The Online College Instructor
Navigating the Virtual College Classroom


The end-of-the semester college bookstore buy back is in full swing, as sleep deprived students line up to get some cash back for their expensive, back-breaking textbooks. What if students didn’t need to pay as much for a textbook and also not worry about lugging a textbook around campus?

Amazon’s answer is the $489 Kindle DX, introduced today (5/6/09) at New York City’s Pace University.

Three publishing companies, representing 60% of the textbook market,  have signed on to offer their textbooks on the Kindle DX reading device:

Six universities will launch Kindle DX pilot programs for their students in the upcoming Fall 2009 semester:

Amazon’s Kindle DX offers a 9.7″ display screen, instead of the 6″ screen on its recently introduced Kindle 2.  With over 275,000 titles available through, the 4 gigabyte, 18.9 ounce e-book makes it possible for users to store up to 3,500 books, magazines, newspapers, and other documents – including textbooks.

$489 is expensive, but with the cost of textbooks continuing to skyrocket, perhaps the Kindle DX will turn out to be a bargain.  Of course, that depends on how much Amazon and the three college textbook publishers decide to charge for downloading a textbook.

Right now, Amazon charges around $10 for a best seller that would sell for around $30 in a bookstore.  If textbook publishers charge a third of their usual prices for books, there might be some savings over the long haul.  And then, I wonder if Amazon will allow any buy backs at the end of a semester.


You might be interested in the following video from the January 27th Today Show about the increase of online students:


I don’t remember how I wandered onto the Apple Business site, but while there, I found an interesting productivity tool called Bento.  I’ve downloaded a trial version to see how I can use it and will post my reaction after about a week or so of  “playing” with the program.


I love lists; they’re so easy to read and informative, too.  Today I found a useful list of new e-learning tools, written by Jane Hart (Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies).  One of the tools for 2009 Ms. Hart included is one I will probably use later this semester in one of my online courses.  The free virtual classroom service is called WiziQ (beta version).  If I do get around to using WiziQ, I’ll let you know how my students (and I) used it and whether it was helpful.

Thanks for your list, Jane.



First off, spend some time on your work environment. I’m not an interior designer or a professional organizer, but certainly working in a space devoted to just exactly that – work – keeps your residence from becoming a giant work elephant you wind up tripping over wherever you go. Yes, work spilling into spaces throughout your home does occasionally happen. The key is to put that elephant back in its own space at the end of your workday.

Work insinuated my entire home until last year. I finally realized that working at home had become an endless, all-consuming task of re-organizing piles of paper (so much for the paperless world), moving my computer, with its Hydra-like wires, from one place to the other, and finding textbooks used pillars of knowledge constructed in corners of the house. Clearing out a space, which my husband and I had already used as an office, was the key. Painting it, adding a wall-length desk-high counter space, and adding shelving units and baskets (for file cabinets) created a space, which was clearly designated for work and nothing else.

That’s not to say that work still doesn’t spill over into other rooms of my home, but at least, at the end of the workday, I have one place to rest my work. All the trappings of academic life are neatly filed and stored, including all the digital equipment I use for my online classes: camera, printer, scanner, etc. A word about printers and scanners: There are units on the market that combine many copying features, including scanning, printing, faxing, and copying. They’re worth the price because you wind up with only one unit instead four, saving useful desk or counter space.

Enough of my HGTV advice.

To read more about my experiences as an online professor, click on the Working Online tab at the top of this page.


Six days and counting.  Things have been pretty quiet around here, without any discussion boards to read or emails to answer from my students, but that’s about to change – big time.

A new 12-week semester begins this coming Monday, and I’m all set to go.  Tomorrow, I’ll send out my “Welcome” email to all 29 students in one class, ten in the other.  (I have two weeks to go before sending out emails to students in my three 15-week courses.)

I guess I should enjoy the remaining days of calm.  I know, though, that once I send out my emails tomorrow, the two courses’ discussion boards will be buzzing, but I’m going to try as best I can to stay away from those discussion boards until Monday morning.

Wish me luck!


With the cost of gas, even as oil prices came down this week ($83 a barrel on Friday, October 10th), it makes sense to limit our driving as much as we can.  Companies are now considering the possibility of their employees telecommuting a day or two a week.  Why not start teaching part of a college course online?  Students and professors could meet once a week, with the remaining coursework handled online with discussion boards, online lectures, etc.?


“What do you do all day?”  I’m asked that question many times and, of course, when I explain that I’m a full time online university instructor, I usually get that glassy-eyed stare of someone who has trouble dealing with anyone who “plays on the computer all day long.”

I’m sure freelance writers, home-based entrepreneurs, and the growing number of other types of telecommuters experience that same non-responsive stare.  We don’t have to wear “work clothes.”  Robes and slippers are appropriate “office wear.”  Why, we could even get by without showering every day.  Well, maybe not.

Despite all the perks – including no commuting and wardrobe expenses, no time restrictions (yeah, right), off-peak traveling (do you?) – teaching exclusively online presents both benefits and, yes, challenges.

I hope this blog will become a clearinghouse of information, as well as a growing community of online college and university level instructors looking for a place to learn more about teaching online and enjoying some virtual conversation.