Liberal Studies This Week

Sharing your experience as an online student

If you would like to become a contributor to this blog, contact Andy at aegiz1 at 

Friday Fun - Bed Jump

Okay, finals are next week and soon you will need to relax. For some, I'm sure the one thing they want to do is to crawl into bed and sleep for a week. This blog thinks you should jump rather than crawl into bed. Well, it just thinks you should jump.

Oral History at UIS (SSU)

One of the best kept secrets at UIS is that in the early days of our university, we had an active Oral History office. I’m far from an expert on this topic but my simple description of oral history is that it is an effort to interview people who have observed and participated in history (also known as everyday life while it is happening.)

You can find a guide to our Oral History collection here

There is a mix of transcriptions you can read and recordings of original interviews which were never transcripted. Some of the oral histories were parts of extended project and others are just interesting stand-alone interviews. I spent an hour or so reading an interview with one of the original SSU librarians (UIS was SSU in its earliest days.) It was remarkable interesting to hear how a university library collection comes into being. Once you have a million volumes, you never really think about the day in which you didn’t have any books, or even shelves.

Among the many projects, there is a series of interviews with people who have lived through the 1908 race riot in Springfield. You can read some of these transcripts but also find some of the recordings in iTunesU. Just open iTunes and search for 1908 race riot. You’ll find the oral history recordings under Revealing Voices which will be listed in the iTunesU section.

Say 'cheese'.

If your family is like mine, you’ve reached the time of year when your picture will be taken as often most celebrities. You can’t fix an awkward facial expression but you can really tweak most photographs so that they look like a professional took them. I’m pretty good with Photoshop and nearly everything I learned came watching the Photoshop Workbench.

The workbench is a regular series in which Mark Johnson takes a photograph and makes it better. What I like about the series is that it doesn’t feel like a how-to or instructional series. Instead, it’s like watching over the shoulder of a really talented guy at work. As you watch the videos, you may not ever need to do exactly what he does to a specific picture, but watching him will demystify the tools so that you feel comfortable playing with them yourself.

You can find his website here. Yes, there is an ad for his DVD on this page (I bought it a couple weeks ago even though I’ve already watched most of them years ago, so yes, they are that good:) If you scroll down though, you’ll see the workbench videos.

If you are brand new to Photoshop, I would recommend some of his earlier videos. They are hard to find so here is a direct link. This is a 9 part Photoshop 101 and some of them are pretty techie but I’d recommend parts 6 through 9 – part 9 is really great.

What’s that, you don’t have Photoshop? It’s too expensive? Come on, it’s only a thousand dollars! That’s a reasonable price to pay for professional looking snapshots but, it you don’t have the money to spare, remember that you are a student and can get big discounts on software. The thousand dollar Photoshop is only $176 if you buy it from the U of I.

If even that is too much money, you can download GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) here. This is an open source photo editing program. It doesn’t work exactly like Photoshop but many of the underlying concepts are the same.


If you know Dan Bornt, send him an email and congratulate him.

He's recently been informed that he has won first place in the Lincoln Forum's essay contest. This is a national competition with recent winners from Cornell, UNLV, DePaul, Harvard, and Southern Illinois University.

You can read more about the contest and the Lincoln Forum at

Text Books!

I suppose Congress deserves most of the terrible things we say about them but they do, on occasion, do something useful. Case in point: H.R. 4137 Higher Education Opportunity Act which was signed into law by President Bush in August 2008. This is the most recent reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965 which, among other things, is the law that funds federal financial aid programs.

This time around (this is the 8th reauthorization) Congress has included text books in their review. There are two interesting sections.

Section 112 requires schools to provide timely information about required books so that students might be better consumers and so that they might acquire their books as quickly as possible. For example, it requires schools to list the ISBN and retail price of the required and recommended books in their online schedules - so students will know how much they should expect to spend on books before they enroll.

Section 803 provides funding to establish pilot programs "to make it possible for bookstores to give students the option of saving money by renting course materials." This doesn't mean that book rentals are around the corner for every school but it's interesting (to me at least) that this idea was deemed important enough to include in reauthorization. The next reauthorization is due at the end of 2013 so if these pilot programs go well, maybe this idea will be expanded next time.

