Thursday, February 4, 2016

Welcome to my e-portfolio

Professor, Heather Farmer

Welcome to my e-portfolio which was created to represent the six competencies for the MDDE program at Athabasca University. Before I began work on my Masters I was working as part-time faculty at Algonquin College teaching in a variety areas related to small business management and marketing. In 2007 I began a certificate in Teaching Adult Lifelong Learners (TALL) at Algonquin to gain more insight into the principles of teaching and learning.  I found that when I was done the certificate that I was left with more learning design questions than when I had begun. As a result I sought out a Masters of Education program that fit my needs and applied to Athabasca University in 2011 in order to learn more about the theory behind learning and teaching. Shortly thereafter I was hired to join the Curriculum Services team at Algonquin College. 
The goal of this portfolio is to select, reflect upon, and present five projects which demonstrate my proficiency in the six general competencies of the Masters of Education Program which includes:
  1. Problem Solving, Analysis, & Decision Making
  2. Instructional Design & Development
  3. Communication Technologies and Networking
  4. Communication & Interpersonal Skills
  5. Research
  6. Management, Organization and Leadership
       Looking back to review all of the assignments that I have completed over the last three years has definitely been a fulfilling experience. While it was a tough choice, it was necessary to narrow it down to 5 artifacts which would tell the story of my voyage through the program. To help me select assignments which represent a variety of skills within this portfolio I loosely applied the five stages of the ADDIE instructional system design model: Assess, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate.  As a result the five Assignments presented in my portfolio are:
  • [603] Assignment #3 – Applying Systems Theory to an Educational Setting (28/30 A)
  • [605] Parts 1-3 of the Business Plan for an eLearning Department or Portal (23/25, 28/30, 32/35 A)
  • [604] Parts 1-3 of the Instructional Design Project online unit of instruction. (19/20, 8/10, 33/40 A-)
  • [650] Designing a Tutoring and Student Support System (40/40 A+)
  • [617] Assignment #3 Evaluation Plan with Standards/Criteria Specification(35/35 A+)
       To validate whether the specific competencies within each of the six general MDDE competencies of the program are sufficiently represented by my chosen artifacts, I created a grid which allowed me to map the assignments to the specific competencies. To view the competency mapping grid click to view attached.
       It has been a very exciting and insightful three years working through the coursework for my degree. I was certainly lucky to pursue these studies while working in a curriculum related role at my institution. This has provided me with opportunities to apply my learning within this program in many contexts including program development, implementation and evaluation. There is no doubt that I would not have had the opportunity to see or do nearly as many hands on applications of my assignments had I still been in just a part-time faculty position. This program has provided me both timely and relevant knowledge to help me to effectively grow into my position as a curriculum consultant and inspire an interest in further investigating active learning strategies in the online environment.  Once again I appreciate the opportunity to look back upon my accomplishments within this program, and I hope that you enjoy sharing in my reflections through my teaching portfolio. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Video Conferencing - Connecting from anywhere!

I have been fortunate enough to have used several video chat and collaboration tools such as: MSN's Video Chat, Skype, Google Hangouts, Blackboard Collaborate, and WebEx.

Each tools has their advantages and limitations when it comes to working with teams online. While MSN's Service is not longer available, Skype and Google Hangouts have a very similar basic function of providing the opportunity for users to view each other and have a video conference meeting through the web. Users typically can still text and send links or files through the chat function and the focus is primarily on the user.

Skype does also have the function of sharing screens however so that if I am meeting with someone who needs help accessing a feature in a program or I am presenting a slide deck presentation, this works as a nice way to switch from the presenter to the content and then back to the presenter during the Q&A afterwards.

In tools such as or WebEx the focus is primarily on the desktop and not the presenter. Voice is shared for meeting purposes, however the focus is typically on the presenter's desktop unless they have assigned presenting rights over to another user.

An advantage of is that one can relinquish control of the cursor to another user. With that feature one can use it to let someone who is remote edit a file that it on their desktop. Or help trouble shoot a technical problem at a distance.

Blackboard Collaborate however offers the ability to group users into teams, and have private break out sessions after having worked in the main environment. There is a whiteboard for drawing or writing collaboratively, as well as a feature that allows the presenter to take users to a specific website and individuals can proceed by interacting with the presented site. You can poll your users, and questions can be queued up using a feature much like the classroom where they raise their hand.

Blackboard and WebEx are proprietary software and require licencing or membership to use.  The other options are excellent resources and while they do require an account, they tend to be free and the results are just as good so long as you do not require the group/breakout room function found only in Bb Collaborate.

Group Work - At a Distance

Over the course of MEd Program at Athabasca we have had the opportunity to work on a variety of course papers and projects in teams or small groups. I have been very fortunate to have worked with some excellent people for these assignments.  The following are some top tips for building a team, and working together effectively at a distance.

