Why Gamification? Quests & Badges to Engage Students


“Badges, I don’t Need No Stinkin Badges”

Actually Yes I Do and Students Do Too!

If the caption above confuses you, this youtube video is where it came from. You can rest assured the video has nothing to do with online learning. 😉 But badges on the other hand, yes, they certainly do!

When I was in Boy Scouts years ago, they had a merit badge system. Complete the projects and learn what you needed to learn (competency based) and then you would earn a badge to show everyone that you accomplished something. This article talks more about badges for competency.

Now consider video games. One of the motivating components of a video game is the fact that you can earn points, acrue tokens, weapons, or other advancements as you proceed through the game.

Both of these concepts can be applied to online learning. There are a variety of articles on gamification in learning. Boise State University developed a 3D Gamelab Professional Development course, which I took last summer. It was a learning management system developed to implement gaming principles. There were options and rewards with a totally different setup compared to what you often see in traditional learning management systems.

So I’m left to wonder, If I’m using Blackboard, what principles of gaming could I still do? Here are a couple ideas but I’m hoping those of you reading this will provide some additional insight in the comments area below.

1)  Develop Modules So They Are Quests With Options. Give students the choice of selecting a number of the options (or quests as 3DGamelab calls them) to complete. You can even make the diffrent quests worth different point values (which is similar to how the 3DGamelab works).

Imagine you have 10 quests (modules/topics). Students are asked to choose however many topics they like, but they have to earn 100 points by the time they complete the course. Some modules may be worth 10 points, others 20 points or more, but this gives students a choice as to what they want to learn (which quest to complete). It also makes it clear of what is needed in order to “win the A” (earn 100 points). Finally students are free to choose what they like while still learning the key concepts the instructor wants them to learn).

2) Implement Badges as Proof of Concepts Mastered. Imagine being able to have simple proof that you’ve mastered something. Yes, a degree is that in a sense, but how much learning goes on that isn’t attached do a degree? How much learning is going on inside just one class or maybe even inside one unit? You still learned a skill. Why not have a badge that you can show for it?

There are several articles that talk about the use of badges in learning. What I take away from it is that students want to be able to say “Look, I learned this”. If a course is vague or not relevant to students, its less likely they will be able to finish the course and say to themselves (or better yet a future employer) “I have learned this skill, and this skill, and I know how to do this….,etc”. 

Badges are a great way to movitate students and let them know just how much they have learned. I think the motivation is similar to that of being “certified” in something. I’d sure like to add an “Social Networking” or “Adobe Photoshop” badge to my digital portfolio that shows mastery of these concepts. When relevance is often forgotten or overlooked in courses, these badges can really make a lasting impression on students.

3) Even better, do both! One of the cool things about the 3D Gamelab was that it had the best of both of these. It had quests (topics) open so I could pick topics that most interested me as I earned the points.  It also had badges, awards, and achievements to motivate me.

Here below is a video introduction of the 3DGamelab.

This all sounds great and I get really excited until… I remember that I’m not using the 3DGamelab system, I’m using Blackboard…But wait! There has got to be some way to implement these ideas (at least partially) using a standard LMS. Right? Now, I’m bound to figure out some way to implement these principles in a regular online class using Blackboard. I think its going to be a little tricky but its definitely worth considering!

Have any tips for me? Do you do quests or badges in your online courses (or using a standard LMS)? Please leave  comments in the area below.

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Social Networking: Educators Jumping Out of the Silos!

Growing up in Idaho, you see a lot of these silos. They work great for storing materials and keeping them separate and isolated from other materials. Isolation is good in this sense because you don’t want to mix the “outside” with what’s “inside”.

Silos

Unfortunately, in education, too often we live and work in silos, trying to solve problems, innovate, and advance education with only a limited view of what we are doing, unable to see “how others are doing it” or being able to ask questions to those doing the same thing we are doing simply because we don’t know them. Conferences are great but sometimes you want more!

When was the last time you searched out someone doing your similar role at a different institution and started collaborating? I realize that some are not interested in sharing ideas or collaborating and that is okay, but there many educators that would love to ask  questions and receive feedback, suggestions, and responses. With all the growth of Professional Learning Communities, I think now is the time to start asking questions and really collaborating, building upon ideas to advance education. What works for one situation may help in another. Why reinvent the wheel again and again?

Follow me on Twitter at @Kodystimpson, if you are interested in online learning, Edtech, Instructional Design or Technology.

I also just created a new Twitter account specifically for educators interested in Online Learning in Higher Education @HigherEdOnlineL  It doesn’t matter what college, university, or school you work in. If you’re interested in collaborating, asking questions about online learning in Higher Ed (policies, processes, best practice, instructional design, tools, etc), please follow and ask your questions, I’ll tweet them out and let’s get some answers. Also be sure and reply to other’s questions. You don’t have to be an expert, you just have to be willing to SHARE your perspective.

