Email Dr. Finley



General Academic Information


A. Online Education Issues

I. Misconceptions About Online Learning

Before we get started, let me dispel some common misconceptions about this course:
(These are borrowed from Dr. Chris Sax, University of Maryland University College).

1. Web classes are easy.
No. In fact, many students say that Web classes are harder than traditional face-to-face classes. You must do much of the learning yourself. The teacher cannot see you and therefore cannot see when you misunderstand something.

2. Work for web classes can be done at my own pace.
-No. Web courses are not correspondence-type, self-paced classes. There is a definite schedule and there are due dates. You can work at whatever time of day you prefer and at whatever time fits your schedule but the courses require you to check into the course area several times a week and you must meet all deadlines in the syllabus.

3. Since this is a web class it won't take much time.
-No. For a traditional face-to-face 3 credit college course you should expect to spend 3 hours in lecture per week, and then 3-6 hours outside of class reading, studying, and doing assignments. That adds up to 6-9 hours per week for a 3 credit course taught in a traditional classroom. A 3 credit online course entails the same amount of work and the same amount of time. Just because you're not sitting in a classroom for 3 hours every week doesn't mean it is less work. So, you should expect to spend 6-9 hours per week in this 3 credit online course. (In fact, if  you factor in commuting time you actually save some time by doing the course online rather than driving to campus to take it). Keep in mind that summer school courses require even more time per week since the same amount of work as a fall or spring term is completed even though the summer term is 3-4 weeks shorter.  I know it is a lot of work but most things worth doing take some time and are worth doing well.

4. For Introduction to or General Psychology courses: Since this is a general education class it will be easy.
-No. This is a rigorous college-level course which covers a lot of complex material. General education courses tend to be broader and cover less depth while covering a greater breadth of material. Also, the course number (100, 200, etc.) does not indicate easy and hard courses. Sometimes 100 level courses can be even more difficult then upper level courses since they are so broad. The number indicates how specialized the topics in the course are. In addition, course difficulty is very hard to determine. It depends on your reading and analytical skills, your previous experience with the topic and your interest in the material.

5. This is an Instructor-centered class and I am dependent upon the instructor for all of my learning.
-No. A fair amount of learning will be done on your own through reading and contemplating the content.  I will guide you to the key points and concepts and reinforce them by providing you with objectives, study guides, and through our weekly asynchronous online discussions.


II.  SURVIVAL TIPS FOR Online Students
Margo Chaires, Economics, Prince George’s Community College

  • Allow Time. Most students are not prepared for the amount of time that an on-line course takes. Remember that you are teaching the material to yourself. Therefore, each chapter must be read carefully at least two times. This takes time – more time than sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture.
  • Stick With It! Distance Education courses require perseverance, self-discipline, self-motivation, and the ability to work independently – more so than face-to-face on-campus classes.
  • Keep Up – Be Organized. This is a course that builds as it goes. Concepts learned in one chapter are combined with concepts in subsequent chapters. For example, if you fall behind or don’t learn the concepts in chapter 9, you will have difficulty with chapters 10 and 12.
  • Meet Deadlines. Do not get behind. Have each week’s assignments completed on time.  Although, you will find that I am flexible in giving you some additional time here and there when necessary, there can come a point when you are so far behind that you cannot catch up. A grade of "Incomplete" is not an option in 99 percent of the cases.
  • Make Lists. Make lists of things that need to be memorized and study them while you are waiting in line at the grocery store or the bank or at traffic lights.
  • Use Your Printer. Print out anything that I write. My postings may include presentation notes offering additional explanations of difficult concepts, additional examples, homework assignments, and quizzes.
  •  Keep in Touch. It is very important that you keep in touch with me and with  your fellow classmates in a distance education course. They cannot help you and you cannot help them if you are not around through e-mail, at the discussions, or at the Cybercafé.
  • Keep Me and Your Cybermates Informed about changes in your e-mail address. We cannot stay in touch with you if you are not available. We cannot learn from you if you are not available. Make sure you keep your email address updated. (For Blackboard, do it under Tools, for Webtycho, use IFIS. If you use a free email service, make sure your keep your mailbox updated so it has space to receive email.)
  • Don’t try to "Go It Alone!". In a distance education course, you must teach yourself. And you will most likely need some help – from me and from your cybermates. So Keep in Touch.
  • Establish an E-mail list of Class Members or Study Groups that are  formed. This way you can easily send messages without having to logon to the Blackboard system. Keep in Touch with them and me.

