game controller on work desk

What can instructional designers learn from video game design? This might seem like a silly question—what do video games have to do with learning? Why might we use video games as an inspiration in pedagogy? As instructional designers, faculty often come to us with a variety of problems to address in their course designs—a lack of student interaction, how to improve student application of a given topic, and many more. While there are many tools at our disposal, I’d like to propose an extra tool belt for our kit: what if we thought more like game designers?

Video games excel at creating engaging and motivating learning environments. Hold on a minute, I hear you saying, video games don’t teach anything! In order for games to onboard players, games teach players how to navigate the “physical” game world, use the game’s controls, identify the rules of what is and is not allowed, interpret the feedback the game communicates about those rules, identify the current outcome, form and execute strategies, and a large variety of other things depending on the game, and that’s usually just the tutorial level!

What is the experience like in a learning environment when students begin an online course? They learn how to navigate the course site, use the tools necessary for the course, identify the assessment directions and feedback, identify the short-term and long-term course outcomes, learn material at a variety of different learning levels, and large variety of other things depending on the class, and that’s usually just the first week or two! Sound familiar? What are some things that video games do well during this on-boarding/tutorial to setup players for success? And how might instructional designers and faculty use these elements as inspiration in their classes?

The following list includes nine tips on how game design tackles tutorial levels and how these designs could be implemented in a course design:

  1. Early tasks are very simple, have low stakes, and feedback for these tasks is often very limited—either “you got it” or “try again”. Consider having some low-stakes assignments early in the course that are pass/fail.
  2. If negative feedback is received (dying, losing a life, failing a level, etc.), it is often accompanied by a hint, never an answer. If you have a MCQ, do not allow students to see the correct answer, but consider adding comments to appear if a student selects an incorrect answer that offers hints.
  3. If negative feedback is received, the game does not move on until the current outcome is achieved. Allow multiple attempts on quizzes or assignments and/or setup prerequisite activities or modules.
  4. Game levels allow for flexible time—different players complete levels at different rates. Design tasks with flexible due dates. Many courses already allow some flexibility for students to complete activities and assessments within weekly modules—can that flexibility be extended beyond a weekly time frame?
  5. Tutorial quests usually have predetermined and clearly communicated outcomes. All objectives are observable by both the game and the player. Create outcomes and rubric conditions/language that are self-assessable, even if the instructor will complete the grading.
  6. Tasks and game levels are usually cumulative in nature and progress using scaffolded levels/activities. Consider breaking up large assignments or activities into smaller, more cumulative parts.
    • For example, the first quest in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a great example for Nos. 5 and 6 above. It consists of four required objectives and two optional objectives:
      • Make your way to the keep.
      • Enter the Keep with Hadvar or Ralof.
      • Escape Helgen.
      • Find some equipment (Hadvar) / Loot Gunjar’s body (Ralof).
        • Optional: Search a barrel for potions.
        • Optional: Pick the lock of a cage.
  7. There are varying degrees of assumed prior knowledge, but no matter what, everyone participates in the tutorial levels. They are not optional. Consider saving optional “side quests” for later in a course or having an introductory module for everyone, regardless of skill level.
  8. The “tutorial” process usually ends when all skills have been introduced, but some games continue to add new skills throughout, inserting mid-game tutorials when necessary. Return to some of the design ideas on this list if a course introduces new topics throughout.
  9. After a requisite number of skills are mastered and players are able to fully play the game, the only major changes in design are increases in difficulty. These changes in difficulty are usually inline with maintaining a flow state by balancing the amount of challenge to the skill level of the player. As course material and activities increase in difficulty, make sure there are ample opportunities for students to develop their abilities in tandem.

Games are a great model for designing engaging learning experiences, with significant research in psychology and education to back it up. By understanding how games are designed, we can apply this knowledge in our course designs to help make our courses more motivating and engaging for our students.

Additional Resources

Want to know more about the psychology of why these designs work? Start with these resources:

Image of mountaineers with quote by John Dewey.

What is Experiential Learning?

You may have heard the terms experiential education and experiential learning. Both terms identify learning through experience as a foundational understanding. However, experiential learning is associated with individual learning.

Traditionally experience-based learning in higher education has been presented as educational opportunities complimentary to classroom instruction. These experiences might include clinical experiences, cooperative education experiences, apprenticeships, fellowships, field work, volunteerism, study abroad, practicum and internships, service learning, and student teaching experiences. These types of learning experiences are offered in and across many different disciplines (Giesen, 2012). These familiar experiential education programs demonstrate the value of individual experiential learning. But, the question remains: Is experiential learning a viable approach for online instruction?

