May 2012 Issue

In this Issue:

Professor Profile

Summer school blues

Dispatches from around the world

Tech Corner


Midterm Exam Schedules

Professor Profile
New CUOL prof Jeff Smith has a history of bringing new innovations to the classroom. He hopes to continue that trend as he moves into the online-priority platform.

Biochemistry professor Jeff Smith may study the extra small, but that doesn’t stop him from thinking big. Since he began teaching at Carleton in the summer of 2008, he has tried, tested and taught a variety of novel multimedia methods  – including cellphone-powered polls – to enliven his science lectures.

“In science, trying to get class participation is like pulling teeth. People are there for a one-way flow of information. ‘Just tell me what I need to know,’ and then they leave,” Smith says.

 But after sitting in an arts lecture, where he observed students raising their hands to offer opinion without even being prompted, he sought a way to interact more with his students. He started using clickers and to embed polls or multiple-choice questions into his PowerPoint slides. Students could use the physical clickers to anonymously choose an option on the screen (when the clickers proved too expensive he moved to, which had students text their answers to the site’s Canadian number). In both cases, the results of the poll would appear on the screen in a bar graph in less than 30 seconds. The students loved it, Smith says, and soon he was giving talks to other school departments on how to use it.

Unfortunately, this system won’t work in Smith’s CUOL-exclusive chemistry lab class, which is being broadcast without the in-class section for the first time this summer.

But that has just made Smith start brainstorming new ways to do things. “I have all these crazy thoughts of things I could try, just because it is on camera.” For example, his friend and fellow science prof Dr. Julian Northey recently used the camera to his advantage by setting his class up like a talk show, complete with a dramatic entry through the back doors, camera-pan of the clapping crowd, and hosting guest lecturers in an informal interview style. Smith would also like to see tutorials brought in via video-conferencing.

In regards to the performing-for-a-camera component, Smith says it doesn’t bother him. A former rock-band guitarist, he is no stranger to having an audience. Growing up in Peterborough, Ontario, where he says there “wasn’t much to do,” he remembers local bands would regularly rent the party room at the hockey arena together, each drawing their respective fans to amass a decent-sized crowd, and make a night of it.

Fun fact: Smith’s band played alongside another band called Groundswell, which eventually became the multiple award-winning Three Days Grace.

Meanwhile, Smith veered towards academia. He now does research analyzing individual molecules and ions, to get more information about why some diseases occur.

“Ultimately, I’d just like to be able to benefit the people of the world through what I’m doing.”

Summer school blues

Summer school got you down? The sun is beaming and people are frolicking outside having fun. But not you. You’re stuck inside viewing your CUOL lectures (the day when laptop screens work well in full sun cannot come soon enough). Here are some (humorous) tips to beat those summer school blues.

1. Remember, the time you spend now just means that you won’t have to do this course in the fall. You’re welcome, future you.

2. The imagination is a powerful thing. Dress up in a sunhat and bathing suit while viewing your courses, and pretend you’re in Rio. Beach umbrella optional.

3. Think of the numerous studies that have preached the dangers of excessive sun exposure. You will appreciate your present hermitdom when you live longer sans skin cancer. Pallid is the new sexy.

4. If you’re really suffering from vitamin D deficiency, don some stylish shades, slather on some sunscreen and do your readings outside.

5. While summer courses are not easier than their fall and winter counterparts, chances are you’ll have a lighter course load. Meaning, you can devote more effort to this one course but with less resulting stress, and get a great mark which will boost your overall CGPA. Helloooo grad school.

6.  Come September, everyone else will be whining and griping about going back to school. Now you’ll be able to shut them up by pointing out that you never left (school, that is).

7. If all else fails, sit at the window and practice squishing the frolicking folks’ heads with your thumb and forefinger.

Dispatches from around the world

CUOL is broadcast everywhere from the Unites States to Australia. This month, we connected with a loyal student in South America, and got his story.

His reasons were simple and valid. When William Alvarez, 33, moved a continent away from his newly adopted country Canada, he did it to stay close to his two-year old son, his wife and the unborn child in her womb. But relocating to the northern coast of South America didn’t stop him from continuing his studies at Carleton University. Through CUOL classes, he has been whittling away at a BA in Environmental Studies, with the hopes of transferring into a bachelor of science with a biology concentration in fall 2013.

“I am a new Canadian, it’s been almost two years since I became a citizen and I take great pride in it and have made a big effort to learn everything I can about Canada,” Alvarez wrote in an email from Georgetown, Guyana. Alvarez is originally from Colombia, but before he moved down to Guyana he’d been living in Canada for nine years, five of them in Ottawa. His last two CUOL courses delved into Canada’s and Ontario’s Natural History (taught by Carleton’s award winning Prof, Mike Runtz) and he says it opened his eyes to a wonderful world of biodiversity that that he hopes to communicate to his son.

“[My son] has an innate love for animals and plants and these classes have helped me understand nature enough so that I can pass on some knowledge.”

Though the Internet is frustratingly slow in Guyana (he says it can take up to five hours to download his classes – streaming is out of the question,) Alvarez has nothing but praise for the CUOL classes and the helpful people who run them.

“I love it, I’ve taken distance classes in the past at other institutions but never like this.”

He writes that he was drawn to Carleton because of its good reputation and for the flexibility it gave students; at the time Alvarez was first accepted, he was working a full time job and could only take classes part time – something he says the University of Ottawa and Algonquin College didn’t offer for the programs he was interested in. In addition, he says the video and sound quality are top notch.

Now, the stay-at-home dad dedicates whatever free time he can to his studies.