Don’t Drop the Course without talking to me first. Together, we may be able to find a solution to your dilemma.

III. Get Organized!!

1.  Purchase a three ring binder, a hole punch, and subject dividers.
2.  Label the first subject divider "Orientation Materials." 
3.  Label the second subject divider "Syllabus."  Place the Course Syllabus and General Information, 
             Required Materials, Grading Policy, and Course Schedule documents in this  section.
4.  Label a subject divider for each week of the course. Most have 14 weeks but the number may vary.
5.  Label a subject divider "Final Exam Review."

Each week, print out all documents posted and put them in the appropriate section of your binder in the order that they appear in the weekly assignment folder.  I have put the documents in the weekly assignment folder in the order in which you should read them.


1. The course starts on July 4 (or whatever the start date is)– do I need to take off from work?
Online learning is asynchronous (that means that the course doesn't meet in real-time) for the most part. That means that you do not have to be in the course at any particular hour. We will work together in the course and even hold group discussions but we may never be in the course at the same hour. Frequently, students enroll in these courses from all parts of the country and even across the globe. Thus, you may work in the course at 2 a.m. and I may be in there at 11 p.m.  If there is a desire on the part of the students, we can hold "real-time" (synchronous) chats but those will be optional. You may also use the chat room (Virtual Classroom) to "meet" and study with other students. The course is NOT self-paced though and there are deadlines for all elements of the course. The deadlines are somewhat flexible in that you have several days to complete tests and assignments and they allow you to work around your obligations. I am operating on the East Coast of the United States. Please adjust your time accordingly.

2. How do I do research for my papers?
One of the problems with online courses is separating good research from the bad. One way is to use the Library. The librarians will generally direct you to credible sources including refereed journals. If you have not completed a course in library services, you will need to work with the librarians.  It takes work and time to learn to use the databases. Expect to spend time doing so. The Library has some material online and is working to put more access online. F you cannot find what you are looking for in the online databases, you will have to go to a college library. You will have to use a College library to complete some work. The public library will not have refereed journals. You can learn other things at the Library. You can learn how to properly cite references, including online sources

3. Help! I'm being sent on TDY (temporary duty) or out of town for work. What do I do?
If you get sent out of town you need to contact me IMMEDIATELY. Since there are not daily deadlines, if you will have access to a computer and the internet for some part of that time, there is no problem. You can work from anywhere. If you are being sent to a secure location with no outgoing internet access, email me immediately. Otherwise, you have at least 7 days to do each assignment and so TDY should not be a problem. For some courses, it is impossible to be away from such service for more than a day or two. If you will be without internet access for more than a week, that will be a problem for all classes. Be sure you will have access.  If you choose to take a vacation during the semester, you must have access while you are gone. Most hotels have business centers where you can rent internet access. Many public libraries also have free access.

4. How do you know who is writing? (or identifying yourself)
Be sure to identify yourself in any email that you write. Put the name of the course in the subject line (e.g. ONLINEPSYC100) and be sure to sign your message with your full name. I do not memorize email names. I often read only email that is clearly class related. If your message is not labeled as I have requested, it is possible that I may delete it without reading it. If you do not sign your message, I cannot answer any questions due to the Privacy Act.

5. Do I have to worry about grammar and spelling?
One of the side effects of communicating online has been the loss of proper spelling and grammar. It is important that all of your postings in the classroom (as well as your emails to me) use proper spelling and grammar. That is another reason the work offline, check your work and then post it in the course. (Doing so also prevents your losing materials if there is a glitch in the transmission). I will not deduct for an occasional typo (I make them myself!) but if your work is full of errors, you will lose points. It is critical that you use standard English, with all the correct sentence structure, punctuation and grammar, so that I can understand what you are asking. When students email (or post discussion answers) as though they were emailing their friends and they use the shorthand of instant messaging, I cannot understand the question. It is imperative that you use proper grammar and spelling.

6. Why doesn't this Weblink work?
All weblinks are functional at the time that I post them. However, given the nature of the net, it is possible that the links will no longer work by the time you click them. I do check them periodically but you may encounter a non-working link. If you can figure out how to get to the site (sometimes all you have to do is link to the organization's home page and click a few links) go ahead and visit the site.  Please let me know that a particular link is not working. Be sure that it is a non-functioning link and not a temporary server outage.

7. What software do I need?
You must have a browser installed on your computer. Explorer works best although Netscape can also be used. You must also have up-to-date virus software. If you submit a file with a virus, I will not open it and you will not get credit for your work. Scan any assignments before submitting them.


