Organize your learning (and life) with Google Apps

Posted by Ed Price at 5/27/2016 10:19:40 AM

Better teaching and learning comes from collaboration and highly interactive teaching. Engaging teaching leads to engaged learners. While it sounds simple, it is not that easy. Better living can come from organizing your life and finding efficient ways to connect and communicate with others.

How can you accomplish this?

Well… Google it! No, not the search engine, but with free Google Apps! Google provides anyone with a Google account access to many useful and FREE tools. “Generally referred to as Google Apps (or the Google Suite), these web-based programs can help you create a more collaborative, engaged learning environment.”

What are they?

Google has many apps (like traditional software programs) for word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, survey tools, webdesign, and more! Because all of these are cloud-based, you have access to your files from anywhere you can connect to the internet. No more worrying about what computer or jump drive they are stored on. Your files are always available and accessible.

The power of Google can help teachers and learners connect in ways they were unable to in the past. Here are some benefits to using Google apps in your classroom:

  • Increased collaboration between students and instructors
  • Device neutral programs – PC, Mac, tablet, phone, Chromebook
  • Google Apps are always up to date – no more updating versions of software
  • Integrates with many LMS (Canvas and Blackboard)
  • Free

Not a student or an instructor? These Google tools are still available to you. Use them to save time, stay in touch, and stay organized.
Speaking of free!

Sign up for the first of our Google Apps courses. Out first course covers Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Docs. Stay tuned for more!

ARCS Model of Motivation

Posted by Christine Dereberry at 5/27/2016 10:16:38 AM

Four Actions to Gain and Keep Students Engaged

Every facilitator who works with students knows how difficult it is to keep their attention. In reading about various methods for increasing student motivation, my favorite technique was written by John Keller and is called the ARCS Model of Motivation. The model is very effective and is divided into four categories: Attention (A), Relevance (R), Confidence (C), and Satisfaction (S).

Attention: Effective planning, participation and variety throughout the lesson will increase focus and motivation.

  1. Active participation of all students.
    Applying active teaching strategies including collaborating with their peers, students are encouraged to become active throughout the learning process.
  2. Using humor.
    Including short humorous stories, videos, images during the session can assist with keeping the attention of the students.
  3. Introducing conflict.
    Presenting statements or facts that may conflict with the common beliefs will encourage discourse.
  4. Adding variety.
    Employ a variety of different strategies when starting a session, when introducing a new topic, when transitioning to a new topic or when you want the students to review or practice what was covered. Examples are virtual guest speakers, case studies, visuals, graphic organizers, videos, student response systems, Web 2.0 websites/apps and humorous trivia games.
  5. Practical application.
    Inform students of the practical use of the material in their daily lives by including real life stories or examples.

Relevance: Facilitators who work with students are encouraged to link new learning in multiple ways so students can relate to and make connections to the new information.

  1. Relate the learning to their previous experience.
    Assist students in establishing connections to new information and relating it to what they already know from previous experience.
  2. Immediate application.
    Motivation increases if students see a direct connection of how the information will equip them with new skills to resolve their current issues or to complete a task.
  3. Future application.
    Facilitators should communicate the WIIFM or the What’s In It For Me idea in every session.
  4. Model what you want them to learn.
    Setting an example and offering presentations by those who have successfully applied the particular piece of knowledge or skill presented will motivate students.
  5. Include student choice.
    Giving students’ choice upon their own learning path is recommended because students have an opinion on how they like to learn and process new information.

Confidence: Facilitators should employ various techniques to help students feel successful.

  1. Track progress.
    Provide a checklist where students can mark off what steps they have completed shows progress towards their goal.
  2. State objectives and prerequisites.
    Communicate expectations, objectives and how exactly they are going to be evaluated.
  3. Include constructive feedback.
    Feedback is essential in order for students to confident about the progress they are making with the content and what steps they should take to improve their skills.

Satisfaction: Students should feel a sense of accomplishment after completing the session.

  1. Well done.
    The learning process must present students with a sense of achievement and recognition of their efforts.
  2. Try out your new skills.
    Encourage students to use their new skills to solve real problems that the students value.
  3. Student feedback. Encourage students to provide feedback on how the session went by asking the students to complete an exit slip or a session evaluation. Be sure to include questions on the exit slip that elicit feedback on each of the four parts of the ARCS Model. Use the data from the results to improve the session for future groups of students.

This content was adapted from various websites related to the ARCS Model. For additional information on ARCS visit

Additional information about learning theories can be found at

The Lecture is dead! Long live the lecture!

Posted by Eric Ludwig at 5/27/2016 10:14:55 AM

We all are familiar with the lecture: it has a long, esteemed history not only in academia, but also in public life.  Powerful orators can motivate us to action, bring us tears, make us cheer uncontrollably.  They can also help us learn, allegedly.


