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Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

Is college too easy?

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

This op ed article in the Los Angeles Times, “College, too easy for its own good” raises some interesting points. Have colleges become more interested in satisfying the college CUSTOMER over the college STUDENT? Have colleges moved away from EDUCATING and toward SATISFYING? If this is true, then we should all be concerned about higher education.

This article states that half of students reported that they never had to write a paper over 20 pages, most classes did not require reading over 40 pages per week, and about a third indicated they studied alone five or fewer hours each week. Wow – I am amazed at this! I went to college in the late 70s and did not find this to be so – on the contrary, my non-science classes were the only ones that did not require extensive paper writing (but we did do analysis and reports). Most of my classes had two books or more and some instructors required 100-page readings per day. I got up most mornings to study at 4AM until my 8AM class, and then studied in the evening. I was not content with average grades and so I approached college responsibilities as my ticket to get on with my life and out of my situation.

Unfortunately, I agree with the article in regards to college administrators being concerned about retention rates, facilities, and graduation rates. My children went to universities with fantastic facilities, and I often worried how the schools paid for those amenities. Usually, it was an endowment or grant but of course, maintenance costs belonged to the schools.

So is college too easy? In my personal experience, no. At Troy University in the 70s and again in the 90s, studies were difficult and required significant engagement. At Northcentral University, I am being challenged even more than at Troy. I ask myself everyday if I will ever complete this PhD…it seems like it is taking forever! I hope that today’s students ARE being challenged and working hard to earn an education.

I learned this a long time ago – if you do not seek excellence in ALL that you do (home, school, work, etc.)…..you cannot expect to find excellence in ANYTHING you do.

Your thoughts?

Survey of Contingent Faculty Members, Instructors, and Researchers

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Are you a contingent faculty member? You might be interested in this article Contingent Faculty Members: Share Data in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I also recommend taking the Fall 2010 CAW Survey of Contingent Faculty Members, Instructors, and Researchers. The purpose of the survey is to “inquire about fall 2010 course assignments, salaries, benefits, and general working conditions as members of the contingent academic workforce experience at the institutional level.”

I work full-time at an international paper manufacturing company and teach at the University of Phoenix. My long term plans are to “never retire” but to teach undergraduate and graduate courses online or on campus. I love to work with students and help them on their educational journey just as my teachers have helped me through the years.

If you are a contingent faculty member, instructor, or researcher, take a few minutes and fill out the survey.

A Vision of Students Today

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

This video brings education into sharp focus: what are we doing to educate our students? When I watched the video for the first tim, it hit me hard because I am a TEACHER as well as a STUDENT. I am asking what is my classroom like? Do I meet my students’ needs? Are my classes meeting MY needs?

Watch the video and share your comments.


Plowing through papers

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

I haven’t written much lately about my PhD journey because I have been very busy with a class I am teaching at the University of Phoenix. I am reworking all of my lesson plans for this class, COM/285 Business Communications. The teaching materials in this class are slim to none, which means that the instructor can either bore the students to tears or spice up the class with activities. I prefer the later.

Today I was working on grading papers (and since this is a WRITING class, obviously they have to WRITE) and lesson plans. Most of the students have been in three to five or more classes already, yet I find that few are careful about plagiarizing. This course has been around for a while so it is pretty easy to find canned and free essays on the Internet for download. Well, if I can find them, so can the students.

And they do. Unfortunately.

The University has a alert system by which we can record an academic violation such as plagiarism or when a student falls behind in their work. This is a great system and our campus follows up with every student. Our concern is to identify issues early while they are correctible.

I did not work on any of my NCU papers today, but I will tomorrow. I am working on assignment 6 in RSH9103QNB.

Virtual High School – Distance learning for teens

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

I had the opportunity to write a few articles for Examiner on Virtual High School. If you haven’t heard about this wonderful distance learning program, start with this article:

Virtual High School: A world of learning opportunities 

then move on to the remaining articles to read the interview:

Virtual High School: VHS and distance-learning

Virtual High School: VHS impacts Richmond, the state of Virginia, and beyond

Virtual High School: Challenges to distance-learning

Virtual High School offers quality distance-learning educational opportunities for middle and high school students and professional development courses for teachers. After a federal education grant proved their methods successful, VHS became a non-profit entity in 1996. The focus at VHS is on the student: classes are small, content-focused, and facilitated by trained educators. VHS offers full-year as well as semester courses, Advanced Placement (AP) and Pre-AP courses, summer school for enrichment or credit recovery, and gifted courses…..

Distance learning educators can network by joining a DL group on LinkedIn

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

If you are a distance learning educator, consider joining some of the DL groups on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a networking site for professionals across many fields. You can find others with similar interests or in the same career field and collaborate through messaging and group membership.

