First of all, I just want to start off by saying I love Spark! I have actually downloaded all the podcasts and listen to them while I run. I know- what a nerd, right? The episode on Flipping the classroom was especially interesting – not because it is a new topic to me but more because it reaffirms that this style of teaching can really make a difference.  She mentioned visiting Colorado to attend a workshop put on by Aaron Samms and Johnathan Bergmann. I have shown their video numerous times in the workshop I teach on Blended Learning. I especially like their newsest version:

The flipped classroom just makes sense to me. If only this was available when I was taking Math 30 or high school chemistry way back when… I think my experience with these subjects would have been much different. Even though my department does support educational technology in the college, we always try to emphasize that it is not about the technology, it is about learning. Technology is simply one tool. The flipped classroom is a prime example of this. The learning is made more accessible through technology and allows students to absorb the information at their own pace and interact with it in a way that best suits thier learning style. This might mean watching a lecture over and over, taking notes and then doing further research to make connections with the material being learned and what is already familiar. It might mean watching it with a partner and then creating a presentation or an infographic that summarizes what they have learned and then presenting this to the class. I think one of the biggest benifits to this type of learning are the skills that students learn that aren’t necessarily related to the content but help them in other ways such as being able to work independently, self management, multiliteracies, different forms of communication (in the class or online). Commonsly referred to as 21st century skills should not be taught (in my opinion) in isolation but rather integrated into every subject, assessment and teaching method. The flipped classroom is a model that, if designed right, can help students not only learn the content in a way that best suits their learning needs but also helps them build skills that will help them succeed in today’s world.

The other day I sat down with the instructors from one of the programs in our college to discuss the curriculum review process they were about to go through. The program is offered completely online and face-to-face with most of the instructors teaching in both environments. Because our credit system has recently changed, we are going to have reduce the program by 9 credits. As part of this process we will have to analyze the current program and then evaluate whether or not the current credits assigned to each course are accurate. We determine this by taking into account the Instructional time, Lab time and Tutorial time required for each course. When I was explaining the process we were about to go through, one of the instructors asked me how we determine “Instructional” time in an online course. To be honest, this isn’t really clearly defined anywhere that I can find. He made the point that his online course has already been developed and pretty much runs itself. His role (in his opinion) isn’t nearly as important in his online class as it is in the face-to-face class. I asked him if he thought his presence in the class had any effect on the participants learning. Salmon (2011) states that e-moderators should be self-aware and demonstrate interpersonal sensitivity and be able to influence? I wanted to know if he was capable of ‘influencing’ how his students thought, interpreted readings or participated in discussions and other activities in his online course. He wasn’t sure. I then asked him to think about his role in the classroom when his students were participating in a discussion or working on a collaborative project. In this case, he was confident that he still needed to be ‘present’ and help guide the learning, while at the same time knowing when to step back. When I asked him why this should be any different in an online environment, he said he hadn’t ever thought of it that way. I then asked him if he would approach his online course differently as a result of the conversation we just had.

I came across the following infographic that I thought was relevant:

One of the biggest challenges for course designers and instructors is deciding how to include interactivity in an online course (Fuller, Kuhne and Frey 2011). These interactions can be among the participants (students and instructor) and also between participants and the content. Knowing the nature of the course, the types of learners and what types of resources are available should also be taken into account. I agree with Tony Bates (2012) when he says these important design decisions need to be made at the program level rather than the course level. This will allow for scaffolding and better alignment of learning opportunities.  In the case of the instructor mentioned earlier in this post, I hope that the program review will address some of these issues including the role of the instructor in all the courses offered in this program. After all, shouldn’t this be consistent throughout the entire learning experience rather than hit and miss depending on which instructor teaches which course?

Salmon, G. (2011). E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online (3rd Ed.) New York and Abingdon: Routledge.

Bates, T. (2012). Cohere conference on blended learning. Retrieved from

MacMeekin, M. (ND). My first infographic. Retrieved from

As this week’s readings center on Instructional Design, one specifically on the ADDIE model, I thought I’d share some great videos I came across on Youtube by jclarkgardner.

We use ADDIE for our instructional design process as well. I sometimes find these useful to share with subject matter experts and writers when we are trying to explain the process.


jclarkgardner. (2011, October 18). The ADDIE Design Model. Retrieved from


Yep, it was no big surprise with Blackboard being the giant it was (and continues to be). We somehow knew the day would come. At first we saw this as a major inconvenience. It felt like we were just starting to get the hang of things in Angel and more importantly so were faculty. Angel was familiar. Now we had to learn something new. Worse – we had to teach faculty all over again.

But it didn’t take long for our frustrations to start to shift. We already knew our processes for course development needed some attention. We also knew that many of the limitations we were experiencing often stemmed from the constraints of the LMS. As I mentioned in my previous post, the online world was moving forward with new learning opportunities and tools that were naturally finding their ways into our daily lives. Yet the online learning environment we were providing for our students and instructors remained clunky, closed off and segregated from it all.  There was little room for movement within but even more problematic was that there was no opportunity to keep the momentum going after students left the college.

As it all started to sink in, we eventually started to see this transition as an opportunity to really get it right. If our Instructional design processes were focused on making the courses we create more learner centered, we needed to make sure our next LMS allowed for that.

