April 2017 Digital Newsletter

Check out this month’s digital newsletter from Portland State University’s University Studies Digital Coordinator.  This April, we explore the FRINQ online pilot, how to revise your online course based on student feedback, and establishing community in informal discussion forums.


Rethink, Revise, Grow: Summer As a Time for Online Course Revision

13442276_10157047265195297_1726661798299562450_nMy summer has been full of a delicate balance of teaching summer courses, planning our fall program of support for online instructors, and berry picking with my kids.

At the beginning of August, I always feel myself thinking about my goals for the next academic year.  Summer is a great time for a little (or a lot of) course revision because we have a little extra time between terms.  YEs, we should use most of that time to relax and not think about school, but a few carefully planned revision sessions can make the entire school year and the experience for our students so much better.

So, I’m dedicating the  month of August to sharing ideas for revision.  Hopefully, this will get all of us inspired!  Later in the month, I’ll invite you to a Google Hangout so we can share our processes, too.

Looking forward to sharing and connecting,


Pebble Pad: A Chance to Experiment

stones-1372677_960_720As most of you know, PSU has officially adopted Pebble Pad as our portfolio (or personal learning environment) tool.  You may have attended a training or gone to the recent Pebble Pad portfolio awards ceremony.  There’s a lot of good work being done using this environment to teach and learn.

I am a hands-on learner.  I have to experiment with something in order to really understand it.  So, as soon as I heard about Pebble Pad, I volunteered to be in the pilot and began to explore its possible uses.

So far, I have implemented the following:

One of these implementations is for my own professional use, two are for conveying information to students, and one is a tool for students to create their reflections.

My last post was all about summer as a time for course revision, and this is really an extension of that idea: revising via experimentation with technology tools and the way we design our materials.

For me, Pebble Pad is visually exciting and fun to experiment with — that makes the revision process less arduous and more about my own creativity in teaching.

I encourage you to experiment and to reach out if you want to get more information or to ask questions.  What parts of your courses do you want to get creative with?  How might you make it fun?

Happy finals week upcoming, friends.


Summer Time, Revision Time: Self-Assessing & Revising Our Online Courses

IMG_6396Spring term is winding down, and we all have our plates full wrapping up project work and supporting our students through the end of the term.  Each term, I set up an optional goodbye forum for everyone to share what they’re doing next, to celebrate their graduation (if they’re graduating this term), to honor the work, and to really give a moment to think about connections they’ve made during the term.  I was listening to my students talk about their futures and feeling really good about the community we created this time around.

But, as much fun as it is to bask both in the summer sun and in the glow of a successful term completed, it’s also the time of year when many of us start thinking about which pieces of our courses we want to revise in order to make the online teaching and learning that we do even stronger.

So, get that thought process going.  Read this simple but thoughtful post on how to assess your own course’s quality.

And keep checking back for information on some summer work sessions dedicated to self-assessment, peer feedback, and working within a community of practice for engaged online learning in UNST!


The Practical Side of Aligning Intention and Action: Taking Inspiration from Dr. Tania Mitchell’s Visit

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 8.19.29 PMAs part of the 20 year celebration of the PSU Capstone Program, I had the opportunity to attend two different events led by Dr. Tania Mitchell in the last week.  Dr. Mitchell’s focus on aligning intention with action was just what I needed.  I have been facing a real desire to revise my Culminating Reflection for the Social Justice in K-12 Education Capstone for a few terms now, and I had just needed something to light my fire and to get me going.

While aligning intention and action is not a new concept for those of us teaching critical community-based learning courses, it is often the case that examining one’s own assignments or course structure can show us that there is always room for more growth.

For me, there are a few different course components that I’d like to revise and align better with course goals and intentions in the next year.  One of those components is the culminating reflection, a long-standing staple of the community-based learning experience.  I have moved the reflection closer to what I want it to be, from a more static report on how student experiences meet the University Studies goals, to options ranging from writing an advocacy letter to creating personal goals for continued social action, the framing still needs a little work.

I, like all of us, I suppose, never feel like I have enough time to really dive into the revision and self-assessment process of my courses at length.  I self-evaluate, listen to my students, listen to the literature, and revise little moments in my course every term, each moment adding up to bigger change over time.  This time around, being inspired by Dr. Mitchell’s sharing in addition to being part of several recent gatherings celebrating 20 years of the Capstone experience, I’m diving in to revise my culminating reflection with more intention.

Is it perfect?  No.  Is it closer?  Yes.  Much closer.  If you want to take a look, I’m sharing the assignment here.  The sharing is also part of aligning another piece of my own intentions and actions in the field and in our program.  I want to help us build our community of practice, to receive feedback, and to grow in my teaching.  I want to provide opportunities for my students to do the same.  Intentions and actions.

Are you working on revision in your course on some level?  What are you working on?  How’s it going?  Let’s share!



CBL Reading Group: Let’s Read

OAI_20-Years-of-Capstones_664x398As part of Portland State University’s celebration of 20 years of Senior Capstones in the University Studies Program, UNST and OAI have partnered to host two days of sessions and speeches by Dr. Tania Mitchell on May 16 and May 17, 2016.This session’s online CBL Reading Group (following this week’s face-to-face meeting) is focused on Dr. Tania Mitchell’s 2014 article “How Service-Learning Enacts Social Justice Sensemaking.”  This is a wonderful opportunity to get to know Dr. Mitchell’s work and to really think about how it resonates with our community-based learning work.

And, in an effort to have a real opportunity to have a conversation about these issues, I’ll be hosting a synchronous Google Hangout on Thursday, April 28 (noon) to discuss this article.  I’d love to see you there!  Just click HERE to join.  Or email me at zapoura@pdx.edu for the formal invitation.






Our article on community-based learning online in the PSU Capstone Program is finally published!  Here’s the abstract:
Given the design of Portland State University’s (PSU) undergraduate curriculum culminating in a capstone experience, the dramatic growth in online courses and online enrollments required a re-thinking of the capstone model to ensure all students could participate in this effective learning model and have a powerful learning experience. In recent years, a number of capstone courses have been developed that are offered fully online. This article examines PSU’s development of and institutional support for community-based learning (CBL) capstone courses in a fully online format. Emerging best practices and lessons learned may be useful for other institutions seeking to integrate experiential elements into online learning at any level, including capstones.
Read more here!