Category Archives: Blog


Website Audit Advice

Hey yall,

GPayne checkin’ in. Recently I met with Evelyn Helminen, Web & Social Media Co-Manager of the DLC, and guru to all things web design. We sat down to chat about my WordPress website, which I began as a course assignment for my IEM degree back in the fall of 2013. It had however, evolved into something much larger over time. In fact, it had evolved so much that it no longer even conveyed the most important messages clearly and effectively. During my internal website audit, Evelyn pointed out some key areas of improvement, so now it’s my turn to share what I’ve learned:

  1. Define your purpose:
    • Website design begins with purpose. If it’s an e-portfolio, make it showcase your talent. If it’s a blog, make it consistently expressive. If it’s built for a business, make it sell. Multipurpose websites are difficult to identify with and tend to turn off the target user, so when you define your purpose, make it clear.
  2. Hone your message:
    • Website design helps to bring your message to the forefront of people’s attention. Think about it, people sit on average 1-2 feet away from their screen. When your message is displayed on the screen in front of the user, be sure that it’s comprehensible. We found that my style of writing in my e-portfolio is a bit too conversational. It works great for this blog post, but for a potential employer, wordiness won’t grant me an interview. So take it from me, be clear!
  3. Design your landing page to be comfortable:
    • Website design is about capturing your audience for as many seconds as possible. If you’ve ever visited a website that didn’t welcome you appropriately, you likely didn’t stay for long. Even spending 4-5 seconds on a page you don’t intend on reading is unlikely, so don’t expect it from anyone else on the internet. Your target user should be welcomed and encouraged to stay on the pages you designate, so make your pages leave lasting impressions.
  4. Make it navigable:
    • Another major turn off to the average user of your website is navigation confusion. Design your links and drop down menus to be easily located, easily read, and linked to the right place. Try displaying less items on your drop down menus for ease of use, or try making your most important links (to PDFs and videos) open up in separate tabs.
  5. Use images and videos to break the canvas:
    • Your website is flat. Get used to it. Flat surfaces are good for skateboarding, but on the internet, generally everyone’s surfaces are flat. Break the surface of your space, and separate yourself from the crowd, with well-placed pictures and videos. Maybe a video tutorial of your website or a talking head is what you need. Just be sure not to overlook the power of colors when breaking the canvas. They’re subtle, but they still help to liven things up.

Of course, there are plenty of other things I learned during my internal audit, but they’re a bit more specific to my needs. I’d be happy to share them with you, but you’re going to have to drop-in or make an appointment ( See you soon!


An Analog DLC Needs Assessment

The Digital Learning Commons (DLC) prototyped a new way to assess the needs of our clientele! In line with DLC tradition, which marries creativity and analog imagination with digital innovation, we tried out a fun and simple method to assess the needs of our clientele based on four basic knowledge areas: Presentation & Graphic Design, Audio & Video, Blogging & Web Tools, and Instructional Technology. We created the needs assessment tool around these four basic categories to find out if what we currently offer is still in demand, and if there is a demand for something that we do not currently offer.

How we did it

tabling blog post pic 1Using a large interactive sheet of paper sectioned off into 4 knowledge skills areas (depicted as different landscapes) students and faculty placed dot stickers over software programs, or knowledge areas, that they would like to learn more about and/or attend a workshop on. They were also encouraged to write in anything they did not see listed but would like to have a workshop on. This occurred in the Samson Center Courtyard from 12-2pm on Tuesday, February 3rd.

What we found

tabling blog post pic 2Out of the four categories, Presentation & Graphic Design got the most “hits” (dot stickers), with Blogging & Web Tools having the second most. Audio & Video came in third and Instructional Technology was in 4th place. Excel had the highest workshop demand, but Photoshop and LinkedIn were close behind. Overall, we found that the DLC is in the right position to offer services to the MIIS community in different knowledge areas, particularly Excel, PhotoShop, LinkedIn, Camtasia, and iMovie.

What this means

Services offered by the DLC are in high demand, but disproportionately so. We have a working workshop offering and schedule based on need, but we need to connect and advertise more deliberately for our clientele to receive the training they demand. More than 90% of the hits were labeled by program, so we will be using teachers in specific programs as gatekeepers to targeted workshops.


What is next?

More targeted emails regarding upcoming workshops, more service offerings gleaned from your feedback, more needs assessments, and more delivery! We at the DLC pride ourselves on customer service, and this was just a simple step on the way to delivering better services to you, our clientele.

Keep an eye on your email for announcements on upcoming workshops!



