Whether you’re a regular visitor to this blog or you just stumbled on it for the first time, you may be curious about where to learn more about the world of online education, particularly from an instructor’s perspective. You could start with a Google search for “online education,” but sorting through the 14 million results would be very time consuming!

To substantially speed things up–so you’ll have time to watch the leaves turn–here are four great sites where you can access a wealth of information, tools and resources about teaching online and the growing field of hybrid (“blended”) learning. Check them out!

  • EDUCAUSE Learning Initiativea community of higher education institutions and organizations committed to advancing learning through information technology (IT) innovation”
  • Merlota free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy”
  • National Center for Academic Transformationan independent non-profit organization dedicated to the effective use of information technology to improve student learning outcomes and reduce the cost of higher education”
  • The Sloan Consortium“a consortium of individuals, institutions and organizations committed to quality online education”

The use of audio recording tools in online classrooms is a great way to incorporate student voice in an otherwise silent environment. Providing students with various methods to give, receive and store information using multiple learning modalities greatly enhances learning.

Instructors can use simple audio recording tools to both deliver course content and assess learning. The recorded voice messages can serve as mini-lectures, clarifications to muddy topics, quick reminders and more. Your students can respond to your voice messages verbally by posting a comment to your recording.

Some ideas for student-generated content include general introductions, interviews, or even a Q&A session with student experts. Audio recording tools are great resources for the foreign language classroom and can be used to assess your students’ speaking skills in the target language.

Here I’ve included a 30 second example of a ‘boo’ (what Audioboo calls their recorded messages) with more information.

Blog: Audioboo Example (mp3)

Looking for a way to elicit more original replies in your online class discussions, or perhaps an engaging assignment that will challenge your students to comprehend and then explain the concepts you’re trying to teach? You might want to give FlickrPoet a try. Don’t let the name fool you; this tool can be used in a wide range of classes, from liberal arts to the sciences.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

You might be thinking about adding videos to your course if you are:

  • Wanting to show a video in class for an assignment.
  • Creating an introduction video to your class.
  • Creating small video segments introducing to weekly modules or an assignment.

If you are interested in creating these videos yourself, we can teach you some of the best practices on how to make your video professional and having clear audio. We have flip cams available for loan and here are some helpful tips for beginners to get started shooting flip video.

So perhaps you are interested in showing a video in class for an assignment, much like what you may have done in the past for your oncampus course. Keep in mind copyrights differ between oncampus and online environments. The process of getting the video up to your online course is to either bring us a copy of the video, either DVD or VHS, or the call number if the video is available at The Valley Library. Keep in mind that blockbuster type movies are generally rejected from the studios or a heavy streaming fee will be taxed to the student, so please find an alternative.

After the video is brought to us, we will attempt to obtain copyright permission from the publisher. The video will be made available to the students and will be taken down if permission is denied. The video will then be hosted on a secure video server where viewers will need to login with their ONID account before viewing. The video is played back to students via a progressive download stream through adobe flash. For students on ipads or iphones they are also able to view the videos as it will switch over to an HTML5 player.

Creating an introduction video for your class is a great way to establish a connection between yourself and your students by seeing who you are. Keep introduction videos brief of no more than 10 minutes, 3-5 minutes is ideal. Information you will want to cover is a brief introduction of yourself, perhaps your background and your interested. Then proceed to cover an overview of the class and anything important the students will need to know. Avoid including date or term specific information, so that you are able to reuse the video per term. Otherwise you will need to create a new one every term.

You can also introduce weekly concepts or a project through a short video. The process is similar to an introduction video.

One way to supplement your powerpoint slide/lectures is to add an audio track/narration. It is ideal when creating an online class that if you do take your powerpoints from a face-to-face class to modify and change the content to fit an online environment. There could be content that could be supplemented through online discussion, or perhaps through student research through other websites, etc. You can also add an audio narration track to your slides, we use a program called Adobe Presenter to accomplish this task. Adobe offers a 30 day trial if you wish to explore this on your own computer, we can also lend out USB Headsets as well. Below is a quick tutorial on how the program is used.

Here is a simple tool we created from scratch, which points out the mean, median, and mode values from a randomly generated set of data:

Screenshot of Soc315 simple statistics refresher tool

Background:
The instructor noted that students are required to have taken a basic statistics course before starting his Sociology class, but they have often forgotten how to apply the concepts of mean, median and mode to a data set. He asked if we could create a tool that would show these values applied to a data set that the students might actually encounter during their sociology studies. Continue reading

This is one illustration in a series on how water molecules are attracted to each other. As you can see here, 2 positive hydrogen atoms are fused with one negative oxygen. The negative oxegen attracts neighboring hydrogens but does not fuse.

Here we see how the polarization of water allows it to crawl up a small opening in a tube against gravity.

 

Here we see how different pollutants soak into soil flow through the water table.

 

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

This little animation shows how water is obsorbed 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

 

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.