Monthly Archives: February 2012

Educause Learning Initiative 2012 Recap – Blended Learning

I had the opportunity to attend the annual Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) conference this February in Austin, TX. I came away from the conference re-energized and excited to move forward in two different spaces:

  • Blended learning
  • Learning Analytics (more on this in a future post!)

As the Institute continues to explore our role in online and blended learning, this year’s ELI contained two fantastic sessions, one from Northwestern College and one from the University of Central Florida, on approaches to blended learning. I especially feel good about the conference take aways, things I can apply here at PSU immediately upon return. Both of these presenters provided just that.

University of Central Florida

UCF was well represented at ELI this year, with a wide variety of interesting presentations from UCF personnel. One specific presentation contained a wealth of resources designed to help faculty get started with blended learning. Kudos to UCF for making the resources all Creative Commons licensed, allowing other institutions to leverage them.

The primary resource is the Blended Learning Toolkit. It would take too long to review each section of the site, but I’d like to point out a couple very good resources.

  • Working through the BlendKit – This is a professional development course offered to UCF faculty, but it’s designed so anyone can take advantage of it. You can complete the course on your own in its entirety, or pick-and-choose elements of the course to complete for your own development.
  • Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository – This is a vast collection of resources, submitted by a wide variety of people, into a large wiki repository. The level of detail is fantastic, as each entry typically has both a synopsis and description of a pedagogical strategy, but also links to resources, examples and citations.

Northwest College
Northwest College presented on a blended learning program they implemented to help faculty take face-to-face courses, and migrate them to a blended model. I specifically enjoyed this presentation because it both applies to efforts taking place in the Institute around online learning and the presenters provided a set of fantastic resources for others to use. The entire project has a
website full of resources. A few resources that I find particularly useful:

  • Radio James – This is an online objective builder tool, allowing faculty to build objectives in an interactive format, following Bloom’s taxonomy.
  • Top Ten Tech Tools – A great list, short and articulate.
  • Workshop Documents – samples of documents the Northwest team used in their 2-week faculty workshop series to help faculty redesign their course. I particularly link the checklist.

The two primary ‘hub’ websites for both of these initiatives are flooded with resources. I highly recommend exploring the sites if you’re working with faculty, or if you are a faculty member, designing a blended or online course.

Flipped Classroom

I learned a little bit about the Flipped Classroom when I was working on the Lecture Capture Research Starter Kit. This morning when I was surfing the Web, a blog, Flipping out? What you need to know about the Flipped Classroom, written by Andrea Zellner caught my eye. After reading and browsing more articles and websites about the Flipped Classroom, I feel this is something worth trying and using in the class.

We know that too much teacher-talk is not good for students’ learning and usually make students feel bored and this is why I really like the idea of flipping the whole classroom and homework – Delivering online lectures that students can access outside of class (e.g. home) and moving homework into the classroom. Instead of giving an hours-long lecture in the classroom and making students be passive listeners and learners, the instructor interact with students more and have personalized contact time to facilitate students’ learning based on their specific needs. Because students have watched lectures outside of class at their own pace, they go to class with basic concepts and questions. Students can ask questions and/or involve in discussion to get clarification and be ready to participate in classroom activities to apply what they learned from the online lectures to cases.

Some people concern about the impact of online lectures on students’ attendance, some people think the Flipped Classroom can only be used in limited disciplines, and some people worry that students may not watch online lectures before the class. However, several studies found that the availability of online lectures did not impact on students’ attendance and many students reported that interaction with the instructor and classmates helps their learning. Also, many experienced Flipped Classroom teachers from a variety of disciplines, such as sciences, math, history, and arts, have shared their successful experiences. In addition, we need to remember that students’ learning is not only the instructor’s task, but also the students’ responsibility, so we should help students learn to take their own responsibility of learning.


For more information about Flipped Classroom, here are the article and a website:

Flipping out? What you need to know about the Flipped Classroom

The Flipped Class Network

Classroom Behavior: Is it good, or is it LEARNING?

This week I ran across a blog that introduced me to a new phrase, which I now love:  behavior for learning.  The writer differentiates between ‘good behavior’ and the types of behavior necessary for learning to occur.  His point:  when a child sits quietly and follows the teacher’s instructions, she is being ‘good’….but is she really learning?

