Telecollaboration in International (Moodle) courses: Pitfalls and Success

I’m attending the 10th Anniversary COIL Conference.and doing some almost-live blogging. Here are my notes from another session.

Presenters: Miriam Russell, SUNY Empire State College (United States)
Lorette Calix, SUNY Empire State College (United States) See her work: The Value of a Virtual Term Abroad
Richard Bonnabeau, SUNY Empire State College (United States)
Francesca Cichello, SUNY Empire State College (United States)

Description: This four-person panel will present an overview of the communicative tools and technology used in SUNY Empire State College international programs. Included will be reflections on experiences using technology with international students, some of whom will join the panel virtually using Zoom. Additionally, specific examples of computer-mediated feedback will illustrate how these tools helped turn telecommunication pitfalls into success for all.


Learn about the Center for International Programs at SUNY Empire State College. Francesca described how they hire local faculty as needed. The instruction is blended – some online and some face to face; and some programs have residency abroad. They do many COIL type activities and very little study abroad.

In this session, they described two collaborations, one that included Anadolu University, Turkey; SUNY Cortland, SUNY Empire State College; and another with UNAPEC, Dominican Republic. A student from Turkey and from the Dominican Republic were on the Skype call, and shared the benefits of their experience succinctly and articulately. For the collaboration with UNAPEC, the classes are delivered online with weekly virtual meetings, and there are residency sessions as well.

Multiple components are needed for success: f2f, videoconferences, blogs, online support – LMS, informal ways to communicate – mixed results with Facebook; most successful was WhatsApp.

One essential piece is a way to communicate other than the platform for the videoconference itself – i.e. WhatsApp. It can be used for resolving technical issues, and for connecting & ccollaborating. It allows students to talk just like they do outside of a f2f class. It provides for social communication. It is critical to use a tool that people can use on their phones.

Students in Turkey & Dominican Republic were discussing the lunar eclipse together and sharing their experiences with it while it happened (shared events).

The faculty member at Empire State College was teaching to Turkey and the Dominican Republic at the the same time.

Another model they shared was an “international field study” where students start with an orientation online, break the ice with each other online, and then 3 weeks later students met f2f in Instanbul.

Building Bridges Between Cultures through Graphic Design Advocacy

I’m attending the 10th Anniversary COIL Conference. Here are my live-blogged notes on one of the sessions. I’m looking forward to the recordings being online, as I want to play this one for our faculty!

Presenters: Eileen MacAvery Kane, Rockland Community College (United States)
Hendali Steynberg, Tshwane University of Technology (South Africa)

Description: Hendali Steynberg from Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa and Eileen MacAvery Kane from Rockland Community College, Suffern, NY, will present about a collaborative graphic design advocacy poster project between their classes. The project was a huge success, enjoyed by both classes while in the process creating cultural awareness, raising self-esteem, diminishing cultural bias, and creating understanding and a small, but mighty bridge, between two cultures.

Getting Started

Both faculty have business graphic design experience, and are teaching. Collaboration started because Eileen was invited to Tshwane University of Technology as a visiting faculty member due to a book that she published.

Eileen’s class was at the beginning of the semester; Hendali’s class was at the end of the semester.

This project lasted about six weeks.

Eileen is at a community college and had students with full time jobs; the South Africa students were full time students.

The Learning Experience

Students worked in groups – the class in South Africa was bigger, so making the groups fit together was a challenge to overcome.

They did an ice breaker video for students to introduce themselves and the campus; videos were posted on YouTube. The video ice breaker is highly recommended as it helps students get to know each other. Students are just as excited at the higher ed side of these collaborations as at the K12 level.

The student groups met in Google hangouts to meet to create posters. The students gave topics to each other to create posters about – topics on social issues. Students made their own posters, and then presented them to the students in the other country.

The posters were uploaded to a drive to share the posters and look at them ahead of time.

Culmination with an exhibit in the student union on the NY side, showing the posters created by both classes.

The graphic design class goals included both the discipline, but also learning about life. The two inform each other – students learn the content at the same time as experiencing the cultural interaction.

Cool Moments

Two students were from the same village!: One of the students in the community college in NY and one of the students in South Africa!

Lots of discussion around the posters made, and what was common and different. Many issues came up in the work: government corruption, drug use, college debt, etc.

