Skip all navigation and go to page content
NN/LM Home About NTC | Contact NTC | NTC Feedback |NTC Sitemap | Help | Bookmark and Share

Archive for the ‘Distance Education’ Category

NIH Videos

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Did you know you can watch thousands of recorded videocasts from the NIH? The videocasts are recorded lectures on a wide variety of topics that you can stream or download. You can tune in to watch lectures on bioethics, health disparities, neuroscience, science education, and more. You can also watch Clinical Center Grand Rounds, lectures from Distinguished Women Scientists, seminars from the NIH Director, or a series on Medicine for the Public. You can  search the archive of recorded events for particular topics or find a list of upcoming events.

Here’s a sample of what you might see looking under the topic Bioethics:

Three descriptions of videocasts with thumbnails

 

This could be a great source to share with researchers you work with or for your own learning!

Writing for the Ear

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Recently, I downloaded a copy of No More Spilled Ink: Writing for Instructional Design by Connie Malamed. I recommend the free resource as a great guide if you’re writing content for any kind of online learning.

One section of the guide addresses writing audio scripts, and I thought I’d share a few of Malamed’s tips here, and use them to evaluate an audio script that I recently wrote for a short tutorial.

  • Tip 1: Write like you speak. This means using short sentences, everyday words, and contractions.
  • Tip 2: Keep it brief. Consider how much your audience can process at once and avoid overloading them.
  • Tip 3: Repeat key points. Use emphasis or new wording to help the learner understand.
  • Tip 4: Notate silence. A pause give learners processing time and keeps you from rushing.

So how does my script measure up?

I think my script sounds pretty close to my natural language. I’ve used contractions, such as “let’s” and “don’t”, my sentences are relatively short and straightforward. I have incorporated a few words of jargon, so I’ll review to make sure that they make sense to my intended audience. The script is brief (about 2 minutes) because I narrowed the topic ahead of time. I was tempted to explain a much larger concept, but decided to keep it tightly focused. However, I did not use any of my time to repeat key points. As I revise, I’ll consider adding a sentence that summarizes the take-home message. Finally, notating silence. I’ve never done this before, but I think it’s a great tip because I often find myself speaking more quickly than I would with a face-to-face audience. I seem to forget to pause and breathe, so I think putting the breaks in the script will help me find a more relaxed rhythm.

Check out the full version of the guide for more great tips!

Engaging the Unengaged: Part 2

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

 

Four stones stacked

Last week I gave a few tips for engaging your learners, based on this e-book from Shift eLearning.  The final tip was to use good course design. But what does that mean?

According to Shift eLearning, “Well-designed courses help your learners to understand what they are seeing. When every element on screen has a deliberate function, and is in the right place, everything seems more clear.” While this is focused on the online learning environment, I think it’s true for traditional classes as well. Here are six key principles for good design.

1. Don’t unnecessarily complicate things. Keep the course simple with usable navigation and readable fonts. Focus on communicating with the user and making it easy to accomplish what they want to do.

2. Allow for inquiry and exploration. Isn’t it more engaging when you discover information on your own? Giving choices or trying scenarios can bring curiosity to the content.

3. Keep the content to a minimum. Focus on what they truly need to know and avoid extra information that can clutter the experience and get in the way of the main goals.

4. Pay attention to the visual elements. Check that your typography, color, texture, icons, symbols, pictures and animations or videos add to the experience and do not detract from it.

5. Less is more. This is a variation of keeping it simple. Make sure that it can load quickly and takes as few steps as possible to get to the content they should learn.

6. Mix it up. A variety of activities or formats can challenge the learners to think in new ways. Will a case study, game, or animation best help the students to learn?

Find several other tips for engaging your learners in the downloadable e-book!

Engaging the Unengaged: Part 1

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Metal ladder against red barn wall
I recently picked up a free e-book from Shift eLearning, called Engage the Unengaged: How to Create More Engaging eLearning Courses. You can download your own copy, too, if you’d like. I’ll share a few of their ideas in blog posts this week and next week. The focus of the e-book is on eLearning, but there are lessons here for the face-to-face classroom as well.

What is engagement? Shift eLearning uses “the level of participation and intrinsic motivation student displays in a learning environment” as their definition. It includes both behaviors (such as attention or effort) and attitudes (motivation or interest). An engaged learner is active and collaborative, seeks out help, and exerts his or her best effort in response to a challenge. Disengaged learners may do only the minimum work, delay completion of tasks, avoid challenges and may not participate. I’m sure you’ve met both in your classes.

There are a few things you can do to increase engagement, and even convert the disengaged to engaged. Here are a few strategies to try:

1. Acknowledge the prior knowledge of your students, and show them how the class will build on it.

2. Tell them what’s in it for them right away – don’t assume that they’ll know why the class is important. Why does this information matter and how is it relevant to their work or life?

3. Build in some immediate rewards. I don’t mean candy (though that works for some audiences). Can you reward them with affirmation or encouragement? Can you demonstrate to them how they are already doing something better or faster or more easily as a result of the class? Again, don’t just assume they’ll notice – point it out.

4. Take time for reflection. We’re often tempted to use every possible minute for dispensing information, but allowing time for reflective processing can help students to better retain the content. Ask students to stop, think, and apply what they have just learned or take a minute to consider how what they heard relates to their work.

