What have I learned?

In this course, I learned so much more about online course design. I particularly enjoyed learning how to better enhance teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence in online teaching and learning. I learned that these elements can be built into the course design and about specific ways to do this. For example, to increase social presence, many of the following techniques could be used: Icebreaking activities, VoiceThread introductions, profiles, discussions, and more. These activities increase affective expression, interaction and open communication, and group cohesion.  Teaching presence can be enhanced through direct instruction, facilitating discourse, and instructional design and organization. Cognitive presence can be enhanced through critical reflection and discourse http://cguevara.commons.gc.cuny.edu/files/2009/09/Learning-Effectiveness-paper-Garrison.pdf  

Learning is change. I have changed many things to improve my online teaching such as adding more student choice and student-led discussions. I have also improved rubrics, instructions, and use more peer review and small group discussions based on sound pedagogical principles and best practices for online learning.  Additionally, I am including more authentic, student-centered activities and assessments. I have also learned about and included more multimedia in my course to enhance teaching, social, and cognitive presence (McDonough, n.d.) . I have learned to incorporate more innovative uses of technology to enhance online course delivery for students, including having learning environments available outside of the course management system for students’ lifelong learning needs.

It’s been a great semester! Thank you to everyone for the awesome discussions, sharing of knowledge, and learning together.



Garrison, E. R. (2009). Cognitive presence for effective asynchronous online learning: The role of reflective inquiry, self-direction, and metacognition. Retrieved from http://cguevara.commons.gc.cuny.edu/files/2009/09/Learning-Effectiveness-paper-Garrison.pdf

McDonough, W. (n.d.). Study of multimedia to enhance teaching, social, and cognitive presence in online courses. Retrieved from http://contentdm.umuc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15434coll5/id/988/rec/4

Incorporating theory into the design of an online course

We are now at the end of module 5! The time is really flying by. I love designing online courses that incorporate strong social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence (Garrison, 2007). ETAP640 has been extremely beneficial in helping me learn additional, innovative ways to do this. I want to be sure the course is student-friendly and easy to navigate. Use of best practices in web design is essential when designing an online course, as described by Santa Rosa Junior College (2012).  The online course should be visually consistent and download quickly. It is best to avoid very large image files and use jpegs or gifs and streaming video instead of downloads. The breadcrumb trail of Moodle is efficient in helping students navigate around the course effectively.

I have built in a lot of instructor-student and student-student interaction and communication for increased social and teaching presence. The use of discussions, blog reflections, class community areas, and more increases interaction and motivates students. Students will learn from sharing their knowledge and different perspectives.

I am having a little trouble with my “Break Room.” It is a place for busy nursing students to relax, take a break, and talk with others about areas of common interest, separate from course and activity specific discussion boards.  I got an idea from Headley (2005) about adding in a student photo scrapbook to the break room. According to Headley, in this role of “space planner,” he creates abundant opportunities for interaction in easily navigable courses. The photo scrapbook increases students’ sense of awareness who their peers are through their photos. It allows the area to be more personalized to the group. However, the embed code is giving me trouble. Hopefully, it will work soon or I will have to look for another tool to embed this object. Pickett (2011) lists many tools to enhance instruction and engage online learners. Check it out!

I’ve been refining the course day and night. Next step is Implement, then Evolve. Onwards!



Garrison (2007). Online community of inquiry review: Social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 11(1), 61-72. http://ualbany.mrooms.net/file.php/187/readings/v11n1_8garrison.pdf

Headley, S. (2005). Five roles I play in online courses. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ854479&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ854479

Pickett, A. (2011). Tools I use to enhance my instruction – to engage online learners. Retrieved from http://etap640.edublogs.org/2011/07/14/tools-i-use-to-enhance-my-instuction-to-engage-online-learners/

Santa Rosa Junior College. (2012). Best practices for online classes. Retrieved from http://www.santarosa.edu/instruction/online-learning/best-practices-for-online-classes/index.php#navigate

Where am I?

