About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Improving online interaction

I was asked to give a presentation on improving interaction for online courses. This is a very complex question. The answer lies in research that has been done in online learning, social psychology, distance or online education, communication (including interpersonal, group, and CM communication), and even organizational development. This blog post will give a basic overview of the problems, barriers, factors, and concepts most researchers agree upon. Later next week, I will upload in-depth posts on choice of technology and its affect on interaction (including private, public, and personal interaction), instructional design to maximize online interaction, types of interaction and their purposes, and models of interaction for learning (including organizational learning).

In a previous paper, I identified 4 factors that affect online interaction: Technology, community, instructional constraints, and time.


Many times, instructors have limited choices of technology type. Because of privacy issues, many US universities and organizations require instructors to use learning management systems (LMS) that allow for privacy. However, these same technologies may limit interaction. For example, Blackboard discussion boards may be difficult for students to identify when a new thread has been started. This would result in discussion that favors one discussion over another because students (or even instructors) are unaware of new information. These more structured LMS tend to structure instruction as two way rather than multiple interaction. On the other hand, Adobe Connect, with audio presentation and chat functions that can be used simultaneously, allow for multiple conversations. However, for some students this can be chaotic.

LMS's also tend to promote "formal" interaction rather than informal. The devise that an individual accesses class interaction can also affect how "public", "personal", or "private" the interaction may be perceived. Even using the same software, an email may appear more private if received on a smartphone than when it is received on a public computer. This might change the way in which a person interacts, either becoming more formal (or informal), more open (or more private) depending on the technology used.

Finally, the level of support, comfort with technology, and reliable access can influence how successful students can interact with other students or their instructor. Students located internationally or in rural areas may not have access to high speed internet. There may also be compatibility problems that affect student participation.


Different programs create different types of learning communities and different communities of practice. The expectations of these communities, a student's ability to relate to the community or know of community norms, and the ability to participate within the discourse community all affect interaction. Students who lack confidence may tend to be "lurkers" who are afraid or, at least, reluctant to participate. They may feel that they will be rejected if they participate or they may not want to belong to community due the perception that they are have a different culture or style.

Instructors may need to develop (with the class) communication norms so that all students are working from the same set of rules. In addition, an instructor may need to help create a safe environment to work and learn through interaction at the individual, group, and class levels.


This is an aspect of interaction that is often overlooked. In face to face interaction, two people can interrupt, read visual cues, and straighten out misunderstandings within a short time span. Interaction online (even if it is through video) may take more time and may be more difficult to follow. On the other hand, there is more time for planned interaction and responses. Instructors can ask for a deeper level of reflection. Another barrier to online learning may be a difference in time zone. As a result, any interaction might take longer to develop. There is also a greater chance of losing motivation during the interaction.

Two ways in which instructors and instructional designers can help to overcome these barriers is to assign facilitators and due dates. It is important for all members of the class to remember the time differences and ensure that times are posted with time zones. Related to time zones are the outside pressures to an online student. There may be work, family, or other activity pressures that limit the time when students and instructors are available. Therefore, it becomes important that there are clear expectations for predictable times within which interaction will take place.

Instructional Constraints

I have taught in Language, Communication, Education, Research, Globalization, Marketing, and Business departments. Some are quantitative in content, some are skill based, some are qualitative, some have static content, some have content that is changing AS I was teaching. I have also taught short term intensive weekend courses, hybrid courses, online courses, workshops, full length year long courses, courses with standardized content, courses which are customized...really any type of configuration you can think of.

In each of these instances, there were some shared givens: well thought out goals and objectives, assessments that matched the course goals and objectives, a student, and a well thought out instructional design appropriate for the student and assessment/goals/objectives.

However, due to the variability of courses, there may need to be different types of interaction. The Community of Inquiry (developed by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer) is one model commonly used as a jumping off point. The model looks at the intersection of social presence, teacher presence, and cognitive presence. Factors such as student experience, previous knowledge, learning environment, external and internal resources, and even culture and language all can have an effect on course interaction.

Improving Interaction

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing some suggestions on how to deal with the factors I discussed here. I will look at research from various disciplines and give some concrete suggestions on how to improve the interaction in an online course at the individual, group, and course level.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Just in Time Teaching #adjunctchat September 9

We've all been there. Either the last minute call asking us to pick up a class (that perhaps we've never taught) or not having a class prepared because of a last minute emergency at home or our other job. How do we handle it?

