Teaching is a profession that can be as challenging as it is rewarding, but every now and then I am reminded why I chose this professional path.

In May I received a kind and heartfelt email from Omran Al Farsi, a human resources student at the American University in the Emirates. He had been  a student in my Principles of Management class during the spring semester which had recently concluded. 

The students in Omran’s class, which was one of my smallest at AUE, were uniquely mature and engaged; it felt more like a masters degree class than an undergraduate one.  We spent many of our class periods in the food court discussing management articles from the Harvard Business Review. It was refreshing and revitalizing.

And so, in some ways, I wasn’t surprised to receive a message from a student in that class. However, I was nevertheless surprised, inspired, and energized by Omran’s email; it was exceptionally thoughtful and sincere. The text of his message follows.

It is my pleasure to share it with you below:

“If my educational journey taught me two things, it would be the importance of knowledge and the person who is giving you that knowledge. Thus, I am forever grateful to you and appreciative for your mentoring throughout the course. You have taught me so many things academic related and in leadership on a personal level. I never heard your name mentioned without students and instructors complimenting you as a person and instructor. I found out why when I first attended your class. You have one of the most pure and kind hearts I have ever encountered in my life.” — Omran Al Farsi, Human Resource Management Student at American University in the Emirates

What are your doctoral hopes and dreams?

As part of the University of Leicester‘s online “Discovering Your PhD Potential” course I was asked to describe my doctoral hopes and dreams in a community of practice using a unique tool called Padlet, a free application to create an online bulletin board you can use to display and share information for any topic.

I was instructed to share a photo summing up my feelings, a short video or audio clip describing my thoughts, a short paragraph of text or even just one word. I decided to record a video, shared below, in which I share three adjectives describing my current mood and elaborate on the impact and importance of each: academic, energetic, and pragmatic.

On January 30, 2017, I shared my book, “edX E-Learning Course Development,” to faculty, students, and staff at American University in the Emirates (AUE). Below are videos and photos — along with a copy of the presentation — from that event.

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This was the inaugural “Library Distinguished Guest Speaker Series” event hosted by the Library and Information Resource Center (LIRC) and the Office of Research and Advancement (ORA) at AUE. The event took place in the recently renovated AUE Library; an impressively modern space that encourages education and helps create a learning community.

distinguished_guest_speaker_banner_gilbertI brought in students from my MKT 200-2, Principles of Marketing class and we were joined by an impressive assembly of faculty, staff, and other students — many of whom I am now teaching or have taught in the past. I estimate that, in total, there were upwards of 50 people there. I was honored to be the first speaker at this event during which I:

  • Introduced MOOCs and edX.
  • Shared info about the book.
  • Described my experience.

Below is a slightly edited video of my presentation (from a Facebook Live recording which I filmed with the help of one of my students); it is 26 minutes and 30 seconds in length. I invite you to watch it and learn more about my MOOCs, edX, and my book, “ed E-Learning Course Development.”

You can also review an updated PowerPoint presentation based on the one that I used; it provides a background about the information that I presented, though — just as I do when I teach — the slides were a starting point and not the only point I made.

You can also watch two Facebook Live videos recorded by an AUE staff member:

At the conclusion of my presentation I was awarded a “Certificate of Recognition” from Professor Miroslav Mateev, Interim Vice President of Research and Advancement, on behalf of the Library and Information Resource Center (LIRC) and Office of Research and Advancement (ORA). I was also given a leather attaché case and sincere thanks for my efforts. It was a lovely gesture.

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In summary, “edX E-Learning Course Development” is a 300 page manual that helps university teachers and corporate trainers design, develop, and deploy an interactive and informative MOOC course for the edX platform. It walks a reader through eight steps to create an edX course while teaching them about tools and techniques to know as an edX instructor. Those eight steps are presented in eight chapters which include:

  1. Getting Started: an overview of MOOCs and the history of edX.
  2. Planning the Curriculum:curriculum development.
  3. Producing Videos: video production best practices.
  4. Designing Exercises: options for exercises and assessments.
  5. Integrating the Curriculum: options for adding course materials.
  6. Administering Your Course: your course’s administrative options.
  7. Facilitating Your Course: your role as a facilitator of your edX course.
  8. Promoting Your Course: a strategy to market your course.

