Category Archives: Online Higher Education

Prepping Students for the Holidays

Dr. Tamara Fudge

Professor, Business and Information Technology, Purdue University Global


The holidays are here, and it is time to prepare your students.  Along with the turkey, holiday gifts, champagne, awkward chat with the in-laws, and (in some places) shovels full of snow, comes the fear that students will somehow forget that they are students, especially those who are in terms that are hit by Thanksgiving, the Winter Break, and/or Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

During certain holiday times, there may be no live seminars, offices may be closed, and some discussion posting requirements might even be altered. Make sure you ask your department chair for specific guidelines about your responsibilities during university breaks or holidays.

Once you have a handle on things, communicate with your students. At the beginning of the term, explain course requirements that are altered due to the official school schedule. Consider providing a calendar (University instructors can upload calendars to Doc Sharing), telling students in seminars, and/or writing an announcement focused precisely on what students need to know about the altered schedule. In the week prior to any break, remind them via announcement, email, and/or statements during seminar.

While you may already be doing these things, you may also want to think about this:   We can do more to do to keep students engaged during scheduled breaks – and to encourage their return.  Below are a few suggestions:

  • Share some fun videos or slide shows related to your course content during breaks. YouTube, SlideShare, The Internet Archive, and other sites have a bevy of options.
  • Include the hyperlinks to these videos in announcements. As a legal consideration, only provide the hyperlinks – do not try to embed the actual videos or slide shows unless you actually are the author.
  • Make it clear in each announcement that these are for their viewing pleasure, related to course content, and not required.
  • You can preset these announcements to show up on future dates during the break(s).
  • Try to choose videos or slide shows that either have captioning or are without audio to ensure accessibility.
  • View the entire show first, just in case there is misinformation or some other nasty surprise waiting for the viewer. Check to see if the comments on the page are appropriate, too.

Create a scavenger hunt.   Use your course’s email or other Virtual Office functions to ask some questions related to the classroom or course content. Students can reply to the email or posts with their answers.

  • Post three questions, but on separate days during the break.
  • Whoever is first with correct answers for all three questions will be given kudos in seminar, or if you really want to get fancy, make a cute certificate in PowerPoint and send it to the winner via email.
  • Tell the students well before break that you will be doing this activity and that it is not required but should be fun.

Email a greeting to the class that acknowledges holiday celebration.

  • Include an image and keep it brief.
  • Keep Winter Break messages rather generic to avoid proselytizing any particular religion or belief.
  • Blind Copy (BCC) when you email the entire class, or you risk a plethora of unwanted reply-alls. It is also prudent to protect students’ personal addresses by not sharing them widely.

While the video/slide show announcements and scavenger hunt might not work for everyone, they show the students that you are still engaged with them during the break, and knowing about it ahead of time might entice some students to regularly check the classroom. The email greeting can be done with any course and shows students that you acknowledge the break and appreciate them.

And so as we approach the busy holiday season, think of other ways to stay connected to your students as you help prepare them for the holidays!



Brexit Voters Broke It and Now Regret It-Part I: Establishing the Importance of Teaching and Learning in Developing an Educated, Global Electorate

Teresa Marie Kelly, MAT

Composition Professor, Purdue University Global


Brexit – short for British Exit – the historic and controversial 2016 vote by the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the European Union (EU)– prompted global market crashes, foreign business pullouts, at least one government collapse, and credit downgrades with many experts suggesting that the worst is yet to come (Urquhart, 2016). Once the initial shock passed, the reality of broken promises, apparent voter apathy or even ignorance, and abdication of leadership left the world wondering if Brexit “Broke  It” with” it” being the global economy, the union of the United Kingdom, the political process, or all of the above.  Regardless of political philosophy, as teachable moments go, close study of Brexit possesses amazing potential to illustrate the gap in society created by uneven application of the right to an education, to show what happens in the absence of strong leadership, and why consistent application of critical thinking is vital in a complex world.

