What kind of assignments did you learn the most from as a student?

Technology is everywhere these days. Databases and algorithms run the world. But the Technology still serves as an adjunct to learning in the classroom, whereas the teacher will always be the heart of the classroom.

What kind of assignments did you learn the most from as a student? Here’s a few of mine: 

  • Dissecting an animal to learn in a hands-on lab environment.
  • Critically analyzing and aggregating trends from a collection of scholarly articles.
  • Preparing and giving an oral presentation with a small group of classmates.
  • Writing 12 page persuasive essay to really learn both sides of a controversial issue such as treating PTSD with Beta-Blockers (medication).
  • Building $7 million dollar Wide Area Network

My favorite high school psychology teacher used to say, even if you’re not a good teacher, students will like you if you can make them laugh; and that man made us laugh and engaged us with really cool case studies like the Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiment. Likewise, the professor I learned from the most in college, didn’t even use Blackboard. He just had us analyze the societal and economical ramifications from popular Harvard Business Review articles, and then go around the room and each student shared what they took away from various parts of the article.

What kind of teachers and teaching strategies do you think were the most memorable? 


Favorite parts of the PEW Research Center study on the Future of Jobs and Jobs Training

This is a really well written article, Experts on The Future of Jobs and Jobs Training. It’s also very long. Here’s a few of my favorite quotes. Comment below with your thoughts. Do you agree with these predictions?

“The main teaching goal: ‘We will make you better than a robot. We let you cooperate with robots.” – By Lee Rainie and Janna Anderson

“MOOCs [Massive Open Online Courses] have a high dropout rate and have serious questions about quality of instruction. They are also struggling with basic issues like identification of individuals taking the courses.” – Jason Hong, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University

“One potential future would be for those universities to abandon the idea that they have faculty teaching their own courses and instead consist entirely of a cadre of (less well paid) teaching assistants who provide support for the students who are taking courses online.” – David Karger, a professor of computer science at MIT

“Via simulation, gaming, digital presentations – combined with hands-on, real-world experience – learning and re-education will move out of books and into the world.” – Barry Chudakov, founder and principal at Sertain Research and StreamFuzion Corp

“Automation will reduce the need for the current workforce, and the divide between the upper class and the lower class will continue to eat the middle class.” – anonymous technologist

“The reliability of the traditional educational system is already being questioned – in some fields it’s considered common sense that certifications and degrees mean little, and that a portfolio, references, and hands-on interviews are much more important for assessing a candidate’s ability.” – Anonymous software engineering and system administration professional

Edward Friedman, professor emeritus of technology management at the Stevens Institute of Technology, wrote, “Already, today there are quite effective online training and education systems, but they are not being implemented to their full potential. These applications will become more widely used with familiarity that is gained during the next decade. Also, populations will be more tech-savvy and be able to make use of these systems with greater personal ease.”

Jobs? What jobs? Technological forces will fundamentally change work and the economic landscape. Among the 30% of respondents who said they did not think things would turn out well in the future were those who said the trajectory of technology will overwhelm labor markets, killing more jobs than it creates. They foresee a society where AI programs and machines do most of the work and raise questions about people’s sense of identity, the socio-economic divisions that already distress them, their ability to pay for basic needs, their ability to use the growing amount of “leisure time” constructively and the impact of all of this on economic systems.” – Lee Rainie and Janna Anderson

Jennifer Zickerman, an entrepreneur, commented, “The problem of future jobs is not one of skills training – it is one of diminishing jobs. How will we cope with a workforce that is simply irrelevant?”

“The question isn’t how to train people for nonexistent jobs, it’s how to share the wealth in a world where we don’t need most people to work.”- Nathaniel Borenstein, chief scientist at Mimecas

“The automation of human labor will grow significantly. And having a workforce trained in discrete and atomizable bits of skills will be seen as a benefit by employers.” – Baratunde Thurston, a director’s fellow at MIT Media Lab, Fast Company columnist and former digital director of The Onion

“The skills of the future? Those are the skills a robot cannot master (yet). Leadership, design, human meta communication, critical thinking, motivating, cooperating, innovating. In my black-and-white moments I say: Skip all knowledge training in high schools. Main teaching goal: ‘We enable you to survive in an ever-changing world with ever-changing skills and not-yet-existing jobs of the future. We make you better than a robot. We let you cooperate with robots. We build your self-trust. We turn you into a decent, polite, social person. – Marcel Bullinga, trend watcher and keynote speaker

Barry Chudakov stated: “The first skill needed to succeed in the workforce of the future will be the ability to understand, manage and manipulate data. Everyone in a technology-based profession will need to be a quant [quantitative analyst] or keep up with the quants. Because all human processes and activities can now be quantified, and there is considerable exploration and technology development in the application of quantification to everything from our sleep patterns and shopping habits to our emotions and online behaviors, many new and important business models are emerging from quantification and the learning algorithms that drive it.

The second, and much more important, skill needed to succeed in the workforce of the future will be the ability to find meaning and value in data combined with the problem, condition, or opportunity the data is outlining. Said simply, the greatest skill will be the ability to think through the cloud of facts, data, experience and strategic direction that products and services require. Design thinking or visual thinking will be a critical part of managing a data-driven world. Data mining and management can be taught effectively. Thinking, problem-solving, reflection and visioning are difficult to teach at scale.”

And finally, a prediction of the future of educational technology:


Is higher education good for society as a whole, or does it create a larger gap between the have’s and have-not’s?

Does higher education have the potential to exacerbate the issue of haves and have nots? In 1947, President Truman seemed to think so in a report for his Commission on Higher Education. He actually made a bold prediction within this report, that may be becoming true. Do you think his concerns are still valid today?


On a related note, I’m wondering what automation technology, genome editing, universal basic income will do to our society’s various populations and class wars. 

Favorite quotes from Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard Keynote speech:

I recently watched this full speech. I loved it.

Full text transcript: https://www.recode.net/2017/5/25/15694058/mark-zuckerberg-commencement-harvard-speech-address

My favorite quotes from Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard Keynote speech:

“Let’s do great things no just to create progress, but to create purpose”

“The greatest successes come from having the freedom to fail”

“We get that our greatest opportunities are now global — we can be the generation that ends poverty, that ends disease. We get that our greatest challenges need global responses too — no country can fight climate change alone or prevent pandemics. Progress now requires coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community.

But we live in an unstable time.  There are people left behind by globalization across the world. It’s hard to care about people in other places if we don’t feel good about our lives here at home. There’s pressure to turn inwards.

This is the struggle of our time. The forces of freedom, openness and global community against the forces of authoritarianism, isolationism and nationalism. Forces for the flow of knowledge, trade and immigration against those who would slow them down. This is not a battle of nations, it’s a battle of ideas. There are people in every country for global connection and good people against it.”

Strong call to action at the end: “Class of 2017, you are graduating into a world that needs purpose. It’s up to you to create it.”

Poke you’re it!

You know the story: Mark Zuckerburg quit college to form what would eventually become Facebook.com. But did you know the origin of the ‘poke’ feature? It’s a nonverbal communication device for Facebook friends to virtually poke someone else. That person gets notified of getting poked and has only two options: respond with a poke or ignore it. Simple, but users loved it. Some people have participated in year long ‘poke wars’ where 2 friends continuously poke each other over time until someone gets bored and stops. Things just for the sake of it may seem trivial, but if it helps keep your users engaged, are they necessarily a bad thing? Here’s Zuck’s explanation for why they added the Poke feature, many, many moons ago: “We thought it would fun to make a feature that has no specific purpose.  So, mess around with it, because you’re not getting an explanation from us.”


What I Learned from the 2018 University of the Sciences “e-Learning Conference 3.0”

It’s always hard to find time to attend a professional development event, with a busy work schedule. But the e-Learning Conference 3.0 in Philadelphia was a really interesting higher ed conference. Here’s a brief summary of what I learned from the various sessions and keynote presentations. Full disclosure: brief translates to about 3,000 words. Lots of innovative ideas were shared!

Session 1: Stop the Snoring! Make Class Less Boring – Gamify!

The problem with high-stakes assignments: It’s a bit like gambling: high risk, high reward. A grade doesn’t necessarily prove one has learned a subject and become competent enough to apply that knowledge to other non-theoretical settings. Regardless, some students will give unnecessary extra attention and effort on securing an A. Is it a bad thing to pursue an A? No, but it’s more important to actually learn something than worry about your GPA. Furthermore, the stakes tend to be high in college courses, for example, a final project that’s worth a whopping grand total of 40% of the student’s final grade. So just by performing poorly on a few key assignments, students may get a low final grade in the class.

Key take away:

Instead of emphasizing perfection on assignments, try the opposite: give students more opportunities to succeed.

This can be in the form of extra credit via supplemental assignments. By overloading the number of total points in one’s grade book, students may be more motivated to focus more on actually learning the subject matter, comprehending it, and synthesizing the concepts to real-world scenarios. It switches the student motivational paradigm away from Positive Punishment (Bad grade = bad student), in which someone is taught by presenting a negative consequence after an undesired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior less likely to happen in the future. More assignments may mean more grading for the instructor, but it lowers the stakes on each individual assignment; this in turn creates a learning environment that’s not solely focused on just getting good grades. Instead, it focuses on mastery of a subject, giving students multiple attempts to fix any significant issue in their submitted coursework. Alternatively, instead of giving students extra credit assignments, consider giving them a specified number of attempts to re-do an assignment that they perform poorly on. This is quite similar to how video games give players a set number of lives (such as 3 attempts) to perform a specific task, such as beat a level, or in an academia setting – make sure their essay covers the prompt properly and is in APA format!

Session 2: Temple University’s FOX School of Business: A Data-Driven Course Design Process

Key take away:

Great Course Design enables an environment for meaningful data analysis – BUT YOU NEED TO CONSISTENTLY USE METADATA!

Contacts: Laura.Gremmel@temple.edu and Keith.Gutierrez@temple.edu

Temple University’s Process & Methodology for Developing High Quality video content:

  • Start of design process – Blueprint document (Session/week, Learning objectives, videos, Readings/assets, Discussions, deliverables, assessments, Synchronous session via WebEx
  • Educational Theory Applied – Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • Instructional design – Backward design
  • Instructional Video Resources & Development – Videos are high quality in-house production (5 – 10 minute microlearning clips)
  • Quiz Development Strategy – Test questions must be linked to the concept or learning objective – you need consistency

Temple University’s strategy for paying SMEs for creating instructional videos:

  • Temple compensates faculty members for developing video content. The amount of the stipend was not discussed.
  • They have an in-house production team that works with subject matter experts (SMEs) to create original high quality video content (5 – 10 minute microlearning clips).
  • These videos are proprietary and they’re owned by Temple.

