Mobile Apps to Support and Enhance Online Courses

This morning I’m presenting to the Iowa Distance Learning Association’s Fall Symposium.

Description: How can specific mobile apps support and enhance online courses? From LMS apps, organizational apps, and university apps to apps specifically design to support a unique course, explore the variety of ways mobile learning can enhance online learning.

PowerPoint: 2015 Iowa DLA.ppt

In this session, we are exploring mobile learning in three areas of online learning: Learning, Connection to the University, School or Organization, and Connection to the Instructor.


Connection to your University, School or Organization

Connection to the Instructor

  • Videoconferencing apps such as:
    • Skype
    • Zoom, etc.
    • Students can schedule one-on-one with the instructor; or attend class via their mobile device
  • Texting students reminders:
  • Deliver content via apps such as iTunes U, YouTube, etc.

Additional Reading

Meeting the LifeSize Icon Flex

lifesizeiconflex-sMany of you following this blog remember my K12 videoconferencing days. Since I’ve been working in higher education, I haven’t had many chances to use standards based or room based videoconferencing with equipment like LifeSize or Polycom.

Web Videoconferencing vs. Room Videoconferencing

But I’ve been doing plenty of videoconferencing with tools like Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, and AdobeConnect.

I’ve always been frustrated with webcams though with those web based videoconferencing tools. I miss the ability to zoom in and create presets.

LifeSize Icon Flex

So I was excited when the opportunity came to try out a demo LifeSize Icon Flex from I2I Technologies. It’s “real” videoconferencing that you can connect to your laptop! I know, I know, videoconferencing with your built in laptop webcam is videoconferencing too. But for four years I’ve been trying not to say “real” videoconferencing – it’s room-based, right? or standards-based.

Well, call it what you want, the LifeSize Icon Flex can zoom, pan, show a great shot of a conference room, and I am thrilled! A webcam on top of a mounted TV is tolerable, but a camera with zoom, tilt, pan, etc. is just BETTER! Yay!!

Disclaimer: I have good friends & colleagues who work at I2I Technologies. I got the demo because we are considering our options. No one at I2I asked me to blog about it.


The Role of Social Media Tools in Bridging the Global Divide

Andrews University Faculty Institute Presentation 2015
I’m presenting with Dr. Alayne Thorpe, Dean of the Andrews University School of Distance Education and International Partnerships, and Dr. Leni Casimiro, Director of AIIAS Online, Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies

Social Media in an Online Week of Prayer
Leni is sharing the experiences and use of social media for offering an online week of prayer to students in many countries.

An Exploration of Several Tools

Questions to Consider

  • How can social media help students connect to the world?
  • How can social media and other digital tools bridge the global divide?

For Further Reading

Ideas for Social Media Participation and Promotion

This blog post is a collection of ideas to help students in my Social Media class choose a variety of social media activities.

Setup Options

Make the most of your social media sites. Set them up well.

  1. Follow Other Blogs. Set yourself up to follow others in your field or area. This will inform your social media use. Find at least 5 blogs in your area to follow. Use the search terms “[keyword] blog” on Google. Brainstorm keywords often used in your field. Then subscribe to the blog. Either subscribe via email if that is offered (usually prominently on the front page) or see if the blog is posted automatically to Twitter. Or use the RSS feed icon. What is RSS? Feedly is a good option for following blogs on your computer. I like Flipboard for my smartphone. Subscribe to 5 blogs.
  2. Follow people, topics, and/or hashtags on Twitter. Use the Twitter search to find people or tags in your interest area. Look at someone’s profile; scroll quickly through, and see if there are any specific hashtags they are using that you want to follow. Scroll through a hashtag’s recent posts and see if there is anyone else posting interesting and useful content that you want to follow. Click Follow in individual twitter profiles to follow someone or use a service like Tweetdeck or HootSuite to organize the feeds which allows you to easily follow hashtags and subgroups of topics/people.
  3. Mark / logo. Design a logo or mark to brand your work on all social media. For example, note how Silvia Tolisano uses the witch hat across her social media sites: Langwitches.orgTwitterWikispacesFlickrVimeoFacebookBlog. If you have Illustrator skills, use that. Another option is Online Logo Maker. Then add your logo/mark to the profile pictures or header images on at least two of your social media sites.
  4. Tweetdeck. Don’t have a lot of time to tweet? Feel twitter needs a little organization? Use Tweetdeck to organize the hashtags and keywords that you follow. You can also write tweets and schedule them to post later. Get set up in Tweetdeck (text tutorial; video tutorial); create at least 5 columns to follow various topics. Create and schedule at least 5 tweets.
  5. Send blog posts automatically to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and/or LinkedIn. To generate more traffic for your blog, connect it to your social network(s). I have my blog posting automatically to Twitter and LinkedIn, my professional networks; but not Facebook as my friends and family may not care to hear too much about my work. If you are using, click on the Sharing setting and connect the desired social network(s). If you have WordPress installed on your own site, install the Jetpack Plugin and you’ll find the option to Publicize under Settings, Sharing. While you are in the Sharing Setting, add buttons for your readers to share your blog post to their networks.
  6. Subscribe widget and more. Set up your blog so that others can subscribe to it and find other widgets to add to your blog. From the menu, click Customize, Widgets, Add a Widget. Note the “follow” widgets for others to subscribe. Note the widgets that make connections to your other social media sites.
  7. Create a central site that links all of your social media together. It could be on your blog, or it could be on your personal website if you have one. Note how Silvia Tolisano (wordpress) and Michael Taylor (weebly) use a central site for connections to their social media.

