Time Saving with Online Learning

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Today, I turned in my grades for my first online course. I’ve been a distance learner but this J-term was my first time teaching a web-based class. When I proposed developing the curriculum for online learning, I still had my doubts if I could effectively meet my course objectives. I prepared the course with the best examples of online learning I researched. To my delight, my students achieved the learning outcomes and reviewed the course positively. Additionally, I gained deeper insight into online learning. In an increasingly digital world, digital courses must be at the forefront of higher education. Online education allows faculty and student alike to be freed of the restrictions of time and space; giving back time to better approach their work.

The Department of Education reported that around 4.5 million students of Title IV schools were enrolled in some or entirely in online courses. This accounts for a quarter of enrolled students in the institutions. Additionally, many turn to web-based courses through services like Udemy, Coursera, and dozens of other massive open online courses (MOOCs). Online learning is clearly gaining traction as a staple of higher education.

As I developed my online class, Hyperlocal Storytelling, I initially thought of only the convenience it offered me and my students. Within the first week, I learned there was another advantage. Time. I had time to work on other courses’ lesson plans. Similarly, my students were able to attend more courses. The confines of traditional courses can actually limit what can be accomplished. Online courses can be worked on at any time from anywhere. This flexibility gives students more freedom in their academic load and in pursuing internships or careers.

Online education isn’t perfect for every situation. Education Database Online notes two reasons students would seek traditional learning; students can utilize a university’s equipment and access tutoring and assistance. Furthermore, many students desire the tangible experience of a classroom.

Part of the challenge for online classes might be in their structure. Are the faculty creating the right learning environment? In my own preparation, my research advocated for students to have significant access to their instructors and be engaged multiple ways. My approach was to teach through the collective of emails, video lectures, reading, and diverse online and offline assignments. Additionally, students could get my assistance via video chat, phone, emails, and even office hours. Anticipating their needs, I tried to overcome some of online education’s shortcomings. The outcome was overwhelmingly positive.

I don’t believe the choice in higher education is either-or. I foresee a hybrid environment becoming the new status quo. There are now countless web-based tools for communication, collaboration, and content creation. Could writing and research based courses make a digital shift? What if more lecture heavy classes were adapted for web-based learning? Could it stand to reason that half Gen. Ed. requirements be taken online? Gaining back time doesn’t equate to a sacrifice of quality. It could mean, however, that students will have the opportunity to explore their field of study more fully.

It will take major changes to transition higher education to hybrid learning. The educational environment will need to be rebuilt from the ground up and long-held traditions will need to be revised. However, as students gain more flexibility, they will discover new ways to invest in their learning. Faculty will be free to strengthen their pedagogy. As a whole, higher education will become more relevant to those in pursuit of knowledge. An efficient online learning environment that is in tandem with traditional courses will create an education that is time well spent.

 

Oil tax breaks cripple Oklahoma schools

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In 2014, the State of Oklahoma wagered the good times would last. Oklahoma placed its chip on tax breaks. A gamble made in desperation, the state stood so much to lose. The dice rolled snake eyes. Every state department is malnourished by budget cuts. Facing bleaker economics in 2016, Oklahoma demands even more cuts. One of the most devastated departments is Education. The children of Oklahoma are the ones to pay the price for a bet gone badly.

The cost of oil comfortably sat at over $100 a barrel in the summer of 2014. Oklahoma passed a bill that legislature hoped would encourage more drilling. Starting in June 2015, new wells would only be taxed 2% for their first 3 years, afterwards climbing to 7%. Oil plays a key part of Oklahoma’s Gross Production revenue, which is the state’s 3rd largest source of revenue. By the end of 2014, however, the price of oil plummeted to half its value. Starting the New Year, oil is under $30 a barrel. This compounded the existing economic woes caused by low top tax rates. In response, the State of Oklahoma forced massive budget cuts across almost every department. Already ranked one of the worst states for education, the Oklahoma Department of Education was hit even harder by another round of budget cuts this January. The excessive tax breaks to both individuals and companies have created the opposite effect of their purpose.

