Category Archives: Instructional Design

The Mini Flip

A New Approach to the Flipped Classroom

Flipped classroom is a trending pedagogy in classroom instruction. Flipped classroom has two essential components. The first component is pre-recording a class lecture in its entirety for students to listen to before they attend class. The second component, an in-class activity and discussion, takes places during normal class meeting times. The idea is to let students complete their homework during class time so that instructors can address any difficulties and questions in person. It also allows more time for discussion and debate; students contribute to the conversation instead of being passive listeners.

A similar approach was studied at Pepperdine University School of Law (Malibu, CA). The law school recently conducted a study to determine if anxiety felt by first-year law students was reduced if the students knew what to expect before attending each class.

The goal was to provide each first year law student with a pre-recorded video “primer” that briefly outlined the upcoming class meeting, including the class meeting’s learning objectives. The primer highlighted how the student should prepare, what is expected of the student, and what the student can expect to achieve from the class meeting.

The video primers were recorded by a small group of law school faculty members with the lecture capture recording software, Panopto. Faculty recorded the primers in their offices using a webcam and microphone. The software captured the desktop applications, audio, and Webcam. I provided faculty with an Instructional Design Document (view pdf here), a storyboard document, and a scripting document to help create the primers. These documents were used as templates to guide the recording process. No post production was used, so faculty scripted what they wanted to say. If they were not satisfied with the recording, they re-recorded.

An example was also created to show the faculty what they needed to create:

It was important that the primers were short, visual, and specific. The primers were three to fifteen minutes long. The primers included PowerPoint screens with specific keywords transitioning across the video to provide specific information in a visually appealing way. In addition, the primers included a thumbnail image of the faculty as a subset of the main screen. Capturing the faculty provided a personal touch to the primer; students who viewed the primers recognized their professor and started a friendly rapport even before classes began.

The primers were disseminated before each of the first five (5) classes.  Students viewed the short primers before preparing for each class and completed a series of survey questions to provide feedback regarding the usefulness of these primers.

Of surveyed students, 61.5% believed that not knowing what to expect from the course causes anxiety. During the primer video program, 72.3% of students believed that knowing what to expect from the course reduced anxiety and 63.3% thought the primers were useful in preparing for their classes. 55.4% of students would have liked primers for every class meeting, not just the initial five and 64.1% said the primers would be useful for every course.

The study results and video recording process were shared with Pepperdine University’s School of Law Faculty. Since the student survey results were average, the decision to create video primers will be on a case by case basis decided by the faculty member and department.

I applied this approach to the class I personally teach by creating a video syllabus for my online students:

This article was also published by EdTech Magazine.


The Tech Launch

This article, also published by EdTech Magazine and co-written by Vanessa Bravo,  specifically details the launch of the Clickers Program (TurningPoint audience response system); however, the phases described can be used as best practices in initiating almost any technology program:

Phase One: Determine Faculty Technology Use & Interest
Phase Two: Cultivate Faculty Buy-In
Phase Three: Training
Phase Four:  Installation/Dissemination
Phase Five: Implementation
Phase Six: Addressing Challenges

TPPepperdine University School of Law uses Turning Technologies’ audience response system TurningPoint (AKA clickers) to poll its students. Since the clicker program’s inauguration in 2012, over one third of the faculty have adopted clickers.

Faculty create questions within PowerPoint. A USB receiver plugged into the computer receives the answer responses submitted by students when they push the answer on their clicker. Results, including the correct answers and bar graphs showing the audience responses, are displayed.

Pepperdine University School of Law’s Manager of Instructional Technology, Vanessa Bravo, initiated the clicker program and cultivated faculty buy-in of the technology’s use. The SOL Information Services team continues to maintain the clickers and make adjustments to the program to address challenges.

Phase One: Determine Faculty Technology Use & Interest

Gather information about faculty’s current use and gauge the level of interest in learning more about clickers.

