Who we think will emerge from the Madness this March

Since our Terriers weren’t invited to the Big Dance — and because there wasn’t much interest around the office in a “CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament” bracket — we basketball fans here at the Office of Distance Education have been forced to adopt some new favorite college hoops teams as the NCAA tournament gets underway.

In typical March Madness fashion the field of 68 seems to be wide open this year, and that’s reflected in the variety of predicted champions chosen in our annual for-entertainment-purposes-0nly office pool. Among 15 entries, eight different teams were forecast as the ultimate winner,  meaning bragging rights figure to be up for grabs right through the Final Four.

Who do you think will win? Let us know in the comment section, or on Facebook, and check out the breakdown of how people here at ODE and in the Metropolitan College marketing department think the tourney will shake out. You may recognize some of the names…

























* – 2012 bracket challenge champion.
** – 2011 bracket challenge champion.
*** – In her defense, she’s five months old and her bracket was selected by writing each team on a separate piece of paper and seeing which one she tried to eat.

Welcome to the BU Bookstore

Distance education students typically do their studying hundreds (even thousands) of miles from campus — but no matter how far from Boston they may be, we strive to build connections between our students and the Boston University campus as well as to foster a feeling of community and BU pride.

One of our biggest assets in making that happen is our bookstore, Barnes & Noble at Boston University.

On a purely academic level, B&N at BU’s website is the place where BU online students can find all the materials they’ll need to complete their coursework each semester. Our office works closely with the staff there to ensure that everything is available about a month before the start of every new term, and continues working together as each launch date approaches to ensure that the student receives any type of textbook-related support they may need in order to succeed — whether that means answering general questions, assisting people overseas, or making arrangements to assure on-time delivery.

The benefits of the bookstore aren’t confined to the virtual classroom, either. Offering everything from hockey jerseys, to hats, to every imaginable piece of BU-branded apparel, the store gives those studying elsewhere the chance to show off their Terrier pride in all corners of the globe. Then, when it’s time to graduate, they’re the ones who rent out the caps and gowns that students will wear at commencement.

To learn even more about the bookstore check out the video above, starring BU Barnes & Noble General Manager Steve Turco, and produced by our media team. It contains a look at the store itself, and a glimpse onto our campus — visible from wherever in the world you may actually be. You can also like the BU Barnes & Noble Facebook page to stay up to date on news and special promotions.

What we’re thankful for at ODE

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, many in America take a moment to count their blessings — and we here at the Office of Distance Education are certainly among them. Not only are we excitedly grateful for the chance to join Metropolitan College in celebrating our 10th anniversary as leaders and innovators in the field of online learning, but our 28 staff members are as thankful personally as they are professionally.

Here’s a glimpse into what some of the folks at 1010 Comm Ave are thankful for this year:

I am thankful that there is an outside chance I might get some sleep over the holiday weekend! I am thankful for awesome cranberry sauce. I am thankful that I get to spend the holiday weekend with family. (Did I mention that I am thankful for just the possibility of sleep?)

I’m thankful for …  good health, my new job at Distance Education, and my mom’s stuffing!

I am thankful that my 93-year-old grandmother gets to enjoy Thanksgiving with her two sisters, one of which is her twin. I am thankful that my cousin is home from Afghanistan to enjoy Thanksgiving with my Uncle and Aunt. I am thankful that I get to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family and two little nieces. And, of course, I am also thankful that my two Fantasy Football teams both currently sit in first place!

I’m thankful for my colleagues in Distance Education who have helped me through my first few months at BU.

I am thankful that Jimmy Fallon is so thankful.

I am thankful for the opportunity to learn something every day. I learn to be more patient, more open-minded, learn to listen more, even learn to learn more efficiently. These lessons are ongoing; I am thankful to realize that.

I’m so grateful for my friends, both at BU Online and elsewhere. They are a constant source of joy and support.

I am thankful for all of my wonderful coworkers!

I am thankful for the people who inspire us to be the absolute best that we can be, whether they realize it or not, and whether at the beginning or the end of their life.

I am thankful that YouTube has the full video of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” available. (Seriously, check it out above!)

I am thankful for coffee, family, and health … and of course laughter. Not necessarily in this order.

