10 criteria for a successful e-course

Well Paced

A course can consist of a series of emails, a series of blogposts published to a private blog for participants. A well-paced e-course will have a regular schedule, once a day, or for longer e-courses once a week. Posting or emailing at the same time each day ensures that participants soon get used to the schedule and can anticipate the next installment. The last e-course I took had a week in the middle that didn’t include any lessons and was deliberately scheduled for catch up work.


Using audio can be a great way to introduce yourself as the host. It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out interview just a few minutes of introduction, hopes and aspirations for your participants. This introduction is also a good way to explain the pacing and expectations. It is easy to record and embed a video occasionally, keep them short thought, I recommend under 4 minutes. Photographic step by step instructions work, as do annotated screen shots. For all e-courses it is easy to take your participants on a web tour of resources using screencast software.


Create a community online for your participants to share their experience and creations if you have that type of assignment. The experience each individual when combined with those of the group builds, relationships form, and meaning is made almost independent of the content of the e-course. There are many places online for you to do this. You can use flickr to share photographs and have discussions. Another option is posterous where you can create a share blog and have it public or private, but participants can easily upload media rich content photos, video, audio, documents etc via email and even via mobile uploads. Other courses have used wordpress, others a Facebook group. Creating a hashtag means participants can connect and have conversations on twitter.

Creative Meta Activities

As well as imparting content knowledge e-courses that work well include activities that hit multiple areas of focus or have the potential too. The best activities offer a choice to the participant so they can customize the experience to their own level and strength. Send them on a journey traveling further with each activity building on the previous one.


For each section or chapter of your e-course create a rhythm as the days or weeks pass. If participants start to recognize a rhythm or pattern within the structure of the course they become anticipatory and can more easily juggle the demands of the course with the rest of their life demands. This will reduce any potential drop out rate. A weekly schedule might have a 6 day rhythm that would include audio introduction post, explore post, interview post, activity post, participation question post, and a final summary post.

Catch Up Time

Allow time in the schedule for catch up by participants. Prepare for those who start to fall behind and make it easy for them to stay on course.

Active Participation by Instructor

Interaction with the participants by the instructor is essential for success. Guidance, encouragement, inclusion can all be encouraged with a well timed comment here and there. It is important for everyone to be aware that you are there with them. Even if it asynchronously, they will see you there on a regular basis and are much more likely to get involved and feel part of something greater than themselves. Often it is appropriate to interact in a synchronous environment such as a webinar or a tele seminar.

Aggregated content

If the participants are sharing created materials such as photos, videos, or comments it can be useful to aggregate this information in one place. This can be used by the administrator of the course or where appropriate shared with the group. The use of tags and rss can make this manageable and efficient. Resources can also be collected and shared in this way.

Summary Posts or Emails

It is useful to include in the schedule regular posts or emails that include a summary of the latest information and resources.

Guest or Expert Interviews

To add variety and introduce another level of expertise include interviews with persons of interest who have been along a similar path to your participants so they can add a color and guidance that can only come from personal experience. Guests and experts featured have the added advantage of gaining new fans of their work. Audio or video interviews don’t have to be a marathon, between 15-40 minutes works best. Successes acheived by previous participants is another area to explore.

Content is King

Develop generous content for your course and continue to supplement via blogposts and follow up emails. Without great content you don’t have an e-course. This is the main focus of your offering and is what people will remember. You have to move people from point A to point B as promised. Life changing e-courses get talked about, these type of courses have killer content. Does yours?




Study Success for MCAS Biology

This is the post I wish you didn’t need, but you do, hopefully one day you won’t.

Plan for plenty of sessions broken into three parts, video, vocabulary, question practice.

Find an always available teacher

An always available teacher is one nice enough to leave digital breadcrumbs for you to review whenever you need to. Your success is up to you, but a great teachers can help. This biology teacher for Montana has his lessons categorized in online videos, so whatever time works for you, he’s there. He even won the Montana State Teacher of the Year award. You can find him at…


MCAS biology study success: Bozeman Science

Don’t just sit there and watch, because your mind is going to wander. Grab a pen and paper or open a word document and jot down each word he says that you don’t understand. Pause the video, if you have to, replay parts you don’t get.

Here are a few other video sites just in case.


Khan Academy

Don’t spend more than 20 minutes watching videos before moving onto the next activity.

Learn the vocabulary

Take the words that you have written down from watching the videos and look them up on the quizlet vocabulary list for MCAS found here.

MCAS Biology Study Success: Quizlet screenshot

Quizlet has different ways you can learn vocabulary, flashcard mode, speller mode, learn mode and test mode. You can also play scatter, a drag and drop matching game, and space race which is an against the clock typing game. Good luck. Spend about 20 minutes on quizlet and make sure you check the words that you wrote down from the videos.

Tackle MCAS questions and take practice quizzes

You can search for MCAS questions by subject and topic at the DOE website

Fill in the form as shown

MCAS biology test questions sampler

Notice you can toggle the answers on and off. The Results show ten to a page. Choose the topic that matches the video and the vocabulary you have been studying and answer the questions. After you can toggle the answers on and check your work. Spend about 20 minutes on these too.

