Instructional Design & eLearning Blogs, Conferences, Podcasts, & Websites

Occasionally I get asked about what blogs I follow, what podcasts I listen to, what conferences I attend. I like keeping a leg in both worlds: libraries and the eLearning industry. This is especially important since I also teach in a graduate instructional design program.

Here’s a short list of my favorites:



Both of these are fairly expensive, but offer discounts if you work at a nonprofit. DevLearn gives you free registration if you present!



The e-Learning Heroes Community has tons of great stuff. I especially enjoy their weekly challenges (someday I’m going to participate, I swear!) The community is run by Articulate, so naturally it’s Storyline-focused.

Nothing like this exists for Captivate, unfortunately!

Design Your Own Tutorial: Workshop Materials

I love developing eLearning! Even more than that, I love teaching people to design effective online learning experiences. Here are my slides and handouts from a workshop I did recently on designing tutorials (and aligning assessment with objectives!).

Download my materials from my workshop on designing an effective tutorial:

Presentation Slides

Handout – Storyboards

Handout – Learning Objectives

All of my materials are licensed under CC-BY 4.0.

Watch a 10-minute video on effective learning object design over on my post featuring my digital badges presentation (similar but not identical to above slides!)

Profiting from OER: A New EdTech Model

Here at Cal State Fullerton, we’ve been hard at work lowering the cost of education for students by promoting the adoption of OER and A(ffordable)ER instructional materials.

That means we’ve been persuading instructors to give up their cherished traditional textbooks in favor of an open textbook or an eBook available through the library, or a mix and match of OER and AER from across the web.

We’ve been pretty successful so far! (In fact, our entire Master of Instructional Design and Technology program has gone entirely AER – no textbook purchase required! [I’ve had a hand in this, naturally!])

We’ve saved students thousands of dollars! But oh –

What’s a traditional textbook publisher to do?

Good ole traditional publishers realize that they have to evolve or die. Start-up edtech companies that have pitched their “disruptive” OER/AER products for a few years now, and traditional publishers have tried presenting ebooks or rental ebooks as “affordable.” Just offering cheaper textbooks isn’t enough. Students know that e-textbooks are a scam, and as a librarian, I can plainly see that this model is not sustainable.

But the model is changing, slowly and surely – both start-up companies and traditional textbook publishers are now trying out newer and more innovative business models to try to profit from AER. Some good, some not so good!

This article from EdSurge on the growth of “enabler” companies put a name on the trend I’ve been seeing in the parade of vendor demos that come through Cal State Fullerton. Whereas we’ve been calling EdTech and OER efforts “disruptive” to the traditional model of higher ed, there are now more companies that facilitate or “enable” shifts in higher ed. They’re not offering products in the traditional sense. They’re offering services or discovery layers, which librarians have a LOT of experience with.

For-profit OER, aka, LMS Plug-ins Everywhere

First, Boundless came for a visit. They pitched us a service where they develop OER for courses that students access through a mandatory plug-in to our LMS. Students are charged in this model – I can’t remember the exact number, but it was between $20 to 40 to access the course content. No up-front fee for this one, as long as Boundless could recoup the cost of OER development later through student fees.

Their mandatory LMS plug-in and student fee was as bad as traditional publishers pushing ebooks! Yes, the Boundless model is cheaper, but students are still beholden to paying a mandatory fee for access to digital content. The LMS plug-in functioned as a sort of piggy-backed parasitic LMS – students accessed content and completed quizzes in the Boundless LMS, which communicated with our Moodle gradebooks. What happens to these courses when Boundless goes out of business? And I hear that it is going out of business!

An OER Spin on Discovery Layers

Next, there was Intellus. Intellus’ model is FASCINATING to me! And probably the most useful model I’ve seen so far. Intellus is basically just a custom discovery layer that integrates into the LMS. Intellus’ bots will scan your academic library’s resources to create its own index, and then will combine this index with their existing OER index to create a new discovery layer for faculty to more easily locate OER and AER for their courses.

The beauty of this model is that faculty can search and add content to their courses without leaving the LMS, and Intellus has a neat web app that allows faculty to organize content by module and learning objective as well.