Students were so eager, it wasn’t an issue for students to connect outside of class time.

Students communicated with each other outside of class – they used gmail and WhatsApp to talk to each other on the side.

Thank you to Eileen and Hendali for a great presentation – and a good example of how COIL works. This presentation will help me explain COIL to our faculty!

Jazzing Up Your Curriculum: Applying Principles of Jazz to Collaboration

Today I’m co-presenting at the 10th Anniversary COIL Conference with Ken Conn, Amy Spath, and Roxanne Glaser.

Jazz workshopSession Description: Collaboration requires a unique set of skills, skills that are similar to those used in jazz music. Autonomy, passion, risk, innovation, and listening are essential to a successful collaborative experience. Learn how these five principles of jazz are applied in a unique summer course for K12 teachers called 123 VC: Jazzing Up Your Curriculum with Videoconferencing. The workshop is collaboratively led and features a variety of interactive activities across the participating sites

Google Slidedeck

Note: 2008-2010 the Jazz workshop had international participation from Wales, UK and British Columbia, Canada.

The “Jazz workshop” Resources

We challenge you to ensure your collaborations are jazz music, not a one-man band or a symphony led by a star conductor!

Bringing the World to Your Classroom

This blog post is a supplement to my presentation at the annual Andrews University Teaching and Learning Conference.

Description: Break down the walls of your classroom and bring global engaging learning experiences to your students. Why? The benefits are engaging learning experiences for your students. Collaborate with teachers to design powerful collaborative projects. Come learn about tools and resources that can help you design and implement quality collaborations.

Why Collaborate? 

Collaborative Project Planning Resources

Possible Tools

Finding Partners

Time Zone Tools

  • – great for planning ahead, especially checking daylight savings time changes
  • – put a widget on your computer with the time in another location

Selected Bibliography

See my dissertation for a more complete list of videoconferencing and collaboration references.

  • Cifuentes, L., & Murphy, K. L. (2000). Promoting multicultural understanding and positive self-concept through a distance learning community: cultural connections. Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(1), 69-83.
  • Martinez, M. D., & MacMillan, G. (1998). A Joint Distance Learning Course in American Government (No. ED428005).
  • Owston, R. (2007). Contextual factors that sustain innovative pedagogical practice using technology: an international study. Journal of Educational Change, 8(1), 61-77.
  • Sweeney, M. A. (2007). The use of videoconferencing techniques which support constructivism in K-12 education. Dissertation Abstracts International.
  • Warschauer, M. (1997). Computer-mediated collaborative learning: Theory and practice. Modern Language Journal, 81(3), p. 470-481. Also at
  • Yost, N. (2001). Lights, Camera, Action: Videoconferencing in Kindergarten. Paper presented at the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference.

An Introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER)

Today, March 29, is the annual Andrews University Teaching and Learning Conference. This year, my department has joined forces with TLC and our monthly Faculty Technology Showcase is part of the day long conference. Our theme for the showcase is Open Educational Resources, and we’re having presentations on OER, learning from MOOCs, and Yammer, an enterprise social network. I’m sharing the OER presentation, and here are the resources we are exploring.

What is OER?

Source: Why Open Education Matters

Open Textbooks for Higher Education

Open Textbooks for K12

Open Educational Resources

So how does it work?

Want to Learn More?

Do an Online Assignment Out of Sequence to Be More Successful

When Griggs University moved to Andrews University, I joined the team supporting online education at Andrews University. We started moving the Griggs University self-paced online courses from Desire2Learn to Andrews University’s Moodle. In the process, it seemed like it would be a good idea to restrict all the content so that students had to complete the previous lesson before they could go on to the next lesson.

At the same time, I was just getting started with my research agenda. It seemed like a good plan to get data before we implemented this plan, and then analyze the data afterwards.

Out of Sequence Success

However, when I analyzed the “before data”, I found that students who did at least one assignment out of sequence were more likely to complete! It was such a surprising result.

But think about it. If you are working away, and you are stuck, what do you do? Do you stop entirely, or do you do something else and come back to it?

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by xerezh

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by xerezh

Maybe taking a detour once in a while isn’t a bad thing. And maybe as instructional designers we shouldn’t be so obsessive about controlling the learning path of our students. Maybe designing for learner choice would increase the success of our students.

My research article is published in the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning: The Relationship between Successful Completion and Sequential Movement in Self-Paced Distance Courses. Take a look.

