Thoughts & Commentary

How to Win at Momming While You #LeanIn:  Practical Tips

So this post is NOT about judgement.  What it is about is practical strategies you can use to help advance your career and stay sane.  If it works for you, great.  If not, no worries!  It’s tough being a working mom, trying to advance in a complicated world that keeps getting crammed full of random things we’re supposed to take care of.  See if any of this helps:)

Let me first establish my street cred.  I consider myself to be a wickedly productive person.  In the past 2 years I have:

  1. Had two children
  2. Completed coursework for my dissertation, defended my proposal, and started my research
  3. Wrote and produced 2 plays
  4. Received two internal promotions, and then got my dream job
  5. Moved halfway across the country for said dream job, sold a house, bought a foreclosure and renovated it (including chalk painting my kitchen cabinets, which I highly recommend)
  6. Published articles (both peer-reviewed and industry blogs)
  7. Had a ton of fun, happiness, straight up joy and straight up sorrow

In other words, I’m a very busy working mom.  Most of you probably have your own lists of accomplishments, and a long list of dreams that you want to accomplish.  Hopefully these tips will help you get there!

It’s a Game.  Win It by Playing It (Emphasis on Play)

Let’s face it – most of you reading this probably have first world problems.  Thinking about, talking about, even considering Leaning In means that you have an extraordinary opportunity that a huge percentage of women in this world will never have in their lifetimes.  Think on that for a minute – these other women and girls growing up will never have the opportunity to choose their dreams and go after them.  So when it get’s tough – it has and it will – remember that you are not in that position.  To whom much is given, much is expected.  Keep it in perspective.

So if you’re going to jump in the game, jump in it.  Do it joyfully, this is fun!  You get to decide what you’re good at, what you want to do more of and less of, and the type of future you want for your family.  That’s the coolest thing ever – embrace it, acknowledge it, and make smart decisions knowing what you’re doing.

What is your goal?  If you don’t know, you likely won’t achieve it.

**Write down your top 5 list of things you want to accomplish it, and rewrite it every day.  In longhand.  Actually rewrite it.  Keep your eye on the ball.  Over time your goals will change as you accomplish them, that’s great.

**Create your own 5-year strategic plan based on those goals.  When will you accomplish them?  How will you know you’ve accomplished them?  Make it no longer than a page, and reference it frequently.  I’ve had to update mine several times, but I always get to check something off every year.

This is a Guilt-Free Zone

I decline guilt.  For quite some time I felt the edges of guilt, but now I’ve just let it go.  I’m a bit of a slacker mom naturally, so it was a good fit, but it’s actually the best thing to do for yourself and your family; here’s why.

I would be a terrible stay at home mom.  Terrible.  I don’t have the personality for it or the patience for it.  It’s best for me to be working, and it’s best for my kids for me to be working.  Yay!  Done with that.  If you’re struggling with this one, write down why you’re not a stay at home mom.  That matters.  And if you discover you want to be a stay at home mom, figure out how to make that happen and how to win at that.  Leave the guilt behind and make it a mental practice to squash it every time it comes up.  It’s wasted energy.  It diverts you from your joy and your purpose.

**Write down why you’re growing your career.  How will it benefit your happiness?  Your family’s happiness and health? How will it get you closer to achieving your dreams or changing the world?  Why are you even doing this?  You’ve already made the decision that it’s important.  Now make sure you remember that every day.

You Can Only Prioritize if You De-Prioritize

Seriously.  You can’t do everything.  Decide – explicitly – what’s important and do less of the other things.  This really matters particularly as women statistically do 50 more minutes of domestic chores every day.  Many of us also manage other things – dentist appointments, immunizations, birthday party invites, bills, house repairs, etc.  So let’s decide what NOT to do so that you can focus time on what you WANT to do (and need to do to advance in your career.)

As an example, I gave up cooking when I went back to get my PhD.  We eat a lot of organic frozen vegetables, quick oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs and pre-cooked bacon.  We have rotisserie chicken at least one night a week, and Fridays are pizza night.  If I get bored, we order something in or pick up something prepped already at the grocery store.  And I am utterly unapologetic about that.  Frozen veggies are fine, and no one ever died from eating frozen chicken tenders twice a week.  It will be ok.

Other things I don’t do – I don’t worry about my choices of energy providers, I haven’t changed my cell phone provider in years, and I haven’t cost-compared cable plans.  It takes time to do these things.  I’m probably paying more than I need to for my electricity, I could likely have more 4G LTE on my cell plan for less cost, and my husband did the cable comparison, and all of that is a-ok.  Because it’s a trade off of time, but also of attention.

