By Sarah Wendorf

Imagine you could take content from your textbook and transform it into a whole new personalized, customized online learning experience for your students.

With an Open textbook, you can do that!

Here’s how Carol and I worked together to transform a unit from her Open textbook into a series of modules. Carol is a faculty member in our Academic Upgrading program at Cambrian College.

How It Started

Carol’s students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and abilities.

They are in class working on different subjects at different levels. Often, they are working on self-directed content at their own pace on their own time. This is usually in the form of workbooks and other types of materials.

Due to the format of the way students work in the program, Carol can’t deliver a traditional lesson as she would if all her students were studying the same subjects at the same level (ex: first year English). She does provide 1-1 assistance but with a large group, she can’t spend a lot of time with each student.

She approached me to figure out a better way for her students to have a more engaging and informative experience. She wanted to develop something that would give students immediate feedback and help them learn the content outside of just a plain old workbook.

Open Textbook + Explain Everything App + H5P Interactive Video = Opportunity

Carol decided to try this new idea with her math students. She found they had a lot of questions with some of the concepts in the fractions unit. She was using a textbook called Adult Literacy Fundamentals Mathematics: Book 5 by Liz Girard, Wendy Tagami , Liz Girard, Wendy Tagami; licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted. She found it through a search on BC Campus’ OpenEd Resources library.

Based on her request, we came up with a plan to develop a series of online modules that would take the fractions content from her textbook and make it interactive on any device. We chose to use the Explain Everything app on iPad combined with H5P Interactive Video as our tools. Explain Everything allowed for Carol to draw and narrate a lesson explaining a concept and record it as a video. Then, H5P allowed for us to layer on interactive questions to her video lessons. These allowed her to both deliver a lesson and give students the opportunity to practice.

The fact that Carol had chosen an Open textbook for her course allowed us the freedom to use the content in a way that would not be possible if the content had been protected by copyright. We were able to choose images and examples from her textbook and include them in our videos and interactives. This to me is the essence of Open Education and why I believe it is important for the future of education.

Building the Modules

I set Carol up with the Explain Everything app and a stylus on one of our Hub iPads. She went to work creating lessons for each of the sections of her unit on common fractions. She was able to combine her narrated audio with a visual presentation. You can see how we did that in the H5P interactive video above.

After all of the lessons were recorded, we uploaded the videos to YouTube. Next, we went into Moodle and added a series of H5P interactive videos that pointed to the videos we uploaded to YouTube. Based on the plan we developed for the modules, I inserted exercise questions at various points along the timeline. This way, students would be introduced to the content, practice some questions, listen to more of the lesson, complete some additional questions and so forth. Each unit culminated in a “self-test” which consisted of a sequence of questions to test the students’ understanding of the content.

Screenshot of Carol's Moodle Page
Screenshot of Carol's course showing the H5P modules

I involved Carol throughout the whole process. From conceptualizing to training on how to use Explain Everything to how to develop interactive elements using H5P. The screencapture video tutorials below were developed to help familiarize Carol with the features of H5P interactive video. Feel free to use them in your own work should you find them valuable:

With a bit of training and the right tools, Carol was able to learn some new technology and develop additional videos and interactives on her own.

We credit Jeffery Tranchemontagne, our Multimedia Specialist who helped us enhance the videos with higher quality audio and some editing to make them more concise. Thanks Jeff!

Next Steps

At the moment, we’ve developed one unit in her textbook and Carol is working on building additional units to deploy to students in the near future.

Want to Learn More?

We welcome you to reach out to us! Carol and I are happy to discuss our project planning, workflows, successes and challenges and share our work:

Sarah Wendorf is an Instructional Designer at Cambrian College’s Teaching and Learning Innovation Hub

By Jon Kruithof

Am I an instructional designer? I work in educational technology, talk to people about using tools and help people design better learning, but does that make me an instructional designer? Educational technology is a place that can often drive pedagogical change, and it’s strange how often it goes unacknowledged as an accomplice in converting people to better pedagogy. How often do you as an instructional designer have a conversation about a piece of technology that forces the person you’re working with to rethink what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it? It may not be the great revelatory exclamation of “Oh my, this is going to change my life!” – but sometimes drastically, sometimes subtly, a change is made.

EdTech forces change.

It’s change that is opted into, by selecting the tool or technology, but it is change nonetheless. I can hear the counter arguments; “that’s not change, it’s choice!” I’d counter, that it’s a choice to change. Often in the adoption of a new tool, you have an opportunity to make large scale changes; most people don’t do that, but they make a smaller, incremental change. Sometimes change stops there. Sometimes, it pushes further, changing assessment strategies, approaches to instruction, facilitation techniques. That’s where you (or I) are able to help.

My role has been traditionally to help people with the how of things; how to set up a gradebook in the LMS, how to use classroom response tools to do things in the classroom – and early on I realized that lots of people really were looking for how-to, but never thought much about the why they were doing things. Sometimes the answer to why was simply, “the department asked me to go online” – but the people who did think about the why ended up much more satisfied. Looking to help in a more productive way I’ve become somewhat annoying in consultations, asking things like “why are you doing this?” and “what do you hope to accomplish with this change?” Those questions are less about technical details, and more about design of learning. It’s been interesting to note how instructional design intersects with media development, technical support, systems administration and of course, teaching. Each of those intersections can be opportunities to talk about how that particular learning experience can be improved. Creating a video? Why, what can that help you accomplish? The questions open up a rich conversation filled with the proverbial box of chocolates. In some ways, that make me, a (looking at my work badge) Learning Technologies Analyst, an Instructional Designer.

