Sharing What I Find

Instructional Design and Technology in Education

December 12, 2014
by Heidi

Make it Stick

I recently completed three short papers based on Make it Stick (2013) by Brown, Roedinger, and McDaniel for a class I’m taking and thought I would share my work. I enjoyed the book and it confirmed many of the techniques that have worked well for me in the past as a student. Many of the activities are ones that UAF eLearning has been encouraging faculty to incorporate into online-asynchronous classes. The book further confirms these practices.

Make it Stick – Self Testing

The authors of Make it Stick (2013) Brown, Roedinger, and McDaniel bring up many techniques that students can adopt to learn material in a more efficient way than many students currently follow. One of those techniques is self-testing, “One of the best habits a learner can instill in herself is regular self-quizzing to recalibrate her understanding of what she does and does not know” (p. 21). Instead of rereading material, the authors suggest you slow down your reading and periodically self-test to commit to memory what you’ve just read (p. 229).

One tool that the authors talk about that can help students with self-testing is a mobile app called, Osmosis. Developed by medical school students, the app contains a database of quiz questions from textbook publishers, a curated and vetted team from Osmosis, along with questions the individual student or team of classmates create (crowd source). As noted on the website, “Osmosis was created to help med students break out of cram-forget cycles and maximize their learning efficiency.“ One of the features of Osmosis, is that you’re able to crowd source questions and add them to the Osmosis database. This is another technique, reflecting and summarizing content in your own words, that the authors of Make it Stick talk about (p. 89). The premise is that you select one of the categories of quizzes and answer multiple choice questions, many of which contain images. Beside keeping track of correct or incorrect answers, Osmosis allows you to judge your own confidence in answering the question. Select: “I’m sure,” “I’m feelng lucky”, or “No clue.”

One aspect of Osmosis that makes it different from other self-test applications, is the ability to push question sets to the user on a user specified schedule. For example, you’re able to select the option to have 5 or 10 quiz questions automatically sent to your mobile device 4 or 5 times a day or once a week. This feature supports the spaced and interleave technique that the Make it Stick authors recommend throughout their book. The questions can also be scheduled around examination dates. Another feature is that on every question there is a chance to see an explanation so if you don’t get a question correct, you can quickly get instructional feedback.

There is also a feature where you can take a quiz with a friend, or a group of friends, in a game-like atmosphere. There is also an individual scoreboard to show how you are doing, both in accuracy and in confidence. You select a category and invite classmates to play with you. You have a set number of questions to answer is a set time. Your correct answers have increased points associated with them as you work through the questions (3 pts for “I’m sure” correct answers, 2 pts of “I’m lucky” correct answers, or 1 pt for “No clue” correct answers. And in reverse, if your answer is incorrect, points are taken away from you.) At the end of the game there is a winner declared and individuals are given a scoreboard with information about their own performance.

The scoreboard is also available on an individual basis. It is also interactive so you can select those areas in which you were incorrect or less confidence. It also tells you how “fresh” your learning is and how many questions you’ve answered with prior time periods.

Another feature makes a connection with your individual medical school and classmates of which I was not able to test or find too much information. It looks like instructors (or group administrators) can view when students are taking quizzes and using the Osmosis application. Osmosis app has also provided an interactive timeline where material for an entire curriculum can be uploaded (slides and documents) and indexed to specific dates so admins, teachers, and students can get a big picture view of content that is being covered and when. I”m not sure if future content is also being uploaded but that would give the learner a good idea of what they might want to brush up on, if the topics hasn’t been studied in the recent past. Another feature for teachers or group administrators is the capability to view analytics about when students are testing and other study habits (Video viewable within Osmosis app on the About page).

Currently, Osmosis is only for use for students studying medicine, but what about other disciplines? How could an instructor create their own “Osmosis”?

A simple and quick strategy would be for an instructor to incorporate a test bank of quiz questions into self-check quizzes that students could take on their own through a Learning Management System like Blackboard. Chapter questions could be added to a “Pool” or collection of questions, and a weekly quiz could pull “x” number of questions from that pool. The self-test could be set up so that students could take it multiple times. As the semester progresses, questions from the current chapter as well as a subset of questions from previous chapters, could be pulled into the self-tests, thus getting practice on previous learned material.

An even better activity might be for a student (or group of students) to be assigned to come up with the test questions for the content. Students could determine what the key points of the content is and come up with questions, with approval of the instructor..

An instructor could also use a tool like Twitter to push questions to students. You’re able to schedule tweets in advance to automatically be dispersed at a certain time. If your students were following your class hashtag, the questions could be pushed out to them. You might ask them to answer the question and include a reason why they chose that answer.

There are many more options that incorporate some of the features of the Osmsis app to help students with creating an atmosphere of self-testing. It would an interesting to work on a project that incorporated the features of Osmosis as an open source application so that more disciplines could take advantage of its architecture.


Brown, P.C., Roedinger, H.l., & McDaniel M.A. (2013). Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Belknap Press: Cambridge, MA. (20140). Retrieved



Make it Stick – Reflection

The authors of Make it Stick (2013) Brown, Roedinger, and McDaniel talk a lot about the importance of student reflection while learning new material. ”Reflection can involve several cognitive activities that lead to stronger learning: retrieving knowledge and earlier training from memory, connecting these to new experiences, and visualizing and mentally rehearsing what you might do differently next time” (pg. 27). Too often students are fooled into thinking that they have a better understanding of the material then they actually do. Many student think that if they can repeat what the instructor has said or what the textbook says, that means they understand the material. Being able to do these two things doesn’t mean there is true understanding. When you’re able to use your own words to speak about the concept or to apply it to a similar or a different situation, that is when understanding happens (pg. 16).

