eLearning Technology Blog

Cation Battle

by WSU Online 27. August 2012 13:46

Creative problem solver Wendy Steele would describe her main challenge as a multimedia designer as, “finding a way to break a big concept into little and understandable parts.” 

Of course, that was also the challenge in SOILS 201, taught by faculty developer Joan Davenport. The course looks at soils as a living system and works to, “develop a general understanding of the science of soils and aims to give students an appreciation of what is underneath almost every footstep that a person takes.”  And that is certainly no small task. 

One aspect of the course goal is understanding the chemical properties of the soil, such as the Cation Exchange Complex -- which usually denotes the processes of purification, separation and decontamination (Ion Exchange, 2012).  The heart of the Cation Exchange Complex revolves around how each type of ion interacts with the Clay Colloid. 

The first item of business was for Wendy to become a quick study on these concepts, and as she thought about them, she realized while there was a large concept at stake, students really needed an interactive and somewhat tactile experience with these abstract, little ions in order to understand them completely. Students needed to see, and test, often by trial and error, what would happen when certain ions came in contact with each other and the Clay Colloid.

But how could such an activity be completed online? The answer was Wendy’s area of expertise. She created 7 distinct Cation Battle scenarios in which the student could drag and drop the symbol of any given Ion towards a type of Clay Colloid, and then observe the reaction of the Ion, and the Ions around it, when it was attempted to be attached to the Clay Colloid .  For instance, when dragging an Ammonium (NH4) Ion and dropping it between Iron (Fe) and Potassium (K), the Potassium disperses away from the Chlorite Clay to allow the Ammonium to attach to the clay.

Students could play away; spending hours on end observing how each interaction would simulate a slightly different response.  They could test their own theories, as well as see, in living color how tiny ions can battle it out. Take a look at the screen shot below to get a feel for how creative such a solution can be.



Special thanks to Wendy for providing the information on such an interesting challenge.

Rebecca L Stull

Ion Exchange. (2012, May 28). Retrieved August 24, 2012, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_exchange



An Infectious Challenge

by WSU Online 10. August 2012 14:51

The challenge was, to bring a detailed and complex lecture about Infectious Diseases to life in an asynchronous online venue  – to somehow capture those details and complexity into a visual representation that was not only interesting but memorable.  

Of course, graphic designer Janelle Lawless never backs away from a challenge, so she listened to Valipuram Manoranjan’s recorded lecture and studied up on the concepts.  She started sketching characters and images Manoranjan referenced in his lecture and gave them personality, attitude, and most importantly, a story. Secondly, she put her characters into interesting places, interesting scenes, and imaginative spaces. 

A good little story is one thing, but how would this story really be brought to life? Lawless flexed her designer muscles and started designing the tale in Adobe Illustrator –where she essentially digitized her characters and scenes. She then brought the digital sketches into After Effects, a motion graphics program.  In After Effects she was able to give her characters movement. The scenery could pop up, the detailed algorithms could be ‘drawn’ onto the screen and demonstrated visually.   When her animation was complete, she handed off her creation to Brian Maki who edited the audio, fine-tuning Manoranjan’s lecture and added engaging sound effects throughout.

After days of editing, tweaking, and rendering, the project was finished and Manoranjan had a fascinating piece of re-usable and utterly impressive media demonstrating the basic principles of Infectious Diseases.   The challenge of bringing a long, detailed lecture to life was overcome with creativity – and the power to channel that creativity into a fine piece of advanced software such as After Effects. Of course, there are many ways to bring complex and detailed information to a palatable, comprehendible space, but Lawless’s work on infection Diseases is a fantastic example of one such solution.

Check out the series WSU Online’s You Tube channel:

Rebecca L Stull

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