Where am I?

In this module I formatively reviewed the progress of my course using a course review checklist. I must say that the course checklist is a very valuable tool to help improve the quality of the course and point out things that still need to be done.  Elements of quality for an online course could potentially get easily overlooked without a good quality review plan. The course checklist is from Pickett with sections derived from Quality Matters standards, SLN course quality standards, and standards used at Niagara Community College. The checklist contains best practices for online courses that can help refine my course. This self-assessment helps to analyze strengths and identify areas for development. The checklist takes into account the perspective of the student, the structure (instructional design aspects), and the mechanics of the course. This allows me to make final revisions to the course before the next step of implementation!

So, where am I in terms of completion of the course? I need to finalize all activities and include notes of encouragement or milestones as well as information about where to ask questions about the learning activities. I will ensure that the instructions and evaluation methods are clear. I need to finalize the course schedule, information about the tech tools, and add tutorials for the tech tools. I will also create an announcement, add some initial resources to the Diigo group, and make sure there are no blank documents!

The checklists help me to think about how I am enhancing social, cognitive, and teaching presence in my course. These concepts are not merely theoretical issues, but have practical implications as well for online course pedagogy. According to Garrison (2007), there is evidence that a sense of community can be created online. This community should be based on common purpose, inquiry, and worthwhile educational goals. Students benefit from collaborative experiences where they can share diverse perspectives.  Social presence must move beyond just the social into the intellectual focus. An online course should ideally be designed to foster group cohesion, openness, and trust for this constructivist learning approach.

Garrison (2007) defines cognitive presence as “the exploration, construction, resolution and confirmation of understanding through collaboration and reflection in a community of inquiry” (p. 65). It is important to move discourse beyond exploration to integration and resolution. The design of an online course should include appropriate activities to move students to this deeper level. In my course students have opportunities to exchange information, connect ideas, reflect, and apply new ideas, indicators of cognitive presence (Garrison, 2007).

Teaching presence includes design, facilitating discourse, and direct instruction (Garrison, 2007). The course should be designed to include all aspects of teaching presence. This will be incorporated into my course to facilitate indicators including the sharing of personal meaning and focusing discussion. As I review my online course, I will reflect on these issues and refine the course accordingly!



Garrison (2007). Online community of inquiry review: Social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 11(1), 61-72. http://ualbany.mrooms.net/file.php/187/readings/v11n1_8garrison.pdf

Who am I?

Who am I? I am a nurse educator always striving to improve my online course design for a learner-centered, effective online learning environment!

In our current module, we are building our course. I am focused on designing the course for increased teaching presence and class community. As I do this, I am becoming proficient in the Moodle course development tool, adding, deleting, editing documents, and more. I am looking at the course from the perspective of the student and reflecting on how I might improve the online interface.

The three components of teaching presence, Instructional Design and Organization, Facilitating Discourse, and Direct Instruction (Shea, Pickett, & Pelz, 2003) are guiding choices that I am making about the learning activities and course design.  I am creating learning activities where not only the teacher demonstrates teaching presence, but the students will do so as well.  For example, I have incorporated student-led discussions and peer assistance areas.

Other components factor into my course design as well.  According to Bransford, Brown, Cocking, Donovan, & Pellegrino (2000), a course that is knowledge centered, outcomes oriented, learner centered, community centered, and assessment centered leads to high levels of engagement. My course provides opportunities for students to develop their knowledge, skills, and attitudes, build on their interests and strengths, and helps them learn about themselves as learners. There are opportunities for community building, collaborative learning, and for providing feedback to learners in various ways. The course integrates high levels of Community of Inquiry components (social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence) to create an effective learning environment (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000) .



