Moodle Logo

Why do many online courses fall flat? How can I motivate and engage online learners in my program area?

If you’ve been asking yourself these questions, I hope you’ll check out our new online course Noodling Moodle: Motivating and Engaging Extension’s Online Learners. This isn’t a ground-up basics of Moodle course -- you can get that from central IT. Instead, this is a course that aims to show you how to plan a quality online course for non-credit learners that will get and keep your audience motivated and engaged.

Our learning objectives for the online Noodling Moodle course are to provide an opportunity for you to:
  • Understand backward design and how to implement it for student clarity and intuitive course structure
  • Recognize assessment strategies designed to evaluate learner progress and provide opportunities for hands-on learning
  • Become exposed to diverse modes of content sharing for sufficiently comprehensive and engaging delivery
  • Learn accessibility and usability basics and where to find more detailed information and support
  • Experience various forms of interaction designed to motivate learners and increase learning
Be a part of the special preview run of our online Noodling Moodle course before Program Conference (August 10 through September 20) to provide valuable feedback for the online course as well as what you’d like to see covered when we host a session by the same name at Program Conference. At the conference, we’ll have 60 minutes to dig into:
  • Where to start when designing an online course
  • How to provide opportunities for hands-on, active, and interactive learning
  • Exciting methods of content sharing
  • Awesome ideas for interaction designed to motivate learners and increase learning
You’ll also come away from our Program Conference session with a user-friendly checklist for great course design and peer review.

Better yet, we’re hoping to grow an online community (via a Google Group) of Noodling Moodlers who have completed the course and want to share successes, challenges, and insights -- as well as offer rubric-supported peer reviews for friendly feedback on in-development courses.

 Happy Moodling!

ADA 25 Logo

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will turn twenty-five on July 26, 2015.


We're celebrating by sharing a guide to making e-learning materials accessible to all learners.  

If you're anything like me, you want to get it "right."  But that can make you freeze in your tracks.  I'm using the #ADA25 celebration as a reason to create a deadline for myself -- a reason to hit publish and share a guide that will hopefully help you make your education and outreach materials more accessible.

Is it perfect?  Probably not.  But is it helping anyone if I don't share it?  No.

I hope you'll use this guide the next time you create e-learning materials -- but I also hope the fear of not getting it "right" doesn't stop you from trying one or two things to make your materials more accessible and sharing your work.

There are a lot of things to think of, so we've simplified it a bit with a checklist:
  1. Choose a document format
  2. Choose fonts wisely
  3. Consider colors
  4. Use structured headings
  5. Add alt-text for images
  6. Check reading level
  7. Check overall accessibility

Learn more: Readability and Accessibility: A guide to making e-learning materials accessible to all learners

How will you celebrate #ADA25?



We are making some changes around here. You may have read the announcement of these changes in the Dean's Column announcement on June 4, 2015.

We are deliberately and thoughtfully transitioning computer support to OIT's 1-HELP team. 

Why are we doing this?

Transferring computer support to the Office of Information Technology (OIT) will allow Extension Technology to focus on building up what the organization needs: increased academic technologies, app creation, advanced training, and instructional design support. Our technology team will be able to provide more resources toward advancing Extension’s mission-focused technology projects, such as: Moodle course design, educational video production, online registration, and engagement and collaboration through WebEx and Google tools.

These changes align Extension with how most other colleges are currently receiving computer support, and increase efficiency as a University while keeping our level of service to all staff & faculty. Extension did not take this decision lightly, and I spent over a year researching operations and job shadowing in OIT computer support. I am confident that service standards will not drop with this change. OIT's computer support service is very different than it was just five years ago. It is now 24/7, with so many resources at their fingertips that over 90% of their calls are solved before the caller even hangs up! Plus, this service is common good, meaning Extension is already paying for it through required University budgeting.

Campus Support

Did you know there are 7 OIT support professionals assigned to St. Paul campus? They office in the St. Paul Student Center and provide faculty and staff with support of all devices and most software. They already support every other non-AHC staff and faculty on St. Paul campus.

