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Friday, September 26, 2008

Green E-Learning: Wimba, Wind Energy, Xcel

Wimba, a provider of software and hosting services used in e-learning solutions, has made a commitment to use wind power for one of its products and services, the Wimba Pronto instant messaging service. Wimba Pronto, an academic instant messaging platform designed to bring informal learning settings online, is now the first instant messaging system powered by wind.

Podcast: click here.

To do so, Wimba ( did not have to install a wind turbine farm near its servers located in New Jersey. Instead, it purchased renewable energy credits (46 a month) from eGreen certified Community Energy to subsidize the electricity consumption of the servers, routers and other IT infrastructure that powers Wimba Pronto. Through this investment, Wimba Pronto will replace more than 4,300 kilowatt/hours of old dirty energy with new clean and green wind energy.

Wimba Pronto and Wimba Pronto Basic have been installed by more than 200 academic institutions including: Grand Rapids Community College, Ivy Tech Community College, University of Missouri–St. Louis, and all 11 public universities in the North Dakota University System.

Wimba Pronto

This summer's spike in gasoline prices spurred what was already a very strong trend for students and universities to move to e-learning in order to reduce expenditures for gasoline, heating, cooling, and lighting. The rate of growth in online programs is expected to continue to increase ( Some have pointed out that there will be increases in home energy consumption for elearners who study at home, and increased wifi and energy useage for elearners who study on the road. Nevertheless, the net energy savings is significant.

Without purchasing wind turbines, how can one use renewable energy? The key is in teamwork between energy providers, businesses, and consumers. In order to make wind-powered e-learning possible, there must be the support of electricity providers and green energy credit providers.

Xcel Energy (, the nation's largest wind power provider, is heavily involved in supporting the efforts of individual businesses who want to help grow wind energy by allowing them to purchase Windsource. This is a program where customers can pay a slight premium to promote and expand wind energy in Colorado. Xcel Energy operates wind farms and makes renewable energy available to consumers.

John Deere Wind Farm in the Texas Panhandle sells its electricity to Xcel Energy.

Xcel's innovative and flexible approach to wind energy is encouraging investment and inspiring creative ways to incorporate renewable energy in homes, businesses, and service providers. For example, John Deere has installed an 8-turbine wind farm in the Texas Panhandle near Dumas. As one can see in the photo, the scene is serene, and the turbines are almost soundless, even on a windy day. Xcel purchases the energy that they generate, and brings it into the regional grid. In other cases, Xcel Energy purchases solar energy.

The future is very exciting for "green e-learning." Not only does the solution itself reduce the use of hydrocarbon useage, because of innovative trading, brokering, and the willingness to invest in green energy production, the energy used to power elearning solutions and services can be green.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

You're Invited! Free Webinar on Web Conferencing Tips For Training And Education

Learn the secrets to creating and delivering collaborative training presentations that engage your students and enhance comprehension. Author and e-learning authority Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D. teams up with webinar expert Ken Molay to share tips and guidelines in this informative session.

Register here:

Web seminars are creating new opportunities for instructors and trainers to reach more students in a more convenient fashion than traditional room-based lectures allow. However, presenting information via web conference requires new approaches and skills

This seminar gives you valuable information on how best to create and deliver instructional content for remote audiences. You will gain insight into the challenges and advantages presented by distance learning and come away with an understanding of best practices for interacting with your students and working with conference-based courses.

You will get the benefit of two industry experts sharing their complementary areas of expertise. Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D., author of Excellence in College Teaching and Learning: Classroom and Online Instruction, looks at ways in which web conferencing technology affects teaching and learning styles, giving guidelines on how to adjust your training to take advantage of the medium. Ken Molay, president of Webinar Success, shows you additional tips to meet the unique demands of the web seminar format.

The one-hour seminar includes time for an interactive question and answer session with both speakers.

The information is appropriate for trainers in educational institutions or in business environments.

