eLearning Frenzy

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


distance education

Being Ready for Finals in an Online Course

ReadinessWith finals fast approaching, your students should be dutifully studying up on course materials, completing academic research and course activities that will help them be able to handle the questions and concepts they come across during end-of-semester assessments.   Your course materials have covered topics large and small that will help them make appropriate inferences, connect the dots and generally understand the subject matter they have been interacting with over the course of a semester.

Even when hitting all of your targets academically speaking, your students may have problems when it comes time for finals in an online environment.  We all know that technology failures operate under the “when, not if” principle, but there are strategies and practices that your students can put into place that will help them surmount any obstacle thrown their way.  The following practices will benefit your students when it comes to the end of year exams:


Power Up!
Plug your laptop into the power outlet unless you are absolutely certain that your laptop has enough battery power to last for the duration of the test.

Tether Up!
If you have the option, turn off your wireless connection and plug your laptop into the nearest available network port or use your desktop computer if available.  Wireless issue can cause your exam to disconnect and your instructor may not be fond of resetting your exam attempt for the umpteenth time.

Go Solo!
Close down any other programs that my distract you from the test or interfere with your network connection.  Having only one active program ensures your computer will be running at its best.

Idle Computers are the Devil’s Playground
Check your laptop idle time to make sure that it will not go into sleep mode prematurely and sabotage your assessment attempt midway through.

Be Up for Pop-Ups!
Disable all pop-up blockers. These blockers come installed in the latest versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox, in third-party toolbars such as Google and Yahoo, and they can come with utility software such the Norton products from Symantec.

Get Patched Up!
Ensure that your laptop has the latest Operating System (e.g., Windows) patches. Automatic updates can disrupt your current browser session or make your laptop very slow.

Are You Compatible?
Use a web browser that is compatible with or certified to work with the current version of your Learning Management System.

Using Special Software?  Practice, Practice, Practice!
If you are using a lockdown browser or special proctoring software, be sure to download and install it BEFORE you take the exam. Your instructor may provide a practice assessment that will let you make sure you are familiar with the special software involved.


Don’t Get Click Happy!
When beginning the quiz/test, click the quiz link ONLY ONCE and wait at least a minute for the quiz/test to load.. Do not keep clicking on the quiz/test/test link. Clicking on the quiz/test link two or more times may trigger a message saying you already took the quiz/test. If, after clicking once and waiting the full minute nothing happens, contact your instructor or test proctor immediately.

Leave-off of Leaving
Once you have started the quiz, do not leave the quiz/test page for any reason. Using the browser’s back and forward buttons to move to and from the quiz/test will end the quiz prematurely and prevent you from further access until your instructor clears the attempt. If you are permitted to view other online resources during the quiz/test, open a new browser to view them.

Problem?  Reach out and Touch Someone
In case of computer problems during the test notify your instructor as soon as possible. He or she will reset your quiz/exam attempt or authorize a designee to do so. Your instructor may have policies on if they allow you to reattempt the quiz at all.

Sizing it up BEFORE You Begin!
Do not resize or refresh your screen after loading the quiz/test. Make sure the screen is the size you want before going into the quiz/test. Most browsers refresh the page when you resize the screen so the browser will try to reload the quiz/test if you resize/refresh.

Blackboard World and Vegas – A Perfect Match

Blackboard World and Las VegasAfter spending the last week in Las Vegas, Nevada at Blackboard World, the seminal conference for eLearning (professional, K-12 & Higher Ed); it is easy to see how Blackboard World & Las Vegas go well together.  Yes, I know there are obvious reasons around logistics and space, but those aren’t it.  Although, where else can you comfortably house, feed and present to 2500 people? But, I digress.

Breaking it down, I see Blackboard World 2013 & Las Vegas pairing up in three ways:

  • Bright Lights
  • Passion
  • An Oasis in the Desert

Bright Lights

Freemont Casino EntranceFrom the light show at the Bellagio to the casino entrances and screen covered ceiling of the Freemont Experience, Las Vegas is bright light in the desert once the sun goes down.  Stand close enough to the entrance to the Golden Nugget and you might find yourself with a tan.

In the same way, Blackboard World shines with luminaries from the world of eLearning.  This year’s keynotes were powerful examples of bright lights in the field.  Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus and Sugata Mitra’s Beyond a Hole in a Wall were powerful examples of the way an idea can not only shine on its own, but of how those ideas can spark other lights into shinning.

The old summer/church camp song that starts off “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.” was in full effect with each of the conference sessions.  Attendees took the torch they were given with the sharing of successes, best practices and challenges, and left to spread the illumination to their peers, colleagues, faculty, staff and students at home.  I suggest we take another Blackboard World blogger’s advice and DON’T let what happened in Vegas stay there!


PassionLas Vegas is most assuredly, a city of Passion.  Passionate headliners go on stage each night at every casino.  Passionate Street musicians, performers and more put it all on the line to entertain you as you walk through the city.  There are more wedding chapels per capita in Las Vegas than anywhere else I’ve seen, testifying to the amount of passion in the city.  Revelers were passionately making bets, pulling levers on slots or putting it all on black on the casino floor in the conference hotel.

