


Have you seen the GEICO© commercial with the Antelopes?  Poor Carl the king of beasts, reduced to slinking away from a delicious meal because of technology.  Have you ever wondered how the story ends?  Do the antelopes realize that they will have to take off the night vision goggles in the daytime?  What if Carl comes up on their blind side?  Reliance on technology alone is a dangerous thing.

Technology and Multimedia

Technology provides a vehicle for delivery of communication in the online environment (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2008).  Multimedia designed well and with a focusing purpose can add to the content delivery and meeting of diverse learner needs (Cooper, Colwel, & Jelfs, 2007).  While all these are useful aspects of technology, some drawbacks include the diverse systems, software, platforms, and Internet speeds of the student. 
As an instructional designer in the learning technology department of my organization, there is a constant battle between the use of technology for the sake of technology and the careful design and implementation of technology to enhance learning.  Two years ago, our state received a large grant called “Race to the Top” from the federal government to increase instructional use of technology, STEM, and the technology infrastructure of the district.  One million dollars of the grant was set up as a competitive grant, which all schools were able to submit a proposal.  Guidelines and stipulations were given, but the end goal was to encourage school leaders to break out into innovative ideas and strategies for the use of technology to engage students and teachers.  The surprising and sad fact was that many of the grants were more about the “stuff” than the learner outcomes and program goals.  The schools that were chosen came up with some terrific ideas, and all those who submitted put a lot of work into their proposals, but technology alone is not the answer (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2008).  In a similar manner, an online instructor must carefully plan and design the use of technology as a tool to meet a desired student outcome (Conrad, & Donaldson, 2011).  If transactional distances are vast, meaningful interactions made possible by the technology will increase the engagement and construction of collective meaning (Boettcher, & Conrad, 2010).
When designing instruction in any medium, the designer must first consider and analyze the target audience.  As a clear picture of the end user is developed, better choices can be made as to appropriate learning objects and course design (Burgstahler, 2006).  Not all students may have access to high-speed Internet, or unlimited streaming capabilities.  Students may have time or geographical distances that would make synchronous activities difficult.  Many online courses include a minimum requirement list to help students assess their equipment and access to the content.

Drive by trainings... "Oh My!"

Through my work in the K-12 realm, I am most excited by the possibility of creating sustainable professional learning communities through our district learning management system.  In the past we have jokingly referred to our efforts for professional development to be “drive by trainings” in which participants enjoyed the session, but little transference occurred from theory to practice.  With 148 schools, and over 5,000 teachers, our small staff of 7 struggles to make inroads into the classroom.  However, by offering face-to-face sessions with an online organization and online professional development, we are beginning to see that the continuous support and online interaction creates an elearning community focused around a purpose.  In a recent webinar, one of the speakers shared a profound thought that collaborative learning leads to collective knowledge (Marini, McGonagle, & Peterson, 2013).  The opportunity to facilitate groups, project based learning, discussions, and shared content with the powerful connection of the learning management system has me excited about the upcoming year in our schools.  Here is a simple Infographic I created to help explain the concept of online interaction as it relates to face-to-face interaction. 
Levels of Interaction created by Tischann Nye, March, 2013 for the MNPS Learning Technology Department.

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Burgstahler, S. (2006).The development of accessibility indicators for distance learning programs. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 14(1/2), 79-102.
Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231-245.
Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.

Marini, P., McGonagle, L., Peterson, K., (2013, June).  Collaboration and Content in Online Course Design [webinar].  EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO).  Archived at:

Simonson, M., Smaldino S., Albright M., & Zvacek S. (2008). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What you don't know can kill your course.


Learning from Failure

In designing and delivering an asynchronous online training for teachers in my district, I failed to understand the importance of several key factors to the successful launch of a course.  The first training launched in the spring of 2012, and I used my MacBook Pro© and Google Chrome© to build the course in our district LMS, Blackboard©.  When teachers began taking the course, there were a lot of complaints that the system was difficult, that videos did not play, or that links mentioned in the course were not appearing on the screen.  As I researched these issues, I discovered the following:
1.     Google Chrome© is not a supported browser for Blackboard©.
2.     Internet Explorer© 7 was an obsolete browser for Blackboard©, but was the predominant default browser on all teacher use computers at the time of launch. 
3.     Participant computers needed updated Flash© plug-ins to play videos.