First, the nature of adjunct/contingent work makes us more likely to get that last minute call when someone quits unexpectedly. On the one hand, many of us feel that this is a favor we can't turn down. If we do this favor, they may give us more/better classes or better times. This may even be a way to connect with the department for tenure track positions. On the other hand, this means we start classes behind. Being given a class last minute means you may not be able to choose the text or even change the syllabus. So the first question is:

1) When do you say yes to a last minute teaching request? What are the pros and cons of saying yes or no.

Once you have committed yourself to teaching the course, what are some ways to get prepared quickly? I use other syllabi. Most universities have syllabi on record from previous semesters. This is always good starting point. However, for me it is important that I make the syllabus my own. I usually will take the text if one has already been ordered because it is too difficult to stop the process. It is important not to teach from the textbook, though. I like to divide my courses into 4 or 5 modules throughout the semester (from my online teaching days). This allows me to group together concepts and readings so readings don't have to be taught sequentially. I also look for other universities' syllabi for teaching/assignment ideas. This has been very successful for my own teaching. Why reinvent the wheel when you have limited time?

So the second question for discussion is:

2) How do you get prepared quickly for a class you have just been given? What resources are available? What instructional design process do you use?

Of course, if you are given a teaching assignment last minute, you may find you are one chapter ahead of the students, especially when it comes to specialized vocabulary used in a text or creating assessments (quizzes, tests, assignments, projects). Many of us who are teaching a course we have been given a while ago may also come to class without knowing what they are going to do for that class. Life happens. Illness, family responsibilities (both younger and older members of the family), outside work, research, conferences, weather, etc...

Even worse for adjuncts are when you have something prepared but are not able to use it. How many of you have taken the wrong bag or forgotten your notes somewhere else? Many of my colleagues admit to having gone to the wrong school or gotten the time wrong (for the day they had to teach) when they work at multiple locations. They also had the wrong class prep at the wrong location. Then there are the times when technology fails, especially for those working early morning or late a night when there is no technical support. The third question for discussion is:

3) What has caused you to be ill-prepared in class? How did you manage it?

I have a few types of activities that I have prepared in case I'm not prepared for the class. These usually student generated (i.e. make up their own jeopardy questions which the rest of the class needs to answer or spending the class time working in teams creating a presentation on the topic). I also am a great believer in games and "playing". In my case, games and simulations work well in the fields of communication, management, education, ESL, and marketing (the fields I've taught in). However, I think it could work in other fields also. It is a great way to assess students and allow students to learn in more ambiguous environments.

4) What are some "go to" activities you use if you can't use the lesson you had prepared? What about activities in the case where you aren't prepared for a class?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Best Practices with Mobile Tech: #adjunctchat Tuesday, July 15

Mobile Technology is here to stay.  It is a fact of academic life.

Many of us may try to resist integrating mobile technology into our classrooms. However, the fact is that it is now a part of our students' lives and it is something as teachers we need to think about whether we work in a traditional classroom or online. What are some ways in which mobile technology has changed the classroom?

First, there is the positive ways. Students have access to information on their mobile devises which can broaden the curriculum. Instructors no longer have to rely on outdated information and can bring in topical issues. This is true of all majors. Another advantage is that higher education students can be sent out of the classroom to learn, observe, and experience what they are learning in context. I often use my class time to send students out and observe while keeping in touch via mobile technology. Using technology in the classroom also helps the instructor to give instant feedback as students work in class. I am able to point to different resources or help students learn how to navigate through information, developing their information literacy, communication, and critical thinking skills.

Outside of class, students can contact their instructor or TA outside of office hours. This is especially important for adjuncts and contingent faculty who may not have access to offices or private spaces for discussion. And new mobile technologies allow for more natural conversation through facetime, skype, or google hangouts. I also am able to update my students, giving them access, through mobile apps for programs such as Trello.com, edmodo, googledocs, youtube or blackboard, to updated resources, feedback, and assignments. Finally, for "temporary" faculty, students can maintain a relationship once a faculty member has left the university. Social networking sites such as facebook or linkedin allows faculty to maintain that relationship which can be a reciprocal relationship for graduate school and employment. I will check in with my former students when I'm revising my classes to get real world feedback so my course stays relevant.

However, more often than not, faculty know the downside of mobile technology. Students become distracted with their technology and social media, neither listening to the instructor or classmates (if they do happen to be focusing on class work) nor being engaged in the class (checking email, messages, or facebook or even studying for another class). For an instructor it is difficult to know when a student is taking notes on their mobile device or communicating with someone outside of class (although grins during a discussion of marketing law are a dead give away).