What do you think?

Have you noticed students doing assignments out of sequence? Do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing? Do you think students in a face to face class work on their assignments for the semester always in sequence? Do you think there might be a threshold where too many assignments out of sequence is a problem? What questions does this result raise in your mind? Please comment.

Using Blogging to Contribute Expertise and Convey Credibility

Today I’m presenting a webinar for the United States Distance Learning Association 2016 Webinar Series: Using Blogging to Contribute Expertise and Convey Credibility. This post shares the accompanying resources.


My blogging history:

Tools for blogging:

Ideas for Blogging

Scheduling and Tracking Writing

Promoting and Learning

Thank you to USDLA for the opportunity to present this session! Hope to see you, dear reader, at the USDLA 2016 National Conference in May!

Reducing Procrastination with Frequent Engagement

overdue task list

Photo by AJ Gulyas. Creative Commons Attribution License.

Lately I’ve been thinking about procrastination in online courses. Procrastination can be caused by so many things – feeling inadequate for the task, a sense that the task is hard, deciding that other things are more important.

Have you noticed in your email habits that you tend to answer the easy questions, but if someone asks a hard question, you put it off?

It’s easy to procrastinate on just about anything, but doesn’t it seem like online learning exaggerates our procrastination? We get done what’s in front of us, what’s staring us in the face. But our distance learning is online, in the cloud, on our app. Easily ignored. Easily put off for another day.

What does it take to keep our distance learning right in our students’ faces?

Combating Procrastination in Distance Learning Industries

It’s an issue in all different kinds of distance learning, and there are a variety of ways to combat procrastination:

  • In mobile learning, apps like DuoLingo notify the user daily with a reminder to practice their learning.
  • In online courses, for both K12 or higher education, teachers can design frequent, low-stakes grading, using quizzes, practice quizzes, or short assignments.
  • In corporate training modules, content could be broken up into smaller, micro-lessons, with content and an engagement activity included in lesson.
  • In healthcare, remote patient monitoring can be embedded with regular tips and mentoring to assist patients with improving their health, such as Tactio Health, an app that provides digital coaching along with self-monitoring and/or remote monitoring.
  • In videoconference learning, such as courses or enrichment by content providers, learners probably don’t procrastinate during the live lesson. That’s the beauty of live, synchronous learning. However, there may be assignments or pre-work that is easily put off. Small, easy to manage, learning bites and activities can reduce procrastination or disengagement.

Examples of Frequent Engagement

So how do we design frequent engagement, and low-stakes grading into our distance learning experiences? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Feedback and monitoring. Tullis and Benjamin (2011) suggest that students need frequent feedback to help them learn to monitor their learning. If they have a clear understanding of which concepts they understand, and which need more study, learners can adjust their study time to spend more time on the concepts and skills that need to improve. So design frequent assessments that inform learners on their progress.
  • Daily quizzing. Wesp (1986) suggests for personalized instruction (isn’t all distance learning personalized learning at some level?) that daily quizzes can help students keep on track with making progress on their studies, particularly if the quizzes are designed in such a way that they don’t have a negative effect on poorer students’ grades.
  • Informal writing. Besides regular quizzing, informal writing can engage students regularly with the content, and keep them focused on their learning. In addition, Warnock (2013) suggests that frequent grading gives student confidence and keeps the communication flow between teacher and student. Informal writing can include journals, reading responses, one minute responses, or muddiest point paragraphs.

Now that you’ve considered ways to reduce procrastination in distance learning, what are you going to do about it? Don’t procrastinate! Pick one small idea and add it to the learning design you are working on today! Or this weekend. Or next week. …

Comment Invitation

Please feel free to comment below. What other suggestions would you give for reducing procrastination? What do you see as the benefits of frequent engagement? Are there any examples where you believe these ideas don’t work? Please share.


Tullis, J. G., & Benjamin, A. S. (2011). On the effectiveness of self-paced learning. Journal of Memory and Language, 64(2), 109-118. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2010.11.002

Warnock, S. (2013). Frequent, low-stakes grading: Assessment for communication, confidenceFaculy Focus.

Wesp, R. (1986). Reducing procrastination through required course involvement. Teaching of Psychology, 13(3), 128-130. doi: 10.1207/s15328023top1303_6

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.