Effective Ways to Structure Online Discussions

The use of online discussion in both blended and fully online courses has made clear that those exchanges are more productive if they are structured, if there’s a protocol that guides the interaction. This kind of structure is more important in the online environment because those discussions are usually asynchronous and minus all the nonverbal cues that facilitate face-to-face exchanges. But I’m wondering if more structure might benefit our in-class discussions as well.

Students struggle with academic discourse. They have conversations (or is it chats?) with each other, but not discussions like those we aspire to have in our courses. And although students understand there’s a difference between the two, they don’t always know exactly how they’re supposed to talk about academic content when discussing it with teachers and classmates. Would providing more structure provide that clarity and make the value of discussions more obvious to students?


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Does student engagement in self-assessment calibrate their judgement over time?

One of the implicit aims of higher education is to enable students to become better judges of their own work. This paper examines whether students who voluntarily engage in self-assessment improve in their capacity to make those judgements. The study utilises data from a web-based marking system that provides students with the opportunity to assess themselves on each criterion for each assessment task throughout a programme of study. Student marks were compared with those from tutors to plot changes over time. The findings suggest that overall students’ judgements do converge with those of tutors, but that there is considerable variation across achievement levels, with weaker students showing little improvement. Whilst the study is limited by the exigencies of voluntary participation and thus consequential gaps in the data set, it shows how judgement over time can be demonstrated and points to the potential for more systematic interventions to improve students’ judgements. It also illustrates the use of the web-based marking and feedback software (ReView) that has considerable utility in aiding self-assessment research. READ MORE

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Developing Students’ Self-Assessment Skills

By Maryellen Weimer, PhD

I’ve been rereading some of the research on student self-assessment and thinking about how students develop these skills. They are important in college, all but essential in most professions, but they’re rarely taught explicitly. We assume (or hope) they’re the kind of skills student can pick up on their own, even though most of us see evidence to the contrary. Many students, especially beginning ones, routinely overestimate their ability and underestimate the difficulty of course content. How often did I hear this comment about my courses: “A communication course? Gotta be a piece of cake. I’ve been talking since I was 3.”

The research corroborates what we see in our classes. READ MORE

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Try the Blackboard Grader App

The Bb Grader App provides teachers with a mobile solution for reviewing, providing feedback, and grading student submissions to Blackboard Learn Assignments.

View information on how to get started with the Blackboard Grader App here


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Document Cameras and the Flipped Classroom

Have you seen the new document camera in the CeL training room? Read this article to get new ideas about how the document camera can bring your lessons to life online.

“I explain to people that it’s a modern version of the overhead projector,” Mrs. Murray says. “I’d wanted one for some time, but when I saw that this one recorded, I was so excited.” Mrs. Murray uses the document camera to help her with a flipped classroom approach, where she records her lesson and uploads it to her classroom’s website for online access. “I haven’t seen any other teachers using document cameras in this way, but it’s so perfect. Students can access the videos right from that smartphone.” READ THE ARTICLE

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A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: Raising, Communicating, and Enforcing Expectations in Online Courses

As an instructor new to the online environment, I carefully reviewed the syllabus and the requirements for the course discussions and assignments and incorporated the following ideas from Myers-Wylie, Mangieri & Hardy: a “what you need to know” document that includes policies about late work, formatting, source citations, grading and feedback, and the dangers of plagiarism; a separate “assignments at a glance” calendar that details due dates and submission instructions; a “frequently asked questions” thread in the discussion forum; detailed scoring rubrics for each assignment, and example assignments. As is typical in the online environment, my course was equipped with areas for announcements and discussions and a grade book with a place to post comments for individual students. I used all these formats to communicate with students about course requirements and provide detailed feedback. READ MORE
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Linking Online Course Design and Implementation to Learning Outcomes: A Design Experiment

 This paper reports on preliminary finding from ongoing design-based research being conducted in the fully online Master of Arts in Teacher Leadership (MTL) program at the University of Illinois Springfield.Researchers are using the Quality Matters (QM) and Community of Inquiry (CoI) frameworks to guide the iterative redesign of core courses in the program. Preliminary results from the redesign of one course suggest that such approach can improve student learning outcomes. Results also support the efficacy of the QM and CoI theoretical frames, and the usefulness of design-based approaches in online learning. READ MORE



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Putting Students in the Driver’s Seat: Technology Projects to Decrease Passivity

Passivity still seems to be the norm for most college courses: students passively try to learn information from teachers who unwittingly cultivate a passive attitude in their learners. Technology becomes an accomplice in the crime of passivity. READ THE ARTICLE

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Promoting Academic Integrity in the Online Classroom

Teddi Fishman, director of the International Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University, advocates an instructional design/community-building approach to academic integrity rather than an adversarial approach. READ THE ARTICLE

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Four Key Questions about Grading

Does grading motivate students to learn? Not really. Pass back an exam and everywhere you hear the question, “Whatcha get?” Nobody is asking, “Whatcha learn?” This analysis of grading and motivation offers an even bleaker conclusion. READ THE ARTICLE

