Author Archives: Janine Lim

How to Get Published in a Peer Reviewed Journal

I’m attending the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning 2017 in Toronto, Canada and blogging the sessions I’m attending.


  • Diane Conrad, co-editor of IRRODL
  • Lesley Diack,Aberdeen, Scotland, Research in Learning Technology, Journal of the Association of Learning Technologists; she’s one of five editors, it used to be ALT-J
  • Tannis Morgan, Justice Institute of British Columbia, serves on multiple editorial boards
  • Lucy Gray, editor for Open Learning
  • Jill Buban, Online Learning Consortium, Online Learning Journal, formerly Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks

Stories of Rejection

  • The politics of rejections. Knowing the audience.
  • Sometimes seen articles they’ve rejected appear in other journals.
  • What about when there are two good reviews and one bad review. Sometimes the reviewer is wanting a different article – their perspective.
    • Tip: responses from the author regarding the reviewers that are very well thought out – these can make a major difference. There might be something in the reviews that’s out to lunch. As an author you need to respond and give a rationale for why you use this or not.

What prepared you for the role of an editor?

  • The experience of being an author, a student
  • The desire to support authors who are new to writing in the area
  • Part of the role of a reviewer is to give good feedback to help them; same situation as supporting students
  • Working on a new journal with others, shaping a journal
  • Doing a lot of peer reviews
  • Started a class newspaper in grade four
  • I enjoy helping people learn to write; and I enjoy reading what other people have written, reviewing puts you on the front line of the research
  • My supervisor told me to review so that my writing would improve
  • It’s good for me as a professor to be an editor
  • Writing in journalism and news

Is this cheap labor?

Provocative question from the moderator to a panel of women.

  • There isn’t a stipend for editorial work at one journal; at another there is
  • It’s voluntary, time consuming
  • Some element of prestige
  • It’s service
  • It’s relaxing work for me
  • In one situation the assistant editor got a stipend and the editors did not

What’s the most difficult decisions you’ve had to make as an editor

  • When reviewers don’t agree
  • Sometimes the judgment call is suitability to the journal – that’s easy; but then other decisions are more difficult
  • Further discussion of reviewers… IRRDOL rates reviewers on the quality of the review
  • Some of the journals represented are trying hard to publish from countries who have had less of a voice
  • One option is to have three reviewers required for each article
  • Challenges with articles written by non-native speakers, providing editing or recommending the author get additional editing assistance

The process of publishing: How should an author choose a journal?

  • Look at the topics in the journal, seeing how your article fits in the journal
  • Authors do throw articles blindly out; they haven’t researched the journal
  • Journals have information that outlines the scope, interests
  • Look at the masthead and see who is on the editorial board – that shapes the concern of the journal
  • Authors can write a letter to ask whether the article fits in the journal
  • It saves a huge amount of time to ask about the article ahead of time; otherwise you’re wasting time in the review process
  • Review the archives of the journal to get a flavor of the topics
  • Rolling publications means that your journal can get published faster; as they are reviewed they can be posted
  • Open journals are a great way to get your work out there
  • Look at how many issues a year they publish
  • From the audience: Contact North has a searchable directory of journals regarding online learning
  • Don’t submit to more than one journal at a time!!

What are you looking for when you receive an article?

  • First the article goes through a plagiarism service. Shouldn’t be 50-60% or more of a previous article
  • Checking to see if it’s a fit
  • Good methodology / sound research
  • Missing the description of the population
  • There is nothing new
  • Does it matter?
  • Abstracts are often very bad – it should say certain things – the journal websites tell about it
  • Be clear about what you’re writing – what is the article about, what type of article are you writing
  • Follow the journal guidance on the website
  • Different journals care about different things – ignoring the past history of online learning
  • Results and conclusions often don’t match the data

Great advice and discussion on the publication process and issues for online learning.

The Future of Learning Management Systems – Development, Innovation and Change

I’m attending the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning 2017 in Toronto, Canada and blogging the sessions I’m attending.

Phil Hill presenting. His slides are online here:


Phil commenting on the hype of MOOCs, the hype of higher ed going away entirely, the lack of business models for educational technology start ups. He recommends healthy skepticism on new trends such as adaptive learning.

