Thursday, July 30, 2009

Interview with Dr. Donald Green, Florida State College Jacksonville: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Developing effective e-learning content and instructional strategies for deployment at a massive scale, such as that of Florida State College at Jacksonville, can materially change the lives of many students who otherwise would not be able to continue their education and training. There are challenges, though, and the endeavor requires planning, coordination, and a willingness to be aggressive about quality control. Welcome to an interview with Dr. Donald Green, Executive Vice President of Instruction and Student Services at Florida State College at Jacksonville.

1. What is your name and your connection to e-learning?
My name is Donald Green and I am the executive VP of Instruction and Student Services @Florida State College @ Jacksonville. As the chief academic officer I am very interested in elearning. We have over 50,000 enrollments in online and hybrid courses.

Dr Donald Green of Florida State College at Jacksonville and Karl Wahlstrom

2. What is the Sirius Project? What is its goal / mission? Who are the beneficiaries?
The SIRIUS project is meant to be a transforming project--transforming the way teachers teach and learners learn. By teaching teachers about learning and motivational research and incorporating the latest technology with the assistance of instructional designers we have been able to create highly interactive, relative, emotionally engaging, and learner centric digital course materials. And these courses replace a "textbook" mentality. The faculty benefit by being part of a project that incorporates the best in teaching with scholarly activity. Students benefit by having materials that produce better learning outcomes And at a significantly reduced price.

Dr. Donald Green, Florida State College Jacksonville, with Queen Noor of Jordan

3. What were the stages of the Sirius Project? Please describe the courses (subjects, format, level).
All courses begin with preparing the faculty---they learn the latest in motivation and learning research. Next, they become familiar with the latest in educational technology and how to integrate the best of tools into the design of courses. Next, a team is formed with teachers, instructional designers and technology experts. All through the development process, evaluations are done. At the end of the process, beta versions are released and further refinements are made. It should be noted that these courses are design by first defining the learning outcomes and the assessments before the methods of instruction are developed. These courses are learner centric and focus on learning outcomes.

4. Who were the stakeholders?
There were a few people at the college who understood that this project was not just a textbook replacement model but much more. The few of us decided that failure was not an option and kept pressing against the odds.

5. How did Sirius work in the beginning? What were some of the accomplishments? Lessons learned?
The beginning was rough! Teachers did not understand learning and motivation research, they did not know instructional design, they were not competent at using technology, and working in teams was a strange idea. Plus, the idea of building materials that were focused on student learning outcomes from a very comprehensive and complex systems theory approach was alien. We have still not been able to explain that the idea of a textbook is an antiquated idea. We also have learned that the text is a form of security blanket for faculty and students. Furthermore, it was difficult to assist faculty in realizing that the content bases textbook united with the"pray and spray" method was not the design of the future.

6. What are future plans for Sirius?
SIRIUS has an exciting future and we move toward embedded intelligence. I see the future of education being design with life-style integration as the key driver. This means that people will demand to learn when, where and how they desire and with methods that match who they are as learners. We will continue to look for partners who have the same vision and continue to build more powerful learning solutions as tools increase in their sophistication.

7. What do believe are the future directions of e-learning and how does Sirius contribute?
Learning is a way of life--a way to not only survive but flourish. SIRIUS is just one of the project that will assist those involved in designing the future of teaching and learning that a new paradigm is upon us and that we need to contribute actively instead of react.

Dr Donald Green getting ready to take off

8. Please describe your military experience and how it has shaped your vision of higher education and distance education. How is Sirius deployment-friendly?
Being a military family provides the opportunity to experience a variety of cultures and to learn to make the best of change. Adaptation becomes a social and psychological skill. My vision has been shaped through the recognition that ignorance is evil's playground. Because of our advances in communications technology, we in higher education have a greater responsibility globally to provide meaningful educational experience. SIRIUS is all about creating and sharing powerful learning experiences that are in a continual state of enhancement. Because SIRIUS materials are digital, deployment is only limited by a faculty member or administrator's desire to join a project based upon the belief that if the very best faculty contribute new and better ideas on an ongoing basis, more powerful materials will be designed and shared.

Monday, July 27, 2009

E-Learner Survival Guide: Free Download for E-Learning Queen Readers

E-Learning Queen readers may download a free pdf of E-Learner Survival Guide, a collection of articles, insights, instructional strategies, lesson plans, and more. For individuals who would like a printed copy, it is available in perfect-bound paperback at This 325-page book has the low price of $26.95.