Being able to transfer the knowledge and understanding from one instance to another is a true measurement of understanding. When you’re able to leave a situation and think critically about what went right, what went wrong, what could have been improved on, this is how you built your knowledge base and gain experience. When you’re able to apply prior knowledge and experience to a current situation, because you have previously allowed yourself to asked questions about your performance or concepts that you’re learning, this is where the strength of reflection will pay off (pg. 66).

The authors of Make it Stick say, “After a lecture or reading assignment, for example, you might ask yourself: What are the key ideas? What are some examples? How do these relate to what I already know? Following an experience where you are practicing new knowledge or skills, you might ask: What went well? What could have gone better? What might i need to learn for better master, or what strategies might I use the next time to get better results?” (pg. 88). As an instructor you may have to prompt your students with some established questions in order to get them started. According to UAF eLearning’s website,, the unit encourages instructors to incorporate one of three types of contemplation into online courses: Reflection on learning and learning experience, Reflection on the real-world relevance and application of what they are learning or Meta-reflection on the learning materials, strategies, and structure employed in the course itself. Encouraging students to stop and consider what they are reading or studying has proven to be a productive and successful study habit.

Strategies that teachers can implement to help students with their learning is another topic written about by the authors of Make it Stick. Assigning “writing exercises that require students to reflect on past lesson material and relate it to other knowledge or other aspects of their lives; “ is an activity that can easier be incorporated into a class (pg. 227). Taking a few minutes after a class lecture to give students a chance to ruminate over the lecture or discussion can strengthen their understanding or at least point out where the weak spots exist. And taking a few minutes as the class begins to reflect in a retrieval exercise to recall what has happened previously can help students pull from the depths of their brains for what they have previously learned and have committed to memory (pg 222).

The authors mentions an instructor, Mary Pat Wenderoth, who has her students writing “learning paragraphs” to reflect on the prior class’ topics. In an article called, Reflection to Deepen Learning and Self-Awareness”, Wenderoth says, “To maximize their learning, students need factual knowledge, which we give plenty  of, but they also need conceptual frameworks to put the knowledge into.” The basic principles that Wenderoth incorporates into her teaching strategy include:

  • Make reflection part of the class routine.
  • Ask questions that let students discuss what’s important to them while achieving learning goals.
  • Motivate students through class credit, but keep evaluation simple.
  • Give regular feedback.
  • Collect student feedback on the exercise.

(University of Washington, pg. 8)

Writing reflections can be done simply with pen and paper but you could use technology to support reflection in a variety of ways. One advantage of using technology for reflections is the ability to share these reflections with a cohort of learners. Reflections shared with a class through a discussion board not only encourages the writer to be conscientious of his or her wording, but might just help another student make a connection that they didn’t realize was there. Students reflections can also be documented through media by using audio or video to capture students’ thoughts or through illustration or visualising concepts. Using different media can actually help students remember different aspects of their learning through their own creative process.



Brown, P.C., Roedinger, H.l., & McDaniel M.A. (2013). Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Belknap Press: Cambridge, MA

Moss, Jennifer. (2011). Reflection Mechanics. Retrieved from

University of Washington. (2014). Reflection to Deepen Learning and Self-Awareness.  Leading Change in Public Higher Education: A provost report series on trends and Issues. Retrieved from:






Make it Stick – The Growth Mindset

There are many factors that can influence a student’s success in learning. Most of these factors can be controlled either by the community, institution, or the individual student.  Access to materials or to experts, language disadvantages, learning disabilities, supportive home situation, these disadvantages and others can or could be controlled with the right resources and access to support. But what about student’s natural ability, talent, or intelligence? The authors of Make it Stick (2013) support the idea that although IQ may be semi-fixed, there are ways “to amp up the performance of the intelligence” to allow students to learn more and obtain a deeper understanding (pg. 178). One way for students to succeed is through having a positive attitude and self-determination to know that they have control over their success, and that it isn’t “fixed”. The authors introduce Carol Dweck’s work on “Fixed Mindset” and Growth Mindset.” “… it’s discipline, grit, and a growth mindset that imbue a person with the sense of possibility and the creativity and persistence needed for higher learning and success…The active ingredient is the simple but nonetheless profound realization that the power to increase your abilities largely within your own control” (pg. 183).

Students who apply themselves and make the extra effort can be very successful learners. The authors of Make it Stick say, “We make the effort because the effort itself extends the boundaries of our abilities” (pg. 199). The choices students make about what they study, how much and to what depth, all these factors play into learning. Some people are naturally curious and passionate about the world and how it works and do not need encouragement to listen to their inner Growth Mindset voice. Some students might need to be encouraged and helped with changing their static Fixed Mindset voice to seeing the results that having a Growth Mindset  attitude creates, until they see the results. I think one of the biggest messages that the authors of Make it Stick make throughout their book, is the idea that learning is hard work and that you need to stick with it to see the results. You may not get immediate gratification, but you have to trust that in the long run, you’ll have a better and deeper understanding.

