Dr. Diane Hamilton's Blog

A Day in the Life of an Online Professor

Today’s Ask Dr. Diane Question:  I noticed you work for a lot of universities.  I’m considering working for several universities as well and I am curious what is your typical day like?

Answer:  My days vary, based on how many classes I teach.  I like to teach between 10-15 courses at a time.  I also serve as chair for 10 doctoral students and work on 5-10 doctoral committees.  Additionally I take courses to keep up with technology, education, etc. A typical day usually includes about 8-9 hours of grading papers, providing feedback, responding to discussions/emails, guiding doctoral students with dissertations, and developing curriculum.

I usually look at one school’s information at a time. However, I may have several school sites open at once, if my computer or the site is running slowly.  It helps that schools have different due dates for assignments.  For example, one school may require a “deliverable” or an assignment to be due on Mondays.  Another may have assignments due on Fridays, etc.  Usually it works out that all of the big assignments are spread out over the week.  However, most of them have discussions going on that I respond to on a daily basis. I will go to a school’s site to handle all email, questions, discussion responses, and grade any submitted assignments.  I do the same for the next school, and so on, until I have responded to every single item.  I do not stop working until everything is graded.   Most schools allow instructors a week to grade papers. I do not like to make students wait. If someone has submitted an assignment, I grade it as soon as I log on that day.

On weekends, less homework seems to be assigned, so I work less hours.  I probably work around 3-4 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays.  I do not usually take any days off, but that is not required. Schools usually require 5 or 6 days of work per week.  The nice thing about working as an adjunct is that you can decide how many courses you can handle. You can start off  with just a few and add more if you find you have the time.

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MOOCs: Top 10 Sites for Free Education With Elite Universities

 

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses.  Although there has been access to free online courses on the Internet for years, the quality and quantity of courses has changed. Access to free courses has allowed students to obtain a level of education that many only could dream of in the past.  This has changed the face of education.  In The New York Times article Instruction for Masses Knocked Down Campus Walls, author Tamar Lewin stated, “in the past few months hundreds of thousands of motivated students around the world who lack access to elite universities have been embracing them as a path toward sophisticated skills and high-paying jobs, without paying tuition or collecting a college degree.”

Although MOOCs are the latest trend, not everyone agrees that schools should offer them.  Joshua Kim Insight Higher Ed article Why Every University Does Not Need a MOOC noted that offering free material may not make sense for the individual university.  It may be more important to stand out in other ways.

There may also be some issues for students who lack motivation.  Since a MOOC is voluntary and there is no penalty for dropping the program or lagging behind, there may be issues with course completion.  Although a student may have received an excellent education, there will not be a corresponding diploma.

For those who desire a free education and have the motivation, the following includes the:  Top 10 Sites for Information about MOOCs:

  1. Udemy Free Courses – Udemy is an example of a site allows anyone to build or take online courses.  Udemy’s site exclaims, “Our goal is to disrupt and democratize education by enabling anyone to learn from the world’s experts.” The New York Times reported that Udemy, “recently announced a new Faculty Project, in which award-winning professors from universities like Dartmouth, the University of Virginia and Northwestern offer free online courses. Its co-founder, Gagen Biyani, said the site has more than 100,000 students enrolled in its courses, including several, outside the Faculty Project, that charge fees.”
  2. ITunesU Free Courses – Apple’s free app “gives students access to all the materials for courses in a single place. Right in the app, they can play video or audio lectures. Read books and view presentations.”
  3. Stanford Free Courses –  From Quantum Mechanics to The Future of the Internet, Stanford offers a variety of free courses.  Stanford’s – Introduction to Artificial Intelligence was highly successful. According to Pontydysgu.org, “160000 students from 190 countries signed up to Stanford’s Introduction to AI” course, with 23000 reportedly completing.”  Check out Stanford’s Engineering Everywhere link.
  4. UC Berkeley Free Courses – From General Biology to Human Emotion, Berkley offers a variety of courses.  Check out:  Berkeley Webcasts and Berkeley RSS Feeds.
  5. MIT Free Courses – Check out MIT’s RSS MOOC feed.  Also see:  MIT’s Open Courseware.
  6. Duke Free Courses – Duke offers a variety of courses on ITunesU.
  7. Harvard Free Courses – From Computer Science to Shakespeare, students may now get a free Harvard education. “Take a class for professional development, enrichment, and degree credit. Courses run in the fall, spring, or intensive January session. No application is required.”
  8. UCLA Free Courses – Check out free courses such as their writing program that offers over 220 online writing courses each year.
  9. Yale Free Courses – At Open Yale, the school offers “free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.”
  10. Carnegie Mellon Free Courses – Carnegie Mellon boosts “No instructors, no credits, no charge.”