Things to Create and Share

Focus on the value add. How does your creation add to the online conversation on this topic? How can you use social media to hook an audience and bring them in? See Runner’s World and Strength Running as some examples.

  1. Internet image meme. What is a meme? Sabbath Sofa – examples of image and video memes. Create an image meme. While you could quickly make a cheesy image meme using a tool like Meme Generator; try something more sophisticated and use your own photo or a Flickr Creative Commons photo (follow the rules) and use a photo editor like PicMonkey (tutorials) to create your image meme. Then share the image appropriately on Facebook or Twitter.
  2. Twitter posts. Create and share 5 catchy tweets on twitter. First read some strategies for great tweets, effective tweets, promoting news, and using hashtags.
  3. Pinterest. Create at least two Pinterest (tutorials) boards related to the topic you are promoting in this class. Include at least 5 items with great graphics in each board.
  4. Graphical options. Create something graphical and cool with tools such as Glogster, Padlet, Instagram, etc. Note the visual choices here.

50+ Idea Starters for Your Blog Post

This blog post is a collection of ideas to help students in my Social Media class create the assigned blog posts.

Getting Started

  1. Write a blog post that shares information and invites reader sharing (Interactive Blogging)
  2. Write a blog post with a bullet list and at least one picture; emphasizing your main point (Writing Scannable Text)
  3. Write a how-to: With screen shots if it’s technical; with pictures; or examples
  4. Write a “tips & tricks” list on a specific topic
  5. Live blog an event or session, and write your notes as it happens (different type of writing)
  6. Write a rant/critique post – complain about something thoughtfully; give evidence and support for your comments
  7. Write a product review
  8. Use these tips to write a “great” post
  9. Write a list, or a case study, or a tutorial / guide
  10. Compare and contrast two concepts
  11. Compare and contrast two images

Write a List with 5, 7 or 10 Points

  1. Write an intro paragraph, paragraph for each of the 5 things (bulleted paragraphs are nice); closing paragraph
  2. Write about 5, 7, or 10 ideas
  3. Write about 5, 7, or 10 misconceptions
  4. Write about 5, 7, or 10 problems that need to be solved – just describe them
  5. Write about 5, 7, or 10 different solutions to a problem – think outside the box
  6. Write about 5, 7, or 10 weird things about a topic
  7. Write about 5, 7, or 10 tools to use to address a problem
  8. Write about 5, 7, or 10 paths to an end result – think creatively
  9. Write about 5, 7, or 10 interesting questions about a topic – what are the questions? Describe them… but don’t answer them!
  10. Write 5, 7, or 10 why questions about a topic
  11. Write 5, 7, or 10 problematic or sticky questions about a topic
  12. Write 5, 7, or 10 multifaceted, complex questions about a topic (questions that have multiple answers)
  13. Write 5, 7, or 10 important / controversial questions about a topic
  14. Write about 5, 7, or 10 things you wonder about
  15. Write about 5, 7, or 10 ethical considerations of a topic

