Posts from the ‘Instructional Design’ category

I did it! I just turned in my last assignment for my Masters degree. What an amazing experience it has been. I am feeling such a deep sense of accomplishment. The last two years have been a whirlwind of deadlines and projects. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to go back to school, to make so many new wonderful friends, and to have grown so much professionally and personally. Now onto the graduation ceremony!

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A great way to assess learning, when you can’t perform a formal assessment, is to demonstrate learner improvement via a pre- and post- Likert Scale strategy. You just take the objectives of the course, and have the student self-report their own knowledge in a quick survey. It takes very little time to design (since it’s based off of the course objectives), very little time to participate in (3-7 questions with no wrong answers), and if you have the student fill it out in class, you will have 100% participation.


Ideally, you would be able to perform a formal assessment of the learner’s knowledge. When you are unable to, at the very least you should perform a Likert pre- and post- assessment to demonstrate to the learner their personal development.

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I recently had a conversation with a huge corporation about their needs assessment and course development process. I was happily surprised to hear that they perform a formal needs assessment which includes onsite assessment, and a focus group process. I’ve spent the last few weeks pondering why that came as a surprise to me. It’s such an important part of the instructional design process, and is one that I’ve been taught should be the basis for all course development efforts.

I realize we are often given very little time to do our work, but the power behind the feedback you can get from a focus group is just that…it’s powerful. In addition to critiquing several courses, I’ve had the pleasure to facilitate a couple of focus groups now: one especially comes to mind. We had been giving the same basic course for years, and just as a checkin, we decided to hold a quick focus group after the last day. We asked for volunteers, and had three students offer to stay a bit later the last day, bribing them with pastries.

Overview of Our Questions for the Group

  • What was their overall view of the course?
  • Was it of value to them?
  • How did they feel about the instructor’s teaching style?
  • What activity had the most impact?
  • Would they remove an activity?
  • Did they find anything lacking, or glossed over?
  • How could we add to the course to make it more meaningful?

The suggestions we walked away with helped to support the learners in that recent class, as well as future students. The number one thing the participants were asking for was procedural knowledge; enabling them to act and do things, or perform tasks. The general leadership course was too high level, and not detailed enough on actual steps for how to perform in their new roles. The result was we developed a new course on performance management for the new leaders to take in conjunction with the more general course.

We all know that post-course surveys are very seldom filled out. That’s one of the things that was so great about doing the in-person focus group right after class. The course was fresh in their minds, and was on a volunteer basis. We actually had more people participate in that focus group than we were getting via the online likert scales.


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This term I’m taking a class on Facilitating Live Events. We’ve been asked to discuss CARP (Contrast, Alignment, Repetition and Proximity) in its relation to presentation design.

Contrast: This can take many forms. Whether it’s contrasting color, size, shade, or even font choice, you want a good deal of contrast in your layouts.

Alignment: You can bring focus to an element by changing it’s alignment, or naturally guide the viewer’s attention by keeping a nice alignment to your slide. I always design on a grid layout with columns.

Repetition: I actually prefer the word consistency here. There should be one style for headlines, and a complimentary readable body font treatment. There should be a consistent layout to your slides, rather than each looking like their own presentation.

Proximity: This is grouping things that belong together, and keeping the illustration or diagram with the topic.

While I employ all of these approaches in my layouts, I think that proximity is probably the most important aspect in presentations. It is really difficult to understand the point, when the supporting graphics do not appear with the lesson. Think back to any school book you read in K12. Did you have to search for a diagram or chart? That disruption to the learning is tiresome, and you’ve lost your audience if you employ that method. Most learners don’t appreciate having to search for the information.

Initially I had searched for a good and bad example to illustrate a bad PowerPoint screen. Ultimately I decided to create my own.

Here is a very, very, very bad design example. If you’re talented enough to read any of it, then you’ll likely have a giggle:

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 9.37.45 AM

And here would be a much better solution:

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 10.05.47 AM

I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of “Death by Powerpoint” by now. If you aren’t, check out this funny video:


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I am an avid consumer of online educational materials, and one of the common delivery methods is a webinar. This (my last) term in my graduate program, we are learning about how to design and facilitate live online events, and about what makes certain webinars great, while others fall short. I decided to perform my review of a webinar that was presented by a well-known eLearning professional, whom I very much respect and admire.

