Avoid the facepalm: Take charge of your online personal brand

Anyone who has ever been on a big job interview or in a faculty review hearing may have had bad dreams or anxious imaginings of  a nightmare scenario: just as things appear to be going well, the interviewer asks you about an embarrassing or compromising situation from your past — anything from a brush with the police or your attendance at a drunken bacchanalia to your former affiliation with a questionable group or ill-advised public performance. Luckily, you remind yourself, such skeletons in your closet are matters of the past that this employer or panel of evaluators could never find out about… right?

As we learn more every day in our increasingly ubiquitous digital landscape, the twin pillars of online data searching and social media make it easier than ever for potential employers or merit reviewers to discover the details of our lives, be they laudable or loathsome. The controversy over the revoked appointment of Steven G. Salaita at the University of Illinois in reaction to his inflammatory Twitter rhetoric is perhaps the most high-profile example of online presence affecting an academic job search. It is easy to imagine far more mundane discoveries happening earlier in the search process resulting in unfortunately negative perceptions of one’s online persona.

While many of us in academia might chafe at the notion of “personal branding” and self-marketing from the business employment world, the fact remains that higher education is no different than any other industry in its capacity and potential interest in mining social media for information about potential hires or promotions. In addition, internet searching is a common-sense way to vet potential guest speakers or other folks that might visit campus — if this could be you, it’s definitely a good idea to ensure that the “you” that emerges from a Google search is the you you want to present. That’s why taking your “online presence” as a key component of your personal brand is important.

Kelli Marshall from DePaul University wrote the following piece for the Chronicle last week. It provides some helpful advice and links to resources for helping you take proactive steps toward having the kind of online personal brand that will help rather than hinder in your professional life. Avoid the painful facepalm!

For additional insights into creating an online presence for your personal brand, check out Lesley McCollum’s “A Beginner’s Guide to Establishing an Online Presence” in Inside Higher Ed.

January 5, 2015

How to Curate Your Digital Identity as an Academic

If you don’t manage your online presence, you are allowing search engines to create it for you

How to Curate Your Digital Identity as an Academic 1

In 2009, anyone who searched my name on the web would first encounter the opinions of a disgruntled Midwestern undergraduate who lambasted me for being an unfair, unprofessional, and essentially ignorant professor.

Oddly enough, the student was angry because I had begun incorporating Twitter into the classroom. I was among the early advocates of using the social-media site in teaching, especially in large lecture-based courses. While many of the 120 students in my introductory film course embraced the Twitter assignments I devised, a handful revolted, including this particular student. He took to the Internet to express his belief that social media had no place in the college classroom, and any professor who thought otherwise was not only oblivious to Twitter’s intent (It’s for socializing, not learning!), but also graded her students unreasonably. In his diatribe, he called out my name, school affiliation, and the classes I taught.

Because I attended a graduate school focused on technology and digital media (even for those of us in the humanities), I’ve had an Internet presence since 1999. Teaching assistants in my Ph.D. program were required to, at the very least, post their syllabi online. Our advisers also encouraged us to have our own websites (or pages), which we rudimentarily made via software like Microsoft FrontPage (1996) and Netscape Composer (1997). So I’ve been aware of the need to shape one’s digital identity or online persona for quite a while now.

But of course, the Internet changed significantly between when I left graduate school in 1999 and my student’s public critique of me in 2009—see, for example: Google rankings, social media, sitemaps, shifts in search algorithms, robots, crawlers, and search-engine optimization in general. The Internet has changed even from 2009 to today. Suffice it to say, that undergraduate’s tirade is now buried deep in the web. Nowadays, the first item to appear when anyone plugs my name into a search engine is my personal website, followed by my social-media presence, and then direct links to the mainstream publications for which I’ve written.

So how might academics—particularly those without tenure, published books, or established freelance gigs—avoid having their digital identities taken over by the negative or the uncharacteristic?

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Free MOOC on Undergraduate STEM Teaching!

Colleagues in STEM fields, have I got some helpful news for you (thanks to my Augie colleague Jon Clauss, who gave me the heads-up):
Starting in early October, the  Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) is offering a free 7 week MOOC on “An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching.” Targeted especially at grad students, postdocs, and new STEM faculty, the MOOC seems potentially valuable for experienced faculty looking to sharpen and shake things up as well.

