Author Archives: kuwcnews

Searching for Reading Material: A Little Murder, a Little Mystery


Dr. Tamara Fudge

Kaplan University Professor, Business and Information Technology

 

It’s pretty easy to go to a bookstore at the local mall or search online and find all sorts of reading material by famous authors. It is not possible to have read all the classics, so you should be able to find something that seems familiar – something that makes you think now, why haven’t I read this yet?

But this blog entry is not about the famous Charles Dickenses, the George Orwells, or the Maya Angelous. It’s about finding works by new authors. Fresh pickings!  The following items were written by authors I know personally.  All of these authors are still alive – but not all of the characters in their books stay that way!

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L. Phillips Carlson

First, a prized butterfly collection is stolen. Then what looks like a car accident might actually have been murder. On the surface, these events don’t seem to be related, but a private investigator who is trying to restart his sagging career starts to find some odd connections. Throw in some ghostly possession and it gets even more complicated – and personal. Just when you think you know what will happen next, there is a new twist!  This book won the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Fiction in the Science Fiction-Fantasy category.

Linnea Hall

Think just for a minute about this tagline: “When Collin Sykes dies in an automobile accident, his life changes forever.”  An emergency room nurse, time-travel back to the Knights Templar, a kidnapping, and the plan for a heroic rescue – plus some science! – all set up a lot of great action. While it may have been meant for the young reader, this book is definitely also fun for adult reading. The characters make you want to care about them, and you won’t want to put the book down until the last word.

Leslie Langtry

This is the first book of four in Langtry’s “Merry Wrath Mysteries” series. The protagonist is an ex-CIA operative turned Girl Scout co-leader (really!). Despite ineptitude at “normal living,” Merry tries to fit in as a regular civilian but keeps getting pulled back into the world of espionage and, well, really weird situations.  Skillful sarcasm, some well-placed dead bodies, secrets, and plot twists in each book will make you want to read the full series and beg for more.  I have already begged and found #5 is coming in the spring!

Another excellent reason to read these books is that you help inspire living authors to continue their craft, and that in turn enriches the world of literature. Have fun and unwind with these murderous and mysterious novels!

 

Connections, Camaraderie, Collaboration in Colorado: Takeaways from the 2016 International Writing Centers Association Conference


Chrissine Rios and Amy Sexton, Writing Center Tutors

Writing Center tutors Chrissine Rios and Amy Sexton, along with Academic Support Center manager Melody Pickle, recently attended and presented at the 2016 International Writing Centers Association Conference that was held October 13-17 in beautiful downtown Denver, Colorado.  Chrissine and Amy presented a panel session titled Video Feedback for Effective Online Writing Instruction, where we discussed our long-term use of video feedback for asynchronous paper reviews.  Melody presented Online Motion: Using Forms for Dynamic Asynchronous Services, which overviewed the ways that our writing center uses forms to provide students easy access to our services and to track the ways that students use these services.  The three of us presented Leveraging Technology for Online Inclusivity together. In this presentation, we talked about our recent collaboration across the Academic Support Center to create a series of video tutorials designed to support the whole student by focusing on key skills like time management and reading comprehension.  Our participation in this conference, as well as our time together, allowed us to bring numerous takeaways, including increased connections, a stronger sense of camaraderie, a renewed commitment to continued collaborations, and treasured memories of the mile high city back to our virtual home offices.   

Connections

IWCA is an organization devoted to supporting the work of writing centers across the globe, and its annual conference is a great time to come together with folks who share the same goals and engage in the similar tasks of helping college writers improve within the setting of writing centers.  At the conference, we not only shared our work in an online writing center with others, but we also attended others’ presentations and networked.  We talked with people doing writing center work across the country and world, and we discovered that we share the same concerns, struggles, and triumphs.  We discussed creative ideas and strategies for working with student writers.  We connected with other professionals, including APA Style Expert, Chelsea Lee who writes for  The APA Style Blog, a resource very familiar to all of us as we often consult the blog and refer students to it.  We even modeled free tee shirts that representatives from APA Style Central generously provided.  