One More link

MCAS Biology Review

Get the full Big Picture Curriculum word documents here. It will help you figure out what you need to study. Contains further links.



Infographic, the new link bait?

Infographics, the latest way to present a lot of information to our repatterned brains that have shorter attention spans but love visual stimulation and images. See some fine examples at vizthink.

I recently got an email asking me to share an info graphic on this blog. The graphic is about backpacks and how heavy they are and how that injures children’s backs. The company website the graphic is on is an online college.

One disclaimers under the courses reads **Licensure and certification to practice are the exclusive responsibility of the applicable State Board of Nursing.

I am much more concerned about the weight of student debt than I am about the weight of a backpack.

I’m not going to link to your college, so no info graphic here.

Tweet Alert: If you find a good infographic, check the source before you share it.


Homework Entry Ticket

You made it! If you didn’t get here from the homework entry ticket try it here.

Why use the Homework Entry Ticket

  • ONE LINK, SAME LINK for all homework (just alter the confirmation page with the actual link to the homework).
  • TIMESTAMP. Each time a student submits information to get to the homework the spreadsheet creates a timestamped entry. Interesting and useful information.

The form is ridiculously simple, just two inputs in the form of questions. So simple it’s one of those, why didn’t I think of this before…

homework entry ticket

homework entry ticket response page with link to homework

Compare to Easy Cash Tracker Google Form



Flipped Instruction with Camtasia

Loving this video, for many reasons, he teaches chemistry, he flips, he uses camtasia, and the students are standing up learning, the best kind of combination!


After the trainer leaves

Opportunities for keeping the spark alive

Opportunities for keeping the spark alive after professional development is over and the teachers return to their classrooms are often missed.

Here are a collection of ideas to reinforce and recapture that initial rush of enthusiasm

  • Schedule practice time on a regular basis.
  • Encourage participants to snag a partner to bounce ideas off of.
  • Screencast the main ideas and create a library, share online.
  • Create a feedback cycle for questions and progress using google forms, set up an email alert for when a form is submitted.
  • Start your regular F2F meetings with a 5 minute recap/tech tip
  • Record and share successes, search out those willing to record “what i’ve learned”
  • Supplement takeaway materials with online materials. For Example Classroom2.0 have a great back library of technology resources on Itunes U details on how to subscribe…


How do you keep the spark alive? Please share any ideas you have…


Easy Cash Tracker Google Form

Tech Level: Easy

Looking for a simple way to track all of those slippery cash purchases?
Me too.
I decided to make a simple google form that I could access via my web-enabled phone.

The form is ridiculously simple, just two inputs in the form of questions. So simple it’s one of those, why didn’t I think of this before…

Q1: Create a drop down box with categories (groceries, dining out, entertainment, personal care, clothing, medical, parking, etc.)
Q2: Create a Text input (Enter dollar amount here)
You could add a third text input for notes if you need it.

After saving the form I emailed the link to myself & accessed it via my phone so I could bookmark it.

Result: A timestamped spreadsheet that can be exported to excel/software if I needed too.

Student Project: allowance tracker

Class Project: collaborative data collection tracker, collaborative note capture tool

Personal Project: Note capture tool

Screencast and Link

Option 1: Save a copy of this form to your own google docs and make private. Use the link to your private form to track your cash.

Option 2: Make your own and customize. The screencast gives you an idea of how to do that.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.


Edcamp Boston Takeaways

The hand drawn map from edcamp boston-brill

Edcamp Boston unconference was this Saturday. It was so successful many teachers left with the hope of doing the same type of unconference professional development model at their school. It can be a very hard sell to the powers that be because it can come out all wrong and counter intuitive and it sounds so unlikely to succeed…try it

  • There were no keynote speakers.
  • The map was hand drawn.
  • The sessions were not organized in advance, so no one really knew what the day’s professional development would include beforehand.
  • The 200 teachers who attend had to throw together sessions at the last minute with little or no planning.
  • Impromptu learning sessions broke out in the corners of workspaces or on the floor under the session board. These were not announced.
  • Everyone was acutely aware of being in one session and missing out on what was going on in another session.
  • All the teachers attended on their own time
  • Nobody got paid
  • Resources and session materials were created mostly during the session by session participants and shared online openly with anyone.
  • Most of course had the audacity to complain that, after a good eight hours of creating, collaborating and communicating, the time was too short and they all want to do it again soon…

What? It’s enough to make any regular conference organizer or administrator hang their head in their hands in disbelief. This quote from wikipedia doesn’t help either…but makes me laugh

Many unconference features match the characteristics of the traditional science fiction convention held since the 1930s, events which include many members of the geek community.

While not all of us would like to be described as geeks, many shared their excitement via Twitter..which qualifies.

