First Online Lesson in a Blended Class

Evidence: A lesson plan for the first online lesson in a blended class. This lesson focuses on building an online community, developing the skills needed in future lessons and a small portion of content.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Demonstrate basic competency with design and implementation within a variety of LMS and non-LMS environments and tools
  • Develop and design intentional learning activities suitable for the appropriate environment and the learner

     It is very important when designing a lesson to understand who your learner is. I teach Adult Learners (aged 16+) with a range of technology competences. It can be quite difficult, at the beginning of a blended course, to meet the needs of a student who struggles with basic computer skills and a student who has worked extensively in D2L (Vancouver Island University’s learning management system).  This lesson lets the student move as quickly or slowly through the lesson as they need.
     Creating this lesson also allowed me to become more familiar with D2L and what it has to offer. I certainly feel more competent within the LMS as well as supplementing D2L with some non-LMS tools. Prior to this class, I felt very hesitant in venturing outside of D2L with student learning. I, personally, now have the tools to enhance the learning environment of the student.

Edited to add: The class(es) went really well. Much better than in the past! 


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LMS jigsaw

PictureEvidence: Portion of video from a collaborate session where I am teaching about D2L release conditions in a jigsaw activity

Learning Outcomes:

  • Be familiar with common terms, definitions and elements related to Learning Management Systems (LMS) 
  • Demonstrate basic competency with design and implementation within a variety of LMS and non-LMS environments and tools.
  • Develop practical and technical skills in all phases of concept, development, design, implementation

To learn a new LMS is very labour intensive. So for OLTD 504 Avi Luxenburg divided us in groups so we would only have to learn one small piece of the puzzle and could teach each other the system. An added benefit is if we are having difficulty with an aspect of the LMS we have an expert to go to! I was placed in to the group looking at D2L.

Through the Collaborate session where we taught each other aspect of D2L, we became familiar with the elements of the system and learned a variety of ways to use D2L to design an effective learning environment.

I have used D2L in my teaching before this activity. I was not, however, bored as I discovered there were many things that I was not aware  D2L could do! Now that I have participated in this jigsaw, I feel a lot more capable and competent to use D2L more effectively. As an added benefit I also got to participate in a jigsaw activity. I can see the value of collaborative learning and how effective it can be. I will try to create jigsaw learning opportunities for my students; it will be easier as I know more about D2L now.

Recording of the Collaborate session – My component only

Non-LMS Toolkit

I am a recent convert to Google+. I have started using it in the past year and thoroughly and completely love it. I am addicted to checking out my communities at least every day, if not more. I quite like Twitter, Diigo and others but not in the way I enjoy Google+. I do not have a Gmail address, I like to keep that separate, but I have used almost everything else Google has to offer. Thus, when presented with the challenge of building a non-LMS (Learning Management System, platforms like Moodle and D2L) that would support a community of learners, once part was quite clear; my central hub would be Google+, other tools would branch from there.


Google Communities: Most discussion, information, notices would be housed in a Google community. The advantage to using this as the dashboard is the ability to create subcategories to help learners finding the information that they need. There are a variety of different ways to search for posts (person, subcategory, hashtag…) that make information easy to find. This is where students would go first.


Google drive: Most content would be housed with Google drive. It has fantastic file sharing capabilities suitable for a group of people. An individual learner can download a copy of an assignment, notes, review package etc. and modify it as they need. They could also upload any assignments for grading. Peer evaluation is also straight forward as the author of the piece could share any work with another for feedback before ultimately handing it in.


Google Calendar: The calendar function the Google offers would work as learners can import an initial calendar of dates provided by the instructor. Further events can be added by the community (such as a synchronous meeting time or a peer meeting) and accepted by those who are involved. Google Calendar is able to be synched to a mobile making it easier for people to remember important dates. Birthdays are also put on the calendar (option for each user) supporting a sense of community as people can send birthday wishes.
What I like about Google+ is the way it incorporates a variety of tools in one location. I makes it easy for both students and educators as a starting place. Many people use Google in their daily life (hence the term ‘googling’) thus the learning curve isn’t too steep. Google alone, however, will not provide all the tools that are needed for a robust learning experience. For that one must move to other tools.


Collaborate: Moving away from the Google world, I would use Collaborate as way to meet synchronously. I like how customizable the site is as students can not only watch a presentation from the instructor, a guest, or students, but also be subdivided in to breakout rooms for smaller group activities. As each participant can upload a picture and chat in a text-box, a sense of community is built as students can put ‘faces to names’. Collaborate also offers large flexibility for instructor control of who, or how many, can speak, who can draw or show images etc.


Twitter: Twitter is a fantastic way for people to stay connected. Students can connect with other students, with the instructor, and with experts in the field. What is fantastic about twitter is it can be used both synchronously and asynchronously, for community building and content sharing. Students who wish to participate solely for content can check certain times to get the latest information. Others may wish to tweet for community building reasons or have a discussion about a topic. Calls for help can be quickly answered by the instructor or peers. Study sessions can be built at unexpected times. If a couple of students happen to be at the library, they can put the word out for more to join them.


