Crack open those books and sharpen those pencils! Fall semester is just around the corner and it’s going to be better than ever!

In this Issue:

→Your Brain on Animation

→Welcome to Fall 2012

→Tales from the Field

→Growing Seeds of Curiosity

→Tech Corner – cuLearn

→Fall Course Offerings

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Your Brain on Animation

Sometimes, professors feel they lose the ability to integrate interesting visual aspects into their online classes. CUOL newbie Kim Hellemans has a solution.

Like Carleton’s neuroscience department itself, Professor Kim Hellemans is enthusiastic, busy, and eager to please the hordes of people who seem drawn to her. So eager in fact, that she’s transforming neurons – mazy but fundamental little brain bits – into movie stars.

She (or rather the hired video animator) will dress them up, cover them in story and sparkle, and will make them more accessible for the wide range of students who sign up for her neuroscience course, many without a deep science background.

The course, PSYC/NEUR 2200 – Biological Foundations of Behaviour, is being offered through CUOL and as such, clarity is particularly crucial; she won’t be able to see many of the students’ faces and judge their comprehension. When she says that student connection is one of her favourite parts of teaching, I believe her.

Two of her former students attended her recent wedding, – one she taught ten years ago. And in the space of our hour-long interview, a student and past TA of hers arrives at the door bearing a small, neatly wrapped box of chocolates and thank you card.

“This is not necessary dude,” she says, accepting the token. After the student leaves, she later remarks:

“They have their path, and for one small moment in time you’re a part of that path.”

There’s a drawing of a multi-eyed creature on her wall, compliments of her niece, and when I ask about it she answers my question with a question: If you could have an extra eyeball, where would you put it? She looks at me expectantly, like someone waiting for the punch line at the end of a joke.

I answer – probably on my hand or the back of my head. She smiles. Punch line nailed? She informs me of a development study which found that adults most often say the back of their head while kids usually opt for the disquieting hand-sight appendage, which supposedly infers childlike curiosity (I don’t know what my double-answer says about me.)

“I’m a big nerd,” she confesses. But her love of researching science is split with her love of teaching it. She got the ball rolling on the neuron animation project after she ran into copyright roadblocks while searching the Internet for a video animation that clearly explained how neurons work.

With the help of the CUOL course development fund, she says the instructional video will end up being about two to five minutes, and could be used for all sorts of courses.

Hellemans will also teach another CUOL course, Psychopharmacology: Drugs to Behaviour (NEUR 3204 V).

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Welcome to Fall 2012 with CUOL!

You are registered in a course this Fall that is offered through Carleton University OnLine (CUOL).

You may have some questions about it, and we can help!  Go to our website at www.carleton.ca/cuol for more information.

See “how CUOL works” at http://tinyurl.com/d5aw99r to find out how to watch your lectures, how to get started with your course, and to get some tips.

Are you studying at a distance from Carleton?  You need to apply by the deadline in order to write your exams off-campus – see our Examinations page at http://tinyurl.com/cwfps2n for more information.

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 September 20, 2012 for fall and January 19, 2013 for the winter term. Please go to the CUOL website to fill out the distance exam 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 cuolexams@carleton.ca

More questions?  Email us at cuol@carleton.ca or call 613-520-4055.

Want to try the VOD lectures? Watch the first lecture of your CUOL course online! Just click on any VOD course shown in the ‘free trial lectures’ link (below) and you can view it for free.  The option of downloading the VOD lectures is available only to VOD subscribers and not offered as a free service.

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Tales from the Field

How one distance student’s education was shaken apart during its crucial final moments, and how he built it back up in a country wracked by natural disaster.

When Cory Koby, 43, decided to chase his goal of becoming a university professor, he looked to the other side of the world for help. He had to. He needed to upgrade his academic credentials, but there were no English-speaking universities where he lives in Sendai, Japan.

Carleton, the school he attended back in the late 80’s and early 90s, was his first pick. Two years of distance courses later, and he is now taking his masters of arts in English language teaching from the University of East London, also via distance education (not to blow our own horn, but he said we’re better.)

“I really think CUOL is an under-utilized platform, Carleton has a great thing going and should promote it more,” he wrote in an email.

Koby moved to Japan from Canada six years ago with his wife and three children. He was at a crossroads in his career, looking for something completely new, and wanted the kids to be closer to their maternal grandparents.

As such, they were there last year when the infamous earthquake shook the island of Honshu. At the time Koby was on the brink of finishing his CUOL courses. This is his story.

-o-

It was 2:46 pm and Cory Koby was almost done teaching for the day when he felt the first rumblings of the earthquake that would change his life. The students dove under their desks; Koby braced himself against the door frame.

“Imagine popcorn popping in a fry pan. We were the popcorn,” Koby wrote via instant message during a recent interview with CUOL.

The magnitude-9 undersea earthquake hit on Friday, March 11, 2011. It triggered devastating tsunami waves and level 7 nuclear meltdowns; it would kill over 15,000 people and be the fifth most powerful earthquake since we started keeping track at the turn of the last century. Koby was teaching English at Sendai Shirayuri Gakuen, a private girls’ high school very close to the epicenter of the quake when it happened, and had two CUOL exams and two term papers coming up just around the corner.