There are also technology difficulties, such as the digital divide (those who have more advanced technology compared to those that don't), power outages, access to wifi (or lack of access), lack of support for individual devices, and incompatibility with other digital devices. Many faculty members are not confident to use technology that they either are unfamiliar with or have no academic support for. In addition, designing activities for effective use of mobile technology in the classroom may be time consuming as there may be technology testing and training used. For example, there are different designs for smartphone use, tablets, and laptops. Smartphones require a different format than computer based content. In addition, each screen shot on a small mobile device can be linked but normally can't be seen as a whole product.

Finally, the ability for students to reach an instructor 24/7 can lead to an adjunct or part-time instructor interacting with students above and beyond the time for which they are paid. Students rarely distinguish between a tenured, full-time, or part-time instructor and may expect unlimited access.

In this week's #adjunctchat, we will trade some best practices for using mobile technology (m-learning) both in traditional classes and online classes. We will look at the use of mobile technology in academics as a whole and the challenges for adjuncts specifically.

1) Do you allow the use of mobile technology in your courses? Why or why not?
2) What are some challenges in using mobile technology (especially for adjuncts/contingent faculty)
3) How might you integrate mobile technology into your teaching?
4) What boundaries do/might you need to create for effective use of mobile technology with your students?
5) What resources would you like to have when developing activities, resources, instructional design, technology for mobile use in the classroom?

This discussion is open to anyone interested in mobile technology in the classroom. I'll try to put up some links of examples I've used in my classes.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Adjuncts doing research Adjunctchat April 8

One of the common myths in society is that only tenure track faculty or Phd students who are forced to do research are doing so at universities.  In fact, many adjuncts either want to or are doing research, in some cases on their own, in other cases as part of a full time job out of the academy.

However, there are a number of issues that come up. If adjuncts aren't being paid for the work, then should they have control over their work? If that is the case, do they have to get approval from the IRB if they aren't using students as participants? How do they handle "school affiliation" that a growing number of journals require when they they have conducted the research over two or more different locations?  How can adjuncts  overcome their "research itch?"  

In this week's adjunctchat, we'll be discussing how adjuncts can do research, get funding, and trouble shoot problems if they want to continue doing research (inside and outside academia).

Monday, March 31, 2014

What do adjuncts do? #adjunctchat April 1

A few weeks ago, I read something that made me think of this topic.  I'm sorry I didn't save the link, but someone stated, "If we were lawyers, we would get paid for billable hours."  This got me to thinking, what if we as education professionals, started billing for the work we did as accountants, lawyers, or even "trainers" (who ARE educators, by the way, even though there are some who continue to make the division) do?  What if our contracts were to deliver a service, but we could charge more for larger classes (training contract put a cap on maximum class size), tailoring classes or classes we have not taught before (so prep), office hours, administrative work such as inputting grades, writing recommendations or calculating midterm grades for students who need them or verification of progress, making copies of course material, grading student work (which means all of the innovative new ways of teaching requiring more advanced means of assessment or faculty teaching writing courses would get paid more because of the required extra hours) or research in which the school's name is used in a journal or conference (this is part of school image after all).

So, the problem as I see it is two fold: 1) Adjuncts/contingents don't get paid for all that they do; and 2) most people (except for adjuncts and some department heads & faculty) are unaware of all the work an average adjunct does and does not get paid for.

Over the last week or so I've collected some blog posts and reports about the work situation for adjuncts which are finally coming to light.  However, there is still little information and actual data on adjuncts.  So my adjunctchat (Tuesday, April 1 at 4PM  Eastern Standard Time) will look at the information gap about adjuncts and how we can address that.

Some of the questions I'd like to discuss include:

1) How are adjuncts/contingents/teaching assistants identified and used in higher education? Are there differences in unionized/non-unionized, public/private institutions, community colleges/colleges/research universities, or regions/countries?

2) What are the requirements and hiring practices for adjuncts? How is this different from Tenure Track? How is this different from other part time employees? How is this different from contract professionals?

3) How can we make hiring and the work adjuncts do more transparent? How can be begin to publicize the real adjunct work (rather than the public image of an adjunct some experience in the class-but not necessarily an academic degree- popping into to class to lecture 1-3 times a week and giving the class 2 pre-developed standard tests created by the publisher or a tenure track professor, which is graded by machine)?

4) How much time per class per semester do you contribute to class, service, and research?  How can we gather this information so it is not just a self reported guestimate but is methodically collected (I'm thinking there's got to be an app out there)?