Engrade: After a bit of searching, and some peer recommendations, the grade book I would likely use would be Engrade. It is free, seems to be quite customizable, and simple to use. There is an added benefit that multiple choice quizzes can be given from this site. Depending on the course, this may be a good way to provide some quick feedback to see if students are grasping the material.


For another assessment tool Socrative seems like a good choice. It lets an instructor create multiple choice, true-false and short answer quizzes. It also lets an instructor set up an ‘exit ticket’ to assess students understanding at the end of a class.


Padlet: Padlet is a great way for a class to work on a collaborative assignment. It is easy to learn and use. As a community wall can be built, it would work well at the start of the course for community building exercises. Later it could be used to house student information about a topic, or as a graffiti wall for a brain storming activity. It is useful both synchronously and asynchronously.

There are a myriad of tools available to an educator to create a rich and vibrant on-line world that either does not require an LMS or enhances it. No one place is enough to create a deep learning experience so an on-line educator must be prepared to explore the possibilities.

A Search for Perfection

I have a student who because of his personality and the program he is planning to attend is demanding of himself that he earns an A+ in my class. He is a delightful student who regularly helps his peers if they miss a class or a struggling. The problem? He is so hard on himself. When we discuss difficult topics in class he is worried and stressed about learning them for tests. On test day he is worried and stressed about doing well. When he makes mistakes on labs he worries about it. If his class average goes down half a percent I will often get an email (all my students have access to their gradebook).

I routinely, when I see him worry (f2f) or get his emails (online class), I tell him he will be fine, that he will get the grade he needs to enter the program. I remind him how hard it is for adults to go back to school, especially when they have been out for a long time.

I see myself and my cohort in him. I am incredibly fortunate to have him in my class; not only because he is the kind of student every teacher is fortunate to have, but because I can see us in him. I make the same demands on myself. I stress about obtaining perfection in my classes. I am demanding A+’s from myself as, way down the road, I hope to get my PhD and I know top grades are demanded.

Who is to blame for all this? Is it the programs that require an A+ to enter, whether warranted or not? Is it the student who, being out of school for so long, knows the sacrifices that they, and their families, are making so that they can attend school and achieve their dream? I suspect it is both and more.

It is important for students to remember that “it’s about progress, not perfection”  and while doing well can be very important, you should do your best, being present, and recognize that sometimes you will not get the A+.

Now I just need to practice what I preach

D2L Musings

I was very apprehensive to use D2L when VIU switched from Moodle. I was very comfortable in Moodle. It was a warm, cozy nest where I tucked all my learning materials for students. I had only used D2L once before, without any training and so took an instant, and arbitrary, dislike of it.
         VIU decided to switch to D2L as D2L houses Canadian student information on Canadian soil. I agree that this is good, but I was dragged in to the new Learning Management System (LMS) at the last minute and unwillingly. I liked my Nest!
         Now, of course, I wonder what all my issues were about. I enjoy D2L and find it very robust! It does what I want it to in a variety of ways. No longer do I have a cozy nest tucked full of interesting things but now I feel like I am a creator of a gathering place. Not only are there books, but there are areas for creative discussion, assessment, places to hand in work. It feels bright, open and airy.
        Part of these changes may be the way I have grown while taking the OLTD courses, but part is also the way I can use D2L to create a community of learners. It enhances learning rather than driving it.

What I like about D2L:

  • It can do so many things! I can post notes, create a quiz, start a discussion, have a dropbox for work, email, keep grades, make a checklist….
  • I really love the gradebook. Students can have access to it if you wish and so can see what work is outstanding. Since starting to use the gradebook this semester I have not had to answer once, “What grade am I getting?” “What work do I need to hand in?”
  • I can completely organize all my files in to neat and tidy folders. I just learned how to do this and I am very excited to try it out. My previous filing system was very haphazard (stick it somewhere and try to find it after)

What I dislike about D2L

  • The lack of control on the appearance! I cannot adjust my frontpage. The colours I use are chosen for me. This does, however, create consistency between the different VIU classes

I am really happy that I have learned more about D2L through taking OLTD 504 as I am implementing a bunch of changes for intersession.

LMS Jigsaw – part 2

WHAT A MORNING! I just finished participating in the D2L jigsaw activity. From 9:30am  – 12 pm we had a fabulous (if long) time of learning all about D2L. I am classes with a fantastic group of educators. I am fortunate to be given the opportunity to be taking this OLTD programme.This demonstrated  how effective a collaborative learning exercise can be. I work with D2L with my classes at VIU so I had an advantage that I new quite a bit about the LMS before we started but I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know! I learned a bunch of new ways of doing things on the platform that I am excited to try out in the new semester.