Enough of the boring stuff and on to the useful part of this post. It is still not completely clear how UIS will implement the requirements in Section 112 but there is an early indicator on our website right now. Earlier this semester, I wrote a post about a new tool available on the registration website called the UIS Semester Planner. If you go to the registration website now and look under the Course Schedules link, you'll see that this tool has been renamed the UIS Semester Planner and Textbook Information! If you want to know what books are required for your spring classes, you can find the details now. (You are seeing what the bookstore has on file so if you don't see information it is because they don't have the information.)

Friday Fun - The Giz Wiz

Do you like gadgets? Doodads? Doohickeys? Do you find yourself browsing at Best Buy? Do you go to the mall just to play with the display items at Brookstone?

If you said yes, you probably know the Giz Wiz already but if not there is still hope for you.

The Giz Wiz is Dick DeBartolo. Who is he? Well, if you've read a Mad Magazine at any point since 1966, you've probably read his writing.

If you ever watched the Match Game, you've heard the questions he wrote. You can see Match Memories here. (This is an unedited behind the scenes of the recording of that program.)

But if you like gadgets, you can think of Dick DeBartolo as the Giz Wiz. Today marks the 960th episode of the Daily Giz Wiz podcast on the TWiT Network with host Leo Laporte. if you have 15 minutes to waste each day, you can keep on top of the gadget market. Beware though, regular listeners end up buying gadgets.

Something to listen to on the treadmill

Well, my goal of 2 weekly blog posts was dashed on the rocks of spring registration. Hopefully I’m back on track this week although I have to admit that my brain is still shut down from too many hours staring at a DARS report.

On to more important matters – have you ever heard of iTunesU? If you are a regular iTunes user, you may have noticed that when you search for content, iTunes searches across all categories: songs, movies, television program, podcasts, apps, and iTunesU. For example, if you search for parliament, you get great funk albums, political podcasts from Great Britain, season one of Babylon 5 (I’m not sure why), and an entire page of educational content from iTunesU.

iTunesU is a way for member schools to provide content through the iTunes Store. Like most podcasts, the content is free. This is a great outreach tool for schools since more than 200 million iTunes user world-wide can access their educational content as easily as they can download a copy of ‘Thriller’. You may be able to supplement what you are learning in your classes. Struggling in a philosophy course? Maybe Philosophy for Beginners from University of Oxford might help. It is also a great course tool since iTunesU campuses can also limit access to content so some content may be available to the world and other content may password limited to students enroll in a particular class.

UIS first became an iTunesU school in January 2007. I’m not completely sure, but my understanding is that at that point, we had an iTunes server but we weren’t linked into the iTunes Store – you had to come to the UIS website to access our content. This past summer, UIS was accepted for listing in the iTunes store so now if you type my last name into iTunes, you’ll find the podcasts that I did last year (I feel like a minor celebrity.)

You can search for UIS in iTunes or you can go directly to the UIS iTunesU page here You’ll find a variety of content from Speakers Series recordings, to campus community podcasts, to the podcasts used in online courses like the new LIS 460 The Beatles: Popular Music and Society. Dr. Cheney, who created this course and the podcasts, says that they have gotten a lot of attention since UIS was accepted into the iTunes Store – 56,000 download or previews in the last three months.

Friday Fun: Something good on televsion - just not here

First, an apology. My goal is to add something useful and something useless every week but it's been a particularly jam-packed schedule the past couple weeks. If it helps, I did create the list of online courses and added that link to the main program page - you can find it here. That wasn't a blog post but it is useful all the same.

This week, I'm thinking that we need better options for television programs than odd men pretending to put their children in flying saucer balloons so that they get a reality show so that they can be followed around by photographers leading to endless complaining about their lack of privacy. I'm not sure what this Japanese television program is, but I'll take it over most reality shows any day.

Check out Chappie TV for more

You totally look like . . .

In my life, I have been told I look like many people. The most common and the one that was, at times, creepily true in the 1980s was that I looked like John Cusack

I didn't really like going to his movies because we did look an awful lot alike in those days and it was uncomfortable to see that face so large.

