Developing Community

Dr. Mark Kassel from Robert Moores University outlined a few ways to establish presence online: announcements, email, outline expectations, personal videos, include personal perspective, discussions, summarise students’ points and add own perspective, greater presence at the start of the course in discussions e.g. 50%, but less later on to avoid the instructor dominating the discussions (Kassel, 2011).

Other behaviours and strategies for improving instructor presence online: encourage questions; refer to students by name; represent the most important information in multiple ways e.g. text, image, and video. Instructors should be clear about how they wish to be contacted and how quickly they will respond; track student log-ins – contact students through email who appear to be struggling, telephone students who seem to have disappeared. Send a copy of announcements posted in a LMS by email; give students the option to receive notifications from via text, upload the syllabus into VoiceThread  or Movenote which enables a ‘human’ overview. Include captions or transcripts alongside videos that will be used more than once (CSU Channel Islands).

I would use personal videos at the start of the course, at the start of each module and at the end of the course. The videos should reflect me and my personal perspective. Making my expectations clear, the objectives clear, how I wish to be contacted and how quickly I will respond will be important just as it is with ‘f2f’classes. I would use a tool such as Skype, ooVoo, or JoinMe to meet with students at the start of the course, and at other times if necessary. The use of an ‘icebreaker’ at the start of the course e.g. pose questions, get students to answer, ask them to introduce themselves to a fellow learner with similar answers as in ‘LineUp’ (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011, p.56). The use of students’ names would be very important just as it is in a classroom course. I would need to log on frequently, post weekly reminders, updates or information, post announcements via LMS, email, or other tool. Check student log-ins, contact students through email who seem to be struggling and telephone students who seem to have disappeared. The most important information should be given in multiple ways e.g. text, image, and video to meet differing learning styles.  A balance of being an active moderator of online discussion but at the same time not getting too involved should be an aim, generally as Mark Kassel said, more involvement at the start, less later on. This does not mean not monitoring the discussions; monitoring needs to be frequent so that any problems can be identified. For example if students are ‘at war’ in a discussion forum, if inappropriate comments are made, or if one or two students are dominating the discussion I would need to enter the discussion as a moderator. If the discussions have stalled then I could comment positively to motivate, or post an applicable question or summarise students’ points and add my own perspective to generate a response, if someone has posted a question and no one has answered I could post a response or post resources to help the learners find the answer.

The class composition would need to be considered e.g. mainly ‘digital natives’ or ‘digital immigrants’? This should be considered because it might affect levels of comfort with different technology. For example, digital immigrants may prefer emails whereas digital natives may prefer text.  Attention should be paid to fear of privacy and security; the school policy should be made available on the course site. The technical team’s contact information should be shared at the start of the course. The course should go live a few days before the actual start so that learners have the opportunity to log-in and address any technical issues before the official course start date.  The technical competence of learners would need to be considered so that activities are appropriate and/or support can be given.

John Heap and Brian Kelly stated that barriers to building online community include a difference in younger people accepting new ideas and technology more readily than older people, fear of privacy and security, hardware and software issues, functionality of web tools, and technical competence of learners. (Heap & Kelly, 2015)


Conrad, R. and Donaldson, J. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

CSU Channel Islands. (n.d.). Behaviors & Strategies for Improving Instructor Presence in Online Classes. Retrieved from 

Heap, J. and Kelly, B. (2015). Building Online Communities: The Barriers and the Bruises. Retrieved from

Kassel, M. Dr. (2011) Teaching Presence in Online Learning. Retrieved from

eLearning: Principles and Processes summary

It is important to consider challenges and barriers to learning online. Challenges include time, not being able to see emotions, feeling of frustration, technical skills, and internet/network connection. Quality guidelines are important to reduce drop out, increase the reputation of elearning, and make success possible. Knowing the different generations of learners (Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generations X, Y, and Z) helps to understand how to meet their needs. Veterans, Baby Boomers and Generation X are also classified as ‘Digital immigrants’ – those that learned to use technology vs. Generation Y and Z, ‘Digital natives’ who grew up with technology (

Digital immigrants might like printed information, and very clear instructions. Digital natives might like shorter chunks of information, visual content, and opportunities to construct their own learning. Web tools can be used for elearning, there are numerous available, many are free.  ePortfolios can be used by students, teachers, and institutions. Set clear outcomes, expectations, have valid assessment, and use a range of tools.

eLearning programs that I experienced which were good and made success possible all had clear objectives, activities, assignments, and assessment. Conversely, the courses which were negative learning experiences the following was not present: active learning, interaction and the development of learning communities, prompt constructive feedback, use of synchronous as well as asynchronous learning tools, and variety of assessment  (Examples from

It is crucial to take the time to plan a purposeful and meaningful course. It is not just a matter of loading existing course materials online. Like all courses there must be alignment between objectives, instruction/content, and assessment. Technology must support the learning. Be ‘intentional’ – ask why and what?  Paired and group work can be done. It is possible to build community and have interaction online, this is of great value to learners.