Customizing Moodle

If you are a returning student, you have probably been surprised by Moodle’s new look, hopefully in a good way! The new Moodle has new features that will allow you to customize your page, and it also looks less cluttered and more sleek!

Under Courses tab, if you click on My Courses, you can customize the page by moving, adding and configuring blocks. First, you have to enable the Customize this page option on the top right-hand corner. Once it’s enabled,  you can drag and drop the blocks on the page. You can also add additional blocks such as Calendar, Latest news and Upcoming events. For the Course Overview block, you can choose to display only the courses you are taking this semester.

For more details, watch the video below.


Do you know about Course Hub?

How is everyone’s first week of school going?

If you are frustrated by wading through the long list of past and current courses on Moodle to find the right one, or if you are baffled about where to find the E-Reserves or the password to access it, or if you just wish for a little more organization in managing all your digital course materials, we might have a solution for you!

HubLogoCourse Hub is the best place to quickly access course listings and links to instructional resources being used in your current semester. So talk to your professor about linking course resources to Course Hub.

Let’s take a quick tour of the Course Hub. First go to and log in using your MIIS credentials. Once you are logged in, on the left-hand column, you will see My Semester Dashboard, which lists both your current and past semesters.

On the right, you will see all your courses in the selected semester, with links to various resources. For example, if you click on the moodle link, it will take you right to the Moodle course page. No need to search in a long list!

In addition to moodle, you can find other resources linked to the site such as a wordpress blog, E-Reserves link and other relevant resources.

And whenever you are ready for a study break, check out MIIS Informed to find out what’s happening on campus!

Watch the video below to see a quick demo of how Course Hub works.




DLC Data Fall 2014

J term is a time for reflection, evaluation and planning in the DLC. As a graduate assistant, I was tasked with compiling the statistics on DLC usage during Fall 2014, collected through three online booking systems. The data focuses on three service areas that the DLC provides: individual consulting sessions, digital recording booths as well as the community Design Sp@ce.


Appointments Statistics

Through the online appointment system, users can select a time/day, a service, and a graduate assistant or staff member to work with. We offer four general service areas: Audio and Video Help, Blogging and Web Tools, Instructional Technology, as well as Presentation and Graphic Design. There is also an “other” category if the topic doesn’t fall under one of the pre-established categories.

The data from the online appointment system shows that during the fall semester, we served a total of 93 unique users, who booked 232 appointments through the online reservation system. We logged a total of 116 hours of consulting sessions.

In terms of the popularity of topics, Blogging and Web Tools was the most popular category as 59% of the consulting sessions were on this topic. Audio and Video Help came in second, with 26% of the total sessions. 8% of the sessions focused on Presentation and Graphic Design. Instructional Technology represented 3% of the documented appointments, however, this statistic does not reflect appointments booked outside of the system. 4% of the sessions were on other topics.

In terms of frequency of appointments throughout the semester, October was our busiest month, with a total of 78 appointments. While we were ramping up in September when the online booking system was first introduced, we logged 33 appointments. In November and December, we logged 64 and 57 appointments respectively.

Recording Booth Statistics

We have two recording booths, which can also be reserved through an online booking system. The data shows that during last semester, 50 unique users booked a total of 176 recording sessions which lasted about 300 hours.

A closer look at the schedule reveals that as the semester progressed, the booking steadily grew, culminating in the most appointments in December, which accounted for 40% of the total sessions. Based on our observation, recording booths were used primarily as a quiet space for Skype and phone calls, Adobe Connect sessions, recording voiceovers for Podcasts, Camtasia screen capture projects, and video editing.

Design Sp@ce Statistics

The Design Sp@ce has proven to be a popular choice for hosting events and classes on campus. During Fall 2014, we hosted a total of 59 unique gatherings which included 8 graduate courses, 27 events, 17 meetings and 4 workshops. Among the 59 gatherings, 18 were recurring. Recurring classes were the norm, as 7 out of 8 classes were scheduled multiple times during the semester. Among the 27 community events, there were receptions, potlucks, movie nights, morning yoga, weekly dance club, blood drives, presentations, guest speaker sessions, etc.

This diversity of events demonstrates that the DLC continued to be a campus event hub while the Holland Center was being renovated . The 17 meetings were mainly class discussions or club meetings. The majority of the 4 workshops were sponsored by the DLC, with a focus on popular topics such as WordPress and screen capture. The space was also used for other purposes such as video filming.


Below is the infographic representation of the statistics, made using Piktochart. Infographic stands for the graphic representation of information or data. Piktochart is a website that allows users to easily create an infographic chart through using the existing templates or creating their own. Piktochart is very user friendly with its drag-and-drop feature. Once the chart has been created, it can be either downloaded as a static image or pdf file or viewed online which shows the interactive features.

