Implementing Articulate Storyline 2 as a Supplemental Teaching Tool to Expand Learning in an Undergraduate Leadership Course

Concurrent Session 5

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Interactive, online modules incorporating leadership concepts and biomimicry principles were created by three undergraduate students using the Articulate software program.  Come learn about biomimicry, the process involved in creating the online modules to integrate biomimicry and leadership concepts, and see examples of the modules used in a leadership course.


Summer F. Odom is an Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, & Communications (ALEC) at Texas A&M University. She teaches courses in personal and professional leadership. Dr. Odom received her Ph.D. in Human Resource Development in May 2011. Her research interests include leadership and life skill capacity building of young adults with a focus on collegiate leadership education, assessment and evaluation of leadership pedagogy, and intrapersonal leadership development.
Dr. Strong is an Associate Professor in the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications (ALEC) Department at Texas A &M University. Dr. Strong's research focuses on technology-enhanced learning and cyber learning technology delivery applications.

Additional Authors

Extended Abstract

Interactive, online modules incorporating leadership concepts and biomimicry principles were created by three undergraduate students using the Articulate software program, Storyline 2.  These modules were utilized in a face-to-face introductory leadership course to enhance student learning by bringing nature to the classroom.  In this session, you will: 1) be introduced to biomimicry, 2) learn about the process involved in creating the online modules incorporating biomimicry with leadership concepts, 3) see examples of the modules created for undergraduate students by undergraduate students, and 4) hear about the challenges and learning that occurred by members of this project.

We want to provide you with a little background on why this grant project was developed. To thrive in this knowledge-focused world, students must be able to think critically and integrate what they learn across disciplines, contexts, and throughout their lives (Huber & Hutchings, 2004). This call for integrative learning in higher education is not new, yet its renewed emphasis is important as it “challenges students to think beyond their classrooms, their disciplines, their histories, or their personal identifications” (QEP, 2012, p.14). Thus, by intentionally facilitating connections between science and leadership, students are given opportunities to develop skills and competencies needed to think critically and solve problems in new and innovative ways.

Biomimicry is defined as an approach “that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies” (Biomimicry Institute, 2017, para 2); thus, biomimicry has application beyond engineering or design. From communication to collaborative work environments, the natural world is replete with examples of sustainable practices applicable to leadership education and leader development. Yet, utilizing biomimicry in a formal leadership education setting is an emerging area; therefore, biomimicry provides a unique conceptual frame upon which students can build their leadership competency and capacity (Makin & Harrington, 2013). Utilizing biomimicry in a leadership classroom incorporates interactive technologies, occasions for individualized learning, and opportunities to develop broad cognitive skills.

This project was part of a grant that funded three undergraduate student interns to learn about biomimicry, then create learning modules to implement into an introductory leadership course. Three undergraduate students, who had successfully completed the introductory agricultural leadership course, were selected from a pool of applicants for a one-semester paid internship to design, with the assistance of professional instructional designers, the on-line teaching modules to be used in a pilot section of the introductory leadership course. Each intern selected the leadership course topic(s) they believed could be easily detailed or demonstrated in honey bee behavior or the structure of the honey bee colony. The undergraduate student interns created three on-line, interactive teaching modules, which were then vetted by experts in leadership education, instructional design, and honey bees at the end of the semester. The modules focused on managing conflict, group decision-making, organizational structure, and organizational culture, along with an overview module introducing biomimicry as a conceptual frame. The interns had not completed formal course work related to honey bees nor were they instructional designers.  Consequently, the interns worked closely with instructional designers, attended an entomology course, and visited a honey bee hive to develop competence for building the modules. Learning objectives were developed for each leadership topic and a written evaluation, pre- and post-test design, was implemented to assess the depth of the students’ learning of each topic. 

The on-line modules were incorporated into the curriculum of a small, pilot-test section of an introductory leadership course. This course consisted of nineteen undergraduate students who were not enrolled as leadership majors, but were looking to declare a leadership major or minor. These modules were designed to be flexible so instructors could use the modules in their entirety or in part, in a face-to-face course, as modules within an on-line course, or as curriculum for stand-alone trainings.

Based on feedback from the instructor and students in the leadership course where the modules were pilot tested, members of the project team learned some valuable lessons.  The modules created were all different lengths; yet most were longer than 50 minutes. The course where these modules were introduced was a course that met three days a week for 50 minutes each day.  It was suggested the modules not take longer than 50 minutes to complete so they can easily fit in to different types of class structures. Shorter modules would also allow the topics to be interspersed among leadership courses and be adaptable to different curriculums. Due to technology issues in the classroom and module length, the modules could not be completed in-class.  They had to be completed outside of the classroom, as to provide class time to be used for application and group discussion of topics introduced in the modules.  As part of this feedback, we have hired an instructional designer to restructure the modules to be available for use in the classroom and in 20 to 30-minute chunks of content.  This instructional designer will also create an instructor facilitator guide for each module for use by future instructors.

One challenge our team faced in this project was that we did not account for the time or training it would take for the undergraduate students to learn the Articulate software.  If others want to embark on a project similar to this one, we would recommend allowing for more time and more resources for the students to master the software being utilized.  Another option would be to hire graduate students who have completed an instructional design course and have high proficiency with the Articulate software.  The Articulate software appeared to work great and once students felt comfortable with the software, they were able to gain momentum in creating their module.

The following resources were needed to implement this project: 1) instructional design support for the interns, 2) access to the computer program (Articulate), 3) program evaluation development, 4) a honey bee colony and protective clothing, and 5) funding for a biomimicry expert to orient the student interns, for a fieldtrip to a working honey bee farm, to pay the student interns, and the cost of the critical thinking assessment for the students. The total cost was approximately $22,000. The greatest cost was the interns’ wages, with the second greatest cost being the biomimicry guest speaker and training.

A long-term goal is to find ways to integrate principles of biomimicry into other undergraduate leadership courses, such as Leadership of Volunteers, Leadership of Teams, or Leading Change. A second long-term goal is to provide access to these modules for use by other leadership educators to better prepare leaders to solve complex issues (Rosch, et al., 2015). These modules could also be utilized by high school agricultural science courses, other leadership college coursework, and extension and adult education settings.

In this session, you will be provided with an overview of the leadership topics and biomimicry content used in the modules and will be introduced to the module content through an online demonstration. A web link to the modules will be available to those audience members interested. We will engage the audience though partner exercises (biomimicry playing cards) to develop an understanding of how biomimicry can be utilized as a theoretical frame to teach leadership concepts and/or behaviors.  We will also ask for audience contribution throughout our presentation.