Archive for July, 2013

Multimedia Introduction

Welcome to the course orientation for Workplace Safety. I am Penelope, your instructor for this course. I have 17 years’ experience, working as an instructional technology educator and instructional designer; with 9 years’ experience as a learning management system administrator.

For the first 20 years of my career, I was a registered nurse. I graduated from a hospital-based nursing program in 1976; earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing in 1992, and expect to graduate in December 2013 with a Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology.

Instructor Information


Work Phone: 1-800-761-7536

Office Location: Lydia, Maryland

Office Hours: Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM Eastern

Contact: The best way to contact me is via email. I am online most days and will return your message within 48 hours. You may also call and leave a voice message on my phone. Issues of a personal nature should be addressed in an email message to me. For issues which may benefit the entire group, please use the Contact the Instructor section in the course site.

Notes: I am a native Marylander, having grown up eating steamed crabs, mountain mushrooms, Red Velvet cake, and other delicacies. My hobbies are listening to music, reading, and baking cakes. My most requested cakes are Red Velvet, Chocolate with Peanut Butter Icing, and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. I also enjoy camping with my family in our RV.

Please leave a comment on my blog, remembering to include your reasons for taking this course and what you hope to learn in the next eight weeks.

Click on the Play button to listen to this podcast:

To illustrate the possibilities for combining audio narration and multimedia, I created a speaking avatar for this introduction. An avatar is a character in a virtual world; often representing an actual person (Baker, Wentz, & Woods, 2009). This avatar is a representation of me, your instructor.

Avatars have the ability to engage online students in interactions with the instructor and other students (Baker et al., 2009, p. 59). In addition, the use of virtual world avatars helps to build a sense of community in the online environment (Steinkuehler & Williams, 2006; as cited in Baker et al., 2009, p. 59).

My introduction begins by having the avatar speak using narration typed into a text box on the Voki website (Voki, 2013). In the second half of my introduction, I uploaded a pre-recorded MP3 audio file, recorded in Audacity, a free digital audio editor (Audacity, 2013). Using a pre-recorded audio file allows for a longer introduction and adds a human touch to the speaking avatar. The audio for this last section was recorded as a podcast.


Audacity (2013, July 27). About audacity. Retrieved from

Baker, S. C., Wentz, R. K., & Woods, M. M. (2009). Using virtual worlds in education: Second life as an educational tool. Teaching of Psychology, 36, 59-64. DOI: 10.1080/00986280802529079

Voki (2013, July 27). Create speaking avatars and use them as an effective learning tool. Retrieved from


Setting Up An Online Learning Experience

What is the significance of knowing the technology available to you? From my professional experience of 17 years teaching face-to-face classes for various computer applications including Microsoft’s Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Word; I have learned the value of knowing the technology for which I am teaching. As an instructor, it is my responsibility to be the subject matter expert of the application which the students are expected to learn and use within my organization. If I am not confident in using the application, my students generally are able to discern that insecurity, simply by watching my non-verbal body language and listening to the insecurity in my tone of voice. My insecurity may result in a loss of motivation and commitment on behalf of the students. As an instructor, this is not a good situation for the students and their need to learn how to use the application; likewise it is not good for the credibility of the instructor.

To boost my knowledge and skills of the technology applications I teach, I always build sufficient preparation time into my schedule. In addition, in my early years of instructing computer applications, I started out teaching beginner level courses; progressing to teaching intermediate and advanced skill levels as my own skills advanced to the same levels. I am a firm believer when it comes to technology, to teach it, you have got to use it.

My professional experiences align well with Boettcher and Conrad (2010) in their recommendation for online instructors to begin by focusing on essential technology tools then progressing to more advanced tools as they gain experience and confidence with teaching in an online environment. At a minimum, the online instructor needs to be proficient with using these essential tools within the institution’s course management system (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010):

  • Uploading text, PDF, and other documents
  • Creating and using online discussion forums
  • Using the grade book
  • Creating and sending announcements

In today’s world of technology skills, I believe it is also essential for new online instructors to have knowledge and skills for creating and using blogs. Additionally, it is also wise for the online instructor to be aware of the general differences in technology experiences from one generation of learners to another. Learners from the millennial generation, born between 1982 and 2005, have grown up with technology and in general are very experienced with using computers, the internet, social networking sites, and multitasking (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).

On the other hand, learners from the silent generation, baby boomer generation, and generation X may be less tech-savy because they have not grown up using technology all their lives (Simonson et al., 2012). Therefore, online instructors need to include activities which help to identify generational learners. To accommodate older learners with potentially less skills for using technology, instructors should include additional technology support resources. This is especially important if it is the learner’s first online course, or as Boettcher and Conrad (2010) recommend, it encourages learners to contact technology support staff instead of contacting the instructor for technology issues.

Why is it essential to communicate clear expectations to learners? Creating a smooth and trusting online environment includes providing clear expectations to learners (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). Learners need to know what is expected of them and what is expected from the instructor. Communicating expectations should include the following: Instructor availability and response time for returning phone calls and emails; guidelines for submitting assignments, discussions, and projects; when to log into the online course for the first time and how often to log in each week, approximate time commitments to complete course requirements; length of posts and assignments; grading policies and practices for late submissions (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). In addition, expectations should be communicated in multiple ways including through the course syllabus, instructor announcements, and instructions for individual assignments and projects (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

What additional considerations should the instructor take into account when setting up an online learning experience? Boettcher and Conrad (2010), offer a wealth of information for setting up an online learning experience. From reading chapters four and five of their text, these considerations seem to fall into a few major categories for online instructors.