I’m thankful that my sister in law is a wonderful cook and I’m going to have a delicious and relaxing Thanksgiving with my family.

Among other things … I am thankful for a great team of co-workers and a university dedicated to excellence in online learning.

I am thankful for my family, especially my sister.

I am thankful for the internet, without which you wouldn’t be reading this!

I am thankful that sometimes the common good is recognized to be of greater value than singular advancement.

I am thankful to be working with an unbelievably dedicated team of people at the Office of Distance Education. I have worked in a lot of different places over the years, but until I came to BU, I had not worked in a place where everyone actually seems happy to come to work each day, happy and eager to give their all every day, and happy to see and work with one another as much as the people are here. What an amazing and unique thing to be able to say. Thank you to all of my fellow BU Online colleagues, faculty, facilitators, and students for making work so fulfilling and rewarding.

A decade of distance learning at BU

The Office of Distance Education's Jan Morris, Xuan Cai, and Patti McDonnell (left to right) are part of the team that brings MCJ courses to life as BU online begins to celebrate its 10th anniversary. (Photo from Metropolitan Magazine)

This September, the launch of Fall 01 classes doesn’t only signify the start of a new term, or a new academic year — it also marks the 10th anniversary of BU’s first fully online degree program and the first step taken in the university’s journey toward establishing itself as one of the  nation’s leaders in distance learning.

Those early days and BU’s rise up the ranks is profiled in the latest issue of Metropolitan Magazine, which details how that initial offering — Metropolitan College’s Master of Criminal Justice — opened with one full-time faculty member and just one class, and how the support of MET’s leadership helped foster an environment in which BU online could flourish and become what it is today. Specifically speaking, that’s a powerhouse operation offering 14 degree programs, five graduate certificates, and seven professional certificates in conjunction with 18 programs from 11 schools and colleges.

“We invested the effort, creativity, and resources to treat online education not simply as comparable to an on-campus education for working professionals, but exceptional in its own right,” MET Magazine quotes Dean Jay Halfond as saying. “And five thousand alumni later, we are pleased that we were able to provide this educational opportunity to students across the nation and globe. This is a time to celebrate, to look back, but then continue our aspirations and hard work so our next decade is even better.”

You can read the entire piece by clicking here — and we encourage you to pay particular attention to the section spotlighting the contributions of our team within the Office of Distance Education. As the article says, the tireless trio of Xuan Cai, Patti McDonnell, and Jan Morris are “committed to presenting a high-quality, innovative, and—ultimately—personalized online learning experience” for the MCJ program, and not to be overlooked are the contributions of media producers Rob Haley and Charles Southworth. They consistently enhance courses across each of BU’s online programs with first-quality videos and interactive learning objects.

And, with the rest of the office, they’ve already begun the process of bringing that expectation of excellence into decade number two.

Graduate of BU’s online CFA Music Education Program Carol Shansky Publishes Music Appreciation Book

Dr. Carol Shansky

Carol Shansky, who was the BU College of Fine Arts’ first online Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Education recipient, recently reached another milestone in her impressive career with the publication of her book, “Musical Tapestries: A Thematic Approach to Music Appreciation.”

Published by Kendall Hunt, the book is available here, and in addition to a variety of musical experiences that have seen her perform all over the world, she says the work was also positively influenced and enhanced by the education she received through BU online — where she now works as a course facilitator.

“My Music Appreciation textbook, ‘Musical Tapestries: A Thematic Approach to Music Appreciation,’ was in the works before I started my doctorate online.  However, my experience as a student – and graduate – of the program was central not only to its completion but to developing it from a set of ideas and practices to a textbook that I am proud of and feel makes an important contribution to the teaching of music to non-majors,” Dr. Shansky says.

“Naturally, as part of doctoral training, one learns to write at a very high level and understand proper referencing of sources and how to gather knowledge.  But doing so in a distance education format exposed me to a variety of experiences and perspectives that are likely to never be as readily available as they are in this environment.  From recommendations of colleagues to a deepening of my understanding of my subject, distance learning afforded me the opportunity to mine ideas and concepts in a very rich way.  Professors and facilitators are teaching in varied circumstances and geographic locales which lent me a critical world view. My ‘textbook’ was transformed as I was transformed as a distance education student at Boston University.”

