Here is a Retro Blog I wrote about Distance Education in 2007 on the old My Fox Milwaukee Blog Site. My viewpoint of this was to educate to those who felt about the use of Distance Ed. I was faced a lot of criticism about this, even from organizations like the Milwaukee Urban League and Manpower. I proved that it can work, without attending campus. It wasn’t sacrilegious, it was a point that had to proven. Even I had those close to me thought almost the same way.  But they were all wrong.
Back in January, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a story about Distance Education at UW-Milwaukee. I read about, or in this case summarized how the instructors and students interacted with each other by using online courses, and I think video conferencing for working on their course work. As I was reading the article, I can understand from both sides that some wanted the courses because of work, and others wanted to use the “old-school” method of going into a class room with a teacher upfront.

For those of you checked out my profile, I have a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Management via Distance Education from UW-Stout. I earned the degree in May of 2006. I get this question all the time: How did you do it? or What was it like? Alright. Pay attention, and read on because I am going to lend my four year summary of being a distance education student. And also, if some of you bloggers out there have companies that are looking for entry-level, recent graduates, you may need to pay attention also about school my experience also because I am looking for full-time work! The areas I am searching are entry-level work in Customer Service, Engineering, Financial Accounting, Internet, Safety, Entertainment, Graphic Arts, Sports Teams, Administrative Assistance, and Government -either state, federal, city, or county.

The story begins when I was laid off from working as a Offset Press Operator at UW-Milwaukee. I remember telling my mother about what happened in all. But the thing that got me, was going back to school. So a couple months later, I enrolled at MATC by taking extra liberal arts courses. Previously, I earned a Associates Degree in Printing and Publishing in May of 2000. So after a couple of months getting back into college mode, I started to look for universities around Wisconsin. I looked at UW-Milwaukee (of course), UW-Platteville, and the school I recently attended, UW-Stout. I also remember talking to a my former graphic arts teacher, Anne Steinberg about my potential education plans. I told her about Platteville and Milwaukee, but she recommended Stout. The school had connections with MATC with the associates degrees programs like printing. I also noticed that Stout is in a town of Menomonie, Wisconsin. Which is about 4 hours northwest of Milwaukee. So there was another option. Taking the courses through online and video conferencing.

I have already began the familiarity of the new style of distance education. It’s a hustle each day like clockwork. You check your work, contact your instructor, chat with your classmates and get your assignments done in a week. Sometimes in one day depending on your classes. Overall for me it was a hustle, because you do not want to miss anything each time you log on. Plus, there was a chance for me to have a balance between work and study.And this was done mostly through emails, and part of video conferencing.

Speaking of that. The Video Conferencing portion of my degree was like a real classroom. I was with students whom had experiences with their fields of employment. I met them who worked at Modine, Saks, MATC, GE, a hospital, factory, and one from Arthur Anderson! I kid you not! I came into the class with some experience in printing and bindery skills. Also the class format was set at MATC, WCTC, Madison’s MATC and the primary school, UW-Stout. If you ever had gone into a video conference room, it is set with a wall screen, microphones on tables, a control panel that a technician checks out in prior to class time, live cameras – (word of warning don’t cheat!) and additional monitors around the room. This was at MATC’s Downtown Campus in the Student Center.

I had this exposed to me before, as a high school senior at Marshall High School back in 1995. And it was published as the first time that a U.S. High School met a British Technical College via Video Conference hookup. The school’s name was called Hugh Christie Tech School. If I remember, video conferencing was at one time published in the Journal Sentinel Jump section back in March of ’95 (I got the article, by the way).

About the classwork, usually the instructor have the assignments posted online in prior before class time. Either in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. We go over the work, take quizzes, have class discussions, do the assigned work, the homework is collected by the technician and mailed to the instructor at Stout during the following week, and is handed back by a week later. And plus, I didn’t have to attend the campus according to the Industrial Management Program standards. The classes I took ranged from Technical Writing, Engineering Economy, Management Quality, Leadership, Quality Tools, Occupational Safety/Loss Control, Project Management, Training in Human Resources, Strategic Management, and Financial Accounting just to name a few.

After look back at this, I realized that this was hard work. And in another sense, a gamble. Part of the reason of the gamble because although I kept this ship going, I had told some companies and organizations that didn’t take this as a regular option, in a negative sense. From the Milwaukee Urban League to Manpower, to Spherion, they somewhat that an assumption that I couldn’t get a job because I was taking classes differently, and would not get me a chance because of my commitment to education. Maybe because of their “behavior problems” at me. This was back in 2004, and I was going through a struggling time of finding work. In reality, I wanted to work and I felt frustrated and angry at them. Some of them got real personal about my income, education, and work ethic. But I let my distance education do the talking and I kept my focus on my school work continuously in 2005. I remember telling them that if they wanted to learn about me, they should talk to those who know me besides my former supervisors: my church family! And I am a 4th Generation United Methodist Church member too.