With his wife’s career (she works for Foreign Affairs and was transferred to Guyana), he writes “distance classes have become a vital tool for my learning process… I’m sure I am not the only one in a similar situation.”


This month’s feature: Ultrabooks

You may have heard the term ‘Ultrabook’ being tossed around lately. So, what are they exactly? Ultrabooks are a new generation of thin, light, powerful laptops. While Intel has trademarked the term “Ultrabook,” the lower-case version of the word has expanded to refer to pretty much any laptop in the same general class (such as the Macbook Air).

Intel is marketing the Ultrabooks as the perfect balance between portability, performance and price. With tablets somewhat infringing on netbook territory, the Ultrabooks cut in with bigger screens and lighter weight, but without losing the conventional, comfortable keyboard that would be important for anyone (students) who do a lot of typing.

To be labelled an Ultrabook, laptops must meet these characteristics:

– 21mm thick or less

– 5 to 8 hrs of battery

– quick start-up (7 seconds or less)

– the firmware has to support Intel’s Anti-Theft and Identity Protection technology

– powered by Intel

What they would be good for:

– taking notes in class

– being easy on the back when carrying to school

– summer traveling, to blog your adventures back to loved ones at home

What they would not be good for:

– reading DVDs or CDs, as there is no room for the optical drive in the svelte new designs (though you could buy an external optical drive)

– extensive video or photographic editing work

– gaming graphics

Most Ultrabooks aim to stay under $1000 (some are more). If all you need is a basic computer for work, web and entertainment, an Ultrabook could be a decent mid-range system. Multiple manufacturers such as Toshiba, Acer, Asus and Lenovo have come out with Ultrabook models. With any luck, you might score in on back-to-school sales, which will be starting within the next few months.


So I’m registered in a CUOL course!  What now?

  • Determine how you will view your lectures (see CUOL Basics below).
  • If you are a distance student & wish to write your exams and midterms off-campus, apply by the deadline
  • Keep checking your course website (WebCT/CUlearn) for course information & updates
  • Get your required textbooks (see WebCT/CUlearn for your course outline, then use the Carleton Bookstore or other source to purchase your texts)

CUOL Basics

What are my options for watching my lectures?

  • Watch the class on Rogers Digital Cable (channel 243) at the day & time indicated in the schedule for section T or V. Note – not all classes are broadcast.
  • Watch the course stream online during the regular broadcast on the CUOL website.
  • Subscribe to Video On Demand for flexible online access. Once subscribed (in summer, $40 per half course, $80 for a full course), go to the VOD login page at & use your WebCT/CUlearn username & password to get to your course list.
  • For those classes that are held on-campus, attend the class if you are registered in the on-campus section (note to CUOL section students: you are welcome to sit in on a class if there are seats available! Look for the on-campus class in Carleton Central for locations and times).
  • View your lectures for free at the VOD kiosks located in the CUOL Student Centre (D299 Loeb).
  • Web-only courses – get your materials through WebCT/CUlearn!
  • Use Pay-Per-Lecture to rent occasional missed lectures online for one week via the CUOL website using your campus card ($6 per lecture).

What is Video on Demand (VOD)?

VOD subscribers have online access to CUOL course lectures –anytime, anywhere within the academic term in which the course is being offered. VOD gives students the ability to stream or download individual lectures onto their computer.

I would like to subscribe to VOD.  How do I do it?

Add the appropriate Video On Demand section to your registration in Carleton Central.  For instance, if you are in the T section, add the TOD section.  If you are in the A section, add the AOD.  If Carleton Central has closed, go to “How to add VOD Registration” on the CUOL website and fill out the form at the bottom of the page.

Making the Most of CUOL

 Whether you are a new or returning CUOL student, you are bound to need some advice to help keep on track with your university courses. Follow these tips and your online learning experience will be a success!

Prepare your “viewing” environment
Since your classroom is your computer or TV, make your “viewing” area conducive to learning so you can get the most out of your CUOL course. For example, do you require silence? Need specific materials ready, etc.?

Create a “viewing” habit
Schedule a specific time of the day for your “class time”, and view your lecture from start to finish. Make it a regular part of your weekly routine. If you try to view the lectures all at once, chances are that there will never be any time to finish viewing them.

Contact your Instructor or TA
If you have any questions about the course, your Instructor and T.A. can help. You can find contact information for CUOL instructors on WebCT/CUlearn, on course outlines, and on the CUOL web site.

Keep up-to-date with announcements
Not only should you follow your course outline, but watch for upcoming deadlines and important course information as announced on WebCT/CUlearn, course websites, Connect email, the CUOL website, and/or the CUOL newsletter.

Always plan ahead
Make sure you are aware of course assignment deadlines and midterm/final exam periods. Designate specific blocks of time for studying, rather than trying to “cram” right before the exam takes place. If you are taking midterm exams at a distance (off-campus), make sure you know what is required of you for taking off-campus exams. You can read all about the requirements at the CUOL website (

CUOL Midterm Exam Schedules (June and July 2012)

CUOL Examinations

Please note: local CUOL students do not need to register for examinations

 Distance (off-campus) Exams:

Eligible students who require distance examinations must ensure that the CUOL office receives the appropriate examination application before the deadlines. Please go to the CUOL website to fill out the distance application form and to see deadlines and service charges.

You must be in the T or V section of the course to receive the distance application service. Deferred or make-up examinations are not handled by CUOL; please contact your instructor.

Please note that the personalized exam times given in Carleton Central do NOT apply to Distance Students. For more information, please contact