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!