I’m proud to be presenting at the Cengage Learning Computing Conference in Phoenix, AZ, this week.  I have culled together a number of resources, recommendations, and best practices for designing and teaching blended, synchronous, and synchronous online courses, and so I’ve included those links below for the participants and my followers to have those all in one place.  I hope these are helpful, and I would really like to know if and how you use them. So please drop me a comment below or feel free to contact me on one of my social media streams.

Supporting Webpages & Resources Mentioned in the Slides

  1. Planning an Online Course
  2. Introductory Email to Online Students
  3. Introductory Pages for an Online Course
  4. Online Course Content Page Template
  5. Online Course Project Page Template
  6. Tips for Online Course Management
  7. Tips for Asynchronous Communications
  8. Tips for Synchronous Communications
  9. Assessment in Online Courses
  10. Building a Course Site with PBWorks

Presentation Slidedeck on Slideshare.net


Synchronous Class Meetings, In-Classroom & Flipped Classroom Slide Templates

Upcoming free webinar on project-based learning and distance education. The webinar is inside Adobe Connect, so be sure to do the pre-configuration below. Hat tip to Inge de Waard for letting me know about this:

Iain Doherty will discuss the pedagogical principles underlying a taught postgraduate distance course, ClinED 711 eLearning and Clinical Education. The aim of ClinED 711 is to teach clinical educators the necessary knowledge and skills to convert their own courses for flexible and distance delivery. ClinED 711 was designed to offer a personalized and authentic learning experience and Iain’s presentation will focus on how these aims were progressively realized through refining and improving the course design for ClinED 711. Whilst ClinED 711 is a specialized postgraduate course, the principles for the design and delivery of the course should be of interest to a wide audience.

When: Wednesday, September 7, 2011, 11am-12pm Mountain Time (Canada) *Local times for the CIDER sessions are provided on the CIDER website.

Where: The CIDER sessions have moved to Adobe Connect! To join this session go to: https://connect.athabascau.ca/cider/


Please note that it is extremely important that you get your system set up prior to the start of the event. Make sure your Mac or PC is equipped with a microphone and speakers, so that you can use the audio functionality built into the web conferencing software. Also, the Adobe Connect platform may require an update to your Adobe Flash Player. Allow time for this update by joining the session 20 minutes prior to the scheduled presentation start time.

via @Ignatia Webs: CIDER free online session on project based learning for postgraduate distance education.

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.

As I mentioned about a month ago, along with experimenting with mobile learning in my course this summer, I also decided to test out HootCourse.  HootCourse is a Twitter tool that allows you to create courses, invite students, and automatically adds a hashtag for your course.  Like other Twitter tools, it performs a search based on the hashtag and keeps those tweets inside “your course.” In my testing, I was able to post inside HootCourse successfully, and I was able to post inside Tweetdeck and Twitterific if I added my course’s hashtag. Over at the “Free Technology for Teachers” blog, Thomas, one of the developers for HootCourse, explains in the comments a little more about the public v. private versions of HootCourse.

You can see in the screen shots below, that my course hashtag was #idt7064.  Hootcourse automatically added this.  I had to add this inside Tweetdeck (on my desktop) and Twitterific (on my iPod Touch and iPad).  Because Hootcourse is automatically adding the hashtag, it goes ahead and subtracts the number of characters in your hashtag from your 140-limit for Twitter.

HootCourse Home

I really liked being able to retweet posts and share these with my students directly from Tweetdeck and Twitterific.  In addition to being able to tweet inside HootCourse, you can also write longer posts — beyond the 140-word-limit — and these will post to a blog.  With only a small amount of difficulty and a quick email out to support, I was able to connect my HootCourse account to my own WordPress (Viral-Notebook) instead of the suggested WordPress.com account.  (I also found out from the tech support that this feature had been enabled by one of the developers, but the other didn’t know it. 😉 ) So, longer posts can go into my blog and then tweeted.  In Derek Bruff’s blog you can see where he did just this (and explains a number of features too), and this is a test post that I used as well.  I found that I didn’t use this feature very much for my online course that I was teaching.  But, I’m interested to figure out whether I might do this in a standard 15-week course with a little more forethought and planning.