Nearly seventy years ago, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights defined learning as fundamental to equality and stated that everyone has the right to an education. As Fareed Zakaria of CNN (2016) argues, contrary to this historical role as a great equalizer, education is the new political divide, which analysis of the Brexit vote supports. Exit polling shows a clear demographic split between well -educated and poorly educated voters that demonstrates the power of an educated electorate. According to McGill (2016), more than 60% of “remainers” were better educated while over 70% of “leavers” were less educated, a division that is not confined to the UK.  For example, Kerr (2016) notes that the best predictors of who or what someone will vote for includes a college degree. Educators must recognize this disparity and bridge it through active teaching and learning as well as through encouraging those with a strong education to inspire and model informed debate and voting for those with less education so that learning levels the playing field as intended, rather than creating a new schism.

In terms of leadership, Brexit is a classic case study of what not to do and why every movement for change needs sound leadership.  While the monetary aspects of Brexit were mostly as predicted, the leadership vacuum that also resulted was not (Urquhart, 2016).  Anti-exit British PM John Cameron announced his resignation the day after the vote. His primary adversary in his own Conservative Party, flamboyant former London Mayor Boris Johnson, made it clear that he didn’t want the job while opposition leader (Balz, Faiola, & Birnbaum, 2016). Nigel Farage, business maverick turned leader of the ultra-national UK’s Independence Party wasted no time extolling his victory and giving the European Parliament in Brussels – which had mocked his Brexit plan for years – a scathing dressing down right out of the Donald Trump playbook. He then resigned because, as the BBC quoted (2016), his “political ambition has been achieved,” suggesting he had no interest steering the country through the legal and economic quagmire he had created.

Horrifically, critical thinking appears to have left the planet – or at least the UK – under the bedlam of Brexit. Many of those who claimed that they understood Brexit issue and the possible ramifications did not take the vote seriously or voted as a “mistake.” Disbelief and a type of political whiplash set in as social media filled with thousands of “what did we do?” posts and videos (Dearden, 2016). Scores of people admitted that they did not vote based on what they wanted. Rather, Brexit had become a pop culture event so they voted just to say that they had or for amusement in the way pulling a fire alarm in a crowded building is amusing (Turner & Wilikinson, 2016).  By the Sunday after the vote, over three million citizens from across the political spectrum had signed a petition- ironically created by a leaver before the vote to hedge his bets – asking for the political equivalent of a mulligan (Turner &  Wilikinson, 2016).

Several weeks post-Brexit Theresa May replaced John Cameron as Prime Minister of the UK – becoming only the second woman in history to hold the office. Her history-making selection barely registered as the fallout from Brexit continued amid her promise to adhere to the referendum. Clearly, the 2016 British electorate was no more prepared or interested in making an informed decision about Brexit and its wide-ranging consequences than Neville Chamberlain was prepared to go toe to toe with Hitler in Munich in 1938 or deal with the ramifications. The World knows how that turned out – no one more so than the Brits, but cynicism and complacency has set it.   While not part of the problem, education has not yet offered a cohesive solution either and that must change.

Coming Soon: Brexit Voters Broke It and Now Regret It-Part II: How to Teach to Develop an Educated, Global Electorate



Balz,D., Failoa, A., & Birnbaum, M. (2016, June 26). Britain’s two main political parties in turmoil over E.U. fallout. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

BBC News Service.  (2016, 4 July). UKIP leader Nigel Farage stands down.  Retrieved from

Dearden, L. (2016). Anger over ‘Bregret’ as leave voters say they thought UK would stay in EU. The Independent. Retrieved from

Kerr, J. (2016, 3 April.) Trump overwhelmingly leads rivals in support from less educated Americans. PBS Newshour. Retrieved from

McGill, A. (2016). Who voted for the Brexit? The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Turner, C. & Wilkinson, M. (2016). As three million people sign a petition for a second EU referendum we ask – could it actually happen?  The Telegraph. Retrieved from

