MEd KnOWLedge Newsletter
Western Governors University; Volume 1, Issue 4
"Are You Ready to Raise the Bar?" by Paige Morabito
We have many reasons to celebrate here on the MEd Team. The strides we have made toward our goals are impressive, and we should take some time to celebrate. To provide some insight, I pulled our team data from May of 2015 and May of 2016.
In terms of providing completed evaluations to our students efficiently we rock! We decreased our average turnaround by a whopping 42% overall. As a team, our average went from 1.6 hours to .9 hours per evaluation. WOW.
Even more impressive is that our total number of evaluations was up 8% from last May. We also improved the student experience by reducing the number of cancelled evaluations by 69%. Another key data point is that our passing rate is consistent with last year for the team overall; we had a 71% passing rate in both 2015 and 2016.
Our team certainly has excelled in the quick and accurate goals.
As we are looking at areas for continued growth, I would like to recognize the time, energy, and effort you have put into implementing the most current WGU model of high-quality feedback. I hope you are all feeling good about your use of the Stop Light Method and your Overall Comments.
As I have shared before, the one thing I know with absolute certainty is that our processes will continue to change. Through the benefit of the QA process, we were able to identify areas that we need to focus on going forward. At times, it may feel like being on a treadmill that doesn’t stop, but the reviews of work and reflection build our strength. The stronger our feedback, the higher quality feedback we provide to our students. When the queue gets busy, we need to have our skills at the level of muscle memory so that no matter what the pace or number of evaluations, every evaluation is as good as or better than the last.
Change is rarely easy, and it can be very uncomfortable for some people. My goal is to support you as we are asked to make changes, so the expectations can be met without being overwhelming. I truly appreciate working with a devoted group of people who are willing to review and reflect in order to continually raise the bar a little higher.
What do teachers do over the summer?
Taking Advantage of the Info Depot - A Note from Deb Gregor
Do you have those certain valuable bits of information from a team meeting two months ago or a tech tip that someone shared a while back—and they always get lost in a synapse that doesn’t quite make the jump? Or you just don’t remember what you’re supposed to do if you’re failing a fourth resubmission on the third Tuesday with a full moon??
Mine is that fourth failure thing—regardless of the day and the moon phase. I always hesitate to select that “light blue middle button” because I don’t do it that often. And after I’ve asked Lisa or Jim the same question several times, I begin to feel a bit foolish because I know they have a million and one other things to do, but they’re so gosh darn nice they always answer anyway.
Enter…The Info Depot. One would think that would be the first place I would check since Jim and I worked on putting everything together for months. But—old habits can be hard to break. So the other day when the “light blue middle button” was looming in my face, flashing…”Are you sure you want to press me? Are you sure that’s what you’re supposed to do?” I realized that the answer I needed was right there on the
- Evaluation Policies and Procedures platform
- Evaluation Procedures gate
- Releasing the evaluation track
And Jim and Lisa were saved from having to answer my same question again.
What have you discovered for yourself in the Info Depot? We could all benefit from ways in which others have used this resource. We could also benefit from hearing of problems you’ve had finding answers at the Depot so those problems can be fixed. Let Beth know as you come across new solutions or suggestions so we can share them in future newsletters and keep that train chugging down the track.
The 4th Fail Hold Procedure - A Note from Jim Minor
Be sure to count the number of previous fails before you release an evaluation. When a submission fails for the 4th time (or more), release it with the middle light blue button (Record as Final, but Release to Author Later). This holds the evaluation, and the course mentor will release it to the candidate.
What Counts as a Fail for this Procedure?
NOTE: The course mentor boilerplate text is only needed if you think the candidate needs significant help achieve competency in the task.
Working From Home Is Hard Work: A few guidelines to help you work from home efficiently--no pajamas allowed
For many, a home office sounds like the ultimate work fantasy. Visions of working in pajamas, spending more time with family, scheduling your own time--what could be better?
Unfortunately, all those images are exactly that--fantasy.
When the line between home and work gets blurred, things can get a little complicated. There are several obstacles that make working from home more difficult than it seems at first, and it actually requires a lot of discipline to make sure you're staying at the top of your game when you're not in an office.
Fortunately, we have a few guidelines to help you do just that. We consulted a few experts and self-employed sources to find out how you can maximize your home office situation.
Set it up right: You'll need a desk, a door, and business-quality materials.
Setting up a professional-quality workspace is crucial.
"Have a real office with a real desk. Tucking it in the family room or kitchen just doesn't give you the separation and quiet you need to work. At the very least, put it in a room that you can shut the door," Erickson suggests. "Have the right equipment for your job--computer, monitor, printer, high-speed internet, etc. Make sure you have good lighting as well."
A separate room, in particular, "helps create a sense of separation, making it easier to 'go home' at the end of the day," says Kate Lister, co-author of Undress For Success--The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home.
And it's very important that you "get along with technology," Lister adds. You are your own IT person now--not having the latest business tools could put you at a disadvantage.
Of course, your home office should also be a space where you look forward to going and where you enjoy spending time. Need inspiration? Check out Lifehacker's series on cool home workspaces here.
