Balancing the Holidays and Your Education

lol, look at that floppy disc!!

You’ve taken this vow of completing your Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D. online because you have X, Y, Z reasons that you’d rather go online than to a brick and mortar.

I get it. I’ve been there. I don’t even have kids, and I get it.

What happens when it’s the holidays, kids are home, family is around, shopping is not done, you STILL NEED TO CLEAN THAT LITTLE CORNER BEHIND THE CANDY DISH BECAUSE GOD FORBID ANY OF YOUR GUESTS LOOK AT THAT LITTLE FLECK OF DUST…

oh… AND school? Wait, what?

Brick and mortar schools are off on vacation before you can sound out the D in December and then leisurely pick the pace back up sometime in the middle of January. You don’t have to think twice about any sort of obligations during that entire month! NBD…

But you chose an online education because it would be beneficial to your lifestyle! Sometimes online education never truly stops until your mind stops because there’s always something you could be doing or you want to get everything done beforehand because some genius decided to make this term overlap over Christmas and nobody got time for that.

I went to Western Governors University. This school run by six-month-terms. You can complete as much or as little of your degree within those six months. That meant I got as MUCH as I could get done prior to driving all the way up to MI from SC for Christmas and didn’t look at a single thing while I was there. HUGE reason why I loved attending that school. If life was happening, my school didn’t need to be my number 1 priority.

Did I mention I finished all of my coursework for my degree in 15 months? Yep.

How do you complete your course work before and during the holidays?
Have you had to shorten your vacation because of school obligations?
Do you change your study schedule to fit the needs your many gatherings?
How understanding is your family of your obligations?
What comes first, family or school during this time of year?


The Sway Way

SocialMedia_Logo_Sway_400x400x32If you have Microsoft 365, you have Sway. And it’s awesome.

Is Sway® going to replace PowerPoint®? No
Is Sway® better than PowerPoint®? No
Is Sway® worth the effort? YES YES and YES!

Sway is like if PowerPoint® and Instagram got together and had a little adorable, mostly easy-going, but sometimes stubborn, child.

Sway is something else on its own. You tell a story with Sway. With just a little wiggle-room for creativity, Sway builds your pictures, text, and social media into a collage of awesomeness. If you’ve got a bunch of stuff to upload and you don’t mind an algorithmic display, Sway is the way to go.

So many video tutorials and a suggestion box make this program incredibly easy to use. I would say if you’re going to use it for the first time, play with it THEN view a tutorial.

Thumbs Up

  • Preset designs make me feel like someone else is in control of how my Sway looks – this is good because I can spend HOURS trying to figure out what colors and fonts go well together
  • Accessibility built RIGHT IN! How cool!!
  • Easy – no true learning curve here. Everything you’d like to do is drag and drop
  • Super duper easy to collaborate with others!
  • Fancy shmancy privacy and sharing settings
    • Did I mention the embed feature?? ^^
  • Instant save/Instant update – Cloud storage is the best. It’s kind of scary to not have to worry about a save button! For us and our LMS it’s great because wherever the SWAY lives it updates instantaneously – no more having to go back into copies of courses and adjusting any edits that need to be made!
  • Pretty tech savvy-looking without the coding. This will make your presentation just a bit more enticing- may give it the edge you need.

Thumbs Down

  • Images from Bing and Flickr  could be removed in an instant – I would suggest not including those kinds of photos in your Sway
    • If you do, down/upload them and insert – make sure to get your permissions!
  • The only social media site you can embed is Twitter, and you cannot embed a live feed, just single tweets
    • Apparently they’re “working on” adding social media sites to their catalog
  • Small vs Medium vs Large – Design needs tweaking
    • Any media ‘card’ can be placed on the Sway but the way it falls may not be as cute as an IG picstitch.
    • If you’re picky about how a presentation looks, Sway is not for you. If you’re easy going, make that Sway!

Opinion: How Do We Know What They Know?

In my past life, I was a middle school math teacher. As I am still in the field of education, I keep my experiences close to my heart as I have witnessed the issues multiple families are now experiencing.

Your children are coming home with good grades and they don’t know anything. Okay maybe they know something, but not everything on that assignment sheet – I promise you.

Math is the easiest to fake since K-8 is all about the repetition of memorizing procedures and 9-12 takes those memorized procedures are the backbone of more memorized procedures. I did not understand the “why” and the “how” of math until my undergrad. I made up rhymes and songs to get myself through high school Calculus because there was no tangible sense to the subject.

I was one of those students where memorization and little tricks came easy to me, so I decided to major in mathematics for my undergrad. I liked math and I was good at it. Yeah, I was good at memorizing and making sense of it all! Was I truly learning? Could I apply my skills to real world situations? How many word problems were on assessments or included for homework? Hardly any. Why? Because my teachers didn’t know how to explain applicable math in the real world either.

I could go on for days about how our education system is royally messed up, but I’m here to talk about something a little bit different. Once I started my undergrad I had incredible professors that taught me how to study the learning process.

