eLearning Frenzy

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


Teaching Online

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.

Connect With Online Students – Make Feedback Personal

banner-people-connectedOne of the challenges for any online instructor is making students feel a sense of community or connectedness in their online course.  There are multiple strategies that can be put into place to meet this challenge head-on.  Today’s blog post will focus on the feedback the instructor gives in an online course and how it can connect the student more personally with the instructor.

The type of feedback an instructor provides can have a tremendous affect upon the student/instructor dynamic in an online course.  Students who feel like they know their instructor report higher satisfaction levels and tend to be more engaged with the courses they are taking. Conversely, students that don’t sense instructor presence in the course tend to feel less satisfaction and engagement, and that can be reflected in course evaluations.

The following are steps an instructor can take to connect with online students via course feedback:

1. Leave specific feedback.

Be purposeful about leaving feedback that deals specifically with aspects of a student’s submitted work. A side-effect of a good best practice to save time for online instructors is that sometimes generic feedback can be used to a fault. The online instructor can counteract this by leaving specific feedback about the students’ attempt every few assignments.

2.  Use student names when leaving feedback.

Starting assignment feedback with a student’s name immediately personalizes the interaction.  Placing emphasis on the personal before leaving the feedback of the assignment, points to interest on the part of the instructor in the student’s individual attempt. The idea that an instructor cares about student success is vitally important in any course, online or otherwise.

3. Use multimedia to personalize the interaction.

To a student sitting at their workstation/laptop/tablet, a grade or text-based feedback in an online course can seem almost sterile and devoid of the human touch that comes from the professor handing back grades in a face-to-face course.  Luckily, most LMS’s these days come with tools that can make the feedback interaction more personal.  Just the sound of the instructor’s voice will add a personal dimension to the feedback experience.  The addition of video to assignment feedback kicks it up a notch!

Audio Feedback with Blackboard Collaborate Voice AuthoringAt SHSU, Blackboard is the Learning Management System for online, hybrid and web-enhanced course offerings, and it comes equipped with tools that can enhance the feedback experience.  It also interacts well with third party tools and other types of files that can fulfill the same type of need for students.  For example faculty can use the Blackboard Collaborate Voice Authoring Mashup to leave audio feedback directly in the feedback of the assignment.

As a bonus a student is not just limited to hearing the disembodied voice of the online instructor for feedback.  Faculty members can also use the Video Everywhere tool to drop a recorded video into the feedback shown to the student.  The Video Everywhere tool utilizes YouTube to either link to a video uploaded to the instructors YouTube account or record a video at the point of feedback and place it directly.

Using Video Everywhere for FeedbackIf the instructor does not have ready access to a webcam or microphone on their computer, he or she can record a video with their smartphone and upload it to YouTube as an unlisted video, then link to the video with the Video Everywhere tool.  Instructors can also use voice recording apps to attach audio files to feedback for online students.

Personalizing feedback for an online course is an important best practice for any instructor. However, personalizing every feedback entry for every student would take too much time away from grading and other important interactions.  As with all things, moderation is key.  Try provide a few personal interactions for each student, each semester, letting them know that the instructor is committed to their success and is willing to connect with students on a more personal level.

New Semester? Check Your Course Before You Wreck Your Course!

Check your CourseAnother new semester has arrived at my workplace and Alma mater. We are just days(2) away from the start of a the fall 2014 semester. Many of us have moved last fall’s content over or re-purposed course materials from last spring. Copying course content from previous semesters saves us time and effort that we would otherwise spend re-inventing the wheel.

As you prepare to unleash your online course resources to your students via a course in your Learning Management System, you will need to take some things into consideration to ensure a smooth start to the semester.

Here are a few steps you can take to help guaranty a good start for you and your students:

  1. Get your course’s dating life straight. – Content Availability & Due Dates
  2. Take….these Broken Links! – Check Your External Content
  3. Get a second opinion! – Is Your Course Navigable?