The theme of this webinar was the creation of infographics. Here are the major topics that were to be addressed:

  • How visual perception should influence the type of information graphic you choose
  • How to match the graphic type with the learning goal
  • A design process for creating information graphics
  • Where to find resources for designing information graphics

One of the downfalls of a webinar, is that it is difficult to get the audience’s attention. Often people will be checking their email, speaking with their coworkers, grabbing a cup of coffee, etc. Their are a few common methods for engaging the audience throughout the presentation: using polls, knowledge checks, breakout rooms, pre- and post-tests, encouraging chat functions, etc. This webinar included the following active learning strategies:

  • Active chat participation and hand raising encouraged, agree/disagree
  • Polls were used twice (which I have not yet found to be of value in webinars)
  • Encouraged once to respond to a question in chat
  • Encouraged once to take notes on similarities between 3 historical infographics

Your audience’s time is a precious thing, and so your presentation should be of value to their personal or professional development. In addition to including handouts at the end of your presentation, the webinar should include actionable methods. In this case, the speaker gave the following advice on designing infographics:

  • Use a curved arrow to show motion/action.
  • Use reading order, apply consistent style/shape/color/weight
  • Show magnified parts in a circle or square next to the main illustration
  • Use photos to chunk/break down/deconstruct each move (as in gymnastics) to display the steps
  • Color code the information, add a wheel graphic around to point out the main image (example was effects of smoking on the body with callouts on a wheel around an anatomical illustration)
  • Show structure (org chart) as in a family tree
  • Show flow: Yes, No, follow the path as in a flowchart
  • Start with sketching, paper and pencil

Since a webinar is an audio/visual presentation, it’s important to apply solid graphic design methods (such as CARP), as well as having clear audio. Here are my notes on the audio/visual layout:

  • The mic was way too close to the mouse. Lots of taps and squeaks. The speaker should have used a mouse pad to soften the sound of its movements.
  • This is the first webinar that I’ve had to lower the volume, so that tells me the levels were really good/loud enough for people like me.
  • They started off with a template for the PowerPoint, but then abandoned it.
  • The font treatment seemed to be within one sans serif font, but changed quite a bit in weight (all the way from thin to extra bold, and italics)
  • There didn’t seem to be a consistency in the graphic treatment (which is kinda ironic, since it’s about infographics). There could have been a color scheme at the very least, or a grid layout so that elements are organized similarly in each slide.
  • The info was easy to read, most of the issues I noticed were CARP related

Here are the aspects that I felt worked well, and would like to employ in my own webinar design and facilitation:

  • The speaker had an enthusiastic tone of voice, and was familiar with the slides.
  • They kept tabs on the chat topics and reached out several times to address comments made there.
  • I liked that there was 15 minutes of intro music and slides for early arrivals (such as myself). They also started off with a chat, asking people to share where they were from. 
  • A facilitator assisted the presenter. I wonder what their planning process is to ensure that it goes smoothly.

Here are my thoughts on what could have been improved:

  • I feel as though the description for the presentation wasn’t very accurate. I ended up critiquing the webinar, since I wasn’t learning anything new. If I’m going to plan to take an hour of my workday to attend an event, I want it to be valuable for my professional growth. I think that in this case, it was a victim of marketing. They likely wanted as many people as possible to attend, and so built up a good deal of hype about it. I longed for more actionable lessons on building infographics, rather than a very general overview of what an infographic is.
  • Some of the intro slides had a huge amount of material on them, and were only on the screen for 4 seconds. They did cycle through them though, so you had the chance to review them again. It seemed a little tacky that the only ones that were up on the screen for a readable amount of time were promotional in nature. Whereas the technical advice on how to participate and check your internet speed cycled through very quickly.
  • There were many slides that were not 508/WC3 Accessible for learners with disabilities, and they wouldn’t address any of the many comments on that. The presenter had lots of suggestions for use of color specific treatments (bad for color blind), blinking/flashing graphics (bad for seizures), and no support for the non-sighted such as descriptive text, or how to translate infographics for those with disabilities.
  • The last several webinars I’ve attended have been a bit on the boring side (especially the one on creating learning engagement), and have seemed like self-promotion rather than educational. As much as I love attending webinars, it seems as though solid education is the exception, rather than the rule.
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Although I have worked on many teams throughout my life, I have never received any formal training/education on how to be a strong team leader, or member for that matter. As an extroverted, organized, and ambitious person, I have naturally fallen into a leadership role multiple times. I have been a project manager many times but have not been a manager of people directly reporting to me yet. One of my personal and professional development goals is to become a stronger leader: one that is persuasive, inclusive and motivating to others.

