Conscious Onboarding: 10 Ways to Support New Online Instructor

Conscious Onboarding Evolllution article

Originally posted in The Evolllution on Oct 17, 2019

It is a widely accepted standard that in order for an academic department to recruit and retain valuable teaching faculty, they must provide orientation, professional development opportunities and sustainable support. This principle is true for all faculty and instructors, whether they are full-time or part-time; teaching in-person or online.

According to a report by the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, of the 22 million students enrolled in postsecondary education, 3.5 million are registered in a mix of online and in-person courses (Lederman, 2018). As the demand for online course delivery continues to increase, academic units must respond, manage growth, and design instructor onboarding and support programs. Considerations must also be made for instructors teaching only online versus those teaching both in-person and online courses, since their situational needs, expectations and motivations are inherently different.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but focusing on the educators’ shared goals—meaningful engagement, quality curriculum and consistent user experience—provides a good foundation for the development of an effective and sustainable faculty onboarding program.

I served on the launch team for our first online master’s degree program six years ago. Everything moved so quickly. In the scramble of course design and delivery, assessment and accreditation, and recruitment, we ran out of time to establish a formal onboarding and sustainable support program for instructors teaching online courses. Instead, the orientation and support program of our faculty teaching online vs. those teaching both in-person and online has developed over time. Some aspects of our program are fully formed while others are still in process. Based on my personal experiences and working closely with peers, here are my top 10 ways to prepare and sustain faculty across modalities:

#1: Establish an Online Community of Practice Devoted to Faculty Teaching Online Courses

When executed well, a culture of community establishes a set of shared values and expectations that influence how a group interacts, functions, and collaborates. By developing a specific online community of practice for your instructors teaching online courses, you provide them with a real-time information hub they can refer to for topics and materials that directly impact the work they are doing every day. An online community of practice includes announcements and discussions, a shared files system, FAQs and how-to’s, templates, databanks for approved-to-use lecture slides, recorded lectures, tutorials, standard syllabus language, approved digital assets and rubrics.

Learn more and download a report about exploratory research in the value of developing online communities of practice. (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.)

#2: Establish A Support Network Of Dedicated Staff and Digital Resources

The widely publicized proverb “it takes a village” comes to mind with this tip. Increase confidence and security of your instructors with the development of a customized support network. It should include an organized and categorized bevy of digital resources for building your online course, recording video lectures and creating rubrics, as well as a regularly updated list of dedicated personnel who can answer questions about instructional design, teaching assignments, policies or tech support.

#3: Design A New Instructor Orientation Program Specific To Faculty Teaching Online Courses

In a Canvas article, it was noted that “the online learning environment presents a unique set of challenges that require a clear definition of instructor performance.” Delivering a class online for the first time is an entirely new landscape, regardless of whether an instructor is new to teaching or has been in the classroom for decades. They will need orientation and training specific to the world they are about to experience. Tracks can be developed for those teaching online-only versus those who teach both online and in-person as part of their regular schedule. A sample outline of topics includes department overview (program structure and contacts), services and resources, mentorship and stewardship, teaching and learning, faculty resources, and training and development. Learn more about the value of creating a tailored faculty orientation program. (Herdklotz and Canale, 2017)

#4: Design A Mandated Training Program For New Instructors Teaching Online Courses

Even the most seasoned instructor can use a refresher now and then. Requiring all new instructors complete a course devoted to excellence in online teaching will not hurt—but may help an instructor gain valuable insights and knowledge about best practices in online course design and delivery. These courses and workshops are often developed and managed by the college division devoted to online learning and continuing education or a third-party vendor.

Learn more about the value of new online instructors completing a mandated training program. (Lieberman, 207)

#5: Design A Communication Strategy That Includes Regular Touchpoints and Check-Ins With Instructors

Establishing a sustainable—and ideally, automated—communication strategy is a great way to have regular contact with instructors teaching online courses. Through announcements, emails, shared calendar with reminders, virtual or in-person meetings, confidence and connection are born. The strategy should allow for a feedback loop with pre-determined appropriate responses so individual needs, requests or issues are addressed in a timely fashion.

#6: Create A Series Of Checklists and Tip Sheets

Who doesn’t appreciate a good checklist? How helpful is an indexed-for-search FAQ list? It may seem simplistic and obvious, but good quick tips and checklists can go a long way in fostering confidence and community among faculty. Checklists for new faculty can include topics such as set-up information, introduction to the department, understanding technology requirements, an overview of policies, and what-to-do-when information. FAQs should contain relevant practical information about when grades are due, how to give an incomplete, midterm grade submission, student support resources, reporting violations to academic integrity or student conduct, where to find information, etc.

View an example page outlining checklists and resources for faculty teaching online courses at the University of Connecticut.

#7: Establish A Program For Ongoing Professional Development and Training

Training and professional development for faculty is often readily available through an institution’s office devoted to teaching and learning. They offer training in syllabus design, online and in-person instruction, pedagogical assignment design and student engagement. An academic media services department may offer additional training and workshops in use of online and in-person classroom technology, recording lectures and interactive teaching tools. From my experience, the challenge is not access to training. Whether they are part-time or full-time, instructors typically wear many hats and juggle multiple priorities. Taking time out for continuing education is the biggest barrier, so it is most effective to identify highly relevant training opportunities for instructors that are convenient, self-paced, and require a limited time commitment. As an added bonus, you can incentivize faculty to continue their education through programs such as micro certifications and badges that count toward promotion and/or build credentials.

Learn more about how to provide incentives for faculty participation. (TopKit, n.d.)

#8: Create A Faculty Handbook Specific To Online Course Delivery

One of the issues that came up early in my tenure as the director of online programs was the absence of clear and consistent steps and responses to common challenges unique to online courses. Working with my leadership team, we began building a faculty handbook that not only included many of the items listed in tips 1-7, but also workflow processes for issues such as what to do when an instructor suspects an academic integrity violation, a student requests leave for military assignment or medical emergency, and recommended responses to no-shows, perpetual tardiness or inappropriate discussion forum etiquette. As issues arise, we create a workflow for response complete with key messages, email templates and step-by-step instructions.

View a sample faculty handbook for online instructors from the University of Texas at El Paso.

#9: Create Opportunities For Engagement, Collaboration, and Sharing Information

As an online program grows, more instructors are hired to cover the course load. As a result, a department will inherently need to hire adjunct instructors or draw upon a pool of instructors based outside the regular faculty roster. Although complex and diverse in many positive ways, this unique group of educators is also at risk of feeling like they are on an island – disconnected, out of the loop, and unsupported. Implementing ideas from this tip list is a good start to solve this problem, but finding additional ways to motivate engagement and inspire collaboration will contribute to job satisfaction and retention.  Suggested programs include the creation of course teams (faculty teaching the same classes collaborate and share ideas), assigning peer mentors (senior instructors support junior instructors), live chat sessions led by senior instructors and the department chair, and the creation of a shared folder system that stores files, templates and digital assets.