Understanding the potential for experiential learning for online courses turns upon recognizing experiential learning as a process. The experiential learning process has been described as a cycle of learning (Kolb and Kolb, 2018). The model below illustrates The Experiential Learning Cycle.

Model of experiential learning showing sequence of Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualization, and Active Experimentation.

Experiential learning is understood as constructive pedagogy approach that is highly student centered. The Experience Learning Cycle begins with a concrete experience of some kind. Commonly we think of this as a real world event. That experience is followed by reflective observation of the experience, abstract conceptualization of what was learned, and the application of new learning via active experimentation. That experimentation is integrated as part of the next concrete experience.

The interactive and progressive nature of the experiential learning cycle is considered a driver of personal growth and development. The dialectics between concrete experience and abstract conceptualization as well as reflective observation and active experimentation are theorized to drive motivation for learning. 

Online Experiential Learning In Practice 

Problem-based learning, case-based learning, and  project-based learning are examples of design models that may include learning via experience in the real world (Bates, 2014). These models are often used as a way of bringing engagement into online instruction. So, if you have been incorporating these models of learning in an online course you are engaged at some level with experiential learning. But, what if you wanted to design an experiential learning assignment that does not fall within one of these models?  What might that look like?

Let’s examine the application of the experiential learning cycle to an online learning experience in a course recently offered through Ecampus at Oregon State University. The asynchronous course, Introduction to Organic Agriculture Systems, is a survey style course with an enrollment of students from Oregon and more distant.

Let’s step through The Cycle of Experiential Learning with an assignment from this course as our sample context. Hopefully it will reveal some insights into both the process of experiential learning and its practice.

1. Concrete Experience

The concrete experience for this course was an organic scavenger hunt assignment that was to be completed in the first week of the course. Although the overt activity of was a guided scavenger hunt the learning experience focus was to begin to learn systems thinking in organic agriculture. This is important to identify, as it is the authentic learning goal of the experiential learning.

As the professor framed this assignment: “This introductory activity will provide you the opportunity to explore organic availability, marketing, and farming in your community.”This concrete experience is the direct experience of organics in the student’s community.

The objectives of the scavenger hunt were to:

  • Identify organic products and marketing techniques that differentiate organic from conventional products
  • Conduct a survey of organic availability in your local store and region
  • Participate in hands-on exploration of different components of the organic system

Students were provided with a detail scavenger hunt instruction set and told to complete there first part of the assignment in a local store using an organic scavenger hunt questionnaire-work sheet. Time estimates for completion of the scavenger hunt was up to three hours at the store site. Completed work sheets were turned in to the instructor.

The key to this assignment is the real life exploration of the local organic system. Although this will be elaborated on in subsequent weeks of the course, this concrete experience will become a touchstone students can reference as they build new knowledge and skills in systems thinking in organic agriculture.

2. Reflective Observation

Part 2 of the scavenger hunt assignment includes independent student work guided by questions that ask about the presence of organic farms in the student’s area, type of organic farms, scale of the farms and evidence of their independent research work.

This element of the assignment encourages students to search for, identify, and reflect upon gaps in the local organic system in their own backyard. This work encourages students to reflect upon their own concrete experience, the quality of their work, and its linkage to understanding systems thinking.

3. Abstract Conceptualization

In week three of the course students were assigned a course discussion to share their findings from the scavenger hunt with peers. Here they compare and contrast their scavenger hunt findings and observations. In particular, students were asked to connect the social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability in organic agriculture to their observations taken from the scavenger hunt experience. Additionally students were asked to review other student work from different locals and explore common understandings about organic agriculture systems.

The value of this exercise from an experiential learning perspective is the application of concrete experience to more abstract concepts described by others or found in other agricultural regions. This provides opportunities for the re-conceptualizing of prior experiences with the goal of expanding on the process of organic agriculture systems thinking.

4. Active Experimentation

The Cycle of Experiential Learning rounds out with planning and applying new learning about organic agriculture systems thinking to a future concrete experience. Abstract conceptualization completed in the previous discussion will contribute to the formulation of new questions and ways of examining a local organic agriculture system. Students will likely apply these ideas to ongoing organic agriculture systems thinking in the course. In this way prior reflective observation becomes the root of new questions and predicted results for the next learning experience in organic agriculture systems thinking.
 

