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Where I've Presented

I present at workshops and conferences.

Using Story Beats to Plot eLearning Scenarios

Learning Solutions Conference & Expo, Orlando Florida, March 26-28, 2019
About: Everyone likes stories. Using storytelling techniques to spice up otherwise dull training modules is a great idea. Situating learners in a realistic context encourages them to apply skills and retain knowledge longer. But it’s not easy to write engaging narratives. Scenarios written by educators tend to be prescriptive, predictable, and preachy. Even worse, they feel contrived and artificial. Learners know when they are being manipulated to think or feel. Outwardly, they may click the right answer, but inwardly they resent it. Recent studies have shown that this sort of training may actually produce a reverse effect, compelling learners to feel more opposed to the training lesson than before they participated. So, how do you write a real-world learning scenario that isn’t contrived?

This session will explore how to apply techniques used by writers of films and screenplays. First, you will briefly discuss a movie plot by its three-act structure: beginning, middle, and end. That’s a really good way to start conceptualizing an eLearning scenario but, by itself, doesn’t go deep enough to be very helpful. It’s easy to get started plotting out your story only to lose your way without a clue of where to go next. You will look at Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet used by screenplay writers. In film writing terms, a “beat” refers to a single story event that transforms the character and story at a critical juncture. More …

Flipped Classroom Studio at Ohio University

OHECC Conference, Swanee University, Portsmouth Ohio, April 2015
About: The Flipped Classroom is a teaching model that inverts traditional teaching methods. Course “lectures” are published as video podcasts and learning modules that students view online before class. This allows class time to be spent on activities such as problem-based work that focus on higher order thinking, improve student engagement and increase meaningful interaction between students and teachers. It is called the flipped classroom because what used to be homework is now done in class and delivering content is now done at home via teacher-created videos.

We designed a four-week Studio that provided participants with assistance and collegial support to begin the process of flipping their course. Students in flipped classroom have reported feeling that they had increased innovation and cooperation when compared to students in a traditional class (Strayer, 2012).  A review of active learning research, which the flipped classroom encourages, found that it increases student engagement, achievement, and student retention (Prince, 2004).

Visible Learning; Using a Student Response System

OHECC Conference, Athens, Ohio, April 2012

About: To evaluate learning, we have to go beyond getting the right answer. We must ask, “What mental steps led you to your answer?” But thought processes are invisible. Indeed all learning is invisible. This presentation encourages instructors to interact with students via dialogues, rather than monologues (philosophical treatises). To teach by asking questions to generate discussion and debate.

But what makes a good question? If a question does not elicit haggling about how to figure out the problem, then the question is not working. When the question is too easy, students are bored and there is nothing for them to discuss. Too difficult, and students don’t even know where to start. So they give up. But, how do you get into the sweet spot of learning? We explore ideas and strategies to make problem-solving appropriately challenging and to make learning visible.

Interactive Learning Modules Instead of Lectures: An Example from Classical Mythology

EDUCAUSE Midwest Regional Conference, Chicago Illinois, March 21-23, 2005

About: Interactive learning modules allowed Ohio University to offer twice as many sections of a popular undergraduate classical mythology course without increasing class size, adding to the instructor’s workload, or taking away from class discussion time. This presentation will describe how we did it and what we learned in the process.

What People Said ...

Best session I’ve attended so far.

This session was amazing! Mike was totally engaging and engrossing. The content was a fun take on the topic with a great framework to work from in crafting story. 

One of my favorite sessions of the entire conference. All I would change is more time to get in depth. This could be a great extended block topic.

This was really fun to learn about and I liked the presenter’s style.

This is just what I needed to understand how to write a story for my training. Very practical steps.

Awesome session, Mike! So interesting and we’ll laid out. I will look to download your deck and research this further. 

Exceptional! Very practical.

Excellent presentation.

Very engaging! Storytelling is a skill I want to hone and I loved the breakdown of familiar movies to start orienting ourselves to the practice.

Great session with a lot of inspiration. Many slides with good info that there was no time to jot down. Looking forward to finding the presentation online.


Great stuff, simplified version of scripting a story.

Impressed with his ability to compress the content into one hour. Lots of practical tips to support the theory.

Great applicable tips and tricks.

Great session! This was a great introduction to story beats – I can’t wait to give this a try and share the idea with my team.

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