The following links are resources that I’ve found useful in my leadership journey. Rather than an abbreviated list, I’ve chosen to provide notes for each entry on why I chose the link, and what especially resonated with me.


Websites/Online Articles

  • 6 Steps to Build a Strong Team, Cynthia Johnson, Easy steps for prioritizing team values. I enjoyed her suggestion that you get to know your teammates. The best jobs I’ve ever had were those that I became friends with my team members. We spend so much time together (more than with our actual family) that it’s a shame when people don’t want to take the time to get to know each other at work.
  • Building A Strong Team: The Secrets Of A Successful Leader by Taunya Williams, “As a leader, do you exhibit competence? Are you kind? Do you exemplify work-life balance? The behaviors leaders portray directly affect employee behavior. If a leader doesn’t have a life outside of the office, it suggests their employees shouldn’t either. If a leader is incompetent, insincere or leads by fear, employees will check out immediately. Kindness is a lost art in corporate America.”
  • 6 Ways Successful Teams Are Built To Last by Glenn Llopis, I like the sections on knowing your own management style, and being clear with the goals and responsibilities.
  • Leadership by Persuasion – Four Steps to Success, This article seems like an overview of Resonate by Nancy Duarte (love that book).


  • Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge Part 1. Notes: Find your domain, what you are in charge of, and make it as great as possible. That demonstrates ownership, and will show managers you can handle being in charge. Leading yourself is your first major challenge. Don’t wait for the perfect situation/manager/opportunity. Set your own goals for yourself, and bring a high level of positive energy to work. It’s important to be honest with yourself: why don’t I want to go to that meeting? Why do I feel the way I do? Nothing proves to management your ability to lead more than leading yourself well.
  • Coaching for Leaders Podcast by Dave Stachowiak. Since discovering this resource, I’ve been consuming as many of their podcasts as I have time for. One that was especially applicable was Episode 334: How to Be a Happier Person. They discuss the major problems with the concept of retirement, how to find your “Ikigai” or purpose in life, the concept of embracing a positive demotion as you age and reducing that stigma. The guest suggests that our brains are programmed for three things: 1) look for problem, 2) find problem, 3) solve problem. Rather than making happiness the end goal, make it the starting place.


  • Leadership and Managements Skills for Non-managers & Aspiring Leaders. I took this 3-day course in May of 2017 at DOIU. It’s geared towards training federal employees who are interested in one day becoming a supervisor. One of the most interesting group projects was to build a sculpture out of Lego’s, and then design an instruction sheet for your partner to recreate the shape. It highlighted the value of providing clear instruction. My solution included a contents list with drawings of each Lego’s shape and color, a numbered list of how to assemble, and a completed sketch of the end product with callouts to each Lego on it. There was a very short section devoted to typing your conflict approach. I was evenly spread among all 4 types, so it was inconclusive. One positive suggestion was that if you can address both needs/wants and fears/concerns in an employee, then you can have greater influence on their behavior.
    • The following image is a graphic representation of the notes I made from the Influencing section of the course.

aspects of influence

Personality Tests

Personality tests are a heated topic these days. In fact, I was just listening to NPR’s The Hidden Brain, and there was an episode discussing their merits and downfalls. Unfortunately, some people have been discriminated at work due to the outcome of tests such as these. They have missed out on opportunities because, “that’s just not your personality” reactions to assigning work. I do find value in introspection though, and suggest their use as a personal development tool. For example, the Myers Briggs test (MBTI) is one that describes me very well. The other two popular tests listed below were inconclusive when I took them.

  • The Myers Briggs Personality Type. I know there are a lot of folks out there that don’t buy into this (or personality tests in general), but this one resonates with me. I love the book Please Understand Me II. If you don’t have any familiarity with Myers Briggs, and are just curious, there are a lot of free sites out there to choose from. 16 Personalities, Psych Central, etc. I’m very much an ENFJ. But it’s not always conclusive for others.
  • One that was recently suggested to me was the 4 leadership personalities. There’s a link there to the Insights Discovery website, where you can take a test. Interestingly, it’s also based on Carl Jung’s theory. I didn’t pay for the full test, but the quick freebie says I’m a “Motivator.” I don’t take much stock in the free test though, since I was drawn to all of the 4 choices.
  • DISC personality test. My husband is fond of this approach, as the MBTI didn’t type him. I struggled with this test, as many of the choices were difficult to make. I scored high on Dominance and Influence.


