This aggregated resource comes from Dustin Betonio at Tripwire Magazine. While specifically targetd at web designers, I believe elearning developers and mobile learning developers would also benefit from these ebooks.

A few that I will be adding to my iPad 2 are:

  1. Introduction to Good Usability
  2. Integrating Accessibility Through Design
  3. A Practical Guide To Web Typography
  4. The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web (HTML)
  5. HTML5 Quick Learning Guide

I’m also considering adding these five to course readings for students. I believe the topics of accessibility, usability, and HTML5 will work well in my advanced elearning development class, the web typography books fit within our beginning instructional design classes.

Do you have any good ebooks that you would recommend for elearning or mlearning developers to read?

Break out your lightsabers, astromech droids, and Correllian pirate lingo … From my favorite little digital magazine Zite, I received a great chuckle today from the folks over at Mindflash on How Star Wars Characters Could Have Benefited From Online Training.  I encourage you to pop over to their site to see the full image.  If you’re an elearning developer, instructional design, or online teacher, this should make you laugh.

I also really liked this article about how subway handrails were turned into lightsabers:

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.

I left the undergrad education program of UNC-Chapel Hill 8 years ago, and it is amazing the new ‘hot topics’ (like inclusion & the iPod/iPhone/iPad revolution) that have evolved insuch a short amount of time.  Then I began to wonder…What will I have learned in my master’s program that I will be obsolete in four years? Of course this blog is assuming we survive the mass destruction of 2012. If we don’t, the blog title changes to “We will be doing NOTHING in 2015.”

1. Reading books

I believe reading ‘real’ books and textbooks are going to be the first major aspect of the ‘traditional’ classroom to completely disappear. I completely agree with Jenny Williams in her  Ode to Books. I love the smell of an old book, but despite our resistance to new technology, sometimes there is no choice. I remember my stubbornness of buying a DVD player. “There was no point!” I said, “These VHS tapes are so much cheaper!” However, they stopped making VHS tapes. I believe this to be true of books. In addition, as the technology becomes more mature, as Adrian Short points out in his blog, the pros of eBooks will eventually outweigh the cons. The convenience of carrying a kindle or nook over a book bag full of textbooks is a huge advantage. Before long, everyone will have a device that already supports eBooks (if you have a Smartphone, you already do), and they will be cheaper to buy, as they are cheaper to make. And as we all know, money talks.

2. Going to class

Freshmen everywhere will still roll out of bed minutes before class, will still be in their pajamas, but now they won’t have to put on shoes! Online classes are the wave of the future. As gas prices rise, more people will opt into school at home. I do believe K-12 will still have more traditional face-to-face classes, but universities and colleges everywhere have already started converting entire degrees online.  The debate has been raging for years, some say no, some say yes, and some, like Donna Niemi Barrett, say that a blended learning environment is the best way. I disagree* with Ms. Barrett, I believe, that if done well, elearning in higher education will make traditional classes archaic, as its effectiveness is shown in the U.S. Department of Education’s study Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning

*My disclaimer to the above disagreement is that the online instruction MUST be done WELL.

3. The SCORM Storm

As we move into more only online classes, the words SCORM compliant are suppose to stamp your elearning course with a little gold star. However, as it is starting to be discussed, as Stacy Clayton accurately blogged, SCORM only ensures the learner can review your online class. Not that it is any good. In addition, with its decade birthday, ADL is already on pace to revamp or replace SCORM with the ingenious and unambiguously titled “Project Tin Can”.

4. Facebook

Just kidding! Facebook will be the only thing that survives 2012 (I am sure the Mayans predicted that too.)

What do you think will be gone in four years?

Guest Blogger

Logan Prevette has been an elementary school teacher for the past eight years, working with second, third, and fourth graders. All of her students read ‘real’ books, go to class, and are SCORM compliant J; however, not in four years. They will be at home, on their kindles, conversing with tin cans. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina in 2003 and is working on her master’s degree from the University of Memphis in IDT. She plans to stay in education (in some fashion) after the completion of her coursework.

Image of instructional video

Image of instructional videoIncorporating video in your instruction can have its rewards and challenges.  When utilized properly, videos can assist the learning process.  According to Alessi & Trollip (2001), video is becoming popular in interactive multimedia.  You can create videos to demonstrate or model a procedure, interview an expert, provide visual activity, and present plays.  Videos can be appealing, entertaining, and promote higher order thinking skills (p. 72).  Additionally, instructional designers must think about the pedagogical and cognitive implications videos can have on the learners.

