Category Archives: Teaching Innovations

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.

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

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.