Category Archives: Conferences

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.

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.

 

I Really Want to Present at a Conference: The Keys to a Successful Submission Process: Part One


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

You may be asking yourself, “Why is making a presentation of my research at a conference important? What is the big deal?” Here are a few good reasons:

  1. It allows you to contribute to and learn about the most recent advances in YOUR field.
  2. You become an ADVOCATE for your field of study.
  3. If it is NOT important to conduct research in YOUR field, then why should students major in it?
  4. You learn how to discuss your findings with other academic colleagues.
  5. You get the opportunity to meet and network with other researchers in the same field.
  6. This allows you to build your own Research Brand.

So what is a Research Brand? As academics, we are not only required to provide university and community service through serving on committees and boards, but we are called upon to transfer learning through teaching our students about the subjects in our specific disciplines.  How are you going to provide that learning opportunity unless you are a Subject Matter Expert in your teaching field? How do you become a Subject Matter Expert? In some cases, your past and current professional experiences might make you an expert. As an academic, your expertise also comes from the research you are constantly performing on chosen topics in your field. This allows you to then share your research findings with your students and your colleagues.

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You may ask, “How do I even get started?” One way is to read the journals that are published in your field. You may also have trade journals, other magazines, or internet sites that provide the “Hot Topics” that are being discussed in your discipline. This will give you an idea about what is being written and read about in any teaching field.

If you belong to a professional association, this is also a great place to hear new and exciting discussions on topics that are unexplored. You might even want to consider attending a conference and listening to presenters discuss the trending topics that have people talking. Certainly, networking with other academics is a great way to find out what are the major issues being faced and what research, if any, is being done on a given topic.

If you have enjoyed reading about ways to begin submitting to conferences, please keep an eye out for Part Two next month.  This will be followed by the rest of the I Really Want to Present at a Conference series.

 

 

Bookends: Looking Ahead to the IWCA Conference


By Chrissine Rios, Kaplan University Writing Center

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The 2001 CCCC Convention Program. Photo by Chrissine Rios.

This summer I wrote “Weighing the Books” while boxing up my household and home office in order to move it from North Carolina to Michigan.  Now my books are unpacked and back to being their inspirational selves on shelves.  In fact, I’m working on my presentation for the International Writing Centers Association conference, which is in Denver this month, and I’m seeing on my bookcase the program book from the last time I flew from Michigan to Denver for a big conference.

It was 2001, and I was in my last semester of English Composition and Communication at CMU, going to the Conference on College Composition and Communication (4Cs) to present my teacher research on engaging students at the beginning of the composition course by teaching creative nonfiction.  During the presentation, I shared my positive experience teaching a photo caption essay in place of the reflective essay, otherwise assigned at the beginning of the term.

My co-presenter and grad school colleague then shared how creative nonfiction can be incorporated into the research paper assignment later in the term, and our third co-presenter, who was our Comp and Rhetoric professor and my thesis chairperson, presented how creative nonfiction can be woven into the entire course.   Together we contended the personal writing traditionally assigned in composition could do more to engage and prepare students for success if it were taught less like an isolated, warm-up activity and more like an integrated and malleable path throughout the course that engages students in their personal learning processes via exploration and discovery and the making, or perhaps, crafting, of meaning.

We described creative nonfiction as being flexible—a form shaped by content and not the other way around.  And we described it as expansive—a genre that “centers in the essay but continually strains against the boundaries of the other genres, endeavoring to push them back and to expand its own space without altering its own identity” (Root & Steinberg, 1999, p. xxiii).  Now, fifteen years later, I’m hearing similar language being used to describe the way writing centers engage students, our adult online learners at Kaplan in particular, by being flexible and expansive.

At the upcoming IWCA conference in Denver, KU Academic Support Center Manager, Dr. Melody Pickle, will be speaking about our uniquely located, online writing center.  If you’ll be at IWCA, come see her speak at our presentation titled, Leveraging Technology for Online Inclusivity.  She’ll address the negotiation of identity that comes with inhabiting an internal and external shared space and how the Writing Center maintains its identity while being a dynamic learning community.

