One year ago I started a new chapter in my life.

edx-book-nader-cutout-250Technically I published eight of them in my very first book “edX E-Learning Course Development,” 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.

Reading the book will teach you:

  • How to navigate edX, sign up for Studio, and create your own edX course.
  • How to use video production best practices and convert your classroom lectures to instructional videos.
  • How to create engaging assessments and effective exercises that achieve your course’s learning objectives.
  • How to publish an announcement, attach a course syllabus, add instructional pages, and upload course handouts.
  • How to establish your edX course settings, view and modify course content, and import and export your course.
  • How to market your course to increase enrollment and create an enjoyable educational experience for your students.

I was invited to write edX E-Learning Course Development by an acquisition editor at Packt Publishing, who contacted me through my LinkedIn profile.

My experience developing and teaching online courses with learning management systems including Blackboard, Canvas, eCollege, Moodle, and Sakai was a factor. I was also creating training courses and overseeing the implementation of Open edX — the open source version of edX — as a training platform for a software company in Santa Barbara, California. That influenced Packt’s decision to offer me the book as well.

My writing process involved first outlining the entire book and then working with a content  development editor along with very appreciated volunteer reviewers to write two to five drafts of each chapter; then I worked with a technical editor for to finalize the proofs.

BGFYtdWqjg4While filled with challenges, writing the book was rewarding because the process gave me a reason to research edX and more fully understand how it works technically and operationally.

As an educator and lifelong learner, it fills me with pride knowing edX E-Learning Course Development helps people better educate others.

Writing the book also gave me the confidence that I could finish a book – a 300 page technical manual nonetheless!

You can learn more about and purchase the book on Amazon or on the Packt Publishing website.

 

Having fired the imagination of a generation, a ship like no other, it’s place in history secured, the Space Shuttle pulls into port for the last time, it’s voyage at an end.” — Rob Navias, NASA Announcer

STS-135 Mission Patch

As the lyrics to the 1998 Semisonic song “Closing Time” remind us: “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

On July 21, 2011 what was once a new beginning in human space flight ended at 5:57 a.m when Space Shuttle Atlantis  (OV-104) landed at Kennedy Space Center following the completion of Mission STS-135, signaling the end of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.

The mission, which began on Friday, July 8, 2011, delivered supplies to the International Space Station, lasted a total of 12 days, 18 hours, 28 minutes, 50 seconds.

On board was a crew of four: Commander Chris Ferguson,  Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialist Rex Walheim, and Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus.

This was the final mission of the Space Shuttle Era which began on April 12, 1981 with the maiden voyage of Space Shuttle Columbia. Coincidentally this final shuttle mission coincided with another historical milestone:  the 42nd anniversary of the July 20, 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing.

With the wonder of a child, I watched with rapt attention as the final moments of this 30-year adventure unfolded live online via NASA’s live video feed.

I’ve always been enthralled with aviation — my grandfather, Papa, flew a C-47 in World War II and my Dad privately flew various aircraft, including a Cessna 310. But the Space Shuttle was especially significant.

The program began when I was in first grade and during my formative years served as an enduring symbol of education and exploration. The Shuttle captivated my imagination by symbolizing “intelligence in action.” It also exemplified achievement over seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

In the days before the Internet I watched on television as the Shuttle roared into the sky and then looked to the night sky as it streaked overhead like a shooting star. These were special times; moments that impressed upon me positive memories and feelings.

Space Shuttle Mission STS-135: Final Approach As Seen Through Atlantis Pilot's Heads-Up Display (HUD)

Years later, I shared a similar moment with my sons — Jacob (then 7) and Max (then 5) — when we watched “Hubble 3D” in IMAX at the California Science Center.

When the movie featured a Shuttle launch sequence my younger son, Max, turned to me with awe and fascination in his eyes. Later in the film, my older son, Jacob, stared excitedly at the screen and asked me how many stars there were in space!

I felt especially connected to the Space Shuttle when, in 1990, Leroy Chiao, Ph.D.,  who grew up in Danville, California as did I was selected as a NASA Astronaut.

NASA Astronaut Leroy Chiao, Ph.D.

