Thursday, November 20, 2008

23 Things for Learning - Post #6

#12 thing Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a copyright license that allows us to choose to share intellectual property. By acknowledging the original authors, they have given permission for you to share.  Watch a short video on CC here:
One place for good information about what's going on with the Creative Commons is Lawrence Lessig's blog. Lawrence Lessig is one of the Creative Commons developers and a Stanford University professor."

Search Creative Commons  This search will help you find photos, music, text, books, educational material, and more that is free to share or build upon utilizing Creative Commons enabled search services at Google, Yahoo!, and Flickr. Find some content that you would like to post on your blog. Create a blog post with your find. Be sure and include the correct CC Marker on the post (the same attribution that is on the original materials.)

#13 thing Take a look at an online productivity word processing tool

One major benefit to web-based applications is that they eliminate the need to worry about different software versions or file types as you email documents or move from PC to PC. Another bonus is that they easily accommodate collaboration by allowing multiple users to edit the same file (with versioning) and provide users the ability to easily save and convert documents as multiple file types (including HTML and pdf). And, you can even use many of these tools, such as Zoho Writer and Google Docs to author and publish posts to your blog.

It’s this type of integration with other Web 2.0 tools that also makes web-based apps so appealing. For this thing, you are asked to take a look at a web-based word processing tool called Zoho Writer, create a simple document and then document your discoveries in your blog. If you are up to the challenge, you might even export your document as an HTML file or publish it through Zoho to your blog. With Zoho and web-based applications, the possibilities are endless.

Create a free account for yourself in Zoho Writer
Watch a tutorial

Video found at WeShow
Explore the site and create a test document or two.
Try out Zoho Writer’s features and create a blog post about your discoveries.
If you’re up for the challenge, try using Zoho’s publish options to post to your blog.
#14 Take a look at LibraryThing and catalog some of your favorite books.

Are you a booklover or cataloger at heart? Do you enjoy finding lost and forgotten gems on the shelf to read? Then LibraryThing may be just the tool for you. Developed for booklovers, this online tool not only allows you to easily create an online catalog of your own, it also connects you to other people who have similar libraries and reading tastes. Add a book to your catalog by just entering the title or connect with other users through your similar reading tastes. There are lots of ways to use LibraryThing. You can even view your books on a virtual shelf, add a widget to display titles that are in your catalog (see sidebar for sample), or install a LT Search box on your blog.

Students could create a LibraryThing catalog of your classroom library. This is also a great way to teach organization skills, sorting, cataloging, etc. You can have the students decide how to best organize those materials. Have your school teacher-librarian help explain why libraries catalog using the Dewey System. Create alternative systems and see how they work. This assignment can work at all grade levels; just create your lesson around the skill and ‘big idea’ level you’d like to work with. This lesson could also be used with CD titles. [In the old days, we used records for this assignment!]

Take a look around LibraryThing and create an account.
Add a least 5 books to your library.
Blog about your findings and be sure to link to your LibraryThing catalog. How popular were your books?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Managing Online Burnout: Tips #7-10

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

Below you will find some final tips for managing online burnout. Now that we are nearing the end of the semester, some of you may be already experiencing some of the symptoms I mentioned on Monday! Please feel free to add any other tips that might help faculty, staff, and administrators:

Tip #7: Take a break.

Back away from your monitor and do something that does not require use of your computer. Rest your eyes. Take a walk. File some papers. As hard as it may be, try to keep your weekends to yourself and to your family and/or friends. Otherwise, that feeling of “24/7” will begin to overwhelm you. You may also consider applying for faculty leave or taking a summer off if possible.

Tip #8: Use the resources available to help you.

More and more administrators are becoming aware of the time and effort it takes to produce a quality online course. If your plate is full, and you just never seem to find the time to concentrate on course development or skill building, talk to your Chair or Department Coordinator. He/she may be able to juggle your work load to accommodate for this request since quality course development benefits everyone involved. At the very least, work with one of our outstanding TWU instructional designers to help assist you with course development.

Tip #9: As Thoreau once wrote, “Simplify, simplify, simplify!”