Much of my findings revolved around the power of being positive and mindful. I had expected to learn a plethora of specific approaches to “rally the troops,” but instead there were many more suggestions on not only modeling the kind of behavior that you want your team to display, but also extending empathy, recognition, and trust as a powerful motivational tool. One of the quotes that most resonated with me is the opening quote for the Coaching for Leaders Podcast, “Great leaders are not born, they are made.” Having had quite a bit of leadership and teamwork practice on a wide variety of projects, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and about the power of great teamwork. I’m looking forward to one day becoming a manager/team leader in an organization with direct reports.

Resources Recap

Bolton, R. (1979). People skills: How to assert yourself, listen to others, and resolve conflicts. Simon & Schuster, New York, New York.

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Penguin Random House, New York, New York.

Duarte, N. (2010). Resonate: Present visual stories that transform audiences. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.

Katzenbach, J. R., & Smith, D. K. (1993). The wisdom of teams: Creating the high-performance organization. Boston, Mass. Harvard Business School Press.

Kiewra, K. (2012). Idea Paper #51: Using graphic organizers to improve teaching and learning., Manhattan, KS. Retrieved from:

Keirsey, D. (1998). Please understand me II: Temperament, character, intelligence. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis.

Komisar, R. (2001). The monk and the riddle: The art of creating a life while making a living. Randy Komisar, US.

Lombardo, M. M, & Eichinger, R. W. (2009). FYI: For your improvement : a guide for development and coaching. 5th ed. Minneapolis, MN: Lominger Ltd.

Stachowiak, D. (2018). Coaching for Leaders Podcast: Episode 334: How to be a happier person. Retrieved from:

Stanley, A. (2017) Leadership Podcast: How to lead when you’re not in charge, Part 1. Retrieved from:


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Reading Capture 1: Effectiveness and student perceptions of high-enrolment health studies online courses


In order to address cost concerns from students, Boise State developed high enrollment online courses, in addition to their existing online courses. Their goal was to maintain a high level of learner engagement, address the realities of competition from other educational institutions and reduced State funding, and to reduce bottlenecking of student enrollment. It was a mixed-method study of 3 high enrollment online health studies classes.


When I first began reading this study, I thought the tone was one of maximizing the school’s profit. But as I read on, it was more about trying to deal with their explosive growth, and ensure that their students wouldn’t have their graduation delayed because they couldn’t enroll in a required course due to high enrollment.

Another strength was how thorough the college acted in rolling out the approach. The teachers of the courses and their TAs designed the courses, they partnered with experts at Blackboard to troubleshoot technical issues, each course was thoroughly reviewed by instructional design experts, and then reviewed again by instructors at the school before it was offered to students.  


The course discussion, quizzes and study guides were designed to be self-graded. I wondered how the students could consider that engaging. I also think there is a good reason why the students thought the online course was better described: that as an online student you can go back and review materials as many times as you like, whereas ILT course understanding depends on initial comprehension and notes. As a student that strives to get A’s, I found it interesting that more students got A’s and less received B’s than usual. They explained this by addressing how online learning requires a higher level of participation and attention/study habits. Overall the online students reported spending less time in class online than suggested in the syllabus. That was also of interest to me, as I usually spend twice the recommended time in online courses. The biggest limitation, by far, was that the data was collected after the fact, not during.

Best Uses

I really loved that the courses were standardized in their layouts. Each course included a weekly summary of readings, quizzes, and learning materials. That’s been one of the issues I’ve had with our program, is the lack of consistency in course outline and expectations. It frustrates the learner when they have to spend (often) precious time searching for due dates and parameters.

Chen, K., Lowenthal, P. R., & Bauer, C. (2016). Effectiveness and student perceptions of high-enrolment health studies online courses. Health Education Journal, 75(3), 343-357. 10.1177/0017896915581060

Reading Capture 2:  An exploratory study of adult learners’ perceptions of online learning: Minority students in continuing education


The study was of 167 minority students in 6 different online undergraduate classes. The overall findings were, “learner–content interaction and learner–instructor interaction were significant predictors for student satisfaction in online settings in which group activities were not provided.” Providing interaction with the content, other students,  and with the instructor seems to boost the perceived value of the course, and the learner outcome (ie. grade).