Needless to say, these issues greatly frustrated the participants, many of whom were not confident in their abilities to use technology and therefore felt defeated by the training.  

Fast-forward one year and the latest roll-out of the training contains some useful introductory information concerning expectations for the course, navigation directions, and technical requirements.  I have used familiar symbols to guide my learners through the course since many of them are new to online learning.  Similarly, images of the log-in page with browser check requirements are posted.  Our Blackboard© Administrator actually added the browser compliance check after feedback from me in the first training roll out.  

Content from Blended Learning Training: Roadsigns to Point the Way

(USDT, 2009)
   Throughout this online course you will see signs and directions similar to the question mark sign to the left.  A guide for all the signs in the course is shown below.  Note that some signs point out the direction you will need to scroll to see the next piece of the training, some point out informational text, others show where a particular action is needed on your part, and finally there are signs to indicate the end of a portion or the end of the course.
Read through the information below to note the method for directing you through what you should do each step of the way.

Roadsigns used in this course.

(USDT, 2009)
Information Sign:  This sign indicates some information you will need to read before proceeding.
(USDT, 2009)

One-Way Sign:  This sign indicates that you should proceed to the next section of the module.
(USDT, 2009)

Road Work Sign:  This sign indicates that some work is required before proceeding to the next section.
To the right of this sign, you will find the directions to complete the work.
(USDT, 2009)

Exit Only Sign:  This sign indicates the end of a module.  Below this sign, you will find directions for navigating to the next module.
(USDT, 2009)

Playground Sign:  This sign is only found at the end of the orientation, indicating that it is time for you to take what you have learned and go play in your own online classes.

United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration, (2009).  United States road symbol signs.  Manual on Uniform Control Traffic Devices (MUCTD).  PDF Retrieved From:

Make your first impression a good one!

In an online course, there is only one chance at a first impression.  As I designed this course, careful consideration was taken to address the analyzed needs of my learners.  As an added level of review, I asked my neighbor who is retired, aged 69, and not a computer user (except for looking up motorcycles on Craigslist) to navigate the course and provide constructive criticism.  His honest thoughts as he test-drove the course helped show me areas that were unclear to an objective participant.  This new and improved version launched in April 2013 and has received reviews that clearly show that learners are engaging with the content instead of the helpdesk!

Screen shot of the landing page of the orientation, a fun character greets the learner, directions are provided on next steps, and narrative text is available to support universal design for learning.

Here is the snail greeter for the course, made with Voki. He is at the top of each page to provide structure and continuity, and I placed him at the end to give a pat on the back to participants as they completed the training.

"“Welcome to this online familiarization session for blended learning.  As many of you, are new to the fully online experience, road-signs have been put into this course to guide you through each step of the learning.  Take a look below to see the signs you will encounter in this course.  This page contains essential information for our online journey.  Take some time to scroll down and begin your online learning experience. Oh, and be sure to follow the road signs!  I look forward to seeing you again in Module 1!”"

Friday, May 10, 2013

Online Learning Communities

While the traditional classroom remains teacher centered, the online environment fosters more interaction among students and is one of the cited benefits of online learning by both teachers and students (Stacey, & Wiesenberg, 2007).  Although considerable time is needed to build the course material prior to launching the course, teachers have seen growth in their craft by the reflective practice of reviewing their content for delivery online and in the rich discussions students create online and which instructors facilitate rather than dictate (So, & Bush, 2008). 

