Saving Time with Tutoring

By Amy Sexton, Writing Center tutor

Managing our time successfully can be a challenge for all of us, and college students may be especially busy.  They are juggling school assignments, papers, and seminars and various other major responsibilities including families, jobs, military service, and community work. In the Academic Support Center, we understand that students’ time is limited and valuable.  This is one reason that our centers offer a combined 150 live tutoring hours per week: we know that attending tutoring can actually save students time.

Kaplan students often visit Live Tutoring for help understanding new and/or confusing course concepts or terminology, for example. Because all Kaplan University Academic Support Center tutors hold graduate degrees in their fields, tutors will most likely be very familiar with the concepts or ideas that students are learning about and will be able to explain them in ways that foster understanding. Students can spend a lot of time alone struggling with working a math problem, troubleshooting a PowerPoint issue, or figuring out how to cite an unusual source, or they can invest 20 minutes into a tutorial session and speak to an educator who can provide expert and immediate guidance, feedback, and support.

Academic Support Center tutors are also extremely knowledgeable about the resources in our centers, including archived workshops, written tutorials, podcasts, and short videos.  We can quickly and easily direct students to these so they do not spend a lot of time searching for the best resource. We can even show them how to most effectively use the resources and services that we offer.

Tutors can also help students save time by clarifying assignment directions, helping them plan realistic schedules for completing big assignments, pointing out errors in their work, unraveling common misconceptions, brainstorming ideas with them, providing feedback, suggesting revision strategies, sharing our own tips for successful study habits, and much more.

The next time that students say that they do not have time to go to tutoring, ask them to consider the opposite perspective:  seeking tutorial assistance can, in reality, save them time.    If they are Kaplan students, direct them to the Academic Support Center for live tutoring so that they can learn first-hand how working with experienced and professional tutors can help them find answers to their questions, get their course work done more quickly, and save time in the process.


Read and Write Outside the Classroom, Too.

Sara Wink, Kaplan University Composition Faculty

For months, my daughter asked—not quite begging, but close—for a “real bike.” Her Radio Flyer big wheel just barely contained her lanky frame, so it wasn’t an unreasonable request…except she couldn’t pedal.

“It’s hard.” Those words came every time I stopped pushing. By five-year-old logic, something hard equals something not worth doing. Far better to go back to what is easy: forming words, over, and over, and over again: “Can I have a bike? I’m big enough. Can we look at bikes? Look, that kid has a bike. It only has two wheels. Mine has three, and that’s okay, but I really only need two, Mom…” It took weeks of (mostly) gentle prodding to drive her to move her feet, fall into the rhythm of the wheels, and—HOORAY! Pedaling!

Nowadays she still asks for a real bike, but not nearly so often. She knows a “real” bike will require more energy on her part. She knows she has to build up her leg muscles and balance to get there. She knows she needs to keep it up.

Why aren’t we all like that about the skills that count?

Writing, blogging

Teachers should set an example for students to follow. By showing them that regular reading and writing do help build one’s skills, they’ll be more motivated to try both. We need that connection of experience for the sake of understanding. My students always feel badly when they have to deal with their kids during seminar. When I tell them I’ve handled class discussions within 24 hours of giving birth to twins, they KNOW I’m one to turn to when things get overwhelming.

So how can we ask them to do all this reading and writing when we only do it when we absolutely have to? We’ve all read some faculty emails that really could have used an editor. We’ve also been guilty of writing such emails ourselves. And yet here we are, demanding students step up with their written work.

Let’s set a good example. Let’s make reading and writing count in our daily professional lives. I’m not just talking emails. I’m talking some critical and/or creative work. Be it novels or professional books, give yourself something to read every day.

No, not student projects. Something fun. I recently finished Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, a medieval mystery filled with Latin. I enjoyed the story, and I was also challenged by the translation work as well as the dense prose. Now I’m going to read Agatha Christie. Maybe you like romance, or an epic, or a historical biography. Great! READ IT. One chapter at a time won’t bite too much out of your day. As we so often tell students: the more you read, the better you write. This applies to teachers, too.

Writing skills need practice outside of discussion boards and announcements. Blogging can be a great way to exercise those skills. Like my colleague, Lisa Gerardy, I have a website where I write under a different name. I write about my studies in fiction, influential music, observations captured in photography, etc. It has absolutely nothing to do with Kaplan; it has everything to do with what interests me. That interest motivates me to write every week.

The more I write, the better I feel about reading—and critiquing—what others write. The more I write longer pieces, the easier it is to write those discussion board responses. Yes, the extra reading and writing take time, but we owe it to the students as well as to ourselves to show what a good reading and writing regimen can do.

