Monthly Archives: April 2017

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.

Notifications

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!


Editing

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!

Dissertation Advising at a Distance

One of the challenges of online PhDs is how to keep a good dissertation advising process working, mediated by technology to bridge space and time. In an on-campus PhD, a student has the benefit of a community: fellow students hanging out in the library; walking into the office of dissertation committee members and advisers; graduate student lounge; graduate student association activities.

However, the online PhD experience may be lonely and challenging. So, let’s look at some tips from the student and the faculty perspectives.

Writing with pen, paper, and laptop

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Tips for Online PhD Students

Many of these tips come from my own experience with an adjunct methodologist. What would you add?

  • Adapt to your adviser’s style. I had an amazing methodologist; but at first I was frustrated with how low-tech he was. I wanted to videoconference; he used the phone. I wanted to email my documents; he wanted a hard copy. I later learned what an expense it would be to an adjunct methodologist to print; so now I better appreciate his requirement of mailing. I adapted by buying the flat rate mailers; and soon found that this strategy contributed to a faster turn around time.
  • Summarize notes. As soon as we got off the phone, usually about a 30 minute conversation, I would take my scribbles and write them up into official notes and email them back to him. I did this recap to help keep the information in my brain. I always felt like it was falling out of my head. But another huge benefit was a record of what we had discussed, a todo list of what I was supposed to do next. This made it easier for my adviser to keep track of my progress.
  • Use a recording device. It’s a great idea to use some type of method to record the conversation with your dissertation chair or advisers. This allows you to go back and listen to it again. Often as students, the information overload causes us to miss something. Hearing it again and ensuring that we’ve responded to all feedback makes for a more efficient and pleasant process for everyone involved.
  • Respond to feedback soon. Don’t procrastinate in working on the changes or next steps discussed in the meeting. The longer you wait, the fuzzier the concepts get in your brain. Do it soon! I usually talked to my methodologist on Fridays, and then Sundays I’d do the work that we discussed; trying to get another version in the mail by Monday.
  • Plan for “waiting” jobs. Plan to have some things to work on while you’re waiting for feedback. One easy job is making sure your references are in your software tool (Endnote, Zotero, etc.) and are correct. Check the caps on all the titles. Check the page numbers. etc. This will help you stay in “dissertation mode” and will save you in the long run when you get to final editing stage.

Tips for Professors Mentoring Online Dissertation Students

  • Schedule regular meetings. Your on campus students have easier access to you. They can pop by your office. But your online students only have phone and email. If you don’t respond to email quickly, they can feel neglected. An easy way to resolve this challenge is to schedule regular meetings. This provides deadlines for both you and the student.
  • Schedule your reading time. Put an appointment on your calendar to schedule time to read and prepare feedback. What gets scheduled gets done!
  • Use a videoconference tool. Our institution uses Zoom, which allows several features that can be helpful in discussing writing: screen sharing, annotation, and recording. Depending on the tool, have the student record so the recording is on their computer. Videoconferencing is as close to face to face as you can get at a distance; and the ability to get tone of voice and body language enhances the interaction significantly. Your academic technology office probably supports a similar tool and can provide access and training.
  • Use TurnItIn. Use TurnItIn to check for proper citation early and often. Your academic technology office should be able to set you up with a space for dissertations. TurnItIn can even be set up for students to have access to see the results to help improve their citations.

Your Turn

What would you add? What have you found as essential tips or tools for online PhD students – from the student or the faculty perspective? Please comment!