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Archive for the ‘Distance Education’ Category

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

 

 

 

Guide on the Side

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Recently the NTC has been trying out a new tool for creating tutorials, called Guide on the Side.

Guide on the Side was developed at the University of Arizona, and it received the ACRL Instruction Section Innovation Award and an award from the American Library Association for cutting-edge technology. Guide on the Side is free tool that allows you to create tutorials with an interactive instruction panel on the left side and a live website on the right side. In the instruction panel you can give directions for interacting with the website, embed quiz questions, and link to additional resources. The content can be divided into chapters to make it easy to return to a particular point in the tutorial. The two panel tutorial makes it easy try out what you’re learning right away and avoids the inconvenience of flipping between instructions and a website. Creating the tutorials is simple — it uses a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor.

Those who have tested the NTC Guide on the Side tutorials have indicated that it’s a fun and easy way to learn about a database.

You can view a sample tutorial from the University of Arizona Libraries, or the ChemIDplus tutorial from the NTC.

For more information on how to install Guide on the Side or the technical requirements, visit the Guide on the Side site.

People, Stories, and Surprises – Training Tips

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Recently, the Shift eLearning Blog had a post entitled “Understanding People is the Most Important Thing in eLearning Design.”

I think that many of their tips can be applied to both online and face-to-face environments. Below are a few of my take-aways, but the full post is linked above if you’d like to click over to it.

Their first principle is: people like people. They suggest that in designing e-learning, you should incorporate images or videos of people to make the lesson more engaging. I think whenever possible, we should go further and try to provide opportunities for people to interact with each other. When I think about the last class or conference I attended, one of my favorites aspects is talking with others about new techniques or ways to solve problems. You might add discussion or polls to your classes to take advantage of this principle.

Secondly, people like stories. This is probably not a surprise if you reflect on presenters you’ve seen – it always seems more memorable if they’ve used a story to illustrate an important idea. Can you create a realistic scenario or recall a story to make the message stick in your classes? Maybe you have a story about a time research changed a diagnosis or treatment decision? Consider adding stories like these to your classes to make the content of the class easier to understand or recall.

Shift also states that people like both organization and surprises. At first, this might seem a bit contradictory. The overall course should have a clear and logical flow, but an occasional surprise can be fun and really help information to stick. Like a plot twist in a great novel, a surprise can re-engage the learner and show a novel way to look at the information, especially if it’s something they may have encountered previously. Thinking about something you often teach, how can you incorporate something unexpected?