This course is given in asynchronous time. That means that we do not have to be online at the same time. It is an intentional formatting that allows students maximum flexibility in completing course requirements. However, this is NOT a self-paced course and thus there are time requirements and deadlines.

 B. General Academic Skills


Many students who are new to online learning find learning the material without a classroom experience a little overwhelming at first. There are several things you can do to make your learning go more smoothly. How should you work? Note that you should NOT do all of these in one sitting.

1. Read everything under each of the navigation links. Print it out, put it in a notebook and refer to it often
2. Make yourself a weekly schedule and schedule in time for working on this course. General Psychology courses require 9-12 hours per week. Research Methods and upper level courses may require more. ALL courses require additional hours per week in the summer since summer school is shorter. This will avoid the syndrome of "doing it when you have a spare moment." Be sure to plan for long-range projects and to schedule extra time to study for tests and to take them.
3. Check into the classroom at least 4 times a week. (Research Methods students should plan on checking at least their group daily.) Read any Announcements for that day. Check all previous announcements to make sure you have not missed something.
4. Look over the assignment(s) for the week. They will give you some points to be looking for as you study and read.
5. For General/Introductory Psychology, read the introduction to each topic at Dr. Diane Finley's webpage. The introductions give you some idea about what you will encounter in the chapter.


6. Look over the learning objectives for each chapter. For Blackboard courses, these are the first item under each Learning Unit. For UMUC courses, these are found on the publisher websites and in the Modules. They may also be in the text or the Study Guides. These are not homework – they serve to guide your reading.
7. Skim through the chapter.
8. Reread the chapter in sections, taking notes and underlining. Look up any unfamiliar vocabulary words.
9. Answer the questions at the end of each chapter, if the book has review questions. (Try to do so without looking at the answers!) Make flashcards for each of the Key terms and concepts. You can study those in brief moments of unscheduled time if you carry them with you.
10. Complete the practice quizzes at the course website. The URL for these is generally found in the front of the textbook.
11. Reread the chapter, elaborating on any notes you took.
12. Along the way, make sure you complete the assignments and any quizzes related to this chapter.

II. Writing

William James, one of our earliest and most eminent psychologists, said “We forget that every good that is worth possessing must be paid for in strokes of daily effort” (1899).

Writing is a critical skill that all psychologists need to develop. It is a skill which means that it takes time and practice in order to become a good writer. Writing is a skill that you develop. There are many things that you can do in order to develop your own writing skills. Probably the single most important thing you can do to develop your own writing is to read and read a great deal. It is important to read “the great books” and to read works in your chosen field.

There are different types of writing and each has its own specific requirements. It is important to understand what type of writing you are being asked to do. You need to find out who the audience is. The audience will help to guide your writing as well as the tone, the words, the format.

Writing is a process, not a product, although you will produce a product. It is a process which means it happens over time. You will work with the piece and the end product may look quite different than the beginning piece. This means you should focus on the composition first, the purpose of the writing, the audience, the context. Next you focus on the grammar, spelling and APA (for psychology) format. Both are important and one without the other is useless.
Some Good Writing Habits to Develop:

1. Write from an outline – think about what you want to write about and create an outline BEFORE you begin to write the text. You can rearrange the points on the outline more easily.

2. Begin writing LONG before the deadline. Contrary to what most people think, they do NOT perform better under short deadlines.

3. Spread your writing across multiple sessions. You need time for the ideas to hibernate in between writing sessions. You need time to set the work aside and come back to it. This is especially important for proofing the paper. You need to get some distance from your work in order to really see what you have written. This requires that you begin early.

4. Stop writing before you are ready to do so. That way you will be eager to come back. Setting a schedule for writing with strict deadlines will facilitate this. Note that this does not mean that you should write for 5 minutes at a time.

5. Revise and edit as you go along. Do not wait until you have finished the whole paper. Continually revise what you have already done.

6. Read your work out loud. Reading a paper out loud will help you to hear if the paper has flow and is logical and makes sense. If you are embarrassed, turn on the shower and read it out loud in the bathroom.

7. Seek peer editing. It is very helpful to have a peer read and edit what you have done. This is not done to get only positive affirmations. You want someone to read your paper in order to give you critical feedback so you can improve your writing. Be sure that the person you choose can write in standard English.

8. Incorporate the suggestions that you get from others. Do not ask for help and then ignore that help.  I recently wrote a chapter for an edited book. I received several rounds of feedback and I made most of the changes suggested. They made the chapter better. Not to do so would be to waste the time of my reviewers.