  • What types of content work in a web seminar and what should be avoided
  • Ways to improve student comprehension and retention
  • How to improve your presentation and instructional style
  • How to combine online training with traditional coursework

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Interview with E-Learning Professional: John Erdner, Nfomedia

Today's interview is with John Erdner, founder of an innovative learning management system and philosophy: Nfomedia (, which brings together social networks and e-learning. Nfomedia is remarkable for its short learning curve, simple to use technologies, and Web 2.0 integrations.

What is your name and what is your involvement in e-learning?

My name is John Erdner. I am founder and CEO of Nfomedia Inc. The company originated in Stillwater, OK (2005) and is now based in Austin, TX. My educational background and work experience is software development/engineering management. Most of my colleagues, friends, and family are professionals (faculty/administrators) in the education industry.

What is Nfomedia, and what is its vision?

Nfomedia is a social e-learning platform which uses the latest Web technologies. Most of the features are familiar to our users from other social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. The familiarity is especially true for students and growing for instructors. Nfomedia offers the standard social networking features which includes user profiles, friends, discussion boards, text messaging, wiki editing. These features are put into a learning environment by grouping them in private areas called course sites. All course sites also include grade book, announcements, exams, student journals, and content editing.

What do you like best about Nfomedia? What are some of its advantages?

The simple user interface and short learning curve for faculty and students. Faculty with limited Web experience can deploy a secure course website in a matter of minutes.

In what ways has e-learning changed the way that students and instructors interact with each other and the course material?

We’ve found course blogs to be very popular. Students are sometimes more willing to communicate ideas in an online format which leads to great discussions that may not occur inside a traditional classroom. Additionally, I've been told by faculty that online participation (course blogs, message boards, chat rooms, etc.) greatly helps to develop/improve critical thinking and writing skills.

What do you think will be then next big breakthrough in distance learning?

Nfomedia is planning to have discussions/questions on content pages. This should make it easier for students to ask questions while studying online content/material (no need to jump to another area on the website, like a discussion). The instructor will be notified when a new comment is posted. Also students/instructors will be able to sort by ‘most discussed areas’. Over time content should improve because the instructor can easily pin point areas that receive the most questions/comments. These discussions can be cleared at the end of a semester.

Also, I expect to see webcams integrated more into the learning environment. For example the instructor might give live lectures and use a chat window for real-time questions. Similarly, a student with a webcam could connect via their webcam in ‘picture in picture’ mode to ask a question. These sessions could be recorded and replayed by students. Another possibility is a video blog where student can post presentations using webcams.

Have you recently read a book that has made you think in a new way? What was it?

One of my goals is to read more books on e-learning. I spend most of my free time keeping up with emerging Web technologies by reading blogs. I'm always looking for new ways to use these technologies in an online learning environment. The groundwork for Nfomedia has been created (i.e. we have an excellent development toolset). Therefore we are able to add new features very quickly.

Optional question: If you were a political strategist, how would you harness the power of Web 2.0 applications?

Certainly the 2008 presidential campaigns have used Web technologies effectively for presenting political viewpoints and fund raising like never before. However outside of an election, using these technologies in politics is a challenging question.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Retention Roadmaps: A Map for Students and for Institutions

How can an institution boost its retention rates? How can you, the student, develop a plan for graduation? These are two sides of the same coin, and an effective plan, or "retention roadmap," must consider both.


Retention and satisfactory academic progress are closely linked, and both are influenced by numerous forces acting on the institution and the student. Very few institutions take a look at both sides of the retention issue. In order to develop an effective Retention Roadmap, both students and institutions must take responsibility for acting in the areas that they can influence.

A College Perspective: Institution Action Steps

Student-Focused Self-Guiding Tools
1. Develop a "Student Progress Grid Template" which each student can use for self-advising.
2. Collect three types of contact information and develop a communications plan that involves email, accessible e-mail information, and communities / networks.
3. Make resources easy to find, timely, and reliable.

