News (blog)

PADLA Board Members will use this blog to post news and articles of interest for the public. Members may also comment on the blog posts.
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  • 29 Sep 2012 1:36 PM | Rodney Murray (Administrator)
    After giving a five minute presentation on our latest education experiment, the first law-focused “massive open online course” (MOOC), we were fortunate to move from group to group full of thoughtful, problem solving Pennsylvania Distance Learning Association (PADLA) members and learn how we can better our platform.

    Last year the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded our company, ApprenNet LLC, the first of a series of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants for our team to develop and test an innovative way to bring online learning to life. With the funding, we created and piloted Meets. Meets are three step learning exercises that involve learning by doing, learning from peers and learning from experts. For example, a LawMeet® asks students to listen to a hypothetical client, research a solution and upload a video response acting out the role of the lawyer. After grappling with the problem, students review pairs of responses, provide feedback and then vote on a preference. Experts, i.e. the professor or practicing attorneys, then review and provide feedback to
    the top peer-rated responses and leave their own video responses. Meet participants have access to all expert feedback and demonstrations.

    We piloted Meets with more than 1,000 law and business students around the country in thirty-six classrooms. The results were quite positive. In short we learned that:

    1. Meets turn traditional push in online learning experiences, i.e. lectures, into
    engaging, pull out online learning experiences; and

    2. Meets scale a teacher’s reach by lessening the burden of having to provide one on one feedback without losing the impact of individual feedback.

    In an effort to allow more people to learn with Meets, we are offering the first law-focused MOOC this Fall. At the most recent PADLA meeting we presented our version of a MOOC and received a tremendous amount of insightful, useful feedback from PADLA members.

    By way of background, MOOCs are classes that are taught online to large numbers of students, with minimal involvement by professors. Typically, students watch short video lectures and complete assignments that are graded by machines or by other students. That way a lone professor can support a class with hundreds of thousands of participants. Our two-week MOOC involves four video lectures and four Meets. Rather than assigning individual tasks to assess someone’s knowledge, e.g. multiple-choice quizzes, we are assigning Meets. We are also including two panel discussions in our MOOC.

    We asked PADLA members whether they thought our spin on traditional MOOCs would engage students and how they would improve our MOOC format. PADLA members provided us with the following insight:

    Group 1

    Group Question: How can professors formally check for understanding through a

    Answer: At the moment professors review a handful of responses and determine
    if the class as a whole understands the objectives.

    PADLA Suggestions:
    o Incorporate multiple-choice questions at the end of a Meet that branch to
    different levels of questions depending on a student’s response.
    o Create a Check for Understanding Meet after the first Meet where students
    give short answers and discover a solution immediately.
    o Have students compare and contrast pre-populated Meet responses to
    determine if the class understands the objective of the Meet without
    having students submit their own response. 

    Question: How can we make the site more user friendly?

    PADLA Suggestion:
    o Include an avatar to help guide people through the site, e.g. Clippy from

    Group 2

    Group Question #1: How does ApprenNet manage customer feedback and

    Answer: At the moment, through help pages, user guides and email.

    PADLA Suggestions:
    o Create forums for users to talk with each other.
    o Break forums into Project Based Learning (PBL) groups and Topic Based
    Learning (TBL) groups.
    o Use our already created social media feeds as a support desk.
    o Create two buttons on our site, one for participants to discuss things about
    our MOOC with each other and one for participants to contact ApprenNet

    Group Question #2: How do we make the panel discussion a success?

    PADLA Suggestions:
    o Do not include real time questioning from the audience rather collect two
    questions from each MOOC participant in advance of the panel discussion
    and ask a sample of those questions during the MOOC.

    Group 3

    Group Question #1: How can we make the initial video lecture more engaging?

    PADLA Suggestions:
    o Keep video lectures under 12 minutes long.
    o Include transcripts of the video lectures for participants who prefer to read
    rather than listen to a lecture.

    Group Question #2: How can we increase community engagement in a Meet in
    addition to our written feedback strands?

    PADLA Suggestions:
    o Allow participants to leave video or audio feedback in addition to text

    We learned a tremendous amount from the PADLA community. Thank you. We hope to join more meetings and learn about the exciting work the PADLA community is doing in the e-learning space.

    Many thanks!