Decide what you’re going to worry about and what you’re going to let go of.  And then really, really let it go.  Give it a little kiss, write it on a leaf, and watch it blow away in the wind.  It gives you space to focus on what matters.  This includes choices about what you’re going to harass your spouse about.  Decide what takes longer to follow-up on than to just do yourself, and agree as a couple on what each of you can handle (as much as that’s ever truly possible.)  It is a decision to let “that which does not matter truly slide.”


**Write down what you’re going to stop doing.  Seriously.  “I will immediately throw away any offers for cheaper cell phone providers, better credit card offers with more points, etc.”  Acknowledge that you will lose some money or benefits on these things.  You’re not losing money in the long term, because your time is money.  Invest it where it will grow – in your career.

Embrace Your Inner Slacker Mom

Just go there.  Trust me, it really feels good.  My husband is a bit older than I am and has frequently remarked on how families revolve around their children now, and how that’s out of whack.  I totally agree.  We dove into this.  The children fit into the family and not the other way around.  Not to say I don’t support my kids – my daughter has taken dance, and music and theater lessons (over time.)  We’ve chosen good schools for her – yay school choice!  But she is in not in multiple activities.  She comes home from school and does her homework and plays.  She clears her own place setting and cleans up her own toys, as does my three-year old son.

Not only am I 100% ok with not spending every weekend carting the kids to various activities, I really think it’s best for them.  First of all, the statistical likelihood that your child is going to become a professional football player, champion chess player, national spelling bee winner, award-winning child actor, or prima ballerina is pretty slim to begin with.  I’d rather have a kid who chooses one or two things that they’re passionate about and focuses their attention on that along with learning how to be a self-directed, good human being.  Which means that kids should be forced to confront their own boredom and solve it on their own.

I used to rotate my kids’ toys.  It’s ridiculous that they have so many toys that I would rotate them.  Now I just leave them where they are.  And you know what happened?  We have books being used as books, and as architectural structures to support tents, and houses for the Barbie horses because the Barbies didn’t end up making it into that last rotation.  Constraints force creativity.  Thankfully there are now studies that reinforce this – that having actual free time supports the creativity and healthy development of kids.  That doing chores is good for self-discipline.  So assign those chores!  Stop buying more toys!  Just do it.  You’re the mom.  You get to decide.  If they’re desperate for a new video game they can do what I did when I was a kid – babysit for my own money to buy my own toys myself.  (Not when they’re 5 or something.  Age appropriate.)

Here’s the hard part – you will get flack for this.  People have a tendency towards being judgey.  We all do – slacker moms included.  So say after me “It’s great that your kids do polo and gymnastics and are on the show Iron Chef Junior.  It’s awesome that your son played Carnegie Hall.  Super cool that your daughter won the national science fair!  Me?  … Oh I’m a slacker mom.  My kids play and do chores.”  Own it!  Remember that your kids will be better off long term to run around in the yard, cook their own mac and cheese, and fold their own clothes.  They won’t need to be on your health insurance at age 27 and they likely will have a job.  Once they find something they’re passionate about, they’ll go after that and you can support that because you’ll have bandwidth – it won’t be sucked up by a million tiny things.

I let my daughter earn quarters to do harder chores.  And then she can make choices if buying toys is worth her money and effort.  Suddenly the stuffed unicorn that she could not live without becomes less important when it costs her time and effort and takes away the heaviness from her piggy bank.  I consider that a #MomWin.  I’m also teaching her fiscal responsibility and avoiding cluttering up the house and wasting money at the same time.

**Decide what activities you can stop doing with your kids.  Narrow it down.  What do you actually have to support?  What do your kids love?  Support that one thing or two things at the level at which is appropriate.  If you have a kid interested in dance that has no natural talent or rhythm, feel free to do that once a week.  If you have a kid with natural turnout, great rhythm and incredible drive, find a way to get them to pre-professional dance lessons five times a week.  Outsource if necessary.

**Teach your kids to clean up after themselves.  Seriously, why don’t we do this?  I tell my kids to only pick up the toys they want to keep.  You really only have to throw away toys once or twice to get this to work fairly permanently.  The key here is not flinching (unless it’s that one dolly that your daughter has had since birth – that would just be mean.)  If you say it, do it.  When kids start cleaning up their own place settings, setting the table and helping with dinner, it will be an initial time suck.  They will be bad at it.  You will need to do more cleanup temporarily but they will get better and they will be able to do it by themselves.  (In a related note, if you have smaller ones, don’t use plastic.  Use ceramic mugs for drinks.  Kids push over plastic really easily, but ceramic mugs with wide bases don’t fall over so easy and break into big pieces when they break, unlike glass.)