Treat your home office like a "real" office.
One of the best ways to maximize working from home is to act like you're in a "real" office.
Erickson lays out a potential schedule: "Get up at a normal hour, have breakfast, get dressed, make your coffee and go to your home office. Stay off Facebook and other personal sites except for lunch. End the day like you would a normal work day and go off to do what you normally would have done after work--pick up the kids, go to the gym, happy hour, whatever."
The bottom line is to "create some structure for your day." It'll minimize distraction, force you to work efficiently, and allow for clear demarcation between work and play. Easier said than done, of course, but doing so should be a top priority.
Keep your work life separate from your personal life...
Getting distracted by your personal to-do list can be one of the biggest obstacles to effectively working from home. If it becomes a habit, your productivity will quickly go down the tubes.
One source advises to adopt the mindset that your office environment is miles away from your home. Whether that requires just closing your office door or more drastic measures, like turning off your personal phone, be sure you have some system for barring personal distractions while you are "at work."
And keep your personal life separate from your work life.
At the same time, "one of the biggest problems cited by home-based workers is over-working [...] you'll continually have to wrestle with working too much. It's by far a bigger challenge than staying motivated," Lister comments.
The solution? "One guy we interviewed for the book resorted to getting in his car at the end of the day, driving around the block, and returning home to start his evening routine," says Lister.
Ken Sheridan, Managing Director and co-founder of Remote Employment, advises:"Set helpful rules: I don't talk about work when the laptop is switched off. I don't talk about work in this room (i.e. the main family room). No work chat between [these hours], etc. Set a forfeit if the rules are broken."
"And don't have 'creeping hours'," he adds.
A special note for those with children:
Building an effective home office can be especially difficult for people with children, but it is not impossible.
"Help the kids understand what it means to work from home. Draw the boundaries--as in be quiet when you're on the phone, knock on the office door, etc. The sooner you start, the more likely they'll eventually do it," Erickson suggests.
One source offers this creative solution: Place a sign on your office door that let's them know right away whether it's alright for them to come in, or if they shouldn't disturb you. For younger kids, use colors--green for "go" and red for "stop."
Setting boundaries and instilling certain habits from the start helps make the situation work.
Home offices can be lonely...
When you work out of your home, you don't have the opportunity to build the deep personal connections you can make when you work with the same people every day. Without that interaction, it's easy to feel isolated, one source notes.
That physical remoteness can also result in mental isolation, too--which can in turn stifle innovation and affect the quality of your work.
"Don't lose your external focus. Get out and stay in touch. Meet people. Seek advice. Get a process for acquiring and sounding out ideas," Sheridan says.
So make a concerted effort to not turn into a hermit.
Above all, don't isolate yourself further. "[Avoid] turning into a hermit. Because you're out of sight, you need to be particularly vigilant about staying in touch" with clients, partners, and other associates, says Lister.
Don't fall into the trap of doing everything remotely, either; when appropriate, encourage real interaction.
"I had a situation the other day where a local client (who also works at home) and I needed to have a quick one hour meeting. Easy to do over the phone," recalls Erickson. "His immediate suggestion was 'Let's do it over lunch!' After 40 years surrounded by people at work, he was missing the social interaction--and desperately needed to get out of the house."
Some other take-aways:
Sheridan offers a few more points to consider:
· Don't under-price because you are home-based.
· Stay productive and be able to prove it. Never charge by the hour: charge for output/results--it's a big plus versus office workers.
· Know when to upgrade [your] business infrastructure; don't stay small and miss the bigger opportunity.
· Keep your other interests. Stay driven, but don't get boring.
Lister says, "Common sense suggests that working at home, away from the watchful eye of society, will exaggerate any other 'holic tendencies you may have. If food, alcohol, drugs, or other indulgences are a problem for you, [a home office] may not be a healthy choice."
"While I've been successfully working from home for over 20 years, my personality and skills aren't a perfect fit," she adds. But, "if you're motivated and willing to work, you're more than halfway there."
Evaluating Through Lenses by Samantha Anth
We view everything we read through lenses, it is what allows us to investigate, understand and make meaning of what we are reading. Consider the lens that a magazine is read through versus a scholarly article. As adults, we approach everything we read with a developed lens that has come from experiences. Student work is no different.
Consider the lens that is used when reading a DRF. As Evaluators, we have two lenses which we typically approach any DRF with, one of articulation and one of content. It is safe to say that the content lens plays a much stronger role in evaluating than that of the articulation lens. This is not to say that Evaluators are not consciously considering the articulation of what they are reading, but instead the content plays an ever present role in the minds of Evaluators as they evaluate, which is why small articulation errors are often overlooked. While these articulation errors are not troublesome, they can distinguish between an Example of Excellence versus a Course Mentor contact.
When a referred task is submitted as an Example of Excellence, it is read first through the lens of articulation. The small, unobtrusive articulation errors can become obvious and consistent with this read. Often, it is the articulation errors which will keep a referred task from reaching the Example of Excellence status.
As we continue to nominate student work for an Example of Excellence award, consider the lens with which you evaluated the task. Was there a lens for each eye, or was one more prominently looked through for the evaluation?