    - Karl, Paul and Emily, Co-Founders, ApprenNet LLC
  • 18 Feb 2012 7:57 AM | Louis Stricoff (Administrator)

    To all who attended our last PADLA meeting. Check out the video produced by Red C Media and our gracious hosts @ Corbett, Inc.

  • 14 Nov 2011 8:11 PM | Rodney Murray (Administrator)
    "The Matrix Revelations Challenge: Designing Highly Flexible, Modular, and Easy to Use e-Learning" presented by Kristy Macellaro, CPLP and Training Specialist for People 2.0

    Feedback from the meeting is below. I’m using much of this to plan for my organization’s 2012 goals. Thanks again for the opportunity to present and get the feedback!
    Repurpose Existing Content
    • Develop a matrix of single topics (rather than “chapters” of content)
    • Keep modules around 5 minutes long, but no more than 15 minutes
    • Try to structure based on role/function
    • Design to access info “in 2 clicks”
    • Use video only where needed. Elsewhere, use job aides or PPT or other forms of online information.
    Invest in additional Internal Resources
    • Designated Web server
    • LMS
    • Hire an Intern 
    Gather Support
    • Internal ROI evaluation to support need for above resources, focusing on time spent facilitating vs. effectiveness and scalability
    • Record user testimonials to encourage use of the online training program and resources
    • Research and report on time spent in training vs. time spent making mistakes and fixing them because user didn’t attend training
  • 20 Sep 2011 8:54 PM | Rodney Murray (Administrator)
    "Transitioning Instructional Skills from the Traditional Classroom to the Virtual Classroom" co-presented by Travis Eschenmann: Director AAA University and Instructional Design, and Michelle Wu: Director of AAA Training & Development


    • As AAA’s T&D team transitions to delivery of more virtual training programs, we have been challenged with providing our trainers with new skills needed to effectively deliver the training. 

    Ideas and Suggestions

    • Instructor Training
      • Allow instructors the opportunity to learn new skills in smaller chunks.  Start with basic webinar features and advance to the more complex (breakouts).
      • Create an online persona.  Attend acting classes, exaggerate gestures and facial expressions, or otherwise find a way to stand out in a virtual environment.
      • Create a certificate program for trainers that have mastered the art of delivering instruction in the virtual classroom.
      • Allow instructors to pair up during delivery.  Identify a strong virtual instructor and pair them up with a new virtual instructor to see best practices.
      • Google best practices for delivering in a virtual environment.  There are many articles.
      • Tie virtual delivery skills to existing training methodology (i.e. Bloom’s Taxonomy, Gagne, etc.).  This helps to draw connections to existing practices.
      • Online book: “Creating a Sense Presence in Online Teaching”.
    • Practice
      • It is critical to give instructors ample try to practice using the tools associated with the specific webinar technology that they will be implementing.  (recognize the investment in training trainers)
      • Instructors should have time to practice delivering the content in the session in front of their peers.  This provides a safe environment to collect feedback.
      • Record practice sessions so that the instructor can review themselves and self-evaluate.
      • Give instructors the opportunity to attend a virtual class and be the student to gain that perspective.
    • Instructional Design
      • Make sure that the course is well designed for a virtual environment before it is given to the instructor.  If the activities and class exercises are well defined for an online environment it will create a better opportunity for success.
      • Identify a “producer” role to assist the trainer during initial classes so that they do not have to do as much multi-tasking as they are learning the process.
      • Provide templates for the virtual classroom.
    • Change Management
      • Demonstrate how achievement of these new skills will make an instructor even more valuable to the organization and marketable in the future.
      • Gain instructor buy-in by giving them the opportunity to participate in the course development process.
      • Communicate that many physical classroom skills can easily be transferred over to the virtual classroom.
      • Make sure that virtual delivery is not perceived as punishment for instructors that have always delivered in the physical classroom.
      • Provide research that demonstrates the impact of training in a virtual environment.
      • Create a logo for virtual training to make it distinguishable from run of the mill webinars.
  • 19 Sep 2011 8:01 PM | Rodney Murray (Administrator)
    "On-Line vs Live Training: Keeping Learners Focused and Engaged in the Virtual Classroom" presented by Craig Brody, Computer Software Training Consultant

    Collected Feedback from the various meeting attendee breakout groups (their suggestions to address the challenge):