Lecture as performance, lecture as politics, lecture as instruction.  We can trace the historical roots of the lecture trace back to early 19th century Germany and the role of the university and its faculty post-Enlightenment.  The lecture became a means of political engagement, an avenue to display one’s own knowledge and expertise, and a forum for public discourse (see Sean Franzel’s excellent book, Connected by the Ear, for a deeper dive).  Once firmly ensconced as the dominant pedagogy, the lecture went on to rule auditoriums and classrooms on college campuses throughout the 19th and 20th centuries (and most of the 21st).


That brings me to an article from NPR this morning on academia’s long-promised turn away from the lecture towards more effective active teaching strategies:


The large college lecture — the cornerstone of undergraduate education in America and much of the world today — is similar, [Carl] Wieman argues. “You give people lectures and [some students] go away and learn the stuff. But it wasn’t that they learned it from lecture, they learned it from homework, from assignments. When we measure how little people learn from an actual lecture it’s just really small.”


Carl Wieman is a Nobel Laureate physics professor at Stanford and is pushing for different approaches to instruction at the institution.  He has examined the research and correctly concluded that traditional stand-and-deliver approaches to teaching do not necessarily lead to learning.  So, what does the research say?


  • Passive reception of information does not generally lead to long-term retention of information.  Students may be able recall information for a quiz or test, but that does not necessarily equate to knowledge and learning.
  • In general we know that students need to do to learn.  They need to be actively engaged in their own learning, whether through in-class activities or out-of-class projects.
  • The doing needs to be frequent and varied!
  • Students need to fail to succeed!  Failure is a valuable component of meaningful learning.


Westervelt hits on many of the key obstacles to implementing active teaching strategies across higher education:  institutional inertia, faculty resistance, insufficient evaluation, and values and incentives.  Let’s take these objections in turn:


  • Institutional inertia:  Because of the long tradition of the lecture and its place in American (and international) education, it can be difficult to change hearts and minds.  Many faculty learned how to teach through observation and they probably sat through many a lecture.
  • Faculty resistance:  Planning instruction with new methods takes time and energy.  And teaching a new way takes courage.
  • Insufficient evaluation: How do we know that our students are learning?  Are we concerned about recent popular research (see., e.g., Academically Adrift, the well-known title from Arum & Roksa) that calls that into question ? Are we attempting to measure student learning and track student outcomes?
  • Values and incentives: What really fuels these aforementioned objections?  Do institutions truly value teaching and learning or are they merely paying lip service?  Are they being incentivized — through external donors, state/federal funding, competitive pressures — to value something else (like research, athletics, reputation) at the expense of the institution’s core mission?


These are vital questions that individual institutions (and higher education as a whole) must grapple with as we approach the second decade of the 21st century.  Students deserve an answer, and not from the lectern.


If you would like to learn more about active teaching and learning strategies for you instructional practice, contact us in the Office of Instructional Design.

On Formative Assessment

Posted by Ed Price at 5/27/2016 10:13:30 AM

The Power of Formative Assessment

One of the complaints from learners ‘online’ can be the lack of feedback and knowing if they are really learning. As last week’s blog, “The Lecture is dead! Long live the lecture!” discussed, many times online learning can become ‘lecture’-based in that learners are given readings to read, then post a response, or complete an assignment, only to be given a final grade with little feedback or input from the instructor.  Opportunities for good formative assessment can help guide both the learning and instruction. 

What is formative assessment?

The primary purpose of formative assessment in eLearning (or any learning) is to provide feedback learners can use to improve their experience and knowledge. In a nutshell, formative assessment looks at how learners are constructing knowledge and understanding during the process of learning. It can help us capture what is going on ‘right now’ in the learning process. Formative assessment should provide useful feedback to both the instructor and the learner. Summative assessments serve a different purpose in learning. Everyone can think back to examples of summative assessments like: final exams, cumulative projects, and standardized tests. These differ from formative assessments in that summative assessments tend to look more globally at the outcomes of instruction and learning over a longer period of time.

Instructors should keep in mind that formative assessments should benefit the learner as well as their delivery of content. To best do this, here are some tips to use formative assessments:

  1. Provide immediate feedback
  2. Identify measurable strengths and weaknesses
  3. Remember that formative assessments are “low stakes”
  4. Student progress helps direct learning and instruction


Types of Formative Assessment

Formative assessment can take many forms depending on the type of learning and instruction taking place. Here are some types of formative assessments:

  1. Goal checks
  2. One-on-one discussions
  3. Instructor observations
  4. Personal online learning logs
  5. Self-assessments
  6. Group presentations 

Select Tools for Formative Assessment

To make feedback and assessment more interactive and efficient, there are many tools that instructors can employ. Some of these to consider might be:

  1. Socrative
  2. Kahoot
  3. Zaption
  4. Backchannel chats (Today's Meet, Zaption, Ning)
  5. Google Forms
  6. And more…

In the end, low-stakes, focused, formative assessments will increase participants’ learning and growth. One of the greatest benefits of formative assessment, for both instructor and learner, is improved engagement in the learning experience.  If you would like to learn more about formative assessment strategies for you instructional practice, contact us in the Office of Instructional Design.

