Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Changes in Training

Phyllis Dobson, our intrepid Training Director who has led us through the valley of tears (that would be the Vista transition), is stepping down. Now before you all panic, she is not leaving us completely - she is still chairing the EDU program and teaching in the CIS department for us. (Never mind the other FT job she has at CCD). She did an absolutely amazing job of helping everyone survive the move to Vista and of building the training program at CCCOnline into a true professional development program. Everyone please join me in an enthusiastic thank-you to Phyllis and in a round of applause for the wonderful job she did. (Thank you emails should go directly to Phyllis at

Attempting to replace Phyllis we have two people: Sharon Taylor and LisaMarie Johnson. Sharon has been Phyllis's assoc. director for the past year as well as faculty for several years now. LisaMarie has been faculty and a special associate to CCCOnline for several years. Welcome to LisaMarie and to Sharon!

As a side note: I was on vacation last week ( and will be on vacation again this coming week, then at the Blackboard conference in Boston the week after that, so my response time may be a little slow.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

About the Web 2.0 and Mobile Devices

Instructional Design Director Cheryl Compstock was talking about this very thing yesterday--that it's time to add Web 2.0 into our way of thinking about instruction (which includes some mobile technology as well as shared creation of content).

So lo and behold, the issue on Mobile Learning out of Athabasca U in Canada. The guest editorial is a nice way to think about mobile learning and get an overview of the contents of this issue:

Ally's Editorial

Total Journal Content

The articles are available in HTML, PDF, and MP3 formats.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Last Day to Drop Reminder

The following reminder was sent to all summer students today.


This note is a reminder that you have until Wednesday, June 13, 2007, to drop your CCCOnline delivered Summer course(s) with a full tuition refund.

If you do not plan to drop your course(s) or have already dropped them please disregard this reminder.

CCCOnline courses are ONLY those courses with a section ID starting C1* (example ENG 121C11)

Please note that due to the large size of CCCOnline courses, we split courses into multiple sections (C12, C13, etc.), therefore, your online section may not be C11, however, if you want to drop the course, you will need to drop the C11 section at your college.

**Contacting your instructor(s) will NOT result in your being dropped or withdrawn from your course(s)**

To DROP your course(s):

- go to or your home college web site

- click on the Self-Service Banner link for your home college

- select Login and enter your Student ID and 6-digit student PIN

- click Enter

- select the Student Menu and then the Registration Menu

- select Add or Drop Courses and follow the steps to get to your Current Schedule of


- on your Current Schedule, use the Drop Down box under Action and select Drop


- Click Submit Changes at the bottom of the page

- check your Current Schedule to make sure the course(s) has been dropped

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us or your home college.

For any technical questions or problems with your course, please visit

Thank you for your time and we hope you continue to have a great and successful semester!

Student Services

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Going Schedule Free Part 2

Hi All-

I was interested in Al's experience for a couple of reasons. The first is the potential conflict in what the grade is measuring I mentioned in the last email. In theory our goal as faculty is to make sure students are able to meet the official course outcomes as defined in the common course numbering system, plus whatever else we think is important in our field. The final grade ought to reflect our opinion of what percentage of the outcomes the student has met. Unfortunately life sometimes intervenes in the measuring process and we are left with a set of graded assessments that may or may not add up to a good measure of learning outcomes.

As dean, I tend to face that at the end of the semester when I get the students' complaints. That makes me interested in ways to avoid the mis-match up front, or at least to make it less likely. I also don't really like to be the person who has to arbitrate between the student who thought her child's pre-school graduation was more important that the deadline for an exam. She thought she'd be able to get the exam in earlier, but of course the car broke, the cat threw up, .....

On the other hand, we all want to control our lives also. We want to know when we need to set aside time for grading and we know the end of the term is a hard deadline.

How do you balance those conflicts? The math department includes an extra exam, so the lowest score is automatically dropped from consideration. That was when a student misses an exam it doesn't affect his grade. It does probably affect his learning -- we would hope to the degree it does, that is captured in the following exams.

At the end of the term when you are reviewing your grades do you look at the overall picture and think about what you really believe in terms of learning outcomes? (And just to complicate things, some outcomes are probably more important than others....)

Al's solution was interesting. What is yours?


Going Schedule Free

Hi Everyone-

Many of you know Al Turner already as he has been teaching Political Science for CCCOnline since the very beginning. For years he was the poster faculty for strict deadlines in classes. Al never let a deadline slide and yet his students always seem to love him -- there's a fine line in there somewhere that Al has managed to walk semester after semester, student after student.