You can learn more about “edX E-Learning Course Development” and purchase the book on Amazon or on the Packt Publishing website. I also invite you to contact me with inquiries or opportunities related to this blog post or beyond using the form below.

Dammit Jim, I’m an instructor, not an extra!

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Last month I blogged about my experience as an extra on Star Trek Beyond here in Dubai. At the time I did not think I had made the cut into the movie. However, the other day at a Dmitry Masleev piano concert I ran into Koenraad Gys, a friend who was also an extra; he said saw me while watching a DVD of the movie.

I planned to get and watch the DVD, but tonight, just as I logged into YouTube for my MGT 100, Principles of Management class at American University in the Emirates (AUE), I saw a suggested clip titled “Star Trek Beyond: Starbase Yorktown Introduction Sequence.”

I watched it and, sure enough, at 1:31 to 1:32, spotted myself in my dark blue costume on the left hand side of the frame! You can somewhat see my extra two arms near my thighs, but you can very clearly see my face.

I took three screen shots from the YouTube clip and enhanced them as best as I could, circling myself in red. You can see my friend Alissar Nasrallah  to my right wearing a yellow jacket and my other friend Shah Qhan in the middle of the shot facing the other way with his hand on another extra’s back; I met both on the set.

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Live long and… extra!

Two years ago I began my journey from California to Dubai. I took two United flights on September 7, 2014: one from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD); then my second from IAD to Dubai International Airport (DXB).

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After flying 9,357 miles and traveling nearly 22 hours — including an almost 4 hour delay in Dulles  — I arrived in Dubai the evening of September 8, 2014. Coincidentally Lady Gaga arrived that evening for her first UAE concert ever two days later.

My time in Dubai has presented me with many challenges and many rewards as well; it’s certainly shaped me as a person and a professional. I have been enriched with memories and moments I would have not encountered elsewhere. Being an expat has been a notable time in my life; I am fortunate to have experienced it.

Having taught only adjunct prior to leaving the US, I experienced an evolution from “feral to formal” (as I call it) at two universities: Jumeira University and now American University in the Emirates (AUE). I am grateful for those experiences and treasure the time I’ve had here; I feel I’ve made a difference and made an impact.

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The biggest challenge and source of uncertainty for me has been not being present in lives of my two sons, Jacob and Max; especially Jacob, who turns 13 on the 10th (which was my first day at Jumeira University in 2014). I’m mindful of the short number of years I have left until they leave for college.

I’m at a point of pause as I determine my next steps. I am unsure where I might find myself in the future and what I might be doing; remaining here is an option as well. I have enjoyed living in Dubai — where Bedouin meets Blade Runner (my idea for a new tourism slogan; what do you think?). It is a crossroads of cultures and has given me an experience unlike anywhere else.

So, here’s to two years; may the next two — wherever they are — be as meaningful and memorable! To further explore my experiences in or about Dubai, please read the following:

Social media offers individuals an excellent environment to promote their personal brand to strengthen their professional platform. However, if engaged carelessly or irresponsibly, social media can sink you faster than the Titanic after it met the iceberg. Certainly nobody is perfect, but if you consider the 7 career-saving social media strategies below you will be more likely to swim than sink in social media.

1. Add Value to Conversations: If all you do with social media is re-tweet and share the ideas of others then it is apparent you won’t offer a potential employer original thoughts and you most likely lack motivation and initiative. In short: don’t be boring!

2. Avoid Smack Talking or Trolling: Politics, religion, and sports are topics about which people are passionate, but when you go overboard emotionally you can get yourself into trouble. Even a casual comment on an article on Facebook or a reply to a Tweet can come back to haunt you. There are countless stories of people getting fired from a job before they even start it due to a careless tweet or flippant Facebook post.

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3. Don’t Discriminate: 34% of employers in CareerBuilder’s recruitment study reacted negatively to finding social media posts with discriminatory comments related to race, religion, and gender. Another 29% of employers reacted negatively to social media posts with discriminatory comments related to race, religion, and gender. And, even if your intent was to be humorous, keep in mind that comedy doesn’t often translate online or across cultures; something you might think is funny might be offensive to others.

