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Michelle's Higher Education Work

Youngstown State University's Department of Education hired me as a consultant to create a professional development course on best practices for online course design.  Faculty would complete one module per month of the 2021-22 school year.  Modules included:

  1.  Introduction to eLearning, Online Learning, and Blended/Hybrid Learning

  2. Instructional Design

  3. Course Design Process

  4. Aesthetics of Course Design

  5. Assignments, Assessments, and Grading

  6. Engagement and Motivation

  7. Accessibility

  8. Create Your Own Course Media

  9. Upcoming Trends in the Future of Instructional Design

Once the course was complete, two different Zooms sessions were held to orient faculty to the course and provide Q&A.

Dr. Dunko comment on using vocab templat

I created the course template below for Youngstown State University's Department of Education in Blackboard Ultra:


  • SAMR

  • Adult Learning Theory

  • Components of an Effective Lesson

  • ​AND elements from the Accessible Syllabus 


Assignments utilized a template created in Microsoft
Word and modified for each subsequent assignment.


One hundred percent of the template adhered to the
ADA guidelines for accessibility.

We began using the assignment template process
during the fall of 2020. Upon implementation, we
noticed more assignments coming in with higher
levels of thought, and students were adhering to

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I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It’s easy. Just click “Edit Text” or double click me.

1 Module Overview BB.jpg

Flow Matters

Modules should be laid out in a similar manner to mitigate the cognitive load on students.

Using the components of an effective lesson provides the structure:

  • Introduction

  • Set goals or the Why

  • Connect to Prior Knowledge

  • Open to New Concept

  • Teach New Concept

  • Practice

  • Formatively Assess

  • Retech, add a Layer, etc.

  • Practice

  • Apply

  • Assess

  • Close

The 5E model can apply in this manner as well.  All components do not need to be covered in every lesson, but each lesson should have a proper flow and purpose.


Tell students upfront the purpose of this module, unless you are working on an inquiry model.

Setting the stage for learning is imperative; whether it be in this format or an inquiry model, students should have a purpose for learning.



Notice the branding I continued throughout the course. Please choose a color pallet and stay with it. Choose to use illustrations or photos; try not to mix. Stay consistant.  

2 Module Introduction.jpg

Discussion Board


In a typical lesson, a discussion board would not be upfront; however, since this was the first lesson in the course, we wanted to provide students with an opportunity to get to know one another.

To see an interactive method, check out this Google Slide Deck I used when teaching professional development courses at Clark County School Districts.  The adults loved it!

3 DB getting to know you.jpg

The Heart of the Lesson​


There are many philosophical perspectives on how to teach through online and blended learning; however, in my experience, these are the main takeaways:

  1. Chunck information: no matter the age, people read online differently than they do in a printed book. Slow the eyes down with headings, bullets, etc. and use white space effectively.

  2. Use images: I worked with an educator that believed that images distracted away from learning and can be true if images are just thrown in, but I believe, and research shows, that images can anchor learning. Think about the proliferation of infographics over the past few years.

  3. No hyperlinks: Use links when needed, but embed them in text. Don't add long URLs to a page. They look messy and distract from the message. It is your choice to have them open in a separate tab, but it should be consistent throughout the course.

  4. Cite: It is important to cite your sources for both images and content. If you use sites like HiClipArt or Pixabay, citations are not required, but it is nice to know where you got an image if it degrades and needs to be replaced.

  5. Use Graphics: speaking of infographics, they are everywhere because they are so effective. Consider using them in your course.

4 Learn page 1.jpg
6 Learn page 3.jpg
5 Learn page 2.jpg

Scroll or Not to Scroll

Lesson content needs to be chunked and introduced by topic and subtopic.  You do not want students to have to scroll too much on one page.  Scrolling can be mitigated through embedding media such as Google Slide presentations, Articulate Storyline 360 interactive elements, or Nearpod type activities.

7 Assignment.jpg

Online Assignments

Assignments should be based on the lesson content, AND instructions must be detailed unless you want an email box full of questions.  An effective method is to add visuals of your expectation to the assignment page.

Below you will find an example of an online format.  Please note, to be ADA compliant, do not merge boxes in tables.

7.1 traditional assignment.jpg
7.2 formatted assignment.jpg
7.3 side by side.jpg

Discussion Boards

Collaboration is a 21st-century skill and one of the 5Cs. It is imperative that this skill is explicitly taught.  

Discussion boards can be places where people unite to grow with one another or places of compliance.  It depends upon the structure and the course instructor as to which way the scale tips.

8 discussion board.jpg
9 Lesson closure.jpg



Closing a lesson helps students better understand what they have learned and apply it to their lives.  It also makes the topic seem 'finished.'

A simple review of the lesson objectives and things they should have done to be successful with the content is sufficient, but you can add an exit ticket or other activity.

Additional Methodology

I was hired in the fall of 2020 by Jordan School District to set up a blended learning program with a select number of teachers in each of their high schools. 


I used similar elements as above to develop the program, units, lessons, and activities and the associated professional development for those teachers and their administrators:


  • SAMR

  • Components of an Effective Lesson                                             Click to visit the Methodology page.

  • Constructive Learning Theory

  • Project-Based Learning

  • Canvas Learning Management System

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