I would firstly draw up quality guidelines. Steps should be taken during the program to look for signs of potential drop outs and to contact learners at risk.  The attrition rate of each intake would be measured and evaluated. I would be present on the site, set clear objectives, use an icebreaker e.g. ‘Lineup’ (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011, p. 56), have a range of activities and types of assessment, use images and graphics as well as text, videos, and games. Have clear structure, provide lots of feedback, reflective journals, provide opportunities for collaboration and interaction e.g. small group discussions like a forum, team projects, active learning, group activities use of synchronous tools e.g.a live presentation, debate, or guest speaker, as well as asynchronous learning tools e.g. forums, videos. Boettcher’s and Conrad’s list of ten best practices for teaching online is an excellent guide which I will follow.


Barker, K. Dr.,  FuturEd.  (2002). Canadian Recommended E-learning Guidelines (CanREGs).  Retrieved from

Boettcher, J. V., and  Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Conrad, R. and Donaldson, J. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Learning Solutions Magazine. (2015). Understanding Today’s Learner. Retrieved from


We talk to people online ‘face to face’, we send emails, we apply for jobs online, so why do people still walk around with folders of their work? Why do we still have students’ assignments ‘printed out’ and kept in a folder?

“An e-portfolio is a digitized collection of artefacts including demonstrations, resources, and accomplishments that represent and individual, group, or institution” (Lorenzo & Ittelson, 2005, p.1). Text, graphics, video, audio, images, and/or animations can be archived on a website or electronic media e.g. CD, DVD, or USB.

Lorenzo and Ittelson outline six functions of e-portfolios: to plan educational programs, document knowledge skills, and learning, track development; find a job; evaluate a course, monitor and evaluate performance (Lorenzo & Ittelson, 2005, p.2).

Student’s e-portfolios document examples of work, show what they have learnt, encourage reflection. They can be used to show prospective employers. Teaching e-portfolios document skills, accomplishments and critical reflection. It can be used for career advancement. Institutional e-portfolios include both student and teacher e-portfolios as well as the institutions portfolios from a range of programs (Lorenzo & Ittelson, 2005, p.3-5).

A number of issues and challenges surround e-portfolios such as hardware and software issues: development and maintenance; security and privacy; ownership and intellectual property: who owns it? What can be included? These issues as well as others must be considered (Lorenzo & Ittelson, 2005, p.8).

There are many ways to create e-portfolios. Many institutions have their own integrated system. Google Apps can be used to create e-portfolios. There are different ways to use it, for example as an instructor there is a Google Apps for Education domain which can be used to enrol students and control access ( Brightspace is another way to create an e-portfolio, so is wordpress. Helen Barrett outlines how to use word press for e-portfolios on this site. Dana Watts shows how to use it in this video. There are many other options.

ePortfolios should definitely be used.  Students should develop e-portfolios which they can build over time. According to the University of Waterloo, benefits of e-portfolios for students include: it can help students develop new or deeper learning, which results in higher grades; develop a better sense of themselves as students and as individuals; can be shared with friends and family members; can showcase their achievements when they are applying for a job ( Crichton and Kopp (2008) from the University of Calgary, says that eJournals e.g. in the form of blogs or wikis, make ePortfolios more authentic ( Be aware that regardless of how much you expose benefits, some learners may not want their life out in the digital world. Donald Clark in his blog expresses some concern with e-portfolios. One concern is that they might become redundant quickly due to changes in technology; another is that realistically recruiters do not have the time to wade through portfolios (

I would definitely consider using ePortfolios with the students that I teach, I would tailor it for students to highlight skills needed as a medical office assistant.

Likewise teachers can use e-portfolios instead of carrying around big hardback folders.  It is an easy way to showcase work, illustrate professional development and achievements.  I never actually carry around my hardback folders so an e-portfolio would be much more accessible. Included would be examples of resources, letters, activities, feedback, resume.  Advantages of owning an e-portfolio: can show evidence of continuing professional development; keep track of work, share info with peers, showcase teaching activities, new ideas, and reflections on teaching (

I could create a personal ePortfolio to document my knowledge and skills and use in job seeking. I could also use an ePortfolio for the course that I teach – to plan and evaluate the program.


Barrett, H., Dr. (2013). Balancing the two faces of ePortfolios. Retrieved from

Barrett, H., Dr. (n.d.). ePortfolios with GoogleApps. Retrieved from

Barrett, H., Dr. (2007). How to create and electronic portfolio with wordpress. Retrieved from

Clark, D. (2011). E-portfolios – 7 reasons why I don’t want my life in a shoebox.Retrieved from

D2L Corporation. (2015). Brightspace by D2L. D2L ePortfolio. Retrieved from

Davr055’s channel. (2008). E-portfolios for starters. Retrieved from

Lorenzo, G. and Ittelson, J. Ed. Oblinger, D. (2005). An overview of E-Portfolios.Retrieved from

University of Waterloo. (n.d.). ePortfolios explained. Retrieved from

Watts, D. (2011). Creating ePortfolios with wordpress. Retrieved from

Web tools

originally posted on April 17, 2015

Link to a list of top web tools

Tools I could use:

Adobe Captivate : Change PowerPoint presentations into engaging eLearning using actors, voices, interactions, and quizzes…deliver content to mobile devices, the web, desktops, and leading LMS”

Edmodo : Used for setting up a virtual classroom, messages, class groups, calendars, quizzes, assignments, video lectures. Keeps all information in one place for each class. Students can load to cell phones.

