Tag Archives: Online 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!



Saving Time with Tutoring

By Amy Sexton, Writing Center tutor

Managing our time successfully can be a challenge for all of us, and college students may be especially busy.  They are juggling school assignments, papers, and seminars and various other major responsibilities including families, jobs, military service, and community work. In the Academic Support Center, we understand that students’ time is limited and valuable.  This is one reason that our centers offer a combined 150 live tutoring hours per week: we know that attending tutoring can actually save students time.

Purdue University Global (Purdue Global) students often visit Live Tutoring for help understanding new and/or confusing course concepts or terminology, for example. Because all Purdue University Global Academic Support Center tutors hold graduate degrees in their fields, tutors will most likely be very familiar with the concepts or ideas that students are learning about and will be able to explain them in ways that foster understanding. Students can spend a lot of time alone struggling with working a math problem, troubleshooting a PowerPoint issue, or figuring out how to cite an unusual source, or they can invest 20 minutes into a tutorial session and speak to an educator who can provide expert and immediate guidance, feedback, and support.

Academic Support Center tutors are also extremely knowledgeable about the resources in our centers, including archived workshops, written tutorials, podcasts, and short videos.  We can quickly and easily direct students to these so they do not spend a lot of time searching for the best resource. We can even show them how to most effectively use the resources and services that we offer.


Tutors can also help students save time by clarifying assignment directions, helping them plan realistic schedules for completing big assignments, pointing out errors in their work, unraveling common misconceptions, brainstorming ideas with them, providing feedback, suggesting revision strategies, sharing our own tips for successful study habits, and much more.

The next time that students say that they do not have time to go to tutoring, ask them to consider the opposite perspective:  seeking tutorial assistance can, in reality, save them time.    If they are Purdue Global students, direct them to the Academic Support Center for live tutoring so that they can learn first-hand how working with experienced and professional tutors can help them find answers to their questions, get their course work done more quickly, and save time in the process.


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 https://purdueglobalwritingcenter.wordpress.com/

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: https://www.grc.com/x/ne.dll?rh1dkyd2

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!

Using Video Feedback to Help Students Learn about Plagiarism

By Amy Sexton, Purdue University Global Writing Center Tutor

As part of our paper review service in the writing center, we routinely provide personalized video feedback along with written comments.  I have found that video review works especially well when I review assignments that have recognizable issues with plagiarism.  We often see possible plagiarism in student’s papers, especially when students are just beginning to learn and use citation.   While our paper review service is not a plagiarism detection service, we are often able to discern problematic areas in students’ papers. Since any issue with plagiarism (intentional or unintentional) can mean serious consequences for students, I usually point out any areas in their papers that may be indicative of plagiarism.   Writing centers are, as Buranen (2009) points out, uniquely positioned to be a “safe place” for students to learn about plagiarism and avoiding it in their writing (p. 8).  Addressing plagiarism concerns can be tricky, though.  Students sometimes equate plagiarism with cheating, and they may react defensively if they feel someone is accusing them of doing something wrong.    Fortunately, a video review provides an excellent vehicle for addressing plagiarism issues in students’ writing through relevant and supportive feedback.

One reason that video feedback works well for addressing plagiarism concerns is that the student hears the voice of the person providing the feedback.  If tutors and instructors approach instances of plagiarism with tact and kindness, students will hear these positive elements in our voices, which may dissuade them from immediately reacting in a defensive manner.  If students only read our written comments about possible plagiarism, they may not detect either tact or kindness and instead focus on negative emotions, including anger, defensiveness, or indignity – all emotions that are  decidedly not conducive to learning.

Video feedback also gives educators the ability to show rather than just tell, as I illustrate in the example.  We can show students which words appear to be appropriated verbatim without correct quotation.  Often times, we can easily find sentences that students may have copied from an internet source and included in their own papers, and we can show students these original sources during the screencast.  We can also add missing quotation marks to demonstrate changes students need to make.  If the issue is with lack on in-text citation, we can actually add example in-text citations, again giving students a clear picture of what they need to do to correct any issues.  We can also show students how to use the “Find” function in Microsoft Word in order to ensure that they have matching in-text citations and references.

By using screencasts to provide feedback when students present with possible plagiarism issues in their writing, both tutors and instructors can enhance students’ understanding of what constitutes plagiarism.  In the process, we help create those “safe places” (Buranen, 2009, p. 8) where students can then begin to transform into scholars and researchers who engage in academic discourse and research with integrity and confidence.


Student watching a video review


Buranen, L. (2009, Jan.-Feb.).  A safe place: The role of librarians and writing centers in addressing citation practices and plagiarism.  Knowledge Quest, 37(3), 24-33.  Retrieved from http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/


A Cowbell and a Dream: The KUWC Turns Ten

Compiled by Lisa Gerardy, Writing Center Specialist, with thanks to Dr. Kara Vandam, Vice Provost; Marla Cartwright, Center for Teaching; and Joni Boone, Center for Teaching

Ten years ago, Vice Provost Dr. Kara Vandam was the Chair of Composition when she first thought about having a writing center at Kaplan University.  With a team of Composition faculty members, Dr. Vandam created the Kaplan University Writing Center in 2004.  In 2005, when I became a full-time

Writing Center Live Tutoring

2004 Kaplan University Writing Center

Composition faculty member, I was chosen to be a tutor.  At first, the KUWC, as we call it, only had asynchronous resource documents.  Soon, it became obvious that a synchronous meeting space was needed to best have one on one tutoring sessions with students.

 The first live tutoring room was chat only, meaning that tutors and students typed to each other on the white board or in a chat box below the board.  Tutors and students could not speak using microphones as we do now, and we definitely did not use video, like some BRAVE tutors do in our current Adobe tutoring room.  The original room was drab and quiet, except for the cowbell.

 Whenever a student entered the room, a cowbell would sound to alert the tutor.  This allowed tutors to work on other things like creating resources.  We did not do paper reviews yet at that time.  We just had the growing resource library and regularly scheduled live tutoring sessions.

 Paper Reviewing became an official KUWC service shortly after Live Tutoring began.  Initially, Net Tutor completed all paper reviews.  Once the KUWC had enough tutors, and a dedicated email inbox (KUWC@Kaplan.edu) in place, all paper reviews were done in house.  This process is still in place now.

 The KUWC continues to grow.  We regularly serve over 1,000 students each month.  As we head into our second decade of serving, Kaplan students we will continue to add new resources to our library and update existing resources.  In addition to the original written documents, we now have many video tutorials, recorded workshops, and podcasts.  KUWC tutors continue to do all paper reviews and hold live tutoring sessions seven days a week.  We have come a long way in ten years, and we will continue to improve to best serve our students.