June 2017 archive

What Every Online Instructor Needs to Post in Their Courses

Nomad work Concept Image Computer Coffee Mug and Telephone large windows and sun rising, focus on coffee mug

If you teach college courses online, I can guarantee that the following piece (by online instructor and occasional Happy Professor contributor, Chris Berg, Ph.D.) will have you vigorously nodding your head with every word.

Do yourself a favor and send the following article to your students as a Canvas or Blackboard Announcement, or even take it a step further and give your students a quiz based on the content; I plan to do the same in each of my classes.

I imagine Chris’s wise words will give my students some clarity, and provide me with some peace of mind as we progress through each semester.

8 Tips to be a Successful Online Student 

By Chris Berg, Ph.D.

Online learning is fast becoming the way twenty-first-century learners choose to attend college. It provides a degree of flexibility and versatility unseen in traditional education.

But, apart from the many benefits online learning provides, there are certain attitudes and attributes that are essential for success in online education. The best online students understand their value and, in this article, I’m going to share what I’ve found to be important considerations for your success in online education.

Read the Syllabus. Seriously, read it. In my experience, if I didn’t require a syllabus quiz in my online courses, most students wouldn’t read it. The syllabus is your key to success in any given course. It is in your best interest to read (often, in fact!) the syllabus to fully understand what your professor’s expectations are for the course and what you can, in turn, expect from your professor.  

Time Management. This one is a challenge for students and is, perhaps, the #1 obstacle to timely submission of assignments and engagement in discussion boards. Some of my students have shared that they make a schedule for the entire semester in advance so they know what needs to be done day-by-day, week-by-week. This requires some initial time investment, but the rewards are worth it. Don’t wait until the last minute before beginning your work. Professors can tell when an assignment was rushed.

Read for Comprehension. Textbooks, for all their faults, are probably here to stay in one form or another. This makes reading time-consuming, but part and parcel of the learning process. This might require reading through a section or an entire chapter more than once. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but reading carefully and thoughtfully requires commitment.

A rule I followed in graduate school when the reading lists were especially heavy was to read for 30 minutes and then take a break for 30 minutes doing something completely different. This system worked well for me; find a system or routine that works for you.

Check-in. Make it a regular practice to check-in the course classroom frequently throughout the week. This is not only a good practice to break-up work, such as submitting an initial post and follow-up peer responses, but is also useful to view important announcements or messages from the professor.

Be Proactive. Take responsibility for your education. This is college-level work and a higher standard is required. Just because a class doesn’t require that you attend in person does not mean that you can cut corners. You are in control of your own learning. Remember that and you’ll take control of your education.

Communicate. The moment you have a question, check the syllabus first. If the syllabus doesn’t address it, contact your professor. Don’t delay! Often, a slight problem can turn into a big problem if too much time elapses. If you’re unsure, email the professor. We’re here to help.

Stay Involved. Discussion forums are ideal, but underutilized, areas for students to engage and interact with each other. Often, you’ll be confronted with a new perspective that challenges your own beliefs. Rather than ignoring the post or comment, start a friendly conversation with your peer. This is a crucial aspect of learning and will serve you well in the “real” world. Take advantage of it.

Go the Extra Mile. I learned this from Napoleon Hill, a protégé of the industrialist and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. What this means is satisfying your professor’s expectations while striving to exceed them. This attitude is not only beneficial in online education—your professors will notice it—but also in every walk of life. Going “above and beyond” might even by the secret ingredient to success in general. Try it.

John Dewey, the architect of progressive education in the early nineteenth century, famously said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” I hope you you find these tools–I post them in my own online classrooms–helpful as you move one step closer to achieving your educational goals.

~

I hope you enjoyed the piece, and again, feel free to pass this on to your students and other online instructors.

Happy teaching!

Big Ideas

FullSizeRender

It’s easy to slip into routines. Even things that originally seemed novel can become a normal (and not especially exciting) part of your day to day life.

For the last year I’ve worked toward creating a life that allows me to basically function on autopilot. It was very deliberate- I wanted to get all my ‘ducks in a row,’ so to speak, live in the right location, make the right amount of money, and become comfortable with the new schools I’ve been working for online (mostly to prepare for the wonderful and exhausting chaos that will come with having a child).

However, with routine and the luxury to relax and get comfortable also comes a lack of imagination and creativity (at least, that’s been my experience).

