Creating Great Online Learning

This week I wanted to share with you a article from the eLearning Industry on 4 tactics in creating online learning experiences.  The following was written by Peter Schroeder who is an eLearning expert.


Craft Unforgettable Online Learning Experiences Using These 4 Tactics

A great online course is set up in a way that encourages participation and interest. Since learners that enroll in your course often need to move through it on their own, a great course must be informational and intuitive. Use both these principles to motivate your users to create unique online experiences.

What tactics can you use? I’ve included 4 ideas that will spice up your online learning experiences.

1) Gamification

Games are a great way to engage learners online. Depending on your subject matter and the demographics of your learner audience, you can decide where you go to create online games. Once you understand what motivates your learners, check out these areas below to get started.

Games in education is a multi-day symposium that focuses on the intersection of online gaming pedagogy, and they serve as a good starting point for online educators beginning to experiment with games.

Simulations can also be a form of gaming. I, once, created a game for a college course on classroom management where learners were presented with a scenario and provided several possible response options. They discussed the situation in a forum, then voted on the response they most supported. The following week, I created a situation that was built on the decision made the previous week.

Scavenger hunts and contests are another simple forms of gaming. There are game-based sites like Free Rice, Brain Pop, and Sheppard software that you can use to help learners learn without requiring you to create anything too complex.

2) Stories

Stories have become increasingly important as people innovate at alarming rates. Our personal stories are what differentiate us from others and make us different. Communicating these interesting and unique stories is memorable, and learning experiences need to be memorable.

Incorporating story into your delivery of content can increase engagement. It can be equally meaningful to require learners to share stories that relate to learned concepts. Assigning reflections, asking learners to blog, or posing forum prompts that allow focused sharing of personal stories can be ways of allowing learners to make meaning through their own stories as well as through reading coworkers’ stories.

Educating through stories hit home for me a number of years ago when I read Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind. For a gist of the concept, hear it from Pink himself in this short video:

Related article: The Neuroscience of Storytelling Will Make You Rethink the Way You Create

3) Design

Creating a user-friendly online environment can help learners access information in a way that makes it more consumable. The curriculum design of the course should flow from one topic to the next in a way that makes sense and builds on learned ideas.

In addition, the visual design of the course will be more inviting if it not only looks appealing but functions well. 21st-century learners are more impacted by design as creativity becomes more important in differentiating ourselves, and individuality becomes more valued socially.

As a result, it will more likely impact how learners consume your content. This doesn’t necessarily mean more complicated course design where a more simple approach would do the trick. However, taking into account the visual and functional appeal of the online environment should be a factor as you build your online environment.

4) Social Media

Social media is being used by even the less tech-savvy on a regular basis, and rightfully so—social networks can function as amazing tools for communication of ideas and new learnings.

For instance, Twitter can be used by learners to participate in chats on various topics, or as a place for educators to post bite-sized lessons and synthesize big ideas. Since Twitter has a 280 character limit, it forces learners to condense their ideas into only the most necessary parts.

Hashtags can be used to track ideas or assignments which also allows learners to organize information. Facebook, Reddit, Google Plus, Google Hangouts, Instagram, Pinterest, and Skype (and a host of others) are other examples of technologies and social networks that enhance communication in online environments.

Learners can post to any social network on the go as well as when they are in study mode and near a phone or a computer. So, find ways to encourage and motivate your learners to post what they’re learning about in your course on social media. Making this a regular part of class allows learners to consume your learning material, even when they’re not logged into any of your online courses.


Although I’ve discussed these 4 tactics individually, many of them can be combined to create interesting and unique learning experiences. Combine storytelling with social media, group work with storytelling, or social media and games.

The options are literally endless, and it is increasingly important that, as educators, we think more creatively and be ready to react to changes in technological trends in order to effectively engage 21st-century learners.

What actionable step will you take to make online learning experiences more interesting, fun, and unique for your learners?

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you next week!!


Racial Inequality

Restaurant in 1908 Juneau advertising that there is no Native staff

Restaurant in 1908 Juneau advertising that there is no Native staff

Here at UAS Sitka, we are in a continuing conversation about inclusion, colonization, and indigenous learning.   We’ve come a long way since 1908, but after a “Power and Privilege: Racial Equity Training” that happened this week in Sitka, I thought it would be good to take a few minutes to review a video that was shown in the training session.

The video attached to this post (below) is on “Deconstructing White Privilege” by author Dr. Robin DiAngelo.  Many times we equate Racism with individual racism, or the pre-judgment, bias, or discrimination by an individual, which is based on race.  This video addresses this, but also takes a look at institutional racism, which is defined as policies, practices, and procedures that work to the benefit of white people and to the detriment of people of color, often unintentionally or inadvertently.

The video is 22 minutes, but I urge you to take the time to watch.  We need to start understanding and dismantling the system that continues to perpetuate racial inequity.

Remember that racism is a system that we are all part of, but we can start making changes by:

  • Actively receiving feedback
  • Reflecting
  • Trying to change the behavior

Have a great weekend and I look forward to seeing you next week for another FLC!