As part of my instructional design project this semester, my team, EdTech Solutions, is incorporating video into the web-based unit.  Not only are we utilizing video in this multimedia unit, we are filming the footage ourselves.  Through my experience creating the videos for our client, I want to share some information I have learned along the way that may be helpful to others who are thinking about creating video as part of their instruction.

1. Planning

I have found through my recent experience, planning is one of the most important parts of creating video for instruction.  It is vital to begin with a plan and not go in to a video shoot without an idea of what is going to occur and how it is going to happen.  You will end up spending a lot of time trying to decide what to do and waste valuable time for you and the client.  On the other side of planning, it is equally important to think about the learner.  Mayer and Moreno (2003) state multimedia learning (i.e. videos) can cause a cognitive overload.  This occurs when the learner’s cognitive processing goes beyond the learner’s cognitive capacity.  A few ways to prevent cognitive overload through videos are to avoid narration and on-screen text at the same time, segment pieces of the video, scaffold the instruction, and match the video’s narration with the images.

2. Storyboarding

Storyboarding is a must!  It helps instructional designers determine parts of the video, timing, and organizes (or chunks) pieces of the video.  Storyboarding is the blueprint that assists the instructional designer and informs the subject matter expert on the video details such as video layout, text, graphics, animation sequences and narration (Weingardt, 2004).  In essences, storyboarding allows designers to break down the story into manageable elements.  Storyboarding can be as simple as sketching the segments onto a piece of paper or putting your ideas in digital format.

3. The Process

Once you have a plan and know the details, the next thing to consider is the video process.    There are a lot of details that go into the process such as using a tripod, avoiding wide shots, refraining from panning in or out, and match the narration to the video.  Bell (2005) recommends arranging the set so that it is not cluttered, using proper lighting, and using an external microphone.  Alessi and Trollip (2001) also recommend using video in instruction for important information that would benefit through the use of video as well as keeping the video presentation short (p. 74).

Video is one of many components of multimedia learning and can have an impact on the learner when used effectively.  If you have experience or knowledge on creating video you would like to share, please post in the comment section.


Alessi, S.M. & Trollip, S.R. (2001). Multimedia for learning: Methods and development (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Bell, A. (2005). Creating digital video in your school.  Library Media Connection, 24(2), 54-56.

Mayer, R. & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 43-52.

Weingardt, K. (2004). The role of instructional design and technology in the dissemination of empirically supported, manual-based therapies.  Clinical Psychology, 11(3), 313-331.

Guest Blogger

Jennifer Nelson is a doctoral student of Instructional Design and Technology and the coordinator for school partnerships and clinical experiences at the University of Memphis. She has taught high school as well as undergraduate and graduate level courses. Her research interests include technology integration and teacher education.

After reading Siemens’ “Questions I’m no Longer Asking,” I spent the next week pondering my own questions from the entrance of my instructional design and technology program. For example, walking into class the first night, I was looking for the girl named ADDIE. (Obviously, I didn’t find her.) Since then, I have found answers to these questions. A few of my relevant questions include the following.

  • What authoring tools should be used?
  • Are Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) necessary?
  • Is online learning effective?
  • Who Is ADDIE?

Authoring Tools

I use the appropriate tools for the learner, content, and system. “Authoring tools help bridge the gap between experts and learning technology” (Dempsey & Van Eck, 2007). There are many tools available to designers. If we are not careful, the content is lost and the tools are the focus. Nicole Fougere’s recent post about Interactive Learning is a good example of restricting tools usage. At this site, the learners experience the Apollo 11 trip using mainly Adobe Premiere Pro.

Cascading Style Sheets

Yes! I was dragged kicking and screaming because I do not think in code. Authoring using CSS is a more efficient method of content sharing than tables (Keller & Nussbaumer, 2009). After late nights of reworking multiple pages, I learned CSS was truly a friend. CSS example templates are located at speckyboy, and desizn tech.


When I hear this question, it is usually from someone reminiscing of “Oregon Trail.” Online learning is more than educational games or online courses. Educational games and online courses include evaluations to establish learning. According to Guftafson and Branch (2007), the evaluations are formative or summative. Online games offer feedback with or without the collection of responses. An interesting game for identifying body parts is Anatomy Arcade.