He also earned a Master of Science and then a Doctor of Philosophy in chemical engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara — the school that would later become my undergraduate alma mater.

When Dr. Chiao was selected, I was the editor of my high school newspaper, The San Ramon Valley High School “Wolf Print.”

I was invited to meet Dr. Chiao with other high school newspaper editors at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he was working at the time.

He spoke about the Shuttle program and what he anticipated would be his role. Notably, Dr. Chiao flew as a mission specialist on STS-65 (1994), STS-72 (1996), and STS-92 (2000).

Dr. Chiao had logged more than 36 days, 12.5 hours in space, including more than 26 EVA hours in four space walks. He was also the Commander of Expedition 10 on the International Space Station (2004-2005). Dr. Chiao left NASA in December 2005.

In April 2003, I attended my first academic conference — the International Academy of Business Disciplines (IABD) — in Orlando, Florida.  I leveraged my proximity to the Kennedy Space Center and drove my rented Ford Mustang from Orlando to the historic spaceport.

Space Shuttle PatchWhen I arrived too late to take a tour of the facility, I explored what I could by myself. I also watched a 1985 IMAX movie I had seen years before at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum called “The Dream is Alive.”

I also bought some items for my sons, including an orange Astronaut jumpsuit both of my sons enthusiastically wore for a Halloween.

Although my visit was brief, being in that historic place was a powerful experience for me.

On November 30, 2008 I was captivated when Space Shuttle Endeavour was diverted to the backup landing option at Edwards Air Force Base  on its journey home from mission STS-126 due to inclement weather in Florida.

I was fortunate to have been able to record the double sonic booms as it passed over Santa Clarita and wrote a blog post featuring an MP3 file of the distinctive sound.

Despite the many incomparable moments of inspiration, however, there were also times of great heartache.

Despite these tragic times, the Space Shuttle will always be my generation’s inspiration — our Apollo program, our crowning achievement, our wildest dreams realized.

The image of that magnificent machine launching like a rocket, orbiting Earth, and then returning  as a powerless glider, will forever inspire and excite me.

It saddens me that the Shuttle was discontinued without a replacement ready to go. Now, for the first time in 50 years, the United States will have no launch vehicle.

Until a new one can be built, American astronauts will be ferried to the International Space Station aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft.  Commercial space vehicles will also begin operation in the near future.

NASA is planning to build a Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle for deep space exploration which is based on the Orion capsule, which was initially developed for cancelled moon-bound trips under the  Constellation program.

The chances of this coming to fruition in less than five years seems slim.

Space Shuttle Mission STS-135: Space Shuttle Atlantis Lands at Kennedy Space Center in the Early Morning of July 21, 2011

Until NASA initiates a new program, I will celebrate the fact that Space Shuttle Endeavour being on permanent display at the California Science Center.

I am thankful to NASA for 30 years of awe-inspiring adventure and exploration. And, lastly, I will forever remain inspired by the many Astronauts — from the Space Shuttle and prior vehicles — who  “slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”

theta-chi

It’s all Greek to me.

My college fraternity, Theta Chi, was founded on April 10, 1856 at  Norwich University in Norwich Vermont by two undergraduate military cadets: Frederick Norton Freeman and Arthur Chase.  137 years later — on February 7, 1993 — I was one of 56 undergraduates who founded what became the Theta Sigma chapter at UC Santa Barbara on March 4, 1994. Sadly, the chapter closed in the mid 2000’s.

As an undergraduate, I embraced the opportunities presented and served my chapter as Historian, Secretary, and, my personal favorite role, Chaplain. I also participated in local, regional, and national events. I embraced the opportunity with enthusiasm; interestingly, my fraternity experience was a uniquely entrepreneurial endeavor.

I am keenly aware of how important my four undergraduate years with Theta Chi Fraternity were. The activities I participated in taught me important lessons that gave me a competitive advantage over individuals who were not involved with the Greek system; the seven skills my involvement with Theta Chi taught me include:

1. Time Management Skills

From appointments to meetings, deadlines to simple errands, each of us has far too much to accomplish in the few short hours available to us each day.  College life is no different, in fact in many ways it is more complex.