#10: Adopt A Continuous Improvement Mindset: Survey, Assess and Adjust

As with any iterative initiative, adopting a mindset for continuous improvement is the best way to impact quality and retention, simplify work processes, create efficiencies and enhance overall job satisfaction. Through surveys, focus groups, or workshops, an academic unit can gain valuable insights and usable feedback that results in ongoing improvement and evolution of online program design and delivery.

Read more about creating a culture of continuous improvement in other articles published on The EvoLLLution.

Conclusions

Designing, implementing and maintaining a sustainable faculty onboarding program is no small task. It takes strategy, coordination and cooperation to pull off. It is laborious, iterative and requires prioritization. Take it one step at a time and build from there. Communication and consistency are the greatest paths toward success. I will close with a quote by author and poet Sir Michael Morpurgo, “It’s the teacher that makes the difference, not the classroom.” Whether our instructors are teaching in-person or virtually, the ultimate goal is that they bring their best selves to the curriculum. Solid onboarding and sustainable support programs are ways a department can inspire and retain valuable teaching faculty.

– – – –

References

Canvas (n.d.). 20 best practices and expectations for online teaching. Retrieved from https://canvas.instructure.com/courses/1068822/pages/20-best-practices-and-expectations-for-online-teaching

Denoyelles, A. (n.d.) How to provide incentives for faculty participation. TopKit. Retrieved from https://topkit.org/developing/tools-techniques-strategies/provide-incentives/

Herdklotz, C. and Canale, A.M. (2017, Dec 19). Made to order: A one-size-fits-all faculty orientation program may not effectively reach all faculty members, given differences in ranks, roles and experience. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved from

https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2017/12/19/why-colleges-should-tailor-faculty-orientation-programs-different-types-faculty

Lederman, D. (2018, Nov 7). Online education ascends. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2018/11/07/new-data-online-enrollments-grow-and-share-overall-enrollment

Lieberman, M. (2017, Nov 1). Should online instructors be online students? Inside Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2017/11/01/online-instructors-differ-whether-they-need-online-course

Morrow, D. (2017, Sep 15). Faculty resources for teaching online at UConn. UConn Campus Knowledge Base. Retrieved from https://kb.ecampus.uconn.edu/2017/09/15/faculty-resources-for-teaching-online-at-uconn/#more-2967

Office of Educational Technology (n.d.). Designing online communities of practice for educators to create value. Tech.ed.gov. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/designing-online-communities-of-practice/

University of Texas at El Paso. UTEP connect faculty handbook [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.utep.edu/extendeduniversity/_Files/docs/utep-connect-faculty-handbook-final.pdf

Youngstown State University (n.d.). What is culture of community? YSU. Retrieved from https://ysu.edu/multicultural-affairs/culture-of-community

Connecting with Students from a Distance: 10 Ways to Stay Engaged Inside and Outside the Learning Environment [infographic]

Evolllution article 2 cover

Originally posted in The Evolllution on June 23, 2020 without infographic

“Our ability to connect with others is innate, wired into our nervous systems, and we need connection as much as we need physical nourishment.” 

Sharon Salzberg, Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection

In the first two weeks of March 2020, faculty across the U.S. were notified in waves that they needed to move their in-person classes online due to COVID19 stay-at-home mandates. All of these individuals were in the final weeks of winter quarter, past the mid-term of the spring semester, or poised to take a desperately needed pause with the upcoming spring break. Classrooms shuttered, offices were abandoned and dining rooms became makeshift workspaces.

These same individuals also faced the daunting tasks of homeschooling their own children, braving grocery stores to stock up on essentials and reconfiguring their homes to become offices/schools/bunkers. Even the avid “preppers” were not prepared for this. How could anyone proactively anticipate a disruption of this magnitude?

Fast forward and it is now June. We have survived. We will make it through the next rough patch. But what lies ahead continues to be undefined and unknown. Few of us can say for sure what the 2020-2021 academic year will look like.

Some universities have already opted to stick with 100% online course delivery through fall while others plan to return to in-person classes with a side note that they will “look and operate in new ways.” What does that mean? It is too early to say for sure, but if we learned nothing else from this pandemic and #StayHomeStayHealthy era-–-we must find creative ways to connect with students inside and outside the learning environment.

Taking into consideration best practices and practical tips, here are ten ways faculty can engage with students from a distance:

  • Be yourself

    In a classroom setting, we put on our professorial hats and stand at the front of the room. This helps us command attention and set a tone for each class session. Online, we can let our guards down a bit and remove some of our armor. Perhaps this is how we dress (more casually), play with virtual backgrounds or introduce our kids or pets (briefly) to the group. It is not unprofessional. It is relatable.

  • Practice empathy

    Both you and your students are disrupted. COVID-19 news and stay-at-home orders create anxiety, impact confidence and heighten fear. Soften how you speak to your students, infuse warmth and patience into your language and tone. Pull away from the bold and direct and replace them with acknowledgment and understanding. This does not mean your standards decrease or your deadlines disappear. Empathy will bridge the distance between you and your students and help inspire them to keep going.

  • Live office hours

    Office hours can be set at fixed times throughout the week or scheduled as separate meetings. They can be open-format with drop-ins or established as 1-on-1 meet-ups. Do what works best for you, but to maintain a sustainable connection to your students. You must be available outside of class. Interactive face-to-face sessions will be most engaging but phone and real-time email or chat sessions are good alternatives.

  • Weekly announcements with to-do lists

    Create weekly announcements using a repeatable model, so you can build and schedule them in advance. An example of a repeatable model would be to start with an introduction, provide a summary of what was covered the previous week, include a to-do list for the current week and close out with an update on your priorities (e.g. grading, prepping next lesson, etc.)

  • Livestream lectures in real-time

    Pre-recorded asynchronous video lectures are a great way to deliver course content. They are typically one-way, however, and are not as effective at inspiring real-time student engagement. As an alternative, consider hosting live video conference sessions via Zoom, Skype, or GoTo Meeting. In this digital space, you can run your course more organically by sharing your screen (e.g. walking through lecture slides, demonstrating a task, or navigating through a case study or website) and encouraging a mix of live discussion and virtual chat. These lectures can be recorded sessions that are stored in the Cloud or on your desktop and posted later for those who were unable to attend or who want to review the content at a later date.

  • Get creative and be visually appealing

    Whether you record lectures for asynchronous delivery or hold live virtual sessions, getting creative and adding visual appeal will go a long way in keeping students engaged. Adding visual appeal does not necessarily require design skills or training. By simply adding virtual backgrounds in your video conference sessions, color and pictures in your lecture slides, or showing video clips or infographics, you will inherently create a more engaging user experience. We all must be mindful of making our content accessible. Refer to Medium’s University Design for Learning (UDL) Center for various resources on principles for adapting course content that supports all learners.

  • Video conference small-group breakout rooms

    Breakout rooms are a terrific way to inspire engagement in large groups when leading live virtual sessions. Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams all have this feature. You can manually create groups or let the tool select participants randomly. Simply assign the larger group a prompt for discussion or activity for completion and send them off into their virtual breakout rooms. You can pop into each room to observe how things are going, and you can later bring the large group back together to convene on what was discussed. It breaks up the time you have together and motivates students to engage with each other as well.

