Welcome to the second issue of the CUOL newsletter!

As assignments start to pile up and tests begin to loom, turn to the CUOL newsletter for your guide to making it through the autumn months.

In this Issue:

– “CUOL Movember

– Q & A with Carleton’s Procrastination Expert: Tim Pychyl

– How to Curb your Procrastination

– My Worst Procrastination Story

– Runtz the Rockstar!

– Behind the Scenes

– CUOL Midterm Exam Schedules

CUOL Movember

  Ready your moustaches, gentlemen! CUOL is jumping into Movember this year with a playful contest to help raise money and awareness about men’s health.Zeba Crook, who is teaching an online religion course this fall term, has extended a challenge to other CUOL professors to see which class can raise the most money. The winning class will watch their professor get his or her head shaved in the Unicentre.
Zeba Crook

Crook said the contest will serve a happy double purpose. In addition to helping Movember’s cause, he said it will also create a sense of community for online classes, which he said often suffer from distance gaps.

“They’re alone out there,” he said, referring to how students watch the lectures separately. With the contest, he said, “(the students are) reaching out to others, and I’m reaching out to them.”

He said having an online option is fantastic for students who want to take an elective which wouldn’t usually fit with their schedule, but when everyone isn’t in the same physical space, it can be hard for students to connect with one another.

“I thought this would be a good way to bring them together,” Crook said.

The winning class will be determined by average amount raised per person, since some classes have higher enrollment than others.

Crook said he will be charting the advance of his moustache on Facebook, where he will invite people to contribute to his “humiliation.” He said he’s not looking forward to attending a conference in San Francisco in late November, where he will present a paper and hundreds of his scholarly peers will see his bushy upper lip.

“I’m kind of dreading it… But I will have many many chances to therein talk about men’s health, which is really the point of Movember.”.

Professors interested in accepting Crook’s invitation and enlisting their class in the cause should contact the CUOL office for details.

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Q & A with Carleton’s own Procrastination Expert: Tim Pychyl

“Ever since he became interested in researching procrastination, people have been telling Pychyl how he changed their life. Here, Pychyl talks about how CUOL students can apply the teachings from his book, popular podcasts and blog to their own situation.”
Tim Pychyl

Why do you think students taking classes online are particularly susceptible to procrastination?
The structure that is inherent in a classroom, such as attending class, isn’t there, so they have to depend on self-regulation more. We easily deplete these self-regulatory resources.

What would you say is the most important point in your book?
The most important thing is to be aware that procrastination amounts to short-term mood repair. Delay may make you happy at the moment, but not further down the line. Number one, you need to change the goal intention to an implementation intention. In situation X, I will do behaviour Y to achieve subgoal Z. And make the action as concrete and realistic as possible, because research shows that concrete plans provide us with a sense of urgency for the task at hand, whereas abstractly phrased tasks belong to the future. For example, “after I finish my part-time job at 4 p.m. today, I’m going to go home, go to my computer and read the first part of module 1.” Another important point that I rest my hat on, is just get started.

Even if you don’t finish an entire assignment, you won’t feel like you’ve accomplished nothing at the end of the day. And it’s surprising how easy it seems once you actually just start. It primes the pump. I also advise using self-affirmation to remind yourself that this thing on your to-do list is something important, and there’s a reason for it. It is worth the effort now, and you can dig deep to just get started. Remember, future-you will not feel like doing it any more than you do now!

Why study procrastination?
My research is not about productivity, so to speak, it’s about helping people to get done the things they want to, so that they feel happier with themselves. It’s about being the master of your own life. Pychyl’s book, ‘The Procrastinator’s Digest,’ can be bought as an inexpensive e-book, or ordered in hard copy through Amazon. For other purchasing options, visit Tim’s book website: http://www.procrastinatorsdigest.com or visit his website at procrastination.ca.

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How to Curb your Procrastination

Is your to-do list getting longer than the unfinished assignments it represents? Don’t despair.

We all do it. Or at least most of us do it. Those who don’t are looked upon with a mix of dumbfounded wonder and envy, not unlike the way you might regard someone who has just conquered Everest. But there are ways that you too can stop procrastinating and turn that mountain of work into a molehill. Here’s a few (slightly altered) tips from the good folks at Learning Support Services in MacOdrum Library.

– CUOL students all too often will leave watching the bulk of their lectures until the last minute. Set aside specific times in your day that will be designated study hours.

– Pick your spot. If you’re not getting anything done (let me rephrase; if you’re not getting any schoolwork done) at home, go somewhere else where there are less distractions. Or just block Facebook.

