SIGOL Webinar 3.5.12 - Teaching Online: Lessons from the Pros - Questions
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How do you handle accessibility issues?AccessibilityKirsten: We caption all media and we teach participants about the National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH - in our Course Design programs we teach participants to use MAGpie (free captioning software from NCAM).
What suggestions/guidelines can you offer regarding accessibility for all learners? Accessibility
Are there any "best practices" that you can point me to?
Best practicesMatt: There are lots of ideas, people, strategies and resources to suggest here...personally I enjoy (and follow) the Concord Consortium / Virtual High School ideas around asynchronous, constructivist learning led by a 'guide on the side' facilitator. A couple of books, aging, classic and insightful: "Facilitating Online Learning" by Sarah Haavind and colleagues; and "The Online Teaching Guide," White and Weight.

3 resources for online learning course and teaching:

I like the SREB Standards of Quality for Online Courses as a rubric - -- SREB also has a shorter checklist at

The ISTE NETS*T standards, while not explicitly created for the purpose of evaluating online courses, have proven helpful for ensuring that an online course, and the teacher's role in it, reflect best practices:
I would like to hear some discussion of best practices in the K12 arena--models for funding, legislative measures, and attendance and performance policies/procedures. How have other districts intentionally moved to adjust established perceptions of "the way things are done" to fairly and reasonably support online learning opportunities for students.Best practicesCulture
The good and the not-so-good of synchronous and asynchronous courses?
How to address the hardware, software and communications setup at student locations (example: home)?
Will mobile devices make online learning easier, and which software platforms can be used with iPads or Android-based tablets?
Best practicesToolsMany districts that are going to BYOD programs or iPad programs specifically require students to log in to the school network so they're use is filtered. It is becoming pretty standard that using their data services is not allowed during school. For that reason, many BYOD afficianados suggest that only devices with browsers be used, so that means kids--theoretically--can access any browser-based LMS. That doesn't mean they all look pretty, though. Some LMSs, like Blackboard and Edmodo, also have app-based versions that are more appropriate for mobile devices.

Amy: I'd like to speak a bit to the models - there are challenges to each model, and ultimately VHS believes a blend of components results in high quality learning experiences. The challenges of the asynchronous environment can generally be overcome by adoption of clear guidelines, expectations about student access, and encouraging staff who are willing (and supported) in the development of their online personality. Synchronous communication, in a program with global enrollment (like VHS) is tricky. Our best practices around synchronous communication has been to establish as much of a mutually agreeable time as is possible and then make sure there is a record of the synchronous communication (as in Elluminate) so that all students can take advantage of the transcript or recording.
We are planning to move away from vendor supported courses to our own courses with our own teachers (possibly to start the 2013-14 school year.) Best advice as we move forward?Best practicesMatt: "Take an online course, preferably with a peer." Call me old-fashioned, but I think teachers who are transitioning to teaching online (or to designing an online course) benefit from being online learners first, so they can understand the context in which their future online students must function. (iNACOL, in its standards guidelines for online teaching, agrees with this recommendation.) In an online class, you'll learn directly & never forget things like, What's it like to not see the teacher? To not hear from others in a discussion right away? And how are these assignments different from face-to-face assignments?

Being an online learner in someone else's course also affords teachers a look at how someone else has structured the learning. How did they 'chunk' the content and activities? Is there both social and academic 'space' for collaboration? What forms of assessment are in use? How would I construct this course differently? What worked and didn't work for me in this online course, and why? Given what I just experienced, which of my face-to-face activities am I going to be able to use as-is, and which ones need to be altered, and which ones do I need to replace completely?
What advice would you offer someone hoping to move from a traditional classroom teaching environment to online learning?Best practicesMatt: See prior answer, which is "Take an online course, preferably with a peer." Also read Sarah Haavind's article "Why Don't Face-to-Face Teaching Strategies Work in the Virtual Classroom?" (title is a *tad* misleading, in my opinion; some f2f strategies work well virtually...just not all of them