I hope you can make this.  It would also help if we could begin to get some additional participants outside of the US and Canada as I think other countries are beginning to be pressured to accept this adjunct/contingent" model which has creeped into the US and is beginning to move into the Canadian system.  If we have data, academics around the world can begin to push back so there is a more equitable system of pay and work.

Conjob (video)
Congressional Report: The just in time professor
Portrait of part-time faculty by CAW
CUPA-HR Professionals in Higher Education Salary Survey
Just visiting
Adjunctaction Town Meeting
Chronical's Vitae Adjunct stats
Columbia Professors fired after yrs as contingents
UK policy makers getting more data from private sector rather than unis
In case people buy that this is a new problem, read this article from 1995

Please tweet me or add in the comment section any other resources you might have.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Integrating service learning and blogs into communication courses

In a recent twitter conversation with Mike Morrison at RapidBI, I mentioned that I felt the current unemployment rate for teen in the US was having an impact on the skills students were coming in with. It used to be that students would learn work skills on the job in low level entry level jobs. These skills included basic jobs skills such as understanding what is expected in a job (being on time, dressing correctly, knowing when to take initiative, knowing when to ask questions, understanding chain of command in a given work situation, company culture), communication skills (interacting with irate customers, problem solving, finding and giving information), and self regulation (taking responsibility for actions, changing behaviors to fit corporate culture, interacting with coworkers, taking initiative). All of these skills can be learned (with support from workplace mentors and training structures) on the job. However, what happens when teens no longer have access to these types of jobs?

My background (as many who read my blog know) is in experiential learning. This means that I am always trying to figure out how to give my students real life situations that they can learn within and try out new skills without the fear of failing the class. I use Kolb's model: experience, reflection, generalization, experimentation. For me, the biggest challenge is to find real life situations that my students can use (simulations are nice, but there is not the same level of complexity and lack of predictability for my students to feel the discomfort of "not knowing" what they are doing, yet having others rely on their work). So, for the last 3 years, I have had my students do various types of service learning projects.

This semester, I have also decided to have them blog about the projects. There are two reasons for this: 1) It forces them to reflect on the project beyond the required documents they are required to produce, and 2) They are publicly accountable for the project.

The Projects

This semester, I am teaching two different levels of group communication. The lower level focuses on understanding group processes and developing communication skills (writing and oral) for effective group processes. I have students working in two different groups throughout the semester simultaneously so they understand how different groups, group purposes/tasks, and communication requirements will result in different group processes and challenges. One of the projects is an open service learning project in which students must work 5 hours per person (i.e. 20 hours for a group of 4, 25 hours for a group of 5) with a non-profit organization. They must keep me informed first by writing a project proposal, then creating a group code of conduct, submitting a progress report, writing a description of their project on a service learning blog, and writing a final report which includes evidence of their hours/work (i.e. letter from organization they work with, receipts, schedule). I allow students to choose whichever organization they want to work with, but they must propose the work and organization and get it approved by me before they start the work.

The second class I teach is an upper level class that focuses on group leadership. For this class, students were given 5-6 books to start off with, and then collect 4 more books per person (20 for a group of 5, 24 for a group of 6). Next they need to find an organization to donate the books to that is outside of our region. Once a week, they are given a different task to complete to help them find books, find an organization to donate to, and deliver the books to the organization (outside of our region). This project may include fund-raising for postage or soliciting various groups for books that are related to the organization to which they are donating.

In both cases, students will be asked to document their work and then create a blog which can be used by the university, the students (for future jobs), and the organizations they are working at (for more publicity and perhaps future contributions and help).

What My Students Learn

Over the last 3 years that I have done these service projects, my students initially are resistant in doing the projects. Many complain that it requires too much outside time with their busy schedules. However, by the end of the semester, the majority are very pleased to have participated and many continue to do the volunteer work started through this class. In addition to being a resume builder, students believe that this project gave them a realistic experience in which they learned to communicate. They were able to use the tools they were taught in class and reflect on their impact on communication in a real world experience. Many students have indicated that they have used those same tools in subsequent internships. They also feel more confident in using the communication skills because they have had to use them in a comparatively low risk situation (the service project) yet being held responsible for using them in a real life situation.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Distributed groups and mobile technology

A short history

Twenty years ago, I was working on a management training program for Hungary. The program, funded by USAID,the Pew Foundation, and USIA, was headquartered in the State University of New York's Office of International Programs in Albany, drawing on the resources of 26 campuses (university centers, colleges, technical colleges, and community colleges). In addition to the program headquarters, the program had a Center for Private Enterprise in Budapest which worked with affiliates in 3 provincial towns/cities as well as Budapest and a program group at the University of Buffalo (a SUNY research university). Each group had its own way of working, and my job as project manager was to coordinate it. We used faxes, conference calls, carriers, overnight/express mail, and towards the end, we were in the dawn of the internet, learning how to "program" emails, routing them through university servers from the US, to Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, finally sending them to universities in Hungary who would hand deliver them to our Budapest offices.