Click here to view the online version.

DLC data (1)

headshots draft

Get Your Professional Headshot

Need a photo for LinkedIn, your e-portfolio or other professional uses?  Here’s your chance to get one!

Why do I need one?  “First impressions have always mattered, and in the past it was all about the handshake.  Now that we’ve entered the world of LinkedIn, virtual business, and online personal branding, a well-done headshot can be equally important as a firm grip.”

What should I wear? “The number one thing you should NOT wear is something that you are not comfortable in.  If you are uncomfortable in your clothes, this will be very apparent in your photos.  This isn’t the time to experiment.  What you want to convey in your photos is the best version of your authentic self, so wear what will represent the image you want the viewer to perceive…The number one consideration is to wear clothes that fit you well.”

More to think about:

“Poodll Anywhere” Moodle-based MP3 Audio Recorder Tutorial Uploaded on YouTube

For those of you that are looking to enhance your Moodle knowledge,  there’s a new tutorial video on YouTube explaining how to use an experimental Moodle plug-in called Poodll. Poodll is an easy-to-use Moodle-based voice recorder which converts audio recordings into a MP3 file, displayed as a mini audio player. Our tests suggest that it could be a great feature for engaging students in online speaking activities at home and sharing the recordings with the class. To see how Poodll works, please check out the video!

To download the latest version of Flash, click here.

Upcoming Event: Effective Data Presentation Techniques

Effective Data Presentation Techniques.001A workshop @ The Commons with Profs. Moyara Ruehsen and Phil Murphy


Monday, November 18, 6:00 pm in the Design Space

Wondering how best to present your data for all of those course assignments and reports? Well, now is your chance to learn from the experts. Tell your story in a coherent and effective manner with a graph that your audience can interpret in two seconds. Should you use a pie chart for that data? Is there an optimal number of slices? What about an area diagram? When is it best to use a horizontal bar chart instead of a vertical column chart? When do stacked columns make sense? (Almost never.) How can 3-D deceive? Are there effective ways to combine lines and columns in the same diagram? (Yes.) And will it ever make sense to use a stacked area diagram (yes) or a donut or half-donut (yes)? Or should you abandon the chart idea altogether and just go with a table? (Sometimes.) Hear more nuanced answers to these questions and more!

“Next Generation” Learning – An Emerging Practices Breakfast Conversation

What?     Breakfast Treats, Coffee & Tea, and Collegial Conversation
Where?  Design Space @ the Digital Learning Commons, 420 Calle Principal / 001 McGowan
When?   Wednesday, October 9, 2013 9:30-11:00am
Who? MIIS Faculty (Please RSVP by Friday, October 3) – No technical skills or hardware required!

The Digital Learning Commons is pleased to invite MIIS faculty to a breakfast conversation on emerging teaching practices.  Our guests will be Monterey Institute professors, Peter Shaw, Jeff Dayton-Johnson, and Moyara Ruehsen.

Each of our guests will share experiences and practices that reflect the guiding theme for this year’s activities at the Commons: “Next Generation Learning.”

Inspired by some of the experiments we see taking place around the globe, and on our own campus, the “Next Generation Learning Project” will promote discussions, activities, and design challenges that help the MIIS community explore the thinking behind educational innovations. From MOOCs, “flipped” classrooms, and various permutations of “online learning,” to more subtle shifts in the way learners and teachers interact, the Next Generation Learning Project seeks to explore how teaching and learning are evolving, in our individual lives, on our campuses, and in the communities with which we intersect through our many immersive learning opportunities.

Participating faculty will have opportunities to discuss and reflect upon the pedagogical opportunities (and challenges) presented by our guests, and perhaps come away with some new ideas for future course development.

Our Guests

Jeff Dayton-Johnson is Associate Professor and Program Chair in the International Policy Studies Program where he teaches economic development and policy.  A regular DJ on local radio station KUSP, Jeff will share his experience integrating custom audio podcasts into his students’ learning repertoire.

Moyara Ruehsen is Associate Professor in the International Policy Studies Program where she teaches international economics and analysis. Dovetailing on the theme of “next generation learning,” Moyara will share lessons learned from her recent experience time-shifting her summer Econ Bootcamp course.


Peter Shaw is resident Professor of Pedagogical Magic in the TESOL/TFL Program at the Monterey Institute.  Peter will share how he designs the first 2-3 weeks of his teacher education courses to build a collegial learning community.