**Stop participating in random school things that don’t matter anyways.  My second-grader will not be scarred if I don’t show up at her Halloween Parade at school during the middle of the day.  It probably will be impactful to her when I cross the stage at the graduation for my PhD.  Help your kids contextualize that so that they, too, can prioritize.  If they complain about those things, explain them.  “It’s super cool that Jenny’s mom can volunteer for school stuff, honey.  That’s not what Mommy does.  Mommy runs a department, which means that we can live in a nice place and travel and can still help out people in need and contribute to a better world.  That’s how we roll.  We also celebrate Jenny’s mom – she’s super good at what she does.  Mommy’s not good at that.  Mommy’s good at other stuff.”

Celebrate Your Wins with Righteous Happiness

When you win at something, take the time to pause and celebrate it – really celebrate it.  Do something fun.  Have an extra date night or girl’s night out!  We need those wins to recharge.  We deserve those wins when they come. Take the time to groove out on them.

But here’s the key – you can’t do something that you normally do, or it’s not special.  Just like going out to a nice restaurant loses its meaning and specialness if you eat out at nice places all the time, doing something that you otherwise would be doing isn’t a celebration – it’s relabeling a normal activity.

**Decide ahead of time what you’ll do when you achieve a goal, and then actually do it. Make it special and make it worth it.

**In order to make room and preserve money for that celebration, stop shopping.  I did this a few years ago to virtually no negative effects except for a happier bank account.  When you think about it, there are a few things that you actually need that you should get and care for and use.  30 pairs of heels does not qualify.  Then, when you get that promotion, buying two super-special pairs will really matter and won’t just be another Saturday.


This is maybe one of my favorite recommendations for working moms.  I recommend taking on some extra side work that pertains to your field – teaching in it, consulting in it, conducting workshops, etc.  You can put those types of things on your resume.  Then, turn around and spend that money to hire someone to clean your house, or send your clothes out to the dry cleaners, or get dinner delivered in 3x a week.  You’ll end up revenue-neutral, but you’ll be building your resume.  That matters more long term.

Why is outsourcing so important?  Most professional women have the extra burden of having to present a polished professional image.  This, much like the additional 50 minutes of chores a day, requires actual time that cannot be spent answering emails, writing articles, or reviewing industry briefs.  I figure it takes me probably about 30 more minutes per day to get ready for work than my husband – considering shaving legs, makeup, hair, struggling into Spanx, etc.  So I need all the time on task that I can get to advance in my career.  It is just reality that women have these natural disadvantages by virtue of societal expectations.  Surprise – they’re not going away.  So strategize ways to outsource, or at the very least to simplify your routine.

**Find something field-related that will make you a little money that will build your resume, then turn around and spend that money outsourcing something you can’t put on your resume, like “laundry-folding” or “bathroom scrubbing.”

**Simplify everyday decisions.  Buy 5 suits and 10 shirts and rotate them.  Seriously.  Don’t spend even 10 minutes a day making fashion decisions.  Remember that men aren’t spending time typically doing that sort of thing.  It diverts you from your purpose.

Your Drone Or Your Vacation:  Prioritize

So.  Economic reality.  Truth is that it’s hardest when you’re a mid-level manager to get that next position where it would be easier – financially – to outsource stuff.  Truth is two-income families are the reality for most people.  It’s easier to #LeanIn if you have lots of support, which usually comes in the form of domestic help, better schools and childcare.  Money makes things easier.  If you don’t have that ability, it’s time to decide what to sacrifice to get it.

My advice is – preserve vacations, sacrifice stuff, and get the help you need around the house.  This actually works really well with some of the other tips, because you won’t have time for shopping anyways – LOL!  Just stop buying stuff.  You don’t need most of it.  You don’t need a drone.  Really.  You don’t.  You don’t need a fancy car.  You don’t.  You don’t need a high-end purse, or even a mid-end purse.  This a career, not a fashion show, so use an attache case.  You really, really don’t need more than 10 pairs of heels.  Really.  You don’t.  You do need to get away and unwind.  Experiences have been shown to increase happiness, whereas stuff does not.  Stuff, you have to take care of.  “The things you own, end up owning you.”

