Learning How to Learn

How does one learn how to learn? With lots of practice!  It is a fascinating look into metacognition that helps us understand how we learn so we can focus on the strategies and practices that help us most effectively.  Here’s a look at a tip on Helping Students Learn How to Learn


Rock Your First Day of Class!

In writing this tip, I kept reflecting on various ‘first’ days that I experienced, both as an educator and a student. So much is happening on this first day! Everything from excitement, to fear, to curiosity.  As I leave my office and head to the first day of class in a new semester, I often have emotions that feel just like the first time that I taught the class. I am nervous but excited. As a student, I get these very same feelings.

How can we tap into these feelings and really set the stage for the learning experience? Check out some brief tips: Rock Your First Day of Class!

Connecting Librarian-and-Instructional Designer

Through ID2ID Peer Mentoring

By Jennie Goforth, Librarian at UNC Chapel Hill and Kim Vincent-Layton, Lead Instructional Designer at CSU Humboldt

This post is our culminating reflection of participation in the 2017-18 Cross-institutional ID2ID Peer Mentoring Program for Instructional Designers co-sponsored by Penn State University and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI).

Zoom session

Kim and Jennie in a Zoom session

As we embarked on this amazing adventure, we gathered valuable tips and resources from our respective fields, practices, and institutions. Our focus on the topic of librarian and instructional designer collaboration was a natural fit, as Jennie is a librarian and Kim is an instructional designer. We were both interested in spending time reading and thinking about how these two professions are and should be working together to further the teaching and learning happening in higher education.

One of the resources that provided a framework for conversation was our common  reading, Librarians and Instructional Designers: Book cover for Librarians and Instructional Designers by Eshleman, et. alCollaboration and Innovation (Eshleman, Moniz, Mann & Eshleman, 2016). This book identified some key aspects to help identify changes in higher education with respect to the roles of librarians and instructional designers particularly with our digital world, as well as where new synergy has and can be created in collaboration across the practice. Following are brief insights of our insights and examples from our fields, along with potential collective opportunities that move beyond collaboration and into deeper impact on student learning.

Collaboration between Instructional Designers (ID) and Librarians (LIB)

  • Brainstorming diverse ways to reemphasize or re-ignite teaching, learning, and design particularly with the surge of the digital world, e.g., co-developing and facilitating workshops for faculty (digital scholarship and learning design) and students (course design, copyright, and research).
    • In the past, UNC has done popular joint workshops with our Center for Faculty Excellence, but these have fallen by the wayside. Reviving these workshops could be beneficial to our faculty, especially given our new expertise and focus on multimedia assignments.
    • At HSU, we’ve recently created a new Center for Teaching and Learning that is grounded in collaborative partnerships based on student learning. These partnerships have begun to cultivate a culture of collaborative creation and facilitation of learning opportunities across functional groups.
  • Intentionally looking for ways to lead and strengthen the quality of teaching and learning by helping the learners understand how our global society impacts learning.
  • Efficient and effective communication by combining efforts and messages, e.g., with the ever increase in digital communication this combined effort could reduce the number of messages that faculty receive about similar information. With careful planning, coordinated messages could give faculty better and more focused information about how both groups can help with their teaching — minimizing noise and maximizing comprehension!
  • Creating communities of learners, e.g., Writing Group Community that includes Learning Center specialists, instructional designers, librarians, and English Department faculty to create a holistic approach to writing support for faculty and students in a variety of contexts
    • At UNC, Jennie is part of a community of practice focused on library instruction and teaching. Wouldn’t it be great to invite IDs to some of our meetings, to further librarians’ understanding of what IDs do as well as to brainstorm further collaborations?
    • At HSU, Kim is launching a Professional Learning Communities (PLC) Program that is cross-disciplinary and inclusive of faculty and staff. This spring, the first PLC is a ‘train-the-trainers’ model to support faculty and staff in creating PLC curriculum in a learning community environment.