Final Thoughts

The final project of this course is the production of an organic systems map that explains the relationships between organic system stages (i.e., production, processing, distribution/marketing, consumption, and waste) and the dimensions of sustainability (ie. social, environmental, and economic).

In order to complete the final project students learn a great deal between their initial scavenger hunt and the final project. Their original concrete experience in systems thinking will likely inform decisions about how to re-apply new organic agriculture systems thinking.

The experiential learning assignment we just examined only works if students perceive that moving through the cycle of experiential learning addresses an authentic learning need. As the course is focused on introducing organic agriculture systems the idea of learning systems thinking makes sense. It captures the fundamental truth of what is expected to be learned (Jacobson, 2017) making the learning appropriate.

What Now?

As you explore the possibility of using experiential learning in your online course it is valuable for you to first consider formulating answers to a number of questions.

  • What is the authentic learning needed?
  • What concrete experience provides students with access to that learning? 
  • How will students carry that concrete experience through the cycle of experiential learning?
  • How will you provide the opportunity for concrete experiences for remote learners in a way that fosters individual learning and contributes to large scale learning in the course?

As you explore experiential learning for your online course revisit the model shared in this article. For help in this process contact your Ecampus instructional designer. They can help focus the key questions and suggest instructional strategies and tools to help you achieve your online experiential learning goals.

 

References

Bates, T. (2014). Can you do experiential learning online? Assessing design models for experiential learning. Retrieved from https://www.tonybates.ca/2014/12/01/can-you-do-experiential-learning-online-assessing-design-models-for-experiential-learning/

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Giesen, J. (2012). Experiential Learning. Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, Northern Illinois University. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/facdev/_pdf/guide/strategies/experiential_learning.pdf

Jacobson, J. (2017). Authenticity in Immersive Design for Education. In Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Realities (Ch 3). Singapore, Springer Nature.
Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-981-10-5490-7

Kolb, A. & Kolb, D. (2018). Eight important things to know about The Experience Learning Cycle. Australian Educational Leader, 40 (3), 8-14.


Experiential Education Resources

Association for Experiential Education
http://www.aee.org/ 

Journal of Experiential Education
http://www.aee.org/publications/jee 

Experience Based Learning Systems Inc.
https://learningfromexperience.com

Experiential Learning & Experiential Education
http://www.wilderdom.com/experiential/

Decorative image: laptop with a screen that shows a portfolio layout

“A well-executed e-portfolio program is an incredible tool for higher education. They provide institutions with authentic assessments of student learning and promote the deeper learning that we want for our students…” -Candyce Reynolds, associate professor, Post-Secondary, Adult, and Continuing Education, School of Education, Portland State University, from PeerReview: Emerging Trends and Key Debates in Undergraduate Education

What Is an E-portfolio?

There are now more ways than ever to showcase one’s work as a student or professional. Long gone are the days of lugging around an actual folder full of plastic sleeves containing paper prints. Today, students and professionals routinely choose electronic contexts to house their best works. This digital context for storing selected pieces is referred to as an electronic portfolio or e-portfolio, and the items in the portfolio are referred to as artifacts.

To best understand what we are talking about when we speak of e-portfolios, let’s start with a definition. As a former instructor of English to speakers of other languages, I find that word etymology opens my eyes to rich context. For example, in this case, “port” is Latin for haven or harbor. And the “folio” part of the word comes from the Latin word “folium,” which means leaf (foliage) or sheet. From these etymological roots, we can think of the word portfolio as translating to a harbor or haven for your sheets of paper, in a sense.

In order to contextualize this definition within a contemporary academic setting, I turn to a working definition of e-portfolios, such as this one from Lorenzo and Ittleson: “An e-portfolio is a digitized collection of artifacts, including demonstrations, resources, and accomplishments that represent an individual, group, community, organization, or institution.” In other words, for our purposes, an e-portfolio is a selection of a student’s best works, displayed in an electronic format.

The electronic portfolio may be used for assessment or to track progress in a course, for example. An e-portfolio may take the form of a number of electronic contexts, including a user-friendly web-based website design (such as Wix), within the modules of a learning management system (LMS) such as Canvas, in video, as docs within a Google Drive folder, or even within a simple pdf document (Lorenzo and Ittleson). In any case, there are two main elements in an e-portfolio: a digital context and a selection of works.

