Daylight and the Learner-Interface Interaction

In our last blog, we shared some ideas with you about how to promote student engagement and interaction in your online courses. As we get ready for the changeover to Daylight in eLearn this May, we invite you to think about a fourth type of learner interaction which promotes active learning in distance learning: the learner-interface interaction.

There’s more to learner-interface interaction than the computer reacting to a student clicking a link. The overall “readability” of a course is part of the learner-interface interaction. If a professor uses a font too small to see or not designed for ease of reading, they may negatively impact the learner-interface interaction and impede learning. If the color of the link text is similar to the color of the page background so text is difficult to see, then the learner-interface interaction gets in the way of learning. The goal of learner-interface interaction is to promote the course learning path while making the online learning experience easy and even joyful.

We’re fortunate at Vol State because we’re introducing Daylight, a new “look” for eLearn which improves readability and the learner-interface interaction on computers, tablets and smart phones. A quick look at a student’s “My Home” page shows how Daylight improves the learner-interface interaction.

Our current eLearn interface is on the left. Note the heavy blue bars which detract from readability by adding clutter without adding information. On the right, the Daylight interface is free of unnecessary clutter (even our new eLearn logo is streamlined).

Why do students usually go to their eLearn My Home page? Why to go to their courses, of course! If you try to find courses in the current eLearn interface on the left, you need to scroll down to find them. In Daylight, courses are as close to the top left as they can be, the place where students first place their eyes. In addition to text description of the courses, professors can now add a recognizable graphic to their course so students can more quickly recognize the link to the course.

New Daylight Content Templates

Distributed Education created a series of templates you may use as you create course pages. These templates give you two powerful advantages:

  • They create a great look for your course taking full advantage of the features of Daylight. You’ll easily create aesthetically pleasing pages that promote student learning.
  • Depending on how you use them, the templates can help you meet several of the Quality Matters specific review standards. As an online course developer, you can concentrate on more course content and think a bit less about Quality Matters standards.

The image below shows how you find document templates in the upcoming Daylight experience. You create a new page and then click the “Select a Document Template” pull down menu next to the field where you enter the page title. Before you use a template in a course, play with the templates in your eLearn sandbox. And always remember: templates come first and you load content into them second. If you select a template when a page is already populated with content, you’ll lose your content!

To learn more about how to use Daylight to improve the learner-interface interaction of your courses, join Distributed Education at our next Daylight eLearn Experience “Sneak Peek” at 3PM on April 26 in our training lab in Ramer #172P. Our March 12 blog, Introducing Daylight is very informative. In a few weeks, your eLearn Essentials course will be updated with a number of references to help you take full advantage of Daylight, including how to use the four new document templates. Of course, if you need support call Distributed Education at (615) 230-3665 or email

Bryan Saums portrait.






Bryan Saums joined the Distributed Education team as an Instructional Design Specialist in February 2018. He holds two masters and certifications in geographic information systems (GIS) and instructional design. He has designed and taught a diverse array of online and hybrid courses, including cultural anthropology, archaeology, environmental science, ecology, cartography and geographic research methods.

Using Video to Improve Learner Interactions

Using Video to Improve Learner Interactions

Quality Matters, the peer review process Volunteer State employs to ensure high quality online courses, identifies three types of learner interactions which promote active learning:

  • learner–instructor interaction,
  • learner–content interaction, and
  • learner–learner interaction.

The use of video in your online courses can improve and increase all three of these critical learner interactions.

Here are some ideas to use video to increase learner interactions in your online courses.

Learner—Instructor Interaction

Professor Introductory Video

Produce a semi-permanent video to introduce yourself in the Instructor Information section of your courses. If you keep this video general, you can utilize it every one of your online courses. You can discuss your academic background, research interests and why you enjoy teaching at Vol State. If you wish, you can add some personal details. This video can be used over several semesters, so you might want to consider having our videographers in Media Services produce this video.

Assignment Directions Video

Written instructions and rubrics are great for providing directions to students for assignments, but have you ever considered producing a video to explain assignment directions? Since many learners pick up on visual cues like facial expressions and body language as well as speech more effectively than they do interpreting text, video directions can really benefit a large segment of your online students. If you’re trying a new assignment, you can produce a “rough and ready” video at your computer using MyMedia, which is embedded in all your online courses under “Course Tools”. If you have an assignment you use repeatedly, Media Services can help make a great permanent video.