Phil suggests that ed tech people have been children happily playing in the corner, but now the children are loose in the house. Funny metaphor – interesting how twice this morning I’ve heard that ed tech people just talk to each other (playing in the corner).

Online Students Survey by LearningHouse – good to understand student views of online learning.

Students want their own pace, but also instantaneous feedback. – PPIC, Successful Online Courses in California’s Community Colleges report

A problem-based learning method used in Habitable Worlds, a science course for non-science majors by Arizona State University – an example of the new direction of online learning that we need to consider. Focused on the big concepts, not the details. It’s multidisciplinary too – physics, sociology, etc. Students said, it was the best course I’ve ever taken. This course was built on Piazza – a wiki based discussion space.

Phil’s question – how can the LMS support this kind of course. This course was not in an LMS, because the standard LMS could not support what they wanted to do.

Some areas to consider: competency-based, gamification, adaptative, personalized learning. These are areas where people are trying to innovate in LMSes.

Having an LMS is like having a minivan – you’re not proud of it, but you have it. You buy it because you need it – it solves a particular job. A metaphor goes a long way to explaining a point!

A course management system is a better description – how do you take a course and how do you manage it? Learners are a list of people inside the course. They aren’t really “learning” management systems. The LMS isn’t really thinking about the learner outside the course or across the courses.

Phil has a slide with both LMSes and free consumer tools (i.e. blogger, wordpress, ning, pinterest, etc.). Interesting that we have both – faculty want these in the LMS or we expect the LMS to be easy to use like the cool tools. 

Some info on LMSes: Moodle has the largest installed base; Canvas is currently the fastest growing and the dominant for new implementation. Interesting comments that the competency based attempts aren’t very successful, not enough market. 

Cloud hosting or externally hosting is a huge new trend. A big issue – LMS going down on exam week or the first week of school. That is partly what’s driving the move to the cloud – to be able to scale up resources as needed. Security concerns also drive hosting decisions.

In North America, it appears that open source LMSes – Moodle and Sakai – installed base peaked about 2013, and is going down. Also that open source for open source’s sake is no longer such an issue.

Phil talks about the tension – what should be in the LMS vs. “cool tools” but then should those be inside the LMS? Initiatlly LMSes were a walled garden: forum, assignments, announcements, syllabus, etc. Nothing in or out. Over time though, there are consumer tools faculty and students want to use – blogging, social networking as two examples. Initial reaction by the LMSes was to give you a terrible version of it inside the garden. Lots of laughs from the audience. Feature bloat. Too many tools crowded in that were poor imitations of the outside. The new trend is LTI integration – we don’t have to have all activity. The LMS provides the basics, and hooks in other tools via LTI to connect to other items.

Now we think, the LMS is central; but it should enable me to use third party tools, but without being too confusing for students or too many logins!

Other tools coming to integrate are XAPI and Caliper – so in the future – we should have interoperability standards where we toss out the imitation tools from the LMS, and integrate easily with third party applications. Most competency based systems though are sticking with the walled garden idea.

Phil thinks that Canvas is pushing the competition – to reduce feature bloat and get a cleaner design.

Corporate learning is doing better with integrating tools; in the education market the integration of tools is more basic and somewhat clunky. The education market could learn from corporate learning.

Re mobile: The LMSes are moving their slowly. Offline access and responsive design for mobile are two major areas they are working on. It’s just slow.

Re learning and data analytics – the movement is more towards – we want the data, but we aren’t as interested in your graphs and learning analytics. Given our work in Intelliboard, I see this. What the data means depends on course and institution policies – and it’s better for the institution to be building up the meaning around the data.

Great session to get an update on what’s happening with LMSes. The evidence seems clear that LMSes are not dead nor dying.

Review of Canadian and U.S. Survey Results on Online and Distance Education in Post-Secondary Education

I’m attending the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning 2017 in Toronto, Canada and blogging the sessions I’m attending.

Presenter(s): Tony Bates, Ross Paul, Brian Desbiens, Denis Mayer, Eric Martel, Tricia Donovan, Russell Poulin

Babson & IPEDS have been collecting data in the U.S.; it has impacted policy at the state and federal level. But no comparable Canadian data across the whole system. So hence the new survey that is being reported on for the first time here at ICDE, and released to the public today.