So let’s begin collaborating & break out of these silos once and for all!

If your still wondering about whether to create a Twitter account, check out this post on Why Every Educator Should be On Twitter.

See you there!

3 Steps to Zap Life Into Your Course With Surveys!

Recently, I was blown away by  an onlineRace & Gender Issues” course here at UNLV. Not only was the course well designed and very interesting, but for each module, there were specific surveys that really encouraged the students to get excited about the topics explored. It made me think about what an important tool surveys and polls can be in online and hybrid courses.

If you want to increase the interest level or help students relate what your teaching to their everyday life, then a well designed survey is a simple way to work towards that.

From a students perspective, the most interesting courses are ones that are applicable and relevant to them. Most instructors are passionate about their content area but only some of them are able to convert their passion into something that students relate to. It’s true that we aren’t all passionately interested in the same things. However, when we integrate the student’s perspectives, passions, opinions, and thoughts, not only do they become more connected with the content but everyone enjoys the topic and everyone learns together! That is why surveys are so great! Here are just 3 steps to zap some life into a course.

 

ZapSurveypolldaddy1SurveyeverywhereSurveymonkey

3 Steps to Zap Life into Your Course with Surveys!

1. Explore the free survey tools that are available!  Sometimes the best thing to do is to take a couple minutes and check out the options. Seeing samples and types of surveys out there will be a great start in helping you design high quality, interesting, and successful surveys for students. Here are just three tools that I think are amazing!

  • Polldaddy.com is awesome! In just a few minutes you can create a poll question or survey and embed it right into your LMS (Learning Management System) or presentation. Students can vote and immedietely see results.
  • Polleverywhere.com allows students to use their mobile devices to send a text or respond online to the survey question and it’s immedietly reflected. You can embed these in PowerPoint or other presentations, asking your students to respond using their devices. No clickers needed!
  • Surveymonkey.com allows you to develop a thorough survey asking multiple choice, likert scale questions and much more. It allows up to 100 respondents for free. It’s a great tool to help you find out what your students think about the course and what suggestions they have for you to consider in future revisions which leads me to step 2.

2. Find Out What Your Students Think About Your Course! Feedback like this is crucial when you review and make updates/changes to your course. As we all know, curriculum development is never ending so why not let your students help you! Consider how the following info might influence how you revise your course:

  • Which topic are they most interested in?
  • Which part of the course/module/lesson do they like the most/least and why?
  • Which module could benefit from additional practices or lesson aids
  • Do they have any feedback regarding: course design, instructor interaction, the etextbook, or course materials?

Successful companies always encourage feedback from their clients. Your students are your clients and their feedback can help in many ways. After just a single survey of gathering feedback like this, you can target needed areas of course improvement, plus imagine how empowering it is for them to know that you care enough to revise the course and make it better based on their suggestions. Just because students offer suggestions, doesn’t mean you have to do it all, but at least you will know what they are thinking. Also one other tip, don’t “over survey” your students. For best results consider the length and time restrictions your students may have.

3. Survey/Poll Students on Course Related & Thought Provoking Issues!

If you visit a news website, it’s likely there will be a poll question on the page which relates to a current topic of interest. It’s hard for me to ignore them. I’m always curious to vote and see how my thoughts correlate with the majority. Students are the same way!

Carefully review the topics you are teaching and consider how students might be individually interested in it. Here are a few survey question starters:

  • What do you think about….
  • Which of the following are…
  • How do you feel about….
  • When do you….
  • Where do you….
  • Why do you…

Then list the options. Questions/Polls can be simple yes/no questions or more advanced allowing students to post their individual responses for all to see. The key is to survey them on topics that are related to the objectives of the course while also relevant and interesting to your students.

 

What other ways have you used surveys/polls in your course? Have you seen an increase in student satisfaction, course completion, etc since using surveys?  What tips do you have for design? Please share your thoughts in the comments area!

Online Tools to Integrate Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction!

There are a variety of Instructional Design models and theories but one that I have always been impressed with is Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction.  I think it’s a great process and with the different tools available online, you can really make courses engaging and effective for online or blended learning. Here are just a few ways you can do it with online tools.