Phase Two: Cultivate Faculty Buy-In

Develop an engaging and effective Lunch-N-Learn to show how the clickers can be used, and allow faculty to install and use clickers. Invite champions of technology to share their experiences.

Professor Gregory McNeal showed how clickers act as an extension of the hand raise. McNeal stated, “instead of calling on a few students during class, where there’s only a one in 70 chance of being called on without clickers, all students participate. Using clickers forces students to pay attention to content and their notes in order to participate and receive an assessment grade.” McNeal also described how he asks students why they aren’t getting the correct answer and then walks them through the thought process. In some cases, he adjusts his pedagogy to better improve classes. These examples helped faculty to understand clicker usage is not just another technology, but one that can aid student retention.

Stimulate further interest by demonstrating clickers in applicable settings. Pepperdine used clickers during voting meetings; as a result, faculty saw how easy it was to participate in polls.

Recommend clickers as a resolution to classroom challenges such as attendance, student participation, and content review. Faculty may not know how technology is applicable to instruction; therefore, communicating the benefits can cultivate buy-in.

Phase Three: Clicker Training

One-on-one sessions taught faculty how to use the clickers and set up their PowerPoint slides.

Phase Four: Student Clicker Dissemination

Order clickers and disseminate them to students. Students check out clickers from the library.  In addition, a clicker assigned to each new student was placed in the tote bag they received during Orientation. This reduced library traffic and ensured all new students would have clickers on day one.

Phase Five: Implementation
During the first weeks of classes, Information Services was present to help setup and register students’ clickers, which took about 15 minutes per class. By registering their clickers, the professors were able to associate specific students with their answers and take attendance.

Phase Six: Addressing Challenges

Initially, McNeal had students buy their clickers from the bookstore, which caused pushback since students do not pay a technology fee. To resolve this conflict, the Information Services team procured a grant from the Chief Information Officer to “buyback” the clickers. Currently, students are not charged up front for the clicker, but are assessed a fee for unreturned clickers.

Students also didn’t like the clickers because they were judged on attendance even if they forgot it. Students quickly learned that to succeed in the professional world, they would need to ensure they had working tools. Expressing course participation requirements at the start of term in the syllabus mitigates student concerns about attendance.

Originally, faculty had to bring a receiver to plug into the computer and students needed to change their clicker channel accordingly. If a receiver was forgotten or students didn’t remember the channel, responses went unrecorded. Now, a receiver is permanently installed and a sign posted at the front of each room reminds students to change their clicker channel.

Students frequently delayed class by approaching faculty about broken clickers or questions. To limit these questions, students now receive an FAQ card that addresses major concerns.

A concern of faculty was the amount of time registering student clicker at the start of classes. Information Services decided to pre-register the student clickers by adding the identification number to a roster before students check out clickers. The rosters are then saved to each computer before the semester begins.

The effort of Information Services to make clicker usage smooth for faculty coupled with word of mouth promotion from their faculty colleagues have increased the number of users at Pepperdine University School of Law.

Online Learning– Not just a Degree Mill

ComputerThere is a lot of debate regarding the benefit and motives of online learning programs.

For instance, Campus Technology writes about for-profit education in “Faculty Coalition: It’s Time to Examine MOOC and Online Ed Profit Motives“.

We need to consider that not every online program is built solely for the purpose of making money.

Online programs help working professionals and people hindered by geographical barriers achieve education when life obstacles make it difficult to attend brick & mortar colleges or programs on a regular semester schedule.

Military personal, executive leaders and managers, and stay-at-home parents are just a few examples of those with irregular schedules who may benefit from online studies.

It is the duty of the instructional designer, faculty, and program directors to ensure that online education practices sound curriculum development.

Three key pieces of information anyone considering online education should be aware of when selecting the right online program include:

1.) Will your transcript and diploma state “online” in the verbiage? If so, stay away! Your future employers and colleges (if you go for post-graduate and doctorate work) may see this and be scared off that your education was not “legit”.

