Monday, December 10, 2012

Pulling it all together!

Good Evening!

As we approach the end of a quarter --- and the end of another year --- now is an excellent time for you to "pull everything together" for your students to really help them see how the course material you have covered over the course of the quarter works together, builds upon one another, and relates to the students' futures.  While these are the connections we definitely want our students to be able to be making, offering some guidance or a little push in that direction can make a world of difference in reaching that goal.

There are a number of ways you can do this with and for your students:
  • In the discussion boards ask questions where you directly reference a current concept and ask students to discuss how it relates to at least one other concept from the course;
  • Ask questions in the discussion boards about how the course information will benefit each student in his/her direct future - whether personally or professionally;
  • Offer a recap email or announcement showing a progression of the course concepts;
  • Create - or better yet, have students create - a mind map of the various course concepts and post for all students to review;
  • Create - or once again, have students create - flash cards for students to study key terms from as they study for a final exam, but instead of just the term definition, also include a reference to a connected term.
These are just a few ideas, the options truly are endless, but the key is to get your students thinking about how the course concepts work students see the big picture of the course as it relates to their programs, to their professions, to their lives.  Definitely require the students' participation in the process, but as the instructor, you can start that journey by guiding students along the right path.

Good luck with the last couple of units and I'll be blogging again come winter!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, December 3, 2012

Academic Customer Service

Our esteemed Dean of Faculty shared with us a great article on academic customer service earlier today.  I'd like to extend on that discussion as it is such an important topic.  Here is another article that I believe offers additional insight and perspective into the importance of embracing this concept and academic customer service approach in our daily teaching.

As the author of the article identifies, this is a quandary for many - but does it really need to be or are we merely looking at the "customer service" entity from too much of a business perspective rather than an educational collaboration?  

"Education should be approached as a collaborative engagement between people in which we each bring  to the table different skills and needs. Students bring insights and perspectives that teachers need to embrace if they are to keep learning. Educators bring deep expertise in their fields that can stimulate student interest and engagement – the basis of learning."

Mr. Hampson's post focuses on the approach he and his colleagues in management took to address customer service needs of students outside of the academic realm so as to make things simple and easy elsewhere- that way, if there were academic customer service issues within the academic realm they may not be as prevalent.  But as Mr. Hampson stated, "It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s certainly better than treating students like crap in the name of academic standards." 

I challenge each of us to take this even further, though, and bring it into the academic realm so that the last statement of "in the name of academic standards" isn't even a thought; rather, let's embrace the educational collaboration perspective...serving our students serves their education, and we are in the business of education. 

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Teachable YouTube, Teachable TED

TED has a great new and free tool that allows instructors to personalize YouTube videos and talks with additional content like discussion questions and links to resources.  Check out this link to learn more about it!

In TED's own words, "TED-Ed's new video tool allows anyone to create video lessons online.  TED-Ed’s new free platform allows anyone to "flip" any video on YouTube by adding custom content to play alongside it, making it possible to turn any piece of video content into a teachable moment."

This is a great new feature and something I could see as having multiple benefits in the online classroom.  I encourage you to give it a try yourself or maybe have students themselves create a "teachable" moment by adding content alongside a video as part of a discussion or project.  The opportunities are limitless.

Let me know what you think and let me know how it goes!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we come upon the Thanksgiving holiday this week, I want to take a moment to say thanks!
  • Thank you to all of you for reading and learning from my blog posts;
  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts, insights, resources with me so that I can share with others through this blog;
  • Thank you for teaching me how to be a better teacher by sharing your thoughts, insights, and resources; and 
  • Thank you to GEN for caring for students, staff, and faculty so that we can focus on educating our students in the best ways possible.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  If you are looking for a fun and inspiring way to embrace Thanksgiving for yourself, I encourage you to check out and take the Gratitude Challenge.

Keep sending me your teaching tips, insights, and resources!