  • Incorporate interactive tools

    Using interactive features in your course can improve attendance and participation, as well as build confidence and increase retention of key concepts presented. Several free, web-based interactive tools work well in distance delivery. Here are a few free tools that are worthy of exploration:

    1. Padlet: Padlet is an online virtual bulletin board where students can easily collaborate, share pictures and links and contribute to the discussion as themselves or anonymously. In Padlet, you can create polls, lead brainstorming sessions, conduct Q&As, share content or give writing prompts with which students can build off of each other’s contributions.
    2. Kahoot: Kahoot is an interactive game and study tool. You can create your own games or select one from a large databank. Topics range from academia to pop culture. It is simple, fun, free and interactive.
    3. Slack, Discord, or Microsoft Teams: These are all tools for keeping a group connected, interactive and supported over a long period of time. Through the creation of folders, channels, messaging and file sharing, students can engage with each other and with the instructor on a moderated and curated platform.
  • Start a conversation

    Learning management tools like Blackboard and Canvas have a discussion forum feature that works well for sustained engagement between students and the instructor. Through the use of prompts, students can be asked to provide an original contribution, and with guidance, engage with their peers to create a well-rounded conversation. Discussion prompts are a great way for students to demonstrate their completion of assigned readings or reviews of critical course material. Professors can also create a “questions for the instructor” forum as a central place for students to post questions or ideas. Often, they will answer each other’s questions in this forum and ease the burden on the instructor.

  • Survey students often

    Using tools like Qualtrics, SurveyMonkey, or Google Forms, is an efficient way to get regular feedback from students on how they are progressing through the course, identify pain points and gain a better understanding of overall sentiment. Surveys can be distributed at various times and in various formats, depending on the breadth and depth of information. They can even be issued through a live virtual session using a tool like Zoom’s polling feature to check in with students to get a pulse on whether or not they are keeping up, need a break or would like additional information.

student engagement infographic
Infographic created by Rebeca L. Cooney in Canva [download]

These ten ideas barely touch the surface of what is possible in engaging students in a virtual space. Here are three other articles that cover this topic:

Resources for faculty teaching classes online:

References

Professor as online student: 3 big take-aways; 3 weeks in

Online Teaching Tips - professor as student

This is the second installment in a short “from the other side of the webcam” series journaling my experience as an online student at Oregon State University’s Learning XD Design Design Certificate program. For context, check out my first post from June 3, 2020.

I’m in week 3 of my six-week class in user experience design and I am feeling empathy for our students. What a different mode and energy are required for the online student. It is projected we are to spend 4-6 hours per week on our readings, engagement, and assignments. I can’t say for sure if that is accurate. Maybe I will track it better this week. While serving as a student for OSU, I am also serving as faculty for a Washington State University online graduate-level capstone course. Going back and forth between the two has been eye-opening.

Here are my three biggest takeaways as I sit on the other side of the webcam:

  • 1) Course organization is critical

    All online classes should be free of frills and organized. All unnecessary noise should be removed. All students really need to see when they arrive in the course space is a logical home page telling them where they are. Side navigation should include announcements, modules (or lessons), syllabus, assignments, course schedule, discussions, and grades. Other tabs for people (so they can see who else is enrolled), Zoom, or collaborations may also be valuable.

    Easy access to announcements, calendar items or to-do lists are handy. Otherwise, videos, article links, images, and other resources should be housed contextually within each lesson.

  • 2) Predictability is key

    Establishing a steady formula for each lesson (or week/unit) has been my practice for some time. It has been affirmed as a good idea as I attend this class as a student instead of a professor. Each week, without fail, we will have the following tasks:

    1) Overview of the week that includes learning outcomes and task list
    2) Weekly readings and resources (required and optional)
    3) Individual assignment due by Friday (because of peer feedback)
    4) Small group assignment (I am on Team Green with three other students) that includes peer feedback
    5) Full group discussion board that relates back to the readings (3 contributions throughout the week)

    This is just an example but I appreciate the absence of mystery. Because it is predictable, I can plan my week out accordingly. I know I need to read and contribute to the group discussion forum by Wed, Fri, and Sunday of each week. I need to have my individual assignment done by Friday and my peer feedback completed by Saturday.

  • 3) Instructor engagement is necessary

    Creating a “questions for the instructor” discussion forum is so important. It is also important that the instructor subscribes to this forum and pays attention to posts as they come in. If the instructor does not moderate this forum, enrolled students will slowly take over and begin answering questions on the instructor’s behalf. This can be helpful – but it can also put the instructor in a position to lose footing and credibility. The absence of the instructor in this space appears negligent. Engaging with student questions within 48 hours is the best practice.

I am doing pretty well so far – better than I expected given my assumption I would not perform at my best in the virtual space. I like the course structure, appreciate how it is organized, and like the fact I can essentially self-pace within the confines of posted deadlines. I need structure and timeline. Otherwise, I tend to procrastinate.

There is one key individual assignment in the course that builds with each week. I like this approach. One feature that would be helpful would be to see an example of a fully finished project at the beginning of the course. I am happy with the focus I selected but reading some of the peer student comments – several wish they had known more early on so they would have gone a different direction for their class-long task. Regardless, I feel a sense of accomplishment and progress as each new puzzle piece is put in place. I look forward to pulling it all together over the next few weeks.


This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Online Teaching Tips series. Check out more tips in the “Online Teaching Tips” category.

Online Portfolio Tips & Tricks

Professional Pathways - Online Portfolio

In a recent live virtual session with my graduate students, we discussed online portfolios – what to feature, what goes into the write-ups, and best practices with blog content. As this content is new and updated from previous posts and course content, I am passing it on here as well.

Let’s begin with the online portfolio value proposition…

“A solid, cohesive, and comprehensive portfolio establishes your distinction in a sea of candidates. It provides “evidence” to an employer of your accomplishments, skills, and abilities. It is a good way to show the scope and quality of your experience and training. A portfolio can also help demonstrate your talent and ability to produce high-quality work in your field.”

Alison Doyle, The Balance Careers

What to Feature

Showcase your Core Competencies

Source: “Career Readiness Defined” by NACE (n.d.)

NACE – National Association of Colleges and Employers (est. 1956) is a professional association made up of college career services professionals, university relations and recruiting professionals, and business solution providers who serve this community. Through a task force of college career services and HR professionals they worked with employers to identify the following 8 competencies most associated with career readiness and strength:

  1. Critical thinking and problem-solving
  2. Oral and written communications
  3. Teamwork and collaboration
  4. Digital technology
  5. Leadership
  6. Professionalism and work ethic
  7. Career management
  8. Global and intercultural fluency

Career readiness as defined by NACE

“Career readiness is the attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace.” – NACE

Points to ponder…

What are some examples of past assignments or professional work that fall into these categories that you could feature in your online portfolio?