This survey was done with a volunteer team, plus Babson and WCET to assist. Funding was raised, there wasn’t a federal base for it. They developed a national database of institutions to do the survey as well.

They had a 69% response rate; about 78% of the student population covered. Almost all of the post secondary institutions offer online for credit. They also checked websites and provincial records to identify what institutions were doing, even those who didn’t do the survey. It’s really a mature market – institutions have been offering online learning for 15 years or more. The growth rate has slowed because most institutions are already doing online (it’s about 2% measuring institutions; 15% colleges; 10% growth for universities 2010-2015). Online is about 16% of the teaching at the university level.

They made a distinction between distance education and online – print based being included in their distance education definition.

72% institutions rate online learning important and are developing a strategy for online.

Some technologies are hard to track because it might be at the individual professor level instead of at the institutional level.

They defined hybrid learning as a reduction in face to face time to allow time for online – that’s our blended learning definition at Andrews too. 

On hybrid learning – faculty were rethinking their teaching to better use online and face to face pedagogies. This type of learning is hard to track.

There’s no MOOC mania in Canada…. it’s neat and interesting and might be helpful but it won’t change our business.

Benefits of online learning: flexibility, increased enrollments, innovative teaching.

Challenges included lack of resources, faculty resistance or lack of training, lack of government support (lowest in Ontario, highest in Quebec).

Challenges with the survey – many Canadian institutions aren’t counting their online enrollments regularly; and even basic student counting of data is widely different across provinces; the need for a standard method of counting; post-secondary oversight is entirely provincial. FTE definitions are not the same across provinces.

Another challenge with the survey was whether to do a snapshot or an annualized version of the learning. A snapshot, for example, may not take into account summer online learning.

Comparisons between Canada and the U.S.

  • Similarities:
    • Difficulties with definitions for data collection
    • Institutional commitment and growth rates
    • Larger institutions are more likely to be doing online / distance ed
    • Institutions see online education as a strategic part of the institution moving forward
  • Differences
    • Canada: course enrollments / U.S. headcounts
    • Canada has almost all public institutions offering online; U.S. about 3/4ths public institutions involved in online


  • Scaling up faculty support – do faculty have to go to a central unit? can they get the support on their own and on demand?
  • Planning for digital learning
  • What about small institutions and the resources they need
  • What could or should the government be doing?
  • Organizational issues
  • Online course enrollment data

Links and Resources

UX Design for Learning

I’m attending the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning 2017 in Toronto, Canada. This session is just one presentation shared by the Centre for Extended Learning at the University of Waterloo.

Presenters: Meagan Troop, Darcy White, Pia Zeni; Matt Justice, Kristin Wilson (University of Waterloo)

They have instructional designers, media developers, technology consultants, librarians, copyright specialists and more.

UX Design – popularized by Donald Norman. “Design decisions should be based on the needs and wants of users rather than informed solely by clients or developers.”

Desire Path by Wikimedia

Desire Path by Wikimedia

For us, the user is the learner. Why should I involved learners in the design process? Design without user input results in the user sometimes not even using what you designed. i.e. a “desire path” where users pick a path more efficient.

They got funding from ecampus Ontario to do a large research project on what users want in their e-learning experiences.

How do we keep the focus on the UX design where there is a big production pressure for getting courses launched?

Peter Morville is an information architect, UX expert. He developed the UX honeycomb – with valuable in the middle of the honeycomb.

UXLDL 1.0: They surfaced the literature on these areas, and focused on the various areas of the online learning experience. See their honeycomb website.

In this session, we are looking at two cells from the honeycomb: useful and desirable.


How can we create useful learning experiences for students? building on Richard Mayer’s work. 

Not just putting out information – but how do we get students to engage in “appropriate cognitive processing”. The idea is that we are processing visual and verbal information using different channels. We experienced watching a video where the words being spoken didn’t match the words – which is a problem because the brain is working on both but then can’t make sense of it because they don’t match. We need to engage both channels of the brain – visual and verbal – in a way that they match. If you add audio, you need to give the user a choice to use it or not. Also the visual should enhance the learning and add meaning or make the meaning easier to grasp, not just be added on.

The honeycomb website goes into much more detail on how to work on all of these areas.