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Figure 1. Left to right, Amy, Melody, and Chrissine

Camaraderie

Like other employees in our Academic Support Center and throughout Kaplan University, we work from remote locations.  While we talk, meet, collaborate and communicate daily, we rarely see each other face to face.  We do not have the pleasure of chatting at the office water cooler, sharing dishes and snacks at potluck lunches, or attending festive holiday parties together.  In fact, this conference marked the first time that tutors Amy and Chrissine met in person!  Attending and presenting at the conference gave us an opportunity to spend time together and get to know each other a little better.  We shared meals, stories, laughs, and generally learned more about each other and our lives.  As a group of virtual employees, the chance to connect with each other in this way was priceless.    

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Figure 2. Amy and Chrissine are all smiles after a successful presentation.

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Figure 3. Amy and Melody pose before enjoying a delicious dinner at Denver ChopHouse & Brewery

Collaboration

A major theme of our Leveraging Technology for Online Inclusivity presentation was collaboration.  We presented on a resource development project in which the Writing Center collaborated with faculty and with Specialists from the Math, Science, Business, and Technology Centers.  Together, we produced a new video series for the Academic Support Center.  The project united each of the centers through a stronger collaborative relationship while the resources themselves unite students from across the disciplines with inclusive, study skills support.  As Amy and Chrissine described the key considerations for this collaborative video development project, attendees were surprised that Amy and Chrissine had never met in person before this conference.  But as longtime virtual employees, we have mastered the communication skills and technology needed to develop a strong collaborative and interpersonal relationship online, so for us, the real benefit of meeting face to face was not in seeing each other (although that was a treat!) but in being able to share our work with tutors and administrators from on-ground writing centers.  In fact, some attendees expressed their struggles convincing the leadership at their schools of the merits of online tutoring.  We hope to have served as good examples of what can be accomplished online, for we certainly walked away with a renewed sense of importance of our collaborations and how they contribute to the advancement of writing center pedagogy.   

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Figure 4. For this online crew, a strong collaborative relationship began long before meeting face-to-face.

City Scenes

When we were not busy presenting or attending other presentations, we enjoyed exploring the city.  The mile high city offers a wide variety of sights to see and places to visit.  From the Denver Pavilion to the Millennium Bridge to the majestic Rocky Mountains to historic restaurants and train stations,  Denver was a delight to explore.  

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Figure 5. Lunch at Denver Pavilions

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Figure 6. After dinner at the Denver ChopHouse in the historic Union Pacific building

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Figure 7. Denver Millennium Bridge

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Figure 8. Denver Union Station

(c) Chrissine Rios

Figure 9. Mountain view from the conference hotel

The IWCA Conference supplied us with valuable takeaways and connections that will inform and inspire our work ahead.  The conversations we had with tutors and administrators from writing centers at community colleges and universities big and small as well as with other online writing centers and related organizations like APA ignited a real sense of unity and purpose that is easy to lose sight of when we tutor one student at a time in our individual and unique centers.  It is that sense of unity and purpose that will propel us forward as we continue to collaborate, connect, and engage in the important work of supporting student writers.

Harnessing the Power of Mindset


By Amy Sexton, Writing Center Tutor

Flash back to April 4, 2016:  It is the championship game of the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Basketball tournament, and North Carolina and Villanova are tied at 74.  It’s Villanova’s ball, and with only 4.7 seconds left in the game, it is almost certain the two teams will go into overtime play. Then Villanova player Kris Jenkins throws up a three-point shot from just past the center line of the court, a shot that was so far away that it seemed very likely that it would not even reach the goal.  Miraculously, the shot lands in the basket with barely a nanosecond to spare, and Villanova joyously becomes the 2016 NCAA National Champions.

After the game, a reporter interviews Jenkins and asks him if he could believe that he had made the shot (Murray, 2016).  Jenkins responds, “I believe every shot’s going in, so” (Murray, 2016).  The reporter interrupts with a credulous follow-up, “Every one?” “Every one,” continues Jenkins, “so I thought that one was going in too” (Murray, 2016,)   I watched the game-winning shot and the post-interview live, and I was impressed by Jenkins’ mindset.  In fact, his declarations reflect a mindset that all college students, not just college athletes, ought to have.

