Finally… “Winter” Break

Finally. Time for winter break. Old-school me refers to this as Christmas break, but let’s not offend anybody, eh? 

This last term was busy. My leadership class was great, as the professor was extremely helpful and left many personal comments in all assignments. My research class? Just the opposite. Canned (pre-written) responses 100% of the time; zero in-paper critiques. Can’t grow much if professors don’t contribute. I was also a graduate assistant for a research class, and that was fun (and time consuming). Not only did I get to contribute to discussion forums, I got to try my hand at providing concept paper feedback along with the professor.

During break, I have a few school-related tasks I need to complete. First, I need to go through all of my printed journal articles (yes, I print them out) and file them appropriately so I can reference them quickly in the future. Second, I need to work on organizing my Zotero references for the concept paper class. That particular class is the “gateway” to candidacy, and candidacy is necessary if you want to proceed with your dissertation and completion of the program. 

Triangulation

It’s always good to learn new things. This term, we discussed triangulation and its use with qualitative research methods. For my proposed dissertation, I had planned to use a focus group for part of the research. Now? I’m pondering the use of focus groups AND in-depth interviews. This will allow to gather similar data from two groups of people using two different methods. This is data triangulation and helps with study validity, as well. 

My research is mixed-methods, so while I have qualitative methods listed above, I do have some quantitative methods as well. Too much? Not at all. If I’m getting data, I may as well analyze as much as I can with regards to how things compare/relate/etc. 

I keep forgetting to post. Sorry. (Sorry to myself, as nobody really reads this. And that’s okay!)

Motivation (& the lack of)

Recently, I suffer from a lack of motivation. Right now, in another window, I’m writing this week’s paper for my strategic planning class. Typically, I’m done with all assignments prior to the weekend. The weekend is my “Matt time” and my opportunity to relax and prepare for the upcoming modules. 

Fall & winter are here, and having darkness start at 3:30 PM is unsettling. It makes me tired. And it makes me want to NOT work on assignments when I get home from a long day at work. 

I need to figure out a way to stay focused. I need to complete assingment in a timely fasion (even though they aren’t due until Sunday at midnight). I need to have a better work-life-school balance. Augh (as Charlie Brown would say). 

3+1=4

Previously, I had two external monitors attached to my laptop. One of those monitors, though, had a lower resolution than the other two. (One of these things is not like the other… One of these things just doesn’t below…).

To rectify that issue, I purchased another monitor and had planned to just dispose of the low-res one. I’m not sure what changed my mind, but I ended up getting a monitor stand and adapter (the low-res did not have a VESA mount, either). Now I have a four monitor set-up — one of those four being my laptop. 

Why do I need four monitors? I don’t. But they’re nice…

Monitor 1: University website

Monitor 2: Zotero (my reference manager software)

Monitor 3: Library website

Monitor 4: Facebook and Google Play Music

Royalty-free Music for Presentations

 

We are regularly asked to create some type of presentation for class assignments. These can take many forms… Canva, Prezi, MySimpleShow (one of my favorites), PowerPoint (for example). This week, I am creating a PowerPoint regarding the use of dashboards as analysis tools for organizations. 

Why PowerPoint? I’m pretty good at it, and I’ve gotten the animation, timing, and sound capabilities figured out — mostly. I learn more every time I use the software. 

In the past, I have used my own music — often classical — as background music for presentations. This time I wanted something better; something more “corporate”. More polished. More professional. 

I’m always leery of downloading music online (think Limewire if you’re older than 30), but today’s anti-virus software packages are pretty good. Bensound is the first site I visited, and they had — royalty free — exactly what I wanted. In fact, it auto-plays with this post. You’re welcome. Catchy, eh? Now… To finish my presentation…

 

Zotero Library Page

I’d forgotten that Zotero automatically syncs my desktop library/research to my online account. Eventually, I’ll need to pay for more space online, but it’s only $20 per year — not too bad. 

I also found a WordPress plugin that displays my library here. Not that anybody will look for or download my actual items (they are not downloadable; I have turned that feature off), but having a page fits in with the purpose of this blog. 

I’m finding that playing around with MattCoenenDotCom can be fun and relaxing. (Hence the new stress relief category). 

Social Media and Student Support

Programs that are 100% online — and more exist now than ever before — can prove challenging. The face-to-face interaction deemed useful in the past do not exist. Instead, asynchronous learning makes use of online forum posts, back-and-forth emails/messaging, and discussion forums. Types of interactivity are drastically different, and, often, are not sufficient. 

In much of the research, students report feelings of solitude and loneliness. The limited, immediate interactions provided in traditional classroom settings do not exist. Body language, facial expressions, and tone/pace/vocal cues do not exist in a forum discussion post or comment. 

To help with this, a classmate and myself created a Facebook group (closed and private) to provide the more immediate feedback and support many students require. The group has well-defined rules, and members go through an approval process (a few school-related questions such as program of study and current classes being taken). 

The group has proven to be beneficial, at least based on member posts and comments. I know I continually find it useful. It keeps me grounded, out of my own head, and provides that immediate feedback and support missing in the online learning environment. 

UpStrem Project Management Plugin for WordPress

 

 

Holy plugins, Project Manager Batman. 

I had no idea WordPress had project management plugins. Zero. Nada. 
Remember the previous post in which I mentioned we had to create some type of dissertation project map, and I used Excel to create a Gantt chart? Well, now I can use my blog/website to track my progress. I’m so excited!

Now I have to transfer milestones/tasks to the project. I’m using UpStream in a very minimal capacity, as I’m the only person working on this project, but it will help keep me on track. And, honestly, playing around with this website and WordPress is relaxing for me. (And I lose track of time!)

(They also have a little fishy as their logo. How fun is that?)

 

Time Management Tips

Yesterday, a former high-school classmate asked me how I manage to work full-time and attend school full-time — and get everything done. I think he just started work on his master’s degree, and he also has a family to be involved with. He has even less time than I do, most likely, for school. Regardless, I did share some of my tips. They may or may not work for him (or for others), but they work for me. (At least so far, they have).

  • Monday-Friday, I get home from work and focus on school until 7:00 PM. No earlier. No later.
  • I try to get at least one full assignment completed daily. That could be a paper, a discussion forum post, or discussion forum replies.
  • I take at least one day off each week.
  • Saturday is my “catch-up” if behind day, though I try to not work more than 3 hours on school.
  • Sunday? Prep for the next week. Download or print journal articles/readings, print out an assignment list.
  • I use Zotero to organize my library (which reminds me, I need to purge stuff and reorganize). He does, too. (Bonus points!)

 

Dissertation Timeline

So. In the first (of many) doctoral seminar classes, we were tasked with creating some sort of dissertation timeline. A map, if you will, of where we are, where we are going, how we will get there, and roadblocks we may encounter.

The class resources page online suggested a PERT chart. Not really my style. Or using an infographic at Canva (online design-type software). I don’t have time to learn new software.

I decided to do somewhat of a Gantt chart using Excel. Why? I already own the software (well, rent it, technically), and I refuse to spend money on additional software I would only use once. I did find a template online; thanks for that, Vertex42. Now I have an actual timeline/map that is functional and usable.

I kind of like it. And this is one assignment that is extremely worthwhile!