If not, we should stop telling them to ride the two-wheeler until we are fit to pedal it ourselves.




Cybersecurity for the Non-technical Person, Part 2

Dr. Lynne Williams, Kaplan University Faculty, MSIT and MSCM Programs

Many of us at Kaplan University are lucky enough to be able to work from home. In order to effectively work from home, we naturally have to have internet connectivity, and internet connectivity exposes us to a variety of online dangers and risks. Still, you don’t need to be a cybersecurity pro to proactively protect yourself from online risk.

Most internet connections these days are broadband, either DSL (comes in through your landline wiring) or cable (uses coaxial cabling similar to cable television). In both cases, you’ve probably got a modem/router that was given to you by your Internet Service Provider [ISP]. This modem/router is your “gateway” to the internet and contains settings that can be tweaked to help you protect your connection and thus your data.

All devices on your home network have individual addresses so that the modem/router can keep track of them; these are called the Internet Protocol addresses or IP addresses. Typically your modem/router is the controller of IP addresses and is in charge of assigning them to all of the devices on your home network. When you want to access your modem/router, you will use its IP address. If you don’t know your modem/router’s IP address, you can look at the manual that came with it or look up the manual online by searching for the make and model. You can also make a pretty good guess at the router’s IP address since gateway devices are usually given the first IP address in the set of addresses. A typical gateway IP address would look like this: If you type the gateway IP address into your web browser, this will bring up the user interface for your modem/router. If you haven’t logged in before, the device will be using the default credentials; your manual will have the default login credentials in it.

Smart phone

Once you’ve logged into your modem/router, you should change the default credentials and make sure that you note down the new credentials in your manual. Next, check that the modem/router’s firewall is active; where you find this setting will depend on the make and model of your router. You can test the security of your firewall with this free port test:

Having strong “perimeter” security in the form of a firewall is always good security practice, and changing the default credentials goes a long way toward not getting hacked. The default credentials from hundreds of home type modem routers are freely available on the internet. In fact, cyber hackers can use the the Shodan search engine to detect routers that are using the default credentials; don’t let them get into your network without a fight!

Extra Email Checks Go a Long Way

Sara Wink, Kaplan University Composition Faculty



I let out a mangled “Whamb?” through the apple pulp in my mouth as I wash dishes.

“Mommy mommy M-O-O-O-O-M-M-Y!”

I walk into the boys’ bedroom, still chewing, and raise my arms in a “WHAT?” gesture, sending suds and water all over the doorway. My twin toddlers are sitting around a little Chinook helicopter. One of the rotors has come off. Peter’s about to shriek another “MOMMY!” but Philip holds up the helicopter in time. “Fix it? Fix it, please?”

I do so. They squeal a stereo “YAY!” until Phil notices a smidgen of suds dripping down the side. “Mommy, can you clean it? Clean it?” He thrusts it at my soapy self. Peter adds with a sharp crescendo “Clean IT?”

When someone wants help, they want it now. Not later that week, or “when you can.” NOW.

Many of us teach people with lives already loaded with Needs In the Now: elderly relatives who need care; a job with wonky hours; babies with colic or tyrannical toddlers who no longer nap; shots just fired outside the perimeter and they need to bug out, NOW. Despite all this, they commit to school, for with the right education, their Needs in the Now will alter for the better, or at the very least lessen. So they take on more, while we teachers teach a course we (hopefully) know pretty well and can balance decently with our Needs In The Now.

We need to remember that the students’ balancing act is ever-changing in dramatic ways. They have to move to a new military base. They have a loved one in the hospital. They are working more hours but have no child care. Sure, we remind them it’s important to dedicate time every day to school. I ask for thirty minutes minimum. But when they put that time in could be at 2am, or 1:30pm, maybe just a few minutes at a time when they’re on break at work or the baby’s finally asleep in their lap. Their ability to get online is limited, so when they need help, they need it NOW.

Waiting 24 hours for a response from a teacher is not horrible, but honestly, I feel like we owe it to our students to get online more often to at least check for questions or concerns. We all know how many students don’t get work turned in until Tuesday evening. “Gah, they’re just procrastinating.” Yeah, I know that’s the case for some, but for others, life just hasn’t let them get to the work beforehand. Many of our students have a very limited control over their daily life’s schedule. We, who do have some more control over our schedules, owe it to them to be more available.