Thank you again,
Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialistgrati

Monday, November 12, 2012

Blogs to Explore

During the main session of last Friday's in-service, several sites were shared as blogs instructors frequent; a request for a repository/listing of them was made, so here is my attempt to share all of them with you.  If I missed some from the chat box, please forgive me and simply let me know and I will add to the list.

Blogs to Explore:

Other great resources for blogs would be on company or product web sites.  And if you are looking for images for a blog article you write, check out Flickr.

For assistance with Search Engine Optimization, Key Words, and to find even more popular blogs, check out Alltop.

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, November 5, 2012

The New Look of Prezi

In the past I have talked about Prezi and how it can turn basic presentations into aesthetically pleasing and engaging experiences.  Well, Prezi has streamlined the process making it even that much easier for you to create a great Prezi presentation!

Click here for the new look and process of Prezi!  And click here to once again see what I've previously shared in terms of the traditional benefit of what Prezi can do for you, for your presentations, and for your students. 

Check Prezi out and let me know what you think of it!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Twiddla This...Twiddla That

Do students work in groups in your class?  Do you want to collaborate with other instructors in your area of teaching?  Are you looking for a free web-based meeting platform - or playground as Twiddla calls theirs - to share with your students or use yourself to make these meetings and interactions more productive and user-friendly? 

Check out what Twiddla is, what it can do for you and your students, the various features it can offer you and your students, and for a chance to try it out for yourself on the public playground.

A key aspect to note is that it is free to students and teachers by following these instructions:   "Sign up for a Free Trial, then send [Twiddla] an email from a .edu address,... and [they'll] hook you with a Pro account free of charge. [They're] at Be sure to include your username!"

Let me know what you think and happy Twiddla-ing!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, October 15, 2012

Prezify Your PowerPoints!

Are you looking for a way to jazz up your publisher created PowerPoint slides?  Why not Prezify them using Prezi's new PowerPoint feature?  You can quickly and easily adapt those static slides into an aesthetically engaging and interactively pleasing presentation using the tutorial and guides found here.

And, if you are really looking to add more value to these slides, you can go one step further by then using Jing or Screencast-o-Matic (I recommend Screencast-o-Matic as there may be some user access changes to Jing in the near future) to record an audio screencast as you go through and guide students through your Prezi PowerPoint.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!!!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Articulate...Expert Perspectives

Welcome to Fall Quarter!

As you embark on the start of the new quarter, I encourage you to surround yourself with fresh ideas and fresh perspectives on e-learning.  To help you do this, I'd like to share a great resource that our Campus Director, Seth Tesdall, shared with me awhile ago.  It is called and I've been following this e-learning community for awhile and find it really interesting and insightful.

To use the words from directly, they deem themselves as E-Learning Heros offering a "high-powered community where you’ll find" David, Jeanette and 107,816 e-learning professionals.

They have:
  • "Step-by-step tutorials for building better courses
  • Fast answers to your e-learning questions
  • Advice and opinions from industry experts
  • Free downloads for your projects"
As you start the new quarter, I encourage you to reach out to this community to get new ideas and new perspectives to then take back with you to your online course(s).

Have a great start to the quarter!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Study tips for Students

It is that time in the quarter when we can help guide our students to various tools in preparing for final exams and final projects.  I've mentioned many different tools in the past that you can access once again by clicking on the appropriate label on the right side of this blog (such as: or online flashcards), but I'd like to share yet another one with you that I have just recently come across.  It is called PocketMod, and it is an ideal option for students who like to have something physical in their hands to study from and review.  As one blogger online put it, he thinks of it as the best and most legit cheat sheet as it is designed to help you prepare and seems like it could be a "cheat sheet," but it isn't; rather, students can create excellent study resources to take on the go and even connect to your PDA. 

Check out the link for PocketMod, share it with your students, and let me know what you think.

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, September 10, 2012

Group work getting you down? Dweeber could be your answer!

