Online Discussion Boards

Online Discussion Boards: The Practice of Building Community for Adult Learners

For full text: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis The Journal of Continuing Higher Education in 2017, available online: DOI: 10.1080/07377363.2017.1274616.


“Online education continues to grow, and the application of theory to practice becomes increasingly important as practitioners examine the impact technology has on e-classroom interaction. Adult students, in particular, look for interaction that is collaborative and student-centered. A common area for dialogue within the online classroom is the discussion board or forum, yet despite the large amount of research that has been conducted on the use of discussion boards, many online classrooms fail to effectively use the board to encourage social interaction and learning. This review of literature summarizes the research around best practices and strategies within the practice of online learning, specific to the roles of the instructor, the student, and the course design of the discussion board. Constructivist techniques used to foster communication and a sense of community help administrators and educators build environments for active user engagement. This literature review assists the practitioner to apply research-based techniques to improve the online discussion board.”

Keywords: online learningadult studentsonline discussion boardsconstructivist theoryinstructional design

Covelli, B. (2017). Online discussion boards: The practice of building community for adult learners. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 65(2), 139-145. Taylor & Francis. DOI: 10.1080/07377363.2017.1274616


Instructor Satisfaction & Online Learning

This post is provided by guest blogger, Randy Canale, graduate student University of St. Francis, MS Training and Development program

With the explosion in popularity of online learning, more institutions and learners are taking advantage of the convenience and other benefits of this type of training. However, are instructors satisfied in this environment? In a recent article, Dr. Dietrich discusses the Online Instructor Satisfaction Model (OISM), the five factors this model uses to determine instructor satisfaction and suggests five ways to increase instructor satisfaction. In conclusion, the author points out that a satisfied instructor is more motivated and effective in delivery and this results in a more satisfied student. Online instructors should be proactive and use this model to increase their satisfaction with online teaching.

I recommend this article for anyone who conducts online training sessions. The OISM factors provide typical considerations that impact instructor satisfaction. I could sum them up as interaction, support and ownership. Dr. Dietrich (2015) makes it clear that these all impact instructor satisfaction. The suggested ways to increase instructor satisfaction are briefly described and would be a good source of self-help for anyone interested in improving the effectiveness of their delivery and their contentment level with teaching online. These suggestions enable a motivated online educator to increase and maintain their online teaching satisfaction level.


Dietrich, D. (2015, February). Why instructor satisfaction cannot be ignored. eLearn Magazine, 2015(2). Retrieved from

10 elearning trends

This post is provided by guest blogger, Trudy Sulita, graduate student University of St. Francis, MS Training and Development program

Ruby Spencer is the Director, Global Curriculum Development at PulseLearning. Passionate about all things training, she has designed, developed, and implemented synchronous and asynchronous training for a number of national and international clients, including CA Technologies, VMware, IHG and Bank of America. She states there are ten trends for elearning in the near future. These include: gamification (animation, narrative based games); corporate MOOCs or Massive Online Open Courses; personalized learning (puts the learners in control); M-learning (mobile-learning) and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device); augmented learning (augmented or virtual reality); API’s or Application Programming Interface (inbuilt instructions for applications to talk to each other); and wearable learning (smart watches) (Spencer, 2015).

I feel that the author’s assumptions of future learning forecasts are right on the target. With technologies changing minute by minute, learning should keep up with the changing climate. During the brief time I have been an online learner, technology has changed in leaps and bounds. I am looking forward to the learning methods and delivery techniques of the future.

Spencer, R. CTDP (2015, June 3). Top 10 elearning trends for 2015. eLearning Industry. Retrieved from:

Online Teaching Tools for the Adult Learner

Check out my session from the Association for Continuing Higher Education (ACHE) 2015 national annual conference held this year in St. Louis, MO. Thank you to all who attended the session!


Adult learners have unique needs, and the e-learning or online environment presents additional challenges.  Adult students seek return on their investment of time and money for education.  How do we meet these realities?  This workshop presents the unique learning needs of the adult student through the lens of adult learning theory. It addresses using adults’ experiences in a highly applied and meaningful way with e-learning tools to fulfill adult learner’s goals and desired outcomes.

Online Teaching Tools for the Adult Learner ( presentation)

Guest Post: What is nano-learning?

This post is provided by guest blogger, N. Heidi Hess, current student in the MS Training and Development program

Earlier this year I was introduced to the idea of nano-learning. One of the biggest challenges we face in learning is simply time. How do we find time or even make time for learning? How do we sell stakeholders on investing time into training? Nano-learning may offer some solutions.

While most training modules start at about fifteen minutes in length, nano-learning refers to shortening training to about two minutes. An expert in adult learning, Malcolm Knowles explained “the perfect teachable moment as the intersection of a small question with a great small answer” (Masie, 2006). In these moments, we are ready to learn and be receptive to that learning. These moments need not be buried in hours of tedious highly technical training, but very simple, short, and direct to the point training that can be delivered electronically when the learners are ready to receive it. Training of this sort might be in the form of a power point, an infographic, a white paper, a printable job aid, a youtube video, or an interactive activity. Two minutes may not be enough time, but it seems quite reasonable to ask retail employees to spend five minutes reviewing a quick course to help improve performance. Ideally, employees would even be able to learn on a computer on the sales floor between customers so that the training may immediately be put into use.

While any minimalists reading this may be celebrating, the rest of us may be struggling. How can we possibly fit complex information into short bursts? If we look at training in a modular format and focus on one learning objective per module, the idea becomes more achievable. We can still train complex topics by focusing in on one idea at a time. A more complex topic will just require more modules versus a less complex topic that may require something as simple as an infographic. Look for the greatest small answer you can find.