2.) Are your professors the same professors you’ll have if you attended the class in person? Yes, great! That means you’ll be learning from the same intelligent people as those students who are on campus.

3.) Is the curriculum and syllabi the same as the curriculum for the on campus version of the class? Yes, fantastic! That means you’ll be learning the same content and completing the same work as those students who are on campus.

You should be able to ask an Admissions Counselor or Program Director these questions. If necessary, ask to see a copy of the syllabi for the different modes of class delivery (online, hybrid, on campus).

I love learning: I read, write, and share knowledge. If your end goal is to better yourself and you don’t need a certified credential, by all means, participate in MOOCs and other non-traditional learning opportunities. Just, don’t shell out a bunch of cash for “tuition”. If you’re paying for education, you should receive legitimate proof of your hard work by means of a diploma and transcript from a established educational institution.

To Err is Human… to Keep at EdTech is Divine.

One of the challenges I have as an Educational Technologist is encouraging people to use technology during lectures and presentations, despite their fears.

The major fear is looking incompetent in front of an audience. This can occur when technology breaks or the presenter does not know how to work the tool. So instead of learning how to use EdTech properly, they opt out of the tool altogether.

There’s a few points I would like to make to help appease the fear that paralyzes the presenter and limits the use of technology:

Technology has its hiccups for everyone, even the most skilled technologist.

Internet connections are poor, flash drives get lost, files are corrupted, speakers don’t work, the list can go on…  but, it’s Okay! Since we’ve all been there, people in your audience will understand and not judge.

How you handle the hiccup is what defines us. If the EdTech fails or does not work, apologize for the delay and continue on with your presentation sans technology. It’s comparable to a child getting hurt, sometimes, the reaction of others after a fall is what makes a young child cry. Don’t overreact with groans and complaints, don’t panic. Pick yourself up, dust off, and start your presentation. Your audience won’t even remember the technical glitches if you don’t let it affect your overall presentation.

In today’s Internet driven world, current students and audience members expect presentations with audio/visual components. By neglecting this feature, you may lose out on that “star appeal” that attracts people to your audience or classes.

I once had a professor say to me, “if you teach the way you were taught, you will be frozen in time.”

Intrigue your audience, add a “cool” element to your presentation. Remember, technology is great when it enhances a presentation, not detracts from the content.

If you’re still afraid to add EdTech components to your presentation be proactive:

  • Learn! Have your Educational Technologist or Instructional Technologist show you easy ways to enhance your presentation
  • Practice, practice, practice, preferably in the room you will be presenting
  • Early and Often– Setup for your presentations with plenty of time to get through any glitches and know that the more you use EdTech, the more comfortable you will be using the tools
  • Buddy System- Invite someone along to the presentation that can help you setup or troubleshoot problems
  • Be Prepared- Bring back-ups of your digital work. If the tech still fails, be prepared with cue cards and hand-outs to switch to a low-tech presentation

How Students Use Tech Outside of Class

ComputerThis article was published by EdTech Magazine on August 27, 2013.

Technology has made it easy for students to use their computers and mobile devices to continue learning outside of traditional classrooms.

The ability to take notes electronically during class results in the conservation of valuable study time. In addition, many students find they are able to use digital notes more effectively than handwritten notes by conducting keyword searches to locate specific information quickly.

Today’s college students are also able to annotate and share notes with study-group participants by using cloud-based tools such as Evernote and Google Drive. Undergraduates at Ithaca College in New York use Google Drive to create, edit, and share course outlines. These powerful tools enhance collaboration by allowing students to access their notes from any device, add comments and track changes.

Google Drive and Evernote are also ideal for collaboration on group projects. MBA students at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., use Google Drive to collaborate on projects and presentations. The students can contribute to the same document without compiling or emailing different versions back and forth. For students concerned about equal contribution of work on a project, Google Drive shows revision updates made by each contributor.

