What is “Chunking”? Why Does it Matter for Online Course Design?

“Chunks” might sound more like a way to describe your favourite chocolate bar than a useful learning strategy, but it actually relates to an important process in cognitive psychology. By taking complex materials and breaking them into smaller but related and well-organized elements (i.e., more “bite-sized” and “palatable”), you can design online course materials for more efficient application of your learners’ working memory, and improve the learning experience in your online class. In this post, I’ll cover a basic overview of what “chunking” is all about, and some ways we apply this strategy to online course design.

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Create a Button and Dialog Box in Canvas Pages with this HTML Trick

Have you ever wanted to include a simple knowledge check or self-check question in Canvas pages that would give you an easy way to build-in immediate feedback to the learner? One quick way to do this on your Canvas pages, with just a bit of HTML code, is to insert a button with a “popup” dialog box. This post will show you how (and give you the HTML code snippets to try it yourself!).

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Using Poll Everywhere in an Asynchronous Online Course

Poll Everywhere is a web-based polling tool now available at USask. It allows for group engagement, feedback, and interaction through live online polling, surveys, Q&As, quizzes, word clouds, and more. Poll Everywhere is also a fairly flexible tool, and can be used for teaching and learning in face-to-face synchronous, online synchronous (i.e., Zoom), and online asynchronous situations. This post will focus on providing some tips and ideas for using Poll Everywhere in your asynchronous online courses, including instructions for how to embed the activity into a Canvas page.

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Drawing and Whiteboarding Tools for Synchronous Online Teaching

During synchronous online teaching sessions, there are many reasons why you may wish to draw or sketch out an idea with students visually, or use a “digital whiteboard” tool to collaborate and organize thoughts during brainstorming or live discussions. You might want your class as a whole, or smaller groups within it, to build meaning with complex ideas by creating mind maps or other visual organizers. You might want students to share ideas, or media from around the web, on a collaborative bulletin board filled with “sticky notes” and hyperlinks. You also may just find it easier to communicate certain ideas, or guide students through a process, by drawing something out “by hand” — an approach that mimics many tried-and-true teaching approaches based on chalkboards in the classroom.

In this post, I’ll cover a number of digital whiteboard, drawing, or sketching tools that you might consider incorporating into your next synchronous teaching session.

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The Many Hats of an Instructional Designer

In 2005,  now Emeritus Professor, Richard Schwier, Educational Technology and Design, USask and Dean Emeritus at the Faculty of Extension, U of A, Katy Campbell, along with two other authors, published a literature review of What Instructional Designer’s Do.

In this post we attempt to summarize and demystify some of those findings as they relate to the work of the Instructional Designers (ID) here at the Distance Education Unit. We’ve condensed the multitude of roles that an ID performs into 4 categories:

  1. Change agency
  2. Professional Development Facilitator/Coordinator
  3. Quality Assurance
  4. Project Coordinator

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