How I use Smore Software: Easy and Effective Flyers

Professors’ Media Choices in Online Classes

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There is limited research regarding the use of social media or other types of media in online courses. In 2013, I surveyed 110 adjunct professors from a Linkedin group to determine if they added media (including social media) to already developed curriculum. Due to the prevalence of online classes, it might help curriculum designers to determine media preferences. This type of study may also demonstrate the flexibility of online courses, the perception of content requirements in online courses, and professors’ best practices.

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Adjunct Faculty Members’ Perceptions of Online Education Compared to Traditional Education

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I am often asked to give my opinion regarding online education versus traditional education.  Because it is such a popular topic, I decided to conduct some research to determine how online instructors’ perceive online versus traditional degrees. The following is an abstract from my most recent study published in the Journal for Online Doctoral Education.

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Professors’ Expectations: Helpful Writing Tips for College Students

 

Students often struggle with writing essays.  Some have difficulty with structure. Others dread dealing with APA formatting. I teach everything from bachelor-level to doctoral-level courses.  The following contains some helpful writing tips that I have found may make writing essays a little easier.

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Online Student Safety and Behavioral Issues

The online classroom may make it easier for students with personality problems or even mental health issues to go undetected.  It may provide a false sense of security for some students who make friends with other students who may appear to be well.  However, in any online situation, it is wise to look for some behavioral signals that may indicate some problems.

I have had students who ignore netiquette, aka rules of proper behavior in the online classroom. I have had a few students who concerned me to the point that I believed, for safety reasons, I had to report them.  Although I have not had this happen often, it can be frightening for innocent students who get bullied or are provoked by these behaviorally-challenged students.

I recently had a student send me a note that she felt uncomfortable by certain wording that another student used in class.  She asked me to ask the student to refrain from using what she considered profanity.  Although this “profanity” may have seemed very mild to some of the other students, it bothered her.  It is important for students to realize that everyone may not be comfortable with certain words.

In the Wall Street Journal article When Social Skills are a Warning, the author explained that it may be important to look for social skills that may indicate a warning of behavioral issues. Instructors and fellow students might be able to detect some early signs that are symptoms of problems like social indifference, lack of empathy, and inappropriate behavior.  Some students do not recognize when to “back off” in discussions.  In the article, the author explained how our brains are set up differently. “Some networks act as emotional brakes and others as the gas.  Everyone has a different balance of these networks, which contributes to our personalities, emotions and behaviors.”

When students notice something that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should report it to their professor or counselor.  Many students are harmless and just do not realize how they may come across to others.  The problem is that there have been incidents that make the news that scare people.  These past tragedies may help to make people more aware of the importance of recognizing behavior.

Just because there is a computer screen between students, does not mean there is no danger.  Some students connect in online chat rooms.  Sometimes they exchange email and telephone numbers.  Just because a student is in an online college classroom, it does not ensure that this person is harmless.  In online, just as in traditional courses, there will be some students who have behavioral problems.  It is important that students do not let their guard down too far due to a possible incorrect assumption that all students must be normal.  I do not want to squelch the college connection experience. It is just important to remember that people may have issues whether they are in a traditional or online location.  Students should be just as vigilant about their safety in an online class as they would be in any other situation.

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Use of Media and Copyright Issues in Online Courses

Some students like to present papers with a bit of pizzazz. Many may add pictures or charts they have found on the Internet.  Unfortunately many of the things they try to incorporate into their work may create a copyright violation.  The good news is that there are sites where students can find media to share that is not protected.

The Creative Commons site is a good place to go to find content. According to their site, “If you’re looking for content that you can freely and legally use, there is a giant pool of CC-licensed creativity available to you. There are hundreds of millions of works — from songs and videos to scientific and academic material — available to the public for free and legal use under the terms of our copyright licenses, with more being contributed every day.”

Some famous sites like Google, Flickr, and Wikipedia use Creative Commons to access media. Wikipedia’s Public Domain Image Resources page also provides some great links to media that is not copyright-protected.  This site provides general as well as government resources.