**Write down what you’re not going to buy any more.  I searched for years for a really great, gray, single-strap purse that could fit my tablet.  I never found this white whale of a purse, but along the way I must have bought 10 bags that could have been “the one.”  I gave up buying purses.  It turns out – you don’t need a ton of purses!  You need like 3 – maybe 4, and a decent attache case.  Unless you work in fashion, when’s the last time you heard someone say “Wow, is she using her black bag again?  Why doesn’t she go shopping more instead of focusing on that wonderful strategic and tactical plan for process improvement?”  And if you work at a place where people say that, you really, really need to find a new place to work.

Leave the Baggage, Take the Gifts

Just like when you were growing up, when you had to take the best lessons your parents taught you and leave the baggage of their parenting behind, do the same thing with these tips.  Try them.  Take what works for you and leave the rest behind.

My best, best advice for working moms is to be what you are.  Don’t try to be something you don’t really want to be anyways.  Make it a habit to not guilt yourself.  Prioritize appropriately.  And back it up.  Win at your own game – the game you decide you want to play.

Being a working mom trying to #LeanIn is hard stuff.  But you got this.  Get your confidence game on.  You’re going to fall down.  You’re going to fail at this.  But like any good gamer, you’re going to get back up, soldier on and level up.  #WinatMomming and #WinatLeaningIn.

And here’s a STRANGE thing.  You may get blowback for being happy and successful.  People may smacktalk your strategies or your priorities.  And in the words of the immortal Ani Difranco “A thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy while you are just flying past.”  And that’s ok.  Nolite bastardes carborundorum.  In the words of Margaret Atwood – don’t let the bastards get you down.

You go and you be the very best working mom you can be.  Have fun.  Win.

And know that even on your worst day, you’re probably not trapped in an under-developed country without plumbing deciding if you need to go into prostitution to feed your seven children now that your husband has passed away of an entirely preventable disease that he got due to utter lack of access to health care.  Perspective.  We got #FirstWorldProblems


Got a tip of your own?  Leave it below.  But I reserve the right to delete posts related to advocacy for 31 or more pairs of shoes.  That’s where I draw the line.  Seriously.

Quality in CBE Programs and Courses

Not too long ago, C-BEN released their Quality Standards for Competency-Based Educational Programs in draft format.  Previously, Western Governors University had released a CBE course quality rubric.  In the Quality Matters Rubric released in 2014, standards were included and codified to apply to competency-based courses.

This increased emphasis on codifying quality in CBE programs is valuable work towards transparency and ensuring that the movement is able to communicate the value of the programs to accreditors, the DOE, and higher education at large.  Few classroom programs would be able to meet the rigorous standards described in these documents.

Other quality tools can provide valuable and applicable guides for the development of CBE programs, including Universal Design for Learning, the Essential Quality Standards 2.0 from eCampusAlberta, Blackboard Exemplary Course Rubric, iNACOL’s National Standards for Quality Online Courses V2, and OLC’s Quality Scorecard.

As we see CBE being addressed as a modality, as opposed to a stand-alone effort, how will we see these quality tools converge?



IRB Approved!!!!! #CBE #Research

I am unreasonably excited this morning as my IRB was officially approved when I was at Educause 2016 this week!  I can’t even tell you how incredibly happy I am to begin the research itself!

The reason I mention this is…..  I will be reaching out to some of you for participation in this:)  Wha ha ha!

Getting some new momentum on this, and super-happy about it!  Goal date has changed for completion.  (I’m almost a year behind my original schedule, but to be fair, I took a new job and moved my family across the country.  So there was that.  And then got some new responsibilities of… (wait for it!) CBE!  Added to my previous title is now “Alternative Learning Models.”  It literally did not fit on the business cards.  My new title is:  Assistant Vice President for Academic Technology, Course Production and Alternative Learning Models.

If I could have assembled my ideal job description, this would be it.

It wouldn’t be possible without the amazing team that I have the privilege to work with and my wonderful boss.  (Who would have thought I would be so enthusiastic about developing the young talent on my team, but it turns out it’s one of my passions!)

So feeling #grateful on so many levels.



Lessons in Leadership from Beyond the Grave

Recently my father-in-law passed away.   At the ceremonies surrounding his wake, lying in state and funeral, there was an overwhelming response from people who have worked for and with him over the years.  I never took the time to reflect on his leadership, but it is important for me to do so now.  To honor him.

There was a family saying, “We never left anything unsaid.” This comes from when his daughter died at the age of 9 after being hit by a van.  The family always, always left the house with a hug and a kiss and an “I love you,” because you never knew what tomorrow might bring.  There were things I didn’t say, though, or things that he never quite heard.  He was proud of us, but I wonder if he ever heard how proud I was of him. He always wanted to do more, he was constantly vigilant, he was worried about the America he was leaving for his grandchildren.  That lives with me too.