I’ve pasted a description from their website below, and attached their introductory video. The seven weeks include:
Week 1 – Principles of Learning
Week 2 – Learning Objectives, Assessment of Learning
Week 3 – Cooperative Learning, Peer Instruction, Lecturing
Week 4 – Inquiry-Based Labs, Problem-Based Learning, Writing to Learn
Week 5 – Diversity in the Classroom, Student Motivation
Week 6 – Lesson Planning
Week 7 – Conclusion

An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching

This seven-week course explores effective teaching strategies for college or university STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) classrooms

This course will provide graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) who are planning college and university faculty careers with an introduction to evidence-based teaching practices. Participants will learn about effective teaching strategies and the research that supports them, and they will apply what they learn to the design of lessons and assignments they can use in future teaching opportunities. Those who complete the course will be more informed and confident teachers, equipped for greater success in the undergraduate classroom.

The course will draw on the expertise of experienced STEM faculty, educational researchers, and staff from university teaching centers, many of them affiliated with the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), a network of 22 research universities collaborating in the preparation of STEM graduate students and post-docs as future faculty members. The seven-week course will be highly interactive, with many opportunities for peer-to-peer learning. Learning communities are at the heart of CIRTL’s activities, and this open, online course is intended to foster a large, healthy learning community of those interested in undergraduate STEM teaching–including current STEM faculty.

“An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching” has been developed by faculty, staff, and students at Vanderbilt UniversityMichigan State UniversityBoston University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Colorado-Boulder. The course is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1347605.

Free webinar on “The Flipped Classroom” coming soon!

Interested in the “flipped classroom” concept? Blended/hybrid learning? Maybe you would be, but don’t know much about it?

Check out this free webinar provided by Inside Higher Ed on Thursday, May 8, 2014, 1:00 PM CDT. I’ll be there!


Thursday, May 8, 2014 1:00:00 PM CDT – 2:00:00 PM CDT
The idea of the “flipped classroom” has taken off in higher education in recent years – and it is used to describe a wide variety of teaching styles. What they have in common is that they largely replace the lecture. For material that might have been delivered in lecture format previously, online instruction is provided in advance of the class. This allows for time in class to be used in different ways – group work, discussion and other forms of highly engaged participatory learning become the norm. 
Discussion of the flipped classroom thus is a mix of teaching with technology – and teaching without technology. It’s about pedagogy, learning and the role of the instructor. And in an era in which educators and policy makers alike want to promote student learning and achievement (not just showing up in class), the flipped classroom has become a key strategy.
In this FREE WEBINAR, Inside Higher Ed editors Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman explore a range of ideas and opinions about the flipped classroom.

Read up before you participate! Visit www.insidehighered.com/booklets to download "The Flipped Classroom," a compilation of news articles and opinion essays, the latest in Inside Higher Ed's series of booklets on hot issues in higher education. 

Inside Higher Ed's "The Flipped Classroom" webinar is made possible with the support of Adobe. Your registration information will be shared with the company. 

Captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing provided by CaptionAccess.

Creating online lessons with limited tech savvy? Check this out!

OK, true believers, I know how many of you may feel about sales pitches, but this is (potentially) one that may be rather useful, especially if you’re considering flipping the classroom with online pre-class content lessons… but have limited tech experience and an aversion to wonky new programs. Here’s a possible solution that is easy to use for anyone who can use PowerPoint.

I’ve recently come across a pair of linked, free applications that can help you turn your PowerPoint into an online lesson. iSpring enables you to record voiceovers and embed quizzes into a PowerPoint and turn it into an interactive video lesson. Slideboom is a free service that enables you to upload and store lessons in the cloud for streaming and use by your students (including embed code that enables you to put the lessons in your course LMS like Moodle, website, whatever). Comfortable learning curve for tech newbies, and free (unless you want to “spring” for premium features, which may not be necessary).

Anyway, I just got this e-mail (below, after the videos) for a free webinar coming up later this month that introduces iSpring and demonstrates what it can do, and what you can do with it. Might be worth the time investment… I’m going to check it out. Deets below.


Got the PowerPoint blahs? Find out how to power up your e-Learning!

We are glad to invite you to a Free Webinar especially for Educators. The seasoned sales leader Clay Moore, iSpring Director of Sales, will share a number of treasured tips:

  • How to create interactive courses right in PowerPoint
  • How to implement mLearning fast and easy
  • How to protect the content, and more!