The article, Knowing What Students Know: The Power of Documentation -By Angela Stockman & John T. McCrann describes the advantages to study the learning process by documentation and even includes 8 Steps in a Recursive Process to aid in the shift. 

Hilda Borko, Brian Stecher, and Karin Kuffner  suggest that when scientists want to study the earth’s crust or the ocean floor, they don’t require our planet to stop spinning in order to produce lab samples. Instead, they simply scoop up what they need in order to examine it. Likening learners to planets and teachers to scientists, Borko, Stecher, and Kuffner challenge us to assess learning in process through the use of scoop notebooks rather than disrupting it in order to test. Much can be learned about the power of documentation from their work.

How do you know what your students know? This article raises some questions- how is this possible in our system of underpaid teachers who are highly skilled, yet bogged down by the ever demanding standardized tests. Oh, and teaching math, among other subjects, in the most ridiculous way possible?

So now, is higher education any different? I am so fortunate that the SME that I am working with is an incredible person: she loves project-based learning and structures her learning outcomes and objectives to meet those requirements. In their graduate courses, students create something that is valuable to the career they want.

As I’m reading these steps from the article, wouldn’t it be amazing if there was time to meet with students to mull over the documentation and feedback? What if we could truly sit down with our students and display, interpret, and theorize the evidence?  Students need feedback. They need relevant and meaningful goals towards learning something new is a crucial step to this process just as making the learning process as real as possible. When students are involved in the way they learn, where their struggles and strengths lie, they will be more apt to actually learning instead of regurgitating information that is completely meaningless!

My favorite:

Good scientists know that the findings from their documentation work serve as catalysts for different and perhaps deeper investigations far more often than they provide clear answers. Similarly, great teachers use what they learn from their documentation efforts in service to students, but more importantly, they use their discoveries to define what they want or need to learn next. This renewed commitment to learning, sharing, theorizing, testing, and relearning often ignites enthusiasm, inspiring them to seek company among professionals who share their passion for this work.

Office Mix: Trials and Tribulations

office-mix-stacked-logoHere is my sincere review of the new plug-in for PowerPoint® – Office Mix.

Good lordy loo, where do I begin? First, if you’re not sure about what I’m talking about, please add this plug-in to your already existing software and play around with it. You can get started with some small projects by viewing these tutorials. Oh, and if you forgo reading this entire blog post, and you come across a super problem, it probably isn’t your mistake or your computer but an error or issue with Office Mix that is preventing your I_love_cats.pptx from not working as a Mix.

There’s a saying somewhere that describes lazy people being the best workers, simply because they’ll find a workaround to anything to get the job done fast. Alright. If you mix super lazy, speedy fast and accurate task-completer, and über-ly meticulous professional together… you’ve got me. Let me explain…

The Beginning

Everyone and their brother use Articulate Storyline. Fresh out of IDD school and I come to find out they taught me ZERO about software. I was picked and plopped in front of my desk without any Storyline experience whatsoever.  Luckily, I am a super fast learner and all around awesome person so it doesn’t really matter ;).

During my first month of being an IDDer, I had a grand opportunity to take training courses and learn anything I wanted! My mind exploded! Then, all of a sudden I had my first course and needed to learn the basics before I could add my own creativity. That first course came out as basic as a mocha frappuccino; served its purpose, super generic, yet delicious.

Next came my second course – I teetered back and forth: How do I add some interactivity in here? Well if I create an interactive component I need to make sure that I have time to complete it before the course is due- let’s start with something small!

Baby Steps

A very basic presentation of content was created. Students had the opportunity to choose one of two final projects for the course. I showcased the overview of each type of projects and the components associated in a spider web form of instruction. It was cool, hip, and easy. Right? A different way to access information instead of a document? Great! I’m done!

Yeah right…Woopty do…

It just wasn’t enough sparkle and pizzaz for my crazy-filled brain that just wanted more, more, and more!

So then this whole big craze about Office Mix swept my office. My director is so excited about it that he’s actually piloting a few of us to push it in our March courses for use by our SMEs and students. Others feel like it’s just another presentation tool.

Let’s get to the review, please!

Do you know PowerPoint® like the back of your hand? Awesome.
Are you willing to narrate or use video recording to relay information in an interactive way? Great.
Are you incredibly patient? Hmm
Do you have a tablet and stylus? Me either…


  1. Great if you want a narrative walk-through of a presentation, similar to a .ppsx
    • Gives the narrator the ability actually to record their own video via webcam or use screenshot abilities – similar to drawing on a SMARTboard in front of a class.
  2. Your Mix lives in cyberspace
    • LOVE the idea of updating a “file” that lives on the internet because it will instantly update wherever!
    • I think Office Mix is stepping towards this idea of cloud storage (MS 365) that everyone is super gung-ho about (including me)
  3. FREE
    • No explanation needed
  4. EASY
    • Depending on who you ask. But no really, easy as pie. Very small learning curve if any.
  5. FAST and POLITE customer service
    • I actually received a response from a rep at Microsoft who is the leader in the Mix department – fast, friendly, and answered my question without a condescending attitude! Rock on!