The College of Fine Arts Doctor and Master of Music Education degree programs launched online with the support of Metropolitan College’s Office of Distance Education in 2005.

Congratulations, Carol!

Commencement 2012 by the Numbers

Boston University’s 139th commencement ceremonies featured thousands of graduates, tens of thousands of guests, wisdom from the chairman of a billion-dollar corporation, one half-Vulcan — and, of course, hundreds of degree recipients who completed their studies entirely online through BU’s Office of Distance Education.

Representing colleges all across campus, and countries all across the globe, the online Class of 2012 signified our ninth group of graduates to participate in the May festivities. For an interactive, in-depth look at where Metropolitan College’s graduates have hailed from through the years, click the map below. And for a look at some of the numbers that tell the story of how BU welcomed a new set of alums, check them out below!

Map of MET grads

3,300 plus

Number of graduates who attended the ceremony at Nickerson Field


Estimated crowd packed into the stadium seats to salute the grads


Times Leonard Nimoy — who received an honorary doctorate of humane letters — flashed the Vulcan symbol from the stage, Dr. Spock encouraging graduates to “live long and prosper”

Leonard Nimoy encourages the Class of 2012 to "live long and prosper."

Leonard Nimoy encourages the Class of 2012 to "live long and prosper."


Words spoken by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt in delivering
his commencement address


Times Schmidt mentioned Google by name


Online Master of Criminal Justice graduates in May (among 89 since Summer 2011)



Online Master of Science in Computer Information Systems graduates who received diplomas


Online Art Education degree recipients from the College of Fine Arts


Online Master of Health Care Communication graduates


Recipients of Online Master of Management Science degrees


Students who completed their undergraduate degree this May through BU’s online program


Masters and Doctoral graduates of the online music program, bringing the total to 181 since September 2011

Media interviews


Number of students interviewed by our media team about their BU Online experience during Commencement Weekend


Approximate number of BU Online alumni as we approach our
10th anniversary!

Advice For Students, By A Student

Midway through his latest course in Metropolitan College’s Master of Science in Computer Information Systems online program — IT Security Policies and Procedures, to be precise — Shawn McElhinney delivered to his classmates a different sort of Valentine back on February 14th.

An experienced member of BU’s online community, who has now completed nine classes toward his master’s degree and whose busy home life as a working father of three is typical of so many of our students, he showed his fellow learners some love by sharing with them his tips on how to successfully navigate coursework amidst a crowded life.

Included among his post were a variety of pointers applicable not only to Shawn’s colleagues in the CIS program, but to all of our online students in general — so we’ve decided to pass them along. Included among the post pasted below are comments from the Office of Distance Education’s student services team, who explain in further detail why Shawn’s advice is so valuable.

Enjoy, and if you’d like even more information about a particular point, please don’t hesitate to ask us by using the comment area at the bottom of this post!


SUBJECT: Mush brain
CS 684 — Water Cooler
AUTHOR: Shawn McElhinney
DATE: February 14, 2012  11:58 AM

This is my 9th class & I can tell you it is tough to get through. Three kids (3, 5, 16), wife back to work, 50+ hour weeks, school, and kid’s activities. Makes it tough. It is doable though.

I recommend taking some time to lay out a course calendar. This way you can visually see the deliverables you have for the upcoming week (reading, discussion posts, homework, quizzes, etc.) and set start & completion dates for them. If you can follow the schedule it will prevent you from last minute anxiety to get work done.BQ Patti
Honestly, this is one of the lighter workload classes in the curriculum. The external research required is probably the most useful component of the course (this will help you immensely as you go forward in the program).

Here’s a recommendation – if you haven’t done so already, identify the courses you need/want to take in the curriculum.  If there is significant overlap in a course and your professional experience, request a substitution – then take a course that you can learn more in. Once you have the classes identified, go to the MSCIS website & look at the course schedule. Try to plan out as much of the program as you can.

