Activity Design

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Video interview discussing the course design process with faculty member, Stephanie Bryson
Instructional Designer,
Susan Adams

English Department Consultation

Portland State University

Challenge: The English Department at Portland State asked, “How can we re-create the dynamic feeling of sitting around a seminar table in an online course?”

Solutions: Crediting Todd Cherner in the Education department for generating a graphic organizer to present specific roles students play in an online discussion whereby they have a task to monitor and capture a specific element of the discussion.

They capture these unique elements using a Graphic Organizer. This graphic organizer describes each unique role and provides a template to capture elements assigned to each role. For example, the connector role makes connections between the text and the world around them including references. The “Travel Chaser” role creates a list or map of the location of characters or concepts in the text read as they move throughout the story or process. This increases interest, motivation and promotes authentic learning experiences. Design your assignment using a few or all of these roles that are relevant to your discipline.

Here is a list of potential roles you or the students choose from:

    1. Discussion Director

    2. Summarizer

    3. Connector

    4. Travel Chaser

    5. Vocabulary Enricher

    6. Imaginative Illustrator

    7. Luminary (Spotlight)

    8. Creative Questioner

    9. Rigorous Researcher

    10. Author Perspective

    11. Multiculturalist

    12. “Criticalist”

Impact: Students naturally felt in control of their contributions to the conversation; they reported feeling more alert and focused while gaining deeper insights into content and their peers’ perspectives.

Additional solutions included: Socially Annotate the web, edit wikipedia pages, use video forum tools (Flipgrid & voicethread), concept maps, and live Twitter chats.


Social Justice Course

Faculty Consultation

Portland State University

Challenge: A first-time online faculty member in the social work department asked how to replicate real-world conversations and interactions in her online classroom. Learning management system used: D2L Brightspace

Solution: Create a forum prompt that invites students to declare their digital identity within the first week of the course. For this social justice class, students recorded a “Day in their life video”. Students used a device of their choice to record a two- minute video describing a day in their lives. This set the stage for students to feel a sense of belonging, connect more easily with their peers and provide the instructor with a direct understanding of who their students are.

  • Designed a digital scavenger hunt assignment to orient to the library resources.

  • Created virtual field trips to observe public forums and twitter hashtags; then reflect on their discoveries.


  • Faculty gained a strong sense of their students early on in the course. This allowed them to support online conversations more personally and it informed group membership.