The Benefits: Here Are a Few Things That E-portfolios Can Do:

  • foster learning communities in online graduate programs. – Bolliger, D.U. (2010) Journal of Distance Education
  • encourage independence and self-directed learning (which is an element of Heutagogy, or taking responsibility for one’s own learning as an autonomous, lifelong learner)
  • prompt students (and faculty) to articulate connections among the products of their courses, the overall program or course curriculum, and larger life goals
  • prepare students for applying to graduate programs or employment, which can be highly motivating and engaging for students
  • give students the opportunity to use higher order thinking skills and metacognition when evaluating their own work (or the work of others, as with e-portfolio peer reviews)
  • provide faculty with a rich source of data, which they can use to evaluate the effectiveness of courses or programs

What Students Are Saying

Student voices from The Benefits of E-portfolios for Students and Faculty in Their Own Words:

“I didn’t realize the importance of the work I was doing… all the communication skills I was learning while doing research… When I had a chance to reflect on it and was asked to describe the experience to others in my e-portfolio, I realized that I had learned a lot more than I thought. I was so focused on getting into business school, that if I had not had the space to stop and reflect on my experiences, I would have never known how much I actually gained from everything I did my first year.” Second-year student, University of Michigan

“I feel that the process has enhanced my understanding of the overall higher education experience… I have always felt confused and irritated by the lack of connection between my general education requirements and my core department requirements. I think that the e-portfolio is a great way to link the two… It was encouraging to see that I was attending college for my own personal and professional growth.” Student, Portland State University

Examples of Student E-portfolios & Platforms

  • LaGuardia Community College: Student E-portfolios
  • Pathbrite: An e-portfolio platform
  • Digication: Explore e-portfolios
  • E-portfolios can be as complex as building a website, as in the above examples, or as simple as a group of final essays (or lab reports or other documents) in a digital file folder.

E-portfolios in Your Course

Would you like to include an e-portfolio element in your course but not sure where to start or what tools to use? Talk to your instructional designer to get some ideas about various kinds of e-portfolios and whether an e-portfolio would be a good fit for your course.

Have you used e-portfolios in a course before? How did it go? What tools did you use?

Resources & References

IJeP: International Journal of ePortfolio: http://www.theijep.com/index.html

Barrett, H. [TEDxTalks]. (2010, March 10). TEDxASB – Helen Barrett – 2/25/10 [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/ckcSegrwjkA

Bolliger, D.U. (2010). Student perceptions of eportfolio integration in online courses. Retrieved from the Journal of Distance Education: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01587919.2010.513955

Bowman, J., Lowe, B., Sabourin, K. & Sweet, K. (2016). The use of eportfolios to support metacognitive practice in a first-year writing program. Retrieved from International Journal of ePortfolio: http://www.theijep.com/pdf/IJEP221.pdf

Getman-Eraso, J. & Culkin, K. (2017). Close reading: engaging and empowering history students through document analysis on eportfolio. Retrieved from International Journal of ePortfolio: http://www.theijep.com/pdf/IJEP242.pdf

Kelly-Riley, D., Elliot, N, & Rudniy, A. (2016). An empirical framework for eportfolio assessment. Retrieved from International Journal of ePortfolio: http://www.theijep.com/pdf/IJEP224.pdf

Lorenzo, G. & Ittelson, J. (2005). An overview of e-portfolios [Report]. Retrieved from EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) website: https://library.educause.edu/~/media/files/library/2005/1/eli3001-pdf.pdf

Lorenzo, G. & Ittelson, J. (2005). Demonstrating and assessing student learning with e-portfolios [Report]. Retrieved from EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) website: https://library.educause.edu/~/media/files/library/2005/1/eli3003-pdf.pdf

Miller, R. & Morgaine, W. (2009). The Benefits of E-portfolios for Students and Faculty in Their Own Words. Retrieved from PeerReview: Emerging Trends and Key Debates in Undergraduate Education: https://www.aacu.org/sites/default/files/files/peerreview/Peer_Review_Winter_2009.pdf

Song, B. & August, B. (2002). Using portfolios to assess the writing of ESL students: a powerful alternative? Retrieved from Journal of Second Language Writing: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S106037430200053X

Image Source: Pixabay (Creative Commons License)

One of the common ideas instructors have to bolster student-content engagement in a course is to add media. Podcasts are a type of media element that can support learning in a number of ways. It is relatively easy to link to an established podcast. Planning and producing your own podcast is more involved. This post explores the idea of producing a podcast for your online course. Is it something you should consider?