Start by clarifying your job responsibilities and (if applicable) tenure requirements. Like all service-oriented professionals, we have a tendency to feel guilty about saying “no.” Because of this, we often have too much on our plate. Determining how much of those portions come from external demands and expectations and how much we put there ourselves is a critical step in reducing and eliminating burnout. In my case, I knew that I could not remain a program coordinator, teach two online classes (over 20), advise 12 doctoral and Masters students writing dissertations and theses, generate my own research and publications, run a community grant-funded program, and be a mom and a wife. My work units as junior faculty had climbed to 23! I had to pare down.

Tip #10: Don’t try to do everything at once.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by technology because it evolves at lightening speed. You may be feeling like you’re “constantly running” to stay up with the current trends. Keeping abreast of what is going on in E-learning is important, but don’t try to do more than you can handle. Often times, your students may not be ready, either. So take it one step at a time. Try incorporating a new tool once per semester (or year) and/or focus on quality of your design and instruction. Sometimes even the simplest of online courses (text-based) can be more effective than an online classroom that is “uber-tooled,” and chaotic.

To read more about conquering professional burn-out, link to some of the helpful resources below:

Understanding and Preventing Teacher Burn-out (Wood & McCarthy, 2002).

Can’t Get No Satisfaction. (Senior, 2006).

Job Burn-out: Understand the symptoms and take action. (, n.d.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More Strategies for Managing Online Burn-Out: Tips 4-6

Tip #4: Collaborate!
Form a learning community with your fellow faculty and friends (even if it’s a small group), and meet at least once a month to dialog about your experiences, best practices, and E-learning literature. TWU has an Emerging Technology learning community that you may wish to join. It’s amazing what this hour can do for your spirit! Social support is essential for burn-out prevention. Working together, across disciplines, can reduce feelings of isolation and can even lead to vita-enhancing projects.

For example, two years ago, I was asked to lead a learning community focusing on E-learning. Aside from the social aspects of the activity, five of us from the group explored asynchronous audio communication, implemented it in our online classrooms, and facilitated a study which led to a recent publication in the Journal of Learning and Teaching Online at

Increasing interaction and collaboration may sound like "more work," but it actually can help you manage and even ease the load of grading, planning, creating--and even research! As your students interact and dialog using Web 2.0 tools, you don't have to keep downloading and printing out formal assignments. You can blend the informal with the formal. As you see and hear their responses, you are better able to asses whether they are really "getting it." Collaborating with peers, across disciplines, can also stimulate creative teaching strategies, increase your social support, and even help with course development. Form a learning community with your fellow faculty and friends (even if it’s a small group), and meet at least once a month to dialogue about your experiences, best practices, and E-learning literature. It’s amazing what this hour can do for your spirit! Social support is essential for burn-out prevention. Working together, across disciplines, can reduce feelings of isolation and can even lead to vita-enhancing projects.

Tip #5: Establish boundaries but keep your social presence.
To reduce the “24/7” feeling some of us experience, inform your students of days and times that you will be available for office hours (live) either in person, online chat or by phone. Also, consider asynchronous mechanisms of communication, such as a Q&A board that you check twice a week. .

Tip #6: Include informal, non graded assignments to stimulate discussion and increase learning comprehension.
This can also reduce the amount of grading required of the instructor, but allows the students to stay connected to the content. Self quizzes, online games (speak to one of our TWU instructional designers), web tutorials (ex: breast health quiz at, online chats, wikis, online scavenger hunts, digital story telling, and blogs are just a few tools used for informal application.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Managing Online Burnout: Tips 2-3

As we continue our discussion of reducing burnout and reviving your online courseroom, consider tips 2 & 3 below. Please post your own ideas and experiences as well!

Tip #2: Try using some Web 2.0 tools!

If you want to reach a variety of learning styles, Web 2.0 technology is the way to go. There are a number of free and easy tools available at your fingertips and take less than 5 minutes to learn. While TWU provides a number of these tools through Learning Objects (included in every Blackboard online course shell), there are also number of innovative tools available on the internet. Some, by category, are listed below:

*Blogging: Try;;, and/or

*Audio/Mp3 recorders (for leaving audio messages): Find a multiple of audio recorders for your computer (free) at (or (allows you to edit your audio files)

*Vodcasts: Include digital video in your online classroom to enhance your online discussions! Search ItunesU at, Youtube (, or Discovery Streaming
( for videos to share with
your students

*Wikis: Try out or Or, try the wiki tool that is available to TWU faculty and staff through Blackboard.