Urquhart, C. (2016, 1 July). The worst of the Brexit fallout is still to hit the UK. Time. Retrieved from

Zakaria, F. (2016). The new divide in the Western World. CNN. Retrieved from

Cybersecurity for the Non-Technical Person, Part 3

Dr. Lynne Williams, Purdue University Global Faculty, MSIT and MSCM Programs


Most Internet users are blissfully unaware of the infrastructure that allows them to send and receive email, watch Netflix™, update their Facebook™ feed, and a thousand other digital tasks. While it isn’t necessary that they be tech gurus to use all of their connected devices, when considering cybersecurity, it helps to know a bit about how the general infrastructure operates.


Humans speak in character-based languages, but computers and networks much prefer to use numbers. When you type into your browser’s search box, the browser and the network it’s using aren’t paying the slightest attention to the words. Instead, they are looking for a list that maps the word to a number. That’s the core concept of the Domain Name System [DNS].

The number that the browser is trying to find is an IP address, as we discussed in the second installment. It’s a bit like looking through the phonebook at a list of names and finding a phone number. DNS is what makes the internet and World Wide Web work; otherwise, we’d all have to know the IP address of any web page we wanted to visit. DNS is, effectively, the world’s largest phonebook with the IP address of all internet-connected devices, web pages, and web apps. DNS does have some security vulnerabilities. It’s easy to “spoof” an IP address such that the user is sent to a malicious website. Systems that store a cache of DNS addresses can be “poisoned” to deliberately misdirect unwary users.


So how do you protect yourself from being hijacked onto a malicious website? The answer is remarkably easy: use a DNS service such as OpenDNS. OpenDNS, as well as Google DNS, Comodo Secure DNS, and Norton ConnectSafe, all maintain a secured group of DNS servers that are specially designed to detect spoofed or fraudulent DNS resolutions. All you have to do is use one of these secured DNS services, rather than the DNS addresses used by your Internet Service Provider [ISP].

Many DNS services are free (look for OpenDNS Personal, Google DNS is always free) and only require a minute or two to set up as there’s nothing to install: OpenDNS Setup Instructions  If you set up a DNS service on your internet modem, the service will protect every device that connects to it. You can also set up a DNS service on individual devices; the choice is up to you. While using a DNS service isn’t a substitute for running updated anti-malware software, it’s a powerful, transparent way of adding another layer of cybersecurity to your virtual office and devices.

The Academic Support Video Series: A Resource Initiative and Collaboration

By Chrissine Rios, MA, Purdue University Global Writing Center

A tutor’s work is highly collaborative.  Tutors collaborate with students by nature, but tutors also collaborate with one another, with academic center specialists, and with faculty to develop and deliver workshops and to create and curate resources: the print and multimedia tutorials available on the university website and via the classroom portal.   Academic support resources benefit students in ways that are at once personal and far-reaching, immediate and long-lasting, and that are germane to learning—how students learn and what they need to be able to learn.


Research shows, for instance, that interactive video resources are especially beneficial for students with “deficient prerequisite knowledge, . . . non-standard learning paths, and multiple entry points into a degree” as these students will commonly need to learn how to read a data sheet, for example, before being able to use one (Nikolic, 2015, p. 1).  Study skills videos specific to online learning are particularly essential to adult, online students.


At the Purdue University Global Writing Center, online students new to academic writing have available a variety of media-rich resources designed for new and developing writers.   However, like most discipline-based tutoring centers, Writing Center resources are contextualized in writing situations.

To meet the need for resources in study skills and student engagement, the tutors of all five centers at the Purdue University Global Academic Support Center did what they do best: collaborate.  In collaboration with the KU School of General Education too, the ASC has produced a new category of video resources that target diverse entry-level competencies such as time management, computer system requirements, college reading strategies, APA formatting basics, and test-taking tips.  The videos are short, interactive, and meant to help students accomplish day-to-day tasks as well as long term goals.  Faculty and tutors can also rely on immediate access to these pertinent resources when assisting students.


