Letter From the Editor

Trends I'm Following this Month

Augmented and Virtual Reality in Online Education

Last month I was introduced to virtual reality! And my Google Cardboard viewer is already in the mail. I became an instant fan of this new digital media experience and the potential it has for educational use and career preparation. The possibilities seem endless for colleges to connect with students in all kinds of ways from class assignments to outreach about services. Pokemon Go’s popularity on college campuses provides a peek into the future. Are you using these technologies, yet?

How is your work/life/school balance?

This was the big topic at the National Career Development Association’s annual conference in July. Many of the presenters emphasized that our career decisions don’t just affect us at work, they affect our well-being in a much broader sense. I think the same can be said for educational choices, which become part of our everyday lives when we are students, and affect the options we have for work and life after graduation. Can we separate our life, work, and school responsibilities? Our #IOLchat participants say, “No.” Balance may not always be achievable, but we can be aware of the fact that our lives have many components that can have an impact on each other and our overall health and wellness.

Online Education in the News

Education and the Presidential Election

As we get closer to the national election, and the political party conventions come to a close, we need to pay attention to the message both candidates are sending about higher education. Do they have plans related to reform? Are they focused on education and employment as priorities?

New Possibilities for Transfer Students

A new “Interstate Passport” initiative, led by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, seeks to make it easier for students to transfer academic credits to schools in another state. This has been a challenge for decades often leading to students “losing” credit in the process. Individual institutions must choose to participate. A pilot test in seven Western states is underway. Watch for more information as the program opens to additional regions in September.

State Authorization to Enroll Online Students

The U.S. Department of Education’s latest proposal related to online education would require schools to get authorization to offer online courses in each state where they have enrolled students. Past proposals required states to complete an “active review” of out-of-state schools enrolling students in online programs. This review has been dropped from the latest guidelines. Many online schools have been seeking state authorization across the country in recent years, in anticipation of this ruling. The change may mean the ruling will go into effect sooner.

Conference Updates

Many educators take a summer break in August, and conferences follow a similar pattern. There is, however, one notable event taking place this month:

Distance Teaching and Learning Conference (August 9-11) – This event is sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and brings together a diverse group of learning professionals from K-12, higher education, corporate training, and the military. Follow #UWd2l.

Here are some of the ideas I explored last month by following conference hashtags via Twitter:

#InstconInstructureCon (July 19-21): I use the Canvas Instructure learning management system to teach one of my online courses, and it’s probably my favorite of the systems I’ve used so far. This conference offered a lot of ideas for online teaching and learning, as well as conference attendance.

  • “Software has to be usable and accessible.” – @kblundstrum
    • Sometimes the basics get forgotten and we have to revisit them. We’ve all probably adopted a new tool that was a trend, but not particularly useful, at some point in our courses.
  • “Engage students by creating groups that are integral to who they are, like ‘military’ …” – @ViegerRayne
    • How could you apply this in your online class? What categories would make the most sense? I might look at industry of work, e.g., K-12, Higher Ed, Military, Corporate Training, Tech Innovation, etc.
  • “Technology does not change the world. People do.” – @DrAAlston
    • It’s the same with change in higher education – faculty, administrators, and students make it happen.
  • “Networking Tip: If you just talk about yourself, it’s not networking. Networking is 1:1 communication. Ask questions, and learn.” – @rseilham
    • Great advice for on-site and virtual events! Get to know others, don’t focus completely on introducing yourself.

#LHConnect2016The Learning House Connect Conference (July 20-21): In addition to the release of this year’s Online College Students report, The Learning House event featured sessions on curriculum design, program administration, and marketing.

    • “Getting [higher education] right” means integrating different ways to learn and develop skills. – @Trace_Urdan
        • The University of Texas is one example of a school that embraces more than just traditional coursework, creating opportunities for students to engage in other opportunities like bootcamps and MOOCs




  • “In a saturated market, it’s not only about communicating. It’s about communicating what you do differently.” – @LearningHouse
      •  I like this advice in many contexts. Prospective students should take some time to compare possible programs and identify what makes each one unique and a good fit for their needs. This advice also applies in a job search scenario. How are you communicate your unique value in a resume or job interview?






Don't Miss!

National Book Lovers Day (August 9): Whether you are immersed in mostly textbooks these days, or have a favorite novel you’ve read this summer, take some time to share what you are reading with friends and family. Consider starting or joining a book club this fall or pick out just one new title to tackle in the coming months. Use #NationalBookLoversDay on social media.

Academic Calendar Deadlines

Fall Semester Starts!

For some students the fall term starts before labor day, for others it begins the the following week. When can you access your course sites and syllabi? Start checking now so that you can order your textbooks and start putting class assignment due dates on your fall calendar. Get organized before the first day of classes.

More from Melissa Venable

ELearn Magazine

  • Can Snapchat Bridge the Communication Chasm in Online Courses? With Jon Ernstberger, LaGrange College
  • Managing the Flow of Information in Social Networks: How Do You Do it? With Amy Hilbelink, Laureate Online Education
  • Editorial Advisory Board, Higher Education Column

The Career Network Newsletter

Bimonthly columnist - Social Media and Your Career

Career Convergence Web Magazine

Tech Tips column, Coordinator and Contributor

Educational Technology and Change Journal

Contributing Author

Where can you find Melissa

Presentations (conferences)

  • National Career Development Association, Annual Conference, 2016
  • Online Learning Consortium, 2016

Online courses she’s teaching

  • Saint Leo University - School of Education and Social Services
    • EDU 577 Project Management for Instructional Design
    • EDU 544 Graphics and Design Concepts in eLearning
  • University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee - College of Education
    • EDF 6284 Problems in Instructional Design for Computers

Links to past presentations

  • National Career Development Association - Annual Conference
    • Taking the Next Step with Twitter: Tips for Live Chat Participation and Moderation
    • Map Your Social Media Strategy: Beyond the Big 3, with Debra Osborn, Florida State University
  • The Online Learning Consortium - Annual Conference/Accelerate
    • Snapchat: Bridging the Communication Chasm in Online Courses, with Jon Ernstberger, LaGrange College
    • Other Duties as Assigned: Defining the Role of Instructional Designer in Higher Education, with Amy Hilbelink, Laureate Online Education
  • TCC - Technology, Colleges, and Communities - Online Conference
    • Help Wanted: Instructional Design Jobs in Higher Ed
    • Conference Engagement Through Social Media and Digital Badges: Why is Social So Special?
  • Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Virtual Conference
    • Help Wanted: Instructional Design Jobs in Higher Ed
    • Can Existing Quality Guidelines Inform Faculty Participation in Online Course Design? With Amy Hilbelink, Laureate Online Education

About Melissa Venable

Melissa Venable

I entered the field of instructional technology in 2004 as a doctoral student with a background in academic advising and career counseling. My professional goals included finding better ways to provide online students with the support required for success in their courses and after graduation. Since that time I’ve worked as an instructional designer and project manager developing new online courses and assisting faculty members with the creation of online versions of their on-campus courses. As an adjunct instructor in the field I am continuously engaged in the latest topics and learn a great deal from my students in the process.

Through the Center for Online Education I am privileged to serve in the role of education editor. This venue allows me to curate the best possible resources for current and prospective online students in the areas I am most committed to improving - online education and career development. Our focus is not only on highlighting the advantages of online learning, but also providing you with the data you’ll need to make the most of the opportunities available and plot a successful course toward your goals.

If you are new to online education and college decisions, our Inside Online Learning resources are designed to help you understand how it all works from admissions and funding to technology and participation. Use this section of the site to assess your readiness for online education and set realistic expectations about what it will take to graduate.