The weather turned cool today (only a high of 95), and it made me think of fall leaves, football season, and classes starting soon.  So, I thought I would share some tips for teaching online over the next few days that may help as you prepare for online and hybrid courses.  I have used all of these techniques at some point with online and for on campus courses, and I’ve used them for different purposes.  I don’t continue to use them all for all of my courses, but I have found them all to successful.

Use Group or Teams

This strategy came from my wife who was a former first and second grade teacher.

  1. Use groups or teams as a classroom management technique.  It’s easier to manage group than it is to manage individuals.  Do not confuse this with group work, though.
  2. Create private discussion board areas for groups.
  3. Use groups as management for chats, presentations, snacks, peer reviews.  I even use this strategy in my on campus course.

CSMs and Archives

  1. CSMs= Coulds, Shoulds, Musts
  2. CSMs came from a graduate school professor Dr. Janette Hill at the University of Georgia.  In the middle of the week if students need some extra reminding of what they could/should/must be working on, this is a great email to send to them.
  3. CSMs work well as a substitute for reminding students of things as they walk out of the classroom…”Don’t forget to…”
  4. CSMs also work well for assignments that will take multiple weeks to complete.  This technique reminds students to look ahead at the assignment and begin working on it prior to the week it may be due.
  5. I have also used this technique with an on campus course and a hybrid course, so it’s pretty flexible.
  6. Finally, all CSMs, announcements and class-wide emails are archived in a discussion board area called “Archive.”  I find this helps to cut down on responses, such as as “I didn’t get that.” or “Can you send that to me again?”  When students know the information will be archived for them, they will know where to look for it.  It also prevents you as the instructor from having to be the deliverer of repetitive knowledge.

Modular Syllabi

I also don’t take credit for this strategy.  When I was an instructor at Clemson University, the faculty there used this strategy and taught it to me.  I have found it very useful for online courses and on campus courses.

  1. The basic idea is to make changes to your course and syllabus only in one place.  In general, you would like the syllbus not to change from semester to semester unless there are major changes to the objectives or goals of the course.
  2. Streamline your syllabus.  Keep only the required elements by your department/college/university.
  3. Use a grading scale or scheme — not specific point values.
  4. Separate assignment sheets from syllabus.
  5. Separate the course calendar and due dates from syllabus.
  6. Create a repository for assignment sheets.
  7. Assessments are presented with assignments.
  8. For me: No late work; all deadlines up front.

In my email today, I received this notice from a friend of mine about a call for book chapters that his colleagues were editing.  This sounds like an interesting topic and an opportunity for publishing student research in teacher education.  Here’s an excerpt from the call:

Over the past decade, teacher candidates have used the World Wide Web as a critical tool in their teaching and learning experiences. National efforts have encouraged technology integration in teacher preparation and raised expectations for frequent and successful applications with K-12 learners.  As a consequence, higher education has been providing candidates with more online educational opportunities. While online learning has become pervasive in many fields in higher education, it has been somewhat slow to catch on in teacher education, resulting in fewer opportunities for technology-mediated learning experiences in K-12 classrooms. However, for a variety of reasons (e.g., technological advances, budgeting concerns, technological expectations of candidates), teacher education programs are increasingly implementing online components. While this trend is growing, little research has empirically explored the effectiveness of online education in teacher preparation.

Objective of the Book

It is important to understand the theoretical, pedagogical, technological, financial, and logistical issues, as well as management approaches, instructional delivery options, and policy considerations needed to create quality online teacher education programs. The purpose of this book is to present information about current online practices and research in teacher education programs, while also presenting opportunities, methods, and issues involved with implementing these online and technologically innovative opportunities in teacher preparation. A final objective of this book is to present empirical evidence of teacher candidate learning and assessment in the context of various online aspects of teacher licensure.

For more information, use this link for the page for the complete call for chapters.

If you’re like me, you’re lamenting the end of Harry Potter as the final flick is released next month.  However, the folks over at GeekDad, GeekMom, and Wired magazine report that J.K. Rowling isn’t going to let the magic die just yet.  Pottermore is coming soon.  In an excerpt, GeekDad says:

According to the Guardian, Rowling is getting ready to unveil a new website called Pottermore. Its arrival is being heralded by a little ARG-like flurry of activity: a Secret Street View challenge involving 10 Potter fansites; a Twitter account, and a YouTube page. The latter looks like a standard page, but apparently contains some magical (or perhaps Flash-based?) enhancements, which makes it interactive.

While fans are still hopeful, the Guardian quotes Rowling’s PR company Stonehill Salt as saying that the new project is not a new book.

“All we can say is that Pottermore is the name of JK Rowling’s new project. It will be announced soon, and it is not a new book,” said a spokesperson.

The YouTube page is pretty neat as it counts down to the release date. What do you think it will be?

Last week at the Professors of Instructional Design & Technology (PIDT) meeting in Virginia, one of the sessions turned toward a conversation that was very similar to one I had at the American Educational Research Association last year in 2010. These are folks and their blogs who speak about instructional design regularly as community support and/or practitioners. So, I thought I would share some of the people and links to shared back then with folks.