  1. Communicate, communicate, and communicate. Do it often and do it in a variety of ways to connect with your learners.
  2. Prepare in advance. Consider creating a test site to practice before your first online course.
  3. Build Learner to Content, Learner to Learner, and Learner to Faculty activities into the online course.
  4. Promote social, cognitive, and teaching presence among learners and faculty by using essential technology tools within the institution’s course management system.
  5. Get to know your students’ minds individually as in Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development to determine what is in their minds now and what they think they know (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 79).
  6. Use discussion boards to their fullest capabilities, remembering asynchronous discussion boards offer the greatest impact for building learner to learner relationships in online courses.

What did you learn that would help you implement effective online instruction in the future? From this week’s resources, I learned how important it is to start off on the right foot as an online instructor including how to build course themes; incorporate presence and community into the online course; and ensure expectations are clear and understandable. In addition, I learned which technology tools are considered essential and which ones can be added later as the instructor gains experience. I also learned a huge amount of useful information in the Ten Tips for Course Beginnings (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). The knowledge I gained from this week’s course readings and assignment have prepared me well for implementing my first online course as an online instructor.


Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Online Learning Communities

Online Learning Communities

Learning Communities No Title Xsm


This week I am sharing my thoughts regarding Online Learning Communities which is one of the topics included in EIDT
6510 – Online Instructional Strategies
, a graduate course at Walden
University. To prepare for this assignment, I viewed the video program “Online Learning Communities” with Dr. Rena Palloff and Dr. Keith Pratt (Laureate Education, n.d.).

What is a learning community? Palloff and Pratt define it as a “community of students and faculty who explore content together to construct meaning and knowledge about that content” (Laureate Education, n.d.). Learning communities occurring in the web environment, such as within a course management system (CMS) are known as “online” learning communities (Chang, 2003; Jonassen, 1993, 1996; Lock, 2002; Palloff & Pratt, 1999; as cited in Lee, Carter-Wells, Glaeser, Ivers, & Street, 2006). Rovai’s definition of an online learning community is more descriptive; “mutual interdependence among members, a sense of belonging, connectedness, spirit, trust, interactivity, common expectations, shared values and goals, and overlapping histories among members” (2002, p. 2; as cited in Lee et al., 2006, p. 14). This final definition describes online learning communities in higher education; “groups of learners and instructors, supported by instructional and learning resources, pursuing common knowledge-interests in an online environment” (Morrison & Shrivastave, 2001, p. 3; as cited in Lee et al., 2006, p. 14).

For clarification, online learning communities are also referred to as “communities of practice” (Brown & Issacs, 1995; Johnson, 2001; Rogers, 2000; Wenger, 1998; as cited in Lee et al., 2006, p. p. 14) and “virtual communities” (Brook & Boal, 1995; Lockhard, 1996; Rheingold, 1993; Schuler, 1996; as cited in Lee et al., 2006, p. 14). I will use the term online learning community or its plural version from this point forward.

How do online learning communities significantly impact both student learning and satisfaction within online courses?  According to Palloff and Pratt (Laureate Education, n.d.), student satisfaction and their perception of learning both increase with participation in online learning communities. In addition, students indicate feeling like they are part of something bigger, while also experiencing a social pressure to succeed (Laureate Education, n.d.). Online learning communities significantly impact student learning and their satisfaction within online courses by allowing students to “get to know one another; introducing them to the course management system; and orienting them to the philosophy of online learning” (Laureate Education, n.d.)

What are the essential elements of online community building? The essential elements for building a learning community include people, purpose, and process (Laureate Education, n.d.). When people have a reason for belonging to an online learning community, they have purpose; the way in which the course is delivered provides the process. Method refers to the manner in which students interact and connect with one another, while social presence is the degree of awareness one person has for other members of the online learning community even when they cannot see one another (Laureate Education, n.d.).

How can online learning communities be sustained? Online learning communities are sustained through the engagement of its members. In other words, learners need to be engaged and participate often. As shared by Dr. Palloff in the video program, “The power of learning communities is learner-to-learner engagement” (Laureate Education, n.d.). In a “constructivist paradigm”, learners provide the major direction for acquiring knowledge through their interactions and collaborations with one another (Lee et al., 2006, p. 20).

Instructors functioning as facilitators also play a role in sustaining online learning communities. They must be engaged and participate often. Dr. Pratt recommends facilitators access the online learning community at least once daily for the first two weeks to offer support and guidance to new students, especially those who are adult learners (Laureate Education, n.d.).

What is the relationship between community building and effective online instruction? According to Lave and Wenger (1991; as cited in Lee et al., 2006, p. 20), online learning communities are known for promoting learning curriculums rather than teaching curriculums. Learning curriculums provide learners with a flexible “field of resources” which they use while participating in the online learning communities. Teaching curriculums do the opposite; structuring the resources and controlling learners’ access to them. (1991; as cited in Lee et al., 2006, p. 20). While the sample size in a case study analysis was small with only 18 participants, and should be further investigated to verify validity; its findings revealed 87% of respondents indicated when they “received positive feedback on their progress as learners, their sense of community improved” (Lee et al., 2006, p. 21).

What did I learn? By completing this assignment, I learned about the important role online learning communities have in promoting effective online instruction. It is not simply a matter of reading a text book and answering questions. Learners need to be engaged in the learning process which is best done through involvement in their online learning communities.


Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.).  Online Learning Communities [Video]. With Dr. Rena Palloff and Dr. Keith Pratt.

Lee, J., Carter-Wells, J., Glaeser, B., Ivers, K., & Street, C. (2006). Facilitating the development of a learning community in an online graduate program. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 7(1), 13-33. Retrieved from