I haven’t found many reports on minority student studies for online learning, so I consider that to be a strength: that they approach a little-covered topic.  


I found myself wondering about the learner-instructor interaction in this study. They emphasized the importance of that relationship for motivation and comprehension. I wanted them to quantify how much interaction was given in the online course vs. a comparable instructor-led course. There were many classes in my undergraduate program that provided very little interaction with the instructor. In contrast, I’ve actually had more interaction in this online graduate program.

Best Uses

This study argued that the two most important factors for positive student perception, and therefore learner success, were the learner-content and learner-instructor interactions, rather than learner-learner. With solid instructional design theory applied the content, rather than specific interactions such as games, the learner will be able to succeed. Equally important was that the instructor had quality and regular interaction with those in the course. Since the majority of the courses I develop are self-paced and asynchronous, I will look for opportunities to humanize the learning. Some of the ways I can do that: provide a video intro, use narration, provide robust feedback to testing and practice testing, to provide help and resource links, and continue to use a conversational tone in the instruction.

Kuo, Y., & Belland, B. R. (2016). An exploratory study of adult learners’ perceptions of online learning: Minority students in continuing education. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64(4), 661-680. 10.1007/s11423-016-9442-9


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Need or Problem

A common, and often accurate, perception of online courses is that they are boring for the learners. Recently, I was interviewing for a position, and at the end of the second hour I was asked, “What would you do in technical courses in order to make them more engaging for the learner?” It was actually the hardest question of the day to answer, as it can depend on the course itself. How I answered was by describing my process of aligning objectives, providing opportunities for practice, creating visually rich GUI’s and downloads. As I was answering, I was really thinking to myself, “But how do you ensure that the learners are engaged and aren’t bored out of their minds?” I haven’t stopped thinking about it, as it really is one of the most crucial questions an eLearning Developer can (and should) ask themselves.

There are many elements that I like to include in the courses that I build. For yearly compliance (such as Ethics) trainings, I prefer to allow the learner test out, rather than suffer through an hour long course. This isn’t always an option though, because most HR departments want legal proof that every employee has viewed each page, and passed the test. Supposing that’s the case, how would you make that course more engaging for the learners? My first inclination would be to suggest the use of professional, current photography; to use realistic scenarios that are specific to the company’s workplace; to provide a ‘choose your path’ style navigation so that the learners could see the repercussions of their choices; and to provide downloadable/printable resources of value for future reference.

Having had some experience with building engaging courses, and many that are less than, I was curious what other methods I would discover to engage my learners.

Search Method

Having viewed the provided video tutorials, I searched the Auraria library for my topic. The search parameters I used were: online learner engagement; then I added adults; then I added asynchronous, 1/1/16-12/31/18, scholarly materials, discipline: education,


  • Lai, K. (2017). Pedagogical practices of NetNZ teachers for supporting online distance learners. Distance Education, 38(3), 321. doi:10.1080/01587919.2017.1371830
    • This article turned out not to be in line with what I was searching for. I added the word ‘adult’ to the search query, since this was for K-12 learners.
  • Covelli, B. J. (2017). Online discussion boards: The practice of building community for adult learners. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 65(2), 139. doi:10.1080/07377363.2017.1274616
    • The author suggests that discussion boards are a key component of online learning. If the instructor fails to consistently support constructivist theory, discussion boards won’t be useful, nor will they be supportive of learning.
  • Smith, S. P. (2017). Adult learners: Effective training methods. Professional Safety, 62(12), 22-25.
    • Emphasis on allowing adult learners to identify their own training needs, completing needs assessments with employees to ensure alignment, choosing proper delivery methods for the training, and assessment. The author states that the learners own experiences are the most important training took, and they must be involved in their own training.
  • Deschaine, M. E., & Whale, D. E. (2017). Increasing student engagement in online educational leadership courses. Journal of Educators Online, 14(1)
    • The test subjects were online graduate program students. The authors encourage teachers to learn the capabilities of their LMS, and to use all available features of it. They also encourage a great deal of interaction with the students where possible. They argue that students with a great deal of interaction are more engaged, and therefore better students.
  • Glenn, C. W. (2018;2016;). Adding the human touch to asynchronous online learning. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 19(4), 381-393. doi:10.1177/1521025116634104
    • This article spoke to long online courses, such as our graduate program. It contained great advice for the teachers here at CU Denver. The author emphasized the importance of a well-designed course, and clear support materials for learner success.
  • Dousay, T. A. (2016). Effects of redundancy and modality on the situational interest of adult learners in multimedia learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64(6), 1251-1271. doi:10.1007/s11423-016-9456-3
    • The audience tested for this research is exactly the one I’m most familiar with: an hour long asynchronous course which is interrupted often, and a wide range of ages (25-65). They found that reading content to learners (narration) makes learners disinterested. Allowing learners to read content themselves stimulated interest, and it’s important to, “use short redundant phrasing when combining narration and text.”
  • Baldwin, S., & Ching, Y. (2017;2016;). Interactive storytelling: Opportunities for online course design. New York: Springer US. doi:10.1007/s11528-016-0136-2
    • The authors suggest providing options for users to explore different paths, and to keep things non-linear. They suggest that using stories combined with interactivity will increase curiosity and enjoyment for the learner. Specifically, to include not just text, but images, audio and video.