Sometimes new material is complex, learners are novices. We need to help students process the new material. Segmenting short chunks, introducing key concepts first, using narration, not text to accompany pictures.

Four different kinds of visuals – decorative (they add nothing), representational (they represent one element of the concept; they don’t really enhance learning), organizational visual (depict relationships between one or two elements – do help with learning), and finally explanatory visual (like the water cycle – these help with learning). Need to focus on visuals that help explain the concepts. Metaphor visuals can act as a visual cue for retrieval of memory.

Media done poorly distracts learning!


It should Look Good (visceral design), Feel Good (behavioral design), and Make You Think (reflective design) aka Beauty, Function, and Reflection.

How do we create positive affect in online learning? Read more from the honeycomb here. We want to capture student’s attention, curiosity. Students need to watch the content to learn it, so how do we get them involved?

Surprise, a story, emotional design. How are we ensuring this is included in our courses? Is it easy for students to go from text to video and back to text? For function, do they have to mess around very much to get to the content and to engage in the course? We want to be creating a positive affect within the course.

What about the fact that some of these things take so many resources to create? And we have so many courses to create?

Images that engage emotions, that catch attention.

Researching the Honeycomb

The honeycomb was launched in 2016, and spring 2017 the research questions are around validating the honeycomb.

They focused on the literature on cognitive and affective work in online learning. They identified a gap in the literature. They are collecting data via surveys, in depth interviews, and user research.

They are looking at four courses – STEM and non-STEM – that were intentionally designed with the honeycomb in mind.

Results include students wanted: ongoing interaction, self-directed, self-paced, high quality, meaningful, fair assessments, same rigor in a classroom experience, flexibility, social aspect of learning, individual learning, humanizing learning.

The honeycomb is really about content – which would make sense because it is based on web design principles. For 2.0 they want to include the other types of interaction also – with the instructor and with peers.

Students ranked features in order of importance to them. Content and activities being easy to find (top feature, findable & usable on the honeycomb). Easy to read instructions, also high. Only 2% wanted opportunities to interact with their classmates. They think that interaction seems inauthentic or forced (i.e. discussion forums). This was undergraduate (and only a very small percent were adult learners) – I really think that undergraduates struggle much more with discussion than graduate students.

The honeycomb doesn’t really focus on humanizing learning, and this is an area they want to work on more.

I really appreciate a session where a team of people took a concept or framework and worked on it deeply, exploring the concept deeply, researching, experimenting with course design, etc.

Turning the Page on Digital Textbooks

I’m attending the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning 2017 in Toronto, Canada. The set of presentations I’m reporting on are all around open, digital textbooks, OER, open publication, etc.

The Value and Experience of Open Publication

This section is presented by Dianne Conrad, co-editor of IRRODL, Terry Anderson, retired from Athabasca University and Rory McGreal, co-editor of IRRODL.

The open movement, you know, includes open society, open educational resources, open acces, open data, open source software, open licenses.

What is an open access journal? No price barriers. No permission barriers. Subsidized by an academic institution, learned society or government.

IRRODL is the first open access journal in Canada. In 2008 they started the open AU press too. It’s linked to the OER knowledge cloud. SSHRC-funded. The most cited journal in distance education. The readership and manuscripts come from around the world.

The Directory of Open Access Journals, they have the DOAJ Seal which means they adhere to open access best practice. Something to check on other open journals!!

Discussion of the publication of monographs via the AU press. University support is critical for the press. Goal of 1% of the AU budget to go to the press.There are grant funds. Issues in Distance Education – series.

Next Rory McGreal talked about the advantages of open textbooks: cost, adaptability, updating, localisation. Challenges: entrenched practices and special interests. Increase in textbook prices. Publishers are selling less textbooks so they keep increasing their prices.

Main leaders in OER: BCcampus, SOL*R, ecampus Ontario.

Developing an OER Digital Interactive “Textbook:” Challenges and Opportunities of Modular and Flexible Design Principles

Presenter(s): Gail Morong, Shannon Smyrl

This section is creating an open learning course for introduction to academic writing. There are dozens of projects. This is one that every institution has, but needs significant adaptation for local. They wanted to build an open textbook that supported both students and faculty through the experience.

