Teaching with Technology

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    One Approach to Getting an Online Course Up and Running
    blog entry posted September 27, 2010 by Richard E Lillie, last edited February 10, 2012, tagged teaching 
    1836 Views, 2 Comments
    One Approach to Getting an Online Course Up and Running
    intro text:

    Each term, I teach a course for UCLA Extension.  The course is presented in a fully online format.  The course is the third course in the Intermediate Accounting sequence (i.e., the last eight chapters in the Kieso, Weygandt, Warfield, 13th Edition textbook).

    Students are located around the world.  This presents several interesting instructional design challenges.

    1. How do I make a personal connection with students in an online course?
    2. How do I set a positive tone for the class?
    3. How do I get students up and running with the course and course technology?
    4. How might I do this using asynchronous methods and techniques?


    I use the welcome announcement as my starting point.  The welcome announcement is usually the first thing a student notices when logging into the learning management system.  UCLA Extension uses Blackboard.

    I combine text and video to create a welcome announcement.  Below is a screenshot of the welcome announcement.  Below that is an embedded YouTube video player.  Click the start icon (>) to view my welcome announcement for Fall Quarter 2010.

    The welcome announcement screen includes an opening paragraph, an embedded YouTube video commentary, a link to the introductory script for students who have special needs, and a link to four short video tutorial programs that demonstrate how to work with course features, the syllabus, and online, interactive class assignments schedule.

    text 2:


    I use YouTube to record and host the video message.  YouTube now offers an "unlisted" option whereby an uploaded video is not available to the public on YouTube's website.  Nor is the video accessible through web search.  This is a practical way to keep course materials private.

    With the "unlisted" option, a video recording is private without limiting the number of people that the video may be shared with.  This is a great new feature offered by YouTube earlier this year.

    I use a Logitech C600 webcam to record the video announcement.  Logitech's software records excellent audio and video and makes uploading the video file to YouTube as simple as clicking the "YouTube Upload" button on the Logitech interface.

    Once YouTube processes a video file, it gives you both a URL link to the video and HTML code that can be used to embed the YouTube "Flash" player into a web page.

    The Blackboard announcement screen is in essence a web page.  The HTML code generated by YouTube includes everything needed to make the YouTube player display in the announcement screen and play the video when the start icon (>) is clicked.  Embedding the YouTube video into the announcement screen is basically a copy/paste/save action.


    My course design includes several technology features.  Before students get started with the course, I need to make sure they know what they are getting into.  To help solve this problem, UCLA Extension includes a link in the online course description that is part of the online enrollment system.  The link goes to an information web page that describes how my course works and technology tools needed to participate in the course.

    The "plan" is for a prospective student to review the information web page and decide whether the course fits with his(her) learning preferences.  If the course is a "fit," a student should enroll.  If the course is "not a good fit,' presumably a student would not enroll and seek a different section that better fits his(her) learning needs.

    You're probably laughing by now at my assumption that a student would review the information web page "before" enrolling in the course.  Honestly, most students do review the information web page and enroll in the course with "open eyes."  Unfortunately, there are "the few" who do not do "follow the plan," and get a real surprise when they view my welcome announcement.

    To resolve this problem, the welcome announcement begins with a caveat statement where I talk about the course and encourage students to make sure the course is a good fit for them.  I do not like starting my welcome comments with this kind of an opening, but it works!


    My first objective is to make personal connection with class members.  To do this, I keep the text informal.  The video commentary is the primary means of communication.  I want students to see and hear me.  Video creates presence in the teaching-learning experience.

    My second objective is to set a positive tone for the overall course.  I get the "tough stuff" out of the way right up front in the video message.  Everything else builds excitement and expectations for the overall course.

    My third objective is to get students up and running with the course and course technology.  During the commentary, I tell students about course tutorials that will show them how to work with course features.  The welcome announcement screen includes a link to the "Using Course Features" page within Blackboard.  The page includes links to four video tutorial programs that

    1. Provide a walk-through demonstration of how to work with the Blackboard course page.
    2. Explain the course syllabus.
    3. Demonstrate how to use features of the interactive Class Assignments Schedule.
    4. Explain how to use Discussion Board forums.

    My fourth objective is to accomplish the first three objectives through use of asynchronous methods and techniques.  I do this by creating video programs that can be archived and accessed when needed via the internet.

    Below is the introductory welcome video message for my X120C course for Fall Quarter 2010.  Click the start icon (>) to view the message.

    video 2:

    Flash Content requires JavaScript to be enabled and the Flash player to be installed.
    Get Adobe Flash player



    For me, technology is a means, not an end.  I do not fall in love with a technology tool and limit what I do to the features of the technology tool.  Rather, I focus on the teaching-learning experience that I want to create.  Once I can see how the experience should work, I search for appropriate resources to help me create the experience.

    I want to create a warm, fun, challenging teaching-learning experience that works in face-to-face, blended, or fully online formats.  The desired experience drives my instructional design.  Technology helps me get there.


    If you have questions or comments about the "Welcome Announcement" technique described in this post, please post a reply comment.  If you would like me to contact you, please include your email address.  This will get things started.

    Rick Lillie (CalState, San Bernardino)

    Dr. Lillie Logo



    • Robert E Jensen

      Course Management Systems/Learning Management Systems (CMS/LMS) ---

      From the 2011 EDUCAUSE Annual Meetings
      "Educause Video Archive; Why You Hate Your CMS," by  Josh Keller, Chronicle of Higher Education, October 21, 2011 ---

      Educause Archive: Higher ed’s biggest tech conference is over, but Educause has posted a video archive of selected sessions. For those who missed them, be sure to check out Danah Boyd’s presentation on students and online privacy, a Pew presentation on trends in mobile learning, and The Chronicle’s panel on the challenges of the unbundled university.