 

For younger students, check out the 60 Minutes video about Khan Academy and KhanAcademy.org.  Also check out Ted Ed.

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How to Write a Perfect College Paper: Video Tutorial

The following is a video presentation that explains how to write the perfect college paper.  For a written version with more complete information, check out:  Checklist for Writing the Perfect College Paper.  There are some sources referred to in this video presentation.  Here are those sources and the links:

Click here for doctoral dissertation writing help.

Checklist for Writing the Perfect College Paper

Professors may assume that students understand the basics when it comes to writing college research papers. In reality, many students are frustrated by all of the requirements.  There are not a lot of easy checklists that put all of the requirements into one location. The following checklist should be used as a helpful guide to help college students write a well-researched and properly presented paper.

Write in introduction/body/conclusion format

  • Introduction – The first paragraph introduces what will be included in the paper.  It is a good idea to have the first sentence of the first paragraph include a hook to interest the reader.  Students should list a few sentences that summarize the main topics that will be addressed in the paper.  In this example, assume that three things will be covered based on the assignment requirements. End the introductory paragraph with the thesis statement.
  • Body – The body is where the three things, required for the assignment, are addressed. Students should start each paragraph with a topic sentence. Students should write a few sentences about that topic.  Students should end that paragraph with a transitional sentence that leads into the next topic that will be addressed in the following paragraph.  This process should be completed for all paragraphs until the last paragraph.
  • Conclusion – The last paragraph may begin with something like, “In conclusion”.  This last paragraph will sum up the three topics addressed. The last sentence should restate the thesis statement listed in the introduction, and end with some sort of final prediction or conclusion.

Write in complete paragraphs – Paragraphs should ideally contain between 4-8 sentences.  Students often make the mistake of writing in incomplete paragraphs or overly long paragraphs.  Click here for more information about paragraph structure.

Avoid run-on sentences – Sentences should not be overly complex.  Students should check how many times the word “and” is used.  This may signal a run-on sentence.

Write in APA format – Set up papers that include a title page, double-spacing, indented paragraphs, page numbers, correctly cited sources, etc. per APA.

Research the paper through the school’s library – Students often make the mistake of researching through the use of Google or other popular search engines.  Students may also make the mistake of relying on sources that are less than scholarly. Sites like Wikipedia may offer some good information but they are not considered reliable or scholarly sources for research papers.  Students should use the school’s search engine, located in the online library.  Students should click the box that searches for scholarly, peer-reviewed journals to ensure the sources are appropriate.

Cite consistently and correctly throughout the paper – Students often make the mistake of thinking they are story-telling when they should be demonstrating research.  Students should get into the habit of paraphrasing rather than listing direct quotations.  Students should avoid patchworking.  Students should not make the mistake of listing references without citations. This is a common mistake.  Research papers require both citations AND references.  Students should also not make the mistake of simply ending a paraphrased paragraph with (author last name, year) to cite all information covered in the paragraph. This is also a common mistake and can be considered plagiarism.  Every sentence of paraphrased work requires the author and year information.  Click here for information about how to cite.

Submit the paper to TurnItIn – Many schools offer TurnItIn’s plagiarism checker.  This is an excellent tool that is helpful to both the students and the schools. Students should get in the habit of submitting his or her papers through this software program to insure that they are not inadvertently plagiarizing information.

Check narrative mode – Many courses do not allow students to write in first person.  If this is the case, students should not refer to themselves.  Students should look for words like I, we, us, me.  These words should not be included if the paper does not allow first person.

Check Word document format – Students often overlook the settings in the Word document.  Students should be sure that the font, margins and settings are correctly set to APA requirements.

Check spelling and other miscellaneous issues – Students should read the final draft more than once. Even if everything seemed OK in the paper, it is a good idea, for students to read it several times to look for small errors.  Students should check for spacing issues.  Students should also check that there are two spaces after periods per APA.  Students should spell-check the document to be sure all spelling issues are resolved.

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Doctoral Dissertation: Proposal Approval Checklist

 

In the years I have spent as a doctoral chair, I have read many excellent proposals and final dissertations.  Writing a dissertation takes a great deal of patience and time. Some students may become frustrated if he or she believes that the process takes longer than anticipated.  To avoid a lengthy proposal approval process, the student should spend time going over some common mistakes.  Although each school may have different requirements, the following checklist may be helpful to the doctoral learner prior to submitting his or her proposal for review.