Some students incorporate images they have found using the insert clipart function in Word. According to the Microsoft site, “The Clip Art and Media gallery provides a compilation of artwork. See the use terms for the description of permitted uses. If those terms do not meet your needs, our Clip Art partners at Office Online provide a variety of images you can license directly. Sample Art may be used for personal use only. You may not sell, lease, or distribute Sample Art, or any materials you create that use Sample images, for any commercial purposes.”

If students submit a Word document that has clip art obtained from Word, they may have questions about how to cite it in APA.  According to Owl Purdue’s site it is, “unnecessary to provide citation on a document presented via the Microsoft program for stock images that a specific to that software package.”

It may be difficult to find free clip art simply by searching for it on Google. Many sites that come up offer some free clip art that is usually not that great.  The better clip art usually requires a fee.  I am often contacted by people about the clipart used for my online education blog.  I have used a couple of sources that charge a fee, including Shutterstock and iStockPhoto.  The really good pictures like these usually require a fee.

When students insert pictures that are copyright protected, professors should explain this to them.  There are many students who assume they can copy and paste just about anything from the Internet into their assignments. Students may benefit from reading:  How to Avoid Copyright Infringement and Copyright Fair Use and How it Works for Online Images.

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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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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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Female Career Choices That May Surprise You

On the first day of work as a pharmaceutical representative in the 80’s, I was struck by the similarity of my newly-hired peers.  There were about 10 of us that started at the same time.  Nine out of 10 of us were women.  I hadn’t given much thought as to whether women dominated in the pharmaceutical business at that time.  However, sitting at that long table full of women, most of whom had business degrees, made me realize that things were changing for women and their career choices.

Since I currently teach for many different online universities, a recent article about women and their online degree choices caught my eye.  In the article 10 Majors That Are No longer Male-Dominated, the author pointed out, “Historically, women have dominated majors like education, English and psychology, while men were more likely to study engineering, computer science or math. Although this may ring true at some schools, it isn’t the standard at every traditional or online college. More than ever, college women are opting to study traditionally male-dominated majors and are breaking enrollment records while they’re at it. As the line between male- and female-dominated academic fields continues to fade, there will be less segregation in the job market and more opportunities for both sexes.”

The article lists the following online majors as currently female-dominant:

Computer Science

Business

Engineering

Agriculture

Biological Science

Construction Management

Fire Science

Criminal Justice

Information Technology

Sports Management

For more information about the increase in women majoring in each of these areas, click here to read the full article.

Top Universities Increasing Online Degrees Programs to Meet Needs of over 5 Million Learners

Arizona State University is just one of many major universities that have started to increase the number of online courses they offer.  Within the next decade, ASU expects that 25% of their students will be exclusively taking virtual classes.  ASU and other schools are keeping up with their learners’ desire to take online courses. 

The Sloan Consortium, also known as Sloan-C, is an institutional and professional organization integrating online education into mainstream education.   The consortium is committed to quality online education.  The Arizona Republic reported, “According to an annual Sloan Survey of Online Learning at 2,500 colleges and universities, 29 percent of students took at least one course online in fall 2009, up from nearly 12 percent in fall 2003.”

In a recent webinar I created and delivered for Sloan-C, there was strong interest by educators to learn how to deliver effective online courses. There is no mistaking the popularity of online education. Even Bill Gates praised online learning in his 2010 Annual Letter stating, “A lot of people, including me, think this is the next place where the internet will surprise people in how it can improve things.” According to a recent survey by the Sloan Consortium, more than 5.6 million students took an online class last fall, which translates to about 30 percent of college students.

The days of thinking that online education is somehow inferior is changing.  Arizona’s three main universities are all embracing online learning.  ASU is ramping up their online program. University of Arizona (U of A) has nearly 30 degree programs exclusively available online; many of these programs are graduate-level.  Northern Arizona University (NAU) has 63 exclusively online programs and anticipates a 10% growth increase per year.

Arizona universities are not the only major universities to get on board with online education. Some other very prominent universities that also offer online courses include:   

If you or someone you know is considering taking an online class, it is important to understand the terminology, the process and the tricks to being successful as an independent learner.  For help, check out:  The Online Student’s User Manual:  Everything You Need to Know to be a Successful Online Student