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 - Cherpumple

What is Cherpumple? Better to watch the video than hear it from me.

It's like repeatedly hitting yourself in the head with a hammer . . .

Last fall I thought: I like the Beatles and Michael Cheney has always been a nice guy, so I’m going to ask him if I can sit in on his online course. He graciously agreed.

Mind you, I’m not really taking the course. I’m reading the assignments and watching the videos and listening to the music but I’m not writing the papers or taking the quizzes. Still, even though I’m only doing half of the work, IT’S A LOT OF WORK! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a reasonable amount of work for the credit I might earn and the books are really good but I work all day and then I have to come home and do homework! What’s up with that? Shouldn’t this be easier?

And, scene.

That was my improvisation of stressed out student but even though my tongue is in my cheek, it doesn’t mean that the feelings aren’t real. The class is a lot of work even though I’ve only taken on half of the work load – and the fun half at that. This stress isn’t new to me. I earned my BA and MA while working full-time. I remember how discouraged I felt keeping up this workload knowing that it was going to take years to reach the goal. Still, even though I remember the experience, I forgot how it felt to balance work and class until last weekend when I spent hours going over the syllabus, reading, and watching 2 long videos. (Of course, I didn’t read the syllabus correctly and I watched the entire videos rather than just the short pieces I was supposed to watch for week one.)

I’m not sure why I thought to post this other than to acknowledge that the memory of my student experience, which I’ve always thought helped me relate to adult students, has become a fading memory without me realizing it. So, it’s good for me to experience this again – but maybe it’s good for you to know that the stress and anxiety will one day be a fading memory.

(By the way, the conclusion of the post title is . . . because it feels so good when you stop.)

Friday Fun - yes, I'm okay being a nerd

Last week, the Consumer Electronics Show took place in Las Vegas. This is the mega trade show which previews all of the things we’ll waste our money on in the coming year (or at least dream about wasting our money on.) Here are the three things that I might consider wasting my money on.

Boxee Box is a software package that hardcore nerds use to watch and interact with Internet content on their television. In the past, you had to create a media server if you wanted to use Boxee on your living room television but now you can buy the Boxee Box. Not only does it stream Internet video to your television, it also can pull your audio and video from your computer through your wireless network. If you have the nerd gene, check out the cool design and look at the backside of that cool remote control.

I sent this link to my wife and her response was just ‘COOL’. The ORB ring is a simple band with a high-resolution display screen. When your cell-phone rings, your ORB ring will vibrate. Look down, and you’ll see the caller ID on the screen. (This is where we get our nerd on.) If you want to talk to that person, take off the ORB ring, twist it and it becomes a Bluetooth headset. It also displays text messages and calendar reminders if you use a smart phone to sync to your calendar.

Do you own a hybrid vehicle? Ever wish you had that technology in a bicycle. If so, Sanyo has the eneloop for you. Okay, I’ll admit, when I was a kid, television promised me a hover car by 2010 so I’m a little disappointed that we ended up with the eneloop but that’s only in comparison to me Jetson-inspired fantasy. You have to admit, this is a pretty neat idea.

Do you take pictures and share them online? You might try the Eye-fi It looks like a traditional media card, because it is with storage up to 8 GB, but it’s also a wi-fi device that allows you to use wireless networks to send your photos to the Internet directly from your camera. Sure, you can buy a digital camera that is wi-fi enabled but what if you already have a digital camera. Just slide the Eye-fi in your media port and you’re ready to go.

And, if you’ve ever wanted to spend a full-year’s salary on a television CES had a lot of options most of which were 3-D enabled. For me, I like the Toshiba Cell TV. No, it’s not a cell phone but a cell computer microprocessor which (if I understand correctly) is capable of as many a trillions FLOPS (calculations) per second. To give you an idea of the computing power here, this television is yet another 3-D enabled television but it is also capable of converting a traditional 2-D broadcast to 3-D on the fly. It also has 512 dimmable zones. (If you’re a nerd you know dimmable zones create deep blacks on a television image and that 512 is 4 to 5 times what you’d expect.)

It’ll cost a fortune but it comes with a terabyte media server, a Ble-Ray player, video phone built in, WiFI and interaction with Netflix, Vudu, Pandora etc AND it has wireless HDMI. Look at the picture and you’ll see a screen and a box. The screen hangs on the wall but the box is the actual television. Its wireless beams its muscle to the screen.

If you want to see more tech from this year's show visit their site

Woohooo! Three day week-ends every month! Oh wait . . .

If you have not yet heard the story, faculty and academic professionals (people like me) will be taking one furlough day per pay period this semester. (We only get paid once a month so it’s not as bad as it sounds.) There has been a lot of debate about how this might affect students. I’m on the fence, what do you think?

The furloughs are due to the fact that the State of Illinois has not actually provided us with much of the money that was allocated to us in the state budget. I’m sure if my understanding is still accurate but we’re 50% of the way through the fiscal year and we’ve been given about 4% of our funding. If there is not impact on students why not do away with our funding altogether? Clearly we don’t need it if we can carry on without it.

On the other hand, I think most would agree with me that we have an obligation to do whatever possible to look out for students’ best interests. Whether I’m paid 100% or 95% of my salary, I don’t punch a clock. I work whatever hours I need in order to get my work done and I’m okay with this because I chose this job. I’m must rather be paid a bit less and work long hours from time to time if I can do the work I do rather than some other job that I don’t value.

So what do you think? Should furloughs be as invisible to you as possible or should we use these days to make a statement?

One way or another, the furloughs probably won’t be completely invisible. You may notice that furlough days are noted in your syllabi or that an email might result in an auto-response about that person taking a furlough day. The fact is that when I take a furlough day, I can’t read emails or return phone calls. (Of course I have free will and could do this but that would create legal/financial difficulties for the university so I won’t.) This is true of everyone else.

So, you may have a dire emergency that only one person can resolve. If that emergency happens on that person’s furlough day, it will not be addressed until the person returns and catches up on the lost work. Of course this is just a what-if. For example, I’m sure the health services and counseling offices aren’t going to completely abandon students. They’ll work to maintain coverage. Still, you may have an issue that seems dire to you. You may have an important question about an assignment and not being to move forward without an answer. In truth, these “emergencies” happen even without furlough days. (What is the saying?: one person’s emergency is another person’s lack of planning.)

Hopefully, these days will pass as painlessly as possible but do realize that a furlough day might result in a delayed response.