ADDIE is not a who – but an instructional design model. Analysis, Design, Development, Implement, and Evaluate is the process of the design model. The best way to describe it was through this humorous ADDIE video.

Now, I no longer look around the room for a girl named ADDIE! I have developed new questions which include the following.

  • What role will the LMS have?
  • What new tool is available? Will it add to my instruction?

What are some of your questions? What are your answers?


Dempsey, J., & Van Eck, R. (2007). Distributed learning and the field of instructional design. In R. Reiser, & J. Dempsey, Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (p. 296). New Jersey: Pearson.

Gustafson, K., & Branch, R. (2007). What is Instructional Design? In R. Reiser, & J. Dempsey, Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (p. 11). New Jersey: Pearson.

Keller, M., & Nussbaumer, M. (2009). Cascading style sheets: A novel approach towards productive styling with today’s standards. WWW 2009 Madrid! (pp. 1161-1162). Madrid: ACM.

Guest Blogger

Jamae Allred is a doctoral student at the University of Memphis. While attending courses, she is a graduate assistant for the early childhood department who teaches an undergraduate course. She is also employed part-time by International Paper as a content developer for the Environmental, Health, Safety, and Sustainability Group. She plans to continue working in the corporate environment before pursuing her goal of teaching at the university level.

Image Available at Creative Commons from CarbonNYC

Image courtesy of Lars Plougmann at coming to the US for higher education, I have taken several online courses toward completion of my Masters Degree, and I am taking some as I pursue my doctoral degree. I also design online courses for faculty members, and I think I have an insight of judging an online/web based course from three different perspectives – a student, faculty, and designer.

Though there are many things that I question when designing web based instruction, below are three areas which I think require attention.

Learning Environment

The learning environment in WBI should be carefully designed. Andrew Houle, in his blog, 4 Principles Good Design discusses the application of principles of proximity, contrast, repetition and alignment in context of building cleaner and attractive websites. I think these principles are equally relevant when designing web-based instruction/Online learning/elearning.  Applications of these principles become limited under a course management system. But still, for example, by using lowercase and uppercase letters we can create contrast which can distinguish one section from its subsection and thus create a visual hierarchy. Again, by grouping reading/assignments/PowerPoints or additional materials related to an objective together we can chunk content for better understanding and thus create a visual unit. Following a certain pattern (repetition) to organize content will provide consistency.  A consistent layout, easy and clear navigation, logically chunked information can reduce the extraneous cognitive load in web based instruction. Concise but clear instructions on the policies and procedures and schedule of the course help the students to focus on the more important aspect of the course – the learning content.


Anderson (2003) has mentioned 6 forms of interactions of which “teacher-student, student-student, and student-content interactions” are important to me. Kristy in her blog post in points 2, 3 and 4 has appropriately described the importance of teacher-student, student-student, and student-content interactions respectively. I also came across this video on “The visions of students today” in Dr. Grant’s tweets. Students of this digital age are no more satisfied with passive learning and prefer to learn by exploring. If the students being amidst hundreds of other students feel the way they do in the video, then it is high time that we think of the students who take courses detached from rest of the live world, sitting in front of a computer screen. Based on the nature of the content and the vast availability of technology/multimedia, there is a need to create unique ways to present the information that would help grab the attention of the learners, instead of just asking the students to go through a bunch of bulleted PowerPoints notes. Tom Kuhlmann, in his rapid e-learning blog, discusses ten rules to create engaging elearning. Also, as learning comes from experience, practice, conversations and reflection; creating authentic, engaging and interactive assessments, keeping in perspective how adults learn would help the learners to demonstrate their learning. Stan, in his blog what motivates adults to learn aptly mentions success, volition, value, and enjoyment as four key conditions of learning activities to keep adults motivated to learn. Seven principles for technology supported learning can be followed when designing instruction for undergraduate students.

Technical Requirements & Support

Amidst all the available sophisticated educational software and the wish to make our instruction engaging and attractive, we often tend to get distracted from our original goals and objectives of instruction. Instruction should be designed keeping in mind the audience’s technical accessibility and adeptness. In the debate of pros and cons of web based instruction where I found constant access of the online courses as an advantage, undependable technology or technological failures is reported as a disadvantage. It is also mentioned that not all students have access to computers or high speed internet at home and may have to rely on technology at school or other public places. Hence, care should be taken that the instruction is such designed that it loads quickly, is compatible with different browsers and all the links work. If any assignment requires the use of advanced technology (for example, podcasts or exercises using software’s not ordinarily used), then appropriate support for technological help must be provided (may be via help desk or tutorials).  If any part of the course requires authorizations or logins, accurate access information must be provided. Back up plans should be arranged in event of technological failures. Though technology is inevitable and is an important part of our education, it is not about technology, it is about learning. Keeping it simple is the charm for good web based instruction.