Prior to diving into the value and purpose of podcasts it is useful to understand what a podcast is…and what it isn’t.

The term podcast is a portmanteau of “iPod” and “broadcast”. This blended word says a lot because a podcast is a digital recording that is produced for distribution to a computer or mobile device (e.g., the iPod in 2005). Podcasts are distributed via RSS feeds that users subscribe to. Podcast directories, like iTunes®, allow users to find and subscribe to a podcast. Generally podcasts are episodic and often serial in nature with new episodes delivered automatically to subscribed users as the new content becomes available.

So, you can see a course podcast is more than an audio or video file embedded in an online course that students click on to engage with. In its ideal form, a podcast is a method of delivering course content to a learner’s mobile device via the podcast subscription process. Learners can engage with that content at any time and any place they have their mobile device.

Banner showing cover art from four OSU podcasts
Sample cover art from select Oregon State University podcasts.

Audio, Video, or Enhanced Podcasts

There a three primary formats of podcasts. Links to examples of each type of podcast are provide at the end of this article.

  • Audio: This type of podcast distributes digital audio files to listeners
  • Video (vodcast): This podcast type distributes a digital video file to podcast watchers.
  • Enhanced: The enhanced podcasts distributes a media file that displays images synchronized with audio. 

Instructional Use & Value
With mobile devices pervasive in college audiences, being able to distribute educational content to those devices is very attractive. The use of podcasts in online learning environments is common and spans many disciplines (Supanakor-Davila & Bollinger, 2014). Podcasting has also been applied in traditional college courses (McGarr, 2009) and in graduate teaching (Luna & Cullen, 2011). Fernandez, Sallan and Simo (2015) recognized podcasting as a major phenomenon in education with the primary purpose being the distribution of course content.

The purpose of podcasts in instruction varies by podcast type and author. Podcasts can be used to inform, provide analysis, develop skills and knowledge, motivate, mediate and more (Carvalho et al., 2009). Common types of podcasts produced for educational use include:

  • Informative: Description fo concepts, analysis, synthesis, readings etc.
  • Feedback: Audio or video feed back for student work or group work.
  • Guides: Helpful media content addressing field or practical work, studying, group dynamics and reflective or experiential learning.
  • Authentic: Original media contend such as news, interviews, radio programming and others.

The production of podcasts can be faculty, student, or outside expert driven. Like any good media production it should have excellent production value and a structure to hold attention and enhance learning. Since podcasts are serial in nature shorter media segments are encouraged. Episodes of 15 minutes or less will likely promote better engagement with podcast content. Although a very engaging podcast can be longer.

The benefits of podcasts in online courses are tied to the nature of the media and distribution process. Audio podcast are popular because they can be listened to while doing other tasks. Additionally the speed of media playback can be controlled by the listener. Video podcasts are ideal when visual support is necessary to foster understanding of the course content. As mobile media podcasts may be used to facilitate and support remote field work by students or even tours of remote places. The ability to watch or listen to podcasts via WiFi or downloaded and used on-demand makes podcast a convenient asynchronous media adjunct to an online course.

So, as a course content delivery mechanism podcasts are a unique tool if applied thoughtfully. Understanding podcast types, formats, and their delivery mechanism helps you make better decisions about podcast application.

Research in Action sound wave image.
Visit the Research in Action podcast website at Oregon State University to listen to this episode and see how transcripts are shared.

Accessibility
Making content accessible when using podcast requires some planning and also reflects the nature of the podcast media you plan to use. For audio podcasts it is important to provide transcripts to support all learners. 

Video podcasts are best paired with well synchronized captions. When planning video podcast you may also want to think about providing audio descriptions of content that provides important information that is shown as a visual in the video.

Podcast Consumers: Is This Your Audience?
This is an important question. If you produce a podcast are learners likely to engage with it? Is podcasting on the radar of potential learners?  The Edison Research survey on The Podcast Consumer (2018) indicates that 26% of those surveyed listen to podcasts monthly. The podcasting audience by age shows that  30% of  12-24 year olds, 32% of 25-54 year olds, and 13% of 55 + year olds have listened to a podcast in the last month. Male and female listeners are about evenly split in podcast engagement. Smartphone and other mobile devices make up 76% of podcast listening devices with computers making up 24% of podcast engagement. The top three locations of podcast engagement are at home (82%), followed by in a car/truck (54%), and walking or on foot (41%). Podcasting seems well suited to reach audiences that are remote, mobile, and consume media in an asynchronous fashion. These are also common descriptors of online learning audiences.