After joining, create a profile by posting your resume, summarizing your professional accomplishments and job history. You determine how much information you want to show in this very public manner. You can then begin to build your network and link to others by contacting them through the website.

Joining a LinkedIn group is one way to extend your professional network by making contacts with individuals outside of your first level of contacts (people you know personally). LinkedIn Groups have a forum in which members can post questions or comments. Forum discussions are private as group membership is required.

After setting up your profile, use the “search groups” drop down box at the top right side of the page. Try the word “adjunct” in the search box and 26 groups are found with this term in the group description. The search term “distance learning” returned 69 results, “e-learning” returned 247 results, “online education” returned 161 results, and “distance education” returned 40 results. Of course, you may want to find groups closer to your specific subject interest, university alma mater, or employer.

It is easy to join or un-join a group if you discover the update emails are too frequent or if you do not sense a good fit. LinkedIn does not permit solicitation emails from groups, so do not be concerned that you will be asked to join other groups if you join one group. You may even create your own group to stay in touch with your colleagues.

Distance learning educators and professionals can build their professional network simply by creating a profile and joining groups on LinkedIn. DL educators understand the connecting power of the internet. Using sites like LinkedIn to find like-minded individuals and using groups to discuss current topics is an effective way to network and build your professional profile.

LinkedIn Home Page (to sign up)
LinkedIn: About us
thinkPhD’s LinkedIn profile

GEN480: Networking and LinkedIn

Monday, February 16th, 2009

We discuss the importance of networking in GEN480 at the University of Phoenix. This  is the Interdisciplinary Capstone course, generally taken at the end of the students’ programs. One of the recommendations that I make to students is to join LinkedIn or other professional networking sites. My LinkedIn public profile is here. Most of the students have never heard of LinkedIn, but some know about Facebook or MySpace.

GEN480 assignments reflect on the students’ goals set in GEN300 or GEN101 at the beginning of their programs. The course also stresses the importance of critical thinking and lifelong learning. The University of Phoenix has several courses that entwine critical thinking skills in discussions and assignments. We also discuss the relationship of the University’s learning goals with respect to students’ professional skills. The learning goals are (a) Professional Competence and Values, (b) Critical thinking and Problem Solving, (c) Communication, and (d) Information Utilization. Students write a “Past, Present, and Future Paper” reflecting upon their development through the program with an eye to the future.

Usually this class is fairly small because most are getting ready to graduate. Sadly, it is no secret that the drop out rate creeps up as students get closer to graduation. I only have four students in the class this time, which makes leading discussions a bit challenging. However, I have had large, medium, and small classes over the years and accept them all.

This week is the fifth and final class, and I will continue encouraging the students to network and to become lifelong learners. Some will go on to master’s programs and others will never take another course. However, I hope to have encouraged them to continue learning throughout their life by developing a hunger to know and discover.

Mezirow’s Transformational Learning Theory

Friday, December 28th, 2007

Adults are the products of their individual histories and experiences, which influence their attitudes, thinking processes, and conceptualizations of their worlds. Mezirow believed that adults can be “transformed” through a process involving a “disorientating dilemma” followed by critical reflection and new interpretations of experience. Expanding this theory to teaching, the educator must encourage students to examine their personal assumptions, explore other possibilities and test all for validity. Learning comes from the examinations and new idea formulation. The application of critical thinking skills uses this methodology. Many universities are changing the way learning takes place; rather than lecture they are using methods of discovery which yield transformational learning.

Instructors bring their own experiences and learning to the classroom. Not every instructor is able to separate their personal frames of reference from their teaching. Have you ever been in a political science class where the instructor makes it clear that the class will be taught from only one perspective…his? The best professors are the ones that engage the students in such a way that they learn from making connections from their experiences and those of others. Because thinking is a traditionally solitary endeavor, using team learning is a great way to expose individuals to thinking in other ways.

Instructors must be careful to teach the subject material in such a way that students are exposed to a “disorientating dilemma” which will begin the learning process. By its nature, transformational learning requires being more open to the perspectives of others. However, it is much easier to teach from a personal viewpoint, skipping the critical learning process in which the student questions assumptions. I have had professors that essentially say, “what I say is the way it is.” Transformational learning requires that the students have a vested interest in their own learning process, rather than being “spoon fed” a bunch of information to memorize or accept.

As an instructor, I love to see the “aha” moments when the light clicks on in a student’s eye. He has taken something that I taught, rolled it around, and pulled out the truth – transforming himself by learning.

Moodle and me

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

My web host makes a number of open source software and other programs available. I am playing around with Moodle today. I am able to design courses and set them up with quizzes, lectures and other activities. Moodle allows just about anyone to create courses and make them available online. The course I am working on is about APA formatting – something my students seem to need a lot of guidance on. I hope to point them to my site and let them work through some self-guided activities. It seems that I am consistently marking the same errors wrong on student papers – UGH!