4. Keep Private Info Private: Unless your name is Julian Assange, you’re likely not going to make friends or influence people by disclosing sensitive or confidential information on social media. And, no matter how quickly you might try to delete it, social media remembers. You might also inadvertently share private information in public, especially on Facebook, where most people seem to misunderstand the platform’s privacy policies.

5. Post Appropriate Pictures: 46% of the employers in CareerBuilder’s annual social media recruitment study said provocative or inappropriate photographs are a big red flag. Another 40% said finding information about candidates drinking or using drugs was another reason to pass.  In short: don’t put your faults and foils on display for a future employer to find. Christopher Affsa, an attorney at the Law Office of Daniel F. Affsa in Weymouth, Massachusetts, shared the following:

“I had a drunk driving client tell me she went to one bar and only had one drink. I checked her Facebook and her profile picture was of her raising a glass. Worse, on the night in question she checked into five bars.”

6. Present a Professional Persona: Ironically, one of the biggest errors people make is to overlook the opportunity social media offers them to elevate awareness of their personal brand. According to CareerBuilder’s annual social media recruitment study:

52% of employers research applicants online. Within that group, 60% look for information supporting the candidate’s qualifications; an additional 56% want to see a candidate’s professional online persona.

7. Use Good Grammer, err — Grammar: Learn your homophones! Your and you’re mean different things as do their, they’re, and there. Conversely:

37% of employers in CareerBuilder’s recruitment study  reacted favorably when they discovered that a candidate had great communication skills; 38% were further impressed when a candidate’s social media presence conveyed a professional image.

The Pod(cast) people have returned!

satisfactionistThe second part of my appearance on The Satisfactionist Podcast with Ben Olmos has been published. Be sure to also read the blog post about my first appearance.

Once again it was a great experience and, it appears Ben and I might collaborate on future episodes of the podcast; more to come soon!

This is the second of two podcasts in which I will appear (the previous podcast was published one week ago). My interview begins at 22:58; listen to it on SoundCloud below or you can also hear it on Stitcher.

Topics tackled in this episode include:

The “Gig Economy” and my “minor league pitching” experience teaching traffic school where I developed my classroom management skills. This lead to my adventures as an adjunct instructor for 9 years — during which I have taught 3,000 to 4,000 students in 70 courses (with numerous sections) at 16 different universities in 2 countries.

This lead to my work designing curriculum and developing courses that I taught and those I was specifically contracted to create without teaching them. We chat about my favorite word — rubrics — although, as an instructor, I am careful about when I use them to limit students from obsessing about matching their rubric to a specific grade.

We then discuss how I found my way to Dubai where I have been teaching marketing and management courses since September 2014. My expat experience was inspired by the possibility of my participating in a program with UCLA Extension in which I would teach for 30 day cycles in Saudi Arabia.

Unfortunately, that opportunity never came to fruition, but it did make me realize there was an entire world of opportunities outside of the United States — including two opportunities in Kabul, Afghanistan that I decided to pass on.

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We then explore my exceptional experiences living and working in Dubai where I have been widely welcomed by the local population and individuals from elsewhere who call UAE their home. I share details of driving the roads and roundabouts — including some Google Map misadventures!

I discuss the surprisingly temperate weather during the winter months (mid-October to mid-April) along with other aspects of daily life, including the impressive integration of SMS functionality and mobile phones into everything from paying speeding tickets to paying to park.

I also elaborate on my admiration for my students and the effort they invest into their education; they take their role as the next generation seriously and are focused on being prepared for the responsibilities with which they will be entrusted.

Notably, a large percentage of students at my current university — American University in the Emirates (AUE) — are Emirati (approximately 70%) and most of the remaining percentage are from other Arab countries or elsewhere in the world. In total I have students with 30 different nationalities here. It’s a wonderfully worldly experience!

Although it is challenging to be so far from my 10 and 12-year-old sons, traveling 8,000 miles from the life I had known to finally find a foothold in the life I had fruitlessly worked towards in the United States.