Feedback Video

Microsoft Word comments, a number in a grade book, Dropbox comments on a quiz—these are all great feedback tools. Did you know you can provide feedback to your online students using video? While a video is not a two-way conversation, it more closely mimics a live face-to-face conversation than the written word. Again, you can make quick videos using MyMedia. After you get used to using MyMedia, you may be able to save time providing video feedback instead of or in supplement to your written feedback.

BTW, please see our blog, My Media has Arrived!, for help on using this great tool.

Learner—Content Interaction

Field Video

Do you have a class where you can get out in the field to show students real-world examples of their academic subjects? If you’re teaching an environmental science or ecology class, you can go to a riffle of a nearby stream to show how bubbling waters oxygenate a stream. If you’re teaching a pop culture or pop music class, you can show a video of some of the famous instruments in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Of course, your traditional classroom can be considered a kind of field experience for an online student. Why not video some of your classroom demonstrations or discussions and edit them down for your online students? Once again, Media Services can help you produce these videos.

Here’s a nice video by Dr. Carol Bucy from her HIST 2030 Tennessee History online class. The audio on this PowerPoint video isn’t perfect, but that’s quite acceptable. Students get valuable information and the professor’s insights in alternative, accessible format. Perfection isn’t the goal; quality instruction is the goal.

Assignment Video (PowerPoint)

There are so many ways to create video these days. You can use your phone. You can use your web cam. You can use your computer or tablet. In fact, you can create video by not creating “video” at all! For example, why not have students create a PowerPoint presentation with audio and automated transitions between slides for an assignment? This gives students the opportunity to review, organize and analyze course materials and present their work in a format which they may need to use on the job someday. If you need help guiding your students through such an assignment, we’re here in Distributed Education to help you.

Did you know students can also use MyMedia? MyMedia includes a desktop recorder for doing video and screen recordings. MyMedia is actually easier to use than PowerPoint, and it is already imbedded in every Vol State course!

Video Documentaries

From 30 second shorts to full blown documentaries, there is an abundance of high quality video available to the educator from a myriad of online sources. I’ll confess a predilection for using videos produced by the Public Broadcasting Service in my online courses, including shows from Frontline, Nova and American Experience. Of course, a conversation with one of our Vol State librarians may give you great ideas for locating new videos to incorporate into your online classes.

Learner–Learner Interaction

Team Assignment Video (PowerPoint)

The automated, narrated PowerPoint presentation described earlier is a great team project. Yes, students may groan about having a team project, but the benefits of such projects far outweigh the groans. Musicians collaborate online. Writers collaborate online. Business professionals collaborate online. Educators collaborate online. Having students produce a PowerPoint “video” online is not only a great assignment, but teaches students how to collaborate online for their professional lives.

Student Introductory Video

You know that favorite first assignment for almost every online class offered in North America? You know, the “Introduce Yourself” discussion board? Why not have students create a short introductory video of themselves for their introduction? Shy students can provide narration without showing themselves, if necessary. This is certainly a novel way to start building active discussions and your class learning community.

Zoom Meetings

The video examples described above are asynchronous; however, if you use tools already embedded in your online classes like Wiggio and Zoom Meetings, there’s no reason you can’t create synchronous learning experiences using online video technology. You can run online review sessions during your office hours using your webcam, a headset with a mic for good sound and Zoom Meetings. You can record these sessions for students who have scheduling conflicts and can’t make your office hours.

Here’s a great resource to learn about Zoom @ Vol State.

There are many more ways to incorporate video into your online classes to increase learner interactions. Distributed Education, our great librarians, and the staff of Media Services are all here to help, and they’re just a click away:

Bryan Saums portrait.


Bryan Saums joined the Distributed Education team as an Instructional Design Specialist in February 2018. He holds two masters and certifications in geographic information systems (GIS) and instructional design. He created and taught his first online course in 2002, a sociology course for real estate professionals. He has designed and taught a diverse array of online and hybrid courses, including cultural anthropology, archaeology, environmental science, ecology, cartography and geographic research methods. While he has never been arrested for disturbing the peace, he plays banjo so the possibility is always open.