The elements of a “Growth Mindset” as describe by Carol Dweck on the Mindset website include:

  • flourishing on challenges
  • seeing failure as an opportunity to learn from one’s mistakes and trying again
  • looking for feedback and applying the criticism to do better the next time
  • realizing that blaming someone else won’t benefit your progress (Dweck, 2010).

One strategy for promoting a healthy Growth Mindset might be in applying game mechanics to curriculum. The concepts behind a gaming atmosphere are very closely related to those of a Growth Mindset. According to Rick Raymer in Gamification: Using Game Mechanics to Enhance eLearning, “game mechanics are the construct of rules that encourage users to explore and learn the properties of their possibility space through the use of feedback mechanisms.” Raymer continues on and considers other elements that include setting goals and objectives so that a learner has an idea of where he or she is heading, providing regular and frequent feedback, creating some kind of scoreboard so a learner can track his or her progress, establishing a way to be recognized and achieving rewards for reaching competencies towards a higher level, being rewarded for effort, not solely on success, and some kind of peer or social motivation (Raymer, 2011).

The mechanics behind badging may also work towards establishing a Growth Mindset. The simple concept of acknowledging when a student achieves competency at a certain level and receiving a badge can help a student work towards becoming more competent at a higher level. This strategy gives affirmation to students for completing a level of understanding while encouraging students to continue to apply themselves to achieve either a higher level of competency or competency in another area. One of the big differences in badging and a growth mindset is that with badging, the creator of the badges is determining the criteria for what the badge means, as well as what the competencies and different levels are, it isn’t self-directed. At some point the student has to learn to take the initiative on his or her own self to achieve those increased levels of competency.

Matt Renwick writes about his student’s experience with playing Minecraft and correlating his observations of the students and a growth mindset. “For now, we are content with observing our students build not only complex worlds within Minecraft, but also develop key critical skills that can foster a growth mindset. The persistence, attitude, and effort observed in our students is all the evidence we need for now.” His observations have found that students aren’t asking for help from the teacher when solving problems, but rather are turning to their peers for support. When you aren’t successful, you aren’t completely locked out of the game, but rather you begin again, armed with all your previous experience. And the feedback you receive isn’t simply a score, but you’re given critical feedback based on your effort (Renwick, 2014).

Using the gaming atmosphere in the challenge of learning seems to be a natural pathway to instilling a Growth Mindset in students and helping them to move from a static Fixed Mindset where the opportunity to explore and be passionate about learning seems to stall out.


Brown, P.C., Roedinger, H.l., & McDaniel M.A. (2013). Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Belknap Press: Cambridge, MA.

Dweck, C. (2010). How can you change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset? Retrieved from

Raymer, R. (2011). Gamification: Using Game Mechanics to Enhance eLearning. Retrieved from:

Renwick, M. (2014). Passion-Based Learning Week 5: Can Minecraft Foster a Growth Mindset.? Retrieved from



November 4, 2014
by Heidi
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Lessons learned from Hangout on Air Presentation

Getting ready for a presentation delivered using Google Hangouts and recorded and viewed on Youtube takes some prep time. Presenting with two others on Oct 16 in an eLearning Teaching Tips Live session, was a great experience and I learned several things to do and not to do for the future.

As you enter a Google Hangout, prepare for cognitive overload! Especially if your plan is to screenshare from more then one source. You may be managing a conversation flow, as well as sharing presentation slides, a browser window, a second camera picking up your face, as well as answering questions.


Practice or do a run-through, especially if you are having multiple people sharing their screens. Plan out a logical flow for your presentation, just like you would in a face-to-face presentation. Think about how much time might be involved in each person’s activity and then be sure to build in or have ready additional topics to talk about or show, just in case you breeze through. Most likely though, you’ll run out of time and might have to ditch some of your material.

hangout-schedule and reminder notes

Good Ideas

If you are on a laptop or mobile device, make sure your devices have power – Hangouts sucks energy, so plug-in and don’t depend on your batteries.

If you’re on a laptop, if possible, hardwire into your internet connection for a more robust and stable connection.

Close all applications and browsers windows and tabs that you won’t be using.

Considering hiding your operating systems document bars or task bars if you don’t need them.

Have your Hangout app in a separate browser window separate from your presentation or the screens you are going to be sharing. This may seem cumbersome (thus the practice) but you’ll be happier with the result, especially if you are screensharing.

Be smart about what your environment looks like. Make sure there isn’t any clutter in the background, that you don’t have a bright light coming out of your head or that there is anything that might be distracting behind or beside you. Be sure you are in a quiet space and that there aren’t competing noises. Turn off your phone, your alarm on your watch, or other possible distractions.

Screensharing: when possible, go full screen. Consider increasing your browser resolution (command-+) 125 to 150% for better viewing or increasing your font size by 125-150% if you are sharing a presentation or word-type document.

Have a back-up plan in case one of your other presenters drops out or has technical difficulties. You might need to skip them and come back to them when they are able to join you. If you’re able to have someone else help you moderate that would be a big help!

Remind all the presenters that their small picture will show up at the bottom of the presentation screen. If you aren’t talking then you should have your mute button on, although Google has gotten pretty good about determining if someone else has the floor.

Make yourself reminder sticky notes to share or to stop sharing your screen. Unlike other web conferencing tools, the moderator doesn’t have control over the participants screens.

Smile, have fun, and don’t stress out. If this were meant to be a formal recorded presentation, you probably wouldn’t be choosing to use Hangouts as the final unedited version.