Do you have group work built into your online course?  Are you trying to find ways to help your students connect with one another more and maybe even work together in study groups?  Do your students engage in social networking (most likely a definite yes to this last question)?  If you answered yes to any of these, I encourage you to check out Dweeber!

Dweeber is a social networking site created and designed specifically to help students learn and connect to their education on another level.  While it was initially designed for youth, I can see it having many benefits for our students - both traditional college-aged and non-traditional college-aged.  Check out what Dweeber is about; check out the FAQs about Dweeber; and check out what you can do on Dweeber.  It may be a site to share with your students!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Insighting Connections

Good Afternoon!

As I am working with Global Citizenship and Career Capstone students right now, I am in the trenches with Insights and loving every minute of it.  But, as I am helping my Capstone students put the finishing touches on some of the work I'm realizing many have "forgotten" about their Insights work they completed earlier on in their academic careers.  I'm seeing the light bulbs flicker for them in their responses of "great idea, I never thought of using that information in an interview!" or "that is the exact sentence I needed for my cover letter."

Because of this, and since we are rounding the corner and getting closer to the last stretch of the quarter, I thought now would be a great time to send out a reminder of looking at the courses we teach and stepping back for a moment to ask ourselves as instructors "how can I connect this direct course material to the big picture of their education?"  My answer for you, Insights is a great first step!  Simply posing a question in a discussion board, as a topic or even as a single thread, such as:  "How might you gain greater understanding about this strategy at work in the real world by examining it from what you have learned about the four different color energies from your Insights profile?" could help make connections between courses and concepts that otherwise might get missed.  It could work beautifully when talking about organizational leadership, conflict, structure, client communications, and the list goes on.

I challenge you to make the Insights Connection in your class!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, August 20, 2012

Let's get glogging! (What is that by the way?)

Have you glogged?  Do you know what glogging is?  Is your teaching style as creative as it could possibly get?  If you answered "no" to any of these questions, then I encourage you to read on!

A great new teaching resource I have been recently introduced to by Jan Tucker, online adjunct instructor, is GlogsterEDU.  This interactive tool - that has a free account option for instructors - allows you to transform a traditional poster board presentation into an interactive, online poster board presentation that can include text, graphics, pictures, videos and other creative strategies.  I see many great opportunities for this in our online courses. 
  • It could be an excellent tool for creating an instructor welcome/biography presentation such as the one Jan Tucker has started on and is continuing to work on here
  • It could be a fun, interactive and unique way to create a unit lecture
  • It could be a great tool for working with students in creating a study guide for students (you could assign students different components to create and you as the instructor could then compile everything together into a could even be a discussion board focus for a unit)
  • It could be a great tool for synthesizing course material to show students how each unit and each concept is interrelated into a bigger picture.
I encourage you to check GlogsterEDU out, explore what it is all about, give it a try, and let me know what you think!  A huge thank you to Jan for introducing me to this tool!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, August 13, 2012

Gaming...Is There an Educational Benefit?

Gaming...Is There an Educational Benefit?  Well, the authors of this article would say that yes, there most definitely is...and that there isn't just a singular benefit but multiple benefits.  To support this, the authors share with us 20 of the best blogs focused on game-based learning.  This is a very interesting article I encourage you to check out, and I encourage you to delve even deeper into the article by exploring some of the specific blogs themselves.  I plan to address a few of these in future blog posts myself, but I encourage you to check them out for yourselves too.

A huge thank you to Catherine Neset for sharing this article with me!  I, personally, found it very interesting and hope you do as well.

Have a great week!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, August 6, 2012

Real World Connections - Current Events

Last week I discussed the benefit of connecting the course content to real world examples and experiences.  I specifically focused on how showing your own professional connection to the course material can help students really see the course content in a tangible and usable fashion.  I'd like to continue that discussion this week by discussing another great real world connection, current events.