My father-in-law was Mayor, Governor, and Senator George V. Voinovich, from the great state of Ohio, and always in that order.  But there was another order, the order that came before the titles.  Dad was a man of faith, a husband, a father, and a grandfather.

These are a few of the things he taught me.

#1 Value People.

My father-in-law loved people.  He was curious about people – their stories, their backgrounds.  He cared about what they cared about, listened to what they said, thought deeply about opinions other than his own.  Often we would be somewhere together, folks would approach him with “I worked for your campaign back in 1970-something,” or “We spoke at an event in 1985” and he and Mom V would remember their names.  At events, Mom V would often have to give him “the look” and physically steer him away otherwise he’d be talking forever and no schedule for any event would be met.  This curiosity, this attention to the matters of other people’s lives, made him a great leader.  He knew who he was working for and what he was working towards, because he valued people.

#2 People Work With You, Not for You.

Valuing people extended to the people who worked with him.  Though he may not have known it, the biggest legacy he left was likely not the balanced budget in Ohio, the reforms to civil service, the in-state tuition provision for Washington, D.C. residents, or the championing of school choice.  The biggest legacy he left was undoubtedly in the people he mentored and supported and valued and loved – really loved – over the years.  He stayed in contact with so many people that had worked with him over the years.  At the ceremony at City Hall, one of the speakers said that years ago, Dad V had said to him “You don’t work for me, you work with me.”  He actually believed that; actually behaved that way.  In an era when collaboration is constantly discussed, George V. Voinovich got the jump on the secret sauce of leadership.  It’s about working with people.

He engaged both sides of the aisle, always.  He didn’t let party lines dictate his responses to legislation.  This modern fad of devaluing the opposite side, of avoiding common ground, was not his game.  It got in the way of doing the work that needed so desperately to be done.  He believed in what he did, and he believed that working together would get you further.

#3 Never Burn a Bridge.

He was not a “told you so” kind of guy.  He said more than once to me “Never burn a bridge,” then he would start chuckling and say “You’ll never know when you have to walk back over it.” (As a side note, he had the best laugh ever – really genuine and deep when he got to laughing.) There were times when he was very unhappy at work, the snail-like pace of change, the lack of willingness to work together.  He was different.  He was a man who admitted his faults, acknowledged when he had been wrong, and actually changed his opinion as a result of evidence (something so rare I could actually insert a mic drop here.)

This isn’t to say that he didn’t have very strong opinions – he did.  But he always kept it classy.  He never burned it to the ground.

#4 Work Like You Mean It.

The man was always working.  He had these weekly reports he would have his staff write up, and he would review them every weekend.  He would answer his phone anytime, anywhere (something that would regularly drive me nuts when our family was at dinner.  I showed him a meme of a place setting that doesn’t have a space for a cell phone and he laughed, but I think it hurt him a little bit, something I now regret doing.)  We would debate issues all the time – politics were his profession and his trade, he was constantly reading, writing, and processing.  More than once something we discussed would prompt a question that he would jot down somewhere.

Even when we were on vacation, he was answering emails (often dictating them with hilarious results,) reading books, and writing articles.  He had this habit of reading something, looking up and sharing it, and saying “Would you believe it?” in wonder.  Dad V was a constant and hungry learner.  He was a work horse, and proud of it.

#5 Don’t Care About the Credit.

This is actually something that I didn’t know about as much before hearing the words spoken in his honor.  So many people at the various ceremonies and rituals mentioned how he always said (and backed up with action,) that you can get so much done if you don’t care about who gets the credit.

Often, in my relationship with him, he would say “You know, your father-in-law was instrumental in bringing the Rock Hall to Cleveland” (I knew,) or “You know, I helped support the revival of Playhouse Square” (I knew,) or “You know, I helped bring the City of Cleveland out from default” (I – and the rest of Cleveland – knew.)  I think this was because he never felt he did enough, because he was constantly concerned with the world that he was leaving us, that he was leaving the grandkids.

#6 Value Differences of Opinion, and Stay Independent.

When I first joined the family at the age of 24 (my husband and I got married when I was 27, but as far as his family was concerned, I was family as soon as I started dating Peter,) we debated education policy.  At the time, I knew everything there was to know about K-12 education (I have since transformed some of that thinking, and no longer believe I know everything about everything.)  He never once dismissed out of hand my opinions.  Even when I suggested that we arm and train the women of Afghanistan and Iraq (because, in my logic, who had the most to lose from the Taliban?) which was pretty far out there, he didn’t laugh at me.