Here is what we discussed:

1. Critical thinking and problem-solving
Examples related to analysis, problem-solving, data-driven decision making, and originality

2. Oral and written communications
Examples of presentations, writing samples, proposals, white papers, strategic plans

3. Teamwork and collaboration
Work where you were a member of a team, collaborated with others inside and outside the organization, managed conflict

4. Digital technology
Showcase of original creative work: design, audio, video, digital content creation using tools such as Adobe, Canva

5. Leadership
Examples of projects where you took the lead, trained others, served as a project manager, or traffic coordinator

6. Professionalism and work ethic
Samples that exemplify personal accountability, ethical work habits, time management, and professional work image

7. Career management
Examples of materials that speak directly to the position descriptions you seek – those that articulate your strengths, knowledge, and experiences that coincide nicely with the types of work you want to do

8. Global and intercultural fluency
Samples of work that demonstrate openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people (e.g. social justice)


Write-Ups & Reflections

Preparing and outlining

  • Step One

    Decide on the structure and CMS tool – introduction (who you are), showcase of work (portfolio index), your services or work history, ways to contact you

  • Step Two

    Decide on what of your BEST WORK you will showcase – use the categories listed in previous slides to help narrow it down

  • Step Three

     Provide context for each project including:

    >Background
    >Scope
    >Process
    >Lessons Learned

Breaking down context

Background
Describe the overall purpose, goal, and framework for the piece you are showcasing. Outline your role, others involved or who it was for, and timeline.

Scope
Here you can describe the elements of the task – what it took to complete (writing, design, interviewing others, research). It is also a good place to note if you stayed in budget, on track or if not – how challenges were overcome

Process
Process includes the steps you took in the project, why you did them, and the value of those actions. Be sure to share your specific approach and contributions, any decisions made or concessions, and ideas or pathways that did not pan out.

Lessons Learned
This is your reflection section – things that went well vs. challenges, as well as outcomes, and any data you can provide that demonstrates success or forward progress – even if milestones and goals were not fully achieved.

Points to ponder

What else have you seen that you think is a value-add in a showcase of work or portfolio?

Online Portfolio Features

  • Key achievements and skills
  • Testimonials
  • Hobby projects (e.g. wood working, photography, crafts, knitting)
  • Blog and published works

Online Portfolio and Blogging

  • If you plan to write about professionally-relevant topics or work experiences – you can create a blog section within your online portfolio.
  • If you plan to write about topics outside your profession, create a separate blog or self-publish in places like Medium and LinkedIn.
  • If you want to monetize your blog, I suggest it is separate from your online portfolio to limit “muddying the waters.” You will have to enable e-Commerce and paid ad features that may not be in line with your personal brand or the core purpose of your professional portfolio.

Summary

Showcase core competencies – keeping in mind those attributes most valued by employers

  1. Critical thinking and problem-solving
  2. Oral and written communications
  3. Teamwork and collaboration
  4. Digital technology
  5. Leadership
  6. Professionalism and work ethic
  7. Career management
  8. Global and intercultural fluency

Provide context for each project

  • Background
  • Scope
  • Process
  • Lessons Learned

#KeepGoing #KeepGrowing

This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Professional Pathways – Never Stop Learning series. Check out more posts in the Professional Pathways category.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Cooney is a Clinical Associate Professor of Strategic Communication and Director of Murrow Online Programs at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She is also a Research Associate for the Center of Excellence for Natural Product-Drug Interaction Research. Rebecca has more than 26 years of professional experience. Her core areas of expertise include user experience design, integrated communication, brand strategy, and digital communications. She holds a BA in organizational communications and MS in communications and is the recipient of the 2019 Oaks Award for innovation in teaching, 2015 Scripps Howard Visiting Professor in Social Media, and 2014 Plank Center Educator Fellow awards.

From the other side of the webcam: Perspectives of a professor as online student

Online Teaching Tips - professor as student

I started with a keyword search on Google. I wanted to find a professional, accredited online graduate-level certificate in user experience design (XD). I found several and did my research. I reviewed course information, course structure, instructor bios, and program cost. I weighed options for timing, pacing, and feasibility of how I could fit it into my already packed schedule. I decided to pursue Oregon State’s Learning Experience Design Certificate. I registered for my first class: UI/UX in Experience Design with instructor Caesar Wirichaga, Head of Design at Kickstand. The class launched on Monday.

The tables have turned. I am now an online student. I have so much to learn.

Oregon State University

In 2019 I was the recipient of the Muriel Oaks Academic Technology Award for innovation in teaching sponsored by Washington State University Academic Outreach and Innovation. In addition to a lovely glass sculpture plague, I received a $3,000 professional development grant. I took time to ponder how I wanted to use it – a conference, workshop series, or continued education. I chose continued education and have begun a new journey as a 100% online student in OSU’s Learning XD Design Certificate – a 5-course program I plan to complete by December. Each course is 6-weeks long and taught by expert professors and industry leaders. Here is my course line-up:

  1. UX/UI for Experience Design
  2. Lifelong Learning Engagement Strategies
  3. Advanced Tools and E-Learning Trends
  4. Elements of Learning Experience Design
  5. LXD Practicum: Applications in the Wild

FYI – WSU does not offer a certificate in user experience design. But – I actually think this is a good thing. I am already highly integrated into online teaching processes at WSU. Attending a different institution will show me how others approach distance education. I will learn how to be a better instructor by literally sitting in the chair of the student.

The courses are all taught in Canvas (by Instructure) – the learning management tool WSU is in the process of transitioning to as a replacement for Blackboard. Like classes at WSU, there is a standard structure with collaborative discussion forums, announcements, graded assignments, rubrics, and application of additional tools like Google Drive, peer evaluation, video conference, and team projects. Classes are primarily asynchronous but offer students the opportunity for occasional live virtual class meet-ups. My first meet-up is June 11.

I have five things to accomplish in Week 1

(all due by Sunday at 11:59p):

  1. Introduce myself (2pts)
  2. Review readings and resources (5pts)
  3. Contribute to the all-class discussion forum 3x (4pts)
  4. Complete a small-group assignment (6pts)
  5. Complete an individual assignment (5pts)

Step 1: Get Organized

To keep track of my to-do’s I use a tool called Microsoft 365 To-Do List. It is one of the many features in WSU Microsoft Office 365-supported tools. There is a web-based version and mobile app and it is my lifeline. It is VERY user-friendly. In this tool you can create a series of lists and tasks, assign deadlines, and select tasks that are most critical. You can create a “My Day” list and collaborate with others as well.

So the first thing I did once I reviewed the course space, course intro video, and syllabus was get my to-do’s on my To-Do List – making sure to set deadlines throughout the week, as well as account for the fact I need to post to the discussion board 3x and participate in peer review. This means I can’t leave everything to Saturday and expect to be successful.

Side note: things I liked about their introductory materials…

  • I like the way they organized the Canvas home page. There are a series of tabs under the banner image for “Start Here, Week 1, Week 2, etc. with a Q&S at the end.
  • The “Start Here” is simple – just a quick note orienting students on the course space and how to navigate.
  • The course overview video is clean and easy to follow with voice over and good visuals. It also includes a “by the end of this class you will learn” which I really liked.
  • Each Week landing page includes an introduction, weekly learning outcomes, and a task list.
  • Modules are logically organized beginning with the “Start Here” info and continuing with Modules for each week. Links within the modules take the students directly to the 5 tasks we need to complete including an overview page describing “what is UX/UI for Learning Experience Design.”
  • With each assignment, the instructor includes a note for “anticipated time spent.”
  • The instructor included single pages for program definitions and program resource library.
  • There is a “conclusion” page at the end of each module that summarizes what students just did and prompts them to move forward to the next module.

