Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Interview with Breanne Hull, Educlone. Innovators in E-Learning Series

Finding new ways to engage students and create engaging e-learning experiences is a continual challenge. Welcome to an interview with Breanne Hull, Educlone. The Educlone learning platform features an interface designed for rapid development of distance learning (elearning /mlearning) which uses a drag-and-drop approach.

1. What is your name and relationship to elearning?
My name is Breanne Hull and I've worked as a public school teacher, an instructional designer in educational software, and as a training and eLearning consultant. I am currently the co-founder and CEO of Educlone.

2. What is Educlone?
Educlone is the eLearning platform that I wished I had as a teacher. Individual accounts for public school teachers are free, and it's a place where they can create their own online learning just by clicking and dragging boxes around. It's so simple that it's almost hard to explain. Our goal is to make is simple for teachers to create their own engaging, dynamic online learning.

3. How is Educlone different?
We thrive on simplicity. While some teachers are comfortable with the current eLearning interfaces that are out there, some are not. Unfortunately, this prevents many teachers from giving eLearning a try. Our interface doesn't look like it was built by a room full of engineers and computer programmers. It looks like it was built by teachers, for teachers, because, well, it was!

It's eLearning, made easy. We also avoid content development and just focus on making our platform easy and intuitive to use. So many educational software companies spend huge sums of money on content development. They make sure to meet every objective tied to every standard for every state and territory. A teacher ends up with this district-mandated pricey software that contains tons of superfluous content and, ultimately, wastes time instead of saving it. Educlone leaves the teaching in the hands of the teachers. They develop their own content with their own special flair, tied to their specific state and local objectives. Once the lesson is created and recorded in Educlone, students go through the lessons at their own computers, at their own pace. This leaves the teacher free to use class time to actually help the students who need it, with one-on-one attention, without having to stay after school or hold the other students back.

4. Where will Educlone be in five years? In 20 years? (E-Learning Queen realizes these seem to be rather crazy questions, but "the Queen" thinks we've problematized ourselves by thinking in short-term and medium-term solutions, and that we are stuck in this year's technology -- rather than thinking in broad-brush principles…)

Educlone will be wherever teachers and trainers want it to be. What we have created is an organic, living, breathing ecosystem that responds to the needs of its users. If a feature is requested, then we add it. Otherwise, we leave things just as they are and avoid over-complication. I want teachers to feel like this is their technology. No more having things handed down from administration that they are forced to use. If they want it to be complex with more features, than it will be. If they want to share lessons with other teachers across the miles, then it will be done. If they want students to create lessons and learning experiences for each other, then we'll throw that in. Otherwise, we'll leave it as it is - clean and simple. I want Educlone to feel like a comfy living room that educators can really spend some time in, creating valuable learning experiences.

strong>5. How are you transcending the tendency of today's LMS's to create an education garden rather than a factory?

I'm not sure who it was, but someone at some point decided that putting a book on screen is online learning. I've taken online courses, recently, that were like, "Read this paragraph. Ok, now read this paragraph and see the attached stock photo. Now click the 'next page' button to read the next paragraph." Seriously???

Technically, since reading a book is a form of learning, then putting some form of that book online could be considered "online learning." But come on, people. If I can tap one button on my little phone and see, oh, I don't know… an immediate live feed of Times Square, then surely we can leverage technology in education to do more than throw text up onto a screen! In that same vein, software that helps teachers to automate tasks related to school and classroom management are great - but is that really managing learning? I'm not even sure that Educlone should be considered an LMS. We're not trying to create an online school, and we're not aiming to automate administrative tasks like taking attendance. Like a garden, Educlone offers itself up as an open space to create and grow ideas. We focus on allowing teachers (and their students!) to create really interactive and engaging learning experiences. We also focus on giving teachers really clear and immediate feedback on how students are doing throughout the lesson.

6. List your top 5 books …

That's a tough question! I'll just list the three that I'm currently most interested in. Those are Drive by Daniel Pink, The Habit of Thought by Michael Strong, Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Tune-Up Time? Updating Your Elearning / Mlearning Programs / Courses

Accreditation visits, self-studies, competition, and the changing world (and technology) make it necessary to update your online courses every 2 or 3 years, at the very minimum. In some cases, you’ll need to tune them up every year, depending on the kinds of changes in the course content, the academic field, your accrediting bodies, or the legal environment.

When do you update? How extreme does the updating have to be? Do you have to start over, completely rebuild from ground zero, or are there ways to update efficiently, economically, and relatively painlessly.