For research, students are using free tools such as Wikipedia, Twitter and Facebook. While Wikipedia is typically not allowed as an official source, it is frequently used to find other resources, since the site tracks footnotes and bibliographies. Students can look up a topic using Wikipedia and then refer to an article’s cited works for additional source material.

Social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, are used to poll communities and connect with experts. Social media is used to share ideas, articles and other resources. These networks are also used to hold relevant and meaningful conversations across time and geography. Ithaca College’s course on professional development uses social media to host guest speakers who are unable to travel to campus. Instead, the guest speakers are asked to check the course’s Facebook and Twitter pages during a given week and then respond to students’ questions. These tools are beneficial because discussion can be continued outside of class, thereby opening up a broader learning environment.

Students are also using web-based conferencing tools, such as Google Hangouts, to interview experts about their work. Students in the Master of Arts in Learning Technologies program at Pepperdine University in California collaborate synchronously, or in real time, using Google Hangouts and Google Documents. The students are able to share their dissertation research and provide valuable feedback to one another in real time. Some students, such as those attending Pepperdine University School of Law, are even using this technology to interview for jobs or to work remotely while in school. Web-based conferencing is also a key tool used by students to hold team meetings for group projects. Stevens Institute of Technology management students also use web-based conferencing to present their final projects online and in real time to their instructor and peers.

Today’s learners are actively seeking content and tutorials on topics of interest.

Students and non-student learners alike access valuable online content from Khan Academy, TED, YouTube and blogs; they watch and read tutorials created by others; and they learn how to complete specific tasks, such as computing mathematical equations, writing computer-programming languages or using a feature in a software application, all without the guidance of an instructor.

Technology enables learning to take place outside of the classroom and the library. Students use technology to meet, collaborate and create content virtually. In many cases, technology helps students research subjects, share ideas and learn specific skills. Technology also helps students make valuable networking connections with others in their field of study.

KISS Keep it Simple (& Meaningful), Stupid! Getting Faculty to Use Tech

As part of my duties as Manager of Instructional Technology at Pepperdine University School of Law, I must encourage the use of Educational Technology by faculty. This is a common task of any Educational Technologist.

One of the challenges is convincing Law Faculty to use technology when their traditional classroom pedagogy is based on the Socratic Method  or “inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas.” Logically, you don’t need technology to have a discussion.

Another challenge is that when faced with something new, there is a learning curve to become comfortable in using the tool or technology. As an instructor, I know first-hand that it can be difficult to attempt something new in front of your students, there’s an inherent fear of  seeming incompetent in the face of your students.

However students and learners, are increasingly in want of “innovative and stimulating” classes that utilize digital media and audio-visual learning aids to enhance instruction.

To bridge this gap of overcoming fears of incompetence and providing students with the technological-supported classes they desire, Educational Technologists, must help faculty feel comfortable with using Ed Tech. It’s also important that faculty are semi-autonomous in their use of Ed Tech so that they can proceed with instructing without the need of an IT support person present at the start of class.

Simple and meaningful user interface design is one of the first steps to getting EdTech used effectively in the classroom.

The School of Law recently completed an Educational Technology Update construction project to many of its classrooms. This project included the installation of computers, projection screens, touch screen monitors, and document cameras, among other instructional tools.

Screen3To encourage the use of these instructional tools, the Information Services team set out to create an easy to use control panel. The control panel is a 4″ touch panel that sits on the top of each lectern near the computer monitor and auxiliary ports. It controls the start up and display of all of the instructional tools available in the classroom.

It was important that the User Interface Design of this control panel was simple, easy to understand, and contained all of, but not more than, the features necessary to run a tech-enabled class session.

The approach used to decide on the final design was as follows:

  1. Research
  2. Design
  3. Gather Feedback
  4. Redesign
  5. Implement

Research- I contacted several different professional schools and law schools in the nation and asked if they could share pictures of their control panel user-interface. Several other Ed Tech professionals also gave valuable insight into what they would do differently if they could re-design their control panels.

Design- After some deliberation with my Information Services colleagues, I developed 3 different iterations of the design with a flow-chart of the actions.