Students have access to the material and can participate online in ways that are difficult to manage in a face-to-face, synchronous manner. Students further develop skills in time-management and technology proficiency that will serve them well in further study and the career environment (Allen, Seaman, & Garrett, 2007).   The restriction of location is mitigated as well by the online environment; students receive the benefit of a greater amount of viewpoints when the student base is diverse.
While there are numerous benefits for online learning, several issues remain to threaten the efficacy of this method of instruction.  Teachers must be clear and structured in their online environment so that students understand what is to be done online and how to accomplish the assigned tasks (Stacey, & Weisenberg, 2007).  Students also need to see that the online component is complimenting the traditional instruction without doubling the workload (So, & Bush, 2008).

Student Engagement from a frustrated student’s perspective:

Role of teachers in the digital age:


Online communities offer an opportunity for students to gain valuable skills that will serve them well in their offline lives.  Well-planned online content that allows for student interaction, both fosters a collegial mentality while deepening the knowledge of the student (Stacey, & Weisenberg, 2007).  Wise use of the online environment builds community and strengthens face-to-face interactions (So, & Bush, 2008).  For teachers who pay attention to student workload and facilitate their online environment, the benefits are greater for blended classroom instruction than either virtual or face-to-face methods alone (Gedik, Kiraz, & Özden, 2012).


Allen, E. I., Seaman, J., & Garrett, R. (2007).  Blending In: The extent and promise of
blended education in the United States. Sloan Consortium [Sloan-C].  Needham, MA.
Gedik, N., Kiraz, E., & Özden, M. Y. (2012).  The optimum blend: Affordances and
challenges of blended learning for students.  Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry, July 2012, 3(3), 102-117.
So, H., & Bush, T. A. (2008).  Student perceptions of collaborative learning, social
presence and satisfaction in a blended learning environment: Relationships and critical factors.  Computers & Education, 51, 318-336.
Stacey, E. & Wiesenberg, F. (2007).  A study of face-to-face and online teaching
philosophies in Canada and Australia.  Journal of Distance Education, 22(1), 19-40.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Welcome Online Instructional Strategies Cohort!

Over the next few months, this blog will focus on online instructional strategies as I prepare to dive into building and delivering quality online instruction.  I'm looking forward to a terrific learning community and constructing knowledge with purpose.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Defining a Project and Preventing Scope Creep

Developing a Common Understanding

During 2012, I was tasked with a project to implement blended learning using Blackboard© in all of my district’s Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classrooms.  In my mind, this sounded like a simple matter of showing the teachers how to add content to an online course.  The scope creep issues occurred in two separate categories as I began to analyze the project and develop the process for implementation. 

Scope Creep of Expectations

I had no idea how to plan a project of this size.  A month was spent meeting with my direct report, the executive director charged with completing this project.  The executive director had a vision, but did not have the means to articulate all the phases and details in our initial meeting.  Several meetings were needed to truly develop the scope of the project, and in-between each of these meetings I had to research and design documents to determine if my understanding matched the vision.  During each meeting we went over the documented process determined during the previous session and then the executive director would add or change the process.  This was a frustrating experience because I did not understand that this phase is a natural part of the project planning process (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008).  Although this was not technically scope creep in the traditional sense, it nevertheless created the same effect upon the expectations and plans for the project. 

Scope Creep of Project

Due to a lack of project management practice in my project, scope creep occurred in several areas and was difficult to prevent because there was no written documentation of the agreed upon project scope and project plan.  All I had was a process outlining how teachers would be trained to become blended teachers and the deadlines for completion.  Scope creep happened in the following ways:
·       The list of teachers changed continually throughout the project.  This meant that I was constantly adding new people for which I was responsible to train, but then others were dropped and I did not know they were no longer a member of the training group.
·       A principal in one of the schools wanted their entire school moved into blended learning.  This created an issue in that I was unable to support the extra numbers as effectively as the group that my direct report was held accountable for.
·       The project began as one for training but became one of technical support in the system as the additional teachers overloaded our miniature Blackboard© support staff.  There was not a clear method for handling technical issues.
In dealing with the issues, I learned some valuable strategies for damage control and prioritization.  However, from the study of project management I have learned better strategies to prevent these issues in future projects and found a great rap that synthesizes the practical experience I have gained.


Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., &
Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Project Management Gems


Active Collab®

is a site that I found a year ago for my department when we were exploring how to manage, document, and communicate the progress on the various projects within our diverse group.  As Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer state in their book on project management, “projects that are particularly complex, challenging, or uncertain are often first to minimize the importance of planning, monitoring, and controlling effort so the team can focus on the ‘real work’ of the project” (2008, p. 318).  Active Collab® is a terrific tool for quickly planning out projects via milestones, tasks, and tickets.  For an organization this is useful in that a project manager can assign tasks with due dates to certain members and those assignees can document progress, time spent on task, notes, and digital evidence of completion.  Along with the online site was an iPhone App that we used for mobile updates to our projects.  Although the product was stellar, the implementation was not planned thoroughly, leaving inconsistent management of the project documentation. We have since phased out this site in our work, but it was because of a need for the basics of project management rather than an issue with the program.


is a resource found while researching this week for assistance with planning, budgeting, and resource allocation.  Dr. Stolovich in a multimedia program entitled “Creating a Resource Allocation Plan” shared, that it is essential for the project manager to plan resources realistically and it can be difficult to know what different budget items are correct (Stolovich, n/d).  The Project Minds site breaks down the various components of project management and provides resources to help the novice at just the right place to be useful.  Additionally, I found even more information shared by those in the field on their resources page.  Throughout my current work, I have been implementing each step of the project management process with my spring project assignments and I often do not have my project management book at hand.  This site has provided “just in time” information accessible from a mobile device or my laptop.


Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., &
Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Message sent does not mean message received

How can it be that you think your message is nice,
When communicating with team members on a project, there are many options available through the use of technology.  However, which method is best depends on the circumstances and can affect the clarity and results of the communication (Stolovitch, n/d).  Let’s examine three different modalities for sharing the same content.

but the response you receive is defensive?
As stated by Stolovitch (n/d), effective written communication should be more business formal
in format, stating in the first line the purpose of the communication.  This email example has an informal tone and reads as a rambling plea for a document.  The tone also conveys that the author thinks the receiver is not doing his part of the work and will hold up her project.  Clear communication of dates is vital to keeping deliverables on track (Portny, Samuel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008).  Without stating a specific time and date that the author expects the document, the receiver may feel that he has plenty of time to accomplish the task, or that the sender of the message is overreacting.  Either way, the receiver of this message may have feelings of resentment or pressure that may prevent an amicable result.

The voice message sounded more formal yet on topic than the text alone.  The speaker expressed a polite and caring tone in recognizing that the listener may have been in all day meetings before moving to the reason for the message.  The caller stated why the report was needed to complete her portion of the project, and how to get the information to her.  This message conveyed less opportunity for the receiver to react negatively because the tone of voice conveyed a non-confrontational attitude. 

The body language, posture, facial expressions, and voice tone give the face-to-face message a completely different tone from the text or voice only examples.  However, in face-to-face communication, the receiver of the message may not remember what the message was without written back-up (Stolovitch, n/d).  Stolovitch also states that in-person meetings are best for vital project segments and that ongoing communication works well via phone and email. 


From these three examples, the voice message was the most effective for the following reasons:
1.     Polite business tone was communicated
2.     The receiver of the message could take notes on the information
3.     The receiver had choice over the best time to listen to the message
The face-to-face message seemed the least effective for the following reasons:
1.     Catching a team member at their cubicle gives them no choice over time and may interrupt their workflow
2.     The verbal message may be forgotten due to other interruptions

3.     This method is not able to be saved or revisited like an email or voicemail

While there are many methods for communication with team members over project deliverables and timelines, a voice message can be a simple and direct means of conveying needed action from an individual without creating tension in the group. 

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Stolovich, H. (2012). Project Management Concerns: Communication Strategies and Organizational Culture. Retrieved on January 21, 2013 from tab group id = 2 18;url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2097260_1%26url%3D