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Everyone looks at courses from a different view. As an elearning consultant, I try to switch lenses as often as possible in order to see online courses from the following views:

  • Instructional Designer
  • Student
  • Instructor

Looking at each of these views separately, you can see how they differ.

  • Instructional designers want to create engaging courses; so, they look at the whole teaching and learning spectrum plus the user interface. They want to create an effective learning environment and meaningful experience for the instructor and the students.
  • Students want interesting and engaging courses that are easy to follow, navigate, and understand. Students with disabilities want courses that are accessible to their diverse needs and some students want courses that are responsive so that they can access course material on tablets and smart phones.
  • Instructors want courses that reflect their unique teaching styles and allow them to teach their specialized material. They also want to be able to assess their students’ work effectively.

Although these points may seem obvious, problems occur when someone becomes so focused on their own view that they temporarily lose sight of the others. Throughout my career in education, I’ve had the chance to view courses through each of these lenses and can see the value of each unique experience. I taught face-to-face and online courses for almost 15 years, designed and wrote several online courses, and completed a fully online Master of Education Technology degree. These experiences have allowed me to become immersed in each role.

Over the next few months, I will look at various aspects of online course design, taking into account each of these different views. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.


Content coming soon.

Content coming soon.

Content coming soon.

Content coming soon.

Welcome to my Educational Technology Blog. I began this blog as a reflective assignment in my master’s degree. It was a place to explore and write about how educational technology could be used in educational institutions. My research in this field has led me to an interest in virtual communities and online student services.

Two years ago, I turned my research into a reality with the creation of a Virtual Learning Commons for a local college in Ontario. I designed an online community that included writing services, learning skills, math services, peer tutoring, and English Conversation. These services include live chat, Twitter, online appointments, videos, blogs, learning modules, and discussion boards.

Today, I work at the University of Waterloo, Canada, as an Online Learning Consultant designing online courses but I still have an interest in developing and promoting online student services. As the interest in online learning continues to grow, I believe there is even more of a need to create online services to help students learn anytime, anywhere. We now have the ability to create a community where students can interact with content, experts, and each other.

I’d like to share my ideas with you and I welcome any comments or suggestions. Please read my earlier posts for a background in my project. The topics are as follows:

Next: Researching Best Practices


Social media and innovation were topics I expected to learn about at the Desire2Learn Mobilize event this week – oceans and steam engines not so much. Yet, talking took us to all of these places and my mind was filled with the awe of our changing world.


I found myself in a place of like-minded people where age didn’t matter. All that mattered was that we were talking and listening and imagining. I took 16 double-sided pages of notes over the course of 10 hours. I could have flown to England in that time and typing my notes would have been more efficient but I was compelled to stay and write. I didn’t want to miss a thing.


I had just spent 2 years studying educational technology at UBC so it wasn’t that the material was new to me. It was the conversation that inspired me. It was finding people who think like I think and finding so many of them together in one place. Passionate people inspire passion in other people. This was a place where “what if” was possible.


It’s only when we stop talking that we become stuck. We create gaps between the ages and lose sight of where we are going. I believe I was in a place filled with visionaries, people who can see connections where others see confusion – people like me. It was like our own Hogwarts School, a place where there are no boundaries, where age is invisible, and where the unimaginable is possible.


Now that I’ve found this inspirational place, I don’t want the conversation to end. I have too much to say and you have so much to teach me. So let’s keep talking!


Wordle: Let's Keep Talking

It’s important to determine where your project begins and ends. Will your community encompass the whole school or be limited to one area?

You may want to envision the larger picture but then break the project into smaller, more manageable pieces. I wanted to create online services that included all service areas of the college and then connect them to online academic communities. However, this would take a lot of time and resources. Instead, I created a three year plan that could be obtained realistically.

The first year included researching the best practices of other educational institutions and designing a virtual learning commons community. The community design included developing virtual writing, math, learning skills, tutoring, and learning skills services. I proposed creating these services over a two year period.

Although the college has many more service areas, the scope of the initial project would include only the learning commons area. At the end of the project, I would write a new proposal to create communities in other service areas including Aboriginal services, the book store, and career services.

After the first year of research, my proposal, including the scope, was well received by the college. However, we collectively decided that implementation should be changed from one year to two years. It was important to bring the students what they already expected and with technology changing rapidly, we didn’t want to be left behind.

The new plan included developing all areas of the learning commons in the first half of the year, and moving to include the other service areas during the second half of the first year. At the end of the year, I proposed creating a Virtual Community department that would allow me to expand the communities beyond implementation.

Outlining your scope is important because a project can grow quickly and without a timeline, it can appear unrealistic. Create a vision that includes the larger picture and then break it down into realistic attainable goals. Build from small successes but be flexible. Technology changes quickly and you want to meet the students where they are when they are ready.

Next: Researching Best Practices

Welcome to my virtual community reflection blog. Currently, I’m designing a virtual community for students to interact in a college environment. I’m using this blog to reflect on the process and share my experience.

So far, I have covered the following topics: Designing a Virtual Community and Conducting an Environmental Scan.

Today, I’m looking at the context of the community.

Once you have analyzed the environment around you, you need to determine how your educational institution fits into the bigger picture. What is your school doing now? Is there a gap in your services? What are your current strengths and weaknesses?

Determining Your Current Situation

Create a list of your current services and speculate how you could add value to those services using technology. For example, if you offer face-to-face writing services are you fulfilling the need at your school? Are you reaching everyone or is there a gap?

Perhaps you determine that you have students who don’t use your services because of time or travel constraints. You now have a gap you need to fill.

Online services provide students with choices and new opportunities to connect. Besides time and travel factors, many students have work and family commitments that make visiting services difficult. You can meet these students online.

Will this hurt your current services?

In a word – no. There will always be students who prefer face-to-face help and there will always be students who will never use face-to-face services. Creating a virtual community gives students choices and gives you a chance to reach a new group of students.

Once you determine how your community fits with current needs, you will need to define the scope of your project.


In order to create a community that students would use, I had to understand who my students were and what was happening in our community.

In his book “Rewired,” Dr. Larry D. Rosen explains how students from different generations use technology in different ways. Understanding this helps us create services for students who view and use technology differently. At a college, you might have students who range from tech savvy to those who are technologically challenged. The trick is to be prepared for everyone along the continuum.

Social Factors

Looking beyond the college, it helps to understand what’s happening in the various facets of society. Are older workers returning to school because of economic challenges? Are most of your students coming right from high school? Who would your online services benefit? The answer is probably all of these groups. Younger students may expect these services as an extension of their current online lives; students with families or jobs may need flexible services that allow them to access resources anytime or anywhere.

Educational Factors

Educational ministries realize that students need computer skills to succeed in many careers today. By creating online communities, you can teach students to interact with others in a professional manner. Online communities also foster problem solving and collaboration skills.

Knowing what is happening in the world around you will help you establish services that reach students effectively while taking into account the needs of your college and the society around you. If you can align your services with current needs, you’re more likely to create a sustainable virtual community.

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