You can access the first wave of the new Academic Support Videos on our public-facing Writing Center page:  Please share this page and/or any of the individual video links with your students and colleagues, and keep coming back.  As our cross-center collaborations continue, we’ve expanded the boundaries and reach of our academic support resources, so there’s more to come!


Nikolic, S. (2015). Understanding how students use and appreciate online resources in the teaching laboratory. International Journal of Online Engineering, 11 (4), 8-13.


Cybersecurity for the Non-technical Person, Part 2

Dr. Lynne Williams, Purdue University Global Faculty, MSIT and MSCM Programs

Many of us at Purdue University Global  (Purdue Global) are lucky enough to be able to work from home. In order to effectively work from home, we naturally have to have internet connectivity, and internet connectivity exposes us to a variety of online dangers and risks. Still, you don’t need to be a cybersecurity pro to proactively protect yourself from online risk.

Most internet connections these days are broadband, either DSL (comes in through your landline wiring) or cable (uses coaxial cabling similar to cable television). In both cases, you’ve probably got a modem/router that was given to you by your Internet Service Provider [ISP]. This modem/router is your “gateway” to the internet and contains settings that can be tweaked to help you protect your connection and thus your data.

All devices on your home network have individual addresses so that the modem/router can keep track of them; these are called the Internet Protocol addresses or IP addresses. Typically your modem/router is the controller of IP addresses and is in charge of assigning them to all of the devices on your home network. When you want to access your modem/router, you will use its IP address. If you don’t know your modem/router’s IP address, you can look at the manual that came with it or look up the manual online by searching for the make and model. You can also make a pretty good guess at the router’s IP address since gateway devices are usually given the first IP address in the set of addresses. A typical gateway IP address would look like this: If you type the gateway IP address into your web browser, this will bring up the user interface for your modem/router. If you haven’t logged in before, the device will be using the default credentials; your manual will have the default login credentials in it.

Smart phone

Once you’ve logged into your modem/router, you should change the default credentials and make sure that you note down the new credentials in your manual. Next, check that the modem/router’s firewall is active; where you find this setting will depend on the make and model of your router. You can test the security of your firewall with this free port test:

Having strong “perimeter” security in the form of a firewall is always good security practice, and changing the default credentials goes a long way toward not getting hacked. The default credentials from hundreds of home type modem routers are freely available on the internet. In fact, cyber hackers can use the the Shodan search engine to detect routers that are using the default credentials; don’t let them get into your network without a fight!

Maintaining Presence in an Online Classroom

Jeremy Pilarsky, Purdue University Global Composition Professor

The term presence sometimes appears in teacher observations and evaluations when assessing a classroom environment. Presence, in pedagogy, means the instructor projects an aura conducive to learning in the classroom.  Truthfully, an evaluator noticing strong instructor presence can be one of the most complimentary attributes adorning the comments section.  Whether the instructor injects singular wit in a lecture or silences a room with penetrating insight, students feel more invested in a class triggering a positive emotional response even if the material departs from their own philosophies.   Yet, presently, online instructors, unlike their face-to-face, student-to-student colleagues, have a harder time creating and maintaining the same presence. Still, despite the tactile limitations imposed on cyber-educators, they can create a comparable atmosphere promoting interactive learning by attending professional development activities, sharing ideas with colleagues, and using outside computer programs to personalize their classrooms.

E-instructors should take advantage of professional development activities offered both in and outside their institutions.  At Purdue University Global (Purdue Global), instructors practice pedagogical concepts in CTL trainings.  Also, the university offers a strong community of educators willing to share ideas with other faculty.  Active participation in professional development helps faculty hone their online teaching abilities.  According to Jason Neben (2014), “Since faculty are the direct connection to students, it is crucial to understand their perceptions when considering any major change to teaching and learning processes” (p.43). Complying with the professional development requirements from faculty expectations help instructors transition from a moderator role into an active educator, implementing new ideas from external scholarship and their colleagues’ presentations.