By drawing from what is currently happening in the world, we can help our students see course content in a more global and practical way.  Whether the courses you teach are in general education, business, accounting, legal, medical sciences, technology, or any of the other programs offered, there are unlimited opportunities to find current events relevant to your courses.  A great starting point could simply be checking in to GoogleNews on a regular basis.

How might you then connect the current events to your current unit?  The discussion boards are a great venue for this.  Adding in your own thread to the discussion for a unit could help students think about the topic you are discussing on a broader and/or deeper level.  Brian Craig, Online Paralegal Program Chair, has shared an excellent example of how he has done this in his own classes:

Subject: Constitutional Rights for Animals?

Hi class,
I read a news article on CNN about a lawsuit filed a few months ago by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) claiming that five SeaWorld killer whales are being held in slavery or involuntary servitude in violation of the 13th Amendment. What do you think of this lawsuit? Should animals be afforded constitutional rights? Why or why not? For more information, click on the link below for the article from CNN.

Thanks for sharing this example, Brian!  And if anyone has any questions or examples of their own they'd like to share, please just let me know.

Have a great week!
Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, July 30, 2012

Real World Connections

A couple of weeks ago a fellow instructor was struggling with the desire to incorporate more real world examples into her classroom but not knowing where to get started.  She and I discussed a variety of ideas, but I wanted to incorporate others' thoughts too and share them with all of you.

Jeff Davis, the Business Program Chair for Online, finds both a direct way and an indirect way to make real world connections for his students within his weekly discussion board posts and responses.  And I would say the best way to truly "see" how he successfully does this is by "seeing" some of his responses specifically, so here goes:

Direct method:
In response to a student saying that linear programming could be used in investment portfolio management:  "I can attest to the fact that linear programming is used in this way because I did so this morning.  Specifically, I used it to determine the least-risk portfolio that satisfied a return objective given in an investment policy statement. You can do the reverse as well: find the highest-return portfolio that meets the risk tolerance of the client."

In response to a student discussing the decision making process in regard to going back to work:  "In my work as a financial advisor, I have seen plenty of situations where both adults in a household were working, but it would have been better (sometimes substantially so) for one of them to stay home with the children. This is a very good example to show how important it is to carefully go through each of the decision making steps. You can't assume things on face value such as 'two incomes will be better than one.'"

Indirect method:  "any time you bring new information or current research to the discussion you are showing that you have professional experience"

In response to a student discussing changing asset allocations:  "That's right. Regarding shifting towards bonds when getting closer to retirement, there is a lot of current research suggesting that you shouldn't shift as much towards bonds as people generally think. It's true that in case the stock market goes into a down period, you do want a few years' worth of safe assets to meet expenses. On the other hand, we should remember that if you retire at 67, you are likely to live another 18 years on average. That means that at retirement, there is still part of your portfolio that you won't be needing for 10 or 15 years, so you could potentially stick with stocks for that part for the better growth."

In response to a student discussing risk and the financial crisis:  "Some people did ignore high risk, although I'd say that the bigger problem was that people did not accurately determine the risk level at all. You had the major rating companies giving the highest ratings to pools of bonds that were essentially junk, because they had no understanding of what these pools were made of or what their risks might be. The Big Short by Michael Lewis is an excellent book describing this situation."

In response to a student asking about stock market halts:  "That is correct. Most asset markets have trading halts called circuit breakers that take effect when the market falls by a certain percentage, in order to stop the panic. For example, the rules for the New York Stock Exchange are HERE."  (And he links to the exchange within the discussion).

Thanks Jeff!
These are just a few examples of how we as instructors can deepen our discussion board interactions by demonstrating real world connections for our students while also enhancing our own credibility as their instructors.

A huge "thank you" to Jeff Davis for sharing these great examples with all of us.  I encourage you to try some of these approaches in your own courses.

If you have any questions please let me know.

