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 

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.)

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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.