 Common Writing Problems/Issues

1.Passive rather than active voice
      Active is preferred. Limit the use of passive voice
2. Using second person
        Formal papers never use second person
3. Word pairs
        Avoid misusing commonly confused pairs such as effect/affect, their/there, its/it’s
4. Pronoun/antecedent agreement
5. Subject/verb agreement

Some websites to  help with writing issues:

University of Washington Psychology Writing Center – a number of downloads about issues particular to APA format papers)
hints about writing papers with some common problems
links on writing in APA format
general academic writing advice
a writer’s handbook
a compendium of sites about academic writing
common writing errors

(Some of this is taken from a presentation by Dr. Dana Dunn of Moravian College)


One big issue for student writers is plagiarism. If a paper is plagiarized, there is academic dishonesty and a failure to maintain integrity. Plagiarism is a serious issue in publishing and in academia. ANY plagiarism will be penalized. This penalty can include failure of the assignment, failure of the course or more serious College or University sanctions. (See the catalogue and College website for a full description of penalties.)

Plagiarism means, in the simplest terms, using someone else's work or ideas without crediting the original source. You may certainly refer to written works, websites or other's comments but you must give them credit. Failure to do so is plagiarism. It is plagiarism even if you do not directly quote the original source. It is plagiarism EVEN IF IT IS UNINTENTIONAL. If you are unsure about whether or not you should cite something, check with me. Alternatively, it is better to overcite than undercite.

Plagiarism is more than copying from another sources without credit. You may describe Freud's theory of development but you must identify it as Freud's and you must credit your source (even if it is not the original source by Freud). You may summarize an article that you read but you must indicate the source. If you copy verbatim, you must enclose those quotes in quotation marks and include page numbers.

Submitting work done by another student or prepared by someone else (e.g. a website) is a form of plagiarism.

PLAGIARISM IS A VERY SERIOUS OFFENSE. If you are not clear about what constitutes plagiarism, ask your instructor.

One way to avoid plagiarism is to acknowledge the source of all information you use. This includes printed information as well as information in informal communications. Most everything in print (including electronic print) is copyrighted. Therefore you must give credit where credit is due. You must acknowledge ideas that you use as well as words you quote directly. You must cite even paraphrases. You must cite material even if it is very familiar to you.  If you are to document what work you use, this means you must carefully document what sources you are using and your records should be impeccable.  Documenting your sources also helps other researchers follow your logic and locate sources they may need for their own work. 

One situation which gives students problems in trying to avoid plagiarism is paraphrasing what they have read. Paraphrase means to put something in your own words. You still must cite the source of the material, however, since the ideas are not yours. The words may be but the ideas come from some other source. Also note that changing one or two words is not paraphrasing. It is copying. Some websites that can help you understand what is acceptable paraphrasing are below.


Some ideas are widely acknowledged and accepted. They are regarded as being in the "public domain." You do not have to cite knowledge that is in the public domain. The problem for most students in being able to differentiate between what is public domain knowledge and what is not. Sometimes you have to have extensive experience in an area before you know what is public domain. The best rule of thumb for students in to cite (acknowledge) when in doubt.  This does not mean you must cite every sentence you write. If you express an idea that is based on logic and any reasonable person would reach the same conclusion, then you do not need to cite the idea even if you read it in another book. You may not, however, use someone else's words directly to explain your conclusion.

You may also reference only sources which you have read personally. You may not imply that you have read something that is referenced (secondary source) in the source you are reading (primary source). There is a citation format for such information. Generally you acknowledge where you found the information (i.e. Smith, in Jones 1975). Making it sound as though you read the original or including a book on your reference list that you did not read is plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

Possible Penalties for plagiarism include:
1) failing the assignment
2) failing the course
3) permanent notation on transcript
4) referral to Student Services

If I suspect plagiarism, you will be asked to provide hard copies of all of the sources which you used to create any document. It is essential that you keep copies of all such materials until the course is complete. Failure to provide these sources will be taken as an indication of plagiarism.

