iDesignx Conference 2013


Guess who’s speaking at the iDesignx conference? There are some amazing speakers amongst us so don’t miss it!


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Captivate publish preview issues

I’ve  been using Captivate 6  extensively in a corporate environment during the past 2 weeks and discovered an issue which I would like to share a fix for as there doesn’t seem to be one in any forums. If it doesn’t interest you… stop here!

Our issue was that we could not launch URL links from our published projects. The URL launched fine in ‘preview’ but not when published. Although many forums advised us to add the URL to Global Settings in Flash, I discovered that we needed to add the actual .swf file to the Global Settings and not the URL.

For starters, save the published file on the computer hard drive and not your network drive. This is IMPORTANT!

Perform the following steps to add the SWF file output file location as a trusted location in Flash security settings:

  1. Click Settings.
  2. Select Edit Locations.
  3. Select Add Location.
  4. Under Trust This Location, enter the location of the folder that contains your published project (select the swf file)
  5. Click Confirm.

Voila! It works.

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New logo

Jenny Wood eLearning solutionsSince registering myself as an eLearning consultant I’ve been busily getting a registered business name, ABN, insurance, GST registration, creating an invoicing system other than on Microsoft Word (where I have had it up until now) and all those other exciting things you do when you are taking the plunge into the business world. Typically, I was most excited about designing my logo and choosing colours!

I have a very large project to start next Monday which will last 6 months so that will keep me out of trouble for a while!

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Video watching and how to put your students to sleep

In actual fact, if you put your students to sleep they could be learning more than they are watching your videos!
Television and video viewing involves no active mental processes and no physical activity (e.g., you passively watch someone else actively processing). It’s similar to staring at a blank wall for several hours. It has a hypnotic effect caused by the screen flicker which lowers brainwaves into an alpha state. Your brain activity is more active when you are sleeping because you don’t have to do any thinking. “Even a nap with its restorative powers is better for your brain than a TV show.” (Guiffre, Kenneth, MD, with Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. The Care and Feeding of Your Brain, p/ 239. NJ: Career Press, 1999.)

In an experiment in 1969, Herbert Krugman discovered that in less than one minute of television and video viewing, the person’s brainwaves switched from Beta waves– brainwaves associated with active, logical thought– to primarily Alpha waves. Watching television tended to shift people into a passive and receptive state. (Lynch, Zack, PhD., with Byron Laursen. The Neuro Revolution, p. 52053. NY:St. Martin’s Press, 2009.)

When you watch a movie, video or TV your brain activity switches from the left side of your brain to the right. This means that you are responding with an emotion rather than logical or critical thinking, giving an unrealistic or inaccurate viewing of the data.
Watch this and you will see how in a hypnotic state, your mind is altered without you even realising it.

Using video data for learning

But… but… but… I hear you all cry. I know.

I watch little or no TV and I (personally) find instructional videos annoying. If I want to know ‘how to do something’ I want to DO it and find out quickly. Watching a 10 minute video and then having to remember it afterwards doesn’t work for me. Perhaps it’s because my brain has switched to the ‘right side’. However, I do love a good movie AND I love creating them for students, especially the digital stories which tug at the heart strings. I’m by no means saying ‘don’t use videos for learning’ with students. ‘Whew’ I hear you say.
If we are going to continue using video as a part of our learning strategy, remember to include the following elements when you are designing a learning sequence. At the very least, include the ‘call to action’. This is particularly important with online learning.

Get hold of your students attention in whatever creative way you can think of.
Surprise your students by defying their expectations.
Call to action
Follow up with a request for change or a thinking task which expects reflections or application from the learning

You could slot the video at the start (if you think it’s a good hook) or as a surprise (if it is surprising) or in between somewhere to support. Providing you always have an action. Read my blog post about applying thinking skills to learning for more information.


Filed under E-learning tips, Learning strategies, Teaching and learning tips

Why lectures should be outlawed

This is my bold Uni assignment, which highlights difficulties in embracing non traditional teaching practice within the University system. What do you think?

Researchers have highlighted the benefits of active learning strategies, for many years. To what degree, do teachers of adults in Higher Education utilize active learning as a teaching strategy? Part of the answer to this question, lies in the remaining structure and culture of Universities as a whole. For active learning to be embraced, the ‘instructional’ culture, which remains in Higher Education as a primary learning foundation, needs to change dramatically.

While most teachers may know that active learning is good practice, they often don’t choose to embrace it. For this to happen, the systemic culture behind University teaching strategies need to be challenged. The systemic structure of courses should change before true experiential learning will take place (Kolb, 1981).

On reading the quote, “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.” you would be forgiven for thinking it was written in modern times. In fact, these were the words of wisdom by Confucius at around 450BC (Gentry 1990, 9). While Confucius probably based this philosophy from his own experience, since then, researchers have advocated for active, experiential and constructivist learning strategies, as essential components for learning. These learning theories have been researched and tested, and are ready to be embraced by educators across all learning institutions.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

An example of a well researched and developed strategy for effective learning, is the experiential learning theory model, which was developed by Kolb (1981,235).  Kolb recognised the important role that experience plays in the learning process. In his book, Learning styles and disciplinary differences, he describes how the pressures of social and university requirements produce a particular culture in students. To counteract this culture, his model of Experiential Learning Theory, was developed to give teachers guidance in effective learning strategies. These strategies align to studies and research on how adults learn best and are recommended for teachers to deliver effective and engaging androgogy, which focuses on student development.

Nowadays, most Higher Education teachers are aware of the experiential learning model, but prefer instructional approaches because they are more comfortable and safe, this being the expected culture for many years in Universities.  Active, student centred approaches can be seen as shifting the political power in the classroom or in online learning.  This requires a completely different teaching skill set; working to empower and motivate, rather than a reliance on content expertise.  This may challenge the constructed identity of some teachers, so they resist fiercely, fueling the culture of the power imbalance in learning institutions.

Universities promote a culture where students look up to teachers as the person with the ‘power and knowledge’. Grant (1997, 105) in her journal, describes students as being inadvertently disciplined into compliance, in order to be accepted as a ‘good‘ student. Grant believes that both the student and the teacher contribute to this phenomenon.  These apparent power imbalances contribute to a learning culture where students strive to learn what the teacher tells them to be true. With this culture in mind, much change is required before action learning will take place in adult learning institutions.

One of those required changes, centres on the systemic structure of Universities across the world. For example, if  ‘telling’ doesn’t equal ‘learning’, why do Universities persist in using ‘lectures’ as a form of delivery? The very use of the word ‘lecture’ conjures up ‘passive’ or ‘forced’ learning. The Oxford dictionary definition of the word ‘lecture’ highlights why the structure of University course delivery unbalances the power between teachers and students, putting opportunities for students to question and critique at risk

Noun: 1. an educational talk to an audience, especially one of students in a university or 2. a long serious speech, especially one given as a scolding or reprimand

Verb: 1. [no object] deliver an educational lecture or lecturesor2. [with object] talk seriously or reprovingly to (someone)

In her journal article, Shakarian (1995) makes the point that “lecture, by its very nature, creates a predominantly passive learning experience where students generally are exposed to information, yet rarely are given the opportunity to process it.” Shakarian also considers that the lecture style delivery of concepts generate a culture of dependence and a failure for students to think critically or to develop original thinking skills. For learning to be an active and personal experience, lecture style delivery should be replaced with a pedagogy based on a learning theory, which allows teachers to develop an experiential culture.

By comparison, Avruch (2002, 5) writes that culture is developed through an individuals experience. It is learned or passed on to them by people around them. I would argue, however that cultures are also fuelled and cultivated by the overarching system which supports them. For example, for teachers to change the culture of ‘lecturing’, the University may be required to create more ‘flexible learning styled’ classrooms that embrace vigorous learning experiences for their student, in preference to lecture theatres. Similarly, the use of Learning Management Systems which are restrictive and prescribed are often limiting and instructional design for online learning frequently does not include facilitated action learning principals.

It is not that I disagree with Avruch (2002), but I believe that it is difficult for individuals to stop cultivating habits, when the structure around them supports and affirms their practice.The systemic culture, therefore, needs to change from ‘the top’ where the structure is built and the development of educators is driven in order for transformation to take place. A robust analysis of delivery and assessment methods and time structures would harvest a system where teachers would be prompted to change their methods of engaging students and embracing active learning principals.

Undoubtedly, some Higher Education teachers use and understand active learning principals very well and it would be presumptuous to say that all teachers need to change.  Generally speaking however, staff development for teachers should include a saturation of experiential and active learning strategies. Professional development for teachers needs to shift from teaching methods that are content focussed, to developing skills in ‘how’ learning can be delivered using active learning principals. This is in order for teachers to gain a thorough understanding and a capacity to apply their knowledge to practise with their students, both online and in the classroom.

Along side of the changes I have outlined, Grant (1997) explains that University lecturers have a responsibility to consider what it is they are trying to produce from their students. She believes that it is important to consider current assessment, course design and teaching practice so as not to create a competitive environment for students to learn in. To further support this comment, it is my opinion that universities should question the rationale behind the use of assessment tools which test knowledge and memory recall, such as tests and exams.

To be more specific, I would go so far as to say that the use of surface testing and assessment tools drive superficial learning. If students are expected to ‘remember content’ and not to question, analyse or apply their knowledge to concrete scenarios, what is the point of education? Do these assessment tools acknowledge the important role that experience plays in the learning process?

These questions are answered in a statement made by Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (CTGV), who claim that educators should provide a concrete and holistic, form of assessment for students which incorporates project work and portfolios and de-emphasises examination type assessment. CTGV claim that traditional examination style assessment does not determine the competence of students to apply their knowledge to everyday settings and adapt to new situations. Further to this, if assessment drives the active learning process, it becomes somewhat redundant unless educators embrace assessment and delivery holistically for effective learning to take place.

