All posts by mentor

Organized Course Building

Course Buildind Directory StructureHow do I build courses?

I create outlines with a text editor. I like TextPad. (Notepad ++ also works .)

I create content folders, process folders, resource folders and archive folders.

(I use a boilerplate system, and drag a set of pre-named folders into the workspace.)

I use a numbering system.

I number file folders of course content…

• 00-xyz-00
• 01-xyz-01
• 02-xyz-02
• 03-xyz-03
• 04-xyz-04
• etc.

I use a lower-case naming system for process and tools folders.

I use a zzz-xyz naming prefix for Archive folders. (Templates from re-used content go into the Archives, once repurposed and editid.)

I transfer the presentation outline to an Open Source Learning Management System (Canvas)…by creating Modules for each topic.

And I create content with HTML – Dreamweaver.

Dreamweaver makes connecting links (associations easy).

I create mind maps, and place program-formatted maps in a “mind-maps” directory, and Mind Map Images in a “mind-maps” folder withi the images folder.

I also number images, Mind Maps, Wireframes, Banners and other graphic content with the associated content folder.

Sub-item Content gets numbered as…

• 00-xyz-00
• 00-xyz-00-01
• 00-xyz-00-02
• 00-xyz-00-03
• 00-xyz-00-04

• 01-xyz-01
• 01-xyz-01-01
• 01-xyz-01-02
• 01-xyz-01-03
• 01-xyz-01-04


If I need to re-order, I use “Global Search and Replace” software [WildEdit, or Dreamweaver]. (Copy to another directory, rename all, and copy back.)

I prefer organization to stress and confusion.

The up-front set-up work infestment pays off in time saved in searching for content.

Amazon’s K-12 Open Teaching Platform

An article to read…

Amazon Education to Launch New Website for Open Education Resources

A positive move for Pre-K to 12 school districts, but course developers building a business need to think beyond the “Big Commercial Box.”

Teachers need assessment of materials to connect to measured student outcomes, rather than Amazon’s Review System. The current “Review” process falls easy prey to “Gaming the System.”

Connecting to the Kindle Publishing Platform needs retooling because teachers need to print content. Until Kindle enables content printing, the platform remains crippled for K-12 education.

The article notes that teachers spend a dozen hours a week preparing and sharing materials. This won’t change with the system Amazon proposes.

My research shows that teachers save time by creating their own instructional materials…if they know how to use free tools.

Classroom Toolkit

In addition, systems invented by business folks fail to fathom how individual student’s learning styles factor into teaching and learning.

Take-away for course developers? Get out of the “Video Only” course rut and prepare for an educational future when video content “Won’t Cut it.”

Plan now and position courses for future customers…customers savvy about measuring results from teaching and learning.

Marketing vs. Teaching and Educating

Marketers want to produce courses and a lucrative revenue stream.

Teachers and educators want to ensure that students learn,  apply and achieve measurable learning outcomes.

Issues  develop when marketers view course development as a revenue stream, and students view courses as education.

Marketers produce consumable content and share expertise.

Educators lead students to success…accepting accountability for students’ outcomes…and holding students accountable for Application and Performance (AnP).

Marketers, teachers and educators offer different Specific Learning Outcomes (SLOs) for course curricula.

Marketers offer:

  • Students will get…

Teachers offer:

  • Students will know…
  • Students will be able to do…

Educators offer:

  • Students will learn…
  • Students will think and do…
  • Students will apply…
  • Students will assess and evaluate
  • Students will achieve, integrate and master

Four ways to Improve your Online Course

Considering an Online Learning Platform: Ask the Right Questions

The Right Questions

When comparing Online Learning Plaftorms, ask the right questions:

• What instructional experiences deliver superior student learning outcomes for my niche?

• What student outcome measures translate into benefits that sell students on my courses, turn students into raving fans, and drive students to promote my courses for me?

• What Learning Management System integrations connect to the Up Sells, Down Sells, Cross Sells, Continuity Programs and Product and Service Sales that form the core of my business?

• How does the platform stack up to trends that show a move away from traditional course delivery?

• How scalable is the platform?

• What is the Service Level Agreement?

• What size is the Platform Development Team?

• How accessible and well documented is the platform for hiring my own developers and designing my own customizations?

• How much development can I outsource?

• Etc.

Avoid Focusing on Feature Sets

The problem with the question you asked is that the question presupposes that the feature sets of either of the two options match your students’ learning needs.

For example, individual feedback on student-submitted projects, student collaboration on assignments, student posting of successes on a forum or the ability to drip feed content when students achieve specific competency levels may be requirements for your courses.

Or, you may offer courses in a niche where PDF-image and screen-capture tutorials make more sense than video.

Think first about the ideal ways that your students master and achieve, and use those learning preferences to develop your requirements.

