Return on Investment


What if a college instructor could appreciably increase the likelihood of the long-term well-being of a student by simply having a few conversations with the student?

Great Jobs Great Lives, the recently released 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index National Report, links the quality of one’s college experience with subsequent well-being and with workplace engagement. This report is an eye opener concerning the potential for wide-ranging consequences when college students feel supported by faculty.

Interestingly, the report finds that current well-being and workplace engagement of college graduates do not show a strong relationship with the colleges’ levels of selectivity, or public vs. private not-for-profit status.  However, among the random sample of 30,000 college graduates (bachelor’s degree or higher) interviewed nationally for this study, those who strongly agreed with any of the following three statements were approximately twice as likely to report that they are now engaged with their work and at least 50% more likely to report that they are thriving in all 5 key areas of well-being (purpose, social, financial, community and physical):

  • I had at least one professor at [College] who made me excited about learning.
  • My professors at [College] cared about me as a person. 
  • I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams. 

Wow! Yes, wow!

Notably, none of these three practices costs even a dollar, and none of them requires adopting new technology, upgrading infrastructure or implementing new curricula. None of these practices takes a new state law or federal regulation; none of them requires a university-wide initiative. These three practices only require educators to effectively communicate their excitement about learning, their care for students as people, and their encouragement for students to pursue personal goals and dreams.

The Gallup-Purdue report strongly suggests that a comparatively small personal investment by faculty to nurture today’s college students could have a huge societal return. Kudos to those of you who already make this investment in your students as part of your regular teaching practice. We would all do well to remind our teaching colleagues how meaningful their work is in shaping the future well-being of their students.

There is much more to glean from Great Jobs Great Lives; check it out!

Universal Design for Teaching and Learning

IMGP3527 - Version 2 “Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design” –Ron Mace, NCSU Center for Universal Design

 Though the term “universal design” has been used since the ‘70s, full application of the principles of universal design to teaching and learning in higher education is still very much in process. Martha Smith and Gabe Merrell, two OSU campus leaders in universal design and accessibility, met with the College of Education Hybrid Study Group on March 5 to discuss universal design for instruction. Martha is Director of Disability Access Services, and Gabe is Senior Accessibility Associate and Deputy ADA Coordinator in the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

Gabe and Martha emphasized the importance of considering universal design up front in the development of teaching materials, instructional methods and means of assessing student learning. They also noted that universal design benefits all learners. The principles of universal design offer guidance for the design of all elements of an instructor’s toolkit, from syllabi to presentation style, to class activities and exams. As OSU serves an increasingly diverse student population, universal design can enhance learning in the classroom, the lab, in the field, and online.

In what ways are you implementing universal design in your teaching?

To find out more, contact, or check out the Center for Universal Design in Education.

The Rising Cost of Not Going to Collge

IF the primary purpose of a college education were for “private good,” then there is good news from the PEW institute. In a recent survey
the PEW foundation found that according to the Millennials, “On virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment—from personal earnings to job satisfaction to the share employed full time—young college graduates are outperforming their peers with less education.”

The Rising Cost of Not Going to College

An educated populace contributes to the development of a healthier, more equitable and prosperous society…AND it’s not bad for the individual either!

Ed Tech on the Edge: Demo and Dialogue

Mark Dinsmore, from Technology Across the Curriculum, pilots this telepresence device by Double Robotics.

Mark Dinsmore, from Technology Across the Curriculum, pilots the “Mark IV” telepresence device by Double Robotics.

Outside of conferences like Educause, or trade expos like CES, instructors don’t have many dedicated opportunities to interact with different technologies designed for (or leveraged by) educators. OSU’s Center for Teaching and Learning sought to remedy that in its first-ever session with an exclusive focus on Ed Tech, hosted by Cub Kahn and me.

The highlight of our session was a telepresence device by Double Robotics. If you can imagine an iPad running Skype or FaceTime, mounted on a tiny, remote-controlled Segway, you’re  close to getting the idea behind Double.