      Mobile Growth: Mary Meeker, a former Morgan Stanley analyst who is one of the most perceptive thinkers on the future of technology, made her annual presentation on how the Internet is changing on Tuesday (slidesvideo). The presentation emphasizes the rapid growth of mobile devices and global Internet usage.

      The Hated CMS: Content-management systems, which typically help people organizations their Web sites, are typically among the least liked pieces of software. Among other faults, they age poorly, says Michael Fienen at .eduGuru. Mr. Fienen offers some advice for colleges to choose a CMS more intelligently and for CMS vendors to serve as better members of the higher-ed community.

      What was the first computer-based CMS/LMS system?

      It went "hoot."

      In the early days of CMS/LMS software there was no Internet available to the general public. The earliest commercial CMS/LMS software came in boxes of floppy disks. The earliest software was developed with funding for the U.S. military training. It later became available to the public in computer stores. Colleges, however, were long delayed in adopting this software in computing centers. Professors like me of course were experimenting on our own. In the early years I used DOS-based HyperGraphics CMS and later Windows-based Toolbook CMS.

      The history of CMS/LMS systems can be investigated at the following two links:

      By being an early adopter, I was invited to hundreds of campuses to demonstrate CMS software ---
      Now I'm a has-been with tons of old floppy disks and old CDs!

    • Robert E Jensen

      "Popular Pearson Tutoring Programs Revamp by Offering ‘Adaptive Learning’," by Josh Fischman, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 1, 2011 ---

      MyLabs and Mastering, tutoring software packages from Pearson Education that are used in hundreds of college courses, are getting their guts ripped out and replaced.

      The company announced today that it was replacing its own software with new adaptive-learning programs that adjust the course to the student. The new software, from a company called Knewton, has interactive tutors that lead students through mastery of each skill, giving short quizzes and offering additional help, such as explanatory text or videos, tailored to each student’s needs. In large classes, students get such help—or can skip concepts they know well—without asking the instructor to intervene. And instructors get constant feedback on how particular students are doing compared to the rest of the class, or even similar classes at other institutions.

      Pearson provides the content, and Knewton’s program will control how it is delivered. (Instructors have the ability to set their own priorities and add their own material.) The two companies plan to begin beta testing this fall and to have programs ready for the fall semester of 2012.

      Instructors greeted the news with a mix of enthusiasm and concern that changes would harm a product that they already like. “I’ve been very pleased with MyWritingLab,” said David A. Webster, coordinator of development education at Marion Technical College, in Ohio. “I hope they don’t break it!”

      He teaches a course called “Preparation for College Writing” and says his students do much better after working with the software. But he also said that Knewton’s ability to customize help choices sounded like a real improvement over the existing product.

      Gary S. Buckley, a professor of physical sciences at Cameron University, in Oklahoma, uses Pearson’s Mastering Chemistry and Mastering Physics in introductory courses, and said that “now the software doesn’t really pay attention to the individual student. Everyone gets the same problems. So this sounds like a good change.”

      Continued in article

      Learning Management System (LMS) ---

      "Freeing the LMS," by Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed, October 13, 2011 ---

      Last year, the media conglomerate Pearson controlled a shade over 1 percent of the market for learning management systems (LMS) among traditional colleges, according to the Campus Computing Project.

      This year, Pearson is taking aim at the other 99 percent.

      In a move that could shake the e-learning industry, the company today unveiled a new learning management system that colleges will be able to use for free, without having to pay any of the licensing or maintenance costs normally associated with the technology.

      Pearson’s new platform, called OpenClass, is only in beta phase; the company does not expect to take over the LMS market overnight. But by moving to turn the learning management platform into a free commodity — like campus e-mail has become for many institutions — Pearson is striking at the foundation of an industry that currently bills colleges for hundreds of millions per year.

      “I think that the announcement really marks another, and important, nail in the coffin of the proprietary last-generation learning management system,” says Lev Gonick, CIO of Case Western Reserve University.

      By providing complimentary customer support and cloud-based hosting, OpenClass purports to underprice even the nominally free open-source platforms that recently have been gaining ground in the LMS market. Hundreds of colleges have defected from Blackboard -- whose full-service, proprietary platform has ruled the market for more than a decade -- in favor of open-source alternatives that cost nothing to license. But while the source code for these systems is free, colleges have had to pay developers to modify the code and keep the system stable.

      OpenClass can be used “absolutely for free,” says Adrian Sannier, senior vice president of product at Pearson. “No licensing costs, no costs for maintenance, and no costs for hosting. So this is a free r offer than Moodle is. It’s a freer offer than any other in the space.”

      Outflanking the Market

      Pearson, which sells a variety of higher-education products and services, including textbooks, e-tutoring software and online courseware, has had success selling its own proprietary learning management system, LearningStudio (formerly known as eCollege), to for-profit colleges. But the company has made fewer inroads with the much larger nonprofit sector. With OpenClass, Sannier says Pearson is taking aim at “traditional institutions around the country where professors are the ones making the decisions about what’s happening in their classrooms” — a demographic that has long been Blackboard’s stronghold.

      “Our intention is to serve every corner of that instructor-choice marketplace,” says Sannier.

      Pearson says it is taking a strategic cue from Google, which offers its cloud-based e-mail and applications suite to colleges for free in an effort to secure “mind share” among the students and professors who use it. Like Google with its Apps for Education — with which Pearson has partnered for its beta launch — the media conglomerate is hoping to use OpenClass as a loss leader that points students and professors toward those products that the company’s higher ed division sees as the future of its bottom line: e-textbooks, e-tutoring software, and other “digital content” products.

      Continued in article

      Bob Jensen's threads on the history of Learning Management Systems (also called Course Management Systems) ---