Over the years, various issues came up where I felt like I knew how Dad V should vote on something.  Some of these were generational; waxing poetic about net neutrality was probably not a great choice.  He would consider what folks would say, he would make notes to confirm information.  But at the end of the day, he thought what he thought.  He didn’t adhere to random lines in the sand. He walked a path to get from one point to another, even if it was unpopular.  He was passionate about attempting to raise the gas tax – something incredibly unpopular to champion.  Even after he was out of office he tried to advocate for it.  He believed that you shouldn’t just run up the credit card for your grandkids to pay off.  His vote was always his own; he voted his conscience.

#7 Clean Your Own Bathrooms; Clean Your Own Floors.

Dad V was not above cleaning his own bathroom.  And when the wood floors of their house needed to be given a good scrub, he got down on his hands and knees and washed them by hand when Mom said it was time.  I think our country would be in far better condition if all leaders scrubbed their own toilets, cleaned their own sinks, and changed their own toilet paper rolls.  We are, all of us, equal.

#8  Don’t Upgrade.

For more than eight years, we lived across the street from Mom and Dad V in Cleveland.  Our oldest is six, and she and our son were blessed to have had so much time with them.  It was a relationship that can only happen with proximity.  It would not have happened had they lived in some fancy house – we couldn’t have afforded to live across the street.  They didn’t believe in waste, personally or governmentally.

The thing that wasn’t said at his services was his immense generosity.  Yes, he was fiscally conservative, but he and Mom were also so generous and supportive, to the grandkids, to us when we started out, and I think those things were linked.  Don’t upgrade.  Live beneath your means.  Have the freedom to make choices about how to spend your time and how to live your life.  Don’t be beholden.

#9 There Is Crying in Baseball

One of the articles about my dad after he passed mentioned that he was “often subject to his emotions.”  And he was.  He cried, more than once, and more than once in public.  He was passionate about doing good in the world, and when he was conflicted and believed deeply, he would show it.

This was pointed out as a postscript of note – that, despite being a great leader, he had this weakness of emotion.  But he knew differently, and those of us who loved him knew differently.  He was a great leader because he was subject to his emotions, not despite them.  He believed, and he led with the conviction of someone wanting to do good for his family and his country.  He was led by faith.

Doesn’t that seem so very strange?  It’s almost confusing to think of that kind of sincerity.  Genuine emotion when you believe in what you’re doing is not a weakness, it is strength.  It is human and it is real.

#10 Family Comes First.

My father-in-law liked winning.  He was a competitive guy.  But he understood – always – his priorities.  It’s something he passed onto his kids.  The thing I first fell in love with about my husband is that he knew what was important.  People come first.  Family comes first.

I don’t know if it comes from losing a child – losing a sibling.  That kind of loss – as a parent, I cannot even imagine the horror.  So we never left anything unsaid in our family.

Dad died four weeks after we moved away from Cleveland.

We left Cleveland because of my career.  When we first told Dad that we were going, he was not very happy about it.  He was the kind of man who would move heaven and earth if he needed to, and he did his best to encourage us to stay.  But when all was said and done, he actually did understand the move, the opportunity, the necessity of it all.  He was always slightly perplexed by me, I think, and me by him.

When he died the ground dropped from beneath me.

When folks came to his wake, people I know and people I don’t know, many of them said “Oh, you’re the ones that moved to New Hampshire!” or “You’re up in New England now, right?” or “Didn’t you just move to Vermont?” or “How is the new job going?”  And I realized that not only do most people have no idea of the geography of those “little states,” he had told people about our move and he was proud of us.

He told me he loved me, the last time I hugged him and kissed him.   I don’t think he wanted us to go.  But he was proud of us.

The person – the human – is the leader, the two cannot be separated.




UMUC’s Blueprint for Designing a Culture of Constant Innovation | EdSurge News

  • Specifically, UMUC is about to embark on a 36-month transformation that will see its core learning model shift from memorizing knowledge to one that is experiential and competency-based. At the same time, it is re-imagining the digital experience of its 85,000 online students. Our academic and administrative teams already use project management practices to guide academic institutional development, and we believe applying this approach to a significant organizational transformation will lead to short- and long-term successes. It is our goal to embed project management into our culture, training stakeholders in an integrated model that becomes “who” we are.

    tags: blueprint designing culture constant innovation news umuc learning education

