MnLC Monthly Professional Development Webinars

The Minnesota Learning Commons offers free monthly webinars. The webinars are hand selected by members of the Minnesota Learning Commons Coordinating Committee and include highly rated presentations from the past year’s Summit, presentations on special projects by educators from around the state, and more.

Creating Multi-Media Discussion Boards to Increase Student Engagement

October 18, 3:00 p.m. CDT

Description: In this workshop, you will be introduced to several easy-to-implement discussion techniques that can be used for online, blended, or face-to-face courses. We will explore how to create a structured debate online and how your students can become the expert on the topic using the "Hot Seat" concept, or how students can demonstrate the application of course concepts on discussion boards. All techniques will allow you to create a lively and engaging conversation for your online or face-to-face courses. Templates, assignment directions, and examples will be provided. 

Biography: Mary O'Brien is an Instructional Design Specialist in the Adult Continuing Education (ACE) department at Winona State University (WSU). In this role, Mary supports online faculty through the WeTeach program and serves as campus Quality Matters coordinator for WSU. She has experience teaching online and face-to-face (F2F) in K-12, higher education and international courses.

Webinar Details

Webex link for the webinar

Date: Thursday, October 18, 2018

Time: 3:00 p.m., Central Daylight Time (Chicago, GMT -05:00)

Access Code: 746 250 839

Password: MNLC@2018

+1 210 606 9466 US Toll

+1 866 282 7366 US Toll Free

Past Webinar Topics

The U of M Twin Cities College of Design offers a semester-long Creative Problem-Solving Course for its undergraduates with both online and traditional face-to-face options. Based on data from the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, the online students did not benefit as much from the course. We discuss the results of the data analysis and the broader literature on the subject, and what they may tell us about creative problem-solving skills specifically, and the potential for online learning in general. Takeaways: 1. Much remains to be learned about the effectiveness of online learning. 2. Certain subjects may lend themselves better to online learning than others. 3. Overall course grades, often used to measure of outcomes, may not capture the impact of the learning environment.


Justin Baker has been a creative professional in the advertising industry, developed performance and stress management training for athletes and educators, and is now studying the human factors that impact problem-solving at the University of Minnesota. His mission is to inspire the next generation to take on the daunting systemic problems of Planet Earth with creativity, and compassion.

Presented on September 20, 2018

Explore an A to Z collection of Add Ons, Websites, and Extensions that will increase student engagement, improve teacher productivity and leverage learning. There's something for everyone and every device! Be sure to stop in to see the updated version—all new techniques recently added!


Dihanna Fedder is the District Integrationist at Pine City Public Schools, a Google Certified Trainer, a TIES Exceptional Teacher, a Kahoot Ambassador and a Nearpod PioNear. She's presented at TIES, MASSP, ITEM, and Google Summits around the nation. Dihanna loves helping others to learn how to use technology! She's worked with iPads and Chromebooks in her district.

Presented May 3, 2018

Faculty today need a range of academic technology, pedagogical and course design skills to be effective teachers in today’s digital learning environment. What are the key skills they need and what professional development resources should be provided to help them acquire these skills? Developing a competency list can help colleges and universities answer these questions and begin preparing an effective faculty development curriculum. How do you select a list of competencies that are research based, relevant, and support student centered learning? This workshop provides an overview of academic technology, teaching, and course design competencies developed for faculty at the University of Minnesota. The competency list draws from research in the learning sciences and current national standards. During the workshop, participants will discuss, analyze and determine which competencies best meet the needs of their own faculty and educational environment. Participants will then examine a proposed curriculum to help them design or enhance their own faculty development initiatives. This workshop will benefit faculty, academic technology specialists, and administrators who want to facilitate enriched teaching and learning in today’s digital learning environment.


Nima Salehi, Christina Petersen, Peg Sherven, Sara Hurley, and Christiane Reilly, University of Minnesota. Nima Salehi is an instructional designer and assessment specialist at the University of Minnesota. She assists faculty with the development of blended and online instruction and quality course reviews. She teaches an online course on Technology Enhanced Language Learning at Hamline University. She has an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages (ESL) from the University of Minnesota.

Presented April 5, 2018

In a world where the landscape and demographics served in education are continually changing, so too must our development of courses that are accessible and accommodating to learners of all demographics, including race, ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic status, disability, ability, and much, much more. With a framework surrounding Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Curriculum, this session will provide tips and tricks for helping develop and deliver online and blended curriculum that proactively allows for equal access for all learners.

UDL and Instruction is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.


Jenessa Gerling and Karen LaPlant, Hennepin Technical College. Jenessa Gerling has been Communication faculty at Hennepin Technical College for 14 years and serves as the D2L Brightspace trainer. Additionally, she is co-chair of the eLearning Committee, participates as a Quality Matters (QM) Peer and Master Reviewer, and is very interested in innovative ways to increase retention and student success, recently helping MinnState develop a Captioning Toolkit.