Online Tools to Integrate Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction:

1. Gain Attention.

Get the learners attention by presenting something interesting that will help prep the students for what they are about to learn

  • Videos (TED videos are fantastic and intriguing, Youtube, Teachertube, Discovery Streaming, PBS, etc. Find a brief video that grabs their attention and gets them excited to learn more!
  • Articles (CNN or other news sites contain thousands of articles which can be shared. Find a mysterious, strange, intriguing, or otherwise interesting article to start them off on the topic. Remember what is interesting to you may not necessarily be interesting to a student so try and find an article that will really grab their attention and appeal to their interest.
  • Photos (Flikr and other great image sites have pictures of anything and everything. We’ve always heard that a picture can mean a thousand words. Throw a picture out there to get their attention, or even better have them discuss it using discussions or Voicethread. Be sure that it’s not just a regular picture (ex: For Biology, a picture of a body), instead find a picture that will get their attention and keep it. They expect to see a picture of a body for Biology, but what relates to Biology, gets them excited, but is not expected? That is where it gets more captivating. 

2. Inform Learners of Objectives.

It seems obvious but often this critical component is overlooked. Let student’s know what the goal is of the course, unit, or lesson.

  • Voki.com or Xtranormal.com text type to movie tool is great for creating a simple video letting students know what they will learn. Be sure and include why they are learning it!
  • Wordle.net is a good tool to simply create a graphic representation of the important objectives that will be covered in the lesson. You can make the text of the words larger to strengthen its meaning.

3. Stimulate recall of prior learning.

Too often we forget to review what was covered earlier to help students prepare themslves to learn more. I always appreciated the classes that had a review built into the beginning of them because it really inspired confidence in getting ready to learn more.

  • Review Practices.  Hotpotatoes (free), Raptivity, Articulate Quizzmaker, or Engage, really any of these tools work great for creating practices which can review earlier studied material. Since they all give automatic feedback it can quickly help students review and remember what was covered earlier.  A lot of times these review practices are already created so all you have to do is simply link to them and make a note that they are available for review if needed.
  • A Podcast or Video Podcast is a great way to review what was just covered and then get the students excited about what is coming up ahead. Remember the goal of this to help them remember what they already know and then link it correctly to what they will learn. Aviary.com has a great free online music & podcast maker.

4. Present the Content.

Presenting the content should be much more than a link to power point slides or an etext. The best presentations are engaging and require the participant to interact.  In an earlier post I mentioned the different ways that you can get students to interact with the content of the lesson.

  • Presentation Interactions – Content is presented and is interactive, Softchalk is great because it allows students to hover over text or images and additional information appears. Instead of just reading the lessons, students can interact with the lesson.

5. Provide “learning guidance”

Guiding the student to learn the objectives in a way that helps them expand their learning is essential.

  • Video Interactions – Videos are great but using Camtasia Studio you can take a video and add in questions that pop up at key points of the video, effectively “waking up students” and helping them reflect more as they answer the questions while they watch the videos.
  • Provide feedback to students through written, audio, or video explanation (maybe using Jing to create a quick demonstration video or walkthrough of the submitted assignment).

    6. Elicit performance

    • Practice Interactions – Practices are essential in helping students prepare for graded assessments. These practices can help them remember the concepts and apply it when it comes time for an assignment, project, or other graded assessments.
    • Learning Games -Why not throw in simple learning games (Raptivity or Elearningbrothers learning flash games)to help them practice what they have learned.
    • Leverage blogs to allow students to post what they know, what they learned, and even what they are most interested in that relates to the topic. Then offer feedback and comments which brings us to the next event.

    7. Provide feedback

    • Practices provide essential feedback for students. As one blogger mentioned “When students no longer have a fear of failing, they will be empowered to try”.  Automatic feedback practices are great for allowing students to quickly get on target in the areas where they struggle.
    • Feedback can be given using email, text message, or phones, during webinars using web conferencing tools, or face to face. The key is to provide feedback to the students in a timely manner and that the feedback be geared towards helping them learn from their mistakes and get back on track.

    8. Assessment

    • Projects, projects, and more projects (opportunities for students to create)!  A project can be a presentation, a blog post, a group wiki, or even a video demonstration. 
    • Leverage tools like Voicethread, xtranormal.com, voki.com, etc that allow students to create things using tools they already like to use. Have them SHOW you what they have learned by CREATING something.
    • Assessing vocabulary, mere facts, and figures is often done by multiple choice, true false, or short answer questions, but encouraging the students to create presentations, projects, and blog articles helps them use that information to help shape their learning in much more enjoyable ways.

    9. Enhance retention and transfer

    • Blog posts – (WordPress, blogger, Posterous, etc). Encourage the students to transfer what they have learned in the unit to their everyday life and post about it. You will be amazed at all the different ways students can apply the topic and if you encourage them to post and read other students blog posts, it empowers students to be the “salesman” to their classmates, telling them why this topic is so great and applicable to their lives. Never again need students sit in their seats and ask “now why I am learning this”? Blogs one tool to use to help them express what they have learned and apply it to themselves.

    The most important thing to remember is that it isn’t the tool that is going to make or break your course. It’s how you use it!

    What other tools have you found to be effective in helping students learn? Please share with us your thoughts below.

     

    Lucky 13: Excellent Tools for Blended Learning!

    Creating something can be an overwhelmingly rewarding experience. You may have read the Lucky 13: Resources for Blended Learning list I posted last week. This week I wanted to share 13 online tools that educators or students can use that inspire creativity and learning. Tools are great because they can help teachers create original and engaging content for their courses or they can be recommended for student’s use on projects. Creating something related to a topic can achieve one of the highest levels of critical thinking so encouraging students to use these tools for projects is a win/win situation for any educator. If you just want to use them to develop your content, then that’s great too!

    Here are 13 Excellent Tools for Blended Learning:

    #1. Jing Screencapture. I use this tool all the time. It’s made by Techsmith, the same company that makes Captivate, another great tool but this one is free and excellent. Use it to take a screenshot of your desktop. Easily select a portion of your computer screen and select an area you wish to copy. Then use the tools available to draw call-outs, textbooks, shapes, and arrows. When I make tutorials I often use this tool to help guide students through steps. You can also create a video screencast using the tool complete with audio. Imagine how helpful it is to show to demonstrate how to do something with audio walking the student through a process, website, etc. It is a great tool and even makes sharing the information a cinch. If you haven’t tried it check it out. I have the paid version of Snagit on my computer, but instead I use Jing for most of what I do.

    #2. Imagination Cubed Instant Whiteboard. Very simple tool you can use to draw out a process or explain something. It has shape options and a pen/ marker to draw with as well. Simply draw what you like and then save it. The student can quickly watch the entire process of how you drew it. I think this would be a great tool for showing math practice examples. For me at least, I can use all the examples I can get, so something like this would be pretty cool!

    #3. Animoto. An alternative to using PowerPoint for presentations. This nifty tool allows you to upload images, and create text to appear over it, similar to a slideshow but then you select music to go with it, hit publish, and wallah you have an interestingly original presentation. It is much more fun than just slides going by. Students love it because it allows them to be very creative with the text. It also requires that they be concise with the message they are portraying. The 30 second version is free and there are educational licenses available as well. By the way, there is an Animoto app now too!

    #4. Voki. Create an avatar of yourself. It is very addicting and fun. You can select a person to represent you and then either type in the text to make him/her speak or you can record yourself speaking and the mouth moves with you. It’s a fun and personable way to connect with your students through announcements or other communications.

    #5. Xtranormal. Warning! Once you start playing around with this, you may be distracted for the rest of the day. 😉 I love this tool. Use it or even better have your students use it to explain a topic. You select a character and a background. Then by using type or drag and drop options you create a cartoon video. It is so easy to use. I love it for Foreign Languages since the avatars will say whatever you type in there in English, French, German, and Chinese. It is so fun and students will never complain about creating a presentation to share again if they use this tool. Very fun!

    #6. Voicethread. Have you ever posted a comment on a chat board or blog? Well this is much better than that. With Voicethread you can have students interact and collaborate all around a piece of media (video, image, document, etc). They can post comments by text, audio, or video comments. Voicethread also recently released a mobile app that makes it even more accessible to students. There are free versions and pay for versions with more options.

    #7. Audacity. Do you want to create a podcast? This is an excellent open source tool which you can use to record your voice and quickly publish to MP3. It is widely used and works very well. An online alternative that is fantastic is Aviary’s Podcast Maker. On a side note: check out the whole Aviary.com suite. It has several good online tools for image editing and music creation.

    #8. Hotpotatoes. This trusty friend has been used by educators for years to create multiple choice, true false, and fill in the blank practices. It is free and very easy to use. It isn’t the most engaging of sorts, but practices are so important for students to grasp a concept so the more opportunities for them to strategically practice something, the more prepared they’ll be for assessments. In a face to face classroom where you have 25 different students, you might suggest specifically targeted practices for the student.

    #9. Many Eyes Data Visualizations. Sometimes it’s impossible to effectively explain large amounts of data. Data doesn’t have to be boring and “pie chartie”. Just check out a few of the visualization options available and you will not want to go back to boring basic data charts ever again. It’s much easier to get your point across using tools like this and its interactive which engages people much more than a flat image of a chart. Another great tool is the Google Public Data Explorer. Just check out this example here: The World’s Fertility Rate.

    #10. Big Marker Webconferencing. You may use Wimba, Elluminate, Collaborate, or other web conferencing tools, but one free option for webconferencing that is getting a lot of attention and is free is Big Marker. With this tool you can various participants on at the same time, desktop share, draw using the tools available, and have webinars and webconferences with students. Think of all the great guest appearances you can have in your courses using a web conferencing tool like this? Suddenly the world is much smaller when you can bring almost anyone into your class. We also use a tool like this for Math tutoring afterhours as well as teacher office hours.