This past spring he decided to try a complete change in policy -- essentially no deadlines. Here is his description of that experience:

I just completed one of my online classes that had only two deadlines for all assignments-Recommended Due Dates and a Final Due date. I decided to try this based on previous observations from Dean Lisa’s Blog. She said, "I tend to feel that we have adult learners in most of our classes who do have very busy and complex lives. Flexibility on our part tends to make the semesters run more smoothly and help keep the learning experiences positive. Most students appear to try very hard to meet all deadlines."

Also, before the semester started, it was necessary for me to make several changes to my Schedule, Syllabus and Assignment Due Dates about the two due dates (Recommended Due Dates and the Final Due Date). Yes, it required a little extra work. But I had the time.

On the first day of class, I had posted all 21 essays questions and encouraged students to work ahead of our Schedule. And, I opened all five Unit Discussions too. I normally had only one Unit open at a time based on our Schedule. I also encouraged them to do their best by honoring our Recommended Due Dates. And if this was not possible, then to be aware of the Final Due Date when “everything” was due.

Throughout the semester, I used the Announcement, Calendar and Email tools to let students know of our two Due Dates (Recommended and Final). I was like “in-your-face” everyday. Since this was the first time, I found myself posting more Announcements then I normally do during a 16-week class. I was OK with this.

And here’s what I learned.

Students did their best to honor the Recommended Due Dates for our discussions and assignments. And if they were not able to, I was OK with that.

The rest of their work (21 essays, 42 quizzes, Semester project, extra credit and other assignments) constantly flowed in throughout the semester. I was OK with this. Why? Because I had a chance to “even out” grading their work. That is, all the assignments were not dropped on me all at once at the end of each Unit.

Another reason was that I received only one, that’s right, one excuse for the entire semester. Yes! So, I didn’t have deal with “those creative and imaginative excuses.”

Doing this for the first time also got me outside of my “normal way of doing things online.” One of my biggest concerns was being “dumped on” with all the assignments on our Final Due Date. Never happened.

Next, I think “flexible due dates” would work best for our 16 week classes. It may work in our Session two too. That would be my next attempt.

Did the students like it? I had only three positive responses and one of those made it to the Student Survey. And, it seemed the semester ran smoother because of the "accommodating due dates."

I’m sure many of you have already tried something similar to what I’ve already done. And I’d like to hear how it worked for you here in our Blog.

Would I do it again? Yes.


I don't know that I would recommend this approach for everyone, but I do think it begins to get at the conflict between the grade as a measurement of the student's understanding of the learning outcomes and the grade as a measurement of the student's ability to meet the course schedule. :^)


Monday, June 04, 2007

Speaking of Wikis: Lee LeFever's Short Wiki Video

Lee Lefever of Common Craft has done it again by creating a three minute something video on using wikis. It's available in more than one format from more than one video source, and he has included a captioned version and a transcript.

Text Transcript:

Captioned Version:

I thought we'd have the captioned version here since I copied the code from his site so people could view it from this blog, but that is not the case.

His best screens are examples of the simplicity needed for the small screens of portable media players.

Another exciting note from Jessy -- wiki's in class

Hi Everyone-

Jessy Devasia also experimented with using a wiki in her class last semester. Here is her note on that experience:

I would like to give you a brief note on my experience with using Wiki this spring semester. I used it for BI0 201, 202, and 204 with moderate success. Initially there was no response from the students. But offering a few extra credits for using wiki did the trick. Some of the students started posting interesting web ites, news items, answers to some of the questions etc. in wiki.

The biggest success was with BIO 204-Microbiology in which we were doing a group project. Students were divided into 12 groups. Many of these groups used to edit their projects in the wiki. They were happy that they need not have to email back and forth all the time.

I plan to use it again this semester right from the beginning of the class. It is easy to introduce new things in the beginning of the semester before the students get too busy with assignments and tests. I would suggest the use of wiki for classes which have group projects, tough lab exercises etc.

Everyone is welcome to have space on the wiki if you are interested in teaching with it also.


Turning a Student Around

Hi Everyone-

I wanted to post this email from one of your fellow instructors, Jessy Devasia. Last semester Jessy had a student who was really primed to have a terrible learning experience in her course. Jessy managed to help that student have instead one of those positive, turning-point experiences that I am sure the student will remember for her entire life.

From Jessy:

I am a Health Sciences faculty and my teaching techniques are very traditional demanding hard work, discipline, order, mutual respect, and truthfulness. But I have learned over a period of time that patience, compassion, forgiveness, keeping my pride and ego aside, and being a little flexible can turn around even very difficult students in a very positive way. I had a gratifying teaching experience with a student whom I taught this spring, which I would like to share with you.

Profile of the student: She is taking this particular course for the third or fourth time with CCConline. She was not able to go beyond the third week of the semester each time she has taken the class due to various reasons, which appeared silly and funny to me! This student is in her fifties, working 3 jobs (60-65 hours), neck deep in debt, with weight and health problems, ailing spouse, and a very intelligent perfectionist who tries to relive her excellent teen years and early twenties as a top student. She has been admitted to the BSN program at a reputed University in Texas for fall, 2007. She wanted a commitment from me that I would not let her go this time. I promised her that I would work with her as long as she tries her best and keeps in touch with me.