*Social Networking: Are you familiar with Myspace or Facebook? Now you can establish your own “social network” that allows students from your class as well as others to stay in touch using Web 2.0 technology. For example, I have established a social network for all 3 sections of our Community Health class for students in Health Studies. All three sections are taught by 3 different instructors, but we meet on our Community Health Ning site to share video, blogs, photos, and dialog. To explore this in more detail, visit

Document Sharing
: Allows students to peer review and share documents online. Try Google docs at

Phone chats or webcasting: Try,,, or Want to try out a webcast with your students? Contact your college's instructional designer for more information.

Podcasts: There thousands of helpful, free audio podcasts available for students to download on disciplines ranging from Anthropology to Zoology. Visit iTunes U (,Podcastalley (,and/or Yahoo podcasts (

Second Life: Take your class to the "4th Dimension" of learning through virtual simulation by touring the Second Life universe at (TWU hosted a portion of the Annual Student Creative Arts and Research Symposium through this medium last year). Educators around the world are finding Second Life to be a powerful teaching tool.

Tip #3: Create a more “affective,” diverse environment.

As learning theory supports, the affective domain is just as important as the cognitive or psycho-motor. What rattles the soul can often stimulate the brain! This is true for online learning as well. Add in some “affective” type questions or assignments that allow for a range of answers and perspectives. Consider adding in some opinion-related questions, discussion topics, or field activities that allow students to share their own experiences. Avoid posing discussion questions that initiate only one possible answer. The students’ responses will grow stale if you don’t incite a diverse range of discussion topics. Students will feel less inclined and less enthused about logging in over time. This also gives the student a "voice" beyond what the textbook authors or experts in the field have to say.

To inject some “affective” interaction and rev up the discussion, try posting audio messages to the class as well as to individuals. This can be done by using a simple computer headset with microphone from Best Buy, Walmart, or Target, and your computer (or phone or voice recorder). Or, try some asynchronous and synchronous forms of group audio discussion by visiting Yack Pack ( or Voice thread (

Want more tips? Tune in tomorrow for tips 4&5!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Burn-out and Online Instruction: Ten Tips to Revive Your Online Course and Yourself

By Jody Oomen-Early, Ph.D., M.S, CHES

Feeling tired, drained and unmotivated when it comes to online instruction? The malaise you are experiencing might be a symptom of something I’ve deemed, “Online Burn-out.” This burnout can happen to any of us, no matter how many (or few) online courses we’ve taught or developed. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to remedy this condition, and hence the purpose of this blog. Over the next five days, I’ll share with you my own experience with “Online Burnout” and tips for reviving your class and yourself! I hope to also generate some discussion with all of you about your own experiences and insight.

How I "hit a wall" and bounced back

I’ve been teaching since 1991, and teaching online since 2001. E-learning has always been an incredible journey and “new frontier” for me; its invigorating and evolving—which is why I love it. I’ve always felt a certain sense of excitement when discussing E-learning philosophies, pedagogy, or instructional strategies with others, and creating active, energetic online classrooms. Applying technology to health education has offered me a unique path to walk in my field. So, it was disheartening for me to “ hit a wall” this past year when it came to my online instruction.

I don’t really know how or when it started. Things just started to feel really monotonous. I was tired. I couldn’t seem to get rid of that “always on” feeling, and I wasn’t exhibiting much enthusiasm with my online students. Pretty soon, I was “going through the motions” and not feeling much “E-motion” at all. It wasn’t long before this "virus" had spread to my students. My apathy was matched by my students’ lackluster discussion posts.

Hindsight is always 20/20, and I’ve learned that if you’re not careful, your discussion board (and your teaching performance) can slip into a coma. Without the energy and active facilitation of a motivated and engaged online instructor, a virtual classroom can become nothing more than a hitching post of vague responses posted by tired students who just want to “get it done” and log in just enough to get the assignments submitted. This was the complete opposite of the wellspring of constructivist dialogue and critical think that I had always envisioned for my online students. Hence, I began to realize I was suffering from some form of professional and online burnout and needed a remedy—for both me and my students’ sake.

Burnout is not recognized in the DSM-IV, so how do you treat it?

Unlike conditions such as depression or post traumatic stress, burnout is far less discussed. Perhaps this is because in our “achievement-oriented” society, no one wants to appear that they are giving less than their all? It’s not a condition described in the DSM-IV, so how do you treat it?

