For Nonprofit Startups, Fundraising Is Key

Getting a new nonprofit organization off the ground is no easy task—and fundraising is arguably the hardest part of the process. Justin Kang, vice president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the founder and executive director of City Awake, a Boston-based nonprofit, offers a few fundraising best practices. Rule number one: if you can’t convince your family or friends to donate to your organization, you may have a real problem.
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s nonprofit management courses, click here.

Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.

PowerPoint Rules of Thumb

Tips for a Successful Slideshow

By Jennifer Conroy
Senior Editor, MindEdge Learning
Is there anything worse than sitting in the audience during a presentation, as the speaker reads word-for-word from a series of PowerPoint slides? Does he really not understand that you can read the slides for yourself? Why not just print out a set of slides for everyone in the audience and let you all continue on with your day?
Using PowerPoint slides can actually be a wonderful enhancement to your presentation, but only if you know how to use them properly. Here are some basic rules to consider in order to keep your audience engaged.
five powerpoint rules of thumb
Rule #1: Think before you act
Before deciding to use PowerPoint slides as a visual aid, ask yourself a few basic questions: Will these slides be a helpful tool in organizing my ideas? Are there visual images and graphics that would help me communicate my key points? Would this specific audience be receptive to a visual presentation? If you cannot answer “yes” to all of these questions, then you should consider alternate ways to present your information.
Rule #2: Avoid text-heavy slides
Keep the content of each slide short and sweet. Use bullet points rather than paragraphs. Highlight only the key concepts; you can (and should) elaborate on the fine points during your talk.
Rule #3: Use simple colors and fonts
Extreme color choices and fancy fonts can be distracting and make it difficult for the audience to focus on your key points. Choose a simple background color and make sure that any text and graphics show up clearly against that background. And think twice before using a red font or ALL CAPS, which can often signal warning or danger in a reader’s mind.
Rule #4: Be consistent
Keep the design of each slide consistent throughout the presentation. Background colors, fonts, and the number and size of images should not vary wildly from one slide to the next. The slides as a whole—particularly if you are printing them out and distributing them—should feel like one cohesive unit.
Rule #5: Don’t rely on the slides
Like death and taxes, technological difficulties are a certainty of modern life. You need to know your material cold, so you’ll be prepared in the event that you cannot show your slides during the presentation due to power failures, faulty computer programs, or other technological gremlins. Remember that your spoken words should be the “meat” of the presentation; the slides are just optional enhancements, and you should be able to carry on without them.
By keeping these rules in mind, you can create and deliver PowerPoint presentations that are memorable…in a good way.
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s course offerings on business presentations and other communications skills, click here.

Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.

The "Right" Stuff: Four Keys to Resource Management

Managing People Properly Is the Key to a Project’s Success

By Dan Picard
Senior Editor/Manager, Quality Improvement Programs at MindEdge Learning
One of the most important, and most complex, tasks for any team leader or project manager is effectively managing the people assigned to the project. Experienced project leaders know that successful projects are not the culmination of elaborate procedures, complicated tools, or elaborate techniques; they succeed because the people involved are integrated, organized, and empowered, which then frees them to put their skills to use in the most effective way possible.
Group of project team members put hands together
As a project leader, you quickly learn that your role in managing resources depends on four factors: using the right resources in the right way at the right time in the right environment. Finding the correct resources, capitalizing on their strengths, prioritizing their use, and providing a favorable environment for them to work in will unleash their ability to affect all goals and objectives positively.
The Right Resources
In today’s project environments, having the right resources means that your resources must meet the project’s needs and objectives – but they must also support the organization’s strategic goals. They need to know how their achievements relate to and sustain company plans and initiatives, as well as how those achievements align with “the bigger picture.” And they need to be selected because their core strengths are truly necessary for the work at hand – not simply because they represent the traditional departments or functions that would “normally” be enlisted on a project team. As the project lead, it will fall to you to guarantee that the people you select can fulfill these obligations clearly and accurately.
The Right Way
To ensure that you are successfully deploying the resources you have, you will need to have intimate knowledge of each resource’s skill level and the skill levels needed to complete your project. You may want to think in terms of a “skills register” (that describes each resource’s ability to complete needed work) that you can match to a “skills inventory list” (that documents the skills you’ll need to meet your objectives). Connecting items from these two points of view will guarantee that project needs will be met with the best resources available.
The Right Time
Determining the right time forces you to consider factors both inside and outside of your project’s boundaries – i.e., to focus on optimal resource use from an organizational perspective, not just a project perspective. As organizations work to “do more with less,” resource scheduling and prioritization have become more critical than ever. But by understanding the interactions and dependencies among all projects in the organization, you can better navigate and negotiate for the resources you’ll need without creating conflicts or bottlenecks.
The Right Environment
Lastly, you’ll need to create an environment suited to your resources: one that allows them not only to execute as needed, but to grow and thrive at the same time. In many instances (especially those that run in hybrid Agile/Waterfall methodologies), this may require that you act as an information resource or adviser to help team members adapt and operate in new and unfamiliar circumstances. Or you may need to adopt technologies that will allow your teams–especially your virtual teams–to continue to collaborate and interact as needed, without interference or interruptions.
Remaining Vigilant
Underlying these suggestions is the understanding that as a project manager or team leader, you must keep a watchful eye not only on your own resource management, but also on resource use in other parts of your organization. Your ability to be attentive and alert, and to select, prioritize, and utilize your resources effectively, could well be the difference between exceptional achievement and inadequate results.
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s course offerings on project management, click here.

Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.

MindEdge LINK Symposium: Liz Breen on the power of story

At the 2017 MindEdge LINK Symposium, Emmy-nominated writer and advertising creative director, Liz Breen, graced the stage to offer her perspective on the importance of storytelling and narratives. Narrative, Liz described, can be used to pull an audience into the action. This funny, intelligent speech set our minds buzzing as to how we can better leverage narrative in course development. Please enjoy as much as we did!

Copyright © 2017 MindEdge, Inc.

The art of teaching, 2017

What it means to teach, and to be a teacher, has evolved since high technology entered the world of education.

Learning today is markedly different than it was in the pre-Internet days of, say, 1987. Students now have at their fingertips a digital Library of Alexandria, whether they turn to Khan Academy or MOOCs or to Google Books. The tools available, from mobile apps to online courses, help make learning easier.

There’s also been a shift in the classroom. Instructors have embraced experiential learning. Others promote group learning and project work. Some have abandoned lectures.

Students have more options, more ways to learn. Fewer find themselves in traditional classrooms.

Yet some aspects of teaching haven’t been altered. The art of teaching, of making connections with students, of spurring their intellectual development, of helping them engage, remains vital. And irreplaceable.

Our best educators recognize that they’re not only imparting knowledge, but also preparing students for a complex, challenging, and exciting future. The art of teaching in 2017 involves inspiring curiosity, supporting critical thinking, and encouraging a love of learning.

Jefferson Flanders is president of MindEdge Learning. He has taught at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, at Babson College, and at Boston University.

Copyright © 2017 MindEdge, Inc.

Why learning variety matters

One foundation of student-centered learning is variety—providing learners with multiple ways to learn.
With the advent of online and blended learning, instructors can present students with a wide range of learning options. These include video (mini-lectures, animations), audio, interactive games, narrative learning (case studies and scenarios), writing to learn exercises, simulations, flash cards, formative and summative assessments, discussion boards, adaptive learning, concept mapping, and in-class group work and discussions.

MindEdge Varied Learning

As we’ve noted in the past, not everyone processes information in the same way. Some learners find video presentations help them master challenging material—others prefer text, some are most comfortable with visual aids.
There are key five benefits to focusing on variety. Students tell us that it:

  • Stimulates their interest.
  • Encourages their participation.
  • Engages them through their preferred way of learning
  • Supports their sense of achievement
  • Allows them to demonstrate their mastery in varied ways

We’ve also noted in the past the importance of planning ahead during the content development process. Instructional designers should consider the sequence and pacing of the learning. They should look for opportunities to introduce new and different learning elements. The pay-off will come in the form of learning that engages, entertains, and informs.

Helpful resources

Elizabeth F. Barkley, Student Engagement Practices: A Handbook for College Faculty, Jossey-Bass, 2009.
Peter Brown, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, Belknap Press, 2014.
Gerald F. Hess, “Value of Variety: An Organizing Principle to Enhance Teaching and Learning,” Elon University Law Review, June 10, 2010. (Available at SSRN:
James M. Lang, Small Teaching, Jossey-Bass, 2016.

