Good assignments for online classes share many of the same qualities as good assignments for on-campus classes, but may require the use of some different tools or different approaches. If you are looking for ideas for improving or creating assignments for your online course, check out this video, which includes suggestions about different types of assignments to use, tools you and students may need for online assignments, tips for creating and managing group assignments, as well as some tips for evaluating assignments in online classes.

Here is an example of interactivity in a PDF. The file was created from a PowerPoint and, as a new instructional designer, my first foray into creating elearning. As I created the PowerPoint I had several of John Medina’s Brain Rules in mind. The first one? We don’t pay attention to boring things. Guess what? Students don’t either! This shouldn’t surprise you. I didn’t want to this simply be another passive learning task. I designed this piece of elearning with the idea of offering learners an opportunity to interact with the content and learn by listening, watching, reading and writing. I chunked the information in order to not overwhelm the learner with text. Ready for the next rule? As instructors and designers, we need to strive to stimulate more of the senses. Learners need to be stimulated! In this example, there are a few audiovisual experiences embedded in the form of photos, YouTube videos and an active learning collaborative task. I saved the best rule for last: Vision trumps all other senses. With this in mind, I searched high and low for images that would not detract from the learning process, but enhance it. I wanted the images to relate to what was being taught and serve as a reminder for what the learners had read. It’s easy to overwhelm elearning with the numerous visuals – especially if they aren’t related to the content. Is this the best example of all things elearning and visual design? Of course not! I have just entered the world of visual design and strive to keep learning and improving.

An approach known as “inverted” or “flipped” learning is gaining momentum in contemporary higher education. Inverted learning figuratively flips the traditional lecture-plus-homework format of many college courses on its head. Rather than using class time for the largely one-way delivery of information from instructor to student, the lecture material is made available online for students to study prior to class. Then classroom time can be used for face-to-face interaction that includes clarification, amplification, small-group work, problem solving, review, and assessment of learning built on the foundation of online course content and readings.

As illustrated in Robert Talbert’s presentation, “Inverting the Classroom, Improving Student Learning,” the inverted learning model moves more of the transmission of information outside the classroom, so that class time can be devoted to higher-level assimilation activities. A growing body of research, including a widely publicized University of British Columbia study published recently in the journal Science, points to the efficacy of devoting class time to learning activities other than lectures.

By nature, inverted learning is well suited to “hybrid” courses, which include both regular classroom meetings—with class meeting time typically reduced by 50%—and significant online content delivered via a learning platform such as Blackboard. A pilot program for development of hybrid courses is the centerpiece of OSU’s new Teaching & Learning Technologies Initiative. A request for proposals to participate in this pilot program will be distributed to OSU faculty by early September.

Gaining students’ attention is the first of Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction. A great way to gain attention is to provide a catchy animated video about the topic you are presenting.

What’s that? You’re not a trained animator? Don’t let that stop you! If you can choose items off a menu and type some dialogue, you can create an animated video for free at www.xtranormal.com. The animation below was created for an upcoming professional development workshop at Ecampus. The whole project took about 10 minutes to create.

Blackboard will be upgraded to version 9.1 in time for Fall term 2011.

Although there will be some minor cosmetic changes, basic functioning in the most frequently used areas of Blackboard (i.e. discussion board, grade center) will remain the same.

New features to look for include:

  • Wikis
  • Grading in blogs and journals
  • New content creation menus
  • Accessibility improvements for multimedia
  • Mashups – ability to embed Flickr, Slideshare, YouTube content
  • Ability to move assignments and tests within a course site

If you want to see these new features in more detail, view this 7 minute tutorial.
Blackboard 9.1 Overview

Project Name: Clay and Sand
Media: Flash Vector Drawings
Class: Waterwise

This little animation shows how water is absorbed differently in sand vs clay. This understanding will help gardeners make wiser choices when choosing how to water their plants.

Click the image to play the animation

Project Name: Whale Migration
Media: Flash Vector Drawings
Class: FW302
Design Team: Warren Blyth, Thomas Emery

This interactive flash application lets you follow the migration of gray whales off the west coast of North America for 2 years. It follows a pregnant mother, calf, and a male. Numbers came from OSU researchers.

This project was directed by Warren Blyth, programming by Thomas Emery, I was in charge of animation, art, and layout.

Click the image to launch the application. Hit the play button in the bottom left corner to start it.