I make it a point to check my email two to four times a day: early morning, midday, late afternoon, and early evening. Now granted, I work from home with my three children scampering about (see the aforementioned helicopter repair). I can’t just go on my computer whenever I want, or this happens: email

So I plan my access around times I know they’ll be a) asleep, or b) occupied with well-timed educational programming. This way, I’m at least checking if a student has a question; if a question is sent to me at 10am, they hear back from me in just two hours rather than eighteen.

Of course, I appreciate that some teachers cannot check school email at their job. Then,  establishing a “Check-In Schedule” at the beginning of term can be helpful. I’ve done this, too. By telling students you always check your email during Hours A, B, and C, they at least know when help will come, and won’t start the bombardment of “I didn’t get my work done because you didn’t get back to me” messages.

A few extra minutes on our part can make a LOAD of difference to our students. All they want is a little guidance to help them complete that which we want them to do in order to complete the academic journey. We can do better than plop the map at their feet and jog away with a “Good luck!” We must keep pace with them, so that when they struggle with all those dots and lines on the page we can provide a helpful word and hand. Believe me: they will remember how fantastically helpful you are when they tell their friends about their Kaplan experience.

And they won’t give a toss about your soapy hands.


Maintaining Presence in an Online Classroom

Jeremy Pilarsky, Kaplan University Composition Professor

The term presence sometimes appears in teacher observations and evaluations when assessing a classroom environment. Presence, in pedagogy, means the instructor projects an aura conducive to learning in the classroom.  Truthfully, an evaluator noticing strong instructor presence can be one of the most complimentary attributes adorning the comments section.  Whether the instructor injects singular wit in a lecture or silences a room with penetrating insight, students feel more invested in a class triggering a positive emotional response even if the material departs from their own philosophies.   Yet, presently, online instructors, unlike their face-to-face, student-to-student colleagues, have a harder time creating and maintaining the same presence. Still, despite the tactile limitations imposed on cyber-educators, they can create a comparable atmosphere promoting interactive learning by attending professional development activities, sharing ideas with colleagues, and using outside computer programs to personalize their classrooms.

E-instructors should take advantage of professional development activities offered both in and outside their institutions.  At Kaplan University, instructors practice pedagogical concepts in CTL trainings.  Also, the university offers a strong community of educators willing to share ideas with other faculty.  Active participation in professional development helps faculty hone their online teaching abilities.  According to Jason Neben (2014), “Since faculty are the direct connection to students, it is crucial to understand their perceptions when considering any major change to teaching and learning processes” (p.43). Complying with the professional development requirements from faculty expectations help instructors transition from a moderator role into an active educator, implementing new ideas from external scholarship and their colleagues’ presentations.

Insight from other faculty inspires new approaches to the online classroom.  For example, two recent, notable presentations discussed peer reviews and digital technology in the classroom.  The peer review group provided tips on easing stress students’ experience when sharing drafts.  Students at Kaplan, many who are first-generation college students, feel unaccustomed to issuing critical feedback on each others’ essays.   The responses often amount to praise, and any criticism issued involves APA formatting or grammatical errors.  Although APA and grammar represent important parts in many other courses, for composition instructors the goal is for students to attempt holistic feedback, focusing on the issues students write about rather than the diction and punctuation of the prose.  The instructors in this presentation suggested adding to the expectations by communicating to students specific examples of peer- reviewed comments and posting them in Doc Sharing or in the discussion board.

Kaplan courses make available examples students can view in the Unit Overviews; however, having a personalized example from their professor makes an impression on students, signifying to them that their instructor takes an interest in helping students expand their conceptions, so they can get a better understanding of the assignment.  This gesture resembles the instructor providing extra help in a real class, projecting a presence just as authentic as one found in a traditional ground course.  In addition to peer review or handout examples, faculty can upload videos highlighting key takeaways from each lesson.

A second presentation from Kaplan’s Educators’ Exchange proposed using videos created using Jing, Prezi, PowerDirector, Audacity, or Camstudio as lesson supplements.  Faculty have the ability to upload video from their hard drives or embed code from their own websites.  Videos combine sound with images, allowing students to see and hear their professors in digitized action.  Students who can actually see and hear their professors have a better chance of bridging the asynchronous gap.  Using these technologies, professors may be able to promote an environment of discovery, inspiring critical thinking in the discussions and chats.  Like online professor Frederick A. Ricci (2013) writes, “The ideal online classes provide challenging experiences through assignments and exercises, which should create new visions.  Assisting students to develop critical thinking skills presents them with the desire to go beyond the content knowledge of their online courses” (p.1).   Considering Ricci’s philosophy, the online professor’s presence can affect the success students have transitioning through the lessons, mastering the material, and retaining skills used in other classes and in real life.