1. Picking the right people: 
While this seems like a pretty obvious one, there have certainly been instances where I didn't go through the due diligence and clearly ended up in a misalignment with my team. Your team is only as strong as a combination of your combined strongest attributes. You should begin by considering what the necessary attributes for a project are carefully and wisely.

While selecting team members there are a few ways to get tho know them...

  • Introduction discussion board, these are like mini advertisements for your possible team!  Check out their likes, and strengths to see what they put forward in that intro.
  • Student Profile, in here you may find a few more things about what they do, and what they have done to give you an idea if this is a good fit.
  • Write a few people to say hello!  I have done this a few times written members to get to know them a bit before spending several weeks writing a paper together!
2. Determining roles in the group:
Sometimes this is formal, and other times informal. But it is important to determine if someone can take the role of team leader, or possibly editor. For example in MDDE601 we were to present a paper to the class, we each took sections to summarize, and then one worked on the paper, another on the powerpoint and the third was the editor for both.  It was an excellent exercise and we were clear on our roles and what each one was to deliver.

3. Defining a communication plan:
For the same assignment we were to touch base every week via Skype. We had deadlines set, and work sessions planned and we would connect to review and revise the work together.

4. Selecting a data management system:
For the purpose of the same assignment we were using Google Docs which is now Google Drive. The primary advantage that Google Drive has was that we could all work on the written content together at the same time. So while one person was editing in one section the other team mates could edit in another section.  


Putting it all together:
This came together rather well when working on the Systemic Analysis for MDDE603. I had a team mate from a previous class with whom we started the group, we worked together well in 601, so why break what isn't broken!  After looking through the introductions we chose to approach a third member to join out group. They were happy to join and that was the beginning of the journey. 

There were clearly two parts to this project so again we defined the roles, I worked primarily on Part 1, one team mate was primarily Party 2, and the third team mate was the SME and editor.  Given that we had two people writing a significant portion of each half, the editor's role was to review and revise the language and ensure there was a proper flow to the report. As well, providing us with the data necessary to proceed given that the report was on their operational unit at their college. While we were in one of our regularly scheduled Friday night Skype meetings, we could all be working on the one version of the document at one time using Google Drive.  The resulting report was 26 pages long, and earned our team a solid A+!

Canvas - Learning Management System (LMS)

I have had the opportunity to build a course within Canvas, a learning management system created by a company named Instructure. This LMS is an opensource platform that individuals may use to develop and host online courses.

Although I had signed up and dabbled with it before, this was my first experience working within the application to build a fully online module.

The purpose of the activity was to design and develop a learning module to be included within a course.  I had selected the third semester Research Methods course that I teach at Algonquin College in order to assist learners with the concepts of references and citations. Feel free to take the tour below!

Some of the upsides of Canvas by Instructure:

  1. Very clean interface for students and instructors
  2. Tracking features for progress of students
  3. Quiz Feature for students to see if they have missed any questions
  4. Ability to navigate "through" the material by clicking on next.
  5. Easy to embed videos and widgets for learning.
Some of the downsides of Canvas:
  1. The Quiz building interface is cumbersome and clunky.
  2. Buttons are not able to be renamed in the Cloud based option.
  3. Unable to view student progress as a grid, only grades can be shown with all learners.
While there are some fabulous advantages to the tool, for retention and monitoring, there are still some things that would make this tool that much stronger. Perhaps in an enterprise version of the application these tools are available, however they are absent within the free version I currently have.

Training Manual Revision - Stila Cosmetics

Project Overview: 
In 2010/2011 I worked with ACI Brands as a Regional Manager representing the prestige cosmetics brand Stila in the Ottawa region.  We were given manuals for training for the brand that created more questions than it answered.  Mentioning several features with out benefits, ingredients that were treated like benefits, and a lack of clarity when it came to numbers of shades, why use one product over another and how each product should be sold.

As a result I approached the director of Prestige Cosmetics sales for our distribution company to see if there may be a budget for the redevelopment of the manual. She was able to acquire a reasonable and fair budget, and with this I was given the role of project lead on the redevelopment of the training manual.

Revisions included:
  • An over all visual makeover (designed by myself, following Stila Cosmetics US visual guidelines.
  • The addition of SKU #’s and # of shades
  • Cross selling suggestions
  • Features and Benefits for each product
  • The addition of Product Segment Summary Sheets in order to differentiate between various products in a given category.

Before                                         After

What I gained from the experience:

  • Working with teams and various stakeholders to determine content needs.
  • Meeting the needs of the Director of Sales, while maintaining Visual Guidelines and providing necessary product information for sales representatives.
  • Advanced Word Processing skills in the design of the actual manual
  • Providing Summary/Comparison charts in order to allow for users to easily determine the difference between various products.