What is Education Data Mining?

It can be overwhelming to identify what’s important and not important to track. Consider the things you could track that are quantifiable and could be analyzed: Clicks in a course (total #), Page views, Time spent on a page, Time of day, and more. Ask yourself: What are we doing with the data? Don’t collect it just for the sake of it!

Question to consider: Does the order affecting how learners learn things?

  • The “Learning Path” is the flow of assignments and readings that a student takes to achieve mastery of a subject

Free ‘home-grown’ approach to data driven instruction:

  • Temple also pairs test questions with metadata that’s aligned with a specific learning objective, so faculty can generate micro and macro level analytics by exporting the students’ performance data and crunching it into Microsoft’s Power Business Intelligence software. https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/.
  • Essentially, it’s a simple way of identifying what concepts most students aren’t comprehending, so the instructor can then cover that topic in greater detail in an upcoming class.
  • This is a free ‘homegrown’ solution that is separate from the data analytics built into their LMS. I adore the visualizations this data creates.
  • They did all this by linking together 3 data sets, like an Access database with 3 linked tables: test question, video URL, and key concepts (AKA Learning Objective).
  • The MS Power BI tool is free to use at this point
  • The downside to this homegrown solution is scalability: it’s not automated whatsoever, someone has to export the data and then import into the BI tool, and then still create individual reports.

Here’s a couple of photos of the visuals they created with the BI tool:

What software can create these visual dashboards?

  • Microsoft Power Business Intelligence: https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/
  • You can extract LMS data locally into EXCEL. Spoof real student’s private contact info such as Name and Bb username. They used a VLOOKUP formula to swap out true student’s info with fake names.
  • Plug into the Excel tables into the Power BI tool to create a visualization for various courses
  • The visualization data live in the cloud, which isn’t a privacy issue since, since you can generate an unlisted link. There’s also no sensitive information shared, other than anonymized student performance data.

Ways to filter the visualization on the per course / assignment level: Slice and dice and deep dives!

  • Filter by week
  • Filter by learning objective and links to the video

Macro level:

  • Which learning objectives did most students perform the best on? You can identify what areas your students are comprehending, and then altering your instruction or the material.
  • Where are users viewing these videos? Shows a geographic heat map of viewer’s location by using their IP address.

Scalability & what a school would need to do to make this happen:

  • Metadata would NEED to be included on all assignments
  • This is a Temple University’s Fox School of Business homegrown solution they generate each and every dashboard (course level, per student, per learning objective, etc.)
  • It’s not fully automated yet. A true LMS integration would bypass the need to export/import data into the BI tool.
  • This solution took 1 person 7 months to create the visual dashboards from scratch. The time investment isn’t feasible to scale this for wide usage without a dedicated person to work on the project.

Data & financial considerations:

  • Take the emphasis off of the instructor. Since the data could be used to easily identify poorly performing faculty, instead try and focus on what areas students need the most help in. The videos are aligned with specific objectives, and this dashboard focuses on which concepts could be better understood with specific videos.
  • Videos are proprietary and they’re owned by Temple/Fox. SMEs receive a stipend for developing an instructional video.

What about other types of assessments with evidence/project-based assessments?

  • You could use an objective rubric to assess a subjective assignment.
  • But since an essay or project may cover multiple learning objectives, it’s more challenging to aggregate this data into this version of the BI tool. It’s probably easiest to start this kind of process with purely quantitative quiz question types.

What about built-in LMS data analytic tools?

  • LMS typically offers just question analysis – This approach lumps together larger trends.
  • The 3rd party publisher tools don’t have a consistent way to normalize the data, without extracting it to EXCEL and fixing up the data.

Keynote Panel consisted of leaders in higher ed:

  • Dr. Bobbe Baggio is currently Associate Provost of the School of Adult and Graduate Education (SAGE) at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA.
  • Dr. Kenneth E. Hartman is an educational entrepreneur, having served the past 30-years as a university president, professor, senior academic administrator, and consultant to companies and investors in the higher education sector. Most recently, Dr. Hartman served as president of Drexel University Online, a for-profit subsidiary of Drexel University.
  • Dr. Paul Katz is the 25th President of the University of the Sciences, home to the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, the nation’s oldest pharmacy school opening in 1821.
  • Dr. Rodney B. Murray is the Executive Director of Academic Technology at the University of the Sciences.

Question 1: How will students differ in 2030?

Paul Katz:

  • Different demographics
  • Change from UG focus to Grad (the market for graduates with a Bachelor’s degree is becoming saturated as the scope of underemployment continues to grow)
  • Lifelong & experiential learning (sharpening the saw on a regular basis)
  • Students picking from an a set of courses at multiple schools and then showing their competency in a portfolio

Ken Hartman:

Quantum computing and Artificial Intelligence will soon grow to where an AI Advisor will help learners identify what courses to take and when to take them.