Join the Online Conversation: Respond on Your Blog to Another Person’s Blog Post

  1. Do you agree with the person’s blog post? Why do you agree? What additional examples or scenarios can you give in support? Does the post raise any questions that you want to ask your audience? It’s ok to ask questions and not answer them in your blog posts! What else could you link to, maybe one other site or article, that supports the person’s post? What relationships do you see between their post and other concepts?
  2. Do you disagree with the person’s blog post? Why do you not agree? Explain why. Give counter arguments supporting by evidence such as an example, another article or situation, etc. How could you synthesize their point of view with yours or another’s to create a new idea or concept? Give several alternative solutions or options in opposition to what they posted. Take their idea in a new direction and elaborate on it. Does their conclusion or point rest on an assumption that isn’t stated? if so, what? Use that to explain your disagreement.
  3. If you sort of agree but not totally, where are the issues? Are there some parts that you agree with and not others? Why? Give evidence of why your point of view is supported. Use the questions from agree/disagree above to help you with your response.

Take it Deeper

  1. Consider an argument or statement someone has made: examine each part of the statement. Ask questions about each part. Is it true? What assumptions are behind the statement? Write out your thinking about it.
  2. Make connections between your field and your faith. Here are 99 questions to spark your thinking
  3. Consider a current issue or situation. What are at least two things that are influencing that situation? Comment on them or at least describe them.
  4. Consider a current issue, situation, illustration, graphical element. What are the parts/components and what is the relationship between them?
  5. Write about a cause and effect. Think of a possible effect in your field (snow falling, poor choices, a healthy body) and explore several the potential causes.
  6. Identify the elements of a concept or thing. Identify the relationships among those elements. Identify the rules for how those elements interact with each other. Could be conceptual, or skill based.
  7. Identify a problem and develop hypotheses about how it might be solved.
  8. Identify a problem, and think of 5 many ideas, rationales or arguments related to the problem.
  9. Write out a step by step plan for implementing an idea you have.
  10. Debate the pros and cons of an issue, problem, solution, idea, situation.

Visual and Media Choices

  1. Create something visually new from two separate parts. Show the two parts and what you created.
  2. Share 5 photos that explain or illustrate a concept; be sure to use photos where you have permission (i.e. Flickr Creative Commons) and cite the photo sources.
  3. Share 3 YouTube videos on a topic and include commentary on why you selected them.
  4. Share a photo or graphic you created and compare it to a photo of something in nature. Compare & contrast or make connections between them.
  5. Share a photo or graphic you created, with a link or photo of what inspired you.
  6. Share an infographic you created about a concept with some introductory text.
  7. Share a how to video with an introductory sentence or two.
  8. Take any of the “writing” ideas listed above and think of how you could express the idea visually with only a sentence or two accompanying it.
  9. Illustrate a cause and effect with photos or graphical elements.
  10. Create a visual mind map of a concept – i.e. a collection of photos of different types of happiness.
  11. Illustrate the various elements of a concept or thing.
  12. Categorize or classify 10-20 different things.
  13. Compare and contrast two graphics, videos, YouTube clips, photos, techniques, software packages, concepts, projects, websites, tools, etc. pick and compare two things.
  14. Diagram the flow of a procedure or relationship between elements.
  15. Create a mind map on a concept – show it and include some short explanation.
  16. Cite/quote/show a graph from a report on the Internet and then generate 5 questions about the graph.

Reusing College Content

  1. Look through your assignments. Is there a paper you really enjoyed, or felt passionate about? Could you get one or two or three blog posts by condensing and making more precise?
  2. Think about your current or past courses. Is there a lecture you really enjoyed? What was it about? What could you document / share on your blog? Cite sources and/or your professor? Respond to the topic?
  3. Take two really different classes you have taken or are taking. What is the overarching concept for each course? Now make comparisons or connections between those two ideas. How do they connect? How are they different? Does one idea remind you of another? Do the two ideas make you think of a third idea?

Blog Writing Tips and Suggestions

Blog Writing Tips and Suggestions

Here is a collection of articles and resources for blog writing. Watch out for the ads on some of these sites. 

Writing Intros and Titles

General Blog Writing Tips

Creating Visually Interesting Blog Posts

123VC Jazz Wins the 2015 TxDLA Outstanding Commitment to Excellence and Innovation in Distance Learning by a Nonprofit Award

123VC Jazz - 2015 TxDLA OCEIDL AwardsI’m so excited to announce that 123VC Jazz is the recipient of the 2015 TxDLA Outstanding Commitment to Excellence and innovation in Distance Learning by a Nonprofit award!