I read the blog with a smile on my face, envisioning the four-year-olds I work with at the piano.  Their behavior is inquisitive, energetic, often loud, mostly messy.  Our piano lessons are the opposite of what I’ve been told to call ‘good’ behavior.  And yet, if the attending parent expresses concern that the child is ‘not paying attention’ or is ‘acting out’, my response is: Great! 

My overall philosophy of teaching and learning: Let’s get our hands dirty, let’s make a mess, please–anybody?–let us have an experience.  There is, after all, a difference between ‘out-of-control’ behavior and ‘engaged’ behavior, and engaged behavior is what I want.  Always.  It’s behavior for learning, and learning is my goal.

Messy energetic learning might be easy enough to envision when considering four-year-olds, but what about our college classrooms?  Is it possible to create a classroom where college student behavior expresses learning, for learning, is learning?  And if so, is it valuable to do so?

 If we answer YES, then the remaining question is: How? 

In other words: 

What is required from you, the instructor,

in order to see behavior for learning in your classroom?

[We love to think about this stuff, so let us know how we can think about it with you!  And, look for upcoming workshops regarding active learning strategies and community building…]

Changing the way we educate ourselves with online learning

Higher education is changing.  Universities and Colleges used to be the gatekeepers for information and learning but the key has seemed to slip from our fingers.  

Free education is often undervalued and almost universally unaccredited, perhaps because when evaluating education expense is often the indicator of quality. The more that something is offered for free, the less it is seen as a signal for quality.  However a simple scatter-plot comparing University ranking with tuition cost quickly shows us that the correlation between cost and quality is weak overall.

MITx is changing the face of online education and accredited learning but it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to online learning resources.  Following is a list of over 200 web resources that are publicly available, many from Higher Education institutions.  While some of these learning websites may not engage in the most rigorous online learning pedagogy neither do many Higher Education institutions.

Table of Contents:

I. Top Picks
II. Universities and Higher Education
III. General Collections 
IV. How-to & DIY
V. Studying with Peers
VI. Online Books, eBooks, & Journals
VII. Computers, Software, & Programming
VIII. Science & Math
IX. Logic, Words, & Memory
X. Languages
XI. Music (updated to v.1.2 on 1/26/12)
XII. History
XIII. Business, Economics, Finance, & Investing 
XIV. Food, Nutrition, & Cooking
XV. Survival Tips
XVI. Documentaries & Film Studies



Khan Academy

Academic Earth – Online courses from the world’s top scholars

TED – Technology, Entertainment, & Design

MIT Open CourseWare

Stanford Engineering Everywhere

Open Yale Courses

About U. – Collection of free online courses from


YouTube EDU

The Open University – Study at the OU

University of the People

University of Reddit

Open Culture – The best free cultural & educational media on the web

VideoLectures – Exchange ideas & share knowledge

CosmoLearning – Free educational website with thousands of courses & documentaries



Lecture Fox – Free university lectures

Faculty Project – The best professors from the world’s leading Universities

More Open Courses:

OCW Search – Find free university courses online

Open Courseware Consortium

Harvard Extension School – Computer Science & Technology

Johns Hopkins University

Kaplan University

Notre Dame

Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study


Utah State

Google in Education

ArsDigita University – Computer science and math lectures

UC Berkeley Webcast – Central service for online video & audio for learners around the globe

UC Berkeley Video Courses – Free education online

Capilano University

Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

Delft University of Technology

Rice University Connexions – A place to view and share educational modules

Stanford on iTunes U – Stanford-related digital audio content

UC Irvine

UC San Diego Podcasts

University of Chicago’s Mind Online – Thought-provoking samples of critical thinking & debate

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

University of Massachusetts

University of Michigan

University of Southern Queensland

University of Sydney – Podcast episodes

University of Virginia – Podcasts & webcasts

University of Washington – Computer Science & Engineering

Utah Valley University – Online courses & open educational resources

YouTube Channels:


Stanford Class Central – YouTube summaries of Stanford’s online courses

UC Berkeley

University of New South Wales


India’s NPTEL



Udemy – Take and build online courses on any subject

Free Video Lectures – 800+ Online Courses and 19,000+ Videos from Top 30+ Universities on 35+ Categories

100 Intro Open Courses on Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Learn

Annotum (formerly Google’s Knol)

IncrediCampus – Lectures and preparation/admission advice for college & graduate schools

Learners TV – Thousands of downloadable video lectures on liberal arts, science, engineering, and more

