When our team started Model eLearning in January, we wanted to explore and share the eLearning theories, trends, and tools that excite us. One of the top instructional design skills is Googler—so we wanted to contribute to that growing body of knowledge and help the eLearning community.
Over the past year, we’ve shared our team’s practical tips for instructional designers (ID), subject matter experts (SME), and instructors. Now—in a time-honored December blog tradition—let’s review some of our favorite posts of 2017. Continue reading “A Year’s End Review”
“In addition to enhancing learning, video can also reduce training time. It’s easier and takes less time to watch a well-made video than it does to read through pages of dense text or complicated diagrams to grasp a concept.”
In my last post, we explored some benefits of using scenarios in eLearning. Today, we will examine the value of learning with interactive videos using PlayPosit. If you’re not familiar with PlayPosit, it’s an online environment used to create and share interactive video lessons.
According to Raptivity (2015), interaction occurs in an interactive video when “the learner is shown a video that pauses at set intervals to reveal either additional information or questions to test knowledge. It actively involves learners during a video and gives them feedback whenever required.”
Our team had the opportunity to create an interactive video for an eLearning module we developed for a presentation at the 2017 Michigan OER Summit. Our module used open educational resources (OER) to help learners discover the importance of APA style and how to apply it to their writing.
We used PlayPosit to build an interactive video. A library had shared the original video about APA Style under a Creative Commons (CC) License. The content was fantastic and covered the criteria that we planned to examine in our module. As a result, we were able to create the questions that we wanted to infuse in the PlayPosit to test learner’s knowledge.
After the video showed pertinent information about APA, the video prompted learners to pause and answer a question to test their knowledge.
Interactive Video and Learning Theory
Interactive video learning is anchored in two learning theories: Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) and vicarious learning. SCT is the foundation of interactive video learning and the basis of situated learning, which is where scenario based learning comes from. Vicarious learning means we observe a skill or watch information and then we have a chance to test our knowledge or apply the skill that we’ve learned.
As professionals committed to helping others learn, we want our learners to feel engaged with the content presented to them. We hope that learners will discover the need, value, and relevance of what they learn and then apply it to their lives.
These ideas are the focus of Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory, which we applied in the eLearning example about interactive video. The following andragogic principles are also present in our example:
Learners have the opportunity to absorb information in the context of figuring out a problem.
Learners are immersed in activities that enable them to tie the subject matter to the application.
The benefits to using interactive video for learning, especially in higher education, include:
It facilitates active learning.
It engages by grabbing and retaining the learner’s attention.
It more clearly displays complex subject matter.
It supplies learners with immediate feedback.
It easily presents simulations.
It’s easier for learners to identify and discuss gaps/problems with peers.
Based on these advantages, it’s clearly valuable to use interactive video for learning.
Interactive Video Using PlayPosit
As an educator, you can sign up and take advantage of PlayPosit’s free options including Multiple Choice and Pause and Play. Here are a few ways that you can get started with interactive videos for learning:
Turn an existing static PowerPoint into an engaging narration. The narration can then be turned into an interactive video.
Search the Public Domain and OER repositories for content your learners need to know. Look for content with a CCO license, which allows you to modify the content.
PlayPosit is a great tool for creating your first interactive video. Why not give it a try?
Are you a learning theory addict? Do you use interactive videos in your eLearning? Have you ever used PlayPosit to engage your learners? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section below.
Cournoyer, B. (2017). 12 quotes on why video works for eLearning. Brainshark.
Have you noticed the dark cloud in the corner of your office? That agent of doom that keeps saying: “blended instruction is just a phase,” “you don’t have time and resources to get started with blended,” or “what’s the big deal about blended anyway?”
You are a professor—not an agent of doom.
You care about your students and want the very best learning experiences for them. Why then do you listen to that dark cloud’s pessimism and remain immovable?
Shannon Tipton, in her article, “Go Make Something Happen,” explains that we don’t get started on something new (like blended instruction) because “…we are scaredy cats.” She insists we hold back for these reasons:
We are scared of failure. Scared of looking bad. Scared of losing credibility.
We don’t know where to start.
We are overwhelmed.
We don’t like the topic.
Do you see yourself in that picture? If so, you can move out of the dark cloud and get started with an instructional design team—a rescue squad equipped to take the scary out of the project.
Reach out to your instructional design team.