Election Day 2018

It’s election day today, November 6th, 2018, and because I’m sure you haven’t heard this enough, I thought I would give you one more reminder to get out and vote.   Voting is a right you have to help shape our future.

Here is a brief history of voting  from Scholastic:

: The founding fathers of the United States establish the Electoral College. The American people do not directly elect the President. Instead, the Electoral College elects the President.

The Electoral College votes are divided among the states. Each state gets two votes for its two Senators and a vote for each of its Representatives in Congress. The number of congressional representatives varies from state to state depending on the state’s population.

If a candidate wins the popular vote (a vote cast by a citizen) in a state, they win that state’s Electoral College vote. It is possible, mathematically, to win the popular vote and lose the presidential election if the candidate does not win enough Electoral votes.

1789: The U.S. elects George Washington as its first President.

1820–1830: As states join the union they create their own state constitutions outlining who is allowed to vote. Eligible voters are mostly white males who own property. A small number of free black men are allowed to vote but no women either white or black.

1840: Women begin to organize to petition for suffrage, or the right to vote.  Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Stanton are two of the most famous leaders of the Suffragette Movement.

1848: Wisconsin enters the union and has the most liberal voting laws. They allow people living here from other countries the right to vote if they had lived in Wisconsin for one year and plan to become citizens of the United States. But even in Wisconsin, women do not have the right to vote.

1850: Groups like the “No-Nothings” create literacy laws that state that those who wish to vote must pass a literacy test. Since many blacks and immigrants cannot read or write they are denied the right to vote. This was an attempt to keep the vote in the hands of the white male population.

1866: The 14th Amendment to the Constitution is passed by Congress. It states that men age 21 and over who are residents of the United States have the right to vote. Any state preventing these rights will lose electors in the Electoral College. Women still do not have the right to vote.

1869: Congress passes the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. That amendment grants all men the right to vote regardless of race, color, or if they were formally slaves. The Amendment does not give women the right to vote.

In Wyoming Territory women are given the right to vote, and those rights continue after Wyoming becomes a state in 1890.

1870: Utah territory gives women the right to vote.

1878: An act to amend the Constitution and give women the right to vote is introduced into Congress but does not pass.

1890: Many states begin to use secret ballots so that voters cannot be bullied into voting for candidates they do not support.

1896: Idaho grants women the right to vote.

1911: California gives women the right to vote.

1920: On August 18, Congress passes the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote.

1964: On January 23 Congress passes the 24th Amendment to the Constitution outlawing poll taxes. Poll taxes, or tax fees for voting, have been used to discourage poor people from voting.

1965: The Voting Rights Act is signed by President Lyndon Johnson. The act enforces the 15th Amendment by explicitly stating that obstacles, such as literacy tests or complicated ballot instructions, are against federal law.

1971: On July 1, the 26th Amendment is passed by Congress lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. The law is meant to resolve the disparity that 18-year-old men are old enough to be drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, yet did not have the right to vote.

1975: Congress expands the Voting Rights Act to protect the voting rights of those people who do not speak or read English.

2000: For the first time in United States history, in a close and controversial election, the President of the United States is chosen based on a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Al Gore wins the nation’s popular vote, but George W. Bush has the lead in the Electoral College. The vote in Florida is too close to call and plagued with voting irregularities. Vice President and Democratic candidate for President, Al Gore, requests a recount. The recount must be done by the state’s deadline to cast their Electoral College vote, so the Florida Supreme Court votes to extend the deadline. The U.S. Supreme Court suspends the recount and enforces the state’s deadline. George W. Bush is declared President-elect on December 13, more than one month after the November 4 election.


In Florida, they had a mechanical voting system, and the recount was complicated by ballots where the “chad” was not completely punched out, making the recount difficult.  By 2004 many precincts in Florida had electronic touchscreen voting machines, that lead to this classic voting parody:

Thanks for getting out and voting!!!

Intelligence – Is it the same for everyone?

This week we are looking at intelligence.  How do we judge students, and if they are doing poorly in our classes do we look at them differently?  Do we label them as stupid?  It may be that the student is brilliant, but may be in the wrong field of study.

In the following article we look at Howard Earl Gardner’s “seven intelligences.”  It is interesting to note that only 2 of the 7 intelligences on the list are valued in school.

Comic showing animals that need to take "climb that tree" exam

For a fair selection everybody has to take the same exam: Please climb that tree

Click on the picture above or this link to get to the article.

As faculty lets help each other to remember to be less judgmental based on schoolwork.  We need to give students every chance to discover where their talents lie.  Look for brilliance outside of their classwork and help them discover their true intelligence.

Have a great weekend!!

A new way to Assess?

Sometimes the best solution to a problem is the most simple solution.  Is this true of how we approach assessing our students?

