Being Successful in this Course

Elements of customized

There are limits with university structures, but my intent with this course is to try to incorporate elements of personalized/customized learning:

  • Flexible timelines for most assignments mixed with communication on your progress
  • Options to re-do and improve your work(when time allows)
  • Feedback focused on identifying learner thinking
  • Choices with the readings
  • A mix of concepts, knowledge, and practical application/skills
  • Small group conversations with opportunities to have individual dialogue/conversation with the instructor (mostly initiated by you)

If you have other suggestions for including more customized learning practices, let me know.

Self-regulate your time

This course is self-paced with only a couple of assignments with hard deadlines. You will discover this course requires some self-regulation; I have had people who put off too much until the last minute and get buried.

One of the least desirable aspects of self-paced online courses is silence between learner/instructor. While most deadlines are flexible, I will ask for early unfinished drafts within the proposed deadlines so that I can see progress. Just communicate with me when things get hectic; we have all experienced when life gets in the way of good intentions.

Everyday reading & activities

There is an enormous amount of required reading, so I highly recommend you set aside a hard-and-fast daily book reading time minimum of 45 minutes (every day) with longer stretches on some days. Also, plan daily the time to read/review one Activity as some activities take multiple days (it is not so much volume of reading but rather slow, close reading of more complex concepts). If you are like me, avoid the temptation to say, “I’ll wait till this weekend.” You need those longer periods for your writing, not for catching up with reading.

Balance perspectives

The important focus within your assignments is on your thinking. There are two common mistakes I have observed of former students—some fill the paper with lots of quotes from the readings but provide little personal perspective or do not demonstrate understanding, while others provide a heavy dose of unsupported thoughts and opinions with little regard to the readings.   A successful paper provides an excellent blend of both author perspective and personal perspective while tying it back to the objectives of this course.

Use feedback as a formative tool

I have intentionally moved away from rubrics and focused more on using the Feedback Guide spreadsheets as tool to track your thinking on specific questions. I highly recommend you print out or electronically use a copy of the questions while you read, to write notes as you come across those topics. View the writing as a long-term-draft-while-reading process rather than a read-first-then-write-later process. It will save you time in the long run.

Feedback explanation videos

These videos explain my system for feedback, including why often I withhold scores in my feedback.

Redo Assignments

Everyone can re-do assignments—I would rather see mastery demonstrated by all, as opposed to sorting students via grades. My process is to give you feedback on your assignment by identifying my interpretation of your thinking. I often provide feedback withholding the grade for a few days/weeks as grades encourage people to work for the grade rather than for improved learning (there is a difference). It is important to get assignments to me early and often—leaving them until the end provides no opportunity to interact and improve. A mastery system like this creates some frustration as it is more time-consuming for both you and me than traditional grading, but I think it is worth it for the learning.

Make re-submission changes obvious

If re-submitting a PDF, I highly recommend you make changes easy to find by using a different color font (Word, on the other hand, can automatically do this via the document comparison feature). This greatly speeds up my ability to turn the paper back to you. I also recommend that you organize your assignments, articles, or documents as an online portfolio, e.g. a Google Drive or Microsoft Onedrive folder (online makes it available from multiple devices and less likely to suffer a storage crash). If none of these options make sense to you, do not worry about it–creating an electronic portfolio is strictly a recommendation for your personal organization.

Co-construct ideas

If you have ideas for alternative readings or assignments, let me know—I am certainly willing to co-construct assignments if they fall within the content and goals of the class. If it helps improve your motivation or learning, I am interested in having the conversation.

Periodical Databases

This course requires access to research databases like Ebsco or ProQuest. As students of USF, your account provides access to these databases. Also, most school libraries/networks have availability to these, but inquire with your school librarian or media people. Also, most public libraries provide access to these services (often you can access from home with your library card), so find the best option for you.
Example assignment that explains the database access.


Most assignments have a page range listed. If you need more pages to get your point across, you can go beyond the limit. The page ranges are a guideline.

ChatGPT & LLMs

ChatGPT and other Large Language Model (LLM) tools can greatly contribute to learning when used correctly. For this class, use it as a learning assist tool to spur your own learning and writing, not as a short-cut replacement for reading, researching, reflecting, and writing. My experience (so far) in exploring LLMs: they produce writing that is often shallow and require more refinement.

My recommendation is to start a paper with your own thinking in bullet points/outlines/drafts. Then see what ChatGPT can do to spur other thoughts and ideas from you. The purpose of the papers in this class is to gauge YOUR LEARNING. Outright copying/pasting from LLMs completely ruins your own learning process and undermines trust with your instructor. If you do want to use whole sections of output from LLMs, use it as a quote similar to how you quote articles/books. Especially since you have every opportunity in this class to redo weaknesses in papers, let’s keep them predominantly composed of your own ideas, reflections, and writing. | | (requires Microsoft Edge browser) |

Tech Tip: video speed

Most of the videos, particularly the instructor’s flipped videos, have an option to change listening speed (click on the gear). This can be useful if you need to compress your time for studying.

Tech Tip: managing accounts

With your work at your school, you probably have access to online resources like Google Drive or Docs/Sheets/Sides and Microsoft OneDrive via your school account. The tricky part is you may have other accounts with these services like a personal account, or via other organizations. Managing your accounts can be a problem when you switch from one to another, particularly within one browser.

For example, we have the Learner Agency Reflection Tool, a Google Sheet, that you will use in this course. It is View only, so you have to Save a Copy for you to use it. Your browser can get confused if you try to switch accounts within the same browser, or you will get confused when you save that copy as to which Google Drive should you find it again.

There are two solutions that can help with making this work so much easier.

  1. Install multiple browsers on your computer and “assign” one browser to each account or organization. Depending on the type of computer you are using, you have available to you: Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Brave, Safari (Macintosh/IOS). For example, you could make Brave your school browser and make Microsoft Edge your personal account browser, etc. Whenever you open that browser, it only remembers that account. (If you are using a Chromebook, you are stuck with only Chrome so multiple browsers are not an option).
  2. Within Firefox on Windows, Linux, or MacOS, there is an extension from the Firefox makers (Mozilla) called Multi-Account Containers. This tool allows you to set up containers (Personal, USF, K12, etc) that hide the cookies from the other containers. With multiple tabs open, there is no confusion about which account you are using. You can even color code them so you can quickly see which tab is associated to each account (my USF container is purple, of course). I use this tool all the time!

Tech Tip: notes

If you are writing notes while listening to videos, consider a note-taking app that records while you write (e.g. Notability). If you have a note that makes little sense, you can pinpoint the exact part of the audio lecture where you wrote the note–a real time saver.

Tech Tip: share your document

Whatever online service you use, when you share a link to a document with me, be sure to give permission to view or edit the document. I also have personal Google ( and Microsoft ( accounts.