My first step toward reducing my burnout was attending the Sloan-C’s International Emerging Technologies Applications for Online Learning in Carefree, AZ. It re-lit my fire for online instruction and got me integrating some free and easy Web 2.0 tools, which really energized my online classroom and improved my dialogue and interaction with my students. It also inspired some research projects currently underway.

One of the biggest complaints about E-learning from both online instructors and students is that the online experience can seem impersonal or isolating. Over the years, I have heard from many faculty and students that online learning lacks the “affective” appeal that many face to face courses provide. I know for me, this was a factor that largely contributed to the burnout I was feeling. When I became “reconnected,” it was easy to get my students—and myself—engaged.

So what can advice can I offer you? Over the next 5 days, I’ll be offer ten tips that might help you re-energize your online classes and yourself. Please feel free to post your own ideas and experiences as well!

Tip #1: Expand your horizons

Try attending a conference, webinar, or workshop relating to E-learning. Delve into an E-learning journal or newsletter that can help you strengthen your online teaching skills, help you save time or better manage your workload, and spark ideas to apply to your own online courserooms.

E-learning Conferences, Workshops, and Webinars

While time is short for all of us, a conference on E-learning or even a simple 1-hour workshop or webcast can do wonders to spark your interest and motivation for online learning. Some of the most popular E-learning conferences include:

*Educause: One of the most preeminent associations relating to higher education and technology. Find out more about their annual conference by going to:

*The Sloan-C Annual Conference (in the Fall) and their Emerging
Technologies International Symposium (in the Spring). Find more information at

*E-learn 2009: An international conference sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Computers in Education (AACE). Learn more by visiting:

*E-learning 2009: Sponsored by the Instructional Technology Council, this annual conference includes pre-conference workshops, keynote speakers, vendors exhibiting the latest e-learning technologies and services, and nearly 60 one-hour concurrent sessions.

*3rd Annual Texas Educational Technology Research Symposium (in Austin in
Feb. 09): A venue for educational technology researchers and higher educational
professionals to share their expertise and research relating to E-learning. Find out
more at:

*12th Annual Texas Distance Learning Association Conference (Corpus Christi, April 6th-9th): Includes pre-conference workshops, keynote speakers, vendors, and break-out sessions exhibiting the latest e-learning technologies and research for educators, administrators, and instructional designers.

Out of travel funds? Try a webinar!

*The Sloan-C, USDLA, and Magna Publications sponsor online webinars(synchronous and asynchronous) relating to E-learning and instruction. Visit,, or to view a list of scheduled pod, vod, and webcasts. TWU has special rates relating to its membership with these organizations, and the Office of Lifelong Learning has offered several of these throughout the year. If you find one that interests you, email Dr. Keith Restine or Dr. Lynda Murphy to see if the presentation might be made available to TWU faculty and staff.

*TWU’s Online Teaching Symposium (TWU, Denton): The Office of Lifelong Learning and many of your fellow TWU faculty and staff facilitate this annual event (held during Faculty Development Week in the Fall) to help administrators, faculty, and staff learn more about E-learning and share best practices in the field.

Read all about it!

Keep current with the latest technologies, strategies, and
research by subscribing to one or some of the leading journals in the field or by
visiting open-source websites (such as Sloan-C) that publish on best practices.

Some popular journals relating to E-learning include:

*International Journal of E-Learning (IJEL)
*Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT)
*Online Classroom
*Academic Leader
*American Journal of Distance Education (AJDE)
*Journal of Technology and Teacher Education (JTATE)
*The Internet and Higher Education
*Journal of Interactive Learning Research
* Journal of Research on Technology in Education (JRTE)
*E-learning-It Blog (
*The Online Instructor (TWU’s blog)

It's easy to justify our reluctance to attend continuing education opportunities related to E-learning, especially when technology may not seem directly related to our personal research interests or primary professional responsibilities. Time, of course, is always our most limited resource. However, taking even 10 minutes to look over a monthly periodical or "tune in" for a desktop, lunchtime webinar could be just what we need to restock our energy stores and find a better way to create, manage, and faciliate our online classrooms. This is a vital step to overcoming "Online Burnout" and why I have positioned it as my first tip.

I look forward to sharing more with you throughout the week. Please feel free to post your own suggestions as well as add to my list of conferences, webinars, and E-learning literature.