The Job AMA Thread! - current AMA@ChickieD through 11/16 at 11:30 PM PST



I’d say that’s a poor take-away, and completely inaccurate if taken from any of my comments.

I was at a corporation with the only tools available to me the ones that were a) free/already licenced and b) met our security standards. There wasn’t a big list to work through.

Before that I was in a public school system that had no budget and no desire for anything new. Our then-government had declared they were “creating a crisis” in education and had removed a lot of funding, all the while questioning any curriculum that didn’t match their political views.

A lot of on-line training success, as with any training, comes from the tone-setting. If you just dump people into a session with software they’ve never used before, in a setting they’ve never experienced before, it’s going to be a disaster.

And if you walk out of such a disaster thinking, “ooh, this on-line stuff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, it’s so limited”, then you’ve got some learning to do. If you don’t have training resources available to you, you’re going to have to problem-solve. I’d run what I called rehearsals, asking colleagues to run a session in the background on their machines, not participating, while I figured out scenarios.

That’s all on the person doing the teaching, not the students. What did you do to make the students comfortable? What did you do to provide opportunities for the expected outcomes to be achieved? Hint: if you’re not comfortable on-line, the students won’t be, even if they’ve done on-line before.


I was going to leave this part alone until this last comment. You seem upset when people who have trained successfully on-line explain the constraints under which on-line learning is successful.

How is that dishonest? All educational methodologies have trade-offs, including very traditional ones. The “stand and deliver” lecture hall has been shown time and again to be a not-great way to educate, but it’s traditional and entire buildings are designed for it, so we use it anyway and work within its constraints.

I’m finding your replies frustrating because it feels like you just don’t believe us, because you’ve had bad experiences with on-line and seem to believe that’s all there is.


No, this is from the other poster.

My problem is that he’s not explaining those constraints. I’ve brought up a couple things that I think are issues, and technologies that I’ve seen improve them. Nothingfuture replied by saying that it’s a preference to have a verbal component of a class. Which … OK, in some classes it probably is. But if, say, an entire curriculum is moved online, that will mean that for courses that do have a verbal component, there are, in my view, substantial roadblocks. So I pushed a little more on that point and got back this response:

Again, I work at an elite university that charges substantial money for these courses, so there is every incentive for a student to push through (as opposed, let’s say, to a low-cost MOOC or the like).

That’s not a helpful reply. That’s a reply that closes the discourse to anyone who is at a public school, or a community college, or a SLAC. If that’s the goal, to leave 99% of the educators in the country out of the discussion … I mean, obviously everyone has their own motivations. My motivation is to serve the students I have, and to understand educational technologies that might help them. Obviously, this reply helps me do that, in the sense that it tells me that synchronous online learning couldn’t be successfully implemented at a non-elite university. But it’s sort of unsatisfying in the sense that I’m genuinely interested to hear about the technologies that make it possible, and I’m being told that the problem is not being at an elite university.


I also work as an instructional designer creating online training. I’ve stayed out of this thread because it’s not my AMA, but it seems like this is developing into a discussion about online training, so I’ll contribute and then if we want to break this off into its own separate thread, I’d definitely be interested.

I design online training for a big corporation. Due to a lot of limitations of that company’s software, security requirements, needing to verify that people took classes for their job requirements, and time restrictions, we tend to make a lot of slide based training. For the more sales oriented courses, or the higher level product launches, we add a lot of videos - both animated and with people demoing products or discussing them.

I am also developing courses for my own company, and in that case I have had the freedom to explore a lot more options for how we deliver courses, and also interviewed a lot of people about the benefit to them of online training.
Here are the benefits I have heard:

  • A lot of people would rather not travel, or cannot travel. Travel is expensive, and a lot of people would prefer to spend the money they would have spend on air fare and hotels on another course. Many people have little kids or family situations that prevent them from traveling. There’s a lot of people who have social anxiety or just don’t enjoy travel, too.
  • People have schedules/family obligations that make it hard for them to get away for a whole weekend for a workshop, or to a class that is during the day. They want to take the classes when it’s convenient for them.
  • Some people have learning disabilities or are not native English speakers. Videos that they can start and stop work better for them than a live lecture.
  • Then there’s the opportunity to study with a teacher who otherwise is not available to you.

Because my own company is yoga and healing based, I’m really exploring ways to create as much community and sense of connection as I can in my courses, and a lot of the corporate issues of verifying that people attend are just not as big of a deal for these courses.

What I’ve learned from my conversations is:

  • Zoom videoconference is by far the closest thing to being in person with someone. However, for people who live in other time zones, this gets into some of the same issues as live classes, that people need to be able to be on at a certain time. Yes, you can watch the replay, but it’s not the same as a live call.
  • People like Facebook groups and online forums for group interaction.

The drop out rate from online courses is very high - something like 80% of courses are never completed.

One thing that keeps people involved is paying a lot of money for the course, and also having a Facebook group or community component to it.

Here’s some articles about this issue:

One of the best designed communities that revolves around online learning is this one, WPElevation, which teaches people to become professional WordPress developers. In this video, they discuss the tech that is involved in this system. It is super clever and thought through to create community and engagement through rewards and emails. This kind of thing is rarely thought through - people throw the content up and do not think about followup and delivery.

I’m current in an online “coaching program” and I am super impressed with how they run this program. It is not technically very advanced - mostly just documents thrown up in Google Docs and Zoom videoconference calls + a Facebook group - by the teachers are very high touch; constantly checking in, reaching out by Facebook messenger to see how they can help, they just gave me an extra $1000 bonus of coaching (this is like 1 hour call - these coaches tend to massively inflate the value of their work in order to get paid a reasonable amount) - so it’s not always about the tech but also can be about personally getting out there and checking in. If you watch this video all the way through, you’ll see that this company was doing something similar at first, then as they grew they automated some of the personal touch elements.


Oh! That gave me a question for @nothingfuture – how much is live video used for on-line courses, from your experience? I’ve always avoided it because it often is blocked in a corporate setting (even if all the other features work), and I’ve noticed in my last few courses I’ve taken on-line people will share slides/demos, but skip video.


I’m pretty reluctant to weigh in again, but in for a penny in for a pound or whatever.
If you’re going to mention me, kindly @ me so I can see the notification.

I’ve done no such thing. Given the thread was purported to be about asking me about what I do, I was providing context for the work I do, specifically. I’ve worked most of my career in public education, so no, I’m not interested in closing doors or leaving people there behind.

I wrote about the increasing use of embedded student/faculty created audio and video (both in real-time and asynchronously) here:

But you know, as I write this, I’m looking at this response from you:


So I’m done.
Have a great day.


Nearly all of the lecture components we have are video of some sort- often that’s something that looks like an audio-narrated slideshow, but sometimes it’s an instructor in a studio (or the field) giving a talk. Most courses have something like 1-3 hours per week of that sort of content.
Live video is less common in the graduate level courses I mostly work on, but it’s super common for undergrad in some subjects like foreign languages. But that’s more like video conferencing and whatnot.


Do you provide transcripts to go with the video? I get frustrated sitting through something that’s difficult to accurately skip back and forth in when I can read the same material in a fraction of the time.


Ever video we touch is both closed-captioned as well as transcribed. It’s a txt file you can download (along with the ppt and pdf of the slides, if any).


It’s one of my main criticisms of moocs like Coursera. I wanna read this stuff not spend an hour watching video content that’s either going too slow to engage me or too fast to take notes /rant


** ahem *


Inf, not meaning to pile-on, just chiming in with my experience:
I graduated from an online school. They’re ideal for socially awkward folks who are driven self-learners. At the weekly class group call, or via phone, the teachers provided rapid verbal responses. Generally, IM and email worked best.

This was in Alberta, and a public school.


Was that Athabasca? I’ve seen their ads on the subway and wondered what the experience was like.


St Paul’s Online Academy. I guess it’s nominally Catholic, but they make it ridiculously easy for (high school) students to enroll. And - because it’s Alberta - they provide up to four grand in reimbursements per student each year. That’s a lot of piano lessons!


My Master’s degree was done at an accredited California State University school in a distance based program that has been going for over 30 years. When I did it a decade ago, it was mostly through the transition from mailing piles of paper back and forth to use Blackboard and a lot of email. It worked out fine for me. I read a lot, turned in many papers and an MA thesis, and I graduated.


What sorts of things do you setup or encourage the instructors to do to make the courses interactive? Do you get pushback if you try to get them to go beyond the ‘lecture videos plus an occasional automated quiz’ format? What would you say is the most innovative or unusual format that you’ve tried, and how was the reaction to that?


YouTube has a very big reach. Sadly the biggest influencers on it are edgelord assholes who yell at video games, attack women, and pass on KKK propaganda. But there are plenty of others on it who try to use it in an educational way.

Do you think those YouTube educational channels succeed in their goal of educating? Are they acceptable for classroom use in your eyes? If you were to start a channel of your own how would you improve on the format?

Examples: Crash Course or Spacetime and Kursgestagt


I’m always clear that, in my view, discussion/forums are the heart of a course. So beyond videos and quizzes, having good, well thought out discussion prompts (and some training on how to best nurture a discussion) really does help.
It can be jarring for a lot of faculty, as they are often still working under the cartesian model (knowledge is poured into student and they then possess that knowledge).
Still, progress.
BUT: there’s blowback from students, too. These are (by their very presence in a graduate level program) successful students- but that often means success at a lifetime of education based around being able to quickly and accurately regurgitate massive volumes of data- but that’s not really learning (as there’s often been no/little checking that said data has been incorporated into students’ existing knowledge structures). So if you go too new-school with innovation, they get uncomfortable (because they want to be able to do the thing they do best: regurgitate) and the possibility of failure sits poorly with them. Understandably.
So it ends up being a balance- you want to push a bit and make sure they’re understanding the subject beyond regurgitation, but not push so far they can’t see the relevance or can’t see a way to success.


Yeah, that’s tough.
Some of that gets used/referenced in courses, but not a lot (and basically never as a primary lecture- supplemental at most. There are a few reasons for that:

  1. The youtube stuff is often aimed at a broad audience with little assumption of existing familiarity with subject- so it’s often too broad or general for a lot of courses.
  2. It’s often not the angle/depth/subject exactly that faculty want, so it’s of limited used in that way.
  3. The production value on that stuff is often really high- and while that can make it really watchable for a lay-audience, the downside (bizarrely) is that it’s not seen as “academic” enough- too much entertainment, I guess?

I’d love to be able to make stuff of that quality with faculty, but the money and time involved is crazy. A lot of faculty (around here, anyway) would view it as too much or over-the-top. I disagree, but there you go.


I’m curious what you think make for a good discussion board - how do you get new classmates to get started participating and how do you help the teacher to keep the flow of the conversation happening?