Hoot Course Essay

The last feature that I’m interested in trying out connects nicely to Dr. Rankin’s Twitter experiment in her large class.  This is a classroom version of Twitter for face-to-face discussions.  In essence, it’s creating a backchannel for your classroom.  You can see from the screenshot below that HootCourse sort of strips down everything and makes the posts large so you could project these during a lecture of classroom discussion.  I didn’t use this feature in my online course, but I’m interested in trying this with some face-t0-face courses to see how it might work.

HootCourse Classroom

There are a number of folks testing out HootCourse right now, but I haven’t seen many reviews or posts of actual implementations.  So, I hope some folks come out with those.  Are you using HootCourse?  How’s it going?  Are you doing it online or face-t0-face or both?

Guest Blogger PostI’ve had the opportunity to experience the field of education from a few different perspectives.  I’m currently enrolled as a Master’s student in the Instructional Design and Technology program at the University of Memphis, and I spent several years as a high school Marketing Education teacher.  I also currently work for the University of Memphis as an Academic Technology Consultant.  These experiences have provided me a chance to gain valuable insight into both the teacher and student roles.

One aspect of teaching that I have not had the opportunity to experience is that of teaching an online or hybrid course.  As a classroom teacher, I incorporated online activities as well as gaming and simulation into my lesson plans.  However, they couldn’t be classified as true hybrid or online courses. As a student, I have taken several hybrid and online courses as part of my Master’s program.  Therefore based on my experience as a student, a teacher, and someone who currently assists faculty with instructional technology and online course design, I’ve created a “must do” list for anyone who is interested in creating online instruction.

#1.  Clearly outline all course information, policies, and requirements

Just as in a class which meets face-to-face, outlining all course information, policies, and requirements for your online course is critical to student success and aids in lessening student confusion.  Post your course syllabus containing information such as how to contact the instructor, your policy regarding late work, grading criteria, and classroom “netiquette”.

#2. Plan to maintain a consistent presence within your online course.

In a face-to-face classroom setting, would you as the instructor simply place some notes up on the board or set your PowerPoint presentation to play and walk out of the room?  I hope not!  You would remain in the room to lead the class discussion, provide guidance, and assess student comprehension of the material.  Maintaining your “virtual” presence in an online class is just as important as your physical presence in a face-to-face course.  Your students need to know that you are monitoring the class activities, providing feedback in a timely manner, and are available to respond to questions as they arise.  If several days/ weeks pass without interaction from the instructor, many students will begin to feel abandoned and unmotivated to continue on with their work in the course.

#3.  Create a way for students to make a personal connection to their instructor and fellow classmates.

In many instances, the first session of a class which meets face-to-face includes time dedicated to allowing the instructor and students to introduce themselves.  This serves as an ice breaker activity, and gives everyone a chance to make a personal connection with the people that they will be spending the semester with.  This time to connect is just as important in an online or virtual classroom setting  where face-to-face meeting opportunities are likely to never occur. Introductions could take place via a discussion board forum and would also allow the instructor and students the opportunity to link out to some of their academic and professional work to share along with their bio information.

#4.  Create multiple ways for students to engage in the course material.

In the process of writing this post, I asked my personal learning network via Twitter to share any advice or tips for instructors who are creating online content.  Barry Dahl, Vice President of Technology for Lake Superior College and Lake Superior Connect e-Campus, responded with the following: “If you’re creating online instruction, you better NOT be creating an electronic correspondence course.  Interactivity is key.” I couldn’t agree with Barry more!  Interactivity is crucial to creating effective online instruction. Otherwise, you’re simply creating digital notes for students to read.  Discussion board posts, video clips, podcasts, and live chats certainly can enhance the course materials and target a variety of learning styles.