Bransford, J., Brown, A., Cocking, R., Donovan, M., & Pellegrino, J. W. (2000). How People Learn. National Academy Press. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105. http://communitiesofinquiry.com/sites/communityofinquiry.com/files/Critical_Inquiry_model.pdf

Shea, P., Pickett, A. M., & Pelz, W. E. (2003). A follow-up investigation of “teaching
Presence” in the SUNY Learning Network. JALN, 7(2), 61-80. http://sloanconsortium.org/jaln/v7n2/follow-investigation-quotteaching-presencequot-suny-learning-network

Why do I do things the way that I do?

As an educator, I strive to facilitate students’ growth in knowledge and wisdom. I teach very personally so that students will feel involved. I actively listen to my students and learn who they are so that we may communicate effectively with each other. I learn about students’ interests and goals. I believe in a learner-centered environment. I am very aware of different learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, as well as different thinking styles of learners: reflective, creative, practical, and conceptual. Each individual is unique. I try to use varied teaching strategies and methodologies to help meet the needs of each student. I encourage students to learn from each other and to be open to new points of view.  I believe in a deep constructivist/experiential approach to teaching and learning. I find that students learn best when they are engaged and when they feel that the material is relevant to their own lives. It is important to promote students’ learning through the development of all the different ways of knowing. This supports students as independent life-long learners.  Students’ creative and critical thinking skills are enhanced. I maintain open communication with students and am readily available.

I strongly believe in maintaining professional competency and in life-long learning for myself as well as my students. I am self-reflective of my teaching and students’ learning in order to continually refine my teaching practice.  I reflect on the attributes of the best teachers that have truly made a difference in my life, considering how they have helped me learn and understand. I imagine what students would say about my teaching and if it was a valuable experience for them. This helps me to further improve and develop my teaching style.

The teachers I am with this summer are truly inspirational and together we are exploring best practices for teaching and learning online. All of the things I mentioned above and more are possible in online learning! During this module we organized our courses, chunked and sequenced content, and drafted the structure. We set up modules and learning activities. My thoughts revolved around the “anatomy of a module” which is “present, engage/interact, assess” (Pickett, 2012) and my course as “learner/learning-centered, knowledge-centered, assessment-centered, and community-centered” (Pickett, 2012). Thinking is driven by questions to stimulate thought, instead of stopping thought with answers (Paul & Elder, 2000). I have added more student-led discussions and many opportunities for student-student and student-faculty interaction. Active learning strategies can help learners become critical, reflective thinkers with inquiring minds. Online learning can provide active, interactive, collaborative learning strategies, congruent with a heutagogenous approach.



Paul, R. W., & Elder, L. (2000). The Role of Questions in Teaching, Thinking and Learning. In Critical Thinking: Basic Theory and Instructional Structures Handbook. Retrieved from http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/the-role-of-questions-in-teaching-thinking-and-learning/524

Pickett, A., M. (2008b). Course manual: Online course development for beginners.

Focusing on Increasing Social Presence in an Online Course

This module provided so many ideas on how to increase social presence in an online course. Pickett’s (2012) playlist entitled Social Presence http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4774D4B83AF5DF41 is a valuable resource and includes six brief videos. Social presence includes affective expression, interaction and open communication, and group cohesion.  In order to build class community it is important to have students get to know each other and establish trust.  Students need to see that the instructor is a multidimensional, real person with voice and personality. When instructors make an effort to reach through, their energy will be evident in the course design and in the facilitation of the course. Humor, self-disclosure, and the expression of emotion are some ways to infuse social presence. Icebreaking activities may be innovative and creative. For example, Pickett uses VoiceThread surrounding a video of her daughter introducing her to the students. Profiles can be used to get to know each person.  Discussions can include brief introductions and what students expect and want to learn in the course. Addressing students as “you” with an informal, conversational tone instead of “scholarease” helps to connect.  Chat rooms, a student lounge, or a coffee break area are also good for social interaction.  I will be using these ideas in my course to increase social presence. Pickett emphasizes the power that instructor’s words have and the importance of being positive and supportive.  Students can also help each other. With group cohesion, students will be comfortable respectfully disagreeing with each other. Netiquette rules can be created together in the group. Modeling good online behavior is essential.

