I recently stumbled across a blog post about the 7 habits of highly ineffective developers and couldn’t help but see direct connections to the challenges people encounter when thinking about using educational technology. Like developers, instructors (and instructional designers) face all types of challenges. Understating yourself and being aware of these challenges can help make the most of your time, energy, and resources—as well as lead to better results.
In fall 2017, DePaul upgraded our installation of our learning management system, D2L, to the “Daylight” interface. One of the primary reasons D2L underwent this design overhaul of the entire system was to implement a principal called “Responsive Design.”
Responsive Design is a method of web design whereby developers build one version of a website that is designed to adapt and scale to whatever device it is accessed from. This is in contrast to the early days of smartphones, when developers would create a separate “mobile” site, which you would be redirected to if you were accessing it from a smartphone or tablet. Instead, there is only one version of the site, but the elements move, resize, and adapt depending on the size of the screen the site is viewed from.
I dropped my oldest son off at college in August. Man, that was a tough goodbye. So many unknowns and questions, like, will he survive? Of course he will. However, one area that I probably overcompensated for in high school was reminding him (fairly often) to talk to his teachers, go to the writing and math centers—basically utilize all the academic resources possible. Did he? Not really, unless he was desperately trying to climb out of a hole.
So, would this continue in college? It couldn’t. If it did—well, he might end up back at home.
Recently I had the opportunity to network with a lot of online faculty and instructional designers at the Distance Teaching & Learning Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. When I informed many of them that I was a certified QM reviewer, they instantly became intrigued. A couple of instructors even asked if I thought the program was beneficial and worth investing the time and money into.
Whenever I develop a course or complete a major revision for a course at DePaul, I use the Quality Matters rubric to evaluate the work I have done. As a result, some of those subject matter experts have become intrigued about Quality Matters as well. By the end of this blog, you will be able to determine if Quality Matters is a program that best suits the needs of the people in your workplace.
Go to any online learning conference and you’re sure to hear concern about universities being sued for web accessibility issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Making your course site accessible can feel overwhelming, but let’s take a look at a few ways you can make some progress.
Over the years, I’ve often heard faculty bemoan the lack of student interest in their syllabi. Students seem to ignore or easily forget key information presented in the syllabus, and many faculty feel obligated to treat the document like a contract, which only exacerbates the lack of student engagement. While many instructors have offered up helpful tips and examples online, it can be daunting to take on a syllabus makeover in isolation.
Teaching—when you think about it—is a process of manipulation.
Dr. Tom Angelo made this point when he was wrapping up his keynote presentation at the DePaul Faculty Teaching and Learning Conference in May 2017. Since then the idea of “teaching by manipulating” kept popping up in my mind like a little bud seeking its opportunity to break through the ground.
It seems to me the best place to sow the seed of manipulation is my home. As I once heard a conference speaker joke, “Do you know why psychologists have kids? No IRB!”
IRB stands for Institutional Review Board, a committee that reviews and approves (or disapproves) studies that use human subjects. It is a hoop that researchers must jump through—well, unless they are dealing with the human subjects that they’ve produced themselves.
At FITS, we have a number of strategies that we like to recommend to help keep students organized and on task:
- Use the “Completion Tracking” feature in the D2L Content tool so students can check off items as they complete them.
- Set due dates that will be pushed to the calendar tool and encourage students to subscribe to their calendar so that it syncs to whatever personal calendar they use.
- Use use the News tool to send updates and, again, encourage students to subscribe so they get updates via email.
But there’s a danger in all these strategies. If you don’t fully commit to them they can backfire spectacularly, and rather than help keep students on task, only create confusion about what they’re supposed to do.
Do instructional designers secretly serve as change agents in higher education institutions? Change is a faint tremor that rarely erupts to alter the academic structure cemented in tradition and intricate policies. However, instructional designers have a unique role that gives them access to the three primary stakeholders at a university: faculty, administration, and students. Acting in a supportive, non-threatening role, instructional designers have the opportunity to create change without having to move the weighty levers of the academic machine. Taking a look at the five characteristics of change agents identified by George Couros, author of Innovative Mindset, provides a better understanding of why instructional designers may be the secret change agents in higher education institutions.
During a recent research jaunt to update some FITS resources on online learning, I stumbled across an article about the value of including the instructor’s face in course videos. If you don’t have time for the entire piece, here’s my TL;DR:
Faculty often ask me “if it matters” to include their faces within course videos. My standard response is that they should try it in the introductory video. Start the video with your face on the screen, either in full-frame glory or in a small square in the corner (depending on the software you’re using), and then transition to the other typical intro video elements, like a tour of the course or syllabus. That way, you only have to think about being “on camera” for a minute or two.
But what faculty are really asking is this: does including my face in videos either (1) make students feel more engaged with the course materials, or (2) actually result in better learning?