This model focuses on libraries – they want to charge us several thousand a year to launch and maintain this service. (Because academic libraries have so much money, hah!)

While completely redundant since any self-respecting academic library ALREADY indexes all of its content in a local discovery layer, I thought that this could be a useful service that would enable greater OER and AER adoption among faculty because it makes the process easier, and makes it available at the point of need in the LMS. (But! This will only exacerbate the problems that arise when a library eBook goes away because it’s part of a subscription package, because the faculty didn’t tell us they were using it).

I do worry that the Intellus reps couldn’t pronounce EBSCO to save their lives, though. They kept saying “eh-bes-co,” and other librarians reported that the the reps didn’t know the difference between OER and AER. (Unfortunately many faculty fail to make that distinction also).

Interestingly, our new discovery layer we’re implementing at our library, Primo, actually offers its own LMS plug-in. So does MERLOT, a prominent OER repository. Their plug-ins are probably not as slick as Intellus, though.

OER-Centric Databases

Cengage is in the process of offering a somewhat similar model to Intellus, minus the indexing of local library content. Cengage is offering a series of subject-specific OER databases, and they’ll charge libraries by the database when it launches sometime this year. Their databases will have Cengage content also, videos and such. They, of course, have an LMS plug-in as well.

They’re also offering cheaper textbooks in a format that’s half traditional publisher/half Boundless – students will be charged $40 for access to an online textbook, but they’ll have perpetual access at least (if they download it). Cheap is great, but since they’re focused on targeting gen-ed classes, I can’t help but think OpenStax has already done it better and for free.

More Usable OER

Another interesting development – the Cal State OER repository MERLOT is partnering with content-delivery platform Vital Source. Details are forthcoming, but the gist is that Vital Source will use their fancy erReader platform to format Open Textbooks that are indexed by MERLOT.

A lot of OER have usability issues, so this is a nice solution for that (even if the usability issue is just that Word and PDF documents are often ugly). Really the appeal I see in this is that Vital Source is going to package open textbooks more like traditional publisher textbooks – which faculty will really like! The Bookshelf platform is also fully accessible, so faculty won’t have to worry about it.

Vital Source’s Bookshelf platform is already being used by Pearson to deliver etextbooks. The Bookshelf app is pretty nifty – you can annotate your textbooks and the annotations sync across your various devices (there’s a device limit of course).

The Appeal of Packaging and Findability

Overall, one of the biggest issues with getting faculty to adopt OER is that faculty tend rely on the textbook package – they rely on a monograph to guide their teaching, and on the supplemental materials that come along with it.

It’s published by a major company, and faculty also take that as a mark of quality. It’s easy to find because big publishers market to faculty.

If we are able to overcome these twin hurdles, packaging and findability, we will increase faculty adoption of OER/AER.

The more Open Textbooks that are available, and the easier they are to use, the more faculty will use them.

The more findable OER are, and the easier to integrate into their courses, the more likely faculty will be to explore what’s available and put them into their courses.

While I hate that Intellus is duplicating an existing library discovery layer, I do like that their product will enable faculty to find and use OER and library resources more easily in their courses.

And while I hate the model of requiring students to pay a set fee to access a digital textbook in a monopolistic textbook model, I do like that traditional textbook companies are trying to find new ways to lower prices, and I think they’re headed in the right direction with OER databases.

Final Word

There’s a fundamental uncoupling between content and service among textbook publishers – between holding fast to copyright (ahem, textbook DRM) and facilitating OER/AER adoption. The value of content is decreasing. There is less money to be made from monopolistic textbook practices (that once-solid foundation is eroding quickly!) but publishers are seeing that there is money to be made from a subscription-based model with OER databases and fancy discovery layers.

The shift is happening quickly toward OER enabling.

Long-term, OER will only continue to grow in scope and quality and usability, but there will always be a market to make this adoption process as easy as possible for faculty and students.

Pollak Library eLearning Recognized in American Libraries

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One of my projects got a shout-out in American Libraries! My Pollak Library eLearning site, a local learning object repository for information literacy, was included as an example of a WordPress-based info literacy toolkit.

Read the article on American Libraries

Explore Pollak Library eLearning

Learn more about this project, including the tech and philosophy behind it. I originally presented on this project at Library Technology Conference 2016 and Library Instruction West 2016, and developed my presentation into an article in 2017. The author approved manuscript is available for download.

Mentoring for Instructional Designers

So many instructional designers fall into this profession accidentally that there’s a book written about it.

I’m super lucky to have a second masters in instructional design and to teach in an instructional design program – but I am still the only person that does what I do on my campus.* I constantly crave general feedback on my work so that I can improve! I know I’m not alone in this feeling, lots of people are the sole instructional designer at their place of work, and it’s really difficult to figure out how to even begin to get better at what you do. Just like in teaching, meaningful feedback is crucial to the learning process. Without meaningful feedback on my work, I won’t improve very much. It’s a lot of trial and error.

This is why I’m so excited about this new peer mentoring program for instructional designers that’s being launched by Penn State, called ID2ID. The program will match instructional designers across institutions of higher education to allow them to peer mentor each other.

Imagine if you’re the sole instructional designer at your campus, but suddenly you’re in contact with someone else at another campus that has the same challenges? It would be incredible to be able to work with someone else to trade ideas and solutions!

As an Inside Higher Ed article that covers this program quotes a source, “people are being thrust into new responsibilities, but they don’t know how to do some [things]…they want to sit down with others who have the same problems.” Yes, yes they do!

As an Instructional Design Librarian, I’m not sure if this is the best program for me, unless I was matched with another librarian or with someone in charge of developing online tutorials. I haven’t decided yet if I will apply. But I really hope this program is successful and continues in the future, because I think it’s filling a critical need for so many instructional designers. We truly need to build larger communities of practice.


*We do have campus instructional designers that work with faculty, but as the Instructional Design Librarian, I’m the only one on campus developing elearning, designing information literacy tutorials, launching digital badge programs, etc.


Digital Badges Exposed

I presented recently at ACRL and Electronic Resources & Libraries on my digital badges/tutorials program, on digital badge technology, and on effective learning object design. These are now available as a three-part recording via YouTube! Get more information and download my slides from my conference post. Enjoy.



Part 1: Introduction/Spark Tutorials


Part 2: Digital Badge Technology


Part 3: Learning Object Design

Get more information and download my slides from my conference post.

Instructional Design Librarian Starter Kit

Instructional design-related librarianship is a growing field, just like instructional design is. I get asked periodically about what it is exactly that I do, and while I love sharing my own experience, someone with the exact same job title as me might do something very different.

I always encourage others to learn more about instructional design! I love being an instructional designer and eLearning developer and think these skills and knowledge are really useful and important in today’s schools and corporations. So, I’ve collected a few of my blog posts and some other resources to help get you started on your own journey to instructional design.

Let’s start with a 5-minute overview of the very basics of instructional design from the Commonwealth of Learning organization:

What is Instructional Design? from Commonwealth of Learning on Vimeo.

Here’s also a great written overview: An Introduction to Instructional Design!

Hear from Instructional Design(ish) Librarians About What They Do

There is a lot of variation in official title for librarians that do instructional design-related work. The first was probably blended librarian. Sometimes emerging technology librarians are ID-esque. You might also see instructional technology, learning experience, or online learning librarians.

However, even two librarians with the exact same title might do very different things! It’s a very new position in libraries and the position’s function depends on the local library culture. So, if you’re interested in exploring this type of job, you might want to check out the experiences of people that already do this work.

Recorded webinars from the Blended Librarian Online Learning Community:

My Own Posts About Instructional Design Librarianship

Design and eLearning Development

Have you been thrown into the deep end of the eLearning pool? Are you jumping in excitedly all on your own? Here are a few of my posts on getting started with eLearning development.

Keep in mind that knowing how to USE the software and knowing how to DESIGN effective learning experiences are two different things, so I recommend started with the “so you want to get started” post for some useful design resources.