Selecting and Integrating Technology

In MDDE610 we were asked to review the various tools and technologies discussed in the course in order to select appropriate technology for integrating into a learning module.  

OverviewIn 2011 Milazzo Cosmetics LLP located in Tampa, Florida began distributing their products in Japan through the Japanese cosmetic and beauty retail chain The Radiant Group. As a result a comprehensive training program was developed in order to educate the Radiant Group marketing team in preparation for the sale of this new line of Mineral Makeup in Japan.  The two and a half days of workshops incorporated a mixture of demonstration and learn by doing activities in order to expose participants to the full line of collections, skincare and bases, as well as to allow for participants to practice using this unique type of makeup.  The training culminated in a practical exam where models were brought in to allow the marketing representatives who are also makeup artists.

In order to improve reach I opted to revise the face-to-face weekend training workshop into 7 distance education training modules.  The training is a three day intensive workshop for a cosmetic brand, which includes practical hands on activities and a culminating practicum.

The Opportunity The costs and logistics involved in delivering the face-to-face training sessions across the country are quite expensive and involved. Brands are not only responsible for hiring and retaining product trainers, they also need to: fly trainers to several cities, pay for hotels, as well as the food and product samples for the participants. If these costs could be reduced, funds could be diverted to the online initiative, as well as an increase in product samples and shipping.  Ultimately, the gifts could also possibly be larger and the gift could include pamphlet that encourages participants to visit the training website. The level of engagement via online courses could influence the size of future product gift sets; as a result this reward system could improve online participation and engagement and could likely lead to greater sales.

As a result the key objectives of this distance learning module are to address is the need to:
1.     Increase efficiency and reach
2.     Improve learner experience.
3.     Reduce costs (to both the brands and the stores)

Proposal The proposed course delivery is through the Canvas LMS system.  The sessions will include seven learning modules: The Brand Overview, Blush, Bronzer and Contouring, Eyes, Lips, Nails, Hair and a Final Portfolio. The seven modules will be delivered on a regular basis throughout the calendar year to help connect with new employees. These will be paired with Synchronous sessions through the use on an OER tool called Big Blue Button. Promotional deals and new product launches can also be offered as webcasts which can be recorded and made available at a future date. Lastly learners will be encouraged to develop a makeup portfolio. Within the portfolio they would collect examples of their abilities with makeup, and have something to show for their learning.  Each module is capped off with a 5-10 minute “check-in” with an online facilitator for whom learners demonstrate something from each module for an evaluator to observe. This can also be completed with Big Blue Button.

The Learning Strategy will include a number of “learn by doing” type activities where they mimic the skills and techniques being demonstrated by the facilitator or video. The learning modules would follow strategies for psychomotor learning as detailed by Smith and Ragan. Psychomotor skills can be defined as “tasks that involve learning a new muscular movement” (Smith & Ragan, 2005). In this case, applying a powder to the eyes with one set of movements the result is a sheer eye shadow, and with another tool and movement the same powder is eyeliner.


If you are interested in reviewing the the papers that were submitted in relation to this assignment:

  • Description of a course - The description of a course that could be improved using technology
  • SECTIONS Analysis - A review of technology discussed in this course
  • DD Course Proposal - A proposal for the revision of a course to include technology in order to deliver it at a distance.

Vlogging - Video Blogs

I had spent 2003 - 2010 running my own import and wholesale business of cosmetics accessories called Elegant Faces.  In this role I had considered starting a regular Vlog for all of the tradeshows and events I either sponsored or sold at.  The vlog below is my second attempt of a video blog, once I learned more about editing video, working the sound tracks, and had purchased a wireless microphone to help improve the overall quality of the sound.

What did I learn making these?
  • Audio means a lot... A wireless Microphone, even a cheap one will do a lot for the quality of your video
  • The choppiness of the sound can be distracting, a single audio track over played over the various scenes will help to smooth things together.
  • Working with the timelines and tracks in a video editing suite is not so bad...  I purchased an inexpensive video editor from Corel called Videostudio Pro for $99 and it was able to do everything I needed.  It is a simple video, so I kept the software simple too.
  • Keep it short!!!  My first and second video seemed to go on and on and on...  I still think this one drags on somewhat, but it's still an improvement.  Next time I might keep it a bit shorter still and try to cut through the fashion shows with less of the runway and keep it to just the entrance or the approach to the head of the runway.


Overall the vlogs were quite a lot of fun, however it was also around this time that I was becoming more and more entrenched in the teaching side at the college.  It was not long after these few videos were created that I chose to hang up my entrepreneur hat and focus on teaching and doing makeup for weddings and video work instead of selling products.

If you interested, you can see my first video blog here.