Mindset is defined as  the “ability of the brain to form points of view in order to adopt behavior, formulate lifestyles, rethink priorities, make choices, and pursue goals” (Poplan, 2016).  As a tutor, I often hear students approach their studies with a mindset that inhibits learning and undermines their efforts.  They say things like “I’m a bad writer.”, “I’ve always been horrible at math.”, or ask “How horrible is this paper?”.    While they may have experiences that make these feelings seem valid, and some subjects may come more easily to them than others, approaching any learning task with a mindset of “I can do this.” will generally lead to improved learning and success.

As a personal example, math and science are subjects that I generally find difficult to understand.  I especially struggle with comprehending topics like algebra, chemistry, and physics, and I worked very hard in high school and college to earn reasonably good grades in the math and science courses that I was required to take.  One summer when I was in college, I worked as an in-home tutor, and one of my students was in high school and needed a jump-start for her upcoming algebra class.  “How can I possibly tutor algebra when I barely understood it myself?,” I wondered.  Regardless, my job was to tutor my assigned students in all subjects, so I borrowed a high school algebra text from a friend and began working through the problems with the mindset that I could learn the material and help my student learn it, too.  Before each of our sessions, I worked out problems in the text, and then I taught her what I had learned.  Together, we learned a lot of algebra that summer.

This experience taught me that I could do things that I did not think I was capable of doing. It was my first time realizing the power of mindset, and it served me well a few years later when I  had to complete tough graduate courses like research methods and statistics in order to earn my master’s degree.

The next time you find yourself thinking, “I can’t do that.”; think instead, “Okay, I can do this. This shot will go in!”  Whether it is a difficult course, a tough assignment, or a challenging exam, a positive mindset can help you power through and realize success.  Granted, you may not win a championship basketball game or be drafted into the NBA, but a positive, can-do attitude and mindset can definitely help improve your GPA!

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References

Murray, S. (2016, April 4).  Kris Jenkins- Villanova national championship post game interview [Video file].  Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8DcKfEtQjk

Poplan, E.  (2016).  Mindset.   Salem Press Encyclopedia.  Retrieved from http://www.salempress.com/

 

 

 

 

Prepping Students for the Holidays


Dr. Tamara Fudge

Professor, Business and Information Technology, Kaplan University

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The holidays are here, and it is time to prepare your students.  Along with the turkey, holiday gifts, champagne, awkward chat with the in-laws, and (in some places) shovels full of snow, comes the fear that students will somehow forget that they are students, especially those who are in terms that are hit by Thanksgiving, the Winter Break, and/or Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

During certain holiday times, there may be no live seminars, offices may be closed, and some discussion posting requirements might even be altered. Make sure you ask your department chair for specific guidelines about your responsibilities during university breaks or holidays.

Once you have a handle on things, communicate with your students. At the beginning of the term, explain course requirements that are altered due to the official school schedule. Consider providing a calendar (Kaplan University instructors can upload calendars to Doc Sharing), telling students in seminars, and/or writing an announcement focused precisely on what students need to know about the altered schedule. In the week prior to any break, remind them via announcement, email, and/or statements during seminar.

While you may already be doing these things, you may also want to think about this:   We can do more to do to keep students engaged during scheduled breaks – and to encourage their return.  Below are a few suggestions:

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  • Share some fun videos or slide shows related to your course content during breaks. YouTube, SlideShare, The Internet Archive, and other sites have a bevy of options.
  • Include the hyperlinks to these videos in announcements. As a legal consideration, only provide the hyperlinks – do not try to embed the actual videos or slide shows unless you actually are the author.
  • Make it clear in each announcement that these are for their viewing pleasure, related to course content, and not required.
  • You can preset these announcements to show up on future dates during the break(s).
  • Try to choose videos or slide shows that either have captioning or are without audio to ensure accessibility.
  • View the entire show first, just in case there is misinformation or some other nasty surprise waiting for the viewer. Check to see if the comments on the page are appropriate, too.

Create a scavenger hunt.   Use your course’s email or other Virtual Office functions to ask some questions related to the classroom or course content. Students can reply to the email or posts with their answers.

  • Post three questions, but on separate days during the break.
  • Whoever is first with correct answers for all three questions will be given kudos in seminar, or if you really want to get fancy, make a cute certificate in PowerPoint and send it to the winner via email.
  • Tell the students well before break that you will be doing this activity and that it is not required but should be fun.

