As we head into 2013, CUOL would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

In this Issue:

CUOL gets star-struck

Behind The Scenes

New Year’s Resolution…

Welcome to Winter 2013 with CUOL!


CUOL gets star-struck

Jillian Henderson  –  PHYS 1902

After years of astrophysical research, one lab supervisor gets her shot at teaching a full CUOL course.

If it hadn’t been for Jodie Foster, one of CUOL’s newest professors might never have turned her attention toward the cosmos. Jillian Henderson had been twenty years old and working on an undergrad degree in environmental science when she saw the 1997 movie “Contact,” in which Foster plays a radio astronomer in search of aliens. Six theatre viewings later and Henderson promptly switched into astrophysics, eventually going on to do her masters and PhD at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).

“In their early 20s not everyone knows exactly what they want to do,” Henderson says. “What environmental science lacked, for me, was math. I found that I really like math, and calculus, which isn’t as needed in biology.”

She sunk her teeth into the study of neutron stars and eventually returned to Ottawa with a new husband in tow and a baby on the way. Then, a year ago, Carleton called to offer her a position as a laboratory supervisor. She seized it immediately. Now, she’s taking on the role of teacher for her first whole course: physics for non-physicists.

She’s been happy to jump back into the working world of science, Henderson says. As she puts it, “it’s hard to have a conversation with a two year old about physics.” The concept of what mommy does for a living is not completely lost on her son (now three years old) though; one of his star and planet paintings hangs on Henderson’s office wall.

Henderson says that one of the biggest adjustments will be lecturing to a group of students for three times as long as she’s used to. But when it comes to dealing with distance students, she’s not worried – she has been a distance student herself for part of her PhD, and has thought of various ways to bring everyone closer.

For instance, she says she often conducts a midterm poll to get a sense of how everyone is feeling about the course; this will be particularly crucial and helpful with the distance students, who usually need a bit more coaxing before they offer feedback on such things.

Also among the plans are audience response systems (such as and integrating online interactives, animations and videos that the course’s textbook publishers have produced.

“I’d say I’m about 50-50,” Henderson replies when asked about her emotional ratio of nervous to excited. She says it will be fun to step back from her usual day-to-day task of highly focused mathematics and see the big picture through the course, which looks at everything from our sun to the galaxy and beyond.

Jillian Henderson teaches PHYS 1902


Behind the Scenes

A lot of people work to make CUOL a reality. Janusz Bialy is one of them.

It all started when he got hold of that computer. Janusz Bialy was 12 years old and began tinkering with his new technological toy. He got hooked; now he tinkers for a living. Bialy works with CUOL Technical Operations, helping to capture, encode and transfer the video footage to the website for the 43 courses offered online. His job is to make sure everything goes smoothly.

This can involve everything from planning new services to developing web applications to encoding video to installing new hardware. It all sounds very technical, but being on the cutting edge of online media is what Bialy likes best about his job.

“I get a chance to play with some of the latest tech toys; that keeps me happy,” he writes in an email. “I also have a bit of a soft spot for programming, especially web application design so working at CUOL allows me to do a bit of scripting and designing around online video.”

Bialy is a bit like Jeeves (the loyal and competent valet from the classic British comedy, Jeeves and Wooster) in the fact that he runs around behind the scenes, quietly solving all his employer’s problems. Indeed, most of CUOL’s solutions are custom developed in-house. This gives Bialy the chance to develop, test, and often train staff on how to use the new tools. It’s nice to have so much control over the entire process, he says, but it makes Bialy’s to-do lists long and his time precious. Luckily CUOL recently hired a new member, expanding their “IT department” to two people.

Bialy’s background has always been in information technology, he says. He recalls how even when he was a student, he would play around with primitive video editing tools, codecs and compression, as a fun hobby. But while technology is fun and exciting and often astounding, it doesn’t always work

perfectly right out of the gate. Revolutionary new products are often buggy and not yet ready for the big wide world of online education. People don’t take kindly to malfunctions, and it falls to Bialy to iron out the wrinkles when technology fails.

Still, the excitement of “new,” which goes hand-in-hand with such a quickly advancing field, is what keeps Bialy hooked.


New Year’s Resolution of a (fictional) CUOL student

Alright, me. It’s a new year and I’ve decided it’s time I made some changes in my life. Among my top resolutions are the following, in no particular order: start running, let’s say four times a week; stay up to date on my CUOL classes; call my mom more; drink less coffee. 2013 is my year, baby, and it’s gonna be great. To keep myself motivated and on track, I’ll keep a journal.

January 6: Okay, tomorrow is the first Monday of 2013. It’s time to put my action plan to, well, action. I’ll get up early and go for a run before work tomorrow. After work, I’ll call the mom. I know I haven’t done much of anything yet, but no one starts their resolutions until after the first week, right? Yeah. Gotta say, I’ve got a good feeling about these resolutions – things are looking up.

January 7, morning: Damn. Slept in. That’s okay I’ll have plenty of time to go for a run after work and call my mom.

January 7, evening: Forgot how long mom can talk for. I should never have brought up aunt Tammy’s new curtains – what was I thinking. Too late to go for a run now. That’s okay I can still run tomorrow and stick to my four days a week goal. And hey! Instead of running tonight I’ll watch my first week of CUOL lectures! I am so proud of my self-discipline. I even made it through the day without coffee (barely).

January 9: Went for a run. Almost fell off the treadmill once or twice in a fatigue-induced delirium. Okay maybe it was three times. Sweet baby zeus how do people find this preposterous activity enjoyable. At least I did it. I’d say I deserve a coffee, I’ve been doing so well with everything else.

January 17: Confidence slipping. Have resorted to guzzling coffee in order to find the energy to go for a run.

Haven’t called mom since that first time for fear she’ll ask me how my resolutions are coming along.

January 19: Felt guilty for not calling mom so I called her. Lied and said I’d been running regularly when in fact my exercise regimen consists almost entirely of walking from the couch to the fridge and back again. In my defense I make this trip a couple times a night, so really that’s gotta add up to a kilometer or something, I’m sure.

January 24: Have abandoned that masochistic enterprise known as running. Instead, Redbull cans one, two and four are responsible for giving my heart its regular workout. Mustn’t ever tell mother.

January 31: Well I may be an over-caffeinated, under-exercised slob who calls her mom once or twice a month, but at least I’ve kept up with my CUOL courses! Now. Just a few more months till exams.


Welcome to Winter 2013 with CUOL!

You are registered in a course this Winter that is offered through Carleton University OnLine (CUOL).  You may have some questions about it, and we can help!

How do I get started with this course?

How do I view the lectures?

I won’t be in the Ottawa area – what do I need to know?

Important note for distance students –

The deadline to apply for distance exams is January 19, 2013.  If you have missed this deadline, contact as soon as possible in order to be considered for distance exam arrangements.  Students with no distance exam arrangements must write their midterms/exams at Carleton at the regularly scheduled time.

I have registered in the Video On Demand (VOD) service, where do I log in?

I don’t have the VOD service but I want to get it – what do I do?

More questions?  Email us at or call 613-520-4055.


Tech Corner

Feature This Month:

Do you ever wish you had a research essay fairy godmother? Someone to guide you toward a focus and provide a treasure trove of suitable sources? Well as a matter of fact you can have one – but she comes in the form of a smartphone app named Quora. Oh, and her services are free.

Quora is a knowledge-sharing site that connects you to everything you might be curious about, from psychology to screenwriting to history. It’s based on a similar principle as Yahoo Answers or Aardvark, where someone lobs a question into the fray and people leap to answer it. What sets Quora apart, however, is the caliber of people who are responding. Quora was founded by two former higher-ups at Facebook (one served as Chief Technology Officer and the other was a notable platform developer), and from the beginning they prioritized quality answers provided by experts.

With an account, users can follow topics or people they’re interested in, search previously asked questions, ask their own questions, and ‘up-vote’ answers that they deem the pick of the litter.

So, for that broad essay topic that you’re not sure where to focus on, you can type in either the topic or a specific question, and see what people who are familiar with the topic say about it. That’s not to say you shouldn’t seek guidance or help from your professor, but in the same way that you can find some great sources in a book’s appendix, there could be a plethora of helpful links waiting to be discovered on Quora’s question threads.

Among the prestigious people to respond to questions have been: Liberal politician Justin Trudeau, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, even actors like Ashton Kutcher. It’s like twitter without the character limit, and much easier to immediately find useful and accessible, especially for the average student.

The app is available for both iPhone and Android.


Did You Know?

watch an animated video depicting the basic neuroscience phenomenon of action potentials at

Did You Know?

CUOL offers an exam invigilation service to post secondary and professional development institutions from around the world. This year more than 1200 students and professionals have taken exams at CUOL.

→Did You Know?

Want to try out VOD? Watch the first lecture of your CUOL course online! Just click on any VOD course shown at & you can view it for free.

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