Presented March 1, 2018.

Universal design (UD) posits seven core principles to consider in design. Many are familiar with UD strategies, but inclusive classrooms go even further in recognizing the agencies of students with a wide variety of needs and backgrounds. The importance of inclusivity work is backed by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, who in 2005 charged higher education institutions to work toward "inclusive excellence" by promoting a positive campus climate, establishing diversity as a core component in achieving desired student learning outcomes, linking diversity with quality, and rethinking and modifying pedagogy to reflect and support goals for inclusion and excellence (Williams, Berger, & McClendon, 2005). In addition, research conducted at higher education institutions have demonstrated that the extent to which students felt their institution had a nondiscriminatory environment positively impacted students' openness to diversity and taking on challenges (Pascarella et al., 1996). In this session, presenters will define and make a case for the importance of inclusivity in the online classroom. Presenters will provide several examples of how the Rothenberger Institute currently practices inclusivity in their high enrollment online courses throughout course development and facilitation, as well as discuss other inclusive practices that instructors, instructional designers, and teaching or graduate assistants can implement. Presenters will discuss current identity-related and sensitive language and why it matters. Presenters will also discuss areas of opportunity to increase inclusivity, including course content, syllabus statements, media production, citations and sources, exam questions, survey design, grading rubrics, grading processes, course policies, and interactions with students. Finally, responses from course evaluations from students who reported directly benefiting from inclusive practices will also be shared.


Sarah Keene, M.S.Ed., M.Phil.Ed. is the instructor of Success Over Stress and Sleep, Eat & Exercise at the Rothenberger Institute. In this role, she works with 15-20 undergraduate teaching assistants each term to deliver these online courses to over 2500 students per academic year. Sarah has also earned the Basic Equity and Diversity Certificate from the U of M's Office of Equality and Diversity.

Presented February, 1 2018.

Online and blended learning offers great advantages, as well as some challenges, for English Language Learners (ELLs). For instance, online asynchronous discussion boards can give ELLs necessary time to prepare responses, however their literacy skills may not be as strong as their verbal fluency. Another example is the use of videos - the ability to play a video more than once is an advantage over face-to-face lecture. However, not being able to see the lips of the lecturer and take in their nonverbal cues makes comprehension more difficult. Whether you are teaching international students, deaf students, students who are fully bilingual, or even students who grew up speaking a different dialect of English (such as Liberian or Nigerian English), the advantages in online and blended learning can be exploited, and challenges mitigated, through intentional course design. In this session, I'll identify the challenges for ELLs, and provide ways to support your ELL students through instructional design. I'll also share ways to maximize the advantages that online and blended learning offer to ELLs. In addition, I'll identify aspects of Universal Design for Learning that specifically support ELLs.


Nancy McGinley Myers is an instructional designer at the University of St. Thomas. She holds a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and a Minnesota teaching license in ESL and Spanish. Before becoming an instructional designer, she taught Spanish as a foreign language and English Language Learner classes for over a decade from middle school through college.

Presented on January 4, 2018

Burnsville-Eagan-Savage Public Schools has strategically focused on using an inside-out examination approach to redefine their district and provide an underlying systemic framework that drives their decision making - including their technology decisions. We will examine how Burnsville-Eagan-Savage educators are leveraging technology to shift instructional practices to collaborative, student-centered learning environments and how focusing on their values, beliefs & assumptions has fundamentally changed the culture in their buildings and classrooms. Our Cultural Proficiency Continuum is a tool used to identify and discuss policies, decisions, practices, and norms that are Culturally Destructive to our community and provides guidance on how we can shift to Culturally Competent practices that honor and support the learners in their schools. Leave with a heightened understanding of how a system's culture supports or sabotages educational technology efforts; along with tools to drive organizational decision making.


Stacie Stanley, EdD, currently serves as a district office administrator in ISD 191 where she oversees Curriculum, Instruction & Student Support Services including the district's Teaching & Learning efforts, English Learner Program, Parent and Community Outreach, Targeted Services and district-wide Cultural Proficiency efforts.

Rachel Gorton is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for Burnsville-Eagan-Savage Public Schools, a beautifully diverse district of 9,000 students. Rachel is a strong advocate for using technology as a catalyst for educational change and innovation. By building relationships and consensus among stakeholders, Rachel describes her goal as “leveraging technology to drive change,” focusing on equity and expanding opportunities for all students. In 2015 she was awarded the District 191 Community of Excellence Award winner for Leadership in Action and was the 2016 TIES Minnesota Technology Leader award recipient. Prior to serving as Instructional Technology Coordinator, Rachel served as a classroom teacher, technology integrationist, and curriculum coordinator. She was also a project manager for an international business and lived in Japan.

Presented December 7, 2017

This presentation will focus on effective practices and processes for supporting faculty in the development, design, and delivery of eLearning programs. Particularly acknowledging the unique needs of faculty as they develop online learning initiatives, the presenters will focus on team management skills for faculty, instructional designers, and other support staff, and will suggest methods for establishing timelines and deadlines, delegating tasks, addressing funding constraints, and navigating busy schedules. Drawing upon actual eLearning project management experiences from graduate education and outreach projects in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, the presenters will review tools that can assist in tracking the activities and milestones for a successful delivery of online courses and talk about the selection of tools in alignment with project purpose and scope. Presenters will advocate for early integration of a project manager's expertise and project management tools and will share examples of how project management can support successful project execution.


Mary Katherine O'Brien is a researcher for education and outreach in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota. At present, she is the lead designer and support for ProgRESSVet, an on-line capacity-building education program for veterinary service professionals in Latin America.

Kelly Vallandingham has been with the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine for nine years working in the areas of project management, education consulting, online education development and review, undergraduate course development, course delivery, faculty technology support, technology advising, event coordination and management, employee retention and training, marketing and community relations. Kelly currently supports various VPM faculty members and eLearning initiatives through the expertise she developed in IT project management, software training, and higher education teaching. She has previously worked in IT as a Manager of Support Services for a large technology company and as the Director of Operations at a woman-owned computer training company that delivered training for multiple federal government contracts. Kelly began her career as an attorney in the state of North Carolina.

Presented November 2, 2017

If you can't find a book that suits your needs, write one! Educators in K-12 and higher education are doing just that. This presentation will cover the process used to write three textbooks in a school district in the pilot year 2016. The process that was developed and refined in the pilot year is now being used in schools to develop additional books. In addition, attendees will be introduced to a guide developed for authors, project managers, librarians and others in order to help them write and publish their own open textbooks.


Melissa Falldin is an Instructional Designer in the U of M, College of Education and Human Development, Digital Innovation and Education team. She has an MS in Instructional Design and Technology and has extensive experience in teaching and educational technology. Throughout her career, Melissa has specialized in leveraging innovative technologies to enhance learning and learner success.

Presented October 5, 2017

You've heard that people don't read on the web—they scan instead. The wisdom is that we must write for scannability: we must organize the information in the inverted pyramid style, chunk the content using headings, and bullet-list wherever we can. Those techniques work fine for corporate websites, maybe, but what to do with that serious academic content on your course website or eLearning module? What to do when you've got a ton of content you really really need your learners to read? This interactive presentation reviews all the basics of writing for the web and shows how to apply those techniques in real-life instructional problems. We'll also discuss alternative content treatments and a method that can help you decide what treatment is best. Participants also will come away with a handy cheat sheet to use in your own instructional design work. By the end of this presentation, you'll have a handful of techniques to help you drive those eyeballs from the beginning of your content to the end.


Ann Fandrey is an academic technologist, supporting teaching and learning for instructors in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota. Her areas of expertise include graphic and information design, course website usability, online course design, accessible digital communication, visual communication and digital and visual literacies.

Presented September 7, 2017

Gentle Project Management: Shepherding Pedagogical Change
Presented by: Sara Schoen and Annette McNamara, University of Minnesota, on May 4, 2017
Minnesota eLearning Summit Presentation

Creation and Adoption of OER: A Sustainable Statewide Model
Presented by: Jon Fila, Intermediate District 287 on April 6, 2017

Online Learner Discussion Self-Grading: Sharing of an Innovative Teaching-Learning Strategy
Presented by: Dr. Nancyruth Leibold, Southwest Minnesota State University Mankato and Dr. Laura Schwarz, Minnesota State University Mankato, on March 2, 2017
Minnesota eLearning Summit Presentation

Exploring the Flipped Side: Inside and Out the Flipped Classroom
Presented by: Caroline Hilk, Kate Borowske, Gina Erickson, and Nicole Nelson, Hamline University on February 2, 2017
Minnesota eLearning Summit Presentation

Engaged Brains: Strategies for Mastering Learner Engagement
Presented by: Tracy King, InspirEd, on January 5, 2017
Minnesota eLearning Summit Presentation

Making Accessibility Accessible: Engaging Instructors Empathetically
Presented by: Cynthia Sarver, University of St. Thomas, on November 3, 2016
Minnesota eLearning Summit Presentation

They Aren’t Wrong, We Are: Designing Online Courses for How Students Actually Use Them
Presented by: Ellyn Buchanan, Sara Hurley, and Audra Kerlin, University of Minnesota, School of Public Health, on October 6, 2016
Minnesota eLearning Summit Presentation