Surely, the ideas discussed here overlook other methods instructors can attempt emanating an aura relevant to the academic ambiance expected in a college course.  Other ideas can be found through the various professional development activities offered at Kaplan University.   Educator Exchanges and e-conferences represent some of the most helpful.  With online education expanding in attendance, it is important that instructors inject their own personalities, creativity, and insight into their courses.  By sharing ideas and attending conferences, faculty can expand upon their courses, enriching them with compelling lessons and encouraging critical thinking among their students.   The extra effort faculty put in their courses goes a long way in creating presence.


Online Education



Neben, J. (2014). Attributes and barriers impacting diffusion of online courses at the institutional level: Considering faculty perceptions.  Distance Learning, 11(1), 41-50.  Retrieved from

Ricci, F.A. (2013).  Encouraging critical thinking in distance learning: Ensuring challenging intellectual programs.  Distance Learning, 10 (1), 1-15.  Available from




Capstone—Celebrating Creative Kaplan University Alter Egos

Barbara c.g. Green, MA & MS, Kaplan University Assistant Chair of Composition

For most academics, writing usually focuses on grading papers and working to get academically published.  Clearly, tasks that are both noble and key towards excelling professionally, but sometimes academic folks long to step out of the routine and assume an exciting creative alter ego as writer, poet, or photographer to blow off some steam or infuse the day-to-day with a little pizzazz.  For Kaplan faculty and staff, one such opportunity to wax creative lies just a few clicks of the mouse and keyboard away with Capstone, Kaplan’s literary journal.

The Origin Story

No, no one was bitten by a radioactive spider, nor is there a tale of woe involving an avenging billionaire who lost his parents as a child.  Instead, Capstone came to fruition after a few members from the Composition Department sat around chatting casually with a former dean between meetings and workshops back in late 2010.  From there, interest grew in creating a journal, folks started wanting to get involved, and the idea grew like a creative symbiote that took on a life of its own.   Soon, a naming contest yielded the moniker “Capstone.”  Not long after, the Capstone insignia was designed, and the first call for submissions followed.

In the fall of 2012, the first e-dition of Capstone made its debut to a small but exceedingly excited group of Kaplan eyes.  As Capstone gained contributors and confidence, it gained more momentum and followers.

Literary journals

Capstone Now

 Having just wrapped its eighth call for submissions, Capstone’s 2016 Summer Issue will be out at the beginning of August.  Capstone has grown from its humble beginnings and now accepts fiction, flash fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and photography.  It also boasts a creative league of academics from various departments in the School of Gen Ed who work tirelessly as a well-oiled machine to manage submissions from Kaplan departments and areas far and wide in order to put each issue together.  Its 2016 Winter Issue, a poetry and photography special issue, received many adoring fans for its interactive viewing gallery (which should be downloaded for optimal viewing).

A Creative Alliance

And, getting published in Capstone isn’t the end for KU creatives.  This year marks the fifth year of the Virtual Literary Festival (August 23-24) in which the super spotlight is placed on those published in 2016’s winter and summer issues via readings and discussions of their fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and photography chosen to grace the pages of the Capstone. In addition to featuring Capstone talent, the Festival will also offer mini workshops on various topics as well as mini literature-themed presentations on the topic of “monsters and madmen” from literature. Kaplan University Literary Festival

For more information on Capstone or the Literary Festival, please email Barbara Green ( for Capstone and Barbara Green or David Healey ( for the 2016 Virtual Literary Festival.

Teaching Students to Learn

Nicole A. Bertke, MS, Kaplan University CTL Faculty Developer

The intent of higher education is no doubt for students to learn. Yet in an informal poll during a recent faculty presentation, two-thirds of faculty respondents acknowledged that most students come into college without the skills in place to learn successfully. And, most of these same faculty indicated that they spend less than one hour per term teaching their students how to learn (Personal communication, April 28, 2016). If student learning is the goal, how do faculty teach students how to learn rather than just what to learn? Teaching self-regulation is the key.

Inherent to students’ success is self-awareness of their learning differences, including their strengths and limitations, such that they observe when corrective action is needed. Self-regulation is the process by which learners acquire academic knowledge and skills while proactively monitoring  and reflecting on their progress, and changing behavior as needed.  This process enhances self-satisfaction and motivation.  As such, students who employ self-regulation are more likely to succeed academically and to view their futures optimistically (Zimmerman, 2002).

