9 things educators can do to help retain online students

How do Faculty impact retention?

Retaining students means to ensure that students are ultimately successful in achieving their goals and the institution is successful in achieving their mission.  There are many things that will get in the way of student success and as a professor of online courses there are little things that you can do that go a long way.

Educators make a difference through their relationship with the student.  Demonstrating that you care about a student’s success goes a long way!

Here are 9 simple tips to increase the possibility of retaining your students online.

  1. Organize content by topic: Research shows that knowledge retention is enhanced when content is served up in manageable portions.
  2. Encourage Collaboration: Connected students are engaged learners.
  3. Instructor Presence: Try to spend some time with your online course every day. See what’s new with your students, and keep them updated.
  4. Maintain a strict class schedule: To-Do lists with due dates and timelines are effective. Don’t alter your plan.
  5. Develop rapport: Online communications should develop rapport with students and build peer relationships.
  6. Timely feedback: Encourage students to perform at their peak with constructive and timely feedback.
  7. Be available: Encourage students to e-mail you with any questions they have related to the course.
  8. Encourage Self Reflection: Students who are self directed and reflective are more likely to be retained.
  9. Student Peer Mentors: Empower students to facilitate discussions, monitor participation, peer review work, help other students with technical questions.


YOU MUST Create Compelling Instructional Video

Video is EVERYWHERE!  But is it any good?  What videos do you watch and find compelling?  Does production value matter?

Here are a few tips that you need to remember before producing video to add to your online course.

Rules of Thumb:

  1. Script it and Practice it
  2. Keep your video short (3-5 minutes)
  3. Relate the video to a specific instructional activity (assignment or assessment)
  4. Add only Audio or Visual elements that demystify content
  5. Production value matters when students are paying for the class

Create Compelling Instructional Videos

Use video strategically to explain key concepts, set expectations for assignments, tell students exactly what they need to do in your course, and of course to create a sense of instructor presence.

From research and practice we know that images or visual cues explain and amplify text which facilitates the recall of new knowledge and that using images to aid in learning assists with memory making.  Video can aid in motivating learners by bringing the content to life in an online course, it can validate knowledge and even explain or illustrate difficult concepts.

Try new tools to create video:

TouchCast – This tool is not for the novice video creator it is a more advanced tool with really AMAZING functionality.  And, they have taken the time to create a guide for educators.

Explain Everything – Tablet application for explaining everything.  If you own a tablet you simply must try this app.

WeVideo - collaborative video creation tool for laptop or mobile device.  Easy to use.

PowToon – Cartoon-ish animations made easy with drag and drop functionality.  Easy to use.

For more information visit:




4 Social Media Tools to Promote Connected Teaching and Learning

What social media tools should instructors use to engage students outside of the LMS?  Here are 4 simple examples of how to engage students using readily available and mobile friendly tools.


Having students blog about their learning is a great way to chronicle their experiences and reflect on the overall process.  The more students write the better writers they become.  One of my favorite bloggers: Stephen Downes has a blog titled Half an Hour which is how long he spends writing every day.  His recent post chronicles the last 19 years of blogging: http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2014/04/oldaily-over-years.html 

Blogs make thinking visible by allowing students to reflect on the course, lessons, activities and chronicle their experiences and connections to the content, their peers or instructors’ experiences. It is the connections to prior knowledge and to others that aid in the deeper understanding of new information.

Expanding visibility of your learning and thoughts connects learners to a professional Community of Practice.  Learners who are encouraged to share their blog posts with communities of practice may receive feedback from a larger audience than their peers and instructor.  This may aid in reflection or evolution of ideas into actionable items.

This student shares his concerns about blogging and how he overcame his hesitancy and fears about sharing his learning out on the open web.


Twitter is an effective and desirable way to enhance social presence. The researchers state that Twitter allowed students to present themselves as “real people”.  Through Twitter instructors and students are able to collaborate, brainstorm, solve problems, and create experiences.