Distributed groups back then required a core group through which communication would pass. If technology or even a vital member of the group was missing, the work of the group could be delayed for days or even weeks. While the majority of work being conducted was in English, Hungary was just coming out of the cold war years, so English was not a commonly spoken language. Due to Hungary's history as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, many spoke German as a second language. As the only German speaker in the group (and then it was limited), this meant that I needed to be available in case we had to communicate with the Center's clerical staff, who were in the process of learning English. I would go in many mornings for conference calls or our Center's managerial staff would have to stay late because of the time difference.

Fast forward to 6 years later, when I was asked to come to take over a project that was ending. There had been 2 previous project managers before me who had been moved to take over other more important projects. Again, this was a USAID funded project, but this time there was a head of project on the ground who handled most of the logistics. My role as Project Director was mostly administrative: financial approvals, budgets, report writing, communicating with the funding agent, writing contracts, making travel arrangements outside of Paraguay. By this time, however, we were communicating via computer (desktop dial up internet). In addition, the Head of Project had a cell phone that we could reach when he was not in the office (either at onsite training or after hours during the summer when there was a 2 hour time difference).

This helped distribute the power between the distributed group so there did not have to be one central location for decisions. In addition, the internet made communication more efficient as an email could be left overnight for someone to access the next day. However, due to the computer still being tied to a line, if a person was away from the office for any length of time, a colleague would need to access and review their emails. Our office, while multilingual, at times would not have a language specialist to translate correspondence. I was recruited a number of times to translate for our projects in Brazil and Mozambique because I could decipher Portuguese. However, we had to have emails written in Russian either translated into English, put on hold for our Russian speaker to return, or forward the email to another location for the Russian speaker to access. While some work could be distributed, the technology still required some central coordination. In addition, it was still time consuming.

How has mobile technology affected distributed groups?

So how are things different, 14 years later? Even the fact that I am aware of what my former colleagues are doing is a difference. I can keep up with their work peripherally through the web, facebook, and linkedin. When I asked one of my former colleagues for a letter of recommendation, she gave me her cell phone number. She might have been out of the country, but she checked her messages and email via cell phone when needed. She would bring her computer so she could work on projects while she was out of the country. This meant that for more urgent matters, she could make decisions that needed immediate attention. Of course, this also means she is multi-tasking more and team members may know less than they did before if she decides not to share her knowledge or information.

In a recent chapter I wrote about mobile technology, researchers (Ladner, 2008; Julsrud & Bakke, 2009) found that there is a blurring of the lines between work and home life. While a member of management may have more flexible time (as my colleague now has), he or she may also have more time taken out of their home life/leisure time as they are expected to be "on call" and available at all times in case of emergency. My dissertation also had evidence that the more important members of a distributed group are those that can "translate" information from one group to another. In this case, translate was not only to put into terms that others can understand, but also the language and cultural foundations needed to communicate across borders.

Distributed groups means that employees are working with other team members that they may never have met face to face. In any work team, individuals want to present a social identity that will make collaboration easier. In addition, a team prospers from members accessing the social and knowledge networks of other group members. Wallis and Law & Peng found workers controlled their identities in the workplace through mobile phone filters such as turning off the phone, limiting who had their phone number (including trading phones to get a new phone number, thus cutting off access to those with whom they did not want to communicate), and developing contact lists on their mobile phone. They developed different communication strategies for different social groups to limit how they presented their social identities for different contexts. The mobile technology gave them agency to communicate and behave as required by their social/knowledge networks (distributed group) and context. My own research supports this, with members of distributed groups sharing or withholding information depending on their perception of how their knowledge was valued within a group. The mobile phone allows group members to access knowledge and social networks, but either publicly (i.e. conference call, social media space), privately (texting, email) or personally (sharing texts or emails if they appear of value, yet acknowledging ownership to the individual rather than the group).