Anderson, T. (2003). Modes of interaction in distance education: Recent developments and research questions. Handbook of distance education, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers, New Jersey.

Conger, K. (2011). If you are creating instruction for the web, you better be doing these 4 things. Retrieved from

Gaytan. J (2007). Visions shaping the future of online education: Understanding its Historical Evolution, Implications, and Assumptions. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, X (II). Retrieved from:

Houle, A. (2010). Four principles of good design for websites. Retrieved from

Jennings, C. (2011). ID- Instructional Design or Interactivity Design in interconnected world? Retrieved from

Kulhmann, T. (2/2/2011). Here are ten rules to create engaging elearning. Retrieved from:

Pros and cons of web based instruction. Retrieved from

Skrabut, S. (2011). What motivates adults to learn? Retrieved from

Technology supported learning. Retrieved from

Guest Blogger

Smita Jain is a doctoral student in the department of Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis. She assists faculty in designing online courses for the department of Health and Sport Sciences. She enjoys her work very much as it is also her area of interest- Online/Web based teaching and learning. She has tutored middle school children and helped preservice teachers to prepare them to integrate technology in their classrooms. After completing her degree she wants to become a faculty, researcher, and consultant in the field of Instructional Design and Technology.

Image courtesy of Lars Plougmann at


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a grant program from the federal government that was going to require that the course content created be SCORM compliant. This was based on an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education that said:

Some higher-education leaders say a little-noticed technical note in a new $2-billion federal grant program could make it difficult for colleges to use the money to build free online course materials.

The issue centers around a single line of the 53-page grant guidelines for the program, known officially as the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants Program: “All online and technology-enabled courses developed under this [program] must be compliant with the latest version of Scorm (Sharable Content Object Reference Model).”

and After

Now, it seems that the requirement for SCORM isn’t quite as important as previous thought. A new article in The Chronicle of Higher Education now reports that

Two weeks after college leaders raised concerns about what was perceived as a restrictive technical requirement in a new $2-billion federal-grant program, government officials issued an amendment that eliminates the requirement.

The article goes on to quote from the Department of Labor that

The amendment rewrites the old language of the regulations to leave it up to college which standards to follow, as long as the online courses follow some “industry-leading e-learning open standards.”

My Take …

I believe that this amendment that allows institutions to follow elearning standards continues down a road that is faulty. To go out on a limb here, I believe this may actually be the first of at least one more amendments that will be issued. I wrote in my earlier post:

As many of us in instructional design and eLearning know, SCORM has little to do with actual learning. Instead, SCORM represents a technical specification to help ensure that eLearning content survives different systems and upgrades….I believe the notion that one institution could build a SCORM-certified course and have it distributed and taught by another institution may in fact be flawed. Others may disagree with me. In either case, I would question whether the assessments are in fact aligned with the objectives and instructional methods for the content when the courses are shared. By way of the IMS GLC Public Forum, Rabel offers an extensive and deep analysis of the flaws of this thinking and follow-ups here.

I think what will happen is that many institutions will realize the difficulty of creating content that can be shared easily. David Wiley has written extensively on the need and the difficulty in sharing instructional content, and he has influenced my thinking on this topic.  Particularly, granularity of content makes it difficulty to simply share. Plus, as I mentioned, instructional content has a pedagogical perspective. It is not learning theory independent.  So, one faculty member’s theoretical perspective cannot simply be picked up and replanted into another faculty member’s course.

Also, I believe some will begin to question whether there is any other “e-learning open standards” besides SCORM. Yes, there is IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS packaging standards), and yes, there is Dublin core, but these are certainly more esoteric to higher education in the US and are not “industry leading,” particularly in the US. I did interestingly find that the US Department of Education pledged to align with IMS Global Learning Consortium and their standards.

SCORM is it when it comes to elearning technical standards.  I do not believe, however, SCORM or another standard will work for higher education.

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