Recipe for E-Learning

Last fall I took a class here at the U, Designing Online Learning Environments. One of our final assignments was to create a "recipe" for an online course. Here it is.

[click to enlarge image] 
[text is below also so that Alison doesn't bust me for inaccessibility]

Text version:

Simple Extension E-Learning

An inspiring & optimistic educator
Institutional support
Thoughtful aesthetics
Course goals
Content, cut into chunks
Welcome message
Discussion forum
Course evaluation

The simplest of online courses does not take months and $20,000 to create.

With iterative design and the use of institutional tools, the ingredients listed can be combined in a matter of weeks and a first draft course can be launched that meets basic quality standards.

The rapid development and launch allows for integration of learner feedback before too much has been invested in time-consuming media development and interactivity.

Caution: Will get stale if left for more than 1-2 offerings. See "Advanced E-Learning" recipe for added freshness.

This is the kind of assignment where I roll my eyes and make gagging noises when I first read it. A RECIPE? That is so cheezy. I have a B.S. you know. With real Science and stuff. We didn't write RECIPES we did science. Well maybe we wrote Science Recipes but we called them FORMULAS and it was totally different.

But I have been a student here for a long time and I know how to play the game. Do the assignment. Stop making gagging noises. And guess what? It turned out to be totally worthwhile! It was a very thoughtful format for expressing my thoughts on what goes into an online course. I even got so into it that I put "From the Kitchen of: Quick Bytes." HA!

As a bonus, because I am just THAT KIND OF STUDENT, I did two recipes (that is 100% more than was required, just sayin). My second recipe is for Advanced E-Learning. 

Advanced Extension E-Learning

One recipe "Simple E-learning" 
Feedback from learners
Educator introduction video
Welcome video
Recorded seminars/workshops
Synchronous live classes/events
Learner-educator interaction

The recipe for "Simple E-Learning" lays out the most basic ingredients for what will be a quality, successful online experience for learners. 

This recipe adds advanced quality standards, such as multimedia and a wider variety of content delivery channels. Learner-educator is also essential in this recipe, done either in a learning environment, or simply over email or social media.

Must be fine-tuned based on the feedback from the simple recipe.
Caution: Preparation time will be greater for this recipe.

Online Courses have, until relatively recent history, been a massive and expensive undertaking for educators. My purpose here is to encourage us all to Keep it simple. Start small. Don't get paralyzed into doing nothing with your curriculum online by the pursuit of perfection. You can always add to it and make improvements as you go. Think what is the simplest thing you could put online to reach your learners that would jive with the 'simple recipe' above. And do it.
Do what you can
Where you are
With what you have.
--Theodore Roosevelt

How to
The key to this philosophy is that of iterative design. The product you release is never your final ideal product. Constant feedback is informing small enhancements and additions. You involve the learner in the design, through feedback, and that is huge. This is a flexible, inexpensive, forgiving, and efficient way to produce online learning objects. 

Share it!
What is your recipe for Extension online learning? 
What do you agree/disagree with in these recipes? What did I not take into account? (I promise not to make gagging noises.)


  1. Hi Amy - great recipe! I really like your emphasis on using an Iterative approach! It get things moving and in the right direction.
    I took that same class this spring - and the 5 x 7 card size restriction for the recipe project was lifted - so we were able to use any number of fun tools. Some of us used Powtoon (which is really quick and easy to learn). Here's a recipe for the 4-H online learning environment, created in Powtoon: Also using Powtoon, here is a "very early iteration" of online training for the 4-H volunteers leading online learning:

  2. As a dietitian, I am totally into this recipe format.

  3. Todd Mehrkens your recipe video is very cool!! I like that you remembered to include the Learner on the ingredients list. That is an important ingredient!
    Your second video that begins the online training for adult volunteers is stupendous! I loved many things in there, especially the idea that the volunteer would model being a lifelong learner themselves by sharing what they are learning themselves.
    Lastly, thank you for introducing us to Powtoon!

  4. Tana Haugen-BrownMay 27, 2014 at 9:44 AM

    Thanks for sharing Amy & Todd!
    Question - there are lots resources out there for creating e-learning.
    We will be using Moodle as the site for our e-learning project. What do you think about varying the presentation format used within the Moodle environment? For example, what if we used Powtoon for the introduction at the beginning and for each chapter Intro. Then switched to PowerPoint and Prezi for the the various chapter content presentations? Are there any recommendations out there on this?
    Anything to be aware of when using "cloud" based programs for this type of thing?

  5. Tana--it is my opinion that you are right on target!! You've got to mix it up a bit! I love it that you're thinking of varying the multimedia and formats to keep things fresh and engaging. There is no problem doing this in Moodle. My only word of caution is that all of that can be labor intensive, don't be afraid to launch a barebones version, and then add some of the bells and whistles as you go!

  6. Thanks for the recipes, Amy and Todd! And I'm glad we've discovered another "recipe geek" out there, Hannah!
    And since Amy called me out as an accessibility geek (which I kind of am)...a few thoughts on Tana's question:
    Tana, I agree with Amy that you're definitely on the right track! I think Powtoon would be great for brief introduction videos--and then you can export them directly to YouTube and go ahead and embed them in your Moodle site. Just be sure to double-check that they're captioned correctly. (You can find a quick captioning tutorial here:
    And for chapter content presentations, I'd suggest putting those in Power Point, and then recording them as presentations either in Camtasia Relay (free) or Adobe Presenter (~$75) and uploading them as videos to YouTube. Then, you can also convert the slides to PDF and upload them as resources for learners to download and use for studying or following along. The nice thing is that, if you format your Power Point slides correctly, they should be accessible to learners using assistive devices. I'm finishing up a brief guide on how to format for accessibility, so send me and e-mail if you'd like to look at that and I'll pass it along!
    And just to note: I'm a HUGE fan of Prezi for in-person presentations at conferences, workshops, etc. I also think it can be useful as a a video animation tool (see one of my attempts here: Unfortunately, Prezi isn't a great tool for for online presentations embedded in Moodle, since it has some accessibility issues: .
    And a great question about "cloud" tools! In general, if you focus in U-supported tools like YouTube, Google apps (Drive, Sites, Groups, etc.), you should be safe. Just try to avoid third-party cloud tools--typically, these are tools you need to create a separate account to use--since third-party systems sometimes change their access or pricing plans, or disappear altogether!


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