Improve Lectures With Stories

TreesLightWith Summer here, and light at the end of the tunnel, maybe there’s time to think about course improvements for Fall. With better lectures, you can enhance both online and face-to-face courses. Here are 3 easy ways to make your lectures more effective and memorable:

  1. Improve lectures with personal stories:
    Humans are wired to hear and remember stories. Adding your own personal anecdotes can perk up attention, bolster credibility, and more importantly, increase student recall. In his book “Teaching That Sticks,” Stanford University’s Chip Heath describes a student presentation experiment where he found the following:

    In the average one-minute speech, the typical student uses 2.5 statistics. Only one student in ten tells a story. When students are asked to recall the speeches, 63% remember the stories. Only 5% remember any individual statistic.

  2. Chunk lectures into small, coherent segments.
    Even the most energetic and entertaining lecturers can create too much of a good thing. If your presentations go longer than 15 minutes, students can zone out and their attention can wander. Breaking up lectures into smaller, topic-based segments is much more effective for learning.
  3. Target specific knowledge and skills with screencast lectures.
    Rather than going to the whiteboard or chalkboard to work through problems or examples, try creating a screencast or tutorial to demonstrate topics using computer software. This may save you time in the long run; you can often use these for multiple lessons and classes, and they will benefit confused students who can watch again (and again). The success of Khan Academy is built on this model, breaking down complex topics into visual step-by-step examples.

Quality Matters

logo_1Exciting news!
We adopted Quality Matters to guide our online course quality and review criteria. Here’s a quick rundown on why, and what this will mean going forward.

Why Quality Matters?
Thousands of colleges and universities worldwide subscribe to Quality Matters’ online course quality standards and peer review process. As we work to expand online program offerings, we want to use evidence-based, widely recognized quality assurance standards as a foundation to build on.

How will this impact instructors?
The Quality Matters rubric is similar to our previous Quality Framework criteria, so this changeover should have minimal impact for courses and programs that were recently reviewed. Going forward, we invite you to review the QM rubric and consider how your course aligns. You can also request our DEMO course to view an example of student-centered design. Plans are in the works to offer training videos and tools to help you meet specific standards.

What does this mean for students?
Learners will benefit from enhanced communication and engagement opportunities online, better time-management awareness, and a more consistent user experience.

What about Face-to-Face courses?
Quality Matters is designed specifically for online courses. It provides a tool to help align online courses with the same program and student learning outcomes expected in face-to-face courses.

UI also recently joined NC-SARA (National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) to mitigate the many cross-state student education requirements for distance education. NC-SARA and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities require online programs to be benchmarked for academic rigor and include vital pathways for student achievement.

Stay tuned for more developments as we gear up for an exciting 2016.


No Syllabus Needed

Imagine a course with no syllabus, where students run the class, create their own learning projects, and, essentially determine their own outcomes. What would that look like? Prof_Syllabus

For University of Idaho Business majors, it looks like the “Vandal Solutions” course. Students enroll and run the class as an actual business. They hire and train student employees and managers. They determine the viability of project proposals, develop business plans, make bids, perform the work, and generate revenue. Entrepreneurship and risk-taking are built-in components of these classes: success, and failure, are real.

Innovative course design that emphasizes student experience, service learning, and collaborative projects where students apply real-world skills, can create powerful teaching moments…without the standard syllabus.

Watch last week’s TEBB #4 video recording to see Dr. Terry Grieb and his colleagues describing the innovative learn-by-experience courses offered by the College of Business & Economics.

Winners of the 2014 “Education Oscars”

ReimagineEdStarsThe winners of the 2014 University of Pennsylvania Re-imagine Education contest (considered by some to be “Oscars” of course design) have been busy innovating and developing new data-driven student engagement models to help students succeed.

Even if you’re not ready to buy into to the winning companies’ services, you can employ similar pedagogical strategies to improve learning outcomes.

From the winners list below, we’ve gleaned some easy, practical takeaways you can use in your own courses.

  • ForClass: Students ponder case-study based scenarios and send answers in before class, incentivizing engagement and allowing instructors to identify and praise those who answer correctly. Pedagogy takeaway: Use real-world scenarios to craft engaging questions – this challenges students to apply learning in new ways.
  • PhET Interactive Simulations University of Colorado Boulder has developed hundreds of free interactive simulations to teach students fundamental principles of science and math. Pedagogy takeaway: Explaining complex concepts is often easier and more effective with visuals, multimedia and examples.
  • PaGamO: National Taiwan University is pioneering a multi-student social game where students compete to accumulate virtual wealth and buy protective defense mechanisms by answering questions correctly. Pedagogy takeaway: Competitive team projects can provide engaging student learning options.
  • University of Utah’s Design Laboratory: (Hybrid Award) Blend of online content, simulations, lectures, and collaborative projects between freshmen and seniors designed to assist students into eventual employment and progress. Pedagogy takeaway: Collaborative projects; are we seeing a theme here?

These are just a few of the winners profiled.

2 Useful, Painless Video Creation Tools

Creating great interactive videos doesn’t need to come with a huge learning curve. Try these 2 pain-free cloud tools.
1. HapYak:
Are you using online video in your class, but you’d like to enhance it with specific questions, links, maybe a quiz, or highlight important points? HapYak is an easy way to edit almost any video for targeted interactive learning. If your video is on YouTube, you can enhance it with HapYak. Watch their feature video (link below) to learn more about HapYak’s capabilities. Cost: You can do 5 videos per month with the free version.

2. Animoto:
Animoto might be the easiest application I’ve ever used to create fun, compelling videos. It makes adding great music a breeze, so even those who struggle with technology will enjoy doing multimedia presentations. Students should appreciate Animoto’s plugins to Facebook and Instagram if they’re adding photos. I created a very basic video in about ten minutes. Cost: You’re limited to 30-second videos with the free version.

Survey Says: Students prefer hybrid courses

Are hybrid courses the best of both worlds in higher education? Blended Learning

According to recent research, around 70% of students seem to think so.

In their 2014 review of undergraduate students, Educause Research found that students prefer and learn the most in blended learning environments.

Students still value some degree of contact with instructors, along with effectively integrated online technology.

Read more in this infographic highlighting Educause Review’s 2014 Study of Undergraduate Students and IT.


5 Rules for Lectures, and 24 Powerpoint Alternatives

PowToonsIt can be difficult to make lecture materials engaging. You might have some great slide content, but who’s got time to animate, illustrate, and narrate all of their presentations, and still keep them up to date?

You don’t need to be a programmer anymore to convert your lectures into lively multimedia video. Visit Custom Show’s website to review 24 great Powerpoint alternatives, including many free, easy-to-use web apps like PowToons (example below) and My Brainshark with no software download required. Even if you can’t get excited about switching from PPT, your students might. Encourage them to use these apps for assigned student projects, too.

While you’re at it, keep these 5 rules of thumb in mind for your online (or face-to-face) lectures:

  1. Maximum learning occurs in short lessons of 5-7 minutes. Time your lectures accordingly, and break often for questions and reflection.
  2. Learners are easily confused by extraneous content. Narrow your focus to “need to know” content and make sure materials relate directly to your learning goals.
  3. The most powerful lectures include relevant stories and meaningful examples.
  4. Include simple visuals that explain things clearly, avoid lots of bulleted text.
  5. Include an introduction and summary, and give contextual refreshers that trigger (and build on) existing knowledge