Quoting Ken Conn, who started the 123VC Jazz workshop:

It is a great honor after 10 years.  123VC Jazz is one of my most proud accomplishments.  Especially because it has always been such a truly collaborative group effort.

For a summary of the quality of 123VC Jazz, read the award submission:


123VC: Jazzing Up Your Curriculum With Videoconferencing, fondly called “Jazz” by past participants and facilitators alike, is a grass roots collaboration that has been developed, prepared, coordinated, and facilitated by volunteers since its inception in 2005.  The goal that fuels this organization is to increase the use of interactive videoconferencing in K12 education through experiencing it in a purposeful and engaging manner as well as active and guided reflection.  The session is delivered from multiple sites simultaneously that connect through videoconference and web 2.0 tools for a variety of meaningful activities. Over time, the workshop has consistently evolved to include various site/lead facilitators with K12 curriculum infused videoconferencing continuing to be the focus.  More detailed information can be reviewed at the 123VC website,, which includes a link to past blogs, pictures, created projects, and the positive evaluation results of the participants from 2005 – 2014.

In 2005, 123VC: Jazzing Up Your Curriculum With Videoconferencing originated from a simple request:  Bennie Tschoerner, retired Technology Director at Paris ISD, approached Ken Conn, then Distance Learning Coordinator with Lamar Consolidated ISD, to facilitate a videoconferencing focused workshop in his district.  This transformed into a larger idea of the two districts collaborating together on the workshop with much of the initial planning actually taking place at a table in the hallway at the end of the 2005 TxDLA conference in Fort Worth.  Janine Lim, at the time a K12 videoconferencing leader from Michigan, also joined the original group as a third site after being approached to participate as a guest presenter during the workshop.

The workshop is designed so the participants can be quickly immersed in videoconferencing to experience various formats and interactive content providers, reflect from a student and teacher perspective, and partner with a small group of educators across sites to develop a project that can be implemented back at their local sites.  At the same time there is a significant amount of planning and collaboration occurring among the various site facilitators in order to prepare, coordinate, and facilitate the session.  It is a videoconferencing workshop for participants that is synchronously occurring during a videoconferencing workshop for the facilitators.

The true innovation of this organization over the years comes from the consistent collaboration, reflection, and application of new approaches/ideas.  The facilitators have changed over the past ten years and the content of the workshop has continually taken the feedback from both participants and facilitators into consideration.  The content, processes, and procedures have evolved to incorporate the lessons learned over time.

“Jazz” is a unique organization in many different ways that is truly organic and will continue to provide a positive impact to the videoconferencing community.

Finally, the poster advertising the award nominee at TxDLA. Congratulations, Ken, on keeping Jazz alive for so many years of amazing professional development for teachers!

123 VC Poster at TxDLA


To learn more about Jazz, review my past posts about the Jazz workshop.


Creating, Gathering and Using Data

It’s Tuesday morning at USLDA, and I’m attending the first session of the morning: Creating, Gathering and Using Data with Karly Good from Grand View University and Sue McDaniel from A.T. Still University.

ATSU’s College of Graduate Health Studies has 145 full time and faculty members in 34 states and two other countries offering 4 masters and 3 doctorate programs. Sharing data and communication among all these locations is challenging. Each program was keeping track of their own data. An example of an issue was a course that was cross listed with 3 prefixes – changing a textbook listing for one didn’t necessarily mean the others were changed.

Data issues included accreditation, dissertations, grades, and more.

At ATSU, they created a Access front end / mySQL backend database called IRMA: Integrated Records Management and Administration. They add 5000-6000 records a month. The instructional designers and academic advisers, associate dean, all have different front ends – Access Reports. They can access it from home via the VPN.

Course Development Via Database

All the online courses are built through the Access database. They add each little piece of a course – content, assignments, they connect all of it to the learning objectives and competencies. All the outputs are done in PDFs so that no one can change it. Faculty have to teach the course as it is, they don’t allow anyone to edit or change anything after it’s been through the development assignments.

The instructional designer’s view has Courses, reports, Term Courses, Textbooks, and Faculty as the main menu.

They build the courses in IRMA, and work through the syllabus items, core competencies, connections to learning outcomes; then a report gives them the HTML to copy & paste into the LMS. The database tracks all the pieces of the course development, the milestones, how far they’ve come etc. They can easily find a specific course that uses a particular tool, such as a wiki.