Below are some websites that can help you understanding what plagiarism is.
Examples from Lebanon Valley College
From University of Maryland University College - I recommend completing the tutorials.
information from the University of Michigan


In psychology we often speak about using refereed journal articles. These are not the same thing as a magazine article found in what is often called the popular press. Popular press magazines and articles are similar to what you would find in the doctor's office or on sale at the drugstore rack. Academic journals publish refereed articles. That means 3-4 experts in the field (with academic credentials such as the PhD) have reviewed all articles and determined that they are sound scientifically and that we can have some confidence in the results. Authors usually have to do a good deal of rewriting before such articles are published. That is quite different from popular press articles which are often just sent in by a writer who may or may not have any academic credentials in that area. Editors may "commission" an article but again, there is no independent expert judging the article as there is in a refereed publication. Thus it is important that you use refereed journal articles in your work. You will NOT find full-text articles from refereed journals online, except in password protected databases. You cannot locate such work using the popular search engines such as Google. You will need to use a college or university library to locate them. If you are unsure whether a source is a refereed journal, you can check with the librarian or with me. Most libraries have online databases with refereed journals but they are usually password protected and you must be a student at that College in order to access the material. The librarians are generally available to help you learn to search the databases.

Some sites to help you understand the differences:

 Here are two more websites that will help you distinguish between refereed and popular articles. For UMUC students, you should be able to find everything you need at the UMUC library link above.


V. Reading Journal Articles

These guidelines should help you in reviewing your journal articles.

1. Provide the reference information in APA format. It is critical that you follow ALL formatting issues for these articles. Capitalization and punctuation are important.

2. Briefly state the problem that the experimenters are studying.
To answer question 2 you should explain what the experimenters were studying. Often the response to question 2 can be found at the end of the Introduction. Be cautious, however. Make sure that you include all relevant variables, even if the variable isn't mentioned at the end of the Introduction.

3. Why did the authors conduct their study?
Question 3 may be the most difficult question to answer because the answer may or may not be apparent or explicit as you read the article. As you read carefully consider the importance of the research and how that research might be utilized in the grand scheme of science or the "real world." For example, let's say you read a research report describing that 50% of children ages 4-5 have difficulty correctly categorizing colored shapes. What might be the purpose of that research? One possibility is that the researchers were interested in the cognitive capabilities of 4-5 year old children and whether their minds were developmentally able to correctly categorize objects in general. The research could be used to determine whether categorizing should be taught to 4-5 year olds or if teaching categorizing should wait until children are more cognitively capable.

4. What was (were) the independent variable(s)? There may be more than one.
You should list any and all independent variables used in analyses. Notice that the important feature of an independent variable is whether or not it was used in an analysis, not whether or not it was measured. In other words, we can measure a number of variables like gender, age, year in school, etc., but may only use one variable (e.g., gender) in our analysis. The variable(s) used in analysis is (are) the independent variable(s). Include any operational definitions of concepts.

5. What was (were) the dependent variable(s)? There may be more than one.
List all dependent variables which were used in analyses. If responses, reaction times, performance, etc. were not analyzed, do not include them as a dependent variable. For example, if participants completed the MMPI and the BDI but only the BDI was analyzed then you would list only the BDI under dependent variable(s). Again, include any relevant operational definitions.

6. Describe the participants including the number who participated.
Your description of the participants should include: where the participants came from (college, randomly selected at a doctor's office, etc.), the relative age of the participants (college students, 4th graders, etc.), and whether or not the participants were compensated in any way (received $10 for the 2 sessions, received extra credit or course credit). In addition, if two or more groups participated in the study, you should include the number of participants in each group (e.g., 134 4th graders and 152 6th graders). If you are describing survey research you should include the number of surveys mailed out and the number of surveys returned.

7. Briefly describe what the participants had to do. (procedure)
Your description should emphasize what the participants did, not what the experimenters did. Therefore, do not include any information about pre-testing, development of the testing materials, test reliability, etc. When you describe the participants' activities include information in correct chronological order - what the participants did first, second, third, etc. Your description should also include when the participants completed any dependent measures and, if deception was involved, when and how  the participants were debriefed.

8. What were the results of the experiment?
If there were 4 or fewer outcomes (significant and non significant) I expect that you will briefly describe each outcome. For example, authors might report that students rated male and female professors equally likeable (no difference in professor's gender - a non- significant outcome) but that students rated female professors as less competent than male professors (significant difference due to professor's gender). (Keep in mind that this refers to statistical significance).

If there were 5 or more outcomes I expect that you will summarize the outcomes. I recommend that you use the dependent measures as a means for summarizing outcomes. For example, if authors examined performance on the MMPI, BDI, EPI, and EPPS you can summarize all the outcomes for the MMPI, then summarize the outcomes for the BDI, etc. It is critical that you include information about significance.

9. Are there limitations to the study?
What were the limits to the study? Often this is related to size of the sample or how the sample was acquired. Other issues also cause limits to how we generalize the results.  

