Category Archives: Educational Technology

Relationship Building Excels Instructional Design

Working-togetherRelationship building is sometimes an overlooked aspect in the instructional design field. However, relationship building is an integral part to successful ID development. Subject matter experts, course reviewers, and design teams all contribute to the Instructional Design process and if one does not cooperate, the integrity of your project can be at stake. But with collaboration and solid relationships, your Instructional Design project can excel. Therefore, it’s important not only to advocate for sound instructional design practices, but also to advocate for the needs of your contributors.

Liz Ryan, CEO Human Workplace, states “project Management is a collaboration among people who all want the same thing and/but have widely varying views on the best way to get there. A project manager’s job is to keep everyone on the team feeling valued and listened to while keeping the many moving parts on track.” (source:

How do you keep your team feeling valued and listened to?

Respect Their Ideas and Expertise

At BlackLine Systems, the Product Training team works closely with subject matter experts in deciding which content is relevant and valuable. The SMEs have input in the initial course planning and script-writing steps, as well as with the final course review. Their input is invaluable for creating accurate course content.

Respect Their Time

The Product Training team is cognizant and appreciative of our SME’s time. We work on a schedule that best meets their needs, even if it means arriving at the office before 7 am or staying past our normal work hours.  The key is being flexible so that our SME’s are comfortable with recording with us.


When you spend a full day in a recording studio with your SME, you become pretty close to them in a short time. I spent a lot of time with a SME who was from out of town and was staying at a hotel. Even though we had met only prior to recording, I invited him for dinner and bowling after work with my friends. We spent all day cooped up together, I couldn’t imagine him staying cooped up in a small hotel room all night either. He accepted the invitation and we had a fun time relaxing outside of work. Now, whenever he’s at headquarters, he stops by my desk to say hello, an indication that we’ve developed a good relationship.

Praise Publicly

I think it’s also important to praise your collaborators. At BlackLine, we have a points system, called You Earned It, in which you give points to your colleagues that can be redeemed for prizes. The points seemed hokey at first, but it’s a positive way to thank your colleagues for their help. You can also set the points award to be public, which is a nice way to let the entire organization know that “hey, this person went out on a limb for me”. This public acknowledgement spreads good will and feelings of being appreciated.

Acknowledge Their Contributions

Our Product Team recently presented at the company’s monthly meeting (each month a different team presents). This was yet another avenue to express our gratitude to those subject matter experts, course reviewers, and designers for their help. Recognition is not necessarily a driving factor for why colleagues help Instructional Designers, but it’s a positive way to show mutual respect. I’m glad our company offers these ways to encourage collaboration.

With respect and acknowledgement, instructional designers can build successful relationships with their colleagues, which in turn will aid in the creation of excellent training and educational materials.


The Padagogy Wheel – Merging Bloom’s Taxonomy w/ EdTech

It’s back to school time for many people, and for those students who are required to bring iPads or tablets to class, here’s an interesting look at how the iPad can be implemented. It’s not just a coincidence or for a love of shiny new technology that educators are implementing iPads into their instruction.

Applied correctly, the iPads can be a very effective teaching tool.

Allan Carrington, Learning Designer at the University of Adelaide,  developed The Padagogy Wheel to illustrate how iPad and Mobile Apps can be used to support the instructional design theory Bloom’s Taxonomy. Carrington turns Bloom’s  Cognitive domain into a wheel that emphasizes how each of the six focuses of the cognitive domain can be supported through the use of Ed Tech, such as iPads and mobile apps.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is not new in the world of instructional design. It’s the foundation that learning designers use daily (probably without thinking about it) to create solid learning experiences. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of the different learning objectives established for learners, categorized in three domains. The three domains are achieved sequentially:

  1. Cognitive (knowing)
  2. Affective (feeling)
  3. Psychomotor (doing)

Learners must first know before they can feel, and then act on those feelings by doing.

Allan Carrington’s Padagogy Wheel model focuses specifically on the Cognitive domain, which uses specific learning objectives to accomplish each of the following skills:


The Padagogy Wheel does a good job of getting educators thinking about how to use the iPad to support learning objectives and encourage students to accomplish each of the six cognitive skills.

For example in the Remember/ Understand skill, an action verb that is used is explain, and the activity used to explain is commenting. The Padagogy wheel then uses the Facebook app as a tool to accomplish the activity of commenting to perform the action verb of explaining. Learners comment on Facebook statuses and newsfeed posts to explain their knowledge and show their understanding of the given topic.