Masie, E. (2006, January). Nano-learning: Miniaturization of design. Chief Learning Officer, 5(1), 17.

eLearning – Beyond the Buzz

eLearning –Beyond the Buzz

The concept of eLearning is hot. Blogs, wikis, tweets and even journals are proclaiming the rise in eLearning as one of the fastest growing phenomena in higher education, or so it seems. Computer-based education has actually been around a long time. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign introduced a computer-based Education Research Laboratory project in 1959 (Lepi, 2012; SAM, 2012). The University of Alberta Department of Medicine offered early versions of online courses in 1968 (Lepi, 2012; SAM, 2012). The University of Phoenix opened its online doors in 1989. The University of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill. launched its fully online MBA in 1997. These brave instructors and administrators were pioneers in eLearning education! So folks, eLearning is not new. There just happens to be much more bandwidth these days, and it seems everyone wants to jump on board.

So moving beyond this latest hype surrounding eLearning, let us focus on the tactics of eLearning. There has so many tools to produce effective synchronous and asynchronous learning modules, but most of us who are teaching in the medium are not doing enough to incorporate these tricks of the trade into our course designs. And the tricks mean more than simply linking to a YouTube video or recording an opening introductory audio “welcome to class” recording. The advantages of eLearning are that we can incorporate features into an online course that do not even exist in the face-to-face format. eLearning provides us with the ability to interact using writing collaboration tools (i.e. GoogleDocs), real-time interactions between instructors and students (i.e. webcasts), learner-created resource guides (i.e. wikis) and much, much more.

The eLearning buzz needs to push the envelope a bit more. The eLearning buzz should be about: are we doing it well?


Lepi, K. (2012, November 12). Who actually started online education? Edudemic: Connecting Education and Technology. Retrieved from:

SAM. (2012, October 9). 11 early online education pioneers who paved the way for today. [blog post]. Avatargeneration. Retrieved from:

Unplug 101: Is the internet driving you mad?

Unplug 101: Is the internet driving you mad?

Have you ever thought about just getting away, and, dare I say, unplugging yourself from everything?

We are constantly on the move; we are on our smartphones, tablets, laptops, and sometimes, we even fire up our desktops. The question we need to be asking is what is all of this connection doing to us?

According to numerous studies conducted in more than a dozen different countries, it is definitely not all good. On average we spend half our waking hours looking at a computer screen, and The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has added “Internet Addiction Disorder” to its list of disorders (Dokoupil, 2012).

In 2006, one in eight individuals showed an unhealthy attachment to the internet (Dokoupil, 2012). That was before Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPhone!

In the summer 2012, Newsweek ran a cover story titled “Is the Onslaught Making Us Crazy?”  It chronicled the overloaded screen time that each of us faces on a daily basis.  And that was in 2012. Just think about how much has changed since 2012.

The irony of this is not lost on me.  As I write this article (on my computer) warning about the hazards of the internet, you are reading this article via the internet.  The world wide web is a great resource, but we need to find that proper balance.

In my personal life, I have definitely found there are challenges with the age of the internet and trying to raise a family. My husband and I have stayed on the cautious side – we were the last to buy our kids phones; we still have “parental controls” turned on for our teenagers; we know their passwords; we read their text messages. But it is tough. Our whole family is screen-time heavy, and I do worry about the dangers and potential psychological damage pointed out in the Newsweek article.

“The computer is like electronic cocaine,” says Neuroscientist Peter Whybrow (as cited by Dokoupil, 2012).

“The internet ‘leads to behavior that people are conscious is not in their best interest and does leave them anxious and does make them act compulsively,’” says Nicholas Carr author of the Pulitzer nominated book The Shallows, about the web’s effect on cognition (as cited by Dokoupil, 2012).

According to the Newsweek article:

“The brains of Internet addicts, it turns out, look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts. In a study published in January, Chinese researchers found ‘abnormal white matter’—essentially extra nerve cells built for speed—in the areas charged with attention, control, and executive function. A parallel study found similar changes in the brains of videogame addicts. And both studies come on the heels of other Chinese results that link Internet addiction to ‘structural abnormalities in gray matter,’ namely shrinkage of 10 to 20 percent in the area of the brain responsible for processing of speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information. And worse, the shrinkage never stopped: the more time online, the more the brain showed signs of ‘atrophy’” (Small, 2008 as cited by Dokoupil, 2012).

I have heard my colleagues and extended family joke about how family time is everyone sitting in the living room on their laptops, and they talk to each other through Facebook rather than turning to the person sitting right next to them. I think we need to be cognizant of the advantages of technologies, but also the disadvantages.

I am reminded of the television commercial in the 80’s/90’s about drugs. It was the one where all you see is the egg being cracked and then fried on the stove: “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” (Partnership for a Drug Free America).  The next public service announcement should be:

“This is your brain. This is brain on the internet. Any questions?”


Dokoupil, T. (2012, July 16). Is the onslaught making us crazy: What the new research says? Newsweek. Retrieved from:

10 Strategies to be Successful as an Online Student

10 Strategies to be Successful as an Online Student

“1. Avoid procrastination.

2. Plan & organize weekly coursework.

3. Set goals and manage time effectively.

4. Develop and engage good study habits, then practice them.

5. Keep up with assignments and post in a timely manner.

6. Allocate time in work schedule for rest, exercise, proper nutrition, and social interaction.

7. Participate in online discussions and check into courseroom based on course requirements.

8. Communicate with professors, as often as necessary.

9. Take keyboarding class (before beginning online class) if typing and computer skills are not proficient.

10. Take notes while reading and practice becoming a good note taker and developing outlines” (Barr and Miller, 2013).

Barr, B. A., & Miller, S. F. (2013). Higher Education: The Online Teaching and Learning Experience. Online Submission, Online Teaching and Learning.