Effective Asynchronous Discussions

Posted by Christine Dereberry at 5/27/2016 10:12:34 AM

Discussion are one of the most used tools in online and hybrid courses. Discussion help students explore a topic with each other and construct meaning around content. Depending on what your objectives are and how you formulate the discussion prompt, you can hold a class discussion, a small group discussion, and even ask students or groups of students to share their presentations. Alternatively, discussions can ask students to defend positions, hold a debate, participate in role play, or the instructor may decide to switch roles and let students moderate the discussion.

Many instructors have experienced the "failed discussion." The students didn't really discuss the content deeply or student answers consisted of “I agree” or lacked any evidence to support their comments.  Students may wait until the just before the closing of the discussion to post which meant there was limited time for individuals to reply to others. Students may also do the “math” and figure out the effort is not worth the points they may receive. If you’ve experienced any of these events it is recommended you evaluate the quality and clarity of the discussion prompt.

When you create a discussion, consider:

  1. Is my prompt open-ended?
  2. Is there a hook to get the students interested in the topic such as a video or case study to watch prior to beginning the discussion?
  3. Will it allow learners to explore the topic from a variety of perspectives?
  4. Is the discussion topic naturally engaging/interesting/controversial, such that people are motivated to engage?
  5. Do I hold students accountable through a rubric for interaction with each other?
  6. Did I lead by example and participate in the discussion board and, also, hold students accountable?
  7. Did I make sure the prompt doesn’t have a correct answer?
  8. Are the instructions clear and explain specifically what is expected in terms of grammar, mechanics, or citing sources?
  9. Did I provide help documents on how to participate in a discussion?
  10. Did I consider how to foster and build community between the students so appropriate online netiquette is practiced within the discussion?

In order to increase clarity around your expectations for posting and replying to other students consider adding the following statement at the end of the discussion prompt.

I will not grade your participation based on quantity, but rather on overall quality and regularity (ie., that you offer regular and valuable contributions to the class discussion). Your comments should offer new insights, work to advance the overall discussion, and provide constructive feedback, critique, and praise your peers.


In order to receive full points for this discussion, you should follow these guidelines.

  • Are your comments expansive and relevant? Do you further the discussion in a meaningful way?
  • Did you respond to multiple peers and engage in multiple conversations?
  • Were you regular and valuable participation over the life of the discussion without monopolizing the conversation? You should consistently follow and add to the conversation over the course of the week.
  • Were you respectful and constructive in your feedback to your peers?

How might adding this type of statement increase the quality of the student’s posts to the discussion? Clarity in expectations is the first key element to ensuring a good experience for the students. The second key element is drafting the prompt itself. Instructors who can state how the discussion prompt aligns to the course and program outcomes and who can explicitly describe the learning achieved by the student’s participation in the discussion are more apt to avoid the failed discussion. The third key element of the process is the instructor’s presence within the discussion. Here is where the finesse or art of teaching is at play. Instructor presence includes everything from how often the instructor interacts in the discussion, the tone set by the responses of the instructor, the way the instructor directs or redirects the flow of the conversation, how the instructor encourages and engages with the students and how the instructor fosters a sense of a learning community among the students all play into the success of a discussion.

For more information on discussion boards, visit the following link: Fostering Critical Discussion (PDF)

What does an instructional designer do? Part Two.

Posted by Eric Ludwig at 5/27/2016 10:10:19 AM

In a previous post, we discussed what it is instructional designers do:  a “jack of all trades”, who can analyze, design, write, troubleshoot, communicate, create, and adapt.  Instructional designers work in a variety of settings with diverse groups of learners across time and space.  Regardless of where they work, IDs must all confront internal resistance, cope with external pressures, and overcome significant challenges to see their work come to fruition.

In an April 2016 report commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the consulting group Intentional Futures (iF) examined instructional designers in higher education: where they are from, what they do, what tools they use, and what barriers they face.  The findings confirm our “jack of all trades” characterization: IDs must do a little bit of everything.  iF created four broad categories to classify the work of instructional designers:  train, support, manage, and design.

