January 26, 2011


Posted in Professional Success, School Success at 4:38 pm by melissaautumn

This video should remind us all of the importance of proofreading.


January 21, 2011

Reading Forums – My Process

Posted in Instruction at 2:20 pm by melissaautumn

Last week’s post on my grading process and the comments it generated inspired me to write further about my teaching process. Today’s topic is how I handle the discussion forums in my courses. I really don’t have an idea for another post, but if there’s some other aspect of my teaching life that would be interesting to read about, let me know.

Scheduling Time for Forums

I spend a few hours a day on my discussion boards – all before I get to grading, course prep, making videos or actual real-time instruction. I take my forums very seriously and prioritize them as a daily activity.

The traffic on my forums stays pretty consistent throughout the semester. My Illinois ones will slow down for a few weeks around the on-campus session since I don’t require posting during that time, however that “time savings” is more than offset by two full days of travel, prepping for eight hour classes and delivering full days of instruction.

Where I do see variation is the day of the week, with patterns of heavy posting on some days and lighter posting on other days. Once I identify the pattern for the semester, I try to take this into account as I plan my work week – so if Tuesday is a heavy posting day, I ensure I have ample time to read and respond to posts on Tuesday and Wednesday. I really hate falling behind on forum reading – not only does the build-up of unread posts get overwhelming, I think I lose the “teachable moment” if there is too long of a delay in responding to students.

Ideally my courses will fall into different patterns with a heavy day for one course offset by another course’s light day. In a bad semester, two or more courses will have the same heavy days. On those days, I feel lucky if I can just keep up with all the reading and responding – all my other work gets shoved to other days of the week. To a certain extent I can control this by varying due dates, but it can still be hard to predict student behavior.

As stated above, I check my forums daily. I do try to take at least one day off on the weekend, although on those days I still check my email and skim the forums for urgent student questions.

The Process

  1. Open the spreadsheet where I track student participation. I only track mandatory participation, but all my courses have some kind of required forum participation around leading or contributing to discussions of course topics.
  2. Navigate the course management system to the first set of forums. I start with the “questions” forum, since I want to resolve any problems as soon as possible, then move on to the topical forums.
  3. Read the first unread post. I make a note next to the student’s name in my spreadsheet (or assign a grade, depending on how the course is structured). Next, I read all the replies from other students, making notes about participation as needed.
  4. At that point, I may add my own comments to the discussion. If a student’s question was answered adequately by peers, I may not respond at all. And if a discussion is just starting, I may hang back for a few days to let the conversation develop before I jump in. When I do respond, I try to either share my expertise or pose questions to prompt further thought and discussion.
  5. Then I go to the next unread thread and repeat the entire process until I’ve worked my way through all my courses.
  6. A few times a week, I review the entire spreadsheet to keep an eye on who is on track and who is not participating. If I see a problem, such as not participating for a few weeks, I will email the student to inquire.

The Little Stuff

I almost always start my day by reading forums. I have a little routine where I boot up my laptop, check email, check Facebook, and then read all my forums. Once I’ve read the forums, I’m better able to concentrate on the rest of my work because I’ve accomplished one important task for the day.

The ideal start to my day is to drink my morning coffee while I read and respond to forums. Most days I have to take my kids to school first, so it is a big treat if my husband has the day off and can take the kids (like today, when I was online and reading forums before my kids even left for school).

I listen to music while I read forums, although I usually select more mellow music than when I grade. Hmm, I wonder why that is?

January 12, 2011

My Grading Process

Posted in School Success at 3:10 pm by melissaautumn

A ProfHacker column challenged readers to share their grading process with students, so here it goes.

Scheduling Grading

Yes, I schedule time to grade. One of the potential pitfalls of online teaching is that my classes are always “meeting” – even if I work all day answering emails, grading assignments and responding to forum posts, by that evening, there will be more emails, assignments and forum posts that require my attention. In order to set some boundaries between my work and personal lives, I try to do the work for a course only once a day – so if I read forums and grade assignments for my instruction course in the morning, I usually won’t work on that class again in the evening (although I might be working on another course during that time, since I devote time to each course almost every day).

I also set boundaries by scheduling time off from work. I try to take one day off each weekend to do things I enjoy and I reserve weekday afternoons and early evenings to focus on my family. Both of these practices prevent burnout and contribute to a good quality of life for me and my family. But, they also mean I’m not necessarily grading assignments as soon as they are submitted.

