BlendKit 2015, Week 1

I am excited to join the BlendKit 2015 community! BlendKit 2015 is an open, online course from the University of Central Florida in designing and developing blended learning programs. I’ve used various distance learning technologies for several years, and now welcome this opportunity to bring identified best practices into the virtual and blended classroom. The readings, assignments and opportunities for discussion are essential resources in this quest.

So without further ado, some thoughts on chapter 1. I loved this description of learning by George Siemens: “By recognizing learning as a messy, nebulous, informal, chaotic process, we need to rethink how we design our instruction” (chapter 1). I can think of powerful learning experiences where things were less controlled, more dynamic, and maybe had some uncertainty mixed with a hint of pressure (as in group forming, norming, storming, and performing). A carefully designed hybrid learning program can also be messy, iterative, flexible, and just as powerful.

I’m familiar with Constructivism, but the idea of networked learning, or “Connectivism”, holds interesting prospects. Web 2.0 learners are a highly networked group, so using this framework seems like a good place to start. Yet how do we measure nebulous learning, or the formation of a learning network?

2015 College Bound Day

I recently had the privilege to speak at the NYS Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped’s “College Bound Day, 2015” held at The Lighthouse, International in New York City. At this annual event, high school juniors and seniors and their families have the opportunity to hear from college students, administrators, and support organizations about the realities of college life and how  best to prepare.  It was a great turn-out. Many thanks to Tommy, Rosa, and Norman for joining us (live and virtually) to speak about your experiences, and the online classes you took through Echoes Instructional Design, Inc. (They’ll have a good future in public speaking!) As always, I am honored to have been a part of this important day.

Face to Face + Online, How Hybrid Instruction Compares to Traditional College Classes

Are hybrid classes as good as face to face classes? Research from Ithaka, S  & R Consulting has found that courses that provide  a blend of both face to face and online instruction produce nearly equivalent learning outcomes to the traditional classroom experience.

“The study compared how much students at six public universities learned after taking a prototype introductory statistics course in the fall of 2011 in either a hybrid or a traditional format. The researchers randomly assigned a diverse group of 605 students to either a hybrid group, in which they learned with computer-guided instruction and one hour of face-to-face instruction each week, or a traditional format, usually with three or four hours of face-to-face instruction per week.

The result? “We find that learning outcomes are essentially the same—that students in the hybrid format pay no ‘price’ for this mode of instruction in terms of pass rates, final exam scores, and performance on a standardized assessment of statistical literacy,” the report concluded.”   (from The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wired Campus, 5/22/12, Katie Mangan)

 Bottom Line: Since most colleges and universities appreciate  the lower costs associated with online instruction, you can expect to find more hybrid courses in the future.

Echoes Instructional Joins the NYS CBVH Summer Pre-College Program

Echoes Instructional Design, Inc. is pleased to join the NYS Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped’s Sumer 2013 Pre- College Program!  In this four week residential program, participants will experience college life first hand as they develop research, writing, technology, and independent living skills.  Echoes Instructional Design’s Developmental Writing Seminar (DWS) has been incorporated into the program to provide challenging academic and technological instruction.

The DWS program uses the framework of a Freshman English class to  introduce writing techniques and new technologies via online learning with real-time discussion.   Our goal is to help students develop fluency with mainstream, accessible tools and applications to facilitate college academics. Our Writing Professors, Technology Specialists, and Distinguished Guests will work closely with participants to challenge, guide, and inspire.

Dates: Saturday July 13, 2013 through Friday, August 9, 2013

Where: Choice of two campuses

  1. LeMoyne College ( in Syracuse, NY, facilitated by Aurora of Central NY
  2. Manhattanville College ( in Purchase, NY, facilitated by Visions of NYC

Who: To be eligible, students must be NYS residents who are legally blind and going into their senior year of high school in the fall of 2013. The program is strongly recommended for students requesting CBVH college sponsorship.

Contact: Your NYS CBVH Counselor

July- New Rules for TV Audio Description

In case you don’t browse the FCC website for accessibility information (as we do), here’s some good news.

Video description is audio-narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements. These descriptions are inserted into natural pauses in the program’s dialogue. Video description makes TV programming more accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. 

 As of July 1, 2012, FCC rules require local TV station affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC located in the top 25 TV markets (NY included) to provide 50 hours per calendar quarter (about 4 hours per week) of video-described prime time and/or children’s programming.

Read more:

The Other Kind of Campus Credit

Most colleges  have longstanding agreements with banks to offer credit, debit and/or prepaid cards to their students. In fact, the bank card may bear the school logo or club/team emblem. Most schools will have bank tables set up during college fairs, orientation, and registration days, offering you fast credit. Some schools even offer students the option of receiving their excess financial aid money on a  campus approved card rather than wait for a check. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Remember, students pay for this convenience through fees, fees, fees. Are you ready to pay for nothing? Many cards will charge students for NOT using them, called an inactivity fee. 

 A recent report from the NY Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) found that students are often charged excessive, and possibly illegal fees and rates.

Fees can be steep and frequent for students using the university-adopted cards, including a variety of per-swipe fees, inactivity fees, overdraft fees,  ATM

fees and fees to reload prepaid cards.

Be sure to ask about fees and read the rules before you decide “paper or plastic”.

Register for the Summer Session today!

Counselors, Clients, and Parents,Registration is now open for the summer Technologically Empowered College Students (TECS) Webinars and the Developmental Writing Seminar (DWS).

Contact  for more information. (Click on the title above if all dates do not display below).

Summer, 2012 Course Schedule

TECS – Technologically Empowered College Students

Tuesdays at 8:30 PM

  • July  24, 31
  • August  7, 14, 21, 28
  • September  4, 11

 DWS – Developmental Writing Seminar

Wednesdays at 8:30 PM

  • Jun 27
  • July 11, 18, 25
  • August 2, 9, 16, 23