Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Staying sharp at 71

     What’s a 10-letter word for Alzheimer’s prevention? Crosswords.
     It’s long been known that crossword puzzles, which require daily bursts of mental effort, reduce the chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
     But suppose you don’t know the name of Nick and Nora’s dog? (Asta.) And can’t name a single river in Estonia, much less a seven-letter one? (Alajõgi.)
     For those with a low tolerance for trivia, there’s another option. Community colleges and universities across the country are increasing online offerings, creating new ways for people to pump up their minds.
     At 71, Ron Johnson declines to consider himself old. More... His father is 96, he points out, and still thinks clearly. But Johnson started to worry when he had trouble remembering words. “I was so concerned that I took a memory test from my doctor. And my score was almost perfect,” said Johnson, of Rochester, Washington. What happened, Johnson said, is that his vocabulary slipped away from lack of use, just like any other skill.
     Johnson had left Washington State University in 1960, just a few credits short of graduation. He always regretted not getting a degree. To finish his education, he enrolled in online courses through WSU’s online degree program and is studying social sciences.
     The return to academia has buffed up his vocabulary. “The online courses also returned some of my cognitive powers,” he said, “because I am reading essays and then critically examining them.”
     Neurologists would say Johnson is increasing “plasticity of the brain,” which is the ability of the brain to change through learning. In the last two decades, researchers have found that the brain has the lifelong capacity to reorganize itself by generating new neurons, and forming new connections between existing cells. But, just like muscles need exercise to thrive, the brain needs challenges, whether it’s crosswords or college or figuring out how to program the Tivo.
     Johnson, who lives 350 miles away from WSU Pullman, will come to campus for the graduation ceremony.
     “I want my daughter and granddaughters to surround me when I walk down that aisle,” he said.
     How will he feel at that moment? For some things, there are no words.
     For information on online education, check out local colleges, or go to online.wsu.edu.

Story by Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education

Monday, June 29, 2009

Online education gains prestige

CDPE Dean Muriel Oaks shows the award.

Online education is taking off. Enrollments are soaring, President Obama plans to create free online courses, and a new study shows online learning has advantages over classroom education.
But it wasn't always this way. When WSU embraced new technologies in the 1980s, it was going out on a limb. The university's pioneering efforts in the field were honored recently by an institutional achievement award from the National University Telecommunications Network, which showed this video about the university's efforts.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The intersection of science, religion

     When philosophy teachers ask students to listen to the little voice in their heads, they’re usually speaking figuratively. Not Robert Snyder. The WSU instructor’s new fall online course will use podcasts to explore the intersection of science and religion.
     The podcasts (audio played through an iPod or similar device) will consist of lectures from top physics instructors. “I am a scholar of religion and philosophy, not a scientist,” Snyder said. “I am using podcasts of scientists to provide that expertise.”
     Philosophy 413, Mind of God and Book of Nature, also uses old-fashioned textbooks, but “podcasts provide a different type of delivery for students with different learning styles,” he said. “I want to find and use as many different delivery styles as there are learning styles.”
     More... Snyder was born in Bavaria, and came to the United States at age 2. He graduated from the University of Texas, Austin, with a major in history and a minor in philosophy. After earning his B.A., he tried a variety of jobs, becoming a construction worker, a monk, and a junior high school teacher. Eventually, he enrolled in the California Institute of Integral Studies, where he earned a master of arts in philosophy and religion, then a doctorate in religion and Asian philosophies.
     He taught philosophy at the University of Idaho, and biomedical ethics at Lewis and Clark State College, before coming to WSU as the director of development for the WSU Museum of Art. After four years of fund-raising, he returned to teaching and joined the philosophy department.
Snyder looks back to his undergrad years when talking about the new online course.
     “One reason I am excited about this class is that I was a biology major for the first two years of my undergraduate studies. I studied biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and other sciences,” he said. “This is an opportunity to incorporate contemporary developments in the sciences with philosophy.”
     The interdisciplinary course will also tap into theology, history, sociology and psychology. But a crucial part of the learning experience won’t come from podcasts, books, or videos. Snyder believes those who pursue wisdom also have wisdom to offer from their own lives and experiences. “We will endeavor to enable one another to have a good understanding of the world,” he said.