Common Errors Place X to Signify Compliance
All Required Forms Are Included
Note That Data Will Be Saved 3 Years Then Destroyed
Paragraphs Must Contain At Least 3 Sentences
Any Defined Words Must Include A Citation
85% Of References Must Be Less Than 5 Years From Proposal Date
All Sections Are Listed In Proposal
References Are In APA Format
Submit to TurnItIn Or Plagiarism Checker
Submit To Editing Software Or Editor
Submit To Statistician If Necessary
Two Spaces Are Required After Periods
Design Is Carefully Described
Clarity – Person Reading Proposal Could Perform Study If Necessary
No Personal Opinions – All Conclusions Substantiated
The Word “Proposed” Is Listed Before Referring To Proposed Study
No Use Of The Wording “The Researcher” To Refer To Writer Of Proposal
No First Person References
No Fluff Words Including:  However, In Addition, Therefore, Etc.
Proposal In Future Tense; Will Change To Past Tense After Study
What Others Have Written In Past Tense
Long Tables Should Be In Appendix
Long Citations Cannot Be On Two Separate Pages – Must Be On One
No Slang Is Included
Use Words “Which and That” Correctly
There Should Not Be Any Tracking Changes Left In Document
Headings Must Be In APA 6th Format
Chapter 1 Must Start On Page 1
Proposal Author’s Name Must Be Listed And Current Month/Year
Watch Use Of The Word Randomly (Be Specific)
No Anthropomorphisms Should Be Used
Watch Implying Causal Relationship If None Exists
Do Not Make Predictions
Multiple Studies In Parentheses Require Names In Alphabetical Order
Avoid Vague Statements Like Something Was “Poor”
Articulate How Participants Were Selected
Articulate What Was Done To Reduce Researcher Bias
Do Not Use Vague Terminology Like “Others”
United States Is U.S. And Not US
1980s Should Be 1980s And Not 1980’s
Stick To One Subject Per Paragraph
Do Not Write In Contractions (Do Not Is Correct – Don’t Is Not)
Do Not Have Back to Back Charts With No Explanation
Use He or She Rather Than They To Define Subject
Be Sure All Chapters Include A Summary
Target Population And Sample Is Clearly Described
Hypotheses May Be Numbered And Supported By Narrative
Choice Of Method Is Clear And Substantive
Punctuation Should Be Inside Of Quotation Marks
Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Is Completed
Checklist Should Be Provided To Doctoral Chair
Application Should State If Exempt and Why

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Top 5 Secrets for Online Student Success

Online education is growing at a pace that far exceeds general education enrollment.  Because of the popularity of online learning, many traditional universities are offering online courses.  Forbes recently reported that MIT will soon offer free education for everyone. With all of the online options available, students may be confused as to where to go for helpful information.  There are plenty of sites available to help online students find schools, locate loans and even determine majors.  What is not as readily available is information about how to be a successful online student once he or she is enrolled.

The following is the top 5 list of things that can help the new online student succeed once they have already chosen their school and major.  Click on the blue links for more information about each topic:

  1. Learn Goal Setting – Read about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals.  The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant (sometimes also Results-Based), and Timely (or Time-Bound).  Students should set S.M.A.R.T. education goals. Those that neglect to do this may find that it takes them longer to graduate, while they waste time and money.
  2. Learn Tools Offered – Most online universities offer some extremely helpful writing, editing and plagiarism-checking tools.  The school’s online site may also have helpful tutorials to explain how to use the software (also known as the platform) that delivers the classroom information.  Learning how to navigate in the online classroom may take a little time.  However, after taking the first class, many students feel more confident in their navigating abilities.
  3. Use the School’s Library – Students may forget that their university has an online library.  It is important that students do not get in the habit of searching for information using Google, Yahoo! and other similar engines. A well-written paper is supported by peer-reviewed articles.  These may be easily found using the school’s search engines located in their online library.
  4. Learn APA – APA stands for American Psychological Association.  For college students, APA refers to the format in which papers should be written.  While APA may seem daunting to the new learner, there are some very useful examples of APA papers online that can help explain the requirements.
  5. Learn How to Cite – Professors often require students to cite research in his or her papers.  Most often they must cite in APA format.  There are some helpful sites to help students learn how to cite correctly.  Students must also learn how to paraphrase, include in-text citations and avoid plagiarism.

Click here for more useful tips about how to be a successful online college student.