I feel as though I just discovered a whole new internet. This is my first course on research, and I didn’t realize how important peer reviewed materials were. I learned several things during my search. The first would be that you need to be pretty specific in what you are looking for, since there is such a massive amount of material to source from. I feel like the range of the 6 papers I downloaded was too wide, and I will need to narrow them a lot more for the final project. I read each of the papers completely, and found it interesting the wide range of tone. I had expected them to be quite stuffy. Perhaps because this is my field of interest, I didn’t struggle with digesting the majority of materials. There was one example that was written very conversationally (as compared to the rest), and another that was extremely technical. The second major thing I noticed was that all of the materials mentioned Constructivism Theory. I will be looking more into that theory with a renewed interest, as it appears to be the most popular approach when it comes to engaging online learners. While I didn’t learn any new methods for making my online courses more engaging (they touched on methods I am familiar with), I did learn a lot about the research process.

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This week, in my Creative Designs for Instruction class, we watched a couple of amazing TED talks. Very few people think that they can draw well. I happen to be in that camp. My family is actually riddled with creative talent, and my family encouraged, recognized and helped develop our individual talents. Most of my childhood, I really loved drawing. I think it was around my Junior year in high school that I decided that I couldn’t. My mother is a very talented artist. She paints, sculpts, draws, woodblock prints, paper crafts, you name it… I remember, even when she colored in coloring books with me, my drawings were never as good as hers. So by comparing myself, I fell short. That’s all perspective. We can all draw, we just have our own styles. In fact, she probably has told me something similar herself. My inner dialogue/critic was just more noisy than her words of encouragement. I encourage you all to watch these two short TED talks, and participate with the speakers. You just need a couple pieces of paper and a pen.

Just for fun, here are the drawings I made:


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This is my poem about loving Colorado storms, but missing the ocean.

Deep blue poem pdf download

Photography, audio, poem and mixing by Christina Moore. 2 soundtracks used for the background:

Thunderstorm: Patty Jewet, Colorado Springs, CO, USA – Front Range Thunderstorm by Sylvia Shale, Published June 10, 2016, Usage Attribution 3.0,

Ocean: Lagos, beach, Atlantic ocean, by Frank Schulte, Published December 1, 2009, Usage Attribution-Share Alike 3.0,

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A Tale of Two Courses

It Was the Best of Instruction; It Was the Worst of Instruction


While sometimes dreaded by instructors, course evaluations are important for a number of reasons: materials become outdated, new organizational objectives are created, historical organizational objectives are updated, and student/organization needs change. Ideally, evaluations would occur at least yearly for each course and instructor, or as needed when major changes occur in an organization.

To read the full paper, click here:

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Have you ever wondered if you had a subconscious hidden bias? One of the topics we discussed in my Master’s class a couple of weeks ago (an ongoing and important discussion to have throughout a lifetime) was that of equity.

One of my fellow students shared this website, where you can anonymously, and at no charge, take quizzes to see how you are biased in your thinking. It was a very eye-opening and enjoyable experience. I highly recommend it to anyone that is curious and has 15 minutes to spare.

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I’ve been working on a term project on how to hit the reset button on your career, and start over fresh. I have collected a bunch of quotes, that I’ve found inspirational over the years, and applied them to some of my photography. Feel free to download them, and use them in your own materials, if they resonate with you. -Cheers!