“While roving with my Double, Mark IV, I am continually surprised by the reactions from people I encounter,” says Mark Dinsmore, from OSU’s Technology Across the Curriculum (TAC) program. TAC purchased the Double in November. “Usual reactions range from, ‘Ewww, creepy’ to ‘That’s fantastic. Is your last name Jetson?’ Functionally, using the Mark IV allows me to be at my desk while visiting with colleagues down the hall or in The [Faculty Collaboration] Zone, sharing in a brainstorming session. Using the Mark IV brings a new dimension to collaboration for me.”

In December, the TAC director, Jon Dorbolo, brought the Mark IV for a faculty visit to the OSU Cascades Campus, while Dinsmore piloted it remotely, from more than 100 miles away. “Realignment of space/time creates opportunities for relationship,” says Dorbolo. “The potentials of human interaction have always transcended conventional limits. When the work-space and learning-space is anyplace, we accomplish so much more.”

Dinsmore visited two of the conference rooms and chatted with passersby in the hallway. The Mark IV can use both of the iPad cameras, one to look forward and interact with people and the surroundings, the other to look down (via a mirror) and see the local terrain. With the head retracted, its top speed is approximately 1 mph. “I felt like I was piloting Curiosity [the Mars rover]… Had to be careful of wireless coverage,” Dinsmore recalls. “I did manage at one point to open the main doors using the handicap access button, but did not dare to venture outside… Unfortunately, I was unable to sample the pastries and refreshments.”

Along with the Mark IV demonstration, our session discussed some of the technologies highlighted in the Educause 2013 and 2014 Horizon Reports, and how they have influenced instructors and classes here at OSU.

Information Density in Lectures: How much content is too much?

Keeping up with the volume of information continually produced in any discipline often feels like a herculean endeavor, and that’s for experts. When we then try to structure our courses so that they reflect the “best,” “most current,” and “cutting edge” information in our field, the problem becomes all the more fraught. On a ten-week schedule, it’s already hard to squeeze in all the stuff that we want students to learn. If we add in segments to treat the newest findings, we can feel like lecture has been reduced to a recounting of data and ideas in a manner resembling the rapid, only half-comprehendable buzz of livestock auctions. It doesn’t help that we’re being reminded that traditional lecture formats aren’t very effective at encouraging learning. Moreover, certain colleagues out there (eh hem, yours truly among them) take every available opportunity to promote the value of active learning in the classroom–for classes of all sizes. But if one is running short on time already, and the content *must* be covered, what time does that leave for conversation? For in-class activities? For pauses and silences while students process one set of ideas and imagine its implications for the next set to be explored?

Although I don’t have room in the space of a blog post to unpack all of these ideas and to suggest strategies for addressing each issue, I thought I would share an abstract from an article I recently read that talks about the impact to student learning of adding more and more information to lectures. The authors are sympathetic to the perceived need to ensure that students are learning as much as possible. But they also find that the foundational learning that can occur in lecture is mitigated when an instructor packs too much new, noteworthy, and otherwise relevant-to-experts information into that same 50-minute period. A link to the abstract is here:

I welcome your feedback.


What students don’t know about OSU technology

I recently had a chance to read through the Top 10 questions received by the College of Forestry’s student computing help desk during the last academic year. The range of topics in the list indicates that students’ familiarity with OSU computing resources is spotty. Moreover, students’ ability to adapt the technologies they use (from laptop to tablet to smart phone) for academic use is not as much of a “given” as we sometimes think.

Finding the answers was an interesting task, actually, as it showed me how spotty my own knowledge of our resources is. The effort it took (round and round on web sites, calls to CN and the Walk-up Help Desk, etc.) got me thinking about how high the stakes are for students trying to get their issues resolved. After all, I was just preparing a blog post: there was no deadline, grade, or prerequisite to worry about. A recently completed study of students’ use of OSU computer labs revealed that faculty are the best/most frequently acknowledged resource students have about computer labs, on everything from their locations, to the applications and software available, to the “culture” and environments characteristic of those labs. What that says to me is that as a faculty member, knowing where to send students to address their technology needs is one step I can take to support them in their overall learning and experience at OSU.

