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5 Ways To Get Your MOOC On

People love acronyms and one of the newest one in the learning industry is MOOC.  What is a MOOC you ask?  Maybe this illustration can help:

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Image: “MOOC poster mathplourde” by Mathieu Plourde

The internet is an incredible vehicle for teaching and learning.  Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs, became popular about two years ago when colleges and universities realized the potential of this creative way to reach a lot of students at once. A MOOC basically is a course online that is open to many people at the same time.. Originally they were free and no-credit courses, but that has been changing.  There are all kinds of courses now available on the internet, from Chemistry to Pottery, and most of the top educational organizations in the world are developing them.  Sooner or later, you probably will take a MOOC.

Online education can be a real win for many students, especially those that can’t get to a classroom, but (based on the statistics that I am seeing), this type of learning has its challenges. According to research done by Shanna Smith Jaggars, Assistant Director of Columbia University’s Community College Research Center, 32% of students failed or withdrew from for-credit online courses (compared with 19% for equivalent in-person courses) 1 and, according to educational researcher Katy Jordan, MOOCs have generated 50,000 enrollments on average but with a completion rate below 10%. 2  Reading those statistics got me to thinking about how to help students do better (and maybe want to complete the course).

Here are my five suggestions on how to be successful when taking a MOOC:

1.  Practice Good Time Management

Knowing how to manage your time is critical when it comes to online learning.  It is just to easy to do everything else before you sit down to do your course work.  Everyday physical demands, like work, family, and community obligations, can get in the way of virtual activities.  To better manage your time you need to:

  • Understand the syllabus of the class and when assignments are due. (I actually print it out and put it in the front of my notebook – and yes, I take notes).
  • Add assignment due dates to your everyday calendar.  You need to make sure you allow yourself enough time to get the work done.
  • Make a ‘to-do’ list daily and make sure some MOOC activity is in there, every day.

2. Manage Your Work Environment

womanatdeskYour physical space is a critical factor of success when working online. A good study environment without distractions is essential to any student’s success but especially an online student.

  • Build a quiet space. Make sure that you have a private and quiet space to get your work done.  If you have kids, they should be somewhere else and pets should be walked before you sit down to work.
  • Build a functional space.  Make sure that the lighting in your space is sufficient and that you pay attention to the ergonomics of your computer/chair/screen/keyboard for maximum comfort.
  • Turn off your phone.  Make sure that people know you are taking a class between the hours of X and Y, so they leave you alone.
  • Turn off the TV and avoid games.  Control temptations by removing them from your reach during study time.  You might even consider uninstalling computer games if you find yourself playing “solitaire” instead of studying.
  • Shut down your browser (except for the class, of course).  It is easy to get lost on the internet, so make sure that you have no tabs open other than the class.  You can check Facebook later, when you are not in school.

3. Commitment and Motivation

Like with all schooling, the motivation and commitment to attend to what needs to be done to succeed is important.  But with online classes it may be the biggest success factor of all.  Unlike a class room course where you are surrounded by your peers and an instructor that can give immediate support, online students must figure a lot of things out on their own.  You have to be your own technical guru, know when to ask questions and how, do your online classwork every day no matter what, and keep working through stumbling blocks that come up.

  • Be committed to the process and understand what you want from the course.  What is your MOTIVATION?  There are many reasons to take classes, make sure that you have the willingness to succeed.
  • Understand how the classroom software works, especially when it comes to asking questions and requesting help.
  • Log in every day and make progress on your course, even if it is just a bit.  Students that do the best in online learning are those that make daily progress.
  • Persevere through the technical and other challenges that the online learning environment may pose to you.  Just keep at it.

4. Communications Skills

32661230When you are learning in an online environment, your written communication skills and reading ability are extremely valuable. It is up to the student to communicate their needs in writing almost exclusively because in online classes you are rarely seen or heard.  Unlike a physical class, the virtual world does not allow for non-verbal cues to tell the teacher that you don’t understand something, it will be up to you to ask, in writing.  Also, make sure that you are ready for a great deal of screen reading, though there may be some hard copy books as well.

  • Understand how the teacher and staff want to be communicated with.  Usually, online instructors allow for multiple ways to reach them. There should be instructions in the beginning of any course detailing things like when to email, what the instructor and teaching assistant’s office hours are, how to join discussion groups, team chat rooms, etc. By following the instructions and using the tools provided by the course, you will have the easiest time communicating with the staff.
  • Use your best business like communication style.  Unless told otherwise, the informal style of text messages and chats is not very effective when working with teachers and staff online. The more you can write in full sentences in a courteous tone, the better received your communication will be.  Even if you are frustrated or angry about something, remember that the teachers and staff at the other end of your communication deserve to be treated as the professionals.