Their main criteria for the project was to have a user-driven resource vs. a textbook-driven resource. The learning resource should support and facilitate the course design rather than dictate. The idea is that the teacher shouldn’t have to be held hostage by the textbook. In activity based learning, you need things to work with in the classroom – and sometimes textbooks don’t provide that.

The design criteria then were modular, open, flexible. Think of how sometimes you only use 3 chapters from a $200 book. Academic writing courses shouldn’t need a textbook. Maybe first year theory courses need it, but you really need something flexible. It should be flexible for 60 students or in a computer lab, or in self-directed online, or whatever.

It’s set up so the different activities can be used. It has a coherent theme, but doesn’t require that students follow through. You can put your own theme in, or you can pick and choose.

From a faculty member’s point of view – what was needed was institutional support, technical support, media support, instructional design support. There was also huge disciplinary support – as part of the work load of faculty.

Development Methodology of Interactive Digital Textbook for Experimental Subjects

By Kwang Sik Chung and Sooyoul Kwon (Korea National Open University)

The challenge with creating digital textbooks is coordinating all the different people. So, a methodology for creating a digtial textbook would be helpful. They were creating their textbook for the smartphone – he showed an example of having the user tilt or shake the phone to fill a beaker for an experiment.

Interesting model from data to information to knowledge to wisdom – moving up a pyramid. How do we get to wisdom? How do we design to bring students to the level of wisdom, not just data at the bottom of the pyramid.

They created a methodology that included: plan & analysis; design; development and implementation; evaluation stage. It includes a variety of roles and a coordination timeline as well.

Developing OER Degree Pathways in the US and Canada

Una Daly, James Glapa-Grossklag; Amanda Coolidge (BCcampus)

James started: The idea here is, how could students have a complete pathway for their whole degree – with the benefit of students the end result. James is from California and is working on the Zero Textbook Cost degrees – it means community college associate degrees or career technical education certificates. It’s about the student – the student getting done. It’s a big deal in California as they serve 2 million students in 114 community colleges; 1/5th of all the U.S. community college. 1/10th of all US [community? ] college students are in a community college in California. 25 colleges are working on a ZTC degree pathway.

In British Columbia they are doing the same thing – Zed Cred – using the Canadian pronunciation of Z. Fun!

It’s significant cost savings to students, increasing in enrollment, persistence and performance (Hilton et al 2016). It makes it easier for student to learn better and more quickly.  What would it take to have an Adventist initiative like this? Maybe different institution could collaborate on specific courses? Funding for development and adaptation of open textbooks for the faith perspective would be critical. Would be so cool!

Another initiative is Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count. This effort is privately funded, and is including research in it’s focus. This effort requires open resources – it can’t even be library resources that are stuck behind a paywall. Very interesting to make sure it’s totally open.

They are also working on what is needed to move from an OER course to an OER degree. They think about total institution cost too – not just the cost benefit to students – costs like instructional support, the departments involved supporting, as well.

Research questions include – do students complete better if they have OER courses; and what are the institutional costs and support? Advising, registration, advertising so they know. Articulation agreements with 4 year degrees. The 4 year degrees should be prepared to accept the courses. It’s very worth while having that conversation with the institutions will be going to next.


An accreditation question. U.S. accreditors don’t require that materials are published by a commercial publisher – what they require is that the qualified faculty is the one making the choice on the materials. Thomson Rivers response – the accreditors are looking at the learning outcomes. The resources are chosen by faculty to meet the learning outcomes.

Someone wondered if students might do all the learning resource activities on their own, and then come to the institution for assessments. The responses were that most of these were used for traditional courses.

OERu is another initiative in this area – where students can use OERs to get a credential.

The value for OER and digital textbooks is really for the students.

Someone else in the audience said this is a cost shift from the students to the institutions and/or faculty. Response: there are faculty incentives. Questioner: why are you doing it? Response: plan for student success – better pedagogy – students completing. In Canada they are government funded – it saves provincial money in the long run because otherwise the province is paying for textbooks with funds for student education. Passionate response: the bike rake is free, the wifi and the library are free, why not the learning resources? That’s the main thing that students are here for.

Another huge aspect of the open textbook is that it can be a different format  – not just print and graphics. Maybe we should call it something instead of a textbook. That’s why we have OER. It’s kind of a workbook – it’s all the things you need. Things you copy, things you use for activities.