  • My reaction: Programming languages are nothing more than a set of instructions that computers can understand. Contrary to popular belief, robots are not yet sentient. In fact, a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison stated that “Sentient machines may never exist, according to a variation on a leading mathematical model of how our brains create consciousness.” Regardless, computers are much more efficient than humans in performing certain calculations, for example the product of 1,312 and 55,000. Type that into any calculator and it’ll pop right up as 72160000. Most humans wouldn’t be able to read that number without the commas, let alone solve that problem in their head! The human brain is capable of creativity, but it can only hold about 7 pieces of information for less than 30 seconds. If you want to extend your short term memory beyond the 30 seconds it takes to forget something new, you will need to consistently re-expose yourself to the information. However, we are the ones who build the calculator. The late Steve Jobs was quoted saying, “What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.” Meaning the computational tools we build make us perform certain tasks better than any person could do without the technology. Humans and technology, when used properly, have the potential to change the world in countless positive ways.

Bobbe Baggio:

  • Our challenge isn’t to fight the tech or try and turn back the clock, but acknowledge that humans that humans do certain things better than computers (empathy, creativity, and divergent thinking).

Get past rote memorization, instead move towards critical thinking, soft skills, and real-world application.

Question 2: Will students feel they are completing against the automation technology?

Paul Katz:

  • Colleges need to answer this question:  “What does the student need to attain their desired career goal?” Imagine a college of everywhere, students take different courses from different schools where the credits transfer seamlessly.
  • My Reaction: The Strayer/Capella partnership empowers current students to seamlessly transfer college credit between the two universities. Credit reciprocity between colleges is a wonderful strategy, regardless of which schools allow it. Nothing is more frustrating than having credits not transfer to a new college. After all, who wants to waste time and money?

Bobbe Baggio:

  •  The last few hundred years, it was a ‘Sage on the Stage’ paradigm. Now, where you go for expertise has changed. Technology will become part of everything we do in education.

Rodney B. Murray:

Educators, psychologists, nurses, and computer programmers will likely be the last jobs to be replaced by automation tech.

Bobbe Baggio:

  • Higher education is still heavily involved in creating new knowledge and innovation through empirical research.

Question 3. Where do you see educational entrepreneurship having the greatest impact?

Rodney B. Murray:

Data analytics will allow for higher learning at lower costs. This BIG DATA can be used for personalized AI academic advisors.

Question 4. Which ed tech trend keeps you up at night?

Bobbe Baggio:

Artificial Intelligence and student loan debt

Question 5. What’s the role of Computer Science technologies and academia?

Bobbe Baggio:

AI is here. It’s accessible. As educators, we need to get more involved. Empirical research on the positive and negative effects of AI.

  • We’re living in the age of convenience, but what about the negatives based on the data? Privacy issues, bias in facial recognition, etc.
  • How is culture being changed? WE NEED TO JUMP IN WITH BOTH FEET NOW.

My reaction to these statements:

Under President Obama’s leadership, the White House released a report titled: Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence. I think there’s massive potential and risk and our society should weigh those stark options before moving forward. AI and automation technology is a bit like opening Pandora’s Box.

Rodney B. Murray:

Video games graphics and mechanics need to blend with higher ed.

Paul Katz:

Bipartisan politics are affecting laws and public opinion of the value of higher ed. Regardless of party affiliation, the general public is informed about the rising costs of college and the negative perception of the value of a degree. The public is sick of paying so much for college, getting expensive loans, and pursuing a degree where they can’t get a job.

Question 6: How would you contextualize the answers to these questions in the 2030 political and environmental context?

  • Rodney B. Murray: Online learning will become more important as storms prevent students from coming in on-campus
  • Ken Hartman: Being the son of a holocaust survivor, the nationalism we’re seeing in certain countries is scary.
  •  Bobbe Baggio: I think you’re going to see huge changes in consciousness that will lead to changes in regulatory policies. Most people agree that climate change is real, so in a decade, collectively we should be better educated to make better decisions for the global society.

Question 7: Is college going to change, because of AI/Automation, from career training to a more liberal arts education?

Bobbe Baggio:

  • We don’t know how much and how fast entire industries will change. Blockbuster movie rental stores were replaced by RedBox quite quickly.
  •  Because of self-driving cars, jobs like car insurance will go away and not come back. They’ll simply be displaced.
  • Maybe meaningful work may change from an hourly job to something more intrinsic (not necessarily work to leisure), but to how humans interact and help each other.

Ken Hartman:

Humans will still want to learn together in a physical room. The future is systems thinking and connecting solutions to problems between disciplines.

Wharton University of Pennsylvania SIMPL – The Open Source Simulation Platform

  • Presented by Joseph Lee
  • Session title: SIMPL – The Open Source Simulation Platform
  • Wharton’s Learning Lab: http://simulations.wharton.upenn.edu
  • Gist: Wharton’s Learning Lab built 33 simulations (AKA learning objects) by partnering with a faculty member that has an idea, such an contract negotiation in a virtual training environment
  • Harvard Business Simulations re-sells Wharton’s Learning Objects
  • Created a generic design framework to speed up the process of creating a new simulation

 How many staff are involved?

  • 1 full time specialized simulation developer
  • 1 project manager (what projects to work on)

How much time does it take to build a simulation?

A complex simulation / game takes a lot of time to develop. It took his team about 2 years to build 30+ simulations.

How do you speed up the process of building simulations?

Identify the commonalities, or the design patterns that all of the simulations tend to share. For example:

  • Users and their roles
  • # of players
  •  Rounds (if/then statements to navigate through a branching decision tree)
  • Scenarios, decisions, results based on certain conditions

Keep in mind that building simulations typically requires hiring a software developer/programmer. An alternative would be using a WYSIWYG simulation builder software, such as Articulate Storyline.

What technology and programming languages were used? They hired a software developer that used these:

  • React/Redux
  • Python/Django/Django REST Framework
  • Webhooks (Thorn)
  • WAMP (Crossbar.io/Autobahn)

What is Harvard Business Publishing’s Simulations? 

Simulations defined: “Simulations use real-world contexts to reinforce student learning. They are remarkably teachable, with simple but powerful administration tools.

How could this apply to your school?

It’s not feasible for most schools to replicate this type of software development because of the dedicated human resources required. Instead, it may be better to focus on how they share info about the simulations in a public facing repository and also look into licensing existing learning objects.

  • Other universities can purchase the simulations from Harvard Business Simulations for as little as $25
  • Create an interactive webpage that aggregates the Simulations and makes the filterable by categories. Provide a brief synopsis of its functionality and a preview of how it works.
  • Keep in the know on their newsletter at https://simpl.world.
  • Provide a non-technical video preview of the app (see example below)

Is it worth the time to build a high quality simulation?

“The simulation shouldn’t be used one time a year by 1 faculty member that would cost the ‘learning lab’ $50,000 to develop. Instead, we focus on projects that reach a larger audience. For example, we focus on building something that 10 faculty will use that will touch 10,000 students.”

Additional Conference details:

Did you attend?

What did you think? What’s the coolest new ideas you learned?

Interested in learning more about innovations in ed tech in higher ed? Consider attending Wilmington University’s 2018 Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium on Monday, May 7.

Whatever happened to Accountability? Bring the Teacher Back into the Online Classroom

Whatever happened to Accountability? Bring the Teacher Back into the Online Classroom

I recently saw this article, Online Exam Proctoring Catches Cheaters, Raises Concerns, and it got me thinking about the nature of distance learning programs and how the identity of a student is verified if they take an online course. The article address ethical concerns of virtual proctoring tools such as HonorLockExamityRespondus MonitorProctorU, and ProctorTrack. In a nutshell, the business model of these vendors is to record students, via their webcam, while they take an online exam. Why?

Virtual proctoring holds the online student accountable

  1. Virutal proctoring services verify the identity of a student – similar to how you’d use a student ID to enter a physical building while on-campus. Except now you’ll show that same student ID to gain access to a purely virtual classroom.
  2. Virtual proctoring prevents the online student from using unauthorized materials. This means instructors offer a closed-book exam in their online course. It also prevents students from looking up answers on Google.

Many colleges are techy and innovative and already are using virtual proctoring services to improve academic integrity in the online classroom. And other schools just use the honor system, hoping that the student that registered and paid for the course is the same student that actually completes the course work. Because there’s so much potential to scam the system, this isn’t sufficient. There’s already lots of financial aid fraud that directly affects your taxes. Plus, it’s not right that students can cheat their way through entire online degrees. This article, The thriving Russian black market in dissertations, sums up the scope of cheating in that country, where it’s the norm for students to purchase entire dissertations.

Isn’t there always a way to cheat?

Of course there is. And that’s exactly why we have people go though security at airports. For better or worse, we use policing and surveillance technology and procedures to prevent crime.

There’s always going to be ways to scam the testing system: purchase an essay from a paper mill or use a spy cams built-in to a smart watch. Regardless, schools need to educate students to understand the nature of academic integrity, as well take measures to prevent academic integrity violations. The idea isn’t anything new, even students in high school submit essays into a plagiarism detection software, such as TurnItIn.com.

Be Honest: Did you ever have an open book test when you were in high school?

I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 2012. Since I enjoyed the interaction with other students and my professors, I mainly took in-person classes.

And frankly, I never had an open book quiz in college. I simply studied for an exam and prayed that I didn’t forget everything when I showed up to take the exam.

The Internet has really destroyed the validity of examinations, since you can Google the answers or pay someone that’s more knowledgeable to take the exam for you.

But it’s 2018, in real jobs you can always Google things that you don’t know

True, sometimes. Depends on the job and circumstances. At a job interview, you’re not going to get the opportunity to pull out your iPhone to research the answer your interviewer asked you. You’re going to be expected to answer the question on the spot.

Graduates should have certain requisite skills memorized, so they can talk the talk, and be consciously competent. If you’re a web design major, you should know how write an anchor element without looking up generic source code online. If you’re a nurse, you better be able to properly administer the proper dosages of medication to patients; otherwise, you could harm a patient.

So what can educators do to verify students are actually learning?

As educators, we can and need to DO BETTER. There’s non-technical ways to better prove competency and verify identity. For example: a recorded final presentation, that shows the student’s face. It’s pretty tricky to fake a presentation – you really need to know your stuff and present it well.

It’s no secret: the answers to multiple choice questions will easily pop up on Quizzlet, especially canned questions from textbook publishers that are recycled over and over again. Educators need to require more writing assignments and project based assessments, which are higher on the pyramid of Bloom’s taxonomy.