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

SlideSharing! Capitalizing on the Open Share Network

Are you looking to complement your instructional content with content from other experts?  Are you looking to find new, professional presentation documents to supplement your course material?  If you answered yes to either of these questions, check out SlideShare, the premier open share network.  And to build on Kristen's words from last week, why not use these open shared presentations as a foundation to a new audio lecture you create and add to your course.

Or maybe you already have a great presentation that others could benefit from, use this venue as a means to share your expertise with others too!

Check SlideShare out and let me know what you think!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, July 16, 2012

Capture a Lecture to Capture your Students

This week's post comes from our esteemed Online Dean Of Faculty, Kristen O'Connell:

"Creating an interactive environment in your course is always a crucial component in connecting to your online classroom. Most students choose to take online courses due to their flexibility. This does not mean that online students do not crave the social and auditory interaction that they once had in their residential classrooms. One way to build the bridge between you and your students is to create an audio lecture in your course.

There are many websites that can help you to find the lecture capture software that works best for you. Some of the most popular free sites are:
Jing –>
Screencast-o-matic ->
Echo360 –  Twitter: @Echo360
Prezi:  Twitter: @Prezi

If you find a software that works for you, please share it with us. ☺

Still looking for a reason to create an audio lecture? Keith Bain, the international manager of the Liberated Learning Consortium and an adjunct professor at St. Mary’s University, recently presented at a Faculty Focus online seminar and said, 'At the very simplest level, record your next lecture. At the minimum you can create an auditory based learning object that will greatly enhance learning opportunities for many of your students.' "

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Obvious to You, Amazing to Others"

I came across this YouTube video that I think offers a great deal of insight in a very simple way.  We all have great ideas, but it is often easy to see our own ideas as ordinary or obvious; reminding ourselves of the fact that what might seem obvious to us may very well be viewed as amazing to others is important so we keep striving for creativity and enhancement in our online teaching endeavors.

I  wanted to share this video with you during my last blog post for the quarter in hopes that it may inspire you to take that "obvious" idea you may have been thinking about for awhile and move forward with it in some type of new implementation strategy in your class(es) as you prepare for Early Fall quarter.

If you need some help thinking about some enhancement possibilities, check out the various links on the right side of my blog post.  And, as always, if you give something new a try, let me know how it goes!

I'll "see" you in my blog during Early Fall quarter again!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, June 4, 2012

June 5, 2012

A great resource available to our students that I like to remind instructors of at this point each quarter is our free online tutoring center,!  It truly is an excellent free resource we should be reminding our students about, especially as they work on final papers or projects and prepare for final exams.

Please feel free to share the following tutorial with your students so they can take advantage of this great studying and writing resource: tutorial 

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29, 2012

Good Evening Online Instructors,

I hope you had a nice holiday weekend.  This week's blog post is dedicated to sharing a new tool with you on how you can personalize TED or YouTube lecture links you may add to your courses.  "The free tool located here allows instructors to personalize YouTube videos and talks with additional content like discussion questions and links to resources."   

What a great way to personalize your courses a bit more and tailor these already created lectures to be very course specific for you!  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21, 2012

Good Evening Online Instructors,

This week I'd like to share with you some additional Teaching Tips on Discussion Board facilitation.  These tips come from Cheryl Anderson, our Online Health Care Management Program Chair.   Cheryl shares with us some great ideas for promoting early participation in the discussions, even participation in the discussions, and exemplar presentation in the discussions.  I hope you find her thoughts and insights as beneficial as I do.  If you have any questions or thoughts you'd like to add too, please just let me know.

Tips from Cheryl:
1.  "When the discussion board starts each week, I thank the first learner to post for being the first to post. Encouraging an early start to the discussions is a big positive."

2.  "As I am responding to posts, I will pick those who have no responses first. It seems that a discussion thread with  many posts gathers even more. This means that those who have no responses often do not get read. The same students are often in this 'ignored' group. If I start responding, there is a little momentum going forward. All students then feel included in the discussion."