Some of my favorites include…

@famousmistered: I’m putting it in a Google doc, then I’ll put it on the posterous. And tweet it. Overheard at #edcampbos

@virtual_teach: I feel spoiled from #edcampbos …

@sguditus: #EdCampBOS has had my head spinning with new ideas for teacher PD…very exciting!

@kjHigginbottom: Timeliness of #EdCampBos on Sat? I’m interviewing candidates for my district’s IT Director position tomorrow – I’ve got new questions now!

@spanishtech: Still sifting through great ideas from EdCamp Boston 2011.  QR code workshop fascinating and still demanding my ruminations! #edcampbos

@nkdawson: Great flipping classroom session. Now in iPad session! #edcampbos

I could have sat there and retweeted all day.

To sell the idea to your schools


Good teacher PR

Many were struck by how this is not the story of teachers you see on the news.

It should be. See this post from Harold Shaw Where were the newspapers for a great story


Many of the days sessions and activities were recorded via emailing links to the posterous site for the event.


My takeaways are many:

  • I loved that it was all process, the day unfolded organically yet efficiently and there were so many interesting trails to follow.
  • I loved that instead of giving answers, people were seeking out others, who had done what they wanted to try in their classroom, for advice.
  • I left with more questions than answers, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • The flipping your classroom session included some teachers who were trying flipping their curriculum and they advised…
    • Great tools include a youtube channel & a free blog
    • Start slowly with short screencasts of curriculum material
    • It was reported that students will probably resist at first as it goes against what they are used to and what they expect
    • It helps if parents are sold on the idea ahead of time.
    • @mrmusselman shared his curriculum materials on youtube and I have some links in delicious for flipcurriculum
    • If you are a school technology integrator or librarian this flip model is easy to introduce. Flip your integration. Flip your library program (as much as you can). Model and share examples of teachers elsewhere flipping.
    • In the next session on ipads I saw @bcdtech taking notes with her livescribe pen and was reminded what a great tool this was to create screencasts. Her recording of the session was uploaded with others from the day and shared on the posterous site. You can check them out here.
  • In the spirit of the Does it suck session with @dancallahan
    • It sucks that I’m probably not going to be able to behave at a regular conference anymore.
    • It rocks that some of my bigger questions include:
  • Can this model work for professional development in schools?
  • Can students learn using this model if we gave the chance to try?
  • The physical space of the microsoft NERD center made a big difference. There was something about the light and the openness that was conducive to …openness and I’m thinking there are many spaces like this empty over the weekend. What if…… a school could take advantage of that and figure out a way to run a regular Saturday unconference school session in a different space than school.  BYOD.

If you missed edcamp Boston there are two unconferences coming up in the summer that you should definitely try to get to.

Edcamp CT August 18th 2011

Edubloggercon East July 25th 2011

I would encourage you to bring along someone from your school, admin or a student or two. It helps to have someone else who understands what you just went through and shares your passion to share.

This blogpost is officially full. Exactly the feeling I had at the end of the day Saturday. I was full. Of ideas.


Verify This…Visual Radiation Infographic

blue box, green box, red box, yellow box

Blue Square, Green Square, Red Square, Yellow Square.

If you too are saddened by the continuing events in Japan and the continuing worsening of the situations both human and man-made the  you may be interested in this.

Radiation Dose Chart

I’ve spent some time this week discussing and trying to process the information presented on this graphic from A webcomic of Romance, Sarcasm, Math and Language

Topical, eye-opening, mesmerizing, sad.

Use this is your class to…

Sources for the graphic are clearly listed and two lines of disclaimer are a must read.

…it is for general education only and if you base radiation safety procedures on an internet png image and something goes wrong you have no one to blame but yourself.

Disclaimer: This site might be blocked by your school’s internet filter that is working to keep your students safe.

I am one of a thousand people who saved the link on delicious (as of the writing of this post). How will you share this graphic?


Creating a Movement for Change @ massCUE10

Creating a movement for change

Welcome MassCUE members. I am excited to present Wednesday (3:15 Blue 14). Our session at MassCUE10 this year describes how the ideas of a grassroots technology group in a high school spread to include the whole school and how using this simple idea in your own school can help improve the use of technology schoolwide. The presentation we developed is here . More information, further thoughts and ideas on the topic are included below.

Supplemental Material

Why this session?

If your having hallway conversations with teachers about technology. Use this idea to amplify these conversations.

Learn how to foster ubiquitous teacher tech use.

“A leader doesn’t create new followers a great leader creates other leaders” -Tom Peters

Do you seem to busy to help? Build in time and invite everybody in.

How to create a demand for teacher to teacher professional development and be your school’s secret change agents.

If you’re struggling with the naysayers. Create a movement for change, so you can live this quote

“It’s not your job to change minds, it’s your job to find minds that want to change.”

Get your permission slip

If you would like help or advice on making this work in your school send me an email.

The Books we mentioned:


The Art of Possibility (book) (video )

The Tipping Point

The Idea Virus

Photo Credit : http://www.flickr.com/photos/48600090482@N01/

Older posts «