The Padagogy Wheel:



The Padagogy Wheel, developed by Allan Carrington, Designing Outcomes


An alternative eLearning Tool: iSpring

I’ve been using iSpring to publish eLearning training courses for the last few months. As a user of Adobe Captivate and TechSmith Camtasia, I was a bit skeptical when my manager first introduced iSpring to me. I enjoyed the full all-in-one record and edit capabilities of Captivate and Camtasia.


iSpring is easy to use, it works as a plug-in to PowerPoint. Many people already know how to create PowerPoint presentations, therefore, there is a small learning curve to using iSpring.

As you can see from the image pictured, iSpring has it’s own tab and the features are fairly straightforward: publish, presentation explorer (timing) links, audio, import audio, insert Flash and YouTube files, among other features.

Another benefit to this eLearning software is that I can use it on any of my computers because it’s a plug-in to PowerPoint. This means that I can develop eLearning courses without a lengthy installation process or it taking up my computer’s resources.

In addition, I enjoy being able to add high quality video and audio files to the PowerPoint presentations. It makes for better content compared to simple text-only slides. Once the course is published via iSpring, the high quality multimedia files can be maintained by selecting the correct quality settings.

My eLearning development process includes creating high quality MP3 audio files and MP4 video files to be imported into iSpring. I do so by using what I think are the best production tools (for a PC). I record narration in Adobe Audition, edit the raw audio so it sounds clean and crisp, then import the MP3 files into iSpring. I do the same thing for the video demonstrations, choosing to record and edit screen captures using Camtasia and then importing the MP4 files.

I also like the iSpring Quiz feature. I use the Quiz feature to create interactive practice activities and course end assessments to evaluate the learner’s knowledge of the content. The Quiz feature offers a variety of question types such as matching, multiple choice, short answer, etc. The question pools make exam creation / variation easy.

When the iSpring PowerPoint is developed, there are several options to publish the files. It can be published for the Web, HTML5 (mobile compatible), or LMS compatible.

The final output includes a navigation pane for learners to advance the class, as well as a Notes section for transcribed /outlined content. These features are beneficial for learners who want a quick refresher of the course content, without committing to the full length course.

The downside of using iSpring is that simulations are not compatible with the LMS publishing setting. However, the simulations are compatible when the course is published as an HTML5 file.

I’m not willing to give up Captivate and Camtasia fully, but iSpring is a simple eLearning developer software that I’d recommend for any instructional designer’s toolbox.

Avoid the Traps- Instructional Design Decisions

A great website I like to use for eLearning resources is  I recently read an article by Stephanie Ivec that summarized important instructional design decisions that should not be overlooked. The article is titled 5 Instructional Design Traps to Avoid.

Ivec warned against falling into these common traps:

  1. Forgetting Learning Objectives

The benefit of learning objectives is that they keep the course focused.

  1. Too Long to Be Engaging

According to Ivec, and I agree, elearning gives developers the opportunity to divide complex topics into smaller modules for easier comprehension.

  1. Features for the Sake of Features

Limiting animations and features for when they make important information stand out will help learners process key content.

  1. Irrelevant Content

Using scenarios and real-world examples will help learners apply the learning to their job tasks.

  1. No Evaluation

Evaluating the effectiveness of the eLearning course can help create better courses in the future.

My department of eLearning Developers/ Instructional Designers have been perfecting our methods of instructional design. We have discussed different approaches to making our eLearning courses effective and exciting for our learners.

We’ve created a standardized template that includes an introduction, objectives, agenda, content, practice activities, and summary. The template helps us to keep our courses consistent and minimizes the use of unnecessary animations that may otherwise distract the learners.

We’ve ensured that each topic is concise, not more than 3-4 minutes per demonstration, with an activity to keep our learners engaged. We’ve eliminated irrelevant content, such as removing content that is too novice for our learners. The course concludes with an evaluation– a quiz assessing the learner’s knowledge of the content.

Overall, it is important for instructional designers to give everything the learners need and nothing more. It’s also important that the content is packaged in a way that is manageable and intriguing.

Action! Activity! Stimulating Interaction in eLearning

An instructional designer can stand out from others by developing comprehensive learning experiences that stimulate user interaction.

There are three components to instructional design development that are typically included in eLearning:

  1. Tell– the user about the subject matter
  2. Show– the user the subject matter with images and videos
  3. Do– provide the user with a practice activity that replicates what was told and shown

The tell and show are most commonly used in instructional design because they take less time and resources to develop.

Depending on the scope and time frame to develop the training project, talented instructional designers are able to create a stimulating user interaction experience—the Do.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to begin new projects where I’ve scoped out interaction.

After discussing the timeline and workload with my colleagues, we decided to complete two reiterations of the courses.

The first versions of the courses include the “tell” and “show” components. We decided to launch these first versions of the courses in order to provide our users with timely content. The second version of the courses will include the tell and show content, but will also include user activities.