So I bet you want to know who the contenders were. I say “were” because we just recently made the decision (I’ll get to that later…). Our top contenders were Blackboard, D2L, Moodle and Canvas. This isn’t a surprising list considering most post secondary Canadian institutions are going with one of these options. Canvas is just starting to enter the Canadian market but is gaining popularity in the United States. Simon Fraser University just recently signed on with them as well. We knew this was a decision that had to be made by more than our department. So we put together a task-force which included at least one faculty member from each department, several members of our media team, one representative of our curriculum team, a few representatives from IT, a library representative and someone from the registrars office. We sat through several presentations and demonstrations from each of the contenders and developed a set of criteria that included:

  1. Ease of Use,
  2. Ease of Access,
  3. Gradebook,
  4. Assignment sharing options,
  5. Visual Appeal,
  6. Assessment options,
  7. Communication options,
  8. 3rd party integration options (i.e Google Gocs, Dropbbox, Evernote) and
  9. Accessibility

D2L was the first to fall out of the line-up, not because we weren’t interested but because they missed the submission deadline by 7 mins! Legally, we could no longer consider them. Moodle was the next to go. Our team wasn’t convinced we had the resources it would take to make Moodle what we wanted it to be. This brought us to Blackboard or Canvas.

Blackboard is a giant and is used far more in Canada than Canvas. But many of us who had experienced Blackboard weren’t convinced it would be able to take us in the direction we wanted to go. Canvas on the other hand seems to really consider the end user first (the student) and has more options for integrating with tools outside of itself. Because we have recently moved to a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model in many of our programs, which incorporates more tools and the need for mobile functionality, this was a plus for us.  We are also considering Google Apps for Education, which seems to work well with Canvas. Blackboard on the other hand is familiar and would be an easy transition from Angel.

Sigh…. What to do? What would YOU do?

When I first came to the department I currently work in, the college was in the middle of a Learning Management System (LMS) transition. We were making the big move from Web CT to Angel. At the time I had very little experience with any type of LMS. I had played around with Moodle a few years prior when I taught middle school and then tinkered around with Web CT as an hourly instructor at the college but really had no idea what the potential could be for online learning within the context of an LMS. It wasn’t until I started designing online courses that I really got a taste for it. Back then (we are talking roughly 5 years ago) we would develop courses to virtually mimic what you would experience in the classroom. Because most post secondary classrooms sadly still rely on lectures to deliver information, our courses took on the same characteristic. Each course provided pretty much all the information that a student would need to complete the outcomes. The result was very text heavy courses with occasional opportunities for interaction within the discussion board. We would hire writers and subject matter experts (SME) and they would submit content. A formatter would format the information in a word document, add graphics, tables and videos where appropriate. Our media specialists would transfer the word documents to HTML (I know, this seems redundant), create learning objects to enhance the material and create some interactivity and the Instructional designers would design the course using the well known ADDIE model while closely following eCampus Alberta standards. These courses followed all the rules.  Aesthetically, the courses were beautiful!

However, we started to question the true quality and significance of the learning experience for the students (Fink, 2003). We also started to question our processes. If we were encouraging face-to-face instructors to step outside the box and create more learner centered/active learning opportunities in the classroom, why weren’t we doing the same thing online? How was delivering a text heavy course (even if it did have occasional discussion boards and learning objects spread throughout) different from an instructor lecturing the duration of every class using nothing but PowerPoint and an occasional question period. Couldn’t we do better?

As we started to explore all the different ways that could promote more student engagement in the online learning environment, we also started to become more frustrated with the limitations of Angel. Sure there was a discussion board (which we used), there was a chat room but it was clunky, as was the wiki. This coupled with the poor mobile functionality in an increasingly mobile dependent society was very discouraging for students, instructors and our development team. Furthermore, everything within the LMS stayed there offering very little opportunity to utilize any of the thousands of great web and social networking applications that our students (and instructors for that matter) were already using in their daily lives to learn and interact with each other. It was starting to feel like life outside the LMS offered way more opportunity for the types of learning interactions we were looking for.

 Then something big happened…

 Find out next week where this story goes…

D. Fink. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Retrieved from 

I have sat through enough bad PowerPoint presentations to give the title of this post (admittedly a cliché) the validity it deserves. I’m sure we all have. I’m talking about the presentation that includes slide after slide of bulleted points or redundant text that is all too often read word-for-word by the presenter or regurgitated directly from the textbook. I have also sat through some amazing presentations where the presenter’s unique talent to tell stories or make whatever the topic interesting and relevant through illustrations, key points or other interesting tidbits. Isn’t this what makes Ted Talks so successful? The PowerPoint doesn’t necessarily dish out the information but rather supports it and enhances it in a way that resonates with the audience. This can be a rare but wonderful experience.


Here are a few examples of presentations that I think are done well. Of course both are TED but I encourage anyone who views them to think about what make them good… really think about it.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Hans Rosling: Stats that reshape your world-view

Christien Meindertsma: How pig parts make the world turn




Jackie & Isla kyak

Hello and welcome to my blog. My name is Jackie Doherty.  I spent my first years as a teacher in the international school system in Taiwan teaching everything from k-12. From there I lived briefly in New York while my husband finished his masters degree and then moved back to my hometown to teach at the college and raise our kids close to family (I’m not too sure what we would do without grandma and grandpa!). This eventually led to a position as an instructional designer (something I previously had never heard of) and then most recently I have taken a position as the curriculum manager in our Centre for Teaching and Learning Innovation. I love my job but feel that I still have so much to learn! Luckily I have a wonderful team to help me through the journey!

I have two beautiful children and a very supportive and loving husband. I am currently in my final semester of this MEd program in Educational Technology and have decided to take two courses so that I can complete it in December. It is going to be crazy busy but boy, will it feel good to be done!

I am looking forward to learning from and alongside each of you this semester.