The lower tax rate for drilling is not without its backers. Supporters are quick to point to oil price’s ebb and flow. The bill makes sense when oil prices are high and when residents are pouring into the economy. Advocates don’t want to make knee-jerk reactions in the event prices should rise again. The problem is that the entire bill relies on the accuracy of estimates, which have proven over and over to not be reliable.

The combination of income tax cuts and tax breaks to the oil industry has crippled Oklahoma’s departments. This includes almost $47 million cuts from the Department of Education. A 3% reduction is mandated this year across the board. School lunch matching loses 30%. AP teacher training, AP test fee assistance, and staff development funds are halved. The STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is completely defunded. It’s predicted some schools will be forced to close.

Oklahoma is caught in a downward spiral with its tax breaks and budget cuts. Education leads to prosperity. By defunding education efforts, Oklahoma will fail in creating leaders and industry pioneers. It’s self-damning to cut STEM programs that would produce future engineers and scientists. Oklahoma’s taxes must be revised for any recovery to occur.

Renewable energy is gaining more attention as oil’s appeal wanes. Despite push back from oil lobbyists, Oklahoma should focus its tax incentives for the emerging wind and solar industry. While oil will always remain in constant flux, wind and solar energy would provide a stable market. The State is poised to be a national leader in renewable energy if it would make the commitment. Along with revisions to income tax rates, the Gross Production revenue from a diverse energy portfolio would put Oklahoma’s education back on track, ensuring a brighter future.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Three No-Cost Ideas for Starting Out as a Freelancer

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The wife and I were at lunch when our waiter introduced himself. Right away, I noticed his golden voice. I asked if he was a student and what his aspirations were. He had left college for personal reasons but wanted to be a voice actor. He had no idea how to go about achieving this. Even from my students, I hear a lot of inquiries of how to get started as a freelancer and jumpstart their careers. Here are three tips for getting started in freelancing at no cost to yourself!

BUILD YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA CIRCLE

Having social media profiles is no new thing but are you using them professionally? Social media can be a powerful tool for marketing yourself. However, you need to begin thinking of yourself as a brand. Is your existing social media reflective of how you want to sell yourself? Probably not. Rather than painstakingly adjust your current online presence, create a new one. Start from scratch and shape each aspect of how you will be presented.

You need to begin with one email that can be used to create all the other profiles. This email could also serve as your primary contact. I recommend using Gmail since many services since you get a Youtube account and access to Google’s services (Drive, Docs, Calendar, etc.). Begin using this email to register for all the other websites and social media profiles.

A Facebook Page and Twitter will be great ways to publish your work, update people on your current projects, and socialize with followers. Starting a WordPress blog lets you both write on your current projects, your related interests and thoughts, and even create hub for all your other profiles. A Youtube and/or Soundcloud profile will let you upload and showcase your audio/visual work for potential clients.

With an online presence established, start publishing! Even when you’re not getting work, talk about your topic and become a source of information on it. This will help build yourself as a professional in your field. Find the message boards and other online discussion groups where other professionals meet and join the conversation. Do everything to put yourself out there.

FINDING FREE EQUIPMENT

Equipment is expensive. Professional media equipment easily costs thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. The problem I’ve seen too many times are novice freelancers maxing out credit cards to get the toys but not knowing what’s next. Finding no gigs, they’ve put themselves in debt. If you are just starting out, then accept that better equipment must be earned.

“That’s all fine and good,” you say, “but how am I supposed to do anything with no equipment!”

Take an inventory. Chances are, you have a computer and a smartphone. That’s ok. Use what you have. Smartphones may not be professional equipment but you can still make a professional product with them. Check out my Smartphone Storytelling series! With just a smartphone and computer you could easily put together a commercial for a small business, a video for a church, and many other smaller gigs.

If you know anyone doing media, especially as a freelancer, see if they have any older equipment they don’t mind parting with. Through my early work, I managed to nab all kinds of gear, including an audio mixer and a lens for my DSLR. Get whatever you can and as you gain profit begin upgrading your tools.