Join with other minds to brainstorm, identify problems that need solutions, and share perspectives from a variety of angles. Working with a team does not mean that you are placing the learning of your students into someone else’s hands. It truly takes a team to create a successful blended course.
Say goodbye to the dark cloud in the corner and start increasing learning value for your students. Stop letting fear keep you back from providing blended instruction, and start a conversation with us!
Don’t be scared. We will help you look good.
Together, we’ll determine the best place to start.
Let us do some of the heavy lifting.
We focus on learning. We don’t want you to lose those game-winning home runs.
Together, we will find a way through the blended maze.
Content is difficult to read on a screen. If you want students to engage with your online course, you need to improve the cognitive load. The best practices used for writing for the web include active voice, positive tone, the inverted pyramid, chunking text, bullet and number lists, and descriptive headings. In this post, we’ll examine how to improve the readability of your course using active voice.
Academic writing often slides into passive voice. Let’s be honest, we’ve all rearranged sentences to reach a word count requirement. Passive voice allows us to remove first person bias, but it makes the sentence more complex (the object happens to the subject). The reader must rearrange the sentence in his or her mind to understand it. If your content is too complex, the reader might give up.
Active voice is clear, concise, and easy to understand; it’s one of the best ways to improve writing. According to Strunk and White (2000):
“The habitual use of the active voice […] makes for forcible writing.”
I once inherited a document written in 45 percent passive voice. I challenged myself to only use active voice (and succeeded). The good news is you don’t have to do that. As a general rule, your content should use under 10 percent passive voice.
In some situations, you might use passive voice to remove responsibility. The famous example is an organization using “A mistake was made” rather than “I made a mistake.” In this case, the abstract verbiage removes the blame from a person; however, this usage is the exception not the rule.
How to convert passive voice to active voice:
Find the verb: If you see “to be” (am, is, are, was, were, been, etc.), the verb is in past tense—this causes passive voice.
Simplify the verb or use a descriptive verb: Replace the active verb with the “Simple Present” version (see Purdue OWL, Verb Tenses). Another option is to use a more descriptive verb.
Rearrange the sentence: The best way is to write Subject + Verb + Object. You might find this difficult at first. You’re already familiar with the current sentence, and you will need to think of another way to say the same thing.
It’s okay to write a draft in passive voice—just remember to revise!
Are you a subject matter expert, instructional designer, or course editor? Or do you write for the web? Leave your favorite tips for online content in the comments below.
Are you an instructor who’s thought, “I have all this content that my students need to know—why aren’t they getting it”? Have you considered converting that bland text into a format that pops? Let’s discuss why you should consider using visual tools to bring your information to life.
Why would you want to use a visual tool like an infographic? According to Educause, an “infographic” displays a lot of data and ideas with images from simple to complex in a visually appealing online format that can be interactive.
Converting your content requires the following steps:
Start by analyzing your content to determine what format you are going to use. You want to make sure that it is meaningful and relevant to the topic at hand.
Ask yourself: “what are the instructional objectives?” Are students required to remember facts and concepts to build a foundation so that they can later connect, elaborate, synthesize, and apply it to other information? This was my situation when I created the history infographic below. Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy is a useful tool for considering instructional objectives. Bannister (2002) also provides useful tools for Developing Objectives and Relating them to Assessment.
Finally, what format will you convert the information into? Your answers to Question #2 will help you determine the format that you will use. An infographic is best to present facts and concepts; if you want to use embedded audio or video, an interactive presentation works better.
Two easy-to-use infographic tools are Emaze and Piktochart. You can sign up for a free account, but keep in mind that it only gives you access to certain templates. You can still create some cool visual presentations and interactions with the free templates.
Below, I’ve shared two examples that I created using these free tools. In the first example, I created an infographic using a Piktochart. In my Black Political Thought infographic, I asked learners to connect how black ideologies and politics shape current American events and culture.
In the second example, I presented Great Peacemakers to the Trailblazers Toastmasters club. Rather than sharing handouts with globs of text, I used Emaze to create an interactive visual presentation to engage my audience throughout my presentation.
My audience gave me great feedback with meaningful Glows and Grows (a reflection and assessment strategy meant to improve presentations).
This time you might use an infographic or interactive visual; the next time you may want to transition your content into an eLearning activity. In my next post, I’ll discuss how to use PowerPoint to create an interactive scenario.
Writing content for an online or blended course is different than lecturing in a face-to-face course. Great eLearning content doesn’t just happen—it is intentionally designed to reach the student at their moment of need. As you develop your course, keep these five tips in mind to write relevant, engaging, and useful eLearning content.