Modified form From Kirsten Rewey , St. Vincent’s University, on TIPS (retrieved Sun, 2 May 1999 16:26:30 -0400 EDT)

VI. Peer Editing

Peer editing is an important and useful tool for all writers. It is also a good exercise to learn to evaluate critically the writing of other students. This is not the time to give only positive affirmation. You do want to give some of that positive feedback but the ultimate goal is to help fellow students improve their papers. Thus you need to read critically and give such feedback.

To prepare for peer editing, make sure each paragraph is numbered. This makes it easier for the peer reviewer to give feedback to the writer.

To begin, skim the entire paper to get the gist of the paper.

Read each paragraph in the introduction.  Complete 2 statements: 1) What I think is happening in this paragraph is …..
(Remember the goal of the introduction to present RELEVANT related literature that builds a case for the hypothesis and to introduce the rationale for the methodology)

  2) This paragraph might be improved if ….

After addressing each paragraph, address the following issues: 1) did the introduction fully educate you about why the issue is important, 2) what we already know about the topic and 3) did it build a case for the hypothesis? Did the introduction tell you why the researchers expect to find what they expect to find?

Read the methodology: are the participants clearly described? Is there any extraneous detail? Is the procedure clear enough to be replicated? Is there extraneous detail?

Read the results sections. Are only results presented? Are all relevant results included? Are the tables and figures clearly described? Are they properly placed? Is there any interpretation (a no-no)?

Read the discussion section.

    Are the results explained?
    Is there reference back to the review of literature?
    Are any discrepancies explained?
    Are the limits of the study pointed out?
    Are future directions included?

Check  the references – are they in APA format? Is all formatting accurate? All periods, capitalization, italicization?

Read the abstract. Is it 120 words or fewer? Does it include the results and the significance level? Is there extraneous detail? Is the tone formal?

Review the title page. Is it APA format?

Review the paper in total. Is the tone formal as it should be? Is the grammar and spelling correct?
Look over the paper formatting – is it correct? Are page numbers in the proper place? Is the running head properly placed? Is everything double-spaced?

VII. Working in Groups

Oh no! We have to work in a group!

That may have been your first response as you read about this class. It is true that you will be doing some of your work in groups or teams. Let me talk some about working in groups.

First, why do I have you working in groups? There are several reasons why. The first is that it can help you feel less isolated.  Taking an online course can make you feel as though you are working alone. Doing some of the work in a group will lessen those feelings. The second reason is that in psychology, much of our work is done in collaborative groups or teams. As a matter of fact, research is seldom an individual endeavor. Third, the "real-world" of business works in teams.  So working in teams in this course will help you develop transferable skills.

There are some basics about how groups work that you should know about.  I will use the term teams but the same processes apply to groups as well. As a matter of fact, in sport psychology we take what we have learned about athletic teams and apply it to business groups. Those of you in the business world know that business now uses the term team to discuss groups. Thus, we see the crossover use of the terms.

So, why use teams?

Research shows that when people cooperate in teams, we can achieve a better result on more complex tasks than when individuals work alone. Teams provide support and working in teams can help us develop a set of transferable skills including leadership, human relations skills, communication, task management and many others. Teams enable sharing of resources and that enables each member to be exposed to a wide range of sources.  Teams make online learning less lonely.

There can be some disadvantages.  One weak or nonparticipating member can drag the group down, both in terms of productivity and grades. Since projects in this course can be done without the input of every member and since much of the grade is individually determined, the grade issue is not an issue. You can experience frustration when members don't respond but you will experience that (if you have not already) in other group situations as well.

Teams go through natural stages in which the needs of the various components (team, individual, and task) vary. The stages of groups are: forming, storming, norming, performing.  Forming involves becoming a group.  Anxiety and tentativeness are common at this point. Storming involves the growing pains of trying to figure out how the group will work. There can be personality clashes at this point. Norming is where the group comes together and decides how to operate. In the performing stage, the group begins to be productive. It is possible to recycle through these stages and you can go through them quickly. Groups go through these stages although the actual behaviors can vary. Generally, teams begin by making contact, exploring, setting the tasks, working, finishing. Groups can function well at any, all, or none of these stages.

The following can make working in teams easier. One, define the task including end product, time demands, components, deadlines. Two, specify what you want out of the team. Not everyone will have the same goal and compromise will be part of the process. This can also help avoid some frustrations later on. Allocate the team roles. Who will do what? Create time charts with deadlines for the various tasks.  Develop the action plan listing components of the task, who will do each, the projected outcome, assistance and resources needed.