In the same time frame, my sister used to tell me that I looked like Tom Hanks. I think it was because we both had curly hair in an era of feathered hair.

When the Culture Club became an MTV staple, a picture of Boy George without his make-up rose to the surface. Yep, he looked at lot like me, even in my opinion.

As we all grew older, I looked less and less like them but started to look like someone else who had entered the spotlight. Even my wife thought I had the Data look and she bought me a small Data statue next to my computer keyboard.

Now that I think about it, the first time anyone told me that I looked like someone else was way back in grade school. That person is still a close friend and he will still occasionally refer to the fact that he thought I looked like Pinochio. I don't recall lying a lot back then and a didn't have a big nose (that came with puberty) so I can only assume that it was because I had a Pinochio lunch box and that's how he could tell me apart from all of the other kids.

If you're into people who look like other people (or things) you'll totally like this website

So. Who do you totally look like?

Friday Fun - This kinda stuff never happens to me

I really like The Sound of Music for a number of reasons: it was on TV the first time I kissed my wife, it was directed by Robert Wise who edited Citizen Kane and directed The Day the Earth Stood Still (the good one, not the one with Keanau) and it was playing in theaters the day I was born. This video gives me a fourth reason.

All Things Google

I like Google. I mean I really like it. Over the past year I have been slowly transferring everything I can over to Google. This includes my word processor, spreadsheets, and email. I do believe that in the near future professors will be able to use Google instead of Blackboard for running courses. We already use Blogspot and Google's wiki is much better than PB wiki or the other free competitors.

There is so much Google offers, it can be a bit overwhelming at times.

This Blog gives the ins and outs of Google. I find it incredibly useful. Whether you are an online student or on campus, if you are looking to make your electronic life a little better, check it out.


Developing a plan for your degree

Creating an LIS degree plan can be a daunting process. Students must balance requirements and Boyer categories and the resulting process can seem like putting together a jigsaw puzzle of polar bears on a snowy day. It need not be that hard. Yes, there are dozens of decisions to make but this doesn't mean you have to worry about every decision. Here is how I would create an LIS degree plan.

When you start the degree planning process, you will have covered all 8 Boyer categories and should have a fairly good idea of what each entails and how it might fit into your academic planning. I'm not going to suggest that you forget all of this, but I would suggest that you put Boyer on the back burner as you start the process.

Degree plans include requirements, courses that you consider vital to your personal academic goals, and classes that may not be as important to your personal goals,but which are still necessary to meet our degree requirements. If I were creating a degree plan, I would address these three types of courses in order.

First, list all of the classes you need to take: LIS 301, LIS 451, an LIS program elective, ECCE, General Education courses (if you still need them.) There are some options to consider but you can't get away from these classes - they're required so write them down first.

Second, list the courses you really want to take and that you feel are important to you personally. This might take some research to identify your options but this should be the fun part of your planning. Hopefully you'll be able to fit all of these courses in your degree but they are a lower priority than the must-have requriements.

Once you have these two lists created, pull Boyer off of the back burner and consider how the classes you've listed fit into the eight categories and assign a Boyer category to each of them. If you've chosen the LIS program correctly (meaning you truly want an interdisciplinary degree)then your list of requirements and important classes will likely cover most of the Boyer categories.

If you've covered 6 of the Boyer categories without even considering Boyer when you developed your lists, then it's like having the jigsaw puzzle 80% completed before you start working on it. This way, you can worry about the 2 Boyer categories that didn't fall naturally into your plan rather than worrying about each of the dozens of decisions required by the planning process.

Friday Fun - An ode to eating too much

I may have mentioned this blog last year but it's still one of my favorites. Whether you need motivation to drop a few pounds or, like me, you like to look at food that is really bad for you rather than eating, you can't go wrong with This Is Why Your Fat. To give you an idea of what to expect, let me introduce you to The Widowmaker.

This is described as a pound and half of ground beef, a package of bacon, a package of italian sausage, a box of Hot Pockets, a half package of fried onion strips sandwiched between two Tombstone pepporoni pizzas then topped with Velvetta and marinara.

