Ten Simple Strategies for Success in College


Congratulations on making the decision to get a college degree! After the initial excitement wears off, you will next need to figure out how you are going to accomplish this successfully within four years (give or take a semester). Naturally, you will want to prepare yourself for success. Orientation sessions can help you get started, such as logging in to your email, signing up for your classes, and navigating the various university resources, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Following are simple yet essential strategies for making your college degree a reality (and fun!):

  1. Map Your Plan: Make sure you know how to use your university registration system to view your records and progress. You really don’t want to take 160 credits for an undergraduate degree when you only need 120. Each university has its own system, and you should spend time learning how you can use it. You will also be assigned an advisor, who can help, but you will want to take ownership of this part of your college education. Use their degree tracker programs and create “What if” scenarios if possible. These automated programs can save you time and be much more accurate in mapping out your degree program than using the information provided in your college catalog. This will help provide you with the big picture of what you need to do to graduate.
  2. Take Psychology 101 Early: Take this course early in your college career, as it will help you better understand how to improve your study skills, learning, and other fascinating facts about human behavior.
  3. Learn Your Learning Management System: Know how to locate and logon to your university’s learning management system. (Of course, this is especially important if you are taking an online course.) Navigate to your current courses, where you should be able to at least view and print your course syllabi before classes begin. And READ each course syllabus. Finally, make sure you purchase all books and other supplies before classes begin.
  4. Apply Effective Time Management Skills: This is probably the most overlooked, yet most important contribution to your success in college. Take time to look over your course syllabi and map out when major assignments are due. And remember, for every credit hour you are taking, you will spend approximately two to three hours outside of class studying. Therefore, to help determine the course load most appropriate for you, use the formula:
    3 credit hours (1 course) = 3 hours in class per week = 6-9 hours study time per week.
    12 credit hours (4 courses) = 12 hours in class per week = 24-36 hours study time per week. For more ideas and information, visit Boise State’s Study Skills resource: http://aae.boisestate.edu/study/
  5. Ask for Help and Be Proactive: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Universities offer all sorts of support, such as tutors, writing centers, math labs, and other resources. And be proactive–don’t wait until the last minute until the last minute.
  6. Get Involved and Stay Connected: Identify what interests you and locate a club or other activity that will help you become more connected and enrich your college experience. OrgSync is one resource some colleges offer, but again, look at your college online resources and investigate all of the opportunities available to you. Also, stay connected to your college through various social networks–like your university’s Facebook page and follow Twitter feeds. Remember, your college experience won’t last forever, so make it meaningful to you. Here’s a Boise State resource with helpful tips: https://getinvolved.boisestate.edu/get-involved/
  7. Appreciate Adversity: This is an absolute necessity. Throughout your college career, you will naturally develop skills and talents to become a creative learner. In order to gain these skills, you will need practice in making difficult decisions. Progress as a learner results from the product of successful habits, such as perseverance, patience, the ability to accept failure, and doubt. There is probably no better teacher than adversity. Appreciate frustration or anxiety. These can be the most powerful motivators to drive you toward your own solutions. One might argue that this is how we learn best.
  8. Embrace a Growth Mindset: If you think of yourself as having a growth mindset instead of a fixed one, then your chances for success can be increased. Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist, has conducted many studies about people’s beliefs in learning. She says, “In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.” For more information, read her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
  9. Create and Maintain an ePortfolio: Sign up right away for a free website building tool. My favorite is WordPress, but you can use Blogger or any other tool. Save all of your work and organize it according to theme, course, whatever. You can always go back and then select some of your best work to create a professional looking eportfolio–something you can share with your family, use in a job search, or simply sit back and gloat about what you’ve accomplished.
  10. Enjoy the Ride: While you won’t absolutely love all of your courses, try to appreciate at least one aspect of the course and the enthusiasm your professor brings to it. Who knows, you might find you actually become more interested in the topic and want to explore it in further courses.
Blogging and Why We Need An Expanded View

Blogging and Why We Need An Expanded View

How we write online has drastically changed (and improved) since blogging software first began being offered in the late 1990s. Up until then, people had to write in HTML and figure out how to set up a website to publish their words of wisdom. After Blogger, things changed. Just about anyone could set up a blog, especially since you didn’t have to know anything about HTML. It was easy and quick; write and save to an online form and within seconds your words would wrap around the globe.