In the following Ted Talk, Mark Barnes gives us his theory on education and assessment and has come up with “SE2R,” which has the following steps:

  • Summarize
  • Explain
  • Redirect
  • Resubmit



Mark’s theory does show an emphasis on formative assessment, which is important not only for students to assess their own learning, but can also help teachers to know how effective their course is.

Next week we will explore intelligence, which Mark touched on in this talk.  See you next week!

Group Work!

Keep Reading!!! – I know…, all you have to do is say “group work” and you’ll see every student’s eyes glaze over, and you’ll hear a lot of moaning.  There are many reasons for this (and this is the short list):

  • Floundering – Students think the work develops too slow, and they don’t know their role
  • Dominating Students – The student who takes over and makes all the decisions
  • Reluctant Students – Students who don’t do anything and make everyone else work harder
  • Tangents – So many side conversations that nothing gets done
  • Feuds – Conflicts in the group

But group work is important.  It’s how we work in the “real world.”  Giving your students the skills to navigate the pitfalls of group work will make them better students, and better citizens once they graduate.

To start to break down the barriers, we first need to recognize the five stages of group work, which are:

  1. Forming,
  2. Storming,
  3. Norming,
  4. Performing, and
  5. Adjourning.



Once a student knows that these steps are a normal part of group work, they can move forward through the process, while working through the difficult first steps.  As a teacher, you will be moderating these teams of students, and helping them navigate the process, which might include:

  • Setting clear goals. Why are they working together? What are they expected to accomplish?
  • Ways to break down the task into smaller units
  • Ways to allocate responsibility for different aspects of the work
  • Ways to allocate organizational responsibility
  • A sample time line with suggested check points for stages of work to be completed

When looking for information ranging from “why to use a team project,” to “wrapping the team project up,” (and everything in between), a good resource to reference is the Faculty Guide from the University of Minnesota.  This guide will give you information on every aspect of group work including tips for success and how to assess the project.

Picture of a group around a table

Click on the picture above, or this link to access the Faculty Guide to Team Projects:

Thank you for looking at another Faculty Learning Corner post.  Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you again next Friday!


VoiceThread at UAS

Exciting news!!!  VoiceThread is now available within Blackboard at UAS.  It shows up within your course by clicking on “Build Content” and then clicking on “VoiceThread UAS.”

If you are not familiar with VoiceThread (VT) it is an asynchronous communication tool.  It makes instructor to student, and student to student discussions easy.  Within VT you can create presentations, upload images or documents, and then comment on them.

Watch this to see more:

Click on the picture below to watch a video (less than 5 minutes long) showing how easy VT is to use:

Stay tuned for more information on VoiceThread training sessions.  And thank you to the Sitka Title III team for making this possible!

Happy VoiceThreading!!

Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2018

I thought it would be appropriate to wrap up the week of Indigenous Peoples’ Day with a post on native knowledge.

The Alaska Native Knowledge Network (ANKN) is to serve as a resource for compiling and exchanging information related to Alaska Native knowledge systems and ways of knowing.  I wanted to share with you their website to explore and learn.

ANKN Website Screenshot

Click on this link or the picture above to enter:

Also, I wanted to share this video that shows the importance of Tlingit language and its vital connection to the way of life.

This video was a collaboration between the University of Alaska Southeast Alaska Native Languages & Studies program and the Sealaska Heritage Institute.  (If it is not visible when the video starts, scroll over the video and Click on the “CC” at the bottom of the screen for a translation.)  

Gunalcheesh/ Haw’aa!

Top Tools for Learning 2018

Logos for Top 100 Education ToolsAre you looking for new tools to use in your courses?  Do you want to know what tools are being used by others this year?

If so, you will want to see the 2018 Top Tools for Learning!  This is a list that has been compiled annually since 2007 and this year is based on responses from 2,951 voters in 52 countries.

According to the website, this year’s list does not just identify the popularity of tools for learning, but it also shows trends in current learning behavior.

Here is a link to the 2018 list:
(or click the picture above)

Because only 23% of the votes came from education/academia the top 200 list is biased towards personal and workplace tools, so the “top 100 tools in Education” (EDU 100) list may be more relevant.

To get to the “EDU 100,” after you open the link, change the setting for the number of entries to 100, and then click the EDU 100 tab to sort and see the Educational Tools listing.  


If you want to sort it down more, you can click on the tabs to group by Description or by Category.

Have fun checking this out, and I’ll see you next week!!

Why Students Forget—and What You Can Do About It

“Our brains are wired to forget, but there are research-backed strategies you can use to make your teaching stick.”

Picture of brain neuons

Here is a link to an Edutopia article to help you with student success.  It touches on cognitive learning and how the brain works, and then moves to strategies to help you create content that is memorable to students.  (Click on the picture or the link below – it will open in a new tab).

In the article you will read how quickly information is forgotten—”roughly 56 percent in one hour, 66 percent after a day, and 75 percent after six days.”   😯

The teacher strategies included in the article are from some of the latest research on this topic.  Make sure to click on the links in the article to find out even more.

And just to keep this fun, the following is for those trying to remember what they learned in College without these strategies….