Look for more delicassies like this at You'll even find Springfield's own horseshoe sandwich listed.

Speaking of horseshoes, Springfield will be featured on the Travel Channel's Man V. Food this coming Wednesday. If you haven't seen this show I can't recommend it enough. The host is not a competitive eater, just a guy with a graduate degree from Yale who likes to eat and takes on local food challenges. In Springfield, he'll eat corndogs at the Cozy Dog Inn (a Route 66 stopping point), he'll eat a horseshoe sandwich (I make the best so ask me for the recipe if you want to try them), and for his challenge he will attempt to eat three bowls of Joe Roger's Firebrand Chilli (and yes, chilli has two l's within the Springfield city limits.)

We don't need no stinking lists

Okay, I’ll say it – wouldn’t the Liberal Studies program be a lot simpler if we just provided students with a list of courses that fit each of the eight Boyer categories? I know you’ve all thought it so let’s consider it for a moment, or more specifically, let’s consider how we might create these lists.

A professor can control the content they include in their lectures but they can’t control how that content will be received, rejected, weighted, or expanded upon by their students. Each member of class will read the same texts (hopefully), participate in the same discussions, write the same papers, take the same tests but this doesn’t mean that each member will walk away with the same learning experience. As individuals, they will bring their unique backgrounds to the learning process and their backgrounds will color what they learn.

For example, let’s take Annette’s Women Centered Literature course. On which Boyer list should we include it? Language? That makes sense. Art? Certainly. Literature uses metaphor to discuss complicated issues. Identity? Well, this wouldn’t be true for me, personally, but it might be for others so why not include it on this list too. Institutions? That may not be an obvious choice but the reading list may introduce someone to a feminist point of view that challenges their understanding of society.

So, if pressed, I might include Annette’s course on four Boyer lists. Would this mean that everyone could use Annette’s courses in the same way? Should I be able to use Annette’s courses to cover Identity if I enroll in the LIS program? It’s on the list. Right?

(If you don't know the pop culture reference in the title of this post, start with The Treasure of Sierra Madre and then see the updated version in Blazing Saddles.)

Friday Fun - Orsinal Games

I've had this bookmark for about 8 years. I first found this site when I was learning to program in Flash and used this site as inspiration. Nothing I did ever came close to being as beautiful and elegant as these little Flash games but it was useful to try to figure out how they were made

LIS major in the news

I just saw a story about Courtnee Brown come through the UIS RSS feed. At first I was worried because the brief bit of text included with the link said that she had 22 kills. In volleyball, that's a good thing:)

Congratulations Courtnee.

A new tool in time for spring schedule planning

A while back, unbeknownst to me (I’ve always wanted to use that word), the registration office developed a tool to help our Deans’ Office staff to work on the schedule. It allowed them to view future schedules as a calendar rather than a list. They thought it was so useful, they posted it on the schedule website – but didn’t mention it!

This is a great tool. Campus-based students can search for classes using the calendar view so that they can look for possible conflicts. It allows you to search the full schedule or limit your search by college or program. Even better, and unlike the dynamic schedule, this tool allows you to select multiple programs to search. So you want to know what’s being offered in ENG, HIS, and PHI? Now you can do it in one search rather than three.

In addition to general course searches, it also has search functions dedicated to ECCE course – search by ECCE group! – and online courses. I’ve suggested that if they provide the ability to search for General Education courses that the tool might be perfect.

So here’s what I need from you. One of my roles is to fill gaps and one of the more significant gaps I’ve attempted to fill is to provide a more detailed approach to searching for classes, specifically for online students. This is why I create web pages listing all of the online courses each semester. I think this tool address the gap I’ve attempted to fill.

Is there a reason for me to create schedule webpages?

Let me know what you think. This tool doesn’t address everything I add to my schedule webpages but it does include 95% (and maybe no one really needs the other 5%?) As I type this, I’m thinking that they are no longer necessary but they exist to serve your needs so, if you feel you have needs that aren’t addressed by the new scheduling planning tool, let me know.

Friday Fun - Cool and Refreshing

Don't forget, as you do your homework you need to stay hydrated. For me, the only thing that quenches that thirst for learning is Liberal Studies brand bottled water. Each bottle is filled with pure, chlorinated water from the drinking fountain outside my office. Buy a case today!