Some of the problems that are found in groups include 1) not listening, 2) allowing assertive members to dominate 3) having some members not contribute 4) not compromising enough 5) not having clear objectives 6) not being clear about what decisions are made.

To form a team, think about the following steps. Get to know each other. Identify the strengths and limits of each member. Set some ground rules for interacting. For instance, how often should members check into the group area? Email should be used to alert members to new postings but the work should be done in the online classroom, in the group area. That allows me to monitor participation.

Set reasonable deadlines. If problems meeting those deadlines arise, individuals should contact the group immediately.

Divide up the project so that each member knows what he or she is doing.  To do this, think about the task assigned. Be sure you are clear what the assignment involves. Answer the following:

  • What is the end project?
  • What do we need to do reach this end?
  • What tasks are intermediate to completing this task?
  • Who can do what?
  • What resources do we have?
  • What is a reasonable timeline for this project? (Hint – begin with the due date and work backwards.

All groups develop problems. Deal with them immediately. Focus on the behavior, not the person. No personal attacks!!  (Keep me in the loop but the group should try to resolve these issues.)

If a team member consistently fails to do his/her share of the assigned tasks or does not do them on the group’s timetable, you may do the following: 1) Send the nonparticipating member an email (carbon me) warning detailing what the behavioral problem is. Give the nonparticipating member two days to contact the group with an explanation AND the missing work posted in the online classroom. If there is no response, the group may choose to dissociate from the nonparticipating member and continue the project without him or her. All parts of a project must still be completed by both the team and the dissociated member. Before disassociating from the nonparticipant, email me first and get my okay. You may then send an email informing the nonparticipant of the dissociation. The dissociated member will be responsible for completing any project in its entirety on his/her own.

VIII. Metacomprehension and Reading Skills

Successfully completing college courses requires a great deal of reading. Many students lack the skills needed to read effectively and efficiently. Some hints to help are included here.

To read effectively and efficiently, you need to do several things. First, set aside a time in which you can concentrate. Eliminate distractions. You cannot read technical and academic material the same way you read People magazine.

-First, skim through the entire chapter to be read.
-Two, look over the summary and questions at the end.
-Third, divide the chapter into sections. Many chapters are already divided and this will be easy.
-Four, read each section slowly and carefully. Pick out the important points.
-Five, create an outline for each section.
-Six, go back and underline or highlight what the important points are.  Keep in mind that you should not have too much highlighting or   underlining. Most students do WAY too much of this.
-Seven, go back and "flesh out" your outline.
-Eight, a couple of days later, review the chapter and your notes, filling in things you missed.

Here are ten things to do that can help you. These come from Dr. Margaret Matlin at SUNY-Geneseo.

1. Before beginning to read an assignment, do you try to assess how carefully you should read the material?
2. In general, are you accurate in predicting your performance on exam questions related to reading?
3. After reading a chapter in your textbook, do you test yourself on the list of new terms and on any review questions that your book might include?
4. After you read a short section (roughly a page in length), do you make yourself summarize what you have just read—using your own words?
5. Do you reread a portion when it doesn’t make sense or when you realize that you haven’t been paying attention?
6. Do you try to draw connections among the ideas in your textbook?
7. Do you try to draw connections between the ideas in your textbook and information you have learned in class?
8. When you read a term you do not know, do you try to determine its meaning by looking it up in a dictionary or in the glossary of your textbook?
9. When you review material prior to a test, do you spend more time reviewing the part that you consider difficult than the part you consider easy?
10.  When reading through a variety of resources to see whether they might be relevant for a paper you are writing, do  you try to assess—without reading every word— the general scope or findings of the article?

Other comprehension strategies that can help:

1. When you encounter an unfamiliar expression, rephrase it, using other words.
2. Paraphrase complex sentences in simple terms.
3. When the intent of something is unclear, try to infer what the authors really mean.
4. When pronouns are unclear, restate the sentence with the antecedent.
5. When you have confusion that is not linked to a specific point, summarize what you have read so far.
6. When you are not comprehending a section, reread from the beginning of the confusing section. Try reading it out loud.

If you have trouble reading and comprehending, seek out available help, often at tutoring centers or from a private tutor.

Some websites that have more information:

IX. Information Literacy

We live in what has been called the information age. There is so much information out there that sometimes we can get overwhelmed. Because of the volume of information we need to become informed or literate consumers of the information.