“At the core of self-regulation are strategies to manage cognition, but motivation to use those strategies is also key, says Pintrich. ‘You need the “will” as well as the “skill,”” he says” (as cited in Murray, 2002).  Consider two students; the first student, Tommy, has dyslexia. He recognizes the difficulties this can pose for his learning and accommodates by using a particular reading strategy to comprehend text.  He also works ahead to give himself plenty of time to get through course readings.  The second student, Jeff, is not aware of any difficulties with reading and often waits until the last minute to skim through his course readings.  Based on this information alone, which student would be most likely to perform well on a pop quiz of course material?  Tommy.  Understand, if Tommy was not aware of his limitations, and did not take corrective action, the outcome would likely be very different.

Cycle of Self-Regulation are three cyclical phases of self-regulation – forethought, performance, and self-reflection.   “The forethought phase refers to processes and beliefs that occur before efforts to learn; the performance phase refers to processes that occur during behavioral implementation, and self-reflection refers to processes that occur after each learning effort” (Zimmerman, 2002, p.67).  As each of the phases is covered in more detail, consider how you can facilitate your students’ development.

The forethought phase is comprised of task analysis and self-motivation.  Learners who thrive at task analysis will plan strategically and set goals. These same learners have increased academic success.  They are also self-motivated and believe in their ability to learn, recognize the personal consequences of learning, and/or value the process of learning for its own merits (Zimmerman, 2002).

Self-control and self-observation support the performance phase of self-regulation. During this phase, strategic plans, including selection of specific methods or strategies, are made.  In the performance phase, learners who exert self-control will maintain the strategies they committed to during the forethought phase (Zimmerman, 2002).  Also in the performance phase, learners will self-monitor and observe their performance with attempts to identify their deficits (Zimmerman, 2002).

In the self-reflection phase, learners employ self-judgment and self-reaction to determine the effectiveness of their learning strategies and make adjustments as needed.  They may compare their performance against their own prior performances, the performances of others, or some other standard of performance.  They will also make assumptions about the causes of their errors or successes.  If learners react with satisfaction and positive affect regarding their performances, their motivation is further enhanced.  If not, they can lose motivation and/or take a defensive position to protect their image such as withdrawing from similar future performance opportunities.  Learners may also adapt by making adjustments to increase the effectiveness of learning (Zimmerman, 2002).

It should be clear that faculty can have a significant impact on student learning and success by teaching self-regulation.  Research supports that self-regulatory processes are teachable (Zimmerman, 2002), and this should hold true teaching face-to-face or virtually. As you read about the phases of self-regulation, hopefully you generated ideas for helping students progress in each area.  Zimmerman (as cited in Murray, 2000) suggested the following strategies for fostering the development of self-regulation:

  • Offer choices in academic tasks and methods for complex assignments
  • Encourage study partners
  • Have students set goals for their work (timelines, performance outcomes) and help them define the tasks before them
  • Explicitly teach study strategies and learning devices such as mnemonic aides, knowledge trees, outlines, graphic organizers, note taking and organization, etc.
  • Have students assess their own work and/or assess their competencies
  • Assess and intervene in regards to students’ beliefs about themselves as learners (example, when students perform poorly, what do they attribute this to?)
  • Model self-regulatory learning. For example, to model self-reflection, think out loud when analyzing a theory or a problem so students follow along
  • Quiz frequently
  • Identify and review course objectives up front and ask students to monitor their progress
  • Emphasize concept relevance (scaffold this with other concepts) to improve motivation
  • Tie feedback to key concepts and course outcomes

Again, the process of self-regulation is cyclical.  For example, self-reflections from prior learning experiences will impact subsequent forethought phases.  Reflect on your own learning; can you think of evidence to this point?  And, the phases are strongly correlated. Meaning, students who use strategic planning in the forethought phase are also more likely to employ specific strategies during the performance phase to maintain attention.  Studies have also found that experts display higher levels of self-regulatory processes through all phases than novices.  Experts also spend more time in self-directed studying/practice and find it highly motivating (Zimmerman, 2002).  Because beginners will rarely experience self-motivational benefits (think of a student new to playing the piano), they can lose interest easily, especially in the absence of self-regulation strategies.  With self-regulation strategies, self-monitoring for example, they can observe even incremental improvements (again, think of the piano student).  Research has shown a connection between the quantity and quality of self-regulation skills and academic achievement and standardized test scores (Zimmerman, 2002).

The aim of higher education is to educate its students and support their success.  While faculty are hired to teach within their disciplines based on their experience and degrees, it is important to student success that they focus not only on teaching students what to learn but also how to learn by fostering the development of self-regulation.


Murray, B. (2000). Teaching students how to learn. Monitor on Psychology, 31(6). Retrieved from

Zimmerman, B. J. (2002). Becoming a self-regulated learner: An overview. Theory Into Practice, (2). 64.