Online Education Database – 200 free online classes to learn anything

Infoplease – All the knowledge you need

MERLOT – Multimedia educational resource for learning and online teaching

Internet Archive

101 Online Self-improvement Resources

Alison – 300 free online courses at certificate or diploma level (sign-up required)

Teaching Resources:

The Orange Grove Digital Repository – Online library of openly available instructional resources for Florida’s educators – Browse teacher resources



WikiHow – The how-to manual that you can edit

How Stuff Works

Wonder How To


Make Magazine

How-to Help & Videos for Dummies

VideoJug – Get good at life

How to Create a Book in Wikipedia

Let’s Make Robots



Open Study – Study together

P2P University – Learn anything with your peers

Study Blue – Your digital backpack



Google Books

WikiBooks – Open-content textbooks collection that anyone can edit

Project Gutenberg

Planet eBook – Home of free classic literature

Open Book Project

The Free Library

Many Books – Ad-free eBooks

WorldCat – Collections & services of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide

iBiblio – The public’s library and digital archive

LibriVox – Free public domain audiobooks

The Assayer – Web’s largest catalog of books whose authors have made them available for free Free eBook Collection

Scribd – Reading and publishing evolved

Textbook Revolution – Student-run site dedicated to increasing the use of free educational materials

Directory of Open Access Journals

eReaderIQ – Recent non-public domain freebies & price-drop alerts

Longform – New and classic non-fiction articles curated across the web

Flatworld Knowledge – The first and largest publisher of free & open textbooks



W3Schools – The world’s largest web development site

Google Code University

The New Boston – Step-by-step tutorials for multiple coding languages

UDacity – CS 101

PHP Academy

Better PHP

Wired How-to Wiki – Teach a kid to program

NetTuts+ – A large collection of coding tutorials

Tutorial Guide – The site for all your tutorial needs

Codecademy – Fun & interactive way to learn how to code

Free Technology Academy – High quality educational material based on free software & open standards

Higher Computing for Everyone – Writing basic programs

HTML 5 Please

Rails for Zombies

Ruby Warrior – Open source game to teach Ruby language

Got API – Documentation search engine

Coding Bat – Online code practice in Java & Python

PySchools – Python programming language tutorial

appendTo – Learn jQuery and Javascript for free

Lynda – Online software training videos

Intro to Linux

Stack Overflow – Q&A for professional and enthusiast programmers

DZone – Fresh links for developers

Project Euler – A series of challenging mathematical & computer programming problems

Professor Messer – CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications

Photoshop & Graphics:

Tutorial Hero – Photoshop & Flash tutorials

PSD Tuts+

Photoshop Tutorials

Graphic Tutorials

Photoshop Pack Graphic Design Resources

PSD FanExtra Tutorials

Vandelay Design – Photoshop Tutorial Hall of Fame

Grokking the GIMP

Video CoPilot – Tutorials for VFx & motion graphics



Google Scholar – Stand on the shoulder of giants

Scirus – The most comprehensive scientific research tool on the web

Cite Seer X – Access scientific and scholarly knowledge

getCited – Academic database, directory, & discussion forum

National Science Digital Library – Explore, share, create

Science Magazine Podcasts

National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning – Science, Engineering, & Technology

KQED’s Quest – Explore science, nature, and environment stories from Northern California and beyond

Freelance Teacher – Videos on physics, chemistry, math, & biology

FHSST – Free high school science texts in physical sciences & math

Free Science Lectures – Free Science Videos & Lectures

Physicist TV – Collection of science & documentary videos

Educated Earth – Videos on astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth sciences, math, physics, and more

cK-12 Flexbooks

Paul’s Online Math Notes

Reddit’s List of Useful Online Math Resources

Math, Better Explained

Astronomy & Outerspace:

Space Engine – Free space simulation software

Google Sky

NASA for Students

Scale of the Universe – Interactive Flash Animation


Vassar Stats – Concepts and applications of inferential statistics

StatSoft Electronic Statistics Textbook

Connexions Collaborative Statistics

Handbook of Biological Statistics



Mind Tools – Memory improvement techniques

The Nizkor Project – List of logical fallacies

Wikipedia’s List of Logical Fallacies

Wikipedia’s List of Figures of Speech

Tool Kit for Rhetorical Analysis

KnoWord – Expand your vocabulary – Learn new words & explore language

Brain Workshop – A Dual N-Back Game

Argument Mapping Tutorials

Philosophy Bites – Podcasts of top philsophers



Basic Composition – Reading & Writing

BBC Languages – Beginner courses in multiple languages

Foreign Service Institute Language Courses

Language Guide – Foreign language vocabulary, grammar, & readings

eLanguage School – Free foreign language lessons online

Free Online Language Courses via

DuoLingo – Learn a language for free & simultaneously translate the web

Babel Nation – Learning languages online for free

Transparent Language – Language learning software & resources in over 100 languages