And teachers need to constantly update their curriculum, so that answers can’t be shared between student in future classes.

I really wonder when, or if, virtual proctoring will be required. There’s simply no accountability otherwise. If colleges offer online degrees and want to maintain their reputation, they need to use some type of virtual proctoring technology to prove the student that paid for the class is the one doing the work. A simple username and password doesn’t suffice.

But I don’t wanna to be recorded!

Is it awkward to be virtually proctored? Sure, it’s a bit creepy. It’s literally Big Brother watching. But it starts to provide parity between the online and physical classroom. And that should be a major goal of any school offering online classes.


And let’s be honest – most people gave up caring about their privacy years ago. We’re constantly recorded while in stores, Alexa listens to your conversations, and Facebook sells ALL of your private inforamtion to advertisers. Yet we still go out in public and use Amazon and Facebook. And let’s not forget about the USA PATRIOT Act.


It is a bit intrusive? Perhaps. But If you went on campus, your instructor would be watching students take the exam. Some schools have always required high stake exam to be completed at official testing centers. Students are going to complain, but this is the age of convenience. And it’s a lot easier to launch a virtual proctoring tool from the comfort of your home, than driving on-campus or getting frisked at a local testing center.

Bring the teacher back into the online classroom, or become irrelevant to MOOCs

Maybe when the Higher Education Act is updated, the law will find ways to require AND PROVE substantive interaction between the online instructor and students. Many schools have completely discussion board driven conversations. I’ve never attended a class in-person where a conversation was completely driven by students.

We need to bring the instructor back into the online classroom. Maybe regional accreditation bodies should get up with the times and require online instructors to offer virtual office hours and have a scheduled, synchronous discussion with students about the subject matter. Otherwise, it’s truly just a web-based correspondence course.

I’ll admit, it’s a bit intrusive. But students generally agree that this type of technology solution promotes academic integrity in online courses.

Questions to consider:

  • How can schools better provide parity between the online and face-to-face classroom?
  • What technical and non-technical solutions are available to improve academic integrity in the online classroom?
  • How much real-time interaction should be required in online classes? Are purely asynchronous online classes an effective learning method?
  • Are virtual proctoring services a violation of privacy? Should all online colleges be required to use these types of services? If so, in how many courses? Only those with outcome assessments, or each and every online course?
  • As a teacher or student, have you ever used a virtual proctoring service? What did you think of the experience?



7 Ways GlassDoor lets Job Searchers Learn about a Company’s Culture, or Lack thereof

This blog post is really just some of my thoughts on a NewYorker article by Lizzie Widdicombe, titled Improving Workplace Culture, One Review at a Time.

Full disclaimer: I adore GlassDoor.com.

What is GlassDoor?

GlassDoor is a website that allows users to learn the inside scoop on companies. It allows people that have worked at a certain company to anonymously share their experiences and opinions about companies they worked for, what the company’s culture was like, what the job responsibilities truly included, how much certain jobs pay, and sometimes you’ll even find copies of the interview questions. It’s a great way to find out what it would really be like to work for a company.

For example, here’s a review I wrote up about the 3 years that I worked at Arby’s. This is one of countless company reviews. I like the way people are genuine and candid in their reviews.

GlassDoor gives students the gist of what it would be like to work at a company

I recently developed a Java course and one of the assignments is for the students to write a 3 page essay on the local job market for an entry level programming job. On one of the pages, they are instructed to go onto Glassdoor.com and review feedback that has been shared about the company that they’re interested in applying for.

This assignment empowers students to evaluate the skills and experience necessary to secure a Java developer position. It can be an entry-level position, or a‘Dream Job’. However, it must be directly related to programming in Java.

This assignment is designed to alleviate ‘culture shock’. Specifically, it help students come to terms with their commitment and interest level in working in the programming industry. The long hours and being stuck behind a desk all day at a computer is not for everyone! But software development pays well. Very well. The average salary for a Java job in Delaware is around $91,744 per year; however, entry level Java developer positions are significantly smaller. And if you land a job at Google or Facebook, the perks are real and they’re spectacular: napping rooms, free hair cuts and meals, and a relaxed culture of collaboration.

How can job searchers use GlassDoor?

You should always go into a job interview knowing a little bit about the company, so you can talk shop. I recommend doing research on the company’s website, as well as 3rd party services such as GlassDoor. You can use it to answer the following questions:

  1. What are others saying about this company’s culture? Is this the kind of workplace culture in which I would thrive and be happy?
  2. Do they often have layoffs or require employees to put in overtime during peak operational periods?
  3. Would you be willing to relocate or travel (domestically or internationally)? Would you be able to tolerate the commute?
  4. Do the hours of the job work for you? Does the job offer any special perks, such as being able to work from home one day per week?
  5. On average, how much do certain positions pay? This knowledge is essential for successful salary negotiations.
  6. What type of benefits are offered (health insurance, paid time off, stock incentives, retirement package, etc.)?
  7. Does the company’s values align with your personal beliefs? For example, some people may not feel comfortable working at a Financial Service company, which offers personal loans with extremely high and arguably immoral interest rates.

Questions to consider:

  • Were you aware of web services such as GlassDoor? If you’ve used it, what was your experience? Was it beneficial during your job search efforts?
  • Have you ever worked somewhere and quickly realized the job wasn’t for you?
  • Do web services like Ratemyprofessor and GlassDoor increase transparency and helps hold corporations more accountable for how they treat employees?