July 17, 2014
by Heidi
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The Whale and the Supercomputer

by Charles Wohlforth

I read this book with a group of friends who have formed a reading group. Together we’ve read a variety of books but to date, the books about Alaska, the Yukon or the Arctic and its people have generated the most discussion. This book appealed to most of the group because it was something of which we could all relate. It also had a direct relationship to some of our professional work.

  • climate change and changing Arctic systems
  • man’s intervention and thus the cause and effect upon nature
  • culture and ways of accepting and/or dealing with climate change
  • language and culture
  • consequences of access to the northwest passage

Following are some of my take-aways through quotes from the book.

Iñupiaq: Important of Language and Culture

“In the absence of physical reference points, the speaker can position objects and events using movement, the relative locations of speaker and listener, and the directional orientation of the ocean and rivers. For example, pigña indicates that the thing you are talking about is above, has a length less than three times it width, is visible and stationary, and stands at equal distance between speaker and listener. Pagña contains all the same information, excecpt that the subject’s length is more than three times its width. English has a few such words, such as hither and yonder, but they are largely obsolete and not nearly as useful. Iñupiaq endings also aid coordination by allowing speakers to pass on oral information without losing nuances about the quality of the knowledge and how it was obtained. They cover a gradient roughly ranging from “I saw it myself and it is certain” to “Someone saw it and it might be true.” (page 10)

Maker’s Space / Observation as a way of Learning

“The Iñupiat Heritage Center, a well-equipped cultural center and living museum in Barrow, had a large workshop called the Traditional Room, where whalers, artists, and others involved in cultural activities came to build or create things.

In reference to building a new boat for the next whaling season, the captain of the whaling crew, worked along with other skilled men his own age, as equals. The next generation (in their 40s) had their own responsibilities, but asked for opinions of the elders. The younger generation (in their 20s) also did skilled work, but under supervision. “Oliver taught them and they listened carefully. At the bottom rung, teenage boys stood around the edges of the room waiting to be told what to do and holding their tongues.” (page 11)

Cultural Differences

“From the perspective of traditional Iñupiaq norms of behavior most whites were rude: they talked too fast and didn’t give others a chance to say anything, they stared, they spoke too directly, contradicted others, and didn’t listen for meaningful nuances, they couldn’t sit still, and they didn’t reciprocate the gifts of knowledge and hospitality they received. Iñupiaq people spoke slowly, used stories to make points, and always avoided conflict; an elder once expressed a strong disagreement to me by saying, “Different people see things different ways.”” (page 16)

“…how to navigate, how to hunt, how to stay alive. A mentor let you try and fail, broke down your price to instill humility before nature’s power, and put you where you could get a feel for the work and how it works. The teacher as a guide; nature was the real teacher.” (page 181)

Facts and Details vs. Experience

“When scientists wanted to know how old a piece of ice was, Warren [Iñupiat Elder] talked about how fresh it had become, not how many years it had been around. It was the problem of complexity. The physical scientists wanted to know irreducible facts, but Native knowledge was tied up with experience. You could try to strip away the experience to get at the facts–parsing out a hunting trip to get times, places, and events, for example–but the complexity seemed never to recede.” (page 90)

“…traditional knowledge existed as an organic part of a person living in the environment, a whole world constructed from experience, and couldn’t be extracted and rationalized into data points.” (page 128) Weather vs. Climate “This is the difference between weather and climate. Choosing shorts or long underwear on a particular day is about weather; the ratio of shorts to long underwear in the drawer is about climate. Weather happens in a particular place and time, climate happens in a place through a smudge of time, or a time through a smudge of space, and usually both.” (page 150)

On Syun Akosofu’s thoughts of science “…”what we call truth is not really truth, its just an idea agreed [upon] by a large number of people.” The job of the scientist, he said, was to listen to nature, not other scientists, and to remember that ultimate understanding will never be possible. “A scientific establishment is highly conservative and will attempt to preserve the power of its ruling group against any rebels,” he wrote, he wrote…” (pages 159-160)

Sense of Community, Publishing and Citation

“Unlike the Iñupiat, climate change scientists lack the ability to share their intuitive insights.They lack even a comprehensible common body of knowledge. The scientific literature exploded to the point that many specialists gave up trying to read everything published even in their own area.” (page 193)

“It also made it difficult to catch up broadly on a line of research.” (pages 193-194)

“Scientists did enjoy mutually sustaining communities that shared knowledge among people who had worked together and formed a personal bond. But these groups were small.” (page 196)

“Science published an article that found seven inconsistent definitions of the important term thermohaline circulation in the scientific literature. The author concluded that in such cases, “What everyone thinks they understand may in fact be a muddle of mutual misunderstanding.” Wohlforth points out the Norbert Untersteiner, in an article in Physics Today, titled “Cite This Letter!” brings up and confirms something that I’ve often wondered. “We must remember that the primary purpose of publishing anything is for the author to be cited, and that the best way to get cited it to cite other people, no matter how trivial their work. …” “…research published a real paper (as opposed to Norbert’s Joke) establishing that many papers cited in scientific literature were never read by the authors who cited them but merely copied from one list of references and pasted into another. Consequently, computer-calculated impact factors, the objective measure of a paper’s worth based on how frequently it was cited, sometimes conferred fame on unimportant work that few had actually read.” (page 194)

Grant Funding Competition

“Competitiveness drives science forward, and science has come a long way sine the United States adopted the proposal system after World War II. But competitiveness has also  left important things by the wayside. Science failed to make the long-term observations that would greatly simplify the search for a climate change fingerprint today.” This isn’t to say that there aren’t exceptions. The author points out several examples who continue(d) to do smaller research projects in the same place with the same processes for years. (page 196)

“But heroism and foresight are rare, so the system got what it paid for: a glut of papers on short-term projects and a lack of coherent community knowledge about the whole Arctic system. (page 196)

July 14, 2014
by Heidi
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Writing, drawing, or other creative prompts

Send a tweet of “i” or “inventory” to @YouAreCarrying and receive back a random list of items. Use this list as a writing prompt for creative writing, such as an adventure story or for poetry. According to, the twitter bot pulls its inventory items from Infocom games.