Survival Phrases – Learn essential travel phrases, tips, and insights

Talk to Me in Korean

Chinese Toolbox – Software for learning Chinese through reading

LiveMocha – World’s largest language learning community

American Sign Language (ASL) University

Handspeak – Sign language

Signing Savvy – Your sign language resource



Berklee Shares – Free music lessons from Berklee College of Music

Music Theory – Lessons, exercises, & tools

Ear Training & Music Theory Software

Basic Music Theory Music Education – Music theory

Teoria – Music Theory Web

Ultimate Guitar – Lessons, techniques, & styles

Justin Guitar – The best guitar instruction on the web

Chorder – Chord fingering and guitar resources

Funk University – Assembly of Music’s Finest

Play Bass Now – Lessons, licks, and low notes

How to Play Piano



Teacher Resources – Western Civilization (52 half-hour video programs)

Metropolitan Museum of Art – Timeline of Art History




Google Advisor

Google Finance

MarketWatch by WSJ

Main Street – Business & financial headlines & advice

Stanford University’s Entrepreneurship Corner

Value Based Management – Methods, models, and theories

Ludwig von Mises Institute – Austrian economics and praxeology

Foundation for Economic Education

Library of Economics and Liberty



Good Eats Fan Page

Jamie’s Home Cooking Skills

Chef Todd Mohr’s Web Cooking Classes (YouTube)

Nutrition Data – Self nutrition data; know what you eat – Smart nutrition & practical tips

Choose My Plate via USDA

The World’s Healthiest Foods

Calorie King

Start Making Choices – Simple ideas for living healthier on a budget

Eat Right Nutrition Tips



Off Grid Survival – Wilderness and urban survival skills

Backwoods Magazine – Self reliance and self sufficiency

Survival Topics – Your online survival kit

Wilderness Survival – Free info covering all aspects of survival

Discovery’s Worst-Case Scenario Video Clips



Documentary Wire

Factual TV – The documentary film video store

Documentary Heaven – Food for your brain

Surf the Channel

DocuWatch – Free streaming documentaries on Art, History, Science, and more

Documentary Tube – Watch full-length documentaries online for free

Documentary Log – Watch hundreds of the most interesting, popular, and full-length documentaries

Documentary Stream

Documentary Storm – Free streaming documentaries

Top Documentary Films – Watch free documentaries online

Movies Found Online – Free movies & documentaries

Quick Silver Screen – Movies & documentaries

MVGroup Forums – An education in P2P (sign-up required)

Film Studies:

Film Studies for Free – Web archive of notable film studies resources

Online Film and Movie Image Studies, PhD and MPhil Theses

Online Film and Media Studies Journals

List taken from:

Fostering Inclusive Excellence in the Classroom: Thoughts from Inclusive Excellence Workshop #1

This academic year, the Schreyer Institute is sponsoring a workshop series exploring the topic of Inclusive Excellence, or how college instructors can harness the power of diversity in their classrooms. The series, which first ran in the Fall 2011 semester, is being repeated this Spring. The first of the three workshops was held last week:


In the workshop, we identified the benefits and characteristics of a welcoming classroom space, and we discussed practical ways to harness the power of diversity in service of student learning.

In this blog post, I wanted to build on some of the themes, suggestions, and tips generated in the workshop, and also post some resources for further reading on the topic.

First, here’s the workshop prezi:

.prezi-player { width: 500px; } .prezi-player-links { text-align: center; }


1. Know Your Students: Inclusive Excellence is all about harnessing the differences people bring to the table in a productive way to better student learning. Getting to know your students not only alerts you to the various qualities, life experiences, struggles, and proclivities that your students possess, but also strengthens the student-teacher relationship, which is proven to improve student engagement and learning.