Step 2: Self Intro

I decided to tackle the self-introduction first. I have created many self-intros in the past – but not as a student. We were given a series of prompts and asked to record the intro versus writing it out. My first attempt was an epic fail. I thought it would be nice to record myself on my phone with my handy portable tripod – sitting outside in our backyard on a sunny morning.

Enter bugs, truck nearby beeping as it perpetually backed up, wind, car noise, and terrible lighting. As a good stubborn German woman, I persevered and recorded anyway. Then I reviewed the footage. Oh no. This would not do. So 1.5 hours lost and I started over.

I decided to use Adobe Spark – a free web-based tool used for digital content creation (social graphics, web pages, short videos). It’s free and therefore limited in scope and sometimes clunky – but it’s easy to use, has a phone app, and once you get oriented, you can create professional materials quickly. The video I recorded was unusable so I decided to go into my vault and select images, past video clips, and use voice over with the script I wrote out to answer the prompts. It worked much better. Here is the final result:

Rebecca Cooney self intro created in Adobe Spark
Self-intro created in Adobe Spark

The self-intro prompts were nice. Much more original than the standard “tell us your name, where you work, and what interests you most about the course” line of questioning. The prompts were:

  • “What inspired your interest in this course and or the LXD certificate program?
  • What is your profession? What software or products do you interact with as part of your daily workflow? In one sentence explain what the software or product helps you to accomplish?
  • What aspect(s) of user experience design do you think are most interesting or relevant to your life?”

I liked that the questions made me think. They went beyond the top layer.

Step 3: Review readings and resources

There is no book for this class. Instead the instructor created a single page of “required” and “optional” resource. They are a mix of article links and videos. The instructor also noted that students should not spend more than 90 minutes with the reading materials so we can instead focus our energies on the assignments instead.

Step 4: Contribution #1 in the all-student discussion forum

I have worked in Canvas since last summer so I am familiar with the structure. But again, the instructor indicates we should spend no more than 60 minutes on our three contributions to the forum. Also noted are guidelines and parameters for contribution noting students should “engage in the discussion by always replying to the most recent post.” What a great idea! The instructions go on to say “after posting, please waiting until at least 3 of your peers have contributed to the discussion before posting again to allow the discussion to evolve naturally.”

This was an ah-ha moment for me. I now have a new model to try out for future discussion forums in my online classes.

The prompt was simple and referred back to the readings. I was the first to post and now more or trickling in. I will submit contribution #2 in the next day or so.

Next up…

Back to my To-Do List. I still need to complete the small-group assignment and individual assignment, as well as continue with two more contributions to the discussion forum – all by Sunday at 11:59p.

The act of writing about it gives me a place to store notes and ideas while they are fresh. I share them with you so you can gain insights as well. More to come!


This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Online Teaching Tips series. Check out more tips in the “Online Teaching Tips” category.

Forging through #COVID19 setbacks: Planning your next move [infographic]

Professional Pathways - Career Advancement

Economic impacts of #COVID19 have hit far and wide – especially for those who are furloughed, were laid off, or were informed that their summer internships are canceled. For those facing this reality and doing their best to recover from the shock and loss, I wanted to share a 10-step process for carving a pathway toward your next move.

One of the most common notes I receive from alumni:

“Hi Rebecca. I am on the job hunt. I have updated my resume and am searching around for jobs but honestly I am lost. I don’t know where to begin or steps I should be taking. I am spinning. Can you please provide me with some guidance?”

-many variations from many past students

Because this question has arrived in my email in-box so frequently, I created a 10-step “Pathway to Career Advancement.”

Infographic created by Rebecca L. Cooney (7-step version)

Pathway to Career Advancement

  • 1) Where do you want to live and work? Are you willing to relocate?

    Before you head down the rabbit hole of job search, take some time to narrow down your preferences on where you want to live and work. Take into consideration if you are willing to relocate. Create a quick wish list of no more than 5 regions. As work-from-home opportunities are becoming more available, if you are interested in working remotely, you can add “remote” to your list as well.

  • 2) Begin to identify companies you want to work for.

    Once you have narrowed your desired geographic regions, you can start looking for companies you want to work for. A great place to start is the area Chamber of Commerce that will have a comprehensive list of organizations in each region. You can also do a general Google search for “companies in [city].”

  • 3) Create a spreadsheet and begin collecting data.

    I have found that having a single place to collect data is really helpful. You can make notes, keep track of progress. Here is a start to that spreadsheet. I encourage you to customize it and add “status” columns when you have conducted an informational interview, applied, or interviewed.

    sample spreadsheet headers
  • 4) Visit company sites to see if/what jobs are available.

    Visit their websites – do they have a section for Jobs or Careers (if it’s not in the main menu – look in their page footer). Then go to LinkedIn and look them up – see if they have a “Jobs” tab and take note of what is available. You can also do a general search through Indeed or Glassdoor.

  • 5) Identify jobs that interest you.

    As you see jobs that interest you and begin to populate your spreadsheet.

  • 6) Make note of job post keywords.

    Look at each job posting and make a note of all keywords and phrases they list for what they describe for duties, qualifications, and desired skills.

  • 7) Go to your LinkedIn profile – how does it match up to these job opportunities?

    In LinkedIn – see how your profile matches up to these jobs. Do this by logging in to LinkedIn, searching on a job that intrigues you, and seeing how your qualifications match up. Chances are you will need to update your LinkedIn profile – making adjustments to your core skills and competencies. For example – you may want to de-emphasize your background in graphic design but over-emphasize your experience in project management, working with data, analytics, or customer relations. You should also make sure you have updated technical skills noted in your profile. >> Refer to my LinkedIn Essentials post for more details

  • 8) Access your most current resume and cover letters

    Once you see where your LinkedIn profile needs adjustments in order to match with these job postings – you can tweak your resume and cover letter so everything is in alignment.

  • 9) Customize your resume and cover letter for EACH job you want to apply for.

    Your resume and cover letters should speak directly to the positions – touching on all keywords and phrases. >> Learn more about writing great cover letters from Glassdoor. View my 5 Essential Resume Elements and visit Glassdoors tips for the “perfect resume.”

  • 10) Start applying!

    Now that you have narrowed your search, compiled some data, and updated your LinkedIn profile, resume, and cover letter – you are ready to put yourself out there and begin the application process.

So I hope this is helpful. This is not a process I read somewhere – it is one I have created that gives professionals seeking new opportunities a launch pad as they embark on the career advancement journey. Best of luck!