Finally, my days can be very uneven, with some days providing long hours of uninterrupted work time and other days providing much less time due to family and volunteer commitments. Smaller assignments may not take as much time to grade and as a result, I usually tackle them every day to stay on top of what is coming in. However, larger assignments can take 20-30 minutes each to grade and require more sustained concentration. As a result, I schedule time a 3-5 days a week to grade large assignments.

Like ProfHacker, if I have a lot of grading, I will set a daily quota for myself – this helps me be realistic about how much I need to accomplish and gives me a manageable goal for the day. At the end of the semester when I have a lot to grade, I grade all the assignments in one course before moving on to the next course. This allows me to concentrate on the course content, rather than trying to switch gears to a different set of assignments every few hours.

The Process

The process for larger assignments like LibGuides and Instruction Design Projects:

  1. Create or locate the folder on my laptop where I save all the assignment feedback for that particular course.
  2. Locate the assignment sheet and make a clean copy of the rubric. Save this rubric in the appropriate feedback folder with a generic heading like “LibGuide Rubic.”
  3. Navigate the course management system to locate ungraded assignments. Open the next ungraded assignment. Open the rubric and resave it under the student’s name (e.g., “IDP Rubric – Sally Smith”).
  4. As I read the assignment, I’ll make notes in the appropriate section of the rubric. Once I’ve read the entire assignment, I’ll revise those notes into full sentences and paragraphs of comments. I typically reread all or part of the assignment as I’m making comments, in order to verify that I correctly understood the student’s work. The larger the assignment the more back and forth I might need to do. I generally write all my comments on the rubric, although if there are a lot of problems or I want to respond to very specific sections, I might save a copy and put additional comments directly in the assignment.
  5. Rubrics and experience with a particular assignment generally help me stay consistent in grading, but I will go back and review other students’ rubrics to see how many points I deducted for a particular error or problem. If I’m grading a brand new assignment, I will read a bunch of assignments to get a feel for student work before I start any formal grading.
  6. Next I assign a grade, recording it on both the rubric and in the course management system.
  7. Finally, I send the grade and rubric back to the student, along with a general comment like “I’ve attached a rubric with a grade; if you have questions please feel free to contact me.” In addition to entering the message, I need to upload the rubric – sometimes a multi-step process that needs to be performed in a specific order (for example, in Moodle I work from the bottom of the screen up since I need to attach the rubric before writing the message or the attachment process will erase any message and grade that have been entered).
  8. Once I’ve graded all the assignments, I review the grades in the course management system to ensure I haven’t skipped anyone or neglected to upload a rubric. I also check to be sure everyone turned in the assignment and if an assignment is missing, contact the student to inquire.

And by the time all that is done, it is generally time to start the process over with another assignment in another course.

The Little Stuff

I do play music when I grade, usually a variety of tunes from my iPod. Rock and hip hop are favorites – I need upbeat music to keep me going.

I usually sit in my bedroom since it gets a lot of sun. If I need a break and as the sun moves during the day, I will move to the dining room or living room.

I tend to complain about my grading on Facebook where my faculty colleagues will commiserate and say encouraging things. I also give myself little rewards when I have a lot of grading – like allowing myself to check email or get a snack if I grade two more assignments.

So there it is! I’m interested in hearing from my students – is it helpful to see the process I go through? Mildly amusing? Humanizing?

December 8, 2010

Beg, Borrow or Steal This Issue

Posted in Inspiration, Job Success, Reference, Resources at 3:10 pm by melissaautumn

Okay, don’t steal it, because stealing is wrong (and you can read the issue online). But, you definitely want to read the fall 2010 issue of Reference & User Services Quarterly (RUSQ).

RUSQ is already one of my favorite journals – it is full of well written articles on a range of reference topics. But, this fall’s issue is spectacularly jam packed with awesomeness:

  • An annotated bibliography of books, articles and resources for reader’s advisory. This is now the go-to source if you want to learn more about reader’s advisory or beef up your collection of resources.
  • A biography of notable librarian Helen Haines.
  • The previously mentioned “Best Free Reference Websites: 12th Annual List.”
  • The annual “Best Historical Materials” list.
  • Four substantial, practical articles:
    • Using wikis to create a ready reference tool for information sharing at the reference desk.
    • Factors that influence people to pursue librarianship. Fellow professionals take note – there’s a lot we can do to encourage promising young (and not so young) people to enter librarianship!
    • Reaching college students through residence halls. This one not only discusses reasons to do outreach in the halls, it gives tons of practical ideas for doing so.
    • Developing guidelines for the use of social software.
  • Updated RUSA “Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual Reference Services.”