Benefits of using Twitter:

  •  it helps address student issues in a timely manner; it forces the participants to write concisely.
  • due to Twitter being an open community, it influenced students to be thoughtful and sensitive to their audience.
  • because Twitter consists of a professional community, students were able to discuss and get feedback from textbook authors. s
  • students were given support and resources that facilitated informal learning which they incorporated into their coursework.
  • Twitter broke the bounds of an LMS structure and extended duration time for student- student as well as student-instructor interaction.
  1. The instructor should establish how using Twitter is helpful and relevant to the student.
  2. The instructor must articulate clear student participation expectations.
  3. The instructor should model effective Twitter use and be an active participant.
  4. The instructor should encourage students to use information and resources provided in Twitter interactions into their coursework.
  5. Instructors should continue using twitter after the course is completed to achieve a desirable level of social presence as well as creating future interaction with past students.

Dunlap, J.C. & Lowenthal, P.R. (2009). Tweeting the night away: Using Twitter to enhance social presence. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20 (2).

Google+Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 10.12.40 PM

While there are many ways to use Google+, there are a few worth highlighting:

  1. Circles: Create a community for your degree program so that students can be a part of the community during their time in the program.  A community could also be created for a course.  Many Massive Open Online Courses (like #ETMOOC) have used Google Communities as their “hub” location.
  2. Hangout: Live video streaming service that allows students to connect, instructors to hold synchronous office hours, and even allows for ScreenSharing.  Hangouts on air allow for not only broadcasting live to an open audience but the video can also be archived on YouTube for later viewing.
  3. Google Docs: This service has been around longer and may be more familiar but combine this with google hangouts and now students can collaborate on google docs in real time while talking through the project.
  4. For more ideas see: 31 ways to use Google+ in Higher Education


University Pages – This feature allows potential students and alumni to become connected and remain connected to their institution.

Relevant ePortfolio - Developing your LinkedIn profile will connect students to possible future employers.  This tool becomes a relevant ePortfolio tool.

Learn about Career Options – Exploring LinkedIn can give students insight into possible career options and the skills required to pursue certain career options.

Connect with Mentors and Colleagues – Expanding your connections may lead to job opportunities after graduation.

For more ideas on how to use LinkedIn in Higher Education: http://www.colourmylearning.com/2013/02/how-linkedin-works-for-education/ 


Asynchronous or Synchronous? Which do you prefer?

The battle between synchronous and “A”synchronous communication tools

This poll is closed, but you can see the results of a quick twitter poll on the use of synchronous sessions in online courses here: http://twtpoll.com/brv493cq58em9jx

When I consider my experiences as a student, I much prefer asynchronous communication tools.  This is not because I am an introvert, but rather due to my work schedule.  I work with international higher education faculty.  I teach them how to develop accelerated online courses and train them how to facilitate the teaching and learning process using technology.  Due to timezones, I am online with faculty on the other side of the planet at times when my classes are meeting online.  I have also had terrible experiences with synchronous sessions as an online student.  A terrible synchronous event is worse than a bad asynchronous course.  A student can muscle through the content in a poorly designed asynchronous course by asking questions of the instructor or other students.  But, when students are all forced to be online at the same time or face grading penalties and the experience does not meet expectations (value for their money spent on the course) then the course is better left to asynchronous tools.

It is true that synchronous learning decreases transactional distance if it is done well (Offir, 2008).  However, there are some important things that the instructor needs to understand in order for synchronous learning to improve the overall student experience.

The excellent synchronous online instructor does the following during the live event:

  1. establishes instructor presence.
  2. creates a sense of community in the course.
  3. listens to the students.
  4. holds students accountable for the work they are doing by using Socratic questioning techniques.
  5. comes to the synchronous class with an agenda and sticks to it.
  6. creates opportunities for breakout groups to work on tasks and come back to share (ex. jigsaw activity).
  7. does not change the meeting dates and times after they are set.
  8. gives students a voice so that it is not a one-way delivery of information (“he who teaches learns”).
  9. uses different features within the synchronous tool in order to keep students engaged like: polls, screensharing, note taking, breakout rooms (Martin & Deale, 2012)
    Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 6.20.39 PM

Synchronous teaching is more complicated than teaching asynchronously and requires different skill sets.  In order to be effective as a synchronous instructor you must have proficiencies in the tools, the content, and be confident presenting in such a format.  Bower 2011 defines the competencies required as: operational, interactional, managerial, and design competencies (p. 79).