Know your audience:
Consider the learner’s needs as you write your course content. Elearning demographics are shifting. Online learners are oftentimes older than the traditional campus student. It’s likely the online student studies around a full-time job and raising a family.
How can you frame the course to include their life experiences? What information is most meaningful after graduation? Do they need to pass an outside certification exam? What insights can you share to make that process smoother?
Tell a story:
From a young age, we discover our world through story. Stories inform and inspire; we’re more likely to retain what we’ve learned if we’re engaged on a personal level.
“We think in story. It’s hardwired in our brain. It’s how we make strategic sense of the otherwise overwhelming world around us. Simply put, the brain constantly seeks meaning from all of the input thrown at it […]” (Cron 8).
Storytelling works well with interactive scenarios. Instructional Designers use tools such as Articulate, Camtasia, and Captivate to build the scenario—all they need is your content to make them stellar!
In academic writing, we’re taught to remove the “I” (first person) to create an objective distance. Elearning content is not as formal (nor impersonal). I’m not suggesting that you write in emojis and text speech. Your tone should be authoritative yet conversational. If you address the student as “you” and use inclusive language such as “we” and “us,” he or she will see you’re authentic and relatable.
Provide relevant content:
Quality content delivers useful information to the learner. Research current ideas and trends and remove any content that doesn’t meet the student’s needs. Museums curate art pieces around a theme or topic. Your content should curate links to relevant articles, books, videos, etc.
Marketers use calls to action as milestones to guide users to an outcome. In your course content, use learning outcomes to engage students and create a meaningful learning community. Ask questions at critical points in the course. Use the Discussion Board forums to invite student interactions. Include journals and blogs as spaces for online instructors to work with each student as an individual.
Are you an Instructional Designer, eLearning subject matter expert, or online instructor? How do you provide relevant, engaging, and useful content to students? Comment below to join the conversation.
Cron, L. (2012). Wired for story: The writer’s guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence. New York, NY: Ten Speed Press.
It’s tempting (and common) for members of the academic community to think that converting a face-to-face course to an online or blended course produces a special brand of magic. It’s just not true.
After building over 100 online courses, I have come to believe that the process is anything but magic! Of course, I’m always looking for that one spectacular experience…but honestly—even if it is spectacular—it involves hard work.
It is good old-fashioned respect and communication that seems to be the magic—not the new 5-week format, the online portfolio, or the 5-star learning management system. Of course technology needs to be there and work well, but it’s the human involvement that makes it sparkle. The next time you face a course development, incorporate these five tips for success!
1 Mutual Trust
Can you begin with mutual trust? The instructional designer (ID) and subject matter expert (SME) are often placed together without introduction or a previous working relationship. If you are starting from scratch—work hard on establishing trust. Believe that your partner knows what they are talking about, and decide to listen and consider their contributions seriously.
2 Establish Clear Guidelines
Can you define the project? Do you both understand the back story? What kind of course is it? What purpose will it serve? When will it be running and who will be taking it? Talk openly about what you know. The SME often has more information than the ID, but sometimes it’s the other way around. Come together to understand exactly the project’s parameters. Before you begin, take the necessary time to get clarification from others if needed.
3 Workable Time Frame
You must develop a workable time frame for both ID and SME. Melding two demanding work schedules can be problematic. Be open about the time you have to give to the project. Is it better to do it all in one week or spread it out over a few months? Then, acknowledge that circumstances out of your control may impact your plan. Consider several options before landing on a schedule and agree to go all in.
Why is it that we never talk about how we’re going to talk about it? In your very first encounter, establish communication paths. There are many paths to take today—choose one or two. Keeping communication lines clear and accessible in one place is important. Will you text, email, instant message, or make phone calls? Will you schedule face-to-face or virtual meetings? Make a plan for communication that respects comfort and accessibility.
5 Use Web Tools
Keep things manageable by using Web tools for sharing information. Email attachments are a default information-sharing tool—but other options can work much smoother. Think tools like Google Drive, BOX, Trello, and Dropbox. A web tool gives you both access to the same filing cabinet, at any time of day or night. Decide on one and use it.
So the next time you are told that converting a face-to-face course to an online or blended course requires a quick wave of the magic technology wand, take a deep breath, because you know it isn’t so!
It takes good old-fashioned respect, trust, and intentional communication to make the project shine.