Now that I’ve tracked down answers to all of those questions, it seemed like a good and timely idea to pass this information along to you. Below you’ll find the 10 questions/issues most frequently posed by students at the COF student computing help desk followed by the sites that answer and/or resolve them. Should you know of additional helpful resources or other common questions, feel free to pass those along, too.

1. How do I connect to OSU wireless networks on my laptop/smart phone?

On one’s laptop:

On one’s smart phone/mobile device:

2. How do I install Microsoft Office on my personal laptop?

For help installing software, OSU Computer Walk-up Help Desk:

For access to all OSU site-licensed software (with exceptions for Adobe Suite):

3.  What software can I get a student discount on?

Computer Helpdesk Software site:

4. What labs are open right now and where are they?

Student Computing Facilities:

5. How do I get to network drives/the Umbrella Server from home?

Fall 2013 and later, use OSU Remote Desktop Applications:

Connecting to Former Umbrella Server:

Please note: apparently my source on the first link (Fall 2013 and later)  jumped the gun a bit. The new OSU Remote Desktop is still under development. Documentation is still being developed, and the server is still being tweaked to iron out remaining bugs. Official, campus wide roll-out of OSURDS will be announced when development has concluded.

6. I just printed a document: Where can I pick it up? What is the cost? How am I billed for this?

ONID Printing General Information:

ONID Printing Rates:

7. Where can I scan something? Where are the scanners/copiers?


8. Can I check out a laptop/camera/microphone/headphone/charger?

Student Media Services:

9. Can I print from my personal laptop?

Wireless Printing:

10. How do I get Forestry (or any) email on my smart phone?

Configuring Email:

Additional information, including college and department specific accounts:


Emotional Intelligence in Difficult Conversations

IQYesterday morning I attended a professional development workshop offered by Human Resources. One strategy the workshop “Difficult Conversations” discussed was Judy Ringer’s “4 Steps to a Successful Outcome.” This was the process of inquiry, acknowledgment, advocacy, and problem-solving. Inquiry cultivates an attitude of discovery and curiosity; acknowledgment validates that you have heard and understood the other person; advocacy address your perspective and helps clarify your position without minimizing theirs; and problem-solving engages in building solutions through brainstorming and further inquiry. As part of the inquiry process engaging in ’emotional intelligence’ is valuable. “Emotional Intelligence.” I love this term! Although I actively engage in the process, the term was new to me. In difficult conversations this applies to your understanding of where that person is at: in other words, where they are coming from. By engaging emotional intelligence our ability to approach the issue at hand increases the prospects for a successful outcome.

Student Tech

The Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac 2013 was published this week, complete with insights from the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research’s annual survey of college students and IT.  This year’s survey collected data between February and April from 112,000 students at 251 institutions.  Five interesting findings:


  • What device do the most students own?  Smartphone?  Tablet?  No, 89% of students own laptops, 75% own smartphones, and only 30% own iPads and other tablets.  Notably, though, the percentage of students who own tablets has doubled in each of the last two years, whereas student smartphone ownership is growing more slowly, and laptop ownership is static.
  • And what device do students say is most important to their academic success?  Once again, the humble laptop is rated #1, with 91% of students reporting that it is very or extremely important to their academic success.  The desktop computer (yes, the desktop!) is second at 62%, while smartphones and tablets trail at 48% and 44% respectively.
  • How about e-books?  Almost three-fourths (74%) of the students say they’ve used e-books (including e-textbooks) in their courses in the past year.  But of the students who used e-books, almost half (47%) report they only used e-books in only one course.
  • What tools do students wish their instructors used more?  Lecture capture, learning management systems, integrated use of laptops during class, and online collaboration each garnered the vote of at least 3 out of 5 students.
  • And the flip side?  Half of the students wished their instructors used e-portfolios less.  Of the 10 tools mentioned in this question, the e-portfolio was the only one for which “use less” outpolled “use more,” and it was by a 2-to-1 margin!