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Getting Started With Gamification


This is the first in a three-part series on Gamifiying Your Instruction. The series is written by Karl Kapp, professor of instructional technology and internationally known author of two books on gamification, both co-authored by ASTD. Imagine you have just been assigned the task of “gamifying” some of your training program. Where do you start? How do you begin to think about using game-elements and game-thinking to create instruction that is engaging? How do you get started? READ MORE

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Just for fun :-)

Revised Maslow's Wifi

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Gamification: Using Game Mechanics to Enhance eLearning

 Maybe you’ve heard of the term “gamification,” and perhaps you’re wondering what it is and how it can be applied to eLearning. In short, gamification is the use of gameplay mechanics for non-game applications. Almost as important, as a definition of what it is, is a definition of what it’s not. Gamification is not the inclusion of stand-alone games in eLearning (or, whatever gamification is being applied to). It also has very little to do with art-styles, themes, or the application of narrative. Rather, game mechanics are the construct of rules that encourage users to explore and learn the properties of their possibility space through the use of feedback mechanisms. With gamification, these “possibility spaces” have been expanded beyond just games into other areas like marketing, education, the workplace, social media, philanthropy, and the Web, just to name a few. As a game designer now making eLearning software, I’ve found that much of what is used to build engagement in games can also be applied to other interactive material such as eLearning.READ MORE


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What is and What should be…eLearning

A few weeks ago, four leading lights of the learning business – Michael Allen, Julie Dirksen, Clark Quinn and Will Thalheimer – released a call to arms. Their Serious eLearning Manifesto laments the sorry state of eLearning and asks those who agree to sign a manifesto pledging to commit to producing eLearning that is relevant, performance focused, contextual and interactive. The basic delineation between what is and what should be can be seen in this breakdown they supply in their manifesto:


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How to Avoid the Curse of Boring Courses

Linear, click-and-read courses are pretty common and usually held up as the worst of online training and cause of boring courses because they’re mostly information dumps with little focus on how the learner can actually use the course content.

They may be the worst of elearning. Or perhaps not. Let’s review some common reasons why these types of online courses exist and what we can do to fix them so that you’re not producing boring courses.

READ MORE How to Avoid the Curse of Boring Courses

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How Augmented Reality Can Enhance Learning in Higher Ed

Every year seems to bring us new technologies that once fit more neatly into science fiction stories than reality. Augmented reality sounds pretty futuristic, but with the help of mobile technology, it’s made its way into everyday life for some of the population.   Read More -


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Online cheating

How can universities stop students cheating online?

Cheating isn’t a new problem for higher ed, but online learning can make cheaters harder to spot. New tech-based solutions could help stop plagiarism in its tracks.



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Royalty-Free image database

Getty Images has recently changed its policy and is allowing embedded images for free from their vast collection. Check out the link below for photo galleries of images you can use in your online course.


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Tips for Writing Good Multiple-Choice Questions

I remember with horror and embarrassment the first multiple-choice exam I wrote. I didn’t think the students were taking my course all that seriously, so I decided to use the first exam to show just how substantive the content really was. I wrote long, complicated stems and followed them with multiple answer options and various combinations of them. And it worked. Students did poorly on the exam. I was pleased until I returned the test on what turned out to be one of the longest class periods of my teaching career. I desperately needed the advice that follows here.


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Flipped Classrooms improving student outcomes

Some Results

Flipped classrooms are more common in the traditional educational classroom setting – and yielding some pretty interesting results. Here are some results from Clintondale High School near Detroit:

  • Before Flipping: 50% of freshmen failed English
  • After Flipping: 19% of freshman failed English
  • Before Flipping: 44% of freshman failed Math
  • After Flipping: 13% of freshman failed Math


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6 Technologies Will Change Colleges in Coming Years, Experts Say

A panel of 56 experts on six continents has come up with a list of a half-dozen technologies that “will be most important to teaching, learning, or creative inquiry within the next five years.” The two most imminent, panel members said, are the integration of social media into every aspect of college life and the blending of online, hybrid, and collaborative learning with face-to-face instruction.

The six technologies and the changes they’re expected to bring are detailed in“NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition,” a 52-page document that is available free from the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative, which convened the panel. (READ MORE)

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4 areas of technology that could transform universities

This year’s British Education and Training Technology Show, known as Bett, took place last month and marked the 30th anniversary of this behemoth of the conference calendar.

More than 35,000 delegates packed into the ExCel Centre in East London along with 700 exhibitors hoping to catch the attention of those charged with kitting out their institution with the latest technology solutions – from big hitters such as Samsung, Google and Microsoft, to small start-ups hoping to get their products noticed for the first time.




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Flipped classrooms work! Research report

‘Flipped’ classroom yields improved student performance, pharmacy study shows

UNC pharmacy professor Russ Mumper “flipped” his Basic Pharmaceutics II classroom, then conducted a study that shows a significant improvement in learning outcomes.

