Author Archives: factorblank

Stop! Collaborate and Listen…

Collaborative learning can be a beneficial and important aspect of online learning. The sense of community can foster additional learning and promotes alternative viewpoints as others participate in a group discussion or group project.

As described in one of this week’s resources (Palloff & Pratt 2007), there are multiple ways to promote collaborative learning in an online environment. In line with some of the examples brought up in the reading material, research ideas on the Internet related to collaborative learning.

In a short reply to this post, comment with one or two examples that you found with a link to those resources and why you think they are good for collaborative learning. See the attached scoring rubric.

Rubric: Discussion Rubric

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass



When I was a Freshman in high school we were given an assignment to take the plot from one story and combine it with the characters from another story. I chose to take the plot of Romeo & Juliet and used the characters from the X-Men comic books. For whatever reason my teacher thought I had plagiarized the story-I had not!-and my parents had to get involved. In the end, my teacher let it go and gave me a passing grade. The technology for detecting plagiarism did not exist at the time (early 90’s), but if it had existed, my plight might have been relieved sooner.

One example of technology that can help detect plagiarism is the Turnitin software that is used at Walden University. When the student turns their assignment in, it is scanned and Turnitin compares it to other documents in its database. There are other tools which can do a similar job for a facilitator of a course.

The design of assessments can be another tool used in the prevention of academic dishonesty. I like the idea, as discussed in the video Plagiarism and Cheating (Laureate Education, 2010), of designing an assessment where the student would have to put a lot of critical and personal thought into the assignment, making it difficult to use their own previous work or the work of others. Another method might be to have each student do a different topic, but this might get unwieldy to fairly grade in a class with many students.

One technique suggested by Chao et al (2009) to prevent plagiarism is to communicate with the student about how to document their work properly and to emphasize the code of conduct. This seems like an obvious idea, but might be one that is often overlooked.


Chao, C., Wilhelm, W., & Neureuther, B. (2009). A study of electronic detection and pedagogical approaches for reducing plagiarism. Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 51(1), 31-42.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Plagiarism and cheating [Video file]. Retrieved from

Technology and Education

I have had the opportunity to take online courses in a few different education environments. Some tied in the use of technology into each course, some were little more than a webpage with the information of the week where you would upload the assignment. How the technology was implemented in each of these environments affected my learning and how I felt about the learning environment.

One of the most effective learning environments was when I attended The school used a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning, combining multimedia and face-to-face learning. The technology used in the program allowed the mentor to critique a student animation work by using audio commentary and drawing on top of the video to add additional comments. Additionally, once a week the mentor would host a live video chat with all of the students where they could ask questions and get immediate feedback. This sort of social presence was an essential part of the framework which made the program work so well. Boettcher & Conrad (2010) state that one of the best practices, including a social presence and a teaching presence.

Technology was the part that made it possible for the students and teachers to be able to interact with each other. Usability and accessibility are an important aspect to this, if the student is not able to use the technology they will have difficulty interacting with the facilitator and other students and may become disengaged. Cooper et al. state that accessibility and usability are linked and the less accessible a resource is the less it will be used. I would have to agree with this.

Another course I took was for some travel agency training I took. The course relied on a few books that were sent to me and a web page. The web page consisted little more than a few sentences and a prompt for me to do some research in the books or online. While I did learn, there was very little interaction with the facilitator so I felt disengaged from the program.

I think the most appealing technology to me for online learning is that which will combine interaction with the facilitator and the other students and will otherwise engage learning in new and exciting ways. I just recently purchased a Virtual Reality headset and one of the first things I did was pull up the environment of Mars. It was completely amazing, as I felt immersed in the world and couldn’t believe it wasn’t real. I would love to explore using this type of technology in the classroom and expanding it uses further. It could be used to host live environments, asynchronous learning opportunities, and other avenues of exploration and learning that this type of technology could bring about.


Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231-245.

Getting to Know You…

Using technology is almost a given when it comes to online learning. Computers, tablets, websites, learning management systems, and so on, all of this technology is there to use to create and facilitate an online learning environment. If the learning experience itself is not effective, all of this technology is practically useless.

The facilitator of the course should know the technology so, at the very least, they can help a less knowledgeable student navigate the use of the technology. With knowledge of the technology, the facilitator also has more tools to use to help enhance the learning experience. For example, the course might only require a discussion to involve text but by incorporating multimedia this can help improve the experience. Conrad & Donaldson (2011) state that the best way for students to learn the tools is for them to actually start using them.

In forming an online learning community, setting up expectations can help the student understand what they need to do during the course and how to go about doing it. One obvious way to set expectations is to have a syllabus for the students to go over before the class starts. Another way is for the facilitator to have an introductory posting stating what they expect from the students, how they will grade it, and what to do if they need to contact the instructor. The discussion board is another great way for the instructor to repeat expectations and to get feedback from the students.