    #11. Collaborize Education Platform. There are many learning management system options but this one I played around with a bit and I like it. It’s free so it may not have all the bells and whistles but it is pretty cool. It’s a free collaborative education platform for students & teachers. I set up an account and was surprised at how simple it was to use as well as all the different options I had.

    #12. Google Education Apps. This is a suite of software tools like no other. We use this for email, document, spreadsheet, presentation sharing & collaboration, chatting, calendar, etc. It is fantastic! If you are a district or college administrator, I would definitely check this out. I can confidently say these that these educational apps help everyone I work with be more productive and collaborative on our projects, processes, and creations. It is much more than just an email service.

    #13.Realplayer Video Downloader. Okay this one is not something you can use to create something but it is so helpful I’m listing it as a way to create convenience. ;-). Once you install this free tool, whenever you see any video on the web ( in your browser) such as youtube, etc, you can hover your mouse over it and click the “download” button which downloads an .FLV (flash video) version right to your computer. This is so handy! Then if you need to convert it to another format, the realplayer tool does that as well.  You can even convert it to mobile device friendly format (please be sure that you obey copyright and attribute anything you download). Realplayer is not my default media player by any means but it sure is great for downloading videos from the web.

    What other tools are you using for blended learning?

    8 Ways to Jumpstart Mobile Learning in Your Courses!

    I’ve been counting down the posts for the time when I get to share these tools and tricks on mobile learning options since starting this blog. Previously I’ve posted on Mobile Learning Design and our 100% Mobile Blackboard course. Today I’ll share several different ways to jump right in and start implementing mobile learning in courses.

    8 Ways to Jumpstart Mobile Learning in Your Courses

    1.  Learn Mobile Design. I would start by reviewing principles of mobile learning design. Just knowing basic principles of instructional design for mobile devices can go a long way as you decide how you want to approach mobile learning. It also helps you to consider what things you may already be doing that can be slightly tweaked to leverage this technology. Here is a post I did recently on 14 Crucial Tips for Mobile Learning Design.

    2.  Use Surveys. Before you start mobile learning, consider your students. Do they have access to mobile devices? What would they like to do with them? Think of questions to put on the survey that will give your institution a good insight into the mobile device usage of your students. This will help later on when you decide which types of mobile devices to support, how many you extra devices you might need to have accessible, and overall help you understand your student’s perspective. We sent out a survey to our students and they gave us great feedback. A couple tools that I think that are good for surveys are surveymonkey and polleverywhere.

    Surveymonkey – Is a free survey tool (free version and a pay version available). Check out this tool. You’d be surprised how helpful surveys can be to help you gain insight into what your students are thinking. It is very easy to create them and then you just either email or embed the survey link in your website. Be sure and include a “respond by” date and incentives are always great too (extra credit points, etc)! Surveymonkey works on mobile devices as well.

    Polleverywhere – This tool embeds right into your Power Point presentation or site so as you present to the class, you can ask them questions. They simply whip out their mobile devices and text the response which shows up automatically on your slide.  This is a lot like the really expensive clickers but it leverages the mobile devices students already have. There is a free version (I think up to 30 students) and then there are cost versions. I’ve been able to use the free version so far but there are some great reasons to upgrade to the pay version if you can.

    3.  Podcasts & Vodcasts. Why not make a podcast of your lesson? There are some great tools that allow you to easily record an audio message and then share it with students. Then they can listen to it on the bus, as they wait, or wherever they go. Podcasts don’t take much time and students appreciate the option to rewind and review topics you are presenting. You can put them on a website and send the students a link, or just put them on CD or a jumpdrive.

    Audacity is a great free open source tool for making podcasts. Once installed you simply click the record button and export the podcast to your computer.

    Aviary.com is a free online tool for creating podcasts! It’s part of the fantastic suite of online tools they provide. You can also add intro music to your podcasts to make them sound even more professional. Once you are done, just publish your masterpieces to your computer as MP3.

    For video podcasts (where it shows you on a webcam in addition the audio, you can use  Garageband (free with Mac) or Windows Movie Maker (free with Windows).  Just be sure and publish the video to a format the works on mobile devices (and test it to be sure it works).

    Don’t want to reinvent the wheel? No problem! There are an ever-growing library of podcasts on almost any topic. Simply perform a search like “Spanish podcasts” and you may be surprised that you find just what you are looking for. You can also use itunes U to locate educational podcasts.