On the faculty side, development in this area must count towards tenure and promotion.

Fascinating discussion and presentations. An area where creative and innovative work continues.

Effective Communication with Online Students

Blogging the United States Distance Learning Association 2017 National Conference. This session presented by Sharon Clampitt from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico.

Description: We all know that interaction and communication with online students is essential, but is it always as effective as we would like it to be? This interactive presentation explores the key elements of a successful communication with students, and our students with instructors. It gives practical tips for effective communication both from and to students.

Effective Communication

Types of communication:

  • Professor -> Student
  • Student -> Professor
  • Student -> Student
  • Student -> Support Personnel
  • Support Personnel -> Student

Even the students may need some training and assistance on communicating effectively with students – thinking of some of our dual enrollment students who really need help with this!

What are some of the reasons faculty talk to students…. Need to ask them if they are ok and finding everything they need. Often they won’t say anything until they are asked! Transmitting and summarizing information of course, but also following-up to remind them about assignments etc. Clarifying misconceptions – before the issue becomes viral on a discussion forum or before an exam. Individual feedback in communications – they need to know why they got the grade they got. If you don’t tell them what they missed, they misunderstand, they start changing what they already do understand.  The students who are successful also need a pat on the back and encouragement. Students need motivation communications. One of the most demotivating things in distance education is lack of faculty communication.

Why are students communicating with faculty? To ask for information. To ask if they can hand something in late; to give them a break. They follow-up on requests – things they need from us. Clarifying questions they have; to give the faculty feedback.

Effective communication can create a rapport and desire to communicate more; however if it’s done poorly, the door can shut and you might not hear from the student again.

Three Key Takeaways

  • Timely. Sufficient time for the person to take appropriate action. There needs to be time to remediate. Respond to questions as soon as they are asked. Clarify before misconceptions become an epidemic.
  • Meaningful. Provides the information they need; attends to academic, psychological, social needs as well, the recognizes the people involved. Use their name in the email. Encourage. Help them calm down. Thinking also of the idea of acknowledging how the feel or what they said or experienced. “as so and so said in their post, ….” “it seems you’ve read the material carefully…”
  • Actionable. The person needs to know what to do next. Start with something positive. I can tell that you’ve put a lot of work into this. Make it clear what to do next. Please make an appointment with me. Thinking of the positive helpdesk email reading I’ve been doing lately. Connecting on a human level first; and making sure that you assist with the actual thing the students need.

We need to teach students to do this as well.

  • Timely. They should ask for help before the assignment expires. Not at the end of the class where they haven’t done anything yet.
  • Meaningful. It should be very clear what the actual problem is.
  • Actionable. They should be clear on what type of solution they are hoping for.

What are some ways we could help students communicate more effectively with us.

Sample email from a student.

Hello professor.

This is the first time I have taken an online course and I don’t know what to do. I tried to do the first assignment, but I didn’t understand anything. I haven’t bought the textbook, well, because I don’t know what to do. I tried to do the first assignment, but I didn’t understand anything. I haven’t bought the textbook, well, because I don’t know which one it is. Can you help me?


Gunter Lunch.

First, though, check that the information they need is actually available and not hidden!

Writing a response in groups:

Dear Gunter,

I’m so glad you decided to take the leap and take this class as your first online class! Welcome! Online courses can be tricky for getting started, so here’s some tips to help you get started.

Here’s the direct link to buy the textbook. Please acquire it as soon as possible. If you have trouble, call 123-barnes&noble.

Then, for getting started, did you find the orientation in the top how to section of the course? This will help you learn how navigate and get yourself organized to learn online.

On the first assignment, after you get textbook, read chapter 1, and watch the little intro video, and review my notes on what the expectations are for the assignment. Then, if you are still stuck, give me a time between 3-5 pm on Thursday, and I’ll send you a link to videoconference so we can talk it over. This assignment is due next Sunday, so start soon!

Are you checking your University email? I sent a welcome email with instructions to get started. Did you receive it? Let’s make sure you’re getting my communications.

This should get you started! Again, so glad to have you in class! Call 123-my-office if you want to talk further.