Critical thinking is a skill that students are expected to develop during their studies. Information literacy is one component of critical thinking. When we talk about information literacy, we often look at the World Wide Web.

While the Web has been a boon in many areas, it has also created massive amounts of information. Some of the information is valid and good; some is pure garbage. Remember that anyone can put anything on the Web. It can have no basis in fact and no foundation. JUST BECAUSE IT IS ON THE WEB DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE INFORMATION IS CORRECT OR VALID OR GOOD.

When you look at a website (or any piece of information for that matter), there are several questions you should ask. The first question you should ask is who owns and funds the website. Who puts the information on the site? From what source does the information come? Does the author have any credentials? For example, merely having a particular disease does not make you a true expert. Is a site supported by independent research? Does the owner/writer have an agenda of his or her own? For example, the Church of Scientology has a particular agenda and set of beliefs. They post a personality inventory on their website. What should you do with the results of that test? Is it objective? Would a personality test published by the American Psychological Association be less biased? These are some of the issues which we must consider when looking at websites.

The BIG question is what to do with the information on websites. If information is slanted or unsupported, then we must be more cautious about what we do with that information. Using such information to support claims does not strengthen your assertion.

One helpful website with resources for examining the question of information literacy is the Widener University site. Visit it and read their resources.

 X. Evaluating Websites

When you look at a site on the internet, there are several issues to keep in mind. If this information is not readily available on the website, it is best to be cautious about trusting the site.

Who writes the site? Are the author's credentials listed? What are the author's titles and affiliations? What is the author's expertise? Does the author have any published work on the same topic?

Who publishes the webpage? Is it on a commercial, university, organizational or government server?

What is the publisher's reputation? What is the purpose of the page? Is it to entertain, to persuade, to sell or to inform? Does the author and/or publisher have a bias? Does the group have a particular agenda?

What documentation is presented? Are there references listed? Is the information based on research or just opinions? Don't forget to ask these same questions about any research presented.

Is the information current? When was the page published? When was it last updated? Is it copyrighted?

Is the information consistent with other published information?

XI. Netiquette

This is a brief reminder about netiquette (or etiquette for the internet).

The internet is a brave new world and as such, we are still creating that world. The rules seem to change frequently. However, there are some rules for communicating and interacting online. If you are not familiar with accepted netiquette, please consult the website listed below.

A few ground rules:

1) Do not flame people. A flame is an insult or a sarcastic comment. It is best to avoid sarcasm online and to use the smiley face :-) to indicate humor. You may want to find other emoticons for use in communicating.

2) Avoid vulgar and abusive language.

3) Do not shout, i.e. write in capital letters.
 I will occasionally use capitals for emphasis and you choose to do so as well but do not make it a habit.

Some websites to help review netiquette are:

XII. Workload

Students often question the number of assignments and the amount of reading required for these courses.

The decision on how much reading to assign was rational, intended to take into account what a student’s time commitment to this course should be. College classes are predicated upon 48 hours of class time (3 hours per week over a 16 week semester for a 3 credit class) and 96-144 hours outside of class. (This time assumes that a student reads at an average pace, speaks English fluently, and has familiarity with college and the College library. If you do not meet one of these criteria, you should add extra time.) The procedure was as follows.

It is the policy of most universities and colleges that each credit of undergraduate academic work entails three hours per week for the average student. Thus, students carrying an average of 15 credits are committed to about 45 hours per week of academic work.

According to established norms (Encyclopedia Britannica), the average adult reads novels at about 300 wpm (Words Per Minute), political books at 200 wpm, and technical material at 100 wpm. The difficulty level of course material varies, but probably averages between the political and technical levels. The number of words per page also varies drastically, from about 250 words per page to 800. Thus, the average adult, who probably reads somewhat more slowly than the average university student, can read about 60 pages per hour of a small paperback novel ( (300 wpm/300 words per page X 60 minutes per hour) or 10 pages an hour of an APA journal (100wpm/600 words per page X 60 minutes per hour).

If the average reading selection in this course has a difficulty level of 150 wpm and contains 400 words per page, the average adult ought to be able to read it at about 60 X 150/400 or 22.5 pages per hour. Assuming that not all non-class hours are spent reading, it would be legitimate to assign 22.5 X 9.5 or 213 pages per week!

In fact, however, non-class hours should include time for reflection, review, and writing. Consequently, assignments have been made on the assumption that approximately 30% of time (for 85 pages per week)  on average, is spent reading. In sum, make sure you have time for this class.

taken from the TIPS discussion group.