Feedback- Two design options were brought to the faculty (the end-users) for feedback and discussion. I made sure that the faculty represented a variety of skill-levels from the minimal-tech user to the experienced-power user. The designs were simple mock-ups on paper, that indicated the flow of the features. I walked each faculty member through the “pushing” of buttons, showing them what each action led to by flipping the paper mock-ups in order of the design flow.

Receiving input from the end-users is a strategic way of getting user buy-in. Many of the faculty I spoke to were very excited and grateful that their input was effectively utilized in the final design.

Redesign- I took the notes, comments, and feedback from the faculty on the initial design and created a final design. Instances in which  faculty opinions conflicted I made a judgement call based on what I thought the majority of the faculty would want.

Implementing- I met with the technology vendor and worked through the final design. I had to be very specific and firm with our needs so that the design on paper was properly translated to the actual control panel.

The result was fantastic! The control panel does exactly what they need it to do with very few “clicks”, therefore, the goal of creating simple and meaningful design was accomplished. Many faculty that used to rely on Information Services to start their class technology have become autonomous. It’s been several weeks since the system was implemented and we’ve seen an increase of faculty using educational technology in their classes.

For any Educational Technologist implementing a new system, don’t forget to KISS. Keep It Simple, (stupid)!

Distraction or Opportunity? Embracing Tech in the Classroom

ComputerAn abridged version of this article was published by EdTech Magazine on July 25, 2013.

It’s common for students to bring laptops, tablets, and smart phones to class. But what happens when they’re turned on? From the viewpoint of the lectern, it’s hard to tell if students are using their mobile electronics for educational goals or browsing the Internet. And are their actions distracting their peers?

As a Manager of Instructional Technology, I’ve had the opportunity to observe several lecture hall courses ranging from 40-100 students. Sitting in the back of the classroom gave me a great view of the students’ computer screens. I was pleasantly surprised to find in a class of 100 students only one student was on a Web page other than the course Learning Management System, the downloaded lecture notes, or a Word Document. Pretty impressive.

These observations support the hypothesis that students are using computers in the classroom to aid in their instruction. How does it aid in their instruction? Professional students use the opportunity to make additions and annotations to downloaded class lecture slides or transcribe the lecture using word processing programs.

Yes, it’s more difficult to call your students’ attention away from the computers in order to get them to participate openly in discussion. Technology is not a distraction in the classroom, but if you want dynamic discussion and interaction with students, do just that, interact with your students and encourage discussion, don’t lecture “at” them. Minimal interaction during lectures results in students’
“hiding” behind their computer screens. They’ll shut the computer screens and contribute worthy discussions if the lesson is dynamic.

Alternatively, technology can be used as a teaching advantage. Students who are introverted may find it easier to participate in class if they can do so via technology. Incorporate tools such as polling technology and back-channel blogs to have students participate with the computers they are already using. These tools can allow for anonymous participation and contribution to the class without students’ feeling cornered or in the spotlight. Ideas can be free flowing with the disinhibition associated with anonymous contributions. Conducting lessons with anonymous participation means we need to rethink traditional participation grades.

In addition, using these online technologies to encourage participation can be beneficial in interacting with all students, not just the select few that raise their hands and speak up in the limited class time. Every student can contribute by answering polling questions and typing their responses into a class website. These tools can also be beneficial because the class discussion can be continued outside of class, thus opening up a broader learning environment.

It’s not just about how students are using computers in the classroom, but how the use of computers during class impact students outside of class. Students prefer to take notes electronically so that they don’t waste valuable study time transcribing hand-written notebooks to a digital notebook. Digital notes results in better use of students’ study time. Students are able to do keyword searches for documents and topics to locate specific information quickly, collaborate and share notes with their study groups, and prepare written work quicker by copy and pasting direct quotes from their pre-typed notes.