Get Your Course’s Dating Life Straight
(Content Availability & Due Dates)

Date AdjustmentNothing can be more frustrating for your students than having an assignment that is due in the syllabus but unavailable in your Blackboard course.  Obviously this is not done on purpose to confuse the students.  Some content from a previous semester could have been date specific and so a new semester needs new availability dates.  Checking your due dates is also an important part of getting your course’s dating life straight.  Not only to ensure that you have days and dates mentioned correctly throughout your course, but you want to ensure you don’t have things due on holidays etc..

This date checking session also provides you with a good opportunity to make changes for the better.  Think back to your previous semester when you taught the course.  Maybe there wasn’t enough time to complete an assignment, or maybe there was too much.  Make changes to this semester’s calendar based upon issues or opportunities from the previous semester.

Blackboard provides a great tool for date management inside your course.  The Date Management tool can be found here: Control panel>Course Tools>Date Management. The tool allows you to change dates based upon:

  • Using the Course Start Date
  • Adjust by number of Days
  • List all Dates for Review

Being aware of your course’s dating life will greatly benefit you and your students.

Take….these Broken Links!
(Check Your External Content)

One of the primary benefits of posting files and content in Blackboard or any Learning Management System is that you can feel very secure in the knowledge that within reason, your content/files will always be accessible.  This is NOT true with links to external content.  Whether you are linking to an Internet article, a YouTube video, a SlideShare presentation or some other external content, you never know when that content might disappear.

This is why it is uber-important for you to check links to external content prior to releasing it to your students.  This means checking prior to the start of the semester as well as just before your students have to use the content.  Ensuring that links to external content work before your students need them will help reduce pain and frustration within your Blackboard course.

Here is a helpful (and funny) eLearning Best Practice music video to help you remember to Take….these Broken Links!

Get a Second Opinion!
(Make Sure Your Students can find Their Away Around)

So, you have dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s.  Your course dates are adjusted and your links have been checked.  You’ve even read through your course and feel pretty good about it. There is another best practice you can use to help ensure success for your students when it comes to your Blackboard course.

Why not have a colleague, a friend even a family member read through course instructions to make sure they make sense?  Unfortunately ‘they’ haven’t invented a pill that conveys all knowledge of how to operate inside a Blackboard course yet so the importance of contextualized mechanical & academic instructions is key for any LMS-based course.  Layering instructions throughout your course will help your students feel like they have way-points to guide them as they move along through their learning journey. 

Your course might make sense to you the twelfth time you’ve read through it, but there might be some obstacles that people who have never seen it before could come across.  So getting a fresh perspective on your course is always a best practice.  Ask a colleague, your instructional designer, a family member, heck even your son or daughter could help in this endeavor. 

These three steps can go a long way toward reducing consternation and frustration for both you and your students as they and you move through your Blackboard course.

The Best Browser for Blackboard Learn

Jacob and his MinionSo last week I went on a trip to visit a very good friend of mine.  He can’t see very well and he is addicted to wearing overalls, but he is a great dancer and is the life of the party wherever we go (especially with the younger set).  Any-who, we were walking down Fremont street together and he asks me a fairly straight forward question.

“Jacob, what is the best browser for Blackboard Learn?”

I smiled back at my friend the minion and told him that was a question we get often at our Technology Support Desk for SHSU Online. We strolled along together while I tried my best to answer his question. Well, my friend the minion liked the answer so much he asked me to share it with you.  So, with this blog post, I shall attempt to do so.

Traditionally our support desk has leaned heavily toward one particular browser, Mozilla Firefox when answering this question.  While I still think that Firefox is probably the best answer from a stability and fails-the-least-with-all-of-Blackboard’s-bells-and-whistles standpoint, the real answer is more nuanced than that.

While visiting with the minion last week in Las Vegas, I had the occasion to make a small side-trip to the Blackboard World 2014 (#BbWorld14 – for those that tweet) conference.  One of the sessions I attended on supporting Blackboard’s user community was put on by the University of Knoxville, Tennessee.  During the session they stated something that we here at SHSU Online always knew, but never put into words:

“The best browser for Blackboard is every browser.”

This zen-like statement on viewing Blackboard via the lens that we call our Internet browser is almost mind-blowing. It seems like something that “the Dude” would have uttered.  If you think about it though, it is true.