Scaffolding students into supporting their assertions and challenging each other in a respectful way can be facilitated with social presence and trust. Providing examples of high quality interaction will help immensely. As students get to know each other they will be more comfortable providing feedback to peers. When teaching online, Pickett recommends thinking about each individual student, what they need, how to help them be successful, anticipate their questions, think about their issues and problems. Have a lot of information there for them in the absence of a physical person. Provide tools, rubrics, and a deconstructed syllabus so that they can be responsible for their own learning. “Activate their interest. Catalyze the passion in them.” (Pickett, 2012).

According to Pickett’s (2012) Breeze – Keys to Success presentation in the course, research has shown a significant and positive correlation between quantity and quality of interaction with the instructor and students’ satisfaction and reported learning. See this summary by Karen Swan on relationships between interactions and learning online: http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/books/pdf/interactions.pdf  Pickett found that fancy multimedia does not appear to have an influence on student satisfaction or perception of learning and that online learning is not about distance for students, rather convenience. I often think of Pickett’s pearls of wisdom: Online learning is about creating rich, robust teaching, and learning environments with opportunities for interaction with content, instructor, and with peers!


From theory to practice for “excellent” online course development

Wingall’s (2012, January 10) blog entry entitled “Less is not more” very well sums up a lot of my learning this week about online instructional design. “Online courses and e-learning sites do not become online learning environments without designing them for learning” (Wingall).

Looking at our course rubric for “excellent” online course development reveals the following:

The course development assignment demonstrates an excellent effort to
understand, interpret, adapt, and implement online teaching and
learning theory and best practices by providing and fostering online
teaching presence and class community. The online course presents
content, engages the student in interaction with the content, with the
instructor, and with each other, and assesses students in ways that
take the options and limitations of the online environment into account.

I am enjoying observing exemplar online courses during this module and listening to interviews from very experienced online course designers. I look for the elements of an “excellent” online course in the exemplars. It’s very helpful to observe the structure, design, and activities that reflect online teaching and learning theory and incorporate best practices, including authentic assessment where students “perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills” (Mueller, 2005).

Actually creating a course in my own Moodle course shell is a dream come true because we will be moving to the Moodle very soon. It’s also invaluable to receive expert feedback on my course design. Have I made everything as crystal clear as it should be? Can others feel a sense of teaching presence and class community in the course? These are just a few of the questions I am considering as I design my course. In our discussions, we focused on effective online course design, effective online instructors, incorporating creative activities in online learning, and sharing our experiences with online learning. So many excellent ideas and resources in Diigo!

Another interesting resource I found was Dickinson’s (2006) e-learning developer’s guide:  https://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/207/evolution-of-an-e-learning-developers-guide   that takes a developer through the process of developing an online course. The guide includes course structure, navigation, interactivity, media guidelines, and continues with some more macro level guidelines such as learning principles and instructional strategies. This course give us the opportunity to apply what we are learning, so I am off to my Moodle shell.  Cheers!



Dickson, M. (2006). Evolution of an e-Learning Developers Guide. Retrieved from https://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/207/evolution-of-an-e-learning-developers-guide

Mueller, J. (2005). The Authentic Assessment Toolbox: Enhancing Student Learning through Online Faculty Development. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 1(1). Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/documents/vol1_no1_mueller_001.pdf

Wignall, E. (2012, January 10). Less is not more. Retrieved from http://www.onteachingonline.com/2012/01/less-is-not-more/