Students are going to use laptops and mobile devices in the classroom. Embrace the technology and work with your Educational Technologist or Instructional Designer to determine the best tools and methodologies to enhance your course with technology and support the course objectives.

Learning: Changing Orgs at the Micro Level

As I begin a new semester as a part-time instructor for my Alma Mater, Ithaca College, I think back about my time there as an Ithaca Collegeundergraduate.

I earned a communications degree studying Organizational Communication, Learning & Design (OCLD). I loved my classes from the beginning. How organizations change, grow and work effectively intrigued me. Discussions about how communication and design can impact on an organization made me giddy.

imagesBut more specifically, I loved (and still do) learning about how individual learning can have a significant impact. Not only is the individual impacted by learning, but their organizations are affected as well. When an employee decides to better themselves by learning a new tool or soft skill, the effort they put into it eventually goes back into the organization. Achievement on the individual level should be considered a win for the organization.

Learning on the micro-level (learning by the individual) can impact an organization on the macro-level.

And for this reason I concentrated in Instructional Design.

As an instructional designer, I believe that if a single person wants to learn a new tool or skill, they should be able to do so, and should be supported by their organization. Therefore, it’s my initiative to host weekly “Coffee Talks” even if only one person RSVPs. I’ll even prepare for and be available during the sessions when no one RSVPs, just in case someone decides to attend my learning sessions on a whim.

An Instructional Designer’s Philosophy

the_thinkerI’ve previously wrote about Being an Instructional Designer and Instructional Design Defined.

I once read, and wholeheartedly agree, “Instructional Designers create easy-to-understand educational materials for training and development purposes. They understand the process of learning and use graphics & creative strategies to make the material effective and interesting.”

As I think about who I am and what I do, I decided to share my thoughts about my career passion. As an Instructional Designer, I have a philosophy to designing effective instruction.

My instructional design philosophy can be summed in a few points:

  1. Learning should be about connecting to the content and then sharing your knowledge and interests with others.
    • An instructional designer curates knowledge. We provide learners with valuable connections to subject matter experts and information.
    • Learners should be able to explain or repeat the lesson to a partner.
    • Learners should be able to share the knowledge with a group of people.
  2. Adults need to know why they need to learn something and how it benefits them. Making this transparent is the start to good Instructional Design
    • Learners should be able to discuss how they use the information, how it benefits them, and any issues they have with the information.
    • A good instructional designer facilitates this discussion and provides recommendations, best practices and suggestions for mitigating the issues.
    • Learners should establish goals. If learners are not driven to set goals for themselves, instructional designers must aid in the development of these goals. Once learning goals are set, instructional designers must create and facilitate instruction that helps accomplish these goals.
  3. Good instructional design allows users to experience and interact with the content.
    • It’s okay to learn by doing and learn by making mistakes.

    Instructional Designers don many hats, including that of producer, coordinator, and facilitator. Read more about these roles here.

Producer, Coordinator, Facilitator: the Instructional Designer

Driving home after a long and worthwhile week at work I was meditating on why I love being an Instructional Designer. I decided to share the reasons in a short article:

Instructional Designers Produce– We create instructional materials. We make videos, we make guides, we produce training sessions and workshops. We bring content and learning materials to the audience as their needs require. If we don’t have the skills to do these things ourselves, we work with very skilled people to accomplish our design goals.

Instructional Designers Coordinate– We connect people with the right content. We might not know everything, but we work with Subject Matter Experts and work hard at finding information that is needed to make instruction successful. Connecting people to their needs is exciting!

Instructional Designers Facilitate– We share ideas and instruction to make things easier for our learners. We facilitate learning so our audience can do their work better.

learningAdults need to know why they need to learn something and how it benefits them. Making this transparent is the start to good Instructional Design.

Learning should be about connecting to the content and then sharing your knowledge and interests with others.

Adults learners need to interact with the content, demonstrate their use of the content, and share the content with others to help retain the learning.  Designing instruction for hands-on practice and collaboration makes for intriguing and exciting training.

%d bloggers like this: