Professional Development Resources

Have you ever checked out UW-Madison’s HR website for professional development? It has a number of opportunities you can explore: courses you can take; resources, programs, and counseling for career development; conferences to attend; communities you can connect with. Wherever you’re at in your career, worthwhile resources can be found at:

Free Online Courses: Coursera, EdX

If you’re looking for professional development opportunities, or an opportunity to try a new skill, or simply a chance to experience the student perspective with online learning, you might try two platforms of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCS: edX and Coursera

Please note: this is a much different format than the IL courses we teach. Rather than an actively involved teacher providing instruction through feedback (like our courses), these courses enroll thousands of students, with autograded quizzes and peer review providing much of the feedback. That being said, it is interesting to experience.

Many courses are free to explore, and for a fee (some in the tens of dollars, others in the hundreds), you can earn a certificate.

Any thoughts on the nature of MOOCs? While I much prefer the personalization of Independent Learning, these do allow for a large number students to access learning. Do you have any experience engaging in these courses?

How Humans Learn: Sociality

The ADEIL book group has been reading How Humans Learn: The Science and Stories Behind Effective College Teaching by Joshua R. Eyler. After reviewing fields of psychology, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience, Eyler saw that humans learn when there is curiosity, sociality, emotion, authenticity, and failure; below are a few takeaways from his chapter on sociality.

Eyler states early in this chapter that “it is not a stretch to say that much of what makes us human stems directly from our sociality” (p. 66). The absence of social interaction can contribute to physical pain or health issues. As we socialize, there is a strong instinct for imitating what we see in others; this imitating process can help (and will often inspire) learning to take place. The social interaction of playing can help increase an understanding of concepts and social dynamics. Maria Montessori, a pioneer of children education, stressed that learning among young children develops between the interaction of the group.

In education of all ages, the classroom environment can contribute to a sense of belonging. Eyler quotes the research of David Yeager and Gregory Walton: “If students feel more secure in their belonging in school, they may approach others in the academic environment more and with more positive attitudes, building better relationships, reinforcing their feelings of belongs, and laying the groundwork for later academic success” (p. 85).

As instructors, we can foster sociality with classroom management. For Eyler, this is less about monitoring behavior and more about establishing ground rules for discussions, especially with potentially sensitive subjects. We can also model this in our behavior, sharing a variety of perspectives, citing sources in discussions and presentations, and in trying to engage with students as individuals during class discussions. If we use group projects, we can try designing projects that are less divide-and-conquer the responsibilities and more of students gathering evidence and bringing it together.

As the chapter closes, Eyler highlights an educational role-playing game Reacting to the Past and encourages using group activities and discussions, even if it means there’s less time to deliver content. “Let’s think about choosing content carefully as a way to help our students develop a framework for thinking about the discipline” (106-107). Instead of focusing on cramming so much content into our courses, how can we help students, especially those looking for a general degree requirement, make broader connections to our fields of study?

If you’d like to join the ADEIL book discussion, go to:

How Humans Learn: Curiosity

The ADEIL book group has been reading How Humans Learn: The Science and Stories Behind Effective College Teaching by Joshua R. Eyler. After reviewing fields of psychology, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience, Eyler saw that humans learn when there is curiosity, sociality, emotion, authenticity, and failure; below are a few takeaways from his chapter on curiosity.

Children are known for being especially curious; it’s how they take in the world and learn life skills while developing. Studies have shown that curiosity in a subject can help memory retention about that subject. Dopamine (a neurochemical associated with pleasure and addiction) has been present alongside moments of curiosity. “Our species has been shaped by nature to be wide-eyed children approaching the world inquisitively from beginning to end, always striving to know more” (p.29).

While curiosity seems to foster learning, in many education settings – and especially as students become older – the desire to achieve higher grades becomes greater than the desire to explore. There is greater incentive in earning points than in pursuing curiosity about a subject. In response to this, Eyler proposes the use of low-stakes assignments and activities. Encourage students to explore a subject, where the primary takeaway is what they explored, not how many correct answers they achieved.

When designing a course, try to think of essential questions and use those to determine the readings and assignments. What do you want students to take away from your courses?

You can encourage curiosity with course discussions by including open-ended questions. Instead of focusing the discussion about what something is, try to focus on why those aspects are important. Eyler also shares an example of a chemistry professor who helps students explore concepts on their own before teaching them; the professor has students construct and deconstruct simple Lego objects while another student times the process. Generally, it takes less time to deconstruct than construct; students are then taught that chemical processes of deconstruction are typically quicker than construction.

Do you have any examples of low-stakes assignments, where students can focus on exploring a subject without fear of what their grade might be?

If you’d like to join the ADEIL book discussion, go to:

Resource: Online Learning Update

If you’re looking for a great collection of articles related to online learning, check out Online Learning Update:

Recent article topics include MOOCs (massive online open courses), artificial intelligence, microcredentials, do-it-yourself learning, and changing demographics in higher education.

You can also have updates sent to your e-mail at the following link:>

How to Make Smart Choices About Tech for Your Course

Sarah Korpi recently shared a comprehensive article on the ADEIL LinkedIn page: “How to Make Smart Choices About Tech for Your Course” by Michelle D. Miller. I’d recommend giving the article a few reads, as there’s a wealth of information including great technology considerations for your courses, discussions on course design, Universal Design for Learning, tools, links to learning materials, etc, etc.

If you haven’t yet joined the ADEIL LinkedIn page, you can find it here:

Speaking of great articles, is there something you’ve recently read that you’d like to share with the group? Let us know!

ADEIL Book Discussion Group

The Association for Distance Education and Independent Learning has a new connecting and learning opportunity on their LinkedIn page. We’ll be reading How Humans Learn: The Science and Stories behind Effective College Teaching by Joshua Eyler, the keynote speaker at the upcoming ADEIL conference. Even if you haven’t yet started reading the book, the first few discussions have been geared towards peoples’ personal experiences and don’t require further reading. We hope you can join the discussion!

Faculty Symposium Presentation: Meet the Instructor: Building a Social Connection

At the Faculty Symposium this past June, Nick Meyer and Bryan Bortz from the media services team presented on how “Meet the Instructor” videos can build a social presence in your course. As IL instructors, we might not be able to interact in person with our students, but these videos can allow students to see us in our element, like they would in an in-person course. Links to the slides of the presentation (which include some information on the process and benefits of these videos) and a highlight reel are below.

You can download the Meet the Instructor: Building a Social Connection Presentation here:

You can view Nick and Bryan’s highlight reel of introduction videos here:

Desirable Difficulties in Convenient Coursework

The article below shares an intriguing idea to ponder: difficulties in learning can help students better retain material. Flashcards are an example: students see limited information (for example, a word) and try to remember more information (for example, a definition or translation). The article discusses how students often come to online courses because they’re convenient, but convenience doesn’t necessarily translate to learning.

The author suggested using fonts that are slightly more difficult to read, as this forces the student to take their time to process (and in turn, better learn) the material.

How do we approach this concept as educators? We’ve shared a number of resources on accessibility; the greater the accessibility, the more people can use it, and everyone generally benefits, too. One suggestion for increased accessibility has been to use easy-to-read fonts, but the article suggests less readable fonts might help with learning. How might we consider the concept of desirable difficulties to increase retention while making sure the education we offer is accessible?