We record all of the content pieces for both versions of the course at the same time, but post production is first conducted on the Tell and Show version. After a course is complete and launched to to the users, the Do content is then edited, added to the course, and relaunched to the users.

The content for these courses were produced as follows:

  1. Tell– Use Adobe Audition to record subject matter experts’  narrations of the content
  2. Show– At the same recording sessions as the “tell”, the subject matter experts’ record a screen capture using TechSmith’s Camtasia. After editing these with the voiceovers, the final result are “Demonstrations” that show the user the subject matter
  3. Do – The final piece of production is recording a second version of the subject matter in Adobe Captivate. We’ve been able to record Camtasia and Captivate on the same computer, at the same time. After post production is concluded on the tell and show, attention is focused on producing “Try-It’s” that allow the users to practice what they learned earlier in the course.

Confidence in EdTech!

Where do your instructors fall in the EdTech adoption?

As an Educational Technologist and an instructor, I’ve seen many faculty members excel in the use of classroom technology and others whom let their fear get in the way of their technical growth.

Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist, posted a chart that graphically illustrated the Teacher Confidence in Use of Technology. The graph was adopted from the work of Mandinach and Cline and described the stages of confidence related to technology.

teacher confidence use in tech

As confidence and competence grows, instructors are keener to apply the technology they’ve mastered to the classroom. In doing so, the technology can effectively impact the way students learn.

The final step of the Confidence graph is Innovation. Instructors have the confidence to use technology seamlessly in the classroom, as well as innovate and share their ideas. It is at this point that I believe instructors demonstrate independence and enthusiasm for utilizing technology.

In my experience, I’ve mostly worked with faculty that were between the Survival and Mastery levels. The challenge of an Educational Technologist is to provide enough support and training to help encourage the technological exploration, yet, not be too helpful in that it enables the instructors to lean on you as a crutch when they use technology. Balancing support with autonomy is important.

Say What?! Improving Online Class Discussion

This semester I’ve decided to use discussion forums for only half of my online class participation. I mixed it up to add some intrigue and interaction to the other weeks– my students are using NowComment.


NowComment is a Web site that displays articles and text content for students to read. The unique thing about NowComment is students can comment in-line to the text. Students can also reply to one another. NowComment nests the comments for a clean user interface experience. Students can also mark up the document with highlights and annotations.

This mode of communication has proven successful. Students enjoy the variety NowComment adds to the online class, in addition to the traditional online learning tools such as email and forums.

It also allows the students to interact directly with the content.

Most online classes have students read an article or book, then contribute to a different web page to discuss their findings. I’m guilty of this, like I said, I use discussion forums for half of the class participation. The problem with this traditional online discussion structure is that a student may not understand what their classmate is referring to in the text, unless it is directly cited. Nowcomment minimizes this confusion and lets students tag the statement in the text to comment directly to the material.

This tagging feature makes it better for everyone to draw connections to the reading and contribute to a dynamic online class discussion.

To use NowComment, you must have an account. However, the accounts are free for educators and students. Instructors can create a group for each class roster to easily invite a group of students to one document. The Web site uses email to inform students of a new document to discuss.

A negative impact of NowComment is that students must check their school administrated email accounts or provide the instructor with an alternative email. In addition, their may be technical difficulties such as the invitation being filtered to the Spam, Junk, or Trash folders.  For example, I have a student that has had technical difficulties all semester. She does not receive the initial NowComment invitation. I’ve had to delete her invite, then send her an updated invited for her to access the documents. We have no idea why these issues occur and why she is the only student with problems.

In general, the students are enjoying the conversation and are able to contribute successfully. I recommend this educational technology tool for anyone with flexibility to choose a means of communication and for those with text heavy class materials.

*Update* I was impressed how quickly the NowComment President reached out to me regarding this blog. He was very helpful in troubleshooting the invitation errors my student had. Kudos to a company that follows social media and proactively reaches out to it’s audience!

How Rude! Talk Over the Presenter

With the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic games underway, you’ve probably noticed a lot of people “live tweeting” and “live blogging” about the activities and events.

backchanelWhat is live tweeting and live blogging? It’s a synchronous broadcast of events in written word (and pictures/video) via Social Media Internet sites such as Twitter and Blogs. It’s a way for anyone with a computer, smart phone, or tablet to create their own “news”.

Live tweeting and live blogging is also applicable in the learning environment. At the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, students participate in “backchannel” dialogue. Backchannel is when computers are used to have a real-time online conversation alongside the primary group activity or lecture. The graduate students in the Interactive Media & Games major contribute to the live lecture discussion at the same time by commenting on a WordPress blog page.  The constant stream of comments assures that all opinions are documented.