Internet browsers are on an accelerated development schedule.   They receive updates sometimes weekly in order to be sure that they are safe & secure to use for netizens across the globe. Blackboard, on the other hand, receives updates officially twice a year for the most part (not counting any cumulative patches your institution decides to apply).  The update disparity here is clear. You can already see where the pain points might happen when a browser is updated as often as they seem to be.  If one browser’s update messes with how you interact with Blackboard Learn, then try another.

Sometimes you may be on a deadline and “It’s my Blackboard and I want it now!”  In this case, just being able to launch another browser rather than making sure you clear your cache, delete your cookies and cleanse any temporary Internet files, makes life easier.

This is why it is important to have a stable of tools you can turn to when the need arises.  For PCs, your browser list for Blackboard should be: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox & Google Chrome.  For Macs: Safari, Mozilla Firefox & Google Chrome.

Blackboard even provides a supported browser list that will work with your particular version of Blackboard Learn.

Well, the minion and I had a great visit.   I also visited a few more of my friends and they too had some questions that might interest you, but I’ll save those for another blog post.

BbWorld14 Session Blog: Beyond the Discussion Board – Implementing Blackboard Tools to Increase Engagement

Murano 3301
Cheryl Boncuore | Academic Director, Kendall College
Ken Sadowski | SLATE

Session explores student and faculty experiences form a variety of institutions using traditional discussion boards in online, hybrid and campus-based classes.  It takes a deeper dive with an institution that implemented blogs, journals, wikis and video everywhere in order to increase engagement. Results and Reaction will be discussed.

  • What Engagement Means in Online Learning
  • Faculty Favorites
    -examination of faculty responses positive and negative
    -Status Quo Expected mandated
  • Beyond the Discussion Board
    -Other Tools
    -Tools beyond Bb


  • DB has been around for a long time
  • DB is static and students don’t like it
  • Faculty bear with it because they have to
  • Don’t know any other tools
  • Can’t use other tools
  • Forced Responses
  • No real social Interaction

What the Numbers told us?

  • Survey 400 people from 100 insitutions
  • Return rate of 20%
    -84% Faculty
    -12% admin
    -3% staff
    1% Instructional Designers

What LMS do you use?  74% Bb Learn

How do you Primarily Teach? 36% Online, 35% on Ground, 29% equally

Age Group – Nice Mix 25 – 65 and older
How long have you been teaching – 1 – over 20

What tools do your students prefer?

  • Discussion Board 52%
  • Other – 24%
  • Don’t know 15%
  • Blog 2%
  • Journal 1%
  • Facebook 6%

What has happened?

  • Surprised about positive comments for discussion board
  • perceived mediocre yet they use it
  • molded it to what they wanted it to do to fully engage students

Discussion Board got some “new” friends…

Defining Engagement –

  • Connecting all institutional constituents to the activities of teh learning, discovery and the academic topics of study
  • Great Engagement leads to Greater Retention
  • Every class must go beyond institution walls
  • Fits Mission of University

Tools of Engagement

DB – pre-developed online courses, traditional tool, what else is there?

BB Tools – Journals, blogs, wikis, surveys, video everywhere, rubrics

Web Tools – Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Skype, Big Marker(video conferencing tool – web based no java)

Don’t always look for right answer…look for group work, engagement and problem solving process.

What did we learn?

  • Tools that are available to us can be used in interesting ways
  • Faculty use tools that they are comfortable with
  • It’s not the tool, it’s the pedagogy!

What’s Next?



BbWorld Session Blog: Trends in Online Learning

Murano 3301
Jason Rhode Director of Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center – Northern Illinois University
Melissa Stange System Application Administrator Shenandoah University
Karen Yoshino, Principal Strategist, Blackboard Conuslting

Session explores how the use of collaboration tools, mobility, and more will be changed by shifts in student demands and the fight to attract and retain students.


  • Student Expectations
  • About Our Presenters
  • Review Trends in Online Learning Report
  • What’s Next
  • More Info

Context –

Definition of Student is changing.  Non-traditional students are about 85% o learners int the US.  Old student journey linear pathway with few choices.  New pathway is “swirling”  (1/3 of students transfer between students) average student has credits from 2.3 institutions.

Now they are Post-Traditional learners:  Attend multiple institutions, listen to peers, pursue skills and competencies, like to interact with services via apps and not websites.  Consumers of Data/Info, Goal is Job placement.

Trends – Report

  • Conducted in 2014 Feb, (survey)
  • 200 Participants
  • voluntary participants 100%

Where are you today in offering courses online? – 88% have courses online of those who do not already, half intend to have courses online.

How many Courses Currently use a blended learning model? – half the institutions surveyed are using a blended model for at least 25% of their courses.  22% offer more than half their courses in-class and online.

What Annual Growth in online programs do you forecast? Most responders expect growth in their online learning programs (59%)

What are the goals that drive investment in online programs? – 79% Ability to attract new/different students, 67% – Increase Revenue, 62% – Improve Retention, 60% – Better engaged students, 57% – Improve learning Outcomes, 17% – Other

What is holding you back from growing your online programs?  Growth of online programs will depend on improved online strategies and faculty support of putting courses online.  (35% said nothing is holding them back, but 33% stated lack of coherent strategy).  Faculty Resistance, lack of funds, lack of talent/resources, technology programs and chaos are other obstacles.

What Challenges are you facing regarding online learning? – Gauging impact on retention and engagement 52%, Faculty skepticism is a top challenge 51%, Ensuring level of academic Challenge 44%, Measuring faculty/student interaction 41%, Developing benchmarks for success 39%, Lack of Resources 39%, Assessing active and collaborative learning results %39, not viewed as budget priority 19%.

What Trends do you see in how your faculty is putting their content online? – Increased faculty content development is driving growth. Develop their own content – 84%, Use captured lectures -43%, use open content – 34%, license commercial content – 26%, contract with 3rd party vendor – 19%, other – 5%

How do you think Most of your faculty are using your organization’s LMS? – 94% – Posting course content, 74% Grading, 67% Engaging students, 60% Assessment, Reviewing course/student analytics 24%

What features in an LMS system are most sought or valued by users? – LMS functionalities with the highest value: ease of posting -80%, and grading workflow ease of use -67%, Having Mobile Access – 55%, Integration w/other Systems -55%, Analytic tools embedded in system – $1%, Social tools embedded in the system %29

What Collaboration and/or communication tools are you currently using in the classroom?  90% – email 81% – LMS 57% – Lecture Capture, 55% – Social Media 52% Video Conferencing 45% – Mobile Apps 40% – Web Conferencing $31% – texting

How do you foster a sense of connection an community across student population. 52% – Electronic Newsletters, 46% – Targeted Facebook pages, 39% – Webcasts,

How important are strong online programs to attracting and retaining students?  Critical – 34%, Very Important – 30%, Important – 14%, not very important – 12%, unimportant – 6%.

What would be the primary advantage to your college having more robust online offerings?  Attract more non-traditional online students – 71%, Expand geographical presence – 62%, improve student retention – 42%, academic quality improvement – 36%, reduce costs – 28%, greater communication across departments – 19%

Next steps? – Shenandoah University

  • More hybrid and blended courses to meet student needs
  • Continuation of articulation agreements
  • Develop & Deliver online courses in specific fields to meet national recommendations
  • Focus on online 7 Hybrid course quality
  • faculty training & support
  • Infrastructure improvements

Next Steps? Northern Illinois

  • New niche programs
  • attract new students, increase revenue, improve retention
  • Coherent online strategy
  • investment in central support infrastructure.
  • focus on student career success
  • articulation agreements
  • mix of online and blended/hybrid programs
  • Accelerated courses – 8 week
  • Faculty content development
  • Ongoing faculty training & support



BbWorld14 Session Blog – Being Present & Engaging Students Online Using Video Everywhere

Murano 3304
Jason Rhode
Director, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center
Northern Illinois University

One instructor’s use of YouTube’s free and easy-to-use features incorporated into Blackboard for recording, editing, captioning video in YouTube will be provided as well as examples of various approaches. – link to presentation and Jason’s Blog.