Tom Kuhlmann at Articulate
Tom works for Articulate in their user community division.  He spends a lot of time writing posts about graphic, visual, and message design, particularly using Powerpoint (because Articulate is a plug-in to Powerpoint).  But he also writes some ridiculously practical posts on instructional design.  Some of my favorite posts are:

Cammy Bean & Kineo
Cammy Bean works at Kineo, a firm focused on design and development.  Cammy is the VP of Learning Design and writes posts at her own blog. In fact, the last post on Cammy’s blog is an interview with Tom Kuhlmann.  Small world.  Kineo, however, writes short elearning tips.  These gems are gold.  I sometimes disagree with their interpretations of some theories, but the posts are valuable.  Ones from Kineo and Cammy that I particularely like are:

The Learning Circuits Blog & Tony Karrer
Every month The Learning Circuits Blog hosted by Tony Karrer, CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, presents a “BIG Question” to the elearning community.  Practitioners, academics, and consultants alike offer up their interpretations and responses to the “BIG Question.  I’ve used the “BIG Question” in my own classes for students to consider their responses in comparison to others in the field. Some of the most interesting and favorite questions of mine:

<Insert Shameless Plug>Viral-Notebook
I thought I might insert a few of my students and my own posts that really garnered some interest and interesting view points as well.

Let me know if you follow any of these folks and whether there are others you would add to my list.

ProfCast is a lecturecasting tool that is elegantly simple in its design.  Want to give a presentation and record the audio and slides synced together for playback?  That’s what ProfCast does easily. (It’s Mac and Windows, too.)

Now, they have are going mobile. Well, they have been mobile for a while with deployment.  Now, they are adding recording on mobile devices. Here’s the description that Humble Daisy sent in an email to me:

ProfCast Mobile is a full presentation suite for creating, delivering and recording presentations from your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

Users can create presentations adding text, images,and transitions. When they are ready to deliver their presentation, they can simply plug their device into a VGA or Digital AV adapter and the presentation will be displayed on the external display. The best part is, ProfCast Mobile records the presenter as they give their presentation. The result will be a movie with the slides and audio in sync. Users can then share the recordings via email, download to their computer or post them on YouTube all from their iOS device.

ProfCast Mobile is using a crowdfunding model to pay for the development.  I encourage you to check it out.

I hope you will join us for the IDT 7095/8095 Project Showcase on Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm in Ball Hall Room 320.  In the Project Showcase, each team will present a 20-minute overview of their project and product. This is a professional presentation, indicative of one to a school board, board of directors, senior executives, or at a professional conference.  The clients for this semester will include the University of Tennessee Health Science Center & Autozone, Inc.

Refreshments will be served, including Dr. Grant’s famous meatballs.

Rapid eLearning is a term used to denote short development times of online instruction with limited resources versus traditional instructional design approaches involving lengthy periods of time and large amounts of money (De Vries & Bersin, 2004). Another important distinction between the two is that rapid eLearning is oftentimes developed by the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) using simple-to-use tools while traditional eLearning is developed by a team of training professionals (SME, web developer, instructional designer and project manager). A simple-to-use and, undoubtedly, one of the most popular rapid eLearning development tools is PowerPoint.

As a graduate student developing online content, Powerpoint ranks very high on my list of “go-to” tools. The versatility it offers not only in development but also in delivery of eLearning content is the reason why this tool features prominently in most instructional designers’ toolkit. However, PowerPoint just provides a blank slate like any other authoring environment. Good instructional and visual design principles have to be employed to create interactive and compelling learning modules. It is then up to the creative vision of the instructional designer to harness the strengths of this tool. This requires the designer to go beyond the simple basics and possess a certain degree of technical know-how.

When you have less than 2 weeks to create a high quality and rich learning experience using PowerPoint, you are bound to have many, many “how-to” questions (unless you are this guy!). Here are some places I go to when I need help:

1.     My best friend in this endeavor has been Google. For example, a query on the term “using PowerPoint for rapid eLearning” yields 89,500 results. Some relevant but most NOT! The drawback of this method is that filtering out the extraneous results takes time, and time is of essence in RAPID eLearning. Interestingly, Gwizdka (2010) found that formulating the query for a search engine imposes a high demand on the cognitive load than looking through the search results. Here are some queries which I use regularly and yield relevant results:

  • “PowerPoint for instructional design”
  • “interactive PowerPoint eLearning” and
  • “PowerPoint nonlinear eLearning”

2.     A quicker way is to subscribe to the following blogs that provide great tips and tricks for using PowerPoint in rapid eLearning development:

3.     Youtube is a wonderful resource for getting your questions answered and for some cool tips.  Some channels that I follow on Youtube are CBTCafé, Rapidelearningblog and Elearnaway.

4.     Another Web 2.0 technology that I am thankful for is social bookmarking. These tools with their tag clouds hold the answers to numerous eLearning development questions and doubts. Some bookmarks that I have been frequently using are Dr. Grant’s bookmarks on Jumptags; ahayman, edtechtalk and viral-notebook on Diigo and edach , lavignet , bonni208 on Delicious. Since these tools use a Boolean search query technique, a search term like “powerpoint + elearning” would point to more resources than simply “PowerPoint”.