BrainShark : Create online video presentations, create podcasts, and more

Poll everywhere : Use mobile devices to conduct polls/quizzes.

Pow Toon : Animate presentations.

Screencast-o-matic One-click screen capture recording on Windows or Mac computers.

Quibblo : Create quizzes. Students can make their own.

Quizlet : Make flash cards, add picture and sound.

Voice thread : Collaborate wherever and whenever it’s convenient. Participate using voice, video or text. Use a screen reader or caption videos.

Voki : Create presentations with or without an avatar. Example Voki

Lessons from online teaching

originally posted on April 16, 2015

1) High touch more important than high tech: telephone if necessary if a student is in crisis.

2) Establish sound presence.

3) Use technology intentionally.

4) Use external resources.

5) Make expectations explicit.

6) Include fun, playfulness, and the unexpected.

7) Log in regularly.

8) Personal and regular feedback.


Educause. (2013). 8 Lessons Learned from Teaching Online. Retrieved from

Tips for delivering a synchronous presentation

originally posted on April 16, 2015

1) Visuals and Voice: limit text but do not let visuals distract from learning. Visuals should be relevant, appropriate, and support objectives.

2) Create interactions: have participants do something every 2 to 5 minutes to support learner attention. These activities should have a purpose and support objectives.

3) Whiteboards:trainers as well as participants can use the whiteboard. Use the annotation tools.

4) Chat: chat room messages. Good for open ended questions, technical help.

5) Breakout rooms: can be used for small group activity. It should be structured, a leader should be assigned.

6) Polling: good for feedback, question and answer. Best for questions with 2 to 5 possible responses.


Facilitador Tube. (2010). E-learning: How to deliver an engaging Virtual Classroom presentation. Retrieved from

10 best practices for elearning

1) Be present at the course site. Have a welcome video and post including an outline of the course. Be available throughout the course and ‘seen’ on the site – announcements, posts etc.

2) Create a supportive online course community. Have an icebreaker e.g. Lineup (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011, p. 56). Provide opportunities for students to collaborate e.g discussion forums, group projects.

3) Develop a set of explicit expectations for your learners. Make objectives of course and expectations clear e.g. guidelines for assignment submission, time expected to be spent learning on the course.

4) Use a variety of large group, small group, and individual work activities. E.g. case studies on handling difficult patients- the first few can be team activities.

5) Use a mix of synchronous/real time and asynchronous/any time activities. E.g. for bookkeeping can have a synchronous activity like a virtual live classroom, for job preparation can do an interview practice via Skype, or can have a guest speaker live.

6) Ask for informal feedback early in the course. What is going well? What is not?

7) Prepare discussion posts that invite responses, questions, discussions, and reflections. Example a forum on good customer services in medical offices – can ask students to think about their best and worst experiences in a medical office.

8) Search out and use content resources that are available in digital format. Videos, web links, articles, images, these can all be made available to students. Students can be asked to add to a resource section.

9) Combine core concept learning with customized and personalized learning. Making thinking visible shows what students know. Can use discussion forums, blogging, journals, wikis, podcasts etc. E.g. a group or paired wiki on four medical tests.

10) Plan a good closing and wrap activity e.g. students can do presentations summarising the course and post to a forum. Boettcher & Conrad states that end of course is a good time for synchronous activity so can use a live classroom.

(Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 37)


Boettcher, J. V. and Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Conrad, R. and Donaldson, J. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

10 Core Learning Priniciples

1) Four elements with the learner at the centre: Learner – actively doing; Mentor – design, direct, support, assess; Knowledge – content and resources: with what and how accessed; Environment.  – context: where, when, with whom, how.

2) Learners bring their own personalized knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Individualized/personalized learning.

3) Faculty mentors are the directors of the learning experience. Provides direction and purpose to learning experiences.

4) Learners need to learn core concepts rather than all course content.

5) All learning experiences include the environment or context in which the learner interacts. Where, when, with whom, with what resources? What learning outcomes?

6) Every learner has a zone of proximal development (ZPD) that defines the space that a learner is ready to develop into useful knowledge. ZPD is a foundation concept of constructivism (Vygotsky) – the goal of all learning experiences is growth, building on previous knowledge. What concept or problem developed new or further understanding?

7) Concepts are organized and interconnected knowledge clusters. Words/key terms mean little without the underlying concepts.

8) Different instruction is required for different learning outcomes.

9) More time on task = more learning. Students need to spend time interacting with, creating, and manipulating information and applying concepts and skills.

10) We shape our tools. Our tools shape us. Learning occurs within a context. Learning tools make a difference.

(Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 20-35)


Boettcher, J. V. and Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.