    • Specifically, UMUC is about to embark on a 36-month transformation that will see its core learning model shift from memorizing knowledge to one that is experiential and competency-based. At the same time, it is re-imagining the digital experience of its 85,000 online students. Our academic and administrative teams already use project management practices to guide academic institutional development, and we believe applying this approach to a significant organizational transformation will lead to short- and long-term successes. It is our goal to embed project management into our culture, training stakeholders in an integrated model that becomes “who” we are.
    • I want to discuss some of those errors and then describe how having the right kind of “looped evaluation process” can keep people focused on progress toward the desired “end state” as well as on the daily roll out of innovations that need real-time evaluation and testing. Doing these things seamlessly, as part of the daily routine, will provide a focused, ongoing learning experience about what is working, what is not, and how to continuously improve services and outcomes.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

1/3 Done with #CBE Program Chart

So, in what can be referred to as “the never-ending research” for my dissertation proposal, I’m 1/3 of the way through a chart of the CBE programs at colleges and universities that I can find.  It’s #exhausting, but pretty cool to see it coming together.

Find below the first chunk.  If anyone has corrections, additions, or anything else, please let me know.

The Dissertation Blues

So writing a dissertation is a lonely process.  I’m sure there are folks out there who are thrilled and excited for the entire duration of their research and writing.  There are also folks who tell me that the first three months of a new baby were magical and a stream of unending cute Pampers commercials.

I am not one of those people.

My new challenge lately has been staying awake.  Every time I sat down to write or edit I became inexplicably and profoundly tired to the point where I was working in 15 minute increments, getting up and walking around, doing anything to maintain mental focus.  It’s not exactly a thrilling endorsement when one’s own writing makes you want to fall asleep.

Still, it’s not like dissertations are stand up comedy, or even a clever dramedy.  They’re more like a dark comedy.  Only in this case, without the wry situational humor.  Or great production values.  Or attractive characters.  Or – you know – plot.

But still, there’s a bit of drama in that you MUST get it done.  And you MUST get it done right.  And in the face of this important pressure I apparently get really, really tired.

But today – it broke!  Today I stayed awake!  Today I finished a draft of Chapter 3!

I think it may have been guilt-inspired.  My husband is doing all the real work while I’m here in the thrill of a new job at a new university where I’m geeked out on the work and the people and the place.

All that I have to do is write.

Let’s do this.  Chapters 1 & 2 in revision.

#IncrementalProgress #TheLittleEngineThatCould #IThinkICan #LeanIn #HashtagsUnite #IMadeThatOneUp



New Blog on History of CBE in Evolllution

… by yours truly.  Check it out here:

There has been a lot of buzz around competency-based education for the past couple of years. Many new programs have been developing in higher education, and it seems like CBE is the “MOOC” of the moment—ubiquitously mentioned in colleges and universities—fresh-faced and fancy-free, unburdened from a legacy past. This is not exactly the case. Just as MOOCs didn’t invent free online education, CBE didn’t crop up in the past couple of years. The use of CBE models has been gaining traction since playing out at a series of innovative institutions that embraced the model long before it was the disruptive flavor of the month. – me

Federal Financial Aid and CBE

Hello All!  If you didn’t know, I had a brief break from blogging about my dissertation (I’m sure the entire internet noticed;)

I have joined the team at Southern New Hampshire University as their Assistant VP for Academic Technology and Course Production.  SNHU is an amazing organization focused on quality and innovation in online education, and I am thrilled to be working with an amazing team there.  (I’m using “amazing” quite a bit with regards to SNHU, however I am not planning on toning that down.)  I will definitely miss Tri-C and all the dedicated colleagues I had the good fortune to work with over the years; we did good work together for the students of Cuyahoga County #MissionDriven!

So I needed to buy a house and sell a house and all those many involved things that take up a lot of time, and are (generally speaking) fairly stressful.  We’re embracing them with an air of adventure and confidence that there is an end-point to this transition.  For the time being I’m calling a great Airbnb place as my home, and have set up my Surface Pro on the dining room table where I’m diving back into it.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

I’ve found most of my cultural references are Shakespearean.  I’m definitely the life of the party, that’s for sure!

In any case, check out this latest section on my (revised) understanding of the U.S. DOE’s distinction between “Direct Assessment” and what we’re commonly calling “Credit Conversion” (I’ve also seen “Credit-Based CBE,” so any norming on that language would be helpful.)

All comments and feedback welcome!  There may be elements I haven’t captured, so any help in making it better is greatly appreciated:)  Big shout out to Kathe Kacheroski, who also joined the SNHU team as the Associate VP for CBE/SNHU Accel for her counsel on this – though any errors are decidedly my own.