Copyright © 2017 MindEdge, Inc.

Seven principles of student-centered learning

What are key principles for student-centered learning?

After many years of developing online learning, MindEdge has identified seven principles for improved student outcomes.

They are:

  • Place the student at the center of the learning experience.
  • Leverage existing knowledge and skills.
  • Respect the learner’s time.
  • Employ diagnostic assessments to ascertain gaps in knowledge.
  • Offer varied learning experiences.
  • Provide needed scaffolding and practice for learners.
  • Measure progress and mastery of learning objectives.

Student-centered instruction focuses on supporting and empowering the student in mastering the skills and knowledge in a given field of study. This requires shifting from the traditional “sage on the stage” approach for instructors to one built around coaching and advising. Students who are engaged, learn. Students who are challenged by interesting learning experiences, learn.


Today’s students often have prior subject knowledge. Whenever possible, educators should capitalize on this foundation, valuing and extending what students bring to the classroom (traditional and virtual).

A well-constructed learning experience lets students know what is expected of them, and focuses assignments and assessments on the learning objectives outlined at the start of the course. Time is precious—avoid the extraneous or off-topic. Let students learn at their own pace.

Assessing prior student knowledge, and identifying gaps, is a valuable exercise for learners and instructors. This can be accomplished through simple diagnostic assessments at the beginning of the learning experience. It helps determine what should be emphasized, and what can be given a more cursory review.

Variety matters: it keeps learners engaged. The jury is still out on whether “learning styles” represents a valid way to categorize how we learn, but offering numerous ways for students to learn—including video, audio, infographics, interactives, assessments, games—appeals to many learners.

Not everyone “gets it” immediately, so it’s important to offer deeper levels of instruction for students who may struggle with new concepts. Whole-Part-Whole learning and adaptive learning are ways to integrate scaffolding and support into instruction.

At every phase of learning, assessing student progress is key. Asking students to demonstrate their mastery of material by synthesizing answers to higher-order questions is one helpful method of measurement.

These principles can be applied in all forms of learning (classroom, blended, online), and can provide a useful framework for developing and designing effective learning experiences.

Copyright © 2016 MindEdge, Inc.

Teaching online

This MindEdge Learning infographic highlights the vital role played by the instructor in online learning.

In online learning, the instructor plays a vital role in the learning process.

Initially, the instructor must establish a welcoming environment for learners. The instructor constantly observes, monitors, and provides feedback on learners’ work, as well as coaches and critiques learners. He or she guides discussions and can leads online video and chat sessions.

The instructor may hold virtual office hours to meet with learners and facilitate peer review sessions between learners. Some instructors occasionally give online mini-lectures in order to encourage the learners’ mastery of concepts.

When the instructor takes on the above roles, learners will benefit from online learning in multiple ways, including:

  • Sharpened technology skills
  • Empowered and self-directed learning
  • Improved critical thinking skills
  • Demonstrated mastery of concepts and competencies
  • Improved collaborative and team skills
  • Enhanced social skills

The instructor also reaps certain benefits from the online learning process, such as:

  • Engaged learners
  • Learners’ mastery of concepts and competencies
  • Improved course completion rates
  • Enhanced personal satisfaction with teaching
  • Sharpened technology skills
  • Accelerated professional growth

In an optimal online learning environment, both the learners and the instructors will benefit from a process that includes important involvement and engagement from the instructor.

Copyright © 2016 MindEdge, Inc.

Online learning and CBE

MindEdge has released “Online Learning and Competency Based Education,” a white paper exploring how institutions of higher education are adopting new approaches to preparing students for a changing world of work. It can be downloaded by clicking here.

Competency-based education (CBE) is an approach that seeks to measure what students have learned and how they have mastered specific skills or competencies, without worrying about how much time they’ve spent in a traditional classroom setting.

How can online learning facilitate CBE? What specific tools and functionality helps in meeting the needs of institutions of higher education who want to offer competency-based learning?

MindEdge’s white paper considers those questions and offers some advice based on MindEdge Learning’s experience serving the country’s leading CBE schools.

Copyright © 2015 MindEdge, Inc.