A Podcast For Your Course?
If a podcast sounds interesting to you contact your instructional designer at Ecampus. They can help you understand more about this mobile media opportunity and help think through strategies for effective podcast use. They will also work with Ecampus multimedia developers to help facilitate the production and distribution of your podcast. 

So, what do you think? Can you imagine your students engaging with course content as a podcast? Could a podcast work in your online course?

Links to sample podcasts in iTunes

Notes: 

  1. Enhanced podcasts are best viewed on a mobile device although they can be viewed in iTunes once downloaded.
  2. Prior to 2017 educational podcasts were distributed by Apple via iTunes U. With changes in iTunes educational podcasts now appear in the podcast section of iTunes and iTunes U was discontinued.


References

Carvalho, A. A., Aguiar, C., Santos, H., Oliveira, L., Marques, A., & Maciel, R. (2009). Podcasts in higher education: Students’ and lecturers’ perspectives. In A. Tatnall & A. Jones (Eds.), Education and technology for a better world (pp. 417-426). Boston: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. doi:10.1007/978-3- 642-03115-1_44.

Fernandez, V.; Sallan, J.; Simo, Pep. Past, present, and future of podcasting in higher education. In L., Many & Y. Zhao (Eds.). Exploring learning & teaching in higher education pp. 305-330. Berlin: Springer, 2015,.

Luna, Gaye, & Cullen, Deborah. (2011). Podcasting as Complement to Graduate Teaching: Does It Accommodate Adult Learning Theories? International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 23(1), 40-47.

McGarr, Oliver. (2009). A Review of Podcasting in Higher Education: Its Influence on the Traditional Lecture. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(3), 309-321.

Supanakorn-Davila, S., & Bolliger, D. (2014). Instructor Utilization Of Podcasts In The Online Learning Environment. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(3), N/a.

Webster, T. (2018). The Podcast Consumer. Retrieved from http://www.edisonresearch.com/podcast-consumer-2018/

 

On May 2nd, Ecampus held our annual Faculty Forum which showcases the outstanding work that OSU is doing in online education. Sixteen interactive sessions allowed faculty the opportunity to learn more about innovative teaching methods and share their experiences in online teaching with each other.

This year we were delighted to have Dr. Kevin Gannon, a professor of history and director for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Education at Grand View University, present a keynote address on a very timely and relevant topic for all online educators – designing online classrooms where inclusive discussions can take place while effectively engaging students with challenging or controversial materials.  His presentation – Sea lions, trolls, and flames – oh my! Navigating the difficulty places in online learning – was a thought-provoking and inspiring call to action for online educators.

This article is the first of a two-part series on producing video interviews featuring guest experts for online courses. Part I focuses on planning while Part II will address the faculty role in the video interview production process.

Part I: Planning With A Purpose

Interviews of guest experts are valuable forms of course media because they can serve a number of instructional purposes. Traditionally classroom instructors might consider including guest experts as part of instruction to…

  • Connect learning with an authority in the field.
  • Communicate what the practices are in a given field.
  • Describe the nature of work of a professional in a given field.
  • Show important work environments or processes.
  • Introduce a second, collaborative voice to instruction (Laist, 2015).

One of the common ways instructors incorporate the expert’s voice into a course is by inviting a guest speaker into the classroom. Or, class members might travel to a field location where the person being interviewed works. In both cases the experience of the guest expert interview is live and located where the interview occurs. The synchronous live interview, a staple of on-campus courses, is problematic for online instruction.

Online instruction is shaped by the nature of the online environment. Asynchronous class sessions, the remoteness of learners, and limited access to field sites would seem to limit the use of guest experts. Ecampus instructors are moving beyond those limitations by creating carefully planned and professionally produced video interviews of guest experts in order to leverage the instructional benefits of interviews for their online courses. An example of this is a media project produced for Dr. Hilary Boudet’s course PPOL 441/541 Energy and Society, offered by Oregon State University’s School of Public Policy.

Dr. Boudet worked with the Ecampus video team to re-imagine a traditional live field site visit to the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab at Oregon State University as a series of guest expert video interviews. Dr. Boudet carefully planned the interview process and served as the on-camera host in the video interview series. Three OSU scientists served as the guest experts in the on-site interviews. Because of careful planning, primary interviews and recording were completed in half a day.