Updating your courses, and doing a tune-up can be fun, especially if you have a bit of guidance. Not only will you enjoy the process, you’ll be delighted when you find you can do it quickly and cost-effectively.

We’ll look at how to know when, where, and why to update. Later, we’ll go into details about how to economically update your courses and programs.

Instructional Materials // Content Changes: When did you last update the course? Was it 2 or 3 years ago? Chances are, many things have changed. Articles have become obsolete, science has advanced, and political changes have altered the landscape. Even if your content is impervious to change, it’s possible that the links you’ve incorporated have changed. Even if you’ve subscribed to a service (rather than linking to websites), they have a way of updating and reorganizing their repositories.
Changing Course Objectives: It is possible that the course itself has changed. The objectives may have changed, and its role in the degree or certificate plan may have changed. While the changes may seem subtle and relatively minor, if you don’t update the course, there will be a big disconnect between your course and the real-life needs and objectives.

Institutional Changes: Has your institution obtained new accreditation? Have structural changes occurred? Are you experiencing a transition? It’s hard to find an institution of higher learning – profit or not-for-profit // private or public – that has not gone through amazing sea-changes, especially in the last few years, when there has been significant pressure to demonstrate that the educational program that students invest in (and become indebted through),

Technology Changes: Are your courses smartphone and tablet-friendly? Are they downloadable and portable for people who do not have 100% cloud connectivity? We made assumptions about access, bandwidth, and browsers / plugins / systems when we originally developed the courses, and sometimes those assumptions turned out to be massively wrong. What now? What do we do to turn things around when we have no budget for it? There are ways.. don’t despair. Unfortunately, this is not the article that discusses the shoestring solutions. But, it is the article that lets you know that shoestring solutions exist. They are there. Just reach out and ask for guidance. It will be there.

Student Base Changes: You may find that your student base has changed, and you’re in a situation where your courses seem a bit out of alignment. For example, you may have designed courses for students deployed to Iraq. Now, however, most of your students working at hospitals and clinics in the U.S. As a result, some of the course content seems strangely out of synch. What should you do? Obviously, you have no choice. You need to update the course.

Legal and Regulatory Environment Changes: Many courses exist because they help working professionals stay up-to-date with regulatory changes. This is an ever-shifting target, and the content is in flux. You have to bite the bullet and update whenever there are substantive changes, even if it’s twice a year. Bite the bullet. If you do so, you’ll gain market share because your program will be head and shoulders above the laggard competition.

Financial Condition Changes: Has the financial condition of your educational institution changed? Are you suddenly in financial dire straits? This may mean that it’s time to update your courses so that they cost less to run. Is that possible? Yes. Spend money to save money. It’s counter-intuitive, but it works.

There are a number of reasons why it is a good idea to continually update your online courses. Doing the updating on a regular basis will allow you to avoid catastrophic delays and expenses.

If you’d like assistance, E-Learning Queen has assembled a knowledgeable, experienced team, The Queen Team. Please inquire for more details. Email: susan@elearningqueen.com

Friday, December 02, 2011

Interactive Grammar Exercises: Better and More Useful than Ever

Some think that grammar reviews are only useful when taking a developmental writing, or the required set of first-year composition courses. In reality, grammar and syntax reviews are valuable across the board, and all college and university students can benefit from ongoing writing reinforcement. So,whether you are writing a term paper about hospice care, or an analysis of the current economic situation, the proper care of dogs, or any other topic, understanding the basics of grammar will help you.

I highly recommend supplementing peer reviews and personal guidance with interactive exercises. Many interactive grammar reviews are available online without registering, and they are free of charge. You can practice grammar using your laptop, tablet, and handheld.

Further, many of the grammar reviews have downloadable apps so they display nicely and work smoothly with your smartphone or tablet. If you are currently enrolled in a course, chances are your textbook will come bundled with an e-lab (MyCompLab or My Writing Lab, just to name a few). These are also excellent guides.

If English is your second language, you may wish to pay special attention to sections such as "countable and non-countable nouns" and "easily confused words."

Here are a few good, easy-to-access, easy-to-use interactive grammar exercises:
Grammar Bytes -- http://www.chompchomp.com (by Robin L. Simmons)

Interactive Quizzes (Capital Community College Foundation)

Business English Grammar Exercises (actually applicable to all occasions)

(E-Learning Queen http://www.elearningqueen.com // Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.)

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