It’s unfortunate, that I didn’t know that until six or seven years ago. Honestly, it would’ve made my early career make a lot more sense. So those of you who are working in educational technology, supporting the use of a tool and putting in tickets to bug vendors to fix things, you might be an Instructional Designer.

Jon Kruithof is a Learning Technologies Analyst at McMaster University

By Tully Privett

A new year has begun and, curious about what trends 2018 may have for online education, I did some digging. As one might expect there was no shortage of articles predicting 2018’s upcoming online education trends. Many of these trends appeared consistently across articles and included:

  • Gamification
  • Social Learning
  • Micro Learning
  • Open Educational Resources
  • xAPI’s

However, the most consistent theme across all articles was virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR). The trends articles touched only briefly on how VR and AR will continue to grow in online education, with associated costs dropping and improvements in the technology continuing. Having become tired reading about the same trends article after article I switched and focused my research solely on the improvements being made in VR and AR.

As I found with the 2018 trend articles there was no shortage of articles discussing how VR and AR are going to disrupt education and provide new opportunities for students to gain experiential learning online. While I agree that this disruption will take place, I doubt that 2018 will be when the floodgates open. For one, the costs have not yet come down to a point where the majority of post-secondary schools in Ontario are able to take advantage yet. Labster comes to mind as an early provider of VR experiences and has developed their science lab simulations in conjunction with various schools under a cost-sharing model. Labster launched their software in 2013 and to date, has around 65 simulations for students to experience in a virtual lab, but even with a cost-sharing model the price is out of reach for many institutions.

While at a conference in London, England last year, I spoke with the programmers of several companies creating similar experiences to Labster. Having a backround in private industry with regards to programming and design I was curious to know what programs, languages and expertise these companies were using to create their VR/AR experiences. I assumed that because these companies were part of such a large conference and privately owned that they would be using modelling programs like 3DS Max or Maya combined with expensive real time game engines and C# or similar for programming.

I was surprised to learn that many of the VR/AR companies at that conference were, at least in part, using free software to create their experiences. Some had changed from using expensive modelling software (such as 3DS max) to open source modelling programs like Blender which has become quite robust and even includes its own built-in game engine. There are many other players coming to the open source modelling software market such as Wings 3D, Equinox 3D or Daz Studio; it seems this is an area where open source software will continue to improve.

There are many game engines out there to choose from and many provide free trials or a free light package. Unity 3D is one popular game engine that has been used to create many popular games but also includes a free beginner package. Other free options include Unreal Engine, and Cryengine, which used to be quite expensive it recently changed its pay structure to “pay what you want” bringing the cost down to be in range of small developers. Finally, Amazon has also been making waves in the web world and VR/AR is no exception. Amazon recently released their own game engine called Lumberyard and it is based on a previous version of Cryengine, but Amazon has included some useful tweaks. More 3D game engines are likely to come out soon.

For programming, there are many open source options to allow programmers the freedom to develop with a wide assortment of tools. Companies are no longer forced to develop in expensive and stagnant integrated development environments (IDEs) such as Dreamweaver. A little research on open source IDEs delivers an overwhelming number of options such as Sublime Text 3, Visual Studio Community, Notepad++, Eclipse and more.

I left the conference feeling very optimistic about the future of VR/AR with such a wide range of free and open source options for anyone looking to develop applications. The issue then became one of time — although a single individual may have all the skills necessary to create these experiences it is not an efficient use of this individual’s time within an organization to complete a project of this size solo. The time issue therefore becomes an issue of team size. To reduce development time, many of the companies had large teams of specialized individuals who focused only on a small portion of the project. The software cost savings hadn’t been removed from the equation but rather moved to the production side and given to the additional staff needed to produce a product in a time-efficient manner. For institutions that have large teams and could spare the additional staff to focus on these projects, the reduction in software cost may help, but for others this shift in cost would still prevent them from entering the market.

There were some announcements late in 2017, however, that lead me to hope that the VR/AR world will soon be within reach of the majority of institutions. One point is that video editing software is now able to accomplish 3D editing. What this means is that if your VR experience is using 360 video, the editors already in use are now capable of editing 3D video and these include Adobe Premiere Pro, Corel Video Studio, and Apple Final Cut Pro. In fact, Apple made the announcement at the end of October last year that Final Cut Pro would have support for VR video and that edits could be made while a headset is being used, allowing the developer a first- hand experience of the end user’s experience.

The second point is one I am particularly excited about — the release of a singular program capable of combining all the elements I discussed above into one easy- to-use program for AR/VR experiences. This dream program would allow instructional designers the ability to create immersive AR/VR experiences without requiring any specialized experience in programming or 3D graphics, similar to what Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline have done for 2D animation. It appears my wait may be coming to an end with an announcement by Amazon introducing Sumerian. Sumerian lets a user with little to no programming experience create immersive interactive scenes that run on popular hardware such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and iOS devices (Android hopefully by the final release). Depending on the price point set by Amazon this program could bring the costs of developing AR/VR down to where most institutions could provide their clients with these experiences. If you are interested in learning more about Sumerian or signing up for the preview you can do so at,

So here’s to hoping that 2018 is the dawn of a new AR/VR era where instructional designers add another powerful learning tool to their repertoire.

Photo by NeONBRAND” on Unsplash