The guest expert interview recordings, and subsequent video editing, resulted in the production of four videos ranging in length from ten to twenty minutes each. The interviews represent approximately one hour of video content for the PPOL 441/541 Energy and Society course. You can view the first of the four video interviews by clicking on the image from the video below.

 

Image of Dr. Boudet and Pedro Lomónaco
Hilary Boudet interviews guest expert Pedro Lomónaco.  Click on image to watch the video.

 

As the video interview planner, Dr. Boudet made a number of key decisions regarding video interview structure and content. We will highlight these decisions as answers to the 5 W’s of video interviews: Who, What, When, Where, Why and also How.

You may want to think through answers to these questions when you plan a similar project. Let’s take a look at each of these questions in the context of the PPOL 441/551 video.


Why are you doing the video interview?

In the case of PPOL 441/541, Dr. Boudet wanted to capture the instructional value of a field site visit and conversations with scientists related to that site. So being on location was essential. She wanted to show the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab and use it as a vehicle to discuss how the lab and Oregon State University researchers contribute to the larger social conversation about wave energy and social issues related to its use in coastal communities.


What is the subject of the video interview (s)?
Dr. Boudet identified four independent but related topics she wanted to address with the guest experts. The topics are listed below.

  • Introduction to the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab
  • Introduction to Wave Energy Technology
  • Human Dimensions of Wave Energy
  • Community Outreach and Engagement

Each of these topics fits well within the learning outcomes for the Energy and Society course. In this instance, Dr. Boudet had a clear story arc in mind when selecting topics. She structured the video segments to address each topic and conducted each interview as its own story that supported the larger learning arc. Having a clear vision for the use of guest expert video interviews helps guide video production on-site and also informs the final video editing process.


Where will the interview be recorded?
Prior field visits to the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab helped Dr. Boudet work with both the guest experts and video production team in thinking through locations for interviews and what needed to appear in the video. Understanding the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab also helped in deciding what aspects of the lab and props would be ideal to record for each video interview. It is clear What and Where are two closely related planning questions. In general on-site video production requires a large space for staging and a quiet space for recording. The interview recording site must also be relevant to the subject being addressed. If you do not have a recording space available Ecampus has a studio facility that can be used.


Who is to be interviewed?
Dr. Boudet had a clear plan to bring expert voices into the video interview. The guests to the class served as scientific experts as well as guides to the facility being visited. In the case of the PPOL 441/541 video interviews, Dr. Boudet chose to have the scientists appear on screen and to also appear herself. This is a key decision that shapes the planning and production process of the video interviews. As you might imagine, the technical demands of having one person on camera is different from having two people. Recording equipment needs and subsequent editing approaches are impacted by the number of people included “on camera” in any interview scenario.


When will the interview occur?

Scheduling interview recording involves coordinating your own schedule with Ecampus video staff and your guest expert(s). In the case of PPOL 441/541, Dr. Boudet arranged to have all interviews recorded at the same facility but in different spaces. Additionally, the interview times were coordinated to facilitate the video production team being present for a large block of time when all guest expert interviews could be recorded. After primary recording, the video production staff returned briefly to the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab to record b-roll content; shots of the facility without any people. This is a common process in video production.

The last important question to be asked is…


How will you prepare?
Part of preparation for a video interview is embedded in the answer to our previous questions. But preparing the content of the actual interview also requires planning. Dr. Boudet prepared a list of questions that she wanted to have addressed as part of the interview. She shared the purpose of the interview and her questions with the guest experts in advance. This collaborative effort contributed to a clear understanding of the intent of learning for all parties.

Sharing your questions with interviewees can be helpful. Asking guest experts not to memorize answers but to prepare with bullet points in mind will help the interview feel spontaneous.

There are obvious types of questions you will want to avoid. For instance, yes or no type questions can stunt an interview. Remember, the idea is get the instructional information you need. Be prepared to ask a question again if it is not answered the first time. Or, ask for clarifications to a response as part of the interview. Also provide opportunities at the end of the interview for experts to add anything they like. Remember you might get some great information and if it is not useful it can be edited out.

Preparing the physical interview space and interviewees is part of what the Ecampus video team does. They can provide tips on how to dress for a given interview, where to stand, where to look, and how to stage the interview space.

