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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Develop and Host Your Course for Free: MoodleCloud Hosting

-->If you enjoy the flexibility of Moodle, but find that most hosting packages are too expensive for development and start-ups, or that you just do not have time to constantly add the updates, Moodle now offers free hosting through MoodleCloud ( I used it when I was writing Moodle 3.x Teaching Techniques, and I can say that the experience was very positive.  

Here are some of the highlights of my experience using MoodleCloud:

Latest version of Moodle:  I've worked with Moodle in a locally hosted setting, and also I've used cloud-based hosting solutions available online. was far superior. MoodleCloud has the advantage of using the latest version of Moodle, and all the updates are present. Not all the third-party plugins are available for the free version, and since you're not administering this installation of Moodle, you can't add them, but that is a very minor detail when considering all the benefits of Moodle and the solutions. 

Generous Package for Free:  The free version of MoodleCloud allows you to have up to 50 users, and to develop as many courses as you'd like. 50 users gives you enough flexibility to really try out a course, and to see how things will work once you start adding users. For example, using BigBlueButton for web-conferencing and webcasting works seamlessly and smoothly within MoodleCloud. This is not always the case using other hosting options.

Plenty of Bandwidth:  One problem with some hosting solutions is that they do not have enough bandwidth, or there are other routing issues that cause annoying slowdowns and time-outs.

Accommodates a Wide Range of Media: I wanted to include videos, audio, and also photos I took for the course I developed on Trends in Tourism. I wanted to focus especially on the Mexican Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Villages), which are very successful endeavors by the Mexican government to preserve historical, cultural, and natural landmarks while also stimulating economic development by means of tourism. Here's an example of a unit focused on saving endangered sea turtles. 

 Mobile-Friendly: The Moodlecloud hosting solution is mobile-friendly, which is extremely helpful since so many people now access courses using their mobile devices (phones, tablets, iPads, etc.).

Scalable:  The free solution is perfect for beta testing new courses, and also for trying out some of the plugins and features of Moodle. If your course or your institution's e-learning takes off, you don't have to change solutions. You can scale up quite easily by subscribing to a larger plan, which are quite affordable.

The only downside that I can see to MoodleCloud is that it is in a beta mode, and it's possible that they may discontinue it. I hope not! But, that said, Moodle is very popular and I think that it's possible that it will be the first-choice solution of many users.

Moodle 3.x Teaching Techniques - Now available!

Monday, June 06, 2016

Kick-Start Your Voice for E-Learning / M-Learning that Truly Engages Your Audience

You may be surprised to learn that your voice is a key determinant of success in a webinar, presentation (live or recorded), or video-based e-learning. While most people think that having sharp graphics is the key, if you deliver your message in a monotone, mumble, and ramble, you'll lose your audience, no matter how great the visual presentation.

Here are tips for making your voice keep your audience's attention and communicate your message:

* Audio recording for a presentation
* Podcast or voice over
* Audio accompaniment for images, PowerPoint, maps, instructions, e-learning
* Story

The tips are based on voice coaches and experts Tracy Goodwin, VoiceBunny, etc.

Interview with Tracy Goodwin, Voice Coach, on LifeEdge (hosted on Vimeo).

1.  Begin with confidence. Invite your audience to join you and communicate your enthusiasm. If it takes you 5 minutes to get "warmed up," it's too long. Your audience will have already abandoned you at the one-minute mark.

2.  Speak clearly. Don't mumble or start swallowing your words. Keep your voice strong and healthy. This may involve making sure that you're hydrated and that you are well rested.

3.  Avoid mispronunciations.  If you have doubts about how a word is pronounced, look it up in a dictionary, and practice. If you mispronounce technical terms and you're a technical expert, you have just undermined your credibility. (!)

4.  Avoid speaking in a monotone. Pause, create emphasis where appropriate, and communicate emotion. This ties to a theme that unites all the points: variety.

5.  Speak conversationally, and stay relaxed. This is especially important when you want your audience to feel comfortable and to trust your information and tips.

6.  Emphasize the key points. Know how to guide the audience to the most important part.  Pacing, pauses, tonal shading may all play a part.

7.  Talk to the audience, don't simply read. Do not simply read the same words that the audience will see on the screen.

8.  Personalize, if possible.  If appropriate, elaborate with brief experiential anecdotes. Jot down an outline or a full script of your anecdote so that you'll avoid rambling.

9.  Keep each point brief. Avoid digressions. If you are providing an accompaniment to a PowerPoint presentation, keep each point brief and stay focused. Less is definitely more.
10.  Vary pace, rhythm, tone, volume, breathing.  You may need a coach for this, but if you don't have the opportunity, you can at least practice recording yourself, and then listening. Do you put yourself to sleep? Do you find your mind wandering as you listen to yourself? If you bore yourself, imagine what you'll do to your audience.

11. Know your audience. Understand their expectations. If you don't, you run the risk of very negative reviews and feedback. I volunteered to read passages of a book by Wilkie Collins, and I thought I'd make it a lively, dramatic reading, replete with voices for the different characters (one of whom was totally unhinged, and murderously so). Well, for the one listener who wanted a bland, monotonous delivery, I was a disagreeable surprise. He/she wasted no time posting vicious reviews of my effort. The fact that several listeners applauded my performance did not really help. I obsessed about that negative review to the point that I stopped recording for almost a year!

There are several ways to record your audio:

Audacity:  This open source software program is by far the best option for creating excellent, easily modified and edited audio tracks. However, it does take a bit of time to understand how to convert to mp3 and also to use some of the features, such as noise elimination.

PowerPoint:  You can record your voice directly and embed the file in each slide. The result is a gargantuan file.

Record with your SmartPhone:  Android has a very easy to use Voice Recoder App. You can also then run the audio through speech to text and create a script.

Garageband: Garageband is easy to use and comes free on Macs and iPhones.

Links and Resources
Interview with voice expert Tracy Goodwin:

Improve your Speaking Abilities:

Top 10 Voice Over Tips:

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