With the right teaching techniques, the average grades of participants can prove to be significantly higher for students who experience synchronous events (Strang, 2012).  However, “deficiencies in synchronous collaboration competencies at best resulted in less efficient collaboration and learning” (Bower, 2011).  The real issue is that you can have the best tools in the world, but if you don’t know how to use them effectively then the tools are of little value.


Bower, M. (2011). Synchronous collaboration competencies in web‐conferencing environments–their impact on the learning process. Distance Education, 32(1), 63-83.

Martin, F., Parker, M., & Deale, D. (2012). Examining interactivity in synchronous virtual classrooms. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(3), 227-261. Retrieved from:http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/download/1174/2254

Offir, B., Lev, Y., & Bezalel, R. (2008). Surface and deep learning processes in distance education: Synchronous versus asynchronous systems. Computers & Education, 51(3), 1172-1183.

Strang, K. (2012). Skype Synchronous Interaction Effectiveness in a Quantitative Management Science Course. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 10(1), 3-23.

Originally posted: January 24, 2014 – Blog rebuilt: April 20, 2014

Evaluating Microsystems: The Online Instructor

In my systems thinking PhD course, I have recently been tasked with identifying a Microsystem and then evaluating the components that it is comprised of. In this effort, I have chosen to evaluate “The Online Instructor” as a Microsystem and analyze internal and external factors that influence or impact this system.  This blog post is one in a series of posts that will continue to analyze the online instructor as a microsystem and should be considered a work in progress.  You comments and suggestions for improvement are greatly appreciated.

At the micro level, the factors that directly influence the online instructor include: the institution where the faculty member is employed, the students, peer faculty, instructional design and course content, and the instructor’s own facilitation skills.  Due to the complexity of the system and the details surrounding the elements that influence it, this week’s post will focus primarily on the elements of the institution and the online instructor’s students.

Online Instructor Microsystem The Online Instructor as a Microsystem

By exploring these areas in detail, we find that they each impact the online instructor in a number of ways.


Institutional support and readiness related to online learning are key factors that directly impact an online faculty member.  In order for an institution to be prepared to support online education, there are many key factors that must be considered. Institutions that have successfully implemented online campuses or virtual course offerings usually have several things in common.  As a first example, successful implementation of these types of programs typically begins with senior leadership support. In these cases distance education is seen as a key element of the strategic plan for the university. Secondly, these have the needed support from their legal department, faculty committee or senate, and administration to enable them to create and implement policies that support distance education and the faculty who teach online.  Policies may already exist or may need to be developed related to intellectual property, the family education rights and privacy act or FERPA, the American’s with disabilities act or ADA, copyright compliance and others.

The third example related to an institution’s online programs are the degree to which they are supported with technology infrastructure, support staff (help desk), professional development programs, training, and instructional design support which can all impact and assist faculty in the creation of high quality online courses.


Students may enter higher education with a variety of skills and abilities, varying financial pressures, and very different levels of motivation.  When students choose an online program of study, they need to consider their level of technology readiness as well as their ability to self regulate their own learning.

As students enter online education for the first time after being taught in the traditional classroom they need new skills to adapt to the change in learning environment. As similar tale is told of the young student going off to college, as she enters the lecture hall filled with 500 students rather than being one of 25 receiving personalized attention.  Yes, the online environment can lead to feelings of isolation, but when faculty utilize facilitation skills that truly “humanize” their online course and establish a rich forum for communication with the instructor and peers it transforms the online course into a rich and robust online learning community.

The rising cost of higher education and the growing student debt bubble is putting additional financial pressures on potential students as they consider the true costs and the ROI of a degree.  No longer is it simple mathematics (student X + education Y = increased earnings over time Z).  The changing job market is adding pressure to the situation, making the choice regarding whether or not to pursue a degree a difficult one.