And then, things starting changing with the advent of social networks. Tools like Twitter and Facebook transformed how we communicated–instantaneously using a limited number of characters. The word “microblogging” came into vogue, and people started posting and sharing those posts more quickly and with more power than through traditional blogging. Has this changed how we view blogging?

There are still major differences between posting to Twitter and blogging on WordPress. Blogging software provides you with a polished and professional website, along with navigation tools and customization. You can post as many words as you want. And you don’t need to be a member of a social network to read and write posts.

However, there are instances where using a social network either in conjunction with or as a substitute for your blog makes sense. When posting to a blog, you might want to enable instant updates about your new posts to your Twitter, Facebook, G+ and other social networks. Or, you can decide to post to your G+ Home page and then Tweet that post.

I guess the main conclusion to this confusion is that whatever you use, you can create an audience for your writing and add to your social networks. In fact, you may decide to have several types of blogs or online writing spaces.

Perhaps you are collecting recipes for a tailgate party and feel that Pinterest would work best. Or, you are writing your memoirs and want them to be highly visible and accessible, deciding to go with Blogger or WordPress. You might want to communicate with your students about upcoming homework assignment reminders and use your class Twitter feed. For your videos, you might want to share and comment through your YouTube channel. For a photo album, you might want to share using G+, especially since uploading of images is a no-brainer when using your mobile device.

Blogging is so much more than posting your thoughts online. It can include sharing images, videos, audio files, podcasts, embedding content from other sites, polling, advertising, commerce, publishing books, creating online newspapers, and stuff I don’t even know about yet. And blogging software isn’t just a series of online forms anymore. It’s sophisticated and powerful—something you can use to build a website that includes powerful dynamic features.

So my argument is that we need an expanded view of blogging today. Blogging is an activity that can showcase many media, serve many purposes, and allow us to express ourselves in multiple formats. It is an activity and a tool—something we can use to empower people, transform lives, and make the world a better place. Of course, not all blogs follow these high standards. But then again, we have the choice to not read them.

What are your current thoughts on blogging and blogging platforms? Has your blogging changed over time?

10 Reasons You Should Use Google+ Instead of Email

10 Reasons You Should Use Google+ Instead of Email

During this semester, I’m trying something new. I’m asking students to NOT send me emails. Yes, you read that right–no emails, please. Instead of composing an email, sending it, waiting for me to read it, think about it, then respond, I’m asking my students to communicate with me using Google+.

If you have not used Google+, you should. It’s a powerful communication, collaboration, and publication tool that can not only increase your productivity, but can save you from the email monster.

You can think of Google+ as a communication tool, like email, but much more convenient and with added value and features. Here are just a few reasons I think it’s better than email:

1. You can send messages to one person or groups of people in your custom G+ circles

message google+

Want to send a message to a group of people, but have not created a group (remember we used to call these “distribution lists”)? Send a message through G+ and select one person or circles you have created to send messages. (If you are concerned some of these people are not checking their G+ notifications, you always have the option of also checking “Also send an email.”)

2. You can view your new notifications in Google+ and respond to them quickly and efficiently.

google+ notifications

I find this particularly helpful in staying on track and up-to-date with messages and responses.

3. You can edit your messages.

For an English major, this is indispensable. I can’t tell you how many times I cringe when I’ve viewed an email I’ve sent with spelling errors. With G+, you can always edit your messages, add more content, whatever. Instead of sending yet another email with information you forgot to include, you can edit your original G+ post. How handy.

4. You can delete messages.

Let’s say you realized you didn’t need to send a message. You can delete it in G+. That’s it. Easy.