The students know the technology and the expectations for the course have been set, but this is not all that is required for a successful and meaningful learning experience. Keeping the students engaged is essential in a learning environment. One way to get this started is the ice breaker at the beginning of a course. Palloff and Pratt (Laureate Education 2010) run through several different ice breakers that keep students engaged and lets all involved get to know each other a little more.


Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Launching the online learning experience [Video file]. Retrieved from


Years ago I was part of an online community, or guild, in the popular online game World of Warcraft (Blizzard n.a). While it wasn’t a typical learning environment, it involved using many of the familiar tools used in a more academic environment. We used forums, online chats, and interacted with each other in a virtual environment. Some of us were co-workers and friends outside the game, but many inside the guild had never met in person. Establishing and maintaining the guild required an effort from all of the members.


In an online learning environment, building an online community can be a difficult task, even for an experienced facilitator. The rewards for building an online community, and maintaining it once built, can be incredibly rewarding for both the facilitator and the learner.

An online community, particularly where it is the only available social aspect of a learning environment, can help the instructor and learner form a trusting connection. This helps the learner form bonds between the instructor and fellow students. In the video program “Online Learning Communities” (Laureate Education 2010), Dr. Rena Palloff states that in an online community, the learners are able to help each other learn and the facilitator is able to help guide the discussion.

One of the most important elements of building an online community is getting the learners comfortable with the online learning environment. Dr. Keith Pratt (Laureate Education 2010) states that the facilitator should be familiar with the technology being used. Palloff adds that the facilitator should also continually interact with the learners and keep them engaged in order to sustain the online community and the continued growth of the learners.

Once the community has been established and the learners are comfortable using the tools needed to function in the learning environment, the facilitator can focus on ensuring the learners are effectively learning the material presented.

In the end, while it did not completely disband, the guild became less active as members left the game for various reasons. Some of this could be attributed to members becoming less interested in the game itself, but a big reason was that the community was not interacting as much. The reduced interaction between guild members meant others left for other guilds or played the game solo without interacting with anybody at all. If students in an online course become less interested in interacting in the online community, it might not take long for the course to become less effective.



Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. (Producer) (n.a.) World of Warcraft. Retrieved from

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from


Recently I was contacted by a large, nationwide company about my 3D printer. They wanted to know how much it would cost to rent it and have it shipped to a conference they were hosting. The topic was to be about 3D printers and they wanted to show one in action.

For our initial meeting, I brought the 3D printer and some samples with me. The vice president giving the speech at the conference was impressed with the machine, but determined that it would be too costly to ship it safely and to have to train someone to use it. However, they decided to commission me to produce a series of 3D models. I spent the next week creating specific samples for them.

The following week I returned and showed them what I created. They decided on one, but wanted a change. I told them the price it would cost and how long it would take to build. They were okay with my quote and told me to come back one more time with the adjustments.


One week later I came back with a couple more samples, this time they wanted it larger! Fortunately for me, I had downloaded updated software for the printer which provided more accurate information about how much plastic it would use and how long it would take. I found out I had been undercharging based on the previous quote, so with the changes they wanted I was able to readjust my quote. They were agreeable to the quote and had me start production.


I spent the next four or so weeks printing 70 copies of the model (it took 4 ½ hours for each one!) and was able to reach the goal we had agreed to. Although, about half-way through production they asked if I could produce about 20 more than the original order. I would have been glad to, but they would either have to accept a later delivery time or a smaller model. Since neither was possible for what they wanted, they agreed to stick to the original terms. If I had not been firm about the physical limitations of the printer and agreed to a change in production, this kind of scope creep could have damaged the relationship I created with the company.


(Damaged goods, resulting from printer mistakes)

I got word about a week after the conference that everything went well and they might want to order more in the future.

It costs how much!?!?

Figuring out a complete range of costs, work effort, and activities needed to complete an Instructional Design project can be difficult. Sometimes experience helps, but if you do not have the experience finding others who do can help.

Estimating Costs and Time in Instructional Design

This website provides a good general overview of costs and potential time projects may take. I like how it breaks it down by budget in both dollars and percentage of time for each activity. While it is fairly general, and does not take into account every situation or resource need that could occur, it provides something to start with as a guide.

Cost Calculator

Using interactive input, this cost calculator on Training & eTracking Solutions provides a useful tool for estimating costs per employee when developing a training course. I might use this website as a way to estimate the general personnel costs a training program might require. I would use it along with other cost estimates to provide a bigger window into how much the entire training program will cost to design and deliver.