The inventory could also be used for drawing or cartooning or other creative mediums. Users of the YouAreCarrying are tweeting their drawings back to @YouAreCarrying. Check out the twitter stream to see the latest.



June 12, 2014
by Heidi
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Fulfilling writing requirements in an online environment

One advantage that most asynchronous online courses have over face-to-face courses is that historically, there are more requirements asking students to submit multiple writing assignments. Both informal writing that can be captured through an online discussion, and formal writing, as in short- and long- formatted papers, are often core assessments in an online class. Most online courses have a much higher ratio of student effort based on submitting assessments through writing then the percentage of student effort for writing in a face-to-face course. Fulfilling the upper-division writing intensive requirements for the baccalaureate core at UAF, requires that students complete two Writing Intensive designated courses (hereafter known as “W”). The Faculty Senate guidelines for Writing Intensive Courses have been in effect since 1990. For those classes that are designated as “W”  there are five basic requirements to fulfill:

  • students write an ungraded diagnostic essay that can be used as a baseline
  • instructors regularly evaluate student writing throughout the course
  • student and instructor are required to have one personal meeting to talk about the student’s writing
  • instructor and/or peers evaluate drafts of paper(s)
  • a majority of the assessment in the course is to be done through submission of written material

All of these elements can easily be accomplished in an online course, often times more efficiently then in a face-to-face course.

Baseline Essay

eLearning-supported instructors are encouraged to begin their classes with an assignment that is due within the first week of classes. This strategy not only sets expectations that the online course is rigorous, but also is a way to evaluate whether or not the student is prepared to fulfill the class expectations early enough in the semester as to be able to drop the course with a tuition refund and with enough time to enroll in another class. Setting the stage with the first ungraded essay can be a great way to begin engaging students in your online course. Upon review of the first composition, if the instructor thinks the student could benefit from additional remedial tutoring, the student can be referred to the appropriate services. There are currently two different writing centers (UAF and CTC) that offer tutoring services through online mechanisms.

Regular Evaluation

Students submit homework assignments throughout the semester on a regular basis. Giving feedback is essential, especially in an asynchronous course where students can feel very isolated without instructor or peer interaction. In a book called, “500 Tips on Assessment,” the authors say, “Nothing that we do to, or for, our students is more important than our assessment of their work and the feedback we give them on it. The results of our assessment influence our students for the rest of their lives and careers–fine if we get it right, but unthinkable if we get it wrong” (Brown, Race & Smith. 2005. p. xi). Keeping this in mind, instructor’s should be giving detailed constructive feedback. (more on feedback)

There are multiple online tools available to help instructors quickly make editing suggestions and comments on writing style.


  • video everywhere
  • comments and feedback
  • inline grading
  • rubrics
  • auto-graded quizzes using pools
  • blackboard collaborate for live conversations


  • document markup
  • add comments and insert notes
  • use the chat tool to have a synchronous conversation
  • start a hangout and share the document
  • use a Drive add-ons like or Track Changes


  • enable track changes
  • add comments
  • add audio files using notes view
  • convert the text to a table and make your comments in a new column
  • save as a PDF and make comments using Adobe Reader commenting tools or in Preview (MAC) using the preview tools

Adobe PDF/Preview

  • leave audio notes
  • annotation and commenting tools
    pdf-annotation tools
  • create a fillable form to use as a rubric

Personal Meeting

Meeting with students to have a one-on-one conversation can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Those who are in the area could come to your office for a face-to-face meeting. Other options include phone, online using Google Hangout, Skype, or Blackboard Collaborate. Each of the online options allow for sharing documents so you and the student can point to different areas to make comments.

Set up a meeting schedule using the Appointment slots in Google Calendar or through a shared sheet or document in Google Drive for easier management and to allow students to set a time that works best for them.

Instructor/Peer Feedback

Creating opportunities for peers to give feedback to each other can be handled efficiently through online tools that the students are already familiar with. Create Groups in Bb so that they can share a discussion board, blogs, wikis, journals or share files. Have students upload their papers to a shared Google Drive folder and make comments on their peers’ papers asynchronously through comments and mark-up or synchronously using Google Hangout. Create an open-ended Blackboard Collaborate “classroom” when students can meet and share files. Students can also post drafts to a class discussion forum and receive comments through the discussion board.

Large variety of writing options

There is a large variety of assessments (more on assessments) that might fulfill this requirement. Here are a few examples:

  • short answer questions in quizzes/exams
  • short reading response papers
  • abstracts
  • reflection response papers
  • short (3-5 page) research papers or essays
  • research/term papers (break the process down into several smaller assignments with deadlines due throughout the semester: brainstorm potential topics, research your topic, literature cited/bibliography, draft, peer review, final)
  • script for audio or video recording
  • storyboarding
  • discussion posts (give an example of what you are expecting)
  • presentation
  • twitter responses (for practicing concise writing)
  • alternative scholarship

The requirements for offering a Writing Intensive course through online delivery can be fully met and as seen through some of these examples, and can provide a rich learning experience for your students and for you.