Motivation is a psychological driving force that supports or compels actions toward a desired result.  A review of the literature regarding learner motivation reveals the need for extrinsic and intrinsic elements, self-regulated learning, a feeling of connectedness, and the use of motivational messages.  These needs also exist for students attending classes virtually or in online settings. According to industry leaders “There is no doubt that there are serious motivational challenges among distance learners.  The attrition rate alone can be viewed as an indication of motivational problems (Keller, 1999).”

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of the individual. Whether a threat of punishment or receipt of a reward, extrinsic motivations can be powerful.  However, in the absence of the external stimuli some learners often become less motivated.  Engaging learners in competition is one way to draw them in and tap into their extrinsic motivations.

Interest or enjoyment in a task is often referred to as an intrinsic motivator. Intrinsically motivated students are motivated to learn for a variety of reasons. These students may want answers to their own unanswered questions, may be competitive in nature, or might simply desire self-improvement.  Students who are intrinsically motivated prefer being autonomous, are usually self-regulating learners, are often determined, and are interested in mastery of topics.

Self-regulated learning refers to the learning that comes from the influence of students’ own feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that are oriented toward reaching their personal goals (Artino, 2008).  Self-regulated learners are sometimes quite determined to achieve a goal and will bounce back from failures more easily.  These leaners are more likely to engage in tasks for a greater length of time, and think deeply about the tasks in which they are engaging (Cheng & Yeh, 2008).

Peer Faculty Group

An online faculty member is influenced in a variety of ways by peer faculty. These can be seen in mentoring or support, recognition of excellence in online teaching, research funding, or acceptance of the online instructor as a valuable contributor to the faculty at large.

Training programs for faculty typically include ways of teaching online, use of technology to improve student learning outcomes, and pedagogical principles of effective online teaching.  A large number of institutions have created programs for online faculties that are required for completion prior to teaching online for the first time. These programs are typically blended in delivery and assist the instructor in making the transition from teaching as a face to face instructor to teaching online without making the assumption that faculty understand effective online teaching.

Recognition of excellence in online teaching is also a factor. There have been numerous studies undertaken which look at the power of praise.  It is essential to recognize talent in every situation and online teaching should be no different.  This can be done in a variety of ways in higher education.  Awards and recognition in the tenure process are obvious methods but some institutions are being creative by offering monetary rewards for faculty who scale their courses to a larger audience and by funding research regarding the efficacy of online education.  This commitment by institutions to the scholarship of teaching and learning online is one factor that contributes to the success of faculty teaching in this mode of delivery.  Faculty members who engage in research and publishing about online education help to broaden the base of information about the field and give back to the larger community of online educators. As with any peer group, acceptance is important to the participants. Online instructors should be included in all events that face-to-face faculty and blended faculty participate in.

Content and Instructional Design


There are a few issues related to how textbooks used in online courses have impact on the online instructor. These are: (1) online instructors are often not involved in the decision making process when it comes to choosing textbooks, (2) digital resources that are available to the online instructor, (3) evolution of the textbook to an e-book, (4) and the rising cost of textbooks.

Faculty members that teach the face-to-face sections of the class often select instructional materials, which are used in online courses.  Inclusion of the online instructor in the decision making process or allowing them to choose different instructional materials for the online version of the course is important.  Many textbooks today come with digital materials to support the online instructor in the creation of their online courses.  However, there is a recent and growing shift to digital or eBooks by the higher education publishers.  Brian Kibby, president of McGraw Hill, announced in fall of 2012 that all instructional materials would be in digital form within three years.  There has also been an increase in publishers and platforms for ebooks receiving venture capital funding to obtain a portion of the “textbook pie” as this digital shift is occurring.  While the move to digital textbooks is a strategic move based upon existing technology possibilities, it is important to note that recent articles have highlighted that students find textbooks too expensive and that they are not buying them.  Students are making their way through classes without ever purchasing the textbooks.  The transition to digital texts will also make them more affordable for the learner, which is a noble mission on the part of the publishers, one that students will appreciate.

