Category Archives: Active Learning

Using Interactive Maps to Teach Foreign Language Online

  screen shot of interactive map 

Through the use of interactive maps, students gain a better understanding of the Francophone world as part of their work in the foreign language course,  French 2.  This highly interactive learning activity provides a geographic and demographic view of French language and culture throughout the world.

Students select to explore various regions that are highlighted on the map in order to identify historically and culturally significant events, places and people, and examine how they influence and represent the evolution and use of the French language.

Teaching Foreign Language Online

voice thread screen shot of desertsDeveloping new and innovative ways to teach foreign language, CDL is incorporating VoiceThread into various courses, including Spanish for the World of Business. VoiceThread is a digital medium for housing, displaying and distributing nearly any type of media (images, documents and videos).  VoiceThread allows students taking the Spanish course to collect media files, display them, and comment on them in 5 different ways – by using a  microphone, a telephone, using written text, an audio file, or recording a video with a web cam. Students can create and share their media with anyone, anywhere. 

Additionally, VoiceThread hosts group conversations, allowing students to practice their Spanish by sharing their thoughts on their media collections – in this case, their most loved and most hated foods.

screen shot of voice thread pageStudents taking this course also use VoiceThread to market a product of their choice, in Spanish. The product can be food, computer software, services, a store, etc.  Students write their own advertisement and present it to the class, while the instructor and other students will record and share their own comments, in Spanish.


Experimenting at a Distance

A photo of a lego car built by a student in the Invention by Design course, as part of an online lab.

A photo of a lego car built by a student in the Invention by Design course, as part of an online lab.

Laboratory experiments are often considered the defining characteristic of science courses.  Engaging CDL students in active scientific experimentation as part of their distance learning coursework not only fosters scientific cognition, but provides evidence for the effectiveness of the design and delivery of online science courses that include a lab component.

Exploring how experimentation can be integrated with content in distance learning courses for non-science majors, a research team comprised of CDL faculty and instructional design staff  is currently analyzing selected activities from three online science courses that have been developed by an interdisciplinary team at the center.

Each of these courses – Invention by Design , Contemporary Environmental Issues, and Energy: the Issues and the Science – are designed to promote scientific literacy and provide students with direct, hands-on experiences with science, all while using an online delivery platform.

Future Genesis: The Transformation Station Tour Guide

Future Genesis is the Second Life avatar name of the machine driven cyborg designed to serve as a station tour guide in a futuristic transformation station that provide students with a unique experience in changing avatar identity prior to sending them on a journey of scientific discovery through Second Life worlds. 

This immersive simulation is the Second Life component of an interdisciplinary science course titled the Future of Being Human.Throughout this course, students discuss biological enhancements, advances in neuroscience, medical breakthroughs, technological change and exponential computing. They use scientific experimentation to analyze how the experience of virtuality is changing human beings and their environments and assess implications of science and technology policies related to technological advances. Finally, they participate in a simulation of virtuality reflecting Vittorio Gallese’s theory of embodied simulation. 

The immersive learning activity provides students with the opportunity to experience transformation, transport to various worlds, and explore future, past and imagined worlds in their new form. Students use scientific methodology within a framework of biological advances, artificial life, and emerging technologies, and write a 500-word scientific report based on their experiences.  To do this, students enter the transformation station, transform their avatar, and receive a heads-up display (HUD) to guide them through exploration and discovery using the scientific method.

The machine driven avatar Future Genesis was developed as a solution to provide students with 24/7 assistance in introducing the student to the transformation station and providing hands-on instructions on how to operate the station, transform avatars, and receive the heads-up display.

Health Policy Course – a student community blog

NUR 403 “Healthcare Policy and Delivery Systems” uses a blog activity to enable students to share posts and experience online publishing using a blog. The students prepare and post a comment addressing 3 of the 5 health policy topics. The activity is intended to familiarize students with the concept of sharing information publicly and electronically, as well as preparing well thought out and well prepared statements on current issues. In addition, the students experience just-in-time alerts in their e-mail and can start to consider how this method of sharing information can be used in other venues of health care leadership, education, and advocacy.


Blog Title Page for NUR 403 Healthcare Policy and Delivery Systems

Dual Wiki Support System

The Dual Wiki Support System offers a flexible activity that adapts to student interests and needs, provides unique assignments, and encourages collaboration. It also provides a place for students to reflect on their own work. It operates by using two wikis in conjunction: in the first wiki, students determine topics of research that they will work on together in the second wiki. Each wiki has an area where students can share and expound upon their research strategies.