CRM Tools and You: Customer Relationship Management
1. Look at students as customers you want to return to you
2. Track behaviors and preferences
3. Send questionnaires, use same strategies as marketing
4. Focus on the lifespan of the student, not just one-time enrollment
5. Viral Marketing: encourage students to share / post in discussion boards, be proactive and incorporate life issues to school (deals on books, job links, career posts, books, movies, culture, interests, affinities)
6. Make suggestions; related products and services
7. Do not inundate with email / spam
8. Make getting correspondence from the college fun, helpful, and part of a cool group

Student Support / Staff Capabilities
1. Hire knowledgeable recruiting and admissions counselors
2. Develop solid advisors / advising.
3. Maintain up-to-date web presence and email contact

Curriculum / Courses
1. Maintain clear planning of curriculum
2. Schedule courses in ways that students can take them in sequence
3. Make sure books and resources are in place (online content, online course materials)

Faculty Training / Support
1. Provide training for faculty and support
2. Maintain a nurturing environment for faculty; provide adequate resources
3. Provide support, books, resources (library access, course design support, software, training)

Community-Centered Success
1. Create locations that encourage interaction
2. Popularize a specific "go to" place
3. Instill a sense of pride and an "I can do it / we can succeed together" attitude
4. Student engagement on a real level

A Student's Perspective: Mapping Out a Strategy That Works

Your Major, Your Future
1. Choose a major you care about, and one which makes sense to you.
2. Make sure your major connects to your career goals and interests.
3. Take virtual internships when possible, gain experience in your career area.
4. Investigate credit for experience (portfolio).

Goal-Setting that Works
1. Look at the big picture. Set MetaGoals
2. Determine what you'll need to do to achieve the large goals. Small step goals.
3. Write down action steps. Make them concrete
4. Develop a timeline. Put your action steps in the timeline.
5. Reward yourself

Avoid Trouble Spots
1. Having issues in a class? Let someone know early in the game.
2. Get a mentor as soon as possible.
3. Read ahead.
4. If you must drop a class, do it early.

Pro-Active Advising and Course Planning
1. Work closely with your advisor.
2. Take courses in the correct sequence.
3. Do not skip prerequisites.
4. Take the correct number of hours, manage your load.
5. Balance courses (correct balance of easy / hard)
6. Make sure you have core competencies in writing and math.
7. Take accelerated courses with caution and planning.
8. Avoid Incompletes ("I"s).
9. Purchase your books early.
10. Buy the correct books.
11. Don't wait until the last minute.

Social Networking: Student Networks, Study Buddies, Support
1. Establish positive communication with your instructors.
2. Connect with classmates, share information with them.
3. Seek mentors, study buddies, tutors early.
4. Find ways to obtain information about registration, advising, library resources, support services.
5. Find the discussion boards, wikis, and networks that will help you get the information you need, and develop the friendships / connections that will motivate you.

Solid Financial Strategy
1. Take out as few student loans as possible.
2. Credit by exam when possible (CLEP, DANTES, Excelsior)
3. Credit for portfolio when applicable.
4. Investigate and apply for scholarships.

Technology, Equipment, Computers, and Connectivity
1. Purchase a good computer with sufficient capacity.
2. Make sure you have a good connection.
3. Use mobile devices to communicate as much as you can (check email, send messages, post to discussion, listen to lectures, watch videos).
4. Make sure you have the software you need.
5. Keep up to date with plug-ins (Flash, Java, Javascript, etc.) needed for your software.
6. Familiarize yourself with the learning management system. Be sure to go through any training that is available.

Self-Regulation: Study Habits and Study Environments
1. Create a study environment that fits your lifestyle.
2. Set goals.
3. Manage time effectively.
4. Adjust your study habits to fit your learning preferences and styles.
5. Visit your virtual library and resources often.
6. Investigate tutor centers.
7. Use simulations, serious games, and virtual worlds (Second Life, etc.) when it helps.
8. Avoid distractions.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Corgi Big Bark Awards, Plus "Corgi Tail Wags" Special Commendations

E-Learning Queen's Corgi Big Bark Awards were created to recognize innovations in e-learning, the awards are a way to encourage people who have a dream and a ision, and whose energy provides very welcome inspiration and affirmation for all involved in e-learning.