5. Use good design and quality images. While this probably can’t sustain engagement, it may help to initiate it. In next week’s post, we’ll look at a few principles of attractive design.

 

Universal Design for Learning

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Have you heard of Universal Design for Learning? At the Annual Conference for Distance Teaching and Learning, I attended a few session with a focus on this principle. Here’s a primer video on Universal Design for Learning that will help you become acquainted. If you want to learn more, check out cast.org

Conference Time!

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

This week the NTC trainers are attending the Distance Teaching & Learning Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. We’re looking forward to learning more about teaching strategies, engagement, social learning, instructional design and other topics. We’ll be sure to share our new knowledge with you as well.

Dome of the Wisconsin State Capitol viewed from the street.

Here are few other conferences you might find useful for learning about distance learning or instruction.

Each has a different focus and audience, and it may be worth checking for some free online conference materials.

What I’m Reading

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Man with laptop drinking coffee in a cafe

It can be such a challenge to keep up with the literature, blogs, books, and other sources that help you to stay updated in your field. Here’s a short list of what I’ve been reading lately that you might also be interested in.

  • The Accidental Instructional Designer: Learning Design for the Digital Age, by Cammy Bean. I attended a presentation by Ms. Bean at the American Society for Training & Development TechKnowledge conference in January. (You can read a post about her presentation here). Her new book has great tips for both the novice and experienced designer of instruction, with a focus on e-learning. You can read a chapter of the book for free here.
  • Database Resources of the National Center for Biotechnology Information . This 2014 article by the NCBI Resource Coordinators provides updates on the suite of NCBI resources as well as a bit of background on the resources.
  • Fatal Victorian Fashion and the Allure of the Poison Garment,” by Allison Meier on the Hyperallergic blog. Interesting read on the dangers of style for both the wearers and the makers. And you can learn more about the toxicity of substances mentioned in the new TOXNET interface.
  • Getting Started with File Naming Conventions,” by Jake Carlson on the e-Science Community Blog. Very useful advice for someone like me who has been guilty of using “final” in a file name.

What interesting things are you reading lately? Let me know on Twitter @nnlmntc or Facebook!

Training Materials for PubMed, MeSH, My NCBI, and LinkOut

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Do you teach others about PubMed? Did you know that the National Library of Medicine has a resource page of PubMed instructional materials? The next time you’re building a class or helping a user, instead of reinventing the wheel (or the tutorial), check to see if one already exists. The resources on this page include pamphlets, handouts, slides, and videos and can be reused and adapted for your own training.

Screen capture table of MeSH materials on linked PubMed Instructional materials page

Have an idea for a different topic or format? You can contact NLM (see the link on the above website) or the NTC.

Tips for the Virtual Classroom

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

I recently attended the American Society for Training and Development‘s TechKnowledge conference. It was a great opportunity to see new training technologies and learn from others about their challenges and strategies in training. ASTD’s membership is quite diverse and includes those who do compliance training, technical and software training, workforce development, and many other areas. In all the sessions, I found myself looking for ways to apply techniques from other areas to what we do here at the NTC. In the next few blog posts I’ll share some of the tips and tricks I learned in these sessions.

One of the first sessions I attended was about identifying and avoid pitfalls in the virtual classroom. As we (and many others) move more of our classes online, this seemed particularly relevant.

Woman at computer wearing headset

The instructor first described the difference between webinars and a virtual classroom. For her, a virtual classroom uses web conferencing software to facilitate synchronous learning with a high degree of interaction. A webinar, on the other hand, is more one-way communication or simply presentation of information. Here are some of her tips:

  • Tip #1: Make sure participants understand what a virtual classroom is and establish right away that it is an active, not passive, learning environment. Use opinion questions at the beginning to engage participants from the outset and clearly communicate that the virtual classroom is for building skills.
  • Tip #2: Know the platform you’re delivering in, practice in it, and  have someone else as a “producer” when instructing. The role of the producer is to set up the room, assist participants with technical difficulties, answer questions, and help make sure transitions are smooth. Although we don’t really refer to it as a producer, we at the NTC always make sure that another trainer is available to help with these issues. If you deliver classes over the web, I highly recommend it.
  • Tip #3: Have a plan for how you will distribute materials. If you have handouts or other materials, how will the students get them?
  • Tip #4: Never have more than 2 “tell” slides in a row. Break it up with some kind of interaction.
  • Tip #5: Pilot and Practice!

Online Videos on the Rise

Monday, November 25th, 2013

In October, the Pew Internet & American Life Project posted a new report on the use of online video. You can read the full report here or, conveniently, you can watch an online video summary on the rise of online video:

Here are a few highlights:

  • 78% of American adult internet users watch or download online videos
  • The most widely viewed video types are comedy, education, and how-to videos
  • The percent of American adult internet users who upload or post videos online has doubled in the past 4 years from 14% in 2009 to 31% today

Do you use videos in teaching and training, or are you planning to? Many users expect to find answers precisely when they need them, and videos can be a good way to address these just-in-time needs. Knowing that education and how-to videos are among the top three types of videos viewed, your efforts to create videos will likely be appreciated by your users. You could use videos to address frequently asked questions, take virtual visitors a tour of the library, or provide tutorials on how to accomplish common tasks.

A few tips to consider in making videos:

  • Keep it short
  • Make them shareable and post them on your social media channels
  • Be sure they are easy to find
  • Ensure that they work on mobile devices
  • Make them accessible