After Extension's transition, these IT support professionals will provide at-your-desk, as well as walk-in, support for all of Extension. I spent a lot of time job shadowing these guys, and I can assure you they are extremely experienced and courteous!

Off-Campus Support

The most frequent question we are asked by Extension staff is about computer support in regional offices. I am confident that OIT will support off-campus office staff with the same quality and level of service as our on-campus offices: OIT has all the same tools and access that our current team has, with greater human resources. CFANS has transferred their ROCs' computer support to OIT, as has CBS with their field stations. We are not blazing this trail!

Contact Information

After Extension's transition this fall, Extension's Service Desk phone line and email will forward to OIT's 1-HELP number. 1-HELP has many contact points for computer support, including online chat, email, phone, text, and three walk-in locations. As always, you will be welcome to contact any member of your Extension Tech team directly when you need specialized service!

Extension Technology Team

Extension Technology is still here to serve! The Extension Technology team is not moving en masse to OIT, only computer support responsibilities are moving. The remaining ten members of our team are very excited to raise up more projects and services that innovate and serve Extension. Our team offers Extension 27 technology services, from e-learning production to app development. See our full service catalog here.

Stay Tuned

There are still details to be worked out before our full transition in the fall, and we will continue to let you know what is changing, why, and how it will impact you. Your feedback is always welcome.

Please be sure to contact me or any member of your tech team with any specific concerns, questions, or feedback!


I am very happy to introduce to you our newest team member, Alison Holland! Alison is the new Extension Academic Technologist. She is experienced, knowledgeable, super easy to work with, and a great addition to the Extension team. I know she will be working with many of you in short order!
The Academic Technologist is responsible for promoting and supporting academic technologies for teaching and learning by Extension faculty and staff. 
Now let's get to know the newest member of the Extension Technology team!

What is your experience with Extension?
I grew up in Mora -- a rural county seat -- and our County Extension Educators were visible, valuable community leaders in many capacities, and important role models for me.  I was also a 4-Her from grade K through age 19!  My experiences in State 4-H made a huge impact on my life and I’m incredibly grateful to the staff here who made it possible.  Later I spent a summer at the (now closed) Regional Extension Office in Mora as an intern, and loved it so much I’ve kept my eye out for a right-fit “real job” with Extension ever since.  While recently working under the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) for a short time, Extension Educators and Faculty were a significant resource for my regional team, which only renewed my interest in working for Extension.

How did you come to be in this field?
By accident!  I discovered my love for education through dance – my love for educational technology while working in healthcare career promotion at a technical college – and got to bring them together as a Teaching Artist for the Cowles Center’s Distance Learning program.  At the same time, I was also facilitating projects for the Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum and became very interested in making the designing and developing of tech-enhanced education opportunities my primary focus.
I love this work because I value interdisciplinary collaboration and enjoy creative problem-solving.  I’m forward-thinking and want to learn and grow every day.  It’s been an organic and winding career path, and I’ve developed the skills and gained the experience that got me here by asking questions, expressing interest and support, offering my time, and not being afraid to try new things.

What's a favorite academic tech project you've worked on?
Ah!  This is the most difficult question -- like choosing your favorite child!  None is perfect, and each has its own strengths, challenges, and lessons.  If I must choose, I’ll say Health Careers and Math (HCM) online games.  HCM was designed to help elementary students explore a variety of mid-level healthcare careers while practicing the math skills necessary to be successful in them.  The project was born out of an informal chat over coffee with a mentor, and became an interdisciplinary collaboration of the Johnson Center for Simulation and the Healthcare Alliance (both at Pine Technical and Community College), and faculty from Mora Public Schools.

How much do you love the Minnesota State Fair? Like seriously. HOW. MUCH.
Did I mention I was a career-long 4-Her?  I think loving the State Fair is a requirement.  Not only did I spend my childhood living for the day I could spend the night in the "4-H Hilton" as an encampment kid, I also spent two years in State Arts-In, and two years as a State Ambassador (VP-elect, and VP) living at the fair for its duration (and beforehand).  I still feel like I’m developing my post-4-Her relationship with the Fair, so I’m pretty excited about working next door.