The use of backchannel in the classroom encourages student participation when the class is too large for everyone to speak (100-200 student lecture hall). If the comments are made anonymously, it also allows students to freely speak their mind and contribute without the fear of “getting it wrong”. I particularly like the use of backchannel during live lectures because it promotes community building. Not only are students learning from their instructor, but they are able to share their opinions with others and continue the discussion even after the lecture concludes. In some instances, instructors are unaware of backchannel discussions taking place, opening up the possibly of uncensored opinions and thoughts of the subject matter.

hashtagIn the professional environment, people live blog conference events. This gives attendees a chance to get an inside look of conference sessions and workshops they are unable to attend. Using tagging features, such as hashtags (#), guarantees that similar topics are grouped together and easier to find on the Internet. Anyone can run a Twitter or Internet search for a hashtag to review all backchannel communications on a given topic, thus opening conference proceedings up to the entire Internet community.

It’s not a test! Assessing Learning.

"The Melting Clock" by Salvador Dali

“The Melting Clock” by Salvador Dali

Previously, I’ve discussed the importance of evaluating training in the context of Kirkpatrick’s Evaluation Model. Many people neglect the evaluation process because they are either  on a very strict schedule (analysis is usually neglected, too) or they just don’t see how administering tests can work in the training.

The latter is a major misconception. Assessment is not about giving graded tests.

Tools: Assessment can be accomplished in several different ways. Some examples include:

Exams Non-graded quizzes
Rubrics Course Evaluation
Classroom Dialogue Polling/Clickers
Poster Presentations Oral Presentations
Portfolios Peer Review
Case Studies Written Reports
Fill In The Blanks State Examinations or Certifications
Publication  Observing Student Reactions

Simple Process: If creating assessment methods is daunting, I recommend starting simple.

  1. Select a training objective.
  2. Pair the objective with an activity.
  3. Create a rubric for evaluation.
  4. Review each student’s completed activity compared to the rubric to see if it aligns with the objective.
  5. Create a snapshot of your overall

Grading: Assessing your learners does not mean you need to change your grading structure or even give a grade at all. However, if learners believe that they are receiving something in return, they may give more effort when completing the assessment. Case in point: if you’ve been asked to complete a survey, you may have given up half way through if you didn’t see a personal benefit in completing it.

Cost: Evaluating learning does not have to be costly endeavor. Although there are many different software and hardware options to aid in assessing learning outcomes (such as PollEverywhere, TurningPoint, ExamSoft, and PearsonVue), assessment can be accomplished without purchasing third-party products. If assessment is a new goal for your organization, I recommend working through some of the simpler assessment strategies and tools before deciding on an external assessment product.

CES and the Future of Education

The International Consumer Electronic Show (CES), a consumer electronics and technology tradeshow in Las Vegas, has electronic, gaming, and technology enthusiasts alike dreaming of new gizmos and how they can be used.

How will emerging technology trends impact higher education?

Curved television monitors, head mounted displays (such as the Oculus Rift), and interactive entertainment may have a bigger impact on education than you may imagine.

When we think about these technologies, we typically think about immersive experiences as a form of entertainment– television, movies and video games– enhanced by 3D, Ultra High Definition, and virtual reality. However, educators with the software programming skills and funding will be able to create immersive experiences for the classroom.

Photo Credit- James IliffThese technologies can be used to give people experiences they normally would not be able to have in everyday life. Virtual reality shown through a head mounted displays can help students and learners see the very small (microbiology), the very large (astronomical), and the very distant (ancient ruins). Imagine an observatory right in the classroom, giving students the opportunity to explore the moon and the galaxy. Imagine University Admissions counselors providing a virtual tour of their campuses to students abroad or unable to visit campus. Geography, World History, Art History, and Archaeology students would be able to virtually visit long-gone cultures and lands. All these environments can be created by a computer simulated world and displayed through a head mounted display or curved television monitor. These technologies will allow students to get a greater interactive learning experience than their traditional classroom experiences can currently provide. These technologies will bring the experience and the content to the student in a realistic and visual medium.

With these technologies, future students will get practical application of their skills without the risk. In a virtual reality operating room, Medical students can practice surgeries without risk or the expense of using cadavers. Computer programs can create fictional patients for students to diagnosis, without the need of hiring actors. Engineers can model their designs in three-dimensional space and give physical tours of their portfolios. Chemists can experiment with chemicals to view reactions without the risk of explosions and toxic combinations.

These technologies will shape the way we think about and how we design hands-on learning. It’s important to understand the emerging technologies and the implications they have on future educational practices.

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