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A beautiful guided meditation to relieve anxiety. It’s great for all levels, and I found it to be very relaxing. It’s only free this week, so here’s the overview if you find this blog post later:

  • Sit on the ground in a position that’s comfortable to you. I prefer cross legged. Keep your back straight, hands resting on your knees. Keep your eyes closed. 
  • For five minutes, breathe in through your nose for a count of four seconds. Hold for five seconds. Then breathe out through your nose for six seconds. 
  • Focus on your breathing, and the sensations in your body. If your mind starts to wander, lovingly bring your thoughts back to your breathing. 
  • Return to breathing normally. Introducing the mantra: I am safe, I am loved, I am ok. Repeat this mantra, with relaxed breathing for one minute. 
  • Place your right hand over your heart and your left hand over your navel. Repeating your mantra: I am safe, I am loved, I am ok. Do this for two minutes. 
  • Place your hands on the floor. Feel yourself being grounded to the earth. Feel yourself being powerfully anchored to the ground beneath you. Continue this for one minute. 
  • Bring your palms together. Raise your hands, resting the tips of your thumbs on your forehead. Relaxed breathe. Focusing on calm and peace. Continue for one minute. 
  • Keeping your hands up, take three deep breathes, in through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for four seconds, out through the mouth for five seconds. 
  • Lower your hands to your heart, and feel yourself relieved of your anxiety. Namaste. 

#FreeVideoFriday – Meditation to Relieve Anxiety Right Meow — MOJO Yoga –

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We recently watched this TED talk, and were asked to react to it:

It took me a while to formulate my response to this assignment. I had a visceral reaction to it. I wanted to remove Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram from my phone. Then I watched the video, and something that Paul mentioned resonated with me: “Leaving the internet won’t fix your problems, wherever you go, there you are.”

I have noticed that whenever I feel bored, I start surfing my phone. There are so many other things that I could/should be doing. So I guess I’m addicted, in a way, to my phone. I hate being bored. My mom said, “I’m bored mommy” was my first sentence, and my dad swears it’s true. I love the idea of unplugging for a year. If I were to do that, I would want to go to some buddhist temple or something remote like that. I don’t think I could do that and still work.

Here’s the way I use social media, so that it remains a positive experience:

  • I choose not to let social media isolate me from my surroundings, and keep me from enjoying the small details. In fact, I feel closer to my family because they share photos and videos. I get to see my family, almost daily, while they live far from me.
  • It might have the ability to waste precious time and energy, but it can also make you more productive. As Paul says in the video above, he didn’t use his time away from the internet wisely. I think maybe it’s difficult for anyone to fill their days being productive. Your brain needs some down time and relaxation. Not every hour can be filled with something meaningful.
  • I do think that too much emphasis is placed on social acceptance. That’s a personal battle to have though. I like being liked, but my real friends are far more important to me than online acquaintances.
  • I don’t compare my life with my acquaintances. My mother brought me up under a simple rule: “Never try to keep up with the Jonses.” I live within my means, and focus on my own journey.
  • I try not to overshare (this one is tricky, as I tend to be very opinionated).

How about you? What are your thoughts on social media? Has it brought you closer to others, or do you feel it’s purely an addiction?


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Every election I have voted to increase school funding by paying more taxes, and every year I see these emotional pleas for more funding. I don’t have children at home, but have volunteered at the schools, and have donated as well. I thought that one of the benefits of voting to legalize marijuana in Colorado, was to help support the schools. According to CPR, that is not the case. My taxes are crazy high! When I look at my yearly property tax breakdown, and a significant amount of that is going to the school, why is it that the schools are still underfunded? I realize that’s a complicated question to answer. I don’t remember the schools in Oregon ever complaining about needing more money. I do not expect teachers to supply their own classrooms, and I do support good wages for teachers. As fellow educators, what is your opinion on this?


I recently read Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? by Rita Kop and Adrian Hill.

There was a quote in the article that I found interesting, and worthy of exploration:

Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape our thinking.

I totally agree with the quote. I didn’t grow up with much technology. I did take a computer class as an elective in high school, but it was definitely not a robust course. When I was in college, the internet was just taking off. I remember how difficult it was to get online via dial-up modems, and the annoying sounds they made.

I’ve often wondered what the result will be, 20 years from now, since people can just look up information they are wondering about. Everything you want to know is immediately available to you. Just the other day my grandmother was wondering who the first super bowl game teams were, and what year. She was amazed when I looked it up for her, on my phone, while we were talking on the phone. People seem to have no patience for research, as answers are usually immediately available on our phone, and people don’t seem to connect to one another in person as much (in comparison with my youth).