Mobile technology also allows the social networks related to distributed groups to create new in-group norms and values from those of the departments, social groups, or communities in which they work and live. A third culture that superseded their physical environment(s) can be created through mobile interaction within their social networks. Portus (2008) had these findings in her study on mobile phone use in the Philippines. This is a common outcome of distributed groups (Julsrud & Bakke , 2009), which mobile technology helps to maintain. Mobile technology allows for different pathways for interaction, group development, team culture and relationship building, and knowledge sharing.


Julsrud, T. E., & Bakke , J. W. (2009). Trust, friendship, and expertise: The use of email, mobile dialogues, and SMS to develop and sustain social relations in a distributed work group. In R. Ling, & S. Campbell (Eds.), The reconstruction of space and time: Mobile communication practices (pp. 159-190). New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

Ladner, S. (2008). Laptops in the living room: Mobile technologies and the divide between work and private time among interactive agency workers. Canadian Journal of Communication, 33, 465-489.

Law, P., & Peng, Y. (2008). Mobile networks: Migrant workers in Southern China. In J. Katz (Ed), Handbook of mobile communication studies (pp. 55-64). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Portus, L. (2008). How the urban poor acquire and give meaning to the mobile phone. In J. E. Katz (Ed.), Handbook of mobile communication studies (pp. 105-118). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Wallis, C. (2011). (Im)mobility mobility: Marginal youth and mobile phones in Beijing. In R. Ling, & S. Campbell (Eds.), Mobile communication: Bringing us together and tearing us apart (pp. 61-82). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Wallis, C. (2013). Technomobility in China. New York: New York University Press.

Yonkers, V. (2012). The effect of workplace collaborative writing on the development of knowledge within distributed groups. Dissertation. University at Albany. Available on Proquest.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Teaching undergrads how to write an analysis.

My students have been accepted into our university through a competitive vetting process. Many are top in their schools which vary from large urban, to small rural, to large centralized rural, to small town, to well-endowed suburban. They are the product of the current testing environment of K-12 which in New York state means they have had to write essays since 3rd grade (whether it is developmentally appropriate is another question). So I would expect that they would have at least minimally good writing skills. While many are able to string together content in a grammatically correct manner, over the last five years I have noticed their perplexed looks when I ask them to write an analysis. They can report, they can describe, but they have not been trained to analyze and support their writing with relevant examples and content from assigned readings.

So this year, I decided I would teach all my classes how to write an analysis. This is the type of writing businesses are complaining graduates are lacking. After reading Deanna Mascle's lastest blog post asking what we as teachers are doing to teach writing, I decided to share the document I created to help explain to my students how to write an analysis. Feel free to share this.

How to write an effective analysis

An analysis takes concepts we’ve learned in class and the assigned readings and applies them to activities we do in class. In the analysis you will:

• Draw some of your own conclusions
• Support those conclusions with examples from the readings and your own experience

This is probably different from other academic writing you have done which either is a description or a reflection (your own opinion). However, this is a very important skill to have when you enter the workforce.


As you do the assigned reading for class, identify some of the key concepts from the reading. You may note these down on evernote, word, or a trello.com card. After you have completed the readings assigned for the analysis, review your notes. Are there any common themes? You may come up with 1-3 themes for the readings as a whole.

Example: Group development is difficult; communication can make or break a group; getting things done in a group is complex.

Once you have your theme, review your readings again and identify what the authors have written about your theme. Identify specific examples/quotes from the reading that discuss the theme and highlight them. Now reviewing the highlighted section, think of your experience both in class and outside of class. What conclusions can you draw about the content learned in class in relation to those themes you identified? You may find that the readings contradict themselves or your experience. What is your explanation for this?

Example: Teams that work on a structured task may not go through stages of development, but teams that are working on more social tasks will. According to Tuckman, our group activity should not have been easy to accomplish because our group was in the forming stage (one of Tuckman’s stages). However, we were able to accomplish it because we have worked on similar projects in the past. Our group was more like Gersick’s teams because our task was so structured. So the communication did not rely on our feelings towards the other team members but rather we shared specific information to achieve the task.
You should integrate all of the assigned readings into the analysis.

Some guidelines

If you use information from one of the readings, you should identify it (for the analysis you may, but don’t have to, formally cite the information, but you must identify the author’s name as in the example above*.)

1)Don’t describe or reword the reading. However, you may use quotes or identify concepts from the reading.

Poor example: (Don’t do this)
Tuckman’s 5 stages of group development are forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjoining. In forming, groups will introduce each other.

Notice this does not have any examples that demonstrates that you understand what happens in each stage, nor does it have any of author’s conclusions about group formation and communication.