     If you have iTunes software, you can check out a podcast for yourself. Here’s a link to Science and Religion: Probably Not What You Think.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Connect to the Coug community

Run a marathon, taste wine, go to a ball game. The WSU Alumni Association invites students and alumni to a wide range of events, some of which offer discounts if you join the WSUAA. Check the calendar, and have a look at the membership benefits.
You can even get a WSU license plate, which will help the university's scholarship fund.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Education for students, teacher

Lydia Gerber brings a world of experience to her new online course on Chinese civilization.
The WSU senior instructor was born in Germany, and studied in China. She speaks German, Chinese, some Japanese, and has studied Latin and Ancient Greek. But while she may know a lot about ancient cultures, she’s still learning about modern methods.
“I’m not a technology whiz by anybody’s standards,” she said, adding that her first foray into online instruction is “quite exciting and a bit nerve-racking.”
One immediate challenge, she said, is creating all the lessons of History 373 in advance for her online students. More... She credited Center for Distance and Professional Education instructional designer Cathy Keller with turning her wishes into virtual reality. “Being able to have somebody to whom I can say ‘I want a picture here or a slide there’ is very nice,” she said.
Gerber will be using this new technology to discuss more than history. “We’re also talking about yin and yang, Chinese traditional medicine, health practices, Tai Chi and Chinese art.”
Because online students tend to be older than on-campus students, Gerber expects more depth and diversity in those discussions. “When you’re talking about Confucian family relations,” she said, “it’s a lot different when everybody is 20 and thinking it’s horrible that younger people are undervalued.”
Gerber is married to WSU Economics Professor Bill Hallagan and has a 5-year-old son, Martin. In her spare time, she gardens, plays with her son and reads. She enjoys nonviolent murder mysteries, which she described as “where somebody gets killed, but it’s not a bloodbath.” She especially enjoys Dorothy L. Sayers, a British novelist known for her Lord Peter Wimsey series and for creative murder weapons, such as poisoned teeth fillings, a cat with poisoned claws, and a dagger made of ice.
But sometimes a clever poisoning isn’t relaxing enough.
“On days when everything is really horrible,” she said, “I snuggle up with my son and we watch ‘Golden Girls’ on DVD.”
Story by Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education

Friday, June 19, 2009

The wind beneath our wings

WSU prof Jean Johnson with Boeing's Jeff Robinson.

Our West Side students have a special appreciation of how crucial Boeing is to the economy. Crucial to Boeing is the success of the much-delayed 787 Dreamliner, especially given the slow sales at this week's Paris air show.
The good news is that the Dreamliner is about to take its maiden voyage, and that Boeing may be planning a new assembly line.
A WSU professor was aboard a mockup of the 787 Dreamliner recently, interviewing a Boeing executive for the university's EMBA program. Here's the story:

Top-flight course: The sky-blue ceiling creates a feeling of openness. The overhead bins glisten like clouds. The windows dim so travelers can dial down the outside world.
Stepping into a Boeing 787 Dreamliner is designed to be a magical experience. Behind that magic are focus groups, psychologists, and the expertise of top industry professionals, such as Jeff Robinson, brand marketing director for Boeing Commercial Airlines and Washington State University alumnus (BSEE, 1983).
More... At the request of a WSU marketing professor, Robinson is sharing that expertise with the University’s new 18-month Executive MBA program. Students meet twice a month in Spokane and attend online courses designed by the Center for Distance and Professional Education, working with the College of Business. (For students wanting a fully online program, WSU also offers an Online MBA.)
“Students always relate more to real world examples,” said Jean L. Johnson, Gardner O. Hart distinguished professor. “If I can bring a big, powerful, high-visibility company like Boeing into the classroom, it helps the whole program.”
She and Robinson recently got together in a 787 mockup at Boeing’s Customer Experience Center in Renton, Washington. Brian Maki, CDPE media production manager, videotaped the discussion for Johnson’s online marketing strategy course. Also present was Boeing brand differentiation strategist Blake Emery, who joined in a wide-ranging conversation on such topics as incorporating brand identity in a product, being a market driver vs. being market driven, and creating brand equity.
Robinson has deep connections with WSU. He’s the vice chair of the marketing department advisory board, and sits on both the executive council and full national board of advisors for the College of Business. He mentors two WSU students. He has guest-lectured at marketing courses, spoken at marketing club meetings, and judged the business plan competition.
His wife also has a BSEE from WSU, his oldest daughter graduated from WSU after majoring in marketing, and his son is studying marketing at WSU. His youngest daughter, a high school freshman, is planning on becoming a Coug.
When Johnson asked for his help, “I was delighted to say yes,” he said. “It was a great way to share with WSU students a little glimpse into how Boeing is designing our brand into everything we do.”

Video: Watch the interview with marketing experts.

Story by Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education
Photo by Brian Maki/Center for Distance and Professional Education

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Work bears fruit

Back in April, WSU won a national communications award, due in large part to its commitment to distance education. This video, featuring CDPE Dean Muriel Oaks, was presented at the awards conference.

In other sweet news, Washington state's cherry crop hits the stores in June. Did you know that a WSU scientist created the Rainier cherry? Here's how he did it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New GI Bill starts this fall

Financial aid from the new Post 9/11 GI Bill is available starting this fall.
"The terms of the new bill appear to be relatively clear-cut," USA Today says. "It essentially covers tuition and fees for any eligible veteran pursuing an undergraduate degree in his or her home state."
A check of the GI Bill Web site shows that the word "relatively" is key to the phrase "relatively clear-cut." It is a government program, after all, and includes the usual acronyms, exceptions and conditions.
WSU Veteran's Affairs Coordinator Matt Zimmerman can help. "Go to www.va.wsu.edu and click on the 'apply' link for instructions," he says. That page also has contact information if you need more assistance.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The world, in 140 characters

Twitter is great for finding out what your friends are up to. But one professor is using it to create a microcourse in world religions. Sample Tweet: "Islam 140: Allah told Gabriel told the prophet Muhammad (PBUH): Just 1 God, pray to Him 5x day, give alms, fast, hajj to Mecca. Submit! Ahh!"
WSU has a lively twitter account. Let's go see what the top item is ... a link to photos of a football uniform unveiling in the Tri-Cities. Other links range from Native American education to Anita Hill to a comprehensive guide to pet care.
We're curious. What do you think of Twitter? A symphony of information, or just white noise?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Beam me over to Margaritaville

Richard Williams was one of the first professors to teach online through DDP. Over the years, he's managed to combine ancient history, Star Trek, and even throw in a little Jimmy Buffett. Learn more about Williams, shown at left in his office.

New course: Physics and Society

A new online physics course covers everything from atoms to artwork, from Newton’s apple to the Apple iPod.
Physics 380, Physics and Society, explores how physics affects nearly every aspect of society, including energy use, pollution, recycling, computers, war, and art, said Dr. Richard Kouzes, who is teaching the 3-credit course this fall through Distance Degree Programs.
“The intellectual gains made in science in the last hundred years have changed society more than all the changes in the previous thousands of years,” he said. “This course will explore current societal challenges and how physics both aids and limits solutions.” More...
Students in Physics 380 will also learn to assess science reports in the media. “Cold fusion has been pretty soundly disproven,” he said, “yet the national news continues to report on the possibility it is real.” Continuing doubts about global warming are another example of science being ignored, he said. “I think it is my social duty to teach physics and its impacts.”
Kouzes is a laboratory fellow at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington. He has a bachelor's degree in physics from Michigan State University, and a master's and doctorate in physics from Princeton University.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

E-books lighten load, until juice runs out

Will electronic books replace textbooks? One school tried, and discovered a few drawbacks. Among them: Batteries don't last long enough, and it's darn hard to use a highlighter pen.