5.     A popular networking tool, Twitter is a powerful professional development tool and works very well for finding articles, and resources on a daily basis that help in creating effective eLearning modules using PowerPoint. I follow @elearningbrothers, @PowerPointWiziq and @elearningexperts on Twitter as the resources shared and dialogs that take place benefit me in my work. Asking questions, initiating a dialog and getting responses are a lot easier on twitter than on a forum or a blog.

Besides these resources, giving “ The Insider’s Guide To Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro” a thorough read, serves as a good refresher course for rapid eLearning development. Clive Shepherd eloquently says what all rapid eLearning developers should keep in mind, “As such, e-learning is neither effective nor ineffective; it’s just a channel. What you put through this channel is up to you.”


De Vries, J., & Bersin, J. (2004). Rapid e-Learning: What Works. Retrieved February 1, 2011, from Macromedia:

Gwizdka, J. (2010). Distribution of cognitive load in web search. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 61(11), 2167-2187.

Guest blogger: Prashanthi Selvanarayanan is a graduate student in the Instructional Design and Technology program at the University of Memphis. She assists faculty in the Department of Higher and Adult Education with online course design and development. Her research interests include technology integration and mobile learning. She aspires to be an instructional developer in the healthcare sector which combines both her interests.

Image courtesy of Mike Licht at Flickr

If you haven’t added your personal secret about teaching, learning, training, or instructional design, then I encourage you to do so.  It’s anonymous, and I promise not to tell anyone except the 2 other people who read my blog. 😉

Here are some more ideas for secrets.  Maybe you:

  • never use spellcheck.
  • dislike clipart.
  • think the instructional strategy for your company is broken.
  • always have your wife edit your Powerpoints.
  • etc.

Submit your secret now!  Use this link.

Okay that’s 5 words.  Technically, 3.  But, I love collecting icons, and most of the time they come in sets.  I probably have somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 50 sets of icons that have anywhere from 4 to 60 icons a piece.  So a rough estimate is somewhere around 800 to 1,000 icons. Admittedly, many of these are the same icon in 3 or 4 different sizes, such as 28 x 28 pixels up to 256 x 256 pixels.  I have bookmarked almost all of them, so check them out.

So what do I do with all of them?  Well, I’ve started using them a lot in presentations.  As I’ve moved to more Presentations 2.0 and emphasizing visual literacy for memory, I’ve begun to use a lot more images — in particular, Flickr Creative Commons and icons to demonstrate ideas.  I even created presentation for Clif Mims using almost all icons.  And since I create quite a few web sites and web pages for courses and professional development that I conduct, I tend to use the icons on these pages as well.

Here is a couple of examples of wiki pages where I used icons from and Pasquale D’Silva.  I find that often with a quick site, the icon sets work well because they are all in the same theme, or flavor, and they bring a visual unity to the site with both message and colors.  Plus, if you feel like you don’t have the graphic design know-how to produce quality images, then these high-quality images are a far better cry than screen beans in Office.

City icons on course website

City icons on course website

Cute bird icons on course site

Cute bird icons on course site

Three Tips for Icons

Free is better
I always look for free icons and icon sets.  Free is the new 99 cents.  Sites where I often receive notices about icons are SitePoint, Function, and Smashing Magazine.  I encourage you to subscribe to the RSS feeds/email alerts if for nothing other than the icon alerts.

PNG is where it’s at
I always look for PNG file format.  I’ve found that these have the most flexibility in use for digital presentations and online with web sites.  So the PNG files work with Word, Powerpoint, Dreamweaver, and in PBWorks, too.

Often when looking to download the icon sets they are especially designed for use with your operating systems.  So that you can change the icons for Firefox, Photoshop, and iTunes.  Therefore you will often see them in three flavors: Windows, Mac, and Linux.  Almost always the Linux pack is the PNG pack to download.  You can, of course, download the others for your operating system, but to get the most liberal use of the graphics, don’t overlook the Linux link.

U gotta Readme
Finally, when I download, I always, always, always, look at the Readme file and/or the release statement.  Inside these files are the licensing requirements for using the graphics.  In many cases, the licensing/copyright statement requires that you provide a link back to the distributing site.  In many cases, the statement does not allow you to redistribute the graphics in any manner other than linking to the download page.  In about 50% of the cases, the statement does not allow you to use the graphics for commercial applications.  However, in probably close to 50% of the downloads, the designer has also packaged the Illustrator or Photoshop original files, so that you can alter the images to your liking.  This is the case with the super cute Twitter birds.  Pasquale D’Silva licensed them out for use and derivations at will.

In fact, here’s an example of where I used the original Photoshop (.psd) file to change the icon to suit a blog post I was writing about retweeting and reposting.  (Actually, I used Fireworks, and it all worked fine, too.)


If that’s not enough to get you going on icons, then over the next few posts, I’m going to share some of my favorite icons and icons sets.  So stay tuned, clear out some space on your hard drive, and get ready to “Save image as…”  But if you can wait, then go ahead and download them now.

Are you collecting graphics, icons, or other media?  Share them (and the links) below.  I’m always looking for new media to share.