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Using bit.ly bundles to create a learning module

There are a number of url bundling services out there, but I’ve found bit.ly bundles to be most useful for creating an instructional “package.” You may have used bit.ly bundles before since this tool’s been out for about a month now, but I’ll provide some how-to information assuming that you want to use bit.ly to create a learning module. I’ll also compare it to BridgeURL and provide a list of alternative solutions you can explore.

The technology (or what are my powers?)

You can use bit.ly to shorten links without registering, but to use the bundling service , you do need to register. Simply shorten a link and choose the “bundle” option to get started.

Identify the learning topic by providing your own descriptive title. You can also add a description, providing an overview of the links in your bundle or identifying learning goals and objectives.

Next, add more links to create your bundle. When bit.ly adds a link to a bundle, it not only shortens the link, it extracts a potential title for the link topic and provides a snippet of information and sometimes, an image. You can edit the title of a link topic to be more informative and to establish how the link fits into the big picture of your learning module.

You won’t be able to edit the image or the text snippet,  so you may also want to add a description to alert learners about what they’ll find if they access the Web page. You’ll want to make this copy engaging to encourage learners to click on the link. You may also want to add a discovery activity if the site is not inherently interactive. For example, in this case, learners are asked to use the site to create a checklist of important factors they should consider when choosing a doctor.

Keep adding links, titles, and descriptions to create your bundle. Using a bit.ly page as a learning module, a learner can scan the list of sites to pull information that’s useful to him or her, but you do want to create a sequence or scaffold that makes sense. Often, you’ll find that your initial link list should be reordered and bit.ly makes this easy.

Access the list edit view to delete links or to change the order of links.

When you’re done, you can copy the short link and/or share your bundle directly to Twitter or Facebook.

Here’s what the completed bundle looks like: Partnering With Your Doctor: a Patient’s Toolkit.

You can return to your bundle at a later time to add additional links, edit titles, descriptions, and/or to reorder the sequence of your links, for example, after receiving feedback from your learners.

Bit.ly offers you some analytics so you can evaluate who’s viewed the site.

Each time you access your bundle, you’ll also be able to view the number of clicks on individual links, which may lead you to adjust your links or your descriptions if particular links are not being accessed as often as you think they should be by your learner population.

Additional instructional strategies

Bit.ly bundles are easy to create. However, as you might imagine, an important aspect of  your effort will be your analysis of your learner population and their learning needs. What do learners need to be able to do to achieve a particular learning goal? What information and skills will learners need to perform or take action?

Ordering links in an appropriate way to tell a story and to engage and challenge learners is the next important big picture task. Some considerations relating to scaffolding are provided in this post.

While you are providing a list of resources for learners, learners can choose which links are most useful to look at. Try to find links that lead to interactive web sites or link to quizzes, polls, and, better yet, problem-solving activities. Think about adding questions to your descriptions if a Web site you’ve linked to isn’t inherently interactive. You might want to use your bundle description to provide a list of learning challenges or discovery activities for learners to select as they explore links further down on the list. Identifying the links most suited to completing a particular discovery challenge might be part of the learning experience itself. You may choose to link to discussion forums or chat sites at different points to make learning a more social experience.

An alternative bundling tool: BridgesURL

Another link bundling site is BridgeURL. This site’s interesting because it creates a slideshow of your link collection.

Give your bundle-to-be a title and add all your links at once to the field provided.

When you select the “Create Link” option, you’ll see your short link.

You’ll have the option to share now, open the link, or view in one page. I recommend not sharing until you’ve tested your slideshow of links since not all Web pages may display appropriately. When you select “Open link”  or when a user clicks on a shared short link,  the slideshow view is displayed. This is a handy view but learners will be trapped into clicking on the “next”  button provided and required to view each link in a prescribed order. Clicking on “View in One Page” allows learners to enter the slideshow or to view one or more links of interest after scrolling down a list of links. Since learners won’t be able to see a title or description, this may be a rather hit or miss process.

For the love of all that’s holy, don’t click on the “Open all links at once” option. This will open every single link in a separate tab, which can be very problematic if there are  a lot of links in a bundle. You will be warned if you click on this option that the action can slow down browser speed.

BridgeURL is a quick way of assembling Web pages into a package, but once the novelty of the slideshow’s worn off, it’s not all that useful as an instructional tool since you can’t add descriptions or provide informative titles. Once in slide view, there’s no way to access a table of contents, so your learners are pretty much stuck with the sequence of Web pages you’ve provided. This doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and add interactive Web pages, like quizzes and discussion forums, but in my opinion, bit.ly’s the better choice to create a learning module based on a bundle of Web links.

Other solutions

Other solutions for providing collections of Web pages for learning include using social bookmarking tools like:

Curation sites like:

Notebook sites like:

Virtual bulletin boards like:

As you might surmise, creating an effective learning module’s more design dependent than platform dependent though platform features can certainly enrich a learning experience.