Similarly, contrary to the absurdity of the current election cycle in the United States, my experience in Dubai has been a rewarding and enriching one; I am grateful for this unique opportunity and am making sure to maximize the moment.

edx_logo_finalLastly I introduce and explain the ways my book, edX E-Learning Course Development, can be used by teachers and trainers to prepare, produce, and promote a course on edX or Open edX.

I explained my unique approach to starting each chapter with an anecdote, quote, or pop culture reference, additionally outlining how I worked from edX technical documentation, rearranging and re-imagining it in a way that aligns more accurately with the way an individual would create or convert curriculum.

We then boldly go on to discuss my experience as an extra on the upcoming Star Trek Beyond movie where I was on set for 17 hours straight!

Beam me up!

Hear ye, hear ye!

satisfactionistI’ve been featured on The Satisfactionist Podcast with Ben Olmos; what a delightful experience! What is a Satisfactionist? According to the podcast’s Facebook page, a Satisfactionist is:

…a person who seeks to promote well-being through the act of teaching good people lessons that will enable them to create and do amazing things for themselves and the people they work with.

This is the first of two podcasts in which I will appear. My interview begins at 46:56; listen to it on SoundCloud below or you can also hear it on Stitcher.

During the roughly 1 hour and 20 minute interview Ben and I discuss my professional journey to becoming a teacher and trainer — along with personal experiences that have shaped who I am and who I aspire to be.

Topics we talked about include: living in California, my educational experience at UC Santa Barbara and Woodbury University, a review of early employment including my first job as a paper route “collector,” my odd summer job as a “Christmas Elf,” and my time as a mathematically challenged bank teller.

andydickWe then fast forward to my first “real” job as a technical writer for a medical device manufacturer. This position lead to my marketing career with companies including the publisher of Cat Fancy, City of Hope, and Princess Cruises. Ben and I also discussed my marketing consulting work with clients like Andy Dick and Mike Garson, longtime keyboardist for David Bowie.

Finally we talk about my non-traditional transformation into teaching and the many mentors who guided me to where I am today (including Andrew Posey, Satinder Dhiman, Barry Bailey, and Chuck Lubbers).

I also briefly explain my very brief tenure in the “Ethics Office” at Los Angeles Unified School District, which indirectly inspired me to embrace adjuncting. Ben and I go on to discuss my adventures in academia including best practices and my 7 years when I was exclusively adjuncting in the “gig economy.”

In the second podcast Ben and I discuss my experiences as a full-time faculty member in Dubai; first at Jumeira University and now at American University in the Emirates (AUE). We will also talk about my book, “edX e-Learning Course Development” and a few other timely topics!

Be sure to also read about my second appearance on The Satisfactionist Podcast.

David Bowie sang about 5 years, Brad Pitt (as Heinrich Harrer) lived in Tibet for 7 years, and, as of June 18, 2016, I’ve been teaching for 9 years.

BCkxlyvqjrHTechnically I started teaching on September 2, 2006 when I taught my first traffic school class, but my first academic course was COM 120, Effective Persuasive Writing at what was then called Axia College (University of Phoenix‘s online junior college).

The past nine years have been both an adventure in academia and an exploration into identity. There have been challenges and rewards, but mostly there has been professional development and personal growth.

I’ve come a long way since my first academic class. I’ve continued teaching online and on-campus while expanding into curriculum design and corporate training.

Numerically, the past nine years include the following nine achievements:

  1. 1 book published: “edX E-Learning Course Development
  2. 2 full-time business faculty positions (both in Dubai, UAE)
  3. 4 corporate training courses facilitated in several sessions
  4. 7 refereed conference publications alone and with co-authors
  5. 9 learning management systems used to teach online
  6. 16 universities for which I adjuncted (online & on-campus)
  7. 21 courses developed for online and on-campus delivery
  8. 70 courses taught (plus several sections of each course)
  9. 4,000 students taught (an estimate based on enrollment)

During these nine years I’ve encountered many exceptional — and often unexpected — experiences; I have been as much a student of self as I’ve been an instructor for others. I am grateful for both and look forward to additional lifelong learning opportunities!