Insight from other faculty inspires new approaches to the online classroom.  For example, two recent, notable presentations discussed peer reviews and digital technology in the classroom.  The peer review group provided tips on easing stress students’ experience when sharing drafts.  Students at Purdue Global, many who are first-generation college students, feel unaccustomed to issuing critical feedback on each others’ essays.   The responses often amount to praise, and any criticism issued involves APA formatting or grammatical errors.  Although APA and grammar represent important parts in many other courses, for composition instructors the goal is for students to attempt holistic feedback, focusing on the issues students write about rather than the diction and punctuation of the prose.  The instructors in this presentation suggested adding to the expectations by communicating to students specific examples of peer- reviewed comments and posting them in Doc Sharing or in the discussion board.

Purdue Global courses make available examples students can view in the Unit Overviews; however, having a personalized example from their professor makes an impression on students, signifying to them that their instructor takes an interest in helping students expand their conceptions, so they can get a better understanding of the assignment.  This gesture resembles the instructor providing extra help in a real class, projecting a presence just as authentic as one found in a traditional ground course.  In addition to peer review or handout examples, faculty can upload videos highlighting key takeaways from each lesson.

A second presentation from Purdue Global’s Educators’ Exchange proposed using videos created using Jing, Prezi, PowerDirector, Audacity, or Camstudio as lesson supplements.  Faculty have the ability to upload video from their hard drives or embed code from their own websites.  Videos combine sound with images, allowing students to see and hear their professors in digitized action.  Students who can actually see and hear their professors have a better chance of bridging the asynchronous gap.  Using these technologies, professors may be able to promote an environment of discovery, inspiring critical thinking in the discussions and chats.  Like online professor Frederick A. Ricci (2013) writes, “The ideal online classes provide challenging experiences through assignments and exercises, which should create new visions.  Assisting students to develop critical thinking skills presents them with the desire to go beyond the content knowledge of their online courses” (p.1).   Considering Ricci’s philosophy, the online professor’s presence can affect the success students have transitioning through the lessons, mastering the material, and retaining skills used in other classes and in real life.

Surely, the ideas discussed here overlook other methods instructors can attempt emanating an aura relevant to the academic ambiance expected in a college course.  Other ideas can be found through the various professional development activities offered at Purdue Global .   Educator Exchanges and e-conferences represent some of the most helpful.  With online education expanding in attendance, it is important that instructors inject their own personalities, creativity, and insight into their courses.  By sharing ideas and attending conferences, faculty can expand upon their courses, enriching them with compelling lessons and encouraging critical thinking among their students.   The extra effort faculty put in their courses goes a long way in creating presence.


Online Education



Neben, J. (2014). Attributes and barriers impacting diffusion of online courses at the institutional level: Considering faculty perceptions.  Distance Learning, 11(1), 41-50.  Retrieved from

Ricci, F.A. (2013).  Encouraging critical thinking in distance learning: Ensuring challenging intellectual programs.  Distance Learning, 10 (1), 1-15.  Available from




Motivating Online Students to Achieve Success

By Kyle Harley, Purdue University Global Writing Center Tutor


As I continually see the fantastic work our faculty accomplishes here at the university, I, like many of my colleagues, wonder how we can improve further still. The process of motivating students, particularly in an online setting, proves a challenge at times. I suspect every instructor, on-site or online, would happily agree with that statement. This rarely proves much of a problem, however, as each educator possesses a different skillset to “reach” their students. Some use a more rapport-based approach with students, while others rule with an iron fist to keep students on track and dedicated to punctuality.   I recently came across a student, now one of my favorites to work with, who proved a bit of a challenge for instructors and other tutors alike. These bumps in the road, however, stemmed from the student feeling silenced and misunderstood, both in the classroom and in a tutorial setting. I began to understand the student’s frustration. Instead of suggesting that I do a better job at instructing or anything of the like, the student surprised me with a statement that really made me think differently about how we address students who lack motivation. The more that we spoke at length, the more I began to heed these simple words that we rarely hear from students:  You speak my language.