  • Design: design new or redevelop old courses, create instructional deliverables, quality assurance

  • Manage: project management, policy improvement and promotion, work across service areas

  • Train: technology training, instructional training, facilitate professional development

  • Support: learning management system (LMS) support, faculty consultation

In fact, one survey respondent in the iF study remarked that the best IDs “are ‘aces-of-many-trades’, with authentic experience and training in all aspects of the process” (p. 10). 

Much of what IDs do is cross-categorical: they might be managing a large program development project that also requires their design and support skills.  Though this report was written specifically with higher education in mind, we can imagine how these categories might be just as relevant for a corporate trainer working on a new elearning initiative with a tight deadline and limited budget.

IDs in higher education and IDs in the private sector must both deal with obstacles impeding successful learning and training initiatives.  In the iF report, IDs identified major barriers to their work.  With a bit of linguistic substitution, we could create a similar list for the corporate ID:



Image adapted from Intentional Futures (2016), Instructional Design in Higher Education (p. 15)

Whether on a college campus or in a corporate office, all IDs must have a certain set of skills that they can draw on to train, support, manage, and design.  They must be able to handle organization-specific challenges that will undercut and jeopardize their best-laid plans.  And, they must be able to quickly improvise and adapt in the face of such challenges to create and implement successful learning solutions.


Partnering with Faculty for Student and Community Success!

Posted by Dr. Hope Liu at 5/27/2016 10:09:03 AM

As any instructional designer in higher education will tell you, the most rewarding project is the project where you are partnering with faculty to make the student experience amazing. OID had one of the most rewarding instructional experiences this Spring, working with faculty in Math/Computer Science and Art to create an interdisciplinary, service learning course for Juniors and Seniors. This was a face-to-face experience, but we still had a fantastic time doing it!


“The JMM was excited to be selected as the partner in this project. We have enjoyed working with the Stritch faculty and learners throughout the semester and their research, recommendations and work will enhance our Museum experience for guests throughout the greater Milwaukee area.” Ellie Gettinger, Director of Education, Jewish Museum Milwaukee

The resulting learner projects will provide a better experience for museum guests and also allowed learners to experience what it was like to work for a client and work in a team with diverse skills. 

“I learned how to communicate technical concepts to non-technical people.” Stritch senior learner

According to Suzanne Caulfield, Chair of the Stritch Math and Computer Science department, they plan to continue this work next year and use it to build more experiences like this for learners. Instructors Bryan Cera and Jonathon Magana said the support provided by OID was critical to the success because OID reduced the burden on the instructors such that creating this different experience was not extra work for them. 

“Without OID’s support, we would not have been able to create such a great learning experience for our students.” Jonathon Magana, Computer Science Faculty 

OID hopes to continue to partner with Math/Computer Science/Art and also identify new interested faculty next year to create similar projects to enhance learner’s academic experience outside of the classroom and further raise awareness in the community of the skills and talents of the Stritch learners.

Using Google Slides for Interactive Instruction

Posted by Ed Price at 5/27/2016 10:07:42 AM

Back in April, we posted an entry titled, “The Lecture is Dead! Long Live the Lecture!” Yes, the lecture lives, so maybe the question becomes, how can we improve the lecture to make it better and more active for the audience? 

This month, in conjunction with National Teacher’s Day (May 3rd), Google released a new feature in Google Slides called Slides Q&A (or Presenter View). While Slides (Google’s web-based version of Powerpoint) often leads to unidirectional instruction (teacher to learner), with little to no interaction, this new feature will allow anyone to take their Slides and make them an interactive presentation. 

Google Q&A, when enabled in a Google Slides presentation, will allow the audience to submit questions to the speaker. Once a question is submitted, the speaker can instantly see the question and if they choose, answer it on the spot. Another feature allows participants to vote “up or down” on questions submitted. If you like a question asked, or have the same question, just click the thumbs up. Don’t like or agree with the question, click on the thumbs down. The speaker also has the ability to display the questions asked to the audience. 

Suddenly the “lecture” becomes more of a conversation with the click of a button. Anyone in the audience with a web enabled device is connected not only to the speaker, but can also see questions asked by everyone else in the audience. The static one-way communication is turned on its head: everyone in the room is part of the learning, questioning, and the teaching. 

Slides Q&A can be used by anyone with a Google Account since they also have access to Google Apps. So now you take that boring presentation for your next business meeting or convention and really connect with people. 

As for educators and students, there are many possible applications.  Students giving reports can now ask questions of each other. Students could ask questions to teachers in a whole new format, and at the same time teach them proper netiquette and interactions with others. This may give voice to the student who will not raise his or her hand to participate or ask a question.

The win here is not learning a new tool, but having a new, free, and interesting way to connect to  people and information. Want to learn more about Google Slides and Google Q&A? Try out our free Google Sheets and Slides class.