Federal Financial Aid for CBE Programs

            Federal financial aid has historically only been available to students at institutions who use traditional Carnegie credits.  As noted in the Dear Colleague letter, GEN-13-10, from 2013, the majority of CBE programs currently operating are “offered in credit or clock hours and can be accommodated under the current title IV, student financial aid regulations as non-term programs” (para. 2).  Programs that fall into this “credit conversion” category, whereby Carnegie credits are used to track progress towards degree, but where students gain those credits in a competency-based, often time-variable manner, do not need to do anything additional to make their programs eligible for financial aid.  An example of this type of program is that offered by Western Governors University, which had been operating under this “credit conversion” model since its inception in the latter 1990s.

In 2005, Section 8020 of the Higher Education Reconciliation Act (Pub. L. 109-171) for the first time enabled direct assessment CBE programs to be eligible for title IV funding.  This type of program is indicated by students progressing upon completion of assessments, and progress being tracked solely by those competencies “in lieu of measuring student learning in credit hours or clock hours ” (Dear Colleague Letter, GEN-13-10, 2013, para. 3).   For programs that wish to be considered as Direct Assessment programs, in order to receive federal financial aid (title IV funding,) they must utilize a provision made available in the 2005 HERA, and apply to be approved as an experimental site for CBe.

Experimental Sites

The federal government recently expanded federal financial aid eligibility to institutions that use solely CBE as a select number of experimental sites.  These focus of four specific types of experimentation:  (1) entirely CBE programs, (2) hybrid programs with a blend of CBE and traditional credits, (3) PLA- programs, and (4) work study for near-peer counseling (Competency-Based Education Network, 2014).

In a Dear Colleague letter from 2013, the U.S. Department of Education invited colleges and universities to apply to participate as an experimental site status in order to receive federal funds for programs that utilized CBE instead of credit hours.  In order to apply for this status, however, colleges must, in their application for experimental site status, provide an equivalency for how many credits the competencies represent and how it determined the equivalencies.  The Department then uses these to determine eligibility and award funding.

Before the Department will approve such a program, though, certain other criteria must also be met, including approval of the program by the institution’s accreditor, which must also have reviewed and approved the equivalencies.  Certain types of learning are expressly not eligible for funding through this experiment, including PLA, programs at foreign schools, any coursework prior to the program admittance that would be considered prerequisite, programs related to teaching credentials at the K-12 level, and remedial coursework (Dear Colleague Letter, GEN-13-10, 2013).

As applications followed, Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America program became the first to be formally approved as an experimental site for direct assessment; additional colleges were interested at the time including Capella University, Northern Arizona University and Brandman University (Fain, 2013).  Each of these schools was on the preliminary list of participants for experimental site status as of April 2015 (Preliminary List of Participants, 2015).

For the subsequent 2 years, however, there were few developments from the U.S. Department of Education (Laitinen, 2015).  Though colleges have asked for guidance from the department on how to proceed, and the department had committed to having guidance out by the beginning of June, 2015 (Laitinen, 2015).  Finally, the Competency-Based Education Experiment Guide was published by the U.S. Dep artment of Education in September of 2015 in order to give colleges specific requirements, policies and procedures in order to implement their programs.

Figure X:  Title IV Federal Financial Aid CBE Decision Tree

Federal Financial Aid Decision Tree.PNG

The decision for an institution to proceed either with “credit conversion” or full direct assessment is one that requires analysis, as the requirements for experimental site status enable the institution to gain flexibility around dispursement and direct/indirect cost, but still require the institution to design the program with credit equivalencies.  Those credit equivalencies are used to justify the robust nature of the program to both the accreditor and the U.S. Department of Education  (Dear Colleague Letter, GEN-13-10, 2013).

Another experiment that may have implications for CBE is the Education Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) experiment whereby higher education institutions are invited to submit for approval to be Experimental Sites for partnerships with non-higher education institutions to provide content and learning through third-party providers (U.S. Department of Education, 2015) .  Currently, programs are not eligible for federal financial aid if more than 50% of the degree program is delivered by a third-party provider.  These Experimental Sites will not be subject to that restriction, and it will enable experiments with alternate educational providers that are emerging, particularly in IT fields.  The pilot program would utilize third-party quality assurance entities to ensure the quality of these programs, and is thought to support access to boot camps, MOOCs, and other short-term certificates (Field, 2015).

Thanks for reading!  I’ll post an expanded citation list in the next few weeks.  The literature review feels like one of those old-fashioned sponge toys I’d get as a kid in my Christmas stocking or for my birthday.  Do you know those?  They’re super-small, almost like pills, but they are really these super expanding sponges, and they make a giant sponge character when you soak them in water.  They just keep growing.  That’s where the lit review is at right now.  But I’m going to cut that down to size – we need to get this show on the road!