Amy: I echo Matt's resources, and tell you (strongly!) that you should jump into a class and experience high-quality online instruction. You will learn so much that can be translated into your own online course!
What are the biggest obstacles in teaching online to be aware of and to plan for?
How do you handle participants who do not participate?
What have you done when you have failed in lessons?
Best practicesNon participationMatt: Some significant obstacles are students who are not prepared to work independently at a distance; teachers who are not prepared for the *much* longer wait time online (or who believe that posting tried-and-true f2f assignments online is all they need to do to teach effectively online; or who are not comfortable unless they are on the stage all the time); technology challenges; and groups of students who don't work well together in groups. I handle participants who don't step up by encouraging those who do participate via public messages ("Hey great that a solid bunch of you are hashing over these ideas"), nudging the reluctant in email or by phone and in public messages ("Now we really want to hear from the rest of you guys"), and, in a K-12 context, whenever there is a 'site coordinator' present at the "missing in action" student's school, asking that person to help me understand and motivate the student in question.
What are the top 5 best practices for new online teachers?
What are the top 5 best practices for experienced online teachers?
Best practicesMatt: Interesting question. Trying to decide if my lists would be different for new and experienced teachers..well, I can't give you 10 best practices right off the bat, but I can give you a current #1 of mine for both new and experienced online teachers: Make your teaching online leverage the major affordances and limits of teaching online in the 21st century -- use lots of Web resources, spare the lecture and text-heavy pages, focus on relevant - collaborative - rigorous projects, get the kids creating as much of the meaning collaboratively as possible, be the guide on the side, and push hard for authentic assessment. (Okay, that's around 6 ideas right there.) Authentic assessment is a bigger topic than this little box affords, but I always like asking teachers questions such as, "How could this project (or activity) be improved with the use of real-world experts that you or the kids can find?" and "How could this project be changed so that it has a real-world impact on the students' school, community, state, or world?"

Amy: I love Matt's list and would like to add that one of the most important ideas for any online teacher is to be involved! Commit to providing high quality, personalized feedback to kids. In an online class, students don't see that you are listening to them (by reading their posts) and they really thirst for meaningful, personalized interactions with their teachers. Commenting on student work is so much easier than it was back when we first started "doing" online learning - voice comments, screencasts, editing their work via document sharing. We have heard (time and again) from students how much this means to them!
What suggestions do you have for helping students stay on time and on task with submitting assignments?

How would you define a blended learning environment?

Do you have a readiness quiz or checklist for people to assess if online learning is for them or not?

How do you define online? And if a course is online- should it have synchronous meetings? And if so should those be made clear before a student signs up for a class?

What do you think about students reporting to a testing center for taking tests - to prove it is really the student who is completing the work
Best practicesPedagogyMatt: On time and on task: Give an agenda overall for the course and a weekly one as well. Repeat early and often your expectations for students' logging in and doing work. Point out that the early posts in discussions receive more comments than last-minute posts. Make the learning as rigorous AND relevant as possible to boost on-task time. Blended learning environment: includes all-online and face-to-face elements. Synchronous meetings: If you're going to have them, make that clear up front. Be careful if you *do* include synchronous meetings in an otherwise asynchronous course--students can rely on the synchronous sessions and ignore the asynchronous activities. Students reporting to a testing center: in some districts / areas, it's a practical necessity.
How do you encourage and create collaboration and communication in an asynchronous online environment?CollaborationTalk about the value of collaboration. Provide both academic and social 'space' online and encourage use of both areas for different purposes. Open a private channel (chat, email, Skype) with every student; create small groups for academic projects; and have all-group discussions, emails, and events.

Amy: Make them communicate about content-related topics (at first) to get them talking. Once they start, it's often hard to get them to stop! Model great communications as well - provide them with meaningful thoughts in their class discussions or comments on their blogs, etc.
new ways to build interaction, sense of community
assessment alternatives

**I cannot "attend". I hope to listen to recorded session later, thx
CollaborationMatt: See prior answer on ways to build interaction, sense of community. Assessment alternatives begs the question "Alternatives to what?" but I'll suggest some thoughts: Specific, measurable outcomes or objectives will help you craft better assessment plans. Think in terms of an assessment plan (not just one assessment): How will I know on days 2, 7, and 12 of this unit who is engaged, getting it, and en route to meeting the objectives? Use lots of formative assessments-- discussion board posts, reflective journals, quizzes, Skype-chats (if you have a synchronous piece), mini small-group projects, quickwrite papers--along the way to make sure students are getting it; use simulations, bigger projects, expert-involving creations, and other forms of authentic assessment for summative purposes.
Please share some ideas for effectively using and managing forums for collaboration. Ideas beyond, "post your response and reply to at least two others' posts" would be very helpful.