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Successful Students Use Plagiarism and Editing Programs

 

Students who do not use their school’s library writing centers are missing important, helpful information, and their grades may be suffering because of this.  Online universities offer some very useful tools that can help students to edit their papers, locate scholarly journals, and even double-check for plagiarism issues.  Some of the programs available to students include professional editing software like WritePoint, a database search engine like Proquest, and a plagiarism checker like TurnItIn.  Some schools may use different programs other than WritePoint or TurnItIn, but the programs function similarly.  Students should check their online library for availability of specific writing tools.

The successful student will do their research through the school’s library database search engines.  Once they have written their paper, and have double-checked that they have met all of the teacher’s requirements, they will submit it to the editing software (if available) and the plagiarism checker (required by many schools).  The following gives an explanation of how these three programs work:

  • Professional Editing Software – Example: WritePoint is a program that inserts comments directly into the student’s paper just like a professional editor.  The program will highlight grammar and spelling issues as well as other formatting issues including:  Capitalization issues, clichés, wording choices, use of second person, subject/verb agreement, weak or redundant wording, improper punctuation or hyphenation, and subject/pronoun disagreement.  The student will receive their paper back with comments. At this point, the student can make the appropriate suggested changes and then submit their paper as assigned.  This helps teach the student how to edit their own papers and dramatically improves their ability to get a higher grade.  This also allows professors to focus on the student’s content.  Not all schools offer editing software.

 

  • Database Search Engine – Example: Proquest is a program that offers over 30 databases of information including:  Dissertations, Newspapers and scholarly journals.  For students doing research that requires peer-reviewed scholarly sources, this can be a very helpful tool.  Students should use their school’s library search engine rather than researching through sites like Google or Yahoo!

 

 

  • Plagiarism Checker – Example: TurnItIn is the leading program that checks for plagiarism issues.  The program carries over 150 million archived papers.  There are a variety of websites where students can purchase papers.  Schools are very aware of these sites and programs like TurnItIn will catch these papers.  Students should be aware that professors will submit their papers to TurnItIn and will catch them if they try to submit work that is not their own.

Students may have had some initial training regarding these programs when they first entered school.  However, with all of the other things they had to learn at the time, many may have forgotten the importance of these tools. Students with questions about what his or her school offers, should ask their guidance counselor.

The top articles on this site that are helpful to a student’s success include:

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How to Get an A in Your College Courses

Some of the top reasons that students don’t pass courses, based on my experience as a professor, is that they do not read the requirements for the classes or they don’t turn in material on time.  If a student really wants to receive an “A”, there are some important things that they must do to achieve this.  The following list will help students improve their grades:

  1. Follow Instructions – Read the instructor’s materials for assignment requirements.   Print out a copy of the syllabus and any instructions on the first day of class. Some may post a rubric or a spreadsheet that lists the requirements and the number of possible points allocated for each part of the assignment.  Before turning in your assignment, go down the list of requirements and be sure that you have included all of them.
  2. Cite Correctly – It is best to paraphrase rather than to include large blocks of directly quoted material in your writing.  Some professors will not allow any direct quotations. An example of paraphrasing is:  Hamilton (2011) stated that paraphrasing was important.  An example of a direct quote is:  “It is better to paraphrase.” (Hamilton, 2011). 
  3. Submit Original Work – Schools have a tool called TurnItIn to check for plagiarism.  Be sure to run your paper through that system (or whatever plagiarism tool the school uses) before submitting papers, to ensure that your work is your own.  You can be sure professors will check it if you do not.  Keep in mind that citing incorrectly can be viewed as plagiarism. Plagiarism is grounds for being expelled.
  4. Write in APA – Professors can be very picky about formatting in APA.  Most schools use this formatting as compared to MLA or some other format.  Click here for some of the most important links to help with APA.  When writing in APA, students will need to have their paper include double-spacing, indented paragraphs, proper header information, proper page numbering, proper title and reference page, etc.
  5. Meet Discussion Requirements – Online colleges have specific writing and posting requirements for classroom discussions.  Students often disregard the minimum word count or the fact that the instructor requested cited materials.  It is not uncommon for a discussion question to require 150-500 word responses.  These responses may also require paraphrased information to show research to back up any points that the student makes. Students may also be required to respond to their fellow classmates’ postings as well.  There are usually minimum word count requirements for these responses as well. Discussions should be written in a formal manner.  Sentence and paragraph structure should be the same as if a student was writing an essay.  Simply agreeing with a fellow classmate’s points will not count for credit.
  6. Include Strong Sentences and Paragraphs – It is important to write correctly and in a formal manner in online discussions as well as in formal papers.  In higher-level courses, first person should not be used.  Unless it is an opinion paper and the professor has allowed it, do not refer to yourself in your writing.  Don’t write in run-on sentences.  Sentences vary in length but should average around 20 words.  Keep sentences between around 12-25 words.  Paragraphs should also contain complete information.  A paragraph should include between 4-8 sentences.  Remember to include an introduction and conclusion paragraph. 
  7. Plan Ahead – Many students post late due to not being prepared.  There may be an occasional emergency but in general most issues with late postings could be avoided.  Write papers early and back them up somewhere other than your main computer.  Some students send themselves a copy of their homework so that it is saved on their email server.  Computer issues are not considered a valid excuse for late assignments.
  8. Use Scholarly Sources – Professors often require that students include peer-reviewed scholarly journals as sources for their papers. To find out more about peer-reviewed journals, click here.  Students often confuse citations and references.  It is not correct to simply list a reference without having a corresponding citation.  For help with citations and references, click here.
  9. Never Copy and Paste – Students often try to copy and paste information into their papers.  Not only can this be plagiarism if not cited correctly, it can cause havoc with formatting. 
  10. Always Read Instructor Feedback – I see students submit the same mistakes every week because they will not read the feedback on their papers.  If a professor has taken the time to read your paper and give helpful advice, it is important to incorporate those suggestions into future assignments. 