E-Learner Survival Guide: This broad reaching collection of essays on e learning examines accomplishments, new directions, and challenges from many perspectives. The essays are arranged in categories, which include e learning and e learners, teaching and instruction, student engagement, learning communities, outcomes assessment and institutional leadership, all of which relate to learners and programs from college, K 12, career, to corporate training. Of special interest is a focus on successful outcomes for students and programs, and essays on often overlooked niches of learners, including generational differences (Gamers, Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y), stay at home mothers, working mother e learners, homeschoolers, bilingual online education and training.

E-learning is covered, along with mobile learning, and the use of simulations, virtual worlds, serious games, and more.

Very useful approaches to studying online, and developing effective success strategies make the articles helpful to students and instructors.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Interview with Tina Sartori, Turning Technologies, on Social Learning Communities: Innovators in E-Learning

Finding the best way to incorporate social learning communities within an e-learning environment can be challenging. Dr. Tina Sartori, Turning Technologies, has addressed the challenge with a combination of robust instructional design and innovative technology.

Welcome to an interview with Sartori, who addresses how to develop social learning communities that are effective in a variety of e-learning settings.

What is your name/title and your relation to distance and e-learning?

Dr. Tina Sartori - Educational Consultant, Turning Technologies
My relation with distance and e-learning is multi-faceted and is grounded in the theories and research of Lave and Wenger. A major component of my doctoral degree in Instructional Technology at Pepperdine University focused on social learning communities and the program itself was a distance learning hybrid format. I worked with the Georgia Department of Education as a K-12 online course developer using Desire to Learn and as a college professor, I utilized Blackboard as for course content. Currently, I develop online professional learning courses in Moodle which are located at Additionally, as the educational consultant for Turning Technologies, I work with schools and districts to promote social learning communities with their educators.

What is Turning Technologies, and what do they create?

Turning Technologies, LLC develops interactive response systems utilizing the latest software and hardware tools available and transforms them into state-of-the-art applications for audience and student response. We are focused on school improvement and student achievement, and have developed products, programs, professional development and partnerships that have had positive outcomes in a number of educational settings.

How would you define a social learning community?

A social learning community is a community of practice that promotes learning from a social perspective. Social learning communities are both complex and dynamic with learning stemming from both the convergence of the competence and experience of its members who range from newbies, to old-timers. A strong sense of belonging, member interactivity and the collective development of community norms, artifacts, knowledge and tools are critical components of these social units.

How does a social learning community work, at least as you envision it?

A social learning communities are generally cultivated out of learning should include elements such as membership, leadership, connectivity and all necessary tools to promote the community. However, true social learning communities are fluid and are driven by the members of the community itself. Healthy social learning communities include both organized constructed learning opportunities as well as open trajectories that allow for flexible community evolution.

How does Turning Technologies create social learning communities? Where? Under what conditions?

Turning Technologies' users are passionate and innovative. Shared ideas and strategies improve the quality and effectiveness of learning. TurningTalk is our online learning community located at and is dedicated to providing an open forum for the discussion and sharing of these valuable insights. Furthermore, Turning Technologies hosts onsite user conferences that allow for important face to face interaction between members.

What are the best ways to use social learning communities to achieve learning objectives and to perform well on assessments?

Social learning communities can be leveraged to achieve learning objectives in a variety of ways. The predominant method is through collaborative knowledge creation, management and sharing. The community can merge individual and company capabilities through dialogue and relationship building. The collaborative nature of learning communities allows for both concrete and tactic knowledge exchange which generally leads to accelerated achievement of learning objectives. Increasing performance on assessments is fostered through sharing of resources, best practices and the ability of learning communities to provide mentorship relationships through the co-mingling of new users, mid-level users and advanced users.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Interview with Massood Zarrabian, OutStart: Mobile Learning Applications

Mobile learning continues to expand as applications are developed for use in corporate training, K-12 activities, research and field work, and general education. Welcome to an interview with Massood Zarrabian, CEO and President of OutStart. OutStart has created a solution is that supports all mobile platforms, 500 devices, and works in connected and disconnected form

What is your name and your relation to e-learning?

[mzarrabian] Massood Zarrabian, CEO and President, OutStart

What made you interested in mobile learning?

[mzarrabian] Other than the market hype, lots of different things:
1. Our customers kept on asking us to help them with their corporate mobile strategy. All of them wanted to do something with mobile, but were looking at us to work with them and develop a comprehensive strategy.