What tech trends do you see in your classes?  What are students telling you about teaching and learning tools?



First Generation Academics Reflect

Below you will find an anonymous reflection by a first generation academic: neither of her parents graduated from college with a four year degree and she not only earned her BA, but went on to earn a MEd and finally a PhD.  She is one of many university faculty who are attending the OSU Center for Teaching and Learning Fireside chat series, First Generation Academics.  Faculty members who also persisted through undergraduate school through to a PhD gather every other week to tell stories of their experiences in an effort to identify what knowledge and skills (and questions) would be most helpful to our incoming first year students.

These are the discussion questions this essay prompted:

  • As a first generation student, in what way if any, did you feel “culturally disadvantaged”in the university system? If you wish, tell a story of a time you made a “social mistake” that could have been prevented by a “sensitive mentor.”


  • What personal and/or social characteristics have you shifted in order to better “fit” in the university culture?


  • What knowledge and skills are key for incoming first generation students to have in order to effectively maneuver through a university system?

As a young person, I was slightly aware of social class distinction because as an adolescent I read had the classic Elmstown Youth ethnography as part of my science project.  What I didn’t realize was that Elmstown Youth was describing the kind of small town I had been raised in…and that was all the world I  knew.  I didn’t realize Elmstown was, like all other small rural villages,  a community embedded within a much larger system of social strata.  Over the years I have learned that even the number “ones,” in Elmstown Youth, the families who are the top of the town’s social strata are, on American standards, middle class.  Today, I interact with people from a far more expansive social system: students from illiterate families to world renowned researchers and policy makers. What prompted me to expand my social fluidity?

I attended the nearby State University and studied to be an elementary teacher; my undergraduate education did very little, if anything, to develop my professional dispositions for the world of work. In fact, I felt “at home” socially as a public school teacher; my colleagues and I all hailed from the lower middle class. My awareness of other social classes beyond those of a small rural town began to develop when I enrolled in graduate school at the University of Washington.  It was then that I really began to stumble socially: I talked too much; laughed too loudly; angered too quickly.  I poured my wine glass too full.  Used too harsh of descriptors.  Spoke with too much passion.

Today I think of the social transformation I have made over the years as a process of developing personal grace.   I have learned to be more diplomatic, and less reactive.  I listen more carefully, but commit with less passion.  I am tempered; like glass, I can take more abuse without breaking. The process has been long, embarrassing at times, and is still ongoing.  I can only remember one time in my academic career when I completely reverted to my unpolished upbringing: I was falsely accused of ineffective practice and threatened by an administrator with public humiliation.  The threat of injury to my reputation, the professional personae I had so carefully crafted over the years, cut me to the quick.  I raised my voice.  I said exactly what I thought about the situation and I called in “back up.”  Why did I react so violently?  Because I was, by that time,  living by one of the key tenants of  university faculty life: power is earned through expertise and relationship…and such a reputation must be carefully and continuously tended. Our reputations are who we are in a university faculty.  Administrators clearly have “formalized power,” but if their formalized power is not also complemented by power of expertise and power of relationship, the administrator is viewed by faculty as impotent, ineffective, or as “one to wait out.”  Such administrators actually have very little influence on faculty behavior unless they use their formalized power to punish or control faculty: then they are feared and avoided.  This was the case for me…my administrator who we all hoped we could simply “wait out” decided (on some level) to injure my professional reputation.  Of all days, to lose all that I had learned…in that one closed-door conversation, when faced with injury to my academic reputation, I reverted back to my original heritage: the unpolished rural Montanan who can calf rope words faster than frogs swallow flies.  The administrator was shocked…and there is still a part of me that slightly smug about that…but in the end, I am more ashamed than proud.  How deep, then has my transformation been?  Where is the authentic self?