Outline – Steps(Recording, Editing, Captioning, Embedding) Examples (approaches for incorporation), Feedback(from students – lessons learned), Q&A

Considerations for using Video in Teaching –

Why not?

  • Want to keep course materials accessible
  • Don’t want videos public
  • Use alternative text & audio communications
  • Haven’t tried before

Online Instructor Roles – Pedagogical, Social, Managerial, Technical ( 4 key roles)

Community of Inquiry – Total Educational Experience (Social presence, Cognitive Presence, Teaching Presence) As a teacher you are always working in one or more of those areas.  Video crosses all three.

Why Video?

  • Web Based (no special software)
  • Accessible
  • Embeddable
  • Quick
  • Shareable
  • Human
  • Easy

Why YouTube?

  1. Free
  2. Accessible
  3. Embeddable in LMS


  • Blog Entries
  • Discussion Boards
  • Journals
  • Instructor Feedback
  • Wikis


1. Clarify Purpose

  • Why are you using Video in Your Course?
  • *What current communications are you augmenting or replacing
  • Are students allowed to incorporate video into their discussions and assignments
  • How ill you gauge effectiveness of using video? (mid-course survey)

2. Setup YouTube Account

  • Use personal account or setup academic account (up to you)  If you use personal you can permission individual videos
  • Edit Your Profile (put links to other social media accounts, edit privacy settings

3. Verify Your Account

  • Gives you a few additional settings (Put in custom thumbnail image for videos)
  • Get longer videos

4. Record

  • Video everywhere is on every textbox so you can record in Bb
  • Doing video recording in YouTube you get larger screen and easier to deal with (then use video everywhere to browse for previously recorded video
  • Students can do the same

5. Preview & Upload

  • Don’t Fret over video, doesn’t have to be perfect
  • Put in custom title/description/tags
  • Privacy settings (choose Unlisted – others can’t find it)
  • Advanced Settings – Share video using Creative Commons licencse
  • Default Settings are as public as possible so PAY ATTENTION

6. Add Captions

  • Youtube captioning is not perfect (really)
  • You can transcribe and sync video yourself via captioning screen (hit play and type along video will pause as you type)**
  • When you are finished transcribing, click sync
  • CC button shows captions

7. Save Transcript as Text File

  • Stay accessible

8.  Embed the video

Setup a Youtube Playlist for Your course – organize all videos for the course into one list that students can subscribe to outside of the LMS.  Students received notification upon addition of new recordings.


  • Welcome Video(tour de course) in Start Here (served as course course homepage) [Put in player controls in settings for video everywhere gives users more ability to start/stop video.
  • Instructor Info page (another video about Professor) (keep player controls)
  • Video in Announcements – Quick Video just like talking to them class, no rehearsal (umms and ahhs are okay)
  • Welcome Video to Each unit – Things to look forward to, preemptive advice etc..
  • Video Resources (youtube videos)  (Pirates of the Carribean for Bloom’s Taxonomy)
  • Video in Groups Home Page (in Description Area)
  • Videos in Discussion Instructions
  • Video Discussions – accessibility aide for learning disabilities
  • Video Journal – Reflect on Learning Journey option for text
  • Video Feedback in Grade Center

Feedback from Students

  • Unit Introduction Videos – most viewed in Unit
  • Students loved the videos
  • videos gave clear expectations

Lessons Learned

  • Students find the helpful
  • Videos don’t have to be polished to work
  • Transcription features are easy
  • Auto captioning has some issues

Keep your Videos Quick and Dirty, Under 10 Minutes, Record in Quite location, Use consistent Volume Level, Embed Videos in LMS!

BbWorld14 Session Blog – Be A Better Online Teacher

Paul Beaudoin PhD
Online Education Specialist
Murano 3304

Dr. Paul Beaudoin shares five key classroom tested strategies to help improve teaching efficacy and enhance the classroom experience for the learner.

