Rules and my Inbox Affliction

I have this thing about unread mail in my inbox.  For some reason it just annoys me; not as much as nails on a chalkboard (remember those?) but close.  Some emails I neither want nor need to process right away so I like to use Outlook (2010) rules to move them to a folder for me to work on later.  It is really easy to set up!  For example, when I teach a course, I subscribe to the discussion boards so I know when posts are made.  These always comes from a specific email address.  I click on one of the messages and then on the Rules icon and select the option “Always move messages from ….” for that address.  If I do not have a folder already set up for these messages, I can create one at this point; otherwise, I select the mailbox to send them to and hit OK.  It moves all the old ones at this point as well.  Voilà!  My inbox will now be automatically cleared of those messages I can deal with later, my shoulders relax and I re-enter my natural zen state of peace and tranquility. 😉  You can also do this for messages from students in a certain class or from colleagues and then can easily recognize what a message is generally referring to by where it gets filed.

How do you handle the onslaught of emails without going crazy?

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Workstation Ergonomics and a Heating Pad

I am sitting here with a heating pad on my back from pulling out tacks from my now carpetless bedroom floor.  When I sat down at my desk with this aching back, I was not comfortable in my chair at all.  I am short (5’2″) and my desk is not :).  I adjusted my chair the best I could and added a stool for my dangling feet.  It struck me that with all this online learning, we need to address the comfort factor of the workstation at which students and teachers are sitting.  It can be very difficult to focus when your body is not comfortable.  I found an informative OSHA site at the Department of Labor that explains all the ins and outs of the ergonomics of the workstation.  Make sure you hover your mouse over the phrases to the right of the picture of the woman sitting at her desk to see how the alignment works.  Btw, I am seriously considering sawing down the legs of my desk this weekend!

What is it about your working area that gives/gave you the most trouble?

Synchronous Online Meetings

Sometimes there is a need or desire to hold a synchronous session in an online course.   For instance, students may want to get together live to work on a group project or the teacher wants to have a live discussion about a current event or a particularly difficult concept.  There are many tools out there to meet these various needs.  Check out this post from “On Teaching Online” that explores Live (Synchronous) Meeting Systems Tools.  It does not address Google+ Hangouts which is another popular informal video conferencing tool.

Have you used anything else that the article does not mention?  Was it effective?

Building Connection with Discussion Boards

I am reading the book The Relationship Cure by John Gottman in order to better understand relationship building.  I just started it but it already has made me think about how this applies directly to building community in online courses.  He talks about the bid, a request for emotional connection.  When someone replies to your discussion board post with a post that is meant to generate further interaction with you, he/she is trying to make a connection with you and/or your thinking.  To ignore it is to deny a bid for connection which can deteriorate the learning community’s effectiveness.  I suggest that students and teachers subscribe to their discussion boards so no one misses that bid.  In the online community of learning, it could lead to great insights into the topics being explored and make the community more supportive of each other’s learning and need for connection.

How do you encourage community building in your discussion boards?

How Higher Education Uses Social Media – Infographic

Here is an easy-to-understand infographic on how colleges can and do use social media.  Teachers need to get on board with these tools to expand the classroom outside of the physical or virtual boundaries of the class.  This is a great way to add current content that builds upon what is being studied in class and to continue to engage students with the teacher, each other, and the topics.

Online Discussion Participation

To get the most of an online discussion, there are things that the instructor needs to do and there are guidelines for the participant as well.  Here is a short yet informative list of guidelines to use when participating in an online discussion forum.  I particularly like the one about jotting down notes as you read other posts so you can prepare better for your responses.