Transformation via Online Learning

Using the Information Society’s Most Powerful Tool to Better Ourselves


The Insurmountable Check List is Finally Fully Checked Off!

I am a bit burned out from finalizing my course in Moodle. I wanted to post a meaningful final reflection but will have to do that next week after I have a few days away from modules and activities!

In the previous post for Module 6, I discussed what I learned and how I knew I had learned it. For the official final post for this course, I want to answer the five other questions the professor posed as reflection prompts:

What helped your learning?

The Professor provided formative feedback and assessments that guided my learning effectively and had a great impact on my learning outcomes. The richness of the feedback was augmented by audio/ video delivery (Morrison, 2014). I also gleaned much from my peers’ feedback via discussions and peer review. It was also helpful to be able to contextualize the online course design practices with the real-world needs expressed in the videos A Vision of Students Today and The Machine is (changing) Us.

What would have helped your learning more?

The ability to discuss the course design process with classmates without the constraints of academic discussion participation. I lamented not being able to ask classmates about specific aspects of their pedagogy and course design. The discussions were illuminating but often more about theory than practice.

What hindered your learning?

The demands of the course as far as learning to work in the Moodle LMS while creating the course and meeting the requirements of other course activities.

What got in the way of your learning?

Time. There just was not enough time to explore and develop concepts and practices as much as I would have liked. Life gets in the way of learning sometimes.

How did you feel?

Challenged and overwhelmed. There were times when I did not think I would be able to complete the course. It just seemed like an insurmountable task.

And, how do you feel now?

Satisfied. I am thrilled that I persevered and was able to complete the course. My Moodle course is far from stellar but I am pretty happy with the results of my maiden voyage.

This course taught me that demanding projects require careful planning and attention to detail. Often what we deem insurmountable is just something we have not prepared for properly.


Morrison, D. (2014, February 28). Best methods and tools for online educators to give students helpful and meaningful feedback. Online Learning Insights. Retrieved from

Wesch, M. (2007, October 12). A vision of students today. YouTube. Retrieved from

Wesch, M. (2009, July 15). The machine is (changing) us: YouTube and the politics of authenticity. Presented at the 2009 Personal Democracy Forum. Retrieved from



Learning the Need for “Being There” in the Online Classroom

What have you learned? I often ask myself this question as courses culminate. In this instance, I know that I have learned that social presence and teaching presences are as important as cognitive presence. More to the point, I learned that as an online student my reluctance to focus on the social aspects of the online classroom may have inhibited community building. As I strive for best practices as online instructor, I need to remain cognizant of the need to continuously project the sense of “being there” (Boettcher, 2007).

This is especially significant considering that my target student population is novice online learners. Research indicates that this heterogeneous group is highly susceptible to attrition due to feelings of isolation and frustration (Tyler-Smith, 2006). It is important to provide these students with very visible social and teaching presences.

However, I did not want the tone of the course to appear unprofessional. I realized that I needed to let my natural enthusiasm and warmth shine through to engage and motivate learners. I was struggling with how to accomplish this in my Moodle Course without being cheesy or overwhelming. I went back and forth trying ways to augment my “being there” right from the start (Boettcher, 2007).

I created a Voki animated recording and placed it on the course home page. I thought this would be an interesting way to engage students visually and aurally. I also titled the section with the word “Hello!” I included two ice breaker discussions, in which I was the first participant. I also included personal information that provided a bit of context on who I am and why I am facilitating the course.

I thought this was a good way to start but was not certain that it would be effective. However, my three peer reviewers all felt the intentional social presence and appreciated the Voki, images and introductory messages. I have clearly started to overcome my reluctance to revealing myself personally in the online classroom. The enthusiastic response to these efforts convinced me that the positive perception of the instructor’s presence is critical for creating a cohesive online learning community.

My blog posts this semester chronicle the evolution of my conceptual teaching practices. Originally, I was focused on the cognitive aspects and felt that diverting attention away from “learning” would be counterproductive. As I started to think about all learning being social, I concluded that my course design should be based on the creation of an active online learning community. Of course, the key to this revolves around my “being there” (Boettcher, 2007).


Boettcher, J. (2007, October 6).  eCoaching Tip 51: A garden of three presences — social presence, teaching presence and cognitive presence. Designing for Learning. Retrieved from

Tyler-Smith, K. (2006). Early attrition among first time eLearners: A review of factors that contribute to drop-out, withdrawal and non-completion rates of adult learners undertaking eLearning programmes. Journal of Online learning and Teaching2(2), 73-85. Retrieved from



Cultivating The Garden of Three Presences

Good news, I was able to get the bulk of my online course completed. Some of the delay was caused by the evolution of my content and learning activities. My course design was changing as I discovered new ways to cultivate thegarden of three presences — social presence, teaching presence and cognitive presence” (Boettcher, 2007).

Initially, I was focused on curating the right blend of instructional content. The introductory course requires much information to be delivered. Yet, I did not want to use a static textbook to teach students about online learning. I searched for and evaluated hundreds of pages of content before choosing those included in the course. I wondered if I was wasting time doing this. Then I realized that my course looked different than those that rely solely on a text. There was a multitude of web pages, videos, presentations and notes from varied sources. My efforts were a clear indication of my commitment to the course and should serve to augment my teaching presence (Shea, Li, & Pickett, 2006).