Here are some interesting resources/articles about these issues:

This Ted Talk is amazing to me. Sugata Mitra put a computer into a wall in New Delhi, and the kids not only taught themselves how to use a computer, but also taught other children. Very inspirational talk: (Links to an external site.)

I found this article that reviews what some psychiatrists and scientists think might be happening to “digital natives” (kids who have grown up in the digital age). Diminishing social skills quote: “When the brain spends more time on technology-related tasks and less time exposed to other people, it drifts away from fundamental social skills like reading facial expressions during conversation, Small asserts.” (Links to an external site.)

Here is an article that I found about how our devices are changing our sleep patterns. Insomnia and other issues quote: “Neuroscientists suspect (Links to an external site.) the glowing lights emitted by laptop, tablet and smartphone screens mess with your body’s internal light cues and sleep-inducing hormones. Exposure to bright lights can fool (Links to an external site.) the brain into thinking it’s still daytime, and can potentially have lasting effects on the body’s circadian rhythms (your internal sleep clock). Our eyes are especially sensitive to the blue light emitted by screens. This makes it harder to fall asleep, especially for those who already struggle with insomnia.”

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I attended three of the lectures at TLTS.

  1. Video Games for Student Engagement, Exploration and Learning by Brad Strong. My takeaways from this lecture were as follows:
    • Use games to augment, not replace your teaching
    • Benefits of games: engagement, competition, immersion, control, group-based problem solving, can be mobile, augmented reality, allows learner to apply the learning
    • Choose your “sweet spot” within 3 parameters: Simulation (avatars), Narration (movies), or Ludology (game play) (Tetris)
    • Sliding scale between purely educational and purely entertainment
    • Students improve their test scores and learn more with games
    • Only games can address these issues: Boring becomes exciting, Dangerous becomes safe way to practice such as flight simulators, and Impossible becomes possible such as a Mars exploration
  2. User Experience (UX), Learner Experience (LX) and Usability in the Online Classroom by Baye Herald and Jennifer Panko. My takeaways from this lecture were as follows:
    • UX is measured in part by the ability of a user to achieve their goal
    • There are differences between Users and Learners. Users have independence, they are using a product/service, and have no monetary investment. Learners collaborate and need support and feedback, they are mastering challenging concepts or skills, and have a large investment.
    • LXD Learner Experience Design: A holistic approach that considers the entire learning experience. The learner’s perception of their learning experience is just as important as content, and includes everything before the class, during, and after the class.
    • Attitudes are shifting, but many learners new to online courses tend to devalue their worth. One way to combat this perception is to reach out to the learner before the course starts. Introduce the learner to the course, set realistic expectations on the time commitment required by the student. You need to make your learners feel connected and supported. Try sending out a survey a couple weeks into the course to take the learners pulse.
    • Test your learning site with students: One way to test is TAP or Think Aloud Protocol. Have your student navigate through the site and talk about their experience as they explore. Can they find the links they need? Is the navigation intuitive? How long do they have to search to find the materials they are looking for?
    • Evaluating LX: Your site should have the following traits: Attractiveness, Efficiency, Clarity, Dependability, Stimulation, and Novelty
    • There is a hierarchy of need for your students. Imagine a pyramid shape. Starting at the apex and moving down: Meaningful, Pleasurable, Convenient, Usable, Reliable, Functional. If there is anything wrong with the base of the pyramid, all the top needs fail. You want your learner to only be focused on the top (meaningful and pleasurable).
  3. E Portfolios as a Teaching and Learning Tool by 6 people (didn’t write all their names down).  My takeaways from this lecture were as follows:
    • Online portfolios are important for the following: capture digital evidence of knowledge and competency, archive progress and work, craft personal narratives, reflect and synthesize, demonstrate academic and professional skills, high impact practice, allows learner to focus on what skills they are building rather than their major
    • Try having a partner do an audit of your site, exchange social profiles with partner to see how you appear, are you oversharing for example?
    • ePortfolios forms a personal library or museum of an individual’s evidence of learning, builds their mission statement
    • An interesting way for a student to re-work their “About Me” page, would be to re-organize into three groups: Professional Experience, Educational Experience, and Life Experience
    • Students have a tendency to go further with their projects when they have a portfolio site. The idea of future sharing drives them to go further with each project.

Here is the link for the symposium: They had a very useful app for the event as well.

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