If you'd like to schedule a consultation with Alison, please feel welcome to do so. I look forward to seeing all the great e-learning projects that Extension programs + Alison will make!
Polling is a great way to engage attendees during a WebEx session. You can create, edit, and save a poll using the Polling panel within a WebEx session. I think it's best to set them up ahead of time, save the files (.atp) to your computer and load them up before or during your meeting.

A great way to set up your polls ahead of time is to download the WebEx Poll Questionnaire Editor. This will save you time and you don’t have to join a WebEx meeting to set up your polls. The editor is available to download from umn.webex.com under the Training Center tab. In the left navigation, select Support > Downloads.

WebEx has a nice quick guide on creating polls – worth paying attention to. One thing I learned from this guide is the ability to see which attendees have/have not yet responded to a poll when you've opened your poll. I found this under the Administering a Poll > monitor attendees' progress section.


Checklists for your Webinars

When one webinar checklist isn’t enough, here are two checklists that can help you in planning and running your webinar. The bigger the webinar, the more planning it takes. These checklists will work for most webinars:
  1. WebEx has a planning worksheet for Meeting Center that lists the Meeting Center tools and provides space for you to make some notes.
  2. I started a WebEx Webinar Checklist to include tasks that can sometimes be forgotten (e.g. recording the webinar). This checklist is open for additions/edits and feedback so please add your comments to the document! 

What’s the difference between Meeting Center, Training Center or Event Center?

Since January, we’ve been offering training and demos using Meeting Center. One question we get is people wondering what the differences are between Meeting Center, Training Center or Event Center? What I’ve found is that if you learn Meeting Center, you can easily learn to use Training Center and Event Center. While each Center has its own unique features and default settings, they all have the same basic functions. To name just a few, how you use chat, share files and record your webinar is the same in each of the Centers. 



So what is different? Start by reviewing the tools matrix comparison (by features). It does not include every last feature but it provides a good overview. Here I will highlight some notable differences between each Center.


Meeting Center: use this for webinars that are collaborative and interactive. Attendees by default are encouraged to activate their camera/mic, they have the ability to see all attendees, everyone can use the Share menu and the default chat is set to “everyone”. Anyone here can be the presenter!

Training Center: use this for webinars when you want additional engagement such as immediate attendee feedback - right in the Participant Panel using emoticons or a quick reply yes or no to a question. Training center allows you to put participants into breakout rooms for small group discussion. By default, attendees can see all other attendee names but they do not have rights to chat with other attendees. Attendees also can't share content unless the presenter allows it. Training Center can be collaborative and interactive but by default provides a more controlled environment for presenters.

Event Center: use this for webinars that are larger in size and less collaborative. Attendees can use the chat, threaded Q & A and answer polls. By default, attendees cannot see other attendee names, they cannot broadcast their audio/video and they do not have rights to share content. Event Center is great for one or more presenters broadcasting to many.

Keep in mind that all attendee privileges can be granted in any of these centers. Each Center can be customized to meet your needs. 

Share your WebEx Tips

If you have discovered any useful WebEx tips that you'd like to share, please comment on this post!! Also, if you have any specific questions about WebEx, please ask them here!



Custom Google Map example

I can be a bit of a St. Paul Campus evangelist. I refer to it as The Main Campus of the U of M. I created a secret handshake for St. Paulites to use. So when a group of IT professionals were meeting here for two days and asked for some tips on things to do, I knew I wanted to give them a custom Google Map highlighting all the best St. Paul has to offer!

Here it is! z.umn.edu/stpaultour

Does making a super sweet custom Google Map sound like something that might be useful to know? It's easy! Although it took me a bit to figure out where you do it.

Step 1: While logged into your Google account, go to maps.google.com. Click inside the search box and a roll-down should appear that says "My maps."

google map screenshot

Step 2: Select "Create" in the My Maps menu.

google map screenshot

Step 3: Title your new map, write a description, and begin adding points. You can add points by selecting the point button,

google map screenshot

or by searching for a location and selecting "Add to map."

google map screenshot

Step 4: To share your map, select "Share" and set the sharing permissions how you would like. Use the link to share with collaborators or the world.