The Death of Innovation & Birth of the Age of Convenience

Mergers and Mergers and Mergers

Natural selection is basically when a bigger, stronger fish eats the meeker, smaller fishes, and then grows bigger. It’s the natural law of survival of the fittest. Not surprising, corporations are evolving to follow this paradigm.

Here’s a few highlights of companies that have merged or been acquired over the years. Notice how it’s a blend of industries? Technology with food services; online education with retail; social media with photography.

  • In 2012, Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion. Facebook also tried to scoop up Snapchat, a direct competitor of Instagram. However, Snapchat didn’t sell out. So Facebook played dirty: they updated the Facebook and Instagram mobile apps to have nearly the same exact functionality of the Snapchat app. Specifically, Facebook/Instagram emulated the expiring stories and augmented reality photo filters. (Source: How Much Is Snap Hurting From Facebook’s Imitations?)
  • In 2014, Arizona State University partnered with Starbucks to offer free tuition for ASU’s 60+ online bachelor degree programs for all Starbucks employees that work more than 20 hours per week. Since its inception, over 8,000 Starbucks employees have enrolled in this program. Apparently this has greatly increase employee retention at Starbucks. It makes sense, Starbucks has a well known reputation of treating its employees well. (Source: Starbucks VP: ASU tuition program good for business).
  • In August 2017, Amazon acquired Whole Foods. With this acquisition, Amazon Prime members are able to buy significantly discounted groceries at Whole Foods. For example, a pound of bananas for about 50 cents. To sweeten the deal, all Whole Foods will have self-service kiosks similar to Redbox. But instead of renting a new DVD or video game, customers will conjure up anything using a magical device called an Amazon Locker. It’s a convenient way for Amazon customers to pick up their online orders in person, similar to a PO box at the post office. The benefit is simple: it’s even faster than home delivery. (Source: Amazon Prime members will get special discounts at Whole Foods)
  • In September 2017, Walmart joined forces with Google to sell its products on Google Express. Many believe this was a direct response to the Amazon/Whole Foods merger. Their new business model utilizes the Google Home voice controlled device to enable customers to order products from 40+ retailers like Target and Costco under its Google Express program. (Source: Walmart joins forces with Google on voice-activated shopping)
  • And now in October 2017, two of the largest for-profit schools, Strayer University and Capella University, are merging their companies together. The Strayer/Capella partnership empowers current students to seamlessly transfer college credit between the two universities. Credit reciprocity between colleges is a wonderful strategy, regardless of which schools allow it. Nothing is more frustrating than having credits not transfer to a new college. After all, who wants to waste time and money? (Source: The Strayer/Capella Merger and What it Means for For-Profits).

Whoopty Do, What does it all mean?

As mentioned, corporate team-ups seem to be the way of the future. For example, Disney now owns Marvel and Pixar. So there’s a lot of consolidated power in these huge corporations, which is scary because it limits the choices of consumers and creates a barrier to entry for new business owners looking to offer similar products/services.

Also, I think we’re seeing less new ideas. Instead, it’s a rebundling or new way of thinking about an old idea.

  •  The Convergence of Corporations – These days, it seems like the “mom and pop” companies, the little fish, are getting eaten up but these conglomerate giant sharks in their sector. There’s still plenty of fish in the sea, but the sharks are expanding their territory by redrawing territory lines.
  • Innovation is Dead. Welcome to the Age of Corporate Team-ups – Businesses are investing less in R&D to innovate new products; instead they’re strengthening their foothold in the market with exclusive deals and partnerships, such as discounted or more convenient services. Like ideas for new movies, it seems creativity is pretty much dead. Everything these days tends to be remakes, sequels, or direct-to-Netflix Adam Sandler films.
  • Consumers Value Convenience more than Privacy – No one cares about anything, except convenience anymore. Our personal data is captured, studied, and sold by marketing colossuses (ahem, Facebook). Walmart recently proposed a new service to deliver groceries straight into their customers’ refrigerators (Source). Although it may be initially creepy to have a stranger enter your house and stock your fridge, I think the idea will take off.  People are probably willing to sacrifice their privacy, just to have good food stocked up in their fridge at all times. Who has time to shop at a store anymore?

How can businesses stay relevant with all of this competition? Have a Heart and Use your Brain

