eLearning Frenzy

eLearning is like a sewer, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.



Help your Students be Reflective with Journals

Merriam Webster defines a journal as:

a book in which you write down your personal experiences and thoughts

Backboard JournalPutting down those thoughts and experiences that impact us can be an important tool in personal growth and development. Journals don’t have to be limited to the “Dear diary” entries you make at your beside table.  They can be used in courses you teach as well. In online courses journals can be used as a mechanism for communication between a faculty member and a student, or as a reflective tool for students as they work to absorb what they are learning.

Benefits of using a journal include but are not limited to:

  • Teaches students to communicate their thoughts on the subject matter
  • Forces students to be on the lookout for journal material (actually paying attention in the course)
  • Helps students to remember what they have learned
  • Keeps a record of ideas, concepts or structures that are important
  • Lets students create without fear of judgement from peers
  • Allows students to take first level thoughts to the next level – idea expansion

Creative writing teachers can benefit from using a journal.  Students can post their entries and instructors can make comments as needed.  Journals can also be used to drive home what the student has studied over the week.  Think about the reinforcement that happens when a student submits an assignment, discusses with his or her peers, takes a quiz and then puts it all together in a journal entry for the week.  Finally, journals are ideally suited for formative assessment.  Get the student’s temperature by asking them to write about their highs and lows as it relates to the course during the week.  If something comes across that is legitimate, feel free to make course corrections for the benefit of all of your students.

Here at SHSU we utilize the Blackboard LearnTM learning management system, which has a journal tool as part of it’s feature set.  Journal assignments can be placed anywhere in the course and are accessible with click of the mouse. Learn more about implementing journals in your Blackboard course.

While you are thinking of ways to ensure your students are getting what they need on their learning journey, consider reflecting on the added value of implementing journal activities to your courses.



#bestpracticemonday – Be Scripted When Recording Multimedia

Script GraphicUsing a script is one of the most underrated best practices when it comes to speaking to your students via a recording.  You may be very comfortable talking to your students in a live classroom environment, but may not be as accustomed to just you and a video camera.  Try writing up a script or at least an outline of what you want to say.

Graphic of Verbal DebrisIt can be more than a little embarrassing to have yourself repeating the verbal debris “um” over and over in a video you are planning to use in classes.  A script minimizes the chances that you will forget the point you were trying to get across to your students.

If you do your recording in a studio, you may have access to a teleprompter right in the camera.  That way the students don’t know you are reading your script while you look straight at them.  There are also great teleprompter apps for your iOS or Android device.

At the very least just writing yourself something up in word or on a note-card can go along way toward smoothing out your presentation.

The Course Blog: An Online Instructor’s Best Friend

Course BlogAn online instructor has many “friends” or tools to help facilitate communication, assessment, collaboration and learning in their online course. In many instances a faculty will chose one tool over the other for obvious reasons. A course blog can cover a number of bases and it is a medium that many of your students will already be familiar for helping to digest information. This blog post (<– see what I did there) will cover just a few ways that a course blog can benefit you and your students.

  1. Engage StudentsA Blog Can Keep Your Students Informed and Engaged

    It is already a best practice for you to communicate regularly with your students. A blog can help facilitate that practice by helping you to post weekly (or more depending upon your need). Ensure your students have a expectation of having to check the blog regularly and can expect (from you) a post each week.

    Part of what you are trying to do here is remind your students of upcoming assignments, readings, or research as well as giving them waypoints or signposts where they should be paying attention.

  2. FeedbackUse the Blog for Feedback

    One of the best ways to utilize your course blog is to make it a feedback mechanism. Letting your students know that you are reading their assignment submissions, discussions and other assessments assures them that you are taking an active part on their learning journey. For example, use the blog post to sum up student discussion posts or submitted papers for the week giving kudos (by name) to students who are really bringing it home and challenges where the class maybe coming up a little short. You can turn the feedback around and have them comment on a blog post to collect feedback.

  3. Searching Made EasyThe Course Blog Makes Finding Information Easy

    Have a course blog means that your students will know where to go to find the out what’s happening in your course. They know that they can use the tool to search for the data they want.