Instructor, or instructional designer, created materials are the heart of the online course.  It is these elements that allow the instructor to have a sense of presence in their course.  Instructor presence is one of the elements within the Community of Inquiry framework and can be enhanced by leveraging the power of learning technologies and multimedia.  Instructors are leveraging the power of audio and video in their assignments and assessments, not just in the content of the course.  With the advent of the MOOC, which allows instructors to “see” other online courses for the first time, these materials are getting more and more attention and in some cases are driving revamping as well.

Open Educational Resources

One way to reduce the costs of materials for students is to leverage open educational resources.  Open Educational Resources are gaining attention as the Open Learning movement is underway. The largest challenges and barriers presented require innovative thinking in order to expand access to a global repository of learning assets that could transform higher education. Opening up access to materials that can be translated and repurposed internationally will help developing countries save on course content development, facilitate the sharing of knowledge, and address the digital divide by providing capacity-building resources for educators (Olcott, 2012).

Facilitation Skills

The “great” online instructor is a facilitator of learning within the online environment.  They are effective communicators, give timely feedback, build rapport, have incredible instructor and social presence, and know how to set expectations and manage their time wisely.  The great online instructor also remembers that teaching is learning and continually improves their course based upon their experiences of what worked and what did not.

Teaching online is not for everyone, however, with the right set of facilitation skills the learning experience online can be just as good as, if not better than, those in traditional face-to-face settings.

While this post may not address every challenge or opportunity within the microsystem, it is a collection of thoughts toward that end.  There is much work to do to ensure that the online instructor receives the needed support to continue to deliver high quality experiences for our students.  I look forward to the years ahead and being a part of that support system.


Artino, A., (2008) Promoting academic motivation and self-regulation: practical guidelines for online instructors, TechTrends, 52(3), 37-45.

Banathy, B. (1999). Systems thinking in higher education: Learning comes to focus. Systems Research and Behavioral Science16(2), 133-145.

Banathy, B. (1992). Chapter two: The systems-environment model. In A Systems View of Education Concepts and Principles for Effective Practice (pp. 25-58). Englewood Cliffs, NJ:Educational Technology Publications.

Cheng, Y., & Yeh, H., (2009) From concepts of motivation to its application in instructional design: Reconsidering motivation from an instructional design perspective, British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(4), 597-605.

Eoyang, G. (1996). A brief introduction to complexity in organizations. Chaos Limited, Inc.,

Keller, J., (1999) Using the ARCS motivation process in computer-based instruction and distance education, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 78.

Olcott, D. (2012). OER perspectives: emerging issues for universities. Distance Education, 33(2), 283-290.

Reigeluth, C. (2004). Chaos theory and the sciences of complexity: Foundations for transforming education. Informally published manuscript, Instructional Systems Technology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, Retrieved fromhttp://www.indiana.edu/~syschang/decatur/documents/chaos_reigeluth_s2004.pdf

Originally posted: October 7, 2013 – Blog rebuilt: April 20, 2014

8 Principles of Effective Online Course Design

Presentation shared at the 2013 National Quality Matters Conference

1. Consistent Design and Organized Content

Keep the students in mind during the development of your online course, remember that they are busy adult learners.  Organization of your content is very important to your learners.  Using a consistent design methodology allows instructors a simpler course development process.  This is often referred to as using a template.  The students benefit from templated course because they spend less time looking for essential content items and can focus on the content and required activities/interactions/assessments.


2. Digital Pedagogy

Your online course should not be a replication of your face to face instruction.  An effective online course is not lecture driven and new pedagogies are emerging. Connectivist and Social Constructivist pedagogies are leveraging the power of the learning technologies to expand the sphere of learning for each student and allow for learning to continue beyond the LMS in new ways.  This can include: blogging, connecting via Social Media, development of a Personal Learning Network to enhance to scope of the value of these social media tools and much more.


3. Multiple Measures

Teaching online does not limit the types of assessment that can be done in your course.  Formative and Summative assessments can be employed along with Peer evaluations and self assessments in your course.  More measures will ensure the achievement of student learning outcomes and allow learners to self reflect in the achievement of said outcomes.