Once the worst of the shaking was over Koby managed to evacuate his class to a school bus, and they stayed there for over an hour while the 400-some aftershocks continued. Meanwhile, his youngest daughter was at the preschool on campus. He had no way to reach her.

Koby’s wife came to campus to collect their young daughter. She, as well as his two other teenaged children were okay.

That night, the school managed to get 700 girls to their parents. Koby was at the school until around midnight helping to settle the 150 young stragglers.

For almost a week, they were without power or internet. As such, Koby had no way to contact his CUOL professors. But he had bigger concerns – such as supplying water, food and gas for his young family – and studying was impossible.

Once he had net access again, he contacted CUOL.

“But at that time we were still in survival mode,” Koby wrote, “so no chance of finishing my two courses on time.”

Luckily, Koby said the administrators at CUOL were helpful and compassionate, and worked with him to get the deadline extensions needed to finish successfully.

“Rather than being just a number, I was treated very well. Of course, these kind of things happen very rarely in life, but it was really great to learn that there were actual human beings at the other end of my education.”

At the end of the ordeal, Koby’s family was alright and his courses were in order. But tragically, he lost his best friend when the tsunami swept away the fishing town of Onagawa. He was the fire chief on duty at the main station on the harbour.

“I have made my peace with it,” Koby wrote, “So many others suffered much more.”

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TechCorner

This month’s feature:  cuLearn

Get the low-down on Carleton’s new learning management system  

WebCT, Carleton’s long serving learning management system is being shown the door. In its place – a leaner, cheaper platform, whose name is even more fun to say. The new system, Moodle, will host students’ courses under the newly christened cuLearn.

“It’s an exciting time,” Andrew Barrett said. He is the Manager, Instructional Innovation in Carleton’s Educational Development Centre, and is leading the team that is working with faculty during the transition time.

“We think it will be a big improvement for Carleton.”

cuLearn addresses one of the big student gripes about WebCT. Now, instead of having five different course inboxes to check, students will have all their class messages sent directly to their Carleton email. It’s a contentious change however.

For teachers with huge classes – a category most CUOL professors fall into – it can mean massive amounts of emails piled into one big digital heap. Barrett recommends these teachers use the built-in folder systems to organize them all – something the Educational Development Center can help them with, if they’re unfamiliar.

“The way learning happens in higher education is going to be changing a lot – it’s already started – and I think that having a modern, robust, flexible learning management system is really critical to making sure we can do other things down the road.”

Part of that flexibility comes from the many features available within the new system. For example, Big Blue Button, the online video conferencing tool which students could use to organize group projects or professors could use for office hours – both uses would be a major convenience for CUOL distance students. It will also be mobile compatible.

Barrett expects that about 90 per cent of classes will be using Moodle in either the fall or winter term, before Carleton’s agreement with WebCT comes to an end in May 2013.

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Growing Seeds of Curiosity

The exciting second installment of a CUOL professor’s on-going permaculture project 

Every week, John Buschek visits the same dry patch of land on the edge of the Carleton campus, and checks for life. When he started near the beginning of summer he didn’t know what to expect – wasn’t expecting anything, really – but after the second week, nature offered up a few encouraging shoots of green.

Buschek was featured in a past issue of the CUOL newsletter for starting a semester-spanning permaculture project that involved hundreds of students making over three thousand “seed balls.” On May 18 the professor led a small group of summer students through the planting process (CUOL videographers filmed all events, so that the online portion of the class could take part in spirit, if distance prevented them from actually being there).

It was a sunny day and Buschek was wearing his usual: a Windriver button-down, with two pens, notepad agenda and eyeglasses protector stuffed into his left breast pocket.

He and the students laid down three 10-by-10 sections (one with straw and compost, one with just straw, one with nothing), and littered them with seed balls. They also included a fourth plot with straw but no seed balls, to use as a control.

“I’m no farmer,” Buschek said, but the point was just to try it out, experiment, and see what takes hold. Going into it, they really didn’t know what to expect; over a hundred different types of seeds had been mixed in with the clay and compost.

“I was astonished that anything actually grew,” Buschek said. In the fall, Buschek plans to catalogue what grew with his incoming class.

Another obstacle for the tiny seeds is the land’s salinity. The salts that get sprinkled in the winter to dissipate ice leach into the ground and make growing hard. Buschek has noticed some beet seeds doing okay, which make sense considering the plant generally does well in salty conditions.

However, the Carleton location is not the only place they planted; there are sister patches next to a storm water runoff pond about three blocks from the SilverCity theatre in Gloucester. The group that laid the seeds was a bunch of fourth-year students who expressed to the CUOL videographers that they had never done anything like this project before. It was particularly nice to get out of the classroom and actively participating in a practice they were learning about, they said.

Permaculture is a theory of ecological design which seeks to develop sustainable agricultural systems by modeling them off the natural environment. The seed balls idea is part of a “one straw” agriculture system, which was developed by Japanese farmer and philosopher Masanoku Fukuoka. It is often used to reclaim land that has become rotten and bare.

To learn more and follow along with Buschek’s project, go to http://tinyurl.com/co36aoq

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CUOL Newsletter

Reporter/Writer: Sabrina Doyle

Contributors: Maria Brocklehurst | Patrick Lyons | Nestor Querido