To summarise my argument, Universities across the world continue to use a structure that does not support active learning as preferred learning strategy either in the classroom or in online learning. The ineffective structures include the use of lectures to deliver content in an instructional way. The equivalent, online, can often be seen in lectures on video or audio.  It also includes the use of inadequate assessment methods as another strategy that limits active learning capacity. These systemic structures cultivate a learning philosophy which is largely instructional and contributes to the imbalance in power between students and teachers, thus restricting a questioning, active learning experience.


Avruch, K. (2002). Culture and Conflict Resolution. Washington: Insitute of Peace Press.

Bloom, B. S. (1984). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Pearson Education.

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (CTGV). (1993c). Toward a theoretical framework for utilizing their potential. Journal of Special Education Technology , 12 (2), 76-89.

Gentry, J. W. (1990). Guide to Business Gaming and Experiential Learning. London: Nichols.

Grant, B. (1997). Disciplining students: The construction of student subjectivities. British Journal of Sociology of Education , 18 (1), 101-114.

Kolb, D. A. (1981). Learning styles and disciplinary differences. (J. Bass, Ed.) San Francisco: Chickerine & Associates.

Oxford Dictionaries. (2010 йил April). (Press, Oxford University) Retrieved 2011 26-October from Oxford Dictionaries:

Shakarian, D. C. (1995). Beyond Lecture: Active Learning Strategies That Work. The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance , 66.

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Filed under Assessment, Learning strategies, Teaching and learning tips

Where have all the teachers gone?

eLearning is the new black. Learning online, in solitude, however, seems to have also become the new black. Or is it? Perhaps it’s for monetary reasons or a lack of awareness but often it’s the very thing which causes online learning to fail. Humans, after all, are social and learn best when collaborating with others.

The benefits of e-learning

Advocates promote the idea of flexibility and interactivity of e-learning. Critics fear the loss of the personal aspects of the teaching and learning experience and favour more traditional methods. However, more often than not the teaching environment will call for teachers and trainers to seamlessly integrate a number of strategies, allowing students more flexibility and choice.

OK, that sounds lovely. but is it suitable for everyone?

Student suitability

Students learn best by experiencing an environment of collaboration, collegiality, critical thinking and support, all of which are conducive for learning. The implication in this viewpoint is that students are provided with tools to help them better understand their strengths and weaknesses while at the same time making a genuine effort to help them succeed. The internet has the potential to significantly help in this regard.
The following factors must be taken into consideration when designing an online teaching environment and on deciding how much of the delivery will be online:

  • Computer and internet skills
  • Accessibility
  • Student self direction
  • Cultural factors
  • Time allocation
  • Learning needs and learning preferences

It is important to note that students who are learning online need to be supported by teachers and have the capacity to communicate effectively without other class members. Teachers should promote interaction with students and a sense of belonging to ensure positive outcomes for online delivery.


  • Expect online facilitation to be more work than a traditional course, because it probably will be
  • Don’t expect to be a successful online facilitator just because you’re a great ‘face to face’ (F2F) one. Look for some good professional training in online facilitation.
  • Be prepared to receive and immediately respond to vast amounts of e-communication from your students
  • Know the online resource inside and out
  • Get very comfortable with technology
  • Plan for the unexpected
  • Give your students the capacity to apply their knowledge to real scenarios
  • Allow students to learn by making decisions and mistakes
  • Provide plenty of forum for discussion as this allows for collaborative, constructivist learningRole model the behavior you wish others to use.
  • Use irony and humor with care as it does not always come across online as you might have intended.
  • Provide ongoing (and often repeated) guidance on ‘what to do next’
  • Let others know when you will be offline for extended periods of time.
  • Help focus the chatters
  • Facilitation is the combination of knowledge and practice. So practice, practice, practice.


What is the difference between Fully facilitated, self paced and blended learning?

Self paced- Means that the unit is not fully facilitated (or at all). This is not recommended for VET learning.

Fully facilitated- Means that the course is fully facilitated by a trained professional. This is highly recommended for VET learning.

Blended learning- Combines two or more learning media to drive learning outcomes. For example, some of the material might be delivered in the workplace and some online.

How can I encourage participation in discussion forums?

Phrase your discussion contributions in ways that will encourage further responses from participants, and draw connections between participants’ comments. Try to avoid “over-facilitating.” You don’t need to answer every question and settle every point! You may want to wait a day or two before you address comments to give students an opportunity to respond to one another. When you do post messages, try to push the discussion forward by raising additional questions.

Watch this video for more advice on facilitating discussion forums:

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LearnX conference appearance

If you’re looking for a great way to learn about eLearning and experiencing some fantastic ‘experts’ from the field, it isn’t too late to book into the LearnX conference in Melbourne. The conference program will have a must see mix of visionary learning leaders from around Australia and the globe.  The conference will also offer the best of experience improvement sessions on learning and development.

I’m doing a presentation and I’m also the MC for the event but if that isn’t exciting enough, take a look at the program:)

Jenny Wood LearnX conference

Oh and by the way… I have resigned from Swinburne University but since the brochures etc were all printed we are sticking with the ‘eLearning Leader from Swinburne University’ title!

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