Good example: (Do this)
Groups communicate differently as they develop as Tuckman observed. Our group started off introducing ourselves and tried to learn about each others strengths and weaknesses.

In this example, the author identifies Tuckman’s article and gives examples that support the author’s conclusion that groups communicate like Tuckman wrote.

2)Don’t just give your opinion. You want to put in your analysis, but your analysis should be based on experience and your understanding of the reading.

Poor example: (Don’t do this)
I think groups should introduce themselves to get the group going. We did this and it helped us to complete the activity.

There is no supporting information from the reading, nor is there anything about conclusions the author has made about group communication.

Good example: (Do this)
As Tuckman wrote in his article, introducing yourself to your group members helps to set the atmosphere for effective group communication from the beginning. Setting this atmosphere helps to establish trust. When we did our first activity, we started to create trust using the same methods outlined in Antony’s article (establishing rules for speaking, setting an agenda, giving due dates).

Notice how the author gives the opinion that setting the atmosphere created trust, but supported it with information from both readings and the group’s experience.

3)Make sure your writing uses college level writing standards including, making sure the paper is typed (double spaced), stapled or paper clipped, proper grammar, paragraphs, capitalization and punctuation. Also, you should check for spelling errors, sentence structure (no fragments or run on sentences). Any information taken word for word from a reading should be in quotes with the page number following.

Remember to put your name and the class number at the top. You may also want to number the pages in case pages fall off.

Getting Started

Often students ask me how to begin. One way to start your analysis is to develop a research question which your analysis will answer. It is possible that an instructor may give you the "prompt" to use, but most of the time we will only give you a topic. So take that topic and create a question that you think the professor or you want to answer about that topic. The best questions will use question words such as how or why. These question words will help you to write a paper that is more than just a description. You can also use that question to begin a conversation with your instructor if you are not sure you have understood the assignment. An instructor will know what you are thinking of if you bring a How or Why question than it you say simply, I don't understand the assignment.

For example: Topic is group communication in teamwork.

A good question: How does group communication help or hinder a team's work processes? Why do some types of group communication help a team to be productive and others hinder it?

A poor question: What is good communication? Does group communication help teamwork?

Notice in the poor questions that the answer would tend to be simple and descriptive, whereas the good questions require you to think and make some generalizations about the topic.

Notes: *While an academic paper would require formal citations, I'm trying to teach my students how to write a "professional" analysis that may be used in the workplace. Most workplaces would not require (or even want) formal citations with a full bibliography, however, I think it is important to train students to identify where their information is coming from. This means they should use a modified citation in which the author and perhaps date are identified in text or as a "source". For some of my writing assignments I do require an approved citation method, which most are adept at (at least in one method, either MLA or University of Chicago).

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Why I like Edmodo

For the last few years I have been using Edomodo.com in my classes.  I use it for discussions and for my students to upload assignments.  We have an LMS for the university but I don't like using it as it is very UNFRIENDLY for users and sometimes just takes too much effort.  We don't have technical support for Edmodo, but we now have minimal support for the LMS as more people are encouraged to use it but the number of support positions have stayed the same (3 dedicated positions for a university of 10,000 students).

So what do I like about Edmodo?

  1. I, the teacher, have control over features like accessing material and who can access it.  I can set different privacy settings for different materials and who sees it when.  For example, I can create a group project and send access information to group leaders without other group members being able to see the material.  I can then do an in-class activity in which only the leaders have in the information until the activity has been completed, then I can show the entire class the information after.  This helps in teaching concepts in which I want students first to try out concepts, make mistakes, come up with their own analysis, and then compare it to what research says should have happened.  In other words, I'm able to teach critical thinking and problem solving skills.
  2. It used to be that students would have a technical problem and I'd have to send them to the help desk.  Students perceived this as my not knowing what I was doing.  The fact was I had no control over many of the technical problems they had.  Now, I can reset passwords (edmodo allows the instructor to do that), check student status and what they have uploaded or not, and create/modify groups.  Of course, this also means that when there is a technical problem, I'm on my own.  However, I have found the support/help function very responsive.
  3. I like that I can create something ahead of time but schedule the time and date for it to go "live".  I now preview a question of the day and then have the "assignment" come up live after class with the answer.  This means my students are more prepared to extend themselves in class and go back after class if they got an answer wrong (fits well into a flipped classroom).
  4. My students LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the mobile app.  I love the fact that I can have notifications sent to my school email when students post.  And it is not just that they have posted, but I can read the posts so I know if there is a problem right away or just something to handle when I have time.
Like any software, there are some things I don't like about Edmodo.