Challenges with ID and LIB collaboration

  • Grasping a clear understanding of the role of librarians and the role of IDs and how to best collaborate for collective impact
  • Both professions deal with identity challenges. The traditional view of librarians as people who just know about books, and misconceptions about the ubiquitous nature and changing descriptions of instructional designers both make it difficult for faculty and other university staff to understand exactly what we do and what services we provide. This negatively impacts our ability to make positive relationships with faculty members.
  • Potential territorialism of the fields, e.g., “the invisible wall”, in searching for synergy, overlap, confusion both internally (among teams/units/organizational structure) and externally (clients)
  • Limited time and resources to do more than complete current day-to-day responsibilities
  • While similar in many ways, the two professions also have some major differences.
    • Similarities
      • Focus on service, both to faculty members and students.
      • Focus on learners and crafting learning experiences.
      • Major responsibility is to support faculty members in the classroom, though often not teaching courses themselves.
      • Rapid changes in both professions, due to technological advances and the changing nature of higher education.
    • Differences
      • Librarianship is perhaps a more traditional and established field (though often misunderstood in the modern era). Instructional design as a profession is relatively recent.
      • Instructional Designers often focus more on learning technologies and how they fit into the campus infrastructure.

Value of face-to-face sessions

What we found valuable in our peer relationship in this program were the ongoing synchronous Zoom sessions that allowed us to get to know each other and get an understanding of our institutions, structure, and practice. We reflected that although asynchronous reading and thinking helped with our workflow, the synchronous format created a space for building a relationship, something noted as critical in learning.

ELI Key Issues

In our mid-point reflection, we noted Faculty Development as one of main foci of conversation in the respective work we engaged in.  Noted by the ELI 2017 Key Issues in Teaching and Learning as one of the top transformative areas in higher education, these The New Science of Learning Book Coverfaculty development efforts provided a platform for sharing resources and ideas about how to most effectively support 21st Century learning through digital skills as a real-world practice. Shared resources:

What we’ve noted since our first reflection, is the extension of our work in two other ELI Top Key Issues that include Academic transformation and Evolution of the Profession.

  • Academic transformation includes the rapid increase in digital scholarship and the role of librarians and instructional designers in facilitating this transformative work while also addressing the quality and effectiveness of this information. While Eshleman, Moniz, Mann, & Eshleman (2016) note a huge shift in changes for the librarian’s role, this also shifts the instructional designer’s role in work with faculty on course design. The traditional role of the librarian as a person who buys books and keeps them in order on the shelves has evolved greatly over the last several decades. Libraries now have functional specialists in all types of technologies that can help scholars throughout the research lifecycle — from finding the best information in all different types of media to publishing and preserving that research.
  • Evolution of the Profession was a topic that we spoke about often. The world of higher education is changing rapidly for people in all types of roles in colleges and universities. There is (and must continue to be) a constant drive to innovate, to make our institutions more efficient, to focus and adapt more readily to our students’ and researchers’ evolving needs, and to show our value to the teaching and learning happening at our institutions. These factors have greatly influenced the work that we both do. It was also interesting to discuss how these changes are being reflected at our two very different campus environments.


We have both found the ID2ID program to be valuable. Our biweekly Zoom meetings were filled with lively and interesting discussion!

Jennie: I felt that my understanding of what instructional designers do was greatly increased through my conversations with Kim. This new understanding will be invaluable as I work more closely with IDs at my own institution — I have many ideas about how they and the library can effectively collaborate.

Kim: I really value the relationship that Jennie and I developed that not only provided a safe space for conversation about the changing roles of IDs and librarians, but also ideas for cultivating this on my campus. I also feel like I have made a strong connection with a colleague that I can reach out to for ideas and resources.


Doyle, T., & Zakrajsek, T. (2013). The new science of learning: how to learn in harmony with your brain. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Eshleman, J., Moniz, R., Mann, K., & Eshleman, K. (2016). Librarians and instructional designers: collaboration and innovation. Chicago: ALA Editions.