In addition to contending with the basics (e.g., laundry, bills, groceries), college students must also contend with the far less predictable rigors of academia.

For fraternity and sorority members time is stretched even thinner.  With weekly chapter meetings, committee meetings, participation in Fraternity-Sorority Council events, philanthropic endeavors, house maintenance duties, and other time commitments, we have a great deal to contend with on a daily basis.  However, I believe that my fraternal experience taught me the modern art of prioritizing.

In order to win the war against time, the powers that be invented the (infamous) Day Planner, the modern day equivalent to a sidearm.  Although I now use this scheduling device on a daily basis, during my years as an undergraduate member of Theta Chi, I was constantly forced to balance my numerous fraternal, academic, and personal commitments in a similar fashion.

When I served on the Executive Council, effective time management skills were absolutely essential, as they are now, in the real world.  Through my involvement with Theta Chi, I learned the value of prioritization.  Because of this skill, I fulfilled all of my responsibilities, while graduating a quarter early, with honors.

2. Communication Skills

During my four years with Theta Chi, I served in a variety of positions that required an ability to effectively communicate, however, none were as demanding as Chapter Secretary.  During these two important years, I strengthened my ability to not only express my thoughts clearly through written media, but I also developed a powerful oratory ability.

My position also required that I maintain an open line of communication with our International Headquarters and National Officers who expected a high level of professionalism at all times.  Now, as an employee in a corporate culture, I am able to apply the professional communication skills I learned while an undergraduate during my daily interactions with everyone from my immediate supervisor, to the President of the company.

My fraternal experience also gave me the opportunity to improve my ability to effectively socialize and network with a broad cross-section of people.  Although a strong command of the written word is essential to success in business, perhaps the foundation upon which any business transaction rests, is verbal communication.

A recent survey of large corporations indicated that an ability to effectively communicate verbally is the most important quality an employee can possess. The importance of verbal communication is perhaps most evident during the critical interview process, when it becomes your responsibility to intelligently expound upon your written resume.  You may have the best credentials in the world on paper, but if you cannot convey your abilities verbally, you will most likely encounter difficulty in any real world scenario.

Hashing during membership recruitment, general chapter meeting, and elections, whether you are running for office, or simply participating in the process, are all perfect opportunities to develop your public speaking acumen. Furthermore, the success of your fraternity or sorority depends upon the active participation of its members, and communication is the foundation upon which participation can grow.

3. Collaborative Skills

Dedication to teamwork is an essential trend within corporate America, presenting a member of a fraternity or sorority a valuable personal marketing tool.  After all, the point of the Greek system is to mold a disparate group of individuals into a cohesive body, committed to the fulfillment of a common objective, as defined by the Ritual.

An effective Ritual stimulate its members individual talents while also reminding them of their commitment to something far larger than themselves. Through the Ritual, a member of a fraternity or sorority will hopefully develop an understanding of their own potential in relation to the needs of the group (society) of which they are a part.

A positive fraternity or sorority experience allows a member to try new things and, by doing so, nurture preexisting talents and discover an impressive latent ability. From something as mundane as By-Laws, to an event as pivotal as the performance of the Ritual, a fraternity or sorority allows its members to sample new things, within a relatively sheltered environment.

Furthermore, the communal living structure of a fraternity or sorority teaches its members to peacefully coexist with people who are often very different than them, but again, are bonded together by a common vision (the Ritual).  An ability to get along with a diverse cross section of individuals is absolutely critical to success in the real world, and, more specifically the corporate world.

As much as we hope for personal success, we also must stop and realize that we are also parts of a greater whole.  Because of this, it is important to remember that our actions affect more than ourselves, and our success often relies on the work of others. The balance between individual achievement and a responsibility to your God, your country, and your fellow man, is a precarious one, but is one that can most effectively understood through involvement in a fraternity or sorority.