Professor Schedule-a-Meeting

Comments and discussion on this exercise:

  • Sometimes these questions can help you consider your course. Maybe they shouldn’t see the content until they have done the orientation.
  • Sometimes you can look at the stats to see where the student has been looking; and that information can help you figure out a more appropriate response to the student.

Tools to Hide Your Cell Phone

These are the tools shared at the end to text students but not give them your cell phone number.

Using Blogging to Contribute Expertise and Convey Credibility

Today I’m presenting at the United States Distance Learning Association National Conference 2017: Using Blogging to Contribute Expertise and Convey Credibility. This post shares the accompanying resources.


My blogging history:

Tools for blogging:

Ideas for Blogging

Scheduling and Tracking Writing

Promoting and Learning

Getting Ready for USDLA National Conference 2017

Are you going to the USDLA National Conference next week? I am. Hope to see you there! Here are some bits I’m looking forward to:

  1. Indianapolis! USDLA has been in St. Louis for as long as I can remember (well, I first learned about USDLA in 2008, so that’s not so long ago compared to the 30 years anniversary USDLA is celebrating this year!) USDLA board member, Samantha Penney, has put together a great little collection of things to know about Indy and the attractions nearby. Maybe I’ll get a chance to see the White River State Park!
  2. Elliot Masie is doing the opening keynote – that is bound to be an amazing experience!
  3. Darcy Hardy’s preconference on strategic planning. Hoping to pick a few tips and possibly find some holes in our strategic planning that I can get ideas to fill!
  4. Bill Jackson Sunrise Run/Walk. It’s always fun to get up in the morning and see professional colleagues in their running gear! Curious to see what Indy sights we’ll see on our run/walk this year!
  5. Scavenger Hunt on Sunday night. These activities are fun for meeting people. One thing I love about USDLA is that as the conference goes on, you start recognizing more people because there are so many opportunities to be together and learn from each other.
  6. A great line-up of sessions. Of course it’s always hard to choose. This year, it seems everyone really got their racing hats on when writing session titles. Usually there’s a few people who take the theme into their session in creatives ways too. Looking forward to lots of good learning!

Your Turn

What about you? Going to USDLA? What are you hoping to learn? And/or, is there another conference that’s your favorite? What have you picked up recently that you’re applying now in your distance learning work?

Zoom Integration with Moodle and Other Learning Management Systems

Recently one of my team returned from a conference and shared how everyone was interested in how we integrate Zoom with Moodle at Andrews University. I thought then that I’d share here how we do that.

Our Moodle is currently hosted with Moonami, but this strategy should work for you, however you are hosting Moodle. In addition, most learning management systems allow for some HTML in announcement features, discussion forums, anywhere you can post text. So this strategy should work well elsewhere too.

Set up a Recurring Meeting for the Course

First, we recommend our faculty set up a recurring meeting for the course so that students can always use the same link to attend class. This works even if you are sharing the Zoom account across a department, because each course could have it’s own recurring meeting, as long as someone makes sure they aren’t scheduled at the same time. Our departments who share Zoom usually have an administrative assistant keeping an eye on that.

Link the Meeting in an HTML Block

After the link is set up, then we create a little HTML block (in BrightSpace this is a widget) to show prominently within the course as shown:


The block has a link to the meeting room for the course, and the materials are linked to our simple QuickGuide on how Zoom works. (See our other QuickGuides)

The HTML for this block is shared below. The bold sections are where you’ll need to make changes for your situation.

<p><img src=”http://link to your Zoom image here” width=”180″ height=”39″ style=”display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;” /></p>

<p style=”text-align: center;”>This course features live webinars. <br />Click on “<strong>Meeting Room</strong>” below<br />to connect and participate</p>

<p style=”text-align: center;”><strong><a href=”https://link to your Zoom Room here” title=”Zoom Webinar” target=”_blank”>Meeting Room</a></strong><br />

<strong><a href=”http://Link to your Zoom instructions here” title=”Zoom Usage Instructions” target=”_blank”>Support Materials</a></strong></p>

Other Uses for HTML Blocks

And, voila! Now you have an HTML block featuring Zoom on the front page of the course. This little trick is great for many features that you might want to add to your online courses! I like to use the HTML block also for:

  • Contact information and photo for the instructor
  • Student support services info, links, phone numbers
  • A list of important deadlines – withdrawal dates, last day for a full refund, etc.
  • A short version of the suggested schedule for organizing assigned work each week

Your Turn

Do you have a strategy like this in your LMS? Share your tips or questions in the comments below!