5. You can mention someone in your posts.

Google+ allows you to add a person’s G+ name (you enter it with a + in front of it) in a post, which isn’t sent directly to them, but alerts them they are mentioned. Perhaps you are referring to a person’s post and want them to know how you feel about it. I guess the email equivalent of this would be to copy someone.

6. You can re-share posts to other people, circles, and/or communities.

Let’s say you just read an interesting post and wanted to re-share it with your faculty group or class community. It’s easy to do that in G+. Try doing that in email (which would be the equivalent of forwarding an email.) Unless you already had groups set up, you would need to enter each email address. Kind of inefficient, isn’t it?

7. You can disable re-shares of posts.

This allows you to not allow re-sharing of your posts. Perhaps you sent a private message and do not want that person to re-share that message. Of course, he or she could easily copy and paste your message and whirl that around the Internet, but this would be unethical and inappropriate.

8. You can analyze your activity in Google+.

Using a tool called “CircleCount,” you can view all sorts of statistics on your G+ activity–what was your most read post, days and times people commented on your posts, the number of re-shares, and other valuable data. In my case, I use this information to plan and implement better communication tactics. For instance, I’ve discovered that most of my students comment on posts during Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, with Sundays by far being the most comments. This is not a surprising fact, since most of my students are working teachers who use Sundays and weekends to complete their work.

Another tool called Allmyplus provides additional statistics that help you analyze your activity and identify best practices for sharing.

9. Threaded conversations are easier to follow than email.

Let’s face it–email that contains multiple threads and different people you’ve copied can be confusing and messy. G+ posts are easy to follow and track, and searching within Google+ provides you with more valuable information than searching your email inbox.

10. Email resides in your inbox–Google+ is about reading, writing, sharing, publishing.

Email is contained in isolated spaces–your email inbox. Google+ posts can be private, of course, but can be re-shared and also shared with your custom circles or the entire public–the choice is yours. By using Google+, you are participating in a more varied and dynamic environment–you aren’t working in isolation. People comment on your posts, they re-share them, and you become part of a growing, robust community of people who want to share knowledge.

What are your thoughts? Are you using Google+ on a regular basis? Do you still use email as your sole communication tool? Please post your comments–I’d love to hear from you.

Software Tools I like for Multimedia Productions

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

I’m currently working on building an online course to teach instructors how to create effective multimedia to improve learning. One of the resources I created was a list of software tools that they might like using. I thought I’d share this with my readers as well. Let me know if you have any favorites that should be added to the list!

Tools are constantly changing. But one thing is almost for certain–they keep getting easier to use!

Just about all tools have a free trial download. Test out tools you think you might like to use. Post questions or comments about a particular tool to our Production Tools Discussion Forum.

Following is a list of tools that I have found to be very helpful to create effective and doable multimedia productions:

Image Editing Tools

You will most likely need to edit some images, especially ones you find online. Remember to search for re-usable images using Google Image Search http://images.google.com or other search engines/tools.

IMPORTANT: You should know how to determine the image file size. On an Apple, simply click the image file and select Apple Control + I. Right click on Windows and select Properties. For most web uses, jpg and gif images work best. File size should be no more than 200 KB per image. Try to get the size as small as possible without quality loss.

Preview (Included in Mac operating system) This is by far the easiest tool to resize images, if that is all you need to do. I use it constantly.

iPhoto (Included in Mac operating system) Excellent tool to edit and manipulate photos.

Microsoft Paint: I’m not sure if this program is still available in the new version of Windows, so if anyone can let me know–thanks! However, I know in the past it was a decent photo/image editor.

GimpShop: http://www.gimpshop.com/download.shtml Free, multi-platform, open-source image editing program. I have not used this version, but it is supposed to be very similar to PhotoShop, if you are accustomed to that interfact.

Adobe Fireworkshttp://www.adobe.com/products/fireworks.html This is a better image editor for web design than PhotoShop.

PowerPoint (available for Windows & Mac): Yes, Microsoft PowerPoint can be used as a very simple image creator. Slides can be saved as images, so don’t forget about using this for screencast entry screens or other applications.

Screencasting Tools

Camtasia http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.html (Windows & Mac)

JingProject http://www.techsmith.com/jing.html (Windows & Mac) Limited to 5 minutes.

Snag-It http://www.techsmith.com/snagit.html (Windows & Mac)

Captivate http://www.adobe.com/products/captivate.html (Windows) (Also includes simulation options and embedded quizzes)

Screencast-o-matic: http://www.screencast-o-matic.com (Windows & Mac)

Screenr http://www.screenr.com (browser-based)

QuickTime http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/ (included in Mac operating system/available for purchase for Windows)

Google Hangouts (Browser-based) Yes, you can actually use Google Hangouts (make sure you do a Hangout on Air) and then share your screen. Just hangout by yourself, share your screen and talk and then your video will be published to your YouTube account. From there, you can edit the video in the YouTube editor.

Video Recording/Editing Tools

Mobile Devices: iPhone, iPod, iPad, Android mobile OS: Mobile devices include recording apps to create, record, and publish multimedia. Get to know your mobile device and try out the various ways you can produce multimedia. I suggest getting a tripod and tripod adaptor to keep your device steady while recording.

YouTube: http://youtube.com Yes, you can record a video from your webcam directly in YouTube and even edit it. So, this provides a super-quick and easy way to get videos recorded and online. How to do this: http://support.google.com/youtube/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=57409

Windows Movie Maker (included in Windows operating system). You can upload a WMV file to YouTube, but please do not upload a WMV file to Moodle for viewing, as these files are only viewable (without additional software) on Windows operating systems. Try to only offer formats that are viewable on multiple platforms, such as mp4.

iMovie (included in Mac operating system) (Also available as an app for iOS, with great editing tools/features)

Photo Booth (included in Mac operating system)

QuickTime http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/ (included in Mac operating system/available for purchase for Windows)

>>Prompting Software

This enables you to more seamlessly follow a script. My colleague has used Promptster, recording on his iPad with incredible results.

Prompster Pro Apphttps://itunes.apple.com/us/app/prompster-pro/id378704861?mt=8

Presentation Tools

Authorstreamhttp://authorstream.com (web-based) I really like this tool because you can upload a narrated PowerPoint, and the tool includes the audio without doing any extra work. You sometimes have issues with PowerPoint for Mac, but I have had very good luck with this tool. It is free and allows anyone to view a narrated PowerPoint through a web browser. Again, you should almost NEVER upload a PowerPoint for viewing online. The files are too large and it requires the user to have this software on his/her computer in order to view it. Remember to always strive to create multimedia that can be viewed on ANY operating system. That means do not upload Windows-only media files!

Prezi http://prezi.com A different type of presentation tool that uses a zooming canvas format. You can now record narration in Prezi (you will need to create separate files and upload to each slide/path). Free tool that takes some time to learn.

VoiceThreadhttp://voicethread.com VoiceThread is great, but the free accounts only allow you to create up to five VoiceThreads–not very convenient. They offer licenses and also LTI integration with Moodle, so it’s a tool that maybe should be considered for CCIM courses.

Animoto: http://animoto.com This tool creates quick and professional-looking presentations from images. You can add music or narration. To produce longer videos, you need to purchase a license.

Adobe Presenter http://www.adobe.com/products/presenter.html (Windows) As with most Adobe products, the price is steep, but the quality is excellent. This tool allows you to create online presentations with many additional features, such as attaching files and embedding quizzes. If you also have an Adobe Connect account, then you can track the statistics on your presentations and quiz feedback.

