Online Learning Resource Round-Up!

by Christine Scherer

Online education is growing fast–so fast that it can be hard to keep up with all the latest news and resources. The Distance Learning staff have assembled some of their favorite online learning resources to help highlight some of our favorites.

Inside Higher Ed – Inside Digital Learning – Krissy Wilson

In order to stay up-to-date with the latest news in digital learning, I’ve subscribed to the Inside Higher Ed – Inside Digital Learning newsletter. Like many digital media providers, Inside Higher Ed publishes news and opinion pieces at a pace that is almost impossible to keep up with. How can you stay informed without spending an hour on their website every morning? This newsletter is distributed once a week on Wednesdays, and delivers a shortlist of breaking news, opinions, data, deals, and insights that you can review in just a few minutes. This week’s topics included easing conflicts between instructional designers and faculty, perspectives from the field on the Purdue-Kaplan marriage, who’s up and who’s down in online enrollments, and tips for designing ADA-compliance online courses.

Faculty Focus – Elizabeth Lemke

Facilitating and moderating online discussion forums is one of the most difficult new skills an online instructor needs to perfect. Defining what an online moderator and facilitator is easy, but putting that into practice can seem too abstract and confusing. I regularly share resources on this topic from Faculty Focus. You can search by topic on the main page. In my experience, new-to-online instructors find the “Eight Tips for Facilitating Effective Online Discussion Forums” post very helpful by providing practical tips they can apply in their online classroom immediately.

Teaching Critical ThinkingJessica Mansbach

A specific Faculty Focus article, this piece defines critical thinking and discusses strategies for how to teach it as a skill to students. The author provides some tips on how to foster critical thinking by asking certain types of questions and strategically structuring discussions. 

Estimate the Duration of Your Spoken Word Recordings – Aaron Bannasch

When creating spoken word recordings, it can be helpful to estimate the duration of your recording before you begin. Knowing the duration of your recording can help determine if you should indeed record it, what tools to use to record it, how to deliver it to students through your online course site, and alternative ways to display the content for accessible and differentiated learning experiences. While using the actual time of your recorded voice is the most accurate way to measure the duration of a recording, you can generate an estimate by multiplying the total word count of a written script by the average duration of a spoken word. There are many free tools online that allow you to copy and paste your text transcript and generate an estimate, some include controls to adjust the average words per second to account for faster or slower speaking styles. Three free tools I’ve found are: Edge Studio Words to Time CalculatorVoice Over Script Word Counter, and Read Time.

Conducting Debates in Online Discussion Forums – Dan Murphy

As an alternative to the typical discussion assignment in your online course, consider grouping students into teams and assigning them to debate a topic. The topic should be open-ended so there is no one “simple” answer, but defined well enough so students present coherent arguments based on the course materials. The “winning” team is the one that best applies the course content to the debate. An additional debate preparation discussion could be a graded assignment that gives you, as the instructor, a clearer sense of each students’ involvement/preparation for the debate. Check out these articles:

Guidelines for Describing STEM ImagesChristine Scherer

Complex images, like charts, graphs, maps, and diagrams, are a common teaching tool in many online classes. But in order to meet accessibility standards, those complex images need alternative text descriptions. The National Center for Accessible Media recognizes the challenge that describing these data-rich images can present and put together a list of guidelines for how to describe them. The guidelines include suggestions to focus on data and not visual elements, to be as clear as possible in descriptions, and to structure the description in a logical narrative.


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