– Prioritize your to-do list. And remember, just because an activity is your favourite doesn’t mean it should be #1 on the list.

– Recognize it when you’re procrastinating. Cleaning your fridge, calling your mom and surfing the web for tips to stop procrastinating are all admirable activities, but when you’ve got stuff to do, they all amount to delaying the inevitable.

– However, this doesn’t mean you slave-drive yourself to perfectionism. Reward yourself for staying on task and shaving down that to-do list.

My Worst Procrastination Story

“Probably second year, private law. I took the class via Video On Demand and watched all the classes and read the textbook starting at 10pm and all the way until the exam at 9 am. Finished the last lecture at 7:48 am if I remember correctly!” – Sarah Hobbs, undeclared

“Last year in March I kept pushing my work back because I thought I would have enough time to write all these essays and then all of them fell on one week. I had five crazy long (15, 8, 5, 10, 9 page) research essays due in five days, Monday to Friday, and it was actually the worst thing ever.

I got them all completed but had about 10 hours of sleep the whole week and lived out of McDonalds for coffee and food. I felt super miserable.” – Wyatt Danowski, 4th year History major

Share your worst!

Email sabrina_doyle@carleton.ca or nestor_querido@carleton.ca with the subject line myworst and tell us about your worst procrastination story; you might get published in our next CUOL newsletter!

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Runtz the Rockstar!

“They see you as an entity that’s larger than life I think,” Runtz said.”
Mike Runtz

A curious phenomenon tends to happen to Michael Runtz when he teaches online courses. For many students, their first in-person encounter with Runtz comes as he hands them their final exam, and many admit to feeling a sort of rockstar awe. After months of flitting across their computer screens, the lively professor is before them, within arm’s reach.

“They see you as an entity that’s larger than life I think,” Runtz said.

But Runtz, an award-winning professor with long hair and almost a quarter-century of teaching experience, said his online students don’t lose anything by taking his course through a screen. In fact, he insists the online students almost have a more intimate experience with the course material. For example, Runtz will often bring in live specimens to his popular 1000-level biology class, Natural History.

Recently, a katydid was the star of the show. The knarly insect grew to multiple times its size for online students, filling the entire screen, whereas the in-class students might have squinted over the heads of their peers at the drop-down projector screen showing the bug’s pixilated image.

Around 700 students take Runtz’ Natural History course per term – though he’s had as many as 1,400. They can be as close as the residence buildings on campus or as far as the other side of the globe (Runtz’s course was one of the first to be broadcast worldwide).

To make everyone feel included, Runtz said that as he lectures, he will toss in mentions of “all the students watching online,” sometimes even pausing to look directly into the camera. Maintaining email contact through WebCT is another biggie.

For Runtz, it’s all about taking a largely digital, two dimensional pupil-to-prof interaction, and turning it into a three dimensional experience. No wonder he’s seen as a rockstar.

Runtz Recommends…

Tips for CUOL students:

– maintaining email contact with the Prof

– meeting other students for study sessions

– participating in WebCT discussion boards

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Behind The Scenes

“I try to envision myself watching the course… I’m trying to put myself in the students’ shoes,” Elizabeth Kingsbury said.

By the time the countdown starts from 10, all the necessary checks have been made. The batteries are charged, the audio levels have been tested, the tapes are rewound and ready to go.

At the exact moment the professor opens his mouth to welcome his class, someone presses record. For the remaining hours, students listen and ask questions (or twiddle their i-phones), unaware of the techie duo quietly working in the background, taping everything.

“I try to envision myself watching the course… I’m trying to put myself in the students’ shoes,” Elizabeth Kingsbury said. She’s talking about minding the small, thoughtful stuff – like how long to show the shot of a slide so CUOL students can jot down the bulleted points.

Kingsbury, a CUOL operations technician, works with a cameraperson to tape and cut between the professor, his slides, and the students.

For Kingsbury, one of the best parts of her job is the fact that she gets to, basically, get free education. She’s been working as a Carleton videographer since 1998, and has filmed everything from economics to social work to history to biology. She said another perk are the summers off.

But she thinks students might be surprised to know how much she cares about producing a good product for the students.

“I love coming to work,” she said.

For the average 8:35 a.m. class, Kingsbury shows up anywhere from 8 a.m. to 8:15, and starts setting up.

When the professor gets there, the videographer asks what sort of visuals or slides to expect. The cameraperson and students arrive and Kingsbury retreats into her booth.

Sometimes the shots and transitions need tidying after the class, but Kingsbury said it’s not long before the video is packaged and ready. Within 24 to 48 hours, the video is uploaded online, ready for viewing.

CUOL Midterm Exam Schedules

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