What to Ask

This is the way you should ask…

Here are the requirements I need to deliver a superior learning experience to my students.

• Measurable student outcome #1

• Measurable student outcome #2

• Measurable student outcome #3

• Etc.

1.) How many of these does the platform deliver now?

2.) What is the “Guaranteed Timeline” for bringing the other required components online (Beware promised feature sets without specific financial compensation for missed timelines)?

3.) How seamlessly does the platform integrate missing requirements compared to other platforms?

4.) What completive options deliver a better total student learning experience?

Why Comparing Feature Sets is Short Sighted

The difficulty of comparing platforms without specifying outcomes leads to solutions based upon features. What you need to know are benefits and costs…including opportunity costs…that lead to measurable student outcomes.

You also must evaluate long-term viability based upon where an industry is heading, rather than building based upon a “Looking-Backwards” analysis of what has been done.

For example, a lot of current courses focus on selling static videos and those platforms promote limited student-to-instructor and student-to-student interaction.

Other models deliver indefinite course access for a one-time payment when continuity programs for a specific duration make more economic sense.

Other considerations: How proprietary are platform components, and how easy will it be to port course content to another platform?

Due Diligence Required

You must perform your own due diligence and evaluate solutions; but make those comparisons on your students’ requirements, rather than on platform feature sets.

MOOC Video Effectiveness Study: A Review

A large scale evaluation of video delivery practices tells part of the story…

Read the entire study…


“…Videos are central to the student learning experience in the current generation of MOOCs…”

Short comments (A full review would require a book)…

• Videos are central to the passive learning experience of MOOCs because the numbers of students exceed the capacity of professors to deliver the attention that students deserve

• Engagement as measured by time on task is a “Self-Fulfilling Measure.” More time is spent on watching video because videos are more time consuming”

• The research explains more about online learning remaining in “Lock Step” with traditional learning than the capacities of online learning

• The term “Learning Experience” seems ill-defined. Specific, targeted, measurable student outcomes would add power, relevancy and confidence to the conclusions of the study

“…video producers currently base their production decisions on anecdotes, folk wisdom, and best practices…”

• The correct measures for independent online course developers include 1.) Conversion Rates, 2.) Enrollment Numbers, 3.) Income Figures from Enrollments, Up Sells, Cross Sells, Membership Retention, Affiliate Sales of Support Products and Services

“…people eventually develop creative ways to take full advantage of the new medium….”

• The Learning Management Systems (LMSs) remain in a state of infancy, and will not evolve until income stagnates

• Piecing together existing components remains daunting for the Technology Challenged, but components parts exist as free and low-cost, Open Source solutions

• A comprehensive model of online learning needs to identify patterns where online learning out delivers all other learning modalities, and focus on measuring these outcomes


Study authors fail to recognize that the reasons that video predominated in MOOCs remains incongruent with the value of video in guaranteeing Application and Performance (AnP) learning outcomes.

Video instruction remains the weak link in online learning, mimicking traditional, low-outcome, Industrial Age Model, “Sage on the Stage,” “Talk is Cheap” idea delivery.

Expect video content delivery to predominate until definitive research shows that video represents as “Weak a Link” in online instruction as classroom lectures.

Visit the Texas Canvas Users’ Group Presentation for ideas and a case study of the capacities of online learning…

=> Online Teaching Tools, Tactics and Techniques: Strengthening, Stretching and Supercharging your LMS

Top-Down Course Project Planning: Specific Learning Objectives

Tying objectives to modules, topics, activities and discussions…after the fact…represents “Bottom-up” course design.

What you  need to implement to save time and increase success measures is “Top-down” course design. Such a strategy would…

  • Ensure that students’ learning experiences relate to Specific Objectives
  • Ensure that all Specific Objectives receive priority and focus during the semester
  • Require you to connect learning activities to objectives before assignments could be published
  • Require you to assess individual students’ progress towards mastery of each objective
  • Flag for attention and prompt teaching and learning changes in your course delivery when student performance lags

Top-down planning matches professional project management “Best Practices.” Think of each course as a “Project.”

Top-down planning also separates Specific Learning Objectives from grades…and requires “Evidence-Based” performance standards.

Build every course from a Specific Learning Objectives framework, and filter every lecture, assignment and activity to ensure a direct connection to course SLOs.

Allow Students to Choose Personally Relevant Homework Assignments

One Assignment List fits None

A personalized, tailor-made curriculum is where online learning is headed.

The Learning Management System (LMS) that is first to market a viable solution will score big.

But, requiring an instructor to develop content tracks for 30 to 150 plus students a semester will never happen.

The Learning Management System (LMS) must provide a path for students to self-develop and tailor their own learning.