3.  "I create an 'Exemplar' Discussion thread on the discussion board. I place this near the top of the discussion board. Every week possible, I invite learners who completed excellent assignments to post their assignment to this thread. I invite learners in the grade book as I am grading. It is up to the learner to share themselves. Almost all take great pride in doing this.

Posting exemplar work spurs others to see what is expected or what could be achieved. Those who are striving for excellence try to mirror this same type of scholarly work. Those that are chosen are rewarded for their accomplishments.

I post a personal note in the thread thanking each learner who shared for their nice work."

Thanks and have a great week!
Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 14, 2012

This week's blog post offers an odd perspective that you normally wouldn't hear from me, but I think the following link from The Chronicle of Higher Education offers some interesting food for thought and serves as a good reminder of the importance of writing content quality:  

I wanted to share this article with you now as you may be grading mid-term papers or essay exams from Unit 6.  It can be very easy to get solely focused on APA and mechanics when grading writing documents, because we emphasize these so often (and don't get me wrong...they are important!), but the overall content and critical thinking strategies exemplified in a student's work need equal (if not more) attention too.  As the author of the article states, we need to teach our students the importance of "selecting credible sources, recognizing bias or faulty arguments, paraphrasing and summarizing effectively, and attributing sourced information persuasively and responsibly" ( ).  By doing this, and by emphasizing the importance of proper citations and mechanics, we will be serving our students well.

One final reminder, I am by no means pushing aside the importance of APA or mechanics, and I don't necessarily agree with the author's overall tone and approach, but I do believe he offers some interesting food for thought that can serve as a reminder to all of us about the intricacies and complexities of teaching strong writing skills and grading student work.

If you have any questions let me know.

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, May 7, 2012

May 7, 2012

Good Evening Online Instructors,

This week's "Teaching Tips" offer additional strategies for ways to maximize the benefit of discussion boards for you and your students.

The first tip comes from Nancy Hislop, full-time medical assisting instructor.  Nancy uses the discussion boards as a great way to teach and allow her students to practice proper APA citation formatting.  In Nancy's words:
"I use the discussion boards to help students learn to do APA citations in my classes that have a paper assignment.  I require students to do research for their discussion posts and they have to have citations and source lists in their discussion posts.  I give them the first two weeks to start trying to cite their work and then they do not earn all the points on the discussions if they do not cite their work.  By the time the papers are due, they are pretty good at doing citations."

The second tip comes from Brian Craig, Online Paralegal Coordinator.  Brian likes to bring current events into his unit discussions and often uses Google News to insert key words and locate recent articles pertinent to those key words and topic focal points.

I encourage you to give one or both of these strategies a try in your own discussion boards and let me know how it goes.

Have a great Unit 6 and let me know if you have any questions.

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30, 2012

Good Evening Online Instructors,

This week I'd like to share a "Teaching Tip" with you from Brian Craig, our Online Paralegal Program Chair.  He offers a great, and very simple, strategy for connecting personally with each of your students in the discussion boards.  The strategy Brian uses himself to make sure he responds directly to each student at least once during the quarter is to create a simple Excel spreadsheet with student names in the rows and the unit numbers in the columns.  He then places an "x" in the appropriate cell when he personally responds to that corresponding student's discussion post.  In Brian's words, this can "show that we care about each student."  Thanks for this idea, Brian, and I encourage others of you to give this a try too.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23, 2012

Good Evening Online Instructors,

I received some great responses from last week's blog post where I shared with you one of Sam Osterhout's "Teaching Tips."  I'm so glad you are finding these tips helpful and beneficial.  If you have a tip of your own you'd like to share, please just send it my way!