Now that we have answered some of the key questions in the video interview planning process watch the sample video posted above again. Can you see or hear the answers to the questions we have addressed?

About Part II:

Planning a guest expert video interview with a clear purpose in mind will shape the relevance, structure, and focus of the final video interview. In Part II of this video interview series, we will address the second half of video interview creation process; faculty collaboration with Ecampus video staff in the final stages of video interview production

References

Laist, R. (2015). Getting the Most out of Guest Experts Who Speak to Your Class. Faculty FocusHigher Ed Teaching & Learning. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/curriculum-development/getting-the-most-out-of-guest-experts-who-speak-to-your-class/

 

Special thanks to Hilary Boudet, Heather Doherty, Rick Henry, Chris Lindberg, and Drew Olson for their contributions to this article. 

The instructional designers at Ecampus held a Research & Development Day recently to explore the topic of user experience (UX) design as it applies to Ecampus courses. As part of that day, fellow instructional designer, Dorothy Loftin and I explored how Canvas functions when used on Mobile Devices. Below are some findings from our testing.

Generally, we found that iPads work great as long as a student accesses the course through a browser. It was using the Canvas App (necessary on a smart phone) that presented changes and challenges in functionality. The good news is that many of these can be addressed with a few additions in course design. These additions should not significantly alter the experience for students who are using desktop and laptop computers. Today, I will present one of those strategies.

The most significant impact we experienced in using the Canvas App is navigation, how a student gets to content, activities and assessments. It can take quite a few clicks or taps to get to a specific page in Canvas using the mobile app, or to get from one page to another, and the navigation can vary depending on the device used. This may negatively impact the student user experience, distract, and generally increase cognitive load.

Navigation Strategy

One strategy to improve navigation is to provide alternate links for students to jump to commonly needed items in your course. Turns out, this can also benefit students who are on desktops or laptops.

The Home Page that I often use is immediately available for users on all devices. I have added links and buttons so students can jump directly to important sections of the course from here. This turns the Home Page into more of a landing page with quick links.

Page View in Desktop Browser Page View on iPhone
Desktop browser screen grab iPhone Screen Grab

The buttons take a student to the Module Page for a particular week. Module Pages, on the App, present students with links to all content and activities for that week. I limited the buttons to 3-across to make clicking them on a phone easier. As you probably notice, the App translates buttons into links. So, simply providing a list of text links would also work on multiple devices.

This Strategy to improve navigation can be used on any page where you want a student to be able to move quickly to new material, reducing frustration and cognitive load by making the navigational journey more immediate.

How to do it yourself resources:

By Christopher Lindberg

Do you ever wonder where your students go once they log into an online course? John Whitmer (Blackboard analytics, blog link) and Kevin Reeve (instructor and director of Teaching and Learning Technologies at Utah State University, Canvas Analytics video link) did some hard work to seek answers to this question. Kevin presented his team’s preliminary results at Online Learning Consortium conference in Nov. 2016. Some of the findings were obvious, some not so.

My question is: what can we do with this information? How can we use this learning analytics to guide our course design practices as online instructors and online instructional designers?

Here is a summary of Kevin’s report and my ideas of course design based on learning analytics of students’ course visiting behavior patterns:

Student course visit behavior Observations from Canvas learning analytics: Course Design Ideas:
Students’ first visits to online courses may be exploratory.

activitiesannouncementdqtodoviewcalendar

Use announcements to connect with students before course start and during course session; Create navigation tutorial video to guide students; Design course homepage, Start Here module, and syllabus for easy navigation and communicate important information with clear instructions.
Some students visit “Grades” early on to view the weighting of grades and other details Have an accurate grade book available from day 1
Some students visit assignments first Put link to learning module, or related learning materials, learning outcomes, instructions etc. in each assignment.
Many visits to course do not start with homepage Design your course homepage to be attractive and put information that students care to read there; Direct student attention to course homepage if you intend to put important information on homepage, otherwise do not overly rely on homepage.
To do list is driving students entry points once course starts. Enter due dates for graded assignments so the assignments will appear on the calendar and to do list.
Syllabus is being missed by some students during the first few visits Make syllabus prominently visible and accessible.

In the same time, put important information from syllabus in multiple places such as course home page, Start Here module, and first assignment directions, in case students visit assignments directly.

If you have ideas for Canvas course design based on the above observations or your own observations of online students course visit behavior patterns, feel free to share with us

Happy Holidays!