(2012). 500 Tips on Assessment – Google Books. Retrieved June 12, 2014, from

March 27, 2014
by Heidi

Highlights of Blackboard SP 13

UAF’s Blackboard was recently updated to Service Pack 13 (SP13). There are several new features that have been added for increased functionality, as well as solutions to some issues with the previous version. Some features that were added include:

Achievements (certificates or badges)

You create criteria definitions for how students can receive a certificate (to print) or what students need to complete to earn badges (to display through Mozilla Open Backpack). Find Achievements in a content area using Tools –> Achievements or under the Control Panel. You can create achievements for reaching milestones, for completion of the course or for custom achievements particular to your course. If you don’t see Achievements in your Control Panel, you’ll need to activate it by going to Customization -> Tool Availability.

More information:

Date Management

Date Management can be found under the Control Panel, and used to quickly update all of your established due dates from one semester to the next. Change the date by a specific number of days, or review all the dates on one page and make changes accordingly. If you don’t see Date Management in your Control Panel, you’ll need to activate it by going to Customization -> Tool Availability.

More information:


Added features to help with the management of groups and group membership, managing tool availability, and creating Grade Center columns for groups, will make working with groups much easier. Bulk action items have been added to make changes quicker. Encourage users to add a profile picture to their overall Blackboard account so pictures can be seen by the group.

Did you know that you can create an assignment or a test for specific groups? Check out Section 6, when you create an Assignment, or Section 3, under Test Options for a specific test.

More information:

Inline Grading

This feature isn’t new, but improvements on using Inline Grading have been made under this upgrade. View student submitted attachments directly in the gradebook. Add comments and assign a grade without leaving Blackboard. Limited to specific files types. Useful for, blogs, discussions, journals and wikis is quick access to a feedback and grading box if your blog, discussion, journal or wiki is set up for grading. Caution: if you use a fillable PDF forms some of the question types on the form (like checkboxes) won’t show the answers using Inline Grading, but the attached PDF will be correct.

More information:


Did you notice the link icon in the header right under the UAF logo? If you toggle this icon you’ll get a link for Quick Links. You can use it to see all landmark and navigation links as well as keyboard shortcuts for that specific page. This is especially helpful for sighted only keyboard users.


More information:

A new Math Formula Editor is based on JavaScript which can be read by more browsers. Other improvements to discussion and content areas makes it easier for screen readers and keyboard-only users.

More information:

Tests, Surveys, and Pools

Create Test Availability Exceptions so you can make a test available only to certain students (or groups) or give students (or groups) more attempts, adjust the timer for timed tests, as well as make exceptions for forced completion or auto-submitting a test at the end of a specific time.

You now can customize how you want Test Results and Feedback to show for your students. Do you want to hold off showing the correct answers until after the due date? Or give a one-time view of the correct answers until the availability date? You decide how much, and when to release answers and feedback.

More information:

The option to Export Test Questions has been fixed! You can now export and import from one course to another.

I’m not sure when it happened, but vast improvements have been made to creating answer options for Fill in the Blank questions. You now have the option to select “contains,” “exact match,” or “pattern match” to add increased functionality to auto-graded tests.

More information:


Through “Attempt” in the gradebook, review Access Log in the Test Information area. See information on time spent per question or if there were network issues which may have caused extended delays.

More information:

One of the best upgrades to SP 13 is on the student side, where My Grades has been improved to give students more options on how to view their grade book. Students can now view and sort items in the gradebook by submitted, graded, due date, course view (listed as you have the items ordered on your side of the grade book), and more.

Be sure to use the Student View button to see exactly what the options are for students.


March 26, 2014
by Heidi
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Storytelling in Earth Sciences

I was intrigued by the title of this article and thought it might give some suggestions for how science teachers might engage more students through storytelling practice. I think it has become clear that whatever discipline you are passionate about, in order to relay that passion and excitement, you will be more successful if you’re able to tell that story. Telling stories helps students make connections to concepts. Telling stories makes concepts more personal. Telling stories sells.

“Storytelling in Earth Sciences: The eight basic plots,” by Jonathan Phillips, published in Earth Science Reviews (2012), categorizes how information about earth science topics is often told. Phillips states, “The hope is that Earth scientists recognize—and perhaps even embrace—our role as storytellers, so that we can more effectively use (and evaluate) storytelling to advance our science” (p. 154). This is a good thing. In the past, scientists have often been criticized for not sharing their research with the general public in such a way that is understandable. It seems that in the past 40 years, especially as media opportunities have increased, getting the research results into the general public has vastly improved. More recently, efforts have been made to add art and music to STEM to create STEAM advances and opportunities for students.

Phillips (2012) talks about how it is only recently that there has been a separation in creating art and writing of literature, and the reporting of science. He uses Goethe as an example (p. 155). Others come to mind, DaVinci and Michelangelo, for example. Natural scientists have long been incorporating storytelling techniques into reporting their observations. John Muir, John Audubon, and Richard Nelson are a few examples.