I like to think that I’m a self aware and proactive person, so when I started realizing that my conversations with friends were growing stagnant and less intellectual, and long talks with my husband were gradually moving from energetic and inspiring, to a bland rundown of our work day, I decided to come up with as satisfying (and easy) a solution as I could. I decided that if I could be more deliberate about how I’m spending my time in the car, putting away groceries, and procrastinating on my laptop, I could work in some much-needed ‘educational listening.’

That’s when I got a simple idea that I’ve already fallen in love with:

Listen to 2-3 TED talks or one educational podcast weekly, and write down 3 conversation-generating thoughts from each in a notebook (which I call my Book of Big Ideas, because I’m cheesy :)).

This purposeful listening and note-taking has worked out perfectly (and keep in mind, it has required virtually no extra time out of my day), and it’s provided me with plenty of new thoughts to explore on frequent one-hour-long walks with my husband (naturally one simple idea spirals into multiple ideas that can keep us talking for hours, which is a huge win in my opinion).

Following through on this simple idea has also inspired me to think outside the box more often, it feels good to have some added mental stimulation, and it’s kept me from falling into that all-too-familiar ‘sit on the couch and watch TV/Netflix/YouTube endlessly after work until you go to bed’ rut that I know can become so easy to fall into.

My Book of Big Ideas plan is fairly new, but so far so good. Having been out of school for 6 years, and having finished writing my most recent book two years ago now, I figured it’s important to keep my creativity alive and to continually challenge myself mentally.

Some people enroll in free online college courses, or do crossword puzzles to stay sharp, but for anyone who’s looking for a different solution to help them break out of that weekday TV rut (and tired of feeling like they’ve lost a few IQ points), I recommend starting your own Book of Big Ideas and see what kind of inspiration strikes.

Happy learning and happy living!

5 Reasons You Should Consider Working From Home (and Why I Love It)

IMG_0133

I may not write about it on the blog as frequently as I could, but almost daily I tell my husband how much I love working from home and teaching online.

It’s fun to get into the classroom once a week and do things traditionally, but if you have the discipline and a solid routine, you really can’t beat working from home, regardless of what type of job you have (see these Forbes articles for more details: Five Reasons to Love Working From Home and One In Five Americans Work From Home, Numbers Seen Rising Over 60%).

Here’s why:

  1. You get to create your own work and life schedule. If I want to relax over the weekend, I can make a plan to get my work done during the week. However, if I find that there are more exciting things happening during the week, I can switch things up and get my work done over the weekend. I love that I can move things around this way. As a result, I frequently enjoy long Tuesday lunches with a girlfriend, midday hourlong phone calls with friends who live out of state, and some solid time writing for my blog.
  2. You end up saving money. As much as I sometimes wish I had coworkers to buy cookies for on their birthdays, or a ‘lunch crew’ to leave the office with on Fridays, I realize that I can still incorporate these things into my life (and do on occasion) without spending as much money. I also don’t have to update my work wardrobe, pay for gas money and tolls, or put wear and tear on my car, all of which results in some pretty decent savings.
  3. It’s easier to eat healthy and workout. Sometimes for lunch I’m chopping up vegetables in my kitchen, baking chicken, or digging into a huge piece of cantaloupe- none of which would be appropriate in a traditional office setting. I also have a little workout space in my house where I enjoy listening to bad 90’s music and lifting weights for about 30 minutes twice a week in the middle of the day. It’s the best way to put off getting work done while still doing something good for yourself.
  4. ‘Going to work’ turns out to be kind of relaxing. This might just be me, but some days life can feel hectic- running errands, taking care of household items, going to appointments, etc. During the uninterrupted time during the week that I need to work from home, life is quiet, unrushed, and predictable. It might just be my personality type, but sometimes it feels like a break from the chaos of everyday life.
  5. I can stop wondering if life would be better if I worked from home. I have a number of friends who wonder if they’d be better off working from home- some are new moms who are trying to figure out what to do with their career, some aren’t crazy about their coworkers, and others just feel that working from home is becoming so popular that it might be a decision they’ll need to make in the future. I know a handful of people who love working out of a home office and coffee shops, and I know a handful of people who regretted the move (the isolation and pressure to get yourself moving each day can definitely become overwhelming, especially in the beginning) and went back to the office within a year. Luckily, I know what works for me, especially with a baby on the way, so that’s one less major life decision I’ll have to worry about in the future.

It may seem that working from home is the next big trend, and it just might be, so if it’s something you’ve been thinking about, consider my 5 reasons why working from home is (at least for me), one of the best decisions I could have made, and decide if it might be a realistic option for you in the future.

Happy living!