Just like Las Vegas, Blackboard World is a conference full of passionate individuals.    Blackboard announced this year a refocusing on their passion, teaching & learning.  The presenters at each session spoke passionately about their subject matter and how it relates to themselves and their (and our) constituencies.  Blackboard World Bloggers blogged and tweeted passionately about conference subject matter that lit up the eLearning Twittersphere.  As an attendee, I arrived early to each session so I could find a spot next to a power cord in order to passionately record everything I could.  All of these examples point to the fact that Vegas and Blackboard World are both passionate.

By the way, if anyone is looking for the name of a good educational jam-band my money is on eLearning Twittersphere or Cognitive Surplus.

An Oasis in the Desert

OasisAs I flew into Las Vegas, I was struck by how it seemed to spring out of the desert like a green sprout of life in a concrete jungle.  I could not help but be amazed at the sheer amount of water features in a city surrounded by nothing but sand and sparse vegetation.  Where the surrounding environs had little to no water to speak of, Las Vegas seemed to have water to spare magically bubbling, shooting and flowing its way throughout the city.

I do believe that Blackboard World provides an oasis of sorts for those involved in eLearning.  As each of us return to the day-to-day of our professional lives, it is easy to just get caught up in doing what we do without thought for innovation or disruptive change.  The wellspring of ideas that we swim in at Blackboard World give an almost recharging effect to our careers.  We remember why we do what we do, find new ways of doing it and learn to think outside of our proverbial boxes.

In closing, I hope everyone that attended Blackboard World this year got at least half as much out of it as I did.  Much like that oasis in the desert, I am bubbling over with energy, ideas and excitement about where eLearning is headed.  It is an exciting time to be involved in this noble pursuit as we break down barriers, redefine how we learn and push the envelope together.

I hope that this next year brings you some bright lights, passion in your work and an overflowing oasis full of what you need to keep on learning.

Jacob SpradlinA BbWorld13 Blogger

BbWorld 2013 Session – Effective Interactive Tools and Web 2.0 Projects Promote Student Learning & Engagement

Session Title: BbWorld 2013 Session – Effective Interactive Tools and Web 2.0 Projects Promote Student Learning & Engagement

Shu-Hui (Susan) Chang, Ph. D.
Director Distance Education
Computer Science Department
Iowa State University

(Seated and waiting for session to start)

Sound Teaching Pedagogies, Interactive Components and Effective Technologies are the hallmarks of an engaging online learning experience.

Distance Learning Evaluation Guide from American Council on Education

Before integrating interactive components in your course, focus on design.  (Systematic Design complete with Objectives, weekly modules, & technology that accommodates different learning styles)

Integrating Interactive Components

  • Build Online Community
  • Engage Learning
  • Facilitate Student instructor and student student interaction

Start from beginning.  Include media in Introductory Activities (Don’t be afraid to do audio/video).  Let the student start out as course content owners.

Use Case Study’s for group projects to build online learning community.  Students research their own project and comment on each other’s reports.

Use real-time Chat sessions – (Text chat is fine)  Guide the discussion by providing rules of the road so that the students know what to focus on.  Prompt with each question.  For example: What is Web 2.0?

Stream lecture-ets (5-15 minute) lectures that connect to Learning Activities.

Be Collaborative with Wikis, have students build the content and then provide feedback on each other’s section.  Include positive feedback and constructive Criticism in comments.  (provide netiquette guidelines for flaming etc)


Use Shutterfly to Introduce yourself to the class.  Incorporates photos and text.
Use Prezi – Give students a research topic to present on (eg. Network Topology)


Presentation Tools
Prezi, Brain Shark, Knovio,, PhotoSnack,

Video Tools
TED, Animoto, Capzles (Capzles Classrooms), Jing, Podsnack(Custom Flash audio players), Tubesnack (create video playlists and sharew ith others)


Audioboo(record sound to cellular device and attach picture to sound), Instagram, (creates a social network using cell phones)

Community Tools maps, brainstorming diagrams), Voki, Classtools (create interactive games, quizzes etcc), Wikis, Facebook, Blogger,

Other Tools
Blabbberize, Glogster, Quizlet, Toon Doo (create cartoons games), Fodey (fake newspaper), Pixlr (photo editor), Pintrest

Infographic: 5 Strategies for Success when Teaching Online with an Example of Each

Giving Your Students Directions on their learning journey!

ImageWhen you travel somewhere for the first time, doesn’t it seem to take a little bit longer to get there than it does to return home?  Whether it is unfamiliar surroundings, difficulty reading the map or the GPS isn’t up to date, it can be frustratingly slow to travel to new places.

Think of your online course as that new destination for your students.  How would they describe their navigation experience?  Would they say that once they travel into your course that it is difficult to find their way back?  Would they say that the course links were easy to find and use?  Would they be frustrated trying to make it to their “destination”?

Connecting your course by organizing and clearly naming your navigation elements will save your students and ultimately you time when putting together your online course.

Below are steps you can take to connect your course and save time for you and your students:

  • Use Dividers and Subheaders to visually organize your course’s navigation menu (hint see the Teaching Online and Putting it Together Subheaders in this course.
  • Append the text (Click to Open) on titles for content folders, learning modules, lesson plans, web and course links.
  • Make the content item Blue if you want your students to click it
  • Chunk your course content as you would teach it in your face-to-face course.  For example: Put all Chapter content in chapter folder with different sub-folders for each chapter.
  • Place a Course Link at the bottom of a unit a study so that the student can navigate back to where they were before easily.

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