5. Technical Understanding

You don’t need to be a geek to take a MOOC, but you do need to know your way around your computer and the software that the course is given in.

  • Take the course orientation on how to use the learning system, if one is offered.
  • Make sure the equipment you are working on meets the hardware and software requirements stated by the course.  If it does not you will want to fix your technical issues before you ever get started.
  • Make sure you are familiar with a few of the standard tools used in MOOCs: word processing software, spreadsheets, browsers (specifically how to get to places on the internet and how to download information).

 Have you taken a MOOC yet?  What worked for you?

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

- Lorian

 

 

 

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Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

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References

Image 1: “MOOC poster mathplourde” by Mathieu Plourde {(Mathplourde on Flickr) – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mathplourde/8620174342/sizes/l/in/photostream/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MOOC_poster_mathplourde.jpg#mediaviewer/File:MOOC_poster_mathplourde.jpg

1. http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/presentation/moocs-unbundling-implications.html

2. http://www.katyjordan.com/MOOCproject.html

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2014 in Learning, Time Management

 

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3 Spring Training Tips For Business Coaches

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It is great to see all the coaches out there with the kids on the fields now that it is spring in the east.  All the little sweaty people running back and forth trying to build up stamina for the big game to come.  Drills and drills and laps and more drills. Practice, practice, practice.  It made me think about my role as a leader and how I coach other people to their personal best.

The word ‘coach’ brings to mind sports heros like, Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi.  And, when I think of a sports coach, I think of someone who is focused on one thing: winning.  Even though the great coaches care about the players, everything they are doing is to drive the team to the win at the end of the game.  Vince Lombardi, Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers, said “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-the-time thing.”  He accepted nothing less than first place and said that second place was the ‘first loser.’

Here is an example of the most driven coach in history:

I learned a great deal studying sports coaches, and one of those things is that organizational coaching is completely different.  The goal for organizational coaching is about the individual and what they learn through the process. “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” (John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance).  There is a lot to be learned from the sports analogy but in the workplace, coaching is about the relationship between me and the person I am coaching.  There are several things that are important from my side as the coach:

coaching-e13078629095151.  I must be fully engaged with the process and make sure that I am pushing my protege in such a way as to get them to be moving forward.  Too many times people wait until the other person brings them problems.  When I coach, I set up an agreement with the protege upfront and have defined things that s/he is working on.  This relationship is about challenging the other person to improve, to develop new skills or new capabilities.  The responsibility to figure out how to get them going sits with me.

2.  I must be an active listener and come prepared with the right questions to engage the protege.  Sometimes it is hard with all the distractions around, especially when 90% of my coaching is over the phone and on-line, but the other person deserves my undivided attention.  If I am not paying attention, then why am I doing this and who is it benefiting.  I make sure to block off sufficient time in my calendar to focus on the protege and the challenge.

3.  Coaching for me is also about providing guidance that the other person could not get on their own (or at least not easily). I am here to teach them to fish, not to fish for them.  My goal is to provide my protege with tools that they can use going forward that will enhance their abilities, help them make decisions and solve problems, so that over time, they can be self sustaining.

Do you Coach? Do you have a Coach?  If you could only give one piece of advice to your next protege, what would it be?

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

- Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheDigitalAttitude

 

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2014 in General Attitude

 

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Controlling Chaos: 6 Steps To Finding Sanity

$7D24436BC485CA89It sure seems like the pace of everything is getting faster and faster every day.  Finding ways to maintain one’s sanity while managing large, fast-moving projects is an endless dance.  When I was teaching a course on managing projects in e-business recently, one of my students asked me how I controlled chaos on my projects. My answer: “I plan for it!”

My job as a project leader is to keep the project flow moving, to meet deadlines, budget constraints, and most of all to manage my client’s expectations. I am not silly enough to think that I can ever really control things, but, I am smart enough to put the right things in place to make sure that maybe the roof won’t blow off when the tornado comes through (if you get what I mean).   With good planning and a deep understanding of my team and client, and with an agile (digital) attitude, I have managed chaos for years.

What is Chaos Anyway?

On a project, especially in today’s complex and dynamic environments, chaos can be defined as “a state of the (project) system where the future development of the system is not predictable, or only poorly predictable.”(1) Basically,  a small unpredictable event, like the delayed arrival of key resource materials, may be nothing more than a nuisance when it happens, but the cumulative effect of many deliveries not taking place over many months can delay you to the point of no return.  When you are dealing with a complex and dynamic project, you are sitting on the edge of chaos most of the time, so you need to plan accordingly and not be overtaken by events.