This week's "Teaching Tip" comes from Catherine Neset.  She shared with me a great article from the American Psychological Association.  This article highlights study strategies to help students at all levels of education succeed.  Catherine has shared this article with her Ethics graduate class and I would like to share it with all of you in case you too, would like to share it with your own students.  The article title is:   Study smart:  Make the most of your study time with these drawn-from-the research tips and can be accessed at

A particularly interesting finding highlighted in the article discusses the importance of interweaving - or mixing - topics and tasks when studying rather than focusing solely on one topic for a long period of time.  As stated in the article, "the mixing — he calls it 'interleaving' — forces students to notice and process the similarities and differences among the things they're trying to learn, giving them a better, deeper understanding of the material" (2012).  By emphasizing this to our students, we can help one another by helping our students see the connection of their course material and thinking more broadly about their education as a whole, which will ultimately help them to be more successful.

I encourage you to check the rest of the article out and share some of these ideas with your own students.

Thanks and have a great week!
Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, April 16, 2012

April 17, 2012

Good Morning Online Instructors,

One of the requests from the end of the year survey I sent out before my maternity leave was for even more teaching tips and tricks in general, so for the next several weeks I will be sharing some specific expert tips with you.  And to help me with this, I have solicited the assistance of your fellow experts in the fields...the online program chairs and full-time faculty members.

The first tip I will be sharing with you comes from Sam Osterhout, a full-time faculty member in the area of General Education (primary focus is on writing courses).  Sam offers a unique and insightful look into a teaching strategy to help open the door to more student-instructor dialogue and to promote a more complete student-content/student-text relationship (I think we can all agree that getting students to read their texts thoroughly and critically can be a challenge at times...Sam's strategy strives to overcome this obstacle). 

So here is the teaching tip for the week, in Sam's words:
"Give them zeroes. This one won't be for everyone, but I've found it helpful recently, particularly for assignments that seek to reinforce a specific skill that is covered by the text. If a student completely misses the mark, I give him or her a zero and tell him or her to revise/redo the assignment after reading the chapter on that topic, and submit it to me via email. If it's done properly, I'll give points for it. Let me give you an example. In composition, there's an assignment that requires the student to write several thesis statements to match several different topics. There's a chapter in the text dedicated to thesis statements. Still, I get some pretty amazingly off-the-mark assignments. On the topic of Pets, I get "thesis statements" like, "Pets. Dogs or cats?" On the subject of higher education, I get statements like, "College - to tell about college?" Clearly, there wasn't a lot of chapter reading going on. I used to give half credit and go to great lengths to give immaculately detailed feedback about what makes a good thesis statement, and how theirs didn't fit that criteria, and suggestions for change. Then I realized I was essentially just rewriting the chapter ten times a week. Additionally, I was doing a lot of the heavy lifting for my students, and while they followed my instructions, they didn't retain much of the lesson. Subsequent thesis statements on subsequent assignments weren't any better. 

Now, for poorly written thesis statements, my feedback is simple: they receive a zero and a note: "You're on your way to a good thesis statement [I always start positive], but this isn't there yet. Reread the chapter on thesis statements, revise this assignment and send it to me, via email, with a note describing why these thesis statements aren't thesis statements. If your revision is effective, I'll give you points."

I find that the zero scares the students into taking action ("This guy's serious!"), and the revisions are usually gleaming jewels of perfection (well, almost). I also find that this opens the door to two-way discussion between me and my student. The revision email thread usually goes back and forth a few times. Imagine that - having a substantive email conversation with your student about thesis statements (or about any subject you teach). It's less work for me in grading, more work in dealing with email, but it's a more effective approach to teaching the concepts that drive my courses. And it builds on my relationships with my students. PS. when you go back into the grade book to add points, leave your original note in the comment box and add something like, "*Revision received via email." This just gives you a paper trail so down the road you won't wonder how you could have ever possibly given the submitted assignment points."

And just to add an additional thought to Sam's suggestion here, I would recommend when you go back into the grade book, that you actually upload a copy of the revised assignment using the Instructor Feedback area so that a copy is retained within CampusConnect too.

If you have any questions on this "Teaching Tip" please let me or Sam know.  And if you have any great "Teaching Tips" you'd like to share with your fellow instructors, please send them my way!