An example

Our case study, online Elementary College Spanish courses, use an eBook and online service, iLRN Quia.

Student activities include work related to the eBook textbook, and to the Electronic Student Activities Manual (eSAM).

But students come to Elementary College Spanish with divergent backgrounds…

  • Heritage speakers – fluent in an American dialect
  • Students fluent in “Spanglish”
  • Students who attended, maybe mastered, High School Spanish
  • Students from Latino households who understand some of the language, but don’t speak Spanish
  • Students who know little or no Spanish

Why should students in each category complete the same assignments?

There are more activities than any student, even a student rated at the Advanced Plus Proficiency could complete. (Of course, there would be no need for an Advanced-Plus level student to complete any of these activities.)

What the savvy instructor does is select activities to be graded as homework. But, the student is free to pick activities from the list.

Grading Algorithm

Grading relies on an algorithm…

Students receive scores for two sections of the homework…

  1.  The eBook activities
  2. The eSAM activities

Students may also complete other activities, but these remain upgraded.

Scoring the Homework…

The iLRN Quia system corrects the homework.

Students receive points based upon the percentage of homework they complete from the eBook section and the eSAM sections of each chapter.

Students target achieving a combined score of 150 points out of the 200 points possible…from any combination of the two sections. Any scores lower than 150 points are prorated.

This allows students the flexibility of picking the homework assignments that suits them.

A locked spreadsheet allows students to plug in their textbook activities score and their eSAM homework activities score to see the homework grade that they earn.

This way, students avoid the tedium of completing assignments if they do not need practice with a specific topic.

Allowing students to self-select homework activities from a Homework Activities Pool…providing self-correcting assignments…and providing a self-serve grade calculator delivers homework flexibility that students tailor to their needs.


Document Automation

Global Editors

Find and Replace

Wild Edit

File Renaming

Bulk Rename Utility

Macro Program


Easy Macro Recorder

Document Assembly

Smooth Docs

Content Management Systems





BBPress / BuddyPress – (Runs under WordPress)


Simple Press

Simple Machines Forum


Mail Chimp

QR Code™ Creator

QR Code™ Generator

Note: The name, QR Code™, is a registered trademark of DENSO WAVE INCORPORATED.

Format, Convention and Style Guide Structure

1. Planning Process

  • Project Phases
  • Folder and File Structure
  • Naming Conventions

2. Ease of Access

  • Navigation
  • Internal Linking
  • Named Anchors

3. Content

  • Consistent Organization
  • Structure
  • Outlines
  • Swipe Files
  • Templates
  • Boilerplates

4. Design

  • Navigation
  • Interface design
  • Information design

5. Course Structure

  • Semantic Content Markup
  • Site File Structure
  • Search Engine Optimization

6. Support Structure

7. Page Structure

  • Site Design in Context
  • Page Structure and Site Design
  • Page Templates

8. Page Design

  • Document Design
  • Visual Design
  • Page Frameworks
  • Page Width and Line Length
  • Design Grids for Web Pages

9. Fonts and Typography

  • Characteristics of Type Styles – Web vs. Print
  • Legibility
  • Typefaces
  • Emphasis
  • Display Typography with Graphics

10. Writing Style

  • Structuring Prose
  • Online style
  • Outline Style
  • Test Formatting – Web and Print

11. Forms and Application Fill Outs

  • Technologies that Support User Interaction
  • Web and Mobile Apps

12. Graphics

  • Graphic File Formats
  • Standard Banner and Image Sizes
  • Compression of Web Graphics
  • Photo and Imaging Strategies
  • Screen Images and Thumbnails
  • Interlacing
  • Graphic Markup, Titles, Captions

13. Multimedia

  • Multimedia Strategies
  • Audio and Video Formats
  • Audio and Video Compression
  • Audio and Video Storage and Distribution

14. Course Support Content

  • eBooks
  • Static Sites
  • Live Content
  • Automated Content
  • “Web 2.0 Plus” Properties
  • Linking Strategies
  • Assessment Conventions

Software so Useful that You may Wish to Purchase


Encrypted Login and Password fill in…

Link to Siber Systems RoboForm


Free form note and idea collecting software…

Link to Literature and Late’s Scrapple


Outline, edit, story board, write…

Link to Literature & Latte’s Scrivener


Image and Screen capture. Super easy…

Link to Techsmith’s Snagit


Internet research capture program…

Link to Soft As It Gets Pty Ltd’s Surfulater


Document capture and search program…

Link to Kinook’s UltraRecall

Content Transformer

Document Re-Use and Re-Purpose Software

Content Tranformer – Affiliate Promotion

Visual Thesaurus

Mind Map – Concept Map of Vocabulary and related words…

English and Spanish

Link to the ThinkMap’s Visual Thesaurus