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Sanity = Practicing Good Project Management

  1. PLAN:  Make a plan, work the plan, and update the plan continuously.  If it is not documented, it does not exist!  Do you have a project management plan?  If you don’t have a road map, how will you ever know where you are going?
  2. TRACK: Know where you want to end up and keep your focus there.  Stay on track.  Do you have a project charter?  Knowing what you are sponsored to deliver is critical to getting there.
  3. MONITOR: Have a metric by which you know how to check the health of your project.  Do you have an analytic?  How do you know you’re on track if you can’t show it in a graph somehow?
  4. PREDICT:  Know what your mitigation strategy is because something will go wrong.  Do you have a risk management plan?  Chaos management is really just risk management.  You may not know what is going to happen but you can plan how you will fix it when it does.
  5. FIX: Prevent everything you can from going sideways.  You do this by continuous review. Do you have a documented change management process?  Change the easiest things first and get them going in the right direction.  Repeat after me: Change is good when it gets you closer to your goal.  Little changes along the way are a lot easier than a big change near the end. (It’s that cumulative thing again.)
  6. DANCE: Be agile.  You need to be open to alternatives when you need them.  You also need to be close with your client and your sponsor, so that you can make decisions when they are needed.

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I know it may sound over simplified, but believe me, most of the battle of controlling chaos is staying calm and practicing good project management.  Do you have any steps that have worked for you?

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

- Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheDigitalAttitude

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References

  1. AVOIDING AND MANAGING CHAOS IN (Construction) PROJECTS, Sven Bertelsen and Lauri Koskela, 11th Annual Conference on Lean Construction – Denmark, 2009  http://laurikoskela.com/download/Avoiding-and-Managing-Chaos-in-Projects.pdf.
  2. How to Save a Failing Project: Chaos to Control, Ralph R. Young, Steven M. Brady, & Dennis C. Nagle, Jr.. Management Concepts, Inc., VA, 2009
 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Social PM

 

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5 Ways For A Job Obsessed Person To Relax During The Holidays

If you are like me, taking time off for vacation, especially at the holidays, is stressful.  I dread sitting hour after hour with family and friends while there is yet so much to be done. Turning my head off, shutting down work that needs to be done, putting aside things left on the desk, laying aside things in the hopper, or delaying plans that must be completed, is almost painful.  And truthfully, it is not just work things, how long can I go without checking my smartphone, iPad, computer, or the at-home project to-do list?

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Over the years work has become more and more consuming and many of us suffer from a work-life imbalance. Do you feel lost if you are not being productive?  There is this creeping uneasiness that I get when that little voice inside me says, “you shouldn’t be sitting around when you have so much to do.”  This is actually a common problem for those of us in the project management profession. Psychologist’s say that for some people this discomfort around relaxing can even morph from boredom, to irritation, to alcohol abuse.  (Oh my!)  I also read that it isn’t that different than other addictions, like drugs, or gambling.  They call it Adrenaline Addiction: being addicted to stress, in this case, work stress.

Here are a few symptoms or signs that you may be obsessed with your work:

–Feelings of guilt when idle

–Obsessed over things that are left undone

–Strong compulsion to always be doing something

–Afraid something will go wrong if you don’t do it personally

I really do want to relax and enjoy my family and friends over the holidays, but now that I am actually facing a few days of downtime how do I turn off my head?

According to Dr. Tom Muha, a psychologist practicing in Annapolis, Maryland, the first step is to decide that you deserve to be happy.  Dr. Muha says that “if you really feel that you deserve to have a good life, then decide to make that the main gift you give to you and your family this year.”

The second step is to face the discomfort that plagues you when you’re not being productive.  You might have to fool yourself at first, but here are some things that can help:

1.  Get some exercise first thing in the morning.

2.  Plan your day around pleasurable activities.

3.  Engage in conversations chock-full of curiosity.

4.  Ask other people what would make their day terrific, and them do whatever you can to help make that happen.  (This works really well with kids.)

5.  Pay attention to what you’re seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, and feeling.  Be in the moment.

I am going to have to fight my inner curmudgeon and force myself to have a good time over these next few weeks, but who knows, I just might learn to relax after all.

Wishing you the happiest of holiday seasons and a wonderful New Year.

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Thanks for reading The Digital Attitude.  See you in 2014.

 

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

- Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheDigitalAttitude

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2013 in General Attitude

 

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Digital in China.. or not!

