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.

CAI: Learning to make Vietnamese Slow Drip Coffee

The other day I was chatting on Facebook and a friend mentioned the amount of coffee consumed in the preparation of their Doctoral Thesis.  I had agreed that my Masters was fueled by coffee and how remarkable it was that I had yet to do an assignment on the topic of coffee.

I am here today to remedy this...

Video 1: Part A - What I set out to learn, and what I found out.

Video 2: Part B - A demonstration of what I learned.

What I learned from the Blog and Video links:

  • I needed to use 3 heaping teaspoons of coffee
  • I should use the disk to pack the coffee down more before pouring in the water
  • I should also pour a small amount of water and let that soak and pack it in again to ensure that the drip is extra slow.
  • To make it an "Americano" I should add approximately the same amount of water again on top of the slow drip coffee in the mug.
  • If the coffee is still "strong" I can water it down a bit more and it cuts the sharpness. (this happened after the video!)


Vietnamese Coffee: by Craig Haller 

How to Brew Vietnamese Coffee: By Len Brault 

Online and Mobile Student Engagement

In 2012 I was asked to delivery a Professional Development sessions for faculty that were delivering online General Education courses at the college. The purpose of the workshop was two-fold to help these faculty who may or may not have been the developer for the course to understand the role of General Education within the Curriculum Roadmap. Second, to explore the topic of Student Engagement in the Digital classroom.

The session was divided up into four parts:

  • What is student Engagement?
  • Defining Interactions
  • Enhancing Online Communication
  • Our Role in Online Facilitation

The session began with a brainstorm session using an online application called To view the results from one of these sessions please follow this link to the Engagement PD Padlet Wall. Learners considered what Engagement meant to them. Wide open topic to get the group sharing and discussing the ideas that came to mind.

What followed was some group work around the idea of building in opportunities for learners to interact. Faculty considered the Student-Student, Student-Teacher and Student-Content interactions in small groups and posted their lists to the Padlet wall. These could be tools or activities, regardless the opportunity was to gather the collective wisdom of the room into one place.

The next activity included a new tool called, where learners where asked to build a model of communication.  This was once again a wide open concept which yielded a variety of models and ways of looking at communication in the face-to-face and eClassroom. The benefit was to see how groups not only can collaborate and articulate their ideas, but also to expand their though on how to reach their learners.

Armed with these newly developed communication frameworks in mind, participants were given a document to download and edit as a team.  The document were assignment instructions for creating a Wiki.  The instructions had been intentionally broken...  stripped of all images, steps were skipped and collapsed, language occasionally vague. 

The goal was to review the document and consider that if it was to be delivered online what could we do to make it clearer for our students. There is an example of one teams edits uploaded to the Padlet wall.

The last step was to discuss our role in facilitating all of the above. Topics included classroom management, planning, and blackboard development and delivery.

Overall the session has proven to be quite successful, and has been delivered not only face to face, but also Blended with students synchronously online and face to face. As well as fully online using Blackboard Collaborate.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pinterest - Selecting, curating & organizing

I am a huge fan of Pinterest, not only does it allow for me to revisit websites for things that I have found in the past but it keeps a visual collection that is almost nicer to look at...  I have used other social book marking websites such as however there is something almost more satisfying about the visual aesthetic of Pinterest.

And the web has evolved to accommodate that...

Websites almost inevitably have a banner or 2"x2" image which has a title for that page.
 Making it easier for someone to pin it to one of their boards. This way it isn't just a photo of a person smiling that we need to recognize to bring us to the page, but a title card which clearly details what lay behind that link. Very popular are recipes, decor tips, sewing patterns, and consumable articles such as clothing, house wares, decor, vehicles etc...

Essentially one need only to pin the image of what they like to a "board" which is the container for the collection, and they are now curating their very own collection.

For myself, I like to Crochet... so I have a board of things I would like to make when I find time after my masters to pick up a crochet hook once again. What I have curated is a board called Crochet Crochet and more Crochet which is list of "inspirations" and "items I wish to make"...

I have made a second board called Things I've Made which includes images of items I have completed.

For example there is the crochet flower that I found online.  The image on the left is the original, the image on the right is what I made:

Or the scarf that I liked so much that I even tried to match the colour on it:


Pinterest is also a great place to store those education related infographics that come in useful from time to time!  I can also keep a reminder for various conferences by  simply pinning their logo or banner. 


Groups of users can also contribute to the same board.  This group can provide the group a space for brainstorming, inspirations and can also collect feedback from the greater Pinterest population. 

I had once pinned two separate hats within a few minutes of each other and waited to see which style of hat received the most likes and pins.  One style clearly received more attention than the other.  Which helped me determine which style to make more of for sale over the holiday season!

