Using Free and Low Cost Technology Tools to Design Interactive, Engaging Content

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Are you stuck using a flat, text-heavy learning management system to deliver online courses?  In this Discovery session you will discover how you can quickly get creative by designing engaging, interactive learning assets to support course content using free or low-cost online tools and technologies.


Donna Schnupp has been an instructional designer (ID) for Johns Hopkins School of Education (SOE) for nearly 20 years and the ID and Multimedia, Technology and Training team manager for five years. She came to JHU as a consultant when the school was just beginning to develop online courses and programs. She currently manages the SOE instructional design team and is the lead instructional designer for the school's innovative online Doctor of Education (Ed.D) degree program. Donna collaborates with faculty to design and deliver a fully online Ed.D program that reaches students around the globe. She is also the School of Education’s ambassador for JHU’s Hopkins Universal Design for Learning (HUDL) initiative. She also teaches or has taught online courses for the Digital Age Learning and Educational Technology and Online Teaching and Learning for Adults programs. Before joining JHU, she worked as a director of professional development programs for Media Workshop, a non-profit organization serving New York City public schools. The focus of their work was in training teachers on the effective use of educational technology and media literacy strategies with youth in grades 4-12. She also held various adjunct teaching positions at Drexel University, Bank Street College and West Chester University. She received her B.A in computer science from Temple University and an M.A. in education from New York University.

Extended Abstract

Graduate courses in the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University are traditionally filled with text-heavy content, supplemented by video or media presentations, creating mostly a passive learning experience for students. Seeking ways to engage students and bring content to life, instructional designers began working with faculty to identify content areas of a course that could be turned into visually engaging and interactive experiences for students, without spending hours developing complex interactions in programs such as Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline.

For example, students in our programs engage in complex case studies or policy analysis. In doing so, they must first understand how to complete these complex processes.  Often students are given a textbook or lengthy article and left to 'figure it out.'  Breaking down the process in a visual, interactive way provides students with a succinct overview of the complex process and a different modality in which to learn a process. 

This Discovery session will provide participants with a sampling of technology tools used by Johns Hopkins University instructional designers that demonstrate how simple tools can be used to create interactive, media-rich experiences for learners that also support microlearning principles.  Low cost or free online tools such as Beautiful AI, Genially, Thinglink, Canva and Piktochart will be showcased in the context of how they are used to design course assets that can be integrated into any learning management system, transforming traditionally ‘flat,’ text-heavy content into interactive, engaging learning experiences that support microlearning principles while also meeting accessibility guidelines.  

Enhancing graduate level courses with these media-rich, engaging activities has transformed how course content is delivered, thus providing students with a more rich, interactive learning experience.