Faculty Data for Accreditation

The Associate Dean’s view has Faculty, Courses, Surveys, and more. The Faculty menu includes all the data on professional development funds, publications, demographic data on faculty and more. It has the course evaluation data that can be used to make staffing decisions for teaching the variety of courses.

It’s so fascinating to me how scaling online learning requires us to manage information at an incredibly high level. This method is also a way to have easily at hand anything needed for an accreditation report. It is work on the front end setting it up; and also regular work always entering data; but wow! What an amazing tool. 

I also find it interesting that the idea of BIG DATA makes you think of buying some amazing product from a company; where in this case, someone with good database skills can build something valuable using what data already exists in a less organized format.

Tracking 7 Core University Competencies

At Karly’s institution, Grand View, their data comes from Blackboard and a SQL. They pull assignment and assessment data (rubric) and then they pull from their Student Information System as well as Blackboard. They have 7 rubrics for 7 core outcomes that gauge graduating students. You can see 4 year growth of students using the rubric over time throughout the whole university experience. They want to in the future include these rubrics in the Blackboard shell/templates – right now the faculty get the rubric from the University Portal to add to their course assignments.

The curriculum committee on campus developed these rubrics as part of the university assessment. It’s built into core classes as well as within the majors. The rubrics are NO POINTS in Blackboard – so that the rubrics never affect the student’s grade. They are a secondary evaluation in Blackboard – you can choose not to show it to the students at all. It’s a four year rubric. Everyone is assessed on the same scale, freshmen and seniors, both. The students don’t see the results on this rubric – it’s not their grade. They use the Goals feature of Blackboard to align each criteria on the rubric to the goals.

Karly worked with IT to collect:

  • From Blackboard: student name, course, assignment, dept, rubric, faculty name, core outcome
  • From the SIS: gender, major, GPA, term

So far they have pulled the report 3 times.

The next step is to be able to restrict access so that departments can see just their departments; and that faculty can see their data.

Their 7 Essential Competencies are:

  • Critical Inquiry (CI)
  • Quantitative Communication (Q)
  • Information Literacy (IL)
  • Global Awareness (GA)
  • Written Communication (W)
  • Vocation (V)
  • Oral Communication (O)

It’s interesting to me also that you have an Instructional Designer and Instructional Technology Specialist diving into the data needs for accreditation and assessment. The merging of a variety of skills and needs across campus. 

Wow! Inspiration for a lot of work to be done!

Jazz Up Student Engagement in Your Online Courses

This afternoon I presented at the USDLA national conference. Here I am sharing my handout and the URLs that either I shared or attendees shared in the discussion.



Note that I have deliberately not included tons of sites and ideas because I wanted this to be simple and not too overwhelming. To pique interest.

Learn about Designing Significant Learning Experiences

Learning How to Learn


Human Dimension

  • Blog or discuss ways in which one’s personal life affects and is affected by the subject. Sample student blog.
  • Be an ethical, responsible member of a team serving others; tools to support groups: GoogleDrive and similar tools to support collaborative learning.



  • Analyze and critique an issue or case study.
  • Apply the skills in context; document ability with video.
  • Create a recommendation for a corporation in a real-world problem/situation – build on wikispaces.

Foundational Knowledge

  • Create and share/narrate a mental map or conceptual structure of major concepts. or Mindly the app.
  • Create a presentation: Explain & predict concepts and ideas. i.e. Prezi
  • Have students access and interact with primary sources of content – i.e. TedEd and more.

Fink Taxonomy and Tools PDF Handout – Permission granted to reprint freely. Please share any adaptations.

What would you add? Feel free to comment and share. 

Using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software to Track Online Course Development

It’s USDLA national conference time again, and this year I presented in the first session: Using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software to Track Online Course Development.

I shared the story the story of how we went from mostly chaos in our course development to a tracked set of steps that care for the details while allowing for creativity in the learning design of the courses.

The tools we tried before:

The structure and design of our matching course development handbooks:

Our search for a way to track our process went through these two CRMs:

And we landed on CiviCRM due to its case management tools. When we start a course (case), CiviCRM preloads the 62 steps we currently have in our process.

We also discussed challenges and next steps in our continuing journey.

It was an interesting conversation. The audience shared ideas and processes as well. One idea that I took away from the audience was the concept of having reviewers involved in the development process. We do our reviewing and editing at the end of the process. It seems there are pros and cons either way.

What about you? Feel free to comment. Are you using any tool that you recommend for tracking the progress of online course development?