4. Social Skills

Fraternities and sororities were started with the hope that through a system of values (the Ritual), members could improve themselves, their brothers or sisters, and humanity. Although the methods of our Rituals differ, the messages most likely revolve around the following concepts:

1. Respecting other people’s views, opinions, possessions, and  rights.

2. Creating positive results for ourselves, our fraternity, and our community.

3. Taking accountability for our personal actions and those of our brothers.

4. Realizing a need, problem, opportunity or deficiency, and resolving it.

These easy to understand, yet powerful values represent the cornerstone of every fraternity or sorority.  And, not surprisingly, they are a vital part of every business and personal encounter in the real world.  Anyone who understands and practices these four concepts will be an asset to any company. Motivation, dedication, and innovation are by-products of any fraternity or sorority, and are the essence behind real world success.

Further, just as our own organizations have Standards Boards and  Codes of Conduct that hold us accountable for our actions, house maintenance duties that teach responsibility, and methods of soliciting participation, so do all successful business, and, in a less formal way, all families.  Without an awareness of these four important values, anyone will most likely encounter trouble in their future endeavors, personal and professional.

5. Competitive Skills

Greek Week festivities, participation in Intramural sports, attendance at local, regional and national fraternity or sorority events, undergraduate (and alumni) involvement with collegiate activities, and a strong presence of fraternal spirit are all ways in which you can increase your potential for success in the real world, while having fun in the process.

The power of fraternal spirit and a healthy desire for competition should not be underestimated.  As Charles Darwin so effectively realized, only the strong survive.  And what better way to ensure your survival in a highly competitive society than by getting involved in a wide spectrum of activities, either through your place of employment or beyond the walls of your office.

You will not only meet new people, experience new things, but you could pave the way for future success. Additionally, employers are constantly on the lookout for energetic, motivated individuals, whose effusive personality more than compensates for their lack of experience. Credentials get you to the door, personality can get you the corner office.

6. Adapting Skills

During my undergraduate years in Theta Chi, it was rare when a day went by without some element of “the great unknown” affecting it.  Although we tried to plan events so they would run smoothly, inevitably, something always interfered with this simple goal.

While it is essential for a fraternity or sorority to maintain an organized infrastructure, any Greek organization must be able to quickly respond to a rapidly changing environment.

Again, life in the real world is no different.  I re-prioritize my project list on an almost daily basis in response to the constantly changing, and often unpredictable needs of “Upper Management.” During the past year, there were at least a half dozen times when I was almost finished with a project only to have it suddenly fall by the wayside, in deference to a more urgent project. As frustrating as this situation is, because of my fraternal experience, I can rapidly adapt to a constantly changing environment.

7. Professional Skills

Although college is a time of great individual liberties and personal discoveries, it is nevertheless a highly regulated experience.  From mid-term schedules, to term paper requirements, college students learn to function in a world with a great affinity for bureaucratic red tape.

Unfortunately, the paperwork jungle only gets more dense after graduation. However, a fraternity or sorority is an incredible resource through which a member can learn to function within a distinctively corporate hierarchy.  There are numerous positions within any company that are remarkably similar to those in a fraternity or sorority.

For example, almost every company has a CEO or President (Chapter President),  CFO (Treasurer), Documentation Manager (Secretary) Training Manager (Marshal/Pledge Educator), Marketing Manager (Rush Chairman), Environmental Health and Safety Manager (Risk Manager), to name a few.

Additionally, just as a fraternity or sorority experience begins with a pledge quarter, so too are (usually) the first three months of any job considered an introductory period.  Most companies also have a handbook, which functions very much like a Ritual.

There are also opportunities for career advancement in any place of employment (annual elections), performance reviews (membership reviews), facility maintenance (house cleanups), and company (chapter) pride.  The list of similarities is endless, and an astute member of the Greek community will capitalize on as many as possible.

In Closing

It is important to remember that there are an unlimited number of opportunities available to any fraternity or sorority member.  This article highlights only a small number of such opportunities. Fraternities and sororities empower their members to shatter John Stuart Mill’s claim that, “The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind.” We should not be afraid to expect more from our affiliation with a Greek Letter Organization, in fact, it is our duty.  Only through an active participation in our Greek experience will you discover the key to unlock the doors of real world success.