Week 4: Online Instruction

Welcome to the online instruction module!

One of the main challenges of the online learning environment concerns cognitive overload.  This week, you will be learning what cognitive overload is, and ways that you can reduce it so that your online learners may have more effective learning experiences.

First, you will learn how you can reduce cognitive overload in creating and delivering online tutorials to your students. Then, you will be learning about two ways to prevent your learners from needing to switch screens while engaged in online tutorials. Screen switching is a real pain, and is distracting to the student who is trying to focus on the lesson you are delivering.  An exciting new tutorial tool is now available to you called Guide on the Side, and you will see how it works. Then, you will learn how to embed all types of multimedia into your Blackboard tutorials and discussions.  If you embed the multimedia, it will  stay contained within your presentation rather than “linking out”  to a new screen. It will be a busy week.  Let’s get going!

Avoiding Cognitive Overload in Creating and Delivering Online Tutorials


First, please watch this video about reducing cognitive overload for online learners.

Next, please watch this video, bearing in mind what you learned in the first video.


Please write a blog post critiquing the second video in view of the principles and recommended steps covered in the first video.  What did the presenter do wrong?  What did the presenter do right? How do you think that you would change the second video if you were creating and presenting it?

Guide on the Side

What is Guide on the Side?

Guide on the Side is freely available, open source software under a Creative Commons license that allows librarians to quickly and easily create online, interactive tutorials. This software was created by librarians at the University of Arizona (“UA”). A split screen allows the user to actively navigate a given database while the Guide on the Side tutorial stays open.

How can you use it?

Guide on the Side is a flexible tool for delivering any kind of online tutorial, but it really shines when it comes to assisting users with the steps involved in searching and navigating online databases. The user can always return to the Guide on the Side while navigating a database without having to switch between screens.


Take a test drive of Guide on the Side!  Check out this Guide on the Side tutorial about the Library of Congress’ teaching materials for teachers to see how definition boxes, interactive questions, screenshots and other images can be incorporated into a Guide on the Side tutorial. (Click this blog for a post containing the Handout for Teachers referenced in this tutorial.)

To navigate the Guide on the Side tutorial, click on the arrows at the bottom of the left-hand side of your screen to advance or go back. Be sure to click on the interactive active quiz questions as you progress through the tutorials.

Optional: Check out this Guide on the Side tutorial about searching UA’s online catalog to get another look at how Guide on the Side works.

Optional: Check out this tutorial on using JSTOR from UA to get a sense of how Guide on the Side would be useful in providing instruction about an online database. You won’t be able to use the right hand side of the screen which contains the active online screen, but you can navigate through the tutorial on the left-hand side.  Again, be sure to click on questions to see the interactive aspect of Guide on the Side at work.


Please write a blog post about how you foresee using Guide on the Side in your library and any other thoughts you would like to share.

Optional: Read an interesting blog post by Meredith Farkas about Guide on the Side. The comments to her blog post are also worth reading!

Optional: If you want to find out more about the development of Guide on the Side by those that created it at the University of Arizona, read:

Sult, L. A., Mery, Y., Blakiston, R., & Kline, E. (2013). A New Approach to Online Database Instruction: Developing the Guide on the Side. Reference Services Review, 41(1), 10–10.

Embedding Multimedia into Blackboard

While you can always provide links to third party content in your Blackboard content module, did you know that you can embed multimedia into your presentation?  If you do so, your students will be able to view the multimedia material within your content module without having the inconvenience of clicking out of your presentation, only to have to click back in.  It also keeps the student on task, rather than creating the opportunity for the student to explore other items of interest from the third party source, such as looking at other YouTube videos. Don’t risk losing your audience to more tempting offerings!

Check out this screencast from to see how to embed multimedia to Blackboard using the HTML editor

If you prefer stationary step-by-step directions, check out How do I embed a video from the web? from Suffolk University and/or Blackboard: embed video content and other mashups from iTeach at University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

Please note that embedding is not the same as archiving the third party source, so it will not reside in your presentation indefinitely.  Your browser is still pointing to the third party URL, even though it may look to your students that the content actually resides in your content module without the student needing to switch screens.


1. Create a new content module in Blackboard (or add to an existing one).

2. Using the steps outlined above, select a multimedia item (a YouTube video, for example), and embed the multimedia item into your Blackboard content module.

Optional: Did you know that you can embed an RSS feed or a particular item in an RSS feed using the HTML toggle? To learn how, check out How to Embed RSS News Feeds (scroll to middle of page).

As you will see, this will also require using some software from Feed2JS (Feed to JavaScript), which will allow you to customize the RSS feed being displayed in your Blackboard site.

Give it a whirl! Try embedding your RSS feed or a particular item in into the Blackboard content module you have created above.


Please write a blog post about your experience with embedding multimedia into your Blackboard content module. Is this a new skill for you? How do you think you will use this capability in the future?



4 Responses to “Week 4: Online Instruction”

  1. Charmaine April 25, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    guide on the side is an excellent tool. can see it being very useful!

  2. Charmaine April 25, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    Ok. not the worst video ever! but I was extremely frustrated that I had to watch it or rather listen to it three times to understand the basic content. after the introduction with the stated goal “you’re going to learn 6 principles and some steps you can take” I was excited to go with the narrator; I was looking forward to learning this information and his promise seemed rather robust for a short video yet I was enticed and ready to be engaged! But then i couldn’t figure out when a principle was being referenced. I needed a signal, either visual or aural “principle 4 is…” or “another principle is…” . It wasn’t until I saw the slide with the text on it that I understood that split attention was the principle. that modalities was another principle. It was very confusing so it was very difficult to follow along. needed many more signals to understnd . also on some principles there were multiple steps the trainer could take– and the number of steps differed from one principle to another. but i could not tell when we were finished with a step and had moved on to a different principle. yes i agree you can give handout withm ore tet to the visual learner, but visual learners have to wait until it’s over to get thehandout? why not just incorporate more signals that are text?


  1. Welcome to the Learning Hub 2.0 | Learning Hub 2.0 - February 26, 2013

    […] Week 4: Online Instruction […]

  2. Exploring Online Instruction: Guide on The Side | Learning Hub 2.0 - March 26, 2013

    […] Spring Break, but we’re continuing on and moving into this week’s module about Online Instruction! We’ll be discovering steps to avoid cognitive overload in online learning, and explore the […]

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