#KeepGoing #KeepGrowing

This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Professional Pathways – Never Stop Learning series. Check out more posts in the Professional Pathways category.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Cooney is a Clinical Associate Professor of Strategic Communication and Director of Murrow Online Programs at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She is also a Research Associate for the Center of Excellence for Natural Product-Drug Interaction Research. Rebecca has more than 26 years of professional experience. Her core areas of expertise include user experience design, integrated communication, brand strategy, and digital communications. She holds a BA in organizational communications and MS in communications and is the recipient of the 2019 Oaks Award for innovation in teaching, 2015 Scripps Howard Visiting Professor in Social Media, and 2014 Plank Center Educator Fellow awards.

The self-publishing debate: Online portfolio vs. personal blog vs. professional blog

Professional Pathways - showcase best work

A look at the various ways professionals can showcase their work and writing talents to attract the right kind of attention.


Active, working professionals who want to be seen and found online have a lot of options for showcasing work and expertise but little time to decide what they should have, how to build it, and how to maintain it. This post is designed to break down these options and give a reality check on what it takes.

Here is the quick rundown of my recommendations:

Keep reading if you want details and background

QuestionAnswer
Do I need a personal online portfolio?Yes. In most cases you need one. Read on to learn more.
Should my blog be built within or separate from my online portfolio?> If you plan to write about professionally-relevant topics or work experiences – you can create a blog section within your online portfolio.
> If you plan to write about topics outside your profession, create a separate blog or self-publish in places like Medium and LinkedIn.
How can I work toward becoming a thought leader and make money blogging?If you want to monetize your blog, I suggest it is separate from your online portfolio to limit “muddying the waters.” You will have to enable e-Commerce and paid ad features that may not be in line with your personal brand or the core purpose of your professional portfolio.

Pause for background and context…

I got my first “real” job in 1993 at C.W. Crocker Communications. I was 19 years old and not yet exposed to websites, social media, text messaging, or e-mail. Why? Because this technology was not available. This means that all young professionals had to kick it old school and search for jobs using the classified sections of newspapers or word-of-mouth, print and distribute paper resumés, call or visit with colleagues and prospective employers face-to-face, and pitch story ideas via phone or printed media kits. One could self-publish of course, but in order to distribute it, the collection would have to be printed. Our portfolios (aka “samples of work”) were in hard copy, bound folders or binders. We basically used spit, polish, glue, and x-acto knives to put it all together.

Infographic created by Rebecca Cooney in Canva

So yes, I am 46-years-old and grew up in the ’70’s and ’80’s with four TV channels (and no remote), battery-operated toys, and car-bingo as the sole entertainment on road trips. My 79-year-old parents also still have AOL accounts. But I digress. Let’s fast forward to the present day and skip the history lesson about technological developments between 1994-2020.

Welcome to the debate about the necessity of online portfolios and self-publishing using modern web-based tools. I consider it a debate because there are so many articles with varying opinions. I don’t have all of the answers, but I can help in the navigation and decision-making process for the typical professional who wants to showcase their work and also have a place to share select writing samples for various purposes.

Self-publishing debate breakdown: Some opinion and evidence-based logic on pros, cons, best practices, and the rest.

  • Professional online portfolio

    As an exercise, I Googled “do I need an online portfolio.” “Yes” is the answer from The Muse, Webflow, Capella, and CollegeInfoGeek. My answer is also “yes” if you work in an industry where you are expected to show samples of the work you produced as a way to demonstrate proof of your core competencies. So, let’s assume you fall into this category.

    Alison Doyle at The Balance Careers says “A solid, cohesive, and comprehensive portfolio establishes your distinction in a sea of candidates. It provides “evidence” to an employer of your accomplishments, skills, and abilities. It is a good way to show the scope and quality of your experience and training. A portfolio can also help demonstrate your talent and ability to produce high-quality work in your field.”

    My favorite online portfolio tools are:

    a) Wix
    b) Squarespace
    c) Weebly
    d) WordPress (#1 tool if you plan to incorporate a blog)
    e) Adobe Portfolio
    f) Tumblr

    Online portfolio basics

    1) Collect your best work (5-10 writing or design examples, completed projects, etc.)
    2) Decide on the portfolio tool you want to use and select a template or start from scratch
    3) Keep it simple at first with the following sections such as About, Work Examples, Resume, Contact
    4) As you showcase each example, be sure to give context – title of the piece, your role in its creation, who or what it was for, goals and outcomes.

    Learn more about setting up an online portfolio:

    a) How to Make a Portfolio by Nick Schaferhoff at Website Setup (2019)
    b) 6 Steps to Creating a Knockout Online Portfolio by Mell Ravenel, Adobe 99U (n.d.)
    c) 9 Best Portfolio Website Builders by Lucy Carney, Website Builder Expert (2020)

  • Personal vs. professional blogging (not monetized)

    The definition of personal vs. professional blog has shifted over the years. By the updated definition, either one can be monetized (meaning – money can be made through sponsorship, subscription, and/or ads). For the purpose of this post, my focus is on the non-monetized personal vs. professional blogs.

    Personal blog: Think of a personal blog as a public journal or diary – an unstructured place for how-to’s, opinions, poetry, or other musings. If you want to run a personal blog, I suggest you keep it separate from your online portfolio. This could be a separate blog using tools like WordPress, Blogger, or Tumblr – or you can create a space on Medium. Medium focuses on content where as a blog provides more flexibility if you want to include design features (photos, artwork, video). >> Learn more about getting started with Medium

    Professional blog: A professional (non-monetized) blog can be integrated into your online portfolio IF you plan to write about topics related to your industry. That way you keep your content in context. One of the great benefits of blogging this way is you create a space where you can write about topics relevant to your core competencies, but it is attached to you – not your business or the company you work for. You can decide on frequency and distribution, and whether or not you want to increase your readership by attaching a social media engagement strategy.

  • Thought leadership and blogging (monetized)

    If you are interested in carving a niche as a thought leader and making money by blogging, you will want to invest time and money into learning how to do it right. SmartBlogger offers a free guide for making money blogging. Making money as a blogger is an entirely different landscape where revenue is generated from online courses and workshops; books, e-books, and whitepapers; affiliate marketing; advertising; speaking engagements; consulting; and freelance services. You can also check out this Forbes article about ways to make money from your blog featuring additional ideas such as creating sponsored posts, designing contests, selling templates or merchandise.

So I am at the start of this journey. I have an online portfolio and professional blog. This summer I plan to explore creating original content on Medium for more personal writing – or writing for topics that are outside my profession. I have not yet explored the creation and management of a monetized blog. Here is my current mix:


#KeepGoing #KeepGrowing

This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Professional Pathways – Never Stop Learning series. Check out more posts in the Professional Pathways category.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Cooney is a Clinical Associate Professor of Strategic Communication and Director of Murrow Online Programs at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She is also a Research Associate for the Center of Excellence for Natural Product-Drug Interaction Research. Rebecca has more than 26 years of professional experience. Her core areas of expertise include user experience design, integrated communication, brand strategy, and digital communications. She holds a BA in organizational communications and MS in communications and is the recipient of the 2019 Oaks Award for innovation in teaching, 2015 Scripps Howard Visiting Professor in Social Media, and 2014 Plank Center Educator Fellow awards.

Thank you. It means a lot.