  1. Big huge con for what I needed to do: No ability to record audio files and “slide record” while triggering my transitions.
        • Mix says, “You cannot record on this slide because there is another media file present.” What on EARTH?! This is such a simple thing! The makers of Mix totally did this on purpose too, especially since there is a little disclaimer!
        • So you know what I had to do?? Live record every slide and silently press my spacebar as I came to each trigger word in my speech so the content would show as I presented it. I know it sounds petty, but this was a big deal as I value chunking in these types of presentation. It took a lot more planning from my side, but looking on the bright side: I had developed a transcript without knowing I needed to make one for accessibility purposes! Score!
          • I tested it out before I threw away the idea: I created an audio file of narration. Then, what I inserted it onto a slide. I wanted to screen record while the audio played and as I heard key words I would tab through my transitions of making content appear. Oh, noooo I couldn’t!
        • Check this out –this first slide with the Venn diagram took me an hour to 1) read correctly 2) and trigger correctly  ALL in one take. That’s a waste of time.
  2. Cannot make a Mix with hidden slides
    • What if I wanted to make a trivia game?  Learners can see all of the slides! No fun at all!
      • It’s like seeing your Christmas presents under the stairs in the linen closet when you’re 12 years old, and you shouldn’t believe in Santa, but you kind of do, but you know it’s wrong and you just want to magic to stay alive forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (me)


  1. Mark-up on screen recording.
    • While helpful and useful to point out important information, you better have a tablet and a stylus unless you don’t mind being messy. I don’t know about you, but my mouse capabilities are not as pretty as I’d like them to be. If I needed to write out a mathematical equation, you bet I willtype out each line of the equation before I write it with my mouse and marker on the screen recorder.

The Nitty Gritty

I like Office Mix. A lot of my colleagues do not. I know exactly why: They know there’s better software out there. The problem is my time was limited. My time may continue to be limited and I will not mind continuing to use Mix as long as I need to. There’s a lot Mix developers need to do, and they know there is a need for them to get a new update up and running quickly.

Another Sample Mix for your viewing pleasure!

I’m out

Wow…you go, ERAU!

Embry-Riddle To Offer Reduced Tuition for Newly Accepted-Florida Students

“Creating opportunities and access for these students is a win for everyone,” said Embry-Riddle Interim President Dr. John R. Watret.

I think it is fascinating to be a part of this incredible institution. Every day I am reminded of why everyone boasts about the university, working here, and the community feel that people get when they arrive on campus or speak to anyone with a connection. I can definitely say, “they know how to pick ’em” because I sure do work with some intelligent and astounding individuals who have one goal in mind: Let’s do better for future generations.

The decision to move and start my new career here has already been incredibly rewarding…in just four months!

Why do we limit ourselves?

“When you walked in here today, many of you didn’t believe you could draw, and I’ve got a question for you about that: How many other beliefs or limiting thoughts do we carry around with us every day? Beliefs that we could potentially challenge and think differently about. And if we did… what else could be possible for us all?”

Today I learned how to draw five different characters!

Found this enlightening TedTalk at JohnOlaughlin’s blog and it spoke to me immediately. I have strong feelings about mind-over-matter situations. If you try and believe that you can do something you can do it. However, you may not do it as well as another person – and you want to know why? Your outcome level is usually based on your own perceptions! I could go on all day, but there’s another reason I am sharing this video.

Modeling is, first and foremost, an excellent way to showcase expectations and proper methods. You, the model, is stating that “this” is an acceptable form of the outcome.

However, when does modeling take away from creativity? From thinking outside the box? We ask students of all ages to be the pioneers of the newest, greatest, and most fabulous thing that haven’t even been thought of or invented, yet we model everything.

There is only a handful of ways to tie shoe laces; there’s even a rhyme about bunnies to go with it! So what was the final straw for the inventor of the no-lace shoe? Did that idea of modeling tying one’s shoe over and over again irritate someone so much that they decided to invent the million dollar idea? If we teach people to do something one way, is it beneficial? If so, at what cost? In what terms? What subjects or situations?

Modeling is beneficial, don’t get me wrong, but I think it needs to be done at an appropriate time with a lot of room and focus for creativity.

Modeling for proof of self-ability and gratification is the goal. Add a sprinkle of creativity and free-form and you’ve got yourself the best type of modeling!


And it Begins

Worldwide-Headquarters-SignageFour months ago I was traveling from Charleston, SC to my new, but temporary, home in South Daytona, FL. Weeks away from graduating with my Masters in Instructional Design from Western Governors University, I earned a position as an Instructional Designer at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide.

I left behind my husband and dog to sell our townhouse and meet me in temporary housing while our new home was being built. A month prior, we had three days to pick where to spend our next part of our lives together.

At the same time, I started my new job and learned to be flexible and transition with ease. However, if we fast forward to today I have developed so many relationships and have already enhanced my craft. My superiors are so motivating and supportive in my creative decisions. I’m learning about new and innovative software and simulations.

My goal for this blog is to connect with other instructional designers and e-learning fanatics as well as showcase my opinions from my many experiences.