I do wonder though, what would this activity have been like if there was a student who chose not to participate? We would have missed out on one entire important aspect of the course. Still, I would have been responsible for learning less by myself so I still think a jigsaw activity is an advantageous way to learn. I am glad that I have participated in one online. I will have to think how to incorporate a jigsaw activity in to a blended class when we don’t meet asynchronously. I probably will have learning the components before class online, then doing the jigsaw during class, face-to-face.

Still – Thanks to all of my group. You made this enjoyable and FUN. I will say, it isn’t easy going last after everyone did such an impressive job!


Now it is time for tea

LMS Jigsaw – a Collaborative Learning Opportunity

Questions posed: What were the challenges and wonders of working collaboratively online? How might you do things in similar ways or differently with your students? How did you feel about working with the LMS system with which you were working?

I was placed on a team of OLTD students to learn about D2L. As it is a robust LMS we are each to  learn a portion of the system then instruct the others in the rest. I currently am using D2L in my classes but am looking forward to learning more about the system.

There are a flurry of emails between the members of the team. We decide to wait to plan until we meet synchronously in class on Saturday as many of us are feeling overwhelmed and need time to adjust to the new class, OLTD 504 Learning Systems.

We have our online class from 10 – 12. Our group meets after in a collaborate room and use a Google+ doc to plan the jigsaw. Unfortunately I have an important family commitment and am unable to attend more that 10 minutes. Fortunately I know and trust my cohort so I ask them to give me an assignment. I am not worried. Had this been the first course, it may have been different.

When I look to see what my part of the jigsaw is I discover I am supporting a colleague in an aspect in which I am familiar. I am also responsible for teaching about release conditions. I have only used them once, so I am not an expert by any means. This will be a good opportunity to learn something new about a LMS that I use & like.

MONDAY – TUESDAY Reflections:
I notice that I have no apprehension about giving up control to my peers. I have complete confidence in their abilities to learn and teach a portion of the LMS. I think that is why I would be able to leave the planning session before it was finished. If there was a problem, I could connect with them and we would resolve it. We have built up tremendous trust in each other in a very short time (7 months). I have also seen many examples of their work & work habits. We are a group of high (over?) achievers.
I am not sure if I would use an assignment like this in classes I teach. As I teach adults in Adult Education, there is such a diverse background of experience and abilities. Some classes it would work quite well in, others not so much. I suspect it would be difficult not only because of the diverse abilities of students but also because the courses are only 10 – 13 weeks long! I know that not all of my students will complete all assignments or attend important classes. There are a few who will not complete online assignments, despite the class being 25% blended.
In class jigsaws may work well. I think I will plan one about HIV/AIDS. This way I can still circulate to ensure that students are on track and understand the material. There is a lot of paired work in my class, and on-line discussions but students are not responsible for teaching each other.

…. To be continued (after completion of LMS jigsaw activity on Saturday)

Challenges and Opportunities

A question posed:
What challenges and opportunities do you see for the realization of your philosophy of education in the evolution of eLearning as we know it?

– Instructors need to be taught the new ways of learning & remembering. There isn’t always funding for this
– Building a sense of community in each class. In Adult Education, each course is so short, 12 – 13 weeks.
– Teaching the Learning Management System (LMS). Each student has taken a different path to my course. Each course I have to teach how to use the LMS to achieve a basic competency.

– World Wide Learning Communities
– Able to access knowledge anywhere, anytime
– Control! Students can control their own learning

We are so very fortunate to be at the starting wave of an educational revolution. Education has been locked in to the same way of learning since the industrial revolution. Knowledge was given from instructors, learners had to memorize facts so they could be recalled quickly when needed. Now we can create LMS to capture multiple styles of learning and connect with people, experts & students, from all over the world. We can connect and learn any time that we want! It is not so important that we memorize facts, but rather that we can access the information in our network. Ultimately Students can control their learning in a way that was either not possible or very difficult before.
Being at the start of anything new is tricky. We are still at what Simon Sinek calls the “early adapter” stage of online learning. Thus we are responsible for showing the advantages of using LMS and need to be mentors for those who wish to try eLearning. Funding, time for training can be a problem. One solution is to connect with a group of like-minded instructors. I have found my group through the OLTD program at Vancouver Island University. Interestingly, by experiencing this community I am learning ways to promote community in my own classroom. Promoting community can be difficult in adult education as there is not continuity of classes, each is on their own path. I have the same problem with the LMS I use. Every semester I have to reteach it. There are many who come to my class who have not used computers to any capacity before.
Although there are challenges, I believe it is ultimately worth perusing online education. Eventually I think we will get to the point where we can’t conceive of NOT having a digital component to the classroom.


E-learning 2.0 By Stephen Downes / October 2005 in E-learning magazine
How great leaders inspire action. TED talks. Simon Sinek