Instructional Strategies and Technologies for Online Learner Engagment

Silhouette of head with different objects floating overhead

How can online instructors engage their students?

Active learning engages the learner directly in the learning process through instructional activities with differing degrees of interaction, whereas passive learning occurs indirectly and without interaction. Active learning is preferred because it triggers cognitive functioning. Furthermore, active learning is a component of Ignatian pedagogy (i.e., context, experience, action, reflection, evaluation) in its goal to teach to the whole person (i.e., mind, body, and spirit). This blog covers various instructional strategies and the digital tools that instructors use to engage students online through active learning. The purpose of learner engagement through active learning is to increase student satisfaction and student achievement.

What does active learning look like online?

Active learning can take on different formats and levels of engagement. The following examples include various disciplines from undergraduate and graduate level, hybrid and fully online courses.

Set the Stage
Tell your students what you expect of them in the online course. For example, one instructor provides a PowerPoint titled, Setting the Stage, to share course requirements for the online environment and address learning values such as the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset.  Dweck (2009) defined it as those who underestimate their ability to learn may have a fixed mindset, while those who believe that they can learn by establishing attainable goals and applying effort to learn have a growth mindset. Students with a growth mindset want to be corrected; their ego is not tied to learning. Conversely, those with a fixed mindset do not pay attention to corrective feedback. They believe that learning should not take any effort because it is tied to their intelligence; their ego influences how they learn. See my post to Focus on the Process to Support the Growth Mindset of Students.

Make sure students know how to use the learning management system (LMS) tools prior to high-stakes assignments. For example, my college’s navigational template provides a Start Here folder with two orientation tasks for students: the Online Student Acknowledgement form assignment and the ‘Getting Acquainted’ discussion. Additionally, ask students to take a quiz of zero value to familiarize them with the course tools. Some instructors use a syllabus quiz to ensure students have read their syllabi. Another example is the use of the quiz feature to poll students’ practical experience on the course topic to better understand their prior knowledge on the subject and drive instruction to meet students’ needs.

Discussions can have well thought out open-ended questions or no questions at all. For example, one instructor has had great success without providing questions in his online discussions. Instead, he tells students the purpose of discussions and that they will find suggestions for these by listening to his podcast or video lecture for that unit.

Monitor. For equity, a best practice is to create a matrix of teacher-student interactions to track your response efforts over the course of the semester. Monitoring your discussion posts will curtail various biases and ensure consistency. I usually set up a spreadsheet to do this and include personal information shared in the ‘Getting Acquainted’ discussion to provide a more personalized context to my interactions with each student.

Roles. Provide structure and student agency to discussions by assigning roles (e.g., starter, responder, and wrapper) and rotating those roles during the course; my peer, Dr. Angela Rand at the University of South Alabama did her dissertation on this. I’ve encouraged instructors at my college to incorporate this. One instructor noted a major difference in learner engagement when using this practice; without it, she had the same student posting first and everyone else waiting to reply. Student-moderated discussions provide social presence to build an online community of inquiry (COI). See my blog post how to plan for an online COI.

Media. Our LMS, Schoology, has a discussion feature for audio or video recording to share responses besides via text. This provides both teaching presence and social presence to the online COI.  Consider making some of your discussions media-based to provide variety and a different type of engagement than text-based ones. The exchange of media will close the psychological distance between you and your students.

Monitor. Schoology has a Student Completion option to monitor students’ completion of tasks (sequential or random). Once installed, instructors select the Student Progress tab to view task completion (view readings, visit links, submit assignments, post to discussions, & take a quiz). Students will see a green checkmark next to completed items. This is a passive learner engagement activity albeit a powerful one.

Groupwork. Student-led projects provide student agency in the design of their own learning. Provide the parameters, team roles (e.g., team leader/organizer, researcher, writer, & presenter), and peer evaluation forms to ensure everyone participates fully. Include expectations for group grade such as everyone provides proofreading of assignment prior to submission. Encourage student groups to set up their own ground rules for group meetings and task sharing. Monitor group work by asking to be added to the document workspace such as a shared Google folder.

Presentations. As for hybrid courses, maximize the face-to-face meeting by asking students to present their work to each other during seminar sessions in their level one courses. This is referred to as flipped learning when you use class time for student activities instead of teacher-centered activities. For fully online courses, students can share their media presentations (e.g., narrated PowerPoints saved as MP4 files, audio/podcast, or video projects) with other students in the Schoology Media Album. This tool allows students and teachers to provide feedback, as well as tags, titles, and captions.

Interactive products. Use premium ancillary interactive multimedia such as Cengage’s WebAssign for homework or supplant instruction with computer-adapted commercial products such as Pearson’s MyITLab. Take advantage of free educational technology such as EdPuzzle to engage learners while watching a video with questions to answer before preceding to the next segment; this tool provides the instructor with learner analytics. Use PeerWise to have students create questions on the topic of study for each other to answer; it’s also free.

How can students demonstrate mastery besides multiple-choice tests? These are still useful for testing recall. However, to engage the learner in higher order thinking skills, we should provide alternative assessments such as project-based learning, essays, portfolios, performance, products, and presentations. These do not need to be end-of-term projects. Formative assessments can be formal or informal (practice tests, digital exit tickets, & polls), which serve as comprehension checks during the course and subsequent student feedback. This is in contrast to summative assessments that test your cumulative knowledge on a topic at the end of the term. Formative assessments promote fairness by gathering evidence of students’ understanding throughout the course, which can be used to better inform/modify your instructional practices to meet students’ needs.

Mastery. Set tests for multiple attempts to help students achieve mastery. This triggers new learning and/or review of content, as student revisit content for answers.

Feedback & Guidance
Rubrics. Schoology provides blank rubrics for you to establish the criteria and scale for various tasks. For example, these can be attached to discussions and assignments. Rubrics provide consistency and speed with grading. The rubric feature on Schoology allows you to provide feedback at the criterion level and for overall performance. Additionally, you can tag your departmental student learning outcomes to these rubrics to help students understand why the task is important.

Scaffolded instructional feedback. Scaffolding instruction provides content in meaningful and manageable chunks of information. This entails providing visuals for structure, context, or direction and just-in-time definitions. For example, segment a lecture at viable points and ask reflective questions. For writing, break large tasks such as research papers into point-based phases of the writing process (e.g., outline, literature review with five citations, rough draft, & final paper). Design for tolerance for error by providing space to practice (e.g., mock interviews/comps/presentations, tutorials, & simulations).

Peer feedback. It is critical to provide guidelines and criteria for peer feedback tasks. For writing, assign a peer review of first draft papers utilizing MS Word tracked changes or Google Docs suggested edits. Access to the documents would be shared with the instructor for review. For media, use the Schoology Media Album. It will accept narrated PowerPoints if you save them as MP4 files.

Embedded librarian. Utilize the library liaisons in your course assignments. They can model the Socratic method of inquiry as a mentor. Your library liaison’s contact information should be included in the course’s Start Here folder along with pertinent information on access to the Library databases and digital literacy.

Evaluation of Course Design
Create a questionnaire to obtain course design feedback at midterm to determine any barriers and/or add additional questions to your student evaluations at the end of the term. For example, ask whether specific learning objects such as the narrated PowerPoints or audio files were helpful. Incorporate pertinent student feedback into small modifications during the term or redesign of your course for the following semester.

What are other ways to engage learners?

Learner Strategies
Based on my teaching experience, students come with vastly different skill sets. Provide students with strategies and tips on how to learn the content.  Additionally, share bad examples of study habits that do not yield results for long-term memory (e.g., cramming for a test).  Share how learning strategies build their brains’ schema on the topic and its relation to other subjects for long-term memory. See my Student Learning Organizer of Metacognitive Strategies on the Learning Strategies. It is shared with freshmen at my college.  Also, see my list of cognitive strategies to share with students. The difference between metacognitive and cognitive being meta-awareness versus concreteness respectively. Most students are likely familiar with the structurally cognitive ones such as creating a concept map but not be familiar with the others.

How do you engage your students? 

Sandra Rogers, Ph.D.

Bransford, J. D., Brown A. L., & Cocking R. R. (1999). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Bruning, R. H., Schraw, G. J., & Norby, M. M. (2011). Cognitive psychology and instruction. New York, NY: Pearson.

Dweck, C. (2009). Developing Growth Mindsets: How Praise Can Harm, and How To Use it Well. [Presentation]. Paper presented at the Scottish Learning Festival, Glasgow. Retrieved from

Ericsson, K. A. (1996). The acquisition of expert performance. In K. A. Ericsson (Ed.), The road to excellence: The acquisition of expert performance in the arts, science, sports, and games (pp. 1- 50). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Ormrod, J. E. (2012). Human learning. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Roediger, H. L. III, & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 181-210.

Ward, J. (2010). The student’s guide to cognitive neuroscience. New York, NY: Psychological Press.

West, C.K., Farmer, J.A., & Wolff, P.M. (1991). Instructional design: Implications from cognitive science. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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Minimum Technical Skill Requirements for Online Learners

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One of my tasks as an instructional designer on my college campus is to provide learning guidelines and protocols for distance education. One way to prepare students for online learning is to provide a list of minimum technical skills required and make recommendations on where they can seek help if they do not possess such skills. Below is what I prepared for our students. I’d love your feedback on it.


The following is a list of basic technical skills you should have to engage productively in an online course:
● use the learning management system (e.g., Schoology) tools to post
discussions and upload assignments;
● use different browsers, clear browsing history, cache, and cookies, and refresh the screen;
● use email with attachments;
● create and submit electronic files in word processing program formats;
● copy and paste text;
● download and install software (e.g., media applications);
● download a media file for viewing or listening;
● use spreadsheet programs (e.g., Excel, Google Sheets, etc.);
● use presentation and simple graphics programs;
● use collaborative tools like Google Docs and shared folders on Google Drive; and
● use search engines to access digital books and articles from library databases.

Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

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Blackboard Test Generator Converts MS Word Formatted Tests into LMS Quizzes

The Blackboard (Bb) Test Generator converts your electronic file tests (i.e., MS Word or Text) into the learning management system (LMS) test questions. Bb Test Generator is an open educational resource. This will save time from building a multiple choice or T/F test online one question at a time IF you already have it prepared. The College of Southern Idaho provides a Bb test generator website where you can copy-and-paste your test to the Bb test generator to convert it into a zip file that can be uploaded into Schoology. The directions on their Website are fairly straightforward. After you convert the text, you’ll obtain a bbquiz zip file.

For Schoology LMS, follow these steps after you log into your  course to upload the test:

  1. Create a blank test in Schoology.
  2. Then select Add Question.
  3. From the drop-down menu, select Import Test/Quiz.

  1. Select Blackboard 7.1-9.0 button for import type from the pop-up window. Select next and locate your bbquiz zip file for import from your computer.

5. Then provide the appropriate test settings within Schoology.

  1. Save!

Note. In Schoology, the default points awarded for test questions is 1. To change them all to something else without having to manually do this one-by-one for long tests, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Options tab within the Quiz Questions view, and save your test to the Schoology Question Bank. Make a new Question Bank if you don’t have one already. Save Question Bank to your personal Resources (Home) on Schoology.

Schoology Test creation options include a drop-down menu for Add Questions to Bank

  1. Then delete your quiz after you’ve saved it to the Schoology Question Bank. Yes, start all over!
  2. Create a new test (Add Quiz), and use questions from your test bank.

  3. Select From Question Banks from the drop-down menu to Add Questions.

Quiz creation tool includes a tab to Add Questions with a option in the drop-down menu for From Question Bank5. Open the Question Bank in your Resources to add Set Points BEFORE you copy it over. This is the only material you can actually edit within your personal resources in Schoology.

In your personal resources, within your saved Question Bank, you can set points for all test items by typing in the value


What I’m doing to help combat disinformation online

A word cloud based on a blog about fake news detection resources.

I’ve spent a lot of time the past two years reading and figuring out how to use technology and critical thinking to identify false information. I realized that I hadn’t posted anything on my personal blog about it. Instead, I’ve blogged about it on the academic site, the AACE Review. In Navigating Post-Truth Societies, I provided useful strategies, resources, and technologies. For example, if you’re still on Facebook, use Official Media Bias/Fact Check Extension to determine the accuracy of posted articles. In my review of Data & Society’s Dead Reckoning, I summarized why it’s so difficult for humans and machine algorithms to defeat fake news. I also summarized Data & Society’s article on whose manipulating the media and why. Recently, I interviewed the creators of Hoaxy to learn more about their social diffusion network that pinpoints claims posted on Twitter.

Additionally, I’ve been curating useful strategies and technologies for students to use to combat fake news on Scoop.It. The e-magazine is called The Critical Reader. This digital curation has useful videos, articles, games, and technology tools for detecting biased or false information. For example, it describes how the Open Mind Chrome extension not only detects fake news but also provides veritable articles instead. The target audience would be for high school and college students. Let me know if you would like to collaborate on this endeavor.

And last but not least, I spent 2016-2017 searching for the truth about the workings of the Trump administration. I curated these articles on another Scoop.It titled The News We Trust.  Each of these articles, videos, and tweets were evaluated with a critical lens prior to being added to the collection. Evaluation measures used were confirming authenticity, triangulation (e.g., interviews, observations, and documentation) of evidence, relevance, and currency. Many others I read didn’t make it due to biased comments or going off topic. The reason I’m sharing this now is that it’s still useful going forward in our shared effort of maintaining a free democracy.  They can also be useful in the 2018 midterm elections. If you notice any pertinent article missing, send it to me, and I’ll review for consideration.

#fakenews #mediamanipulation #disinformation #hoaxbusters

Remember the Human in Online Courses

Remember the human is something we intuitively do in traditional face-to-face classrooms, but somehow this gets lost in distance education. If it’s only a text-based independent study, then we’ve silenced our students and treated them as mutes by not providing communication platforms that are supported in the grading criteria. Virginia Shea asks us to remember the human in the impersonal cyberspace, as part of her Core Rules of Netiquette. She was referencing politeness. I, on the other hand, am referencing the instructional goal of teaching to the whole student.

This blog focuses on the basics of computer-mediated instruction in terms of the dichotomy of transmissive (authoritarian) education versus that of a transformative one (democratic). Whenever I present on this topic at conferences, participants share that they or their peers have also encountered and endured transmissive online courses. I wonder how big the problem really is. Since first encountering this problem in 2012 as a doctoral student, I’ve dedicated my research efforts on addressing it.

Transmissive vs. Transformative

Critical pedagogies (e.g., Ignatian pedagogy and Freirean praxis) place the human in a real-world context as much as possible through learning experiences and reflection. The goal being transformative learning experiences instead of transmissive ones that use the antiquated banking model of education where the teacher deposits knowledge for the student to withdraw (Bradshaw, 2017). A good example of transformative learning is Ignatian pedagogy that advocates for context, experience, action, reflection, and evaluation (Korth, 1993).

Interactions for transformative learning are active, authentic, constructive, cooperative, and intentional. Hooks (1994) called this humanity-affirming location of possibility. The design of interaction treatments online doesn’t rely solely on synchronous sessions through web hosting with everyone present. Instead, the goal of high-quality online instruction is to avoid passive learning that requires little cognitive engagement. A good example of a transformative learning activity would be a student (or group) project where students provide each other with authentic feedback.

Interaction treatments are any direct or indirect action between and among students, teachers, and content. Besides written and spoken word, this includes nonverbal immediacy behaviors such as an instructor’s response time. The alternative, a transmissive education of information dumping, is unethical. Freire (1970) called it a corpse of knowledge. Nowadays, this is delivered by the uninformed online instructor through text-based study devoid of interactions with other students (e.g., read-write-submit). The lack of contact with others in the class is not only isolating, shielding us from social learning, but can be frustrating for some students.

Are we teaching machines to learn better than we teach humans?

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I recently read an introductory book about artificial intelligence (AI) and was struck how even the old AI addressed the environment of the robot, as this is something online instructors sometimes overlook for humans. If we want to come away as winners in the man vs machine competition, when humanoids such as Erica the robot have complete human feelings and singularity occurs in 2045, we should focus on providing human interactions in online courses.

Through trial and error, AI has developed heuristics to address robots’ interaction with the environment such as the symbol grounding problem, where symbols are meaningless unless they’re grounded within a real-world context.  For example, the Skydio R1 drone may become the ultimate selfie as it maps its environment using GPS, cameras, and other sensors. How often are instructors grounding the instructional content into the lifeworld of human learners?

What are the heuristics for effective human interaction in distance education?

Provide an online community of inquiry (COI) to dispel the perceived psychological distance between students and teachers in distance education to improve student learning outcomes and student satisfaction. An online COI, a sublime goal, requires consideration of the types of interaction treatments that could engender social, teaching, and cognitive presence for going beyond generative learning. These presences are the key elements for the COI loop (Garrison, Anderson, and Archer, 2000).

Technological affordances can provide humans with multimodal instruction such as narrated PowerPoints or audio feedback for teaching presence for an online COI. For example, podcasts increase student achievement and student satisfaction because they can listen to them over and over (Beylefeld, Hugo & Geyer, 2008; McKinney, Dyck & Luber, 2009; Seed, Yang & Sinnappan, 2009). Learning management systems allow for student-student discussions and the sharing of projects with opportunities for peer feedback to engender social presence in a COI. For example, Schoology’s Media Album allows students to upload their media projects for peer feedback. Projects also provide student agency in the design of their own learning.

Cognitive presence is the other component in the COI traid. Instructors generally provide this with interesting and challenging activities online that they’ve honed over the years from their F2F courses. In my two research studies (Rogers & Van Haneghan, 2016; Rogers & Khoury, 2018), the potential plans for cognitive presence have been high at the institutions; however, social presence has been average and teaching presence below average.

Designing interaction treatments (e.g., student-student, student-teacher, and student-content) will help address the psychologically perceived distance in computer-mediated courses (Bernard et al., 2009). These designed interactions need to focus on meaningful activities for the students’ lifeworld to aid their learning. Remember the human as you plan your online course; otherwise, the robots will overtake us.

#criticalpedagogy #transformativeeducation #AI #elearning #Ignatianpedagogy #CoI


Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Borokhovski, E., Wade, C. A., Tamim, R., Surkes, M. A., & Bethel, E. C. (2009). A meta-analysis of three types of ITs in distance education. Review of Educational Research, 79, 1243-1288. doi:10.3102/0034654309333844

Beylefeld, A. A., Hugo, A. P., & Geyer, H. J. (2008). More learning and less teaching? Students’ perceptions of a histology podcast. South African Journal of Higher Education, 22(5), 948-956. doi:10.4314/sajhe.v22i5.42914

Bradshaw, A. C. (2017). Critical pedagogy and educational technology, in A.D. Benson, R. Joseph, & J.L. Moore (eds.) Culture, Learning and Technology: Research and Practice (pp. 8-27). New York, NY: Routledge.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education 2(2-3), 87-105. doi:10.1016/s1096-7516(00)00016-6

Hooks, B. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Korth, S. J. (1993). Precis of Ignatian pedagogy: A practical approach.  International Center for Jesuit Education, Rome, Italy.

McKinney, D., Dyck, J. L., & Luber, E. S. (2009). iTunes university and the classroom: Can podcasts replace professors? Computers & Education, 52, 617-623. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2008.11.004

Rogers, S., & Van Haneghan, J. (2016). Rubric to evaluate online course syllabi plans for engendering a community of inquiry. Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference, 349-357. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Using Google Suite for the Universal Design of Learning

Design for gardining Website interface displays tools and supplies as icons
This Google Drawing was created for a doctoral mini project on an interface design task for developing a gardening website with one of my peers in an online course. This was created prior to my understanding of accessibility issues. Notice that not all icons are labeled. This would not be accessible to all. Additionally, alternative text would need to be embedded with each image.

Google Suite,  along with the Chrome browser’s Omnibox and useful extensions, can be used to enhance the teaching of all learners with universal instructional design principles. Google Suite is the new name for these features: Google Apps (Docs, Forms, Sheets, Slides), Classroom, and Drive. This blog focuses on the use of technology to augment instruction through differentiation via scaffolding, formative assessments, and student collaboration. Google professional development opportunities and teacher resources are also addressed.

There are several efforts to design education with universal design in mind. Palmer and Caputo (2003) proposed seven principles for universal instructional design (UID): accessibility, consistency, explicitness, flexibility, accommodating learning spaces, minimization of effort, and supportive learning environments. The UID model recognizes those needs for course design. Its main premise is equal access to education and extends this to all types of learners and not just those with disabilities. For example, all learners can benefit from multi-modal lessons. Palmer and Caputo’s principles should be kept in mind as you develop differentiated instructional learning scenarios with Google Suite. See my blog post to learn more about universal design.

My College is a Google Apps for Education campus, which means we have unlimited storage on our Drive and seamless access to Google Suite through our school Gmail. Speak with your Google Suite administrator to learn about the features and functions of your access, as some institutions like my alma mater block YouTube and Google+. 

The following scenarios address possible technology solutions for teaching all learners. For instance, scaffolding supports different learners’ preferences, as well as the needs of lower performing students. Formative assessments are important to obtain ongoing feedback on student performance; use these often. They can be formal or informal (practice tests, exit tickets, polls). Formative tests promote active learning, which leads to higher retention of information learned. Use the following list to add your ideas and scenarios for differentiated lesson planning.

Scaffold Learning Google Tools & Features Formative Assessments Your Ideas & Scenarios
Provide visuals for structure, context, or direction & just-in-time definitions Google Drawings, Docs’ Explore tool, & Drive Students make their own graphic representation of a concept or complete guided tasks with the frame provided by an instructor.
Provide authentic speaking practice prior to oral test/presentation Google Docs’ Voice Typing, Chrome Browser’s Omnibox for a timer, & Drive Students work individually or in small group turn-taking voice typing their scripts/stories on Google Doc within a timed parameter on a split screen.
Check for comprehension to obtain data to drive instruction/remediation Google Forms, Sheets, Classroom, & Drive (Alternative: Google Slides new feature allows for asking questions & polling question priority live from slide.) Students take a quiz on Google Forms to demonstrate knowledge after a lesson (exit ticket) or homework. Instructors receive Form responses in a Google Sheet. Sheets has Explore tool for analyzing data for visual display for data-driven discussions among teacher cohort/supervisors. Auto import grades from Forms to Classroom gradebook.
Students use app with embedded choices to check their own grammar Free Chrome extension, Grammarly and/or app Students correct errors in their first writing drafts on the app or within online writing platforms (e.g., wiki, blog, or email). Grammarly is also available for MS Office and Windows but not for Google Docs. Use its app to check Docs or other writing formats by pasting content to New Document.
Hi/low peer collaboration and/or tutoring Google Apps, Classroom, & Drive Students share settings on project Docs, Drawings, etc. to collaborate via text comments or synchronous video chat sessions.

Resources for Digital Literacy Skill Training

  • Did you know that Google provides lesson plans for information literacy?
  • Do you need to teach your students how to refine their web searches? See Google Support.
  • Internet Safety Tip- Recommend that students use incognito browsing on Google Chrome when conducting searches to reduce their digital footprint. See Google’s YouTube playlist, Digital Citizenship and Security, and their training site for more information.

Accessibility Resources for Assistive Technology

  • ChromeVOX – Google’s screen reading extension for the Google Chrome browser and the screen reader used by Chrome Operating System (OS).
  • TalkBack – This is Google’s screen reading software that is typically included with Android devices. Due to the design of Android and its customizability by hardware manufacturers, TalkBack can vary and may not be included on some Android devices.
  • Screen Magnifier – This is the screen magnification software included with ChromeOS. The magnification function in ChromeOS doesn’t have a unique product name like other platforms.
  • Hey, Google – This is Google’s personal assistant, which is available in the Google Chrome browser, ChromeOS, and many Android devices.

Professional Development for Educators


#Google #Edtech #Accessibility #UDL


Palmer, J., & Caputo, A. (2003). Universal instructional design: Implementation guide. Guelph, Ontario: University of Guelph.

Fair Use Recommendations for Viewing Copyrighted Media for Educational Purposes

Copyright (c), Creative Commons (cc), Public Domain is not copyrighted (letter c with slash through it), Fair Use symbol has balance scales

One of the first issues I encountered on the job as an instructional designer was the misuse of copyrighted media by instructors. Unfortunately, this was propagated by the previous uninformed instructional designer. According to the U.S. Copyright law and Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), copying copyrighted material is a violation. Basically, you cannot modify the existing format (e.g., copying a VHS to DVD format or converting it to a MP4 file) Review your faculty manual or school guidelines on the use of copyrighted material in the classroom. Also, I recommend talking with the copyright expert on your campus.  For example, I learned a lot from a librarian at our College who is knowledgeable on the topic.

Here are a few useful websites to reference to aid your understanding of the topic:

The following are some practical solutions that I put together for a job aid when redirecting instructors to best practices within the law. Here are some recommendations to show copyright-protected videos to students:

1) Only show a small segment of a privately owned video in your class to illustrate a lesson, as part of the Fair Use laws (Title 17, Section 107, U. S. Code, Avoid showing an entire video of copyrighted material, as this constitutes a public performance of it and is prohibited by law. Use a Fair Use checklist to determine the purpose, nature, amount, and effect of the media use for educational purposes.

2) Place your videos on course reserves for checkout by students in the library for one semester only to meet spontaneous requirements. Fill out the necessary paperwork with the library at the circulation desk for course reserves. If a student does not have a VHS or DVD player, they may be able to check out one on a TV cart to take to a study room in the library for viewing. Meanwhile, place a request order with the purchasing librarian for the library reserves. See solution # 4.

3) Search the library’s video databases to see if the same content is available (e.g.,  Films on Demand and WorldCat). Films on Demand provides Live Media Streaming. Students log in with their school credentials to view.

4) There is an option for the library to purchase DVD formats for multiperson use to include in their collection. Contact the purchasing agent in your school’s library to learn more about this option.

Please share any of your recommendations on this topic!