Though whatever I did was not a big thing for me that turned out to be a life changing experience for this student. . I know that all of us do to these things for our students every semester we teach. When our kind Head of the Department, Alison Jacobs asked me to write about how our little acts of timely kindness and help may turn into a forward moving experience for our students, I looked back and found a few things, which may have helped this student to complete this course and chase her dream of joining a prestigious nursing program in a reputed university.

1. Listen to our students carefully especially during the first 1 or 2 weeks of the semester and look for direct/indirect hints which some of our students give expecting our leadership, help, understanding, reassurance, and guidance as they undertake this journey with us. Make a note of the back grounds of these students (age, type of employment, number of jobs, number of working hours, sexuality, marriage status, single parent, health problems, getting back to school after many years, care givers of sick spouse and parents, financial problems, got admitted to programs which start soon, taking 3-4 online classes, need a B or C…) and keep a special eye on these students all through out the semester.

2. Always reply to the student emails as early as possible. Never reply to an email when you are tired, angry, and disturbed about something. When we are in a hurry to write a well thought out reply let the students know that we have their message and get back to them soon.

3. When a student openly says that the instructor is bad, hate the way we run the class, and find fault with everything we do, it is really hard not to take it to heart. But my experience with these kinds of students tells me that it is a cry for help and they are not able to move forward. These students are like our children who say that they hate the parents and home when they need us to reach out to them. This is when we can keep our pride aside and ask the student what we can do to help her succeed.

4. Please always try to contact an enthusiastic student who suddenly disappears from the class. You may reach them when they are very miserable and able to offer a helping hand. I believe that there is nothing wrong in being flexible with our test and assignment schedules (with penalties for late submission applied) to help our non-traditional students who come to the class with bagful of problems on their back.

5. A second attempt on reaching a missing student from the class also will not hurt.

6. Help the students to be practical, to make compromises, fix up priorities, set achievable goals, and plan the work-time schedules. It is also right to be tough at this point and use an iron hand. Suggest the students using their time wisely. Remind our adult learners that we cannot be always perfectionists and we are not the teenagers who made straight As and went several extra miles doing schoolwork 35-40 years ago. No body learns everything about a subject in 15 weeks and gave them suggestions on how to do well in tests. We can always read and learn many things later on.

7. After all these advise do not help in turning in class work, we can resort to the technique of giving ultimatums. Give the final chance and express your final decision without any ambiguity. We have done everything possible within our limits.

I would like to add an email, which I received from this student at the end of the semester:
"My deepest gratitude for your kindness and above all your fair treatment to me as student. With mixed emotion, I now move forward from the warmth and intellectual nurturing of Arapahoe CC to the fast-tracked arena of the University of Texas @ Austin.
I have learned more than just academic content from you -- I depart with the memory of compassion and understanding without judgments, which now are my responsibility to share with those lives, which will now cross mine."

I think that these are some of the most gratifying moments in my teaching career.

Jessy Devasia

Friday, June 01, 2007

Welcome to Summer: First Week Ideas

Greetings to Each of You,

As you create community this first week, here’s your chance to not only let people know that they belong, but also provide activities that help them know HOW to belong.

Various Strategies

Let your welcome email let people know what you find exciting about the course, and express your wish for their success. Outline practices that will help learners be successful, and name resources that can help them (Smarthinking, student helpdesk, rubrics, self-quizzes, interactivities).

Provide a phone number. Let people know when good times are to call and what info to leave w/ messages (name, course, phone number, reason, good days and times to return call).

Let students know they can request a phone conference from you via email.

Let them know best uses for external email.

Post a picture of yourself in the course. Invite people to provide pictures in the course room either of themselves or something they like to do.

Ask people to review the course competencies and ask how these line up or are different from their own goals

Have an icebreaker topic (like provide a link about your hometown, where would you like to be if you could be on vacation right now…)

You could create a brief “what to expect from this class” letter or sound file.

Write down your ideas (script)
Go to, create a free account.
Pick up the phone and call in your remarks.
Either download the mp3 or get the code right at gapcast to put a player on your home page.

Have the plagiarism discussion. We now have the links to the student handbooks at the home college. They'll soon be up at the Student Wiki, but your chair also has a copy.

Invite people to ask any questions about the course or tools—you can make this one anonymous.

Here’s wishing you a great term, and thank you for all you do for CCCOnline learners!

Best, Alice

Student Email Addresses

Hi Everyone-

We should have email addresses of students out to you later this afternoon. Once you have those a welcome email to students is a great practice.