    Digging through a syllabus or checking old announcements can be time consuming for some students. The course blog provides a familiar interface that is easy to search for needed information. In many instances, students can search by category, key word or date (week, month etc..). The blog keeps an archive of old posts so your students will know exactly where to look.

Keeping your students informed, engaged and in the loop is key to ensure they have a successful leg in their educational journey. The course blog allows you to let your students know what’s going on, provide feedback and provides an easy way to find all of that information.

*Blackboard Learn provides the added benefit of associating your picture with each post and your students’ pictures with each comment, thereby making the experience more personal and connecting.

You Gotta Know when to Blog’em?


Please excuse “The Gambler” reference in the Post topic, but a recent session at the Blackboard World conference in New Orleans got me thinking about this topic.  Throughout the course of any given semester I get the following question asked me often:

“So I want to use these great tools you keep telling us about, but how do I know when to use a Blog, Discussion Board or Wiki?”

Trying to find the right answer to that question sometimes feels like trying to explain what wind is without being able to feel it.  I generally like to have examples in front of me.  However, in an effort to put my thoughts into writing, let’s start by giving some origin statements and move into concepts and features for each:


Blog is short for Web Log.  It is an author-centered document that is generally administered by one user or a small group.  Comments (discussion) is encouraged, but the main thrust is the blog post.  The purpose of the Blog is to share a “log” of events or to journal.  It could chronicle a reading, media object, event or personal insight.  Blogs are generally presented with the most recent posting first as well as a calendar list of other posts and an archive.  Blogs (like this one) tend to be more conversational in nature and are designed around text and media.  Once you make a post you tend to move on to the next one unless you need to make an edit or read comments.  Each post is owned by the person who made it.

Blogs nowadays have a plethora of features including: subscription, archiving, widgets (plugins that link blogs to other social media (twitter, facebook, etc.), listservs.  They also allow tagging, categories and the ability to customize how they look.  Thanks to tagging, blogs are easily searchable. They also tend to be media-rich.

Discussion BoardsDiscussion Boards:

Spawned from ye olde Bulletin Boards.  They are usually topic centered given a discussion prompt by teacher/moderator.  They can be administered by the instructor or group depending upon how roles are defined. The boards are reply driven meaning postings and replies make up the structure of the Discussion Board.  Discussion boards are primarily used to discuss topics posited by the instructor self-generated by a group.  They also fulfill a support function (Course Q&A, Virtual office).  Depending on the type of discussion activity, posts can be formal or conversational.  This type of activity is also static in that posters don’t go back and re-edit their posts, they just continue posting in the thread.  Poster’s own their own posts, but roles can be assigned to make participants, moderators, managers, graders etc..

Discussion board features are not as exhaustive as Blog or Wiki features, but they do allow file attachments, are very collaborative and easy to navigate.


Wikis get their name from the Hawaiian word “wiki wiki” which means “quick”.  Boiling the concept down is a collaborative web document or webpage.  They are generally document centered, project based items.  They are administrated by all of those involved in the wiki. Comments can be employed when needed but are not part of the main thrust.  You use wikis to create documents, projects, resources, case studies, portfolios, etc..  The wiki organization and design is dependent upon whatever method the individual or group decides.  Wikis are subject to constant change.  They can be created, shared, edited and re-edited over and over (think Wikipedia).

Wikis today come with many features and facets including: comments, archives, widgets, rich-media experience, WYSIWYG web interface. It looks and feels like a webpage so navigation and construction is very straight forward.

That’s great, but when do I use them?


Blogs are good for reflection or for journaling.  They offer chronological list of postings.   They are also good for podcasting, photoblogs and posting from mobile devices or “moblogging”.

Discussion Boards:

Good for topic based discussions, opinions and response driven assignments.


Project based assignments, repository-based assignments, portfolios, case studies, course documentation, collaboratively produced study guides, group work.

I hope this helps some of you put when and where to use these tools into perspective.

Blog at

Up ↑