Step 5: To print your map (if desired), select the three vertical dots near Share. Here's an example of what that looks like.

Google map screenshot

Have fun creating custom Google maps! I'd love to see what you create!


It’s all about WebEx these days, at least for me. Between the impromptu meetings to help people get started and the 1-Hour WebEx Orientation workshops, I’ve been WebEx-ing a lot. Thought I’d share a few useful tips about WebEx Meeting Center. I have more tips but this blog post would be way too long if I shared them all in such detail. No worries, I will share more soon.

1. Using your meeting room URL more than once (aka recurring meetings).  

For those of us who used UMConnect, it was regular practice to use the same meeting room again and again. The advantage was that all your content stayed there for the next meeting. In WebEx, meeting room content goes away when the meeting ends. Period. But not only your content goes away, the default is that your meeting room\URL will delete automatically when your meeting ends. It makes sense because who needs to have a bunch of old empty meeting rooms laying around. 



So why use the same room more than once? When you want to use the same URL for several meetings. You can set your meeting up as a recurring meeting which is great for meetings that are on a regular schedule (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly). You can change individual meeting times as needed. Use the Advanced Scheduler to set up recurring meetings.


  1. Log into umn.webex.com. Click Meeting Center > Schedule a meeting
  2. Click to use the Advanced Scheduler
  3. Recurring meetings is in step 2 (date and time)
2. Set your meetings to NOT delete. 
If you want to use the same meeting room\URL again and again and your meetings do not follow a regular schedule, the recurring meetings option may not work well for you. For example, my 1-Hour WebEx Orientation webinars are recurring but not on a regular schedule. I set my meeting room to NOT delete which allows me to use the same meeting URL - I just update the date & time. Here's how:
  1. Log into umn.webex.com. Click Meeting Center > Schedule a meeting
  2. Click to use the Advanced Scheduler
  3. Click to un-check the Delete from My Meetings when completed option

One last note about this. You can change your default setting so none of your meetings are deleted automatically. If you choose this option, you should delete them yourself when you no longer need them. The default setting can be changed under My WebEx > Preferences > Scheduling Options.

3. Recording a meeting? 
A quick observation from the University's Video Support team - when starting a WebEx recording they have seen a 1-3 minute delay for WebEx service to actually start recording.  Tip: start your recording 3-5 minutes before a meeting to guarantee you captured the entire event.  You can trim\edit your recording when the recording is completed to remove “dead air” time. Here are a few how-to’s on WebEx Trimming – 
Find your recordings: WebEx recordings can be found by logging into umn.webex.com. Click Meeting Center > My Recorded Meetings 

4. Want to see who attended your meeting? 
After your meeting, you can view or save a report about your participants. The report will provide names, email addresses, when they joined\left the meeting, etc. Reports are available after your meeting – be patient, it takes some time for the report to be available. You will notice different types of reports for Event Center and Training Center also. Find reports here:
  1. Log into umn.webex.com
  2. Under My WebEx click My Reports
  3. Under All Services, select Usage Reports
  4. Enter the date or date range of your meeting
  5. Click on your meeting for the details. Options: choose Printer friendly format or export your report data.


5. Need an alternate host? 
Every meeting must have a host present at all times. If the host leaves the meeting, the meeting will end for everyone. What if you set up a meeting and for whatever reason can no longer attend or are going to be late? You can add an alternate host for your meeting:
  1. In the quick meeting or advanced scheduler under the Attendees box, click Use Address Book

  2. Search for the UMN person (by name or email), select their name and click Alternate Host to add them. 

Last minute host change during a meeting: If a meeting host has to leave a meeting early, they can pass the host code to another person in the meeting. The host code is provided when a meeting is created and it will be listed under the Meeting Info tab in the meeting (only the host sees it).

To pass the code, the person taking the host role can click Reclaim Host Role from the Participant menu and enter the host code.


So there are your 5 WebEx Meeting Center tips for today. We love when people share their tips. Do you have any to share?

Happy WebEx-ing!