  • Socially conscious companies will succeed in the long run – In a survey to millennials, 56% said they would refuse to work for a company that they found to be unfriendly to social and environmental causes. Furthermore, companies that offer corporate social responsibility programs are known for having increased employee retention.  Finally, it makes sense from a financial standpoint: there are many tax credits and deductions for businesses that “Go Green”. Firms need to be held accountable for pollution climate change.
  • Take Care of your Employees – Employees that feel valued perform better. It’s a fact: there’s been countless studies on how a positive work environment has a direct correlation on job performance. Business skills and industry knowledge are constantly in flux. So employees must continuously learn about new trends and dynamics in the market. That’s why organizations provide professional development to their employees. Treating employees well and helping them to adapt and grow professionally can result in gains in profit and productivity. A great example is Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella. He is credited with “saving the company” by stopping infighting, restoring employee morale, and creating more than $250 billion in market value. And he did this by changing the culture of Microsoft from one of “Dog Eat Dog” to a culture of synergistic collaboration. Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, and Virgin Mobile are also recognized for having a wonderful work environment and culture.
  •  Innovate Faster – The issue with any large company is scalability. It’s hard to innovate with red tape and bureaucratic policies. Look at any large company and you’ll see hundreds of vacant job positions. This may give the advantage to leaner, smaller businesses that can pursue new opportunities.
  • Find Unique Ways to Delight your Customers – Think of products or services that simply delight you. I love that the DMV allows mail-in license plate registration for newer cars. I find it super convenient that my dentist sends me text message reminders of my upcoming appointments. It’s refreshing to walk into the local pizza shop and have a conversation with employees that remember your face. How can smaller businesses and entrepreneurs compete with giant companies that are practically monopolies? Simple, actually: care about and keep in touch with your customers. These days, everything is automatic instead of authentic.
  • Know Thy Customer – It’s amazing how people get entranced to the glow of their iPhone and the constant influx of text messages, Snapchats, and Facebook videos. Because people are getting so comfortable communicating online, it’s sometimes hard to interact with or trust other people. For example, I saw a billboard on the highway this weekend that said something like “Avoid Small Talk. Shop Online!” These days, everything is automated. Sure, it’s convenient. But it gets very impersonal. Now at certain Applebee’s and Olive Garden restaurants, you can pay your bill on a tablet. We live in weird times. Times where convenience is king. I think people may be losing something because of the fancy technology. We all need to slow down and have a conversations with others. Small talk isn’t that bad of a thing, is it? I like it when I walk into a restaurant or store and they know my name. In a way, engaging customers is a great way to generate brand loyalty.

Welcome to Age of Convenience

Questions to Consider:

  • In what ways do you think consumers forfeit their privacy for convenient services?
  • Do you think creativity and innovation are “Dead”?
  • How does company culture and employee morale affect a company’s revenue?
  • What can unestablished companies do to compete against monolithic conglomerates?

My Top 7 Favorite YouTube Musicians


I love music. It’s one of my greatest passions in life. Over the years, I’ve discovered many incredibly talented musicians on YouTube.  Some just do covers, some have created beautiful originals, and some have even made hilarious music videos. I find myself feeling down, from time to time, and when I put my headphones in, I turn on one of these artists and find myself feeling a little better. I tend to listen to upbeat positive music, as well as punk rock. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

1. Wayward Daughter

Why I like this band:

They’re adorable! Are they sisters? Best friends? I’m not sure. But she can play the hell out of the guitar. And the other one’s voice is nothing short of angelic. Plus, their original songs are so beautifully written, albeit, a bit heart breaking at times. At least 200 hits on their channel are from me.



Lydia Evangeline original:


2. Nikyee Heaton

Why I like this musician:

Just like Justin Bieber, this incredibly talented musician started out by covering songs and posting them on YouTube. Then her agent said to her, “What kind of music do you actually like? Cover those songs.” So she covered Trap Queen and got thousands of hits over night. Oh, she’s also strait gorgie.  She recently created her 1st official music video as part of a major label, the song is titled “Bad Intentions”.




3. Chad Neidt

Why I like this musician:

Besides his raw sex appeal, he’s brilliant, has a cool beard, funny, and does some of the best mash-ups out there on the Interwebs. His originals are great too.I love his commitment to perfecting each mash-up.





4. Jenn Fiorentino

Why I like this musician:

When I first saw her play, I thought to myself “I could marry this woman”.

She covers punk songs. Perfectly. Admittedly, I haven’t listened to too many of her originals yet, her covers are just so amazing.

Her ability to keep pace with the song while playing really complicated chords and notes is damn impressive.  I’ve listened to her YouTube playlists for hours strait while at work. Keeps me jamming and feeling positive.



5. Emily Davis

Why I like this musician:

A super talented young woman. I don’t know many people that cover melancholy songs like Death Cab and super punk rocky songs like Eat the Meek by NOFX. She’s also an advocate for mental health care and vlogs to help spread awareness and explain what it’s like to live with a mental health disorder. Mad respect for this woman!



6. Kelsey Kerrigan

Why I like this musician:

I’ve played along with her to songs a few time. She has such a beautiful voice and I like that she covers songs with very divisive lyrics.  I love her passion, vocals, guitar skills, and her bright cherry red guitar. And if she ever sees this, I apologize for the moment I took the screenshot. But it was too cute not to keep.



A more flattering photo:

Kelsey Kerrigan.jpg

7. Lindsey Stirling

Why I like this musician:

I only recently discovered this artist and become an instant addict. I listened to all of her covers in a few hours. Plus, the production quality of her music videos is fantastic! Such beautiful music and her dance moves just may be better than Ellen Degeneres. And yes, that’s her cosplaying as Link in a blue tunic, while dancing on one leg and playing violin. And she’s a “Master Bard” in her Skyrim Cosplay. I love it!


Different takes on songs, and few originals:


Final thoughts:

Thanks for reading! Feel free to share some of your favorite YouTube musicians in the comments below. Or if you’re on this list, please note I will marry you. Even you Chad 😉

I would love to see any of these perform live. Hopefully they all make it big! The world is crazy right now, but music is one thing that can help connect people. You go to a concert and sing with strangers, because you all love that same song.