Best Practices for Online Course Design

My summer journey continues into module 2 to learn more about best practices for online learning and teaching. Online learning focuses on metacognitive, reflective, and collaborative learning, using a multitude of delivery methods and multimedia formats (Keengwe & Kidd , 2010).   The section entitled “Connect” in the online course design manual (Pickett, 2008b) has us “draw connections, consider differences, and reconceptualize learning activities for the online environment” (Pickett, 2012). I am really excited about this next step, to create the orientation documents in Moodle. This is the first time I will be working in Moodle. I love learning about new tools and the new possibilities they may offer.  Students will connect with me, each other, the course environment, and course content by going through these documents and introducing themselves to each other.  The manual offers best practices for web page presentation and how to make course materials clear and effective for students. Tips such as breaking up long documents, using heads, subheads, and putting important information at the beginning are very helpful as I design my course. Other best practices include writing in a first person, friendly conversational tone.

The Breeze presentation: What works? Learning Design Basics for the Online Classroom (Pickett, 2006) described learning design as creating opportunities for interaction between the students and instructor and between the students themselves.  An effective online instructor assumes nothing and anticipates students’ questions and needs in the design of the course. This means a very clear, organized design is necessary.  Titles can be used as advanced organizers.  Scorza’s (2005) paper about emphasizing relationships and empathy over efficiency in the hope of achieving both was very insightful.  Scorza offered additional best practices, including using humor where appropriate, being reasonable about deadlines and extensions, sharing grading rubrics with students for transparency, generating a sense of personal warmth, and never giving up on students. Pickett (2006) asserts that online presence can also be worked into the course design using techniques such as new flashes, announcements, and profile sharing, and a talk with the professor section.

Here is a multimedia resource from Penn State’s (2008) World Campus about managing the online workload that you can view in iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/itunes-u/strategies-for-managing-online/id429875405?mt=2 As Pickett (2008a) says, “First make it work, then make it pretty”  (p. 6).  I am applying all of the suggestions to improve my course. It’s invaluable to be able to share this journey with so many other educators and learn from each other’s ideas and peer feedback.  I am like a sponge, soaking it all in and continually searching for more. I enjoy challenges and venturing further into uncharted territory!

Online courses offer the opportunity to go beyond limitations of place and time. With advances in information and communication technologies, learners may connect with others globally and become more self-determined in their learning.  This gives us all the opportunity to expand our pedagogies with active online learning pedagogies (Keengwe & Kidd, 2010).



Keengwe, J., & Kidd, T. T. (2010) Best practices in online learning and teaching in higher education. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(2). Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol6no2/keengwe_0610.htm

Penn State. (2008). Strategies for managing the online workload. Retrieved from http://itunes.apple.com/itunes-u/strategies-for-managing-online/id429875405?mt=2

Pickett, A. M. (2006). What works? Learning Design Basics for the Online Classroom.

Pickett, A., M. (2008a). A series of unfortunate online events and how to avoid them.

Pickett, A., M. (2008b). Course manual: Online course development for beginners.

Scorza, J. (2005). Do online students dream of electric teachers? Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 9, (2). Retrieved from http://www.sloan-c.org/publications/jaln/v9n2/pdf/v9n2_scorza.pdf

Reflections About Online Course Development

What a great two weeks this has been! Module 1 ends today. Starting off with social media and building our personal learning network has been so exciting!  We have participated together in so many engaging multimedia activities to help improve our online teaching and learning. The videos with statistics on social media and technology reveal new skills needed to survive in the global world including information management, global communication, and self-directed learning.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjKBsfk_O8c . Social media is the number 1 activity on the web http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0EnhXn5boM&feature=youtu.be We need to keep up-to-date and take advantage of advances in technology to enhance our teaching and learning practices. Online courses can match and surpass face-to-face teaching methods due to its flexibility, learner-centeredness, writing intensity, enriched course materials, and high interactivity (Kassop, 2003). A profound impact of the Internet is social learning (Brown & Adler, 2008). We have joined knowledge communities through Twitter, Diigo, Edublogs, and VoiceThread, and have seen the power of connections. We are learning new tools to enhance students’ learning, such as Second Life and open educational resources for social participation in learning.

