Have you ever had a million and one things to do and so you write reminders to yourself—preferably on sticky notes—so that you won’t forget? Have you ever opened up your emails and wanted to scream because you were being asked to execute so many tasks? Have you ever just decided to step away from a certain situation because the information was so overwhelming and you needed to collect your thoughts?
Well, if you have answered yes to any of these questions, then you will find this post very useful. Continue reading
DePaul’s School for New Learning has an annual initiative called the Month of Writing (MOW) every October. The initiative is loosely based on National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and challenges the school’s students, faculty, and staff to write as many words as possible during the month.
This year I worked with a faculty member developing an online course designed to coincide with the MOW, where one course objective is to complete 25,000 words of a designated writing project by the end of the five week course. The emphasis here is on the writing process—on quantity over quality—to get students over the idea that every piece of writing must be perfect, and just start writing.
This year, I missed shopping for school supplies.
(If you’re a parent, you can stop reading here. I get it. The journey to procure the specific list of items denoted by your child’s teacher seems horrific. A colleague was just telling me about how her child’s school decided to go to a color-coding system, where each student needs to have a specifically colored folder for each subject [orange for Social Studies, blue for Math, etc.], along with other color-coded items. This sounds miserable. This is not the experience I was feeling fun heart flutters about.)
When I was a high-school teacher, shopping for school supplies was the exciting part of back-to-school time; you know, before the panic-inducing part where you have to think about an entire year’s worth of curriculum that you need to plan. School supply shopping was also a space to see what new, unblemished organizational items I could use in my classroom.
In an effort to recapture that feeling, I went to one of the traditional office supply chains to see what new “technologies” they’re peddling (because, of course, even the pencil is technically a technology). My findings:
If you’re like the majority of the world, multitasking is part of your daily routine. From managing personal to professional tasks, keeping it all together in your brain can be a bit overwhelming.
Thankfully, there are a number of tools, from easy to use smartphone apps to more complex software, that exist to help manage it all.
Whether you’re looking for a tool to individually track tasks, or you work with one or more people and need to manage and track a series of tasks, choosing the right process and solution doesn’t have to stressful. The following are some general tips to consider as you broach the subject.
A couple of weeks ago, while traveling with a team of athletes from around the Midwest (all of whom are students at different D2L institutions) I had the opportunity to talk a little with them about what frustrates them with D2L. To be fair, one was my own kid and managing our D2L instance is my job, but it seemed like a good opportunity to get some student feedback.
What was interesting about their responses was that in all but one exception (the one exception being the discussion board) the feedback they gave me had less to do with the Learning Management System itself and more to do with things the instructor does with the system. I thought I would share with you their observations and some best practices. Below are their top three complaints and what you can do to alleviate some of the issues.
In 2008, DePaul adopted QualityMatters (QM) as the quality standard for online and hybrid courses developed through the DePaul Online Teaching Series (DOTS) program. During the past eight years, nearly two hundred courses have been through the QM internal review process at DePaul. Since 2011 when the first instructor was rewarded with a QM star for developing a course that met all of the QM standards, the number of QM star recipients has increased drastically. These days, becoming a QM star has become a common expectation of all faculty participants of DOTS.
As designers, we are pleased by the numbers and the feeling of “getting a hang of QM”; on the other hand, we ask whether this is the place where we want to be – because that pounding question remains loud and sound: Does QM guarantee a successful learning experience for students?
I don’t often write directly to my instructional designer colleagues; usually I try to impart some of the occasional nuggets of wisdom I’ve gained from teaching, research or just plain trial and error to faculty, so they can avoid making the same mistakes I have. This time I’ve found a new way to stay inspired and reduce the burnout that can happen in this line of work, and I’m excited about how it has affected my approach to Instructional Design (ID) that it bears repeating.
Over the past decade or so, we have all witnessed a major change in health care. The medical profession has shifted focus from just treating the symptoms to preventative care—the idea that by changing life and health habits earlier on, it will reduce the amount of symptomatic care required for patients later in life. It does seem to be having a positive effect so far, as hospitals have more time to deal with emergencies, and their doctors and nurses spend less time in consultation over health conditions that are ultimately preventable. Continue reading
“Web design is dead,” declareth Sergio Nouvel of UX Magazine. I’ll admit that this clickbait headline drew me in—if web design is dead, what about instructional design? But, as expected, the “big reveal” of the article wasn’t anything earth shattering: web design may have met its demise, but from its dead cocoon husk emerges a new field, experience design. And in my view, experience design = instructional design for non-teachers, so this is good news to me.
While the grand finale of this article may not seem like much more than a semantic differentiation, I appreciated Nouvel’s thoughtful description of the trajectory web design has taken in the past few years, especially now that we carry computers in our pockets and wear them on our wrists. Users still access websites through their full computer-based browsers, but that’s rapidly shifting, so much so that the venerable New York Times forced its staff to use only their mobile site for a week to emphasize the importance of mobile.
More importantly, Nouvel’s description of the transition from a focus on “the design of individual web pages” to the “design of an ecosystem with a focus on user experience” mirrors what I’ve seen in my job as an instructional designer. Establishing a quality template for content—one that is readable, easy to edit, and designed to look like a high-quality website—takes time. I’ve worked in my college for a few years now, and it’s only in the past 6-8 months that I’ve had a consistent starting point that has worked for most faculty and that’s flexible enough for customization. Continue reading
Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.
In Faculty Instructional Technology Services, we’ve established a recommended timeline of two academic quarters to develop an online or hybrid course, assuming the instructor has a normal course load over that time frame. That’s twenty weeks, give or take. In this time frame, we can help instructors in planning, development, and quality assurance in creating a professional online or hybrid course.
With less time, we can do less.
This quarter, most of our consultants are working on at least a couple build-as-you-go courses, where instructors are still developing course materials while the course is running. I understand why this happens, particularly in the Spring quarter. Instructors are busy people, and it’s hard to find the time to prep for the upcoming quarter, particularly when there are so few breaks in the academic calendar. It also might be a shock to be asked to spend so much time preparing a course they’ve been teaching face-to-face for years and are not accustomed to needing to do a lot of preparation for each offering.
I’ve never seen a course simply not run because the online materials weren’t ready. The course always gets done in the end, because it has to. But that’s not to say that building a course while it’s running isn’t without consequences. Continue reading
Online and hybrid learning are so commonplace nowadays that many students have experience with them even before they leave K-12. However, with the increasing ubiquity of this mode of instruction, there are certain challenges that we encounter along the road to “teaching a good class.” Looking back to the beginnings of online teaching and learning, the greatest fear many faculty had, and some still do, was that it would be flat, not engaging for students, and that students would lose all sense of a faculty member even teaching the course. Since that time, we have come a long way in trying to allay faculty and student fears that an online course will have less quality and be a “gimme” course and will be much easier than a face-to-face course would be. (Well, that last one is an idea we are still trying to discourage.) A brief look at the distance education/online courses of years past will show how we’ve attempted to alleviate the concerns of student engagement and reveal that it’s still a hidden issue that could use some work.
The earliest kind of distance education courses were correspondence courses. Students would get a book to read and a series of tests to take at a testing location. Tests were mailed in and scored, and afterwards a certificate was supplied to the school for the academic credential. I took one of these courses in high school, and I was the teacher and the student, and because I only read the book to prepare for the tests, I can honestly say I learned little or nothing. Continue reading