The results are described in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education article, which includes a link to the study results to be published in February 2014 in Academic Medicine, the journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. (READ MORE)


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EduCanon: Quiz your students at intervals during a video

Thank you to Judy Somers for this great resource:


Founded by Ben while teaching middle school science (Teach For America ’10), eduCanon seeks to improve student outcomes in disadvantaged communities and beyond by harnessing the potential of technology. The team has relocated to Boston to participate in the LearnLaunchX accelerator.

Our belief is that technology should empower teachers. Each student has unique learning needs and teachers don’t have the tools to personalize their lessons to those needs. The eduCanon platform is a tool for teachers to build lessons with interactive timed questions and engaging video content. Already, we’ve been amazed by the creative and inspirational uses of eduCanon by teachers–for flipped and blended learning environments. (read more).

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Thank you to Judy Somers for this great resource:


Flipasaurus is the easy way to manage your videos so they will play on all of your students’ devices – iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.

Store your flipped classroom videos in your own private Flipasaurus library (read more).

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How to create a link to a library journal article


This is a tutorial describing the process of creating a link to library journal articles.

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Can children teach themselves? Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education

Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education

Sugata Mitra TED Talk

Education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems of education — the best teachers and schools don’t exist where they’re needed most. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching.

Educational researcher Sugata Mitra is the winner of the 2013 TED Prize. His wish: Build a School in the Cloud, where children can explore and learn from one another. Full bio »


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Free mobile learning eBook

Free book increasing access through #mlearning

The Commonwealth of Learning and Athabasca University just released a great free book on mobile learning, edited by the Mohamed Ally and Avgoustos Tsinakos. The digital book consisting of three parts, each filled with great articles all looking at mobile education… (read more)


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Why I Love Conferencing Online with My Traditional Classroom Students

By Liz Boltz Ranfeld

A few weeks ago, I had to accompany my husband out of town for a week of medical tests. That meant my presence was required in two places at once: in my classroom and at the hospital. I didn’t want to cancel classes, so I decided to try something new. I arranged to meet with each of my students online for about 15 minutes to discuss the first draft of their first composition paper.
read more….Why I Love Conferencing Online with My Traditional Classroom Students

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7 Assessment Challenges of Moving your Course Online

Not all online courses are created from scratch. Many—if not most—are online versions of courses that have previously been taught face-to-face. In these cases, where an instructor or instructional designer is adapting an existing face-to-face course for online delivery, assessments already exist.

But to be effective in an online environment, the assessments that worked perfectly fine in a face-to-face classroom may need to be tweaked or even replaced. Why? Because the online teaching and learning environment presents the following seven challenges to traditional assessment implementations…

– See more at: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/7-assessment-challenges-of-moving-your-course-online-solutions/



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Free Articulate templates from E-Learning Heroes

Here Are Some Free E-Learning Templates to Speed Up Your Course Design.

Rapid eLearning Free Templates

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SoftChalk Create – Tutorials

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Articulate Storyline – Tutorials

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“The rise of a culture of participation” Twitter in the classroom

Excerpt fromedsurge.com:

Social media changed how the world works. Pascal Finette of Mozilla referred to this change in a TEDx talk as the “rise of a culture of participation.” Social media organizes political upheavals, unites families whose members span the globe, and connects young people 24/7 with peers in the same room and on other continents.

Educators have discovered the professional power of global networking, too. And from where I’m sitting, as a Superintendent of Albemarle School District, this virtual participation tears down the walls of schools and school districts….(click the link below to read more)


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Why teach in community? Parker Palmer

Involvement on a community of pedagogical discourse is more than a voluntary option for individuals who seek support and opportunities for growth. It is a professional obligation that educational institutions should expect of those who teach–for the privatization of teaching not only keeps individuals from growing in their craft but fosters institutional incompetence as well. By privatizing teaching, we make it hard for educational institutions to become more adept at fulfilling their mission.

The growth of any craft depends on shared practice and honest dialogue among the people who do it. We grow by private trial and error, to be sure–but our willingness to try, and fail, as individuals is severely limited when we are not supported by a community that encourages such risks. When any function is privatized, the most likely outcome is that people will perform it conservatively, refusing to stray far from the silent consensus on what ‘works’–even when it clearly does not” (Palmer, 1998, p. 144).


Palmer, P. J. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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Top 100 Tools for Learning by Jane Hart

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2013

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Here are the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2013 –  the results of the 7th Annual Learning Tools Survey.
The list was compiled by Jane Hart from the votes of 500+ learning professionals from 48 countries worldwide. 

“A learning tool is a tool for your own personal or professional learning or one you use for teaching or training.”

- See more at: http://c4lpt.co.uk/top100tools/#sthash.4Vj8NxF0.dpuf

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For Language Teachers: Rich Internet Apps (RIA)

Check out the webinars from the Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR) at Michigan State University. This group offers a number of free Interactive Apps for language educators.


Also check out their YouTube channel with introductions to the many RIAs they offer FREE


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