Thank you so much!
CollaborationMatt: Have a forum explicitly devoted to creating something new (a new way to describe the ideal school, a new transportation device for older teenagers, a new...whatever). Create a discussion rubric that explicitly defines helpful and non-helpful responses, as in "A non-helpful response is 'Good post." Rotate facilitation duties among teams of students: have a team of 2-3 students co-facilitate discussion with you for a week or two. Create fewer, more-meaningful discussions (and tell students you are doing so). Encourage the whole group to view the discussion area as "The Big Brain" they are all contributing to.

Amy: Share exemplars (weekly shout-outs perhaps) and model the model. Kids will talk more when the teacher is in there talking more.
What is the typical level of interaction among the students and does it vary between grade levels?CollaborationInteractionI don't think there is anything "typical," about interaction in general or online learning holistically. There are as many different forms of online learning and types of interaction as there are offline. It starts with what you need the students to know and be able to do and how that is best approached via pedagogy. There's always some way to get to those learning goals, on- or offline.
What techniques do you use to encourage community building in your courses or do you find community building unimportant?CommunityIt depends on the course and who takes it. Some people take courses just to get through them and recieve a credit. They're not interested in the social aspect. You may be interested in the work of Gilly Salmon on "e-moderating." A new edition of her book was released last yer. (

Amy: Ditto - it varies by model. We find community to be critical to the success of our courses, because much of the work in class is done in a community base (discussions, projects, wikis, etc). As described above, we model community during teacher training, and encourage lots of different types of communication (formal, informal, content-specific, etc)
Are there online schools that are looking for instructors?
wHere would one look for online teaching opportunities?
EmploymentThe need for online teachers, especially at the district level, is booming. Generally, teachers who teach for an online school sponsored by a state or district will require a state teaching license. This may not always be the case, though, as there is little consistency across states. Private and non-profit organizations may have more leeway in terms of certification. An Internet search resulted in the following extensive list:
Who hires online teachers? Do you have any links to apply?Employment
Any advice for traditional classroom teachers looking to become online teachers (5 years experience & M.S. EdTech)?EmploymentTake an online class, preferably for the organization with whom who wish to teach.

Amy: These days, state-level certification can be quite a barrier to folks entering into online teaching. Something to be aware of when applying for online teaching jobs.
As an online teacher, do you try to build a rapport between all of the students in a particular online class? Or is the relationship mostly between you and each individual student?EngagementMatt: I want a good relationship with each student (whether adult or < 18), and I put a lot of effort into communicating clear expectations around timing, quality, assessments, assignments; plus everyone receives individual, private feedback from me as frequently as possible. But I want serious community to develop between each member of the online class, and I organize most of my communication (and activities) around that goal. That is where the power of online learning shows most clearly: when the community really gets going. And I am on the side, guiding but not being the focus. One killer technique: when responding in discussion, sift for the key points, group ideas, quote the great ones, TALK to the GROUP, and ask a single question (or no question at all).

Example post by a facilitator after 1/2 the class has posted approximately 15 comments:

"Jim and Diane agree: there's less to the experiment than meets the eye. But Walter is not buying it: "Wait, are you guys really saying randomized, double-blind approaches aren't suitable here?" Curious what the rest of you folks are thinking.

Is this experimental setup valid or hooey?"

For other techniques to stay off the soapbox, off the stage, and put the responsibility for learning squarely in the hands (and brains) of the learners, Haavind et al.'s "Facilitating Online Learning" is invaluable.
How do you engage younger students through online learning so that they are working at a higher level of engagement? What are the differences between modeling an activity live versus modeling an activity via the Web? Does networking with peers on an online level have statistics as to long-term networking and support (i.e., peers who have met in a smaller community such in f2f classes)?Engagement
What are some of the strategies used to increase student engagement in an online course?EngagementAmy: I think that engaged teachers can capture student interest. Great online teachers keep the courses current, use a variety of resources, provide students with a varied mix of activities each week. Many of our teachers make the conscious effort to share successes of students in class - posting exemplars of work from previous weeks, sharing interesting news/links/videos (not always related to course content), etc that keep students engaged.
Can you please share the evaluation tool you use when creating an online course?
Do you have peer reviews or how are courses evaluated?
EvaluationMatt: I like the SREB Standards of Quality for Online Courses as a rubric - -- SREB also has a shorter checklist at

The ISTE NETS*T standards, while not explicitly created for the purpose of evaluating online courses, have proven helpful for ensuring that an online course, and the teacher's role in it, reflect best practices:

Having a knowledgeable peer or two or three run through a course you are designing, or have designed, can be a great way to get useful feedback. If you gave them one of the instruments here (SREB or NETS*T) and asked for 2-3 strengths and 2-3 areas to improve, you'd get some great help I think.
Online education is booming, but so did the dot-coms ... How can we monitor and judge the value of our online courses so that we keep to standards? And do we need newer standards?EvaluationStandardsMatt: What a great question (disclosure: I have spent time in a dot com and online learning ;). I foresee an awesome action research project at a school, in a district, across a state where kids take the same course onilne and face-to-face, and the outcomes are compared...Common Core, if its implementation hews to the "fewer, more-rigorous standards" vision that some hope for, may provide content evaluation signposts for both online and face-to-face learning (down the road)...

One interesting tool to use for judging online learning courses is any well-constructed learning-focused instrument. I like ISTE's NETS-T document for this purpose: -- does my online course seem to meet these standards?
How do you manage the grading of online projects?GradingMatt: Many LMS / CMS -- learning management / content management systems -- make grading of all sorts of assessments fast and easy.
What are yor experiences with intercultural online discussions?Intercultural
Fully online math courses are challenging to deliver. I'm interested in practical examples of asynchronous activities related to Algebra and PreCalc. What tips do the expects have for creating engaging online math courses? Teachers traditionally rely on students showing their work and steps involved in solving complex problems. How do we reconfigure our courses to support student demonstrations of this knowledge and skill?MathMatt: As an ELA guy, I don't have direct experience with creating engaging math courses. One LMS / CMS anecdote springs right to mind, though, in terms of having kids show their work: Moodle has a type of discussion / forum activity called a "Q&A" forum: I only get to see other kids' work when I post my own, at which point I get to see everyone else's. This always seemed like a great tool to encourage posting; now it seems to me, in light of your question, a great way to encourage kids to post their work *and* then get to see how 2, 4, 8 or 20 other kids worked through the same problem(s).

Two resources come to mind: MIT Open Courseware for High School, (may be too much for algebra students). And looking at Dan Meyer's challenges / real-world problem ideas.
Many of our virtual schools utilize parents as learning coaches. Can you speak to this practice, particularly as it relates to the skill sets of parents as learning coaches and the needs of students with disabilities? Parent Role
any best practices