    4.  QR Codes. QR Codes are similar to barcodes but you take a picture with your mobile device (that has the QR code app reader on it) and it will pull up videos, websites, or other links. We actually put a QR code in Blackboard so students can take a picture of their computer screen while working on a unit and have the practice stored on their mobile device for easy reference later on when they want to practice. This keeps them from having to log into BB or remembering long URL codes.  Here is a link to a great QR code maker (Kayway) that is free. QR code readers for mobile devices and regular computers using webcams are also available. Still not convinced? Check out this video McGuffey SD in PA made on how their school uses QR Codes. Pretty neat stuff!

    5.  Mobile Practices & Learning Games. I’m a big fan of practices for students so they can grasp the particular concepts that they struggle with. If every topic has some non-graded practices or learning games for them, they can self-select the practices that will help most. This individualized learning can impact their assignment and test scores dramatically.

    Softchalk – Softchalk is a simple tool to create multiple choice, matching, true false, etc practices. It isn’t free but they have a SCORM tool and it works with learning management systems quite well. We developed mobile practices for each unit of some of our courses and placed the practices prior to the unit quiz. This way, students can practice and prepare for the quizzes on the go.

    Raptivity – Raptivity has a huge selection of learning game & practice interactives which we use in our courses. Most are flash-based, but there are several that work with HTML5 so they work on mobile devices. The tool is somewhat intuitive and you type in the questions and answers and publish the games to your computer. Similar to Softchalk, the files can then be placed on a server or a CD/jumpdrive, and shared with students.

    Hotpotatoes – This trusty tool has been free for awhile and a lot of educators use it to create simple practices for their courses. It’s great for that! While not specifically developed for mobile devices, I found that if I create a hotpotato practice, it creates an HTML file. Then, if I open that HTML in notepad and add the following metadata, the practice will snap to fit the mobile device that views the practice (making it look nice on mobile devices). Its a bit of a “duct-tape” way to do it, but its free, pretty simple and works! Students are just thrilled to have the practices mobile! 😉

    If you do use Hotpoatoes, here is the HTML to make it snap to fit a mobile device:
    <meta name = “viewport” content = “width = device-width”> <meta name = “viewport” content = “initial-scale = 1.0”>

    The metatag HTML above actually works for a lot of different HTML pages. Try it out with your HTML page and see how it looks.

    MobileStudy – This is a free tool which lets you easily create practice questions for students and then publish them to their mobile devices.

    AppInventor for Android – This tool lets you create apps for your courses. It’s free to use and very intuitive. However, it only works for Android mobile devices. iOS also has an app inventor but I heard that is it not quite as easy as this one for Android. You pretty much just build your little site using their tool and publish it. Pretty cool!

    6.  Mobile Blogs & Communication Tools. Students want to be in contact with their peers. Thankfully, there are some great ways you can incorporate collaboration and communication using mobile devices.

    Mobile VoiceThread – Voice thread is an online tool you can use to create conversation among students around a graphic, video, website, or any topic. Students can use their mobile devices and post verbal or text comments on a particular picture, video, etc.

    Posterous & Blogger – Both of these blog sites have the ability to create a private blogs and can share only with your students if you choose. They both also have an app so students can post comments or posts to the blog using mobile devices. I have two blogs, one on posterous and one on Blogger. Both tools have advantages and weaknesses.

    7.  Educational Apps. It’s really important that you check out what mobile apps are available in the content area you are teaching. Because of the touch screen of a mobile device, apps are creating new ways to interact with content for learning. The Star Walk app, Algebra Touch app, and Fooducate apps are just a few examples.

    If you decide to incorporate educational apps into your courses, keep in mind what devices students have access to. If you don’t want to restrict them to a certain device, you can find an alternative app for each of the main mobile devices (can be time-consuming). You will also need to decide if you’ll only use the free apps or paid apps as well. There are many educational apps to choose from.

    8.  Use a Mobile LMS. If you are already using a Learning Management System, you are likely familiar with some of the benefits of an LMS. However, now there are some mobile options for accessing content with them as well. I posted earlier about our course using Blackboard Mobile, but there are actually several different options.

    Thanks to Idaho Digital Learning, here is an archived webinar of this presentation that was given to faculty this summer (2011).

    These are just a few ways to incorporate learning devices in courses. I’m sure there are many more ways that I didn’t include, so please let me know what you think in the comments area below. Also, if you are on Twitter, do a search for #mlearning #mobilelearning #mobile or #edtech and you will find an enormous amount of great tools and apps that are available for educators using mobile devices.

    A 100% Mobile Course Using Blackboard Mobile: PE

    About a year ago, we sent our students a survey to ask them how they would like to interact with their courses using mobile devices. Not surprisingly, they overwelmingly responded that they wanted to do it all!

    55% of our students (Idaho HS students) responded that they had access to a mobile device with Internet access. An additional 5% said that they plan to have access within the next year.