Email a greeting to the class that acknowledges holiday celebration.

  • Include an image and keep it brief.
  • Keep Winter Break messages rather generic to avoid proselytizing any particular religion or belief.
  • Blind Copy (BCC) when you email the entire class, or you risk a plethora of unwanted reply-alls. It is also prudent to protect students’ personal addresses by not sharing them widely.

While the video/slide show announcements and scavenger hunt might not work for everyone, they show the students that you are still engaged with them during the break, and knowing about it ahead of time might entice some students to regularly check the classroom. The email greeting can be done with any course and shows students that you acknowledge the break and appreciate them.

And so as we approach the busy holiday season, think of other ways to stay connected to your students as you help prepare them for the holidays!

 

Growing Leadership Muscles Through Feedback: Showing Students Where They’re Going


Dr. Shaneika A. Dilka, PhD

Psychology Professor, Kaplan University

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Feedback is one of the most vital elements in the learning process. Faculty, instructors, mentors, tutors, etc., serve critical leadership roles in academic institutions and as such, should work to grow their leadership muscles by providing quality feedback to students. Following a recent discussion on using the principles of transformational leadership to improve classroom interactions and outcomes, I was challenged to think about the topic more narrowly and to consider sharing specific details and methods related to linking transformational leadership style to the art and practice of academic instruction. This was perceived as a challenge, perhaps, because both leadership and instructional styles are highly personal and uniquely developed professional skills. Also, the idea of linking transformational leadership and instructional methods did not seem unconventional. After all, Slavich and Zimbardo (2012) suggested that most instructors already display behaviors related to transformational leadership in their classrooms every day. In fact, if we reframe the discussion and evaluate what we do in the classroom, in our instruction, we see that we grow or flex our leadership muscles every day! In the online classroom, one of the most powerful tools at our hands is feedback, and as leaders and instructors, delivering effective feedback can have major implications for our students.

Consider the purpose of feedback; at its most basic level, feedback is intended to give students information about their performance. Hattie and Timperley (2007) suggest that three questions should be asked during the feedback process by both students and instructors, “Where am I going? How am I going? and Where to next?” (p. 88). Through leadership, facilitation, and well-crafted feedback we can continually consider where our students are going and guide them to ask the question, where am I going?, as they develop their work as well. Faculty members can set high standards and provide challenging opportunities (inspirational motivation; see Bass, 1985) through goal identification. Providing students with feedback that is clear and identifies challenging goals that are focused on the primary task will guide the student to answering the question, where am I going?. Feedback structured in such a way generally results in goal-directed behaviors, discrepancy reduction, and increased commitment to the identified goals (Hattie & Timperley, 2007).

How can we show students where they are going? This is often a difficult question because the answer requires an incredibly personalized approach for each student, another dimension of transformational leadership (individualized consideration; see Bass, 1985) that is ever-present in the classroom. To show students where they are going, my intent is always to guide, never to tell. I reinforce existing goals that have been identified, or set new goals when appropriate. In feedback, answers, corrections, and errors are generally not identified individually; rather, resources are provided (i.e. relating to theory, formatting, etc.) to students and they are encouraged to engage in problem solving strategies to further enhance their work (intellectual stimulation; see Bass, 1985). This approach is challenging, self-directed, and increases learners’ autonomy. In some cases, it may be necessary to provide an example of the appropriate method or approach the student should follow; when such cases arise, an example is provided along with additional resources. My primary purpose using this feedback approach is to raise the students’ awareness in order to make them more active in the feedback process, asking, where am I going? Students learn to identify their paths, apply scholarly judgment, and develop invaluable research skills. And as faculty, we are able to flex and grow our leadership muscles, providing our students with the feedback they need  to determine where they are going.

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References

Bass, B. M. (1985). Leadership and performance beyond expectations. New York, NY: Free Press.

Hattie, J. & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112, doi: 10.3102/003465430298487

Slavich, G. M., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2012). Transformational teaching: Theoretical underpinnings, basic principles, and core methods. Educational Psychology Review, 24(4), 569-608. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10648-012-9199-6

The Keys to a Successful Conference Submission Process: Part Two, Choosing a Topic


Steven V. Cates, DBA SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Kaplan University Professor, School of Business and IT

In our first discussion, we looked at the value of doing research and presenting our findings at a conference. We also began to think about how to get started. Now we are going to look at how we go about picking a topic to concentrate on.