The Student Who Has Disappeared…

A colleague of mine recently asked me for tips on what to do when an online student stops logging into the course. Unfortunately, this is a familiar situation even in a face-to-face course.

Here are a few best practices for connecting to and/or motivating online students:

  • First and foremost, begin with building community in your course from day 1. This starts with an icebreaker that and continues in many ways throughout the course. Read: Social Interaction and Presence in the Online Classroom
  • Pedagogically, I recommend using groups/teams to build community and build in accountability to the team.  Feeling a ‘sense of community’ is rated very highly by students who are persistent in online learning (Diep, Cocquyt, Zhu, & Vanwing, 2016).
  • By day 3 of the course, send personal email to each student who has not logged in and tell them you “miss them” and want to be sure they are not missing out on what their peers are saying/doing.
  • Throughout course, check the Learning Management System (LMS) logs frequently to ensure students are logging in daily (esp in summer course). If they have not logged in within last 48 hours, send them a personal note.
  • Encourage students to add their cell phone number to their LMS profile to receive class announcements/emails via SMS (text) to their phone (optional of course).
  • Integrate real-time (synchronous) time. Facilitate a 1-1 session with each student; have them sign up from a selection of various times/days.
  • Contact your Dean of Students Office (or similar) to report your concerns for the student.

Again, these are many of the same best practices we apply in the face-to-face environment. (Note that summer session is typically a very different “semester” due to summer and compressed time frame.)


Diep, N.A., Cocquyt, C., Zhu, C., & Vanwing, T. (2016). Predicting adult learners’ online participation: Effects of altruism, performance expectancy, and social capital. Computers & Education, 101, 84-101.

FLC on Ed Tech

The HSU Faculty Learning Community (FLC) on Enhancing Learning with Technology created an exchange for faculty members who wanted to get together, trade ideas, offer support, and reflect on the Big Picture — using tech tools in our classrooms. Teachers walked away with new ideas and a tech tool — tablet, camera, headset — to use with students. During one presentation, a handy typo appeared on the screen. An “A” had been inserted into the word “technology” making it “teachnology.”


FLC Ed Tech 2015

Social Interaction and Presence in the Online Classroom

By Kimberly Vincent-Layton

social globe

“Social presence is defined as the ability of participants in a community to project themselves, socially and emotionally, as real people through a medium of communication,” (Garrison and Anderson, 2003).
In thinking about a community of learners, let us tie in one of the major themes of Lev Vgotsky’s Social Development Theory. Vygotsky’s theory asserts that “social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development.” In essence, social presence is a critical element in the learning process.

Social Presence and Interaction – the Instructor

The course is all built, the students are busy working on assignments, now what do I do? As a new online instructor, or even one that has been teaching online for some time, there are many ways to provide “presence” in your online course.
Finding opportunities to communicate with your students in the online environment can seem challenging at first. Think about all the ways in which you connect to your students in the face-to-face environment and then begin to translate these ideas to online. You will find many opportunities to engage and be present. Your role as the instructor in the online environment is every bit as important (if not more!) as it is in the face-to-face classroom.
Be thinking of ways in which you can design your course that supports these four types of interaction:
1. student-to student (ss)
2. student-to-teacher/teacher-to-student (ts)
3. student-to-content (sc)
4. student-to-the-world (sw)
Opportunities may include: sharing of personal stories and experiences, frequent feedback, and continuous conversation.

Sharing of Personal Stories and Experiences
The icebreaker/creating classroom community It is essential to set the climate from the start of class. In the online classroom, you can provide engaging opportunities for students to introduce themselves to you and their classmates. Examples:

  • A discussion forum where each student makes an introductory post and reply (ss) (ts)
  • A wiki where each student provides their name, major, hopes for the class, etc (ss)
  • (ts)
  • A community bulletin board (try http://www.padlet.com) where each student posts their introduction on a class ‘wall’ (ss) (ts)
  • A class metaphor (i.e.: food, running, diving, etc.) to engage students by asking them to post their favorite “food” or exercise activity, etc. (ss) (ts) (sw)
  • A collaborative Google slide presentation where each student takes a slide to introduce themselves with text, images and/or video (ss) (ts)
  • Ask students to submit introduction videos of themselves using their favorite mobile technology such as VoiceThread or Vine (ss) (ts) (sw)