Where I got lost in this article, was in the determination of the basic plots. He provides examples for each of the eight plot areas and has identified examples from his own work. But he doesn’t seem to make the connection of his categories to the plots he references that are used in literature and drama (according to Phillip’s interpretation from Christopher Booker in The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, 2006). Similarities can be seen but it doesn’t seem like he goes back to help make the connections.

I did find the article interesting and now have a starting point for looking for more research and examples that might be better suited to what I was hoping for.

Here is my attempt to fulfill a couple of objectives: a tech-free challenge, experimenting with an augmented reality project, and using images to portray an article.



Phillips, J. (2012). Storytelling in Earth sciences: The eight basic plots. Earth-Science Reviews, 115(3), 153-162. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2012.09.005

February 7, 2014
by Heidi
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Thoughts on New Horizon Higher Ed 2014 Report

The New Media Consortium Horizon Report 2014 Higher Education Edition was recently released. This is always a good read and I appreciate the depth from which their research reaches. There are several pages of information on the process for conducting the study and how the panel of experts is set up. This report should be read by administrators and those who make policy decisions.

Video Summary

As I read through the trends, challenges, and developments outlined by the report, I thought about the training eLearning has been providing and what faculty who have been working with us have been able to accomplish and how it fits into the schema of things.

Key Trends Accelerating Higher Education Technology Adoption
Fast Trends: Driving changes in higher education over the next one to two years

> Growing Ubiquity of Social Media

Incorporating social media is your class is one way to keep student’s engaged with you, their peers, and with the practitioners.  eLearning has been encouraging the use of social media for years. If teachers aren’t yet ready to use social media with their students, we have encouraged using social media with peers and colleagues to keep up with the trends in one’s industry. eLearning classes are using twitter, google+ communitities, blogs, YouTube, Voicethread and more.

Integrating social media that tie into the currently used LMS would be a great feature that would benefit students who rely on social media for notifications. Along with encouraging the use of social media, some kind of instruction on privacy, social media etiquette, and the impact of your web presence should be discussed. This conversation should be integrated into all of our general education classes or into a digital preparedness class like what LS 101 does for researching.

> Integration of Online, Hybrid, and Collaborative Learning

Since eLearning specializes in online learning pedagogy and technology, we’ve been working most often with teachers who want to integrate more online elements into their face-to-face classes. A big element of creating a great online course includes methods for incorporating Instructor presence, this is similar to preparing “lecture material” for flipped or hybrid classes. eLearning classes use screencasting tools such as Screencast-O-Matic or explain anything on the ipad, video recording through YouTube with a web cam or with use of our video recording room, or audio recording through Soundcloud or Audacity.

Making sure our instructors have up-to-date computer equipment, access to rather inexpensive equipment (microphone or web cam), along with the training and time to create is something that administrators can help with.

Strategies used for engaging students is another element of an online class that can easier be transferred to a hybrid class or even a class in which teachers what to engage their students outside of class time. eLearning courses use discussion boards, commenting on blog posts, or group projects using Google Drive.

Supporting students with technical issues can play a big role in how successful engagement can be. Student help and training is crucial.

Mid-Range Trends: Driving changes in higher education within three to five years
> Rise of Data-Driven Learning and Assessment

Finding patterns in students learning could be very helpful in producing more successful students who are able to spend more time on learning things they don’t understand rather then requiring “busywork” to reach and end goal. As with any data, however, the results can be read in many different ways so a good strategy for implementing the results of analysis should be encouraged. We can already tell when and how often a student clickson a page in an online learning course but we don’t know what else is going on. Maybe the hour that they spent there also included watching a tv show, a walk around the block with the dog, or reading multiple other window tabs in their browser.

> Shift from Students as Consumers to Students as Creators

eLearning has long been encouraging teachers to have students being the creators and contributors of knowledge in online classes, instead of sitting passively reading or watching content being delivered. When learners are distributed, the level of creation is limited to the resources that are in one’s own community. The report talks about Makerspaces which are becoming very popular in some of the larger communities and taking various forms offering hardware and electronic tools like metal-working tools, as well as access to artistic equipment like kilns, and digital equipment like laser cutters or 3-D printers. There are currently many activities on campus that offer opportunities for students to create and build objects for various purposes. Encouraging this practice can only increase critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Offering the benefits of makerspaces to online students is a bit more difficult as we don’t know who may or may not have access to the equipment they need to produce their ideas.

Long-Range Trends: Driving changes in higher education in five or more years
> Agile Approaches to Change

In many eLearning courses, students are asked to seek out experts or practitioners in their community to be interviewed, act as mentors, or be a resource for practical knowledge about a concept being taught. One of the advantages that online courses have is that they often bring together people from several geographical areas and thus provide the opportunity for different perspectives, different strategies for finding success, and different opportunities.

> Evolution of Online Learning

eLearning on one top of the world! or at least close to the top of the world! With a  team of 12 Instructional Designers and a talented and well informed student and program service team ready to support your efforts in moving online…you too could be a part of the evolution! This trends seems to go along with Integration of Online, Hybrid, and Collaborative Learning and the developments of Flipped Classrooms.

Significant Challenges Impeding Higher Education Technology Adoption
Solvable Challenges: Those that we understand and know how to solve
> Low Digital Fluency of Faculty

eLearning is entering its 10th year in offering iTeach workshops for faculty development. We’ve worked with over 290 teachers who have attended our 4- or 5-day intensive training. This doesn’t count the number of teacher’s we’ve worked directly with on course development, the consultations available to any teacher on campus, or the short training sessions we’ve offered.