Software is perhaps the easiest to get. Plan on doing audio recording/editing? Try Audacity, a free audio editor comparable to Adobe Audition. Need something to edit photos? How about GIMP, a free photo editor comparable to Photoshop. Animation and graphics? Blender. Video editing? Davinci Resolve. Even legal document templates are available online to help you create your contract (which you will need). Just start searching!

GET IN THE GAME

To start freelancing you need start doing it! There are many free online marketplaces to tap into that will put you right in the game. The basic plan on GigSalad allows potential clients to find you. Fiverr lets you create a job that you will do for $5 and other higher cost premium jobs.

To be more proactive, you could also look for opportunities on Craigslist and similar websites. These sites consistently have opportunities for freelancers. Indie filmmakers are always looking for casts and crews. Startup businesses have needs for photographers, media performers, and other roles. Seeking them out can help you choose the gigs that work best within your schedule and abilities.

Finally, if you are truly just starting out, you probably have no experience or any samples of your work. This makes it hard to get a paid gig. So forget about the money. Do pro bono. Many non-profits, churches, or small businesses have a need for media work but neither the resources or personel to do it. This approach allows you to help support a cause or business you favor. Additionally, its an easy way to build that portfolio when starting out.

Don’t be discouraged to start small and work up from there. You have to crawl before you run.

Freelancing isn’t for anyone. It takes a lot of work! However, you won’t get anything accomplished unless you try. Using no-cost strategies, you can test the waters before diving in and possibly getting in over your head. So go ahead! Get started!

Five Tips for the Freshman Journalism Student

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With Fall, many highschool graduates are undertaking the crazy adventure of higher education. Among the college-bound is the next generation of journalists. As the Professor of Broadcast Journalism at Oklahoma Baptist University, I’ve witnessed the shock many students have when they take their first steps into news. Its a lot more work than most realize as they often say, “I had no idea…”

To those brave souls beginning their journey in to journalism, here are my five tips to help you better prepare.

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CONSUME THE NEWS

Are you reading the news? No? Start doing it.

Are you watching news broadcasts? No? Start watching them.

If you want to be a journalist, prepare to eat, breathe, and sleep the news. Haha! Not really, there is no sleep for journalists. You need to be plugged into news all the time. Know what is happening in the world around you and stay informed. Consume news in different formats from different organizations. There is no room for favoritism, read and watch it all. You will not only stay up-to-date with events but learn different styles of reporting.

The more you educate yourself, the better you will be able to report on various topics. You will be stronger at finding stories, covering all the angles, and understanding the weight of certain events.

A great way to be on top of things is through Twitter and Facebook. Follow local and national journalists and news organizations of interest. If you check your social media few times a day, you will get the daily updates straight to your feed.

GET PLUGGED IN

Starting college can be an overwhelming experience. There are plenty of things demanding your attention. However, one of the best ways to establish a strong foundation in journalism is by connecting early with your school’s journalistic organizations. You won’t be expected to know everything from Day 1 but taking baby steps with the group will allow you to gain solid experience. Sticking with it through the years, you can graduate with an established reputation and attractive portfolio.

Make journalism your sport. A college athlete works hard to get on the team and trains to be ready for game day. Similarly, a journalism student needs to get involved and commit the time to getting the publication or broadcast polished. Take on that work ethic and you will be a News MVP in no time!

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USE YOUR ADVISORS

In college, you will have a faculty advisor and plenty of “unofficial” advisors. Your professors are excellent sources of knowledge. Too many students don’t take advantage of their teachers. Many of those old guys have careers longer than your existance and have plenty to share.

Professor’s help those who help themselves. Take iniative and go beyond the classroom. Be open with your advisor on your academic and professional goals. Talk to them about what opportunities are available to advance yourself. Ask your professors to teach you beyond the textbook and about their own experiences professionally.

LEARN EVERYTHING

Journalists used to have dedicated roles. You had a producer, a reporter, a photographer, an editor, etc. Times have changed and journalists are expected to be jacks-of-all-trades. News organizations are looking for journalists to be able to do it all. In some places, reporters are their own photographers and editors. Many times, photographers will be expected to conduct interviews, film the story, edit it all, and publish it. And everybody, I mean everybody, needs to be a social media guru.