tips for incorporating synchronous elements
PedagogySynchronousMatt: If you incorporate synchronous, I always recommend the "4-slide rule," which the good folks at NTEN taught me years ago: don't go more than 4 slides, or 3-4 minutes, without having your students DO SOMETHING -- like answer a poll, contribute a chat comment, speak into the microphone, break off into a smaller group, write on a whiteboard, go away and add to a WallWisher or private reflective journal...this gets the learners doing lots of the work, keeps the teacher / facilitator off the soapbox, and will make your synchronous sessions stand out from the norm (sadly).
Are there specific tips for teaching high school courses online that you would like to share? My experience is with higher ed.PedagogyHigh School
In a face to face environment teachers have the opportunity to incorporate verbal cues to redirect students and draw attention to critical content. What are your thoughts on using specifically designed targeted visual cues to draw attention and redirect students in an online environment? How can these visual cues be created without being simple attention getters but even more powerful?PedagogyDesignMatt: You've identified the core challenge in the phrase "without being simple attention getters." Unfortunately there is no such thing as simple when it comes to visual attention-getters: they are complex and powerful and must be well-chosen. If the course content is visual, then by all means emphasize the most-important visuals using size, frequency, and context variables. But if the course content is not primarily visual, do know that whatever visuals you use need to serve a very specific content-based purpose. A single visual amid a sea of text won't do what you want in terms of cue-ing. Having issued this warning, and owning up to the fact that I am at best a self-taught online designer ;), I do think visuals matter and can be used well: for example, sending students to the Library of Congress do find a visual display of a key historical concept; or having students respond to a photograph related to an historical, scientific, literary or mathematical idea in the context of a VoiceThread can be stimulating and collaborative.
Ways to differentiate instruction on-line for our students with special needs. Ways to reach our English learners on line. Both of these addressing at-risk high school students in alternative schools/settings.PedagogyDifferentiationAmy: With the at-risk student population, site-based support is critical. Students need a strong network of support at their school and in their online course. We use ReadSpeaker in many of our classes to provide students with the ability to listen to a page of the course (this also helps visually impaired students). Our teachers work with individual students extending deadlines, modifying expectations on assignments and providing additional resources to help their understanding of the content.
What are the best methods for specific populations, e.g., GATE, ELLs, At Risk, etc.?Pedagogy
What elements do you put in place online to mimic the success of traditional in-classroom teaching. In what ways do you bridge the gap between traditional teaching models and distance education?PedagogyMatt: Start with a list of the elements of success of traditional in-classroom teaching. Figure out which parts might be most difficult for you online. Develop strategies -- through research, taking courses, trying things online -- to work around the challenges. Then, while teaching online, have those great AHA moments where you realize something you did online will *improve your face-to-face teaching.* Near-guaranteed to happen...because *online learning is in one sense a way to discover which of your teaching habits won't work if the students aren't required to stay in their seats.* If that sounds harsh, know that it was true for me and many others I know who made the jump.
What experience/knowledge do you have with incorporation of Gamification concepts into your curriculum and what resources/advice would give to develop such a curriculum>
What is the best way to generate deep on line discussion? Do you require certain posting dates? How much time should you allocate for the original discussion post and how much for responses?PedagogyMatt: Start with "Facilitating Online Learning," by Sarah Haavind, et al. It's not so much about timing of the discussion itself as it is about the kinds of questions you pose, your tone - voice - patience and timing as a facilitator.
What kind of successes have you seen when the learners have low literacy skills such as adult Ed ESL students?PedagogyELL
What strategies can be used to overcome the somewhat "impersonal" character of online teaching? PedagogyMatt: do a search on "online teaching presence" or "online facilitation voice." I like the Concord Consortium / VHS idea that the facilitator should "warm the space." Might mean posting a visual weekly in a kickoff-the-week message; might mean talking about the weather or what you are learning from them or something interesting you are reading or wonder about; probably means connecting last week's to this week's work -- and also discussing your sense of how well the community is working together ("I'm seeing lots of you figuring out how best to respond to one another's ideas, and hoping that will continue this week in your discussions."). May mean creating a place for 'social' discussion. Definitely means creating a variety of ways for people in the class to communicate with you, with small groups, and with the whole group.
Are course credits allocated from the school, district, or local college, etc.Program (VHS)Amy: VHS member schools maintain a lot of control over how the credits their students earn is reported on their transcript. The course grades are reported (by the VHS teacher) to the school's site coordinator, who then reports the grade to the member school. VHS does not grant transcripts for classes completed, except in the case of summer school classes.
Wht is cost of instructor training?Program (VHS)Amy: Teacher training for VHS schools is now free (for 1 teacher and unlimited site coordinators), I believe. If you have specific questions about member training, please feel free to email me directly ( Information on other PD classes can be found here:
is peer course review based on a rubric part of the training modelProgram (VHS)Amy: New VHS teachers (in training) do no shadow other VHS classes. The capstone course of the Best Practices course includes a student-teaching and evaluation activity where participants shadow and then teach a VHS course.
What kinds of screening, if any, are schools using to determine who is a good candidate for online learning?ScreeningAt one time, Florida Virtual School used to provide guidance, and did some research around, what makes a good online student. I can't find that information on their website now, but an Internet search found a long list of suggestions from a variety of places, especially universities, about what makes a good online student. As the capacity of digital technologies evolve and teachers are able to offer the same or similar experiences on- and offline, this may not be as important as "what makes good pedagogy for reaching students."