  1. There is no syllabus creation function.  I will always miss the syllabus function of Prometheus/Early WebCT which allowed you to put dates in, days of the week you taught, even holidays and then it populated your syllabus form automatically with dates for classes that you could then input readings, assignments, and even an overview for each class.  Since Edmodo was created with the K-12 user in mind, I'm surprised they don't have this feature.
  2. My students that use Mac's have had some interaction difficulties.
  3. The mobile app is great for the students but more limited for teachers.  I wouldn't mind a separate "teacher's" mobile app.
  4. I'd like them to improve their attachment ability in the "notes" section.  It works well in the assignments section, but not so much in the notes section.
  5. There is constant upgrading.  It would be nice to have a newsletter when this happens with instructions or a training video.
Overall, I would strongly recommend Edmodo for anyone looking for a safe alternative to facebook but more user friendly access than many LMS's provide.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The challenges and strategies for online adjuncts: Adjunctchat Jan 21, 2014

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the possibility of all classes going online and MOOC's (Massive online courses)replacing the traditional classroom. A result has been a backlash in which many still believe that online learning is not as effective as face to face learning (despite the body of work that proves that online learning, if done correctly, has no significant difference to learning outcomes than face to face traditional learning. Add to this that many of the online faculty are adjunct and their is a second layer of challenges online learning adjunct faculty have.


As an occasional online (and traditional) instructor, an instructor teaching "Distance Learning", and adjunct for 25 years, I still come in contact with misconceptions about online learning, including:

  • Online learning instructional design is the same as traditional in-class instructional design
  • Plagiarism/academic dishonesty is easier with online learning
  • All online learning is the same and can be used for any subject
  • Online instruction is easier/less time consuming than face to face instruction
  • Any course can be put online (including same content and class size)
  • Online instruction will allow for more courses with the same number of inputs (instructors, IT) and in some cases reduces instructional costs
  • Any student can do well in an online class as long as the instructor is competent
So, for those of you who have never taught an online class, here is the reality:

  • Most online learning is broken up into modules which allows for more individualized learning over a longer period of time.  In addition, because of the lack of social cues, there has to be some differences in how content is presented and there usually is a greater level of "use" of the content than in a traditional lecture.  There is at least 15 years of good research which has resulted in a variety of instructional design.  However, incorporated in the instructional design is a built in structure required by LMS's (Learning Management Systems such as Blackboard or Angel).
  • Plagiarism is no more prevalent than in a traditional large lecture  or class.  Just like a traditional class, there are ways to design a course to prevent academic dishonesty and plagiarism.  In fact, because of the fear of plagiarism (from my experience), online instructors are more aware of possible online cheating.
  • Some subjects still need to have some face to face time.  This does not mean that some instruction cannot be online.  Subjects such as studio art, theatre, medicine, and some of the lab sciences need to have hands on instruction/learning.  More and more, new technologies are making these possible  (i.e. via skype or videoconferencing at facilities with labs and studios).
  • Planning and maintenance of the course can be twice as long for an online course than a traditional course.  Because of the lack of social cues in many cases, instructors need to work harder at identifying when students don't get a concept.
  • Online courses will take more time to communicate.  As a result, the content will need to fit into time, technological, interaction, and distance constraints.  The ideal class size for an online class is 20 students and anything over 25 may need a TA to keep on top of questions and problems.  In addition, online problems require much more IT support which must be designed into the class (as does the use of the online LMS).
  • IT will need to have 24/7 support for online degrees along with constant upgrades to programs.  Also online degrees and classes can require more security.
  • Not all students have the self regulation to do well in an online class.  Some people also learn better in a face to face class as they need instant feedback they may not get in an online class.
For many of you who teach online, you are familiar with this.  As adjuncts, your only interaction with a department may be with those that hold the opinions above.  For others, you key contacts may understand, but your university administration may not.

This may mean:
  • You are given contradictory instructions/requirements
  • You are expected to meet criteria that may not be possible
  • Students may rely on you for support you can't give (i.e. technology glitches, program requirements)
  • You have limited colleagues to discuss learning/teaching problems with
  • You don't have enough time to design a course or you did not design the course you are teaching
  • You spend a lot more time on instruction than you are being paid for 
  • You feel as if you are on call to the class at all times
Discussion for this Chat

This chat we will discuss:

  • Challenges for the adjunct teaching online
  • Getting support for your teaching (institutional and social)
  • Expectations for adjuncts and online instructors
  • Strategies to make online adjunct teaching easier