News organizations are all experimenting with this new reality and, honestly, schools are still playing catch-up. Your education is your own. If you want to be best prepared for the climate of the newsroom, learn everything. Take courses beyond the role you would like to do. Are you an aspiring reporter? Take some photography and editing courses. Wanna be a photographer? Learn to write. The more tools in your belt, the more prepared you will be for any job.

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START NOW

From this day forth, don’t view yourself as a journalism student. You are a journalist. Even as you are learning the craft, see yourself as a professional. If you are truly serious about being a journalist, start acting like one.

Where to begin? Do an assessment of your online self. Is your social media reflective of how you want job seekers to view you? If not, clean it up. Additionally, consider creating new emails and profiles for the purpose of publishing your work.

If you feel you are ok online, start being a journalist. Find stories, write, take photos, report. If you have a specific topic you’d like to cover, go for it! Be a community journalist. Report on local sports. Cover pop culture. Just start establishing yourself. You will not only be building yourself up as a commodity but gaining invaluable experience. Even if no one views your work, you will have, at least, began training your “muscles” for bigger and better opportunities. If you do gain viewers, you’ll have the beginnings of a killer portfolio. Dream big!

For journalism tips and trends, follow me on Twitter @xtiannetizen.

Four Lessons From A First Year Faculty

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After over a decade in media and journalism, I began a career teaching higher ed. Having come from the professional field, I was not familiar with the world of academia beyond my experience as a student. I knew God put me in the right place but I had many misconceptions and lessons to be learned. Here are just some brief notes on things I learned the hard way.

ITS NOT JUST ABOUT TEACHING

Higher education is about far more than teaching. My fantasy vision of effortlessly imparting my wisdom on the future generation of journalists was quickly overshadowed by the behind-the-scenes of course preparation, constant meetings, recruiting efforts, official and unofficial advising, grading, office hours, course text review, networking, professional development,  emailing, and other side activities. I would say only about 1/4 of my work is actually in the classroom and just as much goes home with me. Don’t read this as a complaint but rather the realization of what “teaching” actually is. It’s all very necessary for both the growth of the students and yourself.

When all of it hits you, there comes a sudden realization how beautifully complicated it all is. Similar to putting on a news show, there are so many elements worked on that must come together for that one moment, the classroom. When it goes poorly, you can see all the little missteps that went into it and hopefully learn from it. When it goes well, you can see all the little efforts that came together to generate the lightbulb in your students’ minds. That one brief moment is what makes it all worth it.

I CANT BE EVERYTHING TO EVERYONE

I was grading the midterm exams and turned into a complete mess. My confidence was zapped and I felt like a loser. A handful of students failed the exam. Frustrated, I took it personally and believed it to be my fault, somehow. Did I make it too hard? Did I not prepare my lessons well? Was there some magical technique that the senior faculty knew that I didn’t? I’m a terrible teacher, I thought.

Similarly, I had some students clearly show disdain towards me and my courses. I even got some negative comments on student reviews! Was I not nice and friendly? Some of those comments aren’t even true so what must I have done to be picked on? Is my teaching boring and worthless? I’m a terrible teacher, I thought again.

So I realized I’m not perfect. And after some reflection and mentoring, I realized neither are my students. Its easy to feel like the classroom of students are homogeneous but that can’t be further from the truth. I’ve got every shade of the rainbow in my classes and each student is an individual. No matter how passionate I am about the material, some students simply will not care. Some students have not learned great studying habits. Some are taking the class just to complete an elective. Some students think my stories are lame and my lectures boring. Some think they know better than me. Some students have personalities that don’t mesh well with mine.

I cannot be everything for everyone. I have to accept that. I am responsible for what I bring as a teacher but not what my students bring. You can bring a horse to water but can’t make it drink. With that, I am called to Christ-likeness and love them equally.

TALK TO EVERYONE

One of the things I love about journalism is what I learn from other people. I love listening to people’s experiences. I always find something I can take with me.