Amy: I agree, and also want to add that it's very model-specific. For example, in a scheduled, asynchronous course (such as a VHS course) that is cohort-based and highly collaborative, a student must be rather self-motivated to stay on schedule. This would not necessarily be as important in a self-paced course that is not as collaborative and doesn't include as many cohort-based activities. Many of our site coordinators have developed surveys that they administer to their students, which are shared in our faculty resources area. This is a web-based survey that can provide some frame work for questions that may be important to students in a cohort based model:
I just want to get a feel for what other people are doing really as we are already offering online elective units to our students in Yrs 7-8 and are hoping to extend that into the more senior years from 2013. I expect my questions would be around teacher training and the culture & pedagogical shift to teaching in an online environment.
Teacher TrainingCultureYou may be interested in attending a sysmposium offered by iNACOL and be sure to check out the many opportunities to network with others interestd in online learning at ISTE this summer in San Diego.
This is just a comment: would like to hear how you provide professional development for the teachers in effective online teaching and what it includes. Thank you!Teacher TrainingProfessional DevelopmentMatt: You'll hear (or did hear) lots about this in today's Webinar. Personally I think that any PD for effective online learning needs to be online, 'chunked' into usable pieces, collaboration - community based, mostly asynchronous, and immediately teacher-usable (either you're creating a course you can then use, or you're gathering a series of attitudes, strategies, and knowledge you can put into play right away, or both). Just in time helps too.
What do you do to prepare K-12 teachers to teach online?
Create own content or purchase content?
Mostly blended classrooms or fully online?
Teacher TrainingMatt: It's more work initially, and long-term more functional, for teachers to create their own courses. As OER (open educational resources) and related courseware spreads and becomes adopted, *adapting* existing courses will become a great, viable middle ground. When building: I recommend building for full-online first whenever possible, as it's easier to add in blending (synchronous or f2f) elements later, and harder to go the other direction.
What resources/sources would you recommend to help develop teacher skill in teaching online? Teacher TrainingTake an online class. All of the programs profiled in the webinar, and many others, use a model that allows teachers to learn how to teach by being students in an online class. Chances are, there's a program near you, which may not really matter since it's online, but it may still be worth investigating.
What skills or competencies should online teachers have?Teacher TrainingYou may be interested in the standards developed by iNACOL (
Textbook publishers are slow to facilitate digital downloads at a reasonable price, unlike non-academic books. Book prices may be $89 for the download of a $120 textbook. Some academic book stores are licensing and delivering at simillar prices. The marginal cost of a download is far less. Textbook publishers are continuing to operate on what has been a succcessful business model for decades. How soon will competition result in a $20 download? Textbook publishers are like General Motors--it takes a crisis to make a change.

(We are working on full text downloads--then adding Flash/Java animations for student engagement--plus an integrated LMS. Providing tech support for teachers is critical.)
TextbooksMatt: Keep your eye on the OER / courseware movement. Washington state, for example, is considering a bill to devote substantial resources to making OER / courseware (free resources) available to districts -- adaptable, free online courses in many different subject areas. Not a guaranteed thing, this is nonetheless a possible game-changer in the content arena.
I'm trying to put together an online course that requires a lot of interaction among its participants. I've heard that Second Life is a good tool for virtual gatherings. I'd appreciate any other tools that I can use to make the learning experience of students fun, hands-on, and interactive.ToolsThe most important decision is to match your learning outcomes with a technology that will allow your students to develop those skills and knowledge and then to demonstrate them to you. Second Life can be enjoyable, and there are some great Second Life education groups to get you started (including ISTE), but there is a learning curve. If your students are ready for it, it can detract from the learning, but that's true with any technology. Know your students. What do they do now? What do they like to do? Will your content fit with what they know and like to do now?
If you are setting up a virtual class, what is the best program or site to use?ToolsThere's no one answer. There are many potentially correct answers. It depends on what your students and teaches are like, and what your content requires students to know and be able to do. The tools are changing constantly, so start from the learning demands and find one that matches. For example, if your course requires demonstrating psychomotor skills, consider ways students can view and create video, which may or may not be in your LMS. If accountability is important, consider how LMSs interface with existing data systems. Many, many possibilities, so keep the learning first and find a tool that matches.
What apps work best with the IPad so far nothing but frustration using the iPad and Google Apps.ToolsSeveral LMSs, like BlackBoard and Edmodo, have released apps for mobile devices. This is likely something that will continue throughout the LMS community.
What Content Management Systems have you used or are you familiar with other than Blackboard and Moodle that can be used for secure online learning

What are the best online tools for communication and collaboration?

What is the best tool for tracking progress through an independent course?
ToolsAgain, there are many choices here. There are some that are free (like Edmodo or Sakai) and some that are not (like Desire to Learn, BrianHoney, Avatar, and many others) and new ones seem to come on the market every month. Free versus fee isn't as important as what you get from it. What's most important is knowing what you want from your LMS, being able to verbalize that data and information, and having the LMS provider give you concrete examples of how their product matches your needs, preferably with references of people actually using the product. If they can't demonstrate it, move on.
What online CMS us best to recommend?
What strategies work for motivating students in online learning?
What free online LMS are you using or suggest other than Moodle?ToolsEdmodo is free and Sakai is open source. Both have a fairly decent user base.

Matt: I mentioned Canvas in the Webinar. I have read of some teachers who seem to prefer it to Moodle. I signed up for a free account -- haven't built anything yet though -- and will attend their March 9th Webinar. I believe is the Web address. Not sure how big the user base is.