Librarian-Centric Courses on Instructional Design

I haven’t taken or reviewed these courses so I can’t vouch for their quality, but it’s great there are options for librarians wanting to learn more about this specialization in a structured learning environment. If you know of others, please drop me a line and I’ll add them.

University Programs in Instructional Design

Conferences to Attend

Check out my post on Recommended Online Learning & EduTech Conferences! There is always programming related to instructional design at library conferences, but get out of the library bubble to meet and learn from professionals that do nothing but design and development for a living! They’re really good at it.

Bottom Line

Instructional design is all about designing effective learning experiences by applying a deep knowledge of learning theory to an instructional problem. Always keep the learner forefront!

Digital Badges Exposed: Technology Behind a Library Badges Program

I’m presenting at ACRL and ER&L 2017! My presentations are about my Spark Tutorials project and the technology needed to make digital badges happen.

Both my slides and my handouts are licensed as CC-BY-4.0. You are welcome to download them, reuse them, redistribute them, etc., as long as you give me attribution.

A three-part recording is now available of my long-form session. 

ER&L Materials

Digital badges exposed: Technology behind a library badges program
15-minute presentation, April 4, 2:30-2:45 Central

ACRL Virtual Conference Materials

Digital badges exposed: Technology behind a library badges program
60-minute interactive webcast, March 23, 10:00-11:00 am Eastern

ACRL TechConnect Materials

Digital badges exposed: Technology behind a library badges program
TechConnect in-person presentation, March 23, 4:00-4:20 pm Eastern, BCC 317

TechConnect Slidecast Recording

Source page of this recording.

Spark Tutorials Course Tour

Teaching Online Track at ACRL

posted in: Blog, Conference | 0

Head to ACRL next week? I am! I’m excited to be presenting both a webcast and a TechConnect presentation. This will be my first ACRL presentations!

Interested in scaling up your instruction by going online? Thinking about launching your own badges program? I love it when conferences offer “tracks” of programs on a given topic. Unfortunately ACRL has only a “Teaching and Learning” category which encompasses a huge number of diverse programs!

So, I made my own “Teaching Online Track!” (Which includes my two programs on badges, of course!)

Here are a bunch of sessions at ACRL that relate to online teaching, tutorial development, and instructional design, which is especially important when developing online content and assessment:

  • Digital Badges Exposed: Technology Behind a Library Badges Program
    Thursday 10:00 to 11:00 am, Live Webcast
    Our academic library has issued thousands of digital badges to students for mastering basic library concepts using tutorials with built-in assessment and our Learning Management System – no manual grading required! In this interactive session, participants will learn about the necessary technology for a badges program and effective learning object design for issuing badges. Participants will also analyze their campus’ learning infrastructure for opportunities for implementing a badge program.
  • Take It Online: Building Librarian Competency in Online Teaching and Learning
    Thursday 2:40 to 3:00 pm, Room 324-326 (Paper)
    By using a successful online/hybrid teaching certificate program as a framework, the argument will be made for including librarians in faculty professional development activities in order to build librarians’ capacity to support online learning. Presentation will include ideas for developing a strong online instructional presence and best practices in engaging online learners.
  • Teaching Librarians About How to Teach Online
    Thursday 3:00 to 4:00 pm, Poster Session 35
    Learn about a series of free online modules to teach librarians and library workers how to teach online. See examples of how students have applied their learning to projects in their own libraries while studying instructional design, technologies, diversity, community, and social media. This poster will highlight the tools and methods that participants from academic libraries have found most valuable, for you to apply when developing online instruction for your own institution.
  • Anchoring Online Learning Content in Student Knowledge Practices
    Thursday 3:00 to 4:00 pm, Poster Session 39
    Find out how one university library is using student knowledge practices to inform the creation of online learning content that supports student success in research and information literacy. View our newly adopted student knowledge practices, which incorporate language from the ACRL Framework, alongside two of our online learning objects: a completed online learning module for literature research and an in-progress Research DIY website focused on supporting students throughout all steps of the research process.
  • Teaching Digital Humanities Tools at a Distance: A Librarian-Instructor Partnership Integrating Scalar into a Graduate Distance Course
    Thursday 3:40 pm to 4:00 pm, Room 337-338 (Paper)
    Attendees will discover teaching strategies for integrating digital humanities publishing tools into distance learning. The presentation will outline the partnership between a subject librarian and an instructor to develop digital scholarship learning outcomes and measures in a history of children’s literature course. The authors highlight challenges and support mechanisms for teaching digital tools at a distance when there is no option for an in-class “hands on” session to introduce students to tools.
  • Digital Badges Exposed: Technology Behind a Library Badges Program
    Thursday 4:00 to 4:20 pm, Room 317 (TechConnect)
    Our academic library has issued thousands of digital badges to students for mastering basic library concepts using tutorials with built-in assessment and our Learning Management System – no manual grading required! Students earn a badge for each tutorial completed with a 100% score (repeatable), and both librarians and faculty may track their progress. Learn how we did it, and let’s discuss how to choose the technologies to structure a sustainable badges program.
  • Taking a Different Tack: Adapting First-Year Information Literacy Instruction to the Online Environment
    Friday 8:30 to 9:30 am, Room 318-320 (Panel)
    Budget, staffing, and scheduling constraints might prevent the academic library from meeting all the demands for first-year instruction via the standard face-to-face format. Three academic librarians from small, medium-sized, and large institutions will discuss the challenges of and opportunities for providing alternative information literacy instruction to first-year students in virtual learning environments, such as cultivating new learner behaviors to remove barriers to success, optimizing course content for online delivery, and achieving personalized learning experiences.
  • Transforming First-Year Writing Library Instruction into Engaging Online Modules
    Friday 9:30 to 10:30 am, Poster Session 36
    With the rising number of students choosing to complete their college degrees online, it is important for libraries to produce intentionally-crafted online information literacy instruction. To this end, we crafted engaging, interactive multimodal online modules for first-year writing courses. These modules provide high quality instruction using student learning outcomes (SLOs) and activities from face-to-face instruction sessions. This poster shows attendees how to map SLOs, craft interactive learning modules quickly, and assess them for incremental improvement.
  • Scaling up: Using online tutorials to maximize library reach in the sciences and health sciences
    Friday 9:30 to 10:30 am, Poster Session 48
    This poster will describe how they used online tutorials to “scale up” their instruction efforts in the face of a quickly increasing student population. Preliminary assessment data from a project comparing the achievement of student learning from the tutorials versus in-person instruction will be presented.
  • Library Orientation in Blackboard: Supporting Online & Distance Learners
    Friday 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm, Poster Session 37
    This session explores how online library orientation progressed from initial course request to selecting and balancing technology resources, how development of library tours and tutorials, creation of overview and instructional videos (Tellagami, Animoto, Screencast-O-Matic) impacted course content, and how inclusion of library social media helped develop a project inherently valuable to students.
  • Interactivity and Gamification in Virtual Library Learning Objects
    Friday 2:00 to 3:00 pm, Poster Session 47
    See how our library has reimagined Orientation, following two students as they progress through a variety of interactive learning scenarios. Students must click, hover, drag, drop and explore to proceed. Additional examples of virtual gaming experiences created by our library will be demoed.
  • Standardizing and Managing Online Tutorials for Improved Learning
    Friday 4:35 to 4:55, Room 321-323 (Paper)
    Learn how to standardize and improve the look, functionality and accessibility of your online learning objects to improve students’ learning and improve their experience.

Did I miss any? Post them in the comments below!

Recognition at Campus Honor an Educator Event

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It’s not often that I get awards, so I hope you’ll forgive me for being super excited to share that I was recognized at my campus’ recent Honor an Educator event! It’s an annual fundraiser put on by the California State University, Fullerton, College of Education.

I was nominated by the director of the Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology program. I’ve only been teaching for her for about a semester and a half, but she thinks I’m doing a great job and I’m very flattered. I love teaching for the program! My students are the best.

As part of the event, I got this amazing certificate thanks to our California Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva. You bet it’s getting framed and going on my office wall!

Certificate of recognition for Lindsay O'Neill from California State Assembly

Mike and Lindsay at Honor an Educator dinner
Mike and I at the dinner!
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