4. Foster a Robust Intellectual Community

Educators are familiar with the Community of Inquiry framework where there is a focus on Instructor Presence, Social Presence, and Cognitive Presence.  Building the sense of community is a key element of an effective online course due to the fact that learner isolation is one of the key reasons for attrition online.

Social presence is “the ability of participants to identify with the community (e.g., course of study), communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop inter-personal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities.” (Garrison, 2009)

Teaching Presence  is the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001).

Cognitive Presence is the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001).


5. Encourage Active Learning
The profile of an adult learner is typically a working adult with children.  This type of learner wants to be able to apply what they are learner right away and by providing application or work based assignments they can take theory and turn it into practice immediately thus having a larger impact on our work force.  They need to be able to work in groups in the work place and therefore group work (where applicable) is encouraged.  It is imperative that rather than online courses being lecture driven that learners be given the opportunity to present their findings and key learnings to the class.  They will be better presenters and better at synthesis of information which is at the top of Blooms Taxonomy and leads to deeper understanding of the content.

6. Promote Reflection
Strategies can be employed in the online teaching and learning space to encourage learners to be reflective. These strategies include the use of peer reviews, discussion reflections, writing assignments encouraging student to make a personal connection to assigned readings, and even book reviews to name a few.  Reflection can aim to enhance the effectiveness of learning and/or promote metacognition or similar notions such as “learning to learn” or “self-regulation,” all considered as essential skills for knowledge workers.

7. Prompt and Meaningful Feedback
Set clear expectations for your students regarding how quickly and how often they can expect feedback from you in an online course.  The more quality, personalized feedback that you can offer to your students the more likely that they will feel a sense of connection to you, their professor, and the course.

8. Use Digital Technology to Support/Enhance Learning
It is imperative that the tools not be leveraged for the sake of “using technology”, rather they should be aligned with your learning outcomes and the technology should be transparent to the students.  The tools leveraged should not pose a challenge to learners that become a barrier to their success, they should simply be another method of achieving the learning objectives.


While we should prepare learners for their future, we must be mindful of the choices that we make and ensure that students have the necessary tools to be successful.


By wkilgore | September 22, 2013 | Distance Education, Higher Education, Instructional Design Models, Motivation, Online Teaching |

Bookry Widgets

Gamify your next eBook with Bookry. No coding required!

Do you use iBooks Author?  If so, you need to know about Bookry. 

This newcomer to the edtech community puts powerful tools in the hands of authors in three distinct ways; with interactive widgets and analytics.

There is no coding required!  Simply choose from the widget library, customize the settings and drag and drop it into iBooks Author.

Bookry Widgets
Ease of use: Bookry Widgets

What are the Widgets?

Free widgets include drag and drop, form builder, feedback, flickr galleries, google maps, instagram galleries, quiz builders, and a tool to open apps right inside your book just to name a few.  To learn more about the free widgets available visit: www.bookry.com/author/widget/library/

Customizable widgets and server-based widgets are also available which allow the author the greatest flexibility in the development of their content.

Readers can also save and load their widget data to the reader cloud.  This means that readers who are taking a quiz or playing a game wish to finish their activity later, they can stop and save their progress.

The “sharethis” functionality sets Bookry apart in the marketplace.  They allow the reader to share their experiences within a book or a piece of content across their social networks (twitter, facebook, evernote) thus growing the audience for the book.

Why Analytics?

The analytics available from Bookry allow authors to better understand their readers.  Quiz data, feedback, quantity of readers, and their reading patterns including which widgets and content they interact with gives clear insight into ways to improve or enhance the content for future versions.

Is Bookry Free?

There are both free and paid versions of the Bookry widgets.  The free widgets carry the Bookry branding and the paid version is $125 per book to use as many widgets as you like.  See: www.bookry.com/pricing/ for more information.

Originally published: July 22, 2013 – Blog Rebuilt: April 20, 2014



Gamification: Upgrading the Learning Environment


  1. The same elements that make games enjoyable also make them ideal learning environments.
  2. Gaming is especially useful for simulating real-world career scenarios and training students how to respond.
  3. Several prestigious institutions now incorporate gaming into their graduate programs.