Posting/Blogging – if you are asking your student to make blog posts, use this method to communicate key concepts, reminders, and current events with your students. (ss) (ts)

Office hours – encourage just as you would in face-to-face (you can even offer extra credit to encourage them to attend at least one). (ss) (ts)

Frequent Feedback

  • The weekly email – emailing your students a weekly summary provides connections, summarizes the week, gives a preview of the next week, offers tips/suggestions, what went well, what could improve, point to exemplary student work, and encourage students to interact. (ts) Examples:
    • “ After you post your YouTube URL to the Class Blog, don’t forget to also paste the URL in the designated Moodle assignment area so you can receive a grade.”
    • “The first quiz was a bit ‘rocky’, however, the technical issues have been fixed for the next quiz.”
    • “Take a look at the Weekly Check-in Video on our class blog.
  • Office hours – encourage each student to join you for office hours, just as you would in a face-to-face class.
    • Require each student to contact you at least once during the course. This can be via chat, video (Skype or GoogleHangout) or any other method that supports synchronous conversation. (ts)
    • Offer extra credit to encourage them to attend at least one session. (ts)

Continuous Conversation

  • Ask a Trivia question related to a concept to get students engaged (ts) (ss) (sc)
  • Post a link in the discussion forum to a current event/article that relates to course content and ask for feedback (ts) (ss) (sc)
  • Provide opportunities for discussion, maybe a thought-provoking question to elicit student discussions. (ts) (ss) (sc)
  • Including opportunities for collaboration, such as group projects and team discussions that ask students to explore the world around them (ss) (sc) (sw)
  • Offer a poll where you ask students’ opinions on something related to the course/topic (this can be really fun!). (ts) (ss) (sw)
  • Mention the Student Corner (“commons area” for off-topic discussions) and offer some guidance on the purpose. (This engagement is extracurricular but it can help students build relationships that are advantageous inside the classroom. (ss)

As the instructor, it is important to provide space and encouragement for continuous ‘conversation’ that supports cognitive processes. Model what you are asking your students to do, so be sure to add/post/create just as they are doing. Then, reply to students’ posts and welcome them individually to make that initial connection.

Social Presence – the Student

You are in the online course, working on assignments, now how do you ‘meet’ your classmates and get the sense that you are not alone? The online student is every bit as responsible for the social presence and interaction in the classroom as is the instructor; it is a two-way communication. Students will find that increasing their participation level also increases their motivation, which is likely to contribute to success in the course. Let’s take a look at similar methods to engage: sharing of personal stories and experiences, frequent feedback, and continuous conversation.

Sharing of Personal Stories and Experiences

  • Participate in the icebreaker activity and meet at least one other classmate that you can connect with throughout the course
  • Use the course discussion forums and/or blogs to share your experience with classmates and instructor (ss) (ts)

Frequent Feedback

  • Use the course discussion forums and/or blogs to communicate with classmates and instructor (ss) (ts)
  • Use the instructor’s office hours on a regular basis (ts)
  • Read all course communication thoroughly so you don’t miss out on important announcements/information. (ss) (ts)

Continuous Conversation

  • Have a course-related question? Ask it in the course discussion forum. Know an answer to a classmates’ question? Answer it! (ss) (ts)
  • Want to find out if any of your classmates live in your area and know of any housing available? Ask in the Student Corner forum. (ss)
  • Communicate regularly with your group members; they are your lifeline in the course. (ss)
  • Respond to class polls and discuss thoughts with classmates/instructor (ss) (ts)

Garrison, D. R., and T. Anderson. 2003. E-learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice. New York: Routledge Falmer.
Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind and society: The development of higher mental processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Submitted by: Kimberly Vincent-Layton, Humboldt State University