Okay, it's not really for sale but you can make your own soft drink can or bottle here

Extracurricular or extra pain in the neck?

Last week, Scott commented to my post:

"I wonder how most of my fellow online students can actually be involved in the extracurricular activities at UIS though, distance aside many of us lead lives that we have to fit schoolwork around, rather than the opposite (as sad as that is sometimes.)"

This is an issue that I have considered many times in the past ten years and I have to say, I don't have an answer. I love the idea that online students would have some way of creating a community. To a large extent, the goal of this blog is to provide a chance for LIS students to post their ideas and to interact with one another in forum that offers more substantial interaction than a microblogging site like Facebook or Twitter. (Remember, if you already have permission, you can create your own posts rather than simply reading and commenting upon my posts If you want permission, just let me know.)

The big question is do online students really want to participate in extracurricular activities at UIS or even to interact on a blog like this?

If I were to over-simplify the population of online students they would fall into two groups: those who live too far from a campus to attend and those whose time commitments make it difficult to attend traditional class meetings. In many cases (maybe most cases) LIS students fall into both categories. So, if one of the benefits of online learning is that it allows students to fit classes into their already busy schedule, will those same students want to further complicate their schedules by adding extracurricular activities?

My limited experience suggests that the answer is no, but what do you think? Would you want to commit time to an activity? If so, what sort of activity would be attractive? Would you want to participate in a formal activity, an actual student organization, or would you prefer less formal interactions like this blog or, Scott's examples, a Second-Life site or an online gaming group?

Please tell me your ideas.

One thing to consider though. Online students don't pay certain fees since we recognize that they can't participate as fully as campus-based students. If online students want to participate in campus groups, this will likely come at a cost.

Friday Fun - A-ha! Literally.

If you've never heard of literal videos, the idea is to rewrite the lyrics of a song to describe exactly what is on-screen during the videos. It may just be me, but I think they're hilarious. Look for more literal videos at Dust Films (I also really like the Tears For Fears video.

The best advice I have to offer (plus eDocs.)

I’m narrowing in on 20 years of advising students so, while I am always suspicious of experts, I suppose I have learned a few things worth sharing. The #1 best advice I can offer any student? Go to class. The moment you start considering class meetings as options rather than obligations, is the moment that you begin to drift away from the goal of graduation, or at the very least, learning. Woody Allen said that 80% of success was showing up and he couldn’t be more correct.

I would suggest that simply going to class will raise your grade by one letter, even if that’s from an F to a D. Holding out the option that you can just skip means that there’s no pressure to prepare for class so skipping class leads to skipping readings which leads to lesser understanding of future readings which leads to weak background knowledge which leads to confusion in future classes which leads to frustration and a lack of confidence in your academic pursuits. For many students, this leads to dropping classes and, for some, to just dropping out altogether.

What’s that? Online students can’t skip class? Sure they can, they just skip class mentally rather than physically. If you rush through your online material, aren’t you skipping class? What about if you view your online courses as a series of deadlines to meet rather than a learning process? Or, if you go to your discussion board and quickly post something that requires no thought? I’d say that’s skipping class because you’re not taking advantage of the opportunity in which you’ve invested your money.

Of course, Liberal Studies students don’t skip classes – this is just the #1 best advice overall. The #1 best advice I can offer you is to use eDocs. I keep repeating this in various formats so I must really believe it

If you don’t know, eDocs is an online document management system. All UIS students have 1 gigabyte of storage and all you need to do is log into the eDocs system to use it If you’re comfortable with technology, you can probably figure out how to use the system on your own, but there is extensive training available online at

Why should you use eDocs? Simply put, to protect your investment. Each semester I hear from at least one student who has had a hard drive crash or a storage device that has been lost or stolen. They’ve lost everything related to their degree and their UIS classes. I would encourage every student to start an eDocs folder for each class they take and to put everything from that class into the folder: syllabus, assignments descriptions, readings, handouts, the work you’ve turned in, the feedback you’ve been given. Doing this will result in a neat portfolio of your learning. Even better, it will result in an off-site back-up of your learning.