Choose the most convenient time for you:
Join the webinar → Tuesday, March 26th, at 11 AM CST
Join the webinar → Wednesday, March 27th, at 11 AM CST

Don’t miss this rare chance to ask an expert. There are just 2 weeks left to sign up.

Grab this opportunity! The number of attendees is limited.

If you have any questions feel free to contact Clay Moore,
iSpring Director of Sales, US & Canada
Direct: 877-463-0065


Free webinars this month! Just watch those sales pitches…

I’m a big fan of free. And while some webinars can be a waste of time or an empty sales pitch, others can be really valuable professional development opportunities. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

In that spirit, I pass along info from an e-mail I just received from MacMillan Higher Ed Publishing, a company that offers free webinars each month to college and university faculty. Many are demos of products, but some involve useful pedagogical stuff — such as the webinars this month on course redesign, adaptive quizzing, flipping the classroom, etc.

So, for your edification and amusement… professor, web-ucate thyself.  Click here to get to MacMillan’s Event Center to check out the schedule of March webinars.

Political speech, our students, and the interwebs: Potential nightmare?

All of us have opinions. Many of those opinions are political. A fair number of those opinions clash with those of our students, not to mention numerous people within and outside of our institutions. And nearly all of us use e-communication to connect with our students as part of the daily course of business. Are these converging fronts that can threaten a perfect storm?

Striking a balance between academic freedom and the need to challenge our students with uncomfortable ideas is already tough enough to balance with our obligation to students to provide a welcoming and safe learning environment — as well as our obligation to serve our employers rather than throw them under the bus. When we are reminded that e-mail and social media — indeed, even in-class communication that can be recorded — is potentially available to a global audience despite our claims of privacy rights, it is a chilling storm front indeed.

So, I offer today’s gloom and doom: a story in today’s online Chronicle by Peter Schmidt that offers serious food for thought, an opportunity for debate (PLEASE! replies and dialogue welcome below!), and some implicit suggestions for how we might strike a better (though by no means foolproof) balance.


One Email, Much Outrage

How a seemingly simple message 
to students brought digital-age disaster for a Wisconsin professor

By Peter Schmidt

Rachel Slocum’s problems began with an email she sent at the end of long day.

It was Tuesday, October 1, and the federal government had partially shut down as a result of a budget impasse. The U.S. Census Bureau and Education Department websites were out of commission, leaving the students in her introductory geography class without access to data for an assignment.

“Hi everyone,” she wrote to the 18 students in the online course. “Some of the data gathering assignment will be impossible to complete until the Republican/Tea Party controlled House of Representatives agrees to fund the government.”

She urged her students to do whatever work they could. The rest, she wrote, “will have to wait until Congress decides we actually need a government.”

At 10:23 p.m., she hit send.

Without knowing it, she had just put herself on a political battle’s front lines.

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They chatted… now what? “Evaluating online discussions”

I’m joining a couple of colleagues in piloting a few online courses this summer. Because interactive discussion is a big part of what most of us do, figuring out how to handle online discussions is an important challenge. But this challenge isn’t just for online-only teachers: many of my colleagues are experimenting with various “flipping the classroom” techniques, including blogging, chats, and forum discussions outside the classroom.

Figuring out how to evaluate class participation can be tricky enough… how should we handle assessing an online conversation?

Maryellen Weimer from The Teaching Professor reports some results from a recent study that examined a number of rubrics used by online teachers, looking for major patterns. Here’s a few thoughts, then, on possible criteria for assessing these discussions.


Evaluating Online Discussions

Written by: Maryellen Weimer, Ph.D.
Published On: March 8, 2014

Discussions in class and online are not the same. When a comment is keyed in, more time can be involved in deciding what will be said. Online comments have more permanence. They can be read more than once and responded to more specifically. Online commentary isn’t delivered orally and evokes fewer of the fears associated with speaking in public. These features begin the list of what makes online discussions different. These different features also have implications for how online exchanges are assessed. What evaluation criteria are appropriate?

Two researchers offer data helpful in answering the assessment question. They decided to take a look at a collection of rubrics being used to assess online discussions. They analyzed 50 rubrics they found online by using various search engines and keywords. All the rubrics in this sample were developed to assess online discussions in higher education, and they did so with 153 different performance criteria. Based on a keyword analysis, the researchers grouped this collection into four major categories. Each is briefly discussed here.

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