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Free PDU’s @ International Project Management Day

I just got back from a great meeting with International Institute for Learning in New York City.  They are a global leader in training, coaching and customized course development.  On November 7, 2013 they will be holding a free full day event for INTERNATIONAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT DAY.

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Register for free  (how easy is that!!!!)

You can earn free PDU’s if you are a PMI PMP –  but more importantly, there is an impressive group of really good speakers and sessions.

animationfinalSee you there.

- Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheDigitalAttitude

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in General Attitude

 

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3 Simple Miscommunication Fixes

Why aren’t you listening?  Didn’t you read my email?

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Do you ever feel like people only catch about 10% of what you say? The good news is you are not going crazy, it may actually be true. The realization that people grasp way less in conversations than we think they do was recently highlighted in an article by Keith Ferrazzi, in the Harvard Business Review, on “How to Avoid Virtual Miscommunications.”  We assume that people know what we mean, but actually… they don’t.

Virtual teams, lacking contextual cues that the other person hasn’t understood what we’re trying to say, often hear only too late that “I thought it was obvious that…” or, “I didn’t think I needed to spell that out.” - Farrazi. HBR Blog Network, April 12, 2013

Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., calls this the Signal Amplification Bias syndrome (though she jests that calling it the “I’m Sure It Was Obvious” Effect would have been much more to the point. – Too Much Miscommunication in your Relationship? A Simple Fix,)

Signal Amplification Bias is really just a fancy way to say there is a  lack of communication.  The tendency is for people to perceive (bias) that they have communicated (signal) more (amplification) information to other people than they actually have.

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The potential for miscommunication was bad enough when we were face to face with people on a daily basis, but now, with more virtual teams and alternative methods of communications, it is getting worse.  In my last post, I talked about the lack of contextual cues created by virtual communications, so today I wanted to address making understanding in the virtual world better/easier.

Here are some suggestions to help get your message across:

Check 4 Times:  Ferrazzi, in his article, said that it was not enough to tell someone to “circle back with me” and he is right.  I check at least 4 times with someone when I am trying to make sure that they understand me.  I know this may sound like a lot of work, but after many years of managing teams in India and other non-native English-speaking countries (as well as across the 50 States – which sometimes might as well be different countries), I have found that spending time making sure my message is understood up front is better than trying to fix a miscommunicated instruction 90 days down the road.

  • Day 1: Tell them what you want to tell them on the phone (or in person).
  • Later that day: Follow up with a detailed email of what you told them. You really need to present detailed instructions, otherwise you are leaving your desires open to interpretation.  For example, if you want team members to set up a database that lists all the registered participates of your study, do you want them to decide the fields in the database, or do you already have a template in mind?  If you want them to do it a particular way, they can’t read your mind, you need to spell it out. Remember, that you get what you ask for.  If you are not specific, then you’ll get what they ‘thought’ you wanted.
  • Day 2: Check that they understood what you told them in another phone conversation.  I know that many times I think that what I had asked was clear, but when I hear it back from another person, I realize that my thought process may have been less than full, or lacking some steps.
  • Later that day: Correct what they misunderstood in your first communication in a detailed email.
  • Day 3: Check that they understood what you said the second time.
  • Repeat the process until you are comfortable that all details are clear.

Using multiple mediums, especially phone and email, ensures that important concepts get repeated in several different ways.  This helps, especially, again, for non-native English speakers. Some people like to read maps, others like to see their directions in a list format. The more ways you can present something, the better chance of it being understood.

It used to be that I did not realize my miscommunication (my signal amplification bias) until I get back the first draft of what people thought I asked for. It used to amaze me how much I did not say (or they did not hear).  When you see things in different mediums it helps to catch what you might miss in a verbal conversation or an instant message. Details are better sent in an email that can be discussed and even printed and edited by both sides.

Breaking communications down into smaller chunks also goes a long way toward being understood.  If possible, don’t dump a million task on someone all at the same time.  If you compartmentalized a few things at a time, then you have a better chance for comprehension and you can make sure that the information is understood before moving on to the next chunk.  If the communication fits on more than two email screens, it is probably too long. (Interesting tidbit: ‘Chunking” – the theory that we remember things in chunks, gives evidence that 7 chunks plus or minus 2 may be all we can handle at one time.) 

Bottom line, accept that there will always be some communication issues whenever you have two or more people talking, but keep it short, keep it detailed, and check each parties understanding along the way.  If you do that… the rest should be obvious.

What do you do to make sure your message is heard?

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

- Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheDigitalAttitude

 
 

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