Blogging: The utility of using categories and tags

For our group assignment there was an initial bit of confusion between the meaning of a "post" and a "page" when I noticed the creation of "pages" for the blog I created a short video on blog structure to indicate what had happened and how I was going to fix it.

But in addition to that, I felt it might be important to illustrate for the group how tags allowed for different kinds of sorting and organizing of the posts within the blog...

Key points to note:

  • Pages are static
  • Posts add to the blog roll
  • Posts can have both Categories as well as Tags
  • Posts can have multiple categories as well as multiple tags.
  • This provides users the ability access and sort posts in a manner that is most useful for them.

Twitter - Reaching out and engaging with learners

I have used Twitter for several years now with students as a way to engage and connect outside of the classroom. Aside from using it as a way to project my personal persona for outside of the classroom, it has also proven quite useful for supporting students when they need it. 

I have used to participate in discussions such as #SmallBizChat and #EdTech chats that happen on a regular basis.  I really quite enjoy these chats because they help test my understanding of a subject, as well as expose me to the answers of other participants.  Inevitably I gain a few new followers after a chat, and hopefully built upon my professional network.

For my students Twitter has operated like Technical Support, where they can direct message me and I get a text notification right away.  This has proven useful on numerous occasions where something in Blackboard was not working properly or a student was having difficulty and could reach out to me for help.

In one instance, a student contacted me when I was working out of town.  Because the class was following me, I could post that one of their classmates was in need of help, could someone possibly support them?  Within a few minutes I had found the student some help and they wrote me back to let me know that all was well. It is a great way to develop a Peer Support Network and get learners working together.

ePortfolios - Artifacts of Learning

Portfolios provide an opportunity to showcase the your skills to potential employers and colleagues. In art and creative works such as makeup artistry or film, a portfolio would include examples of your work that show off your greatest strengths.

In a competency based portfolio, learners are providing examples of that illustrate their experience with or competence in the various skills or behaviors intended to be exhibited for that role. When I was on the board for the Ottawa Women's Credit Union, each of the directors were required to develop a Director Competencies Binder to leave that the credit union.  I headed up a project to help everyone organize and develop their portfolios, and many needed some idea of what to include in their binder. The following list came from a fabulous article I found on the CityU - ePortfolios for All website:
I provided this list to the Board as a guide to help trigger ideas about the kinds of things that could be used.  I have also added a few other items that had come out of discussions with the board...


  • Resume
  • Job responsibilities
  • Personal and professional work 
  • Testimonials from superiors/colleagues/students
  • Goals (Short- & long-term) [Think about the important results you should accomplish as a teacher and record these as goal statements]
  • Standards [Standards you are/have been evaluated against]
  • Research projects/papers/publications
  • Feedback Questionnaire data [Results and your reflections on it]
  • Links to websites relevant to your purpose, e.g. your course site
  • Photos
  • Case studies [Studies of a student's growth over a period of time]
  • Organising events, field trips [Copies of programs, correspondence with agents involved, letter of invitation, memos etc.]
  • Research papers/publications
  • Conference/public speaking presentations
  • Video of classroom teaching/workshop
  • Digital stories
  • Emails/letters/cards from colleagues/employers/peers [Formal and informal assessments of you by colleagues/employers/peers]
  • Plans for professional development [Short- & long-term plans for professional development]
  • Description of workshops attended
  • Special skills/knowledge [Technology skills, language skills, etc]
  • Teaching materials you have authored [Rubrics or assessment instruments you have developed/selected to guide and measure student performance] 
  • Awards/Certificates/Grants
  • Action research [Research you have done about ways to improve classroom instruction, student learning, and your own practices]
  • Screenshots, links and images of layout/designs you have created
  • Sample assignment and the results your learners produced.
  • Technical writing samples
  • Video tour, orientation video of your online learning space

Blogging - 7 Blogs in Ethics for IT Professionals

Over the last several years I have had the opportunity to teach a variety of Blended Learning or Hybrid Learning courses.  In a Hybrid Learning course, some of the delivery is face to face, and some is online through the LMS.  For some of these courses I have created a journal or blog assignment to help learners make connections between the readings and lecture material and their daily lives.

The goal of the activity is to provide examples either from the news, or experiences in the daily lives of the learners, pose questions for them to reflect upon and on those experiences in order to link them to the readings.

Ethics for IT Professionals Course is a 15 week course which includes topics such as logic and arguments, morality and ethics, security, privacy, intellectual property, the law, and professional standards. For each of these seven modules learners were asked to reflect upon the readings and make links to topics such as: Privacy on the Internet, Online Banking and Security, Intellectual Property and Image Sharing sites.