“Keep sitting there staring at that screen. Atari will rot your brain as fast as Fun Dip rots your teeth.” This may have been a parental warning back in 1985, but things sure have changed since then.

Today, universities are discovering that the same elements that make games so mesmerizing also make them ideal learning environments. When we’re engaged with games, our minds are assembling information, recognizing problems, and working towards solutions. Games are an effective platform for simulating real-world scenarios and training students to react wisely under pressure. That’s why gaming is catching on at the undergraduate and graduate levels, even at top academic institutions.

Check out this presentation from the SRHE Annual Research Conference that showcases the purpose and benefits of gamifying undergraduate programs:

Gamification in Higher Education on Prezi

According to a recent article, we’re seeing an increase in the use of graduate-level gamification to prepare students for careers in industries like healthcare and business. As noted in the article, these top ranking institutions are just a few of those making their marks as graduate-gaming pioneers:


Source: http://classroom-aid.com/2012/11/08/18-graduate-programs-using-game-based-learning/

Originally published: November 10, 2012 – Blog rebuilt: April 20, 2014

xMOOC or Publishing Paradigm?

Originally posted: November 14, 2012 – Blog rebuilt: April 20, 2014

I have been pondering the current School as a Service (SAAS) shake up with the purchase of Embanet-Compass by Pearson and the purchase of Deltak by Wiley. Then I learned that McGraw-Hill is being acquired (perhaps) by Apollo Group (not the University of Phoenix).

All three of these acquisitions are a blend of traditional publishers and online education service providers. And, as the publishers of yore are headed toward the light of the hyper-connected mobile generation(s), where laptops, tablets, and smartphones are the norm, the new models emerge.

Once upon a time there were cMOOCs. Connectivism was born out of the need to democratize education by making it free, open, and crowd-sourcing knowledge like has been done in the open source community with code for YEARS.  Some call it an experiment, some think of it as the “new” model, and some saw it as an opportunity to jump the shark and create a new publishing paradigm.

Recently Antioch announced that they would be licensing content from Coursera, adding instruction, and awarding credit. The first university to announce granting credit for MOOCs. Then the A-ha moment, where you suddenly realize this was never about Open or Free, it was about:

  1. Professor Brand
  2. Institution Brand
  3. A new method of publishing digital content
  4. Developing a method to monetize the content

Yesterday, Mark McGuire shared with me via Twitter how Coursera would be able to profit from free courses.

  • Certifications - students pay money to receive a certification after they have achieved competency from their free learning. (i.e. a badge or pdf document provided by a university or from a recognized badging system)
  • Authentic assessments - students pay money to have their learning assessed and certified at a physical testing site. i.e. assessment centers
  • Recruitment - companies pay money to access student course results to identify potential employees that match the company’s recruitment needs.
  • Screening - companies and educational institutions pay money to gain access to student records to verify that a level of knowledge or expertise has been attained. This would allow access to the company’s recruitment processes or ensure a university course acceptance.
  • Human tutoring - students pay a tutor to help them achieve the desired learning outcomes from the free courses.
  • Corporate learning - companies pay money to get customized courses using the free content and to access special features that help their employees gain necessary skills.
  • Sponsorship - sponsors pay money to have their appropriate advertising appear beside course materials. (i.e. textbook publishers)
  • Tuition fees - students pay tuition fees for advanced level learning (after completing the free introductory course) or gaining specialized skills relating to high paying jobs.

Source: http://www.gilfuseducationgroup.com/coursera-will-profit-from-free-courses

And, I guess Dr. Alec Couros was right, this technology thing isn’t going away. Are you onboard?


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M-Learning – Readiness

Are institutions of higher education ready for mobile learning? What factors need to be considered prior to launching mobile learning?