The Corgi Big Barks are awarded to products and services that achieve a high score in the following categories:

* meets a need in a new way
* is easy to use
* encourages the user think of new ways to teach and learn
* makes one think of new ways to communicate / share / collaborate
* demonstrates a sense of whimsy, humor, beauty
* is practical and affordable
* promotes social responsibility

Neulio Learning Communities
These video-based learning modules are uniquely accommodating to all formats (video, presentations, assessment), along with being remarkably easy to use. The learning community concept encourages the sharing of information and knowledge, as well as an approach that take the Socratic method deep into Web 3.0 territory.

Texas State Technical College West Texas Wind Energy Program
Texas State Technical College West Texas began offering a two year Associates degree in Wind Energy at the Sweetwater campus in 2007. What sets this alternative energy program apart is the fact that the certification program is 100% online. Wind energy and turbine technology certification is one part of a major sea change that is rippling through our world. Education that works is community-oriented, online, accessible, earth-friendly, alternative/independent in terms of energy, and infrastructure-enhancing.

Nfomedia is a free social networking utility designed to enable blended or hybrid learning for higher education courses. The interface is remarkably easy to use, and it encourages one to think of hybrid applications, both e-learning / face-to-face, and hybrid with e-learning and mobile learning.

Wolfram Demonstration Projects
Some of the mathematical modeling projects showcased here are so beautiful and elegant they absolutely mesmerize one. At the very least, they inspire math teachers and students to start thinking about how they can share both useful and simply elegant mathematical models. Examples of recent demonstration projects include individual models in 3D graphics, computational geometry, and recreational mathematics. Wolfram Demonstration Projects represent the pinnacle of productive social networking: the results will eventually manifest in the phenomenal world as technological innovations and conceptual breakthroughs. It is a mathematics "sand box" writ large.

Corgi Tail Wags:
These programs and initiatives get "Tail Wags" for being innovative and for seeking green energy alternatives. They have great potential to be further developed by introducing e-learning and mobile learning elements.

Outlook for demand for wind energy, profile of the jobs and the
technology, and overview of employment (that can't be outsourced):

Laramie Community College: Associate of Science and Certificate Program in Wind Energy (new Fall 2008)
Not online, and has hands-on lab. The field work would be very compatible with mobile learning.

Lawrence Technological University: Associate in Alternative Energy Technology
The Associate Degree in the Alternative Energy Technician Program gives future technicians a working knowledge of Alternative Energy systems.
Many of the courses in the core program appear to be very amenable to e-learning delivery.

Iowa Lakes Community College: Wind Energy and Turbine Technology
Alliant Energy is collaborating with Iowa Lakes Community College (ILCC) to develop the curriculum for their Wind Energy and Turbine Technology program. This two-year Associate in Applied Science degree prepares students to install, maintain and service modern wind turbines. Graduates will be ready to support Iowa’s growing wind infrastructure as companies rush to build renewable energy generation.

Minnesota West Community and Technical College
Associate Degree in Wind Energy
As energy costs continue to escalate, the demand for lower cost, more efficient, and renewable energy sources continue to be explored. The career of Wind Energy Technician includes everything from installation and repair to troubleshooting of wind energy towers. This technician will be capable of working closely with clients with an understanding of environmental issues and politics, written technical skills, and data interpretation.

The Ogallala Commons
Ogallala Commons is a nonprofit resource development network, offering leadership and education to reinvigorate the commonwealths that form the basis of all communities, both human and natural. Ogalllala Commons country overlies the vast High Plains-Ogallala Aquifer (shaded blue on the map), covering about 174,000 square miles across parts of eight Great Plains states. The backbone of Ogallala Commons extends along the long north-south axis of U.S. Highway 385 (road line on map) and the 102 Meridian(see our logo)... but our commons also stretches west to the Rocky Mountain foothills and eastward to the river-braided prairies of the Midwest (symbolized by the four directions on our logo).
This is a wonderful endeavor to create leadership approaches that support rural communities, environments, educational endeavors, and a "whole person" spiritual life. Because the communities are so geographically scattered, elearning would be ideal. This is a great opportunity to test new ways to overcome new digital divides (lack of broadband), and to implement new mobile learning techniques and technologies. Access is fundamental.

** (the Corgi is Gizmo, proud resident of Dumas, Texas)

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