Mode of Delivery:
Students were provided with a Word Document with all 7 deliverables outlined in detail. Questions generally included a link to a video or article, and then specific questions which encouraged drawing links to the text. For example:

Blog #1 (Week 1) will be based upon the video lecture by Professor Janice Stein of the University of Toronto as she discusses  the ethics of responsibility and accountability and how this affects our decision making processes not only in the corporate sector but also as employees, students and citizens.

a)  Do you find that many problems today have come down to costs rather than public needs, rights or public good?

b)  Finally, consider one of the questions Prof Stein poses at the end of her lecture, "Is it enough to deal with an error as a system's failure, or is there always at the core a questions of individual responsibility, and if there is an issues of individual responsibility how do we hold individuals responsible without scape goating them?"

Key Features I had identified with regards to Journals/Blogs:

  • It is useful to provide some guiding questions to help learners focus on how ideas relate to the outcomes of the course.
  • Ensure that it is clear in advance to learners what are the expectations the content and tone for the Journal or Blog should be. Is it casual? formal? Is there a Rubric?
  • Keep the concepts straight forward. This allows for linkages and connections to be clear and allows the learner to identify their own progress.


To view the assignment instructions and rubric please feel free to download the following attachments:

Camtasia - Faculty Support Video

I have used Camtasia for a variety of purposes within both my teaching and professional career.  The tool proves to be very useful for demonstrating computer tasks that are more complex in nature. It also allows for the student or receiver to pause and rewind for steps as needed and can be there to go back to over and over again.

To use Camtasia, there are really only 6 steps:
1) Select the Display or desktop you wish to capture if you have more than one monitor.
2) Select the camera if you wish to have a visual of your self during the screen capture.
3) Select the appropriate Profile. (This will vary depending upon your institutional license)
4) Give the recording a Title and Description.
5) Hit the big red button and Record!
6) Hit the stop button when you are done.

A practical use for Camtasia:
I recently had a group of faculty ask me about how they could make tests and quizzes in Blackboard a bit more quickly and efficiently.  I showed them the Blackboard quiz generator that the college had developed, but as a follow up I made this little video that I could pass along to help them in future.

The key to this video was the practice and planning in advance of recording the screen capture.  The steps were drafted and up on a second screen so that I could work my way through the video with few hiccups, and the screens and tabs were set up to make for a smooth transition.

Key learning to take away from working with Camtasia:
  • Practice makes perfect - Nothing like having a camera on you to make you nervous!
  • Plan your narrative before you begin recording - Just a few bullet points go a long way.
  • Lock your office door! - Interruptions do happen, put a sign on your door to prevent having to start over.
  • Check your surroundings before you record. - Ugly things on your shelves behind you look pretty bad!
A downfall that can be identified with Camtasia is that you only get one take if you are working with the basic product. Camtasia Studio offers more advanced capture and editing features.

To view the Blackboard Test Generator video clip and see the accompanying description please visit my youtube page.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Open Courseware

Before I began with the MEd at Athabasca, I decided it might be a good idea to take an Intro to Psychology course. Since I wasn't exposed to this in my undergrad, and I did not take an BEd, I felt it would be something that would inform some of the theories and concepts that I would be exposed to in education.

I went to the MIT Open Courseware site to see what I could find and located an Introduction to Psychology course in their catalog. The course is 22 audio lectures, along with notes and readings. The courses were incredibly useful especially when I got to MDDE603 Foundations of Instructional Design, I think if I hadn't heard about Skinner and Behaviourism and several of the other concepts presented in the Psychology course, the readings would have been that much denser to read!

It is a great course, and well worth the listen. I would highly recommend it as a supplement for anyone entering into the MDDE program at Athabasca with out an Intro Psyche course.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An overview of the Blackboard LMS System

I'm going to preface this with the fact that this topic is just HUGE, so I chose to walk through the major concepts that I typically cover when teaching Introduction to Blackboard at Algonquin College.

What is an LMS or CMS? 
Consider these Content Management Systems as containers which mark each element that has been uploaded with specific features and properties.  Blogger, Wordpress or Drupal are all Content Management Systems which keeps content and can be grouped, tagged and sorted as needed.  The other feature however, is that when you want to visually update the look and feel of a webpage the navigation through the structure developed remains consistent while the "skin" is updated to change how it looks as you can see from the examples below. 
Illustration 1: Template samples
Retrieved from:
A Learning Management System has the additional feature of including an additional widget or application for managing grades. 