> Relative Lack of Rewards for Teaching

Receiving financial rewards for developing and integrating new technology or strategies into a class often goes unnoticed and is non-existent in many colleges and schools. Sometimes a workload exchange can be arranged. eLearning does offer some reward for innovation and development – watch for announcements at It is also time for academics to reward tenture-track faculty who see teaching as a priority as opposed to research alone. Administrators need to come up with some alternatives to provide financial and time support for being innovative or trying new things.

Difficult Challenges: Those we understand but for which solutions are elusive
> Competition from New Models of Education

eLearning has long been a proponent of making course resources open to the public with assignment feedback being given only to enrolled students. Being able to offer experience, expertise, feedback, and support are advantages that localized online courses offer.Why not take advantage of the content experts at other institutions who are creating content for the masses and incorporating the resource into your own class. UAF should take advantage of its unique expertise and relevance of the Arctic and Indigenous populations. eLearning is currently working on a couple of small-scale MOOCs for the Justice program to see how they are received and to see how they integrate into the curriculum already being offered.

> Scaling Teaching Innovations

eLearning relies on departments and schools and colleges to provide the leadership for organization changes.

Wicked Challenges: Those that are complex to even define, much less address
> Expanding Access

Access to computers and broadband is an on-going issue throughout Alaska. Even in urban areas, connectivity to households is a challenge as internet services aren’t available and aren’t expected to become available in the near future. One should be mindful of these considerations when developing an online course, but shouldn’t totally hold back innovation. Low bandwidth alternatives may be available.

> Keeping Education Relevant

One of the strategies we like to include in online courses is to create a relationship between the student the the community in which they seek a career. Helping students to make that connect can make the learning more meaningful and relevant. Asking students to bring the knowledge that they might have already gained, their life experiences, can be value to the class as to help students make connections to the content.

Important Developments in Educational Technology for Higher Education Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less
> Flipped Classroom

eLearning has helped many instructors create presentations and recorded lectures and lessons to flip their classroom so that precious in-class time can be spent on interaction, group work, discussion, and projects. Often students come to class without having done their pre-reading and aren’t prepared for class time. Flipping your classroom makes the student responsible for being prepared for class activities.

> Learning Analytics

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years
> 3D Printing

Just think of the possibilities if you could print out hard-to-find or replacements parts for equipment or experimental projects. Having access to just equipment at a higher education institution goes along with students are creators, makerspaces, and making education relevant.

> Games and Gamification

Incorporating game theory into your class or program can be very engaging for both your students and for you! eLearning has been working with several instructors who have added gaming elements to their courses including JRN 101.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years
> Quantified Self

eLearning was the first Alaskan institution to be a Google Glass Explorer and we’re currently implementing the glass into several learning projects. Other faculty participating in the CITE Fellows project received wearable wristbands to monitor  activities to learn more about one’s habits. Incorporating such technology into classwork isn’t too far away.

> Virtual Assistant

For now,  you’ll have to accept the assistance of real assistants from eLearning!

December 24, 2013
by Heidi
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SoundingBoard Application

This application seems like a good tool for learning language or increasing vocabulary using your mobile device, currently compatible with iPod,iPhone, or  iPad. Create a collection of items, add images to individual items within the collection, and then record an audio prompt.  You can share soundboards by exporting and importing, but each user has to have the SoundingBoard application installed and the file can only be viewed through SoundingBoard.


You can use images from the SoundingBoard library or you can upload your own images. Each collection can contain 20 items.

SoundingBoard also retains some user data. You can get results about which boards are the most popular (based  on the number of times a board is accessed) as well as which symbols are the most popular.



December 4, 2013
by Heidi
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InDesign: What,Why, and How



  • multiple pages layouts
  • projects that require similar text styles are easier to manage
  • integrates with other Adobe products like photoshop, illustrator, and bridge

What is the best Adobe tool to use:

  • Photoshop = raster image editing (photographs) or digital painting (Illustration)
  • Illustrator = Vector artwork (Logos, illustrations, etc.)
  • Indesign = Page layout (books, manuals, brochures, etc.)
  • Dreamweaver = HTML and web code layout and editing
  • Acrobat = PDF creation and editing

Word vs. InDesign

Question: Which is the most painful:

  1. Rappel down a barbed-wire rope in a Speedo
  2. Crawl naked through broken glass
  3. Use Word for layout
  • wrapping text around an image
  • placing multiple images on a page
  • multi-columns
  • color management (important for getting things printed)
  • image management


  • Tools
  • Frames
  • Graphics
  • Output

InDesign Resources
Everything you need to know. period. 37 how-to videos on InDesign CC and CS6
403 on Graphic Design

Indesign Secrets

Blog posts and podcast full of help hints, tricks, and strategies. Entertaining and educational! Anything by Anne-Marie Concepcion or David Blatner is brilliant!

Adobe TV
Nice collection of videos created by Adobe professionals

Adobe Help
Technical help for specific features

Creative Market
Graphics, templates, themes, fonts add-ons, inspiration FREE stuff every week!

Adobe Press
every Monday they offer an ebook deal for $9.99


Kerning Game -

What Font Are You? –

Font Games –

Create your own font –

Colors palettes and patterns –


idesign-rainbowUAF eLearning & Distance Education

Spring 2014 CIOS classes:

CIOS 233 Desktop Publishing: Adobe InDesign

CIOS 255 Microcomputer Graphics: Adobe Photoshop