For both seasoned professionals and absolute beginners, developing and delivering an online course can sometimes be a daunting task. For some people, the amount of preparation and front-loading required can become overwhelming, and they are easily frustrated if their students, course content, activities, and objectives do not interact as they expected. Taking a mindful approach to developing and delivering a course can ease some of the anxieties and doubts that may arise. The following strategies are ways in which thoughtful and calculated design and delivery can be achieved.


Take Time to Reflect

Establishing a time to think quietly and reflect upon your course is beneficial for a number of reasons. According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the benefits of meditation is gaining a new perspective on stressful situations. Taking time for introspection can also help release creative ideas, recharge and refocus your energy, and increase your understanding of yourself and others. If you are feeling a creative block or are overwhelmed with developing your course, try some of the following strategies for reflection: find a quiet, comfortable working environment, reduce outside stimuli (like phone calls and email), keep a journal, and practice deep breathing exercises. The positive aspects of quiet thinking and reflection are especially helpful when developing online courses that are student-centered, engaging, and challenging.

Prepare Yourself

Proper preparation will help you feel confident in developing and delivering your course. Your level of preparation will be reflected in the course and will affect student perceptions of your expertise on the subject, in addition to affecting how students will value the course. Approach your course with a strategic plan for development. This includes: gathering all of the course content and organizing it before populating the online version; reaching out to the appropriate campus resources and departments to learn more about instructional methods and activities that can be used in your course; thinking of alternative scenarios that may occur so that you are prepared for the unexpected; and performing a test run of your course and its functionality before it goes live. Adequate preparation is critical to your, your course, and ultimately your students’ success.

Focus on Communication

Focusing on communication with your students in your online course will enable you to provide support, encourage learning, and resolve conflicts. In a traditional class, office hours are typically held in the instructor’s office or department. Maintain your commitment to meeting face to face with students who need support in your online class by becoming proficient in the technologies that will enable you meet virtually like Blackboard Collaborate, Skype, and Google Hangouts. Take advantage of providing video feedback to student assignments to encourage and inspire their learning; this is a feature built into Blackboard in the “Record from Webcam” feature. When resolving conflicts in your online class, be authentic and flexible. Listen to and acknowledge student concerns and wait to speak. If appropriate, incorporate first-person stories and experiences to relate to and diffuse the situation. Focused communication will result in having a high level of influence on the students in your course.

Connect Through Writing

Writing is probably the most common medium through which instructors interact with their students in an online course; however, the written word can sometimes be confusing, redundant, and impersonal. Making instructor-student, student-student, and student-content connections in your online course is essential for a successful learning environment. You can facilitate making these types of connections through writing by paying attention to your tone, highlighting the most important details, focusing on quality over quantity, and being succinct. Writing with these intentions will help prepare students for the course, deliver the essential content, and clarify any ambiguities.

Embrace Feedback

Acting upon course feedback is an excellent way to not only fine-tune your course, but also your effectiveness as an online instructor. Feedback includes student opinions, peer and professional reviews, and data reflecting student achievement. Examining feedback can help you increase your understanding of student performance, gain credibility among your students and department, build engagement in future iterations of the course, and establish favorable learning conditions. Encourage feedback by preparing open-ended questions for students to answer throughout the course. Submit your course for peer and professional reviews, such as the Quality Matters review process, which provides a national benchmark for online course design. Look for relationships between student grades, attitudes, and participation in your course activities and assessments. Embracing feedback and making appropriate changes in your course will help establish you as an authority in your field and in online learning.


Developing and delivering online courses is an ongoing process. Taking a systematic, mindful approach to the development and delivery can help you become more confident in your abilities as an online instructor, and will result in streamlined, student-focused courses.



Kahnweiler, J. (2013). Quiet influence: The introvert’s guide to making a difference. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, July 19). Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress. Retrieved October 27, 2014, from

Authentic Learning has been tossed around for many years as an activity that brings real world experience to the student through assignment. Whether it is done face-to-face or online, authentic learning should be viewed first as a method of instruction in the design phase before any activity is delivered.

Reshaping our thinking towards authentic instruction as a method starts with a good definition. This definition provided from researching articles for Authentic Learning is precise and embodies substantial evidence of its purpose. “In education, authentic learning is an instructional approach that allows students to explore, discuss, and meaningfully construct concepts and relationships in contexts that involve real-world problems and projects that are relevant to the learner (Donovan, Bransford & Pellegrino, 1999).”

In the world of online learning, it is the tools that are used that will help facilitate the authentic activity and should be included in your design phase. With the use of tools like web conferencing, wikis and discussion boards, students can be presented activities that increase engagement and gain information through exchange of various experiences. Constructing your own knowledge or constructivism is an area that is paramount, in my opinion, for quality and sustained knowledge to take place. In order to achieve a better playground for this method of instruction, you must build or design your activities with principles or standards that encourage quality, sustained knowledge and real-life solutions to real-life problems. Authors Newmann & Wehlage (1993) provide a good framework called the Five Standards of Authentic Instruction to design valid authentic learning activities. These Five Standards of Authentic Instruction include: Higher Order Thinking, Depth of Knowledge, Connectedness to the World Beyond the Classroom, Substantive Conversation and Social Support for Student Achievement (Newmann & Wehlage, 1993).

Each of the five standards have their own measure or scale of least to greatest, negative to positive, low to high, no connection to connected, non-substantive to substantive in determining the integrity of the activity as being authentic during the design phase. With the five standards one can develop authentic learning activities using each standards scale to determine what kind of activities can be formulated to provide the standards optimal results in the delivery phase. Next time, we will talk about Authentic Learning Activities, how to breakdown the standards, and identifying characteristics of authentic learning.



Donovan, S., Bransford, J., & Pellegrino. (1999). How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved from

Newman, F. M. & Wehlage, G. S. (1993). Five Standards of Authentic Instruction. Educational Leadership, Volume 50, p. 8-12. Retrieved from

UNF recently upgraded its license of Qualtrics to include Offline Surveys. Offline Surveys allow you to download surveys to an android or iOS based mobile devices and collect data without an Internet connection.The data can be uploaded to Qualtrics when the device connections to the Internet. As you can image, this feature is useful for collecting data during field surveys or in places like schools or hospitals that may have restricted WiFi connections.

Here is a short video by Qualtrics that explains The Offline Survey App.

You can download the Offline Survey app for iOS devices, including iPhones and iPads from the iTunes App Store, or for Android devices from the Google Play Store

Follow these directions to log in to your UNF Qualtrics account in the Offline Survey App

  1. Log in to your Qualtrics account
  2. Click your name on the top right of the screen and select Account Settings
  3. Open the Qualtrics IDs section and find your Organization ID and API token. If you do not yet have an API token, click Generate API Token.
  4. Copy the API token
  5. On the top right of the Qualtrics Offline Surveys app, tap the grey cog symbol to open the Settings section
  6. Double tab on the user to view hidden fields
  7. For your username use your followed by “#unf”, for example
  8. Leave the password field blank and enter the API token you found online

For more information see the Qualtrics Universty page on the Offline Surveys

Students From A Technical University Sitting In A Lecture HallThis article from Vox provides great insight on why students should stop taking notes on a computer and start taking notes by hand. Students taking notes with pen and paper are more likely to listen actively and differentiate what is and what is not important, compared to the students taking notes on a laptop who type verbatim what is being said.

Taking notes by hand involves more concentration, deciding what information is more important and should be documented, and students have better and more efficient notes to study with.

What are your thoughts on banning electronic devices from the lecture classroom? Do you think students would concentrate and retain more without them?

This edition of the newsletter includes stories about using  3D printing for visualization, gaming and role-playing as pedagogical strategies, the 2nd Annual Academic Technology Innovation Symposium, UNF’s Virtual Lab, and promoting academic integrity in online courses. You’ll also find information about Bb World 2014 and upcoming workshops, including a series on ShareStream for Blackboard.

newsletter header 09.2014

In a previous article titled A Template For Online Courses, I briefly outlined the online course template used by the ID Team at CIRT to streamline course development in Blackboard (Bb). As mentioned in that article, this course template exhibits best practices in course navigation, accessibility, and technology. The driving purpose behind the implementation of the course template is to make online courses at UNF accessible to all learners through the implementation of Universal Design of Learning (UDL) principles

The template has already been used to develop dozens of DL courses at UNF across multiple subjects areas, including Chemistry, Math, Music, History, and English, as well as fully online programs, both graduate and undergraduate. Until now, this template was not openly available to all faculty members.

The purpose of this article is to inform faculty members about the process for acquiring this template.  This article will also present some guidelines to follow when customizing the template so that the course will still meet the specific subject-matter requirements while maintaining the underlying structure and format of the template.

Read More

If you’re interested in learning more about using game and role-play strategies to boost engagement and learning, check out Anastasia Salter’s post in the Chronicle today, Games in the Classroom Reading List. Salter will be the keynote speaker at next month’s AcademicTechnology Innovation Symposium, and will discuss the potential unlocked by delving into games as a medium for student agency as designers, collaborators, and builders of shared interactive worlds.



Also, Mark Carnes, originator of the “Reacting” movement has a new book out, Minds on Fire: How Role Immersion Games Transform College . Carnes describes competition and subversive play as inherently motivating because of their ability to allow students to assume roles different from their own and challenge commonly held beliefs by exploring the complexity of critical historical issues. I’m excited about this one and my copy is on the way. More to come on the Reacting movement in our September newsletter.


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