Archives for the month of: October, 2013

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?