    • Include a photo or picture of myself during the virtual class to simulate a live classroom experience
    • Set expectations to the class, such as “I will be calling on you” to keep them “on their toes” and focused (set the ground rules)  Can do this directly or as one suggested, convey this indirectly to not turn them off
    • Break up the large class (typical size: 60) into smaller groups for more personal interaction
    • Set up incentives and competition for the students so they stay engaged
    • Use a webcam to show myself live to simulate a live classroom and make it more personal
    • If a large class size is unavoidable, use a support person to help handle chats and to increase the interaction with the students
    • Ask frequent questions and interact frequently (every 10 minutes) to keep them focused
    • Think about different teaching styles to employ to keep them engage
    • Set objectives as to why it’s important for students to stay attentive…what’s in it for them?  
    • Make sure they can commit  to the class so they will stay focused throughout
    • Use relevant work examples that can apply to student’s work so they see the relevance in the material and would stay focused more
    • Find out comments of past attendees (from surveys/evaluation forms) as to how they were engaged in the class and use some of their feedback in future classes
    • Ask them “if you could learn one thing in the class that’s most important to them”, find that out and teach to that so they stay attentive to learn it
    • Provide additional resources before and after class; have a video library to point them to for command details…this way you can give them more of a high level overview in a shorter timeframe so they won’t drift off if you spend a lot of time on detail they already know
    • Have remedial and advanced skill level groups divided to not slow down the group which may cause some to become distracted.  State prerequisites for class before hand so keep the skills levels in the class more uniform
    • Shorter time duration of classes/small modular approach
    • Have more breaks and polling questions built in to the class; use chat tool more
    • Share students screen during class to make it more personal and facilitate more of a “give and take” atmosphere
    • Have students assembled into the same conference room if possible to minimize distractions that may come up if they take the class at their desk or from home.
    • Use anecdotal information; simulate a live classroom by doing things like standing up to deliver the class; smile; Be yourself just like in a live setting
    • Show entertaining video to class on the consequences of not paying attention in the virtual classroom and the benefits to them of being engaged
    • Be entertaining, humorous in your own way, use “icebreakers”
    • Use webex tracking tool to find out if students are using other applications other than the ones you want them to use.  This could help determine if they are being distracted by using other non- relevant applications
    • Take an interest in them personally through knowing their names and finding out details about them before class; personalize delivery; use their names in your delivery
    • Reduce “one way” teaching;  use more collaborative techniques to facilitate “give and take” during the class
    Craig Brody
    Computer Software Trainer
    C. Brody Associates
    cell: 267-872-7410 
  • 15 Sep 2011 9:57 AM | Rodney Murray (Administrator)
    "Introducing the New PADLA Website: User Feedback and Suggestions" presented by Rod Murray Ph.D., PADLA Secretary/WebMaster and Executive Director of Academic Technology at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia

    Collected Feedback from the various meeting attendee breakout groups (their suggestions to address the challenge):
    • add separate password link for new members
    • offer job board to non-members
    • partner with job sites; post rss feed of relevant jobs to help draw in members
    • grow mailing list by offering web content (white papers) by members, where we collect contact info
    • make sure we have our URL on the LinkedIn Padla group
    • add other to industry list in the member profile
    • add title to membership list in addition to name and institution
    • add member blog (public)
    • arrange resources page better, divide into categories
    • offer reduced fees to partners
    • post training events from other organizations
    • add "ask the experts" area for members only?
    • put job 'teaser' on top page for public
    • put up an FAQ
    • adjust large text blocks to make them more readable
    • move photo higher on profile
    • create padla facebook page
    • rss feeds from industry and professional development sites
    • have rotating member profile on home pagea
    • add separate forums on various technologies (LMS, design tools, etc)
    Attendees, thank you very much for your suggestions. Now I need to get to work!


  • 26 Jul 2011 8:40 AM | Rodney Murray (Administrator)
    You don't since you have not signed in yet to our new home. Just click the link 'Forgot Password' on the upper right corner, enter your email address and you will receive an email with instructions on creating your own password.
  • 25 Mar 2011 4:13 PM | Rodney Murray (Administrator)
    Well, we finally overhauled our PADLA website. Long overdue. You may now login and renew your membership and pay for events online with your credit card.

    Members also have some added benefits. There is now a 'Members Only' section where you can see the full directory of members to make it easy to connect with your colleagues and a new Discussion Forum section with a General Discussion and a Jobs Board.

    Enjoy and let me know if you have suggestions for improving our site.

    Rod Murray
    PADLA Secretary (and Webmaster)
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