Dozing off. If you're a typical overworked DDP student, you're probably feeling sleepy right now. That's because you're already partly asleep, according to WSU scientists.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Money, perfume, and a new rendezvous

More money available. Letter from the WSU's director of financial aid explains the changes and new opportunities available for students. For general information, go to our financial aid page.

You smell so Butch. A company is creating campus-specific perfumes. One Penn State graduate suggests bottling the fragrance of "stale beer and nachos."

New Facebook page. We're switching pages. Facebook members can join us at the WSU Online Degrees page.

DDP grad helps lead city

Washington state's former deputy state treasurer has been hired as the city treasurer for Port Orchard.
Allan Martin, who also served as Chelan County treasurer, enrolled in DDP in 1999 because online courses let him “work the study time into my schedule,” he said. He graduated magna cum laude from DDP in December 2002, and doesn't hesitate to praise WSU's online program.
“Distance Degree Programs is the best in the nation,” he said. “People should take advantage of the opportunity to get their degree from Washington State University. They’ll be proud of it.”

Monday, June 8, 2009

Graduation slideshow online

Our slideshow of the May graduation ceremonies is now online. You can right-click on any photo to save it.

OMBA Webinars. If you're thinking about earning an online MBA after graduation, the DDP is presenting two Webinars this week, one Tuesday and one Friday. Just log in to listen, and to ask questions. Check the Web page.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Intrusive ID systems rejected

Fears that online educators would have to scan fingerprints and install cameras to verify students' identities prove to be groundless, say sources involved in negotiations over creating regulations for implementing the Higher Education Opportunity Act. Muriel Oaks, dean of WSU's Center for Distance and Professional Education, was on the panel that discussed the new regulations.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The scoop on proctored exams

If you have proctored exams, here are a few pointers:
• Allow two weeks for DDP to process your request to have a paper exam or online exam password and proctor instructions delivered to your proctor. More...
• You cannot use your personal computer to take a proctored online exam. Your proctor must provide an Internet enabled computer for the exam.
• With the impending closure of the learning centers, six new proctoring locations have been set up:

Wenatchee Valley College
Lower Columbia College
Gray’s Harbor College
WSU Extension-Klickitat County
Community Colleges of Spokane-Colville Center
University Center at Everett Community College

More sites needed. We're looking for ideas for other proctored exam sites. Send us your suggestions.

She took 40 years off

The Seattle Times reports today that 41 percent of state students don't finish college in six years. The statistics are debatable, but it is certain that people sometimes have to delay college. That's where WSU Online comes in, letting students earn a degree on their own schedules, and from their own homes.

Here's the story of one student who is taking more than 40 years to earn her degree:

The last time Gini Woodward attended Washington State University, tuition was $52.50 a semester. Students also had to pony up a $2 auto registration fee, and everyone got dinged $7 for a damage deposit. It was 1968, one year before students risked those $7 deposits by holding antiwar sit-ins at the new French Administration Building.
Woodward had nearly completed her home economics degree. Instead, she got married, left WSU, and moved to Anacortes with her husband, Mike.
“I started having babies and never finished my schooling,” said Woodward, 61. “There was always this sense of guilt because I hadn’t finished it.”
Mike worked for Texaco and, after leaving Anacortes, the Woodwards moved to Vancouver, Washington; Sandpoint, Idaho; then, in 1977, about 30 miles north to Bonners Ferry, a city of 2,500 on the Kootenai River.
“Because I didn’t have a degree, I didn’t think I could get a job,” Woodward said. So she started a store (Gini Knits) that sold fabric and yarn and knitting machines. Business was good. She traveled across the country, teaching about knitting machines. She had employees and a line of patterns. Gradually, though, the home knitting machine industry “kind of collapsed on itself,” Woodward said.
The industry’s decline coincided with Woodward’s 1996 melanoma diagnosis, and she began to re-evaluate her priorities. She closed her store in 2000 so she could spend more time with family and pursue other interests. Besides her family responsibilities (aging parents, two grown children, two grandchildren), she’s on the board of the Boundary County Historical Society, teaches a family education program for a national mental health organization, and writes a weekly article for the Boundary County Digest. But, in the back of her mind was the thought that she’d never completed her university education. “It was like a big old unfinished project.”
While looking up a friend on WSU’s Web site, she came across Distance Degree Programs. “I said ‘Whoa!’ I realized I could finish my degree.”
Woodward enrolled in DDP in 2006. “Lifelong education is important,” she said, “and with perhaps a third of my life left to live I am grateful for the personal growth DDP learning is providing.”
Woodward’s academic advisor, Craig Stephens, was impressed by her dedication. “She was determined to finish what she had started at WSU years before,” he said.
About 5 percent of DDP students are over 50. In the online arena, age is invisible; only intelligence matters. That rewards maturity, while enriching the academic experience for students such as Woodward.
“It is such an opportunity as an adult, with a lot of life experience under my belt, to go back and study,” she said. “I get more out of it than I did when I was 18.”
Another thing has changed since Woodward was 18. The home ec academic major has gone the way of $52.50 tuition and “Clean for Gene” college students. Woodward is now majoring in social sciences, with a concentration in philosophy.
Are there any job openings for philosophers in Bonners Ferry?
“It’s not about income, it’s about learning,” Woodward said, philosophically. “Besides, I’ll probably be on Social Security by the time I get my degree.”

Story by Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Virtual news

Keeping it real. On-campus students choose not to move class into Second Life. A chief concern? It's too much fun.
By the way, WSU has a Second Life page. Here's a video about how it was created by the people right here at the Center for Distance and Professional Education, which includes DDP.

Blackboard alternative. Colleges are considering using blogs as a learning management system. The courses could be open to public view. What do you think? Would you be troubled by having your homework potentially seen by the world? And would the "real world" experience of knowing how to blog be helpful?

Monday, June 1, 2009

WSU's budget, and yours

WSU budget. WSU postpones release of final budget plan until mid-June.

Financial aid FAQs. WSU's financial aid guru Kathreen Silva answers your top four financial aid questions.
Q. Can I take fewer than 12 credits in a semester?
A. Yes. Loans and some grants disburse at half-time -- 6 credits undergraduate/5 credits graduate (3 credits in summer for grads) -- while the Pell and State Need Grant are prorated based on enrollment status.
Q. What is considered full-time credits?
A. 12 undergrad/10 grad
Q. What is considered full-time for summer?
A. 12 undergrad/10 grad
Q. What happens if I have to take a withdrawal?
A. Many things.
1. The financial aid office will calculate how much of your financial aid is due back immediately under the terms of the federal Return of Title IV Funds provision. Our office will return the funds on your behalf to the appropriate agencies, which will result in a bill from Student Accounts.
2. Student Accounts will issue a refund of your tuition if you cancel enrollment within the first four weeks of the semester. This refund will be credited towards your bill (as described above).
3. Your financial aid will be in a denial status for the following term under the Satisfactory Academic Progress policy (SAP). The federal government requires that all schools monitor their students’ progress under this policy to ensure students are making progress towards their degrees. Your options at this point are to:
a. Complete and submit the online SAP appeal form found at www.finaid.wsu.edu; or
b. Complete the following term with a 2.0 GPA without federal, state, or institutional financial aid assistance. Notify our office at sapappeal@wsu.edu after your grades post.
Please contact us if you have any other questions.