Top Tools for Supporting Dissertations

Last week we looked at tips for managing the dissertation advising process for online PhDs. This week, let’s look at a variety of tools for supporting the dissertation process.

Collecting and Formatting References

  • A reference manager. First and foremost, you absolutely must start using a  reference manager, if you haven’t already. While it takes a bit to set up, it will save you hours in the long run, making sure that all references are properly cited. The top tools are listed below. The Barnard Library has created a useful comparison of the three.
  • Tutorials. I created this collection of tutorials when I was starting my PhD. While the software specifics might have changed slightly over time, the principles of how to organize yourself for reference collection are still useful.
  • Smart use of Google Scholar. Have you noticed that if you’re on campus at your university, and you use Google Scholar, all the references link to databases subscribed to by your library? What if you’re off campus though? Here are a couple of tips.
    • Check your Google Scholar settings. Select your university’s library under Libraries.
    • Set it to automatically save to your reference software, such as EndNote while you’re there. This will provide a direct link to import in the GoogleScholar results, as shown below.
    • Collect references and PDFs as you work. Here’s a tutorial I did for my graduate social media class in the fall of 2015 on how to find the PDFs after doing a Google Scholar search. Be a good researcher, and don’t just read the abstracts! Read, collect, and cite the full article!

Note Taking

Next, it’s a good idea to create a habit of taking notes on your reading. It could be scribbles, bullet points, short bits. But be writing in your own words about your literature reading.

  • Evernote. I’m a huge Evernote fan. The point of Evernote is to clip EVERYTHING you might want to remember. Yyu can grab pictures, pieces of websites, snapshots of text that is then searchable, etc. You can search it at any time for whatever you need. It’s like having a second brain. My Evernote is a huge searchable collection bin – interesting articles, random thoughts I scribble down, results from SPSS with scribbled thinking, etc. Keeping a research notebook is a good habit to establish. It will help with your academic publishing as well. And dissertation advisors, you can use it to keep notes on the dissertations you’re supporting!
  • Blogging. I am one who likes to learn publicly. Depending on your audience and your dissertation topic, you may find this strategy helpful as well. This page has my collection of PhD blog posts – on my dissertation, my literature review, and other topics I studied. I have always found writing to learn helps cement new knowledge in my brain. Tools for blogging include:
  • Writing Daily. There are some interesting tools out there to help you get in the habit of writing daily. You should be generating text on a regular basis, even if it is draft thinking, prewriting, or outlining. If you don’t want to write publicly, like on a blog, another great option is 750Words. This tool motivates and tracks your regular writing habit. Wondering what to write daily? Try these tips for applying the 750-1000 words-a-day habit to your dissertation.


How are you keeping tabs on your topic or field? Here are some notifications you should have set up already:

  • Subscribing to journals. Almost every journal has a way to subscribe to the Table of Contents updates. Sign up for your favorites to keep tabs on the field. Read titles quickly, don’t get distracted!
  • Google Alerts. Did you know you can set up alerts to monitor the web, your reputation, your topic? Google Scholar has alerts also. Let the web come to you!
  • Academic social networks also provide alerts and notifications on topics and researchers:

Tracking Progress

How are you tracking your progress? One of my favorite books on writing is How to Write a Lot. One of the excellent suggestions there is to track your progress. Count:

  • Time spent writing
  • Words generated
  • Note the topic/task/project you were working on

Note how my spreadsheet for writing tracking looks:

Or, you can try one of many goal setting apps to track your progress. Set goals and track them.

What gets measured gets done!


Finally, a few tools for editing your writing:

  • Grammarly. This free grammar checker can assist you in creating academic prose.
  • TurnItIn. Find out from your university ed tech tool helpdesk how you can use TurnItIn to check your ability to cite your sources well. Or your university may provide resources in the dissertation preparation courses.
  • Color edits. Another of my favorite writing books is Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks. This book has an awesome section on using colors to edit your writing. I’ve found it incredibly helpful.

Your Turn

What would you add? Are there other tasks or components of the dissertation process that you use another tool to support? Do any of these tools also work for you? Please comment!