    Survey: What do students want to do with mobile devices?

    • #1 – Check my grades – 84%
    • #2 – Discussion boards – 65%
    • #3 – Complete Assignments – 50%
    • #4 – Review with Practices, Podcasts, & Mobile activities – 45%

    Here are just a few of the suggestions we received from students:

    • Make all the assignments compatible with mobile devices 😉
    • Make class work compatible with mobile devices. We’re entering a world of which includes many new innovative tools that are taking us into a new technological period… Modern educational innovation is what I crave as a student. 😉
    • Continue to offer different things using mobile devices.
    • Being able to study for test on mobile devices.

    Because of this feedback, we began implementing mobile learning options for our students. I will write more about the different ways to jumpstart mobile learning in your courses in a future post but this one is specifically on our completely mobile course we developed using Blackboard Mobile.

    Why Blackboard Mobile?

    The majority of the online courses we offer are developed using Blackboard. It made sense for us to leverage the knowledge we already had when developing a mobile course. We also liked some of the tools available in Blackboard Mobile. We decided that for our first mobile course we would offer Mobile PE (Lifetime Fitness).  Note: This course is 100% mobile for students only. Currently, teachers still need to do the grading, etc using a desktop or laptop computer.

    Why Lifetime Fitness?

    We’ve offered online Lifetime Fitness for several years. Kids love it! Mobile devices allow us to leverage new and exciting ways to learn the content in the course. Also, lifetime fitness, by name logically relates to movement and exercise, which is done away from a standard computer.

    How is the course designed?

    This was our first attempt at designing an online course to run completely on mobile devices. However, we referred to Basic Principles of Mobile Learning Design to help us get started.

    • Modules are small to allow students to easily start & stop.
    • The discussion boards and blogs tools work great in Blackboard mobile so we designed the assignments around these tools. Currently, neither the assignment tool nor the test tool are mobile friendly so we did not use them for this course.
    • The Check Grades tool also works well so students can check their grades at their convenience.
    • Types of Assessments Include:
      • Discussion Board.  The discussion board tool works pretty well in BB Mobile. We did have to create a thread inside each discussion board with the prompt in it to ensure that the students can see the prompt. 
      • Public Blogs.  Similar to the the discussion boards, these look great in BB Mobile. Students are able to post pictures to the blogs in collaborative assignments. 
      • Private Blogs – I presume that in the future Blackboard will make the assignment tool and/or the test tool mobile friendly, but currently they are not (meaning you have to click “view in browser” and then zoom in and out in order to complete the assignment or test).  Because of this, we used the private blog so students could submit their responses to their teacher privately. It’s a good alternative if you keep in mind two things: 1) Students don’t want to type long essays using their keypad so you will want to minimize the data entry and 2) For teachers, grading a blog may be more time consuming than the regular “assignment tool” assignments.
      • Free iOS apps (there is no textbook) but the students download the apps to practice and learn from as they progress through the units. Its much more than just reading the content thanks to these cool apps. The teacher also developed a list of extra websites and “additional apps” just in case an app dissappears from the appstore, is no longer free, or if an app doesn’t install correctly for whatever reason on the student’s device. Then once a student learns the topic using the app, they post the answers to questions related to the app using the “private blog” assignment tool. Some of the apps we use include the Nike Training App, Target Weight, Heart Rate, Calorie Counter, Daily Burn, and GoLearn Cycling.
    • Navigating Mobile Lifetime Fitness:

    • Module View of Mobile Lifetime Fitness:

     

    • Snapshots from Course. Additionally here are some views of the course.
      1coursemap3module12discussionboard2-5discussionboards

    We also built in mobile surveys using Surveymonkey throughout the course to get feedback from students on what they like and what they think could be better about the course. This data will be crucial as we integrate mobile learning components in future courses.

    By the way, in case you missed the earlier post, here are 14 Crucial Tips for Mobile Learning Design. Blackboard also has some Best Practices for Mobile Learning with BB Mobile.

    What do you think about Mobile Learning? Do you have any suggestions on design tips for an effective mobile course?

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    This information was shared thanks to Idaho Digital Learning.

    14 Crucial Tips for Mobile Learning Design

    When I first started studying mobile learning and how instructional design for mobile differs from regular online courses, I searched the Internet and would have appreciated a list like this to give me a few pointers to start out. My hope is that this list benefits you and that if you have some tips, you’ll leave them for me in the comments area below. 😉 There is still so much to learn about mobile learning design.

    1. Structure

    Unlike regular online courses, mobile device learning should be structured in such a way that a user can easily stop & re-start their learning in episodic patterns. Keep in mind students might be on the bus, at a game, or somewhere where learning may be full of distractions

    Students also appreciate open navigation (ability to move around and choose the topics as they like) more than the traditional locked-down step by step navigation.