As a part of the blog that is maintained for Lake Superior College, student survey results were posted reflecting their thoughts on the importance and overall satisfaction of specific elements within their online learning experience.  Nearly half of the items mentioned in the list of twelve ties directly back to course development and implementation.  Definitely food for thought!

Guest blogger: Kristy Conger worked in the classroom for seven years as a Marketing Education teacher/ Work Based Learning Coordinator in the Henry County School System. She also taught computer literacy courses through the Adult Basic Education Program, and currently works as an Academic Technology Consultant for the University of Memphis.  Kristy received her BS in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing from the University of Tennessee at Martin. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis. After completing her degree, she would like to return to teaching in some capacity and perhaps work within a K-12 setting in an instructional technology role.

Guest PostThe Internet has taken us beyond our wildest dreams. At the beginning of the Information Age there were the select individuals called “Webmasters” that had the skills to publish to the Web. Over the past decade, everyone has had tools at their disposable to create a presence with ease. I admit I was caught up in the rage to try online instruction. My first experience was in 2003 and my intent was to provide a convenient way to provide instruction to a small group of learners. My first mistake was letting the medium be the determining factor rather than focusing on the design of the content (Rovai, 2002). I did not incorporate well into the instruction some of the design and learning elements that play an important role for creating an effective learning experience.  So, if you’re creating online instruction, I recommend, you better be doing these 4 things.

1. Content

Using current lesson content and activities are likely not suited for the Web. Most importantly, an elearning experience does not include a Web page solely full of text. Content provided in the course of a lesson needs planning to include different forms of multimedia to boost learner motivation and immerse the learner in real-world applications. As a learner, I am more interested when the instruction gains my attention and thrusts me into experiences I have not encountered. Cathy Moore, a business elearning developer, illustrates the concept of less text and more learning based on research. The addition of illustrations and multimedia can assist learners in greater understanding and the ability to make application. Tom Kuhlmann’s demo, shows three different techniques to gain learner attention and to guide the learning process.

2. Navigation

Just as we use a map to find our way to a specific location, the navigation element for online instruction is important. A learner must be able to navigate through the different sections of the site with little effort.  I have visited Websites and taken online or hybrid courses where links are rampant. It becomes a maze when everything is linked to each other.  Unorganized navigation or excessive linking creates confusion and extraneous cognitive load for the learner. A navigable Web site is required for consistency throughout the instruction and a security measure to always find your way home.

3. Feedback

No matter if I’m in the role of a student or employee, I am anxious for feedback either to validate my performance, encouragement to improve, or a means to steer my thoughts in a different direction. If designing for online instruction, there needs to be a method for feedback whether in the form of an instructor or facilitator response, ability to compare tasks to a desired result or simply a grade.

4. Discussion/Collaboration

These two elements I have combined because discussion is normally a component of online instruction while collaboration is not. Discussion is the easiest to monitor learner participation and is directed by a facilitator’s choice of topics. The objective is for learners to share thoughts and increase the knowledge relating to Bloom’s Taxonomy. Collaboration is more challenging to plan in an online course, but I think collaboration moves a learner quicker to the highest order thinking skills.

These elements are important to consider when designing online instruction. Sure there are many others to consider, so post an element that is important to you and explain why.


Ally, Mohamed. (2004). Foundations of educational theory for online learning. In Theories and practice of online learning (chap. 1). Retrieved February 1, 2010, from http://cde.athabascau.ca/online_book/ch1.html

Rovai, A. (April, 2002). Building sense of community at a distance. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL), 3, 1. Retrieved February 1, 2010, from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/79/153

Guest blogger: Amanda Bevis manages the Madison County Adult Education program in Jackson, TN.  Her prior work has gained her experience in healthcare, computer programming, and in the university setting all utilizing her computer experience. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology.

Image from Dan Meyer at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ddmeyer/2666448493/sizes/m/