The research shows an increasing number of students in developed countries are ready for mobile learning, however, institutions, faculty, and educational delivery systems are not. With the explosion of handheld technology and the pervasiveness of mobile Internet connectivity, greater access is inevitable. With greater access to the Internet, online education has the possibility to engage learners in new ways improving communication and collaboration for educational purposes (Terras & Ramsay, 2012). Readiness includes a variety of factors including pedagogical, budget/support, and instructional materials preparedness on the part of institutions.

Prior to exploring the possibility of deploying mobile learning or preparing for delivery in a mobile format, it is critical to understand if students are ready for mobile learning. A readiness study in Malaysia points to the fact that in the second quarter of 2011, there was a ratio of 123.5 mobile phones per 100 inhabitants. 100% of students studied in Malaysia reported that they have a mobile phone and 76% had access to the Internet on their mobile device. Overall the study pointed to the fact that students are ready for mobile learning opportunities (Hussin, Manap, Amir & Krish, 2012). “College students who feel that m-learning is easy to use and useful are more likely to use their mobile device for their coursework” (Cheon, Lee, Crooks, & Song, 2012).

Students were more receptive and willing to upgrade cellular phones and service plans in order to take advantage of mobile learning opportunities (Hussin, Manap, Amir, & Krish, 2012). However, not all students have access to mobile learning opportunities, as mobile learning is currently limited in the Asia Pacific region. Despite continued growth of mobile telecommunications in Latin America and the Caribbean mobile learning has a weak presence there. The provision of access is not enough for m-learning to succeed, the skills needed for appropriate use of technology is critical to the success of the educational mission. The lack of literacy in Africa and sub-Saharan Africa are presenting major challenges to learning in general. Both physical and psychological infrastructure must be present for m-learning to be successful (Terras & Ramsay, 2012).

In order for institutions to be prepared for m-learning in higher education there are three key considerations: technological, pedagogical, and support/budget. The key technical considerations include the proliferation of mobile platforms and the various operating systems. No longer are there just two operating systems (Mac and PC) as mobile penetration increases now there are several (iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry, and others). These devices have a smaller screen, must have a different user interface and content structure and they will sometimes have a slower network speed. These must be considerations of mobile platform development so that students can have the best possible learning experience on their mobile device (Nedungadi & Raman, 2012).

There are pedagogical implications of authenticity, customization, and social interactivity where time and space are socially negotiated. At mLearn 2010 Kearney, Schuck and Burden presented the following framework model.

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The goal of this framework is to define the critical needs of mobile learning in order to influence the design of m-learning (Kearney, Schuck, Burden, & Aubusson, 2012).

In one study, students shifted easily from e-learning to m-learning seamlessly without affecting learning outcomes but state that future enhancements and studies they have planned will take advantage of pedagogical changes and mobile features like location awareness and collaboration (Nedungadi & Raman, 2012). In order to make the most of mobile learning, faculty and instructional designers need to be provided with the necessary support (training, tools, infrastructure) to develop courses that engage learners with this new educational delivery method. This has some budget implications for universities and while m-learning is still quite new there are very few experts to serve in the development of m-learning initiatives.


Cheon, J., Lee, S., Crooks, S., & Song, J. (2012). An investigation of mobile learning readiness in higher education based on the theory of planned behavior. Computers & Education, 59, 1054-1064. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2012.04.015

Hussin, S., Manap, M., Amir, Z., & Krish, P. (2012). Mobile learning readiness among Malaysian students at higher learning institutes. Asian Social Sciences, 8(12), 276-283. doi: 10.5539/ass.v8n12p276

Kearney, M., Schuck, S., Burden, K., & Aubusson, P. (2012). Viewing mobile learning from a pedagogical perspective. Research in Learning Technology, 20, doi: 10.3402/rlt.v20i0/14406

Nedungadi, P., & Raman, R. (2012). A new approach to personalization: integrating e-learning and m-learning. Education Technology Research and Development, 60, 659-678. doi: 10.1007/s11423-012-9250-9

Terras, M., & Ramsay, J. (2012). The five central psychological challenges facing effective mobile learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(5), 820-832. doi: 10.1111/j1467-8535.2012.01362.x

Originally published: October 30, 2012 – Blog rebuilt April 20, 2014