Archives for November 2010

FoTT 2010 — Building a Blended Class: Face-to-Face, Online, Anytime

Presenter: Robert “Rocky” Keel, UMSL

Presentation is available at (IE)

Rocky prefers to present in the same style as his teaching–interactive with the audience.

“Digital Natives” have grown up with technology all of their lives and regularly use their “devices” (e.g. smart phones) to interact with the world around them. Mobile devices in particular will become more and more important as time goes on.

Students may not interact in the classroom, but they do interact with each other outside of class. “Multi-channel” students use several different ways of interacting (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Rocky showed some statistics of how students (teens and young adults) are interacting. Over 500 million people (not just students) are on Facebook.

Building a blended class gives Rocky and the students some flexibility in how they access the course. Though there is also some structure to the course through the face-to-face activities. Students in an online course do as well or even better than traditional students. Online enrollments are surging in the past year.

Rocky played Michael Wesch’s (of Kansas State University) video on digital students of today. (A Vision of Students Today ( He has actually created several such videos, one of which focuses on K-12 students.

Blackboard was introduces at UMSL in 2000. According to Rocky, students were using Blackboard for their courses, even when the instructors were not.

Rocky has introduced students to Wimba Live Classroom (which plugs into Blackboard) and Wikis (also available in Blackboard) for his courses. Students have responded positively to UMSL’s use of these technologies.

Rocky’s blended learning model incorporates synchronous activities such as a face-to-face lecture and Wimba Live Classroom for distance students. Asynchronous tools include the online lecture notes and the Wimba archives for review. Another asynchronous tool is a Panopto video on how to use Wimba. About a third of Rocky’s students will view the Wimba archive.

1000 Years of History in 5 Minutes

Here is an interesting video that shows 1000 years of European political history in a little over 5 minutes. You can easily see the ebb and flow of empires throughout the ages.

Unfortunately, it does not have a timeline on the screen so it is a little tricky to see exactly when certain events happened. For example, Napoleon Bonaparte conquered much of Europe in the early 19th century, so that event is shown towards the end of the video clip. However, there is no indication on the video exactly when that event took place (from around 1800 to 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo).


Hat tip: Tigerhawk

A Dialogue for Engagement

How do you know a student is engaged in your course?  What steps do you take to foster engagement?  These are questions that every instructor begins to ask as they are doing course design as it is vital to the success of the course.  “Engaged learners work willingly, instead of by coercion, and approach their assignments as something that matters to them personally.  The spirit of engendered by engaged learners in a course is infectious, spreading among and sustaining all participants,” states an EDUCAUSE article in September/October issue (EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 45, no. 5 (September/October 2010): 38-56).  The article goes on to give examples from five different instructors on how they foster engagement.

A Dialogue for Engagement will take you to the text of the article.

How would you foster engagement in your course?

FoTT 2010 — Constructivist Course Design: Student Centered Online Learning

Presenters: Arleen Fearing and Marguerite Riley from Southern University Illinois at Edwardsville


  • Identify five factors of the constructivism theory that provides a framework for quality student centered online learning.
  • Specify the use of three learning strategies in an online constructivist designed course.
  • Share evaluation results of these online courses from students.

About 8 years ago, School of Nursing at SUIE added a nurse educator specialty and needed some courses developed for their program. Courses were going to be entirely online (new for them).

Arleen and Marguerite had taught with a distance education model similar to S&T’s, but had never taught a fully online course. They had already become comfortable with that model as well as with WebCT, but were forced by circumstances (switched to Blackboard) to change strategies. They had 38 students for their first online course offering. About 50% had already taken an online course already, while the other 50% had not. Those who had taken an online course were unhappy with their typical experience–lack of consistency, poor organization, etc.

They addressed student concerns from the beginning and decided to offer completely asynchronous learning through an online interface (Blackboard). Many nursing students were distance students and worked long hours at odd times (typical of the medical professions). They wanted their learning environment to be safe, creative, and interactive, all features offered by a constructivist approach.

The desired outcome was a student-centered experience with opportunities for sharing and knowledge application.

Constructivism is the learning theory where learning is active and reflective. Students use their prior experiences to build new knowledge. New knowledge is integrated with their existing knowledge to create a unified framework of knowledge for application. Students “take ownership” of the knowledge. Students also collaborate regularly with fellow students to create the shared knowledge experience. Some students resisted this approach and preferred a more traditional Socratic method of teaching.

Constructivism assumes the learner is mature and self-motivated. Instructor is a guide, facilitator and coach who points the way.

Critical reflection on experience and rational discourse with others is the process for changing meaning.

They used a template for all of their nursing education classes. This has many advantages. For one, there is consistency and continuity between modules within a course and from course to course. It provides all students in the program with a familiar online environment. Learning objectives and experiential learning activities can be quickly developed for each module. The modules correlate with course content outlines.

Arleen passed out a sample template they used to develop each of their courses. It contains some simple fields that can be filled out for each module. It includes goals, experiences, desired learning outcomes, any module resources required, interactive experiences, and more. The “Content Commentary” field was NOT lecture notes–it was information to get the students thinking about the content (self-reflective). “Shared Learning Sessions” were what the students posted after completing the assignments and group activities.

In a Learning Circle activity, each student has a role and each role has a responsibility to contribute. Groups of 4 seem to work best, though 5 or 6 are certainly possible depending on the larger size of the class (38 students were divided into groups of 6 or 7, for instance). Instructors can monitor the Learning Circles and guide students back when they get off track.

Courses also had a “metaphor”, essentially the “prior knowledge” required for a constructivist approach. For instance, one module used the metaphor of building a house. Most people recognize some of the challenges involved in building a house, even if they have not directly been involved in such a large project. Building a curriculum in a nursing education program is then compared to the tasks required in building a house. Building a curriculum and building a house both require a sound, stable foundation, for example.

They concluded their presentation with a video clip from Dead Poet’s Society, where Mr. Keating takes his students out into the hallway to illustrate the idea of “carpe diem” or “sieze the day” instead of simply opening up their textbook to read a poem or two. This is very much a constructivist approach to learning, drawing upon the students’ prior knowledge to introduce them to Walt Whitman and other great poets.


This past week MBS Direct hosted the Xplana conference in Columbia. Xplana launched this past summer and is being heralded as a mashup of Facebook,, Google reader, Ning and Elgg (plus or minus a couple other web 2.0 sites). At it’s core, as James Roberts, Director of Institutional Programs for Xplana tells us, it’s providing a way to move the focus of education from efficiency of delivery back to the encouragement of discovery.
James Roberts of Xplana gives a talk at the VISTA 2010 conference.

Blackboard Seminar Series – Bb Outside the Classroom

EdTech and CERTI are co-sponsoring the November Blackboard Seminar Series, which will focus on using Blackboard resources outside of the classroom environment.

This event will take place in Centennial Hall Room 104 at Noon on Friday, November 5, 2010.

Featured speakers include:

  • Bih-Ru Lea, of the Information Science Technology department. She will discuss her IST 490 Research Organization in Blackboard.
  • Johnathan Harper and Peris Carr, who manage the General Chemistry Discussion Board.
  • Malcolm Hays, who worked with both Dr. Ed Malone (English & Tech Com) and Dr. John Hogan (Geology & Geophysics) to set up Blackboard organizations to support graduate and undergraduate degree programs.
  • Diane Hagni, who has worked with EdTech to support the Clickers in the Classroom Blackboard organization.

Blackboard Seminar Series events are “brown bag” lunches. Attendees are welcome to bring their own lunch. Dessert and beverages are provided courtesy of CERTI.

Please RSVP to if you plan on attending.