KUWC Tutor, Amy Sexton, and I will also be on that panel.  Our presentation will explore the use of technology, specifically video, to push the boundaries of who we are and what we do in our effort to encourage and equip our diverse students for learning success.  Amy and I will also be presenting Video Feedback for Effective Online Writing Instruction, and Melody will additionally be presenting Online Motion: Using Forms for Dynamic Asynchronous Services, so the KUWC will be well represented at IWCA this year.

For me, this IWCA and the 2001 4Cs are bookends on my career to date with the path between them weaving in and out the texts on my bookshelves.  At 4Cs, I was just getting started.  In fact, it was there that I interviewed for my first faculty position, the one that would launch my professional career teaching and tutoring writing and my move away from Michigan.  Now I’m back home and approaching my 10th anniversary at Kaplan with nine of those years being in the Writing Center, so at the conference, I’ll be sharing first hand experiences of where we began and how we got here.  I’m also counting on the presentations I attend to inspire new ideas about where we go from here.  You can access the full IWCA conference program online.  You can also be sure that I’ll be bringing a hard copy home as well.

Reference

Root, R. L., Jr. & Steinberg, M. (1999). The fourth genre: Contemporary writers of/on creative nonfiction. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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.

 

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References

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 http://bit.ly/29IJWyY.

Ricci, F.A. (2013).  Encouraging critical thinking in distance learning: Ensuring challenging intellectual programs.  Distance Learning, 10 (1), 1-15.  Available from http://bit.ly/29HTnMm

 

 

 

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.

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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.

 https://kuwcnews.wordpress.com/ Kaplan University Literary Festival

For more information on Capstone or the Literary Festival, please email Barbara Green (bgreen@kaplan.edu) for Capstone and Barbara Green or David Healey (dhealey@kaplan.edu) for the 2016 Virtual Literary Festival.

SOAR Symposium: The Value of Research and Presentation


Dr. Tamara Fudge, Kaplan University Professor in the School of Business and Information Technology

 

Kaplan University’s second Student Online Annual Research Symposium (SOAR Symposium) is slated for this September 13 and offers our students and our alumni a great opportunity.

Imagine the chance to delve into meaningful career concepts outside of the classroom,  hone research, analytical, and organizational skills, create meaningful visual elements, exercise verbal communication, and take a leadership role within a webinar atmosphere.  It will take time management and communication skills to get it all done, too!  What is even better is that the SOAR Symposium offers both professional experience and a way to enhance the participant’s resume.

There are a few different ways students can  participate in the SOAR Symposium.  They can present with a PowerPoint presentation in an Adobe Connect room live session or develop a “poster” (an infographic).  Optionally, the participant can prepare a paper to go with his or her topic that may be suitable for professional publication.

These methods of information sharing have significant value. They require research, which in itself is good critical thinking practice for the workplace.  As Lipowski (2008) notes, “continuous assessment of policies, procedures, and programs [in the workplace] is necessary because science and technology can render them obsolete.”

Additionally, visual representations such as infographics and PowerPoint charts, graphs, and images aid attendees in understanding, processing, and remembering information (Parsons & Sedig, 2014). We can see that it is not just the participants, but the attendees who benefit from the Symposium.

It is also a leadership experience: presentations are a demonstration of assertiveness. This professional competency is also validated in participants’ preparedness to answer questions (Berjano  Sales-Nebot, & Lozano-Nieto, 2013). This public speaking experience is powerful on a resume.

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References

Berjano, E., Sales-Nebot, L., & Lozano-Nieto, A. (2013). Improving professionalism in the engineering curriculum through a novel use of oral presentations. European Journal Of Engineering Education, 38(2), 121-130.

Lipowski, E. (2008). Developing great research questions. American Journal Of Health-System Pharmacy, 65(17), 1667-1670 4p. doi:10.2146/ajhp070276

Parsons, P., & Sedig, K. (2014). Adjustable properties of visual representations: Improving the quality of human-information interaction. Journal Of The Association For Information Science & Technology, 65(3), 455-482. doi:10.1002/asi.23002