“Upgrade your online experiences with zero financial cost”

“Where’s the Rubric?”  – Quality Matters Rubric or Blackboard’s Exemplary Course Rubric

5 Strategies:

  1. Maximize Your Digital Savvy

    Know your LMS – find out what tools are available to you (native & third party)
    Know what your text editor can do!  Format text and fonts, use hyperlinks, emoticons, webcam videos, tables attachments.
    Find other tools to use as well – Timetoast (timelines), Jing, Voki, GO2Web2.0(.net) [list of tools]

  2. Be an Active and Engaged Participant –

    Participate – What you do will be emulated and modeled by your learners
    Wiki class study guide.  Play Devil’s advocate
    Utilize User Activity inside content areas report tool.

  3. Reinvent your Wheel!

    What you do face to face isn’t always easy to do online (rethink)
    Use Wordle to help focus vocabulary building in your class (have students create them)  Transfer notes into wordle to emphasize what words are popping up over and over.
    Role play online  (ToonDoo cartoon)  (what one word would you use to describe this class – scenario)
    Use Twitter – Tweet the Crusades, Romeo & Juliet on Twitter

  4. Include Your Learners in the Process

    Make students feel like they are contributing to the process:
    Google Docs (surveys, forms, group documents)
    Make a commitment right at the beginning of glass on a DB as a public statement
    Create study guides – Study Blue
    Surveys (Formative, summative) to “Course Correct” along the way.

  5. Reassess Assessment

    Take the anxiety out of testing.  Testing Strategies that are low-stakes, medium-stakes & high-stakes
    Puzzles!  Crossword and Jigsaw Puzzles – great for building learner confidence (Bonus Points)
    Consider using questions that involve media (pictures, audio, video)
    Consider mind mapping tools like mind-mup.
    Have learners create infographics using tools like glogster.
    Making a Movie/Podcast Digital Storytelling FTW!  (Even use Vine)

Yup, It’s Okay to Fail!  Failure will allow you to build on the next endeavor!



Fight Unit Fatigue – Chunk it Like a Boss

Chunk It Like a BossWe have all experienced a first glance at what looks like an insurmountable obstacle in our learning endeavors. Maybe is was the practicum for your Masters degree, maybe it was your dissertation, maybe it was all the grading you had to catch up on after you returned from vacation.

Undoubtedly, there are strategies that we as instructors can employ to make the amount of material seem less ominous. Whether we distribute our course across, weeks, units, topics or lessons, chunking our content makes it more digestible for our students.

In this day and age many of our students are viewing courses through the lens of multiple devices, many of those with the display real estate of a tablet or smart phone. Why not take the extra step and chunk our units as well?

I like to take the extra step to organize my units across a content item and 2 content folders (depending upon the amount of coursework). Each of my units contains three things:

1. Unit Objectives
2. Unit Content
3. Unit Assignments

Example of Chunking It Like A BossObjectives (Content Item)

The objectives are a great way-stone for my student in the course. They remind the student why they are learning what they are learning and what they should be getting out of each unit. The objectives are generally a content item that the students see immediately upon entering the unit, so they don’t have to dig any deeper to see what they will be learning about.

Unit Content (Content Container)

The Unit Content container contains all of the readings, videos, articles, links and lecture materials for the particular unit. Putting them in the same spot each time leaves no room for second guessing by my students as to where the content will reside. I also place a download link at the end of the container for students who don’t like to read content on a computer/device.

Unit Assignments (Content Container)

The Unit Assignments container contains all of the assignments for a particular unit. I do this to avoid having the assignments show up at the bottom of a long list inside a unit. It allows me the flexibility to order my assignments as I see fit and utilize more folders if the assignments include large projects that work through multiple submissions. By chunking the assignments, the students will see 2 or three assignments per unit rather than 3 assignments added to what may be up to 9 other content items from readings/lectures.

At the end of each of the Unit Content and Unit Assignment container, I provide a link back to the main unit page in case the students need it.

I know that multiple clicks can turn off some students, but have found via student feedback that they appreciate this layout and are secure in the fact that they always know where to look in my online courses for course materials.  Hopefully after reading this you may want to start Chunking it – Like a Boss!

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