Professional Pathways - thank you

5 quick tips on ways to show gratitude and appreciation for people supporting you on your journey


I was raised by a mother who made me and my four siblings keep a running log of gifts we received at Christmas. We had to write down who it was from and a description. Before playing with our new treasures, we then had to write individual, hand-written thank you notes to every person who gave us a gift. As we aged we were expected to do the same for every birthday, graduation, wedding, and anniversary, as well as anytime someone put themselves out there for us – went above and beyond, or did something nice out of the goodness of their heart.

This training has stuck with me and I still practice it to this day. My methods and process have evolved and adapted for the times. Sometimes my notes are handwritten and other times they are emails, texts, direct messages, or even a thumbs up or smiley face. But the point is, there is ALWAYS a thank you.

Thank you’s are good for the soul. They serve the giver and the receiver. They show that you care and have respect for those who give you grace.

Giving thanks is easy. Ideally, it is also automatic. Everyone is busy – but we are not too busy to take a few minutes to show appreciation to those who give us their time, treasure, or talent.

I have two places I keep thank you notes I receive – 1) All hard copy, hand-written thank you notes are saved and preserved. They are added to a “wall of thanks” I created in my office. 2) When I first started teaching, I created an email folder called KUDOS. Every time I get an emailed thank you note, I save it in this folder. Over the past years, I have collected dozens of these pieces of appreciation. I treasure them because life can be very challenging. It is easy to succumb to sadness and fear or feelings of doubt. Having a wall of thanks or notes to remind yourself that you matter can make a huge difference in the desire to stay on track and keep going. So as a person who values receiving these notes of gratitude, I am committed to paying it forward.

Here are 5 low-cost and low-impact ways you can start your own practice of gratitude:

  • 1) Face-to-face

    For most of us, when we are physically with someone who gives us a gift, compliment, or does something nice – we say “thank you” on autopilot. That is terrific and we should keep doing that. So for those times when you are not in the same room as someone who has done something nice – you can always go with the face-to-face option. A quick pop-in to their office, a high five or hand-shake (adjust for #Covid19 as needed) when you see them next or go above and beyond with an invite to coffee or lunch as a gesture of appreciation. Phone calls/messages or video chat work well too!

  • 2) Hand-written

    I am personally a fan of the hand-written thank you note but recognize this might challenging for many. There is often a desire to be profound in the note. This is not necessary. A simple thank you for what you have done for me on a simple, even blank, notecard will suffice. I have a 1973 Royal typewriter so I love to write notes on it and give my thank-you’s a bit of flair and personality. I will also note here that although very nice, it is not necessary to include gift cards or other presents with your thank-yous. You taking the time and energy to send a note is more than enough.

  • 3) Email

    Thank you emails are not lazy. They, too, are appreciated. Try to give a bit more than “thank you” for the note if the person you are writing to went above and beyond. Add a sentence about how their act made a difference or helped you accomplish something. Providing context and meaning to your thank you shows the giver that you are paying attention and acknowledging their effort.

  • 4) Direct message

    Direct messages might be the most convenient given time or urgency. If connected socially, you can send a direct message through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Here you can add some personality and fun with emoji’s, bitmoji’s, gifs and memes. If it is appropriate to be more public with your thank you – you can add value by sending a tagged shout-out via social media so others can share in your gratitude and appreciation for others in your network.

  • 5) Text

    If all else fails and you are out of time and energy – sending a text is also nice and at a minimum, shows you acknowledge and appreciate the giver’s effort. This is most appropriate with friends, family, and close colleagues — individuals you have already an established connection.

One thing I hear a lot from family when they send a gift to one of my kids is “did they get it?” That tells me that the child did not send a thank you. Family members are inherently understanding. Not saying thank-you is not an unforgivable act. But if it’s not already in your auto-pilot, please consider adapting to a new auto-response of sending a quick text or direct message to the person who gave you a gift or did something nice. You would be surprised at the difference it makes for those who love and care about you.

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful humans can do for each other.”

Randy Pausch, professor – carnegie mellon university

These may be simple and obvious to some but many people neglect, forget, or don’t even consider taking these steps. Never underestimate the power of saying thank you. If you are not already in the practice of showing gratitude regularly because it feels awkward or time-consuming, I challenge you to start now. Consider it a stepping stone on your professional pathways journey. It is an easy way to make an impact, practice empathy, and demonstrate that you are the kind of person that will add value to an organization.


#KeepGoing #KeepGrowing

This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Professional Pathways – Never Stop Learning series. Check out more posts in the Professional Pathways category.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Cooney is a Clinical Associate Professor of Strategic Communication and Director of Murrow Online Programs at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She is also a Research Associate for the Center of Excellence for Natural Product-Drug Interaction Research. Rebecca has more than 26 years of professional experience. Her core areas of expertise include user experience design, integrated communication, brand strategy, and digital communications. She holds a BA in organizational communications and MS in communications and is the recipient of the 2019 Oaks Award for innovation in teaching, 2015 Scripps Howard Visiting Professor in Social Media, and 2014 Plank Center Educator Fellow awards.

Your LinkedIn Profile: 10 Essentials for Students & New Grads

Professional Pathways - LinkedIn

OK students and recent graduates – how overwhelmed are you by the litany of information, articles, tips, etc. you receive about do’s and don’ts of your LinkedIn profile? Total information overload, right? So this post is not meant to add to that chaos, but instead cut through the clutter and tell you – rather point blank – what your LinkedIn profile must-have. Let’s not worry about the rest (at least not now).

Just for you, I have compiled a list of 10 attributes of a solid LinkedIn profile. These suggestions are a compilation of several expert resources. Don’t overthink it. Take the advice and don’t hesitate. You can be done within two hours easy even if you are starting from scratch.

Rebecca’s Top 5 Resources:

  1. LinkedIn How Do I Create a Good LinkedIn Profile?
  2. LinkedIn Build Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn (2pgs)
  3. LifeHacker’s Ultimate LinkedIn Cheat Sheet (2016)
  4. Murrow College alumna and Director of Sales Development at Checkr – Anna Centrella Thayer’s “Launch Your Career Using LinkedIn” (2020)
  5. The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Students by Ransom Patterson, College Info Geek (2020)

“70% of employers check social media profiles of candidates to learn more about them.

47% of employers said that they would not call a candidate for interview who does not have any social media presence.”

The Ladders (2019)

Let’s do this.

  • 1) Your profile photo and cover image

    Profile photo (400x400px): Your profile photo should be current (no high school glamour shots). It should be in color, head-and-shoulders, no funky cropping, and simple background. Worst-case scenario – have a friend take your pic against a blank or brick wall.

    Cover image (1584×396 px): Do not leave the default blue backdrop. Find a decent quality pic that represents your personal brand or passions. Image size is 1400×425 pixels.

  • 2) Your name, title and location

    Name: Full name (add middle initial if needed). Check your name on LinkedIn search to see where you rank. Make sure your name is consistent on all digital channels.

    Title (aka professional headline): Don’t say “student” or “graduate of X” or your title from a club or part-time job. Instead use keyword-skills to describe your strengths. For example “Social Media | Project Management| Digital Marketing | Metrics.” LifeHacker notes you should avoid buzzwords like experienced, skilled, leadership, passionate, expert, motivated, creative, strategic as these are cliché.