First of all, always pick a topic you really have a lot of passion about. Otherwise, you will not have the drive and focus to commit to doing the work necessary to complete this research project. Conducting a research project takes time, energy, and effort. There are no shortcuts to completing good sound research projects. So, you must commit yourself to practicing sound time management and spending time daily in working on your research.

So, what are the “hot topics” in your field of specialization right now? Where do you find these “hot topics”? You can start with the journals, trade publications, magazines, webinars, seminars, blogs, and any other forms of forums and media in your field. What are authors saying are the “cutting edge” issues that are being discussed and problems surrounding these topics? This is a great place to pick a “hot button” that has not been researched extensively.  This will allow you to do research and then provide solutions to those problems and issues, which is your starting point.

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You also might want to join and attend associations that represent your field of study.  Some meetings and conferences are held locally, regionally, nationally or globally. At each of these you will hear presentations made on the “hot button” topics, as most presentations will be on issues that are current and presently being discussed in your field.

Another great way to get your research started is by networking with your academic and professional contacts. You may find that you have similar interests with a colleague on a given research subject. This could lead to a collaboration on a great research project.

Next month, in Part Three of this series, we will begin to construct a research paper and look at the specific parts of that paper.

 

This Month, Shoot the Moon with NaNoWriMo!


Sara Wink, Kaplan University Composition Faculty

 

I’ve written here before about the importance of educators who “walk the walk.”  For all their recommendations to students to read and write more, educators should be doing that very thing themselves. It needn’t be a controversial best-seller or some stellar new research filled with jargon. The simple act of reading and writing every day can boost one’s productivity and skills as an educator. November presents a unique opportunity to stretch those writing skills to the max.

National Novel Writing Month is a non-profit organization that encourages writing and promotes the joy of writing and literature through resources for libraries and classroom (“About”, 2016) . One does not have to contribute anything to participate in the challenge; participants just aim to write a 50,000-word story in thirty days (“About”, 2016). It’s not surprising, then, that  it’s often called “Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon.”

I just love it, too. I first participated the fall after my daughter’s birth. I was teaching and tutoring for the Kaplan University Writing Center, yet still managed to cross the 50K words  finish line. It felt really good, like, “I just landed on the moon!” good.

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I’ve done NaNoWriMo three other times since then, despite teaching and raising three small children. Fifty-thousand words in thirty days is no meager feat, especially when one’s arms are literally being pulled from the keyboard. Or, when one boy has diarrhea while his twin brother vomits, and all the while their big sister complains about a cold. Or, when the supper you cooked can’t be eaten because you were missing the proper type of cheese, which means the floor gets covered with it. Or, when a red car goes missing and the screaming won’t stop until you find it. No, not that red car, the RED car. THE REEEEED CAAAAAAAR!!! (For the louder one shrieks, the better one will apparently know which hue of red out of the two dozen red cars is the “right” red car.) Despite all that, I managed to crank out 800-1000 words in an hour twice a day, teach some students, and occasionally sleep.

I’m racing with a deadline. I have to manage my time to make sure this work gets done along with everything else. I’m scrambling with a rough draft. I’m trying to put together ideas that make sense.

Sounds rather like our students, doesn’t it?

Now granted, there’s no need for APA format or polished editing; NaNoWriMo is all about writing as much of a story arc as one can. But this kind of creative challenge stretches our insides and tests our work-life balance. It’s also something we can do with our students, and on that, find a great way to connect on this academic journey. Teachers and students alike enter the classroom with their own life expertise; NaNoWriMo encourages us all to take the same road on the same starting space of experience. It encourages camaraderie and the joy of sharing one’s own stories.

Even if you don’t think you can write 50,000 words in thirty days, join in the literary abandon, and celebrate the gift of the written word. You may surprise your students…and even yourself.

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References

About. (2016).  Retrieved from http://nanowrimo.org/about

Spread the word. (2016). Retrieved from http://nanowrimo.org/spread-the-word#webgraphics