This process will identify gaps in class availability that you may not be able to avoid – it may warrant taking a semester off for a mental break. If you feel like your brain is mush now, you may find some value in taking next summer off to mentally recoup.
BQ Daisy

Also, always try to get your books and a copy of the syllabus as early as possible. I read slower than death, so I like to dig into the material before the class starts. Some classes will have 100+ pages of reading a week, so it is tough to stay on top of. Other classes will be light on reading & heavy on work – I remember one class required almost 50+ hours a week of work to complete everything, but that was an exception.
BQ Jan

The big thing to remember is this is a learning experience. I’m glad I’m doing it with several years of experience under my belt, as I think I have a better understanding of the material beforehand. You have a wealth of knowledge in your groups, facilitators, and instructors – don’t hesitate to leverage it, they are here to help you excel, not mindlessly regurgitate information.
BQ Jen

The last comment I’ll make is this: Keep an open line of communication with your group facilitator. Life happens and sometimes it will impact your ability to perform academically. If you speak with your facilitator early and often they are more likely to work with you when you have issues. They are not so forgiving when you come to them in the 11th hour and ask for an extension.
BQ Liz

Have fun with this, you have access to experience from all over the world. It is a truly unique and amazing opportunity to learn and grow. Make the most of it.

Best of luck.


Looking at A Day in the Life of an “O”nline Student

For Paul Shihadeh every day starts with homework and ends at Cirque du Soleil! As a spouse, parent, Artistic Director at Cirque’s “O,” and online Master’s student in the College of Fine Arts’ Master of Music in Music Education, each day is full of new challenges. Paul’s work at Cirque du Soleil is unusual for a student in the Music Education program, and it gives him a unique perspective on course material. In each course, he brings a new voice to discussions and interacts with students in a variety of educational settings.

Paul embodies the best qualities in an online student: he’s passionate, communicative, and very proactive. He does a great job of communicating any questions and problems efficiently, and is an inspiring example of someone who advocates for himself. Even in phone calls and emails, his excitement about the course material shines through.

“I chose to do my Master’s with Boston University Online now mainly because of the challenges. I had the idea of doing a traditional Master’s, but with my schedule it was impossible I thought,” Paul says in the video, which can be seen above, or on our YouTube Channel. “Having just finished my first course, it was very exciting, but it was also really, really challenging. It was a whole part of my brain that I think had been dormant for a long time. It was fascinating. I really enjoyed it. And I think that’s part of the challenge and the real joy I get out of it: It brings me back to what it was like 20 years ago when I was doing my undergrad.”

Paul’s story is the second installment in our “Day in the Life” series, produced by Senior Media Producer Rob Haley and sponsored in part by Metropolitan College’s Chadwick Fellowship. If you are a BU Online student and think your story is one Rob may want to tell in a future installment, please drop us a note at disted@bu.edu.

New Slideshow Added to Our Portal

You may have noticed that we updated the slideshow on our portal. We hope you like the new photos that have been added and the smoother transitions between images. It also lets you view the images full-screen!

We would love to have more photos. Please send us photos of you showing off your BU pride, or you in your online study space to disted@bu.edu. It’s a great way to make new students feel at home and for you to Get Connected in an even more direct way!

Here’s what the current version looks like:

slideshow grab

New improved slideshow

BU Online’s Top 10 of 2011

Today we launch our first term of 2012 here at Boston University Online — beginning a  year in which we’ll celebrate our 10th anniversary, and hopefully continue to build on our reputation as one of the nation’s leaders in distance education. Before we move forward to a entirely new annum, however, we thought we’d take a moment to look back at the year that was … and so without further ado (or David Letterman to read the list), here are the Metropolitan College Office of Distance Education’s Top 10 Achievements of 2011:

10: The Introduction of Our Own YouTube Channel

Past, present, and prospective students now have a central place where they learn more about the BU Online experience, via the voices of those who have been through it. Subscribers to our YouTube channel can hear from recent graduates, get a perspective on the life of the people in our programs, and even be saluted with a toast from our staff. As the videos say themselves, it’s a great way to stay connected.

9: The Prolific Production of Our Media Department

The YouTube Channel shows only a small portion of the work produced by our media team, led by Rob Haley and Charles Southworth. Over the course of the year, they shot and produced about 1,000 videos for use in our virtual classrooms and for promotional purposes — some of them filmed at our own in-house studio, and others recorded in the field. On top of that original work, the team also captioned more than 500 videos, making them more accessible for the hearing impaired.

8: BU Online Continues To Grow

Each year our office continues to grow and expand, and 2011 was no different. We made several additions to our staff over the course of the just-completed calendar, beginning when Andrew Hinkell was hired as our administrative coordinator in April, at the same time Anna Jensen-Clem made the full-time transition to a newly created student services coordinator position. Laura Hannon and Katie Bergeron also came aboard as student services coordinators, while Jennifer Livengood also joined us as the newest addition to our expanding instructional design staff.

Brad Kay Goodman, Bob Schudy and Marcia Nizzari.

Brad Kay Goodman, Bob Schudy and Marcia Nizzari.

Judith Simpson and Jim Frey.

Judith Simpson and Jim Frey.

7: Brad Kay Goodman and Jim Frey Earn Exemplary Course Awards

Senior Instructional Designers Brad Kay Goodman and Jim Frey were both recognized by Blackboard’s Exemplary Course Program, which presents its honors with “the goal of identifying and disseminating best practices for designing engaging online courses.” Brad worked with CIS instructor Bob Schudy to produce the award-winning Enterprise Architecture course (click here for a tour of that class), while Jim teamed with Judith Simpson in building a course titled Contemporary Issues In Art Education (click here for a tour). With two honorees, BU joined Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University as the only universities to be recognized for having more than one exemplary course in 2011.

6: E-reserves Are Better Utilized, Helping Students Save Money

Beginning with our first spring semester, 2011 saw a rise in BU Online’s use of the e-reserve opportunities offered by Mugar Library. Now, instead of needing to purchase an entire book for the purpose of reading only one or two chapters, students can access the necessary portion electronically — and for free.

5: Rob Haley wins Chadwick Fellowship

Senior Media Producer Rob Haley was one of two recipients of the inaugural Chadwick Fellowship, a grant given annually to one faculty and one staff member of Metropolitan College for the purpose of professional development. Rob won the Fellowship based on his plan to chronicle a day in the life of a BU Online student, and already he’s produced one video and done the filming for a second. In the first, which you can see below, he goes to Scranton, Penn., to give us a glimpse into the life of CIS Masters Candidate Giovanni Sealey, an IT Instructor at a two-year Technical and Business College.

4: Our Social Media Efforts Surpass 2,000 Combined Followers

The most publicly visible of our efforts to build an online community, our Facebook page and Twitter accounts continued to bring more and more people together in 2011, cruising past 1,000 fans and followers in grand fashion. As of Spring 01 launch, @BUOnline was being followed by 317 people on Twitter, and 908 people had liked the ODE page on Facebook. We have 750 members in our LinkedIn group, and are steaming toward the next thousand in our social media endeavors.

3: Two New Programs are Born

A year ago at this time, we launched the initial course of our online Law program in collaboration with the school that has the nation’s No. 1-ranked law faculty, and in September we introduced a master of Social Work program in a partnership with BU’s School of Social Work. Continuing to diversify and expand our offerings, both programs were welcome and well-received additions, and we look forward to seeing them flourish in the years to come.

2: We Begin the Transition to a New Learning Management System

Beginning with the Social Work program, and expanding to Law, Music, and Art Education this spring, we are moving our courses from Blackboard Vista to Blackboard 9.1 — which our students will come to know as BU’s OnlineCampus. The transition will be gradual, with new programs moving each term, but in the end all of our students will experience a more advanced, interactive learning management system, the potential of which our design team is constantly working to maximize.

At left, the USDLA 21st Century Best Practices Award, the latest addition to our wall of honors.

At left, the USDLA 21st Century Best Practices Award, the latest addition to our wall of honors.

1: BU Online wins the USDLA 21st Century Best Practices Award

In March we learned that BU had been honored with the United States Distance Learning Association’s Best Practices Award, which, in conjunction with the Sloan Award bestowed upon us the previous fall, meant that within a single year we had won two of the nation’s highest awards for distance education. According to its description, the Best Practices Award “is given to an agency, institution, or company that has shown outstanding leadership in the field of distance learning. The award recognizes pioneering organizations in the field that have changed distance learning, as well as new organizations that have challenged existing practice by developing new and innovative solutions for distance learning instruction and employee distance learning training programs.”

That’s the standard we set for ourselves in 2011. And now it’s time to try and be even better in 2012. Happy New Year!