All that and the usual book reviews, too!

December 4, 2010

Illinois Information Literacy Summit – Call for Proposals

Posted in Professional Success at 9:59 pm by melissaautumn

Midwest folks…

A number of my students have attended this one day IL conference and found it very helpful. The conference isn’t until April (but keep your eyes open for registration in the spring), however there’s a call for proposals out and one of the coordinators specifically asked me to share it with students. So, it looks like this could be a good opportunity to lead a breakout session at a conference (and note the call is for proposals around creativity, so you could bring in previous work experience in another field).

10th Annual Information Literacy Summit
Inspiring Creativity


Monday, April 18, 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Illinois State University (Normal, IL)

Tuesday, April 19, 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Moraine Valley Community College (Palos Hills)

Wednesday, April 20, 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
John A. Logan College (Carterville)


Creativity—designing, planning, producing, etc.— is the highest level of thinking on the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. This year’s Summit asks us to connect creativity with information literacy and instruction.


We’re seeking volunteers to lead interesting and interactive discussions relating to information literacy or library instruction. You can volunteer for one or more sessions at any of the three Summit locations. Each has its own breakout sessions.  You can also recommend someone else who may be a good breakout session presenter. Please consider recommending people from outside libraries.  We encourage all types of libraries, schools and other organizations  to participate.  For the Summit to be most effective, we need many perspectives.

Session topics may focus on anything related to information seeking and use. Special consideration will be given to topics related to this year’s theme of “Inspiring Creativity.”  Breakout sessions will be 50 minutes long and should include audience interaction or discussion.  Panels are encouraged.  Because of the limited amount of time, we encourage panels to be limited to three people.  Having more than three presenters limits the time for attendee interaction and questions. Sessions typically have 20-40 participants.

To propose a breakout session: https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?hl=en&formkey=dE9PbDItOVBWSjhXYkttSW9qOVY2WlE6MA#gid=0

DEADLINE to submit proposals:  Friday, January 7, 2011

Not sure about your idea? Feel free to contact a Summit Coordinator for inspiration or help in refining your proposal.

Some ideas to get you thinking …

  • Youth or young adult programs that encourage creative use of information
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Infusing creativity and curiosity in information literacy
  • Assessing the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • Librarians’ role in ACRL Standard 4 (“The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.”)



John A. Logan College
Coordinator: Judy Vineyard, Associate Dean of Library Services, judyvineyard@jalc.edu, 618-985-3741 x8404

Moraine Valley Community College
Coordinators: Barb Rys, Library Access Services Specialist, Rys@morainevalley.edu, 708-974-5467;
Leslie Warren, Information Literacy Librarian,
, 708-974-5734

Illinois State University
Coordinator: Dane Ward, Associate Dean of University Libraries, Public Service, dmward@ilstu.edu, (309) 438-3481

December 2, 2010

Undergraduate Library Rap

Posted in Inspiration at 3:34 pm by melissaautumn

This is a bit of a departure for my blog, but three of my former students worked on this awesome video, so I had to share it.

Great work Dave, Dominick, and Jim (and Susan)!

December 1, 2010

Professional Development, Professional Identity and Looking to the Future

Posted in Job Success, Professional Success at 1:43 pm by melissaautumn

I had an interesting discussion with a colleague the other day. We were talking about how we could position ourselves for the jobs we’d like to have in the future, even if we don’t know exactly what those jobs will be. How can we stay competitive on the job market? How can we demonstrate the versatility of our skills, particularly if like me, you’ve taken a very niche job?

For example, as much as I love my part-time teaching, I do miss being a library director and might want to return to a full-time job in a library one day. In addition, my husband’s job provides our health insurance and a significant portion of our income; should something happen to him, I would most likely have to return to full-time employment. So, while I do not have immediate plans to make a career change, I know I need to keep myself in a position where I am competitive on the job market.

As I see it, remaining competitive on the job market involves multiple things – engaging in professional development to keep my knowledge and skills up to date; creating a professional identity for myself; and maintaining connections with my colleagues.