    2. Smaller Chunking

    Group your content so that chunks of information can be quickly accessed and completed in short periods of time. This allows students to learn on the go and complete as they multi-task. Extensive reading on a mobile device is only ideal when content is chunked and interesting 😉 

    3. Minimize Typing

    Typing on a mobile device is not as easy as typing on a keyboard. Its that simple. 😉 Keep this in mind as you design your assignments by trying to minimize data entry. Using multiple choice, true false, and matching questions can help with this, but also try and think outside the box. Mobile devices allow for interesting simulation practices and assignments beyond just regular multiple choice type questions. Leverage the new ways of interacting that can be done with mobile devices!

    4. Daily Events

    The more daily events you can have the student correlate with their learning the better. Its all about making the course relevant to their life.

    5. Integrating Location

    Take advantage of where students are located and allow them to integrate where they are and what they are doing there with the learning activities and discussions. Topics can integrate location into different learning activities. What perspectives might they add to the course just by living in a specific region or area?

    6. Communication and Discussions, Polls, Blogs, & Surveys

    Students want to communicate and share just-in-time real world experiences with other students. Polls & surveys also allow students to express opinions and get answers to questions.

    Similar to a blog, students can post pics/videos/audio they take with their phone and share it with classmates. One free mobile blog tool I use is wordpress.com

    7. Podcasts & Vodcasts

    Content for the lesson should be accessible in a variety of formats: readable written text, audio podcast, and a video vodcast of the lesson.  One statistical analysis reported that students believed podcasts to be more effective than their own notes to help them learn.

    8. Non-Graded Practices

    Non-graded practices encourage students to practice without fear of failure. These practices can help prepare them for an assignment, quiz, or test.

    9. Leverage Existing Educational Apps

    No need for an etext! There are some excellent educational apps that can increase the quality of the course (many of which are free). Students can track themselves and play around with the app, then log findings as part of their assignments. The apps must work on all mobile devices allowed for the course.

    10. Consider which devices you will support

    Devices vary and what works on an Android OS may not work on an iOS and vice versa.  Users with the Iphone have higher satisfaction than those with only iTouch or iPad. Constant connectivity increases satisfaction.  One study found that a phone seems to be the best device because of the connectivity but requiring one in order to take a course will definitely deprive some students from participating.

    11. Avoid costs to Students

    Keep in mind the size of files you use for mobile learning. If the student is incurring costs to learn via their mobile devices, that is problematic. Try and keep images, videos, and other files as small as possible for downloading and use.

    12. Find Grades Fast

    Students want to see & understand grades easily. According to a mobile survery we sent to students last year, one of the tasks that they wanted most was the ability to check their grades anytime on their mobile devices.

    13. On Demand Alerts

    Alerts & text reminders sent for office hours, when student’s grades are posted, discussion reply notifications, etc helps increase retention. This also helps students return to the course more often. After all, who can stay away from Hanging with Friends after you receive an alert telling you that its your turn to play! 😉

    14. Testing, Testing, and more Testing

    Test your course on the devices you plan to support. Keep in mind that complete course redesign around mobile technologies is significantly more challenging than including a few mobile tools into an existing course. Some suggest you only incorporate one or two mobile components into your existing course and try them out. If you have done this, please let me know how it went by leaving a comment below.

    Also, always have alternatives in case the app  or mobile tool you chose to use is no longer available or problems arise (which they often do). Having alternative available and testing on multiple devices will help you side-step a lot of the issues that may occur.

    If you are curious about how a completely mobile course would work, here is a post on a Mobile Lifetime Fitness course we designed that runs completely on a mobile device using some free apps and Blackboard Mobile.

     

    So what other mobile learning design tips do you have? Do you agree or disagree with any of these? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments area below. Mobile Learning Design is so new there is definitely a lot of room for discussion.

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    Resources:

    Designing Learning Activities with Mobile Technologies, Designing Learning Activities with Mobile Technologies, Hokyoung Ryu & David Parsons.

    Effectiveness of Mobile Learning in Distance Education. Dr. Muhammad Imran YOUSUF, Lecturer, Division of Continuing Education, University of Arid Agriculture, Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

    Students Attitudes & Perceptions Towards the Effectiveness of Mobile Learning, Dr. Fahad N. Al-Fahad. King Saudi University

    The effectiveness of m-learning in the form of podcast revision lectures in higher education. Chris Evens. Centre for Educational Multimedia, Brunel Business School, Brumel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UP8 3PH, UK

    2009 Mobile Learning Report: Abilene Chrisian University, Abilene Christian University

    Mobl21. http://www.mobl21.com/blog/21/some-best-practices-for-mobile-learning/