E-Docs has a lot functionality and there are some really cool and useful things you can do with it but if all you do is use it like a hard-drive for your UIS classes, you may never realize how much easier you’ve made your life.

Friday Fun - CNR

I'm a big fan of Weird Al, The Match Game, and CNR so this Friday Fun is a natural fit for me. (The video is pretty tame but I suppose it is PG rated.)

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

A new way to make presentations

I just discovered a really cool tool. We've all suffered through PowerPoint displays. They are probably the most used/most hated presentations because the speaker tends to read what is on the slide and the audience tends to fall asleep. On the other hand, PowerPoint is really easy to use and busy people don't have time to put together presentations using Flash or some other more powerful engine.

But this might be an option.

Prezi allows you to think visually and to make a presentation based upon that visual structure. It's hard to describe so this example might be best - you'll find many more of them on their website.

Friday Fun - Rock Band

This is the first of what will be a weekly time-wasting opportunity. Hopefully, everyone will have a few minutes to waste on a Friday as the work week ends and the homework weekend begins. (Feel free to post your own Friday Fun links as well.)

I chose this video, not just because it's really cool, but as a tie-in to an announcement. UIS once offered a Beatles course under the LSC prefix. (For newer students, LSC courses were an earlier version of what are now ECCEs.) Many students included the course in their degree plans only to be disappointed when it, along with all LSCs, disappeared from the catalog.

The Beatles class will return this spring as an LIS 460 so look for it this November when the spring schedule appears online.

Did you know . . .? It's our tenth birtdhay!

The Liberal Studies program, originally called the Individual Option program, was one of the first degrees offered by UIS, originally called Sangamon State University In the fall of 1999, it became the first online undergraduate program offered by UIS.

I started with the LIS program in the middle of that first semester and man oh man how things have changed. Back in the olden days of 1999, I spent a lot of time trying to convince students that online classes were real classes and that the diploma was the same diploma they might earn on campus and not something printed on a graham cracker. When we admitted students, we went through a 45 minute interview process to determine if they had the necessary technical skills. I was doing about 200 of these interviews a year so I was VERY happy when online learning started becoming “normal.”

One of my favorite memories of those early days was a visit from our dean. He was describing the proposal process for this new online venture in Liberal Studies. In his words, he said they set an enrollment goal semester one, semester two, semester three and then a miracle would happen. He was telling me this in the semester in which the miracle was proposed to happen – it had happened. LIS went from a pretty small degree program to one that was admitting 120 new students a year. The online program even jump-started the campus-based program so that now we are able to have strong groups learning in both options.

If you’d like a small glimpse of the early LIS online days, go the registration website. The smiling students you see there are some of the Spring 2002 LIS graduates.


Welcome back to school (or if this is your first semester, just plain welcome.) The first week of the fall semester is the second-most exciting week of the year. The most exciting week, of course, is graduation week. We’re all sad to see summer pass but happy to roll-up our sleeves and get busy once again.

This is a relaunch of the Liberal Studies This Week blog and my hope is that it will become a true community blog. I plan to post at least twice a week. One post will be a Did You Know . . . so that I can share things about UIS that you may not know. The other will be Friday Fun. This is an idea I’m stealing from my wife who is a communication director. This will be something that will hopefully make you smile and give you moment to relax and catch your breath before you leave the work week behind and begin the homework weekend.

But the goal is to make this a community so I need you to join in. I’d like everyone to have a chance to share their ideas and their experiences as students and as people. There are no rules involved, other than being respectful of others, so you can post about whatever you’d like.

Last semester, we had a few brave souls join me in attempting to form a community of blogs but this was a lot to ask of all of us – it’s hard to find time to post to a blog. Liberal Studies This Week will be a blog community so there is no pressure to post regularly – if you’re not posting someone else will be.

If you are a member of the Liberal Studies community and would like to post to this blog, send me an email, aegiz1 at . You do not need to be a blog expert to participate. It’s as easy to do as sending an email and, if you prefer, I’ll set you up so that you can send an email directly to the blog and it will post without you ever even logging into the site.