2. My sons who showed me quizzes that were being sent around on mobile devices, and while sitting in the back of the car were discussing the answers with each other.

3. And personal experience. We use our products internally for a variety of business processes, and I was frustrated with the way they worked on my mobile, forcing me to boot up my laptop to do something that I should have been able to do with my mobile device, specifically around small training modules, and interactions with SMEs about a variety of things I needed to get done.
When did you first see a successful application of mobile learning?

[mzarrabian] Earlier this year Hot Lava’s CEO showed us some of the things his customers had done, including the Kauffman/Sprint project that was developed to deliver mobile based sports-themed science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) training (modules coupled with brain teaser content and quizzes to evaluate knowledge capture) to youth at professional sports games via mobile phones. The project experienced such great results (see below) that the Kauffman Foundation developed a video about their experience. The video is compelling, and had similarities to what my children were doing and talking about. Anyone can access the video on the Kauffman Foundation website:

Results from the Kauffman/Sprint STEM Project:
• 415,281 registered users
• 12,306 stadium SMS texts
• Global usage - North America, Europe, Asia, Africa
• Replicable model - Demonstrates the potential with mobile content

What kinds of applications have you developed and where are they used?

[mzarrabian] OutStart’s applications enable our customers to develop, deliver and track all types of mobile content without the help of someone with content development experience. Our customers like this flexibility as it allows them to deliver content faster, enabling the organization to be more agile, while leveraging their subject matter experts. We have a number of customers who have used our products to develop, deployed and track mobile content.

Examples include: A leader in fixed, mobile and converged broadband who uses Hot Lava Mobile to send SMS messages and surveys. Content developed, delivered and tracked include technical information as well as sales training; A healthcare information center uses Hot Lava Mobile as a way to develop mobile content and deliver it to inner city youth as part of a blended learning format.

The youth involved attend workshops and presentations which are followed up by several five-to-eight question modules on their phones as refresher trivia; And, an aviation training company who is using Hot Lava Mobile as part of their training for a new plane they are building. The aviation center sends quizzes and tests to pilots to further their training. As part two of the program, the center will be conducting internal and external surveys with their employees and pilots.

Please list the instructional strategies you use:

I asked one of our Consultants who has a Ph.D. and has been working with our customers for over one year to comment on mobile content development to help with the next questions, here is her response:

The instructional strategies for mobile content development are very different than those for developing content for elearning or traditional learning. On the content development side, you need to keep in mind the screen size that your audience will be using, the need and ability to include interactivity in your content, the attention span of your audience and the fact that the users are on the go when accessing your content.

To help in the development process, Hot Lava Mobile was developed to allow content developers to visualize content in the new environment by providing mobile skins for content development. It also has the ability to integrate images, audio, video and animations and allows developers to play with a full range of font sizes, colors, and alignments.

Traditional Instructional Strategies used include:

· Behaviorist: Stimulus-response systems that provide problems, challenges, or prompts to the user who then responds and receives feedback.

· Situated Learning: Due to their mobility, phones and PDAs can be taken into authentic contexts where the user can experience what is happening, as well as interact, observe, or collect information. Data can be collected and recorded and responses contributed.

· Informal Knowledge Sharing: Mobile devices now afford access to information, people, and services that support anytime anywhere access to knowledge.

On the delivery and tracking side, for those organizations that care about what mobile content their audience is using, or want to have the ability to track and record surveys or compliance results, the ability to develop fully trackable content is required. This functionality was built in to Hot Lava Mobile as well.]

How is this different than simply downloading a video from YouTube and watching it?

Youtube is not a dedicated instructional or performance support platform/medium/tool.

Youtube does not provide tracking and does not provide data that can report if learning/performance support is actively occurring.

The content on utube is not content that an organization decided to develop to improve their business

Hot Lava Mobile can track and monitor user's/learner's behaviors/responses/achievement/test scores, etc.
What makes it a learning experience?

Learning/performance support goals, objectives, and instructional strategies have been intentionally designed to elicit desired learner/user behaviors/outcomes.

Users/learners receive feedback and can access quizzes and tests to monitor their achievement/performance as well as access final scores.

Users/learners choose modules based on specific learning/performance support outcomes with the intent to transfer knowledge to their target performance environment (their job)

Are your mobile applications useful in countries where connectivity and online access are limited?

[mzarrabian] Yes. We have customers all over the globe, from South Africa to India to Australia and Brazil, as well as customers in areas where connectivity is not as much of an issue, like the US, Canada and Norway. One of the beauties of our solution is that is supports all platforms, 500 devices, and works in connected and disconnected form.