The biggest issue this particular student faced, indirectly, evolved from feeling lost within the classroom and, therefore, developing a severe lack of confidence. As most any writing instructor will suggest, students who lack confidence tend to make a few more mistakes than a confident writer. That said, the student felt that they were simply not being understood fully. After a bit of prying, the issue, much like many cases similar to this, stemmed from the student not having the confidence to ask their professor or tutor a simple question. The question, in the eyes of the student, seemed far too simple for the course when others seemingly picked up on the material instantly. After some colloquial questioning, the student revealed that they simply felt unmotivated due to their inability to write effectively, particularly with this assignment and the course itself as the pace of the material proved an issue to boot. Tapping into the notion of self-empowerment, not too often spoke of in an online setting, may well be the direction we all need to approach to better propel our students into their desired futures. So where do educators begin? First, why not ask a very simple question?

How comfortable would we be, as a student, if we completely lacked confidence?

In a simple response: not too comfortable. A good number of students, from my experience, on both ends of the spectrum, tend to feel uncomfortable with an assignment at one point in their academic career. Sure, we did as well, but why shy away from exploring the issue further? Taking the few extra minutes, possibly after class or a tutoring session, to explore these queries may well make all the difference in the world. Take the time to sit down with a student, even individually, and listen to their concerns. If the educator can identify the issue of the student, it then we can react and interact to further help students achieve their goals. Speaking of which, why not discuss that issue?

Make their goals your goals.

Why shouldn’t educators focus on the eventual career of the student? If we are here to educate, regardless of the title, our primary concern should be the student. Sure, I am not a nursing major, as many others are not as well, but does that shed our responsibility of identifying what the student wants to accomplish in their lives? Surely this will require more conversation and connectivity with our students, but nothing can help students more than knowing that they have an academic shoulder in respects. Regarding just the one example listed above, I think the case is pretty obvious in that students, amidst the lives they are living, may well need a level head to speak to every now and again. Now is not the time to assume someone else can “fix” the situation; instead, we all can sympathize with our students to comfort them in a way that they feel nurtured, at home, and willing to learn—even if some of them question us the entire way.

Next: Show them “why they are taking this course.”

Every educator, regardless of the subject matter, will likely have heard or read the following question:  Why am I learning this?  When students pose this question, ask them! Why ARE they here learning this? So many times I see students enter a tutoring room asking why they need to know A, B, and C, so why not explore the issue further with the student? Five minutes of our time can make all the difference in the world. Students respond very well to figures of authority, regardless of our style in terms of teaching. Even in a classroom setting, I still find it pertinent to take notice of every student’s name, concern, and desire regarding their academic desires. Simple dialogue, such as staying after class or a workshop, for any student, really does extend that caring element. We can all do a bit more to make our students feel comfortable in any situation—in the classroom or in tutoring. Still, how do we inspire confidence? Simple: How did you get to the place that you are in today?

By believing in yourself! Confidence requires a bit of a nudge.

We all have mentors, even harkening back to when we were in our students’ position, but how many of us take on that “ambassador” role for the university? Many, if not all of our faculty, can easily occupy this role with little worry, but even in a class of 30+, we must retain that role and make sure that each and every student feels valued. Speaking individually with students can make all the difference in the world, particularly when they have questions. The key here is to make sure that all students find enough comfort in a scholastic setting to voice these questions effectively. Even by simply staying a few minutes later just to ask if any student needs further clarification could be the turning point for a shy student to open up a bit.

It should be our top priority as educators to see to it that our students feel valued, comfortable, and confident in each academic scenario. The separation via the online medium can provide a few unexpected challenges along the way, particularly for these nervous students, but it should then be our responsibility to seek out these students and adhere to their needs. Where would we all be if someone did not take a bit of a extra time to help us, as well?