I was also concerned with increasing opportunities for social presence. I added several communal communication spaces. Additionally, I purposely used a conversational tone throughout the course. Yet, I still felt that the course was lacking something. So, I added a Voki audio welcome and added personal info to my introduction. I need to continue to find ways to convey my natural enthusiasm, so that it can help in the cultivation of my three presences.


Boettcher, J. (2007, October 6).  eCoaching Tip 51: A garden of three presences — social presence, teaching presence and cognitive presence. Designing for Learning. Retrieved from

Shea, P., Li, C. & Pickett, A., (2006). A Study of Teaching Presence and Student Sense of Learning Community in fully Online and Web-enhanced College Courses.  Internet and Higher Education, 9 (3), 175-190. Retrieved from



Behind But Focused On The Finish Line …

I realize that I should have heeded the information I was compiling for my lesson on time management. This course was even more demanding than I originally anticipated and I was also distracted by personal matters. Time slipped away and I mistakenly thought we had until August 15 to complete our courses, when in actuality it is August 5. Yikes! Oh well, I suppose that if I had populated my Outlook calendar with course due dates, I would have avoided this mistake. In any event, the Course Checklist was a godsend. It is helping me focus on what really needs to get done. I need to steer my energies towards finalizing the content and activities. I have spent far too much time searching for optimal resources. Because I am not using a text book, the burden of curating the instructional content fell on me. In addition, I have never taught this course and I am designing the modules from the ground up.

However, the templates and exemplary courses provided have provided a wealth of information for me draw upon. In addition, it has been very interesting to process my own metamorphosis as an online student/ instructor while building an online course. I have really come to understand the importance of social and teaching presences in the online classroom. My prior focus was on cognitive presence. Yet, the courses from which I gleaned the most were those with strong teaching and social presences. Therefore, I needed to adjust my course design to reflect their importance.

I still have a lot of work to do and may have to adjust some aspects of the course but I am committed to giving it my best shot. Here’s to making it happen by next Tuesday, August 5!



Learning To Be An Online Community Builder

This week I have had to come to terms with the conflation of my roles as student and instructor. I believe that my experience as a student greatly informs my instructional design but also limits it. I need to see beyond the online classrooms I have attended. My instructional materials have to continuously include tools and techniques with which I am unfamiliar. This is the only way to strive for best practices. Read More


Creative Expressions of Online Learning and Importance of Feedback

As I developed the learning activities for my course, I was focused on content and performance. After reviewing the feedback for myself and peers, I realized that I was not optimizing the delivery of content and process, more specifically those aspects related to teaching presence. Some of the items that were suggested to augment teaching presence such as timelines and articulation of questions were already planned as part of the course’s next iteration. However, I had not been focusing on the need for choices for students to demonstrate their learning in more creative fashions. I have been thinking about Professor Pickett’s podcast comments regarding providing opportunities for the creation of a video or collage. I love this idea and want to incorporate this into the final project. Perhaps instead of asking for blog enhancement, I will allow students to choose from several digital objects to create their knowledge artifact. However, I am concerned that this may overwhelm the novice online learners and will have to be careful how I do this. Read More


Informal and Formal Learning Merge in cloud-based Personal Learning Environments

This week I had quite a revelation. I found that studies show that social networking sites can serve to bolster both formal and informal learning (Dabbagh & Kitsanta, 2012). I encountered the concepts of Personal Learning Environments (PLE) and Personal Knowledge Management (PKM). Dabbagh and Kitsanta (2012) describe cloud-based PLE’s where learners collect and share resources while individually and collectively constructing knowledge. They also found that PLE’s encourage self-regulated learning by enabling students to select the tools and resources used to handle their learning content. These Web 2.0 tools facilitate a student-centered pedagogical approach where learners can individualize their PLE. Read More


Fear of mingling public social networking sites with structured asynchronous learning networks

OK, I admit that I am not a fan of much of the content posted on ubiquitous social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These sites invite spontaneity and anonymity, which unfortunately often lead to comments and images that may have been better left private. This is true of all sites that permit comments and file sharing, but the aforementioned social networking sites make blunders and gaffes visible to followers instantly. Read More


Online learning is about reading and writing and making every activity social as well as cognitive

I had an epiphany this week. When I think of being an online student, I recall the many hours dedicated to completing courses. The course work always seemed more labor intensive than that of the traditional classroom. Then I heard Professor Pelz’s interview with Professor Pickett regarding his SLN Exemplar Online Course and it all made sense. He mentioned that writing is a more time consuming cognitive task than speaking and the online classroom’s demand for written interactions requires more mental engagement. Being a talkative gal, I realized that the online realm forces me to stop and think before blurting something out. My classroom communications are more deliberate and thoughtful. This has worked out well for me, because it has helped me develop a communication style grounded in reason and fact.  Nevertheless, I think that any student venturing into an online higher education course should be warned that their writing skills will be called upon constantly.  Read More


I Need to Regroup, Reflect and Revise

OK, I thought I was an experienced online student but my previous courses did not prepare me for this adventure! I LOVE the amount of formative feedback but I am having some difficulty processing it, while managing the course deliverables.  I am beginning to realize that this course will require more time than I initially anticipated. Read More

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