For additional help, see The Top Ten Most Common Writing Mistakes and The Top Ten Sources for Help with APA.

What is a Peer-Reviewed Journal?

Today’s Ask Dr. Diane:  My professor told me I have to cite using scholarly, peer-reviewed journals.  What does that mean?

College students are often asked to include scholarly peer-reviewed journals as sources for citations.  If the school offers an online library, it can be easy to search for these journals by simply marking the box under the search line that lists something like “search for peer-reviewed journals only” or “scholarly peer-reviewed”.  By marking this box, anything that comes up in the search should be appropriate to use for college-level assignments.

A peer-reviewed journal insures that the article is of the highest quality and reflects sound research.  Library.usm.main.edu does a nice job of explaining the peer review process:

  • Articles submitted by authors are evaluated by a group of peer experts in the field.
  • The reviewers recommend whether the submitted article be published, revised, or rejected.
  • This review process is often performed “blind”, meaning the reviewers do not know the names or academic affiliations of the authors, and the authors do not know who is reviewing their work.

Ulrich’s Periodical Directory Online is a link where the journals’ title can be submitted to get a report about whether the journal is actually peer-reviewed. 

What is meant by scholarly journals?  CalPoly explained, “Scholarly journals contain articles written by, and addressed to, experts in a discipline. They are concerned with academic study, especially research, and demonstrate the methods and concerns of scholars. The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report original research or experimentation and to communicate this information to the rest of the scholarly world. The language of scholarly journals reflects the discipline covered, as it assumes some knowledge or background on the part of the reader. Scholarly journals always rigorously cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies. Many scholarly journals are published by professional organizations.”

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Online Classes So Important: Mandatory for Graduation

Times have certainly changed for high school education.  Alabama, Florida and Michigan are just some of the states that now require students to take at least one online course to graduate.  According to the article 10 Online Ed Trends Coming to a High School Near You, “Administrators believe that getting students to take online courses will better prepare them to work with the technologies they’ll face in college and the workforce.”

In Memphis online classes were increased due to an upswing in the desire by students to take these courses.  Online courses are available for both high school and middle school students.  An advantage for the schools is that they are less expensive.  In the article Online Class Required for Graduation in Memphis, the author points out that there will be some stringent requirements.  “The structure calls for accountability requiring students to log on, finish assignments, and participate in hour-long live chat sessions with an instructor and classmates. Teachers speak with students after each module to verify their identity. Proctored semester exams are administered on school grounds.”

The number of states adding online requirements continues to grow.  Idaho has a tech-focused school reform program that will require students to take two online courses.  Indiana has also jumped on the technology bandwagon.  Indiana state superintendent, Tony Bennett, recently announced that students will be required to take at least one online course in order to graduate.  In the article United States High Schools Including Online Coursework as Graduation Requirement, the author stated, “Mr. Bennett explained his rationale for an online course requirement by stating that he felt like experiencing an online course would help to prepare Indiana students for the technology they will be using at colleges and universities, as well as in the workforce.”

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