SlideSharehttp://slideshare.net (web-based) This is another excellent browser-based slideshow tool that is free and visible on any computer. However, if you have audio narration (which I highly recommend for almost ANY type of slideshow presentation) you need to upload the audio files separately and then sync them manually.

authorPOINThttp://authorpoint.com (Windows only) It’s been a while since I’ve visited this site, but it appears they still offer a decent PowerPoint to flash converter. However, this is not a free tool.

iSpring PowerPoint to HTML5 converter http://www.ispringsolutions.com (Windows only) This looks like an excellent tool, but is a bit pricey.


Timeline JShttp://timeline.verite.co This is a timeline tool that works with Google Sheets and looks very promising. I have not used it, but timelines can be very useful, especially for the creator. Although you may not think a timeline would be useful, you might think of something, such as real estate trends, for instance.


Concept Maps

Bubbl.us https://bubbl.us Collaborative online concept mapping tool. Perhaps students could collaborate in creating concept map for an assignment.

CMAP Tools http://cmap.ihmc.us/download/ Downloadable concept mapping tool. Can export as PDF or image and insert on course site to explain concepts or connections.

Comic/Animation Tools




Collage Tools




Curation Tools






Audio Recording/Editing Tools

Voice Memo (iPhone/iPod) Excellent quality audio recorder (can also trim recordings) that can be shared via messaging or email. File format is m4a.

Voice Recorders on Android devices: Again, excellent quality recordings which offer more options for uploading to cloud storage, such as Dropbox.

Audacityhttp://audacity.sourceforge.net Free, multiplatform, open-source audio recording/editing program. Excellent and easy to use. Make sure you also install the LAME encoder to encode audio files to mp3.

GarageBand (Included in Mac operating system) Chris and I have used this tool for years in our Cool Teacher Podcast.

QuickTime http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/ (included in Mac operating system/available for purchase for Windows)

Static Tutorial Creation Tools

Remember, not all tutorials need to be narrated videos. You might want to create a very quick static tutorial with text and images. The one program I really love is Clarify-It, as it enables quick creation of tutorials, publishing them online and also offering HTML code and PDF creation.


Using the External Blogging Feature in Moodle

I like to create multiple ways for students to share, interact, and communicate in online courses. We use Moodle in our department (Boise State Department of Educational Technology). As Moodle continues to evolve, with its active community of developers, I am discovering new ways to create more seamless and even public interaction.

Moodle has always included built-in blogs, which can be set to be course and even page-related. So, if you want your students to easily post to a course blog, you can do this. Or, if you want them to post to their blog about a certain page, you can do that too. And, you can always post site-wide to a Moodle installation.

Another neat feature in the Moodle blogging toolset is the ability to register an external blog and then set certain tag filters to automatically post to your Moodle blog. This creates a super-easy way to share posts you’ve written to your blog automatically to your Moodle site. I’m using this post as an example of how to do this.

(Note: You may need to confirm with your Moodle administrator that the blogging feature has been enabled, along with the registering of external blogs.)

First of all, you will need to register your blog, which requires you add the feed URL. Go to your Moodle profile settings and select “Register an external blog.”

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 10.24.39 AM

Then, add the FEED URL of your blog to the required information and add a filter tag to send any posts with this tag to your Moodle blog. You can also designate if you want your Moodle blog to contain certain tags, too, which will enable filtering on the Moodle site of blog posts.

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 10.28.37 AM

Click “Save changes” and then navigate to your blog to create a new post, using the Filter tags you specified when you created an external blog. Publish your post and then you should be able to view that on the Moodle site. (Note: There may be a delay based upon how often your Moodle cron jobs are set up–I believe about 24 hours for Moodle to detect new posts on an external blog.)

So, your students might simply want to post to their own blogs and use their filter tags to automatically send to their Moodle blogs.

I think this is a powerful feature, and something that maybe many instructors and course designers might not be aware of. I highly recommend trying out and using blogs in Moodle courses, as an alternative to discussion forums. Of course, if you want to grade discussions, then Moodle blogs are not the choice, as they cannot be rated/graded.

Let me know about your experiences with using the blogging tools in Moodle and also the external blog feature.