A lot of thoughts keep cycling through my mind:

  • Professional development requires a combination of personal commitment, money and time. The most important of these is personal commitment, even though we tend to blame our lack of professional development activities on money and time.
  • There are multiple ways to engage in professional development, including professional reading, conferences and workshops. The first step is the find the combination that is right for us.
  • There are many ways to establish a professional identity – blogging, professional writing, committee service. While all of these take some effort, they are also easier to get into than I suspected.
  • As introverted as I am, creating and maintaining connections with my colleagues gives me great pleasure. In addition, it is the conversations with and support from those colleagues that motivates me to engage in professional development and building my professional identity. Everything is easier with a friend.
  • These activities are all self-reinforcing. The more that I blog, read or write, the more I enjoy it. The longer I go without blogging, reading or writing, the harder it is to get back into the swing of things.

As I bring some structure to my thoughts, a lot of these ideas will become blog posts in the coming year. I thought this was going to be a new series of three to four posts on professional development, but it seems I have a lot more to say, so perhaps this is just a continuation of my blog’s original purpose – practical advice on being a good professional. In any case, stay tuned!

November 5, 2010

12th Annual Best Free Reference Websites

Posted in Reference, Resources at 9:32 pm by melissaautumn

RUSA’s Machine-Assisted Reference Section publishes an annual list of high quality, free websites that can be used for reference. The 12th annual list was announced last month. It was published in the fall issue of Reference & User Services Quarterly and is also available on ALA’s website.

This is great resource, whether you are at a small library with a limited reference budget or a large library with extensive resources – there is something here for everyone. I recommend you peruse this list and keep an eye out for future editions!

October 26, 2010

Using the Wellness Wheel in Libraries

Posted in Resources at 9:04 am by melissaautumn

I am very interested in how libraries can reach out to patrons, either by drawing people into the library in creative ways or going outside the library walls to serve people. A lot of what I learned about programming and outreach, especially with undergraduates, came from working with student affairs colleagues at my last institution.

This interest in programming, outreach and the work of student affairs professionals is something I share with Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe. We co-teach a course together at Illinois, 590HEL: Higher Education and Information Professionals and one of the topics we cover is student affairs.

All of that is to say that some of my readers, especially those who took LIS590HEL, might be interested to know Lisa and I recently authored an article on using the Wellness Wheel, a model from student affairs, to develop programming and support holistic student development in the library. Using the model has helped me think creatively about programming, especially in collaboration with other (non-library) folks.

Hinchliffe, Lisa Janicke and Melissa Autumn Wong. “From Services-Centered to Student-Centered: A “Wellness Wheel” Approach to Developing
the Library as an Integrative Learning Commons.” College & Undergraduate Libraries 17 (2010): 213–224.

We’re also co-editing a book on library collaborations with students affairs (due out from ALA in early summer 2011). The chapters profile exciting collaborations at a variety of institutions – our colleagues are doing great work! So if this topic interests you, stay tuned for more.

October 14, 2010

Portfolios – General Advice

Posted in Interviewing, Professional Success at 8:32 pm by melissaautumn

Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts on portfolios. You can search for “portfolios” in the handy search bar to your right to find the first three.

I thought I’d wrap up this series with some last pieces of advice that did not necessarily fit elsewhere.

  • Write for Non-Librarians: Hiring committees often include people who are not librarians. Avoid professional jargon and school-specific abbreviations they may not understand.
  • Be Succinct: Although a portfolio provides you additional space to elaborate on your skills, remember that potential employers have many resumes and portfolios to review – select your evidence carefully and write succinctly. Your portfolio should be easy to skim, not overwhelming.
  • Ask for Feedback: Have a mentor or friend review your portfolio; ask for honest advice about what works well and what you can do to make it even better.
  • Edit Carefully: Just like your resume, your portfolio needs to be error-free. Proof and proof again.
  • Maintain your Portfolio: Once you have a portfolio, you will need to maintain it by updating the content when appropriate and periodically checking links to be sure they are still working.
  • Start Simple: You don’t have to have an elaborate portfolio or a fancy site with all the latest plug-ins. Start simple – if you have the time and interest, you can grow it into something bigger. Or, you can just keep it simple.
  • Start Now: The time for job hunting may seem far away, but it really isn’t. And I know you are busy, but you won’t be any less busy then. If even a simple portfolio seems overwhelming, break the process into small steps. Start by getting your resume online, then add a simple introduction to yourself, then add a few pieces of evidence. Commit to spending a little time each week – once you get going and build momentum, it’ll be easier to keep going.

Good luck with your portfolios! You know I love to hear from former students, so send me a link to your portfolio when you’ve finished it.

And now, I think I’ll go get started on my own online portfolio!

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