  • Check out the Penn State Fact Book for current data on student enrollment.
  • Spend some time getting to know the students (especially their names!). Consider having students complete a pre-course questionnaire or a brief autobiographical essay for their first homework assignment – this can give you valuable intel about why students are in your class and what they hope to gain from their experience. Ask students about their background with the material, how they learn best, or their biggest hope/greatest worry for the class. 
  • Collect feedback from your students. Student feedback is helpful at all stages of the teaching and learning process, but especially when there’s time to make adjustments as the course goes on. The Penn State Teacher II (pages 113-122) has an excellent breakdown of various informal and formal ways to collect student feedback, including Minute Papers, the Background Knowledge Probe, and mid-semester feedback.

Boucke.jpg2. Know Your Resources: Inclusive Excellence promotes “the purposeful development and use of organizational resources to enhance student learning”. At Penn State, you are not alone in your efforts to help support students and make them feel welcome, but many instructors aren’t aware of the many resources, centers, and services available. Get to know each of these resources, join their mailing lists, facebook pages, or monitor their blogs, so that you can advertise upcoming events and refer students. Here’s a list of Penn State resources related to diversity, along with a short description of what they offer and a link to their website.

3. Know Yourself: One of the biggest barriers many of us face in making our classrooms more inclusive is that we “know not what we do” – we worry that we may be inadvertently offending a student, committing a microaggression like the ones we discussed in the workshop, or perhaps ignoring an important aspect of accesibility. Indeed, research shows that even our own gender or racial identity may make us appear to be more or less accessible to students, or even affect our student evaluations. How can we get a handle on how these unknown factors could be affecting student learning?

  • Let students know that you acknowledge that your background or identity may limit you in certain ways from understanding their experience in your class, and to please bring oversights to your attention if necessary (this works best in combination with a system for collecting feedback).
  • Pay attention to course content. Diversify sources of authority to the degree possible.
  • Consider having a Schreyer Institute Consultant observe one of your classes, and give you confidential feedback as to ways you might make your classroom more inclusive.
  • Be practical. Incremental changes are okay.

ST.jpg4. Continue the Conversation: Continue attending workshops like this one! Educate yourself about issues relevant to the groups that populate your classes. Attend talks sponsored by the organizations/centers mentioned above. By nature the best teaching is inclusive teaching – making these types of incremental changes will improve your teaching for all students.

On that note, there is Campus-Wide Straight Talk Program coming up on February 29, 2012 at 6pm in the HUB Auditorium. You’re welcome to attend and feel free advertise the program to your students!

Straight Talks are panels of speakers comprised of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and ally students from a wide range of beliefs and background who educate the university community on sexual orientation, gender identity, oppression, and diversity at Penn State University.

If you have thoughts or ideas about this material, or know of other useful resources, please post them in the comments section!

I Am Worried About My Grade

The “I am worried about my grade” video has been making the rounds in higher education. The cluelessness of the student and the frustration of the instructor seem to resonate with a lot of us who teach.


I recently suggested to a colleague who loved the video that he show it at the beginning of his course as a way to set up a discussion with students about what is expected of them. I don’t know if it would be appropriate in every course, but it might be useful in some contexts. For example, when many of your students are new to college and really are not clear on what is expected of them.


What do you think? Would you use it in a course? Have you used it? What was the resulting discussion like?  

A great new nugget on classroom management

Kathy Jackson and I have been thinking a lot in the last 6 months about what it means to teach Millennial students. (See Kathy’s recent SITE blog post for some great resources.) In a recent workshop with faculty from across the Penn State system, we were engaged in a conversation about establishing a healthy learning environment, given Millennial students’ attributes and preferences. One of the attending faculty members raised his hand and very casually said, “I figure out what doesn’t bother me, then I give it away.”

Come again, I thought.

He said, “I figure out what doesn’t bother me, then I give it away.” What he meant (and we were all eager for him to elaborate) is that he thinks about all the things that students prefer in class…Cell phones, texting, computer access, food, whatever. You name it. Some of those things bother him, and some of them don’t. He insists on the things that really matter to him. For example, there may be NO phone calls during class. But he also figures out what he doesn’t really care about; that is what doesn’t really interfere with his teaching or drive him personally crazy. Then he gives it away. He literally tells students that it’s fine. For example, texting. By openly allowing students to engage in some of the behaviors they’d like to be able to engage in (and ones that don’t interfere with learning in a particular class), students feel empowered and are more likely to abide by the mandates that do matter. It’s a great concept!