So, even with limited connectivity and bandwidth, the content will get downloaded when they are connected, and the results will be synchronized back when they connect again. This is the same model that Blackberry uses for email, but our solution for mobile content works on all devices. In addition all the content created in Hot Lava Mobile is optimized for mobile phone delivery, eliminating issues with low bandwidth areas.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Integrated Online Courses in Science and Math: Case of ( is a site that responds to the needs for content in the high-stakes content areas where learners often need the most help: math, chemistry, biology, and computer science.

With high-stakes standardized testing, No Child Left Behind, entrance exams, and outcomes-based assessment, the need for on-demand instructional materials, particularly in math and science, continues to grow. Finding effective materials can be difficult. YouTube is a labyrinth of potential content, and learning object repositories such as MERLOT offer resources. So, there is no shortage of videos, lesson plans, quizzes, and practice exams. However, how does one begin to sort through all the materials? resources are designed to increase knowledge and skill levels rapidly. To that end, instructional materials must exhibit certain characteristics:

1. High-quality content and instruction
2. Consistent and complete
3. Accurate
4. Engaging instruction tying to learning objectives
5. Well-organized
6. Qualified subject matter experts / instructors

With four content areas, materials consist of videos, animated slide shows, interactive animations, and lectures that include demonstrations and step-by-step instructions.
The curriculum is well-organized around tables of contents and the modules offer an entire sequence of lessons in ascending order of difficulty.

The approach is particularly valuable for technical subjects that typically frustrate students, effectively blocking them from areas of study and careers where math and science curricula form the core of the content. Effective personalized instruction of consistent quality can be of great use, particular for learners who are visual or auditory and who need a step-by-step approach.

Mathematics: The instructional videos are organized in sequence, and they feature a professor working through the problems using a tablet. He effectively explains the steps and why he used them. The step-by-step approach, and the explanation of how he broke down the problem into small chunks is particularly useful in algebra, which will form the basis of future courses such as trigonometry and calculus.

The videos might be more effective for kinaesthetic learners if they required the learner to click on something or mouse over an animation in order to keep them engaged.

Nevertheless, the fact that one can replay the steps is very useful. For auditory learners, it is much better to have a professor talking about the problem than having an animation of a graphing calculator with explanatory text.

For example, a student can learn calculus from a professor with years of experience, who has developed a highly effective approach that includes incorporating the questions that the students are likely to have.

Students can chose from several different levels of calculus, and different professors

AP Calculus AB: example
AP Calculus BC: example

Chemistry: Narrated and animated presentations help learners visualize the chemical structures and also the nature of the equations used to understand chemical reactions. Using diagrams and animations helps one understand the nature of the changes that occur in chemical processes and reactions. Students can learn chemistry through a combination of animations and guided lecture, with practice quizzes.

Biology: A generous use of diagrams, charts, illustrations, and drawing helps students visualize the concepts and processes in biology. Diagrams are invaluable for developing the ability to identify parts, structures, and processes. They are also very helpful in mapping relationships within biological systems. The courses could add more assessment and quizzes, particularly identification and short answer quizzes. The approach is effective for students who are motivated to learn biology, particularly those desiring careers in medicine and allied health fields.

Computer Science: The basics of programming are presented, and the experts make clear presentations. More hands-on activities would be helpful. It might be good to connect to real-life applications and to engage the students along the way by constantly pointing out the utility of the various languages and applications. It is always good to minimize the "talking head" and to use it simply to rehumanize a dehumanizing environment. Learning computer science is much more engaging with a video guide and examples.

MathMagic (TM): One of the most unique and helpful aspects of is the fact that students can address areas that are typical problem areas in math. They can pinpoint their problems, and then remedy them immediately. MathMagic (TM) helps students prepare for exams, placement tests, and competitions.

Instructional materials for AP and college level general education-level courses are readily available on the internet. What makes easier to use and more effective are the following points:

1. Uniform / consistent structure
2. Easy to find modules and content
3. Good summaries / practice plus assessment
4. Expert instructors with good use of media and animation
5. Engaging graphics and content
6. Practical content that ties directly to standardized high-stakes exams

For students to get the most of the materials, it is important to accompany the videos with practice. Ideally, the content can be tied directly to a homework assignment. It is also important to used quizzes and assessments in order to provide more hands-on knowledge and skills checks. If the content is correlated with a textbook, going back to repeat the activities while offline could be accomplished.

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