Introduction to College Studies uses this tool for an activity in which students determine the five areas of college study habits where they need the most improvement. Students then address each issue. The first wiki offers a space where each student proposes the five areas in which he or she needs to improve. The class then works together and decides which five areas most affect the group as a whole. In the second wiki the students create a post for each of the five agreed areas from the first wiki. Collectively students develop strategies to overcome these problem areas. In the comment sections, students reflect and explain their decisions in a class-wide discussion.

Flipbooks: Content With Style

At CDL, one of our primary curricular goals is to encourage active learning in every course we offer. Often, we achieve this goal by providing students with guided explorations of the many resources available on the web today. Under the instruction of faculty, students are supported in their search for content that fits their style of learning and enhances their experience in the course. The Curriculum & Instructional Design group collaborates with faculty to create and provide exploratory opportunities like these.

Flipbooks are a great way to provide students with a variety of content related to the course – as well as the option to explore it at their own pace.  Multiple presentation styles (timelines, lists or maps) are not only visually-rich, but allow students to choose the method of presentation that works best for their own style of learning.

Below is an example of a Flipbook currently being used in the Caribbean History and Culture course at CDL.

Click on the link to see a full screen version of this learning object,

An Authentic Learning Experience for a Science Course Using Second Life

Instructor(L) with student at the Victorian bedroom that leads to the transformation station.

Instructor(L) with student at the Victorian bedroom that leads to the transformation station.

Things have changed dramatically since the economist Edward Castranova wrote his seminal work Synthetic Worlds in 2005, which made predictions on the emergence of virtual worlds based on a rising real economy in virtual games. Many higher education institutions, particularly those involved in online learning, have discovered the great potential that virtual environments, such as Second Life, bring to their programs.

In The Future of Being Human, we use Second Life to create an embodied transformation in which students can experience a transformation of their virtual selves, transport to various worlds and explore future, past and imagined worlds. For this activity, the College has created a replica of one it’s beautiful Victorian buildings (28 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs , NY ). The virtual building houses a “transformation station” which will transform students into differently-abled avatars (from human to animal to cyborg). An interactive transportation HUD (heads up display) will transport students to different locations to conduct experiments using the scientific method as they explore various worlds and their technologies.
As with any experiement, students approach this activity using the scientific method.  They are required to develop two hypotheses before they start the experiment about: the world(s) they expect to see and the technologies they chose to use; and their experience as an avatar in Second Life. Then, they participate in the activity making observations based on these two hypotheses.
The Future of Being Human was developed under the Science and Math Project (SMP) funded by the Charitable Leadership Foundation. To learn more about the project visit ESC’s SMART Site.

Travel Simulation and Learning Maps

In Italian: History and Culture an interactive map creates a simulation of the travel paths of Frances Mayes, author of The Sweet Life in Italy. Developed in collaboration with faculty, curriculum design staff and instructional technologists at CDL, this unique learning map offers detailed information about regions, cities, and the cultural attractions of Italy. The map includes features that allow students to pan, zoom and explore the geographical, cultural and historical background of the area. A dropdown menu offers students the opportunity to target specific zones of interest to them, and uses web links, videos, still images and text descriptions to provide regional information.

Creating Social Policies for the 21st Century

The fall of the Berlin Wall.

The fall of the Berlin Wall.

Privacy, Security and Freedom:  Social Concerns for the 21st Century is a course that explores the sociological and philosophical aspects of privacy, security and freedom in the 21st Century in the context of both theoretical and practical, policy-oriented aspects of these social concerns. To that end, one course exercise requires students to develop a hypothetical scenario on a security issue — school security or computer network security — and a policy that addresses the concerns raised by the scenario. Students choose one of the two options and then work in teams to develop the scenario and the policy.

First, the teams meet in their own discussion areas to share research results and to reach consensus on details of the scenario. Each group then begins the collaborative writing of the scenario in Buzzword, an online word processing tool that allows multiple users to edit the document at the same time (or not). These documents are then posted and each team can review and comment on the other’s submissions.

Next, the teams develop the security policy. They return to their designated discussion area and again share research and reach consensus on a policy approach that, in their opinion, will best address the issue. The teams return to Buzzword and fashion a new document, working collaboratively, until all agree it is ready to be submitted to the instructor. Each team can review and comment on the other’s submissions.

This activity not only gives students an opportunity to apply in a practical way the sociological and philosophical aspects of security they have studied, they also have the opportunity to work as a team, including all the real-life implications of developing policy with people who may not have a single shared perspective.