With all this technology surrounding us, we have not forgotten the valuable pedagogical principles and philosophical approaches on which we base our practice. Course discussions have included the need to continually advance our “pedagogy, andragogy, heutagogy, and those “yet to be” We exist in a dynamic world where change is never ending. I am focusing on best practices for online learning and looking forward to module 2!



Brown, J. S., & Adler, R. P. (2008). Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0. Educause Review, 43, (1). Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume43/MindsonFireOpenEducationtheLon/162420 or http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0811.pdf

Kassop, M. (2003). Ten ways online education matches, or surpasses, face-to-face learning. The Technology Source Archives at the University of North Carolina. Retrieved from http://technologysource.org/article/ten_ways_online_education_matches_or_surpasses_facetoface_learning/

Learning 2.0 with Web 2.0 contributes to the Scholarship of Teaching

In an effort to understand my students’ learning more deeply, I am constantly questioning my assumptions and engaging in reflection about their learning experiences. I ask them if their learning is meaningful and valuable and love to hear their feedback.  I am always trying to improve my teaching practice and my students’ learning outcomes.

This summer, I am honored to be on an exciting learning journey with an absolutely amazing group of educators as we share best practices for online learning and teaching. We are fortunate to have an excellent coach with years of experience directing the SUNY Learning Network (SLN) and in charge of online faculty development and instructional design.  Thank you, Alex!  It was great to meet everyone online  (and Alex and Fiona in person at the SUNY Conference on Instruction and Technology (CIT) 2012 ) What a great conference it was with sessions on Quality Standards for Organization Self-Assessment & Benchmarking in Continuing Ed and Distance Learning, Connectivism, SUNY Open Access, Cyberbullying, Connected Literacies: Teaching with Social Media to Advance Participatory Learning, and much more.

I am very happy that we will learn how to design courses in Moodle this summer. I have no experience with Moodle and this will be our next Learning Management System (LMS) http://moodle.org/

During this first module we are exploring the many uses of Web 2.0 social media in education and have been playing with many of the tools ourselves (Twitter, VoiceThread, Diigo, and Edublogs). It’s great to test out these technologies and study the potential value for students’ learning. We are finding that these tools lead to active engagement and social construction of knowledge in this course! I think of Twitter, Diigo, Edublogs, and VoiceThread as components of personal learning networks. With Twitter one can share microblogging comments of 140 characters or less and reach out globally to many diverse knowledge communities. Edublogs allows for more in depth sharing of reflections on any topic, including student learning, teaching practices, the literature, course development, and more.  With Diigo we can share annotated bibliographies with each other that won’t disappear after the course is over. VoiceThread allows people to have conversations around media by adding voice, text, or video comments. It’s great to see and hear each other online!

I am improving my learning and building my network by engaging in rigorous scholarly discourse and peer review to learn more about teaching through these Web 2.0 tools and our Moodle online discussions.  This communication contributes greatly to my scholarship of teaching.

As Brown and Adler (2008) so aptly put it, web 2.0 creates an environment for open, active, passion-based, participatory learning; a “Learning 2.0” approach emphasizes a  “demand-pull” rather than the traditional “supply-push” mode of knowledge development.  Critical reflection on pedagogical approaches is essential. Building courses that employ principles of connectivism or personal learning in a network of interactions (Downes, 2008) and heutagogical approaches for self-directed learners who learn how to learn (Eberle & Childress, 2007) will greatly enhance students’ learning outcomes and lifelong learning skills.


Brown, J. P., & Adler, R. S. (2008). Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0. Educause Review, 43(1) p. 16-32. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0811.pdf

Downes, S. (2008).  Connectivism: A theory of personal learning. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/Downes/connectivism-a-theory-of-personal-learning

Eberle, J., and Childress, M. (2007)  Heutagogy: It Isn’t Your Mother’s Pedagogy Any More. Retrieved from http://www.nssa.us/journals/2007-28-1/2007-28-1-04.htm