Thanks and have a great week!
Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 10, 2012

Good Morning Online Instructors,

I hope everyone had a smooth start to the quarter and that you are excitedly engaged in working with your course content and your students.  One way to really engage students is by incorporating lectures into the coursework.  We all have varied learning styles in our classrooms and even though we are online we can still work to reach the audio and visual learners just as we would in a traditional classroom, we simply need to use technology to assist with this.  In fact, we have technology on our side to help us with this as there are so many great lectures already prepared and waiting for us to take advantage of by simply clicking a few buttons.  Experts from some of the top schools such as Yale, Berkeley, and Princeton have made their material accessible to the masses and we can share their expertise with our students too.  Here is a link to a compilation of academic lecture repositories.  I encourage you to browse through the sites and lectures and try to incorporate even one new lecture link into your class(es). 

If you have questions on how to add in a link to your class, please let me know, I'd be happy to help.  And if you do add one in, let me know that may be something our curriculum team would like to add to the master course itself.

Thanks and have a great Week 2!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, April 2, 2012

April 3, 2012

Good Morning Everyone and Welcome to Spring Quarter! 

I'm excited to be back in the swing of things and to be working on this blog again.  If you have any ideas for training courses or blog topics you'd like to see discussed or covered at any point, please don't hesitate to let me know.

With it being the first week of a new quarter, I wanted to share a couple of ideas with you on how to personalize your course(s) as a way to really connect with your students, even in the virtual environment.  Creating a strong instructor/student connection from the start sets you and your students up for greater success as the quarter progresses.

When welcoming your students in Unit 1, why not add in some personal flare to show your students who you are as a person in addition to you as their instructor.  In fact, research has shown that when students connect with their instructors, they are that much more motivated to succeed as they don't want to let their instructors down (and the students benefit greatly from this in the long run).  While connecting in the virtual environment may be more difficult, it is even that much more important because it is virtual, so I encourage you to brainstorm ways to show the "human" side of you as their instructor as you welcome them into your class(es).
Here are some ideas to hopefully help you spark some ideas of your own:
  • A video introducing yourself
  • An audio message introducing yourself
  • A picture montage set to your favorite music selection using Animoto
  • Creating a fun and quirky Xtranormal video where you have one of the Avatars representing you giving a self-introduction
  • A Prezi slide show
  • Options are endless - simply start brainstorming your ideas
Personally this quarter I am using this Prezi Presentation and my Course Tutorial video to share some additional things about me and my course expectations.

I hope these ideas spark some additional ideas for you as ways to connect with your students.  If you try something out, let me know how it goes!

Thanks and have a great rest of the first week!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, January 9, 2012

January 9, 2012

Good Morning Online Instructors,

Last week I blogged about Parade of Games and the great "learning game" options you can create for your students through this site.  Another great site to help you create "learning games" for your students is PowerPoint Games.  There are a number of PowerPoint Game templates available to you on this site that you can tailor to your own teaching needs.  These could be a great option for helping students study for exams or solidify course content comprehension.  It may even be a site you'd like to share with your students so they can create their own games for studying.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

January 4, 2012

Welcome to 2012 and Winter Quarter!  I hope everyone had a nice and relaxing holiday season!

As we start a new quarter, I encourage you to challenge yourself to enhance your courses through various technology resources available.  Connecting with our students through various technology enhancements helps us to connect with them on their playing field.  For the younger generations, in particular, many are used to "learning" through "playing."  Implementing "learning games" into your coursework is a great option to help students engage with and comprehend the course material on a deeper level.

A great "leaning game" option is the use of the website Parade of Games.  

Using their own words, "The Parade of Games web site was created to provide educators and trainers with easy-to- assemble educational games in a technology-enhanced environment to support key learning points.   The site demonstrates the creative use of popular game shows and other familiar games to reinforce learning."
I encourage you to check this site out, give one of the game formats a try with your students (they are really easy to use!), and let me know what you think.

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist