iAny awesome eLearning examples for traditional academc courses?

Feb 20, 2011

So many of the inspiring eLearning examples I've seen are for corporate trainings or for short, focused messages like Mike Enders' excellent "Psyched in 10."

I wondered if there were some particularly inspiring eLearning examples for traditional academic courses, and if so, if folks here might be willing to point me to them.

I am constantly thinking about how best to adapt eLearning principles like thematic continuity and storytelling into a semester-long course covering a broad range of material.  I'd welcome any thoughts, musings, or inspirations. 

24 Replies
Patricio Bustamante M

Hi Randy :
I love the the idea about storytelling using some animation.

Some months ago, I made a video where I try explain what a Personal Learning Environment is, and there's e a lot of peoplo who like it.

May be you can use a story or conversartion to explain something more academic.

Here you can see the video that I made about Personal Learning Environment :

Video on Youtube : ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9zSd5Gs6Mw )

And here you can see an example where you can use a similar video on Articulate :

( http://www.e-sinergy.cl/wp-content/uploads/articulate/quiz_video/player.html )

Grettings and I hope that works for some of your content.

Randy Borum

@Patricio:  Very creative!  I have thought quite a bit about how to incorporate animation into my courses.  Like you, I like the idea of it very much.  I have not yet been able to find a tool/program that allows me a suitable platform - and that my feeble brain can learn in a reasonable amount of time.     I have not yet given up.  I will take a look at xtranormal.  And Thank You for the inspiration, and shoeing how you incorporated it within Articulate.

Randy Borum

David Anderson said:

ASU's W.P. Carey school is doing some great using e-learning to support their in-class program. I like how they vary the pacing with text screens, image-only, video profiles and interviews.

 Thanks for this pointer, David.  I agree that the varied pacing seems to work well here.  It just seemed to have more of a narrated PPT slide show feel.  But maybe this is more the norm in academic eLearning?

Mark Schwartz

You've mentioned Mike Enders great work but I wanted to provide a link for those who haven't seen what he is doing to apply elearning to his college psychology courses:  http://www.articulate.com/community/showcase/?page_id=203  He develops very engaging courses.

Also check out Janet Hurn at Miami University who leverages elearning to create a very effective blended experience.  Classroom time is now spent more for application and lab exercises to enforce the theory that is taught using elearning: 


Many at the University of Leeds are using elearning very effectively:  http://www.leeds.ac.uk/articulate/uol_examples.html

Dr. Brian McFarlin has published a study that demonstrates a quantitative improvement in performance using e-learning at the University of  Houston.  After all, results matter:  http://www.articulate.com/blog/use-articulate-get-better-grades/

Jefferson County Public Schools (Kentucky) proves elearning success in the primary school environment:


Of course, it's not merely the quality of courses that matter.  Where elearning has been most successful in academic environments, faculty and staff have developed an overall strategy and approach to how elearning will contribute to the overall educational experience.  Student buy-in doesn't hurt either.

David Anderson

Randy Borum said:

 Thanks for this pointer, David.  I agree that the varied pacing seems to work well here.  It just seemed to have more of a narrated PPT slide show feel.  But maybe this is more the norm in academic eLearning?

I can't say if it's the norm, but in WP Carey school's case, they're using elearning to supplement the in-class activities and lectures. To your point, yes, it's more of a presentation format without any practice activities. 

Steve Flowers

Randy Borum said:

I am constantly thinking about how best to adapt eLearning principles like thematic continuity and storytelling into a semester-long course covering a broad range of material.  I'd welcome any thoughts, musings, or inspirations. 

The really cool thing about the academic environment, in my opinion, are the elements at the core of each program. I place these in two categories:

  • Facilitation 
  • Artifacts

The core facilitator of each academic course is the instructor. The secondary facilitators are the students themselves. Whenever I take an online course through university I expect most  of my experience to be influenced by the facilitation resources. We don't get to see this as much in the non-academic space. So we rely on the self-directed experience to drive the solution.

One of the core artifacts in an academic course is the textbook. There are often other peripheral artifacts (videos, tutorials, articles) as well as artifacts established by the primary and secondary facilitation elements within the course.

My point... I think any self-directed element needs to leverage or spring-board off of these two resource categories. Framing it this way, there are some really neat ways to approach continuity and engagement within an overarching continuum.  Leveraging real world activities will tend to lend more authenticity and a richer experience. For example:

  • A short video at the beginning of the course establishes some tension and lays out some potential conflicts that the students will help to resolve. This could be "someone to save" or just someone that needs help "inventing".
  • Each student is assigned a toolkit which may consist of more abstract things like design or problem solving lenses (for each problem presented we want you to look at the problem, theory, or proposed solution with lens X and lens Y) 
  • A "Dig Board" is established with a set of prime, major, or minor quest discoveries. A student may pick one of these Digs as part of an assignment. They post their discovery to the board when they have uncovered the artifact for all to see. They describe their findings and the other students examine these findings with their lens tools.
  • As artifacts are uncovered the student's name is listed on a "wall of fame" indicating the achievement.
  • When a preset number of artifacts have been discovered, a new video is released further propelling the arc (or creating a new cliffhanger). A few short videos could be setup to create a sense of volition - to drive students to engage in discovery and cogeneration of clarity. Making a small use of plot mechanisms will prevent this from being the centerpiece of the course (detracting from the real focus) and will help to minimize the effort to produce (though it will still take plenty of effort to plan).
  • The activities themselves create the fun. The story just adds a little bit of fictional icing to suspend the sense of doldrums.

The media pieces / interactions are brief and are a small part of the "experience propulsion system". The rest is all organics and leveraging the human interactions and concept artifacts (textbook, etc..) That's what I have in my head anyway

Steve Flowers

Here's an example to illustrate what I mean by lenses above. These are specific to design. I've seen a few that are narrower and more general to problem solving and discovery (will post when I find them in my archive).


And another from Dan Lockton: 


If I were building a "discovery toolkit" I'd probably leverage an existing set of lenses to create a new focused set depending on the inquisition path of the problem set or concepts at hand. A toolkit assignment could be a neat way to encourage learners to look at problems and concepts from multiple perspectives.

Randy Borum

@ Steve:  Facilitation and Artifacts - These are useful anchors.  Thank  you.  The lens idea is conceptually quite intriguing.  I enjoy taking ideas or constructs from one discipline and trying to think of ways to creatively re-engineer or "crosswalk" them to an completely different kind of problem.  The links you provided are a good thinking tool. Thanks for both of very thoughtful replies.

Simon Perkins

One of the questions I ask early on is "What kind of environment/materials/job aids/resources/etc is your audience used to?"  The aim is to have the client illustrate the 'stuff' that the learners tend to see daily and/or work with.  E.g. computer screens, paper types, machinery, stationery, files, forms, whiteboards, equipment, etc.  These can then be used to build up a virtual repository of visuals that the learner will hopefully feel more comfortable with.

If this is going to add value and you have the resources then go for it.

I suppose an example of this is the classic 'pallet truck' course: http://www.articulate.com/community/showcase/?page_id=82 .  If it was build around text, images and questions then it wouldn't have nearly the level of impact that it does.

James Brown

It's kind of interesting how schools have implemented Articulate into their curriculum and I'm seeing Articulate being used in all aspects of  Blooms Taxonomy of Learning domains. I.e. The Cognitive, Psychometer, and Affective domains. I'm curious what others think. Is e-learning better suited for Psychometer and Cognitive domains of learning as opposed to the affective? Based on most of the examples above, they tend to fall into the Psychometer and Cognitive domains. Anyway, just an observation.

Randy Borum

@Simon- Good suggestion for selecting a field of artifacts and environmental conditions for a theme.  Because its an academic course, I can drawn up on the "education" motif, which resonates with the student role.  But where possible I like to draw instead on elements related to the content of the course (Terrorism, Intelligence & Security).  So the elements ma,y not necessarily be what they are "used to,"  but hopefully they help to link delivery with content.  I know some IDs say "Don't ask what they need to know, but instead ask what they need to do." I appreciate the spirit of that sentiment, but the truth in many academic courses - mine included - is that people will "do" a wide range of things - sometimes using the information directly sometimes not.  That's one of the differences I see between "training" and "education."  I'm not negating your point at all - just building on it with a description of how I'm thinking about adaptations in an academic environment. 

Donna Carter

I'm glad that we are discussing academic courses. I've really been inspired by the work that some of you are doing.  Here is a link to a piece that I created on the topic of succession planning as a supplement to an online course on Management Resources.


James Brockman

While mine lack a lot of the bells and whistles of a lot of the cited examples above, I've been creating e-learning modules with Articulate for a couple of years at Harvard University. The current crop ties in with live, online panel discussions that we host (using WebEx) so that people in the humanitarian field can get up to speed on the topic quickly with our modules before our events.

for the Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (ATHA): International Assistance and Interventions 

for Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP): Human Rights and Armed Conflict

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