By 2006, I was on my way to the promised land. May 13th of that year will always be the date that I set foot on campus with my family and neighbor. That was the spring commencement. When my name was called, and I walked across the stage, that was a feeling that I did something. Not only I graduated, but I finished my degree by using distance education, in which only a few accomplish. Also, I did additional classwork at MATC to transfer courses to the University every semester. That was also like winning the WWE Championship, and also grasping the common goal of realizing potential. And I remember telling my church the next day about the graduation ceremony that took place at Stout and finishing my major. Plus, it was a mother’s day gift for mom.

So to close, Let this be a lesson to you future UW Students or any college students that are thinking about this style of study. Don’t be afraid to take an opportunity to try. There will be individuals or groups of people that would attack you from all sides, angles and attempt to break you, and hurt your feelings. Just keep focused on what you started and finished it. And don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if it to your program advisers. I had to do that alot, – kudos to Wendy Dittmann. And the final advice, stay driven to excellence, your beliefs, confidence and faith. Plus, get as many scholarships, grants as you can, while staying over the 2.0 GPA Limit. If you keep this up, better chances you would develop your opportunity for your passion.

To learn about UW-Stout, the city of Menomonie (this is one way spelling the name) and the Industrial Management Distance Education Program (now called Management) visit the website and take notes: http://www.uwstout.edu/programs/bsm/

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Comments
  1. LindzGVSU says:

    Hello Stephen,

    It’s good to see that you’ve re-added this blog to the web for those students out there wondering about the “perils” of distance education. You make a nice testimony to how DE can in fact be an effective way of learning. I really appreciate that you’ve explained what real-time DE courses look like to those who don’t understand that there is a non-online component to DE. Since you took real-time DE courses and speak of them in terms of video-conferencing, I’m going to safely assume that your courses were offered over compressed video. Everything you explain about seeing peers in your classroom and also being able to interact with peers on other campuses and your instructor at the same time lets me know you were taking CV courses.

    I taught French over CV for the UW-Colleges for four semesters. It was always hard to help people visualize what I was referring to when I spoke of my CV courses. For those who haven’t seen it, it takes a while for them to be able to wrap their mind around it. Many of my friends and family members would hassle me because they know I’m very much against beginner level foreign language courses being taught completely online. I would have to repeatedly explain that the course was non-online distance ed (NODE) and that I could speak to my students, and that they could speak to each other, in real, live time. After a while I gave up referring to it as CV or NODE, and just plain called it my TV class; people seemed to understand that better. You’ll get a kick out of this : I even brought my mother and my boyfriend to work with me (on separate days) and had them sit in the corner where my students couldn’t see them, since I didn’t have any students on the campus I was teaching from, just so that they could see what I was talking about. I wanted them to be able to see that my students could see me and everything I was doing (i.e. projecting documents from the computer or on the document camera, or that I could zoom the picture in so they could see how my mouth was shaped while I pronounced new sounds, etc.).

    While I don’t think that CV is the ideal situation for a foreign language class, being that there’s always a touch of a delay when speaking from campus to campus and for things like monitoring group and pair work in the target language, I do feel that it’s a much better option than students not being offered the course at all because there may not be a high enough regular enrollment for separate campuses to finance hiring their own faculty members. Take my case, for example. I taught from UW-Waukesha’s campus, out of geographical convenience for me (I lived in Milwaukee and worked most of the time at UWM), but my students were spread throughout the state (UW-Fond du Lac, UW-Marinette, UW-Marshfield, UW-Rock Co., UW-Washington Co., UW-Sheboygan). So, to teach the French I & II students from 4-6 campuses at a given time only took hiring one faculty member. Makes, sense financially, right?

    Because D2L was so user friendly by this point and because students were so used to using it on a regular basis, I was able to make grading and returning assignments much more seamless than earlier DE courses did. I never sent documents via postal mail. Most assignments and quizzes, other than in class tests, were built in quiz features in D2L itself or I would create dropboxes for MS Word .docs, etc. I did most of my grading online by accessing student assignments through D2L, but as for those few paper tests, I had the IT monitoring my classrooms collect them and scan and email them to me. I would then print them out, mark them up for grading, rescan them and individually send them to my students to have for their reference. It was time consuming, but the turn around time was much quicker than waiting for things to arrive in the postal mail.