Any university is going to have a sizable staff that have a wealth of experience covering a wealth of topics. Taking the time to know my colleagues across campus opens my eyes to new teaching methods, resources, time management strategies, opportunities, and more. Teaching at a Christian university, I can hear how a business professor is incorporating the Bible into his lectures and adopt it myself. An English professor can share her favorite tool for helping with citation formatting. Going beyond my circle introduces me to new ideas I’d never have thought of.

I also learned to spend plenty of time with non-teaching staff, as well. I gain lots of insights into campus culture and activities by building relationships with secretaries, admission counselors, and even the food service employees. The added benefit of all this is I make plenty of friends to brighten my day!

IM JUST AS MUCH A STUDENT

I adopted a text on journalism and social media which had been published a year prior. It had some fresh ideas but I was surprised to see some of its strategies were already outdated. How could something so new already feel old? I might as well ask myself that question. Only a year out of the news business and some of what I know is already stale.

To be a great teacher, I have to be a great student. I constantly find myself trying to tap into the media vein. Furthermore, I need to study comprehensively various strategies, resources, and industry changes. Its like taking a world religions class where you are learning multiple, often conflicting beliefs.

Almost every free minute I get, I am reading and watching informative media, conversing with professionals, and consuming as much information relevant to my field, as possible. Take it as either exhausting or exhilarating but there is no end for the life-long learner.

A year under my belt. earning my red badge of courage, I find myself just as new as I did last fall. I believe that it will always be the case. While the task may be the same, every year will bring its own challenges, rewards, and lessons to be learned. I am grateful for the opportunity to be an educator. I am a pioneer on an unending quest of discovery.

Occupy the Corners OKC

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America is at a boiling point when it comes to issues of police and community violence. Law enforcement nation-wide are beginning to make changes towards increased transparency and stronger community relations. While much discussion has been centered around police reform, communities are recognizing the need to heal from within.

PREVENTING BALTIMORE IN OKLAHOMA CITY

In Oklahoma City, violent crimes plague the communities and create tension for the police. With crime rates well above the national average, residents of OKC are recognizing the need for change.

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Milton Combs, founder of the PEOPLE Foundation, has worked with the OKC chapter of the NAACP and the police’s Citizen Advisory Board towards ending violence in the city. He says that Oklahoma City communities will need to be proactive in changing their neighborhoods.

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Milton Combs, CEO of the PEOPLE Foundation

“By doing forums. By having neighborhood meetings…By having the kinds of events where citizens can vent and they can also learn about what’s going on in their town to help police-community relations and then asking them to step up to the plate.”

This year, Combs and other community leaders have been involved in several such events. Back in March, the Oklahoma City NAACP and the non-profit, Ending Violence Everywhere, partnered with Oklahoma City police in their first ever Police and Community Trust Forum. The dialogue led to further discussions on how the community can work to decreasing crime.

Oklahoma City’s Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. is starting a campaign modeled after Al Sharpton and the National Action Network’s “Occupy the Corners” project.

In the shadow of the state capitol, the neighborhood around NE 23rd and MLK suffers greatly from the violence Rev. Jackson and others rally against.

POLICE RESPOND TO FATAL SHOOTING IN NE OKLAHOMA CITY

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On June 13th, nearly two dozen community leaders and residents met on the high-traffic, high-crime corner to advocate an end to gun violence.

Participants included pastors, non-profit organization leaders, NAACP members, and concerned residents. Speakers shared on the issues of violence in the community, how citizens can hold police accountable, and the need for deeper involvement. Rev. Jackson said this is all about doing the right thing.

“Our elderly people in our community deserve to feel safe. Our young people deserve to feel safe. We deserve to reclaim our neighborhoods as what they were, as what we remember.”

Looking forward, Rev. Jackson hopes support for “Occupy the Corners OKC” will grow. His ambition is to have multiple simultaneous rallies throughout Oklahoma City’s problem neighborhoods and begin a door-to-door outreach with their message.

“We’re here spreading love. We’re here saying that our lives matter. That your life has worth and that we need one another. We are the keepers of our brothers and sisters.”