    Location: Location should be the region where you want to work (e.g. San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle Area). If you are willing to relocate – note that in your summary statement.

  • 3) Your summary statement

    Write in first person. 200-250 characters. Use keywords. Read over summaries of individuals who have jobs you want. Write down the skills listed for the jobs you want. Include current status and objectives. Highlight summary of skills and what you can offer an organization. “you don’t just want to list your skills. Rather, you should weave the skills keywords into a narrative about where you are in your career currently (and where you’d like to be in the future).” (Patterson, 2020)

    Check out LinkedIn’s favorite profile summary examples. Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! Typos are a no-go in this section.

  • 4) Customize your URL

    When you first set up a LinkedIn profile, it will default to a series of numbers. Change this to a custom URL. Visit “Customize your Public Profile URL” from LinkedIn for step-by-step instructions.

  • 5) Experience section

    Your experience section can include paid and volunteer positions. Do not include high school jobs unless you have nothing else to note. Use keywords in your title and description. Write 2-3 sentences describing your primary duties. Include start and stop dates and locations. Scroll down to the “Experience” section on LifeHacker’s cheat sheet for other helpful tips.

  • 6) Education section

    Always list your highest academic achievement first (even if in-progress). Note the school or institution, degree earned, dates, and activities and clubs. Including honors is good but GPA is optional and only encouraged if it is exceptional. There is another section you can add for Licenses and Certifications.

  • 7) Skills & endorsements

    Add a minimum of 10 skills related to your industry. Look at job descriptions or job posts to see what keywords and phrases are used to describe key attributes of individuals in the role. Include at least 5 relevant skills that will help you connect to the right people. “Note skills that match jobs you want and increase your views by 64%.” (Thayer, 2020)

    Note about endorsements vs. recommendations: Once you have listed your skills, your connections can “endorse” you for them. “Recommendations” is a different section of the profile. You can ask past employers, colleagues, or instructors to write a recommendation on your behalf.”

  • 8) Make connections & join groups

    Follow companies you want to work for, people you think will increase your value, people who work where you want to work, and association in the locations you want to move to.

    Build connections through past jobs, parents and family connections, friends of parents, alumni, and professors. ALWAYS send a personal note when you want to connect. Introduce yourself, explain why you want to connect and give context. “If you can explain (or remind) someone why it makes sense to connect with you, they’ll be more likely to accept.” (Patterson, 2020)

  • 9) Accomplishments

    There are several categories of Accomplishments. It is in this section you note additional languages, publications, relevant courses, projects, honors and awards, and honor societies or other organizations.

  • 10) All the rest…

    1) Turn on “job alerts” so recruiters know you are looking
    2) Search for jobs on LinkedIn: By default, this page will show you jobs for which LinkedIn thinks are qualified. Keep searching – look for recruiters; search jobs by keywords for titles, location, company, contacts.
    3) Save jobs that are of-interest
    4) Go on to LinkedIn 1x/day for at least 15 minutes to improve your search ranking
    5) Seek to build a minimum of 100 connections
    6) Make it your goal to achieve All-Star Status. Learn how from The Muse

Want even more info?

  1. Check out LinkedIn Learning’s Beginner’s course on getting set up on LinkedIn (LinkedIn Learning offers a free month promotion)
  2. Check out Anna Centrella Thayer’s workshop from Apr 28, 2020 Level-Up Your LinkedIn with Anna Centrella Thayer (free, YouTube)
  3. Review The Muse’s “9 tiny tweaks that’ll make your LinkedIn profile top-notch” by Lily Herman (n.d.)

#KeepGoing #KeepGrowing

This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Professional Pathways – Never Stop Learning series. Check out more posts in the Professional Pathways category.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Cooney is a Clinical Associate Professor of Strategic Communication and Director of Murrow Online Programs at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She is also a Research Associate for the Center of Excellence for Natural Product-Drug Interaction Research. Rebecca has more than 26 years of professional experience. Her core areas of expertise include user experience design, integrated communication, brand strategy, and digital communications. She holds a BA in organizational communications and MS in communications and is the recipient of the 2019 Oaks Award for innovation in teaching, 2015 Scripps Howard Visiting Professor in Social Media, and 2014 Plank Center Educator Fellow awards.

Showcase your brand in Instagram using the PhotoSplit App & Canva

I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across something I had not seen before – a well-designed 3×5 box-grid layout of the @heartandsocialmedia landing page. I loved it – thought it looked so clean, creative, and cool. As an added bonus, I realized quickly that this women-owned business is run by TWO Murrow College alumni who also happen to be my former students from COMSTRAT 310 Digital Content Promotion. Heart and Social Media was founded in 2020 by Brianna (Hoefer) Perry (advertising, ’15), and Christina Snow (strategic communication, ’18). They specialize in social media and branding services offering packages in social media management, do-it-yourself (DIY) branded kits, curated content, messaging and graphics, and brand strategy. Their materials look fantastic. I am so excited to watch their journey unfold!

Back to the purpose of this post. After I landed on the Heart and Social Media landing page, I set out to figure out how they created this cool box-grid landing page. I found an app called PhotoSplit for Instagram: Profile Photo Grid Maker. I don’t know if this is the app or method they used. There are several ways to do it. Anyway – here is what their’s looked like when I screenshot it earlier this week:


10 Steps to creating your own PhotoSplit art in Canva

So I downloaded the app and set out to create one for my newly minted Instagram professional page @professorcooney. You can upload a single image into the app and it will split it out for you by default (see instructions and short tutorial). But I wanted to create something similar to Heart and Social Media where there was a mix of images, graphics, box-overlay, and text. So I decided to use my favorite – Canva!

Here’s how I did it so you can do it too!

Rebecca Cooney PhotoSplit

Canva logo

  1. Create a design with custom dimensions: 3000x4040px
  2. Upload images and artwork you want to use in your PhotoSplit landing page or search through Elements and Photos for royalty-free options
  3. Use the Add Text feature to create various text areas
  4. Use shapes as needed
  5. Try new things! Play and experiment
  6. Download your finished product as a .png
  7. Open the PhotoSplit app and upload it
  8. The app will break up your image into a series of 15 boxes you upload as posts in Instagram (in reverse order)
  9. And there you go!
  10. As you add posts each square will move down so you may want to be mindful of how your page looks when you add posts one at a time.

#KeepGoing #KeepGrowing

This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Professional Pathways – Never Stop Learning series. Check out more posts in the Professional Pathways category.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Cooney is a Clinical Associate Professor of Strategic Communication and Director of Murrow Online Programs at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She is also a Research Associate for the Center of Excellence for Natural Product-Drug Interaction Research. Rebecca has more than 26 years of professional experience. Her core areas of expertise include user experience design, integrated communication, brand strategy, and digital communications. She holds a BA in organizational communications and MS in communications and is the recipient of the 2019 Oaks Award for innovation in teaching, 2015 Scripps Howard Visiting Professor in Social Media, and 2014 Plank Center Educator Fellow awards.