Navigating Blackboard
Upon logging in to Blackboard the first page you see is a landing page or Dashboard. The purpose of this dashboard is to aggregate information streams from a variety of areas and all of your courses to give you a general snapshot of what is currently happening. (sample below).
Illustration 2: Blackboard Dashboard
Retrieved from:
The page aggregates deadlines and tasks from the calendars from all of your courses, as well as announcements in a main "news feed". Institution Announcements may have an additional window, as well as technical support.  To reach your courses, you may select them from the list on the right, or use the "Courses" tab to see a full list of all courses associated with this user.  This dashboard can be modified and rearranged to best suit the needs of the individual user.  
Inside the course we have a main menu down the left side, and the content is visualized on the right hand side. The Meno can link to the various tools, content areas and external links required for the course. Material can be grouped into folders which are content areas that run long down the page much like this discussion board post.  Or within Modules which operates much like the "books" feature being used to organize this MDDE610 course. 
Illustration 3: Blackboard Content Area
Retrieved from:
Building Your Course
I typically classify the tools within blackboard under three categories.  
  • Transmission  -  Broadcasting information for students to receive.
  • Interaction  -  Ways of getting students to interact with each other and the professor.
  • Assessment  - Ways for the instructor to receive activities and link to the gradebook.
Using these three categories I introduce the buttons circled above marked E in Illustration 3: Build Content, Assessments and Tools. Indicating the function of most items in Build Content are Transmission, the Tools are Interaction, and Assessments are assignments, tests and quizzes.
Blackboard has developed quite the list of Tools for interaction, and in my class I typically discuss Discussion Boards in order to provide guidance in developing guiding questions, time boundaries and overall netiquette. I always point them to our webpage which has a variety of videos and whitepapers to help them learn more about the other tools, as well as direct them to Curriculum Services were someone can sit with them and discuss their needs and help select a tool that may best serve them.
In an off the top of my head list (not complete) Blackboard has:
  • Annoucements (Running Blog type page which ties into Student Dashboards)
  • Discussion Boards
  • Wikis
  • Collaborate (a WebX, Skype, type live video conference tool)
  • Journals/Blogs
  • Turnitin (an outside vendor that has been incorporated)
  • Groups (For creating a shared space for teams of students)
In addition there are several basic admin tools like Calendar, My Grades, Email and Task Lists

The Gradebook
Essentially from there we travel to the gradebook which allows faculty to organize and communicate feedback to their class.  Assignments and tests are automatically connected to the gradebook, and manual columns can be created in order to upload things such as presentation and lab grades. Assessments can be weighted and tallied just like working in Excel, and it keeps learners informed of how they are doing.

The Retention Centre
A newer feature in Blackboard, this fabulous page gives you a snapshot of how your students are doing, and whether there is anyone at risk.  They look at Missed Deadlines, Low Grades and Last Access to the course, and will show you a dot beside those students that may be at risk. It is then up to the instructor to select students to further monitor and you will receive notifications and warning related to those specific students.
Illustration 4: The Retention Centre
Retrieved from:

Annnd...  That's about it!  We typically do activities along the way using a manual, all the while I point them back to our Bb Help page with how-to videos. By the end the goal is that faculty are familiar with the structure, have tried the features out, and are aware of several resources to return to for reminders when needed.
All the best, 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

ETC - Hybrid Showcase

In October of 2012 I was asked to produce a five minute video showcasing Website Development the blended learning course that I developed for Small Business and Entrepreneurship students at Algonquin College. This short clip not only demonstrates the communication strategy applied to this course, but one may also observe the layout and presentation for the delivery of this video.

Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is a blend of an apprenticeship perspective complimented by cognitive and constructivist theory. I value open communication and this includes presenting clear expectations and delivering feedback in a fair and timely manner. I warmly embrace the use of technology in order to flip the class room, empowering students to learn at their own pace through and allow the classroom to be an environment in which learners may interact face to face with their peers, the material and myself.
I strive to provide fair and practical evaluation that measure both recall and transfer skills in an effort to assess meaningful learning and I remain sensitive to the limitations of the learner experiencing cognitive overload due to lack of prior knowledge or difficulties faced due to language. By aspiring to maintain a learning environment that minimizes these instances of cognitive overload, I endeavor to provide learners the ability to self pace, dig deeper and manage lessons through the online classroom. What’s more, I aim to soon deliver lessons in a true PSI format where the lessons delivered online are robust, engaging and allow learners to personalize their studies in order to best prepare for each and every one for their careers.
For the full theory of practice paper please feel free to download and review the attached:  Theory of Practice Paper - MEd Assignment

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Quizlet - Study Tool

Quizlet is a tool I have used for my students in several of my courses. It is simply a pairing of terms and definitions that can be arranged in a variety of learning games which help students remember these pairings. The following short video provides an overview of how to work with Quizlet as a study tool.

The tool is a great way to get students thinking about the terms associated with a topic, especially if we are going into a chapter or area that has a unique vocabulary associated with it.  I find sharing something like this BEFORE the unit begins helps to ensure that the readings "stick" a bit more since they have an opportunity to become familiar with the terms.

Below is an example of a deck I created for faculty teaching in an Office Administration - Medical program at Algonquin College.

Overall, Quizlet is great for basic terms, and definitions.  Helping students make connections between acronyms and their definitions. And building up their ability to spell new terms and test their recognition of the Acronyms.