    Well, enough about the nitty gritty of it from the instructor’s perspective. I’m more interested in knowing what instructional techniques your instructors used to help you best get accustomed to the CV format of running class. Did they use a variety of visuals or did they tend to just keep themselves on the screen for you to see?
    I always toggled between the doc camera, displaying documents, images, or websites on the computer, and putting my face up on the screen for my students. I liked the option of being able to use the split screen to show both my face and what I was doing on the computer, for example, however then the students would often say that the projection of what was going on on the computer was too small to be of any worth. Despite my desire to keep the camera on the computer or myself most of the time, I had to fixate it on the doc camera a lot because my students (being that they were new to the language) needed to see me write notes out for them; in other words, the notes I took on the doc camera for them to view and copy down replaced what I would normally write up on the board in a face-to-face classroom.
    How did your instructors deal with the demands unique to a CV course? Did they also have students in their own classroom that they were interacting with? I have only seen foreign language courses taught over CV, so I’m curious to know how it runs for other content areas.
    Did your instructors ever survey you to find out what instructional techniques worked best for their students?
    If so, what were your replies?
    Did they use the CV time more for discussion purposes or for presentational instruction as well?
    How did they facilitate microphone usage? Did they ask students on the receive campuses to keep them microphones turned off unless called on or if they felt like adding to the discussion? This is how I ran discussion because the background noise from people shuffling books and papers, as well as that faint, but strange electronic feedback was overwhelming for my students and me otherwise.
    Was there anything that you had to do for yourself to help yourself learn more effectively from a CV course than you did in your previous face-to-face courses?

    Alright, it seems I’ve written a novella. I’ll stop for now. Any insight you have would be appreciated. Thanks!

  2. smcclintonjr says:

    I appreciate the comments, Linda. And I’ll be happy to answer them.

    1) I’m more interested in knowing what instructional techniques your instructors used to help you best get accustomed to the CV format of running class. Did they use a variety of visuals or did they tend to just keep themselves on the screen for you to see?

    Answer: It was visuals mostly. The instructors used various visuals from Microsoft PowerPoint, Word and Excel for the assignments. Also they used their own materials from their books to display. It was displayed so all students for the various sites (Milwaukee, Madison, Waukesha, and Menomonie) to observe and follow. That was mostly done, and also we’ve asked question about our assignments.

    2)How did your instructors deal with the demands unique to a CV course? Did they also have students in their own classroom that they were interacting with?

    Answer: They treated it like it was a normal classroom setting. Each group was in a classroom or a Teleconference Room. My Interactive TV Courses were in a Teleconference Room in MATC, but overall the instructors did treated each site as a classroom. As far as the CV courses, or DE courses, it was like doing regular assignments, and also for our tests or quizzes, they were either on paper mailed from the University or through Online portals.

    3)Did your instructors ever survey you to find out what instructional techniques worked best for their students? If so, what were your replies?
    Answer: Yes. One of my replies were mostly geared to assigned work that needed questioning. I remember doing an assignment for my Strategic Management course, and my instructor wanted to do an assignment that was reflected on his objectives. I also telephoned my instructor about the assignment that I had troubled with, and I wanted to see some examples of how it should be done. I knew what it was. But I wanted to see how it should be done for his behalf. Overall, it did work and I was able to capitalize it for the rest of my assignments in the class.

    4)Did they use the CV time more for discussion purposes or for presentational instruction as well?

    Answer: It was more for discussion purposes. And while it carried most of the class, there were presentational instruction that was added to the discussion areas.

    5) How did they facilitate microphone usage? Did they ask students on the receive campuses to keep them microphones turned off unless called on or if they felt like adding to the discussion? This is how I ran discussion because the background noise from people shuffling books and papers, as well as that faint, but strange electronic feedback was overwhelming for my students and me otherwise.

    Answer: The microphones were used when the students have a question, or to make a comment during the discussion. When I was in MATC’s Teleconference Rooms, the sound was able to pick up clearly which also meant that any sound was bound to receive. So, the instructors made a suggestion that those who aren’t using the microphones should be muted or silenced.

    6) Was there anything that you had to do for yourself to help yourself learn more effectively from a CV course than you did in your previous face-to-face courses?

    Answer: I was prepared for it with a past experience. When I was in high school, I was on a field trip that had a video conference with a college from England. This was in 1995 about four months before graduation. And I thought about that trip activity, which led me to what I expected with the University of Wisconsin-Stout. I was accustomed to it, and I already knew about the style of communication that was established. So, I was prepared for it.

  3. LindzGVSU says:

    Thanks for all of your quick replies!

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